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Ford V Ferrari – Movie Review

‘Ford V Ferrari’ (or ‘Le Mans ’66’ as it’s called here in the UK) and follows American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal lives to build a race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 hour race in Le Mans in 1966. 

This was one of my most anticipated films for the rest of the year, it has an excellent cast and director James Mangold has reliable track record. When it comes to the actual premise of the film and its main focus I have a very limited knowledge of cars (outside of watching ‘Top Gear’ and ‘The Grand Tour’…) and I knew of the event itself just not the specific details. However that doesn’t matter here. The film’s script is very well written and gives the viewer all the information they need to become invested within the characters and plot and it doesn’t go overboard on the car and mechanic terminology, yet also provides enough knowledge on the subject to be engaging and interesting for the viewer to learn. The film has a long run time of just over 2 hours 30 minutes and doesn’t feel like it, there’s a few pacing issues and some scenes could possibly have been a bit shorter, but nothing that seriously hinders the movie.

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The characters are also well written and the performances are brilliant all round. Damon plays Carroll Shelby, after a car accident he has had to have been sidelined from racing and now manages his own company and race team, this is a character with a lot of dimensions, he wants to really remain to true to the sport and working with cars, but also is tempted and drawn in by the commercial and corporation money driven and successful side of the business as well, and their are some great scenes with him trying to work it out on both sides and deciding what is the best thing to do. Christian Bale once again completely invests himself in the role of Ken Miles, once again losing weight (which is still impressive and crazy to see considering the amount he gained for his role in ‘Vice’ last year) and changes his accent. Miles is one of the most likeable characters I’ve see on screen this year and once again Bale adds another great character to his filmography, his optimism and dedication to the sport and cars is infectious. He and Damon have brilliant chemistry and their friendship feels very genuine and the best this year alongside Di Caprio & Pitt in ‘Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’. Even the main supporting cast and characters are interesting and memorable, Miles’ family have good chemistry together and there are some very impactful emotional moments throughout. Jon Bernthal and Josh Lucas are good as the two higher ups at Ford. Bernthal plays the more morally centred of the two and Lucas is the cynical and all money focused of the two. Tracy Letts is brilliant as Henry Ford II, he has a commanding and serious screen presence yet also provides possibly the film’s funniest moment. 

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Visually and technically the film is excellent. I highly recommend seeing this on the big screen just for the race sequences alone, they are phenomenal, especially the final Le Mans sequence, it’s really tense edge of your seat stuff, you feel every impact of the car crashes, the sense of speed is excellently brought to the forefront with brilliant cinematography and editing and impressive practical effects and stunt work blended with CGI (occasionally the CGI is slightly obvious but very rarely). Also the sound design is perfect, when these racing scenes occur the roar of the engines and screeching of brakes and tires is staggering and extremely effective. Seeing this on the IMAX screen will be an absolute blast for these sections I guarantee you. The film’s soundtrack features some fitting classic rock tunes which work really well with the racing scenes.

‘Ford V Ferrari/Le Mans ’66’ is an excellent and interesting biography movie featuring some brilliant performances, thrilling race sequences and engaging and investing dramatic and emotional moments. Definitely in my top 10 of this year. Highly recommended.

The Irishman – Movie Review

“I heard you paint houses?”

It’s finally here. A film that Scorsese has been developing since 2004, with constant setbacks due to other projects, unavailable actors and lack of interest to finance the film from various studios. However with the streaming behemoth Netflix allowing Scorsese free reign and budget over the project ‘The Irishman’ has released in cinemas (for a limited time and limited locations) before its released on Netflix at the end of the month. ‘The Irishman’ chronicles the post-war life of truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), a powerful Teamster with ties to organised crime.

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This film is a true epic, in its scale and variety of locations, to its time-spanning plot progression and its legendary three leads actors and director. The film plays out in a non-linear structure with an elderly De Niro being our narrator throughout, giving us information and context about various characters and events so that we are never lost in the proceedings. With a mammoth run time of 3 hours 30 minutes the film doesn’t leave anything out, it takes its time to really spend time with the characters and the various situations. It really draws you into this world and their lives, which make it consistently engaging regardless of what’s going on in the scene (which can involve anything from De Niro & Pesci) eating cereal and bowling with their families to bloody executions and car bombs).

It’s nothing short of incredible how well the film transitions from scene to scene, with the majority of these completely changing time period and location and that the coherence of the plot stays intact. Scorsese’s direction is (as expected) meticulously crafted, from the seamless opening one take camera movement, to the slow motion intense closeups and brutally swift nastiness of the various mob hits. The variety of editing and combination with the voice over works together perfectly e.g. when Frank is deciding and telling us which gun is best for a public hit. and when necessary there will be barely any cuts letting us linger on a character really digesting their emotion and taking in what has happened to them on screen or what will happen. The sound design for the gun shots is stabbing and deafening, with some gloriously bloody practical effect results and a memorable soundtrack to accompany several scenes throughout the film.

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Probably the main aspect when it comes to the visuals of the film that was what people were really intrigued with witnessing is the de-ageing technology utilised on the cast. It is excellently implemented and only very rarely is noticeable and clearly where the budget went as at times it looks like they brought them back from the past and towards the latter half of the film fast forwarded to the future with some very realistic prosthetic’s and makeup. All of this was worth it with a cast ensemble for the ages. De Niro carries the bulk of the film as out narrator and main character. Seeing him rise through the ranks of the mob, whilst also trying to raise and support a family and dealing within the world of politics makes his character arc fascinating. There is some real emotional moments here as well, especially when it comes to the family of the character and De Niro really delivers here, whilst also bringing out that Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Casino menace and intimidation. I still find it hard to believe that this is Pacino’s first collaboration with Scorsese, but what a first collaboration performance it is. Pacino steals basically every scene as Jimmy Hoffa, giving one of the most charismatic performances I’ve seen this year, with a razor sharp sense of humour and line delivery, to his obsession with ice cream and lateness and his relentless dedication to his cause Hoffa is one of the most interesting and memorable characters in Scorsese’s filmography and one of Pacino’s best performances. Also seeing Joe Pesci return to the screen after being retired is a treat for fans of his earlier work with Scorsese and just for any cinephile in general. Seeing him show that threatening spark of his Goodfellas days with a much more emotional edge and investment to the story. Here at times he gives a more quiet and subtle performance yet is always commanding with his screen presence and gives an aura of respect and intimidation. I mention ‘Goodfellas’ (because how can you not?) however this really isn’t like it at all in terms of its plot and characters, sure there are mob hits and violence, but only occasionally, no this is much more of a character study and life story than full blown gangster crime thriller. The supporting cast featuring, Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons, Anna Paquin and many more, are also all interesting and get enough screen time to justify their presence and become interesting and memorable to the viewer.

‘The Irishman’ is nothing short of a masterpiece when it comes to its technical aspects, scope and scale, featuring some of the best performances of these actors already extremely impressive and lengthy careers and a film that you can see the investment and passion its director had when making it. Thrilling, sad, surprisingly and intentionally very funny at times, brutal and thoroughly engaging in its world building and characters. ‘The Irishman’ deserves to be seen on the big screen and I implore you to do so if you can, it really shouldn’t be just watched on a mobile phone like it soon will be. Go and support it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Doctor Sleep – Movie Review

“Come play with us Danny… forever and ever.”

My most anticipated film for the rest of the year. ‘Doctor Sleep’ has the mammoth task of following up the classic (and my favourite film) ‘The Shining’, whilst also being a faithful adaptation of King’s novel of the same name. Thankfully with director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting Of Hill House, Gerald’s Game…) at the the helm and a brilliant cast line up, ‘Doctor Sleep’ delivers in both of these in spades.

Several years following the events of ‘The Shining’ an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) meets a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) who has similar powers to him and he has to try and protect her from a cult called ‘The True Knot’ led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who prey on children with these powers to remain immortal. 

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The cast and the performances are brilliant. Ewan McGregor is an excellent choice for Danny Torrance, he carries on the quiet and anxious traits we knew from Danny as a child, when we meet him he’s an alcoholic and homeless living rough with no place to go. We spend a lot of time with Danny basically fixing his problems and trying to turn his life around, going to a support group, getting a job etc. and it’s a great character study of addiction and trauma and seeing his character development throughout the film is engaging to watch and McGregor really delivers. This is as much Abra’s story as it is Danny’s and Kayleigh Curran really delivers here considering she’s still a child and this only her second ever project, she has to deal with a lot of intense and disturbing scenes and for a child actress she has a commanding screen presence. However Rebecca Ferguson as ‘Rose The Hat’ is the scene stealer. Hypnotic, cunning, intimidating and beautifully seductive she gives a menacing and at times sadistic performance with her instantly memorable – “Well, hi there…” she is a powerful antagonist. It’s pacing and slow burn approach over the 2hr 30 minute runtime means all these three main characters get attention and focus so that you remain engaged in all their stories and separate motivations.

Visually the film is phenomenal at times, especially when it comes to recapturing, revisiting and adding on to Kubrick’s masterpiece. The Overlook set design has been perfectly reconstructed and I got genuine chills when we revisit it here. Flanagan channels Kubrick’s camerawork and colour at points brilliantly whilst also keeping it solely his own at the same time with the colour colour palette going for a very greenish, grey and blue look for the majority which gives the film an otherworldly feel to it. There are various specific flashbacks, callbacks and specific scenes (which I won’t spoil) which are so well crafted and shot at times you’ll think you slipped back into 1980 and damn the finale sequence is an absolute blast especially if you love ‘The Shining’ it’ll no doubt put a grin on your face as it did to me. 

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The cinematography and editing is very well done. The film is very unnerving and intense with its scares, relying on disturbing imagery and well positioned lighting and camera movements. The sound design is fantastic, loud and atmospheric and the score is chilling, especially with this version of ‘The Shining’ theme. The mixture of realistic prosthetics and CGI augmentation makes for a very effective blend and is extremely refreshing in the current climate of jump-scare fuelled horror films which flood the mainstream side of the genre. 

There are few scenes that I thought could’ve been paced a bit better and the structure of the film (especially in the middle and towards the start) is slightly repetitive. However these are minor gripes.

‘Doctor Sleep’ delivered exactly what I wanted. Taking the tone and iconography of Kubrick’s classic and blending it with King’s very different  to the first movie sequel novel. ‘Doctor Sleep’ manages to be a worthy follow up as well as being completely its own film. Highly recommend this whether you’ve seen/read ‘The Shining’ or not.

Terminator: Dark Fate – Review

The sixth instalment of the ‘Terminator’ franchise and technically the third part 3 (‘Rise Of The Machines’ and ‘Genisys’ were also supposedly the direct sequels to ‘Judgement Day’) and sees the return of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as her and cyborg human hybrid (Mackenzie Davis) who have to protect a young woman (Natalia Reyes) from a newly modified Terminator from the future (Gabriel Luna) also with help from the original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Honestly the first trailer for this film really didn’t give me much hope, it looked cheap and generic and didn’t seem to look like it would live up to the legacy of the franchise. However the second trailer was a definite improvement and I had faith in Tim Miller (Deadpool) and James Cameron returning as producer/writer and the a definite R-rating to make it a worthy sequel and a good movie in its own right.

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It definitely succeeds in some areas. If the cast weren’t as into the material or not having as much fun as they are here it wouldn’t be as entertaining as it is in some sections. It’s its awesome seeing Linda Hamilton return as Sarah Connor, she’s just as badass as she was back in 1991 and she clearly is giving it her all in the dramatic and action sequences and believed that this was the right story for her to return. She is rivalled by Mackenizie Davis who also is excellent here, especially in the action sequences, the augmented human idea in this universe is interesting. Natalia Reyes is also clearly giving her all here, however her character story and arc really isn’t interesting and is underdeveloped, coupled with the standard Terminator timeline messing about it’s just a bit confusing overall. Alongside Hamilton, Gabriel Luna is probably the highlight here as the new ‘Rev-9’ model, he doesn’t really have any dialogue so most of his screen presence and intimidation tactics are through facial expressions, he channels Robert Patrick’s T-1000 very well throughout. Schwarzenegger can literally play this role in his sleep by now, he still hits all the right beats and line delivery, at first his introduction is a bit strange and some people will be divided by it, he gets some good action and ‘throwback’ moments as well towards the finale of the film.

The action is mostly solid, the film charges into the action immediately with a great hand to hand combat sequence and car chase. Miller clearly is better suited to directing grounded action and also with budget limitations that would’ve been smarter. The plane and dam sequences are a bit messy and generic, however the final battle (again hand-to-hand combat) is awesome and well choreographed. Despite boasting the return to an R-rating the action is a disappointing when it comes to the blood and gore department which I feel (as in any case) would’ve added more intensity to the fights. The CGI is very hit and miss, the liquid Terminator effects are impressive and creative and reminded me of the ‘Venom’ symbiote in its design. The flash-forward sections are impressive in their visual style as well and capture the essence of the future sections in the first movie well. However when the CGI is bad, it’s bad, a lot of the action doesn’t have as much impact or weight to it due to it essentially being video game characters punching each other and there’s some very obvious background green screen in some scenes.

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The pacing and plot structure of the film is also an issue. Its a very familiar plot and the stop-start structure does get repetitive. There is some serious slow down at the end of the first action sequences and its essentially just exposition dumping after that. The dialogue isn’t great at times, with the usual cheesy and generic moments for characters that you barely know. Also this film was heralded as a return to the more dark and gritty tone of the first movie and some of the second, however there’s lashings of hit or miss comedy when Arnold’s Terminator is introduced which doesn’t always work.

This is the best since ‘Terminator 2’, however when you think about it, that’s not saying much. However it is an entertaining ride to watch and there are some genuinely great moments, strong performances and some good action scenes. However you can’t escape the fact that it really isn’t a patch on the first two, the lack of brutality and blood and gore does hinder the fights, some patchy CGI and a generic plot with some poor pacing at times also doesn’t help. I think we should probably accept nothing will live up to the first two classics.

Rewind Review: The Terminator

“I’ll be back.”

Got the chance to rewatch this classic in 35mm at the Prince Charles Cinema for its 35th anniversary. You all know the story but anyway, a seemingly indestructible cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a young waitress (Linda Hamilton) whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against the machines. While a human soldier (Michael Biehn) from the same war is sent to protect her. 

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The plot is paced extremely well with constant tension due to the terminator being on the pursuit and intersected with us visiting the future which has a great bleak set design.
What I love about this movie’s tone and visual style is how gritty and realistic it feels. The night time sequences especially, look really cool and similarly to ‘Blade Runner’ utilise lighting extremely well. There is only a few digital effects, everything else is prosthetics, props and stunts. Schwarzenegger’s self surgery scene is still grim and very realistic in showing us the machine inside. Speaking of said machine, it’s still one of the most iconic designs and I think the stop motion movement adds to its intimidation. The action sequences are all unique, memorable and well shot and choreographed. Whether it be the shotgun car shootout, the insanely brutal club and police station gunfights or the final chase with the tanker every sequence is a blast (literally and figuratively) to watch.

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The performances here are also excellent. Schwarzenegger’s screen presence is brilliant. He nails the in-between movement of half man and half machine and still gives the terminator personality and emotion whilst simultaneously not, through eye movements and expressions. With barely any dialogue (aside from iconic one-liners) he brings a relentlessness to a terrifying antagonist. Linda Hamilton’s transformation from victim to the beginnings of a badass action heroine is great to watch, she has great chemistry with Michael Biehn who is excellent as Kyle Reese and has some great and interesting expository sections.

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Aside from a few dated effects and a slightly repetitive structure ‘The Terminator’ is essentially perfect. Blending sci-fi, action and horror to make one of the most badass franchise starters of all time.