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“Those Who Wish Me Dead”; “Halston”; Some Nice Things You May Have Missed

“Those Who Wish Me Dead,” “Halston” movie reviews and some nice things you may have missed include “Let Him Go,” “News of the World” and “The Durrells in Corfu.”

Taylor Sheridan as made some very effective films that integrate some good action scenes, distinctive characters and some social comment. “Those Who Wish Me Dead” bats two-for-three on that score, with the action taking center stage, and some offbeat characterizations tossed in. Angelina Jolie is the nominal star, as a troubled smokejumper whose recent actions have relegated her to being a lookout in a very isolated fire tower. Her solitary existence is on somewhat of a collision course with a teenager (Finn Little) fleeing from some pretty ruthless assassins—not to mention a swiftly moving fire (courtesy of said assassins). And while Jolie is properly brooding and sympathetic as the child’s protector, much of the appeal and momentum lie in the other narrative strands: Nicholas Hoult and Aiden Gillen’s scenes as the bantering sibling assassins who encounter some unexpected obstacles (and develop a definite dislike for the terrain);  Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore as a resourceful deputy sheriff (and Joli’s ex) and his survivalist wife, with a loving relationship and some requisite skills that allow them to at least delay the inevitable confrontations. There’s even Tyler Perry showing up, sans Madea garb, for one short but key scene.  And then there’s that swiftly moving fire…

In the end, “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is lean, mean and does the job. If it lacks the resonance and depth of some of Sheridan’s previous work (“Wind River,” “Hell or High Water”), it is pretty satisfying as an action drama, with enough unexpected, quirky moments along the way—to make you wish there had been even more. 

“Halston” (on Netflix), starring Ewan McGregor as the influential designer (and not so influential man of business), provides a fairly entertaining five-part overview of Halston’s prime years, including the designs, methods, quirks, habits and outbursts. It’s not particularly deep or insightful, but it moves along at a reasonable pace and gives star McGregor plenty of space to create as complete a portrait of Halston as the time frame will allow. McGregor’s Halston is arrogant, extravagant, and a tad mercurial, with a taste for cultivating friendships beneficial both professional and personal.  

The script (by Sharr white, based on Steven Gaines’ biography) doesn’t flinch from depicting the seamier aspects of Halston’s life, particularly his various addictions (like sex and drugs) and a self-destructive streak that eventually alienates many who had placed their faith in him.

In many ways, Halston on screen is an unsympathetic character, but McGregor endows the designer with hints of genuine vulnerability and an infectious vitality that verges on moniomania.

Among the supporting players, Bill Pullman does well as a business partner and one of Halston’s main supporters, while Krysta Rodriguez makes for a good Liza Minnelli, so much so that one wishes she had more screen time.

And now, some good things you may have missed:

“Let Him Go” is a “modern” Western set in 1961, but it wouldn’t have been out of place in the late 1800s. Retired deputy Kevin Costner and his wife Diane Lane lose their son in a horse-riding accident; their widowed daughter in law marries into a disreputable family called the Weboys (Lane has witnessed some spousal abuse) and is subsequently spirited away by her shady Weboy hubby, taking their son (Lane and Costner’s grandson) with them. The grieving and determined Lane wants to get their grandson back, but first she has to convince a reluctant Costner to sign on. He does, and the road eventually leads to a family dominated by a lethal matriarch, played with ferocious intensity by Lesley Manville (who dominates every scene she is in).

Costner and Lane are both terrific as the troubled but ultimately devoted couple, while Jeffrey Donovan is all good-natured menace as one of the Weboy sons, and the bursts of action are well-executed—with a fairly exciting and satisfying wind-up.

Also going West is Tom Hanks in “News of the World,” playing a former Civil War soldier who reads the news aloud to the towns he visits. One night in his travels, he comes upon a young white girl (named Johanna, according to her papers) in Native American attire, and speaking Kiowa. He is asked to take the girl to her family, but there are other gunmen who want to take the girl off her hands. Helena Zengel plays the young Johanna, and the scenes between her and Hanks depicting their initial wariness, followed by a growing affection, are both engaging ad convincing.

Besides the nicely developed central relationship, “News of the World” provides a vivid sense of time and place, as well as providing some social and cultural context. It also has some fairly gripping action sequences, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the direction is by “Bourne”veteran Paul Greengrass. If you see it “on demand,” give it a shot.

Finally, on Amazon Prime, if you like your miniseries filled with a lush and scenic backdrop, quirky (and occasionally infuriating) characters, and scripts that incorporate wit, humor, and sentiment in fairly equal measures, then you should give “The Durrells” a look. (“The Durrells” is the British title—the American title is “The Durrells in Corfu.”)

Loosely based on Gerald Durrell’s books about his family’s move from England to Corfu in the mid-1930s, the series in a complete delight (well…after the first one or two episodes). Keeley Hawkes is Louisa Durrell, the widow who takes her four children (three “fully”grown) to Corfu and, over time, becomes a presence in the community.

Her family includes some fine young actors including Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles in “The Crown”) as Larry, the pretentious eldest son (and published author), Callum Woodhouse as mishap-prone but well-meaning Leslie, Daisy Waterstone as the inquisitive and sometimes none-too-bright Margo and Milo Parker as young Gerry Durrell, whose love of animals leads to many mirthful moments. Perhaps my favorite character is Spiros (Alexis Georgoulis), the handyman with a fondness for all the Durrells, but especially “Mrs. Durrells” (as he calls her). Give this series a try – it ran for four seasons, so there is plenty of entertainment value—once you get past the first two episodes.

Mike Peros
Author: Mike Peros

Mike Peros is an author whose new book, JOSE FERRER: SUCCESS AND SURVIVAL, the first biography of the Oscar and Tony-winning actor, has just been published by the University Press of Mississippi, while his previous book, DAN DURYEA: HEEL WITH A HEART is now available in paperback.

Mike Peros
Mike Peros is an author whose new book, JOSE FERRER: SUCCESS AND SURVIVAL, the first biography of the Oscar and Tony-winning actor, has just been published by the University Press of Mississippi, while his previous book, DAN DURYEA: HEEL WITH A HEART is now available in paperback.