• Ford versus Ferrari (2019)

    Ford versus Ferrari is too bland of a title for this amazing movie. International title Le Mans 66 already sounds much better. I would however propose Miles & Shelby: Friendship Through Racing. This is what the movie is all about. There is a lot of competition, culture, drama, hardship and racing in this film but once you have gotten the bigger picture, this movie really is about the friendship between an ambitious constructor and a tough driver.

    This gem of a movie convinces on numerous levels. The settings are authentic and bring the United States of America, Italy and France of the mid-sixties back to life. An old sports car here, an iconic poster there and legendary race circuits bring back the pioneer age of race driving.

    The actresses and actors are doing an outstanding job. Christian Bale and Matt Damon are two of the greatest actors to be around and they underline their excellent reputation for two and a half entertaining hours. Christian Bale convinces as rough guy with a tender core who cares as much about his own success as he does about his son who idolizes him. Matt Damon incarnates an ambitious entrepreneur who always strives to make the impossible possible. The supporting actors and actresses are also noteworthy as Caitriona Balfe convinces as resilient, smart and emotional wife and mother while Remo Girone delivers the goods by incarnating legendary entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari.

    The story is obviously also addictive as viewers care about the fates of the charismatic protagonists. The plot might be predictable, especially if you have some background knowledge about the actual events this movie is based upon. This however doesn't reduce this film's enjoyment because everything is crafted with authenticity, detail and wit.

    In the end, anyone who likes racing must watch this intense drama despite a few minor lengths. Those who were longing for a similar movie after the astonishing Rush six years earlier, will finally get something to crave for. Ford versus Ferrari is one of the most emotional dramas of the year and best enjoyed on the big screen at your local movie theatre.

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  • Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

    Motherless Brooklyn is a wonderful film noir that combines drama with thriller elements. It's easily the greatest American movie of the year and only South Korean masterpiece Parasite beats it on an international level. I wouldn't be surprised if this movie were nominated for several Academy Awards a few months from here.

    The greatest element about this movie is its atmosphere. It's dirty, gloomy and sinister. This is due to excellent camera techniques recalling film noir techniques of the fifties. The light techniques also blend in very well as the movie works a lot with dimmed lights and different shades. The settings also contribute as the lifestyles of the rich and poor are contrasted by the locations they live. The period cars, clothes and music blend in perfectly as well. There are few films that have brought the past back to life so authentically as it's the case here.

    One has to point out the character developments and excellent acting performances. Edward Norton is incredible as socially awkward investigator with a strong moral compass. Gugu Mbatha-Raw convinces as upright human rights activist with a mysterious past. Alec Baldwin convinces as ambitious, eloquent but sinister businessman. Willem Dafoe perfectly incarnates his brilliant, desperate and isolated brother. Bruce Willis convinces as courageous leader with a hidden agenda. The way these numerous characters interact like dynamic pawns in a twisted game of chess is absolutely incredible.

    Last but not least, one has to underline the excellent story. It comes around with interesting developments, turns and twists without ever feeling staged. The story is on the pulse of time of what was going on in the United States of America in the years and decades following the Second World War. You can learn about that period of time in this movie than you ever will in documentaries and history books. Telling you anything more would lessen the magnificent experience of watching this masterpiece.

    In the end, Motherless Brooklyn is a brilliant film noir that perfectly balances drama and thriller elements. It's a movie that takes its time to develop its characters, settings and story but the audience will be rewarded with an authentic, emotional and intellectual masterpiece. Nervously fidgeting youngsters might find the movie slightly long-winded but fail to understand that this movie successfully hearkens back to the art of cinematography established throughout the golden years of American filmmaking.

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  • Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

    Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood is one of the Quentin Tarantino movies that is the most difficult to describe. Usually, there are movies of his that convince with atmosphere, depth and twists such as Inglorious Basterds or films that are rather shallow, referential and confusing like Kill Bill. The only movie that is somewhere in between both extremes might be Jackie Brown that convinces with great acting and cool retro atmosphere but disappoints with unnecessary lengths and a weak story. This new movie could be compared to Jackie Brown.

    The acting performances, especially by a very cool Brad Pitt and a vividly emotional Leonardo DiCaprio, are absolutely outstanding. Without the two brilliant main actors, this movie would have been painfully average but the strong acting performances make it a good movie, neither more nor less. The movie truly manages to capture the spirit of the end of the golden age of Hollywood with numerous references to popular television series and movies such as The Green Hornet and Rosemary's Baby. The movie cleverly mixes facts and fiction.

    However, the movie clearly overstays its welcome with a running time of one hundred sixty-one minutes. The film takes more than two hours to introduce all characters and settings until the climax unfolds in about ten minutes. While most of Quentin Tarantino's movies have a clever twist, the one used here is slightly disappointing at first contact but at least offers some food for thought in hindsight. This is the kind of movie that grows on you as you think about it later on while it slightly disappoints while watching it.

    This movie should be recommended to those who are either interested in the history of the American film industry or admire Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio who would both deserve Academy Awards for their extraordinary performances. The movie however has massive lengths and an almost unspectacular story. It's worth being watched at the cinema but overall slightly overrated due to the massive critical acclaim any Quentin Tarantino movie seems to receive.

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  • Through Black Spruce (2018)

    Through Black Spruce is a sinister drama shot in northern Ontario in and around Moosonee and in and around Canada's biggest city Toronto. The movie presents two story lines that are closely connected. After a young Cree model disappeared with her criminal lover in Toronto, gang members who want money from them put pressure on her resilient uncle in remote but beautiful Moosonee as they believe he might know more about their mysterious disappearance. Meanwhile, the model's twin sister travels to Toronto to find out what really happened and soon realizes that the vanished couple had a volatile relationship and got into trouble with criminals.

    Based upon an award-winning novel, the most fascinating thing about Through Black Spruce is that the story is particularly realistic and honest. Many First Nations women get involved into drug trafficking and prostitution and end up getting caught in a vicious circle of addiction, isolation and violence. This movie shows one such case and portrays the desperate situation with bleak atmosphere, slow precision and cold realism. The locations meandering between the small town of Moosonee which only connects to the rest of the province via the railway and the gigantic city of Toronto where people with numerous backgrounds meet are facsinating to watch. The acting performances by lead actor Brandon Oakes and lead actress Tanaya Beatty are excellent as they rely more on body language and facial expressions than lengthy dialogues and extravagant clothing or make-up. The award-winning soundtrack underlines the movie's sinister atmosphere perfectly.

    The movie might have got several negative reviews because of its slow pace but this approach actually adds to the increasingly frightening atmosphere. Some reviewers criticized the story in general and the film's ending in particular but both focus on realism rather than satisfaction and blend in very well with the rest of the movie. There are some gloomy action scenes here and there to spice things up but they are fittingly integrated. If you are expecting a fast-paced movie with a twisted plot and vivid special effects, then this movie simply isn't for you. The unique style of this crime drama however makes it a memorable experience and should particularly please those interested in First Nations cultures.

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  • The Grizzlies (2018)

    The Grizzlies is a profound drama based upon true events that shows how a young teacher and lacrosse player named Russ Sheppard accepts a job in remote hamlet Kugluktuk in Nunavut which has the highest suicide rate of any community in North America. People suffer from the lack of perspectives, the haunting past of residential schools, drug abuse, domestic violence and alcoholism. Russ Sheppard is motivated to inspire change upon arrival but soon realizes that students disrespect him because of his skin colour, don't hand in their assignments and skip school. He doesn't give up however and wants to start a lacrosse competition which is something the community has never seen before. After initial negative reactions, the young teacher convinces more and more students to train, form teams and participate in challenges and tournaments. The teacher and his students now need to convince the entire community to finance a trip to a national competition in Toronto.

    The culture, history and well-being of Canada's First Nations has always been a very important subject to me and that should be the case for any Canadian or person who identifies with Canadian values. What Canadian governments have done to First Nations is often rightfully described as a genocide and no excuses can heal the wounds of the past. It's a long and painful process for First Nations to embrace their identities again and this struggle can be seen throughout this touching film. The first scene of the movie shows how a teenager chases his dog away and then commits suicide. The new teacher is often about to give up when he gets physically assaulted by a student, learns of another student having committed suicide and witnesses brutal domestic abuse. Despite those realistically gloomy circumstances, this movie shows that the remote community needs something to believe in and that there are great human beings within those desperate souls. The movie perfectly balances depressing and hopeful elements and is a moving tearjerker. It's great to see movies like The Grizzlies or Indian Horse getting critical acclaim and attention and such movies must be selected to represent Canada at international film competitions like the Academy Awards as well.

    If you are Canadian or sympathizing with Canadian values, you must watch this emotional drama that is The Grizzlies. Even nowadays, prejudice, racism and rejection of First Nations is still a problem and this movie helps decreasing such issues and promoting the togetherness of all communities in Canada. The film's noble intentions are amplified by oustanding acting, superb cinematography and a profound story.

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