Trailer: Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh is back! The producer-director is ever threatening retirement, but never quite getting there. After a stint on TV, including directing two seasons of period medical drama The Knick and made for TV teleplay, Mosaic, and producing Red Oaks, Godless and The Girlfriend Experience, the itch to make another A-lister heist film must have proved too great a draw. And now we have this goofy, southern-fried hold up of a motor speedway with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katherine Waterson, Riley Keough, and a thickly accented, cast-way against type, Daniel Craig. Also, Soderbergh has dusted off Hillary Swank (remember her?) and Katie Holmes (ditto) and offered them fresh opportunities, also against type.

Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Given the poster, the typesetting and the overall tone here, I expected this to be a period piece, something in the vein of Smokey and the Bandit. Nope! Logan Lucky is nothing if not contemporary, right up to when the aw-shucks computer expert brags about ‘knowing all the Twitters.”

As usual, Soderbergh bucks the trend of modern franchise building special-effects pieces, and goes right to the point of letting the acting, character-building rhythms, and snazzy filmmaking do the heavy lifting. I do not expect Logan Lucky to be high art, but I do expect it to be a highly entertaining throwback in the way that The Nice Guys was last year.

Written by Rebecca Blunt and directed by Steven Soderbergh, Logan Lucky hits theatres August 18th, 2017.

Review: Going in Style

Director: Zach Braff (Garden State, Wish I Was Here)
Story: Edward Cannon
Screenplay: Theodore Melfi
Producer: Donald De Line
Starring: Joey King, Ann-Margret, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Kenan Thompson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


Hollywood has truly hit a point now where basically anything is ripe for a remake or reboot or revival, whatever they decide on calling it, with the end result ultimately being dredging up some title from the vault for a new coat of paint on the same old shell. We’ve gotten now to the extreme of seeing remakes of remakes, like last year’s Magnificent Seven and the upcoming Scarface. Instead of using acclaimed, still popular and widely seen sources like those though, which tend to give off the stench of being made primarily for monetary reasons, the more enticing remakes (which is admittedly a bit of an oxymoron) are ones of films that had solid concepts that maybe didn’t reach their full potential, or ones of films that have been long forgotten and aren’t known these days by the large majority of viewers. Going In Style would be an example of the latter, remaking the 1979 Martin Brest film starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, which was a minor hit in its day but has faded from the public awareness in the decades since.

The tale of three down on their luck pensioners who plot to rob a bank, this version stars Oscar winners Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, and is quite bizarrely directed by Zach Braff of all people, from a script by Hidden Figures writer/director Theodore Melfi. Thankfully, Braff holds off on the whimsy and indie cliches that have defined his previous directing efforts, instead delivering a straightforward and feel good little comedy that banks on the appeal of its starring trio more than anything else. In that regard it works in spades, as all three actors bring a different flavor to the mix that makes for a pleasant concoction, and they have wonderful chemistry with one another. Freeman brings his sage wisdom and gravitas, Caine is the suave gangster with dry British wit, and Arkin (who oddly starred in the similarly themed Stand Up Guys a few years back with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken) is the boisterous wild card who gets all of the biggest laughs.
Would you like to know more…?

Review: Triple 9

“The monster has gone digital,” warns Woody Harrelson in a fashion that only Mr. Harrelson can. As bedraggled detective cleaning up the mess of a bank manager whose vault was just not only breached in a daylight heist, but documents of his families whereabouts are left behind by the thieves as a threat. Triple 9 is a gritty fusion of the dirty cop drama, and the ‘one last job’ thriller. Mostly it feels like the last hurrah of the ensemble heist film. With GPS, closed circuit cameras, and other omnipresent technologies, pulling off a smash-and-grab bank job seems as foolish as grabbing a few strapped stacks on impulse on the way out the door only to find them loaded with dye packs.

John Hillcoat, the hard-boiled Australian behind gritty outback western The Proposition, apocalyptic father-son survival tale The Road, and family bootlegger drama, Lawless, is determined to make his audience wallow in the complex cesspool of crime and law-enforcement of inner city Atlanta. The gangs are bad, at one point a trio of severed heads sit idly on the hood of a classic automobile, but the militarized police force is worse. Hillcoat has always been interested in the messy outcomes of complex (and not so complex) masculinity, and he has a fine ensemble of bold character actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr. and Norman Reedus, a squad consisting of active and ex-police and marines who are in deep with, of all things, an orthodox Jewish faction of Russian mafia.

Sporting Star-of-David bling and exceptionally big hair, Kate Winslet’s thickly accented Irina Vlaslov is tougher than any of these compromised men as she tightens the screws on in a way that is reminiscent of Kristin Scott-Thompson’s angry-icicle matron in Only God Forgives. She has leverage on these men in a manner too convoluted to get into here, but suffice it to say that the strength of Triple 9 is that of a pot-boiler par excellence. As the plot vacillates between criminal brotherhood and domestic drama, neither in great detail, there is nevertheless an undertow towards finding out what is going to happen next.

As Harrelson’s pot-smoking, half-drunk super-cop offers advice and sniffs the air for the schemes of dirty cops, Ejoifor tries to get his Ex (a wasted Gal Gadot) to share custody of their son, and Paul continues to break bad, it is Casey Affleck who quietly steals the film as a rookie cop that is somehow both naive and world-weary (welcome to the 21st century folks.) In a different film, Affleck would be front and centre, here he blends into the background until he does not, his performance is a coup of sorts, a combination of acting talent, and directional choices.

There are some who might suggest that this would all work better in the ubiquitous long-form TV format, but I disagree. Sometimes there is a case to be made for a smaller dose of something. Triple 9’s familiar, yet akimbo, clusterfuck of organizations and individuals (with a dash of geopolitics?) has just enough visual panache – a grimy 35mm aesthetic with occasional splotches of bright pink – combined with its ensemble of abundance to pass muster as termite art. It is the kind of adult entertainment, along with the far more thoroughbred Sicario and far, far more abstruse The Counselor, that has been on the endangered species list from movie studios for some time. It is well worth spotting these rare beasts in the wild before they are gone.

Trailer: Miles Ahead

It is trailer day here at Rowthree, and here we have Don Cheadle’s biopic of Jazz (er, social music) legend Miles Davis, which is seems to be retold as a heightened story of cool, crime and a wee bit of heist excitement. Not your run of the mill biopic, for sure, and Cheadle is on double duty as both the star and the director (his debut film after his adaption of Elmore Leonard’s Tishomingo Blues fell through a decade ago).

Miles Ahead apparently did not set the New York Film festival on fire when it debuted there last October, but it certainly looks like a fun time at the movies. Any movie where Ewan MacGregor is sucker-punched in the face can’t be all that bad. It gets a release via Sony Pictures in a couple months on April Fool’s Day.

Trailer #2 for John Hillcoat’s Triple 9

Here is faster paced, more plot and character heavy UK trailer for the increasingly awesome looking new John Hillcoat picture, Triple 9. A collection of corrupt cops attempt a massive heist, and to distract the rest of the cities branches of law enforcement, they plan to murder one of their fellow officers to create a ‘999’ call which would have most of the police in the city converge in a location as far away the robbery as possible. Featuring the very well stocked cast of Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and Kate Winslet.

Triple 9 hits US theatres in February 2016, and apparently the European market will get a chance to see it as well, albeit no release date is indicated in the trailer.

Occultober – Day 22 – Witching And Bitching

Witching And Bitching
Indulge me with Álex de la Iglesia’s gender warfare picture, Witching and Bitching. A coven of witches captures a gang of robbers and proceeds to emasculate them in their lair. The film leans far more towards comedy than any sort of occult terror, but the devil is in the details.

The film features the small town of Zugarramurdi, world famous as one of the central European hubs of Witchcraft, and judging by the local bar in the film, the townsfolk are none to shy about hiding things. The key witches are played three generations established actresses who, besides being semi-regulars for this director, often appear in Pedro Almodovar films. The film is batshit crazy and shows not an ounce of restraint, anywhere, but man oh man, it’s worth it for the opening heist involving a silver painted Jesus with a shotgun and a compact getaway car.

The real Basque-region locals are all extras in the big action-set piece climax which might be a tad heavy on CGI (at times resembling the Matrix sequels with all its complex wire-work) but makes wonderful use of Zugarramurdi’s spectacular witch-caves (“The Devil has no tail, but his pussy is like a cave”) and features enough practical location work to evoke everything from Peter Jackson’s Braindead to Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances. Like those films, there is a manic energy on display co-existing with a reverence for the tiniest details in any given scene. The sense of escalation achieved is a marvellous thing.

It’s a lark, but don’t let that stop you.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Trance

TranceMovie Poster

Director: Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later)
Screenplay: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 101 min.


Hot off the heels of having the world in the palm of his hand with the Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle delivers his first feature film since the harrowing 127 Hours. Trance is a bewitching puzzle of a thriller that’s off-kilter fun from start to finish, reminding us of Boyle’s amazing ability to surprise his audience.

James McAvoy plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer who teams up with a gang of criminals in order to steal an expensive painting. However, the robbery doesn’t exactly go to plan, the painting goes missing and Simon apparently can’t remember what happened to it after taking a nasty blow to the head. The leader of the gang (Vincent Cassel) then decides to enlist the help of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) in order to unlock the memory in Simon’s head of where the painting is located.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Trance

Slick editing rhythms. Complicated heist gone awry. Underworld supplying the beats. This is Danny Boyle in his comfort zone, most definitely, but it also looks like he is still aiming to amp up the visual style (note the Sunshine / 127 Hours up-close camera work) and hall of mirrors pacing to make for an pretty entertaining little con-artist gambit that aims to mess with your head.

James McAvoy plays the mastermind behind bold bit of art thievery, that is until his partner, played by Vincent Cassel, turns on him but fails to acquire the artwork. McAvoy ends up with a memory wiping head injury, who goes to a hypnotist to recover the location of the art out of his head, but the therapist, played by Rosario Dawson is working for Cassel. Lots of twists and turns ensue. Fluff? Probably. Will it be good? I’m betting it will be. (Any movie that gives McAvoy a head injury is good in my book.)

Now You See Me [trailer]

Flashy, exotic, big-budget. These are Louis Leterrier’s movies in a nutshell. I wasn’t a fan of The Incredible Hulk, but I do think the Transporter movies are fun for what they are and Clash of the Titans was unfairly railed upon. All of it high art? No of course not. But now maybe Mr. Leterrier is attempting to turn over a new leaf with Now You See Me. Kinda. It still looks flashy and ridiculous but at least it’s something new:

A high caliber cast who robs a bank. With magic. On the other side of the world. In front of a live audience. I’m sold. Nothing else to say other than that making Jesse Eiesenberg look like somewhat of a badass is a magic feat all in teslef. Check out this flashy trailer starring the following. Ready?
Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent and Elias Koteas.

Trailer: Robot & Frank

What a bizarre genre defying Indie film. Frank and Robot is an Asimov-ian robot science fiction inflected Sundance dramedy mixed with a Winter-Winter romance and is also a heist movie to boot. The film has a quality cast including Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Sisto and Peter Saarsgard. Wrap your head around this oddity of a trailer which is already 1 x 1014 times better than Bicentennial Man.

Set sometime in the future, Robot & Frank is a delightful dramatic comedy, a buddy picture, and, for good measure, a heist film. Curmudgeonly old Frank lives by himself. His routine involves daily visits to his local library, where he has a twinkle in his eye for the librarian. His grown children are concerned about their father’s well-being and buy him a caretaker robot. Initially resistant to the idea, Frank soon appreciates the benefits of robotic support—like nutritious meals and a clean house—and eventually begins to treat his robot like a true companion. With his robot’s assistance, Frank’s passion for his old, unlawful profession is reignited, for better or worse.

Review: Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge Poster

Director: Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil)
Screenplay: Pablo F. Fenjves
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick, William Sadler
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian
Running Time: 102 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13

It’s amazing what you miss even when you don’t realize you’re missing it.

It’s been a number of years since the release of Spike Lee’s Inside Man and since then, there have been few notable entries into the heist drama. Enter Pablo F. Fenjves, a TV writer with a story pitch that pits a desperate man, an escaped convict no less, on the ledge of a Manhattan building. The unfortunately titled Man on a Ledge stars Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy, a man desperate for attention but more than that, he’s desperate for someone to believe in him. As his suicide note explains “I will go out of this world as I entered it. Innocent.” He requests Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) as his negotiator, an ostracized cop who seems a strange choice for the job but Nick has a plan and he hopes Lydia will help him unearth the truth behind the crime that led to his incarceration.

Man on a Ledge Movie StillThere’s more to this tale than a wrongly convicted man clearing his name; it’s also the story of sweet revenge. While Nick talks circles around Lydia, slowly revealing his identity and the history that has led to his perilous situation, he’s also buying time for his brother to break into a safe in a nearby building. The grand plan is simple: prove Nick’s innocence and steal a huge diamond but getting there is a little more complicated than either of them bargained for especially when you’re dealing with dirty cops, David Englander – a ruthless real estate mogul (Ed Harris) who is willing to kill to get his way and a vault room directly lifted from either James Bond or Mission Impossible.

There are problems with Man on a Ledge’s script, especially when one considers the story with any degree of scrutiny, but that’s only an afterthought because somewhere between the time Nick climbs out on the ledge and the moment he jumps off the roof to tackle Englander on the street corner, I was so wrapped up in the unfolding events, as unlikely as they might be, that I never considered how the final thirty minutes would fall apart if the diamond had been in the vault.
Would you like to know more…?