It may be a silly title, but since no one is making new movies, I thought it was time to cover Brie Larson’s Youtube channel. If you didn’t know, during quarantine, Brie started Youtubing her life a little. Probably because she was bored, like the rest of us. Maybe not. I read an article recently that said she was doing it to stick it to the haters, or to quote them directly, “Brie Larson’s laid-back YouTube channel is a radical act of anti-troll defiance.” I don’t know if I buy that. For one thing, can you be laid back and radical at the same time? I literally think she just wanted a creative outlet, and literally everyone else has a podcast (even jerks like this), so she went with Youtube.

Believe what you want, but in a way, I think it’s an interesting look into the life of a famous person, albeit one who doesn’t really live like we think they live. Clearly, even before COVID, brie’s life did not read like an episode of Entourage. Yes, she has a very nice house, and she no doubt cleans it before shooting her videos, but it seems like a very simple life. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that all the Marvel money and Oscars in the world can’t save you if you have nowhere to go, and literally cannot work.

So, maybe that is her anti-troll message, after all. For those out of the loop a little, before Captain Marvel’s release, she got some flack from internet whiners because she made a comment that she would like to see more representation in the entertainment media landscape, after sitting across from white male after white male during her press tour. I believe she had made statements like that before, but now that she was playing an Avenger, she had a bigger platform. People noticed. For any non-comic fans, this was not new to fans of the character, as she used to be called Ms. Marvel and wore a costume that let’s say Disney probably wouldn’t have approved of.

Yeah, the comic nerds dug it, but got their knickers in a twist when they replaced the costume and promoted her to Captain. See, back in the day, Captain Marvel was a man, and comic fans never forget anything.

Now, I don’t think Larson was channeling her character or anything like that. Maybe she is just trying to show the trolls that she is just a regular girl. Maybe she does just want to help people relax, like in her latest video. I’m going to be honest here, this video was not what I was expecting, especially when I looked at the thumbnail of her using the face-roller thing. I thought it would be one of those preachy videos where celebrities try to tell me how to live when they clearly have it much easier than the rest of us. It’s not like that at all. It’s actually hilarious. (Ok, the playing guitar bit is her having it better than me, because I can’t play a lick.)

By far, my favorite videos of hers, though, are the Audition Story time ones. You rarely, and I do mean rarely, get to see this kind of inside Hollywood stuff where we learn what could have been when it comes to movie roles. Once in awhile, you get to hear that Tom Selleck almost played Indiana Jones or whatever, but it’s only once in a blue moon. You never see a celeb busting out a long list of roles that they auditioned for and did not get. It’s like me listing off all the jobs I’ve applied for and got turned down. You also get a glimpse into the kind of creepy side of it when she tells the story of the casting director who had a thing for girls in jean skirts, so told his people to tell the agents to tell all the prospective actresses to dress in jean skirts, so this lech got to see them all day. That is a genuine wake-up call, for sure.

So, whether Brie decided to “I’m gonna send an anti-troll message with my Youtibe channel,” or she was just bored, I think it actually works on both levels. But you check it out and see for yourself.

AND while you’re out there surfing, my long-awaited Envy Adams “Clash at Demonhead” (Brie’s band in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) T-shirts (and mugs, onesies, etc.) are available from Teepublic! It’s pending review, so get them while you can!

Support indie artists! Thanks so much!

This may be the most difficult thing I have ever written. If you’re reading it, that means I came up with something that I felt was suitable for consumption, but I’m probably not the most reliable source for something like that. You can let me know.

I need to say right at the top that I am a white male, and I have received all the privileges that come along with that. I like to think, however, that I have not abused those privileges, nor have they made me an ungrateful or all-around bad person. I also know, however, that I have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to judging people, and I have said and done things (mostly pitiful attempts at humor) that I will regret for the rest of my life. And if I ever did anything noteworthy, someone could certainly scour the internet and find horrible things I said a decade ago and discredit me. But I also have to confess that I don’t do enough to try and change the minds of the actual bad people.

But these days, there is no room for white guilt. There is no room for worrying about the mistakes of the past. There is only room for the present and the future. However, sometimes the past can tell us stories that help illuminate the present, and Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, and Brie Larson, is just such a story.

I had always intended to see this movie, but after the horrible murder of George Floyd and the events that followed, I saw that it was streaming for free on multiple outlets, and felt that the universe was telling me to watch it now. Warner Bros. made it free to try to educate people “about our past and the countless injustices that have led us to where we are today,” as they posted on Twitter. You know it’s time to take a stand when even a money-grubbing Hollywood studio is putting their greed aside and releasing a movie for free to try and help a cause.

Joking aside, I hope you all took advantage of the free streaming and watched it like I did. Not because it is the greatest movie ever made, but because it’s the kind of movie you watch and think, “That seems like it would never happen,” until you realize that it is a true story, and it did happen.

Just Mercy is based on the book by Bryan Stevenson, a Black , Harvard-educated lawyer who took his degree to Alabama and decided to found EJI (Equal Justice Initiative), a non-profit organization that fights for the rights of “the most vulnerable people in American society.” One of his first cases is an attempt to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx. McMillian was convicted of killing an 18 year-old white girl, despite the fact that there was no evidence to support the charge. But a white girl was murdered in Alabama, so the white sheriff and white D.A. needed to pin it on someone. McMillian was given the murder rap because people were angry at him for having an affair with a white woman, and the all-white jury had no problem convicting him, even though the evidence was flimsy, at best.

McMillian spent six years on death row, until Stevenson found proof that the key witness against him (played brilliantly by Tim Blake Nelson) was coerced into saying McMillian did it, despite the fact that he was three hours away at the time, and the verdict was overturned.

What amazed me the most about this movie is that it happened in the 80’s. And not the 1880’s, either. This happened in my lifetime. There is an image of Larson’s character, Eva Ansley, who worked for EJI for many years, watching a piece about the case that aired on 60 Minutes with hr family, and there’s an original Nintendo on the floor. The same kind I had back then. It’s a small detail, but nothing is placed in a movie by accident. Whoever dressed the set put it there, probably because Ansley’s family had one, and also because it added the element of reality, to drive home the point that this horrible thing happened, and it happened pretty recently. And as evidenced by recent events, these kinds of things are still happening.

At this point, I usually take a few paragraphs to rip on the movie I’m discussing (Unless it’s a Marvel movie). How the writing could have been better, or whatever, and yes, this movie it not perfect. For example, I wish there was a little more drama in the climactic “overturn” scene. It all seemed rather simple. The D.A. basically knew he was beat and changed his mind. I know reality is reality, but maybe just filming it a little more dramatically would have helped. But that’s just me nitpicking. It’s an amazing story that needs to be told. I don’t do star ratings or letter grades, and the acting and storytelling is great (Foxx, Jordan and Larson are definitely three of the best working actors right now), but this movie gets an A+++++++++++ and a thousand stars just on pure emotion.

And now at this point I usually try and say something funny or put an Amazon link to the movie I’m talking about to try and make a few pennies off this. This time, however, I’m putting a link for someone else to hopefully make money: Please donate to the EJI here. If you can’t donate, show support in other ways by following their social media here for facebook, here for the Twitter, and here for The Gram. I’m betting it’s not something you’ll regret.

Being quarantined as we have all been over these past few months, I have found myself channel-surfing a little more frequently, and I often find myself stopping on movies that I normally probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch. I don’t know if you would call these Anti-Shawshank Movies or what, but I have to say that there are almost no circumstances where I would watch Blue Chips with Nick Notle and Shaq, but it’s on Showtime if I ever want to. (In case you didn’t know, there’s a theory floating around online that there are movies, like Shawshank Redemption, that you always have to stop and watch if they are on, no matter what you are doing.)

In my surfing recently, I came across the 1990

Flatliners-Posterversion of the thriller Flatliners, a movie that I enjoyed quite a bit back in the 90’s 

but is definitely an Anti-Shawshank Movie today, because I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again. But after watching it recently, I’m not sure why. Not because it’s a great movie, but because of what it represents. It’s a fine movie, but it’s a better time capsule for the era in which it was made. Even though it was 1990, and the 80’s had just ended, there are virtually no vestiges of the 80’s in it, other than Kevin Bacon. It’s not necessarily “evergreen,” because Julia Roberts has some very 90’s jeans, and William Baldwin’s VHS tape collection is pretty dated, but overall, the story could be placed in any decade, as evidenced by the fact that they tried to remake it in 2017. I didn’t see it, and I don’t really think very many people did, but Kiefer Sutherland came back for it so I guess he felt it was worthy, or they paid him enough money. He plays a different character though, which I feel is a totally missed opportunity. I guess that’s what makes it a remake and not a sequel. Maybe I’ll talk more about that later (I’m literally making this up as I go, if you couldn’t tell).

Anyway, the 1990 Flatliners sees 5 young actors playing 4 young med students, and just as the med students are trying to unlock the secrets of the afterlife, the 5 young actors are trying to unlock the secrets of Hollywood, with varying degrees of success.

flatliners-flatliners-8459662-800-529Yes, we had just seen Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Kevin Bacon in Tremors, and Kiefer in Young Guns 2, and you might have even caught Oliver Platt in Working Girl, but they were not quite superstars yet, although they were definitely on the cusp. You could argue Roberts was already there, and Platt and William Baldwin never got there, but still, to see these young actors still plying their craft because they need to get to that next level is fun to watch. It’s also fun to recall that Sutherland and Roberts starting dating during filming, and were actually engaged until she broke it off at almost the last minuet and decided to marry Lyle Lovett instead. Weird.

For anyone unfamiliar with the plot, it goes something like this; Sutherland’s Nelson is a med student who has a cockamamie theory that the afterlife is the final frontier, and he has deigns on fame and fortune by exploring it. His plan is to have some of his fellow students stop his heart for one minute and then bring him back with the secrets of what happens when you die. What could go wrong?

At first, not much. They bring Nelson back after one minute of brain-death and he seems fine, although he has a few weird visions of his deceased dog. The rest of his team wants to try it now, and William Baldwin’s Joe outbids Roberts’ Rachel and is next up to die, this time a little longer. There are a couple of complications when they are trying to revive him, but he is finally revived, and his experience was strangely female and erotic (It was established earlier that Joe is a total playboy, despite being engaged. Not only is he a jerk for sleeping around, he also secretly videotapes the women that he beds. That’s definitely not a very #MeToo thing to do.)

Bacon’s David now outbids Rachel and wants to die next, because he’s an atheist and wants to see if his two colleagues are full of it. Then things start to get weird. First, Nelson is visited by a young boy who proceeds to beat the crap out of him, then Joe starts seeing visions of the women whom he has betrayed. Everyone is a little freaked out, but David’s experiment does work, and he does experience something, but feels that there’s no reason to continue and it’s only courting disaster if they keep dying for longer periods.Flatliners

Undaunted, Rachel insists on getting her turn, not telling anyone why she has such an interest in death. David, meanwhile, obviously has a thing for her and is trying to protect her, while Nelson, who had a thing with her before all this, wants to get started on that fame train. He’s also getting the shit beat out of him every night by this little kid.

Meanwhile, David is on the train on the way to “kill” Rachel and is suddenly confronted by a literal vision of his past: Winnie Hicks, a girl he used to make fun of in elementary school, swearing at him in front of the other passengers, and she is still only ten years old. He takes this new information to his friends, and insists they revive Rachel before her appointed time. It goes really bad and she almost dies for real, but she is revived after five minutes of being dead. As she recovers in the bathroom, David reveals what happened to him, and Joe also comes clean about seeing the women from “The Joe Hurley Video Library.” This forces Nelson to reveal why his face is all bruised and battered, saying that it was done by Billy Mahoney, a kid they used to pick on in school. He still blows it off, though, just saying that, “sometimes the kid gets carried away.”

The movie starts to get off-track a little here because the characters seem rather unimpressed that their sins are being manifested physically. Nelson is still obsessed with the fame factor, thinking that Rachel will come out of the bathroom with the answers to life and death and that the world will worship her, “just like you do,” as he tells David, which is a really good dig.

Rachel doesn’t, in fact, come out of the bathroom with the secrets of life and death, but we do learn why she has been obsessed with it this whole time; when she was a child, she walked in on her Dad doing heroin, and he was so ashamed that he ran out of the house and shot himself in his truck, and she always felt responsible for his death. Now she is seeing him everywhere she goes. It’s sort of unclear if she was ever fully aware of what her Dad was doing in there before this point, and she was just feeling guilty because, well, he’s dead. I’m not sure if it was just the script revealing it in pieces or I was just being naive, but probably a bit of both. I mean, in 1990, I was 14 and definitely knew very little about heroin.

We’re not really sure if Nelson has just taken too many blows to the head at this point, but he is still not moved by any of this. In fact, he sort accuses them of being a little dramatic, saying that David’s playground story is a bit flimsy, that Joe merely getting “caught with his videotapes down” was deserved (and he’s not wrong about that), and Rachel, well, her he just seems pissed at over the whole David thing.

David’s solution to his Winnie Hicks problem is to find her and apologize. This part is definitely dated because he ends up looking her mother up in the phone book and gets Winnie’s address. He is about to drive out to her house when Nelson shows up and asks to come along, saying he doesn’t want to be alone because that’s when Billy Mahoney shows up to beat on him with a hockey stick. I guess when you’ve already died and come back to life, the idea of a kid from your past showing up and physically beating on you is small potatoes, because no one is freaking out about this.

David finds Winnie living a quiet life in the suburbs, with a husband and a daughter and a garden. He apologizes for the way he made her feel, and she at first blows it off, saying she couldn’t remember what he could have said. He presses a little, and her husband shows up to ask if everything is ok and see who this strange man is in his greenhouse. She shoos him away, and points out to David, rather sternly, that she has a family and “hasn’t been that ugly, little girl in quite some time.” David assures her that she was never ugly, but realizes that he is probably bringing up some bad memories and excuses himself. On his way out, however, Winnie calls back to him, and thanks him for the apology.

Meanwhile, back in David’s car, Nelson is once again attacked by Billy Mahoney. David shows up just in time to see Nelson struggling in the car with no one. So, right there, David the Scientists should probably just have written the whole Winnie Hicks thing off as day-dreaming and written Nelson off as just a nutjob. But when they get back to the city, they find out that Rachel saw her Dad again and freaked out.  David tells Joe and Oliver Platt’s Randall (who never attempted the experiment and is basically here for comic relief) to help Nelson find Billy Mahoney, while he decides to stay with Rachel and tell her about his Winnie Epiphany. The only real hang-up there, as Rachel points out, is that Winnie is alive and her father is dead. Bummer.

Nelson’s comrades drive him to see Billy Mahoney, and are shocked to discover that they are in a cemetery. Nelson says he knew Billy was there because he put him there. As kids, Nelson and his buddies chased Billy up a tree and started throwing rocks at him. Nelson apparently threw the fateful rock that knocked Billy out of the tree and Billy impaled himself on a branch on the way down. His dog also got crunched with a branch in the incident. Nelson then says he was taken away from his family and sent to a school for wayward boys when he was eleven, thinking that he paid his dues. But that’s not really how guilt works. He believes that the only way to atone for his sins, as David did, is to flatline himself and go talk to Billy Mahoney in the afterlife. He takes off and leaves them in the cemetery at night, which is just creepy.

As this is going on, David and Rachel have hooked up, but she’s still seeing her Dad everywhere. David has to leave to rescue Joe and Randall, and when she is alone, Rachel decides the only way for this to end is to confront the visions. When she sees her father again, she sees him (and we see him) with the spoon and the needle and the whole set-up, injecting himself. She speaks to him, and he says he’s sorry and they hug. So, I guess we’re to assume that she just needed that confirmation that it wasn’t her fault? That he was just ashamed and she shouldn’t feel responsible? I don’t know, but her spirits seem lifted. There are articles online about the misogyny of this movie as it relates to this plot, and the Joe plot, but anyone who thinks that is probably giving the writer too much credit. I think it’s actually just lazy writing.

Anyway, Nelson calls her to tell her his plan and to say good-bye. She tries to tell him that it’s all good, but she doesn’t know the whole “I killed a kid” storyline, so she can’t convince him not to flatline. He does, and in the afterlife, he has switched places with Billy Mahoney and he is in the tree and Billy is chucking rocks at him, laughing. Billy hurls the fateful stone, as we saw Young Nelson do, and Adult Nelson falls and impales himself on the branch.

In the real world, Nelson’s comrades have arrived and are trying to revive him, to no avail. After twelve minutes of being dead, they are ready to give up, and Rachel points out that in his voice on the phone with her, she could hear that he felt he deserved to die. But David refuses to believe it, saying that one mistake in his childhood doesn’t mean he deserves to die. He keeps trying, and in the afterlife, Nelson awakens and can hear his friends calling him back. Standing over him is Billy Mahoney, this time smiling. Billy and Nelson’s dog then calmly walk into the light and wave good-bye. I guess Nelson realizing what it was like was enough, and he is absolved of his guilt. In the real world, he is revived, and everyone is happy. Yay?

In 1990, I definitely missed a lot of the themes that were at work here. I think I just saw all the beautiful people and thought it was just a fun movie about dying and coming back, but there’s a lot more going on, obviously. For one, that Joe was a real creep, even though he’s never really portrayed as a bad guy. He gets what’s coming to him, of course, when his fiancee’ shows up unannounced and sees his video tape collection and leaves him. She claims that she’s not leaving him because he cheated but because he betrayed all those women by video-taping them without their knowledge. It was probably a little of both, but the reality is he was a scumbag and she could do better. I don’t think he technically atoned for his sins, like the others, but he paid the price. And let’s face it, I know he didn’t know his fiancee’ was coming, but he probably should have hid those tapes in a better spot, so he definitely deserved it.

Rachel’s story is a little more complex, and I suppose it should have been obvious to me all along that her guilt of not knowing the real reason he committed suicide was what was driving her to study death. So, what normally would have taken years of therapy is resolved in minutes by just flatlining and then having a hug with the old man. But there are other, more subtle moments here; for one, her father was a veteran who had just come home and they were having a party for him the day he died, so it’s never mentioned but clearly implied that his time in the service probably led to his drug addiction. Also, during her flashback, after Young Rachel sees her Dad shooting up, and he runs out of the house, we see her mother scolding her, saying, “It’s all your fault.” Heavy stuff. No wonder she felt bad. Because it’s just one plot out of several in the movie, it’s never really dealt with that this guy was a veteran who had served his country, probably in Vietnam, now that I think about the timeline, who had a serious drug problem, and his life ended tragically, and this is the sadness that he left behind. You could have done the whole movie about that.

There’s some interesting storytelling in David’s plot, as well. I mean, kids making fun of classmates unfortunately was something that went on a lot back in the day, but the filmmakers put a spin on this one by making Winnie Hicks black. It’s never mentioned once, and that’s fine, but it obviously adds to the weight of the scene because David and his friends are all white boys making fun of a black girl in school in suburban America  in what was probably the late-70’s. At no point does the script address any racial undertones, but you definitely feel for little Winnie Hicks, and probably more than you would if she was white. fl-e1506773257424

But that’s why David’s story is actually the most powerful (Ok, I know Nelson’s is pretty powerful, but there just aren’t as many layers there. He killed the kid and the kid wanted revenge.) David represents kids all over the country who probably said and did regrettable things, especially in the days before cyber-bullying (and all bullying, really) became totally forbidden. I don’t know if people thought as much about it back then, but I got made fun of a lot (rightfully so, in some cases. I was a weird kid), and I did my share of making fun of people. I don’t know if I was ragging on kids because I myself got ragged on, so I was lashing back, or what the reason was, but it was pretty bad all around. It was the 80’s. and we all got wailed on, sometimes even by the teachers themselves. And I can’t speak for everyone, but I had a perfectly stable and happy home life, so I have no excuse. I guess we were all making up for inadequacies in some way, but whatever the reason, most of us can identify with either being Winnie Hicks or being David Labraccio. So, sure, when he went to see her, at first it’s just opening up old wounds, but after she thinks about it, she decides, with a tear in her eye, to thank him. Based on the dialogue, it seems like she had some bad memories of school, and the people she dealt with there, whether they were racists or just plain bullies, and him apologizing made her feel just a little bit better about it. If one of my grade school bullies came back and apologized to me, would I have the decency to thank them, or would I still just be angry?

What we have then, is a film about guilt and absolution. Overtly, you could just call it a   horror movie, or a twist on your basic ghost story, even though Winnie Hicks and Joe’s harem are all still alive. But so many ghost stories are about the dead person having “unfinished business” or whatever, and this one isn’t about the ghost’s unfinished business, really. It’s about living people having to deal with things they have done. We have done something that we wish we could take back, and this movie is really about learning to live with that guilt, by dying.

***Quick Note: I know I mentioned earlier that I would get into the missed opportunity of not having Kiefer Sutherland play the same guy but I couldn’t really weave it in, so here goes: I have a weird interest in what happens to characters after the credits roll in movies. In my mind, most of these folks graduated med school and became doctors and probably saw a lot less of each other (And Joe hopefully met a nice girl and treated her right.) But Nelson probably still had a lot of baggage, and if you want to stay in the world of the movie, he was dead for twelve minutes so probably brought a lot of crap back with him. So, even though I never saw the 2017 version, a quick read-through of the plot doesn’t indicate anything that links the two movies together. Either the studio didn’t think anyone would remember the 1990 version, or they thought crap like that had just been done enough times, or maybe it was a creative choice, but whatever the reason, I say it stinks, because it definitely would have added a layer to the movie that probably needed a couple more.

It’s been awhile, but I figured since we’re all stuck in, this is a good time for me to get back to writing (and you to reading).

After taking a bit of a Brie Break, I decided to finally hunker down (since we’re basicallyIMG_20200330_124857 being forced to hunker) and watch Brie Larson’s directorial debut, the Netflix original Unicorn Store. Obviously, Larson is not the first actor to test her skills behind the camera, and she even made this list of 12 female “bad-ass” actor/directors. I don;t know if she has reached the “bad-ass” plateau just yet, or if she belongs on the same list as Greta Gerwig when it comes to directing, but if Drew Barrymore can make the top 12, then I guess we’ll go with it.

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with her directing. In fact, Unicorn Store is a very fine first effort, and according to The Rotten Tomatoes Critic Consensus (and Matt Dursin agrees), the film is, “easy to like — and it suggests Brie Larson has a future behind the camera.” So, here’s the rundown of what this little film is about:

Kit (played by Larson) is described (by IMDB) as a twenty-something dreamer, a recent art school drop-out, in fact, who is now living at home with her weird, earthy-crunchy parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford. Seriously, whenever Hollywood needs a weird Dad, they call Bradley Whitford). After getting some bad reviews from her art professors for her whimsical, or just plain childish art, she decides all of that art crap isn’t for her and she gets a job. She in fact gets a temp job at an ad agency, and her role is to photocopy magazine ads. Despite the fact that it’s her first job, and her boss is a creep, she starts figuring it out pretty quick, and one day receives an invitation while at work to a store that, according to said invitation, is right up her alley. Kit discovers that no one else in the office received this invitation, so she finds it a little bizarre, but decides to check it out. She follows the directions to a nondescript building, and inside finds the answer to all of life’s problems: Samuel L. Jackson.

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I’m kidding. Well, sort of. She does find Samuel L. Jackson (whom Larson became great friends with while working on Captain Marvel, over the fact that he brought his light-saber to set one day), but the cure for all life’s ills is the fact that this is, in actuality, a Unicorn Store! Yes, if you can prove yourself worthy, and prove that you will love and take good care of this unicorn, you can take one home.

Kit is obviously ecstatic about this, and decides to prove she is worthy by building a proper stable in her parents’ backyard to house her unicorn. She hires a local hardware store employee, and promptly bonds with him for this task. She then sets about doing other weird things to prove herself worthy, including giving a presentation with a few co-workers that tries to make a vacuum cleaner seem interesting, and forge an understanding with her bizarre parents. It’s a little bit like Groundhog’s Day, I suppose, without the in-your-face comedy.

I won’t spoil the ending, but that’s basically what it is; a little Groundhog’s Day, with some Benny & Joon thrown in, with a side of every other movie about growing up ever made. So you might think that I wouldn’t like it because it borrows from so many other movies, but that isn’t true. It was actually a fun, harmless, whimsical movie that was sorely needed in this time of quarantine. It’s not a great movie, but it is, as the review says, “easy to like.”

My biggest problem with it at the beginning was that I thought it was a little too much like Benny & Joon, the 1993 rom-com starring pre-creeper Johnny Depp that is really only notable for giving the world “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers. Similar to Unicorn Store, Benny & Joon is “easy to like,” and most people who came of age in the early 90’s, like I did, probably remember the song fondly, but it’s not really a movie that leaves much of an impression or says a whole lot, except, I guess, love conquers all, which is what most early 90’s movies said, including Terminator 2.

I thought the two movies were similar for another reason, though, because I thought early on in Unicorn Store that Kit was, like Joon, mentally challenged. They never really say what her ailment is, but she exhibits a variety of symptoms which could point to dissociative identity disorder, OCD, Asperger’s and post-traumatic stress disorder. Really, it’s not crucial, but is why Joon is such a sympathetic character, because it is a huge hurdle to overcome. Kit, as it turns out, is really just an emotionally-stunted artist. I guess we’re supposed to believe that she’s just been living this freebird life, or that her parents messed her up with their hippie-ness, but when she has a nice heart-to-heart with her mother, it is revealed that they’re not really all that strange, but more that Kit just was too young and, let’s face it, daffy to understand. Her mother, Gladys, actually has the most quotable line in the movie when she tells Kit, “The most grown-up thing you can do is fail at things you care about.” Which is all she needed to hear, really. In fact, now that I think about it, if they had written Kit as a mentally-challenged person, like Joon, then it would have pretty much been the same movie, but you would have looked at her differently as a viewer. She does have her big moment of realization at the end, but in the end, all she really overcame was her own whackiness.IMG_20200330_124902

Still, if that’s my only complaint about a movie, then that’s pretty good, coming from me.  As someone who is hyper-critical of movies (in case you haven’t noticed), this one was actually refreshing in its simplicity. I’m glad that I can still enjoy a little movie with fun, little ideas, directed by someone who no doubt has big goals. And if Brie Larson decides to direct again, I think that will bump her up to that “bad-ass” category.

 

 

This is probably courting danger, because people seem more divided over these movies than they are over most elections. But with Rise of Skywalker being the supposed finale of the Skywalker saga (which I didn’t know was a thing until Rise of Skywalker was almost released.), I figure this is as good a time as any. And the way that this Disney Era unfolded, I was thinking that maybe it would be interesting to take a deep dive to see how these new ones may have impacted my feelings on the older ones.

I guess it’s best to just come out with it right now, so no one wastes their time reading this if they don’t agree; I was not a huge fan of the final two Episodes, or of Solo. Of the Disney Era films, Rogue One was spectacular, and Force Awakens was fine, but mostly because of Han Solo, who was a hold-over form the original trilogy.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions on them, and we have all read all the arguments for and against these movies, so I won’t reiterate them here (well, I probably will a little), but let’s just say that I personally just wasn’t feeling it. Ok, that was going easy. I hated Last Jedi.  I thought it was a poorly-paced, sad movie. And not sad in the way that Empire Strikes Back was a little sad, but sad in that it made the heroes look like complete nitwits. And I am willing to admit right here and now that there is a strong possibility that I wasn’t giving Rise of Skywalker much of a chance because of how much I disliked Last Jedi.

So, yes, obviously each movie impacts how I look back on the others. Some people like to point out that the originals weren’t great, either, and sure, maybe if I saw them for the first time as a 43 year-old man, I would think they were silly. But I didn’t, I saw them as a child, and I was enthralled. And when I watch them now, maybe it all is just nostalgia, the most toxic impulse, according to John Hodgman. But truly, in the last 40+ years, there probably hasn’t been too many days that have gone by where I haven’t watched a Star Wars movie, quoted a Star Wars movie, or just thought about them in some way, shape or form. So regardless of how people see the original trilogy now, I’m a fan and always will be.

The Prequel Trilogy is a different kettle of fish (or Gungans). I find Phantom Menace to be a really hard movie to sit through, and literally from the first words of the opening crawl, it’s easy to be thoroughly uninterested (What the Hell is a Trade Federation?). But we got to see a couple Jedi do some cool stuff, and it was the first new Star Wars movie that we had since Return of the Jedi in 1983, so sue me for being a little sentimental. In fact, the real disappointment with Phantom Menace is that there was actual potential to have a fun adventure movie, if only Qui Gonn had decided to defy his orders (as they allude he had done before) and free Anakin and his fellow slaves from the treachery of the Hutts with a little sword play, rather than win a bet by using The Force. But that wasn’t the direction they decided to go, so instead we got politics. Lots of politics.

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I suppose I can’t honestly say how I would look upon Menace now that I’ve seen the Disney movies, because I haven’t watched it in awhile and I don’t know that I will anytime soon. You could argue that I should have re-watched it before writing this whole thing, but I’m not sure what that would have solved. I would have been very surprised if I suddenly decided that it was a piece of cinematic art just because I didn’t like Last Jedi. Sometimes, boring movies are boring movies no matter how you slice it.

However, that doesn’t squash my whole theory. Attack of the Clones is next in the saga. It’s a strange case to me. A couple of my close friends and fellow podcasters think that it is the worst of them all. Seriously, we ranked all 11 Star Wars films, and this, they say, is the worst. As I said, I think Menace takes home that trophy, and Rotten Tomatoes agrees with me that it is worse than Attack of the Clones, with Menace owning a 53/59 critics/audience score. Not that I take a lot of stock in Rotten Tomatoes, but I did find it interesting that Rise of Skywalker has a 52% critics’ score, and an 85% audience rating, while Last Jedi has the crazy disparity of a 91% Certified Fresh score, but just a lowly 43% audience score. Now, you can’t go by the user ratings at all, because they’re completely false, and the website did have to change the way they do things after users were giving lousy scores to Captain Marvel before it was even released, but I do find it interesting that the last two Star Wars movies were flip-flopped like that.

I think the reason I look more highly at AOTC might have something to do with a fond memory of seeing it on an IMAX screen in 2002, when that technology was in its infancy. Back then, an IMAX theater couldn’t accommodate a movie much more than two hours. AOTC has a rather unnecessary and downright bulbous run time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, so it was edited down so it could be shown in an IMAX theater, and I noticed that it was much tighter and less boring with just some minor scenes cut out (Anakin and Padme rolling in the grass being one that really deserved to be on the cutting room floor. Or in the garbage.) You can tell that Lucas likes his old-timey detective stories as you watch Obi-Wan go back and forth trying to solve the mystery of who tried to assassinate Padme’, because there are so many scenes of him talking to people that it becomes incredibly tedious. Seriously, he asks that alien in the diner about the dart, then asks the librarian where Camino is, then asks Yoda where it is, then goes to Camino and asks that tall lady what’s going on, then meets the Prime Minister of Camino and asks what’s going on, and then meets Jango Fett, and then talks to Yoda and Mace Windu about all this, before he finally confronts Jango and they fight. While all this is going on, Anakin and Padme’ are doing nothing except making small talk and sex eyes at each other (He’s actually kind of creepy about it. He’s basically eye-raping her at one point, so much so that she tells him to not look at her “like that.” And in typical guy fashion, he responds, “Like what?”)

With a lot of that edited out, and just the bare bones, it’s not a horrible movie, despite Hayden Christiansen’s attempts to make it so. When the Jedi show up at the end to save our heroes, it actually is quite fun to watch. I had been hearing stories my whole life about how Jedi were great warriors, but I had never really seen much action from them until now. And of course, for 2002 special effects, make the movie CGI Yoda does. Of course, overall, the puppet is better for just hanging out, but the saber-fighting was still pretty cool in 2002.

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However (and sadly, it’s a big “however,”) the IMAX version of the movie is not the movie that we got. Similarly, people clamoring for “the JJ Cut” of Rise of Skywalker need not waste their time, because this is the movie that we got. Take them or leave them. Any movie might be better with a few cuts, but we don’t always get them, and such is life.

Interestingly, I found other similarities between AOTC and Rise. As far as pacing, as I mentioned earlier, they are very much alike, with the heroes jumping from planet to planet accomplishing almost nothing. We also find out a lot of things about the characters and their history. At the beginning of AOTC, we learn through their dialogue that Anakin and Obi-Wan have been through a lot together, including that nest of Gundarks, which is how the writers tried to make us feel about Poe, Finn and Ray at the beginning of Rise. Both movies also had a character slowly turning to the Dark Side, and The Emperor behind the scenes, pulling the strings.

Unfortunately for Rise, it was the final chapter of the saga, while AOTC is the middle chapter, so the action is still, pardon the pun, rising. So for my money, that’s a little late to be learning this much about these characters, since Ray and Poe had never, to our knowledge, even met before. It’s also a little late to tempt Ray to the Dark Side, because, let’s face it, that would have been a bit of a down ending. I mean, we knew going in that Anakin was going that way, but we still wanted to see how it played out. I get that you have to have drama, and it mirrors The Emperor trying to turn Luke in Jedi, but Ray’s almost-turn just didn’t have that same impact, probably because we had seen it fail already with Luke. And yes, I’m going to blame Last Jedi for throwing off the pacing of Rise so much. Sorry, fans.

But here’s my big problem with Rise, and by proxy now, the entire Skywalker Saga: Emperor Palpatine was behind it ALL! I mean, if we go back to the stories told in Menace, we are told that Anakin had no father, but instead we are to believe that Palpatine could use the The Force to create life (as he tells Anakin in Sith.) We are to assume then, that Palpatine used this power to create Anakin in the womb of this slave woman, and he would be The Chosen One, who would bring balance to The Force. I guess. Maybe Palpy had no idea that would happen and just thought it would be fun to create a kid. Either way, if Anakin is about 8 years-old when he is discovered on Tatooine by Qui Gonn and brought to Corusant (and then they go back to Naboo, but that’s a different complaint), then trains to be a Jedi for another 12-15 years, we can probably assume Palpatine has been stringing him along this entire time. Anakin is definitely buddies with him during AOTC, while Palps is also manipulating the Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council, and it seems even Count Dooku a little bit. He’s a busy man.

A few years later, he finally ascends to the throne of Emperor, takes over the galaxy, kills the Jedi and takes Anakin, who is probably in his mid-twenties by then, as his Official Sith Apprentice. Meanwhile, his pseudo-grandchildren are born (more on that later) and hidden from him. It’s not for another twenty or so years that Luke comes on their radar. Eventually, when Luke is about 23 or so, Palpatine thinks they can turn him to The Dark Side, but he also seems to think that Luke would make a better apprentice, because in Jedi he suggests that Luke take his father’s place at his side. That is fine, because he did the same with Dooku, twenty years ago. Vader doesn’t seem to agree, and thinks he and Luke would make a better team ruling the galaxy. Man, that Original Trilogy was pretty cool.

Luke refuses and Palpatine is killed and peace returns! Yay!

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Nah, sorry, not so simple. We now flash-forward another 30-something years and we find Ray, another Force-sensitive being, who we eventually discover is Palpatine’s granddaughter. Palp is up to his old tricks (and I do mean, “old”) as he literally raises an Empire and tries to convert Ray, just as he did with Ben Solo, who was the off-spring of Liea Organa, Anakin’s daughter. It works out exactly the same, as Ray resists and kills him… again.

Ok, Even going back to the Immaculate Conception of Anakin, 8-10 years before Menace, all the way to the finale of the Skywalker Saga, where he supposedly met his end, we are talking that Palpatine was pulling the strings in this galaxy for around 70 years, give or take. That is one long game he was playing. At any point did he just say, “This isn’t working. Maybe I should try something else.”?

Finally, the “It was ME all along” aspect of Rise kind of throws the whole saga out of whack because if Palpatine used The Force to create Anakin, then he is essentially his father, although I guess not biologically, but still, let’s go down that weird road for a minute. Anakin then sires twins, and one of those twins has a son, who follows his grandfather’s footsteps and becomes Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, Palpatine, even though he’s really gross and old, has a kid, and that kid has a daughter, Ray. I don’t recall if we’re told that Ray is his biological granddaughter or his Force-logical granddaughter, but for the sake of this discussion, I’m going with the fact that they’re one and the same. So, do you see where I’m going with this?

Basically, I’m saying that if Ray and Kylo are descendants of Palpatine, then all that pseudo-sexual tension during Last Jedi and that kiss at the end of Rise is REALLY GROSS! I’m sure that no one who made Rise of Skywalker was thinking of any of this when they were writing the script, and I’m the one who is reaching here, but the very fact that there is a little branch to even reach for is enough for me. With one creative choice, they suddenly turned Star Wars, the greatest space opera of my lifetime, one that captured the imagination of generations of fans, into Game of Thrones… without all the boobs.

There were tons of rumors and fan theories about Ray’s true parentage after Force Awakens, whether she was related to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, or even Obi-Wan Kenobi somehow. I never read one theory that suggested she was related to Palpatine, and I suspect that’s because no one wanted that to be the case. But that’s the way they went, I assume because no one suspected it. Sometimes,  however, surprise isn’t always the best choice. Maybe people theorized that she was related to Luke because they wanted her to be related to Luke. The beauty of Star Wars to me wasn’t the intricate plot of the bad guy pulling all the strings. I can watch Usual Suspects for that. The beauty of Star Wars was its simplicity; good vs. evil, redemption, a little love story thrown in. It’s not Skakespeare, but it’s pretty damn close. The Scooby-Doo ending just threw all that out the window. And like I said earlier, there will be no JJ Cut, or no more movies to retcon this one (and don’t give me that novelization crap, because I can’t even…). This is the Star Wars saga that we got, and this is the one I have to live with. I’m just not sure it’s the one I wanted.

 

 

The good news is that you can own Rise of Skywalker now and make your own choice. Just click here and then tell me how wrong I am!

 

 

For anyone who thinks that The Brie Larson project is solely about Brie Larson, well, you haven’t really been reading, have you? And who could blame you?

I recently streamed Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns: The Movie, only to realize after I started it that it featured a scene with Larson, so for anyone who thought I was just a creep, suck on that. This was fortuitous because not only was it a laugh-riot, but it gave me something to write about. If you haven’t seen Galifianakis’ pseudo-talk show of the same name, you’re missing out. If you have seen it and wonder how they made a whole movie out of that, let me remind you that they made two watchable Wayne’s World movies, so put your preconceived notions to bed.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie features Zach and his merry crew taking a road trip to obtain enough celebrity interviews to win themselves their own talk show on a real network (Well, Lifetime.) Larson is one of the celebs, along with Paul Rudd, David Letterman, John Hamm and Peter Dinklage, and a host of others, all people who are notably funny, or at the very least notable.

Not only did Larson’s inclusion bring me great joy because, well, it’s Brie Larson, but it also made me happy because it made me realize that she “gets it.” For those who haven’t seen the show, Galifianakis asks unbelievably uncomfortable questions of his guests, and only sometimes are the questions and responses written in advance. For example, he says to Paul Rudd, “Some people have it all. Looks. Talent. How does it feel to have only looks?” Even though I don’t know what is written in advance and what is ad-libbed, I’m thinking Rudd has the comedic chops to handle this kind of stuff. My favorite? After being asked about being a practicing Jew, Rudd responds, “No. I don’t practice. (pause) I perfected it.”

Confession time! As much of a fan of Larson as I am, I recently started to doubt if she had the ability to laugh at herself. Now, of course there is the possibility that her agent told her to take this part so that all the woman-hating loudmouths who got on her for saying she wanted more diversity among film critics would like her again. But I doubt that’s the case. Knowing the nature of the show, and Galifianakis being Galifianakis, the filmmakers probably approached her and she agreed, thinking it would be fun and literally take less than a day to shoot (Probably much like the show within the show.) I know that we should all stay away from clickbait and trolls and stuff, but it’s hard to not be influenced sometimes when there’s so much stuff out there. And let’s face it, she did say a lot of things that got people riled up (Wanting more diversity among movie critics is hardly controversial subject matter). No smart people got riled up, but people did. It was enough to make me wonder if she was in on the joke.

See, as much as people like to rag on Hollywood-types for their snobbery, I mostly find them to be a funny lot, and most of them, at least the persona that they put out there, seem like they can laugh at how ridiculous their lives are (They basically “play” for a living, much like my friends and I did in our backyards in the 80’s. And I was always Han Solo, by the way.) Another great example of this from Between Two Ferns is when Galifianakis asks John Hamm for a interview in the middle of an autograph signing, and despite the fact that Hamm has never heard of this show, he gets up from his table and goes off with Zach to record the show, because, “I do whatever I’m asked to do.”

Basically, I feel like anyone who agreed to be in this movie had to be in on the joke, because they all have to take a fair amount of abuse from Galifianakis, and most of them get to give it right back to him. Larson, for example, after Zach mentions how he thinks Marvel has given up because her character is named “Captain Marvel,” asks him if his super-hero name would be “Captain Crunch.” Classic. The funniest moments to me, however, are when Galifianakis asks obnoxious questions, and the celebrity fidgets uncomfortably in their chair. I can only imagine that this is what it is like for celebrities to sit in a chair all day while scores of “journalists” get paraded through their room to ask them the same dumb questions over and over. I mean, no wonder Larson asked for more diversity in that industry. She probably has to sit across from literally hundreds of white dudes on her media days.

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Despite the fact that this is a Brie Larson column, and the fact that all of the interviews are incredibly amusing, for my money, none of them top the interview that Galifianakis has with Keanu Reeves. I have another confession; Reeves is an actor that I had zero respect for until fairly recently. Not really him as a person, because I hear he’s a really nice dude, and he has never been involved in any scandals or anything worse than Point Break. Now, of course, I enjoyed Bill & Ted’s, but after that I felt like he was really trying to be an actor (My Own Private Idaho, Dracula) while playing literally the same guy, which was essentially Ted. I won’t even get on him for Speed, because everyone has bills to pay, and at least he was smart enough to not do the sequel, but then he had to make THREE Matrix movies, which might have seemed cool at the time but have not aged all that well.

Now, somewhere in the last few years, it seems like Keanu looked in the mirror, and also looked at Liam Neeson, Vin Diesel and Robert Downey, Jr. and decided that he can make good money just playing Keanu Reeves, as long as he winks at the camera while doing it. and to me, nothing cements that wink more then an appearance in BTF: The Movie. Again, I don’t know what it written, or what is ad-libbed, but no one fidgets better than Keanu when Galifianakis asks him, on a scale of 1 to 100, how many words he knows. There’s no way that anyone can ask Keanu Reeves that question under any circumstance, unless Keanu knows that he has a reputation for being, as Galifianakis puts it, “a complete bozo.” Keanu definitely “gets it,” as I’m sure Brie Larson does, and everyone else who agreed to be in this movie. And that makes me feel good, because there’s nothing more awkward than someone who takes themselves too seriously.

So, check out Between Two Ferns on Netflix, but if you really want a little primer, here’s the full Keanu interview so you know what I mean.

I know it’s been awhile, and this isn’t a movie that anyone needs to know my opinion of, because it’s been out for awhile and it’s the highest grossing movie of all time and everyone else has an opinion already, but I’m getting daily clickbait saying the directors have revealed a minor detail that I thought we all already knew, plus this is my website, and Brie Larson is in Avengers: Endgame, albeit briefly, so away we go.

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I don’t know if I need to get into the whole story here, but obviously Endgame is the sequel to Infinity War, and basically the sequel to every Marvel movie since 2008, with a few ancillary TV shows thrown in. It’s a lot to take in for the uninitiated, and now the term “shared universe” has entered the entertainment lexicon. Thanks, Kevin Feige.

So that’s basically where I want to start. As a life-long comic book guy, I have been familiar with groups of heroes teaming up and fighting bad guys together (and often fighting each other, with very little prompting.) But in movies, other than Freddy Vs. Jason and Alien Vs. Predator, which have been mostly, and best, forgotten, there’s never been anything like this ever. and even those were only a couple characters. This is way bigger. Every character from 20 or so hugely popular movies combining into one long story which is essentially about one guy’s quest to balance the universe by obliterating half of it. And the kicker is that it worked.

The only thing even close to being comparable is maybe the Universal Monsters from the 30’s and 40’s, but even that wasn’t really the same thing because the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the vision from the beginning. I mean, sure, if Iron Man works but the rest flop, well, at least they got a couple good Iron Man flicks out of it. But the vision back then was always to build to the first Avengers movie, which was pretty cool in and of itself. But that’s kind of like Walt Disney saying, “Eh, Mickey’s enough.” Nope, Kevin Feige’s idea from the beginning was always to bring the long form story-telling of the comics to the big screen. And with so many things working against this idea, here we are.

I know it’s hard to believe now, but before Marvel was owned by Disney, they, along with Paramount, gambled on Robert Downey, Jr. launching this thing. Of course, it’s a fair bet that the execs at Paramount had no idea what the future held, or who Tony Stark was, but they must have seen some dollar signs, so they made the thing.  It was successful enough that they decided to get working on a second one. Plus some Hulk, Thor and Captain America movies, all the while sprinkling in characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye, just for future reference. A few years later, The Avengers were born. Man, when you look back on it, and then look at how ham-fisted Warner Brothers’ attempt was to get DC’s Justice League off the ground, don’t you almost feel bad for the DC folks? Nah, me neither.

I have neglected to mention a couple things here. A big one is that comics weren’t considered that cool back in 2008 when Iron Man came out. Sure, Christopher Nolan was making some cool Batman movies, and Hellboy was pretty popular, but overall, not a lot of people cared (I even hid my fandom in certain social circles. I know. Hard to believe.) Also, the biggest stumbling block was that Marvel didn’t even have access to their A-list characters. They had sold away the movie rights to their top-tier guys back when they were facing bankruptcy and Kevin Feige was not on anyone’s radar. Unfortunately, Fox had made a couple really bad X-Men films and Sony had made a mess of Spider-Man, leaving Marvel with a bunch of great, but un-mined characters. Basically, characters who never had a Saturday morning cartoon. So, yeah, Iron Man was a gamble.

This is why Endgame is Tony Stark’s story. I know some people were upset that Black Widow didn’t get her due when she sacrificed herself to obtain the soul stone, and I totally get it, but Tony was the catalyst for this whole thing. Without Tony Stark, we have no MCU, both within the world of Marvel and in the real world. I’m sorry Black Widow fans, but it’s true.

So, you don’t have to love the Marvel movies. You can look at them as a bit repetitive, a tad white-washed, just boring action movies, but I feel like you have to respect what has been accomplished here. As a comic book and move buff, this is history. Over twenty movies that are weaved together to create a giant, cohesive story, done so well that, sure, you can skip one if you want, but in the spirit of old-school Marvel Comics, where the goal was that if you picked up any random book, you would be able to tell what was going on, you can see some or all of the Marvel movies and probably not be lost at any point. However, if you choose to see them all, as I have, and remember all of the little details, Endgame makes for a really cool movie.

But ok, Tony Stark isn’t the only person in Endgame. There’s a certain Oscar-winner who starred in her own Marvel movie back in March. Although she only appears in 15 minutes of the movie, it’s an important and impressive 15 minutes. At the beginning of the movie, she saves Tony Stark from certain death while he and Nebula are marooned on the Milano in space. The movie then kind of explains her away when she says that there are other planets in the universe that need her help in the wake of The Snap, so she is not seen again until the final minutes of the climactic battle between Thanos’ forces and the reborn, but rather decimated, heroes, when she does some decimating of her own. There’s also this moment, which has become an internet sensation:

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Captain Marvel obtains the Avengers’ new gauntlet from a rather spent Spider-Man, and,

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I must admit, I thought this was the denouement. There’s no way that Thanos will get that thing back now. Captain Marvel is ridiculously powerful, right? 

Not so fast, in a brilliant bit of story-telling, while wrestling with Marv over the gauntlet,Thanos grabs the power stone, the real difference-maker of the bunch, and KO’s her, allowing him to reclaim the infinity stones (or technically, claim them for the first time, but don’t get me started on time travel), which leads to Iron Man’s big moment. It’s a cool, small moment. Marvel is still pretty awesome, and one-on-one, she probably beats Thanos, but the power stone changes everything. Captain Marvel remains strong for her big sequel, and for whatever else is in store for her in the next phase of Marvel movies. What? You’re not tired of them already, are you?

Of course, Brie Larson is only one piece of this large, shared universe, but since Tony Stark is gone, Captain America is old, Spider-Man is now out of the MCU, and Thor is kind of fat, someone’s gotta pick up the slack. You wouldn’t hear any complaints from me if it’s her.

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I had planned posting this just after seeing the movie, but then life happened and so, here I am. Just pretend like this is all new and exciting.

And so it has come to pass… After all these posts about Brie Larson movies, good and bad (the movies, not the posts. They were all bad.), we have come to the ultimate Brie Larson movie, her big-budget, franchise-launching, starring role of Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. And after all the stupid, silly, inane controversies (Smile-gate, Rotten Tomatoes’ review trolls, the cat’s real name, etc.), the movie has arrived, and kicked all those asshole, do-nothing crybabies right in the nuts, to the tune of a $911 million worldwide gross (so far).

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And what did I think, after all these long-winded posts? In this day-and-age of everyone with a website or Youtube channel spouting their opinions, do you really want to know? Well, if you’re still reading, I guess you do, so here we go: this white guy enjoyed it.

Now, I will be the first to say that there has never been a perfect movie, and this isn’t the first one. The middle gets a little slow, as a lot of movies do. Some of the jokes fall flat. A few of the nineties songs from the soundtrack are too on the nose (I’m looking at you, No Doubt!). But overall, the action was great, the pacing of the movie was exceptionally good, and it fits very well into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that has a powerful new hero… and it’s a girl! The great thing to me was that she just happened to be a girl. The over-arching theme, the fact that she had been under the thumb of her Kree brethren (who weren’t her brethren at all, really), and that her mentor (Jude Law) was keeping her from reaching her true potential, could have easily happened to any protagonist, regardless of gender. I’ve seen and heard reviews where people are delighted that Captain Marvel had a female bestie, or how cool it was that she had no male love interest to drive her to greatness (a’la Wonder Woman). But that’s not really the point of the movie for me. Let’s face it, in just about every movie with a female protagonist, the main character has a female best friend, and every movie with a male protagonist, he has a female love interest, so whatever. It’s all Hollywood window dressing. Why try to make it into some kind of beacon of hope for feminism?

The point of this, and hopefully, most action movies, is to tell a decent story with relatable characters and make it fun. I spend a great part of my life over-thinking movies, mostly because I know how much work goes into making them, so when I’m disappointed, I’m really disappointed. But even this film snob can just kick back and be entertained for two hours. That’s why I like so many Marvel movies. (As a sidenote; two hours and eight minutes was the perfect length for this movie. For the story they were telling, any longer would have been too much. Much shorter and it would have seemed like something was left out. By comparison, Wonder Woman, at 2 hours and 21 minutes, seemed way too long. The entire climactic battle seemed like it lasted almost three hours.)

Just a couple other quick notes before Dursin’s Final Thoughts; I didn’t love the fact that Nick Fury lost his eye to a cat scratch. It was predictable and silly (but I suppose if we didn’t see how he lost his eye, people would have complained about that, too.) I did like that they brought back the Tesseract as the maguffin here, as that has been a thread running through three Marvel movies now, until Thanos just crushes it to reveal that it houses an Infinity Stone, which makes him seem that much for of a bad-ass to me. I did not love the whole Supreme Intelligence thing. I guess I get the fact that they didn’t want to animate a gross, green blob and say that it was the representation of the brains of all the Kree, or whatever. And having it be a manifestation of someone you know fit with their story, but they probably could have come up with a better way to reveal Carol’s true origin. “Supreme Intelligence” seems like some they came up with in the comics in the 70’s that just doesn’t translate to movies in 2019 (Hell, they changed “Cosmic Cube” to “Tesseract” because it sounded cooler. They couldn’t come up with something cooler than “Supreme Intelligence?”

Finally, I loved the fact that there was no knock-down, drag-out fight at the end between Marvel and Jude Law. as cinema-goers, we’re sort of conditioned to think that it should happen, so to have her just blast the heck out of him not only was a nice surprise, but it fit with the story that they were telling (that he was keeping her down all this time, and she really is that damn powerful.) Not only did it make sense, plot-wise, but it made sense cinematically, because a long, drawn-out fight that you know she is going to win anyway would have just slowed everything down and made the movie longer and less fun (Sorry to pick on you, Wonder Woman, but that is where you fell apart for me.) Prove that she is mighty, and move your movie along to the end. Everybody wins!

In the world we have constructed for ourselves, people like to talk about stuff, and I’m the first one to fall for click-bait like, “Brie Larson says she hates white dudes.” And I honestly don’t know anyone who saw this movie and felt like it changed society’s mind on female representation in movies. Maybe they’re out there somewhere, and I’m sure they will be a sequel before too long, so that’s probably a good indication. But what I have heard is a lot of people saying that this was just a basic, decent, fun story. Of course, there are critics, as there always are. But with all the controversy coming in, “Do No Harm,” was a pretty good bar to set, and I think it beat those expectations by quite a bit. I feel like if you like most of the Marvel movies, you will enjoy this one. If you don’t, or if you’re an angry white guy who too much free time, then you should skip it. Obviously, the movie didn’t need your money, anyway.

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Honestly, I don’t know what else to say. I found Captain Marvel entertaining, and am anxious to see her in Avengers: Endgame next month. So, good on ya, Marvel! You got me!

I don’t think it will change anyone’s mind on feminism, or even lead to more diversity in the film industry, but we really shouldn’t rely on our action movies to make societal changes, anyway. Let’s just enjoy them for what they are.

This is the end of my Brie Larson blogging for awhile (unless her directoral debut blows me away). It’s been fun analyzing movies and movie culture through her work, but it’s time to move on. Check back for some new stuff, if I can come up with anything. Thanks for reading, which you probably didn’t. But if you did, I hope enjoyed it.

I’m hoping I can get this done before Thursday, because the plan all along was to get to this movie before Captain Marvel, and that is fast approaching. I already have my tickets, despite the fact that I’m a white male and apparently, I’m supposed to not want to see it, like all these idiots. Reading all this negative press actually really makes me glad I jumped on this wagon a long, long time ago. Some people think this is going to impact the gross, but we’ll know by Sunday, so fingers crossed the bad guys don’t win this one.

Speaking of bad guys not winning, I give you the grand poo-bah or the entire Brie Larson canon, Room, the one that won her a well-deserved Oscar and critical acclaim, and made myself and a lot of other people realize that this girl has chops. If you haven’t seen it, well, I’m sorry but the statute of limitations on spoilers has run out. Get on it, but bring the box of tissues.

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In Room, Larson plays 24 year-old Joy, who was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held captive in a shed for the last seven years. She lives there with her five year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who is the off-spring of Joy and her captor. Jack has obviously never seen the outside, and has come to think of his shed as basically the whole world, even calling it “Room” with affection.

For someone who was abducted and forced to live over a third of her life in captivity, Joy8e1e4749-e606-4703-83d3-edbd17d04320 is an amazing mother, and has become quite adept at giving her son the best life possible, while actually shielding him from their horrible existence, even building sort of fort in the closet for Jack to hide in when their captor, “Old Nick,” comes to force himself upon her. She basically tells Jack that Room is the world and everything else is just TV Land.

If this isn’t enough to make you realize that the world is a terrible place, it gets remarkably worse. Old Nick cuts off their heat and power, which heightens Joy’s depression but also gives her an opportunity. She has Jack fake a fever to try to convince Old Nick to take him to a doctor. When he refuses, she then asks Jack to play dead, and wraps him in a carpet and forces Nick to take the body away in the back of his pick-up truck. Once they are in the safety of a residential neighborhood, Jack, despite his inexperience with the outside world, jumps out of the back of the pick-up and runs for help. He tells a passerby about the situation, they then call the cops, and Joy is rescued and Old Nick is arrested. I should note that this is a fairly simplified explanation of how they escaped. It’s actually way cooler than I make it sound. Larson’s desperation in this scene is truly Oscar-worthy, as she explains to Jack how he can engineer their escape without really telling him that’s what they are doing (because why would they escape this place that she never told him was necessarily bad?)

Now, if this were some shitty, Lifetime movie (or shitty movie in general), that would be the end, right? Damsel-in-distress rescued! Child no longer in peril! Evil-doer punished! Whoo-hoo! But that’s not how real life works is it? The real Joy would need to actually live the rest of her life, and even at five, the real Jack would need to learn a lot about the world. And it is not easy. In fact, Joy discovers that during her captivity, her parents split up. The family that she was looking forward to rejoining for seven years is no more (Her father can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that he has a grandchild, and leaves). And to put a real damper on things, Jack actually misses Room, and cries when informed that he will never be going back, because the home you live in as a child will always be your home, no matter how long you lived there and how often you move. All of this horror does even more of a number on Joy, who begins to struggle with depression and gets downright angry about how difficult this all is, almost in a “The devil you know…” kind of way. She then reluctantly agrees to a television interview, and it really hits the fan when the interviewer asks her why she decided to keep infant Jack rather than asking Old Nick to take him to a hospital, where he would have had a shot at a (more) normal life. The overwhelming guilt causes her to attempt suicide, and she is admitted to a hospital.

Jack is now separated from his mother for the first time in his life. he begins to assimilate, even meeting a boy his age from the neighborhood. He believes that his hair will give Joy strength to recover, and asks his grandfather to cut it off and send it to her. Joy does actually recover, and is sent home (not sure if it was the hair specifically, but still…). She thanks Jack for saving her life again, unequivocally stating that he was the only thing that kept her going all those years in captivity, and that was the only reason she didn’t have Nick take him away. The final scene shows Joy and Jack visiting Room one last time to say good-bye, along with a police escort. Jack sees it in a different light now, from the outside in, seeing how much smaller it looks that way. It’s the childhood equivalent of going back to your grammar school and realizing how small and insignificant it really is. But the closure is important, and the inference is that now they will be okay.

Now, I need to say right now that I didn’t love this ending, and in fact, I didn’t really like this whole second part of the movie after they escape. As someone who watches and analyzes and over-analyzes movies, I thought this was actually an example of bad writing. I thought that they weren’t giving the audience what they wanted, somehow. It took me thinking about it for months after, and even thinking it over as I was writing this, that made me realize that I wasn’t supposed to like it, that I was supposed to be disturbed by it, that I was supposed to think about it for months after seeing it. It’s definitely disturbing, but also inspiring the way Joy tries to give Jack as happy a life as possible. The scene where they both scream at the wall is almost cute, until you stop and realize that Joy is just letting out her aggression. There are so many emotions at play in this story, and that is what really bothered me, because emotions can be hard, and when movies make me feel things this deeply, it’s really just easy to write it off as bad writing that is just trying to manipulate me. It’s a lot harder to process your feelings about what was really going on.

To close this out, what was really going on was that Brie Larson was giving an Oscar-winning performance. Now, I’ve always criticized the trend in Oscar winners where they have to be from weepy dramas and have conquered some great adversity, but this one transcends that trend. This was the performance that really opened everyone’s eyes to this talented actress, and opened doors, as well. Coming April 5th, Unicorn Store, her directorial debut on Netflix, and in mere hours, Captain Freakin’ Marvel! I’m sure I’ll get around to writing about that one, but if not, you’ll probably hear me yelling about it from a mountaintop. Stay tuned.MV5BNzUxOTQxMDQyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg0MDQwNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_.jpg

Since we are just under three months to Captain Marvel‘s release date, I thought I would try to ramp up the writing a bit, so here I am, dipping my toe into Brie Larson’s TV career, basically tackling the Showtime series, The United States of Tara. Before I get to that, however, another Inside Look (basically a shorter trailer) for Captain Marvel that I scoffed from IMDB.: Go here to be entertained. (I should really shell out for the upgraded version where I get to embed things.)

Also, please consider joining the Captain Marvel Challenge. Last year, Frederick Joseph started a Gofundme campaign to help kids from Harlem see Black Panther, and this year he’s starting a similar one for young girls for Captain Marvel. This particular campaign has raised over $45,000 so far, but there are tons of smaller ones that need your support.

Now, on with the ranting…

Back in 2009 (ten freaking years ago!), Larson got what I think could be considered a big break (also read as a regular paycheck) when she played Toni Collette’s daughter in the series The United States of Tara, a show I knew nothing about until a couple hours ago. If you’re like me, let me give you a quick rundown; Collette plays Tara, a suburban housewife who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. I had to look it up, too, but it used to be called multiple personality disorder. Tara has a lot of people in her mind, and apparently doesn’t even know what they are doing when they are in control. I have only watched a couple episodes, but it seems like some kind of trauma caused it, and it also seems like she doesn’t know what that trauma was. Interestingly enough, as the series begins, Tara’s family is kind of okay with it, because it’s just part of their lives. One of her “alters,” as they are called, T, is actually pretty close with Larson’s character, Kate. The only real alter who seems to be creating trouble is the male one, who is a total redneck and causes all sorts of problems (as men tend to do.).

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Toni Collette as “Buck”

Because this show is executive-produced by Jill Soloway, who was the writer of many of my favorite episodes of Six Feet Under (and went on to create Transparent, among other things), there are cool moments when Tara talks to her alters as if they are real people, much like characters on Six Feet Under would talk to dead people, and not in a Sixth Sense-way, but in a all-in-their-heads-way. The similarities don’t stop there, in fact. the way the characters developed reminded me a lot of SFU, as well as other Premium cable shows that were popular in the early-2000’s.

Watching this show kind of brought me back to that glorious time, in fact. All the Premuim Cable networks like HBO and Showtime were hitting their creative stride after shows like The Sopranos, Queer as Folk and The Wire won critical acclaim, and this was before every other network decided, “We can do that, too.” And this was also before streaming services came along and diluted the market even more. Now, everyone has a show, and of course, some of them are excellent, but to me, it’s sort of similar to expansion in major league sports. Like, are there really enough great pitchers in the world for 30 teams to each have a staff of twelve?

Because this was pre-saturation, it’s interesting to watch it now and see the difference. It’s hard to describe, really, but the pacing seemed different. The characters and storylines could breathe a little more because the creators did’t feel like they had to grab you within the first five seconds or you could just turn it off and watch one of the other five thousand binge-able shows that are on. It was also sort of like visiting old friends, because a lot of the same actors were traded about among the few really good shows. United States of Tara starred John Corbett, who played Aiden Shaw on Sex in the City, but also appearances by Frances Conroy (Ruth Fisher on SFU), Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development, and soon-to-be Veep), and Patton Oswalt, who always plays Patton Oswalt.

However, as far as Brie Larson goes, she was still on her way up, so she plays the teenage daughter in this dysfunctional family. Much like Claire (Lauren Ambrose) on SFU, she is at that age where she is transitioning into adulthood, and dealing with the many trials downloadthat brings. The cool thing about her character is that she plays against type a little, because she’s actually really smart and ambitious, even graduating from high school early in the second season’s debut episode. She is not portrayed as one of the girlfriends from the Big Bang Theory, however, but someone who is actually kind of cool, funny, attractive, and yet just also happens to be intelligent. It was pretty refreshing to see for a teenage girl on a television show to be portrayed like an actual person rather than a stereotype. (Although, from the pictures I’ve seen, she appearsdownloadto go on to portray The Princess of Valhalla, so maybe I should watch more before I make these assumptions. And so, we get what amounted her her first go-round as a super-hero.)

 

From what I have seen, great writing created this character, but great acting still had to mold it. Of course, we all know that Larson would go on to win an Oscar, but she had to learn those skills somewhere, and I’m betting that being a regular on a quality TV show where she had to really get inside this girl’s head for month’s at a time is where she picked up a thing or two about acting. Not that she wasn’t good before, but it just seems like a logical next step. We’ve seen it with Viola Davis, Alison Janney, Jared Leto, Hell, even Tom Hanks started out on Bosom Buddies.

I’m not really sure if we’re still in the Golden Age of Television or not, although I know some people still believe it. I think there’s just too much noise out there. But i do believe we’re in the golden age of actors, where people can ply their trade by becoming a character for years on a quality show before going out and proving themselves on the grand stage of the big screen (let’s face it, the Emmy’s will never be as big as the Oscars.) There was a time, not that long ago, when the actor’s creed was to never do a TV series, because it would mean the end of your career. Now, it has become the doorway. Not just to get noticed, but to get good. It’s a place where a young intelligent actor can play a young, intelligent character, even play a faux-super-hero, before going on to play a real one.

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