Warrior

Posted on September 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Imagine if Rocky, instead of fighting Apollo Creed, got into the ring with another Rocky.  And they were brothers.

I know, I know, but somehow it works in a surprisingly affecting story of the sons of an abusive alcoholic who have not seen each other since they were teenagers and end up fighting each other for a mixed martial arts championship title.

That’s the magic of movies.  Somehow, they can take a story of a welder who does post-modern dance numbers in a Pittsburgh bar and dreams of being a ballerina or cartoon characters are live in old-time Hollywood and feel real-er than real life.  As cheesy as this movie gets, it keeps raising the emotional stakes over and over again until we just tap out and go with it, largely because of full-hearted, powerhouse performances from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.

Tommy (Hardy) comes home.  He’s been away a long time.  His father, Paddy (Nick Nolte) is glad to see him, but Tommy says he wants to deal with his father only as a trainer.  He has no interest in catching up or mending their estrangement.  He just has one goal, to win a $5 million mixed martial arts championship.

Brendan (Edgerton) has a good life as a high school science teacher with a family.  His wife says, “I thought we agreed that we weren’t going to raise our children in a house were their father gets beat up for a living.”  But paying for his daughter’s health care has put the family at risk of losing the house.  He needs a lot of money fast and the only way he knows to get it is to win the mixed martial arts championship.  He goes into training with an old friend.  Cue the montages.

The script by writer/director Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle”) is as corny as an “up close and personal” Olympics athlete profiles, but as effective, too.  Every time you think you’ve made up your mind who to root for, it switches around on you, and then switches around again.  The fight scenes are powerful, but in large part due to the emotional weight given to Tommy and Brendan by Hardy and Edgerton.  The final bout, well, its a knock-out.

 

 

 

(more…)

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Comic-Con, Part 2

Posted on July 23, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I got to meet with the stars of three upcoming films from Lionsgate today. First was Australian Joel Edgerton and British Tom Hardy who play estranged brothers from Pittsburgh in “Warrior,” the story of a mixed martial arts championship bout that pits them against each other. Oh, and their father is played by Nick Nolte. I’ve seen it, and it is as fun as it sounds, sort of like two Rockys kicking and punching each other. They arrived two months before shooting to work on their fight skills (and “East coast with a blue collar edge” accent).  “I have mad love for Pittsburgh,” Hardy told us.  Working with Nolte was a huge draw, especially since the movie has a “70’s vibe,” he said.  “He’s got a face carved from the rock of method acting.  Very specific.”  Edgerton liked the way the story had “two protagonists marching toward the same battlefield.”

Dominic Cooper talked with us about “The Devil’s Double,” an amazing true story of a man hired to impersonate Saddam Hussein’s son Uday.  Cooper plays both roles.  “I loved it,” he said.  “Completely exhilarating.”  While it was a challenge to work without another actor to help develop the scene, he was grateful for the opportunity to take a break from the exhaustion of playing the psychotic Uday to play the double, “a good man, an observer, watching the madness play out.”  To find a way to reach into the character of Uday, who had “nothing I could find any remorse for, my way in was ‘why was he like this?'”

And then we spoke to the producer and three stars from the new “Conan the Barbarian” movie, coming out next month. Producer Fredrik Malmberg told us he worked for ten years to bring this movie to the screen. His primary focus was to return to the original spirit of Conan’s creator, Robert E. Howard, rather than try to remake the John Milius, Arnold Schwarzenegger classic of the 1980’s. “Schwarzenegger was his own special effect,” he said. “We are going back to the source material, back to Howard.” It was good to be back at Comic-Con, where the deal for the movie was made four years ago.  Jason Momoa and Rachel Nicols talked to us about playing Conan and Tamara, as he was eating all of the meat out of a Subway sandwich.  “Meat every two hours, bland, no salt, lift heavy weights, and sword training,” was his description of the regime required for the role.  Nichols talked about her character, who at first “has no idea who she is, what she is going to represent,” but “an innate warrior.”  And they spoke about filming in Bulgaria, which “offered up a lot” in terms of terrain and climate.

Dreamworks brought in the cast and the people behind “Fright Night,” who talked to us about remaking the 1985 horror film about the suburban teen with a vampire next door.  That film’s star, Chris Sarandon, appears in the remake, written by Marti Noxon, something of an expert on vampires from writing and producing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  The tone had to be updated, she explained.  “The boys would be aware of genre conventions.  We live in a ‘Twilight’ universe.”  It retains some of the humor of the original, “but in a very grounded way.  People are funny in a scary situation, not in a funny situation.”  But, she assured us, “it’s not campy because that makes you not believe the scary part.”  Colin Farrell, who plays Jerry, the neighbor, told us he views the character as enjoying the threat he imposes on the boys in the neighborhood, but he is “debonair, cultured, suave.” He “treats humans like a cat treats a ball of wool, like playthings.  He has no human virtues.”

You’d think that after helming the Starship Enterprise and three X-Men movies, Patrick Stewart would be an old hand.  But his first-ever visit to Comic-Con is on behalf of…”Dorothy of Oz,” an animated film opening in the summer of 2012.  It is based on a book written by the grandson of Oz creator L. Frank Baum and Stewart’s co-stars include Lea Michele (Dorothy), Kelsey Grammer (Tin Man), Jim Belushi (Lion), Martin Short (the villain), and Dan Ackroyd (Scarecrow).  He talked to me about the great advantage of doing voice work as an actor — being allowed to overact!

 

More coming soon — stay tuned.

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