Tag Archives: Ethan Hawke

Blaze (2018) Movie Review By Gianni Damaia

Blaze Review, A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement.

Director: Ethan Hawke
Writers: Ethan Hawke, Sybil Rosen
Stars: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Charlie Sexton

The tragedy of the Bard is a tale as old as time. The lonesome wanderer that walks the world finding purpose in the bottom of a bottle, the eyes of a lover, and the tune of a guitar. While it may be familiar, we continually revisit this narrative because it feels romantically human, and in my mind ‘romantically human’ is the perfect way to sum up Blaze. The same tropes you may expect to find in films like ‪Crazy Heart‬ and ‪Inside Llewyn Davis‬ are alive and well inside Blaze, but the difference is in how director, Ethan Hawke, carefully edges his story into a visual poem that often allows its songs to speak with more specificity than its characters. That’s not to say that Blaze features incoherent characters, it’s merely a comment about how they each resign themselves to a rhythm in language that is not immediately obvious. These are Shakespearean figures who just so happen to be in a movie about nomadic hoodlums struggling to find purpose. In this regard, Blaze is far better than it has any right to be.

Blaze tells the true story of a musician, Blaze Foley, in the prime years of his life as he meets his love and struggles to maintain his identity within the confines of a pervasive industry he is increasingly encouraged to pursue. We see Blaze unfold in three acts spliced within one another intermittently and occasionally without rhyme or reason. There is the story of Blaze and his love, Sybil, as they live their life of solitude in a shack-like treehouse in the woods, the story of Blaze’s final live show in the Outhouse bar in Austin, and the story told to us about Blaze posthumously by his two best friends and collaborators. The assembly allows each of these stories to contribute to one another, but the threads are rarely directly linked in a specified timeline, allowing the film to float through narrators and perspectives as effortlessly as a note in Foley’s music. The compilation of each of the narratives make the film feel less like a structured piece, and more like the experience of remembering a loved one by trying to piece together fragmented moments in time and stumbling upon golden stories and songs left behind. In this way, Blaze feels wholesomely intimate in a way that many musical films have a hard time grasping.

The titular character is as much a mystery to the ones he loved as he is to the audience, yet somehow he feels understandably idyllic and human. Blaze Foley is magnetic from the opening beats of the film. Whether he’s waxing on philosophically behind the microphone, playing songs with the woman he loves, or piss drunk and falling flat on his face, Blaze is shockingly relatable. Blaze could so easily play as a pretentious caricature, but it doesn’t. Instead, Hawke is able to focus on exactly what made him so special despite having such glaring faults. At one point in the film, a character mentions the “two sides to Blaze”. The erratic drunkard juxtaposed with the sensitive artist. Blaze’s greatest strength is how easily these polar opposite sensibilities have been so acutely fleshed out.

What strikes me the most about Blaze is how deeply romantic it is, not just in the sense that the movie is partly a love story, but in the way it’s story seeps through the pores of love. The warm textures of the coloration allow Blaze to feel like a careful embrace from the titular character. The way Hawke drenches every song in a profoundly felt honesty makes certain that Blaze doesn’t just feel like an ode to a forgotten legend, it feels like an ode to the love of art. And it’s that same love that tragically brought Foley to his breaking point. In every scene, he fights to regain the same beautiful inspiration he often found in the woods with the love of his life, and as the movie wears on, he slowly loses his ability to find it. Blaze isn’t the usual story of a singer succumbing to his vices. It’s a story of a bard who was never meant for the life of an artist.

Let’s speak more specifically about what you can appreciate about Blaze without digging too deep into the symbolic filters that permeate through the film. Ben Dickey in the role of the titular character gives one of the most transfixing performances I have had the pleasure of seeing this past year. The cadence of Foley’s speech, the explosive energy flexing beneath the surface of his relatively delicate demeanor, and his understanding of Blaze’s casual prophetic phrasing all adds up to make Dickey’s performance nothing short of exceptional. It’s the kind of performance that tears your mind into two layers of thinking: I want to now see him in every movie, and I want to never see him in a film ever again. The former because Dickey clearly has an exceptional talent in regards to acting. The latter because Dickey’s work here is so exceptional that it feels like lightning in a bottle that deserves to be contained and never again reopened for fear of losing the magic. Dickey is also blessed with a talented supporting cast with Alia Shawkat, Charlie Sexton, and Josh Hamilton. Even cameos from Richard Linklater, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Zahn are fun (albeit odd – more on that later) compliments. But this is Blaze’s story through and through. And whenever Dickey leaves the screen, you can’t help but to miss him.

Hawke also (unsurprisingly) proves himself to be a beautifully poetic storyteller. The visual language of Blaze feels so enriched with serene mysticism. As I noted before, Blaze makes great use of its warm textures and colors, often giving the feeling that it exists in a back alley bar with a performer onstage that feels too good to be there. But take note of the poignant moments that Hawke decides to strip those textures away to knife his audience with a tragic reversal. Credit should also go to cinematographer Steve Cosens who contributes to the film’s treehouse essence with just the right amount of lens flares to make you feel like you are truly in the room witnessing a moment or the magic of a song.

As I have also stated before, Blaze’s storytelling techniques are abstract enough to make the film exceptionally compelling, but in some regards, it’s also the film’s greatest weakness. The flippant viewpoints of narrators intertwining with less and less rhyme and reason keeps the audience at a distance at times and betrays the general sense of being in the room remembering an old friend. Sometimes, the first-time audience will spend too much time watching Blaze trying to fit together pieces of a puzzle encompassing his life. It’s a rare occurrence, but Blaze’s structure very occasionally grates against itself in this way. Moments like a shot of a man smashing a guitar with intense backlight spliced within a scene give weight to the poetic mysticism of the titular character, but certain aforementioned cameos feel abstractly satirical in a way that almost feels like an out of place joke. Blaze is also disinterested in introductions. Most characters will simply come to exist in the narrative with an established relationship to Blaze that feels unearned. They quickly gain personalities of their own, but it feels worth noting that context is occasionally left by the wayside.

As with any good musical movie, Blaze’s songs enrich the experience of the film in ways that cannot be understated. For a casual audience member, the music will appeal to anyone who enjoys folk country or the brilliance of an artist like ‪Bob Dylan‬. For someone more interested in Foley’s artistry, I cannot recommend listening to this soundtrack enough. Each song bares such significance to the underlying themes within Blaze. The more I hear Dickey’s renditions of ‘Picture Cards’ or ‘Cold, Cold World’, the more I am reminded of my time spent with Foley and his ambitious pursuit of happiness in spite of sanity.

Its unfortunate that I stumbled across this film after creating my ‘Best of 2018’ list. Blaze struck a cord with me in a way that not many films do. While that may not be true for everyone that comes across it, I certainly hope this review emboldens you to view it for yourself. It’s difficult for me to talk about Blaze without rambling or philosophizing on its deeper contextual meanings. To its core, Blaze bares the identity of the drunkard in the bar. His story is palpable, but it falls upon deaf ears. In some bizarre way, the same could be said of the movie itself. Blaze is a story of a musician that you likely don’t yet know. Christian Bale isn’t attached as the star with Oscar worthy prosthetics. The story follows a non linear pattern, and has little resemblance to other plot structures you may be familiar with. And as a result, you may not have yet seen or heard of Blaze. But in this regard, I can think of no better biopic to capture the essence of its titular character. ‪9/10 ‬

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24 Hours To Live (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier 

24 Hours to Live

Director: Brian Smrz
Writers: Ron Mita, Jim McClain
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Qing Xu, Paul Anderson

Plot:  An assassin seeks redemption after being given a sec ond chance at life.

Running Time: 93 Minutes

IMDB Score: 5.7

Why I Watched It: Mostly the cast and it’s an action movie, I have simple tastes.

Random Thoughts: Some reviews are easy to write, there’s two main ones that I love movies that you either love or hate I could write for days but the hard ones are the movies that are OK and there’re some movies that I really do want to write “It was OK” as my review I don’t have any deep insights it was fine I didn’t love it or hate it I’ll forget about next week so let’s move on.  You guessed right 24 Hours to Live is one of those movies.  I put that here cause I’m just making the review longer.

What I Liked: I really like Ethan Hawke, he’s one of my favorite actors working today, he does every genre and he’s always present he doesn’t phone in a performance and he’s good in everything he’s in, he makes a bad movie better, a boring movie a little less so.  I wish he had more to do here.  This film has some good actors and really that’s what the film has going for it.  It has genre God Rutger Hauer for goodness sake.

The film moves pretty well, and it’s filmed well.  I told you not much to say, it’s fine.  Hawke is way better than the material and he does give the film and his character more depth but he’s fighting an uphill battle here. I will say that Hawke does play an assassin and to his credit he’s not that likable a guy, he’s really a bad guy who’s trying to do one good thing.

What I Didn’t Like: The script is writing cliches 101, they hit it all here, even the ticking clock which is an actual ticking clock and yes Hawke has just 24 hours to live and the clock is in his arm.  The directer Smrz throws all the right action ingredients but they just sit there, there’s no atmosphere, no energy and oddly enough no sense of tension.  This is very workmanlike, nothing more, no bells and whistles.  This film is a burger with a little ketchup on it.

The cast is wasted, a better scripted and a surer hand directing it and we might have gotten a decent action film but what we got was OK.

Final Thoughts: I liked Hawke, and that’s about it not bad just got memorable. This is a text book 5/10 but it could have been better.

Rating: 5/10

Regression (2015) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Regression

Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Writer: Alejandro Amenábar
Stars: Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis, Emma Watson

Plot:  A detective and a psychoanalyst uncover evidence of a satanic cult while investigating the rape of a young woman.

Running Time: 1 hour 46 minutes

IMDB Score: 5.7

Why I Watched It: I’ll be honest I had forgotten about the film, when it first came out I liked the trailer and I’m a huge Ethan Hawke fan so I was interested but the film came and went and it had almost no buzz.  Then I saw it on itunes for $1.99 and decided to give it a go.

Random Thoughts: Ethan Hawke has a very diverse career he does big Hollywood films, mostly as a supporting actor, he does indies and he has gotten into doing genre and I must say he’s almost always so good good his style never changes no matter what the material is he doesn’t act “down” in genre films.

What I Liked: The main idea, the plot if you will, a teenage girl accuses her father of raping her, the police confront him and he says if his daughter said he did it then he did but he has no memory of it.  You can make a good movie out of that, you throw in satanic cults,  a psychologist who uses the titular Regression therapy and you should have a decent thriller, should is the key word.

The atmosphere is great, there’s a creepiness to the film, you’re not sure what’s going on or who’s involved but there is that sense of dread.  They build it up very well, slowly unlocking clues and slowly building up who may or may not be involved.

The film takes more of a slow burn, we’re not sure what to believe and how big this story is.

What I Didn’t Like: The idea was good but what’s weird and what really undoes the film is that it’s more of a shaggy dog story, yes there is a twist but it’s a strange one, and the film ends up being about something different than we thought in the end the film isn’t really a thriller it’s more of a drama and it ends up pointing fingers at the idea of Regression which is kind of weird.

This was directed by Alejandro Amenabar who’s directed The Others, The Sea Inside and Open Your Eyes, all good to really good films and all well directed but here to be kind he takes a step back, maybe a misstep he never seems to have a handle on his material, the film feels very ham fisted and he gets some sub-par performances from good actors, Ethan Hawke isn’t bad but he’s really one note he gets better by the end but for the first two thirds he’s just angry and yells alot, Emma Watson is a blank slate here, she’s a plot device rather than a character.  Poor David Thewlis is really wasted here, not sure what his role was suppose to be cause it feels like he should play a bigger role but he doesn’t.  We get no insight into the characters and even the end we’re left with more questions than answers.  The main problem is while the set was good the characters have no depth and really we no nothing about them, we get no insight into Ethan Hawke’s character at all same with Thewlis.

I think this film got caught in between being a thriller and a message film, the whole cult angle is very strange and is almost a McGuffin, which if you think about is very strange, we get a lot of stuff with cults and the whole deal then we take a twist and a turn and the film decides it’s about something else and if makes the film feel empty and a bit lost, the tone and narrative is  off with the film. Plus he’s the big thing the film not only drag but is boring at points, it’s flat, sure there’s some dream sequences that work but in the end they mean very little.

Final Thoughts: A huge disappointment, with the talent involved I was excepting at least something challenging or at least something entertaining and the film failed in both areas.

Rating: 4/10

Predestination (2014) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier ‬

PREDESTINATION

Directors: Michael Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers), Peter Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers)
Writers: Michael Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers), Peter Spierig (as The Spierig Brothers)
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor

‪Plot:  For his final assignment, a top temporal agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. The chase turns into a unique, surprising and mind-bending exploration of love, fate, identity and time travel taboos.‬
‪Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes ‬
‪IMDB Score: 7.5‬

‪Why I watched it: I like the Spierig Brothers they’ve done some very cool genre movies and I’d heard some thing things about the film.‬

‪Thoughts: This was based on a short story by Robert A Heinlein “All You Zombies” Ethan Hawke’s character does say that in the film.  ‬

‪What I liked: One of my many complaints about films is that the filmmakers and or studios dumb down stories they shot for the lowest common denominator now I can safely say Predestination is not one of those movies, this film is not only very smart but has somethings on it’s mind.  I would call the film heady and very trippy.  Now this will be a tough review cause almost anything is spoiler territory, it’s one of those films were you can’t say much and not because of the surprises and there’s a few but more about ideas, I will say the film is not boring at all and it will spin your head around thinking about some of the stuff they throw in. Some of it is philosophical and some is navel gazing but damn it’s interesting and very smartly written and done.‬

The star of the movie for me is Sarah Snook, she’s amazing in this movie, what she has to do and play is very hard and she pulls it off. I find it hard to believe she hasn’t become a bigger name she has the talent. Her and Hawke have very good chemistry together, there scenes in the bar are great, the back and forth is very good, of course Hawke is good here but for the most part his role is less showy.  What the film does so well is that it doesn’t talk down and it doesn’t let the film get silly and it could have, some people will laugh at it but it’s done so well that it becomes a class of “what if” and some truly interesting ideas on time travel.  The film alone is worth watching just for Snook’s performance.‬

‪I will say the film is very specific, it’s different so of course it’s not for everyone but I found it mind bending and innovative. A side not, Noah Taylor has played this type of character three times and considering the character deals with time travel that’s a weird type cast.‬

‪What I didn’t like:The film does feel stretched out a bit and considering it came from a short story it makes sense.  Also the whole Fizzle bomber arc is a little iffy and not sure they need it, I guess they needed a main conflict and it does work but it does feel unnecessary at times.  Also the last scene was lacking for me, again not sure if it did what it wanted to do but with saying that it didn’t hurt my feelings on the film.‬

‪Final Thoughts: A very different and smartly written film, it’s kind of went under the radar, if you like sci-fi or any of the actors check it out.‬

‪Rating: 7/10‬

In A Valley Of Violence (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Stars: Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga

Plot:  A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge.
Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 76%   Audience 52%

Why I watched it: Mostly the cast and I do love westerns and we get very few nowadays.

Thoughts: First off this is John Wick as a western, say what you want, you can say this was written first, I don’t think it was, but this is John Wick through and through, a man trying to put his past behind him, a bunch of thugs kill his dog and leave him and then we also have the main thug is the son of a bigger more wise thug.

What I like: Ethan Hawke is one of my favourite actors working today, he shows up every movie, lead, supporting, big budget, low budget plus he’s good in genre.  Here is not great but he’s a presence, he’s a thinking man’s actor you see his watching and being true to his character.  For me Travolta gives the best performance of the film, he’s not over the top and there’s a sparkle of the old Travolta, he’s good here cause he’s smart and he’s trying to avoid unnecessary trouble. The film i shot well and I like the setting of this small town in the middle of nowhere, the sets are old school and are a nice throw back.

What I didn’t like: Ti West is mostly known as a horror director and here he branches out to westerns and I will say I’ve seen four of his films now and haven’t liked one of them, now I have nothing against him but his style bothers me and he he’s director, writer and editor and there’s three things that bug me about this film that I will put at his feet. the first one is the tone, sure I get it he’s trying to do a spaghetti western but there’s a couple of different styles in that sub-genre there’s the Man With No Name that intense and very violent and then there’s the goofier ones that rely more on comedy and a bit of a lighter tone here West tries to combo them both and it flat out doesn’t work, there’s nothing funny here but the characters go off and it feels like it’s another movie tone wise.

The second thing is that he has characters give there life stories when they speak I’ll give you an example and this happens about four times in this movie “sure I’m the Marshall and I have to do what needs to be done, sure he’s my son and he’s not too bright but he’s my son and he does things then I have to clean up after him.”  Then Taissa Farmiga tells us everything we need to know about her the first time she’s on screen.  The last thing is really Ti West’s fault as a director and editor scenes run too long, characters say the same thing over and over again, tension is milked to nothing by the end.

I will also add Gillian and Ransome give bad performances here, I like both actors but here not good and Ransome seems lost as his character bounces between different movies and he goes on and on and goes so over the top you begin to wonder if this is a comedy.

Now I liked the revenge story and I like the Travolta character being the voice of reason but the end is beyond silly, and Hawke’s character isn’t bad ass enough for this to work.  The violence is boring here if you want to give homage to the great Spaghetti Westerns then at least shoot it with flare and be vivid on the screen.

Final thoughts: There were stuff to like here, and it’s not a total wash but the film is so untidy and such a mix bag with tone that it left me being annoyed with it.
Rating: 4/10