The Official Review Thread of 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Mon Oct 03, 2016 10:42 pm

I'll second BJ on American Honey

One thing that really struck me, in retrospect, is that it largely does manage to sustain itself and it's fairly unique tone throughout it's 2 hr 42 minute run time. For what it does, it's definitely too long, but if you'd ask me what I'd take out, I'd be hard-pressed to find the scene (though I think the film should've ended on the titular moment). Also, while I get the Shia LaBouef is basically a walking joke at this point, I thought he was really good.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 03, 2016 1:23 pm

I'm not surprised that American Honey has divided people. It's the kind of movie that I'm always wary of recommending to people, because if you just don't respond to its wavelength, I think you'll flat hate it. My gut instinct is that the crowd that didn't respond to Spring Breakers probably wouldn't care for this...but then I have to remind myself that I didn't much care for Spring Breakers, and was totally taken by American Honey, so who knows what that means.

Watching the movie, I was fully aware of the arguments that could be made against it -- it's close to three hours, it's mostly a collection of vignettes rather than a tightly controlled plot, there are a lot of scenes of people just hanging out, the characters aren't by any means what you'd call a likable collection of individuals. If all of this comes off as boring and/or unpleasant to you, I imagine you'll have an emperor's new clothes reaction to the movie, wondering why so many have been knocked out by something that you just didn't think had any there there.

But damn, I was completely swept away by the movie, by the rhythms of Andrea Arnold's filmmaking, by the vibe of the soundtrack and the youthful energy of those jamming along with it, by its vast portrait of this great, big country of America and all of the ugliness, pain, tragedy, hopes, and joys across its landscape. It's not a movie that seems to put forward a single thesis -- probably the reason detractors will find it empty -- but it makes a lot of compelling observations along the way -- about class, youth, money, family, dreams, the parts of America that have been left behind (and those that haven't), the way a piece of music can mean a lot to you if it comes along at the right moment in your life.

The movie isn't perfect. I think it's too long, for sure. I don't think Arnold came up with quite the right ending -- it's the kind of movie that sort of just stops rather than ends. The main character, Star, remains a bit opaque -- there were moments when I wondered if a Spacek-in-Badlands-style voiceover might have helped get us into her head a bit more, and if that might have been a benefit to the movie. And the central love triangle isn't necessarily the movie's most graceful element, though Riley Keough, as the drug-addled, Confederate flag bikini-sporting ringleader of this ragtag group of misfits, makes for a frighteningly good nemesis for our heroine.

But the movie's raw energy and emotion have been hard for me to shake. And individual moments gather in cumulative power, so that by the time the movie reached essentially its eleven o'clock number -- the gang singing along to the title song, in a moment akin to the "Tiny Dancer" sequence in Almost Famous -- I was completely bowled over by the movie's complex blend of feelings, brought out simply by the energies of the cast and the filmmakers.

As I said, it's an acquired taste, and I suspect some here won't be impressed. (My hunch is Damien would have found it very shrill.) But for those who dig it, you'll certainly feel like you had some kind of dazzling experience.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:03 pm

SAUSAGE PARTY
Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, Michael Cera, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, James Franco, Paul Rudd, Craig Robinson, Anders Holm (voices).
Dirs: Greg Tierney, Conrad Vernon.

Food items in the grocery store worship humans as "gods" who are going to pick them to go to the Great Beyond. Then a hot dog finds out the horrible truth. The "gods" actually eat them in horrific ways. The film is a crazy parody of PIXAR films, a non-stop barrage of food puns and sex jokes and a thoughtful exploration of the concept of organized religion. Yeah, the last part is weird. But strangely, it makes sense and works, for the most part. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of course gives us a vulgarity laden comedy with quite a good number of laughs (I particularly like the Meat Loaf gag). It's not completely perfect (none of their feature films are) but it has enough laughs and I could commend its ambition of incorporating bigger questions into what is essentially a silly, funny movie.

Oscar Prospects: Best Animated Feature is competitive this year. The news that the directors of the film overworked and underpaid their animators may not sit well with some members. Original Song ("The Great Beyond") is possible as well.

Grade: B.

SNOWDEN
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shaleine Woodley, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Wilkinson, Logan Marshall-Green. Scott Eastwood, Keith Stanfield, Joely Richardson, Ben Chaplin.
Dir: Oliver Stone.

This film is about whistle-blower Edward Snowden and how he came to expose the U.S. government for spying on citizens. When I first heard this film is being made by Oliver Stone, two things came to mind: First Oliver Stone hasn't made a great film in a long time and second, there's already an excellent documentary Citizenfour about this story, made by one of the characters in the movie, Laura Poitras, and making a narrative film out of it feels a bit redundant. I was kind of right on both counts. I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt's strange voice, trying emulate how the real Edward Snowden talks, is a a bit of a distraction at times (especially since the real Edward Snowden shows up in the end and you can hear how weird it is). But it's still a compelling story and its message still resonates.

Oscar Prospects: Editing is possible but Original Song ("The Veil") is more likely.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Sun Oct 02, 2016 6:54 pm

I saw 20th Century Women also and largely echo BJ's opinion. I think Mike Mills stumbled onto a design that served Beginners well. There was the plot-line of his dying, newly-out father, the plot-line of his finding love, and then the floating subplot about his mother. That all winds together very nicely. In this film, they're all sort of like the subplot of the mother. There is no plot. Notionally, it's about a mother asking the two young women in her son's life to help raise him into a man, but Mills also wants to do the same Beginners-style "Every person's life is a story" thing. The film is sort of broken up into chapters devoted to each character's story. So...there's no plot or forward momentum. Every scene is its own pocket universe. A movie it reminded me of was American Hustle where it's clear that we're dealing with a very talented filmmaker who has mistook the forest for the trees. Mike Mills loves his trees. He gets the best out of his cast. There are funny, truthful, human moments, but this movie exists to explain who these characters are rather than tell a story. That would be nice if I felt like he got close to them.

Also, his essay-style filmmaking (cut aways to art, speed-up/slow-down, etc) is in overdrive here and bugged the shit out of me.

Annette Bening is quite good. She's not exactly doing something we've never seen before but this is a fun character. But no, this will not win her an Academy Award. I doubt she'll be nominated. If she were pushed for supporting, she might have a shot. This is an ensemble film so they could possibly get away with a move like that.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:19 am

Thanks for the take, BJ. I really loved Beginners so I was curious about this one. Your comment on narrative is interesting and I have to admit I'm very curious how you'd take Paterson.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Oct 01, 2016 12:34 pm

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O'Dowd, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench, Ella Purnell, Alison Janney, Rupert Everett, Kim Dickens, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Milo Parker, Cameron King, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Georgia Pemberton, Raffiella Chapman, O-Lan Jones.
Dir: Tim Burton.

A teenaged boy discovers his grandfather's bedtime stories and old weird photos are not made up but a real place, a home for peculiar children, i.e. kids with weird and unusual powers. I've actually read the first book of this successful series. It's not bad. It's just typical fantasy YA stuff, the young hero/Chosen One's journey to fulfill his destiny, etc. It's the typical narrative template but with a unique mishmash of other stuff seen in various sources. The book was an enjoyable read. And this film is an enjoyable watch. The film is in many ways a typical Tim Burton film and for me, that's a good thing since I love Tim Burton (mostly). However, I think this is mid-tier Burton at best. Eva Green is pretty great as the title character. The film's mythology gets muddled when they added the third act that wasn't in the books but otherwise, this is a solid enough fantasy flick.

Oscar Prospects: Makeup & Hairstyling, Production Design, Costume Design, Visual Effects and Original Song are possible.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Sep 30, 2016 7:23 pm

I saw 20th Century Women last night. I was quite a fan of Beginners, and while my expectations were high for this one, it didn't reach that same level for me. The movie definitely has its merits -- compelling characters, a coming-of-age/mother-son dynamic that doesn't feel cliche, a good number of laugh-out-loud moments, genuine poignancy. And there's a scope to the movie that's wider than usual for this type of film, covering a lot of ground in numerous character's lives, both before and after the main thrust of the movie. If Beginners was obviously Mike Mills's love letter to his dad, 20th Century Women is pretty clearly a celebration of his mom, and he remains a thoughtful observer of real human behavior.

But I also thought the movie was a bit thin on the plot level -- I kept thinking, these are all interesting people, having compelling conversations, but when is the story going to start? The movie is a watchable enough slice of life, but felt stuck in low gear for much of its running time; I'm finding that the more I write myself, the antsier I've been getting with movies where it feels like not really all that much happens on a narrative level. I also think, at points, the movie really loses focus with all of its characters -- there were definitely times when I thought both Billy Crudup and Greta Gerwig's characters were sort of hanging around the story, without always serving a purpose.

Annette Bening has a good part, though not, for me, one as dominant as her previous Best Actress bids. I'd say there's no way this is a winner, but possibly it could be a nominee (though Best Actress seems to be quite competitive this year, and a lot of people are going to be duking it out for those spots).

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:26 am

STORKS
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Steven Kramer Glickman, Anton Starkman, Danny Trejo (voices).
Dirs: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland.

Animated film based on that age-old concept of storks delivering babies. This is set in the world where this happened but storks have since transitioned to delivering online shopping items. Then things happen. I actually really enjoyed this one. The film's mythology doesn't make much sense. I sat there thinking, if storks aren't making babies anymore, where does this world get babies, etc. etc.? I wished that was clearer. But whatever it lacks in logic, it makes up for in laughs. There are quite a number of really funny sequences in this one. The wolf pack and the fight scene involving penguins? (You gotta see it to believe it) Hilarious and worth the price of admission. It's no animated classic but a funny enough distraction.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:09 am

THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS
Cast: The Beatles.
Dir: Ron Howard.

I think most everyone in the world capable of hearing at least like the Beatles. This is a documentary that tells the story of the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania where they toured around the world playing for thousands of wild fans and the cultural phenomenon that followed. Does it say anything new about the Beatles or about rock music or music in general? Not much really. If you're a Beatles fan or a fan of rock 'n' roll in general, you will already have known most of the story this doc is telling. We know they're great. We know about the wild fans and the various controversies. However, there are some rarely seen concert performance footage and candid behind the scenes footage and photos in this film that any Beatle fan would love to see. As I was leaving the theater, I noticed there were a few kids in the audience. Then I realize, this film is a great way to introduce the Beatles to them. This film is a better film for them and for any Beatles newbie. If you're a Beatles fan or someone with even a passing interest in music, this film may not be an eye-opening experience but it's a solid and entertaining documentary.

Oscar Prospects: Documentary Feature.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:08 am

The Meddler

For the life of me, I don't understand why Lorene Scafaria didn't want to start the film with Marnie moving in near The Grove. Instead she's already moved in and it makes for a first act that already feels exhausted by Susan Sarandon's character in a dull way. I was fairly ready to bail on the film but it (and Sarandon) relaxes into a groove as it goes along as the narrative pivots on her behavior. Ultimately it reveals itself as a film that began as a character piece rather than situational narrative. I can't really recommend it but Sarandon is quite good and it's so rare that she gets a role like this that its worth a view. She's adorable. The movie isn't.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Sep 11, 2016 1:24 am

I'm going to agree with Mister Tee that Hell or High Water is a compelling film, but also one that isn't maybe as great as it might have been.

For me, the film's greatest strengths were in the areas of direction, mood, and environment. I haven't seen any of David Mackenzie's other films, but this movie clearly marked him as someone to watch in my book. The opening heist is gripping, but in a way that felt real and not engineered in a movie suspense factory, and the film holds this level of tension throughout much of its running time. The final reel of the film is pretty nerve-wracking -- (nothing major spoiled here, but avoid the next line if you're super cautious about these things) -- beginning with the final bank heist gone ugly, through the chase/standoff, and culminating with the police checkpoint.

But even in the non-suspense sequences, I thought the film maintained a remarkable sense of unease. I found myself consistently noticing the framing in many of the shots, with the relationship of the characters to each other, to the edges of the frame, and to their environments contributing very effectively to the mood of the piece. And the music is really crucial to creating this sense of dread as well, with the composers bringing the same sense of Western gloom they brought to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

I hear what you're saying, Mister Tee, about how the fact that these characters are probably Trump voters makes one less sympathetic to their plight (though a lot of Ben Foster's actions aren't helping that cause either). But I thought the movie's cultural/political subtext enhanced the movie quite a bit. I agree that the "screw the banks" angle has likely helped the film resonate -- and I do think that theme is hit a bit hard, with a few too many billboards declaiming the message in case we missed it -- but I felt the movie's portrait of an America left behind had a lot of interesting details along the way, from the rancher who offhandedly remarks that his kids aren't likely to stick around to herd cattle for the rest of their lives, to the restaurant owner who scoffs at the New Yorker who wants food she doesn't serve, to the waitress who doesn't at first report the brothers because she needs their big tip for her mortgage. Scene after scene shows minor characters struggling to survive in towns where the people, the jobs, and the life just disappeared, and the resulting resentment a lot of these people feel (shown most strongly in the two protagonists) provides a powerful through-line to the movie. (I've visited a lot of towns like these, including in the Texas/Oklahoma region shown here, and I thought the sadness of the boarded-up street fronts and abandoned, struggling communities was depicted in about as authentic a manner possible.) If anything, I thought the movie effectively portrayed both "baskets" Hillary mentioned in her latest controversial speech -- criticizing the deplorables (take a look at the skin colors of the characters involved in the movie's most gasp-inducing murder) while also having empathy for those people frustrated that today's economy seems to have just abandoned them. (And the casting of these smaller roles was spot-on -- these people LOOK like small-town Texans, not actors out of central casting.)

All right, the problems -- while I think the script has a lot of good sequences, as well as strong dialogue (in particular, the scenes with Bridges and his partner have a lot of interesting exchanges), I agree that the plot left something to be desired. This wasn't so much an issue as I was watching most of the movie as it was after it ended, because a late-film story turn I assumed would be coming at some point just never arrived. The final scene is really unsatisfying I think, both because it doesn't much reveal any new information to us, and because Bridges's character doesn't come to his understanding of what happened in any interesting way. (This aspect, especially, had the writer in me thinking, you really aren't working that hard for your story right now.) And I totally agree that Pine's character's motivations were left really murky, and that Foster's just didn't really seem to make any sense. It wasn't so much that I thought the movie fell apart at the end, but more that it didn't arrive at a destination that justified such a long trip there.

As for Jeff Bridges, I just kept thinking, the man is an American treasure -- relaxed, funny, and able to steal the whole movie without even seeming to try.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Cinemanolis » Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:47 pm

La La Land
4/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Music Score, Song, Song, Sound, Art Direction, Editing
Possible Oscar Prospects: Actor, Costume Design

Nocturnal Animals
3,5/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography
Possible Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actor (Gyllenhaal), Editing, Art Direction

Arrival
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Sound, Music Score, Visual Effects, Sound Effects, Editing
Possible Oscar Prospects: Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography

Hacksaw Ridge
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Sound, Editing, Music Score, Visual Effects, Sound Effects
Possible Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actor, Sup. Actor (Hugo Weaving), Cinematography, Make Up

The Age of Shadows
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Foreign Film
Possible Oscar Prospects: Sound, Costume Design, Cinematography

The Bleeder
2,5/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: -
Possible Oscar Prospects: Actor, Make Up

The Distinguished Citizen
3/5

Frantz
2,5/5

The Blind Christ
2/5

The Bad Batch
2/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: -
Possible Oscar Prospects: Art Direction, Sound

A Woman's Life
1,5/5

Les Beaux Jours d'Aranjuez
1,5/5

The Young Pope Episodes I & II
4/5
Strong Emmy Prospects: Mini Series, Director, Actor, Sup.Actor (Silvio Orlando), all techs
Possible Oscar Prospects: Sup. Actress (Diane Keaton), Sup. Actor (James Crowmell)

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 10, 2016 12:00 pm

SULLY
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O'Malley, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan.
Dir: Clint Eastwood.

This is Clint Eastwood's film about the pilot who saved 155 lives by landing on the Hudson River back in 2009. Wow. Has it really been that long? I'm kind of amazed it was that long ago. How time flies. Tom Hanks is actually the perfect guy to play Captain Sullenburger. During interviews i've seen with him, he always struck me as an ordinary man who was thrust into the limelight and fame due to his miraculous accomplishment and he definitely pulls it off. Clint Eastwood, as a director, still manages to make pretty good movies even at this age. This one, though far from a masterpiece, is still a pretty darn good film which somehow manages to mine drama and suspense despite the fact that most people know this story already.

Oscar Prospects: Picture and Director are doubtful. Actor (Tom Hanks) is possible. Supporting Actor (Aaron Eckhart) is only possible if they end really loving the film.Visual Effects and MAYBE Original Song are both possible.

Grade: B

PETE'S DRAGON
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Dir: David Lowery.

This is the remake of the 1970's Disney live-action animated musical about a boy and his friend Elliott, who happens to be a dragon who can go invisible. This film is decidedly very different in that it's not a musical and more of a family drama....with a dragon in it. This year, Steven Spielberg directed his first film for Disney and personally, I thought the result of that would be closer to this than The BFG. This feels like an old-fashioned family picture that doesn't feel the need to do fart jokes, "hip" humor or action scenes every 15 minutes to satisfy all demographics. It's a film which simply and elegantly tells the story of a lost boy and his dragon, quite stripped down and very, very refreshing. They almost never make movies like these nowadays.

Oscar Prospects: Widely deserving of Visual Effects, Cinematography, Original Score and (maybe) Original Song.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:32 am

American Pastoral

A difficult (maybe impossible) novel to adapt and this films really flounders. Most of the blame will be rightfully be placed on the screenplay, but no one gets away clean. McGregor demonstrates some minor directorial chops - I'd be interested in seeing him take on a thriller or something where he can get his calisthenics in before returning to "serious" material - but he drops the ball regarding the performances. It's one of those films that is less than the sum of it's parts, but at best, most of the parts are competent.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 09, 2016 3:43 pm

Hell or High Water, this summer's indie cause celebre, has some things to recommend it. There are interesting plot elements, the dialogue is fresh and has some snap, and Jeff Bridges is pretty much wonderful. (Had he not won that career Oscar, there'd be a maybe-successful effort to win it for him here in support. He may well get the nomination even now.)

But, as is the case with so many dead-season entries, I think people a bit overstate its merits. (THOUGH I'LL BE MOSTLY VAGUE HERE, SOME PLOT SPOILERS MAY BLEED THROUGH) Its plot is interesting but not especially ingeniously worked/mapped out. In fact, when I got to the end, I found myself imagining the plot reworked to disclose information in a more unraveling sort of way (possibly through the investigation of the Bridges character). As it is, we get the central "why-they-dunnit" info plunked down all at once, mid-film, with the rest of the story playing out somewhat routinely. I'm thinking the filmmakers might respond that they were making a social-statement film, about the evils of banks, not a thriller -- but I'd answer that I don't think their story/gestalt is strong enough to stand alone as social drama: it'd work better as serious undercarriage to a heist-y thriller.

Restructuring might also unmuddle some of the morality of the characters' actions. I was unclear at the end whether Pine's character had been ruthlessly using Foster's brother character -- certain he'd behave the way he did, to Pine's advantage-- or if things just turned out the way they did and Pine was as surprised as we were. The final scene tried to raise these issues, but I thought they did so in an opaque way. I'm fine with nuanced moral judgments; I'm less patient with purely murky ones.

Foster's character is, by me, one of the film's weakest elements. If there's anything I'm tired of in films, it's the loose cannon/rattlesnake character, who might do something phenomenally stupid or reckless at any moment. To me, it's lazy writing: it gives the scripter free rein to have him do anything without regard for common sense. And casting Ben Foster in the role? -- remember when people said casting Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela was redundant? Ditto here.

I also did a "Huh?" when Bridges, having stood in one place for about 24 hours, declaring it the clear way to play, suddenly comes up with a new plan on a moment's notice, for no particular reason.

The "blame the banks" theme is probably helping make the movie popular (it's something of a lift from Bonnie and Clyde), and it has its ingenious aspects, plus some nuance attached (Bridges' partner noting the people now being robbed of their land had their own ancestor-history of land-grabbing). But the political analyst in me couldn't help noting that, geographically/demographically, the characters in the film have probably spent the past few decades voting for exactly the people who made the bank perfidy possible, so my sympathy for them was somewhat muted.

Now that I've unloaded all this way, I have to caution that I didn't dislike the movie at all. It's a brisk enough 100 minutes, and, as an original script, it's somewhat on a par with Ex Machina -- another off-season success I found overrated but which was decent and well-liked enough it got Academy nominations. I'd say Hell or High Water could match that film's writing/acting nods next January, and wouldn't be entirely undeserving. Just don't go expecting a knockout.


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