LOGAN (USA/16/137mins) Directed by James Mangold. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne keen, Stephan Merchant, Boyd Holbrook THE PLOT: In 2029, no new mutants have been born for over 20 years, and Logan (Hugh Jackman) – once known as Wolverine – is working as a limo driver and trying to keep the ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) away from prying eyes. All is going well until a woman appears begging for Logan’s help, and Charles announces that a new mutant has been born, and he is communicating with her. THE VERDICT: The final instalment in the Wolverine trilogy is undoubtedly the best film to focus on the titular mutant, and may well be the best X-Men film we have had to date, Gone is the glossy comic book feel of other outings, replaced by a dark, gritty and gloomy feel. This, combined with the amount of violent set pieces, blood shed and heads rolling, mean that ‘Logan’ is an entirely different beast to ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, or for that matter, ‘The Wolverine’.
Hugh Jackman returns for maybe the last time (or maybe not) as Logan/Wolverine, and brings a new depth to the character. Previously, Logan just seemed grumpy and petulant, but since he is ageing and his powers are deserting him, it seems that Logan truly has something to be annoyed about, and a reason to truly lay low. Patrick Stewart returns as Charles Xavier – also possibly maybe for the last time – and has a great time showing a man restricted by the thing that previously made him great. The two have great chemistry on screen, and they are a joy to watch together, Stephen Merchant takes over the role of Caliban from Tómas Lemarquis , who played the role in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. Although merchant does have some comedic lines, his role is mainly dramatic, and he does well at creating a character that begrudges his lot but is fiercely loyal. Dafne Keen plays the fierce and fearless Laura, the mutant who kicks off all the trouble, and she makes the character as feisty as you could hope, and has some great tender moments with Hugh Jackman as Logan. The rest of the cast features Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Beal, Quincy Fouse and Elizabeth Rodriguez.
Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green’s screenplay takes everything that Wolverine should have been in the past, and brings it to the fore in ‘Logan’. There are the prerequisite set pieces that pepper the film, but this is really a story about fathers and children, with Charles Xavier stepping into the father role for Logan. There are some fun pieces of dialogue and revealing moments, but there are also times when the film seems to struggle under the weight of its own ambition, and runs out of steam. There is the distinct feel of a Western about ‘Logan’, and the character certainly fits the bill of the nomadic fighter, while the entire film is soaked with revenge and retribution.
As director James Mangold – who has been quiet since his ill-fated 2013 film The Wolverine – seems to have learned from the mistakes of his and Wolverine’s last big screen outing, and makes ‘Logan’ the film that we have all been waiting for in the X-Men universe. There are times when the pacing wobbles, but the comedic and dramatic timing is top notch, the performances strong and the feel of this being an ending percolates through the entire film.
In all, ‘Logan’ is perhaps the best ‘X-Men’ movie to date, and certainly the best solo outing for Wolverine that we have seen to date. The cast do incredibly well, the rapport between Stewart and Jackman is second to none and the story creates a new dimension in familiar characters that keeps the audience on their toes. There are times when the pacing struggles and the film certainly feels overly long, but ‘Logan’ is still a great film, and a fantastic ‘X-Men’ film too. RATING: 4/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
TRESPASS AGAINST US (UK/15A/99mins) Directed by Adam Smith. Starring Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, Killian Scott, Lyndsey Marshal. THE PLOT: Chad Culter (Michael Fassbender) and his family live on a halting site with Chad’s father Colby (Brendan Gleeson) and other members of the extended family. Inherently drawn towards crime, and standing up to those that would “trespass against us”, Chad finally sees that an environment where the police are constantly on their tails is not one that he wants to subject his young children to any more. After one final job for the domineering patriarch of the family, Chad sets about getting away from his father, but soon realises that this is not as easy as it looks. THE VERDICT: ‘Trespass Against Us’ marks the feature length debut of ‘Doctor Who’ and Chemical Brothers video director Adam Smith, and boasts an impressive Irish cast, including Brendan Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Killian Scott and Barry Keoghan.
Michael Fassbender leads the cast as the uneducated but charming Chad Cutler; a man who has always lived under the domineering thumb of his father, and suddenly realises its time to get out. Brendan Gleeson takes on the role of Colby Cutler, said patriarch and imposing presence. Both Fassbender and Gleeson have a good thing going in their frightening stillness, which both display throughout the film; they work well together and their chemistry on screen is strong, but there is always an undercurrent of dissatisfaction coming from both characters toward one another. Gleeson is imposing and frightening, but can turn on a dime, whereas Fassbender makes Chad more charming and lively than his father. The rest of the cast features Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Gerard Kearns, Killian Scott and Barry Keoghan, all of whom do well with the West Country dialect they spout in the film.
Screenwriter Alistair Siddons has worked as a director throughout his career, and ‘Trespass Against Us’ was borne out of a documentary he made, and saw a narrative feature in the subjects. The dialogue is presented in a Gloucestershire accent – which all of the actors manage well – and this gives a warmth and a charm to the characters, as they stay true to their roots and who they are Siddons makes sure that the audience knows the Culter family is one that operates as though the law doesn’t apply to them, and it is the threat of the family breaking down under pressures from the law and from the inside that creates much of the tension within the story. As well as this, Siddons has fun with the characters who want to be better people within society, and make sure that their kids have better lives than them, but aren’t always sure how to break free.
Director Adam Smith coaxes strong performances from Fassbender and Gleeson, almost constantly pitting these two very similar men against one another. The set pieces are carefully directed, and the cat and mouse game played between police and the family, as well as within the family, are well drawn on screen. ‘Trespass Against Us’ is well paced and the characters created in such a manner that it is hard not to root for this band of uneducated outlaws who are constantly at war with themselves and the police.
In all, ‘Trespass Against Us’ is a tightly scripted family drama that has a lot of heart, but plenty of frustrations. Fassbender and Gleeson lead the cast ably, and the film cements Adam Smith as a director to watch out for. RATING: 4/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
TOMATO RED (Canada | Ireland/UC/112mins) Directed by Juanita Wilson. Starring Julia Garner, Jake Weary, Anna Friel, Nick Roux, Douglas M. Griffin THE PLOT: Sammy (Jake Weary) is fresh out of jail and looking for new friends and a way to spend his weekends. When his newest attempt at making friends leads him to break into a big house, he falls asleep and is awoken by Jamalee (Julia Garner) and her brother Jason (Nick Roux), who do not live in the house, as Sammy first believes. Fascinated by Jamalee and her bright red hair, Sammy agrees to provide security for the siblings, and help them get away from the prejudice of Venus Holler, where they live. THE VERDICT: Based on the novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell, ‘Tomato Red’ is written for the screen and directed by Irish filmmaker Juanita Wilson. Wilson’s last film, ‘As if I am Not Here’, dealt with the Bosnian War of the 1990s, and this time she has turned her attention to middle America and its forgotten people.
Jake Weary leads the cast as Sammy, the drifter looking for a place to belong and people that will have him. The character’s problems are fairly easily solved when he meets Jamalee and her family, and other than some brief forays into burglary and anger, Weary does not have a lot to do here. Julia Garner plays Jamalee, and although the character starts off as mysterious and alluring, this is quickly lost, and it is difficult to see just what Sammy sees in her. Anna Friel is the real stand out of ‘Tomato Red’, making Bev – Jamalee and Jason’s mother – cutting and sharp, with a wicked turn of phrase and temper. The rest of the cast features Nick Roux and Douglas M. Griffin.
Juanita Wilson’s screenplay shifts the perspective of the story from Jamalee to Sammy, and in doing so, moves the audience to role of observer in the story, rather than feeling engaged and enthralled. As well as this, there are times when action takes place off screen, and so little explanation is given that the audience finds themselves scrambling to keep up. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in the dialogue, and Bev is a wonderful character, but the way the rest of the roles are written do not really allow the cast to get their teeth into their performances.
As director, Juanita Wilson allows the film to drift for the first hour, and while it is nice to watch these characters interact with one another to an extent, there comes a time when these rather thinly sketched characters fail to hold audience interest. As well as this, the event that kicks everyone into high gear happens too late in the film to rescue the loose and meandering feel that is created on screen, meaning that the pacing is a mess and too loose to be engaging.
In all, ‘Tomato Red’ is a meandering and messy film, but Anna Friel shines as the cutting and smart Bev. A tighter script and stronger narrative arc would have benefitted these characters, as well as stronger direction to make Jamalee, Sammy and Jason truly interesting and engrossing. RATING: 2/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
FIST FIGHT (USA/16/91mins) Directed by Richie keen. Starring Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris THE PLOT: The last day of school in Roosevelt High School is senior prank day, but when the pranks get out of hand and English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) manages to get history teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) fired, Strickland decides the only way to resolve their beef is for he and Campbell to fight each other after school. THE VERDICT: On paper, the idea of Charlie Day and Ice Cube throwing down after school has tons of potential for comedy, but in reality, ‘Fist Fight’ only has that one joke, and takes its sweet time getting to it.
Charlie Day leads the cast as Andy Campbell, and although fans of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ will know that Day is a talented and funny actor, virtually none of this is on display in ‘Fist Fight’. The jokes don’t land and simply running away and lying to his wife means that Andy goes from a sympathetic character to an annoying one rather quickly. It is clear that Strickland – played by Ice Cube – was written fairly one dimensionally, and while it is clear that Mr Cube has fun with that, it is when attempts are made to round out the character and make his motivations clear that this falls flat. Christina Hendricks plays a sex pot French teacher, and while she tries – bless her – to make Ms Monet a character that defies her physical looks, and play with the comedy, this is something that Hendricks utterly fails to do. The rest of the cast features Dean Norris, Jillian Bell, Tracy Morgan, Kumail Nanjiani, Denis Haysbert and JoAnna Garcia Swisher.
The screenplay, written by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser hinges on one joke/plot point – Charlie Day and Ice Cube getting into a scrap – and anyone who is expecting anything more than that will be sorely disappointed. There is an attempt to give context with senior prank day being the catalyst and Strickland wanting someone to be held accountable for the shenanigans that go on around the school, but the entire film is spent waiting for Cube and Day to finally let their fists fly, and no amount of oiled hallways, spray painted cars or weird talent shows where little girls sing songs laden with explicit language can make up for the lack of comedy in the film.
As director Richie Keen never managed to keep the energy of the film going long enough for the attempts at comedy to land properly. There is precious little to laugh at here, since the dynamic of small guy vs scary guy with an unspecified past is one that we have seen a million times before, and there is nothing new or exciting created in ‘Fist Fight’. The comic timing of most of the actors is completely off, and there comes a point where the continuous attempts comedy become embarrassing.
In all, ‘Fist Fight’ hinges on the idea that Charlie Day and Ice Cube fighting could be funny, and spends most of its 90 minute running time trying to fill out the rest of the story in order to justify the joke of the title. None of the cast manage to actually be funny, and the comic timing, energy and motivations in the film are non-existent. RATING: 1/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
LOST IN FRANCE (Ireland | UK/15A/100mins) Directed by Niall McCann. THE PLOT: In 1997, a group of Glaswegian musicians, including The Delgados, Bis, Mogwai and Hubby, travelled to Mauron in France, to put on a concert showcasing the best of the Glasgow music scene. 18 years later, many of the instigators of the trip return to France, finding themselves not only on a nostalgia trip for their youths, but for the financial and political climate of the 1990s that allowed the music scene of Glasgow to flourish.
THE VERDICT: ‘Lost in France’ is a film that is made for the fans of Glaswegian bands, who spent time in their youths listening to the borderline subversive music created by these bands. It is also a film that focuses on the climate that allowed the bands to flourish, as well as the record label set up by The Delgados, Chemikal Underground, which many of the bands in the film were signed to.
Throughout the film, musicians such as Stuart Braithwaite, Stewart Henderson, Alex Kapranos, Emma Pollock, Paul Savage and R.M. Hubbert (Hubby) discuss the time in their lives that they went to Mauron the first time, and what they remember now that they are going back, and what has changed in their lives and the world since they first visited.
Director Niall McCann has created a love letter, not only to the 1990s but also to the music that was allowed to flourish on the Chemikal Underground label. The interviews given by Mogwai and Emma Pollock (The Delgados) are particularly haunting, as they are moved by, haunted by and passionate about music, but they often find themselves struggling to survive financially as they follow the path that makes them the happiest.
Inevitably, ‘Lost in France’ stirs up nostalgia in the audience; even if we were not following the bands and musicians in the film, it is hard to deny that the 1990s in the UK was a time when many bands came to the fore. That said, the film also inevitable struggles with being too personal for the musicians featured, so the audience always feels as though they are on the outside looking in, and never as though they are there with the musicians on the bus, stage or at the pub. There are some interesting and moving moments where Stewart Henderson (The Delgados) and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) discuss how being on the dole allowed these musicians to create the musical and social climate in which they flourished, and this could have been a strong backbone in a film that sorely needs one, but these are fleeting moments, easily dismissed.
In all, ‘Lost in France’ is a nostalgias trip designed for the fans of the bands featured, and although there are some moving moments for the uninitiated, and the film will certainly stir up curiosity about The Delgados, Arab Strap, Mogwai and others, there is not enough structure to the film to allow it to function as a story for those who were never lucky enough to discover these bands the first time around. RATING: 3/5 Review by Brogen Hayes