Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What I'm Watching

Hell or High Water

This is the most recent movie I've seen in theatres (twice...) and it has set the bar high for the rest of the year. The only thing I knew about this film before seeing it was the three leads (because of the movie poster) and that it had 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. I still take reviews with a grain of salt but when I see something that high I take it as a challenge rather than a suggestion. But man, it deserved that 99%.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine play two brothers who have decided to rob the branches of the same bank that loaned their (now deceased) mother a reverse mortgage and basically screwed their family and if not paid in a few days, their ranch will be foreclosed (I hope I got all that terminology correct. The only loans I have are student and I rent, so, there you go). Oil was discovered on their property so Toby (the younger brother played by Pine) and Tanner (the ex-con brother played by Foster), are determined to pay off the mortgage before the bank can take their property. Soon, two rangers, played by Bridges and Gil Birmingham (he's one of those actors I just love randomly seeing, and his calm, rational demeanor as well as his sighs play wonderfully against Bridge's brash character), are on the trail and want to put an end to the robberies.

It's a fun, but at times intense, modern day western written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and directed by David Mackenzie, the man who also directed my absolute favorite film from last year, Starred Up. Sheridan writes each of the roles, even the minor ones, with such detail but keeps them believable so as not to become caricatures. Sometimes I wondered if he wrote separate stories for them. Mackenzie keeps his shots long, moving the camera along to capture the action but he knows when to just let the camera sit to let his actors take over the scene. The real winner is cinematographer Gils Nuttgens, who captures the dessert landscape beautifully, I want to frame some of these shots and hang them on the wall.

There is quite a bit of humor in what is essentially a bleak story, but Foster's over the topness seems to fit (speaking of over the top, here is an eye roll worthy interview with him where you want to ask him if he's playing the role of "insufferable actor." Was that too much?) and it plays well against Pine's dryness.

If You Like This: You *may* like 600 Miles. It's another modern day western, but more subdued and Tim Roth is amazing as an unassuming Chuck Norris type of character.


It's been a while since I've seen this but I have to write about. For the past few years, most financial themed films seem to be about the housing crisis and luckily, this is not one of those. What is also refreshing is that we're not watching a cast of basic white dudes basically competing over who has the biggest metaphorical penis. That's not to say I don't love a good movie with basic white dudes (see previous review), but those Wall Street movies start to feel (and look) the same. It's also refreshing that this film passes the Bechdel-Wallace test; we get to see these women living their life and it does touch on what women deal with that men don't, particularly in the workplace, such as misogyny, becoming a mother, and relationships, because that is our life, but these characters are written so they could be played by anyone, and luckily not by the default: white, male. So yes, please see this movie to support a film with female leads (including one character who is in an interracial gay relationship), and is written by a woman and directed by Meera Menon, an Indian-American woman), because we not only need representation on screen, but behind the camera as well. Plus, it's just a fun, sleek movie with great performances particularly from Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner.

Morris From America

Right away, the opening scene sets up the film for you - a father (Curtis played by Craig Robinson) and son (Morris played by Markees Christmas) discuss hip hop, but because of their generation gap they have very different ideas about what is good hip hop and in the end, the father uses his patriarch status and grounds his son for his shitty taste in music. Both are going through something - Curtis is a widow and former soccer pro who relocates to Germany, with Morris, for a soccer coach position; Morris is at that fantastic age (sarcasm) of 13, where you no longer feel like a kid but are far from being an adult, mix in being the only black kid in his area in a foreign country and it's even more difficult. Though this has plenty of chuckles, it's definitely an emotional rollercoaster. Craig, primarily a comedian, doesn't overdue it in those emotional scenes which makes it all the more realistic, especially in one of the last scenes when he tells Morris about when he fell in love with his mother. It's one of those stories that has you smiling and tearing up at the same time.

When the Bough Breaks

One of my not so guilty pleasures are recent B-thrillers (which happen to have mostly black casts. Yes to more diversity in films!) such as The Perfect Guy and No Good Deed, so when I saw the trailer for When the Bough Breaks I was excited. I don't expect much from these movies, the trailers give away most of the plot and they all follow the same structure, but it's mindless entertainment. With that, this was disappointing. It takes a while for the action to kick in and when it does, it's short lived (pun intended...also, spoiler alert?). Regina Hall is always fun to watch on screen, but there's not enough of her; meanwhile Morris Chestnut does what he does best: look pretty and confused, but it's Jaz Sinclair who excels, as confusing as her character and arc is. Though her character, Anna, is all over the place, she nails the innocent doe eyed young bride-to-be to abuse survivor to sexy seductress to murderer seamlessly, so at least she's got a great acting reel from one role. I hope to see her in something a little more challenging in the future. So for now, I say skip this one and just watch No Good Deed if you're looking for a fun thriller. 

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