Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper and the movie ‘The Mule’

Clint Eastwood directs and starred in the curious tale of a flawed 90-year-old horticulturalist turned Mexican drug cartel mule named The Mule (2018). Inspired by The New York Times article, Nick Schenk penned the screenplay for what ultimately may be Eastwood’s final on-screen acting or directing role. The film was Eastwood‘s first starring role since Trouble with the Curve (2012).

The Mule 2 - Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone(Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone in The Mule).

The notion of Earl Stone, as played by Clint Eastwood, serving as the transportation for drug smuggling with a drug cartel came to pass after a long period of failed relations between he and his family. Earl had spent a lot of time on the road serving his passion for growing and selling flowers, largely to the detriment to his relationships with his ex-wife Mary Stone (portrayed by Dianne Wiest), his daughter Iris (as played by Clint‘s real life daughter Alison Eastwood), and his granddaughter Ginny (played as an adult by Taissa Farmiga).

The Mule 3 - LTR - Dianne Wiest as Mary, Alison Eastwood as Iris, and Taissa Farmiga as Ginny(From left, Dianne Wiest as Mary Stone, Alison Eastwood as Iris, and Taissa Farmiga as Ginny in The Mule).

It was after missing many milestones in his daughter’s life and with his wife that granddaughter Ginny invited Earl to a gathering before her wedding where Earl made an appearance. Drama ensued for all to see when a still bitter Iris made a scene about the perceived histrionics of his presence. Accusations of his habitual absence for flower conventions coupled with chronic financial distress were leveled, which prompted someone within earshot to offer Earl the path to transporting drugs for a criminal drug operation.

The Mule 5 - Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone, Center Left, and Andy Garcia as Laton, Center Right(Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone, center left, and Andy Garcia as Laton, center right, in The Mule).

Earl had been attractive for such a role due to his age, ethnicity, financial difficulties, and clear record of cautious driving as proven by his testimony of no driving tickets despite having driven to more than 40 of the 50 United States. Laton, as played by Andy Garcia, headed the organization where Earl flourished through a half-dozen or more trips worth of successful drug transportation. This process worked for the cartel until the oddity of Earl’s case caught the attention of those tasked with combating drug crime.

The Mule 4 - Bradley Cooper as Agent Colin Bates, top left, Michael Peña as Agent Treviño, top right, and Laurence Fishburne as the Special Agent in Charge(Bradley Cooper as Agent Colin Bates, top left, Michael Peña as Agent Treviño, top right, and Laurence Fishburne as the Special Agent in Charge in The Mule).

Laurence Fishburne as the unnamed Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago, Illinois office of the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, was in part tasked with stemming the flow of drugs into Illinois. Bradley Cooper as Agent Colin Bates and Michael Peña as Agent Treviño worked under the supervision of Fishburne‘s character, with eyes on the cartel led Laton and his cartel.

The Mule 6 - Clifton Collins Jr. as Gustavo(Clifton Collins Jr. as Gustavo in The Mule).

Shortly after Laton brought Earl to Laton’s Mexican home to celebrate Earl’s success, Gustavo (as played by Clifton Collins Jr.) made a shocking play in the cartel. This prompted a change in the manner of how Earl would conduct his business with the cartel, thus leading to the law enforcement success the DEA representatives referenced above had been seeking.

The Mule 7 - Nick Shenk wrote the screenplay for The Mule(Nick Shenk wrote the screenplay for The Mule).

My overall reaction to the film is that much of the story along with many of the acting performances offered the possibility of charm with little in terms of emotional payoff. Neither the roles nor the story offered much to make me want to watch this again nor think about how clever or charming the action was portrayed. The storytelling was straightforward and clear. The fact that the film felt in many ways like a retelling of the film Gran Torino (2008), without some of the impact of the first film, perhaps makes this one suffer in comparison. Overall, my rating is 3.25-stars on a scale of one-to-five.

Matt – Saturday, August 31, 2019

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Remakes and Sequels in the Service of Story

Matt Lynn Digital recently reviewed the Disney animated movie Dumbo (1941). We did so anticipating the live action movie Dumbo (2019)‘s theatrical release in the United States on Friday, March 29th. Without making a fine distinction between remake and reboot, we at Matt Lynn Digital wanted to review why some remakes work well while also looking at why sequels, as a distinct thing from remakes, also are worth the time.

Remake - A Star is Born 1937,1954, 1976, & 2018(The movie A Star Is Born was first made in 1937 with remakes in 1954, 1976, and 2018).

Followers of the 2019 Academy Awards will recognize A Star is Born (2018) as a featured nominee for best movie. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga starred in the directorial debut for Cooper. Part of the success this movie enjoyed rested in starring a well known musician and actor (Cooper and Gaga) in featured roles executing their craft using contemporary film and musical take on a movie that had been made three times before. A Star Is Born (1976) with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, A Star Is Born (1954) with Judy Garland and James Mason, and A Star is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March were others that succeeded with a similar compelling story.

Remake - The Wizard of Oz - The Wiz - 1937 & 1978(1939’s movie The Wizard of Oz was remade as The Wiz in 1978).

We at Matt Lynn Digital have ranked the movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) as the fourth best movie ever made. Starring Judy Garland and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion singing and dancing in the service of an adventure of rural versus city, labor versus management, poor versus rich, the music enhanced the telling of a story that has endured for many years. The same themes with a Motown soundtrack and an African American cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor starred in The Wiz (1978). A powerful story serving powerful audiences are powerful reasons to remake a movie.

Remake - Annie - 1982, 1999, & 2014(1982’s musical movie Annie was remade in 1999 and 2014. All take inspiration from Little Orphan Annie of 1932).

The final look into remade movies includes the music filled song of looking towards tomorrow with family with Annie (1982). In reprising a heartwarming tale of the adventures of a young girl in finding her family, whereas The Wizard of Oz and The Wiz both reinforce getting back home, the original stars Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Aileen Quinn and others. Annie (1999) rebooted the franchise for television with Kathy Bates as a notable star. Annie (2014) offered an entertaining review of the movie with a more robust and contemporary telling of the underlying story with stars Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Cameron Diaz. The 1982 and 2014 movies experienced commercial success. Each of these movies trace back to the comedy and drama Little Orphan Annie (1932).

The notion of making sequels to movies often is more creatively deliberate. It’s goals are often are not to retell a story with a more modern take or for a more modern audience, as we explored with some examples above. Instead, sequels seek to extend a story or take themes explored within a story to something more robust or fanciful.

Sequel - The Godfather - 1972, 1974, & 1990(1972’s The Godfather experienced sequels in 1974 and 1990).

The Godfather (1972) joins with The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) to tell the trials and tribulations of an Italian American mafia family with the surname Corleone. The story tells of how Vito Corleone became a major American criminal, how he died, and then how his youngest son Michael Corleone succeeded him and then became corrupted. The first two movies often are considered superior to the third movie in the sequence. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, and Talia Shire are notable stars in these movies.

Sequel - The Dark Knight - 2005, 2008, & 2012(2005’s Batman Begins was followed by The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises in 2008 and 2012, respectively).

The Dark Knight Trilogy of movies collectively refers to Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Gary OldmanMorgan Freeman, and Heath Ledger are notable stars telling the background story of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), his becoming a crime fighter, and some graphic crime and violence he fights while simultaneously fighting his own emotional baggage wrought by the death of his parents at the hand of violent crime. Christopher Nolan became a director of worldwide reputation thanks to these movies.

Sequel - Jaws - 1975, 1978, 1983, & 1987(The 1975 blockbuster movie Jaws was followed by sequels in 1978, 1983, and 1987).

The movie Jaws (1975) led to three sequels, namely Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), and Jaws: The Revenge (1987). The first movie launched the career of director Steven Spielberg, who directed only the first movie. Roy Scheider starred in the first two movies, as did Murray Hamilton, and Lorraine Gary. Other notable stars in the original were Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. The notion for all four movies was to extend the suspenseful interplay between unsuspecting folks on the beach, a hungry great white shark, and the engaging conflict the allows the audience to question who is the predator and who is the prey. Each movie in the series had a different director. Both the quality and originality of the series suffered from one movie to the next in this series, which is to say that this series demonstrates cases where sequels failed in the mission to extend the story into new and original places.

In walking through some notable remakes and movie sequels, my aim was to begin a dialogue for where one or the other is appropriate. Especially with some examples of  sequels, we are aiming to stake more ground for where sequels are not appropriate. For example, two sequels for Batman Begins seem justified, and a second sequel for The Godfather seems unwarranted. Multiple follow-ups for Jaws seem clearly unnecessary. The remakes of films largely seem justifiable reaches into new territory. What do you think?

Matt – Wednesday, March 27, 2019