July 25th, 2022

The Gray Man: Netflix has released the new Ryan Gosling film, with an impressive cast which apparently cost $200M to produce. The impressive cast includes Rege-Jean Page (Bridgerton Season 1), Billy Bob Thornton, Anna de Armas (who Gosling worked with in Blade Runner), Chris Evans, Alfre Woodard and others. The premise is a simple one; Billy Bob works for the CIA, and he approached people in prison (no idea if it was all men or not) and offered to get them out, so long as they become operatives for the CIA for an unknown length of time. Gosling, not surprisingly, takes the deal. Fast forward a few years and location to Bangkok, and there is a bad guy who needs to be taken out. Turns out, Gosling the operative is told very little about the marks that he is expected to take down. And so the story unfolds with De Armas seeing things happen and taking sides of her own. There is a great deal of Jason Bourne in this plot, with some additional James Bond aspects. There really isn’t anything new of substance. Gosling is pitted against the “private” agent (Evans, who chose this role over the Gosling role) as well as the new bosses for his unit. Billy Bob was replaced by a new regime. There is a subplot involving a niece for Billy Bob, which moves the story along. As far as the movie and production goes, there are some amazing locations, I was most impressed by Prague, but there were clearly CGI aspects of fights that took place. Some of that CGI isn’t as impressive as it should be for the budget. Like any other movie in this genre there are many moments where one must suspend their disbelief for the number of bullets that are fired, and punches taken (including head butts) that don’t leave the perpetrators concussions or bruised or dead. It is to be expected. This is a popcorn fluff movie that is watched for escapism; little more or less. Gosling is effective in the role, and certainly shows that his character can take some hits while unflinchingly carrying on. At some point, one thinks his previous injuries must open up. Why is it, though, that such agents always seem to break into veterinarian offices to deal with their injuries? There is a hint of looking to make this a series. Evans plays the over-confident guy who will do whatever it takes when legal means are not available to do what is necessary. His job is to obtain an asset, and he will do anything that he and that cheesey smile and mustache will conjure up in his twisted head. Both Gosling and Evans took in apparently $20M each for this production, and I am sure that they would like to carry on. But we will see. For a Netflix movie, that seemed to be almost simultaneously released in the theatres, this fulfills the Netflix payment for the month. It didn’t suck, but it also wasn’t amazingly entertaining or breaking new ground. Ana De Armas through this and the last Bond has shown herself capable of doing these roles as the principal actor rather than a supporting cast member. She is once again a scene stealer in the movie.

Solaris: This is a George Clooney movie from back in 2002 (twenty years ago already!!) with Viola Davis and Natascha McElhone which is a space psychedelic movie. I re-watched this in the past week. The movie still is meant to confuse, and is successful in that. A space craft is near a planet, Solaris, and then strange things happen aboard. The people on board are either extremely terrified, like Viola Davis, or they are just chill, like Jeremy Davies. McElhone was the wife of the Clooney character and she adds complexity to the story with him. In some ways I can see some elements of the later Inception where Leo’s character needed to address the past relationship with wife, played by Marion Cotillard. The ending will have you thinking that you likely should be watching it once again. Perhaps it is even better on second or third viewing because initially one watches with a plot focus just to pay attention. For me, it is still a head scratcher, which is okay. I am not sure that I can recommend it.

Better Call Saul: It was recommended to me that Better Call Saul, the spin off from Breaking Bad was worth my time. I had thought that the Saul character was excellent in Breaking Bad as a supporting character. Bob Odenkirk is brilliant as the lawyer on the edges with the really good one liners. I wasn’t sure that the character though could be a watchable principal. I have been assured that despite a fairly slow start, that it gets much better. Some notable characters from Breaking Bad make appearances as well like Mike, and some of the drug crowd. There is good writing throughout and once again it is set in New Mexico. I will continue to watch and see where it takes me. It does make me laugh with the things that he gets himself into.