Movies of the Week #3 #4 (2020)

Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (2018):  In The Zen Diaries, the title really delivers, you get a portrait of someone as if reading their most intimate thoughts. Just a guy trying to put some order into his life, someone who literally learned how to be funny, for whom it didn’t all come easily. There’s a lot of work that goes into making something seem easy, but there will always be Rafael Nadals to Roger Federers, people who just make you believe that there is more than one path to excellence. More in the full review here. 9/10

Prometheus (2012): Hard to believe it’s been almost eight years since Prometheus was released, not to mention the forty years since the first Alien movie. Alas, that’s how time flies, and Prometheus is still a bitter pill to swallow for many. Some ludicrous set-pieces and underdeveloped characters who have a strong claim for the “who sent these idiots in space” pantheon were frustrating to sit through. However, I loved the look and feel of the movie when I first saw it and I stick to my initial evaluation, the beautiful, eerie, haunting monster design sticking with me well after the end credits. Then again, I’m so committed to the series I would probably volunteer to being facehugged, so maybe look for a second opinion. 7/10

Luce (2019): When a couple are faced with the possibility that their (adopted) son might be more troubled than the average teenager, they suddenly have to answer surprising questions about love, family and loyalty (a bit similar to The Dinner, which I reviewed upon its release). In this unnerving adaptation of J.C. Lee’s play, you get a sense that all is not right, yet most of the movie unfolds along familiar lines. Thankfully there’s enough nuance and subtlety to it, especially in its final third, that Luce manages to stand out and ask some important questions about modern day America and the children of today and tomorrow. So a good dollop of meta commentary to make it worthwhile. 7/10

Ford v Ferrari (2019): A perfect ride for racing enthusiasts, a solid ride for those who like movies about people who have obsessions beyond themselves. James Mangold directs Christian Bale and Matt Damon in the story of how Ford Motors came to beat Ferrari at the (in)famous Le Mans 24 hour race for the first time in the 1960s. It’s a movie about ambition, nationhood, pride, and finding that perfect racing line, as the trailer emphasizes. As far as racing movies go, this one is up there with Rush, strong filmmaking with an entertaining rags to riches story to go with it and just enough politics to give it that extra dimension. If there’s something I didn’t like (and generally don’t like), it’s seeing female wife-girlfriend characters with no other purpose than to support/criticize the lead, so it’s a shame Caitriona Balfe didn’t get more to chew on here. Beyond this, I can only recommend FvF, as the epitome of light, yet emotional mainstream entertainment. 8/10

Dark Waters (2019): If you enjoy your Erin Brockoviches, this one will be right up your alley. In the late 90s (that’s more than two decades ago, fyi – I’m sticking with this whole “time, where you gone, dawg?!” theme), cows are dying up shit’s creek USA, and the big bad guys of Megacorp inc. are to blame. So yeah, you’ve seen this, but Dark Waters thrives in its environment, as a successful lawyer played by Mark Ruffalo short-circuits his career (family, health) in order to bring the good fight to DuPont, one of the world’s largest chemical companies. Equality does not factor into this fight, but Rob Bilott somehow has the stomach, determination and masochism to keep at it until something gives. It’s a tastefully done underdog story, and while it doesn’t do anything spectacular, it sure entertains. 7/10