Opening in Las Vegas, September 22, 2017

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A quiet week, with nothing to leave the house for.

If I did go to a film this week, it would probably be Brad’s Status (72), with Ben Stiller and directed by Mike White. But I’m sure this will be available on home video in about a month, and it seems like Stiller has played this kind of role–a middle-aged man who wonders what happened to his life–many times.

The likely box-office winner, if it can pass It, is Kingsman: The Golden Circle (45). Didn’t see the first one, won’t see this one. Just seems like an Avengers/James Bond rip-off. Anyone here see the first one?

The one Oscar-bait film his week is Stronger (76), with Jake Gyllenhaal as a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing and his rehab. I’m sure this is a very inspiring story, but I’m a cold cynical bastard when it comes to inspiring stories.

I’ve liked the Lego movies I’ve seen so far, but I have no idea what a Lego Ninjago Movie (55) is. I guess the Lego fans do, so they can see it for me.

Finally, there’s the lousy cheap horror film of the week. This time it taps into social media, and is called Friend Request (33). It should do decent business on Friday and Saturday night and then be consigned to oblivion.

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Review: mother!

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The biggest news coming from the opening weekend of mother! was that it received an F rating from Cinemascore, which is apparently hard to do. I saw the film yesterday, and it certainly doesn’t rate an F (I’d give it a B), so what happened? One, it wasn’t marketed properly–when people hate a movie, it’s often because they didn’t get the movie they thought they were going to get. mother! was marketed as a run-of-the-mill horror film, and it is not. Two, there’s an old saying in theater that satire is what closes on a Saturday night. I’d say Biblical allegories would be included in that category. The truth probably is that most people didn’t get it.

I’m not sitting here saying I’m superior, because I didn’t get it, either. I could write about what I thought was going on, but I had no firm theory. It reminded me of other works, such as Edward Albee’s play A Delicate Balance, where guests come to stay and don’t leave, or Rosemary’s Baby, but I read an interview in Vanity Fair with director Darren Aronofsky, who explains what it is. I’m reluctant to spoil anyone’s encounter with it, lets just say that a sound understanding of Genesis is involved.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star as a couple living in a big, beautiful house that she is renovating (She says she wants to make it a paradise–Garden of Eden?) He’s a poet, so we know immediately this isn’t reality because I don’t think anyone makes a living solely writing poems, especially with a house that big. He’s got writer’s block, though. One day a stranger, a doctor played by Ed Harris, shows up. Barden invites him to stay the night, and Lawrence is incredulous. She’s even more so when Harris’ wife, Michelle Pfeiffer shows up. They are followed by their two sons, arguing about the will. One kills the other (this is the only Biblical reference I picked up on–Cain and Abel) and Lawrence is stunned that a funeral gathering is taking place in her house.

She becomes pregnant, and time passes. Bardem writes a poem that becomes so admired that people flock to the house to congratulate him. Thus proceeds the conclusion, that involves Lawrence giving birth and, well, let me leave it that. I will only say that it is gruesome, and there are a few things that just don’t play in Peoria.

Even though I didn’t understand it, I didn’t have the visceral dislike that apparently most of America had. At least it was interesting, if obscure. The camera moves disorientingly, following Lawrence as she goes everywhere. The house is dark. The basement has what appears to be a magic tunnel. When Lawrence touches the walls, she senses some sort of presence. But it’s not ghosts, it’s something much more fundamental. Another clue is that she is always barefoot. The first and last lines of the film are “Baby?”

The performances are also strange. Lawrence, due to the nature of the role, has to be passive and reactive, while Bardem is purposely mysterious (there’s a constant, “Why are you doing this?” and “I can’t put them out” vibe between them). I wonder if Harris and Pfeiffer even knew what they were playing. Once you understand who Pfeiffer is supposed to be, it’s sort of funny that she plays it bitchy.

I have to give Paramount Pictures the guts to spend 30 million dollars on this. I don’t think they’ll make it back, but I think it will find a home on VOD. If anything, it’s a great conversation piece.

Opening in Las Vegas, September 15, 2017

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Now that the summer is over it’s time for Oscar bait.

First up, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (75) (the lowercase m is the film’s choice), a horror film of sorts with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Rex Reed has called it the “worst movie of the century,” so it’s bound to be good.

Not having any Oscar chances, except maybe in the sound awards, is American Assassin (46), with Dylan O’Brien as a guy out for revenge being trained in black ops by Michael Keaton. I’m kind of intrigued by the use of “American” in titles. It’s very popular in books as well as films. There must be some market research that suggests that using that appellation increases sales. Maybe Americans are so narcissistic that they can’t help reading or watching things about themselves.

Review: It

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I read Stephen King’s It about thirty years ago, and I forgot a lot of it (I read the summary on Wikipedia and was aghast at how much was gone from my brain). I don’t even remember if I saw the mini-series from 1990, although Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Clown is now a ubiquitous example of coulrophobia. Therefore, I’m not sure if I realized just what It is until I saw the new film, directed by Andy Muschietti. It is a metaphor for puberty.

The decision to break this into two films, the first featuring only the children (the book divides into alternating viewpoints of the kids and their adult selves) streamlines things and makes the metaphor pop more. The children, all at about that age, deal with an evil entity that more often than not takes the form of a devilish clown. This clown feeds on the fear of children (much like Freddy Krueger) and what do children fear? Turning into adults.

The book was more detailed about the children’s fears–it included mummies and werewolves, and there are none here, but I’m particularly struck about how the film treats the one girl, Beverly Marsh, played excellently by Sophia Lillis. In one scene she is in a drugstore, buying Tampax, so nervously it seems like the first time (she also swipes a pack of cigarettes). Her father, who is clearly molesting her, discovers her feminine hygiene product and asks her if she is still his little girl. Later, It will manifest itself as blood spewing out of her bathroom sink.

Becoming an adult also means turning on one’s parents, and here three kids do so (we don’t meet all the parents), two of them killing their own fathers, which seems very Joseph Campbell. The other, the hypochondriac Eddie, finds out his drugs are placebos and rebels against his Munchhausen Syndrome mother.

That being said, It is only an okay movie. There’s a lot to chew on, psychologically speaking, but the direction is simple and repetitive. We get a scene, then a scare, a scene and a scare, a scene and a scare. Believe it or not, there is a limit to how many times a clown popping out of nowhere can scare you. But some scenes are absolutely top-notch, including the first one, when Georgie’s boat goes down the sewer and we first meet Pennywise, as played by Bill Skarsgaard. He is terrifying, with his malevolent giggles, and the only problem I had was even a kid as young as Georgie would run like fucking mad, boat or no boat.

It is in the tradition of kids’ adventures movies that are constructed like World War II platoons–the stutterer (and leader), the funny kid, the hypochondriac, the fat kid, the black kid, the Jewish kid, and the girl, who is falsely rumored to be a slut. There is comfort in this, as it reminds us of better outings, such as Stranger Things (the excellently named Finn Wolfhard is in both casts). To me it hearkens back to teen lit like the Hardy Boys or The Three Investigators, where kids are smarter than adults and solve the problem with teamwork.

The children are all very good, particularly Lillis, who looks so much like Amy Adams that they will have to get Adams to play Beverly in the next film (Lillis has already played a young Adams in an HBO series). I also liked Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, the chubby kid, who writes a romantic poem to Beverly, is precocious enough to have researched and figured out that It comes out of hiding every 27 years, but is also enough of a kid to haplessly try to take his project home from school on his bike. The kid actors here convince you they’re are kids, not miniature adults.

The art direction on the house where It is hiding is also well done. It seems in every neighborhood there is that abandoned house that every kid is fascinated by. This one looks like every house I ever had a nightmare about. Skarsgaard’s make-up is great, and the special effects are great but don’t over do it.

There are some logistical problems, such as if It is so omnipotent (he can make a slide carousel go berserk) than how can he be defeated by physical means (it seems to me that you can’t beat up a demon with a baseball bat). But at least they don’t include all of King’s fooforall about the macroverse and the giant turtle that created the universe. They also, thank god, don’t include the head-scratchingly wrong scene he wrote in which Beverly has sex with all the boys. Instead, this is reduced to a simple Sleeping Beauty-style kiss.

It is a pretty good horror flick, nothing more, but in this day and age when horror movies are as disposable as Kleenex that’s no small feat. I will be very interested to see Chapter Two, and given the box office, there may be more chapters after that.

AGEBOC IX Finale: Jackrabbit Slim Wins!

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Following an astonishing season-long run in which he racked up points every single week, Jackrabbit Slim has decimated the competition to become this year’s champion!

Thanks to everyone for playing! HAGEBOC 2017 kicks off in early November.

Final scores:

Jackrabbit Slim – 92
James – 85
Juan – 67
Marco – 40
Joe – 33
Filmman – 12
Rob – 8

AGEBOC IX – Week Nineteen

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Predict the grosses of the films opening the weekend of September 8th-10th, 2017

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million on the first question each week earns 2 bonus points.

Deadline is Friday, September 8th at 12:00 pm (EST).  

Note: This is the FINAL week of AGEBOC 2017.  Thanks for playing!  

    1. What will IT earn this weekend? (4 points for the closest guess, 2 points for second closest. Within 500k earns a 2 point bonus)
    2. What will Home Again earn this weekend? (4 points for the closest guess, 2 points for second closest)
    3. What will IT earn from Thursday PM/Midnight shows?  (4 points for the closest guess, 2 points for the second closest guess)
    4. A gambling question for those who are game: While IT is on track to have a historic opening weekend for a horror film, will it beat the ADJUSTED opening weekend of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire at $77.4m?  (6 points if you answer “Yes” and the film achieves this.  MINUS 4 points if you answer “yes” and the film does not.  No points awarded for “no”.)

Current rankings:
Jackrabbit Slim – 86
James – 67
Juan – 61
Marco – 40
Joe – 33
Filmman – 12
Rob – 8

Hitchcock: Suspicion

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After the success of Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock and Joan Fontaine reteamed in 1941 for Suspicion. It was also the first of four films he made with Cary Grant, and was the highest grossing picture of that year. Fontaine won an Oscar, but just watching it again last night I marveled at the talent of Grant.

Suspicion is a great example of how Hitchcock slowly builds suspense. The movie is about an hour and a half long, and the first hour feels like a comedy. It’s only very late that we, as an audience, feel like Fontaine is in trouble, and that’s when she does, as the film is mostly framed through her eyes.

Fontaine plays a dowdy, bookish woman who seems well on the way to spinster-hood. Grant, a rakish playboy, takes an interest in her, and they fall in love and marry. It’s only later that she finds that Grant is allergic to work, addicted to betting on horses, and has no money. Somehow he gets by on loans from others, and he is so charming and affable that no one ever seems to get mad at him.

He comes up with a scheme to buy and sell property with his school friend, the wonderfully named Beaky Thwaite (Nigel Bruce, perfectly playing a lovable English twit). Fontaine starts to suspect that Grant wants to kill Bruce for his money, and when Bruce dies in Paris she really gets worried. Later she intercepts a letter and finds that Grant tried to borrow against her life insurance, but she would have to be dead for him to do it. Throw that in with Grant’s morbid interest in murder mysteries (he picks the brain of a neighbor, an Agatha Christie-like character) and paranoia swoops around Fontaine.

That the film goes from light-hearted comedy to dark thriller so subtly is Hitchcock’s gift. He gives us clues along the way–early in the film, Grant and Fontaine go for a walk and a wind gust comes up and he grabs her arms. She reacts strongly, and he says, “What, did you think I was going to kill you?” Playing a Scrabble-like game, Fontaine makes the word “murder,” which sends her into a fainting spell. The house where they live have semi-circular windows, which cast shadows that look like spider webs, with Fontaine trapped in them.

The ending is very controversial. Some say Hitchcock hated it, because he was forced to do it. In the book on which the script is based, Grant’s character does kill Fontaine, but she writes a letter to her mother telling her she fears he is going to kill her, and asks him to post it. He does, not realizing he is implicating himself (letters are very important in the film, even Hitchcock’s cameo shows him mailing a letter). But, because the studio did not want to have Cary Grant as a murderer, they changed it so all the fear was simply in Fontaine’s mind, and they live happily ever after. I would have much preferred the other way.

Grant does play the role as if he is a killer, though. He’s an actor who was always able to play light-hearted while seeming to have terrible, dark secrets. There’s a dinner party scene with the mystery writer in which Fontaine watches his face as they talk about perfect murders, and he mentions poison. He seems particularly excited at the prospect of an untraceable one. Later, in perhaps the film’s most famous scene, he brings Fontaine a glass of milk. He enters a darkened room, and carries it up the staircase, the milk illuminated. Hitchcock was able to do that by putting a small light in the glass.

Suspicion is one of the better Hitchcock films, despite the cop-out ending. Fontaine did win the Oscar (she was jobbed out of winning for Rebecca, so perhaps that’s why) but Grant wasn’t even nominated and he should have been (he was only nominated twice in his career and never won until an honorary Oscar). It is essential Hitchcock.

Oscar 2017: Paradigm Shift

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Daniel Day-Lewis in “Phantom Thread”

I think it’s fair to say that at this time last year, no one had Moonlight as the favorite to win Best Picture. The question becomes, did the diversity push in membership change the paradigm of what an “Oscar bait” movie is? One year does not make a trend, but it is a giant leap for a film that cost less than two million dollars to make (the lowest-budgeted Best Picture of all time, adjust for inflation), has no stars, no white actors, and a gay theme to take the top prize. Even more than ever, it’s like the old William Goldman quote about predicting Oscars: “Nobody knows anything.”

But that won’t stop me from trying. Going over the slate of films to be released this fall and winter I don’t see anything that stands out as a favorite for the Oscar. Usually I get about five of these, but I wouldn’t be surprised to do far worse than that this year. Last year I certainly didn’t have Moonlight on my horizon.

In alphabetical order:

Battle of the Sexes (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris) Sep. 22. The film opens at Telluride tomorrow, so this may be out of the running quickly. The story of the tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was a gaudy circus (I’m old enough to have watched it) and these are the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, so they have Oscar pedigree. I’d be interested to see if they touch upon the rumor that Riggs threw the match because of massive debts.

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan) Jul. 21. Though I was underwhelmed by this war film, it is in the right quadrant–big box office and near universal critical acclaim. After several weeks it is still in the top ten. The Academy has been gun shy about Nolan–he’s never been nominated for Best Director, and only Inception has been nominated for Best Picture. It all depends on how many good films are coming–if they aren’t too many, Dunkirk will be remembered.

The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey) Dec. 26. It’s hard now for films released too late in the year to get nominated, and this musical was postponed an entire year (to avoid conflicting with La La Land). It stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum. The trailer makes it look like he was a lovable character, but remember, he’s the guy who said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” If it’s a whitewash of who he was I don’t like its chances.

Goodbye, Christopher Robin (Simon Curtis) Oct. 13. Now here’s a movie that has the old “Oscar bait” all over it. It’s literary–about the creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, and his experiences in World War I, and an emotional tale about fathers and sons. The only question that remains is is it any good?

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Oct. 27. Two of Lanthimos’ previous two films, Dogtooth and The Lobster, received Oscar nominations. Will this Greek director who has a different perspective than most crack into Oscar respectability? I don’t know anything about the plot of this film. It stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.

Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater) Nov. 3. The plot sounds formulaic–three war buddies attend the funeral of one of their sons–but Linklater may make it better than it sounds. Starring (again) Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne, it may tap into the zeitgeist.

Mudbound (Dee Rees) Nov. 17. A film directed by a black woman (the only other film thus directed to be nominated for Best Picture was Selma), it is set in the South post-World War II. It has been seen, at Sundance, and though it didn’t win a prize it was generally well-received.

Phantom Thread  (P.T. Anderson) Dec. 25. Anderson almost always comes up with films that get Oscar nominations, ever since Boogie Nights, but only There Will Be Blood got a nomination for Best Picture. It’s mostly being celebrated as purportedly the last film for Daniel-Day Lewis (though he’s retired before) and set in the London fashion world of the ’50s.

The Post (Steven Spielberg) Dec. 22. Another late release, but it’s hard to bet against the trio of Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks, telling the story of the Pentagon Papers. Hanks plays Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who has already been played by one Oscar-winner, Jason Robards in All the President’s Men.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Nov. 10. I was intrigued by the trailer–this may get the usual Coen Brothers slot. McDonagh, a fantastic playwright, has had a checkered career as film director–In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths–but has already won an Oscar for Best Short Film. It stars Frances McDormand as a woman demanding justice for her dead daughter, and seems to be anti-police, which could be another zeitgeist nominee.
Also possible:
Darkest Hour (Joe Wright); Detroit (Katheryn Bigelow); Victoria and Abdul (Stephen Frears); Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes); Suburbicon (George Clooney); Wonder Wheel (Woody Allen).

AGEBOC IX – Week Eighteen

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Predict the grosses of the films opening the weekend of September 1st-3rd, 2017

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million on the first question each week earns 2 bonus points.

Deadline is Friday, September 1st at 12:00 pm (EST).  

Note: This is a snoozer of a week with only one wide release (the long-delayed Tulip Fever) that was scheduled at the last minute. AGEBOC 2017 will conclude next weekend with the release of WB’s IT, which has the potential to topple some box office records.

    1. What will Tulip Fever earn this weekend?
    2. Will this weekend’s top twelve grossing films earn LESS than the top twelve grossing films May 8th-10th, 1992 adjusted ($47,352,400)?
    3. What % will Birth of The Dragon fall this weekend (4 points for closest guess, 2 points for second closest)
    4. Here’s a challenging one: what will Marvel’s Inhumans, a cheap-looking ABC television pilot which is (for some reason) premiering on IMAX screens earn this weekend? It will be splitting showtimes with other IMAX movies at most theaters. (4 points for closest guess, 2 points for second closest)
    5. Rank or discuss your favorite (or least favorite) films of the Summer. (1 point)

Current rankings:
Jackrabbit Slim – 82
Juan – 61
James – 57
Marco – 39
Joe – 33
Filmman – 12
Rob – 8

Review: Ingrid Goes West

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Black humor is hard, because walking the thin line between funny and mordant is precarious. Some films end up being too silly, and others tilt the way of mawkish. Ingrid Goes West almost falls off on the side of mawkishness, but manages to be a poignant commentary on the role of social media in the lives of the lonely.

Aubrey Plaza stars as someone we don’t know too much about, other than that she is prone to stalking. The film opens with her crashing the wedding of an acquaintance and getting institutionalized. Her mother has recently died, and we get the impression she was her only companion. But then she discovers one of those new breeds of celebrity I have a hard time understanding–the social media celebrity, who gathers followers and then gets paid by companies to praise their brands.

This is Elizabeth Olsen (the second film I’ve seen with her in a week) and she impresses Plaza with her exquisite taste, whether it’s food, clothing, decorating, or books. With the money her mother left her, she decides to move to Venice Beach, California and befriend Olsen.

She starts with the dubious plan of kidnapping her dog and returning it, which works. Plaza and Olsen strike up a friendship (also with Olsen’s husband, a hipster with a man-bun played well by Wyatt Russell), and she also develops an attraction with her neighbor, O’Shea Jackson Jr. What’s interesting about Plaza’s character is that when she feels as if she’s liked and appreciated she behaves perfectly normally. It’s only when her friendship is threatened, as it is by the arrival of Olsen’s loutish brother, than she starts getting crazy.

The film was directed by Matt Spicer and co-written by Spicer and David Branson Smith. I found the script’s insight into social media and our nation’s craze for our phones to be spot-on. “Where’s my phone?” is the first thing that Plaza says upon awakening in a hospital bed. She spends her days and nights going through Instagram, robotically clicking “heart” on all the pictures. She appears to have no inner life, only a need to be attached to those she sees on her phone. She’s like the technologically advanced Eleanor Rigby.

One is left with questions. Was she employed? Was she able to function in society? The script could have rounded her out a tad more. Otherwise, this film is as sharp about social media addiction as The Lost Weekend was about alcoholism. It’s just another way to fill our lonely lives.

AGEBOC IX – Week Seventeen

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Predict the grosses of the films opening the weekend of August 25th-27th, 2017

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million on the first question each week earns 2 bonus points.

Deadline is Friday, August 25th at 12:00 pm (EST)

    1. What will Ingrid Goes West earn this weekend?
    2. What will Birth of The Dragon earn this weekend?
    3. What will Good Time earn this weekend?
    4. What will Leap! earn this weekend?

Current rankings:
Jackrabbit Slim – 74
Juan – 57
James – 47
Marco – 33
Joe – 33
Filmman – 12
Rob – 8

Review: Wind River

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Wind River, Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut, is a solid crime drama, not as expansive as the films of his scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water. He doesn’t seem to be aiming as high, and that’s fine. This is the kind of movie that when you’re struggling to agree to something on VOD everyone should be okay with.

The film is set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Jeremy Renner, a worker for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (he hunts predators, hint) finds a young woman, dead. She was a friend of his teenage daughter, who died three years earlier. The young woman ran several miles, barefoot, through the snow.

Since an Indian reservation is federal land, the FBI must be brought in. That’s in the person of Elizabeth Olsen, who is not very experienced (she arrives in frigid Wyoming wearing only a windbreaker). She, the tribal police chief (a very good Graham Greene) and Renner investigate (Renner, who is not law enforcement, ends up involved because of his tracking ability).

It really isn’t much of a mystery. The law visits the trailer of three stoners and there’s some violence. Renner, tracking some mountain lions, finds a clue that isn’t even fully explained, and we see what happened to the young woman and her boyfriend before there’s a final gunfight. The film is not really a whodunit, it seems more an excuse to show the way of life of rez Indians (it’s not a pretty sight). At the end of the film, there is a P.S.A. tacked on that seems out of place, as the film didn’t seem like a polemic.

But I can’t be hard on this film. It’s not great, but there’s nothing wrong with it. In addition to Greene, there’s another good performance by Gil Birmingham as the murdered girl’s father.

Sheridan has proved himself as a screenwriter, but I need to see more from him as a director to see if he’s got the right stuff.

Review: Logan Lucky

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logan_lucky(Warning: Contains mild spoilers)

Elaborate heists done by a group of people has always been one of my favourite film sub-genres. If done well, the plan’s intricacies, how it works out in reality, the expected and unexpected obstacles and inevitable tensions within the group can make for fascinating and entertaining films.

Clearly veteran director Steven Soderbergh (making his first film after a very brief retirement) enjoys these films as he made a trio of ‘Oceans’ films based around the same concept and now returns to it with ‘Logan Lucky’, albeit in a very different setting and social milieu.

The film’s plot centres around divorced and just-unemployed construction worker Jimmy (Channing Tatum), who decides robbing a stadium during a NASCAR event is the solution to his problems. He needs the help of multiple people including his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and criminal Joe (Daniel Craig). Unfortunately Joe is in prison but where there’s a will…

I’ve only seen a handful of Steven Soderbergh’s films and while he’s clearly one of the smartest and skilled directors in Hollywood, his movies tend to feel a bit distant and cold. One admires his films without finding them particularly enjoyable or wanting to rewatch them.

And this is how I felt about ‘Logan Lucky’. It’s a smartly done heist film with some fine performances but I was never terribly engaged in it and it was never as entertaining or clever as it thought it was.

The film’s biggest problem is that the people involved in the heist seem to be operating at two intelligence levels depending on the requirements on the plot. In their regular day-to-day lives, they’re often simplistic, even moronic. Indeed, another set of brothers involved in the scheme (played by Jack Quaid & Brian Gleeson) are so idiotic they reminded me of the trio of yokel brothers from the 1980s Newhart TV show.

And yet we’re supposed to believe that this same group of people are able to carry off a highly elaborate and sophisticated heist, not only outwitting a substantial police and security force but also able to get multiple people in and out of prison without the authorities noticing. Perhaps it could be understood if Soderbergh was making a comment on how people like this apply considerable intelligence to an event like a heist while acting foolishly in the rest of their lives, but that would be giving him too much credit.

The other problem with the heist itself is that it relies a lot on lucky timing and people with no connection to it acting in ways that can’t be predicted. For example, how do they convince the prisoners to stage a riot for the required time the heist is run and how do they know the prison warden will react in the exact way they need to enable them to get back into the prison undetected? It’s a scheme that makes the finale to The Sting seem like child’s play.

As well, the film feels erratic and contradictory in its tone. Initially in the early scenes where we see Jimmy with his children, his job situation and his general struggles, it’s striving for a realistic, natural tone. But at other times when characters like such as the buffoonish NASCAR powerbroker (Seth MacFarlane) or a very monotone and robotic FBI agent (Hilary Swank) appear it has a comic, exaggerated and even goofy tone. There are pleasures to be had from both styles (Swank’s performance is quite amusing) but they don’t mesh which hurts the film overall.

This is not to say that ‘Logan Lucky’ isn’t a well-made film. It is stylishly and thoughtfully directed by Soderbergh as usual and the execution of heist is entertainingly (if unbelievably) done. Also, there are a lot of good performances in a fine cast. Daniel Craig practically steals the film with his delightful portrayal of the charismatic but unpredictable Joe. And I admired Channing Tatum for underplaying the central role when it would’ve been easy to try and share the limelight of the array of colourful supporting performances.

But overall, while ‘Logan Lucky’ has undoubted strengths (and is popular amongst critics), it was never as entertaining or substantial as it could’ve been.

Trivia Note: This is the second film I’ve seen at the cinema this year (after Alien: Covenant) that features both Katherine Waterston and has John Denver’s music as a pivotal part of the plot

 

AGEBOC IX – Week Sixteen

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Predict the grosses of the films opening the weekend of August 18th-20th, 2017

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million on the first question each week earns 2 bonus points.

Deadline is Friday, August 18th at 12:00 pm (EST)

    1. What will Logan Lucky earn this weekend?
    2. What will The Hitman’s Bodyguard earn this weekend?

Current rankings:
Jackrabbit Slim – 70
Juan – 57
James – 47
Joe – 33
Marco – 25
Filmman – 12
Rob – 8