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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Graham Greene

Wind River (2017)

Those poor white people. Right?

US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is sent to the Wind River Indian Reservation, where he will hopefully be able to track, find, and kill a bunch of mountain lions who have been killing all of the livestock. While searching for them, he stumbles upon the body of a woman, who, from what it seems like, was raped, possibly murdered, and left to freeze in the below-zero snow. After catching wind of this, the FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who seems like she’s not just unprepared for the harsh winter of Wyoming, but for this case in general. Because she doesn’t really know the area that well, how to navigate through it all, and/or whether what the rules are, she depends a lot on Cory, who is also now taking an extra interest in this case, for personal reasons. The two begin to stumble upon a rather dark and vicious secret lying within the mountains and makes them not just question their own humanity, but the United States’ history, altogether.

FBI? Really?

Wind River is the directorial debut of writer/director Taylor Sheridan who, both with Sicario and Hell or High Water, seems to have found his niche. He loves these tales of crime, violence, and darkness that start off slow and melodic, only to then burst into full-fledged blood, guts, bullets, octane, and guns. And it’s interesting because while Wind River feels a lot like those two other movies, something is oddly missing.

Still don’t know what it is, but you can feel it.

Either way, as a director Sheridan is fine; he captures the deadly cold of this winter-y landscape and shows it as a solid backdrop for even more viciousness and deadliness that we eventually start to see. He gets a bit out-of-hand with all of the visual symbolism and expository dialogue, but as a whole, he knows when to shut up, give us action, characters, and a plot that’s interesting to follow along with. And I know that sounds like film-making 101, but you’d be surprised how many movies screw things up for themselves, just by getting a little distracted by other stuff that doesn’t matter.

Wind River, as a whole, is a pretty straightforward tale of humans acting at their worst, but also at their best, and because of that Sheridan does a lot with very little. He’s able to draw us into this setting, understand its history, the characters, and why these characters matter. Renner’s Cory, while feeling like he may have initially been a Native American in the first few drafts, still works as a white guy because he has a certain connection this land, to these people, and to what they represent; it also helps that the movie does sort of call him out for trying to be a white savior, making it seem fine that he’s a white guy, trying to save the day. Sheridan’s writing isn’t very stylish, but he’s got a certain noir-aspect about him that works in making us know everything we need to know about these characters, without getting too carried away.

Eh. Doesn’t look so bad.

It’s constantly moving and that’s why Wind River works.

And as Cory, Renner is quite good; he’s his usual charming-self, although he doesn’t overplay that too much. He’s still a screwed-up guy who has had to deal with a lot in his life and doesn’t allow us to forget about it. His chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen is also pretty good, in that the movie never allows it to get too romanticized or cloying. They’re just both trying to figure out this case, who the baddies are, and do their jobs, like normal, everyday human beings who want to make the world a better place.

Olsen is also very good in this role, despite being very young and seeming in-over-her-head. But then again, that’s sort of the point, so it works out well; Gil Birmingham, who shined last year in Hell or High Water, has a nice few emotional scenes that work well; Graham Greene, as usual, is great, giving us a lot of comedy to go along with a lot of the seriousness; and Jon Bernthal, in a few scenes or so, does a great job, too. However, it’s his role and a few others that I have a problem going on further about because, well, the movie sort of surprises us with these characters randomly by the end.

But hey, just see it and you’ll know what I’m speaking of.

Consensus: Cold, dark and pretty brutal, Wind River may not measure up to Sheridan’s past two movies, but still fits in well with them, providing plenty of solid thrills, to go along with the chills.

7 / 10

Always depend on the whites to come in and save the day.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Winter’s Tale (2014)

Sometimes, love just doesn’t make any sense. In this case, nothing makes sense!

In 1895, while on the run from his adoptive father, deadly gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) decides to make one last score in a house that seems to include some very wealthy people, who also may not even be home in the first place. He gets to the vault and starts working his magic, when all of a sudden, Peter realizes that he’s not alone in the house. It just so happens that the patriarch of the family (William Hurt), left his daughter, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) behind and Peter has no idea what to do, except just act natural and talk to her. And wouldn’t you know it, they actually have something in common and start up something of a relationship! The problem is, Beverly is slowly dying of consumption and needs to be with a man, and soon. Peter believes he can be the man to make the sweet lovin’ to her, but he also realizes that time is running out before Pearly and his men find him and decide to take his life away.

While that may sound all simple and carefree, like an ordinary romantic-drama should be, there’s something particularly strange about this movie. See, it’s a fantasy movie, that has flying horses, demons, 120-year-old-women and time-travel, but for some reason, in the mind of someone like Akiva Goldsman, apparently fantasy just means “throwing whatever shit you can think of on the screen, without any rhyme or reason.” And don’t get me wrong, I like that type of movie, but there has to be some sort of ground-rules to allow for everything to make sense. If not, there’s no reason for your movie to exist, except to just show everybody how crazily creative you can get.

And I hate to break it to you, Akiva Goldsman, but you’re not all that creative. In fact, you’re kind of a bore that doesn’t seem to know where to begin a story, where to go with a story, and just how exactly to end it. Which may all sound weird considering this is the same guy who wrote A Beautiful Mind, but anything that worked there, totally doesn’t here. Then again, those are two different movies in their own right, so the less I speak about that comparison, the better.

"What's so wrong with a man embracing his horse?"

“What’s so wrong with a man embracing his horse?”

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, that’s right, this movie. It’s a mess. It truly is. Certain things happen, then don’t happen, and then do happen again, for no reason except to just happen and keep the plot moving along. Which, once again, is fine, just as long as there are some ground-rules being laid down for us to make note of anytime anything completely out of the ordinary happens. We sort of get some of that when a demon character shows up and tells another demon what they are, and aren’t allowed to do, but it was told in such mumbo-jumbo, that I didn’t really get any of it, nor did I care. Also, the two actors in that scene just seem like they are on completely separate planets, let alone in the same movie.

But I guess that’s the way Goldsman not only directed his cast, but the movie as a whole. You can tell that there’s a really soft, sweet and endearing romance at the center of this movie, and there are times when he allows for it to just sit, relax, tell itself, and breathe. But then, moments later, Goldsman can’t help his urges, so he decides to throw in some weird ideas about the light and how it reflects on where a person is directly located on a map. I know. It’s weird and it don’t make a single ounce of sense, but I think that’s sort of the point.

Or maybe it isn’t. Personally, I don’t know and I shouldn’t care when a movie is as wild as this, but I do care and I have no clue as to why. Maybe because it seems like with a movie like this, where you can be so random and insane and still find a way to bring some emotional-connection to the proceedings, there’s always something to enjoy. But everything here was so odd and out-of-left-field, that it wasn’t. It just kept on making me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell was going to happen next, for what reason, and where was it going to lead to. And then once it did lead to that next scene, it was the whole rinse and repeat act. Rinse and repeat.

Like I alluded to before, too, there is an actual heartfelt story in the middle of all this craziness, it just doesn’t get as much of a spotlight as it should. With this love story (aka the main reason why any guy would get dragged into seeing this in the first place), we’re supposed to root for both Peter and Beverly to get together. Not only does it seem like Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay have legitimate, natural chemistry, but it’s believable why these two would be drawn to one another in the first place; she’s dying because she hasn’t consumed and is a bit picky with her boys, whereas he’s just got too much going on with his wacky lifestyle to even worry about a beautiful girl like her. They get a few scenes together where they really feel like honest love birds and I have to admit, they’re what kept me going with this movie.

"Do know, I de devil, me mate."

“Do know, I de devil, me ladey.”

It was only until Russell Crowe with his Elmer Fudd, mixed with a drunk Irish guy-act got in the way of everything and had to spoil the party. It’s not like Crowe is bad per se, he’s clearly trying to have fun with this role and give it all he’s got, but he’s really trying here, almost to the point of where the movie seems to just sort of let him run rampant with whatever he’s doing and forget to even make sense of hiss nonsensical ramblings; which there are many of, sadly.

But it does get worse and though I’d like to spoil this for everybody and say why this is the case, I’m going to take the higher-road and allow for you to see for yourself, if you wish. If you don’t, I can’t say it’s your loss. You do what you want to do, just know that this movie’s nuts and drugs may not help.

Once again, just saying.

Consensus: The romance at the center is what keeps Winter’s Tale, for the most part, grounded in some emotional consciousness, but everything else is just so weird, unbelievable, and out of the blue, that any connection we may have had to the story gets lost in the nonsensical shuffle.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

How I dance with the ladies. Except a whole lot more grinding.

How I dance with the ladies. Except with a whole lot more grinding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Transamerica (2005)

I don’t care what people say about me now, but Felicity Huffman was kind of attractive in this. There, I rest my case.

Bree (Felicity Huffman) gets the shock of her life a week before her final sex change surgery when she discovers a son (Kevin Zegers) she didn’t know she had. After bailing him out of jail, the two set out on a cross-country journey riddled with road bumps.

I have never been homophobic in any way, and have never had any problem with transsexual people. This film shows that their not so different from you or I.

I liked how the screenplay worked out well in both ways. The comedy in here works because it comes at moments when you least expect it, and it’s actually pretty witty, in an ironic sort of way. It sets up pretty well for the drama parts in here too. There are actually some touching, and poignant moments here where it shows how we can still find happiness in the world, in sometimes the craziest places, and with the most random people, we just have to accept ourselves for what we are.

The only problem I had with this film was that it wasn’t very consistent. There were sometimes moments where I would feel totally engrossed with this film but then there would be a time period where nothing even remotely entertaining would pop up. Also, the film did have many slow moments that don’t really keep you involved and some moments you’ll just be waiting for something to actually happen.

For everyone seeing this back in 2005 they had to be totally surprised by Felicity Huffman in this, since everybody then knew her from that crap we call Desperate Housewives. Huffman is actually superb in this film because she has to do a lot with this performance. She has to change her look, her voice, and overall attitude so we can actually believe her as this man trying to become a woman. I also must say the beginning of this film her character struck me as just odd, but in the end turns out to just be a fellow human being that I came to like. Kevin Zegers is also good here as Toby, and does that confused, teenage angst really well to the point of where we’re actually not annoyed by his character. But I’ll always remember him from Air Bud, no matter how dirty, and sexy he acts. The chemistry these two create together starts off troubled at first, but then it all builds up into something believable and they don’t seem just like movie characters, more like real people. Fionnula Flanagan also pops up in the latter part of this film, and had me straight-out dying as Bree’s mother. Others that were good here as well are Graham Greene, Elizabeth Pena, and it was awesome to see Burt Young here. Even though to everybody he’ll always be Pauly.

Consensus: Transamerica works not only because of the amazing performance from Huffman, but mainly because the film does a great job of balancing out engrossing dramatic moments, as well as some smart comedic moments.

8/10=Matinee!!

Dances with Wolves (1990)

They usually call me this on Saturday nights, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Wounded Civil War soldier John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) tries to commit suicide — and becomes a hero instead. As a reward, he’s assigned to his dream post, a remote junction on the Western frontier, and soon makes unlikely friends with the local Sioux tribe.

Basically this film has always been on mind, and for the reason because it beat out Goodfellas for the 1990 Best picture Oscar. However, I can’t say that it wasn’t a close fight.

While watching this film I found myself entranced with emotions I always feel when watching movies, utter beauty and emotional. The film is not just an Epic Western of this mans survival and communication with the Natives, but also has a great message about the relation between two different cultures, as in the white man and the Native.

The film is not only starring Costner but it is his directorial debut, and what a debut it is. Costner knows exactly how to film this movie with all his knowledge of this tribe the film is less and less stereotypical. In films we usually see the Natives talking like “how” and thats all they say, but Costner basically makes half of the film is in the Lakota language, and is all subtitled. He take a lot of drastic and daring steps here to make this film amazing and I can say that he succeeds. The film treats its subject with generosity and makes these Indians seem more than what we see from any other movie of this subject.

The film also has some of the best looking territory ever as well. There are images and sights in this film that are just great. This setting of 1860s rural South is just beautiful because of the way its filmed, and the most simplist of scenes, look even better cause of the setting. Also, the little things such as the score is just so enchanting that the emotions that come out of this music makes you feel it even more.

The film does have its problems though, that can be pointed out. It is a Western but doesn’t add anything new to the genre other than the fact it is just features less action and gun fights. Also, the film categorizes the broadly villainous Union soldier characters, which in my mind wasn’t very original. And in a film that seemed so touching about who’s right and who’s wrong.

The acting here is what makes this film utterly phenomenal. Costner anchors this film, and when for the most part its only him on-screen he is so believable and so great to watch that I couldn’t see anybody else playing this role. Almost everybody in this film gives a great performance but the side performances from two special ones are the best and anchor the film. Mary McDonnell plays the only other white person in the tribe, and hasn’t spoken English in about 15 years, and is forced to speak it again. She handles it like reality, because she doesn’t get right back in the mode to speaking it, and still stutters, and doesn’t understand the language fully, and has some great touching scenes with Costner. Graham Greene who plays the Sioux chief is even better and has some great scenes with him and Costner, where he is actually highlighting the screen every time hes on it.

I feel bad for Dances with Wolves because honestly now that I look at it, it doesn’t get its rep. it should. Yeah, it beat out Goodfellas but you have to look at it, they are two completely different movies and this one in all honesty, had a lot more of an emotional connection to it. Also, two other films that I have reviewed (Avatar, The Last Samurai), all have basically stolen this idea of guy changes cultures and becomes entranced with it. Honestly, they were good films but now that I see, the story really doesn’t relie on originality, mostly on who can do a better similar story to Dances with Wolves without being too close.

Consensus: Dances with Wolves has its fair faults, but ultimately is anchored by the great performances, inspired and authentic directing debut from Costner, and featuring themes that add on to a story of how beautiful and touching two different cultures can be.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!!!