“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

“Spectre” (plus a little side note on two other movies)

As much as I admired “Casino Royale” (2006) and “Skyfall” (2012) either altering the gun barrel sequence or saving it for the end, I was ecstatic to see “Spectre” begin with this sequence again. I knew right away I wasn’t in for an ambitious Bond film like the two previously mentioned, but a fun spectacle. And that’s okay, too!

“Spectre” follows Daniel Craig as Bond, who has gone rogue for the third time (he first went rogue in “Licence to Kill” (1989) and again in “Quantum of Solace” (2008)) to track down and kill a terrorist with a personal connection to him named Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). It’s that simple, but much better than it sounds.

“Spectre” features some of the greatest action sequences in the history of the franchise that are some of the highlights in the movie. This includes a very impressive long take that follows Bond on a mission, a semi-meta car chase, and a frenetic fight scene between Bond and a silent assassin played by WWE’s Dave Bautista.

Don’t let me give the impression this is a mindless action tale like “Quantum of Solace” was, because it’s not. We get a lot of tie-ins to the previous Craig Bond movies that work well and some slick visual storytelling reminiscent of “Skyfall” (Sam Mendes returned to direct after all).

Perhaps the greatest scene is a very tense and shadowy introduction to Oberhauser, which might be the greatest villain introduction ever put on film. It uses darkness and silence for tension, and Waltz once again provides a wonderfully villainous performance.

Of course this movie isn’t perfect due to an annoyingly melodramatic theme song by Sam Smith, a rushed romance, and a subplot featuring commentary on surveillance, that doesn’t always mesh with the main story. But I was able to forgive these flaws since “Spectre” was a damn near-masterful generic Bond movie.

Grade: B+

Quick Note – I did see “Steve Jobs” and “Beasts of No Nation” over the last few weeks. Due to some delays and problems with my hand, I wasn’t able to get these reviews up in time, but I would definitely recommend both! “Steve Jobs” is another masterpiece for Danny Boyle, while “Beasts of No Nation” proves Cary Fukanaga is one of the most artistic rising directors in the industry. Both movies get an A+.