February 14th, 2022 (Valentine’s Day)

Happy Valentine’s Day. One would think that I would be doing a themed review for this pandemic Valentine’s Day. Nope. Sorry to disappoint. Now, I do have the somewhat romantic The House of Gucci to review, but that is as close as it comes. Another review is more a cautionary tale about love and relationships from Netflix with Tinder Swindler. It starts will romance and then ends up in tears and deceit. Finally I can review Shang-Chi (“Sean”) and the Legend of the Ten Rings. So let’s get started.

The House of Gucci: This star-studded cast includes Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons. Such an impressive pedigree of talent with the direction of Ridley Scott. So what goes wrong? This is a mess. The story is based upon the real life tale of what occurred in the Gucci family in the early 70s and into the mid 1990s, which was unknown to me. The Gucci family of course has been known for years of selling the high end, au couture hand bags and clothing. Two brothers, played by Irons (Rodolfo) and Pacino (Aldo) each have ownership and each has a son. Pacino’s son Paulo, played by Leto is eccentric and not very business savvy, to put it mildly. Irons’ son is a budding lawyer Maurizio, played by Adam Driver, who is awkward socially but smart. Early on he meets at a party the young, pretty, outgoing and socially upwardly mobile Patrizia played by Lady Gaga. They have a whirlwind romance, and he announces that he will marry her. Irons hates the idea and disowns his only son. Pacino steps in to assist with the only remaining Gucci family member with any business sense at all. He is brought back into the family business, much to Patrizia’s delight. For me, this movie is too long. It takes too long to get going and buckles under its own weight. Patrizia has some elements of Lady Macbeth as she urges on her husband to be more tactical with the fellow members of the family. It is coordinated, calculating and ruthless. She inexplicably gets involved with a phone fortune teller/soothsayer, played by Salma Hayak. Jared Leto, who was unrecognizable to me in the role until more than halfway through it, with his over-the-top performance almost single handedly ruins the movie. I don’t believe him. I don’t believe that anyone could be so unaware of how he acts and is perceived. Leto seems to play a recurring role of an eccentric or a crackpot. Despite the Dallas Buyer’s Club Oscar, he needs to get fewer roles. Across the board the Italian accents are cringe-worthy. I cannot recommend this. It seems a shame with the cast that they put together to get this odd result. It can be a case study into family businesses, like Succession for example, a transitioning the controlling interest in a company from one generation to the next. As the saying goes about wealth in business: “The first generation makes it, the second generation spends it, and the third generation blows it.”

Tinder Swindler: This is a Netflix documentary that puts on film a story that began in Norway with a young woman in her mid 20s that had been on the social dating site Tinder for over nine years. Like many, she is looking for her match, although her match, and what catches her attention seems to be at a level most don’t see online. She meets a guy named Simon who has an impressive profile, including pics of him with fancy cars, him piloting a plane and exotic places that he has visited. He includes his Instagram profile in Tinder which shows him to be the son of a famous billionaire diamond magnate. She is immediately intrigued and falls early and hard as he whisks her away on private jet to another city on their first date. He is a “busy guy” jetsetting around the world on business, leaving her behind but being sure to WhatsApp her his love messages each day. He talks about the dangers in this business and his need for a body guard/entourage. Then late one night he sends her a set of pics showing his body guard bloodied from an apparent attack. His funds have been frozen and he needs her to get some credit cards in her name for him to use. She does. He asks for cash money from her as well which she delivers dutifully, thinking that she is protecting her boyfriend from harm. It goes downhill from there, as they unravel the deception. More women are uncovered. Ultimately there is a resolution but the viewer is left unsatisfied. Truly for me that was the case, as my legal sensibilities are engaged. This is well done and worth watching especially for any people who are dating or know people who are, including kids. One can look as close as CBC.CA to see that there are many similar stories happening in Ontario. Stories about people in Waterloo losing $250,000-$1M, to others losing life savings. It can be a dangerous world out there, and there are plenty of people looking to take advantage of those lonely hearts looking just to be loved in these strange times. Police will say that these are classic scams that have been used for years. Online dating just allows it to be more prevalent, with people from various countries.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: I have said it before, but it is worth repeating that movies can be about expectations. Even this week, I had higher expectations when about to view The House of Gucci. It disappointed. Two things worked against this movie to start; the first was the fact that it appeared to be another in Marvel’s superhero quiver of films. Ugh. I am generally NOT a superhero guy. Then of course was the title, which was reminiscent of duds like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Instead what I saw was refreshingly watchable. To set the stage I was on an airplane and watching on the small screen of my IPhone. So it was not surrounding me. But the story was intriguing as the young “Sean” who is parking cars Awkwafina at a hotel, hears about some trouble with his family. His mother had long ago passed away, and he is in hiding from his Dad. Dad is in possession of the Ten Rings, which in no way reflect the powers of the one ring from Lord of the Rings. They are worn around the wrists and grant the holder many varied abilities which include making weapons, jumping and basically being indestructible. Sean is played well by Canadian Simu Lin. He has a lot on his plate and we learn about the details over time. It’s complex. Mystical forces are at play, and we learn that a secondary world, not unlike Black Panther or Wonder Woman is in danger from his Dad. His Mom came from there. I won’t try and explain the story further since it likely will muddy the viewer’s mind. Instead, see it, and watch many of the impressive visuals. This was better than expected, and I enjoyed seeing. This movie also reinforces for me that there are many stories from around the world that are worthy to see on screen. Not all the best stories come from Hollywood. So if this is around, check it out.