Film Review: “Ford v Ferrari”

Starring:  Matt Damon, Christian Bale and Jon Bernthal
Directed by: James Mangold
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 32 mins
Warner Bros.

There have only been a handful of movies dealing with auto racing that give the audience the feel of being behind the wheel.  In the 1960s, as the sport was gaining notoriety, films like “Winning,” “Le Mans” and “Grand Prix” fueled the audiences’ appetites.  Later on, “Days of Thunder” and Ron Howard’s “Rush” helped convey the feeling of going around in a circle at 200 miles per hour.  This week, that list is joined by the latest film from director James Mangold, “Ford v Ferrari.”

In 1959, Carroll Shelby (Damon) did what no American had ever accomplished by winning the 24 hour Le Mans auto race, held annually in France.  Shortly after his victory Shelby left the driving to others and began selling sports cars to the rich.  But he wanted more. And one day, that “more” – in the form of Ford Motor Company’s Lee Iacoca (Bernthal) – walks into his showroom with an offer he can’t refuse.

With an exhilarating pace that belies its 2 ½ hour run time, “Ford v Ferrari” is a testament to the wills and friendships of two very different people.  While Shelby know cars he also knows who needs to be driving them.  That would be one Ken Miles (Bale, actually getting the chance to employ his very real British accent), a top driver who has a bit of a temper.  It’s this temper that his held Ken back and he knows he needs to become a “team player” if he wants to race the new car that Shelby has created.  Miles has a loving wife and a doting son, both of who support him in the good times and bad.  If Ford hopes to beat perennial champion motor company Ferrari at the upcoming Le Mans race, the good times need to outweigh all other.

I’ve always been a fan of James Mangold.  From the cop drama “Copland” to the R-rated Wolverine epic “Logan,” he has always entertained me with smart films that show a master’s touch in storytelling.  Here that touch is put together with two of the best actors working today, making for a nice combination.  Throw in plenty of race footage and you’ve got a film that takes the checkered flag.

Book Review: Lita Ford “Living Like A Runaway”

“Living Like a Runaway”

Author: Lita Ford
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Hardcover: 272 pages
Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“Living Like a Runaway” provides a never before glimpse into the life of musician Lita Ford. The child of immigrants, she had a near idyllic southern California upbringing until she was thrust onto the hedonistic rock and roll scene at the age of just 16. With nearly unmatched skills, Lita along with Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Sandy West, Jackie Fox and under the guidance of Kim Fowley brought the band the Runaway’s to a meteoric rise during the mid to late 1970’s. After the groups break up Lita go on to see tremendous success as a solo artist in the 1980’s. Fearless, revealing and, compulsively readable the long awaited memoir from a true rock pioneer is finally here.

“Living Like a Runaway” is a quick read that keeps the reader’s attention over the course of its 272 pages. Ford speaks candidly about her upbringing and how she was thrust at an early age in to the male dominated hard rock music scene. The book covers the early days of the Runaway a group who had to practically fight for everything they had before ultimately imploding after only 3 albums. From there Ford recounts her career as a solo artist from not knowing where to start to her chart topping duet with Ozzy Osbourne. It is all here. The part of the book that really struck me as odd as over the books 15 chapters Ford has no problem speaking of past sexual encounters with various hard rock legends however when it comes to explaining more of her issues related to former band members and the divorce which left her alienated from her two sons Ford quickly skirts around the issue either saying she doesn’t understand or in the case of the later includes a statement flat out saying she is refusing to talk about it. In the age of the internet where nothing is private what is the sense of putting out a “tell all” type memoir if that’s not exactly what you are going to do? At least you are able to tell your side.

Despite whatever the reasons were for omitting certain details the book is still a decent read for fans of Lita and her works. With not a lot of behind the scenes info on the Runaway’s especially there time in Japan, Lita Ford’s “Living Like a Runaway” does an ok job filling that void.


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Robben Ford talks about new solo album “Into the Sun”

Robben Ford is a highly accomplished guitarist who has collaborated with everyone from Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison and Kiss. He was also named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century” by Musicians magazine. Robben recently released a new solo album titled “Into the Sun” and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with him about the album, its creation and Robben’s roots in music.

Adam Lawton: You have a bunch of guest performers on your new album “Into the Sun”. Can you tell us about those and what you feel each artist brought to the tracks they performed on?
Robben Ford: The whole notion of having guests on the album really came from my management. I just started working with new management and when they first brought this idea to me it was something that I didn’t really want to do. I am a little precious about my work as it’s sort of like a painting you do and then someone comes along and adds something else to your work. It may not always feel like that but it can. I decided to listen to them and it turned out to be really great. I am so pleased with the result. The first one’s that come to mind are Keb’ Mo and Warren Haynes. I have known both of those guys for many years now and had the chance to work with them both on several different occasions. Both are great guys and easy to work with so having them be a part of the project was a no brainer. Sonny Landreth was another great one and someone who I had actually already planned to have on the album. We have known each other for quite some time but never had the chance to really spend a lot of time with one another and I saw this as the chance. I actually played on one of his records in the past. Also on the album are Robert Randolph, Tyler Bryant and ZZ Ward. The song Robert does with Keb titled “Justified” is great! The two of them sound great on there. Both Tyler and ZZ I checked out on YouTube after they were suggested by management and I liked them both. ZZ was the one person who came in and recorded live with us in the studio. Everyone else we sent the music to. My only instruction to them was to just play. All of the collaboration was really successful. I was afraid that having so many guests might break up the continuity of the album but that wasn’t the case.

AL: Did giving those guest performers such simple directions provide for a lot of back and forth collaboration?
RF: I really just let them play to the tracks. From there we did whatever editing was necessary. It did take a little finesse on my part though in order to balance to the two guitar parts out. I had asked everyone not to play to me as I had already laid down my guitar part for each song. I sort of said give it a listen then go through with my part off and just play. Again everything worked out and I am really happy with it.

AL: Where does writing a song start for you?

RF: No matter what I think in the beginning things always end up turning out differently. I think that is true with any creative process really. It has to change. I tend to just sit down and start writing songs. In this particular case I wrote with my friend Kyle Swan. Kyle is really out there and at the same time really good. It is hard to pin down exactly what he does but it is super creative. I like his energy and where he is coming from. I found out recently that jazz music is our common thread. He went to school for jazz and in to a lot of the greats. Even though jazz isn’t what you’re hearing that background is there. Jazz has always been an undertone for my music. Kyle also helped me break through some lyric barriers as I am sort of a traditionalist in the way I write. I like to be clear and for a story to have a beginning, middle and end. I am also a little bit of a perfectionist as well.

AL: Is it hard to let another artist in during the writing process?
RF: When it comes down to it I want my material to be really good. I am always up for collaborating with other artists to get a song to where I want it. It’s one of those things where I am not actively searching for people to work with but it is something that I think about quite a bit. I have worked with a variety of people over the years in different ways but a really successful collaboration I would have to say is the one Michael McDonald and I had for a few years. Michael is the only other person I have written with a lot. We did quite a bit of material a lot of which has never been heard. I was really happy to find Kyle Swan as I like to see his creativity. Kyle thinks way outside the box so much so that sometimes I have to reel him in.

AL: Looking at things from a gear perspective you are sort of traditionalist in that you predominately use vintage equipment. Is it hard to stay true to those vintage roots with the constant progression of technology?
RF: I don’t find it difficult at all. I find it more difficult to change. I haven’t found any good reasons to change to new equipment. I am using Dumble Amps which do everything I need. I have actually used the same amplifiers on all my recordings since 1983. I like vintage guitars so I really have no interest in modern guitars what so ever. Pedals and such I just see them as the salt and pepper of my sound. They just add a little bit here and there however they are not my sound.

AL: Looking back on your career is there point in time that you felt was most beneficial to your career as a whole?

RF: Probably the two years I spent with Joni Mitchell. When I joined that group I was 22 years old with very little experience. I had practically none when it came to playing with experienced players. Up to that point I played in small bands with my friends. When I joined that band suddenly I was playing with people who had far more experience. They were all very kind to me and I was able to learn from them during that time. Joni was probably nevermore brilliant or beautiful as an artist as she was at the time I joined her band. It was a completely unbelievable and rewarding experience working with her. I would do it all again if I could.

AL: Is it fair to say that this experience was what made you want to go further in your career as a musician?
RF: Had I not had that experience I am not sure what would have happened. It’s hard to say because the trajectory I had in my mind was that of a blues guitarist trying to learn jazz. Entering into the “Pop” world and being around a group of people who were very supportive certainly affected me. Had I not been around that I probably would have gone the way of many of my contemporaries and been more of a jazz oriented player with blues as my background.

AL: What type of plans do you have in the works for the coming months?
RF: I am going to be out on the road the next couple of months. For a full list of dates people can check out my website at but I start touring in April here in the States and then I will be over in Europe for a couple weeks before heading back to the States for some shows on the west coast. People can also check out Robben Fords Guitar Dojo for a variety of guitar related lessons and material. I partnered with a great company that helped put this out and it’s a lot of fun to do. I will also be doing another guitar camp in the Catskill Mountains this year at the end of August so that’s another thing I am really looking forward to.

Lita Ford talks about music, touring and album “Living Like a Runaway”

Lita Ford got her first taste of success with the 70’s all-girl group The Runaways. After the groups break up Lita ventured out as a solo act in the 1980’s penning such hits as “Kiss Me Deadly” and the legendary duet “Close My Eye’s Forever” featuring Ozzy Osbourne. In 2012 Lita released a new album titled “Living Like a Runaway” which has thrust her back in to the spotlight. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Lita recently about her career and her upcoming spring/summer tour.

Adam Lawton: In the past year or so your career has undergone a resurgence. What do you think has caused that?
Lita Ford: My career has taking this leap for I think many reasons. I had been in the industry for many years and then I disappeared. In the time I was away raising my two boys people still hadn’t forgotten who I was. I am a part of the soundtrack to people’s lives. That’s something that just never goes away. Coming back I feel like I am on a more adult level now and the music has matured.

AL: Personally what do you think has been the biggest change in the industry from when you first started in 1975 to how things are now in 2013?
LF: Things have kind of come around in one big circle. That seems to be how a lot of things are. I started my career during the punk era with bands like The Sex Pistols, Blondie and The Ramones. That was a really awesome time. That led in to bands like Van Halen and Motley Crue which was the beginning of another heavy metal era. This new era of heavy metal was similar in how it came about in the way Black Sabbath did in the mid/late 60’s. The metal in the 80’s was a new kind of metal but still metal.

AL: Do you feel the perception of women in heavy metal music has changed it all since the 80’s?
LF: I think it has to a certain extent. It hasn’t changed 100% and is not completely normal. It has progressed and moved down the path a little bit further. When I started there were no real true female metal icons. There was no one to look up to as an artist. These days I have teenagers looking up to me for encouragement and inspiration. Now I am their icon. I never had something like that. I had people I looked up to like Richie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix but no females.

AL: You have been heavily involved with Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. Can you tell us how you got involved with that?
LF: The program was started by David Fishof and he invited me to be a part of it. I ended up going down to speak with David and I also got to check everything out. I had a blast! The whole thing was just awesome. I am glad to be a part of it. I am a great teacher which I think comes from being a mom. There is no better teacher than a mom. I get to try and bring out the best in each of the campers who attend the program no matter what level they are at which is really cool.

AL: Can you tell us about you upcoming Spring/Summer tour?
LF: I will be going to Australia which I am very excited about. I love going there. The aussie’s are fucking nuts! I love them. We are also going to be hitting Scandinavia which is another really great place. It’s so beautiful there.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the other projects you have in the works?
LF: We just finished work on a video for the song “Mother” which should be coming out around Mother’s Day. Vicki Blue who played bass in The Runaway’s did an incredible cinematic work on this video. It is very heartfelt and you will probably need a tissue by the time you are done watching it. I am working on a book for Harper-Collins that right now is still in the early stages of things. The idea of the book is the story of a female rocker who faces a number of ups and downs. It’s a different take on Rock and Roll. Most of the books that are out there now are all based on guys. I have quite a few stories from my career that can be written about so the book will be very real. B.C. Rich just released the first Lita Ford signature Warlock guitar which is available at most Guitar Centers around the country and we are also planning some more U.S. shows with Vince Neil and Bret Michaels.

Blu-ray Review “Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection”

Starring: Frederic Forrest, Robert Duvall, Teri Garr, Harrison Ford, Vincent Gallo, Gene Hackman
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Number of discs: 4
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Lions Gate
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Run Time: 695 minutes

Films: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

If you are a fan of Francis Ford Coppola, this 5-Film Collection is the ultimate prize. Included is four films previously available on Blu-ray – “Apocalypse Now”, the updated and extended version – “Apocalypse Now Redux”, “The Conversation”, “Tetro” and romantic musical “One From the Heart”, which is being released on high-def Blu-ray for the first time. It is definitely the main draw for this release! Lionsgate has really delivered the essential collection for one of most influential filmmakers of his time. The set includes four of the best works for the highly respected filmmaker, which share a combined total of 12 Academy Award® nominations and two wins between them. This release comes just in time for the holidays, and is perfect gift for all film fans. At the very reasonable price for less than $30 dollars, this release is a sure-win!

These films include some of the most unforgettable performances from Hollywood’s top talent. From “Apocalypse Now” we get Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, who all deliver each of their best performances to date.  Harrison Ford gives a wonderful performances in both “Apocalypse Now” and “The Conversation”. Gene Hackman is amazing in “The Conversation”, as is Cindy Williams and John Cazale.  Like Ford, Frederic Forrest also stars in two of these included “The Conversation” and “One From The Heart”.  Raul Julia also gives a show stopping performance in “One From The Heart”, as does Nastassja Kinski and Teri Garr.  Most recently, Vincent Gallo also delivers a career high performance in “Tetro”.

APOCALYPSE NOW: In the Vietnam War epic, Martin Sheen stars as Army Captain Willard, a troubled man sent on a dangerous top-secret mission into Cambodia to assassinate a rogue Green Beret, Colonel Kurtz (Brando), who has barricaded himself in a remote outpost. As Willard ventures deeper and deeper into the wilderness of the jungle, he embarks on a strange journey that leads him to Kurtz – but also forces him to come face to face with the terrifying vision of the heart of darkness in us all.

APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX: This is the definitive version of Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning vision of the heart of darkness in all of us, re-edited and re-mastered with 49 minutes of additional footage.

ONE FROM THE HEART: Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola shines his spotlight on a Las Vegas couple (Teri Garr, Frederic Forrest) whose break-up on the 4th of July leads them both to a night on the strip in pursuit of their romantic fantasies (Raul Julia, Nastassja Kinski). But in this town of gamblers and dreamers, should they bet it all on dreams, or give true love another roll of the dice? Featuring breathtaking design, show-stopping set pieces, the stunning cinematography of Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor) and accompanied by the wonderful Oscar® nominated music of the one and only Tom Waits, this neon explosion of color, sound and innovation is a cinematic valentine for all movie lovers.

THE CONVERSATION: In an underground world of conspiracy, surveillance and mystery, the film follows expert wire-tapper and spy Harry Caul (Hackman) during a routine investigation. With a haunting past tormenting his every move, Caul makes it a golden rule to stay far outside of each project. However, his latest job turns out to be more than Caul bargained for when he’s caught inside a web of murder and secrecy that threatens his safety – and his sanity.

TETRO: Starring Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ’66) and set in Argentina, Tetro tells the bittersweet story of two brothers, of family lost and found and the conflicts and secrets within a highly creative Italian immigrant family.

When it comes to Blu-ray presentation, these films have never looked better and don’t show their age at all. “Apocalypse Now”, “Apocalypse Now Redux” and “Tetro” are all presented in 1080P High Definition 16×9 Widescreen (2.35:1).  “One From The Heart” is presented in 1080P High Definition 4×3 Full Screen (1.33:1) and “The Conversation” is presented in 1080P High Definition 16×9 Widescreen (1.78:1).  All films contains a very solid audio, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.  Of course “Apocalypse” sounds the best due to its extreme action sequences throughout.

The special features are very impressive overall…for the most part.  If you are looking for the definitive “Apocalypse Now” release with major amounts of extras check out the previously released “Full Disclosure Edition”.  This release only includes an audio commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola. “One for the Heart” is up next and includes the most extras on its first bode on Blu-ray.  To start there is a feature-length audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola.  There are four documentaries included: “The Dream Studio”, “The Electronic Cinema”, “Tom Waits and the Music of One From The Heart”, The Making Of One From The Heart (1982)”. Each one is equally highly recommended as it covers various aspects of the musical. There is previously unreleased demo recordings and alternate takes of Tom Waits’ music included, as well as deleted scenes and videotaped rehearsals. There is also a recorded Press Conference at the Studio and “Francis Coppola Speaks to the Exhibitors”.  Lastly there is “This One’s From the Heart” Music Video, Stop Motion Demo and Theatrical Trailers included.

“Tetro” is up next and delivers some decent special features but are only presented in 1080i. There is an audio commentary with Francis Ford Coppola and actor Alden Ehrenreich. There are four featurettes included on this disc like in the previous release. “The Rehearsal Process” focuses on Coppola’s extensive preparation with the cast; Osvaldo Golijov: Music Born from the Film” featurette. “Mihai Malaimare, Jr: The Cinematography” looks at the film’s dancing, as does “The Ballet” featurette. Lastly “La Colifata: Siempre Fui Loco” is a look at the filming of Tetro at La Borda mental hospital. Lastly “Fausta: A Drama in Verse” is an extended version of the play featured within the movie.

Lastly up is The Conversation”, which are equally impressive as “One from the Heart”. First, there is an interview with director Francis Ford Coppola and composer David Shire, as well as two audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola and editor Walter Murch.  There is a further on siscussion with Francis Ford Coppola about his early film “No Cigar”. There are two featurettes including “Harry Caul’s San Francisco: Then and Now” and “Close up on The Conversation”.  Lastly there are archival screen tests with Harrison Ford and Cindy Williams, archival audio of Francis Ford Coppola dictating the original script and also an archival on-set interview with Gene Hackman.