Not rated. It's an older movie and Italian, so you just can't judge. Here's what you have to look out for. This is fundamentally a story about domestic abuse. There's a murder, albeit an accidental murder. (Whether you want to judge it as manslaughter, that's up to you.) The primary antagonist is a womanizer, so really he's just the most unlikable character. While it has some really gruesome stuff in it, most of it happens off-screen. Visually an appropriate film, but it has some heavy themes.
DIRECTOR: Federico Fellini
This, of course, is not meant to be confused with the Cormac McCarthy story of The Road, which is somehow even more bleak than this story. We're leaving for Italy on Friday and I really want to watch all of my Italian films before then. I started Duolingo, so I'll know that "The boy eats the apple" by the time I leave. But I'm starting to look at Fellini through a new light. I know that Fellini was the first one to defend the notion of the Italian New Wave, but this movie definitely feels more like Neorealism than it does the New Wave. Perhaps the notion of the traveling performers is a bit specific, but the character work in La Strada seems to plant it firmly in the world of Neorealism.
The era of Neorealism was this time in Italy post-war where they were redefining themselves. A lot of neorealism has to do with being cohabitants with an invader. In the case of Italians, it was coming to grips with the concept that they were Italians side-by-side with Americans. But stuff like The Bicycle Thieves dealt more with the fallout of a poor country and the inevitability of poverty on a country. Another thing that should be taken into account is the idea that emotion comes second to truth. I always had a hard time coming to grips with that element of neorealism because neorealism tends to always be remarkably emotional for me. Honestly, the most sympathy that I ever feel in films can be found in Bicycle Theives and Umberto D. La Strada is no different for me. Yeah, there's this inevitability of fate that surrounds Gelsomina. There doesn't seem to be any happy ending for her, despite the fact that the world teases her with potential. When she meets the Fool, there's the hope that his lust for life might be a chance for her to get away from Zampano. But as much as we like the Fool, he doesn't quite live up to his persona.
The Fool is what it means to be an artist. I know that Fellini took his three leads and then gave them each elemental attributes. But The Fool is also someone who seems to genuinely love what he is doing. If I can strip away Fellini's heavy metaphor, from a character perspective, he is doing what every kid dreams about when it comes to joining the circus. Zampano is this guy who has this very specific talent. He's looking to make a quick buck, despite making almost no money. But The Fool, he is responsibility free. He finds joy in his poverty. It never seems to be this burden on him. He goes on the high-wire because it is fun. He wants to go up on stage and tell jokes. He has enough to get by and that's all he wants. That's attractive as heck, especially from Gelsomina's position. Gelsomina is in this because basic capitalism has her trapped. When she views someone like The Fool, the notion that money being the only force driving someone disappears. (Geez Louise, I am now going to go into this socialist argument to make the masses who read this blog upset.) I'm going to finish up my thoughts on the Fool, but this anti-Capitalist thing has legs. The Fool, for all of his joy for the stage, can't possibly make the mature leap to responsibility. Gelsomina, in her virtue, cannot throw herself at him. But she is being abused and the Fool sees it. The odd decision is that the Fool is the one who pushes her back into the arms of Zampano. She confides in the Fool, seeing a kindred spirit. The only joy she gets from this entire experience is in the performance that she contributes. When the Fool offers advice for staying with Zampano, it feels like it is good advice. But it also is a downplaying about the role of abuse. Fellini understands that with the ending that the movie gets.
But now I want to talk about the death of Capitalism and the rise of a Federation-style socialism. (Yeah, my in-laws probably don't love my take on economics and politics.) The reason that she is with Zampano is because Gelsomina's parents borderline sell her off because they are so poor. There's no consideration that Zampano is a monster. There's this fear that money is everything. She doesn't want to leave with him, but mother's knee-jerk reaction that anything is better than poverty. Now, I don't want to be the comfortable-guy-with-a-blog-dowplaying-poverty, but I do want to want to establish that Gelsomina goes from content to miserable very quickly. I've already talked about the Fool representing the role of art. But there's a very touching moment where Gelsomina meets some kind sisters. I'm going to be plucking a little bit out of Nights of Cabiria, but Fellini has this interest in the religious order. With Cabiria, the religious are seen as a little bit foolish, but in a blameless way. But La Strada has the sisterhood as a real option for Gelsomina. These are women who embrace poverty and live in a socialist society. They work for each other and find value in service. But Gelsomina is all screwed up from her conversations with The Fool. The Fool has kind of brainwashed her into a mission that should not exist. Her purpose, according to The Fool, is to take care of Zampano and give him company. It's this attitude that leads to the Fool's death and Gelsomina's ultimate slow crawl to the grave. Zampano is all about money. He never really gets it. But he's obsessed with money. He's the one who is always shucking and jiving for an extra coin. Gelsomina is less of a companion for him and more of a means to add a couple of extra bucks from an audience.
Do you know the weirdest part about La Strada? This is my theory, but I think everything bizarre in this movie is due to Dino DeLaurentis. I don't think I've seen much of DeLaurentis's work in Italy, but he's moving this movie. There's a reason that this movie got international attention. But having Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart in this film is mind-boggling. I know that when I think of Roman Polanski, especially with The Tenant, he used both local language speakers and English speakers. But I felt like Polanski had a foot in both worlds, which explained that choice. But with Fellini? I don't associate Fellini with American actors. Fellini screams Italian through and through. Yet, the way that the movie starts with the overtly Hollywood opening credits. But it's bizarre because the dubbing is weird. I had an easier time imagining that Anthony Quinn was saying his lines. But when it came to Basehart? Listen, I loved his character, but he screamed dubbing the entire time. It's just a weird choice.
Man, I love La Strada. Between Nights of Cabiria and this movie, I am also a big fan of Guilietta Masina. There's something so wholesome and earnest about her and I can say that she made the movie. My take on Fellini is changing and he's starting to become on of my favorite directors. I think I just watched his films in the wrong order.
Rated PG-13 despite the fact that it is about a technical vampire. As a consequence, the term "exsanguinate" is used appropriately. I suppose a vampire is pretty scary for little kids, especially those kids who want to watch a Marvel-tangential movie. There's some language and scary imagery. There's a lot of blood. I mean, that makes sense. There's a fair amount of death. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa
Oh man, I write about Bad Boys for Life and then jump right into Morbius. I never want this blog to about ironic watching. I almost had another Fellini movie for this entry, but my wife fell asleep halfway through it and she seemed to be digging it. (I rarely read falling asleep during a movie an indication that a movie is boring someone. As I'm nearing 40, I realize that sleepiness is just a thing.) But I'm conflicted about this movie. I mean, I can't deny that the lion's share of this blog entry is going to me nitpicking a not-great film. But I want to talk about irony for a bit before getting into the film.
I don't know if you if you've met a teenager. I'm not talking about Gen Z because my generation has its fair share of ironic watching. But teenagers love absorbing things ironically. When it became very clear that Morbius wasn't going to be a good movie, the young folks ran with that pretty hard. Early in Morbius's release schedule, I saw a meme that we've probably all seen. If you're my wife, you haven't seen it, so I'll restate it here. It's a tweet saying, "My favorite part of Morbius is when he said, 'It's Morbin' Time' and morbed all over those guys." I laughed pretty hard about that one when it came out. I even shared it. But then it became like my students posting about Fortnite or Among Us and then just became a joke about telling the joke. I don't particularly love that. I knew that I would eventually get around to Morbius, despite knowing that it was going to be a bit of a trainwreck. But when people started watching it ironically (or in many cases, claiming that they would watch it with no intention of watching it), I decided that I should give it a fair shake. Heck, I went into it darn forgiving. And you know what?
It's fine. It's not good. Oh dear, it's not good. But it's not as bad as people make it out to be. And the thing that really gets under my skin is that it is a copy of a movie that people claimed was good but wasn't: Venom. Sure, Venom had more charm with its interpretation of the symbiote. But I'll give Morbius the point for having action that actually was comprehendible. (TL;DR: Venom was like Transformers that it was just goo hitting other goo. Transformers was metal hitting other metal.) But people swore that Venom was great. I thought that movie was soul-sucking. And a lot of it comes down to the fact that Sony is a soulless company. I know, you've heard me go on this rant before. But Sony's movie division is absolutely corporate and terrible. They are way behind the curve for the direction that films should go. Movies at Sony are made entirely by committee. Sometimes it works out for them. While they are still obsessed with surveys and test screenings, movie really should be more than they invest in. They saw that Venom was a cash-cow. Cool. Do you know what they did? They took all the disparate elements that made Venom successful and did it again.
I hate writing in lists, but it has to happen for the sake of documentation. They took a Spider-Man villain without Spider-Man actually being in the movie. They colored the palate bleak and miserable, surrounded it with sterile scientific nonsense. The protagonist is a sympathetic anti-hero who attempts to tell jokes and fights and antagonist that is a copy of the protagonist. His big temptation is eating people, despite trying to be a good person. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's so much. Like, beat-for-beat, it's just Venom. And, like I stated, I'm in the minority that thinks that Venom is an actively bad movie. So the frustration is with both the studio and the audience who likes to make fun of this stuff. All of their complaints about Morbius lies in the fact that they just don't care about Morbius as a character.
And they're not wrong. No one really cares about Morbius, the Living Vampire. Listen, I have almost every Spider-Man comic ever made. I'm not exaggerating. My collection is irresponsible. I remember the first appearance of Morbius. I remember that Marvel tried making a big deal about it. But do you know what? Morbius was always a C-tier villain. He had elements about him that could have been interesting. After all, he's a character that has had a couple of titles with his name across the cover. But a lot of that was the results of '90s storytelling, really embracing demonic ideas as a means to sell tee-shirts. But Morbius himself doesn't really have all that many interesting ideas behind it. Sony has a lot of dud properties under the umbrella of a good property. Because Sony owns Spider-Man and the Spider-Man universe of characters, they're trying to get water from a stone. They have this diminishing returns thing going with making straight Spider-Man films outside of the stuff they farm out to the MCU. So they think that they can hold their own with these very thin premises. But what we keep getting are helicopters and labs thinking that's what superhero antiheroes. But Marvel has proven that heroes need to be avatars for their audiences. All of the Marvel characters, regardless of how big personalities get (like Tony Stark) are about humanity. To a certain point, Morbius kinda sorta gets it okay. We get that Michael Morbius is more than simply a bloodsucker. But Jared Leto, a guy who is more of a headline than he is a person?
That's what makes Matt Smith's portrayal of the same character more interesting. Now, Milo makes no sense whatsoever on paper. Not a lick. Sorry, that's true about the film. Also the fact that Sony is still making MCU Phase One mistakes by having a villain that is a mirror image of the hero. But whatever. Maybe it is because I'm such a Doctor Who fan, especially of Matt Smith, but Smith makes Milo a character with charisma. He's sympathetic (until he's very quickly not). Every scene with Matt Smith is actually worth watching. But every scene with Jared Leto is at best tolerable. As much as I'm lavishing praise on Smith, I do want to restate that his character is a mess on paper. He's evil for evil's sake. The movie wants to stress that his childhood was traumatic. But Milo goes to the dark side real quick. He goes from being afraid of humanity to enjoying hunting. Now, the story writes it off as something that's part of the transformation into living vampire that makes that happen. But that's not really compelling from an internal conflict perspective. After all, Michael, post-transformation slaughter, returns to a state of humanity. There's this comment that Michael makes that it is the red blood that drives these vampires to become feral, but that doesn't scan with the rest of the story. So, as much as I like Smith in that role, it doesn't really make sense as a character.
Also, the film kind of just ignored one of its major plots. Michael is aware that he cannot keep living the way he is. He says something along the lines of "By tomorrow, I will become just like Milo" if he can't find another food source. The movie doesn't come to make peace with this idea. It just ends with Michael putting Milo down (in a ridiculously simplistic way. Why do the vampire bats respect Michael but not Milo?). But are we saying that Michael is going to replace Milo in a few hours? It doesn't really scan for Michael driving to meet Adrian Toomes in the middle of nowhere. It's so ready to set up another movie (that really makes absolutely no sense) that it ignored the internal conflict of the first film. Michael is about to become feral and there's no talk about that? It's a really weird choice.
So the movie is a bad movie. But it isn't a meme worthy bad movie. I mean, it's no Fantastic Four. That movie deserved the vitriol it got. This is just another Sony movie that people actually asked for and were disappointed when it was no good.
Rated R for a lot of language and violence. It's absolutely glorified violence. This is the old school Michael Bay violence of the '90s, despite the fact that Michael Bay didn't direct this. Instead, he shows up as the emcee of a wedding? Anyway, there are some stereotypes that feel a bit dated and even more worship of problematic police violence. R.
DIRECTORS: Adil El Abri and Billal Fallah
Oh man, have I changed so much? I almost feel like I can't write about this movie with any sense of objectivity. We're entering a new period of nostalgia. My nostalgic era is starting to fade away and giving rise to the '90s as a new period of wistful bliss. My buddy, Roy, used to love the Bad Boys movies. Because he loved them so much, I too loved them. I even own Bad Boys II. I can safely say that it hasn't been watched in decades. The sheer fact that I own it means, if I stay true to my writing schedule, that I will watch it and write about it one day. But am I the kind of guy who can applaud the rogue police officer as protagonist anymore?
I honestly thought that my opinions about this movie would swirl around Will Smith's interactions with Chris Rock. After all, after Tom Cruise started jumping on couches pre-Mission: Impossible III, I couldn't stop seeing the crazy. Sure, I Googled "Will Smith Chris Rock" under news and got mild stuff of interest. But this isn't something made after the slap. This was something that came two years before. This is carefree Will Smith. (I don't believe that person ever existed.) But this feels like Smith is the biggest thing on set. I can't deny that getting Will Smith to make another Bad Boys movie was a major coup. It sometimes is hard to separate the actor from the role. But there is something kind of joyful knowing that he'd come back and make something like this. Honestly, I was watching more of Martin Lawrence, whom I haven't heard from in a while. Lawrence was always my favorite part of these movies. If we're talking about The Odd Couple or Lethal Weapon, we tend to gravitate to the everyman in these situations. Johnny Football Hero is there to contrast that avatar. And there's something just straight up wholesome about seeing an actor return to the spotlight. It's not like Bad Boys for Life revived Lawrence's career. But it's more about the fact that he hasn't really lost a step. Okay, maybe he's a bit more doughy (which I don't want to shame him for. It actually really works for the character). He's less of a Bad Boy as someone who remembers what Bad-Boying used to be like.
But the biggest issue is the politics of Michael Bay. The directors of this film absolutely nail what it meant to make a big budget action movie like Michael Bay because it is tonally perfect. But now in 2022, watching this movie read real weird. The film starts off with Mike and Marcus speeding action movie style. It's pretty obvious that this isn't an actual adventure. Mike is driving like a maniac, reminding us about the dynamic between Mike and Marcus. Okay. Fine. But then we find out that they are speeding to the hospital to see the birth of Marcus's first grandchild. See, this is where you lose me. I know it's a gag. I know it's a gag. I can repeat that all day long and understand that it is a gag. But Last Action Hero acted as satire about the state of the Hollywood blockbuster and this is something that would fit more in a straight up comedy than it would in a world that things really had stakes. Like, how many people could have died in Mike's trip? It becomes really hard to sympathize with him as a character when he just lives a life free of any kind of responsibility. Perhaps it is the fact that I just watched Top Gun: Maverick before this, but there need to be consequences for characters like this. Mike Lowery is supercop, where everyone loves his absolutely insane behavior. He literally sped across a populated beach. The baby was already born, but even if it wasn't...who cares? It's absurd. But, again, it's a gag.
So why can Mike Lowery torture a guy? Let's pretend that torture is cool. After all, I was a big fan of 24 back in the day, so I can't deny that there's something fun about watching law enforcement do anything to get results. But Mike comes into this butcher's and just starts breaking the guy's hand. He has almost nothing to do with the story. He's just this CI who has a little bit of a shady past. Okay, but imagine that this guy had something to do with the story. Would it be okay then to destroy this guy's legitimate livelihood? (Note: I had to take a two day break in the middle of writing this. Not ideal. If some of the stuff from here on reads a little different or a little repetitive, I apologize. I'm now trying to knock the rest of this out before my daughter's nap.) I saw a video on Cracked a while ago about Michael Bay's politics. He makes these fun movies (although I swear that the Transformer movies are completely unwatchable.) But in these movies, they express the conservative value fever dream. Cops are great and shouldn't be shackled by restrictions of any kinds. If people are committing crimes, there's no grey area. They're criminals because they are evil. Now, I know that exists in the world. I'm not so naive to think that all criminals are nuanced individuals. But let's use the butcher as the message for the movie. I mean, it's a small scene that has no impact on Mike Lowery's soul whatsoever. This is police work to him. It's only expected that he's going to rough up someone off-the-books. Mike never really tries to do it the right way. He considers it a waste of time. It's not like he was leaning on him and then lost it. Nope, he started off by breaking his hand. Does this not horrify anyone else?
But it is why overtly conservative values make fun action movies. With a movie like Bad Boys, there is no moral dilemma. The internal conflict that Mike faces doesn't come from anything wrong that he's done. He's more emotionally scarred that he had a son that he never knew about and that he's a criminal. (What was that Ang Lee movie about Will Smith's younger clone? Maybe Will Smith finds this narrative interesting?) The movie never even makes you doubt that Mike is in the right. It's what makes Marcus so laughable. Marcus, as goofy as he is about some of his lines, is actually closer to the reality of the situation. When the boys go to confront the methed out accountant, Marcus --again, in the goofiest way imaginable --asks to treat him like a human before resorting to violence. Sure, the film gives Marcus this very tacked on religious motivation behind this choice. But it's supposed to be a joke that Marcus tries treating someone who is mentally impaired like a human being instead of beating the daylights out of them from moment one. The movie laughs at the absurdity that police should be multifaceted instead of just battering rams. And, yeah, the notion of slaughtering cops is something that makes a legitimate plot that should be stopped. But it almost feels like that plot is giving the excuse that no holds are barred in the pursuit of justice.
This was the '90s. This was the era of Howard Stern and Bill Maher, who prided themselves on political incorrectness. I think in the '90s, I was swept up in that as well. It was so much easier to see things clearer. But films like these made us think that there were super criminals who deserved to be destroyed. I mean, this is a revenge story on the part of the bad guys of the film. Isabel comes across as a huge nutbar, maniacally enjoying the people she's tearing apart with knives. There's a real "muah-ha-ha!" element to it all. After all, she sending Mike messages knowing that she's doing all of this? Sure, it's easy to cheer on characters trying to take down characters whose nickname is "Bruja". That's easy, making it so much more complacent to think of what is going on in this movie. When I mentioned that I liked 24 and how Jack Bauer used to do the same thing, there actually is something valuable in watching Bauer do this instead of Lowery. Jack Bauer kept breaking these cardinal rules of society and law enforcement, but it haunted him. Jack led a terrible life and pushed everyone away through his embrace of violence. But Mike? Mike lives the perfect life. He's hailed as a supercop. Everyone seems to like him. He's got fast cars and hits on pretty women. The notion is that the perfect cop should ignore basic police procedure. Even Lethal Weapon made Riggs's life a living hell because of his choices.
I don't know if there's anything necessarily wrong with the actual making of the movie. It definitely is a Bad Boys movie. But I think I may be really over the format as a whole.
Not rated, mainly because it is an Italian movie from 1957. It's fairly tame if you don't think about it too deeply. But let's pretend that you are me, which is easy for me to do. Yeah, there's some content you may want to consider. First of all, Cabiria is a sex worker, which doesn't really play a lot into the story nor is it mentioned all that often. There are references to cocaine and drug use. Also, murder seems fairly commonplace, despite the fact that no one actually gets murdered in the movie. Still, not rated.
DIRECTOR: Federico Fellini
Oh my goodness. I almost never write on a Saturday, let alone a Sunday. I don't necessarily think that it is a "Keeping the Lord's Day holy" thing, so much as it is that I always wrote during the work week when it wasn't summer. But now all the days bleed together and I don't want to forget too much about this movie, especially considering that I want to watch more old Italian movies. That's all that I would need is old Italian movies all jumbled up.
I'm going to make a huge confession. This one isn't exactly sacrilege, but more of a truth. I'm pretty knowledgeable about Italian neorealism. But you know what I'm not amazing at? The Italian New Wave. I mean, I know a little bit about it. I've watched my share of Fellini films and I teach about the New Wave a bit. But I could wax poetic about the Neorealistic period in Italy more than I could the Italian New Wave. So anything I say in this movie (with faux confidence) blog will be mostly my knowledge of the French New Wave more than the Italian New Wave because I don't have the time to look it up in my textbook downstairs. This is all a roundabout way to say that I enjoy Fellini movies without really understanding the nitty-gritty about Fellini.
I mean, for a Fellini film, it is fairly grounded. Heckfire, I'll even go as far as to say that this movie might be my favorite Fellini film. A lot of that comes down to the fact that I understood it (or at least, I think I understood it) and that it has this really amazing bleak message. My students hate that I love stories with bleak messages. But we, as Americans (assuming that my reading base --as limited as it may be--are Americans?) tend to have a lot of stories where things work out right. These stories don't really challenge us as much as they need to. I'm not saying this as an absolute. I also tend to gravitate towards bummer movies that are American as well. It's just that movies that make the rounds tend to be wildly optimistic. If they aren't wildly optimistic, they see the world as a good place and ask us to accept that things will turn out right in the long-run. But this film, as light as the tone is, is miserable. Life is full of sadness and the only way to survive it is to embrace simplicity and the now.
It's odd, because my mother-in-law got this movie for me for my birthday. She said that she wanted to watch it with me, but that didn't happen and I need to knock these suckers out before we go to Italy later on. (My life is very blessed.) But this is the one she wanted to watch? I mean, my mother-in-law is a tank of faith. Man alive, she is infused by the Spirit sometimes. So to hear her say that she wants to rewatch Nights of Cabiria with me actually shocks me. This is a movie that doesn't poo-poo faith so much as acknowledges that it is absurd and painful to embrace faith. I'm not just talking about religious faith. That's in there too. But Cabiria's major psychological challenge is to understand that having faith also means understanding that it is woven through with disappointment. Everything that Cabiria experiences makes her a better person, but it also hurts her more throughout the story.
I honestly thought that Cabiria was going to be the M. Hulot of Italy for a while. A good chunk of this movie is Cabiria representing an archetype to comment on society. Hulot is this over-the-top, Mr. Bean style character (that's a completely unfair comparison, but for the sake of brevity, I'm keeping it). Cabiria, who acts very different from Hulot, is this caustic and miserable creature. She starts the film rescued from casual murder only to scream at her rescuers. She meanders through Rome, encountering these different personality types and doesn't change her persona based on cultural context. But Fellini allows Cabiria to grow. It actually caught me off-guard and forced me to re-examine these scenes that I watched with her. But the film starts off with Cabiria mad that yet another man has tried to kill her and rob her and it is no sweat off her back. It's very bleak. She is more upset that she allowed a minimal amount of trust to escape her because that guardedness is the only thing that keeps her alive.
And her first encounter of faith isn't one having to do with the church. It's her interaction with celebrity. I love that Fellini makes celebrity her first real vulnerable experience. Perhaps it is because Italians are so often lumped in with this Catholic religious fervor that it makes more sense to the common man to find faith in celebrity. There's this really sweet moment where Cabiria starts crying after maintaining her persona for oh-so-long. It's because she knows that no one would believe that she had a genuine night with a movie star / director. (It's odd, because I instantly thought of the man as an avatar for Fellini himself, which seems standard based on his other films. But Cabiria recognizes him from a role that he played, despite the fact that the man insists that it wasn't him. There's a lot of "Is this really happening?" moments in the film.) But she thinks that she has abandoned her life of prostitution. She feels special for a moment, despite the fact that the man treats her as a means to maintain his own persona of celebrity. He only starts to see her for real when she breaks down and he signs the picture stating that, indeed, Cabiria and he hung out for an evening. It's something that is somehow so sexual and and platonic at the same time. It's really cool. But, even with evidence, no one believes her. Her fear is proven true. Similarly, this man never follows up with her. She is a non-entity, used to shame his previous lover back into his arms.
I could break down each and every one of the losses of faith, but I want to take the two that are perhaps the most life changing and merge them together. When she finds herself far from home, she encounters the cave of poor people. She continually stresses that she owns her own home and that she isn't destitute, despite the fact that Fellini always weaves in the history that clearly, she was quite poorly off at one point or another. But she meets this man (and this character is an enigma to me) who seems completely altruistic. That shift that was hinted at with the celebrity now seems to be the dominant personality that Cabiria carries with her for the rest of the film. This leads almost directly into the visiting of the Madonna, where the film almost goes out of its way to talk about the false elements of religion.
For the sake of clarity, I don't hold the same beliefs that Fellini does. As much as I like pessimistic views of reality where people can only hope for better, there is something heartbreaking when the crippled man falls when he places his faith in God for healing. But I've never really viewed Italian Catholicism to be what I saw in this movie. Again, I don't live in Italy. But I am Catholic. There was almost something revival-tent about the visit of the Madonna with this scene. But I completely related to Cabiria needing something to change in her life. Part of me sees the cynicism of faith, but I also want to imbue the fact that Cabiria wants instant change. For her, character development comes with strong choices. I know lots of people who have this philosophy and, like Cabiria, doesn't understand that real change takes time and slow sacrifice.
The end is painful. The end is real painful, guys. Even me, who lives for the crummy end, wanted the end to be happier than what it was. Part of me thought that Oscar (IF THAT WAS HIS REAL NAME!) was a better dude than he was. But the back of my mind would stop tickling. Perhaps Fellini accomplished his goal in reminding me that the world is full of jerks and it is only the present that brings us joy. But when he was going to kill her? That was almost this extra step where the damage was done through the marriage itself. It's this absolutely gorgeous bookending to the film where Cabiria doesn't mind being killed in the beginning and then begs to be killed because she doesn't want to live in a world of distrustful people. Oh my goodness. I wanted Cabiria to be happy for the sake of the character. But that betrayal did something gorgeous for the movie. Even this weird bittersweet moment of her accepting her place in the world didn't pull away from that. Part of me got the vibe that the end would have been too bleak without the late-night parade, but I didn't even hate it. Because I don't need to think that the world is a complete dumpster fire. I need to know that a lot of it is a dumpster fire with moments of joy sprinkled in there.
Yeah, that's still pretty bleak. But I dig it.
PG-13 for premarital sex (mostly implied), one f-bomb per the PG-13 rule, some death, and violence. This one, for all of its ramping up of the dogfighting action, seems to be one meant for everyone to see. There were decisions made to allow this movie to be as nearly family friendly as possible, with the exception of the f-bomb that I have to imagine was left in for the emotional resonance of the moment. It feels like a summer action movie, so go with that as your guide. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kosinski
Bar the doors shut. Burn the building. My entire family has a bad case of the pukes that I had earlier in the week and it won't go away. We have kids on day X because we've lost all track of time. We pray for sweet relief, however it may come. Anyway, my father-in-law (you see that seamless segue?) has been begging for the boys to see this movie for weeks. I'd like to stress that there has been Covid floating through our extended family for weeks and calm minds suggested that we simply delay seeing this movie until we were through with Covid. So post-my-Covid, I agreed to go see it. Part of me really wanted to see this movie. I have my reasons, which I hope I can fit into this blog. But out of all of the suggestions to do a guys' night, Top Gun: Maverick seemed like a great idea.
But the weird thing is, it really shouldn't have been the movie that we all thought would be a bonding night of men. I mean, I'm aware of this and I would have loved to see Downton Abbey 2 almost more than Top Gun. But if the goal was to see a movie that a bunch of dudes could regress to, I find it really weird that Top Gun has earned the reputation it has in 2022. I say this because I was obnoxious at the theater about it. All of us dudes were grunting about "The need for speed" and here I was, making fun of the fact that a bunch of guys were going to see a sequel to one of the most romantic movies of the '80s. Yeah, that's the takeaway I have of the original Top Gun. And I'm going to cut to the chase and give you the short version of my epiphany: the OG Top Gun was a movie that appealed to both the die-hard romantic and the action super-film. After all, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, so it's not totally insane that people forgot that the big musical success story that came from this movie was "Take My Breath Away."
I was robbed, by the way. It didn't play once during the movie. When I said that all these guys should walk into the theater in slow motion to the musical touchstone of the film, people loudly rolled their eyes when I tried blasting "Take My Breath Away." Sure, Kenny Loggins deserves a lot of praise for "Danger Zone" and the instrumental from Top Gun is a bop in its own right. But I can't deny that there's a reason for this disparity. When I was a kid, I watched Top Gun a billion times because of the cool plane sequences. Every time we visited my uncle in Chicago, he'd throw in the VHS of Top Gun before bed and I was always disappointed when he shut it off after ten minutes. I was wired to think that Top Gun was a movie about planes versus a movie about a handsome pilot seducing his instructor. The reputation exists for a reason. Sure, there are those of us who will always cite the beach volleyball sequence or ask "What happened to Kelly McGillis?"
But I think that Top Gun: Maverick actually thrives by choosing to remember a selective history (Remember how I said that I would make the intro short and I totally lied?) Yeah, Maverick does have a romance story, but one that feels like a strong B-or-C-story to the main A-plot, that would have actually benefited to play the Mission: Impossible theme during the briefing section more than anything that would have come from Hans Zimmer. That's not surprising because Christopher McQuarrie has his hands all over this movie.
Christopher McQuarrie is the new Mission: Impossible guy. I have the feeling that he fundamentally gets Tom Cruise and what Tom Cruise wants to do, especially when it comes to building franchises. For as good as Maverick is as a standalone film, the way it even exists is because of the elements that make sequels entries that are meant to be forgotten. The first Top Gun movie dealt with a dogfighting sequence where the Top Gun team has to fight in real world combat scenarios. It is really secondary to the whole piece, which is again about seducing instructors and pissing off the higher brass. But then the film almost starts with this "Your mission, should you choose to accept it" moment, where we get a CG breakdown of this nuclear device that only an impossible mission force could handle. Like, if IMF flew jets exclusively, this feels almost more like a Mission: Impossible sequel than anything else. Thank God it had the drama of dealing with Goose's kid or this would just be a straight up action movie.
I'm going to talk about the action for a second because it's really good / kind of stupid at times. There's this thing that is about Maverick being right. (Cool, that is tied to character. I support it.) The film swears that the only way to win this impossible mission (cue Lalo Schifrin theme) is to take this Death Star trench run, shut off your targeting computers, and pull out as the Death Star blows up. (Trust me, I made these jokes during the film too. "Rooster, you've switched off your targeting computer.") But no one really had the conversation about what to do once the mission ended. I mean, that whole thing fell apart and everything went right. One of the major beats that Maverick is pushing for is bringing everybody home. It's why Jon Hamm's character comes across as a little callous. He's willing to sacrifice lives for success rate. But even he shifts his perspective when Maverick proves that it can be done, only to have a bunch of jets shot down by surface-to-air missiles at the end? It's because the movie wanted to be even more action. I'm one of the five people who enjoyed the film Behind Enemy Lines when I saw it. I would also like to establish that the last time I watched that movie, I was in college and watching Moulin Rouge! weekly, so there's no necessary accounting for taste. But if you take Mission: Impossible, Star Wars, and Behind Enemy Lines, you get the action of Top Gun: Maverick.
But that's why we have the Rooster storyline. It's a really nice extension of the consequences that Maverick learned to deal with. Like most franchises, Maverick has forgotten almost all of the lessons of the first film and is dealing with a disappointing career because of that. To a certain extent, he has grown up. While the first film deals with Maverick thinking of himself as divorced from consequence, he understand that consequences exist and are fine, as long as he is the one who faces said consequences. It's a bit much, especially considering that he is selfish enough to crash and survive a Mach 10 jet (I imagine that he actually died in this sequence because it is absurd that he survived and the rest of the movie is just fan fiction). But there's almost learning a lesson in isolation and the value of mental health that is being discussed. After all, Rooster is the physical embodiment of consequences. He's in Maverick's face, reminding him of the importance of taking everything into consideration. I mean, he's not that cold about it. He loved Goose and is mostly responsible for Goose's death. (Okay, debatable.) So as much as this film is an action movie, I really like that the movie decided to focus on character through this story and it mostly works. Yeah, the beach football sequence is a complete misstep when it comes to solving Rooster and Maverick's problems. Also, the movie kind of craps on the idea of two guys being vulnerable with each other and talking out problems. But that's what makes film a fun medium.
So yeah, I enjoyed it. I almost liked it because it forgot that it was a sequel to a romance movie and simply embraced what forty years of history has imbued on the film. Normally I would hate that, but it created something worth watching. Now, should I give Behind Enemy Lines another chance? Probably not.
PG-13, which shocks me for some reason. I mean, there isn't anything all that offensive in the movie. Some people die, but not in shocking or offensive ways. There are people being used as mules for drugs and there's an implication of the awful things that they have to do to move these drugs. But it isn't like the movie actually aims to be edgy or offensive in any way. I suppose there's some cultural racism in there, but it is more an attempt to gain a sense of verisimilitude versus perpetuating stereotypes. Honestly, I'm so used to everything good being R that I assumed that this, too, would be R. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-Wai
Hey, Jeff. I finally saw Chungking Express. It only took twenty years to get around to it. Okay, I haven't been writing lately. It's because I've been super sick. I don't know if it was Covid or it was something else, but I'm feeling good enough to write. (Wait, Tim, you were so sick that you couldn't write? Yes, it was that bad.) Heck, I started this movie when I was feeling okay and then finished it when I could finally tolerate watching a screen without wanting to run for a toilet. Okay, I'm sharing too much, especially when I'm talking about a romance film. Honestly, my wife would have liked this one, but she fell asleep really early one night and I finally started feeling okay. Besides, we're really behind on TV. The moral good and whatnot.
I can't say that I've heard of an anthology film that really just tells two stories. On top of that, it's weird that I really bonded to the one story that isn't the one that is associated with the famous image. I always thought of Chungking Express as that movie with the blonde wig and the rad glasses who points a gun while being shot at a Dutch angle. I have a very specific image of how movies are supposed to be like. But this wasn't the movie I thought it was going to be. As part of that preconception for how movies are supposed to be, I have to confess that I'm kind of dumb when it comes to plot and storytelling. In this case, I had a lot of moments where I wasn't sure what I was watching was real or not. Possibly, it's the dreamlike vibe of both stories that makes me question what is going on. But a lot of it comes from the fact that these are love stories that are intentionally atypical and bizarre, which makes them charming.
I'm going to anger someone, but at least I'm engaging on some level. With La La Land (Yeah, I just compared a Wong Kar-Wai film to La La Land), the story takes two very specific backgrounds and throws them together. The audience gains a sense of empathy and understanding from them not from their bizarre situations, but the fact that they fundamentally act like human people. With Chungking Express, it takes a bizarre background but with absolutely absurd character choices and dares the audience to bond with these characters. It sounds like I'm attacking the film, but quite the opposite. Somehow, Wong Kar-Wai made these characters insanely bananas and yet, there's something in the film that bonds with us. It's almost like watching aliens fall in love. I would have made none of the choices that the characters did, but still completely understood.
Okay, that's not completely true. I have a story here because I can write it here and no one is reading this anyway. When I was in sixth grade or something, I carpooled home with a family and stayed at their house until my parents came to pick me up. Now, I was really young. I didn't know what a crush was. But I'll tell you this weird thing about me. I really enjoyed cleaning a girl's room. There was a girl who was slightly older living there and, like a real weirdo, I would clean her room regularly. It makes sense if you meet me. I clean the house every night in hopes that my wife will love me the more. It's my love language. The girl told me to stop, so I did. It's one of those little shame things that I hold onto. So that second story, when it happened? Okay, I got that. Yeah, it's a real invasion of privacy what she does. But I'll tell you what? I got it. I also got it when she didn't know how to handle the next stage of a relationship. When Cop 663 finally figures out (He's a police officer and he doesn't figure out real basic things?) that Faye is cleaning his apartment because she is attracted to him, I can get that Faye doesn't want to change the dynamic. I mean, the movie implies that she eventually matures out of that stage that she was in when she worked at the shop, but it doesn't quite spell it out for us either. There's something very comforting in the fact that she has created this life for 663.
For Faye, that world is safe. 663 is a perfect guy. I mean, we get that he's a nice guy from his voiceovers. But he also is kind of lame in his own way. We see his flaws as a potential suitor from his perspective. Heck, I even think that Faye sees these flaws. But when she is in his apartment, there's really no way for him to screw it up. His pining for the stewardess was bound to come back and bite him on the butt. In a weird way, the way that Faye invades his privacy in an actual criminal way is the only way for that relationship to work. Now, I would never advocate what Faye has done in real life. As I established, everything about this movie is about the most absurd way to go about things. But it's because Faye took this insane way about discovering 663 that their relationship even had a prayer. Faye knows so much about 663 through his apartment. 663 on the street is this confident police officer who is grieving a breakup (one, that I'll editorialize, that seems pretty toxic). But this is a guy who is kind of filthy. He has a giant Garfield that he talks to. And it doesn't seem like she's in love with him when she first gets the keys. If anything, sneaking into 663's apartment seems like a bit of punk rock. It's taking on the system and she's doing it because she's not supposed to. It's criminal altruism.
If you haven't guessed, I'm a big fan of the second story. So why am I so quiet about the first story? I don't know. Maybe I just couldn't get into the first story. I was sleepy. It took a lot to relate to the character. Also, the first story starts off with an effect that initially pulled me out of the film. In a lot of these '90s Hong Kong films, there's this action thing that happens when action sequences have such a low frame rate akin to stop motion animation. It's really annoying and it took me back to Wong Kar-Wai's As Tears Go By. It took a while, but I realized the effect being reused in this was to a different result. It is almost hypnotic in this one as opposed to extreme. But by the time I readjusted my focus, most of the story was over. It's also way less romantic to me. There's something really pathetic about the first story, which has to be the director's intention. The voiceover of Cop 223 is so hyperbolic about love that there's nothing really to relate to. When the film ends and there is no real romance between 223 and the Woman in the Blonde Wig, it's a lot of investment for what seems nothing. Like, the story is really well done. But I just didn't care about it at all.
I'm going to say this for Wong Kar-Wai that might also get me in trouble with the real film nerds. There's something really double-edged with his use of music. He loves repeating the same motifs so often that it almost becomes boring. It's something that I would do as a young man because I really liked something. But there's only so much "California Dreamin'" or "Dreams" that I can handle in a movie. They're good songs, but they pervade the film to an almost obsessive level.
Anyway, Jeff and the Internet, I'm glad I saw it. It was absolutely beautiful. It did the job.
Rated PG-13, but I'll say that this one is pushing it. I know that M. Night Shyamalan really wanted a PG-13, despite the fact that the content doesn't read as PG-13. So it has the tone of a PG-13 movie with the content of a pretty graphic horror movie. There's a lot of death. There's some pretty gnarly stabbing stuff happening in it. There's amateur surgery. There's a dead baby. There's so much that happens in this movie that doesn't sound like it belongs in a PG-13 movie...because it really doesn't. Regardless, I don't make the rules.
DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan
Ask me if I want to write about this. (The answer, clearly, is no.) I want to be watching another Wong Kar-Wai movie. Actually, on my way back from Kroger pick-up, I was debating which movie I wanted to watch. I WANTED to watch a Wong Kar-Wai movie, but then I thought of all of the Italian cinema that no one has been watching with me. Then I realized I have Bad Boys for Life from Netflix DVD just sitting on my counter, which is a movie that A) I don't want to watch anymore and B) stars Will Smith, which means that the blog basically writes itself at this point. But none of that really matters, because there are a million Covid-positive kids running around my house right now (it's the part of the family that gave it to us to begin with) so I can't watch any of those things. Instead, I'm writing on the computer, because it is the one part of the house that I can guarantee more than five-minutes without interruption.
I may need to write off M. Night Shyamalan. I have this amazing Alfred Hitchcock box set from Universal in the basement. You might have seen it. It's the one with the felt box and it has the infamous Hitchcock silhouette embossed in the side. On those documentaries, a young M. Night Shyamalan provides a lot of special features about Hitchcock's films. He made these special features when he was a young up-and-comer. The connection that I was making is that Shyamalan was going to be the next Hitchcock. He had The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable under his belt. His control of the camera was something we hadn't really seen in a while and his stories were just oozing with suspense. But as he kept making movies, he became more and more of a joke. His films were largely gimmicky and people stopped talking about him as if he was a marketable property. I think he lost all of his street cred when it came to Lady in the Water. I waste all of this digital space to get to the point that I stuck with him for far longer than I really should have. For a long time, I thought that Lady in the Water was wildly under-appreciated. (Unappreciated? I'm not feeling like writing, but I add all this nonsense to give you a hint into my headspace.)
Maybe it was the fact that I tend to watch Shyamalan's films now as filler on DVD or streaming and almost immediately forget them that brings me to this point. I acknowledge that there is a glut of talent behind the camera. But also...these movies, guys. They're not great. How does someone go from the cinematic canon into fodder that actively bores me? The concept of Old has something there. To Shyamalan's credit, he actually cites a graphic novel (or does IMDB?) as his inspiration for Old. I mean, from an allegorical perspective, finding a beach that makes people age a lifetime in a day is something that could be talked about. It's just that this movie wants to do two very different things. It 1) wants to be cinematically magnificent and talk about deep things and 2) wants to be the popcorniest horror movie imaginable. Now, with The Sixth Sense, he accomplished that. I can't deny that The Sixth Sense, without the context of cinematic history, managed to change the landscape of film. But now he's trying and it sucks. I'm sorry. This movie was dumb. It was so dumb. And it had no reason to be so dumb. It had great actors and pretty solid cinematography. It had a message that tried to transcend its genre. But at the end of the day, this is a cornball movie.
I want to approach it from an allegorical perspective first. Shyamalan has this mystery behind the beach. Instead of simply being a supernatural phenomenon, there's a clear conspiracy woven throughout the film. There's the light from the hills. There's the fact that the van driver clearly wants to strand them on this island. It's all this stuff that screams, "Oooh, there's something deeper." And that something deeper is a freshman-level ethics course. It's that old chestnut of killing a few people for the good of humanity. Each person (family member) on this beach has something wrong with them. Because the beach allows people to age a lifetime in a day, each test medication that they've secretly ingested can provide a trial time of 24 hours instead of 70 years. Fun. But ultimately a philosophical question that we don't have a lot of time to think about. Like, that's its own movie. Heck, we've seen that movie before. I'm flashing back to a movie from the '90s that was named something like Drastic Measures. (It wasn't named that, but I would have been really impressed if my memory allowed for something like that to cement when I can't even remember my garage code.) But there's the notion of the importance of a moment. Because I value vulnerability so much, I have to share that I'm convinced that I'm going to die before I grow old. I've thought about this so much that I've actually kind of made a dark peace with it. But there's the bittersweet element of the film of being able to watch children grow up. There's the notion that it could be a metaphor for the fact that life goes by too fast and even the time that we're dealt on Earth is ultimately unfair. That's all cool. Heck, Shyamalan even touches on that stuff.
And that's where the movie is kind of cool. Shyamalan has a little bit of a fun with both the literal and figurative idiom "Time heals all wounds." Yeah, it's a gross-out moment when they remove Prisca's ridiculous tumor and she heals in seconds. But it also is this great moment where Guy and Prisca work through some real problems in moments because they're aware of their own mortality. Yeah, it's a little bit of fantasy to think that two people could work out tons of marital trauma in moments, but that's also saying something about the value of something being finite. That's the best part of the movie. Shyamalan does some great stuff when the kids realize that being an adult simply means being a kid in an adult's body. It is such a choice to not have the characters act wildly immature despite being mentally six-years-old. When the two kids are in their 50s on the beach, they simply seem carefree rather than snotty. It's great. Yeah, the notion that adults have no idea what they are doing is one that I've heard before, but this does a nice job with subtlety.
But then everything else is just a sledgehammer of "Shouldn't we experiment with the format as much as possible?" When plotting this story out, Shyamalan must have asked every question about what would happen with rapid aging. And then he just ignored a ton of his rules. There are so many loopholes in the Old format that the best advice for people watching the movie is just to ignore it and realize that he's trying to make something that could be very dry and nuanced a popcorn film. Like, every stupid scenario is played out with this group of strangers on the beach. Because there's a fine line between aging and entropy that is playing out and Shyamalan just picks the rule that makes the movie more insane. Removing a tumor on the beach? Sure. Let's do that. Instant healing? Why not? But the most insane thing in the world is the decision for the real little kids who are the beach to have sex and instantly get pregnant. That moment...come on. It's such a bro-moment. He wanted to film it so bad that he just completely forgot that he was making a movie that was meant to be a thinker and decided to go with the "Wouldn't it be cool?" And you know what? It wasn't cool. It was stupid. We don't have time to absorb why characters make choices? I mean, where did those kids learn about their own bodies fast enough to get to that point? Also, are we forgetting that menstruation exists? If time works the way it does on this beach and that this girl matured super-fast, how about the rest of the stuff that comes along with pregnancy? It's a lot of stupid, real fast.
Then there's the attempts to be relevant. Shyamalan must have been a real awkward kid because his treatment of race is absolutely silly. I'm sorry, I can't get over the dumb name of the rapper. The hip hop artist calls himself "Mid-Sized Sedan"? Goodness me. I know that Shyamalan isn't White, but he's making his work for an audience that is. It's so minimizing of a culture. It's also a joke that I think we are way past. Once the year 2000 hit, we needed to move on from that absolutely stupid joke. I get that the Nicholson-Brando thing was something that he took from his own father's dementia, the idea that there wasn't this discussion about the racial tension of the film is odd. Like, he wanted to include it without building the necessary stuff. It's pointing to a cultural problem without actually thinking. Golly, I hate to use this phrase because I find the term abhorrent, but I can see how this might be virtue signaling versus actually doing anything good. It reminds me of when students make videos for class and really stress their own views. Art is meant to be challenging, but I think it has to be challenging for the filmmaker as well as its audience.
I honestly left the movie thinking, "Boy, that was really dumb." It never looked great, but I heard good things. There wasn't much appealing and it actually made me question if I ever liked M. Night Shyamalan.
Rated PG-13 for quite a bit of language. I thought that the movie was going to take the responsible route and replace the s-word with "crap" the entire film, based on the opening scene. That went out the window pretty quickly. It mirrors the video games, which swear more than they probably should as well. There's also violence and death, but similar in tone to something like National Treasure or Pirates of the Caribbean.
DIRECTOR: Ruben Fleischer
What? I really like the video games! Does that make me a bad person? I mean, I knew better than to get excited about Uncharted the movie. This was one of those movies that was over-the-top affected by Covid and the studio system. I'm not saying it is even a bad movie because, by gum, I enjoyed it. But I also know that it definitely isn't one of those great films. Heck, if we get a sequel, which the movie itself desperately wants based on those after-credit sequences, even then I don't think it will drum up the attention it so desperately wants. But I'll say this...this movie isn't awful.
The odd thing is that I was against the casting of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. I mean, I'm kind of right with that decision. I thought that most of my dislike of the movie was going to come towards Tom Holland, whom I love, but don't see as Nathan Drake. I honestly got behind Tom Holland as Nathan Drake (mainly because he wasn't being as Spider-Many as I thought he would be). As the film progressed, I completely forgot that I didn't like that casting decision. (Note: I'm a big fan of Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake, as proven by this very expensive fan short.) It's just that Tom Holland is so young. So I thought that maybe this was going to be an origin story for Nathan Drake. After all, the games do that. Every so often, Naughty Dog --the creators of the Uncharted series --would show a flashback of young Nathan Drake, explaining how he got into the mess he is in today. Well, this isn't quite the origin story in the sense that Nathan's origin is still kind of thin. This is meant to be the Nathan Drake of the games and I steadily grew cool with that, knowing that they were appealing to a younger market. Nah, my real issue came with Mark Wahlberg as Sully. I mean, I like the Sully of the film that Wahlberg played (I'm giving you all kinds of conflicting information here!), but that's not Sully. Really, the film presents Wahlberg as Nathan-Drake-before-Nathan-Drake. Sully was always the guy in the chair; the guy in the plane. He's occasionally in levels with you, but his skill lies in the fact that he's your escape plan. Not so much in the movie.
I don't know why that matters to me. I think it comes from the idea that Sully is meant to act both as father and friend to Nathan. There are elements of that in the movie, to be sure. But Nathan is far more mature than Sully is throughout the film. If anything, Sully's journey through the course of this movie is to grow up because of his time with Nathan. The more I think about it, the more I think that only Sully grows while Nathan stands still. Sully acts as the gatekeeper to adventure for Nathan. Nathan, who leads a life more exciting than mine, but less exciting than Indiana Jones, is inducted into a world where his life is on the line throughout the film. The understanding is that, without meeting Sully, Nathan would never become this great treasure hunter that can lead a franchise into cinema history. (I don't think that's happening, but I can't blame Sony for trying.) But that also doesn't ring quite true for me either. Nathan robs the girl (who I thought was going to be Elena and I should probably slow down on my nerding out over video games) and Sully, in turn, robs him. Nathan has no difficulty breaking and entering into Sully's apartment. If anything, he's remarkably comfortable with it. While Sully still acts as a gatekeeper, it is almost like Nathan could have gotten into this adventure without Sully. After all, Sam has been sending him clues to this treasure (which requires this suspension of disbelief to make it work). It's almost like he was destined for this adventure. Sully was just there to bounce jokes off of.
The odd result is that the film is overtly Uncharted. Maybe this version of Nathan Drake doesn't tell as many jokes and is more pubescent than suave, but it definitely is Uncharted. But it carves its own path, despite lifting some of the best set pieces from the video games. Uncharted is an odd choice for a movie. I thought this back in the day. For once, I'm going to say that Sony was mostly successful with the final product. But Uncharted, by itself, is epically cinematic. There's a reason that a film nerd really gets into these games. I really like story driven games. It's why I never really get into multiplayer games. I need a really intense story to keep me moving. But Uncharted as a video game series already models itself more off of movies than it does video games. I remember watching Max Payne, a vehicle which I now remember also starred Mark Wahlberg. Max Payne was tonally perfect to the game and yet was an absolutely abhorrent film. Like, it was really bad. So how does Uncharted work when Max Payne failed. If you asked me a decade ago, I would say that video game movies can't work, but after animated efforts like Castlevania and that League of Legends show (which I haven't watched) have been such successes, coupled with Detective Pikachu, we know that isn't true. With Max Payne, everything was an info dump. As much as the film conveyed the complex plot of a game, there wasn't that sense of earning any of that information. It was just given to me, unearned. While Uncharted does a lot of that, the action sequences seemed to be choreographed to keep pace with the fights of the game. What happens is what happens with a good lightsaber fight. That action sequence is fun in itself, but we are rewarded with an important element of plot. And again, these games were meant to feel like movies. That helps a lot.
I'm currently playing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. (I know I said I would scale back the video game talk. ) That game stars Chloe Frazier, the tritagonist of the film. Is it bad that I don't remember much about Chloe, despite having seen that her Wiki establishing her all over the Uncharted timeline. There's something glorious about her story in the film in the sense that it doesn't end up clean for Chloe at all. It's odd that protagonist, Nathan Drake, has so little growth in this film, that the secondary and tertiary characters are the ones presented with internal conflicts. But Chloe starts the film fairly damaged as a person. She is the personification of distrust. She is the rebel explorer archetype through and through. She's this foil for Sully, who ultimately overcomes his internal conflict. But we root more for Chloe, who is actually angry with the life that she has chosen. We see her warm to Nathan throughout the film. Nathan's innocence reminds her of the joys of treasure hunting and she does owe him for saving her life, despite multiple betrayals on her part. But she has that moment we've seen in a bunch of films where she betrays him one last time. It's expected that she would pull a Han Solo and come back into battle, acknowledging that her life of distrust is over. Instead, she leaves the film completely emptyhanded. It's such a great moment not because of anything that's done with it, but in the sheer understanding that it exists. One of the likable characters gets a less than stellar ending and that's cool.
Can I talk about one scene that was toppling over in my brain since watching it? A lot of the sequences of this film have been lifted from other Uncharted games. Heck, Nolan North, the voice of Nathan Drake in the games, even comments on the fact that one scene is directly from Uncharted 3 in his cameo in the film. But the one sequence that is totally new (as far as I remember) is the helicopters lifting the pirate ships away. It's this blockbuster, over-the-top sequences that had me giggling because of its absurdity. But I have to step back. The only reason it struck me as totally bonkers is the fact that it was new. When I play the games, the insanity of the sequences is what keeps me coming back to the games. For some reason, my brain never questions them when I playing the game. I'm always impressed, of course. But I never think "no way" when playing them. But the more I think about the climactic action sequence, I have to admit...it would really fit within the world of the games.
Okay, games games games. I'm not that obsessed with the Uncharted franchise. I do like them. But it also is fun to write about stuff that I'm knowledgeable about. I'm sure this film probably wouldn't hit right to an audience unfamiliar with the franchise and that's a real problem. My wife tuned out five minutes in. My son wanted to play Kirby on the Switch. So I ended up watching it alone. Yeah, I was guffawing and exploding with applause from time-to-time. But I can see how this would just be a knock-off of a genre that has already been exploited so many times. Yeah, it's not as good as Indiana Jones, or National Treasure. But it is as good as Tomb Raider, if not better. Sure, maybe games shouldn't be films for the most part. But this movie does more right than wrong. I wouldn't hate a sequel, even if I'm the only one watching it.
R for language, sex stuff (that's probably the best way I can put it), and just inappropriate behavior. My wife pointed out that there's a lot of drinking going on in this movie. I can't fight that. Even look at the picture above. They're drinking. They drink a lot and no one ever really comments on it. There isn't nudity in this movie, but the sexuality is definitely a thing. R.
DIRECTOR: Jason Orley
I'm having a productive day. It's 9:43 at night and my son is monopolizing the PS5. I just finished a book. I changed all the burned out bulbs in the house. I put away my comics. I folded laundry. I still have Covid. These are things that happened today. But if I can knock out one blog today, I'll feel really good about myself. After all, I have a couple of movies under my belt and I don't want to fall too far behind. But I also have that issue where I'm writing about a rom-com again. I don't know what it is about the rom-com that makes me spiral into the same territory time and again. But that doesn't mean that I don't have anything to say.
The best part of I Want You Back is that it doesn't really break any of the rules that a rom-com tends to ignore. There are consequences for bad behavior and I kind of love that. Trust me, I have this long diatribe that I tell once a year to a room of students who aren't allowed to leave until the bell about how the last Harry Potter needed to have consequences for bad actions that never came. I lead an empty life, hence the bragging about lightbulbs. But I like that as sympathetic as the two protagonists are, I'm glad that they aren't allowed to get away with stuff just because they are likable. Yeah, they are forgiven for the most part, but that's a very different scenario then just accepting what they had done. I think the neoclassical precepts are something that have warped me into becoming something either more or less than human because I need rules to my stories. Peter is genuinely a good person. Emma is a little more morally ambiguous, but hasn't done anything overtly evil. But when the two of them decides to conspire to trick their respective others back, that does make them kind of the bad guys of the story.
I mean, what is a bad guy in a rom-com? Often, the real bad guys tend to be these significant others that cheat on their spouses. But I Want You Back allows these characters to be sketchy without fully going out of bounds. I really like this. But often, our main characters have some kind of disgusting trait that they learn to purge by the end of the film because they've been overwhelmed by the power of love. (I'm thinking of all those tropes of dating for the wrong reason and then really falling in love.) These stories live and die on the notion of dramatic irony. With the case of I Want You Back, we know that these two have created a web of lies and relationships that will eventually come back to bite them in the butt. While my guess of exactly how this movie was going to play out wasn't exactly accurate, we all saw the consequence of these lies succeeding. But the film doesn't take the A-B path that I expected it to. These characters, who have done something wrong, don't really autocorrect their bad behavior, leading to hopeless mad love. When Peter gets Anne back, I thought that it would instantly be something that would weigh heavily on his heart. Not so much. He actually enjoys the spoils of his labor. I acknowledge that he wishes that he could have Emma in his life, but that isn't a dealbreaker for him. It's only when he meets her again and things start falling apart that he begins to like Emma for real. It's not like he was pining for her. He simply realized how Anne paled in comparison to Emma.
Can we talk about how an ending like this one is the only one that works for a good rom-com? I don't want to see how madly in love they are because it has become trite. I think the smartest thing is to do what I Want You Back did: leave it up to the audience. (My wife is convinced that there might have been a post-credit sequence. I actually turned it off too early because I normally wanted to check, but I had to make sure that the kid was asleep way past his bedtime.) It has this great callback that may seem a little hackneyed. But that's what rom-coms are. Everything is a bit hackneyed. But that actually brings me to my main epiphany.
I'm the last person coming to this realization, but a good rom-com lives or dies by its cast. It's probably why I hate so many rom-coms. So many rom-coms are filled with people that do rom-coms. It's especially why I hate Hallmark movies. (Yeah, I said it. I'll say it again. I know that there is a devoted fandom and I tell people to like what they like...but there are so many good movies out there so what are you doing?) The reason that we picked this movie is because of Charlie Day and Jenny Slate. They're really funny and they have this amazing comic timing. It makes it tough for me to say if they had chemistry or not. I'm going to say that they did, but I also really wanted them to have chemistry. I may have accepted that they would make a good couple and not actually been a good couple. But because they have this specific brand of humor, it really works that the movie embraced it. I'm not saying that Charlie Day was playing his character from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I'm saying that Charlie Day likes having his films be just a little bit R-rated and a little bit weird. And that's what this movie is. When something absolutely bananas happens in the movie, it's accepted because they leads imbue its audience with the understanding that bizarre things can happen. Also, the world of rom-coms tends to be completely divorced from reality. This is just a thing.
I have to accept that there will probably never be another Annie Hall. But there are La La Lands out there and that's something new. What makes a good rom-com is that it isn't like the massive pool of other movies. I don't know if I Want You Back necessarily breaks new ground, but it also isn't directly ripping off other rom-coms directly. Sure, there's a little bit of When Harry Met Sally in there that I can't ignore. But what actually happens in the film is just the right amount of surprising to make it fun. That's not even something that happens in rom-coms. That is just something for comedies. Watching Jenny Slate make her way through "Somewhere That's Green" is just precious as get-out. It's this combination of hilarious and sweet that is just this tonal perfection that makes me both reaffirm Slate as a comedian and impress me as an actor. It's so good.
It's not an amazing movie, but it has heart in all of the right places.
PG for protagonists being...um...bad guys? Like, I don't know how much I have to spell it out. Sure, the film is all about finding the value of being good. But it doesn't change the fact that it makes crime look super fun and appealing. Also, the movie contextualizes what it considers to be "real" bad guys and "fun" bad guys, which is kind of a murky area for a kids movie. Still, I don't deny that the movie is probably accurately rated at PG.
DIRECTOR: Pierre Perifel
Guys, I finally did it. I finally got Covid. Okay, some context. I know that The Bad Guys is in theaters right now. I did not go out to the movies to watch this. I watched it on Amazon Prime Early Access rental. Also, I kind of got Covid on purpose. This has nothing to do with the movie (outside the fact that we had family movie night because we're all on Covid lockdown), but my wife got Covid and we're supposed to go on vacation in a few weeks. So to make sure that we wouldn't ruin our vacation, we realized that if I just got it on purpose, locked down completely, we could go on vacation without fear of being stuck there. Pretty clever.
Anyway, my son was really into these books. I know almost nothing about The Bad Guys outside of the fact that this is an animated movie based on books of the same name. But I live in a post-Zootopia world. When complex morality comes into play in children's movies, we now have a new standard. Honestly, if Zootopia didn't exist, I would look at this film very differently. Because if I look at this film without the juxtaposition, it is a movie about choosing who you want to be, despite expectations. Have an older brother that set you up for failure? Rise above. That's what the movie was shooting for. But Zootopia changed things. Zootopia made it about race. It told the story of cops and robbers from the perspective of race and institutionalized racism. (I really need to watch this movie again.) The Bad Guys kind of does the same thing. With the case of The Bad Guys, it says that wolves, snakes, sharks, spiders, and piranhas are criminals. It takes the focus primarily on wolves because Wolf is the protagonist of the piece.
Now, Wolf can't be the only wolf out there. After all, the movie is about how he was culturally raised to be a bad guy in this society. That's what wolves become, so hence he's just matching cultural expectations. But it is how the film handles everything after this that kind of falls apart. Wolf, when he does something nice for an old lady, realizes that doing nice things makes him feel good. When he publicly saves a kitten from a tree, Wolf's actions trend on social media. What this becomes is an example of Tokenism. The reason that the world is celebrating is that Wolf is one of the good ones. People are amazed that individuals can rise out of their stations in life and become better than what is expected of them. But people were so quick to turn their backs on Wolf when he actually went straight. (Note: I have a real problem that Wolf couldn't help but do another crime given a second opportunity. I want to throw stones at the people for being quick to judge, but he genuinely was going to commit another crime.) (Also note: my 1-year-old threw a really big rock at my shoulder yesterday while my back was turned and it really hurt. That is all.)
To a certain extent, the movie is saying that not all Wolves are bad (which even writing makes me feel icky). If you really squint, I suppose that you could say that we shouldn't judge people by what they look like, but even that's a stretch. But there's also no attack on society on the whole for being bred to accept a society that makes someone like Wolf into a stereotypical wolves. This movie sets up this lovely chessboard of allegory and never actually attacks the people who need attacking: White people. The White police chief is just silly, but she's also not in the wrong for her pursuit of Wolf and the Bad Guys. If anything, she comes across as simple minded, but not bad in any way. Really, the entire movie is driven by the notion that society has placed these characters in a situation that requires them to be Bad Guys and never really attacks the society that does that. The Bad Guys go to jail (despite being pardoned for all of their crimes?) and accept that they can just lie low and be good without the comfort of crime paying.
Okay, but let's move out of this section. We get it. Zootopia was a very good movie. But I do want to look at The Bad Guys as a form of entertainment because there's something here. I had a good time with it. I mean, I did laugh and I had fun with the movie. I do watch everything way too critically, so it hurts to be me. But I want to talk about things I liked. That odd blend of CG-style animation with hand-drawn / appearing to be hand-drawn animation is really cool. I mean, it is really cool. I think ever since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, movie studios have been far more experimental with the way that movies look and we get to benefit from it. Considering that the movie takes heavy influence from Ocean's Eleven, down to even citing George Clooney at one point, it's great to have animation that makes the film feel so kinetic. I know that the great car chase comes from Bullitt but the film just nails how the film is supposed to look and feel. Even more so, there's some really good casting and design choices happening here. It's really REALLY weird to think of Marc Maron as Snake because it does and does not sound like him at the same time. Probably the biggest compliment is that I realized that I wouldn't hate to see this cast in live-action form. If you made them not animals, oddly the film would be amazing. It's a fun crime movie, even if it does get a little silly for kids.
So where I'm left is in a place that realizes that it is a fun movie that has some dangerous implications behind it. Is it going to tear down society? No. But what it will do is probably minimize my times watching it. Knowing that there are other movies doing the same thing, only better, makes me want to watch those other movies sooner.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.