“Logan Lucky”

After a four-year absence from filmmaking, I’m happy to see the versatile Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Magic Mike, and the Ocean’s trilogy) return with Logan Lucky. It’s nice to see a lighthearted comedy after two months of dark, violent films.

Jimmy (Channing Tatum), Clyde (Adam Driver), and Mellie Logan (Riley Keough) are a trio of bumbling siblings who believe they’re cursed. Jimmy comes up with a plan to reverse their curse – rob Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600. With the help of incarcerated thief Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), they put their plan in motion.

There’s a line in Logan Lucky’s second act that describes the heist as “Ocean’s 7-11.” This sums up the film in a nutshell. Soderbergh crisply shoots, edits, and directs Logan Lucky, successfully making us root for a group of ne’er-do-wells.

The Logans aren’t the brightest bulbs, but they have good intentions with the heist (mostly family-related). Jimmy keeps a check list on his fridge reminding him important rules for the job, which adds charm and even comes into play during the heist’s surprise conclusion. Tatum, Driver, and Keough all have great chemistry as the Logan siblings, playing their characters with charisma and heart.

Daniel Craig deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination as Joe Bang. He’s cool, enigmatic, and insane in this role, often showing some comedic talents. Bang’s the biggest schemer behind the heist and often provides some hilarious and shocking moments.

It’s suspected that Soderbergh wrote the script for Logan Lucky considering no records or interviews can be found with credited writer, Rebecca Blunt. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case since Soderbergh is an auteur who craves full creative control. And I say give Soderbergh the full creative control since Logan Lucky is a fun, harmless time at the movies.

Grade: A

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The 2017 Half-Time Report

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Hey, guys! First off, I want to say thank you for a great year and supporting Donttalkaboutmovies. This year has been an exciting year in film and you guys motivate me to keep watching movies! On that note, I want to give you guys the half-time report! This is a quick summary of my favorite (and least favorite) movies are so far this year.

In the Action/Adventure category, I was blown away by Edgar Wright’s jukebox musical heist thriller, Baby Driver. This is a candy-colored adrenaline rush that’s music to my ears and better on the second viewing. On the other hand, you can skip King Arthur: Legend of the Sword because it’s quite obvious Guy Ritchie has lost his way.

The Comedy genre has been lacking this year with lackluster films like Rough Night and Sandy Wexler; nonetheless, The Big Sick is a terrific comedy that hits all the right notes as a comedy, romance, drama, and social commentary film.

For the Horror genre, Get Out is king of 2017’s horror roster thus far. Writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted a funny, scary, and provocative horror film about racism. You can skip The Void, Unforgettable, The Belko Experiment, and The Mummy because those were all duds.

The Superhero genre has been booming lately and I can personally recommend Logan, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Each movie is great in their own way, but definitely keep Logan away from younger viewers.

The Science Fiction/Fantasy category has been a tad underwhelming, but the Anne Hathaway-helmed Colossal blew my expectations out of the water. If you want a quirky genre movie that explores characters and darker themes, this one’s for you!

I have been slacking in the Drama category this year, but I still found Danny Boyle’s long-waited T2: Trainspotting to be a fun and stylish sequel about nostalgia.

In terms of animation, I’m still telling people to watch the anime film Your Name. I saw this on a whim and don’t regret it, thanks to its beautiful animation and mind-bending narrative.

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite films you’ve seen so far this year?

“The Big Sick”

I’ve been saying since I started watching HBO’s great “Silicon Valley” that Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh) is the funniest person on television. In “The Big Sick,” he further demonstrates his comedic talent as both co-writer and leading man.

Based on true events in Nanjiani and his wife (and co-writer) Emily V. Gordon’s relationship, Nanjiani is a semi-fictional version of himself. Kumail works as a full-time Uber driver and standup comedian in Chicago where he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows. What starts as a fling blossoms into something serious for Kumail and Emily, but two things stand between them: his culture and her mysterious illness.

Most rom-coms have a couple meet in the first act, get together and break up in the second act, then reconcile in the final act via a ridiculous scenario. “The Big Sick” defies genre conventions, thanks to Nanjiani and Gordon’s experiences. This is a funny, sweet, and personal film.

Nanjiani shows gifted talent as his fictionalized self, going through a number of emotions. Kumail lies to his loved ones as a defense mechanism and learns that telling the truth helps insecurities. Kazan’s Emily is a great foil to Kumail since she hides certain things from him, which lead to both sad and awkwardly funny scenarios.

Ray Romano and Holly Hunter excel as Kazan’s parents, Beth and Terry. Hunter should be considered for award recognition. She’s high-strung, judgmental, but also an understanding mentor figure to Kumail. The second act primarily focuses on Kumail bonding with them and helping them overcome their differences. It’s nice to see a romantic comedy without the cliched antagonistic parents.

There are scenes with Kumail’s family that risk going this route, but Kumail’s parents’ (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) logic is understandable. They want Kumail to find happiness, but also consider their way in doing so.

“The Big Sick” is 124 minutes long, but it wastes no time with feelings. The montages are heartwarming, the arguments between Kumail and Emily are heartbreaking, and the standup sequences are insightful. For couples who need a date movie, “The Big Sick” is a perfect choice.

Grade: A

 

 

“Baywatch”

I need to stop seeing movies just because they have Dwayne Johnson. Who am I kidding? He’s he most electrifying man in entertainment after all (WWE joke). He’s too good for “Baywatch” and this movie is just another studio cash grab.

Veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) recruits a new batch of guards to join his team. This includes the tough Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), socially awkward Ronnie (Jon Bass), and the cocky former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Mitch and Brody automatically dislike each other in buddy comedy fashion, but have to put their differences aside when they discover drugs are surfacing on the beach.

People laughed at me when I said I was seeing “Baywatch.” Besides seeing it for Johnson, I actually saw potential in this movie. The original show was a cheese fest and could easily spawn a satirical adaptation ala “21 Jump Street.” Sadly, “Baywatch” isn’t that adaptation.

“Baywatch” is directed by Seth Gordon, who made the brilliant transgressive comedy “Horrible Bosses.” “Baywatch” is rated R like “Horrible Bosses,” but Gordon and the writers do nothing with it other than show a penis and spout a few dozen F-words. It’s not transgressive, offensive, meta, and worst of all, not funny.

Johnson and Efron have good chemistry, and they’re clearly doing their best to entertain the viewers, but it’s sadly not enough to overcome the long length time, redundant narrative, and overly serious tone. Do we need a tortured soul subplot in the middle of a vomit gag?

“Baywatch” is two hours of Mitch lecturing Brody on his selfishness and calling him a boy band name, then Brody admitting he screwed up and redeeming himself. Brody’s back story of puking during a team swim meet is sad and pathetic instead of funny.

How many comedies do we need with a dead body gag? How many do we need with a guy getting his junk stuck in public? How many do we need with someone clumsily falling into a pool with their clothes on? There’s already a “Baywatch” sequel in the works, so is there room for improvement? Yes. Will it improve? Probably not.

Grade: D-

“Sausage Party”

I know people don’t like Seth Rogen as a comedian, but have you paid attention to his writing in “Pineapple Express,” “Superbad,” “This is the End,” and most recently, “Sausage Party?” The man is a genius.

“Sausage Party” is an R-rated 3D-animated comedy that focuses on food. Much like “Toy Story,” the inanimate objects come to life when humans aren’t around (food in this case).

Hot dog Frank (Seth Rogen) and his friends Carl (Jonah Hill) and Barry (Michael Cera) are excited to pair with a package of buns, which includes Brenda (Kristen Wiig). However, they realize that their so-called “Gods” want to cook and eat them, so they must find a way to warn the rest of the food in the grocery store.

“Sausage Party” opens with a brilliantly vulgar musical number, featuring foods singing about the gods choosing them to go to heaven. I realized “Sausage Party” was more of a satire than advertised at this point, and I was totally fine with that. The movie satirizes religion, politics, and relationships as told through the foods.

Sour kraut wants to exterminate the juice (sound familiar?), the hot dogs want to fuck, fuck, and fuck while the buns want to talk and cuddle, and a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumboltz) have cultural differences. The satirical points are the highlights of “Sausage Party.”

We also see in great horror what cooking food looks like through their points of view. Potatoes are skinned and boiled, lettuce is ripped in half, cheese is shredded on top of a plate of chips before microwaved, and we even see a used condom traumatized from its use. These scenes are darkly funny, but surprisingly nightmarish to watch.

The cast of “Sausage Party” excels with their voice acting. Cera is perfect as a socially awkward hot dog who seizes the day, Norton does a great Woody Allen impression through his bagel and delivers some of the sharpest lines, and Nick Kroll steals every scene as an antagonistic douche.

We also get wonderful moments from a liquor bottle (Bill Hader), a sexy taco (Selma Hayek), and a bath salt-addicted human (James Franco). They’re great, but Wiig is the standout, thanks to her awkward line deliveries and random moments of singing.

“Sausage Party” drags in the middle since foul-mouthed food gets old after a while, but thankfully it picks up steam in the last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes are too good to spoil, but it’s the craziest and foulest climax I’ve seen in any cartoon. But who said animated movies can’t be foul?

“Sausage Party” isn’t for everyone, but for Rogen fans, food lovers, and people who love a good R-rated comedy, you won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A-

 

“Nine Lives”

A little note about the writer – Austin Maggs hadn’t ever walked out of a movie halfway through. This changed after he saw “Nine Lives.”

“Nine Lives” follows Kevin Spacey as Tom Brand, a workaholic tycoon with a much younger wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and a loving daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). When Rebecca asks Tom for a cat, he rudely adopts one from an eccentric pet store owner (Christopher Walken) and then finds that he’s now trapped inside the cat.

One of my biggest pet peeves in film is a movie that’s marketed as a kids movie when it’s clearly not. “Nine Lives” belongs in the 90s when false kids movies like “First Kid,” “Jingle All the Way,” and “Milk Money” were a trend.

SPOILERS AHEAD! BUT DO YOU EVEN CARE IF I SPOIL THIS CRAP FEST?

In the 45 minutes of “Nine Lives” that I watched, this movie had more aesthetics and narrative tropes of both a bad Lifetime drama and a TV comedy. This includes:

-Tom treating his grown son like an employee and insulting his masculinity.

-Lara befriending Tom’s unlikable ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) without any explanation as to why.

-The ex-wife’s snooty daughter having an annoying frenemy relationship with Rebecca.

-Lara revealing her extramarital affair.

-Tom’s disgruntled vice president trying to kill him.

-At least five boring business meetings filled with exposition and scotch. Those scenes alone belong in “Mad Men.”

Barry Sonnenfeld (the “Men in Black” trilogy) directed this disasterpiece, and the mighty has fallen. His overuse of whip pans, quick zooms, and bad CG make me wonder if the budget was actually thirty million dollars. Imdb and Wikipedia say it is, but I still don’t believe it.

I know I shouldn’t review this movie since I didn’t even finish it, but I saw enough of “Nine Lives” to determine this is the worst movie of 2016. And 2016 isn’t even over!

Grade: F

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

I love seeing movies out of impulse because the experience is often rewarding. I wasn’t having a particularly good night last night and decided to go to the nearest theater; that’s when I discovered a gem called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is a New Zealand adventure dramedy told in a twelve-chapter narrative, and it focuses on Ricky (Julian Dennison). Ricky is a defiant orphan with a love of hip hop music and gangster movies, who’s sent to live in the country with foster parents Bella (Rima De Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill).

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

After Bella dies and foster care decides to reclaim Ricky, Ricky runs away and Hec pursues him through the wilderness. This leads to an emotional, slapstick, and occasionally thrilling comedy of errors, as Hec wants to return to his old life and Ricky wants to live the gangster life.

Simply put, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is the best comedy I’ve seen all year. This is that rare comedy that has a variety of different jokes and comedic styles blended together. There are instances of dramatic comedy, physical comedy, dark comedy, and slapstick comedy in 101 great minutes.

Writer/director Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”) clearly loves movies and it’s demonstrated here through several movie references, whether they are through dialogue or visuals. The climax alone is an expertly crafted car chase reminiscent of car chases we’ve seen in almost every Michael Bay movie.

Both De Wiata and Neill have great chemistry, whether it’s through Ricky’s innocence challenging Hec’s cynicism, or Ricky and Hec understanding each other through poems and conversations, these two are a great buddy comedy duo. This is also Neill’s best performance in years because we finally see he has some acting chomps (I’ve always found him underrated).

The strongest aspect of this movie is Hec and Ricky’s relationship with each other. We see they are both outcasts and are brought closer for that reason alone. However, they also demonstrate the importance of family (not trying to be preachy), and supporting each other’s beliefs and ideals.

I can’t recommend “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” enough, but this is a gem and easily one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.

Grade: A