It’s the end of the year and as usual I haven’t seen every film that’s come out this year. Now I right that wrong by watching the films I missed before. This won’t include those Oscar contenders that haven’t released in the UK yet, of course, seeing as they haven’t come out yet. This series coming out through the next few weeks will contain 3 mini reviews each for the films I’m catching up on. Here we go…
Hell Or High Water
Director: David Mackenzie
Stars: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
It’s been hailed as one of the best films of the year and a modern heist western starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster as criminal brothers going against a Jeff Bridges cop really has the potential. It’s like Heat in Texas. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite love it the way most of the critics do. The film’s crime duo are the typical bad criminal/not as bad criminal pair although there is more depth than that as the film advances. On the other side you have the very sarcastic Jeff Bridges and his partner played by Gil Birmingham who have a great dynamic. Nothing is De Niro/Pacino level but they’re good characters and good performances.
The film is good, with impressive action for the indie budget but nothing really blew me away. It’s solid, with characters who you do care about but it’s not particularly memorable and that may be its biggest fault. It’s certainly more accessible than most indies and it’s got energy to it but I just felt like it was one of those films that lacked the unnameable something for me. That’s some great film criticism right there! See it but maybe lower your expectations a little bit. It is Chris Pine’s best performance though.
Don’t Think Twice
Director: Mike Birbiglia
Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key
I was expecting a quirky indie dramedy with a slice of that Greta Gerwig/Noah Baumbach hipsterism. What I got was one of the best under the radar films of the year which hit me impressively well with its emotional strength. The film follows a group of improv comedians who have a massive shakeup when one of them joins Weekend Live (the film’s version of SNL). The division is powerful and never falls into cliched territory. Keegan-Michael Key is the one who gets the gig and he doesn’t suddenly become an ego-centric douche. He’s maybe treated a bit that way by his former troupe because of their understandable jealousy but he is struggling with the loss just as much as them, if not more.
The film is about a group of improv comedians so there are plenty of laughs to be had from all around the cast, with Gillian Jacobs doing a fantastic job, but it really captures the darker side of it too. The mix is always perfectly handled and feels sincerely genuine with an ensemble cast that has insanely real chemistry. The film builds its emotional arc so well with characters we truly love until it all pays off in one of the best, most heartbreaking scenes of the year. I almost skipped this film and I am so glad I didn’t. It’s absolutely worth your time.
Director: Stewart Hendler
Stars: Ben Winchell, Josh Brener, Maria Bello, Andy Garcia
May I refer you here.