El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Yeeeaah bitch, Jesse Pinkman is back! So you may have heard of a little show that ended a few years ago called Breaking Bad. It’s quite possibly the best show that has ever been on television. The quality was so consistent from each season and the story went so many unexpected places. The third to last episode, Ozymandias, is in my opinion the best episode over any tv show ever. The finale, Felina, wrapped things up so perfectly. It was the rare show that was fantastic throughout AND stuck the landing. But there was one storyline left a little open ended. What happened to Jesse?

Now I do actually like Jesse’s original ending. There’s a hopeful ambiguity to it. I like to think that he did find his way to freedom and peace, but we don’t know. Anything could have happened once he got past that stretch of road. El Camino seeks to put a definitive punctuation mark at the end of that sentence.

We pick up exactly where we left Pinkman. He’s in an El Camino speeding away from the base where he was imprisoned for months, being forced to cook meth in chains. From there he syncs up with his friends Skinny Pete (!) and Badger (!!!!!!) and starts to put in motion the plan that will take him thru the rest of his life. We also get flashbacks to his time in captivity as well as moments throughout the series.

This is very much a movie for the Breaking Bad fans. In fact, it’s less of a movie and more of a bonus double episode. You’re expected to know who these people are and what the story is thus far. It’s not for the casual viewer who is encountering this world for the first time. You also should know all the random people who show up (especially in the flashbacks). I won’t list out who appears since each cameo is a fun surprise, but they are kinda gratuitous. Still fun though.

Even though I don’t think this film was entirely necessary, it was rather nice to give Jesse some closure. And it’s given to him in a truly Breaking Bad way. There’s lots of tension and suspense and an intricately worked together story. It’s not as epic as some of the best moments in the series, but it’s not gonna tarnish its reputation either. It’s simply a fun bonus, and a welcome one at that.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Gemini Man

Well after scoring my first perfect cinema in Fantasy Movie League last week, I tanked this week mostly because of this movie. I had more faith in Will Smith’s ability to open a film (and I did not want to support the lazy film making of Addams Family). Sure, Gemini Man was getting panned, but surely people would be interested in seeing it for the technology. I was. And that’s really the only reason to wanna see this. Director Ang Lee has proven himself to be good at managing new technology.

Will Smith is a top spy assassin dude. So what happens when he does something that upsets his superiors and they wanna take him out? They hire the only person capable, this younger clone that he didn’t know about. The plot is pretty bland. If you want a better story about an assassin trying to kill his self, watch Looper. Gemini Man played out how you would expect, with some cheesy father figure type of thing going on with Will trying to mentor young will. If this was all the movie had to offer, I’d tell you to skip it (and I would not have pulled it into my FML lineup). But as I stated previously, you see this movie for the technology.

I’ll preface by saying that no theater in the US is capable of showing this film as intended. I went to one of the 14 in the country that almost can. I was at a High Frame Rate, 3D, Dolby screening. It looked so gorgeous.

3D doesn’t normally do much for me. In fact, it’s more likely to give me a headache than add something positive to my experience, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. This 3D undeniable. I’m sure the HFR had a lot to do with it (more on that in a bit) but there was very well defined depth in every shot. There were also some effects that leapt out of the screen, which has always been my fave part of 3D and one that’s usually something you see at Disneyland attractions and not in theaters. Keeping in mind this is primarily an action movie, anytime there was a big explosion or a particularly messy death, you’d see every angle of it, falling into the screen and bursting out of it. It was so freaking cool!

Now, the high frame rate. I’d previously only seen it with one of The Hobbit movies and I found it kinda weird. This time, I found it more distracting than weird. I’m simply not used to it. I remember the first time my Daddy and I watched 24 on Blu Ray on an HD tv it felt strange, but now I’m so used to HD that I barely notice anything. I feel like HFR could go in that direction one day. But for now, it was a (mostly welcome) distraction. The first few minutes it feels like it has to be fake. Then you start thinking that no one needs to be able to count the pores on Will’s face. But then as you settle in, and you see the HFR play nice with the 3D, it makes it worth it to experience.

There’s still one more piece of technology, and the one that’s (incorrectly) getting more of the attention. Young Will Smith. De-aging seems to be all the rage these days, but this dude is pure CGI. So think Gollum not Nick Fury. I’m still not clear if any Mo-Cap was involved, but essentially he was created from the ground up. He mostly looks great, and you’d think he was a person who was really there. But every so often, he looks a little too rubbery or something just feels off. I blame the HFR though because it’s impossible to hide any imperfections with that crystal clear lens on you. I kinda feel like it was a mistake to combine these two things when they’re both still kinda experimental. Then again, maybe on one of the screens that’s fully equipped to show the film as it was meant to be seen can handle it better.

I guess this is all to say if you live near one of those 14 theaters, it’s worth checking out (esp since they’re all AMC so your A-List should cover the ridiculously expensive ticket). But if you’d be seeing this on a regular screen without the bells and whistles, it’s prolly not worth your time.

Gemini Man – \m/ \m/ \m/

Parasite

I’m just gonna come right out and say this is so far my favorite screenplay of the year. Maybe not favorite film (I enjoyed The Farewell a bit more and we can’t forget the juggernaut that is Endgame) but it will absolutely be ranked high on my year end top ten. This Palm D’or winner might also be in line for other major awards.

In this offering from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho (mainstream audiences might know him from Okja or Snowpiecer, but apparently he’s got some great films before those that I’ll need to investigate) a financially struggling family cons their way into being employed by a rich family. Then stuff goes down that I’d rather not talk about because the unexpected twists and turns were part of what made this movie so great.

The reason I love this screenplay so much is that it’s so many things. It’s really funny in a messed up bonkers sort of way. But it’s also a thriller with such insanely dark and tense sequences. And on top of all that, it’s a rather poignant social commentary about class and socio economic status. All of this all at the same time, all completely unexpected, and all entirely genius.

I hesitate to say too much because I think my experience was better for not knowing much going in. One thing I do find interesting though is the situation this family conned their way into. Normally when you think of con artists, you think of someone who is dishonest and trying to make a quick buck and move on. These people use trickery to work their way into the role they want, but then they’re actually doing work. You kinda can’t fake being a good driver or housekeeper, and they’re not trying to get rich. They’re trying to earn a living wage. It’s a fascinating concept, and it makes me hesitant to call them con artists. This is ultimately a statement about how difficult it can be to work your way up in this world.

I’m not sure how wide this film will be opening (although the more the Oscar buzz builds, the wider it’s likely to go) but it’s absolutely worth seeking out. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve seen this year

Parasite – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Joker

I really don’t want to be writing this right now. Not just because I wanna go back to crocheting tiny Avengers while watching Anna and the Apocalypse which is FINALLY on region 1 DVD. And it’s not because I’ve had so many different conversations about this film from so many different angles that I know it’s gonna take me a while and I know I’m not even gonna remember everything to cover. It’s because I really don’t want to revisit the mindset I was in while watching the film, one of discomfort and terror. Because while this truly is an incredible film, I cannot say I enjoyed watching it at all.

This film is already becoming rather infamous so I’m sure you already know what it’s about, gentle reader. Still, the rules in my head state I gotta give a synopsis in paragraph two soooooo Joaquin Phoenix plays the man who would become the Joker. Yes that Joker, the chaotic villain who terrorizes Gotham. But this isn’t a comic book film. It’s a realistic look at the psychology of what can drive a man to that level of madness. The fact that he becomes such an iconic baddie just furthers the illustration, but the reality is the way he’s depicted, he could be anybody, and THAT’s why I was so terrified.

I love films that get into the minds of psycopaths. That is a subgenre of horror that I eat up as much as I can, which is what really intrigued me here. But it’s one thing to be getting into the head of Patrick Bateman or Norman Bates who are very clearly living in a fantasy world. Phoenix’s Joker was grounded in reality. He seemed like he could be any guy on the street who received more negative reinforcement than the mental health care that was desperately needed. That everyman quality is what terrified me.

People are clamoring to keep the politics out of this film, but to me it’s screaming out about the need for accessible health care. This man was abused by his parents, disowned by the system, and full of self destructive behavior. He needs the care that is stripped away from him. Sure, a real person in the same situation isn’t likely to turn into the Joker, but he could be equally dangerous.

Also worth noting that there was an ominous vibe around watching the film. I didn’t believe there was likely to be an attack during a screening, but it was still a possibility in my mind. Two days earlier, I was at the theater and there was an early screening of the Joker. There were cops posted in the lobby and bag searches going into the auditorium. Opening night of the movie, I saw no such presence. I was eyeing every person who got up for a bathroom break or walked in late.

What I think is more likely than a screening of this film being attacked is a person taking the message the wrong way. Now I absolutely understand what the filmmakers were trying to do. They’re trying to show the systemic issues that can break a person, and they’re not trying to glorify him or make his actions seem justified. That doesn’t mean that everyone will draw the same conclusions from the film. I absolutely do not believe in censorship and I do want this film to be out there. I think it does draw attention to important ideas, but without the proper context that attention could come at a price. And frankly it scares me how many people are cheering over this film without talking about the underlying message of it. Did we all see the same movie? Were you not affected by it?

Switching gears. The inevitable comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Heath is the ultimate, no question. And I really do prefer him having a mysterious origin (although Phoenix’s was never meant to be an origin for a character interpretation that would persist in the franchise). While Phoenix is real world scary, Ledger’s unhinged chaotic take is a scarier villain. The difference is that he clearly lives in Gotham, so he’s not a threat to our world. I guess I didn’t switch gears as far as I thought.

Okay fine, the cast. More than fine. Joaquin Phoenix gave a mind blowing performance. He’s def gonna be hanging around come awards season. I think Robert DeNiro was just stunt casting, trying to hammer in the connection to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, so he didn’t have that much to do. I did love the ladies, Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz (and I just thirty seconds ago found out I was pronouncing her name wrong in my head). I had some concerns with Beetz’ storyline, but it mostly course corrected by the end.

I think I’ve gotten all my points across. I truly truly hope that this film uses its powers for good, because there is so much potential for this villain to ultimately be the hero in the real world. At the very least, it should be starting some important conversations

Oh wait, one more lighter point to end on. The one part of the film that I found entirely unbelievable was that a Wall Street bro would know all the words to “Send in the Clowns” I’m a theatre kid, and I don’t even know that song

Joker – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Shining

I had the opportunity to watch the 4K restoration of The Shining on the big screen the other day (I’d hoped to see it in Dolby, but wasn’t able to go until a later non-Dolby screening). I wanted a refresher before Doctor Sleep (even though I think that scene from Ready Player One gives me more than enough of a recap) and frankly this is a horror classic. It deserves to be seen in theaters. Except, I kinda don’t really like this movie. Let’s back up a second.

There is a reason it’s such a classic of the genre. It’s one of the rare horror films that is able to be terrifying on a superficial level. The images are haunting and the overall feel is so chilling, it has been giving nightmares to the masses for nearly 40 years. Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance is iconic, and no one has ever been able to look at twins the same way since. If we’re strictly looking at this as a straight up stand alone horror film, I would agree that it’s incredible.

However (and that is a big HOWEVER). I am quite the Stephen King fan girl. King famously came out against Kubrick’s interpretation and I absolutely agree with him. It completely misses the entire point of the story.

First off, there are some things I can forgive, that are typically lost in adaptations. I can deal with Wendy being a one dimensional scream queen (even if I can’t buy why she and Jack are together). I can accept Halloran hardly doing anything, showing up only to be killed quickly instead of being an integral part of the third act. I am even okay with minimizing the use of Danny’s powers, although how are you gonna call it The Shining if there’s hardly any shining, and do casual viewers understand how Halloran knew Danny was in trouble? All of that I can forgive. I’ll go one step further and I’ll applaud some of the elements Kubrick added in like the hedge maze, Room 237, and basically all the quintessential creepy crawlies we know this film for.

Where I draw the line is the characterization of Jack. The film firmly establishes him as the villain. True, he’s not intentionally evil, but he’s clearly the big bad running around and causing trouble. The problem is Jack is not supposed to be the villain. He is a victim of the Overlook Hotel, and the Overlook is meant as a metaphor for Jack’s alcoholism. (It’s pretty well documented that King was battling his own addiction demons when writing this, which is why the book is so powerful in that respect). The film brings up Jack’s struggle, but only as a way of doubling down on his malevolent character. All of the layers and nuance and meaning of the story are obliterated with every swing of his ax. For shame

Judy

Biopic of an iconic and beloved star of that met an untimely end, starring a top actor who is unrecognizable in the role? I guess this year’s Oscar race is officially on!

Towards the end of her life and career, Judy Garland had nothing. She roamed from gig to gig to hotel to hotel, with debts greater than her income and minimal contact with her young children. She’s given the chance to have a residency in London, performing concerts every night to sold out crowds. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up, if she can only keep herself sober and healthy enough to make it to the stage every night.

It was kinda hard to watch. Judy Garland is a treasure, and she was so abused and extorted by those around her while also spiraling into self destruction. It broke my heart. While the focus was on her last few months, there were some childhood memories mixed in to the story. I would have been interested to see more of those. They were used very effectively to parallel what led her to this point, but they got a little repetitive over time. I wanted more info and even greater insight (maybe even a happy memory) that we were getting.

I’d found the structure of the film a little odd. It was a drama with these big performance numbers in between. It all made sense when I later found out that it was based on the Broadway play End of the Rainbow. There’s a bit of a trend on Broadway to create plays with music, that are meant to feel like you’re seeing this person give a show and you’re hearing them monologue their story in between. With that context, the adaptation to film did make sense, working far better than the leap from stage to screen often does.

Renee Zellweger was phenomenal. She’s such a recognizable A-Lister and I did not see her at all on that screen. I was staring deep into her face looking for Renee and I only saw Judy. We’re gonna be talking about this performance for the next 5 months until Oscar statues are handed out. It’s incredibly likely she’ll be walking away with one (and a bunch of smaller trophies along the way).

Ultimately though, I’m not sure that I really cared all that much for this movie. It’s beautifully done and it’s emotional, but when you have a very difficult movie, you want some type of catharsis. All the pain of watching should be building to something big. The last couple minutes were powerful, but not enough to justify the journey. I left there without feeling the big impact that I’m sure the filmmakers hoped for. Still, it’s worth seeing for that transformitive performance

Judy – \m/ \m/ \m/

Rambo: Last Blood

Well if you read my previous post, you know that I went to a Rambo marathon at Alamo Drafthouse, which ended with the new film, Last Blood. I only had a passing familiarity with the man, so it was great getting a crash course in Rambo before seeing this newest installment (tho to be fair, I woulda gone to see it anyways). One thing I found watching this series tho is that they all stand alone very well. There’s some very subtle character details threaded throughout, but you really don’t need to watch every one of them to understand the ones that follow. That said, seeing them all in rapid succession made Last Blood stand out as a much different vibe than its predecessors.

We’re almost kinda bringing it back full circle. In First Blood, Rambo was wandering the US and ends up having a big showdown on the home front. Then he wanders the globe for the next few. Rambo (4) ended with him returning to his ranch home in AZ. Last Blood visits him having lived the peaceful life for the last decade. He’s discovered his own found family in the caretaker and her granddaughter who have inherited the property. Uncle John is really more of a father than this college bound child has ever known, but she still wants to know about her bio dad. Against her uncle’s wishes, she ventures across the boarder to confront the man who abandoned her, and she doesn’t make it back. It’s up to Rambo to use his particular set of skills to bring her back.

Structurally, it feels very different from the others, mostly by necessity. Sly’s getting older, he can’t do a non-stop 75 minutes of running around chasing bad guys. He’s gotta be more surgical about it. The action is split up into segments. It really does feel like a Taken movie,I mean the plot is basically the same thing. However, the storyline does also make this the most emotional Rambo film since First Blood. Unlike Rambos 2-4, this fight is personal, and it makes a huge difference.

The style of action is kinda different too. Instead of big guns and wartime sequences, the violence looks like something out of a horror movie. Rambo unleashes his inner jigsaw setting booby traps for the baddies, making this more gruesome than 4, but with an almost comedic feel to it. It’s kinda ridiculous. I do typically enjoy that sort of thing, but it’s not very Rambo.

I do wanna address some of the controversy surrounding this movie. I left the theater amped up on adrenaline from the marathon, that I didn’t notice how problematic some of the plot points are. Simply put, he very violently kills a bunch of Mexican men who chase him across the border. For me, watching it, I was attached to the story so I saw it as him taking revenge on the men who hurt his goddaughter, but I absolutely get how it can be interpreted differently, so I at least want to acknowledge that I see the issue and I want to be sensitive towards it.

Rambo: Last Blood – \m/ \m/ \m/

Rambo Marathon

Long story short (before it gets very long), I went to a Rambo marathon at the Alamo Drafthouse! From First Blood to Last Blood (which was opening that weekend) and every drop of red in between. I’ve sorta seen them before, but not really, similar to what I’d been saying before going to the Mad Max marathon not too long ago. It was also a few days before my Daddy’s birthday, so it felt like an appropriate way to celebrate. These were his kinda movie afterall, and I knew he’d be watching with me.

I had two small budgetary crisis going in. One was I had no idea where I was gonna park. I was certain to hit the $40 daily max at the Bloc even with validation (I later found out I missed an email saying they got a special rate for marathoners). I got there super early and drove around and luckily found that most of the downtown lots in the surrounding block had 7 dollar parking since it was Sunday. Walking back by myself after midnight would be a later challenge.

The other crisis was food. I love the food at the Alamo Drafthouse, but I was not gonna be eating throughout five movies. Unless I just got an order of buffallo cauliflower for each film ,which was something I seriously considered. Either way, I was gonna hafta play it smart to stick to my budget.

Anyways, I got there, carrying my blanket backpack which had a hoodie, pajama pants, and a neck pillow inside. They may be 90 minute movies, but 5 of them in rapid succession meant I’d still be there about 8 hours. When I was walking in, I noticed the Shining twins in the hallway had Rambo headbands on. I found the same headband on my seat. Big regret of the day is that I didn’t put it on. I feel like it woulda gotten me even more in the Rambo spirit.

Server came by and I ordered my buffalo cauli. I overheard him telling the guy next to me that the bottomless popcorn would be good for refills throughout the entire marathon. Seriously consider getting in on that. There’s a preshow about cheesy Rambo ripoffs from around the world. Before long a dude in a really bad (as he admitted himself) Rambo wig comes up to intro the first film, First Blood. He gives us the rundown on parking (doh!) and says there will be only 5 minutes between films (which makes sense since concessions come to us here). Just as my cauli arrives, the film starts. Or rather, trailers start, which was unexpected. I guess they were required since Last Blood was gonna be showing. Anyways, First Blood begins

First Blood

I’d forgotten that this didn’t have a war setting, and it took me a lil bit to get into it. Quick recap, Rambo is a Vietnam vet who is wandering around looking for purpose. His journey takes him through a small town that doesn’t appreciate drifters. A local sherriff finds a reason to arrest him, but their harsh treatment of him triggers his PTSD and he lashes out and escapes. Pretty soon, more and more cops are trying to find him in the woods and he’s taking them out left and right.

There was a point when we first reached the forest that I thought I might have made a mistake. The film feeling a little slow and light and my eyelids started to feel heavy. How was I gonna get thru 8 more hours of this? But thankfully, the action does pick up partway thru, and it’s pretty epic. Cheesy, but epic. But it’s all very straightforward action. Practical yes (woo!) but nothing too unexpected (boo!). Definitely more my Daddy’s type of action film than mine.

And then [spoilers] we get to the last few minutes. Sly has said maybe 20 words throughout the whole film up to this point, and he just breaks down. The full weight of the war and the aftermath and his psychological state is laid out in one of the most powerful monologues I’ve ever seen on film. Everything that has happened in the film thus far suddenly makes sense and it’s all been worth it. He’s not some random crazy tough guy. He’s got real demons he’s facing and real issues that no one talks about (especially back then). My respect for him skyrockets and I am so ready to cheer him on for the rest of the day.

The credits roll and I leave my seat recharged. Coming back from my bathroom break (PS – shout out to Alamo Drafthouse for gender neutral bathrooms), I see a dad and his kid (maybe 9 years old). They’re both wearing the Rambo headbands and they walk into my auditorium. My heart is so full and I’m really wishing that I had my Daddy watching these with me, even though I know on some level he is.

After going back and forth on what I was gonna order next (more cauli? Fried pickles? Salad?) I got with what I’d initially planned on and get fish and chips. Gotta get some protein in there somewhere. Announcer dude is in and now he’s got a red splat on his arm. “I took some damage during that one” he says. And we’re off

Rambo: First Blood II

Rambo is sent on a secret mission in Asia (was it Thailand?) to find some POW’s so they can be brought back. Lots of fighting happens. This is the beginnings of the wartime Rambo that I’m familiar with. He’s got the big guns and he’s running in the fields and he’s got guys in planes chasing him.

For me, this loses as best Rambo movie by a narrow margin to First Blood, mostly because First Blood has that monologue I was talking about. But this one continues that spirit of wronged yet faithful soldier, moreso than any of the other sequels. It’s also the most coherent and commercial action film out of all of them (and it’s one of the ones that does have a major female character, even if she’s killed off quickly).

The film was better than my fish and chips tho. Well I really liked the chips, but the fish was lacking. I ended up just pulling the thin bits of fish out of the overdone breading, which is quite difficult to do in the dark. Still, protein was a good choice and I’m feeling ready for the next movie. Energy level is good. Excitement is still mixed.

Intro guy comes back, and this time he’s got swag and trivia. It’s one of the few times that trivia hasn’t made me anxious because I know that I’m not gonna know any answers, so I’m not pressuring myself to get them right. He gives away a few tees and Rambo wigs. I notice the servers have also put on some of those Rambo wigs. I order my chocolate chip cookie milkshake for dessert, likely my last bit of food, which should keep me just in budget.

Rambo III

My first idea of Rambo came from playing Rambo III on my Sega Genesis. I think we rented it a couple times from Blockbuster. Anyways now Rambo is sent to the Middle East because reasons. The guns are bigger. The explosions are bigger. The bad guys are badder.

I commented on Stardust later that I thought 4 was the worst, and someone replied why not 3? I was really digging the cheese of 3. It was pure adrenaline, over the top action, like I love. However, I will say that I noticed a few times that my mind wandered for a bit (not sure during this movie, but it was more apparent here) and once I tuned back in, I really hadn’t missed anything. I could pick up exactly where I left off without having missed anything too important.

Also I feel my write up getting thinner and thinner, but it really was a kind of repetitive marathon. Not a complaint, just a comment. It didn’t feel like a rollercoaster, more of a long train ride.

Oh so I had the chocolate chip cookie shake, and it was okay. I like shakes that have chunks in them, which the cookie provided, but there wasn’t as much flavor. That didn’t stop me from drinking way too much of it. I felt so ridiculously full, I was questioning all my life decisions. Dude next to me got an unexpected refill of his popcorn and he offered me some, and as curious as I had been to try this stuff, I couldn’t possibly fathom putting anything else into my mouth. Although really I mostly passed on the popcorn by reflex because I was so surprised at the offer.

Rambo

Just gonna come right out and say it. This is the one I fell asleep thru. But yeah, it was only one, so that’s pretty good. Other people chose this movie to take a dinner break elsewhere. I never saw the dad and kid again, although I did see another pair later with a slightly older child.

This movie felt slightly different from the others, but it was still lots of nonstop action. Even though I slept thru the middle, I didn’t really miss much plot wise. The action is what’s different though. This film is very graphic. There’s lots of blood, but it feels unsettling because a lot of it is good guy blood. I’m fine with excessive amounts of bad guy blood, but it makes me feel icky otherwise.

I later learned from IMDB trivia that when Sly was making this film, he specifically wanted to use the film to spotlight violence somewhere in the world that wasn’t being talked about. The chosen country was Burma. I think it really was effective in showcasing the genocide that was happening, which is why the graphic violence and why it hit so hard. It’s a different message from the invisible war going on in Rambo’s head in the earlier films (mirroring those of too many vets in our country) but it still rings true with the spirit of Rambo. He’s a soldier fighting for the underdog. I just don’t know how.

Side note: 4 also has the longest end credits of all of them. Usually when I got back, the intermission show was already playing, but this time I came back and found half the credits remaining. And then this had a longer intermission than the others because reasons. It was good to get a long stretch before the home stretch, but I was starting to worry about how much sleep I’d get by the time I got home.

Announcer guy came back, gave away some more swag and invited us to dig thru the box for any leftovers after the film. Thus was the beginning of the end.

Rambo: Last Blood

I’m actually gonna skip the overall commentary on this film and save it for my next post since it is a new release and all. So you’ll just hafta wait for that, but the short version is less Rambo, more Taken, and a little Saw.

Once the credits rolled, the rest of the crowd beat me to the box, so by the time I got there the wigs (which I didn’t want) and the tees (which I did want) were gone, and there were only extra bandannas. I paid my check and rounded my tip up to what I’d budgeted because announcer dude said we had the same servers for the entire marathon, which is an impressive marathon on its own. The Bloc was dead when I wandered out and across the street to where I’d parked. The lot was empty except for two other cars and a group of people drinking right by the entrance I had to go in thru. But I made it, and I got home in time to almost get six hours of sleep before work the next day.

Overall, pretty awesome getting a crash course in awesome action. I’m still more of a Die Hard girl for classic action, but it was a kickass way to spend a Sunday

Ad Astra

It seems that for the longest time, “space movies” were big budget action adventure things. In the middle of those blockbuster types, you’d have the occasional artsy space movie. But it feels like recently the ratio has flipped. Most of the space movies are artsy. This is another one of those.

It’s the future! Brad Pitt is an astronaut! His dad is Tommy Lee Jones and he was an astronaut! Daddy was last seen on a mission to Neptune and has been presumed dead for years. But maybe he’s not? Brad is sent on a mission to go and find his father because bad stuff is happening on earth that he might be responsible for.

Have you seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? I feel like my thoughts towards Ad Astra followed basically the exact same trajectory, beat by beat. I was really into the movie to begin with. I loved seeing what life is like in the space age according to this film, the way that travel is commercialized and the little bits of technology that help along the way. But the film was constantly on a slow down, eventually reaching a narrative halt (from my perspective at least). I went from excitedly following the story to fighting to stay awake and finding that my watch said it was only two minutes later than the last time I checked. It all looked amazing, but I need more narrative action.

Brad Pitt is one of my absolute favorite actors. I think his demeanor felt the role very well, because we needed someone who is very calm and cool and collected (Brad in a nutshell). But somehow, I just don’t buy him as an astronaut. I mean, it was inevitable that he’d play one some day, but the suit never looked like it fit him. It really did look like a dude in a costume.

Still I’m seeing lots of positive reviews for this. Some from people who are connecting to the father/son storyline (I never really latched on to it) and others who are marveling at the cinematography and technical aspects. That’s cool. I’ll just go watch Apollo 13 or The Martian again

Ad Astra – \m/ \m/ \n

The Goldfinch

Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Surely that automatically equals Academy Award winning film, right? All you gotta do is stay true to the story and not muck it up. Then the reviews started coming out. I’d had plans to see it with a friend and he bailed. I reserved a ticket anyways, but there was a high probability I’d bail (at least until another friend had also reluctantly decided to see it too). Turns out, I didn’t hate it, but man did they miss the mark.

I’ll start by saying it’s an 800 page book distilled into a 2.5 hour movie. There’s a lot going on. A boy gets caught up in a museum bombing that kills his mother. He steals a painting on his way out to safety. He lives with his rich friend’s family for a while until his deadbeat father shows up to claim him. He befriends an old antiques worker and a girl who was also at the museum. He grows up. These things all still affect him.

Here’s the thing, the bones of the story are good. Really good. (Hello, Pulitzer). I was caught up in the story (despite some of the bad filmmaking that I’ll get to shortly), and I heard my buddy gasping out loud at some of the turns it took. Even though it’s a modern book, it felt a lot like the classic literature I used to eat up when I was ten. I really do want to read this and get the full experience of the book.

So why didn’t it work? It was trying way too dang hard. From the opening sequence, it was hitting way too hard on “Hey look this is a dark and heavy theme!” instead of letting the work speak for itself. It also hit on every prestige picture cliche and was just dripping in pretention. Even though the story was good, it shortcut a lot of the back half of it, following our boy as an adult. The childhood storylines were pretty solid, but due to time constaints, the same care couldn’t be given to the grown up side. It felt rushed and thrown together.

Then the acting. My God, this movie was overacted like whoa. I’ve seen all these people be great before, so I hafta blame the direction, which fits with the overly pretentious vibe. And I adore Ansel Elgort, but I think he was miscast. I don’t buy him as a lover of antiques and culture. Especially given the shortcutting on his story, I didn’t see those gaps filled in by his performance. Jeffrey Wright tried really hard, and the younger version of the character (played by Oakes Fegley) was really good, but no one else could really handle it (Sarah Paulson was almost there too, but I blame the material more than her).

The film held my interest enough that I really would like to read the book (squeeze it in at some point between all the Stephen King I’m going thru now). If this had been done as a limited series, maybe it could have done the material justice. But really, if the filmmakers didn’t have Oscars in their eyes, it would have been a better film. And now it’s gonna be remembered for all the wrong reasons, as one of the biggest flops of all time. And it’s a shame because the source material doesn’t deserve that.

The Goldfinch – \m/ \m/ \n