Ford v Ferrari (2019) – Zoom zoom

Released: 14th November
Seen: 14th November

In the early 1960s the Ford motor company was having a bit of a hard time. Sure they were financially successful, but Ferrari was still considered the better car even though Ferrari at the time was hemorrhaging money. After the head of Ford, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) was rejected and humiliated in his attempt to purchase a stake in Ferrari he decided on a new plan… humiliating Ferrari by beating them at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race which Ferrari had won for several years running. In order to accomplish this, Ford hires Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the only American who hadwon the Le Mans race but retired due to a heart condition. Since that heart condition means Shelby couldn’t handle the race, he hires his old friend Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to handle the driving. Catch is, Ken’s a bit of a hothead who doesn’t play well with others, especially the bosses at Ford who are almost pointedly trying to abuse and screw over the little guys working for them.

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Judy (2019) – Over The Rainbow

Released: 10th October
Seen: 8th November

It’s probably fair to say that one of the most tragic figures in Hollywood history is Judy Garland. Performing since she was 2 years old, Judy went through the wringer despite having the kind of talent that should’ve made life easy for her. With her gifted comedic chops and a voice that no one else could even come close to, Judy had the kind of pure star quality that defied description… she was also turned into a drug addict by a mother who gave her uppers to perform and downers to go to sleep before she was ten. The head of the studio she did most of her early work at (Louis B Mayer, may he rot in hell) would have her living on chicken soup and regularly insulting her looks, calling her “my little hunchback” and putting her on amphetamine pills to help her lose weight (which was sadly common at the time). Go through any biography of Judy and you see the story of a woman who had more talent than anyone else that was repeatedly dragged down by a system that was willing to put her health at serious risk to squeeze every dollar out before discarding her. Her story is also one of resilience, of a woman who kept being knocked down and then got up again because you were never going to keep her down. Her last big moment was a British concert called Talk of the Town, the last thing she did before her early death in 1969. This biopic focuses on that brief period right at the end and that focus helps it, and it’s lead actress, considerably.

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The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) – UGGGH

Released: 5th April
Seen: 6th November

When we look through history for the point when certain eras ended, we tend to look for major events that were turning points. It can be argued that the 60s, the era of free love, ended on August 9th 1969 when actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends were brutally murdered by the Manson Family (who I shall henceforth refer to as as “that pack of murdering assholes” because I’m the one typing this and I get to be as petty as I want!). The vile crime was historic in how shocking it was and the man who inspired it (now dead, YAY) was instantly recognized as the face of true evil. It’s a tragedy that people keep revisiting in film, to varied results. It’s usually incredibly tasteless, focusing on that pack of murdering assholes and they never have good acting. The one time I can think of when someone did something good with the entire horrific affair was earlier this year when Once Upon A Time In Hollywood did a “What If?” story where Sharon never even had to know who that pack of murdering assholes was… so, naturally, in the same year we get the best possible version of a retelling of the Sharon Tate murders we also have to get the absolute worst version because we live in a hellscape and everything is awful.

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47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019) – A Sinking Feeling

Released: 31st October
Seen: 5th November

In 2017 a low budget horror film called 47 Meters Down hit cinemas. With a budget of only $5 Million, it ended up bringing in over $60 million worldwide. It wasn’t exactly Jaws but it was a fun little horror film with a simple premise, a pair of main characters who were intelligent and likable and a simple set of stakes that made it easy to get sucked in and enjoy the mostly mindless fun. While not a classic, it was enjoyable and would easily do the job on any scary movie night if you needed something to add to a mini-marathon… and then someone decided to do a sequel, but with all the good ideas taken out and replaced with dumb ones, because that always works well.

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Dolemite Is My Name (2019) – Brilliant

Released: 25th October
Seen: 26th October

The 1970s was the era of the blaxploitation film. If you look up a list of blaxploitation movies they will list every year of the 70s with milestone movies like Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song and Coffy. While these movies often featured racial stereotypes that might be termed problematic today, they’re also a subgenre of film that features an entirely black cast and often featured black directors and writers trying to make films for black audiences of the day. It was also a genre that made worldwide stars out of people like Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and the subject of the newest Netflix biopic Rudy Ray White.

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Wounds (2019) – It Hurts

Released: 18th October
Seen: 26th October

The end of October is a great time to put out every horror movie, no matter what the content or style is. It’s a time when the slashers, the zombies, the vampires and just the flat out weird as hell horror films have their time in the sun. You could release pretty much anything horror related during October and it’d be appropriate. You can release great horror films and even awful horror films, bad movie nights are a thing and a bad horror movie around Halloween is a gift for people wanting something gloriously stupid to laugh at… and then there’s Wounds, a bland horror movie that tries its hardest to be creepy and weird and never fully gets there, though not for a lack of trying.

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Downton Abbey (2019) – Royally Sweet

Released: 12th September
Seen: 20th October

Downton Abbey hit TV screens in 2010 and from the moment that it started it was a monster hit, racking up between 9 million and 12 million viewers an episode over the course of its six year run. It took home Emmys like they were on sale. Fifteen Emmys over six years is insanely impressive for a show that wasn’t made explicitly for American audiences. It starred some of the best actors in the UK, including the icon Dame Maggie Smith in probably one of her most beloved performances. The show ended in 2015 with a Christmas special and… I’ve never seen a single episode. I just never got around to it, despite my absolute adoration of Maggie Smith, so I walked into this film with no knowledge of anything beyond “It’s about fancy rich people and the servants who keep them from dying of starvation” so we’re going to talk about if this movie works without having seen the source material, which is often going to happen with movie adaptations of TV series. Short answer? Yeah, kind of works… for the most part

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El Camino (2019) – Breaking Moderately OK

Released: 11th October
Seen: 13th October

Adapting a TV series into a film is not easy. The two mediums, though similar in many ways, are substantially different when it comes to storytelling. Going from a 22-42 minute long episode of TV to a two-hour long movie can change what kind of story you’ll focus on. They’re also made for a variety of reasons, either to provide commentary on the series (21 Jump Street or The Brady Bunch Movie), act as a long episode that couldn’t have been done in the normal series runtime (The Simpsons Movie or DuckTales The Movie: Treasure Of The Lost Lamp) or take on the form of a finale and give the series some much needed closure (Serenity or The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!). There are other reasons to make the leap, like brand name recognition or the increased quality of cocaine, but these three seem to be the biggest reasons. El Camino seems to be going for the “much-needed closure” reasoning but forgot that we didn’t actually need that closure.

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Hustlers (2019) – The Hustle Is Deep

Released: 10th October
Seen: 11th October

You’d think that there’d be a lot more films about exotic dancers. After all, it’s a job that can contain the three things that people love more than anything. Sex, drugs, and dancing to remixes of Britney Spears songs. Still, it feels like there aren’t that many major hit films about exotic dancers. There’s the infamous Showgirls, maybe some people remember the 1996 film Striptease and there are, of course, the two recent Magic Mike movies (the second one is better, I will not be accepting arguments on this), I know of Zombie Strippers and Full Monty but that’s about all I could name off the top of my head. There are others but not many that are giant mainstream hits and certainly none that would really get any kind of buzz as being more than just a fun movie to enjoy on a night out with friends… well, then Hustlers came along and said “Fine, I guess we’ll have to give you everything you ever wanted” and just ran away with every bit of my heart.

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Ad Astra (2019) – Pitt In Spaaace

Released: 19th September
Seen: 9th October

A space movie is always hard to get just right. The idea of someone floating around in the vastness of space? It’s a cool effect that’s hard to recreate on earth, and that’s before you worry about things like sound in the vacuum of space or just how potentially dangerous it is. The hardest part about big space movies is trying to find a good story using the location. When the location is the vast emptiness of space, that can really work well as a metaphor or just to create some danger. Gravity, as an example, is basically a film about someone lost at sea and could’ve told the exact same story on earth but they wanted to make it a space movie because it’s more visually interesting. That movie was also praised as the most realistic space movie of all time – and now a new contender has come to try and claim that crown. I don’t think it’s the most realistic ever, but it’s certainly got some of the best performances.

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