Passengers 2016 drama, romance, sci-fi
It's not a spoiler to say that you must watch this flick from the beginning. In the first minutes of the film we get a bird's eye view of a huge space ship, the Avalon, colliding head on with an asteroid swarm. Don't ask why this incredibly complicated ship couldn't/didn't attempt any evasive maneuvers. In any case the ship's automated systems are only partially successful in dealing with the asteroids, triggering a sequence of events ending with one of the passengers being awakened prematurely (by 90 years) from his hibernation pod. It's also important to know before the curtain goes up that the 5,000 passengers are not astronauts, they are pioneers on a space-borne cruise ship taking them, in suspended animation, on a 120-year journey to colonize a new world. There are a couple potholes in the story that I will mention below, but if you can suspend disbelief you will be very entertained by this movie.
A few highlights (No Spoilers). The production set designs are most impressive: truly a first class job. The space cinematography is jaw dropping and rivals some of the all-time great space travel films. Watch this on the largest screen possible. As expected from a movie starring two of the most popular, young male & female actors, the heart of the story is a romance. The space ship voyage provides the action, flash and tension. Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora) is the stunning sleeping beauty and love interest while Chris Pratt (Jim) again plays the heroic alpha male to perfection. There is no idiotic gender confusion here; the formula is normal and well understood. It is a boy gets girl, boy loses girl, and will they get back together (?) type of romance movie. Michael Sheen shines as the robot-bartender and adds plenty of much needed comic relief. Other than a brief (and mostly unnecessary) appearance by Larry Fishburne, the film has a minimalist three person cast. The sparse cast together with the thoughtful, lingering handling of the central moral dilemma may annoy some viewers, but it was engrossing to me.
The film is not without flaws. Common sense tells us that the super complex Avalon would require a small army of electro-mechanical technicians and computer aces working 24/7 shift work. In this flick the entire crew is dozing in the pods, so they are useless when TSHTF. But having the crew around would ruin the narrative of the film; let them sleep. Pothole #2 – Many viewers criticized the final action scenes as being over-the-top and unbelievable. Maybe so, but they had me on the edge of my seat. Finally, not to nitpick, but the sex scenes were too tame and brief. The lack of eroticism is another lame PC trend which encourages movie makers to play it too safe. A few nude scenes of Aurora would have spiced up the movie and transformed the film into a riskier, edgier classic movie.
Ignore the negative reviews. Passengers is something quite rare: a science fiction film that is entirely fresh and new, not part of a series, and not a reboot, remake, or rip-off of other films. Passengers has a unique visual style, first rate acting — and it tells a fascinating and conservative story.
The Gentlemen 2020 drama, crime
This new film by writer/director Guy Ritchie is his best movie in over twenty years largely because it is a return to his roots – a British underworld tale packed with a cast of colorful rogues. In this case, we have a gentrified, gleefully non-PC, full blown gang war in Merry Olde England.
The Gentlemen has A-list star power, and outstanding performances by lesser known actors. Matthew McConaughey plays the protagonist, Mickey Pearson, an ex-pat American weed kingpin, and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) play’s Mickey’s steely wife Rosalind. Mickey wants to retire and offers to sell his operation for $400 million in cash, but in a crucial scene, Mickey is warned by his wife, “The criminal underworld is a jungle, and it is dangerous for the king of the jungle to retire, for it signals weakness, and the jackals come running.” She, of course, is proven to be correct.
Mickey, however, is fortunate to have Raymond, his loyal, high IQ, right-hand man. Raymond, (well-played by underrated actor Charlie Hunnam) engages Fletcher, an evil tabloid journalist-cum-blackmailer, in a battle of wits akin to a chess match. The scenes with Raymond and Fletcher are tense, dark and strangely humorous. Veteran actor Hugh Grant plays Fletcher to perfection. Hugh Grant is noted for his trademark goofy charm in romance flicks; although, he's much better playing against type as a disgusting cad, and here he surpasses himself.
I won’t say much about the plot, because I actually want you to see The Gentlemen, but I do need to address the barrage of negative reviews by the PC media “movie experts” who were offended by this excellent movie. An entire Glee Club of SJW bullies pulled out the Race Card and sang “racist” and “anti-Semitic” in unison. Of course, the controversy this film has generated only makes it all the more enjoyable. The Jewish antagonist in the movie is not a good Jew; he is filled with Jewish greed and ambition. But this is a crime movie; what did you expect? Film critic Trevor Lynch sums it up best; “Ritchie has some plausible deniability on the anti-Semitic charges. First of all, there are no Good Guys in the movie, so the screenwriter [Ritchie] is simply being realistic when bad people say bad things. Beyond that, Guy Ritchie can probably say that some of his best friends are Jews, given that he and ex-wife Madonna were deep into Kabbalah [a mystic branch of Judaism] for several years. Also he speaks some Hebrew, and named his son Levi. I think Guy Ritchie [being a Jack Jew] is entitled to write a script with lines about Jews like they talk about themselves.”
I highly recommend The Gentlemen – it is without a weak link and the best film of 2020, so far. There’s a bit of ferocity but nothing too distasteful. Much of the violence occurs off camera. The clever script is a bit too vulgar for my taste, but my delicate ears have survived far worse. The plot has some surprising twists and turns, the performances are excellent, and the pacing never fails in this jolly good story.
Fat Man and Little Boy 1989 drama, history
This film is a forgotten gem that puts a human face on one of the most intriguing sagas in modern human history. It's the story of the Manhattan Project -- the massive Allied World War II effort to build the first atom bomb, featuring two key leaders who made it happen, Gen. Leslie Groves (Paul Newman) and Dr. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz). The title comes from the code names for the first, and thankfully only, two atomic bombs used in war.
This is a real grown up film that requires your close attention. Do not expect a deluge of advanced science and math, but rather a quick moving storyline about a fast tracked program made more intense by the urgency of world war.
Some comments about the film – 1) the movie ends rather abruptly after the Trinity Test. Just as well, we all know what happened with Little Boy and Fat Man, so the movie skips the August 1945 bombing raids on Japan. 2) The movie also does not address the very successful communist spy ring operating at Los Alamo Lab. Stalin would soon have his own atomic bomb; thanks to the American communists traitors. 3) The radiation accident depicted in the film is loosely based on the real life fatal accident on August 21, 1945 of Los Alamos physicist Harry Daghlian while performing criticality experiments. Just like actor John Cusack in the movie, Daghlian was doing a hands-on test when an error caused the plutonium core to go supercritical. Daghlian reached his hand into the intense radiation zone to stop the reaction, and received a massive radiation dose. He went into a coma and died 25 days later. 4) As suggested by the film, Dr. Oppenheimer was deeply troubled by the destructive power of atomic weapons. He resigned his position at Los Alamos Lab soon after the war ended. He later refused to work on the Hydrogen Bomb project, and lost his govt. security clearance.
On a personal note, I visited Los Alamos in summer 2019 and toured the excellent science museums. Do not expect to see the rustic, ranch style buildings and dirt roads presented in the film. In fact, all the original 1940’s vintage buildings were declared contaminated and unsafe. The entire town was demolished and sent to a waste disposal site. In the old photos you can see the central area surrounding Ashley Pond, and the pond is the only original landmark left in modern day Los Alamos.
To help the reader understand the historical arc of Manhattan Project I created a high level timeline, with a bare minimum of nuclear equations, to summarize the remarkable nuclear physics and chemistry discoveries from 1938 to 1945 time period. Keep in mind that the movie begins in September 1942:
Key Discoveries in Nuclear Physics
Preceding and During the Manhattan Project
By: Ben Clark, February 10, 2020
Part 1 – Nuclear Fission Discover
December 1938 Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, after working for years firing neutrons at uranium, realize that neutrons fired into uranium do not just produce an isotope or transuranic element, but that they also split the uranium nucleus (fission) creating elements much lower in the periodic table. There had been signs of this for a long time, but everyone had rejected it as impossible. The discovery of fission by Hahn and Strassmann rocked the physics community to its core. The fact that fission was discovered in Nazi ruled Munich yet the two top scientists were permitted to publish their discovery was a godsend for scientific endeavors outside of Germany. Question: What if the Nazis had classified the fission discovery as Top Secret? Would the Allied powers have invested so much talent and money on the urgent development of an atomic bomb? It is unlikely this question will ever be answered.
January 1939 - Otto Frisch at Birmingham Lab, UK conducts an experiment confirming Hahn and Strassmann’s fission results, and calculates the energy released follows Einstein’s Law: E = mc2.
February 1939 - Bohr at Princeton Lab discovers that slow neutron (velocity< 2200 m/sec) fission in uranium is happening only in the uranium 235 isotope, not in the uranium 238 (raw uranium ore, or yellow cake, contains 99.3% U238 and 0.7% U235). The nuclear physics community becomes focused on the slow neutron fission because that is where U235 is so different from U238. The idea of isotope separation and concentration of U235 becomes of major focus of the Nuclear Chemists. There is no difference in the chemistry of the two isotopes. Some scientists still assume that isotope separation is impossible.
March 1939 - Szilard/Zinn repeated the German fission experiments at Columbia, UK and discovered 2 or 3 neutrons being emitted in each fission process; thereby, providing excess neutrons for a chain reaction. This key discovery is reported to the U.S. Government, but the early contacts with the US feds don’t lead to any serious action.
August 1939 - The United States government became aware of the German nuclear program in August 1939, when Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, warning "that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated." Einstein also mentions the fact the Germans had seized the Czech uranium mines. A year later the Germans seize 2100 metric tons of uranium ore from Belgium.
September 01, 1939 - Germany invades Poland and WW2 begins.
January 1940 - Sir Henry Tizard, head of British wartime scientific research, sets up the top secret “Maud” committee to investigate possibilities of building an atomic bomb. Working in conjunction with the MAUD project, Franz Simon and his team of scientists successfully separate U235 from yellowcake using a complex and very expensive mass separation technique named the gaseous diffusion process.
February-March 1940 - Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls working at University of Birmingham, UK focus on the fission process operating on a tiny sample of purified U235, a combination that no one had considered before mainly because of the unavailability of purified U235 until the MAUD project. Their results set the parameters for the design of an atomic weapon. The physicists had to answer two fundamental questions: How much fissile material would be required for the weapons and how much time would be needed for an effective detonation? Frisch writes, “To my amazement the amount [of material required for a bomb] was very much smaller than I had expected; it was not a matter of tons, but something like pounds.” They calculated that 80 neutron generations, taking a total of 320 millionths of a second (at four millionths of a second per generation), which would still be fast enough to precede the expansion of the bomb material and the disassembly of the super-critical mass.
The Frisch/Peierls results taken together with the success of gaseous diffusion for separating U235 from natural uranium, Frisch writes, “We came to the conclusion that an atomic bomb might, after all, be possible.”
Part 2 – Discovery of Plutonium Element 94
June 1940 - Vannevar Bush, electrical engineer, former administrator at MIT and head of Carnegie Institute, persuades FDR to let him start the National Defense Research Council (NDRC) to coordinate all scientific research for the US military. Bush named head of NDRC and reports directly to President FDR.
February 1941 - Plutonium (Pu239) was discovered by Glenn Seaborg and his team at Berkeley Lab. Using the cyclotron at the radiation lab, the team bombards uranium metal with bursts of deuteron (H2 a heavy isotope of hydrogen) atoms. The Plutonium is produced in sufficient amounts to be isolated by chemical separation from Uranium. Seaborg writes, “Thus it is now clear that our alpha activity is due to the new element with the atomic number 94.” The US was not yet at war, but the discovery was kept top secret.
March 1941 - Seaborg’s team makes another remarkable discovery. They isolated a small amount of pure Pu239 and fire slow neutrons at the sample. They record strong indications of fission – even stronger than from U235. He saw that a fissile Pu239 element, bred as a by-product in a uranium reactor, could be chemically separated using a process that was relatively easy and inexpensive as compared to the mass separation process needed for U235 (gaseous diffusion, thermal diffusion and electromagnetic).
July 1941 - American scientists are briefed on the British Maud project. US and England agree to joint cooperation on nuclear physics.
October 1941 - Roosevelt gives V. Bush authority to spend whatever is necessary to find if an atomic bomb can be built. Godfrey Hodgson writes in The Colonel, The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson: “The decision to build not only a bomb but the vast secret bureaucracy that would be required to create it [a bomb], was taken by the President alone.” Congress, judiciary, and cabinet knew nothing about it. This was one of the decisive moments in American history when the imperatives of world war tilted power toward the executive.
December 7, 1941 - Japanese make surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The USA enters WW2 as war is declared on Japan and Germany declares war on America.
Early 1942 - Arthur Compton, Nobel Prize winner (1927) and Director of the Chicago Met Lab, chairs a meeting at Columbia and lays down this timetable: By July 1, 1942, determine whether a chain reaction was possible. By January 1943, to achieve the first controlled chain reaction in a reactor. By January 1944, to extract weapons grade U235 from uranium ore. By January 1945, construct the first atomic bomb. Compton stressed that since Germany had at least a two year head start in nuclear physics applied to weapons research, the Allies were in a race with Germany to build the first atomic bomb. After the war, Compton wrote, “Our project became to us more vital than life or death.”
The Manhattan Project – A Timeline of Key Events
The movie starts here in September 1942
The highlights listed below are included in the movie and are well presented on screen. I included a few off-camera events separately for some clarification of the overall atomic bomb project.
September 1942 - Colonel Leslie R. Groves was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Director of the Manhattan Engineer District, the secret project to build the world’s first atomic bomb. His proven record of managing complex undertakings made him a logical choice to lead the most ambitious project in American history. Groves would lead both the military and civilian staff, and be in overall charge of security.
October 1942 - Groves meets with Robert Oppenheimer, the University of California, Berkeley physicist, and discuss the creation of a laboratory where the bomb could be designed and tested. Groves was impressed with the breadth of Oppenheimer's knowledge. A long conversation on a train in October 1942 convinced Groves and his top deputy, Kenneth Nichols that Oppenheimer thoroughly understood the issues involved in setting up a laboratory in a remote area. These were features that Groves found lacking in other foggy headed scientists, and he knew that broad knowledge would be vital in an interdisciplinary project that would involve not just physics, but chemistry, metallurgy, ordnance, and engineering. Groves became convinced that Oppenheimer was the best and only man to run the laboratory. The FBI objected to Oppenheimer’s connections with the US communist party, but Groves personally waived the security risks and issued a Top Secret Security clearance for Oppenheimer.
October 1942 - Groves and Oppenheimer inspected sites in New Mexico, where they selected a suitable location for the laboratory at Los Alamos. Soon afterwards 54,000 acres of surrounding forest and grazing land was acquired by the US govt. Construction begins. The mission of the Los Alamos Lab is to design and build the bomb. The fissile materials would be produced in Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA.
April 1943 - Los Alamos Lab is staffed and begins work on bomb design.
August 1943 - First live test of the Los Alamos “gun-type” fission bomb, using a dummy warhead, is dropped from a bomber. Field Tests of the design is so successful that the Los Alamos team has high confidence the weapon would work using U235 without a live field test.
January 1944 - A new department is created at Los Alamos to study implosion type bomb design. Initial tests fail due to imprecise spherical detonations. Oppenheimer staffs up the Implosion design group and fires the original group leader, Edward Teller.
April - June 1944 - The Los Alamos Lab received the first sample of reactor-produced plutonium from Oak Ridge. Los Alamos scientist Emilio Segre, working with this small sample of plutonium, was able to determine that reactor-bred plutonium had a higher concentration of the isotope plutonium-240 than cyclotron-produced plutonium. Since plutonium-240 has a high spontaneous fission rate, the increased number of spontaneous neutrons meant that nuclear pre-detonation, or “fizzle”, would be the likely result of the original gun-type bomb design, code-named “Thin Man”. It was abandoned for plutonium bombs, but still suitable for U235 bombs.
This discovery meant that the entire plutonium weapon design effort at Los Alamos had to be altered to a more complicated implosion device, code-named “Fat Man.” The implosion design would use a series of explosive lenses to compress a solid sphere of plutonium-239 into a high-density core, initiating a nuclear chain reaction. Before physicists at Los Alamos could test the implosion design, they needed more plutonium for experiments.
July 1944 - Oppenheimer reveals Segrè's final measurements to the Los Alamos staff, and orders the design of a reliable implosion design (Fat Man) to become the new top priority of the laboratory. The building of U235 gun-type weapon (Little Boy) continues to design freeze.
December 1944 - After months of failures, the first successful explosive lens test at Los Alamos establishes feasibility of building an implosion bomb (Fat Man).
April 1945 -- General Groves receives the Alsos report and discovers that the German nuclear program is not a threat. The German nuclear science progress had stalled out for lack of priority. The top German scientists were only doing lab scale research projects with no real plans for developing a weapon. This, of course, is good news, but there is an interesting scene in the movie where Groves hesitates to share the Alsos Intel with the Los Alamos staff. The threat of a German A-bomb was a great motivator for his scientists especially since many were American Jews (Oppenheimer, for one) and European Jewish refugees who had an axe to grind with the brutal, anti-Jewish Nazis. This dilemma is well presented in the movie. In real life, at least one Los Alamos scientist that I know of resigned after Germany surrendered.
May 1945 - Little Boy is ready for combat use, except for the U235 warhead. Germany surrenders to allies. V-E Day May 7. Movie has a fun celebration scene.
June 1945 - Target Committee meets and submits a list of Japanese cities. As depicted in the movie, both Oppenheimer and Groves attend the meeting. Approval is granted for Los Alamos to field test the Fat Man bomb design with a critical mass of plutonium 239.The meeting is well presented in the film, and one of the best scenes.
July 16, 1945 - The nuclear bomb test is code named “Trinity”. A remote site is selected at Alamogordo, NM (about 250 miles south of Los Alamos). The “Trinity” nuclear test is 100% successful. Oppenheimer makes triumphant return to the Los Alamos Lab. End of the movie.
Chappaquiddick 2017 drama history
Set during the summer of 1969 – two events occurred almost simultaneously – the drama of the first Apollo moon landing, and Ted Kennedy’s car crash at Chappaquiddick Pond that resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. The moon landing was a Triumph; while the word Chappaquiddick became synonymous with the word Scandal. The movie rolls the camera back to that fateful night with the focus firmly on Senator Ted Kennedy as we watch what he did and more importantly did not do. Through it all, Ted shows little remorse or concern over the dead woman, preferring to strategize with his sharky team to preserve his reputation. The film has a made-for-TV feel and look, but is still worth watching for the outstanding performances. Jason Clarke (Ted Kennedy) creates a convincing character you can fully believe is capable of walking away from a damsel in distress. After all, he is scion of the famous Kennedy clan with droves of “boiler room” girls following him like hypnotized puppies. Boston accents are very difficult to do without them sounding fake but somehow Jason Clarke, an Aussie, nails it. A shame he did not score at least a nomination for best actor. Andria Blackman (Joan Kennedy) has a short but pitch perfect scene. Would like to see more of her.
Joker 2019 drama, crime
This film fits neatly into the “mind games” movie genre because the narrator, Arthur Fleck (aka Joker) has serious mental health problems treated with seven drugs. In one particular key scene, early in the film, Arthur came off of his medicine, which I assumed are a mix of anti-psychotics. So at this point we know, or at least suspect, that we are watching a wild mix of fantasy and real life during the transition of Fleck into Joker. This device makes Joker a rare bird, and I rather enjoyed the ambiguity and the change of pace. Not to reveal too much, the first scene I thought was pure fantasy in Arthur’s mind involved his female neighbor in the shitty apartment complex. Arthur has a crush on the attractive, single mother living down the hall, but there are a few tips that the relationship was pure imagination.
Arthur and the subway mass shooting was a scene I thought was reality based. Gotham City, Arthur’s home town, is made to look like early 1980’s New York City. There are neither desktop computers nor cell phones. Arthur’s TV is a boxy CRT on stick legs. The cars are obviously 1980s vintage. From my perspective, the character of Arthur Fleck seemed to be, in part, based on Bernhard Goetz. As I recall, Mr. Goetz, a white male, shot four black muggers on a New York subway in 1984. Goetz was arrested and his trial became a major three-ring circus. Goetz soared to Folk Hero status and the shooting focused the media and public attention on the serious escalation of violent crime in NYC. Feeling the heat of millions of angry, fed-up citizens (voters), the normally complacent, useless NYC politicos decided to make major changes and adopted “broken windows” policing. Goetz was acquitted by the jury, and with a new sheriff in town, the crime rate was under control.
The climax of the film is Arthur’s guest appearance on the Murray Franklin Show. Is this event real or fantasy? The last half of the movie might actually be one of Arthur’s fantasies because we watch as Arthur empties out his mother’s refrigerator, climbs inside, and closes the door. We never see him emerge from the refrigerator, so did he die in the icebox making the whole latter half of the movie a dying man’s hallucination? Yes, it is that kind of movie.
I have read both glowing and scathing reviews of Joker – people either love it or hate it, but all the movie reviewers agree that the film is technically very well done. I recommend the film without hesitation – it is not a typical comic book movie. I plan to watch it again. If you are the type of movie fan that is comfortable with a degree of vagueness or uncertainty in a film, I suggest two more films for your watching pleasure; Mullholland Drive (2001) and Detour (1945). In both movies the narrator is unreliable, just like in Joker, so keep asking yourself – Am I seeing this straight? For an extra bonus, find the hidden clues in Mulholland Drive here.
Ford v Ferrari 2019 drama sports
This movie chronicles the epic battle between two legendary automakers on the track at Le Mans in 1966. To say this is another “race car” flick is to sell it short. Drastically. You need not be a racing fan or car aficionado to enjoy this film. Because above all else, Ford v Ferrari is an interesting, well told tale and that is the basis of any good film. The real heart of the movie is about the relationship between American racing hero Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and championship driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale). They have a friendship forged in the racing pits and test tracks where the risk of death lurks in the shadows. The two men know for a fact that they are in way over their heads, but with a blank check from the Ford Motor Company, they take a shot at the high-flying, seemingly unbeatable, Ferrari race team.
Thus is launched the Ford GT40 project. Along the way a surprising amount of actual, technical detail about developing the Ford GT40 is presented. Shelby’s shop in a hangar at LAX is the central set where the key winning elements come together. The movie strips away almost everything else, both historically and factually, to present the efforts of Shelby’s team at LAX. This dismays some of the race car “experts” who are quick to point out the movie skims over the British design team responsible for the GT40 body, and the scores of Ford engineers and technicians in Detroit who designed and built the awesome 427 V8 engine. Sorry, but the reality is 152 minutes of screen time. Cut!
The film may not be 100% factual with the exact timeline, or provide screen time to everybody involved, but who cares? This film is the closest any Hollywood production will ever get to tell the real story of America’s greatest car racing victory in Europe. And that is more than enough for me. For those who want to get into the car racing weeds, I suggest you read this book: Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans (2009) by A.J. Baime.
On the other hand, some film reviewers harshly condemned the movie because it was too factual and realistic. Bloomberg’s “Horrible” Hannah Elliot writes, “It’s a beautifully shot film that will be enjoyable for modern car buyers and enthusiasts alike—engines rev, tires squeal, stopwatches click. But what I saw is a devastating picture of the lack of diversity… Ford v Ferrari shows a generation best left dead and gone… men dominate the screen for 98% of the time, by my unofficial count. They are in the executive suites at Ford and Ferrari, in the workshops and garages in Venice, on the track out at Willow Springs Raceway. (And when I say men, I mean white, straight men.)” Hannah, are you for real? The message of this excellent film is true and straightforward: It glorifies American innovation, competitive spirit, bravery and determination. That said, I understand how this movie could rattle the delicate sensibilities of the modern, anti-white male, self-hating SJWs. I think Hannah is hungry to engage in some revisionist history, so I have an idea to help her. The 1968 Disney car flick, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is in serious need of a modern remake, after all the cast is ridiculously white. Let’s yank Dick Van Dyke (a white, straight, male) from behind the wheel and put Whoopi Goldberg in the driver’s seat. That should fix it.
There is already quite a bit of Academy Award chatter on the web about this film. Oscars have been cheapened by the host of weak films that win awards based more on PC ideology than actual movie craftsmanship and acting talent. This year may be different because Ford v Ferrari is so terrific, it will be hard for the snobs to ignore the best film of the year. Christian Bale's multi-layered performance will stick in your mind for days afterwards, and deserves recognition. Same can be said of the Screenplay, Cinematography, production and direction of this excellent film.
I highly recommend seeing this movie on the largest screen possible. Sit back and enjoy the powerful growl of the GT40 427 V8 as you re-live the Golden Age of American muscle cars.
The Highwaymen 2019 drama crime
This Netflix original film has a terrific adult script—and something to say about setting the historical record straight. In a nutshell, The Highwaymen tells the true story of retired Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, who is pressed back into active duty in 1934 to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde as their bloody crime spree enters its third year. Before reliable two-way radios for police cars and communication between various police departments, Clyde Barrow exploited backroads, state lines, a Ford V8, and plenty of firepower to keep his gang on the road. Frank Hamer, a seasoned manhunter, decided to hit the road just like the Barrow gang and trail them, learning their patterns—and driven by the conviction born of experience that “outlaws and mustangs always return home.” Hamer (Kevin Costner) is joined by his ex-partner and veteran Ranger, Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson). The two lawmen have some of the very best screen chemistry and dialogue I have seen this year. The film attacks the myth of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as the sexy desperados depicted in the 1967 film. In this version, the criminal duo is kept in the shadows until the end of the movie. Retelling Bonnie and Clyde from the point of view of the actual good guys of the story is a superb idea that took far too long to come to screen. Director John Lee Hancock seems to have cared deeply about restoring Frank Hamer and Maney Gault to their proper place in American history as real life, crime fighting heroes. Hancock’s skill for historical films (Alamo) is well established, and once again highly successful in The Highwaymen. From the beginning to the brutal ending, the film is akin to a time travel machine that brings to life the mostly forgotten days of early 1930’s Prohibition era America.
Midway 2019 war action adventure
This is an epic movie about the time in June 1942 when the Japanese Imperial Navy (JIN) sailed to Midway Island looking for a fight, and expecting another Pearl Harbor surprise attack. Instead, the JIN fleet was hammered by waves of American bombers, torpedo planes and dive bombers. The surface fleets did not engage; the battle was settled by airpower and marked a turning point in the war, as well as, a transition in naval doctrine in favor of larger and larger aircraft carriers. To understand the background and more details about this military history topic read my 2017 article, “Kitty Hawk to Midway: The Genesis of the Modern Aircraft Carrier Era”.
Back to the movie, the trick to making quality Historical Docu-Dramas is trying to balance Historical relevance with Historical accuracy and all the while have believable characters and dialogue that present a good story. The artistic cast and movie makers of “Midway” did just that, and produced one of the best war movies in decades. The success of this film did not (could not) depend on one big star; this historical topic is a bit more complicated with plenty of dynamic, moving parts so the director used one of the best ensemble casts ever that did not depend on one power actor to propel all the key scenes. And let’s not forget the war birds – the American Dauntless Dive Bombers and Japanese Zeros are star-worthy, too.
This movie is ridiculously underrated with a Tomatometer score of 44, indicating a mediocre effort. Film critic Max West invented the term “mind gap” to describe the often deep chasm between the paying audience and the media movie critics. The “Mind Gap” of Midway is astonishing. See snapshot from Rotten Tomatoes below.
If you read the actual reviews, there emerges a particularly harsh tone from several of the Woke-type feminist film critics. Writes Wendy “Windbag” Ide of the Guardian, “All the most enormous, jutting, chiseled chins in Hollywood are called up to do their duty, and armed with lines of dialogue that sink like depth charges… Every tired war movie cliché is unearthed in a film that brings nothing new but will no doubt please fans of men in uniform.” Post-modern fem-Nazis, like Wendy, love the modern style of movie casting that reject white males and replace same by a collection of female heroines, no matter how fake it comes off. I am sure Wendy would have no problem casting Whoopi Goldberg as Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz to “bring something new” whatever the fuck that means. So back to reality, in this case, we have a war story firmly rooted in the real world of the 1940’s, together with a skilled director that stays true to his art and time period accuracy. In real life, and in the movie, the main characters are American or Japanese males. As expected the film is biased in favor of the Americans (DUH!) and quite a bit of screen time is filled by the American carrier pilots, who are two-fisted, masculine heroes, brimming with strength, mastery, honor, and camaraderie. No wonder the anti-male feminists hate this film and thereby, reveal their ignorance about Artistic Integrity.
Finally here is a new WW2 movie with the right balance of high-tech effects, good storytelling, tension and remarkable historical gravitas. I highly recommend seeing this production on the largest screen you can find. All of us Patriots need to support “Midway” and help make it a big success.
Zombieland: Double Tap 2019 comedy, horror, adventure
Hard to believe the original Zombieland premiered ten years ago in 2009. It is way past time to review the famous Rules of Zombieland, so here we go again. Fans of the original Zombieland will be pleased by this sequel – it is a riot. The whole gang (Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock) is back together and, as usual, are well armed and ready for zombie combat. Along the way they pick up Madison (Zoey Deutch) who adds plenty of laughs and gets credit as the top banana in the flake department. True to character, the group travels on a cross country odyssey – this time to Graceland for a retro salute to Elvis Pressley, then on to Babylon – a liberal, hippie-type compound “full of love and understanding! And NO guns allowed.” If the movie has a message, it is this: The story expertly and hilariously trolls the anti-gun crowd, who promptly shit their pants when the Zombie mob arrives in Babylon. Once again the importance of the armed individual and self-defense become painfully obvious. So despite the violent slaughter, the movie delivers a rather wholesome message. Stay for the end credit scene! You won't regret it! This film had the whole cinema laughing throughout the movie! Catch it on the big screen while you still can.
Candyman 1992 horror
This is one of the stand-out horror movies of the decade; frightful, disturbing, intelligently made and without a screaming teen in sight. So just take my word and watch this flick, when in the mood for a scare. Suffice to say, it has a genuinely weird and evil villain, fast pace, jarring shocks, and a moody, dark score. Virginia Madsen is totally convincing as Helen, the damsel in distress. She is so good; in fact, you will remember her performance for days afterward. One reviewer complained that this flick made her kids have nightmares and it "dwells on the nasty things in life." I can think of no greater compliment for an adult horror movie. No dear, this is a film for grown up people. Put the kids to bed. You have been warned, gentle readers.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2019. All rights reserved.