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Thursday
Sep142017

Gun Shy (2017)

I don’t wonder how a film like Gun Shy gets made. I wonder about the tipping point, that moment during production when myriad little problems with script, direction, performances, etc., swell into a capsizing torrent of mediocrity. Director Simon West has made big, mainstream movies before, as have stars Antonio Banderas and Olga Kurylenko. And it looks like few expenses were spared in telling the story of a washed-up rock star and his ex-super-model wife who get mixed up with kidnappers, the CIA, an off-kilter mercenary, and the world’s sleaziest talent agent while vacationing in Chile. But the concept feels yanked from the shelf about twenty years too late, and the humor is a puzzlingly flavorless puree of okay British comedy, dick jokes, and Trump-as-president sight gags. Someone paid handsomely for a movie that wound up largely bypassing theatres. But not nearly as much as those who might watch it.

Tuesday
Sep122017

It (2017)

“No one mentioned a clown”. Despite many attempts to read Stephen King’s thousand-plus-page novel, It, over the years, this sentence from very early in the book always stops me in my tracks. King’s encapsulation of unthinkable nightmares and sprawling small-town conspiracy unsettles me more than all the “good parts” I’ve skimmed, or the 1990 TV adaptation, or even Andy Muschietti’s new blockbuster film. The big-screen It compensates for a lack of scares with a dynamic young cast (as well as Bill Skarsgård, whose insatiable harlequin-monster, Pennywise, is sufficiently eerie when he’s not a sped-up-and-screaming CGI puppet). In updating Derry, Maine’s “Loser’s Club” to a pack of late-80s middle-school misfits, the screenwriters retain King’s sense of adolescent teen dread of the world and devotion to one another. I wouldn’t be surprised if, twenty-seven years from now, people remember It as a beautiful coming-of-age story first and forget to mention the clown.

Friday
Sep012017

I Do...Until I Don't (2017)

Marriage can be beautiful, boring, transcendent, and tiresome—at the same time. For better or worse, writer/director/star Lake Bell’s latest comedy captures matrimonial schizophrenia in a perfect, formal package. When an unhinged documentary filmmaker (Dolly Wells) looks for unhappy couples in a small Florida town, she encounters a web of interconnected sad-sacks with varying degrees of relational difficulty: Alice (Bell) and Noah (Ed Helms) struggle to save their business and start a family; Alice’s sister, Fanny (Amber Heard), is an aimless, millennial hippie in an open relationship with Zander (Wyatt Cenac); Harvey and Cybil (Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen) don’t know why they’ve stayed together for decades. Unfortunately, the documentary conceit dithers early on, leaving this terrific cast to chase unfunny subplots. Despite attempts at rekindling the initial spark (like a rousing montage set to Heart’s “Alone”), I felt duped by a flaky, focus-free movie that I hadn't signed up for.

Friday
Aug252017

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3-D (1991 / 2017)

Who can say why Studio Canal has re-mastered, re-worked, and re-released Terminator 2 on its twenty-sixth anniversary? Whatever the reason, you should make time to catch James Cameron’s more-than-a-sequel on the big screen. The film still pops with incredible acting, ideas, and special effects (making the new 3D upgrade superfluous but unobtrusive), and the director’s "tinkering" with a couple of problematic shots doesn't come near George Lucas' infamous “Special Edition” shenanigans. Arguably, Linda Hamilton’s performance and the script by Cameron and William Wisher remain the film’s biggest draws. Add to this the modern twin contexts of a global landscape saturated with conflict and a mainstream cinema landscape starved for meaning, and this touching, time-traveling-robots thriller assumes levels of meaning that Cameron could not have predicted in 1991. No one will remember 2015’s half-assed reboot Terminator Genisys in twenty-six years, but I guarantee we’ll be back for Judgment Day’s fifty-second anniversary.

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”.