The Best Rocky Film Ever?
Creed (2015): The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Ryan Coogler is a genius. I can see why many are saying he was snubbed by the Academy in not receiving a Best Director nomination for Creed. Creed is the brainchild of Coogler, and it just might be the best Rocky film ever made. This is easily my personal favorite Rocky film, which is high praise from me because I am absolutely a sucker for boxing films. I will defend Southpaw and Real Steal till the end of my days as good films, and Raging Bull is one of my favorite films ever. But Creed is not just a great boxing film, it is a great film, and certainly on of my favorites from 2015. So, let's talk about it, shall we?
There's a lot this film got right. Let's first talk about the acting. If Ryan Coogler isn't the biggest snub of the year, then Michael B. Jordan is. He puts in one of the best performances of the year as Creed, and its a quantifiable performance as well given the fact that he added about 40 pounds in muscle weight for the role. Why Bryan Cranston was nominated for Best Actor and not Michael B. Jordan is beyond me. But, don't worry! Because the one white guy involved in this entire movie, Sylvester Stallone, is! There's no doubt that this film is Stallone's best performance of his career, buuuuuuuuut that's really not saying much. But don't worry! He's nominated and Michael B. Jordan is not. That makes sense.....somehow. I doubt he'll win because there are definitely better supporting actor performances out there this year. But you never know. Stallone could get a legacy pick because the Supporting Actor category isn't exactly strong. Anyway, Tessa Thompson also puts in a great and hugely underrated performance as Bianca, though her story arc is for another conversation in a bit. What else does this film do right? The editing. Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver did a phenomenal job as the editors for this film. From great "info screens" on the individual fighters to the frantic cuts of the final fight, I was extremely impressed by the work of these relatively new editors. Additionally, there was some awesome cinematography from Maryse Alberti in this film. This includes one of my favorite moments in film from 2015 in the first fight. The first fight in this film is shot in a single take, and what the camera does to make you feel like you are the ref of this fight and right next to the expertly choreographed action was by far the best part of the film. Well done to everyone involved who helped make that awesome scene happen.
However, there were a few problems with the film. The biggest one was Bianca's character. Surprise! Bianca basically solely exists to be the love interest for Creed. As I said Tessa Thompson puts in an absolutely fantastic performance as this bland character, but the story arc of Bianca's character really failed to add any depth to her character. She's totally underused. Sadly, this is not unusual nowadays. My next problem is with how similar this film is to the original Rocky. Now, this isn't a huge fault since the original Rocky is a great film, but especially after the new Star Wars it was slightly amplified this time around seeing how similar this was to the original. However, these complaints are relatively minor all things considered, and I definitely still think this is my favorite Rocky film of the franchise. If you love this franchise, or even just the first film, you should absolutely check out Creed. You'll be happy that you did.
The Critique: One of the big snubs of 2015, Creed is a fantastic reboot for the Rocky franchise featuring a great performance from its deserving new lead.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for any fan of boxing films, or Sylvester Stallone, or Michael B. Jordan. Everyone else? This would also qualify as a great film to invite a couple of friends over, grab some alcohol, and have a good time. It's definitely a great party film.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
A masterfully acted, predictable boxer film
Southpaw (2015): 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.
......I love this film. Maybe I'm just a complete sucker for the predictable boxer film, but seriously....was Rocky any different? Were you really shocked by the results of Rocky? Was that love story really that gripping? Southpaw is getting panned by critics, but I really don't know why. Maybe it's because the Weinstein Brothers co-produced it? Movie critics have major beef with the Weinstein Brothers: they are in bed with the Oscar committee-who have basically reserved one of the spots for Best Picture for whatever "important" film they release on December 31-and have all-around made themselves as pretentious as possible. Southpaw is no exception: it wants to think its way more important than it actually is. But I still have no problem with that. Because I am a sucker for a fun boxer film, and despite its attempt to be more important than it actually is, Southpaw is still a very fun boxer film.
A big reason, no the MAIN reason, is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal has AGAIN put in a masterful performance. This man is on some kind of role recently, putting in performance after performance where he flawlessly is absorbed into whatever character he is playing. It's incredible to me, because after being number 1 on my list for best performances of 2014, I obviously had extraordinarily high expectations for him going into this film. And he still surpassed them. STILL. He's got another film coming out this year in Everest, and between Southpaw and that film, I'm expecting this is the year where Gyllenhaal finally gets his first (and long overdue) nomination for Best Actor from the Academy. It has to be. And then there's everyone else. Forrest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams are excellent in their roles, also being absorbed into the characters they're playing. However, I have to give a shoutout to child-actress Oona Laurence. If she blew her role as the daughter of Gyllenhaal's character, this film would've fallen flat on its face. Good thing she didn't. Laurence has actually been in several films to this point, but this is the first film I've seen with her in it. I have a feeling we'll be seeing her again.
I also really liked the editing and cinematography. The way the boxing fights were shot was outstanding, featuring brutal close-ups, first-person views, and a few bottom up shots. They even tried to throw in a few jump-cuts into the fights to make it a little jarring, and while they didn't really work, I have to respect director Antoine Fuqua for at least trying, which is more than can be said for most films today. Now, there are some problems that some may view as pretty glaring. Just remember, though: I'm the guy who will defend Real Steel to the grave, even though some called it the worst film of 2011. I am a sucker for boxing films, ok? Well....if you want a film that keeps you guessing until the very end.....keep looking. Southpaw is extremely predictable.The story here was mostly spoiled by the trailers, and, after setting up an interesting premise, the filmmakers take no risks whatsoever in the final act. This is a fault of countless boxing films, but it's becoming more and more glaring to some when you look at the genre and see that Foxcatcher is essentially the only film with a twist in its final act. And that "twist" only occurs because Foxcatcher is based off of real-life events. So the "twist" had to be there because that's what happened in real-life. So, way to take a risk there, wrestling/boxing genre. Yay. But again....I don't care. Ummmm I guess the other big complaint here is that the film thinks it's more than it actually is. It's got the Weinstein touch-it's an "important" film, and you're a bad person if you don't see it-and that's going to turn off a lot of people. But damnit I'm not one of them! I'm happy that I got to scratch my itch for a boxing film, Southpaw. So thank you for that.
The Critique: While ridiculously predictable and heavy-handed, Southpaw delivers masterful performances from everyone involved, and it is exactly what any fan of the boxing genre wants out of their boxing film. Oh and Jake Gyllenhaal is shirtless for most of the film. That's always a plus.
The Recommendation: I think you know what I'm going to say here. If you like Rocky, you're gonna like Southpaw. If you like Jake Gyllenhaal, you better go and see this film. Ya. That's right. You better. ALL HAIL THE CHURCH OF JAKE.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
The Kit Harrington Film WE've Been Waiting For
7 Days in Hell (2015): A fictional documentary-style expose on the rivalry between two of the greatest tennis players of all-time who battled it out in a 2001 match that lasted seven days.
This film....this film is ridiculous, unbelievable, and even somewhat appalling, and yet.....I love it. I laughed so hard during this short 43-minute HBO film that I almost couldn't control myself. This movie is freaking hysterical, guys. And there's literally one reason this film is as funny as it is. Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington. Well, I guess that's two reasons, but you know. There is an undeniable chemistry between these two actors that made this film one of the funniest comedies I've seen all year. Are the gags ridiculous? Did some have me shaking my head in disgust? Absolutely. For example, when a streaker comes out and starts having sex with Andy Samberg's character, initially I was just shaking my head and not laughing at all. But then, the camera cut to Kit Harrington's reaction and I just lost it. Maybe that's it, cause as I think more about this, Andy Samberg was essentially himself, which is fine because his persona is hilarious, but this is the best non-Jon Snow performance I've ever seen from Kit Harrington. Period. And yes, I cringed through Pompeii last year for him. I've been wanting to see what Kit Harrington can really do, and this film shows it. Finally. This mockumentary is definitely worth 43 minutes of your time just for Kit Harrington's performance. So, for all you Jon Snow fans out there, sit through the sex jokes and the ridiculousness of the film just to see how Kit Harrington reacts to the world around him. It's more than worth it I assure you.
The Critique: 7 Days in Hell is the Kit Harrington film we've been waiting for. While the mockumentary offers little else, Harrington knocks it out of the park.
The Recommendation: If you're asking me this then you know nothing, Jon Snow.
Rewatchability: Moderatly High
The Verdict: Gonna do a double-take here, because this really is all about Harrington with only a bit of humor coming from Sandberg.
With Kit Harrington: 8/10 Great
Without Kit Harrington: 3/10 Bad
Average: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average
The Gambler (2014): Lit professor and gambler Jim Bennett's debt causes him to borrow money from his mother and a loan shark. Further complicating his situation is his relationship with one of his students. Will Bennett risk his life for a second chance?
God this movie sucks. Ok what is with Mark Whalberg and bad movies in 2014? I love this guy, but these two movies he's led in 2014 may very well end up in my bottom 10 worst movies of the year. STOP IT WHALBERG. PLEASE. FIND SETH MACFARLANE AGAIN. How do I not simply just rip this movie apart? Hm....nope. Nope. Can't do it. Ok, here we go then! So when I started this 111 minute film, I was looking forward to an interesting story of a man attempting to overcome his addiction to gambling while simultaneously having an interesting romance with Brie Larson. (This is how the movie is marketed, by the way.) I got neither of these. You want to know what Whalberg's version of gambling is? Hm? Going to blackjack (which they don't explain or really even show all that well, so if you don't know the finer rules of blackjack you're screwed) tables and betting everything he has on the hand. Then, if he wins, betting everything he now has on that hand. And again. And again. And again. You do the math...anyone with a brain can figure out that THIS STRATEGY DOESN'T F*CKING WORK. So, the "drama' of the actual card game is completely removed because YOU KNOW HE'S GOING TO LOSE. Ok where's Jason Bateman when you need him?
I know I just used this picture a few reviews ago, but I don't care. YOU CAN'T CREATE ANY TENSION WITH THE CARD GAME WHEN YOUR STRATEGY AS A PLAYER IS TO JUST KEEP BETTING EVERYTHING YOU HAVE ON THE HAND. YOU CANNOT WIN. And when that's where the majority of your movie's tension is supposed to come from, that's....that's not good. Can we also take a moment to talk about how bad the writing is? This movie honestly feels like one monologue after another. Just all in a row. First it's Mark Whalberg. Then it's Michael Kenneth Williams (from Boardwalk Empire-who also happens to be the best part of this movie) giving some big monologue. Then it's John Goodman. Then it's Mark Whalberg again. Then it's Brie Larson. Then it's Jessica Lange. Then it's...GOD THEN IT'S MARK WHALBERG AGAIN. GOD D*MNIT. You cannot create a good movie that is nothing but monologue after monologue. Even if you have a very good cast. Who are all far more interesting that Whalberg's character, I might add. I wish the movie had been entirely about John Goodman's character rather than Whalberg's. Would've been a lot better.
There really isn't that many good things to talk about here. The music supervisor must've been on drugs or something because the song selection was all over the place. The production value was horrible. We had this very tense moment involving a college basketball game, and the team's playing each other were State and Wildcats. It felt like something out of an Allstate commercial. The movie did have some cool M83 music in it! Always gotta give a point to a movie when they use my favorite band. A lot of movies have recently actually...also it took me forever to figure out the movie was taking place in LA because the wide, establishing shots of the movie were crap. Only when there was a scene between Brie and Mark OH! I need to talk about that. Ok so there's this scene between Mark and Brie where they are in the desert all of the sudden and that's when I figured out the movie must be taking place in LA because there really isn't another tropical city in the country so close to the desert. YA. FIGURING SH*T OUT ON MY OWN CAUSE THE MOVIE REFUSES TO TELL ME ALRIGHT.
So can we talk about this "romance" between Brie and Mark? I can't even put romance in caps there. That's how bad it is. So it's a 111 minute film, right? With a whole lot of various scenes. Ya. There's my quick lesson on moviemaking: unless you're Birdman, you shoot your movie with a lot of different scenes. You want to know how many scenes of The Gambler even have Brie Larson and Mark Whalberg? Huh? 10? 15? Half the movie? Nope. 3. Ok maybe 4. But still. 3 or 4. There's supposed to be this big romance that changes Whalberg as a gambler because now he has something to loose, but it's set up with 4 whole scenes. And then he forces Brie to not help him in the third act as he tries to fix everything. Look. Every action movie knows that when you have a female character the main character falls for, YOU HAVE HER JOIN THE MAIN CHARACTER IN THE CLIMAX. That's how most of these movies establish a legitimate relationship between the two characters! Nope. Not here. "Wait for me. I'll be back." He might as well've just said that. Actually, I think he did. Just with a not-so-dramatic "I'll be back if I'm still alive." Moment. Yup. 10/10.
God this movie sucks. And you know what's worse? This movie had the audacity to release on December 25. On Christmas Day. With the biggest releases of the year like Unbroken, American Sniper, Big Eyes, Into the Woods, and Selma, here's The Gambler being released because they thought they had a legitimate chance at some Oscar nominations. Shame on you. Look, I love Paramount. Hell, I might even work there someday, (hopefully they don't read this....) but why did the execs watch this movie and think it was a good idea to not push this movie into the black hole that is January? WHY DIDN'T YOU DO THIS? YOUR LOGIC MAKES NO SENSE. IT WAS A LIMITED RELEASE TOO. You actually thought you had a chance at some Oscar nominations? Wow. I'm done here. I guess the Paramount execs can make mistakes sometimes. It's ok. Nobody's perfect. I still love you....
The Critique: MONOLOGUE. Some transition shots. ANOTHER MONOLOGUE. There. Just summed up The Gambler for you. Go watch the original before you watch this. Or Leaving Las Vegas if you want gambling addiction done right.
The Recommendation: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE (I must say I look forward to this moment of a bad movie review. I like giving that as my recommendation.)
Rewatchability: 1.5/10 Basically Unwatchable. Just for John Goodman, Michael Kenneth Williams, and M83. That's the only enjoyment here.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966): Um....f*ck it. Here's IMDB: A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo. SO MUCH INTRIGUE RIGHT?
First of all, thank you for reading. Damn. 10,000 views. If you told me back when I started this thing in September 2013 that I'd hit 10,000 views I would've just laughed. See I started this thing just for my own personal amusement. I just wanted to remind myself of these movies so that I could have a conversation about these movies whenever I needed to with people. Just be like hey! I saw that movie once! Let me see what I said about it! And whip out my phone. Since I was just writing for myself basically, I didn't hold back with what has come to define Enter the Movies: my incredibly weird and unusual writing style. Now, it's here to stay. However, over time, people started approaching me saying that they liked my reviews. I was surprised, because I didn't think anyone even knew that they existed, much less enjoyed them. Now, an article from the local paper (thank you Madeline Rafi!) and an endorsement from a local athlete (thank you Nikki Newman!) later, as well as a lot of support from Reddit, my blog has become...well, a thing. So thank you everyone Thank you. I now do this for you. To entertain you. If I put a smile on your face, then I did my job. That said, let's celebrate by watching the "movie" Manos: The Hands of Fate! Because that sounds like a good idea....should get the smile part done at least....
Supposedly made on a bet between friends, Manos: The Hands of Fate has reached cult status, but not in a good way. This movie.....where do I even begin? Seriously. Let's talk about Grown Ups 2 really quick. That was the worst movie of 2013 due to bad acting and a terrible story, as well as horrid directing. However even in this movie there is a level of competency with the making of the film, as the editing, cinematography, and sound are at least decent. There's a certain level of competency you expect in any movie, right? After all if it's made it to the big screen it should be at least, well....made properly. This movie, however, fails on every aspect of movie making. In my junior year of high school, I made a 20 minute(ish) movie called What Is Justice? I'm not trying to self-promote, because after all there is only one copy, but my movie, hastily made in about 2 hours on Movie Maker software with stock Movie Maker sounds, is better than this piece of sh*t. A f*cking gorilla could make a better movie than this. Every aspect of filmmaking is completely nonexistent here. From random illogical editing cuts, to incredibly distracting music, to the fact that this movie is shot ENTIRELY in hand-cam fashion, to the fact that ALL of the actor's voices were dubbed in post-production by THREE people, this movie is the worst movie ever made. Done. How did no one step up and tell the director, insurance salesman Harold P. Warren, that this was a bad idea? Oh wait, was Harold P. Warren also the lead actor, writer, and producer? .........yep. That'll do it. He had no one around him to tell him that it was a bad idea. That just allowing this movie to exist was a bad idea.
Here, let me give you an example of how bad this movie is. So, this is meant to be a horror movie. So Warren and the female lead, played by Diane Mahree, are looking at a very "creepy" picture. They are having a conversation, with the distracting music behind their conversation, when all of the sudden, without warning, there's a cut to their character's daughter holding a (clearly untrained) dog. Everything stops as we watch this girl struggle to keep the dog from jumping out of her lap. And the music stopped. So, basically, we go from a very loud conversation and just overall noise to silence in.....instantly. Because f*ck you. Seriously, this movie deserves to be the blunt end of a would you rather question. It's so bad that it's not even funny bad. It's below that! It's like this.....there are good movies, and there are bad movies. Then there's 50 feet of crap. And then there's Manos: The Hands of Fate. (Thank you to my inspiration, Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin, for that reference.) Here, I'll get the would you rather questions going. Would you rather watch Manos: The Hands of Fate, or sit through an hour-long sermon courtesy of the Westboro Baptist Church? Spoiler: if you pick Manos, you're wrong. At least Westboro will give you a good laugh. This is comparable to hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Or dying. The one saving grace of this movie is that it is disgustingly short. While most of the time I would criticize a movie coming in at 74 minutes, here it is welcome, even though those 74 minutes CRAWLED by. I had to take breaks to finish this. I'm not even kidding. I HAD TO TAKE BREAKS TO COMPLETE THIS. AOEIFAJWEOIFJABNADFLKADAKLDALKDSF I DON'T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS MOVIE ANYMORE. NO YOU CAN'T MAKE ME. I DON'T WANNA I DON'T WANNA....
Ok I'll say one more thing. The only thing even remotely memorable about this sh*t show of a movie is the character Torgo. He is played by John Reynolds, who supposedly did LSD before his scenes in this movie and as a result was constantly twitching uncontrollably throughout his performance. All it did was lead to a few good laughs. We got to laughably bad a few times, guys! Whoo! Oh ya, and his death scene is hilarious, as he is seemingly massaged to death by a bunch of women. Spoiler? F*ck you. The biggest crime of this movie is that not everybody is dead by the end of it. Bite me.
The Critique: The worst movie ever made.
The Recommendation: A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE. FEEL MY PAIN PLEASE.
The Verdict: 0.1/10 That 0.1 is for Torgo. #TORGOCOMEBACK2014
Rush (2013) The true story of the rivalry of Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda from the mid 70s.
I had high hopes for this movie going into it. After reading some of my more trusted critic's reviews, claiming that it is Ron Howard's best film and such, I was excited. I think maybe...too excited. I was asking for greatness, and all I saw was good. So....let's do two paragraphs. One for what I liked and what I didn't.
What I liked: this movie requires no knowledge of Formula 1 racing. Far and away the best part of the movie is the part where it does a spectacular job making the world of Formula 1 make sense without obviously holding your hand. Another great thing is the acting. Chris Hemsworth is great as James Hunt, but the man who deserves all the conversation is Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda. He steals the show in this, to the point that I wouldn't be surprised if I'm asking for an Oscar nomination for him at the end of the year. He plays a character who's an asshole, to the point that he could've faded into the shadows as the "bad guy". But instead he turns this character into a very likeable person. To the point that I was rooting for him come the final showdown. He puts in an incredibly memorable performance. Additionally, this movie is beautifully shot. The racing scenes were breathtaking, and the crash sequences had me cringing in my seat.
What I disliked: remember the part where I said I was rooting for Lauda at the end? Ya this was the biggest problem. Think of every sports movie you've ever seen. There is an incredibly obvious character or team that you are rooting for. This is completely nonexistent in Rush. About halfway through the movie I realized that I had NO idea who we were supposed to root for. The playboy James Hunt was not the most likable of characters, and Lauda was an asshole but thanks to the brilliance of Bruhl he becomes the most likable character, and given what happens to him you can't help but root for him. But Howard is constrained by what really happened here so....ya. I'm trying not to spoil here even though it's not since the movie is based on real events. My other major complaint is that OLIVIA WILDE IS TOTALLY UNDERUSED IN THIS MOVIE. I mean c'mon guys! She actually was a really interesting character here, playing Hunt's wife. There was an attempted story arc between her and Hunt and the playboy persona Hunt has, and then how Hunt deals with his sexual desires but then oh! Nevermind. They split, Hunt goes back to how he was, and Wilde is delegated to random clips of her watching the final showdown from a TV set. C'mon Hollywood! Olivia Wilde is so talented!!!! And beautiful. She steals the show in everything she's given a chance to do so in. GAH! Hell Jessica Biel gets bigger movies than Wilde. They look so similar but Wilde is 1000000x better when it comes to acting. Why? Ok this has turned into a total Olivia Wilde fanboy rant so I'm going to stop now.
So I think I am going to switch my initial statement. I was expecting perfection, but all I got was greatness. That is probably pretty accurate.
The Critique: a fun, exhilarating sports movie with interesting character development. A very entertaining way to spend 123 minutes of your life.
The Recommendation: There is something here for anyone. Might be one of the better date movies out there right now. Well Don Jon is a thing but if your GF doesn't like porn I would strongly discourage that choice. But again if you're looking to have fun you will definitely find it here.
Where to See It: See this one at the movie theater. The racing sequences are amazing on the big screen.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
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