Logan, the public’s beloved Wolverine, has aged and isn’t doing so great. As he holds onto life for some reason and is looking for a reason to be. His later life is not filled with action, something he seems to have settled into. That is until a woman comes asking for his help and a chain of events leads to him having to help a young girl in desperate need of guidance and assistance.
“Logan” is a terrible X-Men movie, but a very good Wolverine movie. I say that because director James Mangold holds about as much contempt for X-Men and its concept as Bryan Singer does. Mangold offers a vision of the team that is none too flattering. Set in an undetermined timeline of the movie series, we’re met with Logan in the distant future where he’s one of the only surviving mutants left on Earth. The dream has died, Professor X is now suffering from a brain disease that has turned him in to a burden, and everything the X-Men strived for has been forgotten and passed off as a joke. Now faced with nothing but a dark ending, he is confronted by a Hispanic woman who pays him to help her. Logan, at the behest of Charles Xavier, is tasked with caring for a small girl named Laura who is much more like Logan than even Charles Xavier realizes.
After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother. As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert. After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert. The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements. Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert. The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring. It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends. The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such. The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.
I’ve always been a fan of movies that examine how deaths can affect the ones we love and how it can create a pretty significant ripple. “Suck It Up” is a bit of “Garden State,” and “Ordinary People” mixed with mumblecore here and there. While I appreciate director Jordan Canning’s efforts to create this drama about how the death of one of the more important people in their lives affected them drastically, the script from Julia Hoff seems to be almost bereft of drama to the point where scenes just stretch out in to nothingness. There are a lot of really drawn out moments where almost nothing happens. In brief scenes where Canning tackles the dynamic between our characters Ronnie and Faye, “Suck It Up” presents only slight glimmers of an emotional character study.
The Farrelly Brothers’ “There’s Something About Mary” is a pitch black romance comedy, and it embraces its dark mood with a sense of humor that’s relentless in being ridiculous. Released during a time where Ben Stiller still had potential, and Cameron Diaz was still something of a fox, the Farrelly brothers focus less on the dream girl and the guy who lost her, and more how the dream girl manages to arouse a group of men that are dangerously obsessed with her.
Ever since “Shaun of the Dead,” many filmmakers have been intent on delivering their own horror comedies about self obsessed thirty somethings thrust in to the zombie apocalypse. Kyle Rankin’s “Night of the Living Deb” is not a masterpiece by any definition of the word, but it ends up being a decent diversion that has a good time using zombies as a means of emphasizing the dynamic between our main characters. Set on the fourth of July, awkward Deb awakens in the apartment of her love interest Ryan. Though she’s in love with him, Ryan isn’t entirely interested in her and is anxious to get her out of his life as soon as possible. Little do either of the pair know that overnight their small town of Maine has been consumed by a zombie apocalypse and everyone they known are now flesh eating zombies.
Li Lu’s drama “There Is a New World Somewhere” is another one of those dramas about thirty somethings looking for directions in life. It’s in the tradition of movies like “Garden State” and Greta Gerwig movies, while director Lu really tries to invent her own “Five Easy Pieces.” The problem is “There Is a New World Somewhere” doesn’t present enough of a dilemma for our protagonist Sylvia to begin hitting the open road and looking for some sort of purpose. We settle in with her for all of fifteen minutes before we’re told how restless she is, and then takes off with character Esteban who she meets at a party one night.
Agnes Brucker is a very strong actress with a unique energy and charisma that has never really been wisely utilized by other directors, and it’s a shame. She’s very good in “There Is a New World Somewhere” and literally carries what is only a mediocre road trip film about two people trying to find themselves. I think. Or maybe they’re trying to find the meaning of life. Or a purpose? I never did catch on. Either way, Bruckner is the highlight as Sylvia a struggling artist anxious to launch an opening at the gallery she works in to showcase her art. When she’s turned down, she begins questioning her life and is called to party with some long lost friends, many of whom are on the verge of being married.
After forming a connection with party goer Esteban, Sylvia skips town with him and begins traveling around the country. Along the way, the pair have a passionate affair and wander around from landmark to landmark discussing the meaning of life, their passion for certain parts of life, and how unfulfilled they feel. Li Lu has a wonderful directorial style providing some great wide shots and beautiful dream like moments and montages where Sylvia and Esteban linger in various spots and different cities trying to savor life. I just wish “There Is a New World Somewhere” had a much more solid narrative and a lot more character depth.
When Sylvia skips town on her friends to take a trip with a stranger, it feels like half baked motivation to set the plot in motion. When the pair of character do manage to get in to various escapades, it’s never all that interesting. That said, Lu’s direction is vibrant, while star Bruckner is a very good actress who shines in an otherwise middling drama.
Now on VOD, IVOD, and is in Limited Theatrical Release until August 31st.
The best way to describe “The Secret Life of Pets” is “Toy Story” meets “Looney Tunes.” In fact the “Toy Story” comparisons are never far off, as the film’s formula is most derived from Pixar’s film where we view the secret lives of everyday household elements when their owners aren’t looking. This time we set down on a random apartment complex in the middle of Manhattan where a slew of household pets commune and indulge in their own hobbies when their owners are out for the day. Louis CK does a wonderful job voicing Max, the hero of the film who is a terrier and loyal friend to his owner Katie. While Katie is gone for the day, Max gets together with the pets of the building to talk over the day and discuss what they think happens when their masters are gone.
Eliie Kemper as Katie is a single working woman with a heart for dogs who bonds with Max, and then suddenly brings home a new dog one day. Max is horrified and angry when Katie brings home big fluffy dog Duke, a well meaning adopted pet who tries to make friends with Max and then forms a rivalry when he realizes Max is trying to get him kicked out of the house. While being walked one day, Duke tricks Max in to going on to a construction site, prompting the pair to get lost in the city. With dog hunters and vicious cat on their tail, the two have to work together with the help of anti-owner revolutionary leader, the bunny Snowball. Meanwhile puffy dog and neighbor Gidget goes looking for Max and Duke, hell bent on bringing them back home.
“The Secret Life of Pets” is a subtle celebration of New York City, where our animal characters travel all throughout New York in an attempt to get hack home. The movie doesn’t attempt too much emotional complexity or adult themes, but instead revels in its silliness, ace animation, and often laugh out loud comedy. One particular scene involving an old woman’s reaction to a baby in its carriage is quite hysterical. The animation opts for a very unique and fun style in the vein of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Despite the movie injecting a lot of heart at the core of its narrative about animals and their devotion to their humans, the animation is decidedly exaggerated with a lot of the characters presented in over the top animated forms.
Even tough heroine Gidget is presented as something of a barking and talking puff ball throughout the film. At a little over seventy minutes, “The Secret Life of Pets” has no room for filler or flab to its story, providing a brisk and hilarious adventure with a genuine sense of emotion to it. It’s a fun, funny, and simple animated film, and one of the better animated entries to come to theaters. While yes it can be accused of taking from “Toy Story,” Max and Duke are genuinely entertaining heroes I hope we can see more of soon.