Ashens and the Polybius Heist Review

Ashens and the Polybius Heist movie posterSynopsis
Ashens (Stuart Ashen) is a collector of rare but worthless collectibles. When he learns the location of the Polybius, a mythical 80s arcade game, he puts together a crew to acquire it.If you’re going to pull a heist, this is not the crew you want.

Review
Before going into this review, there are two things you should know about me: 1) I consider myself a nerd, and 2) I love heist films. So when I read the synopsis for Ashens and the Polybius Heist, I knew immediately that it was going to be a film I would enjoy. Crowd funded and featuring several online personalities, Ashens and the Polybius Heist is made with an evident passion from the cast and crew. This passion seeps from the screen; clearly the filmmakers created a product they would enjoy which in turn made in enjoyable for the rest of us.

The creators behind Ashens and the Polybius Heist describe the film as a “love letter to geek and retro culture” and that’s exactly what it feels like. There are so many homages to classic films such as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Ocean’s Eleven, Mission Impossible, and so many more. Gaming and nerd culture also get plenty of call outs and references as well, from cliches like making rude comments about someone’s mother while playing video games to attending conventions, as well as vast amounts of classic and vintage memorabilia. If you’ve embraced the culture yourself, then you’re going to be pleased with the attention and care it takes when portraying it on screen. It’s easy to see that the creators embrace the culture themselves and brought what they love about it into this movie.

Since this film parodies heist films, particularly the aforementioned Ocean’s Eleven with less-than-subtle references, it too relies heavily on the chemistry between the core cast of characters. Also much like its inspiration, each member of the ensemble pairs well with every other member of the the group. Seriously, no matter the combination, every scene is full of laughs and enjoyment that it is hard to be bored while watching this film. Stuart Ashen and Eli Silverman, the George Clooney and Brad Pitt of the movie respectively, are the foundation of the cast and are delightful to watch. Ashen in general works well with whichever member of the cast he is paired with. While everyone had their moments and enjoyable quirks, two stand-outs to me are Daniel Hardcastle as Cube, the “eye in the sky,” and Jarred Christmas as Jarred, the “smooth man.” As someone who works with computers myself, hearing Hardcastle spit programming jargon was entertaining. As for Jarred, his awkwardness when trying to distract his marks was relatable and charming. If I had to give you one reason to watch this film, it would be for the cast.

If you need another reason to check out Ashens and the Polybius Heist, then check it out for the writing. The script is witty and tight. With a run time clocking in around 90 minutes, this film doesn’t have much room for excess plot. While the time might be short, this movie never feels rushed or that there are things missing, pacing itself extremely well. On top of that, there is a payoff for pretty much everything. Even a small comment about maintaining a nice lawn to collecting donations for the heist payoff throughout the film. And there is no shortage of laughs. This film is targeted towards an audience member like me so I might be a little bit biased here but there were very few few jokes or gags that didn’t land for me. I was laughing from beginning to end.

The biggest drawback to this film is the villain (who humorously is literally named “antagonist”). Antony Agonist (Stuart Barter), serves nothing more than to be the person who has what the crew is trying to obtain. He’s shallow and cliched. Although, I guess that might be the point. The film pokes fun at tropes associated with heist films and undeveloped antagonists are usually one of those tropes. Unfortunately, that leads into another gripe is that at times it feels too cliched, going against convention at times simply because it is against convention. For the most part this approach works but it happens a time or two too many.

I thought Ashens and the Polybius Heist was GOOD 🙂 I feel that films featuring online personalities and influencers don’t have the best reputation. However, there is obviously a lot of dedication and heart that went into making this movie. That passion translated into a product that pays homage to many fandoms in nerd culture and appeals across a wide range of audiences. Whether you are a part of that culture or not, this film has something for you to enjoy.

Favorite Quote
While playing a video game
Cube: How did you do it? You’re cheating as well!
Annalise: Oh, don’t say that. Oh, I’m going to say mean things about your mum in a minute.
Vocal: Your mum is the nicest person I think I’ve ever met. She’s, like, so kind.
Annalise: Where’s my head gone? There’s so much blood, I’m going to have PTSD.
Cube: Your mum’s so fat! Well, she’s lost a lot of weight recently actually. She looks really good for it to be perfectly honest.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Riyad Barmania – Director / Writer
Stuart Ashen – Writer

Stuart Ashen – Ashens
Eli Silverman – Benny
Jarred Christmas – Jarred
Alyssa Kyria – Annalise
Katia Kvinge – Vocal
Daniel Hardcastle – Cube
Yiannis – Yiannis Vassilakis
Ryan Livermore – Ryan
Dan Tomlinson – Geoff Excellence
Barry Lewis – Chef Assistance
Jonti Picking – Handsome Man
Steve Langley – Attractive Man
Joanna O’Connor – Christine Ashen
Stuart Barter – Antony Agonist
Robert Llewellyn – The Professor
Nigel Fairs – Jonathan Ashen


Ashens and the Polybius Heist is now available for streaming. For all viewing options, head over to watchpolybiusheist.com.

Ocean’s Eight Review

Ocean's 8 movie posterSynopsis
After being released from prison for art fraud, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) begins planning her next heist.

Review
I have said many, many times on this blog how much I enjoy heist movies. At the top of that list (and towards the top of my favorites of all time) is Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven. The all-star cast, led by the suave duo of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, create an adventure that is fun from start to finish. Creating a movie with the Ocean’s name requires several things: A cast of actors with great chemistry, one act to build the team, one to plan the heist, and one to perform the heist, flashy visuals, and a slow build up with an exciting payoff. Ocean’s Eight implements all of these requirements but not as smoothly as its predecessors.

The first thing I mentioned, a great cast with great chemistry, is what this movie got the most right of the four requirements for an Ocean’s movie. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, the Clooney and Pitt of this story, are a great pair, up there with Clooney and Pitt. They are just a ton of fun to watch together. They play off each other very well and carry themselves with the same swagger and suave attitude that their male counterparts did. As for the rest of the cast, I don’t feel like the gelled as well as the original eleven. Each one has their own memorable moment or two but I didn’t feel the camaraderie that was clear with Clooney’s group.

Ocean’s Eight also ticks the second and third requirements, following the same story structure as the other Ocean’s movies. In the first act, Ocean and their number 2 put together their team, introducing them in fun and interesting ways. Throughout the middle act, the newly assembled team plans the heist, jumping from member or a collection of members, to check in with what they are doing. During this time, we as the audience get glimpses into the plan, as well as *gasp* a plan within a plan by our Ocean, but never receive the full picture; Giving us enough information to think we have all the pieces despite the contrary. It does all this in a flashy and ostentatious manner. If you’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven, then you’ll be familiar with how this is done.

Following the same format as Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Eight checks part A of the fourth requirement but part B is where this movies falls short. The story takes its time building the different elements and moving parts of the heist. Seeing this build up is my favorite part about heist about watching heist movies. However, when a movie takes its time leading into the heist, when the heist finally occurs, it comes with excitement and some sort of wow factor. I never felt that. There was no sense of urgency during the heist, no sense that our “heroes” might actually get caught (even though we know they won’t, it’s still more exciting to feel that they might). It kept building and building and then… the heist was over. I kept waiting for the movie to kick into high gear and give that moment that made the building worthwhile. That moment never came.

James Corden’s character, who has a dominant part in the trailers, doesn’t appear until after the heist. One thing this does allow the film to do is continue carrying that tension because it prolongs when we find out all the little details that form the ‘oh, shit’ moment that comes during the reveal. Even with that delay until the final reveal, much like Logan Lucky, it kills a lot of the momentum the film spent building up until this point.

I thought Ocean’s 8 was OK 😐 Carrying the Ocean’s name comes with a lot of weight and expectations. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t quite live up to its name. It ticks all the boxes of what is anticipated from a movie from this franchise: a well-oiled cast, an expected story structure, flashy visuals, and surprise twists, but overall it lacks any kind of flare or pizzaz that the franchise is known for. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel because I’m hoping this franchise can only go up.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gary Ross – Director / Screenplay / Story
Olivia Milch – Story
Daniel Pemberton – Composer

Sandra Bullock – Debbie Ocean
Cate Blanchett – Lou
Helena Bonham Carter – Rose Wiel
Mindy Kaling – Amita
Rihanna – Nine Ball
Awkwafina – Constance
Sarah Paulson – Tammy
Anne Hathaway – Daphne Kluger
Richard Armitage – Claude Becker
James Corden – John Frazier

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 “Wow, 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 🙂 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

Inside Man Review

This review was originally posted for MovieRob‘s heist-themed Genre Grandeur (which was chosen by yours truly 😀 ).

Inside Man movie posterSynopsis
Hostage negotiator Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) gets called in when a Manhattan bank gets taken over by bank robbers, led by Dalton Russell (Clive Owen). Russell claims to have planned the perfect heist and is always one step ahead of the police. Meanwhile, the bank’s owner (Christopher Plumber) hires Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to speak with the robbers and retrieve his prized possession contained in one of the safe deposit boxes.

Review
For my entry in this heist-themed Genre Grandeur, I was going to pick my favorite heist film, Ocean’s Eleven, but didn’t choose it for two reasons: 1) I’ve already reviewed it (which you can check out here), and 2) I’m hoping someone else chooses it for their Genre Grandeur entry. Instead, I opted to go with another one of my top heist films: Inside Man. Inside Man may not have the same fun atmosphere as Ocean’s Eleven but what it does have is a heist where the audience only has what little information the main characters have.

Heist films can be told from either the robbers’ perspective or the police’s perspective. Most often, whichever perspective the movie is told from, chances are that is who will prevail over the other. However, it is very hard to tell who will win the cat-and-mouse game in Inside Man. The movie is told from the police’s perspective but the robbers always seem to be one step ahead of them. As the audience, we are kept just as in the dark about the robber’s true motives as Detective Frazier (Denzel Washington) and the rest of the police force. It really keeps you engrossed in the film and on the edge of your seat if you don’t already know what is coming.

Denzel Washington and Clive Owen are both fantastic in this film. I wouldn’t say it is one of their best films for either actor but they are both able to take their parts and run with them. I liked Owen better, but only slightly, because he had the calm and collected thief mastermind shtick down. Washington and Chiwetel Ejiofor are so much fun to watch on screen together. They make a perfect pair of detectives, easily bouncing off each other and clearly having fun.

This film utilizes a seldom-used technique of flash forwards. These are used to get the some of the hostages’ perspectives about the bank robbery, as well as offer some exposition and even foreshadow events that are to come. Like I said, this technique isn’t used very often in movies and I thought it was used to great effect here. However, I wish it would have been used more because it only occurred a few times randomly in the middle act of the film. It could have been used more frequently to see more of the robbery from the hostages’ point-of-view. Maybe it was a time constraint (the film runs over two hours) or Spike Lee not wanting to offer too much of a good thing and leave us wanting more.

I feel like Jodie Foster’s character wasn’t necessary to the plot. She mainly served as exposition for what the robbers were going after and why it was so important to the bank owner, Arthur Case (Christopher Plumber). This information could have been given through Case’s discussions with the police or by Owen’s character, since it is the item he is trying to steal.

I thought Inside Man was GREAT :-D. Washington and Owen steal the show with their performances in a film with many other big names. The third main character, played by Foster, doesn’t feel completely necessary to the plot. Flash forwards are a cool effect used in the film that I wanted to see more of. Inside Man keeps you just as off balance as the other characters without becoming too complicated it trips over itself, creating a fantastic payout in the end.

Favorite Quote
Detective Mitchell: Let me see your shoe.
Detective Frazier: Huh?
Mitchell: Let me see your shoe.
Frazier: Why?
Mitchell: ‘Cause I have never seen anybody put their foot that far up a guy’s ass.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Spike Lee – Director
Russell Gewirtz – Writer
Terence Blanchard – Composer

Denzel Washington – Detective Keith Frazier
Clive Owen – Dalton Russell
Jodie Foster – Madeleine White
Christopher Plumber – Arthur Case
Williem Dafoe – Captain John Darius
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Detective Bill Mitchell
Carlos Andres Gomez – Steve
Kim Director – Stevie
James Ransone – Steve-O
Bernie Rachelle – Chaim
Peter Gerety – Captain Coughlin
Victor Colicchio – Sergeant Collins
Cassandra Freeman – Sylvia

Ant-Man Review

Ant-Man movie posterSynopsis
After getting out of prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) tries to leave his life of crime behind him. However, when he has trouble providing for his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), he takes a job with his old cell mate, Luis (Michael Pena). Inside the vault he breaks into, Scott finds the Ant-Man suit, hidden by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) decades before. Being impressed with Scott’s skills, Hank hires Scott to steal the Yellowjacket suit from his former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), much to the disliking of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

Review
Ant-man was predicted to be Marvel’s first flop, both critically and financially. But let’s be honest, if they audiences would buy into a story about a space faring team consisting of a snarky kid stuck in the 1980s, a sexy green alien femme fatale, a red alien warrior who takes everything literally, a talking kleptomaniac raccoon, and a talking tree who only says one sentence, how hard would it be to sell a hero who can shrink and talk to insects? It may not have been a huge money maker for Marvel like many of their other films but you can’t deny it is a humorous, fun, and quirky movie.

After the gargantuan, globe-spanning epic that was Age of Ultron, it was nice to step back and have a smaller, self-contained story. There are many references to the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe (HYDRA, Iron Man, the events of Age of Ultron, even a fun fight scene between Scott and one of the New Avengers), but that is to be expected at this point. Marvel has built such a large world that references help place the story inside that world. It can be a catch 22 between letting the film stand on its own and using established characters and events to remind the audience where this world exists. Ant-Man does a terrific job of balancing these two sides.

For a film that is only around two hours long, Ant-Man was able to include a lot of Ant-Man history into the film. In the Marvel Comics, there are no less than three characters who have held the Ant-Man moniker. Hank Pym is the original and most well known, followed by Scott Lang (and a third named Eric O’Grady but he’s not important right now). Pym specifically has had a type of literal identity crisis over the years, taking up several costumes and code names, which include Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket. And he is short tempered, which has caused friction with other heroes. As a comics fan, it is great to see so much of the characters’ history effectively incorporated some way into the movie.

In their Phase 2 films, Marvel has mixed up what genre their movies are. They are part superhero but also something else, such as spy thriller or space opera, allowing each film to feel fresh. I have made it no secret that I am a huge fan of heist movies so I really enjoyed that aspect. The montage of the heist planning had a duel purpose of Scott, Hank, and Hope planning the heist but also quickly showing Scott learning how to use the suit and its powers. Two birds with one stone, if you will. Then the heist itself was pretty fun. Not many (if any) involve a the thief shrinking down and going through computer circuitry to accomplish their goals. It’s pretty unique and enjoyable.

Paul Rudd may not scream superhero material but he was the right fit as Scott Lang. The movie plays to his strengths and timing as a comedic actor, elevating the film. However, the stand-out star is Michael Pena as Scott’s partner-in-crime, Luis. His monologues about how he discovered the jobs for his group of Robin Hood-esque band of criminals is side-splitting. Michael Douglas is here to give gravitas and legitimacy to the film, like Glenn Close in Guardians of the Galaxy. That doesn’t stop him from doing a fantastic job. Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly do the best with the roles they are given but are not as strong as the other leads.

It would have been cool to see more of Pym’s history. His quarrels with SHIELD are talked about constantly and he regularly warns about the dangers of constant exposure to the Pym Particles (the device that allows the suit to shrink), but they aren’t really shown and are only given in exposition. Same with his relationship with Hope. If the audience would have gotten to see these stories, it would have helped show who Hank Pym was and why.

Other than Loki and maybe the Winter Soldier, Marvel hasn’t had great success with their villains, Ant-Man is no exception. In many of the past films, I have been like Elsa and let it go. However, I had a hard time doing that with this time. The film’s Darren Cross had a strong history with Pym which they tried to explain was his motivation but it could have been so much deeper and he could have been one of Marvel’s better villains (which is honestly not that tall a bar to hurtle). Instead, he has become forgettable like many of the others.

Ant-Man is the most refreshing MCU films since The Avengers. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas are perfectly cast as the Ant-Men Scott Lang and Hank Pym, while Michael Pena steals every scene he appears in. The light, not-serious tone and self-contained story let this film be accessible to a large audience and is a nice break between the previous Avengers film and the sure-to-be-epic scale of Captain America: Civil War.

Rating
4.5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter SoldierGuardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peyton Reed – Director
Edgar Wright – Screenplay / Story
Joe Cornish – Screenplay / Story
Adam McKay – Screenplay
Paul Rudd – Screenplay
Christophe Beck – Composer

Paul Rudd – Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Michael Douglas – Dr. Hank Pym
Evangeline Lilly – Hope van Dyne
Corey Stoll – Darren Cross / Yellowjacket
Bobby Cannavale – Paxton
Judy Greer – Maggie Lang
Abby Ryder Fortson – Cassie Lang
Michael Pena – Luis
David Dastmalchian – Kurt
Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris– Dave
Wood Harris – Gale
Haley Atwell – Peggy Carter
John Slattery – Howard Stark
Martin Donovan – Mitchell Carson


And I’m back. I know I wasn’t really away, you know with the usual weekly features and my entry in the Film Emotion Blogathon, but after the Christmas in July Blogathon and Anniversary Week 2, I needed a break to catch up on some gaming and overall do-nothingness. Besides the blogathon entry I was able to put together in the time between getting off work and my soccer game that night so it was almost no time at all.  This is the first of several films from earlier this summer I have lined up.  Next will be Inside Out followed by Jurassic World.  After those, I will catch up on some awards and review the horrid Rage. Until then, cheers. 🙂

PS, Splatoon is so ADDICTING! Do any of you play? If you do let me know, maybe we can organize a time to play together.