Mute – A Movie Review

mute movie poster

Mute is a sequel of sorts to Moon, which you may remember I enjoyed quite a bit. Ducan Jones wrote and directed both, so it makes sense that they exist in a shared reality.

I have to admit that I did not enjoy Mute nearly as much as Moon. Mute has a run-time of two hours and six minutes, and because it felt every bit of that, I found myself drifting away. The movie is very slow to start and features Alexander Skarsgård in the beginning, which also contributed to my disinterest. In Mute, he plays the protagonist, and a mute hero at that. Skarsgård is a fine actor, particularly when he plays a villain, but he just can’t carry a movie as the star in my opinion.

The plot features a man living in Berlin in the near future. He grew up disconnected from technology and suffered a terrible accident in his  youth, which led to his muteness. He’s now a bartender, and when his troubled girlfriend goes missing, he desperately tries to find her. As he searches, he becomes mired in all kinds of villainy.

Like I said, the first half of this movie is rather slow. However, when Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux begin to dominate the second half of the film, it really picks up. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the last thirty minutes. Rudd and Theroux play former military medics, men who seem decent enough, but as the movie progresses, their depravity becomes more and more apparent. I enjoyed the end so much because I’ve never seen Rudd play someone quite as edgy as “Cactus Bill.” He fully committed to his role, and he mesmerized me much like Sam Rockwell did in Moon. In fact, had Mute featured only Rudd and Theroux, it would have been far more captivating (though it obviously would have needed a different title).

That’s really the main issue I have with Mute–it’s almost two different movies in one. One movie features a silent man looking for his missing girlfriend, the other features two men who are very likable but also really quite awful. Eventually their worlds collide, but only because they must.

If you want to see Paul Rudd do something drastically different from his usual fare, I highly recommend Mute–his charisma is no less potent even as a morally ambiguous miscreant. However, if you’re just looking for something to stream on Netflix, I wouldn’t settle on Mute. Pick Moon, instead.

 

Netflix’s Tiger King – A Few (Introductory) Thoughts

I’ve seen a LOT online about a documentary on Netflix called Tiger King. Even so, when I would notice the “poster” on Netflix, I always thought it looked ridiculous. It appeared as some sort of a mockumentary–I assumed it couldn’t be real.

However, I listen to a radio program called The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz and they could not stop talking about how absolutely nuts Tiger King actually is. I generally agree with LeBatard on a variety of subjects, so his opinion motivated me to give it a chance.

I’m only three episodes in, but this has got to be the wildest show that I’ve ever experienced. I simply cannot believe it’s real, yet it has to be due to all of the actual news footage included–decades of legitimate news footage. I’m pretty cynical about these kinds of things, but they show local news vignettes, appearances on late night television like Jay Leno and David Letterman, actual legal documents, newspaper clippings, real magazine covers, archived Internet footage. It’s quite convincing.

The documentary essentially details the lives and “zoos” of several different people that have a particular fondness for big cats. After three episodes, I’ve come to realize they are all insane in their own way, they are all criminals in at least some capacity, and they all yield the strange charisma of a cult leader. Two of them are obsessed with destroying the other, and it certainly seems like they are on a collision course.

Listen, this is not high art. While I do believe the documentary is well made with excellent pacing and superb edits, this is an absolute circus. It’s pure spectacle.

I have no idea where this train wreck is going, and I can’t look away.

If you’re looking for a new binge, I haven’t seen anything else quite like this.

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The Mandalorian – A Few Thoughts

This is probably my favorite show of all time, so there is no excuse for just now writing about it months after it debuted.

By the way, yes, I’m a Star Wars fanatic. And, no, I’m not capable of being objective when it comes to Star Wars.

However, even with that being said, this is still a phenomenal show for the following reasons.

First of all–it’s got heart. You can tell that the creators of this show wanted it to be great. It looks great. The acting is great. The costumes are great. The story is great. The action is great. They are trying very, very hard to make a great experience for the viewer, and it shows in every way.

Secondly–they nailed the characters. The Mandalorian himself is incredible. We virtually never see his face, yet we care about him. We care about his beliefs, his motives, and his well-being. Obviously, a young character appears that depends on The Mandalorian for safety, and this is partially why we care so much about The Mandalorian himself. A bond forms between this other character and The Mandalorian, almost like that of a father and child, which causes us to see The Mandalorian in a completely different light. This child, by the way, is the element that will capture the hearts of even those who don’t count themselves among the Star Wars faithful. I know this because I saw it happen on several different occasions with people who couldn’t care less about Star Wars or science fiction in general.

Thirdly–this feels like a Star Wars story. Sure, you can absolutely watch it without knowing anything. It stands on its own as a self-contained series. However, if you know Star Wars, it feels like it belongs to the original trilogy from the Seventies and Eighties–it’s got that kind of magic.

Finally–if you are among the enlightened and enjoy Star Wars in all its forms, you will revel in the tiny references, the brief cameos, and the clever in-jokes.

Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, this series appeals to everyone. As we’re all stuck at home due to the outbreak, I would put this at the top of your “must-watch” list.

themandalorian

Amazon’s The Boys – A Few Thoughts

I’ve been meaning to write about this crazy show for a long, long time because I actually watched it last summer. However, it says something that even after all of these months, it still stands out as one of the best series I’ve seen in quite a while.

Based on a comic book, The Boys is about a group of normal men who have decided to take revenge against a team of super heroes. However, these super heroes are anything but altruistic. In fact, most of them are scarier than any villain you could imagine.

Super hero stories are no longer unique on the screen, but The Boys is absolutely original in that there are no “good guys” in this story–not really. Everyone is selfish, or brutal, or willingly ignorant, or–worst of all–apathetic. And while that certainly sounds like a bummer, the show manages to infuse a grotesque sense of humor. Despite all of its savagery, The Boys is a captivating watch.

In fact, Amazon Studios seemed to spare no expense with The Boys. The special effects are top-notch, the actors–especially Karl Urban–are excellent, the story is very well conceived and executed, and the characters never fail to surprise you.

However, as good as Karl Urban is, it’s Antony Starr who steals the show. He plays Homelander, a twisted amalgam of Superman and Captain America. I’ve never heard of Antony Starr before The Boys, but his Homelander absolutely terrified me. Every time that character appeared on screen, I got nervous. You’ll have to watch the show to see what I’m talking about.

Yes, The Boys subverts the genre in a way that feels fresh, but it’s the wicked humor, the interesting characters, and the relentlessly violent story that won’t let you look away. Even after all these months, I’m still thinking about it. Season Two is on the way, so now would be a great time to catch up.

Be warned, though, this is not a show for children. The violence is shocking. Believe it or not, they actually had to tone the show down. Supposedly the comic book is even more hardcore.

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Netflix’s Dracula – A Few Thoughts

I watched this show on Netflix in early January when it debuted. It had two things going for it that definitely got my attention.

First of all, it looked to be dealing with the real Dracula–Bram Stoker’s Dracula–my Dracula. Secondly, it was created and written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the talented creators behind my favorite versions of Doctor Who and Sherlock.

The show had some good buzz. Critics were saying the first episode was genuinely scary, and it was! It had some quirky, funny moments, to be sure, but that first episode absolutely dabbled in the horrific and grotesque.

Somewhere throughout the three episode series, though, it became … campy? I still got a kick out of it, but it felt less scary and more wacky. There were some clever twists and turns, but the end of the series didn’t leave me particularly impressed.

Probably its greatest assets were the lead actors–Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. Bang plays Dracula and Wells plays Sister Agatha, as well as [REDACTED]. These two had incredible chemistry together and were a lot of fun to watch.

I can’t say I’m excited for a second season of this particular Dracula adaptation. I’m not sure I would watch it, honestly.

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Netflix’s Locke & Key – A Few Thoughts

I’m a big fan of IDW’s series entitled Locke & Key. Written by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), this title was a little bit horror, a little bit fantasy, a little bit family saga, and a whole lot of charm. Besides the captivating writing, it also benefited from a nice blend of the cartoonish and the Gothic from artist Gabriel Rodriguez.

When I heard Netflix planned to make a series out of it, I got very excited. After a few starts and stops in production, it finally got made.

I actually watched this series after it released several weeks ago. I’ve had some time to think it over and … it’s not great.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it–I did. But I’m also a fan, you see. I’m not completely objective about Locke & Key. While I thought it looked great and had nice pacing, it just failed to capture the magic of the comic series.

This is primarily because of the actors. The acting just never quite clicked for me. I didn’t ever enter that space where I forgot that I watched people acting. They didn’t become the characters, and that’s a problem with a story like this.

Also, the show didn’t commit to its actual identity. It frankly tried to play too nicely. I think it hoped to capture the Stranger Things crowd, but Locke & Key is not Stranger Things. It’s far more violent, graphic, and intense. The themes are more mature, and the consequences more severe. I love Stranger Things, but they shouldn’t operate on the same frequency. As it stands, Locke & Key came off more like a bland imitation, which is a real shame.

Of course, I want you to watch Locke & Key because I want more of it on Netflix. It’s not too late to course correct. Like I said, it looked beautiful, and they moved along at just the right speed. They just need to get comfortable in their own skin and maybe bring in an acting coach.

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You Should Enroll In The Umbrella Academy

If you’re looking for a new show to binge, I highly recommend Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy.  I just finished it last night and it’s one of the only series that I’ve ever watched that made me think to myself, “I can’t wait to watch this whole thing again.”

There’s something absolutely delightful about this show that makes it a blast to experience.  I’ll share with you just a few of the things that I appreciated most.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Umbrella Academy, I describe it as The X-Men meets Stranger Things.  An aristocratic stick-in-the-mud named Sir Reginald Hargreeves takes it upon himself to collect seven babies born under mysterious circumstances throughout the world.  He trains them from birth to fight evil and deter an impending apocalypse.  He counts on his android nanny and sentient, well-dressed primate to assist him.  His Umbrella Academy is cold, rigid, and unforgiving.

The show begins with the adult members of the Umbrella Academy returning home due to Hargreeves’ death.  It’s the first time they’ve been together in years.  It becomes very apparent, very quickly, that all of these former child super heroes are damaged goods.

However, this isn’t the melodrama of The X-Men.  This show is actually fun.  In fact, while it’s never laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is consistently amusing to the point you are on the verge of laughing.  The light touch even among serious happenings is why I compare it to Stranger Things.

Consequently, and perhaps surprisingly, The Umbrella Academy is just as much about its characters as it is about the unavoidable apocalypse.  Every single member of the Academy is given a backstory and a concrete personality that is easy to love.  The show randomly slips in and out of characters’ pasts, which makes it unpredictable and captivating.  Furthermore, every aside, every detour, contributes to the overall story line.  This is a tight plot with well-developed characters.

I adore the fact that they took the execution of this show so seriously because they easily could have shortchanged the plot and allowed the visuals to take center stage.  Because, wow, this show looks amazing.  The production quality is out of this world.  I felt like I’d actually entered another world.  For example, Pogo, the gentleman primate, seems to be just as solid as the actual human beings in the scenes with him.  Astounding.  The special effects are Netflix-money good.

Speaking of production quality, some Netflix shows have had a bit of trouble with pacing.  I’m specifically talking about the Marvel programs and even the recent seasons of Orange Is the New Black.  Granted, we’re only in The Umbrella Academy’s first season, but the pace never let up.  This show knows it’s competing with your cell phone, and it dares you to look away.

Even amidst the crazy action, the huge explosions, the wonky time travel, and the intense fight scenes, I liked this show best because I loved the characters.  In their own unique way, each and every one of them is charming with a great deal of charisma.  I challenge you to pick one overall favorite.  For me, it changed from episode to episode.

So what are you waiting for?  Get enrolled in The Umbrella Academy tonight!

umbrella academy

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)