Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

115 mins. Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

 

Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) definitely has a flavor to his work. His is a violent, darkly comedic world, one this writer wouldn’t want to live in. But I’ll definitely watch others live in it.

McDonagh’s newest film, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, introduces us to Mildred (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Hail, Caesar!), a grieving mother who decides to question local law enforcement’s handling of her daughter’s murder case when she rents and erects three billboards in a quiet part of town, asking if the cops have done enough in their search for the killer. This brings her to a head with Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, Lost in London, TV’s True Detective) and hotheaded officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Poltergeist). As the public takes sides in the matter, arguments and violence ramp up and Mildred and Dixon are forced to confront their anger and their past in order to move forward.

Martin McDonagh is a very accomplished character storyteller. His characters live by the principle that a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as she is interesting. Mildred isn’t very likable. Willoughby isn’t very likable. Dixon definitely isn’t likable. Dammit, though, they are interesting, as are the supporting players, particularly Peter Dinklage (Rememory, TV’s Game of Thrones) as a man who takes a liking to Mildred but can’t quite match her level of motivation.

McDonagh uses his characters and his hyper-violence to tell a deeply personal story, more so than either of his previous features. Mildred has deep personal pain and her motives are admirable, There’s a lot that makes sense in the confines of the story, with the exception of one thing.

If there is an issue with the film, it’s the ending. McDonagh chooses an ambiguous ending to his story, one that leaves character plot threads unresolved. In some cases, this can work, but after spending two hours with these people, the question he is asking is a no-brainer. The film ends with two possible paths, but one path would completely betray the character arc, so it doesn’t make sense to leave it open.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is another fascinating character piece from writer/director Martin MacDonagh. This film should be praised for its performances, particularly McDormand and Rockwell, but it is the brilliantly written screenplay that gives them so much to work with. This is a story for anyone who has ever done something crazy out of grief, and its deeply moving and yet somehow completely unhinged, and I highly recommend it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri? What did you think? What’s your favorite performance from Frances McDormand? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Simon Kinberg to Direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix; Jessica Chastain in Talks to Play Villain

Simon Kinberg will finally get his opportunity to sit in the director’s chair on a new installment of the X-Men Universe. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will reunite Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tye Sheridan, all from X-Men: Apocalypse.

The film will of course adapt the beloved Dark Phoenix saga focused around Jean Grey. For fans, this is both exciting and also a touchy subject, as many still hold the wounds of X-Men: The Last Stand, co-written by Kinberg himself, the botched first attempt to adapt the material. Thanks to the events of altering the timeline in X-Men: Days of Future Past, we now have an opportunity to right the wrongs.

And not only that! The amazing and truly talented Jessica Chastain is in talks to play a villain! I absolutely adore Chastain (and yes, I have a boy crush, deal with it) and the work she puts out is consistenly incredible, but she isn’t known for her franchise or genre work, so I’m very excited to see Chastain join the iconic ranks of incredible actors playing X-Men villains (Ian McKellan, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon, Peter Dinklage, and Oscar Isaac).

But is Kinberg the right move here? I’m not really sure. As I said before, the franchise has already ruined this story arc before, from a script partially written by Kinberg. Granted, we all know there was studio interference and also Brett Ratner behind the lens, but has Kinberg shown capabilities to prove he’s worth the risk? At this point, I don’t think so.

That being said, I’m all for the addition of Chastain to the franchise.

So what do you think? Is Simon Kinberg the right choice to direct X-Men: Dark Phoenix? And what do you think about the possible addition of Jessica Chastain? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix rises in cinemas in 2018.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Shawn Ashmore

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

131 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.

 

Wow, we have a lot to cover here. If you aren’t big on comics or superhero movies, let me catch you up on this real quick. Days of Future Past is pretty much one of the biggest and most important arcs in the entire X-Men series, and now its a movie.

Okay, so real quick, I will be discussing spoilers about previous X-Men films here as it is really the only way to properly review Days of Future Past. Okay? Begin…

 

Alright, let me catch you up to speed here. It is the future (the film doesn’t designate what year, but I’m told through interviews with the filmmakers that it is roughly 2023). Mutants have been mostly captured or killed off and there are precious few left fighting for their freedom against robotic beings called the Sentinels that the government has unleashed on the mutant population. According to the series chronology:

1. & 2. X-Men Origins & First Class (technically First Class exists within the large reach of Origins)

3. X-Men

4. X2: X-Men United

5. The Last Stand

6. The Wolverine

7. Days of Future Past

 

Okay, so it comes down to this. Wolverine was intercepted by Magneto and a somehow still alive Professor X at the end of The Wolverine. He is told that he is needed and that the war they all feared is here. In the past, Raven/Mystique killed a man named Bolivar Trask, who is responsible for creating the Sentinel program. Yes, the Sentinels were previously seen at the beginning of The Last Stand. Wolverine joins together with Xavier, Magneto, Storm, Kitty Pryde, and Iceman, along with some powerful newcomers to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to thwart the murder before it happens and save the timeline of the future. Back in time, he meets up with a younger Professor (James McAvoy, post First Class) and Beast who have their own problems. Young Professor has created a serum that obliterates his mutant powers but allows him to walk again, and also allows Beast to be “normal” looking. There is a lot going on in this film, and it is phenomenal filmmaking that helps to fix a lot of the problems that the previous have created. Overall, I love the story, but it still irks me that there is little to no explanation about Professor X’s survival and rebirth. I’ve seen a lot of info on the internet, but I still don’t feel like that can be considered fact in this series.

I feel like I don’t need to discuss Hugh Jackman’s performance in this film. He knows the character. He holds the record for most performances as a superhero with all seven films featuring him.

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James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender take their characters to new levels in this film. McAvoy’s young Xavier is so broken and destroyed by the direction his life has taken. It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. Fassbender shows a lot of signs on the way to his metamorphosis into adult Magneto. I think what really elevates these two performances is that these got to work with the originators of the roles for the first time in the series.

Ellen Page turns in a very quick and very well-done performance returning to the series as Kitty Pryde.

One of the scene-stealers here is Peter Dinklage (TV’s Game of Thrones, Knights of Badassdom), who plays Bolivar Trask. This man could’ve been a regular old evil man villain, but Dinklage has transformed him into a man who has motives and faults. This is a true character.

As far as editing goes, this story could’ve been a big mushy mess of timelines, but it is placed very well together with key images to designate exactly where we are. Compare it to the confusing time-jumper Oculus out last year.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if Days of Future Past takes away an Oscar nod for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, if only for the scenes with Quicksilver.

One thing I do want to know before finishing this review is the possible confusion with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which releases next year. So, Quicksilver is featured in this film. Quicksilver is featured in that film. Let me point out that, from a film standpoint, these are different characters. The two series are separate and exist in separate shared universes. More on this later.

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Anywho, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men yet and, personally, the best film I’ve seen yet this year. Have you seen it? What did you think? Is your brain melting from all the stuff? So much stuff!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

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