REVIEW: “NEWS OF THE WORLD” (2020) Universal Pictures

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Adapting a beloved book can be a tricky thing and Paulette Jiles“NEWS OF THE WORLD” is no different a challenge to that here. But if we have learned one thing from films all these years, it would be that Tom Hanks would be the one who would be able to pull this off and make it along with Director Paul Greengrass, taking full advantage of our faith in Hanks acting abilities here.

In this visually phenomenal film version Tom Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who takes newspapers and then travels from one small town to another and for 10-cents admission and a sense of panache’- Kidd reads the news stories to weary people looking for a distraction. While traveling one day, he comes across a blonde hair-blue eyed young girl dressed in Native American wear who speaks no English, only Kiowa. With her caretaker having been lynched in front of her, the papers Kidd finds among her things are notes that she is 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young girl who’d been raised by Kiowa tribe and is now being returned against her will to her natural German aunt and uncle of whom she knows nothing about.

The film is all about the journey, which the captain undertakes with the girl reluctantly as the she rebels against this so hard at first, his conundrum is realizing the only guarantee of her safe return is if he takes her, and reluctantly we watch as the Captain agrees to accompany her on the journey home. In the long run it bares down to essentially being: two people, a wagon and two horses, driving through the vast nothingness. And as the two encounter numerous precarious situations along the way they begin to bond with each attempting to learn the others ways and language. Along the harrowing journey, encountering moments of true danger in almost each town they enter and every new territorial line they cross. Early on when they are cornered by a trio of swarthy men who want to ‘buy’ the girl, the tense build up that prevails and follows us throughout the journey can be dramatic and even terrifying at times, but eventually this is what will bring them together the closer as they come to the end of the journey and the pointed note of separating.

Zengel doesn’t say much throughout the film, but she has a wonderfully expressive face that speaks volumes with her eyes and it’s easy to believe that she has seen horrors. And even though this undoubtedly adds to Hanks’ performance, even as she’s saying nothing, her pain, her fear is palpable and Hanks plays well on this attribute. But make no mistake whose film this is – as the way Hanks portrays Kidd is the sort of performance that just seems written in stone for him and it’s a perfect vehicle for him and surprising in sorts to see him in a Western. There are numerous supporting cast who also help push the film along with Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Ray McKinnon and Bill Camp to name a few. The movie itself is stirring despite there being no surprise in knowing where the story is headed once Johanna appears – and yes there are some grim sequences but overall its quite an enjoyable watch.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON NETFLIX IN JANUARY 2021

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