The Mule (2018) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

“You have to take time to enjoy these moments in life.”

“I think you enjoy these moments too much.”

It’s films like these that are a bit difficult to review for me.  Yeah it’s a solid film, one of the best Eastwood has done since Gran Torino, which was a decade ago.  But trying to find things to talk about when I enjoyed the film, and padding it out to a respectable length, I find that difficult for something like this.

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I could talk about how there’s a surprising amount of comedy in this, with his anti-PC quips that I know for a fact several people knew ahead of time were coming.

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You got a problem with that?

I could talk about the crowd I saw this with, which was made up primarily of old people, Vietnam and Korean War veterans.  And how there was this one old lady who laughed too often a little too loud.

I could talk about how this is loosely based on a true story (ie inspired by), where the film mainly gets the jist of the real-life events and character, but took plenty of liberties with it.  But that’s why the film itself never really prides itself on being a true story.  It’s not trying to be that per-se.  It is its own thing.

Any day now…

I could talk about how crazy it is to see Eastwood directing and starring in a film at his age.  How I keep thinking that this is the last film he’s  going to do, and then he does another one.  I always keep wondering just how many more he still has in him.

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But the fact of the matter is that this is a fairly straightforward movie, without any real twists and turns.  So I figure it’s more important to focus on the message Eastwood is trying to deliver here.

The film starts off in 2005, where Eastwood’s character Earl Stone (name changed from the real life individual Leo Sharp; that’s how loose of an adaptation this is) is doing his usual florist business.  But he sees an early sign of things to come, with cell phones and the Internet offering a new avenue of selling and purchasing products.  Sure enough, 12 years later (roughly a year after Leo Sharp actually died), his home is foreclosed due to his business doing terribly with everyone opting to buy flowers (among other products) online rather than in-person.  His business is over, and other businesses are closing down as a result.  There is always suffering to come with change.  Out with the old, in with the new.

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Thankfully, the film also doesn’t shy away from the other downsides to the Internet.  As efficient as it makes things for various businesses, whether it be retail, talking/texting over cell phones, among other things that can also be used to help drug cartels run their business; it also makes people too reliant on it.  This is demonstrated in this one scene where Eastwood helps this black family out who suffers from a flat tire… who don’t know how to swap it for a spare.  Becoming too reliant on one thing has its downsides.

While change has its upsides with more efficient business with technologies and ways of social life have their upsides, there are also downsides, as demonstrated with the drug cartels who have no problem killing off one another to gain a higher position of power, who may not be as intelligent as they think they are when it comes to running a business.  Just as the drug business has its upsides and downsides.  In this film’s case, on the one hand one can make a lot of money in the business.  On the other hand, many tend to have a short life expectancy doing that sort of business.

So the film is partly a reflection of the past, and taking jabs at the way things are now, while also having a sort of acceptance to it regardless.  While showcasing that times have changed with how people are meant to speak to one another (by “filtering” their words), it also doesn’t have a problem showing that there are still some towns that are still about as xenophobic as they were in the 60s, where Earl stops at one point to have a sandwich with his Mexican “friends,” and the whole time everyone is giving them “looks;” and a cop shows up who is about as racist of a caricature as many would have you believe is the rule rather than the exception nowadays.  But the reflections mainly happen with the people Earl hangs out with, those he financially supports; and the songs he sings during his drug runs while taking in the scenery.

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And, of course, there’s the whole issue of family.  This usually tends to be Eastwood’s weak point when it comes to film-making.  He never seems to be able to pull off family aspects without coming off as way to sentimental, overdramatic, etc.  The prime example of this can be found with True Crime.  The black daughter in that movie needed to die; the mother/wife needed to take a chill pill and shut the fuck up; but the dad was ok.  Let alone that stupid zoo scene.

Seriously, I can’t not laugh at how melodramatic this scene is in True Crime (1999 film).

Thankfully, in this film, the family drama is actually solid.  Which is something I honestly wasn’t expecting.  Especially with Alison Eastwood, Clint’s daughter, playing the role of his actual daughter.  It worked.  Which helps, considering the other major theme revolves around the consequences of putting family second to work.  The film doesn’t go as in-depth with this as I would’ve liked, considering how work is usually necessary, financially-speaking, to keep a family together.  But it’s implied that it was prioritizing his time socializing with others and being the center of attention at parties, rather than prioritizing his time with his family, so it’s not exactly a weak section of the film.  Just wanted it to be a bit stronger is all.

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And yes, the film does get tense at times; but there’s plenty of laughs to be had too at many points throughout the film.  The kind of laughs those of us can appreciate who aren’t overly sensitive.  And honestly, the quips aren’t anywhere near as anti-PC as in Gran Torino (I wish they were, but that’s not where the film has its priorities).  The humor, in fact, acts as a good way to cut the tension, especially considering that Earl is naive to just how out of his depth he really is, until much later on in the film.  To the point where when someone attempts to intimidate him for the first time, he starts making jokes about the guy being a dictator for several minutes.  The film is as funny as it is tense as it is dramatic.

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All around solid, albeit straightforward.  Recommended.

 

Untamed Heart (1993) review

Off-Topic Introduction

So the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to find something to write about.  There’s a few things I’ve been wanting to get to, but being a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy, I just couldn’t summon the willpower to get to them.  So first I’m thinking, “Hey, I’ve recently got through the original Star Trek series?  Why not review that and joke about how The Last Jedi pissed me off so much it made me into a Star Trek fan?”  But then I thought, “Oh Christ, it’s going to take me forever to point out which episodes I liked and why, which episodes sucked and why (and why some episodes from season 3 didn’t just plain suck, they sucked cock), let alone find some gifs that I want to use to highlight these moments.”  Then I thought about posting up an old drunk review I made a long while back on Friday the 13th.  Because it’s October.  I even got about halfway through finishing it, but then I thought, “It’s such a pain in the ass to find the gifs I want to use for this; I wish I still had the fucking thing (illegally) downloaded onto my computer from way back when so I could do it with ease; now I gotta track down gifs from other sites and youtube videos to help make my point; which is making me put in more effort than when I reviewed the damn thing; fuck it, I’d rather stop this, get drunk, and watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then play Thief II and Quake.”  And then I started getting stressed out and worried that I’m not going to get through that book Gosnell in time to make a review about the movie I saw in an early access showing of it, which made me worry that I won’t get the review up by October 12 or 13 (I still don’t know if I’ll be able to do that), especially when I’m dealing with the death of my aunt and have to go drive out to the coast with my other family members to toss her ashes out to the sea during that time period.  At one brief point, I started just thinking, “Fuck all this and fuck the blog, if I don’t feel like doing it, I’m not going to do it.  I’ll just slack off for the next month or so and say to hell with all the viewers I’ll lose in the meantime.”

But then suddenly, one day, I manage to watch a film that finally lights a fire under my ass.  A movie I was driven (not by a vehicle or anything like that) to see thanks to some negative reviews I read about it.  So for those of you who follow this blog, sorry for keeping you waiting, and sorry for slacking off.

Untamed Heart movie posters at movie poster warehouse movieposter.com

Rated: 3 / 5

So I saw this had some negative reviews (to say the least) on letterboxd.com, and at first I didn’t want to think much of it; even though I don’t trust most reviews on that website anymore (for reasons I won’t get into, at least not for my review of this film). But after reading one review which mentions the guy catching the hockey puck, at that moment I knew I had to see this. Not exactly because I wanted to see that moment per-se, but because I realized this is one of those films from my childhood I caught a glimpse of (my mother was watching it at the time) that never really left my mind. And that, and the few minutes following it, are the only scenes I really remember from this movie (which basically spoils it for me, because that all takes place in the last 20 minutes, though they foreshadow the shit out of the ending, so it didn’t really matter). So it was the nostalgia that drove me to seeing this.

And, as I suspected, the negative reviews weren’t trustworthy for my experience, because I enjoyed this film. But it is worth addressing some of their points.

1.) The big one being that Christian Slater’s character Adam is a stalker, a creep, and the film makes an attempt to make him seem like a great guy in spite of this by having him rescue Marisa Tomei’s character Caroline from an attempted rape.

For example, off-screen, he snuck into her house in the middle of the night to put this Christmas tree in her room.  And he somehow did this without waking her up.  At this point, I’m less interested in him being a creeper and more interested in knowing how he acquired such mastery of stealth.

2.) That last note would be the other major strike many have against the film, using sexual assault and the rescue from it as a plot device to get their relationship started, and to make the creepy stalker boyfriend less creepy.

Regarding point #1, if that was all the information we were given regarding Adam’s actions and motivations, yeah it probably wouldn’t be much more excusable than that of Mr. Grey (but horny bitches still love the 50 Shades films, let alone the books, both of which are of lesser quality than this film, so…). However, that’s not the only information given. It’s clear that Adam is retarded, literally. He’s had mental and physical issues during his early years, which prevented him from having a normal life, and kept him as a social outcast for most of his life. He’s more of a child in an adult’s body. And on that note, let’s just say children have been known to do stuff like that, following around other girls/boys they have an attraction to. Their intentions aren’t devious, they’re innocent. It’s adults who view it as devious and creepy because they know that adults who do this generally tend to be creepers will ill-intent. They don’t even bother considering that ones intentions could be anything other than bad. Growing up and losing one’s innocence sucks.

So in a sense, you could see the polar opposite of Adam with those 2 guys who attempt to violate Caroline. Men who are the same age as Adam, more fully developed mentally, but far less innocent. Just because one grows up and learns of the bad things that can happen in the world doesn’t mean one should let go of that blissful feeling innocence and naivety can bring. It can reap heavy consequences for letting your guard down like that. But the rewards one can gain in spite of the risks (whether because they take a chance knowing the risks, or are unaware of them) is something magical, something this movie strives to show.

So while Adam does follow Caroline around unbeknownst to her, and sneaks into her house to watch her at night (this all happens off-screen), it’s because of a childlike fascination, curiosity, and adoration rather than for lust. Obviously most adults aren’t like this, but due to biological circumstances, Adam tends to be the exception to the rule. And that’s another thing some people reject, or at the very least ignore, when it comes to faulting Adam. They act like this movie is promoting the idea that it’s ok for men to follow women around without their knowledge because they enjoy that sort of thing. No. This movie is saying that in this case one should accept an exception. Because Adam isn’t like other people. And Caroline learns this the more she gets to know him.

That awkward first kiss.

Point #2, sexual assault as a plot device, the event that causes Adam and Caroline’s relationship to start after he rescues her from the perpetrators. Some take issue with the fact that the film uses such a device in this film, considering it tasteless. I say anything can be used as a plot device and make it work. It just depends on the context, if it ties into some theme/character/story that’s in the film and fits within it to keep it cohesive rather than just jutting out like a pimple on the nose. In this case, as pointed out above, one of the reasons is to offer contrast between innocence and sinful. Not to mention Caroline’s downward spiral with her luck in life (if you can call it luck), with her choice in boyfriends of the past, and eventually having one of her past acquaintances coming to do her harm. She wasn’t seeing much to be happy about in life, and experienced much that would eventually make her as much as a sourpuss as many around today. That is until Adam showed up and became a bigger part of her life, a sort of savior who shows her how wonderful life can be, what joys can be found by the naive.

And because of what those 2 perpetrator assholes represent, it was only inevitable they would come back to do harm to Adam later on, showcasing that sooner or later, innocence would be tested. Such childhood innocence is bound to die out one way or another, whether due to actual death at the hands of the sinful because of their naive innocence, or because they lose that innocence when they see how terrible the world (ie people) can be at times. So when this other form of physical assault happens, done for hatred rather than lust, it inevitably leads to the hospital where the foreshadowing comes in more heavily from then on out.

Indicated by the title Untamed Heart (as opposed to the originally proposed title “Baboon Heart”), Adam is one who won’t be tamed. And by tamed, that means the taming of his innocence, of his childhood ways. While that does keep him to be the angel Caroline comes to adore, it also means he is destined to die by the end of the film. Being naive, after all, does have its downsides.

So by the end of it, I didn’t take issue with either of those two points. Now that being said, this film isn’t perfect. There are some elements I do have issue with. The film didn’t have the talent necessary to make the last act work, where Caroline is expressing how much Adam has changed her life for the better because he made her aware of how wonderful life can be with love; true love; innocent love. The film couldn’t figure out a good way to express this, so it stumbles with the last few lines of dialogue. In fact, you could say the last act, the third act, is when the film is at its weakest. It doesn’t do anything to ruin the entire film, but it doesn’t do anything to bring it up another level. It doesn’t do enough to bring everything together in an impact way. And it goes a little too hard with the foreshadowing of Adam’s death, when it thinks it’s being smart and subtle about it. Like Adam, the screenwriters seem to have a hard time expressing themselves here.

Though to be fair, she did nail the emotional expressions in this scene.

But for what it does provide, it’s a nice charming little love story, showcasing a relationship built on a love only childhood innocence can provide. The highlight of this is when Adam and Caroline become romantically involved for the first time. It doesn’t go down the way you would think, but the way it does happen I found to be emotionally powerful and perfectly fitting for Adam’s character.

So yeah, don’t listen to the haters. Give this film a chance. It’s no “greatest romance movie of all time” or anything, not like Frankie and Johnny; but it’s good enough to be worth a watch.

The scene I remembered from my childhood.

 

PS: Oh yeah, and be wary of the DVD version.  It has apparently edited footage from the VHS version.  I’m not sure which version I ended up watching, but I intend to find out at some point.

Shugo Chara Funny Anime GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (2004) review

Rated: 3 / 5 (might improve sometime in the future when I decide to rewatch this show)

And slowly, you come to realize, it’s all as it should be.
You can only do so much.
If you’re game enough, you can place your trust in me.
For the love of life, there’s a trade-off.
We could lose it all, but we’ll go down fighting.

So I’ve been aware of this anime’s reputation for a while now.  Some say it’s “the best anime no one has ever seen,” and by no one they mean Americans.  Not sure how true that is (personally, I think that reputation should fall upon Legend of the Galactic Heroes, something I have completely downloaded, but have only seen a few episodes so far; didn’t stop because it sucked, just have the mindset, “Let me finish this, and this, and this first, before getting sucked into this.”), as I believe it has gotten the attention it’s deserved since its release, but viewers have to jump through a few hoops to get the whole thing.  From what I understand, this only aired on the Sci-Fi channel (was it that far back, or was it SyFy at this point?) for a duration, and the last 15 or so episodes never aired, so most didn’t get to see how the anime would wrap up.  Well, I’ve seen the whole damn thing.  I won’t say how, but you could probably think of a few ways.

So, how was it?  Not too shabby, despite a couple minor caveats here and there; up until the last 5-6 episodes or so when it does this stupid bullshit that a lot of animes do that irritate me to no end.  I’ll get to what those are later, but for now I’ll just say they don’t fuck up the show to the point where I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Despite its faults, it’s one of the better anime series out there, and it doesn’t run so long to the point where it overstays it’s welcome (I mean, Inuyasha, Bleach, One Piece, holy fuck do those go on forever).

Oh, and there will be spoilers.  Just sayin’.

So the show starts out with this master surgeon, Dr. Tenma, who is considered to be the best doctor in the country (the show primarily takes place in Germany, but the lead doctor protagonist is Japanese), conflicted with his choices of whether he should continue to do what his bosses want, healing the patients they demand and thus prioritizing the more wealthy/famous/political over the commoners, or not.  The guilt of continuing this trend weighs heavy on him until he decides to disobey orders and do surgery on a young boy named Johan who was shot in the head, choosing to help him over the other more “important” individual.  Because of his actions he becomes de-promoted, and his twat fiance (who is the daughter of the hospital president) shows her true colors in that she was only in the relationship for the finances and high position, so she ditches him for another.  But the act has unforeseeable repercussions that extend beyond this.  Soon after healing the boy, several of the hospital higher ups are killed via poison, leaving nothing in the way of Tenma moving back up in the ranks.  And the boy patient Johan, along with his sister (who was admitted due to trauma/shock) disappear.

Years later, Tenma is successful, and glad to be rid of his fiance, who tried to come back to him (bitch, please).  However, a patient of his raves and rants about a monster coming for him, and he runs out of the hospital with Tenma in pursuit, only for both of them to become confronted by the monster.  The monster, as it turns out predictably, is Johan, the boy patient from nearly a decade ago.  Johan kills the patient, spares Tenma, and leaves.  Tenma also finds out that Johan is a serial killer, who has been killing many people over the years, which makes Tenma second-guess his philosophy that every life is sacred, and equal, and worth saving.  Are there some lives that shouldn’t be held as high as others?  Are there some lives that must be ended for the good of others?  Well, Tenma decides to change his life, leave his job, and begin tracking down Johan across the country, trying to find him and eventually kill him.

That’s more or less how the opening 10 episodes go.  And this is a series comprised of 74 episodes.  I began to wonder, “The premise is interesting, but how in the hell can they keep this show engaging for that long of a duration?  I’m seeing the setup for intrigue and deeper layers indicating that there’s more going on than what we’re currently seeing, but for another 60+ episodes?”

And the next several episodes began to worry me in this regard.  Because despite how the first few episodes seem, this isn’t one of those shows that tells its story in a straightforward manner where we continually follow the lead protagonist most of the time.  No.  For several episode stretches and different intervals, we are introduced to other characters, and follow their stories, like Tenma’s arc during the first act was just one story amidst a bunch of other stories that encompass a giant conspiracy.  In hindsight, this technique worked, but it demands patience from the viewer.  There were times where I went, “Ok, this is nice and all, but what the hell is happening with Tenma!?”  There are times when we leave him and then get introduced to some girl attending a college for a few episodes; or later on are introduced to some child of a rich man trying to become re-aquainted with his father; or follow a cop who’s a recovering drunk.  But after a certain point, they all start to link together.

By the time the series was halfway over, I was down with this style of pacing.  It accomplishes something that I desire in a lot of television shows.  That the main protagonist is not the center of the universe.  There are other pieces in the game that move independent of his actions/activities, who accomplish things that the protagonist is incapable of accomplishing, whether it’s because he’s not in the right place at the right time, or he doesn’t have the skill-set to do this sort of thing (ex: Tenma can’t really fight, and he’s just so-so with a gun, and most importantly he doesn’t know everyone anymore than he has all the answers).  Plus virtually all of these other characters are interesting in their own way, thus I didn’t mind so much that I was spending time with them.

By favorite of these side-characters is easily the detective Heinrich Lunge, who pretty much chooses to have no life outside of his detective work, and can become obsessive with solving cases.  And he has a technique for doing so.  He is able to recall conversations and details with eerie accuracy, like he’s a computer who can record information at will.  Yet his method does have a fault.  Despite being able to recall conversations word-for-word, another character (who is a criminal psychiatrist) points out that Lunge utilizes this technique in a biased manner.  If he has already predetermined a potential outcome, he will emphasize a tone/aura around his recall-ability, such as believing an individual said a line in a certain way (serious, lighthearted, grim, casual, a lie, a truth) when said-individual actually said the line in a different way.  Because as objectively-minded as some people try to be, there will always be an amount of subjectivity to how they perceive things.  Plus he does all his work at the expense of alienating his family; and there were times where I began to sympathize with this guy and begged for him to go to his daughter, a sign of good writing.

And speaking of multi-dimensional characters, to my surprise, Tenma’s bitch-tits fiance ends up showing a sympathetic side to her, though you do have to get pretty far in the show to see it.  And, of course, even the main villain Johan is shown to be multidimensional.  There are no perfect characters in this show, no heroes that aren’t infallible, no villains that are pure evil (even if they do their best to convince themselves and others that’s how they are).

Getting into the character of Johan here, he does become a fascinating character.  First one begins to wonder just how it is he’s able to brainwash/manipulate others into doing his deeds.  Because as we soon find out, he usually prefers not to get his own hands bloody (though he certainly has no qualms about doing so), but rather getting other people to do things for him.  Why?  What is his end goal?  Why is he doing this?  Well, honestly, despite the hopes others have for him (there are organizations who have an interest in Johan, partly because they’ve put some investment into him in the past), he seems more interested in causing destruction simply because he likes manipulating others to see how they will all interact with each other, like interfering with the paths a line of ants would take, forcing them to follow different trails and seeing how they will adapt to new obstacles.  And he is determined to show that no one really deserves to live, that there isn’t really any value in life.  Which is why he became a bit fascinated with Tenma, intentionally bringing him into the game, wanting to see Tenma’s early philosophy on life proven wrong by having Tenma turn that very belief 180 degrees.

He also has an obsession with identity, or more accurately, lack of identity.  Because he feels he himself has none.  Because he is a monster; because his beliefs were built on the foundation of an obscure kid’s book titled, “The Monster With No Name,” something he was read to during his younger years.  On top of that, he was also the subject to multiple experiments done on children, experiments designed to create a new Hitler, ala The Boys From Brazil, but more extreme.  The experiments were designed to make the children intelligent, incredibly disciplined, and very acute.  The main thing they were taught was on observing their surroundings, and learning how to read people, to anticipate how an individual with a certain type of personality would react to various general situations.  Thus the children could grow up to become master manipulators.  And lastly, and this is something implied more than anything else (though there are enough heavy hints dropped to convince me), that Johan wasn’t always a male.  As a very young child, before he was separated from his sister, he used to be a boy, but due to surgery from the organization, he was turned into a boy (and thus to my shock, this series somehow pulled off an LGBT twist that didn’t come off as forced at all, and it was rather brilliant).  It’s at this point that a lot of his questioning of identity and his madness begins to make a lot of sense, ultimately making him one of the more intriguing villains in anime history, with a very tragic backstory.  His innocence was lost early on, thus he believed early on that innocence doesn’t exist.

Though to be fair, it is quite easy for children to lose their innocence.

And since he was trained to be a manipulator (though some in the organization admit that he was a prodigy compared to the other children, which is something that was bound to happen), he finds ways to easily manipulate others.  Because if you observe one for long enough, you find faults in their character, regrets over sins of the past, or having no regrets and thus being prime candidates for doing evil deeds simply because they enjoy it.  There are many faults to be exploited in humanity, and exploit them he does, not for riches, not for fame, but to send a message.

Fascinating stuff, and there are other complexities I haven’t covered yet, but I’ll leave those for readers who wish to seek out the show.  And this would be as good a time as any before reading the rest of this, because now I’m going to spoil the ending (moving from spoilers to uber-spoilers).  Because the ending is why I currently don’t rate the show higher than 3/5.

It’s not that the final outcome in of itself was bad, it’s just some of the bullshit that was done to get there, bullshit that was easily avoidable.  So first off, about halfway through the show, there’s this big muscleman who gets shot and flies down the story of a building and into the smoke below where a fire had broken out.  The way they framed this, the way it was shown, an alarm bell rang in the back of my mind, “He’s going to show up again.  We didn’t see the life go out of his eyes, so he’s coming back.”  That’s anime 101 logic (and most film logic for that matter, but animes pull this shit all the time, and it annoys the fuck out of me because it comes off as insulting my intelligence, what little I have).  So I was (not) shocked to see him show up about a dozen or so episodes later.

“That’s right motherfuckers, you can’t kill me!”

But that’s just the warmup.  During the finale, this bodyguard and Lunge get in a scuffle, and Lunge continues to do this stupid shit that keeps getting bodybuilder to regain the upper hand.  One of these actions was so fucking stupid, the anime didn’t want to shame itself by showing it, so it happens off-screen and is mentioned later (you know what, fuck you, seriously).  “Oh, I let him live and didn’t bother to handcuff him or anything, which allowed him to tackle me while I was walking down this stairs with my back turned to him.  Yeah, it makes me sound like a fucking idiot doesn’t it?  Good thing you didn’t see me being a fucking idiot, considering I’m supposed to be the intelligent one.”

And then, of course, there’s the tip of the finale.  Where the main protagonist and others are face-to-face with Johan, guns pointed, people wounded, emotions running high.  Johan is asking Tenma to end his life, by shooting him in the head.  A part of Tenma doesn’t want to do this, because it’s not in self-defense, and he knows that he will be forever changed if he takes a life as opposed to saving one.  And no one else really wants him to do this other than Johan himself, though many do want Johan to die because of all the lives he has taken.  Long story short, some other semi-random schmuck ends up shooting Johan in the head, which was a lucky shot not only because he had never fired a gun before, but also because he was in a bit of a drunken state.  It’s a pure lazy fucking cop-out, and it results in the show trying to give the happiest ending possible, despite everything that happened prior to this, from episode 1 and onward.  It would’ve been interesting to see how Tenma would’ve handled himself after doing that, but nope, we’re not going to have any of that.

Plus the whole thing just seems naive to me.  And I get what they were going for.  Once you kill, you lose an element of innocence that you will never get back.  I get it.  But the fact remains that if someone had killed this psychopath far earlier on, a shitload of lives would’ve been spared his wrath, and many more would’ve lived.  You can talk about losing innocence all you want, but that is why people exist who are willing to lose that innocence to protect others so that way others won’t lose their own innocence, much less their own lives from others who have no innocence left.  But fuck that, the anime wants you to feel sympathy for this guy and demands that the viewer hopes for a redemption arc for Mr. kills-a-lot.

Seriously, this line is fucking said.  Fuck you lady, what about all the other people he’s killed, you wanna see if they forgive this cocksucker?

So yeah, all that stuff irritated me, and marred what had been a fairly excellent show, making it go from having minor annoyances to major annoyances.  But despite that, the show it still good, has some fascinated scenarios and some thought-provoking concepts and philosophies (up until it fucking simplifies them in the last 2 episodes).  And it is worth a watch.  The things that cause me major irritations may only be minor or insignificant to you.  So, there it is.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Skip-able Intro

So you remember when I said, “my next review is going to be on a very controversial film that you’ve probably never heard of that you’ll likely only be able to see on a porn site“?  Well, guess I lied.  I’m putting that on hold for a review or two.  Or three.  Lately I’ve been getting bogged down replaying The Witcher (the first one from 2007), which I’ve finished playing and am in the process of reviewing, but that involves finishing editing/uploading the “movie-version” like I did.  That takes a while, especially for that game.  I don’t plan on doing the whole “play and record” thing with the next game I play, because going back and editing footage takes a long time and it becomes frustrating seeing my output suffer as a result.

So I was going to watch and review that “controversial” film, but that got sidelined when I found out about this other movie released recently, still playing in theaters, and is an indie movie.  Well where I live, “movie in theaters” and “indie” don’t go well together, so it’s not playing anywhere near me.  So I opted for the next best thing.  Vudu.com, rented it there for $7.99.  It was worth it.

 

The Review

Holy crap, it’s a miracle.  A film starring Vince Vaughn that is actually good.  I usually take a disliking to this guy, something about his aura and personality in his roles just turns me off.  It’s why I was rooting against him in Dodgeball and wished they went with the alternate ending (sure they would’ve lost to the bigger assholes, but at least the bigger assholes were doing something with their lives and were fun and hilarious to watch, especially Ben Stiller [makes me wonder why he doesn’t play the bad guy more often, because that’s when he’s at his most entertaining]).

Plus that would make for a logical continuation, making this movie sort of a sequel to that movie.  Vaughn becomes more down on his luck, and more angry, and doesn’t get the bisexual chick, so he settles for a straight chick played by Jennifer Carpenter (which, in all fairness, is a pretty good deal all things considered).  Hell, I think the movie is also a sequel to Requiem for a Dream, since Vaughn asks her early on if she “fell off the bandwagon” (ie started doing dope again for those of you who think I’m talking about a western/musical flick or something).  Those would be decent films to watch prior to this one, starting with Dodgeball for the “good old fun times,” then Requiem for “everything crashing down and everyone becoming miserable because life sucks”, and then this film to see where it goes from there.

“Nobody!”

Also kind of fits, considering that Vaughn’s big time Hollywood days seem to be behind him.  That doesn’t seem to be a bad thing here, at least not for us viewers, not sure what that means for him financially.  But in any case, this role is perfect for Vaughn.  Plays a more dead-serious guy, occasionally making a wisecrack to give a peek into his more comedic side.  But make no mistake, he plays a grim character in a grim film with other grim characters and a grim environment.  And grimy prisons.

The film starts with him getting laid off from his job, and follows immediately by learning that his wife was cheating on him.  So you would think the film is going to be a slow downward spiral from there right?  Well, not quite.  They actually manage to rebound for a period of time, both in regards to their finances and their relationship.  But there was only one way Vaughn (I’ll refer to him by his character name from now on: Bradley) could do it, and that’s by resorting to illegal activities: being a drug carrier.  He didn’t want to do it, he’s clearly a guy with a troubled past who wants to do the right thing and live an honest life.  But economic conditions just won’t allow for it.  It’s the only way he can achieve the American dream of having hard work and effort pay off, maintaining a sustainable income, being able to support his wife and household, and help raise a family.  But, of course, it eventually goes wrong and he winds up in prison.  Seriously, has there ever been a decent movie made where someone makes a successful living off the drug trade with no repercussions that messes up their life somehow?  I don’t think so, because that’s a bad message to send, because the film industry needs to keep people honest and off drugs.  Except marijuana, thank God.

In fact, the film even mentions the hypocrisy of such a system.

“I’m aware that the system is harder on guys who distribute drugs than those who commit acts of violence against women and children.”

Life isn’t fair, but people must make due with what they’ve got, and hope they make the right decisions, and consider how much they’re willing to sacrifice in terms of their morals.  And his hard work and effort does have some payoff, with his wife, a house, and a baby on the way.

And her life was hard too.

Because Bradley’s life has been hard and he’s had a hard upbringing, he is a hard man.  And by hard, I mean he has a high pain threshold and can beat the shit out of just about anyone.  An aspect of his past life he wants to leave behind, but eventually finds himself in a state where that isn’t possible.  He’s basically forced to fight in prison.  And it’s this portion of the movie where it becomes a cut above the rest (though the previous section was still good too).  It transitions from drama to action, and the action is very well done.  Some honest to God effort put into the fight choreography and directing.

With each fight scene and each situation Bradley is put into, the situation and the environment and lighting becomes darker and darker.  The chances of him getting free to eventually see his wife and daughter become more and more bleak.  But what he does he does for his wife and daughter, for his family.  To say why, and how it all turns out, would be spoiling things, and I’m not going to do that, because I don’t do that for new movies that I enjoy unless I get neck-deep into some philosophical/thematic/metaphorical/symbolic discussions that are brought up in the film.  This film isn’t that deep in that regard, but there is stuff to talk about below the surface (guess that could be considered a pun in this case).

Because Bradley loves his wife and sacrifices much of his time for her, working jobs to support her, he is willing to do “less than legal” things to make that happen, which he discusses with her (how refreshing, a film where the husband who traffics drugs doesn’t keep it from his loved one).  The reasons Bradley ends up in prison.  He could’ve gotten away when some Mexican thugs decided not to do things his way during a drug pickup, when a shootout with police ensues.  But he doesn’t, because he hates how disrespectful the thugs were to him, the country, and to the police.  The whole thing could’ve been avoided, but that’s not how it turned out.  So Bradley ends up helping the police take them down, though it results in him going to prison.  He keeps his mouth shut due to loyalty, which results in him staying in prison.  When his wife’s life is threatened, he does things he doesn’t want to do to try and keep her safe.  Everything he does in the film is either out of sacrifice for her, or out of sacrifice for his patriotic morals.  And the film doesn’t hide that what he does isn’t exactly the most noble deeds, as he is almost constantly in a bad place whenever he is “working.”  Christ, makes me want to get high just typing all this down; it’s making me depressed.

As for the downsides to this movie, aside from personal tastes in how entertaining I can find a film, there were a couple moments where the film tries to be extra violent, but it just comes off as looking fake.  It’s only for 2 very very brief moments, but they’re there.

Let me show you how badass I am by destroying this mannequin!

Other than that, the film is solid enough, but it’s the fight scenes during the latter half of the movie that truly make it memorable.  Plus there’s a moment where Carpenter gets a hold of a gun and uses it, which put a smile on my face.

All in all, well-made movie.  A bit depressing, yet also having a somewhat pleasant (probably not the right word, but thesaurus.com says that’s an appropriate antonym for “depressing,” so…) ending.  Has me eager for the director’s next film, which is titled Dragged Across Concrete and will star both Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson, and is currently in post-production.  Considering how the director doesn’t shy away from violence in his films, at all, and how much Mel Gibson loves putting violence into his films…  oh God, there is hope for the film industry yet.

Because we’re bored with the current state of the film industry.

 

Mermaids (1990) review

Rated: 3/5

“Sometimes I feel like you’re the child and I’m the grown up.”

“You know, sometimes being a mother really stinks. I don’t always know what I’m doing. It’s not like you and your sister came with a book of instructions. You know, if I can help you, tell me. I’ll give it my best shot, but it’s all I can do.”

“Are we having a fight!?”
“Yeah!”
“Why!?”
“It relieves the tension!”

So here I am watching movies as I usually do, trying to find something that I am able to talk about at length on this blog site. So I initially wanted to go out and see Wind River, but none of the fucking theaters within a 20 mile radius of where I live are showing it. So I watch a few movies from the 90s, since I’m prepping for an epic nostalgia for the 90s series on this site. Some of them were bad, others were good, some were mediocre; none of them had me thinking about it afterwards. Then along comes this little chick flick which appears to be fun family entertainment at the surface, with some mature themes thrown in here and there. Initially, I didn’t think much of it other than emotional manipulation (which worked on me, big time; this fucking movie) and some good acting and a few witty one liners. But moments in the film stuck with me afterwards. That and I’m also desperate for an outlet, with my mind racing a mile-a-minute in a not-so-constructive manner, making me practically needing an edible to calm myself down and slow my racing brain so I can actually focus on what’s in front of me, and stay focused. So what I’m trying to say is that I watched this film high while procrastinating for most of the week.

So first, the title of this film. The mother (played by Cher) dresses up as one at one point, going to a party she isn’t fully comfortable with for the sake of intermingling. Then there’s the youngest daughter who is a good swimmer, and can hold her breathe underwater for a long time. And the oldest daughter Charlotte (the Harlot), played by Winona Ryder, well, she’s tries to be overly religious, often with comedic results, and I’m not entirely sure what she has to do with mermaids outside of some metaphorical/thematic level that only some artistic film connoisseur motherfucker who watches French films and Shakespeare while drinking thousand dollar wine all the time would be able to get. Either that or some half-assed critic like me who will just take a wild guess as to the meaning.

This family of 3 moves around often, mainly because of the mother who sleeps around with guys, and moves away before she can get a bad reputation or suffer humiliation in the town she was in. There are other reasons she does this, the main one being she fears emotional attachment, because she has been hurt too much from breakups of the past. So she’s unwilling to make a commitment unless it’s some 100% guarantee that it will work out, which has never ever been the case for anyone.

Then there’s the main protagonist, Winona Ryder, who dislikes her mother at times and has to put up with her antics. One of her ways of trying to cope is by seeking Catholicism (though Cher make’s the quip, “We’re Jewish.”) Yet she winds up being like her mother (and not very Catholic) in several situations, especially when she gets a crush on a boy and can’t stop fantasizing about him. Basically she wants to escape her life, escape her family, to live her own. You know, like in that movie The Little Mermaid, based on the story where a mermaid wishes to do the same thing, except things don’t turn out that well for her by the end, because Disney doesn’t like sad depressing endings.

There’s the young daughter, of course, played by Christina Ricci, but she is more of a plot device that will be utilized during the last quarter of the film. Until then, she’s there to build sentiment as part of the family. This film is never blunt or obvious about this, but it slowly works its hooks into you. This mainly works because of the family dynamic, how they seem like a real family. Also helps to have Bob Hopskins play a fun character who starts a relationship with Cher. The film also shows the good and the bad with Cher and Ryder’s character, which is fitting because they’re the main focus, the main ones who have a character arc.

But anyway, all this is a build-up to this scene that successfully does what most slasher films wish they could do. They make a sex scene disturbing and emotionally scarring. Yes, Ryder and the one she fauns over have sex atop a bell tower. No, some mutated/psycho/demon killer doesn’t show up to butcher them while they’re doing it. No, this film is far more devious than that.

So let me set it up for you. So the youngest sister (I’ll just call her Ricci) gets drunk before she goes with Ryder to the bell tower. While Ryder is up there getting shown the old in-out in-out, Ricci wanders around drunkenly until she falls into a river. So it intercuts between her drowning, and Ryder having sex. It’s at this point that I started to feel a bit sick to my stomach, and feel like I’ve just been conditioned to never want sex at all in my life. And all it took was some comedy/drama (heavy emphasis on the drama during the last quarter of the film) chick-flick rated PG-13 to do it, rather than a slasher/horror flick.

So first I should say that I was stunned, disturbed, saddened, and hooked. Because the film accomplished its task of making me feel for each member of the family, that the loss of one would be a huge blow to the family dynamic, one in which it may never recover from should it receive such a blow. And this, of course, leads to the big dramatic moment of the film where Ryder gets in an argument with Cher. The big moment where Cher finally lets her guard down, is willing to be real with her daughter, and showcases that vulnerability she refused to let out throughout the rest of the runtime. Thus giving hope that it’s possible she may come around in the future. At the same time, she’s finally able to talk with her daughter without putting up a barrier of judgement and condemnation (even if she does condemn her daughter for what she inadvertently ended up doing to the youngest daughter). She talks about how she didn’t want Ryder to end up like her, yet the path she is leading causes her to do so anyway, the irony of it all being that the mother’s actions of the past and present drive her daughter into being as she is now. To the point where she makes out with the boy Ryder has a crush on, making her even more desperate to want to have sex with him before her mother steals him away from her. It makes me wonder what Cher’s mother was like.

And then the family is shown to be all happy and together again after the whole endeavor. And tears of joy were running down my cheeks. Cut to a few minutes later after the credits were done rolling, and I felt manipulated. I wanted to hate this movie for bringing me to this state. But it is so well made with the character interactions, the sharp witty one-liners, the memorable characters, the comical situations, a couple dramatic moments prior to the big one, the theme of how lack of communication and openness of willing to put your faith in others and become emotionally vulnerable at the risk of being hurt (though the consequences can be even worse if you live your life never being open), that… Goddammit, fuck this movie!

PS: Oh, right, and Ryder broke up with her boyfriend she just got laid by soon after the tragic event. Gee, I wonder why the fuck that is?

PPS: Oh yeah, did I mention spoilers? Well there’s you’re fucking spoilers. If I can get emotionally traumatized from a scene in this movie and live through it, you can suffer being emotionally traumatized by having a major scene spoiled for you in this movie.

It Comes at Night, and The Adventures of the American Rabbit dual review

So some bad news and good news first.  The bad news, I got fired from my full-time job.  The good news, I can blog more.  And I wanted to do 2 films, not because of the special occasion, but because one of these films is so damn bleak that I needed something ridiculously cheery to raise my spirits.  This isn’t one of those trick review situations where it’s all like, “Psych!  Actually that’s the depressing movies and that’s the cheerful one!”  Nope, I’m going to be straightforward about this. I just didn’t have much to say about either.

Rated: 3/5

Right, so this is a dreary little film. It’s about a small family living in the middle of the woods out from civilization due to a contagious disease that is spreading around and killing everyone. Soon after killing “grandpa” who is suffering from the disease and burning his body, the family encounters another family, and they try to live with one another. But the fear, the paranoia, and the trust issues, all threaten to slowly kill them all much like the disease.

Sounds a bit like a George A. Romero zombie flick doesn’t it? But this film keeps things strictly focused on humanity. Aside from the dog, man’s best friend. The main focus is on the family of 3 (was 4, but then grandpa didn’t last long) is the son, the son of a bi-racial couple. And much to my surprise, no commentary was made on race/racism. They seemed to get along fine in that regard. Any issues the family has did not involve racism in any way as far as I could tell. It’s extremely refreshing for a film to be made like that.

Anyway, like I said, the focus is on the son, who’s dreams become plagued by nightmares after seeing his grandpa shot and burned. Could not get any peaceful nights after that experience. Nightmares of his grandfather, of his father, of the female member of the other family, and I think there may have been a nightmare of his dog somewhere in there, I’m not sure. Initially I feared this was going to be some prophecy/foreshadowing sort of nightmare, something I normally despise in most films unless it’s a medieval fantasy flick. But they seem to be more straightforward and to the point than that. The nightmares simply reflect the boy’s subconscious fears, those instilled by those he sees in his dreams. Of his grandfather becoming sick, of his father getting sick, a girl he has the hots for being sick, all of them threatening to spread their disease to the boy. Yet that never happens, at least not by those he dreams about. The big question is how much are these dreams affecting him when he’s awake? They affect him, but it’s very speculative as to how much.

The son clearly enjoys the company of the other family, and they grow on him. Yet he is held back from ever fully letting himself go and dropping his guard entirely against them, partly because of what his father says, but there’s also the dreams. Trust issues.

This all comes to a head one night when there dog who ran off earlier after barking at who knows what comes back into their kitchen all diseased and stuff. But there are circumstances surrounding this “break-in” that remain unanswered by the film’s end. This is intentional, making the viewer as doubtful as the main protagonist (the son). Who unlocked the door? Was it the son? Was it someone else within the house? Was it someone/something outside of the house? We don’t know, because there are always unexplained things in life that can’t ever be known with absolute certainty by a single person. This creates doubts, and creates fears, which creates obstacles towards trusting strangers.

The whole point of the film is to raise the point that trust is nice, and the unity it can create is great. But is it only temporary? Is the trust you believe others have for you just as you (may) have for them just a facade? Would things turn out alright if they were trusted completely? Or would things turn out worse if you let your guard down? The film doesn’t answer this, and a few events occur in the film which give justifiable reason for not trusting anyone, while also highlighting how this distrust is slowly killing everyone much like the disease. Is the fear justifiable, or misplaced? You be the judge.

It’s great to have a straightforward film not provide any straightforward answers. It’s a bleak film, but it’s something that allows you to appreciate the less-bleak films that are out there (unless you enjoy stuff like this and Requiem for a Dream, you sad bastards), much like watching a shitty film so you can appreciate the less-shitty films out there more. Except that this film isn’t shitty. But on that note, when the film ended at the theater, this was the order of events that immediately followed once the credits began to roll.

“Oh!”
“Come on!”
“That’s it?”
“This was a horrible movie!”
“This was the worst movie ever!”
“What a waste of time!”
*me and a couple others laughing*

So that made it worth watching in theaters. May have been a dreary movie, but it never ceases to entertain me seeing others who came to the show for dumb entertainment, watch something bleak and serious like this, get the opposite of what they were looking for and don’t hide their verbal thoughts on the matter. Gets a laugh out of me every time, whether I agree with them or not.

Anyway, onto something that is anything but dreary…

 

 

 

Rated: 3/5

Fuck the Care Bears. Fuck the American Bald Eagle. They ain’t got nothin’ on the American Rabbit.

A rabbit which is plain and white until it runs so fast its fur transforms into the American Flag, and its feet transform into roller skates. And he can fly, which kinda defeats the purpose of roller skates, but who the fuck cares! Flying is awesome, and roller skates are awesome! The American Rabbit is awesome! The 80s is awesome! Everything is awesome!

So what if the film gets a bit monotonous and some of the characters sound like they’re literally reading their lines in their sleep (especially the ape)? So what if the music rips off Superman (so does the character)? It has a rabbit transforming into the American flag with roller skates! And it was made in the 80s! How the fuck did I not hear about this until now? How the fuck did no one on Channel Awesome, especially the nostalgia critic, get on this shit?

Anyway, on a more serious note, if you are to track down and watch this movie (like on youtube), it’s better if you know a few things just to be sure I’m not busting your balls about some supposed hidden gem of animation. This film isn’t cheesy or ridiculous enough to be that big of a cult classic. The Brave Frog deserves more recognition for that than this film. Don’t get me wrong, the cheese is there, especially when you see the opening minute of the movie. And when he arrives at the bar to play the piano, just seeing all the signs there for all the bands. And a few lines here and there.

“You know, it seems like just the other day Rob you were out fooling around with your school pals.”
“That was just the other day dad.”
“Well there you are.”

Plus it’s great seeing a film like this where the world is populated with animals and no people. And I swear to God, Bunny O-Hare (yes, that’s her name in the movie), the love interest, Lola Bunny from Space Jam ripped this character off. She may not play basketball or do much other than talk in a sexy voice, but I still support that theory.


And the main villain puts on one of the most villainous speeches to rule all of villainy. Composed of entire sentences every cardboard cutout villain base their entire lives upon.

“We’re going to be bad. Muahahahah! We’re going to make life miserable for everybody we can. We’re going to torment people, and terrorize them. We’re going to lie and cheat and steal, and force everyone to live under our control.”

[…]

“Why would we do this, huh?”

“Because we’re evil you idiot! We are bad. That’s our job.”

Huh, seems like Suicide Squad ripped this off a bit too.

But despite the fun bits, it gets a little boring after a while seeing the same thing happen over and over again about 40 minutes into the movie, where his friends get into trouble, so he transforms into superrabbit to beat up the bad guys, stop giant boulders, waterfalls, and other some such stuff to save them over and over again. Granted, the film has a decent lesson to it; it’s not just about saving people, but encouraging them to be independent and stand up for themselves. They still need his help most of the time despite that message, but hey, it’s better than what those fucking Superman movies did (both old and new). And despite what the poster may indicate, this doesn’t seem to be preaching all-American patriotism and stuff. Probably because they had to compromise when they realized they needed Japanese artists to animate the damn thing in order for it to stand toe-to-toe with Disney flicks. It didn’t pan out in the end financially/popularity-speaking, but still. Maybe if someone did a fan-trailer of this film set to the theme song of Team America: World Police…

It’s fun, but not THAT fun. Fun enough to be worth a watch and for some laughs, but not fun enough to where you’ll be doing it as often as something like The Room or Troll 2. Maybe I should’ve watched it drunk or something.

But anyway, it’s a thing, it exists, and it’s worth watching the opening intro if nothing else just to prove to yourself this exists. And if I had seen it a few months ago, I bet I would’ve been able to keep my full-time job.