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La La Land, Superhot, Atlanta, Easy, Weekend Picks

La La Land is a full on musical! Good thing we like musicals. You know we’ll talk about how Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sing and dance. And can we agree on the ending? Only one way to find out.

Bob mini reviews Superhot and Easy. Logan mini reviews Atlanta.

In weekend picks, Logan mentions The Mick (and The Bachelor). Bob talks about Paterson and 20th Century Women. Stay tuned to Twitter for the final selection.

Let’s rock!

Follow us on Twitter: @LoganBeaux and @BobCaswell

Logan’s 2016 Mixtape Spotify playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/1221586781/playlist/7gaISq4WT3A6ud3rwx9zbN

 

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Manchester By the Sea

What’s to like?

It can throw you off, as a critic, when a movie’s themes hit close to home. Will everyone be affected this way, or is it just me, I ask? Casey Affleck, playing Lee in Manchester by the Sea, has to travel from the big city back to the smaller community where he grew up when life gets crazy. But as specifically parallel as that experience is to my life, it’s also universal–even archetypal–in its relatability. So let’s go ahead and chalk that one up in the plus column. Same with Lee’s small but meaningful growth from a person looking out only for number one to a person who realizes he’s happier if he considers what someone else wants. Hell, come to think of it, at this rate I guess we’ll call this an age-old tale. Continue Reading

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Miss Sloane

What’s there to like?

Jessica Chastain, plain and simple. For my money, she just might be the best out there in terms of actresses in their prime, and she brings it here. Power, vulnerability, intelligence–she radiates it all as she plays a fancy DC lobbyist on a gun control case.

So much of Miss Sloane is complex and deserving of a mixed assessment. For me, though, the rest of this review nets out to be below the “liked” line.

What’s not to like?

As much as I loved watching Chastain, well, you know how it’s sometimes hard to separate the parts of a movie for awards, like, say, directing vs. screenplay? Did that movie live or die during casting? Or, in this case, did I love that character because of the actor or the writer? To me, Miss Sloane is a great example of a mediocre screenplay being knocked out of the park by a great performance.

Sloane was so cryptic, yet compelling. Was every flash of emotion on her face simply a ruse she was projecting? I can’t say. What’s her real deal–is she just a mercenary, up for the highest bidder, or the most passionate person on Earth about something she cares about? I’ve seen the whole movie and I still have no idea. And I have mixed feelings about the not-knowing. So the way I’m reconciling this in my mind is to attribute the good parts to Chastain, and pin the blame on writer Jonathan Perera, for the bad parts, fair or not.

There’s of course the fact that the movie takes a definite political stance on a relevant issue. Always dangerous, and I might be more sensitive than most to politics in movies–even when I agree with a position I usually hate the case laid out for it. Sure, the issue was watered down to be as benign as possible, but it will still be somewhat polarizing.

And let’s talk about the plot a bit. There were lots of twists. I mean: LOTS OF TWISTS. The details of which, of course, being the kind of thing I try to avoid mentioning in a review. But I can report that there were too many. I eventually just checked out in terms of emotional investment because it felt like nothing mattered. Anything potentially relevant would be subsumed into the master plan as a diversionary tactic, or at least nullified by the next random-seeming left-turn. And still, by the end, there was a nice, tidy bow placed on everything. It’s like, oh, this all seemed messy and crazy, but it was under control the whole time. The movie’s deception wasn’t that we couldn’t see what happen next; it was that we were chumps for worrying about anything at all.

I think it wants to think about wrestle with the old question of whether the ends justify the means. But Miss Sloane turns out to be a fairly moralistic tale: people on one team end up getting what they fight for, with ultimately little sacrifice or consequence.

The Verdict

Jessica Chastain props up, but can’t ultimately elevate, this political movie whose misdirections turn out to be too clever by half and that offers nihilism in place of balance.

Fine

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Rogue One, Westworld, Dead Rising 4, Manchester By the Sea, Weekend Picks

Star Wars day is here on the podcast! Is Rogue One Practically Endorsed? Can Logan and Bob can agree on their assessment of the CGI characters.

Logan takes his turn mini reviewing Westwood, and also hits Manchester By the Sea. Bob mini reviews Dead Rising 4.

In weekend picks, Logan briefly mentions Trollhunters. It’s serious movie time, though: Bob touches on Passengers, Assassin’s Creed, Silence, Live By Night, and more!

Let’s rock!

Follow us on Twitter: @LoganBeaux and @BobCaswell

 

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Miss Sloane, Westworld, Weekend Picks

It’s Miss Sloane week on the podcast. Is there more to love here than Jessica Chastain? Is this the rare good political-issue-based movie?

Bob mini reviews Westworld (with Logan’s mini review to come next week!).

In weekend picks, Logan mentions The Man In the High Castle. Bob pulls the trigger on Rogue One, but also mentions Collateral Beauty.

Let’s rock!

Follow us on Twitter: @LoganBeaux and @BobCaswell

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Allied, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Weekend Picks

Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard! How could there be anything not to love? Well, we’ll tell you. Not that we didn’t like some things–it’s just . . . well, listen for yourself.

Bob mini reviews Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

In weekend picks, Logan mentions Fuller House season 2, but still wants you to respect him. Bob recommends La La Land Office, Christmas Party, or maybe Miss Sloane.

Let’s rock!

Follow us on Twitter: @LoganBeaux and @BobCaswell

 

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Arrival

What’s there to like?

Arrival is a good ol’ fashioned thought-experiment style sci-fi story. One of those that begins by asking what if? and playing things out. In this case, the what-if is about aliens visiting the Earth–with all the confusion, uncertainty, and fear that would entail–and humanity’s struggle to communicate with them. Always nice to have some thought provoked.

For those of us who love language, this is a wet dream. Who knew a linguist could save the world? Don’t you dare tell me my liberal arts degree won’t come in handy!

The performances are good: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker all breathe life into their characters and represent their sometimes conflicting, sometimes converging interests. Adams and Renner–Louise and Ian–have solid chemistry. Renner in particular I found riveting–he subtly surprised me with some of this choices, showing some range compared to his other work.

Director Denis Villaneuve and writer Eric Heisserer construct a nice story, with a twinge of horror-like tension, and an earned payoff that’s set up nicely.

What’s not to like?

Two things, mainly. Although I’ll tip my cap to the buildup to the plot’s reveal, there’s a mystical component to how things play out. I’m not opposed to that kind of payoff in principle, but it’s a delicate needle to thread, and this one doesn’t satisfy my need for coherence, even if I’m trying to be generous to forces we don’t understand.

The other thing is that Ian, though played ably by Renner, is an inconsistent and contradictory character. His stated purpose–representing the scientific approach to learning about the aliens–is minimized or tossed aside for the most part. He didn’t need to be a scientist at all to play his part–just had to be a nice, reasonably smart dude supporting Louise’s greatness. What’s that– you’re trying to tell me it’s just a gender role reversal and normally the woman is defined by being the helpmate? Yeah, I won’t say you’re wrong. Still, I’m marking it down as a con rather than a pro or even a neutral.

The Verdict

Arrival is an enjoyable sci-fi movie, well-executed and widely accessible. It’ll get you thinking, and keep you entertained with taut story and solid acting. Hell, some may even like the twist more than I did. It’s certainly a thumbs up from me.

Recommended

 

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Arrival, Battlefield 1, Google Pixel, Weekend Picks

We submit Arrival to our scrutiny this week. Will it be Practically Endorsed? How successful is the blend of horror, sci-fi, and character drama? Can we abide the mystical payoff?

Bob mini reviews Battlefield 1. Logan mini reviews the Google Pixel.

In weekend picks, Logan mentions Vikings (just watch it), Top Chef, and Incorporated. Bob talks Jackie, Things to Come, Allied, Manchester By the Sea, and Moonlight.

Let’s rock!

Follow us on Twitter: @LoganBeaux and @BobCaswell