[#2017oscardeathrace] Hell or High Water (2016)

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Director: David Mackenzie

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham

Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan

102 mins. Rated R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Jeff Bridges) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]

 

Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, The Little Prince) is known most recently for two personas. The first is a hippie, as seen in his landmark role of The Dude in The Big Lebowski. The second: The cowboy. In Hell or High Water, from director David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Perfect Sense), we see the latter. That isn’t to diminish the role, far from it. In fact, each time Bridges personifies a cowboy, he brings something wholly new and unique to the role.

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Hell or High Water follows two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine, Star Trek, The Finest Hours) and Tanner (Ben Foster, Warcraft, Inferno), who become bank robbers to afford the reverse mortgage on their mother’s land, where oil was recently discovered. As the two brothers get hasty, Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton comes onto the case with his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham, Twilight, The Space Between Us) to track down the masked robbers.

My big fault with Hell or High Water is the simplicity. There is an allegory about debt here that’s nice, but mostly, the film is pretty straightforward, and it didn’t really surprise me much in the way it played out. It was still quite enjoyable, and the performances from its main cast, particularly Chris Pine, who rises above preconceived notions to put out an award-worthy showcase. Foster and Birmingham are exceptional here as well, and Bridges earned his nomination, but for me, it just didn’t have that feeling of a Best Picture nominee.

An unexpected win for the film is it’s cinematography and editing, both top notch characters of their own, they elevate the simple story and are more than likely the main reason Hell or High Water was recognized with a Best Picture nomination. It is gorgeous filmmaking from David Mackenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario).

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I don’t want to give away the film’s climactic ending, but suffice it to say that this character piece is well-worth your time, especially for fans of modern westerns, a subgenre becoming more and more pronounced due to the talent contributing to it. Check out Hell or High Water, which slid under the radar for much of 2016; it deserves your attention.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

King Kong (1976)

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Director: John Guillermin

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange, John Randolph

Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr.

134 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound

 

Some people say nothing is off limits for a remake if you do it right. That’s true, but it doesn’t do anything to save me the pain from the remakes that are less-than-right. 1976’s King Kong is a remake that did some great things, but it also did some bad things. Today, we will dissect King Kong in all its cheese.

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King Kong follows a similar plot to its predecessor. A ship and its crew, on the search for petrol, comes across an uncharted island and a great ape who presides over it. Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin, Beethoven, The Ex) sees opportunity for capital gain, while stowaway hippie-man Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski, Seventh Son) wishes to protect the island and its inhabitants from the dangerous hands of man, while the beast known as Kong has his eyes set on the beautiful and exotic actress named Dwan (Jessica Lange, TV’s American Horror Story, Big Fish).

I find that the root of all the problems with the film stem from a flimsy and cheese-induced screenplay from Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Papillon, Flash Gordon), who has a shaky reputation for greatness. His screenplay has a lot of set-ups that flop and very few payoffs earned. For starters, the character Dwan, played by Lange, is awful. She is written to be annoying and unlikable, with no help from first-time actress Lange. It would seem that Kong’s entire infatuation with her is similar to the audiences: not a bad gal to gawk at. That’s about it.

I enjoyed Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin, who seem to understand the camp of the film they are a part of, though I still don’t think the tone of the film works at all. And then there is Bridges’ mane of hair, which comes off looking like 70s Teen Wolf mixed with The Lion King’s Simba. Seriously, did no one see him and giggle a bit, perhaps enough to realize that his look just was not working?

Now, as far as the ape goes, I like it. It mostly works well. I like the animatronics utilized here. I think the realism of the beast works enough, but the special effects of placing him in scenes get the size all over the place. Some shots he looks practically normal-sized while other sequences completely overload his presence. I still don’t really know the size that they wanted.

King Kong is probably the third best King Kong movie. That being said, it helped further the world of animatronics and for that it should be thanked. Just not very loudly.

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PS: If anyone out there uses editing software, can you create a video of Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott performing The Lion King soundtrack. Just a thought.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Tron 3 Officially Dead to Disney…

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In sad news today, it appears that Disney has made the decision not to move forward with its third installment of the cult franchise Tron.

The Wrap reports that Disney has pulled the plug, for lack of a better word, on Tron 3, which would have reunited Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and director Joseph Kosinski, who most recently helmed 2013’s Oblivion.

Due to the disappointing release of Tomorrowland, which released earlier this month, Tron 3 is gone.

I find this news to be incredibly upsetting. Tron: Legacy featured Hedlund as the son of Jeff Bridges’ Flynn who enters a computer system called the Grid to find his long-missing father. Director Kosinski was recently reportedly looking to cast Jared Leto in the upcoming sequel, which would have taken the film to a whole new level.

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Hopefully, sometime down the road, Disney will fix this decision and realize that they made some good money on the second Tron film and that they can do it again if they have faith.

 

Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski to helm third installment Tron 3!

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Well, here it is. I really didn’t think I would ever report on a third Tron film, but I am very pleased to announce that, while not yet officially green-lit by Disney, Joseph Kosinski of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, is expected to return in the sequel continuing Sam Flynn and Quorra’s adventure after exiting the Grid.

Garrett Hedlund is also likely to return with Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde up in the air.

My thoughts: I’m stoked. Very happy to hear this. Tron, was so incredibly important and underappreciated for its time, and Tron: Legacy continued and expanded the world created in the original film while questioning it and our dependence of artificial intelligence. I loved seeing Bridges on the screen again in a role that helped make him famous and I liked that he put himself into the role. I also loved Daft Punk’s work in the film.

So what do you think? Tron 3? Or is it TR3N? Joseph Kosinski coming back? Let me know your thoughts and will you be in line for the third installment?

[Oscar Madness] Iron Man (2008)

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow

Screenplay: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holiday

126 mins. Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and adventure, and brief suggestive content.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

So, let’s talk Iron Man, Marvel Studios’ first, and arguably biggest, gamble.

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Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, The Judge) is a billionaire genius, a more asshole-ish version of Bruce Wayne. He is the ultimate playboy, in charge of his father’s company, Stark Industries, maker of weapons of all sorts. But when a routine weapon demonstration in Afghanistan leads to Tony’s being taken captive, Tony must use all his cunning and a little bit of luck to escape. He builds a suit of metal to make this escape, and in the process, Tony Stark becomes Iron Man.

Was there ever a doubt in my mind that Robert Downey Jr was the right man to play Tony Stark. He is the perfect embodiment of this character and just understands it to the extreme. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en,  Mortdecai) is one of general endearment, complete sweetness. Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, Seventh Son) gives a slightly over-the-top yet wholly understandable performance as Obadiah Stane, mentor and friend to Tony, a man who is out to protect Stark Industries from all threats.

Then there’s Terrence Howard (TV’s Empire, Prisoners). I don’t think Terrence Howard understands this movie, or in fact, this role. I just don’t think he gets that this is a good time at the movies. He’s far too serious at all the wrong time.

Jon Favreau (Chef, Cowboys & Aliens) directs this film with some perfect flair. Were I the heads at Marvel Studious (I’m looking at you Kevin Feige), I wouldn’t have trusted someone like Favreau to make or break my company with this picture, but that’s why I’m not making the big bucks. Jon Favreau gives this film a big style, everything here is crazily over-the-top, and the funny thing is how much it works.

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Now, the film does run on a bit, and Tony Stark is rather annoying for a bulk of the film, but this is still one of the funnest (that’s right, I said it) times at the movies. It isn’t my favorite of the Iron Man films, but the first in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is a great place to start.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Louis Letterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

The Giver (2014)

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Director: Phillip Noyce

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift

Screenplay: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence.

 

The hotly anticipated adaptation of the dystopian novel The Giver has arrived and initial response has not been great. What did I think? Well, wouldn’t you like to know?

The Giver is the story of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, Oculus, Maleficent), who lives in a normalized version of reality set some time in the future. His world is one of plainness, of emotionless life filled with routine followed by more routine. It exists without color and without free thought. Life is good. Jonas is about to go through a life-changing ceremony along with friends Asher (Cameron Monaghan, TV’s Shameless, Click) and Fiona (Odeya Rush, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, We Are What We Are). This ceremony grants each of them jobs in their society, and Jonas has just been granted the most important role of all as Receiver of Memory, a role of passing down information from a man known only as The Giver (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski, R.I.P.D.), who has some very valuable information for Jonas.

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The Giver isn’t a bad movie as much as it is a rough one. I get the sense that this movie wasn’t fully completed. I also feel as though the book, through fantastic, was not made to be adapted. There is just too much that feels like it would work until you actually see it.

Jeff Bridges is wonderful in the titular role, and he should be, as he has been trying to get the film out of development hell for almost two decades. He even previously filmed a version using family members in the roles to prove that the film was doable.

We also get some great, though very underutilized work from Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods) as the Chief Elder, a woman who has her own secrets and doesn’t really trust that Jonas will stick to the guidelines of his role, just like ten years previously when a young girl named Rosemary (Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day, The Lorax) failed as the Receiver of Memory.

Brenton Thwaites is passable, though very underwhelming at times. The saving grace is Odeya Rush as Fiona, a girl who helps inspire emotion with ease.

As for the parental units, Father (Alexander Skarsgard, TV’s True Blood, The East) is pretty good while Mother (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins, Jack and Jill) poses too many questions, the most important being, “How does Katie Holmes keep getting work?” Seriously, I haven’t seen a passable performance since…wait, give me a minute.

As for Taylor Swift, come on. Not good. Not horrible, but definitely not good.

This adaptation was trouble from the start. The entire civilization is without emotion so much so that watching it would be kind of boring. Then again, add any noticeable emotion and people will claim that it breaks its own rules.

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I personally enjoyed myself over all, but the film is not without its problems. That much I can promise you. I just keep thinking. It could have been so much more.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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