“Logan” does his Run, in a comics film that, after the fact, pans the alt-right

After reading the (libertarian) Foundation for Economic Education op-ed “’Logan’ eviscerates War and Demographic Planning” by Dan Sanchez, I “gave in” and saw a late show of the Marvel film last night. Yes, even Anderson Cooper like the “X-men” franchise.

Sanchez summarizes the plot pretty well, and I’m not sure all of his parallels hold.  But it’s true, that the “corporate state” (Transigen) had created the mutants as weapons and now regards them as threats the way the all-right views both Hispanic and Muslim migrants.

Hugh Jackman(now 48) looks grizzled, and maybe ready to return from exile or retirement.  The plot of this 135-minute bash concerns Logan’s road trip to rescue his 12-year-old daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) with Wolverine-like powers.

Structurally, the film is a bit like my “Tribunal and Rapture” manuscript, a long road trip (finally leading to planetary evacuation on a spaceship) by a retired FBI agent, who finds he has some subtle powers of his own – I finally decided that this sort of story works better for me when told through the eyes of the younger heroes, whose “powers” aren’t usually obvious and whose appearance is wholesome (even if that idea betrays my own erotic prejudices).

The film journeys into Oklahoma, then sidetracks to Reno (I wanted to see Taylor Wilson make a cameo and pitch his plans to save the power grids), before getting to North Dakota, with some scenery that resembles the Teddy Roosevelt badlands – but actually a lot of the film is shot in New Mexico, with mountains in the background.  The mixture of old and new technologies is interesting (like the winch and pulley in the North Dakota scene.  The mutants, by blowing liquid nitrogen breath, can freeze opponents’ limbs and break then off.  So heads, arms and legs roll in this film. (In Dallas, Joe Bob would have said “check it out.”)

To appreciate the film, you have to know some of the pre-history, of characters like Trask, with their pre-occupation with the alt-right notion of “demographic winter” and the idea that “majority” people don’t have enough kids now.  (That’s why Vladimir Putin allows the persecution of gays.)  I’m reminded of Representative Steve King’s (T-IA) doubled-down comments that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” (story).

Patrick Stewart seems to impersonate me (as he usually does) as Charles, and Boyd Holbrook is notable as Pierce.

I’m reminded of another escapist adventure, “Logan’s Run” (1976), set around the Zale Building on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas, a building in which I worked in the 1980s, where you wonder how the twenty year-olds know think they can eliminate the thirties without facing the same fate themselves soon.

I guess that “Logan”, directed by James Mangold with story by him, was largely developed before Donald Trump won the election, but it seems well conceived as a response to the growing appearance of the alt-right during the 2016 campaigns.  The distributor, Fox, is probably closer to Ayn Rand-style conservatism.

The show opens with a “short film” (“Deadpool: No Good Deed“) about a Logan-like man challenged by a nearby mugging and a telephone booth, in the City.  I’m reminded of Joel Schulmacher’s “Phone Booth” (2002), and even of Timo Descamps and his “Phone Call” or even “Like It Rough” videos.  the 20 Century Fix fanfare then follows, along with TSG and Marvel, before the “feature” starts.  This sort of reminds me also of Dimension Films’s “Grindhouse” in 2007 (embedded double feature and connecting short).  The two short stories in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book (2014) could be presented this way in film.

Name:  “Logan
Director, writer: James Mangold
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 and Imax
When and how viewed:  2017/3/14 Regal Ballston Quarter, late, low crowd after snowstorm
Length:  137 including short
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Marvel, TSG
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 11 AM)

“A Cure for Wellness”: a bloated road horror satire about health nuts

A Cure for Wellness” (directed and written by Gore Verbinski with Justin Haythe) is another road horror film, but also a rather bloated (146 minutes) black comedy-type satire, with just average looks.

The film opens in a brokerage room filled with screens at night, and a stock trader has a heart attack and keels over. He’ll be replaced, but he’s apparently the only really sick one in the movie.

The movie shifts a boardroom (Trump style) after young trader Lockhart (Dane DeHann) is called upstairs. He is threatened with an SEC investigation (with a joke I know comes from Milo Yiannopoulos), and I thought about a moment in R, Foster Winans’s book “Trading Secrets”. But then the Trump-like chairman offers him an out: to find his old boss, Pembroke (Harry Groener) vacationing at a mysterious spa in Switzerland.

Lockhart goes, and I have to say that for Gothic horror the sets in this movie are just average. The film is shot in normal aspect 1.85:1, allowing simpler setups of the indoor scenes. The geography of this mile-high resort is rather hard to figure out – even if you’re supposed to compare it to the hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Lockhart at first finds the staff protective, and odd; but when his driver hits a deer on an errand to town, Lockhart breaks a leg and winds up a patient in the spa.

It’s not clear why they are here, but in time the bowels of the place are gradually revealed, with people inside floatation pods like in the movie “Altered States”. The doctors also have raised a school of eels to torment the patients.

There’s a homoerotic scene about an hour in, where Lockhart gets the first flotation treatment. His body looks immature and smooth, the kind that David Skinner wrote about in 1999 in the essay “Notes on the Hairless Man” in National Review.  But Lockhart is charismatic, and hardly fodder for a rich person’s cult.

The music score has a lot of Mozart and Beethoven in the background (like the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony 2).

Structurally, the story resembles “The Ocelot the Way He Is“, the last “chapter” of my DADT-III book, in which the protagonist is invited by a charismatic young friend to visit a mysterious ashram while a terror attack happens at home.

20th Century Fox did not use ifs Alfred Newman fanfare to open the movie, unusual to this studio usually very jealous of its trademark. Fox did a “fake news” campaign to advertise the movie (ABC story).

Name:  “A Cure for Wellness”
Director, writer:  Gore Verbinski
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/2/19, afternoon, small audience
Length:  146
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Regency, Baselberg (German production)
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 10:45 PM EST)

“Retake”: a middle aged gay man relives an earlier relationship by getting a hooker to act the part on a road trip

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Name: Retake
Director, writer: Nick Corporon et al
Released: 2016
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: private Vimeo screener, 2016/12/15; official VOD 2017/1/6; in L.A. Jan. 6, 2017)
Length 98
Rating NA
Companies: Breaking Glass (was at Frameline in June 2016, OutonFilm [Atlanta] and NewFest [NYC])
Link: Facebook site; Amazon link

Retake” (directed by Nick Corporon, based on his own story with two others) is another gay road mystery, with some nice meaning and good intentions but a lot less “erotic” suspense than some others in the “genre” (maybe even “Bugcrush” or “Old Joy”).

As the film opens, Jonathan (Tuc Watkins) is traveling to San Francisco and then, driving, picking up hustlers for trial runs in the Tenderloin (not the Castro). Soon he finds the right actor, Adam (Devon Graye), although we won’t know he’s Adam for most of the movie.

Jonathan hires Adam to accompany him on a car pilgrimage to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. But there are rules (just like in “Rebirth” (July 23), and I guess that includes no spectatorship. Adam will act the part of Brandon, as it is clear Jonathan wants to relive an earlier episode of his life with a former lover. And, yes, there is a sense that something bad could have happened at the end.

So Adam looks through Jonathan’s stuff and gets away with it (thinly) in the motel rooms all the time, and figures out how to act the part. Then, does he want a real relationship, or does he need a getaway?

You see too much of Adam early, so there’s not much erotic tension. In fact, keeping things interesting when one of the partner’s is middle-aged or older is a challenge, which may work best if the older person is really fit himself. (So it must be in my novel “Angel’s Brother”.).

Toward the end, there some other characters, including a cool straight interracial couple, and an elderly lady who picks up hitchhikers (maybe as a good Samaritan, but not the thing to do anymore).

(Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2016; picture is from western Nevada, mine, from a 2012 trip)

“Rebirth”: an appealing young man is enticed to join a “real life” cult

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Name: Rebirth
Director, writer:  Karl Mueller
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  2016/7/22 Netflix instant play
Length 100
Rating R
Companies: Campfire, Heretic Films, Netflix
Link: Reddit

Rebirth” (2016), directed and written by Karl Mueller, is one of those “road” movies where an appealing young adult man goes on a little trip to get initiated into something maybe dangerous (think “Bugcrush”).  Structurally, it’s a little like the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is” that closes my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book.

In fact, protagonist Kyle  (Fran Kranz) and his former best friend had authored a little paper “Manifesto” years earlier.  If someone associated with the concept of this film knows me, it could be relevant that my 1997 DADT-1 book was called “The Manifesto” before “Manifesto” had become a bad word (although the Unabomber had almost made the word bad in 1995).  But this fictitious manifesto is supposed to be uplifting, about living “real life”.

Kyle works for his dad in a bank, in what looks like modern day LA (although there is a freeway scene with cars going the wrong way – was this film shot in Australia?) One day, that best friend, a rather disheveled and tattooed Zack (Adam Goldberg) shows up at his office (I wouldn’t do that to a friend) and inveigles Kyle to go to a weekend self-help experience with what sounds like an elaborate run cult, “Rebirth”.  I hope I don’t risk litigation by wondering if there is some allusion to scientology.

It needs to be said that Kyle is made to look as close as possible to the desirable, perfect young male, with a tender face and a slender, muscular hairy body, all ready for exploration, at least in fantasy.

The experience starts with innocent steps, like a hotel night, then a bus ride, and then an orientation at what looks like a gay dirty disco dance, for straight men. (Oh, yes, Kyle is married with wife and kids and big house, probably underwater.)  There are some “rules”, like secrecy, but the most important rule is “no spectators”.  After all, “spectators judge and criticize.”  Kyle has to surrender his cell phone for a while, which, you guessed it, opens him up to identity theft and bank account drains.

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All of this reminds me of how things go in discos today.  In fact, if you gawk, people (not your type) wil challenge you to dance with them.  The phone surrender reminds me of the Black Party that used to be held by the Saint in New York;  I think no phones are allowed.  (I wish they would release a DVD indie film of footage from the parties – but I could recommend the 2000 film “Circuit” by Jake Shafer, set in Palm Springs).

What happens, besides all the double talk of sales manipulation in the script (rather cleverly written), is a series of encounters (rather like Rosenfels-ian “gay talk groups” for straight people) in various decrepit rooms.  Finally, there is a sexual encounter (straight), where Kyle “gets it” although the scene could have done more with this.  Kyle’s character then will be tested, and whether he can contain an animal urge for violence is also on the block.

It’s too much of a spoiler to say the ending, but maybe this explains how some commercial cult-like self-help and motivational movements succeed.  I can recall going to an impromptu “feeling good about yourself” session at a hotel in Helena, Montana, of all places in 1981.  I’ve been to sessions like Est, Understanding, Lama, various encounters that the American west has to offer. In 1985, a friend in Dallas was “flown” to Waco for a day to interview for a job selling motivational tapes.  He didn’t quite get it.

Picture: Bar district in San Diego, my visit, 2012; second picture — outdoor disco dancing at Baltimore Pride 2016, while I function only as a “spectator”.

(Posted: Friday, July 22, 2016 at 10:3 PM EDT)