Marvel superheroes, a tramp and a king: movies viewed

THE WOLVERINE (2013) has Hugh Jackman still shattered by Jean Grey’s death in last stand (Famke Janssen makes a cameo as a memory) when hellraising mercenary Yukio (Rila Fukushima) drags him to Japan. Years ago, Logan saved Yashida, a Japanese soldier, from death; now the man is a corporate titan who wants to repay Wolverine for the gift. Unfortunately that repayment involves Yashida becoming immortal by stealing Logan’s healing factor with the help of Viper, a mad scientist/geneticist (making her a nihilist as well is a nod to the comics but doesn’t affect anything). The results aren’t classic but they are enjoyable. “You’re not going to want to watch this part.”

The MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy have popped in several films since their second film, then came this year’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 (2023). This opens with the team at rock bottom — the resurrected Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has no memory of her romance with Star Lord (Chris Pratt) which leaves him getting steadily drunker on Nowhere. Then Adam Warlock shows up to kidnap Rocket Raccoon; the Guardians thwart him but trying to heal Rocket’s injuries triggers a failsafe that will kill him in 48 hours. Deactivating it requires learning his secret origin and confronting the godlike power of the High Evolutionary on the weird world of Counter-Earth. It’s a suicide mission but the Guardians aren’t letting one of their own down … This swan song for the team (though bringing them back is certainly an option) was thoroughly enjoyable, with bit parts for Nathan Filion and Sylvester Stallone. “I never noticed how black your eyes were.”

CITY LIGHTS (1931) was Charlie Chaplin’s last silent film, a whimsical concoction in which Chaplin’s little tramp befriends a drunken millionaire (Harry Myers) and becomes his BFF when the guy’s trashed; sober, the rich man doesn’t know him. In between the drunken revels, the Tramp tries to help out a blind young woman he’s fallen in love with. Funny, charming and touching. “Tomorrow the birds will sing!”

In the 1970s and 1980s, the BBC filmed the complete run of Shakespeare’s plays. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING JOHN (1984) shows the advantages of this because it’s not a play anyone performs very often, yet watching the DVD let me do so. This has a lot of elements familiar from the Bard’s better plays, including a king whose crown has dubious legitimacy, a charming bastard rogue, marriage as a tool to unite everyone (it seems very topical for the Elizabethan age that the Papacy winds up undoing this and bringing on tragedy). Unlike most of Shakespeare’s histories, as Shakespeare After All points out, this has some strong women’s roles with queens on both sides asserting their influence to shape the outcomes. With Claire Bloom as Constance and John Thaw as the tormented, tragic Herbert. “O now doth Death line his dead chaps with steel — the swords of soldiers are his teeth.”

#SFWApro. Cover with Wolverine’s first appearance by Herb Trimpe.

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