*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* WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES REVIEW *NEW*

The best one of the bunch?

Let’s ask our pal Caesar . . .

Not quite. BUT a decent effort all the same.

After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar (Andy Serkis) wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

I remember my reaction when I heard that the Planet of the Apes franchise was being rebooted/remade (again). It was very similar to ol’ Caesar’s.

However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a welcome addition. I was completely surprised and engrossed. Completely caught up in the origin story of the super intelligent ape.

BUT Dawn of the Apes on the other hand . . . NOT so much. A complete misfire. Bar Caesar’s fractious relationship with the ultra-violent Koba, I felt the sequel was hampered by poor pacing and a flimsy plot line.

Needless to say, I was a little anxious on watching War. Wondering if it would suffer the same flaws and ruin what could have been an impressive trilogy. Luckily, I’m not saying that today.

A visual masterpiece.

Andy Serkis was fantastic. How the hell that man hasn’t received an award for all the work he’s done surprises me (I mean, come on. Gollum, Kong and now Caesar!).

It takes a lot more than wearing a green leotard and making monkey noises to bring life to these creatures.

The movements, the expressions. I know it’s CGI BUT for two to three hours, you could almost believe they were real. The effects were impeccable. The detail. They deserve an Oscar nod for that alone.

The first person PoV perspective as Caesar makes his introduction was brilliant. All his various monkey brethren bowing down and raising their hands in respect to their leader.

The slow burning pace actually worked for the (majority of the) film and allowed the characters to develop quite nicely as Caesar fought against the advancing troops. Desperate not to cause a war. Only wanting to exist in peace.

BUT of course, the humans have another plan in mind. There were a few twists and turns I didn’t expect as Caesar seeks vengeance.

However, his clan won’t let him go it alone. And what a bunch of characters. Or should I say monkeys? Maurice the orangutan. Caesar’s overbearing conscience and protector. Forever keeping the angry ape in check.

There was such a great dynamic between the group. I loved how the conversations flicked back and forth from sign language to talking.

With Caesar as the only ape that can speak. Or so he thought . . .

Steve Zahn, take a bow! Sorry, Mr Serkis BUT there was one little chap that nearly stole the show and that was Bad Ape.

It was at the 90 minute marker that I could feel my patience wading BUT once Bad Ape made his introduction. I was back in the mix.

A loner chimp that escaped one of the compounds during the start of the outbreak. Picking up words in order to survive.

A much needed comic relief to the sombre affair as he struggles to understand why Caesar would want to face the Colonel.

I could easily watch a Maurice/Bad Ape spin-off. Those two were a fantastic duo.

Things took a more interesting turn when Caesar and co stumbled across a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller). Flagging up all sorts of questions; why can’t she speak? A side effect of the virus? Will Caesar show mercy?

And what a game changing performance from Woody Harrelson. I wasn’t sure if the Cheers star would be able to pull it off BUT once Caesar and The Colonel come face to face, I was on tenterhooks.

There was a striking contrast that developed between these two stubborn leaders as they fought for their kind. Both suffering losses.

BUT the Colonel (or Colonel Kurtz as I call him) was a man truly on the verge. Deluded in his own mission for finding the cure by wiping out all the apes.

The action set pieces were exhilarating to watch. I just wish the length could have been cut by 30 minutes. The elongated Great Escape style compound sequence was too drawn out for my liking.

There was only so much of Caesar wallowing in self-loathing that I could take.

Don’t get me wrong, it set up a fiery finale BUT after all the build up, it all ended a bit flat. Almost abruptly.

It was a fitting one BUT I still had questions that were hinted in the other efforts. For those who have seen it, I will impose my SPOILERIFIC question further down.

I don’t think it goes without saying that you might need to watch Rise and Dawn to appreciate the little nods.

BUT in all fairness, my mate got the gist and he chose to watch this one without seeing the others. So take your pick.

It may have fell short of Rise BUT this was still a riveting visual masterstroke with some stellar turns. One of the better ones.

3.5/5

I was just glad that I fought the urge not to sing this little gem.

 

NOW *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* After Rise introduced the Liberty 1 expedition (Well, Icarus 1 – a reference to Heston’s spaceship in the original Planet of the Apes), will that still fit into this story line? Is there going to be another one? The girl was called Nova. A hint, maybe?