Logan Lucky Review

Comedies are always weird to review. They are so much more subjective than any other genre. You can judge the performances and other movie-making skill but at the end of the day it has to make you laugh. What makes me laugh may be completely different than what makes you laugh. All that said, Logan Lucky really made me laugh. It reminded me of Talladega Nights- a movie I find hilarious- but this is less naughty than that film. It brought me back to my small town redneck roots with its clever script and engaging performances.

The story of Logan Lucky is pretty simple. It is basically a redneck version of Oceans 11 and that makes sense because both films have the same director- Steven Soderbergh. Both have similar stories and are about a team of people that are planning the heist of the century. Oceans 11 is the better film but Logan Lucky made me laugh a lot more.

The cast is so great in this. Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keough play siblings that are planning the heist (Tatum is the lead who looses his job at the beginning of the film). Adam Driver is so funny as a vet who lost his hand in the war. I love when Adam Driver does comedy. The man always makes me laugh.

To make their plan work they have to get Daniel Craig in and out of prison without anyone realizing it. Gone is James Bond! I have never seen Daniel Craig like this before. He was hilarious. Dwight Yoakam, as the warden, has one of the best gags of the movie involving Game of Thrones (which I don’t watch but it was still funny).

Daniel Craig’s brothers played by Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid were really funny. Sebastian Stan was great. It just w0rked for me. The cast also had really good chemistry together which goes a long way in a heist movie.

Some may complain that the plan is unrealistic especially for these idiots, but I didn’t care about that. Heist movies are always pretty unrealistic and besides many a redneck is surprisingly smart so I bought it. The actors all sell it and the script kept me laughing so it worked. If I had been bored than the unrealistic elements would have bothered me.

The film also looks nicer than it probably deserves to look. You can tell Steven Soderbergh is a strong director because it is shot really nice with great cinematography and lighting. It elevates the film above something like Talladega Nights. It might be sacrilege but I thought this was just as well made and entertaining as Baby Driver.

There are some flaws with the film. There is a point after the heist where they should have ended the movie but it goes on and Hillary Swank is introduced really late. We didn’t need to see the investigation or any of that. Just end with them winning and going off with the money.

Also Seth MacFarlane as a bratty race car owner didn’t work for me but he never makes me laugh- even on Family Guy.

Logan Lucky is also a surprisingly mild PG-13. The language isn’t that bad and it’s not very violent. It’s not a squeaky clean movie but it is pretty tame.  If you can handle Oceans 11 you should have no problem with the content in Logan Lucky. I would expect a movie like this to have a million f words and be more violent but it doesn’t. Yay!

So I really liked Logan Lucky. It did its job and made me laugh. I think you will all have a good time.

Overall Grade- A-

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Let’s Talk About Bad Movies

Recently I put 2 movies in my bottom 10 of the year that other people seemed to enjoy- Glass Castle and Dark Tower. Since doing so I heard from a number of people say something to the effect of “how can you have The Emoji Movie ahead of them”. My rankings move and flow so they may end up above Emoji but placing them below it is completely valid.  I also have Lady Macbeth in my bottom 10 which I’ve gotten some flack for. Thing is there are a lot of ways a movie can be bad. A movie can be offensive, lazily made, boring, poorly written or acted to name a few reasons.

Recently a critic I follow did a video criticizing Jeremy Jahns for liking Suicide Squad but disliking Dunkirk. I don’t agree with Jeremy on either film but the argument is complete nonsense. He says in the video that if the character development in Dunkirk is a problem for Jeremy than maybe he’d like character explanation like in Suicide Squad.  The two films are completely different in totally separate genres and can’t be compared. What works for a person in a comic book movie is not going to work for a gritty war movie. It’s ridiculous. Implying that the same exact criteria makes a good movie for all genres is nonsensical and I’m sure he knows that. It’s just a quick way to take a cheap shot at someone with a different opinion. I’m sure he has reviews you could say “how could you like ….but dislike…”

Someone might say to me ‘how could you give a higher grade to a Smurfs movie than Lady Macbeth? The two movies are completely different for different audiences. Smurfs Lost Village has flaws but it is beautifully animated and had some nice heart to it. I think it is worthy of my B-. Lady Macbeth looks pretty but there is no chemistry which is essential in this type of gothic romance. It’s like having Wuthering Heights with no chemistry or connection between Heathcliff and Catherine. That would be awful. Because they have no chemistry their choices are increasingly idiotic, which then makes the thriller part of the movie not very thrilling. Smurfs mostly succeeds at being what it is trying to be where Lady Macbeth in my opinion doesn’t.

Same is true with Glass Castle and Me Before You. Both movies are trying to be inspirational stories with hashtags like #liveboldly but the way they tell their stories ends up offending me rather than inspiring. It’s not like I am going to say ‘well your movie greatly offended me but the acting was good so I forgive it.” That makes no sense.

Let me go over my bottom 10 from 2016 and explain to you the various reasons they stunk for me

10. Mothers Day- Terrible unfunny script that doesn’t celebrate Mothers or Motherhood

9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2- the worst kind of sequel. Thinks let’s do everything from original but twice as big

8. Nine Lives- can laugh at how bad it is but still poorly made and he’s not a bad Dad and doesn’t deserve to be turned into a cat.

7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- one scene of exposition after another creating a real snoozefest.

6. Alice Through the Looking Glass- same as Miss Peregrine’s but more annoying.

5. Me Before You- morally offensive film that thinks manic pixie dream girl can fix all of life’s problems

4. Batman: the Killing Joke- a movie that believes a woman is a tool for the screenwriters to victimize and animation sucks

3. Warcraft- some neat special effects can’t save a movie that was so confusing my head hurts just thinking about it

2. Norm of the North- incompetently made in every facet. Animation, voice acting, comedy, story, villain all are awful.

1 Do Over- an excuse for Adam Sandler and buddies to go on vacation. Racist, sexist, homophobic all in one.

So do you get the idea? You can dislike movies for lots of  reasons and just because a movie is well made doesn’t mean it can’t suck and be on my worst of the year list. It’s my list and I decide what I do or do not like.

Dreamworks 12: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Ware Rabbit

After the horrors of last week’s Shark Tale I had to give myself a gift of one of Dreamwork’s two Oscar winning films- Wallace and Gromit: the Curse of the Ware Rabbit. This film is made by Aardman Animation in partnership with Dreamworks. I don’t think of it as a true Dreamworks film but it is in the canon so I get to review it. 🙂

Wallace and Gromit are two characters created by director Nick Park as characters in a series of British stop motion shorts. Wallace is the stupid but well meaning inventor and Gromit is his genius dog. Most of the shorts are Wallace getting into trouble and Gromit finding a way to get him out of it.  They are charming and full of laughs for the entire family.

Now they make their jump to the big screen, and fortunately they do it rather well. In Curse of the Ware Rabbit, Wallace  (Peter Sallis) and Gromit are running a business to remove pesky rabbits from the towns gardens.  There is great urgency because the rabbits are eating up all the jumbo sized prize gardens of the townsfolk.

One night Wallace sets up an experiment where he creates a Frankenstein Rabbit called the Ware Rabbit who starts terrorizing the neighborhood gardens. This includes Lady Tottington who becomes a love interest for Wallace.

Wallace and Gromit get on the case and all kinds of shenanigans occur.

This film is a complete delight. It’s funny, the animation is amazing and there is a nice heart to the relationship between Wallace and Gromit. Wallace may be stupid but they do love each other.

I also love Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) and the evil Lord Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes). It’s a comedy designed for kids but it has those British moments adults will enjoy also.

My only flaw with the film is occasionally the pacing can sag but then it picks back up again pretty quickly with a slapstick sequence or tender scene. Other than that I am glad it won the Oscar as I think it is Aardman’s best stop motion film followed by Shaun the Sheep Movie and Chicken Run. It’s definitely in the top 3 Dreamworks films if you include it in your ranking.

Overall Grade- A

 

Detroit Review

I don’t know if all of you appreciate the struggles I go through to decide on what movies I am going to see and review. Amongst my faith there can be a lot of backlash and judgement towards people who see rated R movies. There’s a certain stigma attached to them, which I think is stupid. Anyway, when I do see them (and PG-13s for that matter) I like them to be worthwhile and edifying. Particularly historical films I find valuable and necessary to portray violence as it happened (for example, war is violent by its very nature but important to know about).

I try my best to research a film and then talk to friends and family who have seen it and make a decision. Sometimes that doesn’t pan out well like with Nocturnal Animals but most of the time it works out. Tonight’s film was one of those positive examples. I finally put on my big girl pants and saw Kathryn Bigelow’s new movie Detroit. This is a tough film to watch, but I’m glad I saw it.

Detroit tells the story of the torture of mostly black men at the Algers Hotel during the Detroit riots in 1967 by police officers looking into a reported sniper shooting. They line the captives up and intimidate, beat and kill them and it is tough to watch. There’s nowhere for the young men to go and no source of law that they can turn to because the law is the problem or at least part of the problem

I’m not going to pretend like I know whether the events portrayed are historically accurate. Some have complained about it like The Huffington Post saying it is ‘the most irresponsible and dangerous movie of the year’. They have their reasons and I’m not going to argue with them. I also wouldn’t argue with someone who felt it didn’t portray the black experience or racism of police officers correctly.  That is not my place.

What I can speak to is my reaction to the movie. So, putting all that aside, Kathryn Bigelow has made a movie that immediately immerses the viewer in a situation, which feels real. In a world where we still have so many of these problems there is value in seeing and living in the shoes of those who experience police coercion and racism.(There is a good cop, the police chief, so it isn’t completely one-sided).

And even more chilling is seeing the court proceedings after the incident and how justice is not served to those you’ve just seen suffer. I think living in that space for a couple hours did me some good and gave me more empathy for others. How can that be a bad thing?

Detroit is very well made by Kathryn Bigelow and while it is very violent it didn’t feel exploitative. I think partly because it feels more like a documentary than a narrative in a way. You don’t get to know the characters that well. It’s kind of like Dunkirk in that regard. You know the characters in Detroit more than Dunkirk but not by much. It’s an immersive experience meant to make you feel and empathize with the characters more than manipulate you with narrative. After having a horrible experience with manipulative narrative yesterday this was actually kind of refreshing.

With the exception of a hard core racist cop played by Will Poulter the script is free of flashy moments and big speeches. All the acting is top notch including John Boyega, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith and Jason Mitchell. The intimate cinematography and music also is very effective.

I have a few nitpicks in Detroit. The animated sequence at the beginning felt added on last minute and John Krasinski didn’t quite work as the defense attorney for the racist cops. It’s also maybe a hair too long with some of the beginning that could have been cut down. But those are small things.

Overall, if you have the stomach for some violence and profanity, Detroit is worth seeing if only for the conversations it should start with questions we need to be asking each other. Again, I just don’t see how that is a bad thing? I’m glad I saw it and I’m grateful to Kathryn Bigelow for making it.

Overall Grade- A-

smile worthy

Glass Castle Review

If you follow my youtube channel you know I saw The Glass Castle last night and absolutely hated it. I must admit I don’t feel like I have the energy to hash out all the reasons I didn’t like it again, so please watch the video. However, I will give you a few.

The Glass Castle is based on a popular memoir by Jeannette Walls. It tells the story of her horrible childhood and what it was like to grow up with an abusive alcoholic father.

Unfortunately this movie seems to only half understand that. Instead Woody Harrelson as the father is often portrayed as a dreamer who wants to give his kids the stars and push them to a higher, better way of life.

This message is compounded by cutting back and forth to modern day Jeannette as played by Brie Larson. The film clearly judges her for being engaged to a yuppie man in finance and having the trappings of wealth. She is lectured to on numerous occasions about how she isn’t living up to her true potential.

I guess she should be more like her father who tells his young son that he needs to grow up and be a man after being sexually assaulted. Or when he gets drunk and allows his kids to go without food for 3 days. Or when he holds their mother out of a 2 story window by her neck. Isn’t it great being a dreamer?

I get that destructive toxic people are complex and loving them is possible but the way this movie showed the two sides of the father really bothered me and the way it judged her for living a stable better life angered me.

Other people seem to be able to get something out of it and I respect that but it really offended me and I hated it. My friend who went with me felt the same way. Free thinking is a great thing but not at the expense of childhood and innocence lost. I will not applaud this type of horrible behavior.

At one point the mother says she should stay with the father because ‘he’s the only one who believed in my painting’. Free thinking and creative endeavors have thus become a cage which is as terrifying as anything shown in Room but this movie wants you to be inspired by it. Even the music seemed to say ‘celebrate the free thinker’ at the most horrific times. Heck no!

I can only speak for myself in my reviews and I hated this movie. I thought it was morally repugnant and disgusting and these parents belonged in jail not celebrated in any way.

It really made me mad and it is my worst movie of 2017

Overall Grade- F

Current Mini Movie Reviews

Hi guys! I don’t always do full posts on every movie I’ve seen- especially when I am playing catch up. So, here are some mini- reviews of 2017 releases I’ve seen but not reviewed on the blog.

The Case for Christ- 

One of the better faith-based films I’ve seen. It just tells one man’s struggle with faith- Lee Strobel. The acting is good and the preaching is pretty subdued. It still is more for its target demo but it doesn’t pander to them or attack those who don’t believe. Even the moment of conversion is pretty subtle and moving. My religious friends will be inspired by it and enjoy it.

Overall Grade- B

Going in Style-

A group of senior citizens robbing a bank seems like an odd premise for a charming film but that’s what it turns out to be. It doesn’t dive into the deeper problems of this story and it can get sitcomy but the cast elevates it. It kind of reminded me of Fun with Dick and Jane- a movie I find very underrated.

Overall Grade- B

The Nut Job 2-

I’m as shocked as you guys are to say I enjoyed The Nut Job 2! While it isn’t going to win any academy awards it was a solid, charming animated film. It improves upon the original in pretty much every way which I admire. They took feedback and made something better. More than you can say for other franchises like Despicable Me…Anyway, the story is very played out and predictable and the villains are lame but I liked the characters much more. Plus, the animation was better and the characters much more likable. I think if people gave it a shot with an open mind they’d enjoy it as well.

For my youtube review click here

Overall Grade- B-

Landline-

This film is set in the 90s about a family in Brooklyn and each member’s issues. Naturally I enjoyed the 90s throwbacks but what made it work was the great casting. This really felt like a believable family. The way they talked and behaved towards each other felt very authentic. The two sisters (Abby Quinn and Jenny Slate) even look like they could be sisters and they had great chemistry together.  The script is fairly pedestrian but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Overall Grade- B+ (R Rated)

Dark Tower-

I haven’t been this frustrated in a fantasy film since Warcraft. At least with this film I had read the book so I had some idea what was going on but the film is so badly put together. The Gunslinger and Man in Black are supposed to be rivals and here it felt like random scenes that made no sense together.  It reminded me of Fan4stic to be honest. The ties to the Dark Tower and why The Man in Black wants to destroy it are nebulous at best. The kid is annoying and the violence means nothing because we don’t know any of the people being impacted.  The special effects look cheap and the whole thing really annoyed me. Maybe an F was harsh on my youtube review but I found it completely limp and boring. It felt like it would never end at just over 90 minutes! I liked it less than Transformers: the Last Knight, which at least has some visual spectacle. Matthew McConaughey gives a razzie worthy performance.

Overall Grade- F

Maudie-

A terrific performance from Sally Hawkins carries this biopic about an artist that has physical limitations and her unique marriage. The main problem is Ethan Hawke who plays her husband and his character seemed to swing radically from scene to scene . I never knew if I would get the kind man or the beast. Perhaps that was true to life but it felt random here. I still enjoyed it though. A solid biopic with a great lead performance.

Overall Grade- B

Jeremiah Tower: the Last Magnificent-

A documentary about a famous New York and San Francisco chef, Jeremiah Tower. This is a standard celebrity biographical documentary. It didn’t give me a ton of new insight into the culinary world but was interesting. There are a lot of celebrity interviews like Wolfgang Puck and Anthony Bourdain. It won’t blow your mind but it’s interesting enough.

Overall Grade- B- (Rated R)

If you’ve seen any of these please put in the comments section what you thought! Thanks!

Blind Spot 20: Metropolitan

If you followed this blog last year you may recall my constant praise of a film called Love and Friendship. This is based on a novel called Lady Susan by Jane Austen and is adapted and directed by Whit Stilman. So, for the 2017 Blind Spot series I decided to watch one of Stilman’s other popular films called Metropolitan. After viewing it, I still like Love and Friendship best but Metropolitan was  an enjoyable watch.

Metropolitan is about a group of young Manhattan socialites out on winter break from their first year in college. They gather together after a debutante ball as a group called the ‘Sally Fowler Rat Pack’ named after the girl whose apartment they use for parties.

The movie is more like a filmed play than a movie. It has a small cast and most of the time is spent in small rooms having or recovering from parties. It’s like Dinner with Andre in the way it is about people just talking more than any kind of plot.

There’s Tom, Nick and Rick who are all rivals for the ladies and have differing back stories. And then you have Jane, Sally, and Cynthia as the girls of the group.

But my favorite is Audrey who loves Jane Austen and defends Mansfield Park to her supposedly sophisticated friends. This is a great scene because he is critical of the characters in Mansfield Park for doing the same thing that the Rat Pack is doing.

Like I said, there’s not a lot of plot here so if that is going to bother you than you won’t like it. Plus, these are definitely people with first world problems with a tone and feel that is very much  a creature of its time. If this same script was written now it would be full of politics, social justice posturing and at least one gay character, which would be fine, just different.

The main purpose of the movie is to examine manners and rules as seen through the lens of the elites. This is why Jane Austen is a helpful foil as that was the purpose of most of her writings. For example, the theatrics in Mansfield Park were considered taboo for good society and the characters ask themselves what is taboo now? What are the lines that can’t be crossed? When do you lie out of common courtesy? And when is lying wrong? When is a person a friend you must be loyal towards and when are they a tool in the social ladder? These are questions the script addresses

Overall I enjoyed Metropolitan and I think the script by Whit Stilman is outstanding. My only flaw with it is sometimes the characters could be a little hard to relate with. I wish he had allowed a few more moments of humanity and warmth amongst all the social pandering. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a watch and a good movie with a cracking script!

Overall Grade- B+

STEP Review

The big weekend is finally here! After me babbling on about a little documentary I saw at Sundance called STEP some of America finally gets to see it! I’ve actually had the chance to see it twice: once at Sundance and once at an event for the Utah Film Center, and I look forward to seeing it many more times when it opens in Utah 8/18. STEP may be a sweet documentary to some but for me it is why I go to the movies. It really spoke to me and it might sound cheesy but it made me feel better about this crazy world we live in.

Here’s the trailer:

A few months ago I shared that trailer with a friend of mine and she said ‘I don’t like dance movies’. Let me tell you what I told her- this is not a dance movie. Much like Hoop Dreams wasn’t about basketball, STEP is not about dance. STEP is about 3 girls in Baltimore and the community that helps get them to college.

The three girls are named Blessin, Cori and Tayla and each of them face different struggles.  They are all students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women that is admittedly owned by the director Amanda Lipitz’s  mother. This school caters to inner city Baltimore girls and graduated its first crop of seniors in 2015-2016 (the year we follow).

In 6th grade Blessin started a step dance troupe but was unable to compete during her junior year because of poor grades. She also has a mother with severe mental health problems. On the other side, Cori is a book worm who dreams of getting into John Hopkins and becoming a doctor despite growing up in a family that can’t pay for power. Tayla has a mother who works as a cop and see’s the worst the city has to offer.

The documentary then follows these girls for a year and we see teachers, coaches, administrators and parents all fight for them to achieve their dreams. Both times I saw it the crowds cheered at the end and how wonderful to cheer for real life and not imaginary superheroes for once? I got to meet Coach G at the Utah Film Center screening and she was awesome. Just as real and down to earth as you’d think from the movie. Roger Ebert said about Hoop Dreams “A film like “Hoop Dreams” is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.”

That’s how I feel about STEP. 2017 has been a great year for movies. I loved films like Wonder Woman or Dunkirk but nothing has wowed me like STEP.  Nothing else, you might say, has ‘touched life itself’.

GO SEE STEP!  You won’t regret it!

Overall Grade- A+

 

We Love You, Sally Carmichael! Review

Today I had a fun experience! I got to attend a movie premiere- red carpet and all. It was just a little local film but it was still a fun experience to see the cast and have them introduce the film called We Love You Sally Carmichael! Fortunately it also turned out to be a fun little romcom to boot. This is a small local film but it is not a faith-based film, so anyone who likes romcoms will enjoy it.

The is directed by Christopher Gorham who also stars as Simon Hayes. He is an author with social anxiety who has written a huge best selling romantic teen novel series similar to Twilight (the digs at Stephanie Meyer and Twilight were very obvious but tastefully done). Because of his anxiety, Simon chooses to write under a pseudonym Sally Carmichael. He is also embarrassed by the lightness of the novels and their popularity.

Things get messy for Simon when he writes a scathing rebuke of the series in a local newspaper as a favor for a woman named Tess (Bitsie Tulloch). To make matters worse, a big name star named Perry (Sebastian Roche) comes into town who the studio wants to star in the movie adaptation of the series.

We Love You, Sally Carmichael doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it consistently made me laugh especially Roche as the very weird movie star. Tulloch and Gorham have winning chemistry and it all works out to be a charming film.

The liar reveal plot is a bit of a groaner but the cast and laughs more than make up for it. I really enjoyed it and it is so rare that I like a comedy these days. This is one you can take the entire family and they will all have a good time. Imagine that! It’s as squeaky clean as they come!

Overall Grade- B+