What Don’t Ya Want in Hell or High Water?

Hell or High Water

Saucy old-lady and scene-stealer Margaret Bowen makes the menu options at T-Bone’s diner pretty dang clear to Texas Rangers Jeff Bridges (just. one. case. from. retirement) and Gil Birmingham (long time sufferer of Bridges’ playfully racist jokes and sagely gristle). Everyone gets a T-bone steak and a potato, and you either don’t want the corn or you don’t want the green beans. And you gotta ask yourself throughout the film…what don’t the characters want? Bridges doesn’t want to go down in a blaze of glory…right? The bank robbing brothers (Chris Pine – the good one, and Ben Foster – the bad one) don’t want to hurt anybody…right? Nobody in West Texas wants to use their concealed gun, it’s just for protection…right? Well, maybe wrong…and when everybody has hurt feelings, a trigger finger and is armed, there’s bound to be blood…eventually.

The “innocent” bystander women get some of the best lines in Taylor Sheridan’s sharp screenplay. Character actress favorite Dale Dickey, upon being asked if the bank robbers were black or white, pointedly responds, “You mean their skin color or their souls?” Another sassy waitress (Katy Mixon) who took to flirtin’ with one of our dastardly handsome brothers while the other robbed the bank across the street pitches a fit when the Rangers try to take her $200 tip as evidence. “That’ll pay half my mortgage!” Thank you very much!

And it’s those mortgages that are the root of the evils in David Mackenzie’s Neo-Western Hell or High Water. In fact, I would argue that the Texas Midlands Bank makes one of the greatest recent on-screen villains. Continue reading

Franchise Frenzy with Star Trek Beyond and Jason Bourne

It wouldn’t be the summer movie season without franchise entries galore, and although I proudly shirk most, two series I have always enjoyed are Star Trek and Jason Bourne. The latest episodes opened on back to back weekends and both are entertaining, serviceable entries providing escapism that hit all their required marks. But it was interesting to see how one was almost undone by its director’s ambition with action sequences, while the other was so taut and perfectly executed in its action as to take the film to another level. If Justin Lin’s smash-and-grab acrobatic incoherence is the perfect example of what not to do with action sequences, then Paul Greengrass’ intense hand-held location shooting is the masterclass of modern action direction.

Star Trek Beyond Damnit Jim Its Bright In Here

Being with the same cast for the third time around gives Star Trek Beyond a nice lived-in feel. We know the characters so well, as these actors have come into their own doing great jobs with Simon Pegg’s scripted witty and goofy banter that harkens back to classic Treks, especially Karl Urban as Bones. The plot is pretty basic. And since it seems like The Enterprise needs to get destroyed every time now, they wisely dispense with this in the beginning when the crew crash lands on an uncharted planet after having fallen into a giant space booby-trap. On hand as the villain, is a growling Idris Elba who seems to be the go-to guy for villains with crazy accents these days. The flick is fun and quick paced, and the special effects (especially the giant space station/city Yorktown) are colorful, bright and dazzling.

I was happy to see J.J. Abrams move on from the franchise, but Justin Lin was not the right choice to replace him. Lin made quite a name for himself orchestrating some of the most gleefully over-the-top car/truck/tank/plane/whatever smash-em-ups in the otherwise brain-dead Fast & Furious franchise. Sadly, his flair for the outlandish stunt doesn’t translate as well into space.   Continue reading

A Review of “Star Trek”

And Hollywood boldly goes where only ten films and five TV series have gone before...

And Hollywood boldly goes where only ten films and five TV series have gone before...

 Damn it, Jim, I’m a TV Producer not a Film Director!

7/10

Author: David H. Schleicher

TV guru extraordinaire J. J. Abrams beams up as producer and director of this zippy and serviceable relaunch of the moribund Star Trek film series, itself a spin-off Gene Roddenberry’s iconic 1960’s sci-fi drama. There’s plenty of circularity in concept and execution as Abrams does an adequate job of paying homage to the original TV series while giving everything a big epic, slick, modern film veneer. Abrams displays his usual flippant emo-sensibilities (lest we not forget his first claim to fame was the insufferable TV show “Felicity”) in creating a colorful back-story to familiar characters, but he wisely focuses on action for the better parts of the film and keeps the pacing at warp speed even though we really know he just wants to play with Trekkies’ emotions, much in the same way a swaggering Kirk antagonizes the desperately logical Spock.

Though Zachary Quinto is fairly lifeless as Spock, the rest of the cast is up to task doing fine impersonations of the senior Trek crew. Simon Pegg gets plenty of laughs as Scotty, and Karl Urban is mockingly masterful in his delivery of all the classic Doc McCoy witticisms. As the young Kirk, Chris Pine puts an entertaining spin on the role as he seems to be channeling both Christian Slater doing Jack Nicholson and, well, Chris Pine doing William Shatner. But it’s only the dashingly smart and sexy Zoe Saldana who takes things to a new level by giving Uhura a personality and vibrancy that was never apparent in the original film series.

Comparing the film to others in the series, it probably ranks somewhere in the middle. By far it displays the best production values and special effects of any Trek before it on the big or small screen. Always crucial to the film series, the villain in this one (a tattooed Romulan named Nero played by Eric Bana) is clearly no match for the mythic-sized Khan of said Wrath of… or the unstoppable Borg Queen of the Next Generation’s First Contact.  And while the early years of Kirk, Spock and the U. S. S. Enterprise are fairly well played here, the main storyline is where the film really suffers as it mashes up a big old mess of a plot involving black holes, time travel and planetary annihilation.

While I grew up watching the “Next Generation” on TV and enjoyed the original film series, I’m by no means a Trek purist. I am, however, a stickler for good storytelling. By playing with all this time-travel mumbo-jumbo, the screenwriters have essentially wiped the slate clean and negated the entire original series. The same old characters are now free to roam outer space on brand new missions, which is a brilliant business building ploy but lazy writing and a big cop-out. By going backwards in the serial mythos instead of forging ahead further into the future, the filmmakers have backed themselves into a corner. Just how many of these new adventures can the old crew have? And will it all lead to the inevitable…Picard’s Academy Days or the origins of Data? While this new film was modestly entertaining and better than your average sci-fi flick, it didn’t really leave me clamoring for more. Will the filmmakers eventually “make it so?”  Quite frankly, I’m indifferent, though Abrams probably “gave it all she’s got”.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.