Lightning Review: Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky movie posterSynopsis
When Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) gets let go from his job, he convinces his siblings, Clyde (Adam Driver) and Mellie (Riley Keough), to help him rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Logan and Clyde recruit experienced bank robber Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them get into the vault. But first, they have to figure out a way to get Joe Bang out of jail.

Review
Part way through Logan Lucky, I thought β€œWow, this is a hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven,” which felt much more original until the movie made almost the same joke and I saw that it was directed by Steven Soderbergh (the director of Ocean’s Eleven) in the credits. In any case, it had many of the elements from Ocean’s Eleven that I enjoyed in that film. Like Ocean’s Eleven, it is a fairly slow burn for the first two-thirds of the film. Most of the run time is spent on the Logans concocting the plan / setting up all the pieces. However, also like Ocean’s Eleven, the fun characters, well-written dialogue, and great chemistry between the actors make this time enjoyable and entertaining. Once the heist actually happens, the payoff is well worth it. Keeping the film close to a formula that has worked well before and twisting it slightly was a brilliant move by Soderbergh. It keeps the film familiar yet still manages to keep it feeling new and fresh.

Having a great cast too doesn’t hurt the film either. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as the Logan brothers are absolutely a blast to watch. On the surface, they seem like they might be a pair of dim-witted rednecks but you soon realize that’s not necessarily the case. Add in a Southern-accented Daniel Craig as Joe Bang and you know you’re going to have a good time. To my surprise, Joe Bang’s two brothers, played by Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson, were two of my favorite characters in the film. Several of their lines had me cracking up the most. I would love to see a sequel if only to see those two characters on screen again.

I thought Logan Lucky was GOOD πŸ™‚ There is nothing original story-wise in this film but it uses what has been tried and true before and makes it work again in an unconventional way. The vibrant cast is clearly having fun, giving a fun Ocean’s Eleven vibe and keeping my attention despite not really picking up until the end. There are many better heist films out there but few of them are as whimsical or playful as Logan Lucky.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Soderbergh – Director
Rebecca Blunt – Writer
David Holmes – Composer

Channing Tatum – Jimmy Logan
Adam Driver – Clyde Logan
Riley Keough – Mellie Logan
Daniel Craig – Joe Bang
Jack Quaid – Fish Bang
Brian Gleeson – Sam Bang
Farrah Mackenzie – Sadie Logan
Katie Holmes – Bobbie Jo Chapman
David Denman – Moody Chapman
Seth MacFarlane – Max Chilblain
Sebastian Stan – Dayton White
Jim O’Heir – Cal
Rebecca Koon – Purple Lady
Katherine Waterston – Slyvia Harrison
Hilary Swank – Special Agent Sarah Grayson
Macon Blair – Special Agent Brad Noonan

Transformers: The Last Knight Review

Transformers: The Last Knight movie posterSynopsis
Transformers are banned from Earth but keep arriving more and more frequently. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), on the run and hunted by the authorities for assisting Transformers, comes across a ship containing a Transformer who gifts him a mysterious amulet, which the Decepticons are searching for as well, putting Yeager in their crosshairs. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen (voice)) finds his creator who reveals to him a way to save his dying planet: destroy planet Earth.

Review
I’ll let you in on something: I am somewhat of a sentimental person. Having grown up with several Transformers television series over the years, my childhood friend and I have made it a tradition to see the Transformer films together. We go no matter what because it has become a tradition that neither one of us wants to break. Regardless of the quality, we go anyway, for better or for worse. This time, it might have been more towards the latter.

First, I’ll start with the positives of Transformer: The Last Knight. The end credits were very very short. I’m guessing it was sub-two or -three minutes. We were at the end of the credits before we could finish looking up if there was something at the end of the credits or not. That’s unheard of in a film these days, let alone a blockbuster like Transformer!

… Oh, were you expecting more? Because that’s about all the nice things I have to say about this film. I could say that the young Isabela Moner, as Izabella, was great. For such a young actress, she was tough, she was believable, and she was emotional. However, she was criminally underused. Izabella is a mechanic like Cade (Mark Wahlberg) and could of become like a second daughter to him since his actual daughter didn’t make an appearance in the film. There could have been an existent emotional connection between characters or, you know, a plot that actually had some emotion to it. But who wants that when there are explosions!?

The Last Knight shares many of the pacing problems as Age of Extinction. It moves along at such a breakneck pace that there is no time to settle down. For as much explosions and action and giant robot fights were happening on screen, I was… bored. I never thought I would find myself using that sentence to describe an action movie but there it is. My buddy told me after we left the theater that he almost dozed off once or twice. I honestly didn’t go in with high hopes after the last film in the series but I also didn’t expect to just stare at the screen blankly, not really giving a shit.

It also amazes me how much they are ignoring their own continuity. The story is becoming like the X-Men franchise with such a confusing and convoluted continuity. Now, I am a guy who likes a nice clean continuity (which sometimes drives me up a wall when dealing with comic book continuity), and the fact that with only five movies the continuity is as big of a mess as it is drives me insane. I’m sure that there are lines that take the characters between the films but they are not made clear in the movie, and like I said, that gets on my nerves.

I thought Transformers: The Last Knight was BAD 😦 I wasn’t expecting any kind of a masterpiece, especially after Age of Extinction, but I have never checked out of a movie so fast. The characters were shallow, no relationships between them were developed, the plot didn’t make any sense, and it moved too quickly to understand where it was going until it got there. Flashy visuals will only get you so far and the Transformers franchise has become an example of that.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Art Marcum – Screenplay / Story
Matt Holloway – Screenplay / Story
Ken Nolan – Screenplay / Story
Akiva Goldsman – Story
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Mark Wahlberg – Cade Yeager
Laura Haddock – Vivian Wembley
Anthony Hopkins – Sir Edmund Burton
Isabela Moner – Izabella
Jerrod Carmichael – Jimmy
Josh Duhamel – Col. William Lennox
Santiago Cabrera – Santos
John Turturro – Agent Simmons
Gemma Chan – Quintessa
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Frank Welker – Megatron (voice)
John Goodman –Hound (voice)
Ken Watanabe – Drift (voice)
John DiMaggio – Crosshairs (voice) / Nitro Zeus (voice)
Jim Carter – Cogman (voice)
Omar Sy – Hot Rod (voice)
Jess Harnell – Barricade (voice)


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Lightning Review: The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Nick Morrison (Tom Cruise) and his friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) accidentally uncover the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian princess who had been buried for fear of her supernatural powers. When Ahmanet’s powers begin to return, Nick is chosen to finish the ritual Ahmanet started before she was entombed and he is thrust into an unknown world of monsters and dark creatures.

Review
As a cinefile, it is usually very easy to say whether or not I liked a movie but sometimes it can be hard to determine the why. This is the case for me with The Mummy. On the surface, it has many elements that I like in a film. Tom Cruise brings excitement to the action scenes. Jake Johnson, one of my favorite actors from New Girl, is a good comedic relief character, even if he does seem slightly out of place. The gorgeous Sofia Boutella as the titular mummy has an air of terror around her and gives a horror factor to the movie. So there are all these film elements that I enjoy, so why didn’t I enjoy this one? Maybe the issue is that I didn’t know what kind of movie I was watching. There were action pieces, humorous moments, and horror situations. There were all of these components that I couldn’t figure out what this movie was trying to do. Was it trying to be exciting? Scary? Funny? Individually, these parts are good and enjoyable here but when put together, they lose their strength and make for an inconsistent experience.

I thought The Mummy was OK 😐 When I hear β€œThe Mummy,” I always think of the 1999 Brendan Frasier version. What keeps bringing me back to that version is it is adventurous and fun and cheesy and it knows it and embraces it. This movie tries to incorporate some of that but also tries to go back to its horror roots of the 1930s original. The final product is a movie that doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be and it hurts the overall experience.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alex Kurtzman – Director / Story
David Koepp – Screenplay
Christopher McQuarrie – Screenplay
Dylan Kussman – Screenplay
Jon Spaihts – Story
Jenny Lumet – Story
Brian Tyler – Composer

Tom Cruise – Nick Morton
Annabelle Wallis – Jenny Halsey
Sofia Boutella – Ahmanet
Jake Johnson – Chris Vail
Russell Crowe – Dr. Henry Jekyll
Courtney B. Vance – Colonel Greenway
Marwan Kenzari – Malik

Lightning Review: Baywatch

Baywatch movie posterSynopsis
Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his team of lifeguards protect the beaches of Emerald Bay, Florida. When drugs start appearing on his beach, Buchannon and his team, including new recruit and former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron), work to expose the criminal behind the drugs, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).

Review
I don’t know much about the Baywatch television series, other than it starred Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff as lifeguards, as well as gratuitous amounts of slow-motion running. Based on the cast of Baywatch and the tone of the trailers, I figured this movie would have little to do with the show its characters come from. So while I can’t make any comparisons to the source material, I can tell you how it stacked up as a movie: it was hilarious. Both Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron can be very comedic actors. Yet, if they don’t have a good person to bounce off of, their one-liners can only do so much. These two together have fantastic chemistry and are absolutely side-splitting. Every scene had jokes flying rapid fire and while not all of them stuck, they were onto the next one before you could really process it.

Most of the jokes between Johnson and Efron consist of crude and insulting jokes and one-liners. Like all humor, it is subjective, so it might not be your cup of tea but if you’ve read any of my other comedy reviews, you’ll know that this my kind of comedy. Of course, the rest of the cast was good as well, particularly Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Pryanka Chopra. Abdul-Mateen has some funny lines as a local police officer exhausted of the lifeguards trying to be investigators. Last summer I binged season one of the show Quantico, which stars Chopra as the protagonist. It was fun to see her on the other side as the antagonist. Since the setting for this movie is on a beach, there are a lot of shirtless men and bikini-clad women. No matter your preference, there is plenty of eye candy for everyone. πŸ˜‰

I thought Baywatch was GREAT πŸ˜€ I’m sure that if compared to the original Baywatch television series, these two have nothing in common. However, as a film taken on its own merit, it is fun and humorous. In the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the film and the jokes hold up. It feels like a generic action-comedy you would expect these days, but it is a generic action-comedy I enjoyed from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Seth Gordon – Director
Jay Scherick – Story
David Ronn – Story
Thomas Lennon – Story
Robert Ben Garant – Story
Damian Shannon – Screenplay
Mark Swift – Screenplay
Christopher Lennertz – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Mitch Buchannon
Zac Efron – Matt Brody
Alexandra Daddario – Summer Quinn
Kelly Rohrbach – CJ Parker
Ilfenesh Hadera – Stephanie Holden
Jon Bass – Ronnie Greenbaum
Rob Huebel – Captain Thorpe
Pryanka Chopra – Victoria Leeds
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Sgt. Garner Ellerbee
Amim Joseph – Frankie
Jack Kesy – Leon
Hannibul Buress – Dave the Tech
Oscar NuΓ±ez – Councilman Rodriguez
Clem Cheung – Murray Chen

Alien: Covenant Review

Alien: Covenant movie posterSynopsis
The Covenant is on its way to the remote planet of Origae-6 to start a new human colony. Along the way, the ship is hit by a neutrino burst from a nearby star, forcing the crew to wake up early from stasis to make repairs. After repairs are made, the crew receives a distress signal from a nearby planet and travel to the planet’s surface in search of the signal’s origins.

Review
The Alien movie franchise is an interesting one. It spans nearly four decades, while consisting of only 6 films. The first two are two of science-fiction’s best films, which are then followed by three mediocre films. In Prometheus, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise to begin delving into the origins of his mysterious Xenomorphs, but ended that film with more questions than answers. Scott returns yet again to direct Alien: Covenant, which is inching closer to where we first met them at the beginning of Alien.

With the exception of Aliens, each film in the franchise after Alien has attempted to recreate the horror aspect of the original 1979 film. This film has so far been the closest to recreate the horror that made the first film so engrossing. Although this shouldn’t be much of a surprise given both are directed by Scott, the visionary behind the franchise. He understands that it is the fear of the unknown and mystery surrounding it that makes Alien great. Having several decades to become familiar with it, that atmosphere cannot be replicated, which is why the sequels have failed. However, that style can be honored. This movie still draws on the fear of the unknown for its tension but rather than the Xenomorph, it looks towards a fairly unexpected place.

What did surprise me, and what I really enjoyed, was that the horror didn’t always come from the alien but rather David. David is a truly twisted being and that is where a lot of the tension come from. He is an android who has no emotion and is only seeking perfection on life. And to him that requires sacrifice, sometimes at the cost of others if need be. His distorted view on life and the pursuit of perfection is sure to keep your attention. It’s a different kind of villain but one that works amazingly well.

Of course, a lot of David’s memorability is due to Michael Fassbender’s excellent portrayal of the character. It was an excellent idea to keep him in the franchise after Prometheus because he was the highlight of that film as well. He also plays another android, Walter, an updated model of David. At first I wasn’t sold on the accent he gave the character but after a while it grew on me, especially after a few scenes of the two androids together. Fassbender portrays the two characters in two very distinct ways that really highlights his acting ability.

Although it may be difficult to remember, there are other cast members besides Fassbender. Katherine Waterston as Daniels gets the most development and keeps the Alien franchise’s bad-ass heroine streak going. Danny McBride’s Tennessee also gets quite a bit of screen time but not as much development. Everyone else pretty much exists as Xenomorph fodder, just like in all the previous movies. However, with this kind of a movie, and what has become expected of the franchise, that’s alright. Not every character needs a deep rich background, especially if they aren’t going to last long anyway. Scott understands that we are there to see one thing: the titular Alien. And if we get a great character like David along the way, then that’s just icing on the cake.

I thought Alien: Covenant was GOOD πŸ™‚ The Alien franchise has had its ups and downs over the years but it seems to be finding a groove. The β€œalien” is slowly becoming less and less the alien Xenomorphs and more of an android alienated from humanity. If Michael Fassbender keeps up the great work as the android David, then that is completely fine with me.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Jack Paglen – Story
Michael Green – Story
John Logan – Screenplay
Dante Harper – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Music

Michael Fassbender – David / Walter
Katherine Waterston – Daniels
Billy Crudup – Oram
Danny McBride – Tennessee
Demian Bichir – Lope
Carmen Ejogo – Karine
Jussie Smollett – Ricks
Callie Hernandez – Upworth
Amy Seimetz – Faris
Nathaniel Dean – Hallett
Alexander England – Ankor
Benjamin Rigby – Ledward
Uli Latukefu – Cole
Tess Haubrich – Rosenthal
Lorelei King – Mother (voice)
Goran D. Kleut – Xenomorph / Neomorph
Andrew Crawford – Neomorph

Lightning Review: Mr. Brooks

This review was originally posted for the 2017 Decades Blogathon, hosted by Three Rows Back and Digital Shortbread.

Synopsis
Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a successful businessman and philanthropist. However, he hides a terrible secret: he is addicted to killing and is the serial murder known as the Thumbprint Killer. After his latest kill, he is approached by a man calling himself Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) who witnessed the killing and agrees not to go to the police if Mr. Brooks takes him on his next murder. Meanwhile, Detective Atwood (Demi Moore) is on the search for the Thumbprint Killer.

Review
Mr. Brooks feels demented in all of the right places. When it comes to Kevin Costner, I have decently high expectations. Or I should say, I can count on him to not give a bad performance. As the titular Earl Brooks, he doesn’t disappoint. It is clear that Earl might put on a visage but underneath he is struggling to keep his inner demon in check. Costner easily switches from a calm, cool father and businessman to a serious and broken killer. However, the star of the movie is William Hurt as Marshall, Earl’s β€œinner demon,” an imaginary friend of Earl. Throughout the movie, Marshall is constantly pushing Earl to give into his cravings and kill. Hurt is simply maniacal as Marshall. Every scene of his had me leaning towards the screen, intrigued and caught up in his performance. Stand-up comedian Dane Cook traditionally does comedic roles in movies (surprise, surprise), so Mr. Smith was a different kind of role for him. I’m curious to see how the part would have been different if someone who traditionally acts in thrillers had been in the role, but Cook was good for what it was.

I really liked that Earl’s subconscious was personified as Marshall. This almost gives a scapegoat of sorts to Earl’s actions, almost like it was Marshall who pushes Earl towards killing, despite his reservations. It also creates some interesting questions. How long has Marshall been around? Is he a childhood imaginary friend or was he created when Earl started killing? Was he created to deflect Earl’s actions from himself? The concept isn’t wholly original but the implementation is unique. There is a subplot where Detective Atwood (Demi Moore) is dealing with her divorce that contributes to the plot very little. It could be removed, or at least trimmed down, to keep the focus on Mr. Brooks and Mr. Smith.

I thought Mr. Brooks was GOOD πŸ™‚ Kevin Costner gives a good performance as the two-faced business man but the scene-stealer is William Hurt as his imaginary friend, Marshall. Some might say that this film goes on for one scene too long (literally one scene) but it leaves Mr. Brooks in a precarious place either way. One thing is for certain, you’ll think twice about who people truly are on the inside despite what you see on the outside.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bruce A. Evans – Director / Writer
Raynold Gideon – Writer
Ramin Djawadi – Composer

Kevin Costner – Mr. Earl Brooks
Dane Cook – Mr. Smith
Demi Moore – Det. Tracy Atwood
William Hurt – Marshall
Marg Helgenberger – Emma Brooks
Danielle Panabaker – Jane Brooks
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Det. Hawkins
Aisha Hinds – Nancy Hart
Lindsay Crouse – Captain Lister
Jason Lewis – Jesse Vialo
Reiko Aylesworth – Sheila (Jesse’s Lawyer)
Matt Schulze – Thorton Meeks