Tag Archives: Ben Foster




The opening scenes of the Ron Howard directed “Inferno” give a crystal clear picture of what’s to come in the next two hours: a confusing, incoherent jumble of a movie that easily earns its spot as one of the worst films of 2016. Not only is this unsophisticated movie a complete and utter mess, it’s not even entertaining.

Tom Hanks is back as Harvard smartypants Robert Langdon, a popular character from the fictional series (“The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons”) by author Dan Brown. This time Langdon is chasing clues from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” in a race against time to stop the release of a toxin designed to wipe out half of the human race.

The hidden clues are uncovered with little fanfare, and half of the situations make no sense whatsoever. There’s a bunch of nonsensical double-crossing and more than a few gaping plot holes. This chaotic movie reaches heights of absurdity that are rare even for a dumb pop culture thriller like this — and that’s even if you already readily suspend disbelief.

Langdon wakes up with amnesia in a hospital in Italy, where he joins up with young doctor Sienna (the horribly miscast Felicity Jones). What follows are many noisy shootouts and chase sequences (that have zero suspense whatsoever), and scene after scene of scholars attempting to decipher hidden meaning in numbers and works of art. Yawn.

Hanks is America’s likeable everyman, which means he can (sort of) carry the movie — but his charisma can only take this material so far. He doesn’t get much help from his dreadful supporting cast (led by the irritating and wooden Jones and the caricature acting turns from Ben Foster and Omar Sy) either. Thank goodness for Sidse Babett Knudsen, who adds a brief glimmer of professionalism and chemistry to this dreck. If only she had been paired with Hanks instead of Jones in a larger role.

This is a stupid story with a lazy plot and an inarticulate screenplay with oversimplified dialogue. It’s poorly directed in what amounts to nothing more than cinematic debris. This certainly isn’t a movie anyone wanted, which in turns means that it’s also a movie that nobody needed.

This mess earns a half star because I did enjoy the film’s setting in Rome, Venice and Florence (which are among my favorite cities on Earth), and one extra star because I still love you, Tom Hanks.


Have you seen the poster for “Inferno,” the new sequel to “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons”? You know, the one where Tom Hanks and his co-star Felicity Jones are running towards or from something? If you haven’t seen it, check it out. I’ll wait.

The poster is actually a perfect advertisement for this movie. You see that completely vacant, bored look on Felicity Jones’s face? That pretty much sums up her “acting” in this movie. Tom Hanks does a good job as usual, but he can only carry a movie with a dull co-star and a stupid plot so far.

In “Inferno,” some kind of group led by billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has engineered a virus that will essentially wipe out half of mankind. Driven by the belief that overpopulation will doom the earth, Zobrist has come to the conclusion that the only way to save the planet is to cull its population. When Zobrist commits suicide to escape his pursuers, Robert Langdon (Hanks) is left to follow a trail of clues left by Zobrist to find where the virus has been hidden, before it can be released.

One of the incredibly stupid things about this film is the whole idea of Zobrist hiding the virus away and engineering a trail of clues to lead to it. Why bother? If you’re committed to a plan of action, why wait? And the reveal is even more idiotic, when we discover who it was that Zobrist wanted to find the virus. Why go through all of that trouble? If you just wanted that person to have it, why not just give it to them?

Okay, even suspending disbelief this movie is no good. Scene after scene, we see Langdon and Brooks (Jones) following the breadcrumb trail to exotic locations while chased by multiple pursuers. While it’s fun to look at all of the interesting places they go (like Florence and Istanbul), there just isn’t much to hold the viewer’s interest.

Don’t bother watching “Inferno”. It’s time for this franchise to die.


“Hell or High Water”



“Hell or High Water” is one of those little movies that comes strolling along out of nowhere and proceeds to knock your socks off. If you are looking for an extraordinarily well crafted film, this is it. It’s not flashy nor splashy (this isn’t an action packed shoot ’em up cops and robbers action flick), it’s a complex, perceptive character study with a slow burning tension. Everything about this movie, from the accomplished lead performances to the insightful script to the phenomenal original score (by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) to David Mackenzie‘s bold direction, exudes a confident cowboy swagger. I didn’t want this movie to end.

The film is set in modern day West Texas and has a remarkable sense of place (reminding me much of 2010’s beautifully haunting “Winter’s Bone“). Giles Nuttgens‘ dusty, gritty cinematography feels like a broken-in pair of old leather boots, the perfect compliment to the desolate landscape shots of foreclosed farms, lonely roads and abandoned towns. You can practically reach out and touch the desperation.

Here’s a rare movie where worldly, perceptive dialogue and sophisticated character development thrives; the character study is just subtle enough and the writing (from super talented screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who wrote “Sicario,” one of my Top 10 Best Films of 2015) is whip smart. The story focuses on brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), the brains and the brawns behind a scheme to rob banks in a last ditch attempt to save their family farm. The criminal duo soon find themselves being chased by Texas Ranger officers Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham). We all know the inevitable showdown is coming, and the tension leading up to the final confrontation left my heart racing.

The performances feel so authentic and are inspired all around. Pine is stunningly effective and makes huge strides in his acting cred with this role. Foster gives another exceptional interpretation of a detestable yet sympathetic character (he’s born to play roles such as this), and Birmingham is marvelously understated as a loyal friend and partner. There’s no denying that Bridges is a national treasure but I really wish he wouldn’t have made the choice to do that ridiculous accent he’s so fond of lately; at some point he starts to come across as a Sam Elliott rip-off. It doesn’t hurt the film and in fact it actually fits with the subject matter — once you get over the initial shock of it all.

“Hell or High Water” presents a story that’s cynical yet hopeful, a universal story that grabs on early and never lets go. This movie is never condescending, doesn’t pander to the audience, and gives me hope for the future of indie cinema’s struggle to get a seat at the Hollywood blockbuster table.


Beautifully photographed by Giles Nuttgens and based on a screenplay by “Sicario” scribe Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water” is a western fable of and for our times.

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) are brothers who are committing a series of robberies of small-town Texas banks. Toby is the sympathetic mastermind behind the crimes while Tanner is the muscle, and each heist is pulled off with precision. The Texas Rangers, led by Marcus Hamilton ((Jeff Bridges) are hot on the trail of the Howard brothers, but they are seemingly always one step behind.

Directed by David Mackenzie, “Hell or High Water” perfectly captures the desperation of broken families, broken homes, and broken people living underneath the shadow of ruthless profiteers that seek to exploit the ninety-nine percent. Pine and Foster play off one another well, with Foster playing the unhinged sociopath while Pine is the understated father trying to do right by his family. In this world, the lines of criminal versus law-abiding citizen are blurred and morality is a relative concept. It’s hard not to sympathize with the brothers, at least to a point. Their struggles are authentic and of our times, and the conflict between them and the lawmen that pursue them equally so. It is no surprise that the movie is connecting with audiences nationwide.

Just as “Unforgiven” was a singularly new take on the classic western, “Hell or High Water” stands as a potent reminder of the times we live in and the realignment of the classic struggle of good versus evil in an age of “me first” greed and selfishness.





I’m a bad nerd because not only have I never played the Warcraft video game on which this film is based, I don’t know much about it at all except for what was presented in this movie. I can’t tell all of you die-hard gamers whether or not “Warcraft” follows the story of the game but I can tell you that I was completely engaged in and thoroughly entertained by the movie. This is proof that you don’t need to have any background gaming experience to follow along with the plot.

I think critics who hated this movie just have a bone to pick simply because it’s based on a popular game — but I can tell you that it’s not bad and is actually quite enjoyable (all of this is coming from a person who absolutely detests fantasy films like “The Lord of the Rings,” and “Warcraft” is strikingly similar to the Tolkien world)!

The film is heavy on CGI animation as expected. Surprisingly, it’s not at all distracting. The animation is lifelike, nearly flawless, and the world that’s created looks and feels authentic. The epic scale battle scenes appear larger than life because they are edited in a way where it is easy to tell what is going on. Everything is well crafted, which makes it a cut above the usual video game film adaptations. The film is comfortable (and consistent) in its own mythology. There are orcs and elves and dwarves and wizards, all confidently co-existing in the human realm. As such, nothing ever feels silly.

The dramatic elements work just as well as the lively fantasy action sequences. Another huge plus is the personal, character-driven story. The voice actors are talented (standouts are Anna Galvin as Draka and Toby Kebbell as Durotan) and are boosted by surprisingly credible performances from Ben Foster (Medivh), Travis Fimmel (Anduin Lothar), Dominic Cooper (King Llane Wrynn), and yes, even Paula Patton (perfectly cast as the slightly dumb, clueless and annoying Garona).

There is plenty here for the casual moviegoer to delight in, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. I recommend this movie to anyone looking to escape to a fully realized fantasy environment for a couple of hours.


“Warcraft” is an enjoyable romp through a fantasy world filled with humans, orcs, dwarves, elves, mages, and other mystical creatures. I am surprised to report that it is one of my favorite big summer movies of 2016 (so far) and is a good choice for fans of action and fantasy.

Knowing virtually nothing about the video game (other than what I learned from this classic South Park episode), I went into the movie not knowing exactly what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. Lothar (Travis Fimmel) is a human warrior charged with defending his realm of Azeroth. Durotan (Toby Kebbell) is an orc chieftan who has seen his home world destroyed, and now seeks a new home for his people. These worlds collide when the orcs use a magical portal to travel to Azeroth and seek to conquer and colonize the human land.

For a movie that relies so heavily on a mix of CGI and live action, I thought it looks great. The orcs are lifelike (although less so the giant wolves which they ride), and their interaction with human and other characters believable. This is a fully-rendered world that has a definite sense of space and spacial relation; even a newcomer to this subject is able to readily understand what is happening and where it is in relation to the other on-screen events.

The story itself is surprisingly compelling. The characters have motivations that are instantly relatable and sympathetic; I cared about them and what was happening. At a running time just over two hours, the length felt right for the subject. While it ended in the right place, I was left wanting more. I hope it does well enough at the box office that we get the sequel it’s so clearly being set up for.


“The Finest Hours”



“The Finest Hours” is a classic tale of good old-fashioned heroism. It’s refreshing to see a story where the audience can quickly identify with lead characters who genuinely want to do the right thing and help others in their time of need. These are normal guys living a normal life who find themselves suddenly thrust into an extraordinary situation. They are quietly courageous, not looking for recognition or glory. They are simply doing their job.

This entertaining movie tells the true story of a 1952 Coast Guard rescue off the coast of New England. The inspiring yet slightly corny tone is perfectly paired with the thrilling action sequences (yes, the special effects of savage seas are computer generated but they are still, for the most part, stellar).

The most intense part of the movie comes from watching a group of sailors trapped on a giant oil tanker that has been cut in half due to a killer storm and is gradually sinking. Yes, you read that correctly. The seamen have to come up with creative ways to try to stay afloat – and alive. Chris Pine is fine in his role as a Coast Guard man, but he’s overshadowed by Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner and Holliday Grainger (as the spunky love interest). Casey Affleck isn’t a favorite of mine but here he reminds me of a young Marlo Brando; his masculine, charismatic performance is a standout and the main reason to see this movie.

I was surprised to learn that this wasn’t a faith-based movie because it was dripping with pronounced religious overtones (Disney obviously wants to cash in on that trend). There’s a lot of implied praying, discussions of faith (“it’s not luck”), cleverly placed Bibles, mentions of church and God, and the obligatory scene of the non-believer rudely interrupting a group prayer. (Have to say I agreed with his character: when the crew was standing around praying, he told them that they were wasting their precious time and should instead focus on figuring out a way to get off the ship. Smart man!). The religious references were so over the top that they quickly became off-putting and cost this movie half a star.

“The Finest Hours” is sappy and sentimental yet also manages to be a real nail-biter. The positives far outweigh the negatives here, and this movie is worth seeing. Is it historically accurate? Probably not. But it’s still a fun ride.

Matt was unavailable for review.