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DID YOU READ

“Warrior,” reviewed

“Warrior,” reviewed (photo)

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“Warrior” was the third of three films I saw Wednesday. At the first movie, I took five pages of notes. At the second, I took four. At “Warrior,” I took less than two. In other words: I got lost in this movie. I stopped thinking about the fine points of cinematography, editing, and score and simply gave myself over to the story and characters. Right up until a poorly chosen ending, I was caught up in every twist and turn. This is a fun movie.

It’s set in the world of mixed martial arts, and done in the “Rocky” style, only this movie has two Rocky figures. They’re brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton). Life dealt them both the same bum hand; each played it in different ways. Their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) was a a great wrestling coach and a terrible alcoholic. The exact dimensions of his abuse are left vague but from the way the brothers treat their father in the present day, this much is clear: he was one bad dude. Tommy and his mother left, but Brendan stayed so he could be close to his girlfriend Tess (Jennifer Morrison). Years pass. Brendan and Tess are now married, living in Philadelphia with two daughters and one mortgage they can’t afford. To pay the bills, Brendan works as a high school physics teacher by day and a mixed martial arts fighter at night. Meanwhile Tommy returns from a tour of duty in the Marines to Paddy’s house in Pittsburgh. He hates his father, but he’s thinking about fighting, and he needs someone to train him.

A few enterprising MMA promoters devise a new eye catching elimination-style tournament called Sparta: 16 fighters, one winner. You see where this is going. Despite the fact that Tommy and Brendan are both unranked nobodies, each will get the opportunity to compete at Sparta and, potentially, have the chance to settle years of festering animosity in a final cage match.

The climax of “Warrior” is never in doubt. And the contortions the film takes to put the brothers into that climax are ridiculous. But the journey to that destination is nonetheless very satisfying. So many movies pit a hero against a villain; this movie gives us a battle between two heroes of equal stature, a much rarer but arguably more suspenseful conflict. After all in a battle of good and evil, the ending, especially in a Hollywood movie, is never in doubt. In a battle of good and good, either outcome is plausible. “Warrior” reminded me — in a very good way — of watching “WrestleMania VI,” and the fight between the two biggest good-guy wrestlers of my childhood, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. The tension was incredible because either man could win, and you had no idea what was going to happen. The same holds true here.

Hardy, Edgerton, and Nolte, all from different countries — Hardy’s English, Edgerton Australian, and Nolte American — do a very credible job of creating a cohesive, if effed up family. Nolte channels all of his well-publicized problems with substance abuse into a powerful portrait of addiction. Edgerton has great chemistry with Morrison, and makes both a believable prize fighter and teacher. And Hardy, who gets very few lines, is terrific as a bottled-up beast of a man, who, with his wide open stance, enormous muscles, and jittery hands, looks like a bull charging a matador when he’s in an MMA cage. He is an intimidating figure.

“Warrior” was directed and co-written by Gavin O’Connor who made the very solid hockey movie “Miracle” and the very underwhelming cop movie “Pride & Glory.” The former film was about the sacrifices a husband makes to achieve a career goal; the latter, the thorny connections between family members who share a common vocation. O’Connor combines both those themes here, with strong results: the drama is intense but not overly melodramatic, and the sports movie cliches are all effectively deployed — at least until the finale, which I will not spoil, but which left me scratching my head for its total implausibility and its maudlin sentimentality. Even worse, it totally derails the big confrontation we’ve been waiting all movie to see. And it’s overly sentimental without actually resolving a lot of the major emotional conflicts between the characters.

Up until that ending I really enjoyed “Warrior.” It’s the sort of sports movie you want to see: one that acknowledges its forefathers (there is a very pointed “Rocky” reference early in the film) but isn’t above embracing all the tropes we love to see in this sort of story. But the last few scenes lost me. That’s when the funniest thing happened. I started taking notes.

“Warrior” opens today. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…