MMA

Over the last decade or so, Kevin James has found his niche. He stars in wacky, slapstick movies about bumbling losers who are defined by their occupations. Think of it as the big screen version of the Simpsons episodes where Homer gets a new job for a few days and everything goes wrong. Whether he’s a mall cop or a zookeeper, as long as Kevin James is falling down a lot and mugging for the camera, filmgoing audiences seem to come out en masse. At first glance, Here Comes the Boom seems to be the latest film that sticks to what has now become James’ M.O. Here he’s playing a schlubby high school teacher who tries to join the world of mixed martial arts in order to make a quick buck. Predictably, Kevin fall down and go boom. But a funny thing happens as you keep watching the new Here Comes the Boom trailer. It starts to become clear that this isn’t James’ usual slapstick movie at all. Sure, there’s some of that in here, but this time he seems to be serving up a whole new tonal spin on things. Instead of being a wacky comedy, this one looks like it’s James taking a swing at making a legitimate, sappy sports drama. Here he isn’t the goofy teacher who’s in over his head, he’s the hero teacher who will go to any lengths to help his kids. He isn’t the fat guy who looks funny trying to do things […]

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Gina Carano in Haywire

When you think of the typical action hero, the image that immediately leaps to mind is undoubtedly that of a bloody, bandana-clad dude with a massive gun, or a rouge tough guy cop, or perhaps a macho kung-fu master. In other words…males. While action is a genre long dominated by men, there have been a few notable (read: 100% ass-kicking) action heroines that have left their own indelible mark: Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. To that list, we must now certainly add Gina Carano, star of Steven Soderbergh’s recent action thriller Haywire. Gina however had the advantage of being a certified badass long before throwing her first punch on screen. She is a longtime student of Muay Thai, a former champion MMA fighter, and was in fact involved in some of the first sanctioned female fights in MMA history. With knockout after knockout Carano, an undeniable knockout herself, proved that beauty and strength were far from mutually exclusive. Her work in Haywire, coupled with her successful MMA career, inspired the head honchos at ActionFest to create a new award for which she will be the first recipient. The Chick Norris Best Female Action Star Award, playfully adapted from the name of fest founder (and action legend in his own right) Chuck Norris, celebrates the contribution women have made and continue to make to action cinema. We got a chance to talk to Gina about the award, about Haywire, and, oddly, […]

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Critics love to bemoan the high concept Hollywood production, those movies with an easily comprehended hook that seems ready-made for the pitch meeting. Their disgust is often justifiable. After all, these are usually safe, creatively bankrupt cliché fests, the scourge of the corporately-run studios. At first glance, Warrior — one-part Cain and Abel, one part Rocky and one part a blatant cash-in on the Mixed Martial Arts phenomenon — appears to be just such a flick. But when it comes to a picture’s most basic purpose — entertaining its audience — an easily definable premise doesn’t necessarily spell doom. When the commonplace is done well, with real feeling and strong characterizations, it can still seem fresh. Director Gavin O’Connor, who achieved that effect with his 1980 Winter Olympics hockey drama Miracle, does it again here. The premise is familiar — estranged blue collar brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) hash out their differences against the backdrop of an athletic competition (MMA tournament). The passion imbued in the storytelling and the performances, however, is not.

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Anyone who thinks mixed martial arts is just a vicious, bloodthirsty sport where grown men beat the crap out of each other for fun might think differently after seeing Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein’s Fightville, an in-depth and beautifully shot look at the world of MMA through a group of fighters, trainers and promoters in Southern Louisiana. Fightville follows a cast of characters in and around the Gladiators Academy in Lafayette, a small local gym where philosophy-spouting veteran UFC fighter, “Crazy” Tim Credeur trains amateur and rising professional fighters. Far away from the bright lights of the big time promotions like the UFC, the movie takes a look at what essentially amounts to the minor leagues of MMA – where guys are fighting to prove themselves and learn what it takes to become champions. Glamorous it ain’t (the fighters have to mop up their own blood after fights) but what it lacks in luster it makes up for in heart.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, Going the Distance screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe (pronounced “La Tulip”) stops by to share his xenophobia, puff on his pipe a little harder, and tell his personal story of getting his first screenplay sold and produced all from the comfort of his living room couch. We also find time to review Easy A, Devil, and The Town.

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Last week on Reject Radio, the question came up as to whether a screenwriter working on a Kevin James film actually writes a detailed description of the joke being told or if he simply writes “Kevin fall down.” The mystery remained unsolved, but Hollywood is giving the world another clue with an untitled project starring James. He’ll play a physics teacher who ends up spending his nights as a mixed martial arts fighter in order to help a financially ailing school and best friend.

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Kung Fu

Why do street gangs, ex-Army Rangers, and Russian mobsters all have green belts in Tae Kwon Do and why do they insist on using it?

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CaranoSoderberghKnockout

With two down, Soderbergh is soldiering through after Moneyball fell through. Staying inside the world of espionage, it looks like he may have a gorgeous, talented MMA star by his side for Knockout.

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published: 10.30.2014
B-
published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
C-
published: 10.24.2014
C-


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