Tag Archives: 50 Cent

A New Champ

Jake Gyllenhaal is pounding, pummeling prizefighter in ‘Southpaw’

SOUTHPAW

Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal star in ‘Southpaw’

Southpaw

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams & Forrest Whittaker

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

R

The first thing you see in Southpaw is quite literal—it’s the left hand, the “south paw,” of boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), as he prepares to enter the ring at Madison Square Garden.

That paw, and its awesome knockout power, has lifted Hope from his humble, hardscrabble orphanage origins to the top of the prizefighting world, where he now reigns as the light heavyweight champ. But how much more pounding, pummeling, bruising and bleeding can the champ take—and give?

As he comes home from another victorious match, his precious young daughter (Oona Laurence) gets up from her bed and puts on her glasses to better see the his fresh scars and cuts.

“The more you get hit, the harder you fight, I get it,” his beautiful wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams) tells him, pleading with him to stop—or at least take a long break.

SOUTHPAW

Billy’s manager (rapper 50 Cent) pushes him to bigger, more lucrative fights.

Billy’s manager (rapper 50 Cent) prods him in a different direction. “If it makes money, it makes sense,” he says, urging him to sign a three-year, three-fight, $30 million deal with HBO. A cocky young Columbian upstart (Miguel Gomez) itches for a fight. “You ain’t ever been hit by a real man!” he taunts him. Maureen warns Billy of his swirl of hangers-on, warning him they will scatter like “cockroaches” once his bubble of money and success bursts.

And burst it does, and worse, in a tragic and terrible turn of events. Hope is dethroned, forced to give up his home and stripped of everything that ever meant anything to him. Starting again from the bottom, he works with a demanding trainer (Forrest Whittaker) to try to put the pieces of his crashed, crumbled life together again.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL stars in SOUTHPAW. Photo: Scott Garfield © 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a classic tale told anew, and not without its share of clichés. But Gyllenhaal is phenomenal, adding yet another role to his growing resume of parts that it’s hard to imagine going to any other actor (although rapper Eminem was reportedly considered). With a shaved head, 200 pounds of ripped and rippling muscle, a billboard of tattoos across his body and a perennially banged-up face, he’s almost unrecognizable. But it’s impossible to take your eyes off him.

Working from an original story by Kurt Sutter, the creator/writer/producer/director of TV’s Sons of Anarchy, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer) weaves a powerful human drama about home and family into the framework of a dynamic, rousing boxing saga. A soundtrack of tunes from Eminem, the Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes and other hip-hop artists helps set the scene in today’s f-bombing, bling-a-fied realm of modern sports, a world away from The Champ, Raging Bull and Rocky. The camerawork and choreography of the fighting scenes are outstanding—and so realistic, you’ll probably be checking your garments for splat and spatter when you leave the theater.

SOUTHPAWIt may not be everyone’s idea of relaxing, uplifting escapist matinee balm. But above and beyond the brutal, visceral slaps, jabs, and upper cuts is a bigger, softer story, a tale of a father and a daughter on a journey of emotional homecoming that packs quite a punch of its own.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Long Shot

With five Oscar winners on screen, ‘Last Vegas’ should be more of a winner, too

LastVegasPhotoTûR[1]2Last Vegas

Starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline & Mary Steenbergen

Directed by John Turteltaub

PG-13, 105 min.

Advanced-age audiences have become a sizable movie demographic in recent years, one to which Hollywood has (wisely) been paying more and more attention.

Somebody wasn’t paying quite enough attention, however, to Last Vegas, which seems like a lazy exercise to cash in on the growing base of “maturing” ticket buyers using a cast of venerable, award-winning actors plugged into a story template clearly lifted from another successful franchise.

A buddy comedy about four 70-ish friends who convene for a bachelor-party weekend as the last single member of their group is (finally) about to tie the knot, it’s an over-the-hill Hangover with most of the ribald raunch of that 2009 blockbuster replaced with creaky jokes about achy joints, hemorrhoids and rapper 50 Cent sheepishly complaining to hotel management that the four horsemen of the AARP apocalypse are slammin’ and jammin’ so loudly he can’t sleep.

The movie counts on its all-star pedigree to carry its slender storyline a long way—and that’ll probably be enough for some folks, who’ll simply enjoy the precedent-setting spectacle of seeing Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline sharing the screen as the childhood buddies now grown up and reunited for a geezer-fied fling.

K72A3158.CR2The quip-filled script by Dan Fogleman (whose resume includes Cars, Bolt, Tangled, Crazy, Stupid Love and The Guilt Trip) sets up the characters quickly: Sam (Kline), who’s had so many joints replaced that his friends jokingly call him “the Bionic Man”; Archie (Freeman), recovering from a stroke but dying a slow death under the suffocating care of his overly attentive son; and grumpy Paddy (De Niro), living under a cloud of gloom after the death of his wife.

All three come to Vegas from their far-flung corners of the country when Billy (Douglas), their slick, high-living, lifelong bachelor bud with a sexy 32-year-old girlfriend, decides to get married and throw himself a Sin City send-off.

As the guys acclimate to the glitz of their new surroundings, director John Turteltaub, who previously steered three National Treasure kid-centric adventures, has them run a gauntlet of geriatric jokes. Most of chuckles, alas, feel churned from cheap sitcom stock. Sam, who’s been given a weekend “free pass” (as unlikely as that sounds) from his wife, can’t wait to pop the single Viagra pill in his pocket. Archie tries to maintain his ruse from his son that he’s really on a church retreat. The doorkeeper at the hotel’s after-hours nightclub thinks the group’s paltry $5 tip to skip his long line must be a joke. A young inebriated woman asks them if they have any drugs. “Does Lipitor count?” they want to know.

“This may be the first bachelor party I’ve attended that could be covered by Medicare,” says Diana (MaryK72A7000.CR2 Steenbergen, Oscar winner No. 5), a lovely lounge singer who’ll become a major player in the way the weekend unfolds.

Other movies have plumbed the issues of growing older with grace, dignity and a real sense of the humor and humanity that can be found in the walk into the long shadows of the twilight years. The four old lions in Last Vegas don’t aspire to anything so profound as they rip, roar, rib each other and “party like it’s 1959.”

You might expect more from an assemblage of actors with a spread of six golden Oscar statues among them. Those seem like pretty good odds for a successful, can’t-lose movie, right? Sorry to report that payoff is such a long shot.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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