Logan Lucky (2017)

Steven Soderbergh

Is movie Universe creation approaching a possible saturation and breaking point? We’re deluged with content on the movie and television screen and the market leader, Marvel, is fast approaching the point where newcomers could be too intimidated by the breadth of their universe. Meanwhile the other studios are racing to reach that same breadth with mixed success.

So, it is tempting, though not necessarily correct (yet) to claim there is a sort of reaction going on whereby established filmmakers are interested in making standalone stories. Examples include Shane Black’s hilarious and madcap The Nice Guys, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and, this, Steven Soderbergh’s return to the heist film. There is also growing speculation that DC might capitalise on this idea by making standalone films out of their properties (i.e. the rumoured Scorsese Joker origin film).

Like with Wright in Baby Driver, Logan Lucky feels like an act of escapism for Soderbergh. It is essentially a return to the well that was Ocean 11 overlaid with a different setting, target and cast of character tropes.

The movie is heavily stylised but feels a little too bright. There is no hint of the southern gothic which often makes southern texts much more interesting and unique.  Beyond the accents actors adopt this movie could, really, have been set almost anywhere in America fb395191b8e3d830ce8a4096994298d0(or even Australia with a few changes), the setting is horribly underutilised. There is not quite enough of anything, not quite enough car racing or stunts, not quite enough stakes, not quite enough character, and not quite enough reveal at the end. Unlike in Oceans 11 players in the heist are essentially all amateurs. They have no established set of skill and so the heist is almost unbelievable and somehow anti-climactic. There was an extra motivation in Ocean 11, revenge, which helped explain the film whereas the characters of Logan Lucky avoid and decry any sort of motivation.

Adam Driver and Channing Tatum could perhaps have been playing opposite roles to have suited their acting abilities better while, Daniel Craig is fun because it’s fun seeing him ham it up and it works in this movie but is part of the problem as much as it is a boon. Soderbergh avoids easy beats and the painful American movie second act interpersonal conflict and, for all of this movie’s problems, many also shared by Baby Driver, it is still fun simply going to see a well-made film not connected to another movie or necessitates staying around after the credits for a preview of what is to come.

 

 

The Hangover 3 (2013)

Todd Phillips

I’ve watched this film twice. It was ok first time around albeit confusing. Did anyone ever think this was a trilogy series? Want it to be? Need a third film to provide closure to events? NO! The first Hangover movie was a massive success. The second hangover movie was a copy of the first set in a different location and with a few tweaks but still a success, and an ok film. With that trend established it seemed safe to assume the third hangover movie would be more of the same.

But it’s not. Not at all. Same actors, same director and to an extent the same setup but much different result. No longer is there a hangover as plot device towards a reveal detective story. I don’t think this film even has a hangover in it and I liked that they broke from the formula but found myself guiltily missing and yearning for it a third time.

The second time I watched the film and without preconceptions I enjoyed it. It was easier to cast aside what I knew from the previous movies and watch this as a standalone story. I’m almost certain that once upon a time the script for this film was had a different title but that the easiest, or only way, to get it made was to overlay the character template of the hangover films. Either that and/or the director, Todd Phillips, wanted to showcase his action movie credentials so that he could branch out in the future. This second theory is semi-confirmed with his follow-up War Dogs where Phillips puts to work all the flashy bro-comedy action he seems to have rehearsed here. In the meantime, Hangover 3 has some good duel antagonist work from John Goodman and Ken Jeong and strong duel straight men in Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper to the crazy of Zach Galifianakis. It’s an ok watch but only if you can pretend it’s not a sequel to two unrelated films.

 

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The trilogy no one expected? Although this poster is pretty representative of it’s action over comedy tone.

 

 

 

Born Standing Up (2007)

Steve Martin

An impressingly well-crafted autobiography which, though brief, is an almost perfect splicing of Martin’s upbringing, pivotal biographical moments, evolution as an artist, encounters with fledgling and established celebrities, and struggle with the heights of his fame.

Martin is modest throughout the book but even within his humble recollections it becomes evident just how formative and influential he has been on modern comedy. It is this evolution of his distinct style which is the most interesting aspect of the book. Much of his stand-up and movies seem dated now, I think, but given the context of this book it is possible to understand just how truly unique Martin’s comedy was in its time. Iyoung steve martinf his comedy seems dated now it is because his inventions have since been so often copied and built upon.

I am always interested in reading about the evolution of an artist but have never read anything which provides such a clear understanding of how the evolution occurred. From a young age Martin is interested in performing and this book meticulously plots the twists and turns of his interest in comedy, development of style, interest in ‘doing it new’ and the subsequent struggle and then rise to mega-stardom. Along the way he performs with member of The Eagles before they are The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac before they are Fleetwood Mac, and even meets and is complemented by Elvis.

I would say that a failing of the book is that at times it is too modest, too glib and refuses to ever truly revel in the achievements or success of its author. I could have read much more on Martin’s film work and encounters with the SNL cast. When he does write about the peak of his fame, performing stand-up to arena’s full of tens of thousands of fans, he is still analytical of his act rather than congratulatory of his success. I would have welcomed more detail but will settle for a book that is, like the author, continually entertaining.

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