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: “THE DARKEST MINDS” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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Starting us off somewhere in the future, “THE DARKEST MINDS” throws us in into a world where 98% of American kids were wiped out by a mysterious disease called IAAN aka Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration. 10-year old Ruby Daly (Heaven Hightower) is one of the survivors and is taken along with other survivors of the plague by the government and put them in a camp – yes, it is eerily reminiscent of not only what has happened in the past, but what is happening right now in the US.

Here, the kids are classified by color, based on the special ability that they possess: Greens are geniuses. Blues are telepathics. Golds have electrical powers. Reds and Oranges are rare, but are also considered dangerous and terminated on site. Ruby is diagnosed an Orange, but thanks to Cate (Mandy Moore), a doctor from the resistance Children’s League who helps Ruby escape the camp. From that point on, she has to discover how to use her power in order to survive.

Ruby (Amandla Sternberg) now a teenager, finally escapes her camp – she meets and makes friends with a group of fellow runaways, namely Zu (Miya Cech), Charlie ‘Chubbs’ to his friends (Skylan Brooks) and Liam (Harris Dickinson). They seek out and find refuge in EDO, a camp for survivor kids. And of course, as in every YA film, a romance blooms between Ruby and Liam, while Chubbs provides the comic relief third wheel and Zu gives us a ‘silent’ performance that isn’t terrible.

I went into this film not knowing that it was based on the first book of a young adult book series written by Alexandra Bracken. Her “The Darkest Minds” series started in 2012, and shockingly is now already into its fifth installment. Maybe had it been done then vs. now it might seem as something new. As it was, this whole film felt like a ‘Maze Runner/Divergent’ retread. And that my friends, is wherein the problem lies with “The Darkest Minds,” it comes out too long after this trend has run out of steam.

Up and coming young actress Amandla Sternberg has lovely quality and screen presence about her and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to predict that she’s got a great career in front of her, though hopefully something with a bit more ummph to it.
Harris Dickinson, who impressed me so much with both ‘Beach Rats’ & his portrayal of J.Paul Getty Jr.,in ‘Getty’, sadly disappoints here playing rebel leader and Ruby’s love interest. Patrick Gibson is the villan of sorts, Clancy Gray, the son of the US President and a fellow Orange who took a special interest in Ruby, steps it up some and helps make the last 35 minutes of this film interesting. Mandy Moore just gave me a “This is Us” mom-vibe for her role and Bradley Whitford as US President Grey, a nasty character that could probably give Trump a run for his money. Which brings us down to our least used star whom I love, Gwendoline Christie. She only has a few scenes as Lady Jane, a bounty hunter chasing runaway kids, but made them work.

Watching “The Darkest Minds” gave me a “been there, done that” feeling. I could not help but see it as just another rehash of all the previous YA adventure series. But what started off quite terribly, picked up the last 35 minutes to make it not a completely wasted watch as it did have its own twists, particularly regarding a certain power that only Ruby can perform. But it will take sequels to explore how this story will proceed from the familiar set-up it has begun with here. But again, it’s 2018 – and the time for this YA genre is long past it’s due date. I predict this one will be in and out of theaters before your mind can go dark.

Grade: C–
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, August 1, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
‘THE DARKEST MIND’ IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE RELEASE STARTING FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018

REVIEW: “BATTLE OF THE SEXES” (2017) FOX SEARCHLIGHT

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“Battle of the Sexes” is the true life story of the behind-the-scenes of the now-famous exhibition tennis match between Women’s tennis star Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and now has-been Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

The film goes into some major detail here and takes us through the paces of what lead up to this now famous match, but has some serious pacing problems throughout the first half and some overly drawn out scenes tend to make it drag in places. Surprising to me was the film being billed as a “comedy”, as it’s not funny in the typical comedic sense at all except for maybe the fact that you can laugh at how things were back then. With Riggs, once a successful tennis play, now a habitual gambler-schemer of bad business deals, who is lucky enough to have married into money with wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue), they smoothly slide over the actual first ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match between Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and Riggs, to which she then lost. In goes Billie Jean, whom at that point was leading the way in not only tennis, but fighting the good fight women’s rights and equal pay in tennis along with a great cast of supporting women’s players at the time who risked it all for equal pay.

Thankfully, things start to come together once King and Riggs agree to and start promoting the match and, which we see all the crazy fan-fare that was done at the time. By the end of all it and watching the match, even though you know the outcome, everyone in the theatre (men included) are cheering cfor Billie Jean as we watch her take control and realize what she truly accomplished, can get you a bit emotional to say the least. Stone and Carell are well-cast and do right by their characters. With Stone even going so far as to getting right the slighest things of say, getting the tennis stances of King & Riggs, something as a tennis fan, I notice. In particular, she nails King’s conflict with her own sexuality and the scenes between her and lover Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) are eye-opening especially when you think of all it entailed at the time.

So the script and direction might be a bit uneven, but it’s good enough to make all of us cheer for King by the end and maybe even have a bit of a laugh as it regals us with truly how out of touch the sexism of the early 70’s now seems to us. Sure, there might be some slight deviations from the real events however, Carell does a fine job of recreating the 1-man flying circus that was Bobby Riggs with Stone providing a fine performance as one of the most influential Americans of the last century. Also we can note that when Bobby passed, Billie Jean noted they had become good friends after all in life and she was one of the last people he spoke with.

The history of it all whether you were there or not, is well worth seeing again.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Friday, September 22, 2017 ~ Courtesy of LACMA/Film Independent
“BATTLE OF THE SEXES” is now playing at select theaters