Category Archives: Sports

New on Blu – 10 Cloverfield Lane and Eddie the Eagle

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10 Cloverfield Lane

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in a car accident and awakes to an injured leg and a chain securing her to a bare wall, and soon she meets the man responsible. Howard (John Goodman) is a self-described “sensible guy,” and he needs her to know three things. An attack of some kind has left the world outside this underground bunker saturated with poison gas, he’s responsible for saving her life, and as he says plainly right before her face drains of hope and vigor, “No one is looking for you.” Michelle soon gets the lay of the strictly dictated land. She’s not allowed to leave — it’s for her own safety, but the multiple padlocks on the bunker’s hatches, as well as the gun on Howard’s belt, make it a difficult prospect regardless — but it should only take a year or two for the deadly gas above to dissipate.

You should buy it. Issues with the ending aside, this is a top-notch, claustrophobic little thriller. The majority of the film takes place in cramped quarters, and director Dan Trachtenberg makes sure we feel that lack of space in our lungs. An air vent sequence in particular might just trigger fears you never knew you had. We grow to understand the geography of the bunker along with Michelle, but just as important and well-defined is the film’s attention to sound design as both the familiar and the foreign reverberate between the walls. Scenes of plausible serenity give way to suspense and terror, sometimes slowly, excruciatingly, and sometimes faster than we’re prepared for — blame Goodman for most of the latter instances — and the entirety holds viewers in a grip that only continues to tighten. Don’t worry about its connection to Cloverfield, and just enjoy the ride.

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie is a bespectacled kid with a leg brace in ’70s England when he decides his life goal is becoming an athlete in the Olympics. He perseveres while no one believes in him, breaking multiple pairs of glasses in the process, and by 1987 Eddie (Taron Egerton) comes to settle on ski jumping. England has no team, which is fine as Eddie has no coach or experience. One of those things changes when he meets Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), an ex-American ski jumper has-been who takes Eddie under his wing as the young man heads into the ’88 Winter Olympics to compete and make his mark on sports history.

You should rent it? The story is true, but the film trades facts for the desire to channel the 1980s. It’s not a spoof, but elements like the poppy synth score, elder official with a stick up his behind, and sneering and sculpted competitors give a punchy, dated feel as it aims for laughs and heart in equal measure. Neither overwhelm, but they’re both here. Egerton is game for the goofiness and shows some comedic chops, similar to Kingsmen. Jackman nails the role of mentor though with the strut and presence of a movie star and earns more than a few laughs of his own. It’s as slight as they come, but enough laughs, charm, and inspirational energy exists to make it a fun if slightly forgettable watch.

Creed (2015)

The Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, is a character who’s become part of the American mythos ever since Rocky debuted in 1976. Sylvester Stallone’s creation has boxed on through five more episodes of the Rocky saga as the heavyweight champ fought for glory, revenge, America, or whatever motivation was handy. Yet none of the subsequent chapters carried the same emotional satisfaction as the original Rocky – until now, with Creed, whose very title signals a new start and unwillingness to settle for being simply Rocky VII. This icon has managed a difficult movie task in Creed: He ages gracefully and passes the torch to a new generation.

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Stallone is in fine form in Creed – as an actor, though not as a boxer. Shrewdly, he never dons the gloves or spars in the ring with his protégé Adonis (Michael B. Jordan). Stallone more or less acts his age, which, sadly, is a rare thing among American actors. He still manages to imbue the character with full heart and down-to-earth demeanor and speech that endeared him to us in the first place.

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However, the infusion of new energy comes from the efforts of co-writer and director, Ryan Coogler, and star Jordan, who reunited for this picture following their attention-grabbing breakthrough film Fruitvale Station in 2013. Jordan plays the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) who died in the ring in Rocky IV before Adonis was born. That was in 1985, and though Creed fudges a bit with Adonis’ age (30 seems a bit old to begin a boxing career), the natural aptitude that is his birthright more than sells the concept.

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Eager and determined, Adonis (aka Donny) wants to succeed on his own merits, rather than as the son of a legend. He begins fighting under his adopted mother’s surname, Johnson. Despite the warnings of those who couldn’t understand why he would fight since he didn’t have to, he quits his white-collar job in L.A. to move to Philadelphia, where he plans to convince Rocky Balboa to be his trainer. This takes more than a little badgering, which gives Adonis time to start up a romance with singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson). While she and Jordan did have a natural on screen chemistry, this romance felt like a necessary plot device more than an actual romance.

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This brings me to the fact that while Creed is giving a fresh face and energy to this series, it still conforms to the familiar formula of a boxer’s rise, beginnings of self-doubt, recovery of self-conviction, and ultimate triumph. However, the performances are rich, and the cinematography, especially in the fight sequences, is deft and dynamic. Also, little touches from the writing and directing add to the film’s authenticity: Bianca’s hearing aids (which resist becoming a plot point); Adonis’ all too human pre-fight jitters; and Rocky’s trip to the cemetery to read the newspaper in the company of Adrian and Paulie’s headstones. Creed isn’t a complete knockout, but it goes all 12 rounds with passion and style.

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I would not call myself a fan of the original series having only seen 3 of the 6 films, but Creed does a great job of taking the well known story and paying homage to it without requiring the viewers to know all of the details. This film would have worked just as well even if the previous films in the series never existed. So, of course, since this film was well received and successful, there are already plans in the works for a Creed 2 coming to theaters in late 2017.

What did you think of Creed? Were you a big fan of the Rocky story? How do you think Creed measured up? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Denzel Washington – Top 5 Performances

If you are a fan of the awards scene like I am you probably saw that Denzel Washington took home the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Golden Globes on Sunday. I think he is very deserving of this honor and so I have narrowed down what I consider to be his top 5 performances. In each case, the title of the film is a link to Roger Ebert’s Original review of the film.

If you missed it, you can watch a great montage of his films and his acceptance speech (warning: His speech is endearing, but he is mostly rambling because he forgot his glasses).

5. Glory (1989)

4. Remember the Titans (2000)

3. Malcolm X (1992)

2. American Gangster (20007)

1. Training Day (2001)

Let me know if you agree with my Top 5 in the comments below. Maybe you are a big fan of Man on Fire, John Q, Philadelphia, or The Book of Eli, or maybe you think Denzel is overrated and you don’t like him at all. That is fine, you are entitled to your opinion, but I dare you to tell him to his face.

Day 15 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie Character To Whom You Can Relate

Considering my current line of work, my mind immediately went to two films about security guards. Paul Blart Mall Cop and Observe and Report. In case you don’t know, I work security for UPS at their Worldport facility. But I don’t take my job as seriously as either of those characters. Then I thought of the numerous caricatures of ministers in popular culture and couldn’t in good faith (pardon the pun) align myself with the likes of the cross-dressing, peep-show visiting, homicidal Rev. Peter Shayne (played by Anthony Perkins) in Crimes of Passion, to the faith-challenged Father Karras in The Exorcist, and the fornicating Rev. Russell in Simon Birch. If I could choose a television character, I might pick Rev. Camden from 7th Heaven. I always liked him.

The best portrayal of a solid, faithful movie pastor that I have seen in recent years was Preacher from Because of Winn-Dixie. Played by Jeff Daniels, Preacher is a deep character with personal problems. He was abandoned by his wife because she no longer wanted to be married to a pastor, now he is lonely. He loves and wants to care for his little small-town flock. He has a sincere desire to find ways to make God’s Word meaningful to his congregation, and buries himself in his work. Because of this, he frequently lacks time for his daughter, but we can tell that he deeply loves her. He gets angry. He is unashamed to pray in public. In other words, he is human. He is flawed, but he is trying to do what is right. It is a shame that characters like Preacher, who accurately reflect many pastors, emerge so infrequently in film. But the fact is, most of the time, pastors simply don’t exist in the landscape of film. When these pastors do not appear where they should in the cultural landscape, it conveys the idea that they are irrelevant, inconsequential, or worse, completely absent from thought. The assumption is that pastors are unnecessary.

At this junction of my life I feel like an average Joe. I frequently give advice to a group of misfits. I’m a funny guy who tends to take a laid-back approach to life. With that being said, I can relate to Peter LaFleur from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Peter La Fleur, played by the excellent Vince Vaughn, operates a small gym called Average Joes. The opening scenes in Average Joes could have very well used the theme song from the television sitcom, Cheers, a place where everybody knows your name. Too bad Peter has been too busy developing genuine friendships to hone his business sense. Average Joes is in foreclosure unless they can come up with $50,000. To do this, these averages will have to become something extraordinary. And Peter La Fleur must step out in faith, and put everything of value to him on the line.

This is a tough question. It calls for a lot of introspection. Do you have a character from a film that resonates with you? Perhaps you are a history professor who searches for cultural artifacts in your spare time? Or maybe you are secretly harboring an extra terrestrial in your closet that badly wants to phone home? Either way, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.