Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Movie Review: Don't Breathe

Don’t Breathe
Directed by: Fede Alvarez.
Written by: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues.
Starring: Jane Levy (Rocky), Stephen Lang (The Blind Man), Dylan Minnette (Alex), Daniel Zovatto (Money), Franciska Töröcsik (Cindy).
Don’t Breathe is an excellent example of a certain kind of horror movie. It doesn’t have the depth of the best recent horror movies – the parental angst of The Babadook or the sexual fears of It Follows for example – because the film is a much more stripped down thing. It places the audience in a house, along with three morally dubious characters – they have broken in to rob a blind man after all – and that raises the stakes when it turns out that blind man isn’t so helpless after all – trapping everyone in a dark house, in the middle of abandoned Detroit, with no one around to hear or see what is going on. It is a simple premise, but one that is brilliantly executed for at least the first hour of the film. Yes, the last act has an unnecessary twist – pushing the film into less of a moral grey area than I would have liked – and some moments that strain credibility in terms of how a character ends up in the exact right place at the exact right time, but my that point, you don’t care as an audience member. The first hour is so brilliant directed and performed by the two leads, you’re scared shitless, and just go along for the final act. It is easily one of the best horror films of the year.
The movie sketches the main character, Rocky (Jane Levy), quickly in the opening scenes – she lives in Detroit, has no money, an absolutely horrible mother, and a beloved young sister she wants to move to California with to save her from the childhood she had. She is dating Money (Daniel Zovatto) and the two of them, along with Alex (Dylan Minnette), who has a not so secret crush on Rocky, rob affluent houses in the suburbs. Alex’s dad works for a security company, which helps them get in and out undetected – and he’s adamant about obeying certain rules, that would limit their time in jail if caught. But Money gets a tip – a Blind Man (Stephen Lang), an Iraqi War Veteran, who lives alone – not in the affluent suburbs, but in one of the many abandoned neighborhoods of Detroit, where no else lives for blocks – and settled a lawsuit for hundreds of thousands of dollars when a rich girl killed his daughter in a hit and run. The money is supposed to be in a safe in that house – and how much trouble could an old blind guy be? A lot, it turns out. Things go wrong pretty much from the start, leaving Rocky and Alex to try to find their way out of the house, with the money – which is a lot harder than it seems.
The film is directed by Fede Alvarez – who did the very violent, and quite good, Evil Dead remake a few years ago – and smartly cast his lead from that film, Levy, in this one as well (even if I wasn’t a huge fan of her in that film). Levy is never going to win an Oscar for a film like Don’t Breathe, but she does a wonderful job of sketching Rocky in those opening scenes – telling us everything we need to know about her in a few brief moments – which gives her character the necessary depth later in the film. Often in horror movies, you don’t really care about the young people who have been lined up for the slaughter – you’re there to see them get killed after all – but you care about Rocky. When it comes time for it, Levy is also excellent at playing terrified – and not fake movie terrified, legitimately terrified. The Blind Man is played by Stephen Lang – one of those character actors most audience members will spend the entire film trying to figure out where they know him from, because he’s been in everything (answer by the way if you’re me – he’s the original Freddie Lounds in Michael Mann’s Manhunter – if you’re most people, he’s the bad guy in Avatar). He’s a good choice here – capable of looking harmless at first – and then moving with ruthless efficiency and violence later on. It’s a pretty terrifying performance. The other two characters – Alex and Money – aren’t given much in the way of depth – Money is greedy and perhaps a little violent, Alex follows Rocky around like a puppy dog – neither of which is smart.
The star of the film though really maybe Alvarez and his crew – especially cinematographer Pedro Luque, and the sound guys. Much like how Alvarez sketches the character of Rocky in a few brief moments, he and Luque do a brilliant job introducing the house – and its layout – in one, unbroken shot when we enter it. This gives us the entire layout of the house – which helps in movies like this, as we, much like the characters, try to orient ourselves in it during the terror to follow. While Alvarez isn’t above using jump scares in the film – he uses them sparingly, preferring to genuinely build suspense, by placing us with Rocky – often knowing precisely where The Blind Man is, and just trying not to be seen. The sound people do a brilliant job in amplifying the terror, without laying it on too thick – the ominous score is used sparingly, and there are many extended sequences that play out in almost total silence – just the creak of the floorboards, or the muffled sounds of breathing. For an hour or so, Don’t Breathe is a near perfect example of how you direct a horror film.
I do think the last act – as so many horror movie last acts are – isn’t as good as what proceeds it. There is a twist (that is in the trailer), that makes The Blind Man more evil than he needs to be – up until that point, the film exists in a moral grey area – Rocky and her friends are criminals after all, and The Blind Man has a right to defend his home and himself – but he certainly pushes things beyond what most people would find acceptable. Still, while your loyalties remain with Rocky – Levy makes her too sympathetic for them not to be – you understand where The Blind Man is coming from, until his “secrets” are revealed. The movie comes very close to crossing that fine line in horror movies – between terrifying and the downright unpleasant, but fortunately doesn’t stay there for long. There are also a few moments in that last act where The Blind Man goes from being a man skilled in combat, and with an intimate knowledge of the house, to a near clairvoyant – as he somehow perfectly intuits where people will be at the exact moment they’ll be there. That last one is common in many horror movies – and doesn’t bother me that much, still, given what came before, I wish the filmmakers had found an equally brilliant way to end things.
With Don’t Breathe, Alvarez confirms the potential that was present in Evil Dead back in 2013. In that film, Alvarez took a certified horror movie classic, and dove headlong into making it his own thing – the film had a different – darker and more brutal – than Sam Raimi’s original, and the sheer level of craft there carried it through its tough spots. Here, making his first original feature, he shows even more talent. Most horror movies are cookie cutter films – they copied what worked before, and what will work again, and to be honest, those can work and be enjoyable, if forgettable. Alvarez is edging closer to the James Wan level of horror movie directors – and in terms of working in mainstream American horror, there is no higher compliment in 2016.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review: Indignation

Directed by: James Schamus.
Written by: James Schamus based on the novel by Philip Roth.
Starring: Logan Lerman (Marcus), Sarah Gadon (Olivia Hutton), Tracy Letts (Dean Caudwell), Linda Emond (Esther Messner), Ben Rosenfield (Bertram Flusser), Pico Alexander (Sonny Cottler), Philip Ettinger (Ron Foxman), Danny Burstein (Max Messner), Noah Robbins (Marty Ziegler).
Philip Roth is one of the great American novelists on the 20th Century, and yet his work has never really been adapted to the screen all that well – and filmmakers have generally not even bothered to try. Novels like The Human Stain are brilliant – the novel is an examination of race and class in America, which is by turns funny and tragic, but when put on screen lies flat and is little more than a collection of interesting ideas in search of a movie. The most recent adaptation – The Humbling, starring Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig, may have been an improvement on the book – which was a parade of endless misery, which the filmmakers smartly decide to make into a comedy, although they don’t solve all of the problems of the novel – especially the Gerwig character herself, who the film, like the novel, never cracks. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that James Schamus’ Indignation ends up being the best Roth adaptation to date – and one of the year’s best movies so far. The film captures that strange tone of Roth’s – between comic and tragic, and the anger at the heart of much of his work about death bearing down on us all. It is a novel based, in part, on Roth’s own life in the 1950s – as a college student, struggling against the tide that wants him to assimilate – and being punished for it.
The film stars Logan Lerman as Marcus Messner – a Jewish kid from Newark, who works for his father, a kosher butcher. He has a scholarship to a University in Ohio, and heads out there with a plan of being a lawyer. He is a smart kid, and likes to argue, but it doesn’t take him long to get himself into some trouble. He is “coincidentally” assigned to room with two other Jews – the only two male Jewish students not in the Jewish fraternity, but he doesn’t quite fit in there. He meets Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) in class and asks her out. After dinner, she asks him to pull the car over to the side of the road and gives him a blowjob. This confuses him greatly – why would she do that? It’s a question he cannot let go of, and perhaps it’s what ultimately sets in motion the rest of the disasters waiting to befall him – which he largely brings on himself. Marcus is drawn to Olivia – who after all is beautiful and glamorous, but she is also damaged and fragile – someone who has already tried to kill herself, and may do so again. This makes her all the more interesting to Marcus – who nevertheless, doesn’t fully understand her, or even try to. He’s too self-obsessed and self-analytical, and after all, there’s no other girls lining up to touch his penis. He uses her to be sure – but he does feel conflicted about it.
The centerpiece of the film – the scene that everyone will end up talking about – is a lengthy one between Marcus and Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts), the school administrator who calls Marcus into his office to discuss his “difficulty adjusting” to college life. Dean Caudwell is pious, arrogant, and self-righteous – but he also never once raises his voice. He needles Marcus, who gets himself more and more worked up and angry. In this scene, the movie shows just how intelligent Marcus is – but also, how naïve he can be. No one but a college freshman would make the arguments he makes – even if he does have a point. Caudwell has, undoubtedly, seen a version of this young man in office before, and knows just how to play him. The scene is a masterful two hander between Letts and Lerman – and easily one of the best single scenes of the years.
The film was written and directed by James Schamus. It’s his directorial debut, after a long career as a screenwriter and producer (and head of Focus Features). By necessity, he streamlines Roth’s novel, telling a more linear story, with fewer digressions. This makes the film less daring than the novel was – which is arguably the best of Roth’s late novels. The film is a tragedy, although one in which the main character largely brings it upon himself. The film is at turns funny, tragic, ironic, angry and bitter – and at every moment perfectly handled by the cast and the screenplay. It’s also not the last Roth adaptation to be coming out this year – Ewan McGregor’s long gestating American Pastoral is about to hit the fall festival circuit, based on Roth’s best novel (at least, to me, his best). Here’s hoping it’s even close to as good as Indignation.

Movie Review: Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Directed by: Werner Herzog.
There are only a few directors that I would want to spend 98 minutes exploring the internet with – but German madman Werner Herzog is certainly one of them. There have been quite a few films about the dangers of the internet – and they tend to end up being alarmist in the extreme – like Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children for example. There can also be films that are too idealistic about the wonders of the internet – and how it can connect the world, etc. The interesting thing about Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, is that Herzog doesn’t seem to know all that much about the internet – which actually makes sense, as I find it hard to imagine Herzog spending too much time sitting in front of a computer screen, checking Twitter and Facebook. He is among the most prolific directors working – he has 69 directing credits according to IMDB, and always seems to have a few films on the go. He is fascinated with other people, and their stories, and has a unique interviewing style – some of his questions are more subtly profound than we normally get in interviews, and there are moments when his interview subjects generally seem taken aback by them – as if they never thought about things that way. At his best – like in a film like Into the Abyss, one of the best true crime documentaries you will ever see (that sadly didn’t get as much attention as it deserved back in 2011), he takes something we’ve seen a lot before, and comes up with something completely different with it.
Lo and Behold isn’t that good – in part, I think, because the subject of the internet is so big that Herzog barely seems to be able to scratch the surface in the 98 minutes he dedicates to it in the film. I almost wish that this was going to be something like a 10 part documentary series – so that many of the people Herzog talks to would get an hour to themselves to expand on their thoughts. Herzog doesn’t rehash the same tired arguments about social media, pornography, etc. Instead he looks at the bigger picture – how the internet started, what it has already done for us, the potential it can do in the future – and perhaps the dangers and benefits moving forward. Herzog isn’t naïve enough to think we can put the genie back in the bottle – and doesn’t want to. He does want to know where we, as a species, are headed however.
Herzog separates the film into 10 chapters, and basically, he switches back and forth from good stories to bad. Herzog delights in talking with brilliant people – and he certainly does that, when talking to some of the people who help design the technology that allowed the internet to start – and there are moments when you almost feel like a digital utopia is on the way. Then, of course, Herzog, plunges us into despair when discussing troll culture – using a heartbreaking story of a young woman who died in a traffic accident, and how a picture of her dead body went viral, causing people to mock her parents, hiding behind their anonymity of course, which makes you want to unplug altogether. There are even some segments when he seems to be suggesting both at once – driverless cars that will make your commute stress free and efficient, unless of course, something goes wrong causing massive accidents the passenger is powerless to control.
Herzog’s greatest strength in documentaries like this is his unusual sense of humor – and his ability to delve into complex subjects and larger meanings, without the whole enterprise devolving into pretentious garbage. While I think his increasing celebrity, which started with Grizzly Man more than a decade ago, is a mixed blessing at best – a lot more people know who Werner Herzog is, and his amusing, intellectual ramblings, than actually watch his films, it can help a great deal in a film like this – it allows him to ask the big questions, and still have a sense of humor about it.
The film is funded by a corporate sponsor – a cybersecurity firm – but they had to have known that when you hire someone like Werner Herzog to make a film, he’s going to do whatever the hell he wants to do – which he does. I’m not sure that Herzog has really uncovered all that much new here – the basic conclusion of the film is that the internet is both a wonderful and horrible place that has already fundamentally changed human beings, and will continue to do so. We already knew that, didn’t we? And yet, I enjoyed watching Herzog head down the rabbit hole once more. No one quite does it like her does.

Movie Review: Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)
Directed by: Eva Husson.
Written by: Eva Husson.
Starring: Finnegan Oldfield (Alex), Marilyn Lima (George), Lorenzo Lefèbvre (Gabriel), Daisy Broom (Laetitia), Fred Hotier (Nikita).
Teenagers have sex. As adults, we know this already – hell, we were teenagers, and even if we weren’t having sex when we were teenagers, we wanted to. Movies are not particularly good at showing teenagers and sex, without either romanticizing or demonizing it. We either get the impossibly high romantic standards of a Twilight movie – which makes the two main characters wait almost four movies before they get to have sex, and which point it is earth shattering (almost literally), or we get movies that decry the casual sex teenagers have, which usually ends with STI’s, pregnancy, abortions and trauma- lives ruined, essentially. If it’s a horror movie, and you’re a teenager who has sex, you’re screwed.
The interesting thing about Eva Husson’s Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) is that it follows the second set of teenage movie clichés – casual sex, leading to STIs, pregnancy and abortion, etc. – but does so without the trauma and lives ruined. This isn’t an updated version of Larry Clark’s Kids – where AIDS moves through a group of teenagers, all of whom are screwing each other, and there’s rape and violence, etc. It is a film about a group of bored, upper middle class teenagers, all of whom have sex with each other at giant parties they call Bang Gangs, but in the end, no one’s life is ruined and no one even seems all that traumatized – except for maybe the parents. All that happened is just something that happened – some of them learn from it, and are able to move onto something more mature and real – something akin to love perhaps – and some cannot. The film doesn’t judge or moralize – it does turn anyone into victims and those who victimize them. It just is. That’s both the strength of the movie, and ultimately, it’s limitation.
The film has a large cast of young people – but focuses on just a few of them. Alex (Finnegan Oldfield) lives alone in a large house – his parents are divorced, his father isn’t around, and his mother is on a 9 month trip to Morocco. He and his best friend Nikita (Fred Hotier) use his place for parties – and to bring girls around. The first two of these girls are best friends George (Marilyn Lima) and Laetitia (Daisy Broom). George actually likes Alex, and has sex with him one afternoon and Laetitia and Nikita look on – but for Alex, George is just another conquest, and once it’s over, so are they. When Laetitia also sleeps with Alex, George is upset – and starts to plan on how to get his attention back. By this point, Alex and Nikita’s parties have become pretty much full on orgies – with teenagers having sex all over the place. In her quest for attention and revenge, George does probably the most extreme thing of any of the teenagers. Then there is the introverted Gabriel – Laetitia’s neighbor, who doesn’t attend the parties, but is slowly drawn to George – and her to him.
The movie certainly doesn’t condone what the teenagers do throughout the film – but it doesn’t condemn it either. Throughout the film, we hear snippets of news reports – train derailments, death, etc. all around – that doesn’t enter the teenager’s minds. They are so self-involved, they don’t notice anything else that doesn’t directly involve them – meaning, basically, they are typical teenagers. The film is matter of fact about everything – from the pornography they consume, to the orgies they have, the amateur porn videos they shoot and post online – which is what ultimately brings their actions to the adult’s attention – to the STIs, pregnancy and abortion that ends the film. The consequences of those are not long lasting though – anti-biotics are taken, and the infections go away, an abortion is had, and the girl is able to go one with her life and not be destroyed, etc. That’s both somehow reassuring – that the mistakes we make as teenagers don’t have to destroy our lives – and somehow sad, as no one seems to have learned very much from the experience. The exception here is George and Gabriel – yes, the final moments in the film may just be young love, destined to fail, as most teenage romances eventually do. Yet the very fact that both of these character still want, and are capable, of that kind of love after everything in the movie is a sign of hope. The characters incapable of that – no one more so than Alex – were always incapable of it. The actions in the movie are not what screws Alex up.
The main problem with Bang Gang is that it pretty much makes it point early in the film, and then just keeps on making it. The film is hardly original, even if it has a slightly different take on teens having sex than most American films do – however, since this is a French film, it is slightly more in line with that countries films on the subject. What the film is though is a promising debut by Husson – who is clearly a talented filmmaker, and one who has something to say. I look forward to seeing what she does next, even if Bang Gang, isn’t quite as good as it could have been.

Movie Review: Maggie's Plan

Maggie’s Plan
Directed by: Rebecca Miller.
Written by: Rebecca Miller based on the story by Karen Rinaldi.
Starring: Greta Gerwig (Maggie), Ethan Hawke (John Harding), Bill Hader (Tony), Maya Rudolph (Felicia), Julianne Moore (Georgette), Wallace Shawn (Kliegler), Travis Fimmel (Guy Childers), Mina Sundwall (Justine), Jackson Frazer (Paul).
Rebecca Miller is a talented writer/director, whose films previous to Maggie’s Plan tell the type of stories that we usually do not see on the screen. Personal Velocity (2002) is three stories about women trying to escape their dysfunctional lives, and the men who are oppressing them in some way. The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005), is about the strange relationship between an aging hippie (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his teenage daughter that has become dangerously close and destructive. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)- and adapted from her own novel), is about a middle aged woman on the verge of a mental breakdown, when her much older husband moves into an retirement home, taking her with him. None of those films were perfect – but they presented interesting, flawed characters and allowed them to be themselves on screen – with all the messiness required. With Maggie’s Plan, Miller moves into the comic terrain of Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach – about the neurosis of New York Academics – and she never quite manages to find the right tone for the film. This is essentially a screwball comedy drained of all its energy, as if Miller wanted to make a more realistic film with a screwball plot. It’s an interesting choice – but one that doesn’t really work.
The film stars Greta Gerwig as Maggie – who work at The New School in New York, helping connect art students with the real world, and it’s a job she’s good at. She is, however, single and wants to have a child – and decides the best way to do that is to get a sperm sample from an old college friend, Guy (Travis Fimmel), and impregnate herself. At the same time though, she meets John Harding (Ethan Hawke) – a professor in ficto-critical anthropology (whatever the hell that is), and falls in love with him when he shows her his unfinished novel – which is essentially about his unhappy marriage to Georgette (Julianne Moore) – a brilliant Danish academic. Flash forward three years, John and Maggie are now married, have a daughter, and he’s still working on that novel. She juggles her job, her daughter, and John and Georgette’s two kids, and is unhappy as ever – despite how much she says she loves her daughter (we have no reason to not believe her on this count – but the daughter is really treated as an afterthought by the movie). She starts to believe than John and Georgette never should gotten divorced anyway – they are still dependent on each other – and hatches a plan to get them back together.
I imagine a movie where this plot works, and it’s basically a 1930s screwball comedy with Jean Arthur as Maggie, Cary Grant as John and Katherine Hepburn as Georgette, and directed by Preston Sturges or Howard Hawks. Maggie isn’t really a realistic character, but she’s close enough to Gerwig’s wheelhouse, that she does a good enough job of making us like her (at least until you start thinking about what she does). Ethan Hawke doesn’t seem to fit as John – I’ve never thought of Hawke as funny, and he kind of proves why here – he’s too serious to find the humor in even the most insane things. Julianne Moore is a riot as Georgette – I imagine a meeting between her and Miller where Moore agrees to do the movie, but only if she can use a ridiculous Danish accent, because really, there is no reason other than comic effect for it. I like Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, as a married couple who are friends with Maggie, who seem to have a whole different, complex, contentious marriage between them, that only comes out by accident (make a movie about those two, and I’m in).
For me, I could never settle into the tone of the film – never get on its wavelength, because I think Miller misjudges the tone. This is a silly plot, and much of the dialogue is clever, and should be funnier, but Miller damps down that comic tone. Gerwig is one of the most talented comic actresses of her generation – often making us like her characters, no matter how screwed up they may be – like in the films she has made with Noah Baumbach – Greenberg, Frances Ha and Mistress America. Here though, she’s more of a run of the mill, shallow, hipster navel gazer – who seemingly has no idea what she wants or why she wants it. The movie has a strange flow to it – or should I say lack of flow, as scenes seem to be awkwardly placed next to each other. Miller remains a talented writer/director – I look forward to whatever she has in store (and hope it won’t take 7 years to get it) – but here, the tone seems misjudged, and the film doesn’t seem to be in Miller’s wheelhouse. For me, the film just doesn’t work.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Classic Movie Review: Blow Out (1981)

Blow Out (1981)
Directed by: Brian De Palma.
Written by: Brian De Palma.
Starring: John Travolta (Jack Terry), Nancy Allen (Sally), John Lithgow (Burke), Dennis Franz (Manny Karp), Peter Boyden (Sam), Curt May (Donahue), John Aquino (Detective Mackey), John McMartin (Lawrence Henry).
Blow Out may or may not be Brian De Palma’s best film – it’s very close to it if it isn’t – but it is undoubtedly the film I would show a newcomer De Palma’s work if I want to encapsulate everything that makes De Palma such a great director when he’s working at his peak. It is one of his Hitchcock inspired thrillers, with mind boggling set pieces the master of suspense would happily have called his own, and yet it’s more than just an exercise in style, like some lesser De Palma are. The film will remind cinephiles of two other, probably more famous films – Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966), where a photographer obsessively examines photos he took in a park, where he may – or may not have – captured a murder in the background, and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), in which Gene Hackman obsessively listens, and re-listens to a conversation he has recorded for a client, trying to figure out if it contains evidence of a murder.
The “hero” of De Palma’s Blow Out is Jack Terry – played, in one of his very best performances by John Travolta, who works as a sound man for low rent slasher movies – the kind in which a lot of naked girls get stalked and killed, but only after having copious amounts of sex. He does all the sound effects for the films, and his director wants some new ones – including wind, and especially a new scream. Terry heads out one night into a park in Philadelphia, and as he’s recording new sounds, a car skids off the road, and crashes into a nearby creek. Terry jumps into action, dives in and rescues a girl – Sally (Nancy Allen) from the wreckage. He isn’t able to save the man who was driver – Governor McRyan, who was well on his way to becoming President. Terry is convinced that he heard – and recorded – a gunshot before the car tire blow out, and wants to prove that this wasn’t a tragic accident, but actually a murder. No one believes him – except for Sally, who he enlists to help him.
The opening shot of Blow Out is a virtuoso one in its own right – as a killer stalks a sorority house from the outside, before heading inside with his knife – and going full slasher attacking a woman in the shower. This sequence, which is done all in one take, from the killer’s POV, is the first of many times in the movie when De Palma will play with the audience – and introduce an element of black humor to the movie – as he reveals that what we are watching isn’t real, but is part of the movie that Terry will be working on. It’s almost as if De Palma is toying with the audience there – after some of the criticism he had received for prior films, being overly divertive or oversexed, he’s putting that out there front and center, and then pulling it away again (it also plays perfectly with the final scene of the movie – the two of them are perfect bookends to the movie).
This is hardly the last virtuoso piece of camerawork in the film. De Palma uses both new and old techniques throughout the movie, and what he and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond do with split screens, and steadicam (the first time De Palma used one – a year after Kubrick in The Shining) is remarkable. The finale setpiece – a chase through the streets of Philly, climaxing with a burst of fireworks and other Americana – including, of course, murder – is perhaps the best thing De Palma has ever filmed.
What makes Blow Out better than the other Hitchcock inspired films of De Palma though is not just the style – the style of Sisters, Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Body Double and Femme Fatale is nearly as good as it is in Blow Out – it’s in the way De Palma weaves the plot together, and because the characters in Blow Out feel real – which moves the movie beyond mere thriller into the realm of real tragedy in the end. Travolta’s Jack Terry is a man who becomes obsessed with finding the truth – and is determined that he is the only one who can actually do that. He trusts in his abilities to do that, and distrusts everyone else. Throughout the movie, as grows closer to Nancy Allen’s Sally – perhaps even grows to love her. But he also isn’t above using her for his own means – in a key sequence near the end of the movie, he sends her into a situation that could be dangerous, while he hangs back with his sound equipment from a safe distance – to “gather evidence”. For her part, Allen is just as good as Travolta, in a role that at first seems frivolous – as if perhaps she is nothing but a sex object (there are multiple characters in the movie that use her in just that way – although they are all clearly sleazy). She is a dreamer and an optimist – she loves the fact that Terry works “in the movies”, and won’t watch the news because it’s “too depressing”. All she wants is to be happy, but she allows herself to be dragged along – by one man after another, to do something she doesn’t really want to do. Even John Lithgow’s Burke – a violent man willing to do anything, including “pose” as a sexual serial killer to cover his tracks – is given slightly more, not depth really, but something more defined that most killers of this sort in movies. He is terrifying because we know he’s capable of anything. And, in a smaller role, Dennis Franz is very good as a slezeball P.I., with a camera, and his own version of the American Dream.
The film has one of the most cynical and nihilistic endings of any genre film that I can recall. It’s really only at the end of the film where everything snaps into focus – as to who our “hero” really is, which is tragically flawed. It’s an ending worthy of Hitchcock – who did this a few times (jn films like Vertigo or Notorious), but also completely De Palma. The finale shot of the movie is one the saddest shots in film history – a haunted man who has ensured he will remain haunted forever.
To say that De Palma has had a very tumultuous career would be an understatement – for every great films (like Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface, Body Double, Femme Fatale) there is a bad one (like Mission to Mars or Bonfire of the Vanities or Redacted) – and a whole hell of lot in between. But at his best, De Palma could be one of the very best filmmakers of his generation – someone who takes what came before him, and mixes the ingredients into something wholly his own. No wonder Quentin Tarantino loves him so much – he’s basically made a career out of doing the same thing.

Top 10 Movies of the 21st Century

his week, the BBC released a list of the top 100 movies since 2000, based on a survey of 177 movie critics. Of course, they didn’t ask me, but I made up a list as if they did anyway. 9 of the 10 films on my list made the top 100 – and one didn’t – although it picked up a few votes. One thing to note, as I did when I did my ballot had they asked me for my top 10 films of all time for the 2012 Sight and Sound poll, I decided to limit myself to one film per director – I could have filled the list with multiple films by Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coens, David Fincher, Michael Haneke and Wes Anderson, but wanted to cast a slightly wider net. For each film where I did consider another film by the same director, I do make note of those. And after my top 10, I give 15 more that I highly considered, before settling on my top 10.
As with all lists I make two notes: 1) All lists ranking movies are really rather silly and 2) I love doing it anyway, and make no apologies for it. If you don’t like my list, make your own. Everyone else on the internet does.

10. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
This film made this list for a few reasons. One, I think it is a stylistic masterpiece – Ramsay finds a way to do visually what Lionel Shirver’s brilliant novel did through prose – which is to put us inside the mind of the main character – a brilliant Tilda Swinton, as the mother of a high school shooter, flashing back and forth in time to his upbringing, and the aftermath, without resorting to voiceover. The way she draws comparison between the mother and son is wonderful, and visual – and Swinton, and Ezra Miller, are bother wonderful. It’s also a story that I loved when I first read Shriver’s novel, and has absolutely terrified me since I became a parent myself – the main character is someone who never should have been a parent in the first place, and knows it – she just doesn’t have that “mom” gene. So is she at fault for her son’s actions? The movie gives us two brilliant portrayals – the mother telling the story of her demon child, to shield herself from blame, but also the one she unwitting gives of herself, which damns her – and leaves it all undecided. This was one of those films that got lost in the year end shuffle when it came out, but whose reputation keeps growing. We need another Ramsay film, pronto.
Other Films By Director Considered: None – as much I loved Movern Callar, and Samantha Morton’s performance in it, it wouldn’t really be considered for a list like this.
9. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)

For the first decade of this century, Pixar was the most consistently great producer of mainstream American movies – from Finding Dory to The Incredibles to Ratatouille to Up to Toy Story 3. They’ve been slightly more hit or miss since then (although Inside Out is a masterpiece) – but WALL-E has been my favorite Pixar film since I first saw it in 2008, and countless viewings since have confirmed it. The first hour of Wall-E – almost wordless as Wall-E works on earth by himself is comedy on par with Chaplin, Keaton and Tati, and the “romance” between Wall-E and Eve is tender, and makes me tear up just thinking about it. The second hour is admittedly more conventional – but it’s just as entertaining. Wall-E does what Pixar does best – make mainstream entertaining that doesn’t talk down to kids, no patronize adults – but entertains them both in equal doses. The level of artistry in the film is unrivaled. It’s a masterpiece, pure and simple.
Other Films By Director Considered: I know they are by different directors, but I knew I needed a Pixar film on this list – but the only ones I really considered were Brad Bird’s Ratatouille, which I think is one of the most profound films about art and artists (and critics) ever made and Pete Docter’s Inside Out which was Pixar at its most original and daring – and emotional. Wall-E has always been my favorite – but these two make it a close call for Pixar films.
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
The most Wes Anderson film the director has ever made, The Grand Budapest Hotel is, of course, meticulously crafted – the art direction is the best we’ve seen this century so far, with sets built on top of other sets, all brilliantly colored, and period specific – the costumes are equally specific – as is the music, the shifting aspect ratio of the cinematography and the delivery of Anderson’s dialogue. It’s also the most complex film of Anderson’s career – in terms of structure, the film is a masterpiece – a Russian nesting doll of a story, with one built on top of each other. It is as funny as anything Anderson has ever made – but also as melancholy – it is nostalgic for a time that was over before Anderson was ever born – even before his main character, played by Ralph Fiennes in one of the great performances of the century, was born – without wallowing in that nostalgia. It is a touching film in many ways – and one that sneaks up on you – becomes endlessly re-watchable, quotable, and quietly moving. Anderson has built a one of a kind career so far, and this is his best work.
Other Films by Director Considered: The Royal Tenenbaums would have easily made this list had it not been for The Grand Budapest Hotel – I also love Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox – but I don’t think either would have quite made it this high.
7. Cache (Michael Haneke, 2005)

As a filmmaker, Michael Haneke is perhaps the most merciless moralist in history – his characters, like all of us, sin, and he makes them pay for those films, in films that are chilly, brutal, disturbing and brilliant. You could certainly argue for any number of his films for a spot on this list – but Cache is my favorite of his – I think perhaps that’s because the film works brilliantly well as a paranoid thriller, before it becomes something so much more disturbing than that. It stars Daniel Auteil as an upper class TV intellectual, who starts to receive videotapes of his house – nothing overtly threatening, just static shots on his front door. Who is sending them? Why? He will, eventually, unravel them – as his past comes back to haunt him, and his family, in ways he never could have realized. There is a moment in the film that is more shocking than any other in a film this century – and while there’s no denying that Haneke put it in for shock value (this is the director of Funny Games after all – he appreciates shock value) – it’s also much deeper than that as well. Haneke is one of the most essential filmmakers working right now – and this is his best film.
Other Films by Director Considered: Amour would be an equally fine choice for this list – I go back and forth between the two as to which is Haneke’s best and The White Ribbon is haunting as well, and would be a good choice. Isabelle Huppert’s performance in The Piano Teacher would likely make my list of the greatest performance of the century – if not quite the best movie list.
6. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
Inglorious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s best film – a film that, like all of his films, is in love with his dialogue – but unlike the rest of his films, actually makes that dialogue – that language – a theme of the film. Told in chapters, Inglorious Basterds is an alternate history about WWII, in which Hitler gets vengeance struck down upon him. But that’s only the hook – the real theme of the movie is how all of these characters, speaking multuiple languages, communicate with each other – or don’t as the case may be – cultural differences being giveaways. Tarantino has built his career – his late career anyway – on revenge films, and Inglorious Basterds is the best distillation of that. It is also one of the most entertaining films you will ever see – with great work by Christoph Waltz as a Nazi, not a true believer, but someone who will do whatever to get him ahead, Melanie Laurent as a Jewish woman, determined to get revenge, Brad Pitt as the head of a Dirty Dozen like groups of Jewish American soldiers looking for revenge, Michael Fassbender as a British spy, etc. I have never not had a lot of fun at a Tarantino film – never not thought they were extremely entertaining. But it was here that he started to go deeper – taking things beyond movies (along with, of course, movies) and producing something more meaningful than ever before.
Other Films By Director Considered: As much as I love Kill Bill, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight (hell, even Death Proof), I’m not sure any would reach the top 10 other than Basterds – top 25, sure, not top 10.
5. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

I’m not sure there is another filmmaker who airs their insecurities and neurosis’ quite the same way as Charlie Kaufman does – literally in Adaptation, where he is a character, and more figuratively in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Anomalisa and this – his best film. Like Anomalisa, I think Synechdoche, New York is a portrait of what Kaufman feels he could become – obsessed with his own work to the point where he ends up achieving nothing, and shut out from the world and everyone around him. In the film, Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a brilliant performance as a playwright, who gets a genius grant, and spends the rest of his life writing and rehearsing the play, without ever actually staging it – he just keeps writing the scenes from his own life into the play – his personal relationships crumble, and the glimpses we see of the outside world make it clear it’s all going to shit, but he’s lost in his own world, too obsessed with analyzing his life, that he never lives it. The massive cast is all great – especially Samantha Morton, and the film is endlessly fascinating, funny, entertaining, and just downright brilliant.
Other Films By Director Considered: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would easily be in my top 10 had it not for Synecdoche – and yes I know, Michel Gondry directed it, but it’s as much Kaufman’s film as Gondry, so having two with his stamp in the top 10 felt like the same thing as having two Wes Anderson’s – it is a masterwork though.
4. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
David Fincher’s Zodiac is many things. It is a first rate crime drama and police procedural, where multiple cops and reporters investigate the infamous Zodiac killings, piecing together clues and following leads to dangerous places. It is also kind of corrective to previous serial killer movies – like Fincher’s own Seven – which ends with cathartic violence, whereas in Zodiac, it is all frontloaded and seemingly random – the film is kind of like The Godfather Part II to Seven’s The Godfather. It is also a tale of obsession – as Jake Gyllenhaal’s Robert Greysmith gives up everything else in his life – his family replaced around the dinner table my boxes and stacks of paper – all to find an answer that convinces no one but himself. Like many of Fincher’s films, the film is about the passage of time – and death waiting for us. It is also Fincher’s best film technically – brilliantly shot, edited, scored, etc. Fincher has become one of the best directors in the world – but this is his masterpiece.  
Other Films by Director Considered: The Social Network is one of the most entertaining, endlessly re-watchable films of the century, and may have cracked the top 10 if not for Zodiac and Gone Girl keeps growing in my mind – an absolutely brilliant film.
3. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is one of the mysterious, haunting and ambigious films of the century so far. It follows Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell – an alcoholic, troublemaker returning from WWII, and getting into trouble everywhere he goes – until he meets up with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s L. Ron Hubbard inspired Lancaster Dodd, and the two form a strange, symbiotic relationship. Dodd is intellect and calm, Quell is all raging id – but who the hell is teaching who, and why do they continue to drawn to each other, when they are so different. The film, brilliantly shot on 70MM, is a history of spirtal movements in American history (as Kent Jones brilliantly described in his Film Comment piece on the film – perhaps the best film criticism of the century so far) – but it comes down to these two men, two sides of the same coin, inscrutable, maddening, sexual, violent men. The end of the film is very much like the end of There Will Be Blood – but with no physical violence, and a scene tacked on at the end, that changes the meaning. The Master haunts me like few other films in history.
Other Films By Director Considered: I go back and forth as to what is Anderson’s best film - There Will Be Blood or The Master (in 2012, I had There Will Be Blood on my top 10 of all-time list) – I ended with The Master, because I think it accomplishes something similar without the bombast – and is the two handed, There Will Be Blood never quite became. And even if Anderson never made either film, both Punch-Drunk Love and Inherent Vice would be in consideration, for at least the top 25.
2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2013)
There are not a lot of movies about failure – probably in part, because the people who get to make movies are successful artists, so making movies about unsuccessful ones can feel like punching down (as the worst moments in, say, Birdman do). It’s to their credit that the Coen Brothers – two of the best artists the film industry has ever produced – were able to make Inside Llewyn Davis, and make it is as well as they do. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is not a talentless folk singer/songwriter – he is not the musical version of Barton Fink – but rather he’s just not talented enough (the movie gives us a glimpse of true genius at the end). The movie is about Llewyn’s journey of discovery to that – and all the minor heartbreaks along the way, that ends with him saying farewell. It also isn’t afraid to make him into a selfish asshole, which he clearly is. Isaac gives what is probably my favorite performance of the century so far – you like Llewyn despite yourself, and he is a very good singer, whose vocals haunt the soundtrack, and the viewer after the film ends (the audience hears the pain in those songs, more than the people in the movie, because we’re right there with Llewyn every step of the way). The line “I don’t see any money in this” is one of the most heartbreaking in all of film history. The film itself is also meticulously crafted – of course – with arguably the best cinematography of any Coen film. The film just keeps growing in my mind – and every time I see it, I love it even more. Ask me again in 10 years and maybe it will have moved up this list.
Other Films By Director Considered: No Country for Old Men would easily be a top 10, if I didn’t think Llewyn Davis was just a little bit better - and A Serious Man, could well be. The Man Who Wasn’t There is a personal favorite, I wish more people loved as much as I do.
1. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)

I saw Mulholland Dr. more times in the theater than any other – and I’ve continually revisited the film in the past 15 years, finding new things every time – and just being swept up in Lynch’s dream world that slowly becomes a nightmare all over again. The film has been endlessly discussed and debated – with internet forums out there convinced they have “solved” the film. Like everyone, I have my own theories (yes, it’s pretty much the widely accepted one) – but I think “solving” Mulholland Dr. is beside the point – Lynch makes films that are deeper than that. Mulholland Dr. is about Hollywood, the spell it holds, the romantic image it gives itself – and we buy into – until we see the reality underneath. It’s also a lot more than that. The film is one of the best acted films ever – Naomi Watts is brilliant, as is Laura Harring, and everyone else. What I love most about Mulholland Dr. is the spell it weaves over me every time I see it. Movies can be our collective dreams at their best – I love that feeling – and I get it from Mulholland Dr. more than any other film I have ever seen. It’s Lynch’s masterpiece – and the best film I have seen this century so far. Easily.
Other Films by Director Considered: Lynch has only made one other film since 2000 – and as much as I love Inland Empire (it’s on my top 10 of 2006), I have to admit, that it probably would not have factored into a list like this.
Had it been a top 25 list, these are the films, in roughly 11-25 order, that I would have included: The Tree of Life (Terence Malick, 2011) is the film I cannot believe isn’t in my top 10, but here we are – Malick’s mixture of the epic and the intimate is mind boggling, and even if he’s slipped since then, that hasn’t dimmed the brilliance of this film. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth, 2013) is like if Malick directed a Cronenberg screenplay – with a brilliant performance by Amy Seimetz. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002) is among Lee’s very best films, and the best portrait of post 9/11 New York – a brilliantly acted, made, and terribly sad film (When the Levees Broke was also considered for Lee). The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006) is my favorite filmmakers best film since 2000 – and one of the most entertaining films of the century so far (The Wolf of Wall Street was also considered). A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) is Cronenberg’s best since Crash, a brilliant Western in crime drama disguise, about a man running from his past – and an incisive portrait of marriage. Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005) ranks in my top 3 or 4 Spielberg films of all time – and his absolute darkest and most haunting (although if Munich weren’t here – A.I. would be – another masterpiece). Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang Dong, 2007) is a film I loved since I saw it at TIFF in 2007 – and whose reputation continues to grow since it got the Criterion treatment (especially since it didn’t really get a commercial release in North America) – an absolute brilliant examination of grief and belief (Lee’s follow-up, Poetry, is almost as good). Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) is arguably Miyazaki’s best film, but inarguably a masterwork – and one of the best animated films ever made. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015) is the most romantic – and sexually charged – film of the century so far, and Haynes best (although both Far From Heaven and I’m Not There would also be here had this one not been). Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000) Yang’s final film is this intimate, three hour masterpiece about a middle class Taipei family that I took way too long to catch with (and reminds me I need to see his A Brighter Summer Day, newly minted by Criterion). In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2001) is the only film that makes me question my assertion about Carol being the most romantic of the century – Wong’s beautiful, stylistic film about two people whose spouses are having an affair with each other, and fall in love as a result. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) is Linklater’s best film – a staggering achievement, hugely ambitious, and although you can dismiss it as a gimmick if you want, you’d be wrong. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) is Lonergan’s big, long, messy, brilliant portrait of a young woman, and everyone around him – a crime the way it was treated, but it’s finally gotten the reception it deserved. Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011) is pure movie style, and just slightly deeper than that, and I love every second of it – even if for the most part, Refn is very hit or miss with me. Last Days (Gus Van Sant, 2005) is a film that has haunted me for 11 years now, and never leaves my mind for long – the best of Van Sant’s death trilogy (although Elephant would be here if this wasn’t). I could go on, but 25 is already pushing it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Movie Review: Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water
Directed by: David Mackenzie.
Written by: Taylor Sheridan.
Starring: Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Gil Birmingham (Alberto Parker), Katy Mixon (Jenny Ann), Dale Dickey (Elsie), Christopher W. Garcia (Randy Howard), Kevin Rankin (Billy Rayburn), Melanie Papalia (Emily).
Watching David Mackenzie’s excellent Hell or High Water – easily one of the best films of the year so far – you cannot help but think back to the Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men. Both are crime dramas about greed, in which regular people get involved in something that spirals out of control into inevitable violence. The Coens film is timeless – it was set in 1980, but really could have been set in any Post WWII time in America, as it is ultimately about the way everything has changed, and how you can longer tell the good guys from the bad guys, and how everything has gotten more morally muddied. Hell or High Water has more modest – and timely – ambitions than No Country for Old Men. It is a crime thriller for now – where good people try to do the right thing, and are robbed blind anyway – not by criminals with masks, but by the banks, who will do any and everything they can to make money – people be damned – and do so with the protection of the government. The film centers on two brothers who set out to do the right thing, by doing the wrong thing – and the consequences it brings down on them, and everyone around them.
The film stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as Toby and Tanner Howard – two Texas brothers, who really do seem like brothers, despite how different they are. Toby has tried to do the right thing his whole life – he has gotten married, had a couple of son, but that ended in divorce. He has no job, no money and had to spend his time taking care of his dying mother – who just died, and left him everything, including a good sized ranch. But, of course, she owes money to the bank on it – and they’re about to swoop in a take it from him. His brother Tanner has spent years in prison, and never really got a foothold his life – he killed their drunken, abusive father in a “hunting accident” and has been the black sheep of the family ever since. The pair of them team up to rob a series of Texas Midlands banks – the same ones foreclosing on their ranch – but are smart about it. They don’t want the money in the safe, they don’t want $100 bills, and if possible, they want to rob them when very few people are around. The crimes are so small, the FBI doesn’t care. It falls to the Texas Rangers – specifically Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) – just a few weeks shy of retirement – and his partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) – who bicker like an old married couple.
So yes, this is another crime drama about masculinity, and I think it’s safe to say the film doesn’t come close to passing the Bechdel Test – the only female characters of note of Toby’s tired ex-wife, who doesn’t hate him as much as she’s tired of being poor, and him not helping, a bank teller (Dale Dickey) who gives more lip than she probably should to two masked men with guns, and a sensitive waitress (Melanie Papalia), who first takes pity on Toby because of how sad he seems, and then turns fiery when confronted later by Hamilton – who says the large tip he gave her is “evidence”. If the movie seems to be saying anything about Texas women at all, it’s not to piss off them off.
You could well argue that Hell or High Water doesn’t do anything particularly new or groundbreaking – and you wouldn’t be wrong per se. What the film really is though, is a perfectly executed genre piece. The screenplay is by Taylor Sheridan – who wrote last year’s excellent Sicario (this is even better than that one), and what he’s done with the screenplay is create two mismatched male duos – and then makes us like all four characters as individuals and as part of those pairs, before introducing the inevitable violence that the climax of the movie demands. So often in movies, dozens of people are killed, and you don’t feel a thing in the audience – all it is kinetic movement and activity on the screen, that doesn’t mean anything. The modern blockbuster has increasingly become one where whole buildings or cities are destroyed – likely costing thousands of people their lives, and in the audience we’re not supposed to think about it – just sit back and be entertained. Far fewer people die in Hell or High Water – but every single one of those deaths hurt, and it’s not because we know the characters who do (we don’t in a couple of cases), but because of the way Mackenzie directs, and Sheridan writes. The deaths in Hell or High Water hurt because they feel real.
None of the effect the movie has would be possible without the four great central performances in the film. Chris Pine has never been better than he is here – he is an actor who often isn’t called on to do much expect coast on his movie star looks and charm – something he, admittedly does quite well – but here, with a mustache and stubble, and a fine, unexaggerated Texas drawl, he makes Toby into a sad, tragic figure – he’s a good guy pushed into something bad, but he never deludes himself into believing what he is doing is the right thing – just that it’s the only thing he can do for his kids – to break them of the disease of poverty that he hasn’t been able to break any other way. With Tanner, Ben Foster gets to add another “crazy” character to his resume – I really do think Foster wants nothing less than to become the Christopher Walken of his generation – but Tanner’s crazy is more grounded in reality than most of Foster’s ne’er do wells. Like Toby, he doesn’t really suffer under the delusion that they’re doing a good thing – he just doesn’t give a shit anymore. He’s along the ride mostly just because he was honored to be asked by his brother – the only family he’s got, and perhaps the only person who doesn’t hate him. Yes, Foster can go over-the-top in many of his roles – but he never quite does that here – making his performance all the stronger. Marcus Hamilton is the type of role you hire Jeff Bridges for – because even if Bridges decided to phone it in, you’d still get a hell of performance out of him. He doesn’t do that here thankfully – and his work ranks alongside the best work he’s done. It’s a sneaky performance, because of how comedic much of it is – he delights in teasing Alberto about his Indian and Mexican heritage – and doesn’t seem to be taking too much too seriously. But he’s good at his job, and knows exactly what he is doing – nothing gets by him. We immediately like him, and are at ease with him – but he has a few scenes late in the film where that inner steal comes out. Gil Birmingham will get the least amount of praise for his work as Alberto of the four leads – it is, in some ways, a quieter performance than the rest – one that calls on him to lovingly roll his eyes at all the insults that come his way. But he builds a complete character here – and although we see his fate coming, it hits, harder than anything else in the film.
This summer has not been a good one at the movies – especially not if you want mainstream, adult entertainment. The best of the big summer movies have been for families – Finding Dory, The BFG, Pete’s Dragon (even if families didn’t go see two of those – stupid families). Studios either don’t think adults go to the movies, or think we have the mentality of teenagers, who just want to see things blow up real good, with lots of fast editing and action, and a lot of CGI crap floating around. Perhaps then, I – and others – are slightly overrating Hell or High Water – I will admit it, it is certainly possible that after the dull summer movie slate we’ve endured that it’s possible. That when we look back in a few years – or even months – at Hell or High Water, what I’ll see is just a really good genre film, and not the great film I think it is. It’s possible, of course, but I don’t think so. Yes, it’s easier to see the contrast between those other films and Hell or High Water – but there is something special to this film. Sometimes a perfectly executed genre film is just that – and sometimes it’s a little bit more. I think Hell or High Water is that little bit more.