Tuesday, 21 March 2017


Starring: Katie Cassidy, Elizabeth Henstridge, Adam Campbell
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Director: John R. Leonetti

It's 1969 and the Summer of Love is in full swing. Before returning to Boston, Abigail (Henstridge) is thrown a low-key leaving party at a swanky house in the California hills by her heavily pregnant friend Sharon (Cassidy). The festivities are soon curtailed as the house is visited by four psychotic strangers...

The opening of the movie points out that it's "based on a true story" and the major plot points are very close to the events of the actual Manson family murders that took place around the time. The main characters in the film share their first names with the real-life victims. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Sharon is pregnant.

If Wolves At The Door were a completely fictional home invasion thriller there would be things to commend it. The leads play the material well, Henstridge in particular is very good indeed and even Campbell, despite being saddled with a distractingly wonky Eastern European accent, comes across as sympathetic and likeable. Technically it's well made and the director knows how to rack up the tension - the first seven or eight minutes, set in a different location the night before the main story begins, are a nicely-judged exercise in escalating panic (there's a phrase to quote out of context on a poster).

My own specific problem - and you may be able to get past this, but I can't - is that I'm not sure I want to watch something that's so closely linked to a tragedy that's still affecting the living to this day and to have it retold as quite a glossy shocker left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. The violence is downplayed quite a bit - some of it happens off-screen, one murder can only be seen in the reflection of a television screen - which on one hand shows a decent amount of restraint but doesn't make it any less horrible, especially if at the back of mind you're, like me, thinking "this actually took place".

Normally I would be complaining about a movie that's so short (it doesn't even make it to an hour and a quarter) but in this case I couldn't wait to get out of the cinema. The source material, for me, isn't the basis for entertainment and the fact that WATD goes for both jump scares and drawn-out suspense sequences just makes it all the more unpleasant to watch. This isn't so much "inspired" by the Manson family killings as it is a reconstruction and in my opinion this crosses a line it maybe shouldn't.

Though there's absolutely no denying the talent on display here both in front of and behind the camera, I find it somewhat troubling when this kind of thing is presented as entertainment. Having said that, I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't go to watch this, just consider yourself forewarned.

Sunday, 5 March 2017


Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Writers: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Director: James Mangold 

It's the near future. Ex-X-Man Logan (Jackman) is making a living driving a limousine and trying to keep his head down. Hiding out in Mexico near the border, he spends most of his downtime drinking, looking after rambling, nonagenarian Professor X (Stewart) and being a massive pain in the arse to fellow mutant and X carer Caliban (a suitably washed-out Stephen Merchant). However, the claws are about to come out again in a big way as Logan's path crosses with that of young Laura (Keen) who's attracting the attention of some very, very bad guys led by cyborg-handed Pierce (Boyd Holbrook)...

It would probably be fair to say that previous Wolverine-centric outings have missed the mark by some distance but I'm delighted to say Logan redresses the balance and then some. From the opening sequence it's clear that this is down and dirty stuff with f-words and severed limbs littering the first few minutes. It continues in that vein too and the darker, resolutely adult approach results in a film which I believe is the very best from the Marvel stable so far.

True, some of the supporting characters may not be as well-drawn as they could be - Holbrook's baddie isn't given much depth and Richard E. Grant deserves more screen time as the scientist with a particular interest in capturing Laura - but that doesn't really matter as, quite rightly, it's the Jackman and Stewart show and if this is indeed their respective final shot at Logan and Xavier then they've saved their best work for last. Their grouchy, gritty banter is both touching and hilarious and they're the perfect companions for what is essentially a road movie with superpowers and bursts of startling violence.

Oh, the violence. This is a film which is definitely not for children and anyone who's used to the relatively neutered Wolvie from the larger-scale X-Men blockbusters might be somewhat taken aback by the bloodshed on display as our grumpy hero skewers and slashes his way through a series of kinetic action sequences. Newcomer Keen also proves she's no slouch with the claws either, acrobatically taking out various enemies and giving even Logan a run for his money in the gory killings department.

Logan picks up the baton from Deadpool in terms of the new wave of grungier, bloodier superhero stories but in so many ways it couldn't be further from the antics of Ryan Reynolds' wisecracking fourth-wall breaker and even further from the multiplex-friendly, industrial language-light summer smackdowns. This is a downbeat tale where the collateral damage isn't downplayed by means of a spectacular, large scale special effect. Quite the opposite - innocent people die horribly and up close in glorious widescreen, which makes you care more and more as the plot rolls on towards a conclusion fraught with genuine danger.

It would be a shame if Logan were to be dismissed as just another superhero flick because it's clearly so much more than that. Making points about the treatment of outsiders which are especially valid right now, it's a piece of work that delivers all the thrills you'd expect allied to a resonant, emotional gut punch of a final act. The fact that there's nothing to hang around for at the end of the credits is paradoxically something of a bonus as you'll probably want to get some air at the end after going on this journey, that's all I'm saying.

For me - and a lot of other people, I suspect - a Wolverine film of this quality has been a very long time coming but Logan goes a long way to erasing the memory of the previous misfires. James Mangold has given us a comic book movie of rare poignancy, humour and ferocity. Messrs Jackman and Stewart have never been better. You need to see this. It's superb.