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Friday
Aug182017

Logan Lucky (2017)

Logan Lucky is filled with terrific actors affecting terrible accents. Aside from Daniel Craig (who helps create one of the year’s truly great characters in convicted demolitions expert Joe Bang), Steven Soderbergh’s fifth and second-least-interesting heist movie is led by performers whose voices are so meticulously Southern-fried as to suggest they’ve never actually spoken to people beyond the L.A. city limits, and whose obnoxiously kooky mannerisms run together in a senses-dulling melange of oddball comic relief, starving the ensemble of much-needed balance. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver star as the Logan brothers, who decide to break their family’s legendary streak of misfortune by knocking over the local motor speedway. The job is elaborate but mostly unsurprising and relatively incident-free; the lack of a villain—or even semi-believable motivations for the assembled team—renders Logan Lucky simultaneously weightless and interminable. This isn’t “Raising Arizona meets Ocean’s Eleven”. It’s “Duck Dynasty meets Ocean’s Twelve”.

Thursday
Aug172017

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was so profoundly disappointing that I had no interest in seeing a third film in what should never have been a trilogy to begin with. The “middle” movie in this re-imagined, new-millennium saga, is a dull curiosity that happened to come out between two brainy, ballsy, stand-alone films. Rise (2011), a cautionary tale about scientific hubris, climaxed with mankind battling artificially evolved primates. The latest film, War (a misnomer of marketing necessity), centers on the last stand between apes and a decimated American military, as represented by OG test subject Caesar (masterfully voiced and motion-captured by Andy Serkis) and a murderous, rogue colonel (Woody Harrelson), respectively. Audiences seeking a predictable, bloody battle of intractable armies may be turned off by director Matt Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback’s lonesome, winding journey of post-apocalyptic self-actualization. Pity them for digging three graves instead of two.

Tuesday
Aug082017

CHIPS (2017)

The plural-acronym title of 1970s TV series CHiPs stands for "California Highway Patrol". Dax Shepard's baffling bomb of a 2017 feature adaptation is simply called CHIPS, which, like the film itself, stands for nothing--except maybe the writer/director/star's ill-conceived gamble that the "Raunchy Comedy + Brand Recognition" formula works every time. This isn't the self-referential, genre-skewering fun of 21 Jump Street. It’s every bad buddy-cop movie ever, notable only for an alarming bystander body count that makes Man of Steel look like My Little Pony and a running gag in which society at large ranks analingus as being somewhere between first and second base. I laughed a couple times, mostly in disbelief at the ghoulish violence and waste of solid actors (Michael Peña! Vincent D’Onofrio! Jane Kaczmarek! Noooo!). Rubberneckers may key into the darkness and desperation with which Shepard re-interprets a beloved show from his youth. Everyone else should keep driving.

Friday
Aug042017

The Dark Tower (2017)

In retrospect, my disappointment with The Dark Tower has less to do with the screenplay’s infidelity to Stephen King’s novel, and more with its failure to capture the scope and imagination of Gunslinger series artist Michael Whelan’s illustrations, which helped sell the fantastic, horrific, and unfathomable destinies of a world that overlaps our own. Director Nikolaj Arcel and his screenwriters’ army trample the source material, pulverizing every shred of uniqueness and ambiguity into the grey, matte rubble of yet another Secret Teen Wizard Movie. The occasional moments of levity and genuine tenderness that poke through bland CGI obstacles and quarter-baked mythologies feel like a meta-tease, a glimpse at the parallel universe in which this film deserved to star Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey as the war between light and darkness personified. Sadly, the novel's fans may leave the theatre wondering how the King of Horror became the King of Ho-hum.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #245 to hear Ian and HollywoodChicago.com's Patrick "The Über Critic" McDonald scale The Dark Tower!

Tuesday
Jul252017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Luc Besson’s lifelong love for the cutting-edge Valerian and Laureline comics series is evident throughout his interstellar political intrigue fantasy, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The first fifteen minutes may be the most poignant and beautifully rendered I’ve seen all year, chronicling the construction of the titular hub of universal cultures and then dropping in on a wondrous beach world populated by fish-like humanoids. Unfortunately, the main character shows up and throws everything off balance. Dane DeHaan flubs his space cop role, going for ridiculously skeevy instead of roguishly sexy—a real problem that makes all his scenes (and the side-plots they serve) feel twice as long. Even Cara Delevingne, who fares much better as Valerian’s put-upon (and hit-upon) partner, gets steamrolled by the film’s two-and-a-quarter-hour muchness. Design-wise, Valerian is unabashed cinematic joy; narratively, it’s a bit like trying to cram a graphic novel into the Sunday Funnies.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #243 to hear Ian get into Valerian's orbit with Peter Sobczynski of RogerEbert.com!