American Honey is sweet and wholesome; the film that bares that name is anything but. It’s a raw portrayal of a slice of Americana that we want to believe doesn’t exist; that we prefer not to think about. It’s captured with intimate camera work that masterfully puts its audience in the story with, even as, the lead character, Star (Lane). Lane is a newcomer and does a stellar job of giving us a peek at Arnold’s idea of the challenges the young people in America face today trying to know one another and know themselves. With particular interest cast on the poor youth of this nation, the story can be uncomfortable to watch. They are expected to raise themselves and their siblings, while also having to try and keep up with the fast paced and changing world of technology that they might not be able to afford. It’s true that text messaging and social media has kept us from speaking face to face, this is not so in Stars life. She sees day to day what matters and faces some daily confrontations most never have. She is also very aware of the planet and understands the need to save it… one honey bee at a time. The environment and trying to save it is a very powerful message throughout the film, which does not go by unnoticed.
Star has strong convictions but she’s not otherwise worldly. When she joins an enthusiastic and somewhat feral group of young traveling magazine salesman, she meets who might be her first love, Jake (LaBeouf), who she surprises with her confidence and her ability to love. She’s wide eyed, has never been anywhere outside of town and hasn’t seen much, but that doesn’t mean she’s easy. Fighting off advances from family members and being witness to countless problems befall her family she’s aggressive and fierce when she needs to be. Taking on the task of sales, she tries the honest route instead of allowing Jake to teach her the way their boss Krystal (Keough, granddaughter of Elvis Presley) wants her to sell. She’s unorthodox but gets it done. Being stubborn and bullheaded does land her in some hot water more than once, however, watching this naïve girl grow up and become a part of something and discover herself as she bounces from city to city is incredibly fascinating… even though you cringe a few times.
The soundtrack, one I’d like to own, by the way, feeds the mood, especially the moment when the title song, “American Honey” by Lady Antebellum, is played and the entire crew sings with it. The actors who expertly pull you into the narrative turn the movie into a musical from time to time and make it more relatable and moving. The length is never an issue, in fact, I never once thought I was watching an almost three hour long movie.
Several scenes are surprisingly pornographic but they fall in line with the organic ambiance of the film. It’s compelling, novel, and peculiar and about as uncommon as they come, which is why I celebrate this work and suggest you go to a theatre this weekend to examine it for yourself.
It’s one of the best films of the year.
Pity the poor remake. So many people think that the remake is never as good as the original. But in this case the very first original was ‘The Seven Samurai’, then remade as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ in 1960. And now comes along a new take on the old Western story, with new a new cast and a fresh look.
As the Civil War has ended, a little town in Northern California is overrun by a mean-spirited land baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The people of Rose Creek sit between him and a lot gold in the local hills. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), whose husband was shot in cold blood by Bogue, finds and hires a protector.
She meets up with Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter. He knows of Bogue and has had his own troubles with him. Chisolm finds a small group of hired guns to help him fight the wicked army of thugs that Bogue will bring to town.
These include Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler; Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) who is a sharpshooter and his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), an expert with knives. Also in the group is Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a bear of a mountain man and a tracker: Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw, and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche Indian.
Once these seven men come into town, they meet up with local sheriff and a group of Bogue’s men. There are over twenty thugs to take on the much smaller group. After a tense stand-off, there is major gunfight in the town streets. The Chisolm group survives and comes out on top.
But there will be a much bigger battle that is yet to come. The Seven all fortify the town and train the local townsfolk to take up arms and fight the good fight. Bogue has much bigger plans in mind, with a huge group of ornery thugs and much more sophisticated weapons at hand.
The group of Seven and the people of the town are ready for the fight of their lives. And for some of them, it will be the last day of their lives. But all of them, led by Chisolm are ready to stick it out and not surrender…
With a large ensemble cast, it can be tough to get a very precise idea of every character. But Denzel Washington has such a calm and soothing presence, he can make you believe that anything is possible. Chris Pratt does his comic relief best, being a funny character with a very good aim and a love of the bottle. Ethan Hawke does a terrific job with a Civil War Confederate rifleman who has seen one too many battles.
Everyone else is also very good in the roles they play, with each having a key scene or two that give their character a better depth. Some of the have a lack of times, this limits how well the audience gets to know them.
A few of the choices are a tiny bit off the mark, such as the voice used by Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne. It is high-pitched and squeaky for such a big bear of a man. Also, the costuming for Haley Bennett seems a little too much Victoria’s Secret for a plain wife of a rancher.
But these are tiny little issues compared to the beauty of the background scenery, the wonderfully stirring score (the final work by James Horner), and the fantastic action sequences in the gunfight scenes and the final battle in the town.
This might not be your father’s ‘Magnificent Seven’, but you can depend on these guys for a rollicking good time…
Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) is a young teenager living in Florida, with a deep admiration and affection for his grandfather Abe Portman (Terence Stamp). Abe would tell Jake many wild stories about a far-off school that Abe used to attend. The horrible death of Abe gives Jake and his father Frank Portman (Chris O’Dowd) the idea to visit the Isle of Wales to see where Abe grew up.
On the Isle, Jake wanders into a large mansion and it changes from broken down to tip-top shape. Jake has gone from 2016 back to 1943. It is the work of Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who is the loving but strict leader of the Home for Peculiar Children.
Jake meets all of the children, but he develops a crush on Emma (Ella Purnell) who is one of the students. Jake finds out the Nazis would bomb that building that night, but Miss Peregrine has the ability to turn back time for 24 hours to create a safe ‘time loop’ for the children.
There is an evil man named Mr. Baron (Samuel L. Jackson) who is a shape-shifter and can appear to be anyone. He leads a group of crazy people who will attack the Peculiar Children and eat their … eyeballs. Baron is also the cause behind the Hollows, invisible monsters that has earlier killed Jake’s grandfather.
Many of the Peculiar Children have unusual abilities. Emma can float and can control air, there is one who is pyrokinetic, another who is an invisible boy. There is one who can control and maintain plants, and another who has bees that live in his stomach, and a boy who dreams many future events. There is a young girl who is an amazingly strong child, and one who can control and direct the newly dead.
The story twist and turns back and forth between 1943 and 2016, and from the Isle of Wight to Florida and back again and also to London. There is a sunken ocean liner that is lifted with the forced air from Emma. There is another hidden Home in London that gets attacked by Baron and the evil crew. Miss Avocet (Judi Dench) has to run away and the Peculiar Children help her before Baron can kill her.
Jake has never found any special Peculiar ability that he might have. Except for the fact that he can see the Hollows, who remain invisible to everyone else. Miss Peregrine knows that Jake will be very helpful in the fight against the Hollows and against Mr. Baron. She will be able to use his special talents to keep the other Children safe.
So that is the direction of this new movie that NOT aimed for small children. There are some scary situations, along with many that are just down right odd. Yet, for a Tim Burton movie, it seems subdued and not as wild as many of his earlier ones. There is a bit of the darkness along with a crazy-quilt of characters. Just not as many as you might have expected in a Burton production.
Eva Green did a beautiful job in the role, and Samuel L. Jackson was very over-the-top as the big villain. Asa Butterfield was fair, but mostly bland, and there was not chemistry at all between him and co-star Ella Purnell. Judi Dench has a short role but is fun to watch, Terence Stamp has just the right look as the Peculiar grandfather.
This movie is available with 3-D, but except for a handful of scenes it does not lend itself to any great viewing. The production qualities were very clear and impressive. However the overly large cast and the odd shifting between time periods and places made the story very hard to follow.
By all means, leave your kids at home to go see this latest Tim Burton movie, especially if you have a taste for the Peculiar.
The ‘Disaster Movie’ from the ’80s is back, but in a more professionally produced package. There are no airplanes falling from the sky, but there is an Inferno, and it does tower. There is no sinking cruise ship, but a floating oil rig in the Gulf is in deep(water) trouble. The actual events of 2010 are recalled and given the up-close-and-personal treatment. “Deepwater Horizon” makes a statement about the strength of ordinary men and woman in a very extraordinary situation.
Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is an oil rig engineer ready to take on another three week shift on the Deepwater Horizon rig. His wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) wishes for his safe return, as usual. He meets “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Kurt Russell) who is the supervisor on the rig. Mr. Jimmy is a no-nonsense leader who believes in safety first. Andrea (Gina Rodriguez) is a worker in the control room who helps keep the rig on target.
TransOcean is the company who owns the rig, and it is being leased by BP (British Petroleum). A few BP executives are on board, including Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). They are worried that rig’s drilling has not been completed and tested in time, and now they are weeks overdue and millions are being lost. So there are reductions made in testing and not every normal regulation has been followed completely. The oil needs to be drilled already, dammit!
While running some functional testing, the results are unclear. The BP bosses, like Donald, want a quick retest done. But “Mr. Jimmy” and Mike and many other oil rig workers want every option completely tested. This includes Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) a guy on the main drill line floor. He notices that after the aborted test, there is some violent shuddering in the drill line. He starts to see the mud and oil oozing up from the drill. This is not a normal result.
Within minutes, the rig explodes with highly pressured oil and gas that had been trapped in the faulty drill line. Methane seeps into the air ducts, ready to ignite – and there is no place to hide. There are 11 people who do not make it out alive. But the remaining one hundred plus workers, engineers, pilots, cooks and everyone assigned to work on the Horizon are in trouble. There are many injured and people are in shock. The story of how the rest of them got out and helped each other makes for the second half of the movie.
Movies that are based on true life situations are interesting. There is a build up to an oncoming oil rig disaster or a double bird strike on a jet out of JFK. You basically know the story. But there so many details of the actual situation that the movie portrays, that you are still amazed to see the whole thing unfold.
Mark Wahlberg plays the smart yet humble oil rig expert, and he shows how average guy can become a hero in the right circumstances. Kurt Russell it a force to be reckoned with, and his character is devoted to by-the-book safety measures. “Mr. Jimmy” will not let the sneaky executives pull any fast ones, but when they get him out of the room…
Kate Hudson does her best to act like the loving wife, and she is nervous when she hears the news. Dylan O’Brien plays a typical oil rig grunt, the guys who are there pulling the pipe and manning the drill at all hours. The money-grubbing monster had to be played by someone, so John Malkovich was the only logical choice.
The acting plays second fiddle to the visual chaos of the Horizon under assault by flaming jets of gas and oil. The action scenes are so realistic that you also feel under assault. Everyone is covered in oil and blood, and the horror takes a human toll. The means to escape are few, and pathways to survive are slim. Special effects, computer enhanced imagery, sound design and mixing are all on display.
Peter Berg has taken a eerie chapter from America’s recent past with this event leading to the worst oil spill in history. But rather than focus on the long-term affects to the ecology of the Gulf, he instead narrows it down to the workers on the rig. We feel the confusion and despair of the men and women who made up that team. And at the very end, there is a fitting tribute to the 11 souls who perished on the disaster. With additional review (from this movie), perhaps there is some hope for changes and continued vigilance on the deepwater oil rigs.
“The Girl on the Train” is based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel of the same name and is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) and directed by actor/director Tate Taylor who directed “The Help” and “Get on Up”. There’s plenty of talent there alone to entice you to the theatre this weekend but I’ll give you a few more good reasons to catch this somewhat complicated whodunnit; Emily Blunt, who is simply brilliant in her role, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux. The story starts with introducing you to a girl on a train, Rachel (Blunt), more woman than girl in years but girl in behavior, as she tells you of the houses she passes each day and her curiosity as to what the lives are like within them. She begins to more or less obsess over one particular couple in love, Megan (Bennett) and Scott (Evans), who reside in a house she wished she lived. He is the sexy husband she desires to have and she is the beautiful young woman with whom she longed to be. Soon, we learn that she had once lived two doors down in a lovely home that is still occupied by her ex-husband, Tom (Theroux), his wife, Anna (Ferguson), and their baby. What led to her divorce may be what now leads her to occupy her mind with such things as what goes on in what she considers to be a more perfect life than hers; alcohol, her personal demon. She drinks heavily, on the train and off, and is paranoid,often blacks out and sees things that may or may not be actually happening, because of her drinking problem.
The story has a purposely, sometimes agonizingly, slow reveal, using flashbacks to catch you up on what gets Rachel to this point in life. It also uses this trick to show the direction her life now leads as well as solidly placed scenes to throw you off the scent as to where the chiller is taking you. It’s leading up to a moment when she gets off the train, wanting to take action on a situation she sees happen and getting involved in something she shouldn’t be. Her plight gets more and more involved and she gets deeper and deeper into something she now cannot escape.
Some of the dialogue can be trite and a bit stuffy at times but overall, the mystery she becomes entangled in is one of the best I’ve seen since the fantastic, “Gone Girl” from 2014. Not wanting to reveal much more about the story I will add that Blunt is most likely looking at a best actress nomination. She plays her character with passion and despair and motivates you to go on this journey with her and you’re more than happy to hitch your wagon to it. Wilson and Taylor have given three woman the opportunity to excel and they more than do. Theroux, as well as the rest of the supporting cast, also stand out bringing this thriller to life for what will be one of your favorite complex stories of the year.
I’ll admit I was skeptical. ‘Our favorite “singleton” having a baby?!’ With television programs, this is usually the “jump the shark” moment. Have studios learned nothing from that? How could this be good for a film that centers on our “Bridge” and her love affairs?!
Back in 2001, I met Bridget Jones in “Bridget Jones Diary” and have seen the film a dozen times or more since. If I happen by while someone’s watching; I’ll watch, too. If it’s on cable, I can’t resist and will stop flipping and complete the film. I loved Oscar® winner Renée Zellweger’s performance and her commitment to authenticity with the character that she took on. She was willing to gain a lot of weight, which for a woman in Hollywood is an extremely risky move, she looked “mousey” and her hair was generally a complete mess the entire time she was on screen. No matter. The success of the film proved that with a sound tale to tell, good actors and ability to provide realistic, more importantly, relatablestorylines, anything is achievable.
Risk to her health was not taken this time as Zellweger once again plays Bridget Jones, oddball and overall crazy person. She remained her svelte self and even though her character is pregnant this time around she preferred padding to real weight gain, letting the make-up department get her to where she needed to be.
What “Bridget Jones Baby” mostly gives is why you loved it in the first place and that is mostly what you’d hope… Bridget. In fact, it felt a lot like the first one without being unoriginal. Needless to say, there’s a fight between two men and you picking sides is once again at the heart of things.
Humor is throughout the plot, aimed straight at Jones and her choices. She has two nights with two different men and now, not knowing who the father of the baby is, she’s trying desperately to find out the answer to this predicament she’s in… without letting them know what she’s up to. Her prenatal doctor is played by Emma Thompson and she couldn’t have been more delightful.
For the most part, the secondary characters are a joy and add surprisingly detailed elements to what could have been a disaster. What made it work was its ability to remain a Bridget Jones film. It was as reliable as Bridget herself, yet at the end, it introduced her reason to be a little self indulgent and close her diary for good for it’s time to put someone, other than her lovers, in the forefront of her life. There are a few moments that are very touching, even scenes from the first film that will have you realizing how many years have gone by.
So, which man will get her heart, Mark or Jack? You’ll have to watch and see. Will it be the one you want her to end up with? You’ll have to return and answer that for me yourself. So, if you liked the first movie, you’ll like this one. Aside from a few silly scenes, I have to recommend you check this out for a good laugh; it’s enjoyable and amusing.
“Masterminds” is a comedy based on the true story of one of the largest bank heists in America… and one of the most simplistic minds there is. Galifianakis plays David Ghantt who would do anything for the woman of his dreams. Galifianakis would do anything for a role, going as far as “sharting” in a pool for this one. Okay! I couldn’t help myself. I laughed at that. Sometimes the really stupid funny makes me giggle and this is about as stupid as they come.
Based in North Carolina, Hess uses every southern stereotype he could find from wood paneling on all the walls to a high-rise double-wide trailer to the hicks in them but the worst is the extra nauseatingly thick accent Galifianakis uses. It gets old very fast but there’s something about his comedy in this movie that you can’t help but find amusing and enjoy. I’d guess it’s his chemistry with director Jared Hess of “Nacho Libre” and “Napoleon Dynamite” that works to create a blissfully ignorant hayseed who is somehow still smart enough to pull of a 17 million dollar heist for the woman he loves, Kelly (Wiig), who is not his fiancé, might I add. His fiancé is Jandice and portrayed by McKinnon who does white trash brilliantly and the only way to describe her character is “weird”. McKinnon is always good at weird but this Jandice character goes way beyond the norm. Wiig, executes the love interest in the film and is, for the most part, playing straight for a change. There are a few laughs from her but it seems oddly fitting that she is the balance to all of the crazy going on; you expect insane from her in a film like this but when she delivers compassion and caring for someone getting taken advantage of, the story seems more real.
Kelly gets David to help her and her pals steal the money and behind his back they have planned on David to also be the fall guy. Steve Chambers (Wilson) is running the show and after David steals the money from Loomis, Fargo & Co., which becomes the second largest cash robbery in U.S. history, even appearing on shows like “America’s Most Wanted” because of it, he sends David to Mexico with a small allowance until things cool down and they “meet up with him later.” While they are living the good life, he’s in Mexico waiting for his girl. So, perhaps the David in the film isn’t so far removed from reality. However, feeling the pain of being the patsy, perhaps an exaggerated film of bringing them all to justice was his best revenge.
The sight gags in “Masterminds” are great. The characters are grotesquely over-the-top and you’ll laugh but to dig deeper into what you’re seeing, the structure isn’t there and doesn’t hold up. It feels as if you’re clicking on Youtube, looking for the funny clips and all the while not as entertained in-between the clicks. However, the costume changes and bizarre you get from Galifianakis and then the relationship that develops between him and the man sent to kill him, Mike McKinney (Sudeikis), makes this absurd film one to take a peek at. It has that “Napoleon Dynamite” feel to it and I wouldn’t be surprised if it picks up momentum with people watching this more than once to take it all in again and to perhaps take another look at the characters to figure out who may have taken the still missing two million dollars. Now you’re interested. By the way, stay at the end for some extra fun stuff.