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.

Movie Review: The Last Duel

The new movie “The Last Duel” marks the first time Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have written a screenplay together since “Good Will Hunting”, released in 1997 and won both of them the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1998. I recently saw both Affleck and Damon on a talk show, talking about the arduous and long task of writing Good Will Hunting. According to Damon, the process took years of learning how to create a great screenplay, and over 1000 pages of trial and error. This is what it takes to create a great screenplay, which is why so few have been written. It took of all people, Harvey Weinstein to bring Good Will Hunting to the screen with his money and clout – unfortunately.

The story behind The Last Duel happened in the 1380’s in France. Amazingly this story is about a duel to the death over a woman, due to a he said – she said – over a alleged rape of a French Soldier’s wife and his best friend. This story is told in 3 parts, reminding me of a weak episode of a sitcom where 3 perspectives of a story are told almost as if the writers had trouble coming up with a teleplay that week. How and why Damon and Affleck found this obscure story from so long ago and then agreed to go through the hardships of writing and then filming a movie like this in the depressing dark French countryside for months, is the most unlikely part about this film. Then add highly respected director Ridley Scott who directed this movie that like so many films was halted in mid production during the Pandemic of 2020.

I am very surprised by the relatively high 86% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for this film, despite the good acting including relative newcomer Jodie Comer, who plays Damon’s wife. There are too many areas of slow moving boredom that in some cases can offset the good parts of this film and I did not like the 3 part perspective idea, repeating too many areas of this story. For me, the essential problem is that the overall idea here is not big enough or compelling enough to make a movie about it. The final duel scene is impressive between Adam Driver and Matt Damon, and I was surprised at the relatively small role for Ben Affleck, who plays a King who constantly cheats on his wife.

I rank this movie as a marginal thumbs up, mainly for fans of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Movie Review: Stillwater

The new movie “Stillwater” is one of the few movies I have seen where the trailer makes it look like a high quality blockbuster, but in realty the film is a huge dud. The problem with Stillwater is simple. Its horrendously boring. Why the producer of this bad movie decided to make it run 2 hours and 20 minutes, with the story could be told in 80 minutes is anyone’s guess. The logline of this movie is about a construction worker is living in France while trying to get his daughter out of prison for a murder she did not commit. The problem is there is so little story to tell here, that they decided to add so much filler to stretch the runtime to 260 minutes, that you can actually go into a coma sitting through this incredibly boring waste of way over two hours.

There is a side story where the main character Bill, played by Matt Damon becoming involved with a French actress and her 9 year old daughter, but even this secondary story is another extreme waste of time. Bill’s daughter who is in a French prison is played by Abigaile Breslin. I am actually surprised that both Damon and Breslin read this script and still decided to make this bad movie.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating of 72% is wrong. This movie is 60% at best and should be skipped by all.