‘Dallas Buyers Club’: Review

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I used to HATE Matthew McConaughey. No exaggeration here, he was not only my most hated actor, but most hated person. I hated him sooooo much. There is no textual emphasis I can apply that shows how accurately I hated him. I know it largely stemmed from his terrible movie choices, being in godawful romcoms and seeming so fake and cheesy with that annoying accent and Southern twinge. There was literally nothing he could do right, and I was goddamn fine with that. Hey, but of course you know where this is going, I pretty much forgot all about him, but then the last couple years happened. Movies like Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Mud, Magic Mike and his pretty great turn in Eastbound & Down happened, where, hey, we realized McConaughey isn’t just a romcom conduit and a lifeless drone, he’s actually, you know, a good actor. Reluctantly I got sucked in, and I couldn’t help myself but be insanely impressed by his career turnaround. Let us please theorize to what happened to Matthew McConaughey in 2010. He had some good and bad movies throughout the 90’s and early 00’s, but nothing really to speak of in any true positive or negative light. You had your Dazed And Confused, Contact, Amistad, but also The Wedding Planner and Reign Of Fire among others. Then you had How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Sahara, Two For The Money (mediocre, but still), Failure To Launch, We Are Marshall, Fool’s Gold, Surfer, Dude, and the Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past. Just an insane 6-7 year run of utterly terrible McConaughey movies that fueled my hatred. And then 2010 happened, he did not star in a single film, and then 2011 happened, and it’s been all money since then. To present it’s been The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe, Eastbound & Down, The Paperboy, Mud, Magic Mike, and now the film we’re eventually going to talk about, Dallas Buyers Club. Not a rom-com or dud in the bunch, so I guess some goddamn soul-searching went on in ’10, and he decided that “hey, maybe dumb, stupid romantic comedies aren’t the best thing to build a career off of.” I love Matthew McConaughey so much now.

So, hey, this is McConaughey’s best performance ever. It’s so, so great. He basically plays a sexist, homophobic asshole, who really gets what coming to him when he contracts AIDS from the his many unprotected sex trysts, but then starts a crusade for proper medication and treatment for the disease, even while spurned out his arrogance and selfishness. He’s not really an anti-hero per se, I really don’t know if you could classify him as anything really, definitely not a villain, but really not a hero in any traditional sense. Of course, he pushed for these exotic medicines because he wanted them for himself, so he would survive, but legitimately felt for others who suffered the same as him to get them these products, even if he did demand $400 a month up front before they even saw the medicine. This really was the perfect and “made for” role for McConaughey, the outgoing, off-colour Texan with an agenda, and he hits every note perfectly. It semi-sucks, because in any other year, he’d be the frontrunner for the Best Actor Academy Award, but so does Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance exist this year, and I think it’s going to be mighty hard to beat that. But, again, what do I know, and also again, Joaquin Phoenix should’ve won last year, and didn’t, and also awards are dumb, but I’m always so fixated on them. C’mon, Evan, just love the performances as is.

Coming into the film, though, I heard that “yeah, yeah, yeah, McConaughey is great, but the surrounding films suffers,” uh, yeah, that’s not true at all. McConaughey makes the film for sure, but it’s not solely his performance that makes it great. Not only is it a sleek and tight “bio-pic,” but it’s incredibly cool and engaging in it’s 80’s setting, humour and reverence to the issues that it presents, whether scientific, homosexual, or really just goddamn human. Jared Leto came out of the darkness to give us an incredible and heartbreaking performance that is sure to garner some Best Supporting Actor nods. Jennifer Garner is pretty subdued and doesn’t push anything to far out, but she never has, and is all the better for it, being her typical good girl persona, who eventually decides the side she’d rather be on. This is an entirely long way to say that this is a very well rounded movie with a stunning lead performance, really all you could ask for in a film. I love you Matthew McConaughey, let’s put that on record.

8.5/10

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‘Thor: The Dark World’: Review

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Thor is the worst Marvel character. Like, I’m talking in the film version of Marvel prescience, I’m sure there are worse comic characters, but as far as fielded film characters, oh boy is he bad. The first Thor movie wasn’t any good, its cliche, simple and just flat-out boring. The sequel only manages to further these claims. I hate to keep harping on the current state of Marvel films (alright, I do), but they’re seriously making the same formulaic movie after movie, knowing that kids and fanboys alike will still show up for $100 million + opening weekends, and they’ll still feed the disease. I mean, they’re not bad movies, per se, they’re just incredibly average, trite and cliche movies which copy beats of action and blockbuster films we’ve seen for the past 30-40 years, just with superheroes plugged in. It makes me sad.

We’re in a position of film right now where superhero movies are the be all and end all, and there’s so much that could be done with them. I know they want to keep them as generic and down the middle as possible in order to appeal to a mass audience, but we don’t have to have the same film every time. I know many people hated the Watchmen adaptation, not me, I goddamn loved it, and thought it tried mightily to combine the “commercialism” or popularity of our current image of superheroes, with an actual thought-provoking film, that yes, had fighting scenes, but was more than just showdowns with such-and-such villain. That’s why it’s hard for me to really get excited about superhero movies anymore, especially at my old age of 21-year-old. A decade ago? Of course, but now, not so much. Really the only reason I actually watch these movies anymore is to keep up with the cultural zeitgeist, which know that I think about it is a pretty sad reason to watch a movie.

Hey, but Tom Hiddleston, am I right? He’s really the only good thing to come out of these movies. Let me clarify, though, it’s not Loki who’s great, oh no, he’s a pretty terrible character, but rather Hiddleston’s performance. Hiddleston is legitimately funny and engaging in his pseudo-villainy as opposed to the forced hilarity of Thor trying to adapt to Earth customs, lmao so funny. Hiddleston is the holographic card among a bunch of Bulbasaur Pokemon cards, he makes everything better and at the end of things is the only reason to tune in. So, basically what I’m saying is that the Loki spin-off movie can’t come soon enough.

5.5/10

’12 Years A Slave’: Review

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The one film I absolutely had to see this year. The one film I’d been hearing the most Oscar-worthy buzz. The one film to actually seemingly live up to said buzz. 12 Years A Slave lives up to every heavyweight standard it puts itself against, and quite possibly the most powerful type of subject matter that has ever been documented, fictionalized or just simply told. A monuments task burdens the film in telling this story as brutally and truthfully as possible no matter how uncomfortable it becomes, and it becomes very uncomfortable, and even question-provoking. I asked myself why am I watching this film, honestly I can get through the content and depiction of slavery pretty well, but still, why subject myself to two hours of one of the darkest and despicable eras of the history of our culture. Fictionalized or not it’s downright sickening seeing how things once were for black men and women in the United States and worldwide. It’s not an enjoyable experience in the sense we normally get from watching films, I mean it’s incredibly done in the filmic sense, but the content, you get it. I realize for me why I was watching it, moreso than “Hey, I want to watch every Oscar nominee film every year,” is that it’s often easy, especially as a privileged white male, to forget the insane depths that humanity can sink to and how black people were treated, even pretty recently, and often still are today. It’s a stark reminder and necessary evil in putting this history to the forefront, creating conversations and dialogue about the position of slavery, no matter how painful or brutally it might seem, realism must trump all, especially in this area. So, I’m grateful to the film for that, among many reasons.

Hey, so let’s stop with the “Evan learning lessons” segment and actually talk about the film itself. Might as well just start gushing about Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose name I can hardly spell let alone say aloud, because I’m probably gonna be doing that a lot. Like, I mean, I’ve seen him in a bunch of other things before and always quite enjoyed him in everything he did, but this blew the doors off his previous career with a gatling gun. It’s almost kind of hard to fathom how good he is, and how he was able to pull basically every scene off when it must’ve been so emotionally painful, let alone physically. It’s so great too because Ejiofor really hasn’t had a starring role, or been the main guy, always some supporting character, but here it’s all him and my god it’s a treat to watch. I haven’t been blown away by a performance this good since Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, I know that’s pretty much recent, but it takes a lot to actually bowl me over. Joaquin Phoenix should’ve won the Oscar that year and Ejiofor should as well, granted we’re still early in the season, but it’s hard to beat. But, really who cares about awards, they’re dumb anyways, and Phoenix losing didn’t make his performance any less great, and neither would it this one.

The other thing that struck me to be absolutely perfect was the music. And of course it was done by Hans Zimmer, and I felt like an idiot just finding it out once the credits rolled. It was mastery to follow along with everything else in the film, and touched every corner of the film perfectly. It reminded me quite a bit of Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood (probably my favourite score of all time) in its haunting. It wouldn’t really seem the place for an almost “creepy” sound, that’s the wrong word, more unnerving, adding to the uneasiness of the whole film. Often it would always just be lurking in the background and slowly creep louder until it crawled up your skin and just made you even more uncomfortable. Beautiful work.

For a Steve McQueen directed period film about slavery the cast was relatively well-known and recognizable. That’s probably my only gripe with the film is that often I’d see a Paul Giamatti or Brad Pitt pop up and it’d take me completely out of the film, not that they’re not great actors, but their presence alone in this heavy film just takes you out of it. I would’ve loved to have seen Ejiofor with a bunch of no name actors to fully get the desired effect of realism and originality. Again it’s great with Ejiofor in that he’s a relatively good well-known actor, but not so much that he’s bee typecast or that you associate him with one role or character. And knowing Brad Pitt was in this just made me continually be waiting around until he showed up, for what is really just a cameo. Benedict Cumberbatch is in this as well, and he actually straddles the line pretty well of increasingly well-known actor now, but he was pretty perfect in his part, so I guess it can be done. Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt and Michael K. Williams show up, which is again an odd assortment of character actors that generally quite work, but there’s still that reticence from all the other roles I’ve seen them in that often nags me. Also, I know this is a Steve McQueen film, so Michael Fassbender is contractually obligated to show up (or something) like that, and that’s all well and good, I’m quite a big fan of his, but his portrayal of his slave master seemed out of touch with the tone of the film. Not only was he used quite heavily but he was played as this cartoony villain with weird ticks and actions more suited to the more comic Django Unchained slavery telling than this. This is still just a minor quibble though.

I actually can’t wait until I get to see the film again. It’s almost an insanely weird thing given the subject matter and such, but it executed everything so well that I want to be engulfed in it all over again, no matter the negativity. I’m thankful that this film exists and that everyone involved created in as seemingly accurately as possible, no matter the pain of the content. It’s tough, but essential viewing curated by McQueen’s superb direction and Ejiofor’s devastatingly perfect performance.

9.5/10

‘Bangkok Dangerous’: Review

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Since my last Nicolas Cage review almost killed me, let’s try to take things easier. Oh, no, not because Bangkok Dangerous is any better than The Wicker Man, no, it’s just that my sanity needs a break. It’s fitting though, where The Wicker Man was bad in how outlandish and crazy it was, Bangkok Dangerous is bad in how secluded and dull it is. Where The Wicker Man bred unintentional comedy and made you laugh numerous times, Bangkok Dangerous isn’t even funny in how bad it is, it’s just a depressing bare bones not good at all movie.

It’s a legitimate terrible movie! It’s not hiding behind pomp and ridiculousness like The Wicker Man, it’s the ultimate “check your watch every five minutes because why isn’t this over yet” movie. Nicolas Cage himself doesn’t even get to go all modern-day Cage crazy. Instead, he’s a loner assassin who never lets anyone get close to him. No friends, he travels all the time, no attachments, he’s a stone cold killer. Hey, wouldn’t you know it, this is a movie! The dumb kid he gets to help with delivering him his targets eventually becomes a protege and Cage even says that HE SEES A BIT OF HIM IN THE KID. Aren’t cliche’s so great? And wouldn’t you know it, he falls in love with a deaf girl who works at a pharmacy, and some trials and tribulations follow because this is a movie.

Again, just dull all around. It’s even a depressing movie to look at. It’s like someone decided to film 90% of the film at night, leaving things hard to see and just a drag to look at. There’s a story, but who cares. The main “bad guys” of the movie don’t even become an acual thing until like 20 minutes left in the movie where the writer and director were probably like “Oh, wait, we should probably have at least some cobbled together reason to have a shoot-out at the end…… aaaannnnddd you will be the bad guy.” I guess this is supposed to be an “action movie,” but there’s only like three scenes I can think of that are somewhat action-y and none of them were good. Actually, scratch that, there’s one amazing scene from the whole movie (the best scene, obviously) where Cage is following (and shooting at) a boat along a canal while he speeds along on a motorcycle. Nearing the end of his land real estate under the cycle wheels, he does an amazing slo-mo Cage leap onto the boat he was chasing, and then does the most insane thing ever by grabbing the boat propellor, swinging it around and divorcing the dude from his hand. It’s just an amazingly ridiculous action sequence that only Nic Cage could pull off so fantastically that we had to introduce the word Cagey to describe these types of scenes.

I mean, if you’re going to make a bad movie, at least make it entertaining in how bad it was. I was so excited to watch this, because it’s unofficially the pinnacle of the craziest of Nicolas Cage hairstyles. It doesn’t let you down in that respect, looking like a bird made a nest on his head for 100 minutes. I should also randomly mention that Nic Cage hilariously bows twice in this movie to show us all how in touch he is with Thai traditions. Simply amazing. Really the only good thing I can say about the movie is that the ending at least doesn’t take the easy way out and leaves some threads dangling that usually get tied up in these basic action movies. I never thought I’d say this, but a Nicolas Cage movie was actually boring for me, but at least we’ll always have The Wicker Man to cleanse the palette…..

2/10

‘ParaNorman’: Review

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I don’t know that I have much to say about ParaNorman, good or bad, but I’m trying this new thing where I write at least something about every movie I see, so let’s do this. Basically, I’ve wanted to see ParaNorman ever since I saw that damn cute and clever title. I mean, do you guys get it? Kinda like paranormal, but the main character’s name is Norman, so they combine it and make it super smart and catchy. I’m coming off sarcastic, but it really is an amazing title for a film, hell, it did it’s job by getting me to see it.

I really don’t like animation films at all, I don’t have a specific reason why, they’re usually all of pretty high quality these days, especially with Pixar’s firm grip on the steering wheel (not that this was a Pixar movie…), but they’re just not my bag. Tellingly, I could really care less about the quality, type or style of animation, but I must say the look of the movie really grabbed me. It was done using stop-motion techniques, but was then colourized with 3D printers, or something like that, I don’t know, I’m just regurgitating what the internet told me. It really gave it a slick look and sheen that often made it not even look like stop-motion, providing some fluid moves and crispness, unlike the chunkiness that traditional stop-motion delivered.

Let’s attempt to talk about the plot of a kids movie, one of which they have about three to choose from. Generally, having a weird or loner kid team up with some newly found friends and investigate or duke it out against someone or thing is usually a fine enough framework. I mean it’s nothing great, but flesh it out with the right things, add some flair, and a decent script and you have yourselves a successful movie. And ParaNorman does that, it’s an average movie, you’ve seen this kids movie before, but it does everything it needs to quite fine, gets in and gets out, learn a message or two and you’re good.

I guess also most notable of this, especially in a children’s movie is that the older brother cool guy jock dude of Norman turns out to be gay, something you don’t really see in these types of movies. It’s cool and all, but a bit misleading. You only find out he’s gay in the last 5 minutes or so, and the reveal is used as a punchline to a joke when he replies to the girl that’s been fawning over him the whole movie. So, really no great commentary is being shared, but rather a cheap joke is exploited in the easiest way possible.

So, yeah, this is a kids movie that exists. I guess me calling it a kids movie is pretty dumb since I’m not one and I watched it. A FAMILY movie, how about that. I certainly don’t regret watching it nor did I gain anything that I hadn’t seen 100 times in a bunch of other similar movies. But, hey, that’s current animated movies for you.

7/10

‘The Wicker Man’: Review

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting."

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting.”

I really don’t even know where to start with this one. Well, some table-setting as I always seem to do, I guess. I’ve been on a Nicolas Cage kick, for, oh, uh, like two months now and am intent on filling in the gaps of his career that I have yet to see. Nonetheless, current day Nic Cage, who just happens to be insane, delivers the most mind-numbing performances that they demand to be seen before any of the handful of his actual “good” films. Of course, The Wicker Man is insanely popular online and such for just how god-awfully, ridiculous and hilariously bad it is. I had to finally see it for myself, and oh my lord how it exceeded all my expectations in how bat-shit it was.

I’m not really sure what the plot was. Something about Cage being a policeman and being summoned to an island strictly inhabited by women in order to find a missing girl, and oh yeah, these women are obsessed with honey and worship bees. Yup, you read that right. It really doesn’t matter, because you and I only watched this movie for everything outside what faintly resembles a plot.

So, what makes a bad movie? Acting? Well, yes, that’s always the chief problem, and it’s bad here of course. But, the dialogue that the actors are saddled with is some of the most baffling words puts together that I’ve ever seen. It’s weirdly cutesy and often attempts to be poetic and philosophical, failing at every chance. Hey did I tell you that Ellen Burstyn is in this? Yes, ELLEN BURSTYN, that ELLEN BURSTYN, playing the matriarch character of the island, who is giving the line-readings of someone who worked a couple days and is just anticipating her check to cashed into her bank account. Molly Parker is also a wonderful actress who has to be terrible here. The wonderful Frances Conroy is very creepy, but deserves oh so much better.

I still can’t process this movie even days after seeing it, so I’m just going to spew out random awful observations from the movie. There is one scene that they cut back to in a flashback for about, no joke, 10 times throughout the movie, providing nothing we didn’t already know. But, hey psychological “horror” movie, right guys? I’m pretty sure they just threw that scene in multiple times just to extend the running time. There’s also about 10 minutes in total, if you combined all the scenes, of Nicolas Cage riding a bicycle. Yup, nothing but him riding to his next destination, but apparently we have to see shot after shot of it. Again, seemingly just to extend the run time. Cage does won of the most hilarious dives into a lake you’ll ever see. There’s a scene where he has a dream within a dream within a dream, and it’s every bit as incredible as you think it could be. Nicolas Cage punches about 37 women throughout the movie, and one such instance he just walks up to an unassuming women, says nothing, and coldcocks her. After he punches some women, he puts on a bear suit, oh my god yes, he puts on a BEAR SUIT and proceed to punch more women. I think it’s time to repeat, that yes, this was a “Hollywood” film that was indeed released in theatres. People worked hard to make this, gaffers, foley, sound, video, sets, costumes, make-up, catering, EVERYTHING. And not once did someone think any of this, not even a small part, was a bad idea. It’s just so, so,so incredible.

It’s so, so, so amazing that this movie is billed as a horror movie. Quite seriously, if they had labeled it as a comedy, we wouldn’t be talking shit about it. No, we’d be hailing it as the funniest movie of 2006. Like, I mean a lot of it is unintentional comedy, but it’s so horrible in spots that it has to be, just has to of been made under knowingly terrible circumstances. Not that it makes it any better, but it’s really just me trying to make sense out of everything. Really the only redeeming aspect of the movie is the ending which is anything but a copout. I guess I should clarify that this is the extended version I’m talking about, whereas the theatrical version has a horrible ending to fall in line with the horrible movie that came before it that randomly has James Franco and Jason Ritter. I don’t know either. I know that I’m missing or forgetting about 1000 other dumb, random incredible bits and quotes that pepper this movie, but it’s impossible to reprint them all without me just copying and pasting the screenplay. Yeah, someone actually sat down and wrote this. Actually, that reminds me of another hilarious thing. Neil LaBute wrote the screenplay, and then felt so obviously connected to the story that he HAD to direct it as well. Apparently, LaBute thinks he’s some kind of auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson or the Coen Brothers. I’m not even watching the movie, but typing words about it is making it melt my brain even more. The Wicker Man, everybody, a movie randomly dedicated to Johnny Ramone. Amazing.

3/10

‘Dungeons & Dragons’: Review

Dungeons & Dragons Review

I can’t believe this actually got made, but I’m insanely grateful that it did. Oh, no, I’m not referring to any degree of good quality, of course not, this movie is so bad in so many numerous ways that it’s incredible that it even got made to this degree. I’m not familiar at all with the role-playing game that it was of course based off, but I can no doubt that the fans of the game were fuming in their parents’ basement when they saw the movie. It’s so terribly awful, but yet so goddamn watchable in how many ways it manages to be a horrible movie. Let’s highlight some of them.

There is no plot to this movie, or any that I could discern. I’m very sure that it doesn’t follow any Dungeons & Dragons plotline or famous story, as the titular dragons and dungeons don’t even show up until the climax of the film. It apes so many successful and actually good films that it’s incredible that they weren’t sued on some kind of plagiarism clause. There’s numerous Star Wars copying, from the young matriarch, the “epic” town hall meetings with the counsellor types, idiot sidekicks, and the reflective score. Indiana Jones is not saved from plagiarism, with the main characacter being a younger Indy, a main scene of temple with several booby traps draw from every  Indiana Jones film. It seems like writers and director were all like, “Hey, what if we copied all the good parts from the best fantasy and adventure films of all time, wouldn’t that make a movie?” No, it wouldn’t and clearly didn’t, it’s sad how low this movie stoops to try and be relevant.

Dungeons & Dragons does have the honour of having the first ever side-kick to somehow be even more annoying than Jar-Jar Binks. Marlon Wayans gladly takes this honour, playing “Snail” the most stupidest, and stereotypical black character ever. It’s insanely sad and pitiful that they make him fall into every bad black stereotype and incessantly make him an idiot. “Did you see Marlon Wayans do that pratfall? HAHAHAHA that was so funny.” That’s basically a breakdown of the level of humour in this movie. If Marlon Wayans is the benchmark of humour in your movie, then I think you might have a slight problem. He is almost quite literally Jar-Jar Binks in live-action form, and it’s just so-so-so bad. I’m going to spoil that he eventually dies in the movie, but forget about a spoiler tag, because I don’t care. The scene is supposed to play with how sad it is that he got got, but it’s just incredibly hilariois in how schlocky it is, and also relief in not having to deal with him for the rest of the runtime.

Let’s actually talk about the only good thing about this movie. Jeremy Irons. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jeremy Irons is wholly terrible in this, but in doing so this is his greatest performance, and I’m not being funny. Yes, Jeremy Irons is a great actor, with several amazing performances, but nothing compares to how watchable he is in this. Irons is having so fun in being terrible that it’s infectious watching him eat up the scenery that he plays in. Everything is overacted, yelled and PERFORMED that he steals every scene he’s in and whenever he’s not in the scene you’re just waiting for him to pop up. I’m still trying to make sense of him being in this movie in the first place, but I guess he had a castle to pay for, so, hey, easy pay check. Jeremy Irons is the only reason to watch this, and yes you must watch this because of how incredible he is.

Oh my god, this movie is insane how bad it is, have I vocalized that yet? Just incredible. Watch it half-heartedly on YouTube during class or work, that’s how I did, seems like the best way to reward its awfulness.

1.5/10