License to Wed

A friend of mine was giving away her DVD collection recently.  Free Robin Williams DVD?  Yes please!!

Why had I never bothered to see this movie before?  Because it looked really dumb.  But hey, I love Robin so this should be a fun watch, right?  Wrong.  It really was really dumb.  So so bad.  Williams couldn’t save it, even with an assist from the always loveable John Krazinski.

The plot was dumb, the humor was half baked, it was just bad.  I got the sense that Williams was holding back, not giving us his zany self and genius adlibs, but trying to conform to a specific character and it was stiff and weird.  Such a bummer.

Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh is back in the directors chair after taking a haitus, and dang is he on his game.  In what’s basically a redneck Ocean’s Eleven, he takes everything that was awesome about that masterpiece and gives us a fresh and fun film that’s almost a spiritual sequel.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), the story.  Logan Lucky is about a father desperate to keep his daughter in his life, who after losing his job decides to pull of a heist at a major speedway.  He enlists his brother, his sister, an incarcerated explosive expert, and a small motley cast of characters to help.  It plays out very similarly to Ocean’s, and I don’t mean to say it’s derivative.  The puzzle and twists and reveals are my favorite part of Ocean’s, and that’s what I most looked forward to here, and that’s what most excited me.

And then lets talk about that cast!  We know I’ll watch Channing Tatum in anything, and his re-teaming with Soderbergh is magic.  That Chan charm is on full display and he carries the movie with ease.  Add in Adam Driver as his brother, and you’ve got some serious heft in your cast.  But the real standout was Daniel Craig playing waaaaay against type, to the point where he was billed as “Introducing Daniel Craig”.  I remember watching the first trailer and I didn’t even recognize him until his name was given.  That’s gonna go down in Hollywood history as a truly memorable and iconic performance.

Yeah some bits went on too long, and there were a lot of side stories and small characters who seemed unnecessary, but I don’t care.  I had so much fun watching this movie, and I’m ready to do it all over again.

Logan Lucky – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

I’ll cut to the chase start this the same way I started my Stardust reaction.  I was psyched for this.  I love Ryan Reynolds.  I love Samuel L.  I love a good action comedy.  This was not a good action comedy.

Ryan Reynolds is a bodyguard who is struggling to get his career back on track after a high profile job goes sideways.  Samuel J Jackson is a hitman who is expected to give witness testimony at a big shot bad guy’s trial.  None of the other witnesses have survived to take the stand.  So maybe if these two guys work together, he can get there in one piece?

It kills me to say so, but this is one of the absolute laziest movies in recent memory.  To start, the plot was slow and predictable and oh so very thin.  You can kinda get away with that in an action comedy if the action and the comedy are good, but they weren’t.  The action was nothing new, nothing that impressed me.

The comedy (or lack thereof) was the biggest letdown.  It felt as though everyone was relying on our leads to bring the funny, but you need a good script to play off of.  It also didn’t help that Reynolds’ character was rather uptight, so you could sense him holding back.  I get that he’s trying not to be Deadpool every time he’s on screen, but let’s be real, that humor is what we were all hoping for.

I know I overuse the phrase “wasted potential” but that’s absolutely what this was.  That Bodyguard parody poster gave me so much hope, but it turned out to be the only really funny thing associated with this movie.  Very frustrating and disappointing

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – \m/ \m/

Good Time

Something drew me to this movie.  I think it was hearing that it was non-stop adrenaline.  I do love a good thriller, and an indie thriller is an intriguing concept.  Also, I’m a fan of RPats’ post Twilight work.  I respect the fact that now that he has the vampire money, he’s gone after these rather experimental indies, and he’s excelled and proven that he has a larger range than “smolder” and “sparkle”.

Robert Pattinson is a nonstop hustler in NYC.  When he decides that he doesn’t like the facility his mentally handicapped brother is being treated in, he enlists said brother to help him rob a bank so they can get out of the city.  It all goes wrong, and the brother ends up in jail.  The rest of the film follows one crazy night as RPats attempts to break him out, but keeps on digging himself into deeper and deeper trouble.

That non stop adrenaline thing?  Ohmygawd yes.  There are some movies people with anxiety should not see (even though that still doesn’t stop me).  What particularly impressed me was how the score really played into that.  It maintained a constant buzz during what may have been slower sequences, keeping my heartrate at a constant high.  Events got more and more ridiculous and I got more and more uncomfortable (in a good way).

Again, Pattinson exceled in this role.  Accent and attitude that were completely unexpected for him.  I was mesmorized by him, and if I wasn’t already a fan, I would have been after this movie.

This little gem is likely to get lost in the sleepy end of summer season, but if you can find it, it’s certainly worth the jolt of energy it’ll give ya.  Just don’t be expected to go to sleep too soon after.  You’ll be way too wired.

Good Time – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Glass Castle

I had a vacay recovery day on my schedule before going back to work.  But this is me we’re talking about, so didja really expect me to just laze on the couch all day?  I had to get a movie in.  I can’t even remember what finally made me choose The Glass Castle.  The cast prolly.  Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson.  Yeah, that’d do it.

Told in dual timelines, the true story follows Jeannette Walls and her unconventional, practically homeless upbringing.  We see various formitive events in her childhood alternating with her attempts to be an adjusted and normal adult.  Sound a little thin?  It kinda was.  It was more of an emotional character piece than anything else.

For the most part, I found it to be way too slow.  Not a lot of events happening, and it dragged out.  The third act did pack quite the emotional punch (and I’m such a sucker for a heart tugging daddy/daughter storyline) but I don’t know that it was worth it to get there.  If it wasn’t the August graveyard at the movies, then it certainly wouldn’t have been worth it.

The Glass Castle – \m/ \m/

Girls Trip

I didn’t initially intend to see this movie.  Judging from the trailers, it just didn’t seem very funny to me.  But then I started hearing lots of really good buzz (including on Stardust), so I started thinking it could be worth a chance.  When I was in Chicago, my buddy and I had too much pizza and beer and were contemplating taking in a movie.  We’d both come to similar conclusions and also figured that we’d be the best company to watch with, AND these would likely be the best conditions under which to see it.

Turns out, we both really enjoyed this movie.  Like a lot.  On the surface, it seems like a pretty basic premise: a group of long time gal pals take a trip to New Orleans and inappropriate hilarity ensues.

But here’s what Girls Trip got right that most comedies today completely miss: it wasn’t about the comedy.  It wasn’t just cheap jokes built around a contrived premise. This was a story about female friendship, and it was full of rich plot and character development.  And it happened to be very funny on top of that.  Why is this concept so difficult for Hollywood to grasp nowadays?

The cast was flawless: Regina King, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and MVP show stealer Tiffany Haddish.  Honestly, from the previews I’d seen, I’d expected Haddish to be too much.  Yes at times she was, but at other times she was totally on her game.  And another point about how well written the film was, she wasn’t a throwaway character.  She could have just been the token crazy chick, but she had layers like the rest of them, particularly a high degree of loyalty that we all should aspire to.

So I say this movie is absolutely worth giving a chance to, even if it doesn’t seem like your thing.  And not just because it’s awesome to support a film that is driven by minority women (although that’s mega bonus points).  I say give it a chance because it’s one of the most well crafted comedies of recent memory.

Girls Trip – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Kidnap

We know I’ve been all about the girl power lately (lately?  bitch please).  That’s all it took to get me interested in Kidnap.  I hadn’t seen any trailers, and only a handful of billboards.  RottenTomatoes was mixed.  Stardust too.  But then somewhere I heard that the idea was to take an ordinary mom and make her do extradorinary action movie things in the name of her child.  Now that’s something I could get on board with.

Pretty simple.  Halle Berry is a mom whose worst nightmare comes true.  While at a park with her son, she sees him being carried away by a nefarious stranger.  She hops in her minivan and chases them down.  Nothing gets in the way of a mama bear separated from her cub.

It did take a little while to hit its stride.  The initial sequences were rather predictable and repetitive, but it was pure adrenaline throughout.  Not the movie to see if you have anxiety.  Side note, my Mom ended up seeing this movie and she could hardly deal with it.  It doesn’t help that she’d seen a real life kidnapping video on FB earlier that day.

Anyways, eventually it found a groove and it worked.  Halle Berry accomplished what she set out to do, which was to turn an every day mom into a Hollywood bad ass (somehow also making mini vans bad ass in the process).  Sure it was lacking in substance, but there are plenty of other options out there for that.

Kidnap – \m/ \m/ \m/

Landline

I adore Jenny Slate and the work that she did with Gillian Robespierre on Obvious Child, I was more than happy to see their second collaboration.  While it was an enjoyable two hours with some very strong performances and even stronger girl power both on and off camera, it didn’t have the weight that Child did.

This story was a bit more hackneyed.  Two sisters discover their father is having an affair, which causes a big shake up in their lives as they reevaluate their relationship with each other, their family, and themselves.  Yeah it was almost as cheesy as that sounds, although the humor was realistically irreverent, which helped a lot.

What helped even more though was the fantastic cast.  The role fit Slate well, and her parents were played by legends John Turturro and Edie Falco, who were fantastic to watch.  Although I think it was little sister and newcomer Abby Quinn that stole the show for me.  I was just drawn to her rebellious spirit I guess.

It was otherwise mostly unremarkable, and not something I’d prioritize, but it was nice counter programming to summer blockbuster season, especially in the sleepy month of August.

Landline – \m/ \m/ \m/

The Dark Tower

I’m sure I’ve said as much before, but I love Stephen King.  After Chuck Palahniuk, he’s my fave.  And part of that ranking is arbitrary since I have read all of Palahniuk’s work, but still haven’t come close to reading all of King’s.  I try to get to at least one book a year, and recently finished “The Dead Zone”.  However, I refused to touch “The Dark Tower”, simply because that series is quite massive.  I’ve got plenty of other King to get thru and still have a variety of literature in my diet.  So I was really excited when I saw it was being adapted, thinking I could get all the story without the hard work, but that’s not quite how it turned out.

First off, from what I hear this movie actually takes place just after the events of the book series.  So either way, future me still has a lot of homework.  Very very future me.  Anyways, as I understand it (if I got it wrong, blame the movie), this dark tower is a structure that unites all of the parallel universes.  There’s a baddie Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) who is bent on destroying the tower and collapsing the worlds (it was never clear to me why).  Idris Elba is the last gunslinger, out to protect it.  And there’s some kind from our earth that’s somehow involved.

The reviews have been abysmal, but the arduous amounts of reported reshoots could have predicted that.  For me, I think there were some moments of potential, but they were squandered.  As I said in my Stardust reaction there are basically two reasons why I think this movie fell short.

First off, King is hard to adapt.  Hollywood has been so hit or miss, and I think I finally figured out why.  Last year when I read Pet Sematary, I realized that I was so invested in the charaters, that I forgot I was reading a supernatural horror story, until weird stuff started happening halfway through.  And by then, I was all in.  It seems to me that when his work is adapted, the focus is more on the supernatural and the plot points, and we skimp on the character.  When it comes to King, the supernatural is the hook, but the character development is where the real meat of the story lies, not the other way around.  It’s telling that some of King’s best adapted works (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand By Me, Misery) are ones that are far more grounded in reality and therefore carry over that character work, rather than get distracted by the shiny stuff.

That theory seems applicable here with The Dark Tower.  The moments I liked most were learning about our three leads, or when the Gunslinger and the kid were relating to each other.  But the focus was clearly on moving the events forward and not our characters.  Having realized that, it was so frustrating to watch all those missed opportunities.

The second issue is this current trend in Hollywood to try to build out a franchise or universe from the beginning.  The focus is so keen on the big picture, that the small picture gets lost and we get a thrown together movie (I’m looking at you Mummy).  If you look at some of our biggest cinematic universes today, Marvel and Fast and Furious, they were built out over years.  Marvel always had an endgame, but patiently worked towards it.  F&F grew organically as the films found their voice and audience.  But they all started with solid films that were crafted individually, without trying too hard to make a big thing.  The publicity for the Dark Tower flat out said that this was just a jumping off point.  They might as well have said they were just trying to get your money so they could keep going with the stuff they actually cared about.  It’s beyond frustrating and leaning towards enraging.

Will they rethink it all now that this movie tanked?  I’m not holding my breath.  I would love to see this done right, even bringing in other King works as has been hinted at.  I just don’t think the current track is the way to do it.

The Dark Tower – \m/ \m/

Detroit

Sorry for the lag in posts.  I had an uncharacteristic lull in movie watching (slow release weekend) followed by a vacation where I watched a lotta stuff, but   didn’t have blog posting capabilities.  I was, however, very active on Stardust, so that’s where to follow me for the latest.  Y’know, for all two of you who maybe care.

Yeah so vacay.  Did a few days in Boston followed by a couple in Chicago.  Boston was mostly about indulging in my old routines: namely movies and yoga.  After chatting with some Stardusters at a recent meetup, and hearing their emotional responses to the movie, it became my first priority.

Yowza that was an intense experience.  I was basically in shock walking out of there.  The film is about the Detroit riots in 1967, but zeroed in on the deadly events that occurred in the Algiers motel.  The events themselves as they unfolded were enough to rattle me, but it was the aftermath that really undid me.  I felt a whole spectrum of negative feels: anger, outrage, terror, disgust, shock.  I was shaking as I walked out.  A guy who walked out right behind me saw how shaken I was and commented that he too was affected, and that he had actually grown up in Detroit and never knew this story.  That’s the power of movies, y’all.

The cast for this was incredible.  Runner up MVP goes to John Boyega, who has proven with each movie he does that he’s capable of such dramatic depth.  All the positive feels I felt were towards his character, as was much of the concern I felt too.  But full on MVP goes to Will Polter.  Cheese on a cracker, how is this is the same dweeby kid from We’re The Millers?  He terrified me.  I really didn’t wanna believe that he was playing a real guy because I don’t wanna believe there’s people like that in this world.

This movie is definitely gunning for a spot on my top ten of the year.  It’s certainly elicited the most visceral response from me from any movie this year, that’s for dang sure.

Detroit – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/