Movie review: Logan Lucky

Movie reviews

Hello!

Steven Soderbergh is back from retirement but the audiences don;t care much. This is Logan Lucky!

IMDb summary: Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Writing

Logan Lucky was written by Rebecca Blunt – either a newcomer writer or somebody, working under a pseudonym. There has been speculation online that Blunt lives the UK, while some critics thought that Soderberg himself is hiding underneath that name (because he does that when crediting himself as a cinematographer (as Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). Anyways, whoever this Blunt person is/was, they did a good job on the script. While the core narrative was quite familiar (Hell or High Water-esque – stealing for one’s family), its execution in details was brilliant.

The movie opened with a good set-up of the mundane lives of its characters and established them as people, whose lives did not turn out the way they planned (one of them peaked in high school, the other was suffering from the little brother inferiority complex).

Then, Logan Lucky moved on to showcasing the American culture (the kind that foreign people wouldn’t even dare to call culture), which consisted of children beauty pageants and rural county fairs. However, the star of the said culture and the film was NASCAR – a very American brand of motor-racing. The cherry on top was the prolonged anthem scene. Logan Lucky seemed to be driving home a message, that stuff like this, for better or for worse, happens only in the USA. This type of portrayal could have easily come across as annoying but the underlying sense of irony and satire made it work.

Speaking about the comedic side of Logan Lucky – it was great if not as extensive as I hoped, after watching the trailer. I loved the different pairings of the criminals (The Hitman’s Bodyguardesque) as well as the jokes that were central to the characters (one-handed bartender, the dumb brothers of Joe Bang). Logan Lucky also had a really funny sequence with Sebastian Stan’s driver character (who didn’t seem like he had much to do with the actual plot of the film). Another magnificent and hilarious sequence was the prison riot and the prisoners demanding all GRRM books, getting frustrated that ‘The Winds of Winter’ has yet to be released, and hating the fact that the TV show is going off books. The ‘explosive device’ sequence and the decision to stop midway and explain the chemistry were extremely funny too.

Logan Lucky also had a surprising and really heartfelt scene involving the main character’s daughter’s beauty pageant and the song ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ (by John Denver). That scene should have been the closing images of the picture. However, Logan Lucky did continue and had a concluding detective story that felt like an afterthought. The investigation itself was not that interesting or neccesary. However, that closing sequence did provide some revelations about the main character’s secret dealings and did have a nice ending (well, for now) with all of them sitting in a bar.

Directing

Steven Soderbergh (The Ocean’s trilogy, Magic Mike series, Haywire) did a good job with Logan Lucky but I don’t think that this was his best film. The pacing at the start was a bit slow, however, the movie did pick up its pace, when the action began. However, it started dragging again with that detective-story afterthought. What I appreciated the most about Logan Lucky (and the other films by Soderbergh) was that it felt real. Not necessarily realistic but real, grounded, self-aware, and sprinkled with irony. While the scripts that he directs (or even writes) are usually mainstream, Soderbergh addresses them with unique auteur/indie perspective.

This time around, Soderbergh also approached the distribution of the film uniquely and decided not to partner with any of the big studios. Well, that backfired. Big time. Logan Lucky didn’t win its weekend, nor it showed any staying power by dipping lower and lower in the TOP 10. I really want to know who/what is to blame. Are the audiences just not interested in Soderbergh’s work anymore? Was it the lack of advertisement? Where were all the NASCAR fans? Where were all the grown-up Pixar’s Cars fan (the ones who saw the 2006 film as children and are now adults)? Where were the fans of movies, involving cars, a la Baby Driver?

Acting

Logan Lucky had a really strong cast, lead by a new favorite of Soderbergh’sChanging Tatum (they worked together on Magic Mike, while the other recent Tatum’s films include Hail, Caesar!, The Hateful Eight, Jupiter Ascending, Jump Street). His brother was played by Adam Driver, who is constantly working on smaller, more art-house pictures in between his Star Wars gigs, like Midnight Special, Silence, and Paterson. Daniel Craig (Spectre) also had a very fun role in the film that he seemed to be having a blast while playing. He never appeared to enjoy being Bond that much and, yet, he still signed on to continue being the 007.

The supporting cast included Riley Keough (Mad Max), Katie HolmesKatherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts), and Hilary Swank (would love to see her going back to the Million Dollar Baby type of projects and the level of success). The majority of them didn’t really play real characters but were used as devices for world-building or the lead’s character development. Seth MacFarlane (Ted, Sing) and Sebastian Stan (Marvel stuff, The Martian) also had cameo roles and their whole separate thing going on in the background.

In short, Logan Lucky was an enjoyable mixture of mainstream and indie, but it didn’t offer anything too special. Neither a disappointment nor really a win for Soderbergh.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Logan Lucky trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Sing

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to one of the last reviews of this year. Without further ado, let’s start discussing Illumination Entertainment’s latest feature – SING!

IMDb summary: A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

  1. Sing was written and directed by Gareth Jenkins. This was his first solo project after working with Nick Goldsmith on a number of films and music videos. Jenkins made this movie for Illumination Entertainment – a relative newcomer to the animation scene. However, this company has already established itself: they made the successful Despicable Me films and the crazy lucrative Minions movie. Just this summer, they had another huge hit – The Secret Life of Pets. So, Sing has to meet fairly high expectations, both financial and critical ones.
  2. Sing was advertised as an animated musical. We already had a couple of those this year, like Trolls and Moana. Since it focused on singing animals, Sing also made an impression of being Zootopia: The Musical. However, the film surprised me because it had a strong story with organic music number rather than being a straight-up musical that a story had to accommodate.
  3. Thus, the writing for Sing was actually quite good. The story itself wasn’t the most original but it was executed well. It had the emotional appeal (the ‘feels) and was also interesting intellectually because of a varied bunch of great characters. All of them were underdogs but in a unique and different way. I really liked the opening sequence which set up all of their individual plots. In general, the picture both celebrated the love for music and performance but also showed the hardships of show-biz. The film was not as light or childish as I expected it to be.
  4. The musical numbers and the audition ideas of the film obviously tried to capitalize on the success of music competitions, such as The X Factor and The Voice. Nevertheless, the audition montage was still funny and entertaining. The twerking bunnies, as well as the K-Pop group, were my favorite. I also fell in love with Gunter. I want him to be my spirit animal or my best friend. The other funny scene that I’d like to spotlight was the car wash sequence. The final performances were also cute. The short snippet of George Michael’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ also made me tear up a bit.
  5. The original voice cast was full of Hollywood A-listers. I was only able to hear their voices during the singing performances, as the rest of dialogue was dubbed (the joys of spending the holidays in a non-English speaking country). Nonetheless, I enjoyed listening to the singing performances by Reese WitherspoonSeth MacFarlaneScarlett JohanssonTori KellyTaron Egerton, and Nick Kroll. I would have loved to hear what Matthew McConaughey did with the leading role as well, but as his voice is so distinct, I think I still imagined him speaking in my head. 

In short, Sing was a great animated film, perfect for the holiday season. It had a lovely narrative at its center, while the equally nice musical numbers occupied a secondary role.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Sing trailer

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Movie review: Ted 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I and a few of my friends went to see Ted 2. Personally, I don’t really consider myself to be a type of person who likes comedies, especially contemporary ones. I think that nowadays comedic movies rely too much on sexual jokes, which lack tastefulness. Nonetheless, I still went to this film, although I knew that it has a lot of sexual jokes. Two main reasons that have driven me to the cinema that night was the fact that I was going with friends – I’ll never say no to them – and secondly, I wanted to see if this was the end of Seth MacFarlane’s career.

IMDb summary: Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law.

To begin with, let’s talk about the first film. I didn’t particularly liked the 2012 Ted. I thought that the premise was interesting but the execution and the overall final product – not so much. I probably liked the 2nd Ted film more than the first.

Seth MacFarlane

This was definitely better tan MacFarlane’s last year’s comedy A Million Ways to Die in a West. While I wanted to cry while watching that one, I laughed quite a lot during this one. Also, I believe that Seth Macfarlane does amazing job a a voice actor. He really brought Ted to life once more. In addition, this film focused a lot on Ted and his own life rather than on his relationship with John as in the first film. However, I still prefer Family Guy over any MacFarlane’s film. 

Story

The movie’s plot was a bit jumbled up. You had a story of Ted getting married, then fighting for his rights, then he needed to go to NY for no real reason and there was also that story-line with Donny and Hasbro. The opening credits sequence was also impressively but way too long. Lastly, the film had a lot of advertising…way TOO much of advertising. 

Adds

Half the time, I felt like I was watching a Hasbro commercial. But they really didn’t paint themselves as a nice company. Plus, that whole NY Comic Con action was a nice advert for San Diego Convention which is coming up. Comic Con footage also allowed them a chance to include a lot of Easter Eggs of different properties.

Easter Eggs

The movie referenced other movies a lot. You could spot call-backs to Jurassic Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Star Trek, Rocky, Lord of the Rings, and DC comics to name a few. There were also a plethora of references to controversial events. I believe that some of these jokes worked but some felt really flat. Furthermore, not a lot of people could understand all the references because they might have not seen that particular movie or heard anything about that particular event. References were also mainly US based, so there could be some problems with foreign audiences. My friends aren’t really that interested in pop culture or are as gigantic nerds as I am, so they didn’t understand half the jokes.

Jokes

Other half of jokes were aimed at 10 years olds. Poop jokes!? Really? There were also way too much of sexual and racist banter that, while it was funny sometimes, it made me feel bad that I laughed at such stupidity. The finale of the film also played out the same way as it did in the first film. Nothing new there.

Acting

The cast did a nice job. Mark Wahlberg was good, but his character had a smaller role this time. Amanda Seyfried was a nice addition, she replaced Mila Kunis. Since I am a fan of Amanda, I’ve enjoyed her performance and her chemistry with Wahlberg. Jessica Barth was a functional stereotypical blonde and Giovanni Ribisi – cartoon-ish crazy person. 

The film had a lot cameos as well. Morgan Freeman had a small part (the joke about his voice was funny and surprisingly truthful). Liam Neeson showed up – I guess you have to pay your bills somehow. Tom Brady was also there for some reason.

All in all, the movie was a bit of a hot mess but it came through a few times. It’s a great comedy for pop culture fans and a great one for fans of stupid jokes. These two sides really didn’t fit together, so that’s why the movie turned out as it did – with no clear direction.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: Ted 2 trailer

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