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April 30, 2020

Quick Movie Recommendations: First Blood, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Yeah First Blood isn't exactly new. But it sort of is. Amazon is selling a UHD 4K version of First Blood for $6.99. I bought a digital download, but now I wish I'd bought the Blu Ray physical copy.

I don't even have a 4K television, just an older normal HD one, but wow, the movie looks great.

I always thought of the movie as being dark and grainy, because the copy they used to show on HBO wasn't great. This print is sharp and clear and pretty colorful. True, the color palette is subdued, but there's more color and brightness than I remembered. I was very surprised to be so impressed by the photography in what I thought was a dark grainy action movie. The mountains in the background of many scenes look great.

And the movie holds up.

Big recommendation here. I doubt the movie looked this good even in theaters back in 1982.

I also saw Last Blood because, of course. I actually watched First Blood to make up for the sub-mediocrity of Last Blood. It's not a good movie at all. The dialogue is very inartful -- just people saying what they're feeling at the present moment -- and the plot is a barely warmed-over rehash of all the Taken movies.

I didn't have any problem with the idea that Rambo had built a bunch of tunnels under his property. I figure, well, he's a Survivalist, right? And he's probably an obsessive on the point, so sure, why not just compulsively build defensive/escape tunnels?

But the movie uses the tunnels in very unrelastic and stupid ways. First of all, even though all the bad guys know that Rambo has set up lots of traps on the property -- they've already seen a truck and ten men taken out by traps on the ground level -- they follow him without hesitation into the tunnels.

What?

Rambo has the entire tunnel system wired with explosives. He can blow it up at any time. He only does after eliminating all the henchmen up close and personal, giving the main bad guy a chance to run his way out of the tunnels as they explode.

Why? I never got the idea that Rambo was like the Joker, playing with his pray. He seems a lot more practical minded: If your enemies all follow you into tunnels lined with explosives, just blow them up. Don't dick around with Joker-like games.

Also, the very fact that the tunnels are rigged to blow up, and eventually are blown up, makes the viewer question Why the hell did those guys go into the tunnels in the first place? The thing that they should have known would happen, did happen.

It's dumb.

There's also this weird geography of the tunnels that is never explained. Rambo is constantly "popping out" of places to shoot people. But where is he popping out of? They never establish that, in addition to the main tunnels, there are also secret tunnels linking the main tunnels.

There's this thing they do in action movies where if a character is merely not in the camera frame, he's to be understood as 'hidden" in some way from other characters. But in tunnels, where the hell could Rambo possibly be hiding? And how can he teleport from one part of the tunnels to another?

He has a ton of traps set in the tunnels. Fine. But the point of traps is that the trapper doesn't have to physically be present to make the kill. The trap takes the prey without the trapper being around.

But they want to show Rambo himself killing people, so in almost every single trap-kill, Rambo pops up (out of nowhere) to also machine-gun or shotgun the already dead or dying guys in the traps.

How the hell is he moving around undetected? And why is he risking his life moving around to claim the Kill Shot when his traps have already taken out his enemies?

And why the hell doesn't he just blow up the tunnels and take out 20 people with a single flick of a switch? What's he fucking around for?

Is he doing it for the audience? He must be. There's no other reason.

The end sequence is kind of okay because it is fun watching Rambo kill all these guys in gory ways but it's so dumb it feels more like Friday the 13th: The Survivalist Version than Rambo.

The movie does have good parts -- all involving violence, of course -- but it always has you questioning the plot, arguing with the movie in your head.

Wishing it was much better.

And I finally got through Once Upon a Time in Hollywood after having turned it off twice. Like all Tarantino movies, it is sluggish and self-indulgent as Tarantino uses most of the first hour of screentime showing off something he's interested in (1969 Hollywood) while only occasionally bothering to check in with what the actual plot of the movie is.

Tarantino also... well, he frequently revisits past material. I'll just say he does so again here and let that lie.

But once he does check in with the plot -- specifically, when the Brad Pitt character visits the Manson family -- it gets very good.

Brad Pitt's character Cliff Booth is one of the most badass characters ever put on film. He's so friendly and completely unflappable. But he can afford to be friendly, because he knows he can easily kill you if he has to.

He hopes he won't have to kill you. But he might have to.

Leonardo DiCaprio's character is close to the opposite -- he's an emotional wreck of an actor realizing he's now officially a has been. He's insecure and has fits of sobbing. But the character does feel real and one sympathizes with him.

You'd think there would be some conflict between the two main characters but no, they're friends, they trust each other completely, so even when DiCaprio's character gives Pitt's character bad news (I won't be able to get you stuntman gigs), there's no suspicion or resentment. Each knows the other come through for the other, if possible.

It's refreshing and pleasant to see a relationship of complete trust in a movie.

The ending is pretty much what I expected but nevertheless, very satisfying.

This movie is going to be a slog for a lot of viewers to get through, but I'd advise you to just grit your teeth and get through the boring bits and at least get to Brad Pitt's polite and friendly, and also menacing, investigation of the Manson ranch.


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posted by Ace at 08:38 PM

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