Honestly, with a title like Puzzle, I didn’t know what the movie would be about. Certainly some sort of drama. But I could also consider a mystery or thriller. The stars could be in all of the genres!

But more importantly, I didn’t know it was based on a foreign film. Not even until the credits roll was this made obvious to me. It was a 2010 film from Argentina of the same name! Well, but in Spanish.

The other film title was Rompecabezas. What an amazing word. Puzzle itself is a fun and amazing word. But Rompecabezas? Hot damn.

Look at all those Rompecabezas pieces.

Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) has a very unfortunate name, reserved for old ladies, and maybe that is why she in fact seems like a very old lady. She doesn’t have a job of her own, or any real notable hobbies. Her husband (David Denman) owns and works an auto repair shop. He has a crew, he works every day, he works hard. He gets home and supper is on the table. Everything is taken care of at home. Agnes cleans, she prepares, she shops, she goes to church group. She doesn’t need or want that smart phone for her birthday.

But someone got her a gift, a puzzle, a whole thousand pieces. And she decides to try it out. And there goes her time! Hell, she puts it together twice, because why not.

And it turns out she is really quite good at this puzzle thing. When she goes all the way to NYC to a shop to buy and look for more (because that is where the first one was bought), she finds a note that someone is a puzzle champion looking for a partner. A puzzle partner? For competition.

Agnes doesn’t really do things. And this is way out of her way. And it would be with a man (Irrfan Khan). These are not things her husband would be able to understand. Not that it matters, since they have been disagreeing more lately, especially about the direction of their sons (Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler).

No. Fuck it. It is Agnes time.

I am sure her married won’t be tested at all.

Puzzle was a very simple film that had a few weird stretches, but overall gave a wonderful performance by our lead Macdonald.

Well, I guess I will give more details. Both sons played their roles well, as catalysts and having their own personality. Denman seems forever plagued to live in roles of bad husbands and lovers. It just must be that face. (Logan Lucky aside, but he was still clearly a jerk in that relationship).

But Macdonald is a goddamn quiet force in this picture. Her mannerisms, her quirks, her voice, her attitude and face, and her growth throughout the picture. It is clearly her film and her life and we are just passengers along the way. I love, love, love her performance.

And in all honesty, yes, I wish the film would have ended differently than it ended it up going. And it took me over a week to write this review, but I believe it is a great ending for her character and breaks a few cliches. A surprise in that regard.

Who would have thought that a movie about joining a puzzle competition could be so captivating? Probably the same people who made movies about spelling bees.

3 out of 4.

Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh is a sunuvabitch. And I mean that in a loving way. After finishing strong with Side Effects and Behind The Candelabra, he said he was retiring from directing, and the world was sad. Sure, he gave us some of The Knick, but it wasn’t the same.

And then I saw a trailer for Logan Lucky. Soderbergh. Was. Back. He didn’t last long in retirement, a project pulled him out, described as a sort of redneck Ocean’s Eleven.

I didn’t need to see the trailer multiple times. I didn’t have to look at the cast list with glee. They just had to tell me that SS was at the helm and I knew I would not be missing that film.

Also, add in one of the greatest known actors to man, then you are just asking for Oscars.

In West Virginia, part of the Blue Ridge mountains, with the Shenandoah River, bunch of country roads that are basically heaven for the inhabitants, live the Logans. A family that some individuals think are cursed or unlucky. There is Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), the one who was going to be a big football star, but got a leg injury leaving him with a limp before he could make it big. He also was fired recently as a construction worker in NC, so there is that. His brother is Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), soft spoken, ended up going to the Army after his brother’s accident, and in Iraq, he lost his hand and part of an arm. Now he is a bartender. Their extended family has some issues too, but their younger sister, Mellie Logan (Riley Keough), has been relatively unfazed and is a hairdresser.

Anyways, Jimmy has a family. Notably, a daughter, (Farrah Mackenzie) and an ex-wife (Katie Holmes), and he just wants to do right by them. But getting fired, not being rich, these are big problems. So he has had it. He wants to steal from a vault. He needs a giant payday, and from his construction, he knows how the money is moved at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He has a big plan and everything to get the money and out without people knowing about it. Heck, he is even going to pick a small weekend where there is little security and not a big monetary loss to the company. They aren’t bad people, they are just…unlucky and in hard times.

They just need some help. And they want to enlist Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a man from that area who is knowledgeable about getting into vaults. But he is also in jail. So they need to break him out, do a heist, and break him back into jail without knowing he was gone. Ah yes, good times.

And rednecks. Good times with rednecks.

Also starring Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Brian Gleeson, David Denman, Jack Quaid, Jim O’Heir, Katherine Waterston, Hilary Swank, and Dwight Yoakam as the warden.

No touching!

This film was very hard for me to review. Days later it still has resonated with me, one touching scene in particular. It has brought me closer to John Denver more so than any other film before it. You know how these movies work. Have a dad, have a relationship with his daughter, have touching moments, and you will have me there in the theater crying.

I love the cast. I love how into the characters everyone was, no matter how big or small. I loved how everyone played it straight. They weren’t mocking southerners, they were embracing the culture. Sure it was amusing, but it was still handled with a lot of class. They were just people trying to do something for their families and not trying to hurt anyone along the way. They were good people in somewhat extreme circumstances. And everyone was just so good at their roles. Even the people who were dicks.

Before I forget, this film also featured the BEST Game of Thrones reference ever in a film. It was something that made me cackle with glee. To be honest, the list of “films with Game of Thrones references” is probably pretty short, but no way could anything before have topped this one.

BUT YET THERE IS SOMETHING THAT IS HARD TO DESCRIBE. There are slower moments. There are things rushed. There is confusion at just how far away they live from Charlotte. I have to assume like 3-4 hours, which makes the timing of this film a bit awkward and harder to grasp. The later reveals of heist didn’t feel as extravagant as I had hoped. And the ending just sort of ending.

It isn’t the perfect film that my mind has made it out to be. I still can love it, I can accept its faults, but that makes me put an honest rating. You know, a brain rating and not just a rating in my heart.

If my heart was rating this film, it would maybe be a 5 out of 4.

3 out of 4.

Power Rangers

Like most people, I too was a big Power Rangers fan. Not only did I see Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie in theaters when I was a wee lad, but I watched basically every episode. I kept up with the evolving story line over the various versions. I was still super into the show when it was Power Rangers In Space, because it was all connected. That is when I was able to get a lot of the toys as well.

Power Rangers Lost Galaxies is where I started to lose interest, and now of course, watching the newer versions make me cringe. But technically, watching the older shows also make me cringe. Power Rangers is NOT a good show. It is creative as fuck, piecing together the Japanese TV shows and some American actors to make something somewhat coherent. Good on them for trying. But it is of course repetitive, silly, and a bit shitty.

And that is okay. Not everything nostalgic needs to actually be great. We just have to admit it to ourselves.

Now? Let’s get back to now. Now we have a reboot. A grittier version, of course. Power Rangers. New teenagers with more attitude, because they are going to use swear words. And as it is a reboot we are going to get a few references or meta jokes, because film is dead and meaningless in the year 2017.

Hey, space man!

The film starts with the end of the dinosaurs! And also aliens, fighting. One of those Aliens is Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who dies covering up some interesting looking coins, from some repulsive looking alien lady. And after a meteor hits, we switch to modern day. Our hero, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), just got arrested for vandalizing school property, and private property, and operating a motor vehicle like an asshat.

So that means he gets to have Saturday detention forever. And that is where he meets Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and Billy (RJ Cyler), who we all know later also become rangers. Long story short, those three and two other people, Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G). Blah blah blah, coins, Zordon, Alpha-5 (Bill Hader), and more!

(Record scratch)! But if these kids think being Power Rangers is going to be easy, they don’t know what they are getting into. They can’t even morph! And Rita (Elizabeth Banks) is going to take over everything in just a little over a week! Uh oh!

Also starring David Denman as Jason’s dad.

It’s a bold idea, to do this review and not show any power ranger.

Let’s get straight to the point. This reboot tried to do everything, and thus fell short at everything. It wanted gritty and serious. It also wanted nostalgic references. It also wanted elements of corny, but those were few and far between. The original show was very corny, and a bit self aware. I am not saying this remake has to be exactly like the show to be successful. I have already said that the show is kind of terrible. But it needs to make an identity and stick with it.

Making references and quotes from the original series is cheap and easy. But they break us out of the movie. The one time they say “It’s morphin’ time!” feels incredibly lackluster. The Alpha-5 “Aye-aye-aye” isn’t terrible. The new version of the old theme plays over the zoid entrance really quick, but it feels like an amateur just pasted it on top of the film and feels out of place.

And the references can get really distracting too! There was a scene between Zordon and Alpha-5, sort of freaking out about the fact that the new rangers were just teenagers. It was just begging for him to say something about how they had attitude as well, and it didn’t, so it was just an awkward moment in the theater.

This is a lot of detail on technically a small aspect, but it frames the entire film. The only entertaining Ranger is of course Billy, because they made him nice, caring, and interesting. RJ Cyler is still killing it, just like when he played Earl in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The camera work felt too teenage angsty and HD. It reminded me of I Am Number Four and other similar tone movies, where the whole thing just feels fake and rushed. And the megazord moment just is overly long and…well, awkward.

Despite all the complaints, the movie is still at least okay. The plot isn’t the worst, they add a lot of mythology to the story and give us storylines to work on in the future. Zordon was a huge dick, so it was just nice to see him with a personality. And how they connected Rita to the Rangers made some sense as well. Although, Banks didn’t feel right for the role. She looked like she was trying to act like Parker Posey, and now, I really just want the role to magically have been given to her instead.

This is not a movie you have to GoGo to see right away. It will be on Netflix before the end of the year, guaranteed.

2 out of 4.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Benghazi. What a political buzz word. A city that no one had any idea even existed before the events in 2012, but it became quite a big deal.

And I couldn’t care less. I am mostly annoyed that it has become such a buzz word without a lot of meaning behind it that shitty internet and news people are referring to controversies as “word”-ghazi, depending on the situation. It is just as ludicrous as adding gate to the end of it, if not more so. And both things need to stop.

Yes, these indeed are my thoughts going into the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I don’t know shit about it, outside of the fact that controversy exists. I know it is supposed to be a real story, but Michael Bay is directing it so who knows. I know that this movie is based on a book written by someone who was there, so who knows the actual accuracy of the book.

After all, who cares about truth when the outcome is income.

I expect a plethora of pew pew pews on both sides.

Apparently, Benghazi, Libya was named one of the most dangerous places in the world. Despite that, the US still kept a “diplomatic compound” in the city and nearby is a “secret” CIA compound staffed by private military contractors. And the movie begins with Jack Silva (John Krasinski) flying in to join their team. “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale) an old friend picks them up, tells him to not mess with the locals and you know, helps fill in the new guy so that we can as an audience can learn things.

Despite tension, the US Ambassador to Libya (Matt Letscher) is still there, with a small rental cop security team. He gets worried when he sees people taking pictures of the compound. And worried he should be! Because on September 11, yes that day, some people attack the compound.

Now, our private military CIA people are the only friendlies in the area and they go against orders to try and save the ambassador. They have no support incoming and they are basically going to war with a tiny army, but it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do, right?

Also starring David Giuntoli, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, Dominic Fumusa, David Denman, David Costabile, and Alexia Barlier.

Shit, there are explosions too. Instead of pews, we get boom boom booms.

I know what I am about to say is terrible criticism for a film and I know it is a word I should try to avoid while writing a review, but after pounding my head, I have no idea how to talk about the movie with any other vernacular. 13 Hours was boring. It dragged. It is almost two and a half hours long and it felt like four. It took a whole hour before the assault on any compound began, which is a shit ton of time to spend to try and make us care for the characters (which doesn’t work).

Sometimes when your goal is ultra realistic combat situations (which this is arguable, clearly many liberties would have been taken), it no longer entertaining. I hated Act of Valor, because they wanted realism at the expense of acting and story and it showed. In this case, Bay wanted to drive home an opinion, honor some people, and explode some shit.

I think forcing someone to watch this movie twice in a row would actually be considered torture and so technically it fits the theme of area the movie is set in. Go figure.

It wasn’t completely terrible, it was just boring. It failed to ever grasp my attention and felt like it would never end. Thankfully, this is the final major movie from January of 2016 that I had to watch. Hooray, I caught up only six months into the year! Too bad the months after it also were filled with bad films.

Bay, stick to Robots and Turtles. At least they are occasionally interesting.

1 out of 4.