Hammerle on … ‘Logan,’ ‘Kong: Skull Island’

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bob hammerle movie reviews“Logan”

“Logan” is a colossally good film on multiple levels. Though R-rated and profoundly violent from beginning to end, it is a heartwarming tale about how an aging, dying man is forced to rediscover the meaning of life.

hammerle-logan-rating.gifRecreating a role that he has played in nine films, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is a mutant dancing on the edge of death. He walks with a profound limp and doesn’t heal as quickly when shot by an assailant.

Adding to his trauma, the physical health of his old mentor, Charles Xavier, is far worse than his own. Living in an abandoned silo while cared for by Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a loyal friend from the old days, Logan tries to provide as much medication as possible to keep Xavier from accidently killing himself as a result of his decaying mutant skills.

As always, Patrick Stewart gives a powerful performance as Xavier, once again demonstrating the formidable talent he displayed as a right-wing villain in last year’s overlooked “Green Room.” Though Logan has lost the desire to help anyone, Xavier implores him to protect a young female mutant called Laura. In the process, Logan is forced to overcome his disgust and save her and his old colleague when a sinister underground force appears in the pursuit of Laura.

The entire film functions as an old Western where Logan tries to drive Laura from the Texas/Mexican border to meet young colleagues in North Dakota. Ghastly violence waits around every turn, and you must be warned that you will be watching some very wonderful people get viciously killed by a ruthless small army of amoral pursuers led by Boyd Holbrook as Pierce. Holbrook is supremely hateful, yet you will be mesmerized by his startling performance.

Without question, what makes this film such a hit at the box office comes from the spectacular performance of young Dafne Keen, here playing Laura. A young mutant no older than the age of 12, she is capable of defending herself in a startling fashion, resembling an adolescent female Wolverine. Despite Logan learning that Laura and other children were the subject of ungodly surgical experimentation by a lab run by a Nazi-type doctor played by Richard E. Grant, Laura only asks for Logan’s help in driving her to the Canadian border where other young escapees from this hideous medical institution await.

While I don’t dare go any further and describe where this movie is heading, as noted earlier, it is a very moving story. With the exception of Xavier and Caliban, all of Logan’s friends are long gone. Yet what he discovers in his growing bond with Laura will lift your spirits to a level seldom seen in any film.

I loved this movie. I and many members of the audience sat and watched the final credits as we wiped tears from our cheeks. Saying goodbye is always difficult, even if it pertains to fictional characters appearing for the last time on the big screen.

“Kong: Skull Island”

“Kong: Skull Island” is a fun action film that really should be seen at an IMAX theater. The special effects are a beauty to behold and the accompanying soundtrack, which includes “White Rabbit” (Jefferson Airplane), “Time Has Come Today” (The Chambers Brothers) and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” and “Run Through the Jungle,” will have many of you acting ape-like in your seats.

hammerle-kong-rating.gifThe film begins with battling fighter pilots from the U.S. and Japan crash landing on a South Pacific island in 1944. Engaged in a fight to the death, they are suddenly confronted by a giant furry beast that forces them to become allies.

The film then jumps ahead to 1973, where the Vietnam War is ending in confusion and regret. In the process, a scientific foundation led by Bill Randa (the affable John Goodman) organizes a group of Vietnam veterans to explore an unknown island in the South Pacific.

This is where the adventure begins. With the sought-after island surrounded by vicious storm clouds, our explorers are forced to board 13 helicopters and depart from their ship. Emerging unscathed, they make the mistake of releasing incendiary bombs on the island to measure the topography. Feeling under attack, Kong emerges to everyone’s regret. With many helicopters destroyed, a portion of our crew is left struggling to live on dry land.

As our survivors battle many forms of large monsters, a strange bearded man comes to their rescue. His name is Hank Marlow (an expectedly funny John C. Reilly), the survivor from World War II who has been living with native island inhabitants. This group soon surprisingly dominates the heart and soul of this film.

While I won’t spoil your surprise, Kong proves to be completely misunderstood. That is eventually realized by the guide of our remaining party, James Conrad (played with expected style and energy by the talented Tom Hiddleston), and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a photographer who holds her own though she is surrounded by men.

However, the leader of our group of military veterans, Lt. Preston Packard, is set on killing Kong in light of the destruction caused to the helicopters referred to above. Samuel L. Jackson plays Lt. Packard, and he eventually morphs into the classic character played by Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” (1979).

This likeable movie was largely filmed in the Northern Province of Vietnam. In that regard, when the helicopters first see dry land, wait till you see their view of the volcanic islands rising in Ha Long Bay. Monica and I spent two weeks last year cruising the coast of Vietnam, and we took a kayak through a section of Ha Long Bay that I will long remember.

Take the time to see this film and watch for a surprise during the closing credits. Most of you will be leaving the theater with a smile on your face saying, “Well, I’ll be damned!”•


• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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