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Posts Tagged ‘Jake Gyllenhaal’

Jake Gyllenhaal

“STRONGER” My rating: A- 

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Stronger” is the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. The subject matter alone is enough to give potential moviegoers pause.

Is this going to be a weepy? A jingoistic flag-waver? Is it gonna be, oh God, inspirational?

There are plenty of arguments for steering clear of “Stronger.”  Ignore them.

For in adapting Bauman’s memoir writer John Pollen and director David Gordon Green have given us what may be the year’s most potent drama, a masterful blend of personal narrative and social observation.

It’s a film about despair, resilience, family and romance.  Yes, it’s deeply emotional, but less in a crassly manipulative Hollywood way than in the sense that it nails so many truths about the human condition.

You’ll cry.  In fact, anyone who can sit through “Stronger” without tearing up at least three times had best stop wasting their money on movie tickets and start saving for a bass boat.

But it’s a cleansing cry, not an exploitative one.

In the film’s first 10 minutes we’re introduced to Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal, quite possibly Oscar bound), a “chicken roaster at Costco” and a classic example of blue-collar Boston. He’s a drinker and a sports idiot, traits he shares with his boisterous, brawling, low-credit-score uncles and cousins. He’s kind of unreliable, which is why his girl Erin (“Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany) has broken up with him yet again.

Jeff decides he can win back Erin by passing on  a Sox game to cheer her on as she runs the Boston Marathon. He’s at the finish line holding a hand-made congratulatory sign when the bomb goes off.

Almost immediately director Green demonstrates how to ease into an uncomfortable issue with grace and taste.  We don’t see the immediate bloody results of the blast.  But we’re with Erin in a bar when the TV news shows a photo of the seriously wounded Jeff being carried away by a man in a cowboy hat. (We won’t actually see a re-enactment of the event until flashbacks in the movie’s third act.)

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Okra,An Seo Hyun

“OKJA” My rating: C (Now on Netflix)

118 minutes | No MPAA rating

Following up his multi-layered sci-fi extravaganza “Snowpiercer,” Korean auteur Joon-ho Bong delivers the Netflix original movie “Okja.”

Like its predecessor it blends dystopian imagery, social criticism and first-rate special effects, this time to tell the tale of a girl and her best friend, an elephant-sized pig-creature.

Unlike “Snowpiercer,” though, the pieces don’t fit together. Satire, childlike innocence and violence collide in an adventure nearly derailed by jarring tonal shifts.

The film begins with Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), the head of the massive agribusiness that bears her family name (it sounds like Monsanto for a reason), announcing to the world that her firm has developed a super pig that will solve all our food needs.  To kick off the project she is sending baby pigs to farmers in 26 countries; over 10 years these porkers will be monitored as they are reared under local animal husbandry conditions.

The piglet Okja is blessed to be sent to the mountains of Korea where she is seen to by young Mija (An Seo Hyun) and her grandfather.  Mirja and the massive Okja lead a life of bucolic bliss.  They are best friends — though Bong is careful not to ascribe to Okja human intellect.

Of course, Mija doesn’t know that her big bud is destined to become superbacon.

“Okra” treads a familiar path when it becomes the tale of a fugitive child and her pet outrunning the evil forces of grown-up life.  But Bong isn’t really all that interested in that plot line, preferring to devote much screen time to a ham-handed (sorry about that) satire of corporate greed, human vanity and nitwit idealism.

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Amy Adams

Amy Adams…the ice goddess in her art gallery

“NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” My rating: B-

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” is a fascinating failure.

But even if it doesn’t quite work, it remains so ambitious, so daring that it overshadows other films considered “successful” simply because they aim so much lower.

Ford, the celebrated fashion designer whose first feature directing effort was “A Single Man” back in 2009, wastes no time bitch-slapping his audience. Under the opening titles of “Nocturnal Animals” Ford gives us slo-mo footage of obese women dancing.  They’re naked except for marching band kepis and thigh-high drum majorette boots.

These images are part of the latest exhibit in a trendy LA art gallery operated by Susan (Amy Adams),  a cooly coiffed and clothed woman who lives in a multi-million-dollar minimalist glass house overlooking the city.

Susan is rich — she’d be richer, but her faithless hubby Hutton (Armie Hammer) has managed to blow a big chunk of their nest egg — and her inner life seems about as sterile as her modernist home. After all, what kind of person keeps a bowl of real artichokes on the counter of her spotless, soulless kitchen? It’s not like anyone’s going to grab one up for a quick snack.

“I feel guilty not to be happy,” she laments. Poor little rich girl.

Susan’s outwardly comfy, inwardly anguished world makes up one of three levels of reality explored in Ford’s movie.

Out of the blue she receives a manuscript from her first husband, Edward, whom Susan hasn’t seen in 19 years. It’s a soon-to-be-published novel accompanied by a note that suggests Susan was at least in part the inspiration for the story.

Flattered, Susan takes advantage of a week without her husband (Hutton is off to New York with his latest girlfriend) to dive into Edward’s novel. The story that unfolds becomes “Nocturnal Animals'” second layer of reality.

In this book within a movie we find Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife (Isla Fisher) and teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber) driving across West Texas in the dead of night. They fall victim to a gang of young rednecks led by the scary Ray (an almost unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and soon the family members are fighting for their lives. (more…)

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Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal…tearing stuff down

“DEMOLITION”  My rating: B- (Opening April 8 at the Glenwood Arts)

101 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Mental health professionals tell us there’s no “correct” way to grieve. How you mourn depends on who you are.

Even so, it’s hard to sympathize with Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), the young widower at the heart of Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Demolition,” a film that for much of its running time dares you to care before enventually finding its emotional center.

After losing his wife in an auto accident, it quickly dawns on Davis that he doesn’t feel grief. Or much of anything.

Before the funeral he practices crying in front of a mirror, just so he’ll be able to pass himself off as the bereaved spouse people expect.

But it’s all for show. While Phil (Kansas City’s Chris Cooper), Davis’ father-in-law and boss at a Wall Street investment firm, is obviously shattered by loss, the dead-eyed Davis is simply numb.

He does get worked up by one thing. While waiting in the emergency room, Davis was ripped off by a hospital vending machine that took his money and failed to deliver the M&Ms. Now he sends bizarre rambling letters to the vending machine company’s complaints department.

He’ll tell you it’s not about the money. It’s about the principle. But what it’s really about is having something to obsess over so he doesn’t have to face himself, his loss and his growing sense that he really didn’t know his wife at all.

Vallee, whose “The Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild” melded art film sensibilities with great acting and strong storytelling, goes out on a limb with “Demolition.” For big swatches of the film he and screenwriter Bryan Sipe give us a protagonist  we can’t figure out or necessarily like.

They create an emotional palette that veers from overt displays of gut-tearing sorrow (from Cooper’s character) to black humor and atavistic outbursts.

The film’s title refers to Davis’ growing mania for destruction. He devotes a night to dismantling his home refrigerator. At the office he takes apart the partitions in the men’s room. Eventually he stops showing up for work and instead pitches in — without pay — to help tear down a house. Still wearing his business suit he takes a sledgehammer to walls and beams. (more…)

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everestmaxresdefault“EVEREST” My rating: B 

121 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Very few of us have the skill, the will or the financial wherewithal to tackle Earth’s tallest peak.

After watching “Everest,” though, don’t be surprised if you feel as if you’ve been to the top of the world, where the human form is ill-prepared to survive at the cruising altitude of a 747.

Based on the disastrous day in 1996 when Mount Everest claimed the lives of eight climbers — the same tragedy described in Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book “Into Thin Air” and a 1998 IMAX documentary — the film eschews Hollywood hokum for a [hugely] realistic depiction of what happened.

The first hour focuses on New Zealander Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), operator of a commercial guide service,  as over a month he prepares a party of clients for an expedition up the mountain.

Most of the customers are like Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a Texas businessman with pockets deep enough to handle the $65,000 Hall charges for a climb. They’re middle-aged, wealthy men of commerce determined to push themselves to the limit before age interferes.

An exception is Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a working-class guy who failed to reach the summit on an earlier attempt. This will be his last chance … and Hall has given him a discount so that he can afford this climb.

The film’s second hour is the ascent itself, which found most of the party going all the way up, only to be ravaged by a fierce storm on the way down.

Written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy and directed by Baltasar Kormakur, “Everest” features a star-heavy cast.

Among the familiar faces  behind bushy beards are Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, aka “Mr. Mountain Madness,” a rival guide who joins forces with Hall because the mountain is so crowded with 20 expeditions. Michael Kelly plays Krakauer, the well-known outdoor writer who was a member of the team. Sam Worthington is a fellow climber helpless to effect a rescue.

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Jake Gyllenhaal in "Southpaw"

Jake Gyllenhaal in “Southpaw”

“SOUTHPAW”  My rating: B- 

123 minutes  | MPAA rating: R

Terrific acting and fight film cliches battle to a split decision in Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw,” yet further proof both of Jake Gyllenhaal’s awesome range and of the odds against making a truly original boxing picture.

Gyllenhaal is mesmerizing as Billy Hope, who turned a tormented childhood on the streets into a lucrative career as the light heavyweight champion of the world.

Billy is not a subtle fighter. Fueled by anger, he absorbs punch after punch until his opponent is worn out, then murders the bum. This strategy usually leaves him with a championship belt and a face like a raw Big Mac.

In contrast to his rage in the ring, Billy’s home life is actually kind of normal.  Yeah, he lives in a gated multimilliion-dollar compound outside NYC, but his relations with his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams), whom he has

been with since his days in juvie, and their daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) are practically blissful.

But happy homes don’t make for dramatic movies. The screenplay by Kurt Sutter (creator of cable’s “Sons of Anarchy”) relies on over-the-top melodrama to remove McAdam’s Maureen from the scene, setting Billy on a downward spiral that will see him lose his boxing license, his title, his wealth and his mind.

Worse of all, he loses Leila to the child welfare folks.

Mostly “Southpaw” is about how — having been reduced to a lowly and primitive state –Billy slowly comes back. His Yoda in all this is Tick (Forest Whitaker), who used to train big-time boxers but now operates a rundown gym catering to at-risk kids.

Under Tick’s tutelage Billy learns to control his anger, employ defensive tactics (apparently for the first time), and develop the patience necessary both to win in the ring and earn the trust of a dubious family court judge.

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Jake Gyllenhaal...on the prowl

Jake Gyllenhaal…on the prowl

“NIGHTCRAWLER” My rating: B (Opens wide on Oct. 31)

117 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are no fanged vampires, voracious aliens or whispy ghosts populating “Nightcrawler,” but this is a horror movie nevertheless.

In this skin-crawling drama from first-time director Dan Gilroy (whose screenwriting credits include “The Fall” and “The Bourne Legacy”), the ever-changeable Jake Gyllenhaal gives what may be the year’s most disturbing performance as Louis Bloom, a dead-eyed loner/loser who discovers his calling capturing news footage of big-city mayhem.

You may want to bring your own hand sanitizer.

When we first see Louis he’s driving a crappy old Toyota and stealing copper tubing, chain link fences and manhole covers to sell to a metal recycler.  It’s apparent from the beginning that he’s a b.s. artist who employs empty loquaciousness and a disarming smile to get out of tough spots.  Then he stumbles across a late-night car accident and a pack of freelance cameramen recording the gruesome goings-on, and decides on a career change.

Soon Louis is the proud owner of a police scanner and a cheap video cam. A quick learner, he spends his nights bouncing from crime scene to highway carnage to house fire. Fearlessly barging in on horrible situations,  he grabs if-it-bleeds-it-leads footage that impresses even seen-it-all Nina Romino (Rene Russo), news director of a struggling local TV station.

Nina has her own ideas about ideal news footage: “A screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.”

In short order Louis has a flashy new car and a low-paid assistant, the homeless/hapless Rick (Rick Garcia), who serves as his navigator and second cameraman as the pair zap around Los Angeles, trying to beat the other news crews — and even the cops — to the crime scenes.

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