Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Hell or High Water
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham
Synopsis: The past few years have been rough from an economic standpoint. We’ve had more than a couple movies that have looked at how the housing bubble burst, and that have forewarned that the hard times might not be over. We even have a TV series — “Mr. Robot” — that, among other things, attacks the foundation of our economy. Into that fray comes “Hell or High Water.” It’s a heist movie, yes. It’s a buddy cop movie, yes. But it’s also a movie that takes a hard look at the economic climate, and the way it drives people to a certain kind of response. Last year one of the most striking films I saw was “Sicario,” from writer Taylor Sheridan. He is back with “Hell or High Water,” this time turning his knack for sparse dialogue and action sequences to a different kind of losing battle. Director David McKenzie doesn’t have a long cinematic resume. But he has a feel for this story and these characters. He gets a lot out of his performers, and maximizes the slice of life offered by Sheridan. “Hell or High Water” was a festival darling in the winter and has been a surprise hit at the Box Office as the summer draws to a close. It’s drawn rave reviews and even comparisons to “No Country For Old Men.” I don’t think it’s quite on that level, but it’s entertaining, gripping and asks some serious questions about where we’re headed as a country. The film could be seen as endorsing this type of criminal behavior, but I don’t think that’s the point. I think it’s merely making a commentary about the economic desperation of a large swath of Americans in service of telling and interesting story about brothers, redemption, second chances and missed opportunities. Bridges — an Academy Award winner — channels something similar to the wily bounty hunter he played in “True Grit.” He’s a talented actor that brings a lot of depth to the part. He has a beautiful rapport with Bermingham, who shines in this supporting role, too. But the real hard work is done by Pine and Foster. Pine is best known for his work as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, but he offers a very different kind of character and performance in this. Foster, meanwhile, sinks into this role and does some fine work as the daredevil and crazy brother, but one who opines the wrong choices he’s made in his life. It’s a performance that’s led to some Academy Award buzz, so it will be interesting to see how that carries forward. “Hell or High Water” isn’t a fast, action-paced film. It’s a slow burn and more of a character piece. But it’s well put together and a slice of life that chronicles the struggles of many Americans in 2016, and that alone makes it worthy of consideration.
Rating: R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Starring: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, and Bradley Cooper
Synopsis: Todd Phillips is a director that has frequently trafficked in edgy comedies, and does so again with "War Dogs." The film stars Teller and Hill as a pair of 20-something friends who decide to become arms dealers. The money starts flowing and the big deals start coming, leading to them cutting some corners and getting caught. The film is based on a true story and is advertised as a fun and funny ride. It is, at time, but it's a little slower and a littler darker than the audience might be expecting. It's also more uneven. Teller and Hill do a decent job, but the story isn't as compelling as it could be. The movie is OK, but not what it could have been.
Rating: R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Friday, September 2 — "Light Between Oceans," "Morgan"
Friday, September 9 — "Wild Life," "Sully," "When the Bough Breaks"
Friday, September 16 — "Hill Song: Let Hope Rise," "Snowden," "Bridget Jones' Baby," "Blair Witch"
Friday, September 23 — "The Magnificent Seven," "Queen of Katwe," "Storks"
Friday, September 30 — "Deepwater Horizon," "Masterminds," "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"