Bro-Reviews: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Fargo 2.

Every year, the month of January not only bestows upon us mostly awful films studios have no confidence in, but also awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their releases after weeks of playing in limited theaters. Such an example of awards worthy films finally getting an expansion in their release is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film has become a critical darling this awards season, having already won Golden Globes for “Best Motion Picture-Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama” and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including “Best Actress” and “Best Picture.” Considering the hype machine surrounding the film and it’s timely subject matter, the film should be one that not only stands-out as one of the best films of 2017, but one that will stand the tests of time, right?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sees Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) dismayed by the lack of resolution from the town of Ebbing, Missouri’s police department regarding the case of the murder and rape of her daughter. In order to get the police’s and the town’s attention, she rents out three billboards on a road nearby the town that read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?”. Mildred then faces backlash from the town and its police department, particularly from alcoholic racist police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the pancreatic cancer stricken police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), all in the name of seeking justice for her daughter’s rape and death.

Much of the hype surrounding the film is due to Frances McDormand’s performance as a “Rosie the Riveter” dressed, older white woman not afraid to speak her mind. This of course also includes her cursing up a storm and being unapologetic for who she is and for what she is doing. McDormand has always been a terrific performer, but because she’s not a sex symbol in any way shape or from, she is somewhat forgotten in Hollywood circles. Her performance in Three Billboards serves as a reminder she’s still a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and is definitely worthy of the awards buzz she has received this awards season that she hasn’t received since winning the “Best Actress” Oscar for her role in Fargo.

Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The film also boasts strong supporting performances as well, most notably from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Harrelson has always been an underappreciated actor in Hollywood, having seamlessly transitioned from his T.V. stardom in Cheers to being a leading man and character actor. Harrelson is able to sink his teeth into his role as an under fire police chief suffering from his own health issues, and churns out a performance worthy of his Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Actor.” The man who steals the spotlight from him, however, is Sam Rockwell, another character actor who seems to have never gotten his due. His portrayal of a dim-witted, racist cop who eventually finds redemption is one of the best supporting character performances this year, and he is clearly the favorite to walk away with the Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actor” come the night of March 4th.

Despite the tremendous performances from the main actors involved, it feels like there’s something missing from the film. The film feels like it is building towards sending a message throughout, but it ultimately leaves audiences hanging. This lack of pay-off is extremely disappointing, and the ending will leave one with a sour taste in their mouth. In the wake of the “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements currently taking the industry by storm, Three Billboards had the chance to make an impactful statement, but ultimately has nothing to say. Due to the lack of resolution, Three Billboards is easily the weakest film in the career of director Martin McDonagh, whose black comedies In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are much better watches than this “made for awards season” fluff.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri definitely has its strengths. It’s once again clear Martin McDonagh is an actor’s director, as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all give very good and awards worthy performances. However, even with its timely subject matter in the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the film industry, the film ultimately doesn’t have a message to convey. Sure, it’s a showcase in acting, but Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri had a chance to be more, and ultimately settles for awards season pandering instead of making a statement.

Rating: 2 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, and Clarke Peters.



Bro-Reviews: War for the Planet of the Apes

Ape-ocalypse Now.

Planet of the Apes is one of the last remnants of classic Hollywood still alive today. Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, a release of a Planet of the Apes movie was an event, as moviegoers flocked to see an epic sci-fi story of an alternative universe where apes ruled planet earth. 2001 saw a re-make of the film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg. That version was savaged by critics and fans alike, leading to the cancellation of any future sequels. 2011 saw a revival of the franchise in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a thrilling new take on what was essentially a re-boot of the classic franchise. While many praised its sequel released in 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I found myself disappointed in the film. Due to Dawn’s critical acclaim and financial success, however, the epic and final chapter of Caesar and his primates has arrived in the form of War for the Planet of the Apes.

War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes seeking refuge away from humans, who still blame the apes for the Simian Flu outbreak and for the current state of the world no thanks to the actions of Koba two years earlier in Dawn. The particular humans they are at war with are a clan known as Alpha-Omega, led by the ruthless and seemingly apathetic Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After Alpha-Omega attack Caesar and his tribe in their refuge in the woods, Caesar goes on a vengeful mission to kill the Colonel and end the war between apes and humans once and for all.

If there were ever a time to praise a film for its ability to create a big-budgeted blockbuster while avoiding the typical tropes of such blockbusters, this would be the time. War for the Planet of the Apes is able to be an engrossing, emotional film with minimal dialogue, as it substitutes dialogue for some of the best reaction shot acting ever captured on film. The film relies upon these reactions to pull the emotions out of the audience, and War leaves you feeling every single emotion there is throughout during its near two-and-a-half-hour run-time. At the same time, the film also delivers on its title, as the action/ war sequences are nothing short of thrilling, leaving you on the edge of your seat.

“War for the Planet of the Apes.”

Within the confines of the film is also emotional complexity that you not only do not see in summer movies, but do not even see in some movies period. We feel Caesar’s plight and wanting to be left alone, yet completely side with him once he decides to go after the Colonel. We laugh at the quirkiness of Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) yet empathize with him since he too has experienced pain and suffering that has led him to becoming a hermit. The tenderness of the relationship between Maurice (Karn Kornoval) Nova (Amiah Miller) is nothing short of sweet and tear-jerking, representing one of the best parent child relationships we’ve seen on film in quite some time. Even though the film wants us to root against our very kind thanks to Woody Harrelson’s harrowing performance as the Colonel, we understand his motivations and the decisions he makes in order to protect the human race. It’s emotional depth, investment, and complexity like this that sets War for the Planet of the Apes above and beyond the rest of the pack.

The motion capture technology used in the film is nothing short of extraordinary, as the apes look more realistic than ever in this epic final chapter. This technology, however, wouldn’t be anything without the casting of such tremendous actors who are able to capture the spirit and likeness of actual primates. They are of course led by the great Andy Serkis, who continues to exploit his niche of motion capture acting and delivers yet another showstopping performance as Caesar. It’s times such as these where I believe the Academy of Arts and Sciences should seriously consider motion capture actors for acting awards, as Andy Serkis’ performance of the apes’ leader is not only deserving of recognition, but is the best acting performance you’ll see this summer.

The film also draws many parallels to slavery and the journey of Moses to the promised land, adding even more compound aspects to a film that is being released during a time in which most audiences are looking for escapist entertainment. The Planet of the Apes films have always had some sort of uncomfortable comparison to racial tensions back in the late 1960s due to certain people’s reluctance to accept the Civil Rights Movement, but War also seems to be the most contemporary Planet of the Apes film to date. One can’t help but think of Donald Trump’s psychotic plans regarding the border of Mexico after the mere mention of the Alpha Omega clan building something in order to keep certain people out of there military camp, adding a composite nationalist mentality to the humans that is even more enhanced in the real world today.

In a summer filled with franchises that have well overstayed their welcome, War for the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular triumph. A film such as War should be praised immensely for having the courage of its convictions by not only having limited dialogue and packing an emotional punch, but also for delivering the type of explosive action we’ve come to expect summer blockbusters to provide. It’s an ambitious film that dares to defy the action and drama genres all at once. Three films into the re-imagining of the franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes is the strongest Planet of the Apes film yet, and administers an enthralling and satisfying conclusion to Caesar’s saga.

Rating: 4/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.