Creed

“I always forget how much I love Rocky. When thinking of favorite franchises, I never remember that he’s out there. But then when I watch him, I remember that he is absolutely one of my all time favorite characters. He may not be as flashy or quirky as those that come to mind sooner, but no one’s got more heart than the champ. I used to think that I mostly loved him because I over-identified with Adrian, so of course it followed that I really loved Rocky, but even in these later films without her, I adore him.

I really like the new direction they’re heading with this. When a franchise spans such a long period of time, it’s hard to hang on to your original actors while still bringing a believable story. Focusing in on the next generation is a very logical progression, and looking at Apollo Creed’s son instead of Rocky’s is genius for so many reasons. It brings a much more interesting dynamic, as young Creed and older Balboa are caught somewhere between being family and enemies, ultimately going the familial route. Plus points for diversity instead of maintaining a white washed cast.

To put it simply, this was just a very solid two hours of cinema. Strong characters, simple but compelling story, top notch cast. Let’s be real, everyone loves an underdog story. That’s one of the big reasons why Rocky resonates with so many people, and I feel that Creed will strike the same chords. I only wish I knew the sequels better. I’ve seen the original Rocky a bunch of times, and even saw it on Broadway as a musical. But I’ve only seen the sequels once each. This might call for a blog mini project when this DVD is out.

As we know, I kinda obsess over Oscar season and awards speculation. I’ve seen Sly on a couple of longshot lists for supporting actor. (Actually, in double checking with one of my sources, he’s even moved up in position) Sight unseen, I was kinda puzzled by it. However, seeing him here, oh my God yes. He brought out such a new side to a character we’ve followed for decades, and even as a support, he’s still the heart of the film. I really want to hear his name called out mid-January. We’ll talk later about whether or not I want him to win. And it shouldn’t be long until Michael B Jordan gets to add “”Academy Award nominee”” before his name in movie trailers. He’s come close a few times. This won’t be enough to get it for him, but he’s certainly got the potential.

Creed – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Trumbo

“This is going to sound weird, and may not even make grammatical sense, but I didn’t want to want to watch this movie. I’d gotten the sense that it was this tiny little indie that would not see very wide release, or get much notice except for the fact that it existed and has an amazing cast. My movie schedule gets pretty full at this time of the year between awards fare and those meant to pack in the theaters during the holidays. I walked into a theater as it was playing the trailer for Trumbo, and I didn’t allow myself to watch it, hyper focusing on settling into my seat. But of course, as the release date neared, chatter picked up, and I heard some positive things about it. Okay, maybe I”ll see it if it’s convenient. Then I caught the trailer again and actually watched it. Huh, this looks kinda interesting. Fine. It’s on the list.

Alright, this actually was a pretty great movie. For one, I do simply love movies about movies, and this was a long hard look at a particular era. The story itself was so fascinating and timely. The first half of the film deals with screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and the persecution he faced for his political beliefs, specifically in communism. Because of the animosity at the time with Russia, American communists found themselves under attack. In trying to exercise his political freedom, Trumbo eventually finds himself thrown in prison. The second half is about the Hollywood blacklist. Trumbo and his confederates were disallowed from working in Hollywood, for fear that they would try and push their politics. He has to find ways to work around the system in order to maintain his employment, and in the process writes some of the greatest screenplays in Hollywood history.

This truly was an education in Hollywood history. I recognized many of the films being named dropped, and had even seen a few (mostly thanks to my AFI project a few years ago). I kinda wished I had even more context and knew some of those classic films better: Spartacus, Roman Holiday, The Brave One, Exodus. The story could have gone and and on and I would have sat there glued to the screen. The discrimination issue was also absorbing because it parallels so many of our debates going on in our country today. I don’t wanna be a downer and go into detail on how and why, but I def recommend watching this with an open mind and heart.

Oh, and lest I bury the lead, Trumbo is played by one of the greatest actors of our generation, Bryan Cranston. His performance is so full of life and nuance, he really does remind us exactly why he’s one of the best. Fantastic supporting cast as well: Helen Mirren, Diane Lane,Louis CK, Alan Tudyk (srsly, if you had told me earlier he was in it, I wouldn’t have resisted as much), John Goodman. Everyone bringing their A game, as if we’d have expected any less from this crowd.

Trumbo – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Walk

“I love seeing movies at the real IMAX. For this particular theater, it’s not just the giant screen (although that’s the main draw), but the one I go to is within a furniture store, so the temperpedic seats are usually worth the trip themselves. Add in the state of the art screen (which just got upgraded) and sound (included speakers in the seats) and this theater is my absolute favorite. I don’t go as often as I used to (time was, I’d go to the midnight showings here for all the big movies), but I do like to find excuses to do so every now and then. The excuse this time was simply because my movie buddy and I used to go there all the time, and it had been a while since the last one. Plus, the timing worked out perfectly. From all the movies I’ve seen there, this is possibly the one that was best suited for the format. If you take away nothing else from this post, it’s that if you want to see this movie, you should try to see it in IMAX 3D if possible.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who I’ve been a fan of for ages) stars as Philipe Petit, a real life tightrope walker who in the 70’s strung a high wire between the twin towers, and walked it. This was also the subject of the Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire a couple years back. I’ll admit, that I was skeptical about how it’d work as a feature (not that I’ve seen the doc, although now I’m kinda interested…as I pause to quickly add it to my wish list). The subject seemed to narrow to me. I just didn’t realize what a HUGE undertaking it all was for Petit.

You see, the movie isn’t just about the walk itself. That’s just the payoff for all the hard work. We see him first fall in love with the high wire, and all the sacrifices he made for his training. He has a couple of smaller scale, but still epic, stunt events before he sets his eyes on the towers. Once he does, that’s what his life revolves around. There was so much planning that went into it, since before he could walk the wire, he had to first install it. No easy task. He worked for months trying to get all the pieces in place, and that ordeal fascinated me. Making it even better, Gordon-Levitt wasn’t just giving voice over narration. We’d cut back and forth from the story to him addressing the camera and the audience as he told his story. It added a tone of playfulness that brought so much joy.

And oh my God, the effects were awesome. The reason I say that you should experience it in IMAX 3D if at all possible was because it really pulled you into Petit’s perspective. The camera would race up and down the sides of the towers, and I swear it gave me vertigo at times. Director Robert Zemeckis’ goal was to make you feel like you’re taking that walk with him, and on that front, it was a success. Plus, there was a little of the gimmicky 3D effects that I love and rarely get to see anymore, where objects would jump out at you. Several times I gave a slight scream while ducking down in my seat before realizing what had happened. You just don’t get such an immersive film experience that often.

So needless to say, this movie surprised me in so many happy ways that I would not have expected. JGL has such a natural charisma that just elevated everything. I don’t often leave a film with such an uplifting bouncy joy, but that’s exactly what happened. The perfect mood for singing along with the ipod on the long drive back.

The Walk – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2

“And thus another YA series comes to an end. Feels a little anticlimactic, but that could be because I’m mostly comparing it to when Harry Potter ended. That was truly a phenomenon, one of a kind experience. Hunger Games ending, eh.

I think my apathy is twofold. First, Mockingjay was my least favorite of the books. With any distopian future society, I’m much more interested in the status quo than in the revolution (see also: Divergent). I probably said as much when I wrote up Part 1, which takes us right into point 2 which is, why did we split this in two again? Whereas Part 1 felt like a lot of buildup with no payoff, Part 2 felt like a lot of action with little substance.

Now that action was pretty cool. The whole trek thru the booby trapped city was some of the most excitement outside of the Games themselves. But we otherwise didn’t really seem to be covering a whole lot of new ground. Katniss’ internal battles felt played out. She’s still a bad ass and complex character played to perfection by Jennifer Lawrence, but the impact seemed muted to me.

Would I necessarily be feeling better about things if 1 and 2 were combined? Honestly, I’m not sure. I did leave there thinking that I wanted to revisit the books sometime soon. Maybe this time Mockingjay will connect better with me, but I’m not in any hurry to get there.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Night Before

“I toyed with the idea of making this post rhyme. That idea didn’t last long.

I sorta have a ranked list of movies I need to watch each Christmas (and certain ones for other holidays). While I don’t think The Night Before is gonna end up anywhere high on the list, I feel like it makes a good shortcut movie. There were so many references to movies that I love (Christmas and otherwise), I could almost watch this instead of like three other ones. Home Alone, Die Hard, It’s a wonderful life, Big (I don’t think that’s Christmas though). Except that I love those other ones so much more.

Now, I do love some irreverent comedy, which is among the reasons why I am a fan of Seth Rogen. And teaming him up with his 50/50 costar, Joseph Gordon-Levitt made me really excited. Plus Anthony Mackie thrown in for good measure. The film follows those three lifelong friends who have a tradition of having a crazy Christmas Eve to ring in the holiday together. After over a decade of this, the boys are growing up, albeit reluctantly, and have decided that this will be their last holiday blowout. So of course they decide to go out with the biggest bang possible.

It was certainly a good effort. Lots of laughs were had in what I hear was a mostly improvised screenplay. But it didn’t really wow me. Things dragged, or went too far just for the sake of going too far, or didn’t always make sense, or inevitably got too sappy at key moments. Also, I think the biggest hit against it was that it felt so much like A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, and while it may just be because it was first, I feel like H&K did it better. If the humor of this does appeal to you, it is worth the one watch. There certainly are plenty of fun surprises. But for a holiday that already has a long list of associated movies, this one feels a little unnecessary. Hopefully these boys team up again for something else soon.

The Night Before – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Secret in Their Eyes

“For the most part, I try to be as oblivious to advertising as possible. However, there are some publicity tactics I am an absolute sucker for. One of those is telling just enough of a plot to make me NEED to know what happens. Don’t worry, I’ve gotten past that phase with Clickbait headlines, but the right movie trailer or interview will get me. Such was the case when Julia Roberts was on Jimmy Kimmel the other day, and stated that she didn’t really know how to promote her new film, The Secret in Their Eyes, without giving anything away. Color me intrigued.

Well I suppose the trailer does give away a bit more info, so I’ll only take the plot as far as it does, maybe less so. Thirteen years after a murderer walked free after killing the daughter of an investigator, a former teammate of said investigator finds new evidence that puts them back on the case. Julia Roberts is said investigator, Chiewetel Ejiofor the teammate, with Nicole Kidman rounding out the central team in question. Alfred Molina and Dean Norris are also around. Oh and also, this is a remake of a previous Oscar winner for Foreign Film, coming out of Argentina a few years back.

Initially, I’d planned to say that I found the film very uncomfortable, but that’s not quite the right word. I think unsettling is more appropriate. It was incredibly incredibly unsettling. I do love me some dark storylines, but something about this one really got me. I just never felt at east with anything that was going on, and I constantly had a nagging feeling that something bad was going to happen to me personally some time soon.

That’s not to say I didn’t like the film. It was absolutely absorbing, and the mystery of it was intoxicating. I liked how the two timelines played out in parallel, and I relished every twist and turn we took.

Oh and Julia Roberts? One of her absolute best performances, if only because it’s so against type for her. Yes, we’re used to her being a strong independent woman (check that box off here), but she’s typically full of joy and light. This time, she’s a completely broken woman feeding off her despair and desperation. Such a stark contrast between where she starts the film and the flash forward (oh I shouldn’t use that phrase, lest I cause any shudders among fans of Lost), or even within a single timeline. Word on the street (by which I mean IMDB trivia, of course) is that Roberts and Kidman had such a deep mutual admiration and respect for each other, that the two really stepped up their games. Yes two strong female characters, hooray! Now that they’ve done serious, can we see these newly established friends take on something lighter, go the kinda Amy Poehler/Tina Fey route?

As fall drearily seeps into winter, this is good counter programming to the excess of holiday cheer that abounds. Just be sure that you’re up for it, cause this movie’ll really stay with you.

The Secret in Their Eyes – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Dirty Harry

“Uh uh. I know what you’re thinking. “”Did he fire six shots or only five?”” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “”Do I feel lucky?”” Well, do ya, punk?

Any casual movie fan worth their salt has heard that quote. It’s been parodied God only knows how many times. I don’t remember how I first came across it, but I’ve always known it was Dirty Harry. Maybe I was just born knowing. It wasn’t until yesterday that I actually saw that line delivered and in the full context of the movie.

Yes that’s right. Dawn, action junkie extraordinaire, raised on Die Hard, educated in Stallone, and current member of the Church of Statham, had somehow never seen Dirty Harry. You’d think I would have walked by my Daddy watching it at least once and would have been pulled into the seat next to him, as happened on other occassions. But no, that part of my education was denied me. So when Best Buy had a sale on a four pack of Dirty Harry movies, I jumped on it. And then it sat in a bag for a while with a bunch of other DVD’s while I cleared out a rather large queue of them (remember, the whole video store thing).

This movie was pretty freakin’ cool! I certainly connected with it far better that Bullit a couple weeks ago and acquired in the same sale. I can see why Clint Eastwood’s title character has become so iconic. Blatant disregard for the rules and determined to do whatever it takes to get his bad guy. This is who every brooding and tortured cop with an edge aspires to, and every single one of them fall short. Seriously, why did it take me this long? And I am gonna have a lot of fun cranking thru the other flicks this week”

The 33

“I have a really hard time of letting go of movies that don’t fit in the schedule. More often than not, I’ll squish things in that I may not care about too much, rather than missing something I may one day possibly kinda sorta regret. Sometimes, I’ll relegate something to a lower priority, only to have second thoughts. Kinda the case here. With an NYC trip on Sat and being protective of my do-nothing Sunday, my only option was a movie on Thur. Or so I thought. When I checked in with the BFFF to see when we could meet up while I was in his town, we opted for before the shows instead of between, which then left me with movie time. Sweet!

Yeah so I had The 33 on my radar, but had mostly decided I could skip it. Seemed kinda formulaic, not to mention the fact that anyone who’s familiar with the subject matter knows how it ends. Respectable but not remarkable cast. I could give it up. Wait for Netflix or Black Friday bargain DVD’s. But I was still really interested. Sure, I know what ultimately happens, but how do we get there? What are the individual stories of the Chilean miners portrayed? Have I really given up on Antonio Banderas?

Thankfully, it fit in perfectly. Funny story (not really funny), I somehow thought I had an hour less between shows. I was lamented the loss of stage door stalking after Fun Home (which was amazing, I cried so hard, which never happens), and before the show I put in an online order for a burger from the Five Guys next to the theater. The show got out, and it was a whole hour earlier than I thought, which is when I realized my math fail. So I had time to get my Playbill signed by the full cast, and slowly wandered back down to the theater, stopping for some dessert to sneak in with my dinner.

And yes, as expected, the movie was formulaic but interesting. It recalled the story of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for an ungodly amount of time after the mine collapsed. We saw how they survived down there, how their family supported them from the outside, how their employers did little, and how the world came together behind them.

I particularly appreciated how this was a big who’s who of Hispanic actors, some new to me and others familiar: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Lou Diamond Phillips (great to see him in something bigger than a quirky recurring role on a tv show), Adriana Barraza. My Hispanic heritage may not be Chilean, but it still stirred up some pride and solidarity for me.

Maybe not something I needed to go out of my way for, but it was a rather nice way to pass the time between shows. The story truly is inspiring and worth taking a closer look at. I did have to duck out during the epilogue so I could make it to my next show. I had to go see Annaleigh Ashford play Matthew Broderick’s (!) dog in Sylvia. So overall the trip was a win.

The 33 – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Brooklyn

“I’ve written before about how I sometimes feel obligated to see certain movies. This is especially true during Oscar season. I saw Saoirse Ronan’s name on a list of locks for Best Actress in one of my most trusted Oscar sources. I resisted. The trailer made it look like this sappy gooey romance. Blech. Then I saw her name again on a similar list in my other most trusted Oscar source. And the film was on their list of possible Best Pictures. Fine. I’ll go.

Actually, schedule wise it worked out pretty well. I had an NYC trip planned for Sat, but the theater that plays indie movies had early screenings of this the Thur before. I suppose I could give up a yoga class to stay on top of movies. Besides, the next few weeks would be craziness of activities and muddled movie schedules trying to figure out what the real release dates are for things.

This is one of those times where I actually am glad that I felt obligate to see a movie. I actually loved it! Ronan plays Eilis, a young girl who has immigated to America from Ireland in the 50’s, torn between her two homes. Once she starts finding happiness in her new country, tragedy pulls her back to her old one. There she finds that most of her reason for leaving are no longer an issue and she must decide between settling back into her old ways of life or returning to her new chapter.

As stated previously, the trailers play this up as a romance. And yes, that is a big part of the story. There is a boy for her in each country that make her decision that much more complicated. However, that’s not what the film is about. Her suitors really serve as a metaphor for her love of each locale, and she is most certainly not defined by either of them. In fact, this is an incredible fully realized character, and just for that I was happy to see the film. Ronan’s performance is fantastic, emotional, and moving, and I certainly do stand behind her seemingly eventual awards nomination.

And hey, the romance? I actually did find my inner monologue shouting things like “”No! You belong with [boy]!”” or “”Stay with him”” or whatever drivel usually accompanies such features. Sure, the boys may have been idealized perfection, but it is kinda nice to have those tables turned instead of the usual girls who serve no purpose but as romantic interests, and often inappropriate ones.

I think the way it ended (no spoilers, don’t worry) was absolutely beautiful. The final sequence mirrored an earlier one and brought such a great sense of closure to everything. The internet has told me that whole bit was added in for the movie, taking out the ambiguity of the book’s ending. The result is simply stunning.

Brooklyn – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

LA Confidential

“I saw this once before, back in college, and I just didn’t care for it. I don’t know what the heck was wrong with me.

Thankfully, seeing the BluRay on sale for 5 bucks was enough for me to decide to reconsider the film, which I watched a few days ago. It’s pretty damn good! Dark and gritty, mystery and intrigue, and 1950’s Hollywood style.

We’ve got three cops, played by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce, who are investigating a series of murders. Each cop has their own style and values, which often conflict with the others. As events begin to intersect each other, the men find themselves having to work together, which brings its own set of problems.

Simply put, this is a very sleek and stylish very noir film. Our leading men are all fantastic with very interesting characters, and they each find a way to bring a new spin on familiar archetypes. We’ve also got Kim Basinger in an Oscar winning turn as a starlet lookalike who gets caught in the middle.

This is certainly one to watch free of distractions, lest you get lost in all its twists and turns. Believe me, it’ll be worth it”