“Fighting for your life makes every other thing you ever did before seem extremely dull.”
This line is spoken by Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) in the penultimate episode of Ozark’s third season, which hit Netflix on Friday. It’s a line that cuts to the core of what makes Wendy, her husband Marty (Jason Bateman), and the show around them tick. In its first season, Ozark plunged viewers into the world of the Byrdes and their Missouri money-laundering operation. From the moment a Mexican drug lord knelt Marty down and put a gun to his head in the pilot episode, we’ve been watching him talk and scheme his way out of certain death.
Subsequent episodes and seasons have seen Wendy take on an increasingly prominent role within the criminal enterprise that is keeping her and Marty and their two kids alive (for now). Ozark lost some momentum in its second season as its pace slowed, but the show is back with a vengeance now, doing what it does best: namely, putting the Byrdes at the center of a volatile situation where things keep spiraling further out of control. This season, the dark drama pops with bigger emotional fireworks, thanks in no small part to the arrival of Wendy’s bipolar brother, Ben (Tom Pelphrey), who adds an unexpectedly moving human element to a show where characters regularly display an inhuman lack of empathy. Ben is the Fredo Corleone in this equation, ready to break his sibling’s heart and that of the viewer.
If you’re all caught up with your weekend Ozark binge, then let’s dive into the Lake of the Ozarks with spoilers.
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With the airing of last night’s action-packed finale, HBO has delivered a gripping climax to its ten-episode Stephen King adaptation, The Outsider. Focusing on a community rocked by a gruesome child murder, the show, like the book, was something of a genre-buster, tipping from police procedural in its first half into full-blown supernatural horror in its second half. Given its steady ratings climb and the finale’s post-credits scene, it’s possible that HBO will go The Leftovers route with The Outsider and continue the series with new stories beyond the scope of King’s novel. The mythology at play in the narrative might even allow the network to anthologize it, adopting a new cast and setting in its second season, as AMC did last year with its Dan Simmons adaptation, The Terror.
For now, however, the dust is left to settle around a stellar first season with a top-of-the-line ensemble cast led by Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo. Developed by Richard Price — the author/co-screenwriter of Clockers and co-creator of The Night Of miniseries, among other things — the show adhered to many aspects of the book while also deviating from the source material in some notable ways. Price penned the majority of episodes, with executive producer Jessie Nickson-Lopez and novelist Dennis Lehane also picking up writing credits. Here, we’ll look back on the season as a whole and examine some of the changes they made in order to bring King’s vision to television.
Major spoilers lie ahead, of course.
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In the year of our Ford 2019, trying to make sense of people’s wildly divergent Star Wars opinions opens up a murky frontier of epistemological questions that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters now, only complicates all the more. Epistemology concerns the nature of knowledge and justified belief. I believe that people believe what they believe when they share their Star Wars opinions but I often wonder how they acquired those opinions in the first place. There’s a precedent for Jedi mind tricks in the Star Wars universe and it leaves me questioning whether some opinions were planted in people’s minds, Kenobi-style, or whether they were genuine reactions that people formed on their own. Like, “Hey, have you Change.org petitioners perchance been inceptioned by the Kremlin?” Or, “Hmm. You journos been getting all chummy with Rian Johnson, listening to him sing subliminal karaoke at film festival bars?”
Discussing Disney’s sequel Star Wars trilogy online is like venturing into a mad minefield decorated with the same bad blood as George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. As the young Lando Calrissian tells us in his Grammy-winning music video: this is America. When J.J. Abrams stepped back into the director’s chair for The Rise of Skywalker, there was always the lingering fear that a big ol’ landmine was planted right under that chair, just waiting to detonate. In 2015, Abrams rescued the franchise, restoring its cultural clout with the $2 billion success of The Force Awakens. Now, he’s essentially trying to re-rescue the franchise from a re-polluted water cooler. This translates visually when The Rise of Skywalker introduces an ocean moon that’s polluted with the wreckage of the second Death Star.
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The Expanse fans weren’t the only people who rejoiced when Amazon saved the much-loved series from SYFY’s cancellation; the cast and crew, who have a strong bond with their fans, were ecstatic as well, and eager to take the show to new places. “It’s exciting for us as actors and also for fans to get a new version of their favorite show,” Dominique Tipper, who plays Naomi Nagata on the series, told /Film. “Obviously it still has all the things you know and love, and the characters you know and love. But there is a widening of perspective.”
Tipper’s description is an apt one—The Expanse is thriving in its new home. Not only has Amazon Prime Video given the show significant promotion in the lead-up to the drop of Season 4 on December 12th (a day earlier than advertised, no less), but also in terms of the quality of the actual show. If you haven’t watched the new season yet, check out /Film’s non-spoiler review from a couple weeks ago, which explores why this season is just as good as the ones before it, if not better.
If you watched all ten episodes, however, read on for a spoiler-full take on some of the major occurrences of the fourth season. This is your final warning: spoilers abound below, so read on at your own risk.
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Time will be kind to Doctor Sleep, a bold, audacious, unapologetically sentimental horror film. The box office returns are paltry, and the film itself has its fair share of problems. And yet, Mike Flanagan‘s tender adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel shines because it’s so committed to embracing emotion. Stanley Kubrick’s cold, unfeeling, excellent The Shining jettisoned the sentimentality so prevalent in King’s work. Doctor Sleep attempts to reconcile this with Kubrick’s legacy.
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Netflix’s The King is a reverse Hobbit: instead of adapting one book into three movies, it adapts three plays into one film. Shorn of Shakespearean dialogue, this loose retelling of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V gets by on character and plot. Timothée Chalamet brings a brooding intensity to the Henry V role, which sees him following in the footsteps of classically trained luminaries like Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Kenneth Branagh. That he can hold his own as a screen presence, even in comparison to thespians such as those, bodes well for his starring role in next year’s Dune.
The King also reunites director David Michôd with Joel Edgerton and Ben Mendolsohn, two actors who broke out internationally after appearing in Michôd’s 2010 Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom. Edgerton serves as Michôd’s co-writer here, just as he did for the 2014 dystopian outback Western, The Rover, starring Guy Pearce. Michôd brings back Robert Pattinson from that movie; like Chalamet, Pattinson is no stranger to heartthrob status, and he’s set to headline a future tentpole (just a little movie called The Batman).
The King arrives in a post-Game of Thrones landscape where at-home audiences have become inured to watching court intrigue play out in medieval settings. Yet its source material predates Game of Thrones by centuries. Writer George R.R. Martin drew from the same period of history as Shakespeare’s Henriad, the cycle of plays that this movie partially adapts. Among other things, The King depicts the muddy hell of the Battle of Agincourt, the original inspiration for the Battle of the Bastards. This may not be Westeros, but war is still bloody and mud underfoot is an apt symbol for the innocence-to-experience arc that Chalamet’s conflicted prince undergoes as he dons his father’s crown and enters the moral quagmire of adulthood.
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The biggest compliment one can pay El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is to say that it doesn’t detract from the legacy of one of the greatest television shows of all time. We knew we were in good hands with Vince Gilligan. Better Call Saul has proven that he, as a showrunner, knows how to play in the Breaking Bad sandbox again without destroying the castle he built before. Now, for the first time, Gilligan has stepped behind the camera as a movie director as he checks back in on the character of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and shows us what happened to him following the events of Breaking Bad.
El Camino also takes us on a trip down memory lane with Jesse, flashing back to some unseen episodes from his past as he embarks on a new Neo-Western adventure in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The stakes this time are simple: Jesse needs to get the hell out of Dodge. The police have flagged him as a “person of interest” in a local massacre and he’s also dealing with post-traumatic stress. What follows is a two-hour Netflix movie with all the event-filled turns of Breaking Bad. It’s an epilogue to the series that occasionally detours down some narrative cul-de-sacs where familiar faces lurk. Buckle your seatbelts and let’s take our own spoiler-filled ride through El Camino.
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On the October 7, 2019 episode of /Film Daily, /Film editor-in-chief Peter Sciretta is joined by /Film managing editor Jacob Hall and writer Chris Evangelista to have a spoiler-filled discussion about Joker.
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Reading around online, it would be easy to go into into Joker with a list of talking points in your head before you had even seen the movie. Since its unprecedented win last month of the Venice Film Festival’s top prize, the latest comic book tentpole from Warner Bros. and DC Films has become highly politicized—to the point where the idea of it and what it represents is almost a separate thing from the movie itself. Film festival premieres take place in an online vacuum where larger cultural forces have not yet swept in to surround a movie and define it. On the other side of them comes the escalation (of movie opinions) that Commissioner Gordon warned about at the end of Batman Begins.
Whether it’s a case of critics comparing notes and/or the film telegraphing specific concepts, reviews of Joker have frequently invoked the same buzzwords, such as “incel” and “income inequality.” There’s a lot of hand-wringing, in negative reviews, about the movie’s lack of a clear message. Comparisons abound, across the boards, to the films of Martin Scorsese, while in the background, the shadow of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting hangs over everything.
To be clear, it’s not without good reason that some of these talking points are out there, but now Joker is in theaters and general audiences have had a chance to square their own cinema experience against the pre-release media chatter. Members of the insane clown posse that is the Internet should probably brace themselves for the backlash to the backlash. However, until such time as a #ReleaseThePhillipsCut petition materializes, let’s not forget that there’s an actual movie with Joker’s name on it to be discussed.
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For much of his career, Brad Pitt has eschewed the path of the traditional leading man. A recent Buzzfeed article pegged Pitt as “a character actor trapped in a movie star’s body.” If you look back at his filmography, there’s a clear pattern of Pitt playing off other actors as a kind of co-lead or ensemble head. This summer, he did it with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. However, this pattern dates back at least twenty-five years, to when Pitt emerged as a full-fledged marquee name alongside Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire.
In Ad Astra, Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut whose pulse rate never rises above 80 beats per minute. His journey to far-flung Neptune’s orbit to hopefully find his father and potentially stop an Earth-threatening antimatter surge positions itself as Apocalypse Now in space. Helmed by James Gray, Ad Astra is something of an anomaly, both in Pitt’s oeuvre and in the current blockbuster landscape. It’s a mid-budget movie based on an original idea, not an existing media property, and it doesn’t have a box office friendly director (like Pitt’s last collaborator, Quentin Tarantino) attached to it.
Seeing a film of that nature open the same day in theaters around the world is refreshing, but it does place a burden of expectation on Ad Astra, as its occasionally heavy-handed script peddles thoughtfulness with thrills in an event movie marketplace. The film’s title, which it never explains, is the Latin phrase for “to the stars.” Audiences no longer look to movie stars as reliable brands in and of themselves. Here, Pitt is on his own in a way he’s seldom been in his career. He can hold the screen, but can he elevate our heart rates?
To discuss that, we’ll be rocketing straight into spoiler territory in 3, 2, 1…
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