Sunday, December 11, 2016

At The Movies

Hell Or High Water -- Tightly plotted and superbly executed, this old-school crime drama evokes the classic prose of Cormac McCarthy and James Lee Burke. Ben Foster and Chris Pine play a pair of siblings robbing rural Texas banks, in order to pay off the reverse mortgage on their mother's ranch and claim the newfound oil rights. Jeff Bridges plays the Texas Ranger tracking them down before riding off into retirement. The cast is outstanding across the board, and even though you know where it's headed, the ride is bumpy and entertaining, thanks to the richly drawn characters.
Grade: A

Captain Fantastic -- A waaayyyyy off-the-grid family of six kids and a dad are forced to adjust to the "real" world when they travel to the mother's funeral. Viggo Mortensen underpins the role of dad Ben with his stubborn charm and fierce intelligence, and the kids are outstanding as well. You hate to use the hack phrase "quirky little indie" but it applies here in a good way. Writer/director Matt Ross (Gavin Belson from HBO's Silicon Valley) helms his project with care and sensitivity. Ben's clear conflict of conscience -- if he is raising his kids to be in the world but not of it, why bother versing them in mundane worldly verities such as the Bill of Rights -- is never quite explained, nor how he came to reject the world so completely, but these are minor quibbles in a terrific movie.
Grade: A-

The Infiltrator -- The true story of US Customs Agent Robert Mazur's successful undercover effort to bring down Pablo Escobar's drug network, as well as the money laundering of BCCI, is compelling enough, and with Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, and Diane Kruger leading the way, solidly cast. But at 127 minutes, the movie feels about twenty minutes too long, and its climactic scene, a mass bust at a fake wedding between Cranston and Kruger, rings false when the feds expose Cranston and Kruger as undercover operatives by not busting them as well. It's still pretty well done overall, but mainly reminded me of how good a Power of the Dog movie would be.
Grade: B

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