Movie Review: “Southpaw”

Starring
Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent, Oona Laurence, Naomie Harris
Director
Antoine Fuqua

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.

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Movie Review: “Aloha”

Starring
Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, Danny McBride
Director
Cameron Crowe

Thus far, optimism has reigned supreme in this summer of moviegoing. “Mad Max: Fury Road” was about finding hope and redemption in a wasteland, “Tomorrowland” championed positivity, and now the king of sincerity himself, Cameron Crowe, has given us “Aloha.” The director’s latest effort is a Cameron Crowe film through and through – a heartfelt, funny and honest, albeit a little messy, romantic comedy.

Like most of Crowe’s protagonists, Brian Gilchrist (Bradley Cooper) isn’t the man he once was, a washed-up defense contractor looking for a comeback. His boss, famed billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), is planning on launching a satellite out of Hawaii, and it’s Brian’s job to make sure the launch goes according to plan. Professionally and personally, the cynical Brian runs into more problems than he expected. For starters, his ex-girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) is now married to John ‘Woody’ Woodside (John Krasinski) and has two kids. Old feelings for Tracy arise when Gilchrist reunites with her, in addition to new ones for his babysitter/partner, Allison Ng (Emma Stone), an ambitious pilot who sees Brian for the man he used to be and the man he could become.

There’s actually more to “Aloha” than that plot description. There are a lot of moving pieces in Crowe’s script, and it takes time for them to become a cohesive unit. The details of Brian’s mission are a tad hazy at first, and his relationship with Allison is initially rushed, as she falls for him a little too quickly. But by the time the second act rolls around, Crowe and the cast are mostly smooth sailing.

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Movie Review: “About Time”

Starring
Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan
Director
Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis has written (and directed, in the case of “Love Actually”) some of the best romantic comedies of the past two decades, so it should come as no surprise that his latest movie follows in the same footsteps. Though Curtis has recently announced that “About Time” will likely be his final film as a director, the movie represents everything that’s great about the kind of romantic comedies Curtis excels at making. That’s because unlike most of the garbage in the genre, his films are about much more than just the superficial meet-cute between boy and girl, aiming for something a lot deeper and more emotionally rewarding, which he delivers in spades with the excellent “About Time.”

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) has just turned 21, and the day after his family’s customary New Year’s Eve party, his father (Bill Nighy) lets him in on a secret: the men on his side of the family have the ability to travel through time. All he needs to do is go somewhere dark (like a closet or bathroom), clench his fists, and think of the time and place he wants to go back to. There are some caveats to Tim’s newfound powers, but the most important one is that he can only change events in his own life, so he decides to use them to find a girlfriend. It’s hardly the most inspiring use of such an incredible gift, but after moving to London to work as a lawyer, Tim meets the girl of his dreams in American import Mary (Rachel McAdams). He’s able to perfect every moment in their relationship by doing it over and over again “Groundhog Day”-style, but Tim eventually discovers that there are consequences to altering history.

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