“Logan Lucky” stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, and Daniel Craig. Released on August 18, 2017, the film is about a group of siblings who plan on robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who also directed films such as Ocean’s Eleven, Contagion, Magic Mike, and Side Effects. After a brief retirement from feature filmmaking, Soderbergh is making a comeback with a new heist film…that involves the world of NASCAR. While I have little to no history with the acclaimed director, I was interested in seeing it because of its concept and the all-star cast. Not only was this his first film in four years, but it also marks Soderbergh’s first attempt to distribute it on his own, hence his new studio, Fingerprint Releasing. It was an interesting maneuver, but will it be enough to pull this heist off in terms of execution?
If you’re familiar with Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Trilogy, you may have noticed that he’s no stranger with the heist genre, and it shows. The story is pretty simple, but it’s also filled with dialogue-driven scenes that are both smartly written and interesting. It’s one of those types of films that you got to pay attention to in order to figure out what’s going on. Soderbergh offered a type of heist film that’s very mild to the touch while also expressing characters that are very fun to watch, and for the most part, he did a really good job at telling me this kind of story. But, in terms of its execution, it can also be his downfall if he’s planning on luring in those who wanted a fast-paced, action-packed heist film that’s in the same veins as the Fast and the Furious films. For starters, the pacing in the film was pretty uneven. The first act took a while to get itself going, but it got a little better for me as the film went on. It still has its slow moments, but it doesn’t get to the point where it becomes dull. Even though the entire heist sequence was nicely directed and respectively entertaining, it did manage to be a little too safe due to its lack of thrills. Nevertheless, Soderbergh was able to play with his strengths to keep his film revving, such as the talented cast and its superb cinematography. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver were great together as Jimmy and Clyde, respectively, but I have to give credit to Daniel Craig, who turned in one of his most unique and enjoyable performances in his career as Joe Bang. It was highly unusual that he would play a character like Joe, but he managed to pull it off with flawless results. The cinematography by Peter Andrews was also flawless for capturing every action and every confrontation between the characters with ease without the use of heavy editing.
Overall, while it’s not the greatest heist film in history, “Logan Lucky” manages to pull this heist off easily while also providing the unique storytelling that Soderbergh is known for. While the film’s uneven pacing and the lack of some high-stakes thrills may keep some people away, its talented cast, some fun characters, and its flawless cinematography are enough to lure in those who are familiar with Soderbergh’s filmography. This is probably something that I would watch again at home, but I can see why some people like his work that much.
“Leap!” (aka “Ballerina”) stars Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Maddie Ziegler, Carly Rae Jepsen, Mel Brooks, and Kate McKinnon. Releasing in North America on August 25, 2017, the film is about an orphan girl who travels to Paris with her best friend to capture her dream of being a ballerina.
The film is directed by Éric Summer and Éric Warin. It is considered a 2016 release since it was released first in France on December 14, 2016, but in this case, I will classify it as a 2017 release. We’re nearing the end of the summer movie season and we already got another animated family film heading our way. This weekend, I took the opportunity to catch a special early screening of the film before it hits theaters next weekend. Since this is an early review, I will do my best not to give out any spoilers in case you want to see it for yourself.
After experiencing a couple of animated features that involve anthropomorphic emojis and a bunch of park animals, it’s nice to see something that actually involves human characters and their quest to fulfill their dreams. Now, clearly, this is the type of story that’s been done before. A character dreams of being something and they set off to claim that dream while facing some tough obstacles along the way. The way they tell this story falls into the “average” category, mostly because of its usual cliches, character development, and its predictability. However, out of all of the average animated films I’ve seen this year, such as Rock Dog, I happened to enjoy this one the most. Sure, the story and the characters weren’t nearly as memorable as the ones that are from Disney and Pixar, but I think what made it stand out compared to the other average animated films is that while it offered a simple, by-the-numbers story that might please the little ones, it had a good amount of tolerance for some of the adults as well. The American version of the film offers a decent cast that includes Elle Fanning as Félicie, Nat Wolff as Victor, Félicie’s best friend, Carly Rae Jepsen as Odette, and Kate McKinnon. Most of the time, they did a nice job voicing their respective characters, although there were a couple of moments where they sounded a bit flat. The animation in the film was also pretty good, mostly the ballet sequences. During the parts where the characters aren’t dancing to ballet, the animation just looks nice. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s just nice to look at. Interesting fact about how they animate the dance sequences: The animators used key frame animation to translate the choreography of the star dancers, Aurélie Dupont and Jérémie Bélingard, into the film. I think those who are into ballet would be impressed with how the filmmakers animate the ballet moves. Like I said before, the film has its usual, yet supportive, theme of chasing your dreams, which is still relevant to this day, even though the substance is very straightforward and mild for the strong-minded animation fanatics.
Overall, the story alone stumbled a few times during its performance, but “Leap!” manages to keep itself going in order to deliver a remarkable finish. Despite its cliched substance and its troublesome development between the characters, the film offered a decent voice cast, some nice animation, and its relatable themes to provide a late summer treat for families. This is by far the most tolerable average animated film I’ve seen this year, although My Little Pony might take that spot away from it when it arrives in October. I highly doubt it, but we’ll see. “Leap!” will arrive in theaters next weekend, so if you’re already tired of seeing the minions, the emojis, or the furry little animals, this one’s worth checking out, and remember, never give up on your dreams.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Salma Hayek. Released on August 18, 2017, the film is about an agent who is tasked with guarding a notorious hitman.
The film is directed by Patrick Hughes, who also directed Red Hill and The Expendables 3. Well, this is about as close as we can get to seeing Deadpool team up with Nick Fury. While it’s not technically a Marvel film, you have to admit that you’ve seen that joke coming. This weekend brings us two original films that have a solid all-star cast, but I decided to start with this one first since I always prefer the action films first. Plus, it’s got Reynolds and Jackson sharing the screen together. The first time I was introduced to director Patrick Hughes was the action sequel, The Expendables 3, which was infamous for being the first film in the ultra-violent franchise to receive a PG-13 rating. Even though it wasn’t as great as the first two, I still thought it was a fun movie to watch. When I found out that Hughes was directing this film, my interest for it started to get much higher than anticipated. The question is, would it be able to match my expectations, as well as everybody else’s?
If you’re familiar with the 1992 thriller, The Bodyguard, well, this is pretty much what happens when they added the word “Hitman” in the title and increased the amount of violence, language, and comedy. This isn’t technically a spoof of The Bodyguard or anything, but it does have a similar premise with a few differences here and there, such as having Reynolds as Kevin Costner and Jackson as Whitney Houston. If you’re expecting anything new to the usual action comedy genre, this film may not be for you. It has its usual tropes that we’re familiar with and it does get a bit predictable and stale during certain scenes, but if you’re looking for some late summer fun, I believe this film offers that. One of the things that I enjoyed out of the film was the chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson. Their characters like to banter at each other a lot in between the action sequences, which can get a bit tiresome for some viewers, but they managed to offer some pretty decent laughs, especially Reynolds. Speaking of laughs, the comedy in this one doesn’t have a lot of memorable jokes that stand out compared to the other comedies, but it does its part in preventing the film from taking itself too seriously. I also thought that the action was pretty darn fun as well. Like the comedy aspect, none of the sequences stand out as memorable, but Patrick Hughes did a nice job at delivering what was promised in the marketing: an entertaining, action-packed ride.
Overall, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” offers nothing new to its cliched action comedy storyline, but for those who are looking for some violent fun, it hits the mark just fine. Bolstered by the two main leads, some decent laughs, and its fun action sequences, it’s a non-stop action fest that’s enjoyable enough to get you out of your late summer blues. It’s not for everybody, but if you like the two main actors and don’t care that much about the story, then I think this film is for you.
“Batman and Harley Quinn” stars Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, Kevin Michael Richardson, and John DiMaggio. Released in theaters as a one-night event on August 14, 2017, the film has Batman and Nightwing forming an unlikely alliance with Harley Quinn in order to stop a sinister plot formed by Poison Ivy and Floronic Man.
The film is directed by Sam Liu, and it is the 29th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series. More than a year ago, I attended a special theatrical event of the film adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke courtesy of Fathom Events. While it wasn’t exactly what die-hard fans of the source material had come to expect, I thought it was a nice experience regardless. You can find my full review for “Batman: The Killing Joke” in the ‘2016 Reviews’ page. This year, Fathom Events is pulling off the ‘theatrical event’ strategy once again for this latest DC animated film before it hits shelves by the end of the month. With that said, let’s see if this new adventure with the Caped Crusader can offer the same experience as The Killing Joke.
While the film’s story doesn’t take inspiration from a specific Batman comic, it does manage to remind people of Batman: The Animated Series in terms of its look and the people who worked on it, most notably writer Bruce Timm and voice actors Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester. You might consider it to be some sort of unaired episode of Batman: The Animated Series (if you’re able to), but in this case, it’s basically another ordinary direct-to-DVD superhero adventure...that garnered a PG-13 rating. If you’ve been following the DC animated direct-to-DVD lineup, this film is pretty much what you’re going to expect in terms of its style. Like many other films that went straight to home media, it has its share of flaws that somehow damages its quality, but despite all that, it was a fun ride. The voice cast did a decent job with their performances, including Conroy as Batman. After so many years of voicing the Caped Crusader, he still never lost his touch. Melissa Rauch, who is known for her role in The Big Bang Theory, provides the voice of Harley Quinn in this animated adventure, who is tasked to help Batman and Nightwing find Poison Ivy. Honestly, I thought she did a very nice job with her role. She flawlessly nailed her sassy and psychological attitude. One thing that I should mention about Harley in this film is that she offers an interesting amount of sex appeal compared to her other animated iterations, hence the film’s PG-13 rating. Not as sexy as Margot Robbie’s Harley in Suicide Squad, but this version came pretty close. I believe what made this film fun for me was the chemistry between Batman, Nightwing, and Harley Quinn. Their unusual alliance is like something out of a buddy comedy like Rush Hour, and while the story wound up being average at best, it’s their personalities, the humor, and the talented cast behind these characters that carried it forward. The animation and the character designs are very similar to the style of Batman: The Animated Series. The only difference is that it added an extra dose of violence and language into the mix, along with some sexual content. It’s decent enough as it captured the look and feel of an unaired Batman episode from the 90s that was deemed too intense for younger viewers, but like most animated direct-to-DVD movies, it’s pretty limited. Like I mentioned before, the storytelling is pretty average. There were a few moments that I thought could’ve been expanded more in order to increase its amount of character depth. I’m not going to explain what they were because I don’t want to spoil it for you guys before its official release. If you really want to know what they were, I’m afraid that you’re going to have to watch it for yourself. Another thing that I’m not a fan of was the ending. Wow…just…wow…. When I saw it for the first time, I was like, “Wait, that’s it? That’s how it ends?” I’m telling you, guys, there are a lot of films I saw that have abrupt endings, but this one takes the award for having the worst abrupt ending in direct-to-DVD history, in my opinion.
Overall, “Batman and Harley Quinn” offers the same antics that most direct-to-DVD movies are known for. Despite its average storytelling and its abrupt ending, this film is a suitable and fun addition to the DC animated collection. As for my theatrical experience, it wasn’t as perfect as my Killing Joke experience, but as a follower of Batman, I had a good time viewing it on the big screen. The film will be released digitally on August 15 and on Blu-ray August 29.
“The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” stars Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Jackie Chan, and Bobby Moynihan. Released on August 11, 2017, the film has Surly and his friends preventing a crooked mayor from bulldozing Liberty Park.
The film is directed by Cal Brunker, who also directed Escape from Planet Earth. He also served as a story artist for films such as Horton Hears a Who, 9, and Despicable Me. It is a sequel to the 2014 animated film, The Nut Job. You’re probably wondering why on earth do we need a sequel to The Nut Job. Well, to tell you the truth, it’s because Hollywood is going nuts over sequels. Despite its critical panning, The Nut Job was able to pull in a respectable amount of money at the box office during its theatrical release. So now we are getting a continuation to an animated film that we honestly don’t give a rat’s butt about. It’s entirely possible that some kids who liked the first film will most likely enjoy this sequel, but what about those who don’t?
While its predecessor focused on the animals retrieving the nuts from the nut shop, the sequel took a different approach by having Surly (Arnett), Andie (Heigl), and the gang fighting to save their home from being demolished. They also learn the importance of teamwork along the way. Right now, you’re probably thinking that since it is a sequel to a critically panned animated film, I would like it less than its predecessor. To be honest with you guys, I happened to enjoy this one a bit more than the first film, but like the original, it does have a lot of flaws that’ll make movie buffs and animation lovers go nuts in a bad way. Yes, it has its predictable moments as well as its corny moments, but it also has its entertaining moments, more so than its predecessor. Most of the main cast reprised their roles as their respective characters, and they once again delivered some pretty decent vocal performance, especially Arnett as Surly. One of the main issues that The Nut Job had was the fact that Surly’s amount of mean-spiritedness was a bit too much. For the sequel, they managed to make him more tolerable and supportive to his friends, even though he retains the grumpiness that he’s known for. However, it’s not enough to prevent the characters from being forgettable and mediocre. Not even Jackie Chan’s enjoyable voice work as Mr. Feng can make these characters work for me. The film’s antagonist, the Mayor of Oakton City (voiced by Moynihan), comes off as a cliched and weak animated villain who cares about nothing but popularity, and please don’t get me started on his daughter (voiced by Isabela Moner). If you thought that Grayson from the first film was obnoxious, just you wait until you see her. If there’s one thing I despise the most when it comes to watching movies, it’s people who act like spoiled brats, especially younger children. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to slap that little brat every time I see her on screen. The animation in this one was also a bit better than its predecessor. Even though it’s at the same level as the other average animated films like Rock Dog, it still offers its usual cartoonish slapstick that we’ve seen in the first film. The only difference is that it’s a bit more colorful. Once again, the humor that is used in this film is geared towards the younger crowd. While silly at times, it wasn’t able to impress those who are very strict on comedies.
Overall, “The Nut Job 2” is a slight improvement over the original in terms of the animation and its main character. However, due to its corny kid-friendly storyline, forgettable characters, and its silly cartoonish humor, it won’t be able to win over those who aren’t fond of the first film. Its central theme about teamwork and its entertaining values should be enough to entertain the little ones, but for a much older crowd who prefers Pixar-level storytelling and memorable characters, this latest animated sequel is a big kick in the nuts. If you like the first film, you might like this one as well. If not, then it’s not for you.