By Robin E. Simmons

loganNOW PLAYING:

LOGAN

Already a massive hit with audiences and critics alike, this final Wolverine outing is the best of all. 

Hugh Jackman’s tenth turn as Wolverine is surprisingly subtle, heartfelt, psychologically compelling and emotionally satisfying.  Writer director James Mangold has crafted an unexpectedly thoughtful screenplay – and movie — that does not shrink from the bloody and necessary violence.    

 Set in 2029, a time when the Mutants are just about gone.

Logan is hiding somewhere in the wilderness of the Mexican border.  He spends his days drinking, and making pocket money by hiring himself out as a driver.  His companions in exile are Caliban, an outcast, and Professor X, who has succumbed to ever worsening seizures.  Everything changes when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request.  Are Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and escape his legacy over when the woman asks Logan to escort a remarkable young woman to a safe haven?  The claws extend when Logan, on a live-or-die mission, confronts dark forces and a villain from his own past — one that will set the weary warrior on a fateful.

Tightly plotted and ruthlessly bloodthirsty, this is an impressive return to form for the X-Men franchise.

logan1Co-writer/Director Mangold drags Wolverine — decidedly older, if not wiser — into a Western conceit that elevates this movie to its rightful spot among the best superhero movies of late.

Jackman outdoes himself as he gives in to Logan’s understandable rage.  His performance has been rightfully called “Clint Eastwood-esque” — and the lines in Jackman’s face tell the backstory of his worn character.  Is Wolverine a man at the end of his time?  Perhaps.  But even so, this last chapter is an extraordinary return to the best of the X-Men franchise is all about.  Not to be missed.  


 

NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:

little-fauss-posterLITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY (1970)

Thank heaven for the boutique home video distributors who are taking advantage of the treasure trove of great classic, foreign and independent films that have yet to get a hi-def transfer and in many cases are not available on DVD and impossible to find on vhs (yes, there are collectors).

This long out of print cult favorite has been greatly anticipated for home video and it looks and sounds great. 

A young Robert Redford is pro motorcyclist racer Big Halsy Knox.  His main problem as the story opens besides being a self-centered narcissist, is that he’s been barred from racing because of his on-track behavior.

Almost by chance, he meets Little (that’s the perfectly cast Michael J. Pollard character’s first name).  Fauss quickly convinces Little to let him use his name and borrow his bike so he can enter the next big race.

Sidney Furie directs this colorful, action-filled, mostly one-sided “bromance” with a great eye for location and ear for dialogue.  There’s a wonderful sense of time and place. 

Redford is solid as the self-absorbed, womanizing Halsy.  He’s not a particularly sympathetic or even likable character. 

Halsy consistently and constantly belittles Fauss and takes advantage of him.  Fauss’s feelings of inferiority are intensified when the beautiful Rita (Lauren Hutton) and Halsy meet.  And it’s not long before the tension between friendship and loyalty are stretched to the breaking point.

Charles Eastman wrote the evocative screenplay with a sharp ear for revealing regional dialogue that suggests so much more then the words themselves.  Especially in conversation with Little’s parents played by Noah Beery and the incredible Lucille Benson as Seally and Mom Fauss, Little’s eccentric parents.  Big recommendation.  The great Johnny Cash soundtrack add immensely to the rural and gritty mood of the tale.  Olive Films.  Blu-ray.  For more info, go to olivefilms.com


 

kiss-of-death-1947KISS OF DEATH (1947)

Certainly among the greatest of the 1940s noir masterpieces.  Victor Mature is a criminal informer with a target on his back in this movie made famous by Richard Widmark’s Oscar©-nominated tough-guy performance as probably the most frightening psychopath ever seen on an American theater screen.

The edgy script is by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer and Henry Hathaway in the director’s chair squeezing every drop of suspense and emotion through his sterling sense of composition and pacing.  This iconic noir soars as it drags us into the story of a petty crook (Mature) turned stool-pigeon who, in his attempt to go straight, finds himself stalked by a psycho killer, the notorious Tommy Udo (Widmark). 

Shot documentary style on location in New York City, the striking black and white — shadowy and silver — composition is almost as memorable as the story itself.  But it’s really Widmark’s extraordinary performance that burns brightest and longest in the memory.  David Buttolph composed the striking score.  This one for the digital library. Twilight Time Movies.  Blu-ray.  Limited edition, only 3,000 units. 


 

delugeDELUGE

After a series of earthquakes on the West Coast, a massive tidal wave circles the globe and –in a prolonged and spectacular special effects sequence –wipes out New York City.  Sidney Blackmer stars as a man separated from his family in the wake of the catastrophe, but finds himself in a situation where realizes he alone must begin to rebuild civilization

For decades, Felix Feist’s incredible 1933 disaster film was a lost film of almost mythical status, until horror/sci-fi archivist Forrest J. Ackerman discovered an Italian-dubbed print in 1981.

But watching this poor-quality print was an arduous experience and was only a dim substitute for the original film. But all this changed last year when Lobster Films unearthed a 35mm nitrate negative with the original English soundtrack.

Film preservationist (and Lobster Films CEO) Serge Bromberg says, “Thanks to film archivist George Willeman (Library of Congress), we located the nitrate dupe negative in the archives of the Centre National du Cinéma et de L’Image Animée in France. Although this element was partly decomposed, the latest digital technologies allowed us to restore the image to its original sharpness. Our sound department, LE Diapason, performed extensive sound restoration to both the French and English soundtracks.”

The restored Deluge premiered at L’Étrange Festival in Paris last September.

Bromberg says, “Deluge is a magnificent film, and what was at the time certainly nightmarish seems today full of thrills and almost poetry. King Kong was not the only fantastic film at RKO in 1933!”  Kino Lorber (Lobster) Blu-ray.  For more info, go to KinoLorber.com

RobinESimmons@aol.com

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