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Fri06052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Shia LaBeouf returns with a vengeance in Amazon’s Honey Boy, offering both the screenplay and a gripping performance as his own dad in this autobiographical take on his pre-adolescent and teen years. Talk about public therapy!

Directed with great strength by Alma Har’el, the film covers different stages in Shia’s career, including as a young boy (Noah Jupe) and a young adult (Lucas Hedges). LaBeouf sets out to basically show how he had a … well, let’s call it an offbeat upbringing. His father, represented by a character named James Lort and played by Shia, is at once inspirational and terribly abusive—a quirky, angry guy who torments young Shia (named Otis in the movie) as a means of forcing the kid into stardom.

LaBeouf is funny/scary here, while Jupe and Hedges keep proving they are two of the best young actors on the planet.

LaBeouf had a solid year in 2019; may he have many more to come.

Honey Boy is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

For those of you who love cars, but are getting tired of the Fast and Furious franchise’s “vroom-vroom” formula, Ford v Ferrari will be a welcome ode to automobiles going very fast.

It’s the 1960s, and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) has had it up to here with Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) and his fast, flashy cars. He and cronies such as Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) and Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) are cranky, and they want to send a message to the world that Ford isn’t just about family cars. They also want to win races and appeal to the younger, Baby Boomer demographic with Mustangs and the like.

Enter Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a race car driver who, after a heart condition benches him, becomes a designer and salesman. Ford hires Shelby to design a car that can beat Ferrari in races—primarily the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race

It’s a tall order, and it calls for a crazy guy behind the wheel calling the shots. That guy is Ken Miles (Christian Bale), an English-born rule-breaker who can drive a car and instantly know what can be fixed on it to make the thing go faster. His lack of convention causes Ford to bristle; Shelby gets in the middle; and we have ourselves a gripping tale about racing technology, volatile friendships and corporate clashes.

If you are looking for glorious depictions of high-stakes auto racing, you will not be disappointed: Director James Mangold (Walk the Line) films Ford v Ferrari in such a way that you feel every gear shift, hairpin turn and moment when a car could skid off the tracks and cause grave injury. In this sense, the movie tops the auto-movie genre.

If you are looking for powerhouse acting, you will not be let down: Damon and Bale are otherworldly good as two longtime pals who have no problem with occasionally punching each other in the face, yet always having each other’s backs. Letts and Bernthal do well at showing the corporate side of things, while Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe are good as Miles’ wife and kid. Some of the family stuff gets a little clichéd, but the performers, especially the amazing Jupe, elevate the material.

There’s a lot of car talk, and credit goes to writers Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller for a script that makes the audience feel like it is learning without getting bored or overwhelmed. I walked out of this movie knowing a little more about hot brakes and the ways in which they can kill a driver’s chances to win a race. Just consider yourself warned: The class is long, clocking in at just more than 2 1/2 hours.

This one is going to be in awards contention for sound, cinematography and art direction, as well as the acting categories. There have been previous car-racing movies, but this one puts you in the driver’s seat like none before. If you’ve had the distinct pleasure (or terror, given one’s outlook) of being in a race car at racing speeds, you will know that Mangold and his crew get the sensations right.

The final sequence, involving the 24 Hour Le Mans, is a masterclass on how to make a racing movie right: It’s a superbly conducted balance of the technical and the dramatic. Damon and Bale are giving DiCaprio and Pitt of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a run for the money in the year’s best-acting-duo department.

Ford v Ferrari feels real, authentic and well-researched. It’s a movie that will please race-car fans—and entertain those who could care less about racing cars. It also makes Vin Diesel look like a total poseur.

Ford v Ferrari is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Noise-intolerant neighbors are taken to all-new levels in A Quiet Place, a new horror film from director John Krasinski.

Krasinski also stars as Lee, a father trying to protect his family in a post-apocalyptic world besieged by horrific aliens who will tear you apart if you make so much as a peep. The opening sequence shows Lee, wife Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt, aka the next Mary Poppins) and three children taking a very quiet walk home from a drug store. One of them makes a sudden noise—and the results are pretty scary for a PG-13 movie.

The aliens are blind, so they hunt by sound—not, say, the sound of a river running or a bird chirping, but sounds that are more “interruptive,” like fireworks, a person screaming after stepping on a nail, etc. The gimmick lends itself to some faulty logic at times, but it does provide an interesting premise: If you speak audibly in relatively quiet surroundings, you will get your head bitten off. It’s as if everyday life is a hellish library where the penalty for gabbing or dropping something is death.

Krasinski’s film gives no real back-story about the aliens. A few glimpses of newspaper front pages share that the world has been wiped out by the species. One look at them (they are a cross between Ridley Scott’s aliens and the Cloverfield monster), and you know that just a few days with these things running around would decimate the population.

Blunt gives the film’s standout performance as somebody forced to keep quiet after not only a painful injury—but while giving birth in a bathtub while an alien claws nearby. It’s scenes like this, and one involving a crying baby in a flooded basement, that give Blunt a chance to call upon myriad facial expressions that will chill your blood. She pulls you into every moment with an earnestness that is real and relatable.

The film, Krasinski’s second as a director, shows true ingenuity behind the camera. He’s done well with family drama before (2016’s The Hollars was a good if little-noticed movie), but this one takes his directorial value into the stratosphere.

The monsters themselves are stellar CGI creations—a nice achievement, considering the movie was made on a relatively low budget. Charlotte Bruus Christensen provides excellent camerawork, while Marco Beltrami’s score actually offers something to listen to. The performers communicate mostly through sign language and whispering, which makes for a pretty quiet movie (unless you are watching the movie next door to an IMAX screening of Ready Player One—bad planning from the theater manager, I say).

Krasinski complements his directing chops with a fine performance as a guy doing everything to keep his sanity and protect his family, which includes a young deaf daughter (the superb Millicent Simmonds, who is actually deaf) and son (Noah Jupe, the little guy who broke your heart in Wonder). The kids are terrific, so Krasinski gets more kudos for casting. Did I mention he co-wrote the screenplay, too?

Apparently, there was some talk of making this a Cloverfield movie, but that got scrapped early in production. That’s a good thing, because this one stands on its own. Given it made a big pile of dough on its opening weekend, it’s a safe bet a sequel will get the green light. Lee observes signal fires from other survivors during the early part of the movie, so perhaps a story with another family could happen. I hope not; they should leave well enough alone.

While there are some “Yeah, right!” moments in which the screenplay’s own rules about the aliens are broken, there are far more sequences that are extremely well-done. Krasinski and Blunt combine for a movie that you won’t soon forget—one that will have you being a little quieter around the house after seeing it.

A Quiet Place is showing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews