Logan Lucky (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers)

Logan Lucky is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh, who’s known for creating Magic Mike, and the Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 movies.

The Logan brothers, Jimmy and Clyde (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver), are not doing so well. Jimmy gets laid off from his construction job, but decides to strike back by staging an epic robbery.  However, Jimmy knows they’re going to need help.

This is a finely crafted film, and I recommend it. There a lot of twists and turns, and there is more humor than I expected. There is some “mild” violence and crude language, but the film is rated PG-13, so gauge accordingly.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

Jimmy didn’t reveal his leg was injured, so he’s fired from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s his only income, and he’s none too happy about it. It’s a crucial time with his daughter, too, because Sadie (Farrah MacKenzie) has entered a beauty pageant competition, and he was supposed to take her to a preliminary event, but missed the day. Naturally, his ex-wife Bobbi Jo (Katie Holmes), reads him the riot act because he missed it, and because he can’t hold a job, as well.

This is when he’s had enough and decides to rob the Speedway. He gets his brother Clyde on board, but they need more people, including his sister, and needs advice from someone in jail.

It goes on from there, but this movie could have been a mess of scenes and people doing their part. Given Soderbergh’s experience with the Ocean’s films, it goes well. There’s humor to be found in the dialog, and it works. The crime’s never just a straightforward ordeal, but it plays out well.

There are enough surprises in the film to keep it from being predictable, including the outcome. There are some interesting actor choices in the film, so I won’t spoil them.

If you hadn’t guessed, I rather enjoyed this film, and I’d put it as a strong contender for my annual top 10 films of the year.

There’s an amusing note at the end of the credits that scrolls off quickly.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Capsule Review

In The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is given the near-impossible task of escorting hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to very important trial in The Hague. Unfortunately for them, the person he’s testifying against really doesn’t want him to appear.

This movie is violent, and there is harsh language, so it’s not for people with tame sensibilities. For those that expect that, it’s a rather clever buddy comedy that is everything you’d expect it to be.

Highly recommended for those who want that sort of film!



Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

This is essentially a buddy cop film, minus the cops. Michael Bryce was a bodyguard that was highly rated, until one of his charges was killed. Since then, he’s been scraping by with low-level clients who need protection.

After an Interpol prisoner transport goes awry, Bryce has the assignment dropped in his lap, whether he likes it or not. He’s well acquainted with Darius, but only because of the jobs he’s ruined for Michael. They are clearly not friends – Michael plays it cool, by the book, in a way that doesn’t attract attention. Meanwhile, Darius is an improviser, which infuriates Michael to no end.

This sort of film lives and dies on the interaction between the two main characters, and it excels at that. The two argue and come to blows over certain things, but they realize they have to make it to the destination in one piece. There is a definite back and forth between them, with neither gaining the upper hand in the end.

Being a buddy-cop film, there’s also a lot of fighting. Their opponent, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), will stop at nothing to prevent Darius from testifying. The conflicts that come from this are relentless, and each one is more audacious than the previous one. There are car chases that are extremely well choreographed, and in my opinion, are the best I’ve seen in several years.

Some of the best buddy cop films insert humor, sometimes to the point of being rather strained. That’s not the case here, as the comedy flows from the bickering, and seems more integral to these character’s lives than just something tacked on. It flows freely, as does the profanity – we are talking about Samuel L. Jackson here, not to mention the guy who played Deadpool. It definitely works for this movie. The interplay between Reynolds and Jackson rivals that of the back and forth between DeNiro and Grodin in Midnight Run, which shares more than a few parallels with this movie, but with more profanity. A lot more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great casting for Darius’ wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek). There’s a scene, and you’ll know it, that just works so well for her. The stunt coordinator and stunt people did an excellent job here!

I definitely recommend The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Capsule Review

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is a fantastical science fiction tale, brought to you by Luc Besson, who has made such films as The Fifth Element, Lucy, and The Professional. Valerian, as I will call it henceforth, is an adaptation of a French comic series, Valerian and Laureline, which ran from 1967 to 2010. I’m unfamiliar with the original material, and this was probably intended to be the start of a new movie series, but despite the amazing visuals and strong base story, it will probably exist alone.

Stone-faced acting and a near total lack of chemistry between the two leads lessens the excitement of the film. It’s sad because this could have been a greater movie.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers)

The City of a Thousand Planets came to be when nations of Earth cooperated and created an international space station that everyone contributed to. As time went on, other worlds and species contributed to its growth over time.  This story takes place several hundred years beyond that,  and our story picks up from there.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are government agents. They’re tasked with confiscating a contraband device that’s being purchased by less-than-legal citizens.  This turn of events has major repercussions throughout known space, and causes a load of trouble for the City.

Stunning visuals abound, and are not part of this story. Repeated viewings will provide more detail on that front, but it makes for a lush movie experience. So many possibilities there. It’s a good story, regardless of what comes next in this review.

Valerian and Laureline work as a team, and it’s clear from the start that Valerian wants more. Laureline rebuffs him, but he doesn’t give up that easily. Here is the main problem with the film – these two just don’t work together, as a couple. I’m not convinced of the spark, and it’s as if they interact not because they want to, but because they must. Neither actor is very expressive in a way that tells me they like each other. While Cara Delevingne has very expressive eyes and eyebrows, it stops there. She’s like a joyless Christina Ricci, but without the intensity. Dane DeHaan is no better. I almost feel like someone shot their faces up with Botox before shooting the film, and their atonal acting just ruins it.  Yes, they say their lines about their attraction, but I’m not convinced. Not. One. Bit. More than anything else, it ruined my enjoyment of the movie. Rihanna is a scene stealer, but I won’t say more about her role.

As much as it pains me, I cannot recommend the film. If you really want to satisfy your curiosity, by all means, do so, but whatever medium you choose, definitely watch a high definition recording. It’s a very pretty movie.

Dunkirk (2017)

Capsule Review

Dunkirk is a retelling of the incidents surrounding the Allied evacuation of France at Dunkirk in World War II. It is an intense war drama that is less graphic than the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but just as compelling. There is wartime violence, and it’s rather intimate, and great in its way.

Strongly recommended if you like movies of this type.

Standard Review (with some minor spoilers):

Without going into too much detail, Dunkirk focuses on several soldiers, mostly, all  part of the forces trying to escape France. The Axis powers have encircled them on the land, and there’s no escape, except via the English Channel. You’d think it’d be straightforward, but it’s not such a simple task when there’re several hundred thousand of you!

It’s a bit confusing, at first, but it mostly focuses on several individuals. Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) is the naval officer in charge of the evacuation. Cillian Murphy plays a soldier who is rescued at sea. Civilians with boats were asked to surrender their boats, but Mr Brown (Mark Rylance) just leaves England with his boat, and two shipmates to help him. He and his crew more or less form the core of the film. There are a lot of characters to remember, but you don’t really need to, in order to follow the story.

This is a film that’s told Rashomon style, covering some of the same events from different perspectives. It really seems authentic, and there are some nuances that many war films of this type get horribly wrong. The plot’s a bit confusing until you get into the rhythm of the film. You should eventually catch on, though. In an interesting twist, the Axis power soldiers at all. The primary focus is on the British.

I have to comment on how powerful this movie is. It winds you up and practically never gives you a release. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack drives the movie’s tension, which intensifies throughout the movie. It’s a vital component to this excellent war drama. I noticed a couple of people in the audience who were literally on the edge of their seats throughout. After the credits started, I even overheard several guys mansplaining the events around the evacuation of France to their partners and friends. Be prepared for that.

This film is one of the great war films that will probably stand the test of time. I’m probably overstating that, but right now, it’s what I’m feeling.

Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)

Capsule Summary:

Spider-man: Homecoming is yet another restart of the Spider-man movie franchise. It picks up the story of Spider-man from what we saw of him in Captain America: Civil War, and continues from there. What happens next, is, well…interesting.

It’s a fun movie to watch, and has a good story.  I saw it in 2-D, and didn’t miss anything not being 3-D. Definitely recommended.

There is both a mid-credits scene, and a post-credits scene.

Standard Review (contains some spoilers):

Following the events of the first Avengers movie, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) got the job to clean up New York after the Chitauri invasion. Given all the alien technology left behind, he stands to make a lot of money. Just as he starts, the government steps in and kicks him off the job. He realizes that he can still profit, just not legally.

Meanwhile, it’s a few years later, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has just finished up the superhero fight from Captain America: Civil War. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gave him an upgraded Spider-man suit, and Tony implies that the Avengers will need him soon enough. Peter’s attending a special high school for gifted technology students, and keeps bowing out of his after school obligations, in case Tony calls.

Spider-man stumbles onto a sale of stolen alien technology, has a fight, and later tries to alert Tony that something’s going down. Tony faffs him off, telling him to leave the big deals to the big boys, but Peter is determined. He gets himself right into the middle of it.

They play up Peter’s naivete properly. He wants to do well, and possibly get the invitation to join the Avengers if he succeeds. It’s played for laughs, but that’s not how he sees it. They treat him like the teenager he appears to be, not as someone who could get to the bottom of things.

There’s a lot of action in the movie. It’s ironic that they cast Michael Keaton as the villain, considering he was Batman, and also Birdman in several other movies. He’s played enough comedic roles to know timing, and he has his character down pat. Definite kudos to him.

There’s also a lot of comedy. Peter is still the clumsy and socially awkward teen, and that plays out well. They have some fun at the expense of Captain America (Chris Evans), too.

It’s well worth seeing, and will probably be on my favorite film list of 2017.  Highly recommended!


The Big Sick (2017)

Capsule Summary (basic plot spoilers):

In The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjani stars as himself in a semi-autobiographical story about finding love in Chicago. Zoe Kazan plays Emily, his potential love interest. Problem is that she’s not from Pakistan, but from the U.S.A., which his family would refuse to accept.

It’s not your traditional rom-com, but I will say that yes, there is romance, and that there is comedy, given that Kumail is a standup comedian and he starts dating someone. Where it goes, I won’t say in this section, though the title is a bit of a spoiler.

The Big Sick is an independent film, and that works in its favor. One of the better stories I’ve seen on screen in a while, probably because it’s based on a real one. Definitely recommended!

You may find the trailer here.

Standard Review (contains some spoilers):

Kumail is a standup comedian, hoping to break into the big time. His circle of friends, Mary (Aidy Bryant), CJ (Bo Burnham), and roomate Chris (Kurn Braunohler) are cohorts who are all struggling together, hoping to be booked for bigger and better gigs. To sustain his career, he drives for Uber in the off-hours.

One performance, Kumail is heckled by Emily, a grad student. He flirts with her after the show, and they hook up. They are so serious about not dating that they stay together for a while, but it comes time to meet the parents, and Kumail backs off, because his parents would never approve, and hasn’t even mentioned Emily to them. In fact, his parents Azmat and Sharmeen (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) have been trying to arrange a marriage for him the whole time. Emily rightfully kicks him to the curb.

That would have been the end of that, but Emily gets the flu. Her friends are all studying for finals, so they call Kumail because someone needs to go. Things get worse quickly, and he is forced to call in her out-of-state parents Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). Emily’s in an induced coma by the time of their arrival, and Beth is well aware of Kumail’s relationship ender. They don’t mesh well.

This is a good look inside familial relationships, and honestly, I can’t recall seeing the inner workings of a Pakistani/Muslim family as much as was shown. As I am a WASP, I will not start raving about how wonderful it was to see the ‘inner sanctum’ of Muslim family life or anything like that, but given that Kumail and his wife wrote the screenplay, I’m going to lean towards saying it’s  what you’d expect about any family, steeped with its own traditions and quirks. One “we’re not so different, you and I” speech promptly avoided.

One of the best parts of the film is the acting. It did not seem like they were reading from a script, so everything felt more natural and fluid, as if it were actually playing out on the screen instead of “being a movie”. The less said about that, the better.

I rather enjoyed it, and I do recommend it very strongly. This may be one of my favourite movies of the year.

Baby Driver (2017)

Capsule Summary (minor plot spoilers):

Baby Driver is the latest film by Edgar Wright.  It follows Baby (Ansel Elgort) who is a wheelman for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby suffers from Tinnitus, and listens to music to drown it out. He owes a debt to Doc, and has almost paid it off.

A full, talented cast rounds out this movie, and there’s a lot of music and choreography of the getaways that elevates this film above others. Recommended.


Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

Baby is off in his own world. He was orphaned as a child, and lives with his then-caregiver Joseph (CJ Jones). Joseph is older now, mute and confined to a wheelchair, so the tables have turned and Baby is taking care of him, instead. Joseph is aware that Baby is committing crimes and disapproves, but can’t convince him to stop.

Doc plans all the crimes, and hires different people to commit them, and rarely uses the same crew repeatedly, so they don’t get too comfortable. Griff (Jon Berenthal) is wary of Baby, and is convinced he’s autistic. Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eliza González) are a couple who share their love of crimes, and Bats (Jamie Foxx) is the trigger happy felon who doesn’t trust anyone. They’re mixed and matched together, along with some others for the various robberies, while Baby gets them safely away.

The escapes are what elevate this movie above the standard fare you see on screen, these days. Baby uses music to center himself, and the editing of the film puts it in sync with the action. There’s a wide variety of musical selections, from rock and roll from the 50s to modern classics, as well. It’s all over the map, appealing to a wider audience than one age group. The editing puts the beats in time with the action, including the gunfire and crashes. It’s quite clever.

Baby does have a love interest, Debora (Lily James) but to me, it’s more like she’s the one who happens to be there and show interest in him because he needs to be humanized. She’s almost a prop, at times, but she gets involved as things fall apart. They do have good chemistry on screen, so perhaps I’m overstating my complaints.

Overall, I did enjoy the film. The acting is quite solid, especially from Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx.

Rough Night (2017)

Capsule Summary (minor plot spoilers):

Rough Night is a comedy about a bachelor party gone wrong. Scarlett Johansson stars as Jess, who reunites with her college girlfriends for the big party, in Miami. Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Frankie (Ilana Glazer) have that big blowout before the wedding, and things don’t turn out the way you’d want them to.

There are hints of the truly dark comedy Very Bad Things here, but it really isn’t. It struggles to find its voice, but without saying more, it does come to a reasonable conclusion. There is a post-credits scene that answers a question left open.

Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

I’m not sure I can say too much without spoiling the film. As I mentioned, it struggles for some laughs along the way, trying to walk the line between a traditional comedy and a black comedy.

This isn’t a film you must see in the theater, so I’d recommend waiting for its streaming or disk release.

Wonder Woman (2017)

Capsule Summary (Minor plot spoilers):

Wonder Woman is the first big screen adaptation of this DC Comics Superhero, and it is very good. It tells a proper and complete story without any contrivances, unlike last year’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice , which I did enjoy, but had some issues. There is a good balance between action, drama, and comedy that is hard to sustain, but here, it works. The casting is good and the movie is without any real disappointments unlike other DC films of late.

Definitely recommended. See it in a theater for the full experience. The movie is available in 2D and 3D, but it’s perfectly fine in 2D.

There is no post-credits sequence.


Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) was born and raised on the island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) has ordained a life of preparation. All Amazonian woman were created by Zeus, to bring order and peace to a chaotic world, corrupted by the god Ares. They are fierce, in the truest sense of the word, all trained for combat by Hippolyta’s sister Antiope (Robin Wright), but Diana has been spared this. She is the only child, but over time, grows to adulthood and secretly trains with Antiope.

One day, a pilot crashes his plane near the shores of Themyscira. It is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is a spy who escaped his would-be captors, and is trying to get back to England with the information he stole. The Amazonians distrust him, and the other men who’ve chased him. Steve tells of the war going on, outside of their peaceful realm, and Diana is convinced who is behind it. She and Steve sail off to find the truth.

I’ve been on the fence with the last two DC movies that’ve come out. The first I mentioned, which I liked, but, as I said, felt contrived a bit much, though the inclusion of Wonder Woman in the story felt like it belonged there. Last year’s Suicide Squad was good, but the inclusion of The Joker into the story was really unnecessary, and distracted from the main story. The best parts of that film revolved around Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and DeadShot (Will Smith), and they should have focused on them without the distraction of the Joker (Jared Leto).

Here there is only one focus, and that’s on Diana. They play up on her naiveté early on, for laughs, but it becomes a key issue later in the plot (why aren’t we doing “this”?). You do get to see a bit of a transformation as Diana becomes the person she is supposed to be, and it seems evolutionary instead of contrived and necessary for the story to continue.

I was really pleased by the story, and I’m glad DC shifted gears to make this properly.

My only beef with the film was the final song over the credits. It’s a perfectly good song, sung by Sia, but it didn’t fit the tone of the movie. It was a little jarring in comparison to the rest of the movie.




Snatched (2017)

Capsule Summary (Minor plot spoilers):

Snatched is the latest comedy from Amy Schumer, and Goldie Hawn. It’s Hawn’s first appearance on screen in 15 years, and is long overdue.

Emily MIddleton (Schumer) has been dumped by her boyfriend, and resorts to taking her mother, Linda (Hawn), on the trip to Ecuador that she’d planned with him. Things go awry, and the two of them are forced to work together to escape the perilous situation they’ve been subjected to. Comedy and action sequences ensue, leading to a satisfying resolution.

If you are a fan of Amy Schumer’s humor, you will enjoy this film. Schumer and Hawn bond well on stage, and there are several good supporting performances. If you’re not a fan of her style of humor, then you probably won’t like it.

Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):

I don’t feel the need to elaborate much further on the film, but I will say that the audience and I rather enjoyed the movie. There are several good performances by the supporting cast, and there’s a subtle context about them not really waiting for a MAN to rescue them that plays throughout, but it isn’t as prominent as some people may want you to believe.

There are far more jokes than what you see in the trailer.