Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back with this lively, relentlessly enjoyable caper that feels like a mash-up between his Ocean's Eleven and Magic Mike movies. Using America's economic situation as a launching point (without any political message), he spins a loose-limbed adventure with a gang of endearingly scruffy characters. If this is your cup of tea, it's a proper guilty pleasure.
In West Virginia, the Logan family has had a string of very bad luck, leaving Jimmy (Channing Tatum) with a dodgy knee and his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) with a missing arm. Their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) has so far escaped injury, so Jimmy hatches a plan to change their fortunes by robbing the Charlotte Nascar race course, which he knows inside and out because he's just been sacked from his job there. They need the help of explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who's in jail. So in addition to an elaborate heist, they must also plan a prison break. They also bring in Joe's nerdy gamer brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson).
Frankly, all of these people are such misfits that no one would ever suspect them of being capable of carrying out such a complicated plan. And that's the point: it's easy to underestimate people who seem uneducated. This gives the cast plenty to play with. Tatum and particularly Driver are terrific at the centre, with their hang-dog expressions and understated skill sets. Keough gets to play the one person in the story with brains, and has a great time rampaging through each scene. But the movie is stolen by Craig, who goes wildly against type as the hilariously nutty Joe. In one classic scene, he barely contains his exasperation while explaining how to make a bomb out of gummy bears.
Continue reading: Logan Lucky Review
It's rare for an American remake to be scruffier than the original, but this film is an intriguingly messier take on the super-slick, hugely engaging 2009 Oscar winner from Argentina. Filmmaker Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) has stripped down the tone and revamped the plot considerably, replacing the original film's big emotional surges with grittier intrigue and subtle intelligence.
The story begins as New York security expert Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) returns to Los Angeles, picking up the trail of an unsolved murder he worked on 13 years earlier when he was an FBI agent. His former colleague Jess (Julia Roberts) is still in the FBI, while Claire (Nicole Kidman) is now the city's district attorney. Together, they secretly begin looking into the case again, tracking the suspect (Joe Cole) through the city and dodging interference from fellow agent Reg (Michael Kelly). But the investigation doesn't go as planned, jeopardising all of them in their current jobs. And Ray is having trouble sorting out his relational history with both Jess and Claire.
These three fine actors cleverly play with the delicate tensions both between them and in the larger picture. At the centre, Ejiofor is gripping as a man of conscience who is tenaciously hoping for justice in a seriously murky situation. Kidman adds a slightly cheeky tone as a woman who has achieved professional success but never forgets the dodgy choices she has made. And Roberts gets the showier role, losing all of her Hollywood glamour as the tomboyish Jess, a woman with layer after layer of emotional turmoil. The chemistry between them is fascinating, even if the filmmaking approach feels dry and aloof. But there's so much going on in both the story and characters that it's impossible to look away. Nothing that happens is quite what it seems to be, and the big ideas linger in the background, leaving plenty for us to chew on.
Continue reading: Secret In Their Eyes Review
Despite a number of exhilarating surfing sequences, the interesting true story of surf legend Jay Moriarty is transformed into another dull Hollywood biopic. Painfully family-friendly, it's all so relentlessly smiley and sun-kissed that we wonder where the real story and characters are amid the sticky schmaltz. Even so, it's so beautifully shot that it holds our attention, especially when the cameras are riding the waves.
By the time he was 9 years old in 1987, Jay (Timberline) was already an expert on the tides in his home town of Santa Cruz, California. Watching the surfers every day, he longs to get out there himself. His mother (Shue) is a sleepy alcoholic and he never knew his father, so he adopts salty old surfer Frosty (Butler) as a mentor, even though he's not sure he wants the job. Especially since he's doing everything to avoid his own wife (Spencer) and baby. But Frosty sees Jay's natural talent, and seven years later Jay (now Weston) has the confidence to ask Frosty to teach him how to ride the mavericks, mythical monster waves that only come along every few months.
With its absent father and drunken mother, the script never feels like more than an after-school special, complete with a bat-wielding bully (Handley) and a surf babe (Rambin) who chastely flirts with Jay whenever they meet. Frosty even sets Karate Kid-style pointless tasks for Jay to teach him the bigger picture. But this set-up is so trite that we never have even the slightest doubt about where it's going. And the characters all feel like cliches rather than real people. The three women are especially wasted, but at least they add spark to their roles.
Continue reading: Chasing Mavericks Review
Shy, artistic 8-year-old Sally (Madison) moves across the country to live with her architect dad Alex (Pearce) and his designer girlfriend Kim (Holmes) in a massive old Rhode Island mansion. But she soon starts hearing strange noises, and after discovering a boarded-up basement studio, things start getting a bit freaky. But how can she convince her sceptical father and the stepmum she doesn't trust that there's something in the house that wants to tear the family apart? Even after the handyman (Thompson) is attacked, Alex continues his renovations so he can lure a buyer (Dale).
Continue reading: Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark Review
It's been a year since Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) Pevensie have been to the magical land that they once ruled as kings and queens. However, 13 centuries have passed in Narnia, and a race of humans known as Telmarines have overrun the kingdom. They have systematically killed off almost all the creatures, and rule by blood and violence. Within the court, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), brother of the late King Caspian IX, has taken over and threatened the life of the true, titular heir (Ben Barnes). With the help of the returning foursome, Prince Caspian will rally the remaining Narnians, leading them to victory over their evil oppressors.
Continue reading: The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review
Wahlberg even boasts the ideal name: Bob Lee Swagger. The surname ensures he's all attitude. The fact that he goes by three monikers means he's a bona fide presidential assassin, situated in a class above Lee Harvey Oswald.
Continue reading: Shooter Review
Written by Chris Columbus (who'd later go on to direct the first two Potters), our titular hero (Nicholas Rowe) displays incredible intelligence and wit as he muddles his way through a private, British institution of learning. With his pals -- a goofy kid named Watson (Alan Cox) and a curly-haired girl (Sophie Ward) -- Holmes gets into trouble and finds his way into a giant mystery that threatens the whole world. When he uncovers the villain, it's someone much closer than he'd ever imagined.
Continue reading: Young Sherlock Holmes Review
Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) is a "high level" autistic man living in a mental hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. When his father dies, he inherits $3 million, much to his brother's dismay. Raymond's brother, Charlie (Tom Cruise), never knew about him. He was very angry to hear that their estranged father left everything to Raymond except for a 1949 Buick Roadmaster. Charlie leaves his shaky car business in Los Angeles and travels to Ohio to find out where his father's estate went. When Charlie discovers Raymond, he decides to abduct him and bring him back to his home in L.A. until he gets his share of the money.
Continue reading: Rain Man Review
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