I’ll be honest when I put Apocalypse Now on my blind spot for 2020 I did so with hesitation. I knew it was a hard R rating and a long war film so it didn’t sound like something I would love. As we got closer to the watch in September my hesitancy increased as it seemed like a big downer to watch in quarantine.
Well yesterday I had terrible insomnia so decided to finally watch it and to my surprise I found it quite exhilarating. To be sure it is long (I watched the theatrical cut) and brutal but the characters are so well realized and the story so surprising that it really worked well. I see why it is considered one of the great films of the 1970s.
If you didn’t know Apocalypse Now is directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Martin Sheen as an army captain given a secret mission in the Vietnam War to go into Cambodia and kill a rogue Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). He is given assistance along the way by a PBR or river patrol boat which includes an assortment of characters such as Chef (Frederic Forrest), The Chief (Albert Hall), and Lance B Johnson (Sam Bottoms. He is a professional surfer in the movie).
They also meet people like a hippy journalist played by Dennis Hopper and an insane war-hungry Lieutenant Kilgore (Robert Duvall). His character is a morally repugnant man who cares more for surfing and the wins of war than human life but it’s such a big performance I found myself transfixed by it. Of course, he has the iconic line of the film ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’. And the crazy thing is he actually does love it. That’s nuts but also compelling.
The movie takes a long time to get to Colonel Kurtz but the wait is worthwhile. Brando was evidently quite the diva by this time in the 70s but somehow that aloofness and pride works well for the character. The final scene with the butchering of the water buffalo and the assault on Kurtz is riveting and tense.
It probably goes without saying but the production values of Apocalypse Now are absolutely outstanding. The sound design alone by Walter Murch was a game changer. The editing is great. The spectacle of the battles and use of color throughout the cinematography is incredible. All the acting is top notch.
As far as flaws there is a moral ambiguity about war which some might question. These days we want everything to make a statement but Apocalypse Now could easily be criticized as being both pro and anti war. This no doubt reflected the divided nature of the country in 1979 (what it must have been like to watch the film in 1979 is incredible to think about). I kind of like that it is open to interpretation but some may see it as a cop-out.
This might be a weird comparison but Apocalypse Now reminded me of another epic Lawrence of Arabia. Different time periods obviously but they both have large scale spectacle filmmaking mixed with unique characters that transfixed me. I love Lawrence of Arabia more but still both movies lived up to their respective hypes in my opinion.
What do you think about Apocalypse Now? Please put your thoughts in the comment section.
You like that poster? Well, my friends in the new movie Pixels there is no Pacman the size of a city, no Golden Gate Bridge and no San Francisco. No West Coast at all in fact. The poster looks like an exciting concept but sadly that’s not the movie we got. And in many ways that is emblematic of Pixels as a movie. It’s not really satisfying on any level.
That said, if you like Adam Sandler and were one of the cinemagoers that contributed to the $247 million gross box office that was Grown Ups, you will love Pixels. It isn’t as bad as That’s My Boy or Grown Ups, or Jack and Jill. It’s watchable. If you like Adam Sandler’s schtick there were a few laughs. Something I can’t say for those other films I mentioned. At least Pixels does not have a vomit, urine or other bodily function joke. Great job Adam Sandler! (Have you got the idea I’m not a big Adam Sandler fan).
It’s a shame really because Pixels could have been the next Ghostbusters. It’s directed by Chris Columbus and he gives it an 80s sensibility with the music and some of the early scenes feel authentic to movies of that era. Just like with Ghostbusters the creatures special effects are pretty well done and you have this tag team of comedians fighting them off.
The problem is the writing is so bad. With Ghostbusters you had 4 eclectic guys who start up a business. Are actual entrepreneurs which makes them unique and fun to watch. Plus, the script is dry and funny and each of the 4 guys has his own personality and story arc. All the guys in Pixels are the same and have the same story to tell. Basically the entire point of the Pixels script is to say to Adam Sandler “you haven’t done anything with your life but that’s ok. Your lazy manchild skills are really what are going to save the world after all”. How hilarious.
The first joke of the movie is that Kevin James is supposed to be President of the United States. This should be the one gamer who did something with his life but he’s a buffoon. You get no idea of how he could have possibly become president. In fact, some of the gags at his expense come off as kind of mean. For example, it is a big joke that Kevin James can’t read very well.
Wouldn’t it be more funny to have an actor like Martin Sheen or Michael Douglas (who both can be very good in comedies) be the video gamer at heart but also be a serious President? Wouldn’t that have way more potential for comedy? Or put in someone like a Kiefer Sutherland who is super angry and vengeful towards the aliens. That would have been funny. Anything other than Kevin James acting like a buffoon as the leader of the free world.
Anyway, Adam Sandler is James’ old friend who was defeated in the 1982 World Arcade Game Championships. This left him devastated (who knew coming in second was such a horrible thing at a WORLD championship). Anyway, NASA at the championship sends off a time capsule with clips of the video games and other pop culture relics from 1982 in hopes of it reaching extra-terrestrial life.
The problem is that capsule is seen as a declaration of war and so the aliens come down as those video game creatures and attack America. There are tons of plotholes throughout this whole scenario. Like when Pacman and Centipede come down there are specific rules that are the same for the game and yet later on it is just a barrage of video game characters who evidently have no rules? Also why would the aliens know about cheat codes? And why would they design into their attack a way to defeat the game and destroy their complete existence? And wouldn’t it make more sense to have the aliens create their own characters? Why would you invade a race with the exact things that they are using in their ‘declaration of war’? Because this movie is stupid that’s why…
All this would be fine if it was funny (Gozer in Ghostbusters isn’t exactly a great villain either) but aside from a few chuckles it just didn’t make me laugh. Josh Gad who I normally love is especially annoying in this. He literally screams every time he is on screen. I wanted to yell- “channel your inner Olaf. That was funny!”
Peter Dinklage is alright in it but he has a strange accent that wanders in and out. His character is inconsistent and not very well written but he tries. He gave me a few laughs.
The other thing with Ghostbusters is in that movie you had a lot of factors against the team. In this you have a grumpy Brian Cox who is listed as “a military heavyweight” in the cast list and he doesn’t like these civilians butting in with his team. Gad is even allowed to scream at the seals for an extended unfunny scene that added nothing to the story. It makes no sense for Cox to be hating on the team especially after they have defeated Centipede and Pacman. I guess he wanted the world destroyed?
Sean Bean appears for a gag Sandler loves of 2 men hugging in fear. It’s 2015 is that still funny having 2 men awkwardly hugging? The women are also completely wasted. Michelle Monaghan is gorgeous and a lieutenant colonel in the army but her main job is to invent things for Sandler and then direct them from a screening room. She also gets dumped for a woman named Sinnamon (with an S as pointed out several times) and is seen drinking chardonnay with a sippy cup even though her son is at least 10. I’m nitpicking there but they totally underuse her.
Jane Krakowski who can be so funny is in 2 scenes of the movie and one of them she is decorating a cake with the her husband the President in the middle of a war and in another they are at a party also thrown in the middle of wartime. Ashley Benson is literally a trophy given to one of the men for their victory (when I say literally I mean literally).
All of that said, the special effects do look kind of cool and I did chuckle a couple times. I can’t say that about all Adam Sandler movies. In fact, this is probably one of the best he’s done since the 90s…
Little kids might like it. There’s a little mild language but that’s about it as far as offensive content. But will kids get the appeal of the 80s arcade games? So I don’t know who this movie is made for?
Like I said, if you like Adam Sandler movies and think some of his comedies of the last 10 years have been funny than you will probably love this. It’s just not my cup of tea but I can see its appeal to others. Hopefully that gives you some idea of what to expect.
Overall Grade- D+ (for special effects and I feel like at least Adam Sandler tried so I won’t give him an F).
My youtube review on this one. I must say I think my thumbnail on this turned out really good! 🙂