Movie Reviews: Logan and Toni Erdmann

Logan

Cary, NC – Logan is not your typical comic book movie. Director James Mangold (The Wolverine, Walk The Line) has made a classic western/family drama that just so happens to feature superheroes. The result is a fantastic last at bat for Hugh Jackman as the titular mutant character, giving perhaps the best performance of his career and a chance to go out on top.

One Of The Best Comic Book Movies Ever

The overall plot is actually quite that simple. The film opens about 10 years in the future, mutants are almost extinct and Logan/Wolverine and Charles Xavier/Professor X, played with gusto and sincerity by Patrick Stewart, are just trying to lie low and outrun the legend of the X-Men that chases them both. Obviously, things don’t go as planned and the two, along with a mysterious young girl, played by Dafne Keen, are forced to drive across country while being chased by government agents.

There’s plenty of great action spread throughout but the bulk of the film is a road trip movie, just hanging out with these characters one last time.

It’s a brilliant decision because when things do get intense, the stakes feel that much bigger as we’ve invested time with these characters. We know we like them, and it feels like this time, things might not go their way, which is pretty hard to do for a 10th film in a franchise.

Jackman And Stewart Both Excel

The fact that Jackman and Stewart have been playing these characters for almost 20 years now adds an enormous weight to the film. But what’s really great about Logan is that it feels like the first time these two actors have really been able to dig deep into the characters. They are both haunted by the past and filled with regret. There are multiple moments in which the two argue over past transgressions and it’s genuinely hard to watch. Their performances are so good, so human, that in a perfect world they would both be recognized accordingly.

The biggest difference about Logan is the R rating. The movie is filled with harsh language and graphic violence. On paper, it might seem gratuitous, and perhaps it is, but this character is most famous for his berserker rage and fits of violence so intense, it’s never truly been captured on film due to the PG-13 limits.

Director Mangold makes it feel purposeful though. There is one moment where Charles is watching the classic western Shane, about a gunslinger that tries to go straight, only to have his violent past catch up with him. The parallels are fairly obvious, but Mangold uses that and makes quite a meditative film about running from your past.

He also uses the film’s smaller scale to great effect, particularly with the action scenes. They all generally take place in one location and are filmed like a traditional action film rather than an epic superhero movie, helping to keep things grounded. Also, the stakes are refreshingly small here. Logan isn’t trying to save the world this time, just a little girl and his oldest friend. And honestly, it works like gangbusters.

Emotional, Exciting Film Not To Be Missed

Logan is an exceptional piece of work. A surprisingly emotional action film. A fitting goodbye to one of the most popular on screen characters of all time. And a comic book movie more interested in self reflection and character study than saving the world. Make no mistake, Logan is incredible and it should not be missed.


Toni Erdmann

Making a movie that is both an intensely funny comedy and a heart-breaking drama is near impossible. That’s what makes Toni Erdmann all the more impressive as it manages to be one of the funniest movies of the past few years while also showing a wonderful story about a father and a daughter drifting apart.

Toni Erdmann is playing at the Cary Theater this week: 2 and 9:15 PM on Thursday, March 9 and 7 PM on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Smart, Silly Comedy

Toni Erdmann was one of this year’s nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. And if you know the Oscars, you know comedies rarely ever make it to even the nominee process. But the comedy in Toni Erdmann, delivered in German, English and Romanian, is perfectly executed and earned it this high spot at the awards ceremony.

The film follows father and daughter Winfred and Ines, played by Peter Simonischek (Lou Andreas-Salomé, Emerald Green) and Sandra Hüller (Amour FouAbove Us Only Sky) respectively, as Winfred tries to visit her while she works abroad for one month. Winfred has a seeming need to constantly make jokes and always come up with new gags while Ines is a fairly cold-blooded business consultant, trying to figure out the best way to lay off employees in Romania.

Winfred makes goofy “dad jokes” that manage to be funny while also feeling like real pranks a dad would pull. And the way this bumps up against the humorless business world Ines works in creates all the more humor. Near the halfway point, Winfred also invests an alter ego, Toni Erdmann, to pretend to be a power player in this business climate and we get a big laugh out of seeing Winfred and Ines walk this tightrope of not being discovered as he plays with false teeth and jokes about pet turtles.

Genuine Emotions

There are no shortage of “black comedies” or other independent comedies nowadays that are very emotionally raw dramas with some jokes thrown in, from the popular Bojack Horseman to some of Robin Williams’ later work such as World’s Greatest Dad. But Toni Erdmann links these two elements, the funny and the sad, as inextricable.

As Winfred visits Ines, it is so clear how far apart these two are. Ines does not like his jokes and does not have time to visit with him in her important job. But Winfred also sees how she is struggling at work and he also, frankly, finds it immoral. At one point, he jokingly asks if she is even human anymore and that strikes a nerve with Ines.

It is a timeless, “Cat’s in the Cradle” kind of story about a parent and child moving apart but it is enriched by the personality differences between Winfred and Ines and always links back to the film’s inherent comedy.

One of the Funniest Movies

This is by far one of the best comedies in recent memory. Some people may be reluctant to go see a foreign language movie, particularly a German comedy, but it will have audiences hollering with laughter at the humor and patiently silent at the emotion. But be warned: it is almost three hours long.

Toni Erdmann is playing at the Cary Theater this week: 2 and 9:15 PM on Thursday, March 9 and 7 PM on Saturday, March 11, 2017.


Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Logan/Toni Erdmann).

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