Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Movie Review: “Ford v. Ferrari”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hours. 32 minutes

Carroll Shelby was an American automotive designer, race car driver, entrepreneur and author. Ken Miles was an English race car driver and engineer. The two worked together to help the Ford Motor Company beat the Ferrari Motor Company in the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race. Prior to 1966, Ford had never beaten Ferrari.

The movie begins with Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) sitting in the doctor’s office where the doctor tells him he has a heart condition and that Shelby is lucky to be sitting there.

The audience is then introduced to Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who is a mechanic and race car driver.
Cut to Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) telling factory workers they’re all fired, except for the man who comes to his office with an idea, an idea that can help Ford beat Ferrari.

A little while later, we meet American executive, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) who wants the Ford Motor Company to get into racing. “We need to think like Ferrari; his cars mean victory. What if Ford meant victory?” Iacocca asked.

Iacocca proposes a merger between Ford and Ferrari, as well as a Ford/Ferrari race team. This doesn’t go over well with Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone).

Henry Ford II says he only wants the best of the best working on the design for their race car that he insists should be able to beat Ferrari. Iacocca goes to Shelby and asks him what it takes to win Le Mans. Shelby asks Miles to be on his team and help drive and design the car. Miles asks how much time they have to complete this immense task. Ninety days is the answer. Initially Miles wants nothing to do with this project, but his mind is quickly changed.

Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), who is an executive at Ford, doesn’t like Miles and calls him a Beatnik, telling Shelby he needs to “put a Ford-type drive in a Ford car.”

Shelby is called into Ford II’s office and questioned as to why everyone on Shelby makes a very good case and convinces Ford II that Miles has what it takes to win. A deal is made that if Miles wins the Daytona race, he can race at Le Mans. Miles, of course, wins. Now it’s on to Le Mans.

After a rough start at the 24-hour race, Miles finds a groove, though Beebe is still looking for a way to sabotage Miles. Will Ford beat Ferrari?

I liked this movie. It’s got a lot of action and tells an interesting story. It is a little on the longer side, but it keeps a steady pace and the characters and acting kept this viewer engaged. It’s funny in parts, too. Damon and Bale are already known for being good actors and their portrayal of these real-life individuals is no exception. The ending caught me a little off guard, but this is a very good movie. I recommend you see this on the big’s a fun ride!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Movie Review: “The Hustle”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hr., 34 mins.

Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) and Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson) are two very different types of con women. One is no nonsense, while the other takes a different approach. They both have the exact same goal: to make themselves rich.

I thought this movie started with funny dialogue right away. We meet Penny as she is in the process of conning a guy in a bar. Part way through, she is outed by the last guy she conned and the police chase after her. She manages to escape in a very clever way.

We meet Josephine in a casino, where a man is trying to con her, but is unsuccessful. Cut to Penny and Josephine on a train and Josephine overhears Penny running a con. Penny confesses to Josephine she is a con woman.

While Josephine is setting up her next con, she quickly realizes Penny has beat her to it and already run her con. Josephine saves Penny from this con, as she may have gotten in a little over her head.

Later, Penny suggests they run cons together, but Josephine insists she works alone. Penny asks for Josephine’s help and she eventually obliges. Soon, the two can effortlessly con one man after another.

After a series of cons, Josephine refuses to pay Penny. Penny decides to no longer work with Josephine.

As the island they are both on isn’t big, the two realize they both can’t have success conning the same people. So, they make a bet: first one to con a guy out of $500,000 is the winner and the other must leave. One week; may the best con win. They pick a Mark Zuckerburg-esque guy (Alex Sharp) who designed a smartphone app that has become very successful.

As the two try to outdo each other there is a cringeworthy moment and a lot of physical comedy. Penny finds out Thomas Westerburg (Sharp) might not be what he seemed and tells Josephine they should find another guy to con. Will they? Who will win the bet?

I enjoyed this movie. I found Hathaway and Wilson good partners-in-crime and very likeable con-women. The movie is funny in parts and a good time. There’s a decent twist at the end that I did not see coming. It’s another movie where you should stay through the credits. I think it is worth renting, just don’t con anyone out of the money to do so.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Movie Review: “Seth Myers: Lobby Baby”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-MA
Running time: 1 hour, 1 minute

You may remember him from “Saturday Night Live”, behind the Weekend Update desk; or, maybe you’re a fan of the “Late Night with Seth Myers”. Myers steps from out behind the desk and takes his jokes to Minneapolis, for his first streaming standup comedy special.

Myers, who appears very relaxed throughout the entire special, begins by addressing the fact that it might be weird to see him not sitting behind a desk. It might be weird to see my legs, he adds.

A majority of the special is about his family; his wife, and living with their two toddlers, but Myers also talks about his parents and shares a story or two growing up with his brother and interactions with their dad. I found some of his humor to be self-deprecating.

He talks about dating his wife and how she got food poisoning the night before they were married, what it’s like to be a parent, and the unusual way one of his children was born. The special’s title, ‘Lobby Baby’ is somewhat of a giveaway.

He briefly talks about religion and, as is his style, spends a bit of time talking about politics. Now this can be an uncomfortable topic for some, and Myers is aware of that, which is why his special features a first ever ‘skip politics’ button which allows the user to skip over that section of the special.

Directed by comedian Neal Brennan (co-creator of Chappelle’s Show), this special offers a look at what the late-night host is like, when the cameras are off and he doesn’t have his desk.

As a comedy fan, I watched Meyers from his “Saturday Night Live” days and occasionally watch his late-night show. He is funny and so are parts of his special, but my eyes weren’t watering from laughing. However, Myers is an excellent storyteller. I found his personal stories engaging and he has a way of telling them that keeps you interested. While I didn’t find this special to be a gut-buster, I would recommend it. I give it a Netflix thumbs up.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review: “Rabbits for Food” by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor of the Windham Public Library

If you liked “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews, “Rabbits for Food” might also be for you. While not as sweet or tender as “All My Puny Sorrows”, Kirsenbaum’s book, which like Toews’s tackles mental illness, is funny and heartbreaking all at once.

Bunny, once a novelist, now a woman on the verge of a breakdown, and later a woman institutionalized for that breakdown, is pointed, sardonic, and heartbroken.

Even though she hasn’t washed, dressed, or moved from the couch in weeks, Bunny insists on attending a New Year’s Eve party with her dedicated, sweet, and imperfect husband, Albie. The party is pretentious and obnoxious, and Bunny tries to keep it together but fails. She has a breakdown.

She’s institutionalized. Through her, we meet the other patients (the addicted nurse, the anorexic who starts pulling out her hair, the man who wears his underwear on the outside), the rules (what is allowed and not allowed), the group activities, the awful food. In the absence of the therapy dog, Bunny participates in creative writing and through her loosely interpreted “assignments” we learn about what brought her to this sad place in her life.

This book shifts in time and perspective which is, I think, intentionally disorienting. The feel of the book mimics the strange disassociation that can often mark a depressive episode. This is an emotionally powerful book—I laughed, I cried. I felt truly heartbroken for each of the characters and I rooted for Bunny to be okay. Which (spoiler alert), she kind of is.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Movie Review: “The Laundromat”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Based on the book, ‘Secrecy World’ by Jake Bernstein, ‘The Laundromat’ is the story of Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) and her husband, Joe (James Cromwell), who are involved in a tour boat sinking, and Joe dies. Martin realizes the insurance company is taking advantage of her and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

At the movie’s start, a man is describing how his life changed overnight for him and his associate. He feels only one side of the story was told. Now it is his turn to tell his side. We later learn this is Jurgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and his associate is Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas); the movie circles around the dealings of these two. Mossack describes the origins of money and how it has evolved.

We then meet Ellen Martin after her husband has died. The captain (Robert Patrick) is being told that the insurance company won’t pay and/or doesn’t exist. Once Martin finds out she is being taken advantage of she goes on a tour to try and track down the individuals responsible for this fraud. What follows are accounts of all the shady companies and individuals associated with Mossack and Fonseca as they try to explain away why that what they’ve been doing is okay.

This is a biographical movie that was based on a book about the Panama Papers about the leaked financial documents regarding thousands of offshore entities. First, the stuff I liked about the movie: It is mildly funny in spots and has several cameos from some very funny people, and a well-known actor from a popular 1990s sitcom. There is a moment or two that caught me off guard and the end was a surprise, although I had trouble putting it all together in my head.

Now the stuff that confused me or I didn’t like: when I watched the trailer, I thought this was going to be a bit of a revenge story. It is – kind of, however is badly laid out and slow in several areas. I was under the impression this movie centered around Ellen Martin, but it is all over the place for large chunks, characters come and go and come and go and it wasn’t made clear (or maybe it was and I missed it) how they were involved.

The movie does make an important point at the end, but it takes a very long time to get there and there is a lot of confusion in between the problem that is pointed out in the beginning and the final solution at the end. Though it has a decent cast, I cannot say I would recommend this movie. I give it two puzzled face emojis.