Howdy, folks! Back from my extended vacation in glorious Nicaragua and thirsty to catch up on a slew of releases I missed out on, I hit the local theaters for a few days of marathon viewing. While it felt great to be back in a dark theater, hoodie up, eyes glued to the big screen, the slate of films that I watched was — with exception (go see Hunt for the Wilderpeople) — somewhat forgettable. Summer fare is often less intriguing than the films that follow in the fall, but even so, compared to the last few years, the Summer of ’16 feels a bit weak. It’s not over yet though, and this weekend packs a helluva punch, with a little something to satisfy everybody.
Hell or High Water, Pete’s Dragon, Sausage Party, and Florence Foster Jenkins all debut in theaters this weekend and I can firmly recommend three of the four. I haven’t seen Florence Foster Jenkins, the new Stephen Frears (The King’s Speech) movie starring Meryl Streep as a New York socialite in the 1940s with unrealistic dreams of becoming a great opera singer. It co-stars Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, and Rebecca Ferguson, with music composed by Alexandre Desplat. Word of mouth is positive.
I loved every second of Hell or High Water and I can’t wait to see it again. Director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) has created an instant classic starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster as brothers with a plan to rob some banks in West Texas. They’re desperate and they have their reasons (that can easily be discovered by reading about the film; I recommend going in blind). Jeff Bridges plays the old school West Texas Ranger out to stop them.
The film is an utter gem — one of my favorites of 2016. It manages to create great suspense and a serious tone while being consistently funny. Bridges’ character is a cliche, but it’s a testament to the acting and the writing that he never feels like one. Bridges has an excellent camaraderie with Gil Birmingham, the actor who plays his partner on the force, and Pine and Foster also share a compelling chemistry. Everybody brings their A game. Mackenzie’s atmospheric direction transports you to West Texas and holds you in the moment, and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide a fitting score. The script was written by Sicario scribe, Taylor Sheridan, and it’s riddled with humorous moments like the Rangers’ dinner at ‘The Famous T-Bone Cafe.’ I had a smile on my face from the opening scene through the end credits. Great flick.
4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Pete’s Dragon is an excellent film to take the entire family to. It’s a reimagining of Disney’s 1977 musical of the same name. The new version has no singing and Elliott the dragon is no longer a friendly-looking hand drawn 2D animation, but a giant CGI rendered beast that feels like a mix of a lion, a dog, and Falcore, the luckdragon from The NeverEnding Story. He’s big, with green fur and the ability to fly and disappear at will. Elliott flies away with Pete when he’s left alone in the woods after a tragic car accident. Pete remains in the woods for 6 years until an encounter with forest ranger Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard). Robert Redford plays Grace’s father. Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, and Oona Laurence co-star. Pete is played by Oakes Fegley.
I recommend checking out a 2D screening of Pete’s Dragon. The screening I saw was in 3D and the images on-screen seemed darker than the trailers and footage I saw in 2D. The movie feels intimate and personal and there are some sweet scenes and tender moments between pals, Pete and Elliott.
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Sausage Party might be animated, but don’t get it twisted, it’s not a children’s film. (Take them to Pete’s Dragon.) It’s highly suggestive, explicit, offensive, and it’s also lots of fun. Sausage Party gives a new, more literal meaning to the term ‘food porn.’
Though the obscenity-laced language is ultra-foul and the sexual food imagery is ramped up, the movie is smarter than one might expect. It’s quite funny and the audience was definitely into it. I never stopped enjoying it, though I do think the movie gets away from itself in the end, and it’s a little too raunchy/ridiculous for its own good at times (bath salts?). It’s sprinkled with some brilliant moments though and is packed with enough gags to make the 89 minute runtime a breeze.
Seth Rogen plays Frank, a sausage who falls out of the package and gets caught up in a mission with Brenda, a loose hot dog bun voiced by Kristen Wiig. Their attraction and journey will challenge their entire existence and along the way they encounter grocery store products and characters of all kinds, voiced by an all-star cast including Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Nick Kroll, and Edward Norton. Bill Hader and Salma Hayek stand out as Firewater, an old, weed smokin’ bottle of whisky (one of the ‘non-perishables’) and Teresa, a horny lesbian taco.
3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Get out and go to the movies! Hell and High Water is now playing in Houston at Edward’s Grand Palace. The rest of the films are in wide release and are playing at a variety of theaters.
Get your *adults only* Sausage Party coloring and activity book exclusively at Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas.
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