Movie review from a history teacher – 1917

1917 - no man's land

As a History teacher, Historical reenactor and writer, I have VERY high standards for movies that claim to be historical or even based on actual events. When I critique a movie that has a historical premise, I ask a few questions: does this movie have useful information, as well as being entertaining; can I show this movie to my students; and, if I show this movie, will it cause more confusion than clarity?

I am extremely choosy about which films I show in class. Some movies have good historical content, but for one reason or another aren’t suitable in a historical lesson.

1917-trenches

1917 checks all the boxes as great historical fiction

1917 answers all of the questions I listed above very well. One of the biggest aspects of WWI that I have to get my students to relate to is life in the trenches. 1917 constantly shows how muddy and nasty the trenches were — the rats were a good touch! The battlefield conditions were excellently displayed in the depiction of how desolate and dangerous “No Man’s Land” was. Also cool — the new technology of how airplanes were used. (It was the aerial photographs that told the general The British were walking into a trap.)

The action and pace of the movie was good. 1917 has a compelling story and it keeps you engaged. It is not just the hundreds of brother’s in arms they are trying to save, but also his real brother in the story.

1917 is historical fiction done right

In short, this movie is NOT actual history. The two main characters are a composite of the director’s actual grandfather, and his service as a message runner in WWI during The Battle of Poelcappelle.

Did it happen in the movie exactly like his Grandpa said? No, but slight embellishments that do not alter the telling of the story or the relating of the historical event are forgivable. If a student asks, I can easily explain that the characters show what the dangers of being a messenger in WWI was like.  1917 was very well done historical fiction and it earns every award that it gets!

Where was 1917 filmed?

Is there anything extra during the end credits of 1917?

Movie Review – 1917

 

Movie Review – Dark Waters

Movie Review - Dark WatersIt was an amazing expose that has reignited the media and informed the public about this company and its subsidiaries.

I found this movie inspirational because it depicted the hard work of a lawyer who dedicated more than a decade of his life to see justice prevail.

It was eye-opening for me because so often, as consumers, we trust the government and corporations — believing that they would never intentionally harm us.

I think the take away from this is to be an investigative consumer, especially when it comes to things that affect our health.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: The filmmakers had to culminate many years of information into 2 hours, so there weren’t many irrelevant scenes. There were some awe-striking moments that I think viewers should watch and so I tried very hard to not select Peetimes that would cut into those scenes. Though not easy, I was able to get 3 Peetimes throughout the movie.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Dark Waters. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic content, some disturbing images and strong language
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Ancestry.com has discovered that Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers are sixth cousins. That’s made all the more relevant due to Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in the critically-acclaimed movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. (Bringing a whole new meaning to getting into character.)

“It all just comes together, you see,” Hanks told Access Hollywood when the show informed him of the relation.

According to Ancestry.com, Fred and Tom share a 5x great-grandfather (Johannes Meffert), who immigrated from Germany to America in the 18th century.

At first glance, that seems pretty astounding, but when you consider probabilities of family trees overlapping, it becomes less and less impressive the further back in time you go. For instance, there’s nearly a 100% probability that any two people of European decent share an ancestor from 1,000 years ago.

And of course, if you want to get pedantic about it, that banana you had for breakfast was your 108-cousin. 🙂

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

What happened to Pete Miles – Ken’s son in Ford v Ferrari?

ford-v-ferrariPeter Miles was 14 years old — almost 15 —  at the time of his father’s fatal crash. Shortly after his father’s death, Peter went to work for Ken’s friend Dick Troutman at the Troutman and Barnes custom car shop in Culver City, CA. Peter worked there for 14 years.

Peter joined Precision Performance Inc. in 1986. He started out as a fabricator, and then became a mechanic, before advancing to the position of crew chief. Peter was the crew chief for Ivan Stewart when Stewart won the 1991 Nissan 400 in Nevada.

In a 2019 interview, Peter revealed that the last time he went to Le Mans was in 1965 with his father Ken.

Ray McKinnon in Ford v Ferrari – where have I seen him before?

Movie Review – Ford v Ferrari

Movie Review – Midway

Movie Review - MidwaySorry to say: this movie doesn’t live up to the true events it attempts to depict. Unless you feel you must see the battle events on the big screen, this movie is better suited to DVD/streaming…in 2 or 3 months when it’s available.

To be sure, there’s plenty of explosions, bombs dropping, explosions, aerial dog fights, explosions, plane crashes, explosions,… 😉 That aspect of the movie doesn’t fail, except that it honestly gets a little redundant. (I wonder how many minutes of the movie were focused on closeups of Dick Best as he dive bombed — too many for sure.)

Where the movie falls short of it’s target, is in character development. And I mean all of it. There wasn’t a single character that had any sort of depth.

MIDWAY: between a bad movie and a horrible movie.Historically, I know the US Navy winning the Battle of Midway wasn’t just one miracle, it was several miracles. In the movie they tell us that, but we never really feel it. The story just doesn’t connect the dots in the way it should have. I’m not saying this is easy, but with a budget like this movie had there’s no excuse for not having a better script.

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: I managed to find 4 good Peetimes and would recommend the 3rd one. There are no battle scenes in any of the Peetimes.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Midway. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for sequences of war violence and related images, language and smoking
Genres: Action, Drama, History

Movie Review – Harriet

Movie Review - HarrietAs many of you know, I am a fan of biopics. I said to myself, “Self, is Hollywood going to mess this story up?” But, surprisingly, they didn’t let me down. Harriet is a must-see for sure. Given that many people may not know the full story about Harriet Tubman, this movie does a good job with the golden nuggets about who she was and how she became one of the most renowned conductors of the Underground Railroad.

While watching, I didn’t feel as if the scenes were over dramatic or over saturated with the use of the N-word. The drama, location, and subtle use of humor were blended nicely for such grim subject matter.

The actors did a great job! I can never get enough of Janelle Monáe.

Cynthia Erivo played an excellent Harriet, although many of us may still be partial to Cicely Tyson in that role in 1978. Cynthia also sang one of the songs on the soundtrack — Stand Up. It will raise the hairs on your skin. Speaking of the soundtrack, you might add this one to your musical playlist; it’s hella good.

A couple of quick things that resonated for me. There’s a part in the movie where Harriet makes up her mind to go back to rescue others. Marie, played by Janelle Monáe, teaches Harriet how to blend in and not look or sound like a slave. That scene validated what I tell the women I mentor all the time. Don’t dress like the job you have; dress like the job you want.

The last thing that was paramount in Harriet’s journey was her realizing what her journey was all about. She went back with one mission, but she quickly had to shift gears when she learned that wasn’t her mission at all. That was the moment her real transformation into a courageous, strong-minded, ingenious hero began.

There’s a lot more I can say about this movie but I’ll stop here for now. Feel free to share your thoughts below. I want to know what resonated with you about the movie.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: It wasn’t too difficult selecting Peetimes. This is a biopic about a well-known figure in American and Canadian history; therefore, sensitivity to the plot was imperative. There are 3 Peetimes. I recommend the 2nd Peetime.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Harriet. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – The Current War

Movie Review - The Current WarUnless there’s some compelling reason you have for seeing this movie in the theater, I think it would make an excellent movie night at home when it’s streaming online, or on DVD.

The only negative thing I have to say about this movie is that the pacing goes way too fast. The scenes cut back and forth between settings way too fast. A long scene in this movie is probably only 3 minutes long, and there’s few of them.

I think this movie could have been much better if it were 30 (or even 45) minutes longer. I felt like I was watching a movie and not experiencing a movie — if that makes any sense.

The casting and acting were good, but not great. It was cool to see Dr. Strange and Spider-Man side by side for a few scenes. But honestly, I think the character of Mr. Insull was totally wasted on Tom Holland. Not that Tom did a bad job — there just wasn’t anything in the script for him to work with.

If there’s one place the movie totally fails, it’s that they focus on the main characters and plot at the expense of establishing just how profoundly impactful electric lights were to the common man.

Can you remember that feeling the first time you used a smartphone? Now take that and multiply by a billion. Humanity had lived forever in darkness, minus a candle or campfire, until the advent of electric lights. (Yes, there were oil lamps on streets in select cities, but even that was ultra new.)

Electric lights, along with the phonograph and telephone, were nothing short of the introduction of magic. They just scratched the surface of expressing that in the movie.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: It was hard to get Peetimes for this movie because it cut from one short scene to another fairly consistently. Most of the longer scenes were too important, and full of dialog, to use as Peetimes. I have three Peetimes spaced through the movie. I can’t really say than any one of them is better or worse than the others.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Current War. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some violent content and thematic elements
Genres: Biography, Drama, History

Movie Review – Judy

Movie Review - JudyI was sitting in the theater watching Judy when I realized I’m the target audience. I grew up idolizing this gifted woman and was well aware of her continuous struggles to rid herself of the demons that seemed to dictate her life. So I feel most qualified to review this movie.

When you see Renee Zellweger’s interpretation of Judy Garland, you’ll see why everyone (that matters) is raving about her performance. Some people (who really don’t matter) are panning Renee’s performance as over-exaggerated and off-key.

I think perhaps these people didn’t grow up knowing the real Judy Garland — they only know Dorothy Gale. Renee’s gesticulations were spot on. And because Renee’s voice didn’t reflect the golden tones of a sixteen year old girl singing about rainbows and such, she was unduly criticized. Director Rupert Goold explained that during 1969, Judy’s voice was older, and the years had not been nice to her vocal cords, nor the rest of her body. In short, Renee nailed it. Move over Oscar #1, Mamma’s bringing home Oscar #2.

I have to say that in my theater the demographics were couples over sixty. I spoke with several couples who found, just as I did, that Renee’s interpretation was spot-on. I fear that movie-goers younger than fifty will not get the same enjoyment as the baby boomers will have. But this does not include folks under fifty who actually have very good cinematic taste.

In all respects, this is an excellent movie; well acted, directed, and written. Also, major kudos to the costume and makeup departments. I see an Oscar nod in their future. BTW, the ending alone is worth the price of a ticket.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: About midway through the movie I’ve given you a 5 minute break. You may want to take advantage of this Peetime, because it’s the last one, and there’s still about another half hour of the movie left.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Judy. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – The Best of Enemies

Movie Review - The Best of EnemiesThis biopic is set in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971. First of all, the plot took me by surprise, given the magnitude of racial tension that still exists. This is not your normal racially-charged kind of black-versus-white-movie where tensions escalate, folks get hung, justice is never served, and everyone walks out the movie theater quiet and mad as hell. Nope, this one is completely different.

Durham is faced with a court-order to desegregate its schools when the black school becomes severely damaged, and those students need a place to learn. Unfortunately, the whites are against the blacks coming to their school, so a court-order is issued, and the town must figure out how to solve the problem themselves with little financial help from the State. The State calls upon the help of a Raleigh organizer known for his success in implementing charrettes.

char·rette /SHəˈret/ (wiki)
a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

During the span of the Durham charrette meetings, two co-chairs are selected who are the most vocal/influential in the white and black communities, respectively; then more community members discuss issues and concerns, a senate is developed of representatives that will vote on desegregating the schools overseen by the co-chairs, and an open-forum is held where everyone from the community are invited to witness the voting process.

Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) are chosen as the co-chairs. C.P. is the president of the Ku Klux Klan and Ann is an aggressive and “by any means necessary” community activist. The two of them know of each other very well and the thought of working together for the charrette makes their blood boil, but they agree to co-chair for selfish motives. C.P. is a typical KKK member with a family and owns a gas station. He has a son with Down Syndrome that doesn’t live with the family, but in a nearby psychiatric center. While C.P. is a tough guy filled with hatred, his weakness and soft spot is his ill son. Despite the hatred Ann has for C.P., she uses this weak spot to forge their Best of Enemies relationship.

While the relationship isn’t like that seen in the movie Greenbook, Ann softens C.P.’s heart, one artery at a time. The dynamics of how their role in the charrette plays out is really interesting and thought-provoking. C.P. discovers the void in his life as a child that influenced his membership into the KKK may no longer be valid, but that epiphany comes with drastic consequences. However, his newfound friend comes to his rescue, yet again.

Overall, the acting was good. The plot kept a good pace and didn’t dilly-dally to get to the climax. Ann’s brass and sassy humor will have you laughing throughout the entire movie. In addition, Taraji’s acting was spot-on, right down to that walk (I chuckled a couple of times watching that walk).

On the other hand, the plot doesn’t provoke a need to discuss the issues with friends later on after seeing the movie. The movie will, however, stimulate some self-reflection on how we treat others. But, given that our country seems to be widely-divided right now and sometimes mirrors the 60s and 70s racial undertones, I’m not sure many people will leave the theater creating a charrette of their own, or singing Kumbayah. Wait for the credits at the end to discover how C.P. and Ann’s friendship evolved after the charrette experience.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: It was difficult finding good Peetimes for this well edited and well paced movie. At times, it seemed like the start of a scene would make a good Peetime, but then the plot thickened, adding value to the story. I would suggest suggest the 2nd Peetime.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Best of Enemies. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – Hotel Mumbai – Unrelenting Violence

Movie Review - Hotel MumbaiHotel Mumbai is not an easy movie to watch; it’s brutal, and the killing is unrelenting. It hits the deck running and doesn’t let up for two hours. There were very short scenes of personal interaction — few and far between. Most of the movie was about chaotic running and killing, and many times the dialog was impossible to understand.

We get to know several guests and employees of the hotel, but still know very little about them — just enough to make us care if they can get out of this alive, and many don’t.

I was impressed with the writing and subtle foreshadowing of events to come — pay close attention to the one-second shot of a dropped shoe that becomes important to the plot.

I don’t know who the target audience is for Hotel Mumbai, because I don’t know why the movie was made in the first place.

Was it to pander to the ‘I just can’t get enough of murder and mayhem’ crowd out there? Or hopefully, to pay homage to those hotel employees who stayed behind and risked their lives to protect the guests? Whatever the reason, Hotel Mumbai certainly will impact the audience in some way.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This was the most difficult movie for Peetimes I’ve encountered in the 10 years I’ve been doing this. The pacing was incredibly fast, with almost nonstop action. There was absolutely no ‘down time’ in this film. Quite literally, the action started in the first 3 minutes and never let up. I chose 3 Peetimes that had the least amount of action and could be summed up in the synopsis. I’ve included one Emergency break at 1:34, and this one is only 3 minutes long.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Hotel Mumbai. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language
Genres: Drama, History, Thriller

Movie Review – Captive State

Movie Review – The Predator