About ten minutes before my screening of Logan, 20th Century Fox’s latest venture into the X-Verse, a family of four wandered in, popcorn and sodas in hand. Mom, Dad, two kids. Two very young kids. Like, ten-ish at best. I don’t judge. How you parent your kids is on you. Maybe these people did the requisite homework on Logan. Maybe they didn’t. I’m leaning toward they didn’t. They never left, so here’s to them for sticking it out. But if the countless F-bombs and butt shot from the Deadpool 2 teaser ahead of the feature didn’t waver them, I’m thinking the 137 minutes of Logan led to a few awkward family moments. When they got home, those parents might have had some ‘splainin’ to do.

Logan earns its “R” rating, and then some. Filmgoers amped up for a paint by number, CGI, save the universe extravaganza should be warned that disappointment lurks. Logan is an intimate character portrait unlike anything we’ve seen in the guise of a superhero movie to date; Nolan’s Batman trilogy included. And we are so better off for it.

It’s the year 2029. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is old. The indestructible mutant is worn out; limping, broken physically and mentally. We find him living out his existence driving a limousine, under the guise of his given name, James Howlett. He tolerates obnoxious, frat boy businessmen and bachelorette parties between alcoholic benders intended to help mask the pain he endures from the adamantium that has finally turned his body against him. It is a shock to see the once unbreakable X-Man in such disrepair.

In a way that isn’t fully explained in the film, the mutant population is nearly extinct. No new mutants have been born in years, and little hint to what happened is given other than a brief mention of ‘that thing that happened at Westchester.” It can be presumed that the aging Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), suffering from dementia and seizures, probably had something to do with it. Now over ninety years old, Professor X lives contained within an abandoned metal silo south of the border, hidden from the government that has deemed him the most powerful weapon of mass destruction in the world. He is cared for by the Albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and Logan. The dynamic between Logan and Xavier is one of reluctant bedfellows. His respect and admiration for Xavier is ever present, but he assists in Xavier’s care more as a sense of duty than a preference. Xavier, in his moments of clarity, just wants to be able to pee in peace.

The story begins to take off when a frantic woman, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), begs Logan to take her and an eleven year old mutant girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), to North Dakota, where a mutant haven called Eden supposedly awaits. They are being chased by cybernetically enhanced soldiers called reavers, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), belonging to the Transigen corporation, where Gabriela once worked as a nurse and cared for children who were being bred and raised as mutant soldiers. Laura, we learn, was bred using Logan’s DNA, and she shares her powers in the same capacity as her “father.” The apple does not fall far from the tree. Laura is as feral and ruthless as Logan, and we haven’t seen a tandem dish out this level of bloody mayhem since Hit Girl and Big Daddy patrolled the streets of New York. If you found the violence in Kick-Ass not to your liking, buyer beware.

When Logan, Xavier, and Laura are forced to the road in an old pick-up truck to flee the reavers, the film borrows elements from Mad Max: Fury Road, Midnight Special, and most notably the 1953 western, Shane. Logan becomes a classic chase movie, where the good guys do their best to stay a step ahead, even though we know confrontation is inevitable.

This is a film to be commended for foregoing conventional blockbuster enhancements. Director James Mangold chooses to linger instead on intimate character dynamics which are some of the best moments on screen. This feels like a true life expose on familial relationships. Of fathers and sons. Fathers and daughters. Of friends who have been through everything together and somehow lived long enough to ruminate together about all of it. Jackman and Stewart are the doing their best work with these characters. No other X-Men film comes close. And Dafne Keen is a revelation; equal parts unsettling in her ferociousness and admirable in her confidence on screen with these franchise heavyweights. But even as the film slows down in spots to wallow in intimate moments with its characters, have no fear, there is plenty of snicktedy snickt action to enjoy in all of its limb flying, bloody goodness.

Logan is an emotional ride, and there will be moments, especially at the end, that will resonate long after the credits have rolled. This isn’t going to be for everyone. Mystique isn’t going to pop in to save the day. Logan is the closest thing to a “real” movie the superhero genre has even gotten. There are no capes. No apocalypse. No eating of Shawarma. Just a broken old man and one final mission.

phpxnctheamSTEVE CLIFTON has been writing moderately well on the Internet at this blog, Popcorn Confessional, for the better part of the last decade.  His love for movies can be traced back to the North Park Cinema in Buffalo, NY circa 1972, when his aunt took him to see Dumbo.  Now living in Maine, Steve routinely consumes as much film, television, and books as time will allow.  He also finds time to complain about winter and Buffalo sports teams.  He is a big fan of bad horror films and guacamole, and mildly amused by pandas.


About eight months ago, I was riding in a car with a friend.  Jason, we’ll call him.  Jason is not a close friend.  We see each other a couple of times a year, on Facebook occasionally, but we do not converse regularly.  Jason is Black.  After exchanging the normal pleasantries, I took the conversation to what felt like an appropriate direction.  I asked him if he’d seen Straight Outta Compton.

Yeah.  I did that.

Jason is a good guy.  Turns out he had indeed seen Straight Outta Compton, and we had a robust conversation about it.  But for the last eight months, the fact that I asked him that question has bothered me.  Why didn’t I ask him if he had seen Sing Street?  Or Neighbors 2?  Instead, I asked my Black friend if he’d seen the NWA biopic, and regaled him in conversation about Gangsta rap and its influences on modern music, neither of which hold any interest for me.  I just subconsciously assumed it probably did for him.  It felt like a natural question at the time.  Ever since, I’ve felt kinda stupid for being so shallow.

Then, along comes Jordan Peele’s debut film, Get Out.

Racism is the central theme which drives Get Out, but I’m not convinced its purpose is to educate White people as much as it is Peele giving a wink and a nod to Black people, not in a tongue-in-cheek way, but in an “I get it” way. In a “this is for you” sort of way.  There are so many layers and metaphors in Get Out, we could have hours of conversation and never cover all of them.  I’m not sure we’re supposed to.  It would be insulting to Black people to even feign comprehension regarding their plight in America today.  Many of the narrative nuance in Get Out likely won’t even register with White people, because it simply can’t.  “I understand where you’re coming from”, proclaim many well intentioned White folk.  No.  No, you don’t.

Now, I’m not talking about Neo-Nazi, hang ’em from the trees, Jim Crow style racism here.  Not at all.  Get Out isn’t that forthcoming and isn’t going to make it that simple for you.  I’m talking about the White, “liberal racism” that permeates society; a construct by mostly young, well intentioned, social justice warriors that jump up on soap boxes to renounce racism, and to profess that they will champion our Black friends against the evil racist scourge.  Then they drop their bullhorns (or log off Twitter), jump into their Prius’ and drive back home to their suburban abodes where most Black folks don’t bother going,  because they live with an inherent fear that doing so will just result in having the police called on them, or worse.  Because being White still comes with its priveledges.  And Get Out, if nothing else, wants you to at least understand that much.

Most White people won’t see beyond the standard genre tropes, label Get Out a cool thriller, and never grasp the impact the film may be having on the Black people sitting right next to them.  On screen, they’ll see an innocent Black man get asked for his identification by a police officer for no discernible reason. It’s familiar, and it angers us because we know its supposed to.  And they will laugh at the ignorant old White people in the film that make statements like, “I know Tiger Woods” and “I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could have.”  That’s where I got it.  That’s when I understood what Peele was doing here.  There is no difference in those dumb statements than in me asking Jason if he’d seen Straight Outta Compton.  That’s when I finally understood that no matter how much outrage I felt over the horrors of racism plastered all over my television screen, I could never truly understand the impact, because it was not my reality.

As a filmmaker, Peele is sure-handed and confident in his vision.  Many of the requisite genre tropes are subverted in favor of scenes of social awkwardness.  A few jump scares are sprinkled in, but the true “horror” lies mostly within the subtext and has no inclination to coerce reactionary gasps and screams from the audience.  That doesn’t imply there aren’t plenty of payoffs to enjoy, especially in the climactic moments.  Just don’t go in looking for a white knuckle experience.

Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, the protagonist, with a cautious skepticism that gets progressively more intense as he realizes things at his girlfriend’s parent’s home are not as inviting as they might have seemed.  His eyes widen fearfully with each passing frame.  Allison Williams is Rose, the girlfriend that insists their trip to introduce Chris to her parents will be a good time, because they “aren’t racist.”  I won’t give away any of the twists and turns that drive the narrative once Chris and Rose arrive at the family home…in the middle of nowhere…where there are no issues with privacy.  Read into that what you will.

I feel like Get Out may be a catalyst for a new generation of self awareness.  No film in recent memory stands out as more of a barometer for the current racial divide that continues to fester in this country.  And Peele gets away with it by disguising it as a horror film.  It’s an interpretive, cinematic dance, subtly unveiling the Black experience in our society, peeling back deeper revelations as it progresses, and leaves us with plenty to chew on.  White people are being schooled, never having known they’ve even stepped inside a classroom.


phpxnctheamSTEVE CLIFTON has been writing moderately well on the Internet at this blog, Popcorn Confessional, for the better part of the last decade.  His love for movies can be traced back to the North Park Cinema in Buffalo, NY circa 1972, when his aunt took him to see Dumbo.  Now living in Maine, Steve routinely consumes as much film, television, and books as time will allow.  He also finds time to complain about winter and Buffalo sports teams.  He is a big fan of bad horror films and guacamole, and mildly amused by pandas.