DVD

DVD review: Logan Lucky

LOGAN LUCKY | Official HD Trailer (screen grab) CR: Bleecker Street

Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement from filmmaking back in 2003 to focus on oil painting but after already going back on his word to direct for television, now he makes his fully fledged feature comeback with comedy crime caper Logan Lucky. The madcap plot follows downtrodden construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) who, with the help of his one-handed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), hatches a plan to rob his former employers when he gets laid off. To assist with their cunning scheme to steal cash from a NASCAR speedway track on the day it’s biggest rally, they recruit incarcerated safecracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his idiotic brothers. What could possibly go wrong?

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DVD

DVD review: Foxcatcher

foxcatcher
In January 1996, tragic news from philanthropist John Eleuthère du Pont’s multimillion pound estate in Pennsylvania shocked the world. Eighteen years later, acclaimed director Bennett Miller has adapted the true story for the big screen, focussing on events leading up to the incident and du Pont’s dysfunctional friendship with wrestling champion Mark Schultz. Despite being a winner in his specialism, Mark (Channing Tatum) appears destined to be in the shadow of his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), who also won gold at the 1984 Olympic games. Mark is approached by the eccentric du Pont (Steve Carrell) who invites him to live and train at his lavish wrestling academy, and to join Team Foxcatcher. An unnerving atmosphere looms over this biographical drama, the ominous tension heightened by colossal acting performances.
  The narrative explores the creepy, controlling persona of du Pont and how he manipulates the people around him. The pace of the build up is at times too slow, a lot of the preamble in the opening third covering Mark Schultz’s yearning to be noticed and to gain credibility in his own right, without the presence of his brother. When Mark meets du Pont initially, despite being isolated from his family, it is a positive change and he continues to prosper professionally. However, when his relationship with du Pont takes a sour turn, leading him to loneliness and illegal substances, their conflict produces the film’s most gripping moments. As the plot develops, Dave Schultz’s involvement adds to the dark dynamic and masculine ideals and ambitions cause character relationships to fracture further.
  Amidst Greig Fraser’s colour drained cinematography, Bennett Miller directs subtly and almost from a distance, giving the actors and their portrayals room to simmer gently before a boiling point finale. Known for his light-hearted comedy roles, Steve Carell warps mentally and physically into John du Pont.  With the help of make-up and a prosthetic hook nose, he is nearly unrecognisable and this is only the beginning of the transformative performance that has everyone talking. His dialogue is delivered in a chilling tone and his actions are never obvious. Tatum also ups his game enormously for his most sinister role to date, as does Ruffalo, presenting the Schultz’s as close siblings, in and away from the squared circle, but with competitiveness deep down, niggling away at their brotherly pact.
  Sadly in the run-up to the release, Mark Schultz has spoken out against the film and its apparent historical inaccuracies, verbally attacking director Bennett Miller on social media. I believe that there is always room for artistic licence when bringing real life events to cinema and whether it is factually correct or not, it is undoubtedly a powerful thought-provoking film. Miller again proves himself as a filmmaker capable of getting the very best out actors in roles they wouldn’t generally be cast in and tells the story intelligently and effectively. ‘Foxcatcher’ is never an easy watch but an essential one, and a main-eventer in this year’s awards season bout.
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DVD

DVD review: 22 Jump Street

22-jump-street-trailer

 After the huge success of 21 Jump Street in 2012, it came as no surprise that developments were soon underway for a sequel. Would it live up to the original or will it be doomed to become yet another unimaginative paint-by-numbers comedy follow-up? In a way, both boxes are ticked but the self-awareness of repeating the formula cleverly causes the audience laugh at and with the film simultaneously. The first saw cop duo Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) go undercover in a high school to investigate a drug problem, based on a 1987 television series. This time around, they do the same, but in a college! Hardly a leap forward in plot development, as the writers and characters will be first to admit, but there are more than enough big laughs to make it work.
  The budget thrown at a second go becomes a recurring joke and despite the gag, the stronger product value is evident in the film itself also. Proceedings open with a hilariously exhilarating chase sequence and a lot of fun has been had with the freedom of milking the profits of the predecessor. Flavours of other recent pictures of the same ilk are to be found, with the frat-pack humour of Bad Neighbours and a finale in Spring Breakers territory, so it seems the Apatow University alumni still don’t mind referencing the work of friends and collaborators. The directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, are known mainly for their work in animation, such as the Lego Movie, and this unrestricted manner lends a playfulness and creativity to their work. Inventive cuts and transitions often add to the amusement, juxtaposing the styles and statures of the leads, and a whacky split screen trip segment involving a fashionable new drug known as WHYPHY is among the highlights.
  Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are both on spectacular form, as Tatum again adapts seamlessly into the improvisational approach to comedy that Hill is associated with. Their partnership, on paper, shouldn’t really be as natural as it appears on screen but you get the feeling that their friendship is genuine which helps the humour on its way. They are joined by a solid supporting cast including Ice Cube who is fantastic as crazed police chief, Dickson. The sub plots are typical but well judged, as are the cameos which get better continuously until the brilliant closing credits which carries the franchise longevity joke further than you could imagine. The magic of ’22 Jump Street’ is that it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, and because of this, it doesn’t overreach. It already has a winning formula so simply repeats itself, and self-parodies with the wit needed to get away with it, making it the funniest in-joke of the year.
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DVD

DVD review: GI Joe: Retaliation

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  Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? Whatever it is, I think the recipe needs a serious rethink. Following on from 2009’s ‘GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra’, Channing Tatum’s Duke makes way for Dwayne Johnson’s Roadblock as the new leader of the GI Joes. When nanotechnology is used to disguise villainous Zartan as the President of the United States, Cobra Commander and Storm Shadow are released from their high security chambers and nuclear weapon Zeus is built. It is left to the Joes to put a stop to their destructive plans, calling in the original GI Joe, smugly portrayed by Bruce Willis to help save the day, and the world.
  In a plot full of stereotypes and a script full of very little, you’d think it’d be difficult to find something positive to mention, but here it is easy as the visual ambition pays off big time, producing scenes that are great to watch, providing comforting escapism, allowing the viewer to soak up explosions and action sequences without having to think too much. In particular, the ninja mountain fight scene is prominent, along with some impressive CGI city crumbling. For fans of the franchise, I can imagine it would be satisfying with a massive host of characters and nods to the series but as an action sci-fi flick it is nothing out of the ordinary.
  Losing Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Ecclestone from the original, the Hollywood sequel draft-ins include Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. Johnson’s comic patter is a perfect match for co-star Tatum, their cringe worthy dialogue like verbal ping pong, but where neither player quite manages to get the ball over the net. Bruce Willis struts into the story halfway through, excellently playing Bruce Willis playing General Joseph Colton, with trademark cocky glances and awful one-liners, looking as though he feels he is doing the picture a favour in gracing it with his presence.
  If you ignore the patchy narrative, the latest instalment in the ‘GI Joe’ franchise provides an enjoyable enough 90 minutes, boasting nicely choreographed fights and striking cinematography. Achieving box office success, it has its draws and to the cult following it will stand as a worthy addition to a series which looks likely to continue, but to the average moviegoer it serves as nothing more than a bit of mindless fun.

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