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Southpaw (2015)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rating: 6/10
Despite Jake Gyllenhaal's amazing and committed performance, "Southpaw" can't seem to find its footing even in a cliched narrative. Billy "The Great" Hope(Jake Gyllenhaal) is on top of the world, dominating the boxing world with an undefeated record. He has a loyal wife(Rachel McAdams) and a daughter(Oona Laurence) whom he both loves. When Billy unexpectedly loses everything, he must start back on the bottom with his new trainer(Forest Whitaker) and work his way up back to the top. Jake Gyllenhaal kills it in this movie. Along with his physical appearance, his performance really showed off the range his character needed. The emotional battle as well as the inner will to fight was riveting. Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker were both really good here also, but Oona Laurence as the daughter stole the show. Her emotional state towards her dad was heartbreaking, and it really poked a hole in my heart. Antoine Fuqua's direction is crisp, with really well choreographed boxing fights and fluid camera movement. Where the film suffered for me unfortunately was its screenplay. The storytelling is very chopping, so every procedure in the plot felt more abrupt than smooth. I expected the story to be cliched but it's script was really lacking and I didn't always feel a resonance with certain characters. I love the formula and I love watching filmmakers embrace it. While I found myself enjoying "Southpaw" with its interesting characters led by great performances and even feeling emotionally touched, I couldn't shake off the hollowness I felt once it ended.
#Southpaw #AntoineFuqua #JakeGyllenhaal #RachelMcAdams #OonaLaurence #50Cent #ForestWhitaker

War of the Worlds (2005)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rating: 7/10
Despite "War of the Worlds" being one of Spielberg's weaker films, there is still a level of awe and amazement that is unfortunately overshadowed by some really strange and even dumb parts. The film stars Tom Cruise as Ray, a divorced father living in New York who is asked by his ex-wife to care for his two kids, his 10-year-old daughter Rachel(Dakota Fanning), and his teenage son Robbie(Justin Chatwin). When extraterrestrial creatures begin to invade earth, Ray must protect his kids and navigate them through all the chaos in order to deliver them safely back to their mother in Boston. Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning give the best performances in the movie. Cruise as always is very likable, but I was surprised with Dakota Fanning's performance. She was never obnoxious or annoying, which child actors in these kinds of movies tend to be. But she also had a really good bond with Cruise and I really liked her. Justin Chatwin I found unfortunately kind of dull. He wasn't all that bad but I felt like another actor could've done a better job. The first act of this film is intense and thrilling, with a pretty effective setup of the family. Once the attack begins I was on the edge. The sound design and visuals were brilliant, and it really felt like you were in the moment. There's a really impressive scene involving a van that was down in one take. There was also an amazing set-piece involving a plane that had my mouth drop. I loved the first hour of the movie, with Cruise and Fanning having a really good bond together. Justin Chatwin felt kind of dull to me, and while he wasn't bad he felt off. The film slowly started to plummet once the third act begins. Robbie basically is out of the picture in a scene so stupid I wanted to punch someone, and then they meet this guy played by Tim Robbins. I love me some Tim Robbins but I didn't get his character and he felt out of left field. There is however a great scene in his basement that created tension masterfully. And then the ending, which was also dumb and stupid and really unnecessary and I didn't understand why. (CONTINUED IN COMMENTS)

Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Director: Michael Davis
Rating: 8/10
If nonstop, insane, absurd, silly, and ridiculously awesome action is your thing, "Shoot 'Em Up" will more than likely be your kind of movie. The film opens with a man, who goes by Mr. Smith(Clive Owen), sitting on a bench waiting for a bus. He sees a pregnant woman running away from some bad guys, so Mr. Smith decides to help her out. As he gets into a shoot out, he delivers the baby from the away amidst the gunfire. With no knowledge of anything involving this baby, he must protect the baby along with a woman named D.Q.(Monica Bellucci), as they both try to unravel the importance of the baby. From the beginning, it's a frantic and hectic movie. The characters feel rushed because the story is constantly moving and enclosing on the characters. Clive Owen is great as this mysterious man. He was slick, cool, and was really likable. Who really steals the show is Paul Giamatti as the villain, who gives an amazing over the top and awesome performance, in which every line he said was pure gold. His motivation was really compelling and I bought it. The action scenes are exceptionally well done, and despite the fact they can get incredibly silly, it's handled with such care and effort that you really feel the pressure the characters feel. To explain how absurd the action gets, someone gets impaled by a vegetable. The comedy is also well done. There's a great running gag where Mr. Smith eats a carrot, as well as a really funny scene involving a diversion. The film is absurd, but there was never a moment that the film was supposed to be just dumb fun. The setup is interesting, and its dramatic presence and storyline was actually interesting to even out the action scenes. There was one CGI sequence that took me out of the movie for a second, but in the end this movie is plain fun. The characters are enjoyable and the action is over the top. Now go eat your vegetables.
#Shootemup #MichaelDavis #CliveOwen #PaulGiamatti #MonicaBellucci

World's Greatest Dad (2009)
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Rating: 6.5/10
Despite its clever satirical story and a great Robin Williams performance, "World's Greatest Dad" left me cold at the end. Without spoiling so much, Robin Williams plays Lance, a single dad and struggling writer raising his kid Kyle(Daryl Sabara), a lonely kid at school who constantly rejects Lance. When Kyle dies, Lance sees this as an opportunity for himself and uses his suicide as his gain. Again, Robin Williams is excellent in this role. His performance showcases a lot of different emotions but he was able to pull it off. His girlfriend, played by Alexie Gilmore was good as well. Unfortunately I found Daryl Sabara annoying as Kyle. I understood how his character was, but there was a weird sense of unrealism that made me question his performance. I liked the story, but I found the execution kind of blank. Once Kyle dies the setup was intriguing and it was entertaining, but I also found the story to meander. Overall, I did like parts of the movie. Robin Williams was great and certain scenes were well-written and entertaining, but as a whole I think it's compelling dramatic tone fell flat and its satirical edge was lacking.
#WorldsGreatestDad #RobinWilliams

Invictus (2009)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 5/10
A movie based on a true story where a country unites together because of the great sport of rugby. Sounds entertaining and inspiring. With Clint Eastwood behind the camera, this has got to be good. Boy was I disappointed. "Invictus" follows Nelson Mandela(Morgan Freeman), who has just been elected as first president of South Africa post-apartheid era. As he struggles to rid of racism and oppression under apartheid, he contacts the captain of the South African National Rugby Team, François Pienaar(Matt Damon), as they team up for the upcoming 1995 Rugby World Cup as a chance to unite the country through the game of rugby. Morgan Freeman is easily the best part of the film. As Mandela, I was able to buy him as the man, and Freeman didn't feel like he was playing himself trying to impersonate Mandela. Matt Damon is good as well, but that's where my main problem comes in. The screenplay is extremely lacking. It didn't give me a legitimate reason to care with the characters. I didn't feel the emotional connection with Freeman and Damon, so when the end came it felt like nothing to me. It's not the story that I'm judging, rather its filmmaking and storytelling. It felt like nothing happened. I felt like I watched characters come and go on-screen, and that's it. It's not a poorly made movie. The cinematography looks nice and there was one scene where the rugby team held a clinic for kids that I really liked. But the emotional resonance with the lead characters wasn't there and I was utterly disappointed in this film. The performances are fine and the story is inspiring, but as a movie it was a waste of great talent.
#Invictus #MattDamon #MorganFreeman #ClintEastwood

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Director: Seth Gordon
Rating: 7.5/10
Before Seth Gordon directed mainstream comedies like "Horrible Bosses" and "Baywatch", he made "The King of Kong", a 2007 documentary centered around the 1981 arcade game "Donkey Kong". The main story follows Steve Wiebe, who attempts to set the world record on "Donkey Kong" and take the record away from the reigning champion Billy Mitchell. It shows both men on their views of the situation, and how they're handling it. And it becomes a really entertaining and enjoyable documentary. I love the passion of these retro gamers, but it's also pretty insane in how focused they are. Steve Wiebe was also a really interesting person. They show his family life and how he has a job at a middle school, which makes you relate to him in a way because he's an every man. Billy Mitchell was super fun to watch, but also really interesting. His opening remarks at the beginning of the movie contradicts what eventually happens at the end of the film. I liked watching him and found him so compelling and intriguing. The documentary is really short, so you may feel like you weren't able to soak up what you were hoping for. It is hugely entertaining and really interesting and watching grown men taking retro gaming was a joy to watch. I think I'll stick to the games at Chuck E. Cheese for good measure.
#TheKingofKong #SethGordon #SteveWiebe #BillyMitchell

Barton Fink (1991)
Director: Joel Coen
Rating: 8/10
The Coen Brothers make bizarre comedies, but sometimes even their more dramatic movies can be oddly strange. In "Barton Fink", John Turturro plays the title character, a successful playwright sent to Los Angeles to write a B-Movie screenplay in 1941. Fink however starts to experience writers block, and can't seem to write what he wants. He meets his new boss at the film studio(Michael Learner), while also running into an insurance salesman named Charlie Meadows(John Goodman), but everyone doesn't seem the way he expected. The film has a real strangeness to it, but even when you take that out of the picture it's an extremely well-written movie with outstanding performances from Turturro and Goodman, and a compelling psychological look on a writer whose driven to craft the perfect script. John Turturro is so great as Barton Fink. He captures his loneliness and isolation, along with watching him go almost nuts for not being able to write is genius. John Goodman I also really liked, and one of his more overlooked performances. He was funny and enjoyable, but when this certain twist occurs his character becomes much more interesting then I was expecting. Michael Learner as the head of the film studio was probably the funniest of the movie, and I was laughing at pretty much everything he said. The movie was a slow burn, but the dialogue was engaging and interesting. The setup is patient, because the payoff is really worth it. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is really great, in particular a scene with fire that was haunting and almost filmed like a horror movie. When the movie ended I did have the same feeling I did with "Inside Llewyn Davis". It felt like it was missing something, but I couldn't pin it down. Maybe on rewatch I'll be able to pick up and appreciate the film more. It's an excellently crafted movie and it's certainly one of the Coen's best.
#BartonFink #CoenBrothers #JoelCoen #EthanCoen #JohnTurturro #JohnGoodman

One Hour Photo (2002)
Director: Mark Romanek
Rating: 8/10
In cinema, there many comedic actors always taking on dramatic roles. Not a bad thing at all, in fact I love seeing those performances. Not often however can even a normal actor delve into the dark realm that Robin Williams was able to pull off in "One Hour Photo". In this film, Williams plays Sy Parrish, an employee of 20 years at the one hour photo department inside "Savmart". He seems like a normal guy, but underneath he's a lonely man who has an obsession with the Yorkin family, regular customers of the place for 9 years. They consist of Will(Michael Vartan) and Nina(Connie Nielsen), and their nine year-old son Jake(Dylan Smith). He makes a set of photos for himself to keep of the Yorkin's, and follows them around. It creates a fascinating character study, and most of the credit goes to Robin Williams who is brilliant in this movie. His character is compelling, and his mannerisms and small subtleties are able to capture the loneliness inside his character. And surprisingly you were able to care for him because he's so well written. I was hoping for more of the Yorkin family, but the family was pretty great as well, in particular Connie Nielsen as the wife Nina. I thought she had a nice balance of humanity to her. Despite the fact I was expecting the motivation to be what it is, its reveal was still really emotional and it was extremely thoughtful. You don't always condone with Sy, but you're constantly caring and feeling with him because of his state. The third act is easily the best part, which was haunting and complex. I think this film deals with loneliness almost brilliantly. The motivation was clear and compelling, and Williams' performance was able to showcase for it. It's the most daring film he's ever done.
#OneHourPhoto #RobinWilliams #MarkRomanek #ConnieNielsen

Woman in Gold (2015)
Director: Simon Curtis
Rating: 7.5/10
Inspirational historical true-stories were one of the first kinds of films I really got into. So it's always been a soft spot in my heart, and even if it's a story where you can predict the outcome, the emotional core can still be riveting. "Woman in Gold" is based on the true story of Maria Altmann(Helen Mirren), a Jewish refugee living in Los Angeles who teams up with a young lawyer named Randy Schoenberg(Ryan Reynolds) who battle with the Austrian government in order to rightfully return one of Austria's most famous paintings, which so happens to be her aunt, that belonged to Maria herself. There isn't anything particularly exceptional or outstanding, but it's the performances and direction that really give the film its boost. Helen Mirren is great as Maria, and her performance is at times heartbreaking. She's really able to bring out the humanity out of her, and she shows a side of vulnerability to makes her easy to care about. Ryan Reynolds is also really good here in a role so different than what he's used to playing. He's very restrained and subtle, aside from one scene, but I thought he was good. Daniel Brühl is good as well, despite his limited screen time but he played his character very well. The flashbacks at the beginning I found a little boring but a certain flashback really had me gripped and it packed an emotional punch to it. The film is very well paced and there never is a dull moment. While it is formulated and predictable, it's heartwarming and poignant, and it never feels sappy or forced. It made me smile at the end, and a grin from me is always a lovely sight.
#WomaninGold #HelenMirren #RyanReynolds #DanielBruhl #SimonCurtis

Because I won't have a movie review until Saturday, I decided to do a ratings explained post! Here is how my rating scale goes:
10/10: Absolute favorite movies, maybe best of the genre I've seen or a movie that just I connected so well with.
9.5-9/10: Fantastic movie with maybe one personal issue, with possible 10/10 with more viewings
8/10: Really good movie, great performances with a maybe few issues holding it from a great movie.
7.5-7/10: It can either be a well-made movie with certain exceptional elements but something I won't ever see again, or it's in the guilty pleasure range.
6.5-6/10: It's fine, maybe some great elements in a so-so movie or the whole movie as it goes is just alright.
5.5-5/10: It's a meh movie, maybe a great performance or a great scene but a movie that doesn't have much else to it.
4.5-4/10: Something I've heard that's great that ends up being disappointing, or just a movie I had low expectations for and it was just plain bad.
3.5-3/10 Movies that personally made me upset, maybe because of its potential or the director or cast attached to it and its execution was just bad.
2.5-2/10: Only given this rating twice, extremely bad and almost unwatchable.
1/10: Never given this grade, but I'll probably know when to give it when I see it.

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Director: Olivier Assayas
Rating: 7/10
I was intrigued to watch this movie based on the three main actresses in the film: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloë Grace Moretz. They definitely did not disappoint. In this film, Maria Enders(Juliette Binoche) is a successful middle-aged actress who is asked to star in the romantic lesbian play that made her famous 20 years ago, except this time as the older lover opposite the 19 year-old Jo-Ann Ellis(Chloë Grace Moretz), in which she's playing the role that made Enders famous. She also has to deal with her personal assistant Valentine(Kristen Stewart), as well as the frustration and jealousy of starring in the play opposite someone she doesn't believe is right for the role. The performances are all stellar, with Juliette Binoche giving the best performance in the whole movie. Her slow descent into jealousy, along with her frustrated state was compelling to watch. Her chemistry with Kristen Stewart was fantastic as well, and I really bought them in their roles. Stewart's performance was able to reach out to the audience because she was the calming voice among Binoche's frustrated character. Chloë Grace Moretz's performance was limited, which I found disappointing, but she was really good as well. Moretz found the right balance of snobby and kinda heartfelt at the same time, and it's the most mature performance I've seen from her. This is a very slow moving movie, and at times you feel like you're trudging through it. The first half is especially slow, with a storyline I didn't care much for. The second half was much better and a lot more compelling to watch Binoche's morality sink slowly. It's a really good character study with great performances and solid execution. Albeit I thought of "Birdman" the whole time, but whatever.
#CloudsofSilsMaria #OlivierAssayas #JulietteBinoche #KristenStewart #ChloeGraceMoretz

A.C.O.D. (2013)
Director: Stu Zicherman
Rating: 6/10
There's a similar style I see with these independent comedy-drama films. Take a comedic actor, tone him down, and revolve a story where he's troubled or something. It worked great in "Everything Must Go" with Will Ferrell, which I think is the best in that category. In "A.C.O.D.", or "Adult Children of Divorce", a successful and content young man named Carter(Adam Scott), attempts to unravel his past involving his divorced parents(Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara) after he finds out he was the subject of a book about divorced children. His brother Trey(Clark Duke) is getting married, and his relationship with his girlfriend(Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in rough waters. While this movie is crowded with subplots, it's Adam Scott's likable performance that carries this film. He is essentially playing himself, but he does a nice dramatic tone to his performance and he was able to keep it lighthearted. Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara were entertaining to watch, and it was fun to watch them essentially hate each other. All the performances aren't particularly special, other than Amy Poehler and Jane Lynch who I felt like they both gave really fun performances. They both felt like they embodied their character, which made the film more entertaining to watch. There are some unnecessary characters like Jessica Alba's character who I have no idea why she had to be there. Also Ken Howard, who plays Carter's stepdad, should've had more screen time cause he was entertaining to watch. There are a few sweet moments, and the story itself is very interesting, and I think this film works as a fine, enjoyable, lighthearted comedy. The performances are fun and overall it's not a bad watch. If it was raining, or it was showing on an airplane, it wouldn't kill you.
#ACOD #AdamScott #RichardJenkins #CatherineOHara #ClarkDuke #MaryElizabethWinstead #JessicaAlba #AmyPoehler

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