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🎬 "I am the captain now."

🎬 "I am the captain now."
By Eric Johnson • Issue #71 • View online

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This week in quarantine: Scotsmen, an evil horse, fast cars, and pirates. But first …
👦 Boyhood
Made over the course of 12 years, Boyhood is a magic trick of a movie. Writer/director Richard Linklater‘s patience lets us see his characters grow up, a privilege we don’t normally get without investing dozens of hours into a long-running TV show.
One of my favorite things about the movie is that Linklater doesn’t announce when he’s jumping forward in time; he trusts the audience to keep up.
The cast is phenomenal, particularly Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as Mason’s (the boy’s) biological parents. Arquette gets so many good scenes that, at times — and especially after Arquette’s last scene — I wished Linklater had focused on her even more and called the film “Motherhood.” On the other hand, one of the more powerful elements of Boyhood is being in Mason’s shoes as his mom weathers multiple husbands, jobs, and homes. There’s something powerful about being a kid again, unable to steer the ship and slowly realizing that adults aren’t perfect.
My biggest complaint with the movie, and it’s a small one, is that I wish more of the developments in Mason’s life had been planned out at the beginning and foreshadowed in early scenes. The film ultimately meanders to a finish, but even that feels intentional, because what we see here is just the end of a chapter.
Boyhood | Official US Trailer | IFC Films
Boyhood | Official US Trailer | IFC Films
Boyhood is not currently streaming anywhere, but you can find it on all the big video platforms —$3.99 to rent, and $13.99 to $14.99 to buy. Or you can just buy the DVD/Blu-Ray like I did, which comes with a digital copy and costs only $9 on Amazon.
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Braveheart
Braveheart is many things — bloody, silly, sporadically romantic — but subtle is not one of them.
This is a war epic that, in hindsight, clearly paved the way for the realistic ultra-violence of Game of Thrones. Unlike the better seasons of that show, however, Mel Gibson‘s retelling of the William Wallace story doesn’t provoke much higher brain function. It’s almost all about killing, sex, and revenge.
That said, it is a super entertaining movie about killing, sex, and revenge. Gibson, who also stars as Wallace, isn’t exactly charming in the romantic scenes, in part because he looks way too old for the 20-something women he courts, but he totally works as a rebel-turned-national-myth. The famous monologue he delivers at the Battle of Stirling Bridge makes you believe: This guy is a leader.
I respect the fact that Braveheart at least tried to get into the politics of it all by telling us a bit about the Scottish nobles, Robert the Bruce, and what separates them from the commoners Wallace inspires. However, the turns that subplot takes are simple and predictable, and the final act is more of a dry run for The Passion of the Christ than compelling filmmaking. Braveheart is at its best when it leans into the primal pleasures of its first two acts.
Braveheart: Freedom Speech
Braveheart: Freedom Speech
Braveheart is currently streaming on HBO Max, or you can find it on all the big video platforms —$3.99 to rent, and $6.99 to $16.99 to buy (Amazon and Fandango Now currently have the best price).
🔨 Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
July 21, 2008 was the day that I saw The Dark Knight, in a sold-out IMAX theater in Providence, R.I., which to this date is one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my life. But later that same day, I opened my laptop and watched the third and final episode of Joss Whedon’s pioneering web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
I didn’t realize at the time how significant either was — to the future of movies/TV and to the oncoming onslaught of superhero-related content; to me, Dr. Horrible was just a really, really fun musical-comedy experiment.
12 years later, it almost all holds up. The miniseries, written during the film and TV writers’ strike of 2007-08, attracted a perfect cast of suddenly not-busy actors: Neil Patrick Harris as the titular evil doctor, Felicia Day as his love interest Penny, and Nathan Fillion as his nemesis Captain Hammer, a broad parody of the superheroes whose powers are “be handsome and punch good.”
Harris carries the best songs, including “My Freeze Ray” and “My Eyes,” with a sincerity that evolves from innocent to insane, and Fillion is one of the few actors who can sell Captain Hammer’s cocktail of cheesiness and cluelessness. Viewed today on a big-screen TV, the low budget of the production is easily visible, but back in my day, we watched internet videos in tiny boxes and … oh, whatever.
Also: The archetypal “geeky loner man who acts out because one woman is not into him” has not aged suuuuper well, but compared to Harris’ more famous role, Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, Dr. Horrible is basically a saint.
My Freeze Ray
My Freeze Ray
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is not currently streaming anywhere, nor is it available to rent/buy in HD on any video platforms, which sucks. You can buy the DVD for $12.75 on Amazon (or the Blu-Ray for $19.90).
🌉 Bullitt
I knew three things about Bullitt going in: It starred Steve McQueen, was set in San Francisco, and was all about car chases!
Well, I guess I only knew two things. There are three big chase scenes in Bullitt, connected by some fine but uninspiring police work, but only one of them takes places in cars on the streets of San Francisco — about 10 minutes of the total runtime.
Especially as an SF resident, those 10 minutes were a total delight. The streets are unmistakably the real deal, and it’s a thrilling sequence even if you don’t recognize them, with visceral driving stunts that leave you wanting more.
Unfortunately, beyond that sublime sequence, the rest of Bullitt is just okay. McQueen, who I had last seen playing a hotshot rebel in The Great Escape, is once again playing someone who plays by his own rules, but does so here with a minimum of charm and passion. His cosmopolitan detachment reminded me of Ian Fleming’s original conception of James Bond, and it’s a fine choice for a detective character. However, this role didn’t play to McQueen’s strengths, and too much of the film leans on his dialogue.
Bullitt (1968) Official Trailer - Steve McQueen Movie
Bullitt (1968) Official Trailer - Steve McQueen Movie
Bullitt is not currently streaming anywhere, but you can find it on all the big video platforms —$2.99 to $3.99 to rent, and $12.99 to $14.99 to buy. Once again, though, physical media is your best bet: You can buy the movie on Blu-Ray for $5.99 from Amazon.
🏴‍☠️ Captain Phillips
Tense and at times claustrophobic, Captain Phillips is a thriller based on an outrageously cinematic true story from 2009, one of those things that was always going to be a movie; the only question was who would direct it, and the answer was Paul Greengrass, who was coming off of two Bourne movies and the 9/11 drama United 93.
Greengrass was a good choice and mostly acquits himself well, but the movie really could have benefited from a smaller scope and budget. The filmmakers seem to have had ample cooperation from the US Military, resulting in maybe 30 minutes of unnecessary scenes aboard and around the navy ships that respond to Phillips’ hijacking by Somali pirates. The drama we really care about orbits around Phillips, and the longer we spend away from him, the more the tension deflates.
So speaking of Phillips: Tom Hanks. Damn. If he weren’t so compelling here, I would have said the role should have been recast, because his famous face sticks out; but, of course, he sells everything Phillips goes through. You can infer so much from just watching his face as the situation worsens, and he thinks through the awful ways it could end.
In place of the military propaganda, I would’ve liked to get more time before the hijacking with the pirates themselves — we get the tiniest bit of context for their economic situation at the beginning of the movie, but only one of them becomes a full-fledged character. The rest are just antagonists who happen to be on screen for a very long time.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - Official International Trailer
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - Official International Trailer
Captain Phillips is currently only streaming on fuboTV (I haven’t heard of it either), or you can find it on a few of the video platforms — $3.99 to rent and $7.99 to $14.99 to buy.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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