Tag Archives: Tom Waits

The Dead Don’t Die (2019) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Cast:
Bill Murray as Chief Cliff Robertson
Adam Driver as Officer Ronald “Ronnie” Peterson
Tilda Swinton as Zelda Winston
Chloë Sevigny as Officer Minerva “Mindy” Morrison
Steve Buscemi as Farmer Miller
Danny Glover as Hank Thompson
Caleb Landry Jones as Bobby Wiggins
Rosie Perez as Posie Juarez
Iggy Pop as Coffee Zombie
Sara Driver as Coffee Zombie
RZA as Dean
Carol Kane as Mallory O’Brien
Selena Gomez as Zoe
Tom Waits as Hermit Bob
Director: Jim Jarmusch

In the sleepy small town of Centerville, something is not quite right. The moon hangs large and low in the sky, the hours of daylight are becoming unpredictable, and animals are beginning to exhibit unusual behaviors. News reports are scary, and scientists are concerned, but no one foresees the strangest and most dangerous repercussion that will soon start plaguing Centerville: the dead rise from their graves and feast on the living, and the citizens must battle to survive.

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The Dead Don’t Die is a movie I heard a little bit about for a month or so. I knew that it was a zombie movie that was anticipated but people felt rather mixed on when it released. It’s also got a great cast, with the likes of Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and more involved. It’s also the first movie that I’ve seen from director Jim Jarmusch, whose other films included Paterson and Only Lovers Left Alive (movies I’ve heard about but never got around to). Having only seen The Dead Don’t Die, I’m just going to assume that this is his worst movie.

All I knew going into this movie is that this was a zombie comedy, I was going in completely blind otherwise and so had no other expectations. This movie certainly has some weird humour throughout. I really do like deadpan humour, but I never knew it was possible for a movie to be too deadpan, to the point where the humour just completely disappears from them movie. I assume it’s somewhat trying to be comedic however, because if you look at the movie from a serious perspective, it’s even worse. So outside of some certain moments, it was neither serious nor funny, so I’m not exactly sure how to take most of the movie. The horror doesn’t even exist here, the few times that have some attempt at it are very weak. So you’d think that maybe it’s meant to be working on a deeper level with the story. Well there is some social commentary that the movie throws in throughout about materialism and the like, and it is incredibly ham fisted and blatant, none of that works either. So really the movie doesn’t work in any regard, not as a comedy, not as a horror, and it’s not a deep movie with important things to say about anything.

Despite the great cast, they can only do so much. Adam Driver, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton come across the best here, with Driver and Murray as a pair of cops, and Swinton as an undertaker who also happens to be a samurai (or something). Driver actually does manages to elevate some of the scenes he’s in, with so many of his deadpan delivered lines being amongst the only funny parts of the movie. The rest of the cast don’t really do much, with Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez and Tom Waits being okay in their parts but but weren’t particularly memorable.

As I said up above, the movie barely has any horror, honestly Shaun of the Dead is much scarier. If you’re hoping to enjoy it for the gore at least, there’s maybe a few scenes like that but on the whole there isn’t much here. An observation is that for whatever reason, whenever part of a zombie is chopped off or shot, soot or dust comes out instead of blood, I’m not sure whether it’s an artistic decision or because of budgetary reasons but it’s like that in the movie.

By the end of The Dead Don’t Die, I wasn’t exactly sure what the point of all of it was. The jokes don’t land, the scares don’t work, the movie doesn’t entertain, and even if you just go by the message/social commentary, it’s so forced and poorly handled that it deflates the movie even further. I didn’t hate it, but it really gets worse the more I think about it, as it really doesn’t work well in any regard. Not even the cast can fully save it (though Adam Driver has some good moments). I guess if you’re really excited for the movie I guess you could give it a go. It’s harmless but rather forgettable and a bit of a timewaster, so if you’re sceptical about the movie, I’d say it’s not worth it.

The Old Man & the Gun (2018) Review

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Forrest Tucker
Casey Affleck as John Hunt
Danny Glover as Teddy Green
Tika Sumpter as Maureen Hunt
Tom Waits as Waller
Sissy Spacek as Jewel
Director: David Lowery

At the age of 70, Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) makes an audacious escape from San Quentin, conducting an unprecedented string of heists that confound authorities and enchant the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest’s commitment to his craft, and a woman (Sissy Spacek) who loves him in spite of his chosen profession.

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The Old Man & the Gun was a movie that I was interested in. Not only is it a film by David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Pete’s Dragon) and having a cast that features actors like Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek, it’s also said to be legendary actor’s Robert Redford’s last performance. I will admit watching it, it really wasn’t quite as great as I was hoping it would be given all of what I just mentioned. However, there were still some pretty good parts to it and the movie was decent enough overall.

There’s nothing that the movie does particularly wrong, it’s just not as memorable and I wasn’t entertained/interested as I hoped I would be. I don’t even have that much to say about it except that it’s fine. You do need to go in expecting a bit of a slow burn throughout, because that’s what it really is. It took me a while for me to get really into it, after a certain point I was somewhat interested in what was going on. I guess knowing that this movie is based on a true story and real person does make the movie more interesting at least.

The cast is all around talented and great. I know that this movie is based on a true story and a true person but this role seems perfectly tailed to Robert Redford, that I can’t imagine any other actor playing that role. As the titular Old Man with a gun, he’s basically the main event and this whole movie is surrounding him, and he’s definitely the best part of the movie. While admittedly I haven’t seen a ton of his performances in his career overall, I think this might be one of his best, and a pretty good one to end his career on. Sissy Spacek is good as well as someone who ends up being Redford’s love interest, the two of them have great chemistry throughout. Now 3 time David Lowery collaborator Casey Affleck is good as the cop who’s trying to track down Robert Redford, despite the amount of scenes that he gets however, his doesn’t quite have a resolution to his story. Other actors like Danny Glover and Tom Waits (both of them playing Redford’s accomplices) do well in their roles as well.

David Lowery has proved with his past few films that he’s a really great director and The Old Man & the Gun was again directed pretty well. There’s not a lot to say about the direction all round, I guess it feels like it’s in the 1980s, the production design, costumes and editing was pretty good and it was shot well, the music choices also worked really well for the movie. It’s a very lowkey movie, with the direction not being too flashy.

The Old Man & the Gun I’d say is definitely David Lowery’s weakest movie out of the ones I’ve seen from him but still is pretty decent and isn’t bad by any means. I’d describe it as a pretty good (albeit slow) movie to watch if you’re doing something while watching it. It’s not essential viewing by any means but it might be worth checking out for the performances, especially for Robert Redford’s last performance.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs
Willie Watson as The Kid
David Krumholtz as Frenchman in Saloon
E. E. Bell as Saloon Piano Player
Tom Proctor as Cantina Bad Man
Clancy Brown as Çurly Joe

Near Algodones
James Franco as Cowboy
Stephen Root as Teller
Ralph Ineson as The Man in Black
Jesse Luken as Drover

Meal Ticket
Liam Neeson as Impresario
Harry Melling as Artist (Harrison)

All Gold Canyon
Tom Waits as Prospector
Sam Dillon as Young Man

The Gal Who Got Rattled
Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh
Bill Heck as Billy Knapp
Grainger Hines as Mr. Arthur
Jackamoe Buzzell as Boarder #3
Jefferson Mays as Gilbert Longabaugh
Ethan Dubin as Matt

The Mortal Remains
Tyne Daly as Lady (Mrs. Betjeman)
Brendan Gleeson as Irishman (Clarence)
Jonjo O’Neill as Englishman (Thigpen)
Saul Rubinek as Frenchman (René)
Chelcie Ross as Trapper
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

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The Coen Brothers have done some good movies in the past but I can never tell how much I’ll like their movies. Hail Caesar wasn’t particularly liked loved a lot of people but I really liked it, whereas their beloved movies Fargo and Inside Llewyn Davis I liked but didn’t love, not to mention I didn’t like their comedy ‘classic’ Raising Arizona at all. This isn’t the first Western movie that they have done, with No Country for Old Men and True Grit showing that they are great with the genre, but it is the first anthology movie that they’ve done. It’s such a weird idea for them and I really didn’t know what to expect. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a odd mix of western stories written and directed by The Coen Brothers that range from okay to actually pretty good. I’m glad I watched it but it’s far from the filmmaking duo’s best.

Now the movie is split into 6 different chapters and it’s just impossible for me to talk about the movie on a whole without talking about them individually. Therefore, I’ll separate my review by the individual chapters. The first chapter is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It’s about Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a cheerful outlaw and singer who comes across other outlaws and hilarity and chaos insures. So much of this chapter is cartoonish and over the top, I was entertained by it but I was expecting much more. Really the highlight of this chapter was the titular character of Buster Scruggs played by Tim Blake Nelson. He’s so over the top and full of energy that it’s fun to watch him, he’s almost like a cartoon character put into live action. While all of the chapters were directed well, this was particularly well directed and put together. Though it was fun, by the end it just comes across as a fun skit written and directed by The Coen Brothers rather than them actually making part of a movie. I’m not exactly sure why they decided to name the whole movie after this chapter, it’s way shorter than I thought it would be and was just sort of funny and that’s it. While I had fun with this chapter, it did make me nervous about the rest of the movie, and whether it would be just fun western skits for the entirety of the movie. Know that despite what I said, I actually had a lot of fun with it and it’s really good. I just wish that it was longer and had more of a purpose.

The second chapter is titled Near Algodones and stars James Franco as a cowboy who tries to perform a robbery. The best thing I can say about it indicates at least that each chapter of this movie will have a different tone and story, it’s not cartoonishly goofy as Buster Scruggs and is a little more serious, yet it has some effective dark comedy and James Franco is also good in a role that we don’t usually see him in. Again though, it feels so incredibly short, around the length of Buster Scruggs and probably even shorter. The whole movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long yet they couldn’t seem to make each of them at least 20 minutes long. The found footage anthology movie V/H/S seemed to have longer segments. However, it’s not just that it’s short, while Buster Scruggs can get by with it being a goofy comedic skit, Near Algodones is a more serious story, and so doesn’t have that to fall back on. While it wasn’t bad by any means, there wasn’t really anything particularly interesting or even that entertaining about this chapter, outside of some slightly humorous moments. Having watched this segment, I had even more worries about how the overall movie would be.

The third chapter is titled Meal Ticket, starring Liam Neeson as an travelling impresario with an armless and legless artist played by Harry Melling. Again, significantly different tone and type of story and it was such a weird choice of story to make in the western setting, especially in contrast to the previous two stories. However, it’s from this point that things started to look up for the overall movie. It didn’t really have any comedy whatsoever, thankfully though it is done much better than Near Algodones. It’s about as long as the Buster Scruggs segment yet we actually get to learn more about the characters and their situations. Both Neeson and Melling are also great in their roles and their subtle performances made the chapter even better. This story isn’t what you’d typically think of when it comes to western stories but it really works for this movie. It’s a lot more atmospheric and darker from the others, also with a rather bleak ending which fits right along with The Coen Brothers’ other dark endings, all around Meal Ticket was pretty decent.

The fourth chapter is titled All Gold Canyon and is about Tom Waits as a prospector who arrives in a mountain valley and decides to dig for gold, again, very different kind of story compared to the others. Something that’s immediately different is the setting. The first two segments were very desert-western based, and the third mostly took place at towns in night. The fourth chapter however takes place in a beautiful and green field, making it by far the most visually stunning of all the segments. It’s longer than the previous segments and is the easiest to watch of all the segments. It’s really just Tom Waits in the story in terms of characters, and he carries it very well. Overall one of the better chapters of the movie.

The fifth chapter is titled The Gal Who Got Rattled, which is about a woman (Zoe Kazan) and her brother (Jefferson Mays), who are traveling in a wagon train towards Oregon. Now I heard from some people how the movie falls apart from this segment as well as the 6th chapter. It doesn’t feel like a typical Coen Brothers’ movie, both in concept and in terms of writing and dialogue. It is also the longest of the 6 segments, and is more drawn out with a slower pace, which feels really jarring compared to the prior segments which moved rather fast. I will say that it does feel like the most well rounded of the stories. Most of the other chapters feel like either brief snapshots of what the stories as full complete movies could be, or random skits. The Gal Who Got Rattled on the other hand actually works as a short film on its own, with characters effectively fleshed out. You could probably even see the segment turned into a full length movie. The actors all did a great job with their performances particularly Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck and Grainger Hines. Although it’s very out of place compared to the other chapters, The Gal Who Got Rattled is at the very least one of the better segments.

The sixth chapter is titled The Mortal Remains, and is about five people who ride in a stagecoach together to Fort Morgan. It feels like such a weird story to end the movie. Admittedly while I was on board with every chapter leading up to this, when it got to this one I sort of switched off. After the 30+ minute long segment of The Gal Who Got Rattled which was on such a large scale, it felt like an alright place for the movie to stop. However it was immediately followed by 5 people just talking, and through a lot of it, I just didn’t care what was going on, at least before the halfway point. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments to it though, after the halfway point it does pick up quite a bit, also Jonjo O’Neil, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, Tyne Daly and Chelcie Ross were quite good in their roles. However it still is one of the weaker of the stories.

To summarise: whether you like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or not, there’s no arguing that it really feels like a Coen Brothers movie… well there are at least plenty of glimpses of it. A lot of the direction and writing, especially the dialogue and dark comedy feels quite a bit like The Coen Brothers’ work. I can see some of these segments working as entire full length stories. Since they titled the movie after the first chapter, I couldn’t see why they didn’t just make the whole movie about that. And if The Coen Brothers’ were committed to doing a bunch of short stories, it might’ve been better if they just made it a mini series, 6 episodes with each episode ranging from 40 minutes to an hour. They don’t really have any connections to each other whatsoever, and each of the stories don’t really seem to serve any point except to every time come to the conclusion that it was rough living in the Wild West. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of good things to this movie. It is visually stunning throughout all the segments and are directed well, and the actors do great jobs, particularly Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a bit of a mixed bag, while all the chapters are well directed and acted, much of the segments are way too short and aren’t interesting enough and as mentioned above aren’t as great as you’d hope given who worked on them. If you’re a fan of The Coen Brothers, I’d say definitely check it out, it’s on Netflix and will just be 2 hours and 10 minutes of your time. As for the rest of you, I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it. Despite my thoughts on some of the segments and the overall movie, I will praise the Coen Brothers for at least trying something different. It is one of their weakest movies though.

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

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Seven Psychopaths

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Marty
Sam Rockwell as Billy
Woody Harrelson as Charlie
Christopher Walken as Hans
Tom Waits as Zachariach
Abbi Cornish as Kaya
Olga Kurylenko as Angela
Director: Martin McDonagh

Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter who involuntarily becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) and Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken) kidnap a beloved Shih Tzu from Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson) – who is a gangster.

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Martin McDonagh is a writer and director to be watched. In film, he has been on a roll, first releasing the Oscar winning short film Six Shooter, before moving onto In Bruges, a fantastic black comedy and he has down it again with Seven Psychopaths. Like In Bruges, it is a dark comedy but it is somehow bigger than its predecessor. I don’t know if it is better than In Bruges but it is very close to the level of greatness.

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One of the things I like about this movie is that the main character’s ideas for writing psychopaths come from mostly the people around him. This movie is bigger than In Bruges, where as that movie mostly took place in Bruges, Seven Psychopaths take place in multiple places and has more characters that it focuses on. One of the only flaws I could find in this movie it that is lacked some character development. There isn’t as much character development as In Bruges but in this movie I didn’t mind it that much. Also like with In Bruges, it contains Tarantino violence. Tarantino violence involves is a lot of blood that has been exaggerated – so note that this movie is probably not for the faint of heart. With In Bruges, with the exception of a couple scenes, the violence mostly took place in the second half and was mostly used in serious situations. Here, there is more of it but it mostly is used for comedy. That’s also one thing that I’ve noticed, In Bruges seems to have 60% drama and 40% comedy, where as with Seven Psychopaths, the movie has about 40% drama and 60% comedy. Martin McDonagh somehow manages to pull it off. If I was asked which movie out of both of them was the most fun, I’d probably say Seven Psychopaths.

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All of the actors do a great job, the two stand outs however are Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell. Christopher Walken is always fun to watch but in this movie he’s not just parodying himself. He is great and has many classic, priceless scenes. The same can be said for Sam Rockwell. This is his best performance in years and is absolutely hilarious. For me, the best scene he’s in involves a camp fire. All the actors had brilliant comedic timing and played off each other really well. Each one of them has their moment to shine to show off their talents in this movie.

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The cinematography is good as it was with In Bruges and like I said above, this film takes place in more than one place. The cinematographers really make great use of the locations. One thing I have noticed with the cinematography though that is different is the tone; In Bruges had a darker look while this movie seems to have a brighter look to it. The soundtrack has compositions from Carter Burwell but also features some other songs that fit in very well with many scenes in the movie.

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Martin McDonagh’s follow up to In Bruges really proves that he is a great writer and director. From watching his two movies alone, I’m very excited to see what he does in the future. Because of his writing and the cast’s acting this film manages to be one of my favourite movies, along with In Bruges. Like its predecessor, Seven Psychopaths was a big surprise and should be seen if you liked In Bruges.