High Flying Bird

It has been a good long while since I received a Netflix movie early for a screening, not including the Mowgli one, as they played that in theaters for us. When I got a notification about it, I was excited, but I admit, I assumed it would have been Velvet Buzzsaw.

Instead it was for High Flying Bird, which I admit I would have probably ignored on description alone, if not for two reasons. First, obviously, I need to review it if they ask, so they can ask me to review more (makes sense!). And two, it was directed by Steven Soderbergh! As a general rule of thumb, I should watch everything that this man creates, as I will like or love them more often than not.

Now I do recall that he said before after doing Unsane that he will film all of his future movies with iPhones, or something to that regard, which did give me hesitation. It gives it a unique feel, that sort of fit with Unsane, but might not work for everything.

Fist
We will get to the issue of him doing a movie about race politics as a white dude, later.

Ray (AndrĂ© Holland), not Ray Ray, is sports manager/agent/pr man for namely basketball players, at a hard time to be an agent. Because there is an NBA lockout going on, and if most of their clients aren’t getting paid, then they aren’t getting paid. This isn’t great for job security, morale, or anything, and the lockout has been going on for months.

Ray’s newest client is Erick (Melvin Gregg), who was recently drafted number one overall! However, being drafted doesn’t mean shit. HE hasn’t received a paycheck yet, despite needing to move and figure out how to pay for bills and promises he didn’t expect to worry about. He is getting into trouble, and is in a weird spot with his own job. He has signed a contract, but it hasn’t been able to get processed. He has a team, but he really doesn’t have a team. Grey area can suck.

Ray wants to end the lock out, and decides on a strange plan, involving his unsigned yet signed talent. It is something that can put his own job, his player’s job, and a lot of people out of business. But is it crazy enough to work and get these men back to playing ball?

Also starring Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Sonja Sohn, Bill Duke, and Kyle MacLachlan.

dinner
This restaurant is so fancy, they even look whiter just by being in here.

Some of the topics in this movie deal with slavery, and how modern things can be attributed to past slavery notions in the USA. It also has a majority black cast, all done by a white director. It is however written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote Moonlight, and is clearly not white. It sounds to me like the idea for a story was met, and they just brought in a director who wanted to just do all of his filming with phones, let him do his directing/cinematography thing, while giving pretty important input that he couldn’t possibly fully understand.

And that is probably fine. A team of white people didn’t put this movie together. It is a story that is set in a realistic setting, with realistic people, circumstances, and realistic conclusions. It is sort of a fantasy in terms of how quickly it all concludes at the end, I honestly thought there would be at least 15 more minutes.

Overall, the film is under 90 minutes if we don’t include the credits, and has a lot more set up than the conclusion really deserves. It is rushed, and despite all of the set up, we still don’t get a set up to fully explain Ray’s idea, or elaborate on how things will go down. The ending plays off like we were watching a heist movie, and we have to see how Ray did it, but of course on a much smaller scale than a heist.

Not enough gets to actually happen in the film for me to love it, but the ideas are there. The acting is believable. The camera work is unnecessarily weird and I never really get fully immersed in that choice. High Flying Bird as a movie just is unable to reach as high as its title would imply.

2 out of 4.

Creed

Dun dun dunnnnn. Dun DUN DUNNNNNNN. That is my impression of the main Rocky theme, you’re welcome.

I first saw Rocky about 5 or 6 years ago. I was pretty late to the game. But I liked it for what it was. I didn’t see any of the other films until this summer, in preparation for Creed. And since I never had to review any of those films for the site, here are reviews of 2-6.

Rocky II was hilarious, because half of the movie was Sylvester Stallone rambling about whatever comes to his head. He clearly is showing he has severe brain damage and Adrian apparently thinks his mental handicap is cute.

Rocky III gave us Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. It was okay, gave us the best montage fun with Apollo and Rocky though.

Rocky IV was my most quoted film, while I had only seen the fight between Creed and the Russian. It had a fantastic ending, where Rocky single-handedly defeated Communism and Robot Boxers.

Rocky V was steaming shit. What a terrible movie. Why the fuck was this made?

Rocky Balboa was 16 years after Rocky V, a sadder tale about an old man coming out of retirement to prove he wasn’t a pushover. And well, I honestly didn’t like it at all. Was a very different tone and was night time half the film, and just mehhhh. What a waste.

train
Kind like my thoughts when I saw that MJB was starring in the new Fantastic Four. What a waste.

And now there is Creed. They might have called it Rocky VII, but that one if it ever exists will have to be called Adrian’s Revenge.

Turns out Apollo wasn’t faithful. He had an affair out of wedlock and Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) was born. However, he wasn’t born until after Apollo died in the ring, so he never had a chance to meet his father. His mother died when he was young, so he was passed around the foster care and juvie system, always getting into fights, until about 10 or 11. That is when Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) found him. She, somehow, found out about the affair and the kid, and since she heard the news, she wanted to adopt him so he can learn about his father and grow up in the proper lifestyle.

Now years later, Adonis is fighting in Tijuana, Mexico, trying to be a boxer like his dad, but in secret. Fuck real jobs, real responsibilities. He just wants to punch people in the face.

He wants to punch people so badly, but no one will give him a chance in LA. So he heads to Philadelphia. He goes to see Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky is old, managing a restaurant, with no real family to worry about. He doesn’t want to. But he realizes that he might be the only real father figure that Adonis will ever have.

Even better, he doesn’t want people to know he is Creed’s son. He wants to become a fighter on his own, not by legacy. That’s good news. Fuck it. Let’s train the kid.

Oh and Adonis of course meets a lady. Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a soulful musician who is also slowly losing her hearing.

Also featuring Ritchie Coster, Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish and Wood Harris as various fighters/coaches. And a dude who looks a hell of a lot like Edward James Olmos. I have no idea who he is, but he was in the movie a lot as their team doctor guy, had no lines, but I couldn’t find out who he was on the IMDB page, because it was very badly laid out order wise. It might be Olmos. It might be a weird cameo.

fight
You might be able to tell by his shorts that someone eventually let’s the name secret out of the bag.

Creed featured four montages. FOUR. Three of them training, and one a fight montage. All of that exists, but we don’t see Michael B. Jordan splashing the dying corpse of Sylvester Stallone. A shame. More movies need playful beach splashing.

In terms of themes and atmosphere, Creed is a bit closer to Rocky Balboa, but it is also a lot more entertaining. The best shot moment was during the “mid film” fight, where the entire thing was one long shot. Multiple rounds, corner talk, the whole shebang. It was wonderful. I figured they would do that for the final fight as well, but we had to settle with the walk from the waiting room to the ring to be the one long shot.

With Creed, they clearly want to turn it into a new franchise, since Stallone can’t possibly un-retire from boxing for the 50th time and the son route didn’t work out. Creed had some nice moments in the fights and I felt appropriate at the ending, but I don’t like a lot of elements as well.

For whatever reason, Rocky himself doesn’t have as much brain damage as he did in Rocky II, and they are making him progressively more and more normal. You wouldn’t expect that with age. SLIGHT SPOILER, but they make it so that Rocky also has a health concern. I won’t say what, I will say that it, again, has nothing to do with brain damage. It feels like an incredibly bull shit side plot, when they have perfectly reasonable and obvious health issues they could have instead brought in.

The back story for Adonis felt a bit shitty too. It seemed like they had to jump through hoops to get the backstory they wanted, again, over complicating it. The story was also incredibly inconsistent with Adonis’ feelings. He wanted to make it big without using the Creed name to get him by, but instead be a good fighter on his own. Mary Anne also had the same feelings, but apparently they both just figured they should get over it and embrace it, making some of his earlier journey feel a bit dishonest.

Oh well. Some good fights. And Michael B. Jordan was great in it. This should fix his career back up again quite nicely.

2 out of 4.

Speed Racer

Hooray! Another fifty reviews later, I am ready to introduce my next Milstone Review: number 1150 for my website!

Holy crap. If I thought 1050 was a shitty milestone, 1150 has to be way worse. But hey, fun reviews are fun.

Today I decided to look at Speed Racer, which I didn’t see when it came out six years ago due to all the hate I heard about it. I didn’t have the means or willpower to watch every movie six years ago, so I let the internet decide for me.

I also never really watched the Speed Racer cartoon growing up. I knew of the references, and by golly, I knew how to make fun of the anime style when it came up in conversations, but that is all I had going for me. So in a way, this is probably good, as I won’t have anything to compare it to.

I really only know one thing about the movie: COLOR!

Speed 1
This is the level of celebration I demand for hitting milestone 1150.

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed.

So it is pretty obvious that Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) would grow up wanting to race. Also because of his name. Also because of the family business. The dad Pops (John Goodman) runs a small auto shop to make race cars, and his older brother, Rex Racer (Scott Porter) is a professional racer!

He also has a mom (Susan Sarandon) and a younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and the Chim Chim the monkey.

speed2
This is a clear example where nurture trumps nature.

The unfortunate thing is that Rex decided to leave home and join another company and not support his family anymore. And soon after, despite being one of the best, he started being a really dirty player, causing other players to get pushed off the tracks and maybe even…cheating! But then he died in a crash before charges could be pushed on him, bringing dishonor to the racer family.

Well, speed? Speed wants to win that honor. And boy howdy, can he fly. He almost beats his brother’s record on a local track, but holds off at the end to honor his brother. He knows he wasn’t a cheater. Now he is getting job offers, but he knows he wants to stay with his family and race on his own terms.

speed3
Where will you be when the Speed [Racer] kicks in?

Enter Mr. Royalton (Roger Allam)! Owner of a super large mega corporation, he has more money than there exists more or less, and he also likes to sponsor racers. His ideas are simple. Keep what works working, team chemistry, pit crews, whatever. He just wants to help out, help train and give lots of money.

Well, it turns out that Speed, after thinking about it, would rather stay with his family. He doesn’t want to hurt them like they were hurt before. He wants to do it the right way. On his own, with his Pops.

Mr. Royalton doesn’t like being turned down. Not by some punk asshat with the last name of Racer. The racing leagues in this world have been controlled by corporate interests for many decades now. Every race is fixed. Every race. Even that one. And that one. Speed doesn’t believe it, won’t believe it. Royalton tells Speed he will have his car crashed on the next race, and family sued for infringement. False claims, but bad news travels fast, so his families business will be in ruins.

Speed4
They might have to eat the fatty with the monkey to get by.

Well shit, what is a Speed to do? Try to take down the mega-corporations? Sure!

Inspector Detector (Benno Furmann), head of the corporate crimes division. Racer Taejo Togokahn (Rain) has evidence to bring down Royalton, but needs help racing in a team event soon. He has enlisted the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) also unassigned, and they need a third. If they can help them win, they can get out of Royalton’s hold and he’d help put a stop to the shenanigans.

Speed decides to not tell his family about it either. Just his girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), so she can be the entire pit crew and help them out with helicopter support.

Speed5
Yeah. That’s the reason to bring her. Sure.

The multi nation race takes several days, so of course his family finds out and shows up for support. Which is great, because people are now getting sent to literally just kill him off the tracks, in his hotel room, elsewhere, they just want him dead. But now Speed has people to protect him! Hell, even Sparky (Kick Gurry) is there, the main pit crew guy who works for his dad, and the guy that has taken me this long to find a place to casually fit his mention in this review.

Needless to say, the good guys don’t get stabbed or shot, and the three win the race! Now they can take down the Royalton Corp!

Hah, just fucking kidding you there too. Taejo was just playing them too. Now that his corp won this big race, their stock is super high, and that is all they cared about. They didn’t have illegal information on Royalton. Suck it, Speed and X!

This of course pisses Speed off and he even takes it out on X who he thinks is his brother in disguise. Nope, just that guy from Lost. Shit.

Speed 6
“We’ve got to go back!…to the finish line! Because that’s how races work!”

Thankfully not everyone in the Togokahn family/corporation is a complete dick. Taejo’s sister Horuko (Nan Yu) steals the invitation to the Grand Prix from her brother and gives it to Speed. With it, can still enter the best of the best races. If he takes first, he will ruin Royalton financially and prove that they can beat the system where racing is supposedly fixed. It would be sweet if they could also some how prove that Royalton cheats. But let’s not get too crazy.

Somehow his family is able to make a new car from scratch in about 32 hours before the race, and Speed is then able to go and drive! Yay!

Well, lot of people come at him, he avoids a lot of them. Royalton cheats, he is able to break free from the cheat and also expose the cheat to the public at the same time.

Speed wins the race, and everyone goes home happy or to jail sad. Wooo, EAT IT CORPORATIONS!

Speed 7
But between all that plot was about five minutes straight of color and color on color.

Did Speed Racer GoGoGo? Maybe, in a way.

The CGI style was very hectic and it everything was constantly changing or talking. Characters flying across the screen, many transistions, and many many colors.

I am glad I watched it in Blu-Ray, but I wish there was a good 3D component as well to go with it. I feel like everything would have popped. It would have been like 135 minutes on LCD, I have been told.

A bit surprised by the complicatedness of the plot and the time they dedicate to setting up events in this film, given its PG nature. It seems like it would be very hard for kids to follow. Mostly because it was hard for myself to follow.

In terms of entertainment purposes, the biggest problem might be the large and complicated plot. It seems like the movie is trying to be two things, a big entertaining race spectacle that is colorful and full of wonder, and a corporate serious drama film. What I am left with is a long movie that goes to lengths to include both sides and I get a bit of a confusing mess. It isn’t that it is hard to keep up with, but in its already unique and eye popping style, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

Also better acting could have helped.

I don’t know if this is the movie Speed Racer fans deserved, but it is probably the film they needed right now. It is overall okay, but one I would rather watch 90 minutes of instead of 135 minutes.

Speed 8
But they did announce that Speed Racer would appear in Fast & Furious 7, so that should be fun shenanigan wise.

2 out of 4.

Grudge Match

Every year on the Christmas releases, there tries to be that who gives a fuck “family”-ish film. Last year it was Parental Guidance. A movie that everyone can enjoy without thinking much.

Unfortunately for this year, two movies tend to fit the family genre, with one of them clearly leagues above the other. Sure, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty requires some thought, but all the families are going to flock to it over Grudge Match.

I mean, sure, take the guys from Raging Bull and Rocky and make them box. Sounds like a good idea, but oh man, the execution.

Green Men
Why do movies have to show montages whenever a video goes viral? That shit is dumb.

Basic premise: Razor (Sylvester Stallone) and Kid (Robert De Niro) were both Pittsburgh area boxers, who used to be a big deal in the 1980s. Their first match against each other went 15 rounds, with Kid coming up on top. They battled again a few years later, when Razor knocked out Kid in only 4 rounds. Before a rematch could be made to give them the best 2 out of 3, Razor mysteriously retired from boxing, and left Kid without a chance to redeem himself.

Now, many years later, they are both hurting. Razor financially, and Kid with his ego. They agree to pose for a video game from business man Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart), but once they meet, their feelings take over and they fight it out on the spot. The video goes viral, and there becomes a demand for them to finally have their rematch, 30 years later, despite their age and condition.

Their rivalry goes deeper than just a few boxing matches, when it is found out that Kid also slept with Razor’s girlfriend at the time (Kim Basinger), knocking her up. So Razor wanted to get back at him by never giving him the chance to fight him again. The reason this matters so much is because their son, B.J. (Jon Bernthal) finally learns the identity of his real father, and wants to help Kid train to get in shape for the big game, and introduce him to his grandson.

So who is going to win? A man fighting for the love of his life and money, or the man fighting for redemption and his new family?

Alan Arkin plays Razor’s old and trusty trainer, while LL Cool J plays a very successful trainer.

Supporting Cast
The supporting cast deserve their own video, for saving this accidental disaster flick.

During the very cliche and simplistic ending, the entire theater was booing at the screen, almost in anger at how much it felt like a cop out. It didn’t give us a real ending, is how it felt. Of course, I was the only one in the theater, so I can say things like “everyone there agreed with me” and it be correct.

Let’s compare it to another recent fighting rivalry movie…Warrior! Warrior was an incredible movie, one of the best of its year, great acting, and had more than one fight to watch. Both people had reasons they needed to win, like in “Grudge Match”, but they didn’t sugar coat the ending. They fought and a winner was chosen without either side backing down or doing anything but fighting to win. It was emotional and great, and fuck, I really want to watch Warrior now.

Grudge Match went the safe and boring route, and it should be judged as such.

Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart were pretty funny at their roles, but the ending of the movie sickens me enough to not care about any of that.

Get out of here wannabe emotional fighting movie. Just, just go away.

1 out of 4.

Chasing Mavericks

Miraculously, Chasing Mavericks is not a story about John McCain and his quest for presidential glory. Nor is this about an unbranded calf (definition on google). Apparently it is a local Californian term for a mythical giant wave that actually occurs somewhere near Santa Cruz!

Ah yes, the legend of the big wave. Only the coolest of surfers could be cool enough to surf them.

Butler's gerard
As awesome as Butler? We will see. You might be able to surf on his hair.

The story of Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) is one based around the ocean. He had it tough growing up. His dad left him when they were young, his mother (Elisabeth Shue) is bad with money and cannot hold down a job. But hey, as long as he has his surfboard, he is a happy man.

He was actually saved as a kid after falling in the waves, by one of his neighbors, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). A successful handy man with a wife (Abigail Spencer) and kids, he told her he would give up surfing the big waves, but still does it anyways. Not like lying has ever gotten anyone in trouble.

Ever since that day, Jay has been fascinated with the waves. But one day he finds the secret cove where Mavericks form, hidden away and yet being surfed on by his beighbor! The biggest waves he has ever seen and some nice pointy rocks. Well he says he wants to surf on them, and eventually convinces Frosty to train him. He agrees to train his mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional sides in order to conquer these beasts. At the same time he is attempting to woo his favorite girl (Leven Rambin) by being a great friend. Hah.

This also takes place during the 1990s El Nino, fucking everything up, meaning it is making crazier, bigger waves. So big, the secret area is no longer that secretive and a lot of people (amateurs) show up to conquer the mavericks, creating a huge potential for death.

Waves
I am now going to call tidal waves “huge potentials for death” from now on.

If you didn’t know, Jay Moriarity is an actual person, and this is his biographical movie. So if you click that wiki link, there will be some spoilers. Basically, he is considered a soul surfer, someone who surfs for the love of it only and is not to be confused with the other recent biographical surfing movie, Soul Surfer. He was made famous thanks to a photographer capturing his picture at the top of a Maverick crest.

But enough history, the movie itself? Typical feel good sports training film. You know how it will end, he will surf the wave. If you know the actual person, you will be aware of other events that happen in the film too. The only other feature this movie might have for entertainment purposes would be cool surfing scenes. I would describe them as “okay.”

For some reason, Chasing Mavericks has an incredibly slow feeling. It begins with a quote that doesn’t make too much sense, and ends with a scene that feels forced and awkward. There might be some inspirational moments in here that speak to certain people, but all in all, the fact that this was a real kid isn’t even that impressive. I’d say it offers not much in the film world, and it makes me wonder if there are any good surfing movies out there.

1 out of 4.