Wind River


Viewed – 13 February 2018  online-rental

I’m easily attracted to a movie when it stars someone I’m especially appealed by.  So with this starring two actors I am increasingly impressed with, namely Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner and Avengers: Age of Ultron’s Elizabeth Olson … this was a no-brainer.

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Renner plays a hunter and expert-tracker living on a wintery Indian reservation where some years previous a teenage girl died under mysterious circumstances.  As he was married to the mother of said girl at the time, he feels personally involved when a similar death occurs when a young girl’s body is found.   With the possibility of the death being a homicide the local Sheriff call in the FBI in the form of a rookie female agent played by Olsen and soon she’s teamed up with Renner to figure out just what happened.

This realistic and gritty drama has strong turns across the board and a solid mystery that kept me gripped.  The backdrop of Native American racial issues and paranoia whilst not that unique was engrossing also.   Add to this some striking cinematography and hard-hitting revelations and action in the final act and I came away rather impressed.  If you’re after a thought-provoking, non-Hollywood-glossed evening’s entertainment this will surely satisfy and if anything further cemented the growing reputations of it’s leads.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Avengers: Age of Ultron


Viewed – 29 September 2015 Online rental

With the never ending juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, it would be easy to say this cash-cow is getting milked dry. However with a plethora of comic book stories to mine from, those udders aren’t drying up any time soon. So we come to this sequel to the highly entertaining Marvel Avengers Assemble.

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We are thrown straight into the action as our heroes attack a Russian Hydra base to steal back Loki’s sceptre (which you’ll recall him wielding during the last movie).  However little is explained as to what is going on or why, and so despite having seen all the other Marvel movies up to this, I still felt a bit in the dark. Now here’s the first issue – this is again a sequel that relies on you having a very good recollection of not just the last Avengers movie but also Thor: The Dark World and especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  So Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is missing from the line up, the Avengers are holed up in Stark Tower with seemingly Robert Downey Jnr as their boss (?), and there’s two rogue super-powered teens wanting revenge for something Tony Stark did with a bomb.  Then Downey’s Stark goes and complicates it even more by creating an artificial intelligence (Ultron) that turns evil and goes all megalomaniac.

elizabeth olsenSo we come to this globe-trotting and overly complicated sequel’s saving grace … James Spader’s Ultron; a charismatic, darkly humorous villain, with seemingly unstoppable power and a somewhat clichéd kill the entire human race and start again evil plan.  Yet Spader livens up what would otherwise be just another, albeit action-packed super hero movie.  Director Josh Wedon’s skill at snappy dialogue seemed watered down in place of more realism, with downbeat and heartfelt exchanges instead of the humour I’d expected (although there are still some great gags).  The first half an hour or so also drags with a couple of redundant scenes (the tiresome lifting Thor’s hammer bit).  Yet a romance sub-plot between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk is handled well, and each character again gets their moment in the spotlight, most welcomely Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

Overall a solid sequel slightly let down by the usual sequel trappings such as too many characters and storylines going on at once.  Yet with slickly directed action, several stunning sequences (especially the Iron-Man vs Hulk fight…) I still have to recommend this one.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Martha Marcy May Marlene


Viewed – 25 July 2012  DVD

Cults, religious or not are always a fascinating subject, dating back to real life incidents like The Manson Family or Waco, and is something that can’t easily be understood, as the psychological turmoil on those involved can be a very difficult thing to heal.  This follows the story of one such girl who chooses to leave the abusive cult she’s been living in for the past 2 years, and return to her sister and brother-in-law, who soon discover she’s not the girl they once knew.

Elizabeth Olson, younger sibling of famed reality TV twins Ashley and Mary-Kate, stars as Martha who through circumstances that aren’t explained, begins living with a rural cult, or ‘family’ headed by Patrick, an at first kind and loving man, who also happens to sleep with every girl who joins the family as a sort of ‘cleansing’ ritual … yeah, right.  It also turns out the ‘family’ have more than a few screws loose with a love of group sex, home invasion and using firearms.  Martha’s sister however is left in the dark, believing Martha’s disappearance to all be down to a bad relationship.  This was an interesting take on an old idea, jumping between the main character’s difficulty adjusting to normal life and the troubling memories of her time in the cult, the movie often blurring the lines between dreams and reality.  This offered a convincing account of Martha’s damaged mind, which I thought was very well done, even if such an approach left a lot of questions unanswered, like why does she join the cult, and how come she doesn’t run away screaming after her ‘cleansing’?  But the same could be said for many real life cult members, I suppose.

Elizabeth Olson marks herself out as a name to look out for however with a strong central performance, and support, especially from Sarah Paulson as her sister, and John Hawkes as Patrick are both of a high quality.  Yet ultimately this movie left me frustrated, as I wanted to know more, I wanted some sort of satisfying conclusion, and this offered neither – a shame, because otherwise this was a decent night’s viewing.

Verdict:  3 /5