Channing Tatum

January 2, 2015

Foxcatcher

RELUCTANT

Foxcatcher – Reluctant

 As 2014 trickled away, the push for all the potentially Oscar nominated fare slowly arrives in my neck of the woods, or courtesy of the Internet. Until the day arrives that I begin to receive screeners to watch at my leisure instead of “borrowing” from other sources, this is the reality of the situation. Now that that little rant is done let’s get to “Foxcatcher,” a film that wants to be so good, and it is for the most part, but it’s reluctant to be as good as it could be.

“Foxcather” is the true story of the US Olympic Wrestling program and John Du Pont, the eccentric millionaire heir to the Du Pont fortune. Leading up to the 1988 Seoul Summer Games, Du Pont wants to bankroll and make his estate, Foxcather, the official training facility of the US Wrestling Team. Du Pont invites gold medalist, Mark Schultz, and his brother, David, to help train for the Games, and while Dave declines as to not uproot his family, the Mark leaves to join du Pont and carve out his own Olympic legacy. Over the course of training, Mark’s life and career begin to fall apart as du Pont blurs the lines between “coach”, friend, father, and trainer.

Here is the thing about “Foxcatcher,” the less you know, the better off you will be. Personally, I knew next to nothing about this true story and it helped my enjoyment of the film quite a bit. To be honest, it’s the same well I felt when I was watching “Moneyball.” The way that Bennett Miller weaves true stories into tales of mythic proportions is quite amazing and the level of performance he gets from his actors is also something to be applauded. However, unlike “Capote” and “Moneyball,” I find “Foxcatcher” to be Miller’s most reluctant work to date, and perhaps it’s because he is dealing with a much more personal and tragic story, but it feels like something is being held back for much of the over two hour run time of the film.

This isn’t to say that “Foxcather” isn’t a good film; it’s quite good, but similar to the issue that I had with another one of my top films of 2014, “Whiplash” the acting performances outshine the totality of the film itself. While both Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo have been getting the bulk of the accolades, and rightfully so, it’s Channing Tatum, whose turn as tortured Olympic wrestler, Mark Schultz, is the unspoken gem of the film. Tatum has been on a tear lately with great comedic turns in the “21 Jump Street” films and showcasing some real acting chops in “Magic Mike” but his acting in “Foxcatcher” is on another level. He is what makes the film go and his scenes with Carell’s du Pont and Ruffalo’s David Schultz, are amazing. He’s come a long way from “Step Up” if I do say so myself.

Speaking of Carell, he continues to impress and has come a long way from his days as Michael Scott from “The Office.” His take on eccentric millionaire John du Pont is haunting and reminds me a lot of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s take on Truman Capote. It’s taut, creepy, and child-like as du Pont is truly a “man” in need of purpose and finds it in Mark until times get tough.

The last thing I’ll bring up is the actual setting of the du Pont residence which gives “Foxcatcher” an almost horror movie feeling with a touch of “Fargo” thrown in. The Foxcatcher estate is creepy and whether covered in a thick layer of fog or a white blanket of snow, the hollowed grounds add a creepy element where you almost expected a masked killer with an ax to appear from behind tree.

“Foxcatcher” while great, is flawed, and it’s mainly in the pacing. I feel like 15-20 minutes could have been cut from the film and the same story could have been told. With all that being said, however, I truly enjoyed the film and just the acting alone makes it one of the favorites of 2014.

Fun Fact: Wrestling was first introduced in the ancient Olympic Games in 708 B.

June 24, 2014

22 Jump Street

COMFORTABLE
22 Jump Street – Comfortable
Taking a chance on a film that really doesn’t need to be made is one thing, but taking a chance on a film that was a surprise success is another thing entirely. In there lies the beauty of “22 Jump Street,” a film that is so comfortable with how good it is it’s willing to take itself entirely unserious (a word?) during its entire run-time. I usually would save this for the end, but this will possibly be the best comedy of 2014.

“22” once again stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Detectives Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, as they try to stop a new(er) designer drug called “WHYPHY” being spread across college campuses. Basically, it’s “21 Jump Street” with a different drug….in college….and a bigger budget. The film’s self-awareness and the chemistry between Hill and Tatum are once again the highlights of a film that could have easily been a mockery and easy cash-in, but both Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were also responsible for stellar “Lego Movie” earlier this year, find just enough originality and heart to make this sequel equal, if not better, than it’s predecessor.

What differentiates “22” from “21”is also the pacing and the use of ancillary characters from the first film. You have some great cameos, and the use of Ice Cube in a larger supporting role yields some of the funniest moments of the film, including a twist you probably don’t see coming. Speaking of Cube, it’s interesting that when he actually gets good material to work with, he’s a real good actor. Yes, I didn’t see “Ride Along” but it’s hard to forgive films like “Are We There Yet?” Sorry Cube, maybe I’m playa’ hating a little bit, but it looks like you’re back on the right track.

While most of the performances are very funny and memorable, not all of the performances are memorable for the right reasons, namely Jillian Bell, who might know from “Workaholics.” Now I’m not saying she isn’t funny, she just happens to be the least funniest part of this film. Her schtick wears thin pretty quick and while she ends being a bigger part of the film come the end, she really wears out her welcome with her brand of comedy. Will Bell doesn’t ring all that well for me, Wyatt Russell, the son of the legend Kurt Russell, and the Lucas Brothers, give some memorable performances and balance out the zaniness of both Hill and Tatum.
With self-aware comedy, Hill and Tatum at the top of their game, and some real great action set pieces, “22” is a winner for all the right reasons. Granted, I will say if you’re a fan of the first film, I’m pretty sure you won’t enjoy the sequel, even though this sequel makes sure that even if your didn’t see the first film it provides you with a handy “previously on” segment to start the film, which I think was a stroke of genius that only a film this comfortable with itself would be able to provide.
Fun Fact: Across the United States there are five 22 Jump Street address; include two Florida.
April 3, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 2

On the second episode of Simplistic Sneak Peek, the boys discuss Scarjo’s strange drug habit in Lucy, Mila Kunis’ cleaning habits in Jupiter Ascending, and Tom Hardy’s speech habits in The Drop.  You can watch the trailers comment free below then come back and listen to what Matthew, DJ, and Justin had to say about them in the video above.  So many directions…it’s like grade school.

Lucy

Jupiter Ascending

The Drop

July 6, 2013

White House Down

NO

Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  In this case, however, what we are washing is the previously TERRIBLE White House take over movie that came out only months ago in Olympus Has Fallen.  What we are rinsing it with is water more akin to the foul waste that made The Toxic Avenger and Emil from Robocop what they are today.  And what we are repeating is an idea that would only work for an easy to please audience perpetually living in the year 1992.  White House Down, surprisingly isn’t the worst movie to come out this year. (Hi Lone Ranger)  But boy oh boy it misses that mark by only an ant hair.  I honestly had to go back and reread my previous review of Olympus Has Fallen just so I wouldn’t duplicate it here.  White House Down makes all of the same ridiculous, clichéd, laughable, absurd mistakes as Olympus Has Fallen, but does it with a smile on it’s face.  Because…that’s…better?  Because director Roland Emmerich winks at us as he slips money out of our wallets, we should accept it?  NO.  And I don’t want to hear how we should really lower our expectations when watching such a film.  I did.  What I ended up witnessing was even lower than my already low expectations.

For those who didn’t watch the thousand and one ads run during the NBA playoffs, or…well…didn’t see Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down is about a terrorist attack and take over of the aforementioned White House by a highly trained, highly committed paramilitary group.  A lone, not supposed to be there, regular joe/cop/bodyguard must rescue the President and take back the building.  To follow the lazy, insultingly daft parlance used by most…it is Die Hard…in the White House…again.  That is to say, it is Die Hard in the White House if Die Hard was a comedically awful film with brainless, horribly shot set pieces and bland, underwhelming performance AND NOT…THE BEST ACTION FILM EVER MADE.  Yeah, just like Die Hard.  Watching White House Down is not a popcorn flick experience.  It is merely a test of patience.  How long can you sit there and take stupidity masqueraded as brillance?  How long does the parent who knows their child has begun lying to them let their child continue?  How long do you let that strange and jittery pamphlet guy at the mall talk to you before you tell him you’re not interested?  Not to get too political, but this would be a more Geneva Convention friendly, yet, still effective means of torture to inflict on the prisoners at Guantanamo Mr. President.   Perhaps you think I’m being too harsh?  NO.  This is me bitting my tongue.  It is that bad.

Hey remember when we saw Jamie Foxx win an Oscar for Ray…then we immediately saw him in the horrid Rob Cohen movie Stealth and were like, “Why the hell did Jamie Foxx do this?  He’s better than this.”  Then the sobering realization washed over us as that even celebrities like easy money too?  Well, yeah.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Jamie is coming off of Django Unchained for crying out loud.  A terrific and under-appreciated performance that wonderfully captured the stoic and quiet hero of the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns.  What does Roland Emmerich have him do here?  A two hour Obama impersonation.  NO.  I’m not sh%tting you.  The difference between Jamie’s performance in White House Down as The President and a performance on SNL as President Obama is a studio audience.  You are better than this Jamie.  Damn!  I did it again.

My dislike of Channing Tatum stopped somewhere in between Haywire and 21 Jump Street.  He began not taking himself so seriously, stopped making Step Up movies, started working with really talented people, and found his niche as a performer.  However, his name in White House Down might as well be Channing Tatum because there is nothing here for him personality or character-wise.  Father and estranged daughter stuff you say?  NO.  It is a two minute, go through the motions, plot contrivance.  Good rapport with President Obama/Foxx?  NO.  The two of them displayed better chemistry in a mock rap video making fun of Channing’s name.  It is funny and a bit disappointing that the best action vehicles Tatum has managed to star in either have him in it for less then ten minutes or is clearly a comedy.

The rest of the actors hopping on this paycheck train may not be as well-known as the inexplicably star studded cast of Olympus Has Fallen.  However, you’ll still scratch your head wondering how Emmerich managed to cast them.  The always great Richard Jenkins, the undervalued Maggie Gllyennhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Lance Reddick.  All of them seem so out of place here.  My only solace after seeing this was knowing that their 4th of July was probably spent on a newly bought boat instead of inside a quaint and quiet apartment.

To ask me what is better between Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down is like asking me is it better to be shot in the dick or to be shot in the dick.  They are both bad.  Both films try to force feed you bile while pretending it’s caviare.  However, one just plays itself seriously while the other has a lousier poker face about it.  If I can offer an olive branch to these two films, I’d say this.   There is NO way to make a film about a White House take over in modern day and it not be ridiculous.  Solution?  STOP MAKING THEM!  NO more money shots of D.C. buildings blowing up.  NO more lax security at the most SECURED BUILDING IN THE WORLD.  I don’t care how many inside men you have.  NO more poor attempts to portray the president as Rambo.  NO more misunderstandings and misuse of the constitution for plot convenience.   NO more dumb converting of famous quotes from our forefathers into groan inducing one liners.  NO more ripping off Die Hard.  Hell, Die Hard can’t even rip off Die Hard anymore, so stop trying to do friggin’ Die Hard!  Just…NO.  DON’T watch it…DON’T compare it to Die Hard…DON’T make anymore…and DON’T even bother telling me I’m wrong.

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