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By midlandsmovies, Dec 16 2016 06:32PM

Hell or High Water (2016) Dir. David Mackenzie

This new American bank heist film from David Mackenzie stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as two brothers desperately trying to save their family business by stealing from the very banks they owe money to.

On their trail is a grizzled Jeff Bridges (is he ever not grizzled now?) as a close-to-retirement Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton who along with his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the hunt for the criminals. Foster is great as the ex-con brother taking impulsive and violent risks whilst Pine supresses his Kirk mouthy-ness for a more subtle performance as a man going down the only path left to him.

From dusty roads to budget diners, the film revels in its unobtrusive locations and settings to add realism to a well worn tale. Gruff Jeff (Bridges) doesn’t bring anything other than his usual world-wearing post-Dude crankiness but in this role it is in fact perfect as the calm, considered and experience cop on the chase.

The low sun and sparse fields of the landscape contrast the director’s smaller interiors where snippets of dialogue reveal character traits and motivations which is a credit to the script and its delivery by the terrific actors. As they fight against the larger rural terrain outside (representative of the all-encompassing banks the family are slaves to) the tension builds and the cat-and-mouse pursuit heads towards an intense climax where the brothers take a gamble too far.

Efficient in story-telling and with flashes of action interspersed with intimate tête-à-têtes, Hell or High Water is a low key success that is both gritty and smart, tough and stylish and definitely one of this year’s highlights.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 31 2016 09:52AM

Star Trek Beyond (2016) Dir. Justin Lin

From a screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, ‘Beyond’ is a return to the classic Trek themes that many (myself not included) felt missing from the rebooted franchise’s previous instalment “Into Darkness”. With JJ Abrams now producer, departing to helm the other ‘Star’ franchise, producers approached Justin Lin, director of four Fast and the Furious films to take the controls.

But whilst we are on it, I really couldn’t understand the negativity for ‘Into Darkness’. For serious fans it may have trod on a romanticised memory of the long “pined”-after ‘Wrath of Khan’ but for the passing movie-goer, it was thoroughly enjoyable fare. The lens flare was less, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter “Robocop” Weller were superb additions to the cast and the film continued the faster pace set by Abrams’ first flight into the frontiers. However, I heard mostly derision of the film despite its 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes. My memory from the cinema was “this is what the new Star Wars should have been like” – which ultimately played out in what could be considered the most expensive interview test ever.

Moving back to this latest release however, the 13th film of the Star Trek movie-world sees Gene Roddenberry’s intergalactic explorers facing a new enemy in the form of Idris Elba’s Krall who lures the crew to a distant world for “revenge”. Sadly, this character is terribly underwritten and his motivations are unclear until a quick catch up at the film’s end. However, the very likeable crew who impersonate the actors as much as the characters from the original series, return as cocky Kirk (Chris Pine), logical Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) lead the crew after being tricked into entering an area of space where they are unable to contact Starfleet. Of course.

As before Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (screenwriter Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and a tragically missed Anton Yelchin as Chekov round out the gang and the interactions between all these characters keep the film fresh when the less-than-exciting narrative runs out of steam.

‘Beyond’ boils down the franchise to basics and Justin Lin provides solid (if uninspiring) directing. Sadly a few fight scenes had a Bourne/Fast & Furious quality (too quick cutting/jerky camera) but luckily the spectacular space scenes more than made up for them. The design and CGI on a “snow globe” space station reminded me of Elysium but on a far grander scale and there was a true sense of awe as the Enterprise entered along space ‘rivers’ and around angular cityscapes.

I cannot find much fault with the film but neither could I find much to get thrilled about. Fans of the franchise will find lots of nods to all the various series’ incarnations and the brilliant practical make-up effects were inventive and conceived well. I also like the acknowledgment of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. Drinking to “absent friends” (a quote used before in the Star trek universe) is used to show a respectful remembrance of Nimoy (and subsequently Yelchin too) as well as tie in the themes of searching for purpose in an infinite universe.

Everyone puts valiant efforts in and the film will satisfy the summer sci-fi crowd after a run of underwhelming blockbusters. The comedy is a nice touch from Pegg but I wished for a more interesting plot and the film missed a certain something that maybe only a JJ Abrams could bring and help raise it from the middle ground I felt it sat in.

But no Star Trek review would be complete without a related pun so here goes. Star Trek Beyond: The Search for Plot. (Happy now?) In all seriousness, whilst certain "Trekkies" wanted a return the style/low-key nature of the television show, a passing fan like myself preferred the first two films in this rebooted movie series precisely because they weren't like it.


Midlands Movies Mike

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