So I've been saying that I'd get away from this format of reviews (i.e. return to longer, individual reviews that have one film per article). I guess that was a lie? Anywho, although I'm not sure if this will be the trend going forward, it is the trend as of right now. Today's review round-up consists of killing machines going back to the future, a pseudo-biopic about being a child actor in Hollywood, and a racing epic for the ages. Here are my (brief) reviews for Terminator: Dark Fate, Honey Boy, and Ford v Ferrari!
Also, I used to call these reviews 'lost' as in, lost to time (a la, I forgot about them). These days, they're not lost in any way. But I like the name, so it stays.
Terminator: Dark Fate: 7/10
If you're like me in that you wish the last three Terminator films (Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genisys) didn't exist, then Dark Fate might just be enough to satiate your appetite! Instead of trying to X-Men: Days of Future Past its plot (i.e. jump through every hoop imaginable to try to string together multiple plots of incoherent movies), it instead opts for ignoring them altogether. (A wise decision, indeed.)
Although not a complete return to form for the franchise, Dark Fate is still a whole lot of summer popcorn fun, albeit in the fall. While the film is a direct sequel to T2: Judgement day, newcomers to the series won't necessarily be missing out on much, as the film does its best to fill in the most important details along the way. As for returning veterans of the series, there's more than a handful of 'remember that?' moments to keep the nostalgia running alongside what's otherwise a high-octane 90-ish minute ride down a familiar franchise. In what ends up being a smart decision, the film tones down the amount of Arnold, and strategically uses him in ways that don't end up overstaying their welcome. Linda Hamilton makes a welcomed return to the franchise, and helms a three-headed attack of female protagonists alongside series newcomers Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes. Reyes does a decent enough job at giving viewers a reason to shuffle from locale to locale, but eventually (and quickly) gets overshadowed by her immediate counterparts. Davis consistently ups the ante with each encounter against Gabriel Luna's newest iteration of the terminator line, while Hamilton often follows closely behind.
From a technical and presentation standpoint, Dark Fate doesn't do too much to separate itself from the pack. Sounds are satisfying, and steel meeting other steel comes off as weighty and meaningful. Iconic music themes don't pack as emotional resonance than I would've hoped (especially in comparison to the looming synths of Terminator, or frantic chase scenes of T2), but they're at least not a deterrent. Visually, the film can be a bit hit or miss. The further that the film strays away from practical effects and leans into heavy CG is where it struggles most. Luna's Rev 9 model of terminator, at its best, is a seamless evolution of the relentless kill-bot. At its worst, however, it's comparable to that of The Matrix: Reloaded. (Yuck.)
Anywho, this is much longer of a write-up / rant for Terminator than I was expecting, so I'll wrap things up. Although my criticisms might come off as a bit searing, Dark Fate was still a very enjoyable time at the theater. It was a fun stroll down memory lane that, assuming it isn't taken too seriously (which, why would it?), is a fairly easy recommendation for anyone looking for a fun, easy-going action flick.
Honey Boy: 9/10
Honey Boy isn't an easy watch, but I think I'd still recommend it. It's a story about growing up as a child actor in Hollywood, and echoes much of the past of its lead writer, Shia LaBeouf. (I'd go as far as saying that the less you know about Honey Boy going into it, the more that you'd ultimately enjoy it.)
While the film comes with a decent chunk of feel-good moments, much of it does come off as somber and even a bit depressing. It isn't always glamorously shot, or expertly paced, but these small spouts of imperfection almost feel like deliberate mirrors to that of an otherwise tumultuous childhood. The performances across the board are as exceptional as you'd hope, with its lead actor, Noah Jupe's Otis, giving a near-revelatory performance as a child actor. Lucas Hedges and LaBeouf himself round out the remaining trio of lead roles, and also perform with flying colors.
Honey Boy left a lasting impression with me that felt rough around the edges, slightly unpolished in certain areas, and flat out difficult to watch at times. But growing up is often messy. Amplify that under the scrutiny of the Hollywood lights, and you've got yourself a rare, but honest look behind the curtains.
Ford v Ferrari: 9/10
If you're a fan of either sports or heist films, this may be the perfect match for you. (But not necessarily sports-heists? I guess the Fast and Furious franchise is the only recent thing that comes to mind, and it certainly isn't that.) What I mean is that it has all the elements of your classic sports film, in that it sets it main protagonist (in this case, two) against insurmountable odds, with nothing but a lack of resources aside from their own intellect. The heist element comes from getting together the right set of tools, and gradually getting to see the entire plan come together. And once the 'heist' finally takes place in the third act, rarely does it let up on the throttle.
(But Ryan, I thought this was a racing movie. Are they stealing something? No. The heist is an analogy, in case that wasn't clear.)
Ford v Ferrari is a biopic that pairs the unlikely, jittery Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) with the hot-headed and deviant Ken Miles (Christian Bale) in a quest to try and topple legendary car manufacturer, Ferrari, from atop the throne of the world's most famed 24-hour race. At their backs are the support and pressure of the Ford Co. to do the seemingly impossible. What eventually follows isn't exactly a film that deviates from what you'd expect, but takes those expectations to satisfyingly new heights. Both Bale and Damon melt into their respective roles such that they'll have you forgetting the iconography of their previous (long) line of films, and solely, fully engaged in what's presented on-screen. Although billed as a 'car' movie, the bulk of the film is spent on developing meaningful character interactions and relationships, from the rickety relationships of our main characters, to the behind-the-back dealings of the main players in the automobile industry. Ford v Ferrari smartly presents nearly every aspect of the film in an accessible manner that is sure to keep the entirety of its wide audience engaged, and not just the car enthusiasts.
However, once the tires screech off of the pavement, the film easily hits its high. A blend of practical effects and CG do well to add to the realism of each race, while the sound design locks everything into place. Thankfully, races (and generally anything car-related) are paced accordingly, and feel more like a reward to the end of an act or arc, as opposed to dessert just for the sake of.
Ford v Ferrari is coming in at just the tail end of the upcoming awards season, but I fully expect that one of the best sports films in recent memory to lock in a heavy amount of nominations come this spring.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.