The Gentlemen (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A bunch of gentlemen of crime

thegentleman01

Guy Ritchie’s latest work “The Gentlemen” is a cheerfully twisty crime comedy film revolving around a bunch of comic criminal figures. While it is surely not that far from Ritchie’s similar previous films such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) and “Snatch” (2000), the movie provides us a fair share of black humor mixed with violence as supported well by the entertaining performances from most of its main cast members, and the result is fairly funny and delightful on the whole even though it does not bring anything particularly new or fresh to Ritchie’s old turf.

During the early part of the movie, we get a brief summary on the unlikely criminal career of an American dude named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). When he fortunately got a chance to attend Oxford many years ago, he chose to use this opportunity for selling marijuana to many Oxford students, and that was the humble but significant beginning of his marijuana business in Britain. Thanks to his intelligence as well as ruthlessness, it did not take much time for him to rise to the top of the British criminal world along with his business, and, so far, he has continued to reign pretty well while smoothly handling his business process.

However, Mickey begins to feel the need to retire and spend more time with his sassy wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and he soon comes to consider making a deal with Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), a wealthy American businessman quite willing to acquire Mickey’s criminal enterprise. Although marijuana will be legal in Britain within several years, his criminal enterprise will be still quite valuable nonetheless for practical reasons, and all Berger has to do is paying enough money for Mickey’s retirement.

thegentleman04

Of course, as Mickey and Berget are going through their negotiation process, there come several troubles for Mickey, and one of them comes from a cocky local Chinese gangster nicknamed Dry Eye (Henry Golding), who turns out to be also very interested in taking over Mickey’s marijuana business. When he attempts to make an offer to Mickey, Mickey promptly dismisses Dry Eye without much hesitation, and Dry Eye is naturally quite pissed out that, while embarking on whatever he has been planning behind his back.

In the meantime, one of Mickey’s secret Marijuana farms in Britain happens to be invaded by a bunch of local young punks, who have no idea on whom they attempt to steal from. When their no-nonsense leader/mentor, who is usually called “Coach” (Colin Farrell), subsequently comes to learn of his boys’ latest reckless deed, he is not so amused at all, and then he belatedly comes to realize how serious their situation really is.

And there is Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleazy private investigator who is recently hired by the owner of a popular tabloid paper. Having been very resentful of being blatantly snubbed by Mickey not so long ago, Fletcher’s latest client is determined get and then publish anything dirty and scandalous about Mickey, and Fletcher subsequently gets what his latest client wants, but, as already shown to us in the beginning, he has the other idea. He goes to Mickey’s right-hand guy Raymond Smith (Charlie Hunnam), and he impertinently demands lots of cash in exchange for eliminating those sensitive evidences against Mickey.

thegentleman03

In addition, Fletcher has also written a screenplay based on Mickey and other criminal figures around him including Raymond, and he is quite willing to tell everything about it to Raymond, who has no choice but to indulge his blackmailer’s vanity. As frequently hopping amid this part and its other main narratives, the movie throws some self-conscious comic touches, and Hugh Grant, who has always been good at being haughty and obnoxious, savors every minute of his scenes while ably being complemented by Charlie Hunnam, who is somehow funny with his intense and unflappable attitude.

Eventually, the movie arrives at the point where we come to see how its main plot lines and characters converge and then fit together, and we certainly get several good moments for big laughs as expected. For example, I was particularly amused by an uproarious moment involved with a certain unspeakable sexual act, and I also appreciated how the movie pulls some nice surprises from its seemingly pre-determined ending.

Besides Grant and Hunnam, several other main cast members in the film also have a ball with their respective roles as much as they can. While Matthew McConaughey is engaging as usual in his sardonic performance, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, and Edie Marsan willingly throw themselves into broad comic moments, but Michelle Dockery is unfortunately not utilized that well in comparison as being stuck with a thankless job of playing one of a very few substantial female characters in the movie.

Overall, Ritchie, who also wrote the screenplay which is based on the story written by him and his co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, sticks to his old playbook here in “The Gentlemen”, but he is still capable of providing enough fun and entertainment to us at least. The movie certainly feels familiar in many ways, but it entertained me enough, so I will not grumble for now.

thegentleman02

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Color Out of Space (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A wild and crazy SF horror film

coloroutofspace01

“Color Out of Space” is a science fiction horror film which is as wild and crazy as you can expect from its very title. Although it is not wholly without weak aspects, I will not deny that I was entertained by a series of strange and loony moments in the film, and I particularly appreciate how it goes all the way just for more craziness and phantasmagoria during its last act.

The main background of the story is a farmhouse located in the middle of a remote forest area, and the early part of the movie draws us into the daily life of Nathan Gardner (Nicholas Cage) and his dear family. While he is mostly occupied with taking care of a certain kind of livestock, his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson), who recently recovered from a serious case of cancer, usually concentrates on her day trading job in the attic of the house, and their three children Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), Benny (Brendan Meyer), and Jack (Julian Hilliard) are often allowed to enjoy each own free time inside and outside the house.

And then, of course, something happens not long after another pleasant day of theirs is over. In the middle of that night, everyone in the house suddenly experiences a strange vibe coming from somewhere, and then a meteorite crashes onto a spot not so far from their house. When Nathan and his family hurriedly come out of the house to see what really happened, they are all unnerved by the strange alien colors exuded from the meteorite in the middle of the crater, and Nathan is particularly repelled by an odd smell which only he seems to sense unlike others.

coloroutofspace02

Like any sensible people, Nathan and his family call the police on the next day, but the local sheriff cannot help them much because he does not know what to do with the meteorite, and neither does the mayor, who only cares about the upcoming construction of a big reservoir which will be the main source of clean water for millions of people. As a matter of fact, a young hydrologist came to examine the condition of the water table of the area surrounding the house, and he already met the Gardners after encountering Lavinia outside during her small pagan ritual.

As many of you already expected, it does not take much time for the hydrologist to realize that something fishy is going on in the region, especially after he visits an aging hermit who seems to know more than he rambles to his accidental visitor. He notices a mysterious kind of substance in water, and he becomes more concerned as he cannot easily determine its identity for now.

Meanwhile, the situation becomes more unnerving in the house of the Gardners. Strange and inexplicable things keep occurring around their house, and then a very unpleasant accident happens to Theresa during one evening. After Nathan hurriedly takes her to a nearby hospital, their three children are left alone in the house, and they continue to experience weird things. While Jack becomes quite obsessed with an entity speaking from a well outside the house, Lavinia and Benny become dazed and confused with the frequent loss of time, and they are more convinced that all these and other strange incidents are caused by the meteorite.

coloroutofspace03

As the Gardners are subsequently pushed into more weirdness and madness, the director/co-writer Richard Stanley, who adapted H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Colour Out of Space” with Scarlett Amaris, serves us more morbid and disturbing moments. As the invisible power and influence of whatever is inside the meteorite grows day by day, the environment surrounding the house of the Gardners is gradually changed step by step, and Stanley and his crew members did a fabulous job of establishing a strikingly alien atmosphere on the screen despite their limited budget. Yes, it is probably impossible to recreate whatever is vividly conveyed through Lovecraft’s original text, but the overall result on the screen is quite unnerving to say the least, and then we get several frightening moments of extra grotesque later in the story.

During its last act, the movie sometimes stumbles due to several occasions of blatant plot contrivance (For example, one certain character’s sudden action at one point is so unwise that you will shake your head in disbelief), but it keeps holding our attention as virtually throwing everything but kitchen sink into its eventual finale. I must say that the finale may be too much of sound and fury to some of you, but it works nevertheless as being true to the intensely morbid grandiosity of Lovecraft’s works, and the following solemn aftermath is effectively devastating to say the least.

The main cast members play straight as much as possible to whatever is happening to their characters. While Nicholas Cage brings considerable intensity to his increasingly unhinged character as he did in “Mom and Dad” (2017) and “Mandy” (2018), Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, and Julian Hilliard are believable as their characters are thrown toward the bottom of confusion and madness, and Elliot Knight, Q’orianka Kilcher, and Tommy Chong are also suitably cast in their small supporting roles.

On the whole, “Color Out of Space” is definitely not for everyone, but I will wholeheartedly recommend it to you if you really enjoyed a few other successful adaptations of Lovecraft’s works such as “Re-Animator” (1985) and “From Beyond” (1986). This is indeed your average B-movie, but it is handled well with enough skill and imagination, and I sort of admire that.

coloroutofspace04

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Frankie (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): One day of a dying actress and others around her

frankie05

Ira Sachs’s new film “Frankie” leisurely strolls along with its main characters, and I enjoyed that. Although the overall result is rather mild and aimless at times, the movie steadily generates small intimate moments among its main characters, and it is buoyed a lot by its several dependable main cast members, who did a good job of bringing life and personality to their respective characters via their presence and talent.

Isabelle Huppert, a great French movie actress who has diligently kept advancing for almost five decades, plays the titular heroine of the movie, and the film opens with her character beginning her another sunny day in Sintra, Portugal, a historical town mainly known for numerous gorgeous places. Frankie is a famous movie actress who has enjoyed considerable successes for many years, but now she does not have much time to live due to her terminal illness, and now she wants to spend some quality time with her family members including her second husband Jimmy (Brendan Gleeson), who certainly does not feel that good even though his wife sticks to her calm and casual attitude in front of others including him.

We soon meet their two children Sylvia (Vinette Robinson) and Paul (Jérémie Renier), and they turn out to have each own issue to deal with. Paul, who is a son from Frankie’s first marriage, is not so sure about whether moving to New York City is a right choice, and Frankie tries to give some help and advice to her son, but he only becomes annoyed by how his mother tries to control too much of his life. As a guy who lived with a domineering mother, I know well what it feels like, and I was not so surprised as watching Paul impulsively expressing anger and annoyance to his mother later.

frankie01

In case of Sylvia, who is a daughter from Jimmy’s previous marriage, she has been hiding a growing personal problem behind her back for a while. Having been quite estranged from her husband Ian (Ariyon Bakare), she has seriously considered leaving him, but she still feels uncertain even though she is looking for where she will live alone, and her adolescent daughter Maya (Sennia Nanua) finds herself in a difficult position as the conflict between Sylvia and Ian keeps getting worse. Ian sincerely wants to rebuild their relationship, but Sylvia thinks there is nothing much worthwhile to maintain in their crumbling relationship, and that leads to a very awkward moment between them at one point.

In the meantime, Maya comes to get some peace and consolation via an unexpected encounter. When she is going to a local beach in the afternoon, she is approached by a handsome Portuguese boy around her age, and something is sparked between them as they come to spend more time together on the beach. He later brings her to his special place, and the mood certainly becomes romantic between them, though it only turns out to be temporary.

Frankie also invites her ex-husband Michel (Pascal Greggory), and we see him doing some sightseeing with a local guide named Tiago (Carloto Cotta). When Michel subsequently comes across Jimmy, it is clear to us that there is not any bad feeling between these two guys, and we get a rather amusing moment when Michel tells about how he could move onto better things in his life since his divorce with Frankie.

When Frankie comes to learn that Ilene (Marisa Tomei), who is a close friend of hers, comes to Sintra for having some break, she tries a matchmaking between Ilene and Paul, though Ilene has currently been in a relationship with Gary (Greg Kinnear), a filmmaker who recently worked with Ilene in the production of the new Star Wars movie. It later turns out that Gary is really serious about moving their relationship to the next level, and that certainly makes Ilene quite conflicted. She likes Gary, and she has been rather tired of her urban life in New York City, but can she possibly settle in a rural area along with him for the rest of her life?

frankie03

As slowly juggling its main characters, the movie often focuses more on the local atmosphere, and cinematographer Rui Poças gives us a number of fine moments to be appreciated. There is a small cheerful scene where Frankie happens to be invited to a birthday party by chance, and then there is also a breathtaking moment when Maya and that Portuguese boy enjoy the view from his special place, and then there is an ambiguous but undeniably haunting finale at a certain spot where Frankie and other main characters arrive as planned by her in advance.

The main cast members are all enjoyable to watch in their solid performances. While Huppert is engaging as usual, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, Brendan Gleeson, and Jérémie Renier are effortless during their respective key scenes, and the other main cast members including Vinette Robinson, Ariyon Bakare, Pascal Greggory, Carloto Cotta, and Sennia Nanua also have each own moment to shine.

Compared to Sachs’ other major works including “Love Is Strange” (2014) and “Little Men” (2016), “Frankie” is a minor work in comparison, but I had a fairly good time on the whole as entertained by its main cast members as well as those picturesque locations in Sintra. In fact, I have already been considering going there someday, and I may thank the movie for introducing me to such a beautiful place like that.

frankie04

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

21 Bridges (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): One eventful night in NYC

21bridges04

“21 Bridges” is so predictable in terms of story and characters that I could see its every move and turn in advance as your average seasoned moviegoer. For example, we have a cop hero with some dubious background, and then we get an urgent chase across New York City within limited time, and then we are served with one of the most familiar elements from its genre later in the story. All these and other things are presented with no particular surprise or shock for us, but they are skillfully packed with thrill and excitement at least, and I appreciate that despite its many clichéd aspects.

Chadwick Boseman, who has been more prominent thanks to his solid work in “Black Panther” (2018), plays Andre Davis, a young New York Police Department (NYPD) detective who has been recently investigated by the Internal Affairs for his rather alarming record of shooting incidents. While the investigators regard him as a sort of the African American version of Dirty Harry, Davis calmly states that he has simply done whatever is necessary in his viewpoint, and nobody can criticize him easily because, well, all of his shooting incidents are justifiable on the surface as far as they can see. Sure, he may have been still angry and bitter about how his police officer father was killed a long time ago, but he did not seem to break any rule during these shooting incidents of his, and he has no qualms about them while quite willing to explain every shot ever fired by him.

Not long after his another hard time with the Internal Affairs is over, Davis finds himself assigned to a sudden case of robbery which is quite devastating to say the least. At that night, a couple of masked and heavily armed robbers break into a posh wine shop in one neighborhood area of Brooklyn, and they attempt to rob a considerable amount of cocaine stored inside the wine shop, but, unfortunately, things go quite wrong for them in more than one ways. While they come to realize that their target is far bigger than they ever imagined, they also encounter a bunch of local police officers who happen to be around there, and that eventually leads to the death of not only these police officers but also several other police officers who quickly arrive there once the shooting begins.

21bridges02

Although these two robbers manage to get away from their crime scene, it does not take much time for Davis to discern how they will attempt to hide for a while and then escape from the city. He predicts that they will run away to Manhattan because there is not any other option in the city for them, so he instantly insists that all the transport lines connected with Manhattan including those 21 bridges should be shut down for cornering these two robbers more, and we soon see Manhattan isolated from the outside step by step as instructed by him. This drastic measure surely causes considerable inconvenience in the city, but it is fortunately past midnight, so Davis and his colleagues can get things under their control more easily, though only a few hours are given to them.

Meanwhile, the movie pays some attention to the two robbers, who keep trying to find any possible way out. While they luckily get a chance to deal with someone who can buy their loot and then give them enough money for their escape, it gradually turns out that they are in a situation way over their heads, and the circumstance becomes a lot more desperate when something quite unexpected happens to them later in the story.

Around that narrative point, most of you have probably had a pretty good idea about what is exactly going on, and I assure you that the screenplay by Adam Mervis and Matthew Carnahan will not surprise you much. As chasing the two robbers more and more, our detective hero gradually comes to sense that something is not so right about his case, and he certainly becomes quite determined to get to the bottom of his case, but not many of his colleagues are that cooperative to him because, well, most of them are pretty pissed about these two robbers.

21bridges03

As Davis continues to chase after his suspects, the movie provides us a couple of competent action sequences. While the one unfolded within a meat processing plant is taut and tense to say the least, the other one busily hopping from one place to another is impressive for its propulsive forward rhythm, and director Brian Kirk did a good job of maintaining the narrative pacing of his film before it eventually arrives at the expected ending, which feels a bit too long in my trivial opinion.

The main cast members of the film are well-cast, though they are mostly required to fill their functional roles as much as they can. While Boseman, who also participated in the production of the movie, diligently functions as the center of the film, Stephen James and Taylor Kitsch make their criminal characters a little more sympathetic than expected, but I was disappointed to see that the other notable performers in the film including J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Alexander Siddig, and Keith David are rather under-utilized in their generic roles.

Overall, “21 Bridges” does not distinguish much from other similar genre films, and it does not utilize its supposedly suspenseful premise enough, but I was not that bored at least while occasionally amused by its numerous clichés including a fruit cart and the law of economy of characters. I cannot recommend it for now, but, what the hell, I have a more enjoyable time than expected while writing this review, so you may give it a chance if you happen to have some free time to kill.

21bridges01

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Shaun’s another adventure

aShauntheSheepMovieFarmageddon02

Animation film “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” is as funny and charming as you can expect from Aardman Animations. Although it is relatively less impressive compared to its predecessor “Shaun the Sheep Movie” (2015) due to its rather predictable narrative, the film is still packed with enough humor and personality to hold our attention during its 87-minute running time, and you will often chuckle as amused a lot by small and big comic moments popping out from here and there.

If you have seen Nick Park’s Oscar-winning animation short film “A Close Shave” (1995), you surely remember that little plucky sheep named Shaun, who eventually became the hero of TV animation series “Shaun the Sheep”. Thanks to the popularity of that TV animation series, “Shaun the Sheep Movie” was subsequently made, and it was certainly one of the more entertaining animation films of 2015 while also deservedly garnering an Oscar nomination (It understandably lost to “Inside Out” (2015), by the way).

Like its predecessor, “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” begins its story with another usual day at a rural farm where Shaun and his fellow sheep live. Whenever the Farmer does not pay much attention to them, Shaun and his fellow sheep attempt to have some fun time for themselves, but their mischievous attempts are usually blocked by Bitzer, the sheep dog who always tries to maintain law and order in the farm no matter how much Shaun and his fellow sheep try. At one point, Shaun plans a clever way to get some junk food for him and his fellow sheep, and we surely get good laughs when Bitzer subsequently attempts to block them as usual.

aShauntheSheepMovieFarmageddon05

On the next day, Shaun comes to encounter a little mysterious entity. As already shown to us during the opening scene, this entity in question, called “Lu-La”, comes from a spaceship which happened to land on a spot not so far from the farm, and, mainly thinks to her innocent curiosity, it does not take much time for Lu-La and Shaun to befriend each other after their rather awkward first encounter. When Shaun later introduces Lu-La to his fellow sheep, they are certainly frightened at first just like Shaun was, but then they soon come to like Lu-La, and Lu-La certainly enjoys playing along with them.

When Shaun and Lu-La inadvertently cause a big mess in the farm, the Farmer is furious at first, but then he happens to get a silly but plausible idea which may be quite profitable for him. Because the town is getting more attention for those news reports on the spaceship, the Farmer decides to build a small temporary theme park, and that leads to a series of hilarious moments as Bitzer and the sheep in the farm come to do some work for constructing the theme park bit by bit.

In the meantime, a certain government agency is searching for Lu-La and her spaceship. Led by a sour lady who later turns out to have a personal motive behind her frigid appearance, a bunch of agents and a robot, which somehow reminds me of the robot hero of “Wall-E” (2008), come to the town, but they fail to find anything interesting at all, and their boss is not so amused by that, while still quite determined to find a definite proof of the existence of those aliens living somewhere in the outer space.

aShauntheSheepMovieFarmageddon03

Although it loses some of its comic momentum during its middle part, the film steadily serves us nice moments of physical comedy in addition to a number of funny references to familiar films ranging from “Jaws” (1975) and “Alien” (1979) to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) and, yes, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982). While mostly depending on gestures and facial expressions in the absence of dialogues, it fluidly moves from one comic moment to another, and I particularly enjoyed a sequence unfolded at a local supermarket, where Lu-La happens to experience something equivalent to sugar rush despite Shaun’s frantic attempt to get things under control.

Of course, everything in the story converges together as expected during the last act, but the film still keeps engaging us as before under the competent direction of directors Wil Becher and Richard Phelan, and we also get a fun action sequence while Shaun and his fellow sheep try to help Lu-La return to her home planet (Is that a spoiler?). Although I was a bit disappointed that the film delivers the finale a bit too easily, I got plenty of laughs before that, and I chuckled again during its last two moments.

In conclusion, “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” does not have that sublime simplicity of its predecessor, but it is at least one or two steps above “Early Man” (2018), which is fairly entertaining but has been regarded as the least successful work from Aardman Animations. It is a shame that the film went straight to Netflix in US while being released in theaters in case of UK and several other countries including South Korea, but it is worthwhile to watch for not only those admirable technical aspects shown from its meticulous clay animation but also its warm-hearted wit and spirit. In my inconsequential opinion, this lovable animation film is much more distinctive than those forgettable digital animation films out there, and I assure you that you will not be disappointed especially if you are looking for something different.

aShauntheSheepMovieFarmageddon01

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Beasts Clawing at Straws (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Nasty and twisty

beastsclawingatstraws02

South Korean film “Beasts Clawing at Straws” is a nasty and twisty comic thriller about a group of seedy figures trying to win and survive. While there are surely a number of unpleasant and violent moments to make you wince, the movie is often cheerfully morbid as deftly handling its deliberately complicated plot, and we come to go along with that gladly even though we observe its unlikable characters’ desperate struggles from the distance.

At the beginning, the movie, which is set in a port city named Pyeongtaek, sets up its three separate plots one by one. Joong-man (Bae Sung-woo) is the owner of a failing seafood restaurant who also does a part-time job in a local bathhouse while his wife is not working, and the opening scene shows how he comes across something which may change his miserable and unhappy life once for all. While he is going through his night worktime as usual, someone enters the bathhouse and then puts a big bag in one of the lockers in the bathhouse, and Joong-man subsequently discovers that bag while checking the lockers as usual around the end of his worktime.

After coming to realize what is in that bag, Joong-man cannot help but feel tempted by this unexpected opportunity given to him. Because whoever put that bag in the locker does not seem to be looking for it for now, all Joong-man has to do is putting that bag in the storage room along with many other things to be found by their owners someday and then waiting for a right moment when he can take that bag to his home.

beastsclawingatstraws03

In the meantime, we are also introduced to Tae-yeong (Jung Woo-sung), a customs official who has been pressured a lot by a very serious financial trouble. While trying to do a private business along with some woman, he happened to borrow lots of money from a local loan shark, but, alas, that woman turned out to be a professional grifter, and now Tae-yeong is constantly demanded to pay off his debt by that loan shark, who is quite ready to do anything if Tae-yeong cannot give him anything.

Although there is not much time for him, Tae-yeong still believes that he can get out of this grim circumstance because of a big chance he recently came across. There is a person who really needs to get out of the country without leaving any trace, and that person in question already bribed Tae-yeong for passing the customs without any trouble, but Tae-yeong turns out to have his own plan behind his back for getting more than enough money to pay off his debt, and he needs some help from his distant cousin, who is incidentally one of the goons working for that loan shark.

The third plot belongs to Mi-ran (Shin Hyun-bin), a married woman who has worked in a nightclub since she happened to lose lots of money due to her unwise stock market speculation. Still bitter and resentful about her big mistake which ruined their life, her husband frequently abuses her, and she has been pretty helpless about that, but then there comes a certain idea to her not long after she gets involved with Jin-tae, a young Korean Chinese guy who seems to be willing to do anything for her.

As these three plots independently get thickened step by step, the screenplay by director/writer Kim Yong-hoon, which is based on the novel of the same name by Keisuke Sone, keeps us guessing how these three plots will eventually converge in the end, while throwing several different elements to confound and intrigue us. There is a severely mutilated body found in a local lake, and then we meet a cop who busily snoops around here and there for investigating his latest case, and then there comes a certain crucial character who may be more cunning and dangerous than many of other characters in the film.

beastsclawingatstraws01

I will not go into details for not spoiling your entertainment, but I can tell you instead that you will enjoy the film a lot if you are a connoisseur of those twisty crime movies of the Coen Brothers. While often jolting us with several gut-chilling moments of violence, the movie also shows a wry sense of humor, and its dark mix of humor and violence makes a striking contrast with the growing urgency and desperation surrounding its main characters. No matter how much they try hard for survival, the situation gets messier and messier for them, and, not so surprisingly, they all come to face the inevitable consequences of their actions in one way or another.

The movie is buoyed a lot by the well-rounded ensemble performance from its good cast members, who certainly have lots of fun with playing their broad but colorful characters. While Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Woo-sung are the most notable members in the bunch, they seldom overshadow other substantial performers including Bae Sung-woo, Jung Man-sik, Jin Kyung, Shin Hyun-bin, Jung Ga-ram, Park Ji-hwan, and Bae Jin-woong, and the special mention goes to Youn Yuh-Jung, who seems to be stuck in a thankless role at first but then gets her own moment just like the other main cast members in the film.

On the whole, “Beasts Clawing at Straws” is a solid genre exercise which surprises and entertains us enough, and now I come to muse a bit on what I personally learned from “A Simple Plan” (1998) and “No Country for Old Men” (2007). Yes, we have all been told that we should report to the police when we come across something valuable belonging to somebody else, but can we really beat that temptation if we are under such a circumstance? Well, after watching the movie, you will probably think twice if such a situation happens to you.

beastsclawingatstraws04

Posted in Movies | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Last Full Measure (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Honoring a hero

thelastfullmeasure05

“The Last Full Measure” attempts to pay a tribute to one brave young soldier who did an exceptional act of valor and devotion in the Vietnam War, but it somehow feels rather hollow while not presenting well who he really was as a human being. As mainly focusing on the deep grief of people who knew him, the movie gives us several genuinely emotional moments to be appreciated, but it remains curiously distant to the central figure of the story, and we come to observe its somberly respectful drama without enough care or attention even while recognizing its good intentions.

The central figure in question in the movie is William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a United Sates Air Force Pararescueman who saved over sixty men during a perilous rescue mission in Vietnam on April 11th, 1966. Although he could just remain in his rescue chopper during that time, Pitsenbarger courageously chose to go down right to the battleground for saving more soldiers, and he ultimately gave his life for getting his job done as much as he could.

Although Pitsenbarger received the US Air Force Cross medal after his death, his parents and many veterans who worked with him or were saved by him believe that he deserves to be promoted to the Medal of Honor, and, as shown during the opening scene, their latest request in 1999 happens to reach to Scott Huffman (Sebastian Shaw), one of Pentagon staff members who is incidentally about to go through a major point of his advancing career. Although he is not particularly interested in reviewing that request, Huffman has no choice but to do the job as demanded by his direct superior, and he soon embarks on meeting a number of interviewees who can testify about Pitsenbarger’s selfless act during that time.

thelastfullmeasure02

One of these interviewees is Tully (William Hurt), who sent that request on the behalf of Pitsenbarger’s parents. He was a close comrade of Pitsenbarger, and he tells Huffman a bit about that crucial moment when Pitsenbarger decided to go down from his rescue chopper. Even though he might have gotten himself killed even before reaching to the battleground, Pitsenbarger did not hesitate at all from what should be done in his viewpoint, and he certainly left a lot of impression on those many soldiers saved by him.

Through Tully, Huffman comes to contact with several veterans who were there during that time, and each of them has each own story to tell. While Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson) and Ray (Ed Harris) seem to be fine on the surface, it later turns out that both of them have lots of survivor’s guilt behind their gruff façade, and there is a little heartbreaking moment when Takoda struggles to talk with Pitsenbarger’s parents on the phone at one night. In case of Jimmy (Peter Fonda), he is still battling with the post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his terrible war experience, and an unnerving scene between him and Huffman conveys to us a lot about how much this deeply troubled recluse has suffered during more than 30 years.

Huffman also meets Pitsenbarger’s parents Frank (Christopher Plummer) and Alice (Diane Ladd), and he comes to emphasize more with their desperate wish for their dear dead son getting the full recognition he deserves. Although he does not have many years to live due to his terminal illness, Frank firmly believes that there is still a chance for seeing his son finally receiving the Medal of Honor, and Alice stands by her husband as before, while fondly remembering their son along with him.

In the meantime, the movie occasionally gives us flashback scenes which show us how dangerous the situation surrounding Pitsenbarger and other soldiers was. As admitted later in the story by a prominent politician who was their commander during that time, it was pretty disastrous for everyone on the battleground, and director/writer Todd Robinson did a good job of presenting their bloody chaos on the screen.

thelastfullmeasure01

However, Pitsenbarger, who is mostly presented via these flashback scenes, is not depicted with enough human qualities. As the movie keeps emphasizing on his undeniable courage, he becomes more like a broad icon instead of a vivid character filled with flesh and blood, and that is the main reason why the expected finale leaves some empty impression despite sincere respect to Pitsenbarger.

Anyway, Robinson assembles a bunch of various performers for his movie, and many of them are reliable as before. Although he is tasked with playing a colorless surrogate hero for the audiences, Sebastian Stan acquits himself well, and the other notable cast members including Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Peter Fonda (This is his final film role, by the way), John Savage, Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, LisaGay Hamilton, Bradley Whitford, Dale Dye, and Jeremy Irvine are solid on the whole.

Overall, “The Last Full Measure”, whose title is derived from a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, is a well-intentioned but flawed drama film, and I cannot recommend it for several weak aspects including its weak plot and characterization, but I will not deny that I enjoyed watching some of its main cast members including Hurt, Plummer, Jackson, Harris, Savage, and Fonda transcending their rote materials at times. That is indeed a good example of the power of acting, and you may be interested in watching the movie just for admiring how they make it work to some degree.

thelastfullmeasure04

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment