Hell or High Water (2016) starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster & Jeff Bridges

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

hohw_exf_og
Tanner (Ben Foster) and Tobey (Chris Pine) drink beer on their ranch.

This is (most likely) the “dark horse” in the Best Picture category in the Oscars, BUT if you like fine films, you need to check it out! I heard great reviews of it on 2 different podcasts, BUT finally saw it tonight (thanks to Redbox). This film takes you on a journey (not TOO long or short); it has interesting characters (including the bit players); and Jeff Bridges is in it (so what’s NOT to like!?) 

hell-or-high-water-4-1200x899
Deputy Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner.

Deputy Marcus Hamilton (Bridges- one of my faves) is 3 weeks from retirement when he gets VERY interested in a curious case. Two men have been robbing branches of a particular West Texas bank for moderate sums of cash. These men are our main protagonists- brothers Tanner (Ben Foster) and Tobey (Chris Pine) Howard. Tanner is a loud-mouthed ex-con ONLY out of jail for a year; he enjoys robbing banks.  Tobey is more quiet, and his reluctant partner. Though they are VERY different men, they love and protect each other. 

05-hell-or-high-water_eyes
Tobey Howard (Chris Pine) has his eyes on the future.

This is labeled as a crime drama and a Western, BUT I feel it defies genre conventions. There is much humor, thanks in part to Bridges and his Native American/Mexican partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). There is easy chemistry between Foster (a bundle of energy and volatility) and Pine (somber, scraggly haired, and unglamorous). I NEVER saw what the fuss was about Pine until this film! The music and cinematography (by Giles Nuttgens, who has worked w/ BOTH Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair- two of my fave directors) are VERY well-done; too bad I didn’t see it earlier on the big screen.

 

Advertisements

Fargo (Season 1)

fargo_s1_bullies
Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is bullied by the Hess family

NOTE: This review contains MILD SPOILERS for the FX series (inspired by the Coen brothers’ film- Fargo).

I heard about this show from a former co-worker (who called it “the best show on TV”) and via little snippets online.  However, it took me SOME time to get into the story and finish watching the DVD set (which I purchased on sale from FYE).  I watched it twice to get a better understanding of the story. 

fargo1
Lester happens to meet Lee Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) in the ER

If you enjoy watching British actor Martin Freeman (The Hobbit; Sherlock), then this show MAY make you into a fan.  He gets to stretch his acting muscles here, NOT only playing the meek, mild, “Nice Guy” you’d expect. 

fargo_s1_interview
Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) interviews Lester at his desk in the insurance office.

The good guys on this show are ALMOST as interesting as the baddies- you’ll want to cheer for them for sure!  Deputy Molly Solverson (Alison Tolman) is a humble, earnest, and observant 2nd gen police officer in her hometown of Bimidji, MN (which is close to Fargo, ND).  Molly is around 30, looks like an average Midwestern woman (thank you, producers), likeable, BUT sometimes undermined in her role (by the males in her department).   

gus_grimly_fargo_s1
Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) in his patrol car

She finds a complementary foil in reluctant cop and loving single dad, Officer Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks).  On my second watch, I LOVED seeing their working friendship evolve into a slow-burn romance.  Tolman and Hanks have such an easygoing and sweet chemistry- it’s rare to see in modern TV.  Murder investigations CAN bring people together! 

fargo_s1_fbi
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele play FBI agents

There are several well-known actors who are guest stars on the show; I esp. liked seeing Key and Peele as two clueless FBI agents.  In a few of their scenes, I wondered if they were making fun of the two cops on Season 1 of True Detective or perhaps such sketches from their OWN show. 

fargo_s1_newlester
The “new” Lester flirts with a young woman in Vegas

One of my favorites on the show is Lou (Keith Carradine), a retired cop who now runs a diner; he is also a widower and Molly’s father.  Lou and Molly have such a GREAT relationship; we see the love and respect shine through in every scene they share.  At times, Lou is concerned re: the safety of his daughter, BUT he never undermines her ability to do her job. (FYI: Season 2 goes back in time to find Lou, played by Patrick Wilson, as a young deputy.)

fargo_s1_diner
Malvo tries to get info out of Lou Solverson in his diner

If you like Billy Bob Thornton, then this series will simply be a treat; the veteran movie actor creates a scary good villain and chews up the scenery.  He transforms himself w/ different hair, clothing, posture, manners, etc.  I think Fargo is definitely worth a watch (esp. b/c of the VERY strong acting, writing, cinematography, and music).  It’s a character drama mixed w/ a police procedural, w/ sudden doses of violence (which is to be expected also in MOST of the Coens’ films).    

Broadchurch: Series 2 (Netflix)

This review contains MILD spoilers for the British (BBC/ITV) show.

broadchurch-colman-tennant

I started watching this series in July, BUT didn’t get to the bulk of the eps until Thanksgiving.  Series 2 focuses on the trial of Det. Ellie Miller’s (Olivia Colman) husband (Joe), an older case which is still affecting DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant), and how various individuals of the small town of Broadchurch (as well as a few new characters) deal w/ the aftermath of Series 1.  The community is  shocked (yet again) when Joe decides to plead “not guilty” to the death of Billy Latimer! 

broadchurch-2-court

The Latimers, Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and Mark (Andrew Buchan), have a new baby girl; they still grieve for Billy. This couple has emotionally complicated chemistry with each other, perhaps even better than in the S1.  (Their teen daughter, Chloe, doesn’t have much to do in this series.)  Rev. Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill) and Australian hotel owner, Becca Fisher (Simone McAullay), are in a long-term relationship- BIT of a surprise.  We can see that Paul is conflicted about his role in this town. 

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 6TH January. PICTURED : OLIVIA COLMAN. Copyright ITV/Kudos.
BROADCHURCH SERIES 2
PICTURED : OLIVIA COLMAN.
Copyright ITV/Kudos.

Miller has been downgraded to the level of traffic cop and now lives in a small apt. w/ her toddler son, Fred.  Her older son, Tommy (who was Billy’s best pal), has chosen to live temporarily w/ Aunt Lucy.  Miller is STILL a dogged cop, even motivating Hardy to keep going when he gets disillusioned.

broadchurch-s2-e6

We meet Hardy’s ex-wife and teen daughter, who live several hours away and are doing well in life.  We sense that Hardy wants to be a more involved parent.  He is now taking meds, BUT eventually undergoes a heart procedure. The BEST thing about this series is the growing friendship and continued partnership between Miller and Hardy!  Colman and Tennant, at times, have a competitive (perhaps brother-sister) type of chemistry.

EMBARGOED UNTIL 20TH JANUARY. KUDOS AND IMAGINARY FRIENDS FOR ITV BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Pictured: EVE MYLES as Claire and JAMES DARCY as Lee Ashworth. This image is the copyright of ITV.
BROADCHURCH
SERIES 2
Pictured: EVE MYLES as Claire and JAMES DARCY as Lee Ashworth.
This image is the copyright of ITV.

We slowly learn more re: the Pippa Gillespie/Lisa Newberry case. The witness Hardy had been protecting, hairdresser Claire Ripley (Eve Myles) and her overbearing boyfriend, Lee Ashworth (James D’Arcy from Agent Carter) feature prominently in this series.  They seem like the definition of a co-dependent/dysfunctional couple;  I would’ve liked to see less of their story.      

KUDOS FILM AND TELEVISION PRESENTS BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Images are under strict Embargo not to be used before the 13TH January. PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING. Copyright ITV/Kudos.
BROADCHURCH SERIES 2.
PICTURED : CHARLOTTE RAMPLING.
Copyright ITV/Kudos.

 

EMBARGOED UNTIL 20TH JANUARY. KUDOS AND IMAGINARY FRIENDS FOR ITV BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 Pictured: MARIANNE JEAN BAPTISTE as Sharon Bishop. This image is the copyright of ITV.

BROADCHURCH
SERIES 2
Pictured: MARIANNE JEAN BAPTISTE as Sharon Bishop.
This image is the copyright of ITV.

The newcomers to the series were the main draw for me (aside from Tennant and Colman).  Two former colleagues, prosecutor Sharon Bishop (Marianne Jean- Baptiste) and veteran defense attorney, Jocelyn Knight (Charlotte Rampling) are on opposite sides of the trial. These women are BOTH very smart, tough, and experienced in court.  They each have other issues to deal w/ outside of work, which we slowly discover.  I wanted to see a BIT more of them!  There is a LOT more to this show, so check it out if you liked Series 1.