Spider-Man: Far From Home

June 28, 2019 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Jon Watts (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”)
Written by: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”)

Here we are, in the first visit back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” namely the return of everyone disappeared in “the snap” and death of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and we’re spending that time with his protégé (and heir apparent?) Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” With Iron Man gone and Captain America now a nonagenarian, who’s left to lead the Avengers?

Eight months after the reversal of “the blip” where half of all life in the universe disappeared, the public seems to think the answer is Spider-Man. Though after being re-blipped into existence, all Peter wants to do is take his school trip to Europe and, hopefully, profess his love to his snarky crush MJ (Zendaya) atop the Eiffel Tower. But Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other ideas for the web slinger, with the arrival of monstrous creatures known as Elementals, who are wreaking havoc across the globe.

Fury hijacks Peter’s trip, pressing him into service with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a hero from another version of Earth who lost his family in a battle with the Elementals. Dubbed Mysterio by Peter and the media, the noble Beck is seemingly the perfect person to step into the vacant Avengers leadership role, and to take the pressure off the unsure Spider-Man. But things aren’t always what they seem.

Less of a standard superhero adventure and more of a Marvel spin on “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” or “Eurotrip,” “Far From Home” leans heavily into comedy more so than perhaps any other movie in the MCU so far. The film, tasked with rebuilding a sort of normal after “Endgame,” plays most everything for laughs, from the logistics of what happened when “the blip” was reversed to the technological legacy Stark leaves behind for Peter. Holland’s Parker holds it altogether as the awkward teenage straight man, though the film’s somewhat lumpy narrative and too-long runtime suck a little fun out of the whole thing. And as the MCU looks to pivot to focus on the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man for phase four, “Far From Home” can’t help but do a little table setting in its two post-credits sequences. The first one, featuring a delightfully perfect cameo, makes for an interesting cliffhanger that will leave you tingling for what’s coming next.

Wildlife

November 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould
Directed by: Paul Dano (debut)
Written by: Zoe Kazan (“Ruby Sparks”) and Paul Dano (debut)

Over his 18-year career, actor Paul Dano has become one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets — a talented performer whose roles in mostly dramas and dark comedies are usually eclipsed by headlining movie stars or flashier characters or, in the case of last year’s “Swiss Army Man,” a farting Harry Potter.

In a sense, some of Dano’s roles are tonally linked by seemingly reclusive characters who gradually break out of their shells to uncover another distinctive part of their personality. He does this with ease in Oscar-winning films like 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine” and 2007’s “There Will Be Blood.”

Dano takes this idea of a smoldering character and uses it to define the atmosphere of his directorial debut “Wildlife” — an intimate, low-key family affair that slowly gives way to a narrative where aggravation, pain and resentment simmer beneath the landscape ready to flare up. All in all, it’s one of the best first independently produced features by an actor-turned-director since Tom McCarthy’s 2003 debut film “The Station Agent.”

Set in the 1960s, the film, much like 2008’s “Revolutionary Road,” depicts the dissolution of a marriage and family. In this instance, it’s the Brinsons — Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and their teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould), who serves as the main spectator of the domestic drama.

Making a life for themselves in a peaceful Montana town, Jerry stays busy working as a caddy at a local golf course. The family dynamic shifts greatly when he is abruptly fired from his job. Stuck in a rut and looking for something meaningful to do, he decides to leave town to become a modestly paid firefighter and battle the blazes destroying the state’s forests. With Jeanette at home upset with Jerry’s choice of employment, she finds solace in the arms of wealthy car dealership owner Warren Miller (Bill Camp).

Subtle in its storytelling, screenwriters Zoe Kazan (“Ruby Sparks”) and Dano offer a delicate approach to the subject matter as Joe attempts to understand what his mother is doing and how his fear of uncertainty is shaping his childhood. His awareness and concern for his family’s survival is palpable as Jeanette embroils herself into a situation she knows is wrong, but one that might bring her some kind of simulated happiness.

The coming-of-age parallels between Joe growing into a man while his father is away and the emotional disarray his mother causes while setting off on her own direction are effective. Mulligan is nothing short of mesmerizing as she struggles internally with life-altering decisions that will ultimately lead to the destruction of something that was once beloved.

Stronger

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“Joe”)
Written by: John Pollono (debut)

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is given the cinematic treatment for the second time in two years and done so, once again, with heart and sensitivity for everyone involved in the fateful day. While last year’s “Patriots’ Day” focused on the crime itself and what it took to bring a pair of terrorists to justice, the drama “Stronger” takes a more humanistic approach with the story of one man whose life was changed forever in the blink of an eye. It’s a touching look at a personal fight for survival and how the idea of heroism is viewed during a national tragedy to lift up those who have been broken.

Academy Award-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”) stars as Jeff Bauman, an average Bostonian who was present at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 cheering for his on-again, off-again girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) when two bombs detonated in the crowd. When the smoke settled, it is revealed that Jeff has lost both his legs in one of the blasts. In an uphill physical and emotional battle, Jeff must learn how to live with his handicap all while reliving a day he would like to forget by reluctantly taking on the role of “hero” christened on him by a city in desperate need of inspiration.

Moviegoers are given that sense of hopefulness from Jeff’s story with Gyllenhaal’s subtle and vulnerable performance. Luckily, with director David Gordon Green (“Joe”) behind the camera, the storytelling strays from becoming too melodramatic or sappy. While Gyllenhaal doesn’t command the screen like in a lot of his previous work, the character feels meaningful and resonant. As Jeff’s supportive (ex)-girlfriend, Maslany from stands out with conviction in her most accessible film to date. It’s not a role that allows her much range like she has on her TV series “Orphan Black” where she plays a handful of different clones, but Maslany captures something beautiful in the way she exudes love and frustration as a sympathetic caretaker.

By confronting the more painful aspects of Jeff’s narrative, Green and first-time screenwriter John Pollono give audiences more than the cliché tropes that we would normally see in a film that could’ve easily been denigrated to Movie of the Week levels. Instead, “Stronger” is intimate, tender and heartbreaking in just the right amounts.

Enemy

March 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”)
Written by: Javier Gullón (“Hierro”)

Following last year’s extremely tense thriller “Prisoners,” director Denis Villeneuve teams up once again with actor Jake Gyllenhaal for “Enemy,” a bizarrely atmospheric and often times metaphoric head scratcher featuring an open-ended narrative most mainstream audiences would probably scoff at. Villeneuve isn’t the type of director to serve up answers to his audience without making them think at a higher level than most filmmakers. We’re not talking quantum physics here, but even more so than “Prisoners,” Villeneuve demands viewers not to expect simple solutions for the puzzling scenarios he presents onscreen.

In “Enemy,” which was actually shot before “Prisoners,” Gyllenhaal stars as Adam Bell, an introverted history professor whose life has become very repetitious. Teaching the same lessons to his classes and coming home to the same dark apartment are events Adam has acclimated to over the years. His daily routine is broken, however, when Adam, on the recommendation from a colleague, rents an obscure movie and discovers that a bit-part actor in the film looks exactly like him. Curious to know more about this man who shares all his physical features (doppelganger? long lost twin brother?), Adam searches him out. Although the self-absorbed actor, Anthony St. Claire, is not very interested in the strange connection they have, he soon changes his mind and wants to meet Adam to see the similarities for himself.

Their initial meeting thrusts them into a mysterious mind game of skepticism and deceit wherein the two men decide they would like to try living as the other for a weekend. Villeneuve and screenwriter Javier Gullón (“Hierro”) are vague in their reasoning for this Machiavellian-like switch to take place other than for the story to move forward. Adam’s reaction to his discovery is also peculiarly written and not entirely believable. Would someone search out an individual in such a clandestine way? Sure, it adds to the intrigue of the story and to Villeneuve’s filmmaking style, but it doesn’t always feel true to life.

Despite its flaws, “Enemy,” based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, is sharp in its delivery and creates this underlying discomfort that is perfect for its subject matter. Gyllenhaal gives a pair of strong performances as Adam and Anthony, the latter of whom comes with a lot of unusual baggage, including a sexual fetish that plays into the storyline with some creepy imagery. Villeneuve’s vision, too, is unsettling. With the film washed out in a yellow hue, “Enemy” gives off this sense of repulse that is more than skin deep. Pick at the scabs long enough and something ugly is bound to seep out.

Prisoners

September 26, 2013 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”)
Written by: Aaron Guzikowski (“Contraband”)

While it’s script might transform from intriguing police procedural into something that could be described as controlled chaos, director Denis Villeneuve 153-minute long drama is effectively tense. Anchored by a raw and powerful performance from Hugh Jackman and a solid contribution from Jake Gyllenhaal, this film about two young girls who are kidnapped confronts some extremely hard-hitting themes and scenarios that would make any parent shudder. Things get messy as the film spirals to a conclusion, but there’s no way you’re going to move unless you know how it all ends (even though you technically don’t).

End of Watch

September 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick
Directed by: David Ayer (“Street Kings”)
Written by: David Ayer (“Training Day”)

Hollywood is no stranger to cop-centered entertainment. In comedy, there’s the buddy cop formula where often an uptight by-the-books cop is paired up with an nontraditional, sometimes buffoonish one and hilarity occasionally ensues. There’s also the story of the hard-nosed crooked police officer dipping into illegal activities such as last years “Rampart.” But beyond the reality trash-TV of “Cops,” you don’t often get a glimpse into not only into the daily routine of seemingly regular policemen, but the relationships and bonds that form within the brotherhood.

“End of Watch” follows LAPD officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) through their days as partners patrolling the streets of Los Angeles. One day, they discover something that places them in the middle of a life-threatening drug cartel and they must work together to protect each others lives.

The film features a pair of dynamite performances from Gyllenhaal and Pena, which without a doubt rank among the best of their respective careers. While the performances stand strongly on their own, their on-screen chemistry is as strong as any duo seen on the screen in the last few years. Throughout the entire film, it feels as if you are watching not only work partners, but legitimate best friends and brothers interact with each other. Not only do their dramatic scenes play off well, but Gyllenhaal and Pena are able to effortlessly joke around and goof off with one another. In fact, “End of Watch” is surprisingly funny, evoking buddy-cop style comedy in its most humorous moments.

A large section of the camera work of “End of Watch” comes from a handheld camera, under the explanation that Gyllenhaal’s character making a movie for a project in his film class. While the rationale might be a touch flimsy, the usage of this particular camera work adds a visceral and gritty dimension to the film, which makes it feel less gimmicky overall than a typical “found-footage” movie. Director David Ayer is also certainly not afraid to show graphic violence, including several scenes with disturbing imagery that is perhaps heightened in its impact by the intimate home-video quality of the cinematography.

Extremely raw and realistic, emotionally charged, tense and often funny, “End of Watch” is a wholly satisfying movie-going experience. It is able to overcome its lack of intricate plot by combining a unique visual presentation, a compelling and authentic day-in-the-life storytelling style, and two actors symbiotically elevating the quality of the material. Without question, “End of Watch” is a cut above most action cinema and one of the best cop movies in recent memory.

Source Code

April 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
Directed by: Duncan Jones (“Moon”)
Written by: Ben Ripley (debut)

Playing like a bizarre mix of the Billy Murray comedy “Groundhog’s Day” and the early 90s TV series “Quantum Leap,” director Duncan Jones’ second feature film, “Source Code,” is an exciting and smart sci-fi story that proves original ideas still exist out there – even if you have to search beyond time and space.

In “Source Code,” Jake Gyllenhaal (“Love and Other Drugs”) plays Capt. Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot stationed in Afghanistan who wakes up one day to discover he is no longer himself. He now inhabits the body of a high school teacher traveling into Chicago on a train with one of his fellow colleagues and possible love interest (Michlle Monaghan).

Extremely confused for the first half hour of the film, Capt. Colter soon learns he is part of a special mission, which gives him eight minutes to find a terrorist who ultimately ends up bombing the train he is on. Sent back and forth into this parallel universe by military officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and a team of scientists, Capt. Colter is forced to participate in what Goodwin calls a Source Code, a time reassignment program (way more interesting than the time traveling hooey Gyllenhaal goes through in “Prince of Persia”) that allows him to revisit past events in hopes of retrieving vital information and saving lives.

Shot in a Hitchockian-type style that keeps the intensity high, director Jones knows how to thread scenes together with inventiveness. Each time Capt. Colter fails at his mission, he awakes inside a mechanical pod, asked to report on what he has seen, and is sent back again without much warning. Like Sam Rockwell in Jones’ first film “Moon,” Capt. Colter is overwhelmed by isolation. Gyllenhaal, in a very convincing peroformance, gives his character depth and likeability. Each time he asks to speak to his father, Jones hits us hard with heartbreaking compassion.

It’s because of this that “Source Code” is more than just a fun sci-fi ride through the creative mind of Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley; there’s actually a reason we care about our leading man and the pain he is feeling as he is jerked around between worlds. While Jones delivers an enjoyable balance of charm and humor to the picture, it’s the emotional pull that keeps us deep inside “Source Code” eager to see the captain emerge from the smoke and mirrors.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

May 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Mike Newell (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”)
Written by: Boaz Yakin (“Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”), Doug Miro (“The Uninvited”), Carlo Bernard (“The Uninvited”)

With the exception of 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow,” Jake Gyllenhaal always seemed like the type of actor who couldn’t be wooed by the bells and whistles of mainstream Hollywood. From standout performances in unique films like “Donnie Darko,” “The Good Girl,” and “Brokeback Mountain,” so much of Gyllenhaal’s on-screen attraction has been the fact that there wasn’t much action-hero attitude in him begging to escape.

So, it’s a bit surprising (not only because he’s playing a Persian, but looks nothing like someone of Persian descent) that Gyllenhaal signed up to star in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” a movie adaptation of the popular video game series created by Jordan Mechner in 1989. While the title might sound like a gaudy Middle Eastern soap opera, there’s nothing remotely dramatic about this lazily-scripted story. Like most over-produced Jerry Bruckheimer mainstream hullabaloo (with the exception of the first “Pirates of the Caribbean”), “Persia” is not so much entertaining as it is a dizzying experience.

Adopted from the streets as a boy by the Persian king, Dastan (Gyllenhaal) – although he is not of royal blood – has been raised just the same as the king’s biological sons Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle), who is next in line for the royal throne.

Disobeying his father’s wishes, Tus commands the Persian army to raid the Holy City of Alamut when he receives word from his uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) and his spies that the city is supplying weapons to Persia’s enemies. To make amends for their betrayal against the Persian king, Tus claims Tamina (the breathtaking Gemma Arterton), the Princess of Alamut, as his wife. It’s a short engagement, however, before the king arranges her to marry Dastan instead.

But when Dastan is framed for the murder of his father – an incident he has no motive for, but makes matters worse by fleeing – he and Tamina team up out of necessity. Now running for their lives through Persia, the duo must survive long enough to find the king’s real killer and, of course, fall in love. Mixed into the absurd narrative is a magical dagger, which possesses the power to send people back in time.

Don’t attempt to break “Persia” down any more than you have to. That would surely defeat the purpose of a Bruckheimer-produced film. The less brainpower used on the CGI-heavy fantasy, the more likely you are to appreciate its kitsch. In this instance, however, dumbing down “Prince of Persia” into gawky scenes of swordplay, romance and unintentionally funny anachronistic dialogue shouldn’t be enough reason to give Bruckheimer a blessing to fund another pointless journey into another of these sand traps.

Brothers

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Jim Sheridan (“In America”)
Written by: David Benioff (“The Kite Runner”)

Filmmaker Jim Sheridan wants us to know that war in hell, but in the melodramatic “Brothers” all the responsibility to exhibit the frustration and agony is put solely on the shoulders of actor Toby Maguire. Maguire, who mainstream audiences will identify as Spider-Man, has turned in some nice dramatic work in films like “Wonder Boys” and “The Cider House Rules,” but as a solider returning home from a devastating tour in Afghanistan only to find his wife (Natalie Portman) and outcast brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) have gotten closer, the emotions feel forced. Originally a very well-executed Danish film by Susanne Bier called “Brodre,” Sheridan and screenwriter David Benioff’s American version takes some fearless chances. Sometimes the intensity works, but overall a number of scenes feel disjointed from the ones they precede. See the original instead.