Table 19 (***1/2) is sweet and funny

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Table 19 – 2017

Written and Directed by Jeffrey Blitz
Starring Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Jeffrey Blitz, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revelori, Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew

Having rented this because I knew Anna Kendrick and Craig Robinson were in it, I felt like turning it off once I saw the Duplass brothers in the opening credits. I have seen enough of their crap to know that they are in the business to just about break even making movies people in cities will like to discuss while drinking coffee at corporate coffee houses. Nothing they do is ever all that original, and almost always depressing as hell. Well, not the Mindy Kaling Project. That’s just brilliant because of her. Their names stop after Story credit, though. And it is writer and director Blitz won an Emmy for his work in The Office. I kept watching, and I am glad I did.

The story covers the persons who are located in the table of odds and ends to the Wedding of the best friend of Eloise (Kendrick). These seats, according to the former maid of honor and ex-girlfriend of the bride’s brother, Teddy (Russell) are ‘for the guests who were only reluctantly invited and whom the hosts hoped would not attend.’ It does not take long for all of the guests to realize the nature of their arrangement, which is a little longer than it takes for the viewer to know the entire story of why they are seated with Eloise.

Eloise had a real hard time deciding to go. The fact that she even sends in the RSVP in its condition is amusing. She has some hard feelings and tries to avoid showing them. This cannot last long, of course, because the story needs to move on.

The execution of the story is solid, and there are actually some really good lines thrown in throughout. The performances, especially Kendrick, Revolori, Robinson and Russell, are all good. The standout, though, is Squibb, who gently steals the movie, straightens its collar, gives it a hug and pushes it out in the world feeling much better about itself without any b.s. at all.

There are some glaring slow moments when everyone stares at each other which makes me think of…The Office. These moments are nicely countered by the acting and the neatly put together if entirely predictable script.

In all honesty, little was expected of this film and it delivers more than most comedies I have seen in the last few years. See it if you like any of the principals, or if you just want a sweet story that hits all of the satisfying notes without a thud.

If you see this film expecting a nice romantic comedy, you will not leave disappointed.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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Logan (*****): Take a moment. Feel it.

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Logan – 2017

Director James Mangold
Screenplay Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Eriq LaSalle, Elise Neal, Doris Morgado, David Kallaway, Han Soto, Jayson Genao and Krzysztof Soszynski

After grinding down so much earth into dust, they finally found a single diamond. Logan is the Wolverine our hearts always thought was there, even if we wasted many years wading through several mediocre movies to get to it. The X-Men universe was brought to a silly dead end last summer with Apocalypse. It was truly a movie that exemplified all that has been wrong with the film version of the hero troupe.

What should have been a crescendo of a decent second trilogy turned into another version of the Last Stand. Filled with colorful weirdos showing powers for no particular reason, we see parts of the planet destroyed and quickly repaired. No consequence and zero impression left.

To say that this movie was intended to counter that film would be cutting it short. Jackman has his own trilogy in the midst of the X-Men films, and in his own series, each film was better than the previous entry. It’s a sad truth, though, that many will find the entire series disposable prior to this opus.

The film starts in 2029 near El Paso, Texas. Logan is living on the wrong side of the border, mainly because he wants to stay hidden. He’s taking care of an aging and ever more erratic Charles Xavier (Stewart). Why? That’s for you to discover.

Adamantium is taking a toll on Logan’s healing powers. To the point that he carries around a bullet made of the stuff to just end it all sooner than later. He can’t end it though. One reason is Charles, who insists he’s been talking to a mutant. This is important because mutants are almost all completely wiped out.

The mutant he is talking to comes into their lives, even though the erstwhile Wolverine would prefer to just take his old friend and go out to sea. That ain’t gonna happen because X-23, or Laura (Keen), as she’s called, comes with some baggage.

Mangold and Jackman score quite a few home runs in this movie that pretends to be playing station to station. Stewart is a Godsend, as he makes even the silliest dialogue seem at once literate and heartfelt. This is nothing compared to what happens when Stewart is given some truly eloquent and memorable words to express.

As antagonist, Boyd Holbrook is an above average placeholder. There is nothing special about him, and this is a wise choice. They have other things to do in this film than to pretend that the bad guy in the ad has a chance.

I won’t say much about the other antagonists in the film, other than to say that the writers hate expositional explanations as much as old man Logan does. This is comes to a welcome relief.

Keen has an excellent, ravaging energy. She is berserk when she needs to be and definitely doesn’t waste words or screen time. Many in the theater really enjoyed her performance, laughing much and snickering as she attacked with ferocity any who crossed her. I found the performance impactful and there definitely were a few funny moments.

The key to Keen’s performance, though, is seeing how she, Stewart and Jackman play off of one another. There is little joy in Logan. For our older heroes, the entire exercise is a drawn out torture that is exacerbated when they see how easily she is drawn into conflict.

When lucid, Xavier believes she is a light in the world, capable of improving on what mutant kind was before now. Logan refuses to invest too much emotion in the little girl who so desperately needs to cling to something solid. Life is hell for her now, he knows. Why should he pretend it ever won’t be?

Clint Eastwood made a remarkable 2nd career out of playing the guy hobbled by age, injury and heartache. Hugh Jackman has always channeled a bit of Eastwood in his portrayals of Logan. This film is different. Jackman owns this version of The Wolverine and he treats it with the utmost care. His emotional range is beyond anything even Eastwood has done. One has no choice but to feel every blow Logan receives in this film. Neither his flesh nor his spirit is willing this time around. When he fights, he fights scared. But not scared stupid.

Jackman has never been better. Stewart has rarely reached this level. Keen is remarkable for such a relatively inexperienced actress. Any or all of the three deserve nominations for their performances here. I won’t hold my breath, though. If they didn’t reward Stallone for his portrayal of Rocky, the Academy will likely assume the Oscars are too good for this astounding film.

The carnage is breathtaking in Logan. There is much mutilation and severed limbs and heads. As bad as it is, it is matched unnecessarily with an over reliance on profanity. Yes, I know that is the image of The Wolverine comics, but moderation might have made a more distinct impression. I will say it does work in relation to Charles. Something must be wrong if that refined and dignified person is throwing curses like punches.

If you’ve skipped all of the X Men films after the 2nd, this might be a good place to pick up again. Heck if you skipped all of the films, but want to see an incredibly well played drama, partake in this feature. Much care went into this film, and it feels like everything is balanced on the edge of a knife. And then the knife slips and goes right through.

It’s worth all of the pain, just to know how Logan feels in the moment.

(***** out of *****)

Movie 43: Do you like this collection of skits?

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Movie 43 – 2013

Directors Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk
Starring Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Adam Cagely, Common, Kieran Culkin, Josh Duhamel, Devin Eash, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, John Hodgman, Terence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Aasif Mandvi, Jack McBrayer, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Julianne Moore, Chloë Grace Moretz, Chris Pratt, Dennis Quaid, Liev Schrieber, Sean William Scott, Tony Shaloub, Fisher Stephens, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Jeremy Allen White, Kate Winslet, Anton Yelchin, Mark Young, Seth McFarlane, JB Smoove, Will Sasso, Bobby Canavale, Patrick Warburton
Written by Rocky Russo, Jeremy Sosenko, Ricky Blitt, Bill O’Malley, Will Graham, Jack Kukoda, Matthew Alec Portenoy, Claes Kjellstrom, Jonas Wittenmark, Tobias Carlson, Will Carlough, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Patrik Forsberg, Olle Sarri, Jacob Fleisher, Greg Pritikin, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk

I wasn’t a fan of the Kentucky Fried Movie.  This movie is not as good as that one.  I liked the one about the basketball team and the one about the blind date.  The Superhero Speed Dating had its moments, as did Truth or Dare.  That’s about it.  Don’t watch if you are easily offended.  Or if you are offended that attempts to offend you are not funny or effectively offensive.

I would write more, but I just got through writing all the credits and now I am tired.

So very tired.

(*1/2 out of *****)