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Quick pics: Thumbs up for ‘The Fall Guy’

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 14, 2024 5:00 am

At this point, after the Year of Barbenheimer and the pairing of Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling on the Oscars stage, it appears they can do no wrong together. So it is with The Fall Guy, a goodhearted, rumble-tumble meta romp through the hard life of stunt man Colt Seavers (Gosling), trying to win back the favor of newbie director Jody Moreno (Blunt) after he’s injured on a previous set and returns to work on her first feature, Metalstorm.

Directed by former stunt man David Leitch (who’s got a way with twitchy, neon-glossy fight scenes, as in his Bullet Train), The Fall Guy cruises by on undeniable chemistry between Gosling and Blunt like a slo-mo ravine jump on a Kawasaki KLX-300SM. All the meta beats are on purpose, whether it’s Colt having to “explore” his character’s motivation to Jody through a bullhorn during a shoot where he’s repeatedly blasted against a pile of boulders; or whether it’s being caught by Jody crying in a pickup truck to Taylor Swift’s All Too Well.

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt pair up in The Fall Guy.

Colt and Jody contend with prima donna action star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, trotting out his best Matthew McConaughey in one scene) on the big budget sci-fi film, as well as hyperdriven producer Hannah Waddingham (from Ted Lasso), and slowly they try to rekindle their earlier attraction. In this, they need no stunt actors: the two have easy charm and comic timing. It’s possible many of the cute little quips were ad-libs by the two actors. (The split-screen bit is inspired.) Meanwhile, the script by Drew Pearce is littered with meta Easter Eggs that tell us much about the industry and its recent grappling with bluescreen CGI, AI and deepfakes.

The Fall Guy is so meta, in fact, it even signals it may itself have “third-act problems.” And indeed it does, in terms of way too many endings. (Why does Hollywood have to tack on an extra half hour to everything? Self-love, methinks.) But a lot is forgiven in a movie that embraces the Hollywood self-referencing of films like Shane Black’s The Good Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with a wink and a nod, as well as overtly referencing the ‘80s TV show which The Fall Guy is based on, where Lee Majors solves a lethal accident/murder mystery on pretty much every film set he works on (OSHA should get involved).

The movie is also stuffed with amusing side characters, wry asides, screwball dialogue and enough big action scenes to make you forget that it could have perfectly fit into 90 minutes, if it didn’t have so many loose ends to tidy up. (Spoiler: I spotted the true villain 30 minutes in.) And it does manage to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of its action genre—those guys who get thrown around, blown up, set on fire and dangled from helicopters for a living. Thumbs up.

Coming out May 1. Released by Universal Pictures.

‘Ghostbusters’ X the big chill

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire picks up on the Spengler clan (Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) from previous Ghostbusters: Afterlife reboot as they settle into the Lower Manhattan spook-storage firehouse built by Coon’s grandfather and raise the next gen of spook wranglers. It’s an opportunity to bring back original cast mates Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson, and they’re all fun in brief flashes. New additions Patton Oswalt and Kumail Nanjiani add comic lubricant to yet another onslaught of ectoplasm in the Big Apple.

Bill Murray passes the torch to Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

The problem with franchises that pair the old cast with a new batch (à la Jurassic World: Dominion) is that everyone gets separated for most of the movie, and you don’t see the full cast together much until the inevitable showdown in the Manhattan firehouse, where new demon Garraka shows off his ability to instantly freeze everything in sight. It’s up to the Ghostbusters to teach slacker Nanjiani to unleash his fledgling powers and battle ice with fire. (No spoiler: it’s all in the title and opening Robert Frost quote.) The gags have a cozy familiarity, and the language is kept PG-friendly (Oswalt even says “What the fudge?” at one point). Young Phoebe (Grace) bonds with a female blue-ish spirit, which is never a good idea for someone in the ghost-busting trade.

Murray resurrects his prickly persona for a nice interrogation scene, and his old nemesis Walter Peck (William Atherton) is back to bust the Ghostbusters. It feels nostalgic because it is, following the beats of the ‘80s original, down to a hapless protector in Nanjiani and a reprise of public acclaim for the Ghostbusters, set to Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is out now, released by Columbia Pictures.

Andrew Scott goes full ‘Ripley’

Unlike Anthony Minghella’s beloved The Talented Mr. Ripley, the Netflix version starring Andrew Scott and written/directed by Steve Zaillian does not sugarcoat the darker sides of the Patricia Highsmith character: scratch the surface and he’s a psycho, and Scott has an uncanny ability to reveal either vulnerability or desperation in his twitchy gallery of expressions. We’ve seen him as the awkward, nerdy Hot Priest in Fleabag; here, as the awkward Ripley, settling in with Italy hosts Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn) and Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning), he can instantly switch from self-conscious squirming to dead-eyed gaze. But unlike Matt Damon’s fumbling, boyish Ripley, Scott’s is older, leaving behind a life of miserable forgeries to try his luck on the Atrani coast (somehow more lush and inviting in black and white for this eight-part series), armed primarily with a typewriter to keep snoops at bay. Scott’s transformation is chilling.

Andrew Scott in Ripley.

Like Hitchcock in, say, Psycho, Highsmith had the subterranean skill to make us adopt a psychopath’s point of view, even to root for him. Humor goes a long way here. Of course, what was once deeply shocking in Highsmith’s day—sociopathic behavior, lying, murder—is now merely top-viewed Netflix content. Scott takes a daring approach—he’s never quite as relatable, never quite as human, as when he’s fumbling with a dead body—but it pays off in an expansive dive into Highsmith that loves every nook and cranny of her dark world.

On Netflix