American Sniper


Viewed – 01 August 2015  Online rental

Certainly one of the most talked about movies in recent memory that garnered a lot of attention around awards season, even though it was largely snubbed.  A shame as this true story of elite Navy Seal Sniper ‘Chris Kyle’ is powerful and very well acted, and a career best I’d say for actor Bradley Cooper.

American Sniper

During several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kyle and his band of brothers face battles and atrocities as they attempt to track down various targets and get back home in one piece.  A rather unrecognisable Sienna Miller plays Kyle’s wife who is fighting her own battles raising two children whilst worrying about their father, as he becomes more and more traumatised by the horrors he witnesses.  This is a totally engrossing and authentic experience that pulls few punches when showing just how terrible war can get, and with the setting of a present day conflict, the back drop of 9/11 and real-world terrorism, I found this educational and heart breaking.  Cooper is excellent, considerably beefed up and probably more earnest and believable than I’ve ever seen him – he really went for it here, and it pays off.  If I was to nit-pick, I could say some of the other characters, such as Kyle’s brother and the other marines were under developed.  Also Iraqi locales are all portrayed rather one-dimensionally. Yet with a very strong central performance and some well directed action and battle scenes with plenty of tension – this was still a pretty formidable experience, that left me rather shaken.

Clint Eastwood once again proves he’s as much a presence behind the camera as he is in front, and has delivered a very well made, respectful and thought-provoking study of the harrowing effects of war and that of a true American hero.  Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5

Red State


Viewed – 23 January 2012  Pay-per-view

When most people think of the name Kevin Smith, they immediately conjure up images of slacker comedies like Mallrats and Clerks and characters like Silent Bob.  Yet he has also turned his hand to somewhat deeper themes in the likes of Dogma and Chasing Amy.  With that being said, he has never really been known for horror or thrillers – until now.

This follows the story of three friends who answer an add-on website to hook up with a woman for sex.  These hormonal guys think it’s their ticket to getting laid, and are soon setting off to meet the woman at her current residence – a trailer.  Yet all is not as it seems, and before long the guys have been drugged and become the hostages of a local, notorious religious cult, lead by unhinged preacher Abin Cooper (the brilliant Michael Parks).  At the same time, a Sheriff being blackmailed by the preacher due to some questionable nocturnal activities, calls in a local special agent (John Goodman) to lay siege to the cult.

This movie borrows heavily from real life cult situations like that of The Manson Family and Waco, and for me was totally gripping.  The three teens may not have a personality between them, and their plight is somewhat self-inflicted, but the cult and their beliefs was believably scary and unpredictable – meaning I was always wondering what was going to happen next.  Several times the movie surprised me, and some deaths really knocked me back in my seat.  For the subject, I don’t think Kevin Smith offered any new insights, and just why the cult did what they did wasn’t very clear.    Smith has previously explored controversial subject matter, and like his earlier Dogma, this touches on subjects that some may find questionable.  Sadly there isn’t the depth to really get to the point on any of it, turning more into an action movie half way through, despite a promising opening.  Yet with a powerful, creepy performance from Michael Parks, who also stood out in movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill, and a great turn from Goodman, who is always a joy – this was still entertaining.  Also, with some interesting nods to 9/11 and how America has changed in the wake of terrorism, I was also left with plenty to think about.

Verdict:  3 /5