[IndyPendence Day] Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Ke Huy Quan

Screenplay: William Huyck, Gloria Katz

118 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Happy IndyPendence Day! Let’s celebrate with the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, set one year prior. Yes, I’m talking about Temple of Doom, probably the darkest film in the Indiana Jones saga.

The year is 1935, and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford, The Fugitive, The Call of the Wild) has found himself stranded in India with his sidekick, Short Round (Ke Huy Quan, The Goonies, Second Time Around), and a nightclub singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw, Black Rain, Due East). Now, in order to get home, Indy has agreed to retrieve a sacred stone for some local villagers from the walls of Pankot Palace. What Indy doesn’t expect, though, is that his journey will lead him into a deeper darkness than he has seen before, and there’s a lot more insidious work being done at Pankot Palace.

The decision to make Temple of Doom into a prequel instead of a follow-up is due to a rather silly reason. George Lucas did not want the Nazis to be the main focus off the film, which is notable, but the film didn’t need to be a prequel to forgo the Nazis, but it matters not as most of this franchise does not rely on previous knowledge. Temple of Doom does break the mold and go in a wildly different direction than its predecessor. For example, Indy is not hired for this mission and merely falls, quite literally, into it. The entire story is set after a botched mission, and it’s nice to see Indy kind of out of his element. He’s always capable of thinking on his feet, but the task required of him this time around does not allow himself to plan or plot to complete it.

That doesn’t mean that this Indy adventure is without its faults. I find that the film meanders quite a bit in its search to find footing for its story. While it contains my two favorite sequences in the entire franchise (the opening in Club Obi-Wan and the mine cart chase), the rest of the film is more forgettable outside of the big ritual scene. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine the film has a two-hour run time if you haven’t seen it in a while because so much of that first half of the film is dedicated to exposition and nonsense.

Having Short Round as Indy’s sidekick in this film elevates it so much because of how we see Indy through him. The two performers have such great chemistry that all of their scenes have a sense of fun amidst all the horrors. It’s amazing that Ke Huy Quan wasn’t even trying to audition for the role but instead was providing moral support for his brother who was auditioning. He was picked out and put into a room to do a scene with Ford that ended up getting him the role that hundreds were passed over for. It does add the question of whatever happened to the character as he doesn’t appear in Raiders despite it taking place only a year later.

On the other hand, new character Willie is, I’m sorry to say, absolutely awful. Kate Capshaw has nothing to do in this movie that’s worth a damn and the film would be so much better without her. I’ll agree with Capshaw’s quoted description of Willie as “not much more than a dub screaming blonde.” In fact, the only notable accomplishment that Willie does in the film is scream 71 times in two hours.

As I said above, Temple of Doom, for all its faults, contains the two best scenes of the franchise, most notable the mine cart scene. It’s one of the best action set pieces in any film ever. That’s where the film truly wins; it has some of the coolest visuals of the franchise. The ritual chamber is epic in scope, the Pankot Palace scenes are elegant and magical, and even the opening in Club Obi-Wan is elaborate and intense, an unforgettable way to open a movie.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the weakest film in the original Indy trilogy of the 1980s but it has elements that make it stand out as truly unique. Ford gets to flex some new acting muscles here and his dynamic with Short Round is wonderful. There are things, however, that don’t work, most notably Willie Scott, the weakest Indy love interest by a stretch. Still, though, there’s enough here to warrant a watch and a rewatch.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, click here.

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s The Post, click here.

[Father’s Day] Father of the Bride (1991)

Director: Charles Shyer

Cast: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short, Kimberly Williams

Screenplay: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer

105 mins. Rated PG.

 

It’s Father’s Day, and while I am not a father (to my knowledge), I figured now would be a great time to watch a good Father’s Day movie.

George Banks (Steve Martin, Roxanne, Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk) is dealing with the worst situation of his entire life: his 22-year-old daughter Annie (Kimberly Williams, The Christmas Chronicles, TV’s According to Jim) is getting married to a man he’s never met. As the impending date of the nuptials nears, George’s sanity gets closer and closer to shattering.

The central relationships in the Banks family are the strongest element of the film, specifically between George and Annie. I could genuinely believe that they were father and daughter. George doesn’t hate the idea of her marrying, but he’s terrified of losing his daughter. He wants to be a father for just a little longer. I really enjoyed both of them, and I enjoyed Diane Keaton (Annie Hall, Poms) as George’s wife, Nina, who is so easily won over by Annie’s fiance.

George gets into some pretty frustratingly fun interactions early on in the film, like meeting the in-laws in their lavish home. I would have liked more of these situations because as the film moves along, they lose these moments. In that way, it also lost me a little.

For all the love I have for the central family dynamic, I was unimpressed with Martin Short (The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, The Addams Family) as Franck Eggelhoffer, the comedic wedding planner who is so unintelligible that he grew old rather quickly. I started out really enjoying his character, and it didn’t work after a while. The filmmakers just leaned so heavily into Eggelhoffer as a supporting character.

Father of the Bride has some really entertaining characters and comedic set pieces. The problem is that it just doesn’t have enough of them to keep the film in that upper tier of Steve Martin comedies. The movie has plenty of heart, though, and that keeps the emotional core strong enough to entertain enough. I still recommend the film but I wish it were stronger.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Ferris Bueller’s Day Off] Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Director: John Hughes

Cast: Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck

Screenplay: John Hughes

104 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

Apparently, today is Ferris Bueller’s Actual Day Off, or at least the best approximation. There’s no set date but research was done that June 5 as the most likely day that Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, The Producers, Wonder Park) took off back in the 80s, and it seems a good time to actually celebrate this day in honor of all the kids who didn’t get to skip school in 2020 because school was skipped for them.

Ferris Bueller is the most popular kid in school, and he’s decided to take a day off of school by faking sick. His best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck, Twister, TV’s Succession), is out of class today as well because he can’t find a reason to get out of bed. Ferris convinces his buddy to partake in a day’s adventure in Chicago alongside Ferris’s girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara, Timecop, Daughter of Darkness), all the while evading his parents and school principal Ed Rooney, who has a vendetta against Bueller.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has a mood all its own, and there are elements of it in other John Hughes (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Breakfast Club), it stands all on its own. With the inclusion of Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” a song that wasn’t in the pop culture landscape before its release, this film is every high school student’s dream movie. I saw it for the first time as a child, and I said to myself, “That’s going to be me one day.” Long story short, it wasn’t. More often than not, I was Cameron. There were moments of Ferris, but I leaned into Cameron too.

That’s what is so great about the characters in this film. At times, we are all a Ferris and we are all a Cameron. Broderick finds a way to make a wildly unrealistic character like Ferris into an incredibly relatable idol. He’s a guy who has an answer for every situation, but he also finds himself taking advantage of those around him that doesn’t always have solid consequences. When he confronts some of his own faults later in the film, and he finds that his skills don’t always work, he has to let go of his ego…slightly.

Cameron is another character that, while relatable, could have been very annoying. Cameron is the kind of character that isn’t always easy to translate, but having suffered with confidence and self-worth in the past, his arc works quite well. He’s struggling the whole film with trying to find his worth and trying to connect with a distant parent, and all of Ferris’s pokes and prods are unable to empower him. Cameron’s strength needs to come from within, but he is unable to bring it forth.

The question comes up a lot as to who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist of the film, and I guess there’s no clear answer. While some would call Cameron the protagonist and Ferris the antagonist, I would go the simpler route of protagonist Ferris as the protagonist and Rooney as the antagonist. There’s even talk about whether or not Ferris is even real or just an imagined friend for Cameron. That’s a lot of crazy talk. Ferris the protagonist who gets the ball rolling on the plot and Rooney is a classic antagonist. Rooney is not inherently a bad guy but he is against Ferris.

None of that matters, though, because however you choose to see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s a damn enjoyable film. It’s very unrealistic, but writer/director John Hughes pulls off a movie that works on so many levels. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it takes advantage of a interesting world (is the Shermerverse a thing?) of fun characters and uniquely-tense situations. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is worth revisiting or seeing for the first time. It hasn’t even aged all that much. See it now. Go on, take the day off.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: J.K. Rowling

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.

 

Let’s talk everyone’s favorite Wizarding World Film, The Crimes of Grindelwald…wait, people don’t like this one? Well, we’re still going to talk about it.

It’s 1927, and the evil and radical wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sherlock Gnomes) has escaped custody while being transferred to Europe to be tried for his many villainous crimes. Some time after, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables, The Aeronauts), unable to get past his international travel ban, is tasked by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Sherlock Gnomes: A Game of Shadows) to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Justice League), who is shockingly still alive, and save him from the grips of Grindelwald. Lots of other stuff happens too.

This movie’s biggest problem is that is has no real discernible plot by the end of it. Yes, it all comes down to the search for Credence, but there’s too much other stuff happening in this film to keep focus on the main plot. It just gets lost in all that. I’ve seen the film several times and even I have trouble relaying the plot to people who ask about it. There are all these elements in the film that seemingly have no impact on the central plot…yet. Granted, this is a film that may be a lot better when seen in context of the entire series once it’s finished, but it shouldn’t have to be. Each of the Harry Potter films and even the first Fantastic Beasts have been able to stand on their own in some capacity, so even though a lot of individual elements of the movie work, it doesn’t fit together all that well.

The Crimes of Grindelwald has some truly great elements, though. For example, the returning cast is incredible. I love Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, and he’s great here. I wish we had more time with the main four together again because Katherine Waterston is great here, as is both Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol as Jacob and Queenie.

I also was so surprised by Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I was initially hesitant to see Depp enter the Wizarding World, but I think what we get from him as a villain here is interesting and exciting, but again, I just wanted more. His interactions with his followers and enemies, and specifically in the films finale, are so powerful.

There are some cool creature designs and magical elements to the film, but as with everything else in this movie, there just aren’t enough of these elements in a bloated film. Too much stuff jammed into not enough movie.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a mess of a movie, but there are still things I really liked in the movie. The ideas are there, but J.K. Rowling was not capably able to make a film that works on its own as well as part of a larger story. So many pieces of this movie could have worked in a stronger shell of a film. The extended cut fixes some of the problems, but not enough to completely save the movie. They need to fix the franchise with a simpler follow-up with the next film, and they need to focus on the few things that worked here.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of David Yates’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, click here.

For my review of Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

For my review of Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, click here.

 

[Oscar Madness Monday] Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Screenplay: Dan O’Bannon

117 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

IMDb Top 250: #53 (as of 4/29/2020)

 

Recently, in April, Alien fans everywhere celebrated Alien Day on 4/26 (as in LV-426, the moon where the Facehugger Eggs are first discovered in the original film), and it seems like a great time to revisit that very important film, one that changed many minds about the strength of horror films and sci-fi films.

The commercial transport ship Nostromo is returning to Earth with Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt, Contact, Lucky) and the other six members of the crew in stasis sleep. They are awoken by the ship’s computer it detects a transmission coming from a nearby moon. The crew sends a team down to discover the origins of the transmission, and what they uncover on the planet is more horrifying than any of them have ever known.

This comparison has been made many a time, but Alien shares a lot with Jaws. Now, everyone is going to say that the less-is-more comparison is obvious, but I’m looking at it from a different angle. The use of darkness and perspective in particular highlights all of the strengths of the film, particularly in their central monster. Director Ridley Scott (The Martian, All the Money in the World) understands what will work and what won’t, and he utilizes his tools well. Looking at some of the behind-the-scenes photos of the film, and particularly the xenomorph (played by Bolaji Badejo) showcase that this movie could’ve looked damn goofy, but the way it was shot and the way it was lit helps to focus the mood of the film, and it still, to this day, looks gorgeous as much as it looks gruesome.

Actor John Hurt on the set of “Alien”. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

The cast is fantastic, with specific emphasis thrown toward Sigourney Weaver (Avatar, Ghostbusters II) as Ripley, the warrant officer, and Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth) as Ash, the science officer. Everyone gets at least one great moment in the film.

The script is very strong and runs along very smoothly. This movie just cruises along, with no extra fat. Looking at Alien as a screenplay, it could very simply boil down into a slasher film as the xenomorph moves through the ship trying to pick off the crew one-by-one, but thankfully, the Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, The Return of the Living Dead) screenplay is stacked with flavor and atmosphere that Scott was able to play off of.

Ridley Scott’s strong directing and Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay combined to make a truly excellent atmospheric horror film. This is one that has aged like a fine wine, and it features some incredible set pieces, including the dinner scene with John Hurt’s (1984, The Elephant Man) intense performance is still one of the most shocking movie moments of all time. This is a movie that shows that not everything needs explaining and that, in fact, some films are stronger without all the answers. Stick with the Theatrical Cut as Scott’s Director’s Cut no longer makes full canonical sense within the confines of the xenomorph’s life cycle, but both versions of Alien are well-worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, click here.

For my review of Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, click here.

[Alright Alright Alright Movies] Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Director: Nicholaus Goossen

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson

Screenplay: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson

94 mins. Rated R for drug use and language throughout, strong crude and sexual humor, and nudity.

 

Hey, it’s April 20th, and we could all use a laugh right about now, so in honor of this most blessed day, let’s take a look at Grandma’s Boy, the 2006 stoner comedy from Happy Madison that kind of went unnoticed upon first release only to resurface a few years later as a dumb piece of pop culture. I remember hating the film on first release, so let’s see how we are sitting on the film today.

Alex (Allen Covert, 50 First Dates, Murder Mystery) is a stoner video game tester who’s just been booted from his apartment. With nowhere to go, Alex moves in with his grandmother Lilly (Doris Roberts, Christmas Vacation, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) and her two friends. Alex doesn’t want his friends to know he’s living with his grandmother, so he starts lying about his three crazy wild roommates, and it works…until the lie is undone.

I wasn’t lying when I said this film went unnoticed. It only grossed about $6 million in its theatrical run but went on to bring in $50 million in home video sales. Why was it popular? Perhaps because it’s so damn stupid. No, that’s not exactly a criticism. The first priority of a comedy is to entertain and make you laugh or, at the very least, smile. In a stoner comedy, those moments are usually derived from stupidity, and yes, there is stupidity abound, and some of it really works. Then, there are chunks of the film that do not. Let’s talk about the parts that worked for me first.

I felt that Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo, Avengers: Endgame) was great as Samantha, Alex’s new “boss” who has been sent to oversee final touches of Eternal Death Slayer 3, the video game Alex and his coworkers are working on. The overall character arc conceived for her is terrible, but she makes the most of it and is a fun presence onscreen.

I also really enjoyed Peter Dante (The Waterboy, Grown Ups 2) as Dante, the stereotypical stoner drug dealer who tries to buy a tiger in the movie. That’s pretty much all he does in the film, but everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious. Same thing with Nick Swardson (The Benchwarmers, Airplane Mode), who plays Jeff, Alex’s very childish friend. Swardson can’t really lead a film, but he works really well in a supporting role. Even Doris Roberts, who is very funny in the film playing a similar character to others but in a completely whacko movie.

But none of that, absolutely none of it, matters if the film isn’t funny. Thankfully, the guffaw laughs are far more prevalent than the eye rolls. Yes, there are a few eye rolls, but some truly funny lines, scenes, and characters exist within the frames of Grandma’s Boy. Without a doubt, this one is very funny.

So there you have it. It’s 420, and now is probably the best time to watch this stoner comedy. Yes, it’s really dumb and some of it is nonsensical and they completely waste Jonah Hill early on in his career, but it is undeniably funny for a number of scenes, and while it may not work for everyone, it will work well for its demographic.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Oscar Madness Monday] Gangs of New York (2002)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson

Screenplay: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan

167 mins. Rated R for intense strong violence, sexuality/nudity and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Leading Role [Daniel Day-Lewis]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song

 

I’ve really wanted to revisit Gangs of New York for some time. I recall catching it back in college, and I also recall not liking it very much. Since college, I’ve grown to love and respect Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The Irishman) and his filmography. He’s since become a director, in my eyes, that I would place on a Mt. Rushmore of all-time directors, but a few films by the director just didn’t click with me at the time, but I’ve wanted to watch those films again. Gangs of New York is one such picture. During this time of social distancing, I now have that time to rewatch Gangs of New York. Let’s see how this plays out.

The year is 1862, and Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) has return to New York City, to a place called the Five Points he fled from years ago. Vallon only has one goal in mind: to kill Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread), the man who killed his father in a brutal gang fight when Vallon was a child. Vallon finds himself infiltrating Bill’s inner workings in order to gain his confidence and get his vengeance, but matters are complicated when he comes into contact with an attractive pickpocket named Jenny (Cameron Diaz, There’s Something About Mary, Annie) and the lines are blurred among the Five Points.

It’s impressive that Leo is able to maintain a presence onscreen with Day-Lewis. This is still a film relatively early in the career of Leonardo DiCaprio, and his subdued yet strong performance is still able to hold his own. I really like DiCaprio here because he is able to portray Amsterdam Vallon’s internal flaws, which is something that becomes more complex as the narrative unfolds. Vallon’s emotional strain is stretched to the snapping point by what he is forced to endure at the hands of Bill “The Butcher” throughout the film.

Make no mistakes, though, no one is outshining Daniel Day-Lewis here as Bill Cutting. His fast-talking molasses-drawled speech is engaging, and his menacing visual performance is so catching and engaging. I love how DDL stays in character throughout shooting (he reportedly had dinner with Scorsese and DiCaprio in character after shooting wrapped for the day), and it seemingly helps his performance because he owns every film he appears in.

I know I’m beating a dead horse with this, but because of all the performing prowess displayed by not only DiCaprio and Day-Lewis but most of the supporting cast, it is quite noticeable how out-of-her-element Diaz is. Her broken accent as Jenny Everdeane is only overshadowed by her seeming disinterest in her character or the film she’s in. She just doesn’t engage on an entertainment level.

The screenplay for Gangs of New York is from Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan. There’s some prowess to this screenwriting crew, but I have a lot of problems with the screenplay. I feel like it was written very capably but it isn’t accessible. It’s a screenplay made for the audiences of 1862 instead of for today. The first time I watched it, I just couldn’t get into it, but I will say it was much better on the second viewing, but even then, I find some real problems with the screenplay. There’s a lost quality to the narrative at the beginning and near the end, with the second act of the film finding its footing.

Martin Scorsese is really trying something new with Gangs of New York. His directing style is a little more erratic, ambitious, and violent. Not all of it works within the confines of the film, but it showcases Scorsese’s interest in evolving. You can complain all you want about Martin Scorsese as a gangster filmmaker, but he is so much more than that, and Gangs of New York is a very different gangster film, or film in general, than anything else in his oeuvre. As stated, not all of the visual storytelling Scorsese presents here works, and I think, again, it works on a second viewing better than the first time around.

Gangs of New York is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s more positive than negative in all this, but it still struggles getting going and finishing strong. There’s a lot of good meat to the film, but it both works and doesn’t work, with the positive outweighing the negative. I enjoyed it on the second viewing way more than the first, mostly from the incredible work from DiCaprio and DDL. This will work for historical buffs or anyone with a bloodlust for bloody violence as well, to varying degrees.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, click here.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Director: Cathy Yan

Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor

Screenplay: Christina Hodson

109 mins. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material.

 

It feels like the DCEU has found its footing under the new leadership. After Justice League, the DCEU was handed off to others, and both Aquaman and Shazam! achieved generally positive reviews, so where does Birds of Prey land in all this? Did it continue that hot streak? Well, yes and no, but mostly no.

The Joker has dumped Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street, Peter Rabbit), and now the queen of mayhem is alone on the streets of Gotham and everyone wants her dead. It seems like all of Gotham has a vendetta against Quinn, including mob boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!, Doctor Sleep), who tasks her with stealing a diamond, but this is all an attempt to take her out. Harley is in over her head, and in order to stop Sionis, she needs help from others who have been wronged by him.

Cinematic universes have changed the way these stories are told. Relationships and characters evolve across multiple films, but this is a problem for Birds of Prey. It seemingly assumes that we, as audience members, understand the relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn. Hell, the inciting incident of the film is the destruction of that relationship. The issue with that assumption is that we didn’t get a good look at the central relationship in Suicide Squad; there simply wasn’t enough time dedicated to the relationship or the Joker in general to make the breakup have any impact. Since Jared Leto doesn’t appear in Birds of Prey, we again get nothing to go on that made me really connect with what Harley is going through in the film.

Thankfully, Margot Robbie is excellent in the role of Quinn, and yet again, she is such a dynamic presence onscreen that makes up for the lack of empathy and stakes to her central character journey. This is great because, for a film that sold itself as being a Birds of Prey film with a tiny hint of Harley Quinn, this is really a Harley Quinn film with a dash of Birds of Prey. Given that so much screen time is dedicated to Quinn, it’s great to know that Robbie continues to captivate as the Maid of Mischief.

Even Margot Robbie’s tremendous work as Quinn cannot save a very muddled and convoluted plot. I think the idea was to make Birds of Prey into DC’s version of Deadpool, so the film is edited to give it a loose narrative structure that hops around, but it lost me several times. I was never confused, but it lost my interest every time it left the main narrative.

Birds of Prey was very fun, but it struggled to consistently maintain my interest throughout its run time. I enjoyed several chunks of the film, and overall I really enjoyed the film, but altogether, this film is an absolute mess. It’s saved by an engaging Robbie performance and the awesome turn from Ewan McGregor, and I still believe that the film is worth watching for fans of the Harley Quinn character and the DCEU, but it’s a bug jumbled mess of a movie.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

For my review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, click here.

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!, click here.

[Black Lodge Day] Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Director: David Lynch

Cast: Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan, Madchen Amick

Screenplay: David Lynch, Robert Engels

134 mins. Rated R.

 

Today is a big day for Twin Peaks fans. Today is the official day that Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, Inside Out, TV’s Carol’s Second Act) entered the Black Lodge on the television show. To celebrate that, I decided to revisit Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the only official feature film for Twin Peaks, which followed the series as a sequel/prequel which covers a lot of the events leading up to the first episode while also setting the stage for what was to come in 2017’s revival series.

Fire Walk With Me dives deeper into several pivotal events in the larger Twin Peaks mythos, including the investigation into the death of Teresa Banks, the missing of several FBI agents, and the days leading to the death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee, Vampires, Cafe Society) at the hands of the killer BOB.

Without a doubt, this is not a film for the uninitiated. This is a Twin Peaks film but this is not a good way to jump into the world of Twin Peaks. It’s constructed as the first in a potential series of films or possibly a trilogy, each one exploring the world and creating a conclusion. That in itself is a mistake that I made going into it. I had expected to find answers, and that’s not what David Lynch is all about. His films create more questions that provide answers, and the expectations that you will understand everything that happens in Twin Peaks the television series or Fire Walk With Me will lead you nowhere. It’s only if you sit back and drink in the experience of being in this world, it goes a lot better.

Sheryl Lee is pretty damn solid as Laura in this, her first real chance to play the character. Up to this point, she’s been a presence in Twin Peaks, but from the moment the first episode begins, Laura’s dead, so it’s nice to deep dive into the Laura’s mind, and the way she permeates the rest of the series. I really liked diving into her mind and the way she interacts with her father, Leland (Ray Wise, Batman: The Killing Joke, TV’s Fresh Off the Boat). Leland takes the death of Laura so painfully in the show that it is nice to dive further into that contentious relationship.

Outside of the Laura and BOB story, which I found quite interesting, I felt the absence of my personal favorite characters, like learning more about the fate of Dale Cooper or Pete Martell. I would’ve liked a few more minutes with the Horne family or perhaps Lucy Moran, but this narrative, for however unfocused it is, is intent on Laura, and in that arena, it shines.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a frustrating experience upon first viewing, but allowing oneself to sink into its mystery and mysticism only furthers the emotional ride of Laura Palmer’s last days in a way that adds to the world of Twin Peaks, not in a story-furthering sense, but an emotional and spiritual-furthering sense. This one is for Lynch fans and specifically Twin Peaks fans only, all others need not apply. You probably wouldn’t know what the hell you were watching in the first place.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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