Tag Archives: Matthew McConaughey

Film Review: Interstellar

Interstellar

With the Earth’s food supplies running out, farmer and former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) travels across the universe in search of an alternative home for Earth’s inhabitants.

There are few directors whose films generate as much excitement as Christopher Nolan’s. And for good reason. With a back catalogue to date including Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, Nolan might not be prolific but he certainly knows how to make a film.

Which brings us on to Interstellar, his most ambitious project yet, which given the head fuck that was Inception, is no mean feat.

What starts off on Earth as a relatively low key drama soon expands to the far reaches of our universe and beyond. Space exploration in films is of course nothing new but here it feels special for the most part, and some of that is down to the film being routed in realism. Sure, some of the science may not totally add up, but much of the film (the first two thirds in particular) feels plausible and not beyond the realms of possibility. It’s both exciting and scary to think this may one day become science fact rather than fiction.

Space exploration is only one aspect of the film, however, and as with the majority of Nolan’s films, Interstellar has family at its heart. It owes a debt to Robert Zemeckis’ Contact in this respect, knowing all the while that Cooper’s daughter Murph (but weirdly not his son) is at the forefront of his mind. It adds some emotional weight to the story that hasn’t worked for some but I thought gave the film a more human feel.

Black Hole in Insterstellar

Unfortunately, this good work is partly undone by some pretty hefty plot contrivances and whole strands of story that simply don’t work. Matt Damon’s brief storyline, for example, just feels forced and unnecessary, whilst trying to work out how Cooper ended up finding the NASA headquarters and being involved in the mission makes less sense than anything else that happens in the film.

But what Interstellar lacks on plot and script, it more than makes up for in ambition and grandeur. It looks absolutely stunning for a start, particularly some of the shots in the depths of space, whilst its final act is a brave one for a mainstream blockbuster. It does things other films would be afraid to do and should be applauded for that. It takes its cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey and whilst it does fall some way short of Kubrick’s masterpiece, it’s still quite the spectacle.

All the actors give decent performances with Matthew McConnaughey, Anna Hathaway and Jessica Chastain all handling their roles pretty well. None are particularly spectacular but do what they need to do when they need to do it.  However, it’s Mackenzie Foy as the young Murph who truly sparkles and adds some real emotional clout to the film. Foy’s character is central to everything happening to the film and fortunately she carries such pressure with ease.

Interstellar is not Christopher Nolan’s best film but is still a film to be appreciated, if just for its technical achievements. Like Gravity, it may not have the strongest script but is a visual marvel and will make you realise why you fell in love with cinema, particularly if you’re a sci-fi can. See it on the biggest screen possible and just drink it in.

Pros

  • Amazing cinematography
  • Pure cinema at times
  • Great performance by Mackenzie Foy

Cons

  • Some horrible plot contrivances
  • Some sections *cough* Matt Damon *cough* just don’t work

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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The 437th post about the Oscars you won’t read

So there we go, it’s all done and dusted for another 12 months, and it was pretty good. It all went pretty much as expected but I don’t think there are many who can argue with most of The Academy’s choices. Here are some of my thoughts about the 86th Academy Awards…

Ellen was a decent host

Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars

Ellen Degeneres is pretty well liked throughout the entertainment business, and I thought she did a great job of hosting. The actors like to have their ego stroked, whilst we at home like to see a bit of fun being poked, and Ellen did a fine job of balancing the two. Still not a patch on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though.

It was predictable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Pretty much every award was reasonably easy to call, whether you thought it was the correct choice or not, and there have been the usual calls that the whole thing is too predictable. However, if we make predictions and The Academy also makes those choices, surely they’re worthy winners? Some people may have thought they got the odd award wrong, but I think most will concede they were generally on the money this year. It might be nice for them to choose a slightly leftfield choice once in a while, but predictable doesn’t mean undeserving. Maybe the huge number of other award shows dulling our appreciation of the Oscars.

The ‘heroes’ theme was rubbish

Every year the Oscars has a theme, and this year it was ‘heroes’. You didn’t notice a theme? Well that’s because it was such a token effort that it was totally pointless. All we got was a couple of montages about film heroes and that was it. Either go all out and have hosts dressed as superheroes or do away with the theme altogether.

Karen O is amazing

The songs worked well

I thought the live performances would be a bit naff but they actually worked really well. The performances were varied and really added something different to the show. I hope they do the same again next year.

Jared Leto’s, Matthew McConaughey’s and Lupita Nyong’o’s speeches were great

86th Annual Academy Awards - ShowLeto, McConaughey and Nyong’o were worthy winners for Best Supporting Actor, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively, and their speeches were arguably the best of the night. Leto spoke passionately about his mother, who was there with him, whilst McConaughey spoke of what motivates him and keeps him trying to better himself. Nyong’o was absolutely over the moon with her win and that clearly showed in her heartfelt speech.

What’s gone on with Steve McQueen and John Ridley?

12 Years a Slave’s screenwriter John Ridley and its director Steve McQueen seemed to completely snub each other, neither thanking the other in their speeches. Also, when John Ridley won his Oscar, he wasn’t congratulated by a single member of the 12 Years a Slave cast or crew. McQueen was also caught on camera doing some kind of weird fake clap. What’s the deal fellas?

It’s time some of the categories were altered

It seems that a few of the award categories could do with being altered slightly. I might get shot down here but do we really need separate sound editing and sound mixing awards? Surely an achievement in sound award would suffice? I also feel that we change the name of the Best Foreign Language Film award to Best Film Not in the English Language, and that we should do away with the whole actor/actress thing, instead having male actor and female actor. Might sound a bit pointless but I’d prefer it.

A few other things jangling round my head:

  • Jennifer Lawrence was a bit of a tit, as was Jamie Foxx

  • Liza Minnelli jumping on Lupita Nyong’o was weird

  • Kim Novak’s plastic surgery is horrendous

  • U2 really are the most middle of the road band in the world

  • Why are there only 3 nominees for the hair & makeup award?

  • I can’t believe Jared Leto is 42

So those are some of my thoughts from this year’s Oscars. What did you think about the awards? Let me know below in the comments.

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Film review: Dallas Buyers Club

Rodeo cowboy Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) has his world turned on its head when he’s told he has AIDS and only a month to live. Discovering that adequate medication isn’t available in America, he and a fellow AIDS sufferer, the transgendered Rayon (Jared Leto), seek other methods of obtaining the drugs in order to help themselves and hundreds of other AIDS victims.

Lately it seems that every time Matthew McConaughey graces a cinema screen, he shocks people at just how good an actor he is. He may have produced an awful lot of dross in the past, but his roles in films such as Killer Joe and Mud, amongst others, have surely exonerated him for his past indiscretions.

And surprise, surprise – McConaughey delivers once more as he tells the real life tale of AIDS victim Ron Woodruff, an immensely unlikeable character who draws us in with his passion to make a difference.

Woodruff is white trash, a homophobic rodeo cowboy who lives for himself and no-one else. However, the revelation that he has contracted HIV makes him question everything and re-evaluate how he sees the world. Sounds a little cliched? To be honest, that’s because it is.

Most of Dallas Buyers Club progresses exactly as you think it will, with certain markers in the sand to help it along. We have the bigot who changes his views, the little man against the big bad pharmaceutical company, the rebel within the company who sides with the little man; it’s nothing that hasn’t been said and done many times before. But that’s not to say it isn’t done well, because it is. It’s narratively sound, which may sound like damning with faint praise, but this ensures more peaks than troughs.

Whilst the story may be somewhat formulaic, the performances are anything but, and it’s our man Matthew McConaughey in the driving seat. McConaughey is imperious as the bigoted Ron Woodruff, switching effortlessly between anger, compassion, helplessness, and pretty much every other emotion in the book. McConaughey’s acting prowess comes as little surprise to anyone anymore and this role still falls close to his comfort zone at times, but it can’t be argued that he handles the performance wonderfully.

It’s easy to see why McConaughey has garnered such praise for his performance, but it’s Jared Leto who shines brightest as transgendered Rayon. The character of Rayon was created specifically for the film, but it’s undoubtedly a better piece of drama for her inclusion, and it’s just as much her film as anyone else’s. It would have been easy to keep Rayon as a camp parody, but Leto adds so many more layers to the character; a scene in which Rayon holds back the tears as she asks her father for money is handled with the perfect amount of subtlety.

Dallas Buyers Club is a lesson in how to play to the widest possible audience, hitting all the right notes in all the right places. It may long for an offbeat here and there, but its stellar central performances ensure a compelling and genuinely affecting experience.

Pros

  • Another superb performance from Matthew McConaughey
  • Heartbreaking performance from Jared Leto
  • Brings an important topic to a wide audience

Cons

  • Somewhat formulaic in its story and message

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Can an Actor Go Too Far When Preparing For a Role?

Once upon a time, all actors did to prepare for a role was to don a suit or slip into a dress and step in front of the camera ready to go. Look at Jimmy Stewart, for example; it was pretty rare to see him look anything other than absolute perfection with nary a hair out of place. Sure, actors used to wear elaborate costumes or cake themselves in make-up for a role, but all that is just window dressing; the person underneath is still the same.

However, gradually over the years there’s been a growing trend for actors to go the extra mile for a role, whether that be physically or mentally. There’s no doubting the commitment, but is there a danger that those actors who do push themselves to their limits are going too far? Or should the fact that they get paid absurd amounts of money dictate that they should do whatever necessary for the role?

Brando was one of the first to bring Method acting to mainstream films

Brando was one of the first to bring Method acting to mainstream films

It’s difficult to pinpoint when this trend began, but Marlon Brando could be partly responsible. Brando was one of the first to bring method acting to popular cinema after studying under Stella Adler at her Studio of Acting in New York City. This form of acting required an actor to completely immerse themselves in the role, even when the cameras weren’t rolling. This Stanislavskian approach was considered to be a much more realistic form of acting and has since been adopted by some of Hollywood’s most revered actors. Brando never really changed his appearance all that much during these years but the attitudes towards what was required for a role had definitely changed.

One of the first high profile instances of an actor physically transforming himself into a characters was a certain Robert De Niro, a staunch proponent of the Method style, when he gained 31lbs to play an overweight Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull in 1980. Filming was shut down for around four months whilst De Niro ate his way around Italy and France to gain the weight. He also trained as a boxer, winning two out of three fights in which he entered.

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Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

After losing his job as a Wall Street broker on Black Friday, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes it on his own selling penny stocks. Together with his best friend Donnie (Jonah Hill), they become rich beyond their wildest dreams and embark on a lifestyle of utter debauchery.

There aren’t many directors out there who attract such attention when they release a new film. Normally, the focus is firmly on the actors starring in the film rather than the person calling the shots behind the camera. However, Martin Scorsese unleashes a new film, the world sits up and takes notice.

And once you’re sat up, The Wolf of Wall Street slaps you round the face, snorts cocaine out of your arse and doesn’t let you sit down again for its entire three-hour runtime. Those of a sensitive disposition should definitely go see something else.

Drugs, prostitutes, dwarf tossing, sex, drugs, bribery, sports cars, public masturbation, and drugs. Pretty much every kind of excess and debauchery is present and correct and Scorsese doesn’t hold any of it back. He rarely ever does.

It’s pretty easy to see that The Wolf of Wall Street owes more than a small debt to some of Scorsese’s previous work, such as Goodfellas and even The King of Comedy, in offering us somewhat of an anti-hero and charting their rise to success (or perceived success) and subsequent downfall. Some of Scorsese’s directorial choices, such as sweeping long takes also instantly recall many of his earlier films.

For much of the film, Belfort is a repugnant character, yet there’s something in there that draws you to him. His hedonistic lifestyle of excess is absurd and totally unsustainable, yet you still want to see which direction it’ll take next. It’s almost impossible to look away, and much of the credit for that has to go to Mr DiCaprio.

The Wolf of Wall Street marks Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with DiCaprio, and this could well be a career best for the actor. At the outset we see Jordan Belfort fresh faced and eager on his first day in Wall Street but it’s not long before he becomes arrogant and drunk with power, and this is where Leo’s acting really goes full throttle. An already renowned scene in which he takes some out-of-date drugs is physical comedy at its best that is reminiscent of Chaplin or Keaton.

But it’s not just Leo on top form; Jonah Hill also has to take a lot of credit for proving he can hack it in a (relatively) serious role. Donny has some of the best lines in the film and Hill delivers them perfectly. In other supporting roles, Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey also give excellent performances as Jordan’s wife Naomi and slightly psychotic Wall Street trader Mark Hanna respectively.

This is clearly a film of excess and that description extends to its runtime, too. It throws a lot at you and at three hours it does feel a little on the lengthy side. It’s never boring but some of the fat could be trimmed to no detriment to the film.

There’s no doubting that The Wolf of Wall Street is a somewhat shallow experience, but it doesn’t need to be anything else. It’is crass, debauched and misogynistic, but my word it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Pros

  • Brilliant performances from DiCaprio and Hill
  • Laugh-out-loud funny
  • Huge amounts of fun
  • Margot Robbie

Cons

  • A little on the lengthy side

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Mud

Ellis (Tye Sheriden) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two Arkansas youngsters who go searching in a nearby forest after hearing of a boat stuck up a tree. However, when they find said boat, they also stumble across a mysterious fugitive by the name of Mud (Matthew McConaughey). The boys agree to help Mud fix up the boat and reunite him with his old girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), but can Mud be trusted?

Mud, like its titular character, is an enigmatic beast. At first glance it’s a harsh, troubling film full of people with flaws and an appetite for (their own and others’) destruction. However, look a little deeper and there’s much more to it. It’s a film about relationships: ones that fail, ones that grow and ones that survive no matter what.

It’s part family drama, part coming of age story, part crime drama, and a few other bits and bobs scattered throughout, too.  We see Ellis fall in love for the first time, have to struggle with his parents’ faltering marriage, as well as take on the responsibilities bestowed on him by Mud.

It recalls Stand By Me in the relationship between Ellis and Neckbone, as well as the opening few scenes where the two travel into the woods in search of a boat they’ve heard is stuck up a tree. It also bears similarities with this year’s The Way Way Back, particularly in the relationships between the central young lead and those around him, namely his parents and an iconic older figure he looks up to. In this case that’s Matthew McConaughey’s Mud.

mud

McConaughey appears to have completed his transformation from rom-com laughing stock to genuinely serious actor. His roles in films such as Killer Joe and The Paperboy proved he really can act, and he’s similarly impressive here. We have no idea if Mud is a good guy at heart or not, yet he’s intriguing, an allure that both Ellis and Neckbone are drawn to. McConaughey plays the role suitably aloof, almost as a kind of anti-hero, perfectly balancing the character’s dangerous and sensitive sides.

Equally as fantastic are the two child actors, Tye Sheriden and Jacob Lofland. The two are reminiscent of Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix in Stand By Me, with Sheriden in particular giving a quite superb performance, perhaps even outshining McConaughey in his genuinity and heart.

Set in Arkansas along the Mississippi River, the film’s location also plays a big part in helping to create a believable and vivid setting. From dense forests to river banks to motels alongside busy interstates, the locations aren’t anything new but still manage to feel unique, particularly Mud’s temporary home on a small island in the Mississippi. This is largely down to Adam Stone’s excellent cinematography which captures a perfect balance of the freedom of the wide open spaces and the claustrophobic interiors.

Mud might seem like a film for adults, but part of its brilliance is that it can actually be enjoyed by just about anyone. Even though the film feels somewhat separated from most people’s society and way of life, Director Jeff Nichols has created something that still feels very grounded and personal.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Killer Joe

Killer Joe

William Friedkin has had an odd career thus far. He directed acclaimed classics such as The Exorcist and The French Connection, picking up an Academy Award for latter, which would have led many to assume he would continue knocking out major pictures such as these. However, have a quick glance over his filmography since then and it’s littered with rather underwhelming films that you’d do well to even recall the name of. Killer Joe is Friedkin’s first release since 2006’s Bug and is probably his most commercial film in over a decade.

Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a down-‘n’-out drug dealer who owes a lot of money. With time running out to repay he concocts a scheme to have his mother killed and collect on the life insurance. Enter Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey), a corrupt police officer who moonlights as a killer for hire, whom Chris enlists to help off his dear ol’ ma. However, when Joe takes a liking to Chris’s younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple), the whole situation becomes an even more twisted nightmare.

The tone for Killer Joe set is from the off as Chris’s step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) opens the door to their trailer with absolutely nothing on her bottom half, her excuse being “I didn’t know it was going to be you”. From that point on, the film doesn’t pull any punches and is drenched in the kind of depravity and filth that would normally have many turning off. Instead, there’s something fascinating about this family and their warped world that challenges you to keep watching more than it invites you to turn away.

Killer Joe

It really isn’t an easy watch by any means and there are instances that make your skin crawl. Joe’s lust for the clearly mentally inept and indeterminably aged Dottie is hugely creepy, whilst the infamous fried chicken scene is nothing short of fucked up. It really does need to be seen to be believed. In fact, this is the only scene where Killer Joe actually feels maybe a little too gratuitous for the sake of gratuity, although its dark (dark as in black as the night) humour just about saves it from crossing that line. And it’s this humour that is the film’s most important element. Without it, it would be too dark, too twisted to really work, but instead it wears its sadism with a wry smile that lightens the mood just enough.

Killer Joe is a somewhat claustrophobic film and, as such, it’s important that performances are strong, and they generally are. Emile Hirsch is decent without ever being spectacular, whilst both Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon are entertaining as Chris deadbeat father and step mother respectively. Juno Temple is brilliantly naive and disturbing as Dottie, but it’s Matthew McConaughey who absolutely steals the show and continues his successful ‘McConnaissance’ (a phrase stolen from whichever genius thought it up). McConaughey is downright creepy and sadistic as Joe, but he plays it so well that you can’t help but somehow be drawn to him, very much as everyone else in the film is.

Killer Joe isn’t a film to settle down with for some light-hearted viewing. It’s depraved and backward, right down to its no doubt divisive conclusion, but it’s this very depravity that is much of its attraction. It never allows you to feel truly comfortable, largely thanks to Friedkin’s direction and McConaughey’s performance, but it’s a mesmerising snapshot of a family dynamic you pray to God doesn’t exist in real life.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: The Paperboy

The PaperboyThere are some films that are just difficult to tear your eyes away from. No matter how revolting certain scenes are, how deplorable you find some of the characters, how much it tests your gag reflex, certain films just demand your attention and refuse to leave your retinas once they’ve been burned there. The Paperboy is one of those films.

Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) is a newspaper reporter returning to his Florida hometown to investigate inconsistencies in the case of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a local ne’er-do-well sentenced to the electric chair for killing a police officer. Jack (Zac Efron), Ward’s brother, is enlisted to help but when he becomes infatuated with Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a woman who has been writing letters to and is apparently in love with Van Wetter, the whole case becomes much more complicated.

Everything about The Paperboy just screams trashy. The sweat-soaked tar pit of balmy 1960’s Florida is the perfect setting for this bunch of dysfunctional characters to go about their business in some of the most backward ways imaginable. Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron is just one of several scenes that beggar belief. In fact, so preposterous are some scenes that it verges on parody; it’s difficult to know whether to laugh and cringe at it or with it. Despite that, it’s these scenes that are also the film’s most engrossing. When it’s trashy, it’s intriguing at least; when it slips into the more traditional territory of Zac Efron’s yearning heart, it loses something, as if the filmmakers felt they couldn’t go too leftfield with Efron to risk alienating his fans.

Almost all of the actors here are taken out of their comfort zones; John Cusack is hugely creepy as the clearly unhinged Van Wetter, whilst Matthew McConaughey continues his successful path away from the rom-coms that earned him a dodgy rep previously. It’s Nicole Kidman, however, who really stands out. Whilst some may find her character intolerable, the way she pulls it off should be commended. The fact that many of these characters are so extreme, all looking weather beaten or dolled up to the nines in Kidman’s case, makes Zac Efron a bit of an anomaly. He does well enough with what he’s given, but his preened good looks just don’t work for the tone of the film. He also spends a hell of a lot of time in little more than his pants, often for no good reason. Decide for yourself whether that’s a good thing or not.

The story isn’t one you’ll likely care about too much, at least not all of it; Matthew McConaughey’s Ward probably holds the most interesting story arc, but this is little more than a side plot. Investment in the actual story gets relegated somewhat, replaced by intrigue as to what trashy turn it’ll take next. There’s also a shed load going on under the surface, including race relations, closet homosexuality, Freudian Oedipal issues, and more besides, and it does feel a little overt, particularly when it’s unnecessarily spelled out to you in voiceover.

It’s difficult to really like The Paperboy but it does have something magnetic about it. It’s a little too reliant on its shock value which does detract from what’s going on, but the grime and dirt that oozes from every pore makes for an unsettling cocktail of discomfort and curiosity.

3 pigeons

3/5 pigeons

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