Friday, August 7, 2015

Southpaw-A touching, satisfying (and for me unexpected) story

From Ranging Bull and Rocky to more recent Cinderella Man and The Fighter boxing movies have always pulled on the heartstrings of movie audiences (and Oscar voters). Me on the other hand prefer baseball or even golf flicks, and really aren’t ALL sports movies the same (A man or woman trying to prove his/her worth to self, loved ones and the sport). Then an actor I admire made a film in which he plays a boxer and being the person I am I had to see it.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and Written by Kurt Sutter Southpaw is that film. The wonderful, amazing and not bad to look at Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope a successful boxer, whose name comes with its own catchphrases and is on top of his game until tragically hits his small close nit family. Now Billy must find a way to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move on with his life.

At the center of Southpaw is a story about the love and devotion between a father and his young daughter but there is a little bit more. There is love between a husband and wife, anger of a young girl who cares so much for her dad and just wants him in her life and frustration for that dad who doesn’t know how to cope and what to do next. While watching this film I didn’t expect to feel so much emotion for these characters (I was surprised when I cried). Newcomer (from broadways Mitilda) Oona Laurence plays Leila Billy’s daughter who just wants to support him during his fights. The scenes (one in particular where she is becomes so mad at him that things get physical) between Laurence and Gyllenhaal are so genuine and beautiful they put you right into the middle of the story. As for Gyllenhaal himself, well you know you are watching a good performance when the actor seems to disappear and all you can see and care about is the character (Seeing Billy still in pain from head to toe the morning after a fight helped me understand what these guys go through for their career).

In fact every scene felt raw and real. While watching the first fight scene I got a little dizzy and realized why I’m not a boxing fan. By the time the final fight came along it was as if I was watching a horror movie as I hid my eyes and watched through my fingers, there is a P.O.V shot from Billy that had me ducking (with him) behind the seat in front of me. Then there is there music, I’m sure each hip-hop song was chosen particular for the scene it accompany ( I admit I got into the rhythm of the music) and although it’s hard to hear (because the viewer rarely does and I will pay closer attention next time) I’m sure the late James Horner’s music made the film better.

The film also stars Forest Whitaker as Tick Wills a former boxing trainer turned local gym owner, Rachel McAdams as Maureen Billy’s longtime supportive wife, 50 Cent as Jordan Mains Billy’s boxing promoter and Miguel Gomez as Miguel Escobar a boxer as good as Billy. All are great and make the film the perfect piece of art that it is.

 I wasn’t expecting to like the movie but do to the director, cast and crew’s credit I really enjoyed each second of every frame, although I don’t think I will be watching another boxing film anytime soon (I’ve seen enough bloody faces) unless of course Jake Gyllenhaal makes a sequel to Southpaw.





Thursday, August 6, 2015

My love affair with Jon Stewart (as host of The Daily Show)

I became a fan of Mr. Stewart during his short lived 90s MTV talk show called...The Jon Stewart Show. In 1999 when he became host of The Daily Show, I had just started college and was a long way from home and needed some cheering up. A year later the nation knew who to turn to at our time of crisis, thus Indecision 2000 was born. Since then the show helped us get through a lot, including the most stressful times of our modern history known as The Bush Years. We laughed, we cried, we got to learn a lot about Jon like who his friends are, his gremaphobia, how he hates it when someone eats pizza with a fork and knife and loved his many bad impressions. I don't think I would have made it through without him. As a student I even saw his live act when he came to perform at SUNY Fredonia and opened his act by asking “Where the hell am I” while smoking (afterwards I added make Jon Stewart laugh to my list of goals in life) .

On a personal note…
The year was 2002 when I made the trip to NYC to see a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was my second time in the big apple and first (and only time) to watch “live” a show I had watched every day since its premiere and I was so excited. You see it took me (someone who hates talking on the phone) a couple of tries before I was able to get a date on which I could actually attend and how I convinced my sister to come with/take me I’ll never know but when we got off the train and were surrounded by tall buildings I knew I wouldn’t want to leave.

We didn’t have to be at the studio until 5pm so we had the day to walk around and had a quick bit to eat in a nearby park before we had to get in line. It was hot for late June so standing in a line of people for an hour before the show started was not easy even when an ice cream truck stopped by. When we finally entered the studio I remember thinking how small it looked compared to on TV but the closer the production team lead us to our seats the happier I got, there was Jon’s desk and the purple couch for his guest. I’m not sure how long we waited but when the warm up guy was over there was the man himself. There was a quick Q&A with him and I don’t remember any questions but wish I could have come up with a good one at the time. When the 1st segment started so did the laughter and I didn’t stop till the closing credits (I swear there are times during the episode you can hear me laugh and during the credits there is a quick shot of the audience and I’m sure that’s me and my sister sitting along the railing) Although it was a rare episode without a correspondent we did get to see Paul Sorvino as he was promoting the Hey Arnold! Movie. When it was over I walked as slowly as I could out of the studio taking it all in and wanting to remember every minute.
It was the best day of my life so far (only one life event could be better and when it happens I’ll tell you about it)

Every segment of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was a joy to watch from Produce Pete with Steve Carell, Even Stepvhens, Out at the Movies, Dollars and Cents, Back in Black with Lewis Black or a conversation with any of the correspondent from all over the world (mostly by green screen) or talking about Women’s issues with Kristen Schaal, African American issues with Larry Wilmore or British issues with John Oliver. In the end whether he was interviewing comedian friends or The President he always knew how to act, what questions to ask and read every book he was given. The show won’t be the same without Jon Stewart and it shouldn’t be but I will still watch. Good Night and Good Luck to him as he moves into farm life and with whatever he does next

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I started writing...

                                        So I don't have to talk

           Unlike my sister and father I was never much of a reader or writer growing up or during my high school years but then college came along and being someone who doesn't talk (if I had a dollar for every time someone said I should talk more I would be richer then Bill Gates) and is uncomfortable around a group of people I needed something to do to take away the loneliness and homesickness. I wasn’t able to study the subject I wanted to so I did what I have always done, watched and listened to everything and everyone around me. Taking from real life experiences, like when a friend at the time walked into the cafeteria and said “The soda machine wouldn’t take a $20” when dinner was done I went back to my room and wrote it down knowing that I would use it in a story (Never tell an invisible person your life story because they will use it as part of their fiction). I still had (have) a dream of being a Hollywood director so the first thing I wrote was a screenplay about two high school friends meeting years after they graduated and that line is in it. It took two schools, five years and about 20 roommates for me to graduate, when I did I couldn’t find a job but I kept writing. It wasn’t until I got a letter to the editor of a national magazine published in 2009 when I started calling myself a writer.
         Today I am still jobless and although I haven’t published anything since and have yet to make any money as a writer, heck only a couple of friends have read anything I’ve written, I write as much as I can. I have new ideas all the time and spent many a sleepless nights trying to place them on paper. It’s those sleepless nights that remind me that there is nothing else I want to do. I read about friends on Facebook and their daily lives and when they complain about their jobs (even the ones who have a career in what they majored in) I want to tell them that is why I can’t work in an office or do what you do. I’m not like them and well I may at times envy them I don’t want to be them.
        So for now I write for myself and my sanity. Whether it’s a screenplay, TV pilot, play, short story, poem, graphic novel, song, blog as a film/TV critic, eulogy for pet or flash fiction right here I have written it or have idea on paper as an outline. When it comes down to the reason why I write well no matter what mood I am in Glad, Mad or Sad writing makes me feel better. Finally as a senior I wrote in my high school yearbook-Years from now…Living in California acting and directing movies- I can’t act but today and everyday I still believe that making movies will happen for me even if I have to write the words for the actors to say myself.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Quick thoughts-Great Performances on PBS-Driving Miss Daisy

Since I can't get to Braodway I have come to really like to be able to watch some shows on this PBS series (and doing so have become a fan of opera).Last night I watched this and what I liked best was how the three actors (two of who are in their eighties) actually aged right before our eyes. I know this may sound strange but as the dates changed so did each person, the way they moved and talked it was fascinating to watch. Although the wasn't much of a stage crew or set its amazing how adding a steering wheel to a chair and a bench have you believing the actors are in a real car. Bravo to Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and all involved on a wonderful show. If you check PBS Online or your local PBS listings you might catch it

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Feast-best animated short oscar winner

I finally got to watch Feast a 6 minute film about a dog who loves people food. I watched it twice and can't stop thinking about it. It's old-fashioned 2d Disney animation but each minute is a hoot to watch. Any one who has a dog can truly relate to this story, like when a baby enters the picture my mom knew what would happen next. This short film is a delicious Feast for the eyes and heart of the viewer.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

On this day...

239 years ago the Continental Congress voted for independence.

152 years ago Col. Joshua L Chamberlain and The 20th Maine (with others) defended Little Round Top at Gettysburg

And 20 years ago (2 weeks after it opened) I saw my first superhero movie, as much as I am looking forward to seeing Ant-Man but it would be nice if Hollywood made more original movies. For example I (and maybe others) took a few notes on the Northern NY three week prison break-saws in ground meat, staying in unused cabins and a last ditch effort to run to Canada-sounds like a summer blockbuster to me and let’s not forget a conservative yet last week liberal leaning SCOTUS is better than anything Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes (two people I look up to) could come up with, although Will McAvoy and President Fitzgerald Grant come close.

 How many people do you know have a 20 year old movie ticket stub (and 100 more since)

Side note…


Let me start by confessing that I am in my mid 30s and have been obsessed with TV since I was a kid. We had no iPads to help pass the time in the car. So when my sister or I asked how much longer till we get to grandma’s house my parents would answer “three Fraggle Rock(s)” for 1½ hours.
I’ve been reading TVWW every day for almost as long as you’ve been around. During the Fall TV season my dvr is busy keeping me on track as I watch 40 hours a week (it’s a lot but I have to watch cable if I want to keep it)
TVWW has been a big help and-while at times I disagree-I take your suggestions (and Best Bets) to heart and give every series a chance. I tell whoever will listen about shows I discover and even started my own blog (don’t worry TVWW still has way more readers).
TV is my life and, from the TV Upfronts, to the stories behind series, to dissecting the good, bad and in-between, David Bianculli and everyone who writes for TVWW are a main source for my daily viewing

Jun 22, 2015   |  Reply

David Bianculli—TV critic

Dear Sarah -- Obviously, you're a kindred spirit. Very funny about "Fraggle Rock" -- my daughter, in her early 30s, definitely could relate. And 40 fours a week of TV viewing may sound like a lot -- but we here at TVWW clock in even more, because we have to KEEP watching the bad stuff. The pilot episodes, anyway. So consider yourself fortunate, and never feel guilty about your viewing hours, if it's good stuff you're watching. So glad to have you around...

Well at least one person listens to and understands me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A quick take on Tomorrowland the movie

Ok I have read mixed reviews on Tomorrowland some seemed to really enjoy this marketed as a teen who discovers a wonderful future world, to tweens and teens movie, others not so much. You can add me to the like column.

Yes the film feels too long and is slow at times and some of the special effects seem to be from Walt Disney’s time instead of today but I need to give high praise to the acting, especially by the two young girls Athena played by Raffey Cassidy and Casey played by Britt Robertson.        What a concept kids acting like kids who want to and can help for a better future. George Clooney and Hugh Laurie also star.

The TV ads may have shown little and been a bit deceiving (I would had liked to have seen/spent more time in Tomorrowland) but better then giving away the end in the first scene of the trailer.

In the end Writer and Director Brad Bird and Producer Damon Lindelof shared a positive and inspiring message to the audience (seriously not all sci-fi movies/TV shows have to have a dystopian future full of fear and hate) and if I was worthy enough to be given a pin that transported me to Tomorrowland I would jump at the opportunity!