Movie Of The Week: Hands Of Stone (2016)

Hands-of-Stone-2016-700x987We are closely approaching a major decision here that I will be sure to make sure that all of you know when it becomes official. For now, we are continuing right along with our next movie of the week and this week’s is one that I have been dying to see for a little while now. There are two things that you can count on from me and that is one I am a huge fan of films that are based on true stories and the second is that I am a huge fan of the sport of boxing. When you combine those two things then I have to watch which is the case with this week’s film Hands Of Stone. The film follows the journey of not just legendary lightweight boxer Roberto Durán (played by Edgar Ramírez) and his rise from poverty in Panama to world champion, but it also follows that of his legendary trainer Ray Arcel (played by Robert De Niro) and his return to the sport he loved and had to let go of for a while. Watch as their journey for respect goes through it’s trials and tribulations. The film also stars Usher Raymond (The Faculty) as Sugar Ray Leonard, Ana de Armas (War Dogs) as Felicidad Iglesias, Pedro Perez as Plomo, Rubén Blades (Predator 2) as Carlos Eleta, Óscar Jaenada (The Shallows) as Chaflan, and the film was directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz.

handsOne of my favorite things about the film was definitely the acting from De Niro, Ramírez, and even Usher Raymond. They did an amazing job of painting who Sugar Ray Leonard was back in the day and they fear they had of his boxing style which by the way is not a fear of whether he’ll hurt you or not. However they do portray Roberto as this immature punk kid who has never been disciplined in his life because of how amazing of a boxer he was. They portray him at times to be the uneducated idiot with gloves who couldn’t see the bigger picture. What they do eventually show is his maturity and accent into manhood later in the film. They do a pretty good job with the fight choreography which you have to give kudos to as they try to cut an hour fight into mere minutes and that is difficult because you have to choose the best moments. One of the other things about the film that I loved was the beautiful Ana de Armas who plays Roberto’s wife the film because she was not only great, but she had some amazing scenes in the film (see pic below). Other than that, it was a pretty decent film and it had some amazing cinematography to boot especially the scenes in Panama. The film does at times show how easy it is for a child to grow to hate America just on what he went through and saw in his life. You’ll understand what I am talking about throughout the film. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Ana de Armas Hands Of Stone

Movie Of The Week: The Lost City Of Z (2016)

lost-city-zThe challenge may be long gone and in the rear view mirror, but that doesn’t mean that us cinema fanatics cannot enjoy some movies in the meantime. While we debate doing a second challenge, I decided to do the Movie Of The Week where we view a new film and for this week we have chosen The Lost City Of Z. I have always been a fan of films that are based off of true stories and this one definitely peaked my interest, but it didn’t last very long in my local theater. The film follows a British soldier by the name of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) who is fighting every day to restore the family name that was put in limbo by his father. While on a mapping expedition in the Amazon, Percy makes a huge discovery that there may have been a civilization in the Amazon that predates everyone. The only problem is that the journey is not an easy one and he faces many obstacles on his journey to try and discover the lost city he calls Z. The film also stars Sienna Miller (Factory Girl) as Nina Fawcett, Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Jack Fawcett, Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) as Henry Costin, Edward Ashley (In The Heart Of The Sea) as Arthur Manley, Angus Macfadyen (We Bought A Zoo) as James Murray, Ian McDiarmid (Star Wars: Episode VI-Return Of The Jedi) as Sir George Goldie, and the film was directed by James Gray (We Own The Night).

lost-city-z-trailer-screen2What was surprising about the film wasn’t necessarily the story itself or the way the presented it, but the acting in my opinion is the highlight. Robert Pattinson in particular was a highlight for me as the mysterious, drunk, but loyal Mr. Costin who had accompanied Fawcett on some of the journeys. The actors did such an amazing job of conveying the torture they had been going through on the journey with the sicknesses and the lack of provisions. They did an amazing job as portraying how difficult the Amazon itself was and how things were drastically different there then where they had been. The movie isn’t perfect in any way shape or form, but it’s kind of a cool adventure to be on for the two plus hours that you’re watching. I liked Charlie Hunnam’s performance, but I think too many people stole the show on him on too many occasions. Whether it be Pattinson or Angus Macfayden who plays someone who is not what they are expected to be. I thought the sets and costumes were amazing as it felt like you were really there in the Amazon in 1912 or so. The ending of the film definitely tries it’s best to not speculate on what exactly happened to Fawcett and his son despite all the different theories that there are out there. It’s sad to read online that his other son was never interested in the truth, but rather the revenue over the speculation of his death. Check out the film for yourself, I am going to give it an B+ for a final grade.

Day 362: Amadeus (1984)

amadeusThere are movies for this challenge that I promised myself that I was going to watch before it was over and today’s film is one of those said films. One of the greatest composers of the 18TH century was the virtuoso Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and for today’s film I decided to watch the 1984 film Amadeus. Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) likes to believe that he is a great composer and writer of classical music, but he had to work hard for it. Unlike his counterpart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) who was born with a natural talent and ability that it drives Salieri mad with jealousy. The film is Salieri’s take on what drove him to the point that he would actually murder the young prodigy. The film also stars Elizabeth Berridge (The Funhouse) as Constanze Mozart, Roy Dotrice (Hellboy II: The Golden Army) as Leopold Mozart, Christine Ebersole (The Wolf Of Wall Street) as Katerina Cavalieri, Jeffrey Jones (The Crucible) as Emperor Joseph II, Kenneth McMillan (Dune) as Michael Schlumberg, Charles Kay (Henry V) as Count Orsini-Rosenberg, Cynthia Nixon (Sex And The City) as Lorl, Kenny Baker (Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope) as Parody Commendatore, Simon Callow (James And The Giant Peach) as Emanuel Schikaneder, and the film was directed by Milos Forman (The People Vs Larry Flynt).

elizabeth-berridgeI just want to warn all of you with short attention spans that this film is a little over three hours long so if you can handle it then proceed. Amadeus is definitely one of those films that they went all out for because it has an amazing score, amazing set designs, amazing costumes, and most importantly great acting that makes it complete. The soundtrack features so much as far as amazing 18TH century classical music and amazing opera music that should satisfy any fan of that genre. The set designs and costumes were so amazing that it actually makes you feel like you are walking and living in 18TH Century Austria which is what a time period piece is supposed to do in the first place. One thing I do know is that this is actually a fictionalized look at the life of Mozart or at least the idea of Salieri killing Mozart. Mozart died of an illness that is often debated as to what it was exactly. When he was working on his Requiem, it said that he dictated in bed to one of his proteges and not Salieri (although this is not proven either). F. Murray Abraham was absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of a man driven with jealousy and hatred toward God and Mozart. Tom Hulce is brilliant as the virtuoso who if he was a lead singer he would have had LSD (Lead Singers Disease). He knew he was amazing and he wasn’t afraid to show it. I was a little skeptical of Jeffrey Jones playing an Austrian Emperor, but he does a pretty good job at it. You really have to love classical music and Mozart to want to watch this film, but I am a fan of music so I loved it. I am going to give the film an A for a final grade.

Day 327: Bleed For This (2016)

bleed-for-this-shareSince the beginning of film, there have been some legendary sports films because an underdog story can capture the hearts of millions. As long as the sport of boxing has been around, there have been some great films like Rocky, Raging Bull, The Fighter, Requiem For A Heavyweight, and many more. For today’s film, we chose to go and see the latest boxing film Bleed For This which tells the tale of Rhode Island boxing legend Vinny Pazienza (played by Miles Teller). The movie starts right before his latest fight against Roger Mayweather (Peter Quillin) which was a losing effort. Down and out, he trains with a new manager in Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart). With Rooney in his corner, he moves up in weight which proves to be a success, but he will soon face the greatest setback ever, a broken neck in a car accident. Will he bounce back from it or stay down forever? The film also stars Katey Sagal (Futurama) as Louise, Ciarán Hinds (Munich) as Angelo, Ted Levine (The Silence Of The Lambs) as Lou Duva, Amanda Clayton (John Carter) as Doreen, Daniel Sauli (House Of Cards) as Jon, Jordan Gelber (Dark Horse) as Dan Duva, Christine Evangelista (The Walking Dead) as Shelly (I believe), and the film was written and directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room). 

screen-shot-2016-06-29-at-11-32-34-amBefore I get into the review of the film, I am a sucker for details and there was one minor one that the film goofed on. He fought Roberto Duran in 1994 and suffered the broken neck before that. According to the film, Duran was his comeback fight from the injury, but in fact he fought Jacques LeBlanc a month before. The point of that detail is that he mentions that he is heading to Twin River Casino before the accident, but the problem is that Lincoln Park wasn’t called Twin River until March 2007 (a full 13 years later). Other than that, I absolutely loved the film and thought Miles Teller did a terrific job portraying the flashy Pazienza. We see all the hell that Paz went through just to make a comeback when everyone told him that he couldn’t. One of the scenes that I just had a hard time sitting through is the scene when the doctor is removing the screws and Paz tells him that he doesn’t want to take anything for the process. The boxing action in the film is great like any amazing boxing film, but the transformations is where it’s at. Aaron Eckhart just has to shave a little bit of his head, but Ted Levine goes through a major transformation to play Lou Duva. I almost didn’t recognize him, but well into the film I noticed that it was him. The sites were so amazing to see when they are in Rhode Island and they even do an amazing job of making the Providence Civic Center look like how it used to. I even loved the vintage footage throughout the film and I loved how some news segments, it showed the real Vinny Paz. I was a huge fan of the film and if you’re a boxing fan then do yourself a favor and check this one out. I am giving the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 260: Snowden (2016)

background-twitterOne of the most controversial filmmakers in Hollywood has always been Oliver Stone who has tackled topics like the assassination of John Kennedy (JFK), 911 (World Trade Center), and insider trading (Wall Street) to name a few. Now he returns with a new film about one of the most controversial figures today in the film Snowden. Snowden tells the tale of former CIA and NSA operative Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man who exposed the United States Government for spying on it’s own people without warrants as he distributed the proof to the press. The film follows Snowden from how he got his start in the intelligence field to the struggles he dealt with when he got too deep into what was happening. The film also stars Shailene Woodley (The Fault In Our Stars) as Lindsey Mills, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) as Glenn Greenwald, Melissa Leo (Red State) as Laura Poitras, Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man) as Corbin O’Brian, Robert Firth (Guardians Of The Galaxy) as Dr. Stillwell, Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins) as Ewen MacAskill, Timothy Olyphant (Rock Star) as CIA Agent Geneva, Scott Eastwood (Fury) as Trevor James, Keith Lakeith (Straight Outta Compton) as Patrick Haynes, Ben Chaplin (Thin Red Line) as Robert Tibbo, Bhasker Patel (Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom) as Marwan Al-Kirmani, and Nicolas Cage (Drive Angry) as Hank Forrester.

screen_shot_2016-04-27_at_12-19-14_pm-0I have to be honest in saying that I wasn’t really aware of what it was that Edward Snowden was being accused of, but what ever it was he was being called either a traitor or hero. The one thing that I can say about him after watching this film is that he should be considered a hero. The United States government shouldn’t be allowed to pry in your life unless they have a warrant. According to the film, they were bypassing all of it by claiming that there were secret warrants so that they wouldn’t tip off the “Threats”. Now as far as the films is concerned I thought the film was alright in my opinion. It just runs a little too slow for my liking at times and there is a lot of computer jargon that the average person will not understand in it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a terrific job in the film as Edward Snowden and he even changes his voice to sound more like him. Shailene Woodley actually does a great job too and she even shows off some of her assets in the film which was a change for her. She does a great job being the perfect balance between the nerdiness and what is real in life. Now the beginning of the film claims that this is a dramatization so how much of it is true, I am not completely sure. I am actually interested to see what is fact and/or fiction. There are some thrills and suspense in the film as you wonder if he’s going to get caught, but we all know how the story ends. The film even features a cameo from the real Edward Snowden so look for that if you choose to see this. I am going to give the film an A- and I am doing this because I thought it was a good film (which is the same as alright), but I am just not into the computer jargon.

Day 258: The Imitation Game (2014)

imitation_game_ver4_xxlgThe past couple of days have all been about watching films that I have wanted to see either from my interest or from suggestions from other people. The film I chose for today is also based on a true story and it’s called The Imitation Game. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness) as the very eccentric and smart mathematician Alan Turing. During World War II, the Germans were sending very hard to break coded messages that was called The Enigma.The British Government was desperate to try and figure out what the messages are so they hired Alan and other mathematicians to try and break the codes by building a machien that can do so. That is not his only issue as the biggest secret he is trying to keep may become exposed and it could ruin everything he has worked for.  The film also stars Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Matthew Goode (Match Point) as Hugh Alexander, Rory Kinnear (Skyfall) as Det. Nock, Allen Leech (Grand Piano) as John Cairncross, Matthew Beard (Chatroom) as Peter Hilton, Charles Dance (Last Action Hero) as Commander Denniston, Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) as Stewart Menzies, James Northcote (Nymphomaniac: Vol. I) as Jack Good, and the film was directed by Morten Tyldum (Buddy). 

imitation-gameThe movie is listed on IMDB as a thriller and I kind of don’t see that as much as I see drama and biography. I honestly believe that you have to be a fan of either World War II related stuff or a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch (which I am of both) in order to like this movie. Anyways, I didn’t really see too many thrills in the film unless you count them trying to decode messages as thrilling. The one thing you’ll find about this film is that people can be cruel and misunderstanding of those that are different. Alan had to live with a dark secret and was eventually punished in England for it. Now I wanted to look up what was fact or fiction about this film and there seems to be a lot of civil liberties that were taken by the writers of this film. For one, he is not the man who invented the computer like the film suggests, but rather it was invented by Polish men. He was also openly gay according to the site whereas the film has him very secretive about it. To read more fact vs fiction about the film, please click here. Benedict Cumberbatch was masterful as always in the film and so was Keira Knightley which is something I haven’t said too often. I am a huge fan of World War II films, but this one wasn’t exactly my favorite. I did enjoy it, but it does drag a little but for my liking.This is definitely a film for actors because you have to love the ones that are in it. That is why I am going to give the film an A-/B+somewhere in there for a final grade.

Day 257: The Danish Girl (2015)

the-danish-girl-3In the past five years or even more, the issue of transgenderism has been one of the hottest topics in the United States of America. It’s an issue that has seen celebrities like Chaz Bono and more come out in support for the issue. In the 1920’s when this kind of topic was extremely taboo, one man stepped forward because he truly believed that he was a woman and that was the basis for the film The Danish Girl. The Danish Girl tells the story of Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), the first person to ever go through the sex change operation in Dresden, Germany. The movie tells the struggles that Einar went through along with his artist wife Gerder (Alicia Vikander) to become the woman known as Lili. The film also stars Amber Heard (Never Back Down) as Ulla, Emerald Fennell (Anna Karenina) as Elsa, Adrian Schiller (Son Of God) as Rasmussen, Ben Whishaw (In The Heart Of The Sea) as Henrik, Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd) as Hans Axgil, Henry Pettigrew (Next Of Kin) as Niels, Pip Torrens (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Dr. Hexler, Sebastian Koch (A Good Day To Die Hard) as Warnekros, and the film was directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech).

65This truly was an amazing story and it’s all based off of her diaries that she kept while she was going though the sex change. The romance part of the film I believe was fictitious, but most of the film was true. Based off of the site History Vs Hollywood a lot of things in the film were true like having Einar put on the stockings indeed did drive his desire to change. Almost everything in this film was true from what I can read there and if you want to read more about it like how he went through four or five different operation just click on it. Eddie Redmayne put on one heck of a performance in the film so it comes as no surprise that he was nominated for an Oscar. Alicia Vikander who also did one heck of an amazing job in the film won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and she deserved it. Both of them unleashed the pain, confusion, and hurt that both must have been feeling at the time and it shows. Alicia Vikander is not only sexy and beautiful, but she is becoming one actress to watch because I loved her in this and in Ex Machina. Everything about the film was masterful from the gray tones in the film to the final brightness of Lili being free. The cinematography was absolutely amazing and the writing was phenomenal. There really wasn’t too much I hated about the film and I certainly didn’t mind having Amber Heard in the film. I am going to give the film an A+ for a final grade. Check it out on HBOGO right now.

Day 236: American Gangster (2007)

CEVWBh1UkAIumVqIt’s Tuesday which can only mean one thing and that is that it is time for Based on a Truesday Story. Based on a Truesday Story is a segment I did on my other blog where we watch films that are based on a true story and for today we are doing American Gangster. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is an African American drug lord from Harlem, New York who decides that the best way to take over the competition is to fly directly to the source in Vietnam. He quickly becomes the drug kingpin of New York, but that attracts the wrong kind of attention. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an honest cop who gets put on the case to track down Frank Lucas and shut him down completely and anyone else corrupt as well. The film also stars Chiwetelu Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) as Huey Lucas, Josh Brolin (The Goonies) as Trupo, Lymari Nadal (The Blackout) as Eva, Ted Levine (The Silence Of The Lambs) as Lou Toback, Roger Guenveur Smith (He Got Game) as Nate, John Hawkes (Lincoln) as Freddie, RZA (The Man With The Iron Fists) as Moses Jones, Carla Gugino (Watchmen) as Laurie, Idris Elba (Thor) as Tango, Common (Selma) as Turner Lucas, TI (Ant-Man) as Stevie Lucas, Armand Assante (Judge Dredd) as Dominic Cattano, and the film was directed by Ridley Scott (Alien).

04H19qKWhat happens when you put Denzel Washington in a leading role of a film? Well, I hope that you are preparing yourself for one hell of a performance because that is exactly what you are getting with this film. The thing I loved about this film is that you sort of get two stories in one where you have one guy who wants to make his teacher and his family proud by being at the top of his game while you have another who feels that honesty is the best policy and it will lead him over the dirty cops. I have to be honest in saying that if I found a million dollars as a cop, I may skim a few off the top of it. It’s kind of the story of the two roads with the one less traveled and you can guess who took which road in this film. There are so many actors that appeared in this film that I couldn’t fit above that deserved honorable mention like Cuba Gooding Jr., Ruby Dee, Jon Polito, John Ortiz, and many more who do a terrific job in the film. Now we all know that Hollywood takes some civil liberties with their films, but this one seems to have a lot according to an article on historyvshollywood.com. One story is that Frank says in the film that he drove for Bumpy for 15 years. Reports indictate that Bumpy was released from prison in 1963 and he died in 1968 leaving only a five year window. Check out more of the facts vs fiction in that article that I provided. The film is excellent with a very good story, amazing cinematography, and it’s the kind of gangster movies we love here in the states. So, what more could you possibly ask for? I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 226: The Big Short (2015)

big-lessons-in-the-big-short-01The question of the day is do you want to be educated about something you probably didn’t know anything about? If that is the case and you have Netflix, then you need to check out today’s film The Big Short. The Big Short is a film that chronicles the crash of the mortgage industry on Wall Street back in 2008/2009. The film follows four different denizens in the industry Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), Mark Baum (Steve Carell), and the team of Charlie Geller (John Magaro), Jamey Shipley (Finn Wittrock), and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) as they decide to bet against the housing market and it’s loans which was simply unheard of at the time. They were betting against the economy which was considered ballsy. The film also stars Tracy Letts (Killer Joe) as Lawrence Fields, Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) as Cynthia Baum, Adepero Oduye (12 Years A Slave) as Kathy Tao, Rafe Spall (Life Of Pi) as Danny Moses, Hamish Linklater (Battleship) as Porter Collins, Jeremy Strong (Zero Dark Thirty) as Vinnie Daniel, Melissa Leo (Red State) as Georgia Hale, Karen Gillan (Guardians Of The Galaxy) as Evie, and the film features cameos from Anthony Bourdain, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, and the film was directed by Adam McKay (The Other Guys).

the-big-short_0If you do not know anything about trading stocks, bonds, and the housing market then you better pay full attention to the film cause you could get absolutely lost. They have Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Selena Gomez appear on screen to help break down some of the terms into dummy form. Even then, I would still advise people not to leave at any point or you will be confused. If you want to see how crooked and stupid the US Government and the banks were with the average working persons money then you need to watch this movie because it’s all about how they screwed you with no lube. It’s hard to choose an MVP for this film because they all really did a terrific job in the film, but some of my favorite moments belonged to Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell especially when they were together. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Gosling is trying to explain why he is betting against the market to Steve Carell using the Jenga format to represent all the loans. The interactions between the two during this scene are just awesome and worth seeing. After you have seen the film, you are going to be astonished about how so many things just slipped through the cracks during this whole ordeal especially with the mortgage market in the early to mid-2000’s where so many people were defaulting and foreclosures were happening. This film sheds the best light on the reason for the collapse of the economy so be prepared. I am going to give the film an A for a final grade because it’s smart, thought provoking, and intuitive. Check it out on Netflix right now as we speak.

Day 206: Spotlight (2015)

SpotlightThere are some stories in life that you hear about and you just can’t imagine that these stories could be true. That is how powerful these kinds of stories can be and they can be real game changers. That was certainly the case with today’s film Spotlight which highlights the child molestation scandal in the City of Boston. Spotlight was an investigative team that worked at the Boston Globe that took on stories that they felt the public needed to know about. In the year 2000 or 2001, a new man in charge at the Globe by the name of Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) came in and suggested a story to his Spotlight team that involved the catholic church covering up the child molestation cases in Boston. The film follows the team as they expose the truth as they became the voice of the voiceless. The film stars Michael Keaton (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)) as Walter Robinson, Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls) as Sacha Pfeiffer, John Slattery (Iron Man 2) as Ben Bradlee, Jr., Stanley Tucci (The Terminal) as Mitchell Garabedian, Billy Crudup (Watchmen) as Eric Macleish, Neal Huff (Big Daddy) as Phil Saviano, Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Station) as Jim Sullivan, and the film was directed by Tom McCarthy (The Cobbler).

spotlight (1)If you’re expecting a film with a lot of action, then this isn’t the film for you because there’s a lot of investigative research involved in the film. The other side to it is that you see the struggle these guys went through to try and unlock the story. You see all of the red tape and you see all the people involved that just bury the story. You end up learning what they could do and what they had to do to try and get viable sources. The film is just absolutely shocking and you can see why the Catholic church took such a hit after this case was exposed by the Globe. One of the biggest elements of these types of films is the acting and the story. Those are the key essentials for these types of films to survive and be great. I am here to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the acting especially from Mark Ruffalo who after a while just stole the show. Rachel McAdams also did a phenomenal job in the film which leads to my next statement. I am not surprised that Rachel and Mark were nominated for Oscars because they were amazing. The story as you can tell from what I wrote was also amazing and it had to be. It’s a story driven film as I said before. If you love films that are based on true stories then you should check this one out. I am going to give the film an A for a final grade.