Tag Archives: TriStar Pictures

Cinema Dispatch: Remembering Rambo – Do the Movies Hold Up?

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Rambo Last Blood is such a b movie that the writer of the original book David Morrell has called it degrading embarrassment, and if you’ve read my review you’ll know that I share the same sentiment.  Still, the movie may have done one thing right which is make me reflect on the other Rambo films and wonder if this latest movie is truly as much of a departure from them as my rose tinted nostalgia believes them to be.  For this reason I’ve decided to rewatch the other four Rambo films and approach them from as much of a fresh perspective as I can manage and see if the good ones still hold up and if the bad ones are even worse than I remember.  This is probably gonna be a rough one.  Let’s get started!!

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First Blood (1982)

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Yeah, this one still holds up.  Right off the bat, the movie does a great job of setting up the world in which Rambo lives which frankly I kind of have a hard time believing was really the case.  I mean considering where we are NOW I might be a bit naïve saying that, but the fact that a cop is profiling a white dude with an American flag on his jacket, well that just seems really odd to me as someone for whom adulation and thanks are the bare requirement when interacting with a veteran.  That said, patriotism and worship of the troops has ALWAYS had a two-faced nature to it where the same people screaming about respecting the troops and waving flags are the usually the first ones to trample human rights and backstab veterans who are in desperate need of help, so a small town sheriff using his outsized sense of power to quietly shuffle this guy along isn’t the MOST unrealistic thing, and like I said the movie does a great job of setting up the world in such a quick amount of time.  Stallone has a quiet intensity to his performance that belies the rage burning just beneath the surface, and after only three minutes with Brian Dennehy you’d want to torch the town too.  This movie excels at the way it escalates tension and how the situation just snowballs as one slight leads to a definite act leads to another sleight and so on.  And sure, it does have its cheesy moments.  Every time he flashes back to Vietnam it’s only a notch below the ridiculous flashbacks in Meet the Feebles (made even more so by his AMAZING mustache) and some of Stallone’s shouty faces come off as comical, but all those extremes really add to the utter desperation of this character and how despite all his muscles, his movie star good looks, and his unmatched skills at whooping ass, he’s still a complete mess as a person; exemplified by the speech at the end which is both heart breaking to listen to and a little bit funny to watch.  What was really solidified for me on this latest watch is that while Rambo himself is an interesting character, he’s more of a symbolic force of nature whom the drama and political commentary revolve around.  Heck, I’d wager that in overall screen time we get more of Brian Dennehy than we do of Rambo as it’s his movie first and foremost even if Rambo does eventually take center stage once we get to the aforementioned finale and the rather blunt coda of the movie.  First Blood is ultimately a movie more about the time it takes place in than about the characters within it; the man pushed too far by an uncaring system and the ghosts of his past, the cops who abuse their authority under the guise of keeping law and order, even the dipshit gun toting National Guardsmen which may or may not be an accurate or fair portrayal (weekend warriors versus the REAL soldiers), but is definitely there to make a point.  With the latest movie, it felt like the incoherent ramblings of a perpetually terrified racist who couldn’t even see the humanity of those who are perceived to be the enemy.  To a certain extent, I can see where that sort of extreme flailing of emotions originated in this film with how much of its heart is on its sleeve, but where Last Blood wants to fuel the fires of discord, this movie is trying to draw out some kind of understanding from all of its characters and from the audience who watches it.  It’s a bit tone oblivious at points and has some drastic tonal shifts throughout (the comic relief National Guardsmen REALLY stood out for me), but it has genuine heart behind it which is why it holds up so well.  Now the only thing I know about the book this is based on is how it ends which greatly diverges from the movie.  At the end of the book, Trautman ends up killing Rambo at the police station, and while the filmmakers did shoot a version of this for the movie they ultimately decided to go with the happier one where Rambo lives and goes quietly with the faint hope that maybe he’ll get the help he needs and that the country can do better by others like him.  Well that, or they’ll just make a series of increasingly ludicrous and jingoistic movies, but what are the odds of THAT happening!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Baby Driver

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Baby Driver and all the images you see in this review are owned by TriStar Pictures

Directed by Edgar Wright

Summer is in full swing and they’re bringing out the big guns!  No, not Transformers surprisingly enough which is floundering at the box office.  We’re talking about this latest Edgar Wright feature that every film critic has been waiting for!  Everything about this movie looks great, from the trailers and casting all the way down to the soundtrack that brings to mind Scott Pilgrim in how it’s integrated into the narrative.  Does this manage to be yet another entry in Wright’s sterling career, or is this car chase film a huge wreck waiting to happen?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with the titular Baby (Ansel Elgort) waiting in a car and listening to his music while three bandits named Buddy, Griff, and Darling (Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Eiza González) are robbing a bank.  Once the trio get back to the car, Baby proceeds to put The Transporter to shame by driving with as much skill and wacky collateral damage as the Blues Brothers could in their heyday; somehow managing to avoid the cops and get away scot free!  It turns out that Baby’s been doing these kind of jobs for a while now as he’s under the thumb of a local mobster named Doc (Kevin Spacey) who recognized the kid’s skills and has been putting them to good use for some time now.  Luckily for Baby, he’s just about to pay off whatever debt he owes to Doc and is ready to start his new life that will be free of crime and will hopefully involve a waitress at a local diner named Debora (Lily James) who he’s had his eye on for a while.  Of course, nothing goes as well as Baby hopes it does and his chance to get out ends up digging himself even further in doing more jobs with even more erratic and dangerous criminals such as Bats (Jamie Foxx) who has it out for Baby right from the start.  Can Baby find a way to break free whatever it is that Doc is continuing to hold over him?  Will this next heist be the one that breaks his perfect driving record?  Wait, did I just hear Handsome Boy Modeling School!?

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Sure he’s a good driver, but he’s also a radio hog!  Will you let someone else pick a song for once!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Money Monster

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Money Monster and all the images you see in this review are owned by TriStar Pictures

Directed by Jodie Foster

Once again, George Clooney is trying to save America’s soul through his world class acting skills!  Not too long ago he directed and co-starred in The Ides of March which was a vicious take down of the electoral process and the idea of there ever being a perfect candidate and then just last year he was in Tomorrowland which, from what I understand, is damn close to a Randian take on a Save the Future kids movie where the best and brightest separated themselves from the rest of the world to form a Utopian society that is no doubt run on renewable energy and good vibes.  Now we’ve got Money Monster; a movie he didn’t direct but seems to be right in his wheelhouse as it takes the finical system and investment culture head on.  Does this movie manage to make an intelligent statement on capitalism and Wall Street, or is this simply an angry and half-thought out screed that just shows how little the filmmakers and writers know about what they’re railing against?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with douche bag television personality Lee Gates (George Clooney) going about his normal everyday routine of giving financial advice on his show Money Monster with his trusty director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) in the booth making sure it all comes together instead of just being a big cacophony of egotistical noise radiating from the self-centered host.  Today is not going to be a normal day for anyone however as a complete stranger Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) manages to sneak his way into the studio with not only a gun but a bomb vest.  He takes everyone hostage, puts the vest on Lee, and begins his own personal broadcast to spout off about the ills of Wall Street and their hype men like Lee.  Specifically, the guy lost A LOT of money when a company called IBIS suspiciously lost eight hundred million dollars in a single day due to a supposed computer glitch and he wants answers for it; especially after Lee said on national television that the company was a sure thing for any investor.  Can Lee talk his way out of a bullet in the head?  What really DID happen to the money that IBIS claims to have lost?  How amazing are the ratings gonna be for THIS show?  Maybe he can get another desperate asshole to break in during sweeps…

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“On today’s episode, we see who wants to get shot in the face!  Any takers?”     …     “Come on people!  If you can’t decide amongst yourselves, then  I’m gonna choose for you!”

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