Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Three movies will be reviewed today. I’m also almost halfway through S1 of the TV series, “Yellowstone.” (Thanks, Fandango!) Western series aren’t usually my thing, but with Kevin Costner as the patriarch and Danny Huston as a recurring villain, how could I resist? I’m liking the series because it covers so many topics of interest for the Montana area: cattle grazing, oil drilling, tourist destination and housing development, Native American sovereign rule, cowboys/ranch hands, horse riding, cattle driving. The landscape shots are worth the time to watch the series alone. And who besides this mega-rich rancher can afford his own helicopter that gets used liberally for any and all reasons? The family drama is the central focus.
Starring: Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, Sandra Bullock, Sigourney Weaver, Isabella Rosselini, Peter Bogdanovich, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Daniels, and many more.
Director: Douglas McGrath
Genres: biography, crime
Synopsis: Truman Capote (played by Jones) lives the high life as a successful novelist and socialite in NYC when he happens across a headline in 1959 that Mr. Clutter, a farmer, his wife, and two children were found murdered in their home in Holcomb, Kansas. From that moment, Capote becomes obsessed with the murder and decides to go there to gather data for a “fictionalized crime novel.” Once the murderers are caught and convicted, the industrious and persistent Capote gets permission to have ongoing interviews with them. Years pass between conviction and sentencing; Capote flies back and forth between NYC and KS, as well as carries on correspondence with the killers. The real book that came out of it is called, “In Cold Blood.”
Impressions: Jones as Capote is flawless and brings the depth of the character to the screen. I can’t imagine anyone more perfect to play him. Capote’s real life best friend, Harper Lee (played by Bullock) is subdued yet honest to a fault and is a faithful support person for him. Daniel Craig as Perry Smith, one of the killers, is a standout performance side by side with Jones. He is able to capture both the vulnerability and the menace with great skill. There isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. The dialogue is intelligent and often cutting from Capote and his socialite friends. I appreciate the portrayal of Capote as unapologetically and openly gay. The story is compelling and has convinced me to read Capote’s book.
Etc.: LGBTQIA+ friendly
Awards: 3 wins and 2 nominations
Red State (2011)
Starring: Michael Parks, John Goodman, Kevin Pollak, Damian Young, Michael Angarano, Deborah Aquila, Nicholas Braun, Ronnie Connell, Kaylee DerFer, Joey Figueroa, Kyle Gallner, Anna Gunn, Matt Jones, John Lacy, Catherine McCord, Alexa Nikolas, Stephen Root, Cooper Thornton, Betty Aberlin, Kerry Bishe, Ralph Garman, Melissa Leo, Molly Livingston, James Parks, Haley Ramm, and many many others.
Director and Writer: Kevin Smith
Genres: action, crime
Synopsis: 3 high school guys are looking to find sexual partners on the internet. One guy strikes up a flirtation with an older woman that leads to her agreeing to have sex with all 3 of them at the same time. She lives in a trailer out in the middle of the sticks. The guys realize too late that she is bait that the local religious cult leader put out. Soon the guys are the cult’s prisoners in their fortified compound. At the same time there have been a rash of murders in the area. The police chief appears to be more focused on his extramarital activities than on solving the crimes. The FBI gets called into the situation when there are reports that the cult has illegal firearms in their compound.
Impressions: The movie started out pretty well, but it quickly disintegrated into a mess. Kevin Smith did the editing and I have to shake my head at the end product. Some things were skipped over entirely and others, like the religious sermons and focusing on every worshipper’s face over and over again with little to no change, and the really drawn out part at the end with the FBI, were way too long. Michael Parks, John Goodman, and Kevin Pollak are all big stars, and I can’t help but think they owed Smith favors to get them to be in this. LOTS and LOTS of guns and lots of shooting of the guns. I feel a political message was trying to be conveyed here, but honestly, I don’t see any good guys on either side. The only ones being hurt were the innocent teenagers and the smaller children of the cult members.
I watched this after seeing “Tusk” last week; as in the special features disk, Kevin said that “Red State” was the predecessor to “Tusk.” Other than Parks being in both movies, I don’t see any similarity between these two.
Etc.: per imdb:
The Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest Red State at its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Kevin Smith in turn planned a counter protest which he and his fans took part in. At the premiere the counter-protesters heavily outweighed the handful of Westboro protesters who showed up. This occurred 12 years after Smith’s first film to tackle religious controversy, Dogma (1999), drew protests from certain sects of the Catholic Church, one of which Smith jokingly took part in himself.
Awards: 3 wins and 8 nominations
News of the World (2020)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Tom Astor, Travis Johnson, Andy Kastelic, Ray McKinnon, Mare Winningham, Jeffrey Ware, Chris Bylsma, Justin Tade, Darrin Giossi, Brenden Wedner, and many many more.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Genres: western, action-adventure
Synopsis: Captain Kidd (played by Hanks) is a Civil War veteran who, instead of going back to his home after the war, decides to be a traveling newscaster. He carries newspapers from various places across the plains of TX. The town meets in their meeting space and Captain Kidd reads current events and occasionally addresses the crowd on other matters. He asks for a 10c donation, which earns him enough to get to the next town. Kidd has a routine set up for himself and is a familiar and welcomed face as he travels his circuit. His routine gets disrupted when he comes upon Johanna, a young girl who was kidnapped by the Kiowa tribe years prior after they killed her parents and sibling; but now her Kiowa family has also been killed and the rest of the tribe is being driven to forced settlement or worse. Johanna remembers very little of her life before living with the Kiowa tribe. When Kidd gets saddled with a road trip out of his way to return the girl to her biological relatives, it’s an interesting journey in many ways.
Impressions: I have yet to watch a Tom Hanks movie I didn’t like. He plays Captain Kidd with a genteel and sensitive spirit; just the kind of person that can reach a small girl who has had not one but two families taken from her. There is little sappiness or sentimentality in, “News of the World,” but that is not to say there is not great heart in it. I loved it and recommend it.
Etc.: filmed in Santa Fe, NM
Awards: 5 wins and 79 nominations!
Twelve-year-old German actress Helena Zengel first came to the attention of director Paul Greengrass after he had seen her dynamic performance in the acclaimed German film System Crasher (2019) at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. Greengrass was particularly impressed by how expressive her eyes were, as this is just what he needed for the role of Johanna who would have minimal dialogue in many of her scenes. Helena went on to attend casting calls in her hometown Berlin, and then in London where she formally met with the producer and director.