I love this MMA flight clip. You have to see it to believe it!
Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: After his wife (Rachel McAdams) is tragically killed and he spirals out of control, undefeated light heavyweight champion Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) lands himself in trouble with the boxing league, losing his house, his possessions, and most importantly, custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). Desperate to keep her out of the foster care system where he spent his childhood, Billy seeks help from a gruff, veteran trainer (Forest Whitaker) to get back what he lost.
WHY: Throughout the years, boxing movies have been synonymous with tales of redemption, and Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw” is no different. But for as clichéd and heavy-handed as the film can be at times, the movie avoids dragging itself too far into melodrama thanks to some excellent performances and a solid screenplay by Kurt Sutter that is as brutal and emotionally charged as you’d expect from the “Sons of Anarchy” creator. Though Sutter originally wrote the lead role for Eminem, Jake Gyllenhaal brings a physicality and intensity to the character that’s beyond the rapper’s abilities. It’s a much more complex role than it appears on the surface, and Gyllenhaal knocks it out of the park. In fact, while “Nightcrawler” features the better performance, “Southpaw” is perhaps his most impressive piece of acting to date, if only because he’s managed to take a fairly standard underdog drama and elevate it on the strength of his shoulders alone. The film isn’t on the same level as the boxing greats, but with Gyllenhaal’s knockout performance front and center, it’s a lot more enjoyable than it probably had any right to be.
EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, a Q&A with the cast, footage of Jake Gyllenhaal’s training regimen for the film and some deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: In 1982, NASA sent a time capsule into space in the hopes of contacting other life forms, but after an alien race misinterprets the message as a declaration of war, they attack Earth in the form of retro video game characters. When the military proves useless, U.S. President William Cooper (Kevin James) enlists the help of best friend Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), along with fellow video game prodigies Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) and Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage), to save the planet from certain extinction.
WHY: Though it may seem like critics are being overly hard on “Pixels” simply because Adam Sandler is in the movie, it really is a bad film. The premise itself is cool, and director Chris Columbus taps into some of that potential with fun set pieces that look great and play with the mechanics of classic games like Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong, but unfortunately, the screenplay is a mess. It’s no better than the typical Sandler comedy (in fact, frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy is one of the co-writers), fueled by lazy and juvenile humor that falls flat more often than not. The casting of Kevin James as the president isn’t just ridiculous, but downright insulting, while the Q*Bert character shows that Hollywood never learned its lesson from Jar-Jar Binks. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better – Sandler does his usual man-child shtick and Josh Gad is wasted as his conspiracy theorist friend – but Peter Dinklage’s over-the-top performance as the Billy Mitchell-esque gamer is just silly enough to ensure that “Pixels” isn’t a complete disappointment. Still, an idea this good deserved something better.
EXTRAS: There are four featurettes on filming the movie’s video game-inspired set pieces, a look at Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani’s cameo and more.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
Throughout the years, boxing movies have been synonymous with tales of redemption – from “Rocky,” to “Raging Bull,” to “The Fighter” – and Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw” is no different. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything in the story that hasn’t already appeared countless times before in other boxing films, but despite the clichéd plot, the movie isn’t without its charms. At the top of that list is star Jake Gyllenhaal, who continues his remarkable career reinvention from pretty-boy leading man to serious actor with yet another fantastic performance. It likely won’t earn him the Oscar nomination he was wrongfully snubbed for last year’s “Nightcrawler,” but it builds upon that transformative role with such mature confidence that it only seems like a matter of time before he’s finally rewarded for his work.
The movie opens with undefeated light heavyweight champion Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal) successfully defending his title at Madison Square Garden and cementing his status as one of the best boxers in the sport. Everyone wants their chance to go toe-to-toe with him in the ring, including hotshot fighter Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), but Billy’s levelheaded wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), urges him to make the sensible decision and call it quits while he’s still on top… and before he becomes so punch drunk that he can’t enjoy his success. When Miguel instigates a fight with him at a charity fundraiser and Maureen is shot and killed among the chaos, Billy spirals out of control, landing himself in trouble with the boxing league and losing his house, his possessions, and most importantly, custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). Desperate to keep her out of the foster care system where he spent his childhood, Billy seeks help from a gruff, veteran trainer (Forest Whitaker) to get back what he lost.
The 2015 Copa America kicked off in Chile on 11th June and while there is still plenty of time before the final on 4th July, we can safely say that this could prove to be one of the most exciting tournaments on South American soil in recent years. With the likes of Brazil and Argentina hoping to make amends for missing out on the 2014 World Cup trophy and hosts Chile and star-studded Colombia desperate to prove they can mix it up with the best of them, we are in for a couple of eventful weeks.
Pinot Bianco (or Pinot Blanc) is one of those grapes that falls through the cracks for the vast majority of wine lovers. That’s a real shame, because when it’s grown in a region favorable to its characteristics and treated well it can produce distinct, lovely wines that are a tremendous match for appropriate foods. One of the regions that can and does produce its fair share of excellent Pinot Bianco is Italy’s Alto Adige. This Northern Italian region has the climate and soils that allow this grape to prosper. I recently tasted through some current releases and found three that really spoke volumes to me. So put aside those bottles of Chardonnay (at least for a moment) and dig into an alternative white!
Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro “Vial” I 2012 Pinot Bianco – This offering is 100 percent Pinot Bianco. The fruit was sourced from a vineyard that sits at the base of the Mendel Mountains. Fermentation took place over an extended period of time in a temperature-controlled environment. Five months of aging on the lees followed, prior to filtration and bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $13. Ebullient White flower aromas leap from the nose here; gentle wisps of linseed oil offer a lovely counterpoint. Anjou and Bartlett pear flavors fill the appealing palate, along with fleshy, yellow melon characteristics. A mélange of orange, tangerine, minerals, ruby grapefruit and toasted walnut round out the above-average finish, which is also crisp, refreshing and studded with racy acid.
Castel Sallegg “Prey” 2013 Pinot Bianco – The grapes for this wine were sourced at a site that sits 550 meters above sea level. It’s 100 percent Pinot Bianco and comprised of numerous clones. Fermentation occurred in a cool, temperature-controlled environment. It has a suggested retail price of $13. White peach aromas are followed by morsels of fresh flowers on the nose. A strong Granny Smith apple flavor runs through the core of this wine, joined by papaya along with white pepper. A hint of mesquite honey marks the solid finish. This wine would excel paired with roasted pork loin and a side of apple compote.
Cantina Terlano 2011 “Vorberg” Riserva Pinot Bianco – The fruit for this wine was sourced from a vineyard sitting between 350 and 900 meters above sea level. 1993 was the first year this particular wine was produced. It has a suggested retail price of $23. Golden Delicious apple aromas practically explode from the nose of this Riserva. Ripe yellow melon, apple, pear, bits of tropical fruit and a dollop of spices are each part of a palate that is dense, layered and generous in its wide ranging flavors and overall depth. Crème Fraiche, wet limestone, and pepper spice are all part of the finish, which is memorably long, persistent and mineral driven. This wine can be enjoyed now but it will easily age well for the next decade. If you’re looking for proof that Pinot Bianco can produce knockout wines with longevity, here’s the only exhibit you’ll have to enter into evidence.
Winter is here and everyone is drinking lots of reds; I know I am too. But sometimes you need a break from those to enjoy something different, and these three Pinot Biancos provide just that. They’re delicious and pair well with a variety of lighter foods; serve them to your guests with an opening cheese course or a beet salad as a couple of options. Instead of sparkling wine with brunch, these wines would be fantastic alternatives — each one would absolutely kill with Eggs Florentine. If you haven’t had Pinot Bianco before, what are you waiting for? You can’t drink Chardonnay every day. If you’re already a fan, add these three to your to drink list. You certainly won’t be disappointed and you may find a new favorite to share with friends. And ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about?