Our Greatest Living Film Critic, XV

February, 2020 (Pre-COVID)

Ford vs. Ferrari (2019)

Watched Ford vs. Ferrari (2019), which isn’t the name of the movie. In this movie for dads, cartoon character Christian Bale beats some smug cartoon Italians. The message of the movie is that if you want to sell automobiles to baby boomers, you have to empower your brand ambassadors. This movie is bad in many ways: everybody says what’s happening out loud, and the story beats are totally predictable. Everything except the racing scenes is pretty dumb. Matt Damon gives a spectacular performance as Tommy Lee Jones: when Tommy Lee Jones retires, Matt Damon should be him. Become him. Some possible historical inaccuracies: Not sure that Ford executives were actively sabotaging their team during the race. Not sure that both Carroll Shelby and Lee Iacocca were yoked as shit. I could be wrong. Tracy Letts gives a great physical meltdown. The racing scenes are amazing. I give it 3.25 black cowboy hats out of a possible 5 black cowboy hats.

Ash is Purest White (2018)

Watched Ash is Purest White (2018), Zhangke Jia’s melodrama about a woman’s life set against the background of massive government building projects in China for some reason. Qiao is the girlfriend of BIn, a gangster, and she goes to prison for him. When she gets out, he wants nothing to do with her, so she makes her own way until he shows up again, in a wheelchair, and she helps him learn to walk. Then he leaves, and the movie is over. There is a UFO as well. I’m not sure what to make of this movie: the performances by the leads were great, the footage of places I’ve never heard of is up my alley, but the plot just meandered, like it only had a few critical scenes but wanted to space them out. Brother Eryong: “You know Bin, there are only two things I care about: animal documentaries and ballroom dancing.” I gather that thermoses play a huge role in Chinese society. I give it 3.5 Cohibas out of a possible 5 Cohibas.

Experiment in Terror (1962)

Watched Experiment in Terror (1962), a Blake Edwards thriller starring Lee Remick as a woman strong-armed into helping heavy breathing serial creep Ross Martin into robbing a bank in pre-hippie San Francisco. Glenn Ford plays a straight-laced FBI agent who women find attractive, perhaps contractually? This movie blends Dragnet (1967) style reverence for tight-cropped law enforcers with a dark Freudian psychosexual weirdness, and it’s no surprise it was a remarkable influence on David Lynch. Maybe Lynch and Fincher, because this feels like a grandfather to Mindhunter (2017). Shots of the same pre-apocalyptic San Francisco as its more colorful contemporary, Vertigo (1958), which it would pair nicely with. Ross Martin, whose character is shot to death on the pitcher’s mound in Candlestick Park (what does it mean?!) went on to play Artemus Clyde Frog, née Gordon, in Wild Wild West (1965). Good telephone switching in this movie. There is never an explanation for the title. I give it 3.5 Popcorns out of a possible 5 Popcorns.

Seoul Station (2016)

Watched Seoul Station (2016), an animated prequel to the live-action Train to Busan (2016). This is a Korean zombie anime about an interconnected group of people trying and failing to survive a zombie outbreak. Thematically, I guess it’s about the idea of losing your home. Like Parasite (2019) it is pointedly about class disparity and a hidden underclass taking revenge on the bourgeoisie, by metaphorically turning everyone into them and by literally eating them. Mixing 2D and 3D animation is (almost?) never a good idea, and isn’t here either. The girl made me mad when she just refused to shut doors behind her while being chased by zombies. I’ll watch Train to Busan (2016) next. The twist ending was a surprise, didn’t come completely out of nowhere, but was still not necessary. I give it 3.5 bottles of Energy D out of a possible 5 bottles of Energy D.

Train to Busan (2016)

Watched Train to Busan (2016), Director Yoo Gong’s live-action Korean zombie train movie about class warfare, not his animated Korean zombie train movie about class warfare. The movie stars, among others, Woo-sik Choi, the teen from Parasite (2019), that Korean dark comedy about class warfare, which was made by Bong Joon-Ho, the Korean director who also made Snowpiercer (2013), a train movie about class warfare. In Train to Busan, the zombie apocalypse happens during a train ride, and people from different classes war against each other while zombies pick them off. The theme is sacrifice. They are given a very nasty set of zombie parameters: fast zombies, fast infection, hard to kill, they don’t stop to eat people, and worst of all, animals can also be zombies. Hard to see a way out of this one. The little girl does a great job, especially in that final scene. The lead guy (also the director) does a good job, as does the muscle-man. I give it 4 Alohas out of a possible 5 Alohas.

A Hard Day (2014)

Watched A Hard Day (2014), a Korean crime movie about a corrupt police detective who has a really hard day. Despite definitely being a movie, it was paced a lot like several shorter television episodes strung together, and the sound track had a TV feel to it as well. I wonder what all the drowning symbolism could mean? There’s lots of tension, but it’s the kind of tension where you’re trying to hide a dead body in your mother’s casket, and the camera cuts between you and the funeral director who’s about to see you doing it. I like the shot where you think somebody’s going to get blown up, because that’s how the camera is set up, but then something else happens instead. Good thinking going back for the bullets, butterfingers. I give it 3 scruffy dogs out of a 5 scruffy dogs.