You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Woody Harrelson’ tag.


Don’t get much more confrontational than that.

Holy fucking shit.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is something special that almost never comes along. It effortlessly explores the lives of characters that could so easily be vile or heroic, in the reductive but entertaining way cinema favors, and humanizes just about all of them. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a film with a truer to life portrait of the scummy ways humans behave toward each other tempered by the compassion that can redeem us if only we can find it. Even so, Three Billboards never runs the risk of being preachy or dry. It’s always infused with the effortlessly meaningful and entertaining dialogue for which Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) has become known. Instead of being forced or distracting, the stylized dialogue reflects and enhances the humanity of the story. It splits you open and makes you laugh in equal parts as you listen to it and find the characters and their inner lives through it.

I knew that this one was getting a lot of praise and positive notice for months before it went wide enough for me to finally see it. But in no way did I expect it to be as good as it is. Every time you think that the film is going to take a cliched, well-worn route through its drama it just doesn’t. There’s always a surprising angle, and each one is more witty, sharply observed, and gut-punch poignant than the last.

I was a little disappointed in Seven Psychopaths after the masterpiece of In Bruges but maybe that movie warrants a reappraisal because it’s hard to watch Three Billboards and not wonder if it’s you that missed something from McDonagh, who is firmly establishing himself as a contemporary of the Coen Brothers. He’s a genius of dark, misanthropic humor but I think his track record for being extraordinarily naked and earnest with the emotional damage of his roster of entertaining assholes sets him apart and dodges the easy comparisons, which are unfair but somewhat understandable given the way these filmmakers all seem fascinated by the absurdity and pervasiveness of human darkness.

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. BEST TO GO IN BLIND. Read the rest of this entry »



This movie is more tightly focused on a small cast of characters than the marketing would indicate.

Without much fanfare or celebration, the new Planet of the Apes movies have quietly become one of the best blockbuster and/or science fiction franchises we have right now. While Rise focused heavily on the issues of our treatment of intelligent animals and the practical ramifications of their personhood, Dawn began both a post-apocalyptic fable of the collision of diametrically opposed civilizations (a First Contact fable) as well as a tight civil rights allegory with two influential apes taking on the roles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, struggling for the soul of the rising Ape nation and how it would deal with the dwindling but still threatening human oppressors (very similar to how Xavier and Magneto intersect in the X-Men comics and movies). The wrestling match between hate and love, vengeance and mercy was a critical piece of Dawn‘s thematic content. Now arrives the closing chapter of the trilogy with War for the Planet of the Apes, a movie that continues parts of the civil rights allegory (and adding some contemporary dimensions) while also adding a broad swing for the mythic, with elements of the movie recalling Biblical stories and the foundation myths of several cultures.

It’s important to note that War is not the gigantic humans vs. apes war movie that the marketing promised, but neither was Dawn. All three movies played up the warrior apes stuff in their marketing. I remember the trailers for Rise heavily relied on the Golden Gate Bridge battle. Dawn had more war scenes and action than War does. But that doesn’t mean that War for the Planet of the Apes is disappointing or somehow not a war movie. It’s both extremely satisfying as well as being a pretty unflinching and bleak war/anti-war movie. The thematic struggles of Dawn are still present, with the specter of Koba (Toby Kebbell) and his vengeful hate haunting both Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the events of this film. But instead of big battle scenes, War emphasizes the personal and there’s a lot of dialogue, most of it the hybrid ape language of vocalizations and sign language. Stopping to appreciate that this is a huge movie where tons of the dialogue isn’t English and most of the characters are CG apes is sort of obligatory at this point, but it’s no less impressive here than before. They keep managing to up the ante and making these characters even more lifelike and believable.

Though it is a pretty bleak and emotional movie (hoo boy), there probably more humor and comic relief here than in the previous two films. The tonal mix is potent and very well handled by Matt Reeves, who has really built magnificently on what Rupert Wyatt and his team began with Rise. This movie is also more gorgeous even than Dawn, with shots that are just jaw-dropping as well as many iconic tableaus with the apes especially. There’s also all the world-building, attention to detail, and believability that we’ve come to expect from this series. What’s perhaps lacking is the scale promised by the trailers, but I think by the time the movie starts to kick into gear, most viewers won’t mind the movie we got, even if it comes at the cost of the (potentially more shallow) movie we seemed to be getting. Read the rest of this entry »

Most of the movie is hanging out with these three guys. That is swell.

Seven Psychopaths is only Martin McDonagh’s second feature film. You’d think otherwise given how good he is with actors and pacing and that makes sense as he is an accomplished playwright. In fact, he says he doesn’t plan to make very many films and won’t adapt his plays just for the money. I wish he would, though, since it’s next to impossible for people like me to see those plays. Hell, I’d love to just read them. I should look into that. Read the rest of this entry »

Fuck yeah, Woody Harrelson!

I kinda feel like most people aren’t going to find Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), the subject of Rampart, as sympathetic as I do. Since he’s in every scene of the movie and the style and intention are very much in line with the “character study” mold, you’re kinda stuck with him anyway. Whether you’re able to sympathize with him or not is sort of the question the movie is asking. How it navigates his fucked up life, including his bizarre family dynamic, is part of what separates Rampart from a pile of similar “dirty cop self-destructs” movies/tv shows that we’ve all probably seen dozens of times by now. Making Rampart a character study is a wise move and Harrelson carries it all on his shoulders with aplomb and infusing the character with a lot of pathos and likability in spite of the inner darkness that very clear is present.

On the surface, you might say that if you like The Shield, Dark Blue, Street Kings, Bad Lieutenant and Port of Call New Orleans then you’ll see much that is familiar to you here, and you’ll likely enjoy Rampart. A person less familiar with these types of cop stories could really go either way but will probably engage better due to not being conversant in the sorts of shorthand all such stories employ. Read the rest of this entry »

Bunraku is the most stylized movie I’ve seen in a while.

What do you get when you cross a bunch of bizarrely placed actors, a blender-bomb mix of influence, style, and tecnique, an archetypal revenge story with bromance thrown in for kicks, and a series of inventive fights that are the best of their kind since Kill Bill?

Bunraku is what you get, apparently. And it’s not a movie that people are going to notice let alone rush out and see. That’s a shame for the kind of eclectic geek it was made by and for, for whom this type of thing is like catnip. It’s probably a wise move by everyone else because five seconds of Kevin McKidd fight-dancing with his stick and scarf will be enough to turn them off.

For what’s it worth, I fall more into the former category. That isn’t to say that Bunraku doesn’t err on the side of its own lunacy and ambition at times (the narration isn’t always great and the narrator himself is actually fairly bad). For the most part, its flaws are part and parcel with its commitment to the colorful, improbably, and kinetic world in which its story is set. That story is nothing too amazing. It’s a familar East-meets-West revenge tale in which the two main characters are actually a samurai and a cowboy. Of course, the twist is that Bunraku takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where any weapon including and beyond firearms is outlawed and martial arts melees reign supreme. So it’s a cowboy without a gun and a samurai with no sword (well, for most of the movie). Read the rest of this entry »


Previous Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 97 other followers