Tag: Matthew McConaughey

MOVIE REVIEW | Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar

“You don’t believe we went to the Moon?”

I don’t know why, but last year, I couldn’t get excited, or even manage to give the least of shits, about Interstellar. I’m not anti Christopher Nolan, but I do think I was suffering a little from Nolan fatigue. I like The Prestige and I don’t care how many plot and logic holes people find in Inception, I really dig that too. I think it’s the constant browbeating by fans of his Batman series that made me feel like Interstellar was just going to be too much.


Nolan’s Batmans are perfectly good movies, way above average for the super hero genre, but that’s about the extent of it. I also think their perfect examples of his biggest weakness. Nolan makes over the top, spectacle movies, but he obviously thinks he’s doing something more than that, because he has a message, something he thinks is important to say. The only problem is, those messages are always the most obvious, cliched statements about life and the human condition, juts dressed up under layers and layers of bombast to seem profound and new. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Lone Star (1996)

Lone_Star_film
I had no idea what Lone Star was about before watching it.  I didn’t know who was in it, who made it or even what genre at fell into.  I assumed it was a Western.  Even after the opening scene, when a skeleton is found in a shallow grave in present day 1996, I still expected it to flash back a century or so, instead, the majority of Lone Star sticks to the mid 90s modern day, with the odd flash back to the 50s.


Two army officers, inspecting a disused rifle range, stumble across a skeleton in a shallow grave.  First on the scene is Sherriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper), son of the small Texas town’s legendary former Sherriff, Buddy Deeds.  In a flash back, we see how Buddy (Matthew McConaughey) made name for himself by running the last corrupt Sherriff (Kris Kristofferson) out of town in the 50s. The same former corrupt Sherriff who is now, more than likely, the current skeletal remains from the rifle range.

As Sam investigates the not so mysterious identity of the remains, Lone Star tells the story of this small border town, built on favours, secrets, back room deals and an oft bragged about code of honour and unspoken rules.  Parallel to Sam’s story, is that of Del, a recently returned Colonel, assigned to running the nearby army base in its last days before closure.  Returning to town means an inevitable meeting with his estranged father, Otis, who also has his own connections to the former Sherriff Buddy Deeds.

For a lot of the movie, the story involving Otis and Del seemed a little tacked on and mostly ignored, but by the end, I realised it was another version  of what we see with Sam and his own relationship with Buddy.  It’s all about the burden that a father’s success (or notoriety) puts on their sons.  And their struggle for those sons to get out from under their father’s shadows.  Both Sam and Del are focused so much on competing with the reputations of their fathers and trying not to become them, they end up  playing the part of who they think they should be, not who they actually are.

While watching Lone Star, I kept thinking it had wasted a great McConaughey performance.  He really only has two or three short scenes, but he nails them all.  Then I realised, that was probably a very intentional decision by writer / director, John Sayles.  Lone Star isn’t about the reality of Sherriff Buddy Deeds, it’s about the legend of Sherriff Buddy Deeds.  A legend that has only grown within this small town in the years since his death.  By keeping the real thing at arm’s length, his legend remains intimidating for the audience too.

The only problem I had with Lone Star wasn’t even Lone Star’s fault.  There’s a plot point almost identical to one I’ve seen recently in August: Osage County and Jane Campion’s TV mini series, Top of the Lake.  I know Lone Star did it’s version of this story almost 20 years before them, but it really did take the wind out of the sails when I was hit with this late movie revelation, that I had coincidentally seen twice already recently.

Like I Said, I had no idea what to expect going in with this movie.  Had I known, I’m sure I would have really liked it.  Not knowing, I absolutely loved it.  I never really knew where the story was going.  I had a good idea where the plot was headed, but even when it got there, Lone Star had become about so much more, that the actual plot mechanics were kind of secondary by the end.

Lone Star
Directed By – John Sayles
Written By – John Sayles

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SODERBERGH WEEK*** Magic Mike (2012)

magic_mike_UK_poster
It would be easy to write Channing Tatum off and assume he’s just a good looking beefcake dude. It would be easy to write off a movie about male strippers and assume it’s another piece of campy cheese like Showgirls, but with big old swingin’ dongs. But when Steven Soderbergh makes a movie about male strippers, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. And it kind of pays off with Magic Mike.


Channing Tatum’s Mike is an entrepreneur. He designs and builds custom furniture, he works on construction sites, he helps manage a club, he’s in event management, he has a detailing business… And he’s a stripper. One day, while roofing a house, he meets Alex Pettyfer’s Adam, newly arrived in Florida, broke, unemployed and sleeping on his sister’s couch.

Soon enough, Adam is working alongside Mike at his night job, dancing in a male strip club run by Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas. I remember when Magic Mike came out, all the positive talk revolved around two things; The fact that it was way better than anyone expected a movie about male strippers to be, and that McConaughey nailed it. Now that I’ve finally seen it, both things have been well and truly proven.

As Dallas, McConaughey is their boss, their teacher and their mentor. And through all the bravado, fatherly advice and hubris, he lets just enough vulnerability, greed and obvious fear of inadequacy sneak through to make him the most entertaining character in Magic Mike.

The dances and performances of Tatum and the other strippers are just the right level of amateur and bad. If any other director made Magic Mike, the star would have spent months in choreography training and the minor characters would have all been played by professional dancers. There’s nothing professional or polished about these guys. They’re dodgy losers who aren’t qualified to do anything else, so they’ve developed their own half assed routines and characters over the years. Even Tatum, who got famous through the Step Up movies, ads an awkwardness to most of his routines.

The setting is perfect too. From all reports, Florida really does seem to be America’s asshole. On paper, it’s paradise. Great weather, great beaches, great nightlife. But every depiction of the state makes it seem like there’s barely a layer of cheap glitter that only covers the tiniest bit of the grime.

The only real weak spot in Magic Mike is the cheesy and obvious romantic story between Mike and Adam’s sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn. If you don’t predict it the second Adam casually mentions living with his sister, the movie makes sure to shove it down your throat the first time Mike and Brooke meet and don’t like each other. This lazy story device is only highlighted even more by the fact that Cody Horn is a pretty bad actor.

It’s a classic, proven story. Like Goodfellas or Boogie Nights, a young dude is given the keys to paradise, he lives it up until it all comes crashing down, It’s funny to see such a grand structure used to tell such a small, inconsequential story. And I mean that as a compliment, I really enjoyed this version of the story where the stakes are so much lower. The contrast makes for a great new perspective on such an old story.

Magic Mike
Directed By – Steven Soderbergh
Written By – Reid Carolin

MOVIE REVIEW | Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

dallas_buyers_club_ver4
The McConaussance continues!  Not so long ago, Matthew McConaughey had almost completely disappeared under a mountain of punch lines about rom coms, shirtlessness and the subtleties of nude bongo playing.  Then came a string of great performances in great movies like Bernie, Killer Joe and Mud.  I haven’t seen Wolf of Wall Street yet, but his short appearance in the trailer stands out every time I watch it.  And with his recent Golden Globe win, the McConaughey comeback is moving from critical acclaim to award recognition with Dallas Buyers Club.


Based on a true story, McConaughey is Ron Woodroof, a red blooded Texan man’s man in mid 80s America who loves rodeos and rootin’.  He also finds out that he’s contracted HIV.  In the mid 80s, common belief was that HIV was exclusively for gay dudes and junkies.  And because being a red blooded Texan man’s man also meant being a pretty keen homophobe, this diagnosis does not sit well with Woodroof or his friends.

Given 30 days to live, he goes through denial and anger, before moving on to acceptance and finagling experimental drugs from the local hospital, where he was originally diagnosed by Jennifer Garner’s Eve, and met Jared Leto’s cross dressing Rayon, another HIV sufferer.  When the experimental meds run out, Woodroof finds himself in Mexico, where a de-licensed American doctor (Griffin Dunne) prescribes a regiment of vitamins and supplements not yet approved in the US.

More than just a life saver for himself, Woodroof sees the Mexican drugs as a money spinner when sold to other HIV and AIDS patients in his home state.  With the help of Rayon, he starts the titular Dallas Buyers Club.  By charging membership dues, then ‘giving away’ the meds, he can sell drugs legally, while technically not selling drugs.

Because no one would be interested in the story of an exploitative drug dealer, Woodroof evolves into a legit advocate for alternative medications and fighting the corporate lapdogs of the Food and Drug Administration who are more inclined to approve drugs that come with big pay offs, than those that don’t line the FDA’s pockets.

At this stage, I’ve seen most of the performances that got Oscar nominations this year.  And it’s a rare occasion when I think the Golden Globes got it right.  Both McConaughey and Leto are undeniably amazing in Dallas Buyers Club.  There’s so much more to Ron Woodroof than McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss.  He goes from cocky rodeo lothario, to tragic victim, to green eyed opportunist, to passionate advocate in the space of 2 hours, and it never feels rushed or unearned.

And there’s so much more to Rayon than feminine affectations and a dude in a parade of dresses and wigs.  Leto makes you understand and sympathise with him, even at his most self destructive.

Dallas Buyers Club is this year’s indie scrapper, punching above its weight for a place in the Oscars against studio heavy weights like Wolf of Wall Street American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave.  And while it might not get seen by as many people as its competition, the Golden Globes success shows that people who do see it, remember it.

Dallas Buyers Club
Direct By – Jean-Marc Vallée
Written BY – Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

***2013 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Mud

mud
A few of years ago, a bloke named Jeff Nichols wrote and directed his second feature, Take Shelter.  It starred the always impressive Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, before she hit really big with things like The Help and Zero Dark Thirty.  It seems like ever since then, I’ve been hearing critics bang on about how amazing Take Shelter is.  When I finally gave it a look, I thought it was OK, a great acting showcase for Shannon, but it didn’t really lift my skirt.  But it stuck with me in a certain way that when the same sort of praise started being bandied about for Nichols’ follow up, Mud, I felt like I shouldn’t be so slow in checking it out as I was with Take Shelter.   And I’m glad I did, because Mud is great.  Really, really great.

Tye Sheridan plays Ellis, a moody teen living in Arkansas.  Jacob Lofland plays his best friend, the awesomely named Neckbone.  They spend their days exploring the banks of the Mississippi, and one day set out to find a boat, high up in the branches of a tree on a secluded island.  Left there after a flood, the boys decide that if they find it, it’s theirs.  The only problem, when the do find it, it’s already been claimed by Matthew’s McConaughey’s titular Mud, a fugitive.

Straight away, McConaughey and the boys form a kind of mutual respect and he says they can have the boat once he leaves.  He’s on the run for killing a man over a woman, and he’s waiting for a rendezvous with that woman, played with surprising white trash authenticity by Reece Witherspoon.  Only problem is, the man he killed was the son of a criminal kingpin.  So the small town is flooded by henchmen in search of Mud and revenge.

There’s a side story about the disintegration of Ellis’ family and how this means he will soon have to give up the houseboat life of a fisherman he shares, and loves, with his father.  These sequences show Nichols at his absolute best.  Ellis’ life seems dirty, hard and in no way enviable.  Yet somehow, Nichols makes you totally believe how desperate the boy is to keep it.

Thanks to movies like Killer Joe and Bernie, McConaughey is in the middle of a career renaissance.  He’s no longer the good looking dude in cheesy rom-coms, he seems to have become a lot pickier about his roles and it’s paying off.  But as fantastic as he is in Mud, McConaughey is totally overshadowed by the two boys.  Sheridan has a kind of brooding intensity that has to be rare in actor his age, while Lofland’s Neckbone is brilliant whenever he’s on screen.  He has a certain blend of innocence and naivety about him, while also coming off as someone who’s already been there, seen it all and has no time for your bullshit.

Maybe watching Mud so much sooner after its release meant my expectations hadn’t been too blown out by years of positive reviews.  Or maybe it’s just a better movie than Take Shelter.  Either way, I really enjoyed it.  And it’s also made me want to track down Nichol’s debut, Shotgun Stories.

Mud
Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols

MOVIE REVIEW | Mud (2013)

mud
A few of years ago, a bloke named Jeff Nichols wrote and directed his second feature, Take Shelter.  It starred the always impressive Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, before she hit really big with things like The Help and Zero Dark Thirty.  It seems like ever since then, I’ve been hearing critics bang on about how amazing Take Shelter is.  When I finally gave it a look, I thought it was OK, a great acting showcase for Shannon, but it didn’t really lift my skirt.  But it stuck with me in a certain way that when the same sort of praise started being bandied about for Nichols’ follow up, Mud, I felt like I shouldn’t be so slow in checking it out as I was with Take Shelter.   And I’m glad I did, because Mud is great.  Really, really great.

Tye Sheridan plays Ellis, a moody teen living in Arkansas.  Jacob Lofland plays his best friend, the awesomely named Neckbone.  They spend their days exploring the banks of the Mississippi, and one day set out to find a boat, high up in the branches of a tree on a secluded island.  Left there after a flood, the boys decide that if they find it, it’s theirs.  The only problem, when the do find it, it’s already been claimed by Matthew’s McConaughey’s titular Mud, a fugitive.

Straight away, McConaughey and the boys form a kind of mutual respect and he says they can have the boat once he leaves.  He’s on the run for killing a man over a woman, and he’s waiting for a rendezvous with that woman, played with surprising white trash authenticity by Reece Witherspoon.  Only problem is, the man he killed was the son of a criminal kingpin.  So the small town is flooded by henchmen in search of Mud and revenge.

There’s a side story about the disintegration of Ellis’ family and how this means he will soon have to give up the houseboat life of a fisherman he shares, and loves, with his father.  These sequences show Nichols at his absolute best.  Ellis’ life seems dirty, hard and in no way enviable.  Yet somehow, Nichols makes you totally believe how desperate the boy is to keep it.

Thanks to movies like Killer Joe and Bernie, McConaughey is in the middle of a career renaissance.  He’s no longer the good looking dude in cheesy rom-coms, he seems to have become a lot pickier about his roles and it’s paying off.  But as fantastic as he is in Mud, McConaughey is totally overshadowed by the two boys.  Sheridan has a kind of brooding intensity that has to be rare in actor his age, while Lofland’s Neckbone is brilliant whenever he’s on screen.  He has a certain blend of innocence and naivety about him, while also coming off as someone who’s already been there, seen it all and has no time for your bullshit.

Maybe watching Mud so much sooner after its release meant my expectations hadn’t been too blown out by years of positive reviews.  Or maybe it’s just a better movie than Take Shelter.  Either way, I really enjoyed it.  And it’s also made me want to track down Nichol’s debut, Shotgun Stories.

Mud
Directed By – Jeff Nichols
Written By – Jeff Nichols