Movie Review: LOGAN LUCKY

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logan lucky
Universal Pictures
2017
PG-13

“As a warden, I can approve buying a copy of A Dance With Dragons for the prison library to go up on the Game Of Thrones shelf. Now, the only problem is that The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring have yet to be published so these aren’t available. Well, I can’t do anything about what I can’t control.”

  • Hoping to reverse a “curse” that’s hung over his family for generations, Jimmy Logan hatches a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s biggest race of the year. He convinces his bartender brother Clyde and hairdresser sister Mellie to help him pull everything off–but first they have to break the bomb-maker Joe Bang out of jail in broad daylight. Academy Award winner Hilary Swank plays a no-nonsense FBI agent determined to bring the Logans to justice and keep them from racing away with the loot in this high-speed caper from Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh.

Apparently, Logan Lucky was the movie that convinced Steven Soderbergh to come out of retirement and back making movies. It was a four-year retirement, it seems, since 2013. That was longer than Ozzy Ozbourne’s original “retirement” in 1992 or thereabouts. Anyway, the man behind the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven and its two following sequels brought us another heist movie, this one set at a NASCAR racing event and featuring Magic Mike, Kylo Ren and Blond James Bond affecting southern drawls as the leads.

I watched this movie one night with a gaggle of the Coven of Exalted Geeks, not really expecting to enjoy this very much. While the heist caper movie type is amusing and makes for a good way to kill 90 or so minutes, Logan Lucky seemed to have enough things that I wasn’t exactly a fan of: namely, NASCAR racing culture, thick southern drawls, and country music. And this was probably the first movie I’ve seen Adam Driver in that wasn’t a Star Wars movie at this time. And it was more out of morbid curiosity to see if Daniel Craig could pull off an American southern accent that I sat through this.

Concerning my thoughts on Logan Lucky, I will quote what one of the other Exalted Geeks said after the movie ended: “I don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.” Which, in this case, is a praise on the quality of the film itself.

Soderbergh’s style of filmmaking tends to inject a healthy dose of avant gard into the general mainstream premise. In this case, he noted that Logan Lucky was going to be something of an “anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie”, in that nobody dresses nicely, has nice stuff, has no money or technology to pull off the heist, but they do so anyway.

No, what makes Logan Lucky different from your standard heist movie is the amount of care spent with making the characters memorable. The cast shines and gels fantastically, giving each character a good tangible existence, rather than staying with mere archetypes in a Sims game. Also, this is the movie that made me realize that Daniel Craig was much more than just a British guy who played the blond James Bond. Very good performance from him, here. I found myself rather engaged with these character; a quirky bunch, yes, but they had heart and soul infused in them. The only one that seemed a bit out of the ordinary was Hillary Swank’s FBI character. Bit stiff, there. Which, of course, made me root for the (technically) criminals to actually pull off the heist itself.

Overall: Logan Lucky turned out to be far more engaging than I was expecting. There was the standard heist movie formula here, yes, but there was enough quirky character development as to not make the heist itself the main focus. Which is what kind of burned me out on the Oceans movies. Recommended.

Movie Review: DR. STRANGELOVE

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dr strangelove
Columbia Pictures
1964
PG

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.”

  • Convinced the Commies want to pollute America’s “precious body fluids”, a crazed general orders a nuclear air strike on the U.S.S.R. As his aide, Captain Mandrake, scrambles to unlock a recall code to prevent the bombing, the U.S. President calls a drunken Soviet Premier on the hotline claiming the proposed attack is all a silly mistake, while the President’s adviser┬áDr. Strangelove verifies the existence of a dreaded Doomsday Machine–a retaliatory device designed by the Soviets to end the human race once and for all!

One of the more infuriating excuses I’ve heard people use to justify not knowing history is “that was before I was born.” the easiest way to demonstrate that you’re a willfully ignorant douchenozzle is to throw that excuse out when discussing things like classic movies:
“So, you like smartly made and politically subversive dark comedy satires? What do you think of Dr. Strangelove?”
“I haven’t seen it. That was from before I was born.”
“How do you think and breathe at the same time?”
…and then the date pretty much ends there. But, I digress.

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb is perhaps my favorite Stanley Kubrick film. And that’s saying a lot, as I count myself as one of those guys who considers Kubrick to have been a mad genius in every genre he’s dabbled in. And no, I don’t count A.I.: Artificial Intelligence as one of his movies.

Anyway, I consider Dr. Strangelove to be his best movie so far (I’m still working through all of his films, it might be dethroned at a later time…though it’s doubtful). The main reason is because this is a biting satire about the Cold War, released during the height of the actual conflict. The Cuba Missile Crisis was still fresh in the minds of Americans, and here comes a movie that satirizes the general fear and paranoia running rampant at the time. Not that things were better during the 80s, mind.

Anyway, Dr. Strangelove was very, very loosely based on a novel titled Red Alert, in that Kubrick took a straight-forward thriller and turned it into a black comedy. Makes, sense, as paranoia can make anyone do absurdly comical things in hindsight. The story involves a General that orders a nuclear air strike on the U.S.S.R. (what you Millennials refer to as “Russia”), despite the Pentagon having nothing to do with is, because of his fears of fluoridation in the water supply. This in turn leads to a mad dash by the President and the Pentagon to try and stop the potential Mutually Assured Destruction that this posits, which includes the Soviet ambassador and former Nazi scientific adviser Dr. Strangelove. Wackiness ensues while everyone can’t seem to get past their own paranoia-driven ambitions and presumptions, meanwhile the bomber gets closer and closer to its intended target.

If you have yet to watch Dr. Strangelove because it’s either one of those “old movies” made before your time, or because it’s in black and white, or a combination of both…well, get over yourself. Seriously, tell that false sense of superiority to bugger off, and watch this movie right now. I am not kidding; stop reading this review, and rent it off of whatever streaming site you use, watch it, then get back here to finish up. I can wait.

There. Don’t you feel better? I’m going to take your silence as an enthusiastic, “YES!”

First off, there’s the fact that George C. Scott himself never wanted to play his part as the over-the-top wacky character the movie portrays; that was Kubrick’s intention, Scott and he were at odds about it, so Kubrick just told Scott to play it like that as a dress rehearsal, and secretly filmed him like that for the real parts of the movie. Then we have comedy legend Peter Sellers playing not only the titular Dr. Strangelove, but also the President and a British exchange officer that’s held hostage by the General that ordered the initial air strike. There’s also Western legend Slim Pickens and future voice of Darth Vader James Earl Jones as two of the bomber’s crew members. The script manages to strike the perfect balance between subtle satire and absurdist humor with a smattering of slapstick, as well as Kubrick’s trademark ultra-perfectionist cinematography. Over 50 years later, and this movie still holds up brilliantly, and is even more pointed in this modern political climate.

Overall: Yeah, if you haven’t seen it (even now, after being told earlier to do so), rectify that oversight. Even if you don’t “get it” the first time, keep watching it until you do. And I know what you’re thinking, and no: I am not a “Boomer”. I’m Gen X. Idiot.

Movie Review: BOOK OF MONSTERS

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book of monsters
Dread Central Presents
2018
NR

“If I was a monster hunter, I’d have kept a shotgun above the fireplace.”

  • Sophie’s 18th birthday becomes a bloodbath when monsters descend upon her house and start to devour the party guests. Sophie and her friends must rally┬átogether to send their party crashers back to hell.

In this current era of “socially conscience” cerebral horror and a bunch of Millennial horrors, it’s sometimes refreshing just to sit back and take in a fun, mindless monster flick, heavy on the camp and loaded with practical effect goodness. Book Of Monsters is one such movie.

Released as a VOD flick that’s available on the Prime streamin’ I utilize for my cheesy horror fix, Book Of Monsters takes the basic outline for Night Of The Demons, only set it in an 18th birthday party at the house where the birthday girl in question’s mum was a demon slayer (killed off in a flashback prelude at the start of the movie). Also, this film is British, so that’s why I said “mum”.

This movie is what you would call a throwback to the direct-to-video gems you would find at the video stores in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s. It’s a horror flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also doesn’t devolve into a wacky comedy either. The effects are 100% practical, with some rather neat gore effects as well as monster getups. There is a scene involving garden gnomes that encapsulates the overall gist of the entire movie–mindless, campy, over-the-top and glorious. That said, there are some pacing issues, but nothing so bad as to completely lose my attention.

Overall, Book Of Monsters seemed like a good way to kill off 90 minutes while bedridden with health issues, and turned out to be far more fun than it should have been. Worth a look-see.

Movie Review: 22 JUMP STREET

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22 jump street
Columbia Pictures
2014
R

“Say something cool when you throw it!”
“One, two three! Something cool!”

  • After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Senko when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kendred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case–they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship.

Did there need to be a sequel to the 21 Jump Street movie? Rhetorical question. Obviously, it’s a bit late in the game to question the need of one; they made a sequel. And since I can’t watch one and not watch the follow-up, I went ahead and watched 22 Jump Street pretty much immediately after watching the first. And, yeah…this was definitely a sequel. To a movie. Let’s just get to it…

For the second go-round, the Jump Street headquarters was moved across the street from its original address. Which is how they managed to get that title. Anyway, our two protagonists from the first movie are assigned to go undercover to find out the source of a deadly new designer drug making its way across campus. Only, this time it’s at a college, instead of a high school. And really, aside from the change of scenery-and a bit more mature class to work with–this is essentially the same movie with some tweaks to at least make it more than your standard retread. To ramp up the wackiness, though, Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson character is given a much more prominent roll, as Jonah Hill’s Schmidt happens to be dating his daughter, resulting in one of the more hilarious scenes when Dickson finds out. It involves a taser, let’s just say. The dry wit of the person who turns out to be the villain was done well. And the end credits montage was worth sitting through, especially for the cameo shot of Richard Grieco as Dennis Booker.

Overall, though, as a sequel to a movie that was really not needed (but was made anyway), 22 Jump Street works again as an American Pie-style comedy if directed by Michael Bay. Worth a rental.

Movie Review: 21 JUMP STREET

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21 jump street
Columbia Pictures
2012
R

“Those are jocks, those are nerds…I don’t know what those are…”

  • Former high school foes turned rookie cop partners can’t catch a break–until they’re assigned to pose as students and bust a drug ring inside their old alma mater. Living like teenagers again, they slip back into their adolescent selves and risk the case–and their friendship–with hysterically disastrous results!

As this second decade comes to a close, I look back on this and stand amused at how many meta-style tongue-in-cheek movie adaptations of nostalgic television shows from the 70s, 80s and 90s there were. Or just straight adaptations that could have benefited from a sense of humor (I’m looking at you, Miami Vice). It’s nothing new, really; it’s just that the Teens have been the time where a lot of the shows that I grew up with watching got the big screen treatment. My generation is nostalgia fodder now, it seems. I’m just waiting for that gritty 90210 movie re-imagining that’ll inevitably happen.

21 Jump Street was one of the shows I watched on occasion back in the day. I was really more of a fan of Booker–he was a way cooler character than Johnny Depp’s Officer Hanson character, I thought. But that’s besides the point. The actual point is, they made a 21 Jump Street movie.

Originally, I had no intention whatsoever with watching this big screen adaptation. For one, I wasn’t really that big of a fan of the show to begin with. I don’t think I could make it through an entire episode before getting bored and losing interest. Secondly, they made the movie into a comedy. And it looked like one of those bawdy stupid kind of comedies that pandered to the lowest common denominator (says the guy who watches Asylum movies on a regular basis). And I kept that vow…until the summer of 2019, when my health took a turn for the worse and I found myself bedridden for a few months. Yeah, boredom will make you do odd things.

Anyway, so I watched this 21 Jump Street. And… *sigh* Okay, I do have to say that I did find it somewhat entertaining. Mind you, the humor does lean towards the crude side of the comedy spectrum, which I was expecting. Didn’t make the eye-rolls any less…um, eye-rolly. But, underneath all that, there’s an underlying smart satire hiding amidst the sex and drug jokes.

Story-wise, 21 Jump Street isn’t really an adaptation/re-imagining of the television show; it’s more of a loose continuation of that show. Essentially, a couple of rookie bicycle cops are reassigned to the recently re-opened Jump Street program after a couple of decades of being mothballed (presumably immediately after the show was canceled), and assigned to find out the source of a deadly new designer drug circulating around campus. The two rookies in question were your standard jock/nerd odd couple dynamic who bonded during Police basic training. Of course, things have changed since they were in high school, and that’s where a lot of the comedy elements come into play. Wacky shenanigans ensue, with the two cops’ bumbling inexperience working to their advantage.

Of course, the best thing about this movie is Ice Cube as the Captain of Jump Street. There are cameo appearances by series originals Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise and Holly Robinson Peete in their original rolls (Depp and DeLuise I caught immediately when they showed up; Holly Robinson Peete I missed originally, and noticed while doing a bit of Google research on the movie for the review), which was awesome in a nerdy way. And like I said, there were more than a few moments that elicited some snickers from me. Probably because of the pain meds I was on at the time, but still.

Overall–and this is probably due to my extremely low expectations going into this movie–21 Jump Street was more entertaining than I thought it was going to be. That isn’t saying much, as this is, at best, an American Pie style comedy if directed by Michael Bay. Worth a rental, at least.

Movie Review: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

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anna and the apocalypse
Vertigo Releasing
2017
R

“Christmas is fast becoming my least favorite ‘C’ word.”

  • When the zombie apocalypse hits the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – teenager Anna and her high school friends have to fight, sing and dance to survive, with the undead horde all around them. Teaming up with her best friend John, Anna has to fight her way through zombified snowmen, Santas, elves and Christmas shoppers to get across town to the high school, where they’ll be safe. But they soon discover that being a teenager is just as difficult as staying alive, even at the end of the world.

For whoever it was out there that was watching Shaun Of The Dead and thought to themselves, “What this movie needs is High School Musical-style musical numbers,” well, your prayers have been answered. You sick, sick freak.

So, as per my Holiday Clusterbomb tradition, I was going through the list of Best Christmas Movies To Stream on Den Of Geek one day, and came across Anna And The Apocalypse. It was described as a kind of Shaun Of The Dead-style zombie apocalypse dark comedy that was also a musical. It was British, so I wonder if they happen to refer to dark comedies as just “comedies”. Also…a musical? As in, a Disney style, everyone breaks into song for no apparent reason kinda thing?

Yep. It totally is. Also, I enjoyed the ever-lovin’ hell out of Anna And The Apocalypse.

Oh, this is just wonderfully camp for all the right reasons. Anna is a teenager who has to deal with telling her widower father that she’s planning on taking a year to travel after school, instead of going to university, as well as dealing with the stress of helping plan the school’s Christmas pageant and staying out of the sights of the Vice Principal, who obviously patterned his teaching style after that school teacher in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Then one morning, while bopping and singing along to a jaunty tune on her earbuds, she and her friends notice that a zombie apocalypse has hit the town, and now they have to band together to make it back to the high school in one piece and hope for the promised extradition by the military. Only, the Vice Principal may have gone literally mad with power, in a Colonel Kurtz sort of way. All the while breaking out in song at key points in the film. Wacky.

I didn’t know what to expect going into watching Anna And The Apocalypse, but boy howdy did I have a great time watching this. I was by myself, so I couldn’t share the wackiness with anyone else, which could have enhanced the experience. As a Christmas movie, yeah, it’s set during Christmas, but that seems to be more an incidental thing. As is the zombie apocalypse, but any good zombie flick worth its brains isn’t really about the zombies, but the character development that happens during the conflict. And here it definitely does a great job making you care about the characters. And not everyone gets out unscathed, which made it hit all the harder. Or, maybe I’m getting all kinds of sentimental in my middle age, I don’t know. My favorite character, by far, was Vice Principal Arthur Savage, whose “I’ve just gone full nutter” song had shades of Rocky Horror Picture Show going.

Overall: Yeah, I’d say go and watch this, especially during the Christmas season of the holidays. The songs were pretty good, but really, it’s the character interaction and watching a teenage girl impale zombies with a giant fake candy cane that makes this my new family Christmas tradition.

Movies+Beer: ZOMBIELAND 2 Doubletap

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zombieland 2

Ten years after the first Zombieland hit theaters, we finally get the sequel they’ve been threatening to make. Join James and Exalted Geeks Brian, Sarah, Everett, Jessie and Jacob as we discuss what is basically America’s answer to Shaun Of The Dead, and whether double tapping the franchise was a good thing, or if they should have left the corpse lay…

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