Logan Lucky

“Logan Lucky” is Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s 7/11,” a sly heist movie with a hilarious Southern drawl and character that makes it a true surprise.

Logan Lucky PosterI was tinkering with an expression like “Backwater Ocean’s Eleven” or “Blue Collar Ocean’s Eleven” to describe Logan Lucky, but then sure enough, Steven Soderbergh, self-aware as ever, comes up with “Ocean’s 7/11.” It may look stupid and quaint, but just like the characters in this movie, it’s actually a lot smarter than you.

Logan Lucky is a pure heist movie, but set in Appalachia with a group of Good ‘Ol Boys subbing in for George Clooney and Brad Pitt. They’re planning quickly, we’re learning the stages of the heist on the fly, and just as in Soderbergh’s Ocean’s, the film slyly withholds the twist details of how they dunnit until everyone’s in the clear. But listening to these hicks talk and strategize, it’s as if they’re all stuck in molasses. It’s a hilarious departure from the Rat Pack slick act. Continue reading “Logan Lucky”

It Comes at Night

Trey Edward Shults’s unconventional horror film is a moody, atmospheric, evocative thriller about how mistrust has the power to make everyone sick.

Will the apocalypse come when a plague hits, or aliens attack, or when climate change ravages the planet? Or will humanity become so divided and fearful of one another that we gradually kill ourselves?

The monsters in the unusual indie horror film It Comes at Night all live under one roof. It’s a moody, atmospheric, evocative thriller about how mistrust has the power to make everyone sick.

The only image of the end of the world in Trey Edward Shults’s film is on a wall in Paul’s (Joel Edgerton) cavernous cabin in the woods. A Renaissance painting depicts Biblical fire and brimstone, but the vast forest surrounding their home only contains endless mystery. While outside, the family dog barks and chases after nothing in particular except the craggily branches masking whatever horrors we simply assume are out there. Continue reading “It Comes at Night”

American Honey

Andrea Arnold’s youth odyssey and road trip across Middle America is one of the finest of the year.

american_honey_posterAndrea Arnold’s “American Honey” takes viewers on a remarkable odyssey of youth and Americana. It’s alternatively visionary, beautiful, ugly, celebratory and harrowing in its tour across country with a group of teenagers. Arnold (“Fish Tank“) sees them as strays looking for a home and finding it wherever they are, and watching their journey in this nearly three hour epic is absolutely rapturous.

Arnold’s Queen of Middle America is Star (the wonderful newcomer Sasha Lane), who opens the film fishing a discarded and rotting chicken out of a dumpster for a pair of kids’ dinner. Yum. “Are we invisible,” she screams at passing drivers refusing to accept them as hitchhikers. She’s not wrong, and it’s truly revelatory to see that there are kids who live and survive like this, operating in a whole other world apart from, not just people who live on the coasts and in big cities, but those who live within these small communities and see gems like Star as outcasts.

In the Target across from where Star tries to hitchhike, she spots a van blaring rap music and a teen mooning his ass out the window. Inside is Jake (Shia LaBeouf); they recognize each other, but it’s never explained from where. Jake has a rat tail braid down to his shoulders and wears suspenders and a dress shirt like an old-school mobster. He leaps onto a counter as a Rihanna song starts playing over the intercom. “We found love in a hopeless place,” a familiar anthem, but truly fitting here.

Star, a mixed-race girl with tattoos, a ratty tank top and dirty, unkempt dreadlocks, cares for two kids, but they’re not her own. With an invite from Jake and a job offer, she runs away from her responsibilities to join a traveling operation of selling magazines door to door. Her boss Krystal (Riley Keough) has little patience for anyone just looking for a joy ride. Star and about 10 other teens ride around in a cramped van, staying at motels along the road and selling magazines in a new town each week. They party hard, but they make their money, and if Star can’t keep up, she’ll be booted from the group. In one scene Krystal answers her motel door naked with an open man’s dress shirt, sizing up the newcomer with a DGAF look that shows she’s boss. Meanwhile the formerly fun loving and rowdy Jake has been reduced to Krystal’s pet, slathering moisturizer on her legs like a slave. Continue reading “American Honey”