‘The Counselor’: Review

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I’m still trying to wrap my head around this film, granted I just finished seeing it a few hours ago, but it’s rattling around in there. There is a lot of things the film does really, well but conversely so many bad and on-the-nose dialogue, proliferating and acting. I’m going to get into all that, don’t you worry, but as always I must set the timeline with me and this film. Basically, however long ago that was, it was announced that Cormac McCarthy was having his first screenplay adapted by Ridley Scott. I shouldn’t have to tell you how legendary McCarthy is, but I’m going to spew it all out because I like talking about how great and badass he is. Now know in the current mainstream lexicon because of his fantastic books No Country For Old Men and The Road being adapted from masterful books into fantastic films, one of which cleaned up at the Oscars in 2007 (even though There Will Be Blood should’ve won best picture, but that’s a debate for another day). But, yeah, before all this movie nonsense, the great American novelist was cranking out masterpiece after masterpiece, all on a typewrite, and just continually being the biggest badass whoever pushed a key. Ridley Scott directing a Cormac McCarthy script, starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt? Goddamn, please inject this film into my veins at once!!! And then the reviews came out… and people (critics) really didn’t like it, that never sways me, but instead always makes me more curious to what the hell is up, and how this film could possibly be anything south of the border. So, indeed I saw it…

Like I teased above, there’s so much good and bad in the same film, that it’s entirely hard to parse what exactly this film is, how serious it intends to be, because it’s not all that clear how seriously I should be taking it. This film is ridiculous. There’s goddamn cheetahs just hanging out at a mansion, an insane beheading device, pretty much a bunch of beheadings, Javier Bardem playing another insane character with weird hair, Natalie Dormer being gorgeous, Michael Fassbender’s panty dropping smile and Dean Norris and John Leguizamo popping up for one random scene, and oh yeah, CAMERON DIAZ RUBS HER VAGINA ON THE WINDSHIELD OF A FERRARI. Yes, you read those capital letters correctly, I’d always hoped to type those words, but never thought I’d be able to in truth. I don’t want to talk about it too much, because I’ve already spoiled it, but Jesus, it’s weird, and insane, and hilarious, and not sexy, and oh so McCarthy. It’s one of several McCarthyisms in this film, duh, but it’s just so insane that of course this is a McCarthy script. There also may or may not be this insane wire beheading device that when looped around a persons neck, impending death is ordered as the metal alloy is too strong to break, as it quickly contracts and beheads you. McCarthyisms.

Interspersed throughout the whole film, and randomly into plot driven dialogue sequences, there always seems a devolution into a incessantly forced and on-the-nose discussion and reference to proliferation of philosophy and trying to get really deep almost existential. It’s always so way out of left field, and incredibly on-the-nose that it makes you roll your eyes and make you silently yell in your brain “YES, I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING, CORMAC, IMPLEMENTING YOUR WORLD VIEW AND BELIEFS INTO ME THOUGH THESE CHARACTERS SO UN-REALISTC CONVERSATIONS WITH EACH OTHER.” Simple dialogue exchanges will stretch five minutes too long, because after all the plot stuff is ironed out, they yammer on about life, and lessons and what everything means. This type of stuff is good and expected in films like this, but it’s so obvious, over-the-top and clear-cut that it just seems like a lesson, and I’m not expecting school when I see this on the weekend.

The great McCarthy theme of all his works, in my opinion, is the helplessness of destiny or circumstance (depending on whether you believe in God or not). McCarthy will never carve out a happy ending, just because that’s what typical novels or movies would do. No, if somebody fucked up and deserves to die, no matter what their position as lead character or actor, they will die or suffer the consequences they deserve. There is no playing favourites, and McCarthy’s works always thrive because they play off the inevitable and the expected. What you thought will never happen, often does, because that’s the correct A-B method, not the A-C method where everybody ends the film happy and drinking margaritas. Every character in the film gets in over their head, and as much as they try to fight it, as much as “No, this will never happen to me, I’m different” and everything gets them in the end. Nobody is special, and nobody receives special treatment because of who they are. Through sets of circumstances, Fassbender’s character gets in increasingly deeper water until he can’t handle anything anymore, everything is out of his reach, and there’s no life preserver to rescue him. He’s all alone from his own actions, and nobody there to help, one for all, one for all. Mistakes, circumstance, luck, death happen all around us, often they swing in our favour, but often they swing the other way, and there’s very much little we can do about it. It’s the hardest thing in the world to accept any of these things, the numerous characters in The Counselor never did, and conversely found themselves in their own personal dark hole.

I’m so much in love with Javier Bardem’s decision in acting choices know where he often gravitates to an insanely eccentric dude with even crazier hair, and he’s all the much better for it. You can always see how much fun he’s having in these roles, chiefly No Country For Old Men and Skyfall, and he just inhabits that creepy villainous role. Also, dude has two pet cheetahs and has a bar in the trunk of his car. Michael Fassbender is so, so great as always, and constantly makes me question my sexuality, I MEAN HAVE YOU SEEN THAT SMILE. Penolope Cruz is such a great actress, but unfortunately she isn’t given much to do here besides be pretty, and of course she does that quite well. Brad Pitt is good in his semi-limited role, but has some fun on a sidewalk in one scene. And now we make it to Cameron Diaz, hoo boy. Cameron Diaz is very bad in this movie, but increasingly entertaining to watch and see her find her way through this movie. She’s basically like on of those “real housewives” that you’d find on Bravo, mixed with Lady Macbeth into soap opera-y mechanisms. It’s impossible to take her serious as a mastermind, or as some kind of sex kitten that I’m supposed to be attracted to/impressed by. Also, she has a gold tooth, which, alright then.

This film is insane, I might have mentioned that before. There’s a ton of classic and great McCarthy themes and devices that seemingly frame what should be a great film, but then finds itself bogged down by extraneous, awkward and cheesy dialogue that is so obviously  pushing an agenda of “HEY, THIS IS SOME DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL TALK ABOUT LIFE, DEATH AND EVERYTHING OUT OF OUR CONTROL. I kind of really need to watch this film again, and you should for the first time too. Cameron Diaz + her vagina + a Ferrari. Here is your ticket, good patron.

6.5/10

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‘Bad Grandpa’: Review

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I’ve long been a Jackass fan and will continue to watch whatever they spew out from now until eternity. Things will change in my life, people will come and go, relationships will thrive and then crumble, jobs will come and go, houses, mortgages, taxes, marriage, kids, birthdays, and then death. All these things will happen to at least some changing degree in my life, but one thing will remain constant. I will throw money at whatever the Jackass cast does in any endeavour. I have quite literally seen everything they’ve ever done, movies/TV shows, bought books, T-shirts, video games, you name it, I am insane. With all this being said, I had literally no clue that this movie was even being made until the first trailer popped up online, and I was sold immediately.

Irving Zisman always seemed like one of Johnny Knoxville’s favourite things to do in the Jackass movies. As much as he was great and daring to do stunts, he was even better at pulling pranks, having that acting and improv mentality at the base of himself more so than any other cast member. It was always a good device for pranks, being able to pull them in the first place, and of course all these ludicrous and twisted things coming from an 80-some year old man. The film pretty brilliantly tells a narrative story, Zisman traveling across the states to deliver his grandson to his ex(?) son-in-law after his daughter is sent to jail, by using these two actors through interactions with real-life people. There are the pranks and stunts, but a majority of them are not entirely random, with some kind of story element tied to it, whether it’s the location, or trying to get rid of his dead wife, or eventually reaching the meeting spot to hand off his grandson (a biker bar, nonetheless). I don’t if I’ve ever seen anything like this before, and it was a pretty neat idea, with two actors telling a story through random people and their reactions.

The film obviously borrows heavily from the Sacha Baron Cohen school of Borat and Bruno, and come to think of it, I’m dumb, those movies were doing that exact narrative thing basically the same. They set-up pranks, whether elaborate as a funeral scene, or just as simply as having Jackson Nicoll (the son) approach random people and say something funny in part in a bit. The bit and pranks are never consistently laugh-out-loud, save for a couple segments, but it’s good enough that it can always be relied on to get a chuckle or two out of you. It doesn’t reach any great heights, and relies on a pretty simple story structure, plot and the exact humour you’d expect from the guys who’ve spent a career off of all of this.

After the death of Ryan Dunn I wondered if they’d ever do another Jackass film again (If it does indeed happen that’s going to be weird for me to watch giving the cloud that still hangs over it for me after all the Dunn stuff). This seemed like a perfect idea to stick with the Jackass brand and humour but to branch out into something different, but still maintain the themes and style that Jackass has created. Who knows what the brain trust has in store next, but I’ll be there with testicle-shaped bells on.

7.5/10

‘Machete Kills’: Review

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Grindhouse was a cool movie I was looking forward to in 2007. Well, the story begins before that, being one of those long-rumoured projects that seemed like it would never actually happen, and looked way better on paper than anything would ever come of it. But, there I was Saturday April, 7th, 2007, following a spring break that saw me having a house all to myself for a week and strictly reading the James Ellroy masterpiece L.A. Confidential and watching Late Night talk shows. What a life I lead then, and now I’m not entirely sure if it’s sad or what that I still just do that exact same thing six years later. Anyways, Grindhouse actually happened, a Rodriguez zombie flick back-to-back with a Tarantino car chase/revenge flick along with some fake trailers and goodies sprinkled alongside it. These were the days where Tarantino/Rodriguez were quite literally God’s to me. This was the coolest that could ever happen. There was this fake trailer starring Danny Trejo as the most bad-ass Mexican ever, Machete, killing all gruesomely. A role he was pretty much born to play, and one he’s basically played numerous times in varying degrees throughout his career. It was fantastic as a trailer, and of course me and others being the greedy bastards we are, never satisfied with the limited greatness we got, we wanted a film. We got said film three years later, and again I sat awed that this thing actually got made. But, then it sucked, and I was sad.

That’s a cool and boring lead-up paragraph just to say that Machete Kills was even worse. Hey, I get it, I know Machete isn’t supposed to serious even within the smallest molecule of its being, and I get that it’s a throwback to 70s trash, B movies. I get all the cool celeb cameos playing a juxtaposed character to their real-life self, and it’s cool seeing washed up great actors of old in this jawn. I get what Machete is trying to do, being a fun time escape, with cool explosions and literally everything you want to see in a cliched action film. But, the problem is, it doesn’t even do that well. It’s probably also that I’ve seen so much insane violence in action movies and exploitation flicks that no matter of you figuring out how to behead or kill someone is really going to surprise or shock me anymore. Maybe, that’s my problem, maybe I am broken. The humour is somehow worse than the action tenants of the film, but I guess if jokes about Justin Bieber and tweeting are things you find funny, this might be the movie for you. Also, Sofia Vergara is in this, and she’s scientifically proven to be the worst actress on planet Earth. Vergara has never played a role where her accent, or ethnicity weren’t’ the MAJOR focus of her character or push the river on every joke about or surrounded her. Obviously, Modern Family is the prime example where all the jokes around her revolve around her heritage, so cheap, so lazy.

I really wished I could have liked this film for the pure “brain turned off” fun that it’s designed to be, but I couldn’t even sink to that level for this. The one thing I did really enjoy, though, was the character of El Camaleón, basically an assassin who can change identities by literally ripping off his/her face and becoming Walton Goggins (the original), Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas. It was a pretty cool device to use all of them as one character, but usually speaking as Goggins, and was pretty ridiculous seeing them literally rip their face off to expose the one of another actor’s. I wish the Camaleón had gotten a bigger role, but when you have Mel Gibson as your baddie, you better damn well use him as your baddie. They kinda pull an Iron Man 3, though, where Demián Bichir in the early stages seems like the big bad, until it regresses into Gibson. It’s insane and beautiful how much Bichir is committed to his role, him being just an incredible actor in the first place, the fun he’s having just oozes off the screen as he plays a bi-polar crime lord, who dips back and forth from being a reckless childlike dictator to a semi-normal adult male. He’s a wonder to watch in anything, but his commitment here made it hard to hate any scene he was in, but unfortunately it was too few.

I’m sorry Machete Kills, I didn’t like the first one, I gave you another chance and you let me down. I WILL never see another “Machete” film again. Well, unless they actually make that Machete Kills Again… In Space! movie, basically Machete owning baddies in space for some amazingly ridiculous reason. I mean, they would never make that movie, right? Just like they were never going to actually make that Grindhouse movie, or that Machete movie or its sequel…

4/10

‘Gravity’: Review

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Gravity is the most terrifying film I’ve ever seen. No hyperbole, it was one of the hardest films I’ve ever sat through. Mainly, because of that fickle bastard, outer space. Everything about it terrifies me to no end. The loneliness, the million facets of death in any direction, the zero fail safes, the chain reaction of even one thing going wrong, claustrophobia, helplessness,  insecurity, distance, danger, death. I can barely go on a plane trip without being on the brink of an all out panic attack and I literally can’t even fathom people going into space. They so nobody has ever died from a panic attack, but I can pretty much gurantee that if for some odd and cruel reason that someone kidnapped be, threw me into a spaceship headed for the outerspace, I’d have an earth-shattering panic attack and I’d be dead before we even left out ozone layer. I’m saying that this kind of stuff strikes immeasurable fear inside of me. So, naturally I decided to watch a 90-minute film entirely and pretty realistically set in space. It was the greatest worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

Sandra Bullock gets to put on an acting clinic, since she’s basically acting by herself for the grand majority of the time, and she makes this thing her epic playground. George Clooney is in the film for a bit *and, hey, no spoilers but kinda hard to avoid why he doesn’t show up further than 20 minutes into a movie about space, filled with all the dangers imaginable* The Cloonster only in the film for a short deal, but he’s so perfect for the role that you automatically buy him as this epic, playboy astronaut who has seen shit, cracks jokes, but is professional and calculated to the nines under this exterior. He’s an early lock for a Best Supporting Actor nod at the Oscars, but, hey, we’re still early in the season, but he’s great. Keep in mind that I might be clouded by Clooney’s awesomeness because I love him more than 90% of my family. I would like to say more about how good Sandra Bullock is in this as the lowly scientist, but who kinda turns on her badass and smarts in the great time of epic need, but I can’t think of much more. These are America’s sweethearts in one great film. Sandy Bullock and Clooney, HOW CAN YOU DENY THEM?

Gravity’s not really a movie, with it’s conceit it’s kinda hard to be in a tradtitional sense since Bullock is largely just by herself through everything. Instead, I think of Gravity more of a video game. And, yes, on the surface that seems insanely stupid to use as a comparison for a pretty boisterous and deeper level, not that all video games are shit, but the comparison could still seem to be rooted in the negatives of the past. Rather, Gravity is treated as a series of events, obstacles, or levels, if you will, that Bullock has to conquer and think her way through. Moving from point a, to b, to c, in the hopes that she can beat the entire thing and find herself home. She has to reach a space station, utilize escape pods, put out fires, avoid debris, fix mistakes, all little road bumps trying to keep her from moving on. Level to level, obstacle over obstacle, everything is laid out from goal to goal, and we get to see a filmic video game. Trust me, it’s better than I’m probably making it out to sound.

I largely had a certain idea how it was going to end, but even so, my palms were sweaty throughout the entire scenes, and I often couldn’t help but to grit my teeth when Bullock was dealing with the elements in outer space as debris was flying at her as she tried to grasp a handle on the space station, a grab away from safety or certain death. I think there’s hardly an argument that this is a good film, I’ll grant your mileage with this sort of thing to whether people think it is great or not (I certainly do), but largely and more importantly it’s something we haven’t seen before. There’s a reason this film took foreverrrrrr to be made, Alfonso Cuarón and company literally didn’t have the technology at the time to make it possible. It was well worth the wait, and an experience that’s been absent from the mind’s of serious filmmaking. People always whine about films you HAVE to see in theatres, and they’re idiots, but, hey guys you have to see this in theatres to get the desired effect, because your dumb 32” Samsung ain’t gonna give you the same overwhelming feeling that a massive theatre-sized wall screen will. You as well can go see Gravity and have a panic attack. All the cool kids are doing it.

9.5/10

‘Captain Phillips’: Review

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I’m going to start this review by talking about Tom Hanks’ nipples. You can scour the web, and not find a Captain Phillips lead that is as great as the one I’ve put before you. You’re in uncharted territory here, folks. Let’s set the scene. Tom Hanks has been through some shit, he’s been in the cold oceanic water off the coast of the African horn. Trials and tribulations would be an understatement. In shock he’s immediately summoned to the medical ward to be checked over for wounds and general level-headiness. Hanks acts the all living hell out of this scene, his acting triumph in the movie that all by itself probably gets him an Oscar nod. He’s in shock, freezing, terrified, hardly aware of his surroundings, a shell of a broken down man who’s been through too much for a human brain to quantify. It’s a wondrous piece of acting that makes this whole film watching thing pretty awesome sometimes. All this great stuff is happening and all I can focus on is shirtless Tom Hanks’ nipples. I mean these things are rock hard, like jub jub candies or something to that effect, also remember that I’m seeing this in the theatres, sitting in the second row, I might as well be in IMAX. These nipples wouldn’t just cut glass, they’d shatter it on first sight of these brown mountains. It’s nice to know I’m so immature that these weird, insane things still stick out to me, but, hey, what’s up with Tom Hanks’ nipples so aggressively and scene-distractingly hard when he was acting so amazingly? Anyways, that was my paragraph on Tom Hanks’ nipples, I never thought that’d be something I’d write about, and now you all think I’m an insane weirdo…..

I really wanted this film to be this year’s Flight. An A-list actor (Washington, Hanks) teams up with a pretty good director (Zemeckis, Greengrass) in a actiony, but mostly serious film that’s basically just a showcase for their acting skills, and turns out to be pretty good. I loved Flight and pretty much everything in it and here I liked Hanks, and well… I knew what I was getting into with Captain Phillips (unlike Flight), and really that’s exactly what I got. Somali pirates takeover a freighter ship, and eventually Hanks. It never explores anything further than that, like Flight did with Washington’s alcoholism, his deteriorating relationships and fight for physical and mental survival. Captain Phillips is just a run-of-the-mill check all the boxes, I don’t even know what to call it? Thriller, not really. Action, some but not full out. The acting is what keeps it from sinking into something sub-average, with Hanks being standout and the Somali actors being incredibility believable and disheartening at times.

This is actually the perfect film for Greengrass’ much-maligned (right, people kinda don’t like all the jerkiness, I can never remember which side people mainly fall on, because I’m a fan) hand-held camera style that became so famous with the Bourne movies and also the fantastic United 93. No better place for off-kilter, shaky camera moves to be utilizing than a film that takes place on the ocean for 90% of the time. If nothing else, it fits the mood, and leans to the uneasiness of everything that slowly unravels. It’s also insanely awesome that they hired the so, so awesom Catherine Keener to play Hanks’ wife and she’s literally only in the movie for five minutes at the beginning, and contributes nothing to the plot except to drive the car home from the airport that they arrived in. I kinda like to think that they were greatly under budget, so they reshot the openining scenes with said actress Catherine Keener in order to pay her her much higher salary being that she’s a relative name actress. Or else, they just love Catherine Keener so much that she had to be in the movie no matter what, and who am I to judge that More Keener the better is what I always say.

So, hey, I was kinda disappointed with the film, because I got what I expected? Yeah, it was nothing really above an average thriller, outisde of Hanks and other performances, that we’ve all seen before. Nothing went above and beyond in my eyes, falling this film into average territory as a whole. Frankly, I’m quite surprised that the film is at a 94% rate on Rotten Tomatoes, which is kind of insane. It’s basically a movie you come to just for the Tom Hanks performance. Average is average, but have Tom Hanks acting his nipples off and you get a little more attention.

7/10

‘Iron Man 3’: Review

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I very much like the intent of Iron Man 3, but I don’t think it really pulls any of that off. I’m insanely interested in films and such of over-the-hill protagonists. Now that they’ve had their fun in the first couples films, and with a new director in the insanely cool Shane Black, they attempt to make something more “adult” and combative to who Tony Stark is, and exactly what his “Iron Man” alter ego is doing to him as a person. I love explosions and epic fight scenes in my superhero movies, but what I like even more and find extremely fascinating is the moral, personal and emotional obstacle one would have to deal with being this other character and how much it zaps out of you and changes you as a person.

Now, I can’t say that the film completely nailed this, but the intent was larger than just some runner in the background, and actually fed into the main “superhero vs. baddie” A story that of course all superhero flicks have. Tony Stark is obviously a drastically changed person since he became Iron Man, and all these events he’s gone through have delivered him cases of PTSD, panic attacks and just a general wearing down of the character. Tony Stark and Iron Man are the perfect character to tackle these issues with, since he’s a playboy figure who was an alcoholic (more on that later) and in just the general sense that this is the fourth time we’ve seen RDJr. as Tony Stark, with that connection and history having been built to make it faithful that they’ve taken Tony down this road where we’ve literally seen how all this shit has piled up in his life, and finally now it’s too much. I know from some of the comics there’s been one or several storylines about Tony dealing with his alcoholism, which I think would/would’ve been an amazing element to introduce to add another layer to his character. I know they briefly touched on it in previous films, and I also know that Disney would probably never let a hardcore alcoholism story attached to their most popular superhero to dominate a film, but whatever, I can dream.

Now for the film outside of that, it was pretty enjoyable, if not amazing, but definitely a welcome capper for these set of films (I think when we get a new Iron Man film it might tackle something a little different in theme from these past ones). It’s definitely better than the second, which was disappointing, but I think Black expertly tried to change things up by kinda making it like an international thriller type storyline that just happened to have superhero types involved. Also, I was mainly looking forward to this “twist” that I saw everybody complaining about when it first came out in theatres, and hey, it was all fine by me. This is where I talk about the twist, if you care about not getting spoiled on these types of things, but it’s not really much of a “twist” anyways. I think it was a cool idea to have Ben Kingsley as the figurehead, with the even more badass Guy Pearce pulling the strings from behind and being the actual villain. I think people were just crying about the twist because they were deceived by all the marketing that clearly billed Kingsley as the main baddie, and of course that wasn’t the case.

The ending makes it seems like this is the end of the Iron Man films, and we all know that isn’t the case, but like I said before, this seems like a closed off section of Iron Man that we’ll probably see a new direction whenever they do decide to make a new one. Nothing’s in the pipeline now, so it won’t be a long while since we see one, especially since Marvel/Disney’s got a cavalcade of new superheroes they’re pushing, even with Iron Man being the Don Mega. It seems as well that RDJr. is just content playing Iron Man/Tony Stark in bit part cameos in the other films, with obviously a bit heavier load in the Iron Man films. I still remember when the first trailer for the first Iron Man trailer came out and how incessantly I watched it. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was the coolest thing ever. It seems like it’s been longer than just five years, but that’s how good RDJr. is as Tony Stark. A role he was seemingly born to play, a mirror of himself in some aspects, troubled, demonized, but always coming out on the other side.

7.5/10