This week’s movie releases

This week’s movie releases

FILM: SOUTHPAW

CAST: Rachel McAdams, Jake Gyllenhaal, 50 Cent

Director: Antoine Fuqua

From acclaimed director Antoine Fuqua (‘Training Day’) and screenwriter Kurt Sutter (TV’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’), ‘Southpaw’ tells the riveting story of Billy “The Great” Hope, reigning Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World (Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal). Billy Hope seemingly has it all with an impressive career, a beautiful and loving wife (Rachel McAdams), an adorable daughter (Oona Laurence) and a lavish lifestyle. When tragedy strikes and his lifelong manager and friend (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) leaves him behind, Hope hits rock bottom and turns to an unlikely saviour at a run-down local gym: Tick Willis (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker), a retired fighter and trainer to the city’s toughest amateur boxers. With his future riding on Tick’s guidance and tenacity, Billy enters the hardest battle of his life as he struggles with redemption and to win back the trust of those he loves.

A love of boxing was certainly not what drove Gyllenhaal to star in ‘Southpaw’. In fact, Gyllenhaal was essentially unfamiliar with the sport before signing on, though he now calls himself an avid fan.

For him, director Antoine Fuqua, who’s a dedicated boxer himself and trains every day, was the main reason for his interest in the film to begin with. Having met years before, Fuqua insisted that he’d love to direct the already-acclaimed actor in something that audiences had never seen before.

While Gyllenhaal initially chalked the claim up to just being typical Hollywood talk, Fuqua eventually made good on his word. Determined not to make ‘Southpaw’ “just another boxing movie,” the filmmaker was determined to find an actor willing to take on the role of Billy “The Great” Hope in the most literal, brutal way conceivable – no doubles, very few effects, little reliance on editing – just straight training and as faithful a replication of the boxing world as possible, right down to the camerawork. “The reason why I like to play certain characters is because of the doubt that I have in my ability to do it,” says Gyllenhaal. “Antoine believed in me years before I even knew, and then in the process he believed I could do it. I think that belief in anybody allows you to go do your best work.”

Given Gyllenhaal’s intensive immersion into the role of Billy, it can come as surprise to learn that the film was originally intended for a very different performer: hip hop artist Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem. ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ creator Kurt Sutter, whose father was at one time a semi-professional fighter, was first approached by the rapper’s team three years ago to potentially do a remake of the 1979 boxing classic ‘The Champ’. Sutter disagreed with the idea, however, of simply doing a reboot of an old film. “I try not to do anything that feels too derivative, so my pitch was at that point to tell Marshall’s story through the analogy of boxing.”

Serving as inspiration for character Billy Hope’s downward spiral was Eminem’s own real-life struggle with the death of his best friend, Proof. His close relationship with his daughter Hailie Jade was also a key piece in informing the film’s other crucial theme: fatherhood.

When the musician dropped out of the project at the last minute to focus on an album instead, Sutter and Fuqua went back to the drawing board and, ultimately, won the interest of Gyllenhaal. He remains enthusiastically connected to the film however – his single ‘Phenomenal’ is the first song off the movie’s official soundtrack, which he is also executive producing and releasing on his Shady Records label.

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Greta-Gerwig-centre-and-LFILM: MISTRESS AMERICA

CAST: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Cindy Cheung, Kathryn Erbe, Dean Wareham

DIRCTOR: Noah Baumbach

A college freshman in New York gets a crash course in city life when she befriends her glamorous stepsister-to-be in ‘Mistress America’, a contemporary screwball comedy from filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig.

For Tracy (Lola Kirke), her first semester at college in Manhattan is a major disappointment. Her classes are dull, her roommate is hostile and her crush, Tony (Matthew Shear), has an obsessively jealous girlfriend, Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas-Jones). Rejected by the literary society she had set her heart on joining, the aspiring writer reaches out to Brooke (Greta Gerwig), the going on 30-year-old daughter of her mother’s fiancé – and everything in her life changes overnight.

Brooke introduces Tracy to a side of New York she has long dreamed of. Enthralled by Brooke’s picturesque but illegal apartment, about-to-open combination bistro/hair salon/art gallery/community centre, and endless stream of breezy non-sequiturs, Tracy is quickly swept into a series of adventures masterminded by her soon-to-be sister.

But when a major backer drops out of the restaurant, Brooke’s supposedly charmed life begins to unravel. With Tracy, Tony and Nicolette in tow, Brooke hits the road to confront the person she believes owes her the most: her former BFF Mamie Claire (Heather Lind), who stole both Brooke’s best idea and her wealthy boyfriend, Dylan (Michael Chernus), not to mention her two cats. At the couple’s Connecticut mansion, a farcical and poignant encounter reveals the improbable truth in this comedy of modern manners.

If the role of Brooke, a sometimes mad, always entertaining, girl-about-town seems tailor-made for Greta Gerwig, that’s because it was. In their second screenwriting collaboration, Gerwig and acclaimed independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach have created another unpredictable and believable portrait of a contemporary woman.

The filmmakers also launched a major talent hunt to find an actress who could carry the heart of the film as Tracy, played by Lola Kirke. “It’s easy to underestimate the character of Tracy because she’s our way into the story, our narrator,” notes Baumbach. “In a sense, she’s an unreliable narrator. The story is about her finding her voice and growing into herself.”

Baumbach and Gerwig’s first collaboration, ‘Frances Ha’, earned accolades for its stylish black-and-white portrayal of a young dancer in search of a home. The experience was so rewarding, says Baumbach, that they have been writing together ever since, constantly bouncing ideas of each other and seeing where it takes them. “I like working with Greta because I’m always amused and inspired by her. I look forward to reading what she’s written.”

The character of Brooke began as a minor player in a different story, a woman Gerwig says was “a small-time hustler with a lot of irons in the fire.”

“As we wrote,” continues Baumbach, “Greta would speak in Brooke’s voice and it made us both laugh. We decided she deserved her own movie and started writing what became ‘Mistress America’. We began with Brooke and reverse-engineered the story from there. I have no idea what the inspiration was for Brooke, but once Greta started talking like her, I knew I’d like to see a movie with her playing this part.”

“I’m a fan of the kind of 1980s movies in which some amazing girl drags ‘the square’ into a crazy underground. They go on a big adventure and all this happenstance tumbles in. We wanted that feeling. I love the energy of those movies and I felt like I hadn’t seen one for a long time,” says Gerwig.

Movies like ‘Something Wild’, ‘After Hours’ and ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’, in which the protagonist is taken on a wild ride by an alluring stranger, were an influence, says Baumbach. “These were movies I saw when I was a teenager and they had a big effect on me,” says the filmmaker.

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Meryl-Streep-in-Ricki-And-FILM: MISTRESS AMERICA

CAST: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Cindy Cheung, Kathryn Erbe, Dean Wareham

DIRCTOR: Noah Baumbach

A college freshman in New York gets a crash course in city life when she befriends her glamorous stepsister-to-be in ‘Mistress America’, a contemporary screwball comedy from filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig.

For Tracy (Lola Kirke), her first semester at college in Manhattan is a major disappointment. Her classes are dull, her roommate is hostile and her crush, Tony (Matthew Shear), has an obsessively jealous girlfriend, Nicolette (Jasmine Cephas-Jones). Rejected by the literary society she had set her heart on joining, the aspiring writer reaches out to Brooke (Gerwig), the going on 30-year-old daughter of her mother’s fiancé – and everything in her life changes overnight.

Brooke introduces Tracy to a side of New York she has long dreamed of. Enthralled by Brooke’s picturesque but illegal apartment, about-to-open combination bistro/hair salon/art gallery/community centre, and endless stream of breezy non-sequiturs, Tracy is quickly swept into a series of adventures masterminded by her soon-to-be sister.

But when a major backer drops out of the restaurant, Brooke’s supposedly charmed life begins to unravel. With Tracy, Tony and Nicolette in tow, Brooke hits the road to confront the person she believes owes her the most: her former BFF Mamie Claire (Heather Lind), who stole both Brooke’s best idea and her wealthy boyfriend, Dylan (Michael Chernus), not to mention her two cats. At the couple’s Connecticut mansion, a farcical and poignant encounter reveals the improbable truth in this comedy of modern manners.