Sunday Movie Roundup (9/11/2017)

Maelstrom (2000)

Director:  Denis Villenueve

An early effort by acclaimed director Denis Villenueve.  A spoiled rich girl of dubious morality finds her life spinning out of control.  She can’t take care of the business she inherited, nor can she seem to get her life in order.  To make things worse, one night she fatally runs over an old man with her car.  An odd series of events then transpire which conclude with her having a relationship with the victim’s unknowing son.

Not a very good film, but at least there are some merits here.  The acting is decent, and the plot holds our interest, up to a point.  But the implausibilities pile up so high that we are let scratching our heads at the end.  Worth seeing only for fans of the director.


Wind River (2017)

Director:  Taylor Sheridan

A very well paced murder mystery that never promises more than what it can deliver.  This is an old-school “blood for blood” western, the kind of film that Clint Eastwood might have made if he was still in his early 40s.  The plot:  in the desolate wastes of a Wyoming Indian reservation, a young girl is murdered.  The FBI is called in to investigate, but the young agent assigned to the case is forced to rely on a hard-bitten local named Corey (Jeremy Renner) to show her the ropes.

There is a great shoot-out scene towards the end of the film that anchors everything firmly in place here. No frills, no nonsense, and no airs, this straightforward tale of crime and its consequences does everything it’s supposed to do.


Blackway (2015)

Director:  Daniel Alfredson

Julia Stiles is being bothered by the town ogre, a scumbag named Blackway.  He’s played to the hilt by Ray Liotta; nobody does the heavy better than Liotta.  He won’t back off, he won’t leave her alone, and he doesn’t care.  The local sheriff is a chickenshit, and pretty much everyone else doesn’t care.  In fact, they all advise her to take the first bus out-of-town.  In desperation, she teams up with Anthony Hopkins and his stuttering side-kick to find the bully and beat some sense into him.  That’s the plot, period.  And you know how it winds up.

I know I’m supposed to slam this movie for being a simplistic B-grade action vehicle that basically wastes a great cast.  But I’m not going to do that.  I actually liked this movie, for better or for worse.  It’s nothing more than an afternoon diversion, but where else can you find Anthony Hopkins, Ray Liotta, Julia Stiles, and Hal Holbrook in one place?


The Founder (2016)

Director:  John Lee Hancock

A biopic loosely based on the experiences of Ray Kroc, the traveling salesman who made the McDonald’s restaurants what they are today.  Michael Keaton does a good job here walking the fine line between greasy opportunism and business visionary.  After a while, you can’t really tell which hat he really wears.  Maybe that’s the point.  If you ever wondered how McDonald’s got to where it is today, see this movie.


Salt and Fire (2016)

Director:  Werner Herzog

I get the sense that Werner Herzog has reached the point in his life where he doesn’t feel he needs to prove anything to anyone.  He’s been there and done that, and now he just makes movies for himself. Lately he’s been focused more on documentaries than anything else, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

This one is just too self-indulgent.  Or at least that’s the sense I get from watching this boring, ponderous mess of a film.  The plot:  a German scientist is visiting South America, but is taken “hostage” by a wealthy tycoon determined to lecture her on the evils of ecological destruction and human cruelty.  Forget plot, characters, and story line; the point here is to create beautiful imagery and arresting photomontages.  On that level, this movie succeeds.  I have to admit that it’s still very watchable, in a weird, mystical sort of way.  Herzog is such a great director that even his misfires still are worth watching.