Logan Lucky

Posted on August 17, 2017 at 5:31 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments
Profanity: Some strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, scenes in bar
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and violence, prison riot, illness, explosions
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: August 18, 2017
Copyright Bleeker Street 2017

Steven Soderbergh, gifted us with the delectable champagne cocktail “Oceans 11,” a sophisticated improvement over the Rat Pack heist film set in Las Vegas with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. His new film, “Logan Lucky” is “Oceans 7-11,” a hillbilly heist, a redneck robbery.

The setting is Appalachia.  Instead of a Las Vegas casino, the target is a NASCAR race track in Charlotte, North Carolina.  But once again there is an all-star cast, a wickedly clever plot, wonderfully engaging characters, and delicious humor, with one “Game of Thrones” joke that is by itself worth the price of admission.  The credits cheekily inform us that “Nobody was robbed during the making of this movie. Except you.”  Even more cheekily, the credited screenwriter does not seem to exist.  But that is all part of the fun.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a good-hearted man from West Virginia who is down on his luck. His ex-wife (Katie Holmes) has remarried a wealthy car dealer and they are planning to move to Virginia, taking his daughter with them.  He has just lost his construction job, not because of his performance, but because his old leg injury is considered a liability risk.  His bartender brother Clyde (Adam Driver), a veteran who lost his hand to an IED, insists that the Logans are all just cursed with bad luck. Their sister Melly (Riley Keough), a hairdresser, is more optimistic — also very smart about cars and a few other things, too.

Jimmy needs to make some changes in his life.  So he makes a list of everything he needs to do to rob the racetrack.  It begins: “1. Decide to rob a bank. 2. Have a plan. 3. Have a backup plan. 4. Establish clear communications. 5. Choose your partners carefully.”

As in any great heist film, Jimmy then assembles his team, though perhaps “carefully” is not the way to describe what happens.  Foremost is explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, with a bleached blonde crewcut, an impeccable Southern accent, and a ton of attitude).   Unfortunately, as he informs them, he is “IN. CAR. CER. ATED.”  But Jimmy has a plan.  Joe agrees but insists that they include his two dimwit brothers (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid).

Also as in all great heist films, even the best-laid plans have to go wrong, so there are many unexpected developments along the way.  The fun of these films is the problem-solving before the big day, with careful planning, and then the problem solving on the big day as, well, take a look at Logan’s item #3, and another reminder later on that things will go wrong. The movie has fun with the characters, but not at their expense, at least not at the expense of the heroes/anti-heroes. It doesn’t treat them like hicks or rubes.

Keough is a standout and Craig is a complete hoot. There are small gems of performances along the way, including Dwight Yoakam as a prison warden and Katherine Waterston as a health care provider. We’re as much in the dark as the FBI investigators (led by Hillary Swank), and right up until the last minute we are not sure of exactly what happened.  But the answer is a total delight, as is the cast, all having way too much fun.

Parents should know that the film includes strong and crude language for a PG-13, tense family confrontations, some disturbing images, an amputated limb, references to war casualties, fights, and peril (mostly comic).

Family discussion: What was the most important item on Jimmy’s list?  What did he forget?

If you like this, try: “Welcome to Collinwood,” “Out of Sight,” and “Oceans 11″

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Comedy Crime DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews

Touched With Fire

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Mental illness, suicide attempt, risky behavior
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: February 12, 2016

Movies are fascinated with mentally ill people but they usually do not do a very good job of portraying them accurately or compassionately. Too often they are serial killers (“Silence of the Lambs”). Even worse, many times they are adorable wise fools (“Benny & Joon,” “King of Hearts”), somehow tuned in to a finer way of thinking. We very seldom get to see them as people. But “Touched With Fire,” named for the book on bi-polar disorder by a doctor who herself is bi-polar and written and directed by Paul Dalio, who is bi-polar, has a sense of deep understanding of the characters that makes it very compelling.

Dalio takes us inside, literally shifting the color scheme and the walls of the sets so that we not only see the characters experiencing a manic high but get a sense of how thrilling, liberating, and exhilarating it feels. He is also deeply compassionate to the family members. Christine Lahti and Griffin Dunne show us the endless and sometimes exhausting love, fear, and pain for their children.

Dalio and his characters, Marco (Luke Kirby) and Carla (Katie Holmes) feel kinship to the many artists who were bi-polar, from Van Gogh to Hemingway (we see a list in the film’s closing credits). The manic cycles of bi-polar disorder can spark a kaleidoscopic geyser of artistic energy. Marco and Carla are both poets with wild, vivid word choices. They meet in a mental hospital and are immediately drawn to one another, triggering a manic episode that catapults them into ecstatic happiness. But the down cycle and the consequences of their behavior create complications.

Dalio is very good at conveying the subjective experience of mania and the family dynamics and the poetry and speech of the two main characters limns the uncertain line between art and madness. Holmes and Kirby both give performances of enormous sensitivity and insight. But Dalio’s very diligence about fairness to everyone and some didactic discursiveness are better for therapeutic purposes than narrative purposes. In its best moments, it is a thoughtful, compassionate film that shows how art can help to both heal and express thoughts that are otherwise dangerously uncontainable.

Parents should know that this movie includes themes of mental illness and medication, with attempted suicide and risky behavior, strong language, sexual references, and abortion.

Family discussion: What was the best way for Marco’s and Carla’s parents to respond to their news? Why did Carla and Marco make different choices?

If you like this, try: the book by Kay Redfield Jamison and Mark Ruffalo’s performance in “Infinitely Polar Bear”

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Drama Illness, Medicine, and Health Care Inspired by a true story Movies -- format Romance

Trailer: Days and Nights With Katie Holmes and Allison Janney

Posted on September 16, 2014 at 8:00 am

Inspired by Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” this is the story of a weekend at a country house that includes a famous actress, her discontented son, and people who love the wrong people and are angry at each other — sometimes at the same time.

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My Two Favorite Thanksgiving Movies

Posted on November 26, 2013 at 8:00 am

I admit it.  I’m not a fan of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” which always strikes me as nasty and mean-spirited.  For me, the two movies that best sum up all that is stressful and complicated and wonderful about Thanksgiving are:

Pieces of April Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, and Derek Luke star in this story about a girl estranged from her family who makes Thanksgiving dinner for them.

What’s Cooking? Four different families prepare for Thanksgiving, each dealing with its own family drama. Look for “The Good Wife’s” Julianna Margulies and “The Closer’s” Kyra Sedgwick.

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