Movie Review: Air

I saw a sneak preview of the new movie “Air” yesterday, the first time this has happened since long before the Pandemic. The movie Air is not only outstanding but also a return to movie-making like it is supposed to be. A great true story, a great screenplay, and great acting. This is what movies are supposed to be about – unlike the disaster of 2022 where sheer garbage like Everything Everywhere All At Once wins for best picture – even though, it is clearly one of the worst movies ever made.

Going into the film Air, I thought that because Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were starring in this together, they also wrote the screenplay. In this case, newcomer screenwriter Alex Convery hit a massive home run with this screenplay, and more amazing according to IMDB, this is the first screenplay Convery has ever had that was made into a movie. A story and dialogue so good, that Ben Affleck decided to produce, direct, and star in this great production.

People over a certain age will probably remember how bad the NBA was doing in the mid to late 70s. Even playoff games were played on replay after 11:30 PM, because the ratings were so bad. Then in the year 1979, the NCAA National Championship basketball final was played with Larry Bird leading the Indiana Hoosiers and Magic Johnson leading Michigan State. This was the first game between these two great players that followed them into the NBA the following year. The addition of just these two players in the NBA in 1980, saved the sport of professional basketball. Then some four years later, a new player came into the league and amazingly was drafted only 3rd. His name was Michael Jordan, and within only a few games of his rookie season, it was obvious that he was going to become the greatest player in the history of the NBA.

Jordan started with the advancements made by Bird and Magic and took the NBA to the stratosphere, with not only amazing athletic ability but also by changing how the sports equipment endorsement field operated in the future. It was Micheal Jordan, who insisted on getting a piece of every sneaker that bore his name that was sold by Nike for the first time in history. This allowed athletes in the future to finally and fairly participate in the selling of products that bore their name. For me, one of the best parts of this great movie was this point, when Jordan’s mother, played greatly by Viola Davis was able to force Nike to do what companies like this should have always done – pay the player a part of the product that had their name. Why this was not always the norm, as it is with book publishing, was a revelation to me, while watching this great film.

The main character of this film Sonny Vaccaro, played expertly by Matt Damon is an employee of Nike within a basketball division that was going so badly it was only a matter of time before the entire division was going to be discontinued. Vaccaro was a big risk taker and had to gamble his job and break all the rules – that included even driving to Jordan’s childhood home to talk to his parents – to convince Jordan to join Nike. It was only Vaccaro who knew how great Jordan was going to be in the NBA. Some of the conversations between Jordan mother Deloris Jordan and Vacarro – especially his speech at the end are some of the very best scenes in this movie.

The CEO of Nike, Phil Knight is played by Ben Affleck, who also directed this movie. Affleck’s performance and scenes with Daman reminded me of Good Will Hunting, released 26 years ago – and this movie is just as good as Good Will Hunting.

Other actors in this movie – all outstanding including Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina (who plays Jordan’s volatile agent) and Marlon Wayans. There are no flaws in this film, not with the story, acting, or the great reminders of the decade of the 1980’s, including the music and the old computers that are littered throughout the cubicle offices of Nike. Air is a great return to “normal” style movie making and long overdue.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings are 98% – with my rating, the highest possible at 100%. Air is a 100% must-see, back-to-normal great movie-going experience and receives my highest recommendation.

For this to be one of the greatest sports stories of all time, Jordan not only had to be great right from the start of his career, but he never could be seriously injured.

At the end of the movie, before the final trailer, it was announced that Nike grosses 4 billion a year annually just on the Air Jordan sneaker, many years after Jordan retired from basketball. Michael Jordan still makes 400 million a year from the sales of Air Jordan sneakers. In 1984, Jordan’s rookie year in the NBA, the Air Jordan shoe made 167 million dollars.

Hulu Movie Review: Deep Water

While looking at IMDB today, I was amazed to discover that the new Hulu movie “Deep Water” is the first movie Adrian Lyne has directed since 2002 with the very good film “Unfaithful” that starred Diane Lane, in her best movie role and Richard Gere. Lyne has directed several movies about marriage and infidelity including “Fatal Attraction” in 1987 and “Indecent Proposal” in 1993. I noticed in most of these movies there are no attempts to mislead or trick the audience, no off the wall twist and turn or and overly surprising ending. This is also true of Deep Water, that stars Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas – which is both a good thing and bad thing about this story.

De Armas plays Melinda who is not only an alcoholic and chain smoker (here we go again), but also a serial cheater – flaunting her many affairs in front of her husband Vic, played by Affleck. Throughout this entire film, several of the men that Melinda is having affairs with are turning up dead, including even a drowning during a nighttime pool party. The mystery is, who killed these men? Is it the obvious choice or someone else? I appreciated the straightforward-no-trickery-moving-making ideas here, but unfortunately this led to a rather unsatisfying ending and at times a too boring 2 hours.

The ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are a way too low 38%, because the acting and directing are very good. My rating is about 70%, with a moderate pass. Once again I wonder what it must be like to be Adrian Lyne, waiting 20 years to direct another movie and get ratings this low. Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas had a relationship during this movie, but unfortunately broke up because they lived too far from each other.

Movie Review: The Tender Bar

There will probably never be a lower budget movie that both Ben Affleck stars in and George Clooney directs than the new film “The Tender Bar”. This story is very simple, and very often the simpler the story, the better the movie. Tender Bar stars a young newcomer Daniel Ranieri, who plays the young version of the main character J.R, played by Tye Sheridan. Daniel is one of those very rare young actors who just can walk in and be a very strong presence and never appears to be acting. He was found by accident by George Clooney supposedly in a funny Youtube video where he was cursing constantly – leading to an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show, and a starring role in this movie. An amazing and very unlikely path to fame.

The simple story here is about a young J.R., who loves to read and one day just wants to be a writer. His family is very poor, and he and his mother have to move back in with her father played by Christopher Lloyd. Ben Affleck plays his uncle, who owns a local bar and takes the place of his father – an abusive alcoholic who proves a blessing that he does not live or stay in contact with this gifted and likeable young boy.

The central and best part of this movie is the story when J.R. goes to Yale and meets a very attractive young woman named Sydney in one of his classes; who then proceeds to torture him for years, leading him on, time after time. From one of J.R. friend’s account, “She dumped you 9 times”. The irony is, J.R. being so in love and never giving up, is the reason for Sydney’s not respecting him leading to his endless torture. At times it was almost as if she enjoyed torturing this young man, who was so desperate to impress her and break out of his average life to become someone she could respect. J.R.’s life is never easy but he eventually gets a job at the NY Times that goes both very well, and then not so great. Proving what we all know – what we imagine what our life should be – is very often not how things turn out. I did think that the ending of this film was too abrupt, almost as if they ran out of ideas, and I thought of one great revenge ending for J.R. that was in my head, but once again – not how real life happens. This film is about real life, and that is the most important point.

Once again I am stunned by the stupid and low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of only 49% – once again the critics missed the point, missed the boat, and are completely wrong about this very good movie. I rate The Tender Bar a solid 85% and highly recommend it.