Before you turn on your television, iPad or laptop this weekend and drown in movie options, The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz presents a handful of streaming bets that are worth your coveted downtime – even though they might make you miss the theatre more than you already do.
Logan Lucky, Netflix: The endless scroll presented by the streaming world offers plenty of time-wasters and empty distractions from the comedy world. I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix, for instance, has an entire team dedicated to pushing whatever film is keeping David Spade’s mortgage payments afloat. But what about the comedies that slipped through the cracks? They deserve just as much love. Hence this week’s streaming bets, which kick off with this Steven Soderbergh joint that was unjustly ignored upon its theatrical release in 2017.
Logan Lucky is a crackerjack heist film that strongly echoes Soderbergh’s other crackerjack heist franchise (that’d be the Ocean’s movies), but with a uniquely downmarket and genuinely affectionate charm all its own. Following the exploits of three hard-luck West Virginian siblings (Adam Driver and Soderbergh regulars Channing Tatum and Riley Keough) as they plot a so-crazy-it-just-might-work NASCAR robbery, the film practically bounces off the jailhouse walls with its manic, zippy energy. As expected with a Soderbergh project, there are ambitious twists and a timeline that jumps around just enough to demand a second viewing. But the film hits a truly unexpected high when it introduces Daniel Craig’s bank-vault expert Joe Bang, an imprisoned force of comic fury whose unhinged performance elevates Logan Lucky above any notions of genre shtick. Good luck keeping that one locked up.
Ready or Not, Crave: This tale of a young bride (Samara Weaving) struggling to survive her wedding night with the in-laws from literal Hell (that’d be Satan devotees played by the spirited Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell) is assembled from the best pieces of better movies (I spy traces of You’re Next, Get Out, The Game, Society, The Most Dangerous Game and one very cute nod to Hellraiser).
But despite its sometimes overwhelming sense of familiarity – including a conceit that feels lifted from 2018′s Game Night, an impossible feat given both productions’ development timelines – Ready or Not is still energetic, inventive and bloody enough to permissibly coast on its influences’ fumes. Bonus points to co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett for figuring out how to properly transfer co-star Adam Brody’s smarm to a post-The OC project, after so many other filmmakers have tried and failed.
A Simple Favor, Amazon Prime Video: Director Paul Feig is best known for such female-fronted comedies as Bridesmaids and Spy (and for his collaborations with Judd Apatow, such as television’s forever-mourned Freaks and Geeks). So when Feig’s A Simple Favor was released in 2018, with marketing materials promising a Gone Girl-style thriller, dedicated Feig-heads (guilty!) were perplexed. Would this be the director’s new approach, perhaps after having been burned by trolls for his (legitimately underappreciated) Ghostbusters reboot? Yes and no.
Although A Simple Favor contains definite trappings of an airport page-turner – two young mothers (Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively) become fast friends before one of them disappears from the face of the Earth – its mystery elements are infused with a uniquely Feig-ian sensibility, equal parts broad comedy and ironic winks. The genre-meld shouldn’t work as well as it does, but Feig wrangles all the disparate elements under his control. And Kendrick, who is so often miscast or simply misused, will stick around in your mind long enough to erase any narrative missteps.
Living in Oblivion, Kanopy: Back in the heady days of the mid-1990s, director Tom DiCillo was positioned as being in a neck-and-neck race with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Allison Anders as the heroes of indie cinema. Given the fact that you’re reading this in the year 2020, it’s obvious that DiCillo never made it to any Tarantino-esque heights. But it’s still worth revisiting where the hype originated, with this small-but-sharp 1995 comedy looking at the many missteps of an indie filmmaker (a long-haired Steve Buscemi) trying to make his masterpiece.
From its direct skewering of Brad Pitt (who DiCillo worked with on 1991′s Johnny Suede) to its light-as-a-feather tone to its standout cast (Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney and Peter Dinklage all impress), Living in Oblivion both stands as an artifact of the indie-mad era and has aged remarkably well.
Diamantino, Criterion Channel: Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s 2018 feature opens on a Portuguese soccer star (Carloto Cotta) in the middle of a World Cup match, with all the country’s eyes on the Ronaldo-esque hunk. But then a bunch of giant puppies appear to the title character in a dreamy haze, his evil twin sisters start to conspire against him, a genetic engineer starts messing around with clownfish DNA, a pair of lesbian-lover cops hatch a plan involving a nun’s habit and offshore bank accounts. It all starts to make a perfect sort of nonsense-sense.
Part political satire, part fantasy, part I-don’t-even-know-what, Diamantino is exactly the type of surreal concoction that begs to be discovered by unsuspecting audiences. The fact that it includes one of the best punchlines involving the word “Canada” in recent memory is just a delightful bonus.
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