Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman

Fly Like an Eagle

‘Eddie the Eagle’ soars with inspiring tale of unlikely Olympic star

 

Eddie the Eagle

Starring Taron Egerton & Hugh Jackman

Directed by Dexter Fletcher

PG-13

Ever since he was a tot, Great Britain’s Michael “Eddie” Edwards dreamed of becoming an Olympic athlete. But the odds were always stacked against him.

Weight lifter, pole vaulter, discus thrower, hurdle jumper—he didn’t care. But no amount of backyard “training” made any difference. With congenitally wobbly knees bolstered by leg braces and thick eyeglasses to correct his terrible vision, young Eddie was no one’s idea of the Olympic ideal.

Though it takes a few—or more—liberties, Eddie the Eagle is based on the rousing real-life story of Edwards, who proved all the naysayers wrong to become an Olympic competitor, representing Great Britain in the 1988 Winter Olympics as a ski jumper. The movie traces his improbable journey, against the wishes of his working-class father, who urges him to settle into a proper trade, and England’s stuffy Olympic committee, which thwarts his every attempt to qualify for their team.

“Frankly,” one official dismissively tells teenage Eddie (Taron Edgerton), “you will never be Olympic material—goodbye.”

Eddie counters that curt farewell with his usual optimism, tenacity and pluck. Nothing is going to deter him. He sets off on his own to a Winter Olympics training facility, where he meets former ski champ Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who reluctantly, eventually agrees to take Eddie under his wing.

As the stocky, bumbling, socially awkward Eddie, Edgerton is miles—or kilometers—away from his best-known former role as a stylish, slick super-spy in Kingsman. Jackman provides American-cowboy grit (all the way down to his boots) as a washed-up one-time “whiz kid” of the slopes and former Olympic star himself, who finds his own path to redemption through Eddie’s relentless ambition.

You probably haven’t heard of British actor-director Dexter Fletcher, whose films haven’t made much of a splash here in America. But he gives Eddie the Eagle a look, texture and sound perfect for its time and place, from Prince Charles and Lady Diana salt and pepper shakers on a kitchen table to the music, which combines pop and rock tunes of the era with instrumental synthesizer swooshes and swirls that would have been right at home driving the grooves of most any 1980s flick.

The movie shares its uplifting underdog spirit with Rocky, Rudy, Seabiscuit, Hoosiers and any number of other film sagas about individuals or teams that come from behind, power through roadblocks or are told they can’t, shouldn’t or won’t ever.

Hugh Jackman, left, poses with Eddie Edwards on the set of EDDIE THE EAGLE.

Hugh Jackman with the real-life Eddie Edwards on the set of ‘Eddie the Eagle’

When Eddie finally makes it to the Olympics, the crowd and the media love the naïve, effusively enthusiastic oddity who barely qualified for his team and who causes the announcers to declare, “The eagle has landed!” when he makes his climactic breathtaking, daredevil descent intact—and alive.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,” we’re told, a quote from one of the games’ founders. And no one embodied that spirit like Eddie, whose inspiring, soaring tale of determination and personal triumph in the heartwarming Eddie the Eagle is a joy to behold as it takes flight.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Pan’s Prequel

Peter Pan backstory is heavy on effects but light on magic

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Pan

Starring Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund and Rooney Mara

Directed by Joe Wright

PG

“This isn’t the story you’ve heard before,” begins the voiceover narration to this prequel to the tale of Peter Pan, the mischievous lad who never grows up and learns how to fly.

Created by Scotch novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie in the early 20th century, Peter Pan became a hit on the London stage before spreading into even wider fame via a 1953 animated Walt Disney movie, other film adaptations and live TV musical presentations—including one as recently as last year.

But this movie isn’t that story, as it wants you to know right off the bat. Pan is the story behind that story, about how an orphan boy (Levi Miller) came to be the eternally youthful Peter Pan, the scourge of the pirate captain Hook, the champion of the Lost Boys and the airborne companion of the flittering, phosphorescent fairy Tinkerbell, all in a faraway place called Neverland.

Pan is big, loud and full of razzle-dazzle. British director Joe Wright—Pride and Prejudice (2005), The Atonement (2007), Hanna (2011)—obviously set out to make a spectacle. But his extensive, exhaustive, CGI-heavy production and the movie’s darker themes often crowd out the exuberant escapist magic that audiences have come to expect from a familiar tale and its familiar characters.

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Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard

The movie’s most notable new addition to Peter Pan lore is the pirate Blackbeard, played to the malevolent hilt by Hugh Jackman. It’s Blackbeard, we learn, who’s been spiriting World War II-era London orphans away to Neverland to work as his “lost boy” slaves, mining glowing little globs of fairy dust he calls pixem. A source of rejuvenation that offers him the tantalizing hope of eternal youth, pixem is Blackbeard’s obsession, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it—even killing children who slack off in their search for it.

We also meet James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), a lost boy who’s grown to lost young-adulthood in the mines—and who’ll grow up even more later, in dots easily connected, to become Peter’s nemesis, Capt. Hook. We meet the princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), a leader of Neverland’s indigenous people, who have a history of tangling with Blackbeard. There’s a trio of luminous mermaids (all played by British fashion model Cara Delevingne), a gaggle of gigantic screeching birds that look like rejected Jim Henson prototypes, and an enormous crocodile that will—presumably—one day chomp off one of Hook’s hands.

IMG_9946.DNGPirates, outfitted as if they’ve raided Broadway prop rooms as well as Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey clown closets, zip up and down from flying galleons like Cirque du Soleil acrobats on bungee cords. There’s a legend that comes to life in a tree stump, memories at the bottom of a dark lagoon, a chorus of raggedy boys singing Nirvana and Ramones songs (yes, you read that correctly), and Peter’s undying quest for his mom (Amanda Seyfried), who gave him a pin in the shape of a pan flute before abandoning him as an infant. The sign of the pan, as it turns out, is a big deal in this realm of fairy dust and flying pirate ships.

It’s all a lot, and really it’s just too much. For this noisy, busy trip to Neverland, Pan relentlessly packs, whacks and attacks the screen. The “boy who could fly” still takes to the air, but this cumbersome, weighty, bombastic bit of backstory feels like an over-crammed, tossed-around piece of movie baggage.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Dark as a Dungeon

Twisty, turn-y thriller poses provocative question

Prisoners

Prisoners

DVD $28.98 / Blu-ray $35.99 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

How far is too far to go when the law doesn’t go far enough? That’s the provocative question this gripping crime thriller asks as Hugh Jackman portrays a distraught father who takes matters into his own hands and hunts down the man (Paul Dano) he believes is responsible for abducting his young daughter and her friend. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the police detective drawn ever deeper into an increasingly dark, twisted case, and Mario Bello, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo round out the solid cast.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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‘Prisoners’ Pounds Its Message(s) Home

How far is too far when the law doesn’t go far enough?

PRISONERS

Prisoners

Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal & Paul Dano

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

R, 153 min.

Released Sept. 20, 2013

Plunged into every parent’s worst nightmare, a desperate father (Hugh Jackman) takes matters into his own hands when his young daughter and her friend disappear and the local police department can’t get answers out of the man he’s convinced abducted them.

With no evidence to hold the developmentally challenged Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who was driving the rattrap minivan seen near the girls just before they vanished, the cops have to let him go. That’s when Jackman’s character, Keller Dover, abducts him, secretly holds him prisoner in an abandoned building, and begins a prolonged attempt to beat the truth out of him.

PRISONERSHow far is too far to go, Prisoners asks, when the law doesn’t go far enough?

That’s not the only question the movie raises, in its brutally direct way, as it plows through a minefield of raw nerves, shattered emotions, shifting moral boundaries and unnerving religious overtones. Most of those questions don’t have easy answers.

What are we to think, for instance, when Dover fortifies himself with the Lord’s Prayer before another grueling session subjecting his captive, who has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, to almost unthinkable abuse? Or when Dover’s neighbors Franklin and Nancy (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis), whose young daughter was also taken, justify their complicity to his plan? “We won’t help him,” Nancy reasons, “but we won’t stop him, either.”PRISONERS

And feel free to overlay any number of social issues, current events, theological debates or other entry points for discussion onto Dover’s declaration that his prisoner is “not a person anymore,” and that “we have to hurt him until he talks.”

Det. Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), seemingly the only cop on the case in the entire (unnamed) Pennsylvania town, tirelessly tracks down clues that always seem to leave him frustratingly short of a breakthrough. Unable to cope, Dover’s wife (Maria Bello) retreats into a prescription-induced haze.

Melissa Leo plays Alex’s aunt, who raised him after his parents died, and David Dastmalchian is chilling as another suspect with a peculiar interest in children’s clothes…and other creepy things.

“Prisoners” has a strong cast with seven Oscar nominations and two Academy Award trophies among them. The movie’s palette of bleak winter landscapes also packs a visceral punch, thanks to ten-time Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, who’s worked on five Coen Brothers movies and the sumptuous-looking James Bond adventure Skyfall.

But strip away its impressive Hollywood pedigree and it basically boils down to basic B-movie stock, shock and schlock. If you’ve seen anything like it, you’ve probably seen a lot of things like it.

PRISONERSNote the “s” in the title. By the time Prisoners ends after a marathon 153 minutes, it’s obvious it wants to leave you thinking about how you’ve encountered more than one prisoner, in more ways than one. But you’ll also be thinking about how it’s at least half an hour too long, how much of a grim ordeal the whole affair turned out to be, and how director Denis Villeneuve threw in way too much of just about everything, including snakes, some mumbo-jumbo about a “war against God,” and all those mazes, mazes and more mazes that all lead nowhere.

Fans of forensic-investigation and crime-procedural TV shows like CSI might enjoy the twisty-turn-y trip down the zig-zaggy rabbit hole to the end. But as the credits rolled after the final scene set in the darkness of night, in the winter cold, with a frosting of snow on hard, frozen ground, I was glad to “escape” to somewhere brighter, somewhere warmer, and somewhere I hadn’t just seen Paul Dano’s face repeatedly bludgeoned into the consistency of raw deer meat.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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