“How It Ends” A Netflix Film Reviewed By Case Wright – Some Spoilers


How-it-ends

How It Ends is a horror/thriller from Netflix and if you don’t watch, Netflix will probably make you.  The story begins with Will, an up and coming lawyer who is seeing the ultrasound of his soon to be son with beloved Samantha. Will is sweet, but the least manly man to ever unmanly.  He’s wound tight, nervous, and hyper-insecure.  Will needs to get Sam’s father Tom (Forest Whitaker) to give his blessing so Will and Sam can wed.  Will flies from the greatest city on Earth- Seattle to a totally ok City of Chicago to see Tom.

We meet Tom and his wife.  Tom is everything Sam is not.  Tom was a career Marine, manly, confident, and determined.  During the dinner, Tom does everything, but say to Will- You are a wimpy worthless un-man. Tom’s response is both whiny and defensive.  It’s just all kinds of awful.  Then, the power goes out nationwide with F-22s buzzing around Chicago AND all communications are down as well nationwide.  Tom asks if Will rise to the occasion and road trip to Seattle to find/rescue Sam.

I know, I know… this sounds like Taken et al, but it’s not.  It becomes a Father (in-Law) and Son survival story and we watch Will become a Man.  They leave in Tom’s Cadillac and hit the road to Seattle.  Immediately, they find that they cannot stay on the main roads to get there because rednecks try to steal their car at the first rest stop and then an escaped convict tries to murder them.  This is within the first half hour of this very action packed show and we still don’t know what caused the catastrophe.  We get hints, but it’s not Aliens …. I don’t think.  Frankly, I’m still not totally sure of all of the details of the disaster even now.

They decide to stay off the main roads and team up with a teen who has mechanical skills.  Along the way, people are trying to murder them for gas and supplies.  The teen that goes with them becomes part of Will and Tom tribe for a short time and has to kill to protect her new tribe.  Unfortunately, this is too much for the teenager to accept and she abandons Will and Tom to find her way forward alone.  It’s a very accurate depiction of societal breakdown.  During Katrina, towns setup armed checkpoints to prevent looting and mayhem.  I had friends in Mississippi during Katrina and they did exactly that.  They needed to shut ingress and egress from their communities to survive and they did so.  The communities acted like a tribe would.

Will has to learn how to shoot, drive and shoot, do a chest-tube, read people, give up trust, and murder.  We watch him change from a spineless nerd to a confident leader who will readily kill to protect his tribe.  During Will’s transformation, the tribal bond between Will and Tom becomes as strong as steel.   It’s a story that gets to the very foundation of what family does and what it means to be part of a tribe.  The moment the lights go out, we will go from Facebook likes to being real tribal humans again.

When Will gets to Seattle, it’s heartbreaking.  Seattle is totally destroyed….sniff.  It just gets you. Even the Clink…The Home of my Beloved Seahawks is gone.  THE PAIN, THE PAIN!  It’s like 2015 all over again! Will’s beloved is gone, but she left a note for her coordinates.  Therefore, Will has to go back on the road to find her and save her from whomever.

Will finds Sam with a neighbor Randy who is at his mountain lodge getaway.  Randy is the epitome of our current society. He is a wealthy-techie-know-it-all-socially-awkward-creep who thinks that all of his thoughts are facts.  He believes that in this new society he will continue to be on top and he tries to take Sam as his own.  Not so fast, the world has changed- sorry the power was down forever so no more facebook updates for you.  Life has reverted back to a tribe-based system and Randy is left behind literally into dust.

I would recommend this film because it has tremendous suspense and dares to show us what we’ve lost trading our friendships for likes and retweets.  You never really know what caused the disaster because that is not the story.  The story is about the immediate reemergence of tribal life and how it enables people to determine rapidly who is a friend and who is a foe.  In essence, the film challenges us to see a possible positive to this new reality.  People are closer and snakes like Randy are easily identified and remedied for the good of the tribe.  We still survive, but we have to do it as human beings.

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #93: Boogie Nights (dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)


Boogie_nights_ver1The 1997 film Boogie Nights (which, amazingly enough, was not nominated for best picture) is a bit of an overwhelming film to review.  It’s a great film and, if you’re reading this review, you’ve probably seen Boogie Nights and you probably already know that it’s a great film.  And if you haven’t seen Boogie Nights, you really should because it’s a great film.  So, this review, in short, amounts to: Great film.

Boogie Nights takes place in the late 70s and the early 80s.  Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) is a high school dropout who works as a busboy, lives with his parents, and has a really big cock.  (Indeed, one of the film’s most famous lines is, “This is a giant cock.”)  When we first meet Eddie, he’s likable and cute in a dumb sort of way.  Then he meets adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and becomes a star.  At first, everything is great.  Eddie changes his name to Dirk Diggler and no longer has to deal with his abusive mother (a chilling Joanna Gleason).  Jack and Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) become his new parents.  He gets a cool older brother in the form of actor Reed Rothschild (John C. Reilly, totally nailing the “People tell me that I look like Han Solo,” line).  He makes friends with other adult film actors, like the desperately unhip Buck (Don Cheadle), the free-spirited (and secretly very angry) Rollergirl (Heather Graham), and the poignantly insecure Jessie St. Vincent (Melora Walters).  He gets new admirers, like Scotty J. (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  He also gets addicted to cocaine.  And while Dirk falls from stardom, the adult film industry is taken over by gangsters like Floyd Gondolli (Philip Baker Hall) and self-styled artists like Jack Horner find themselves pushed to the side.

And you may have noticed that I mentioned a lot of actors in the paragraph above.  That’s because Boogie Nights is a true ensemble piece.  It’s full of great performances and memorable characters.  Along with everyone that I mentioned above, the cast also includes William H. Macy as cinematographer “Little Bill” Daggett.  From the minutes we first meet Little Bill, we get the feeling that he might be a little bit too uptight for pornography.  Maybe that’s because his wife — played by the inspiring sex positive feminist and veteran adult film star Nina Hartley — is constantly and publicly cheating on him.  Macy and Hartley do not have as much screen time as the rest of the cast but, ultimately, their characters are two of the most important in the film.

And then there’s Robert Ridgely, who is marvelously sleazy as the paternal but ultimately icky Col. James.  When we first meet the Colonel, he’s almost a humorous character.  But then, suddenly, there’s one chilling scene where he opens up to Jack Horner and we are forced to reconsider everything that we had previously assumed about both the Colonel and his business.

And how can we forget Luis Guzman, as a club owner who desperately wants to appear in one of Jack’s films?  Or Ricky Jay as a plain-spoken cameraman?  Or how about Thomas Jane, playing one of those tightly wound characters who you know is going to be trouble as soon as you see him?  And finally, nobody who has seen Boogie Nights will ever forget Alfred Molina, singing along to Sister Christian and running down the street, clad only in black bikini briefs and firing a shotgun.

But it’s not just the actors who make Boogie Nights a great film.  This was Paul Thomas Anderson’s second film and, under his direction, we feel as if we’ve been thrown straight into Dirk’s exciting and ultimately dangerous world.  When the film begins, the camera almost seems to glide, capturing the excitement of having everything that you could possibly want.  But, as things go downhill for Dirk, the camerawork gets more jittery and nervous.   A sequence where Anderson cuts back and forth between Jack trying to shoot a movie on video (as opposed to his beloved film) and Dirk nearly being beaten to death in a parking lot remains one of the best sequences that Anderson has ever directed.

And then there’s the music!  Oh my God!  The music!

And the dancing!

And the singing!

I’ll be the first admit that I have no idea whether or not Boogie Nights is a realistic portrait of the adult film industry in the 70s and 80s.  But ultimately, Boogie Nights is not about porn.  It’s about a group of outsiders who form their own little family.  At the end of the film, you’re happy that they all found each other.  You know that Dirk will probably continue to have problems in the future but you’re happy for him because, no matter what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future, you know that he’s found a family that will always love him.

As I mentioned at the start of this appreciation, Boogie Nights was not nominated for best picture.  Titanic was named the best picture of 1997.  As I’ve said before, I loved Titanic when I was 12.  But, nearly 18 years later, Boogie Nights is definitely the better picture.

It has stood the test of time.