Rolling Thunder (August 15th, 2016)
Director: John Flynn
Starring: William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, and Lisa Blake Richards
I find myself drawn to Paul Schraders early work. He may not be at the top of his game anymore, but back in the 70s/80s, the man was a premiere screenwriter. He tackled the darkness within the hearts of men and did it in a very special way, getting to the darkness unlike anyone before. He wasn’t afraid to get dirty and have unlikable protagonists, men who were deeply unhinged and did terrible things. We all know Taxi Driver and the psychotic loner that is Travis Bickle, but his whole career has focused on men like him. There’s also the ideas of redemption that he likes to play with. They may not get the redemption they want, but it’s something on the edges of the movies. All this stuff fascinates me. Now this is a movie that doesn’t so much as deal with redemption, but the opposite in many ways. Devane plays Charlie Rane, a man returned home from 7 years as a POW in Vietnam. His hometown rolls out the red carpet and gives him the hero treatment. Big parade and crowds and gifts. They go all out. And he puts on a show of being grateful and happy to be home. But something is amiss in Charlie. When he’s home, out of the public view, he’s kind of dead eyed. Mind constantly going back to the torture he endured in Vietnam. His wife tells him she found another man and is gonna marry him. He doesn’t get upset. Just coldly deals with it. Even his dealing with the new man are barely emotional. This man really lost his soul fighting and being tortured in Nam. So much so that when his family is murdered and his hand is taken from him, his quest for revenge seems more like a reflex than something he actually seeks out on an emotional level. He feels like he has to do it, and his past as a soldier makes him feel it’s his only option. Doesn’t matter who he puts in harms way, because it doesn’t matter to him. The groupie he has that loves him or the man who took his wife. They get put in the line of fire because of his robotic need for revenge and it doesn’t paint him as a hero. Sure, some idiots may see him as a badass. But morons also see Tony Montana as an ideal, despite the fact he loses his fucking mind before being gunned down. But thats besides the point. What we see here is yet another indictment of the Vietnam War and the treatment of those suffering from PTSD. If there was a better system in place for these men to recover instead of being thrown back into the world, maybe this minor tragedy wouldn’t have taken place. You can also see it in Tommy Lee Jones’ character, who is much more worse off than Devane. He is not even hiding his brokenness, 1000 Yard stare at all times. At least, until he is given the call to go to war again with Devane against the men who wronged him. Then he’s alive. And the plan of attack is basically a suicide mission, just going in and shooting. No real strategy. That they survive at all is a miracle. But either way, this is not a happy ending movie. You feel sad, because it was all hollow. They didn’t win anything nor did they feel anything. It goes to show the horrible nature of war and what it turns men into, without the proper care. It’s not shot to be entertaining either, as the violence is mean and quick and horrible. There’s no jumping for joy. This is a hard hitting movie and Flynn shoots it like a pro, getting all the mileage out of the story and elevating every beat. Schrader has disowned the movie, as he says it was supposed to be much darker and pretty different than what we got. But in the end, we got a movie that subverted the revenge genre. It doesn’t fall into the Death Wish esque tone, as it can never be mistaken for a vigilante supporting film. This is a sad movie, and it makes it so much more special. So while it may not be exactly what he wanted, it is anything but a typical Hollywood movie. Shot like a pro, acted like hell, and plotted with some real smarts, this is a masterful movie of the 70s. A real southern fried winner. Give it a shot.
Justice League vs Teen Titans (August 16th, 2016)
Director: Sam Liu
Starring: Stuart Allen, Taissa Farmiga, Kari Wahlgreen, and Jon Bernthal
This has not been a very good year for DC. While I may like the Ultimate Edition of BvS, the critical drubbing has been long and hard and almost personal. So it’s got to be nice for this movie to be the only thing they released this year that didn’t get some sort of shit. Cause BvS started a fucking internet shitstorm, Suicide Squad is more interesting behind the scenes than on screen, and The Killing Joke has launched the most think pieces than a cartoon based on a comic really should. So this movie kinda snuck in there and did it’s job and came out squeaky clean. It ain’t a perfect movie, and I don’t think it’s as interesting a movie as BvS, but it’s real solid. It’s a fun movie about Damian Wayne (a divisive character I like) having to learn to be apart of a group by joining up with the Teen Titans. And while he does that, Raven’s demonic father Trigon is poising a big return by forcing his daughter to free him from Hell. So the Justice League is being tainted by this rising hell force, so the Titans have to prove their mettle and that they’re a worthy team of heroes by taking this threat on, with the Justice League essentially playing second fiddle. The character dynamics are fun. The action is fun and loud and over the top. I’m still a little down on the more anime influenced style, but it’s not complete anime so it’s not an abortion or anything. The villain is fine, but nothing special. He works mainly as a thematic element regarding the past and Raven/Damians inability to let go of their past allegiances and familial dynamics. I’m kinda having a hard time writing too much about this as it’s just fine. Nothing spectacular and nothing bad. It’s entertaining enough. For those that like the DC animated stuff, it’s fine. Hopefully taking a shift into the supernatural after the never ending superheroics focusing alot on Batman with Justice League Dark they can make another legit great movie. For now, we got a good one before the completely misguided The Killing Joke.
War Dogs (August 18th, 2016)
Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana De Armas, and Bradley Cooper
For more, click here.
Hell or High Water (August 20th, 2016)
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Gil Birmingham
For more, click here.