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Drama

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

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SummaryThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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

Genre : Crime/Drama
Country : UK/USA

Cast :
Frances McDormand : Mildred
Sam Rockwell : Dixon
Woody Harrelson: Chief Willoughby

Director :
Martin McDonagh

My opinion on “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

“Raped while Dying.
Still no arrests.
How come, chief Willoughby?”

Those who read my writing attempts occasionally, know that I thoroughly hate everything that has the appearance of a serial or when prequels and sequels are being produced just to exploit the story even further. So, don’t panic while reading the following statement. I hope they’ll come up with a sequel to “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri“. A continuation of this brilliant story where we’ll learn how Mildred (Frances McDormand) and Dixon (Sam Rockwell) handle the case.

I am sure that this film will be difficult to surpass in its genre. And not because of some amazing special effects or action-packed film sequences. But because of the ingenious story and the unparalleled acting. And even though the story is filled with ultra-serious issues such as discrimination, domestic violence, cancer, sexual abuse and murder, there’s also a subtle comic layer that is saturated with blackened humor and finished with cynical and ironic elements. This is so up my alley.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Anger versus compassion.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is about anger, rage and helplessness. The anger about an unsolved case with Angela, the daughter of Mildred, being raped and burned alive by one or more unknowns. And after several months Mildred has come up with the bright idea to denounce the failure of the judicial investigation. And this by unabashedly spreading the message about it, on three billboards with Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) as main target, solely because of his leading position as Chief.

But it’s not only anger and revenge you’ll be witnessing in this magnificent film. Forgiveness is also included. Like the moment during a police interrogation in which Mildred feels genuinely concerned about Willoughby’s health. I was also surprised when Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones), the owner of the advertising billboards, offers Dixon a glass of orange juice. Two moments in which blind anger made room for compassion.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sublime acting from Frances McDormand.

Even though Woody’s name is written on the billboard in huge letters, his contribution isn’t really decisive. To my surprise, he also gets out of the picture halfway through the film. In the first place it’s Frances McDormand who demands the most attention. And she does that in a stunning way. A bitter woman who’s tired of waiting for an arrest. Mildred is under the assumption that no effort is made by the corps to follow any clue or performs real police work. In her eyes, the police officers are a group of racist dipshits who spend their days harassing Afro-American fellow citizens.

She’s a tough lady who firmly tackles those who get in her way, both verbally and physically. And she spares nobody. Whether it’s a priest or a dentist. She isn’t even afraid to kick some young students in their crotch. And even though she appears to be an unpleasant person with a sharp tongue, she manages to arouse your sympathy. The sometimes dry, humorous remarks take care of that. Frances McDormand may rightfully become the owner of the coveted statue during the Academy Awards in a few months’ time.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Rockwell plays the best role of his life.

And such a golden statue can also be reserved for Sam Rockwell. His acting is simply magisterial. Dixon is an aggressive hillybilly who likes to beat up  minorities and appears to be drunk constantly while doing his job as a policeman, knowing it’s tolerated by his superior. A not so quite intellectual overweight man. And Dixon’s stupidity sometimes creates comical situations.

And finally there’s Woody Harrelson. An actor after my own heart (whom had stolen it already because of his participation in the sitcom “Cheers“) who always plays his roles with so much flexibility and professionalism. In contrast to the confused and sometimes cruel character from “The Glass Castle“, Chief Willoughby is an honest person who’s sincerely worried about the case of Mildred’s daughter. All in all, these are three parts that are played in an excellent and marvelous way by these actors. This film is already commendable because of that.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A brilliant movie. Go see it !!!!

But it is also the intelligently written script that makes this film worthwhile. It’s indeed a film full of heavy themes. The injustice in this world and how people deal with it. The processing of an immense grief. There are also uncomfortable moments full of aggression and threats. And yet there is always a laconic undertone that is peppered with thoughtful, ambiguous humor. And these different moods alternate at breakneck speed. Some scenes change from aggressive and threatening, into humorous and emotional. “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a gem of a film I’ve enjoyed tremendously. And believe me, I’m looking forward to seeing it once more.

My rating 9/10
Links : IMDB

Comic Book Movies

Joaquin Phoenix Stares Into Your Soul As The Joker Via “il venerdì di repubblica” Cover

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“Cinematic achievement on a high level.”

Director Todd Phillips has gone on the record stating, his film is going to piss off hardcore comic book fans. The upcoming ‘Joker’ movie will not follow any comic book plot lines or continuity for the villain, and will in fact be its very own stand alone film. With that being said, the movie is already garnering praise from select audiences. Cameron Bailey, co-head and artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, went on record with Toronto Sun, hailing the film as “Cinematic achievement on a high level.” Bailey continued on, saying:

“First of all it’s terrific. So it should play on our largest stage. But it’s a really original take on comic book movies and on the Joker character in particular. It’s not based on an existing story, it has one of the greatest actors in modern cinema, Joaquin Phoenix, in the lead, and Robert De Niro is in it as well, one of the best actors that has ever lived.”

Bailey, also went on to say, the film is “Very cinematic,” for a low budget feature.

“Has an interesting tone and approach to it. It’s set in the late ’70s, early ’80s and it feels like it was made then. It’s gritty in its look, it has references to Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking and it feels like a cinematic achievement on a high level. Although it’s working with very populist material, it has great ambition. That’s why it’s a Gala.”

Check out the newest ‘Joker’ magazine cover via il venerdì di repubblica.

‘Joker’ hits theaters October 4, 2019

 

 

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Drama

Bullitt County – A Film About How A Pleasant Situation Can Turn Quickly And End In A Tragedy

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Anything buried out there,
is meant to stay buried.

Bullitt County” isn’t really an easy film. To be honest, I had to control myself not to give up after half an hour. It wasn’t very exciting, so to say. On the contrary. It was painfully slow and meaningless. The story is situated in the 70s as you can see from the colorful printed shirts and the Woodstock-like attributes. A reunion of grown-up school friends who wanted to break the monotonous existence as a responsible citizen. A trip to Kentucky is planned where they’re going to recreate a pub crawl past their favorite distilleries. The only person who isn’t voluntary participating is Gordie (Mike C. Nelson) who’s about to get married. He’s being kidnapped, thrown in the suitcase and taken to the destination. Apparently, this is his bachelor party.

 

Bullitt County

 

A dark secret.

It is only when Gordie hears there’s a hidden treasure, the “Bullitt Treasure”, in these regions, the pace is going up. Apparently, it’s a considerable sum of money (profits from illegal moonshining) that the Bullitt family has hidden in the local forests during the Prohibition. At the same time, it turns out that their favorite bar has been taken over and the new owners turned it into a wine bar. So the plan of a boozing trip is pushed aside. Also, Gordie appears to be a recovered alcoholic who has not drunk a drop for 10 years. So nothing prevents them from entering the woods, armed with spades and camping equipment. So they’re off on a treasure hunt. Apparently a very cozy venture, which in turn leads to impressions of four aged hippies who, while playing guitar, smoke a few hash cigarettes and consume quite a bit of liquor. Not really fascinating, but there’s already this slight feeling that something sinister is coming to the surface. A secret that this close circle of friends has been dragging along for years. And apparently, no one feels the need to bring it up again.

 

Bullitt County

 

And suddenly it’s a different movie.

The moment they are invited by a friendly couple to eat something in their cabin, my expectations regarding the film was already low. “Bullitt County” won’t be more than a psychological drama in which a cozy getaway leads to emotional outbursts which bring out deeply hidden traumas from the past. And then all of a sudden hell breaks loose. And before I realize it, I am watching a completely different movie. A movie about survival, cheating, blame, and guilt. Slowly it becomes clear that Gordie’s emotional backpack gradually got heavier. Not only has he successfully got rid of an alcohol problem. He’s also a Vietnam veteran and didn’t go through this war completely unscathed. This results in a person plagued by PTSD who can’t control himself during confrontations. And then there’s an event in the past that weighs the most. It’s being revealed through some flashbacks as the film progresses.

 

 

Splendid acting by Nelson.

Robin (Jenni Melear), Keaton (David McCracken) and Wayne (Napoleon Ryan) were also involved in this incident but apparently processed it. Gordie also blames them for that at a certain moment. The indifference makes him mad. I also noticed that caring about others isn’t their strongest side. Who goes on a pub crawl with an ex-alcoholic? What follows is a burst of pent-up frustration that degenerates into a nerve-racking and bloody denouement. Mike C. Nelson plays a terrific role. The way in which Gordie’s personality (also thanks to a momentary relapse) changes from a good-natured person with issues into a revenge-taker driven by madness and rage, is simply wonderful to see. A solid piece of acting. The share of Dorothy Lyman and Richard Riehle was short but powerful.

 

Bullit County

 

A successful low-budget indie.

No, “Bullitt County” isn’t a memorable movie. And maybe it would have been better to shorten the intro where we meet those four characters. And the number of sudden twists in the story was a bit overwhelming. And have we not seen that one twist in another movie before? Anyway. The film managed to pleasantly surprise me when the second half of the film announced itself. A film about how a pleasant situation can turn quickly and end in a tragedy. “Bullitt County” shows how someone goes through life, marked by guilt feelings and what impact this has on his personality. Despite Gordie’s mistakes and aggressive behavior, you still feel compassion for him. In short, a successful low-budget indie. Just the way I like them.

 

 

My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

 

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Crime

The Outsider – The Only Thing That Tries To Break Through This Darkness Is The Sometimes Bright Neon Lights

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When you dishonor your boss
and you want to show remorse,
you give your finger.
It’s called otoshimae.
I see you’ve got all your fingers.

Even though I don’t have any affinity with Japanese culture as such and mostly ignore Asian films, I couldn’t resist giving “The Outsider”  a chance. Not only because of the fact that Jared Leto is playing in it (a colorful actor who reminds me of Johnny Depp and because of his role as The Joker in “Suicide Squad” can join the club of quirky Hollywood actors), but also because of the central theme of the Yakuza families. I wondered if this could be another successful Netflix original.

I don’t know much about Japanese culture. Only the term Yakuza is known to me. You can see it as the Japanese version of the Italian Mafia. The only difference with their Italian counterparts is that the Yakuza members are an epitome of inner calmness and adopt an intimidating attitude by using ice-cold, angry looks and a threatening, non-loud tone during their conversations. Quite different from the Italian mafia members, who usually want to make an impression by shouting and intense gesticulating while making their point, after which a rival gets a concrete pedestal and they dump him in some Italian river. So I prepared myself for a Japanese-colored “Godfather“-like movie.

 

The Outsider

 

Extremely slow pacing.

The first thing you could criticize is the pace of the film. “The Outsider”  is extremely slow at times, indeed. But doesn’t that suite the entire Japan concept? After all, members of the Yakuza families themselves use a certain pace in their conversations by using impressive silences between sentences. On the one hand to show respect. On the other hand maybe also to increase the impact of used words. Have you ever seen a Geisha passing by? They aren’t exactly a paragon of speed. And to be honest, if this movie had lasted an extra hour, I wouldn’t have minded that either. And that’s because of the other positivities you can find in “The Outsider” .

 

The Outsider

 

A white Yakuza member. Possible or not?

First of all, I thought the acting of the entire cast was marvelous on all fronts. The mix of authentic Japanese who speak their own language for most of the film instead of constantly using broken, bad-sounding English and the acting of Jared Leto was simply stunning. How Nick Lowell ended up in an Osaka prison, remained a mystery to me. He’s the only English-speaking prisoner and is surrounded by mainly Yakuza gang members. Rescuing the Yakuza Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) from a perilous, life-threatening situation gives him a ticket to freedom. And that’s when he chooses to gradually integrate into the Yakuza family. Not an easy task since the members of this Yakuza family aren’t really hospitable and are rather resentful towards white strangers (a Gaijin). However, I wonder if, in reality, a Westerner would get a chance to be included in such a Yakuza-family. I doubt it.

 

The Outsider

 

Sublime cinematography.

The used cinematography in ‘The Outsider’ was also generally sublime. Maybe a little too dark at certain moments, such as the prison scenes, for example. But in general, the setting in this post-war Japan is really impressive. A mysterious metropolis with dark, narrow alleys, clubs where Sumo wrestlers compete and smoky night clubs. The only thing that tries to break through this darkness is the sometimes bright neon lights.
Expect some violent scenes too. You can’t do without it in a gangster movie, I guess. There are quite a few victims. Lots of gunshots and knives carving around. Even a self-mutilation scene where a few fingers are sacrificed isn’t missing.

 

The Outsider

 

The acting of Jared Leto was superb.

My limited knowledge of Asian film material and Japanese customs made sure everything came across as fairly authentic to me. Others, who immersed themselves in this matter, may have noticed imperfections. And perhaps the content has all been done before. I even read somewhere that there was a lot of fuss about casting Jared Leto. And the term “whitewashing” came up. Didn’t we have the same discussion about Matt Damon’s contribution to “The Great Wall“? By the way, I thought Jared Leto was suitable for this role as the silent (probably because he doesn’t speak the language), cold-blooded and emotionless Nick. He reminded me a bit of Keanu Reeves in “47 Ronin“. Only the speed with which he was accepted in the Shiromatsu Yakuza clan, seemed greatly exaggerated. And the emotional relationship between Nick and Miyu (Shioli Kutsuna) felt like a mandatory item.

 

The Outsider

 

But just as I scoured the internet for information about “The Zodiac Killer” after watching the movie “Zodiac“, I couldn’t resist consulting Wikipedia about the Yakuza phenomenon. That means this film also left an impression. If slow crime movies about the Mafia interest you, and this in a Japanese environment, then I can definitely recommend this movie to you.

You can watch The Outsider on Netflix now!

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

 

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