Friday, July 24, 2015

SOUTHPAW movie review

Boxers from Hell's Kitchen always get back up.

Southpaw is a boxing film starring the man, the myth, the legend, Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a lightweight boxer who's life takes a turn for the worse, and in order to fix it, Hope must start over and learn the values of a true boxer and a good person.

Jake Gyllenhaal is phenomenal! He alone was able to elevate this movie to really good quality. Watching Gylenhaal act is like watching the final round of a boxing match between two of the greats (no, not Mayweather vs Pacquiao). He really is so captivating to watch, especially since his role here is a huge departure from his roles in his previous films like Enemy or Nightcrawler. He exceptionally plays the role of an intense, quick-tempered, dull-witted boxer and it's a perfect new addition to his current filmography.

The supporting cast is filled out nicely with the likes of Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, and a few more good actors. McAdams has a memorable presence and she's really talented  in getting me to cry over her in movies. Whitaker is good as the mentor of Hope. However, the real champion of the supporting cast is the child actress by the name of Oona Laurence. She's great and is able to prove that she can hold her own in a scene with Gyllenhaal.

The father/daughter relationship and Hope's struggle with loss and depression are definitely the more interesting parts of the screenplay, but it just isn't a knockout. It's pacing is off, as some characters and subplots enter and exit like a jab, and the movie can't quite shake the feel of a "based of a true story" fare we're so used to (and it isn't even a true story).

Antoine Fuqua's directing is disappointing. The boxing fights are fun to watch, but the whole aesthetic of the film is just so standard and unsubtle that it's hard to really appreciate. The film spends a lot of time and energy on emphasizing character points, tone, and themes (one scene literally has characters spelling these things out) and it doesn't really do anything to help the movie. It actually helps you map out the movie's plot points and exact beats in your head, which was quite easy to do. It was easy to identify what would happen to specific characters, what this character would say to the other character during a particular sequence, and other story beats. It shamefully took me out of concentration on the movie and slight brought down the movie as a whole.

Although not as expertly crafted as previous Jake Gyllenhaal-starring films, Southpaw is still worth going into the ring for because of  fun boxing fights and another amazing Gyllenhaal performance.

Monday, July 20, 2015

MAGIC MIKE XXL movie review

He came, he came, he conquered.

Magic Mike XXL is the sequel to the 2012 film, Magic Mike. This film has Mike (Channing Tatum) come out of his self-retirement to go on a road-trip with his friends, who aim to give one last big performance at the male stripper convention.

Being too young at the time of its release, I have actually not yet seen Magic Mike. I do hear it is a fascinating and nuanced character study of the male entertainer and I am a fan of Steven Soderbergh, so this film, the sequel, certainly had my attention. Now, having seen the film, I can confirm that Magic Mike XXL is in fact a godsend.

"We're male entertainers!" is a line repeated throughout the course of the movie, usually when the group of guys feel anxious or nervous about an upcoming performance. They use it to motivate themselves and remind themselves that they're doing this all for the pleasure and satisfaction of women. That is a vibe that translates throughout the film, and that's an undercurrent that I can honestly get behind.

The film has a lot of love to give to everyone. Especially women. It doesn't matter of the race or what the physical appearance may be. The film's goal, much like the male entertainers themselves, is to give a pleasurable and satisfying experience to the audience just because they deserve it. It's as if the plot itself was designed just to be a fun piece of entertainment, and it certainly succeeds at doing so.

No doubt one of the most interesting qualities of the film is its stakes - or lack thereof. There are no competitors, no race against the clock, no main antagonist. It's just the story of a team who wants to end their male entertainer career with a bang and to give the best damn show possible. It's an admirable feat and the filmmakers pull it off with flying colors.

The film comes to life as the most well-made Step Up movie ever. The filmmakers really have a firm grasp on the tone and identity of the film, so coupled with the raw electric and comedic vibe that director Gregory Jacobs is able to bring to it, the film is able to reach its maximum level of pure entertainment. Soderbergh took on the role of the film's editor and cinematographer this time around, and it's so evidently one of the film's highlights, having some of the most exciting and gorgeous-looking sequences we'll probably see all year.

Magic Mike XXL is undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year so far (per my opinion, of course), so do yourselves a big favor by going out to see it. I don't really support the gender classification of movies, so this comes highly recommended to everyone regardless of gender. It wouldn't be fun to be one of those guys who decline not to see this film because they're still pretty insecure with their sexuality, because those guys are surely the ones who missed out.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

ANT-MAN movie review

It's Scott Lang versus the world in Marvel's newest film.

Ant-Man is the twelfth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it introduces us to the weird hero known as Ant-Man. In the film, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) gives Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) a chance at redemption by teaching him how to control the Ant-Man suit in order to break into a building and steal a weapon from Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).

The film feels like one director wanted to make a fun Ant-Man movie while another was tasked with making a studio film, which is not at all surprising, given the production problems of the film, but still extremely disappointing.

There are sequences that are just pure fun to watch and are really well-directed too, but for every one of those, there are poorly-directed scenes that are just so bland and boring, filled with jokes that don't work and expositional dialogue, all executed monotonously. You can actually feel the stylistic shift as you're watching. 

Inconsistencies continue further when the film goes out of its way to shove in character/s from different Marvel films all for the sake of connectivity that it loses all identity of itself. It feels like the characters have jumped into a completely different movie, and what makes it worse is that the tie-ins are either inconsequential to the film and just serve as set-up for future Marvel films or just aspects that completely come out of the blue, disregarding the concept of set-up altogether.

The saving grace of this film is that it's presented more as a heist/adventure film than it is a superhero/action movie. There are maybe only two actual fight scenes, including the finale, and even then, the finale doesn't adhere to the formulaic 'save the world' explosion-fest that we're so used to already. The stakes here are more personal, which makes sense because the movie's plot is supported by a familial story and Scott Lang's road to redemption.

The two different father-daughter relationships are developed really well and is one of the brighter spots of the movie. Also, if it wasn't clear before, Paul Rudd can totally carry a movie. Rudd has got the charm, wit, and sincerity that most Marvel leads have, and is also surrounded by an incredibly comedic supporting cast that I'm just glad we have in the MCU.

Ant-Man is the same Marvel fun from the same Marvel studio. It just falls victim to the burden of trying so hard to further develop a cinematic universe that it loses its cohesiveness and individuality.

Friday, July 3, 2015


It's Judgement Day...

Terminator Genisys is the fifth installment of the Terminator series, but instead of being a sequel to the past couple films, its purpose is to reset the timeline of the series. You already know the story. In 2028, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), from being killed by a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), but Reese discovers that the past has been radically altered, and humanity again has the chance to stop Judgement Day from ever happening.

I adore the Terminator series. The first film is among my top five favorite films of all time and the second is absolutely one of the best action films ever made. Although the series has given us the god-awful Terminator: Rise of the Machines and the pretty average Terminator Salvation, I was hopeful for Genisys and its goal of rewriting the future for this franchise. I was very wrong to do so.

If anything, this movie is an example, both on and off screen, of the negative effects of time travel. The film messes with the timeline and the lore... a lot. While I'd be all for taking liberties when it comes to reboots/remakes/resets, I despise the execution of twists and turns that don't serve the story at all. None of the twists or timeline changes in the movie work. They're just there to make the film feel different enough for it not be considered a rehash, but the film ultimately fails at that too because it revisits previous action sequences in the series (chase sequence, attack on police headquarters, facility invasion, etc.), just restructured and reorganized, and even tries to pull off the same one-liners that were delivered all the way back in 1991. The post-Terminator 2 formula this series has been approaching their films (other than Salvation) with has definitely grown old and obsolete.

The time travel in this movie is wonkier than ever as this movie heavily suffers to terrible pacing. All of the previous movies were able to create a straightforward story even when dealing with complicated time travel, while this film is just a mess. It's a series of action scenes that are awkwardly stitched together and it seemingly uses time travel to inform you of which act of the movie you're in.

In its disjointedness, the film loses any substance or thematic weight it could've had (a similar problem I had with the director's last film, Thor: The Dark World). Actually, I'm not even sure it had a story other than the plot of resetting the timeline to the point it barely even feels like a Terminator movie. It really misses the mark with the overarching Terminator themes and also the characters. Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney are fine in their roles as Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, respectively, but in the end, it didn't even matter. Sarah Connor is some completely different character that is seemingly a weird mix between T2 Sarah Connor and John Connor, and her chemistry with Kyle Reese is awful enough to make you root against their romance. Throwing in the different updates and changes to other characters, it's hard to remember that this is, in fact, Terminator canon and not just glorified fan-fiction.

It's no secret that the Terminator series has an already messy continuity, but this film messes it ten-fold enough to make me wonder if I'll be back for more. Although the last two films were sub-par (I wrote about it here and here, for further context on this next bit), there was enough to keep me interested in the future of the series.With this film, there just isn't any... at all. It has erased The Terminator and Terminator 2 as its two completely stable footing, and now we're left with this as the foundation of future films, which is far from comforting.

The future isn't written and there is no future but what we make for ourselves, so please just write these movies better or just stop making them at all.