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.

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.

Illuminati for Dummies

The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic, originally published by Stone and Kimball, original © 1896.B Theron Ware

Harold Frederic, 1856-1898, photographer, journalist, and author, son of Presbyterians, practicing their religion in the churches of Methodists, growing up among immigrant Catholics in upstate New York, adopted a skeptical view of all religions in adulthood. He lived an idiosyncratic life as an unbuttoned, avant-garde individualist, stating near his untimely end in 1897, “I live wholly to myself because I like to live an unshackled life…”. In 1884 he moved to London, bringing along his wife, Grace, and their 5 children, working as a correspondent of the New York Times. He later set up a second household in London with his mistress, Kate Lyon and had 3 additional children by her. His premature death in 1898 left both families in financial difficulty.

Frederic wrote 10 novels, 23 short stories, 2 volumes of non-fiction, and countless newspaper articles over his short life time, but he did not achieve critical acclaim until the publication of his seventh novel: The Damnation of Theron Ware in 1896.  Two other novels followed, Gloria Mundi and The Market Place, cementing his legacy as an accomplished author, on par with, but better known, contemporaries Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Henry James, and Stephen Crane. The posthumously published, The Market Place, was a financial success, alleviating his family’s financial duress.

The Damnation of Theron Ware, likely not autobiographical, but certainly expanding on the author’s experiences growing up in Utica, New York, is a story of a young, naive, married Methodist preacher: Theron Ware, who is posted by his bishop, to a small, conservative, poor congregation in a fictional town in the very real and ancient hills and forests of upstate New York.

Through his witnessing of an Irish worker’s fatal injury, he is innocently introduced to a beautiful, intelligent, but wild, Irish-Catholic young woman named Celia. This encounter sets off a series of faith questioning episodes with this woman and her friends: a priest and a cynical and urbane Catholic scientist; accelerating the protestant minister onto the fast, yet short, road to perdition.  His ensuing infatuation with Celia separates him from his wife. His education at the hands of the Catholic trio separates him from his faith and church. His conversion to religion without god and comprehension separates him from the Catholic trio or more precisely, the Catholics separate from him.

His innocence is gone but his education is incomplete. He is damned.  He concludes that his salvation lies in politics.

Good Ape — Bad Ape

War for the Planet of the Apes  (2017)  PG-13  Runtime: 140 minutesM War Apes

Genre: Drama-Action-Adventure-SciFi-War

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.6/10

Amazon – 3.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.1/5

Metacritic Metascore – 82/100

Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Written by: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves

Produced by: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

M Ape 1968War for the Planet of the Apes is the third, and unlikely the last for Cornelius is just a young monkey, installment of the Planet of the Apes reboot series, or if you are keeping track, the eighth movie since the original 1968 Plant of the Apes film. Keeping the story front and center, director-writer Matt Reeves, and co-writer Mark Bomback have created a compelling drama with just enough action-adventure-war added to maintain the tempo and interest in this 2 hour and 10 minute epic about biblical-type survival, family, and revenge.

Caesar played by Andy Serkis delivers a compelling performance of a compassionate angry ape, succumbing to baser instincts of survival, eventually finding peace through the delicate innocence of a mute little girl; enabling him to assume the mantle of Moses, leading his people from bondage. It might be a tad much to have both Caesar and Moses on the same stage, but it does seem to work.

Woody Harrelson, playing the hard, single vision, blinders on, Colonel, finally has found a role, post Cheers, to showcase his talents. Harrelson produces a highly believable persona of a driven man that allows the survival of his species to obscure the other options available to this other-wise intelligent character.

Bad Ape played by Steve Zahn provides the comic relief that so far has not entered into this franchise.  A short 2007 song by Bad Religion seems to provide some predictive pathos for Bad Ape and the movie as a whole.

Murder
Bad Religion – written by Brett W. Gurewitz and Greg Graffin – 2007

If you didn’t know your world’s a pile of s—
Listen to a riddle that’ll tickle every bit of it

Ha ha ha!

Ape shall not murder, ape wasn’t so sure
Bad ape, you made a mistake
Annihilation in a cannibal war
Well, cultivation might have served you
Might have raised you up unscathed
If you had called that f—– by its name…

Did you listen to the arbiter’s beck and call?
Did you find what you were looking for or not at all?

Not at all!

Ape shall not murder, ape take the cure
Bad ape you made a mistake
Annihilation in a cannibal war
Culture might have cured you
And raised you up unscathed
If you had called that f—– by its name…

Say the name!
Say the name!
Say the name!

The film is not a must see, but it is a worthy addition to the trilogy.  The title sells the movie as something that it isn’t: a war movie; it’s a drama about survival-family-revenge with some battle scenes thrown in to quicken the pace.

Confronting Demons

The Book of Henry  (2017)  PG-13  Runtime: 105 minutesM Henry 201`7

Genre: Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.0/10

IMDb – 6.5/10

Amazon – 4.0/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – 31/100

Metacritic User Score – 4.4/10

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Written by: Gregg Hurwitz

Produced by: Carla Hacken, Jenette Kahn, Sidney Kimmel, Adam Richman, et.al.

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Cast: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay

Henry, Jaeden Lieberher, an adolescent genius, is unable to convince the adult world that there is a monster living next door. Running where the adults will not tread, he takes the only road available —until he can’t. Lieberher in Midnight Special was competent, but I simply loved him as Henry in this movie. He is fated for greatness if Hollywood doesn’t totally mess this kid up before he reaches adulthood.

The critics see this movie as a jumbled mess of genres, an excess of ideas smashing into one another, phony and boring, poorly written, directed, and acted: I saw an emotional and passionate presentation of difficult issues that took the movie in unexpected directions, a satisfactory finish, acted and directed superbly, with only the writing coming up short. The writing stumbles mainly with presenting a prodigy capable of doing anything and everything,  amazingly, and then developing, in the end, a rather pedestrian solution to a complicated problem.

Ignore the critics, ignore the written bumps in the road, and see this movie.  Bring a box of Kleenex.

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