Monthly Archives: July 2015

Southpaw

He Is Phenomenon…nomenon

The problem with boxing movies is that there are only ever seems to be 2 of them. There’s the one where the guy is the underdog who manages to make it big or there’s the one where the dude on top falls from grace – most likely to rise up again.

This is the latter. There is no other way around it because the film feels very much by the numbers. Let’s start with the story. Basically; Billy Hope is the dude on top but then falls from grace only to rise up again. That was easy.

OK, so there is a bit more to it than that. Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is not well educated and is quick to temper. The more he get’s hit the harder he fights back. Anger is his biggest weapon and let’s face it, it’s done him well. He lives in a big house, drives nice cars and has an entourage to feed his vanity. To keep him organised and calm is his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and his daughter Leila (Oona Laurance).

They can’t always keep him calm though as a gala dinner goes wrong after upcoming boxer Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) goads him into a fight which turns into a bit of a free for all. Shots are fired and Maureen is killed as a result.

Even though the story is nothing revolutionary the film does have knockout cast of top notch actors who all give fantastic performances. It also has 50 Cent. Obviously the stand out performance here is Jake Gyllenhaal who once again immerses himself as fully as he can into the role. Perhaps not as transformative, and I really hate that word, as his role in Nightcrawler but close.

The scenes before the gala where he has to make speeches are fully believable that he is nervous and out of his depth. His world is all about his wife and punching people. So when his wife dies we are shown a heavy slide from grief, right through depression to the edge of insanity where he rests precariously. You go from liking Hope as an underprivileged soul who just wants to live his own life to detesting him as a rather despicable father figure but at least you understand why – he’s lost half of himself.

At this point you have to cheer Leila his daughter who falls out of love with her unrecognisable father figure but feel sorry for her as she is taken into foster care when Hope loses the house, the cars, everything. Oona Laurance delivers a fantastic performance getting the perfect balance of innocence and strength. If she can land the right roles she will have a terrific future ahead of her for sure.

In order to get his daughter back Hope has to give up his pride and find a job cleaning a local gym. Along the way he tries to get himself back into training with an ex pro trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) and it’s here that my biggest gripe comes into light. Wills is meant to be a reserved and precise, no-nonsense mentor to young boxers yet the script for his character is at times cringeworthy. Gyllenhaal’s character has some questionable dialogue too but this fits his uneducated character. Whitaker’s character seems fairly well educated but is at times as eloquent as an elephant.

So let’s address the elephant in the room. 50 Cent. 50 Cent plays an “it’s all about the money” boxing promoter and whilst I have to admit I was impressed with how well he played the role he simply isn’t in the same league as the rest of the cast and ends up detracting your attention from key scenes.

Still you didn’t come to see 50 Cent you came to see how ripped Gyllenhaal has become and to see people punching people. You won’t be disappointed. The boxing scenes are perhaps not up there with the greatest boxing films but Gyllenhaal did all his own stunts after former professional boxer Terry Claybon had him for more than one training day.

Speaking of training day, if you were wondering where you’ve seen Antoine Fuqua credited before then that was probably it. It probably explains why there is a rapper in one of the key roles, the semi-questionable soundtrack and also the overall feel of the film. It also shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this is a decent boxing film, even if it’s not quite the heavy hitter you want it to be.

Go See

  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Great Acting – Especially Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Fight scenes – Mainly because Jake Gyllenhaal did them

Avoid

  • Janky script
  • Standard boxing story
  • 50 Cent

Overall

4-stars

Advertisements

Inside Out

That Feeling of Being Jung Again

Is Inside Out one of the best examples, technically, of an animated feature? No. Is it the most enjoyable animated films to watch? No. Does it have some of the most memorable characters of any animated film? No. Is it a film that, like the best animated films, is a must see film for all ages? Not necessarily, no. Is the storyline brilliant and gripping? No. Is it one of the best films Pixar has ever made? Absolutely yes.

This film isn’t a masterpiece of animation. If we are talking about visual aesthetics then there are better examples with Frozen or Epic. If we are talking to attention to detail then look no further than the Minions movie. If you are looking for some thrilling action scenes then How To Train Your Dragon 2 or Wreck It Ralph are probably the films for you instead of Inside Out. That’s not to say Inside Out is badly animated, it’s not at all, it’s just doesn’t raise the bar like many other animated films have.

The film doesn’t have particularly memorable characters. Not like Nemo and Dory anyway. In fact, it’s only been a couple of days since I saw the film and I can only remember them as Mum, Dad and Daughter.

It’s here I should probably explain the story of the film to make sense of the other main characters. As mentioned above the overall story isn’t brilliant. Mum and Dad move to a new city, daughter gets upset and thinks about running away. That’s about it. However that is only the icing on the cake. The cake itself, in this scenario, is what is going on inside everyone’s head.

Mum, dad, daughter (in fact absolutely everyone) has 5 characters in their head named Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear who go to work in a central control room and depending on what tpe of person you are a specific character/emotion is in control. These characters push buttons and switches which in turn trigger actions by the actual person (mum, dad, daughter etc). Each action creates memories which are represented by glowing orbs the same colour as the person in charge; Joy is yellow, Sadness is blue, Anger is red etc. At the end of a day the memories are dumped into ‘long term’.

Once in a while powerful memories are formed producing core memories. These core memories essentially create a personality profile shown onscreen by floating islands just outside of the central control room. So for me these would be film island, computer game island,┬ábreak-dance island, err… cheese island.

The daughter – Riley! That was her name! – has Joy in charge of her brain who doesn’t want to let Sadness take control but after moving to a new city Sadness inexplicably wants to start touching controls and memories but in doing so she appears to turn happy memories into sad ones. desperate to keep Riley’s memories happy ones Joy and Sadness accidentally get sucked out of central control and land in long term. Without Joy in the control room Riley can’t be happy so it’s a race to get Joy back.

Whether right or wrong is irrelevant but Inside Out provides a simple and colourful visual representation of our psyche. The main point of the film is to show that we are all complex beings that think in a very different way and we all have core memories that drive us towards different goals.

On the surface we are all driven by simple emotions yet sitting behind this control room is a host of memories and cognitive functions that affect our base emotions even if ‘central’ isn’t aware of it. For example as part of their journey, Joy and Sadness venture through an “experimental” abstract thought machine that transforms them into abstract shapes and forms. Then there is a hyper-active imagination land full of dumb things that I’m sure we have all thought of at some point such as being able to ride clouds or a guaranteed. emphatic win in any given sport.

These concepts are beautifully worked into the story because Riley is so young that abstract theory is probably only just starting to fire off in her synapses but imagination at that age is still wild and vivid. Whilst the meaning behind these scenes is deep, it could have been easily brushed aside into insignificance or at best just ‘an interesting addition’. However, they writers have managed to get around this by introducing bing bong; Riley’s imaginary friend who is bouncing around in long term memory. I won’t spoil it but it’s a touching explanation as to why a friend becomes a distant memory and another way of relating this macro adventure to Riley’s current situation and essentially being forced to grow up.

All the while Joy and Sadness are trapped things go from bad to worse with Riley who is now controlled by Anger, Digust and Fear only. She is now finding ire and resentment instead of solace in the things she used to love which drives her to run away back to her previous home but also starts destroying the islands created from the core memories showing us that it is all too easy to turn our backs on the things we love.

Both Joy’s story and Riley’s story are only resolved once Joy realises the importance of Sadness being in control as much as any other emotion. Only by internally developing complex relationships between base emotions and ultimately starting to understand ourselves can we grow and learn.

Schadenfreude. A beautiful sadness. I’ve can’t think I have ever seen this concept presented so well on film. The film manages to intricately weave a story between the meta characters with how these relate to real world actions whilst overlapping psychological aspects that represent Riley’s current state of development and it’s for this reason why Inside Out is a really great film.

It’s also the reason however, that kids might not enjoy it so much. Even if they do enjoy the characters and colourful visuals I doubt they can grasp how deep this film goes. An understanding of how powerful emotions can be is something brought on by the sands of time so I wonder if this will actually be truly popular with a younger audience?

Anyway, with a parietal lobe-full of simplistic and relatable – but perhaps pseudo – psychology Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films yet. Unfortunately it is let down by it not pushing the boundaries of animation as you would expect from the studio. Still, it’s certainly a film that you could return to over and over without it being passed into long term or even fading from memory.

Go See

  • Simplistic psychology in bright colours!
  • Both joyful and sad at the same time
  • Cleverly weaved elements of the story

Avoid

  • Doesn’t push the boundaries of animation
  • Might not be hugely entertaining for younger children

Overall

4-stars

Ant-Man

Tiny Man, Big Film

Marvel films. They’re great aren’t they? Lots of cool stuff happening; lasers blasting, shields acting like boomerangs, a tiny huge green monster human punching stuff really hard, person-spiders, the art of flight with a hammer – fuck it why not? Awesome. Yet, they are all starting to feel a bit samey aren’t they. A similar sort of humour running through all the films.

It’s understandable though. They are trying to build a whole interlinking universe across multiple franchises so it simply wouldn’t work to have something that is akin to film noir suddenly superimposed in the fun, glossy world of the Avengers. So when I say that Ant-Man is going to be part of the Avengers in the cinematic universe you know what to expect from this film right? Wrong.

Being small gives you get a totally different perspective on the world, simple things like a comic book seems so huge and people… you can see the pimples in their face and all the imperfections. It’s here we meet the hero of this story: Me.

You see I first encountered Ant-Man as a small kid in a comic store feeling overwhelmed with the scale of comics on offer and even being intimidated but the spotty faced nerds behind the till with acne the size of potholes in Cambodia. I found a little one off compendium featuring Squadron Supreme a relatively unknown superhero group. It was cheap so I bought it and there was Ant-Man who saved the day. I thought it was quite dumb to be honest.

After watching the trailer about 17,000 bloody times – it was on before every film in the cinema and I watch a lot of films – I was really expecting an awful movie especially given the troubles the film has had with losing directors throughout it’s production. But I was wrong. Really wrong.

Ant-Man is probably the most refreshing Marvel film since the first Iron Man. You’ve probably heard that each franchise tries to be a different style of film – Thor is a fantasy film, The Hulk is a monster flick, Captain America was war film. yeah the links are a bit tenuous but Ant-Man really is a heist film. It ignores most, but not all, of the tropes of the normal Marvel Franchise.

If you think about what made Ocean’s 11 fun and apply it to a superhero film you are on the right track. You have heist setup, a series of short clips of a man talking to a man who is overheard by a woman who talks to her dealer who sells the info to… well you get the idea. Ant-Man features a cool soundtrack that is like a John Williams and Quincy Jones mash-up riffing over the top of the important infiltration scenes. It also has those “Ahhh… very clever moments” of quick thinking and ingenuity.

It’s also thanks to the script written by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish that this film feels very different to the other Marvel films even if it does have some classic Marvel humour drizzled on top. The lines are delivered for the most part very well by all involved but most notably Michael Pena as Paul Rudd’s not-so-bright friend; Luis. This character alone is a million miles removed from the ‘norm’ almost like this origin story.

I say origin but really it’s a passing of the torch so the true origins of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as Ant-Man aren’t explored in depth but instead this is a simple passing of the torch to Scott Lang, the new Ant-Man. This is an approach we haven’t seen before in any Marvel origin stories.

Of course, the change of perspective helps deliver a feeling of freshness. I was truly surprised how excited I was to see Ant-Man shrink for the first time and found myself really loving the tiny action scenes. The imagination of how a miniature heroes interact with everyday objects such as phones or Thomas the Tank Engine is brilliant and trust me; the Thomas scene is great – the trailer doesn’t ruin it.

Whilst the villain in Ant-Man is also refreshing because it doesn’t feel like the global threats of the last few Marvel films the motivation and overall feel of the villain is a bit samey. It’s a minor criticism and one of the only ones I can think of. One other minor criticism is that there is a sub plot of mind controlling ants that is casually glossed over with pseudo-science and that’s a shame because the rest of the film builds very well.

The only other criticism I can really say of Ant-Man is that it doesn’t feel as critical as the other characters/franchises but it is for that very reason that it is a breath of fresh air. The moments where we get to see tiny ant-man delivers big results. It wasn’t hard to come out of the cinema and think little 12 year old me was wrong. Ant-Man is pretty damn cool.

Go See

  • Great heist movie
  • Shrinkage in the bath
  • Supporting cast

Avoid

  • Bit of a bland villain
  • Do my bidding ants!
  • Not as important as Iron Thormerica in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Overall

4-stars

Terminator Genisys

I’ll be back? More like Agh, my back!

This movie is about as much of a glorified fan service film as you could possibly imagine. Genisys has taken parts of all the other terminators and slapped them together in the hope of a decent movie. It’s basically trying be Skyfall but for the Terminator series.

I actually walked out of the theatre thinking that the film was better than anticipated but after a few slack days of not writing any reviews now I look back on it the film is actually fairly bland. Funnily enough it’s just moments from the previous movies slapped together.

What’s iconic about the first movie? A young Arnold sent back in time to kill the Connor family? Cool. Add it in. What about the second film? Well obviously Arnie as the protector! Cool, bung it in. The third? They go back to destroy SkyNet before it begins? Sure why not, throw that in there. I think we need something from Salvation as well? Well that has to be the big mechs and slave labour camps! Great, throw that shit on top and we are done!

That’s pretty much the playbook here I mean we even have a duplicate of the iconic scene where Arnie first get’s warped to LA. We even have one of those liquid metal terminators the T-1000 complete with the ‘Chinese Robert Patrick’ look. Is that me being subconsciously racist? probably but he does share a resemblance I’m sure of it.

One thing it doesn’t have is the female model T-X from Terminator 3 but it makes up for it with a brand new machine and if you don’t want spoilers then skip to the conclusion and I’ll see you next time. This new machine has a sort of graphite looking shape-shifting thing going on that is akin to the black stuff at the end of Transcendence or Lucy but a bit more cubist, like the way the microbots move in Big Hero 6. It looks pretty groovy for the most part.

This new machine is actually John Connor. The machines have somehow infected John and made him into “not a machine, not a human” but more. Funny story. Guess who is still the little bitch of SkyNet? Yeah John Connor. It makes no sense as to why he is fighting purely for the Machines if he is supposedly more than that. It would have been a much more interesting plot if the Ter-connator had his own agenda that unfolds throughout but no, sadly we are left with the well worn subject matter of Terminator versus Connor.

This new machine is obviously where all the CGI budget went because some of the other parts of the film looked cheap and tacky. These scenes are none more notable than when the film portrays a war torn future. The sentry bots look like superimposed chrome plated dildos with machine guns… jeez, that’s a weird analogy.

Somewhere inside me is the 17 year old who watched Terminator 2 in awe so I can’t help but enjoy parts Terminator Genisys. The Story isn’t one of them. I just need to point out that this storyline ultimately changes the timeline of all previous films which some will find an unforgivable crime.

Anyway brush this aside and you do get Arnie’s best performance in a long time. Sarah Connor has tried to humanise the terminator to blend in which gives credence to some of the more casual looking movement from Arnie. The film also deals with Arnie’s OAP status surprisingly well because that he ages throughout the film, which makes sense in the plot’s context. The jewel in the crown is obviously seeing old Arnie brawling with young Arnie.

Because the terminator has been humanised the relationship between Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese and the T-800 is surprisingly good turning T-800 guardian/protector character into a friend or even a family member. It’s the best thing they could have done as a 70 year old man simply isn’t as threatening as a terminator.

Overall the films pace rushes along so it’s never really boring but doesn’t bring enough fresh ideas to make this a knockout. To some this will seem like a bland pastiche of the Terminator franchise but to some it will be an entertaining enough summer blockbuster. Or at least it should have been but the box office sales are more along the line of a flopbuster. To me it’s not worthy of being a total flop but ultimately it’s you who has to pass that judgement on the day.

Go See

  • Arnie on Arnie action
  • ‘Pops’. Our friend the terminator
  • New terminator is kinda cool… at least visually

Avoid

  • Same old same old story
  • Re-hash of the older films, no real innovations
  • some questionable CGI moments

Overall

3-stars