Monday, July 30, 2018

Movies Since Last Time

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) There’s a good movie inside this premise, but this isn’t it. Mildred Hayes’s (Frances McDormand) daughter has been brutally raped and murdered. The police have no suspects and Mildred’s tired of waiting, so she pays for three billboards outside of town to get the police off the dime, calling out the chief by name. The problem with her tactic—and the movie—is that Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is a decent man doing what he can with the evidence he has who is also dying of cancer. This pretty much kills off any sympathy—or empathy—the town—and I—had for Mildred. We then learn she was a bitch on wheels before any of this happened. Sam Rockwell earned his Oscar—though he’s done work just as good on other occasions—but his character’s transformation is not believable. There are also more plot holes than can be described here. It’s the cinema equivalent of a literary novel: the creator had some emotional duress he wanted to describe, and he plugged in the character as needed. Odd way to treat them in what’s supposed to be a character-driven film.

Deadpool (2016) I don’t do superhero movies but this looked like a satire and night be fun. It is a satire and it was way past just fun. (Yes, I know it’s been out two years and everyone knows it’s a satire. Thanks for reminding me I’m old and get off my lawn.) A little like Ted for superheroes, good taste and temperate plotting and language are not part of the equation here. Not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, but I’m already in for the sequel.

The Great Train Robbery (1978) A sweet little tongue-in-cheek fictionalized account of an actual train robbery in England circa 1855. Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and Leslie Ann Down are the core of a Victorian era Ocean’s Eleven. It won’t pay to look too closely at the plot contrivances—which, to be fair, is true of almost all caper movies—and bask in the great fun Connery, Sutherland, and Down have. Bonus coverage: that actually is Sean Connery running across the top of the train.

Appaloosa (2008) A labor of love for Ed Harris, who produced, directed, and starred in this outstanding adaptation of Robert B. Parker’s first Virgil Cole – Everett Hitch Western. Harris and Viggo Mortensen have outstanding chemistry as Cole and Hitch and screenwriters Harris and Robert Knott were smart to preserve as much of Parker’s original dialog as they could. Jeremy Irons is suitably greasy as the corrupt rancher with contacts in high places. Renee Zellweger is all right, but it’s hard to imagine such a pinched-face little ferret leading a man like Virgil Cole around by the dick. I’ve read the original choice to play the part was Diane Lane. I can believe her having that effect on Virgil. Or pretty much anyone else.

Ted (2012). “Hysterically funny and wildly inappropriate,” was how The Sole Heir™ described this one to me after she saw it in theaters in as good and succinct a review as anything I can give it. Just as funny (and inappropriate) the second time around. Worth watching for the pleasure of Mark Wahlberg’s “lightning round” of white trash names and the hotel room fight between him and Ted.

Heat (1995) Hadn’t seen it in a long time but The Beloved Spouse™ had never seen it and Benoit Lelievre had just done a review in Dead End Follies, I was on vacation, so what the hell. A little slower in spots than I remembered and Pacino’s a little over the top, but the core of the film holds as solidly as ever. This one will stay in film discussions forever for the coffee shop scene and the climactic robbery, but those scenes, great as they are, shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow how much other good stuff is here.

Sicario (2015) We discovered Taylor Sheridan with Hell or High Water, went all in with Wind River, and are currently engrossed in Yellowstone, so I took some of my vacation time to check out the film that got him his break as a writer. As with the others, well written, especially so for the actors, which makes sense considering Sheridan broke into the business as an actor. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin (for whom I gain more respect all the time), and Benecio del Toro are all outstanding in this look at what the drug war has done along the Mexican border and the lengths we’re willing to go. It’s fiction, but there’s not much doubt there are “good guys” who don’t give much more of a fuck than do del Toro and Brolin how things shake out.

True Grit (2010) Damn, this is a good movie. The original is good, too, but Hailee Steinfeld vs. Kim Darby and Matt Damon vs. Glen Campbell are no contests. (Glen Campbell? Really?) The Coen Brothers stick very closely to the book, which provides a much more satisfying ending based on what has come before than does the original. I’ve seen this one a few times now and I expect to see it a few times more.  

Small Town Crime (2017) There’s no one better than John Hawkes right now, and he gets to shine here. Another good one I heard about courtesy of Dead End Follies and well worth it. Hawkes is the stereotypical drunken cop who fucks up one time too often way too bad and is out on his ass. His life is in the shitter until he stumbles across a dead girl on the side of the road. Small Town Crime isn’t a great movie but it does what it sets out to do once it hits its stride with a nice mix of plot twists and drily dark humor. Robert Forster has a small part and is, as usual, outstanding.

Die Hard (1988) The original and still the best. By “original” I don’t just mean the first of the Die Hard series; I mean of action movies as we know them. Bruce Willis is perfect as John McClane, a New York cop traveling to LA to try to repair his marriage who stumbles into the ultimate worst-case scenario. You’ve seen the movie—if you haven’t you should probably never read this blog again—so there’s no need to talk about the plot. The movie works in large part due to Willis’s sense of vulnerability and ingenuity in overcoming overwhelming odds. I’ve lost track of how many time I’ve seen it and knew everything that was about to happen and still found myself on the edge of my seat.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I agree with everything you have said here. Especially THREE BILLBOARDS. The flaws far exceeded any worth for me.

Elgin Bleecker said...

Three Billboards – You nailed it. Deadpool – My buddies keep telling me to watch this and its sequel. Maybe some night when my wife is out with her friends. And that goes for Ted, too. The Great Train Robbery – Saw it years ago, remember liking it. Appaloosa – Need to see this one. Thanks. Heat – Need to see this one again. Sicario – Intriguing, but no soul. True Grit Preferred Duke’s original. Small Town Crime – Really good film. I wrote about it on my blog. Die Hard – Not a Willis fan.