Currently browsing the "Woody Harrelson" tag.

Review: Shock and Awe

The most shocking thing about Shock and Awe is how shockingly flat it turned out to be, given the star-power behind it as well as the timeliness of its core message about the role of the free press in a democracy. With a cast list that includes Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones and actor/director Rob Reiner, the biggest question you’re left with after the film is the same question raised in the film itself: How the hell did this happen? It should have been so much better – so more people might actually see it.

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn’t exactly break new ground. But it does offer up a pleasant enough excuse for a journey back to a galaxy far, far away. It’s a prequel and a sequel and an origin story designed to shed light on the beloved scoundrel who – several years later – delivered Luke, Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 to the Rebel Alliance and helped them attack the Death Star (or something like that). It’s hard to picture anyone other than Harrison Ford as sarcastic pilot-extraordinaire Han Solo, but Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!) creates a believable precursor, with a cockiness and swagger that cloaks a deep desire for family, connection and doing the right thing.

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a darkly funny masterpiece. Oscar nods await, no doubt. It’s the story of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) a mother who is righteously pissed that local law enforcement hasn’t come any closer to catching her daughter’s killer after seven months. So she puts her anger on display on three billboards just outside town calling out law enforcement for not doing their job, eliciting an immediate reaction from the whole town – some with her, some not, mostly because she singles out the town’s beloved Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). One of his deputies (Sam Rockwell) who has some serious anger management issues of his own takes it as a slap to the whole department and retaliates, and things just escalate from there.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Festival Download

What a great festival! It’s my first year at Middleburg, now in its 5th year, but I was truly impressed by their  selections. It’s a small festival, as yet pretty unknown, but not for long, I suspect. In all I went to 14 films in just over 3 days. It was exhausting, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Films included here are: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ; Mudbound; Last Flag Flying; Faces/Places; I, Tonya; In the Fade; The Divine Order; Lady Bird; Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Meltdown; Loveless; Darkest Hour; The Other Side of Hope; and Hostiles.

Quickie Reviews: The Glass Castle; Wind River; The Fencer; A Taxi Driver

I’m generally a fan of (or maybe a sucker for) movies based on real people and events, so that could be why I had a pretty good week at the movies with two mainstream dramas and two foreign films. First up: The Glass Castle, based on Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir about her unconventional upbringing and coming to terms with the complexities of her relationship with her dysfunctional parents and remarkably normal siblings. The film features a stellar cast that includes Brie Larson (Room), Chandler Head and Ella Anderson as Jeannette (through the years), Woody Harrelson as her fundamentally flawed but occasionally well-meaning father, and Naomi Watts as her eccentric artist mother. The parents are the types to define homelessness and squatting as a ‘lifestyle choice’. I haven’t read the book, but those around me who did seemed satisfied with the way the film played out. Others, however, (while still acknowledging the strong performances) criticized the movie for glamorizing or romanticizing what they saw as dangerous, irresponsible and often cruel parenting. I thought it walked the line fairly well, in much the same way as last year’s well-received indie Captain Fantastic.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Hollywood can be so cruel. Splitting the third and final book of The Hunger Games trilogy into two movies feels so… unnecessary. Lucrative, in a “hey, Harry Potter and Twilight got away with it” kind of way. But still, totally unnecessary. Thus Mockingjay – Part 1 is a good movie that could have been great. It’s a means to an end – and that means fans of the franchise will (and should) see it despite my frustrations with a narrative cut short. Then – come next year – we will all surely see it again, as part of a movie marathon, when Mockingjay – Part 2 bows in theaters. Just in time for Thanksgiving 2015! May the odds of remembering what happened in the books – and the first three movies – be ever in our favor.

Mockingjay – Part 1 finds our reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen (still played brilliantly by Jennifer Lawrence) waking up in the rebel safe haven of District 13 after having put a fork (okay, an arrow) into the craziness that was the Hunger Games – where kid ‘tributes’ from the districts of Panem had been forced to fight to the death as part of some annual penance devised by the autocratic Capitol. Why? It’s complicated. If you really care to know, read the books. See the movies.

Now You See Me

So I had a choice of overlapping screenings: After Earth (a sci-fi adventure with the father-son team of Will and Jaden Smith) or Now You See Me, a heist movie involving a quartet of illusionists. I chose the latter. That was probably a wise choice given the less than stellar buzz I’m hearing about Earth. But Now You See Me isn’t all that great either, despite having a few good tricks up its sleeve. Overall, it’s a decent movie for anyone in the mood for a moderately entertaining mind-bender with a solid cast. Or, if you’re a fan of magic and illusion and need to get The Incredible Burt Wonderstone out of your head. If Wonderstone had gone down a somewhat dark and twisty path, this is where it might have led.

The Hunger Games

May the odds be ever in your favor. Odds are, if that means anything to you at all, then this review is totally irrelevant – you’re going to see The Hunger Games. As well you should. It’s good. It’s not “oh my gosh – this is, like, the best movie ever” good. But it does serve the book and its fans quite well. In case you’re unfamiliar, the movie is based on the first book of a young-adult, adventure science fiction trilogy by Suzanne Collins. That means we can expect at least two (or if the studios take a page from Potter and Twilight, at least three) more installments of what’s sure to be a gazillion-dollar franchise.

The premise is admittedly bizarre. Every year, a teenage boy and girl from the 12 districts of Panem are sent to the Capitol to compete in a nationally televised, fight-to-the-death competition known as The Hunger Games. The Games were created as punishment for an uprising against the Capital decades earlier – and perpetuated as a way to keep the districts in line. Think of the 12 Districts as home to the 99 percent. The Capitol houses the 1 percent.

The Games’ participants, known as Tributes, must fight one another until one survivor remains. And just like Texas with the Miss America pageant, some tributes are better prepped than others for the competition.