Moneyball

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.

September 24, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: September Edition

Yay!  The rest of the months for the rest of the year end with -ber!  You can tell we are easily excited over on Simplistic Reviews, especially this month of September.
As we reach the final quarter of 2013, and our one-year anniversary of podcasting to the Interwebs, we go all out this month, well, not really, but we have to do something to get you guys excited.
In this September edition of the Simplistic Reviews podcast we talk tons of Fall TV, the final episodes of “Breaking Bad,” just how bad the remake of “Robocop” will be, the return of Simply Quotable, and our favorite sports films of all time.
All this, including a surprise cameo by Al Pacino as he gets all hot and bothered about the classic Amanda Bynes’ TV show “What I Like About You.”  Who-Ahhhhh!!!!
Check out the show notes below for more fun stuff, and coming this week, The Simplistic Reviews List of things that we’ve learned from “Breaking Bad.”
Show Notes:


Robocop Remake
SlaughterFilm
Cinema and Suds
Fall TV Schedule
Breaking Bad Theories

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Click HERE to listen to podcast

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July 24, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Newsroom

HEAVY-HANDED

Now let me make something clear. I love Aaron Sorkin. I love A Few Good Men. I love The American President. I love Charlie Wilson’s War. I love The Social Network. I love Moneyball. I love Sports Night. I ABSOLUTELY love The West Wing. I even sorta loved Studio 60. But its in my nature to love them. I’m a writer. I love to see movies or tv shows where the emphasis is on the writing and not some ‘epic’ explosion sequence involving Shia LaBeouf.(I haven’t ragged on Transformers in a while) And Aaron Sorkin’s stuff is always all about the writing. Newsroom is no different. However, Newsroom’s greatest strength is also its main weakness.

A show about a borderline Republican tv news anchor seems like a walk in the park subject for Sorkin. And it is. A news show gives him the opportunity to talk about a multitude of things going on in the world and have it not feel forced as it sometimes was with West Wing and Studio 60. But its too easy. And because its too easy Sorkin seems to fall into his own trappings and reaffirm his critics as to his knack of overwriting a scene or an episode. Subtly abandoned for clear cut messages he is trying to force feed. He flexes his writing chops and his agenda to the point where predictability begins to leak in. In essence, Sorkin is the pretty girl at the party who KNOWS she’s pretty. People like me eat it up while others might not want the hassle of a cerebral workout while watching a ten o’clock show on HBO.

All that said, Newsroom is worthy of your attention. It has great actors. It has great ideas. It has Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston swearing. All good things. However, it is a hard pill to swallow for the Sorkin uninitiated. And even with a supposed middle of the road politically affiliated main character, it leans very liberal. Case in point, last weeks episode had a character LITERALLY punch a television with Rush Limbaugh babbling on it. This is something I’ve come close to doing on a number of occasions but it is still a little HEAVY-HANDED.

The media have bashed Newsroom for some of the reasons I’ve brought up. However, I think they really bash it because the show shines a light on some of the shady and unscrupulous things the media actually does to get a story or avoid telling one. And BOY it is about time someone did that. Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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