CVIndependent

Thu12032020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

5 out of 5 stars

Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovich) directs and writes the adapted screenplay for I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a nice puzzler of a movie that will have you debating its plotline with friends for days.

On the heels of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet—which is not yet out in the Coachella Valley, but it will be … I promise—September is proving to be a fine month for moviegoers who like their films intelligently convoluted and crazy.

Young Woman (the amazing Jessie Buckley) is going on a strange date with her strange boyfriend, Jake (the equally amazing Jesse Plemons). They take a road trip in a snowstorm to meet Jake’s parents, even though Young Woman—as the title of the film suggests—is apparently thinking of ending things with Jake.

They have bizarre conversations during which their moods change in a snap, and their visit with the parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis, relishing the chance to play in Kaufman-land) is even weirder—but their stop at an ice cream shop in the middle of a blizzard is off-the-charts nuts. It all comes to a conclusion that absolutely requires you watch the film again, with that second viewing being a completely different experience.

This is one of those movies, like Barton Fink and Mulholland Dr., that doesn’t make much sense while it is happening, but it comes together with post-movie thought. It’s also one of the year’s best, with the four stars all worthy of year-end awards.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Breaking Bad, one of the greatest TV series of all time, ended six years ago. Since then, creator Vince Gilligan has been serving up Better Call Saul, a nice extension of the Breaking Bad universe that will go into its fifth season next year.

However, Better Call Saul is a prequel, meaning the Breaking Bad timeline came to a stop six years ago. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, but intend to, you may want to stop reading, as spoilers follow.) So, what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) liberated him from captivity at that American Nazi compound? When last we saw Jesse, he was speeding off into the night, laugh-crying hysterically.

Knowing full well that the fan base is itching for more, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie has made its way to Netflix (and a select few big screens). The film picks up where Breaking Bad left off, with Jesse in a pinch as “a person of interest” after the White assault—and still very much in need of a shave and shower.

It’s a great thing to see Paul back in his wheelhouse as Pinkman, even if the character has become a bit dour after being held prisoner in a hole in the ground. Jesse’s screen time during his captivity on the TV show was limited, as the story, logically, focused primarily on Walter White’s last days. We only really saw Jesse eating ice cream and failing in an escape attempt—he became a background character.

El Camino gives Gilligan and Paul a chance to, via flashback, explore some strange adventures Jesse had with his captor, the quietly evil Todd (Jesse Plemons). Plemons actually plays a big part in this movie—thankfully so, because he’s a badass as Todd. Todd is a seemingly sensitive, low-volume man—with a psycho streak that poses all kinds of threats to Jesse’s well-being.

Other characters we see again include Mike (Jonathan Banks), who makes an appearance in flashback (his character having been eliminated by White in the show). Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) show up early and haven’t lost a step in providing comic relief. Most notably, the late Robert Forster, who passed away on the very day El Camino was released, returns as Ed, the vacuum salesman who does something a little extra on the side.

For those who loved the show, El Camino is a must-see. It fits right in, like two episodes that were hidden in a secret vault for six years. I won’t reveal all of the other cameos, but trust me: Breaking Bad fans, you won’t be disappointed.

If you haven’t seen the show and have read on anyway, stay away from the movie until you have watched the series. This is a movie that reveals virtually everything that happened during Breaking Bad’s run. Watch something else on Netflix until you have seen all 62 episodes of the series.

The movie gives Jesse Pinkman a more poetic sendoff than him screaming like a banshee. While this might be the end for future Jesse, chances are good that past Jesse will appear somewhere within the Better Call Saul timeline, which is taking place before the events of Breaking Bad. I’m sure Gilligan has a few more Jesse stories up his sleeve.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Give co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein a lot of credit for making a movie about friends gathering for a game night—a premise that sounds kind of stupid—and turning Game Night into one of the funnier dark comedies in recent memory.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play Max and Annie, a married couple with a love of board games and arcades. They host weekly game nights with their friends, but the latest one could be a bit annoying for Max, because it involves his highly successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Brooks asks to take over game night; Max concedes; and what follows is a great and funny series of surprising, twisted and often super-bloody events. I don’t want to give away the big twists; I’ll just say the film managed to trick me on numerous occasions—while making me laugh hard.

Bateman and McAdams turn in some of the funniest work in their careers, while Billy Magnussen is a scream as the group dunderhead; Lamorne Morris does a very good Denzel Washington; and Jesse Plemons steals scenes with a dog as Max and Annie’s weird cop neighbor. And by weird, I mean super, mega weird.

The movie actually plays out like a great round of Clue, in which you guess the contents of the envelope and get it totally wrong, because the filmmakers are constantly fooling you in hilarious ways.

Daley and Goldstein constantly prove that there is nothing they wouldn’t do for a good laugh. They take a lot of risks—and they pay off.

Game Night is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is an uncompromising, brutal Western. It makes Clint Eastwood’s classic, somber Unforgiven look like Mary Poppins.

Christian Bale turns in another spellbinding performance as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker. Joe—a quiet, tired, jaded soldier—is spending the closing days of his military career in 1892 capturing and imprisoning Native Americans. He has fought many battles, seen many atrocities, and committed many of his own.

When aging and terminally ill Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) is granted freedom by the president of the United States, somebody who knows his dialect must be chosen to escort him and his family back to Montana. Joe is the best candidate for the job … but it’s a job he doesn’t want: Joe fought against Yellow Hawk and witnessed him murdering his friend many years ago. The idea of leading a man he sees as the worst of murderers to a graceful death in Montana doesn’t appeal to him; in a scene as tense as any other filmed last year, he says so to his colonel (Stephen Lang) and a stuffy bureaucrat (Bill Camp, who occupies one of the few characters in the film that qualifies as cartoonish). This scene makes it clear that Joe is going to rank among Bale’s best performances … and the movie has barely begun.

Actually, Cooper establishes the unrelenting darkness of the film before the title credit. Rosalie (Rosamund Pike) is seen teaching her young children what adverbs are as her husband tends to their farm. In an instant, Rosalie’s family life is decimated by Comanche bandits, who kill her husband and all of her children.

Joe, having no real choice but to lead Yellow Hawk to his homeland (his colonel threatens his pension), reluctantly sets out on the journey with the dying chief, the chief’s family (which includes the terrific Adam Beach and Q’orianka Kilcher) and a handful of soldiers. He then stumbles upon a destroyed Rosalie and her dead family at their burned-out homestead. He takes her into their traveling party—a gesture that possibly starts to awaken a decent human being within himself.

Cooper, who also wrote the screenplay, avoids sermonizing, and opts for a film that takes its sweet time delivering its message. The movie is far from predictable, and nobody in the cast is safe. That cast includes soldiers played by Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) and impressive relative unknown Jonathan Majors. Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused) is a true standout as a longtime fellow soldier of Joe who is battling “the melancholia.”

Adding to one of 2017’s greatest—and most underrated—acting ensembles is Ben Foster, who shows up late in the film as Charles, an imprisoned soldier handed off to Joe mid-journey. It’s Joe’s job to lead the murderous Charles to the gallows; in an undeniable way, Charles represents the horrors of Joe’s past ways. It’s no surprise that this results in more than one tensely acted scene between Foster and Bale.

Pike, who hasn’t done much since her bravura performance in Gone Girl, shows devastating grace and beauty as the mother who loses everything. She makes Rosalie a true symbol of human resilience during harrowing times. Studi is pure brilliance as Yellow Hawk, saying everything with his majestic, chiseled face. He has a moment with Bale near the film’s end that is heartbreaking and beautiful.

How Max Richter’s haunting soundtrack failed to garner an Oscar nomination is beyond me. Also delivering top-notch work is cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, who has helped make one of 2017’s better looking films.

Bale deserved an Oscar nomination for his work in this film. Joe is the sort of complicated, wounded character at which he excels, and Bale’s work with Cooper (they also partnered on Out of the Furnace) continues to be one of cinema’s more compelling partnerships.

While Hostiles is far from a fun time at the movies, it’s an essential film for those who like their history served with a fair share of truth and tragedy.

Hostiles is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews