Logan Lucky Review

Logan Lucky has what seems like a standard heist/comedy plot, but takes it to the nth degree. Cutting away the fluff and filler of usual heist films and giving audiences the weird scenes and exciting performances that they never knew they wanted.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike), Logan Lucky tells the story of a Southern family man named Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), who decides to rob the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. To help him, Jimmy has his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), his hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and an explosives expert named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Through an absurd turn of events, we the audience witness this group of unusual individuals attempt to steal millions during a famed NASCAR race.

Most of the cast of Logan Lucky felt more like actual backwoods goofballs than A-list actors, which makes many scenes all the more engrossing (and hilarious). And given the eccentric nature of the film, I often had no idea where it was going next, or even what purpose it served. All I really knew was that Logan Lucky didn’t feel obligated to play out like other films. The plot progression, for example, didn’t include many transition scenes to show characters getting from point A to point B. Alternatively, we are only ever shown what is absolutely necessary for the sake of understanding what’s going on, which ends up making the film all the more entertaining.

And rather than going with typical blockbuster banter, the humor in Logan Lucky is often very dry, deriving the hilarity from the bizarre personalities and interactions of the actors. Adam Driver and Daniel Craig were too of my favorite characters, playing two very weird individuals vastly different from what they’re used to. Driver goes most of the film with the same deadpan expression, and Craig has this maniacal look in his eye that I couldn’t help but frequently laugh at. Not all the humor of Logan Lucky was directly aimed at this Southern style mentality, as proven by Seth MacFarlane’s comical performance as an uptight British businessman.

Logan Lucky never tries too hard to dazzle, be funny, or impress the audience with usual Hollywood gimmicks. Instead, the film naturally comes off as impressive because of its charming actors, engaging story, and outlandish plot progression. And with the help of some clever camera work from behind the scenes, Logan Lucky transcends to what I would consider a fantastic work of art. It’s an oddly exciting, heartwarming film that I’d recommend anyone interested to give a watch.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review

The idea of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson acting in a buddy comedy together sounds like a match made in heaven. The type of roles they typically play are tremendously different, which would theoretically make for a highly interesting film. I say theoretically, because The Hitman’s Bodyguard perfectly displays the sad truth that, just because you have good actors, doesn’t mean you’ll have a good movie.

The film stars Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a protection agent who’s called upon to help protect a notorious hitman named Darius Kincaid (played by Sam Jackson). With a long, complicated history between them, Bryce must now escort Kincaid across Europe so that he may testify in court against a ruthless dictator (Gary Oldman).

Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson are pretty funny as individual characters, but don’t work well off each other’s comedic style. Most attempts at jokes dragged on for far too long, and nobody in the theater was even laughing to begin with.

This poor comedic outcome is due to the writers going for the double act style of humor, which is what you see in most buddy comedies of this caliber. Double act works in films like Tango & Cash and Men in Black because the characters are written with complete opposite personalities. Well, herein lies part of the problem with The Hitman’s Bodyguard, as neither of our protagonists have well-defined personalities

Jackson was more severe than Reynolds, but neither ever stuck with a singular set of characteristics. Jackson would often go from being a cold-hearted killer to a more sensitive and understanding person, almost at the flick of a switch. So when the actors don’t have defined personalities, it’s hard for the audience to relate to one of those characters, which entirely defeats the purpose of double act.

The villain of the film, played by Gary Oldman, is a bland Eastern European stereotype with absolutely no depth to his character. After having just watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard, I can’t remember anything about him. Now, Gary Oldman is one of my favorite Hollywood actors, and I think he can play a very diverse range of roles. So I’m incredibly confused as to why he was given so little to do the entire film. He never says or does anything of importance, making his character one of the more forgettable villains of past months.

Some of the action scenes were energetic, while others were fairly lackluster. Take the grand boat chase seen for example. It has a mix of clever and generic moments, however what really ruins the chase sequence is that it goes on for an eternity. The best chase scenes (and action scenes as well) are short and to the point, condensing what the viewer is shown into the most exhilarating moments. The Hitman’s Bodyguard unfortunately wasn’t all that exhilarating, or exciting.

When you boil it down, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is about as standard as a buddy comedy can possibly get. It attempts to go through the same motions of other films in its genre, but because of the lopsided writing it fails to leave any lasting impression on the viewer. It had some funny, even hilarious scenes. However, even the most enjoyable moments of The Hitman’s Bodygurad are overshadowed by sloppy writing and a sense of mediocrity.

The Verdict: D+

-Zachary Flint

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming, an exciting and well-acted entry into the Marvel Universe, manages trim the fat from your usual superhero origin story, and gives fans of Spidey the film they all wanted to see.

Presuming that audiences are exhausted with Spider-Man origin stories (as this is the sixth Spider-Man film in fifteen years), the film jumps right into the part that viewers want to see. Taking place shortly after his fight with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has returned to Queens, New York to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Here we see Peter as he attempts to prove himself capable of joining the Avengers, as he takes on local neighborhood crime while also keeping his social life in balance. Peter’s days of crime fighting quickly escalate when he gets wrapped up in the affairs of the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

The action scenes, dialogue, humor, and characters, are all pretty much everything you would expect from a Marvel film by now. While these details have become a typical, standard package that you get with every entry in the series, this doesn’t really hinder how well-executed Spider-Man: Homecoming is.

The comedic timing of the dialogue and jokes in the film are spot on, as Marvel filmmakers continue to perfect their quickly-timed humor.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man is probably as good of an on-screen Spidey that we’re ever going to get. The film goes very in-depth into how Peter’s role as Spider-Man impacts his personal life, and we see these struggles portrayed very well by Holland. The best part of it all, is that he still behaves and looks like a young kid. He’s oftentimes arrogant, impatient, and awkward, yet still strives to do the right thing (even with serious risk to his own well-being). With a little help from Tom Holland, Peter Parker is as charming of a character as ever.

Michael Keaton as the Vulture was everything I wanted it to be and more. His performance was incredibly strong, playing a very bad man who, deep down, may still have some good intentions. His excellent acting is complimented nicely with just how well his character is written. Instead of creating an elaborate backstory for the Vulture that takes an hour of screen-time to develop, the audience is given a brief summary of his motivations and even gets to see him in his costume, all within the first ten minutes. Again, it seems the filmmakers knew exactly what the audience wanted to see out of Keaton as the Vulture.

This being a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, the weakest moments of Spider-Man: Homecoming happened to be its connections to the ongoing series. A lot of scenes shared between Tony Stark and Peter Parker are unnecessary, serving as detours that the film doesn’t need. Spider-Man: Homecoming is very competently directed, and can stand perfectly on its own as an independent piece. It’s not imperative to include Avengers tie-ins every few minutes, as this type of screenwriting is more likely to hold the film back from reaching its fullest potential.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a well-calculated crowd-pleaser that I found to be very exciting and a lot of fun. Both Tom Holland and Michael Keaton give really strong performances, and share some of the tensest sequences in a Marvel film to this day. Unlike the previous two Spider-Man series, I feel that this interpretation of everyone’s favorite web-shooter will be the most universally loved and respected.

The Verdict: B+

-Zachary Flint

Despicable Me 3 Review

The Despicable Me series returns with its fourth, and regrettably most tired, film in the franchise. Full of hackneyed protagonists and uneven writing, Despicable Me 3 struggles to rise above mediocrity.

The film takes place shortly after the events of the previous installment, as we see Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) attempt to foil the evil plot of Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Upon failing this mission, Gru and Lucy are fired from their jobs at the Anti-Villain league. So instead of reverting back to a life of villainy, Gru decides to travel to the island of Freedonia to meet his long lost brother named Dru (who is also voiced by Steve Carell). After a somewhat rocky reunion, the two brothers embark on a mission together to take down an all new supervillain.

The plot itself is, overall, pretty predictable and typical for an animated movie this far along in its franchise. With no curveballs or deviations from a standard kid’s movie plot, I believe most adults and children could easily predict the entirety of this film.

The villain this time around, again named Balthazar Bratt, is a rather bizarre character stuck in eighties culture. Bratt enjoys playing cheesy music, using eighties themed gadgets (like deadly Rubik’s Cubes), and participating in dance fights, all of which is to the delight of the audience. Being voiced by Trey Parker (creator of the show South Park), his character gets a lot of laughs from his line deliveries alone. I think it’s safe to say that Trey Parker voicing Bratt was my favorite part of the whole film, and is easily the most memorable.

The rest of the cast, particularly the Minions, are sadly at their most tired in this flick. The humor involving the Minions just isn’t where it should be, and manages to be more annoying that it is funny. Scenes that should’ve been hilarious received almost no reaction from the audience.

The conclusion of the film, while fairly action-packed and engaging, leaves multiple loose ends that don’t really get addressed. Situations and characters that are clearly set up as important in the first half of the film are completely disregarded by the end. This leaves me to assume that either Illumination Entertainment forgot to add in a few scenes, or just got lazy.

Despicable Me 3 is lighthearted, upbeat, and will of course be adored by its usual fan base. So while the film is relatively harmless, its entertainment value is really only skin-deep, as the true purpose behind the production of these films feels as prevalent and cynical as ever. The creative aspects of Despicable Me 3 come across as “focus group approved” gimmicks. Utilizing by the numbers thinking as a cheap way to get viewers into the theater, instead of genuinely entertaining audiences with new, original material.

The Verdict: C-

-Zachary Flint

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Review

With the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, I’ve decided to review the film that kicked off this billion dollar series.

The story, full of sword-clashing, swashbuckling pirates, takes place near the Caribbean Sea, in a city called Port Royal. There we meet the charming and absurd pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp), who is down on his luck with no crew and no ship. Sparrow’s arrival to Port Royal turns out to be most unfortunate, when the city is besieged by a ship of undead pirates. In the process of raiding the city, the pirates kidnap the governor of Port Royal’s daughter, named Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), who they believe is the key to breaking an ancient curse. It’s now up to a valiant blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) in love with Elizabeth, as well as an incredibly reluctant Jack Sparrow, to rescue her from the cursed pirates.

I believe that Pirates is a great example of how to perfectly craft an action-adventure film. It maintains just the right balance of sword fights and ship battles, while also exploring new and exotic locations. Because of this pleasant balance of features, the audience is never really given time to get disinterested in what’s happening on-screen.

The characters are all memorable and entertaining to watch, especially Johnny Depp’s character of Jack Sparrow. His constant mannerisms resemble that of an eccentric drunk. Sparrow is full of hilariously shrewd comments, and knows just how to get on the nerves of any character. He kind be an idiot at times, but also cunning and resourceful. A great mix of traits for an impeccably written protagonist.

Jack Sparrow is, for good reason, the staple protagonist of Pirates, a very fitting role for Johnny Depp. Even in the most dangerous of situations, Jack Sparrow (as well as our other protagonists) remains humorous and witty. That, I feel, is part of the charm of Pirates of the Caribbean. What could easily be consumed with an extremely dark and gritty story, is kept at a relatively upbeat level. An unfortunate flaw of its many sequels.

I savor every scene in which Jack Sparrow miraculously escapes the British, or even some abandoned island. And I appreciate the attempt of director Gore Verbinski to make an entertaining and worthwhile movie. Making a thrilling film based off a theme park ride is no simple task, and Disney sure delivered.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Captain Underpants Review

DreamWorks has never been the company to stray away from a strange idea, hence their most recent major release, Captain Underpants.

Based on the book by the same name, the film follows the story of two mischievous elementary school kids named George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch), who spend hours a day writing comic books together. Sadly, George and Harold go to an authoritarian elementary school, where their mean Principal named Benjamin Krupp (Ed Helms) wants to separate the boys into different classrooms. In a last ditch effort to save their friendship from certain demise, George and Harold hypnotize their Principal, turning Mr. Krupp into one of the boys’ comic book characters, a superhero named Captain Underpants. Now it is up to George and Harold to keep the kindhearted but dimwitted Captain Underpants under control, as he attempts to fight crime with no actual powers.

Captain Underpants is one of the most diversely animated films I’ve seen in the past few years. Sprinkled throughout its runtime, Captain Underpants utilizes countless styles of animation to help tell its story. This works extremely well, as the visuals are always delightful to look at and will be able to keep most people engaged in the story.

The majority of the film is animated using a style similar to Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Peanuts Movie, both exceptionally good flicks. This form of animation fits nicely for Captain Underpants too, using bright colors and smooth images to make everything really pop.

Films like Captain Underpants are why I admire and respect DreamWorks more than any other animation company working today. They’re willing to take a risk on an idea that may ultimately blow up in their face. They think outside the box and go with concepts most companies wouldn’t dare dabble with. This is very different compared to a company like Pixar, who makes high quality films, but time and time again plays it safe with stories they know will be a big hit.

So was Captain Underpants high art? No. But it was entertaining, and did its source material a great justice. Captain Underpants has some funny gags and humorously written characters, and will mostly appeal to the goofy middle schooler demographic. Fans of the book are sure to love every bit of the film, and I think that’s what DreamWorks was going for here.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, at first glance, felt as though it might bite off more than it could chew. The audience is very quickly introduced to a slew of characters, old and new, as well as new locations and plot threads. Despite this overload in information, Guardians comes together quite nicely.

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), all return for another action-packed adventure. Now, after two films, these characters remain my favorite in the Marvel lineup. Each is so well written and fleshed out that I’ve truly begun caring for what happens to them on screen, far more than any of the other Marvel superheroes.

The film begins with our favorite intergalactic superheroes doing some freelance work for an alien race known as the Sovereign. After upsetting this race of aliens in usual Guardians of the Galaxy fashion, their ship is shot out of the sky and has to make an emergency landing. They are then saved by a man named Ego (played by one of my favorite actors, Kurt Russell), who claims to be the estranged father of Star-Lord. Weary of the vengeance soon to come from the Sovereign, Star-Lord and friends go with Ego to his home planet, which he created himself. Here, Star-Lord learns of his true parental roots, as well as his future potential for power.

The humor that Guardians employs shows they understand their audience exceptionally well. Most of the jokes are right on the money, as the film utilizes every chance it gets to throw some comedy into the mix. Often, like in the previous film, the humor comes from the nonstop bickering the Guardians partake in, which sometimes goes on for minutes. Another great source of humor comes from Dave Bautista’s character of Drax the Destroyer, as his rather blunt sense of comedy gets the crowd roaring many times.

Some story arcs our protagonists go through, however interesting, have already been done before in the previous installment. All our characters already came to terms with the fact they’re misfits, and Gamora already struggled with her sisterly relationship. So I don’t completely understand why the film deems it necessary to retread these plots points. Sure, there are some unique places they could take these ideas, but I can’t help but think they should’ve tried something new.

Above all other minor issues with the film, Guardians is unadulterated fun. Not a disposable, mindless, or even dumb form of entertainment, but instead an emotional one. Audiences will laugh, be sad, get excited, be disappointed (in a good way), and then laugh some more. Along the journey this film brings us on, we learn a lot more about these detailed and well written characters, while also learning a thing or two about caring for others close to us.

Armed to the teeth with eighties one-hit wonders, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will deliver the audience everything they asked for in a sequel, and maybe even a little more. The action scenes and dazzling effects will entice you, but the reason you’ll stay around is for the characters, as I feel Guardians has gotten characterization down infinitely better than The Avengers. The Guardians of the Galaxy are witty, crude, and know how to win you over. It’s a film I wouldn’t mind seeing again, and would recommend other superhero fans to check out.

The Verdict: A-

– Zachary Flint