Tag Archives: miles teller

TIFF: The Bleeder vs. Bleed for This

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s now time for the main event of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, coming to you live from the beautiful, historic Elgin Theatre.  

Introducing first, in the red corner, standing six feet five inches and weighing 223 pounds, with a professional record of 35 wins, including 17 by knockout, 14 losses and 2 draws, the former New Jersey State heavyweight champion, from Bayonne, New Jersey, please welcome from the Bleeder, Chuck “The Real Rocky” Wepner!!  

His opponent, in the blue corner, standing five feet eight inches and weighing in at 170 pounds,  with a professional record of 50 wins, 30 by knockout, against 10 losses, fighting out of Providence, Rhode Island, a former world champion in the lightweight, light middleweight, and super middleweight divisions, from Bleed for This, please welcome Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza!!

Jay was gracious enough to agree to include not one, but two boxing biopics in our TIFF schedule: The Bleeder, starring Liev Schrieber, and Bleed for This, starring Miles Teller.  In an all-out battle to capture my vote, who came out on top?  Let’s go ringside and find out!

bleeder

The Bleeder:

The Bleeder opens perfectly, introducing us to a guy we know even though we don’t know it.  That guy is Chuck Wepner, a human punching bag who took a punch so well he could go 15 rounds with anyone, even the Greatest.  Yes, the man himself, Muhammad Ali.  Wepner got the fight because he was the only white guy in the top ten, and during the fight he acquitted himself so well that he inspired Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky.

Along with taking a punch, Wepner’s other notable trait is the ability to consistently make the worst possible decision.  To the credit of Wepner and the Bleeder, the movie does not pull any punches with Wepner’s character.  He is a flawed person but the kind of flawed person who you can’t help but be charmed by.  Liev Schrieber is almost unrecognizable as Wepner and does a fantastic job of showcasing the charm while also making us feel for Chuck as he suffers some severe consequences, including losing his family and going to prison.

In the end, the Bleeder does justice to the Real Rocky’s story and gives us a true underdog who makes good in a real way, in his own way.  Somehow, the Real Rocky turns out to be the furthest thing from a cliche, and yet still manages to come out on top in the end.

 

Note: this movie has been renamed ‘Chuck’ and will hit theatres May 5.

bleed-for-this

Bleed for This:

While the Bleeder features the Real Rocky, Bleed for This features a comeback story too unbelievable to be used as a plotline in the Rocky franchise.  And that’s saying something considering Rocky has come back from: (a) Mickey being shoved to death by Mr. T; (b) Apollo being beaten to death by Drago; and (c) Adrien being written to death by Stallone as a convenient reason to make yet another goddamn Rocky movie.

Miles Teller makes a good showing as Vinny Pazienza, a champion boxer whose neck was broken in a car crash.  Told by doctors that he may never walk again, Paz somehow was able to return to the ring just 13 months after his accident and went on to fight boxing legends like Roberto Duran and Roy Jones Jr.  Teller looks like Paz and looks like he belongs in the ring, but in the transition to the screen the real-life magic that Paz possessed is lost and Bleed for This ends up feeling like just another boxing movie.  And that’s a shame, because overcoming this level of adversity should truly feel triumphant.

The Judges’ Decision:

The match goes the distance as both the Bleeder and Bleed for This are enjoyable films with charismatic turns by their stars.  There can only be one champion though, and by unanimous decision The Bleeder takes the belt.  The Bleeder is far more memorable because it’s not your typical happy ending, and it’s less about boxing and more about the trappings of fame.

The bottom line is that if you like boxing, you’ll enjoy both of these.   The difference maker is that even if you don’t like boxing, I am still confident in recommending that you watch the Bleeder.  It’s a fascinating story that captures the essence of the most interesting loser imaginable, a story so powerful that it inspired an entire movie genre.  It’s a credit to Paz and his tenacity that things were even this close, as in the end Rocky always wins.

Advertisements

War Dogs

I like to picture Jared Leto and Jonah Hill sitting in a dark hookah bar, one-upping each other with weird, deranged laughs. Jared Leto was playing the Joker but even so, I think Jonah Hill won.

In War Dogs, Jonah Hill plays Efraim, a young 20-something high school drop out who casually becomes a multi-million-dollar arms dealer. No big deal. He brings grateful high maxresdefaultschool bud David in on the deal and soon the two of them are rolling around naked on crisp 100 dollar bills (I assume: this wasn’t in the movie, it just seems intuitive).

Do they get in over their heads? You betcha. As soon as they meet Shady Henry (They don’t call him that to his face. Or call him that ever, come to think of it) (You can tell Bradley Cooper’s shady because of the beard. And the shades) it all goes to pot. But they’re such knuckleheads they actually pound fists over surviving The Triangle Of Death just by blind luck.

Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover trilogy, is driving the bus. The first thing you’ll notice is that this movie isn’t nearly as funny as you’d expect from him. And it’s not even trying to be. Sure there are laughs (Matt felt that lots were misplaced) but it’s a pretty muddy, ethically gray situation and pretty soon we’re sweating at least half as much as Hill (he sweats A LOT).  But you have to hand it to the sly dog – that Jonah Hill is getting mighty good at creating characters we love to hate. He’s a Scarface-quoting, two-faced, super-slick (nearly as slick as his hair) dude who isn’t willing to sell his soul for money because that’s a deal done long ago – he is, however, willing to sell yours. Willing to sell his “best friend’s”. Pretty crafty. Miles Teller as David is marginally more likeable but goddammit neither of them are displaying one iota of charisma (Matt described Bradley Cooper as “wooden” so I guess that’s three of a kind).

Phillips divides the work, based on a true story, by the way – did I forget to mention that? True story all the way. Worrying. Very worryingly. God bless Dick Cheney’s America as Efraim might say. These two chuckleheads were actually granted an American military contract worth tens of millions of dollars. Your actual tax dollars lined their greasy war-dogs-3pockets. But as I was saying, Phillips divides the film into chapters, which is kind of a neat trick, except he forgets to have a point of view. So this movie, which should have a lot to say, actually says nothing. Take a fucking stance! Two uneducated, inexperienced kids, got their grubby hands on a) crazy amounts of money and b) crazy amounts of weapons and the United States government didn’t just let it happen, it made it happen. War is about money. We all know this, rationally, no matter George W.’s stated reason. It’s about economy. But it’s still painful that there’s no context. There are no good guys, no bad guys, no victims, no soldiers, no dead or dying or shot or bleeding. There’s just greedy little fucks making bank.

And here’s the other problem: with Efraim being a soulless sociopath and David being hapless and bland, you don’t really care about either of them. Even David’s narration starts to sound a little impatient. It’s cynical as fuck but it’s also just kind of dead. And maybe that’s why even the comedy falls flat: this movie doesn’t feel like a living thing. There’s no bite, no moral compass. It’s entertaining and occasionally offers up some galling guffaws. Just don’t expect it to own its own horribleness.  War Dogs is just as careless as its characters.

That Awkward Moment

Last night at the BET Awards, Michael B. Jordan won best actor for Creed. Last night during the BET Awards I watched a movie starring Michael B. Jordan called That Awkward Moment, a mistitled piece of cinema if I’ve ever seen one because at 1h34m, you can pack in hundreds of awkward moments, and they did.

That Awkward Moment stars two promising young actors, and Zac Efron. Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan have been in dozens of movies between them these past two or three years, some exceptional, some exceptionally bad. And I get it: you’re young, new to Hollywood, new to money. Make bank! Dolla dolla dolla bills, y’all. I get it. But there’s a limit, I think, to what an audience will tolerate before turning its back, and Miles Teller is dangerously close.

Miles Teller just starred in the Oscar-nominated Whiplash in 2014, so how can he have already wracked up so much ill-will? Well, besides this movie, he’s starred in 3 increasingly apathetic Brody-Whiplash-1200Divergent movies, the critically-panned Fantastic Four, and an embarrassingly poor attempt at comedy called Get A Job. He’s been in 8 films since Whiplash and not one of them reminds us that this kid had a good thing going. He’s got a new one coming out with Jonah Hill called War Dogs and we’re all hoping it’ll be a return to form, probably no one more so than his agent, because while they’re both earning money, Teller is decided not earning praise (or success at the box office), and Hollywood has a pretty short memory for little movies like Whiplash.

Michael B. Jordan, you may note, also has that Fantastic Four atrocity under his own belt. And he’s also got a really great indie movie to his name in Fruitvale Station. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. It was robbed at the Oscars and was nominated for nothing but it was one of fruitvale-station-main1the best in 2013, recounting the true story and final hours of a young man who is erroneously gunned down by police. Jordan, who’d mostly done TV up until then  (I knew him as a kid on The Wire but he was also in Friday Night Lights and Parenthood), really proved himself on screen but has had only a small handful of films since then, unlike his frequent co-star, Miles Teller. In fact, the only one  he did without him is the only one worth mentioning: Creed. Reunited with Fruitvale Station’s writer\director Ryan Coogler, Creed was an enormous success. It honoured the Rocky legacy while establishing its own dynasty. It had important champions in Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers but quickly won over audiences everywhere. It’s rumoured that Jordan will be joining the cast of Marvel’s Black Panther movie, but that’s all he’s got on the horizon. Besides War Dogs, Miles Teller has another one in the bank, something in post-production and 2 in pre-production. So tell me: what the hell is the difference? Two handsome young dudes with great roles in their back pockets. One is working back to back to back, and the other very little.

So I’ll ask again: what is the difference? Because I can see one glaring difference, and I hate how it sounds. I hate it.

Get A Job

This movie was shot in 2012 and it took 4 years for the heat of everyone blushing in embarrassment to die down enough to release it. Maybe they should have given it 4 more.

In it, Anna Kendrick and Miles Teller play self-obsessed millennials who graduate and are astounded to not immediately be handed their dream jobs with rockstar perks. This premise is so flimsy they try to pad it out with a whole bunch of friends also struggling in the real world, thus ensuring that there is never a whole story being told anywhere, but lots of odds and ends you can’t possibly bring yourself to care about. Bryan Cranston is the best thing in this movie, playing the guy who has aged out of his job and is facing unemployment in a job market crawling with shallow selfie-resumes.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to watch this movie. If you do, please contact your local poison control centre immediately, and flush the area with water.

The less said about this ass-munching movie the better, so instead let’s discuss the myriad better ways this money could have been spent. Assuming a very modest budget of 8 million dollars, you could have bought:

11-diamond_bathtub_for_your_po-610x458A Swarovski crystal-studded bathtub for your dog: $39 000

A bejeweled, 18-karat gold Monopoly set: $2 000 000

Exclusive gold shoelaces by Mr. Kennedy: $19 000

A bottle of 100 year old champagne recovered from a shipwreck which may or may not still be potable let alone drinkable: $275 000 Add a champagne bucket by Aston Martin (it’s insulated with carbon fibre) for $38 000

A plain white t-shirt “designed” by Kanye West: $12010-o-GUINEA-PIG-ARMOR-facebook-610x475

A custom-made suit of armour: $20 000; add one for your pet guinea pig: $24 300

A lock of Elvis’s hair, as far as you know: $115 000

A stamp of Nicholas Cage’s face: $19

A ziploc bag of air from Kobe Bryant’s last basketball game: $16 000

A cornflake shaped like Illinois: $1350

il_570xN.603647511_jio03 x-rays of Marilyn Monroe’s chest: $45 000

A banana slicer: $4.75

A ghost in a jar: $50 992

A 1/8 model of a Lamborghini Aventador. It doesn’t move but it does take up lots of space on your desk: $4 700 000 (just to be clear: an actual Lamborgnini will set you back about 400K)

A gold, diamond-encrusted Nintendo Wii system. Be sure to save your crappy old plastic wii-motes because this baby doesn’t come with any! The kicker? It’s already obsolete!: $500 000

William Shatner’s kidney stone: $25 000

Plastic surgery to look “like” Justin Bieber: $100 000

You could buy all of these items for the cost of 1 Get a Job, they’d all be a better use of your time and money, and you’d still have enough cash left over to make The Blair Witch Project. Think on that.

 

 

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

About a year ago, Wandering Through the Shelves had us binge-watching Movies Based on Young Adult Novels. The first two films in the Divergent series were neither the best or the worst things I watched that week. They’re not great- even “good” would be a stretch- but I was won over by the decency and unlikely strength of Tris (Shailene Woodley). I also couldn’t have done without the effortless charisma of Miles Teller as Peter, who brings much-needed personality to a series that takes itself way too seriously whenever he’s not on screen.

In the first two films in the series, the citizens (prisoners?) of Chicago have been assigned factions based on their defining trait (athletic, honest, kind, smart, and selfless). I’ve always found this basic premise to be a little lazy and a pretty adolescent view of the world but, hey, it’s young adult fiction. Besides, it’s what makes Divergent Divergent. To do away with these factions would be like the Twilight series continuing without any vampires or werewolves of the Fifty Shades series going straight edge. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this series does.

Allegiant picks up where Insurgent left off, immediately after the fall of the faction system. Without it, not only does Chicago lose control over its population but the story loses its focus and coherence. Fearing that Evelyn, (Naomi Watts) is becoming as oppressive a leader as Kate Winslet’s character had been, five young adults venture over the walls. What follows is sillier than the other two films combined, exposition-heavy, and impossible to follow. Tris, the heroic non-conformist of the story, somehow starts towing the party line. Woodley does her best to keep her interest but it’s tough not to be frustrated with her when everyone onscreen and in the audience thinks it’s obvious that she’s being played. Even Miles Teller’s shtick is getting old. Pick a side, buddy!

The Divergent series isn’t really made for adults and for all I know may please its target audience. Because most 16 year-olds wouldn’t be interested in our site and most of our readers wouldn’t be interested in this series, you might wonder why I’d even bother reviewing it. To that, I can only say “Jeff Daniels”. Daniels, joining Winslet, Watts, Octavia Spencer, and Ray Stevenson, becomes the latest good actor over 40 to have his talents wasted by this trite material. How so many good actors got involved in this series, I have no idea. But judging by their performances, I can tell it’s not because they wanted to be there. By the third film, their talents are no longer just wasted. They’re giving bad performances.

What’s happening in Hollywood that the likes of Naomi Watts and Jeff Daniels need a job this badly? Or that any filmmaker could become so distracted by their pretty but mostly boring young stars that they would forget to give Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer even a single key scene?

This is why I care enough about this series to write about it.

Sweet Escape with The Divergent Series: Insurgent

I rented Divergent when studying Movies Based on Young Adult Novels just a few weeks ago. There were enough dicks, assholes, and maniacal Kate Winslets that the movie managed to hold my attention from beginning to end just because I couldn’t wait to see them get what was coming to them but I can’t say it left me wanting more. I decided to check out the second part in the series not out of a need to find out what happens next but a yearning to return that magical place with alcohol and comfortable chairs.

Knowing about my quest to find the perfect drink for each movie, Jay suggested a virgin daiquiri to get me in the spirit of young adult fiction. Point well taken but we’re here to drink so as a compromise I settled on something called Sweet Escape, which combined vodka, pineapple and strawberry liqueur, and strawberry puree. I regretted getting two when I saw the waiter bringing them on a tray all to themselves. So tall. So orange. So embarrassing. I’ll admit that they were delicious but the sweet fruitiness got to me after awhile and, partway through my second one, I realized a little Sweet Escape goes a long way.

So it is with young adult fiction, especially when you’re no longer a young adult and say things like “twittering”. I got through Divergent without much trouble. The premise that in the future we will all be forced into five factions based on such uninspired personality types sounded like that of an eighth-grade English assignment but there were enough talented actors involved ( pretty much phoning it in in most cases but still) to make it more interesting than it really should have been. Quickly into the second installment though, I realized that a little Divergent goes a long way.

Insurgent gets off to a pretty good start. The sequel picks up shortly after Divergent left off so, knowing the drill already, we’re spared the usual voice-over exposition and get right into it right away. Tris, Four, Caleb, and Peter have been hiding out in the peace and love commune among the Amity faction, led by a well-cast but not well-utilized Octavia Spencer. The Amity commune is a fun setting and Tirs and Four’s harrowing escape when the evil Eric inevitably show up was well-exectued.

Soon, we’re thrown much deeper into Divergent mythology. Too deep for someone like me who rolled his eyes at the basic premise from the beginning. The film starts to shift its focus to the Factionless and Candor- factions we were only peripherally aware of in the first- and to a hidden message from the Founders that could change everything. All of this is unavoidable. What would be the point of creating this world if we’re not going to explore it? But soon after my sweet drink started to overwhelm me, shortly after the escape from Amity, I began to lose interest in this world.

It’s Only Creepy if You Do the Math

Somewhere along the way I accidentally fell in love with Miles Teller. Is that creepy? Yeah, it’s creepy.

Wait. Just checked IMDB and in fact, it’s not illegal! He’s not a high school student, he just plays 071014-MOS-miles-teller-594one on TV. So it’s totally okay that I want to club him over the head, drag him back to my apartment and put my scarred body directly on top of his scarred body and make scarred little babies until he sprains his penis or I get thirsty, whichever comes first.

I just watched Two Night Stand, a not very good movie made so much better by Teller’s great on-screen presence. Actually, the first part of that sentence probably sells it short because in fact I didn’t dislike it. It’s not ground breaking material, it’s a pretty predictable plot, but it’s got charm. A guy and a girl hook up, supposedly for a one night stand, but stupid mother nMiles-teller1ature has other plans and snows them in, forcing them into a slightly awkward and prolonged encounter. Not the worst thing I’ve watched this week, not even the worst Miles Teller film, in fact

Because I also caught 21 & Over, the poor man’s version of The Hangover. Three best friends from high school reunite in their senior year of college to celebrate the last of them turning 21. Though he has an important med school interview the next morning, he’s dragged out to a bar, and then another and another until all 3 are in such terrible shape that none can remember where the birthday boy lives. Adventure and panic ensue. Teller and Skylar Astin have a lot of charming chemistry, but that only gets them so far. Actually, I just looked it up and it turns out this one was written and directed by the guys who brought us The Hangover, so that explains a lot. Unfortunately, it feels like they prioritized cashing in over story, or good sense. Not that I blame them. I like money too, and I’m super glad I didn’t waste mine seeing this movie in theatres.

At any rate, even in a bad movie, Miles Teller shows us he’s got range. He can do anything. He can be a lovesick puppy or a functional adolescent alcoholic. I enjoy watching him, and I have a feeling, after great performances in The Spectacular Now and Whiplash, that I won’t have to wait too long before turning my gaze upon him once more.