Review: Ford v Ferrari

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Anyone who has seen the entirety of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will surely tell you that it is a race like no other, and that describing the unique tension and drama associated with the intensity of the legendary annual racing event is nearly impossible – it is simply one of those things you have to witness in order to grasp why it is so revered and surrounded by such infamy.

With Ford v Ferrari, director James Mangold steers the racing film with a calm hand that makes it a highly satistisfying biopic detailing the events that led up to and occured during the 1966 Le Mans race.

Stuck in the middle of a corporate pissing contest between Ford and Ferrari, the competitive friendship of American racing driver and racing car designer Carroll Shelby and English racing driver Ken Miles is the driving force of the film. Thanks to the great chemistry between powerhouses Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the verbal and, at times, physical sparring between two incredibly driven individuals who are deeply passionate about their sport is immensely watchable.

Damon comfortably takes on the portrayal of Carroll Shelby, a role that feels tailormade for the stoicism with an undercurrent of intensity and determination that he so often brings to the big screen. As a contrast, Bale gets to thoroughly flex his thespian talent once more as he imbues Ken Miles with a degree of life that makes him jump off the screen as much as he jumps at the people who make the mistake of triggering his bad temper.

Having proven time and time again that they both possess a potent screen presence, Ford v Ferrari is a noteworthy addition to Damon and Bale’s already impressive resumes. Simiarly, the other players around them also add texture to the drama with competent performaces across the board, and save for one or two emotional beats that feel somewhat forced, the film is a compelling drama that does justice to a milestone in racing by thoroughly fleshing out the two interesting personalities at its core.

How the racing itself is portrayed is, of course a cause for concern, as you need to please the gearheads without alienating the uninitiated. Thankfully, the sequences in Ford v Ferrari are sprinkled in at intervals that allows the drama to take the lead without sacrifing the action.

Much like Rush had very satisfying racing sequences, the racing sequences in Ford v Ferrari are equally enticing from a cinematic perspective, finding a middle ground between a degree of realism satisfactory for fans of motor sports and general entertainment value to thrill the casual viewer.

While the cinematography of the film as a whole is visually pleasing, the creative choices in terms of cinematography during the racing sequences shifts the visual style sufficiently to create a sense of suspense and tension that leaves you hungry for more action. However, the excellent sound design is what truly drives home why motor sports are so thrilling to watch, and a visit to a theater with a particularly good sound system is therefore an essential consideration for those watching this film.

Unsurprisingly, James Mangold has pieced together yet another highly competent film, which ticks all the boxes for what makes for a classic Hollywood tale of success through adversity. From the skillful direction through the high production value to the thrilling sound design and the dynamic performances, Ford v Ferrari is in many ways classic Oscar bait, but it is nonetheless still an excellent piece of narrative-driven action with plenty of heart.

Verdict: 9 out of 10.

 

 

Review: Little Monsters

Often imitated but never duplicated, Shaun of the Dead still stands as not only one of the greatest horror comedies of all time, but also as possibly the greatest zombie comedy ever made. While Edgar Wright’s 2004 effort was hardly the first of its ilk, as Peter Jackson’s hilariously outrageous Braindead and its record-breaking amounts of fake blood had gained the Kiwi feature instant cult status after its 1992 release, it nonetheless seemed that Shaun of the Dead was released at the right time to be seen as the epitome of what horror comedies can be.

With its myriad of pop culture references and being released at a time where zombies were about to burst out of the horror subgenre bracket and into the mainstream entertainment subconscious, Shaun of the Dead essentially became responsible for spawning an onslaught of gory comedies. However, thanks to often very modest budgets, underwhelming effects and writing that usually seems like little more than an afterthought, few films have managed to come anywhere even remotely close to capturing the witty eclecticism that has made the 2004 film a classic.

With Little Monsters, Aussie writer and director Abe Forsythe offers up the latest attempt of placing a zombie romp alongside Edgar Wright’s 2004 cult classic, and like most zombie comedies in recent decades, Little Monsters is a mixed bag.

Boasting a largely questionable resume in terms of previous features he has starred in, male lead Alexander England nonetheless makes a likable protagonist as the flawed manchild with a heart of gold. An anti-hero, he must embark on a character arc to redeem himself and grow, and while he inevitably does become a better person, he still stumbles along the way, often reverting to his immature ways with puerile hilarity.

Lupita Nyong’o is unsuprisingly the cast member who largely carries the film on her competent shoulders, and she is as enjoyable as usual to watch, not least because she clearly has an immense amount of fun playing the part of the zombie-slaying teacher. Her charisma as magnetic as ever, she works well with her costars, both children and grownups alike, and much like her character takes charge of the apocalyptic scenario in the story, she also takes charge of the film.

Similarly, Josh Gad clearly has a great time as he pokes fun at himself and a career that has been full of overly perky, family-friendly characters. Going from obnoxiously cheerful kids show host to egocentric jerk (arguably traits that are not mutually exclusive), his character descends into amusingly foul-mouthed despair.

As much as the film manages to provoke laughter on several occasions thanks to the playfulness of the cast and a script that never pretends to be aiming to possess any degree of maturity, the humor does, however, come across as somewhat forced at times. While the main trio of performances and the script are the film’s strong points, the decidedly pedestrian production value of elements such as score, direction, cinematography, editing and special effects ultimately prevent Little Monsters from escaping mediocrity and reaching full-blown chaotically hilarious zombie mayhem.

Lacking a sincere sense of menace and genuine threat, the zombies are not portrayed in a way that has sufficient tension or gore. As a result, the comedy therefore does not have a significant level of true horror to help both the scary and the silly offset one another to create the momentum and mounting tension a horror comedy inevitably needs to succeed, meaning that Little Monsters ultimately has more in common with the likes of Cockneys versus Zombies than Shaun of the Dead. As such, Little Monsters is therefore not a bad zombie comedy, but it is a disposable romp that is a easily forgotten as it is enjoyed.

 

Review: Doctor Sleep

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While The Shining is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential horror films of all time, Stephen King infamously loathes Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his book due to the many alterations Kubrick made to the story. As much as King’s frustration is understandable as the book is among his best work, Kubrick’s reimagining of King’s novel is nonetheless an unnerving masterpiece in its own right.

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Review: Ready or Not

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Surprising as it may be to some, horror and comedy have significant commonalities as both genres must possess the same core elements in order to succeed. Both genres rely heavily on buildup and timing, which are essential to achieve their desired effects on audiences, be it evoking terror with a horror film or laughter in response to a comedy.

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Review: Rambo: Last Blood

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Sylvester Stallone has never pretended to be a cinematic genius, but he is nonetheless immensely successful thanks to his unwavering dedication. A living reminder that hard work and persistence pays off, Stallone has kept doing his thing without being deterred by any of the criticism he has been met with over the years, and he remains an action hero icon as a result.

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Review: Ad Astra

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Humanity has always been obsessed with existential questions such as why we are here and whether we are alone in the universe or not, and the latter question in particular has been a continuous catalyst for the science fiction genre. Set in a future that seems both close and distant, James Gray’s Ad Astra examines that question once again, and the outcome is a film that is equally beautiful and competent.

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