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Southpaw

Life is pretty hard for boxer Billy Hope (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), but it’s pretty good too. He and his beautiful wife, Maureen (by Rachel McAdams) have a very happy marriage, they have a delightful and well-behaved daughter, Leila (by Oona Laurence) and Billy’s career is going from strength to strength. He works hard and he fights hard in the ring, but he’s the reigning Junior Middleweight Champion and he feels like he owns the world! One evening, the couple attend a special function to honour Billy and suddenly tragedy strikes. Billy’s world is rocked to the core and he loses all hope. Nothing makes sense to him anymore and as depression envelops him, he loses his grip on life. Soon, his career is in tatters, his finances are a mess and then comes the final brutal blow … he loses custody of Leila. He can’t seem to get out of it, until the day he meets Tick Wills (by Forest Whitaker), a retired boxer who now runs a training gym for young amateur boxers, most down on their luck. This man may just be the thing Billy needs – but he’s a tough disciplinarian, with scruples that won’t be challenged. Can down-trodden Billy convince Tick to take him on and re-train him back to where he once was? Can he find the strength to win back the trust of the people around him … and the custody of his daughter? ….

If you take out all the highly graphic physical fights, violence, injuries and workouts it has taken to create this movie, it’s really just an ordinary story. There’s no doubt that Jake Gyllenhaal has given everything to this role – it would have been physical torture and exhausting. However, the story itself is fairly standard – boxer in his prime, cut down by tragedy, loses everything, must regain the trust of those around him, works hard to get back to an even keel … there’s not really anything to add here. However, the performances are all great. Jake, as I said, is fully into this role and he wears it all over his face for much of the movie. Rachel McAdams is luminous – she is lovely and her character is very nice. Oona Laurence does very well as the “older than her years” daughter Leila. It’s good to see Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson in a dramatic role – it’s quite straightforward and he does well. As Tick Wills, Forest Whitaker is fine, but doesn’t do anything too extraordinary. The whole thing is fine, but I’d wait for television to see this.

Made in 2015. Directed by Antoine Fuqua

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Movies

 

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Love and Other Drugs

Jamie Randall (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a born salesman. He can sell water in a flood and he’s good at it. He can always charm a customer (particularly the ladies) and can find the one thing that sparks their interest – and he’s good at turning that to his advantage. He’s never tried hard to do anything, not even in school, oh – he could’ve, but didn’t bother. Instead he’s chosen to push that potential back into the faces of his parents (by George Segall and Jill Clayburgh) and take his chances as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, this plan is a little flawed – he’s recently been fired and after a few weeks searching, he takes up a job as a drugs rep for a well known pharmaceutical company. He’s mentored by one of the company’s best senior salesmen, Bruce Winston (by Oliver Platt), who teaches him all he needs to know. Once he understands “how things work in this game” he takes to it like a duck to water. His skills come back and he starts to build real success. To get to see the right peiple, he charms everyone he needs to and builds up a strong network of connections, particularly Dr Stan Knight (by Hank Azaria). One day, in a drug demonstration with Dr Knight, he meets a patient with Parkinson’s Disease, Maggie Murdock (by Anne Hathaway). She’s such a beautiful woman, but she has a massive chip on her shoulder and a hard-nosed attitude to her illness. She has been hurt before and has little patience for relationships. She won’t let anyone get close to her but Jake is totally smitten. They start a “no strings attached” affair, which suits Jake down to the ground – he’s never been one for commitment. But there’s something about Maggie … she’s tender and loving, but frustratingly distant and Jake finds he’s growing to love her. Maggie’s illness starts to take its toll on her and on their relationship, which presents challenges that neither expected to face in their lives …

This is a supposed romantic “comedy” … but it has a hard edge. Actually, the comedy is there, but that’s not the true essence of this. Romance? – yes, Jamie and Maggie are lovely together and there are some beautifully tender scenes. But the story raises some very significant issues, particularly about the role of drug companies in the choices medical staff make in their treatment regimes. Also, how a person faces a terminal illness and the impact that has on their relationships – Maggie is particularly brave and pragmatic during her illness, but she’s also totally dismissive of any emotions as it’s obviously too much for her to bear. The welcome comedy is provided mostly by the performance of Josh Gad as Jamie’s brother, Josh – he’s marvellous – he does a great job and it’s a nice piece of balancing entertainment. The interaction between the two brothers is very well done too. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Jamie, is larger than life, but he’s also a tormented, difficult person. This movie goes to places you don’t expect so don’t underestimate its impact. It reunites Gyllenhaal and Hathaway after “Brokeback Mountain”, but this relationship is a more positive one than that was. It’s good to see veteran George Segal here too. Both Gyllenhaal and Hathaway were nominated for Golden Globe awards in 2010, for their comedy roles here and Anne Hathaway won a Satellite Award for her performance in 2010.

 Made in 2010. Directed by Edward Zwick.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Movies

 

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Source Code

Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is jolted awake, he’s on a commuter train heading into Chicago. Opposite him, a beautiful girl (by Michelle Monaghan) chats to him with familiarity, but he has no idea who she is. The train conductor comes past to check his ticket, passengers go about their business … but what’s going on? Who’s this girl opposite? Why does she think she knows me? Why does she call me a different name? Confused, he gets up and heads to the bathroom – he glances in the mirror and sees a stranger – what the …? Suddenly, an explosion blinds him and he is violently shaken into oblivion. He regains consciousness in the dark, there’s a voice somewhere (by Vera Farmiga) but he remembers nothing but the weird train dream. Slowly the pieces come back together and he starts to figure it out – he’s a helicopter pilot in Iraq, last thing he remembers is when he was on a mission yesterday … so something must’ve gone wrong … but where am I now, and who are these people?

This is an intriguing movie – it’s never clear what will happen next, which makes it great. I’m not going to describe the plot too much as it’s much more enjoyable when you learn what’s going on at the same time as Colter does. The consistency is the military lab where Colter comes to, he learns he’s part of a secret military experiment called “Source Code”. His only link with the real world is Goodwin, by Vera Farmiga, who is calming and great in this role. Of course, Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent – as if without even trying. Michelle Monaghan is beautiful and entertaining as Christina and the whole thing is very well done. It’s not too long, which makes it better and Duncan Jones introduces some interesting concepts with this. He’s done a great job (he’s rock star David Bowie’s son) and this is another good effort after his first movie, Moon, also very good and just that bit different.  I enjoyed this a lot.

Made in 2011. Directed by Duncan Jones

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Movies

 

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End of Watch

Brian Taylor (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is smart. He’s always thinking …  his mind’s ticking over all the time. He’s a cop – in Los Angeles South Central, one of the toughest areas of the LAPD jurisdiction. He loves it. His partner on the beat, Mike Zavala (by Michael Peña), known as “Z”, is his brother in arms. Together they’ve forged a good working style, smooth approach to policing and a light-hearted banter that keeps the horrors of every day bearable. Their partnership extends to friendship with an unspoken but deep respect for each other. They watch each other’s back and work as one. Through the shift, they share their personal lives and their deep love for their partners – Mike’s high school sweetheart is Gabby (by Natalie Martinez) and Brian has recently hooked up with Janet (by Anna Kendrick), who keep them both grounded. One day, they attend a routine job but stumble into a deeper, more sinister situation than they ever imagined. This brings the two beat cops to the attention of seriously high ranking people in an operating Mexican drug cartel who will stop at nothing to get them out of the picture ….

This is a good movie. Jake Gyllenhaal shines here as beat cop Taylor – his performance is authentic and the way he’s so natural is remarkable and commendable. Michael Pena is great too – these two guys work well together on screen and the action is entirely believable. It took me a little while to get into this one, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. The support roles by the police officers and the two female characters, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez, are very good too – all playing strong support but always one step “behind” the two leads, which is appropriate. The relationships are all real and believable. The direction is marvellous and the action is very well done, it’s “in your face” and totally realistic. The whole thing is well done and could easily actually be a documentary rather than a thriller movie. For some reason this movie had a very low profile at the box office in Australia, but that is our loss, it shouldn’t have – if you get the chance, see it.

Made in 2012. Directed by David Ayer.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Movies

 

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Brokeback Mountain

It’s summer in Wyoming in 1963. Two young men are hired as ranch hands to herd the sheep on Brokeback Mountain and bring them down to lowland pastures for the winter. Ennis Del Mar (played by Heath Ledger) is an experienced ranch hand and Jack Twist (by Jake Gyllenhaal) is enchanted by the “legend” of a cowboy lifestyle and is an aspiring rodeo bull rider. They start the job and head up into the mountains on what they expect to be an uneventful, quiet and lonely couple of months. But they soon recognize something in each other and strike up a familiar camaraderie. Over the weeks of the isolated trek, their friendship clumsily develops into a deep and confusing love. Presently, the summer and the job comes to an end and once down from the mountain, Ennis marries his fiance Alma (by Michelle Williams) and settles into married life, while Jack returns to the rodeo and marries Lureen (by Anne Hathaway). A few years later, Jack is restless and he reconnects with Ennis, which rekindles their relationship. Things are still strong between them and although it gets complicated and has its ups and downs, they stay in touch throughout their lives as their marriages change and their worlds intersect. Even though years have passed, their community still holds strong views and this demands that they constantly hide their true feelings from those around them. This enduring love continues though – until it reaches an inevitable and tragic conclusion.

The magnificent vistas of the Wyoming high country provide a jaw-droppingly consistently beautiful backdrop to this beautifully told story. The wonderful connection of these two souls, who both found meaningful, life-long companionship in the most unlikely place is universal. Take out the fact that it is two guys and just think about two people who find deep and enduring love – it’s a very moving tale. The performances are exquisite. Heath Ledger brings such depth to his role as Ennis – with his marvellous and curious speech and his unique mannerisms, he is terse – to say the least. He received a BAFTA for this performance. Contrasted with Jack Twist, the more sensitive, romantic and relationship-focussed of the two. Jake Gyllenhaal is fabulous in this role. Together, their chemistry, balance and complimentarity is sublime. This is a gritty, real story – the wives have tough lives with these two guys and both Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway should take a bow for their work here. Everything about these performances is good. Ang Lee is masterful at getting the best of the people, their dialogue, the surrounding landscape and the cinematography. Together this ensemble is outstanding. No surprise whatsoever then that at the 2006 Academy Awards (Oscars), the movie was awarded with Best Achievement in Directing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Music (Original Score) and Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture (Drama), Director, Screenplay and Original Song and also BAFTAs for Best Lead Actor, Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Cinematography and Editing. A fantastic effort and very well deserved by everyone involved. The movie screenplay was adapted from a short story “Brokeback Mountain” by E Annie Proulx.

Made in 2005. Directed by Ang Lee

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Movies

 

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Prisoners

Detective Loki (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is really good at his job. He’s a homicide detective and he’s solved every case that’s come his way. He’s focussed and methodical, leaving no stone unturned. One Thanksgiving, two families in town – the Birches and the Dovers – are enjoying their holiday weekend together when their two young girls, Anna Dover (by Erin Gerasimovich) and her best friend Joy Birch (by Kyla Drew Simmons) go missing. Their parents are distraught. Anna’s father, Keller (by Hugh Jackman) tries hard to keep her mother Grace (by Maria Bello) calm, at the same time his utter despair at the disappearance of his daughter eats away at him. Joy’s parents, Franklin (by Terrence Howard) and Nancy (by Viola Davis), pray for the safe return of their child. The police seem to be taking a long time to solve the case and as time ticks by the likelihood that the girls will be found alive gets slimmer. When Anna’s brother, Ralph (by Dylan Minnette) tells the Police about an RV he saw nearby, their investigation leads them to Alex Jones (by Paul Dano) – an intellectually underdeveloped guy who drives the van, which becomes central to the case. In custody, Alex doesn’t give much information, so he’s released and Keller gets more desperate. At home, Alex’s aunt and carer, Holly (by Melissa Leo) tries to keep Alex calm and the police at bay.  To try to speed things along, Keller takes matters into his own hands and Loki struggles to fit the pieces together. Will this be the case that finally eludes him? How does he keep Keller and the families satisfied that everything’s being done, when they are desperate to have their girls home? … and where are those little girls? …

This movie is long, but very good. The mood is captured well with a darkness throughout the production, which creates a grainy sense for this middle America place that could be anywhere. That’s part of its appeal – it could just as easily be happening in my town. The tension is built very well indeed. Loki’s investigation is detailed and his intuition takes him down a meandering path. But the drama itself doesn’t wander – it’s very good indeed. The performances of both Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman are excellent. They are measured and very compelling – even though Loki’s manner is understated, he’s got a keen eye and a fast intellect, so you wouldn’t underestimate his smart work. Hugh Jackman’s performance is multi-faceted. He has a tenderness, but a very fiery edge which means he can be violent when he’s desperate. He does this very well indeed – it’s frightening. The support roles by Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Melissa Leo are excellent also. I’m surprised and disappointed that the movie doesn’t feature in the 2014 Academy Award (Oscar) nominations.  It’s very very good.

Made in 2013. Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Movies

 

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Rendition

Anwar El-Abrahimi (played by Omar Metwally) is Egyptian and living in the US. He’s an academic and happily married to an American, Isabella (by Reese Witherspoon). She is heavily pregnant and looking after their son in Chicago, while Anwar is in South Africa at a conference. He calls her to say he is on his way home and they arrange to meet at the airport.  On the other side of the world, a suicide bombing in North Africa kills several people including an American envoy and the CIA are eager to get those responsible as swiftly as possible. CIA Executive Corinne Whitman (by Meryl Streep) orders an aircraft in transit to be intercepted by agents and a passenger taken away. Blindfolded, he is thrown into cell in a secret location and all trace of his travel is deleted from airline systems. He is brutally interrogated at the hands of the reliable Egyptian agent Abasi (by Yigal Naor) and inexperienced CIA officer, Douglas Freemen (by Jake Gyllenhaal) is sent to observe the interrogation. Anwar maintains his innocence throughout the torture, which causes Douglas to question the methods and outcomes of this practice. Back in Chicago, Isabella waits at the airport for Anwar, but he doesn’t arrive.  When she checks with the airline, there is no record of him being on the flight … strange, how can that be?  She turns to an old friend who works in the CIA, Alan Smith (by Peter Sarsgaard) for help.  Everyone is sure that Anwar is innocent so this must be a really horrible mistake … right?

This is a great movie, I enjoyed it a lot. From the outset, the story is told well, the drama unfolds in well constructed sequence and the characters are all fascinating.  Woven into the story are several scenarios set in North Africa which provide the valuable perspective of those on the other side of this issue – Muslims – students and families, with their cultural issues featured well. The political influences are also well depicted here, Corinne Whitlam (Meryl Streep) is a wholly political character, which is necessary in her job and she does this well, as does the high profile Senator Hawkins (by Alan Arkin) who develops the political melting pot of issues further. Peter Sarsgaard is a great political operator with a good heart and Reese Witherspoon is good in this dramatic role. The Americans are not the key feature though, which is also a good change – there are several characters in the Muslim community who have key roles in the story.  There is an interesting chronological twist which will confuse you for a moment, but then come clear, it is well done.  Best performances are Jake Gyllenhaal and Yigal Naor as the interrogators at the coal-face of this drama, with complicating issues in their lives. There are some violent and graphic scenes in the movie but overall it presents a good balanced view of all the issues involved and tells a good, compelling drama.  It kept me interested all the way through.  Well done, a great piece of work by Gavin Hood.

Made in 2007.  Directed by Gavin Hood

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Movies

 

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