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.

Family First

Shot Caller  (2017)  Rated R  Runtime: 121 minutesM Shot 2017

Genre: Action-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller-Crime-Prison

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.4/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore – 59/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Written by: Ric Roman Waugh

Produced by: Jonathan King, Michel Litvak , Gary Michael Walters , Ric Roman Waugh

Music by: Antonio Pinto

Cast:  Nikolaj Coster-Walau, Jon Bernthal, Lake Bell

Jacob ‘Money’ Harlon, played by Nikolaj Coster-Walau, destroys his life, his family, and his friend, in a split second of inebriated inattention, tumbling him towards the gates of hell and hell’s masters. Harlon evolves from a successful stockbroker to a calculating gang member inside the go along or die, walls of prison.  Jacob on the outside; handsome, kind, likable, becomes Money on the inside; branded, stoic, brutal, shrewd; ultimately resolving all consequential moral issues bichromatically, there is no grey in staying alive, no grey in protecting his estranged wife and son from the callous wrath of the gangs; who operate with impunity, mockery, and charter, inside and outside the profane houses of correction.

Coster-Walau (whatever happened to the studios giving actors simple, pronounceable names) plays his part with feverish intensity, a resoundingly believable act dramatizing the ruthless lack of humanity that is our prison system.  He realistically reveals the absolute horror of living a life bound to a criminal tribe’s hellish code of control, unchained from any sense of compassion or mercy.

Ric Roman Waugh, as director and writer, brings a flawless, no tricks, script to life with a dual track film that unfolds Jacob’s trek to Money, and Money’s odyssey to redemption. A story of a lost life, a story of finding honor, a story of emancipation, a story of family.

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.

Noir Righteousness

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy; published by Mysterious Press, copyright © 1988.

B Big Nowhere.jpgLife it seems, will fade away
Drifting further every day

Deathly lost, this can’t be real
Cannot stand this hell I feel

(Partial lyrics to Metallica’s Fade to Black, ©1984. Songwriters: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, Kirk Hammett).

When there are no heroes, no good guys, no morals worth fighting for, then you’ve walked into The Big Nowhere.  There are no prizes here so Sam Spade took the night train out of L.A., and Mike Hammer’s 45 would have melted by the 9th chapter, leaving a rather skinny book with a sloppy ending. No one, no thing is redeemable in this novel, possibly not even the reader, who is captivated, disheartened, engrossed, disgusted on the raw truth presented as living without a soul, trying to make sense of this hell on earth, wishing never to come anywhere near The Big Nowhere.

…thinking Coleman’s Upshaw fixation would break him down on his homosexuality, stymie and stalemate him.  He was wrong. Coleman picked up Augie Duarte at a downtown bar, sedated him and took him to an abandoned garage in Lincoln Heights.  He strangled him and hacked him and ate him and emasculated him like Daddy and the others had tried to do to him…

Everyone deserves to die, sooner rather than later, in this l.a. l.a. land; the protagonists, if there are any, the antagonists, the groupies, the followers and the hanger-ons, everyone.

The Big Nowhere is the second, and likely the best, of Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet which includes:

  1. Black Dahlia © 1987
  2. The Big Nowhere © 1988
  3. L.A. Confidential © 1990
  4. White Jazz © 1992

Don’t miss this one.

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