Brittany Runs a Marathon
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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'Dark Phoenix' was measurably better than Brett Ratner's much maligned X-Men 3: The Last Stand, but still a far cry, quality wise, from Bryan Singer's best entries. Writer-director Simon Kinberg, at the helm for his first feature despite being a longtime X-Men franchise scribe, demonstrates that he should stick to writing and not directing. The movie is clunky in terms of direction with uninspired, hamfisted and sloppily edited action scenes that never possess the dynamism of Singer's sequences in the first two X-Men films or "Days of Future Past". However, Kinberg gets points, narratively, for his faithfulness to the Chris Claremont source comic this time out with Jean Grey getting possessed by a cosmic force. Sophie Turner toggles wonderfully between Jean's conflicted states of timidness and confidence often in the same scene and her chemistry with Tye Sheridan's Scott Summers/Cyclops is well established and deeply felt. This film revisits many of the the existing themes associated with this series while charting new territory with the ideological sparring and internal conflict of James McAvoy's Xavier and his other team members. A surprise death acts as the inciting catalyst for significant strife and all of the actors dig deep into this admirably. Unfortunately, the introduction of a mysterious, shape-shifting alien race from the comics, led by a totally wasted Jessica Chastain, does nothing for the film and might have mattered more if these characters were introduced two or three films ago. There simply isn't enough room to properly give these entities their due. Michael Fassbender as Erik/Magneto, once one of the more convincing and, admittedly overqualified actors in this series, appears to be phoning it in and isn't given the requisite screen time to make his part in this movie matter. Here's hoping that Disney's recent billion-dollar acquisition of Fox Searchlight yields a proper reboot with the X-Men and Fantastic Four finally entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But please, keep Kinberg far away from it.
Luca Guadagnino's fairly uninspired follow up to his more narratively concrete and successful mystery/comedy "A Bigger Splash" derives much of its running time to showcase the director's skills in composing pretty images that bombard the audience amid a plot that ambles and meanders about in no real direction. While there are committed performances that abound, no one actor really outshines the others and most of the acting is suitably naturalistic and basically blends into the images created by the DP. Whats immediately remarkable is the very sluggish pace and the exchanges between the central leads Timothee Chalamet and the supposedly much older Armie Hammer don't have the spark that's required to maintain a degree of focus on the story. The film is basically a leisurely stroll down a winding road that looks fantastic but ultimately fails to captivate beyond the surface layer.
Writer/Director/Rapper Boots Riley's directorial debut serves to highlight the best that the artist has to offer while also simultaneously giving in to his worst indulgences. Initially framed as a story about a young black man rising through the ranks of a telemarketing company that seemingly controls all aspects of a dystopian society, "Sorry to Bother You" begs the question: how far is too far? The first two acts are brimming with novel ideas and execution aplenty. However, the third act, which distracted me quite a bit in the worst way seems to come narratively out of nowhere. Without spoiling too much here it has to do with mutant human/horse hybrids. At the onset of that, I was as thoroughly confused as it sounds. Up and coming star Lakeith Stanfield ("Atlanta", "Short Term 12") really tries to keep the production from going completely off the rails and, unfortunately, he only barely succeeds. Despite the nonsensically sharp plot detour, welcome cast additions like a really maniacally unhinged Armie Hammer ("The Social Network", "Lone Ranger") and Tessa Thompson (Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok") are energetic enough to keep things moving. Riley doesn't entirely miss the mark as he always has social satire in mind throughout this sprawling, mind-bending journey. He does successfully comment on race and class and his alternate reality version of Oakland is a novel enough world that seems exceedingly close to our own. Definitely go see the film but tread with caution.
'Logan Lucky' finds Steven Soderbergh relinquishing his alleged retirement by creating a whimsical and snappy heist film that is equal parts hilarious, endearing and surprising. Armed with a propulsive soundtrack and a smattering of truly committed performances from a diverse, A-List cast (Katie Holmes and Seth McFarlane, wow!) the film is never plodding and, instead, demonstrates a very quick pace that never lets up. The acting MVP of the movie is most certainly Daniel Craig who all but melts away the mysterious stoicism he brings to James Bond in the form of the wily and manic expert safe cracker Joe Bang. Bang's name is incredibly apropos as he is a master with the ability to blow up vaults using nothing but scientific know how. When the brothers' Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) enlist his help to rob a NASCAR speedway, the unpredictability of the plot makes some surprising turns that will undoubtedly keep the audience glued for the duration of the two hour runtime. The movie could have possibly benefited from some slight trimming here and there as the middle section contains some slack but overall it moves with a breakneck pace. For fans of Soderbergh and for heist films in general, this will be quite the treat as it proves that the illusive writer-director still has some tricks up his sleeve. It's always great to see a master at work.