Interstellar

November 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)

While the critical community may scoff, director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) really does turn out truly smart blockbusters aimed at adults. Sure, the landscape of tentpole filmmaking is changing somewhat, with Marvel Studios leading the pack with their well-planed barrage of interconnected films that cross generational lines, but by and large the movie-going public sees big giant releases as fare for kids and teenagers. These movies aren’t made for grown-ups. But a Nolan film is different. Playing with the house money that the box office success of the mostly masterful “Dark Knight” lined his pockets with, Nolan has chosen to create massive science fiction-tinged event movies for adults after every adventure in Gotham City, from “The Prestige” to “Inception” and finally to his latest film, the impressive, mind-bending, heart-tugging—and sometimes frustrating—space and time epic “Interstellar.”

Decades after some unspoken of devastation overtook the people and governments of Earth, the planet begins dropping not-so-subtle hints that man’s time is nearing an end. Blight is destroying crops all over globe, with only corn resisting the destruction. Mankind has transitioned into survival mode, forcing natural explorers like Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, to live life as a reluctant farmer. The same itch has been passed to his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who struggles at school in the face of a curriculum that has retconned the moon landing as a tool to bankrupt the Soviet Union. When strange things begin happening in Murph’s room, such as books falling off the shelf in a pattern, she blames the events on a ghost. Initially dismissive, Coop takes interest when he notices the pattern Murph found is binary code containing coordinates. Coop and Murph take a drive to investigate and end up finding what’s left of NASA, and they need Coop to lead a deep space mission to save mankind.

Much has been said about Nolan’s tendency to have his characters’ dialogue filled with loads of exposition dumps, and “Interstellar” is no different. Tons of science—what to the average ear sounds at once authoritative and full of mumbo jumbo—is slung between Coop and his crew (including Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley and a wonderfully wry robot named TARS, voiced by Bill Irwin) in order to explain what’s going on to the audience time after time. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter. The vast majority of “Interstellar” is captivating, with the high water mark coming on a planet covered in waves where a nearby black hole warps the passage of time. Less successful is a long sequence on a remote planet featuring an unbilled guest star who’s twist can be seen coming light years away. By the time the movie powers through its “2001”-inspired climax, you’ll realize Nolan has done it again: created a near-masterpiece that will have you thinking about it for weeks to come.

Dallas Buyers Club

November 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée (“The Young Victoria”)
Written by: Melisa Wallack (“Mirror Mirror”) and Craig Borten (debut)

If you thought actor Matthew McConaughey offered up career-best performances last year in “Killer Joe” and “Magic Mike,” 2013 only proves those roles were anything but a fluke. Sure, it’s easy to mock McConaughey for his rom-com debacles that have come and gone in the last few years (not to mention the unwarranted shirtless scenes that make the ladies hoot and holler), but there was really no reason to think his acting chops wouldn’t reveal themselves sooner or later. He had pulled his own weight in films like “Lone Star” and “A Time to Kill,” so it was only a matter of time before a few more well-written scripts crossed paths with the now 44-year-old actor from Uvalde, Texas.

Two strong screenplays found their way to McConaughey this year. In “Mud,” he showed his range playing a criminal on the run who enlists the help of a couple of young boys. Now, square in the middle of awards season, McConaughey gives us what will easily earn him the first Oscar nomination of his 30-year career. In the biopic “Dallas Buyers Club,” he portrays Ron Woodroof, an electrician/rodeo cowboy who is told by his doctors in 1985 that he is HIV-positive. Reluctant to accept his diagnosis (the epidemic is fairly new and Ron thinks AIDS is a disease only “faggots” get), Ron brushes off the news despite the doctors only giving him 30 days to live.

But as his health deteriorates, Ron decides to do a little research on his own and soon realizes his promiscuous lifestyle and drug use throughout the years have, in fact, led to his sickness. Ron, however, isn’t ready to give up. He’s also unwilling to believe his doctors are doing everything they can to save his life. Ron takes his treatment into his own hands and creates the Dallas Buyers Club, an underground organization where, for the price of membership, he makes unapproved HIV drugs he illegally brings in from other countries available to fellow patients. With the FDA breathing down his neck, he and his business partner and HIV-positive transsexual Rayon (Jared Leto, also in a career-best performance) fight through the system while giving hope to people who would, instead, just be waiting around to die.

While Ron isn’t what you would consider a likeable character, especially in the first half of the film when his homophobia is on display, McConaughey slowly brings viewers to a place where we can sympathize with everything he is going through. McConaughey’s drastic weight loss to play the role might be hogging all the headlines, but it’s more than his physical transformation that makes Ron a fascinating person. Credit for defining Ron on an emotional level definitely goes to screenwriter Melisa Wallack (“Mirror Mirror”) and first-time writer Craig Borten, who give us an effective character study of a man who refused to take no for an answer.  There might be a few fragile decisions made in the narrative from a historical aspect, but what McConaughey does on screen is enough to forgive “Dallas Buyers Club” of its storytelling shortcomings for the most part.

Killer Joe

August 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple
Directed by: William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”)
Written by: Tracy Letts (“Bug”)

If a film like 2011’s sexually explicit British drama “Shame” taught us anything, it’s that being slapped with a dreaded NC-17 rating these days doesn’t always ensure a death sentence. Sure, its box-office numbers will be affected by those close-minded theater chains refusing to screen movies considered too provocative because of the MPAA label, but as the critically-acclaimed “Shame” proved, sometimes the content of a film is so essential to the story, it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it might be for some viewers. “I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter,” Fox Searchlight Pictures’ President Steve Gilula said last year about the film. “We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner.”

The same can be said for the dark comedy thriller “Killer Joe,” but with a more tongue-in-cheek approach. Supporting the “artistic integrity” of Oscar-winning filmmaker William Friedkin (“The French Connection,” “The Exorcist”) and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy Letts, the studio decided to keep the film intact and not edit it down to a more desired R rating. It was the right choice, especially since its badge of honor was earned for one specific incident in the third act of the film featuring a fried chicken drumstick. Touch that scene in any way and “Killer Joe” is a different movie.

Never mind the full frontal nudity, language, or hardcore violence. Besides the KFC scene, there’s nothing that hasn’t been seen or heard before in other NC-17 or hard R-rated movies with one other exception. As the title character, a contract killer in Texas hired to murder a mother so her twisted family can collect on the insurance policy, Matthew McConaughey is dangerously good. As the head of this diamondback-rattlesnake-of-a-film, he strikes within a sadistic realm very few actors would dare to tread. The venom behind “Killer Joe” is extremely palpable, which makes it all the more disturbing to watch.

The Lincoln Lawyer

March 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe
Directed by: Brad Furman (“The Take”)
Written by: John Romano (“Nights in Rodanthe”)

As far as courtroom dramas are concerned, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as generic as “The Lincoln Lawyer.” Forget about the excitement brewing because Matthew McConaughey (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”) is actually starring in a film that doesn’t require him to remove his shirt or offer up his rugged good looks for an insulting rom com role opposite Kate Hudson or Sarah Jessica Parker – as much as everyone would like it to be, this is not a sequel to 1996’s “A Time to Kill.” Instead, “Lawyer” is an overrated, underwritten crime schlock that plays like an irritating Dick Wolf-produced legal TV show. Call it “Law & Order: Luxury Sedan.”

That title might even be a stretch, since the titular vehicle doesn’t make much of an impact in the film besides serving as a shiny prop for the laid-back soundtrack featuring blues, R&B, and old-school hip-hop from artists including Bobby “Blue” Bland, Erick Sermon, and Marlena Shaw. As a suave, street-smart criminal defense attorney practicing in Beverly Hills, Mickey Haller (McConaughey) is chauffeured around town in style inside his vintage Lincoln Town Car.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by crime-fiction writer Michael Connelly (this is the first of four books in the Haller series), Lawyer struggles to find its footing within a cliché storyline reworked by screenwriter John Romano (“Nights in Rodanthe”) and helmed by novice director Brad Furman, whose only other film is the straight-to-DVD armored-truck thriller “The Take.”

In “Lawyer,” Mickey lands the case of his career when he is hired to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a spoiled, rich socialite charged with the brutal assault of a prostitute who propositions him at a nightclub. While Louis maintains his innocence (he cries “Set up!” on more than one occasion), Mickey and his investigator friend Frank Levin (William H. Macy) figure out a way to get their client off the hook even after indispensable evidence seems to mount against them.

From here, “Lawyer” becomes part morality thriller, part courtroom drama with Mickey caught in the middle wondering if he’s fighting for a scumbag’s exoneration. Despite McConaughey’s satisfying performance, none of it is very original. The pool of shallow characters (Marisa Tomei as the ex-wife prosecutor; John Leguizamo as a shady bail bondsman; Michael Peña as an ex-client who is now in San Quentin) don’t help us sympathize with our conflicted lawyer, whose character is never fully explored past his slicked-back hair, dog-tired eyes, and vulnerability to the bottle.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas
Directed by: Mark Waters (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”)
Written by: Jon Lucas (“Four Christmases”) and Scott Moore (“Four Christmases”)

What do you get when you cross a classic holiday story like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with a nauseating romantic comedy? With Matthew McConaughey playing a character as cynical as any rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge over the last 150 years, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” can’t find enough enchanting moments and depth to make it worth any kind of homage to the late literary icon.

In “Ghosts,” McConaughey is Connor Mead, an arrogant bachelor photographer who knows a lot about sex and little about women although he’s bedded his fair share of them in his life. An unbeliever of love and monogamy, Connor drags himself to his little brother’s wedding where he is reunited with his childhood crush Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) whose heart Connor had broken years before.

Connor’s past, however, soon catches up to him when his deceased Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the man that raised him and taught him everything about dating and dumping women, tells him that he will be visited by three ghosts who will take him on a journey through the relationships of his past, present, and future.

It’s an interesting idea done way better (and without ghosts) in “High Fidelity” when John Cusack revisiting his old flames to find out why he is still single after so many years. In “Ghosts,” McConaughey doesn’t really change throughout these life-altering moments. Even when he meet his final ghost, the Ghost of Girlfriends Future, an incredibly attractive blond spirit, Connor still tries to make a move on her even though he just relived half of his life and saw the mistakes he had made. Isn’t the point supposed to be that he learns to be a better all-around person?

Still, the transformation from sleazebag to gentleman is miraculously completed with a little shove by screenwriting partners Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who scripted the unfunny “Four Christmases” at the end of last year. Here, McConaughey’s cinematic reputation precedes itself. It’s the kind of movie he was born to star in, which, in the last eight or so years, hasn’t been a real positive statement to make.

Fool’s Gold

February 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Andy Tennant (“Hitch”)
Written by: John Claflin (“Anacondas”), Daniel Zelman (“Anacondas”), Andy Tennant (“Ever After”)

If you think a perfect world would somehow manifest if Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson hooked up in real life, you’re far too helpless to be saved. In that case, “Fool’s Gold” was made for moviegoers like you; those who will swoon over a shirtless McConaughey and call it passable entertainment.

In “Gold,” McConaughey and Hudson play Finn and Tess Finnegan, a husband and wife treasure-seeking duo who are going through a messy divorce. On the morning that they’re separation if finalized, Finn is late to the court hearing because he has just found proof that a 300-year-old buried treasure known as the Queen’s Dowry actually exists.

Despite the fact that Tess is a bit interested in finally finding the treasure, she seems to have left that life behind her and now works as a stewardess on the yacht of millionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Sutherland) and his sassy, famous, and all too annoying pop tart daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena). When Finn finds out that Nigel is on the island, he hatches a plan to stow away for just long enough to explain his situation so that he might get some financial support for the treasure hunt. This series of reckless scenes, which all lead up to a longwinded background story, are by no means funny or fascinating to watch unfold. And unless you want to get dumber by the minute, McConaughey is the last person you want to hear spewing out fictional history lessons and adventure tales. How he didn’t read this script (presuming he can read) and immediately think, ‘Hey, this is like that other movie I did, ‘Sahara,’ but in the ocean,” is beyond explanation.

Playing opposite of McConaughey is Hudson, who was once thought to be the most exciting up-and-coming actress when she wowed us with her performance and landed an Oscar nod as Penny Lane in 2000’s “Almost Famous.” Since then, Hudson been swimming in the kiddie pool with by-the-number roles in everything from “Raising Helen” to “You, Me, and Dupree.” Fight the undertow, Kate, and move on to better gigs.

Better days to come, however, won’t start with “Fool’s Gold.” It’s poorly written across the board by John Claflin and Daniel Zelman (the two guys who came up with “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid”) and director Andy Tennant decides to make another movie as if he was directing a big-budget TV sitcom on its last leg.

File this one with films like “Captain Ron,” “Boat Trip,” and “Cabin Boy.” A trip out to sea with this crew and you’ll be swimming back to shore.