Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tag: Jake Gyllenhaal

Southpaw Review – 2 out of 5 Stars

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Predictable is a term I happen to use a lot on this website. I think it’s a complaint I can use for the majority of mainstream films from the romantic comedy to the found footage horror movie. It’s worth mentioning to these movies credit though that when I use this phrase I usually don’t literally mean that the entire film from start to finish was totally predictable. Most of these movies I have that criticism for at least have one or two things they add that make them at least a tad original. It’s rare that a find an actual movie where I am able to call every single plot point before it happens. The latest boxing drama Southpaw has the distinction of being one of those rare occasions. Aside from an as expected fantastic performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, every aspect of the movie is contrived and uninspired. The movie tries to get the audience to cry and feel moved but it ends up trying to such a hollow, ridiculous degree to do this that there were some scenes where I couldn’t help but laugh at how pathetic and lazy it all felt.

If you got a quarter for every part of this synopsis that seems clichéd, you’d probably have enough money to just rent The Fighter instead. All I have to say is the name of the main character for you to know what type of film this will be. The name of our hero is Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal). The movie makes absolutely sure that you know this wasn’t some odd coincidence. It does make you wonder if the sportscasters cracked up delivering such golden lines as “Hope is back” and “Hope wins”. Anyways, Billy Hope is greatest fighter in the U.S. and he gets the support he needs from his also orphaned wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) as well as his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). On the verge of retiring, his wife is accidently shot and killed during a fight between Billy and his rival Miguel (Miguel Gomez). A downward spiral leads to him losing everything including his daughter after she gets taken away by child protective services. To get his daughter and go back on to the right path, he receives training from a washed up fighter (Forest Whitaker) so that he can go up against Miguel for his dead wife.

This is one of those movies where the logic is that everything has to be dark and gritty every second for it to be taken seriously. Not a single joke is cracked in the film and every conversation and every action that takes place in the film feels there just to bully the audience into having a reaction. The movie is just scene after scene of the writer betting himself that he can’t put the main character into a worse situation. Do you think it’s his low when his wife dies? Nope. Do you think it’s his low when he’s taking cocaine and threatening to kill his best friend? Nope. Do you think it’s his low when he loses his house? Nope. It’s come to a point where the movie transforms its protagonist into a prop that other characters can hit around in the name of eliciting something out of audience members. Maybe a few of these moments would feel moving or unforgettable if it was thrown in with character development or an interesting story but it’s just scene after scene of these manipulative moments and it ends up feeling more ridiculous than edgy. 12 Years a Slave and Prisoners are two very dark dramas that I love but these films still make room for wit, complex themes, fascinating characters and compelling stories. These movies understand that for dark aspects like slavery or child abduction to mean something, you have to revolve these things around something that is relatable and sympathetic. Southpaw only understands the dark visceral scenes in these films and then it decides to play that stuff on repeat for two hours instead of featuring any of the other stuff that made those films so great.

His name isn’t the only thing about him that feels hacky. Rid of the nuance and intensity of Gyllenhaal’s performance, Billy Hope is about as unrelatable as protagonists go. As I mentioned above, Hope is a punching bag (pun totally intended) who’s just there to get beaten up by life so that the audience can cry. Besides these loud and jarring moments, we never see any charm or evolution in him as he moves on. The movie tells us that we’re supposed to be watching this big transition but the movie presented his change and his backstory with so little authenticity that it’s challenging to feel any sense to root for him in the final fight. Forrest Whitaker plays the stereotypical coach whose a washed up eccentric with a heart of gold and Rachel McAdams is the wise, angelic wife whose just there to die in the first quarter of the film. Miguel is nothing more than a one note 80’s style jock character who’s given nothing. You’ve seen these characters hundreds of times before and the movie gives you no reason to see this as anything bigger than that.

Hope’s daughter Leila takes the cake though for the most contrived character. I would call the films attempts to make her look like anything more than an object to emotionally manipulate the audience pathetic but they’re frankly non-existent. I dare you to find one scene in the film where she isn’t being used painfully obviously to cry or scream or basically be the films equivalent of blatantly punching you to get a feeling out of you. There is this scene in the film where Leila tells her father that she wishes he’d died instead of her mother just because he doesn’t want her to watch a fight he’s going to be doing. It’s such an out of place moment that perfectly captures the forced grittiness of the film and the shamefully emotionless manipulation done through the daughter that I couldn’t help but openly laugh in my theater. I can see how one of the moments with her could work if it was mixed with some points of humor or at least normality with the character but if every scene is her slapping her father or praying at her mom’s grave it all ends up feeling like this shameless joke. In a film of forced, uninspired aspects, the father-daughter relationship was by far the worst.

The film so far seems like the worst drama you could end up watching and you may be wondering why I’m not going any lower with the score. The easy answer to that is that for some inexplicable reason, a set of amazing actors took a look at this script and decided it would be a great idea. Jake Gyllenhaal has quickly proven himself to be one of the best actors working in cinema today. His part in Nightcrawler should be remembered for decades to come. For a bland as the character is, Gyllenhaal gives the part everything he can give it in one of the best performances of the year so far. He takes his nothing part and he breathes life into it and makes Billy Hope feel like a real person for a few moments. The scene where he is reacting to his wife’s death is a little devastating mostly because of how much passion he has. For what it’s worth, this movie at least proves that at this point Jake Gyllenhaal can add heart to even the worst films.

In a film where he also didn’t have to try very hard, Forest Whitaker is also really impressive and he manages to make the trainer to Billy Hope the most well rounded person in the film. I’ve seen Whitaker half ass it in some recent films so it’s pleasantly surprising to see him taking this weak part and making the most out of it rather than simply not giving anything when it’s an uninteresting part. Mostly due to their talent, the moments between Whitaker and Gyllenhaal are hands down the best moments in the film because they’re the scenes where the film feels the most sincere because they’re being carried by the talent of the actors.

As is, Southpaw is bad on almost every level in terms of how to write a screenplay. This film is scene after scene of stock, melodramatic moments that feel cheap and insincere. The movie is a joke otherwise saved by the talents of the actors on board and it should have no problem being quickly forgotten. I’m happy to say we have found this year’s first Oscar failure.

Rating:(2/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 7/24/2015

Rating: R

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent, Miguel Gomez and Naomie Harris

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Screenplay by: Kurt Sutter

Southpaw (2015)

SouthpawPoster

Title: Southpaw
Rating: R
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Kurt Sutter
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Oona Laurence
Release Date: ReleaseDateGoesHere
Running Time: RunningTimeGoesHere

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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.


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Memoriam: In Memory of our Friend James Horner

Special thanks to Frank S. for this submission


Nightcrawler (2014)

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TITLE: Nightcrawler

RELEASE DATE: 10/31/2014

RATING: R

When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No

Note: We hear indistinct audio from a police scanner while footage of the moon over Los Angeles is shown during the credits.

Nightcrawler Review – 5 out of 5 Stars

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Today, I am going to be doing something with Nightcrawler that I’ve not done for quite a long time; I am giving a movie a 5 star rating. Sometimes a movie comes along that’s so perfect on so many layers that you really can’t point out a weak spot; this is that kind of movie. Nightcrawler is an absorbing, incredibly written, incredibly directed and incredibly acted character study that blew me away.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a demented, drifter who dives deep into the world of LA crime journalism. He becomes one of the people who record murders, cars accidents and robberies in the area and then sell the footage to local news channels. Lou and his intern Rick (Riz Ahmed) go to the limit to get the crime scene footage they want for an aging morning news director named Nina (Rene Russo) in ways that range from possibly questionable to extremely illegal.

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Usually with sociopaths and other villains in movies, you’ll at least be able to see empathy or a moment of humanity or passion. In a good way, Lou Bloom is one of the most robotic and lifeless characters I’ve seen. The first moment in the movie is him stealing from a construction site as he drifts aimlessly looking for any kind of job. Much like Daniel Plainview in There will be Blood or Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs, we never get to see a backstory or a hint or a sincere explanation from him for what he does. Lou is a straightforward, heartless sociopath born from the culture around him.

Lou is because he is the dark, personification of the artificiality and commercialism of the 21st century. He hides his inner emptiness in phony and fake lines picked off of motivational posters used by bosses and advertisements. He has read every inspirational book, tracked every article relating to the things he wants and has studied every lesson that will help him destroy or overpower you psychologically and physically. He encompasses all of the insecurities and fears of the people around him to get the things he desires. The people he records are no more than things he exploits to receive fame, money and power. He doesn’t comprehend the sheer sadness of the things that he is recording. He is an insomniac who has scrolled upon hours of information to find the best ways to be human and both the tragedy and horror of Lou Bloom is that beneath the false, monotony of his well thought out words, he is mankind at its most soulless. He is the empty eyes fascinating and driving us to destruction.

Nightcrawler goes the extra level because of its equally gigantic focus on the characters that Lou uses and schemes against. Nina is in charge of one the least successful local news channel in LA and she is willing to break giant moral codes to get the ratings she can to survive. She succeeds whenever she finds the dark, violent stories that capture the attention the average LA person on the street. In Lou, she gets the thing that will do her dirty work. Her desperation and knowledge of the shallowness of many of the citizens of the city is what drives Lou to become the master of the trade. By the time the movie ends, Nina seems to fully understand the sheer sickness of him and she is ultimately powerless to stop the monster she shed a light on. There grows a sort of mutual relationship between these two flawed people, Nina gets rating and attention from people and Lou gets a job that allows him to be twisted and obsessive. It’s with Nina that we get a glimpse of why Lou isn’t thrown away as an outcast and why he is actually taken seriously. He presents to us the visceral, clearly manipulative things that we all privately want to see and believe regardless of actual truth or morality. That is the ideal that builds every aspect of his mind.

The other big character is Rick, the protégé/intern to Bloom. Rick is easily tricked by Lou because of the fact that he is homeless. He wants to get paid and find a good job and in Lou he wants to get on his feet again. Of all the people in the movie, Rick is far and away the most likable character. He is portrayed as a dumb but also sincere and nice person who just wants to have a peace of mind. He doesn’t mean to do the things he does but he only wants to make some money. Lou doesn’t view Rick as more than just a tool he can use to increase his options and he constantly puts him in danger in the name of his own credibility. Because of the increasingly, dangerous things that they go up against, Rick ends up becoming the only character to try to stand up to what Lou does and that strange, compelling teacher/student relationship results in an unforgettable, breathtaking climax that is surprisingly heartbreaking. Rick brings to Nightcrawler the needed kindness and heart to make it that much more affecting.

So the movie is brilliantly written, has master characters and clear, vast themes, but what about the performances. Nightcrawler has the best cast I’ve seen this year. Gyllenhaal’s performance as Lou is a masterpiece of cinema. You can’t take your eyes off the screen whenever he’s present. He captures of the crazed anger as well as the hollow inanity of everything he says. He is hilarious and horrifying and he makes the movie what it is. Many references with the two have been made but personally, Gyllenhaal’s performance here is just as good as Daniel Day Lewis’s performance as Plainview in There will be Blood. Jake dives into the madness of Bloom and creates an iconic character with a performance that will probably be one of the best of the decade. I’m being fully honest right now, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler is one of the best I’ve seen not just this year but of the past decade, he’s that powerful in the role. If he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this movie then that deserves to go down as one of the bigger snubs of recent memory. I would even argue that him not winning best actor would be one of the bigger snubs of recent memory.

Rene Russo also deserves credit for playing Nina with a very sleazy yet human quality. She does a great job playing off of Gyllenhaal and it’s about as great a performance as you can get with the character. Riz Ahmed won’t get a lot of attention as Rick in comparison to the more larger than life performances of Jake and Rene but in a better world he’d be just as much on the awards table with Gyllenhaal even if he’s not technically as good. Riz plays Rick very humbly and down to earth. Especially in the third act, Riz gets a lot of moments to be the shining light in a movie of shallow and self-interested people. The cast is fantastic and Jake Gyllenhaal builds one of the more unforgettable and important characters of late.

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For his directorial debut, Dan Gilroy shows a ton of promise. He made a great choice in getting Paul Thomas Anderson cinematographer Robert Elswit for the movie. Elswit captures a night in Los Angeles with an intense, vivid glow that is hard to look away from. The city feels alive and electric and it helps build the intensity of all that is happening. The movie is efficiently edited, there isn’t a single moment in the movie that’s wasted and you feel you’re on this ride with the main character. The soundtrack by James Newton Howard has this very sleazy, techno/rock vibe that’s reminiscent of late 80’s/early 90’s cinema. A lot of the stuff near the climax is very well shot and edited and it’s impressive to me that on a budget of 8 million dollars, Nightcrawler makes a chase scene that’s better than that of most big, blockbusters. Nightcrawler is a technically great movie and Dan Gilroy is obviously now a filmmaker I look forward to seeing more of in the future.

In the future, people will remember The Joker, Anton Chigurh and Daniel Plainview as 21st century film icons. I truly believe we have found with Lou Bloom another name in that category. Nightcrawler is a truly modern psychological thriller and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is why we go the movies. Run; don’t crawl to go see this phenomenal, layered satire that is well deserving of its grade that’s the first of 2014.

Rating:(5/5)

Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 10/31/2014

Rating: R

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed

Directed by: Dan Gilroy

Written by: Dan Gilroy

Enemy (2013)

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TITLE: Enemy

RELEASE DATE: 2/6/2014

RATING: R

A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No

NOTE: We see various shots of the Toronto skyline during the credits.


Prisoners (2013)

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TITLE: Prisoners

RELEASE DATE: 9/20/2013

RATING: R

When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No

Special thanks to Frank S. for this submission


End of Watch (2012)

TITLE: End of Watch

RELEASE DATE: 9/21/2012

RATING: R

Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No

NOTE: This film is dedicated to the men and women of the law enforcement community who face danger daily on our behalf. It is especially dedicated to our fallen heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. This is for all that fight evil so we may not know it. God bless you all.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

TITLE: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

RELEASE DATE: 5/28/2010

RATING: PG-13

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No


Love and Other Drugs (2010)?

TITLE: Love & Other Drugs

RELEASE DATE: 11/24/2010

RATING: R

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During Credits? Unknown

 

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Donnie Darko (2001)

TITLE: Donnie Darko

RELEASE DATE: 1/30/2002

RATING: R

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During Credits? No

After Credits? No