American Fighter (2020) Movie Review

Director: Shaun Paul Piccinino

Writer: Carl Morris, Shaun Paul Piccinino (Screenplay)

Starring: Tommy Flanagan, Sean Patrick Flanery, Christina Moore, Allison Paige, John Dubey, Anna Zielinksi, George Kosturos

Plot: A desperate teenager is forced into the dangerous world of underground fighting to win enough money to save his ailing mother. He finds out what he’s made of in the face of these violent hungry competitors.

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Underground Rocky

Story: American Fighter starts as Ali Jahani (Kosturos) a college wrestling student whose parents are coming to America before an incident sees his father killed and his mother stuck in Iran, with no help from the embassy, Ali needs to turn to other methods, one which sees needing to make money quickly.

Ali’s best friend and roommate Ryan (Craig) introduces Ali to illegal underground fighting, under McClellen (Flanagan) who will offer him the money he needs to get his mother to America.

Thoughts on American Fighter

Characters – Ali Jahani is an Iranian that has earnt a scholarship to a US college with his wrestling skills. His parents are due to join him only for that to come crashing down around him when his father is executed and his mother is stranded in Iran, needing medical treatment. Ali must make big money quickly to get his mother other out, which sees him shining in underground fighting, until he risks too much, he will stop at nothing. Ryan is the roommate introduces Ali to the underground fighting scene, he will help get the money, but is aware of what could happen with the wrong decision. McClellen is the runner of the illegal fights, he will offer fair odds, but if he sees a chance to make big money himself, he will take advantage of anyone who gets too good in his eyes. Duke is the drunk handler, he prepares the fighters both before and after the matches, he sees Ali with potential, wanting to fight for the right reasons and offers to help him, risking his position under McClellen.

PerformancesGeorge Kosturos in the leading role is good through the film, he handles the fighting well, while bring realism to the emotional side of the film. Tommy Flanagan is great as the promotor of the fights, he always makes us feel like he is a dirty character in the world. Sean Patrick Flannery brings us the man who has lost everything, that will help someone as his own way to recover from his past.

StoryThe story here follows a college student from Iran that is waiting for his parents coming only to learn he will need to make a large amount of money, which will see him needing to turn to illegal fights to make quick money. This is meant to be based on a true story and does follow the path of someone needing that would help him through illegal fights, it shows him needing to start up against tougher opponents, risking more to make more money. It does follow the same ideas of any of the inspirational fighting movie without needing to do too much to hit home on these ideas.

BiopicThe biopic side of the film shows the difficult situation that Ali and how he will do anything, we don’t get the complete story of what happened next though.

SettingsThe film does use the settings to show us how the fights are contained within the dark buildings away from the world, next to the college setting which should be filled with hope.

Scene of the Movie – The final fight.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The romance storyline feels like we don’t need it.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book inspirational fighting movie, showing one man that will need to fight against the odds for the greater good, it is an easy watch, though it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Overall: Enjoyable.

Signature Entertainment presents American Fighter on Digital HD from July 20th

Tobey Maguire Weekend – Pawn Sacrifice (2014) Movie Review

Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Steven Knight (Screenplay) Stephen J Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Steven Knight (Story)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Lily Rabe, Edward Zinoviev, Alexandre Gorchkov

Plot: Set during the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer finds himself caught between two superpowers and his own struggles as he challenges the Soviet Empire.

Tagline – In 1972, Bobby Fischer faced the Soviet Union in the greatest chess match ever played. On the board he fought the Cold War. In his mind he fought his madness.

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Chess Made Interesting

Story: Pawn Sacrifice starts as a young Bobby Fischer grows up learning chess, his reputation grows and before long he becomes the champion of America. Not happy with just winning in America Bobby (Maguire) wants to become the youngest world champion and take on the Russian players with the world champion Boris Spassky (Schreiber).

After learning how the Russians play, Bobby storms out of the game, knowing he wouldn’t get a chance to win, Paul Marshall (Stuhlbarg) and priest Father Bill Lombardy (Sarsgaard) agree to work with Bobby to put his name back on the map, to one get the showdown with the champion Boris.

Thoughts on Pawn Sacrifice

Characters – Bobby Fischer is an American chess prodigy, he has proven himself in America and wants to conquer the world, it doesn’t take long before he starts learning about the corruption within the game, which will hold him back, he does make himself difficult to work with, always believing he is being bugged by the Russians, storming out at certain moments, his determination to have thing done a certain done the right way, does make things more complicated for his future in the sport. It is clear that Bobby is dealing with a lot of mental issues, which don’t get dealt with properly. Boris Spassky is the Russian Grand Master, current World Champion, that like Bobby is being controlled by his handlers, he just wants to prove himself against the best, which means facing Bobby in whichever style of game possible. Paul Marshall is the man that brings Bobby back to the game, he becomes his manager, making thing happen for the player, however difficult Bobby is to work with.

PerformancesTobey Maguire is wonderful in the leading role, this is one of the movies which does seem to be one of the finally screen appearances in years, which is a shame because of how talented he is. Liev Schreiber is great to watch as the rival chess player, with the fellow supporting cast, Michael Stuhlbarg and Peter Sarsgaard both giving strong performances.

StoryThe story here follows the rise of chess genius Bobby Fischer as he deals with his own mental health when trying to break down the Russian dominance in the world of chess to become the new world champion. This is an interesting story because it does show how conflicted Bobby was when it came to the game of chess, he did want to become champion, but being in the middle of the cold war, only built up the tension between the nations playing the game too. If we were going to look to learn the full Bobby Fischer story, we will be left disappointed because his life because even more fascinating after the big championship match.

BiopicThe biopic side of this film only shows the build up to the big championship match, where the two heavyweights will come to face each other, instead of the more interesting later steps of his life.

SettingsThe film does show us just how many different locations that could be bugged that would cause the problems for Bobby.

Scene of the Movie – The chess matches.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We could learn so much more about Bobby’s life after this big match.

Final Thoughts This is an enjoyable thriller about chess, who would have thought of this beforehand. Tobey Maguire is great to watch through the film.

Overall: Interesting Chess Thriller.

Nicole Kidman Weekend – Boy Erased (2018) Movie Review

Director: Joel Edgerton

Writer: Joel Edgerton (Screenplay) Garrard Conley (Memoir)

Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Madelyn Cline, Victor McCay, David Joseph Craig

Plot: The son of a Baptist preacher is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents.

Tagline – The Truth Cannot Be Converted

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Stunningly Acted

Story: Boy Erased starts as Jared Eamons (Hedges) checks into the church-supported gay conversion program, the son a preacher Marshall (Crowe) and with his mother’s Nancy (Kidman) support, he starts to be taught about what could have caused him to be gay. We flashback to his high school life with his cheerleader girlfriend Chloe (Cline).

As Jared continues his therapy under Victor Sykes (Edgerton) he starts to question whether this is the right thing or not, with the whole class being disguised as an idea being homosexual is a sin and a choice, one God wouldn’t support. Will Jared make the conversation or accept that what is being forced on him is correct.

Thoughts on Boy Erased

Characters – Jared is a teenage boy just starting college where he gets outed which forces his parents to send him to a gay-conversation program. He looks back on his life where he struggled through high school with his own sexuality and tries to understand how the program is going to help him, learning that despite the lack of support in his life, it isn’t about choice, which he was led to believe. Jared shows us as a character based on the author of the book, that at that age, anyone going through the same situation where they don’t know how to tell people or whether parents would approve would become secretive and defensive when questioned. Victor Sykes runs the conversation program, he keeps drumming it into the group that it is a choice and God isn’t going to support them if they chose to be homosexual. Nancy is the mother of Jared, she thinks it is best for him to attend the program and does think that it would be right to go, though she will support him more than his father does. Marshall is the preacher father of Jared, he pushes him into the program demanding he be fix, never wanting to support this version of his own son, seeing it as some sort of embarrassment.

PerformancesLucas Hedges gives one of the best performances of the year, showing us just how difficult life has become, we see how he feel guilty for his sexuality, before showing how his character doesn’t care what people think. Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Joel Edgerton all give wonderful supporting performance showing us just how their characters believe in their actions.

StoryThe story here follows a teenager who is sent to a gay-conversation program to fix the problems his family believe he has, here he learns that despite being told one thing, he doesn’t need to make a choice for who he is. This is a story based on the book by the real Garrard Conley who went through this experience, we do see how ignorant religious people are towards the LGBT community because they can’t accept and to show how the conversation programs still being used in this day and age is beyond baffling. Seeing how the program operates can be hard to watch at times, but it is there to show just how backwards thinking they are. We do have the family dynamic too which wants to support, but believe they are right.

BiopicThe biopic side of the film does show just how difficult this time of Jared’s life was, not just him discovering himself, but how people around him tried to change him.

SettingsThe film uses the settings well, with the conversation program acting like a prison at times, even being next to everyday locations.

Scene of the Movie – Leaving.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Mainly that these programs are still real.

Final Thoughts This is a powerful eye-opener for people that proves that his horrible ideas still happen in our world when they shouldn’t with some of the best performance of the year.

Overall: Powerfully Acted, Storytelling and Important

Get on Up (2014) Movie Review

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (Screenplay) Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (Story)

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Lennie James, Fred Melamed, Craig Robinson, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer

Plot: A chronicle of James Brown‘s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.

Tagline – The Funk don’t Quit

Runtime: 2 Hours 19 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strong Performances

Story: Get on Up starts as we see James Brown (Boseman) in different stages of his life, the older famous one, the time he was just starting up and his childhood, where he was raised by his mother Susie (Davis) in a remote cabin in the woods, before his aggressive father Joe (James) returns, once James gets out of his cabin, he makes a good living, before ending up in prison for stealing a suit.

We see the rise of James Brown, with his push to always be seen the biggest name on the show and how his genius for music made him an icon, even if his personal life shows a much darker side to his way of thinking in life.

Thoughts on Get on Up

Characters – James Brown is one of the most influential musicians of the last century, there is no doubt what he did will live on forever. We get to see how James started with nothing, in an abusive childhood with no education, before learning to take the chances thrown his way, trying to make a difference to the world in the spotlight, even if he doesn’t always keep the crowd around him, not always as loyal as he should be. This doesn’t make James look like the most integral person behind the spotlight. Bobby Byrd is the man that gave James a chance to get out of prison, to start something with his singing in gospel, he will stand by James through all the troubles he faces, the bands he goes through, knowing James is the main talent and just being part of this would make him remembered. Ben Bart makes everything happen for James, he tries to help him navigate difficult moments in history, but will help him make the right choices which sees the friendship grow as the success does. Susie is the mother of James, she is forced to leave because of her partner and once he becomes famous wants to come back into his life, while James isn’t willing to let this happen.

PerformancesChadwick Boseman is fantastic in the leading role, he shows that his biopic man, he can bring James Brown to life on stage and in his personal life with ease. Nelsan Ellis is great in his role, showing us that he could provide excellent supporting performances in the film. Dan Aykroyd is strong too, with Viola Davis making a big impact in her scenes in the film.

StoryThe story here follows the life of James Brown, from his poverty like childhood, to his international success in the music industry, we see his ideas on wanting to make a change and just what it will do to the people that helped him get to the top. One of the biggest weaknesses in the film here comes from the early time jumps, we are constantly jumping between moments, which doesn’t help the story telling process. This story also doesn’t paint James as a nice person away from the spotlight, even if he was always trying to achieve something more from his career. The story does try to ram too much into the film, which does make it hard to understand each moment of his life.

Biopic/MusicThis does show a lot of his life, it doesn’t help us get invested in just how much of an impact each moment was. The music can’t be questioned with his hits playing through the film with every beat we know.

SettingsThe film creates some of the biggest stages of James career, never looking like we aren’t in the correct time period.

Scene of the Movie – The performances.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The time jumps.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book biopic, it has wonderful performances and the music you would expect to see, though we do cram too much in for everything to run smoothly.

Overall: By the Books Biopic.

Tolkien (2019) Movie Review

Director: Dome Karukoski

Writer: David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford (Screenplay)

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Tom Glynn-Carney, Patrick Gibson, Anthony Boyle

Plot: The formative years of the orphaned author J.R.R. Tolkien as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school.

Tagline – A Life of Love, Courage, and Fellowship

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Biopic 101

Story: Tolkien starts as we see J.R.R Tolkien (Hoult) on the war field in World War I, suffering the effects of an attack, he starts to reflect on his early life, his troubled childhood before getting placed into a high society school, where his imagination ran wild, with his friends pushing the arts to come to life in them all.

As Tolkien starts to reach the crucial years of his life, his work was just starting to get looked at by the universities, while he was left to decide between love or education, just as the war was going to split everything open for him.

Thoughts on Tolkien

Characters – J.R.R. Tolkien does go through two main timelines, one is his search for his friends during the war, searching through the trenches, while the second seems to follow him from early school life, right up to the university, where he was looking to make his way in the writing field. Edith is the love interest that grow up with Tolkien, they both come from the same background and want to make the most of their lives, pushing them to expose their creative sides. We do the meet the group of friends that grew up together and learnt how to express their artistic sides.

PerformancesNicholas Hoult is strong in the leading role in the film, even though he doesn’t seem to have to do that much challenging, we have a cast that doesn’t put a foot wrong through the film, even if it is mostly easy to perform.

StoryThe story here follows J.R.R. Tolkien as he went through the education process right up to and including his time in World War I, which gave him the motivation to write the Lord of the Rings books. When it comes to breaking down the story, it is based on his real-life, this would be harder to over criticise because it is a lot of high society boys looking to break traditions of education and become artistic minds, instead of following the typical male career paths. This is about the bond of friendship which has been pushed to the limits once the war starts. We see plenty of glimpses of hints to what is coming with his Lord of the Rings material, which is something you just want to look out for.

Biopic/RomanceThe biopic side of the film shows us just how important his friends become to him, which would improve his creative mind unlike anyone else, with the romance side of the film falling short for the most part, as it is just in here.

SettingsThe film uses the high society lifestyle Tolkien was part of, it doesn’t give us enough hope that we could follow in his footsteps.

Scene of the Movie – First tea time.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Too much high society.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book biopic that shows how important having the right people in life can inspire you to achieve more, we have strong performances only it doesn’t give us too much hope we could follow his story.

Overall: By the Book Biopic.