Hostiles, Scott Cooper’s new western, wants to be taken seriously. It wants to say important things, address essential themes, and say it all with unflinching intensity and beauty. To do that, especially in today’s market, takes not only talent, but courage and restraint. His success is mixed.
The film begins with a quote from D. H. Lawrence: “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted”. The film itself sets a course to both illustrate this observation and to melt both the heart of the protagonist, Capt. Joe Blocker(Christian Bale) and the hearts of the audience.
Like other Post-Modern westerns (specifically, Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves) Hostiles uses the genre conventions to self consciously address the larger themes of violence and racism. The title itself carries this load, indicating both hostility and the notion of the Other. A timely film, it would seem, in this current age. But when done well, as in the case of the two older films, westerns have always been timely.
It’s an old saw that America defined itself through western expansion …. and westerns are soundtracked to the hum of old saws …. that in the West, America found its identity story.
But does America want westerns? And is Hostiles the kind of Western they want? Director Scott Cooper earnestly believes it’s the movie they need.
So, like so many contemporary filmmakers, he goes to the source western, the post Viet Nam thinking man’s western, John Ford’s The Searchers, for imagery and inspiration. Beginning with the Comanche attack on the settlers, through the framing of Christian Bales’ prejudiced and hateful Captain Blocker in the cabin’s doorway, through his path to healing and redemption, the fingerprint of Ford’s iconic film is everywhere.
The difference though is both dramatic and telling. Ford suggests and Cooper shows, if not tells.
Despite using the landscape, always a western’s greatest assess, effectively, letting its beauty and scope dwarf and counterpoint the characters, and despite strong internally driven performances by everyone, the film only sometimes hits its emotional mark.
Too often the characters say what they should show. These are truths that should be felt, not articulated. At times he trusts in the power of his silences to speak…and he wisely and admirably avoids comic relief….but as the film draws to its end, there are confessions and self reflections that deflate the emotional power of the scene. And power is exactly what Cooper is striving for, and he should be duly respected in these cynical franchise days for the attempt. Pushing Max Richter’s soundtrack to the front of the mix, assigning its rich synthesized and orchestrated chords to lead, Cooper is declaring his intent to address America’s burden of violence and heal its self-inflicted wounds.
For all the violence, this is not an exploitation film, it is not a shoot’em up. Cooper is aiming for a deadly seriousness and gravity that the themes demand. Christian Bale’s performance certainly is all in. He is like a still and broiling focus of Cooper’s ambition to say something profound, both timely and timeless. His character takes the mythic arc from lost to found, from damned to redeemed, but in order to make it fit the narrative it feels like stages are missing.
It’s as if in this PTSD parable, Cooper wants his hero to heal so badly that he’ll take a shortcut here and there to help him along. He begins the film as a hardened and hateful government sanctioned killer, an Army officer who has done awful things in the line of duty. But when he encounters, the vulnerability of the traumatized settler woman (Rosamund Pike), he becomes a compassionate and thoughtful man. Add the vulnerability (to say nothing of the nobility) of the Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi), then the Captain truly begins to change, and change rapidly, too rapidly.
The last shot of The Searchers is John Wayne, framed by a cabin door, having saved his niece and overcome his prejudice, returning alone to the wilderness. The door closes.
The last shot of Hostiles nods to this iconic ending, but vicariously invites the audience, for America, to enter and be healed. It is such a noble gesture, I wish it had been more earned. As it is, I wish Captain Blocker well, but I wish the film hadn’t got there so fast and, despite the many wounds and corpses, so easily.
Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy
Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.
The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.
I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.
Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?
Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!
Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.
So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.
The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.
Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.
First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.
Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.
Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.
Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.
To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!