Tag Archives: Channing Tatum

Mythbuster

Smallfoot

by George Wolf

So, while we’re down here debating the existence of Sasquatch/Yeti/Bigfoot, an entire community of them lives above the clouds, wondering the same about us shorter, wee-footed folk.

That’s a cute and clever conceit for a family tale that might look a lot like Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., which makes it even more surprising when WB’s Smallfoot instead flirts with becoming the most ballsy, subversive animated film since Zootopia. It’s a film with big ideas, some generic and some risky, but just too many to juggle into a truly memorable takeaway.

Channing Tatum leads the voice cast as Migo, an affable Yeti who has always bought in to everything his village’s “Stonekeeper” (Common) was selling, including the fact that the legendary Smallfoot wasn’t real. But then Migo sees one, which raises some questions, and questions themselves are a problem.

Migo, like all the Yeti, has been taught to suppress any questions he may have about the stones the Stonekeeper is keeping. Those stones guide the beliefs of the Yeti through the various statements written on each. You might even call them…commandments.

Woah.

Smallfoot raises eyebrows early, but once Migo manages to bring smallfooted Percy (James Corden) back to his village, it settles into a pleasantly entertaining mix of messages, music, and Looney Tunes-worthy pratfalls.

Tatum gives our hero a fine voice (though his singing is a bit thin), Corden is always fun and the support cast (including Zendaya, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez and LeBron James) is capably unique, but co-directors Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig chase too many snowtrails.

Some moments, like the Stonekeeper telling Migo about the ease of deception, find their mark, while others such as Percy’s struggles with reality TV become overly familiar distractions.

The driving theme here is truth, and how very hard it can be to find. Question, be brave, explore science as well as faith. Maybe sing a song. Though Smallfoot doesn’t deliver on its radical beginnings, it finds a comfort zone less likely to spark partisan rancor in the aisle.

Hillbilly Heist

Logan Lucky

by George Wolf

You’re not long into director Steven Soderbergh’s latest before you expect to see Brad Pitt standing around eating something.

Why?

Because Logan Lucky is essentially Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 with hillbillies, which had to intrigue Soderbergh when he first read the script from Rebecca Blunt. If that is her real name.

No, seriously, Blunt is rumored to be a pseudonym for the actual writer, who should just ‘fess up and take credit for this hoot of a heist homage.

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) gets laid off from his job fixing sinkholes underneath Charlotte Motor Speedway, so he puts together a 10-point plan for his next career move. Two of those points are labeled “shit happens.”

The rest is simple.

Jimmy, his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and their sister Mellie (Riley Keough), will bust redneck robber Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) out of jail to help them rob the speedway during the biggest NASCAR race of the year, and then have Joe back in the slam before anyone is the wiser.

Soderbergh structures everything to parallel his Ocean‘s films so closely that when he finally addresses that elephant outright, the only surprise is how often the rubes draw a better hand than the Vegas pretty boys.

Logan serves up indelible characters, fun suspense, finely tuned plotting and solid humor, including a hilarious bit with a prison warden (Dwight Yoakam) explaining to some rioting inmates why the next Games of Thrones novel isn’t available yet.

As Bang, Craig is a flat out riot, doing fine justice to the best character name since Chest Rockwell, and standing out in an ensemble (also including Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Hilary Swank and Sebastian Stan) that shines from top to toe.

Assembled as precisely as a letter-perfect grift, Logan Lucky has smarts, charm and some downright weirdness. It’s a late August blast with more than enough fun to beat our summertime blues.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

It’s Only Make Believe

Hail, Caesar!

by George Wolf

Coen Brothers films can be brilliant (No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man), or not (The Ladykillers, The Hudsucker Proxy), but they’re always crafted with interesting ideas. Hail, Caesar! offers a few too many of those ideas and not enough places for them to fully take root.

The setting is Hollywood’s “Golden Age” of the 1950s, when Hail, Caesar! is the new “story of the Christ” epic being produced by Capitol pictures, and starring their biggest asset, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney).

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the square-jawed, no nonsense Capitol studio “fixer,” which means he’s the one dealing with kidnappers who are demanding 100,000 dollars for Whitlock’s safe return.

But there’s more.

Swimming-pool starlet DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson) is facing a scandalous pregnancy, singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is having trouble adjusting to his new image makeover, and communists may have infiltrated the studio!

Looks like Eddie picked a bad week to quit smoking! No, really, he promised his wife he would quit, and his tobacco guilt is just one of the issues that makes a regular in the confession booth.

Crisscrossing situations combine for a madcap romp that homages various classics of the era, including musical numbers recalling Gene Kelly, Esther Williams and Roy Rogers. The Coens’ writing is as witty and eccentric as ever, but save for two specific bits, rarely more than amusing.

Eddie’s consultation with a roomful of religious elders about the studio’s depiction of Jesus leads to some nice one-liners, while Hobie’s struggle to wrap his cowboy drawl around more refined dialogue finally turns funny after how-long-can-this-go-on repetition and the growing disgust of Hobie’s proper English director (Ralph Fiennes).

Like Fiennes, more famous faces (Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill) come and go quickly, all beautifully framed by esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins, but the parade of glorified cameos only makes the film’s eccentricities seem more disconnected.

Still, Hail, Caesar! is a fine looking swing that just misses. Beneath all the old Hollywood glamour is familiar Coen territory: faith, folly, finding your purpose and just trying to live a good life.

They’ve done it worse, but they’ve done it better.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 

Still a Magic Man

Magic Mike XXL

by Hope Madden

Rarely is a sequel superior to the original film – Bride of Frankenstein, The Empire Strikes Back, maybe The Godfather, Part 2. That’s heady company for Magic Mike XXL – in fact, the movie should never really be mentioned in the same sentence as those particular films – but let’s give it its due. It is a better movie than the original.

It’s been three years since Mike (Channing Tatum) left male entertainment behind him for the settled life. But he’s bored, basically, and he misses it, so he joins the old Tampa Kings for one last trip to the national stripper convention in Myrtle Beach.

There is a huge, gaping hole in this film shaped like Matthew McConaughey, who was the only reason to watch the original. McConaughey was Dallas, the leader and emcee for the Tampa Kings, and the performance was positively unhinged. This was just at the beginning of what anthropologists will call the McConaissance – that period of unbelievable performances that led to his first Oscar. He does not return for the sequel, and his inspired lunacy is dearly missed.

On the other hand, both Alex Pettyfer and Cody Horn are blessedly missing. I’m sure they’re nice people, but Lord they cannot act.

Another positive change, weirdly enough, is a switch in director. Steven Soderbergh directed the original to be a gritty expose on the dangerous world of Florida stripper life, while the film owes its irrational success to one thing: beefcake.

Director Gregory Jacobs embraces this. Welcome aboard a road trip of muscle and thong, spray tans and gyration as Tatum and his buds hope to pull off one last, big dance. They want to go out in a tsunami of dollar bills and they hope you brought your singles.

Tatum is effortlessly charming, as always, but his posse gets more of an opportunity to show off personality as well as pecs this time around. Joe Manganiello, in particular, gets more screen time in a film that’s far more bromance than romantic comedy.

There are also cameos aplenty, some glitter, some baby oil, and at least as much screaming inside the theater as on the screen. Ladies, calm down.

Magic Mike XXL is not a great movie by any stretch, but it knows what it is and it runs with it. Well, dances with it. And that’s fine.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

Patience Waning

Jupiter Ascending

by George Wolf

Didn’t we see the first trailer for Jupiter Ascending sometime around 1998?

It seems like quite a long journey toward an opening weekend, and the film is such a ridiculous mess, you wonder why they just didn’t get it over with and take their lumps long before now. There’s only so much you can fix in post-production.

Writers/directors Andy and Lana Wachowski, creators of The Matrix trilogy, again focus on an alternate reality that Earthy humans can’t even fathom.. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) gets hip to the news pretty fast, when the swashbuckling Caine (Channing Tatum) swoops in on his gravity boots and saves her from alien assassins who’ve been posing as fertility clinicians.

Sneaky.

Jupiter has been marked for death by the evil galactic ruler Balem (Eddie Redmayne), because she’s the only thing standing in the way of his long-standing plan to “harvest” Earth and everyone on it. It seems that Jupiter is first in line to inherit her planet, a fact even she can’t doubt when a swarm of bees seems to fall under her command. Jupiter is told “bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty,” and that she is, in, fact, a Queen.

Your move, Beyoncé!

The Wachowski’s intent seems to be a modern-day Star Wars, but they focus too much on the visuals while their big yarn becomes a bigger yawn. Impressive starships, sparkling costumes and an array of other-worldly creatures can’t hide the sophomoric storytelling at work here. The convoluted plot is thrown at us in hyper speed, as if pages of script were tossed aside to make room for the next battle sequence.

Kunis and Tatum bring one-note performances to their one-note roles, but Redmayne’s effort backfires badly. Though he’s proven himself a gifted actor, here he’s pushed to laughable levels of “bad guy” theatrics. Seriously, people will laugh.

Of course, Redmayne may get the last one with a best actor Oscar in just a few weeks, and Jupiter Ascending will quickly settle into the role it has earned: a bad memory.

 

Verdict-1-5-Stars

 

Trading Olympic for Oscar Gold

Foxcatcher

by Hope Madden

Sibling rivalry, loneliness, competition and madness fuel director Bennett Miller’s award-worthy true crime tale Foxcatcher.

The film follows the events that unfolded as Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz, and later his older brother, gold medal winner Dave (Mark Ruffalo), get involved with sinister millionaire John du Pont, who’s looking to bankroll 1988 US Olympic competitors.

Tatum performs as we have simply never seen him before, a fact that may be outshone by the other two quite amazing performances. Tatum has proven himself a facile comic talent, but his dramatic skills to this point have been lackluster at best.Yet here he brings a brooding, insecure competitor to life in every facet of his performance.

The always excellent Ruffalo is likewise stellar as the more congenial, more talented of the brothers, and the two together create a realistic sibling bond, one as desperate for the other’s approval and help as he is to finally best him; the other a tender, protective mentor.

Joining them, Steve Carell is revelatory as John du Pont. Never transparent, offering no easy answers, equal parts monstrous and pathetic, Carell creates an enigmatic and unseemly presence that haunts the screen. His graceless chemistry with all cast mates creates an uneasy tension in every frame, though his scene with a marvelous Vanessa Redgrave is particularly intriguing.

One thing you can expect from a Bennett Miller film is his meticulous attention to the setting. Miller creates such rich yet understated contexts that the drama unfolding within that environment cannot help but feel authentic. Whether it’s small town 1959 Kansas rocked by murders in Capote or Billy Bean’s world of low rent MLB wheeling and dealing in Moneyball, Bennett shows such respect for the settings of these true tales that the stories immediately take root.

Foxcatcher benefits from his measured touch – from the spare score and the film’s unusual pacing to the embedded, inescapable symbolism he mines of the relationships and the sport of wrestling. It all contributes to a building sense of unease that befits the tale.

Miller may go unnoticed as the maestro behind the weird onscreen magic, but his faith in unproven talent alone is reason to hail him one remarkable director.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

Fall Preview Countdown

 

Football, honey crisp apples, leaves to rake – you know what that means? It means the cinema will turn from alien invasion bombast to thought provoking, character driven awards bait. Hooray!  Here are the ten fall movies we are most excited to spend time with between now and the holidays.

 10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Sure, it’s another blockbuster and hardly the kind of adult, autumnal fare you’ll find on the balance of the list, but we don’t care. We’re as geeked for Katniss’s next step as any 13-year-old girl. Director Francis Lawrence took the franchise into ingenious new territory with Catching Fire and we are eager to see where JLaw and team can take the political maneuvering next.

9. Fury (October 17)

Brad Pitt returns to Nazi Germany, but don’t expect the dark comedy of Inglourious Basterds. Writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch) is at the helm of what is being described as a brutal but honest look at WWII.

8. Whiplash (October 23)

The always spectacular J. K. Simmons and talented, young Miles Teller join forces in a cymbal-crashing boot camp for musicians. Buzz for this one is great, and we love Simmons, so we’re ready to rock and roll.

7. Men, Women & Children (October 17)

Jason Reitman made his first major misstep this year with the syrupy mess Labor Day, but we are optimistic he will recover with this ensemble drama about how technology is changing our personal landscapes. Co-writer Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) should help.

6. Rosewater (November 7)

Jon Stewart writes and directs this true story of a journalist imprisoned and tortured for simply reporting on Iran’s 2009 election. Clearly a topic close to Stewart’s heart, we are eager to see if he can do at the helm of a film what he’s managed to do with his comedy show: articulate the people’s need for unencumbered journalism.

5. Birdman (October 17)

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes a break from heady, heartbreaking drama (Biutiful, 21 Grams, Amores Perros) for something lighter and a bit more meta. Onetime Batman, current struggling actor Michael Keaton plays a struggling actor once known for his role as a superhero. We are in.

4. Foxcatcher (November 14)

Steve Carell has gotten notice for an unforgettable and surprising turn in a true crime drama co-starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) has done no wrong so far in his career, and we are intrigued to see where he takes us next.

3. Interstellar (November 9)

Because Christopher Nolan. If he’s directing, we’re in line for tickets, so this space exploration/wormhole business starring Matthew McConaughey (hey, he’s been a good bet lately, eh?) sounds like time well spent.

2. Gone Girl (October 3)

Who else would we line up to see no matter what? David Fincher, who helms this gritty crime drama about a missing wife and a husband who looks guilty. Ben Affleck stars, which is not always his strongest suit, but we’re betting on Fincher.

1. St. Vincent

Bill Murray plays the aging, boozy whoremonger next door who lends a hand to the neighborhood’s new single mom (Melissa McCarthy) in need of a babysitter. What could go wrong? We will be on hand to find out.

Get Ready, Get Ready to Jump

 

22 Jump Street

by Hope Madden

I’m not sure how it is that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller keep surprising us. By now, no matter how inane the project may sound, we should expect big things from the directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. And yet, who’d have guessed they’d deliver the goods yet again with their sequel, 22 Jump Street?

Self-aware without being glib, and fueled by the same good-hearted energy that marks the duo’s work, the film is both a hilarious send up of sequels, and the natural progression of a bro-mance. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) go undercover in college, where a new drug has killed a kid and may go global if it isn’t contained. This, except for the college part, is the identical plot of the first installment. Of course, that’s on purpose.

The meta-sequel is short on character development, but does take some time to explore a relationship that may have grown stale, that spark in their partnership starting to dim. Is it time for Jenko and Schmidt to investigate other suspects?

Rampant silliness continues to be the driving force in the franchise, and Hill and Tatum – as the doughy neurotic and chiseled dunderhead, respectively – are enjoyably, even masterfully silly. Again.

Expect a lot of the same, but enough differences to make the bumbling police work fun, and more than enough sight gags and wordplay to distract you from any other weaknesses. A little slam poetry, one walk of shame, and an unexpected Benny Hill bit are some highlights from a film absolutely littered with jokes. Some hit, some miss, but they just keep coming.

The always-dastardly Peter Stormare lends his talents in the villain role, while Jillian Bell (Workaholics) and Nick Offerman contribute their share of deadpan laughs. There are some pretty great cameos, as well, but I cannot tell you how much I hoped to see James Franco when the investigation headed to the beach for Spring Break.

Besides that missed opportunity, 22 suffers from a few lags in its otherwise frantic momentum. It would have behooved Lord and Miller to trim about 10 minutes from the effort – just not the ten that play over the credits, brainstorming assignment after assignment, sequel after sequel, in glorious fashion.

Whatever its faults, like its predecessor, 22 Jump Street is no classic but it is good for a lot of laughs. Few have made “more of the same” look so good.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

 

 

Cleanup in the East Wing!

 

by George Wolf

 

Well, I believe I owe Olympus Has Fallen an apology.

Just a few months back, I labeled that film a pandering, if strangely entertaining, Die Hard in the White House.

Little did I know that White House Down was lurking like a crazy uncle waiting to show how much louder his bitchin’ Camaro is than your puny ride. This new presidential ass-kicking fest proudly lives by a bigger, louder, faster mentality, uncorking more of everything – the pandering, the wisecracks, the unapologetic Die Hardiness.

Channing Tatum dons the dirty wife-beater as John Cale, a D.C. cop on a White House tour with his young daughter when a paramilitary group invades. Naturally, John has been denied a spot on the Secret Service detail of President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) that very afternoon, which adds a redemptive angle to John’s heroics that the film wears like a manipulative badge of honor.

John and the Prez fight the baddies through every room, hallway and secret Marilyn Monroe love tunnel (patent pending) in the White House, recreating as many Die Hard moments as they can. Shoes off? Elevator shaft? Loved one held hostage? Cops mistakenly shooting at our hero on the roof?  Oh, yes, all that and so much more, as clever one liners give way to all-out comedy routines while bullets fly and rockets launch.

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012) displays his usual amount of subtlety:  none.  He keeps music swelling and flags waving, utilizing James Vanderbilt‘s script to deliver plenty of well choreographed, large scale action mixed with overblown speeches full of generic moralities.

And yet somehow, the unabashed ridiculousness and likable performances wear you down, and the over two hour assault on your objections calls to mind Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

“Are You Not Entertained?”  

Yes, a little.

Pass the popcorn.

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Dnvay5S7w

Dead Man’s Party

 

 

by George Wolf

 

You know what This Is the End made me think of? Dear, departed Father Art from my church.

Stay with me.

Father Art used to surprise the faithful by occasionally dropping Howard Stern’s name into the homily, citing Stern as someone who, underneath the raunch, had a positive message:  do what you’re supposed to do.

This Is The End also has a positive message, stressing selflessness as a key to salvation. Sure, this message is mixed with heapin’ helpings of sex, drugs and profanity, but it’s a combination that produces some pretty funny shit.

Your reaction will most likely depend on how much you enjoy the comedy stylings of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, seen at their peak in films such as Pineapple Express, Superbad and Knocked Up. Co-writing and directing This Is the End, they’ve expanded their 2007 short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse into the funniest film of the year.

Seth is Rogan, and Jay is his buddy Jay Baruchel, who comes to LA hoping for a low-key visit. Instead, Rogan takes him to a rockin’ party at James Franco‘s place where, amid plenty of famous faces, the rapture begins.

As the final battle rages outside, Franco, Rogan and Baruchel are joined by Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride for a star studded celebrity survivor sleepover!

Things get pretty crude (so much so that Rogan has said he expected an NC-17 rating instead of the R they received), but the result is far from dumb humor. Self-deprecation is always endearing, and the gang uses it well, lampooning their films, their images, and the self-absorbed nature of celebrity culture.

It’s a wild ride featuring great cameos (well done Channing Tatum and Michael Cera) and fine ensemble work from a bunch of funny guys who play themselves with undeniable comic chemistry and a sense of camaraderie that makes them fine company for the end of days.

Remember, they have a plan to be among the chosen, and you’ll most likely be laughing too hard to argue with it.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars