Tag Archives: jeff bridges

Hell Or High Water Is The Modern Western That Is As Blazing As The Texas Sun

imageFor decades the genre of western films was an industry in its own right. There would be multiple westerns put out every year and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars ever are known for all their great western roles, actors such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood. Within the last 30 years or so, the genre has become very scarce when it comes to new films. At best there is one or maybe two new westerns a year and the chances of those being very good are slim. With that said in the past couple years there has been somewhat of a resurgence in the genre. Although it is a small one its picking up momentum with projects like Antoine Fuqua’s reboot of the classic The Magnificent Seven and the HBO new series inspired by the 1973 Michael Crichton film, Westworld. Last year Kurt Russell starred in the indie thriller Bone Tomahawk which definitely turned some heads.

That brings us to this year and a new look and way of having EVERYTHING we have come to love about western movies and with a completely new eye that they can be seen through. David Mackenzie, a director from Cambridge, England that you more than likely haven’t heard of, has completely turned the western genre on its head with his new film, He’ll Or High Water. Mackenzie has taken a classic western tale and perfectly infused it with a modern element. With a legend such as Jeff Bridges, who himself is no stranger to the western, gives the movie its anchor. Ben Foster, also not a stranger to the western (see 3:10 To Yuma) is everything you want in a classic outlaw.

Brothers Tanner (Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine) set out on a imageseries of bank robberies in order to gain enough money to save the family ranch from becoming the property of the same bank that held their dying mother under their thumb. Tanner is the older and career criminal of the two brothers and Toby is the smart one who stayed clean and remained loyal to the family. After they rob their first two banks in one day, they become the target of soon to be retired Texas Ranger, Marcus Hamilton (Bridges). Hamilton and his partner pick up their trail thanks to the years of instinct and expertise. Tanner and Toby have decided to rob the money from various branches of the same bank that is trying to take the ranch from the family which has newly discovered oil on it. Toby is doing all this so that he can give everything to his two sons so that they can have a better future and life he ever had.

imageMackenzie has woven a very simple Robin Hood/cops and robbers type outlaw story and made it so compelling it is near impossible to look away and not be fully engrossed from the opening frame to the last. Melded with occasional humor, sentimental brotherly love at times and action and intensity. With the aspects and the mindset of a classic western where the getaway horses are a late model Camaro you feel that Wyatt Earp could show up at any minute and it wouldn’t feel out of place at all.

Ben Foster was one of the surprise performances when he played the gunslinger Charlie Prince in 2007’s 3:10 To Yuma alongside Russell Crowe. He seemed right at home as an outlaw thief in the old west. For as much as I enjoyed him in Yuma, his turn as Tanner is nothing short of wonderful. This is the first performance I’ve seen this year where the words “Oscar nomination” seemed to but shouting at me through the whole movie.

Jeff Bridges is right at home as the aging lawman who never gives up chasing the bad guy. His performance is also superb and is one of HIS five best performances ever. Rounding out the main stars is Chris Pine as Toby. Pine has become known most recently for playing Captain Kirk in the new series of Star Trek movies as well as for his striking good looks (remember Tina Fey, professing her love for him when she co-hosted the Golden Globes). Pine also plays the best role of his career to this point. He is perfectly cast as a worn out father and former husband who was never rewarded for living a good life. He is the outlaw you can’t help but root for and want to see get away.

imageWhen it comes to the state of the western genre in Hollywood, it may never return to the glory days of John Ford and Sergio Leone but with films like this and visions like that of writer Taylor Sheridan and director David Mackenzie it may just get the resurgence it needs.

Jeff Bridges: Top 5 Underrated Films

jeff_bridgesWithout a doubt in the last 10-15 years one of the most reliable stars has been Jeff Bridges. In the last 6-7 years he’s enjoyed the height of his career without question. After winning his first Academy Award for Crazy Heart, he followed up with another nomination the next year for his remake of True Grit. He would do a Tron sequel and several other movies where he was the leading man, unlike he had ever been.

This has got me to thinking. The years leading up to his massive boom in success what were some of his truly under appreciated films. I went back as far as 1988, when he was a name but not the legend his now. He comes from Hollywood Royalty so it only makes sense that with the direction his career has gone he has become royalty himself. I was 8 years old in 1988 and it’s the first film I remember seeing this larger than life actor. We will touch on that film later, though it is the oldest in my list of underrated Jeff Bridges movies.


5.K-Pax (2001)

k-pax_2.4_resizedWhen Dr. Mark Powell (Bridges) first meets Prot he feels he just dealing with another mentally disturbed man who needs his help. Prot (Kevin Spacey) soon starts to have the doctor doubting his own advice and question his knowledge. Bridges plays a character unafraid of questioning himself and his world. The heart that Bridges gives to the character is not unfamiliar. He has a knack for doing that.


4. The Vanishing (1993)

The Vanishing may seem a little similar to another film on this list in the doubt it plants in the viewer’s mind, but it nonetheless is a top-notch thriller and some even classify it as a horror film. One thing is for sure, it is an intense ride. Barney Cousins is the boyfriend of a woman who gets TheVanishing1993-01_resized-1abducted and he never gives up the search for her no matter the opposition he runs into. Terrifying enough is that the abductor is watching his search the whole time. Bridges plays the role perfectly. I believe this is due to the fact that he is relatable and plays and Everyman so well.


3.Tucker (1988)

This is the film I first remember seeing Jeff Bridges, in. I was a mere 8 years old and became Jeff-Bridges_Tucker-movie_resizedfascinated with Tucker automobile and what he had invented. With no internet to do research, this film was all I had. Jeff Bridges wasn’t an actor to me at that point, he was Preston Tucker. You could feel Tucker’s passion for his car and innovations come through Bridges performance. Sadly is was such an underrated film and not really seen by many.


2. Arlington Road (1999)

These next two films I truly believe, in my heart, that no one could have played these parts and would have conveyed exactly the feelings they should. Michael Faraday is a widowed man with a 9-year-old son. He is a professor of terrorist acts at a Washington university who lost his FBI agent wife in an unexpected raid. He soon begins to suspect his new neighbors of suspicious activity. His paranoia almost takes over the shattered life he is arlington-road_l_resizedattempting to live until he has proof that his suspicions are real. Bridges runs the gamut of emotions and thoughts through the whole movie that you hang on every move he makes.


1.  White Squall (1996)

The role of Captain Sheldon was nothing short of difficult. He played a hard disciplinarian, teacher, and captain in 1960. When he takes aboard 8 teenage male students with various shortcomings, they discover hardship, camaraderie, and brotherhood. Various final1_resizedevents test the limits of all their loyalty. Captain Sheldon never abandons the boys and his responsibility, even in the face of the worst storm he’s witnessed and the loss of much of the crew including his wife. He still strives to teach the boys in his actions far after the tragedy. No one could play this role and emit the feelings and emotion of Captain Sheldon and his crew and life and his loss. It was a top-notch performance and film that never got it’s just due.

Out Of The Furnace Burns Up The Screen

Out-of-the-furnaceGreat, diverse, game changing actors are hard to find and seeing them flex their muscle in the middle of their career and prove their greatness is even more rare. Christian Bale is in the throws of that period in his career. After winning an Oscar for his role in The Fighter, one might take it a little easy and make a little money before continuing his conquest of acting. Bale has not.

Bale would go on and make The Dark Night Rises and to conclude his great run at Bruce Wayne/Batman. The role in the Dark Knight series is the role of a lifetime and along with an Oscar would settle any actor down and let him just make his money in his and career because everything has been accomplished. Bale is not of that sort. He continues to challenge himself. Bale’s newest film is just proof that he is not done challenging himself and his fans.

In Out Of The Furnace, Bale plays Russell Baze, a good man who is jailed after a drunk driving accident leaves a person dead. Upon his release he once again feels the need to keep what little family he has, together. His family consists of his younger brother Rodney and his uncle. When Rodney, a veteran who is troubled by his time in Iraq, finds himself in deep water with the worst kind of people, Russell is forced to enter this world and take vengeance on those people.

Rodney is just as wonderfully played by Casey Affleck as Russell is by Bale. The raw emotion burned on the screen by both men is seared into the minds and emotions of the viewer as well. Taking place in the “Rust Belt”, which is a particularly heart breaking area of the country,  is a near perfect location in that it lends itself to the hardship in Russell’s life and mirrors his struggles.

Directed by Scott Cooper, who previously directed Jeff Bridges in his Oscar winning role in Crazy Heart, proves he is among directors to be noticed. Cooper has again brought out top performances from his actors. At the same time he has made a visually stunning and even haunting film. His vision of the battered and worn out “Rust Belt” area truly shows the hardship of the area that was at one time a thriving area. He has made the community in which they live a character itself.

This is a film that could possibly hold some heavy Oscar nominations but at the same time it wouldn’t be a shock to see it shut out. Never the less, it is strong, powerful film that shows suffering and hardship in a way and world many only hope doesn’t exist but does. With outstanding performances top to bottom the unflinching and real heart and emotion that comes through is unquestionable. The other side is the truly terrifying side of humanity shown in Woody Harrelson”s character and the world he lives in and rules. It is a film not to be missed and experienced. It will leave you quite moved.

The Upside Of Anger Shows An Upside To Binder’s Body Of Work

6616-The-Upside-of-Anger--2005-After nearly 12 years of scattered work which did include a short lived series on HBO, entitled The Mind Of A Married Man, Mike Binder would return with his most acclaimed cast to date and most interesting and possibly challenging film yet.

The Upside Of Anger stars Kevin Costner as an alcoholic ex-baseball player turned radio DJ and Joan Allen the newly alcoholic scorned wife of a husband who has apparently left his family for a younger woman, leaving his wife to finish raising their four daughters. When Costner discovers Joan Allen’s situation, a reluctant kinship is formed between the two until the true cause of Joan Allen’s husband’s disappearance is discovered.

The story centers around a woman who just wants to be sad over her apparent situation and a man of fame who ultimately wants to be forgotten by everyone including himself at times. The other central character is that of the self medication choice the two have made and that despite being a perfect match for each other, they are also toxic for each other. As their lives unfold and they grow closer along with experiencing tragedy together they seem to help each other.

With fantastic performances from everyone, especially a young and lesser known Evan Rachel Wood as “Popeye” the youngest of the sisters as the story is really told through her eyes that appear to be wise beyond her years, The Upside Of Anger is probably the best title in that it truly explains the complexity of a life that they thought was complex enough already.

Binder was at the time concerned that Costner would not be interested in once again playing a baseball player. His fears were releaved when Costner told him if the script is right and he likes the material he doesn’t care what the character does for a living. Joan Allen was a natural choice for Terry Ann. The two had worked together on the film, The Contender with Jeff Bridges and she had hoped Binder would be able to write something for her in the future and a better part, she could not have gotten. ?????????????????`

It really is Binder’s finest film up to that point and is amongst his best over all. Despite the seriousness of it’s over subject matter, humor once again does not elude Binder’s script and film. It is his most polished film and most perfectly made. Binder appears in the movie as the womanizing Shep, Costner’s radio producer. Displaying the wit and underrated acting ability that landed him his series with HBO that unfortunately was cut short.

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2010 Put The Hurt On A Long List

2009 (awards handed out in 2010) saw the inevitable happen. The expansion of the best picture nominee list to a list of 10 including just the second animated film. The Hurt Locker took home top honors along with it’s director Kathryn Bigelow who was the ex-wife of fellow nominee James Cameron. The true competition was in the best actor category. Jeff Bridges was the nights sentimental favorite despite it being the BEST performance of his career in Crazy Heart. He was up against George Clooney in an out-of-the-park role in Up In The Air and Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker.

Let’s look at the remaining nominees beginning with James Cameron’s visually stunning Avatar. The story of workers mining for an extinct mineral on another planet was a huge success at the box office and is still the benchmark for 3D movies. The problem with Avatar was the story was weak at best and the acting felt almost phoned in. How it made it to this short list is beyond me.

Next was the heartwarming feel good movie of the year staring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock in, The Blind Side. The true story of a generous yet traditional southern family taking in a poor and homeless boy who soon discovers he has a talent for football and makes it all the way to the NFL thanks to their help and generosity.

Again we have a peculiar choice and it too hails from the sci-fi genre. The Peter Jackson produced District 9 is about a South African town that has quarantined their alien population due to the fact they infect humans and turn them into aliens. Shot in the pseudo documentary style it was a very smart script that was well made despite a movie that easily could have been horribly done in the wrong hands.

2009 brought the movie that Quentin Tarantino had been working on almost his whole career. Fans had heard stories of his writing the script on the set of Pulp Fiction. It was gonna be his opus and best work yet. Inglorious Basterds proved one thing, too much time may be a bad thing. While it was a good movie and had some classic Tarantino staples in it including great dialogue and acting, Christoph Waltz without question stole the movie. But as a whole movie it didn’t live up to it’s hype. It would have been better as come out of nowhere type.

Then of course comes the token British film, An education tells the story of a teenage girl and how a new playboy in town changes her life. The real jewel here is that America finally discovered Carey Mulligan and that a star was finally born.

The dark and even disturbing movie Precious based on the novel tells about a young, poor urban girl who’s abusive mother and mess of a home life drive her to better her life for her and the baby she is carrying due to the rape by her father. With a stunning a frightening performance by comedienne Monique proving again that sometimes comedians make the best actors.

Up was the first animated feature since Beauty And The Beast to be nominated for best picture. Though it’s animated it’s a very real and emotional story of a shy man whose love of his life passes away and he is determined to take the adventure he and his love were always supposed to take. Aided by the boy scout who accidentally get’s latched on for the ride he takes his journey and discovers that the life he had with her was better than any adventure they could have gone on.

George Clooney was back and so was Jason Reitman who had previously been the center of attention for directing Juno. This time he proved to be the master of what some have called “Dramedies”. Up In The Air is about Ryan Bingham, a man who fires people for a living and spends 270 days a year traveling for this horrible job. he likes the single serving life he lives and has no desire to form relationships and even gives speeches on how not to do so. That all changes when two women come into his life and he is forced to see his lifestyle for what it is and tries to change just before his new found philosophy comes crashing down.

The only movie of the year that was snubbed off the expanded nominee list was the Jeff Bridges wonderment of a movie Crazy Heart. The story of an old broken down, drunken country singer songwriter who falls in love before tearing it all down in an instant. He then goes on to prove it’s never too late for someone to make the best of their life.

So did the best picture win? In this case it’s very easy to make a case for Clooney’s Up In The Air, the animated love story Up and the life changing story of Crazy Heart. They are all equal films for what they are. After spending years in Iraq with nothing but controversy surrounding it, it was due time that a film would make us look differently at war and the soldiers who fight it. The Hurt Locker was the right movie at the right time therefore making it’s statement on Oscar night. It’s hard to argue against this movie since it’s so engrossing and intense on level not felt in quite some time.