There’s at least one thing that you can bank on going into a movie like Southpaw and it’s the confidence that Jake Gyllenhaal will bring it. The actor is right in the middle of that sweet spot in his career where he’s knocking everything out of the park regardless of the strength of the material he’s working with. Southpaw, doesn’t do nearly enough with the tools at Gyllenhaal’s disposal, but it does just enough to give it the hook it needs to deliver a solid punch.
Comin’ at ya like a modern day Rocky this film follows Billy Hope (Gyllenhall) right at the peak of his career as a middleweight boxing champion. Billy started his career with nothing and now he’s got it all- his smokin’ hot wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams), his loving daughter Leila (Oona Laurence), a huge mansion, a faithful posse, and a burgeoning boxing career. Then tragedy strikes. His wife is killed in a scuffle at a charity event and Billy finds himself in a downward spiral. His hot headed antics get him released from a lucrative contract, he loses his house, his money, his reputation, and his self-destructive ways get his daughter taken away from him. Back to having nothing Billy must find a way to crawl out of the sewer and reclaim the things he holds dear. (more…)
The two most telling things I can possible say to anyone getting ready to read my ramblings about the Oscars is that (1) as of writing this I haven’t seen all the movies nominated and therefore can’t accurately speak for many of the nominations those movies have gotten (but I will try), and (2) I don’t necessarily care about the Oscars. I know what movies I saw in 2014 that I loved and many of them would have never had a chance to even enter Oscar discussions. Therefore the Oscars are more of a “cherry on top” should any of the movies I loved actually get recognition- and I’m not that big a fan of cherries.
I will say I do enjoy watching the Oscars….some of the time. I feel like the ceremony is too long and there are too many categories I don’t really care that much about. However, I do enjoy watching seasoned actors giving their acceptance speeches, especially if I’m a big fan of said actor/actress. In the event any of my favorite movies, actors, actresses, scores, and writers get recognized for movies I enjoyed during the year I get a pretty satisfying rush even having not been involved in their success. But seeing as how I don’t really hold the Oscars near and dear to my heart it’s more of a momentary celebration than anything I remember long after its over. So…all that being said aren’t you pumped for my predictions now? (more…)
The NFL falls right in the middle of the sports I care about and the sports I couldn’t care less about. I have a favorite NFL team, but I expect nothing from them on a yearly basis and fully expect them to choke every year they make the playoffs. So you would think a movie about a day that I basically write off and avoid every year wouldn’t really fall in my wheelhouse. You might be right, except I like the behind the scenes looks that movies like MONEYBALL give audiences. DRAFT DAY though, is no MONEYBALL though- but thanks to Kevin Costner it’s not nearly as cringe inducing as I expected it to be.
Made up entirely of fake players, fake owners and fake coaches for real NFL teams DRAFT DAY follows the hectic draft day for Cleveland Brown GM Sonny Weaver Jr (Kevin Costner). Sonny is still reeling from the death of his father, baby drama with a member of his staff he happens to be dating and a city of irritated sports fans praying for him to make a splash in the draft. As the day goes on he wrestles with a number of decisions that could make or break his career and personal life. (more…)
Before performance enhancing drugs, which present a fundamental problem within the game of baseball there was an even bigger moral problem present within the game. Segregation in general was a despicable practice and seeing it on display in movies is bad enough and illicit some very negative feelings, but to think of how much worse it was to actually live it just feels overwhelming. The story of Jackie Robinson gives people a chance to get a taste of that time period and the struggles of being the first black man in the game of baseball and 42 might take a few liberties with that story, but is still an inspiring and moving bit of cinema.
Along with chronicling the rise of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) in baseball it also points a secondary spotlight on Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) the baseball exec that decides to break the race barrier in the sport by bringing Robinson into the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. Being the first African American player in the league Robinson has to deal with an overwhelming amount of racism including threats against his life along with his wife and son while his teammates each learn to treat him as one of their own.
42 has a very old fashioned look about it, something that gives it quite a bit of character and a very distinct feel. The old fashioned nature of it tends to make some of the characters seem like caricatures which at times include Harrison Ford and his cigar chewing persona. The look also lends to the hyper awareness of the time period, which keeps it from appearing too stale and tame as far as the filmmaking is concerned.
The performances from both Ford and Boseman are great even though Ford seems a bit like a Looney Toons villain when he talks; he still has quite a few fantastic moments in the film. Boseman plays the role of Robinson in a very layered yet subtle way as he portrays a man with a strong will and a bit of an attitude, but also with fragile vulnerability when it comes to the love for his family. The same thing that makes his character seem vulnerable also tends to be what he turns to when he needs strength, which adds a great deal of heart at the center of the film. The dynamic between Robinson and his wife gives 42 a sweetness to go along with the true tale of inspiration.
I’m a sucker for baseball movies and I felt like a kid in a candy store watching the old style of the film, retro baseball teams, retro uniforms and some really great in game action. Some of the moments with Jackie at the plate were genuinely tense since you knew that there was always a high probability the pitcher on the mound or anyone on the field could do something to hurt him at any second. The sound of the baseball flying at his head as the pitcher hurls a fastball was done brilliantly and almost made me feel like ducking to miss the ball as I was sitting in my seat. Being a baseball fan just watching baseball in this time period is enough to geek out over and I had plenty of opportunities to do so.
42 isn’t perfect, as there are elements in the script that didn’t feel natural and moments that felt very thinly written which never completely took me out of the film, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Some of the casting really worked where some seemed a bit awkward- specifically the long drawn out and cartoonishly racist scene with Alan Tudyk as a slur hurling manager. I love Tudyk and moments of his performance work and while I’m sure what he did may have been an actual thing that happened in those days, it just felt forced with Tudyk in the role. The script does tend to make the characters a little exaggerated in terms of their mannerisms, but otherwise Ford and Boseman really carry the film from beginning to end along with the ever present institutional spirit that shines through the wonderful true story that inspires it.