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FILM
Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo
June 2018

The films reviewed in Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo are pulled from a list of films that was started when the column started. The list covers everything I’ve seen for the first time between 2012 and the present.

I have weird thoughts about movies. For example, I was thinking the other day about what my relationship was to the movies in a given year. That seems like a weird thing to think about. Does anyone else ever think about that?

“Relationship” to the movies probably isn’t the right. It’s just the person that I was, and how I felt about movies, at a specific point in time. It’s easier sometimes to just break it down by year, since I was almost always in a much different situation in one year to whatever might have been going on during the year before. This includes responses to the movies that came out during a specific year, and the movies of any era or year that I watched during that same time period. It refers to how I felt about certain genres.

I guess “relationship” would be the right word after all.

Movies are consistent, as is the fact that I love them. No matter what’s going on in my life, I’m probably watching films along the way. Since approximately the early 2000s, I’ve been writing about them, as well. That fact is probably what keeps my brain turning over initial emotional responses to certain films, or even ongoing feelings about an entire genre, or even a specific actor, actress, director, or whatever. I don’t think about shit like this all of the time, but I probably think about these subjects, and others, more than reasonable people do. My brain and film has been like this was since I was pretty small, so it was probably inevitable that I would grow up to write two monthly columns about the movies.

I’ve probably thought about this in one of these columns before. If that’s the deal, just pretend I’m pissed off about the Tremors TV show cancellation (which I actually am), or the fact that an Avatar sequel is going to be here before we know it, forcing us to acknowledge its wretched existence, and very little else.

I think about the summer of 2008. I was miserable, living in Charlottesville, and trying to make a life for myself. I failed miserably, drank even more than I do now, and saw every single film that came out between approximately May and September. At least, every single movie that was released to a movie theater in Charlottesville, VA. That includes Iron Man, Hellboy 2, the second X-Files movie, the sequel to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, WALL-E, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Space Chimps, among others. It was a weird year for film, and I’ve never used film as a means of overindulged escapism ever since. Not on that level, anyway.

As it turns out, I can do that with any year that you care to give me. It has to be from the span of my life, and I can’t really do a lot with memories and movies from the first 3 or so years of my life. I can basically go back as far as 1989. That was the year my parents took me to see Ghostbusters II in a movie theater, which was my first experience with a movie theater. It was around the time we moved to a town called Lake Cowichan, and it wasn’t too long after I had gotten kicked out of a preschool in Victoria, British Columbia. I remember the night my parents brought home Batman on VHS. I remember someone taking me to see Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. 1989 would probably have to be known as the year in which I fell in love with film.

And remember, this whole introspection isn’t just about the movies that came out. It can cover anything that just happened to make some sort of impact on my life---even if we’re just talking about entertainment.

It goes on like that, but I’d much rather hear from someone else. Pick a year from your life, tell me about the movies that you remember seeing for the first time during that period, and tell me what was going on in your life. It all intersects more than you might think, and I swear to God it is almost always fascinating.

REVIEWS 

Deadpool 2 (2018): B+

 Image © 20th Century Fox / Marvel 

Image © 20th Century Fox / Marvel 

Besides being a fairly consistent joy to watch, and besides being a worthy follow-up to the wonderful surprise that was the first one, Deadpool 2 is clever on its own. Some of that is in its self-awareness that it’s a sequel to a hugely successful first film. You know that mentality is going to be part of the film’s personality and tone. However, a lot of Deadpool 2’s originality is a little more complicated, or at least ambitious, than well-placed self-deprecation (for itself, for superhero movies, for the X-Men Cinematic Universe in general).

 

Deadpool 2, in the specific context of the very specific universe it has carved out for itself, is a fascinating combination of genres. Its place and success with audiences around the world is yet another piece of evidence for that crazyyyyy notion that maybe, just maybe, people are actually interested in seeing movies that aren’t disconcerting carbon copies of the last twenty films they saw.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Deadpool 2 is some extraordinary game-changer. In a lot of ways, it tells the sort of story you are probably expecting. You’re also expecting Ryan Reynolds to run the increasingly-elaborate gamut of demands he is creating for Wade Wilson. He strives to do more with the character than just throw an array of hilarious one-liners at one disgruntled opponent after another. We get that, and we appreciate that, so the movie makes a lot of time for that.

But then there are the parts of the movie that will genuinely surprise you, with their choices, and the creative ways in which those choices are brought to life. In those moments, I think you’ll understand what I mean about Deadpool 2’s contribution to the eagerness of people who still watch movies to see movies that are going to do more than aggressively comfort them.

Last Flag Flying (2017): B+

 Image © Amazon / Lionsgate 

Image © Amazon / Lionsgate 

Writer/director Richard Linklater is often at his best with a casual pace, characters with room for organic development, and good actors to make the development actually happen. Those things are combined with a good script, and the result, more often than not, is another piece of evidence for the argument that Linklater is one of the finest directors of the past 50 years. He has worked in other types of films, but the style I’m talking about here, on full display throughout the excellent Last Flag Flying, definitely makes up the bulk of his wheelhouse.

I’ve been spending a number of years at Drunk Monkeys encouraging people to marathon a few of his best films. Last Flag Flying probably wouldn’t make the cut for the top five, but it would have a place in such a specific film festival all the same. Set in 2003, Last Flag Flying has a Vietnam veteran (Steve Carrell, who continues to impress) reconnecting with his fellow Marines (Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne, who both give complex, meaningful performances), in order to get some help in retrieving his son from Dover Airforce Base. His son has been killed while serving in Iraq, and his wife has recently passed away. Carrell’s Larry “Doc” Shepard is barely holding on, and we spend a good deal of the film watching that evolve through a road trip with his friends. Last Flag Flying also leaves room for other characters and stories. As is often the case with Linklater’s films (this one adapted from a book by co-screenwriter Darryl Poniscan), there are a lot of moments for a number of characters. All of it moves into the main thread of the movie, and eventually settle quietly with the rest of the film’s conclusion. In particular, J. Quinton Johnson as Marine Charlie Washington, who served with the son, is a moving side-plot that contributes much to the film’s main point.

Perhaps, the best thing about Last Flag Flying is that it doesn’t crassly dramatize the presence of the U.S. military in 21st century America. There is no romanticism to be found here. There is also no pity. These characters are just trying to make sense of a number of things occurring simultaneously.

The Grifters (1990): A+

 Image © Miramax 

Image © Miramax 

In what certainly feels like The Golden Age of Bullshit, it sure is fun to watch older movies where staggering deception was still reasonably entertaining. One of the best neo noir films, and one of Stephen Frears’ best (which is saying a lot), The Grifters is twisted, mean-spirited stuff. This is a story about con artists, and their work, and we get to live through a couple of particularly hellish examples of their trade. It’s also brutally honest about the relationship various people have to luck, and how that relationship influences what they do with other people. We see a variety of those relationships from characters played by John Cusack, Anjelica Houston, Annette Benning, Pat Hingle (Jesus Christ, Pat), J.T. Walsh, and others. We see what luck does to people.

One of the best things about The Grifters is that the movie makes it pretty clear what’s going to happen to all of these people. Even so, the ending is a vicious, gut-wrenching surprise. It was a shocker in 1990, and it will shock anyone who sees it in 2018.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979): B+

 Image © New World Pictures 

Image © New World Pictures 

Produced by Roger Corman and New World Pictures, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School was ridiculous when it was released 35+ years ago. That was the appeal then, and it remains the appeal now. The Ramones appear as themselves, while providing the soundtrack, in what is really just a gleefully over-the-top parody of those high school confidential films of the 1950s. Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, and Mary Woronov are clearly having a blast as adults who are terrified that the town’s teens (including the consummate, PJ Soles) falling under the manic spell of rock music. Everyone is having fun, to the point where it seems amazing that the movie was ever even made.

As 70s comedy chaos epics go, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is aging a lot better than its contemporaries, including Caddyshack. Much like the Ramones’ music, the film is absurd and passionate in equal measures, and something genuinely creative comes out of the whole fray.

The Formula (1980): C-

 Image © United Artists 

Image © United Artists 

A mystery-thriller about a Nazi formula for synthetic gasoline sounds fucking great. Watching legendary figures like Marlon Brando and George C. Scott scowl and mutter darkly through a series of tepid confrontations and tedious circumstances loses its luster in fairly short order. This film, directed by John G. Avildsen (Rocky and The Karate Kid) is a curious artifact. It showcases the timeless story of a failed movie that had no business doing that. The cast is solid nonetheless, and there are moments of genuine surprise and suspense. There just aren’t enough to sustain a movie that runs for nearly two hours.

Avildsen passed away just last year. His legacy as a director should most certainly be celebrated. He helmed at least two iconic films as a director, and directed other good movies (including Save the Tiger and Neighbors). However enjoyable The Formula might be during brief fits of interesting activity, this is not a movie he should be remembered for.


Gabriel Ricard writes, edits, and occasionally acts. His books Love and Quarters and Bondage Night are available through Moran Press, in addition to A Ludicrous Split (Alien Buddha Press) and Clouds of Hungry Dogs (Kleft Jaw Press). He is also a writer, performer, and producer with Belligerent Prom Queen Productions. He lives on a horrible place called Long Island.