Grief, Despair and Sanction

Wind River (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 106-111 minutesM Wind River 2017

Genre: Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 8.0/10

IMDb – 7.8/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 73/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

Written by: Taylor Sheridan

Produced by:  Elizabeth A Bell, Peter Berg, Matthew George

Music by:  Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Cast:  Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham

Martin (Gil Birmingham) and Annie (Althea Sam) are confined to the every darkening mists of sorrow, bereft of solace, by the rape and murder of their 18 year daughter, Natalie; a horror that is brutally shocking, but all too familiar in the land they call home: the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Jane Banner (Olsen), an inexperienced FBI agent, attempts to find the less-than-animals that brought Natalie’s life to a gruesome end; partnering with a Game and Fish predator hunter, Cory Lambert (Renner), who  guides her through the mountainous topography of the Wyoming reservation, and interprets the signs left in the snow by dead souls and living monsters. Cory harbors his own ghosts through the loss of his daughter, also raped and murdered 3 years previous, creating undertones of remorse and revenge that reverberate throughout the movie.

Is there somethin’ I can do other than being here for you to ease the pain
If I can keep you from fallin’, fallin’ down’
I’m sorry to sound selfish but I feel so helpless
Is it okay if I stay here with you and cry for awhile

Whoever made the claim that words could ease the pain
Never watched you fall apart, never put you back together
When you were broken down, into a million pieces
Scattered on the ground

Is There Something I can Do by Five Star Iris on the 2006 Album Live Fools    Music and Lyrics by Alan Schaefer and Dexter Green

Sheridan’s direction and screenplay provides a powerful vehicle for describing the suffering and despondency that attaches itself to a life of little hope and few rewards. Renner and Birmingham give everything in their true-to-life portrayals of men coping, and eventually fighting back against the pain of the helpless insight into knowing senseless, tragic death.

A movie to see, and then, to see again.

It’s Magic-Fantasy Will Set You Free

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  (Theaters-2016; Streaming-2017)  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 133 minutesM Beasts 2016

Genre: Action-Adventure-Family-Fantasy

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.4/10

Amazon – 4.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore – 66/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.3/10

Directed by:  David Yates

Written by:  J.K. Rowling

Produced by:  David Heyman, Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling, Lionel Wigram

Music by:  James Newton Howard

Cast:  Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler

B Beasts 2001.jpgJ.K. Rowling, in 2001, wrote and published a Hogwarts textbook, under the pseudonym of Newt Scamander, on the magical world of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; a slim encyclopedic volume of fictional animals that made up the enchanted universe of Harry Potter and his bewitched school chums.  The book, though imaginative, generally did not interest anyone much past age of 12, being just a compendium of beasts without any pretense of a story or plot, but it did spin-off this wonderful film, a charming tale of magic and adventure, 70 years before Harry Potter, in the streets of New York.

The movie opens with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arriving in New York for a brief stopover before continuing onto Arizona to further his research into “Fantastic Beasts” but almost immediately has an itinerary change due to one of his creatures escaping from his improbably bottomless briefcase. Promptly the escaped beast goes on a hunt for anything shiny: usually solid gold, resulting in a hilarious wizard and beast chase through the streets and banks of New York.  Compounding Newt’s creature capturing problems is an anti-magical society trying to expose and eliminate all witches and wizards along with a controlling magical political hierarchy attempting to keep everything secret and under wraps, including the threat posed by impending arrival of arch-villain and dark wizard, Gellert Grindlewald (Johnny Depp).

David Yates, the director, and Rowling have put together a lively romp of fun through the magical world of New York, enhanced with exemplary acting by just about all involved.  J.K. Rowling continues to surprise her fans, including me, with the depth of her talent, by adroitly changing roles from an accomplished author to a novice, but never-the-less, a master producer and screenplay writer for this movie. I found this movie heads and lizard tails above the Harry Potter movies, mainly because Harry Potter’s sub-par acting was absent. Make time to see this entertaining film for itself, and ultimately, to keep you abreast of the likely sequels.

 

The Price of Secrets

The Secret Scripture  (2017)  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 108 minutesM Scripture 2017.jpg

Genre: Drama-Mystery-Romance

els – 6.5/10

IMDb – 6.6/10

Amazon – 4.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.4/5

Metacritic Metascore – 37/100

Metacritic User Score – NR/10

Directed by:  Jim Sheridan

Written by:  Sebastian Berry, Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson

Produced by:  Noel Pearson, Rob Quigley, Jim Sheridan

Music by:  Brian Bryne

Cast:  Rooney Mara, Aidan Turner, Theo James, Eric Bana, Vanessa Redgrave

To understand this movie, a smidgen of background knowledge germane to WWII Irish history is needed, or else the story becomes unhinged from the plot with cryptic scenes sprinkled throughout the movie that will bewilder and flummox the viewer. At the start of WWII in 1939, Ireland declared its intent to remain neutral towards the Allied and Axis powers, and they did officially remain neutral throughout the war, but provided assistance to the Allied powers when and where possible.  The Irish government feared joining the war on either side would reopen the recent wounds inflicted by their civil war fought in the early 1920s; by the fascists and the anti-fascists, the pro-Brits and the IRA, the pro and the anti-treaty proponents, and they all remained active in Ireland up to, and beyond WWII.  The IRA was particularly anxious to curry favor with the Germans, to obtain their aid in the form of money, influence, and weapons; endeavors precipitating various IRA acts of war within and beyond the borders of Ireland.

Roseanne McNulty the elder, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and Roseanne McNulty the younger, played by Rooney Mara, parcel out a story of love and loyalty, unrequited love and betrayal, death, cruelty and denial; which, during war leads to Rose’s incarceration, or to use a less judgmental word, confinement, in an Irish mental institution for nearly 50 years. The institution was less about care and rehabilitation than an exercise in control and dominance; keeping Rose docile and quiet, but in the end, not able to lessen her romantic love or boundless spirit, just her hold on reality. Rose the elder maintains a record of her captivity, mysterious inscriptions in her bible, that becomes the source of her deliverance from past; bringing closure in the kindred form of a believer and a redeemer.

The directing, writing and acting are all exceptional.  Only the improbable conclusion lessens the impact of the story but it still works even though you see it coming a mile away.  Catch up on your Irish WWII history and then watch the movie.

A Short as a Feature – A Drama as a Mystery

Anti Matter (2017)  Rated: NR  Runtime: 105 minutesM AntiMatter 2017

Genre: Drama-Mystery-Science Fiction-Thriller

els – 4.0/10

IMDb – 6.3/10

Amazon – 3.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.3/5

Metacritic Metascore – NA/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10

Directed by:  Keir Burrows

Written by:  Keir Burrows

Produced by:  Dieudonnée Burrows

Music by:  Edwin Sykes

Cast:  Yaiza Figueroa, Tom Barber-Duffy, Philippa Carson

Keir Burrows is a celebrated short film director and writer making his feature-length movie debut with Anti Matter; a low-budget, moderately, but mistakenly, cerebral science fiction flick set in the present at England’s Oxford University.  Ana (Figueroa), a doctoral candidate, along with two of her fellow student accomplices: Barber-Duffy as Nate and Carson as Liv, design a protocol to transfer matter from one point to another, instantly, via a wormhole.  After successfully transferring inanimate objects and small life-forms Ana, to guarantee future funding for her research and the subsequent commercial development of instantaneous globe-hopping, transfers herself through the wormhole, after which her mind ceases to retain any new information or memories, thus beginning the mystery of why that happened and how to correct it.

This movie has received fairly positive reviews; this will not be one of them.  The title of the movie is an enigma and a charade, anti-matter does not enter into this story one way or another; it is never mentioned, that I can remember, and wormholes are predicated on the curvature of space-time and negative energy, at least according to the current working hypothesis.  Why name the movie Anti Matter? The title “Negative Energy” certainly would have been more honest and just as good, if not better.  Additionally, the subtitle: “Science and Hell have Come Together”, is also a non-starter, an illusion of horror, likely used in the title and story synopsis only to drum up interest and sales. The only hell is the one contrived by the director and writer to create a mystery that only exists with the viewer, and if the viewer is paying attention, the mystery does not last for long. The acting is abysmal; paying for real actors would have paid big dividends. Liv who plays, unconvincingly, the world’s greatest jerk, making Sean Penn and Don Rickles look like well-mannered saints, hopefully, never sees the glare of another movie set light in her life, and she can rightfully blame the director-writer for her atrocious nature and character development, or maybe not. This is a movie that has all the appearances of a short that was stretched, unforgivingly, into a full-length feature film. Cutting 25 minutes of celluloid, 80 minutes is still a feature film, may have saved this movie but the director’s ambition in creating a mystery-thriller out of a sci-fi drama outran his talent.

If you are into B movies, by all means, watch this film, otherwise take a pass and do something else with your time.

Prison Blues in Rage of Orange

Brawl in Cell Block 99  (2017)  Rated: NR  Runtime: 132 minutesM Brawl 2017

Genre: Action-Crime-Drama-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.2/10

Amazon – 3.8/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.7/5

Metacritic Metascore – 79/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10

Directed by:  S. Craig Zahler

Written by:  S. Craig Zahler

Produced by:  Jack Heller, Dallas Sonnier,  Gregory Zuk

Music by:  Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler

Cast:  Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson

Vince Vaughn, son of Vernon, brother to Valerie and Victoria, V for Victory; fresh off a successful role as Sgt. Howell in Hacksaw Ridge, teams up with S. Craig Zahler to produce the greatest prison movie since Cool Hand Luke in 1967. This is a grinder of a movie where hard luck, bad luck, and no luck leads Vaughn straight to jail without passing Go, with Vaughn playing his part with the reticent verve of Charlie Brown crossed with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bradley, not Brad, Bradley (Vaughn), starts off the film with a bad, no good, awful day by first getting laid off his lousy paying, tow truck driving job followed, in short order, by broken locks, a trashed out yard, and a cheating wife, culminating in a one round boxing match with his wife’s car.  The car lost. Bradley calms down, keeps his wife, and goes to work for a drug dealer.  All is peaches and cream until a drug delivery goes bad, involving Bradley, not Brad, in a shoot-out, his subsequent capture and arrest by the local police.  The arrest quickly manifests itself into a 7 year prison sentence for Bradley where matters progress from bad to hellish in the blink of a black eye.

This is a well directed, written, and acted, virile, manly movie that provides all the testosterone you will need for the week. The only weakness in the film is the music; R&B tunes that just don’t fit; Jimmy Page and Johnny Cash would have been the right choice; thanks for asking.  Ignore the music, open a beer, kick back and enjoy this flick.

Spies Along the Wall

Atomic Blonde  (2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minutesM Atomic 2017

Genre: Action-Adventure-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.0/10

IMDb – 6.8/10

Amazon – 3.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – 63/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.5/10

Directed by:  David Leitch

Written by:  Kurt Johnstad (Screenplay), Antony Johnston (Book-Author), Sam Hart (Book-Illustrator)

Produced by:  A.J. Dix, Eric Gitter, David Guillod

Music by:  Tyler Bates

Cast:  Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Antony Johnston, an artistic overachiever: author, graphic novelist, game writer, talk show host, and musician; wrote the 2012 graphic novel: The Coldest City, providing the foundation, if not the whole building, for the 2017 Atomic Blonde movie.

B Coldest City 2012The novel and movie begin near the final gasps of communism in the late 20th century along with subsequent fall of the wall separating Berlin from East Berlin. A British spy, possessing a list of every spy playing spook in Berlin is killed and the list disappears. Lorraine Broughton (Theron), a British MI6 operative is brought in to recover the list, kick a few butts, possibly chase down a double agent, and segue with feminine ease through the twists and turns of this wonderfully sculpted action thriller.

Atomic Blonde is a British Bond flick without Bond.  A great romp of visual action worthy of Skyfall and a storyline that keeps you guessing for a good portion of the movie, although you should be able to put most of it together before the ending credits roll. Theron is simply superb in her role and was the spot-on, perfect actress to play the lead.  Goodman turns in a very solid performance as Theron’s foil, with his character providing enough twists in the narrative to totally mess up your plot assumptions.

A refreshing, fun movie of action and thrills with a screenplay that holds together to the very end.  Well worth seeing.  Expect a sequel in 2019 or more likely, a prequel, given that Antony Johnston has already published a graphic novel, The Coldest Winter, which takes the spies and their craft back to a slightly earlier time; to a Berlin of snowy cold, and the cold war of the early 1980s.

Survive This

Jungle  (2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minuteM Jungle 2017

Genre: Action-Adventure-Drama-Suspense

els – 5.5/10

IMDb – 6.7/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.7/5

Metacritic Metascore – 48/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.4/10

Directed by:  Greg McLean

Written by:  Yossi Ghinsberg and Justin Monjo

Produced by:  Todd Fellman, Mike Gabrawy, Gary Hamilton

Music by:  Johnny Klimek

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschmann, Alex Russell, Adrian Rawlins

B Jungle 2005Jungle, the movie, based on the 2005 autobiographical memoir:  Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival by Yossi Ghinsberg; illustrates the fateful adventure, through the Bolivian jungle, of 3 young, adrenaline seeking friends and their enigmatic guide.  The guide (Adrian Rawlins, of James Potter fame in the Harry Potter movies) convinces a gullible and naive Yossi, played by Radcliffe, to join him on an ill-defined quest for lost villages and gold; through uncharted mountainous terrain of sheer cliffs and rugged slopes, networks of clogged vegetative mazes, deep-valley rivers of contesting demeanor; lethargic, sleepy flows metastasizing to rabid, boiling waters jetting past plane sized boulders in a few accelerated heartbeats; matching ones physical and psychological endurance against a wild, relentless, and unsympathetic jungle.

One of the many weak and feeble points in the screenplay and direction is how Yossi manages to convince his mates to join him on this expedition of folly with an unknown guide of dubious qualifications. It was definitely an unconvincing sales pitch while watching the film. Being a true story I’ll acknowledge that it happened, however the suspension of disbelief could have been strengthened tremendously with the use of artistic license, maybe having all involved brain addled by booze and drugs, rather than relying on Yossi’s Harry Potter smile to reach a unanimous agreement to commit trekking suicide.  The guide is easily the most interesting personality in the movie, but his character development and origins are glossed over; using him merely as a tool to get the show going.  Too bad. A final mention of a perceived flaw was the filming of the death inducing rafting through the river’s rapids. I can create more convincing white-water in my bathtub than what I observed on the screen.

Radcliffe’s acting ability has improved leaps and bounds since the days of Harry Potter, but he still can’t present raw, unbridled emotion worth a damn. The scenes of fist pounding angst should have been left on the cutting room floor, to the vast improvement of the film.  Radcliffe will never be a great lead actor; a supporting role will provide him well through his career though, if he wisely choses to go that route.

Jungle is a tolerable flick, not a must see, but worth a few hours of your time on a lazy rainy day.

 

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