Movie Review: Southpaw (2015)

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Plot: As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope, begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.

Rating: 7/10

You know those actors you dislike for no reason whatsoever? It isn’t based on their acting ability or the movies they’ve been in, it really is just because because. Their face? Their voice? No idea, but they make you itch on mere sight. Jake Gyllenhaal is that for me. I feel his eyes are too close and his surname is difficult to spell. He’s also related to a woman named Maggie, which may or may not be the real reason. He also freaked me out to no end in Donnie Darko. My point here is that I generally tend to avoid him at all costs, and it really isn’t because of his acting abilities.

Checking out Southpaw was thus a highly questionable venture as Gyllenhaal is the main character. About five minutes in I was engrossed and the film made me sweat bullets. Is that accurate to use here? Southpaw uses some cheap tricks for tears or to get their audience emosh, but it works. I was so involved and rooting for Billy Hope that I couldn’t care less if my favorite-actor-to-hate was in fact Billy Hope. It is your typical rags to riches to rags to riches again, you do get the expected training montage with Eminem blasting at the background, you do get a slick manager who is shady as hell, you do get your trainer that lifts your hero from the ground.

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Is it exhausting because we’ve seen this a thousand times? I don’t know about the other people, but I was just as invested in Billy’s crusade as I was with Rocky Balboa’s. Maybe I’m easily influenced and a bit of a softie, but I was there in the ring with him. I enjoy boxing movies and sport movies in general, so I guess I was programmed to appreciate this. I liked the soundtrack, it is satisfactorily badass. 50 Cent is about the only cast member who isn’t an above par actor, and since he’s cool (and I’m a little bit afraid of him), I didn’t have any issues particularly.

Gylllenhaal does a good job portraying a man that has clawed himself out of the foster care system and built himself an empire. It can’t be easy as I’m pretty sure he’s been privileged his entire life – being nasty again – but there is a roughness to the character that can only come from a life on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Rachel McAdams manages the same feat as Maureen, Billy’s wife. There was careful consideration to her character. I don’t know how to explain it, but the outfits she wears tells that she grew up somewhere else than her current life might indicate. Maureen was a wonderful character. I enjoy Rachel McAdams, but let’s face it, she doesn’t have many roles that aren’t catered to her Southern Belle persona. Maureen isn’t a southern belle, she’s a beautiful woman who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and managed to build her life up with the man she loves. She’s an excellent wife and mother and the center in Billy’s world.

Oona Laurence completes the Hope family as the geeky and sweet child of Billy and Maureen. She was adorable, not irritating as a character and a huge asset to the team. She made Billy’s struggles that much more legitimate and made everyone root all the more for him. She kept tight control of her role for the duration of the film and remained convincing to the very end.

I would have loved to see more of Forest Whitaker’s character. He’s a fantastic actor and taking on the role of Tick Wills couldn’t have been the most challenging role he’s ever done, and yet he did it with a level of experience that had you wondering who Tick was and what is it that made him train those boys in the gym so hard.

Southpaw is saved from being yet another boxing movie by outstanding performances by its’ cast, good costume work and directing and a badass sound track. I eventually deducted one point because it really is emotional abuse what I went through, but I am really pleased I sat through it.

Have you seen Southpaw? Tell me in the comments below!

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Movie Review: Skyfall (2012)

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Plot: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. Whilst MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Rating: 8/10

CONTAINS SPOILERS

It’s going to be really silly to say again that I love Daniel Craig as James Bond, because I do, but I mention it every time. Anyway, the man is so prime you know? The eyes, the attitude, the suits. Skyfall introduces a broken Bond – he’s simply lived too long and seen too much at this point, and it is catching up with him in a bad day. For him a close call with death is in his daily routine, but after being shot by Moneypenny, he allows himself to be presumed dead for a few months to give himself some time to recover, and only returns when there is big drama in England and his loyalty to his country forces him too.

M is as enigmatic as ever, a power clad iron lady that rules the secret service. The relationship between Bond and M is fascinating, alternating between a very twisted mother and son dynamic, a questionable work relationship and a long standing friendship.

The death of M and Bond’s reaction was a really hard blow to stomach – they had a complex and interesting relationship, one of the few that lasted in Bond’s life. I loved M – especially because it is Judi Dench and only an actress of her capability could have shown so effectively that she would always remember her role to put her country first, and her humanity second – the hard choices she had to make with both Silva and Bond clearly highlighted that.

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I really friggin loved Eve Moneypenny. She is so smart and the banter between her and Bond is good for the soul. Naomi Harris was an excellent choice for the role – intelligent, uber British, sassy and pretty.

Then there is the incomparable Ralph Fiennes. I love the man – he has such a diversity to anything he does and he is simply incapable of being in a mediocre role, simply because of his capability to make everything he does exceptional. I loved him as the good voice of reasonable reason – he wasn’t being a tool and underhanded for personal gain, he was simply doing his job and dealing with the fallout of a failed mission.

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Javier Bardem joined Mads Mikkelson as some of the better (excellent) villains of the Craig era of Bond. He was an impressive villain, and gave way to one of the creepiest scenes in the film. The blonde hair is still the worst decision for him ever, but it suited the creepiness of the character. I also really liked the angle that Raoul Silva was an ex CIA operative and the reasons behind his vengeful quest, as well as how eerily calm he was. The method to his villainy incorporated the new modern technology its reach of power.

Ben Whishaw as Q was ridiculously cute. He had this nerdy confidence based on that while Bond would do well in the field, he was the guy making it all work out behind the scenes. He is VERY adorable in that nerdy way, not in a Bond way, but still good. The incorporation of Mallory, Eve Moneypenny and Q seemed nearly seamless in execution, without it being rushed or forced.

Anyway, that is it from me – Skyfall is worth the watch and great entertainment. It is Bond, but not Bond – women have been treated increasingly less as objects in the Craig era, and that is something that can definitely be attributed to Daniel Craig himself, a staunch feminist that has had issues that side with Bond since the start. It shows in Skyfall, where the leading women are Moneypenny and M, and both are equal and perhaps even superior to Bond himself. For that I can simply salute this film!

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Movie Review: Spectre (2015)

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Plot:

While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Rating: 8/10

December 2015 is such a massive month in the cinema. We’ve seen Mockingjay Part II, Spectre just released, Star Wars, which I’m sure will make everything this year pale in comparison is nearly out and Creed is getting a few good punches in before the end of the year.

Well, I signed on for Spectre because even though I am not a super fan, I thoroughly enjoy Daniel Craig as James Bond. It didn’t disappoint. Spectre is extremely enjoyable experience and doesn’t feel like two and a half hours.

As mentioned, I’m not one of the Bond super fans – nothing against it, but my knowledge of all the films is terribly poor. I’ve (unfortunately) seen Die Another Day and the incredible Casino Royale, maybe a few others, but that is it. So I can tell you what I thought of this film as an entity on its own and not really as part of the Bond franchise.

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Let’s talk a bit here as the 007 himself, Daniel Craig. I think he is truly the definition of virility – he just looks so well for his age and exudes charisma and power. He is cocky but also gives flashes to a scarred man that is haunted by his past. I find it a very intriguing combination.

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The Bond ladies shine in Spectre. Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux both make me feel slightly ill – can such beauty be possible? Granted, Bellucci only has a few seconds on screen but she slays when she is on Lea Seydoux plays main Bond girl Dr. Madeleine Swan and does a great job. She is a central part to the fight to tract down and the destruction of Spectre, and without her Bond would have been mincemeat.

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Villainville is quite large with an intimidating amount of characters signed on to kill Bond. We have Christoph Waltz with a fantastic turnout as Oberhauser, Dave Bautista terrifying as Mr. Hinx, Andrew Scott as C, the character who successfully fulfils the need to portray a corporate suit as a villain. I would have enjoyed a bit more on Oberhauser and how he came to be so hateful, but I really can’t see how that they would have fitted that into the film.

The directing looks amazing and is splendidly done by Sam Mendes. He did a fantastic run with his time with Bond, and the shooting is beautiful in that warm slightly washed out feel.

The story itself is quite interesting and although I wished it could have been much more fleshed out, it was really well linked. I won’t say too much of this because it heads into spoiler territory, but it was really painful to see how Bond’s pain could be so linked.

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My very favourite scene? The opening with the Day of the Dead parade. It looked fantastic, Bond’s suit was fantastic and the whole setting set a great premise.

Spectre worked remarkably well. I truly do think that they could have developed the story just a bit more, but further than that it was a great film, both standalone and into the Bond franchise.

Have you seen it? What did you think?