Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

November 19, 2019


Ford_v_ferrariExhilarating, hilarious, and soulful to the bone, this fast car rollercoaster of a drama runs like a legendary Shelby Cobra hitting top speed. Power plays between strong-willed men pitted at diametrically opposed angles, provides brutally funny depictions of ego, determination, and one-upmanship. Audience laughs come fast and often.

The racing sequences are stunning. The 1966 Le Mans makes for one hell of a centerpiece. You really get a feel for how fast these guys were driving in supremely unsafe conditions. Catching on fire is no joke regardless of how fireproof the driver’s suits are. For many fast car lovers Ford v Ferrari will be be a must-own Blu-ray. This is one fun thrill ride of a movie that commands repeated viewings. Emotional and physical gravity tear out like rubber peeling on hot asphalt.  


Here is an addictively entertaining true-life drama that focuses on how gifted and less-gifted men communicate and jockey for position. What takes place on the racetrack comes down from corporate orders above. We love the drivers, the corporate bean-counters not so much. Multiple antagonists loom large over races that send your heart racing.


Caitriona Balfe steals the movie as auto engineer Ken Miles’s (Bale) super cool wife Mollie. For his part Christian Bale chews up every beat and line with a romantic sense of purpose. Christian Bale playing a hot tempered race car driver and mechanic, sign me up.


Matt Damon carries his ineffable charm with such humility that you almost feel sorry for him having to balance intention and motivation with such ease. “Ford v Ferrari” is an example of Hollywood living up to half of its promise. It might not be a perfect movie, but it is a pretty damn good one.  

Rated PG-13. 152 mins. (A)

Five Stars

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November 08, 2019


Echo_in_the_canyonThis beautiful musical performance/documentary love letter to Los Angeles’s mid ‘60s Laurel Canyon music scene that gave rise to The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, and The Byrds, is an addictive experience. I’ve watched it four times, and will gladly watch it again.

Jacques Demy’s underseen L.A.-set 1969 romantic drama “Model Shop” serves as inspiration for Jakob Dylan (a revelation as the band leader for a concert with a rotating group of co-singers that include Jade Castrinos, Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Beck, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones) to interview the musicians who created such classics as “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “Never My Love.” Tingles run up your spine. 

Echo petty

Jakob's cool-hang interviews with the likes of pop music royalty as Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Roger McGuinn, and Lou Adler allow for some hilarious tales told outside of school. Jakob Dylan’s subtle sense of humor get nice traction with Brian Wilson when discussing a song’s key. Jakob offers to “get out the capos.” Funny musician humor, I know, but I love it. Jakob Dylan is as unpretentious as they come  


Recording sessions as historic Los Angeles recording studios where great artists have recorded countless hits segue into Jakob Dylan’s live concert celebrating Laurel Canyon’s 50-year anniversary. The briefly utopic community of musicians who gravitated to Laurel Canyon created a Niagara of poetic pop songs turning folk music into rock ‘n’ roll. This is a groovy movie about a brilliant period of music that flourished before its awe-inspiring flight came to an inevitable end. This is a really fun movie to savor. My only complaint is that they didn't feature another four or five songs.


Sidebar: Although it's never brought up in the film, the Laurel Canyon music was a direct outgrowth of Bossa Nova. Bossa's utopian romanticism came out of a desire to soften samba into a Sinatra-influences style. The early '60s period of Bossa Nova's explosive popularity in the country occurred prior to a movement of young musicians to turn up the heat on folk music and make it rock with the same attention to songwriting that Gilberto and Jobim utilized for their timeless songs.

Rated PG-13 — 88 mins. (A) Five StarsGet cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a bunch pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

June 21, 2019


Ghost Light PosterAt a time when Hollywood has lost its mojo, low budget indie films such as “Ghost Light” come with simple theatrical pleasures that remind us there is a world of talented, inspired artists who have not fallen prey to America’s industrial Cinema complex of military indoctrination — see any superhero movie made in the last 15 years.

The long-observed stage curse incited by speaking the name of “The Scottish Play” aloud inside a theater, comes back to haunt a troop of actors performing a small town production of “Macbeth” in this cinematic amuse bouche. Whistling in a theater is another no-no that one of our irreverent actors is all too willing to test. Theatre superstitions are nothing to trifle with.

Although the writing could be stronger, “Ghost Light” has some shining moments thanks to the reliable scenery-chewing efforts of stage legend Carol Kane, and (surprisingly) of Shannyn Sossamon in her Lady Macbeth incarnation. Carey Elwes manages to mask his less-than-impressive acting abilities in the context of an amateur stage production of one of Shakespeare’s most admired plays.

The film’s play-within-a-play narrative landscape allows for sufficient suspense to build even if the movie comes to an anti-climactic finish.

Ghost Light

The ghost light of the film’s title refers to a stage light that must remain lit on an empty stage if a production is to be successful. It’s a metaphor befitting our current filmic wasteland. It takes films such as “Ghost Light” to maintain a glow of hope that one day American Cinema will be reborn. In the meantime, Shakespeare’s plays remain a wellspring of material to rinse out Hollywood’s static noise. “Ghost Light” is good, clean (if a little bloody) fun. For Hollywood, it’s back to the woodshed.

Not Rated. 102 mins. (B-)

Three Stars

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