REVIEW: “FORD v. FERRARI (2019) 20th Century Fox

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Biopics can be a hard sell at times. “FORD v FERRARI” is one of the latest true stories out of Hollywood that will be hitting the big screen, and here’s why this one deserves to be seen whether you are a racing fan or not, it absolutely deserves your attention.

In the mid-’60s, Ford and Ferrari fought it out for real at most brutal of all car races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a road race that lasts almost as long as this film. At a whopping 152 minutes, director James Mangold’s biopic is no quick win, but buckle up and sit back for the duration and you will be rewarded with a film that delivers great performances, a gripping tale of determination and courage, and some truly spectacular racing scenes (real or CGI? I couldn’t tell).

This could’ve simply been just a car movie. Instead, “Ford v Ferrari” delves into taking us in glorious detail, thru the true story rivalry between Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), which sparked after the former refused to include his iconic racing team, Scuderia Ferrari, in a buyout of the Italian car company to Ford. Angered not only by this, but by a stinging comment Enzo makes to the effect that Ford is not credible with enough to be any part of a legendary firm like Ferrari with Henry Ford II at the helm because the real legend is Henry Ford himself, not his son.  Ford II then calls on legendary car maker Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to design a car that can beat Ferrari at Le Mans, leading Shelby to create the iconic GT40 with the help of championship driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), even though he is deemed by Ford’s second in command, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) as a ‘loose cannon’.

Herein lies the classic underdog story, as the film follows the team as they design and test the new race-car, experiencing various setbacks along the way (some of which are orchestrated by Beebe, who wants to see Mills fail), before finally making it to France. Following all these multiple characters throughout, Ford v Ferrari focuses on the fact that Henry Ford II was given a challenge to create the fastest race car in the world and thereby improve the company’s image in the eyes of young Americans and putting the Italians in their place at the same time.

If you’re a fan of racing or cars in general, this movie will have you over the moon as it takes you thru the paces of the racing sequences, all which take up a good chunk of the film. Luckily, they are intense, well shot, with a fantastic score to back it up and sound effects to get your heart pumping. Everything about the exciting aspects of this film was top notch. But even if you aren’t a racing enthusiast, this movie doesn’t bore you with minutia, but instead gives you the necessary overview of the needed context so that every viewer understands what’s on the line here.  But secondary to the racing we have backstory about Miles and his family including what it’s like for his wife Mollie (Caitronia Balfe), and his son Peter (Noah Jupe), as they watch in trepidation as Ken goes about not only his racing with a few terrifying crashes that they are witness to, but also the fact that Ken puts racing above just about everything in his life, including his family business of an auto repair garage i.e., food on the table.  While Shelby’s character doesn’t have the struggle of a family life, he has the struggle with the Ford executives over every single aspect of how to build the car that can win Le Mans with Miles at the driving helm.  Until one wonderful moment when he takes Ford II himself out for a spin on the track and thereby ensures himself a blank check much to the angst of Beebe.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon give stellar performances here as the two leading men in the film and you totally buy their rigid friendship that slowly develops based on a mutual respect. Bale seems to disappear into his character especially noting he can ‘speak’ as himself here – accent and all. Damon as well, has the opportunity here to show quite a range from confident showman to a vulnerability we rarely get to see. The supporting cast is flawlessly put together as a well-oiled pit crew with notables such as Jon Berenthal playing Lee Iacocca (yes, THAT Lee Iacocca – who not only developed the Mustang itself, but the Pinto as well and went on to revive the Chrysler Corp.). Tracy Letts layers his performance here with strength and flair as Ford II, Ray McKinnon does top-notch mechanic Phil Remington true to form, and Josh Lucas is the perfect fodder of ‘bad guy executive’ of the bunch.

In the end, Ford v Ferrari is engaging, emotional, and downright thrilling when it wants to be. You find yourself invested in these characters and on the edge of your seat during the climactic races. The only small flaw is some missed opportunity in terms of emotion during certain scenes but all is forgiven in that, seeing as the rest of the movie is so impressive. Ford v Ferrari is one of the definitely one of the most exciting movies so far this year and is sure-fire to be crossing the finish line in first place come opening weekend.

Grade: B+

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

“FORD v. FERRARI”  WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2019

 

 

REVIEW: “DOWNSIZING” (2017) Paramount Pictures

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Welp. we’ve got a strike three for Matt Damon on his 2017 films with “DOWNSIZING”. This movie takes an interesting premise, “What if we could make ourselves smaller to use up fewer resources and save the planet?” and really just does nothing with it. Having heard little about the film aside from its concept, I went into the screening fairly cold. Sadly, the film doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer than its brilliant concept and exceptional first act. I must admit that I left feeling disappointed, thinking they could’ve made this a better movie in many ways. When a film has so much promise and doesn’t exactly deliver on much of it, I feel as though many people would be let down by that.

In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple Paul (Matt Damon) & Audrey (Kristen Wiig) Safranek, who believe their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, as let’s face it, smaller people need much fewer resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper but doesn’t exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn’t wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to take over and it started to go very sloooowww. And it’s sad as this is a movie that could’ve done so much more with its premise.

Without giving anything away, there are many characters such as Niecy Nash playing a Leisureworld salesperson, or that of Dusan Mirkovic (Christof Waltz), The Lonowski’s, Jeff (Neil Patrick Harris) & Laura (Laura Dern) or Paul’s good friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis), that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Director Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it’s hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.

As soon as you’re brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how lackluster the comedy is, but what you don’t expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don’t think it really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.

In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn’t make a film great. It’s the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn’t do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn’t expect it to, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it.

This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it’s just not the product that you’ll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing might be worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up on it being a favorite.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
DOWNSIZING is now playing in theaters nationwide. To be released Worldwide in January 2018

REVIEW: “SUBURBICON” (2017) Paramount Pictures

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Oh Georgie and Matty – what have you done here!!! I mean I’m all for unique and different when it comes to filmmaking, but when a ‘unique’ film does absolutely nothing to intrigue its audience, aside from being somewhat tonal with a consistent setting, then it’s not really all that impressive in the end. With “SUBURBICON”, George Clooney’s latest attempt at direction, seems to leave a lot to be desired with trying to be a little too confident in itself when it came to presenting a powerful story. As is, I still don’t really know if this was supposed to be a story of racial history, a murder mystery, or somewhere in there was supposed to be a dark comedy. I found myself completely lost at times, when I don’t think we the audience, were supposed to be.

The quick run through as best I could understand it is 1950’s/60’s suburbia (you can catch that in the courtesy of the name) the first African-American family, The Mayers (Leith M Burke, Karimah Westbrook & Tony Espinosa) move in the all-white suburban town of “Suburbicon’. Then the neighbors from the back The Gardner’s, (Matt Damon, Julianne Moore & Noah Jupe) are tested when a group of men invade his home, killing his wife and leaving only his son and sister-in-law alive (also Julianne Moore). Falling for his wife’s sister and becoming a complete psychotic and uncontrollable man, this film quickly spirals out of control into a farce of random occurrences. Throughout the first act of this film, it seems like it’s going to be a satire that won’t hold anything back in terms of wackiness, but that’s very quickly thrown out the window, compensating with many subplots of murder and conspiracy. I found myself taken out of the film when the tone would shift this often, making for a very off-putting viewing experience.

Throughout the majority of this film, you’re asked to accept the horrible things that the main characters are doing, or just connect with Gardner’s young boy on an emotional level, but he’s not quite present enough in my opinion. Not until the third act do you really find yourself caring about some of the characters, which truly at that point, didn’t matter any more. This movie tries far too hard to be clever, funny, and surprising – so hard in fact that it just comes off as forced more often than not. You will find yourself along for a ride of random events and you won’t really know who to root for, let alone what or why it’s even happening or what the correlation is. Honestly there is zero correlation between the African-American family moving in and Matt Damon’s wife getting murdered. In fact, as you watch the movie you will notice that the African-American family actually plays no significant part in the actual plot of the movie as far as you can understand that plot to be. It is as if they are just there for filler and to maybe politicize the movie in some way – I’m truly not sure as it makes no sense. What is the driving point of the ‘dark comedy/murder mystery’ aspect and taking the viewer to watching how horrible this family is being treated. It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now – that this still happens. But that’s a whole different movie so again, why is it even here?

I may seem to be ripping this film apart for being uneven, but for all its flaws, there are actually one or two somewhat fun sequences involving an appearance by Claims Insurance Investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac). There is a lengthy scene when secrets are revealed and characters begin to evolve and Isaac elevated every moment of this portion of the film, but it almost is like they are grasping at straws by this point. You haven’t laughed yet, so it’s hard to really rustle one up by then. Up until that point, there really weren’t any characters to grasp onto, but the environment around them, along with the sets and the score, always helped to make the film feel more authentic than what its screenplay was presenting. This may sound confusing, but that’s due to the fact that this is a very confusing watch, and I’m thinking many will agree with me on that account.

From being written by Joel and Ethan Coen, to being directed by George Clooney, ‘Suburbicon’ just feels like a huge missed opportunity, due to the talent involved. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore both don’t deliver on performances here and feel about as average as you can get.

Overall, ‘Suburbicon’ is a film that will probably leave your mind as quickly as it came as it’s just a very forgettable film.

Grade: D
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: October 24, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“SUBURBICON” will be released in theaters on Friday, October 27, 2017

REVIEW: “JASON BOURNE” (2016) Universal Pictures

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Jason Bourne is back and so is Mr. Matt Damon in the title role. This time he’s well aware of who he is and he is determined to expose the government’s secrets, As the intelligence agencies from Interpol to the CIA are in pursuit, Director Greengrass delivers a movie that is both intelligent and intense. Which sadly is what seems to be lacking in recent movies. Adding depth to the story and instead of investing his money on CGI, there are ACTUAL stunt scenes! Can I say, it’s so refreshing to see plain old school action and its pretty damn flawless. In an age where action films rely so heavily on CGI, it is enlightening to see real stunts and real car chases instead of the usual 3D CGI malarkey that we’ve just been saturated with this year so far. As I watched the ‘REAL THING’ actually happen though, I did have a giggle as “wow, this budget must have been pretty damn big” and worth every penny.
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I will not go into details about this year’s film since I don’t want to spoil your fun. But basically the question of this film is from CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) “Why would he come back now?”

“He” is of course Jason Bourne, super spy, and Damon comes back to the franchise for at least the chance to do all one more time, As for Bourne, he’s always catching up with himself, be it his faulty memory or finding his father. Jason Bourne is certainly home to many of the thriller genre’s paradoxes, including illogical good luck in gun fights and car chases and the usual surprises, including a quick reprise of Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), and about characters you thought you knew. jason bourne 3
The final fight between good and evil, while it might be a bit de rigueur, is good. And you know me when it’s a good villain, I tend to half-way be rooting for them..Here it’s Asset because yes, Vincent Cassel plays him so menacingly well. A bit of Alicia Vikander’s character Heather Lee was just too easily sewed up at the beginning of the film for me, but she gravited well into the role and is pivotal to the ending, which I loved. All in all, it’s an entertaining enough film to satisfy the action fan in us all.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Monday, July 25, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Release Date: Nationwide – Friday, July 29, 2016

7 DAYS OF OSCARS: DAY 6 ~ “BEST ACTOR”

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Yes, the end of my “7 Days of Oscars” is nearing it’s close. For some this might be a hard category. For me, it is the simplest one as I knew from the minute the film was over, who was going to be my pick of the year. And yes, deservedly so.

BEST ACTOR

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Being a fan of Cranston, it’s a notable performance here, but the film went pretty unnoticed by most as it was about the infamous ‘blacklist’ and I think some just thought it had been done before.

Matt Damon, The Martian
This for me, was actually a really good dramady performance by Damon. He was funny, yet serious when he needed to be. But sorry Matt, it’s going to have to be another time. 🙂

Leonardo DiCaprio, The RevenantMY PICK/WINNER
Please pick up your Golden Man.. FINALLY Mr. DiCaprio. 😀

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Good, strong job by one of my favourite actors here. Lot’s of dialogue but just didn’t hit it on the mark for me.

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Last year’s winner and another good performance by Redmayne, but not of the Oscar caliber of last years so no..I don’t think Eddie’s doing a repeat.

And with that we are approaching Day 7 – The Final Day of “7 Days of Oscars” which will be of course, Best Picture. With that being said, I’m going to the Independent Spirit Awards tomorrow, Sat. the 27th, and instead of posting my BP picks, I’m just going to briefly address the Oscar controversy and save my last for the BIG DAY!! Cheers to you all until then..
#Oscars2016 #peggyatthemovies

**Reminder that I’m giving who I think the winner will be and what would be my pick – because yes, they just might not be the same!! 😀

Review: “THE MARTIAN” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about Director Ridley Scott and his films. Some are fantastic and some..are not. Here he is back once again to exploring a familiar territory – space.

“THE MARTIAN” truly strikes cinematic gold here with what could be looked as a quasi-instruction manual on how to survive surefire death on Mars. Though this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel (which I haven’t yet read) is the best thing Scott has given us in quite some time, he still goes where others have gone before – only this time, with a perky, life-affirming attitude.

The concept is catchy and simple: While on a mission on Mars, a major storm hits the crew of the Ares III facility causing them to abort and head for their escape rocket. As Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), cyber-whiz Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and chemist Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) head out into the vicious winds of Mars where botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and disappears. The others think he’s dead and leave without him. But guess what?! He’s alive! the_martian_2
And in order to survive he must “science the shit” out of the remaining supplies in a lab that was created to last only 31 days. His wit, scientific know-how and vlogs are what sustain him until the people at NASA – including NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), mission director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) – can figure out how to save him. Add in the back ground techies Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) & Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who literally come up with the live-saving idea that make it possible to go back and get their man!! All the while they make this trip to Mars almost scenic as you can almost feel the atmosphere while watching.
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There are shifts here between humor, heart and suspense which are all handled quite well. Plus the soundtrack..ohhh the soundtrack… with it’s precise way that it works in the disco from the made-fun-of playlist of Lewis’ – with just a sampling is “Waterloo”
(ABBA) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” – is not only truly ingenious but yes, fabulous as well. It hits all the notes at just the right moment in Watney’s journey, giving us a look into his in-the-moment feelings in a perfectly stated way.

While this film is almost all Matt Damon, his very adequate supporting cast really gives the film a huge boost..along with the fact that it engages us intellectually, but not over the top as they make it all relatable and with a dose of humour I just loved. So it makes it hard to even list the one small unfortunate thing about THE MARTIAN as it’s good..really good.. it does stop just one step short of being electrifying. And in this case..that’s still not a bad thing.

Grade: B

Screening: Monday, September 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: “INTERSTELLAR” (2014)

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So had a few extra hours on Thanksgiving and yes, I finally saw “Interstellar” and boy was it LOOOOONNGGG really really long. Which would be fine if the first two hours were something special moving at a pace faster than the tortoise and the hare race. Mind you I pretty much love all of Christopher Nolan’s movies starting with the 1st one I really remember, Memento, which I thought was just so damn brilliant. Love the Batman franchise, loved Inception and actually got it (well okay..kinda got it) 🙂 But this one raises a few questions for me..one of the most notable is why does he like Anne Hathaway aka Anne – don’t forget the ‘E’ aka Anne Hackaway, so much?? She was the worst Cat Woman ever, and does no favours in this movie either..so why? ok..well as I will most likely never have that question truly answered..let’s move on.

At the beginning we meet “Cooper” (Matthew McConaughey) who is a widowed farmer/ex-astronaut, his young daughter “Murph” (Mackenzie Foy) who believes her room is haunted by a ghost who is trying to communicate with her; his father-in-law, with whom they live, “Donald” (John Lithgow) and his son, who is almost as an after thought, “Tom” (Timothee Chalamet). I say afterthought because the story heavily focuses on Cooper’s relationship with his daughter throughout the entire movie as they even label it as a sort of interstellar 1‘father/daughter’ story, and I almost felt bad for the son as he isn’t prominently featured at all. But I guess that’s neither here nor there as we move along through their story where there is a school reprimand involved, which leads into a school suspension whereas Cooper & Murph then have the time to be ‘discovering’ that the ghost is actually sending them coded messages that gives them the coordinates to find which takes them on the journey where they find the secret bunker so-to-speak of NASA. See the world is almost at an end and with crops blights left & right, taking away food this planet will never see again, time is running out to figure what to do next and possibly where to go.

In steps “Professor Brand” (Michael Caine) and his daughter “Amelia Brand” (Anne Hathaway). Prof. Brand explains to them that a wormhole apparently created by alien intelligence, has given what’s left of Earth’s inhabitants hope for survival and that NASA’s old ‘Lazarus’ missions have noted 3 different planets orbiting the Black Hole ‘Gargantua’ that are potentials for human habitation.

To cut a really long story as short as can be done because I will be honest, not only would it take pages to describe the entire film (as some reviews have done..ZZzzzzz), the first two hours of this movie did not wow me in the slightest and somewhat dragged on. As they mount a mission to find which planet is best. The mission named ‘Endurance’, is where Cooper joins Brand’s daughter, biologist Amelia; scientists “Romilly” (David Gyasi) and “Doyle” (Wes Bentley); and robots TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). The TARS & CASE robots were pretty much my favourite ‘characters’ of the movie btw.. so to sum it up..they enter the wormhole and head to Miller, but discover the planet is so close to Gargantua that it experiences severe gravitational time dilation: each hour on the surface is seven years on Earth. It’s inhospitable to humans as it is covered by a shallow ocean roiled by enormous tidal waves. As Amelia attempts to recover Miller’s data, a wave hits, killing Doyle and delaying the shuttle’s departure. When Cooper and Amelia return to Endurance, 23 years have passed.interstellar 2

On Earth, the now-adult “Murphy” (Jessica Chastain) now a NASA scientist assisting Brand who, on his deathbed, Brand admits he already solved the problem and determined the project is impossible and he covered up his findings and put his faith in a “Plan B” As Murphy tries to warn her also now adult aged brother Tom, (played by Casey Affleck), and his family that it’s almost at the end of time and they must move on she concludes that Brand’s equation could work with additional data from a black hole’s singularity. (yes I had to look up this last sentence :))
Low on fuel, Endurance can only visit one more planet before returning to Earth. After much argument the team votes for Mann’s planet, but they find it to be icy and inhospitable. “Mann” (Matt Damon) reveals that he knew Plan B was the mission’s goal all along, and faked data about his planet so Endurance would rescue him which of course goes awry, and Damon’s odd character turn here as a villianous bad guy fails and he’s gonzo! interstellar 5

As they are nearly out of fuel, and this is truly where I got the most frightened as there is a moment where you think that Hackaway’s character Amelia, is going to be the last person left to live. Frightening truly frightening thought for most of us, and yes I am being completely facetious here..or am I.. ha! It’s also where the movie FINALLY started to pick up some and get to the brilliant part as they emerge in an extra-dimensional “tesseract”, where time appears in different dimension with portals that show glimpses of Murphy’s childhood bedroom at various times. Cooper then realizes that the wormhole and tesseract were created by a future form of humanity transcending time and space, so he was the one and now again, that did and can communicate with Murphy as the “ghost” and try to save humanity. Using the gravitational waves they discovered early on a watch, Cooper transmits TARS’s data to the adult Murphy through Morse code, allowing her to solve Brand’s equation and evacuate Earth.
Years later, Cooper awakens aboard a NASA space habitat and reunites with the now elderly Murphy (Ellen Burstyn), who has led the exodus and Earth is to be saved. Lastly, Cooper does have to go out on one final mission, to find Amelia who is still out there on Edmunds planet. hmmm.. Do I see a sequel here?!! 😀

There are no stand-out performances here. McConaughey, coming off a fantastic 2013 with crazy good performances isn’t going to get any nominations for this role as it’s rather basic. Thankfully Chastain steps up to the plate to relieve us of the agony that is Anne Hathaway (Hackaway) and as the young Murph’s, Foy also does quite well. Visually, as expected, the film can be quite stunning, but mostly only once they get into space. I appreciated Interstellar’s grand ambition and the fact that Nolan took on astrophysics and a major studio gave him $200 million to do it. If anyone could try to tackle relativity and the space-time continuum in a narrative, it’s Nolan and his intellect as a director. But, alas it proved too much to take on and make sense of, even for him. It’s is however an interesting effort worth seeing just for its concept in general, though some may end up feeling merely puzzled, which, as my friend Leif noted, knowing Nolan’s oeurve is probably the whole point.
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Grade: C+

#peggyatthemovies
(See grading scale)