And You May Ask Yourself: What Awaits Us in ‘The Lost City’?

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The Lost City (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures)

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, Oscar Nuñez, Brad Pitt, Raymond Lee, Bowen Yang

Directors: Aaron and Adam Nee

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Few Bursts of Violence and Strategically Shot Nudity

Release Date: March 25, 2022 (Limited)

Should The Lost City be discovered, or should it remain lost? That is the question. Or maybe it’s not really the question, but I’ll nevertheless go ahead and ask it because I’d like to have something to focus this review around. And by bringing up the topic of focus, I don’t mean to imply that this film lacks focus. Far from it, in fact! You heard it here first, folks: this is a movie with a straightforward plot that’s easy to follow. Sandra Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a novelist who gets kidnapped and taken to a legendary location from her latest book, while Channing Tatum plays the ditzy cover model who attempts to rescue her, and eventually they make their way out the other end. It’s globe-trotting, high-stakes fun that’s designed to be oohed, ahhed, and laughed at. And I imagine that pretty dang close to 100% of audiences will know exactly when to provide those gasps and chuckles.

So if I have one big criticism about The Lost City, it’s that it’s perhaps a little too straightforward. I hoped for some charming repartee between Bullock and Tatum, as well as a full course of comic relief supporting performances from the likes of Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, and Bowen Yang. And that’s exactly what I got! But not much more. There’s one surprising development early on involving one of the biggest stars, but afterwards I was left with a sense of, “Yes, that was an adventure.” Here’s the deal: if you’re going to cast Daniel Radcliffe as an eccentric billionaire villain, things should probably get unabashedly weird. Instead, they only get kind of weird. Who knows, maybe I was just infected by the malaise that Loretta was giving off by resenting her career and audience.

But here’s what stuck with me in a welcome way, and why The Lost City might just be worth tracking down. A showcase scene involves Bullock peeling leeches off Tatum after a jungle river swim, which necessitates him dropping trou to make sure she checks every crack and crevice. They keep it PG-13, but this is a classic case of survival-minded lack of modesty that keeps things rolling along. And then there’s an unforgettable performance from Oscar Nuñez (aka Oscar from The Office) as a guy who has a plane and a goat. It makes sense in context, or at least part of it does. And the rest that remained nonsensical is where I derived most of my joy from. So I guess my answer is: I’d like to find this titular city while still feeling like I’m at a loss.

The Lost City is Recommended If You Like: Sandra Bullock unexpectedly witnessing her male co-stars in the buff

Grade: 3 out of 5 Cover Models

‘Dog’ Review: Channing Tatum and His Four-Legged Friend Find Their Way Back

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Dog (CREDIT: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/SMPSP/© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q’orianka Kilcher, Ethan Suplee, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Bill Burr, Nicole LaLiberte, Luke Forbes, Ronnie Gene Blevins

Directors: Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Veterans Struggling with Civilian Life

Release Date: February 18, 2022 (Theaters)

Dog is basically The Odyssey, but as if Odysseus’ crew were replaced by a military-trained Belgian Malinois named Lulu. She absolutely has to get to the funeral of the soldier who handled her, and Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) takes on the assignment to convince his superiors that he’s fit enough to head out on another tour of duty. So they trek down the Pacific Coast, and along the way they endure several tests of character and meet a fascinating array of folks. It’s a typical road trip buddy comedy of opposites who of course eventually realize that they’ve got more in common than they thought. They’re both experiencing PTSD after all, and they can be each other’s emotional support if they can just manage to open up.

At only an hour and a half long, you might expect Dog to have a fairly straightforward plot, but it’s actually a series of non-stop detours. As Jackson makes his first stop at a hipster bar in Portland and then finds himself in the throes of a tantric threesome, I found myself wondering what the heck was going on. That thought remained top of mind throughout, as the randomness of Jackson and Lulu’s excursions just kept pulling up. One day, they’re being held captive by a pot farmer who suspects espionage, and then soon after, Jackson’s impersonating a blind man to score a luxury hotel suite. When they end up at an encampment for unhoused people, I’m still wondering how they suddenly got to this point, but at least in this case the thematic resonance is immediately clear, considering the fate of too many veterans who are unable to find the support they need. Ultimately, much like the epics of yore, these vignettes do their best to paint a mythic panorama of the society we’re living in today.

Considering its subject matter and its pedigree, Dog has an appropriately shaggy disposition. It’s the directorial debut for both Tatum and Reid, who previously worked together on White House Down, 22 Jump Street, Logan Lucky, and both Magic Mike chapters. With this collaboration, they display plenty of empathy and patience, and in that spirit, Dog is worth warming up to. It’s not the most enthralling or life-changing experience at the multiplex today, but it’s got some tricks up its collar that can make you reconsider what it’s up to. Its happy ending is as formulaic as any platonic (pet-tonic?) rom-com in which it’s no surprise that Man and Mutt are going to fall for each other, but it’s endearing enough that you’re pleased when they do.

Dog is Recommended If You Like: Early 2010s Hipster-based comedy, A Carousel of Character Actor Cameos, Chew Toys

Grade: 3 out of 5 Dog

I Saw ‘Free Guy’ and Then ‘Don’t Breathe 2’ Immediately Afterwards: Here’s What Happened

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures; 20th Century Studios/Screenshots

Free Guy:

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi, Channing Tatum

Director: Shawn Levy

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: August 13, 2021 (Theaters)

Don’t Breathe 2:

Starring: Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace, Brendan Sexton III

Director: Rodo Sayagues

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: August 13, 2021 (Theaters)

In Free Guy, good vibes beget more good vibes. When Guy the NPC gains self-awareness, he focuses on self-improvement, and that leads to all the other NPCs in Free City becoming better versions of themselves, and even some of the real people playing the game start to adopt a more positive view of the world. As it turns out, that tendency was in Guy’s programming all along. He’s got a fantastically complicated algorithm that allows for so many wondrous possibilities. It’s infectious, even for a Ryan Reynolds skeptic like me.

Contrast that with Don’t Breathe 2, in which hate begets more hate. The first Don’t Breathe effectively toyed with our sympathies regarding Stephen Lang’s blind Norman; the sequel tries to do the same, but his negative characteristics are a bit too overwhelming to fully root for him. (Also, his blindness isn’t utilized to the same thrilling effect.) Furthermore, the people who target him this time around have a sympathetic reason for doing so, but basically every action they take in the name of their mission is pretty despicable. At least the young girl isn’t similarly hate-filled – there’s no Bad Seed vibes here. But otherwise, the blood and the pain just pile up and pile up.

GRADES:
Free Guy: 4 out of 5 Skins
Don’t Breathe 2: 2 out of 5 Light Switches

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Smallfoot’ is a Bighearted, Non-Abominable Delight

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CREDIT: Warner Bros. Animation

This review was originally publshed on News Cult in September 2018.

Starring: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Gina Rodriguez, Danny DeVito, Yara Shahidi

Director: Karey Kirkpatrick

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG for Falling Thousands of Feet with Few Lasting Consequences

Release Date: September 28, 2018

A surefire formula in storytelling is the whole ol’ switcheroo. Taking a timeworn trope and turning its perspective inside out has proven to be valuable on many occasions. Smallfoot runs with that idea, getting a lot of mileage out of reversing its approach to a common myth. It does not just presuppose a world in which Yeti do exist, but one in which there is an entire race of them with their own advanced society. Furthermore, to the Yeti, the existence of humans is the stuff of legends, thus the moniker of the mythical “Smallfoot.” It’s not the most profound premise, but it’s delightful enough to tickle those in the mood for wonder.

It all comes down to, as so many of these animated jaunts do, an interspecies friendship. Migo (Channing Tatum) is a Yeti on the verge of taking on some adult Yeti responsibility when his world rocked by the appearance of a creature with a less-than-gigantic footprint. He proceeds to venture down below the clouds to find the truth behind this encounter, which is when his path crosses with Percy Patterson (James Corden), a nature TV host desperate to restore his popularity. Both man and beast can speak intelligently, but Migo’s words sound like growls to Percy, and Percy’s sound like squeaks to Migo. Yet somehow a connection is forged, and the repartee is quite charming from Tatum and Corden, as well as Zendaya as a fellow Yeti who is especially enthusiastic about the existence of Smallfoots. Providing the ominous (but also unnervingly wise) counterpoint is Common as the Stonekeeper, a Yeti elder who knows the reality of Yeti-human history but propagates an elaborate mythology designed to prevent the truth from being exposed.

As you might guess based on its genre and some of its cast members, Smallfoot is a musical, which I found to be a tad exhausting. To be fair, that is my typical reaction to musicals, what with their inherently overly dramatic manipulation of emotions, and Smallfoot‘s songs do not do much to change my mind. But there is one number rapped by Common that wonderfully reveals the foundation of Yeti society and serves as the crux of the film. The tension driving the best moments of Smallfoot are all about being lost (or not quite lost) in translation. The fear and anticipation mixed up by this inherent confusion leads to a bunch of hijinks and a lot of intrigue and ultimately an attempt at peace and integration that offers hope that this motley world can make it with all of its mixed-up parts working together.

Smallfoot is Recommended If You Like: The search for Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman, Happy Feet, Storks

Grade: 3 out of 5 Footprints

This Is a Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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CREDIT: Giles Keyte/Twentieth Century Fox

The Golden Circle is just as exciting as the first Kingsman, and it features a hell of a villainous turn from Julianne Moore. Its attitude is a bit arch, and it often pretends that it isn’t, but that isn’t a huge deal when the action is assembled impressively and the humor does let loose often enough. But ultimately while these flicks are fun, I find it hard to embrace them fully. There is just something weirdly insidious about their politics (or something like politics). It may not even be intentional, but intentional or not, it does unnerve me. I could have forgiven all that if Channing had danced more. Why didn’t Channing dance more?

I give Kingsman: The Golden Circle 2 Cannibal Burgers out of 3 Butterfly Effects.

This Is a Movie Review: Steven Soderbergh and the ‘Logan Lucky’ Crew Pull Off a Heist at the Biggest Race of the Year

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Credit: Claudette Barius / Fingerprint Releasing | Bleecker Street

This review was originally published on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes, Dwight Yoakam, Seth MacFarlane, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Katherine Waterston, Hilary Swank

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Improvised Explosives and Slapstick Violence, Often Involving a Prosthetic

Release Date: August 18, 2017

If you follow the sports world, you will have noticed lately the several examples of the wonders that taking significant time off does towards extending a career. Roger Federer and Serena Williams, perhaps the two greatest tennis players of all time, have taken months-long breaks and at ages 36 and 35, respectively (ancient by athletic standards), they are still somehow in the primes of their careers. The physicality of sports and filmmaking are not exactly the same, but both can be similarly taxing. So while it is right to question the accuracy of Steven Soderbergh’s claim that he was retiring from directing, it is not right to question the wisdom of what he was actually doing, i.e., taking a nice, long, relaxing break, as Logan Lucky is the type of film that you make only when you are bursting with energy.

Logan is Soderbergh’s first directorial effort since 2013’s Side Effects and the HBO film Behind the Candelabra, but in premise, it most obviously brings to mind his Ocean’s trilogy. Recently unemployed West Virginia coal miner Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) recruits his one-armed Iraq War vet bartender brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and hairdresser sister Mellie (Riley Keough), along with incarcerated bleached-blonde demolitions expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and Joe’s supposed computer expert brothers Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), to rob the cash deposits at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600, the longest annual race on the NASCAR calendar. So it is basically a hillbilly Ocean’s 11 (Logan’s 6, if you will), and that connection is referenced head-on with a sneakily well-timed joke. Now, don’t let that description fool you into thinking that this film looks down on the people that populate it. Its particular strength is how thoroughly and empathetically each character is rendered, despite their colorful personalities offering an easy temptation for stereotypes.

Accordingly, every actor is given plenty of opportunities to stretch, with Soderbergh guiding them along to their best instincts. Keough shines in her accounting of the West Virginia highway system, Driver is wholly convincing with his unassuming one-armed bartending prowess, Seth MacFarlane is Snidely Whiplash-levels ridiculous as a luxuriously coiffed, arrogant driver, Farrah Mackenzie (as Jimmy’s young daughter Sadie) charms enough to somehow make pageant culture a little less nauseating than usual, and when Special Agent Hilary Swank shows up, she makes an all-business demeanor just as much fun as criminality. But the biggest praise is rightfully reserved for Craig, who is delightfully unhinged in the friendliest way possible, as well as Dwight Yoakam, as a warden whose loss of control of his prison amazingly involves the most hilarious taking to task of George R.R. Martin I have ever witnessed.

The conflict of heist movies is such that their cool vibes always goad you into rooting for the criminals. While these robbers typically are not violent, and often target the most powerful and greediest, they are in fact still criminals. The fact that these are just movies should be enough to remove any feelings of moral crisis. But in case you want more than that, there is a Robin Hood-style resolution. Your mileage may vary on what that means in terms of ethical implications, but there is no doubt that it contributes to the good vibes.

Logan Lucky is Recommended If You Like: Heist Films, Southern-Fried Flavor, Feeling Pumped When You Walk Out of the Theater

Grade: 4 out of 5 Painted Cockroaches

SNL Recap February 4, 2011: Channing Tatum/Bon Iver

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Cold Opening – Newt Gingrich: Moon President
It is always gratifying to see something a little unusual, particularly when it comes to political cold opens.  This was a clever idea as well, as it sprang from an actual Newt Gingrich idea.  As for the execution, the jokes were on target, but flatly delivered. B-

Channing Tatum’s Monologue
So often lately, when the hosts interact with “audience members” during the monologue, it can feel so forced.  But as Channing’s past customers, Kristen, Vanessa, Fred, and Andy all actually had something to build a performance around.  Fred’s line, “I’m not sure yet, but you should keep trying” was gold, and Andy’s Yikes-I-better-get-out-of-here reaction was also worth a quick laugh. B

It’s Getting Freaky with Cee-Lo Green
Not even Bill as Colonel Nasty could make this rendition of “It’s Getting Freaky” worthwhile, as he offered little more advice than, “Touch her in the right place.”  He didn’t even laugh enough!  Some of Cee-Lo’s aside comments – “searching for my neck” – were worth a chuckle. C

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