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Fretts Off Broadway: A Bronx Tale—The Musical!

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I’m not a big theater goer—unless you count movie theaters—but I enjoy the occasional show, especially when it’s based on a movie. And only weeks after I declared Robert De Niro a whore for doing Dirty Grandpa, I went to see the Off-Broadway… way Off-Broadway (as in Millburn, New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse)… musical adaptation of his big-screen directorial debut, A Bronx Tale. No, Bobby’s not dancing and singing like he did badly in New York, New York, but he co-directed the show, and it’s pretty damn good.

Granted, De Niro surrounded himself with some stage heavyweights. His co-director  is four-time Tony winner Jerry Zaks, the score is by 11-time Grammy winner Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), the lyrics are by Glenn Slater (School of Rock), and the book is by Chazz Palminteri, based on his original off-Broadway one-man show. Hell, even the costumes are by six-time Tony winner William Ivey Long. Top of the line, this show.

The story, a spin on Romeo & Juliet with an Italian-American wiseguy wannabe and his African-American paramour, lends itself nicely to the musical format. It’s West Side Story meets Jersey Boys, only, y’know, in da Bronx. Menken’s toe-tapping score owes a debt to his earlier work on Little Shop of Horrors in its doo-wop opening, set in the early ’60s, when the Chazz character, named Colagero, is played by a remarkable scene-stealing kid named Joshua Colley. (Remember that name, he could be the next Jacob Tremblay. And if you don’t know who Jacob Tremblay is, go see Room. Now.)

Once the story flashes forward to 1968, the music takes on more of a Shaft feel, especially whenever the African-American characters are on stage. The lyrics are consistently witty and a bit edgy, as Slater rhymes “yours truly” with “moolie” (Italian slang for eggplants, and a derisive term for African-Americans). I mean, how can you not love a show with a ballad about the author of The Prince, “Nicky Machiavelli”?

Among a uniformly strong cast, the grown-up standouts include Nick Cordero as Sonny, the mobster who becomes a father figure to Colagero (the role was played by Palminteri in the film, and Cordero has the actor’s mannerisms down cold, having played another of his big-screen characters in Woody Allen’s ill-fated Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical); Coco Jones, in a spectacular stage debut as Colagero’s love interest Jane; and Michael Barra, a mountain of a man who plays a neighborhood guy named Joe Joe the Whale.

Given that I saw the show’s second-ever preview, it’s in terrific shape, but it still could use a little work. The female characters are underdeveloped—a subplot about Colagero’s ma (Lucia Gianetti) and her choice to marry his dad (Jersey Boys vet Richard H. Blake, filling De Niro’s bus-driver shoes nicely) instead of Sonny is barely brushed over. And we need more Coco Jones. Every time she opens her mouth, it’s magic. If you recognize her voice, it may be because she starred in Disney Channel’s No. 1 movie of 2012, Let it Shine. And she does. The show runs a tight two hours and 15 minutes and could use another 15 if it allowed each of these two another solo.

In fact, the second act feels a little rushed, even though my companion for the evening nodded off during it, but I blame that on one too many Curtain Call Cosmos (made with champagne!) before the show. As it turned out, I didn’t need any booze to be intoxicated with A Bronx Tale: The Musical. It left me happily drunk in the belief that I may just have sneaked an early peek at Broadway’s next big hit.

12640534_10153971295014074_6647818258495438485_oThen again, I felt the same way after I saw the pre-Broadway run of Honeymoon in Vegas (another musical based on a movie!) at the Paper Mill. I was convinced Tony Danza was going to win his namesake award for it. Instead, it sank like a pair of cement shoes once it crossed the Hudson River. So what do I know from theater? Fuhgeddaboudit!

 

“Dirty Grandpa”: Robert De Nir-Ho Oh No!

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It’s only been a few weeks since I posted my picks for the 10 Worst Movies of 2015, and I’ve already got a surefire candidate for one of the Worst Movies of 2016: Dirty Grandpa. As I sit here writing my review and Winter Storm Jonas pounds my New Jersey home, I’m starting to think this blizzard is an Act of God to keep people from enduring this cinematic atrocity. The poster above, a parody of The Graduate, is wittier than anything in the movie. Which isn’t saying much.

Let’s consider the esteemed co-stars with whom Robert De Niro has shared the screen: Al Pacino. Joe Pesci. Meryl Streep. Charles Grodin. Harvey Keitel. Robin Williams. Jeremy Irons. Jodie Foster. Robert Duvall. Zac Efron. Which one of these is not like the others? The High School Musical grad plays De Niro’s grandson, who agrees to accompany him to Florida in the aftermath of his wife’s death and winds up engaging in the kind of mindless Spring Break debauchery not seen since… well, 1983’s Spring Break. And that looks like Raging Bull next to this pile of utter crap.

 

It’s not like De Niro hasn’t made gawdawful movies before: Bear in mind this guy has been in three Fockers films, and his character here—a Special Forces veteran—is meant to remind us of Ben Stiller’s polygraph-giving father-in-law in those un-focking-funny pieces of shiz. And let us not forget his cartoonish (and not in a good way) turn as Fearless Leader in the (barely) live-action version of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. He’s even done direct-to-DVD turds like Heist, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan; The Bag Man, with John Cusack; Killing Season, with John Travolta; and Freelancers, with Fitty Cent (which is more than you should pay to see Dirty Grandpa).

But never, ever has Bob sunk lower than he does here. He recites the punny punchlines—many with moldy pop-culture references (Rent, k.d. lang, Time magazine) that suggest the script has been sitting on the shelf for a bad long while—as if he’s reading them for the first time, phonetically. The film’s best joke is casting Mormon poster girl Julianne Hough as Efron’s uptight Jewish fianceé. Its worst joke is how it wastes the talented Aubrey Plaza as De Niro’s horny-for-the-elderly “love” interest. Anyone who doubt there’s sexism in Hollywood needs only look at how Chris Pratt—the least funny cast member of Parks & Recreation‘s ensemble—has been elevated to movie superstardom, while Plaza—by far the best thing about Parks & Rec—has been reduced to trading smutty double entendres with a septuagenarian.

The script casually traffics in racist and homophobic jokes, then has the audacity to have De Niro teach some racist homophobes a lesson with his fists after they harrass the same gay-stereotype character he’s been insulting throughout the film. Efron shows no sense of comic timing but does show a lot of flesh (he dances the Macarena with only a hornet’s mask over his privates, if that’s your kind of thing).

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One can only conclude from this deeply depressing endeavor that Robert De Niro is a big ho. He’ll happily debase himself for money. (He did draw the line at showing his penis; a prosthetic is used in its place.) At last he’s secured himself a place in movie history as the co-star of both the best road-trip comedy of all time—Midnight Run—and the worst. If you see Grandpa, you’ll be the one who ends up feeling dirty.

The 10 Worst Movies of 2015

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I somehow managed to avoid seeing a lot of bad films in 2015. Despite my twisted desire to hate-watch, say, Entourage: The Movie or the Not-So-Fantastic Four, I found better things to do… or, more likely, to watch—namely, TV. Still, I did endure at least a dozen certified cinematic stinkers, and from that list, I’ve pared it down to 10…

10. By the Sea Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt. That’s right — they’re the Pitts! At least they are in this jaw-droppingly narcissistic snoozer about an unhappily married couple (she’s clinically depressed, he’s a drunk with writer’s block) holed up in a hotel room in Malta. Ms. Pitt allegedly wrote and directed this movie as an homage to her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, and after watching it, I can only conclude she hated her mother.

9. Southpaw It wasn’t the cast’s fault: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, and Co. left it all on the mat. The trouble was, while Ryan Coogler was giving the boxing-movie genre a much-needed punch-up with Creed, screenwriter Kurt Sutter and director Antoine Fuqua were trotting out every hoary trope with this painfully predictable pugilism melodrama. No wonder its pre-release Oscar buzz went so quickly South.

8. Irrational Man Here’s the definition of an irrational man: a guy who keeps telling the same story (older man falls for much younger woman; chaos ensues) over and over again and expects people to keep paying for it. In this case, that man’s name is Woody Allen. Or maybe it’s Bruce Fretts, since I keep paying to see his movies.

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7. A Walk in the Woods Not the year’s worst movie about two old guys—see Youth, below—but pretty damn close. Robert Redford originally intended to reunite with Paul Newman for this creaky tale of two over-the-hill hikers, but after Butch Cassidy felt the merciful Sting of death, he recruited a homeless-looking Nick Nolte to gargle his lines. The result played like a three-quel nobody wanted to see: Grumpiest Old Men.

6. Focus That’s what Will Smith needs to do with his film career. Let’s see, he turns down Independence Day 2 (not to mention Django Unchained) and chooses to do Concussion—who wants to see that story during football season?—and this toothless con-artist would-be caper that also wastes the charms of Margot Robbie and the talent of Gerald McRaney. When it’s over, you feel like you’re the one who got conned.

5. Everest Seriously, I don’t mean to pick on Jake Gyllenhaal, but he found himself stranded with a bunch of other good actors, including Jason Clarke and John Hawkes, in this thrill-free account of the disastrous climbing expedition documented by Jon Krakauer in Into Thin Air. The 1997 TV-movie adaptation of the same title somehow seemed grander than this pile of crap, which made a molehill out of a mountain.

4. No Escape First of all, who casts an action movie and thinks, “I know—Owen maxresdefaultWilson!”? The lackadaisical actor sleepwalks his way through the story of an American businessman and his family who get trapped in a Southeast Asian country during a bloody coup. The movie is so blatantly xenophobic that I’m surprised Donald Trump isn’t showing it at his campaign rallies. No Escape is right.

3. 50 Shades of Grey In my list of the year’s 10 Best Movies, I lamented the lack of good 2015 comedies — but I forgot this unintentionally hilarious adaptation of E. L. James’ best-selling S&M-fest. Dakota Johnson was genuinely funny in TV’s Ben and Kate, and Jamie Dornan was genuinely scary in TV’s (well, British TV and Netflix’s) The Fall, but together they make one of the unsexiest couples in movie history as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. If they get married, will it be the Steele-Grey wedding? Sounds like something out of Zoolander, only this movie is sillier.

2. Youth and Trumbo For my thoughts on these wildly overrated would-be Oscar contenders, click here.

1. True Story True Story: James Franco and Jonah Hill co-starred in a fact-based film about a convicted murderer and a journalist who became sympathetic to his pleas of innocence.  True Story: Nobody saw it, despite our nation’s obsession with real-life crime tales like Serial and Making a Murderer. That’s because… True Story: It sucked.

The 10 Best Movies of 2015

144796It was the year of Tom Hardy. The chameleon-like British actor appeared in three of 2015’s 10 Best Movies, transforming into four very different characters—Mad Max, Legend’s Kray brothers and The Revenant‘s John Fitzgerald. But where does each film rank in the annual pantheon? Read on.

10. Straight Outta Compton/Love & Mercy Outdone only by the aforementioned Mr. Hardy, Paul Giamatti co-starred in two of 2015’s 10—well, 11, since this is a tie—Best Movies. Both are dramas about Southern California musical groups that fractured under the pressures of fame and fortune but in distinct eras. Compton‘s evocation of  gangsta rap groundbreakers NWA benefits from Giamatti’s morally shaded portrayal of manager Jerry Heller as well as the presences of O’Shea Jackson, Jr. — eerily channeling his own father, Ice Cube — and director F. Gary Gray, who was witness to some of the events depicted in the movie as a music-video helmer and the filmmaker behind Cube’s original Friday. Love and Mercy gets inside the tortured mind of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson (brilliantly played by both Paul Dano and John Cusack), with Giamatti as his Svengali-esque round-the-clock doc, Eugene Landy. Wouldn’t it be nice if all musical biopics were as thrilling as these two?

9. Sicario One of the year’s most harrowing cinematic experiences, director Denis Villenueve’s drug-war drama drew firepower from the performances of Emily Blunt (earning her bad-ass cred for life as an FBI agent working the U.S.-Mexico border), Josh Brolin (oozing unctuous machismo as her supervisor) and Benicio Del Toro (outdoing even his Oscar-winning work in Traffic as a middleman between the feds and the cartel). But Sicario‘s real star is cinematographer Roger Deakins, a frequent Coen Brothers collaborator, whose claustrophobic camerawork increases the film’s cringe-inducing suspense to nearly unbearable levels.

8. Legend Why hasn’t the true-crime drama starring Hardy as swinging ’60s London criminals Reggie and Ronnie Kray made more of an impact at the U.S. box office (not to mention in the year-ends awards races)? Maybe it’s because their story has already been well-told in 1990’s The Krays. Maybe it’s because Americans don’t know who the Krays are. But I blame the film’s generic title: Is it a remake of Tom Cruise’s laughable 1985 fantasy of the same name? Oscar-winning  L.A. Confidential screenwriter Brian Helgeland’s captivating tale deserved a moniker as vivid and specific as the film itself.

7. Mr. Holmes Also inexplicably overlooked for awards: Ian McKellen’s virtuoso tour de force as Sherlock Holmes at two different ages: in his 90s and a few decades earlier, as he investigates what would prove to be his final case as a detective. Equally impressive is Laura Linney, once again playing down her natural luminosity as his dowdy housekeeper, and remarkable newcomer Milo Parker as her young son. As it plays with the passage of time and the disappearance of memory, Mr. Holmes exhibits an appeal that can only be described as elementary.

6. The Big Short You know this was not a great year for comedy when you consider the only laugher on the list is about the 2008 financial crisis. (The only other comedy that came close was Trainwreck, which fell just short due to Judd Apatow’s tendency to overindulge in entertaining but pointless asides.) Director Adam McKay, better known for wild farces like Anchorman, brings a sharp satirical eye to the story, inserting entertaining yet relevant asides featuring the likes of Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez explaining dry monetary terminology. The ensemble, led by the consistently great Steve Carell and Christian Bale, rivals The Hateful Eight (see below) for the sheer ability to make potentially loathsome characters sympathetic.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road The year’s most exhilarating reboot wasn’t Star Wars: The Force Awakens (though J.J. Abrams certainly did an admirable job). It was George Miller reinvigorating his own ’80s post-apocalyptic action franchise, replacing Mel Gibson with an even angrier Tom Hardy and turning Charlize Theron into an instant sci-fi icon as the aptly named Furiosa. A must-see in 3D, Fury Road is an intensely immersive experience, each frame crammed with eye-popping details.

4. Spotlight and 3. Bridge of Spies For my thoughts on Tom McCarthy’s riveting journalistic thriller and Steven Spielberg’s masterful Cold War drama, click here and here, respectively.

2. The Hateful Eight Yes, the eight (or ten or twelve) main characters in Quentin Tarantino’s wild Western are hateful, but the movie radiates with the love he has for actors — old cohorts like Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen as well as inspired additions to his repertory company like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Demian Bichir— and the power of crisply written dialogue. It’s a joy to see Justified‘s great Walton Goggins elevated alongside the likes of Bruce Dern, and the contributions of composer Ennio Morricone (doing his first Western score in 40 years), cinematographer Robert Richardson (shooting in 70mm for the first time anyone’s done it in 50 years) and special-effects makeup artist Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) cannot be overstated. The only reason this three-hour orgasm for movie lovers didn’t take the top spot was due to Channing Tatum, who appears near the end in a role I will not reveal. Tatum’s a decent actor, but he’s simply not in the same league as the rest of the cast. Too bad Tarantino didn’t get, say, Tom Hardy for the part.

1. The Revenant There are surface similarities with The Hateful Eight—both are wintry Westerns featuring full-frontal male nudity (and an impressive lack of shrinkage despite the frigid temperatures). But Alejandro González Iñáritu’s spiritual survivalist epic is as minimal in its dialogue as Tarantino’s shoot-’em-up  is hyperverbal. The main character, an 1820’s trapper (Leonardo DiCaprio) who’s terrifyingly mauled by a bear and left for dead by an animalistic comrade (Hardy, reuniting with his Inception co-star DiCaprio), can barely speak for much of the 156-minute film. The result is the closest thing to pure cinema as I’ve seen in years: storytelling wrought with deeply haunting images, including a battle scene seemingly shot in a single take, a la Iñáritu’s Birdman — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him repeat as Best Director at the Oscars. And as our Man of the Year once again disappears into his character, he proves that 2015’s cinematic epitaph should be, “You’ve Gotta Have Hardy.”

Best Actor Preview: Trumbo, Youth and Legend

 

‘Tis the season for awards, and right now, the leading contenders for Best Actor nominations are Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, Johnny Depp for Black Mass, Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs, Matt Damon for The Martian and Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl. But none of these guys is a lock: Leo’s Revenant could fail to live up to its advance hype, Depp’s work could fade from memory with time, Fassbender could get punished for Jobs‘ poor box office, Damon could be downgraded for doing a sci-fi movie, and voters could figure Redmayne doesn’t deserve another prize so soon after winning last year for The Theory of Everything.

So there’s a whole second tier of actors waiting in the wings to swoop in should one of the front-runners falter. I’m personally pulling for Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes and Michael B. Jordan in Creed. And I’ve just seen three more possible nominees: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Michael Caine in Youth and Tom Hardy in Legend. And two out of three ain’t bad, even if two of their movies are.

It takes a great actor to give a truly terrible performance (just look at half of Marlon Brando’s movies), and that’s exactly what Cranston delivers in Trumbo. His portrayal of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo never rises above the level of cartoonish caricature, and ironically, he’s not helped by the shallow, choppy script written by John McNamara. Director Jay Roach’s uneven tone just makes it worse. There are a couple of good performances in the film, most notably Helen Mirren as gossip maven Hedda Hopper, but even more disappointing ones, like a miscast Louis CK as a fellow traveler, a wasted Diane Lane as Trumbo’s long-suffering wife and a surprisingly flat Michael Stuhlbarg (whom I usually adore) as an unconvincing Edward G. Robinson. What this movie really needs is a rewrite. What this movie really needs is Dalton Trumbo in any shape or form, and Cranston breaks bad in the worst possible way; he’s like Ed Wood if Tim Burton had cast Jon Lovitz instead of Johnny Depp.

Michael Caine doesn’t hit a false note as a fading conductor/composer in Youth, which is a miracle considering the movie is full of false notes, not to mention shit. Somehow he finds the truth in The Great Beauty director Paolo Sorrentino’s pretentious mishmash set at a Swiss spa, where Caine’s musical genius crosses paths with his daughter/assistant (Rachel Weisz), a lifelong friend (Harvey Keitel), and an actor preparing to play Hitler (Paul Dano. who should be up for an Oscar for Love & Mercy).

JaneFondaYouthSSThere’s really nothing wrong with any of the performances in the film — and Jane Fonda shows up 90 minutes into this two-hour-plus slog as an aging diva and gives the movie a long-overdue kick — but its dialogue sounds like it was written in Italian and translated badly into English (“Don’t lick my ass — it only makes your breaking my balls worse,” Fonda tells Keitel). And don’t get me started on Caine and Keitel’s ongoing dialogue about their prostates and daily urinary output. Plus, there are way too many cryptic yet meaningless images — a Buddhist monk who levitates, a morbidly obese former soccer star with a tattoo of Karl Marx on his back, an elderly couple having loud sex against a tree in the forest.

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Most cringe-worthy, words of seemingly deep wisdom continually come out of the mouths of babes: not just two painfully precocious children, but also Miss Universe (Madalina Ghenea, whose nude scene is Youth‘s sole saving grace aside from Caine). Yes, let me say it again: Caine is great, and this Euro-centric movie will probably be catnip for the Golden Globes. But he’s already won two well-earned Oscars (for Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules), so there’s no reason to honor him again when there are so many more deserving candidates.

Like Tom Hardy, who should’ve gotten a nod last year for his one-man tour de force in Locke and is quickly becoming the greatest actor of his generation in films as varying as Mad Max: Fury Road and The Drop. Between the mask he wore as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and his thick accents in British films like Legend, he’s also the least intelligible actor since Benicio Del Toro, but that didn’t stop him from winning an Oscar for Traffic (and he merits another supporting nomination for this year’s Sicario). Even though it’s in English, Legend should come with subtitles;  it reminded me of SNL‘s spot-on British-gangster movie parody Don’ You Go Rounin’ Roun to Re Ro.

In Legend, Hardy plays twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray, gangsters who terrorized London in the ’60s. They were previously played by Spandau Ballet bandmates and brothers Gary and Martin Kemp in 1990’s The Krays, which was a very good film, but Hardy’s turn here is simply transcendent. Often sharing the screen with himself, he brilliantly delineates the two brothers (Reggie is smooth and ruthless, Ronnie is unhinged yet sweetly naive) and somehow makes their bond endearing.

The stellar supporting cast includes Emily Browning (making a quantum leap forward from dreck like Sucker Punch and Pompeii), British character actors extraordinaire David Thewlis and Christopher Eccleston and pop star Duffy, aka the Woman Who Should Be Adele. The cinematography, by Dick Pope (or “Dick Poop,” as he was mistakenly called when he was nominated for his painterly images in Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner last year), is stunning. Sharply written and directed by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, 42), Legend suffers only from its terribly generic title. Still, it certainly applies to the star: Tom Hardy is a Legend in the making.

Could “Creed” Be An Oscar Contender?

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Call it a comeback! It’s been nearly 40 years since a Rocky movie packed a punch at the Academy Awards, but Creed just might find itself fighting above its presumed weight class. The original 1976 Rocky scored an underdog victory, winning Best Picture, Best Director (John G. Avildsen) and Best Film Editing. It was nominated for seven more Oscars, including Best Actor and Screenplay (both for Sylvester Stallone), Best Supporting Actor (Burgess Meredith and Burt Young), Best Supporting Actress (Talia Shire), and Best Original Song (Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now”).

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Rocky II got shut out of any 1979 Oscar nominations, but it did win Favorite Motion Picture at the People’s Choice Awards. And while 1983’s Rocky III earned an Oscar nomination, it was for Survivor’s instant kitsch-classic “Eye of the Tiger.” (I pity the fools who don’t agree with me that Mr. T got robbed of a Supporting Actor nod for his muscular work as Clubber Lang.)

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By the time 1985’s Rocky IV rolled around with Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan “I Will Crush You” Drago, the franchise had fallen into Razzies territory, winning Worst Actor and Director (both for Stallone), Worst Supporting Actress and New Star (both for his real-life love interest Brigitte Nielsen) and even Worst Score (Vince DiCola, anyone)? Somehow, James Brown’s “Living in America” was not nominated for an Oscar; I can only assume it wasn’t eligible, because that song is a national treasure.

As for 1990’s Rocky V, it was up for seven Razzies—Worst Picture, Director (John G. Avildsen!), Actor and Screenplay (both Stallone), Supporting Actress (Talia Shire), Supporting Actor (Burt Young), and Original Song (Alan Menken’s forgettable “The Measure of a Man”)—and lost them all.

Finally (or at least until Creed), 2006’s Rocky Balboa won only 2nd place at the Golden Schmoes Awards—nope, I’ve never heard of them either—for “Biggest Surprise.” And Burt Young was up for Worst Supporting Actor at something called The Bad Movies Stinkers Awards (nope, haven’t heard of them either).

So it’s a bit of a shock to say that Creed should be part of the Oscar conversation this year for Best Picture, Best Director and Screenplay (Ryan Coogler), Best Actor (Michael B. Jordan), Best Supporting Actor (Stallone!), and Best Supporting Actress (Tessa Thompson). It’s not just a crowd-pleaser, earning an A from Cinemascore audiences and making back its $40 million budget and change in its first weekend. It’s a top-notch boxing film, in a league with Million Dollar Baby, if not Raging Bull. Coogler and Jordan, who previously teamed on Fruitvale Station, could be the new Scorsese and De Niro; their creative chemistry is electric. The director finds a new way to shoot an age-old sport, bobbing and weaving his camera with the fighters.

Cop_land_movie_posterStallone (who should’ve earned an Oscar nomination for his underrated turn in 1997’s Cop Land) slips back into his old role like well-worn boxing glove. His sensitive, nuanced work reminded me of Paul Newman’s Oscar-winning 1986 reprise of pool shark Fast Eddie Felson in Martin Scorsese’s Hustler sequel The Color of Money. And Thompson is a true discovery as a hearing-impaired musician who challenges Jordan’s Adonis Creed (biological son of Rocky’s old frenemy Apollo Creed) to be a better man.

My only complaint about Creed is that it doesn’t make full use of Bill Conti’s original score. It hints and teases themes but never goes full out, mostly opting for hip-hop ear-sores like “Work Yo Muscle” by Eearz and “Chicken Curry” by Joey Bada$$. (Sorry, Joey, you’re no badass next to the original J.B.) Still, that won’t stop Creed on Oscar night. It’s gonna fly then.

 

Two Grown-Ass Men Review “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2”

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Bruce Fretts: My 14-year-old daughter Olive wouldn’t let me see Mockingjay, Part 2 with her  — even though we saw all the earlier Hunger Games movies together (and even reviewed the first one with her brother Jed) — since she’s a teenager now and doesn’t want me to embarrass her in front of her friends. I didn’t want to look like an old perv and go see it by myself, so I asked my friend David Rey Martinez, one of the funniest stand-ups in New York, if he’d see it with me on a Saturday night in the New Jersey suburbs and for some reason, he agreed. You’d seen all the other Hunger Games movies before, David—did you take your son, Sebastian?

David: No, why would I watch it with my son? He’s eight years old. I rarely watch movies of that length with him because of his attention span. There’s not enough action or cartoons or colors. And the storyline was really hard to follow.

Bruce: I’m glad you said that, because I was totally lost for most of the movie.

David: I was like, “Who? Who’s that? Who?” I became very racist watching this movie. I was like, “Oh, so a Black man dies…”

Bruce: SPOILER ALERT! The Black guy gets killed first!

David: And the cat lived through all four movies! So I was really disappointed. That really bothered me.

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Bruce: Then the guy who got married—who I didn’t even remember—got killed second. You knew he was dead meat as soon as we saw his wedding.

David: I didn’t remember him either. Also, he had a good action scene, so I knew he was going to die once he threw that javelin and saved Phoenix, or whatever her name was.

Bruce: The names in the movie are ridiculous. Peeta?

David: It sounds like he’s Italian: “Hey, Peeta, come over here and eat your  dinna!”

Bruce: And I feel bad for Gale, because first of all, his name is Gale, and secondly, you’re supposed to root for Katniss to get together with Peeta, not Gale, so they’re setting him up for failure. Plus, he’s played by Liam Hemsworth, who’s the second most famous and handsome Hemsworth brother after Chris.

David: I forget. Who’s that—Captain America?

Bruce: No, Thor.

David: Another big, tall dude for no reason.

David: But J-Law did look good in this movie. As an old perv, I’d have to say she looked good in her tight leather suit. She looked like she belonged in X-Men.

Bruce: She was in X-Men!

David: Oh, right, she was the young Mystique. She played everything in this movie.

Bruce: J-Law can do almost anything. She’s a great actress, she’s gorgeous, she can do action scenes, she’s funny, she can sing…

David: She has a scene where she’s crying, and they went down low so she had a second chin. They wanted her to look as bad as possible.

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Bruce: That was an ugly cry. I didn’t think it was possible for J-Law to look ugly, but she did it.

David: There was a lot of slobber. I’ve cried hard, but I haven’t slobber-cried since I was 8 or 9 years old. Like snot-slobber. That’s really crying.

Bruce: That’s why she’s J-Law.

David: And at the end—I’m going to spoil everything, the movie’s been out a week—she has a Chinese baby!

Bruce: She was holding an Asian baby.

David: It’s like a 15-pound Asian baby. It’s humongous. I’m like, “How did this happen?” I don’t want to give away who the father is, but he doesn’t look like any kind of Asian—Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese. He doesn’t look like any of the Asians.

Bruce: Maybe they’re saving the explanation for another sequel.

David: I highly doubt it. I thought the movie ended on a decent note of Black power. They had a Black woman president, so I guess they’re pushing for Hillary in 2016.

Bruce: But Hillary’s not Black.

David: People count her as Black because of Bill. But at the end of the day, we all know she’s a white woman.

Bruce: Well, you had Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore as two old white people fighting for power.

David: That’s totally normal. That should be the name of every movie: Two Old White People Fighting for Power.

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Bruce: Then Phillip Seymour Hoffman keeps popping up, even though he died two years ago.

David: He was in a lot of scenes!

Bruce: But then he disappears at the end.

David: His character’s still alive as the Game Master, but they just talk about him.

Bruce: Like, what, he just left the room? “Oh, you just missed him!”

David: “He went out to get ice cream!”

Bruce: Wait, we forgot Woody Harrelson.

David: He should do White Men Can’t Jump 2.

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Bruce: J-Law can do almost anything, but Woody can really do anything. He was funny on Cheers, can do great dramas like True Detective, and in White Men Can’t Jump, I truly believed he couldn’t jump.

David: They’ve gotta do Part 2 now.

Bruce: Wesley Snipes is out of jail now, so he could do it.

David: And they’re older now. Older ballers are a great commodity. We should write it for them.

Bruce: And if they won’t do it, we’ll star in it.

David: But we’ll just be going to ice-cream shops.

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Bruce: Which we did before the movie! I think we scared the teenage girls in the ice cream shop.

David: Yeah, because two old-ass men in there buying ice cream is pretty horrible.

Bruce: We were taking selfies. We blended right in. We had the perfect suburban teenage-girl Saturday night. We went to Target and Starbucks.

David: Omigod, it was so expensive! If I had to rate the movie, I’d give it three stars out of five. I should’ve just waited to see it on Netflix, like I did with the other three. With all the build-up, it was kind of anti-climactic.

Bruce: I’d give it two and a half.

David: You’re a harsh critic.

Bruce: Hey, it’s my job.

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