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

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 213: Resurrecting The Champ (2007)

resurrecting-the-champ_00143332Besides films that are based on Football, the other kinds of sports films that I have always loved are boxing movies like the Rocky franchise, Raging Bull, and so many more. That is why for today’s film, I chose to cover the 2007 film Resurrecting The Champ which stars Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight) and Josh Hartnett (Lucky Number Slevin). All Erik Kernan Jr. (Hartnett) has ever wanted to be is a great reporter like his father. The only problem for him is that everything seems to be going in the opposite direction in his life as he’s a beat reporter and his marriage is falling apart. After his editor (Alan Alda) turns down an opportunity, he meets a homeless man that everyone calls Champ. The man claims to be boxing legend Bob Satterfield even though people claim he’s dead. So, he does a piece on the champ that gives him critical acclaim and backlash. The film also stars Kathryn Morris (Cold Case) as Joyce Kernan, Rachel Nichols (Star Trek) as Polly, Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives) as Andrea Flak, Kristen Shaw (The Last Castle) as Perlmutter, Nick Sandow (Orange Is The New Black) as Marciano, David Paymer (Quiz Show) as Whitley, Dakota Goyo (Thor) as Teddy Kernan, and the film was directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender).

champ7xSpoiler Alert: There are going to be details about the movie that could spoil things for you so proceed with caution or do no read any further. I didn’t realize when I chose to watch the film on TV that it was based on a true story. There was such a boxer named Bob Satterfield, but the real name of the homeless man known as champ changed in this film and he also didn’t die (I don’t think anyways, read this article). The film was very interesting to watch because Josh Hartnett’s character really believes that he’s getting his shot, but in reality is about to be made to look like a fool. The moral of the story for future journalists is to do your research before you release an article because retractions can be the death of your career like a boxer with a glass chin. The film contained an awesome performance from Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett’s is right up there with his. Dramas are very dependent on having plenty of dramatic moments within them and this film had plenty of moments that they focused on. It went back and forth with Josh Hartnett whether it was dealing with failing marriage, having his sons approval, and the drama with the newspaper. It’s a very different kind of boxing movie than what we are used to because it’s more of a human piece than a piece about the sport. I enjoyed watching the film and that is why I am going to give the film an B+ for a final grade.

Day 193: Mystery, Alaska (1999)

hqdefault (1)Without looking at a synopsis for a film, I honestly thought when I saw the title Mystery, Alaska that we were going to get a film like Fargo for example. I thought maybe it would be a town with a dark secret, but that is definitely not the case. In Mystery, Alaska, they pride themselves on their ability to play hockey in a town that has sub zero temps almost all year round. One day a former townee (Hank Azaria) returns from New York with news that NHL hockey powers the New York Rangers want to challenge the team to a traditional pond hockey game. The town accepts the challenge with some doubters, but they’ll soon have to realize that there are a lot more internal problems they’ll need to solve before they take on the hockey power. The film stars Russell Crowe (Robin Hood) as John Biebe, Burt Reynolds (Smokey And The Bandit) as Judge Burns, Mary McCormack (Private Parts) as Donna Biebe, Colm Meaney (Con Air) as Mayor Pitcher, Lolita Davidovich (Gods And Monsters) as Mary Jane Pitcher, Maury Chaykin (Entrapment) as Bailey Pruitt, Ron Eldard (Sleepers) as Skank Marden, Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Tree, Scott Grimes (Robin Hood) as Birdie Burns, Rachel Wilson (The Glass House) as Marla Burns, Adam Beach (Flags Of Our Fathers) as Galin Winetka, and the film was directed by Jay Roach (Trumbo).

Kevin-in-Mystery-Alaska-kevin-durand-28478632-853-480This was actually a very good film that has the feel of The Mighty Ducks and the look of every other sports film released in that time frame. It’s the true underdog story of a small Alaskan hockey team that does the impossible by playing a pro team. The thing that is unique about this film is the challenges a lot of the actors face in the film like infidelity, corporate takeover, as well as other social issues. Russell Crowe was great, Burt Reynolds was very good, and just about everybody in the film did a great job. I loved the cinematography in the film especially during the big hockey game. These kinds of ideas make you wonder if a game like this would be possible, but I honestly doubt it. The players union would probably never approve of it in the first place. The idea of a spot uniting a town is not so far fetched as sports is a common thread for people and various towns all over America. One of my favorite things about the film is the cameo from Mike Myers (Shrek) who plays a character that is a parody of hockey commentating legend Don Cherry. That was definitely a highlight for me to see him in this film. I know Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 38% rating, but I really enjoyed the film because it was more than just a hockey film. That is why I have decided to give the film an B+ for a final grade.

Day 59: Cinderella Man (2005)

Cinderella-Man-600x333I am a sucker for sports movies if you couldn’t tell from yesterdays post, but I am also a sucker for true stories. In early to mid-2000’s, Russell Crowe (Gladiator) was the hottest thing going in Hollywood and in 2005 he  would starred in Cinderella Man. Cinderella Man tells the story of the original underdog in boxing in former world heavyweight champion James J. Braddock. In the 1930’s, things were bad in America as the country was still in a depression. For James J. Braddock and his family, things were just as bad. His boxing career was going nowhere and he could barely afford to feed his family. That is until his manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) gets Braddock a second chance at redemption. All he has to do is beat a couple of guys and he gets the shot of a lifetime against heavyweight champ Max Baer (Craig Bierko). The film also stars Renée Zellweger (Empire Records) as Mae Braddock, Paddy Considine (The World’s End) as Mike Wilson, Bruce McGill (Law Abiding Citizen) as Jimmy Johnston, Matthew G. Taylor (Pacific Rim) as Primo Carnera, Rance Howard (Chinatown) as Announcer Al Fazin, Troy Amos-Ross (Resurrecting The Champ) as John Henry Lewis, and the film was directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13).

cinderella_manBesides being a fan of sports movies and/or true stories, I am also a huge fan of Boxing films and this is up there with a lot of them. Boxing has always been one of those sports where an underdog can surprise people (and inspire) and be champion. Cinderella Man is definitely that underdog story and Russell Crowe’s performance in the film is amazing. Of course, he’s not the only one who did an amazing job as Zellweger and Giamatti deserve some kudos as well. The writers did an amazing job making sure you saw how desperate the times were back in the early 1930’s and how resourceful people had to be back then.We haven’t seen a depression like that since then and I hope that we never get to ever. The action in the ring is amazing and a strong point as you see every punch and every bit of blood that is splattered. I love some of the camera shots where it looks as if you are the boxer entering the ring and sometimes it looks as if you are taking the punches and getting dazed. The costume department and hair/makeup deserve some kudos as well making us feel like we are being transported to those times. I love the look and feel of the prohibition/great depression era s far as hairstyles and clothing are concerned. Ron Howard is a true master of cinema and he has proven it to us over the years with the plethora of work. There are so many great boxing films out there, but try this one. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.