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July 2021
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Road House

Road House is stupid and enjoyable. I'd watch a sequel. When we first see a ripped Jake Gyllenhaal his character comes across as one of life's losers. Why this man, Elwood Dalton, with his warrior's physique is so unmoored from existence is the mystery in the early part of the film.

He is not doing well though in body and attitude he appears solid. His life is squalid, his choices are careless, and we see he's in the grip of suicidal ideation. Warriors without a purpose don't do well, but there is more to this than that. Transplanting himself to the sun blasted Glass Keys, Dalton, guitar strumming theme music and all, slips into the role of the bouncer for the Road House of the title.

The plot here doesn't matter but it is serviceable if a bit choppy due to running time. The humour made me laugh. The setting and cinematography were beautiful. Gyllenhaal is both charismatic and dangerous when required.

Conor McGregor's Knox is a gleeful force of chaos. Knox is here to have a good time, like the best hammer characters in movies do. When Dalton and Knox fight it's like high speed heavy machinery smashing the hell out of each other. But with quips.

I liked this movie and want to see these characters again.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

This is a streaming movie. It didn't start out as a streaming movie but that's what made it to the screen. While I enjoyed its prequel, Afterlife, this doesn't build on its strengths.

If there is a third movie, I fear the performance of this movie may not justify that expense, the cast needs to return to the teenage team of Phoebe, Trevor, Podcast, and Lucky. During the earlier movie, teens were in over their heads and solved problems using grit and Zoomer technology. Frozen Empire lacks most of that and is a movie where too many characters balance on a narrow plot.

Everyone gets less screen time, even Mckenna Grace. She makes doe eyes at spectral girlcrush and complains about unfairness, and that's it for her story. Dan Akryod and Ernie Hudson get more than a cameo. I like them both but why? We saw a generational handover in the previous movie and it was enjoyable. The original cast hang around taking scenes away from the current cast. Those missing scenes stunt the younger characters' development on the screen.

It was the producers' ambition to make an extended episode of The Real Ghostbusters, a popular cartoon from the late 80s. I remember finding those cartoons flimsy and unsatisfying at the time. Watching this movie made me feel the same way, so the producers succeeded in their goal. Alas.

Dune Part Two.

Is this an exciting movie to see on a cinema screen? Yes. Is the movie and the actors' performances overhyped? Also yes. Dune Part 2 is exactly what you need from the second half of a story but it feels less...grand.

The universe building was in the first movie and besides a glance at Kaitian, home of the Emperor, and a brief visit to the monochrome seat of Harkonnen power, Gedi Prime, this movie focuses on life in the desert. That's how it is in the novel too, but the novel gives you access to the characters' rich inner monologues. The first movie substituted spectacle for that and I became aware of the absence of spectacle and inner monologues when it became all about hours of sand.

At an earlier age taking liberties with source material would annoy me but now I see these things for what they are. Adaptations built on prior adaptations. Judgement doesn't involve the material modified or omitted, it's if what's presented on the screen is good. Here it is. This is a worthwhile adaptation regardless of the low nitpicking buzz vibrating away in some parts of the internet. While some have chosen to see wokeism in action at the minor story changes I can see where the changes appeal to an audience who likes their romance reality TV style. Not middle ages political marriage of convenience style.

Chalamet is fine. Zendaya is getting praise for the petulant scowling that some call emoting. It's not, but she's a strong actor when not scowling. Particularly when she wants to stand in the way of destiny because that's the right thing to do. But the biggest winner here is Austin Butler as the sociopathic sensualist Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. He has more range than playing Elvis would lead you to suspect.

This was a satisfying ending to the first novel. I look forward to the third and final movie covering the second book. Together Paul and Chani still have a way to go.

Shōgun. Episodes 1 & 2.

A luscious-looking adaptation of Clavell's 1975 novel FX's Shōgun is a worthwhile watch. You can tell there's money on the screen when the doomed ship Erasmus emerges from the fog. It looks like an oil on canvas painting. While the Samurai tropes are long exhausted, 17th century Japan at this scale may be an alien world to a Western audience. It feels substantial when you see it roll out in front of you and there is detail everywhere you turn your eyes.

Unlike the book (Read it as a teen) or the 1980 mini-series (Saw it in the 90s), English ship pilot John Blackthorne isn't the central focus. Which is the right thing since he's a foul mouthed boor here who tilts towards being unlikable. Blackthorne is the catalyst but this is Lord Toranaga's story. Toranaga remains a dynastic patriarch surrounded by political enemies and facing the horror of a civil war. But while he was an opaque figure in the book he's the lead here and you get to see his mind at work. Something the reader only had access to at the novel's conclusion.

Everyone is enjoyable to watch on-screen and Anna Sawai's Mariko stands out. Filmed before the 2023 Hollywood strike, this may be one of the last peak TV shows. Watch it.