Hell or High Water Review

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May include spoilers

In order to save his mother’s ranch so his sons can own it one day, Toby Howard (Chris Pine) teams up with his ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) to pull off a series of bank robberies. As they commit these crimes, Texas ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), near retirement, seeks to find them and bring them to justice, along with his partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham).

Hell or High Water is a fine film. It boasts good pacing, a wonderful atmosphere (an important conversation has no sound in the background aside from an oil drill), but the main reason it succeeds so well is through its characters and the actors who play them.

Bank robbers Toby and Tanner may be, but they were characters I wanted to watch. Pines and Foster play well off of each other, and I could listen to them chat to each other all day. Tanner gets more of a thrill from bank robberies than his brother, and you get a sense of that without the crime being glamorised. It is Toby, however, that is the focal point of the duo, and his story is developed well. He’s doing this for his ex-wife and sons, and while we only get one real scene with his ex-wife and one son, that scene is still well-acted and written.

Pine and Foster make a fine duo, and so too do Bridges and Birmingham, with the focal point of that twosome, Bridges, being an especially good standout. Hamilton refers to himself as a cowboy, and Bridges plays him as well as he did Rooster Cogburn. The interactions between Hamilton and Parker work as well as those between the Howard brothers, especially a humorous scene where they speak with a waitress. Eventually, these two duos must meet, and the two focal characters must have their own separate meeting, and the result is more than satisfying.

Indeed, Hell or High Water is very satisfying to watch, and I almost wish it had gone on a little longer so I could spend more time with the characters.

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Don’t Breathe Review

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Spoilers may follow

Rocky (Jane Levy), along with Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto), make money by breaking into people’s houses and stealing their goods. Hoping to get away from her squalid life and move to California with her sister, Rocky joins her two companions on another job: stealing money from a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang). As many precautions as they take, however, they were ill-prepared for how truly ruthless the Blind Man is. After Money is killed, Rocky and Alex have to find a way out of the Blind Man’s house.

The action of Don’t Breathe is confined mostly to a single building, and it asks us to care about the fates of burglars who are willing to urinate in the homes they invade. It does, however, make good use of its setting and its characters. The home the main characters are trying to escape is the appropriate setting for a story such as this; dingy and claustrophobic, and while there are places to hide, they won’t do you good for long. One truly believes it to be the domain of The Blind Man, one which he has total control over.

Although the main characters are criminals who fully intend to rob a blind man’s house, one really does want to see them get out of this. It is obvious from the start that Rocky is destined to be our “final girl”, but there is a good amount of tension about whether or not she’ll escape, especially when you find out what The Blind Man has planned for her (which you might find a little too disgusting, really). Though the game of cat-and-mouse (or cat-with-dog-and-mouse) does drag on a bit near the end (she escapes the house then gets taken back then escapes again), it is still mostly tense and exciting to watch.

Don’t Breathe is a thrilling little horror flick, worth watching if you want to get into the Halloween spirit a little early.

Sausage Party Review

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Spoilers may follow

Even before watching Sausage Party, a dark cloud looms over the film, one that might turn potential viewers away. The animation studio behind it, Nitrogen Studios, had apparently grossly mistreated its animators, forcing them to work unpaid overtime and threatening them with termination. Half of the animators even went uncredited. A disgusting thing to hear about, especially with the hard work that goes into animation.

Sausage Party, despite what went on behind the scenes, has an oddly interesting premise. Unbeknownst to the human race, the food products of a supermarket are sentient, and they believe the customers are gods who’ll take them to a utopia known as “The Great Beyond”. Frank the hot dog (Seth Rogen) and his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) have been chosen by one of these “gods” but thanks to an incident involving a jar of honey mustard, they fall out of the shopping cart before they can be purchased. As the store closes, they try to find their way back to their own aisles, but during this journey, Frank learns the terrible truth about what humans really do to food.

Taking childish concepts and peeling them back to reveal darker implications has been done several times before, mostly by internet comedy, but it can still be interesting when done right. Everybody has seen advertisements where sentient food awaits being eaten, and everyone who has watched them has made jokes about why sentient food would want to die. Now, lo and behold, here is an entire movie exploring that joke and what it implies. As I have noted, the idea that the food wants to be purchased due to belief in a higher power is an interesting one, but the allegory that stems from this and dominates the film is still pretty obvious and heavy-handed.

Most people consider “adult cartoons” to be unending parades of swearing and bodily function jokes, even when we have shows like Bojack Horseman that actually do feel genuinely mature. Sausage Party, however, has the characters frequently curse like sailors, with not a second going by without the “f” word. That is utterly exhausting and distracting, but one use of audacity is actually amusing. The best character in the whole movie is an evil literal douche played by Nick Kroll, who drains the juices of other products like a vampire, and  at the end, controls a human by pulling his testicles. And yes, the rumours are true; the ending involves a food orgy that has to be seen to be believed. Still, in terms of movies about inanimate objects becoming rebellious, it isn’t as funny as Maximum Overdrive.

Sausage Party has some laughs here and there, and is worth a watch for curiousity’s sake, but it is still nothing more than average. As adult cartoons go, it’s better than, say, Warren United, but has really nothing that makes it stand out. And it’s a shame about its animators, too.

David Brent: Life on the Road Review

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Spoilers may follow

Fifteen years after the ending of The Office (the original UK version), former regional manager of Wernham Hogg David Brent (Ricky Gervais) now works as a sales rep selling toiletries. However, he decides to take some time off so he can travel with an updated version of his band Foregone Conclusion along with rapper Don Johnson (Doc Brown). His band, however, is not as successful as he hopes, due to Brent’s over-confident and unintentionally offensive nature.

Like The Office before it, David Brent: Life on the Road is set out like a pseudo-documentary, telling its story through interviews and narration. Yes, even the good old “Handbags and Gladrags” song does pop up in the film. It is a continuation of the series and not an adaptation like this year’s Dad’s Army was, yet I feel the same way about Brent that I did about Army; it’s a fine, amusing film, but there’s still the sense that it’s not as funny as its small-screen counterpart.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some laughs to be had here. Not big belly laughs, mind, just small chuckles. There is still some humour in how Brent bungles up songs meant to be large issues and the audience’s reactions to said songs. Despite what he says and does, Brent still manages to come off as slightly sympathetic so you still want to see where he ends up. However, there does still seem to be something missing, and the film feels a bit longer than ninety-six minutes. Some of the jokes, including one about pelicans, seem to overstay their welcome.

Gervais is still enjoyable to watch, as is Doc Brown, yet the two characters don’t really have that much chemistry together. Still, David Brent: On the Road is an alright film with some laughs, but you’d be better off just rewatching the series.