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Entries in sports (38)


Review: "Creed"

Our newest team member Chris Feil saw the latest in a long dormant franchise early. Here's his review - Editor

Making good on his mainstream sensibilities post-Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler returns with Rocky reboot/sequel/spin-off Creed. Born after his legendary father Apollo's death after an affair, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) attempts to forge his own boxing path without the Creed namesake, recruiting his father's notorious opponent and comrade Rocky Balboa. Similarly, the film tries to have it both ways, attempting to be a sideways stand-alone film while borrowing heavily on the iconography of the original. It is a bit of a left turn for cinema's current trend of cut-and-paste nostalgia, giving Coogler's film a much needed edge for a tired genre, but cursing it with enormous shoes it falls short of filling.

If Fruitvale showed us anything about Ryan Coogler's potential, it was that he could both emotionally invest the audience with a charismatic subject and that he knew how to structure a film's most intense scenes for their maximum dramatic effect. These skills make him the perfect candidate for a mainstream actioner that pulls on the heartstrings, and Creed provides a solid larger platform for him to deliver those goods. Unfortunately still present is his diminished sense of confidence and clarity of vision in extended dialogue scenes, lending to an overall flabby structure. He knows what we want as audience and how to give it to us, but here he has a tricky time transitioning between story beats.


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AFI: Will Smith & Gugu Mbatha-Raw in "Concussion"

There was a weird and wonderful symmetry last night watching Will Smith talk about his starring role as Dr Bennet Omalu in Concussion in front of the real man and thinking of the character we'd just seen onscreen. It was not the easy symmetry of mimicry, but of spirit. Both men are legends of their respective fields, if you will, and that's the last time we'll compare forensic pathology and movie stardom! More curiously neither man seemed willing to admit that the night's festivities were about him. Will Smith was especially humble about his performance and starstruck by the real man, admitting after Dr Omalu burst out laughing during the Q&A that followed the premiere, that he loved that laugh but couldn't manage to perfect it for the movie. Dr Omalu, in the movie and on stage kept saying that the story wasn't about him but about the science. The writer/director Peter Landisman called the movie version of Omalu a "triangulation" of the two men which is the best description possible of what we were watching on stage, the movie still fresh in the mind.

Concussion centers on Omalu's discovery of CTE, a brain disease brought on by repeated concussive head trauma, and the attempts of the NFL to cover up the physical damage on their players. A string of high profile suicides finally broke down the NFL's attempts at denial and debunking of Omalu's claims. [More...]

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Podcast: Ant-Man and Southpaw

We're spoiling you with two podcasts this week. Yesterday we talked 1995 (to tease the Smackdown). Now, conversations about Marvel's Phase Two ender Ant-Man with Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, and Michael Peña, and the new boxing drama Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams.

Contents (43 minutes)
00:01 Marvel's Ant-Man
27:55 Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw
40:00 Coming Attractions: Mistress America & The Finest Hours

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes. Continue the conversation!

Southpaw & Ant-Man


YNMS: "Steve Jobs" & "Creed"

Films celebrating their over achieving male protagonist are par for the course come fall movie season each year as Oscar competition heats up. But Steve Jobs and Adonis Creed both got trailers in the same 24 hours or so and I couldn't resist conjoining them since they both also star actors named "Michael". They make both an odd couple and perfect pair: Mind and Body. Michael Fassbender plays real life computer genius Steve Jobs for Oscar winner Danny Boyle; And Michael B Jordan, reuniting with his Fruitvale director Ryan Coogler, plays fictional Adonis Creed, the son of dead boxer Adonis, in an attempt to reboot the stalled Rocky series.

Yes No Maybe So on both trailers after the jump...

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Tim's Toons: Biking through Belleville

Tim here, to celebrate National Bike to Work Week in the only way I possibly could. Because when it comes to animated movies about bikes, there's nothing that can top 2003's The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet's lightly mocking love letter to the most quintessential elements of French and American culture. Wine and frog-eating on the one side, obesity and urban rudeness on the other, and most importantly for our current purposes, the Tour de France, the most famous bike race in the world.

The bubbly, convoluted story pivots on Champion, raised by his grandmother, whose only interest as a lonely child was in biking. This translates, years later, into his competition in the Tour, from which he's kidnapped by the French mafia as part of their underground gambling ring, from which his grandmother can only rescue him with the help of a trio of elderly cabaret performers. I said "convoluted", right? Because that's a nice word to describe how random and weird Triplets of Belleville can be in its pileup of absurd plot developments. But also, always, delightful and beguiling.

Chomet's tribute to the bike culture in France is, like everything else, predicated on outrageous grotesquerie: in a movie where the entire cast have impossible, distorted body shapes, Champion himself is one of the most extreme examples.

It only takes one glance at his rail-thin body and enormous legs to grasp that this is what a lifetime of single-minded dedication to competitive bike-riding looks like. It might seem like a nasty-minded commentary on athletes destroying their bodies, except that the whole film is based on exaggerated caricature; we could just as easily say that Champion's malformed body is the expression of a soul-consuming passion that's so important to him that he doesn't even realize when the mafia has him chained in front of a movie screen, biking on an endless loop.

That went and got a little nihilistic on me, so let me switch tracks over to the film's other big biking-related sequence: the Tour de France itself, a beautiful little parody of the over-the-top, carnivalesque enthusiasm that crops up when a small town has a great big national event to celebrate, going out of its way to realign everything around this one chance to shine.

And on the more generous side of things, the film also shows off the undulating beauty of its animated countryside, a tribute to the landscape of France that wonderfully shows off the justification for having an internationally well-known biking tour all throughout that country in the first place. The films resting state is to be sardonic as all hell, as often as possible, but it doesn't lack for heart, or even a kind of sentimental affection for the textures of rural France.

The fair concession to make is that The Triplets of Belleville isn't really "about" biking in any sustained way; it's not about any one thing at all. But those things it chooses to glance at get treated with quite a lot of imagination and flair. This might not be cinema's most probing, deep consideration of bikes and the Tour de France, but it's certainly one of the most memorable.


Yes No Maybe So: Southpaw

If this post were a sportsmovie, it would be like the first hint of a redemption arc to come after a downward spiral. Yes, I'm (gasp) over 48 hours late saying "yes" to Jake Gyllenhaal.

It's always "yes" so what's the rush?

The occasion is the first trailer to Southpaw, Jakey's new boxing movie from director of dark violent machismo programmers Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus has Fallen, The Equalizer). In other words, we'd have no interest at all if it didn't star actors we obsess over. But we're already jumping into the Yes No Maybe So breakdown so let's just get the eternal "yes" that is Jake Gyllenhaal and our Gyllenhaalism out of the way first.

The only thing that could make slo mo and fetishisizing body shots of Jake Gyllenhaal's physique better is if his tattoos were more relatable, like...

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Animated Feature Contenders: Henry & Me

Tim here. With the Oscar nominations coming in just under a week, this is our last chance to look at the little odds and ends on the list of 20 films submitted in the Best Animated Feature category, and pretend that the race isn’t down to The LEGO Movie and five movies vying for four runner-up slots. And of all the odds and ends, they don't come a whole lot odder than our final subject, Henry & Me.

Henry & Me is a direct-to-DVD feature that finagled a courtesy theatrical release, no doubt in part so that it would show up in articles like this one, and win some free publicity as a calling-card for young Reveal Animation Studios, and raise the profile of a release that’s seeing a healthy chunk of its sales going to charity. The risk of such a gambit is that it relies on the reviewer playing nice with a sweet-minded but rather dim bit of nonsense.


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