Apocalypse Now Redux great film! It was quite an experience!
3 From Hell - 2.5/5
The fuck was that? Despite the BS explanation for the Fireflies surviving Devil's Rejects tainting the movie from the start, I was feeling forgiving of shortcomings, so I did actually find myself enjoying it more often than not. The problems eventually became too big to ignore as every other scene really felt like "Devil's Rejects, but cheaper and worse and now featuring more Mexico". And then... it just ends. No real narrative gets resolved, not even in a nihilistic "nobody wins" way. It just stops.
For a two-hour running time, this seriously seemed like half a movie. What the hell happened?
Also, the characters were written in a really weird way. Otis doesn't seem nearly as intimidating as before, basically rephrasing his standout lines from TDR with about 40% less conviction. Baby is just amped up to 11 and tends to be more annoying than scary. The new guy replacing Spaulding (RIP, Sid Haig) is just a second Otis who likes wolves.
Yikes, man. I've always had a soft spot for Rob Zombie's movies (I even liked Halloween II and 31!), but this one has no reason to exist as is. What a let down. I'd love to hear what happened behind the scenes, because I refuse to believe that this is what Zombie wanted to make. I know about the Sid Haig rewrites, but that doesn't explain... well... everything else.
Joker - Thumbs Firmly In the Middle
A quite amazing perform wrapped around a deeply (though not critically) flawed movie. For all the hubub surround it prior to release this movie has very little to say and doesn't really deliver anything that you couldn't find better done in the movies it is not-so-subtly cribbing from. It is a sloppy mess but not a contemptible one.
Joker - 5/5
It's not a masterpiece but it IS a really well done character study. The film takes a while to get really going, and without spoiling anything one might say the entire thing is just one slow buildup but it is a harrowing spiral that Phoenix is able to maintain from start to finish. As I talked to friends leaving the cinema, it's a difficult film to recommend as it is at times a difficult thing to watch. That said, in stark contrast to another recent "character study" movie Ad Astra, I feel Joker is a complete and immersive story that has some beautiful cinematography, a great score and some truly terrific and terrifying acting.
I guess this was enjoyable enough (David Morse's performance was the standout). It's filled with its fair share of cringe moments. And it's very much a product of its time - if you don't know when this movie was made, let me just say that a PlayStation Portable gets played...
If anything, it really makes me want to finally get around to watching Rear Window.
I think Ari Aster might be my favorite current horror director. Like Hereditary, I absolutely loved this. While there's nothing quite on the level of shock as *that scene* in Hereditary, or as batshit insane as its ending (although one scene comes close), I found it just as tense and unnerving, and it used its long runtime well.
It's also absolutely gorgeous to look at, which makes the occasional punctuations of gore that much more effective. Just fantastic.
El Camino 3 / 5
Breaking Bad is my all-time favorite show, and Jesse Pinkman one of the best characters, so I was looking forward to finding out how what happened to him. Without spoilers, I'll I can say is - this is a tone piece with some good scenes and sharp writing, but ultimately not very satisfying. Proper spoiler blocks don't seem to be working so I'll just say **SPOILERS FOLLOW**
The problem with making a Breaking Bad sequel, of sorts, is that the original show wrapped things up so tightly. There are no longer any enemies of Jesse to speak of to be antagonists. We get some flashbacks of Todd, aka, the most repulsive character ever seen on film or TV - but he was already disposed of in the Breaking Bad finale, so there's not much reason for his appearance here other than to remind us of Pinkman's torments. If he had been kept alive, this would make a great revenge story - but as it is, Jesse has no motivation except to get away and start a new life.
To fill in, the movie introduces some characters who were involved in helping keep Jesse imprisoned in the white supremacist compound. I haven't watched the show since the finale aired, so my memory may be hazy, but I think these are new characters just retconned in so Jesse would have someone to spar with. I really was not interested in those characters at all - they are just lowlifes, and not particularly memorable the way Tuco or Gus were in the show.
I was surprised when it ended. I thought there would be at least another half-hour. I found myself wondering if we needed to have villains or violence at all here. The questions I had about Jesse after Breaking Bad were not "How is Jesse going to escape the police?" or "How is Jesse going to get some cash?" My questions were: "How do you live with yourself after doing the things Jesse has done?" "How do you go on after surviving trauma?" "What do you do with your life when everything you've been working towards, and everyone you love, have been taken from you?"
I would *gladly* watch a two-hour movie about Jesse wandering his way through Alaska looking for meaning. What we got seems like some extra action shoehorned where it isn't needed. There isn't a lot of dialogue in this movie, mostly because Jesse is such a broken soul. The tidbits of conversation we do get, mostly through flashbacks, are great - I just wish there was more.
Galurmo de Turmo's Frightening Fables to Share In The Moonlight Guillermo del Toro's Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark - 3/5 as just a horror movie, 5/5 as YA horror (at least from an adult's perspective)
It could be considered a downside that this is "the Goosebumps movie but moderately more violent", but I think it was a smart move to do that, as it fits the target audiences for the source materials. And like the Goosebumps movie, this was some excellent fan service (I mean, damn, they even worked The Hearse Song into the plot... clever!) as well as the kind of movie I'd have gone absolutely gaga for as a 12 year old.
If there's anything I'd have changed personally, it's that the movie looked too "clean", if that makes sense. The main appeal to the books were, famously, the illustrations, which looked grimy and surreal. And while Gammel's art does get a nice creepy nod at one part, I feel like the whole movie should have looked more exaggerated and fantastical.
But other than that, I really like what they did with this. Being PG-13, they pull their punches, but not as much as I had expected. The first victim's demise (while bloodless) is actually kind of brutal. The plot is an excuse at best, just as Goosebumps' was, but again, this is meant for young teens new to the genre and nostalgic 30-somethings who just want to see how they adapt the monsters. It gets the job done. Unfortunately, this is one of those films that got a bit spoiled by an overzealous marketing team, so the plot's all that's left if you've seen the teasers. I'd have loved the aforementioned Gammel nod to have been a surprise.
Ah well, still, this was a treat.
This was exactly the type of continuation of this story that I didn't feel like I needed, but that I am absolutely glad they decided to do. While I was a big fan of the show, and it's (better) prequel series Better Call Saul, when it came to Breaking Bad I was always one of those weird people who preferred Seasons 1 and 2 for the slow build pacing, where as most loved the tension/drama of Season 5. If Season 5 of BB was your cup of tea, don't expect much of that out of El Camino.
It takes the root of the series back to a very slow methodical pace, and while there is absolutely some bigger moments it doesn't really spend much time building to them or making them seem overly important in the grand scheme of things. Specifically the antagonist situation. Instead the movie is a very well paced slow burn of a character study, with little dialogue and a lot of fantastic acting from Aaron Paul.
The one thing that really pushed this over the edge for me was it's reliance on flashbacks. It's so easy to do flashbacks especially when your seeing characters who have since been long and dead from the original show, and make it feel fan servicey. Instead, this felt absolutely earned, as each flashback was shown with tons of connection to Jesse. It manages to make the flashbacks feel like well timed self reflections for the character. They use these sequences to justify and explore some of the PTSD that Pinkman would absolutely be feeling following so long in captivity, and just in general to set the characters motivations and direction clearer.
My only real big complaint, and it's not really the shows fault, is that a few of the actors who played characters who have since passed on in the shows canon, return for flashbacks that were clearly shot after the fact. Specifically a flashback to one actor, whom in the original show was far skinnier and has put on more weight for some of his more recent roles. It wasn't immersion breaking levels, but you could notice it. Pretty minor complaint in the grand scheme though, and if you were a fan of Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul I'd say you'll probably enjoy this. Depending of course on what type of pacing of BB you are a fan of.
@wollywoo: I don’t know...Todd is horrible, but he’s not quite on par with someone like Michael Rooker’s Henry.
Todd strikes me as a super nice and likable guy with ZERO sense of empathy. It’s like he doesn’t know any better. He’s missing a piece of humanity.
A character like Henry revels in the death and suffering he causes.
Todd’s murders feel like they at least come from a twisted sense of self-preservation. I think he’s mostly murdered loose ends, as that’s probably what Uncle Jack & co. have taught him.
They’re both shitbags, though!
@nutter: I'd argue that exactly is what makes Todd, more horrible. His by the numbers nice guy routine not being an act, as you say means he has no sense of empathy, or probably doesn't feel it at all. Which means when it comes to trying to assess a threat with him in any social situation, you are left entirely unawares. Unsure of him in every situation. It almost creates this odd tension where you don't know what could push him over the line, because he doesn't visibly show any line when he does commit actions that most would consider heinous.
@nutter: Fair enough. (I'm not familiar with the Michael Rooker character you're referring to.) Your description of Todd is totally correct - he's like a normal person except that the part of his brain with any sense of morality is completely broken. That's why he's so creepy to me. I've seen lots of villains that delight in hurting people, but I've never seen any character quite like Todd. Very curious if there are real-life psychopaths like him, or whether psychiatrists/criminologists would say it's an accurate depiction of a mental disorder.
@devise22: I hear ya, not I guy I’d want to share a train ride with...a lack of empathy is a scary thing.
I think my stance comes from trying to rewatch Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer as an adult. It’s a TOUGH watch. I can deal with Todd as a character better than Henry, or even Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (the book).
@wollywoo: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a classic, but MAAAN is it a tough watch as an adult. I could appreciate it a lot more before having kids.
Kids grounded me in a way that makes things more real. Whether it’s fiction or real world trauma, having the perspective that kids provide just makes everything feel more impactful.
That’s my experience, at least...
What makes Todd interesting in El Camino is that we learn he does have some empathy, or at least a sense of morality - he does feel bad for killing. It's just that his guilt is not at all in proportion to the magnitude of his crime. He can kill someone and feel bad in the way a normal person might feel bad about putting down a pet rat.
@wollywoo: Yeah, good point. He does feel some sense of empathy for her, but he’s nearly remorseless, like his actions were totally justifiable.
He’s an interesting character, and easy to hate.
Even the situation with Jesse, treating him like he isn’t a beaten and captive dog...he must then understand that the situation is wrong...is he just trying to cheer him up with their interactions? If he has empathy, is he just putting on a brave face for his abused dog of a prisoner?
Clearly, he knows he can’t let him go and would kill Jesse if he tried to escape...but I never got a sense of humanity from him during the series...
He’s an interesting character...
@nutter I think he actually likes and respects Jesse, and feels a little bad about keeping him caged up. He's not cruel like his uncle - earlier he tries to stop them from hurting him for no reason. But again, it's not in proportion. He cares about Jesse the way a farmer might care about his cattle - good ol' faithful, doesn't deserve it, but you know, gotta put meat on the table and all.
He does seem to have some understanding that other people care more deeply about their fellow humans than he does. He threatens to kill Jesse's loved ones, a tactic that would be completely ineffectual against him. But it's very limited understanding. He assumes Jesse would be totally happy getting some pizza and beer after burying a murdered corpse.
Still, I kind of wonder why he needs to be in this movie. The audience already understands that Jesse is tormented, and these scenes don't give much insight into Jesse's character. I wonder if some of the flashbacks here were originally written for Breaking Bad.
@wollywoo: I think the Jesse flashbacks are actually pretty pivotal to the early tension of the movie to be honest. I think he serves a great purpose, because for much of BB we never really got to see to the degree Jesse was tormented, not just by being in captivity and the asshole Uncles being more typical torture like. There was also playing that with the juxtaposition of Todd, and how that really worked on Jesse's pysche with how creepy/normal Todd would behave. I feel it also did well to give momentum to the present day actions of Jesse, as it was hard to tell if due to all those events how unhinged he would be. For me it helped create the illusion that the movie could end in multiple different ways.
It's interesting to see the show as a study of different types of evil. Gus's cold, calculating vengeance. Tuco's code of loyalty. The way Jesse is manipulated into murder. And of course, Walt's sense of aggrieved honor and desire to provide. The neo-Nazis of season 5 are not as interesting. But damn, now I want to watch this show again...
A few things...
I didn't hate this movie. Does it match the sheer level of creativity or quality of the del Toro movies? Not by a long shot. But it is decently fun. For one, I think David Harbour was an excellent casting choice. He nails the character. The disgruntled sarcasm and snark are on point. Certain aspects of the story are really rushed through, which is surprising considering the 2 hour running time. Overall the story is kinda whatever, but some of the events guiding it are a lot of fun. There's a couple good action scenes, with the one involving the giants being the most inventive. It's also one of the goriest big budget movies I've seen in a long time. I appreciated that. The special effects were all over the place in quality. They were never super great, but mostly passable. However, a few spots looked really cheap and cartoony.
It would've been nice to see what this movie would've been if the studio hadn't meddled with it. There's a better story in there somewhere, and they were clearly anticipating a new franchise out of it with the ending, which will likely not happen after this one was a massive bomb. It's not a great movie as is, but I also don't think it's anywhere near as bad as people made it sound. I give it a 3/5
Pet Semetary (2019)
I was honestly expecting a little more out of this. While the original isn't a "good" movie by traditional standards, it is effective and fairly disturbing and spooky. I really liked its atmosphere. The 2019 remake does a decent job at trying to replicate that atmosphere in the first half. It sets a good mood and builds up to what you know is coming, although maybe taking a little too long to get there. What ultimately kept it from keeping any thematic momentum was that it cheapened the mystery of the cemetery with hokey visions had by Jason Clarke's character, and that the resurrected versions of whatever is buried there are made to be too obviously "evil." I admittedly have never read the novel, but that doesn't strike me as King's style and it's something the original movie was more successful at. This movie at least includes aspects of the lore the original movie didn't that I know are taken from the book. But it barely gets into any of that.
There are a few scenes that play on your expectations of the original, throwing twists small and significant in there to surprise you, but I feel like most of those are only superficial, until the final act at least. The last third of the movie is pretty different. I can't pin exactly what about didn't work for me... but I just didn't love the last 10 or 15 minutes. I wish the movie would've taken its time building up to it, or that was a little more ambiguous. I didn't hate it either, but after really digging the first half of the movie, the last chunk felt hollow and unearned in some weird way. The ending is dark, but I also found it a little corny. Overall still an enjoyable film with some strong performances. 3/5. Would've been a 4/5 if John Lithgow did a hilarious Maine accent.
I just watched this tonight. I don't have much to say on it other than it was good but also very unnecessary. We all know Jesse escapes and is on the run at the end of Breaking Bad. It's pretty easy to assume that he eventually hides somewhere and starts to build a new life. One of the reasons I love the series finale is that it just left it at that. All this movie does is show how he did that. Of fucking course I'm gonna watch that because I'm compelled to see this character again, but honestly I don't think this movie is an essential part of the Breaking Bad story.
The movie is slow, yet still somehow flies by. It also felt like it needed more. The movie is very unceremonious and decidedly not flashy in any respect. While I do appreciate that, I do feel like something bigger needed to happen somewhere for this movie to feel worth it. What that is I do not know, but it does feel like something is missing. The flashbacks are arguably the best parts of the movie, although trying to make the characters look 5-10 years younger doesn't always work. Cinematography is gorgeous, acting is superb, as I would expect. I definitely enjoyed my time revisiting this world, but I also don't think asking for just a little more is asking too much. I gotta break out the rare half-star and give it a 3.5/5
Watched a few movies in the last few weeks, one Japanese indie movie from the hachimiri madness wave, two more Lukas Moodysson movies (wanted to watch two more, but was too tired to go to the theatre those days) and a silent film classic by Rowland V. Lee and Mauritz Stiller.
Anyway, Lukas Moodysson has ended up a pretty fascinating director, he's ... incredibly consistent in that all the movies I've watched have been very good but never quite reaching greatness. In order:
A Hole In My Heart (2006), an experimental drama set in an apartment where a couple is recording amateur porn in the living room while their recluse son sits in his room and re-enact the porn scenes with dolls while listening to noise and industrial music. The movie is made in a somewhat documentary style, very obviously inspired by the reality show "Big Brother" which was popular at the time - characters sometimes turn to the camera and start talking about their life, and there's that sense that they're pushing themselves to keep doing crazier and more violent stuff 'for the viewers' as the movie goes on. It deals a lot with loneliness, being outsiders and dysphoria, as is intercut with some really graphic surgery scenes.
Mammoth (2009), seems like both a critical response to the Babel (2006) and an inversion of Moodysson's earlier film Lilja 4-Ever (2003), it features three narratives that are largely separate but sometimes meet and parallel each other, with most characters being emotionally and physically distant from each other, and somewhat takes on subjects like trafficing in Thailand and the Phillipines, but never quite going as far as Lilja 4-Ever did, ending up just not saying much even though I think it does a fine job of juxtaposing a rich New York family against a family in the Phillipines. Both movies get a weak-ish 4/5, as I think both could've been more explicit and harsher in the criticism of their subjects. A Hole in My Heart is also just a little bit too non-linear for its own good, making it really hard to follow a few of the threads.
Saint Terrorism (1980), an odd Japanese indie film with multiple narratives going on in an apartment complex, including a rotting body in the water tank on the roof, who reflects back on how he ended up there, two murderers who enjoy killing strangers on the streets, but have grown tired of their chosen weapons, a doomsday cult and a couple doing erotic theatre. The movie was over 2 hours long, and kinda overstayed its welcome, while I really enjoyed some scenes and dialogue, it kinda went on and on at times. 3/5.
Barbed Wire (1927), a silent movie set during the first world war, in which a farmer family is forced to let a prisoner of war camp set up on their premises. The daughter in the family falls in love with one of the prisoners, while the villagers who have lost relatives in the war get more and more violent. Well acted, and brought up some themes that ended up coming true a few years later, but as far as 20s movies go, there are better ones out there, it just wasn't particularly interestingly shot or edited, could probably have been made in the late 1910s just as well, and the late 20s was right in the middle of the expressionist wave where we got some absolutely stunning movies. 3/5
Flew to the US and back, which means I watched some movies I would have otherwise never gotten around to, probably:
Hellboy (2019. Or was it 2018? Who remembers or cares): This caught a lot of shit for not having Ron Pearlman or Guillermo Del Toro involved, as my hazy memories recall, and you know what I get it. It's not a fantastic movie - David Harbour is a good Hellboy, and some of the art design (particularly the creatures at the end) are Metal As Fuck - but the story is only sort of fine and kind of a rehash of stuff the comics explored better. I dunno, it was fine. Ian Mcshane was delightful because I think he is physically incapable of being anything else but delightful. Milla Jovanavich started out as an interesting villain but then just kind of went off the rails by the end. The visual effects were super, super inconsistent, and honestly they should've just leaned all the way into the cartoonish look if they couldn't get consistantly realistic results. Wouldn't mind seeing Harbour get another crack at stomping around being sardonic.
3 demon worms from beyond space and time out of 5
John Wick: Okay look I just wanted to watch John Wick again, leave me alone. This movie still owns. 5/5
Vice: I don't know why I watched this. Movies about how shitty people did a bunch of underhanded/corrupt/outright criminal shit and got away with it just make me mad! Christian Bale is acting the shit out of this in a way that's a little distracting, and the weird monologue he gives at the end just... I don't know man, it didn't work for me. The narrative framing, such as it was, also kind of seemed unnecessary? I feel like this movie didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, and apart from making me feel some sympathy for Mary (who I did not realize was Allison Pill until the very end) nothing else really seemed to come together. Anyway, fuck Dick Cheney. 2 war crimes out of 5
Clear and Present Danger: Somewhat because I loved watching Willem Dafoe in John Wick, I watched this movie again. Harrison Ford is great in this, and some of the dialogue is just... so dumb. Hearing Ford fiercely and angrily shout "you broke the LAW" made me giggle. James Earl Jones is the most fatherly motherfucker to ever do it, and gives an appropriately rah rah America speech about how you made a promise to your boss, who is the AMERICAN PEOPLE, Jack, so get out there and uh I guess shoot some dudes in Columbia? I didn't catch the end of this movie that I watched a billion times as a kid, so I missed the part where Clark basically murders the dude responsible for the clusterfuck. Oh well. 3 exploding coke factories out of 5
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase: No, I'm not sure why I watched this. I'm about the farthest away from the target audience as you can get, but you know what? They did an okay job with this. I didn't hate it! There was a mystery, and some drugs, and an old hippie lady who claims to have "fought communists" which seems like... I dunno, a little weird? They sort of do an origin story for Nancy, who is appropriately plucky and (unlike her book counterpart) a bit more of an outsider - she skateboards (actually I think it's a longboard, but you get what I'm saying) and occasionally Breaks The Law. There's a twist at the end that you could easily see coming, but again, I'm not the target audience. They also do a surprising amount of legwork trying to elide the fact that one of the mystery team (such as it is) starts the movie being a spoiled rich bully and then kind of switches over so suddenly that it nearly gave me whiplash. The reluctance the rest of the team has to trust her immediately is... portrayed as a bad thing? Or being unreasonable? I'm not sure. Look, I think George was right to be mad is all. Some of the moments in this movie that were clearly meant to show that Nancy needs her friends worked, some of them fell flat (her freakout in the hotel room at the thought of losing her dad gives her some vulnerability and shows that she's carrying some trauma around, which makes her more grounded, but said freakout is almost immediately solved by Helen going like "hey cut it out" and that just seems to be enough? Which is less good.). I have now put too much thought into the themes, plot, and execution of Nancy Drew. I think my nieces would probably be into this. 2 hallucinated Nutcracker statues out of 5.
BONUS: Dark Souls on the Switch: Hey playing Dark Souls on an airplane is a fun thing to do, even if you (like me) get all the way to Orenstein and Smough and then just kinda die on them a bunch as you get increasingly tired.
Saw Joker. Dug it. One of the better movies I’ve seen this year.
It wasn’t as pompous as I’ve seen some claim, nor anything that’s going to change my life, but I thought it was a good character study with some things to say about division and acceptance.
Being well shot with great music and a believable arc helped, as did the 70s New York motif (I’m a sucker for that sort of thing).
I was on board for the first half. But then it was downhill from there, and it really started to lose me in the last twenty-or-so minutes.
It's a well-made movie, with some great acting - particularly from Toni Colette - but, given that I can't just rate half the movie, I'm going to have to give this a 3...
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