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🎬 Ford v Ferrari, Knives Out, The Phantom Menace, and more

🎬 Ford v Ferrari, Knives Out, The Phantom Menace, and more
By Eric Johnson • Issue #41 • View online
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One day late, happy Thanksgiving to all. I am super grateful for all of you reading this! However you celebrated the holiday (or not), happy holidays. Please pray for my wallet this Black Friday/Cyber Monday week.
Scroll down for another shakeup to the best-of-2019 list.
Ford v Ferrari
Pictured: Jason Bourne and Batman on an off day.
Pictured: Jason Bourne and Batman on an off day.
FORD V FERRARI is an old-school movie that really worked for me: Matt Damon and Christian Bale play Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, who built Ford’s first serious racecar, the GT40, and took it to the endurance race Le Mans in 1966. I am not a car person (I had to consult Wikipedia five times while writing the previous sentence), but I am a cars-in-movies person and the visual mastery of director James Mangold here is top notch. The film’s two and a half hours fly by, with stellar performances by the two leads — especially Bale. I want to take a moment, though, to also acknowledge Tracy Letts, who plays Henry Ford II and performs a vital role in the film: Humanizing and complicating what would have otherwise been a faceless corporation. Just as in the 2017 film Lady Bird, where he played the title character’s father, Letts is given relatively little to do but brings SO MUCH to every moment he gets. Anyway, see Ford v Ferrari. It’s great.
Pictured: "I make it snow, I make it snow, I make it snow on these hills..."
Pictured: "I make it snow, I make it snow, I make it snow on these hills..."
I was lukewarm on FROZEN when I first saw it, but I figure I’m going to watch the sequel at some point, so I decided to revisit the first film this week. The things I didn’t care for the first time — mainly the hurried plot and the comic relief characters — are as I remembered them, but I still enjoyed the second viewing more than the first. Several of the songs are legit bops, and although the animation is a bit inconsistent, it’s clear the creators put the most effort into the scenes where they would get the most reward, such as the showstopper “Let It Go” song. And the thing I remember liking most about my first viewing, the ending’s subversive take on typical fairy tale prophecies, is just as clever as ever.
Shaun of the Dead
Pictured: Shocked staring, a quite reasonable response to discovering zombies in your backyard.
Pictured: Shocked staring, a quite reasonable response to discovering zombies in your backyard.
There so much creative comedy on display in SHAUN OF THE DEAD that I hope it continues to be watched and discussed, even though it’s in the often-alienating zombie horror genre. It’s a laudable parody of end-of-the-world movies, benefiting from a low budget: Instead of spectacle, it spends much of its runtime exploring the relationships among its unlikely crew of survivors, including Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as college drinking buddies who never really grew up. The script is frequently hilarious and always clever, and like all of director Edgar Wright’s movies, Shaun of the Dead is also hugely rewatchable because there are so many details and references one might miss on the first viewing. This was my fifth (at least), and I caught several I hadn’t noticed before.
The Phantom Menace
Pictured: Golden Globe winner Ewan McGregor, Academy Award nominee Liam Neeson, and a Roger Rabbit wannabe.
Pictured: Golden Globe winner Ewan McGregor, Academy Award nominee Liam Neeson, and a Roger Rabbit wannabe.
Let’s start with the things I like about THE PHANTOM MENACE: The podracing scene and lightsaber fight choreography are cool; the music, particularly Duel of the Fates, never gets old; and there’s an impressive degree of world-building on display, from the new alien species and worlds to the technology to, yes, the ham-fisted space politics. Perhaps my most unpopular Star Wars opinion is that, in the hands of a cleverer writer, an all-politics no-action show in this universe (basically, The West Wing on Coruscant) would be great. But anyway … Here’s a few of the things I don’t like about The Phantom Menace: Despite a cast stacked with talents like Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, much of the screen time and dialogue are yielded to bad actors and worse unfunny comic relief characters; the 20-year-old CGI looks worse than the 35 (or more) year old practical effects of the original trilogy; and the script trips over itself at almost every opportunity, unnecessarily complicating the story and burying the character development. I have a lot of nostalgia for the version of this movie that I was able to see when I was 9, which contained all of the good stuff and none of the bad. But through a more critical adult lens, there’s just too much bantha poodoo here to ignore.
P.S. After rewatching the movie, I saw this Twitter thread by cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks that proves there is a great story — which could have been told better — in the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker’s childhood.
Knives Out
Pictured: A scene from the southern drawling room.
Pictured: A scene from the southern drawling room.
I was expecting the superb thriller Parasite to ride out 2019 in the number one slot on the list below, but KNIVES OUT is my new favorite movie of the year. Just as with Parasite, you should just see this movie as soon as you can knowing as little as you can in advance, but for anyone who needs a bit more detail: It’s a comedic murder mystery with a cast of amazing character actors, directed by Rian Johnson (who made Looper and The Last Jedi). Daniel Craig steals scene after scene as a dubiously accented detective with a taste for scenery, and Johnson is careful to anticipate how the audience of a whodunit will be thinking about each character from scene to scene. Seriously, WTF are you doing still reading this? See it! See it! See it! Hitchcock would be proud.
🏆 Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)
  1. Knives Out
  2. Parasite
  3. Booksmart
  4. The Farewell
  5. If Beale Street Could Talk
  6. Us
  7. Free Solo
  8. Ford v Ferrari
  9. Avengers: Endgame
  10. The Favourite
  11. Amazing Grace
  12. Long Shot
  13. The Wife
  14. The Art of Self-Defense
  15. Toy Story 4
  16. Jojo Rabbit
  17. Shoplifters
  18. Hustlers
  19. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  20. Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
  21. The Irishman
  22. Harriet
  23. Apollo 11
  24. Zombieland: Double Tap
  25. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  26. Aladdin
  27. The Peanut Butter Falcon
  28. Slut in a Good Way
  29. Green Book
  30. Cold War
  31. Official Secrets
  32. Ready or Not
  33. Always Be My Maybe
  34. Rocketman
  35. The Lighthouse
  36. Roma
  37. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  38. Ad Astra
  39. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  40. On the Basis of Sex
  41. Shazam!
  42. Isn’t It Romantic?
  43. Judy
  44. The Lion King
  45. Downton Abbey
  46. Fighting With My Family
  47. They Shall Not Grow Old
  48. Yesterday
  49. Mary Poppins Returns
  50. Captain Marvel
  51. Minding the Gap
  52. Motherless Brooklyn
  53. Tolkien
  54. The Biggest Little Farm
  55. Alita: Battle Angel
  56. The Dead Don’t Die
  57. The Great Hack
  58. Stan & Ollie
  59. Vice
  60. Bohemian Rhapsody
  61. Aquaman
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Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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