El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) Movie Review By John Walsh

 

El Camino

Director: Vince Gilligan
Writers: Vince Gilligan, Vince Gilligan (based on “Breaking Bad” by)
Stars: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Matt Jones

It’s been six long years since ‘Felina’ aired, bringing the journey of Walter White and co to an emotional conclusion. To say that Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows to have ever been created would be a fairly uncontentious argument, with the excellent spin-off Better Call Saul series only further enhancing the overall mysticism surrounding the ‘brand’ for lack of a better word. Vince Gilligan also did the seemingly impossible and remarkable job of bringing the whole thing to an unbearable crescendo, whilst simultaneously tying up the major characters arcs in a manner that felt, at the very least, satisfying for the ever burgeoning fan base at the time.

There is perhaps one exception to that nigh on perfect finale and that is the way Jesse (Aaron Paul) abruptly sped away in that magnificent El Camino of Todd’s, crashing through the gates and emotionally off of our screens. A sizeable proportion of viewers were left disappointed by the departure, with his final appearances on the show dominated by scenes of torture and emotional blackmail, many felt he deserved better. Sure, it was still decently handled, he finally meted out poetic justice upon his tormentor in chief Todd (Jesse Plemons) and even bowed out on an amicable terms with Walter, but after the series of emotional gut punches he suffered over the years, it felt a little underwhelming.

In fairness to Vince Gilligan, however, Breaking Bad was never supposed to be the Jesse Pinkman show. It was about Walter’s descent from middle class benevolence into the ruthless brutality of a drug kingpin. It was about showcasing the hidden potential for malevolence within us all. He created the aforementioned Better Call Saul to further flesh out the travails of Saul Goodman, giving the magnificent Bob Odenkirk ample opportunity to do his thing, whilst drawing fans back into the familiar setting of New Mexico and with the secretive arrival of El Camino, this time he’s doing the same with Aaron Paul.

It was with a heady mixture of caution and anticipation, though mostly the latter in truth, that I sat down to watch the next chapter of Jesse Pinkman. Netflix have a spotted history with original content, but when you have Vince Gilligan writing the script and helming the movie, there was never any danger that it would be anything other than brilliant. And brilliant it truly is.

The action picks up right from when the series finale ended, Jesse is screeching out the compound in the El Camino before he’s forced to swerve into a driveway to avoid the oncoming deluge of police cars that arrive even as Walter lies dying in the meth lab. He thinks quickly and hooks up with his two friends, Skinny (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt L. Jones), who seeing him in a terrible state, offer some temporary refuge and a means of incognito transportation that sets the events of the movie in motion. A fresher looking, shaved head and stubble sporting Jesse is ‘reborn’ the next day and sets off with a seeming plan to escape the clutches of the law.

He’s still a haunted man however and this is perfectly encapsulated by numerous flashback sequences. They act as a visual catalyst for Jesse, fuelling the decision and actions that follow in the days that transpire after his escape, but also allow the viewer to access to the depths he has plummeted during his captivity. It honestly could be the most intelligent mixture of flashbacks and present day imagery that I’ve seen utilised in many a year. It weaves flawlessly around Jesse’s horrible predicament, or should that be plural because the whole film is one big, horrible predicament, effectively visualising the extent of the emotional trauma inflicted upon him at the hands of Todd and his uncles white supremacist group of opportunistic goons.

We the audience should already be on his side, of course, but if for some idiotic reason you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, and please believe me when I say that you should, and decide to see this first as a potential precursor to doing so, then it will certainly make you empathise with him and subsequently enjoy the karma he dishes out to the remaining ‘bitches’ that remain of Todd’s extended group. It’s a tried and tested storytelling technique harnessed by Gilligan that we’ve seen utilised as recently as a few weeks back in Rambo: Last Blood, where the depravity of the antagonist is established early, setting up the final act payback. It made for a gratifying viewing experience with the latter and it does so again here.

Aaron Paul is a talented man that has made some poor choices over the last six years, never truly capitalising on the hype of his appearance in Breaking Bad. We’ve seen that the guy can act and he proves it again here. His character goes through the emotional ringer in around 120 minutes of running time, portraying all the heartache of a man that’s been kicked in the proverbial balls and who’s at his lowest ebb with ease. He confidently carries the movie with a very assured performance and you get the sense it’s a homecoming for the actor, like slipping into a perfectly broken in pair of Red Wings. Quite frankly, I wanted more of the performance, the story and the character. But sometimes less is more and maybe that’s the case here.

The other star turn in El Camino is Jesse Plemons. It feels like this guy has appeared in just about every Oscar nominated movie in the last five years and never seems to get the praise he deserves. He’s an incredible actor and I actually forgot how annoying his character was in the final season of the show. A sycophantic, Heisenberg wannabe with a psychotic nasty streak to boot. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his interloping into the proceedings. The overwhelming majority of the flashbacks featured him and yet despite the permanent presence of manipulation and Stockholm Syndrome he tried his best to foster, there was actually a couple of dark comedic moments involving a corpse, him and Jesse that were a real standout. I’m not entirely sure how much new footage he shot or how much was unused from his stint on the show, but he’s by far the best of the rest in this movie.

I’m absolutely delighted to say too that Walt does make an appearance. I love Bryan Cranston and it would’ve felt odd not to have him in there, even if the lengthly scene was an archival, cast off from the first season. Gilligan clearly had it mind for a long time, perhaps even prior to writing the script and wanted it in there, which is good enough for me. I’ve seen criticism of it’s inclusion but it worked for me on two levels. For one, it highlighted the journey our protagonist has been on since that diner chat, how much he’s developed and matured in the ensuing years, but it also reaffirmed that Jesse wasn’t some idiot resigned to a perpetual life of crime. Even back then he had potential away from the drug game, which Walter astutely recognises.

I get the sense that Vince Gilligan himself was annoyed by the abrupt nature of Pinkman’s ending. I mean why else would he go out his way to make a two hour, direct continuation of the finale if not to right a perceived wrong? The heart of the story after all is that Jesse must deal with the demons of his past before he can find inner peace and start a new life in the wilderness of Alaska. Or maybe I’m just looking into things too much again? I do have previous for it. One things for sure though, El Camino is the Breaking Bad ‘sequel’ that fans wanted and it does offer another tantalising look into that world we were all transfixed by for years, whilst finally delivering proper emotional and fulfilling closure for one of its primary protagonists.

If you’re a fan of the show then it’s an absolute must watch.

Rating: A

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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

In The Shadow Of The Moon

Director: Jim Mickle
Writers: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine

If you kill me now…
the world as you know it will end
in a very short time.

Yeah. Once again a movie about time traveling. Always interesting to see how they incorporated the paradox of time travel. And there’s always going to be someone who claims something isn’t right. Not that I really care about that because I still don’t know anyone who has actually traveled through time to provide proof whether changes in the past may or may not affect the future. Perhaps that would provide proof of whether the grandfather paradox is plausible or not. So, for me, it’s still pure Sci-Fi. And that results in enjoyable films such as “About Time“, “I’ll follow you down” or “Predestination” And this Netflix Original certainly wasn’t that bad either.

This film differs enormously from one like “Predestination“. And this in terms of simplicity. It’s not all that complicated. Don’t expect such an immense “mindfuck” as in the latter. You don’t need an immense manual or walk-through here. And furthermore, it’s a pleasant mixture of detective-movie and Sci-Fi. The tracing of a serial killer (active in Philadelphia) by the ambitious police officer Locke (Boyd Holbrook) is the common thread throughout the film.

The apparently randomly selected innocent victims, die a terrible death in which decomposing brains are the cause of the sudden death. Locke discovers that all the victims have scars in the neck area. Soon it’s said that an isotope is the cause of them ending up dead in a rapidly spreading blood pool. And when a fourth victim manages to give an accurate description of the person, a massive search is being conducted. Locke ends up face to face with a young, coloured teenager (with a thorough knowledge of combat techniques) in a blue jogging suit (Cleopatra Coleman). The biggest shock for Locke is that she knows a lot of facts about Locke. Facts she couldn’t have known. And before you know it, it’s 9 years later.

The film is divided into time periods of 9 years. Starting in the year 1988. The year that the first murders happen. It’s actually the most action-rich part. And also the most realistic. The way in which a cook, concert pianist and female bus driver meet their end, has been portrayed enormously realistic. Don’t expect an ordinary cause of death. It’s pretty bloody. And in the case of the bus driver, quite spectacular. But when the phenomenon of the returning teenager reveals itself and you finally begin to understand what’s going on, realism slowly but surely fades away and gives way to pure fiction. And gradually you realise that this isn’t a typical detective film, with inspectors (like in “Se7en“) chasing a crazy serial killer. No way. It gradually transforms into a thoughtful sci-fi and then ends in a corny drama about family issues.

To be honest, I thought the acting performance of Boyd Holbrook as the wayward Locke wasn’t bad at all. Perseverance and drivenness were exceptionally well portrayed. Because of his obsession to solve the mystery, he loses control of reality. It destroys his family relationships and interferes with his work. Gradually Locke turns into an unkempt tramp, without work and living in his car. Therefore, let me praise the make-up department of this production. And although Holbrook’s acting was outstanding, you can’t say he out-sings the rest of the cast. They weren’t bad, but you can’t speak of spectacular interpretations either. Only the action-rich fight scenes with Cleopatra Coleman as an unleashed fury pleased me as well.

No, “In the shadow of the Moon” certainly wasn’t a disastrous film. Although the story was essentially not too original. And you get that feeling that you’ve seen it all before. Probably because of that, the denouement wasn’t really surprising. Perhaps the opening scene was too revealing as well. The question of whether you can avoid disaster by drastically changing something in the past is and remains fascinating. I bet that the event they tried to undo, will be the subject of discussion once again. Just look at the politically charged opinions on other websites. Even the word “propaganda” is used all too often. The patronising tone and the explanatory nature of the film was no obstacle for me to enjoy this film. Don’t expect a groundbreaking movie. But it surely was entertaining enough. So, it’s definitely well worth a watch, this Netflix Original.

3 From Hell (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

3 From Hell

Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Stars: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig

I’ve always been a Rob Zombie fan, though never really cared for most of his movies. I get what he’s doing – parlaying his love of the same sleazy horror he embraces in his music – and he’s actually a pretty skilled director. But he also tends to overindulge in excess for its own sake.

For me, The Devil’s Rejects was an exception. Not that Zombie backed away from the usual mayhem and parade of sideshow freaks, but this time his over-the-top style completely suited the story. While still an homage to the grindhouse aesthetic of the ‘70s, it was more than just the sum of his influences. The murderous Firefly family may have been introduced in House of 1,000 Corpses, but Rejects is when they got interesting.

Though one would assume the climax of that film precludes any notion of a follow-up, Otis, Baby and – very briefly – Captain Spalding return for more nastiness in 3 From Hell, Zombie’s belated sequel. It turns out that even though each was shot more than 20 times, they were only mostly dead (to coin a phrase). Sure, their resurrection is contrived and health issues relegate the late Sid Haig to a mere cameo, but while 3 From Hell does not reach the heights – or depths – of The Devil’s Rejects, its arguably Zombie’s best film since.

3 From Hell is essentially divided into two stories. Following Spalding’s unceremonious exit (by execution), the first half has Otis (Bill Moseley) escaping prison with the help of half-brother “Foxy” Coltrane (Richard Brake). A massive manhunt ensures, during which time these two force sleazy warden Dallas Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips) to break Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) out of jail by holding his wife and friends hostage. Afterwards, the three hole-up in a seedy Mexican village. This sets-up the second half, in which drug lord Aquarius (Emilio Rivera) seeks to avenge the death of his father, Rondo (Danny Trejo), who was murdered by Otis during his escape.

Spread throughout is all the sadism, murder, blood and flamboyant performances that have become hallmarks of this franchise. Zombie’s penchant for ugliness is on full display and he skilfully maintains the same greasy look and tone of The Devil’s Rejects. However, 3 From Hell doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s another film of bad guys squaring-off against worse guys, which is perfectly fine if more-of-the-same is what you’re looking for. Spalding is also sorely missed. “Foxy” Coltrane is obviously introduced to keep this group a trio, but he’s not as interesting and Richard Brake is no Sid Haig. Additionally, Sheri Moon’s “look how insane I’ve become” performance grows irritating after awhile.

But while there aren’t any real surprises, 3 From Hell is seldom boring, the worst sin a movie can commit, good or bad. Like The Devil’s Rejects, it’s fast-paced and unquestionably horrific (though I still don’t understand how either are considered horror films). Story wise, Rob Zombie hasn’t figured out anything new to do with his characters, but it more than justifies his ongoing second career as a director.

Joker (2019) Movie Review By The Moviie Couple

 

Joker

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz

Moviie Couple here!   Yes, we are back!  The Mrs. has returned and this weekend we went out to see Joker!  Despite her lack of enthusiasm for the gluttony of comic book films lately, she was excited to see this new iteration of the Joker.  Here is a quick reminder of our scoring system.  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system.   We rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a near invisible citizen of a Gotham City that looks eerily similar to 1970’s New York City. As Arthur trudges through his daily life in this cesspool of a city on the verge of destroying itself through poverty, crime and overall apathy, he attempts to make ends meet as a clown for rent and attempting to follow his dream of being a stand up comic, all the while taking care of a sick mother and dealing with his own mental health issues.  As one unfortunate event after another happen to Arthur and horrible truths begin to come to the surface about his family and his past, He begins a descent toward madness that will culminate in the creation of the killer known to the world as Joker!

Surprisingly, this film was directed by Todd Phillips, best known for the Hangover Trilogy and comedies like Old School and Due Date.  Starring as the title clown is Joaquin Phoenix in a masterful performance! Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Brett Cullen all co-star, but make no mistake this is nearly a one man show.  This entire film is carried by the virtuoso performance of Phoenix as he captures Arthur’s pain in each and every scene.

The Joker has been portrayed by a variety of actors over the years.  From Ceaser Romero to Jack Nicholson through the now legendary Heath Ledger version and even most recently by Jared Leto. The character is well known not only by film goers, but even more so by the millions of comic book fans that have read about the Clown Prince of Crime since his first appearance in 1940! Batman’s arch nemesis has gone through many different variations over the last eighty years or so.  Over that time frame he has never been given a definitive origin story.  Many hints and clues have been dropped, but never have the publishers of DC Comics ever settled on a one “true” tale of the creation of the Joker. Phillips and Warner Brothers Films have spoken on this subject prior to the films release. They add that this film stands outside of the comic book world and is only “their” version of the beginnings of Joker. Some interviews even have the filmmakers stating that this is not the comic book Joker at all.  This film is to be taken as its own unique film experience.

So how does it hold up? Is it a cinematic triumph? Will it be able to please film fans as well as comic book aficionados? Are there any connections to the Batman? Let’s not waste any time chattering teeth over this one and get right to the reviews! Put your face paint on, affix your red noses and lets get right to it!

Mr. Moviie Couple: As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I am a huge comic book guy!  So it goes without saying I was pretty excited to see a dark version of the Joker’s origin story.  This film was right in my wheelhouse! Right as the film begins you know you are not in a typical comic book film. This film is cinematically as far from the Marvel Cinema formula as you could possibly get. This movie exists in the world of Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver far from a world of Shield, Asgard or the Justice League. Phillips immediately immerses you into the crime and filthy urban setting of the 1970’s. Much like the Scorsese films mentioned earlier Arthur Fleck is a man lost in a world of crime, fear, trash (both physically and mentally) and hopelessness. Arthur has many fantasy visions throughout the film, where we are not sure what is real and what is not.  He comes across like a psychopathic Walter Mitty.

Phoenix’s performance as Fleck is a masterpiece of acting.  He completely throws himself into the role.  He physically transforms into this sad sack, loser with such abandon that it sucks you into his world.  Not only can you feel his struggle and pain in each and every scene you can feel his rage burning just underneath the surface waiting to escape. From his facial contortions to his gait (and how it changes as his feelings ebb and flow throughout the film) every detail about Arthur Fleck is captured by Phoenix, not a single detail is left out of this performance.  It is absolutely Academy Award winning level.  Joaquin Phoenix absolutely deserves every ounce of recognition that he is getting for his work here.

That being said, outside of an Oscar caliber performance, the story left me lacking.  The film makers went on record saying this is not a comic book version of Joker.  They were also on record saying that this was not a political film.  Somewhere the communications must have been mixed up because this film is absolutely rife with political undertones.  Not only that, but Warner seemed to want its cake and eat it to.  They want this film to be a Joker story, with no ties to comics or other versions, but (we never spoil here at Moviie Couple) there are multiple connections to Batman (Through Bruce Wayne and his family) throughout this film.  The connections the film does strain to make actually hurt the narrative, by seemingly forcing this connective tissue that will leave any comic book fans scratching their heads on how this can possibly all add up (alternate version of Joker/Batman dynamic or not).  The film would have been much better off not mentioning Bruce or the Wayne family in any way at all.  Making this a true stand alone Joker film (as advertised) would have made for a better experience overall.   In truth, this film could have been a great movie about a man driven mad by a city and a system that cares not at all for the downtrodden and never mentioned Joker at all.  It would have made the same impact upon its conclusion.  It almost feels like dressing this film up as Joker could be seen as a marketing ploy and nothing more.

A final issue I have with this film was one of the glorification of Joker’s killings.  Nearly all of the killings perpetrated by Joker in this film were revenge killings.  From Joker’s first murders, a Bernie Goetz type subway shooting, and all the others throughout the film, the viewer sees all the victims ( in one shape or another) as if they deserve what is coming to them.  They are either preying on others (as in the subway) or have hurt/humiliated Arthur himself.  This Joker is not an agent of chaos, that kills to show that all life is a joke.  He has much more in common with Travis Bickle the protagonist of Taxi Driver than with the arch villain of The Batman.  This film wants you to see Joker/Arthur as a revolutionary, an unexpected leader of a revolution against a system rigged by the rich and privileged to keep down the poor and unseen.  Surely there is a good story to be mined with that subject, but it is not a good Joker story.  Joker here, comes across as very sympathetic and maybe even justified through some lenses.  The film never takes him into the realm of a monster.  In one scene between Arthur and Zazie Beetz’s character, we are left to guess if he committed a monsterous hideous act, but we are never shown whether it occurs or not.  It felt to me less like a creative decision and more one left out only to continue his sympathetic arc.

In conclusion, Phoenix gives a performance that is no Joke (see what I did there?).  His acting is on a whole different level here, but the films other choices, a sympathetic Joker, holding back on the actual killing scenes (Joker should be far more brutal) Fox TV Gotham type of connections to Batman and a revolutionary arc left me feeling this film failed on all levels other than the acting.  Thanks to the acting and a very accurate film recreation of 1970s NYC I will give Joker 3.5 Bills, but the story stops it from being great.

Mrs.Movie Couple:   This was not what I was expecting to see in a Joker movie.  Thanks to my many years of marriage to Mr. Moviie Couple  I knew a little about the Joker and what makes him tick.  After watching the trailer for this movie I was preparing myself for a very scary and violent time at the theatre.

-Joaquin Phoenix was amazing!!!  I hardly recognized him from the other movies I had seen him in and he was very creepy in a stalkerish way.

-The movie looked great!  Grainy and old, it purposely looked like a film coming out in the 1970’s not just one taking place during that time.  A nice touch.

-I found it to be a slow burn and I was bored more times than I thought I would be.  While not nearly as boring as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I did nearly doze off a few times.

-It told a good story about how the system set in place to help the mentally ill continues to fail those in need.  Unfortunately this is no better today than it was back in the 70’s.

-This Joker seemed to be more sad than scary.  He wasn’t the villain I had seen in movies outside of this one.  It seemed as if he could just get good treatment or keep his medication coming he would have just lived out a very sad life. Not a very terrifying Joker at all.
.
-Definitely not a kids film.  Please parents DO NOT let your young teens go see this thinking its a comic book movie.  It is not a comic movie.  It actually could give young people with depression or some other undiagnosed mental illness some bad ideas.  Be very careful.  This film is for a MATURE audience.

-The supporting cast was good, especially Zazie Beetz and Robert De Niro, but they were hardly given much to do.

-I give Joker 2.5 Bills!  It was a depressing, slow story that really did not give me any thrills.  I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t excited, I just felt sad for the main character.  I’m not sure I should feel sad for Joker, but that’s all I took from the film.  I would never watch it again and can only recommend it for those wanting to see a fantastic acting job by Mr. Phoenix.  Thanks to his performance Joker gets the extra .5 without that it would be a solid 1 or 2 and a huge waste of time and money.

On the way home, We talked about Joker (or at least I did, Mrs. just listened).  I spoke about Joker in comics and how violent he can be, how he is portrayed as a monster comparatively to Batman’s hero.  Mrs. Moviie Couple simply said, “Well that was not the character we just watched”.  We both raved about the acting and how we felt it could have been a better film without any references to Joker or Batman at all.   A good film was in there, but all the baggage that comes along with the names Joker, Wayne and Gotham alters the perspective completely. Both of us were disappointed for different reasons.  My 3.5 Bills combined with her 2.5 Bills gives Joker an average of a solid 3 Bills!  A big MEH.  The acting is out of this world, but the story never rises to the level of the great performances in it.

So until next time, Smile and wave at any and all clowns you see working, you never know the true story behind the face paint.  They may just need a hug and a smile to feel a little better!  See you next time and remember “That’s Life”  Be sure to check our facebook page for a clue to our next movie up for review!  Mr. & Mrs. Moviie Couple out!

Rambo: Last Blood (2019) Review By Philip Henry

 

Rambo Last Blood

Director: Adrian Grunberg
Screenwriters: Matthew Cirulnek, Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega

When we last saw Rambo, John J. he was back on US soil walking down a long lane to his family ranch. He had just killed a Burmese warlord and a small army with a mini-gun and rescued some well-meaning but naïve missionaries. It looked like he was hanging up his crossbow and putting those days behind him for a quiet retirement.

But the franchise gods are never that kind.

It’s ten years later and Rambo is still living on the ranch with a single mother and her daughter. The nuts and bolts of how this living arrangement came to be are never fully explained, but we get the crucial piece of information that after the girl’s real dad left, Rambo has been like a father to her. But as is often the case in these movies, no matter how many horror stories the kid is told about their deadbeat dad, they still feel the need to meet him face to face and ask him why he left. So when Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) tells her Uncle John that she’s got an address for her dad in Mexico and wants to go see him, we know this isn’t going to end well.

Not only does her dad turn out to be just as horrible as she was led to believe, but soon after meeting him she gets abducted and forced into a prostitution ring in Mexico. So it’s time for Uncle John to come to the rescue, right? Well sort of. Rambo isn’t as young as he used to be and his first rescue attempt doesn’t quite go to plan.

I don’t want to go into every beat of the story, but suffice to say, Rambo ends up getting on the wrong side of the heads of this prostitution ring and lures them back to his place in the US where he has a large collection of booby traps waiting for them.

It’s a simple structure; for the first hour they set up a reason for Rambo to kill bad guys, and in the last half hour he kills those bad guys in the most brutal and sadistic ways possible.

Unlike other parts of this franchise, this one actually evokes real emotion. There are a couple of lump in the throat, wipe the eye moments, but it doesn’t hold back on the violence either. The 2008 movie was some of the most violent killings I’d seen on-screen for a long time and Stallone obviously felt he had to live up to that again.

It’s a lean ninety minutes of vigilante justice dispensed with a Vietnam veteran’s twist and though Stallone is seventy-three now and his face looks like a set of saddle-bags, he’s still a formidable presence on-screen and Rambo is still a guy you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of.

During the end credits we get a brief recap of all the movies in the franchise, including the one you’ve just watched, which may seem a little redundant, but then it carries on with a little epilogue. So if you want to see if Rambo lived to fight another day, stay until after the recap.

I think everyone knows what to expect when they see a Rambo movie, and in that respect I think this one lives up to the best parts of the series. The emotional connection with Gabrielle and her mother, and the side plot about a journalist (Paz Vega) trying to expose the gang gives it a little more depth than the non-stop action films, and gives Rambo a more personal reason to take revenge than he’s had in a long time. So if you like seeing low-life human traffickers get what’s coming to them, you won’t be disappointed.

Light Of My Life (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

Light of my Life

Director: Casey Affleck
Writer: Casey Affleck
Stars: Anna Pniowsky, Casey Affleck, Tom Bower

Based on his onscreen persona, Casey Affleck could possibly be the most miserable guy on the planet. I don’t recall the last time he played someone who wasn’t the walking definition of melancholy. But hey, it won him an Oscar, so I guess it’s working for him.

So it should come as no surprise that his first film as a writer-director would be conducive to his attributes. Light of My Life is a relentlessly gloomy post-apocalyptic drama in which a plague has killed almost every female in the world and civilization is more-or-less in shambles. Affleck is the fiercely-protective father of a young daughter, Rag (Anna Pniowsky), who he disguises as a boy for her own safety.

A majority of the film has them trekking through the stark, cold wilderness, occasionally finding abandoned homes for temporary shelter and only venturing to populated areas when necessary. Most of what we learn about these two – as well as the cataclysmic plague – come through conversations when they’re alone together. Rag has a lot of questions, mostly about human nature, some of which Dad can answer, others he can’t. He is also increasingly aware that as she approaches womanhood, it will increasingly difficult to keep up their ruse.

Very similar in concept, tone and pace to The Road, Light of My Life is relentlessly bleak and pessimistic, the only respites from the constant despair being Dad & Rag’s bedtime stories. In fact, the opening 10 minutes in which he puts his spin on the tale of Noah’s Ark is about as sunny as things get. Elsewhere, the narrative advances very slowly, which is effective when showing how society has pretty-much come to a stand-still.

However, there are long stretches where nothing really happens. Affleck’s typically laconic performance suits the mood and young Pniowski is a revelation, but aside from a few flashbacks, we learn little about these characters. That might be deliberate, but misery for misery’s sake can be a challenge to endure without more personal investment in who’s doing the suffering.

Still, Light of My Life is well made and, despite its languorous pace, comes to genuinely suspenseful, unexpectedly violent climax. Affleck also makes good use of locations to paint an effectively dreary picture, sort of reshaping the world as an extension of his own image. It definitely feels derivative of The Road, but if that film gave you hankering for more hopelessness, here’s a second helping.

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