I’m not certain Jungleland is a sports movie, though it does take place in the world of underground bare-knuckle boxing. The story ultimately depends on the outcome of a sporting event, however. So it probably fits into that category.
Regardless, you might not guess that this was directed by Max Winkler, who’s mostly known for comedy work on TV shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Jungleland follows brothers Stan (Charlie Hunnam, FX‘s “Sons of Anarchy”) and Walter “Lion” Kaminski (Jack O’Connell, Unbroken) as they pursue success in the underground world of bare-knuckle boxing. Lion was a promising Golden Gloves fighter, but any hopes of a professional career were ruined when Stan tried to bribe a referee.
Thanks to his recent acting performances in The Mandalorian and Jack Reacher, Werner Herzog has become something of a cultural meme. His dour expression, dry narration, and nihilistic philosophy makes for great parody when applied to absurdity.
But it can’t be forgotten that Herzog is still a fascinating, distinct filmmaker. His latest documentary, Nomad, is a powerful tribute to writer Bruce Chatwin, whose work and approach to life Herzog admired.
My Spy wouldn’t be nearly as fun without Dave Bautista carrying the entire venture on his formidably muscled shoulders. Any doubters who dismissed Bautista as another pro wrestler trying to be a movie star like Dwayne Johnson were likely silenced by the comic timing he showed in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Bautista has continued to use that talent for deadpan humor in comedies like Stuber, and with My Spy, he’s taking the step to family-friendly action star, which elevated the careers of Johnson, Vin Diesel and John Cena. (Bautista is also a producer here, showing he knows this is the right move, balanced with his roles in upcoming spectacles such as Dune, Army of the Dead and a third Guardians movie.)
Though it’s definitely part of the cultural conversation right now, I don’t know if I would’ve watched The Irishman over the Thanksgiving holiday if I hadn’t been asked to review it for Mountain Xpress. And would I have seen it at a local theater knowing that I could watch it at home on Netflix?
Considering how long the movie is, I’m grateful that Edwin Arnaudin gave the OK for a longer review in Mountain Xpress. Here’s an excerpt:
“[…] the true achievement is De Niro’s performance, the best work he’s done in many years. Sheeran is torn between friends (and family) and those who provide him a life he never could have imagined, and De Niro makes that emotional pain palpable.
“But perhaps the greatest acting surprise is Pesci, more reserved and quietly powerful than he’s ever been. (Pacino gets all the histrionics, portraying Hoffa’s outsized, bombastic personality.) Russell doesn’t bend people to his will by yelling, punching people or smashing things. He simply wields the fear of what happens to those who cross him or don’t show respect.”
But I also wrote up a review of the film for Asheville’s Mountain Xpress this week. And given the space restraints of print, it’s often a challenge (one I enjoy) to shorten and distill my thoughts.
“[…] the Joker is very much a comic book character. Though Phillips wants to deny that fact, clothing Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck in 1980s grime and despair and the visual language of early Martin Scorsese films, he can’t avoid the fact that the Joker is best known as Batman’s archnemesis. Allusions are even made to the future existence of the Caped Crusader. Can one exist without the other?
Perhaps the tie-in is fan service intended to placate die-hard comic book fans. But it’s also a concession that this story wouldn’t be distinct without a familiar villain who paints his face with clown makeup and favors purple suits with yellow accessories. Phillips tries to have it both ways.”