A Few New Reviews: A Ghost Story, American Made, Atomic Blonde and Logan Lucky

A Ghost Story
(Directed by David Lowery, starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck)

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This is a slow-paced but absorbing film about grief and loss. It is not a horror story in any sense, but let’s call it a romance / drama – it concerns a ghost occupying his home following his sudden death and watching his partner’s grief in silence. The slow pace adds to a sense of profound loneliness and powerlessness of the ghost. He cannot fast-forward her grief – it has to painfully take its course. Time, and the girl, move on but the ghost remains in the house…. Large parts of the film have no dialogue (well, no verbal dialogue anyway). I read some reviews after I saw the film which seem to be hung up on the ghost wearing a sheet (like, hey, where’s the special effects?!). But I think it has a European flavor about it – the inside scenes have an almost stage-like production. An emotional and thoughtful piece emerges. There is an interesting musical score by Daniel Hart, fine acting, especially from Mara, and a skillful use of background sound adds to the authenticity. This film could so easily have died (pun intended) but Lowery pulls it off. Its slow pace will not be to everyone’s taste, but I liked it.
Reviewed by Robin Stevens – Rated 3.5/5

American Made
(Directed by Doug Liman, starring Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright and Domhnall Gleeson)

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This film follows Barry Seal (Cruise), a real-life drug smuggler, working as a CIA operative in South America who provides arms and support to anti-communist groups and drug syndicates – the initial basis of the Iran-Contra Affair. It is more or less a true story, except that the story uncritically accepts Seal’s account of events; and there are some obviously contrived moments too. Cruise’s cheesy smile and surface charm works well in this film. He is an affable criminal with no real moral backbone. This serious drama of a real-life scandal is presented with a sense of comic chaos and ‘lucky-escape’ action sequences; probably making it appeal to a wider audience. But the portrayal of the CIA’s deep involvement and the tacit support of a line of US Presidents and senior US officials in large-scale drugs and arms dealing with criminal gangs provides some depth to the film.  Better than I was expecting.  I have struggled whether this is a 2.5 or 3 star film. I’ve settled for the latter because of a decent ensemble cast and the quick-paced narrative!
Reviewed by Robin Stevens – Rated 3/5

Atomic Blonde
(Directed by David Leitch, starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy and John Goodman)

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The spy thriller has developed over time. It has moved away from the suave sophistication of the early Bond films and away from the nourish bleakness of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965). Current ‘spy’ movies appear to be either overblown techno-fests like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) or fast paced action thrillers like Jason Bourne (2016) with the occasional nostalgic throwback thrown in, like The Man from UNCLE (2015). Atomic Blonde, directed by David Leitch and starring Charlize Theron, is what would happen if you put the DNA of Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Jason Bourne and Debbie Harry in a blender and then set the result to the Greatest Hits of the 1980s. It is a super-stylish action thriller set at the end of the cold war. However, this is the 80s but cranked up way past 11. We may have seen this kind of twisty-turny, ‘trust no-one’, spy story done in the past – there are similarities to Salt (2010), Haywire (2011) and No Way Out (1987) – but we have never seen it done quite like this before. The soundtrack is intense, the tension is palpable, the visuals are stunning and the central cast are hypnotic. This is a spy movie which manages to go further than Bond is prepared to go but still feels somehow realistic. Nowhere is this more evident than the action sequences. They are creatively shot and well choreographed. A particular one-shot fight scene will leave you breathless and puts many other similar moves to shame.
Review by Alan Matthews – Rated 4/5

Logan Lucky
(Directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth McFarlane and Daniel Craig)

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An amusing heist caper that rarely escapes the enclosure of moderateness despite a want of trying. This is not surprising given that it is a Steven Soderbergh film. As a quick overview: the bespectacled intellect showed promise when he directed the likes of Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), The Limey (1999) and Traffic (2000) but he then went on to make the Ocean’s trilogy, The Informant! and Magic Mike, thus never truly ascending to any sustained greatness. Logan Lucky is yet another example of how Soderbergh can show glimpses of his talent but never rise too high with it. There is a solidly intricate plot here, a few clever attempts at satirising Trump’s America and even some sharp, witty dialogue as expressed through the wonderful acting of Adam Driver and to an extent, Daniel Craig (yes, there is more to him than Bond). But on the flipside, there is no true suspense, the satire is too restrained and ambiguous and the laughs are only ‘chuckle-level’ at best. There is also the casting of Channing Tatum to mull over – a nondescript personality with an obvious inability to actually act. His character and the relationships he holds with his family are the prime emotional focus in the film but we are never given cause to get too invested in either of these because the sentimentality is all very misplaced. But in the end, it is all just a bit of mischief and fun, and if you don’t mind embracing the ‘mountain mommas’ of West Virginia and the motor speedways of North Carolina, then this film will not offend you too deeply.
Reviewed by JJ McDermott Rated 3/5

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