Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

115 mins. Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

 

Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) definitely has a flavor to his work. His is a violent, darkly comedic world, one this writer wouldn’t want to live in. But I’ll definitely watch others live in it.

McDonagh’s newest film, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, introduces us to Mildred (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Hail, Caesar!), a grieving mother who decides to question local law enforcement’s handling of her daughter’s murder case when she rents and erects three billboards in a quiet part of town, asking if the cops have done enough in their search for the killer. This brings her to a head with Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, Lost in London, TV’s True Detective) and hotheaded officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Poltergeist). As the public takes sides in the matter, arguments and violence ramp up and Mildred and Dixon are forced to confront their anger and their past in order to move forward.

Martin McDonagh is a very accomplished character storyteller. His characters live by the principle that a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as she is interesting. Mildred isn’t very likable. Willoughby isn’t very likable. Dixon definitely isn’t likable. Dammit, though, they are interesting, as are the supporting players, particularly Peter Dinklage (Rememory, TV’s Game of Thrones) as a man who takes a liking to Mildred but can’t quite match her level of motivation.

McDonagh uses his characters and his hyper-violence to tell a deeply personal story, more so than either of his previous features. Mildred has deep personal pain and her motives are admirable, There’s a lot that makes sense in the confines of the story, with the exception of one thing.

If there is an issue with the film, it’s the ending. McDonagh chooses an ambiguous ending to his story, one that leaves character plot threads unresolved. In some cases, this can work, but after spending two hours with these people, the question he is asking is a no-brainer. The film ends with two possible paths, but one path would completely betray the character arc, so it doesn’t make sense to leave it open.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is another fascinating character piece from writer/director Martin MacDonagh. This film should be praised for its performances, particularly McDormand and Rockwell, but it is the brilliantly written screenplay that gives them so much to work with. This is a story for anyone who has ever done something crazy out of grief, and its deeply moving and yet somehow completely unhinged, and I highly recommend it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri? What did you think? What’s your favorite performance from Frances McDormand? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, click here.

 

 

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[Box Office Report] Coco Wins Third Weekend!

Box Office Mojo is reporting that Coco, the newest Disney/Pixar animated film, has just taken the top spot at the box office for the third weekend in a row. Not much has changed this past weekend with the notable exception of the James Franco-directed The Disaster Artist entering the fray.

Coco brought in roughly $18.6 million as it continues its reign at the box office for the final weekend before bowing to Star Wars: The Last Jedi next weekend. Coco has had a lot of steam for a film that this writer felt was not given a large marketing push. The film proves that Disney and Pixar have the clout to carry a film just fine and it doesn’t hurt to have the stellar reviews that it has had.

The fifth film in the DCEU, Justice League, again took the #2 spot with $9.5 million. Justice League continues to drop and perform poorly after a very rocky production and mixed reviews for almost every DCEU film with the exception of this year’s Wonder Woman. WB seems to be very bad when it comes to publicity for its superhero universe, and some possible revelations from the higher offices have not helped.

Third place belongs to Wonder, the well-received release from Lionsgate starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. The film currently sits at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes with Tremblay’s performance being a notable win. It took in $8.45 million.

In its first weekend of wide release, A24’s The Disaster Artist, chronicling the film-making journey behind the cinematic trash-heap The Room, took fourth place with $6.4 million. This is coming off the heels of director/star James Franco getting praise from the Gotham Awards.

Rounding out #5 is Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor trilogy, with $6.29 million. The MCU shows no signs of stopping as the very well-received Ragnarok continues to hold strong at the box office despite having been out for over a month.

There you have it. The top five of the domestic box office are:

  1. Coco ($18.6 million)
  2. Justice League ($9.5 million)
  3. Wonder ($8.45 million)
  4. The Disaster Artist ($6.4 million)
  5. Thor: Ragnarok ($6.29 million)

Have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Any surprises in this week’s box office report? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Official US Trailer for A Wrinkle in Time is Big!

So I read A Wrinkle in Time as a child. I don’t recall reading the sequel, but I remember fondly the wild and trippy original book from Madeleine L’Engle. I remember watching the truly disappointing television adaptation that Disney released years ago. Lastly, I remember the feeling of excitement I felt when Ava DuVernay was announced as the director of the big-screen attempt due out in 2018. Now, we have the Official US Trailer for A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a doozy.

The trailer showcases the film’s plot nicely without really delving into a lot of character backstory. The mythology of this series is thick and dense and the trailer does a fine enough job breaking down the beats.

The film is a story of a young girl, Meg, who goes out in search of her missing scientist father, played by Chris Pine. She does so with the aid of three supreme and powerful beings.

I’m happy the film didn’t give too much away. The mystery and wonder of the film should be left to the viewing experience, and it definitely excited me more to see the actual film, especially with a director like Ava DuVernay at the helm. DuVernay gave us the tremendously engaging and thoughtful films Selma and 13th, so a Disney fantasy film seems like a very interesting next step for her.

What worries me, though, is the vibes I got for the film after watching the trailer. Not a “Bad Film” vibe, but the trailer’s visual landscape and tone reminded me of John Carter, Tomorrowland, and The BFG, all films that were live-action fantasies from Disney, and all three were tankers at the box office. I would like to see franchise potential from A Wrinkle in Time, but its marketing is going to have to hit homers all the way to release day in order to do that.

So what do you think? Are you excited for A Wrinkle in Time? Did you read the original source material and did you enjoy it? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Eric Christian Olsen

Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy

121 mins. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and partial nudity.

 

I’d been looking forward to Battle of the Sexes ever since I heard that Emma Stone (The Help, The Croods) would be playing Billie Jean King and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher, Despicable Me 3) would be playing Bobby Riggs. The two performers worked so well together for their limited time in Crazy Stupid Love. In fact, Emma Stone also appeared in Birdman with Andrea Riseborough  and Superbad with Martha MacIsaac. She’s built quite the incredibly portfolio, but is Battle of the Sexes up to snuff?

Battle of the Sexes is more about Billie Jean King than her opponent. It covers her strained relationship with husband Larry (Austin Stowell, Whiplash, Colossal), her secret relationship with lover Marilyn (Riseborough) and her fight against Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman, Independence Day, The Equalizer) over women’s rights in professional tennis. But when she finds herself head-to-head with the showboating Riggs, a man who is about to lose his wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas, Chasing Mavericks) due to his lies and gambling addiction, she finds herself fighting for more than just bragging rights in this film from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks).

Battle of the Sexes is a classic character study and a great showcase for numerous incredible performances, led by Stone and Carell. Emma Stone disappears into her role, proving that she is one of the best actresses working in the business today. Her role as King isn’t imitation or caricature but rather a true interpretation by one artist of another. Steve Carell too is tough to spot in the charismatic Riggs, a feat for the performer who could’ve turned to other comedic performances to channel. Instead, his humor is met with a nuanced characterization of a man who understands what he is doing wrong yet cannot stop himself. It’s like he is watching a car accident, unable to turn away.

The screenplay comes from Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Everest) and, for the most part, it is quite strong. I found the film dragging a bit in the second act, which could’ve been fixed easily in the editing bay or with a tightening of the script.

The director duo husband and wife that is Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have delivered a film that feels like a documentary. The style and tone is something that could’ve come straight out of 1973. An event like this could very easily have turned satirical or lampoonish, and the filmmakers ride the line very well.

Battle of the Sexes is Emma Stone’s movie, and that’s a really good thing. In fact, this could be the best she’s ever been. That doesn’t excuse her costar Carell from an amazing turn as the showboating aging tennis star, but it just proves the acting caliber of the stars. If you get the chance, check out Battle of the Sexes while it’s still in theaters. This is one to watch come awards season.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Billy Ray to Polish New Terminator Script

I’ve been asked a few times about the upcoming Terminator film from producer James Cameron and director Tim Miller, and to be honest, the reason we haven’t heard much on the film is that there isn’t much to tell. The writing process has been going well, and that’s that. So it is great news to hear that Billy Ray, known for Captain Phillips and State of Play, has been tasked to polish the script.

Cameron and Miller have already been joined by Justin Rhodes, Josh Friedman, and David S. Goyer in a writer’s room not unlike the Transformers one set up by Paramount a few years back (but hopefully this one will yield better results).

Not much is known about the project yet, other than Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton returning to the franchise. Cameron also previously said that the film will be a direct sequel to the second film, Judgment Day. Now, we don’t know if this is saying that it will retcon the previous three installments or just not reference them, but [SPOILER ALERT] Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor died after the second installment, but the Terminator franchise is very cyclical, so this is one franchise, like Star Trek, that could really work with a reboot.

I enjoyed Billy Ray’s work on Captain Phillips. The film was a gritty and intelligent film that stemmed from an intense screenplay. He is no stranger to franchise work with The Hunger Games under his belt too.

For me, Billy Ray has always been a realistic storyteller with strong dialogue. This is something that would fit right in with the Terminator franchise.

But what do you think? Are you at all excited for Terminator 6? Should it be retconned or just rebooted? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Marshall (2017)

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, James Cromwell

Screenplay: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Koskoff

118 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War, Gods of Egypt) has played a lot of biopics, this one being the fourth time. Is it his best?

Marshall is the story of Thurgood Marshall (Boseman) and his teaming up with Insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) to defend Joseph Spell (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, TV’s This is Us), a colored man accused of raping a woman he works for in one of Marshall’s early cases.

There are no noticeably poor actors in the film, but the standouts come in Boseman and Brown.  Brown himself turns in an incredible performance as Spell, a man who is so terrified of his situation that he doesn’t know to trust, who to talk to, and how to act. His is a stoic thoughtful performance. Boseman, too, disappears into his role as Thurgood Marshall. Boseman is no stranger to playing real life men, having already become James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Floyd Little in his career, and his performance as the future Supreme Court Justice is exemplary.

Credit should be given to Josh Gad, Dan Stevens (Kill Switch, TV’s Downton Abbey) as the prosecutor Loren Willis, and James Cromwell (The Green Mile, The Promise) as Judge Foster, a noticeably bigoted man who attempts to stop Marshall and Friedman at every attempt to prove innocence.

Director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Serving Sara) hasn’t had a lot of experience in directing these types of films, but he holds his own quite nicely. There isn’t a lot of visual flair, but his attention to detail aids the intensity. I remember a moment when the inclusion of car lights outside made me uncomfortable for the characters knowing the situation these two men were in. The car lights were unneeded, but having them raised the intensity level just a bit more. The cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel again has moments of greatness littered throughout mixed with the restraint that you often see in courtroom dramas. The same can be said of the music. Sometimes it really works, but it doesn’t jump out at you.

Marshall is a great character piece, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Boseman and Brown on the Oscar ballot come January, and the rest of the cast performs rather admirably. There isn’t a lot of technical flair on display here, though that isn’t really a bad thing. Marshall is a strong outing, a biopic focused on one incident and how it changed those involved. This is a film that you won’t want to miss.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Marshall yet? What did you think? And what’s the best Chadwick Boseman-led biopic? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

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First Trailer for The Post Showcases Spielberg’s Incredible Leading Duo

So let’s talk The Post for a second. The Post is Steven Spielberg’s newest film, and it hits cinemas later this year with an Oscar-Contender release date. Well, a few months ago, this movie didn’t exist. Spielberg was in post-production for Ready Player One, and during that post-production, he took on a new project: The Post. The film was cast, shot, and edited during the post-production on Ready Player One and it is now poised to hit cinemas.

The first trailer just dropped.

The trailer doesn’t highlight a lot of plot details but instead focuses on its leading duo Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. We get small glimpses of the supporting players as well, and the fact that Spielberg and his production were able to throw together such an exemplary cast and crew so quickly is just another sign of his prowess in the film community.

And the trailer looks good. With flavor reminiscent of Spotlight from a couple years back and a visual aesthetic that reminded me of All the President’s Men, The Post feels like a 1970s political thriller, something Spielberg could do very well if everything falls into place like it should.

As it stands right now, The Post feels like a solid Oscar contender and a great newspaper drama, something we as film fans don’t see a lot of anymore.

So what do you think? Are you excited to see The Post? Or are you just screaming for Ready Player One? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Game Night Teaser Heightens the Insanity

So the teaser trailer for Game Night is out. The film, which stars Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman, is about a group of friends who have a game night that evolves into a kidnapping and action-fueled murder mystery.

I had been reading about this film several months ago, but this trailer didn’t meet my expectations for the film. I had known about the plot and I felt it was very similar to a Steve Carell film called Date Night which came out a few years back. I expected this film to steadily increase in its preposterousness but it feels like Game Night begins at a level of silliness that it might be tough to come back from.

Personally, I’ve seen the way these films have played out and I’m not sure I want to see that again. Now, this is all from just a teaser trailer so I’m going to wait until the next trailer or marketing piece to see how it affects my enthusiasm, but for right now, I didn’t like this trailer.

But what did you think? Have you seen the trailer for Game Night? Will you be there opening weekend? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Replacing Spacey to Cost Millions

So, I’ve been fairly quiet on the whole explosion of sexual harassment allegations coming out of Hollywood over the past couple weeks. And I’m not here to talk about it today. This is a an area for movie news, and, at least for the time being, I’m not going to comment on it, other to say that, as a film fan, this is devastating and heartbreaking but the victims deserve to be heard.

Kevin Spacey is out of All the Money in the World, which is just insane. He is being replaced by actor Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty. What’s most shocking is that Kevin Spacey’s epic physical transformation and performance have been the highlight of all the marketing and a large portion of the Oscar push for the film. Christopher Plummer is an interesting choice, and he too is a fantastic actor, but are they going to apply make-up to him, or will they just let him perform? It’s clear that, even in the scenes of the film without Spacey, his look will still be all over the film, as in the bust of the infamous industrialist. This whole thing seems incredibly costly, and it indeed will be, according to an article from Variety.

Variety reports that the reshoots will add $10 million and will take 8-10 days to complete, and producers still expect to release the film on December 22.

This is perhaps the most insane fallout of these allegations that I’ve seen yet, and I think that Ridley Scott and the studio are making the most-fiscally responsible choice as keeping Spacey in the film will likely lose the studio more than the price tag of simply replacing him, and I myself was already planning on seeing All the Money in the World, but now I’m more interested to see how the finished film plays out.

So what do you think? Will you be seeing All the Money in the World in December? What are your thoughts on the inclusion of Christopher Plummer? Let me know/drop a comment below (but please, let’s keep this thing civil)!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Saw (2004)

Director: James Wan

Cast: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Leigh Whannell, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated R for strong grisly violence and language.

 

Jigsaw is out now, the eighth film in the Saw franchise. Since Saw is one of my favorite series, I thought it best to revisit the convoluted mythology before attending the newest release.

Adam (Leigh Whannell, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Bye Bye Man) awakens in a tub in total darkness. He soon learns that he is in a large unknown bathroom and his leg is shackled to one corner. Shackled at the other end is Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride, Anna Nicole), another man who has no recollection as to how he ended up there. Lawrence and Adam are in a trap designed by the infamous uncaptured Jigsaw killer and that they must use all the tools they have to escape, even if that means cutting off their feet.

Saw is absolutely brilliant horror filmmaking. Director James Wan (The Conjuring 2, Furious 7) proves his worth in his first feature-length film based on a short he created with actor/writer Leigh Whannell. This is independent filmmaking at its finest, especially given the rushed schedule. The film had five days pre-production, the entire production schedule lasted eighteen days, and musician Charlie Clouser had three weeks to score the film. In essence, he created one of the most catching and memorable musical themes ever.

It’s extremely difficult to pull off a feat like this, with only two actors getting most of the screentime, but lead Elwes commands the screen and the whodunit nature of this first installment is exhilarating, as is the shocking finale.

Many people have taken issue with Saw’s reliance on gore over actual horror, and while it would be difficult to deny that, even the franchise’s haters can attest to the low level of gore in this first installment. It only came later that the increasing nature of sequels that the franchise got the reputation for torture porn (a term I will fight tooth and nail against).

Saw is a fabulous horror film, one of my absolute favorites. I watch it quite often as it is the best of the franchise. Wan’s masterful directing shows why he is such a name in Hollywood right now. If you’ve avoided Saw due to its graphic nature, I implore you to give it a try…if only a few minutes.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

 

 

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