My affinity for movies began at an early age and it did not evolve on its own. From as long as I can remember, watching movies was the family pastime. We went to the park, beach, mall and other typical family outings but when the sun set there was a movie in the VHS player. What I’ll always respect my parents for is that they did not pander to their children’s desires when picking movies. I watched all the kid’s classics too like The Lion King, The Sandlot, Home Alone 1&2 and The Mighty Ducks. But all these were intermingled with other classics such as Blood Sport, Lion Heart, Hard to Kill, Universal Soldier, The Eraser and Under Siege 1&2 (starring a young Katherine Heigl.) My favorite set of movies seen before the age of 10 had to be The Mighty Ducks franchise and the John Woo banger starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, Face Off. For everyone who critiques the works of art by thespians such as Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, early Travolta and Cage go back in time and watch their movies before you turn 10. Loyalties run deep when you’re too young to question plot holes or acting in general for that matter.
When you’re a kid, of course Cage and Travolta have to switch faces to locate the bomb that threatens L.A. While then dealing with the repercussions of the terrorist taking over the life of the FBI agent. Seriously, how did Face Off not get an Oscar nod in 1997? I knew third grade was marred in controversy. Times are different now and my taste for movies has expanded since the days of 90’s children and action cinema. I enjoy movies more than ever because at 24, I tend to understand what kind of movies I enjoy and which I detest. I have been labeled a harsh critic by loved ones because I rip movies like Avatar and Zero Dark Thirty. I love Jessica Chastain but ZDT is her getting worked up, then some waterboarding, terrorist attacks sprinkled in with no clear connection to her investigation, and bam a decade later Bin Laden gets got. Ring in the Oscars. As far as Avatar, call me old fashioned for siding with the humans just because I didn’t want to buy in to Cameron’s metaphor of blue aliens and Native Americans. I understand the horrors of genocide through conquest that occurred in America. But does it do any good to make another terrible movie symbolizing it, on top of all that despair. At least it looked pretty I guess. There is one facet of movies that I’m much more universally receptive of and that is the trailers. There were several trailers that looked impressive but I’ll focus on one that grabbed my attention.
As far as actors who immerse themselves in a character and physically transform themselves into it, Jake Gyllenhaal is the elite standard. I was disturbed and engrossed with his performance in Nightcrawler and was surprised it was snubbed in the award season. In Southpaw Gyllenhaal displays another drastic physical transformation as fictional boxing Middleweight Champion Billy Hope. The trailer opens with Gyllenhaal narrating about family and then like the immense force that she is, Rachel McAdams steals the screen. It doesn’t take a True Detective or a Notebook to let me know that McAdams is officially back America. McAdams plays Maureen Hope and she’s concerned for her husband Billy due to the many punches he blocks with his face. Billy is on top but his temper gets the best of him when his boxing nemesis tells his wife “you’ve never been with a real man.” Gyllenhaal head butts the guy and the hotel lobby they’re in erupts into pandemonium. A gun is drawn by someone and of course the lone bullet fired hits McAdams. 47 seconds into the trailer and I lost a big reason I was excited about this movie. The tone of the preview shifts and the downward spiral of Billy Hope became clear. The once champion boxer is out of money, battling addiction, and losing his daughter to the state for being unfit to parent. The actress who plays his young daughter looked strong dramatically sparring with Gyllenhaal.
The plot is based on Eminem’s life just instead of hip-hop success it’s boxing triumph and failure. Originally Marshall Mathers was going to star but ultimately he was too busy and Gyllenhaal filled in. Hip-hop did show out with Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent playing Hope’s manager. In search for redemption Hope seeks a new gym to train in and the character of Forest Whitaker to train him. I just saw The Last King of Scotland last weekend so I’m all in with Whitaker. I can forgive his recent forgettable roles up to the recent Taken installment. Musician Rita Ora is in a brief moment in the preview and seems to play an addict in the film. Antoine Fuqua the man responsible for Training Day, a movie dear to my heart directs this movie. He definitely also has duds such as Brooklyn’s Finest and The Equalizer which the preview mistakenly mentioned. Fuqua did direct a couple honorable mentions of mine in Tears of the Sun and King Arthur back when Clive Owen was relevant.
Will Southpaw be critically acclaimed? Probably not, but boxing movies in general get academy love. I’ve seen a lot more boxing movies than actual matches. Russell Crowe as Jim Braddock inspired me in Cinderella Man and I’ve been fighting for “milk” ever since. Will Smith and Jon Voight both won academy awards for performances in Ali. Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci and five other people acting or involved with Raging Bull won academy awards. Christian Bale might have actually smoked crack for his academy award as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter. I think I just talked myself into believing Southpaw is a certain academy favorite. 50 Cent will win a statue for best supporting role or die trying. I’m a believer in Southpaw and even though I don’t know what accent Gyllenhaal is going for in the trailer, I’m all in. I’m guessing the soundtrack to this movie will be fire as well. There’s eternal promise in a successful trailer and we’ll find out on July 25 if this movie is a hit. There were many trailers I was excited about and will write about a few of them next week.