R, and mostly for things that are described in the title. You want me to be more explicit? There is drug use and strong violence. Also, there's some sexual references made along with a lot of language. If you want me to get really specific, not only does the bear do cocaine, so do some kids. Honestly, that's probably the most shocking thing in the movie. Lots of death; lots of cocaine. R.
DIRECTOR: Elizabeth Banks
Listen, I want to get some conspiracy theories and headcanon out of my way. Normally, I stall for momentum like I'm doing with this specific sentence, but I want to talk about the opening of the movie. The Universal logo comes up and "Jane", by Jefferson Starship starts playing. Cool. It's a great song to establish the era and the entire coke-fueled vibe that the movie is going for. But do you know what else started that exact same way, minus the Universal logo? Wet Hot American Summer. Do you know who was in that independent movie years and years ago, putting her in the comedic spotlight? Elizabeth Banks. Now, I'm willing and eager to assume that this movie inspired her and it's tongue-in-cheek. After all, David Wain was a young director who was probably figuring out a lot of things while making Wet Hot American Summer. There's a good chance that Elizabeth Banks learned a lot of practical things about being a director while hanging out with David Wain on Wet Hot American Summer. Sure, she's directed other movies. But I can't imagine but helped there was a little bit of inspiration out there in the ether, encouraging to revisit that moment fondly.
Okay, now to the normal blog. You all overhyped this movie, okay? I can't say that I'm immune to the allure of ironic movies. I mean, I've seen them. My buddies and I went to a late show of Snakes on a Plane and passed around a flask (I didn't partake, but I like to give myself a little bit of an edge because my morality at this point comes across as boring.) I've seen The Room. I own way too many Mystery Science Theater box sets to think that I'm above watching things ironically. But we need to stop thinking that the new ironic movie had transcended because --BECAUSE --you guys gave me such hope! I thought that this was going to be the movie that got it. I thought it was going to be the movie that didn't rest on its laurels. I mean, the movie brings an insane premise. To a certain extent, there are elements that deliver. But this movie needed to be as coked up as the bear was. I think The Meg 2 is going to do that if I can base anything off of the trailer. But there's a real tight leash on this movie. There's studio money going into this and someone is sticking their neck out for the sake of the movie. But that's not good for something like Cocaine Bear.
It's funny that these movies exist, you know? I should just be thrilled about that. There was a time where there was nothing ironic about animal attack movies. Think about it. Jaws is still considered a classic today. But I think that these movies need to be ironic today. Maybe because it's that we use Jaws as a template. Listen, I love Jaws. It delights me to no end. But by today's standards, that movie is a crawler. But one thing that Jaws managed to pull of that no movie has really even attempted, shy of Jurassic Park by the same dude, is the animal attack masterpiece. In terms of Cocaine Bear, which established early on that this was meant to be hilarious, there isn't a huge body count in this movie. (Oh, maybe Cujo was an attempt, but didn't quite transcend.) Part of it comes from the notion that we both want to see the animal immediately and kind of get bored by the animal. Jaws never shows you the shark for the majority of the movie. It's something "out there". Something that your imagination has built into the unfathomable. The bear in Cocaine Bear is in the first minutes of the movie.
That's because the movie is ironic. The irony of the movie has to embrace the only salvagable parts of things like Sharknado and make you feel like you are on cocaine. (I genuinely have no idea what any drug is like, so be aware that any reference to rebel culture is just posturing by an English teacher with a film blog.) But again, this is where wishy-washy is the enemy of genius. This movie had two choices: artful and nuanced like Jaws or an-insane-mess like Shoot 'Em Up, a movie that I really need to watch again. Trying to live in both worlds only dilutes both options and that's what we get with Cocaine Bear. It's not to say that the movie is bad. I had fun with it for what it was. The movie is a fun movie. But I'm blaming everyone for making it their favorite movie ever. I have no problem with an insane and fun movie being people's favorite movies. I know that I'm the snobbiest dude that ever existed, but I can appreciate a good time at the movie theater. My biggest problem is that people like saying that Cocaine Bear is their favorite movie. There's no way, right? It's just a fun survival movie that's a little cheeky. That's it.
Can I tell you the most bananas thing about the movie? I've gone on long tirades about how survival movies always have kids who make it through the movie. This movie doesn't break that trend. That's disappointing, but expected. (It's not that I want dead kids in movies. It's just that those kids have such plot armor and, instead of upping the stakes, lowers them.) The most insane thing is that they had these kids try drugs. Before you laugh, knowing that these kids ate drugs and the joke is that you shouldn't eat drugs if you are going to do drugs, those kids have cocaine in their systems. I don't know how that wasn't the focus of the rest of the movie. But it also exposes one really weird thing about the movie: what cocaine is in this movie.
For the sake of both plot and humor, the role of cocaine is a battery. The bear in the real life encounter died almost immediately after eating cocaine, because that's how cocaine works. That's the only real thing in this movie. A bear once ate a lot of cocaine. But that's where the story ends. But in this one, the cocaine is what keeps the bear going. I mean, I kind of love that. It might be my favorite part of the movie. It kind of makes cocaine somehow this magic elixir that makes the bear spit out bullets. (The entire movie should have that kind of bananas logic. I mean, why stop at the bear? Why not have the kids become feral monsters, murdering everything in their paths?) I mean, I was waiting for those baby bears, all drizzled in sweet, sweet cocaine to start something. It was right there. But this leads to my most disappointing moment: the conclusion.
The entire movie is a flee from this bear that is going to maul anything it sees. I don't know why the bear is forgiving of human children. There's a weird element to the movie where they really stress that the cocaine bear is a mother that is just trying to protect its babies. But did we forget that this bear is motivated by nonstop ingestion of cocaine? Where did that "protect the babies" thing comes from? And that's why this movie needs to define itself a little better. That conclusion was anticlimactic as could be. I thought we were going to have a massive body count at the end. Sari spends the movie trying to save her kid from the bear, who has taken her. Why it doesn't eat her doesn't make sense to me. It ate Elsa and she had zero cocaine as far as I could tell. But Sari finds Dee Dee and they leave as the bear kills Syd? Okay, they got away from the drug dealer who is the secondary antagonist. But remember how there's a cocaine bear who might kill everyone? Everyone seems so calm knowing that Syd was being eaten by the cocaine bear and its cubs. Why is that the end of the story? That bear is still full of cocaine. According to the rules of the movie, if the bear is full of cocaine, it will murder everything in sight. We saw that with the EMTs. We saw that with Margot Martindale (who wins MVP for the movie, by the way). Why do they think that they're in the clear? How is there not a showdown between Sari and the bear? That's the movie. Right there. Instead, they just walk away from the bear? No. Anti-climax.
So I'm left thinking that Cocaine Bear is just another movie. It's Rise of Skywalkering me. Yeah, I said it. This movie is fine and it needs to be either amazing or terrible. It's neither. Instead, I can just say that I saw it, which is not where I want to land on Cocaine Bear. Also, I feel like I've been misspelling "cocaine" this whole time. I'm pretty sure I haven't. Either way. This movie needs more in one direction or another.
Not rated because it's a Cuban film from 1968. It's got a lot of questionable material though. Rape and general sexual assault is commonplace thoughout the movie, especially in the first vignette. This is on screen along with nudity. Sexuality is a key motif throughout all three pieces. Spousal abuse plays a large role within the third vignette. There is also violence leading to death, which includes nudity while the violence is happening. There's one f-bomb, so really they're cover the gamut of things that kids shouldn't walk in on.
DIRECTOR: Humberto Solas
I almost broke my own rules. I almost decided to sit down and write this while I was watching this. I know, this is fascinating to the reader, but I also wanted to really break down each individual story in separate pieces, despite being in the same movie directed by the same person. Part of that comes from the fact that the film does hold one voice. With anthology films, there is a responsibility to talk to the individual work and to the work as a whole. Also, it was the weekend and I didn't feel like it. It was Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom weekend with a dash of Star Wars: Jedi Survivor so maybe I decided to follow my own rules.
Speaking on the work as a whole, man this is a good looking movie. I can't help but point out the transfer, something that I never make a big deal about. My goodness, the 4K transfer makes this movie look so good that I really question whether or not it was made in 1968. Golly, it's so clean and so modern looking. It has that same cleanliness that something like The Artist had, giving it the feeling of a 21st Century filmmaking but trying to make it look retro. Also, Solas is not afraid of light. Golly, this movie is defined by its use of light. This movie is the anti-noir. Often, a movie will be gorgeous because of its use of the negative space. But Solas (his name seems appropriate right now) is about the use of white space. You could read by the light of this movie it is so bright. But it works. It's what makes the movie look like something special. I don't think a lot of movies have this kind of visual element to their palate. It's complex and personal. Solas also keeps the focus on the individual protagonist, even when there are war sequences. The camera gets close, almost invading the space of the actors. To a certain extent, it creates a sense of melodrama behind all of the stories because everything is so intimate when it comes to emoting. But man alive, it's gorgeous as a film.
The only downside to a film like this comes on my part. Like when I had a problem with Argentina 1985, there requires a little bit of local knowledge for me to really get the dynamics of things happening in the movie. Scorsese introduces this movie as part of the Cuban propaganda machine. I kind of get that. In fact, I can probably list this as professional development because I'm going to be talking about this movie when it comes to the role of Soviet cinema. But these movies are fundamentally political. Now, as much as I pretend to not understand the movie I watched intellectually, I think I get it. But I also have to consider that I was never meant to see this movie. It's actually a key concept when watching this movie is that I'm the intellectual Yankee who is picking this apart. Instead, this movie is speaking to the heart of the patriot, proud of the land of Cuba. Maybe I'm well-read. Maybe I'm not. But that last section really screams that I'm being taught about the dangers of ignorance and that the government really has the citizens' best interest in mind. Okay, now to focus on the dividual films.
It's the most epic one, that's for sure. The first movie has the hardest sell and I get the vibe that Solas is giving his all for this one. There's something a bit off about this being a short, however. The story has this message about women being used while having the allegory about the evils of Spain. But the allegory kind of feels...mixed? Again, this can come down to the notion that I don't understand a lot about Cuban history. But the setting plays the foundational role in "1895". Everything is colored by the war between Cuba and Spain. The fact that the male love interest is half-Cuban and half-Spanish makes him representative of the role that Spain has in Cuba. Lucia loves him, but what she loves is a lie. After all, he has a wife and child in Spain. There's a moment where she despises him and that seems where the story should end. After all, it works for the allegory. From a propaganda perspective, Spain seems like the wholesome homeland, spouting works of love and support while, in fact, it is more obsessed with the domestic than losing anything in terms of ownership.
Lucia, as a representative of Cuba, is treated more as an object. While she values her Spanish heritage and loves it in the form of a significant other, that love isn't reciprocated in the way that she thinks it is. If the entire movie is about revolution from Spain, her romance needs to reflect that. Now, I'm trying to make the allegory work, so please be patient. I understand that for all of Rafael (?)'s lies, there is a romantic element to that relationship. In some ways, Lucia will always love Rafael, despite his lies. Rafael, in turn, probably believes that he loves Lucia. But there is a discrepency of intention there. Maybe Solas wants to sell the notion that, for all of the bad blood between two countries, there will always be a love there. But that final sequence screams "weak woman" in the face of sexual assault. She has this rallying sequence where she hates what Rafael has done to her. She seems like she is going to destroy him at the abandoned church, but she submits to his physical pestering. It makes the rape of the nuns an odder sequence because Lucia does not learn the lesson that she's presented with earlier. Perhaps the whole thing is a cautionary tale, presenting Lucia as the flawed woman who should not harbor wistful feelings toward Spain.
The middle one is the hardest one to remember always. What's the middle one? Oh, right. It's the even more complicated revolutionary piece. Again, my own weakness is the lack of knowledge in this piece of history. I like that Solas allows for what seems like a healthier relationship than what we saw in the "1895" segment. There's still something completely screwy about their romance, but there's something far more sympathetic about this doomed relationship. This is the piece that possibly has the most healthy romantic overtones, you know, despite the fact that he dies from his own involvement in the revolution. My only guess is that this is a warning against future revolutions. You know, some revolutions are fine and some aren't. (You know, this would have been a really sarcastic comment if we didn't have both the American Revolution and Jan. 6.)
But this is actually kind of a heartbreaking story. Lucia, in this one, seems to find herself because of her bond with her husband. It is the rising from a sense of childhood that makes the relationship something greater than what it starts with. Her overbearing mother can only view men through the lens that she sees with her husband / Lucia's father (unless I completely misunderstood that dynamic, which might be the case! I told you that I wanted to write these things in real time so I would remember details better.) Her beau (whose name I may never have gotten and I lack a good summary page to explain these things) seems to have the betterment of society ahead of him. But he views the world through a lens of corruption. Something in him has broken with the violence he has taken place with. Admittedly, he's not paranoid. Those around him quickly seem to be taking the places of the oppressors that they strove to remove from office. But that's the heartbreaking things. It's this knowledge that, in youth, evil seems like such a distant concept. There's that thought that if we got rid of "those" people, the world would be a better place. When we grow up, "those" people are the people that occupy our neighborhoods. They hold gross perspectives on things and you're just supposed to live with them.
Now Martin Scorsese is bothering me a bit. From an educated perspective, I get what he's saying. In the intro to the "196..." section, he calls it a comedy. In terms of technique and neoclassical precepts, you might be able to squint and see this as a comedy. After all, the first two are such clear tragedies that any kind of shift in intensity gives it comic vibes. Also, no one dies, so there's that. I even want to go as far as to say that Solas probably thinks that this is his comic piece, making Scorsese in the right. But good God, this segment is deeply disturbing. It's got funny music. It's got a kid laughing as the woman and her husband fight on the beach. It even has some mild sex jokes. But from any contemporary perspective, it would be a haunting story of domestic abuse. But again, this movie was made in 1968 Cuba. Who am I to say what is considered inappropriate from this perspective. For a good chunk of the movie, including elements from this vignette, there's the notion of the strong woman powering through. As a propaganda piece, it's about abandoning the old Cuba for the progressive future of Cuba, where women must learn to read and write and are not the slaves of their husbands. Cool.
But then she goes back to him. And that's apparently where the joke lies. The entire movie, she is kept hostage by her husband, who tells her she may not work or interact with anybody. Perhaps there's an element of his character which seems so extreme that it may come across as comic. But we all know this really happened to many people, right? The husband's extreme jealousy becomes greater and greater and he gets scarier and scarier. The thing is, the movie knows that the husband is outright villainish. It's why the tutor instructs Lucia to escape. She even does and there's nothing really played for laughs, with the exception of the soundtrack. In terms of making things funny, the only thing that makes the tone lighter in this movie is the boisterous soundtrack that has a moralistic narrator describing the events of the movie. I honestly could replace the soundtrack with something more haunting and this segment would match the tone of the other movies. Maybe that's Solas's thing. Maybe he's really good at making movies where women are tortured because of the faults of the men. But the music kind of kills it for the last one.
But at the end of the day, these shorts were dope. They were gorgeous films that I can't imagine being made in 1968. Do I think I'll watch more Cuban movies? I don't know. It's not like I have a vast knowledge of Cuban cinema. But that being said, this was was pretty solid.
Not rated and I don't even know where to take this review. Fundamentally, this is a movie about sexuality. But knowing that it is a Hollywoodized adaptation for a movie about far more than what we're seeing on screen, it's both raw and intense while simultanously being overly sanitized for America's protection. It does involve cruelty and drinking and there is a lot of sex talk. Also, there's the love for the Confederacy that was part of Lost Cause Theory in this one. Still, not rated.
DIRECTOR: Richard Brooks
I did something that is very not me. I watched the movie before I read the play. That's something I shouldn't do with a movie that has a history like this. I knew that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was a thematic departure from Tennessee Williams's original script. There's a reason that he didn't get credit for writing this script, even as a co-author. It's because this is a movie that is so afraid of saying anything that it's a miracle that some people can still consider the movie to be a classic. Okay, let me give a little background and it might give me the inspiration to write for the next half-hour.
Next week, I'm teaching A Streetcar Named Desire. It's going to be a speedrun, unfortunately. (Completely off-topic, it was an incredibly productive year.) But I show a little documentary on Tennessee Williams and I know all about his homosexuality and the drinking and the suicide in the family. The documentary goes into Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a lot, so I thought that I should finally catch up on that one. Normally, I watch a staged production of the play before watching the movie. Why not read the play? Because plays are meant to be seen. (Then I read it. I'm obsessive and it's probably healthy that I'm bending instead of staying rigid.) But I Googled and couldn't find a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that was filmed available that wasn't amateur footage of a college production. (I'm also super judgey, I realize.) So I was stuck with the film version, which is considered a classic. Anyway, I know that the documentary mentioned that the movie version had to make some pretty intense changes because it was going to be made into a film. So I did some research, read some summaries, and boy...those changes are substantial.
The story of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is first and foremost about the shame of homosexuality. Dealing with Tennessee Williams's own status in society, he has Brick being the avatar for him. This is a guy who feels washed up and a has been. He was the star and forced into a world where heterosexuality is expected of him. His stardom overwhelms his sense of self. Okay. But that's not the movie. The movie is all about being a has-been and just not loving his wife. That's a very different story. Brick, in the movie, comes across as a bit of a narcissist (which I bet is probably true in the play too). But while the play version of the story has an unstoppable force (the need for an heir from Brick) meeting an immovable object (the fact that he is unable to be attracted to women), this immovable object is replaced by something that comes-and-goes with the weather, romance. The stakes are so much different in the movie because of this. All of the responsibility falls on Brick in the movie. All he has to do is stop drinking and make love to his wife. The problem is solved. There's a male heir for Big Daddy and that's the root of the problem. You are allowed to yell at someone for being unappreciative and drinking too much. You can't really yell at someone to stop being gay.
It's kind of what makes the ending of the movie a hot mess. Man, the end does not feel like the rest of the story at all. There's no scenario where Tennessee Williams wrote that ending. From what I know about Williams, he's the guy who says that some problems can't be solved; they can just get worse. But then there's this movie, which tonally changes and Brick just gets his act together in a minute. Maggie comes across as entirely too sympathetic in this movie. She still does that really odd thing, pretending to be pregnant to ensure that Gooper and Mae don't have a claim to Big Daddy's estate. But that problem is mostly solved by the agreement that they're going to try. I know that the play has Brick taking sympathy on Maggie by getting her out of that jam, but that's a stay of execution versus a solution to the problems that Big Daddy is facing. Like, I don't know. I can't stress enough how much the movie misses the point of the play because it censored the key conceit of the story. Why even make a movie? (I mean, the answer is clearly money. Tennessee Williams was a marketable name at the time and people be wanting money.)
But let's watch the movie for being a movie. Sometimes, knowledge isn't power. It's thing that cripples you and my anxiety is spiraling into a light depression right now. My writing has just defined my feelings. Anyway, without the homosexual thing, the Skipper thing is super cryptic. It's almost too cryptic for the story. So the thing that Brick is hung up about is that his wife seduced Skipper and didn't follow through on it? I mean, sure, that would make me mad too. But the bigger takeaway is that HBO's Succession owes a lot to the film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This was a coincidence, of course. We're on the finale of season two and the parallels are hilariously on point. But it is an interesting story with really weird acting. Part of that comes from the very on-point Tennessee Williams nicknames that everyone seems to really hold onto quite tightly. It's so hard to take the acting seriously when everyone's like "Sister Woman" this and "Big Daddy" that. I know. It's Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. I thing they do a fine job (although Brick is just a bit too handsome for that role and I can't stop thinking of Tennessee Williams in that role). But it's a lot.
I will say, though, give me 20 minutes and I was hooked. I was anti-the movie for a long time. I wanted to like it from moment one, but it has a lot of stuff thrown at me. But once I was in, I was really in. Sure, the play would probably wreck me. But the movie started picking up once dynamics were messed with. The thing about the beginning of the movie is that Brick is a bully from moment one. I'm so used to Stanley and Blanche being a give and take. I don't see a lot of that in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Instead, there's a desperation in Maggie that Brick chooses to negate a lot. But then when the tables are turned and Brick has to confront Big Daddy, there's something fascinating about something else to play in that moment.[ As the film continues, Brick then re-establishes control over Big Daddy. With the case of the film, it's implied that Brick instantenously got over his alcoholism. But it is in that moment that the story progresses into something that is complex. Now, I don't know about the love comment. I know what the movie is trying to say about love versus ownership. I know that Big Daddy is meant to represent domineering male personas and corporate America / the Glory of the Old South. But it also seems like a really simplistic view about love.
I do believe that Brick hits the nail on the head when he says that Big Daddy doesn't love his wife. There's a real point to be made there. But buying her things wasn't exclusively about ownership. It's about being illiterate emotionally (I'm darned proud of those words combined). Big Daddy has grown so big in his britches (oh, now, the movie has me doing it!) that he forgot what it means to be a normal person. Part of that comes from his environment. Everyone is fawning over him because of his money that he forgot what real love looks like. I want to believe that his wife really loves him, but she's so overshadowed by play acting all day that he forgets what he saw in his wife to begin with. It's frustrating, because Big Daddy isn't a villain in that scene, which Brick plays up a bit. I actually have a lot of empathy for Big Daddy because he's so lost that it's heartbreaking.
It's a good movie by itself, but it is completely tarnished by the fact that it loses the point of the original play. Too much knowledge hurt in this case.
PG-13 for cartoonish violence and some language. Most of this language is associated with childish insults, so it's pretty innocuous. But it still is a Fast and the Furious film, so just keep the vibe. These movies, in terms of sexual content, have actually grown more tame over time and borderline on superhero films at this point. A lot of people should be dead, but few are. One guy gets blown up with a grenade. I'm sure there are other quick deaths, but the body count should be way higher than it is.
DIRECTOR: Justin Lin
Is this really the 20th anniversary movie of the first Fast and the Furious movie? Oh my. Why am I watching F9 out of nowhere? I mean, the new movie is coming out. But the bigger point is that I've watched this many Fast and Furious movies, mind as well just maintain the collection. While looking for a picture to put on this blog, I ran across a headline for a review of the film that absolutely beat me to the punch on this one. Don't feel bad for me. It made me feel validated on my opinions because it was dead on.
"F9 is too much." One thing that saved The Fast and the Furious franchise is its gleeful absurdity. The second these movies realized that this story should have nothing to do with reality, the movies got fun. Even a guy like me who is, unfortunately, hyper-critical at times (some accuse me of liking everything. It doesn't make me NOT a judgmental turd a lot of the time), I have fun with a lot of the later movies once they abandon the whole car-crimes thing. But maybe this shouldn't be a franchise comprising of nine/soon ten movies plus a spin-off. I was thinking of how insane it is that there are a lot of Fast movies and whether or not these movies would have the same cultural permeability that, say, the James Bond movies would have on the zeitgeist. I can't imagine so. But then again, my generation is starting to be considered one of the older generations. The way we view cultural impact is different. The Fast movies are these silly car movies that clearly people keep coming back to because they keep making them. I'm sure that Vin Diesel is thrilled about it. It's the thing that really cemented him in our collective consciousnesses.
But as silly as these movies are, this one is silly even for the franchise. I've always had a problem with how people just survive things that should absolutely kill them. F9 isn't ignorant of this problem. It's this whole subplot / running gag with Roman and Tej. Someone at their computer had to address the elephant in the room that people are somehow able to survive anything. But having Roman talk about how no one should be able to survive the things that they survive is the equivalent of "Somehow, Palpatine returned." It's kind of lazy and a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for the franchise. And boy, it gets really bad. People don't even seem to get injured anymore. Dom has no right ot be alive in this movie for one of the accidents, let alone all of the accidents. There's a scene where Dom drives really fast (I should leave the sentence there) at a cable. He somehow knows that if he drives really quickly at the cable, it will latch onto the car and swing him across an ungappable ravine. Okay, that's where most Fast movies end. We can accept that because the series has told us that physics doesn't matter. But then the car rappels the cab only to get completely demolished on the other side. Dom and Letty? Joking about how crazy Dom is. That's not okay. That impact would have killed anyone on the planet. There was no getting out of that. At least lie to me and say that they were hurt and there's a time gap where they got better.
I don't know why I need that lie all of the sudden. I just know that Dom's little tank at the end was hit by missles and he just rolled out of it. The other little bad guy survived a lot of that too. He only died because it was time for him to die. Action films lose their stakes if people can just walk away from anything. I keep using James Bond movies as touchstones for action films because I know them very well. They've also committed this crime in Die Another Day. What I really like about the Daniel Craig movies is that there are these absurd action pieces where physics can be completely ignored. But Craig's Bond takes damage. As much of a powerhouse that version of Bond is --similar to the powerhouse archetype that Dom is --Bond often is injured. The entire premise of Skyfall is the fact that you can't survive everything. So many people should have died. I can safely say that there's a good chance that Dom should have died at least a dozen times in this movie. Nothing matters at that point. The movie just decides what is survivable and what isn't at any point in the film.
Even worse --and this is a commentary on the whole franchise --death doesn't stick. I know, the comic book guy is whining about people coming back from the dead, but it's silly when it comes to Dom's world. No one on the planet has had the real world experience of confirmed death and someone coming back. We've had people give up hope. We've had extreme cases of people faking their death without bodies. But Dom has had two significant people in his life die and then come back. Man, one of those would have been pushing it. But two? Letty and Han can't both live in worlds where their deaths can be faked so realistically, despite people viewing their deaths. It's so much. And it's got a lot of "Palpatine returned" elements to it. A good chunk of this movie is devoted to having Han return. Listen, I think that weaving Tokyo Drift back into the franchise is kind of fun and nice. But that explanation for how Han survived is so underbaked. In fact, like Roman's commentary on invincibility, he's shushed the second that anyone points out that it doesn't make sense. Death needs to be something with consequences. This movie even gave Dom a clear goodbye death scene AND THEN IMMEDIATELY TOOK IT BACK. I'm not talking about a death fakeout. That's what Roman had. I'm talking about the sad music, the slow motion fall, AN ENTIRE GRAIN SILO COLLAPSING AROUND HIM, goodbye and all. You can't keep pulling that card and expect people to have investment in life or death.
The thing that bugs me is that, while lots of franchises have formulas, this is the one that tries to hide it the least. Something something something spy equipment coupled with ANOTHER of Dom's secret family members who is on the outs. Lather, rinse, repeat. I could not tell you what the Macguffin did, not because the movie didn't explain it, but because I just didn't care. They're all the same. The threat never really felt real. I knew that John Cena wasn't going to be the big bad of the franchise. Also, Charlize Theron was in the movie for practically no reason except to remind you that she's the big bad and that everyone is going to have to team up to beat her in the next one. Golly, if there's ever been something that really sells the notion of a stop-gap movie, it's stuff like that. If I asked an AI to write a Fast and the Furious sequel, it would look exactly like this. There's nothing new here. Nothing is a surprise. It's just explosions and lines about "family." There's a reason that there's a meme about Vin Diesel saying "Family" a lot. It's not a motif if that's all you do to make a new movie. It also makes no sense that Jakob existed before this point. He would have been the main point of conversation so many times. It's got that whole, "Everyone knows Spock" thing that Star Trek kind of sucks at.
I'm really on a tear now. I'm sorry if you liked this movie and it's not like I hated it, but it's silly to the Nth degree. The magnets? Listen, each of these movies has its gimmick to make car chases somehow different. I like the idea of super powerful electromagnets to throw cars around. It's just that...those magnets were the most trained magnets ever. They only picked up and spun around what the characters needed them to do. Instead of being magnets, they were giant hands just swinging cars around. All this probably comes across as nitpicking, but it's just telltale signs that the series is cutting corners for the sake of money. It's not like the Fast series is about elevated art, but there's also just not caring to a certain extent. That might be a bit unfair. I'm sure that there are people behind this franchise who are really gatekeeping the heck out of it. But if anything, this feels like a quasi-penultimate (I say that because the last "film" is actually split into two movies.) movie that is just getting out of the way of a much more epic film. I don't know.
This franchise started off with me scoffing at it. Then I had a lot of fun with it. Now I'm back to scoffing, but still having a little bit of fun. I'd sooner watch F9 over The Fast and the Furious, but that's not an impressive sell.
PG-13 for being pretty terrifying. Okay, before I forget, this movie has the same swearing as the other Guardians movies, only this time there's an f-bomb. I have to thank Marvel for releasing that scene early so I could prep my kid to not hear that word. But back to the body horror that is Guardians 3. It's a movie about animal cruelty, so the torture elements are out in force with this film. It's a lot and my son really didn't care for how in-your-face a lot of the visuals were. Couple that with some pretty intense violence and I would consider this one to be intense. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
Man, I'm upsetting people with this take. This might be my least favorite Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but that doesn't mean it did a thing wrong. It is a great movie that did exactly what it needed to do. It's just that...man, it was bleak as could be, right? The movie is an exercise in Chekhov's gun. For multiple films, Rocket says that he can't talk about his past because it is so traumatizing. In the final act, he has to talk about it. I mean, James Gunn couldn't leave this franchise and close up his story without full-on addressing the horrors that Rocket went through.
And to his credit, he didn't play it down. This trauma was as bad as Rocket has been teasing. I don't know if it outdoes Nebula's. It's the one line that kind of threw me. Nebula viewed the data in Rocket and saw that the High Evolutionary was a monster and immediately sort of forgives Thanos for being lesser than the High Evolutionary. I mean, low-key disagree. Thanos took Nebula apart and put her back together for fun. Also, humans. The High Evolutionary is the Victor Frankenstein of the MCU. (Except for the fact that Frankenstein exists in the Marvel comics, I think. I know Franken-Castle exists, but that's a different beast altogether. Pun intended.) The High Evolutionary is completely callous. He's a great villain. But he also has this idea that he can make the universe better. He knows that there's something inside potentiality that could be unlocked by someone smart enough to play God, so he plays God. It's awful, but from his perpsective, he's doing what needs to be done. I'm in no way defending animal testing here, but it's not like the High Evolutionary is the only guy to make this choice. People have tested on animals for far less altruistic moments. I still think that Thanos is more evil. That doesn't change the fact that the High Evolutionary might be a near top-tier villain.
Okay, back to the point. It's odd how this movie is fundamentally a Rocket Raccoon movie, but actually feels like it has the least amount of Rocket in it. Part of the movie is a desperate attempt to hold onto something that we used to have. Between the loss of Gamora to retcon and Rocket unconscious, Gunn intentionally paints the film as "something is off" about this team. For as close as they are and have learned the lessons of embracing a found family, people change and move on. Nostalgia is the happy sadness of a memory that will never return. Gunn putting Rocket on a gurney the entire time removes such a powerful dynamic to a team that really needs his cynicism. It's not that the Guardians of the Galaxy aren't all cynical in some way or another. It's just that Rocket's specific brand of cynicism is heavily missing in this film. I need someone to poo-poo everything really hard. I need someone to be that agent of chaos who marches to the beat of his own drum, despite the fact that so much of the plan rests on his shoulders. But that is removed. We get Rocket, but we get a sweet, martyred Rocket for the majority of the film. There are moments where we felt honest sympathy for Rocket in the previous movie. But this movie is the gut-punch. Rocket kind of balances his misery with his caustic behavior in the previous films. This Rocket is just beating up on a kid.
Now, as progressive as I come across (to the point of annoyance, I'd say), I'm not really an animal guy. I'm not pro-hurting animals. It's just that my attentions are focused elsewhere. But Gunn must be someone who takes this message seriously because he does this gorgeous thing about making each animal a real, fleshed out character that crushes in every scene involved. I'll be honest, maybe I had a harder time with Floor than the othe rmembers of the HIgh Evolutionary's prison. But Lylla is someone that is for the books. When I think back on this movie, as much as I'll think of this being a movie about Rocket, it's really because of Lylla that I'll be thinking about it. Lylla is a balance of mother and sibling in this story. If Peter Quill has Mommy issues all through the franchise, we have to remember that this movie is about the loss of parents, whether welcome or no. Lylla needs to be the story of Rocket's biological mother. Now, all the flags are going up. They should. But the High Evolutionary's entire gig is to take animals and give them sentience. It's heavily implied that Rocket has no memories of life as a raccoon. When he meets Lylla, he bonds with her on a maternal level. She, too, views Rocket from that maternal perspective. She's the one who comes up with the idea of naming selves. It's not one-for-one, but she borderline gives Rocket his name.
This is also a great break-up movie. Yeah, I was rooting for Peter Quill and Gamora too. But considering that the movie ends with a healthy breakup of the team --no one hating each other, but just going separate ways --it's appropriate that Gamora and Peter Quill stick a fork in it. Part of me wondered how they were going to get Gamora and Quill together again. I mean, Gamora had changed so much. And there was always this little tease that somehow, he was going to get her back. But realistically, that Gamora was not the same person that Peter had fallen in love with. Sure, sure, it would have been kind of hilarious to have Peter Quill and Nebula together. I think it works better as a joke and that's what ultimately happens. But this is a story about moving on. That's what makes Drax's conclusion to this story so poignant. Yeah, Gunn really calls a spade a spade in this one. It's the first time that people have addressed Drax's stupidity as a liability and it is a hard moment to watch. Drax is my guy. I know that Dave Bautista doesn't want to be Drax ever again, but I love Drax. When Nebula full on scars him and Mantis has to do some morally dubious mind-erasing, it's a moment.
But still, we understand that Drax isn't an idiot. He lives a life that gets him through trauma. When he speaks the kids' language, it's simply assumed that he would be the least qualified to communicate an idea. Sure, I don't know why he does the monkey-robot thing if he can just talk to them, but that's also kind of being a dad. He knows that the kids are scared of them and he knows what makes kids laugh. Giving him this moment when he can bond with these children who have lost everything is such a good turn of character for him. Drax is an odd character. He is incredibly rude, but part of the bit is that he doesn't think that he's incredibly rude. The films haven't forgotten that he has lost everything up to this point and that his biggest wound is his loss of actual family. But he's called the Destroyer because he's so violent. But Drax seems to thrive in community more than anything else. Giving him a massive family is the key to giving Drax a good ending and I adore that.
When a movie franchise says goodbye, it almost feels like it has to telegraph that sentiment by having long-running speeches and held camera shots. It beats us over the head. I mean, saying goodbye to Jodie Whittaker's Doctor, especially when it came to Yaz, almost bored me despite the fact that I liked her character (not the story, but her character). But Gunn subtlely lets us say goodbye. He makes the story about healing and moving on and I absolutely adored how he pulled it off. It's a solid conclusion to a trilogy. The weird part is that it will be the one I watch the least. But that's okay. A lot of good things are hard to watch sometimes.
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.