Welcome back to my Home Movies! This week, we have a nice little assortment of things hitting shelves. Today brings one of the best films of the year in How to Blow Up a Pipeline, as well as one of the best shows in The Last of Us. Throw in a fun little comedy that got short shrift in Fool’s Paradise, as well as a classic getting the Criterion treatment, and there’s loads to choose from. Read on for more…
The Last of Us
It’s not secret that I don’t watch a ton of television, but one of my favorite video games becoming a show? Of course, I was tuning in. Lucky for me that I did, too, since it’s exquisite. From Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay to Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett, I was blown away by The Last of Us. When talking about how the show raised the bar for video game adaptations (here), I included the following bit:
Episode Three is an out and out masterpiece. The most overt change from the game’s plot, this episode sidelines our heroes for much of the hour, focusing on Offerman’s Bill and the relationship only hinted at in the video game. Here, Bill and Bartlett’s Frank get to live out a life. It’s heartbreaking and deeply moving. For my money, it’s the single best episode of television that I’ve seen in a very long time. Yes, it’s just that good.
The finale proved as emotional and haunting as we’d expected. Those who hadn’t played the game were almost certainly shocked, while those of us who had were stunned that it was depicted so well. It’s brutal, powerful, and lingers with you long after the credits roll. The Last of Us spent nine episodes building up to this, and boy howdy did it ever not disappoint.
I was shocked that Charlie Day‘s directorial debut wasn’t better received. I thought it was very entertaining, ripe with satire, and overall a good time. Fool’s Gold isn’t revolutionary, but it was easily enjoyable. I spoke to co-star Ken Jeong here about the film, while my review of the movie here includes the following:
Hollywood satires used to be produced more than they are now. In part, that’s due to the disappearing of the mid-range movie, but another aspect of it is that so many tend to miss the mark. When one works, it can be a riot. However, when they don’t, it’s often a train-wreck of a film. Luckily, Fool’s Paradise is the kind of satire that would have succeeded even when this sort of a flick was more common. Especially as a debut work from its writer/director/star Charlie Day, it really does stand out as a lighthearted pleasure.
Fool’s Paradise shows equally strong comedic and satirical chops. Full of cameos and unafraid to feel inside baseball at times, it’s still a broad crowd-pleaser. Plus, the film is unafraid to bring in emotions at times as well. I laughed a lot, marveled at the central performance from Day (more on that below), and had a very good time. As a bit of small-scale comedy counter-programming, what more can you really ask for?
How to Blow Up a Pipeline
One of the angriest and most riveting movies of the year is How to Blow Up a Pipeline. This urgent thriller has something to say, says it with ruthless efficiency, and leaves you with a ton to think about. It’s really something to behold, belying its small scale. I said the following here about the flick in my highly positive review:
How do you get a point across when it seems like no one is actually listening? Depending on the situation, you might raise your voice, bring in visual elements, or potentially go bigger. When it comes to environmental activism, there’s a segment of the community that sees bigger as the only option. In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, we see one way that a point can be made. It’s an extreme one, but presented with a clear head and sound rationale. This film snuck up on me with its gut-punch of a story, leaving a real mark.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is razor sharp with its lean and impactful story. Following a group of anti-heroes as they potentially engage in domestic terrorism is a fine line to walk, but this movie does it shockingly well. Whether it actually inspires any change or not is another story, but as just supremely effective filmmaking? It’s an unqualified success.
Also Available This Week
South Park: Seasons 21-25 (TV)
Your Honor: Season Two (TV)
Your Honor: The Complete Series (TV)
From The Criterion Collection: “There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.”
The Ranown Westerns: Five Films Directed by Budd Boetticher
From The Criterion Collection: “The five briskly entertaining, vividly performed westerns made by director Budd Boetticher and strapping star Randolph Scott in the second half of the 1950s transcend their B-movie origins to become rich, unexpectedly profound explorations of loyalty, greed, honor, and revenge. Often grouped under the name Ranown (after producer Harry Joe Brown and Scott’s production company) and colorfully scripted by Burt Kennedy and Charles Lang, these films seem to unfold in a world unto themselves, staking a claim between traditional westerns and the subversive genre revisionism of the 1960s—and representing the crowning achievement of the underappreciated auteur Boetticher.”