film

Review: Jojo Rabbit

*Warning! There will be some light spoilers in this review! If you want to remain completely in the dark then I caution you not to read further- though I do recommend the film on it’s merits.*

Written and directed by Taika Waititi, “Jojo Rabbit” is a dark comedy satire about an overzealous ten year old boy growing up in 1940’s Germany. This wartime comedy performs a balancing act so perfectly poised to elicit boisterous good cheer alongside a dark and grim real world sadness that you’d think Taika Waititi was a genius or a madman for taking on such a ridiculous, yet potent, concept. Waititi has, once again, proven he has a knack for finding excellent child actors and helping to coax memorable and competent performances out of them. Both Roman Griffin Davis as the titular Jojo, and Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, showcase excellent skill as young actors and it’ll be very interesting to see what they do after this. Jojo is a normal ten year old boy, easily excitable and incredibly impressionable, he even has his own imaginary friend- but his is Adolf Hitler as a young boy might imagine him, played with cartoonish sensibilities by Taika Waititi himself. Though, occasionally, the depicted authority figure can get eerily close to the hatred fueled real life version. He lives with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) and he goes to a Hitler youth camp alongside a friend in Yorki (Archie Yates) as they get groomed for war by playing with knives and grenades. After an incident at the camp Jojo returns home to discover a new reality that he must face. His mother has hidden a Jew (Thomasin McKenzie) in the crawlspace of their walls.

The crux of the film’s story rests on this conflict for Jojo, what will he do when confronted by a real person that he’s been taught to hate his entire life? As we’ve seen Jojo interact with those around him and the world at large for several scenes by this point, we’ve been with him and seen that he’s just a normal boy as Elsa puts it, “Who wants to wear a costume and be part of a club“. In fact, the movie’s title refers to his limited time at the Hitler youth camp in which he’s tasked to kill a small rabbit. Jojo can’t commit to the deed and is mocked for his inability to kill, “Jojo, the rabbit“. After Elsa and Jojo come to the agreement that they both need each other to keep their awareness of each other secret, Jojo begins to question Elsa about the Jews. Initially this is to make an account of “How to spot a Jew” and Elsa indulges him with heaps of sarcasm and jabs at Nazis in general, “We’re just like you, but human“. However the two slowly begin to come to an understanding as Jojo begins to question the nature of his authority figures. This relationship between one of blind fanaticism, Jojo, and of persecuted minority, Elsa, is at the core of the movie’s message. Namely, that personal relationships can prove the humanity between opposing factions, cutting through the power of propaganda and adult manipulation to see the truth. Oh, and to endlessly mock those who would hate others on the basis of ethnicity.

The surrounding cast may be small, but they’re no less critical to the film and it’s message. Both Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf and Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s Mother Rosie are excellent examples of those who would perform acts of rebellion in whatever ways they could from within the power structures they reside in respectively. They supplement the heart and common sense of the film, trying to fight the further indoctrination of family and friends within their communities without attracting the wrong kind of attention. Both of these characters are clever and have heart despite living in the heart of Nazi Germany, doing what they can, for who they can. Rebel Wilson and Alfie Allen also have smaller roles as devoted Nazi underlings and both provide some decent comedic relief sprinkled throughout the film. If you can find a showing of this film, I definitely recommend giving it a shot. It may not surpass his earlier comedic work in “The Hunt for The Wilderpeople” for me personally, but it’s a pretty decent film that’s worth a watch.

Final Score: 7 German Shepherds

film

Review: Logan or “Old Man learns new Snikt”

Finally, after 17 years we’re getting a ‘rated R’ Wolverine movie. However, the real question we should be asking ourselves is; is it any good? Rest assured comic fans, and western fans for that matter, because this Wolverine solo flick is leagues ahead of the notoriously awful “X-men Origins”, but it’s not necessarily perfect.

The year is 2029, and the mutants have all but disappeared.”Logan” begins with a ragged and hungover Wolverine waking to a bunch of thieves trying to steal parts from the limo he drives for petty cash. This bloody scene brilliantly sets the stage for the rest of the story that is about to unfold. This Wolverine is tired, he heals slower, he drinks away his days making ends meet while he hides an increasingly sick and potentially dangerous Professor X south of the border in Mexico. Eventually they become entangled with a new young mutant, Laura. Perhaps better known as X-23, young Laura is a feral and mostly mute ball of fury from the moment she enters the screen. Thankfully she develops beyond this stage later in the film. Such is the state of old man Logan’s life when the picture begins.

There is some superb acting in Hugh Jackman’s performance. He feels more human and yet more calloused as he tries to keep everything from falling apart. His claws don’t always fully protrude, having to pull them into place at times, he limps after skirmishes, he is flawed here. There is a great sadness in Logan’s eyes and it is palpable. Professor Xavier on the other hand isn’t faring much better, in fact he is definitely in a worse condition. His seizures cause quite the chaos and he seems to go in and out of fully realizing his surroundings. They both live and strive together with Caliban, an albino mutant that can sense other mutants, he helps to keep the professor medicated while Logan finds and funds the aging Xavier’s medication.

From a filmmaking perspective, there is an ubiquitous western influence throughout the film. They even go so far as to point this out by having the characters watch “Shane”, the hugely influential 1953 western. “Logan” borrows and pays homage to this through it’s cinematography, emphasizing scale and embracing the ominous landscape backgrounds of “the old west”. The score itself was adequate, but it never felt bombastic or powerful. It was happy to match the movement and run parallel to the story, but it was never noticeable or standout. The incredible action sequences are well choreographed and nothing ever feels too ridiculous. It doesn’t feel like the characters are swinging from wires like in “X-men Origins”, however there is one scene where Logan is a bit exaggerated in his leaping ability, but it was an emotionally charged sequence so I’ll let it slide.

The film attempts to balance the somber and melancholy aspects of its characters and setting by counteracting it with a gratuitous helping of extra bloody violence. For me, personally, it was a joy to see Wolverine hack and saw through bad guys like a child attacks a birthday cake, but just as with cake, eventually it can be a bit too much. I feel this is what threw the film off for me at times. An excessive amount of gusto for the R rating they finally achieved is admirable, but sometimes it clashes with character. For example, having Professor X drop a F-bomb once or twice would set the tone and be incredibly funny or deadly serious depending on the scene, but having him do so as much as he did in the film felt over-excessive, it didn’t feel in tune with his character. The reveal of X-24 speaks directly to this issue. That whole “character” and how he was utilized was a disappointment in my eyes. I understand the obvious thematic ideas behind it, but there wasn’t enough done to differentiate it/him, or to make it any more useful than say “something to fight Logan”. I can only speak for myself, but sometimes the film went a little overboard. Hey, a few claws directly in the face of several bad guys-that’s cool and shocking, but over fifty incredibly gory stabs directly into people’s faces and heads.. it can get away from itself at times.

In the end this is the best Wolverine solo movie out of the three we got and it will likely be remembered for how well executed it was. X-23, or Laura, was an excellent addition to the film and it will be interesting to see if anything is ever done with the character again. If you’ve been hankering for a bloody western starring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, you’re in luck, this one’s worth the price of admission.

Final Score: Six razor sharp SNIKTS!