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The Mule (2018)

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Film Review : The Mule

Family’s the most important thing.
Work’s fine, if it’s in second position.
But first position should be family.

The Old Man & the Gun” might be the piece de résistance of Robert Redford. “The Mule” might be the grand finale in Clint Eastwood’s career. This legendary actor looks shockingly old. I even felt sorry for him at certain times. The way he was treated is inconsistent with the image you have of him in other movies. I hoped that as a veteran, he would use a few handy fighting movements to silence the arrogant cartel members. Forget it. Clint Eastwood stayed loyal to his role as a submissive and defenseless elderly person who does what he’s told. But you can rest assured, Mr. Eastwood is and remains a brilliant and respectable actor. There’s no praise great enough when it comes to his acting talent. And this tough, almost 90-year-old man may slide the director’s chair under his weathered butt for many years because as a producer he made a few great movies as well (such as “Trouble with the curve”, “Sully” and “American Sniper“).

 

 

It’s not a nerve-wracking film.

Not only does Eastwood play the leading role in “The Mule“, but he also produced it. The pace Eastwood uses here is striking. Everything goes smoothly, quietly and calmly. It’s the age, I guess. In any case, he takes his time to tell the story. It didn’t bother me at all because it’s a pleasure to see how the Eastwood actor does his thing. Even though he’s someone who has reached a blessed age, he still knows how to impress as an actor. More than the film itself actually. Not that it’s a really boring film, but there’s not much action here either. I have the impression Eastwood is using this film to apologize to his close relatives for being frequently absent because of his busy career. Perhaps that’s why his own daughter Alison Eastwood was assigned the role of his movie-daughter.

 

 

No quality time with the family.

Eastwood plays the war veteran Earl Stone. A famous florist who, after his company is declared bankrupt, has to find another way to earn some money. Stone is an old-fashioned grump who lost contact with society apparently. Hence his misplaced comments about the internet and the way he addresses an African-American family. He was a true bon vivant and charmer in his younger years. Someone who led his own life in his own way and had little or no time for his family. That’s why he’s not welcomed with open arms by his wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) and daughter Iris (Alison Eastwood) when he returns after the internet ruined his business.

 

From flowers to drugs.

The only one who receives him with open arms is Rico, a friend of Earl’s granddaughter, who tells him about a seemingly simple job that pays good money. And before he realizes it, he’s a drug mule driving around for a Mexican drug cartel. His innocent appearance and stoic calmness ensure that Earl doesn’t appear on the radar of Detective Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper). While this motivated agent decisively searches for “El Tata”, this cheerfully singing grandfather transports kilos of cocaine stacked between pecans in the trunk of his car. Colin Bates even gets a free life lesson from Earl somewhere in a diner along the highway.

 

 

Drugs and family – bad combination as well.

Of course, drug smuggling is the main subject of this film. A story based on true facts where 87-year-old Leo Sharp was caught with smuggling 90 kilos of cocaine. This film also shows how ruthless drug cartels are. But it’s also a film about regret, remorse and the frantic attempts to heal lost family ties. Perhaps it felt kitschy and corny at some point, but that was compensated by the subtle humor that seeped into the dialogues (a lesbian motorcycle gang and comparing a Mexican authoritative figure with the “Fuhrer”). Maybe a bit daring at certain moments, but I could only make approving chuckling noises. “The Mule” certainly isn’t Eastwood’s best film and the ending is a bit too abrupt. But it was still a pleasure to see movie icon Clint Eastwood at work again.

 

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

 

Drama

The Way Back: Thanks To Ben Affleck This Movie Effortlessly Exceeds The Average

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I’m surprised you could keep him out of the bar
long enough to hold practice.

 

There are lots of similar sports movies like “The Way Back“. Moralistic stories about how a trainer manages to bring a floundering team to unprecedented heights. Preferably, the team consists of a few foul-mouthed hotheads who want to impress the others by acting tough. Usually, they have a talent for the sport they practice, but lack of discipline makes them miss constancy. To the annoyance of the appointed coach at that moment. Of course, they are allergic to any type of authoritarian behavior. Until the new coach comes up. Preferably an old sports star who can look back on a successful sports career and who comes to the rescue by using clever pedagogical techniques. First of all, he gives each of the team members a figurative kick in the butt. Suspends the most rebellious pain in the ass (who of course comes back crawling to ask if he can be re-included in the team because the sport is vital for him). Then the grueling training sessions begin in such a way that this bunch of misfits finally starts winning games and slowly propel them to stardom. You saw it in “Coach Carter”, “Slap Shot” and to a lesser extent in “Major League”. “The Way Back” follows this same scenario. Only here the coach is also struggling with his personal demons.

 

The Way Back

 

You’ll always find a reason to start drinking.

I’m not a real Ben Affleck fan. Not that I think he’s a bad actor. Maybe the movie choices he made were a bit unfortunate. With “Daredevil” as the most terrible career choice, in my opinion. But here Affleck shows that he does have acting talent. Perhaps personal life experiences are the reason why he was able to empathize with the role of coach Jack easily. A tormented person who lost everything after a tragic event and sought refuge in drinking. Something Affleck has experience with since he has already admired the inside of a rehabilitation center several times. Probably because of this that the scenes during which he carelessly drinks, look so realistic. As well as the way he behaves when he’s not in a bar. The manipulation, the sneaking around, and the search for excuses. Typical behavior of an addict trying to hide his weakness. “The Way Back” tries to portray this addiction meticulously. If you see the umpteenth beercan disappear from the fridge while a spare one is already put in the freezer to stay cold, you as a viewer know that Jack is not a social drinker but a problem drinker with a fixed routine.

 

The Way Back

 

Impressive acting in a not so impressive movie.

Like many other film productions, “The Way Back” has been disadvantaged by the Corona pandemic. Had the original release date not been shifted from late 2019 to March this year, the damage would have been limited. Hence Warner Bross’s decision to release this movie directly on various platforms such as iTunes and Prime video among others. Now, I myself don’t consider it a requirement to watch “The way back” in a cinema. Apart from the admirable acting of Affleck, this film is nothing more than an average film that doesn’t impress in terms of originality. It seems as if a pre-printed checklist has been used for this type of film. A group of young people with a wrong attitude and who, as a basketball team, wallows in the role of the underdog. Check! Ex basketball player whose life is in a downward spiral. Check! Miraculous revival of the despised basketball team. Check! Family tragedy that ruined the coach’s life. Check! Obviously a relapse happens. Check! Once again a miraculous resurgence leading to a happy ending. Check! It feels like a three-pointer every time a check is placed on this list.

 

The Way Back

 

Give it a try.

In short. The film won’t win a prize in the category of originality. The already well-trodden paths of previously released sports dramas are followed too carefully. But what Ben Affleck demonstrates here (and I know I’m repeating myself) makes that this movie effortlessly exceeds the average. Only the way and period in which he defeated his demons, felt romanticized. And finally, you should not confuse this film with the 2010 film of the same name about a Polish prisoner who could escape from a Russian gulag with some fellow sufferers. The only similarity the Ben Affleck film has with the latter is that the road followed by the group of young people is also full of obstacles. And giving up is also not an option. So if you run into it anywhere on a VOD channel, give it a try. It’s not really a waste of time.

 

 

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

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Drama

The Banker: A Must-See For Sure

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Sometimes you need to take a step back
and enjoy what you’ve accomplished, baby.

 

What an amusing movie this was. Such a movie you start watching and before you know it, the end credits roll across your screen. Even though the subject won’t get you very excited. The world of real estate and banking. A world populated with stiffs in perfectly fitting suits who prefer to juggle with repayment schedules and capitalization rates while using a jargon that a normal human can’t make heads or tails of. I sometimes have my doubts about whether they understand it thoroughly themselves. And the reason why it became an entertaining film is not only due to the packaging but also because of the Holy Trinity Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. A colorful (pun not intended) cast that effortlessly works through dialogues and plays so naturally that it seems as if they have been working together for years.

 

The Banker

 

The racial issue.

In addition to the real estate market as a subject, there’s also the issue of racial discrimination that was still visible in the U.S. from the 50s. A black man who wants to settle in a white neighborhood wasn’t so obvious. Let alone that he could also take out a loan to buy and sell real estate in such a neighborhood. Hence the idea of Bernard (Anthony Mackie), a Texas-born African-American who is firmly convinced to succeed in his intent to make money from doing business rather than manual labor, to recruit Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) as a business partner and use Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) as a straw man. Well, they aren’t exactly ideal partners. The first is a flamboyant bon vivant and blabbermouth who comes across as an untrustworthy slick. And Matt is a hard worker with a good heart. Only he’s not really blessed with a top-level brain like Bernard.

 

The Banker

 

A light-hearted first part.

The first half of the movie is the more light-hearted part. The start of the Bernard Empire and the process of turning Matt Steiner into a convincing businessman. For me, this was the most hilarious part. The golf lessons where Samuel L. Jackson excels as the extravagant golf teacher and the math part Bernard takes care of. The amusing discussion that Steiner had with a wealthy man while trying to buy his building, was the ultimate climax of this period of training. And when this first chapter is over and the gentlemen are gradually taking over the real estate market in California, the next chapter pops up. The more serious part of the movie.

 

The Banker

 

Bernard’s second plan didn’t go as planned.

The first part not only showed how the two gentlemen managed to circumvent the discriminatory way of doing business in a devious way. It also showed how black people were deprived of the right to develop themselves in American society during that period. Loans and property sales were simply forbidden. Bernard’s plan to subsequently buy a bank in Texas, where segregation was still very much present, in order to support his black fellow man, is what you see in this tailpiece. Needless to say, this wasn’t a smooth operation.

 

The Banker

 

Highly recommended.

The Banker” is based on true facts and I believe it truly shows how it went in the U.S. and how people were deprived of decent housing. Perhaps Bernard Garrett intended to act as a benefactor and pave the way for African Americans. Maybe he was doing it out of self-interest, too, simply to prove to himself and his father that you could succeed if you firmly believe in it. Anyway, “The Banker” is a great movie with a serious part and a very entertaining part. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s the cast that takes the whole thing to a higher level. A must-see for sure.

‘The Banker,’ is now available on Apple TV+

 

PS. I wrote this a week ago. But due to the situation in the U.S. right now, this movie is even more current and confrontational than before.

 

 

My rating 8/10
Links: IMDB

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Drama

The King of Staten Island | Official Trailer -HD

Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.

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Genre:

Comedy, Drama

Release Date:

June 12, 2020

Director:

Judd Apatow

Cast:

Pete Davidson, Bel Powley, Ricky Velez, Lou Wilson, Moises Arias, Carly Aquilino, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow

Plot Summary:

Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.

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