Who Deserves a Spot in the Winner’s Circle: Charlie or Ferrari?

15 Nov

It’s mid November, which means there’s now an overabundance of options at the movie theater (and streaming on Netflix).

Because time is tight and you likely don’t have as much of it as I do to see every movie, let’s take a look at two new releases. One of them is definitely worth seeing, but I’m going to start with the one that isn’t.

Charlie’s Angels

Charlie's Angels posterI’m not sure why anyone thought Charlie’s Angels needed to be rebooted with a new film, but alas, here we are. This latest version, written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, stars Kristen Stewart (miscast), Ella Balinska, and the truly lovely Naomi Scott (the best thing about Disney’s recent Aladdin reboot) as the new generation of Angels, replacing Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu.

Actually, rather than a reboot, Banks’ film is considered the third one on the series. It even references Diaz, Barrymore, and Liu’s characters, as well as the Angels from the original TV show.

That said, this new Angels isn’t in the same league as the other two films. Not that the predecessors were classics or anything, but this latest iteration is a lower-rent film, and in many ways, it shows. The action is less flashy, the casting is (with few exceptions) filled with lesser stars, and the quality is, well, less good.

Banks does what she can with a clearly lower budget, and, on the good side, the result of her efforts is a more grounded film that feels very now. But, with the exception of the end-credits scenes, it still feels wholly unnecessary and not worth the time.

I’m giving Charlie’s Angels a C+

Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari posterMuch much better is Ford v Ferrari, a terrifically fun film that is slick entertainment and definitely one of the year’s best. Here, Matt Damon stars as American car designer Carroll Shelby, who teams with British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) in Ford Motor Company’s effort to topple the dominance of Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966.

Ford v Ferrari is a film you don’t have to be a gearhead to enjoy. While it does devote a lot of attention to cars and racing, it’s more a film about these two legendary men’s friendship, and how they battled corporate interference and their own personal demons to make history together. That said, even if you bring limited knowledge of cars to this movie, you’ll come to understand the dynamics of racing and driving, and how the smallest of details can have the biggest impact — physically and inter-personally.

Directed by James Mangold (whose last film, Logan, was one of my favorites of 2017), Ford v Ferrari is well paced and thrillingly filmed. It features a cast of very colorful characters, none more so than the ones played by the film’s two leads. Bale, especially, radiates so much joy every time he’s behind the wheel that it’s infectious — but he also lets you know that racing is a mind game, and about more than just having fun. This layered, physical, and sometimes very funny performance should bring Bale multiple award nominations.

ford v ferrariAlso worth noting is Tracy Letts, who, as Henry Ford II, chews scenery so well that I’m sure he put on a few pounds while making the film. (Particularly amusing is the scene where Shelby takes Ford for a spin around the track to show him how powerful a car can really be.) Everyone on screen looks like they had an absolute blast making this movie, and it shows from start to finish.

Like Ron Howard’s Rush, a great movie that also focused on a real-life racing rivalry (and starred Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth), Mangold’s film builds the stakes and makes you emotionally invested in its David vs Goliath story — even if you know how it’s going to end. Mangold clearly gets this world, and loves taking us under the hood and putting us right in the center of the action. He immerses us in it, from Jon Bernthal’s Mad Men-esque performance as Lee Iacocca to the production design to the soundtrack.

In short, Ford v Ferrari is a confidently made film with so much swagger, it would be a winner regardless of who pulled across the race’s finish line first.

I’m giving it an A–.

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