Resident Evil by Philip J Reed: Fully Funded

You absolute madmen. Or women! The campaign is sitting at nearly 250% funded, and it hasn’t even been 24 hours. It was fully funded in under two hours. There is still a full month to go.

Thank you. A million times, thank you.

What this means is…well, the book is happening. There’s no longer any question. Enough people threw enough support behind the campaign that every book in season five (and a few bonuses as well) will be released.

The Kickstarter will continue, of course, but now when you back it you are essentially preordering it. You’re reserving your copy and you’ll get it immediately upon release. $15 gets you a physical and digital copy, but there are a lot more options and, of course, a lot of other great books.

So check it out. Preorder it. You’ll like it.

If you have already supported the campaign, I appreciate you. If you haven’t but will, I appreciate you, too! If you haven’t and aren’t interested…well, yeah, of course you have and deserve my appreciation simply for being here reading this. Thank you all.

I promised that I’d share more information about the book here, on this site, as the campaign unfolded. I had planned to publish the first post when the campaign hit its target, whenever that happened to be. I didn’t think it would happen to be “immediately,” so I don’t have a post ready. WHOOPS.

You’ll get more, but in the meantime, here’s the table of contents.

…well, I thought it was cool enough to share! Seeing this really helped me realize how much I managed to accomplish during this project. Every one of those chapters contains a story you will read and represents a story I experienced while putting it together. It’s like a photograph of a group of friends I recently got to know very well.

Of course, if you’ve played Resident Evil, you might be able to guess what some of those chapters are about. And, y’know, feel free to do that in the comments. You won’t win anything!

Thank you again, sincerely.

Substantial updates and other goodies to come as we celebrate the publication of the biggest project I’ve ever worked on.

And if you haven’t reserved yourself a copy yet, please consider doing so.

You’ll be supporting some very good people, and also me.

Announcing: Resident Evil, by Philip J Reed

Three years in the making, it’s finally time for the official announcement: My book, Resident Evil, is part of season five of Boss Fight Books.

Boss Fight Books is an excellent publisher, and I cannot express how profoundly honored I am to be included in their lineup. Each of their books focuses on one particular video game and then branches — to varying degrees — into larger topics, histories, personal journeys, and so much more.

This season includes books about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Red Dead Redemption, Silent Hill 2, and Final Fantasy VI.

My book is about Resident Evil. Here, I can prove it:

Resident Evil is my central case study for discussing horror and how it works, with an extended tour through the deadly Spencer Mansion allowing us to discuss the writing, directing, and structuring of scares, along with the surprising power of horror to bring us together.

It’s done. It’s as ready to be distributed as it can possibly be without actually being printed.

Which is where you come in.

The Kickstarter campaign for season five is live right now.

If you were only ever interested in a copy of my book, then don’t worry; think of this as a preorder. Pay $5 for a digital copy or pay $15 for both a physical and digital copy. You get my book and you support the campaign by doing so.

Nice and easy!

However, there are other options available that are worth exploring. Pay $25 and you’ll get all five books digitally. Pay $30 and get two physical/digital copies of any of them. (Resident Evil and Silent Hill 2 fit nicely together, I hear.) Pay $75 for the entire set physically and digitally and get a personal thank-you within the books.

The list goes on. Check out all of the different ways you can support the campaign and get some nice goodies for yourself.

The nicest goodie of all might be Nightmare Mode. If the campaign hits $20,000 in funding, backers will receive this anthology featuring additional material from 10 Boss Fight Books authors past and present, myself included.

I have put more work into Resident Evil than I can express without sounding like I’m writing a suicide note. There is no doubt in my mind that if you enjoy my writing in general, you’ll enjoy this. (To be frank, you’d be nuts if you didn’t enjoy it more. Working with professional editors makes a huge difference.)

You can read all about my book and the others on the Kickstarter page.

I hope you will consider supporting the campaign, which you can do no matter what title or titles you decide to buy.

During the campaign I’ll be sharing more information about the book right here on this site. (Seriously, I’m not going to shut up about it.) I hope you’ll join me in reading about the adventures I’ve had off the page and getting a sense of just why this game — like the writing of this book — has been so important to me.

For now, though, please visit the campaign. Watch the video to learn more (and to hear the original Resident Evil narrator Ward Sexton introduce my book!), decide what awesome stuff you’d like to have on your bookshelf, and consider supporting some great authors and an even better publisher.

I hope you enjoy reading Resident Evil even half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

More to come. See you soon.

Better Call Saul Reviews: “Something Unforgivable” (season 5, episode 10)

It’s difficult to judge season finales in serialized shows such as this one on their own merits. You can talk about individual scenes or developments, but unless they actively tie up storylines as opposed to introduce new ones or continue existing ones, you’re left in a sort of narrative limbo.

Some Better Call Saul finales do wrap up storylines, most notably season one’s “Marco.” There, it may have been written with the thought that the show might not get a second season. It didn’t show us Jimmy’s complete transformation into Saul, but it could arguably have showed us enough that we could fill in the blanks. Here, in “Something Unforgivable” (as in the past couple of seasons), the show knows it’s coming back. The writers are able not only to keep their momentum, but to leave things so artfully unresolved that audiences will be left anxious for the next season.

All of which is to say, there’s not much I can discuss from a story standpoint. Last week’s episode brought a number of threads to acceptable ends, even if it did so temporarily. This week was untethered. It could do whatever it wanted to do without having to live with its own consequences. There must have been a giddiness to that writing process. I certainly thought I could feel it.

“Something Unforgivable” follows two main stories, both of which hinge upon their own unforgivable somethings.

For Eduardo, that’s Nacho inviting assassins into his compound and telling them exactly where to find him. Does Eduardo know that this happened? He at least suspects it, and when he sees that the lock on the gate was jimmied (ha ha) from the inside, that will seal it. This represents a massive betrayal, and it’s not as though Eduardo was ever the forgiving kind.

I love Eduardo. Tony Dalton is rivaling Rhea Seehorn as Better Call Saul’s best casting choice, which is all the more impressive since he only joined the show toward the end of season four. The guy is so much fun. He positively bursts with personality, and the show keeps finding new ways to explore his strange, scary playfulness. In this episode, he plays a joke on one of the guards at his compound by pretending to be an intruder himself, only to roll down the window and smile into the barrel of the gun. Funny guy!

We see him with his “family,” with his boss. We see him both at work and at rest. And we see that he’s a bit more wily than we probably believed, leading his own assassins in circles to get the drop on each one of them in turn.

Also, Gus says these assassins are the best in the business. He says this to Mike, the actual best in the business. Mike, who has a sniper rifle and has demonstrated many times that he knows how to use it. Mike, who didn’t get the chance to put a bullet in Eduardo’s head last week and would certainly be more than willing to do it this week.

Gus, you fucking bozo.

The episode ends with Eduardo alive, though Gus will be led to believe he’s dead. This frees him up to set into motion whatever form of revenge he deems fit, and we end “Something Unforgivable” as he stomps away from his compound, pulsing with anger. This is a guy who is dangerous enough when he’s happy.

Then, of course, there’s the Jimmy and Kim plot. Their unforgivable something isn’t done by either to the other, but planned instead for Howard.

If they can erode the confidence Howard’s clients and peers have in him, they decide, they can force an earlier settlement with Sandpiper — remember season one? — and Jimmy will finally get paid for his role in the case. He’ll end up with about two million dollars, splitting it with Kim so that they’ll each have one million.

And here’s the brilliant part: When something happens on this show, we can often flash ahead in our minds to Breaking Bad to know how it pans out. Mike and Saul are lost in the desert? They’ll get home, because they’re alive in Breaking Bad. Nacho wants Hector out of the picture? One way or another he’ll get his wish, because the guy is an invalid by the time of Breaking Bad. Jimmy faces any kind of ethical conundrum whatsoever? He can go either way today, but we know where he’ll land tomorrow.

In this case, though, anything could happen. We don’t know if their big coup will succeed or fail. Either result could fit. We know Kim is gone — however we have to end up defining that word — by Breaking Bad, but that’s it. Is she gone because this attempt on Howard’s career derailed her life? Or was it successful and she took her million dollars to open the law firm she dreams of in this episode? We don’t know. Is Jimmy operating in a strip mall in Breaking Bad because he didn’t get his million, or is he only there because the million allowed him to afford the startup costs? We don’t know.

That’s exciting, and it sets up an unknown battle that can play out in the show’s final season, just as Eduardo storming off does. One might have understandably expected Better Call Saul to become necessarily more predictable as it approached Breaking Bad, but season six — the final season — could well be the least predictable of all.

That’s a good trick.

Speaking of which, we don’t meet Saul in Breaking Bad until season two. That means it’s possible that some of Better Call Saul’s final season could overlap Breaking Bad’s first. After all, Saul mentions Eduardo and Nacho when we meet him in that show, suggesting they’re pretty fresh in his mind. We’ll see.

Otherwise, before we part, just a few tiny observations: Kim turns the finger guns on Jimmy, whereas he turned his on her at the end of season four. Mike argues to Gus that they owe Nacho his freedom, something he wasn’t able to argue for Werner. Jimmy tells Kim that she’ll feel differently when her head clears “in the cold light of day,” a suggestion I made in my review of “Namaste,” proving that the Better Call Saul writing staff reads my reviews and adjusts their plans accordingly.

And, most importantly, Jimmy hammering on Mike’s door just for the guy to drive up behind him and ask him what the hell he’s doing cements these two as the greatest comedic duo of our time.

Scattered thoughts? Certainly and appropriately. “Something Unforgivable” scattered a lot of things. We’ll see how season six, the final season, goes about picking them up.

Thank you once again, sincerely, for taking this trip with me. I’ll see you sometime in 2028 for the final stretch.

Rule of Three: Disco Godfather (1979)

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. At least, that’s what they say. Rudy Ray Moore was never very big, though, and it’s difficult to imagine a fall harder than Disco Godfather.

The movie wasn’t just disappointing; it singlehandedly sunk Moore’s career. It was a movie so bad it seemed expertly designed to dismantle everything Moore had built. It’s a strange product of monumental misjudgment that is almost beyond understanding.

Watching it is a dismal experience. It’s sad and disheartening. Every artist ends up producing garbage at some point, but Disco Godfather is like watching gravity reassert itself, the universe finally realizing Moore had bent the rules and now must be punished. If that sounds overly dramatic, so be it; I’m talking about Disco Godfather, and “overly dramatic” is the nicest thing anyone can possibly say about this movie.

With Dolemite, Moore left his stamp on the action film. With Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law, he left his stamp on the horror film. Here, in Disco Godfather, he attempts to leave his stamp on a drama.

Until this point, Moore had the golden touch, transforming a number of bad ideas into successful endeavors, so nobody can really blame him for thinking he might have been able to do the same with Disco Godfather.

The difference is that Moore’s sense of humor, innate charm, and hammy performances work damn well when paired with action or horror, two genres audiences often turn to for a good time. Audiences don’t turn to drama when they want a fun night out, making Moore a distractingly poor fit for the film. It doesn’t help that Disco Godfather was essentially Moore’s then-modern retelling of Reefer Madness.

To be completely fair to Moore and to everyone else who worked on the film, PCP / angel dust / wack (the film calls it by all three names) is bad. I think we can all agree on that. Whereas the hysteria over marijuana was largely misplaced and mishandled, I don’t think many of us reading this would feel comfortable learning that a friend or family member were a regular user of PCP.

There’s nothing wrong, then, with framing the drug as A Bad Thing within the context of a film. What is bad — what demonstrably turned out to be bad — is building approaching it with all of the intelligence and nuance of Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.

It’s also at least a little embarrassing that Disco Godfather attempts to ride the momentum of a scene that was already well into decline by 1979. It’s not the sort of thing folks will recognize as easily today (if something is set in the 1970s, disco is fair — and almost necessary — game), but when a reporter visits The Disco Godfather to discuss “the disco dance craze, you know, why it’s happening,” well after disco’s peak, it had to strike audiences as being embarrassingly out of touch.

Moore, of course, plays The Disco Godfather himself. If there’s one genre of music Rudy Ray Moore is the least associated with, it’s got to be Bavarian zither folk. But disco would certainly be a close second.

It’s genuinely sad to watch Moore pretend he has any interest in disco whatsoever, a mere five years after he bucked every trend imaginable for Dolemite. Moore was always chasing his own vision; Disco Godfather forces him to chase one he can’t possibly have shared.

And though he tried — God bless him, he did try — no kind of love or enthusiasm for the material comes through. Even during his trademark rhyming monologues, the music drowns him out. Whether that’s due to terrible audio mixing or an uncommonly muted delivery by Moore, we can read a hell of a lot into that.

Before I get too far into this, let me say one thing clearly: I love disco. My criticism of Disco Godfather isn’t some way to score cheap laughs by swinging at a universal punching bag.

I wouldn’t dare say disco is good music, but it’s fun. It makes me feel good. It’s danceable. It’s light and often silly but it also has this driving, irresistible quality that can bring me up no matter how low I’m feeling.

In fact, before watching it, I expected to adore Disco Godfather. Rudy Ray Moore and disco? Sign me the fuck up.

It’s not that I went into this film with a closed mind. I did something far worse: I went into it ready to be entertained.

Disco Godfather begins with a sequence it repeats with minor variations regularly throughout the film: extras disco dance for minutes on end.

They’re at Blueberry Hill, a dance club run by The Disco Godfather. It’s the hottest disco around, as I’m sure we’d expect from one named after a song that was nearly 40 years older than disco. We’re led to believe that The Disco Godfather himself is the main draw, and that’s fine, but I’m not really sure how that can be true.

Admittedly, Moore is a showman, and both Dolemite and Petey Wheatstraw understandably drew upon that talent to position him as the main draw for the central clubs in those films as well. Disco Godfather doing the same thing is perfectly reasonable on paper, but a disco is a very different kind of club. It’s loud. People dance. They pay attention to each other, to the groove, to the drugs that are passed around. In the previous movies we discussed, patrons would pay to sit down and watch a show. In this movie, the patrons are the show.

Disco Godfather must realize this on some level; it knows nobody is paying attention to Moore reciting his rhyming monologues as irrelevant disco beats drown him out. But the film wants us to believe the entire reason folks flock to Blueberry Hill is for these very performances they can’t possibly even hear.

The film could, of course, actively paint Moore’s character as the relic of a bygone age; clubs have evolved to the point that his particular brand of performance might still be respected but is no longer embraced. Moore might still have talent, but audiences have moved on.

That would be a sad story, but not as sad as Disco Godfather, which unwittingly paints him as exactly that kind of relic while asking us not to acknowledge it. Instead of telling us Moore has lost touch, it shows us instead. It’s a more convincing and damning argument than a script written around the idea could have ever been.

On this particular evening, The Disco Godfather’s nephew, Bucky, goes outside to kiss his girlfriend. His friend is also outside. His girlfriend tells Bucky not to smoke angel dust. His friend tells Bucky to smoke angel dust. Bucky smokes angel dust.

We don’t see him smoke it; instead we see his girlfriend storm back into the club, screaming and weeping to an extent that makes it seem like Bucky must have been killed in a drive-by shooting. She rushes up to The Disco Godfather, who halts his set immediately — and understandably — to find out what’s wrong.

What’s wrong is that Bucky smoked angel dust. The Disco Godfather tells the girl to call an ambulance.

Bucky — out of his mind on PCP — stumbles into the club, has visions, runs out of the club, and is indeed taken away by an ambulance. This is tragic, certainly, but the overacting makes it feel like he’s being taken away by a coroner instead.

Bucky’s visions are the first of many we’ll see in the film; they all take place in a black void with very minimal lighting shining on the characters or monsters we’re meant to pay attention to. The lighting is a bit less red, which is the only thing that differentiates these scenes from the Hell sequences in Petey Wheatstraw. When the drama we’re supposed to take seriously is shot exactly like the horror comedy we were meant to laugh at, there’s a problem.

The Disco Godfather is upset. Bucky has a promising basketball career, but injures his hand in some unexplained way during his angel dust hallucinations, so he won’t be able to play. He’s visited many times during his long recovery by The Disco Godfather — or, in this case, his Disco Uncle — and Dr. Mathis.

Mathis is played by Moore’s regular collaborator Jerry Jones, who we remember from Dolemite both as FBI Agent Blakely and the screenwriter.

Honestly, he’s one of the few actors who acquits himself well enough in Disco Godfather. In the midst of the histrionics, he manages to stay relatively reserved. That may well be down to a lack of range in his acting — we’ve only ever seen him reserved — but it works wonders here to make Dr. Mathis feel like the lone human amongst the Muppets.

His role consists of little other than delivering exposition and the requisite Bad News to the families of his patients. It’s a role that exists entirely for the sake of its own function, but it’s not Jones’ fault that someone needs to spur The Disco Godfather into action.

“Haven’t you heard, Godfather?” he asks The Disco Godfather. “Our children are dying.” And with that, The Disco Godfather sets about a tried-and-true Rudy Ray Moore objective: cleaning up the streets.

It’s hardly surprising that if Moore were to make a message movie, this would be the message. Dolemite and Petey Wheatstraw might have had some muddled moralities, but it was clear that Moore saw the spread of drugs, the influence of pushers, and the frequency of violence as serious issues in impoverished communities.

What’s more, Moore was no fool; he was fully aware of the fact that Dolemite gunning down corrupt cops and Petey sending winos to Hell were not actions compatible with what he’d see as true social progress, and that was okay. He was making movies that were primarily fun.

Disco Godfather is no fun at all, because — like Dr. Mathis — it exists for the sake of its own function. It’s preachy and didactic. Rudy Ray Moore running a disco could have been a raucous, farcical delight. But for the message to come through — for the morality to remain unmuddled — it had to be direct and sincere. It couldn’t be something people might think about when they were done laughing; it had to be something they’d think about during every second of the film and think about even more deeply every second afterward.

All of which would have been fine for a commercial-break PSA featuring Moore, but it makes for one hell of a dismal film.

What’s even stranger — or more disappointing, depending upon your perspective — is the way in which his character goes about cleaning up the streets.

In Dolemite, he ripped the guts out of a pusher with his bare hands. In Petey Wheatstraw, he waved his magical pimp cane. These are two things that are very easy to associate with Moore and the persona he crafted for himself.

In Disco Godfather, he does probably the last thing we’d associate with Moore’s persona: He goes to the police.

There are a few layers to this incongruity, but at the very least it seems to be a pretty passive way of dealing with the problem. Part of Moore’s appeal — both on screen and off — was his willingness to buck the system, to find his own solutions to problems, to, in a word, Get Shit Done.

That’s part of what makes us love characters, heroes and scoundrels alike. We enjoy and appreciate their inventiveness and their dedication to accomplishing whatever it is they’d like to accomplish. In fact, the journey toward that very accomplishment often defines who they are.

For The Disco Godfather to stroll into a police station and say, “I would like some cops to fix this problem, please,” is to dissolve every reason anybody would have wanted to watch a Rudy Ray Moore movie.

There’s more to it than that, I admit, but the complication is one that far from works in the film’s favor.

See, we learn that The Disco Godfather used to be a cop. A great cop, actually, who retired to run a disco for God knows what reason. Maybe because it’s always been his dream to recite rhyming monologues behind music too loud for anyone to hear him.

In a way, this is good; The Disco Godfather gets permission to work with his old colleagues, keeping him involved in the action and — potentially — the problem’s resolution. In another way, Rudy Ray Moore isn’t just scampering for help from the police; he is the police.

This is what I mean by Disco Godfather feeling like it was specifically dismantling anything people liked about Moore. The man who famously spat in the face of the establishment was suddenly part of that establishment. It was essentially like Moore breaking character at the end of an incendiary comedy routine to say to the audience, “We’ve all had a lot of fun here tonight, folks, but, please, let’s remember that the boys in blue are our friends and they deserve nothing less than our deepest respect.”

It’s not something Moore’s audience would appreciate, which is why Disco Godfather ended up having no audience.

The film worked overtime to position the energetic upstart Moore as a crusty representative of the old guard. It’s strange and disorienting. For how out of touch it wanted Moore to seem, the film probably should have been called Disco Grandfather.

The PCP is being manufactured and distributed via a system run by Stinger Ray (Hawthorne James in the first of what would be many, many film roles to follow, making his career perhaps the only positive thing to come out of this fiasco). On the surface, Ray is a…sports entrepreneur, for lack of a better term? He’s in the public eye for founding a basketball team (“The Stingrays, of course!”) consisting entirely of players who were turned down by the NBA.

“You take a guy who’s played ball most of his life,” Ray says to a reporter. “He’s going to be hungry. If he can’t make the NBA, he’s going to be mad and hungry. With my new team, the objective is to pick up those guys. I can’t lose.”

…which does make a kind of sense but really doesn’t separate The Stingrays from any other team. Don’t all teams take the best players they can get? Aren’t those players often only available because other teams have passed them up?

That’s just a bit of faulty logic, which any film will have, and it’s washed away beneath a much larger, much more idiotic example of narrative confusion: Why would Stinger Ray want to flood with drugs the very streets from which he hopes to draw his basketball talent? This isn’t one of those “hey waitaminute…” realizations you’ll only have later; it’s an explicit plot point in the film.

It’s Ray who is supplying the PCP to Bucky. Bucky, the promising young basketball star who can’t play because he’s so strung out on PCP he can’t get out of bed at the hospital.

What is Ray’s endgame? Does he prefer the money he makes from the drugs to the money he could be making from his basketball team? If so, why put himself in the public eye by owning a basketball team at all? And if not, why bother with the drugs?

The answer can’t be “he wants both,” because one is explicitly being held back by the other. He can’t have a team of overlooked superstar basketballers and a team of braindead PCP zombies. I guess I should admire Ray’s willingness to diversify, but it really seems like he hasn’t thought any of this through.

All of this makes him seem like far more of a boob than this movie needs him to seem. Stinger Ray is meant to stand as the first genuine threat in a Rudy Ray Moore movie. That’s an honor not even Satan himself was granted. For once, the question wasn’t “How is Moore going to kick this guy’s ass?” Now it was, “This guy is so scary and so powerful and such an imposing figure, can Moore do anything at all?”

All while Disco Godfather makes it hard for anyone to believe this guy even knows how to tie his shoes.

In addition to the clubs, drugs, street cleaning, and rhyming monologues, we also get two other Rudy Ray Moore hallmarks: kung fu and womanizing. The kung fu doesn’t seem to be shot nearly as well as it was in Petey Wheatstraw — which is saying something — but in keeping with tearing down Moore’s image, The Disco Godfather doesn’t seem to be all that good at fighting, being easily overpowered by two goons disguised as telephone repairmen.

It’s more realistic, sure — even somebody with training would likely find himself beaten by two men who got the drop on him — but it’s much less fun.

Ditto the womanizing. Here, his lone conquest is Noel, played by Carol Speed. She’s neither a bad character nor a bad actor, but she certainly doesn’t leave an impression. The sex scene also just involves Moore thrusting on top of her in a flat angle; it’s a far cry from the room-destroying intercourse of The Human Tornado or the fast-motion carnal buffet of Petey Wheatstraw.

More realistic, again, sure, but no human being wanted to see a “realistic” Rudy Ray Moore film. All it does is rob the man of his particular magic, leaving him exposed, floundering in the light.

There’s even a scene in which Moore interacts with kids that seems like a direct response to one in Petey Wheatstraw. In that film he found some kids who were too distracted by the game they were playing to realize they were in danger of being run over. Petey defuses the situation but gives them (at least partially) deserved guff for their carelessness. He then combs the hair of one of them until the kid cries.

Here, he encounters kids equally distracted by their game of jacks. He offers them a quarter if they can pick up all of the jacks at once. The kids ignore him and do everything short of saying “fuck off.” He pays them anyway, and the kids run away. “Kids is a lot of fun, ain’t they, man?” he says afterward, without a hint of irony.

The Disco Godfather intermittently sets about tracking down the source of the PCP. It involves a puzzling assassination attempt at Blueberry Hill, which sees the thugs gunned down by the cops, only The Disco Godfather knows they aren’t real cops, and then the real cops do show up for some reason and arrest The Disco Godfather for having nothing to do with the assassination attempt, I guess, and later we find out the fake cops were working with the thugs?

I have no idea, in short, why the people working together to kill The Disco Godfather would instead kill each other or why the people working with The Disco Godfather to catch the bad guys would arrest him for literally doing nothing other than spinning records while the bad guys shot each other.

I’m starting to believe this movie wasn’t especially well thought out!

The Disco Godfather talks with Dr. Mathis, who walks him through a clinic of patients destroyed by PCP. They’re actors who mumble to themselves and make faces while Dr. Mathis tells horrific tales of what they’ve done to themselves and others.

One woman holding a doll was preparing dinner for her family while blitzed on angel dust. She heard the ham crying, so she cooked it…only it was actually her baby! You know; the cautionary tale we all heard growing up, told to us by someone who knew someone whose neighbor’s distant relative did exactly that.

It’s also something that has never happened in the history of mankind. For such a realistic film, couldn’t Disco Godfather have given us a more relatable — or at least less clearly fabricated — example of how a parent might harm or kill a child while under the influence?

Driving while intoxicated. Falling asleep with a cigarette in their mouth. Shaking a baby that won’t stop crying. Falling down the stairs while holding the kid. Passing out on the floor while Little Johnny finds his way into the cleaning products and drinks some bleach.

Disco Godfather, I’m trying to say, has its heart in the right place. If it wants to tell a story about how drugs ruin lives, go for it. But at show how drugs do ruin lives, and don’t resort to dramatic reenactments of dead-eyed women serving roast baby at Thanksgiving dinner.

Elsewhere in the film Dr. Mathis and the reporter who is excited about this whole up-and-coming disco thing speak at an “Attack the Wack” anti-drug rally. It serves no narrative purpose, isn’t funny, isn’t interesting, sheds no additional light on anything we know, and doesn’t advance the plot. It’s an anti-drug screed embedded in what’s already a feature-length anti-drug screed.

The Disco Godfather pays a visit to Bob, a kindly old teacher who may have some information on how to track down the head dealer. I just watched the movie and already can’t remember if Bob told our hero anything useful; he exists only so the drug dealers can murder him as a warning to The Disco Godfather.

Also, The Disco Godfather buys Bob a dog so that the drug dealers can also murder the dog as a warning to The Disco Godfather.

Also, instead of killing all these things as warnings to The Disco Godfather you’d think they’d just go ahead and kill The Disco Godfather, but what do I know?

Ultimately, our obsolete hero manages to track down Stinger Ray. Or, rather, he’s captured by Stinger Ray’s goons, including a cartoon cowboy.

The Disco Godfather defeats him, and then defeats a bunch of other people, too, with the help of a passing jogger.

“What’s happening man, you need some help?” the jogger asks. “This is an angel dust factory,” replies The Disco Godfather. The jogger says, “Angel dust?!” then immediately tears off his shirt and starts beating up the bad guys.

I’m about 60% sure this was a deliberate joke. I’m 100% sure it’s the funniest thing in the movie.

The Disco Godfather then does what he does best: nothing. He gets knocked out and tied to a chair, where a gas mask is fitted over his face and pumped full of PCP. As another warning, I guess.

Again, this entire film has consisted of nothing but opportunities to murder The Disco Godfather, but the guys who want him dead don’t seem to realize that.

He overpowers his captors and gets the mask off, but not before…y’know…breathing. Which means the entire final sequence is the most embarrassingly dramatized drug trip in motion-picture history.

The Disco Godfather sees a demon — the same demon other PCP users see, so I guess she’s real — and also his mother, for no reason except so that she can turn into the demon. Then he finds Stringer Ray and beats him up while actual cartoons are drawn over the image in a way that somebody, somewhere, at some point, must have believed would be…

…scary? Effective? Interesting? I honestly have no clue what they were going for here, but I’m confident in saying they didn’t achieve it.

Then Bucky shows up, because while we weren’t looking he recovered from his injuries and kicked his PCP habit. But he sees that The Disco Godfather is in the thralls of an angel dust trip and he screams and the movie ends.

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Petey Wheatstraw also ended on a freeze frame of a screaming Moore, but that was a comedy with a story. The freeze frame on Petey’s realization that he’s going to Hell was both an ending and a punchline.

Here, it’s just the last bit of film on the reel. Nothing about The Disco Godfather being interrupted mid-trip has anything to do with what we’ve seen. Not narratively, not thematically, not emotionally. It has nothing to do with his character or anybody else’s character. It’s not affecting or worrying or frightening. It feels like the movie literally saying, “Okay, that’s it; we are done making Disco Godfather.”

And if that’s what it is, then that’s honestly the best creative choice made by Disco Godfather.

I get that drugs “winning” in the end is what matters. However much the police push back, however much citizens do their part, however many Disco Godfather movies we make, drugs will remain a serious threat. They shouldn’t be trivialized, the movie believes, and that’s okay. That’s a valid perspective.

But we don’t see drugs “win.” We see one character who has no interest in them caught in a hallucination. He’ll go to the hospital just like Bucky did — Dr. Mathis is even here already — and he’ll be given a safe space to recover. The Disco Godfather isn’t hooked on drugs. The Disco Godfather hasn’t baked any babies. The Disco Godfather won’t start pushing angel dust on kids.

He’s just a man whose story artificially ends in a moment of temporary difficulty. The audience isn’t left asking, “What happens next?” It’s left asking, “Why did this movie happen at all?”

The Disco Godfather — like the movie named after him — ends on a low point. It didn’t have to, but it does.

And that’s also where it left Rudy Ray Moore.

He appeared in a few other films, but never again would he have the creative control he once managed to seize when nobody was looking. Often he was relegated to winking cameos, either playing or channeling Dolemite. He was like Bob Denver, turning up whenever somebody needed a Gilligan because that’s all anybody would pay him for.

In 2002, long after any kind of comeback stood a chance, Moore starred in The Return of Dolemite. He was in his mid-70s by this time and spent as much of the film as possible sitting in chairs. In 2008, he passed away at the age of 81.

For a man of such natural drive and charisma, for the underdog who consistently dreamed big and held onto ambitions long after saner men would have given up, this must have been agony.

Moore had managed it once. He’d reached for the stars and actually plucked one of them out of the sky. Surely, he must have thought in the almost three decades between the film that killed his career and the day he died, he’d be able to do it again.

Interviews leading up to The Return of Dolemite (retitled The Dolemite Explosion for home media, for reasons I cannot fathom) saw Moore feeling optimistic. He was excited. He believed the movie would be good and he did his best not to spoil any of the fun ahead of time. He wanted people to go see it in theaters and roar with appreciation the way they had when they’d seen the first Dolemite.

But that audience had moved on, and Moore never found a new one. The movie quietly drifted into and out of theaters, and that was that. Moore must have known on some level that his career had ended, but the failure of The Return of Dolemite made it clear that his career was never coming back.

I’d love to tell you Disco Godfather is better than its reputation suggests. I’d love to tell you it’s a hidden gem. I’d love to tell you there are enough worthwhile moments to justify watching it at least once.

I can’t do that, and that’s the frustrating thing. Somebody like Moore really should have spent his last true moment in the spotlight doing everything he did best. It should have been something we could look at in retrospect and realize was ahead of its time, or artistically daring, or at least ambitious.

But it’s not. Nothing about the film works, and nothing about the film seems like it could have worked.

Disco Godfather did the impossible; it made Rudy Ray Moore seem disposable. It broke the spell that had elevated the man above his station, and it wasn’t even a movie that was worth the gamble. Moore spent his life assuring the world he’d have something to say if only they’d listen, and then they did listen and he gave them Disco Godfather. They weren’t going to listen again.

His earlier films are worth revisiting. Moore was a singular talent, the likes of whom don’t come about often and are given a platform even more rarely. He was crude and ridiculous and deeply fucking lovable, and he did what every single person reading this review (and the guy writing it) wish they could do: He dreamed up a perfect world for himself, and then brought it to life.

Disco Godfather is easy enough to ignore. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he made this film rather than literally anything else.

Better Call Saul Reviews: “Bad Choice Road” (season 5, episode 9)

First of all, kudos to “Bad Choice Road” for actually ending. Eduardo showing up at Jimmy’s door must have been a very tempting “Executive Producer: Vince Gilligan” moment, but we got to see the entirety of the confrontation that followed. I know I praised “Bagman” for withholding the ending of its story, and I stand by that as being the correct decision, but it’s not something this or any show should do weekly.

It’s tempting to talk about nothing but that ending, but I’ll try to hold off as long as I can.

The rest of the episode was pretty good. Not great, but after “Bagman” I think any episode would have difficulty looking great.

We got a lovely opening sequence showing the contrast between Jimmy and Kim — at least for now — set to a hummed version of “Something Stupid.” Which I found hilarious, because saying “I love you” can’t even register on the stupidity scale for Jimmy anymore.

Then we’re back. Eduardo gets his bail, Jimmy gets his money. It’s not an easy return to normalcy but it’s a necessary one and it’s going to happen. The most interesting thing for me is something the episode didn’t fully explore: Jimmy’s PTSD.

“Bagman” introduced and explored it a bit, we got some flashes of it here and had a great conversation with Mike (“I can’t believe there’s, like, over a billion people on this planet and the only person I have to talk about this to is you.”), but not much else. That’s okay; later episodes may explore it. At the very least, the day Jimmy wakes up and goes about his routine and realizes he hasn’t thought about it will be a crucial, possibly final step on his journey to becoming Saul Goodman full time.

Jimmy quickly breaks his oath of honesty to Kim, which he believes he’s doing to protect her. I think he has a good argument there, but it’s an important moment. Ditto Kim letting him withhold the truth. She tells him that she knows he’s lying, and that’s it. She doesn’t press him. Even during the ending — when she has a valid and well-deserved reason to press him — she doesn’t. He broke his promise and she let him do it. That’s important.

Does she need his protection, though? Jimmy lashes out at her when he learns she visited Eduardo in jail, because it puts her in danger. He’s proven correct when Eduardo shows up at their apartment late in the episode. But, in the end, it’s she who is protecting Jimmy.

See, here’s the thing. We’ve seen Jimmy working criminals before, but he’s usually in a position of some kind of control. Not always, but usually. He has his confidence, his wit, and his charm to fall back on. He’s within reasonable distance of having the upper hand. Here, though, with Eduardo literally breathing down his neck, he flounders. He stumbles. He can’t come up with any kind of way to gain control of the situation and he talks himself uselessly in circles.

That’s important, too. Jimmy can’t immerse himself in the criminal underworld if this is the way he deals with implicit threats. Saul Goodman, as we’ve seen in Breaking Bad, is much better at it. So what gets Jimmy to Saul in this regard? What helps him evolve from a frightened victim to one who can at least maintain the illusion of control?

We might have seen it. If he were paying attention, Kim just showed him how to do it. You push back. You don’t allow them to intimidate you. You force them back into line.

And that confrontation — between Kim and Eduardo — was Better Call Saul’s clash of the titans. The show’s two best actors and most interesting characters staring each other down, while Jimmy stands silently, letting the consequences of his actions unfold (and possibly resolve) without him. He goes from being a target to a bystander as Kim fights his battle for him.

What a battle, too. I’ve spoken about Eduardo before, regarding the way he upsets the unspoken rules of the game. He’s frequently given answers that are meant to shut down further questioning, and he questions further anyway. He speaks openly about that which everyone would prefer he’d remain quiet. He refuses to accept that the answer he gets is the only answer he can get. And he does it all with a big, goofy smile and an undying flair that keeps everyone off guard. He’s not an idiot, but he can play off his breaking of the rules as though he were one.

We see it a few times in this episode, from personally checking the veracity of Jimmy’s car-trouble story to disregarding the aide in the nursing home who wants to bring Hector into a birthday celebration. (The sight gag of the aging kingpin in a party hat was marvelous.) And then, of course, with his tapping on the fishtank.

That’s who Eduardo is, in one sentence. Eduardo is the guy who taps on the fishtank.

He knows he isn’t supposed to do it, and he does it anyway. He knows that tapping on the fishtank gets a response. Maybe it’s a negative one, sure, but it’s a response, and that’s more than he would get if he didn’t tap. Everyone around him silently agrees not to tap the fishtank. That’s fine for them. He’s the one who taps anyway.

Kim is the only one so far who doesn’t take that shit.

We’ve seen Eduardo bend powerful men when he breaks the rules. He’s given an answer. He asks for more. He’s told the same thing. He asks for more again. He gets more.

It’s Kim who wrangles him, and she does it so successfully and unexpectedly that he’s left speechless. Eduardo is not a man left easily speechless. He’s met his match, at least for now. He doesn’t like it, but I think there’s some degree of actual respect there. How do I know? Because he doesn’t pretend to have respect. He doesn’t toss off an, “I like this one!” or a, “She’s feisty,” sort of platitude.

He shuts his fucking mouth and walks out the door. No stomping. No slamming.

He gives Kim what she wants. He leaves without incident.

At least, once again, for now.

This would have been, I think, a pretty decent season finale, but there’s still one episode to go. That’s good news, precisely because I don’t know what to expect.

“Bad Choice Road” leaves these characters at what I think are perfect, clean, end-of-season terminal points. Eduardo is free and heading to Mexico. Nacho is still trapped, and Gus makes a genuinely good argument for keeping him there. Mike reveals himself once again to be a big softie, which never, ever ends well. Jimmy is freed from facing repercussion for what he’s done. Kim is back to pro bono work and has established herself as the show’s secret badass.

This is where the next story for each of them can begin.

But the show still has one last set of curveballs to throw us. These are just endings…for now.

I have no idea what to expect, but Better Call Saul didn’t give us a series of false endings here for nothing. It did it for what I’m confident was a very good reason. I’m excited and anxious to learn what that will turn out to be.

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