Movie review: Hell or High Water

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, we are talking about one of the most critically acclaimed indie films of 2016. It’s the review of Hell or High Water.

IMDb summary: A divorced dad and his ex-con brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

Writing

Actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan wrote Hell or High Water’s script and did an amazing job. This screenplay was actually the winner of 2012’s Black List and I’m really happy that it was turned into a movie, even if 4 years later than it should have been. Sheridan also penned the script for last year’s Sicario – a standout movie of 2015. Both Sicario and Hell or High Water share some similarities: the two stories are both set in the southern states of the US and the particular setting has a role in the narrative. Also, both movies are quite slow – the plots are allowed to unravel by themselves, the films are never rushed and the important moments aren’t just montaged through.

Hell or High Water’s story is also really successful in its emotional appeal. It deals with the universal topic of family and explores the relationship between two brothers superbly. It also does a good job of making the viewers sympathize with all the characters. I, personally, wanted the brother to succeed, even though they were criminals, and I also wanted the two rangers to succeed in their quest.

These sympathies arose from the subtle character development, which was dispersed throughout the whole film. By listening to the dialogue and seemingly random banter we find out a lot about the characters: we discovered the reason for the heists and why the brothers seemed to have an estranged relationship. The friendly teasing between the rangers helped us to get a few hints into the history of the two law-enforcers – we uncovered the ancestry of one of them and the approaching retirement of the other.

Lastly, I really loved the way the ending of the film was written. I always enjoy this type of open-ending when it is done right. Sometimes, when the movie just ends abruptly, without answering any questions, the whole story falls flat but, when the film leaves you with just one or few unresolved issues, like Hell or High Water did, the narrative both finishes and is permitted to live on in the minds of those who witnessed it. Both the characters and the viewers will be haunted by this story.

Directing

A Scottish director David Mackenzie did a magnificent job directing Hell or High Water. He utilized the setting of Texas splendidly and showed the rural areas, the open spaces and the little beat-up towns in long and extremely long tracking shots. He also gave the story a lot of breathing room – although every scene was carefully and beautifully crafted, the movie seemed to flow very organically and naturally. The feature’s color plate was also really nice – warm tons filled the screen and made every shot look like an old vintage photograph.

I also loved all the shots were the modernity and the traditional old-school ways of life were juxtaposed. The setting of Texas, where people still live in old ranches and work with cattle and horses but also have modern gas pumps, was an appropriate location for this juxtaposition. To me, the scene in the gas station was amazing – not only did it have us that unexpected fight but we also got a frame with both a horse and a cowboy and a new sports car with two fake gangster youngsters. Lastly, the fact that everybody seemed to have a gun in the film was not only a funny aspect of the movie but also a very realistic one.

Music

Hell or High Water’s soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis really added to the atmosphere of the film. Fitting to the setting of Texas, the film’s visuals were accompanied by cool country music. The picture also had this really nice instrumental theme to supplement the long tracking shots of the characters driving or moving through a frame in any other way.

Acting

  • Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger was amazing. The way he delivered the jokes and teased other characters was truly enjoyable to watch. It’s probably one of Bridges best performances out of the recent years because he did have a few flops lately, like The Giver or Seventh Son. I hope this role is the signal that he is back on track and I do hope that his contribution to Kingsman 2, coming out next year, will be worth the wait.
  • Chris Pine as Toby Howard was also really good. I’m starting to like Pine more and more in these rugged, less clean-cut and more challenging roles. Yes, he is also good in Hollywood blockbusters, like Star Trek and Into the Woods, but is more fun to see him try something different. A few recent smaller films of his that I suggest you watch are Z for Zachariah and The Finest Hours. Of course, let’s not forget to check out his blockbuster work too – Wonder Woman is only 10 months away.
  • Ben Foster as Tanner Howard was also really good. I’ve only recently started noticing him in films, the last one being The Program, in which he played the lead role of Lance Amstrong. In a few weeks, Foster will also play the main antagonist in Inferno, which I’m also looking forward too.
  • Gil Birmingham as Alberto Parker, Hamilton’s partner was also really good. I hope that the teases that his character received weren’t too offensive to both Mexicans and Native Americans. I really loved his speech about how the white colonialists took everything from his character’s people, only to lose the winnings of the pillage to the banks.

In short, Hell or High Water is one of the best films of the year so far. It’s masterfully crafted and slow, but immensely engaging. The acting is amazing, the writing is spectacular and the directing – excellent. A must watch for any fans of Westerns and heist movies.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Hell or High Water trailer

P.S. Weirdly, my next movie review will also be that of a Western – The Magnificient Seven.

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Movie review: Pete’s Dragon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie review of this summer! We close the blockbusters season with another live-action fairy tale from Disney – Pete’s Dragon!

IMDb summary: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.

Pete’s Dragon is quite an unusual film for Disney because it is quite small – both budget wise and story/scope wise. However, small doesn’t mean bad – it just another type of picture. It is actually quite refreshing to see Disney spending time and money on newer and lesser known projects. Of course, I have to mention that Pete’s Dragon is not an original film but a remake of a musical with the same name from the 70s. I haven’t seen the 1977’s picture and I doubt that I’ll watch it because it is not a timeless Disney classic and it doesn’t have that good of a rating. Moreover, the new Pete’s Dragon more than satisfied all my wishes.

Writing

The film was written by the director of the feature David Lowery and the screenwriter/producer Toby Halbrooks. Halbrooks has written a few shorts and is also writing a script for 2018’s Peter Pan for Disney to be directed by Lowery. In addition to having his next directing gig sorted out, Lowery will also be writing the script for a war film The Yellow Birds. 

I really enjoyed the story that the duo penned for Pete’s Dragon. It was simple, yet well-crafted. The ideas about family and finding a place where you belong were classic Disney themes but they did actually work because of their universality and wide appeal.

The character development was also quite pleasant. I loved how Pete and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Grace felt connected through nature. I also enjoyed the father-daughter relationship between Grace and her father, played by Robert Redford. The friendship between the main character Pete and his pet dragon Elliot was also cute and reminded me of other great films where children befriend various animals/beings – Max and E.T. are just two of many.  The main antagonist of the film was a cliche character but he served his purpose well in this family adventure picture.

Lastly, I kinda thought that Pete’s Dragon was a spiritual succesor to another live-action fairy tale of 2016 – The Jungle Book. If at the end of Mowgli’s story, he would have been found by humans and Baloo would have gone looking for him, we would most likely have gotten a Pete’s Dragon type of a situation.

Directing

David Lowery, who has only recently started to dip his toes into the blockbuster business, did quite a nice job with the film. The action scenes were entertaining, the mise-en-scene (the forest and the mountains) – gorgeous and the movie’s direction good as well.

The character design of Elliot – the dragon – was a bit weird. He didn’t really look like a dragon, more like a furry dog or a soft teddy bear that could also fly. I heard that a lot of people hated that the dragon was fury and didn’t have any scales. Personally, this change didn’t bother me – I think that it actually helped Elliot to stand out as a different kind of dragon. Also, from the business standpoint, a furry dragon is way more marketable and more merchandise friendly – what kid doesn’t want another soft plushie toy to his/her collection?

I saw the film in 3D but, honestly, it didn’t add anything to it. The effect actually made the whole film darker and, since a lot of scenes were already happening during the night, the 3D only made it harder for me to see the human characters and Elliot.

Music

The 1977’s Pete’s Dragon was a musical, but the studio decided to remake it as a drama/adventure film and drop the songs. However, the 2016’s film still had an interesting soundtrack by Daniel Hart. It seemed to me that the flick had more of a country-music inspired soundtrack and vibe. It was quite refreshing to hear some deep voices and guitar sounds after a lot of EDM and pop music in all of the other films this summer.

Acting

The main character of the film – Pete – was played by Oakes Fegley. When did the child actors have gotten this good? He was excellent in the role – sweet, relatable to children but still able to display acting chops that some adult actors lack. He has a bright future ahead.

Jurrasic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard played the adult-lead Grace and did a nice job. Grace was very different from Dallas Howard’s Jurassic World’s persona – more motherly and way more nature-orientated. Going forward, the actress has a drama thriller Gold coming up. Also, funny fact, I only recently realized that she was the one playing Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3. I did not recognize her with the red hair.

Karl Urban played the main antagonist of the film and was okay. Since I’ve only seen him in Star Trek as the caring doctor Bones, it was quite strange to view him as this unlikeable douchebag. He will be one of the villains in Thor 3, so, I guess, I’d better get used to this.

The cast also included Wes Bentley (We Are Your Friends, Interstellar), Oona Laurence (Southpaw, Bad Moms) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) among others. Bentley didn’t have much to do – he mostly reacted to stuff that was happening around him. Laurence was good too, while Redford was also believable as loving but a bit weird grandpa/father.

All in all, Pete’s Dragon was a good movie from Disney. It was well-written and nicely crafted. The film was not groundbreaking or the most original but it still made for some pretty good time at the cinema.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Pete’s Dragon trailer

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Happy Easter 2016!!

Sightseeing

Good morning my dear readers and Happy Easter!

I just wanted to quickly wish you a happy day even if you don’t celebrate Easter! I hope that either your Easter Sunday or just normal Sunday will be full of joy and happiness whatever you do!

Easter is quite a big family celebration in my native country. This year I’m not going home to celebrate it, so I’m stuck alone in my room on campus. But I can’t say that I mind that very much..:)

In Lithuania, we have a tradition to color eggs for Easter and we call them ‘marguciai’ (translated as colorful Easter Eggs). So, even though I now live in a different country/time zone/continent(almost), I decided to continue this tradition.

First of all, let me present you the Easter Egg with ‘Easter Eggs‘ (aka references) on top of it. I hand-painted (my skills are rubbish, but I think it turned out nice) various symbols of nerdiness. From the top left corner we have my blog symbol, Wonder Woman’s symbol, Black Widow’s symbol, The Avengers A, Batman v Superman logo, Daredevil’s double D logo, Deadpool’s symbol, Captain America’s shield, the nerdfighteria’s acronym DFTBA, and the Star Trek logo. I really wanted to include references to Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Star Wars and Game of Thrones, but I either ran out of space or just couldn’t come up with a simple enough symbol or logo.


Next, I did a United Nation/Countries/Flags Easter Egg. This one was partly inspired by a globe-like Easter Egg that I made last year.


The countries that I managed to include were: Lithuania (my native country), Scotland (my current home), United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Japan, India, and Denmark. That’s basically all the countries that I would like to visit (and whose flags are quite easy to draw/paint).

I also coloured two other eggs. I just put some zigzag lines and dots on one of them and rolled the other one in nail polish. They turned out okay.


Once again, have a Happy Easter if you celebrate it, while I am going back to bed to eat chocolate eggs and other sweets!

Easter 2014 post – here.

Sightseeing: Turkey

Sightseeing

Hello!

I hope that you are having a great Monday wherever you live. Currently, it is Monday evening in Lithuania and I am relaxing after a long hard day at school. The school stuff wasn’t really that hard but I am also sick, I have a cold and terrible headache so that certainly didn’t add anything nice to my day.

But enough of my ranting, let’s get on with a blog post. Today, I am going to tell you about my holidays in Turkey from October 2013.Since it was almost a year ago, I am sorry if I don’t remember all the details.

We started our journey in Vilnius airport. There, on a cold Monday morning we boarded a Small planet travel agency plane which took us to Antalya – one of the biggest resort cities in Turkey. Turkey’s culture is so different than Lithuania’s: there are people everywhere, they are selling stuff just on the street and they are shouting really loudly. Everything is colorful and the smells of fresh fruits are mixing with traffic fumes. It was a lot to take in at first. I wasn’t staying in Antalya. My hotel – La Mer Art – was in Goynuk – a small village near Kemer. A short bus trip took me and my parents there and when we finally got checked into a hotel it was already dinner time.

Kemer.8

The food was amazing. You could choose form several different cuisines, diet or vegetarian tables. And the sweets! They are so sweet, even too sweet for my taste. The same evening we wondered around for a bit and went to the beach to see how the moon was hovering above the Mediterranean Sea.

The next morning, after a very late and filling breakfast we went to the beach, sunbathed, swam and went diving until lunch. After lunch we were laying by the pool and just relaxing after yesterday’s flight. Around 4-5 o’clock when it have already gotten pretty cold (The sun would go over the mountains and the temperature would fall down about 10 degrees Celsius) me and my dad would go to the gym and exercise for a few hours (Work out until all the calories of those sweets are burned) and then go to the tennis court for a quick match. My mom would go enjoy the hotel’s spa or read a book by the pool.

After dinner, my family and another family of our friends which we were travelling with would sit in a bar or in lounge area which was filled with Russian tourists mostly. The animation team of the hotel was amazing; there were always something to do or an interesting performance to watch in the evening.

I pretty much spent all my week the same way I spent my first day. But we also visited nearby Kemer city and walked around for a bit, bought some national Turkey sweets – Turkish delight (lokum) to bring home and I also bought some commemorative postcards (photo below). (Be careful while shopping in Turkey – they like to sell a lot of fake designers’ stuff!) Plus, we also visited the Goynuk village where our hotel was situated, tasted some traditional Turkish kebab. One morning we woke up really early and went to see how the sun was rising from the sea. We also went on a water motorbike ride which was super fun and exciting.

The surrounding nature and view was astonishing. We stayed near Taurus Mountains, so you would walk out into hotel’s garden and see the sea on one side and mountains on the other side. There were also a lot of palm trees and colorful flowers as well.

I was really sad to leave Turkey. It was the best holiday’s I ever had and I definitely want to come back there again.

Sightseeing: Berlin, Germany

Sightseeing

Hi!

Last month I visited Berlin for a 6th or 7th time. For my blog readers this means only one thing – another sightseeing blog post.So let’s begin, shall we?

Firstly we visited Berlin city center and walked around for a bit. Then we went to one of the most famous buildings in Berlin – Reich-stag building. It is a government building that has been rebuilt a couple of times. The view from the top of it is breathtaking.

After spending time in the city center we took a metro to the Berlin zoo. It is also located in the city center and it is quite weird to walk around animals and at the same time see skyscrapers hovering above you.

As a brochure of the zoo says it has the biggest diversity of animals in Europe. It was opened in 1844 and now it is the oldest zoological garden in Germany.  The zoo also has an aquarium complex joined with it. In addition, it is Europe’s largest landscape zoo. It took like 4 hours to walk through it.

The tickets’ prices are not too bad in my opinion. Adult tickets with the permission to enter the aquarium cost 20 Euros, without aqua – 13 Euros. It’s 15 and 10 Euros for students respectively. You can find all the prices here: http://www.zoo-berlin.de/

I really enjoyed walking around this garden; I loved seeing all the animals, especially the elephants. They were drinking water with their trunks and looked just too cute doing it. Bellow you will find as much photos as I could fit into one blog post. Bye!

P.S. A note on the metro system of Berlin. I was pleasantly surprised how clear everything is. I have been on metros in France and in other cities of Germany and there I was always half-lost. But in everything Berlin is clear, there are so many sings to guide you and people are also really helpful. The metro stations are also super clean as you would expect from Germans.

Eurovision 2014

Uncategorized

As you may know, I live in Europe. This means, that last night I was by my TV, watching Eurovision Song Contest 2014.

Some facts:
1. It took 700 workers and 500 volunteers to organize this event
2. This year it was held in Copenhagen – Denmark won last year with a song “Only Teardrops”
3. 2014 Eurovision motto: #JoinUs
4. 3 hosts
5. 26 countries
6. Broadcasted in 45 countries (in countries outside Europe as well as inside)
*The thing I like the most about Eurovision performances is these little creative intro-videos that present the singer. This year these videos showed artists making their national flag using weird material: sticky notes, lasers, dominos, puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, food, glass and paint and many more.

Surprises and interesting stuff:
*This was a year of sparkly dresses and facial hair. Every girl performing wore a sparkly silver or gold dress. The winner was a woman with a beard and the last place went to contestants from France: they were singing about wanting to have a mustache. All jokes aside, I hope that people voted for Conchita Wurst (song “Rise like a Phoenix”) because they believe in equality, not because they wanted to make fun of her.
*Ukraine – I was surprised, that given the things that are happening right now in that country, they were attending the song contest.
*Germany’s representative was literally a Pink’s twin.
*Russia was singing about the world showing some love. So why don’t you show some love to Ukraine and just leave them ALONE?
*I hated Poland’s performance. I know it was meant as a joke, but still. Too much boobs and vulgarity for my taste.

My TOP 10:
1. Greece – Freaky Fortune feat.Riskykidd – “Rise up”. I loved their modern, club music number that made me want to dance.
2. Norway – the ballad “Silence Storm” was breathtaking and too good for Eurovision.
3. UK – “Children of the Universe” – nice song with a powerful message.
4. Hungary – “Running” – song about violence in a family, another strong message.
5. Denmark – the lead vocalist looked like a Bruno Mars wannabe but I still enjoyed their “Cliché Love Song”.
6. Belarus – “Cheesecake”. Weird name for a catchy song.
7. France “Moustache” – another catchy and silly song. The artist was like a mixture of Jedward and LMFAO on crack.
8. Switerzland – “Hunter of stars”- a little bit of whistle action.
9. Malta – “Coming Home” – threw some country in a mix.
10. Finland – “Something Better”

My country didn’t participate in a final but was part of the second semi-final. Overall I would rate this Eurovision 3.5/5. Not too interesting but not too bad.

My personal winners: Greece

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