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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Logan Lucky

“Rememory” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Time and place go unappreciated in movies. When people think of the characters in a movie, their thoughts tend to go to the living beings—humans and animals—whose story is being told. Oftentimes the setting is just a backdrop on which to tell the story. Occasionally, as with “Logan Lucky,” the setting is so crucial that it is not mere backdrop. In these cases, the setting not only supplies a time and a place for the character to inhabit, it is a character in and of itself.

The setting as character in “Logan Lucky” is primarily the Charlotte Motor Speedway, home to a big NASCAR race on Memorial Day weekend. But more than that, director Steven Soderbergh creates a great sense of community in the lower West Virginia/upper North Carolina area of the United States. These people have a certain way of life and set of values—and pride—that is very clear from the get go. If anything, Soderbergh might take his characterization a bit too far—the backwoods, hillbilly, country bumpkin stereotype of some of the characters is less than flattering.



The movie stars Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan. After losing his job doing construction under the speedway, Jimmy decides it is time to get what’s coming to him by robbing the speedway’s money vault. In addition to his brother, Jimmy recruits the Bang Brothers (not sure if the nod to the porn Web site is intentional or not, but I chuckled when I first heard it). Fish and Sam Bang (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson) encompass the bumpkin stereotype, but incarcerated brother Joe (Daniel Craig) is an explosives mastermind. They need him to create an explosive that will help them get into the vault. The big problem, as Joe very astutely points out, is that he is “In-car-sir-ray-ted.” What to do?

The group hatches a plan that is both bold and insane. Without giving away too much, let’s just say that it is a very intricate plan that involves everything falling into place at just the right time, and everyone—even those not part of the plan—behaving exactly as expected. It’s the kind of plan that doesn’t have a chance in hell of working in real life, but it is cathartic to watch and indulge in the fantasy of something so elaborately planned get pulled off so well.


It also helps that “Logan Lucky” never forgets to entertain us along the way. One scene involves a group of inmates making demands on a warden (Dwight Yoakam) that center around the hit television series “Game of Thrones.” The exchange is hilarious—and true. Another heartfelt scene involves Jimmy’s daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) singing John Denver’s hit song “Take Me Home Country Roads.” While I could have done without the little girl beauty pageant setting (they disturb me, even more so now than they did before), the scene was sweet. It’s also the second movie this year to use that song. The other one to use it is “Alien: Covenant.” This song, via pop culture, is quickly becoming the new anthem of the South.

With “Logan Lucky,” Soderbergh recalls his early to mid-2000s heyday of the “Ocean’s” movies. Like in those movies, he puts together a rag tag group of misfits and malcontents to pull off a major heist. The pace moves along swiftly, we care about the characters, and the payoff is brilliant—even if Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig don’t dress as dapper as George Clooney and Brad Pitt. But that’s fine. It’s not their style anyway. Buy it on Amazon: Logan Lucky [Blu-ray].
 
Also New This Week

Rememory

“Rememory” is a great concept wrapped in a well-acted movie with a decent story that will no doubt leave some feeling unsatisfied. I don’t count myself among them because I appreciate that the movie at least attempts something different. Though I admit that the level of success is questionable.

This movie’s success will also depend on how much weight you give each of its two mysteries. The main mystery involves doctor Gordon Oliver Dunn (G.O.D.—get it?), played by Martin Donovan. He’s a brilliant neuroscientist who successfully created a way for a person to experience real, unfiltered memories and watch them on a monitor. Dunn is found dead in his office, his machine is missing, and there are bullet holes in the wall behind him—but not in him. What happened?

Taking it upon himself to get the answer to this question is professional model maker Sam Bloom (Peter Dinklage). Sam was an acquaintance of Dunn’s, and Dunn played a major role in Sam’s life after his brother (Matt Ellis) died in a horrible car accident. This brings up the second mystery in the movie. It’s a smaller, more personal one centered around what really happened the night that Sam’s brother died, and why he carries around so much guilt and anguish about it.

By the end of “Rememory,” I was more invested in Sam’s story. He has a difficult struggle buried within himself, and Dinklage plays the remorse and regret beautifully. Less interesting is the more procedural detective story in which Sam gathers clues and interviews suspects (one of whom is played by Anton Yelchin in one of his last roles). It’s all rather cut and dry, and the big revelation is sure to let people down with an “Oh, that’s it?” reaction. Not only that, but the logistics of how it was all recorded are a bit of a head scratcher.

Not helping matters is the fact that a police detective (Colin Lawrence) is on the case investigating the murder, and Dunn’s employer, a man named Lawton (Henry Ian Cusick, channeling Alan Rickman in “Die Hard”) seems hell bent on retrieving the machine and profiting from the technology, regardless of the consequences to those who may use it. So the promise of something bigger being done with the story, as well as some ethical and moral themes, are all there, but what is actually done is pretty lackluster. Ultimately these characters, when all is said and done, are superfluous. A tighter, edgier, more focused movie could have been made by cutting them altogether and re-shaping the story without them. It’s a good thing that the cast, and Peter Dinklage in particular, is so darn good. The performances carry this movie and prevent it from sinking into the mediocrity it would otherwise be. Rent it.

M.F.A.

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie expecting that it’s going to tick me off. I figured that “M.F.A.,” about a female vigilante student (Francesca Eastwood) on a college campus who avenges young women whose attackers got set free, would send me through the roof. I expected the usual mind-numbing feminist propaganda that make it look like rape is a way of life on college campuses that make them as dangerous as some areas of war torn Africa where rape is used as a weapon. I was also expecting the idea of “rape culture” to be perpetuated, in which this behavior is regarded as okay and shooed away by the administration.

While those elements were certainly there in “M.F.A.,” I wasn’t sent into the frenzy I was expecting. This is because the movie, written by Leah McKendrick and directed by Natalia Leite, much to my surprise, took a more balanced approach. Eastwood’s    
Noelle character is portrayed as villainous just as much as she is portrayed as virtuous, and indeed as the movie moves along she is seen more and more as the villain in her own story. McKendrick appears in the movie as Skye, Noelle’s roommate. It’s with her that the story takes a dramatic turn and shows Noelle that not everything is as black and white as she would like it to be.

“M.F.A.” is one of those movies that is sure to stir up a lot of debate and discussion. No matter which side you are on, something in it is sure to rub you the wrong way. That’s what good art does—it challenges you, raises questions, and makes you think. What makes “M.F.A.” work is that the situation presented is not one-sided, nor is it black and white. There are a lot of shades of gray with this topic, and exploring those shades is the strength of this movie. Rent it.

More New Releases: “Woodshock,” about a woman who falls deeper into paranoia after taking a deadly drug, starring Kirsten Dunst; “Acts of Vengeance,” about a lawyer who transforms his body and takes a vow of silence, not to be broken until he finds out who killed his wife and daughter and has his revenge, starring Antonio Banderas; and “The Defiant Ones,” documentary about the partnership and cultural influence of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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