‘Ford v Ferrari’ brings its niche historical subject to 7,000 rpm life (Movie review)

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side from its wonderful locations and car designs that capture the 1960s, director James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” (2019) is a sober re-creation of a niche slice of history. He trusts that 24-hour racing at Le Mans and Daytona will be exciting enough to capture and hold the layperson’s attention. He pushes it with the 2-hour, 32-minute run time, but ultimately he’s right. While non-racing-fan moviegoers aren’t likely to tune in to TV coverage of the next 24-race, this sport plays tremendously well in movie form.

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‘The Irishman’ turns a Hoffa bio and mob flick into a meditation on what’s important in life (Movie review)

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he Irishman” (2019, Netflix) pairs nicely as the back half of a double feature with 1992’s “Hoffa.” That film, which was likewise Oscar-nominated, focuses on Jimmy Hoffa’s creation and popularization of a workers’ union, whereas director Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” digs into the darker corners of the mobsters who circled around Hoffa. Both films are from the point of view of one of Hoffa’s trusted seconds: Danny DeVito’s Bobby Ciaro in “Hoffa” and Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran, the titular Irishman.

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Mamet Monday: ‘Hoffa’ (1992) chronicles the striking rise of the controversial union boss (Movie review)

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avid Mamet is known for writing con movies, and he sticks to that style even in his biographical/historical tales such as “Hoffa” (1992). Mamet’s worldview that everything is a con of some sort works perfectly for telling the life story of the man who started the Teamsters union. The film also boasts Danny DeVito’s steady direction and calm, almost sad performance as Jimmy Hoffa’s second-in-command; a classic turn by Jack Nicholson in the title role; and many other markers of prestige filmmaking.

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Mamet Monday: ‘Phil Spector’ (2013) is a Pacino showcase and a bizarre, gripping condemnation of juries without actually showing the jurors (Movie review)

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hil Spector” (2013), the last film from writer-director David Mamet before what has become the longest filmmaking hiatus of his career, manages to be a compelling murder-trial biopic without digging as far into the case as one would assume. Mamet focuses on building a character portrait of legendary music producer Phil Spector (Al Pacino), someone who is brilliant, strange, mostly off-putting, occasionally terrifying, occasionally kind, and possibly murderous.

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Peter Farrelly’s ‘Green Book’ a sweet story of friendship against backdrop of mid-century American racism (Movie review)

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riter-director Peter Farrelly smooths out the excesses of his filmmaking traits for the surprisingly mainstream and easy-to-like “Green Book” (2018), now back in theaters and also available for home viewing. It’s not as funny as his best films like “Dumb and Dumber” and not as high-concept as the likes of “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal.” It’s possibly a crass grab at mainstream and critical acceptance, but it’s hard to quibble with the finished product.

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‘The Favourite’ critiques timeless governmental power plays, but isn’t as sharp or funny as it could be (Movie review)

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lot has been made about how horror (“Get Out” last year) and superhero (“Black Panther” this year) films are making inroads with the Oscars, but – in terms of percentage of all films released – comedy remains the most snubbed genre. “The Favourite” (2018) finds a path to Academy attention, though, by chronicling the royal court of Britain’s Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 1708, replete with gilded paintings, frilly dresses, pancake makeup and powdered wigs. Oscar-film trappings, in other words.

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Malek, music are the stars of too-formulaic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (Movie review)

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rior to seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), I was hardly a Queen fan. The band’s popularity had faded before I was old enough to appreciate it, and growing up, their music was not something I was into.  My knowledge of Queen was limited to knowing they had a handful of decent songs and a few overplayed stadium anthems, and were led by one of the most eccentric frontmen of all time.  That said, I’m a huge music fan in general and had heard good things from friends about the film, so I was excited to learn about the legend of Queen.

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‘The Disaster Artist’ tells the bizarre success story of a strange man, but it lets many questions linger (Movie review)

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he Disaster Artist” (2017), now available for home viewing, starts with various actors marveling over the horrible 2003 movie “The Room” and the fact that people still talk about it years later. They also raise the central question behind the phenomenon: Who is Tommy Wiseau, the man who saw this debacle from concept to finished film? Two hours later, you will have had a great time watching “The Disaster Artist,” but disappointingly, you won’t have the answer.

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‘I, Tonya’ turns Harding’s life story into a delicious tragic comedy (Movie review)

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istorical sports dramas – say, “42” or “Battle of the Sexes” — tend to be played straight; the true story alone is dramatic enough, and that’s why a movie is being made about it. “I, Tonya” (2017), now available on home video, is different. Tonya Harding’s life story is so bizarrely off the beaten path of sports biographies that if you told it straight, no one would believe it.

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‘Darkest Hour’ review

“Darkest Hour” – Gary Oldman is the best part of Joe Wright’s stridently ordinary  biopic about Winston Churchill. The film is a paint-by-numbers affair that shows Churchill’s journey from awkward political interloper to the legend celebrated by many today. Oldman supplies all the gravitas the role calls for and then some under makeup that is alternatively good and reminiscent of Fat Bastard from “Austin Powers.” The film around him doesn’t live up to the standards he sets. It feels  like a solid made-for-TV film more than a powerhouse Oscar contender.

– Michael Olinger, March 1, 2018