Tag Archives: jeff bridges

Hell or High Water – Review

30 Aug

One of my favorite movies of 2015 was a film called Sicario. It took an interesting look at the moral ambiguities that are a part of controlling the actions of the Mexican cartels on the American side of the border. It was a perfectly paced and beautifully shot film. As excellent as director Denis Villeneuve did on that film, the writer was the star of the show, and that writer was Taylor Sheridan, an actor who decided to try his hand at screenwriting. It payed off wonderfully, and now we have his sophomore effort titled Hell or High Water. I’ve seen a lot of really good movies this year, but none of them have reached the heights in terms of film making and storytelling that is seen in Hell or High Water. As of right now, I have to say that this may be one of, if not the best movie of the year.

hell-or-high-water-poster_0

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are two brothers who are desperate to stop their family farm from being foreclosed. Their last resort is to begin a chain of bank robberies to raise money to pay off the loan that was unfairly designated by the banks. Of course, this is a very illegal solution, and therefore catches the attention of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a tough as nails officer who wants one last successful case before he packs everything in and retires. What Hamilton doesn’t understand about these two brothers is just how desperate they are to save the one thing their family has to care for and make money with. This begins a chase through many different towns to find justice, but the question remains if the brothers are the ones to suffer the long arm of the law.

This film is directed by a guy named David Mackenzie, and I have to admit that I’ve never seen another one of his movies so I have no basis to really judge him or the rest of his work. I will say, if it’s anything like Hell or High Water, I’d love to check it out. This is a beautiful looking film, and it’s clear that Mackenzie went in with a very clear vision of how this movie should look. From the very first scene I was hooked by the expressive camera movement and the way it helped tell the story. Credit also has to be given to cinematographer Giles Nuttgens for the work he did with Mackenzie to make this film look so beautiful. There are scenes on southern highways with fields that are on fire or being completely destroyed in the search of oil, and with Mackenzie’s and Nuttgens’ talents it is made to look like a portrait of a dystopian America. Add Nick Cave’s and Warren Ellis’ creeping score to all this and you’ve got yourself something really special.

hell-or-high-water

One of the first things that intrigued me about this movie was the cast. It’s hard to choose just one protagonist, but the one that really sticks out as the main character is Toby, played by Chris Pine. I really only know Chris Pine as Captain Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek movies, so I didn’t have too high expectations for him. That being said I was surprised by his performance and confidence in his character. It’s a more subtle performance than everyone else’s, but it’s just what the movie and the character needed to really work. I have a firm belief that Ben Foster is one of the most underrated actors working today. Every movie I’ve seen him in, even if I didn’t like the movie, I could never say anything bad about Foster. He brings his A-game once again in Hell or High Water, and it didn’t take long for him to become my favorite character in the movie. Finally, Jeff Bridges brings a lot of depth to the character of Marcus Hamilton. He’s a confident but melancholy character who hides behind insults and racism when that confidence falters. All of these character complexities and idiosyncrasies are brought out by the fine actors, but if it wasn’t for the writer, this movie wouldn’t be what it is.

That’s what brings us to the real star of the show, and that person is Taylor Sheridan. Like I said before, I loved his screenplay for Sicario and Hell or High Water is a perfect way to follow up the success of his first film. On the surface, this film works as a great neo-western filled with excellent characters and a screenplay that is paced very well. It’s not so slow that it gets boring but it’s not so fast that you don’t have any time to think. There’s so much more going on beneath the surface than a tale of bank robberies in small Texas towns. Like SicarioHell or High Water uses this story as a cautionary tale about racism, poverty, corrupt banks, big business, and even more abstract ideas like self worth and family. There’s so much to be discussed after seeing this movie that it would be impossible just to talk about the story and not about the different themes and motifs that shine throughout the film. I can’t wait to see more from Sheridan.

I’ve seen a lot of great movies this year, and at first I thought The Jungle Book was going to stay in the number one spot for my favorite movie of 2016. Now we have a new champion. Hell or High Water is without a doubt the best movie I’ve seen all year so far. The characters are rich, the actors are completely in touch with their roles, the film is just beautiful to look at, and Sheridan’s screenplay is going to have to be a contender for Best Screenplay come Oscar season. This is a movie about an era, a place, and people desperate to survive. If you only see one movie this year, make it Hell or High Water.

Advertisements

TRON: Legacy – Review

24 Jul

After doing a review for TRON, I think it’s only fair to take a look at it’s predecessor that was released 27 years later. Whereas the original TRON was a stepping stone for the area of CGI, TRON: Legacy will be remembered as an important movie in the rapidly growing use of 3D and the continuing evolution of computer graphics.

 

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) knew all about the Grid from the stories he would be told by his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), but he never though that one night his dad would go to work and never return. For twenty years, the mystery of what happened to his father has plagued Sam, and when a mysterious page is sent to Kevin’s partner, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), from the old arcade, Sam goes to investigate. While there, he accidentally transports himself into the Grid where he not only finds his trapped father, but also the program that has turned against him, Clu (Bridges again…sort of).

For me, TRON: Legacy is an all around better movie than the original. The effects are obviously better, but the story has also been improved. Mind you, it’s not perfect at all. In fact, it can be kind of bewildering at times. The pacing is a lot better, however, and there is clear and more serious motivation behind what the characters do.

There are some serious plot holes that I thought of after the movie was over. The strange thing is, I didn’t really realize them as I was watching it because I was so enthralled by the audio/visual overload that is TRON: Legacy. That’s also to say that the plot holes exist, but they aren’t serious enough to really detract me from enjoying the movie. Looking back on them, however, my experience may be a little soured the next time I watch it.

As you can see from the clip above the previous paragraph, the light cycles look a hell of a lot better in this one than the original, no surprise there. While that may be obvious, I just want to comment on just how cool the entire look and sounds of this movie is. The computer graphics are fantastic and the bright orange or blue lights on the costumes contrast well with the blue and grey world. The sounds are appropriately robotic or glitchy, and the often pounding score by legendary techno artists, Daft Punk, really help immerse the viewer in the cyber world. Also, the de-rezzing looks awesome.

The only problem that I have with the CGI is a big one. This bothered me throughout the movie, and I was really hoping that I wasn’t the only one who was annoyed. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Clu’s face is digitized to make it look like a younger version of Kevin. Therefore, Jeff Bridges face is animated on another person doing the body acting. This looks pretty horrible. The film makers would have been smart not to stay in any sort of close up for too long, but that isn’t what happens. Instead, the viewers are forced to watch and wonder at a good, but failed attempt at making Bridges young again.

All I can really say is that TRON: Legacy is a much better movie than the original TRON. There was no point during this film that I got bored, which is more than I can say for the original. The Grid looks fantastic and the characters are surprisingly believable. There are some plot issues that are minor, but can be noticeable and Clu’s face looks terrible. Other than that, TRON: Legacy is a good sci-fi escape that proved to be a great way to spend an afternoon.

TRON – Review

23 Jul

Using CGI has become the norm in blockbuster film making, but believe it or not, there used to be a time where that tool didn’t exist! Slowly, but surely, it came to be and one movie can be solely responsible for making it happen. This movie is TRON, a science fiction classic that helped kickstart a new generation in film making.

 

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a software engineer who runs a popular arcade. On his downtime, he hacks into ENCOM’s mainframe in order to prove that his own ideas were stolen by Ed Dillinger (David Warner) and used for his promotion and Flynn’s being fired. Flynn’s friends, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora (Cindy Morgan), offer to help him break into ENCOM and try to find his evidence in the computers there, where he can more easily avoid the Master Security Program. Flynn is again caught and transported into the world of the computer where he must fight in gladiatorial games and defeat the Master Security Program and its army.

If there ever was a movie to be described as dated, this would most certainly be the one. From the games, to the lingo, to the special effects, everything is dated by over twenty years.  It was interesting to see how the world was using what we would call primitive computers. So the outdatedness isn’t a fault or a detraction from the movie, just something you have to get used to and learn to enjoy.

The CGI effects are really excellent, and this isn’t sarcasm. Put yourself in the 1982 mind set and imagine seeing this. It would be great. Still, in 2012, I still think that CGI has a really cool look to it that no other movie has. It’s a great way to distinguish this from anything else, and it was a stepping stone in the film universe that paved the way for the most popular summer blockbusters today.

But, what about the story, the acting, and the writing? Well…that’s an entirely different story. If you’re looking for anything other than interesting concepts and special effects, than about face and look for another movie. Let’s start with the writing and the acting. Bad acting doesn’t mean bad writing and vice versa. But with TRON, not only is the acting bad, but so is the writing. Combine both of those two and we have an extra cheese movie experience. The only saving grace for the acting was Jeff Bridges, who delivered his ridiculous lines with some believability. The rest are pretty bad.

The story and the way it’s told are total opposites. Having a computer genius literally put inside the computer and forced to go head to head with an evil program is awesome. The imagination at work here is awesome. The way the story is told is less than great. Despite the cool story and the great special effects, I found myself getting bored. The pacing was very strange and didn’t spend enough time in one spot to completely explain and show anything. Moving fast through a world as elaborate and intriguing as this is a big mistake committed but the film makers.

Even with all of these glaring faults, TRON is a major motion picture that can be considered one of the most important movies ever made. Certainly not one of the best, however. The special effects and ideas here are incredible and were new. The pacing, acting, and writing are something else. If you’re interested in film history and the progression of special effects, TRON is a textbook example to view. It is still not a very good movie in all other respects.

True Grit – Review

6 Jul

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of the western genre. There are some modern day westerns and a couple spaghetti westerns that I enjoy, but all in all I’m not really a fan. But, I do love the Coen Brothers, so that was enough to get me to see the remake/retelling of the novel and American western classic, True Grit.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is an intelligent and persistent fourteen year old girl growing up in the rough and tough old west. When her father is gunned down by one of his hired men, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), Mattie enlists the help of Deputy U.S. Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a drunken, violent officer of the law. Joining them on their mission is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who has also been chasing Chaney and is tasked with bringing him back to Texas to hang for his crimes. While these three people may go about things in different ways, they all have the same goal: retribution.

This is not your typical Coen Brothers’ movie. The cynicism, strangeness, and all around weird elements that make their movies what they are, are pretty much gone. Every now and then, mostly through the witty dialogue, we remember who is writing and directing this film. But, as I said before, I love the Coen Brothers and I also liked this movie, but it certainly is far from my favorite movie by the directing duo.

The characters and performances are all above average and captivating. Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic, especially at her age, and delivers her lines with ease, even when they get over the top with ridiculous vocabulary. Jeff Bridges runs away with the movie with his tough talking and slurred speech. The thing is, I had to put on subtitles just to understand what he was saying. Great character, but you have to listen closely. Barry Pepper and Matt Damon are fine too, but there’s not competition between Haille Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges. This is their movie.

I was a little shocked by the realism of True Grit, especially for a PG-13 rating. There isn’t a whole lot of violence, but when there is, it’s really intense and has bloody aftermaths. There were times where I thought to myself, “This should be R.” But this works in favor of the movie. Westerns are a genre that really needs to convince me to like whatever I’m watching.  If they’re cheap tame, then I really have no interest. I need my westerns to be raw, violent, and real. With the help of great set design, cinematography, and the realistic violence, I was totally convinced.

I do feel a little cheated by this movie though. I really wanted to see more of a chase between our heroes and villains. Instead, there are a lot of scenes of banter and tracking, which helps with character development, but I got pretty bored. Also, the big showdown at the end was over pretty quickly, but now that I think about, that’s probably what it was actually like back then, so I’ll give it that. Still, there were plenty of scenes that I feel could have been cut down or gotten rid of all together. Slow is fine, but I feel like the pacing of this movie stopped to rest at some points.

In the end, I really like this movie, but it doesn’t really rank at the top of the Coen Brothers list with films like The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and O Brother, Where Art Thou. This is a different Coen Brothers, who want to pay respect to a classic genre and who do it very well. True Grit is a top notch western. I’ll definitely watch it again, and try to look past its flaws.