Tag Archives: Channing Tatum

Hooray for Hollywood

Coen Brothers deliver a splendid spoof of movies’ golden era

Hail, Caesar!

Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson & Alden Ehrenreich

Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

PG-13

“People don’t want facts—they want to believe!” says Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a 1950s Hollywood studio “fixer” in the new Coen Brothers comedy Hail Caesar!, a sprawling, star-studded spoof of the golden age of moviemaking.

Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin

What people believe, and what they make-believe, are the building blocks of Hollywood itself. And they’re certainly the cornerstones of the Coens’ lavish, multi-tiered parody that takes satirical shape around the production of a fictional studio’s major new movie, Hail, Caesar!, A Tale of the Christ, a Bible-based saga a la Ben-Hur, Spartacus and The Robe.

When the film’s lunkheaded leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped, Mannix has to find him and get the money-train movie back on track.

But in the meantime, he’s also got his hands full with other problems, and other films. His job is keeping the machinery of Capitol Pictures Studios whirling, keeping its numerous stars in line and out of trouble, and keeping the whiff of scandal away from prying gossip columnists, particularly twin sisters Thora and Thessily Thacker (Tilda Swinton).

Scarlett Johansson

The studio’s twice-divorced “innocent” aqua-starlet (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant with an out-of-wedlock child. Capitol’s prissy British prestige-picture director (Ralph Fiennes) is at wit’s end trying to wrangle the company’s riding, roping singing cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) into more refined roles. And a tap-dancing song-and-dance hotshot (Channing Tatum) glides across the set of a new musical, but his light-on-his-feet moves may be hiding heavier secrets.

Look: There’s Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand and the guy (Wayne Knight) who played Newman in Seinfeld! Even if you don’t know anything about Hollywood’s “Red Scare,” you’ll still get a chuckle out of a boatload of Commies bobbing off the California coastline. And Alden Ehrenreich’s young sodbuster charming his studio-arranged dinner date (Veronica Osorio) by twirling a strand of spaghetti like a lariat will rope your heart, too.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum

For many viewers, the quirky movies of writer-director Joel and Ethan Coen have always been a bit of an acquired taste. Sure, most everybody now falls in line to applaud the genius of Fargo, No Country For Old Men, True Grit, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou. But where was the box-office love for The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t There and Inside Llewyn Davis?

There may be more commercially successful filmmakers, more mainstream filmmakers or filmmakers who win more awards. But you’d be hard-pressed to find many filmmakers who love movies, and making movies, more than the Coens. And that love is evident in every carefully crafted frame of this gloriously goofy homage to the glory days of big studios, big stars and the big wheels that churned out the spectacles of Hollywood’s dream factory from a bygone era.

While Hail, Caesar! is looking backward with such comedic affection, however, it’s also making a sly, playfully subversive statement about our “need” for entertainment, the importance of escapism and how movies have always been—and hopefully will always be—a “potion of balm for the ache of all mankind.”

“What a waste of talent,” a woman behind me groused as the credits rolled, somehow disappointed. Not me, and not a chance. Strike up another win for the Coens, I say. I’m a believer. Hooray for Hollywood, and “Hail, Caesar!”

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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A Lotta Bull

Latest Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation really piles it on

THE LONGEST RIDE

The Longest Ride

Starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin & Alan Alda

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

PG-13

Maybe The Notebook didn’t make you sigh, sob or swoon enough. Perhaps you really liked Channing Tatum in Dear John, but wondered…hmmm, how would he look on top of a big, bucking bovine? Or maybe, even with fireworks, a huge explosion and a character that turned out to be a ghost (!), there still wasn’t quite enough going on for you in Safe Haven.

If, somehow, none of the other nine movies made from romance novelist Nicholas Sparks’ popular, heart-tugging tearjerkers had enough whatever-it-is that you go to Nicholas Sparks movies for, well, the tenth might just be the charm.

THE LONGEST RIDEFirst of all, The Longest Ride doesn’t just give you one love story, but two—a pair of parallel passion tales stretching across more than two hours of screen time and four-fifths of a century. And it’s positively loaded—with sorority girls, hunky cowboys, country music, horses, bulls, modern art, love letters, World War II battlefield heroics, playful beach frolics and a sex scene so hot and steamy it seems to smoke up the whole Smoky Mountains.

It also has massive amounts of hoke, contrivance and manipulation. The plot, driven by a series of outrageously ramped-up coincidences, sets up a tale so implausibly fluffy, you wonder if the characters would be able to set foot on anything solid if they happened to come across it. A slow-mo shot of snortin’ bull snot is about as close as things gets to a sense of gritty reality.

Britt Robinson (who played Angie McAlister on TV’s Under the Dome) is Sophia, a Wake Forest University student who falls for professional bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint), which threatens to put a wrinkle in her plans for a post-graduate internship at a prestigious New York artTHE LONGEST RIDE institute. One dark, rainy night after their first date, they come across a wrecked car and its badly injured driver, Ira (Alan Alda), whose own story then begins to unspool in flashbacks as the rapt Sophia visits him in the hospital, reading aloud to him from the box of letters he’s saved over the years from the love of his life, his late wife, Ruth.

THE LONGEST RIDE

Oona Chaplin & Jack Huston

Like the big bowl of mac and cheese Luke says is his favorite dish, it’s all mostly a bunch of squishy, deep-dish goo—but hey, it does look pretty good. The on-location photography, in and around Wilmington, N.C., is picture-perfect, which adds to the feel of dreamy romantic fantasy. Scott Eastwood—who bears an uncanny resemblance to his famous father in his early acting days—is a bona fide hunk, and time seems to slow down every time the camera pans across his sculpted, shirtless torso (which is often). Pay attention to the actors who play the younger versions of Ira and Ruth, Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin, not only because they make Ira and Ruth’s story so much more interesting and compelling than Luke and Sophia’s, but because you’re watching the progeny of Hollywood royalty: He’s the grandson of legendary actor-director John Huston, and her granddaddy was silent-movie icon Charlie Chaplin.

The Longest Ride likely won’t convert any newcomers to the Nicholas Sparks fold. But if you’re already a fan, hey, saddle up: This bull’s for you.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Cosmic Canned Ham

Loopy ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a way-out, sci-fi mind scramble

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Jupiter Ascending

Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis & Eddie Redmayne

Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski

PG-13

There’s a dinosaur wearing a motorcycle jacket in the dining room, a shirtless interplanetary hunk (Channing Tatum) zipping around the sky on rocket skates, and a maid (Mila Kunis) scrubbing the toilet who’s actually queen of the universe.

Better buckle up: This is one way-out, sci-fi space-opera mind scramble. But the filmmaking-siblings team of writers, producers and directors Lana and Andy Wachowski typically don’t do anything small. Previously, they’ve given us the time-and-space-shifting The Matrix (1999) and its two sequels; a futuristic political thriller (V For Vendetta); a live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime classic Speed Racer; and the sprawling, brain-warping Cloud Atlas.

JA-FP-0005

Mila Kunis

The Wachowskis’ movies are often lauded for visual sumptuousness but criticized for lack of lucid storytelling, and that could certainly be said for Jupiter Ascending, a lavish, fantastically over-the-top spectacle of outrageous special effects, Baroque set design, outlandish characters and fantastical ideas that never stop zapping and zinging. But so many of those ideas fail to find their way into a coherent package, and the whole movie rings loudly, if not proudly, in the major key of gobbledygook.

The “Jupiter” of the title is Jupiter Jones (Kunis), a lowly Russian immigrant who grows up in Chicago cleaning bathrooms, completely unaware that her lofty astral pedigree has made her the subject of an intergalactic bounty hunt. As how Jupiter came by her out-of-this-world DNA is explained (sort of), we meet the various characters that have all come looking for her.

JUPITER ASCENDING

Eddie Redmayne

Channing Tatum is the genetically engineered, half-wolf, half-human mutant who zips to Earth to warn Jupiter about who she really is—and what kind of danger she’s in. Eddie Redmayne is an alien business tycoon dealing in a deluxe brand of “youth serum.” Sean Bean, from TV’s Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, is a scruffy, Han Solo-ish, galaxy-hopping good guy.

It’s all wild, weird, and a high-heavens, hot-mess hoot, especially when you realize you’re seeing two guys just coming off tony, Oscar-nominated movies (Tatum’s Foxcatcher and Redmayne, for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) now chewing such enormous, supernova-size slices of cosmic canned ham. The whole thing is so earnestly, self-seriously over-the-top, so ridiculously rich in excess, it’s like a gonzo, gazillion-dollar mash-up of Plan Nine From Outer Space and Guardians of the Galaxy steered by a committee of 13-year-old boys hyped on an all-weekend Star Wars/Star Trek marathon and fueled by an endless supply of Mountain Dew and Pixy Sticks.

But hey: In what other flick are you going to find Channing Tatum grunting like a (half) wolf, zipping around shirtless in zero-gravity shoes a la Buck Rogers at an Olympic speed-skating event, and slugging it out with a dinosaur? You’d have to traverse many a multiplex—if not the entire galaxy—to find anything that shoots for the stars quite like the loopy Jupiter Ascending. And if you’re going to ride this rocket, into an orbit that that swings w-a-a-a-y out there, well, don’t hope to understand it, just try to hang on.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Back To School

Bumbling drug-busting cop duo returns for hilarious higher-ed hijinks

Jonah Hill;Channing Tatum

22 Jump Street

Starring Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill

Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

R, 112 min.

 

In a summer of sequels, the most laughs so far, and by far, come from a raunchy retro repeat that makes plenty of fun of its own recycled folly—and expense.

And it totally works. A follow-up to the 2012 hit comedy 21 Jump Street, a big-screen parody of the TV series of the late 1980s, this do-over reunites the duo of Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), bumbling undercover-cop partners again trying to pass themselves off as students, only this time at a college instead of a high school.

The silly shoestring of a plot involves Jenko and Schmidt’s task to break up a dangerous drug pipeline called “WhyPhy,” which has caused the death of a coed. But that’s really just a loosey-goosey framework for a goofy R-rated grab bag of jokes, puns, sight gags and riffs, many of which are truly hilarious, as the two would-be students try to infiltrate campus life.

Channing Tatum“I’m the first person from my family to pretend to go to college,” says Jenko.

Most of the humor revolves around their attempts at blending in, especially since everyone notices immediately how much older they are than everyone else. (“Tell us about the war—any one of them,” prods one student.) But Schmidt impresses his classmates at an improv slam-poetry event (“Jesus died, runaway bride” is one of his on-the-fly couplets), and Jenko relives his teenage fantasy of becoming a football star, befriending the school’s dude-ish quarterback (Wyatt Russell, the son of Goldie Hawn and Curt Russell) and setting up a “bro-mantic triangle” subplot.

Jonah Hill;Channing TatumPatton Oswald pops up in one scene as a professor trying to coax coherent thoughts out of Tatum’s character’s thick head, and the Comedy Central duo of the Lucas Brothers, identical twins Kenny and Keith, make the screen hum with groovy energy every second they’re onscreen as laid-back, comically synchronized roommates.

Returning as Capt. Dickson, rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube still gets howls with his scowl and plays a pivotal role in one of the movie’s funniest scenes—a “gotcha” that truly sneaks up on you, which is a testament to the craft of returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose other collaborations include Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The LEGO Movie.

A recurring theme is an in-joke about just how lazy (and pricey) it is to just do the same thing over again—in this case, the same characters, same plot, same directors. “Exactly like last time,” dryly notes Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman from TV’s Parks and Recreation.

1178499 - 22 Jump StreetA chase across the campus—with drug lords in a Hummer pursuing Jenko and Schmidt in a little cart with an enormous football helmet “cab”—destroys everything in its path. At one point, the cart comes to a split: Which way should it go?

“Whichever way’s cheaper!” Jenko shouts.

The bawdy comedy tap runs wide open in 22 Jump Street. It may be a ridiculously expensive retread, but man, just about every jolly dollar gets a laugh.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Everything is Awesome

Sharp, smart writing, gonzo wit and the pursuit of special-ness

LEGO

The Lego Movie

Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman & Elizabeth Banks

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

PG-13, 100 min.

Since their introduction in Denmark in 1949, Lego construction toys have spread all over the world, across multiple generations and throughout the reaches of pop culture. In addition to almost endless varieties of play sets, characters and components, there are also Lego videogames, Lego clothes, Lego competitions, and Lego amusement parks in Europe, North America and Asia.

Now there’s a Lego movie—and more people have seen it than any other film in America since it opened earlier this year.

Clearly, Legos are immensely popular playthings. But The Lego Movie is also an exceptionally well-done, wildly entertaining piece of family-friendly fare, a rare piece of work that engages both grownups and kids with a sharp, smart writing, gonzo wit and a story that bridges cross-generational audiences.

000048.0027807.tifBrilliant digital animation creates a teeming, brick-by-brick Lego world—several of them, in fact—and a sprawling cast of Lego characters: Emmet (Chris Pratt), a everyday, by-the-book construction worker nubbin who may—or may not—be the fulfillment of a long-ago prophesy foretold by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a blind seer; Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a beautiful female resistance fighter; Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), a walking maritime junkyard of a pirate; Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum) and the Green Lantern (Jonah Hill); Lord Business (Will Farrell), an evil control freak who wants to micro-manage everything and everyone; and Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), a literally two-faced law-enforcement officer.

Co-directors and writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose growing collaborative résumé includes the movies 21 Jump Street and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and TV’s How I Met Your Mother and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, weave themes of creativity, independence and cooperation into a story that runs on a crazy rail of nearly nonstop pop-cultural riffs and satirical references, understated comedic nuance as well as explosively absurd visual magic, and just the right tones of subversive cool for a movie that needs to appeal to children as well as parents.

LEGO

Early in the movie, Emmet gets in his Lego car, turns on the radio and hears a song, “Everything is Awesome.” It’s meant to be a big supersonic joke, an ironic mantra-like jab about conformity in a place where being mindlessly happy is mandatory. But it’s infectious as all get-out, and it becomes the movie’s theme. (It’s performed by the Canadian indie duo Tegan and Sara and the comedy-rap group the Lonely Island, and produced by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.)

And like the interlocking pieces of the gazillions of Legos it would have taken to make this movie if it weren’t for the digital magic of computer animation, the song just fits. Yep, in this joyous, joke-filled parable about the joy of making stuff, the power of imagination and the pursuit of special-ness, everything pretty much is awesome.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Sparks of Love

Roundup features star-studded movies based on romance novels

Nicholas_Sparks_DVD_Collection

Nicholas Sparks Limited Edition DVD Collection

DVD $69.97 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Hey, lovebirds, here’s something to coo about: Seven star-studded movies based on the romance novels of Nicholas Sparks are now for the first time available together in this super-snuggly gift set. Sparks, if you don’t know, is the maestro of mushiness whose 17 books have been published in 50 languages and sold some 90 million copies worldwide—and turned into these flicks: Safe Haven (2013) with Julianne Hough; The Lucky One (2012) with Zac Efron; Dear John (2010) with Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried; Nights in Rodanthe (2008) with Richard Gere and Diane Lane; Message in a Bottle (1999) with Kevin Costner; A Walk to Remember (2002) with Mandy Moore; and The Notebook (2004) with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Extras include a postcard set with images from each flick.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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