Logan Lucky: Movie Man Jackson

Easiest way to break a family curse? Get rich. For decades, the Logan family has been categorized as perpetually unlucky. The most recent heirs to these presumptions are the Logan brothers. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) was once an all-state quarterback before a career changing leg injury, and Clyde (Adam Driver) lost an arm while doing a tour in Iraq. Together, they reside in the dead end Boone County, West Virginia; Clyde bartends, while Jimmy does basic construction work under the Charlotte Motor Speedway track.

His job is lost when HR determines his injury is too severe to continue working. Out of money and facing the real prospect of not seeing his daughter, Sadie (Farrah McKenzie) consistently with his ex moving across West Virginia lines, Jimmy concocts a plan to solve all their issues. That plan is stealing from the vault the lies under the track. A crew is going to be needed, consisting of Clyde, sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and the notorious Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), along with others. Pull it off right, and this “Hillbilly Heist” will go off without a hitch.

Guess who’s back…back again. Soder’s back…tell a friend. Well, I guess he was never truly gone filling his time with various side projects, but Logan Lucky marks Steven Soderbergh’s official return to feature filmmaking after a four-year hiatus. People looking for a WOW! return won’t get that with Logan Lucky, but a two hour, fairly zippy and passable crime movie will have to do.

One could make an argument to call Soderbergh the father of the modern-day heist movie after Ocean’s Eleven. Anything from Fast Five to The Italian Job to even Inception owes at least a little to Soderbergh’s remake. Logan Lucky is essentially an Ocean’s movie scaled back notably in locale and in tone. The West Virginia and NASCAR setting lends itself to different cinematography and setpieces. Soderbergh and his longtime cinematograher “Peter Andrews” certainly make it easy to get lost into this feature. Composer David Holmes, also a longtime collaborator with the director, makes some solid, offbeat tracks to accompany what is see on film.

 

Logan Lucky is perfectly competent, right down to the montage revel that so many of these types of films have. However, it is levels firmly under those heist movies mentioned previously. Not so much for the actual direction (which is great), but the overall emotion of it all. Logan Lucky pitches itself light, but there are enough scenes of sentimentality/drama that attempt to tug at the heartstrings when in actuality, they kind of miss their mark. This is a small piece of a bigger problem in Logan Lucky. Simply put, there are no noticeable stakes or compelling reasons to care enough for what may or may not happen. The film also runs a few false endings, and the ending chosen isn’t as strong as one or two that came before it.

In his return, Soderbergh packs a wallop of all-star talent, with varying results. The best performance is without a doubt Daniel Craig’s, the first time in a long long time in which the actor known as 007 is so not the cool collected guy seen not only in James Bond movies, but a lot of the roles he’s played outside of that. Tatum and Driver as the Logan brothers forge a believable brotherhood and are the only two characters with backstory that comes to light in the 2nd half. The level of humor derived from Logan Lucky will boil down to how quick the country bumpkin shtick will wear down for each viewer.

Other appearances in the cast are made by Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Macon Blair, Seth MacFarlane, and Hilary Swank. Most are celebrity cameos, with not enough screen time or character writing to be anything else, but, they add name value and don’t bring down the production. MacFarlane and Swank feel off in this movie; Seth going for the pure comic relief but failing throughout, and Swank perhaps being too stern and rigid as the FBI agent tacked on in the last 20 minutes.

It’s hard to be like Mike and come back immediately into the game like you never left it. Logan Lucky is a reminder of Soderbergh’s talents, even if he’s a little rusty.

C+

Photo credits go to usatoday.com, nerdist.com, and cinemavine.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Midnight Special: Movie Man Jackson

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No, this Midnight Special isn’t something you can get at IHOP. In San Angelo, Texas, an Amber Alert has been launched for eight year old Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher). He’s been abducted by two males, Roy (Michael Shannon), and Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and the abduction quickly makes national news. Are these guys dangerous, or are they saints rescuing Alton from a terrible fate?

It’s quickly seen that these two fellows are not the only people who are after Alton. Other entities, such as the government, and a fanatical cult, are trying to harness for their own gain. What gain? Well, he’s got tremendous powers, and would be an asset for these entities in many fashions.

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As other reviewers have noted, it’s hard to pin down exactly what Midnight Special is. It doesn’t fit neatly into a specific genre, as the fact of the matter is, it is a thriller, science fiction, drama, fantasy, even a family film. For many films, being stretched across multiple categories spells would spell nothing but a trouble in focus, but Jeff Nichols’ (Mud) feature quite easily manages to meld all into something worthwhile.

Sometimes, it’s more about the journey than the actual final destination. Nichols really takes that sentiment to heart in Midnight Special. The screenplay, penned by Nichols itself, revels in giving little, or even nothing at all in some cases. For yours truly, the latter can be a little frustrating in its steadfastness in refusing to reveal any concrete ideas. This lack of finality only impacts the ending, though, in my opinion, As it stands, the ending is fine, and does tie in ultimately with the core of the story. For me, at least, it is a little disappointing if only because I felt like there was one trick up Nichols’ sleeve to use. Extremely vague thoughts, I know, but only because it isn’t right to go too deep into the plot.

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Still, the production quality that Nichols wrings out of an 18 million budget is nothing short of extraordinary, like its main character. Obviously, it is very early to say, but it is hard seeing any other fairly small budget movie looking as big-budget-esque as Midnight Special does. Seriously, the effects are of high quality, adding more to the mysteries and slow reveal of the plot when they are used. They are so good, one wishes that more of the why and how could be explored to them. Outside of effects, the movie just features excellent cinematography, both in the daytime, nighttime, out in the open of nowhere, or in the confines of a white-light enclosed space.

The cast hits all of the right notes as well, starting with the young Jaeden Lieberher as Aldon. His role isn’t that talkative, but it does require a huge presence for a child actor that Lieberher brings to the role. It’s very cool, calm, and collected work. Supporting actors Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton are supporting, in the truest sense, which is to say they’re doing their jobs and doing them well. Adam Driver’s character is really the audience in a nutshell, gradually getting more information to the scenario at hand and reacting appropriately.

But Michael Shannon’s character is a chameleon as it pertains to how we as the audience are supposed to feel to him. Though surely his role in the story is made known in many summaries, I was pleasantly surprised at his involvement, and feel it wrong to reveal it here. Just know that his involvement to the story is touching, and relatable to many.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Full of intrigue and mystery from the get-go, Midnight Special is a fun journey, akin to a road trip to nowhere. The final stop may not be worth remembering, but the drive to it is.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to yahoo.com, collider.com, and huffingtonpost.com. Links to digitalshortbread.com, fastfilmreviews.com, and keithandthemovies.com.

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This Is Where I Leave You: Movie Man Jackson

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“You guys are idiots. But you’re my idiots.”

How do you get an oddball family to reconnect after years and years of not doing so? An unfortunate passing of their patriarch of course! This Is Where I Leave You begins with Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), an average and seemingly middle aged man with a solid career and healthy marriage. While coming come to celebrate his wife birthday, he stumbles upon a most unfortunate revelation: His wife is doing his boss, and has been doing so for a year.

His life now in shambles, Judd gets a call from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) learning that their father has passed away. This of course forces the Altman family to come together for an impromptu reunion. The funeral was one thing, but as told by their mother (Jane Fonda), their father’s dying wish was for the family to spend one whole week under the same roof obeying the Jewish mourning tradition known as Shiva. In this one week the Altman clan’s already shaky-at-best bonds will be tested, but maybe just maybe some appreciation for each other will arise out of it.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU

With a simple but relatable premise mixing comedy with family drama, This Is Where I Leave You sets up to be a solid piece of entertainment, bolstered by a very recognizable and accomplished cast of actors. Well, at least on paper that is. TIWILY (nice looking abbreviation), has its moments but also its fails, in turn making a movie that is pretty average and disappointing with the promise it possesses.

The movie’s screenplay is written by Jonathan Tropper, who also happened to write the novel that this is based on. With the continuity there, you would think that the script would carry over to the other medium without a hiccup. If only it were that easy. I have not read the book, but I kept on thinking when viewing that maybe some things were lost in translation from the pages to the big screen. Despite its simplistic presence, there is a lot going on here that gives the movie a bloated feeling with so many characters crossing paths and constantly coming in and out and back in again.

Comedy-wise, there are some good laughs to be had, and they generally come through the dialogue of the characters in this less-than-desirable situation. By that sense, it is written well and the characters sound like real people. Any film with Jason Bateman and Tina Fey in it is going to be planted in the comedy genre, but TIWILY has a great deal of drama and heavyness in it, and it is a little unclear as to what it really wants to be. In a nutshell, it is a dramedy but it shifts tonally so often and so quickly between scenes that it becomes a little difficult to buy into. Seriously, there are musical cues that give clear indication to the audience, almost as if the movie is telling us “OK, it’s time to stop chuckling and time to get serious.”

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With the cast assembled for this, what most are given to do from a character sense underwhelms. Really, only Bateman’s character gets fleshed out and explored, and not surprisingly, he gives a very effective performance. His character is one to sympathize with and get behind, and his growth throughout is evident. The same cannot be said for the rest, mainly because they just aren’t allowed to. They are saddled with template characters seen before in other places, be it the irresponsible and outspoken young buck of the family (Adam Driver), the uptight boring brother (Corey Stoll), or the politically incorrect and unabashed matriarch (Jane Fonda). It is to their credit along with the solid dialogue that they’re still able to generate laughs, but that doesn’t translate into investment to their characters. Even the growth of these characters (aside from Bateman’s) that the movie desperately wants you to buy into feels nonexistent.

As a direct result of the lack of inability to make the characters interesting, it is a bit of a stretch to buy everyone as a family. You end up seeing Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and company as themselves. This in turn makes the film almost like an extended comedy skit suited for Saturday Night Live in certain places. Sure it is still fun to watch, but since TIWILY is rooted around a dysfunctional family unit, believing that this is a real family is crucial to the experience. It appears that even the actors themselves ham it up to prove that this is such a dysfunctional family. Not every movie has to be believable, but certain ones suffer more if the feeling is not present.

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With so much promise, it is a big downer to see This Is Where I Leave You as it is: A middling family-get-together-from-hell film that is inconsistent and more familiar to other stuff than desired. Evidence of what it could have been is strewn here and there just enough to not be completely down on the movie, but it will still most likely leave one in a “wishing more from it” state of mind.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to theyoungfolks.com, wallpaperseries.com, andwegotthiscovered.com.

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