Advertisements

Soderbergh’s ‘Logan Lucky’ Is A Heartland Heist Worth Watching

logan lucky

Logan Lucky was directed by Steven Soderbergh, the man behind the Ocean’s 11 films and Magic Mike. It features hilarious characters, farfetched schemes, and a leisurely pace that will take some by surprise, but like its band of robbers, it’s a film that’s easy to underestimate.

It’s no secret that Hollywood has shown little interest in bringing stories about the American South to mainstream audiences over the last decade or two, to the point where Pixar’s Cars 3 was their chief cultural representation in Summer 2017 until Logan Lucky came along, a heist film with the trappings of a tentpole that also happens to be based on an original screenplay, albeit by someone who appears to be invented, with the pseudonym “Rebecca Blunt” as their credit.

Put simply, Logan Lucky is indeed another movie about an outlandishly competent crew pulling off an impossible crime from Soderbergh, but it’s also a deconstruction of his own work, to the point where the film actually references the Ocean’s 11 movies by branding this film’s crew as “Ocean’s 7-11.” It’s one of many jokes that hits home in a film that takes aim at subverting your expectations for a fast and clean crime romp.

The big plan is to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during a high-profile Nascar race, conveniently where one of the characters recently lost his job and is now looking for a way to improve his sympathetic financial situation. The titular Logan siblings consist of Clyde (played by Adam Driver), an Iraq War vet who lost his arm and is now a bartender, Mellie (played by Riley Keough), a quietly dignified hairdresser, and Jimmy (played by Channing Tatum), a divorced and out-of-work dad sharing custody with his ex-wife and high school sweetheart (Katie Holmes) from when he was the quarterback until a leg injury ruined his chances of going to the NFL.

logan lucky

There are many other interesting and vibrant characters along the way, of course, including a high-energy Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, the demolitions expert the Logans need to break out of jail on the day of the race. For what is at times a pretty slow-paced film, the development of the heist in question is actually a bit rushed, specifically with how this major set piece is placed in the second act of the movie instead of the third. It’s an odd structural decision that does well to make Logan Lucky stand out in a frankly overcrowded genre.

Most importantly, Logan Lucky manages to be about more than hi-jinks and funny moments. There’s a wealth of heart and authenticity in this screenplay and how it treats its location, characters, and subject matter. It’s not condescending, but it’s also not pandering, and best of all, it’s pretty entertaining for a movie where most of what’s happening is impossible to believe. It’s only major flaws are in how some long stretches of the film feel quite a bit too long and meandering, which is sure to make many in the audience wonder why more of the film wasn’t cut for a leaner experience. But what we do get from Logan Lucky is plenty to chew on, regardless.

Grade: B+


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my Mailing List.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

Advertisements

Why is the New James Bond Movie Called ‘Spectre?’

spectre james bond

Ross Miller | The Verge:

This morning, director Sam Mendes announced the official name for the 24th Bond film (Spectre), the official Bond car (Aston Martin DB10), and key cast members. Five newcomers (Andrew Scott, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, and Monica Bellucci) will be joining the group established in 2012’s Skyfall: Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, and of course Daniel Craig himself as James Bond. 

Spectre begins filming tomorrow and is set for release November 6th, 2015.

I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite James Bond movie in Hollywood (sorry, I had to do that).

In order, that’s Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and…Spectre. Anyone else feel like the title is lacking something?

Though to be fair, this movie won’t be lacking talent. Along with the stellar cast listed above, Spectre is thankfully gifted with the same writing and cinematography team as Skyfall.

As for the title, a rumored plot synopsis is that “Spectre” is the name of a new crime organization that Bond has to take down. So I guess we shouldn’t expect it to be tied to a third act revelation the same way Skyfall was. And that’s probably a good thing.

The Next James Bond Movie and Casting Will be Announced Thursday

james bond

Nancy Tartaglione | Deadline

It’s not exactly a speedboat on the Thames, but Thursday’s Bond 24 event is sure to kick up a raft of global excitement. That’s when the moniker for the latest 007 yarn will be unveiled at Pinewood Studios. The event will be streamed at 007.com, and we’ll carry the live video here at Deadline that morning. Also to be divulged is the full cast of actors who will alternately cozy up to or try to kill Daniel Craig’s superspy. Expected to return are Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny. I’ve also heard that Monica Bellucci may be in the mix.

Of course, Sam Mendes will be directing again, which shouldn’t surprise anyone after the monumental success of Skyfall. That said, it’s hard to guess what’s in store for the franchise going forward.

Let’s just hope it’s not another remake.

What I Learned About Writing From Ian Flemming

Image Courtesy of theparisreview.org

Ian Flemming created one of the most iconic figures of modern times. James Bond. He wrote the original novels that would someday become immortalized in one of film’s biggest, and greatest achievements: the first real franchise for movies.

I recently watched a documentary about the James Bond franchise, called Everything Or Nothing. It’s the full story of how James Bond came to be, both in print and on film, leading up to the release of the latest Bond film, Skyfall. The documentary was definitely fascinating for a Bond fan like me, and you can catch the whole thing on Netflix.

One of the biggest takeaways I took from the documentary was how Ian Flemming became a literary success. He came into writing as the Cold War began, and he went into writing almost like it was his life’s mission to translate his experiences and imagination into a book. The character of James Bond is really what Ian envisioned himself to be, which is why the lore would become such a staple. James Bond represents pure escapism.

When he first wrote the books, he would write over 2,000 words a day, everyday. He would write in very short sentences, the documentary explains, in order to capture the characterization of James Bond. What immediately comes to mind is how this has carried on in every James Bond movie (well maybe not the Timothy Dalton ones), where the titular character responds in short, clever responses to what happens around him.

I obsess over making sure my sentences count, and I prefer to keep them as prolonged as I can without disrupting the flow of what I’m trying to say. With Flemming, we have a writer who understood that this doesn’t always work for characterization.

When crafting dialogue, which is something I’m poor at, it is essential to say as much as you can in very few words. This is a lot like copywriting, but with a twist: the character you’re reflecting has to be believable. This isn’t always the case with advertising, since their time on screen is short. The dialogue of a character in a story, however, has to have a consistent and precise personality.

We see this in James Bond, for sure, especially since Flemming put so much of his own personality into the character. That makes crafting other characters a huge difficulty when writing, which is a main reason why most people are not that great at it. Empathy, understanding, and world-building are key in writing.

There is one more thing I took away from Flemming’s success. When he first wrote the James Bond novels, he made them exactly the way he wanted to. He used themes that would not go over very well with many people, such as the use of womanizing, overt sexual themes, and even sadism. The result was initial backlash.

It would have been easy for Flemming to give up at that point and conform his style of writing in order to please the masses and find success. How many of us have been faced with that decision? Instead, Flemming wrote what he wanted to write, and the ultimate result was that he was a pioneer. His work became legendary because it was something no one had done before.

The whole story of how James Bond became immortalized in film is full of huge risks and gambles, hence the title of the documentary, Everything or Nothing. I highly encourage anyone to see it, whether they be a Bond fan or just a lover of rags to riches stories.

Regardless, I will be sure to write according to these principles inspired upon me from one of the most underrated  writers in his time: Write what you want to write about. Take risks. Put yourself into your work. Make it count.

Of course, putting yourself into your work may not be a great idea if you’re not that interesting. Mean?

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Top 7 Movies of 2012

Image Courtesy of Fanart.tv

This was a fantastic year for movies, so I just had to make a list. Keep in mind that these are the movies I personally enjoyed the most and may not be for everyone. I did leave out some great movies on this list, so I will be doing honorable mentions at the very bottom.

7. Rise of the Guardians (PG)

Image courtesy of catholicexchange.com

What? Pixar didn’t make my favorite animated movie list? Honestly, Brave didn’t even beat out Hotel Transylvania for me. I found it bland, boring, and ultimately underwhelming, especially for a Pixar film. No, Rise of the Guardians makes this list because it simply was the most enjoyable animated film I saw this year. It could have easily been a contrived mess, cashing in on the exciting premise of seeing Santa, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy fighting the Boogeyman. Thankfully, the movie has some great storytelling behind it thanks to the series of books it’s based upon, making it an action-packed kid’s movie with some interesting, sometimes deep themes. Plus, it was great to see The Sandman actually being the “strongest” of the guardians. Definitely glad I went out and saw this one.

6. Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Gawker

What a great way to conclude a trilogy. I have to admit that I wasn’t as impressed as everyone else with The Dark Knight, but I more than appreciated how well they crafted such a phenomenon. I had my doubts that DKR would even manage to come close to meeting expectations fans had for this film, but I was pleasantly surprised. Put simply, the movie did it for me. It had plenty of flaws and gaping plot-holes, but it was still an enjoyable ride from start to finish, and they managed to end the trilogy in a way that pleases pretty much everyone. I call that a win.

5. Les Miserables (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

What more can I say besides the fact that Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were so good at their roles that absolutely everything else I disliked about the movie pretty much meant nothing because, holy crap, I got to see some of the best acting of the year done to a musical. See this in theaters while you can.

4. Chronicle (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Best Movies Ever News

What a fantastic movie this turned out to be. At a time when we’re getting bombarded with the “handheld camera” style of filmmaking (Paranormal Activity 4 anyone?), I was relieved to see a studio really nail it with Chronicle. The movie already wins points on not being an adaptation or sequel. It was just an ambitious project that was filmed extremely well and ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year. It worked because it was simple and well-executed with believable characters and, of course, the powers these kids used evolved from entertaining to epic, making the final battle scene one of the best superhero finales I can say I’ve seen.

3. Ted (R)

Image Courtesy of filmofilia.comI hate Family Guy these days. Ever since the end of season 6, I have been extremely disappointed with the show and have completely given up on it. Sure, I watch episodes every so often to “check-in” and see if the show has managed to fix whatever it is that they broke. Hasn’t happened yet, but maybe that’s why I enjoyed Ted so much. Seth McFarlane, the mastermind (and pretty much every voice) behind Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show produced this movie, and it really was like the spirit and humor of past Family Guy were revived. Ted was easily the most funny movie I saw this year, and the reasons it worked go beyond the humor. Just look at how they handled Mila Kunis, who we probably should have hated but ended up empathizing with. The casting was the most well-done aspect of this film, with Ted becoming one of this year’s biggest new stars. Not bad for a teddy bear.

2. Skyfall (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Collider

I’ve been an avid fan of the James Bond franchise since I was old enough to watch them back when Goldeneye came out. To be honest, however, I haven’t enjoyed a Bond film (with the exception of Casino Royale, though even that was disappointing in part) since The World is Not Enough back when I was just 9 years old. The charm and mind-splitting plot of James Bond just hasn’t been there until we received Skyfall, a Bond movie that finally took some serious risks. They say that Bond films are most successful when they reflect the taste of the times. This is why Cold-War, macho villainy, and gadget hi-jinks were so popular back in the baby boomer days. Now, we’ve finally received a Bond film that adapts to the audiences of today. It was a fantastic action film that utilized the gritty realism and introspection we have come to expect thanks to Christopher Nolan. The villain ended up being the best movie villain of the year, I’d say, thanks to a brilliant performance by Sam Mendes. Just the fact that Skyfall actually took the risk of showing us a more emotional Bond without polarizing what makes him iconic is a testament to how well this film was made. 

1. The Avengers (PG-13)

I just enjoyed this film the most, okay? It wasn’t the most well-made film that came out this year. It wasn’t the best story. It didn’t have the best special effects. It didn’t have the best characters. Still, this was the most fun, escapism movie I saw this year. I lost myself in watching some of my favorite movie heroes fighting alongside each other against my favorite villain from their string of movies. I laughed and cheered alongside hundreds of people watching this movie, which is an experience I’ll never forget. When I think back, I waited four years for this movie, starting with Iron Man, so I easily could have been disappointed if just one of the characters fell flat. Not the case. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk lived up to my expectations perfectly. Thank you Marvel Studios.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Argo
  • Lincoln
  • Django Unchained
  • The Hobbit
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Wreck-it Ralph
  • Looper
  • Life of Pi

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

%d bloggers like this: