"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Extraction II

disclaimer: I support the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes and I think Netflix is the primary instigator of the current problems in the movie industry. I believe they used venture capital money to run an unsustainable rent-by-mail service until most video stores were out of business, then pivoted to streaming on a model that requires not paying artists their fair share. And then all the studios jumped in after them, so it’s a bunch of business asshole CEOs trying to last as long as they can without admitting to their stockholders that they fell for a scam and have no way out except to rebuild streaming in a totally different way that doesn’t fulfill Wall Street’s insane lust for preposterous growth. They fucked themselves over, which is fine, but they also fucked movies over, which is unforgivable.

That said, the bastards occasionally spend some of their plunder on making good movies, including EXTRACTION II. Please enjoy my review!

I’m a busy man and/or a slowpoke, so I took my time finishing this review. But don’t let that give you the wrong idea: I watched EXTRACTION II (on screen title: EXTRACTIION) the first day it was on Netflix, I’ve rewatched it since, and I’m sure it will be one of my favorites of the year. I’m a fan of the first one – one of the most legit American made-for-streaming action movies – but the sequel is even better. Once again directed by former Captain America stunt double, UNLUCKY STARS villain and ATOMIC BLONDE choreographer Sam Hargrave, it’s a movie made for those of us who appreciate a good old fashioned, straight ahead movie star action vehicle, made with the impeccable craft of the best stunt geniuses, the luxury of theatrical-worthy production value, and a refreshing lack of smart assy, winky-winky bullshit. There’s a little joking around between comrades, but it takes its subject very seriously. Its subject is a guy who is awesome doing awesome shit while going through some shit. I think it would be a good one of these even if they weren’t so rare these days.

Chris Hemsworth (BLACKHAT) stars as the excellently named Tyler Rake, who was shot in the throat and fell off a bridge into a river last time (though there was an ambiguous implication that he might’ve survived). The sequel picks up when he’s scooped out of the river and put up in a state of the art hospital by his handler Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani, PATERSON), with help from her brother Yaz (Adam Bessa, Hanna tv version). Nik was cool in the first movie but here she has a bigger part and makes a strong case for induction into the Best Friend Hall of Fame, starting with refusing to pull the plug when the doctors recommend it, supporting Tyler through physical rehab even though he’d rather be dead, and setting him up with a new home (and his old dog) in Austria when he’s ready. She tells him, “You fought your way back. You just have to find out why.” A good theme for a movie like this.

Of course one day a mysterious guy (Idris Elba, PROM NIGHT) appears on his porch knowing too much about him and trying to recruit him for a job. The guy never says his name, but the credits call him Alcott. Tyler tells him to fuck off but then finds out who recommended him: his ex-wife Mia (Olga Kurylenko, SENTINELLE). The one who left him after their son died of cancer while he was in Afghanistan. So he takes the job. He has two weeks to get ready.

I don’t have to explain to most of you that much of this is generic action formula and that I mean that as a positive, not a negative. We have gathered here specifically to see a well told version of a tale as old as time. It might be even better if it was the one where his body floats ashore in a tiny village having lost his memory, he’s generously nursed back to health by locals, becomes a valued member of the community and learns a regional fighting style before remembering who he is and having to return to violence. I love that one. But I also love this one, the one where he wakes up from a coma and tries to live a new life of peace in a remote cabin with a dog and two chickens but has to come back to help someone from his past so he gets ready through ROCKY IV-style low-tech training montage. In fact as soon as I saw how fucked up he was in the hospital I excitedly asked my wife, “Are we gonna get a training montage?” (It’s short, but I’ll take it.)

The job is in Kojori, Georgia, where Mia’s sister Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili) needs help leaving her abusive husband Davit Radiani (Tornike Bziava). One complication is that Davit and his brother Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani) founded and lead a notorious, cult-like “billion dollar heroin and weapons operation” called the Nagazi. A bigger complication is that Davit is in prison for killing a DEA agent and has arranged to have Mia and their kids Sandro (Andro Japaridze) and Nina (Mariami and Marta Kovziashvili) locked up with him in a small, shitty living quarters, supposedly for their protection. So Tyler has to lead a team into the prison to snatch them without the prison guards, Davit or any other prisoners (who are involved in a gang war) getting in their way.

Would you be surprised to hear that it doesn’t go smoothly? The raid on and escape from the prison are a thrilling sequence, most of it styled as a single take, and encompassing everything from a prison riot to a car chase to a street shootout to a battle on a moving train with Tyler shooting down helicopters with a huge PREDATOR type gun. You know I loved that fake-long-take movie CARTER, but for those who hated it, don’t worry, this is more like the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE approach where everything is as practical as possible and looks very real. (In fact, there’s a shot where Hargrave insisted on being the camera operator because he didn’t want to ask anybody else to walk under a real helicopter dropping people onto a moving train.) Also there are small pleasures like Tyler catching on fire and continuing to fight. He puts the fire out by repeatedly punching a guy.

There’s so much storytelling and timing built into the sequence, so much rhythm and escalation. In the prison they weave through hallways and tunnels, catching glimpses of the looming threat of the rowdy prison population trying to get at them through bars, then they get away from them but they can be heard muffled in the distance, then getting louder. Right when Tyler is about to make it out to the street Davit shows up, bashes Ketevan in the face with a wrench, duels Tyler, and loses. Ketevan finishes the job. Probly didn’t need to. Wanted to.

There’s an absolutely brutal fight between Nik and two soldiers in the front of the train. They’re bigger than her and she just has a knife, but takes advantage of the close quarters to block them from aiming their guns and to bash them against the walls. I like when she breaks the window with one guy’s helmeted head and then scrapes an arm across the jagged shards remaining at the edge.

As in part I, Tyler has a relationship with a kid as a stand-in for the son he lost. In this case it’s the tempestuous relationship he’d have with an angry, rebellious teen. During the escape there’s constant tension from Sandro asking stuff like “Where’s Father?” and “Why are uncle’s men shooting at us?” His mom keeps brushing off his questions, not ready to tell him “Your uncle wants revenge ‘cause I bashed your father’s head in with a shovel back at the prison and let me tell you, I enjoyed it.” But eventually, during the first minutes of not being shot at, he figures it out.

Sandro is often shaking, looking like he’s gonna cry or shit himself, but I think he feels even more pressure than most teenage boys to be tough. He’s got the Nagazi indoctrination on top of the usual societal mess. He feels a duty to protect his mother, but also thinks she betrayed his father. “A good son is supposed to stay with his father,” he tells Tyler. Even when the father is an abusive monster. This “men doing the stupid shit their asshole fathers taught them” theme is also reflected by Sandro’s uncle Zurab saying “‘You fight for your brother till your last drop of blood.’ I haven’t forgotten my father’s lesson. Have you?” when his own uncle (Dato Bakhtadze, WANTED, BEN-HUR) tries to warn him that maybe it’s not a good idea to get himself and all of his people killed over this stupid revenge bullshit.

Even before he thinks Tyler killed his father, Sandro eyes a stray gun, tempted to pick it up and join his dad, his uncle and Tyler in the world of killers. And there’s a constant threat of him choosing his uncle over his mother. Tyler has a good talk with him standing on a balcony on a tall building and seems to get through to him just as he hears helicopters coming and realizes the kid already sold him out. Whoops.

Another source of tension, at least for me, is that I liked Nik so much I was constantly afraid they were gonna kill her off for the pathos. It’s a relief to have that knot out of my stomach during subsequent viewings. One of the best bits of suspense is when they’re fighting their way to the roof of a skyscraper for extractIIon by helicopter. Tyler is fighting some guys in a gym with a window view of the sloped glass roof where Nik has fallen, been knocked out, and is slowly sliding down. So he has to finish his fight in time to get up there, catch her, and dangle from the edge, with Zurab shooting at him. Then he gets his first brief one-on-one with Zurab. If it wasn’t really filmed at a high elevation they sure fooled me. It’s so exciting to see action movies that are real movies in the year 2023. I missed these.

Tyler and friends face an endless parade of paramilitary goons, led by scar-faced Zurab and a few particularly scary looking top guys in his organization. BLOODSPORT II through DARK KUMITE star Daniel Bernhardt sports a mohawk to play one named Konstantine, but be forewarned that this is him doing his part as an 87Eleven lifer, it’s not really a featured henchman role like you might hope. He’s not much of a character, but he does his job as a visually memorable threat, as does Australian MMA fighter Megan Anderson as “AKA.”

The onslaught of gun and vehicle based action does not prevent it from being a movie full of scrapping. The choreography has a raw, messy realism to it without being repetitive, and allowing for delightful uses of locations and props: burning a face on the side of a heater, stealing a riot shield and using it as a blunt weapon, taking guys out with weightlifting equipment, knocking a guy face first onto a treadmill that flips him and launches him through a glass barrier and down to a lower level. (Every time I watch the movie I have to stop and replay that a couple times.)

It’s also very imaginative in its mayhem: a motorcyclist being thrown into the air by an explosion, hitting a tree. Another one hitting a fallen tree, flying off his motorcycle, then it landing on top of him. Shooting up helicopters and watching them crash. Showing a rolling train wreck from both interior and exterior perspectives. Any time a vehicle the size of a car or larger flips and lands on its side it’s probly gonna be used for cover in a shootout. The action team clearly thought long and hard about every cool thing these warriors could do by thinking fast on their feet.

Some have criticized the structure of the movie for having such spectacular action in the beginning and middle but getting more intimate for the finale. For me it works great. We already got to enjoy the thrill ride, then we go out acknowledging the pathetic stupidity of Zurab taking this vendetta through to the end. There is no winning this.

I have some misgivings about my beloved action genre’s fetishistic fixation on the military, their guns and their tactical gear. But I appreciate the approach the Tyler Rake Saga takes to this sort of thing. Yes, its hero is an elite special ops soldier, applying his skills professionally against foreign bad guys, saving the day through high tech weaponry and gritty determination. But I don’t think it quite glorifies that world. Tyler doesn’t find his heroism in war – he finds it through the amoral job of a mercenary, where he’s betrayed but risks his life to stand up for what’s right. In the first one he’s saving the son of a drug lord. Parallels are drawn to the son he lost, but that also means parallels are drawn between him and the drug lord. The implication is that kids don’t deserve the shit put upon them by their fathers.

Like John Wick, Tyler is a legendary killer who takes a beating and keeps going, because he’s doomed to a life of perpetual violence. Like John Rambo or John McClane he goes through all this and then opens up about his feelings and mistakes, something our unhealthy masculine codes tell us not to do. But that was the answer to Nik’s question. He had to survive to finally talk to Mia in a couple of scenes where both actors absolutely crush it. Kurylenko is so excellent in the role it doesn’t bother me that it doesn’t require her well-established action skills. (Not that I’d complain if that changes in a future installment.)

Tyler seems to get along better with women than men, but in his friendship with Nik he has the same problem of staying emotionally closed. He does great when he can be the savior, the guardian, the comforter. Vulnerability is more of a challenge for him, but he’s trying to learn. That’s an important lesson that goes unnoticed by many a macho man watching FIRST BLOOD or DIE HARD, and I’m sure this will be no different, but I’m always gonna appreciate it.

The script is by Joe Russo (WELCOME TO COLLINWOOD), who some of my action friends have a fatwah against because, as co-director of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and AVENGERS: ENDGAME he represents the MCU and its conquering of the modern filmscape. I know many people who were infuriated by the Russo Brothers’ approach to action in last year’s Netflix movie THE GRAY MAN, though to me it’s way better and more deliberate in its stylization than some of the action in WINTER SOLDIER, which everyone got mad at me for criticizing at the time (though I like that movie too).

Oh well. That’s an old battle. I don’t mind the Russo Brothers hate (especially given their penchant for saying asinine things about the future of movies in interviews), but I strive to be a fair individual, and I just feel like you gotta give credit where credit is due. Setting aside whatever you think about their Marvel career, the Russos have used the clout it gave them to help get EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE made, to get Hargrave the action director job on WOLF WARRIOR II, and to get him the directing job for EXTRACTION. And, more to the point, EXTRACTION II is a well written movie! It economically weaves effective character moments through action tropes, gives Hemsworth plenty to chew on both physically and emotionally, and sets up great action scenarios where Hargrave can go do directorial loopty loops and 720 spins and land in a handstand like he was born to do. It does its job excellently and unless you have some inside information that the script was trash and Hargrave had to ignore it all and make up something else I think we can just admit that Russo is in fact good at his job sometimes, and this is one of those times.

Of course the MVPs are Hargrave and Hemsworth, a great director and a great movie star who has himself used his thunder-god-given clout for the action movie greater good. They’ve made a thrill ride as good or better than almost any in theaters this year, and with some real emotional weight to it. The EXTRACTION series joins the JOHN WICK series as one of the few American cinematic institutions to truly follow the RAID movies’ lead in both volume of imaginative combat violence and audacity of filmmaking technique. It also follows those series’ tradition by upping the ante for the sequel, and it’s possible they’ll do it again. Instead of maybe killing Tyler off like the first one, this one does us the courtesy of setting up his next adventure. With Nik by his side, no less. I look forward to Netflix settling the strike and spending their last money in the world to give us a kickass 3XTRACTION (and maybe throw in a couple INTERCEPTORs).

This entry was posted on Monday, July 24th, 2023 at 7:31 am and is filed under Reviews, Action. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

90 Responses to “Extraction II”

  1. Well, I guess I have to check it out after all. I was admittedly pretty lukewarm on the first, so the sequel wasn’t really high on my watchlist. Hopefully the long take scene isn’t as shakey as the one from the first. Had to close my eyes on that one after a while after it made me motion sick. (Seriously!)

  2. As the Vern-verse weirdo who is not into the FF films and has not seen any JOHN WICK film, I loved both of these, second one even more than the first. Also, this one gives off some light, surface level UNIVERSAL SOLDIER:REGENERATION vibes, which is a definite plus. Totally agree re: the strike / fuck the man, etc.

  3. Glad you enjoyed Extraction 2 but I didn’t like this one at all. I wasn’t crazy about the first one but this film actively annoyed me, especially compared to the skill and care shown in John Wick 4 and Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning in using, action, plot and mythic, slightly more than human protagonists.

    The problem I have, which I felt in the Gray Man, is that I have seen all of this, in action and story, done before and far better. I never saw anything in this film that hadn’t been done cleaner and more effective in earlier action cinema and the film had a whiplash trying to do realistic hand-held then going to crazy as hell cartoonish action and then went back and forth. I felt watching it that we had two films competing with each other, neither of them great. It feels like a showreel film. The whiplash between them made the film annoying. I know the blockbusters I mentioned switch gears a lot too but with them I felt there was a tonal consistency that this film lacked. These other films mentioned also had terrific if cartoonish characters to keep things interesting.

    The script I felt was pretty awful. The characters were paper-thin and the teenage son character who caused a lot of the problems wasn’t written with complexity. He was an annoying plot device to get to the next action scene and was play monotonously. He was given very basic motivations within a set-up that should have been far more interesting and felt stupidly motivated throughout, without the care of scenes that could make sense of his dilemma. Instead it was scenes with dialogue you could spot coming a mile off. The character scenes involving him throughout were cringe-making. I simply don’t buy any character bonding with this kid and Hemsworth going after him after he betrayed them. The script failed in its task to make him strong enough to hold together the evolving drama.

    Hemsworth’s character was just as bad. Just cliche after cliche. Dead child. Check. Rebuilding after injury and need to get confidence. Check. Proud and not good with his feelings. Check. All of there areas can be used well with care but here the writing and acting felt rote. Again it had dialogue you had heard before. There was nothing in the delivery that felt unique or an interesting twist. We simply had scenes there because this is what people expect from this type of character. Subtle re-invention of stock characters was needed. This one didn’t do any of that.

    In this film the actors and writers are not pushed save for the stunt-work. That’s where their heart is. But without decent characters these are simply stunts. We have the first section, which does a bit of Ghost protocol then goes full raid 2. Then we have a train sequence which feels like the end of the last Hitman game. The building siege scene is mediocre and is very 80’s inspired. This is a film where the villains kill loads of policemen and then drive away in their car without issue. At this point I realised how little the film cared about story. But even with the action, waiting for the good stuff, I realised by the end of the building scene I had watched what people thought was the good stuff. The end fight was sad. A villain lair with one sniper and some basic shoot-outs. It was just blah.

    Sorry to be so negative but this film pissed me off. I was looking forward to it, hoping that it would build on the first films strengths. Instead I was increasingly angry watching it. I streamed it on a projector hoping for a big screen experience and got little frission from the action. I simply need to have concern for some of the characters for the action to work. I didn’t get that from this film.

  4. I mostly dug this, especially the first half – the long prison-forest-factory-train sequence was thrilling, and it’s too bad the action in the back half was less so. I liked the skyscraper stuff well enough (including the treadmill bit, awesome) but a mano-a-mano faceoff in an abandoned church, complete with villainous monologue… not bad per se, but a lot less adrenaline-y to say the least.

    I had the same question as Peter above about everyone getting away from the skyscraper shootout – I guess the cops in that particular well-off-looking city had only the one helicopter? True, we DID see that the bad guys had their hoodies up as they drove away – maybe that’d do it…

    I didn’t put it together that the training montage was showing us Rake getting himself back in shape in just 2 weeks! That’s also kind of hilarious, but as with the protagonists escaping from the skyscraper via helicopter, I’ll buy it.

    The film definitely missed an opportunity to let us see the bad guys mulling over the prison break and saying something like: “This isn’t just an escape – it’s an Extraction Too!”

  5. This actually evokes Terminator 2 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation for me in that there’s no real reason that the last action sequence of a movie has to be the biggest and best. Remember Man of Steel? Big huge fight to save the world, then a bigger huger fight to kill Zod–I don’t recall a lot of us being crazy about that at the time. We have one Michael Bay–that’s enough.

    So, that in mind, and granting that the final action scene doesn’t top the prison break or skyscraper assault, is it a good sequence on its own merits? I’d say so. Would I like it better if I didn’t know who Daniel Bernhardt was and so I wasn’t aware that there could totally be jump-kicks up in this bitch? Sure, maybe.

    (Though, on the same grounds as Daniel Bernhardt being sorta wasted/not fully utilized… what’s the point of getting IDRIS ELBA and having him go “I’m working for a REALLY COOL guy”? Is the idea just that maybe he won’t be able to show up for 3xtraction and so they may have to swap him out for some other A-lister who goes “yes, I’m doing the same things Idris Elba did in the last movie, but I’m not the same character”? If so, be hilarious if they got Will Smith.)

  6. Is the prison escape oner as good as the one in Daredevil S3?

  7. The prison escape oner is a highlight. Very brutal. I loved how they involved the mother — she’s an untrained rail-thin waif who’s easily tossed around, but she’s *vicious* and she just keeps coming, finishing guys off, acting as a helpful distraction, thrashing around whenever someone gets their hands on her, getting as many good licks in as she can. That was cool.

  8. Sold!

  9. Usually I have a hard time cheering on these military type heroes. I just can’t stop thinking about what disgusting things they do in the real world. But as a fan of good action I’ve sort of brainwashed myself into thinking that these movies, or TV shows like STRIKE BACK, portrays the good these guys could do in a more perfect society. And with that in mind I enjoy watching movies like this. Right now I like the first one better, but that may change after re-watching both of them next week.

  10. Your intro nailed it. Fuck Netflix but if some filmmakers can take their money to make this or The Night Comes for Us, we all win. Hopefully the masters exist in physical form somewhere for the inevitable time Netflix servers go down or AI launches the EMP on us.

    This was fucking awesome. I think they had to have used CGI to simulate the height of the skyscraper, especially the ledge. Or maybe I want to believe that because the alternative is too insane to imagine (even w harnesses and cables). The point is what makes it work is the craft building up all the elements converging together.

    I love Nik so much I would be totally in for a Nik spinoff too.

  11. Is the prison escape oner as good as the one in Daredevil S3?

    Ha! I haven’t seen EXTRACTIION, but I have to admit while reading the description of the prison sequence above–with the faux one-take, and the riot breaking out in the periphery, etc–thinking to myself “well, that certainly sounds familiar…”

  12. Amen to all your sentiments about the corporate greed and short-sightedness that’s led to this current terrible situation in Hollywood. Hit the nail on the head.

  13. This one was great but I still don’t think of these streaming joints as real movies. I tend to forget they exist almost immediately. Like, this review brought up CARTER, which I thoroughly enjoyed and haven’t thought about once since. I thought it came out a few years ago and it turns out it’s been less than a year. The movie just disappeared.

    The plot and characterizations in these EXTRACTIONs are about as perfunctory as you can get (I don’t mean that in a bad way—these are thrill rides, not proper stories, and thus only require the slightest of table-setting) but one bit actually did get me thinking and feeling: the annoying and tragic loyalty of the son to the father. That character made me take stock of some of my own hang-ups, because I found myself hating him far more than I hated the abusive dad. Which isn’t really fair, because the kid’s a victim too. I’ve been in his situation. I should have more empathy. But I guess somewhere in the reactionary stew of the lizard brain, I hated the kid for committing the ultimate sin: He loved his abuser. I know this is wrong and fucked up and reactionary, but some part of me sees that as weakness. It’s something I’ll never understand. I can understand why people stay with abusers out of fear or financial necessity, but to actually love someone who treats you bad? Who hurts your loved ones? I don’t get that. I had ample opportunity to get Helsinki Syndromed into loving my abuser and I never did. Not for one minute. Even as a toddler, I knew this fucker was no good and he would never get one ounce of my affection. And I guess I’m proud of that. And pride can turn to smugness, which can turn to contempt for those who maybe weren’t strong or lucky enough to have those same instincts. I shouldn’t hate this kid for being brainwashed into loving his monster of a dad. I should try and understand how hard it is to overcome that kind of mental and emotional conditioning. I should always put 100% of the blame where it belongs: on the abuser, not the victim.

    So that was a little journey I took while watching like a hundred dudes get perforated and exploded. This is why I don’t see the point of straight dramas. You can find meaningful drama in any old action programmer but good luck seeing a decent dumbbell bludgeoning in Oscar bait. Genre films for the win.

  14. Thank you for that, Majestyk. The kid is so good because he carries all that on his face. He’s so frustrating as a character but his eyes look so scared the whole time, I remembered it wasn’t his fault.

  15. I saw a bunch of people online talking about how much they hated that kid, but the fact that he’s in the thrall of his dad is basically the point. And the fact that we know he’s making a stupid decision but the film asks us to care for him, or at least not completely blame him, is actually one of the better non-action aspects of the movie.

  16. There’s a certain type of viewer who thinks that characters should always do the “right” thing at any given point. To these viewers, characters are not supposed to perform actions that explicate their innermost personalities and desires, but to make logical, dispassionate choices so as to shuttle themselves through the plot as efficiently as possible. These people have no idea what stories are for and should be ignored whenever possible. They remind me of that Halloween episode of COMMUNITY where they all told variations of the same “trapped in a cabin with a maniac on the loose” story and Abed’s had the characters stand back to back in the center of the room holding knives all night. Characters always doing the “right” thing are the enemy of drama.

  17. But does Tyler Rake kill another guy with a rake? Inquiring minds want to know…

  18. Of course not. How unoriginal do you think these screenwriters are?

    This is a sequel. He kills a guy with two rakes.

  19. Realistically though, in that Community episode Abed could be doing the right thing and YET the killer comes up with something to disrupt them. Like even in that shitty Fright Night remake, a clever part was when they were safe in the house because the vampire can’t enter, so the vampire just blows up the house. Better drama comes from characters not just being idiots and then countered by more problems regardless. I love the show Justifed and one of the best episodes is three factions all outsmarting the other, and then reversing. No one is acting like an idiot and there’s plenty of drama.

    I don’t mind characters being stupid, but also can be lazy writing.

  20. There’s nothing that bothers me more than people who think film is just a vehicle for plot delivery. And as I’ve gotten older, I kind of like screw ups in movies. Characters who make bad decisions are just inherently more interesting, so long as these decisions flow from their characterization.

    But, yeah, I hate how people think characters in fiction should act like they’re playing a video game and do whatever is most efficient to defeat the final boss. It’s exhausting.

  21. People acting like idiots is plot delivery though…”we need them to go into this place so let’s just have them do it, no need for any reason, and then we can get to the KILLS!!”

    Like, in Barbarian people said the dude going into the creepy room and exploring was stupid, but it wasn’t…WE know he’s in a horror movie, but he didn’t, so a lot of people would explore that creepy shit. But let’s say when they’re escaping out of the tunnels they decide to split up or something to try and find a way out so we can get ne on one stalk and kill scenes, that would be stupid because that’s just convenient scripting.

  22. As long as these films don’t overtly betray or undercut basic continuity/expectations for the character to the point of utter implausibility, I am perfectly fine with this film having a completely minimalist, video game-grade plot. What makes these films work is that Chris Hemsworth’s charm-pathos quotient is perfectly titrated, he is believable as a badass, and the energy is propulsive and peppered with lots of individually satisfying flourishes and set pieces. Boom. That simple. Stick to the formula. Too much story or character development is a high-risk proposition, and I don’t recommend it. What keeps these films engaging is novel setups and physical challenges and convincingly well-matched opponents (am individual match for Rake or in terms of a high-quantity of thugs and/or terrain / resourcing advantage), even though by definition Rake is unkillable and will win. There is a kind of storytelling uncanny valley principle at work here. With the CGI uncanny valley, the whole point is that your analytical-conceptual brain knows on some level (or if pressed) that what’s being shown is by definition unreal, but on the immersive visceral level, it’s a good simulacrum — like truthiness, it’s got realiness. Same holds with Rake being a by definition unkillable superman: You know this conceptually, but the film only works by consistently moment-by-moment giving you the illusion that there is real suspense or stakes when almost by definition there are not as per the formula (save for the willingness to kill off the occasional b-character, which is part of the illusion in a sense, because our conceptual brain knows that expendability principle doesn’t really hold for Rake: his survival is non-negotiable).

    Put differently, the suspense is not in whether but how he gets out of this next jam.

    That is only adjacent to these other comments being made, but hopefully it is at least adjacent.

    Good convo!

  23. Obviously there are instances where you can criticize a character for being stupid. That’s why I included the caveat that these decisions have to flow from their personality. I think it’s legitimate to wonder why that one scientist in Prometheus reached out to an unknown alien even though just prior to this he was freaking out about everything. It didn’t make sense for the character.

    But to use Barbarian again, Justin Long measuring the basement works because we know he’s vain, obnoxious, and desperate for money. It was probably a dumb thing to do, but it works for the character, and it’s a great gag.

  24. But that to me is the disagreement. Long measuring the stuff is not even dumb. He found a weird hidden room and thought it would increase the value of his property. There’s no reason for him to think it’s dangerous in any way. If he knew there was a killer mutant living down there and acting the same, THEN it would be stupid.

    In a horror movie we think people exploring weird creepy ruins is stupid, but in real life people do it every day and no one gets killed by monsters, people have entire Youtube channels set up for showing off their videos. So that act in of itself, in a movie where a character has no reason to think otherwise, is not stupid.

  25. Really like the two Extraction movies – fully aligned with Vern regarding the “simplicity” of the story (or the use of the cliché)… I like that it is what it is and it delivers some solid action sequences. It brings back a bit the mindset of these Seagal, Van Damme, Lundgren,… action movies from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Fun entertainment movies with enough clever direction choices to keep you engaged. I would be happy to see 2-3 more Extraction movies… maybe they can go the “Die Hard” route and find a lot of funny places to extract people from – North Korea, a jungle, the White House, etc.
    My only negative feeling here is more towards Netflix – I know they are a key player today in the movie world, and yes, they do fund what the classic Hollywood studios will no longer fund… but I still prefer the big screen experience and that kind of action movie would be more fun in a cinema theater… I am still struggling with falling in love with movies on the small screen. But I guess there is no turning back on this?

  26. Allow me to talk in circles.

    Even with Netflix funding the movies that classic studios no longer fund, that’s kind of like saying that Wal-Mart offers the tools and dog food that your local store no longer offers — because Wal-Mart put them out of business. I think it’s more complex than the simple good-evil thing, because small businesses are overrated from the employee and consumer standpoint, and because studios will do whatever makes money, meaning if they believed the next Jude Law drama or Jennifer Lawrence rom-com would make a bajillion dollars, you better believe they’d be rushing that into production and planning a big theatrical release. So, there is a demand-driven element to all of this. Netflix’s prime directive is shareholders, and I think that’s pretty much it: As long as the royal we are paying, they’re good. So, as long as I’m paying (including now) I think I’m technically part of “the problem,” or at least I’m not contributing to the solution. I also don’t feel particularly guilty about that. It’s a lot bigger than me.

    The other thing I’ve finally personally come to grips with is that younger-than-me people do not have a strong relationship to watching films in the theatre unless it feels like a major event or experience. I can’t really relate to wanting to watch someone else play video games or drink a Grimace shake on tik-tok or tweet all day, but I’m sure plenty of people can’t relate to typing comments onto this website for 15 years or watching I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE clips 30x each, so, you know, different strokes, times change, ok boomer, whatever. I listened to a podcast where two guys were talking about the idea of immortality or extended life, and one of them remarked that, the older he got, the more out of place he felt like in society generally — just like the times were moving on without him, and sensibilities and trends and attitudes just felt increasingly alien, unrelatable, vaguely uncomfortable and disconcerting (this was a pretty dispositionally liberal and intellectual guy). I think that does a lot of the lifting in what’s been going on in my own life as relates to media (broadly construed) the last 10-15 years. I get some of it, I don’t get most of it, a lot of annoys or unnerves me, a lot of it’s not for me, some of the things I love are dead or dying or morphing. Looking at this site helps ground me a little: https://newsletter.pessimistsarchive.org/ . Of course, I reserve the right to get in my feels and shake my fist at the clouds from time to time, anyway, but in my more reflective moments, I realize that I’m grieving certain things and being resistant to some other things, and maybe some of those things are worth resisting, others I can just ignore, and some are worth my attention and curiosity, because it seems improbable that everything younger-than-me-generations like is objectively stupid given that it is a predictable bias of aging people to think this.

    Anyway, back full circle, I am encouraged to see organized labor on somewhat of an upswing under the Biden administration, so, there is that. Will be interesting to see how this shakes out for SAG-AFTRA. I expect they’ll do okay, like UPS just did. The Nanny seems like she came to play.

    Okay, that was more talking in a scatter gun than a circle. You’re welcome.

  27. I love watching movies in the theater but realistically, most movies I love, I have never seen projected on a big screen. Not Evil Dead 2, not The Lady From Shanghai, not Return of the Living Dead, not The Big Country. And if there’s ANY movie made for a big screen, it’s The Big Country. Not only have I never seen them big, when I fell in love with them, most of them I saw on DVD or even worse, VHS on a shitty small tv. I bet most here can say the same.

  28. True! Still, you had more friction and wait time and anticipation for theatrical films (and for their video release), and a more sparse information environment, which made for a more satisfying build-up in my opinion. I would rather a world where a film like EXTRACTION spends two months in the first-run theatre, then you wait 4-6 months for video (with a possible second-run/discount theatre opportunity in between), and then you know very little about the sequel until like 12 months later when some magazine or USA Today tells you in some cryptic blurb. That is the difference between an event-type experience and a more ephemeral one. I choose the delayed gratification, sparse information environment world, at least as far as movies. Streaming films is a net bad for me, but I’m mostly at peace with it.

  29. I agree Skani that this is of course also a generation thing and whether we like it or not, the movie experience is on the decline. I must admit myself that although I could see more movies in theater, I prioritize the ones which feel like the big screen experience is a must (meaning, mostly the blockbuster). I tend to see the more “artsy/independent” films at home by choice – partly because of the costs (in Denmark, where I live, it costs as much to buy a new film on Blu Ray as it costs to get one IMAX ticket), and partly because every time I go see a film, it is always a gamble whether you will have to endure someone talking or looking at his/her phone. So, while I do complain about the loss of cinema experience, I also see that I became part of the problem.

    And Muh – of course there are some movies that I love that I have (sadly) never seen on the big screen. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is one of them, John Carpenter’s The Thing is another one… but I also see that I tend to have a closer “relationship” to the movies I love if I have been waiting to see them – watching trailers, reading about it, then finally discovering it when released on the big screen. I think I love some movies BECAUSE I could see them on the big screen with a live audience… I tend to feel closer to these films – the ones where you sit in the cinema and you know that the movie is a classic before it is even finished (I remember Mad Max Fury Road as one of these).

  30. Edgard, I am the same – the last movie I saw at the theater was INDY 5, before that it was CREED III, before that it was ANT-MAN 3, before that it was TOP GUN 2 (twice!). We have met the enemy, and it is us, lol. I may make it out to see TALK TO ME. A24 carrying the flag for original theatrical horror.

  31. Except Edgard, if you’re a fan of Extraction you can still get all of thos ethings…read about it, watch the trailers, anticipate it…just not see it in a theater. But you still get all the foreplay. For me, the big event this year is the new season of Justified, and I did all that shit with that one! And now it’s on my tv and it’s so good!

    Skani, I think the release model you mention is part of the problem now…if they’re going to do theatrical, they need to wait longer between the theater and streaming. I’m sure somany movies are hurt because it looks sort of in the middle if you’d see it or not, but you know it will be on streaming in two months so why not wait. If it was like the old timey days and it’s a 6 months to a year, then maybe you go. Or like the REAL old days where they’re just play it out for a year in different theaters but no way is that happening again. But studios want it all now, like everyone wants everything now.

    Back in the day funally finding Police Story 2 or some oddball weird movie to take home and watch on the shitty tv was a huge thing because you had to WORK for that shit.

    Wasn’t it Burton’s Batman where they started closing the distance, usually it was a year but they did that in like 6 months for sell through, in order to have it by Christmas?

  32. Muh, I sort of disagree about EXTRACTION. Like, I guess I can get a little excited about EXTRACTION 3 right now, but the friction is low and the shared out-of-house eventy-ness is low, and the counter-programming is extremely high, so, it’s just less of an awesome experience. I have not watched the WICK films, but I gather from context, that maybe that is a good contrast: EXTRACTION misses out on some of the extra event-y-ness of a even a JOHN WICK, precisely because its high watermark will be that it gets pinned as “1. Most watched” on a shitty little netflix panel for one day or some shit and, if you’re me, you’ll be opening up other tabs and fucking around while you should be watching it. Again, with piracy and tablets and smartphones and more global markets for this stuff and changing youth demographic preferences, this is bigger than me and bigger than “streaming services are evil” — there’s a history that led us to this point that is bigger than just pure moustache-twirling. This is why I realize that I’m officially yelling at a cloud, because a confluence of technology, taste, and financial risks is in play here, and also I am just older and nostalgic for a past that elicited similar/parallel reactions from the 40-somethings of the 80s and 90s (fucking kids with your Metallica and NWA and violent video games and slasher movies and walkmen, watching TV and playing video games all fucking day like a bunch of deadbeats).

  33. Well, talking about Extraction is sort of it’s own thing, like they’re basically big budget versions of some shit someone like Dolph Lundgren might make when he had movies released in theaters, and I wasn’t going to see those either. I haven’t seen either of them because they look like a bunch of who cares. A friend showed me the big oner which I guess was cool but half of it being effects kind of takes away the point of doing a oner for me.

    But I do get the nostalgia factor. Going to a video store and looking through everything and then picking a movie or two that was going to be what you did for that evening was fun…pick up something to eat on the way home and that’s a good night. Used to do it as a kid and we’d get Burger King or something. Now we just scroll through a streaming service for an hour and don’t pick anything, there’s just so much. BUT, at the same time it’s nice having a lot too.

    And remember, your dad said the same shit about your generation! My dad sure does. Apparently I don;t know how good it was back then.

  34. Right, I think I agree with the dad said thing, ,which is part of my point — a fair amount of this is just existential angst laundering by way of projecting one’s own aging and psychology out onto the plane of history (I feel uneasy because the world is now bad vs. I feel uneasy because I am an aging and entertainment trends pander to the current youth demographic).

    But you are hitting on the other element that is someone unique which is the “meatworld” quality that the inconvenience of limited choices, waiting, and having to leave your house was actually part of what made it special. I don’t think that’s pure nostalgia or curmudgeonliness. Convenience is usually preferable and often what we do by default, but systemically or in the aggregate it is not always an unalloyed good.

    I don’t want to hype EXTRACTION as the second coming. (sidenote: I !still! find CGI smoke distracting and annoying, even thought it’s better for the environment and safety and everything else probably). I did see LIONHEART and ERASER and UNISOL 1 and DEMOLITION MAN and CLIFFHANGER and COP LAND in the theatre. They were more special in a way they would not have been on streaming, I think (though I can’t separate that from being in my pre-teens/teens before the disappointments, compromises, and other realities of adulthood had fully materialized for me).

  35. “somewhat unique”

  36. Oh, wait, I’m losing it. The last thing I saw in the theatre was ASTEROID CITY, which was dope, and I’m glad I saw it in the theatre, and it felt special seeing it there. Good work all around, but I really enjoyed Jeffrey Wright. And Margot Robbie who you can blink or miss, but it’s top-form Wes Anderson.

    Also, horror is a fun case for this whole line of thought, because it’s not necessarily obvious that you need the big-screen bugged out double-IMAX experience to enjoy a horror movie, but it can be damn fun. I had a blast watching X on the big screen with an audience and a drink, and I had the chance to see GET OUT at a packed sneak preview, and it was off the chain. Really, really fun seeing a movie like that which was perfectly timed culturally and a great film and just a fun audience experience, and so even though it still plays well on the small screen, it was a very worthwhile big screen experience.

  37. Skani I think probably they mean more to you because you saw them in the theater, but you’re also, aside from hitting you at the right age, probably conflating the experience you had that night with friends or whatever. Like, I have great memories of seeing Congo. Is it legit that greta a movie, no, but I remember when we went it was storming out and we had to run through a torrent of rain to get to the theater so it felt like we were IN Congo. So, maybe the act of going to the movies is powerful, but then it’s just a haze of nostalgia clouding the actual movie.

    In the end, I wouldn’t trade Return of the Living Dead (seen on VHS on a small tv) for 20 Congos.

    But I stiiiiill really like Congo!

  38. I don’t think so dude. When I watched NIGHTMARE 5 in the theatres I was by myself, same deal when I got to do a GREMLINS 2 / DIE HARD 2 double feature at the theatre. Both on the “mom bought my ticket and dropped me off while she went shopping” tip. Pretty sure I watched those by myself or with a brother (don’t remember), but definitely wasn’t friends or associated high-jinks. It was the movies as an adventure out of house situation in the crowd with the popcorn and something new that feels like a significant semi-shared national event. Definitely the transgressive aspect of watching R rated movies in theatre by myself and of going to the movies being the exciting thing to do when you live in a small town without shit to do. But, like I was saying, I also have great memories of seeing GET OUT six years ago and X a year or so ago, so, there is till some magic left in the lamp.

    I’ve legit never seen CONGO, but it’s cool that you’ve got the good memory vibes/imprinting thing going on with it and still enjoy it. Dope.

  39. Also, since I have done a full CREED III and turned this into my personal diary / comment box, I am reminded of seeing ROCKY V in the theatre (same one I saw DIE HARD 2 and GREMLINS 2!), and I was the only person there, and I loved it. ROCKY V is not great movie, and, so, sure, it’s a generational had-to-be-there type of situation perhaps, but I looked forward to it, and it was significant, in the same way JASON X was significant ten years after that (also by myself, but a young adult this time and in a small and mostly empty AMC screen room), and the same way FREDDY VS JASON was also significant (same AMC, way bigger screen, pack crowd, with my older brother), and so on. COP LAND was date night, as was THE OTHERS, as was the summer she and I watched 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU at the discount theater like 3-4 times mostly just for the air conditioning, or the time we watched SPANISH PRISONER (underrated!) at the indie theater, or when my buddy and I watched 35mm ANOES 1 and FRIDAY 13TH 1 a couple years apart a few years ago, or when I caught HEREDITARY and then later MIDSOMMAR at the AMC. I liked SOLO at the theater with a different friend. KNIVES OUT 1 at the theatre was a blast (KNIVES OUT 2 sucks donkeys). SILENCE in the theatre was dope and have not watched it since. IRISHMAN at theater on a limited engagement was good (not because I need to a mediocre de-age of De Niro on the big screen, but because I need to not be surrounded by distraction and the general chumbox vibe that is Netflix. CREED movies are a theatrical experience to have, even when they piss me off, and even when they age better when I watch them again on the small screen later.

    So, even though all these theatrical experiences I’ve mentioned here and above vary substantially in all manner of ways — quality (in terms of reviews), budget, genre, whether I was alone or with various others, theatre, and age (whether I was 11 years-old, early 20s, late 30s, early 40s, or a couple weeks ago) — they all participate in a certain degree of magic that EXTRACTION deserves as much as or more than fucking LIONHEART.

    Now, having said all that, INLAND EMPIRE a year or two ago was a slog, but you lose some out in these streets, and I don’t regret giving it a try.

  40. That’s fun. I think I could get the same magic out of Extraction 2 by, let’s say, having a BBQ with some friends over and then watching it, and then following up with a sleazy grindhouse-y double feature. I have as many good memories and enjoyment watching much worse movies in ways like that, then I have watching some good movies on a big screen.

  41. That’s cool. Is having a friend group over to watch a movie at home a thing for contemporary or past non-romantically involved adults (no snark, I am genuinely curious). I did that as a kid, and then I got married when I was 20, so, I kind of skipped a lot of that and tend not to be a “group of friends” kind of person but more of a “have a random accumulation of friends, each of whom I hang out with 1-on-1 but who aren’t necessarily mutual friends of each other.” I tend to avoid group thingsand gravitate toward 1-on-1 things, which is possibly unusual (shrug emoji).

    But, like, could anyone here actually envision mustering a collection of individuals to watch EXTRACTION 3 as like an “EXTRACTION 3 party” and that being something you could get off the ground? I do not have an awesome home theatre system type of setup (or the room to establish one), so, even if I wanted to do that and even if I could pull it off socially, it’d be me and friends ass to elbows huddled over my laptop. Sexy times.

  42. Yeah no one would care about an Extraction party, I’m sure. But I’ll do movie nights at my place, do a double feature of some weird shit or once did am all day thing where people would come and go and showed like 5 movies (shit like Faster Pussycat, Eaten Alive and Class of 1984). On a regular one I may get 8-10 people, some of which may not even know each other except for through these hangouts. But other friends have parties and shit too, and sometimes we end up watching flicks. Knowing groups of people interested in weird shit, or films, or even band hangouts t’s pretty easy to get a bunch of people down to see something new and/or different. My girlfriend will come even though she’s not totally into the stuff, and my brother who’s a total normie loves coming and seeing the weird movies he’d never watch otherwise and hang out. And we got a good group who does Superbowl parties, or Halloween or sometimes Thanksgivings and shit, and orbiters so that can be pretty good, but def as more people have kids it gets whittled away.

  43. Skani – i think i see things like you do… the movie theater experience for me can upgrade how i feel about a film. I remember seeing Reservoir Dogs in a tiny artsy cinema in Paris… that was before Pulp Fiction and anyone knowing who Tarantino was, but it felt special. I also remember watching Requiem for a Dream in theater and seeing everyone leaving the theater one by one before the movie ended… people could not take it.

    You also mention the Irishman… in Europe, we could not see it in cinema so i had to stream it. I must say that i did not get into it… i watched it in 3 parts. Kept getting up. And i wonder if i had seen it in a theater if my feeling towards it would have been different?

  44. Yes! I think that is part of the folk economic theory of life satisfaction, which views everything as consumption, and which assumes that if it’s cheaper, faster, easier, less friction, more convenient, or more plentiful, it’s better. Milton Friedman’s classic is called what? FREE TO CHOOSE. Now, some aspects of all of this are in my opinion just good. Technology just happens, and I mostly like it. I’m pro- movable type and air conditioning. But Netflix is a case of too much of a good thing or consumerism / choice-ism just inverting itself, eating itself, disappearing up its own ass.

    Even if you hate A24 horror (I don’t), I appreciate that they are actually making a successful run of doing something original and making space for theatrical events and moments to happen. Yay! I also was an unabashed enjoyer of TOP GUN MAVERICK, and even though I am not interested in either OPPENHEIMER or BARBIE, I’m stoked to see a “demand signal” for non-Disney theatrical moments.

    In conclusion, release EXTRACTION 3 in the theatre!!!!

    p.s. I did not see RESERVOIR DOGS in the theatre, and to Muh’s point, I still enjoyed it on shitty home video. Same with JACKIE BROWN, which is still by far my favorite Tarantino. But I did see ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD in the theatre, and it was a fucking blast.

  45. I do find this to all be inquantifiable but interesting to go over…but my version of Reservoir Dogs is I saw it on video, also before Pulp…and like Edgard also found it to be feeling special, like a real discovery. But that’s because the movie was special. It wasn’t like other movies being made at that time.

  46. Man just gonna throw out there as someone that is most likely the same generation as you two, I fuckin love streaming movies. Like I get that there are serious issues with the distribution and payment models and shit and am absolutely fully in support of the strikes cause people deserve to be paid, but fuck me streaming movies is so much better.
    Like the nostalgia for going to the video store, going to see cool movies at the cinema just… doesn’t exist for me. Instead I remember movies taking months, if not years to release in Australia, (If at all).
    Some movies just wouldn’t get VHS releases, PAL/NTSC differences meant you couldn’t import American VHS tapes cause they’d run fucked. Then even when dvds came out they were region locked.

    I can not go back to fucking underground tape trading to find movies, that shit sucks.

  47. I am 44. So, what did you do before streaming movies? For me, Netflix is the virtual equivalent of digging through a giant, unrewarding bin of shitty DVDs at Wal-Mart c: 2005. I’m pulling one DVD case out after another, thinking, what is this shit, and then after five minutes, I’m just overwhelmed and I have to peace out. People have been telling me I should watch MARRIAGE STORY for years, and I just can’t find a shit to give. It took me three years to muster the energy to try EXTRACTION. I started THEY CLONED TYRONE the other day, and actually it’s pretty great so far (we’ll see), but now I’m just stalled out at 30 minutes and may not get back to it for sometime, because it’s just sitting there in the Netflix chumbox that keeps piling up as it accrues Jamie Foxx and Paul Rudd and Adam Sandler movies and stand-up special and all the other weird static tiles of pictures and titles locked in the Netflix trap house. I realize that is a generational thing, but I’m simultaneously completely underwhelmed and utterly overwhelmed by the streaming era.

  48. Sorry, Ben, I checked out after your first few sentences before getting to the Australia part as I was in shock. My bad, I apologize, for shooting from the hip.

    I think we’re just talking totally different things then. My angst is as American-centric as it is Gen X-er-centric. If you didn’t have that experience and had access issues, then, of course, there’s not going to be nostalgia, just like I wouldn’t expect a Japanese-American to have waves of nostalgia for how awesome life in San Francisco was in the 1940s. Um, yeah, not so great for me, buddy. So, naturally you wouldn’t have those feelings, b/c it sounds like your pre-streaming access and situation was way worse.

  49. Netflix USED to be good but now that every studio has their own streaming site everything is so scattered. I just get a sub to 1-2 of them a month when there’s stuff on it I want to see, then switch over. About as expensive as renting 3-4 few DVDs back in the day (but not as cheap as the beautiful 5 for $5 VHS tapes ay my place stocked with weird shit before that). Nut the stuff they actually make is really hit or miss, and even the “good” stuff is usually entertaining but sort of generic feeling. Wow Extraction did a super long take, what a novel and unique idea these days.

    Marriage Story is shit. It’s like every bad theater kid showcase, where it’s DRAMATIC and YELLING and BIG and the whole thing is so stagy and false. Just cringe, I can’t believe so many people said that was good.

    Wanna know a better show about a fucked up marriage…Kevin Can Fuck Himself. It was on Hulu but not there any more, don’t know where it went. Man that was entertaining.

  50. I talked about it before. I grew up having a great movie theatre literally around the corner and saw a whole bunch of movies there, like HARRY & THE HENDERSONS, HE-MAN AND THE SECRET OF THE SWORD, THE ‘BURNS, JURASSIC PARK, LORD OF THE RINGS, I think the last movie I saw there was the 4th HARRY POTTER before it closed for good. I’m definitely not team “Movie theatres are a sacred temple”, because I encountered most of my favourite movies on TV or VHS, some of them at least on DVD. But this one was great! Every seat had a service button. If you pushed it, a few minutes later someone showed up and took your snack order. They had a non-alcoholic bevarage named Kermit there, which was their trademark drink. I still don’t know what it was, but it was green and basically what everybody ordered when there. I remember times in my childhood where the theatre was so packed, they actually overbooked it and a whole bunch of kids had to sit on the floor!

    In the late 90s/early 00s my best friend and me went pretty much once a week to the movies, mostly just for a Tuesday night sneak preview, where they showed a movie that was supposed to open a few weeks later, but you wouldn’t know what it was until it started. They had a pretty good ratio. Among the movies I saw that way were PITCH BLACK, SLEEPY HOLLOW, HAUNTED HILL, HIGH FIDELITY, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU or THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. And it was always nice when they showed something that wasn’t on my radar at all and I probably wouldn’t have watched at all, like WONDER BOYS, IN CHINA THEY EAT DOGS , AMERICAN BEAUTY (pre-Oscar buzz) or the surprisingly funny German slapstick comedy ERKAN & STEFAN (which was a vehicle for a comedy duo that usually isn’t funny at all, so that was a great surprise). Of course you would also get stinkers like MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE or my first “I feel like I should walk out early” experience, the pseudo-feminist dramedy DIE HÄUPTER MEINER LIEBEN. But fun times.

    But video was where it’s at for my buddy and me! Cheaper than the theatrical experience and more varied. We did once a month something that we called “Video madness”, where we would rent a bunch of tapes, lock us in my basement with a shit ton of snacks and watch them all night (*ahem* while making bootleg copies). At school we were known as the video junkies, we read all the magazines and knew about the big festival hits before it would hit our video stores. One video store was near our school, so on our way home we pretty much stopped by every day to see what’s new or blindbuy tapes from the bargain bin.

    By now all video stores in my area are gone. The last one closed in 2016. I still rent movies through a mail delivery service but even that one is the last of its kind, so who knows how much longer it will be around? I made my peace with streaming. Physical media is still where it’s at for me and I rarely “rent” new movies this way, unless Amazon has one of those 99C deals. Of course I have subscriptions for Netflix (although I sometimes still wonder why), Disney+ (Although my sister uses it more than me) and Amazon Prime (but only because it’s part of the prime package, not because I actually was convinced by their catalogue, although they are the best German streamer to find some pretty obscure B-movies). It’s good to have them. For me as a consumer, the flatrate model is nice, although it’s of course built on the backs of creatives who get cheated out of their money.

    Honestly, I forgot what I wanted to say at this point, but all in all, I miss all those days of physical home video rental stores, had some great times at the movie theatre but always preferred the home viewing experience and if you ignore the shitty business tactics, streaming is something that I am happy to have.

  51. I have way to many streaming subscriptions. But beer and movies are my only vices, so there you go. And it’s not enough with just one, is it? I mean streaming channels not beer…You have Netflix for the European and Scandinavian movies and TV shows, Amazon Prime for the kung fu flicks, Viaplay for the new rentals, Blockbuster for the 70s and 80s classics, HBO for the really good TV shows and Disney for…well, the Disney stuff. The cinema voted Norway’s best 15 years in a row, is in my area, and I should go more often. But it’s expensive and I tend to want to see a specific movie and not just any movie they can offer. Which of course could be a pain in the ass back in the video store days, when I often had to drive to 5-6 different places on my scooter to get what I wanted. Now I’m usually covered when I suddenly get an urge to see something.

  52. These are awesome stories.

    Wow, CJ, I think your theatrical experience was next level. I have never experienced the service button! I definitely relate to getting videos with friends, though “Video Madness” is next level.

    Pegsman, I completely get you as far as movies being worth the money if you have it, so, why not do all those services if you can afford it, and if it leads to more joyous movie-watching. For me, I think the switch to having kids was a major one, because I no longer had the time or capacity to spend a lot of time on my own watching things. But also, even when I tried to, less of what comes out theatrically feels special, and what comes out direct-to-streaming on Netflix often just feels like random shit with no cultural buzz. But I’m sincerely glad that the magic is there for you.

    In the U.S., Netflix has discontinued (or at least announced that they are discontinuing) the disc delivery service. Pretty sure.

    Muh, have not heard of the KEVIN movie, which maybe goes to the whole thing of movies flying under the radar in the streaming age. Oh, wait, it’s a show. These shows. I can’t. BARRY was good, but by the end of SEASON 3, I’m just done with nihilism tv. I couldn’t even with SUCCESSION. BREAKING BAD was great but it’s too much of a nihilistic bleak-off race to the bottom of despair and sociopathy. Like, are all these people just taking downers and watching the end of THE MIST on a loop. Get some sun or take a (literal) hike or something. Fuck.

    Also, Muh, one of the many thing that mystifies me is how obsessed (for good and bad) people are with fake one-take shots. When EXTRACTION goes for a one-take-ish shot, I’m just like, “that’s fine.” I’m not wowed by or annoyed by it, I’m just mostly interested in the punches or peril regardless of whether there is the illusion of one-take-ness.

  53. It was indeed a fine theatre and the only one I ever encountered with such a service button gimmick. Although in one neighbour city we had one that had an actual bar in the back of the theatre, so that you could get your snacks without missing a second of the movie. Sadly that one got killed by a multiplex. (In fact they were all owned by the same guy, but when he opened the multiplex, he closed his three other cinemas.) The service button one had to close because its fire protection standards weren’t up to date anymore and it would’ve been way too expensive for the owners to change that. So they just retired.

    And yeah, the Video Madness weekends were indeed fun. We had a ton of snacks, sometimes one of those electric indoor BBQs, three VCRs running at the same time (One for playing the movie, two for copying it) and at times even two TV playing at once (Because an old black and white one was just in the basement anyway and one day we just hooked it up with the other one for shits and giggles). I lived in an apartment building, so once in a while we had neighbours knocking on our door, wondering what the fuck we were doing in there. And because at some point we didn’t want to wake up my family, we wither ride our bikes to the nearby McDonalds when he had to take a piss at night (or get a late night McFlurry) or just took a leak behind the garage, hopefully unseen by our neighbours.

    Around 4am in the morning the “dead point” as we called it happened, which meant we started to doze off and it often lead to some moments that are still personal injokes to this day. (Like when some insect that looked like a spider with wings came flying towards us and my buddy suddenly yelled “It’s coming! It’s coming!” and we were screaming and flailing for a minute or two like Rod and Tod Flanders when they see a ladybug.)

    I really miss those days.

    (THE ‘BURNS was obviously meant to be THE ‘BURBS, btw)

  54. I LOVED Barry. Bleak ain’t bad when it’s also so funny and has great action scenes. I don’t mainline bleak stuff, gotta break it up with stuff like Justified or right now I’m watching Randolph Scott movies. I don’t want to want Sucession, seems more like it’s be boring. Breaking Bad or Sopranos are bleak but they’re still fun…as long as you do’t mainline Sopranos which I did and needed a break after while because it was really bringing me down in general, so awful.

    One takes are cool when they’re at least real, or I sort of prefer the time where they got used but not to make a generic action scene seem cool…like DePalma opening Snake Eyes with a genuine 20 minute long take where it’s also great because you get to know the characters and the layout of the place, and where everyone is, all of which is actually important to the rest of the story. Or even do a showoff bit like Raising Cain which was pointless but at least made really boring explanation interesting.

    As for renting shit, the best place for me was this old Victorian townhouse that was STOCKED with basically everything. Just about every room was a different genre, and some areas like action had so many intertwinign shelves to fit it all it was like going through a maze. Then it got sleazier as you went up, horror had a big room and the one at the top was “cult,” which was filled with all the shit you want to look at but never watch because you know it all sucks. Even had great hommade trailer comps, back before you could just pull everything up on Youtube. It was a 30 minute drive or so, so I only went maybe 3-4 times a year, but I’d walk out with usually 4-5 tapes of stuff I couldn’t get anywehre else. I’d always get something I was sure I’d like, someone I was almost positive would suck and I’d fast forward through after ten minutes, and a few others that hopefully I’d like enough. It was a good system!

  55. I loved it too, at least til the last episode of Season 3, but between BREAKING BAD and most of BETTER CALL SAUL and the obsessively histrionically apocalyptically performatively nihilistic nature of all social and traditional news media in the Trump era … that last episode of Season 3 for me was like, man, I’m fucking out. What is this the everything is corrupt and cynical and fucked and hopeless olympics? It’s just masturbatory self-fulfilling too-cool-for-hope-and-love toxic waste on some level.

  56. I’m not trying to convince you to watch the last season, Skani. BARRY definitely only gets darker and definitely doubles down on its “Everybody on that show is an asshole” concept, although it still provides some damn big laughs, including an unexpected Fred Armisen cameo and a brillantly staged failed assassination attempt with a rocket launcher. I definitely understand you. Personally I loved every minute of that show, but I know for a fact that you are not the only one who tapped out early when the story went really grim.

  57. Maybe. I’ll think about it. I feel like grim is so easy right now. It’s like the worst qualities of emo having babies with the worst qualities of edgelord.

  58. I feel like that show was pretty grim right off the bat, really. A show like that can’t imagine watching three seasons and then not checking out the ending. But then I like shows with some action and hopefully a lot of humor, then it’s okay if it’s grim or not. What I never finish are sitcoms. I did finish Community but that helped because the seasons got pretty spread out, but pretty much any others, I’m usually done after 3 seasons or so. Of course there’s way more episodes of them normally.

  59. But I will sau Barry gets even more oppressive in the last season with some of it, and for me the problem was for a few episodes there was way less humor. I think I admire what they were going for with the last season rather than love it, but it worked overall. It was fun seeing Hank finally becoming more of a proper villain.

    Was it the last ep of season 3 that had Hank in the basement? GodDAMN that was some of the best tv I’ve ever seen. It just piles on and piles on and gets so fucking strange it seems like none of it makes sense, to the part where I thought there was some kind of monster in the other room slaugtering everyone and I just bought it. But then it all made sense. Just fantastic.

  60. Definitely, it was grim. When I think of hope and agency, it is in a Viktor Frankl type sense, not a Pollyanna type of sense. Hope need not entail a denial of death and other existential type shit, but it is basically what you do with that existential type shit and the notion that you have some small chunk of agency. So, even though the film started out darkly comedic, I think it was certainly open-ended in terms of deciding what direction Barry is going to go. To me, this is part of the problem also, which is just the way we think about “redemption.” These terms are so loaded, like “will Barry be redeemed?” or “is he beyond redemption?” which for me at least implies an overly dualistic way of thinking, like, “will he cross over from ‘bad person’ / ‘peace of shit’ to ‘good person’ / ‘no longer deserving of our hatred and pariah status’?” How about, will he ultimately decide to try to be a force for good and stop hurting people and maybe own up to some things and grow a little? I will settle for incremental improvement and net positive intent. I feel like so many of these shows are like, “no, that’s not a thing. that’s for suckers. don’t you get that everything is hopelessly fucked, you dope?” And, I’m like, yeah, well, tell that to Nelson Mandela or the green agriculture revolution or mRNA vaccines and electric cars and carbon removal technology efforts and the murderer who gets out of prison and starts doing good shit to try and make amends. Motherfucker.

  61. Yeah but I feel like there’s not a dearth of that material out. Last of Us is doing that story, and judging by the reactions most people are gona watch that. Actually wasn’t even Extraction about a mercenary who learns to become more selfless?

    One thing I like about Barry is Hader doesn’t pretend he’s really a decent guy who can maybe be redeemd in some way, he’s totally dismissive of the shitty character he plays which is so refreshing from most actors who go out of their way in interviews to justify their feelings and what they do, while saying it’s bad. Hader is like no this guy is a black hole and like black holes in real life, don’t usually change.

    In the end the filmmaking of Barry is why I love it so much, not really the horrible main character. There are sequences in it better or at least on par than I can think of than any modern movie in the past five years. The slow motorcycle chase, the entire episode with the feral karate girl and the surreal ten minutes in the basement with Hank in season 3. I love great filmmaking and Barry had that in spades.

  62. Um, yeah, maybe, but I think there is definitely a thing of where the top-tier “prestige” TV is more on the grim side, and even the more “upbeat” prestige stories are THE ROAD-esque zombie apocalypses. But, yeah, I’m at least somewhat tilting at windmills by this point.

    In any case, notwithstanding what Hader says, I don’t actually think Barry is a black hole in Seasons 1-2. At various points, he genuinely wants to do good and forge connections and tries to do good, but then he ends up doing bad to make up for mistakes. The idea that he is a black hole I think is a very impoverished and unnuanced, flattened-out interpretation of the character, even if it’s Hader’s.

    It *is* great filmmaking, but the maximally bleak, maximally cynical, everything turns to shit zeitgeist is played out for me. As is this discussion. Thanks for engaging, though. I appreciate the pushback.

  63. I actually finished Barry recently and it’s honestly one of my favorite shows ever. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. And yes, its sort of a vise that tightens, getting darker and darker, but I strongly disagree with the idea (which I’ve also heard elsewhere) that it stops being funny. I don’t think there’s a single episode that doesn’t have 3 or 4 big laughs in it, even amidst all the other tones. A total masterpiece in my book and I’m sure Hader is about to direct a bunch of great movies.

    That said, Skani, it sounds like you want it to be the opposite of the show it is and I think you would hate each and every thing I loved about the last season.

  64. Prestige tv is kind of grim I guess but it’s kind of like the 70s…the good stuff was the depressing shit until Jaws and Star Wars changed everything. But the whole idea of “prestige” tends to implay certain things…maybe no one applies it to other shows like The Mandalorian where you DO get a redemption story, Justified is back, Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Stranger Things, Minx, Tulsa, Peacemaker cause they’re so fun. Lord of the Rings tried to be prestige but apparently sucked ass. When is fun ever considered prestige?

    I’m the one who called Barry a black hole using those terms, not Hader. But I’d disagree with your assesment. If he genuinely wanted to do good, there’s a number of times he could have, but he always takes the easiest, worst decision. Over and over he does the self-serving, lazy choice. Sure he may be lonely and he SAYS he wants to be a better person, but never does he show any action actually portaying that mindset.

    If he wanted to be better, he wouldn’t have taken a murder job, he could have gone on the run and hid out and started new. But buy he wanted that money. He could dime out the mob. He murdered a cop to save his own ass. Always, always what served him.

    And Vern to be sure I would never say it STOPS being funny. But you gotta agree it sure becomes way less funny. I know I laughed with the fourth season, but that’s not really the stuff that stucks with me.

  65. I think Barry’s a pretty overrated show with a boring fourth season, and I have to agree with the (apparently?) common opinion that the fourth season isn’t funny. It’s pretty grim and wallow-y and the few obvious comedy scenes fell entirely flat for me. The middle episode that’s a big departure for spoiler-y reasons was particularly excruciating and hard to sit through and I don’t mean that in any complimentary way whatsoever. When you’re depicting a life of boredom and ennui in a movie or TV show you have to be careful not to do it so well that it’s boring to watch, and oops, Barry wasn’t careful.

    The action scenes are always fun, though, and I love the way Hader stages them. I wouldn’t want every action scene to be like a Hader-directed action scene, but the way he does it is fun for a change. I actually think he’d be a better writer/director of movies than TV shows, there’s no time for a movie to get repetitive and wearying and wear out it’s welcome like Barry did (in my opinion). He says he wants to direct a horror movie first, though, which might not give him the chance to do much action. Maybe for his second feature.

  66. Quite possibly! (VAGUE SPOILERS FOR VARIOUS OLD THINGS) … I can take tragedy and moral inversion in intermittent and concentrated doses or from the established masters of the form (your HEREDITARY, your CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, your A SERIOUS MAN), and I did enjoy BREAKING BAD in its time, though even with that, there were moments where I had to take a year off to recover from some stuff that was either too upsetting or just goofy levels of BREAKING BADDERER. Skyler breaking bad. Too much. Krysten Ritter chokes on her own vomit and that butterfly effects into her dad causing a plane crash — that’s Fonzie jumping over a shark that’s dressed like Marilyn Manson and eating the world’s cutest puppy. At a certain point it became borderline ridiculous the extent to which increasingly elaborate Jenga towers of how-fucked-up-was-that-ism start getting stacked up on top of the previous layers. And that same energy continues with the Michael McKean character in SAUL.

    With Barry, everyone is so extra awful (or is killed for being not awful in the case of Fonzie’s girlfriend) until even Barry’s always-completely-insufferably-self-involved-and-generally-awful-and-punch-in-the-face-able girlfriend has to go ahead and kill someone (which feels like one of the less awful things she’s done, in context!). I guess for me that might have been the “Skyler breaks bad or Krysten Ritter chokes to death on vomit resulting in plane crash” point of no return where old Fonzie jumps a shark dressed like Marilyn Manson doing weird S&M stuff to a whale dressed like Trent Reznor. If not the point of return, it’s the point of “I need a break.” The moment where the show overreaches in that Jenga game of compounding awfulness.

    Anywho, there’s an insidious quality of fostering excessive moral ambiguity, queasiness, and desensitization to the point where you don’t know which way is up or who or what you’re rooting for or even hoping for — it’s all bad, it’s all beyond morally ambiguous. In that way, rather than being devoid of a message or a moral, there actually is a very clear and strong moral that trying to be good is pointless and naive, while trying to be bad is probably not going to serve you much better in the long-run, but it might at least buy you some time or some momentary agency or buzz. What the fuck? Why not? Whatever. Who cares? It’s all very Nietzsche, and I can take that in certain Coen Bros films or in a film like 8MM or CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS or Mr. Ripley, but that general type of thing has been done to death and starts to wear on me after 30 hours of television.

    Can’t argue with the technical creativity or the craft, though. Hader *is* talented.

  67. I think to view the plane crash in Breaking Bad is something a lot of people almost take too literally…I mean it DOES happen so I get it, but that show was always a little more overt than just being a crime thing. They easily could have made it smaller, but I love the giant, crazy, basically cosmic implications of it. It’s more out of a myth than a regular crime story, and to me that’s why it’s ao amazing. I can’t think about plausibility when I’m reading about Zeus and shit..

  68. Well, to me the really interesting thing about that twist is that she only killed in self defense, but feels guilt about it. She’s very much like Gene in that she lets her ego and vanity ruin a good thing over and over again, but she’s different in that she has a sense of morality.

  69. One thing that I really loved about BARRY was that it started out as a mix of Hollywood satire and dark humored crime story and ended exactly like that, yet completely different. As the dark humor went at times almost unbearable dark, the Hollywood satire only got broader and sillier and the last five minutes of the show bring that point perfectly across. It’s quite something to pull off.

  70. I think that’s a good observation re: Sally, Vern. I agree that it’s clearly self-defense and a super upsetting thing for her AND that she has all this past trauma with her husband. And, of course, Sarah Goldberg is completely excellent in the role and in that scene in particular. Further, all the stuff with her husband that helps us better understand her psychology (his visit to LA, her partially confabulated, Hollywood-ized story about escaping him) is completely gripping. It’s an award-worthy performance.

    At a certain point, though, they’ve done so much work to make me hate her, that it’s hard not to keep hating her in spite of her trauma. The weird thing is that when she kills the guy, I’m not like morally outraged by the act or something (it is self-defense), I’m just weirdly unnerved by the fact that her taking a life seems strangely less hurtful than the generally way she has conducted herself with her peers and fellow actors in all the previous episodes. It also feels odd that we need to bring her into a situation where now she is directly committing violence. I don’t like the decision to make her character actually commit violence in a similar — not the same, but vaguely similar — way to how I don’t like Skyler breaking bad. I guess I should just be thankful Walt’s son never started dealing meth. For Sally, it’s just too much, as I don’t think we need to add taking a life to her dossier (just like I don’t want Wink6ler to go there). That’s the Barry side of world. Leave the violence piece to violent people, and let Sally just be mean-girl damaged awful. Or let her go through a transformation where she becomes believably less awful (like Sawyer on LOST — it can be done). I didn’t like the move. Again, it was excellently performed and staged — very harrowing, great action and tension.

    I’m glad you are still vibing with it, don’t let me yuck your yum too much. Maybe later I’ll come back and be in a different place to enjoy the satire and Coen-eseque / vaguely Tarantino qualities.

    I own that there is a moralistic dimension to how I appraise these things and that it’s a thoroughly idiosyncratic and still somewhat under-developed or inconsistently applied moralism, but I prefer to call them how I experience them, which is definitely some substantial percentage about just where I am at in life or moods or whatnot. It’s definitely not about the individual work as an individual work but is how the individual work fits into a zeitgeist, as well as just the dosage — how much of it I’ve mainlined over a given stretch. I think that’s why I can let a film like CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS or A SERIOUS MAN upset me and fuck with me and stir up all that existential shit in the same way I can let Tarantino do the types of magical realism ultra-violent pastichey stuff — because it’s their thing and/or it was a somewhat different zeitgeist it seemed (before a cultural peak hopelessness and moral ambiguity). Whereas in this case w/ BARRY, there is this broader last 20 years of prestige TV history and what feels like an extent cultural moment of despair that I think is reacting to real things but also tending to feed and exaggerate and exacerbate the same things in a self-fulfilling sort of way. So, that’s most of what is underneath that, probably plus some of my personal life shit, although the my personal life shit has been better this year than the previous seven I think, so, it’s more a realization that *some* of the personal life shit was self-inflicted like a lot of the self-inflicted despair that circulates on top of or in response to the unavoidable suffering. So, yeah. That.

    Muh, I like the mythological reading. That’s fun. I’m not sure I can get there in terms of either believing that was intentionally or like the choice if it was intentional, but it’s an interesting way to think about it.

    CJ, you have a good way of grounding things and making interesting insights without getting pulled into the emotionalism and logorrhea that I do, which is almost certainly not going to rub off on me, but it’s nice just the same.

    JTS, thanks for not taking the piss out of me this time (there’s always next time or next comment).

  71. “extent moment” should’ve been “extended moment.”

  72. Yeah I think the plane works on a metaphorical level…one man doing evil can create a butterfly effect and look what happens, less than a “plot point.” Because it doesn’t effect the plot at all, take out the plane crasah and the show wouldn’t be any different. I feel like that is one of the greatest things BB ever did, better than the cool heists or plot twists or anything. They went Oppenheimer.

    I don’t feel like Sally is THAT bad…like she’s shit but I can’t usually think of her truly fucking someone over unless I’ve totally forgotten that part. She’s kind of a shit person but believeably so, some out of ego but if you ever deal with acvtors you know a lot of that is straight up insecurity. AND self involvement to be sure. I loved her getting involved with Barry’s world though, at that point I felt the worlds needed to cross over and loved it when it did.

    I prefer what Barry’s doing with it’s wannabe reformed assassin more than I have most other wannabe reformed assassin movies ever. Skani you seem you want that ray of light and hopefulness, maybe along the lines of The Professional or even Grosse Pointe Blank. But something like Grosse…in the end he does become a better man, which is nice for him. Too bad about the 200 people he murdered for money in the past, that mom who was going to testify against the mobster who got her head blown off by him was just a job. And The Profesisonal…yeah he’s a killer, but he has a heart of gold underneath, he just wanted to be loved and will protect a little girl to the death.

    But Barry has a genuine morality to it…a guy who would do this is a piece of shit. He’s human garbage and yeah maybe if he want to jail and had no choice but to become someowhat better so when he gets out at 65 he’s no threat to society, but you better believe he’ll do anything he can to keep that from happening. I love that the show makes no bones about this guy. I mean hell in BB even Walter could usually make a convincing case for himself, he didn’t even make the girl vomit to death, he just watched it happen, it would have happened sooner or later and she was taking Jessie with her, he did them a favor. Barry would have just killed her.

  73. Also figured Vince Gilligan must have talked about the finale, and he does here…called the plane crash a “judgment from God.” That’s how I looked at it to. It’s of cosmic significance.

    Interesting I never caught the amount of money Walt said he needed to get out was $737,000, and the plane was a 737. So in the end of second season, he got his number.



    I think most people forgot that the show was a dark comedy. Mostly because the drama parts were so good and just like BARRY it became darker the more it progressed and probably never was really laugh-out-loud like Hader’s show. But IMO you can’t look like something like Gus Fring’s death or even the fucking big remote controlled machine gun in the finale and think that the writers didn’t know how funny and over the top it is. So in that regard the plane crash always worked for me and was totally on point with the show’s reality.

  75. I don’t think I can fully get on board with some of these readings, you guys.

    Like, yes, BREAKING BAD has elements of dark comedy. But I don’t think you can mount a persuasive case that it is first and foremost *a* dark comedy show. It is a dark action-suspense drama with a wry/dry absurdist sense of humor. BARRY is closer to a dark “dramedy” and clearly there is a satire element in terms of Hollywood phoniness and acting and pretension — playing a role and what is the role vs. the “real” you, if there is even a difference. Still, I am not buying that BREAKING BAD is a dark comedy (noun phrase) vs. it is something that has a dark comedic moments or subtexts.

    Likewise, I get that the airplane thing does have a deliberate butterfly effect / unintended consequences / one thing leads to another type of thing, but I don’t think that makes the film some kind of a primarily mythological or magical realism type of film. This is not the same type of mythology as THOR or the same type of magical realism as ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. I refuse to tee the BREAKING BAD plane crash as anything other than the show just getting too mega and overreaching into unintentionally ridiculous.

    I am open to further persuasive effort, but I remain mostly unconvinced.

    And you don’t think Sally from BARRY is totally awful vs. just mildly narcissistic? She’s the worst.

    Okay, fun convo, thanks again!

  76. Also, Muh, at least through Season 2, I strongly disagree with your condemnation of BARRY as a worthless piece of human garbage and piece of shit. He has humanity, and I don’t think the answer to his dehumanization of others is to dehumanize him. Now, if he’d hurt someone in my family, I’d want to hurt him back and would probably be a broken traumatized person for a long time and perhaps permanently and probably would want him to be executed for it (being honest). I’d feel the same way if an otherwise upstanding person drove drunk and killed a loved one of mine (even though I have driven buzzed before). But as a matter of principle, I don’t believe Barry’s a piece of garbage or that Walt or Jesse is. I don’t believe Sally is either, for the record (she just drives me nuts).

    Now, Gus Fring, maybe.

  77. I mean, your mileage may vary, but the big season 1 image of BREAKING BAD was that Ned Flanders looking guy, standing in the desert without his pants, wearing a gun. You had moments like the failed corpse dissolve or Walter suddenly blowing up the office of the guy who almost killed Jesse. It was never a comedy first and when it was funny it was indeed really dark, but I think they milked through the years a lot of humor out of the whole “Average Joe becomes crimelord” plot, even if it was rarely obviously funny. Again: Season 2 ended with his actions causing two planes to crash right over his house, just after his wife left him. All that was missing was him saying: “Well, at least it can’t get worse than that” before the explosion.

  78. Yeah I would never call Breaking Bad a dark comedy. It was a drama that didn’t mind being funny or even cartoonish. Like, my friednd was totally into the plane thing but he thought the twins were too cartoonish. I hadn’t seen the show and he told me about some characters who show up who he could stand but told me I’d love them. The second I saw a skull tipped cowboy boot I knew what he was talking about and yes, I did love them.

    So I also wouldn’t say the show is primarily mythological or magical realism…but it doesn’t mind dipping into it. The plane is more realistic to me than the really over the top cousins or even Mike consistently pulling off ridiculous shit that would make John Wick envious. That’s the magic of the show, it had no problem being straight comic book pulp, dark drama, action thriller, or making a cosmic statement. And Gilligan himself said it was to be like God’s wrath, being a metaphor for what Walt was doing. It’s rare to have a show with that breadth of styles/genres.

    Also I don’t see any magic realism in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…at least not in the movie’s content itself. Like, I guess it can be if you watch it knowing it’s alternate history, but if you watch it not knowing who any of the people are or the real story…there’s no magical realism. Nostalgia for a time gone past, sure. But it’s otherwise a straight drama, nothing magical is happening in the story. Although without knowing the history it seems like after awhile it would seem super pointless. RRR might be more like magical realism, a somewhat realistic-ish story that also has insane action and dances. Or…Man in the High Castle is alternate history but not magical realism.

  79. Oh! And I didn’t say Sally is MILDLY narcissistic. She hugely is. But she does still try, and sometimes she can show her good side. Most of the others have no good side.

  80. CJ, all the ending to season 2 was missing was Walt looing directly into the camera and saying “whoops I did it again.” Cue laugh track as he shakes his head.

  81. Yeah, on some level, I think we’re arguing semantics and margins, because, like I said, I think there is validity to these readings as elements or facets of the show. That there is a kind of mega, ridiculous, operatic quality to BREAKING BAD and that there is absolutely a sense of humor there. And BARRY een more so. I mean, Stephen Root and Henry Winkler are just dispositionally funny (but see EMPTY MAN), and they are clearly funny characters, and there is clearly a strong satire element, at least in Season 1-3. I just think it’s one thing to say that Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (or his whole oeuvre for that matter) has a pervasive dry sense of humor and quite another to say that he’s a comedian. Same for HEREDITARY or T2. Comedic elements or “has a sense of humor about it” is one thing, “is a dark comedy” is another. DEATH BECOMES HER is a dark comedy. WOLF OF WALL STREET, maybe that’s a darker dark comedy/dramedy.

    Also, I probably am exaggerating how bad Sally is. It broke my heart the way she treated her friend (from GOOD PLACE) after Sally got her big come-up. That’s a very on-brand thing for Sally, just like dumping Barry.

  82. Yeah I’d definitely characterize Barry as a comedy show, just pitch black comedy. Even when Breaking Bad or Sopranos got comedic they’d never go nearly as far with it as Barry.

    Sally was def shitty but not sure Natlie was really her friend either. She glommed onto Sally because there was opportunity there, then made sure to take good notes about what streaming algotrims were looking for and tweaked Sally’s show idea for them and, essentially, stole the idea. I feel like the only characters on that show who were good got killed pretty early (cop lady).

    In a weird way, the most “good” character was Hank’s boyfriend. He was coo and chill and loyal. Hank was alllmost good in a lot of ways, also loyal and only got nasty with Barry but let’s face it, Barry deserved it. Although in season 4 things may change with ol’ Hank cause everyone stinks!

  83. In terms of my view on BREAKING BAD you seem to focus too much on the comedy and not on the dark. Not every comedy has to go for the big LOLs and BB definitely doesn’t do that most of the time, but the way the story escalates at times makes it IMO pretty obvious that the writers were not seeing it as the stone cold drama that the show is often remembered as.

  84. Yes, but we’re not confined to the choices “stone cold drama” vs. “dark comedy.” In the construction “dark comedy,” the “comedy” is literally functioning as the noun (the thing that it fundamentally is), while “dark” is functioning as the modifier (an attribute or quality of the thing that is fundamentally a comedy). Like “brown puppy.” A brown puppy that rubs up against your legs and plays hard to get is not a cat. Is TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE a dark comedy (or horror comedy)? Is T2 an action-comedy? Both have comedic elements or maybe undertones or moments, but I am still not buying that they are simply and fundamentally variants on the comedy genre. Now, those are semantics I think are worth arguing about.

    I focus more on the word “comedy,” because it is the primary genre in your description — it functions as the noun, with “dark” existing as a modifier. “Dark comedy” means “fundamentally a comedy” but with a darker premise or some darker subject matter. Not as a matter of doubling down for the sake of doubling down or being contrarian: I just don’t agree that it makes sense to call the show a comedy anymore than I think it makes sense to call FRIDAY THE 13TH 3 or TCM or T2 a comedy. TRUE LIES is an action-comedy (I’d be equally happy with “comedic action film,” but that is just a more idiosyncratic construction), but T2 is a sci-fi action film (maybe even a sci-fi action suspense drama) with comedic elements.

    With BB, the ratio of comedy to suspense or drama is very lopsided in favor of suspense and drama. The ratio of violence to laughs is very lop-sided in favor of violence. Is “that episode was hilarious” (or “so funny”) a thing that many people plausibly said to many other people about that show in private or public discourse? I mean, it’s a big world, so I won’t speak in absolutes, but, c’mon.

    Peace and love to you CJ. I’m running out of steam on this one, but I respect your voice. Thanks!

  85. Sorry, I had meant to delete that second paragraph, which is redundant with the first.

    In contrast, I am deliberately leaving in this paragraph, which is redundant with the previous one.

  86. No worries, man, I think we all have said everything that can be said about that topic.

  87. Right on! Keep on CJ-ing!

  88. And you keep doing your Skani thing!

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