LOGAN. I'll keep the preamble brief because, if memory serves, I wind up saying essentially the same thing every time a new Marvel movie comes out.
As time wears on, and the scale of the Marvel cinematic universe (as well as that of the movies within it) grows ever more (forgive me) cartoonish, I find my interest steadily waning. Without exception, these are all expensive, competently made movies but their reliance on increasingly elaborate spectacle and pages-long cast lists gets more tiresome with every outing.
Having dispensed with that bit of business, I can move on the next oft-repeated section, wherein I suggest that Logan/Wolverine is a notable exception to my general, low-grade antipathy toward the rest of them. There is something more human about this character; there is more verisimilitude to his inner conflict, greater depth to his struggle. He's a better character, in other words, and Hugh Jackman has consistently played him with appropriate pathos and humor: a believable approach to a man of violence on the verge of losing himself to the inner dark. Until now, The Wolverine (2013) was, not surprisingly, the best showcase for that character. It was also the most interesting and engaging movie under the Marvel umbrella. Taken solely on its own merit, it stands up as a worthwhile picture. It's an action-adventure that succeeds in large part because it maintains focus and doesn't feel scattered and distracting due to an over-stuffed plot or too many characters or bloated action sequences.
Logan is even leaner and meaner than The Wolverine, and all the better for it.
It should come as no surprise that I should find the bleakest, most brutal Marvel movie more satisfying than all the rest. We like what we like. But part of what I find so satisfying about this and even about The Wolverine is that they can co-exist with the other X-Men and Avengers movies while feeling antithetical to them. These two are tough, dark hearted action movies that actually address the existential conflicts facing an outcast made reluctant hero. They offer some hope, sure, but not before the cynicism and the suffering.
In 2029, Logan operates a limousine in El Paso under an assumed identity. The effort to stamp out mutants has all but succeeded and the few survivors have been driven underground. Logan makes enough money to buy black market meds for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whom he's secreted away in rural Mexico, drugged to near catatonia with the aid of Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Logan is also attempting to save enough cash to buy a round-the-world powerboat so he and Charles can find some measure of peace on the open ocean. But the two of them are both in rough shape: Charles is prone to seizures that threaten to destroy everyone around him; Logan is deteriorating physically, his healing ability diminishing daily and his self-medication regimen of cheap whisky and denial losing its efficacy. Into their midst charges Garbriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse from Mexico City with a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) in tow. She offers Logan $50,000 to drive the two of them to North Dakota, where they will attempt to cross the border to freedom. He hesitates but eventually agrees, motivated more by the money than any benevolent impulse. His moment of reluctance allows Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), an enhanced bounty hunter leading a cadre of mercenaries in the employ of the Transigen Corporation, to gain on Gabriela and Laura, with tragic consequences. Laura, it turns out, is a mutant bred in a Transigen laboratory, one of many. When the company decided to shutter this particular program, Gabriela and some of the other staff fled with a number of the subject children. Pierce is charged with rounding them up but also has a special interest in Logan, and in locating the acclaimed Dr. Xavier. Over the course of a cross-country chase, we come to learn Logan and Laura have much in common, and he finds some real sense of purpose in that connection.
Jackman and director James Mangold (who also helmed The Wolverine) have a shared vision for the trajectory of Logan/Wolverine and they bring it home here. I am not surprised that Logan contains some truly exciting, visceral action sequences or that it is stylishly shot and well-paced. But I didn't expect it to have the sort of emotional depth that it does. Thanks in large part to a revelatory performance by Keen and a quietly cataclysmic plot, the movie achieves a resonant sadness equal to its electrifyingly vicious action. R. 135m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
TABLE 19. Mostly because I am troublingly infatuated with Anna Kendrick, I felt almost obligated to see this. Despite the pleasant surprise of its cast (Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant) and a script by the Duplass brothers, it doesn't amount to much more than a pleasant, kind-hearted distraction.
Eloise (Kendrick) has been summarily dismissed as her oldest friend's maid of honor, as her relationship with said friend's brother has recently dissolved. She decides to attend the wedding anyway, finding herself seated at the titular table, the depository for the oddballs who don't fit anywhere else. Over the course of the reception, her tablemates rally around her, revealing the scars and imperfections that unite and humanize them all. It's sweet and mild and unsurprising, but never quite as funny or charming as one might hope. PG13. 87m. BROADWAY.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
DIRTY DANCING (1987). Starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. Nobody puts Baby in the corner. PG13. 100m. BROADWAY.
DR. STRANGELOVE (1964). Peter Sellers stars with George C. Scott in the black and white, Cold War black comedy that doesn't seem that crazy anymore. PG. 95m. MINOR.
KEDI. Not getting enough cat videos? Take a cat's-eye tour of the alleys and rooftops of Istanbul with seven savvy felines in this documentary. NR. 80m. MINIPLEX.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Set in 1971, this chest-thumping reboot stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly and Brie Larson, as well as a menagerie of pre-historic CG creatures. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). Judy Garland stars as Dorothy, following the yellow brick road with her friends and her little dog, too. G. 102m. MINOR.
BEFORE I FALL. A young woman (Zoey Deutch) is stuck in a Groundhog Day loop trying to solve the mystery of her own death. PG13. 99m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
GET OUT. Daniel Kaluuya stars as a young African American man visiting his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) family in this atmospheric and original horror movie that is as artistically accomplished as it is dire in its allegory of American racism. R. 103m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
THE GREAT WALL. A Western mercenary (Matt Damon in an unfortunate ponytail) aids Chinese mercenaries in their battle against hordes of lizards and the burden of carrying their own movie. With Tian Jing and Willem Dafoe. PG. 104m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO. Filmmaker Raoul Peck uses historical footage, interviews and author James Baldwin's unfinished book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement. PG13. 99m. MINIPLEX.
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2. Picking up a week after the events of John Wick, the sequel raises the bar for action and inventive ways for Wick (Keanu Reeves) to be the baddest. R. 122m. BROADWAY.
LA LA LAND. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make movie magic in this lush and sublimely giddy musical about an aspiring actress and jazz-loving pianist in Los Angeles. Be warned: Some showings are sing-alongs. PG13. 128m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. The plastic Dark Knight (voiced by a gravelly Will Arnett) takes on a partner in this brick-filled animated feature. With Micheal Cera. PG. 104m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
LION. Dev Patel stars in the genuine, moving and beautiful true tale of a young adopted man searching for his roots and his family in India. PG13. 118m. MILL CREEK.
MOONLIGHT. Attention to the little things and small, powerful moments make for a much wider and more hopeful picture of the world in this three-part coming-of-age-and-beyond story. Starring Mahershala Ali. PG13. 111m. BROADWAY.
PATERSON. Jim Jarmusch's film about a routine-bound bus driver (Adam Driver) and his mercurial wife (Golshifteh Farahani). PG. 120m. MINOR.
ROCK DOG. Luke Wilson and Eddie Izzard voice an aspiring mutt musician and his feline mentor in this animated comedy. PG. 120m. BROADWAY.
THE SHACK. A grieving father (Sam Worthington) receives a mysterious invitation and goes on a magical sojourn. With Octavia Spencer. PG13. 132m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill