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Oct 17 11
By Thomas Leupp
A comedy featuring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson creates certain expectations, not the least of which is, well, laughter. But David Frankel's (Marley & Me, The Devil Wears Prada) anodyne, feather-light film The Big Year, in which the three actors star, is less concerned with eliciting big laughs than offering earnest insights on the meaning of success and the value of friendship.
Delving into the subculture of hard-core birders (don't call them bird-watchers), the film follows three men, semi-retired industrialist Stu (Martin), schlubby corporate drone Brad (Black), and suburban contractor Kenny (Wilson), as they vie in a year-long competition known as the Big Year. The goal of the competition is simple: to spot as many as many different bird species in North America as possible. As current Big Year record-holder, Kenny is something of a rock star in the birding world. His cocky, carefree manner masks a stark determination to defend his hard-won celebrity - and his fragile ego - against the likes of upstarts Stu and Brad, both of whom are Big Year rookies. None of the three leads stray far from type, but they do offer slight tweaks to their usual screen personas: Wilson is sly and Machiavellian; Black tones down the buffoonery, limiting himself to two (by my rough count) pratfalls; Martin's sardonicism is tempered with humility.
There's no prize for winning a Big Year; the sole reward is the adulation of fellow members of the birding community. Competition is surprisingly fierce. The three men frantically criss-cross the continent, darting from one remote location to another in search of the next rare find. At first wary of each other, Stu and Brad eventually unite over a mutual desire to defeat Kenny, whose crafty gamesmanship has frustrated them both. Their strategic pact gradually evolves into a genuine friendship, leading both men to discover that there are more important things in life than winning an amateur birding competition.
Shot on location in British Columbia, the Canadian Yukon, Upstate New York, Joshua Tree, and the Florida Everglades, The Big Year is a visually striking film, showcasing one breathtaking panorama after another. At times, director Frankel appears more interested in the scenery than his characters, who, despite the script's copious exposition, aren't particularly well-developed. The story at times seem aimless and unfocused, and its relaxed pace may prove vexing for some. Indeed, it did for me at first. But once I adjusted to its easygoing rhythm, the film's modest charms began to reveal themselves.
Oct 17 11
By Thomas Leupp
In Craig Brewer's (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) Footloose - a remake of the beloved 1984 film - newcomer Kenny Wormald plays Ren McCormack, a surly Boston teen forced to move in with his uncle's family in Bomont, Georgia, after the death of his mother. For the past three years, the youths of Bomont have suffered under a town ordinance barring all public dancing - the consequence of a tragic car accident that claimed the lives of five intoxicated high-school students leaving a dance party.
This vexes Ren. Like all red-blooded teenage boys, he wants nothing more than to dance, dance, dance, and he'll be damned if he'll let some reactionary (and undoubtedly unconstitutional) law prevent him from pursuing his passion. He vows to have it overturned in time for the students of Bomont to a mount a Senior Prom, placing him on a collision course with Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), the uptight local preacher who spearheaded the anti-dancing campaign after losing his only son in the crash.
An acknowledged Footloose-phile, Brewer's affection for the 1984 film is such that he scarcely strays from the original's script. Apart from an added opening sequence that depicts what was only revealed in the previous film through exposition, the narrative - and, indeed, a healthy chunk of the dialogue - remains essentially unchanged. Brewer's approach calls simply for retrofitting Footloose for a new generation: The choreography is more sophisticated, the outfits more revealing, the cinematography more polished, the cast more diverse. Memorable scenes have been suitably punched-up: The superfluous tractor race is now a superfluous bus race; Ren's iconic "angry dance" sequence is, well, angrier.
A dancer by training, Wormald won't invite many favorable comparisons to Kevin Bacon, who famously portrayed Ren in the previous Footloose, but he makes for a surprisingly endearing rebel-protagonist. Likewise, Brewer fills out most of the rest of the cast with lesser-known yet capable players. Dancing With the Stars' Julianne Hough plays Moore's fiery, troubled daughter Ariel, whom Ren hopes to pry from her brutish boyfriend, Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger). A scene-stealing Miles Teller adds a deft comic touch as Ren's wisecracking and resolutely dance-averse sidekick, Willard.
Oct 10 11
By Thomas Leupp
In the political thriller The Ides of March - George Clooney's adaptation of the stage drama Farragut North - Ryan Gosling stars as Stephen Meyers, campaign press secretary to Mike Morris (Clooney), a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Savvy, self-assured, and blessed with a preternatural ability to spin a story in his candidate's favor, Stephen is a fast-rising figure with a dazzlingly bright future. Unlike his more seasoned - and cynical - campaign-manager boss, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Stephen, all of 30 years old, still boasts something of an idealistic streak. He believes in Morris, not just as a meal ticket but as someone who just might make the world a better place.
Stephen's idealism and ambition come into conflict when, in the feverish days leading up to the pivotal Ohio primary, he suffers a series of judgment lapses that threaten to derail his promising career. Teased with the prospect of a job offer, he's lured into a meeting with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the campaign manager of Morris' main Democratic rival - a major no-no in a business that prizes loyalty above all else. Later, he beds a beguiling young intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who unwittingly drops a bombshell that could very well bring down the entire Morris campaign.
There's nothing particularly revelatory about Ides of March. Our eyes were long ago opened to the amorality and viciousness of electoral politics. And goodness knows we've witnessed political scandals far more salacious than anything depicted in the film. Ides of March's strength lies in the power of its storytelling, in the way that Clooney brings together several distinctive, headstrong characters and sets them against each other in a riveting game of intrigue. It helps compensate for the been-there, done-that familiarity of the topics explored.
Clooney is very much an actor's director, and Ides of March is a testament to how absorbing it can be to witness skilled performers operating at the peak of their powers. Gosling is particularly fascinating to watch as his character awakens to the severity of his predicament. When Stephen is dismissed from the Morris campaign after Zara learns of his meeting with Duffy, the firing triggers in him something akin to a fight-or-flight instinct. His livelihood endangered, he scrambles to outwit his former colleagues, seizing upon tragedy and scandal to worm his way back into the fold. All pretense of idealism vanishes, and his expression betrays the slightest hint of derangement. The game has claimed him.
Oct 07 11
By Thomas Leupp
Real Steel - the new sci-fi sports flick from Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy - is set in the year 2020. Its vision of the future looks remarkably similar to the present, save for the fact that the sport of boxing has been taken over by pugilistic robots. There are no robot butlers, taxi drivers, or senators - just boxers. Apparently, technology in 2020 has advanced enough to allow for the creation of massive mechanized beings of astonishing dexterity, but humanity has found no use for them beyond the boxing ring.
Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a has-been boxer turned small-time robot-fight promoter. A consummate hustler who'll do anything for a buck, Charlie's fallen on hard times of late. Opportunity arrives in the diminutive guise of 11-year-old Max (Dakota Goyo), his estranged son, who turns out to be something of an electronics wunderkind. Together they work to fashion Atom, an obsolete, ramshackle "sparring robot" left to rot in a junkyard, into a contender.
Anyone who's seen an underdog sports movie - or any movie, for that matter - made in the last half-century can fairly easily ascertain how this one plays out. (The story borrows tropes from The Champ, Rocky, and Over the Top wholesale.) Atom proves surprisingly capable in the ring, compensating for his inferior technology with grit, perseverance, and an ability to absorb massive amounts of punishment. Under the guidance of Charlie and Max, he makes an improbable run through the ranks, eventually earning a one-in-a-million shot at the World Robot Boxing championship.
Real Steel was executive-produced by Steven Spielberg; it bears his unmistakable imprint. Levy judiciously deploys Spielberg's patented blockbuster mix of dazzling special effects and gooey sentiment, wrapping it all in a highly polished if wholly synthetic package. Still, Real Steel might have amounted to so much glossy hokum were it not for its champion, Hugh Jackman. Other actors might eye such a project as an opportunity to coast for an easy paycheck, but damned if Jackman isn't completely invested. The film's underdog storyline isn't nearly as inspiring as watching its star so gamely devote himself to selling material that will strike anyone over the age of 12 as patently ludicrous. His efforts pay off handsomely: Real Steel is about as rousing and affecting as any film inspired by Rock'em, Sock'em Robots can expect to be. (The filmmakers claim lineage to a short story-turned-Twilight Zone episode, but who are they kidding?)
Oct 07 11
By Thomas Leupp
In Dream House - the new suspense thriller from Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) - Daniel Craig plays Will Atenton, a successful New York publisher who disavows his high-powered Manhattan lifestyle and relocates along with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), and two daughters (Taylor and Claire Astin Geare) to a picturesque New England hamlet. Their new home, a quaint fixer-upper, bears imprints of the family that lived there previously: Old tools and other belongings are strewn about the basement, a secret room abutting the children's bedroom is filled with discarded toys. Will and Libby see the items as charming artifacts, signs that their house has a history, a soul.
The new neighborhood is not so bucolic as it seems. The children complain of a man peering in on them from the front yard - a suspicion confirmed when Will discovers footsteps in the snow the next day. If that weren't ominous enough, Will later learns that five years earlier his new home was the site of a grisly murder spree, in which the previous owner, Peter Ward, was alleged to have killed his wife and two daughters. Acquitted due to a lack of evidence, Ward spent a brief time at a psychiatric facility before being released. Could the shadowy figure glimpsed outside the window be Ward, returning to the scene of the crime, preparing to kill again?
At this point, Dream House pulls off a whopper of a mid-game twist that effectively re-frames the entire narrative. (I won't spoil it for you, but if you want to know what it is, just watch the trailer, which rather stupidly gives it away.) Until now, Sheridan has worked steadily to foster the guise of a relatively conventional haunted-house tale, presenting a portrait of idyllic domesticity while simultaneously building an atmosphere of looming peril. After the story drops its bombshell, the film morphs into a sort of supernatural murder mystery, with Craig's character scouring for clues within his own tortured psyche. Characters and scenes that might have been dismissible as red herrings - a neighbor (Naomi Watts) appears oddly stand-offish; her ex-husband (Martin Csokas) cartoonishly gruff; the town cops inexplicably apathetic - gain sudden relevance.
It's a clever gambit; it is also patently absurd. A talented cast helps make the twist easier to swallow, but the film's second half sheds credulity seemingly by the frame, at points devolving into schlock. Which, in a different film, might bode well for some silly fun, but Sheridan aims for a restrained tone that seems more suitable for a somber character study than a flagrantly preposterous suspense thriller. As it is, Dream House is neither thrilling nor suspenseful.
Oct 07 11
By Thomas Leupp
In the romantic comedy What's Your Number?, Anna Faris plays Ally Darling, a fun-loving 30-something who learns via a magazine article that a woman's chances of marrying become infinitesimal if she's slept with more than 20 men - a number which just so happens to be Ally's exact tally. Apparently the highly suggestible sort, she accepts the magazine's somewhat dubious findings at face value. Loath to embrace a spinster future, she gives up sex and concocts a scheme to revisit each of her past lovers to see if any of them might actually be The One, enlisting the aid of Colin (Chris Evans), a crass but amiable ladies' man from across the hall who dabbles in detective work, to track them down.
The immutable laws of rom-com dynamics dictate what happens next. One by one, Ally pursues each of her exes to see if any of her old flames might be worth reigniting, even as it becomes increasingly obvious that she and Colin are meant for each other. Ally's quixotic endeavor lands her in one awkward and humiliating situation after another. True love eludes her; laughter eludes us. Faris is one of the most skilled comedic actresses in Hollywood today, but even her formidable talents can't do much with the hackneyed scenarios proffered by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden's middling script.
Faris and Evans make a pleasing pair, and their chemistry is one of the few aspects of What's Your Number? that doesn't feel forced. It's what keeps it afloat in between each unfunny gag. Sure, Ally and Colin's eventual union is telegraphed from the opening frames, but that isn't necessarily a problem. What is a problem is the story's slavish adherence to formula, which renders not just the outcome but also the preceding plot points achingly predictable.
What's Your Number?'s R rating and saucy subject matter portend raunch, but in truth the film's humor is actually quite tame, save for a handful of filthy lines. For all its flaws, the script is not without wit. There just isn't nearly enough of it.
Sep 28 11
By Thomas Leupp
As Jacob Black, the bronze slice of werewolf beefcake in the Twilight films, Taylor Lautner was propelled to stardom not by any demonstrable acting prowess but by the frenzied shrieks of tween girls, which rise to a deafening pitch whenever he doffs his shirt to reveal his chiseled physique. (Not an infrequent occurrence.) From a talent standpoint, he ranks a bit below his Twilight co-stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, but his skillset is more than adequate enough to qualify him for action-heroism, a field in which even range-deficient brutes like Vin Diesel have found steady employment.
In the action thriller Abduction, Lautner plays Nathan, a high-school student living a seemingly idyllic suburban existence. And yet, for reasons he can't quite comprehend, he's plagued by the gnawing suspicion that he's somehow living someone else's life. The most fortuitous of coincidences leads him to discover his baby picture on a missing persons website, which in turn leads to the revelation that his parents, Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello), are not actually his parents. This is the first of many bombshells that drive the film's inane and convoluted conspiracy plotline.
Nathan has little time to ponder his parentage before armed assassins arrive at his doorstep and he's forced to flee, taking his neighbor/love interest, Karen (Lily Collins), with him. On the run, trailed by shady Serbian bad guys (and later the CIA), he sets about solving the mystery of his upbringing and divining the true nature of his identity.
As you've no doubt already surmised, the plot of Abduction borrows rather liberally from the Bourne franchise, right down to Nathan possessing an inbred set of fighting skills that come in handy whenever the odd anonymous goon comes knocking. This, unfortunately, is where the similarities between the films end. Returning to the director's chair for the first time since 2005's Four Brothers, John Singleton has little to offer beyond a trite and predictable collage of conspiracy-thriller cliches. No one can be trusted, threats lurk around every corner, surveillance is omnipresent, etc. etc.
Sep 20 11
By Thomas Leupp
Why on earth would anyone want to remake Straw Dogs? Sam Peckinpah's original film, released in 1971, is a provocative, disconcerting examination of man's basest impulses. Its violence, a source of some controversy when it was released, seems relatively tame by today's standards; its core assertion - that we're all capable of the most extreme barbarism if pushed far enough - still unnerves. But it was very much a product of its time, borne out of the social unrest and political upheaval of the late '60s and early '70s. The appeal - commercial and otherwise - of a modernized re-telling would seem perilously limited.
In the new version, director Rod Lurie (Resurrecting the Champ, The Contender) partly refashions Straw Dogs as a ham-fisted allegory for the increasingly acrimonious red state/blue state divide. It is exceedingly clear which side he's on. James Marsden plays David Sumner, a Hollywood screenwriter who moves with his actress wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), to her hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi, after her father's death. Their stay is intended as only temporary, long enough for them to prepare the family home for sale and for David to finish his latest screenplay, about the siege of Stalingrad.
Blackwater presents more or less the prototypical (i.e., clichéd) Hollywood vision of a rural Deep South town, populated with scruffy, churlish yokels who instinctively recoil at anything resembling sophistication. Gun racks and confederate flags and "These Colors Don't Run" bumper stickers abound. David, with his vintage Jaguar, credit cards, and polysyllabic vocabulary, incurs immediate resentment. David's thinly-veiled condescension doesn't help matters.
Everywhere he goes, David is eyed with suspicion and made to feel unwelcome. Hoping to ingratiate himself with the townsfolk, he hires a local construction crew, headed by Amy's handsome ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), to repair a barn damaged during a recent storm. The men prove less-than-stellar workers, drinking on the job, leaving early to go hunting, and brazenly treading about the house as if they own it. Equivocal by nature, David is loath to confront them, and Charlie and the boys seize on his timidity. Their provocations soon adopt a more sinister face.
Sep 20 11
By Thomas Leupp
In the mesmerizing noir thriller Drive, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Pusher) takes James Sallis's eponymous pulp novel and lends it a stylish retro sheen, harkening back to archetypal "lone wolf" films of the '70s and '80s. Ryan Gosling plays Driver (his real name is never given), a mechanic who moonlights as a wheelman, performing stunts for Hollywood productions and driving getaway cars for thieves. Laconic and impassive, he cuts a solitary figure, his avuncular agent/manager/auto-shop boss, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), the closest thing he has to a real friend. His lone distinguishing fashion accessory - a white satin jacket with an orange scorpion emblazoned on the back - foretells of darker aspects of his personality yet to emerge.
When Driver encounters Irene (Carey Mulligan), a waitress left to raise her child alone while her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is away in prison, the attraction is immediate. All sweetness and vulnerability (with shades of melancholy to boot), she awakens both his romantic and protective instincts. Their relationship blossoms in glances and gestures, captured in long, languid shots and glossy, dreamlike montages. The change in Driver is subtle but significant: His normally stoic face flashes a brief, contented smile.
Alas, it is to be short-lived. Standard returns home, released early for good behavior, bringing with him baggage from his criminal past. Soon a pair of goons arrive, demanding he rob a pawn shop as recompense for protection money owed, and threatening to harm Irene and their child if he refuses. Out of concern for them, Driver agrees to aid in the heist. The job goes disastrously awry, but Driver manages to escape with the money - and a target on his head.
The tone coarsens in the film's sanguinary second half, as Driver is pitted against two local crime bosses - Bernie (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman) - and their assorted minions. When would-be assassins come hunting for him, Driver dispatches them with the same icy efficiency with which he drives, killing without hesitation. (He is, arguably, a psychotic - albeit a heroic psychotic.) The violence meted out is savage, gruesome, and - to my eyes (and stomach) at least - excessive. A shotgun beheading, a severed jugular, a fork in the eye: Drive serves up one shocking kill scene after another with the relish of a trashy splatter film.
Sep 20 11
By Brett Buckalew
Just as surely as the hippos and gazelles that populate the African savannah in Disney's 1994 hand-drawn classic The Lion King must take their place in the grand, cosmic scheme of things, the best Disney animated movies have their own roles in the "circle of life" that the movie's opening song of the same name, written by Elton John and Tim Rice, refers to. The films open in theatres and delight kids and adults alike before heading to the home-entertainment sphere, where they find everlasting life by being passed down to future generations.
However, every once in a while, a beloved Disney title gets reincarnated on the big screen in a newer, spiffier form. Such is the case with The Lion King itself, which arrives in theatres for the first time in 3D in a limited run beginning September 16 before its release on shelves as a special Diamond Edition Blu-ray on October 4.
An audience of Mouse House devotees were treated to the first public screening of The Lion King in 3D at the Anaheim Convention Center's multi-tiered arena on Saturday, August 20, 2011, as part of Disney's fanboy-nirvana D23 Expo. Directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers took to the stage to introduce the screening, at one point even offering a spirited rendition of the miniature musical number in which the comedy team of wisenheimer meerkat Timon (voiced by Nathan Lane) and gaseous warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) distract a band of evil minions by launching into a rapid-fire Hawaiian-themed ditty. One of the co-directors even kept the rhythm going by banging on the makeshift drum of an upside-down water jug.
Then, the movie began, and it's gratifying to report that Disney's 3D conversion of The Lion King is an excellent, fittingly majestic bit of post-production wizardry. Of course, part of what makes the 3D so enveloping is that Minkoff and Allers have already done such an expert job of creating visually layered 2D compositions that the addition of the third dimension is able to stagger those layers in a striking manner. For example, the last shot of malicious Uncle Scar's (Jeremy Irons, miraculously delivering the best vocal performance in a cast that also includes the booming baritone of James Earl Jones) "Be Prepared" musical number features an elephant's skeleton in the foreground and the sight of Scar and his hyena underlings bellowing the song's final notes atop a craggy mountain in the background. In 3D, the viewer can get happily lost in the amplified depth between the shot's foreground and background action.
Sep 12 11
By Matt Patches
Contagion, a sharp thriller from writer/director/cinematographer/editor/do-all Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's 11, The Informant!), is like an adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel that never was. The movie quickly sets up its pawns in order to engage you in game of pandemic chess, where the terror comes from science and the humanity comes from your own empathy. Instead of relying on a sci-fi backstory, outlandish deaths or large-scale set pieces, Soderbergh lets the facts to do the talking—and it's scary as hell.
Much like his Oscar-winning film Traffic, Soderbergh unfolds the story by weaving in and out between a series of character perspectives: Matt Damon's Mitch, who loses his wife to a mysterious virus and strives to protect the rest of his family; Laurence Fishburne and Jennifer Ehle, members of the Center for Disease Control racing against the clock to find a cure; Kate Winslet's Erin, a field agent tracking down the source of the American outbreak; Jude Law's Alan, a high-profile blogger searching for the truth behind the disease; and Marion Cotillard's Dr. Orantes, another agent hunting for Patient Zero in Hong Kong. While the drama spans globally, each characters' quarrels are playing out in a claustrophobic scenario, a world in which any person they meet, any object they touch can infect them with the life-threatening disease.
Soderbergh doesn't have much time to dive into his characters' backstories, but the film's screenwriter Scott Z. Burns carefully constructs each scene to deliver just the right balance of terrifying scientific babble and revealing personal drama. When the virus starts massacring the world population and vandalism, riots and societal unrest emerge, the thing that makes Contagion click is our interest in the personal stories. Damon, as seems to be the case with everything he touches, elevates the material, being the perfect everyman and our surrogate for the too-plausible-for-comfort scenario. Fishburne too turns what's normally a plot-forwarding government agent role into a man dealing with the weight of his decisions, watching citizens of the country drop like flies from his ivory tower. It's heavy stuff, but Burns' playful dialogue helps the cast lighten the harrowing mood—only so the movie can pull the carpet from underneath you over and over again.
But in the end, Contagion is Soderbergh's show. The director uses every ounce of cinematic artistry to leave us squirming in our seats, with a fetishistic approach to shooting the most mundane of objects. The close-up is Soderbergh's weapon of choice, honing in on common day objects that we realize are infested with germs (with the effect amplified by a thousand if you catch the movie in IMAX). A door handle, a bathroom drier button, the human face—Soderbergh lingers as a reminder of his invisible villain: the virus. That's a compliment: the design and photography is striking, the purposefully pristine picture quality fills the characters' quest to stay healthy with tension. Composer Cliff Martinez's electronic score compliments the icky scenario, germinating over the picture like audible infection. The world of the film is rich with detail. Just the icky kind.
Sep 12 11
By Thomas Leupp
Gavin O'Connor's (Miracle, Pride and Glory) stirring new drama Warrior is an underdog tale set in the nascent sport of Mixed Martial Arts fighting. In its relatively short life, MMA has yet to inspire much quality cinema of note. It now has its Rocky.
Warrior's twist on the traditional underdog formula is to provide us with dual protagonists: the fightin' Conlon brothers, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy). Neither have spoken to each other since the dissolution of the parents' marriage fourteen years earlier. Both of late have fallen on hard times. Tommy is an Iraq war veteran who has turned to pills and booze since returning from abroad; Brendan is a high school science teacher and devoted family man victimized by the financial crisis. Circumstances compel them both to seek salvation in the fight game.
Conveniently enough, the opportunity of a lifetime arrives in the form of Sparta, a brand-new, winner-take-all MMA tournament that awards its champion a cool $5 million - more than enough for Brendan to save his house from foreclosure, or for Tommy to make good on his pledge to provide for the family of a friend killed in Iraq. By this point, we know for certain that fate has determined Brendan and Tommy will meet in the final, and we know for certain how utterly ridiculous this scenario is. And yet we accept it, because by this point, Warrior already has us in its corner.
The origins of the brothers' enmity are ultimately traced to their father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), a monstrous alcoholic whose abusiveness led their mother and Tommy to flee fourteen years prior. Brendan stayed behind, and Tommy never forgave him for it. When we see Paddy, he's broken-down husk of a man, God-fearing and 1000 days sober, his face creased with shame and regret. Neither son can stand the sight of their old man, but Tommy, in need of someone to train him for the tournament, reluctantly enlists his father's help. Paddy, eyeing a last chance at redemption, enthusiastically complies.
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