Tag Archives: Cinderella Man

The Next Three Days

This is one of those movies I had never heard anything about when it was first released, and became pleasantly surprised when I finally watched it. Russell Crowe is usually always a solid actor for me. A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Body of Lies, etc. He always comes across as clutch. So why would I have not checked out this great little thriller flick about a desperate man/dad trying to break his wife out of jail? The premise may be a little bit

An actor of ballin’ proportions.

unbelievable, but I always like to believe in a little bit of luck and a stroke of genius.

So the movie starts out on a pretty iffy note. A cat fight between working women. Elizabeth Banks plays Russel Crowe’s wife in this one, Lara Brennan. John Brennan is a well to do educator at a local school (or college, something or other) and loves his wife very much. But she appears to be a bit of a hothead. Arguing about boobs and whatnot, the night ends on a sour note. After the next day and some hours of work later, Elizabeth Banks returns home, finding some suspicious blood on her trench coat. Minutes later she is arrested by the police and charged with the murder of her boss. The hinging evidence on her conviction? A popped button on the “supposed other killer’s” jacket.

A happy family (without Ty Simpkins).

The years start to pass and John and his son Luke (Ty Simpkins) must cope without a wife and mother. Luke seems not to care and dumb old Elizabeth Banks seems tired and can’t even get an appeal. Even with Daniel Stern as your lawyer, Russell Crowe can’t catch a break. So he decides to do the unthinkable. Break his wife out of jail in an ingenious way. With some help from the great convict cameo by Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe has mere minutes to break his wife out and get out of the country. Can he do it?

Obviously I’m not gonna tell you the ending. But Russell Crowe is a straight boss in this film, as his ridiculous commitment to acting

A great scene a la The Fugitive. Looks like Banksy is a little worried about her acting career…

always shines in all his films. Elizabeth Banks, I could go without her being in any other movies. Her blonde and semi-intelligent facade is stellar-ly annoying and without question one of my least favorite actresses. It’s a good thing she’s in jail for most of this movie, because she has next to no screen time. Perfect. Ty Simpkins breaks onto the screen as the catatonic wonder, just as he did in Insidious. That kid could get any job… as a coma victim.

What I liked about this film? The preparation and plot that went into the execution of this film. It’s not really geared around action and drama, it’s more about the cold calculation that goes into doing such a risky thing. He’s almost caught multiple times and he even throws up because of how scared and nervous he is. He’s an average Joe and it

Liam Neeson, talking about breaking out of jail… and finding his daughter… and training Batman… and punching wolves…

shows in his frailty. But he’s a smart guy. And what I loved is that he used research and even Youtube to do some serious damage in the breakout department.

The acting across the board is pretty good in this film. Russell Crowe, ballin’. Elizabeth Banks, regrettable. Ty Simpkins, coma. Liam Neeson, badass as per usual since Taken. They even gave some opportunity to a deaf man who can ride a motorcycle like a boss. One thing that baffles me though is the repeated use of Olivia Wilde. She seems like a beautiful and kind person, but… what the hell? That woman has no remarkable acting skills. Dat shizz needs to stop, and now. I don’t like movies that use eye candy as a selling point. (Ahem *every Megan Fox film ever created* Cough) Oh well…

I tried to believe the situation despite the extenuating circumstances, and it still comes out to be a pretty solidly entertaining film. It didn’t

Could you leave your child at a gas station? All catatonic and whatnot?

do that well by critics’ standards, but to hell with professionally paid critics. I feel like most critics (older people than me, of course) have lost touch with what makes a successful and entertaining film these days. And with a Hollywood machine that makes things for profit, I can say without a doubt that the “art of film” is dead and really never was a factor in my lifetime. I know it’s harsh and critical of me to say, but that’s just how I view films. I am a pretty jaded person about the whole thing, I guess. But I love films anyways. Judge me if you want, let me know.

So I think of The Next Three Days as one of those films you show to new groups of friends every once in a while. It’s a thrill ride with well thought out planning and has a semi-satisfying ending. Comment on what you think about this post, but I’ll give Russell and his ballin’ acting in this one a 8.1 out of 10.

Do you like my North Face?

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Ip Man 2: The Grandmaster Returns

I was happy to sit down and watch the second Ip Man after having watched the first, enjoying the story with interspersed martial arts fight scenes throughout. With more of a focus on story over choreography, this one didn’t catch my attention as much as I would have liked. It wraps up like Cinderella Man and makes you feel all good inside, but I didn’t have any of those jaw dropping moments. Let’s just get to the plot, shall we?

In this one, Ip Man (Donnie Yen reprises his role) has moved to Hong Kong after beating back the Japanese years before. He has plans to start his own martial arts school, but no disciples seem to be interested. With money problems and a

Two masters goin’ at it.

suppressive British government, Ip Man must maneuver his way through life, following his principles and maintaining a happy family. But it’s not all easy going for the Ip Man.

I really was surprised how this film focused more on story rather than substance. It had all the elements of a triumph of the will story without all the fight scenes and technique. My impression of Wing Chun from this film is one of precise and calculated moves, more than the clever and wily style of other martial arts styles. There aren’t flashy kicks or the use of elbows or knees, it is all more in the quickest

Donnie Yen, as refined as ever.

way to take someone out. I do appreciate that though. Donnie Yen shows off how quick he can be in a flurry of punches I’ve never seen demonstrated in a Kung Fu movie before. I give him his due for that.

The acting is just as good in this film as in the last. But I’m talking more about the Chinese actors than the English speaking ones. Although I’m pretty sure that Brian Burrell is living my dream of being a white man from America living in an Asian country. My country of choice, though? Thailand. Gotta give it up for the Muay Thai and Thai food. (Volcano chicken all the way.) But anyways, the English speaking actors (with as few of them as there probably are in China) just took things over the top and need to work on delivery. This is a common problem though in foreign films, so I don’t blame them too much. They were better than some.

I do appreciate the message the Ip Man films send to a wider audience than just China. The oppression felt in China has

I gotta get me one of those…

been quite prevalent in the last 100 years by foreign countries and bigger world powers. It has been a triumph over the bully in the last century, and China knew how to depict that. I give props to Wilson Yip for doing a good job in that department. I feel for the Chinese in this film and the way that most people look down on Chinese martial arts. Hell, martial arts in general. But I’m pretty sure, other than stamina, that any martial arts expert could take out a boxer with the right moves. Like me and all the other martial arts enthusiasts out there, I appreciate martial arts in all its capacity. Asia will always dominate in my heart.

Dope.

In a different twist I wasn’t expecting in this film, I was touched more than inspired to do martial arts. The music was good and uplifting, the cinematography wasn’t bad, and the Wing Chun kept it brief and brutal. Not much to complain about, but I still do love the fight scenes from the first movie more. 7.4 out of 10.


Jet Li’s Fearless

In what was meant to be Jet Li’s last Wushu epic, Jet Li busts out all the big guns for this film. Although he has made other films that feature his style of martial arts, it goes without saying that movies like The Warlords, The Forbidden Kingdom, and the Expendables (soon to be followed by a second) aren’t exactly focused around Li’s stunt action coordination or anything of the sort. I would argue that War, the movie with Jason Statham that followed this film, was a bit focused on Li’s destructive power of those around him, although the movie questions his identity. In either case, it wasn’t meant to be Jet Li’s last film, just his last display of his martial art’s competence.

In this film, based loosely on Huo Yuanija’s life as a martial artist, this movie follows Jet Li as Huo and his fights to bring back honor and national pride to a broken country. With the Western imperialism and Japanese pressure, Huo fights those foreign invaders in symbolic battles that show off the strength of pride that the Chinese people hold. If it came down to Jet Li’s acting to represent honor for China in this film, it may not hold as much meaning. I was just a bit thrown off by Jet Li’s acting in this movie. It seemed forced and comical at times, but it didn’t matter when he closed his mouth and pounced on some ass with his destructive moves.

Jet Li at his finest.

The movie starts off at a martial arts display tournament in which Huo must defeat 4 competitors from 4 different countries. Using weapons and hand-to-hand combat, Huo fights back the attackers in order to defend his country. Before the fourth battle commences, a flashback to Huo’s life before takes place. For 2/3’s of the movie. Huo remembers when he was a child, being instructed by his father Huo Endi (Colin Chou) and how honorable he was. His father would take him downtown to the battles that took place in raised rings between fighters in the town. In this particular fight, Huo’s father is defeated and Huo finds his resolve to never be fearful and always to win and gain honor.

You’ve impressed me.

This mentality almost becomes Huo’s downfall when he won’t allow the attacking of one of his disciples to be delegated in a civil, non-violent manner. Quin Lei (Chen Zhihui) the rival martial arts master defies Huo and his newly found hubris and fights to the death versus him. With his ruthless manner, something not encouraged by his father, Huo kills Lei and retreats into the countryside to really reevaluate just what it means to participate in martial arts. (I left something out there, watch to find out.) Learning mercy and the righteous path, Huo finds himself in a position to fight for the honor of China.

This film has a lot of moving parts that really present a historical piece that is actually one of my favorite genres. Huo is a real person, and these events of his life weave a very compelling story. The fact that he fights for the honor of China at the end is a stab at those countries that would dare impose themselves on others, as the fights suggest. The tribute at the end to the dojos that are dedicated to Huo and his principles is a nice ending for the film and the events that

Some of my favorite weapons fighting.

transpire.

The fight scenes in this movie are really what stand out though. The rings that these men fight in are very stylistically stunning. Especially the fight between Huo and the man who beat his father’s son, is ridonkulous. The poles and camera angles that effortlessly flow through the fight scene really caught me by surprise. I always knew that Jet Li was a phenomenal fighter and stunt actor, but this movie really pulled out all the stops. His penchant for stunts and choreography, especially the weapon related fights show a lot of discipline and knowledge that I admire. Not being a martial arts expert myself, I’ve seen enough martial arts and have read up enough about it to know Jet Li has got his shit in order.

This big white dude shows up far too often in martial arts films…

The success this film had and the amount of good reviews it is given are just, but I felt, as some others have, that the film had its down moments that kinda left it at middle of the road. Yes, it didn’t have the acting oomph that would’ve elevated it to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it was well above some of the straight to DVD martial arts films that’re out there. The story itself is inspiring and films like this are what make me wanna be a director. I’d equate it to a Cinderella Man type of film with the action and drama equalling each other out.

I am now psyched to hear that there are two other versions of the film, two of them depicting a more developed love/rejuvenation plot with Michelle Yeoh and a THAI BOXING SCENE. I wish they had included that in the theatrical version. My favorite form of fighting is Thai Boxing/Muay-Thai fighting. It’s one of the only forms that could take out Jet Li and I guess that’s why they were afraid to include it. I would still love to see a fight between Tony Jaa and Jet Li. Hell, Tony Jaa and anyone. Other than getting a bit of a boner over these martial arts masters, I thought this movie was very positively geared towards the Chinese community that Jet Li and director Ronny Yu were representing. It’s a great

Thank you Jet Li and Ronny Yu, for making a movie China can be proud of.

message to all those action stars from non-Asian countries. Back the hell off, we have pride, and that pride will stomp all over you. That message and this film deserves a 8.1 out of 10.


The Change-Up: Surprisingly Heartwarming

From the producers and directors of The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, I expected something a bit different from this movie. I expected the ridiculous situations and grossout comedy duo that has been spewing out of Hollywood since Judd Apatow took up The 40 Year Old Virgin. Something a bit different was sent my way. An outrageous comedy… with a sentimental side. As shocking as that may sound, this 2 hour film had the time to flesh out a relationship to the characters and the concern for the well being of their lives. And coming from a pair of true gold comedy actors (that have the capacity for more than comedy), this movie does deliver well. More so on plot and acting than lines and delivery.

So Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) is a married man. He married young and

Two men. Two varying lives.

has a beautiful young daughter and a strange pair of infant twins. Meanwhile, Dave’s friend Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) is a single man, banging all he sees and loving living in his own filth and depravity. Although the two remain friends, they have grown apart somewhat since their lifestyles have taken them away from each other. Dave is a successful lawyer at a major corporation and Mitch is a semi-successful actor. The two’s lives aren’t close to perfect, but they enjoy their situations.

Until one day.

 

So who's who?

Dave and Mitch get together, breaking their routines to catch up on old times and catch a baseball game at a local bar. While there, the two get a little more wasted than ususal. Things are talked about and emotions run high. And then, BAM. Freaky Friday hits like a storm as the two piss into a fountain. By the plot Gods, this seems all too familiar. And yet, it’s the male perspective on the idea of taking a walk in another’s shoes. Word, I can dig that. With the fountain moved (classic Big situation), the two have to live each other’s lives for a while, and re-discover themselves through each other’s eyes.

What really stood out to me about this film was how well Jason Bateman

They play each other. To a tee.

played Ryan Reynolds and how well Ryan Reynolds played Jason Bateman. It’s more the generational issue in Freaky Friday, but in this one it’s more of a body swap of men of the same age. Different habits and personalities are mirrored in this comedy down to, what I would say, is a tee. The anal-retentiveness of Bateman pairs off with the ridiculously callous antics of Reynolds. Having to talk to yourself as the other person was pretty key in this movie, and it was pulled off with a-bomb. (Niceeee.)

Word.

In classic fashion, this movie starts off with some poop jokes and some strange combinations of swear words. (F-knuckles? Are you kidding me?) I’ve started to dislike the invention of swear-catch-phrases as I’ll call them, and this needs to be remedied with some great pop culture references and such, a-la Workaholics (can’t wait to rave about that shizz). The movie moves along with some classic situations and works along with quite a few nudie shots for the guy audience. I watched the unrated version. And yet, I was surprised that, despite not being directed by Judd Apatow, his wife, Leslie Mann, played a part in this movie anddd showed off the goods. It was as strange as it was comical.

And then you get hit with the friend moving along in life montage, followed by, BAM. 45 minutes of touching connection. Did you see this coming? Nope. Could you imagine Ryan Reynolds in Jason Bateman’s body pulling off

This movie will get touching.

pretending to be a lawyer by watching Law & Order? Not at all. But this all happens. And, in the realm of strange, quirky fantasy, it works. For the first time ever, I connected with Leslie Mann as a decent actress. Coming from a woman who always plays the comical stuck up bitch, this was refeshing. Some “true” tears were shed and the perfect balance of drama and comedy was achieved. From a movie made by The Hangover and Wedding Crasher guys. Weird…

Sorry guys, just for the eye candy. Don't know about that substance...

I gotta say, if this is in the original version and not the edited, there are some great comedy scenes in this movie. Watch out for the twins, that’s a great bit. And Ryan Reynolds’ acting career as it were? That’s what I’m talking about. Every time he pops up, whether it be Cinderella Man or Scary Movie 4, Craig Bierko delivers. This time as a Russian porn star director. What’s good. There are some great lines from Jason Bateman (while being possessed by Ryan Reynolds) and quite a few attractive women in this movie. Not a big fan of Olivia Wilde’s acting though… she’s just an eye candy actress… (Sorry if that offends…)

So, if you’re into dramatic movies, this one will surprise you. If you’re into comedies of the outlandish sort, this movie will please and appease you. With such a satisfying mix with only a few big name actors putting their names on the bill, this really delivers. And yes, this is the Year of the Bateman. Jason Bateman. Solid 8.6 out of 10.

Can you handle the Bateman?


Arrested Development: The Show that Should Never Have Been Cancelled

But really. More please.

So by now I expect this show to be well known despite its cancellation. Arrested Development, one of the best shows on television from 2003-2006, was (and is) one of my favorite shows. I recently re-watched this and thought it would be good to give it a review it deserves despite its cancellation. I know nobody really gives this show bad reviews, but I just wanted to buffer reviews that already gave this show an amazing name. With the rumors (or preparations) for a movie to be released in 2012 (if we all make it) I think this would be the perfect time to talk about Arrested Development.

Now, Ron Howard, the executive producer and narrator of this show, is pretty well known if you don’t

Ron Howard. Thank you.

already know. And he’s quite great. (Some of my favorite films, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, are Ron Howard creations. Even the Dan Brown novels-films are quite great.) This combined with Mitchell Hurwitz,’s writing, (writer of such comedies as Golden Girls and The John Larroquette Show) makes for one of the best shows to ever grace television. Both of these guys, combined with the amazingly comedic acting talents of the main cast, leaves me laughing every time I watch any of the three seasons.

So, basic plot. Michael Bluth, the middle of 3 sons of the Bluth family, has to take over for his father’s business. The reason? His father has committed a number of felonies that have placed him in prison, awaiting trial. This structures the basis of the show. The rest of the show? The Bluth family. You have Gob, the failure, incompetent magician, kicked out of his own magical order. Lindsey Bluth, Michael’s twin sister and fair-weather activist. Buster Bluth, the momma’s boy younger brother and complete baby. Along with these are Tobias Funke, the failed therapist and husband of Lindsey. Their child Maebe, is the rebellious wild child. And Michael’s son George Michael has a thing for her. But don’t worry, he’s a goody two shoes, and he’d never step out of line. But everyone steps out of line once in a while. And that’s where the humor comes from. The unabashed comedy that flows from every character, every pun, every situation, and every ironic event.

Best cast. Ever.

And who delivers these genius lines? One of the best casts out there. First, you have Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, the main focus of the show and the one holding the family together. Bateman’s cynical nature and pessimistic attitude stands in contrast to every other character and their lack of ethical and hard working spirit. Then there’s Portia de Rossi, Michael’s twin Lindsey. She’s the lazy good for nothing who brings the ditzy activist role to life. She literally understands nothing. And she’s great. It makes it funny that her and Tobias’s relationship really doesn’t work because she’s really a lesbian in real life. And her and Tobias never do it. Ironic, huh? Perfect fit though. There’s Will Arnett as Gob, my

Gob (Will Arnett) . Genius

favorite character. He’s the most offensive, hilarious, and unabashedly direct character who loves women, one-upping his brother, and performing magic to the “Final Countdown.” Michael Cera plays Michael’s son, George Michael. (Funny name, huh?) This show functioned as Michael Cera’s jumping off point for more work, but he’s never really done anything as good as Arrested Development. Alia Shawkat plays Maebe, George Michael’s forbidden love and cousin. She is one of the more grown up members of the family but always reverts back to her childishly rebellious state. Tony Hale plays Buster Bluth, the baby of the family. He’s great as one of the stranger characters and really plays the part so well. David Cross plays Tobias Funke, the failed therapist that seems gay and is a never-nude (Check that bit of news out, why don’t you.). Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter fill out the family as George and Lucille Bluth, the parents and more dysfunctional family members than most. With their controlling natures and absurd sex drives, these two really bring out where their children’s bad behavior came from.

And that’s really about all there is that needs to be said about this show. This is what makes it good. With great writing and comedic elements, a great producer/narrator, and an amazing cast, what more do you need? These actors have all made names for themselves from this and other shows, and have gone on to do more than just comedy. I could watch this show over and over again. Although you may need to buy the seasons, their well worth their $25 a piece. Check them out. 10 out of 10.

And here’s the best of Tobias. Thank you David Cross for one of the greatest characters of all time.


The Fighter (AKA, Christian Bale)

So I’ve had this desire to see The Fighter (2010) for a while, and just recently, I saw it. It was one of David O. Russell’s first movies I’ve seen, and I was impressed from beginning to end. I know this movie is getting Oscar buzz and it’s up for quite a few categories. I saw it for many reasons, but I won’t go into those just yet. Let’s go over some other things first.

This movie is about Micky Ward, (Mark Wahlberg, funny, M.W., huh…) a boxer in the 1980’s who fought as a welterweight and made it big training with his older brother, Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale). You may be wondering, why not the same last name? Different guys, different dads. Now, Dickie Eklund was the guy who knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. Some say he tripped, but it’s up for those who see it to judge. In the movie, Dickie has fallen in hard times after his race for the championship title, and now he’s down on his luck with a kid, no wife, and a massive drug addiction to cocaine. While all this is going on, Dickie and the boys’ mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) are trying to fix Micky up for some fights, all the while, Micky gets destroyed. Literally, worked. As the movie goes along, Micky finds a girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams) and goes on his merry way to winning the welterweight title. Very uplifting and quite moving at the end.

The meat and potatoes (forgive my Irish reference) comes from the acting chops and superb way that the movie was filmed. I always appreciate cinematography, but when you can make a movie feel like and look like the era it came from, bravo. Mark Wahlberg was great, going back to his roots. beating the living crap out of people, but not getting thrown in jail for it. (No offense, he did beat people up in Boston though…) I’ve always thought of him as exceptional, and I found this to be another Invincible role for him. The real acting came from Christian Bale, my favorite actor. Ever since his role in Empire of the Sun, I’ve been hooked to his work (Pocahontas as Thomas, Mary, Mother of Jesus as Jesus, American Psycho as Patrick Bateman, quite a versatility as my friend said.) and this movie is no different from anything else he’s done. He goes into the job, fully focused and literally nails the part he’s given. There’s nothing more to say then that Christian Bale is an A-List, top-shelf actor.

So, now that you know my love of Christian Bale, you know why I went to see this movie. The acting was great, the cinematography, especially the scenes where they switch it to late night 1980’s boxing style filming, was fantastic, and the story was moving. It reminded me of a modern day Cinderella Man, another boxing movie that I’ve come to really appreciate. Amy Adams really stepped it up from the only other movie I’ve ever seen her in (Enchanted) and I found Jack McGee, who played Micky’s father, George, was quite good. The sisters were a laugh and the mother was aggravating, all of it came together, and this movie deserves a solid 9.5 out of 10. (The played a Red Hot Chili Peppers song in there too, Strip My Mind. Out of context, but sounded great. Kudos.)