The Weinstein Company
Rated R for violence and pervasive profanity
Ex-Champ Mounts Comeback In Bittersweet Boxing Tale Of Redemption
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) surmounted incredible odds en route to becoming the World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champ. After all, his prospects weren’t exactly brilliant, given how he’d been abandoned by his mother at birth.
But he was lucky enough to meet Maureen (Rachel McAdams) while they were being raised in an orphanage in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. For, the two would not only fall madly in love but she would serve as the rock who kept his nose clean after a couple of brief stints behind bars.
As Billy worked his way up the boxing ranks, the childhood sweethearts married and had a daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). And Maureen repeatedly inspired her husband to climb into the ring to channel his aggression positively, rather than entertain any ideas of blowing off steam in self-destructive fashion.
By the time his record reached 43-0, Billy and family were living beyond their means in a gaudy McMansion where they conspicuously consumed the trappings of the nouveau riche: the flashy cars, the gaudy bling, the expensive champagne, and so forth. However, between his parasitic entourage and a shady money manager, Jordan Mains (50 Cent), it was also readily apparent that he’d have to keep winning bouts to maintain the decadent lifestyle.
Sure enough, in the wake of a terrible personal tragedy, Billy did lose the title belt and, faster than a Don King haircut, found himself broke and back on the rough streets he’d worked so hard to escape. Abandoned by his hangers-on and by his fair-weather manager for the #1 contender (Miguel Gomez), he ends up at a gym in Harlem run by Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), an irascible trainer reminiscent of the character played by Burgess Meredith in Rocky. The salty veteran on the verge of retirement reluctantly agrees to take on the reclamation project on the condition that the brawler’s willing to add a little finesse to his pugilistic repertoire.
- Scott Fitzgerald famously once uttered, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Well, he obviously never met Billy Hope who endeavors to make the most of a shot at redemption in Southpaw.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film features yet another nonpareil performance by Jake Gyllenhaal who deserved Academy Award nominations for both Nightcrawler (2014) and Prisoners (2013). He is again nothing short of mesmerizing, here, as a desperate, deposed, disgraced champ on an appointed mission to reclaim his throne and his fortune.
Gyllenhaal floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee in an Oscar-quality tour de force!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 123 minutes
The Film Collaborative
Eco-Documentary Chronicles Genius’ Effort To Solve The World’s Water Shortage Crisis
Dean Kamen is a genius inventor from the R. Buckminster Fuller school of design science, meaning his mission in life is less to maximize profits than to create gadgets to alleviate the quality of life of the least of his brethren. Until now, he is probably best known as the creator of the Segway, the self-balancing two-wheeler which was supposed to supersede both the car and the bicycle in mass popularity.
Dean’s new gizmo is the SlingShot, a water purification system he hopes will afford all of humanity access to potable drinking water. The machine is basically a vapor compression distiller capable of extracting pure H2O from everything from urine to sludge to seawater.
Thus, it should come in handy to billions all across the planet, since approximately 50% of illness comes as consequence of consumption of water borne pathogens. The only reason Dean hasn’t already delivered his lifesaving device to those in need is because of interference on the part of foot-dragging politicians and multinational corporations solely concerned with their bottom line.
Perhaps this optimistic documentary will inspire a grassroots effort on behalf of the miraculous godsend. Directed by Paul Lazarus, SlingShot divides its time between making infomercial-style sales pitches and weaving a reverential biopic. But whether focusing on Dean’s eccentricities or on his latest pet project, the picture proves pretty fascinating from beginning to end.
A compelling character study of a likable do-gooder whose only regret is that he has but one life to devote to his fellow man.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 88 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening July 24, 2015
Paper Towns (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, underage drinking and partial nudity) Adaptation of John Green’s young adult novel, set in Orlando, about a teenager (Nat Wolff) who enlists the help of his friends to solve the mysterious disappearance of the next door neighbor (Cara Delevingne) he has a crush on. Cast includes Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Jaz Sinclair and Justice Smith.
Pixels (PG-13 for profanity and suggestive content) Sci-fi comedy revolving around a trio of retro-gamers (Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad) recruited by the President of the United States (Kevin James) to save the day when the planet is attacked by aliens who fight like the monsters in classic arcade games like Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. With Michelle Monaghan, Jane Krakowski, Dan Aykroyd and Affion Crockett.
Capital C (Unrated) Crowdfunding documentary exploring the benefits and pitfalls of financing an entrepreneurial enterprise by pitching a plethora of potential investors via social networking.
Five Star (Unrated) Gangsta’ saga, set in Brooklyn, inspired by the real life story of a member of the Bloods (James Grant) who decided to adopt the son (John Diaz) of his murdered mentor. With Wanda Nobles Colon, Jasmine Burgos, Larry Bogad and Richard Bird.
A Gay Girl In Damascus (Unrated) LBGT-themed documentary exposing an Arab blogger who falsely claimed to be kidnapped and persecuted by Syrian authorities for being a lesbian. (In English, French and Arabic with subtitles)
Lucky Stiff (Unrated) Adaptation of the Off-Broadway musical comedy revolving around a bachelor (Dominic Marsh) who ventures to Monte Carlo to claim an $8 million inheritance from the recently-deceased, rich uncle (Don Amendolia) he never knew he had. With Jason Alexander, Dennis Farina and Pamela Shaw.
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the life and times of the legendary vaudeville icon (1887-1966) who wowed audiences from the turn of the 20th century through the mid-’60s. Featuring commentary by Barbara Walters, Tony Bennett and Carol Channing.
Phoenix (PG-13 for mature themes and suggestive material) Post-World War II saga, set in Berlin, about a disfigured, concentration camp survivor’s (Nina Hoss) search for the husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who had turned her over to the Nazis. With Kirsten Block, Uwe Preuss, Imogen Kogge and Nina Kunzendorf. (In German and English with subtitles)
Runoff (R for drug use) Rural tale of survival about a desperate woman (Joanne Kelly) who will to stop at nothing to keep a failing, family farm threatened with foreclosure afloat after her husband (Neal Huff) falls ill. With Rashel Bestard, Tom Bower and Drew Cash.
Samba (R for profanity) Omar Sy stars as the title character in this romantic dramedy, set in Paris, as an undocumented immigrant who falls in love with the advocate (Charlotte Gainsbourg) fighting his impending deportation back to Senegal. With Tahar Rahim, Izia Higelin and Youngar Fall. (In French, English, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian and Arabic with subtitles)
Unexpected (R for profanity) Baby-mama dramedy, set in Chicago, about a pregnant high school teacher (Cobie Smolders) who forges an unlikely friendship with a student (Gail Bean) who is also expecting. Cast includes Anders Holm, Elizabeth McGovern and Robyn Coffin.
The Vatican Tapes (PG-13 for disturbing violence and sexual references) Fact-based horror flick inspired by a real-life tale of demonic possession where a Catholic priest (Michael Pena) was summoned to exorcise a 27-year-old woman (Olivia Dudley) wrestling with a satanic force. Featuring Djimon Hounsou, Dougray Scott and Kathleen Robertson.