Tag Archives: Texas

Hell or High Water (2016)

7 Sep

Western Texas might seem like an odd setting for director David Mackenzie. To the born and bred Englishmen whose last film, Starred Up, captured the grit and violence inside a British prison, the cowboy persona of Texas might seem like too big of a culture clash for the filmmaker to make sense of.  Amazingly, Mackenzie wholeheartedly embraces his inner cowboy with Hell or High Waterand the result is a suspense-ridden crime drama that surprisingly feels 100% Texan.

The film follows a pair of brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard (played by Ben Foster and Chris Pine respectively) who start of the movie with a good ole’ fashioned bank robbery. We quickly learn that the brothers share different histories – Tanner is fresh from a stint in jail and Toby is a recently divorced father – as well as views on morality and what exactly the stolen cash will be used for. Hot on their tail is Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Gil (Alberto Parker), who make a mismatched but loveable pair. From here, the film becomes a cat-and-mouse game as the rangers try to follow and predict the Howard boys’ next move.

Mackenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) bring a lot of exhausted tropes from the cops/robbers game to the screen, but something about the quality of the writing and Mackenzie’s uncanny ability to fit into the culture of wild west makes these tropes seem fresh and exciting. Sheridan’s script adds some great characterization (the racial banter between Marcus and Gil is fantastic) as well as some genuine humor to what would otherwise be a tiring cliche’ of a plot.  The result is a film that works well in terms of suspense and emotional delivery, and gives us the best acting performance from Jeff Bridges in years.

Bottom Line: It borrows a lot from previous westerns, but its authentic realism and outstanding performances make Hell or High Water an incredibly satisfying film. 

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: No Country For Old Men + The Place Beyond The Pines 

Prince Avalanche (2013)

26 Jan

If Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd get stuck in the woods, does it make for a good movie?

This is the question Prince Avalanche asks of us, and the answer is a resounding yes.  The film is a low-budget bromance that focuses on the relationship of two road workers revamping Texas roads after a forest fire wipes them out.

Spending weeks at a time isolated from society, our two protagonists get to know each other very well, and talk about everything and anything together – but mostly women.  Alvin, (Paul Rudd) is dating Lance’s (Emile Hirsch) older sister Madison, while Lance is constantly looking forward to the day when he can leave the forest and head back into the city where all the girls are.

The pair of actors are wonderful together, and it’s their comical and engaging interactions that provide the framework for this movie.  Director David Gordon Greene (The Sitter, Pineapple Express) is no stranger to comedy, and there are some brilliantly funny moments in Prince Avalanche, but the humor never takes full focus.  There are long, meditative shots of nature mixed in with some great dramatic events that make this film a more reflective piece than a funny one.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of empty space, and some scenes drag on longer than they should. There is also this sub-plot involving an older alcoholic character that never really goes anywhere.  Despite it’s flaws, the highs and lows in Alvin and Lance’s relationship make for a charming and inspirational story.  Prince Avalanche is whole-heartedly an entertaining film that finds that rare sweet spot between the heart and funny bone.

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Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Ghost World, Up in the Air, Lars and the Real Girl

Paris, Texas (1984)

27 Sep

A man wakes up in the Texan desert, and seems to wander around endlessly amongst the dirt, rocks and infinite countryside.

For much of Paris, Texas this is all we know.  Who is this man? What has he been doing all this time in the desert? What is so special about Paris, Texas anyway?

This is a very simple film, but also very engaging in that it asked us to ask questions. Paris, Texas is so brilliant because it is so simple. There are no distractions; no car chases, no fight scenes, no gimmicks – just pure emotion and engrossing storytelling.

It is a very personal story, with great and memorable characters who are relatable and unpredictable.  Paris, Texas also works because it has some of the best film acting and natural cinematography I have ever seen.

At 147 minutes long, the film is a bit of stretch, and it does get a bit uncomfortably lengthy at the end, but Paris, Texas is simply a brilliant and well-made film.  Wim Wenders knows how to grab people’s emotions, and he does so effortlessly with this film.

rating 8/10