At the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with NFL dreams.
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1hr 50min
by Christy Lemire
“Draft Day” reminded me a lot of “Moneyball,” understandably. Both are about the behind-the-scenes, stat-based wheeling and dealing that go on between big-league professional sports teams — number crunching rather than bone crunching.
While the more serious-minded “Moneyball” focused on the true story of how sabermetrics changed the way baseball teams assess players, the fictional “Draft Day” ultimately is about the way in which character can prevail over combine figures during one of the biggest events on the National Football League’s calendar. Both films offer a glimpse inside the executive offices and a chance to eavesdrop on conversations between some of the most powerful figures in sports. Fans and non-fans alike will find themselves getting caught up in the tension.
But “Draft Day” also reminded me of a totally different kind of movie: “The Devil Wears Prada.” If that juicy peek inside the fashion industry (with a withering supporting performance from Meryl Streep) was a chick flick guys could enjoy, “Draft Day” depicts a macho, muscular world in which women viewers can find themselves enthralled, as well. Of course I know a ton of passionate, knowledgeable female football fans, but “Draft Day” isn’t even really about football. It’s about coming into your own and finding clarity at a personal and professional crossroads. It’s about doing your job. It’s a day in the life.
Director Ivan Reitman — working from a script by Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman — makes that day crackle and come to life from the start. There’s something very old-fashioned about the tone here, about the lessons and hard-won victories (I’ve seen the word “Capra-esque” bandied about to describe it, which seems fitting). But “Draft Day” is also completely contemporary in its details, which gives it an air of authenticity. Much of it was shot at Radio City Music Hall during the actual NFL Draft, with commissioner Roger Goodell himself announcing the fictional players’ names. Veteran media figures like Chris Berman and Rich Eisen, along with former superstars like Deion Sanders, Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar, also make cameos as themselves. The access Reitman & Co. received is unprecedented — and man, did they spend some money on majestic aerial shots of empty stadiums across the country — but “Draft Day” doesn’t feel like a total infomercial.
In fact, it’s the abundance of drama off the field and away from the spotlight that becomes a distraction and weighs the film down. When it’s about Kevin Costner trying to prove all his detractors wrong as the beleaguered general manager of the Cleveland Browns, it moves beautifully. As Sonny Weaver Jr., Costner gives one of the finest performances of lengthy career. He’s no-nonsense and a little beat-up. Much of the cocky swagger that’s defined Costner for so long is gone here. He doesn’t care if we like him — he’s just trying to survive.
Costner enjoys some nice chemistry with Jennifer Garner as the team’s salary-cap expert with whom he’s secretly involved (although what develops between them strains credulity and feels like one extra dramatic element too many). Her character is a great one — smart, confident, capable — a strong business woman and a strong football woman. I love that she exists in this testosterone-infused world. Garner also has such a likable presence that she isn’t wielding her character’s talents in a defensive way that suggests she’s got something to prove. She’s just damn good at what she does.
Then again, the film itself is surprisingly good — Reitman’s best since “Dave,” and that was back in 1993. After the early comedies he directed, which defined a generation — “Meatballs,” “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters” — Reitman has not exactly been on a roll in recent years between “Evolution,” “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” and (the decent) “No Strings Attached.” “Draft Day” may be overloaded with dramatic subplots over a single, eventful day, but it functions really entertainingly as both a comedy and a mystery.
From the moment he wakes up, Sonny is under pressure from all sides: his girlfriend, Ali, who doesn’t want to hide their relationship anymore; talk-radio idiots scrutinizing his every move; fans calling for his firing; fellow GMs cajoling him to make a trade for his No. 7 pick; arrogant team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), who only cares about “making a splash,” as he puts it; opinionated Coach Penn (Denis Leary in comfortably quick-talking mode), who thinks he knows what’s best for the team; and players pushing themselves directly on Sonny’s private cell phone number (“42″ star Chadwick Boseman, hugely charismatic as an outside linebacker). Even Sonny’s mom (Ellen Burstyn) gets in on the act with a flair for the theatrical as she insists that Sonny take time to honor his father, the Browns’ beloved, recently deceased head coach.
The suspense steadily builds as Sonny charms and barters, bobs and weaves, but it reaches its peak when the Browns are on the clock and Sonny must make his decision. Will it be the highly touted Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), a pretty boy who seems too good to be true? Boseman’s Vontae Mack, who’s got a big heart beneath his hotheaded persona? Or team legacy Ray Jennings (Houston Texans running back Arian Foster), who’d love to follow in the footsteps of his father/manager (Terry Crews, solid in a rare dramatic role)?
How Sonny gets there is nothing short of thrilling — a Hail Mary pass, if you’ll pardon the football metaphor — but he certainly connects.
A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of uncontrollable younger sister.
Running Time: 2hrs 3min
MPAA Rating: R
“Nosferatu.” “Dracula.” “Vampyr.” “Near Dark.” It isn’t too soon to add “Only Lovers Left Alive” to the list of the greatest vampire films – although this newest entry into the genre isn’t exactly a horror film, per se. The staples of the myth are there (sunlight = bad, etc.), but this film is more concerned with the attitudes of these centuries-old beings than with the terror they inflict upon we humans. That they are in fact, vampires, is almost incidental, but that status affords an easy explanation for their cooler-than-thou stance towards the rest of the world.
More so to the allegorical point than merely laying it on thick, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play Eve and Adam, creatures of the night who, in a bid to prolong their survival in a modern world, do all they can to avoid the attention that inevitably follows a blood-drained corpse. Having found other ways to obtain their necessary intake of hemoglobin, they spend their nights dabbling in music (he’s a famously reclusive musician), FaceTiming (she’s keen on newer technology), and mourning the general state of the world. Most humans are “zombies” to them, for their dearth of appreciation for life and the wasting of their talents.
Which is to say that “Only Lovers Left Alive” is probably as esoteric as it sounds, and arthouse favorite Jim Jarmusch’s languid approach – which suggests idle passengers watching the world go by – will likely leave you feeling sublime, or nothing at all. This viewer was immediately taken with his pseudo-comic vision of cursed immortality. The leads are fittingly otherworldly (especially when photographed in radiant nighttime hues), and the experience is as defined by the romance of the heart as it is by its stubbornly idealized worldview.
Robert Humanick is a contributing writer for slantmagazine.com
Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his careful cultivated existence.
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1hr 25min
The danger in writing about ”Locke” is in giving away too much of the story. Or, in celebrating the movie’s somber splendor, damning it with too much praise. We wouldn’t want the fault to be in our stars — four of ‘em.
Yet, actor Tom Hardy and writer-director Steven Knight make it nearly impossible to keep a lid on it.
So here are the caveats, such as they are. “Locke” is a brooding indie ride about one man’s personal crisis. Shot in the shadows and headlight-glare of a night-time highway to London, its action takes place almost entirely in a BMW sedan driven by a construction-site foreman headed from point A to point B.
This unplanned sojourn begins after a phone call rouses him to actions that may — probably will ? — upend everything he’s worked hard to secure in his life.
I won’t give away the exact destination, but Point A is the construction site where Ivan Locke (Hardy) is a highly regarded foreman.
The film begins with Ivan taking off his dust- and debris-caked work boots and getting into his car. Knight gives us a few orienting cues. Locke has the attire of a worker, the long hours, too, it seems, but slips behind the wheel of a nicely appointed BMW.
Other cues will come via the car’s illuminated Bluetooth directory. Who, we ask, rates the moniker “Bastard”?
We quickly learn how trusted Locke is by the fury his initial phone calls instigate. There are those to his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels) and to his second, Donal, played by Andrew Scott, doing a lovely job voicing the worries of a guy not quite up to the task about to befall him.
Locke is in charge of the concrete pour of a foundation for a Chicago-based conglomerate. Europe’s largest “pour” is set to take place the next morning. Ivan will not be there.
The other even harder set of calls he makes are to “Home.” At various times either wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) or sons Eddie (Tom Holland) or Sean (Bill Milner) provide the voices at the other end of those conversations. Ivan is expected home to watch a televised football match. (“Mom got sausage,” Eddie says enthusiastically.) He won’t be.
For the next 80 or so minutes we watch — and listen — as Ivan tries to control situations that this night-time drive endangers
“Locke” is at once a lesson in distracted and frightfully focused driving. The title character often talks to his listeners with a preternatural calm that has surely served him well as boss and model employee, husband and father.
He’s a little more edgy talking to his dead father — whom we never see but learn a telling amount about. To add to this slightly hallucinatory aspect, writer-director Knight has saddled Ivan with a cold. So its reasonable to fear drowsiness, slow reaction times.
“Locke” is a moody kin to two 2013 dramas: “All Is Lost” and the Oscar-winning “Gravity.” One began on a sailboat in the Indian Ocean, the other outside a space station. So while we may feel ourselves marooned like Robert Redford’s and Sandra Bullock’s characters, for most of us, that is a metaphorical condition.
“Locke” is ruminative and deeply human like those acclaimed dramas. It is also more taut and arguably a better film, not least for being painfully relatable.
The crises Ivan Locke faces with a tremendous will to do the right thing strike a chord. The mistakes that have him in the driver’s seat, but hardly in control, are terribly human and all too familiar.
Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bylisakennedy
A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying.
MPAA Rating: Approved
Running Time: 1hr 32min
Most of what Robert Altman has done with overlapping dialogue was done first by Howard Hawks in this 1940 comedy, without the benefit of Dolby stereo. (The film, in fact, often circulates in extremely poor public-domain prints that smother the glories of Hawks’s sound track.) It isn’t a matter of speed but of placement—the dialogue almost seems to have levels in space. Hawks’s great insight—taking the Hecht-MacArthur Front Page and making the Hildy Johnson character a woman—has been justly celebrated; it deepens the comedy in remarkable ways. Cary Grant’s performance is truly virtuoso—stunning technique applied to the most challenging material. With Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy, a genius in his way too.
By Dave Kehr – Chicago Reader