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: “WONDER” (2017) Lionsgate

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With Jacob Tremblay as Auggie“WONDER” bring us the sweet story based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J. Palacio. We get to know Auggie slowly during the film and find out about his ongoing life, like his twenty-seven surgeries on his face, how he keeps his hospital bracelets as souvenirs and how his supportive parents Isabel (Julia Roberts), and Nate (Owen Wilson) have decided to send him to school for the first time ever. See until now, Auggie has been home-schooled by Isabel, but it’s 5th grade and time for “real” school. While his face is without a doubt deformed, he is in no way as seriously damaged as say John Merrick – the famous The Elephant Man, or Rocky Dennis – the young man in Mask, (portrayed so wonderfully by Eric Stoltz), but we know this can’t be an easy decision for anyone involved. Auggie’s older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), also carries a burden that few understand and along with her childhood friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) they have their own vignette-type sequences where their stories are told. Vidovic is also probably the best casting of the film and this is very much her story as well.

The film kicks into gear once school starts. Mandy Patinkin plays the principal Mr. Tushman (a name he embraces), and we get the expected nice kid Jack Will (Noah Jupe), the girl who befriends him when others won’t Summer (Mille Davis), the rich-kid bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar), and the popular girl Charlotte (Elle McKinnon). Some of the characters have various segments of the film named after them, with each their own stories to tell, and though these are quite loosely told, they do provide some semblance of structure to the film and keep viewers focused on the diverse personalities. Along we go to thru the normal schoolings of any 5th grader really, with things such as the Science Fair (which of course they win), field trip (all inclusive with bullies & those who stand up to them) and school play – where of course miracles happen. While each of these little stories provide critical turning points, most of the film is based on Auggie’s impact on those whose path he crosses and some of them are sweet and touching, and some of them just seem the norm for any 5th grader really.

It’s a weird middle ground for a movie to exist in, a plot of hits & misses as it moves slowly through the story, almost as if it simply doesn’t trust itself to tell its own story and be understood. It simply misses the mark on some things, but yet on others, hits the nail on the head. Daveed Diggs has a nice turn as 5th grade class teacher Mr. Browne, and the always wonderful Sonia Braga makes a much-too-brief appearance in Via’s little vignette as Gran. Director Chbosky previously gave us the gem THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, and this time out he allows us to explore the fragility of friendship and family, and the importance of toughness in an individual, it simply seems to go through the motions at times of what is ‘supposed’ to happen. But I will say, there is something special about what unfolds between children beautifully captured here, though the ending is pure Hollywood. But we should accept the crowd-pleasing cheesiness and be thankful for a pleasant, entertaining family movie for the holiday season.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 9, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate
‘WONDER’ is out in theatres nationwide Friday, November 17, 2017

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