QuikReview: The Kid (2019)

the-kid-2019An honest attempt at an old-school, old-fashioned, worthwhile Western movie, with bad bad guys, good bad guy, good good guy, a kid who has to choose which role model he’s going to follow, and a girl to rescue. And if it had followed through the good guy thing, it would have stuck the landing, too. 

Is it a 10/10 movie? No. (It’s an 8.5/10, it’s honestly worth the watch, despite what I’m about to say about it.) There are far too many anachronisms and cringe-inducing dialogue options. But those are honestly the least of this movie’s failings, and the greatest is: failing to understand that there can be more than one hero for whom the audience sympathizes and roots for, and that there is allowed to be more than one triumphant success per a story arc. Ultimately, this movie is about the kid and while he does mature from a frightened boy into a young man over the course of the story, his story beats come at the expense of the actual good guy, Pat Garrett (or the fictional facsimile thereof) 

The kids are the protagonists: teenage Rio and his slightly older sister Sara, on the run from their monstrous uncle after Rio kills their father, who has just finished beating their mother to death. Yes, it’s an unpromising beginning, but it gets better. They bump into Billy the Kid and his bunch (good bad guys), who are nice enough to them–Billy in particular easily sussing out that they have some guilt on their consciences and blood on their hands, not to mention clothes–but very shortly after this, Pat Garrett and the posse arrive. After some exchange of gunfire, Billy et al surrender and the kids tag along with the posse to Santa Fe.

This is really the strongest part of the movie, as Garrett and Billy, subtly, vie for Rio’s attention and trust. Billy talks about how people blame other people for things that those people just happened to have done, or had to do, or were blamed for doing just because. Garrett talks about how sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…such as fess up and face the consequences. Rio seems swayed by Garrett, but his sister convinces him to keep still and not confess. 

Unfortunate for them, probably, because when Garrett and Billy high-tail it out of Santa Fe ahead of a lynch mob (I think this was supposed to be an exciting or suspenseful scene, but it was only exceedingly underwhelming), their uncle gets them instead. Rio manages to escape, but Sara…doesn’t. Rio heads to Lincoln County, meets up with Billy in the county jail, and then via a series of vaguely-historically accurate plot happenings, ends up escaping with him, hiding out on the ranch for a while, and learning to shoot. But he also learns soon enough that charming as Billy is, he’s not going to be a help. Billy is not out for anyone except Billy. 

And later that night, Pat Garrett arrives and shoots Billy from a distance without giving him the chance to surrender. See, Hollywood is saying: heroes don’t need to be heroic, principled, more skilled, faster, or better shots. Mind you, there is also an element of suicide by cop here, so…this one I give a pass to. 

The movie gets distinctly weaker after this, but it is also almost over. Basically, Rio confesses all to Pat Garrett and begs his help getting his sister back from the evil uncle. There’s a showdown in a saloon, (in which Pat Garrett gets tackled by a bad guy and beaten with a chairleg until sister Sara shoots the guy off him) and then a quasi-showdown at high noon (in which Pat Garrett gets outdrawn but then Rio shoots his uncle in the head.) 

The kids ride off into the sunset with Garrett’s blessing, and now Rio is the one taking charge, reassuring his sister, and being the man of the family.

It’s much better than I thought it would be–enough so that I am much more disappointed in the places where it failed, than I would be if it was just another brainless Hollywood piece. 

As demonstrated by his very strategic sidelining at the climax of the movie, Ethan Hawke is not really provided with the opportunity to ride off with the entire show. This is OK, on paper. This movie is about the kid(s), and so it should be them who take vengeance into their own hands, which they do. However good all these things are–and believe me, I’m 100% in favor of an old-fashioned bildungsroman, a boy and his horse and his gun plus or minus a dog–they should not have come at the expense of the guy who provides a) the moral center of the story, b) the action hero of the story.

It’s easy to have have a character say that “There is still good in him,” or, “You’ve got a lot of good left in you.” But what does that entail, exactly, in context? When the plot is about an impressionable kid sizing up the options and deciding which way he’s going to go, there needs to be a model for him–not for his benefit, but for the audience’s. What are the paths, exactly? What are the options? What are the rewards?

The last third of the movie is weak: here’s how it could have been improved. Rio walks up to Sherriff Garrett plus a handy judge and confesses to the self-defense killing of his father. He is taken into custody and a trial commences. Rio has one other witness but is unable to produce said witness: his trafficked sister Sara. Garrett and the deputies, keeping Rio in “special custody,” ride off to go rescue the girl. You can have the exact same action beats–Sara shoots Chairleg Thug, Rio gets to shoot Pimp Uncle–but then there’s a denouement as the trial recommences (see, you can even go for additional irony by having it start and end in a bar with the judge pouring drinks, or something.) Rio is pronounced not guilty and awarded all the money in Pimp Uncle’s pockets. Now, when the kids ride off into the sunset, they can do it with the knowledge that it’s a ride to the future, and not a run from the past. The line has been clearly demarcated–for the characters, and for the audience–as to what is legitimate violence, and what is not; and it proves that the Law isn’t evil, or unreasonable, and that lawmen aren’t monsters by nature. 

But then, Hollywood doesn’t want you to think about things like that, do they?

That being said: the casting is greatchris-pratt-as-grant-cutler-in-the-kid-2019. Christ Pratt is completely unrecognizable as the bad bad guy. Like, even without the giant beard, he just isn’t recognizable, he’s that nasty. Likewise, Dane DeHaan has the look of tintype-photo Billy Bonney down pat, despite being 10 years older than the character historically. (Welp, that never stopped Audie Murphy, so, you gotta give it a pass regardless.) Ethan Hawke, well, good as he is with what he has to do, still kinda, well, um, looks like Discount Kurt Russell-from-Tombstone. And I LIKE Ethan Hawke, HE JUST DOES!

The young hero is also, for the most part, watchable, even when he’s blurting out quasi-period dialogue and crying a lot. His sister cries even more, so. 

That being said, the directing is underwhelming, bordering on terrible. It’s not easy to make a gunfight siege in a wooden cabin, a daring escape from an attempted lynch mob, or even a frigging multiplayer gunfight in a saloon be boring….but somehow, Vincent D’Onofrio managed. That, my friends, takes skill all of its own kind. It also needs to be noted that there is no good horse photography, and just about zero landscapes. That’s OK, but what really kills this movie is the fact that it’s a Western and it doesn’t have any good gun or fistfights, or horse chases or cattle. Or Injuns.

That being said, there are some scenes which all on their own are really, really good. “How far do you think you’re gonna get with a dead Charlie chained to your ankle?” “….not very far at all.” Garrett telling Rio the story of the first man he ever killed; Billy having enormous fun being interviewed while Garrett is trying to get him away from a lynch mob; Garrett’s deputy being wracked with guilt over his–completely and legally justifiable–shooting of Rio, and their discussion; Billy’s address to the crowd after escaping from the Lincoln County Jail; and Billy’s death scene. All these are very good. 

Overall, I stand by my 8….although maybe I’ll knock the .5 off of it. It’s a decent enough movie, if you don’t notice Hollywood’s contempt for heroism, hatred of women, hatred of the audience, and weird loathing for the legitimate use of violence to defend one’s self or others. Sheesh, and this is me trying to say something nice about this movie.

Rated: ¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?

Movie Review: Fort Defiance (1951) (repost)

fort_defiance-606622612-largeFort Defiance – 1951, Ben Johnson as Ben, Dane Clark as Johnny, and Peter Graves as Ned.

This is a movie with a simple plot. Lots of things happen because of that plot, but when you break it all down, it’s all because of this:

There’s this guy (Ben Johnson as Ben Shelby) whose brother was killed. He goes to the ranch home of the guy responsible for the death(s) (Johnny) but finds only that guy’s blind brother. Johnny is presumed dead and in the absence of a worthwhile target for it, Ben buries the hatchet. At this point, Injuns. Meanwhile, there’s a guy in town whose brothers were also killed by Johnny, and who wants to kill Johnny’s brother in revenge. And then Johnny shows up…

Meanwhile, I am left with my family issues making me wonder why everyone’s so almighty fired up about their brothers. So it’s possible a good chunk of this went straight over my head. This is a straight-up B-movie, but it tries hard, and it mostly even succeeds.

Rated: The best brother is a dead brother who leaves you a lot of money.

Thoughts:
– This has a very good-looking Young Ben Johnson in it. (Not obsessed).
fortdefiancejohnson– The other, other good news is that Dane Clark and Peter Graves, when they show up, are good enough in their roles to make me go look up their names and include them in this list.

– So Ben, as Ben Shelby, is a gunslinging ex-Army man who shows up at a family ranch, saves the lives of blind Ned (from a rampaging horse) and Uncle Charlie (from rustlers), and claims that he’s a friend of missing big brother Johnny.

– Ben is actually, obviously, after Johnny for revenge of some sort. Johnny is revered by Ned, but Uncle Charlie himself knows or at least suspects the truth. Uncle Charlie is also strangely OK with the thought of a stranger coming to kill his nephew.

– Huh, Ben’s actually married and his wife has sent him a letter begging him to foreswear the vengeance and come home. If my studies of the genre are correct, what this means is that by the time he does go home, his wife will have either married someone else or moved to California.

– Ned doesn’t have the slightest clue that big brother Johnny is an outlaw loose and running. Until just now, that is, when Uncle Charlie told him Johnny got killed robbing a bank.

– Johnny was supposed to bring news to the Company that they were being outflanked; he (allegedly) surrendered instead. The Company was wiped out almost to a man and Ben lost his younger brother.

– So, with no quarrel with Ned or Uncle Charlie, Ben departs in peace for Fort Defiance.

– Ben comes back: he has decided to settle in Arizona, but there might be some complications turning up down the line…

– AHAHA THE IRONY. This new guy also lost two of his brothers in the battle, and now also blames Johnny. Ben has buried the hatchet and adopted Ned, but this guy wants to kill all Tallon brothers. I think Uncle Charlie is going to die covering the retreat…

– Yup.

– Oh screw you, mister. You killed Uncle Charlie, burying him “Christian” ain’t going to do nothing.

– …so who’s this….OH IT’S JOHNNY I BET! He met up with the burial detail! OH BOY. Yep, it’s Johnny. Well, good-bye for the burial detail…since there’s only one man needed for taking a message, he’s just offered them the chance to draw lots…and then he turned his back….

– Mind you, having his buddy keep them covered was just a smart move.

– And now they meet.

– FISTFIGHT! Johnny is cheating, because his buddy still has a gun. Get ‘im, Ben!

– Injuns!

– Johnny admits he did surrender, but won’t explain why. Ned, meanwhile, is panicking on Ben’s behalf. And running out into the open screaming during a gun battle. You know, normally this behavior would be reserved for the Damsel.

– Johnny did it because he knew the war was over and didn’t feel like risking his neck for anybody else.

– Ned: “Don’t do it, Ben, he’s fast, he’s too fast.”
Ben: “Yeah, I know, like a snake.”
Johnny: “And twice as nasty!”

– Johnny is heading for San Francisco and intends to take Ned with him.

– Good grief. Competitive coat-giving. And another fistfight. And they managed to wake Ned up, so what did that gain you?

– Ya know, if it’s cold, you could always just cuddle up together….(this is probably why Ben has an offscreen but very definitely real and human wife coming in on the stage).

– OH NO ITS THE STAGE AND THE INJUNS ARE CHASING IT AHAHAHA

– YYYYyyyyep ITS A GIRL (Ben hasn’t noticed yet)

– Oh, wait, it’s NOT his wife, she’s some girl who got run outa town. (Oh, she’s gonna be Ned’s girlfriend probably).

– She’s hoping to start a business in San Francisco….seamstressing, probably.

– “I found out she ain’t married.” “I reckon not.”

– Dude, you are probably about to DIE (well, as far as you know, you are. I know there’s still about twenty-five minutes to go). Asking a girl if you’re someone able to be loved should not be really high on your priority list.

– OH SERIOUSLY THEY’RE RIDING IN CIRCLES AROUND THE WAGON. Well, that’s a time-honored Injun tactic, at least, and we’ve got to stick with tradition.

– THE CAVALRY HAS ARRIVED!

– Johnny is taking the stage, Ned, and Miss Julie, leaving a knocked-out Ben and the stage driver one horse between them. Julie has managed to smuggle a gun on board, which Ned promptly appropriates. But Ben is soon on his way after them.

– Ned, like the idiot he is, attempts to pull said gun on Johnny. Ned, as we mentioned, is also blind. But it’s the only thing that can get through to Johnny, apparently.

– Aww, Johnny is going to raise some money….honestly.

– (Semi-honestly.)

– (Well, not all that honestly at all, but he will have provided both bills of sale and receipts.)

– Johnny really took over the last part of this movie, didn’t he? I would say he stole it from Ben, but Ben is more handsome so there’s really nothing to worry about.

– “Well, I guess Parker won’t bother us anymore.” Well, that was stone-cold murder, Ben.

– Awwww, and now Ben’s wife got there. The End. That was a little abrupt. And also didn’t Johnny just sell the ranch out from under you? And also you’re only able to be on that ranch because the government forcibly rounded up the Indians with whom you used to live peaceably, and your cattle still got rustled, but hey who’s overthinking it?

– Rated: Damn, Ben Johnson was fine when he was young. (Still not obsessed).

Movies with My Mother and Aunt and Uncles) – Maverick (1994)

poster-780REPOST REVIEW

“You’re taking notes? On what?”

“Something’s gonna crawl out of that bag…I guess.”
“Oh, it’s a snake.”
“OH. MY. GOSH.”
“Awww, lookit the li’l snake.”

“OK, I’m liking the scenery.”

“Mel Gibson? Thirty years ago? Ten years ago?”
“Thirty.”
“The man is old now!”
“He is not old…”

“Teehee, he’s on the donkey?”
“I’m surprised it’s going where he wants it to go.”
“Oh, it went.”

“He gave THEM the dollar?”
“And the mule.”

“Jody?”
“Yep.”

“They’re watching all the money he’s bringing.”
“A whole bunch of crooks.”
“I wonder when the hour is up, what then?…Ooo, she’s giving signs. Look, she’s giving signs.”

“Uh oh…uh oh….UH OH!” (my aunt).

“Is that the guy?”
“John Wesley Hardin?”
“What did he say his name was/”
“Maverick.”
“No, the gun guy.’
“Johnny.”
“Oh, it was him.”

“Uh oh!” (my mother)

“Should we–you should tell them what happens!”
“No.”
“No.”
“No!”

“Why did he tell the boys they could shoot him?”
“Cause he didn’t like getting beat up.”
“But the whole thing was staged!”
“NNnnghph!”
“SORRY. Was that part of it?”
“…Yes.”

“Jody’s in love!”
“….but…”
“I thought she was married?”

“Ok, that was something. She got him already?”
” ‘May I’…what?”

“She’s so good.”
“Jody Foster is so good!”

“She took his wallet again!”

“Uh oh!”
“A real bank robbery! Heh!”

“He had a thousand!”

“He took the dollar!”

“Crook!”
“They gave him more?”
“Probably. Here’s your 17, 30, 8…”
“He ripped them off!”

“Uh oh!” (my uncle).

“The thief and the old guy! Did you hear that? This is funny!”

“Oh boy.” (my mother).

“Uh oh.” (my aunt.)
“He’s dead!”

“For real-for real?”

“She in his wallet again!”

“…that saved a wretch like me?”
“Are you singing?”
“No.”
“No.”

“Rrr! Heheheh.”

“Bet you a dollar she’s stealing.”

“That is SO DUMB.”

“She took it? She stole the money?!”

“Did he call the horse Ollie?”

“Is that the same guy?”

“James Coburn! That’s James Coburn!”
“Oh! That’s him, I couldn’t remember his name!”

“That’s Denver Pyle.”
“Whoever that is.”
“…he was Uncle Jesse on Dukes of Hazzard?”
“He’s gonna jump!”

“He’s all outa money.”
” ‘But I was so close!’ ”

“This thing is a setup.”
“Which thing?”
“What?”
“Which thing?”
“This thing. This whole thing.”
“….why would you say that.”
“It’s a setup.”

“What’s she want from him now?…oh.”
….
“He’s as bad as she is, he’s hiding his stuff.”
“She’s just gonna reach over and take it. With her skinny hands.”

“Uh oh.”

“That was Waylon Jennings!”
“Who?”
“The singer!”
“But who?”
“The guy they just threw overboard, who is a singer who was just singing the song just now!”

“Who did that?”
“Either her or James Coburn. James Coburn looks like a crook.”

“Four more bongs…one…”

“Uh oh!”
“HEY!”
“Is that the dealer cheating?”
“The dealer is dealing for the Indian-looking guy.”
“He’s dealing off the bottom.”

“A full house?”
“Looks like.”

“UH OH!”
“CHEATER!”

“With your Pappy nonsense again? Pappy says it’s an ace!”

“Look at those big blues…”

“He tricked him!”

“All these people supposed to have no guns, where’d that gun come from? Everybody’s got guns!”

“Uh oh!” (my aunt.)
“Uh oh!” (my mother.)

“It’s a little put-put boat!”

“Uh oh!”

“Something’s behind all this, I know it.”
“It’s her and James Coburn!”

“It’s a shame those dresses don’t come back in our time period.”
“They too much.”
“They’re beautiful!”

“He’s counting the money?”

“TOLD YOU!”

“OH. MY. GOSH.”

“The man won the money fair and square! Why you gonna take it from him?”

“Uh oh.”
“Gonna drown him?”

“What! What! Oh my gosh!”
“That’s his FATHER?”
“Did you see that?”

“Uh oh!”

“OH MY GOSH IT”S THE GIRL!”

Readlist

the-tale-of-genji-4– The Tale of Genji (the public domain translation via Project Gutenberg) is unexpectedly engrossing and readable. 

– Alternating between Judith Herrin’s Byzantium and (sigh) Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass

– Watching: the 1957 Noir-Western Man in the Shadow with Orson Welles and Jeff Chandler. (Also starring Leo Gordon as, what else, burly bad guy who beats people up.)

Ride Lonesome (1959) – Movies With My Mother (repost review)

“He’s a bounty hunter?–I got no use for bounty hunters. He’s like a mercenary!”

“What are all these other saddles?”

“What! What is he doing!?”
“He’s dead.”

“But Indians don’t come out at night.”
“What?”
“They should leave now!”
“No, if they leave now, the Indians will get them when they’re out in the open at night.”
“But Indians don’t come out at night! Or is it in the day that Indians don’t come out…”
“They can’t leave now.”
“Why not?”
“Indians!”
“…”
“…”

“Who’s he? This guy.”
“That’s James Coburn.”
“What! He! He is very young! What is he in the movie?”
“He’s the dumb sidekick.”
“….he was very young.”

“Why is this fool going out at night! There could be Indians! Yes! It could be them making that noise and you can’t tell! They do, you know!”

“Still, she could have held it together.”
“Hmmmm.”

“Who are they? Mescaleros again? They don’t want to talk this time?…they might not even give a horse this time.”

“Ooof, that guy looked like the horse came down on him.”

“They went away? Too many of them dead?”

“To get a what?”
“A woman.”
“No, he said something else. To–”
“Get a woman.”
“No, he said something else before that.”
“To get his hands on a woman.”
“There no Indian women?”
“She’s blonde.”
“If there was dye, back then, people could dye their hair!”

“Why don’t they build a fire?”
“Indians.”
“They could build a smokeless fire.” [The Mother of Skaith has also read her Louis L’Amour.]

“Amnesty? They had amnesty for killers?…haha, maybe he got the wrong word it’s some other word.”

“What’s with the feather in his hat? What kind of foolishness is this? Is this to tell us something about his character? I’ve never seen anybody like that. Psssht!”

“What! If the leg is broken, I thought you can’t do nothing for the horse!”
“It’s not broken, it’s just hurt. He doesn’t want to stand up, because it’s hurt, so he just wants to lie there and he thinks he’s dying.”
“Oh.”

“Maybe they just need to rub the leg. And put comfrey on it.”
“They don’t have comfrey, Mom.”
“They can find comfrey!”
“…”

“What’s he doing? He’s fixing to do something. What’s he doing?”
“He’s moving to go get that gun over there.”
“Oh. Why?”

“He should not have done that! Even if he lied, he should not have proven that he lied! Now no one will believe him, even when he’s not talking about guns! What did he prove!?”
“Billy is a coward, though. That’s why it worked.”
“It doesn’t matter that the boy is a coward! You should not lie to him!”

“That’s Lee van Cleef!”

“What’s she doing?”
“She’s doing her hair.”

“What’s that?”
“A tree.”
“Yes, but what–oh, it’s a hanging tree? What is the point of a hanging tree? I didn’t hear what he just said, what did he say?”
“He said, Brigade used to hang people from it.”

Shoot ‘im!”

“There are very few platinum blondes like her, you know.”
“Probably not natural.”
“That’s what I said, they’re rare.”

“So he gon’ tell her, fool, and she’s gon’ tell him! Not very bright!”

“…Oh, you mean she’s not a natural blonde. Probably.”

“Why would he hang her!”
“He was young and getting revenge.”
“But why would he hang the man’s wife! That’s not revenge, she’s not the man!”
“He wanted to hurt him, that’s why he went after her.”
“But he didn’t need to do that!”
“But he did it because he was bad.”
“Oh, he is a bad man.”
“Yes, Mom.”

“Is he joshing him?”
“No.”
“He’s gon’ make him a partner and he’s a half-wit?”
“He’s a good guy!”
“–and a half-wit!”

“Does Coburn get killed?”
“No.”
“Oh. I’d be sorry to have that.”

“Is that a threat? Not a threat…a…what’d you call that?”

“What are they looking at?”
“Smoke.”
“What is the smoke for?”

“Oh, he’s burning the tree? Why?”

“See, I told you it was a good movie!”
“Mm.”
“And you didn’t even want to watch it!”
“It was five out of ten.”
“You are mistaken, it was nine out of ten.”
“…”
“…”

Movie Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)

isc wordpress (FUck y
poster-780TLDR: four chainsaws out of five…but I feel I’m being generous. Also, WORDPRESS DELENDA EST.

So this is a movie starring my childhood hero, Angelina Jolie (oddly enough, my mother likes Angelina, but only as Evelyn Salt and Maleficent), and made by Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan is the guy who wrote Sicario (which is supposedly the best movie about Mexican cartel violence and American intelligence agency incompetence, ever), wrote and directed Wind River (which was very good overall), and is involved with the modern-cowboy show Yellowstone (which a cowgirl of my acquaintance says is good but highly inaccurate despite the fact that it stars some very famous horses…yes, she does watch it for the horses), and apparently is a genuine, rodeo-participating, cowboy who owns some of said horses.

Also, I’ve always thought smokejumpers were really cool.

Review up front: So, overall….this is about three quarters of a perfect movie. The perfect movie would have had the fire as the primary plot and the kid plus the hitmen as the secondary plot. More information about how fires behave, and what the usual procedure is for fighting them, not to mention more information about the geography of the story, would have helped immensely in raising the stakes of the story. As it is, the primary threat of the movie is the relentless hitmen, and the fire is kind of an afterthought, when (IMHO) it should be something hanging over everybody’s heads the whole time and come roaring in at the end.

Also, and this is fairly important, there would need to be scenes of badass firefighters actually fighting fire. ’cause, and I’ll put this right up here in front, there aren’t any.

That being said, as it’s own movie, this one is almost pretty good. I liked all the characters–including the villains, as villains–and the dialogue was, overall, almost bearable and sometimes even pretty good, because it sounds like something people would say who are those kind of people in that kind of situation. (“Sheriff, your wife is on the phone. Do you want to talk to her?” “Absolutely not.”) Most of this is due to the actors being really good. Jon Bernthal is really charismatic and intense; Edward Norton is….oh, um. So, apparently the person I have in the rest of the review referred to as Edward Norton is in fact DISCOUNT Edward Norton, AKA Aiden Gillen. Whoops. He’s a really good villain: calm, intelligent, competent, motivated, and maintains his demeanor and yet is increasingly deranged (and increasingly injured to a level that could almost inspire sympathy.) There’s also the black actress who plays the badass pregnant wife (Medina Senghore,) and she looks like a normal, actual, genuine person in this movie–which, let me tell you, must have taken some doing. I mean, she’s the spitting image of my college roommate. I’m impressed that she managed to act like a normal person when she’s opposite Jon Bernthal doing his charismatic movie-star thing…and still holds her own. Kudos.

There are only a few things that chipped away at my suspension of disbelief–that a person alone in the middle of a forest wouldn’t have at least one gun…what, exactly, is your very sharp axe going to do if you run into a bear?–and the hitmens’ motivation for doing what they do is imperfectly justified to the point where I paused the movie to write about it (see below.)

Overall, yeah, I would have liked more of a smokejumper movie and less of a hitman movie. But it’s pretty good overall.

So our story opens with two storylines: a middle-aged father who gets extremely nervous when he sees that some District Attorney’s house has mysteriously blown up with the family inside, and Angelina (Hannah), a woodland firefighter/smokejumper suffering from PTSD of the gasp-and-ricochet-out-of-bed variation. Also, Jon Bernthal is hanging around. He’s with the local Sheriff’s office. (Heh, he says “Make good choices!” That’s a line I have previously only heard from an Agronomy major from Iowa.) Hannah, though….isn’t. She’s seeking thrills and taking risks and may or may not be actually suicidal. So, spending the fire season in a tower, alone, might or might not be the best thing for her, overall.

It turns out that Dad (a forensic accountant who works for the now-deceased DA) and Son were right to run, because a pair of hitmen is after them. Also, Jon Bernthal appears to be the Kid’s uncle, and his wife’s pregnant. Oh dear. Dad writes out his secrets and gives them to the Kid, with instructions to not read them and to give them to someone trustworthy.

(When given a free choice of vehicles, what do the very best assassins choose? A Ford F150! Woo! GO RHINO! What kind of cars do boring forensic accountants choose? Volkswagons. What kind of cups do firefighters drink out of? RED SOLO CUPS THAT IS RIGHT! I don’t even think Walmart sells them any more. I think you have to go to Target for those things.) Deputy Bernthal consults with his chief, who is interested but offers limited help. We also get a little more on Hannah, who is racked with guilt over being leaving civilians to burn to death. Frankly….not surprising.

Stuff starts to hit the fan, with our very efficient hitmen setting up an ambush on a deserted back road (well…I mean…it’s still a two-lane highway. But I guess that seems kind of deserted to city folk.) Dad stays in the car and orders Kid to head out and call the news. Somehow, I’m unconvinced that this is possible for either of them after the car has literally flown down a giant ravine and been riddled with bullets.

Meanwhile, however, the hitmen also have to kill another innocent bystander who rolls up before hightailing it out (I TOLD YOU GUYS IT WASN’T ACTUALLY DESERTED, DUMBASSES)….at about which point Deputy Bernthal rolls up. The Kid rolls up to the tower/river and bumps into Hannah. Also, the hitmens’ boss has rolled up to a truck stop, and this is pretty bad news.

OK, SO. Pause.

This is the scene that the movie uses to justify the “relentless hitmen who pursue the heroes through hell and high water AND ACTUAL FOREST FIRES)” trope. Which is smart. Because that’s a dumb as hell trope and needs to be justified if it’s going to be used in a serious movie. Problem is….it just tripped over its own feet. The scary black hitman-boss wants them to follow up with Kid because a) they promised, b) it’s possible that Dad had duplicates of everything they already retrieved from the DA’s office, and c) it’ll probably be with the Kid if so. Duplicates. Of case-critical information. That the DA’s office was already in possession of but which their team retrieved. Now, I know that it’s not really likely that everything included in a casefile is going to have backups and/or be on the cloud–but if it’s entered the public record, enough of it’s going to be in enough places, like warrants and affidavits, that breaking and entering isn’t going to solve your problem.

(Although, on further research, someone on reddit points out that the black hitman-boss’s car has government plates. Which…whatever. I stand by what I said.)

Not to mention something else already established by this movie that messes with this premise on a fundamental level: the “information” Dad gave Kid isn’t on a flash drive, or in a briefcase. It’s LITERALLY WRITTEN ON THE BACKS OF A COUPLE OF NAPKINS. Also, these guys have no way of knowing that said “information” is with the kid and not, say, in the car or on Dad’s body.

Now, change this to, “they want the kid alive as leverage,” or, “he saw our faces,” and it makes marginally more sense. But as is, this is stupid. Also, beause it’s SOP for hitmen to wear suits, they change into them at this point. However, they also have badges. However, because this movie INSISTS on adhering to stupid action movie tropes, (DISCOUNT) Edward Norton-hitman announces that they’re going to kill everyone who sees their faces henceforth. Also, he starts a forest fire and gazes at it for a while. (See, going with less movieness and more realism at this point would work better. Fire is cool, but fire is also scary. Just let the guys have a natural reaction to a fire [wow, cool, wish I could stay and watch. Hey, it’s…kind of spreading fast. Um. I’m, um, yeah…] and then show them skedaddling out of there.)

Hannah’s radio, it turns out, has been blown out by the lightning. They have a twelve-mile hike into town. A theoretically heartwarming moment is had when Kid explains what happened to Hannah and hands over the NAPKIN OF INFORMATION to her, which she looks at for about two seconds before deciding they are starting their hike right now.

Aaaaannnd uh oh, the hitmen duo have just arrived at Pregnant Wife. Heh, she immediately retreats through the door and reaches for the bear spray, not that it helps. Hitman #2 spots the nursery (but not her giant six-months-pregnant belly?) and they decide to torture her a bit just to make sure. Which is when she promptly starts lying to them to throw them off. And then there’s a pretty awesome little bit where she gives her husband the distress code (“FUCKING SURVIVALISTS!”) and then turns the bear spray into a flamethrower and sets  Edward Norton on fire then grabs a shotgun and escapes. WOO BABY.

So meanwhile, Hannah and Kid have to leapfrog a field in another lightning storm, and Hannah gets struck. This is kind of a pointless sequence, used as it is to lead into a bonding moment between them…if you want an action sequence, put one in and make it plot-relevant. If you want a bonding moment, put that in and make it worthwhile. He confesses that his father died right in front of him. This scene doesn’t work on EITHER level: it’s not plot-relevant and it’s not touching or meaningful.

Deputy Bernthal (plus the Sheriff) show up at his house immediately, but the Sheriff immediately gets shot and our very efficient hitmen take Bernthal prisoner to help them search. Which is smart on their side, because he actually does immediately find tracks.

So, it’s apparent that Hannah doesn’t know about the big fire (which is at zero percent containment), because she and Kid pause for a break and a campfire. Hannah gets her moment to confess what has been bothering her. She was in charge of a crew and screwed up: three boys died and she could only watch. But we do get this exchange:

Kid: “I watched my mother die of cancer.”
Hannah: “It is impossible to feel sorry for myself around you.”

Hah.

Bernthal decides he’s had enough at this point, and flips out into taunting/attacking the hitmen, attempting to get them to kill him. It’s two to one, though, and Edward Norton decides to up the ante by telling him that he’s going to be the one who kills Kid….because that’s how badly he, Norton, does not want to shoot a pregnant woman. I’m pretty sure he’s lying. Hitman #2 thinks he’s just losing it, man.

At this point, Hannah and Kid spot the fire; this means they will have to turn around, get back to the tower, and hopefully hook up with a chopper that’s going to be coming out to check on her.

(Pregnant Wife, meanwhile, has saddled up and is heading out into the woods. Personally, I’d have gone with the ATV myself, as late-stage pregnancy + jolting movements apparently don’t tend to go very well together?)

…and Bernthal plus hitmen have arrived at the tower. They send him up….and….#2 Guy climbs a tree. That’s cheating. Edward Norton isn’t doing so well, which is not news to his partner….Hannah and Kid run for it, Bernthal is stuck in the tower, AND OH GLORY THE PREGNANT LADY ARRIVES TO PROVIDE SUPPORT BY FIRE. (oops)

AND BOOM SHE SHOT THE BAD GUY. SHOOT HIM AGAIN ALREADY. SEE THIS IS WHY WE NEED HIGH CAPACITY DEER RIFLES. COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROL. SHOOT HIM AGAIN LADY. Oh, she did. Nice. Now, that was satisfying. That is how you write a good villain and give him his good comeuppance.

(Meanwhile, did we mention it’s actually pretty unrealistic that Hannah doesn’t actually have a gun….in the middle of the forest, in Montana?)

Hannah and Kid are getting closer to the fire….she starts giving him instructions to going on alone.
Meanwhile, Pregnant Lady goes up the tower to check on her husband, who is hurt pretty badly (he’ll make it, right? Right?? It’s only that his wife is pregnant, not like he was going to retire in three days.) Also the fire is almost on them.

Hannah approaches the fire alone. Oh, wait, no. Hitman #2 is still running around like a dumbass. Hannah attacks him with her axe (did we mention she doesn’t have a gun?) but all this nets her is getting repeatedly punched in the face by a semi-insane hitman. The Kid comes back….and wow, Hitman #2 asks him “Could you turn around for me?” Ow.

But it’s ok, because Hannah beats him to mostly death with her pulaski and leaves him to burn to death. She and Kid take refuge in a creek and survive! Nice. The firetower has also survived, and so has Pregnant Lady, who signals to some hotshots in the plane that goes by. Oh, these are the guys who were Hannah’s friends and past crew from the beginning.

The crew calls in a medevac but…uh oh. No rush. Damn it. One of these days, Jon Bernthal will star in a good movie and survive until the end.

Kid is having some existential angst prior to his interview, but Hannah promises him that she’ll stay there and help him figure it out….

…the end.

Again, I give it 4/5. It has almost all the right ingredients. It just didn’t mix them very well together.

Movies With My Mother – The Gambler From Nachez

s-l1000(Also my Auntie P)

“He’s in uniform, where’s his regiment?”
“He was disbanded….sent home.”
“Why can’t he put on civilian clothes? Or any clothes?”

“Is he the gambler?”
“No, he’s the gambler’s son.”

“He should have known that was coming. Shouldn’t grab someone and push him.”
“What, did he hit first?…he didn’t turn the other cheek.”

dale_robertson“He looks like Burt Lancaster right there.”
“That is not Burt Lancaster.”
“Yes, but he looks like Burt Lancaster.”
“Not really.”
“A little.”
“He don’t look like Burt Lancaster.”

“Unless what?”
“Unless she’s married to him.”
“And then she said, I’ll wait.”
“Tehee!”

[“K, that jacket’s real smart-looking, put it on. Let’s see it!”
“It’s not ironed yet.”]

“Ohhh, women rivalry now. The sophisticated and then the boat girl.”
“Who is this girl?”
“Madame Somebody Sophisticated.”

“Is her umbrella going up or down? ’cause I can’t tell.”

“I dunno who did her lipstick, it looks terrible.”

“That upside down umbrella ain’t gonna do her a lick of good.”

“Remember that, a lady does not allow the situation to get beyond her control. Good wisdom!”

“They going ‘oh,’ she going ‘ah,’ I dunno what they’re talking about.”

“What’s the name of this movie? The night of the who?”

“He’s gonna get infected, he’s crawling through the swamp with a knife wound!”

[“Never trust anything you buy in the Philippines! Look at this!”
“Are you still ironing that jacket?”
“I may have to send it to the cleaners.”]

“He’s not gonna be like Tarzan, take a reed and go underwater?”

“He didn’t even give him a chance. ‘Hello.’ Wham!

“Good night, this man is more than heavy set. Good night. He’s huge.”

“Oh look at her green eye makeup….and she just dove into the water and got out. Got her makeup done already!”

“The other one scorning him because his father was a gambler, she’s in love with him because he’s a gambler….oh the irony.”

“Oh, she’s got false eyelashes…green eyeshadow…red lips…bare shoulders…her skirt got a split in the middle….all she needs is a shimmy.”

“Oh no they DO NOT have a naked person in a statue in the middle of town.”
“What?”
“They have a statue of a naked person in the middle of town. ’cause they French.”

[“Are you still ironing that jacket after thirty minutes?! K. Put it down. Put it down, now! You know if that had been your husband’s shirt it’d have been on the floor long ago. You’re obsessed with that shirt! How much did it cost, 3 dollars?’
“SIX!”]

“What’s he going to do, gamble them out of their money?”

[“I should say, I paid, ‘three thousand pesos’ for that thing.”
“Which is what, six dollars?”
“Which is a lot of money!”
“What is one million pesos, one hundred dollars?”]

‘My father was only a customer, you have no friends.’ What does that mean?”
“Means he would sell him out if he was paid, and he was paid, and he did sell him out.”

“Oh lord, don’t tell me they gon’ come kill this man!”

“They’re looking at her like she’s a skank.”

“Never known a woman who what?”
“Looked good in the morning.”

“Now, she is gonna be a fool if she doesn’t know her brother any better than that.”

(Gasp!) “They murdered him! And they’re gonna say he did it! Because he’s right down the hall.”
“How are they getting him in there?!”
“Through  the balcony. And then they’re gonna put the knife on him, so they can say he did it. It’s so easy to figure out.”

“Now, he gave the knife to the sister, knowing she was going to give the knife to him, and that they took the man and were probably going to kill him. He ought to know they’re going to set him up!”

“….that’s the one you said was going to fall off the building, Riders?”

“Hee, saying I don’ want no kissy kiss on my forehead.”

“Where did dueling come from, the French or the British?”

“What’d she say?”
“She said, I’m gonna marry you pretty soon, you just wait.”
“She staked her claim!”

“She’s what?”
“Pale and skinny.”
“Teehee. She pale and skinny. That’s a good one.”

“She bit her?!”

“That is foolish, you know. To gamble away a boat! Foolish!”

“Who let her out of the pen?”

“Course, when he wins, someone is going to stand up and try to shoot the other person. Bam. You can tell what’s going to happen.”

“So whoever wins gets both? The boat and the farm? Why would he do that!?”

“Now he’s gonna pull out the gun.”

“There he goes….oh, he got a sword.”

“He’s lost everything, now he’s going to lose his life.”
“He’s trying to go out in honor….which is dishonor in his case.”

“Now, the women are just watching….including us.”

“It sounds like pots in the kitchen. Bang bang bang!”

“Now give that woman back her farm! Her plantation! Because she doesn’t have nothing. He’s got to marry her off or something.”

“Put her mouth on him and he been kissing on that other woman?! I’d be slapping his face and handing him a bar of soap!”

Movies With [My m] -Others – Ride A Crooked Trail

6de6137619bd961f48ed86409933101f[A/N: there was one Jamaican, one Trinidadian, and one Brooklynite in the audience.  Distribute accents as you see fit.]

“Do people talk in this movie?”
“I’m gonna need my notebook, aren’t I?”
“Why?”
“She takes down what people say during movies.”
“Why?”
“It’s for her blog.”
“…why?”
“It gets her clicks!”
“…”

“What’s the storyline? Can you fastforward it?”
“No.”
“She’s easily bored.”
“You don’t say.”

“I like diversity in my movies! Are there any black persons in this movie?”
“Yes.”
“There are?”
“No.”

“What is this, were they fighting and now they are friends?”
“It’s how it used to work in the west.”

“Is this a scifi western?”
“No.”
“Then why does he keep getting shot and not dying?”

“Doctor takin’ care of him and he making a fuss?”
“Men are the worst…patients. The worst patients.”
“….S, you are married!”
“I’m just sayin’!”

“Why he have on a choir robe now?”
“What.”
“That looks like a ‘joyful, joyful!’ choir robe, man!”
“It’s a Judge’s robe! Don’t you watch Judge Judy?”
“She have clothes on under her robes, man!”
“Oh I see what you mean, he has nothing on under the robe! Where’s his shirt?”
“See? And him in court, man!”
“He just came out of the doctor.”
“He had time to drink and smoke but he have no time to put on a shirt?”
“He was smoking the whole time, he just had time for one drink.”
“This is the wholesome show? With drinking and smoking and shoot outs?”
“But there’s no language!”
“So I could drink and smoke and it be O.K., so long as I don’t swear?”
“…”

“He has too much of a high-pitched voice for a cowboy.”
“He’s not a cowboy, he’s the judge’s assistant.”
“….it’s too highpitched.”

“So the town had no sheriff before him? How can a town function like that?”
“It’s how stuff happened back then.”
“Over here in America it is how stuff happened back then.”
“It’s how everything was back then everywhere!”

“All the towns are tough!…stop writing everything I say.”

“Are they on a houseboat?”
“Yes.”
“How they cooking on a houseboat? Propane?”
“….”
“They had propane back in those days?”

“Look at the egg!”
“That’s not good hangover food!—he’s going to vomit.”
“You watched it before?”
“No! I have been in this situation before and I know how you handle it? You see him? He is a pro! Him, he is a rookie!”

“I don’t know much about movies….you gonna write that?”
“No, it’s not funny enough.”
“[shriek of laughter]”
“….OK….”

“A little harlot there.”
“What did you call her?”
“She said she was a Harley?”
“She said she was a little harlot!”
“Well, she is!”
“That’s harsh.”
“She is dressed like one, look.”
“It’s a nice dress…”

(“What is a blog?”)

“Did you hear that? They ask him about ‘passage money,’ and he says, ‘do not bother me with trifles!’ I am going to start using that line in real life now.”

[Trini]: “Black person!”
[Jamaica]: “He is really black.”
[Trini]: “And what are you?”
[Jamaica]: “I’m black.”
[Trini]: “Yes! You are black!”
[Jamaica]: “He is really black, though.”
[Trini]: “But what are you?!”

“Pancakes! Pancakes existed then?”

“I like his dress. He is very neat. I hate a sloppy male.”

“Is this a love story? They fall in love?”
“…not really.”

“Look at the man’s suit. Why the males don’t dress like this? They so sloppy now!”

“They’re gonna claim the child!”
“What? Why?”

“Oh, that woman is pushing it! She’s pushing it! She knows he is fake!”
“She also knows he’s good with a gun.”
“That, too.”

[Trini] “Riders, how you gonna translate Trinidadian on your blog? I don’t want to be Americanized here. You got to make me be authentic.”

“Why do they always want to break the bank in these old times?”
“Cause that’s where the money was!”
“They have real money back then?”
“They had gold!”
“Oh! Gold!”

“He’s not very good looking.”
“I don’t like him.”
“He looks plastic.”
“Yeah! He look like a puppet.”

“You know why he walkin’ backwards facing them?”
“He afraid?”
“That’s so he’ll be able to pull his gun!”
[boom]
“See!”

“I do not like that man, he’s got a puppet face!”

“Everybody going back? Why?”
“They want to hit the bank.”
“Without proper preparation?”
“Nope.”
“They all goin’ die.”

“Did they adopt him?”
“The Judge sent him over.”
“Why? To spy on them?”
“No, because he is supposed to be with them because they’ll give him a better home.”
“He come with his gun and suitcase!”

“Ohhh, her little ovaries tingling, you know! Her ovaries tingling, you know…Riders, you are taking my best things, I will not be able to say any of these things in real life now. Copyright everything [Trini Girl]!”

“Aha, in his choir robe he is shooting them!…oh no, this time he is dressed!”

“That horse walked backwards!”
“They are capable of doing that.”

“See, I like this person. She likes my movies.”
“I am enjoying this movie, too. Ish.”

“Wait, what happened at the shootout at the bank?”
“They all died. Ish.”

“[Redacted redacted redacted, redacted. Redacted!] Do not write that! Do not write that!”

“Are you coming to watch the movie, Auntie?”
“Please let the movie continue.”
“Oh, so, do you guys know Lord of the Rings? Do you know how long Lord of the Rings is? Do you know she once stood there and watched the entire movie standing there?”
“I am better now. I am going to sit down. Continue!”

(“Lord of the Rings is like seventeen hundred hours long, no?”
“What is Lord of the Rings? That is the one where they are like, traveling in the mountains or something?”
“It is the thing with the Ring, and the ‘my precious’ and the Dobby person…no, not Dobby…”
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
“Oh, shh, okay. Yes. Sh.”)

“Oh! A sheriff!”

“Is that him talking about himself?”
“Yes.”

“Can he hear?”
“Yup! That’s an ‘I heard’ face!”
[Auntie who walked in late]: “Who is he! That wicked man?”
“He is the good guy actually? He is a Judge.”

“Is he a good guy?”
“OK, so, the Sheriff guy is actually an outlaw who is pretending to be the Sheriff because the real Sheriff fell off a cliff…accidentally…and he went into town and has been being Sheriff, and doing a real good job protecting the town—“
“—because he’s protecting his bank! See him talking, like it’s “his” bank! When he just want to rob it!”
“Yeah, and there’s this other guy and a girl, but they’re not important right now.”

“Is that a baby horse for him, that is adorable. DO NOT WRITE THAT DOWN.”
[Brooklyn-but-lives-in-the-country-and-knows-the-difference]: “It’s not a foal!”
“It’s a pony.”
“It is a pony?”
“It’s a big pony!”
“Technically, a pony is any horse below a certain height.”
“Oh.”
“So that’s a horse.”
“…”

“They know him?”
“That’s the guy!”
“Who guy, the puppet face?”
“His face doesn’t move when he talks!”
“That’s what I said, he’s a puppet!”

“They could just shoot him in his back, but—“
“Don’t turn your back!—“
“—But there’s other cowboys and men around, so he’s ok.”
“Oh, he is ok.”

“OH NO! He’s dead!”
“No, no, no, they save him, they save him!….this is an emotional turmoil!”
“You see children, they get you in trouble!”
“What happened to him?”
“He got mash-up!”

“Who is she?”
“She’s his fake wife!”
“She’s his…fake wife?”
“She’s there for the bank, too.”
“Oh.”

“Uh oh! What now!?”
“What?”
“That music! That music make me know something going’ happen!”

“She is not into you!”

“He better be in that bed, or they have to buss’ his little head up!”

“What a beautiful dress!”
“That is another outfit!”

“She want the Judge to stay there so the Judge can see him there!”
“Women, they just manipulate the situation.”

“So where the little boy?”
“He sleeping. As a child should.”

“So isn’t that the place where no decent woman should be?”
“Well she’s there with her husband and the Judge…”
“He’s a common man! What kind of Judge is that?”

“She like this new life she living in. Doesn’t she? Doesn’t she?—“
“She is a schemer!”
“She likes this life, but she is torn. Riders, confirm this for me.”
“Mm-hm.”
“No, confirm it for me for real. Is she not doing this to keep him in sight of the Judge so the Judge cannot blame him for this when the bank is blown up?”
“No, the Judge is going to to blame him anyway.”
“Oh.”
“Because they could have had accomplices.”

“This movie is getting worse and worse and worser!”

“NOOOOO!….Riders, make sure you put lots of O’s in my NO.”

“That is a loyal child!”

“Cows again?”

“Is he there? He hiding between the cows!”
“Who?”
“The bad guy?”
“Puppet Face?”

“Why do not just shoot him and kill him!”
“If they shoot, the cows will get nervous.”

“What!”
“Are they going to shoot him? And kill him?”

“AWWWWWwwww!”
“He is a decent guy!”
“They are all decent people! Everyone can change!”
“That is what I am also saying!”
(“Are you putting that she is saying this in a Trinidadian accent?”)

“It was a wholesome movie….minus the whole common law shacking up before they are married thing!”
“They got married in the end!”
“You must shun the appearance of evil! And they were living together!”
“Yes, but he was sleeping in a bathtub.”
“That is true.”

“That was a nice movie Riders, who would have thought!”

lxg3qysav3lwootzat442pxjgck

Mud (2012) – Movie Review

Directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey, Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Taylor Lofner, Michael Shannon…wait, what? Wasn’t he Zod in Man of Steel? Huh, what else has he OH MY GOSH THERE’S A HANK THE COWDOG PODCAST ADAPTATION THAT JUST CAME OUT LAST YEAR OH MY GOSH AND IT’S AVAILABLE ONLINE (okay, back to business)

TLDR 1: This movie did not represent me…unless you take into consideration representation actually is.

TLDR 2: it’s really good.

This movie is easily two hours long, and it was around an hour and a half in that something–right around the time all the threads pull together and the plot starts moving on nitro–bumped it up for me from “I’m watching intently” to “Oh, I’m gonna to show this to my friends”…whether they like it or not.

It’s a boy’s movie, and the women in it are secondarily characters and primarily sources (and forces) of conflict. So why did I like it? How can I like a movie that doesn’t represent me?

Because representation is not about what the character’s skin color is. There never has been, ever, a heroine who looks like me, even the ones who stare at themselves in a mirror and whine about having brown hair instead of blonde. But there have been many heroines that I can sympathize with–and many heroes.

This movie spoke to me because I can sympathize with the protagonists when they learn that the people you admire and look up to might not be worth that admiration or don’t have all the answers, that love might not conquer all; that your parents are fallible, and yet still love you, and still are worthy of respect. I can sympathize with the struggles of having to leave a familiar, beloved home but still know that my friends have got my back. And though the target has changed and changes often, sometimes I just totally wanna beat the hell out of people, you can totally understand why. And hell, I still flip out over Hank the Cowdog because I loved those books to pieces when I was a kid and I was not, at last check, a dog.

This movie is excellent because I can admire the protagonists, even though they’re imperfect, frequently make bad decisions and quite often stupid ones, work hard but still need outside resources, fight hard and still need help. They’re courageous, generous, loyal, and honorable. When they think something ought to be done, they go and try do it, regardless of odds or reasons. They’re good men–or trying to be–or learning to be.

And it’s a good story, told in a way I personally really like: with tons and tons of implied backstory that motivates everyone, shapes their reactions and explains their actions but which isn’t actually shown, merely implied. I love that one. It means someone has sat down and thought things through.

So what is the story?

Well, there’s these two kids, (Tye Sheridan as main hero Ellis, and Taylor Lofner as Neckbone)–who are out exploring an island on the Mississippi river where unexplained events have somehow stranded a boat in a tree. They claim the boat as their own but soon discover that someone else has gotten there first: a man with hob-nailed boots, snakes tattooed on his hands, a white shirt with a wolf’s eye sewn into it that protects him (and a pocketful of other weird superstitions) who calls himself “Mud.” (Matthew McConaughey)

Mud is on the island, hiding out, and waiting for someone. He asks the boys to bring him food and keep an eye out for his girl, the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. This turns out to be Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), and the relationship between her and Mud turns out to be a lot more complicated than first appearance. Mud has been infatuated with Juniper since they were children, but, it is later revealed to the boys, he also has a history of violently attacking anyone else who gets involved with her…or maybe Juniper sets him off on purpose. That’s been their pattern for a long, lont time–but this time he’s killed someone. Mud’s story is that he did it to protect Juniper from being outright murdered by an abusive boyfriend…and though circumstances seem to bear him out, the guy’s family has muscle, money, and is out for blood. Oh, and they have a couple of informants in the Sheriff’s department, the hospital, and the state police.

Mud recruits the boys to help him to repair the boat so he and Juniper can make it down the river to God knows what but he seems to think it’ll be freedom.

Ellis throws himself into the project as a way of escaping from, or seeking answers to, the problems in his own life that he doesn’t have the power or vocabulary to address directly. His parents are separating: his mother is done with their rickety houseboat and hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his father isn’t taking this at all well. At the same time, Ellis’s love life is taking its first tentative steps, only for him to discover that, while girls might find doglike infatuation flattering, they are vain and deceitful at heart and not to be trusted…

So it goes, right up until the part when the wheels come, inevitably and completely, crashing off.

Again, why is it good?

Because it’s an interesting story, well-told. It has themes which, while meaningful, are never over-emphasized. Because it has, first and foremost, well-realized, deeply human characters who are flawed but basically good and who learn from their mistakes to become better. Or, at least, learn not to make those particular mistakes again. In Mud’s case, it’s taken a lifetime. Ellis, though, might not take so long and might not have to end up hiding out on a deserted island running from the cops and your girlfriend’s boyfriend’s vengeful father’s henchmen.

What else? Oh yeah, the acting is superb, including the child actors; the script never once made me cringe (possibly because even the more, shall we say “thematic” bits were delivered so well), so, props for the casting as well as the acting; the cinematography is very pretty and the colors are–well, actually the color is pretty washed out and brown but Arkansas, amirite? There’s also a pretty badass shootout at the end.

Rated:
You’re a good man movie, Mud.

ALERT ALERT MAXIMUM MAXIMUM ALERT

hank_icon_no_logo3-scaled-e1602884287144BEGIN TRANSMISSION

THEY DID AN AUDIO ADAPTATION OF HANK THE COWDOG REPEAT THEY DID AN AUDIO PODCAST ADAPTATION OF HANK THE COWDOG JUST LAST YEAR

ADAPTED AND DIRECTED BY JEFF NICHOLS AND STARRING THE VOICE OF MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY incidentally there is an audio trailer at the link and he does a really good job sounding like a dumbass farm dog who thinks he’s badass but he’s a good boy to the bone really

WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED OF THIS BEFORE, REPEAT ARE YOU READING ME WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED OF THIS BEFORE

END TRANSMISSION

doc2-2