Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Best Woody Harrelson Performances


Woody Harrelson has enjoyed a prosperous three-decade long career that, in many ways, has flown completely under the radar. He always demonstrates an ability to stand out in any role, no matter how big or small. Therefore, in honor of his new release, The Glass Castle, August's Movie List of the Month pays tribute to Harrelson's finest performances (July's list).

Honorable Mention: The Edge of Seventeen, The Glass Castle, King PinNatural Born Killers and Out of the Furnace


#5. Seven Psychopaths (2012)


Martin McDonagh's hysterical and under-appreciated comedic effort pits Harrelson, as an angry and unhinged mob boss, whose cherished dog is stolen by a reward-seeking dog-napper (played by Sam Rockwell). The absurdity of the film's primary storyline plays extremely well thanks in large part to Harrelson's fully committed performance. Seven Psychopaths is well worth a watch if you haven't seen it.


#4. Zombieland (2009)


Another outstanding comedy featuring Harrelson's singular talents is Ruben Fleischer's one-of-a-kind laugh-fest, Zombieland. Harrelson steals the show as Tallahassee, a vengeful and demented mad-man whose heart is as big as his penchant for zombie-killing. His off-the-wall demeanor is brought to life masterfully by Harrelson and helps cap-off this exceptional 88-minute comedic ride.


#3. The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)


One of Harrelson's two Oscar-Nominated turns comes from Milos Forman's biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt. Harrelson stars in the title role as the Hustler magazine publisher who faced an enormous public blow-back that resulted in a court case battle surrounding free speech. Harrelson delivers a knockout performance that stands the test of time and serves as an illuminating reminder of his gifted acting abilities.


#2. White Men Can't Jump (1992)


Although Harrelson's role in Ron Shelton's White Men Can't Jump doesn't quite carry the same dramatic cachet as his Larry Flynt performance, the film will always stand as a staple of my childhood. Billy Hoyle (Harrelson) represents a flawed lead character whose knack for hustling on the basketball courts of Los Angeles is equally measured my his dimwitted ability for blowing all of his winnings on stupid bets. Harrelson manages to blend together a hilarious turn with tempered dramatics that illustrate his well-rounded talents.


#1. The Messenger (2009)


For an overall movie that's almost as towering as Harrelson's supporting work, Oren Moverman's The Messenger is an absolute Tour de Force. Harrelson, along with co-star Ben Foster, stars as a member of the Casualty Notification Team who's responsible for breaking the news of a soldier's death to their next of kin. Harrelson demonstrates the depths of his dramatic talents in this Oscar-Nominated turn that's every bit as powerful and moving as the film's premise suggests. Harrelson's character appears both cold but respectful in this challenging task that he's been saddled with. The Messenger serves as the epitome of independent filmmaking telling an emotional story through a modest budget and immense acting talent, thanks to the exceptional work of Hollywood legend Woody Harrelson.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Molly's Game and Rememory Trailers


After a quarter-century in the film industry, Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin finally takes a seat in the director's chair for his November biopic, Molly's Game. The superior talents of Jessica Chastain appear to be fully on display as she plays Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who became a target of the FBI after organizing the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game. Molly's Game could possess some clear Oscar potential with it's big-named cast and an always envious Sorkin screenplay. Yet, the most interesting aspect of the film will be seeing how well Sorkin can handle the overwhelming task of filmmaking. Check out the debut trailer for Molly's Game below.





Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage stars in the upcoming mystery thriller from writer/director Mary Palansky, Rememory. The Sundance-selected feature follows the invention of a device with the ability to record and play-back a person's memories. Dinklage plays a man who uses the device to help track down the killer of its inventor. Rememory premiered to polarizing results in January, but you can make your own decision when the film arrives later this year. In the mean time catch the film's first-look trailer below.




Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Ghost Story




David Lowery's filmmaking career has been all over the map. He first stepped onto the scene with his uber-artsy Bonnie & Clyde-esque Sundance selected drama, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, in 2013, only to follow it up with last year's successful re-imagining of Pete's Dragon. Lowery's upward trajectory following his well-received summer-film reboot would normally send a director in search of his or her next big venture, but Lowery went in a completely different direction. He returns to his artistic prowess in the ambitious festival darling, A Ghost Story.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara stars as a loving couple who experience an unforeseen tragedy following a car accident  that results in Affleck's character's death. As the saddened widow confirms his passing at the morgue, Affleck's spirit emerges from the bed as a sheet-covered ghost who transports back to his home where he watches his wife grieve the loss. But as she moves on with her life and leaves a secret note in the crack of a doorway as she sells and leaves the home, the ghost stays in the dwelling desperate to uncover the note's contents.


A Ghost Story is a beautifully poetic expression of love, loss and countless other emotions. Lowery's bold endeavor both captivates and mesmerizes throughout a loosely coherent storyline that becomes more and more muddled as it progresses. Nonetheless, uniqueness and originality effectively guide the audience through an existentially-crafted plot and mildly ambiguous resolve. Mara's soulful turn and Affleck's surprising depth, even cloaked behind a sheet for the majority of the film, are transcending enough to keep the effort afloat.

"Polarizing" would be an apt descriptor for Lowery's latest critically-adored work. The filmmaker begins by utilizing excessively long takes that the audience is forced to muscle through. Thankfully, nearly all of these shots include a purposeful conclusion that help alleviate the frustration. Furthermore, A Ghost Story possesses a misleading title. The film is strictly a drama and fantasy, so don't expect any horror whatsoever. In fact, the scariest moment in the film is a nearly five-minute shot of Mara sorrowfully spoon-feeding an entire pie down her throat following the loss of her husband. Symbolic of the film's painfully slow demeanor, but also its poignant capturing of human emotion, A Ghost Story is a sluggish 90-minute indie that certainly pays off from a creative and artistic perspective.


Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Glass Castle




Destin Cretton is anything but a household name. Yet, the gifted filmmaker turned heads with his massively overlooked 2013 drama, Short Term 12. The effort bridged together Cretton's singular story and vision with the remarkable acting talents of Brie Larson. Since then Larson has gone on to win an Academy Award (Room), but her career comes full circle in her latest collaboration with Destin Cretton in the adapted film The Glass Castle.

Told non-chronologically through various flashbacks, The Glass Castle follows the unconventional childhood of gossip columnist and eventual Best-Selling author Jeannette Walls (Larson). Prior to her career as a writer, Walls grows up under the dysfunctional supervision of her alcoholic father (Woody Harrelson) and her amateur artist mother (Naomi Watts). But as Jeannette and her siblings begin to mature and fully comprehend their squatter-lifestyle and impoverished upbringing, they must work together to escape the clutches of their deadbeat parents.


Destin Cretton's The Glass Castle serves as a heavy drama that illustrates the director's keen vision and his cast's stellar performances. There are many captured shots scattered throughout the film that transcend the normal standards of direction, reminding us just how impressive Cretton truly is. Likewise, Brie Larson continues to shine and reinforce her standing as one of the best actresses alive today. And her counterpart, the underappreciated Woody Harrelson, always has a knack for commanding the screen. Witnessing these two titanic performers deliver the goods over and over again for more than two hours is what keeps this film from crumbling at the hands of its weaker elements.

For starters, The Glass Castle begins its constant rewinding of time through flashbacks with a fluid approach that effectively links the present with the past. However, eventually, the film ditches its smooth transitions and forcefully breaks from its underlying format. And as Jeannette's character begins to truly ponder the joy vs. sorrow of her childhood, deciding whether her father was an inspiration or a burden, the flashbacks become a hokey and contrived element rather than a useful and informative tool. But even through much of the screenplay's over-extension and sloppiness, exceptional direction and performances keep the audience connected to this powerful tale of familial struggle.


Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Thursday, August 3, 2017

DVD Outlook: August 2017


It appears August is rather barren with new DVD and streaming options (July's suggestions). Thankfully, a hot slate of diverse theatrical offerings such as The Big Sick, Dunkirk, War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming and so much more, you can find a worthwhile movie to enjoy no matter what your personal preference may be. Either way, here's a look at what's available on DVD and streaming services this month.





Alien: Covenant - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)

Earlier this year Ridley Scott returned to his storied Alien universe once again with the follow-up to 2012's Prometheus. In the latest installment, Scott and company shift their efforts from cryptic to visceral and disturbing with a bloody and twisted affair that feels immensely more horror-based than its predecessor. While on a colonizing mission to jump-start the humanity on a distant planet, crew members of the Covenant are awoken from their hibernation state following a malfunction with the vessel. Consequently, they abandon their long-term plans for a closer destination that proves to be a deadly decision. Covenant isn't the craftiest effort from the franchise but it certainly delivers some fine moments. It's difficult to sense where Ridley Scott will take things from here but as long as there's another Alien film, you can count me in. (August 15th)




Chuck - Not Scored or Reviewed

Rarely do I put a film that I haven't seen in my top 3 suggestions, but Chuck is one I've heard good things about and I plan to watch immediately. I had an advanced screening planned but because of unforeseen circumstances I had to pass my tickets along to a friend who raved about the Chuck Wepner biopic. Liev Schreiber stars as the retired boxer whose real life title fight with Muhammad Ali inspired the screenplay for Sylvester Stallone's Best Picture Winner, Rocky. With co-stars Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss and Michael Rappaport, this intriguing examination regarding the origins of one of Hollywood's most prolific films has legitimate knockout potential. (August 15th)




Sleight - 2 stars out of 4 - (No review available)

Under a normal set of circumstances, a film like Sleight wouldn't land in my top 3 suggestions. However, a lackluster crop of titles opens the door for this rather intriguing tale with a mediocre delivery. Newcomer Jacob Latimore stars as Bo, a young street magician who's forced to care for his young sister after the loss of their parents. Taking his remarkable talents to the streets for a modest payday, Bo becomes entangled with a dangerous drug dealer in order to make ends meet. But once he realizes that he's getting in too deep, he must figure out a way to cut ties and make it out alive. There's definitely more than meets the eye with Sleight, including some unexpected sci-fi that fits very well into the storyline. However, creativity doesn't hold the film back, it's a weak delivery and unimpressive acting that tempers the overall experience. (August 1st)


Honorable Mention: One of August's biggest DVD releases is the highly anticipated, albeit very disappointing, Marvel sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (8/22). Other mediocre options that I've reviewed include the war thriller The Wall (8/15), Zach Braff's geriatric heist comedy Going in Style (8/1), and SXSW selection Colossal (8/1) with Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. I highly suggest avoiding one of 2017's weakest efforts, the sci-fi drama The Circle (8/1) starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Finally, other notable options that I haven't seen include Snatched (8/8), Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (8/8), Baywatch (8/29) and indie My Cousin Rachel (8/29).