Movie DopeMovies

LaBeouf Stuff, a Seasonal Remake, a Potent Debut and More

Twas the week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—presale tickets can be had from all the major local theaters, including Ciné—and the studios were offering a sequel, a seasonal remake and Terrence Malick’s next potential masterpie­ce. 

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are inhabited by the two Dannys—DeVito and Glover, respectively—for Jumanji: The Next Level. Black Christmas gets revamped again. I adore Bob Clark’s 1975 proto-slasher and believe its colorfully disgusting remake, Black Xmas, was unfairly dismissed. In A Hidden Life, Malick documents the struggle of an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis in his sixth release since 2011. (Prior to that, he directed four movies from 1973–2005.)

Around town, enjoy a potluck dinner and a screening of one of 2019’s top docs, The Biggest Little Farm, courtesy of Athens Land Trust at Flicker on Dec. 12. On Dec. 17, it’s time for A Count Zapula Christmas! The Oglethorpe County Library is having a Holiday Movie Night featuring the best animated feature of the year, Toy Story 4, and a hot chocolate bar on Dec. 17. 

HONEY BOY (R) How much a viewer is willing to indulge Honey Boy, personal therapy writ large for star Shia LaBeouf, who also wrote this account of a former child star coming to terms with his father as part of a PTSD exercise during court-mandated rehab, largely depends on whether one goes in with preconceptions about the former Disney Channel star. Actor Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges) enters rehab after an accident and recounts his years as a child actor (Noah Jupe, recently seen in Ford v Ferrari) being managed by his father, James (played by LaBeouf, though he promised his father Mel Gibson would play him), a former rodeo clown struggling with addictions himself. 

LaBeouf’s biggest problem remains himself. Again, he proves an exceptional performer as the proxy for his father. Were filmgoers not to know who he was, they would leave roundly excited by this talent. However, LaBeouf brings massive baggage with him, turning off many a viewer frustrated by what could be constituted as navel gazing. Viewers encountering Honey Boy with an unbiased eye will find an honest account of child stardom and its effects on the child, his family and his psyche. If anyone knows, it is LaBeouf, who broke out on Disney’s “Even Stevens” at the age of 14. His film, ably directed by Alma Har’el, elucidates how fine the line can be between entertainment and abuse where children are concerned.     

QUEEN & SLIM (R) A powerful film ripped straight from the headlines, Queen & Slim has been incorrectly characterized as a black Bonnie and Clyde. Ernest Hines (Daniel Kaluuya) and Angela Johnson (Jodie Turner-Smith) were at the end of a Tinder date when an overly aggressive Cleveland cop (Sturgill Simpson) winds up dead at the end of a “routine” traffic stop. Forced on the lam, the newly dubbed Queen and Slim head to New Orleans seeking assistance from Queen’s pimp uncle (Bokeem Woodbine). 

In her feature debut, director Melina Matsoukas uses Lena Waithe’s potent script—itself based on a story Waithe concocted with A Million Little Pieces fabricator James Frey—to craft a forceful film about race, power and justice. Queen & Slim is bound to stoke powerful emotions in a diverse filmgoing crowd as it raises questions about equity that will discomfit the privileged while fomenting the frustration already felt by those without.

FORD V FERRARI (PG-13) Ford v Ferrari may be the year’s most exciting film. A thrilling account of Ford’s preparation for the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France features starkly realistic race sequences with performances from two magnetic movie stars, Matt Damon and Christian Bale, as well as stalwart support from Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Ray McKinnon and Josh Lucas. 

After leaving racing, Carroll Shelby (Damon), who won Le Mans in 1959, is tasked with building a Ford that can win the automobile marathon by Henry Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II (Letts). He hires a hot-tempered Brit, Ken “Bulldog” Miles (Bale), against the wishes of every Ford executive, including a young Lee Iacocca (Bernthal), with the promise that he was the only driver that could deliver a Ford victory. 

If the film sports a weakness, it is the constant bickering over Miles due to the villainy of corporate executive arrogance. The issues the Ford executives have with Miles seem too much like a plot device, considering the film’s preponderance of evidence that no driver is better. Ford v Ferrari epitomizes the classic Hollywood blockbuster fueled by movie star power and historical triumph. If you have yet to see this film—it took me longer than desired—add it to the ever-growing list of 2019 must sees and Best Picture contenders.