Movie Review: “In a Valley of Violence”

Starring
Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, James Ransone, Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan
Director
Ti West

Filmmaker Ti West has made his most conventionally enjoyable movie to date. Best known for horror films like “The House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers” and “The Sacrament,” West tackles a new genre with “In a Valley of Violence,” a western starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta. While West’s previous films get you squirming, his latest effort may have you cheering thanks to its sparse, enigmatic storytelling.

Paul (Hawke) isn’t exactly a loner. Although he’s tortured and on a path to nowhere, he has Abby at his side. Abby is his dog, and she sometimes looks after him just as much as he looks after her. When Paul enters the rundown town of Denton, nicknamed the “valley of violence,” he crosses paths with the hotheaded Gilly (James Ransone), the son of local sheriff, The Marshal (Travolta). Gilly thinks he’s the most dangerous man in town and challenges any man who questions his power. But when Paul leaves him bloodied, bruised and embarrassed after a beating that in no way constitues as a fight, Gilly and his men go after Paul’s dog for revenge, unaware that they’re dealing with one seriously flawed, dangerous military man who’s trained to kill. As Paul puts it, Gilly and his men left him with nothing, and he’s going to leave them with even less.

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Movie Review: “The Magnificent Seven”

Starring
Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Hayley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director
Antoine Fuqua

Hollywood remakes are hardly a new concept, but while there have been a handful of movies that actually improved upon the original, most tend not to be as good, either because they veer too far from what made them enjoyable or not far enough to make it worthwhile. Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” is an interesting case in that it’s technically a remake of a remake, based on the 1960 John Sturges film of the same name, which was itself inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Although it certainly had the odds stacked against it, the movie succeeds where so many have failed by retaining the spirit of its predecessors while also distinguishing itself just enough to stand on its own. It’s not exactly magnificent, but it’s a slick and entertaining take on a familiar tale that’s bursting with personality.

The year is 1879, and the small town of Rose Creek has been invaded by an evil mining baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who presents the townspeople with an ultimatum: accept his paltry offer to buy their land or stay and suffer the consequences when he returns in three weeks. And to prove that he means business, Bogue murders the outspoken husband of Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett). While her neighbors cower inside their homes, Emma goes searching for help in a nearby town and hires bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn recruits six other men – drunken gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knives expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), fur trapper Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) – to protect the town and put an end to Bogue’s tyranny. But as they prepare for the inevitable attack, the seven mercenaries soon realize that they’re fighting for more than money.

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Movie Review: “Good Kill”

Starring
Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kravitz
Director
Andrew Niccol

Andrew Niccol’s filmography as of late has been nothing short of disappointing. The writer/director once showed promise as one of cinema’s next great visionaries with his directorial debut, “Gattaca.” Since then, his career has had its ups and downs. “Lord of War” was a bold look into the world of arms dealing, but he followed up that excellent dark comedy with “The Host” and “In Time,” two all-around lackluster studio pictures. They’re safe movies, missing Niccol’s personality and eye for moral ambiguity. With “Good Kill,” Niccol returns to his roots with a movie that exists firmly in the grey.

Air Force pilot Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) is no longer fighting wars in the sky. Now operating as a drone pilot, he attacks from a box in Las Vegas, Nevada, far away from any serious danger. As a man who served six tours of duty in the sky, this doesn’t sit well with Tom, because even though he gets to spend more time with his wife Molly (January Jones) and their kids, he feels like a coward for having to fight like he’s playing a video game. At the start of the film, Tom is in bad shape, but once he and his fellow drone pilots, including Vera Suaraz (Zoe Kravitz), start taking questionable orders from the CIA, his job and life crumbles.

A soldier haunted by what he’s seen has been well covered on film by this point. Tom Egan isn’t exactly a new or fresh character, but drone warfare is a new world, and it’s one that Niccol fully dives into, leaving no morally complex stone unturned. The writer/director shows all facets of drone warfare – both pros and cons – and the film highlights a variety of perspectives, not only Tom’s. This isn’t an anti-war picture, it’s an honest war picture.

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A chat with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and director Richard Linklater (“Before Midnight”)

It’s not often that a romantic movie sparks a sequel, and even rarer when the sequels are set nine years apart. The relationship between actors Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and director Richard Linklater is just as unique as the characters Hawke and Delpy portray in their latest film, “Before Midnight.” The dialogue-heavy film focuses on the struggles of married life and the sacrifices that must be made. Recently, the trio sat down to discuss the collaborative effort involved and how they’ve managed to stay on the same creative page over the last 18 years.

BULLZ-EYE: The couple deals with the problem of moving to another country to be with their partner. Have any of you faced that kind of decision?

ETHAN HAWKE: Part of the idea of the movie is that it’s very easy to look at a romantic relationship when there’s an obvious bad guy. One person’s an alcoholic or one person is abusive, but what if you were to take two well-meaning people who actually love each other and want the best for each other? It’s still hard. We paint that portrait. I think anyone who’s been in a long term relationship, whether it feels as dramatic as Chicago and Paris, it’s whether or not your lives are still growing on the same road or does one need to change the road to keep growing.

JULIE DELPY: That’s what it’s about. There’s no bad guy, in particular. They still have to make compromises and they all feel like who’s making the most compromises and what compromise might jeopardize their relationship and their love. It’s all about finding the right road, and the road is this small not for it to fall apart. In a long term relationship, you always have to make choices. Actually, their relationship starts with a choice that Jesse makes, which is to follow his heart, but that comes with consequences. The film starts with the consequences of that choice. We find out that there’s a situation again where they have to make a choice. Jesse’s putting in her face that he might want to move back to the States, but it might jeopardize their entire life, so the life of a relationship.

RICHARD LINKLATER: That’s appropriate for where they find themselves in life. In the first movie, for instance, they’re unattached. You see how easily they get off a train and go home a day later and do whatever. You have that looseness. They both actually moved around a lot over the years, but when they were single and unattached. Now, you see how difficult that is to maneuver through life with the exact same person and stay on the same track. It’s tough.

ETHAN HAWKE: We will also take questions about your personal relationships and advise you. (laughs)

BE: What are the challenges of performing the long dialogues in the movie, especially the one in the car with the kids?

JULIE DELPY: Just mentioning that scene gives me a flashback of anxiety. (laughs) My heart is already beating slightly faster.

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