A Few More Flicks

Ford v Ferrari

The Guardian summarized the movie saying: “A relaxed Matt Damon brings his familiar, untroubled boyish charm to the role of Carroll Shelby, the racing-driver-turned-designer who was hired by Ford in the late 60s to put together a car and a team that would defeat Ferrari, those arrogant Italian artisans who presumed to think that their tiny little outfit had an artistry and flair superior to the corporate mass production of Ford.

Christian Bale plays Ken Miles, the difficult, impulsive, grumpy but brilliant Brit hired by Shelby as his star driver – to the irritation of the pointy-headed, bean-counting suits at Ford, who want an obedient team player. Tracy Letts plays Henry Ford Jr with gusto and Josh Lucas plays Leo Beebe, his creepy assistant. Jon Bernthal does what he can with the underwritten and underimagined role of Lee Iacocca, the Ford executive whose idea it evidently was in the first place for Ford to go into the glamorous but costly world of motor racing.”

Assuming that both Damon and Bale are well-known to you, I thought I would instead include a photo of the Ford car that was designed to take on the Italians at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Guardian headlined its review, “… motor-racing drama gets stuck in first gear.” Hardly an endorsement. The NY Times reviewer was far more charitable, writing that, “Ford v Ferrari” is no masterpiece, but it is — to invoke a currently simmering debate — real cinema, the kind of solid, satisfying, nonpandering movie that can seem endangered nowadays.”

I liked the movie despite its length, and in large part for its racing scenes. But at two and a half hours in length, you might want to invest in a large bag of popcorn.

The Peanut Butter Falcon

This is a charming movie. You may have missed it in theatres, but see it on demand, if possible. Rotten Tomatoes ratings were in the mid-90’s (out of 100) for both critics and audiences.

The movie stars Zac (Zack Gottsagen) as a young man with Down syndrome who has been placed in a nursing home simply because there are no alternatives. Zac escapes the home, goes on the run, and over time, bonds with Shia LaBeouf’s character, Tyler (pictured with Zack’s character above), and with his care-giver Eleanor (played by Dakota Johnson), who has been instructed to bring Zac back to the nursing home. Great cameos by Bruce Dern and Thomas Hayden Church, but the movie belongs to Zack Gottsagen. A great little movie.

The Irishman

“The Irishman,” directed by Martin Scorsese, stars Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Ray Romano and Harvey Keitel. It goes in many directions, but at the core is the emergence of Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino’s character) as head of the Teamsters Union, and his subsequent “disappearance.” The Roger Ebert website had this to say: “… clocking in at three-and-a-half hours, the movie is an alternately sad, violent, and dryly funny biography of Frank Sheeran, a World War II combat veteran who became a Mafia hitman and then a union leader, and who had a long, at times politically fraught friendship with Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa …”

In his review of “The Irishman,” Joe Morgenstern, film critic (and a tough critic at that) for The Wall Street Journal, wrote, “After scores of celebrated films and almost half a century of richly deserved fame, Martin Scorsese did not seem poised for a breakthrough. That’s what he’s accomplished in “The Irishman,” though, and on familiar—indeed overfamiliar—terrain.”

In theatres from November 1, but now available on Netflix. Scorcese uses all the tricks of his trade, including “de-aging” some of the actors (DeNiro goes from 76 to mid-50s, for example).

Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Pacino is the following, and prior to “de-aging.” Apparently Mr. Pacino has something in common with Boris Johnson and Donald Trump – the same hair stylist. Nice. Well worth seeing the movie, regardless. I did it in 45 minute bites.

Midway

“To say that “Midway,” a new cinematic re-creation of the decisive 1942 air and sea battle from Roland Emmerich, the director of “Independence Day,” soars to the heights of his best work is to say it sputters along at sea level. It is rousing and respectful in its best moments and faintly ridiculous in others.” This from the NY Times reviewer.

Considering that this and other reviews of the movie have been tepid, I hesitated seeing “Midway;” also recalling the infinitely more tepid 1976 version that starred Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda and other Hollywood heavyweights. I was never a fan of Heston, who was able to put my father to sleep during his reading of “The Five Books of Moses” on the Ed Sullivan show in the 60s. Not exactly riveting.

But that aside, I was talked into seeing “Midway,” the 2019 version, and glad I did. Off I went, with four gentlemen from the neighbourhood (something we do every so often, when a “guy” movie is playing). “Midway” is well done, with a feel of a documentary rather than a theatrical release. Ignore the dialogue, and enjoy the retelling of history, and the impressive special effects.

Knives Out

The reviewer on the Roger Ebert website called “Knives Out,” “one of the most purely entertaining films in years. It is the work of a cinematic magician, one who keeps you so focused on what the left hand is doing that you miss the right. And, in this case, it’s not just a wildly fun mystery to unravel but a scathing bit of social commentary about where America is in 2019.”

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal described ‘Knives Out” as “a modern whodunit in the hallowed tradition of Agatha Christie. The filmmaker who did it is Rian Johnson — his previous film was “Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi” — and what he has done is create an entertainment that’s as smart, witty, stylish and exhilarating as any movie lover could wish for.”

Above: Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson and Michael Shannon in “Knives Out.” The movie also stars Chris Evans, Toni Colette, Ana de Armas (very good), and in the lead, Daniel Craig, as Benoit Blanc, a private detective called in to investigate the death of the family patriarch (Christopher Plummer). Daniel Craig is much more than a memorable James Bond. He was terrific as a gangster in “Road to Perdition,” and again in “Layer Cake,” and hilariously comedic in “Logan Lucky.” Daniel below as Joe Bang in “Logan Lucky” and in the foreground as 007. To say he is fun to watch in “Knives Out” is understatement.

“Knives Out” reminds me of “Murder By Death,” a farcical murder mystery from 1976 starring Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Maggie Smith, and Truman Capote. A movie I need to see every few years. “Knives Out” is that kind of must see.