“Logan Lucky” and “Marjorie Prime - The New Yorker

he good news about the new Steven Soderbergh film, “Logan Lucky,” is that, although it’s about a heist, it contains not a single person named Ocean. George Clooney in a well-pressed suit, his bons mots tumbling like dice, is never going to be an eyesore, but even the proudest Las Vegan will have tired of the spectacle by now. That explains why Soderbergh, who directed “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) and its two sequels, begins the latest movie with so sweaty a statement of intent: Channing Tatum, busy with his tools, under the hood of a truck. Sitting nearby is his young daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), who passes him the wrenches that he needs. Caesars Palace seems a long way off.

Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, who lives in Boone County, West Virginia, and drives an excavator at the mine. As befits a lover of country music, he has an ex-wife named Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), who wears a fringed white top and rhinestone-studded jeans, and a sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), who works as a hairdresser. Stopping by Mellie’s salon, Jimmy admits to one of her clients that he doesn’t like cell phones. “You one of those Unabomber types?” she asks. Jimmy also has a brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), who lost half an arm in Iraq. Despite being, in physical terms, the least plausible siblings since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, in “Twins” (1988), Jimmy and Clyde are conjoined in mental sloth. In the words of one onlooker, “You Logans must be as simpleminded as people say.”

Yet the movie doesn’t always bear out that verdict. For one thing, the brothers show a casual proficiency that borders on cool. Clyde pours drinks, with a conjurer’s grace, at a local bar; Jimmy takes off his hard hat and skims it backhanded into a storage locker, yards away, like 007 tossing his trilby onto a hat stand. Then there’s the plan. In Jimmy’s kitchen is what Clyde describes as “a robbery to-do list,” the idea being to steal a cornucopia of cash from the Charlotte Motor Speedway, in Concord, North Carolina—or, more precisely, to suck the cash from a vault beneath the track, through a network of tubes. The boys enlist the aid of a safe-blower named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), the only hitch being that he’s in jail. No problem. Clyde gets himself arrested, by driving briskly through the window of a store, and thrown into the same prison. He and Joe must break out for the day, hook up with Jimmy, pull off the theft, and break back in without being missed. All of which sounds wacky enough, but is it simpleminded?

That question meanders through “Logan Lucky.” What we have here is a filmmaker of proven liberal credentials (a few years ago, he made a two-part, four-and-a-half-hour bio-pic of Che Guevara) addressing himself to a patch of America where those credentials don’t mean jack. Such is the merriment of the new movie, and so spirited is its pace, that you barely notice the wavering of the tone. On the one hand, Soderbergh and his screenwriter, Rebecca Blunt, set up various characters as ninepins—folks like Joe’s brothers, Fish and Sam, played so broadly by Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson, and with such raw redneckery, that they’re begging to be knocked down. Roll up, the movie cries, watch the hicks toss toilet seats instead of horseshoes! Listen to them mangle the lingo of the modern age! (“All the Twitters, I know ’em.” “I looked it up on the Google.”) Soderbergh reinforces this overkill with leering closeups; we’re crotch-side with Joe as he does pushups in his cell, and Clyde slides a cocktail so near to the lens that he might as well be offering the cameraman a swig.

On the other hand, check out race day—which, wouldn’t you know it, happens to be heist day, too. Some of the speedway footage was shot live during the Coca-Cola 600, one of the premier Nascar events of the year, and Soderbergh doesn’t just give us the hullabaloo that surrounds it. He gives it to us straight. As LeAnn Rimes sings “America the Beautiful” and fighter jets fly in formation above, all the spectators (barring Joe Bang, who needs to stay incognito) bare their heads, and you can feel the film following suit, as you can when Sadie, shimmering with hairspray and fake tan, carols a John Denver song at a beauty pageant, with her audience crooning along. What Soderbergh implies at such moments is that for countless Americans this is the life, and that you mock it at your peril. And yet, elsewhere, the movie points and snorts. When historians come to tell the tale of the Trumpian epoch, and of confused cultural attitudes toward the heartland, “Logan Lucky” will be part of the evidence.

Then again, many people will leave the cinema with nothing more profound—or more enjoyable—than the image of Daniel Craig, adorned with a garish blond buzz cut that makes his blue eyes madder than ever. In jail, he wears a traditional inmate’s uniform, with black and white stripes. Asked by Clyde and Jimmy how it’s going when they pay a visit, Joe replies, “I’m sitting on the other side of the table wearing a onesie. How d’you think it’s going?” The laugh that met this line when I saw the movie seemed to unlock its good cheer, and so liberated does Craig appear, on a hollering vacation from his stern-visaged duties as James Bond, that his mood exalts the whole enterprise. “I’m about to get nekkid,” Joe says, sprawled on the rear seat of a Mustang V-8, and he takes great joy in cooking up explosives from gummy bears and bleach. Soderbergh refuses to get wonkish about the crime; he drops in a few rum details—for what possible purpose, you wonder, is Mellie painting live cockroaches with nail polish?—and stands back, as if to say, Let the games begin.

Once they’re done, we get a late twist that I failed to understand, plus some wary sleuthing from an F.B.I. agent (Hilary Swank). Neither addition is necessary, but, then, “Logan Lucky” delights in superfluities; it’s more about the trimmings than the meat. Not all of them succeed. Seth MacFarlane isn’t much funnier or more believable as a British racing driver than Don Cheadle was as a British thief in the “Ocean’s” saga; whatever strange fixation Soderbergh has on Cockneys, or fake Cockneys, should be laid to rest. But Katherine Waterston does wonders with a brief role as Sylvia, a woman who went to high school with Jimmy and wound up as a medic. In a few minutes, she gives you a hint of the startling ways in which lives can peel apart and come together again, and she sets Jimmy thinking. He and Clyde used to fear a Logan family curse, but their exploits here—not the plunder alone but the patent elixir of hope, savvy, and silliness—break the spell.

If you are feeling especially dumb, or hungover, steer clear of “Marjorie Prime.” Michael Almereyda’s film is so subtly smart, and veiled in such layers of suggestion, that you need to be on your toes from the beginning.

In a beautiful house by the sea, an elderly woman, Marjorie (Lois Smith), talks to a more youthful man, named Walter (Jon Hamm). He sits erect on the couch, unflappable and neatly groomed, like Don Draper crossed with a robot; there’s something not quite right about him, and it’s only at the end of the scene that the something becomes clear. As Marjorie brushes past him, she walks through his shoes as if they weren’t there at all. And they’re not. Walter is a Prime—a computer program, providing a 3-D facsimile of a deceased person. In this case, the true Walter was Marjorie’s late husband, and she has chosen to have him return as an earlier self, thus setting an immediate moral test: if you could summon up those you have loved and lost, at what stage would you capture them? In their heyday? Or as they were in yours?

Almereyda’s movie, adapted from a stage play by Jordan Harrison, is technically science fiction, picking through the thorny issues of identity that grew in “Blade Runner,” yet it looks only lightly futuristic. We never find out how you order a Prime, or whether it’s just the well-to-do who can afford one; will the poor continue to mourn as before? At one point, we gather that Marjorie herself must have passed away, because it’s a reboot of her—not younger, but more kempt—who chats with her daughter, the sorrowful Tess (Geena Davis), politely asking for details of the departed Marjorie, so as to become a more accurate copy. (“I’m vain?” “A little.” “That’s helpful.”) Then we have Tess’s husband, Jon (Tim Robbins), fond of his Scotch; we wonder whether he, in turn, will bring forth a substitute Tess, once she is no more, and whether, like all the humans in the movie, he will be tempted to arrange for an improved or happier model. “Marjorie Prime” could use a trim, as some of the exchanges linger too long, but Mica Levi, who worked on “Under the Skin” (2013) and “Jackie” (2016), contributes another searching score, and the film, with its coastal haze and its fickle gusts of rain, is likely to lodge in your memory. Or, as it will soon be called, your hard drive. ♦

This article appears in other versions of the August 28, 2017, issue, with the headline “Happy Returns.”

‘Marjorie Prime’ Arrives With Awards Hopes; ‘Patti Cake$’ Bows – Specialty B.O. Preview

Eighty-six year-old actress Lois Smith will receive an awards push for her portrayal in Marjorie Prime, which opens this weekend via FilmRise, the distributor that picked up the Sundance fest title last spring. Marjorie Prime, which also stars Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins, is among a fairly crowded slate of Specialty newcomers this weekend, heading into late summer. Brett Gelman, Judy Greer and Michael Cera star in Lemon from Magnolia Pictures, a dark comedy that also debuted at Sundance. The festival was also the launch pad for Fox Searchlight’s Patti Cake$, opening in over a half-dozen cities today before moving to several hundred in the coming weeks. And Abramorama is opening its latest music doc, Sidemen: Long Road to Glory, in New York this week followed by two dozen runs by Labor Day weekend.

FilmRise

Marjorie Prime
Director-writer: Michael Almereyda
Writer: Jordan Harrison (play)
Cast: Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins, Hannah Gross, Stephanie Andujar
Distributor: FilmRise

Set in the near-ish future, Michael Almereyda’s sci-fi pic Marjorie Prime is based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play exploring memory, identity, love and loss. The film, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize, will bring an Awards push for the title star, the 86-year-old Lois Smith, who starred in Elia Kazan’s East of Eden opposite James Dean in 1955.

In this film, Smith plays Marjorie, who spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging accounts of their lives, drawn into reconstructing the often painful past.

Uri Singer produced Michael Almereyda’s 2015 film Experimenter. While screening the title at the Beijing Film Festival, Almereyda told Singer he had seen the play Marjorie Prime.

“Michael wrote the script adaptation over three months,” said Singer. “Michael allowed everyone to read it, [including] Jordan Harrison who gave his approval. Michael also made a ‘look book,’ which showed his vision. That sealed the deal for me. I also saw how thoroughly he worked during Experimenter.”

Smith had played Marjorie in Los Angeles and was in rehearsals for the stage version in New York as shooting began, juggling her schedule between the movie locations in Long Island and New York City. Jon Hamm took to the script, joining the project, while Geena Davis and Tim Robbins also boarded all within a two-week period.

“The pieces were coming together, but we had one challenge,” explained Singer. “The initial script called for a location in a glass house in upstate New York, but then Ex Machina came out and it had the same kind of setting, so in order to separate [our film] from that, we looked for a place on the beach.” The film shot over 21 days in late 2015.

The production found a house in the Hamptons as the primary location. The crew had to juggle their schedule to accommodate Smith’s obligations with the theater rehearsals for Marjorie Prime. Though the schedule was a heavy one, Singer said Smith rose to the occasion. “Lois did not behave her age,” he said. “Though she was 86, she was up before everyone, knew her lines and was as young as anyone can expect. At one point, she had to swim in the pool, but the heater wasn’t working. But she did it.”

FilmRise picked up the title in March. The distributor will open Marjorie Prime in one theater each in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco this weekend, followed by a national roll-out.

‘Marjorie Prime’ Trailer: Jon Hamm Plays Lois Smith’s Hologram Husband In Sundance Standout

The new emotional and unsettling trailer for FilmRise’s Marjorie Prime evokes some Black Mirror vibes and has drawn comparisons to Spike Jonze’s Her. Even so, the film based on the acclaimed Jordan Harrison play stands on its own as it has received high marks when it bowed earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

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'Marjorie Prime' Acquired By FilmRise, With Awards-Season Push Planned For Lois Smith

The story follows the titular 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith) as she spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband (Jon Hamm). With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past.

Adapted and directed by Michael Almaryeda, the film won the Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance.  Along with Hamm and Smith, the film stars Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.  critics have been raving about their performances. FilmRise is set to push all the main actors with a targeted award-season campaign. Uri Singer of Passage Pictures serves as producer.

Marjorie Prime is set to open in New York and Los Angeles on August 18 with a national rollout to follow.

Review: Marjorie Prime

 

Review: Marjorie Prime

(Michael Almereyda, USA, FilmRise, Opens August 18)

In Marjorie Prime Jon Hamm plays a hologram, which may seem like odd casting of an actor with such fleshly presence. Still, when not buffed to the gills and poured into a Mad Men power suit, Hamm looks scaled down to affably human; even the granite jaw aims to please. The Prime’s agreeable nature will become relevant, if only because the movie, adapted by director Michael Almereyda from Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated stage play, is in part an inquiry into the evolving connection between us humans and the technology we’ve created. Hamm represents a mostly obedient piece of software named Walter, who’s been programmed to boost the flagging memory of Marjorie (the incomparable Lois Smith, reprising her stage role), an elderly widow in need of comfort as she struggles through early dementia. Walter is such a good replica of Marjorie’s husband in his youth that we wouldn’t know he’s transparent were it not for a puckish moment when someone walks through his foot.

 

From theJuly/August 2017Issue

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SUBSCRIBE TO THE MAGAZINE

Blink and you might miss this and other lo-fi special effects. Always inventive with form and ideas, Almereyda is rarely experimental just for the hell of it: his 2000 Hamlet had the Great Dane deliver “To be or not to be” under a “Go Home Happy” sign at a Blockbuster Video store—and in context it was no cliché. The minimal CGI in Marjorie Prime subtly abets the philosophical dressing on a moving, if psychologically familiar, family drama with a tech twist. The flashbacks that fill us in on Marjorie’s painfully checkered family history are deployed with a light touch. Almereyda opens up the play’s one-room set into a beachside house sleekly furnished in the beige and brown and stained wood you’d expect from well-heeled Hamptons WASPs.

Skeletons march out of cupboards on cue, but this isn’t Edward Albee territory: these are posh people who conduct their fights in a genteel whisper. The backstory to their current sufferings is sensitively rendered, if standard fare. We hear of inattentive parenting, sibling rivalry, depression, and a tragic death with a long reach into the present and future. Scripted for resentment and eternal hunger for affection, Marjorie’s daughter Tess (a finely tuned Geena Davis) sees rivals everywhere, is estranged from her own daughter, and resents the Prime who’s standing in for her withholding father. Her solicitous husband Jon (Tim Robbins) positions himself as the family mediator, yet seems to enjoy himself a touch too much topping up the Prime he created with new data to enhance—and possibly edit—Marjorie’s memory bank.

 

This may seem like glum material, but Marjorie Prime is refreshingly free of the rote doom and gloom that clings to many movies addressing the Great Tech Takeover. Jon is no more sinister than the quiescent Walter, he of the oft-repeated recorded response to new information, “I’ll remember that now.” Yet this house is stacked with unreliable narrators (though Walter and Marjorie both display a subversive kick), all of them floundering in a slippery time frame that is skillfully rendered by Almereyda as fluid and without boundaries.

Does it matter that all memory is by neuro-scientific definition faulty or interpretive? How will the increasingly fuzzy line between human and digital memory change the way we relate to one another and live on in others’ memories? Whether someday soon we will all need (or get regardless) our own Primes is just one of the questions this likable but slightly anodyne movie raises yet doesn’t really run with. That may be a weakness in the play, and Almereyda, expertly juggling the tonal shifts between mordant and elegiac, keeps the faith. Those who admire the work of this bold innovator may be disappointed that he has muffled his own voice in the process.

Ella Taylor writes about film for NPR.org, The Criterion Collection, and others. She teaches in the School of Cinema at the University of Southern California.

 

most anticipated 2017 movies

Marjorie Prime

The first half of 2017 was great for movies — but the second half of 2017 is poised to be a stunner.

There’s something for everyone coming up: hotly anticipated franchise entries (Star Wars: The Last JediJustice LeagueThor: Ragnarok, War for the Planet of the Apes); sequels both long-awaited (Blade Runner: 2049) and spiritual (The Only Living Boy in New YorkCloverfield Movie); romantic comedies (Home Again); musicals (The Greatest Showman); and a fresh Pixar movie (Coco).

There are new arrivals from a murderer’s row of great directors, including Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Martin McDonagh, and many more. Intriguing thrillers, important documentaries, satire, and historical drama dot the schedule.

And some of the year’s most buzzed-about festival films — like Call Me by Your NameMudbound, and The Florida Project — are scheduled to arrive in theaters just in time for awards season.

Here are 50 movies you won’t want to miss between now and the end of the year, arranged by month and release date.

Get ready: It’s going to be a great second half of the year at the multiplex.

Marjorie Prime -

Release date: August 18

Why it matters: There was a hologram of Jon Hamm (along with actual Jon Hamm) walking around the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to promote Marjorie Prime, a sci-fi movie based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play about love and loss. In addition to Hamm, it stars the great Geena Davis.

How being a player led Jon Hamm to ‘Marjorie Prime’

As the world wonders if Jon Hamm is getting to first base with Jenny Slate, we can report that he hit a home run with the director of his upcoming movie, “Marjorie Prime.”

It took a ballfield to bring the actor and filmmaker together.

“I liked his work (and) I knew someone he played softball with,” writer and director Michael Almereyda told the Daily News before a screening of the film on Thursday at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“That’s a very helpful thing,” added Almereyda, who based his gentle sci-fi drama on a play by Jordan Harrison. “It was recreational softball.”

Jon Hamm plays a virtual companion for Lois Smith in "Marjorie Prime."

 (PASSAGE PICTURES)

In the movie about the impact of technology on humanity, Hamm plays a virtual companion of 86-year-old Marjorie, who’s played by the great Lois Smith. Geena Davis plays Smith’s daughter Tess, and Tim Robbins is Tess’ husband.

The director acknowledged that landing two Oscar winners, along with Smith and Hamm, who’s getting terrific reviews from “Baby Driver,” is a coup for the indie film.

“It’s very hard to get to actors for a low-budget project,” said Almereyda. “There’s not a lot of incentive for agents to get their attention.”

Even harder to find ones who’ll help with the financial business of making a movie. Hamm and Robbins are both credited as executive producers of the film coming out on Aug. 18.

Smith’s estimable career spans six decades and such films as “Five Easy Pieces” and plays as “The Trip to Bountiful.”

What did Hamm bring to the role of Marjorie’s computerized companion? “Himself,” said Smith. “That’s all any of us can do.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/player-led-jon-hamm-marjorie-prime-article-1.3272157

Cannes Talk: Producer Uri Singer of Passage Pictures

Producer Uri Singer launched Passage Pictures in 2016, taking its drama ‘Marjorie Prime,” starring Jon Hamm and Lois Smith,  to Sundance earlier this year. That film was picked up by FilmRise, which is planning an awards push for Smith. Also in its slate: “I am Rose Fatou,” written by Ted Melfi (“Hidden Figures”), “Tesla,” which teams Singer up again with writer/director Michael Almereyda, and “Rich,” based on the book “King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich,” about the infamous billionaire oil trader who died in 2013.

 

What’s different about Passage Pictures?

I decided I had to sit through movies and watch them and I decided they had to be important to bring to the screen — passion projects that can have a bigger audience, and important stories. Like “Experimenter,” and movies like “Marjorie Prime,” “White Noise,” and Nikola Tesla biopic “Tesla.” That’s a challenge I embrace.

 

 

How do you navigate the difficult specialty market?

The market for the arthouse movies is very complicated. It’s very hard to make them so that the larger audience will embrace them. What I am trying to do is have a balance and do bigger movies that can be more commercial.

What kind of material are you attracted to? 

Some kind of a niche — strong characters especially, and most of the times, material about a real, fascinating personality, like Marc Rich, or Nikola Tesla. Strong personalities. Tesla was not in the end a successful person but brilliant; to me, Marc Rich is a fascinating story that had everything. But Rich couldn’t get the most important thing. Stanley Milgram (the real-life social psychologist played by Peter Sarsgaard in the film “Experimenter”) was also a strong character.

How do you attract a high-profile cast?

It is a challenge to attract cast. Actors can be very picky now. So sometimes you go the route where the director attracts the talent. Or the actors are not attracted to a payday but to the content. With “White Noise,” we are finished the script and going out to our wish list of talent. Once you have the cast and the material and the IP and everyone is reading it, you can compete with the big studios.

Surviving the economics of the indie film biz — what’s your secret?

Very challenging. It’s challenging like the Wild West. Producers have a very hard time — it’s getting harder and harder. Producers have to source material, option it, etc.

You have to really believe in what you are doing and if you have a project of quality, doors open. The material has to be unique — a true story, socially relevant. [We are producing] a Brazilian movie about immigrants from their POV, something that’s timley and important.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Cannes?

Bobo is a brassiere there with fantastic food. The last time I was there, Rena Ronson and James Schamus were at a table near me and the waiter started to sing and dance. They couldn’t hear and the waiter wouldn’t stop, and they left, and the waiter just danced and sang. They were not nice and couldn’t care less but it’s just great food. I also love Le Maschou, in Old Town.

Jessica Alba, Kurtwood Smith Others Join Cast Of ‘El Camino Christmas

EXCLUSIVE: Jessica AlbaKurtwood SmithMichelle Mylett, and Emilio Rivera have joined the cast of the dark comedy El Camino Christmas from Netflix, Hidden Figures‘ filmmaker Ted Melfi and director Dave Talbert. They join Tim Allen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Luke Grimes, Dax Shepard, Kimberly Quinn and Jimmy O. Yang in the ensemble.

 

Related

'Hidden Figures' Filmmaker Ted Melfi Lines Up Strong Ensemble Cast For 'El Camino Christmas' At Netflix

 

The project, scripted by Melfi and writer Chris Wehner, is about a young man (Grimes) who seeks out a father he has never met and, through no fault of his own, ends up barricaded in a liquor store with five other people on Christmas Eve. The story takes place in the fictitious town of El Camino, NV.

 

Alba will play reporter Beth Flowers, Smith will play the Sheriff and Mylett is in a lead role of Kate in the film that is already in production.

El Camino Christmas is being produced by Melfi and Quinn through their Goldenlight Films and also through Melfi’s Brother production banners. Rich Carter, Lyn and Dave Talbert, Uri Singer and Jack Murray are the executive producers. Brother is Melfi and Carter’s commercial production house which is making its first foray into feature production with this film.

 

 

Alba (Mechanic: Resurrection) is repped by CAA and 3Arts; Smith (Agent Carter, That ‘70s Show), by Progressive Artists Agency and Pop Art Management; Mylett (Letterkenny) is repped by LINK and Parent Managment while Rivera (Sons of Anarchy) is repped by AEFH.