Tag: Will Smith

Collateral Beauty: A tearjerker that earns its stripes

The sad Will Smith film, Collateral Beauty, is going to do one of three things.

  1. Make you cry.
  2. Make you be better tomorrow.
  3. Make you mad.

In the end, for a film with enough emotion to fill a river, it may do all three.

One thing is for sure. David Frankel’s new film is a tearjerker of the highest order. It assembles a beautiful and talented cast, hands them a depressing tale, sprinkles some hope on the table, and decorates all of it with the lucid cinematic world of New York City. It’s an unconventional holiday film that requires the audience to buy into the sappy and melodramatic idea of what Christmas brings to people. The idea is simple. Love, peace, togetherness, remembrance, sadness, and most of all, hope.

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Smith’s Howard is a brilliant yet sad man, and one full of self-inflicted torture. He’s been struck with a terrible tragedy, and it’s affected his work and the future of his advertising company. A company that rides on three main things. Love, time, and death. Howard is numb to the world, and the holiday season isn’t making things better. His partners are afraid his misery will bury the company, which is close to be sold. (more…)

“Concussion”reconfigured my view of football

Concussion/Columbia Pictures

The tale of the new film Concussion is simple. Dr. Bennet Omalu(Will Smith) didn’t want to destroy America’s game, football. He simply wanted to protect the players who take the field and absorb the thousands of hits. He wanted players to know what they were getting into. Peter Landesman’s new film isn’t fancy or covered in Oscar worthy ways from head to toe but its message will live on beyond our lifetimes. Football isn’t just a dangerous sport. It’s a deadly one.

The worst thing people will do when seeing this movie is wave it off as nonsense. They will go to their Sunday games, cheer on the big hit, and make short vines of football players getting rocked so hard that they are carried off the field afterwards. People will watch these over and over again. On Youtube, Sportscenter and NFL Network. Violence on any level fascinates the human brain. People hate to admit it, but it does. They will say the graceful aspect of the game pulls them in. Same for boxing fans who say the sweet science is the main allure, when in actuality it’s the hard knockouts they love. That’s why Mike Tyson was a stud and he couldn’t even box. People love violence so they will overlook this important film.

Omalu was a forensic neuropathologist. He’d cut open dead bodies and root out the cause of death, even talking to them before hand, like a corpse whisperer. He came upon an ex-NFL football legend, Mike Webster and found brain bleeds and swelling that would suggest Alzheimer’s but that wasn’t it. It was what he would later call Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy(CTE). If it sounds like a handful, imagine being an former pro football player under 50 years old who pulled his teeth out and used super glue to put them back. As Omalu tells a room full of skeptics towards the end of the film, “A football player should know he may break a bone or two. He shouldn’t know he would lose his mind.”

The doctor pulled a rug out from under people’s normal thought process. Millions of people figured football players knew or were at least informed about the long term effects of concussions. They weren’t. Players had no idea their brain was being slammed, dislodged and slowly releasing protein on every big hit like a racquetball being juggled inside a small jar.

Smith is amazing as Omalu, adapting the accent, mannerisms and imbuing the part with strength. This may be his finest work yet, and he has been nominated for Oscars before. I had my doubts going into the film, but Smith did the role great justice. Without his conviction, the story wouldn’t resonate.

Omalu was threatened by the NFL. The government came down on his boss’ practice and tried to derail him. As a fellow doctor tells him, he gave the league’s biggest Boogeyman a name. America dedicated a day of the week to football and here was this doctor, who wasn’t even a citizen of the United States, trying to tell them football is bad for the brain like smoking is on the lungs. No one wanted to believe it until former players started dropping like flies to suicide and their brains had no other answers. How do you define madness if you don’t register or appreciate the science behind it?

You will be shocked at this film. It will reconfigure your thought process on football. I may not stop watching the game, but I will never look at it the same again. You can’t unsee what is shown to you in this film. If Landesman’s film doesn’t come off as Oscar worthy, it’s only because it plays for the most part like a documentary, albeit with great performances. Its effect won’t fully land for years. There are rumblings though.

Chris Borland, San Francisco 49ers running back, retired this year after one season in the NFL, giving up three million. Patrick Willis gave up 7.8 million dollars at the age of 30. Jake Locker retired as a free agent at 26 after making 12.6 million. Jason Worilds retired even though every team wanted him. He was 27 years old. They are getting out early, due to the effects of CTE. Maybe they all won’t admit that, but it’s true. You can read more about that here.

The NFL won’t do a thing. They will keep trying to read a book with the lights turned off. They want nothing to do with the 16 million being donated to CTE research. Recently, former player Eric Winston pledged to donate his brain to research. Everybody is taking action except for the NFL. High School coaches are teaching new methods of tackling, but the hits are still hard and the effects are excessive. At least now players know what can happen. That is all Dr. Omalu wanted to do. Raise awareness for football players about the dangers of entering into this game.

Sorry if this review started off as a “should you see this or not” practice and devolved into an expose, but sometimes the morals and meanings of particular films take a hold of you in unexpected ways. While it isn’t memorable in how it was made or feature brilliant direction, Concussion hits hard enough as it is delivered. It doesn’t need the extra cute trimmings. It’s got the truth and an Oscar worthy Will Smith.

Imagine walking up to a door. The person outside the door says, “Go in, participate, you may get hurt initially but there are no long term effects, oh and do this for 8-10 years.” So you walk in and absorb more punishment than ever thought. You are paid handsomely but were unaware of the cost of the game. Welcome to the NFL.

Do me a favor and the next time you watch a game and see a big hit, register how you first react. Don’t look around too much. Don’t think. Just react. You know how I will react now when I see a helmet to helmet hit between a helpless ball carrier and another man leaving his feet to take out that other guy…I will be nauseous. Unsettled. I’m not sure how passionately I will follow this game. It won’t be easy. Hypocritical behavior will follow because I am one of those people who claim to love the beautiful pass or methodical movement of an offense downfield. I will struggle at times with this game. There is beauty in it but ridiculous amounts of danger. What if players knew 30-40 years ago what we knew now?

Concussion begs you to consider that question. Is this a great overall movie? That is debatable. Should it get your attention? Absolutely. It will have mine for decades. When my son asks about football, Concussion will be on my mind.  One of those rare instances where movies aren’t just entertainment. They are transcendent.

Concussion/Columbia Pictures

Will Smith tackles head trauma in the NFL in “Concussion”

“You’ve turned on the lights and given their biggest boogeyman a name.”

Watch out, NFL, because Will Smith and producer Ridley Scott are coming after head trauma in football with their latest film, Concussion.

Just in time for the kickoff of the regular season in the National Football League comes a movie about Bennet Omalu(Smith), a doctor who located the disease troubling football players. A condition called CTE(chronic traumatic encephelopathy), where the repeated hits to the head caused the brain to be “choked”.

The film co-stars Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin as men who warn Smith’s Omalu about the door he is walking through. A door that started with Junior Seau taking his own life by shooting himself in the chest instead of the head, a maneuver that allowed doctors like Omalu to use his brain for research. No run knows if Seau did it on purpose or not, but it was the beginning. CTE was found in Seau’s brain.

The film arrives on Christmas and features Smith in a serious role that will command Oscar attention. He features an accent and is the face of a timely film that will get people talking, whether it’s in an NFL owners meeting, a family’s kitchen table or schools across the country. Writer/director Peter Landesman knows exactly what he is doing. Putting a well known face in front of a controversial movie about one man who decided to taek something further than anyone else and challenge the most popular sport in the world.

I’ll be there to watch it. Will you? The trailer is below.

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi162572313

Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show

First, let me state that I have never truly been a fan of Jimmy Fallon’s work until a few months ago.   He usually came off to me as childish and overaggressive with fallon-tonight-show-650celebrities.  This is a new love for me.  When he was given the reins to the Tonight Show(authorities are currently blocking Jay Leno from entering the building to retake the show) I didn’t give it much thought and figured it was all relative inside the NBC family.  However, after reading up on Fallon and how much he has worked for the position and how cool and down to earth of a guy he is, I took a chance and watched his show last night.

It was very seamless.  He hit the stage and immediately took off the shiny armor that hosts usually carry to their grave.   He talked about growing up in New York, filming the intro sequence with Spike Lee, pointed at his parents in the audience, and revealed that he was over the mountain in affection for his 6 month old girl.  Fallon stripped away everything before getting into the meat of the show.   It involved dancing with Will Smith, talking to him about skydiving and having U2 perform a song on the roof of the Rockefeller Center(where the show is hosted) and on the couch next to him to end the show.  For you Bono and U2 haters, the man and the band have still got it and he can sing effortlessly in any setting.   Great show.  Fallon talked about bringing the show back to New York and “hosting a show once hosted by Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’ Brien and Jay Leno”.   Fallon doesn’t laugh at all his jokes and I thank him for that.

Here is the reason I am going to watch Fallon.   He is fresh and starting something new here.   He seems more confident and has grown up while hosting the Late Show after Conan’s departure 4 years ago.  Elsewhere, David Letterman has lost a lot of steam on his fastball and seems bored.   Leno was just bland so I am glad he is gone.  I’ll always have a soft spot for Conan but he doesn’t get the guest lists he used to due to his battle with Leno.  I like Conan and still watch on occasion but he has reduced himself to severe self-deprecation.  Craig Ferguson is a hoot but also doesn’t get the guest lists and has a ridiculously long monologue.  Jimmy Kimmel is decent as well and has wild segments and guests but for some reason he isn’t a guy I look forward to.  He needs to do more stand up comedy.  At this point in time, Fallon is fresh and I tying my boat to his cruise ship.

Here are a few other reasons I am going with Jimmy-

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