*NEW* THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI REVIEW *NEW*

Three sterling turns and an Oscar hopefully.

A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

A brooding country noir riddled with black comedy. If it wasn’t for all the profanity, you could have said it was a Fargo sequel.

Bold, brash and a little long in the tooth BUT a damn good watch all the same.

Funny how three billboards can cause so much trouble? Originally aimed at the local sheriff William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), one woman’s crusade for justice causes a stir among the community.

Frances McDormand is a brilliant actress. I knew exactly what she would bring to the table. That bitter Olive Kitteridge grit. Sharp tongued, outspoken, on the war path and not giving a damn who knows it. A powerhouse performance.

She stole every scene. You really felt for her. Her frosty reception with the town priest and her discussion on the definition of the word ‘culpable’ was worth an Oscar nod alone.

All aided by a sterling script, of course. Penned by none other than the In Bruges (Highly recommended) writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The fiery quick witted dialogue delivered that sinister comical edge as Mildred dealt with all sorts of unsavoury characters as the townspeople soon let their feelings known on the billboards. An awkward trip to the dentist made for tense viewing.

The pacing did test in places. Originally I felt the film slackened when McDormand wasn’t involved in the mix. A compliment to her performance. BUT it also allowed for some sterling turns from a highly talented supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson was excellent in the understated role of Willoughby. A man desperate to keep the peace BUT plagued by his own demons and the system he had sworn to protect. A tragic hero if ever there was one. A performance full of nuance that knocked me for six. Proof that the Cheers star can act.

I wanted more exchanges between the struggling sheriff and the militant Mildred. Despite her anger with the law, there was still respect between them.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the simple ad clerk Red Welby brilliantly. His run-ins with Mildred delivered several humourous encounters. Ol’ Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was wasted in his small role (No pun intended). He did his best BUT then again, this wasn’t his story.

I hope Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) isn’t going to be typecast in the grieving son role. He worked well with McDormand and I liked the fractured mother/son relationship. It was just a shame that he was pushed into the background. Especially after a heated “family reunion” with his deadbeat dad.

The uneven middle act left me wondering where this was all going. The tone jumped from moments of violent, foul mouthed mayhem to ones of tearful reflection and sorrow. BUT as much as I was getting frustrated, I still wanted to seek out the end game.

The always underrated Sam Rockwell nearly stole the show from McDormand. His character Deputy Dixon was a particular highlight. I loved the journey that this dimwitted racist country mama’s boy went through. A rollercoaster ride if ever there was one. I hated him, I laughed at him, laughed with him and by the end, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck.

The second half of the film took a much more sombre turn than I expected. Especially when we delved a little more into Mildred’s and Willoughby’s background. It turned an incredibly witty black comedy into so much more as everything came to a thrilling and heart rending climax.

The final act and the bittersweet ending spoke volumes as it tackled grief, anger, hate BUT most importantly forgiveness. It didn’t quite deliver what I expected BUT I was left smiling after experiencing this redemptive journey with Mildred and Dixon, in particular.

Something I haven’t felt with any film in a while.

Try not to buy into the awards hype too much and approach the film for what it is. A brilliantly acted and darkly comical tale of anger, grief and redemption.

3.5/5

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*NEW* AMERICAN MADE REVIEW *NEW*

Poorly made? Or silly fun?

A pilot (Tom Cruise) lands work for the CIA and the cartel as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

Imagine if Pablo Escobar hired Top Gun’s Maverick to export his drugs and you’re pretty much there.

Cruise does just enough to make this mad biopic entertaining.

I know his latest efforts have been mixed (to say the least) BUT it was true what the movie said, “He’s the gringo that always delivers”.

The opening quickly set up the monotonous daily routine of the unfulfilled Barry Seal (Cruise). Frustration reaching breaking point as the airline pilot playfully switched off the auto pilot just to take control of something in his life.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before the mysterious ‘Monty’ (Domnhall Gleeson) made his introduction.

Domnhall Gleeson has got to be one of the best supporting actors going at the moment. He almost stole the limelight from Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. BUT I digress . . .

He played ‘Monty’ brilliantly. Slick and cocky. Playing up to Seal’s desires and offering him the job of a lifetime. A new plane. A new life. BUT, of course, at a price. Always at a price.

The only problem was that once Cruise was set on his way, Gleeson was pushed into the background. A missed opportunity as ‘Monty’ was a lot shadier than we were led to believe.

Cruise’s Dukes of Hazzard story telling was a little too silly for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, it was very watchable and had an easygoing comical feel to the piece. Very much like Charlie Wilson’s War. BUT I like my crime biopics a little more gritty and hard hitting.

If these events (Accepting “Hollywood”‘s retelling) actually happened, I’d be smirking like the protagonist!

The pace was patchy and dipped in and out of places BUT I wasn’t bored. If anything, I was engrossed into seeing how far this madness went as Seal crossed enemy lines to initially to do some air reconnaissance.

Accepting all the risks with no assistance or recognition if captured or killed. Ridiculous.

The thrill-seeking pilot inevitably becoming the CIA’s golden goose for information. The gringo that always delivers. However, despite providing Grade A intel, it wasn’t long before Seal’s financial woes piled up. The CIA scrimping on providing an adequate salary. Shocking.

BUT ‘Monty’ has a solution as Seal’s aerial skills are required for a bigger and more dangerous mission. Smuggling drugs for the Colombian cartel!

This is the second Escobar influenced biopic I’ve seen in the last year (The Infiltrator). Now, I know he was only a passing figure in Seal’s mishaps BUT why did they make the big guy so weak and lifeless?

Clearly the film is riding on the Narcos hype; so why didn’t they watch the show and take some pointers?

There were still tense moments as Seal attempted to take off a mock jungle runway with a top heavy plane full to the brim with cocaine. The PoV shots had me wincing as the plane wrestled with the tree tops.

BUT the characters could have been fleshed out a lot more.

The stunning Sarah Wright (21 & Over) didn’t do too bad a job as Barry’s long suffering wife. BUT her character was still tragically weak. Even if she wasn’t just accepting Barry’s answers and decisions as their family were reallocated across the country.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the airhead brother in law JB well. A walking disaster if ever there was one. Alarm bells ringing early on that the dimwit will be a problem for Barry’s operation.

I was expecting Fargo’s Jesse Plemons to do more as Sheriff Downing. He was completely irrelevant as the events unfolded. I’m sure that was supposed to be a lazy statement on Seal’s ever-growing power BUT that could have been done without the Chief Wiggum-esque antics.

Lucy: “Honey, there’s money flying around in the back yard”

Barry: “I’ll rake it up in the morning”

More money than sense as Seal’s operation continued to expand. His smuggling became so lucrative that the hay in the stables was embedded with cash!

The silly humour and quips didn’t really work as well as they should have. It breezed over a lot of facts and picked the “sexier” bits of the story.

I actually got a little bored as Seal lapped up the high life. That was until his dealings took a murkier turn. Cutting through all sorts of crazy political red tape as he used the Iran-Contra affair to his gain.

Instead of supplying guns to the Contras, Seal sold them onto the Colombians while they smuggled Escobar’s drugs shipments back to Miami! I know, crazy!

Seal wasn’t just portrayed as as a money grabbing adrenaline junkie. Especially as the noose inevitably grew tighter around his neck as pressure continued to mount from Escobar and the CIA.

The final act was surprisingly dark and tense as Seal was inadvertently “made”. The error in itself was a joke.

The dark ending felt completely disjointed from the rest of the film as Seal went into hiding, fearing the wrath of the Colombians.

I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. BUT just like Gold and The Infiltrator, the producers have had to rely on a big leading performance to drudge through a patchy and mediocre affair.

Although it lacked depth, American Made still highlighted the hypocrisy of the CIA’s antics during the 80s and Cruise still delivered a watchable popcorn movie. Seriously, the Missouri plane chase was hilarious and action packed.

BUT the tone, mismatched humour and weak characters spoiled something that could have been so much more.

Narcos, it ain’t. A fun time filler worth a gander.

3/5

*NEW* GET OUT REVIEW *NEW*

GET OUT and watch this!

A young African-American (Daniel Kaluuya) man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) mysterious family estate.

Clever, witty and tense. A real treat.

I knew this had taken some serious money in the States. BUT as we’ve learned from the Fast and Furious franchise, big money doesn’t mean good movies.

When I heard that this was directed by the guy who made Keanu. My thoughts were mixed to say the least. The trailers originally did nothing for me BUT I couldn’t escape the crazy hype train.

Thank God, I caved in to the Twitterverse. One of the better ones. A suspenseful suburban horror with a surprisingly talented and underrated cast.

I’ve followed Kaluuya in the British circuit for some time (The BBC3 drama The Fades and Johnny English: Reborn). I was happy to see the chap get a leading role. He delivered a stellar turn.

It was eerie and unsettling from the get go. The tension bubbling away.

What should have been just a simple ‘Meet the Parents’ trip turned into something so much more. Even the drive up to the estate was riddled with racial tension.

Director Jordan Peele tackled the race row perfectly. Most notably when Chris was asked to present his ID to a police officer. Despite only being the passenger.

Red flags were raised as soon as the couple crossed the Armitages’ threshold. African-American servants loitering around at every corner. A beautiful country mansion stuck in a backwards country in a backwards time.

There was a strange atmosphere to the piece that kept me on tenterhooks. Even the over friendly family conversations unsettled me. Something just didn’t quite add up.

“I love Tiger and Barack”

I couldn’t believe how much The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford had aged. The last movie I saw him in featured an unpleasant death sequence with a mermaid. Cabin in the Woods, anyone?

He played the sickly sweet father-in-law-to-be Dean Armitage with aplomb.

To be honest, I was impressed with the whole cast. From Stephen Root’s (Office Space) suspicious blind gallery owner to Caleb Landry-Jones’ highly unsavoury Jeremy. They all played their parts perfectly.

I actually jumped a couple of times. One sequence came out of nowhere. Just a simple dream sequence, one little noise . . . and BAM! Woe is me BUT it worked.

Peele unintentionally delivered one of the most iconic shots that has stuck in the back of my head. Triggering an unexpected meme trend and bringing a whole new meaning to the Running Man.

The questions piling. The strange white party parading young African-American men as fashion accessories. The relentless satire; “Black is in fashion”. Crazy.

The hypnosis sequences between Chris and Missy (Catherine Keener – Into the Wild) did drag in places and slackened the pace. BUT I was still transfixed as Chris desperately tried to fight against the trippy waves of ‘The Sunken Place’.

LilRel Howery played the comic relief as Rod, Chris’ conspiracy theory mad best friend. He was hilarious BUT I felt his schtick overstayed its welcome. Especially when he continued to carry on preaching about sex slaves. It killed off the tension for me.

BUT I could relate to his frustration as the police laughed him off. The only one fearing the worst for Chris.

Get Out definitely felt like a film of two halves. Peele transformed this seemingly hynoptic and slow burning suburban satire into a tense and (bloody brutal) body shock horror.

I won’t spoil too much BUT there were a few surprises along the way.

The one thing I always hated with these seemingly trashy horror premises was how stupid the main character was. I would always scream at them for doing such stupid things, “Don’t go down there!”, “Don’t split up” and my personal favourite, “Don’t trust that person!”.

Not this time. I was completely caught up in this, wondering how Chris was going to (Pardon the pun) get out of this situation. I was rooting for the guy. Leaving a brutal, nail biting finale that had me on the edge of my seat.

The clever splicing of genres may have got a little heavy handed BUT I cannot recommend this enough. A film worthy of your time.

3.5/5