Tag Archives: Jake Gyllenhaal

Ups & Downs

A herd of actors recreates epic ’90s mountaineering disaster

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Everest

Starring Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley & Robin Wright

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

PG-13

 

Why climb the world’s highest mountain?

“Because it’s there!” shout members of a group about to head to the top of Mt. Everest in this adventure-drama based on a true story from 1996.

It’s there, all right—all 29,000-and-then-some feet of it, rising into the sky like a giant prehistoric sentinel of rock, ice and snow on the border of China and Nepal. Director Baltasar Kormákur’s film begins with expedition leader Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), his team and his clients converging at the base of the Himalayas to prepare for their trek to the summit.

“It’s not called the death zone for noting,” Hall, a veteran New Zealand mountaineer, warns his climbers-to-be, citing the perils they will face—jet stream winds, altitude sickness, sub-freezing temps, oxygen deprivation, snowstorms, avalanches, icefalls.

Everest

Jake Gyllenhaal

By the mid-1990s, the commercialization of Mt. Everest had created some major traffic jams on the slopes. As guides such as Hall returned season after season to lead paying customers toward the heavens, thousands were trekking where, just decades before, only a relative few had ever dared.

But the monumental mountain remained a far cry from an amusement park. You could still die up there.

Everest

Josh Brolin

A monstrous storm moves in, trapping the climbers. Who’ll survive, and who won’t? It becomes an epic drama of humans facing ancient, immutable forces of nature. Sometimes it looks spectacular, but too often the emotions of Everest feel forced and hokey, and much of the time there’s just too much going on, and too many people jostling around.

For an adventure movie, it doesn’t have near enough action, and when things do get going, the scenes of peril and danger don’t have the breathtaking, gut-wrenching wallop you’d expect from a movie about people pitting themselves against the highest peak on the planet, at inhospitable altitudes where airplanes fly, helicopters falter, eyeballs can explode and bodies fall into places where they’ll never be recovered.

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Robin Wright

Everest is a modern throwback to classic disaster movies of the 1970s, when a gaggle of actors would be plunked into collapsing cities, raging infernos, sinking ships or doomed airplanes. Here the populous cast includes Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael (House of Cards) Kelly, Jason Hawkes, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Elizabeth (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) Debicki and others, all in roles based on real people, headed up, staying below or waiting anxiously on the other side of the world when things take a turn from bad to worse.

But there’s one star in Everest that tops them all, and that’s Mt. Everest itself. Even though some of the scenes were filmed elsewhere, you’d never know it, and the world’s most iconic peak still has the power to awe, inspire and draw people to risk, and sometimes lose, their lives.

Why would anyone want to do it? And why bother trying to explain, anyway? In any discussion, as one character puts it, “the last word always belongs to the mountain.” In Everest, and the tragically true tale behind it, indeed it does.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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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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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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