Vice (2018) Film Review

What do you know about Dick Cheney? What does anyone know about Dick Cheney? I knew a bit here and there, certainly had read a bit about his involvement, as Vice President to George W Bush, in the conflict in Iraq and in extraordinary rendition and torture in the years post 911. This film tells his story – well, it tries. It admits, both at the start and at the end, that it is a flawed telling, and anyone who knows my struggle with biopics will know how much I appreciate this. But the story it tells is of a man who initially has little motivation but, with the almost Lady MacBeth urging of his wife, rises through the White House enjoying the ability to manipulate people and situations as he sees fit. He appears to have no real moral compass and his sole drive appears to be power.

This film is told in an unusual manner, with direction narration to the camera by some unknown bloke. There are twists and turns and, honestly, at times I was wondering what was going on. I walked out wondering about it but, after talking about it with a few people I decided that I really liked it. A lot.

Vice won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Christian Bale) and was nominated for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Adam McKay), Best Director – Motion Picture (Adam McKay), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Amy Adams), Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Sam Rockwell)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Film Review

It’s been a year since the daughter of Mildred (Frances McDormand) was brutally raped and murdered, and she’s fed up with the lack of action from the police. Her response is to put up three billboards challenging the local police, targeting the senior office, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). This polarises the local community, including fellow policeman Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who likes to take action with little thought.

I really love the work of writer and director Martin McDonagh. As with In Bruges, this film goes places that are totally unexpected. It amazes me that I can be horrified and in tears with the violence and the terrible nature of people and yet, moments later, be laughing. It’s a very, very dark comedy, and one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Frances McDormand), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Sam Rockwell) and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Martin McDonagh) and was nominated for Best Director – Motion Picture (Martin McDonagh) and Best Original Score – Motion Picture (Carter Burwell). It was nominated for BAFTAs for Best Leading Actress (France McDormand), Best Screenplay (Original) Martin McDonagh), Best Film, Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell), Best Supporting Actor (Woody Harrelson), Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and the David Lean Award for Direction.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) Film Review


Don’t ya just love going in to a film not knowing anything about it or anything to do with it? It is a total hit or miss, although I find that even a really bad film is better if it is unexpected. Seven Psychopaths was totally a hit.

From Martin McDonagh, writer and director of In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths is just that – a film about seven psychopathic people. Or more specifically, a film about Marty (Colin Farrell), an alcoholic screenplay writer who is trying to write his new film, titled Seven Psychopaths. As he does this, the relationship with his Australian lover, Kaya (Abbie Cornish) is struggling as he spends too much time with his actor friend Billy (Sam Rockwell). Then things get complex.

There is so going on in the plot of this film that it is really difficult not to mention anything further without major spoilers. It is very violent, but very funny. Really and truly laugh out loud funny. The dialogue is extremely amusing (comparable to the wit of Reservoir Dogs, only less like a stand-up comedy routine, and more like conversations that real, witty people might have.

For me, the film was carried by Sam Rockwell, although I have to mention the performances of Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. Harrelson is so strong and funny, and Walken is magnificently understated.  Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Waits and I’m pretty happy. As long as you don’t mind a bit of violence (including some very hilarious violence), get out and see this film.

Cowboys and Aliens (2011) Film Review

Cowboys and Aliens 5

It’s the Wild West, back in the 1800s. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) has woken with no memory and a strange iron bracelet on his arm. Arriving in a small town, Jake comes across Percy  (Paul Dano), the drunk son of rich landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) tormenting the town. But, their dispute takes a back seat when aliens appear, kidnapping townsmen and exploding a lot of stuff.  Together, Lonergan, Dolarhyde, the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown) and barman Doc (Sam Rockwell) take off to save not only their family members, but the world.

There is a lot of running and explosives, some pretty serious alien action, intense gazes just off camera and the odd cheesy line. What more could you want from an action movie? For me, not a lot. Plus, Harrison Ford – its been a while since I’ve seen him doing anything that’s been that great. Well, that’s not strictly true – I didn’t mind Morning Glory. But to get him at his action hero best – it’s nice to see.

Moon (2009) Film Review


It’s the future, and there is some way that the moon powers Earth. I didn’t quite understand the ‘science’ of this concept, but was than happy to go along with the construct that Earth relies on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) a man on his own on the moon manning the various machines that keep the show on the road. Sam has only got a short amount of time before his stint is up, but things are suddenly becoming very difficult.

I loved this film. I had no idea where it was going, from one moment to the next. In fact, just as I felt that I knew what was happening, it went somewhere else. I’m very much used to seeing Sam Rockwell playing the crazy man-child who won’t grow up, but in this film, we really see his acting chops. He’s pretty darn good; and for a sci-fi (not my totally favourite genre) this is a pretty darn good flick.

The Way, Way Back (2013) Film Review


Surely a film about a fourteen-year-old boy who strikes up a friendship with a man in forties who refuses to grow is going to be a bit creepy? Well, apparently, no. This film has its creep factor, but amazingly, that’s not it.

Duncan (Liam James) is taken away for the summer with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette) to the holiday house of her boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell).  Trent’s daughter races off with friends, leaving Duncan to find his own way. So while Pam and Trent and enjoying drunken, stoned nights with vivacious neighbour Betty (Allyson Janney) and other friends, Duncan forms a friendship with the manager of the local water park, Owen (Sam Rockwell).  Owen gives Duncan a job where he starts to come out of his shell with the help of a strange group of employees.

This cast is filled with some of my favourite actors. In fact, I think I love little more in life than seeing Steve Carrell play a nasty character – and boy is Trent nasty. He bullies everyone around him, but comes across as jovial. The scenario is so well-played that I wanted Duncan to just leave, and had to remind myself that he is a fourteen-year-old boy. Where would he go? His desperation at times was so intense, and I found myself in tears several times. What a good sign that is.

The Green Mile (1999) Film Review


Jeez, that Stephen King can really write-up a storm, can’t he? He’s known for his horrors, like The Shining and It, but then you get the truly amazing, like Stand By Men, Shawshank Redemption and this, The Green Mile. These are his books and short stories; they make for great stories to be made into films.

The Green Mile is told as a flashback from a man in a nursing home, telling the story of his time as a guard on death row during the depression. In particular, of the time during which John Coffey, a large African-American man was brought in. Everyone was fearful of this giant, but there was a magic to the man, a magic that is gradually revealed to the guards.

I’ve recently been contemplating the old man/old woman flashback as a structure. Often, it doesn’t work. Halfway through The Green Mile, I wondered about this as a choice of structure, but it truly does pay off at the end. The film is slow-paced and long – over three hours long. But every minute counts.

The excellent plot is held together by strong performances;  Tom Hanks, David Morse and several others as the prison guards; the late Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey; James Cromwell as the Warden; and Graham Greene and Sam Rockwell as fellow prisoners.

I think this is a truly excellent film. Truly.

The Green Mile was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Clarke Duncan), Pest Picture, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.

Conviction (2010) Film Review


Based on truth, Conviction is the story of a working-class single mother who puts herself through university to become a lawyer to get her brother, Kenny, released from jail. Kenny was always a bit of a wild child, in and out of trouble, but is innocent of the murder that has put him behind bars.

This is one of those genres of stories that I hate to love – the wrongfully committed. I can’t explain why, although I suppose it is seeing an injustice overturned. Perhaps it is watching someone reach their goal; that would explain why I love a good sports film too.

Conviction has a very strong cast, not least of all Sam Rockwell (who I think I am developing quite a crush on after Seven Psychopaths) and my old favourite, Juliette Lewis. Oh, and Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver. It’s not the best true-life prison film I recall seeing, but it’s pretty darn good.