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This Week's Film Reviews (Nov 15, 2019)

14 Nov 2019

Slow week with FORD V FERRARI being the only big one opening. 

FILM REVIEWS:

ASSHOLES: A THEORY (Canada 2019) ***
Directed by John Walker

Some grapple with the challenge of treating other human beings decently. Others are just… assholes, claims Professor Aaron James in his New York Times bestselling book, Assholes: A Theory. This intellectually provocative film takes a playful approach to uncovering why asshole behaviour is on the rise in the workplace, in government, and at home.

Finally a film about assholes or about assholism, a word coined by filmmaker John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOES, FEMALE TROUBLE).  The film is clear to emphasize at the start that is about the book “Assholes: A Theory”.  The film goes on, as expected, to define or state what people think an asshole is to be defined as: someone with the entrenched (an interviewee goes on to say right after that he loves the word entrenched) feeling that he or she is better than others and that others do not count.

As the film’s title implies, the film is supposed to be taken with a grain of salt.  Whatever is presented, it is to be lightly taken, to be fun and entertaining, while putting down the subject and villain of the film - the asshole.

The film explains that there are many types of assholes:

  • the boorish asshole
  • the smug asshole
  • the surfer asshole
  • the self-aggrandizing asshole

etc.

Walker goes on the include clips from films that include assholes, poking fun at how funny assholes can be in film or in a book.  Among them is ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who claims that he never smoked crack cocaine and then said later that he could have, on one of his drunken stupors.  But this clearly makes him only a clown.  But once he decidedly goes on late talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, he has upgraded his status to asshole mayor. 

But Walker is quite serious of the subject.  Walker intends to discover the impact of assholes so he takes off, to the streets of L.A.  He also engages a psychotherapist to talk about the subject.  She treats the subject seriously including bullying that is a true trait of being an asshole.  Harvey Weinstein, an easy target is brought up, which I am sure will get many an audience cheering.

Walker’s film gets serious on the segment where the RCMP is attacked as condoning asshole behaviour.  An interviewed female member in Winnipeg whistle blows the RCMP and with reason. She is called raison tits and other degrading terms by the males and no one said anything.  She holds the assholes at the top responsible, saying that anyone had said something, this crime would not have gone on.

The film is also amusing in the way it states certain things that most of us, the audience already know.  One is the difference between a prick and an asshole.  If a boy exhibits asshole behaviour, he is called ‘a little shit’, because he has not come of age yet to be classified as an asshole.   It requires a certain age to know the difference and if one still thinks one is better than others and behaves so, then that is a true classed asshole. And so the film amusingly goes on.

How long can this theory go on before the audiences can say that it all becomes a bit boring?  Fortunately, the film is short enough to keep interested from waning.

Trailer: https://ca.video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-dcola-005&hsimp=yhs-005&hspart=dcola&p=assholes+a+theory+trailer#id=2&vid=0771888bdfa48a14ba9cefd393f0803a&action=click

FORD V FERRARI (USA 2019) ***

Directed by James Mangold

Right out of the headlines on November the 14th, 2019.  Ferrari unveils their5th latest car for their 2019.  So the question is who is thermal winner in the phrase FORD V FERRARI?   On Ford’s side, they are investing a lot of money into the smart car.

One of the big films opening this week is FORD V FERRARI, from 20th Century Fox now owned by Disney, that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

FORD V FERRARI features two of the finest looking actors working in movies at present - Christian Bale and Matt Damon  Bale discards his good looks, looking sufficiently grimy to portray an expert auto-mechanic/race car driver eventually working for Ford.

FORD V FERRARI represents the kind of movie 20th Century Fox finances that Disney does not know what to do with.  This is what was reported.  To Fox’s credit, it takes guts to finance a film like this one, when car race movies are seldom financed.  This could be the reason this big production is released at this odd time in November.  But it is not a bad film and definitely worth a look for its excitement and drama.

Director James Mangold (3:10 TO YUMA) and the 4 film writers tell the story of real-life superheroes Carroll Shelby (Damon) and Ken Miles (Bale), race car engineers who commandeered the resources of the mighty Ford Motor Company in the 1960s to go head-to-head with the gods of Italian auto racing, Ferrari. 

This is one car racing movie that shows the mechanics and marketing and business that goes behind the scenes of a race.   The mechanics at the race’s pitstops are just as important as the race car drivers.  Everyone has an input to who or which car wins the race from the families of the race car drivers, to the company to almost everyone connected to the race.

But it is the Ford motor company’s owner Henry Ford and marketing chief that the two have to keep fighting in order to beat Ferrari.  So the title of the film should be Underdogs V Ford.   At worst the film descends a bit into cliche territory, especially in two manipulative segments (the fight and the ride Ford takes in the race car) that got the audience at the TIFF screening I attended applauding.  D.P. Phedon Papamichael shoots the race sequences, particularly the night ones spectacularly as if putting one in the driver's seat. 

Christian Bale excels in his role as maverick Ken Miles.  Nothing in the film is mentioned of the reason his speaking with a British accent.  Reading up on Miles, he is described in Wikipedia as a British born American race car driver.

FORD V FERRARI is the type of crowd-pleasing action-packed movie that critics generally dislike and audiences cheer to.  That said, it is definitely worth a look!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3h9Z89U9ZA

THE GOOD LIAR (USA 2019) ***
Directed by Bill Condon

Nothing but excellence can be expected from GODS AND MONSTERS and THE FIFTH ESTATE director Bill Condon and British heavyweights Helen Mirren (Oscar winner for THE QUEEN) and Sir Ian McKellen(Two-time Oscar nominee),  But what is lacking here is a somewhat lack of surprise.

Before venturing out for the film screening, I was hypothesizing the film’s plot.  Con man McKellen entices Mirren for a date and aims at stealing all her money.  McKellen falls for Mirren while she discovers the truth and ends up milking McKellen instead for all his worth.  Not all of the above is true for the movie, but a fair portion is, and it is a good guess, from just watching the film’s trailer.

When the film begins, the audience sees the pub date between two who have met using ‘computer services’.  They immediately confess they honour the truth though each are superb liars, fooling notably each other, but the audience as well.  This is the more fun part of the script.  Consummate con man Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) has set his sights on his latest mark: the recently widowed Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), worth millions.  And Roy means to take it all.

  From their very first meeting, Roy begins plying Betty with his tried and true manipulations, and Betty, who seems quite taken with him, is soon going along for the ride.  But this time, what should have been a simple swindle escalates into a cat-and-mouse game with the ultimate stakes—revealing more insidious deceptions that will take them both through a minefield of danger, intrigue and betrayal.

The quite too incredible to be believed story is based on a widely acclaimed novel by Nolas Seattle adapted for the screen by Jeffrey Hatcher who also penned MR. HOLMES also directed by Condon.

The supporting cast farewell.  Russell Tovey (THE HISTORY BOYS and QUANTICO) plays the supposed grandson of Betty while the excellent Jim Carter last seen in DOWNTON ABBEY plays Roy’s friend and conman.

The script’s story takes the audience back to World War II Germany where credibility becomes the issue where background on the real Roy Courtney is dumped on the audience.  The film also contains some brief nudity but a quite a bit of violence.  The struggle between Roy and Betty at the film’s climax is rather laughable and could have been due eliminated.

A few continuity problems exist, that many might not be aware of.  One segment has Roy enter the London Underground through Piccadilly Circus station.  Once inside, the tube walls indicate Charing Cross Station.

THE GOOD LIAR ends up a cheesy thriller, with some really nasty bits - not entirely boring but lacking more solid substance.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5563334/videoplayer/vi1183235865?ref_=tt_ov_vi

THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI (UK 2019) **
Directed by Swati Bhise

The first few minutes after the film’s opening tells of what is to be expected from this supposedly lavish production set in period India.  Images of white horses predict tales of grandeur.  A royal Indian ceremony coupled with a segment of a meeting between Queen Victoria (Jhodi May) and the British Prime Minister (Derek Jacobi) indicates furious conflict is about to occur,  And one that would side obviously with India since the director and the film arse collaborated by Indians.

THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI, inspired by the 1857 First Indian War of Independence, also called "Sepoy Mutiny", follows the fight of Lakshmî Bâî, feminine symbol of resistance, who led an army of 14,000 volunteers to resist against the British colonization.  It tells the true story of Lakshmibai, the historic Queen of Jhansi who fiercely led her army against the British East India Company in the infamous mutiny of 1857. From Queen Elizabeth to Queen Victoria, two-and-a-half-centuries of East India Company rule will be reversed by its attempt to crush India’s Warrior Queen. Lakshmibai is known as one of the most prominent figures within the independence movement of India. The passion to free her province from colonial rule led this young woman to become one of the greatest generals of the Indian army, and to go down in history for her bravery, strategic acumen, and as a force to reckon with by the East India Company and the British Raj. THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI, is the story of the woman who lived and fought for the freedom of her people.

Bhise’s film is full of colour from the wedding ceremony to the momental fight between the Indians and British, coloured uniforms and all including white horses.  The film also marks a return tool fashioned film making with lots of extras in the fight scenes.

Bhise ensures the audience’s anger at the British.  Except for the Queen that she clearly has much respect for, most of the British army and especially the East India Company is deeply frowned upon.  For those unfamiliar, the East India Company was one of the most prominent stock held comma its of the time, trading in region around the Indian Ocean and grew to be the biggest in the world.  But the company also sought to own much of India for its own selfish desires.  This company is the villain of the film.

The director’s daughter Devika Bhise plays the main character of the Sepoy Mutiny.  It is good to see British veteran actors Ruppert Everett (who has the film’s best line: "She is like Joan of Arc”) and Jacobi lend their hand to this project.

THE WARRIOR QUEEN OH JHANSI is typically the stereotyped film that is against the British that one would expect.  The British are evil and will be punished in the end.  The oppressed Indians can do no wrong.  They are heroic and they fight for their freedom and therefore should win.  And they do.  Nothing is unexpected and not that all this is wrong but the result in a glorified good looking well-intentioned but rather boring exercise.

Trailer: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_warrior_queen_of_jhansi

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