Carl Weathers

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e08 – Redemption

It’s a good thing series creator and episode writer Jon Favreau has seen Terminator 2, otherwise this episode wouldn’t have an ending.

It’s not clear who decided they ought to straight rip off the flashback sequence from For a Few Dollars More, Favreau or episode director Taika Waititi (who’s better than the worst directors on the series but nowhere near the best ones), but suffice to say… Waititi’s not Sergio Leone and composer Ludwig Göransson is definitely not Ennis Morricone. Unlike George Lucas, who synthesized Ford and Kurosawa with movie serials and special effects… “The Mandalorian”’s Western homages are forced, desperate. And, based on the flashback sequence here, a waste of time.

But… hey… maybe that one’s Boba Fett?

Speaking of movie serials, “The Mandalorian: Season One” does successfully mimic movie serial plotting. You can lop off two or three of the episodes from the middle and run the rest together for a complete narrative. This episode, which spends its first five or six minutes (after ripping off Troops to the point Kevin Rubio ought to try to sue, I mean, it’s Disney, why not) dialing back all of last episode’s cliffhanger’s impact, not just involving the danger to Baby Yoda but also for the heroes. Going to be a returning villain in Season Two new villain Giancarlo Esposito is supposed to be maniacally murderous but he’s more than willing to go for a coffee break to pad out the run time and give our besieged heroes a chance to come up with an escape plan.

It’s a dreadfully predictable episode, especially since Favreau gives the characters lots and lots of dialogue about their situation. They have to argue and plead with one another over and over so their course of action is never a surprise. There aren’t any surprises in the episode.

Unless you count the special Kenner mail-away R2 unit with legs and maybe how no one in the main cast has ever heard of the Jedi (despite Luke Skywalker saving the universe with it and, really, at least Carl Weathers being old enough to be alive when there were Jedi around—the Star Wars timeline is kind of weird how an entire galaxy managed to forget space wizards in, what, eighteen years). Oh, and the “May the Force Be With You” saying.

Emily Swallow’s back as the Mandalorian armorer. She ought to be a series regular. She’s at least fun. She also has zero problem with droids and, no spoiler, the lesson of “The Mandalorian: Season One” is droids are all right. And Baby Yoda is cute.

Is Baby Yoda cute this episode? Definitely. Favreau and Waititi try hard to make lead Pedro Pascal seem protagonist-y enough to shoulder the series burden but… a) there’s not much to shoulder (the show ends up aiming about as high as the unable to hit anything stormtroopers, which is a really weird trope to bring up considering the heroes are supposed to be in so much danger) and b) Baby Yoda. There’s no reason to watch this show except for Baby Yoda. And Baby Yoda delivers.

Also… Favreau’s got some obvious eighties action TV mentalities someone ought to edit out of the scripts (like he’s got an editor)—no explosion means survival, duh. It’s Disney Star Wars, it’s not going to be challenging but… come on. It’s got to be smarter than “Knight Rider.” Or it’s got to have a lot more Baby Yoda per episode.

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e01

“The Mandalorian” is either like reading seventeen year-old Jon Favreau fall 1983 post-Return of the Jedi fan fic or it’s like playing his intricate, verbose Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game campaign–oh, wait, SWTRPG didn’t come out until 1987. So, no, it’s more like watching Jon Favreau play with his Jedi toys. A lot. But the toys play into how the story unfolds—Favreau, who wrote the episode in addition to creating the show, reaches into the toy bin, pulls out a figure, somehow makes it fit into the story. There’s a way too articulate ugnaught, a figure from Empire, pointlessly voiced by Nick Nolte. Most of the figures and vehicles are from Jedi. I think one of the guns is from Empire. You could sit with an old Hasbro catalog and check off items in the episode.

Visually, it looks like a bunch of Ralph McQuarrie paintings. Dave Filoni does an okay job with the direction. He tries hard to make it look like Star Wars: The Original Trilogy as far as his composition—outside when you’re pretty sure it’s a direct lift off a McQuarrie concept painting—but there are shot homages to Jedi the most, maybe Star Wars. Watching “The Mandalorian,” Disney has fully put on its big boy pants and figured out how to market to males age four through forty-four. I’m not sure Werner Herzog is going to attract the fifty-four year-olds. But if you grew up with Star Wars, “The Mandalorian” is for you. It’s how you could keep playing with your Boba Fett toys even after he died in Empire.

Oh, all the mythology on the Mandalorian culture? Metallurgy, female Mandalorians—“Mandalorian” is aimed at the OG Empire Boba Fett fanboys. I wonder if they’re going to release special toys.

Is it a good show? It’s not a bad show. It’s technically flawless except the Ludwig Göransson music, which isn’t bad just a bad idea for the show. Quirky Western. Eh. But it looks great. The acting’s… eh. Herzog’s in a scene, he’s quirky. Carl Weathers is in a scene. He’s not quirky. Lead Pedro Pascal is fine but the more he talks the more you realize you’re watching a cartoon turned live action through CGI.

Will I watch more of it? Sure. It’s never going to be challenging, but will always be mildly engaging and look great; besides, I like pointing out the toys I had as a kid too.

Predator (1987, John McTiernan)

Predator has a lot going for it. Acting, directing, editing. But not usually all at once. The film opens with a quick introduction–Arnold Schwarzenegger and company are on a special mission in the jungle (after establishing an alien space ship in the first shot). It feels very macho and very forced, but the editing is so incredibly good, it doesn’t matter. Even when Mark Helfrich and John F. Link are cutting together Arnold and Carl Weathers’s male bonding moments, the film works great. It just moves.

Then, as the film brings in the rest of the supporting cast (Weathers or Shane Black give the worst performance and both of them are totally fine), director McTiernan establishes the film’s visual style. Predator doesn’t have much of an action style when the alien finally does show; McTiernan handles it matter-of-fact (cinematographer Donald McAlpine doesn’t appear to have the ability to do much else), so McTiernan instead stylizes the dialogue sequences with particular close-ups and, even more, how he shoots the actors in relation to each other and the jungle they’re in. Predator never looks flashy, but it’s always thoughtfully visualized.

There is one great sequence with Arnold and company running through the jungle before he goes mano-a-mano with the monster. That sequence has McAlpine’s best photography and McTiernan’s best action directing. It’s fast-paced, hectic, but comprehendible and rather sympathetic. The concept–these big muscle men terrified of the unknown monster–works. It makes a lot of Predator work. But only because of the actors.

In the supporting cast, Bill Duke and Richard Chaves are best. Duke’s got the most character arc while Chaves has near the least, but is just really good with it. Then there’s quiet, stoic Sonny Landham and he sells it too. McTiernan’s direction is really important for these performances. Jesse Ventura and Elpidia Carrillo are both good. And, like I said, Weathers and Black aren’t bad. They just aren’t doing anything special; however, given the silliness of Weathers’s character (super-buff CIA stooge), it’s impressive how much Weathers resists caricature.

Nice, memorable music from Alan Silvestri.

The movie falls apart a bit in the finale, which is a little rushed. But McTiernan and his editors turn it around satisfactorily. McAlpine’s photography, which is too flat–both for action and the locations–does contribute to the film’s success. Predator plays way too thoughtful. McTiernan takes it way too seriously. The story is never consequential enough, but McTiernan and the actors ably pretend otherwise.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by John McTiernan; written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, Donald McAlpine; edited by Mark Helfrich and John F. Link; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, John Vallone; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and John Davis; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Dutch), Elpidia Carrillo (Anna), Carl Weathers (Dillon), Bill Duke (Mac), Richard Chaves (Poncho), Sonny Landham (Billy), Jesse Ventura (Blain), Shane Black (Hawkins), R.G. Armstrong (Gen. Phillips) and Kevin Peter Hall (The Predator).


Rocky IV (1985, Sylvester Stallone)

I rarely worry about how I’m going to get 250 words about a film. Rocky IV probably features 251 words of dialogue. Well, closer to 251 than not, anyway.

Really, what is there to say about this one? Stallone directs it poorly? Stallone substitutes montages and music videos for actual narrative content? It’s a ludicrous proposition from the opening credits, which directly involve the film’s eventual content of the U.S. versus the U.S.S.R. in the boxing ring–except it’s a narrative development, not something the film opens with. So, even though it looks cool (did they use hot air balloons for the boxing gloves) for a while, it’s nonsensical. It’s a reference to something the film’s characters don’t even know about yet, but the viewer would from the theatrical trailer… so it’s titles just for the viewer, which is rather goofy… but Stallone knows (or knew) his audience. They didn’t think.

It’s strange also because of the disjointedness. The beginning is this whole picture about Rocky’s boring eighties lifestyle with cars and robots and Carl Weathers thinking he’s getting old, then it turns into the east versus west thing. The montages don’t start until after Weathers dies.

However, none of that paragraph is to say the opening is good–well acted, directed or written–it’s just a solid narrative. Unlike the rest of the picture, which is a forty-five minute music video with some digressions.

Lots of people enjoy watching Rocky IV, regardless of its quality.

I do not.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone; director of photography, Bill Butler; edited by John W. Wheeler and Don Zimmerman; music by Vince DiCola; production designer, Bill Kenney; produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian), Burt Young (Paulie), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Brigitte Nielsen (Ludmilla Vobet Drago), Tony Burton (Duke), Michael Pataki (Nicoli Koloff), Dolph Lundgren (Captain Ivan Drago) and James Brown as the Godfather of Soul.


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