Edward Norton Weekend – Primal Fear (1996)

Director: Gregory Hobilt

Writer: Steve Shagan, Ann Biderman (Screenplay) William Diehl (Novel)

Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Terry O’Quinn, Andre Braugher

 

Plot: An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.


Tagline – Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real.

Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brilliant Thriller

 

Story: Primal Fear starts when the Archbishop is murdered, all clues point to bloody covered Aaron (Norton) as the murderer, he shy stuttering alter boy. When former district prosecutor Martin Vail (Gere) turned defence lawyer sees this as a spotlight for his new career direction and going against former colleague Janet (Linney) and her boss the district attorney Shaughnessy (Mahoney) the case goes to trial.

When Martin learns that Aaron has a split personality disorder with a much more aggressive Roy doing the dirty work for Aaron and the bigger picture of the motivation behind the murder comes to light.

 

Thoughts on Primal Fear

 

Characters – Martin Vail is the lawyer, he once was one of the biggest prosecutors in the city but has turned his back on that career to become a defence lawyer. He sees this case as the one that will give him his big break as a defence lawyer doing this case for free. He has a strong trusted team, he is made out to be a womaniser, though we never see him hit on anyone, only that he once had a fling with Janet in the past. Janet is the prosecutor that is taking the case, she is the one taking over Martin’s role and with a previous relationship with him. She knows this will be a career maker for her and is enjoying going head to head with her former mentor. Shaughnessy is the District Attorney that wants the death penalty and will not let Janet forget this. Aaron is the shy alter boy that is accused of murder but with him being found covered in blood even if you can’t see him doing this murder, Roy is the aggressive personality next to Aaron that knows the truth and seems to be the release of everything Aaron holds in. Shoat is the judge trying to control the case in what lawyers are trying to pull for their wins. Molly is psychologist that is studying Aaron trying to figure out what his mindset learning about Roy.

PerformancesRichard Gere is fantastic in the leading role, you see here how he shows the desperate he is to win this case. Laura Linney is strong in her role which must go against Richard Gere. Edward Norton gives one of the best debut roles of any actor in the history of film, he is disturbed when needed and calm when Aaron and crazed when Roy. The supporting cast are great too without taking the spotlight of the rest of the cast.

StoryThe story follows the trial of a disturbed young man accused of murdering an archbishop. While the court case unfolds like you would expect with twists coming from every corner and evidence coming to light through nearly every witness. As a fan of courtroom dramas this plays into everything I enjoy and I love watching crimes get solved in a courtroom. The story is very well paced and even being over 2 hours long doesn’t feel like you are giving the film this much time.

Crime/MysteryThe crime focuses on the murder and what gave the killer motivation, the mystery plays into the motivation too and just how the shy timid altar boy could have committed the murder.

SettingsThe film uses the courtroom for most of the scenes, we have the location involved in the crime too which shows how the lawyers are operating on both sides of the case.


Scene of the Movie –
The final twist.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I would say the side case Martin worked on being touched on through the main case gets slightly annoying.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the best courtroom dramas of all time, with a crime which does balance the line between what would be considered a bigger crime and performances that could be considered the career best for members of the cast.

 

Overall: Courtroom delight.

Rating

 

 

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh (Screenplay)

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas hedges, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones

 

Plot: A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.


Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Darkly Humorous

 

Story: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starts as Mildred Hayes (McDormand) puts up three billboards in a quiet road questioning how Willoughby (Harrelson) hasn’t solved the case of her daughter’s rape and murder. Fellow officer Dixon (Rockwell) who has a chequered past is enraged by the signs, while officer Willoughby tries to clean up the situation and prove there isn’t enough to solve the case, but with his dying he does want to solve the case before he goes.

As the billboards stay up longer, the town starts to become divided on the support in catching the killer and Mildred does to extremes in her battle with Dixon to get the case solved.

 

Thoughts on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Characters – Mildred Hayes is a mother that has run out of patience when it comes to the police finding the killer off her daughter, she did have the full support of the town, but this stunt pushes the people away even if it could get her the killer to identify themselves. Willoughby is the lead investigator in the case, he has done everything he could to solve the case, but he is now facing his own battle with cancer, while keeping the peace in the town. Dixon is the hot-headed police officer that clashes with Mildred and anyone who supports her in finding out the truth.

PerformancesFrances McDormand shows us that she can reach the Fargo levels whenever the material is given to her, as she shines through as the best part of this movie. Woody Harrelson is great again this year, showing us he can step into any role and be great. Sam Rockwell is wonderful too as we see that this cast is filled with talent character performers.

StoryThe story shows the extremes of losing a child, the stress of noting being able to solve one of the worst cases in the town. This does turn into a character studio on the people involved and how their lives need to move on without a chance of every being able to. It is hard to describe this story in much more depth because it is interesting, it does have a lot going on that keeps us wanting to see where the film will go.

Comedy/CrimeThis does use dark humour throughout as we are seeing the effects of the crime on people’s lives, don’t expect to see an investigation though, we are focusing on the relationship between the mother of the victim and the police.

SettingsThe film takes place in this small town where everyone seems to know everyone, so they have all felt the effects of the crime, this helps when things start to get exposed.


Scene of the Movie –
Window smashing, it is a well shot single looking take.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The answer is frustrating.

Final ThoughtsThis is a dark humour that can be enjoyed by the fans of that genre, it does have a good subject matter but doesn’t get to a level in the story that I enjoyed watching.

 

Overall: Dark comedy through a serious subject matter.

Rating

 

 

Mississippi Burning (1988)

Director: Alan Parker

Writer: Chris Gerolmo (Screenplay)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R Lee Ermey, Gailard Sartain, Michael Rooker

 

Plot: Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Difficult to Watch but Brilliant Thriller

 

Story: Mississippi Burning starts by taking us to 1964 Mississippi where we see a group of civil rights activates executed on the road. Agent Rupert Anderson (Hackman) and Agent Alan Ward (Dafoe) get assigned to the case where they must work with local Sheriff Ray Stuckey (Sartain).

In the middle of the racial tension the colour divide is still strong here with the Ku Klux Klan ruling the neighbourhood, Agent Ward is open to anyone for information, race isn’t an issue for him, Agent Anderson is similar but also knows how to handle the tension by being more discreet. When the agents find themselves targeted the inexperience Ward calls for more agents starting a full task force in the town as they search for the missing civil rights activists.

The case becomes difficult to investigate for the agents as they find themselves being shunned by both races but also needing to investigate the law in the town as they look for the answers to this case.

 

Thoughts on Mississippi Burning

 

Characters/PerformanceAgent Rupert Anderson is an experienced FBI agent that knows how to deal with racial tension in towns and knows how to get people to talk. He gets frustrated having to work under Ward as he feels like he knows how to work this case better. Agent Alan Ward comes into this case with no experience in the field, he is used to everyone being treated equal and takes time to learn that his by the book methods aren’t going to get the answers required. He does learn from Anderson as the case continues and the two make a brilliant team. Mrs Pell is one of the most important witnesses in the case but it is whether she can be honest about her husband’s Deputy Pell’s where about. Nearly all of the white authority characters are suspects in this film, we literally just don’t know who is the leader but they are all single minded in their cause.

Performance wise, Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are fantastic together in this film, you can see in their performances the difference in characters but not in motives. Frances McDormand is also great through the supporting role and the cast is filled with stars that show their skills.

StoryThe story is based on a real event that happened, so you would have to be sensitive when considering this story too much. The truth is shown to us what the biggest problem in American modern history, the failure of certain states to give up the racial divide. The story is driven by the racial tension which keeps the story on edge from start to finish which makes the story fly by.

Crime/History/MysteryThe crime side of this film is full of all the tension need as we know early on just what has happened but we are left to wonder just how long until the mystery if fully solved. It also shows us the history of these cases that show us just how backwards people’s mindsets were.

SettingsThe film is set in Mississippi which gives us a look at the locations the crimes would have taken place.

Final ThoughtsThis is difficult to watch in places but is also one of the tensest thrillers you will see.

 

Overall: This is a must watch for all thriller fans.

Rating

 

 

Matt Damon Weekend – Promised Land (2012)

promised landDirector: Gus Van Sant

Writer: John Krasinski, Matt Damon (Screenplay) Dave Eggers (Story)

Starring: Matt Damon, Hal Holbrook, Frances McDormand, Titus Welliver, John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucas Black, Scoot McNairy

 

Plot: A salesman for a natural gas company experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the available resources.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good Drama

 

Story: Promised Land starts as we meet Steve Butler (Damon) one of the best salesmen for a natural gas company where he makes the most and cheapest purchases within his company. Steve teams up with Sue (McDormand) to meet the locals of a small town where the natural gas is up for grabs.

What looks like an easy job takes a turn for worse when Frank Yates (Holbrook) challenges the idea of fracking in the town which leads to an environmental guy Dustin Noble (Krasinski) supporting the town. This leads to a battle to make his sell go through with the town turning on him supporting Dustin.

Promised Land is a drama that throws us into the world of potential fracking pros and cons. We get to see how small town America is struggling with money and can get taken advantage of by big businesses. We get to see how even the guy trying to make the deals can fall victim to what is the right to wrong choices being made. The story does flow nicely but in the end it does all come down to an audience member needing to be in the right mood for this film.

 

Actor Review

 

Matt Damon: Steve works for a natural gas company and is one of the best in the business always making the sales. He is on the verge of a promotion but this latest sale which seems so easy takes a turn for the worse when he has to go against an environmentalist while he also falls for a local girl. Matt is good in this leading role.

John Krasinski: Dustin is an environmentalist who has come to the town to warn them of the effects of fracking making Steve’ job very difficult. He is a victim of what happens to fracking and his evidence puts the deal up in the air. John makes for a good opposite to Damon through the film.

Frances McDormand: Sue is the partner of Steve’s, she keeps him in line while keeping her own relationship with her son going. She approaches her deals differently to Steve and is always someone he can throw ideas around with. Frances is good as this supporting character throughout.

Support Cast: Promised Land has a supporting cast that all feel like different members of a tight community the town is with each of their own problems.

Director Review: Gus Van SantGus does a good job directing this showing us Steve’s struggles through the situation.

 

Drama: Promised Land puts us into the morale questions of whether short term money is enough to cover long environmental effects.

Settings: Promised Land puts us in the small town where each moment in the film feels like we are following a small community.
Suggestion
: Promised Land is one to try mostly because the subject isn’t the most popular for the audience to see. (Try It)

 

Best Part: The questions being asked about whether fracking is the right decision or not.

Worst Part: Slightly to campaign heavy.

 

Believability: This is a subject going on around the world at the moment.

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $15 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Tagline: What’s your price?

 

Overall: Very informative drama about the pros and cons of fracking.

Ratingcard

 

 

Hail Caesar! (2016)

casting card

 

Plot: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Too Much Going On

 

Story: Hail Caesar! Starts as we learn Eddie Mannix (Brolin) a fixer for a movie studio cleaning up all the problems that signed up stars find themselves in. The studio he works for is Capitol Pictures that are looking to make the movie Hail Caesar! There religious masterpiece with Baird Whitlock (Clooney) taking the title role.

With the picture ready to shoot his final scenes Baird disappears as we know he is kidnapped but the studio thinks he is on a bender. We also see how well respected director Laurence Laurentz (Fiennes) has been assigned a new star Hobie Doyle (Ehrenreich) to star in his new drama with only western experience which causes tension.

We have to watch how Eddie will bring Baird back to the studio dealing with the ransom and the fellow stars and their wild demands.

Hail Caesar! is the latest from the Coen Brothers who have given us some of the best films in the last 30 years, they have always put their own stamp on any genre they tackle. For me this story has all the makings of one of their usual film but I do think everything comes off slightly over complicated with way too many characters introduced seemingly to show off that they got big names in this film. The story seems to be all over the place with small subplots that do all tie into the final outcome as the story seems to be more about the day in the life of Eddie Mannix rather than just the kidnapping.

 

Actor Review

 

Josh Brolin: Eddie Mannix is a movie studio fixer that keeps his stars in line and out of trouble. When his star actor gets kidnapped he must cover it up and pay of the kidnappers while also handling his potential new star Hobie Doyle as they look to repackage him. Josh is good in this leading role where we see him interact with all the major character in the film.

George Clooney: Baird Whitlock is the biggest star in the studio working on the biggest film the studio is producing. When he gets kidnapped and taken to a group of communist writers he must talk through his freedom while waiting for the ransom. George does good in this role where we get to see him play a role against how we would see him.

Alden Ehrenreich: Hobie Doyle is the western star who gets recruited to work on his first drama as he is getting repacked. He struggles with this new role because he is built for the western genre only. Alden does a good job considering how many bigger names are around him in this film.

Ralph Fiennes: Laurence Laurentz is the director of the drama that Hobie gets assigned to, he is one of the most respected in Hollywood and struggles to get what he wants out of Hobie. Ralph is good in this supporting role.

Support Cast: Hail Caesar! Has a huge supporting cast that includes some of the biggest names in Hollywood who all find themselves in the odd scene or two. This shows just how much Eddie has to deal with to make everything run smoothly.

Director Review: Ethan Coen, Joel CoenEthan & Joel put their unique touch on 50s Hollywood with the comedy you expect from them.

 

Comedy: Hail Caesar! Has small moments of comedy which mostly poke fun at how actors and perceived.

Mystery: Hail Caesar! Gives us a mystery as we are left to wonder who has taken Baird.

Settings: Hail Caesar! Makes us feel like we are in 1950 Hollywood in nearly every single scene.
Special Effects
: Hail Caesar! Uses very simple special effects when needed without needing them to make everything happen.

Suggestion: Hail Caesar! is one to try, if you are a Coen Brother fan you should enjoy but otherwise it will come off slightly soft. (Try It)

 

Best Part: Tatum continues to show his range in this supporting role.

Worst Part: Slightly too many characters with almost pointless scenes.

 

Believability: No

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $22 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Tagline:  Lights. Camera. Abduction.

 

Overall: Overcomplicated Mystery Comedy.

Ratingcard