Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Speed Review: Logan Lucky (2017)

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If you are looking for a movie that checks all the boxes, Logan Lucky is the one. I LOVE finding gems like these. Sleepers. Sure you can see movies like Logan and War For the Planet of the Apes coming from a mile away. You expect them to be great It's films like Logan Lucky, however, that keep the movie calendar refreshing.

Just fired from his job and trying to make enough money to take care of his daughter, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) devises a plan to rob the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tatum is awesome in his role, but has a great deal of help from a star-studded the cast the likes of Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, and Katie Holmes. With too many hilarious moments to count and an overly lovable protagonist who you can't help but root for, Logan Lucky is one of the year's best.

In 2007, I saw a movie called Stardust that surprised the heck out of me by how good it was. I mean, the film just came out of nowhere but I couldn't have been happier that I saw it. Logan Lucky gives me the exact same vibe. I give it a very solid 97.

Passengers (2016) Movie Review

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Passengers works for me largely in part due to the great chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Their relationship is believable, real. Exactly what I would expect from two people stuck in a space paradise together. I try to avoid words like "sizzle" and "spice" when describing onscreen pairings, but it's 7:30pm on a Tuesday night and I have folded clothes to put away. So....Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence absolutely sizzle onscreen together! Free from the inhibitions of watching eyes the duo adds real spice to the film's flavor. Yep, that just happened. No regrets. Yolo.

I was surprised by how solid the film was from beginning to end. The mark of a great movie for me is consistency throughout, the same measure I use to judge a good key lime pie. Passengers kept me engaged for its entirety without managing to overstay its welcome. It's funny in parts while being touching in others. Overall the pace works.

The special effects were also impressive. The inside of the ship where most of the story takes place is a carnival of sights. Its futuristic yet a familiar touch of home at the same time. The recesses of space were captured in brilliant fashion. As main character Jim Preston (Pratt) goes exploring the expanse, you start to realize just how small and lonely he must feel in comparison.

When Preston awakens on a craft headed for another planet, he realizes the ship pulled him from hibernation too soon. It isn't long before he is joined by Aurora Lane (Lawrence) who has to help him figure out why the ship woke them up early before things go terribly wrong.

The only thing holding this film back from being great as opposed to "just ok" is implausibility. There are quite a few things that happen, both from a scientific standpoint and plot advancement standpoint, that may leave you scratching your head a bit. This film falls victim at times of trying to take shortcuts. However, if you can suspend your disbelief for just long enough and turn a blind eye, you won't be disappointed.

Some films are reviewed badly because they're...well...bad. Other films fall victim to what I call Pile-On: A few critics from the "In Crowd" don't like it so everyone else is supposed to hate it as well (see The Hitman's Bodyguard). I think Passengers suffer from the latter. See it. It won't change your life, but a great way to spend two hours nonetheless. I give it a 73.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lady Bird (2017) Movie Review

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Set in 2002, Lady Bird is a coming of age story for high school senior Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson. The film follows her pursuit of college while growing up in a low-income family. While that is the main plot, Lady Bird is about so much more. Quite frankly, the movie is perfect. I haven't seem a film this memorable since Sing Street.

Trying to find something wrong with this film is like trying to catch a fly while blinking rapidly. Not only does it do everything right, it does it flawlessly. What impresses me the most is this is Greta Gerwig's directorial debut (who also did the screenplay). For someone to hit a homerun like this on their first try is an incredible thing to consider.

I won't go into too much detail here because I want you go into this with as little knowledge of the film as I, but here are a few things I loved about it. At just ninety-three minutes, Lady Bird carries a consistent pace with an ending that is just too perfect for words. It's going to make you laugh out loud. A lot. It will probably make you tear up a bit as well as it's just as much heartbreaking as it is hilarious. The acting, highlighted by Saiorse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf is stellar through and through. Emotions are captured in a way that what you feel you are seeing is something real, not a script. So real it hits home in a way that might surprise you. Finally, this film gets all the little things right. Those small extra mile touches that add a lasting touch to a film.

As cliche as I have to be in this moment, Lady Bird is a masterpiece. That's why I'm giving it a perfect 100.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Storks (2016) Movie Review

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I'm literally watching Storks as I bust out this review. The first word that comes to mind: hilarious. Even now, I'm having to stop every few seconds or so to laugh at parts I had forgotten from the first watch. At just under ninety minutes, it doesn't believe in wasting time. It gives you the funny early and often. 

Lead stork Junior (Andy Samberg)is about as comical of a lead as you can get. He's one of the best storks in the business, yet it isn't his skill that keeps viewers entertained. It's his awkward lack of confidence that leads to some pretty memorable and ridiculous moments. His character is just one of many that make the film a fun family treat.

Not only is it surprisingly funny (serioulsy this elevator scene has me cracking up!), prepare to have your sensitive bone touched as well. It's touching but not in an overly gushy way. Just enough to make you say, "Awwww." Ok, so maybe my eyes glistened a little bit. So what?

Storks is consistently good throughout, kind of like a really delicious sandwich. It's one of those movies where you decided to give it a shot because you have nothing better to do and half an hour in, you ask yourself, "How are more people not talking about this movie?" It's a fun adventure about a stork trying to secretly deliver a baby to a new family.

I just reached the first encounter with the wolves. Classic. You will laugh. And who knows, maybe your eyes glisten a little. Either way, Storks doesn't disappoint. I give it an 89. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Retro Speed Review: The Princess Bride (1987)

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Having beef with The Princess Bride is like having beef with the pope. It's a film staple and you're not even an hour in before you see why. With just about everything you could ask for in a film, It's no wonder "classic" and Princess Bride get used a lot in the same sentence.

For the four of you that haven't seen the film (five before I finally made my wife sit down and watch), The Princess Bride is simply about a hero trying to rescue his true love from the clutches of an evil king. Cary Elwes stars as hero Wesley trying to save his love Buttercup (Robin Wright). He's a dashing savior, as quick with his tongue as he is with his sword. His delivery is flawless and you will find yourself cracking up just by his natural mannerisms. The rest of the cast is equally as delightful, if not moreso in some cases. My personal favorite was Carol Kane as Valerie. Even as I type this I have a big smile on my face thinking about her running into the room screaming, "Liar! LIARRRR!"

The comedy is the engine that drives this film. It's funny and in a number of ways. Sometimes subtle. Sometimes downright in your face. There are too many memorable lines/scenes to count. From "So tweasure your wove" to "Inconceivable!" to "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya..." Not only do these memorable moments come a dime a dozen, they stand the test of time.

A CLASSIC that will not die. I give it a 95.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Movie Review

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I had a couple of questions around plot connection during Blade Runner 2049, questions that still linger even now. I thought about looking up a detailed synopsis afterwards, but stopped myself. It hit me that those questions, those invoked thoughts, are there for a reason, probably not open to just one man's interpretation but many. All that being said, yes, the film is going to make you put your thinking cap on a little. It's an existential ride that is going to mean something new from one person to the next. That is the inherent beauty of this movie.

Let me take a stab at the plot while trying to be sensitive to those that haven't seen the original. In the future, replicants (think androids or something close to human clones) are servants to society. One replicant in particular, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), works on a special task force hired to find and kill replicants that have gone rogue. On a routine mission to take out one such replicant, he uncovers a secret that threatens to impact the entire world. His mission becomes getting to the bottom of things before the secret goes public. Make sense? God I hope so because I don't wanna try again.

Gosling shines in his role as Officer K, but is aided by stellar performances all the way around. Robin Wright plays his boss Lieutenant Joshi, a true tough-nut with a false sense of compassion. Then there's Niander Wallace, corporate tycoon in the replicant world. Jared Leto nails a homerun in the role with an even keel that's closer to replicant than human, almost begging the question, What does it even mean to be human anyway?

If you're a sci-fi head, this film has it all. Amazing special effects and techy set pieces. Super cool action scenes with weapons that will make quite a few eyebrows raise. Pieces of the future that will have your mind spinning, dreaming about what our world could possibly become.

Blade Runner 2049 takes you there. Memorable experience that left me weirdly satisfied and empty at the same time. Go see it. Then digest it. Then talk with someone about it that has also seen it. I give it a 94.

Despicable Me 3 (2017) Movie Review

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Disclaimer: While Despicable Me 3 had quite a few small issues (and I will write about them all here), I still actually enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It's not groundbreaking. It's not going to make history. However, it's still a film very much worth checking out. Now for a little woodshed action...

The plot was absolutely a stretch. It'll do for a kids movie, but there were way too many moving parts for my taste. More on that in a sec. Reaching seemed to be a common occurrence throughout including a few of the jokes and how the film moved from one scene to the next. 

Sometimes it's alright to rely on old funnies to get some laughs. Other times you wear out your welcome. Despicable Me 3 is teetering right there on that line. It wants to give the people what they liked about the first two while trying to establish its own identity in the process. Sometimes it worked. Other times...not so much. This is what separates it from being as memorable as the first two: The first ones focused purely on standing their own while this one tried to get away with pulling some of the same old tricks. I guess you can say the series became a victim of its own success.

Former supervillian Gru (Steve Carrell) is now a family man and a secret spy. After a mission goes wrong, Gru is confronted by a mysterious man who claims to work for Dru, Gru's twin brother he never knew he had. Meeting Dru for the first time brings Gru to a crossroads in what role he wants to play in the future: hero or villain.

The film definitely has its shining spots. Gru's minions are always a treat. This time around, you'll get a taste of them living the prison life. It's a joy watching them walk around the yard like they're the kings of the roost, kicking butt and lifting weights. It's a proven formula. When all else fails, put those cute, yellow guys on the screen for five minutes and you're right back in the game. And, yes, there are plenty of other funny moments to enjoy outside of the minions. They just add even more of a spark to the entertainment value.

Expect to get a little emotional as well. Gru, his wife Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), and this three kids make an extremely cute family. The kids are just adorable and Gru will do anything for them. Meanwhile, Lucy is trying to find her place in the family as the newest member. The film did a great job of capturing their love for each other.

Don't expect your world to be changed after viewing Despicable Me 3, but you're still going to have a fairly good time watching. I give it an 81.