Movie review: Southpaw

Movie reviews

Good morning!

I’ve promised to post a review for Southpaw 2 days ago, but I am only posting it now for some reason. Better late than ever, right ? Anyway, let’s start talking about a film already.

Southpaw is the latest Antoine Fuqua’s film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, and Rachel McAdams. It’s a sports drama distributed by The Weinstein Company. The chairmen of this company – Harvey Weinstein – is known for running very successful Oscar campaigns for the films his company distributes, so Southpaw is expected to get a few nominations as well. And it definitely deserves it! The only thing that might stop this film is its release date. Oscar season usually doesn’t start in summer, but Southpaw is trying to change the game. I hope it succeeds.

IMDb summary: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

Story

The script for Southpaw has been written by Kurt Sutter. Sutter has worked as a writer, producer, and director on various TV shows (Sons of Anarchy being one of them), but this is his first time writing a screenplay for a motion picture. Southpaw is a story about a down-on-his-luck boxer Billy Hope, who, due to circumstances and his own hot temper and anger, loses everything he has, even, excuse the pun, hope to get back on his feet and onto a right path. I have never been a huge fan of boxing, I’ve never really understood the appeal of this sport, or of any martial arts and combat sport. As a result, I haven’t seen a lot of boxing movies, so Southpaw for me was an interesting, exciting and quite a fresh film. However, since I’m an athlete myself, I have seen a lot of movies about sport and all of them, including Southpaw, have the same cliches, like: finding a new coach who used to train one’s unbeatable opponent, getting the necessary motivation because of some random kid’s story, training not only for the title but to provide for one’s family and so forth. Having said that, even though the film is predictable and the biggest twist is spoiled in the trailer, Southpaw is still a great, but depressing story about a man’s fight for his existence, both in the ring and in the actual ‘real’ life.

Values

Southpaw underlines the importance of family a lot; it especially highlights the father-daughter relationship, which is always a winning theme for me, since my dad is my best friend. Furthermore, friendship and fake friends are also a theme that is touched upon in this movie. In addition, the corporate and commercial side of the sport is also discussed. Lastly, a theme, which is very important to all martial arts movies and real life boxers, of mixing the ring with real life is at the core of Southpaw. Interestingly, while a lot of people (including myself) might think that anger is the driving force in all combat sports, this movie tries to show how the actual technique of fighting, speed, and fast thinking are the skills that help one win the fight. Anger can only get you or others close to you killed or at least badly hurt, both in the ring and in day-to-day life.

This movie also has an interesting structure. The thing that sends Billy Hope’s life into a downwards spiral happens in the first 15 minutes and then the audience is asked to sit through 1.5 hours of slow, almost action-less redemption ark, which isn’t very redeeming at first, and only in the last 15 minutes Billy is actually able to get his life back on track. However, there are things and people that he is not able to get back and that will leave a mark on him for the rest of his life. Some consequences are permanent and that’s the sad true that all people have to deal with.

Directing

Southpaw is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who is probably best known to mainstream audiences for directing 2001’s Training Day, starring Denzel Washington and last year’s The Equalizer, also starring Denzel. I’ve seen both of these films but never have been a big fan of them. Personally, I was introduced to Fuqua in 2004 with the film King Arthur. That movie was one of my favorites during childhood and it still is now. The fight scene over a frozen lake is one of my favorite scenes in movies ever and also, that scene, together with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers final battle scene, are the things that made me want to try my hand at archery! And now, almost 10 years later, it’s still my hobby. Anyway, sorry for going off track, we are here to talk about Southpaw. The fight scenes in that film are shot brilliantly, you feel like you are in the ring with the boxers and that you are actually the one fighting, The dark, brownish and grayish color palette also represent the mood of the film perfectly.

The next Fuqua’s film – the remake of 1960s Western – The Magnificent Seven – will be released next year and it will have a very esteemed cast. Denzel Washington once again will work with Fuqua after taking a 1-year break, fan favorite Chris Pratt and Boyhood’s Ethan Hawke will provide their services and even KingpinVincent D’Onofrio – will stop by.

Acting

Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope. Gyllenhaal deserves much more credit and attention than he gets. He is an extremely versatile actor, both with his emotions and his body. Do you remember how he looked last year in Nightcrawler and how he looks now in Southpaw? I still don’t know why he didn’t get an Academy Awards nomination last year and I will be extremely pissed off if he doesn’t get one this year. I enjoyed Nightcrawler a lot – never has a film or a character in the film made me feel so uncomfortable. I also liked Jake’s performance in movies like 2007’s Zodiac and 2010’s comedy Love and Other Drugs. I really want to check out his earlier work – Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain – as well.

Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope. Usually, when an actress creates an iconic role, it’s hard for said actress to break out of that preconceived notion and stereotype. But Rachel McAdams never had this problem. In 2004, she starred in not one, but two cult classics – Mean Girls and The Notebook. Sadly, she hasn’t been able to recreate that year’s success with a wide variety of films – dramas, comedies and action flicks, but 2015 might be the year. Although her role is small and she isn’t on screen much, she kills it. I loved her character because Maureen Hope was the boss of the family and a strong female character that all movies are trying to create nowadays, but only a few of them actually succeed at doing so.

Oona Laurence as Leila Hope was amazing. Definitely, a young talent to watch. She is already pretty well know in a theater circuit for originating the role of Matilda Wormwood in Matilda on Broadway and for being nominated for a Grammy with the cast of Matilda for a soundtrack of that musical. Moreover, Oona has 7 movies (both short and feature-length) coming out this year and she is only 13 years old! Do you feel like you haven’t done anything with your life? Because I certainly am.

Forest Whitaker as Titus Wills was also a great addition to the cast. His character was believable and realistic as well as a great mentor for Billy Hope. The look of the character was also interesting and unique. I am not really familiar with Whitaker’s other films, although I enjoyed his performance in The Butler.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Jordan Mains was also surprisingly good. I always expect singers-turned-actors to be quite terrible, but Jackson has quite a broad film career, in addition to being a rapper. His look was also on point – those suits were amazing.

Miguel Gomez as Miguel “Magic” Escobar played the opponent of Billy Hope and was okay. His character was the only one, who, at times, seemed like a cartoon version of himself, meaning he was too over the top.

Rita Ora as Maria Escobar. Ora had a small cameo in the film and was really good in it. Previously, she had a small cameo in Furious 6: Rita met Vin Diesel at some event and they just came up with a role for her on a spot. Since then, Ora has been trying to get into Hollywood, but I don’t think she chose a great franchise as a starting point. I, of course, mean the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey, where she plays Grey’s sister. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, what comes out of it.

To sum up, I enjoyed Southpaw immensely and I have never been a fan of boxing. The movie’s plot was full of sport’s movie’s cliches, but amazing directing from Fuqua and strong performances from the whole cast, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, made up for it. I highly advise you to see this film, because I believe it will resurface when the Awards season kicks in.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Southpaw trailer

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Movie review: Ted 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I and a few of my friends went to see Ted 2. Personally, I don’t really consider myself to be a type of person who likes comedies, especially contemporary ones. I think that nowadays comedic movies rely too much on sexual jokes, which lack tastefulness. Nonetheless, I still went to this film, although I knew that it has a lot of sexual jokes. Two main reasons that have driven me to the cinema that night was the fact that I was going with friends – I’ll never say no to them – and secondly, I wanted to see if this was the end of Seth MacFarlane’s career.

IMDb summary: Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law.

To begin with, let’s talk about the first film. I didn’t particularly liked the 2012 Ted. I thought that the premise was interesting but the execution and the overall final product – not so much. I probably liked the 2nd Ted film more than the first.

Seth MacFarlane

This was definitely better tan MacFarlane’s last year’s comedy A Million Ways to Die in a West. While I wanted to cry while watching that one, I laughed quite a lot during this one. Also, I believe that Seth Macfarlane does amazing job a a voice actor. He really brought Ted to life once more. In addition, this film focused a lot on Ted and his own life rather than on his relationship with John as in the first film. However, I still prefer Family Guy over any MacFarlane’s film. 

Story

The movie’s plot was a bit jumbled up. You had a story of Ted getting married, then fighting for his rights, then he needed to go to NY for no real reason and there was also that story-line with Donny and Hasbro. The opening credits sequence was also impressively but way too long. Lastly, the film had a lot of advertising…way TOO much of advertising. 

Adds

Half the time, I felt like I was watching a Hasbro commercial. But they really didn’t paint themselves as a nice company. Plus, that whole NY Comic Con action was a nice advert for San Diego Convention which is coming up. Comic Con footage also allowed them a chance to include a lot of Easter Eggs of different properties.

Easter Eggs

The movie referenced other movies a lot. You could spot call-backs to Jurassic Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Star Trek, Rocky, Lord of the Rings, and DC comics to name a few. There were also a plethora of references to controversial events. I believe that some of these jokes worked but some felt really flat. Furthermore, not a lot of people could understand all the references because they might have not seen that particular movie or heard anything about that particular event. References were also mainly US based, so there could be some problems with foreign audiences. My friends aren’t really that interested in pop culture or are as gigantic nerds as I am, so they didn’t understand half the jokes.

Jokes

Other half of jokes were aimed at 10 years olds. Poop jokes!? Really? There were also way too much of sexual and racist banter that, while it was funny sometimes, it made me feel bad that I laughed at such stupidity. The finale of the film also played out the same way as it did in the first film. Nothing new there.

Acting

The cast did a nice job. Mark Wahlberg was good, but his character had a smaller role this time. Amanda Seyfried was a nice addition, she replaced Mila Kunis. Since I am a fan of Amanda, I’ve enjoyed her performance and her chemistry with Wahlberg. Jessica Barth was a functional stereotypical blonde and Giovanni Ribisi – cartoon-ish crazy person. 

The film had a lot cameos as well. Morgan Freeman had a small part (the joke about his voice was funny and surprisingly truthful). Liam Neeson showed up – I guess you have to pay your bills somehow. Tom Brady was also there for some reason.

All in all, the movie was a bit of a hot mess but it came through a few times. It’s a great comedy for pop culture fans and a great one for fans of stupid jokes. These two sides really didn’t fit together, so that’s why the movie turned out as it did – with no clear direction.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: Ted 2 trailer

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Movie review: The Giver + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

The Giver movie has finally opened in my country, so this is going to be my review!

From unknown Australian TV director Phillip Noyce comes The Giver – a childrens’ book by Lois Lowry adaptation to the big screen.

Summary:

Lowry’s book The Giver was released in 1993 (It took 21 years to make a movie out of this book!) followed by Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). Currently, I am reading the 3rd book and I am enjoying this series, it raises a lot of questions to me and shows what happens to people who forget what is important in life.

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Book to movie changes

The beginning of the movie seemed a bit rushed, they flew through the bigger part of the book in the first 20-30 minutes, so it was natural that they needed to make some stuff up and plus, they had only less than a 100 pages of the book material left. Basically, in my opinion, the book hadn’t had much action or a clear direction where it was going, to what final piece it was building up to. So, while adapting this sort of slow but thought provoking story into an action flick, they just cleared some things and organized the plot. They also upgraded the setting into a much more modern world which is more appealing to today’s viewers. I was really happy that they included more character development and focused a bit more on other characters instead of focusing just on Thomas. Of course, they added some romance, which is a must for a dystopian YA movie, as well. The last big change – picking a clear antagonist: The Chief Elder played by Meryl Streep.

Acting

Streep was amazing as usual. I also enjoyed other big movie stars like Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes and Jeff Bridges in their pay-check roles. Newcomers Odey Rush and Cameron Monaghan also did a nice job. Cameo form Taylor Swift was good but not too memorable. Rising star Brenton Thwaites, which is going to be in 2 more movie this year (Ride and Son of a Gun) and who was also in Maleficient as Prince Phillip and in The Signal (small budget, independent Sci-Fi thriller), did really good job in his role. I also liked how Brenton’s character Jonas spent the bigger part of the movie with a baby and showed that staying with a kids is not just woman’s work.

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Visuals

Now, speaking about the visuals, I loved the transition from black and white to color and I believe that it worked perfectly with the story. All the different shots of the memories seemed a bit chaotic but nice  as well.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and didn’t mind the changes because all the main plot points stayed the same and some dialogue lines were straight from the book. The film was touching, cute, pleasant but not too complicated. They portrayed human emotions believably, restored my faith in humanity and made me want to be alive and experience everything – even if just for a moment.

Trailer: The Giver trailer

Rate: 4/5

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Photos: Google Images