The intro shows Nick Offerman getting killed after burying some stolen money under a hotel room floor, and between this and The Sisters Brothers, I’m having a Coen Brothers-reminiscent double-feature. Ten years post-Offerman, four guests meet in the hotel lobby: false priest Jeff Bridges, pissy Dakota Johnson (A Bigger Splash, daughter of Melanie Griffith), salesman Jon Hamm, and downtrodden singer Cynthia Erivo (Tony-winning star of The Color Purple musical), along with lobby boy Lewis Pullman (The Strangers 2). Four of these people are not who they seem (the singer is exactly who she seems), and the movie will cut back and forth in time introducing each of their backstories as they violently collide in the present day of 1970-something. I heard this movie was a fun Tarantino knockoff, and it’s kinda Four Rooms-meets-Hateful Eight, maybe not up to the high standard of Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods and The Good Place, but it looks excellent and is a fun way to spend two long hours (each scene deliciously stringing you along, knowing you ain’t got nowhere better to be).

Chris “Thor” Hemsworth is introduced in the second half. After so much violent duplicity it seems like overkill to suddenly introduce a sex/death-cult leader, but I was busy being distracted by thinking he was definitely Chris Pine, but knowing he couldn’t be since Pine has bright glowing eyes and the only person in this movie with bright glowing eyes is Jeff Bridges as the false priest. Bridges was Offerman’s partner, seeking the money after a decade in prison, and Johnson and her psycho-killer younger sister Cailee Spaeny (Pacific Rim 2) are escapees from the Hemsworth Manson/Morrisson cult. Hamm is an FBI agent looking for God knows what but stumbling across the surveillance system in the hotel, run by self-hating Vietnam sniper-turned-heroin addict Pullman. Everyone kills everyone else, but Cynthia is too sympathetic to die, so she makes it out, possibly with the cash and/or Jeff Bridges, I don’t remember. Desplat lays down some fun music, but most of the entertainment comes from the jukebox songs and the ones Cynthia sings, sometimes in fragments, pausing and backing up.

Pretty straightforward cops and robbers movie given unexpected depth by having its bank thieves rage against a local bank’s predatory home loans. Director Mackenzie (I somewhat liked his Asylum and Young Adam in the pre-blog days) and writer Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) fill the movie with plenty of incident and suspense but include enough time for the four leads to hang out and relate to each other, so in the climax when the killing starts, the stakes seem much higher.

Pretty man Chris Pine is the brains behind the bank heists, has even consulted with a lawyer on the subject of robbing branches of the bank that will soon foreclose on his family land, then opening a trust with that same bank so they’re not inclined to cooperate with police investigating him for the robberies. Because you see, Pine has discovered oil on the property, and after a life of farming in poverty, he’s finally got a chance to leave something to his kids. So there are some typical movie coincidences at play here, but the anger at the banking system comes through loud and clear (funny that I watched this the day after Office).

Pine’s less stable older brother Ben Foster (one of the angels in Northfork) is his partner in crime. The great Jeff Bridges plays a mumbly old, jovially racist lawman with partner Gil Birmingham (Jacqueline’s dad in Kimmy Schmidt), whose death still comes as a shock even though that’s the sort of thing that happens in these movies. Great epilogue with Bridges meeting Pine for the first time for a civil chat, each simmering with rage over the deaths of their respective partners.

M. Singer:

Sheridan previously wrote the outstanding drug-war thriller Sicario; he specializes in stories that don’t sacrifice intelligence for excitement, set in moral minefields where even relatively honest people can be undone by a single wrong step.

A.A. Dowd:

It’s quite a feat, orchestrating a crime thriller that feels at once relaxed and urgent, that delivers an endless supply of comic banter without compromising its underlying tone of elegiac regret … Viewers may find, in that grand Fugitive tradition, that their sympathies are divided, especially once Hell Or High Water begins pulling its two plot strands together, clarifying its outlaws’ motives, and building to the fatalistic finale it absolutely earns.

Magical, delicate-looking stop-motion retelling of the Little Prince story, in which I guess he leaves his beloved rose, wanders some asteroids meeting strange adults, then crashes on Earth’s desert where he trades wisdom with a stranded aviator. Surrounding this, in a more Pixar-like CG animation style, is a sort of Little Prince Expanded Universe, in which eccentric Jeff Bridges tells the story to a neighbor kid who’s being meticulously groomed to be a serious-minded adult. When Bridges is sick, the girl flies into space to find the Little Prince, who has been corrupted by adulthood. You think of the Little Prince story as a fairy tale and the grey-cube grown-up CG world as reality, so it’s fun when they merge into one adventure at the end. Life Lessons seem pretty uncontroversial: protecting your inner child and holding onto important memories, but it’s all told in a pleasantly unusual way. This movie was dumped onto Netflix, but we drove an hour to see one of its rare theatrical screenings, and it was worth it for the gorgeous stop-motion scenes alone.

I recognized the director’s name from the great animated short More, which also features lead characters with colorful inner lives trying to break out of conformist grey-box worlds. All-star cast but the best voices were the non-actor kids, except for Bridges, and I’ll give credit to Ricky Gervais as “the conceited man”.

Trying to pick a title from the endless scrolling netflix crap, we surprised each other by agreeing on this Albert Brooks comedy. Brooks plays a screenwriter (envisioning a Jim Carrey comedy) who learns through his friend Jeff Bridges (one of the few celebrities not playing himself) that all the hugely successful filmmakers are getting advice from Greek goddess Sharon Stone. So Brooks hires her, eventually moves her into her house where she takes to helping his wife Andie MacDowell start a cookie empire, while Brooks brings her meals and looks for clues as to what he should do with his script.

K. Uhlich: “I love The Muse‘s vision of Hollywood as a town in thrall to a disarmingly flighty mental patient.” Fun cameos, low-key at first, leading up to Rob Reiner, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. But the highlight is Steven Wright as the director’s cousin Stan Spielberg. Katy gets annoyed at Albert’s characters’ total lack of compassion for those around him, even though she recognizes that’s where much of the comedy comes from.

I’d long put off watching this because of reports that it wasn’t any good. But of course it is good . . . it’s just maybe not GREAT. The lead girl (Jodelle Ferland, currently playing the one-armed undead girl in Cabin in the Woods), a playful innocent surrounded by grotesque adults, is captivating and manages to carry the movie. But despite all the darkness and death, the movie manages to feel slight. Maybe you need to see it in theaters – I would’ve liked to, but never got the chance.

Jeliza-Rose (great name) lives in an apartment with her junkie parents. When mom Jennifer Tilly overdoses, dreamer dad Jeff Bridges (the same year he was in some Full Monty-meets-Zach and Miri-sounding movie called The Amateurs), always going on about Jutland (part of Denmark?), takes her to the family’s abandoned, unsafe house in the country.

Tilly, following her second Child’s Play sequel:

J-R and her late father:

Soon he’s dead as well, stinking up the place, but J-R never loses heart, has fun narrating events to her troupe of doll-heads. She befriends an idiot boy named Dickins, and runs into his (mother? sister?) Dell, an amateur taxidermist who stuffs Jeff Bridges. The lunacy increases until Dickins finally manages to blow up the “monster shark” (passing train) and J-R wanders onto the crash site, mistaken for a surviving passenger and presumably taken off to a more normal life.

A nice family dinner. In background: mummy-dad Jeff Bridges

Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.

Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.

Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.

2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.

Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).

Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.

The least Coeny of the Coens’ string of remakes and adaptations. It’s got their perfectly-timed dialogue, comic tone with brief bursts of violence, cinematography by the gifted Roger Deakins, and Dude Lebowski in a major role, but it doesn’t have their mark all over it. This isn’t a complaint – it’s an excellent Western, exciting and well-acted. Plus Matt Damon. He is kinda weird in it. The little girl who had to carry the whole movie, Hailee Steinfeld, got nominated for an oscar for her troubles. Her character is dedicated – shooting unrepentant daddy-killer Josh Brolin once when she first meets him, then again (to his death) at the end. Part of the film was set in my former family home of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The place hasn’t changed.

A good comic superhero movie, completely predictable and without anything special to recommend it over all other decent comic superhero movie except having totally likeable lead actors with lots of light humorous banter. Turns out that’s a pretty big deal, because the movie is being very well received. I certainly wasn’t disappointed… it’s a good time at the movies.

Katy appreciated the bits of Lord of War thrown in, with RD Jr’s weapons company making higher profits by selling arms (with STARK INDUSTRIES proudly stamped across them) to evil foreigners under the table. This is the work of transparently evil company man Jeff Bridges, who’s pretty good as a bad guy, and who eventually builds his own iron suit for a showdown that I don’t remember too well cuz it was 2am on a weeknight by then. Gotta hand it to Gwyneth Paltrow, in her best comic role since Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Don’t necessarily got to hand anything to Terrence Howard, who is very good, but keeps appearing in thankless sidekick roles in big movies.

Jon Favreau gave himself a bit part (think he had a couple lines). Funny, I thought he directed Swingers, but that was done by Doug Liman, who also had a big sequel-spawning sfx-action hit this year with Jumper. That’s something nobody saw coming in 1996!

Happy 10th anniversary to the funniest comedy of the 90’s!

In honor of this anniversary, I intended to post pictures of Jeff Bridges’ smiling eyes, but the DVD crashes my VLC player on both computers, so I will abandon this post before I am tempted to start quoting lines.