Archive for Matthew McConaughey

The Dark Tower

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

What people are saying:

“I’ve been told that The Dark Tower books are jam-packed with dense plot, wonderful characters, and a sprawling mythology – which is what made the movie so hard to make for all these years. Well, the solution seems to have been to just scrap all that and release a shockingly short 95-minute movie that just kind of glosses over everything to the point that has any meaning or purpose” 2 1/2 stars

“Elba, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, delivers a one-note performance of weary stoicism, while McConaughey fails to embody evil incarnate, though he does at least display the odd flash of malevolent wit.” 2 stars

“What an abomination. Any resemblance between this and the Stephen King novels that inspired it(?) is purely coincidental.Elba is the best thing in it and I admire his ability to stay in character instead of running screaming from the set. Poor CGI, disjointed story,strained dialogue, indifferent acting other than the three leads, it’s a hodge podge of the worst B movie traditions. Tedious and boring. King deserves much much better.” 1 star

“Going into the movie without knowing the story it was quite entertaining. If you just enjoy the movie rather than worrying about low reviews you will likely enjoy it. decent story about good vesus evil.Several really great action scenes and you actually care bout the two main actors. Well worth a rental.” 4 stars

“I don’t know why people complain about non-compliance with a book. You read to stoke YOUR imagination. Do you expect a director to please everyone else who read it? Thus we come to the quality of the movie–never read the books. This is above average for the genre. McConaughey is so brilliantly evil. Elba and the boy bond beautifully. Well paced and written, the story line worked for me as presented. Better than 20 hours and six films of Hobbits, etc. to get the story. It’s a well done and entertaining movie.” 4 stars

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Sing

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In a city of humanoid animals, a hustling theater impresario’s attempt to save his theater with a singing competition becomes grander than he anticipates even as its finalists’ find that their lives will never be the same.

What people are saying:

Sing delivers colorfully animated, cheerfully undemanding entertainment with a solid voice cast and a warm-hearted – albeit familiar – storyline that lives up to its title.” 3 1/2 stars

“The plot may be shopworn, with not much aimed at adults, but the film’s message that collaboration can reap greater rewards than competition is appropriate for all ages.” 5 stars

“Totally blown away. I was not expecting much, but was surprised by how well this movie was done. Animation: some of the best. Good use of lighting, shadow, fur effects. The body language and facial expressions totally fit. This could have been a mediocre movie, but you can tell they put lots of work into this film. Engrossing. Not a film you could read a newspaper while getting the gist of it, like some films. There are many movies I can like, yet never care to watch again; but, this one I could watch again. I would recommend you see this at least once.” 5 stars

“What an absolutely charming film! I was surprised to find some of the better known names who lent their voices to these characters….would never have guessed that Buster Moon was Matt McConaughey, for example – his normal Texas twang was nowhere to be found, and that was a charming surprise! But the animation was wonderful and I was totally engaged from beginning to end. Not for kids only!” 4 stars

“It’s cold outside, it’s Sunday night, we’ve got popcorn, me and my two boys are curled up on the sofa. As film nerd Dad it basically doesn’t get any better than this, and it definitely doesn’t when you’ve got a real gem of a film like this one. The songs are great, the gags are good and the story is moving with some wonderful characters. None of the actors feel like their phoning it in with the voice work, hell this is probably McConaughey’s best work since ‘True Detective’. This really is great, had both of my boys up on their feet dancing and singing along by the end and one of them is currently in a plaster cast! Had me with a huge grin on my face. Bravo, Garth Jennings.” 4 stars

Sahara

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on August 10, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

While investigating a deadly water-borne epidemic along the Nile River, adventurer Dirk Pitt uncovers a secret dating back to the U.S. Civil War and battles an evil industrialist bent on killing every living thing in the world’s oceans.

What people are saying:

“Sahara was a surprise find by my wife at a garage sale. Expecting the worst, it turned out to be about the best knock-off of a James Bond film that we have seen, so well done, and with its own plot (though with a few scenes right out of actual Bond films), that if someone had told us that it was put out by the Bond people to inject new blood into the mix, or to rejuvenate “the Franchise”, we might have believed them for a few moments.” 3 stars

“Despite the vast beauty of location settings in Morocco and Spain, the vast lack of chemistry between the two stars is appalling.” 2 1/2 stars

“This is a silly fun movie with a world class cast. Look it’s not a drama, so lighten up. McConaughey and Zahn are well matched. And in Wilson, Macy and the lovely Miss Cruz and you have fun. Good sound track beautiful locations. Give it a try. ” 4 stars

“Sahara was just like sex with a cactus, a terribly painful and scarring experience, but for some reason, I just couldn’t stop.” 1 1/2 stars

“Road to Morocco meets James Bond. A movie with fun written all over it. While an iron clad taking down a modern assault helicopter is a bit of a stretch (even for this movie), Sahara is a personal favorite that delivers on many levels: star power, love story and a happy ending. Two adventurers and a WHO doctor battle an evil warlord and corrupt solar power corporation on their way to finding an ancient civil war ironclad and source of a mysterious illness. Good cinematography, music and clever writing. Stand out performance by William Macy.” 3 1/2 stars

The Wolf of Wall Street

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After losing his job at a Wall Street firm, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a job at a boiler room trading company that specializes in penny stocks. Thanks to his aggressive pitching style and the high commissions, he makes a small fortune. He befriends a man named Donnie Azoff, and the two decide to go into business together. They recruit Belfort’s accountant parents as well as several of Jordan’s friends, whom Jordan trains in the art of the hard sell. The basic method of the firm is a pump and dump scam. To cloak this, Belfort gives the firm the respectable name of “Stratton Oakmont”. After an exposé in Forbes, hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company.

Jordan becomes immensely successful and slides into a decadent lifestyle of prostitutes and drugs. Jordan has an affair with a woman named Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) at one of his parties. He divorces his wife and marries Naomi, and soon they have a daughter, Skylar. Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI begin investigating Stratton Oakmont.

Jordan instantly makes $22 million on his securing the IPO of Steve Madden, Ltd. To hide his money, Jordan opens a Swiss bank account with the corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) in the name of Naomi’s aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), who is a British citizen and outside the reach of American authorities. He uses friends with European passports to smuggle cash to Switzerland.

Donnie gets into a public fight with Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), one of their money couriers, and Brad is arrested. Jordan also learns from his private investigator that the FBI is wiretapping his phones. Fearing for his son, Jordan’s father pressures him to leave Stratton Oakmont and lay low. Jordan, however, cannot bear to quit.

Jordan, Donnie and their wives are on a yacht trip to Italy when they learn that Emma has died of a heart attack. Over the objections of his grieving wife and his yacht captain, Jordan decides to sail to Monaco so they can drive to Switzerland without getting their passports stamped at the border and settle the bank account, but a violent storm capsizes their yacht. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed by a seagull flying into the engine. Jordan considers this a sign from God and decides to sober up.

Two years later, the FBI arrests Jordan during the filming of an infomercial. Saurel, arrested in Florida over an unrelated charge, has told the FBI everything. Since the evidence against him is overwhelming, Jordan agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Disgusted with Jordan’s lifestyle, Naomi tells Jordan she will divorce him and wants full custody of their children. Jordan throws a violent tantrum, gets high, and ends up crashing his car in his driveway during an attempt to abscond with their daughter.

The next morning, Jordan wears a wire to work. Jordan silently slips Donnie a note warning him about the wire. The note finds its way to the FBI, and Jordan is arrested for breaching his cooperation deal. The FBI raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont.

Despite this one breach, Jordan receives a reduced sentence for his testimony and is sentenced to 36 months in a minimum security prison in Nevada. After his release, Jordan makes a living hosting seminars on sales technique.

REVIEW:

Given the events of today, which I will keep to myself, if you don’t mind, I wasn’t really in the mood to watch a film, to be honest with you, let alone sit here and write a review. However, an outing with the little woman and a big fat burger have lifted my spirits and I am now able to bring you The Wolf of Wall Street.

What is this about?

Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career ended in federal prison.

What did I like?

Go for it. There are certain subjects that films tend to avoid or just skim over. Money laundering isn’t necessarily one of them, as can be proven by watching just about any drug trafficking flick, but when you throw in the face that this actually happened and director Martin Scorsese is taking the chance to bring this to light, then you know it has to have been something big. I don’t know much about the goings on up there on Wall Street, other than the whole place is corrupt and money hungry. This film demonstrates that in one chance scene with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and Mathew McConaughey, who has this cool chest beating song that I’m sure will be stuck in my head for days.

Frantic. The first half of this film is very quick. There are cutscenes to random clips from mostly the 70s and, just like the reaction from the cocaine that is being ingested, the whole first half or so moves along at a level that is far above what it should be doing. Now, I did notice that as the drug use lessened, the pace slowed. If that correlation was done on purpose then it was a stroke of genius!

New girl. Amy Adams. Jessica Biel. Jennifer Lawrence. Scarlett Johansson. Jennifer Aniston. Sandra Bullock. These are just a few names of the “hot” actresses (use whichever definition for that term that you wish) at the time. Truth be told, some of them are getting a bit long in the tooth, others just don’t have the draw they one had, while some are just coming into their prime. Enter Margot Robbie, she has a somewhat small role in this film as DiCaprio’s second wife, but, damn, what she does with those scenes shows that this is someone that is more than a pretty face and a hot body. There is a real talent there. I mean, she is able to go toe to toe with DiCaprio, a man some consider on the list of the greatest actors currently working.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I want to come back to the pacing of this film, but this time I will focus on the second half of the film. This the part of the film where we are taken down a darker path than what was shown to us in the first half, also the comedy seems to be less in this half and, as I mentioned before, the frantic pace has drastically slowed. In short, the film has become a serious drama. Given that this is the part of the film that deals with the criminal activities, it is understood, but I have to wonder if there would have been a way to do this without slowing things down and making one remember than this is a 3 hour film!

Leo. Nothing against DiCaprio, but what does he have on Scorsese, or vice versa? It seems like he has been in every one of his films since he made the jump from TV to film, maybe even before. I will say, though, that it is not out of the ordinary for a director to have a go-to guy. Quentin Tarantino has Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Howard has Tom Hanks, Alfred Hitchcock has Cary Grant, and Tim Burton has Johnny Depp (remains to be seen if he keep Helena Bonham Carter after their split). DiCaprio does a great job in this role, but I can’t help but feel as if it would have worked better with someone else and Scorsese just cast his golden boy for the sake of casting him.

Glorification. Have you noticed that some of the most popular “heroes” in culture are actually deplorable human beings? Think about it, pirates weren’t exactly moral, upstanding citizens, knights did more raping and pillaging than saving villages and such, and most of the names from the Old West that we look up to are the villains. For some reason, we celebrate the villains. Take a look in the comic book world. As popular as Batman is, it is the Joker that more people want to be (I know I did). There is a fascinating documentary about this very subject that I recommend, Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics. What does this all have to do with this film? Well, our “hero”, if you will, in this flick is DiCaprio, obviously, but he and his lackeys are actually taking money from their clients. It really isn’t shown in the film, so that his character, Jordan Belfort, can come out smelling like roses, but that is what really happened. Why are we celebrating this villainy? I can’t tell you, but I’m sure the people who got ripped off by the real Belfort were none too pleased about this.

Final verdict on The Wolf of Wall Street? Well, first off all, it is way too long for what it is. Scorsese has done much better work. There is a lack of depth to this film that seems as if this was either rushed into production, theaters, or there was just a lack of care. On the positive side though, we get great performances from DiCaprio, introduced to Margot Robbie, and continue to see Jonah Hill prove his acting mettle. Who would’ve thought the Seth Rogen clone from Superbad would turn out to be a competent actor? So, do I recommend this? In terms of cinematic works, yes. While flawed, this is still a fine piece of cinema. However, if you’re just looking for a film to kick back and enjoy, then this isn’t for you. If not for all the hookers and blow, this would be more artsy-fartsy version of Wall Street in some respects. It is what it is, though, and only your personal proclivities can determine whether you’ll like this or not.

4 out of 5 stars

Dallas Buyers Club

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1985, Dallas electrician and rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. He initially refuses to accept the diagnosis, but remembers having unprotected sex with an intravenous drug-using prostitute. Ron quickly finds himself ostracized by family and friends, gets fired from his job, and is eventually evicted from his home. At the hospital, he is tended to by Dr. Eve Saks, who tells him that they are testing a drug called zidovudine (AZT), an antiretroviral drug which is thought to prolong the life of AIDS patients —and which is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for testing on humans. Saks informs him that in the clinical trials, half the patients receive the drug and the other half are given a placebo, as this is the only way they can determine if the drug is working.

Ron bribes a hospital worker to get him the AZT. As soon as he begins taking it, he finds his health deteriorating (exacerbated by his cocaine use). When Ron returns to the hospital, he meets Rayon, a drug addict, and HIV-positive trans woman, toward whom he is hostile. As his health worsens, Ron drives to a Mexican hospital to get more AZT. Dr. Vass, who has had his American medical license revoked, tells Ron that the AZT is “poisonous” and “kills every cell it comes into contact with”. He instead prescribes him ddC and the protein peptide T, which are not approved in the US. Three months later, Ron finds his health much improved. It occurs to him that he could make money by importing the drugs and selling them to other HIV-positive patients. Since the drugs are not illegal, he is able to get them over the border by masquerading as a priest and swearing that they are for personal use. Meanwhile, Dr. Saks also begins to notice the negative effects of AZT, but is told by her supervisor Dr. Sevard that it cannot be discontinued.

Ron begins selling the drugs on the street. He comes back into contact with Rayon, with whom he reluctantly sets up business since she can bring many more clients. The pair establish the “Dallas Buyers Club”, charging $400 per month for membership, and it becomes extremely popular. Ron gradually begins to respect Rayon and think of her as a friend. When Ron has a heart attack, Sevard learns of the club and the alternative medication. He is angry that it is interrupting his trial, while Richard Barkley of the FDA confiscates the ddC and threatens to have Ron arrested. Saks agrees that there are benefits to Buyers Clubs (of which there are several around the country) but feels powerless to change anything. She and Ron strike up a friendship.

Barkley gets a police permit to raid the Buyers Club, but can do nothing but give Ron a fine. The FDA changes its regulations such that any unapproved drug is also illegal. As the Club runs out of funds, Rayon—who is addicted to cocaine—begs her father for money and tells Ron that she has sold her life insurance policy to raise money. Ron is thus able to travel to Mexico and get more of the Peptide T. When he returns, Ron finds that Rayon has died after being taken to hospital and given AZT. Saks is also upset by Rayon’s death, and she is asked to resign when the hospital discovers that she is linking her patients with the Buyers Club. She refuses to comply and insists that she would have to be fired.

As time passes, Ron shows compassion towards gay, lesbian, and transgender members of the club and making money becomes less of a concern – his priority is provision of the drugs. Peptide T gets increasingly difficult to acquire, and in 1987 he files a lawsuit against the FDA. He seeks the legal right to take the protein, which has been confirmed as non-toxic but is still not approved. The judge is compassionate toward Ron, but lacks the legal tools to do anything. As the film ends, on-screen text reveals that the FDA later allowed Ron to take Peptide T for personal use and that he died of AIDS in 1992, seven years later than his doctors initially predicted.

REVIEW:

Every awards season, there is one or more films that comes out of nowhere and “steals” awards from so-called more worthy films, even though it is clearly worthy of all its accolades. One of those films this year was Dallas Buyers Club, a film that covered some heavy and controversial topics, but wasn’t overly preachy.

What is this about?

Loosely based on true events, this drama follows Ron Woodroof, who refuses to accept he’ll die in 30 days when he’s diagnosed with AIDS in 1986. He extends his life and eventually helps many other AIDS patients by smuggling medications from abroad.

What did I like?

Rocker to diva. What a role for Jared Leto this was. I know quite a few ladies that have called him”one of the most beautiful men on the planet” and that “he would make a gorgeous woman”. Well, now they get to see that actually happen, sort of. While Leto has long been an actor, some best know him as the frontman for his group, 30 Seconds to Mars. As we saw in Chapter 27, he isn’t afraid of transforming himself for a role. Playing a transgender prostitute who is suffering from AIDS and has a heart of gold was quite the departure for him, and he has been reaping the benefits from this great performance he gave. Oh, did I mention we went to the same high school (not at the same time, though).

Craft. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone had pigeonholed Matthew McConaughey into the surfer dude with not much on top. Most even thought that he wasn’t that great of an actor. Granted, he had a string of films that didn’t allow for him to flex his chops, but to say he is not a good actor is ludicrous. Has no one seen A Time to Kill, Amistad, or any of his other serious roles? Take that talent and then throw in the commitment to playing a man diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, which causes one to waste away (unless you’re Magic Johnson who is still alive after being diagnosed way back in the early 90s, somehow). The normally ripped McConaughey is nearly unrecognizable. While I, and many others, praise his commitment to the role, I question the toll this massive weight loss will have on his health.

Focus. Obviously, this is a film that was meant to impress the critics. It has a laser-like, serious focus that doesn’t stray off, save for the slight joke or humorous situation caused by Jared Leto’s character (thank goodness). Keeping on target is what lets this film really shine, as this subject matter is not something to be taken lightly, and the situation regarding the medicine is not something that is well-known to most people.

What didn’t I like?

Um…. Slow moving dramas are not my cup of tea. I have a hard time stay awake and interested in them. So, it should come as no surprise that I wasn’t really invested in this film that way that some people, who have been gushing over this have been. It just didn’t capture me. Granted, I just saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in IMAX a couple of hours ago, so the drastic shift in tone and whatnot between the two films may have something to do with that, but still, could we not have made this a bit more interesting, rather than exposition, brief glimpse of gay sex, attempt at humor, drama, repeat?

Concern. I was moved by the concern Matthew McConaughey’s character showed for Jared Leto’s character. While there are times he’s pushing him around like a villain’s sidekick, there are moments when he sticks up for him. The most notable of these is in the supermarket. One of McConaughey’s former co-workers happens across them and starts saying some homophobic statements directed toward Leto, and McConaughey steps in to defend “her” honor. Following Leto’s death, he shows great remorse, allowing the audience to see that he really did care for his friend.

Location. I’m a native Texan (born in Fort Worth) living in Louisiana (Baton Rouge). Apparently, this film is similar. It is set in Dallas and filmed in New Orleans. I realize that the governor of Texas is an asshole who revoked the tax breaks for film companies, causing it to cost more to film there, but it just seems that a film that has Dallas in the title should be filmed in Dallas, rather than in someplace that looks nothing like Big D. Then again, The Dukes of Hazzard was filmed at LSU when it was supposed to be the University of Georgia.

Again, I have to say that Dallas Buyers Club just isn’t my cup of tea because of its heavy, serious drama. However, I am not one to not ignore a good film because of my distaste for its tone. This is a really good film and I highly recommend it. I believe this is one of those films you should see at least once…more for those that are into these type of films. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Bernie

Posted in Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on January 19, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In small-town Carthage, Texas, local assistant mortician Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a beloved member of the community, becomes the only friend of the wealthy, recently widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), who is widely considered cold and unpleasant by the other townsfolk. Tiede, in his late 30s, and the elderly Nugent quickly become inseparable, frequently traveling and lunching together, though Tiede’s social life becomes hindered by Nugent’s constant and sometimes abusive need for his attention.

Tiede murders Nugent after growing weary of the emotional toll of her possessiveness, persistent nagging and non-stop putdowns. For nine months, Tiede takes advantage of her poor reputation to excuse her absence with few questions while using her money to support local businesses and neighbors. Finally, Nugent’s stockbroker becomes concerned by her absence and enlists the help of her estranged family by using Tiede’s neglect of payments previously agreed upon by the family. This results in an authorized police search of her house that concludes with the discovery of her body in a meat freezer.

The local district attorney, Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) charges Tiede with first-degree (premeditated) murder. Tiede is arrested and he soon confesses that he killed Nugent while claiming her emotional abuse as a mitigating circumstance. Despite this confession, many citizens of Carthage still rally to the murderer’s defense, with some even asserting that Nugent deserved to die. Frustrated, Davidson successfully requests a change of venue to the town of San Augustine, 50 miles away, to avoid selecting a biased jury. Despite the absence of evidence of premeditation, Tiede is found guilty as charged and imprisoned for life.

REVIEW:

Bernie is a true story, ya’ll. I kid you not, the first title card we see says, “you are fixin’ to see a true story”. The fact that it was written like that should tell you that this is not going to be some heavy-handed true life drama like other true stories we’ve seen over time.

What is this about?

In this black comedy inspired by a true story, affable Texas mortician Bernie befriends the small town’s wealthiest widow and then kills her. But despite the suspicious nature of her death, no one wants to think anything but the best of Bernie.

What did I like?

Different. I’m not exactly a huge fan of Jack Black. I find his comedy too…something…for my taste. So, the fact that he was starring in this film was a bit of a red flag for me, but he actually did a real good job. Apparently, others thought so too, because he was nominated for Best Actor Golden Globe. Stepping out of the box was good for Black. Maybe he should do it more often and continue to grow as an actor, rather than keep retreading on his tired schtick (which has been improved upon by Zach Galifianakis).

Townsfolk. Judging by the end credits, it seems that the townspeople used for the documentary setting of this are perhaps real people from Carthage, TX. Just like any other small town, they are quite the colorful bunch of characters. The little anecdotes they provide really spice things up.

76 trombones. The classic song from The Music Man, “76 Trombones” is performed by Bernie and his little theatre troupe. As a huge of the musical, it isn’t the best version, but it isn’t the worst. A very respectable version of it, if I say so myself. I wonder who thought to put that in there, because it was a stroke of genius!

What didn’t I like?

Lowlife. Bernie is so loved in this town that it seems as if no one really cared that he allegedly murdered this woman, plus she wasn’t exactly Little Miss Sunshine. Listening to the testimonies, all the people loved him, even when they were talking smack about him, but there was this one guy, the D.A., played by Matthew McCounaughey who, in today’s vernacular, is a “hater”. He’s so anti-Bernie that he gets the trial moved to a different town just so that he can get a win. That’s some low-level, dirty handed tactics, but he is a lawyer.

Don’t call me Shirley. It seems like every film I see Shirley MacLaine in nowadays, she’s playing the bitter old woman character. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe this can be traced back to Steel Magnolias. Ouizer was a great character, don’t get me wrong, but I’m starting to wonder if she’s not like this in real life now because of all these rather unpleasant women she’s been on screen.

Mix and match. Two things bother me about this flick. First, they show the real Bernie Tiede at the end, and Jack Black doesn’t look anything like him. Truthfully, that isn’t that big of a deal, but I have to wonder if Black is doing a caricature of Bernie, or if he really is like this. Since we never hear him talk, one can’t really say. Second, the tone of the film is a bit of an issue. It starts off as a bit of a comedy, then turns into a legal drama of sorts. Personally, I think this film would be better served sticking with the dark comedy angle, rather than turning into Law & Order: Carthage, TX.

Bernie is one of those films that gets talked about but no one remembers even hearing about it when it was in theaters. I don’t even recall seeing a trailer for it, though I might have seen a poster in passing. All this is really a shame, because, truth be told, this is a good and enjoyable film. Yes, it has a few issues and is likely to turn some people off, but I would definitely watch it again. Check it out sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Killer Joe

Posted in Independent, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Finding himself in considerable debt, with loan sharks threatening to kill him, 21-year-old Texan drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) decides the only solution is to murder his mother, Adele, to collect the $50,000 of insurance money. He has been told by his mother’s boyfriend Rex that the sole beneficiary will be his younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple). Assuming Dottie would share any money she gets with them, Chris tries to rope his father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), into a conspiracy to kill Adele – who is Ansel’s ex-wife – to get the money. Chris tells his dad that he has heard of a guy who can help them — Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a police detective who has a side career as a contract killer. Ansel eventually agrees, planning to split the money four ways between themselves, Dottie, and Ansel’s new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon). Dottie hears the plan as they are talking, and agrees that it’s a good idea.

The plan almost fails when Chris is unable to front Joe’s fee. However, Joe met the odd, childlike Dottie when he came to the trailer to discuss the details, and offers to take her as a “retainer” until the insurance comes through. Through Dottie’s interaction with Joe, we learn that Adele (her mother) tried to kill her once when she was a baby.

Joe “dates” Dottie and then appears to be staying over at the trailer and having sex with her regularly. Chris has a change of heart and asks him to call it off, unaware that the killing has already happened. But, he finds out quickly enough when Joe calmly enlists his help to move the body and torch the car they put it in.

After Adele’s death is discovered, the family learns that the insurance claim actually pays to Adele’s boyfriend Rex, not to Dottie. Ansel and Sharla confront Chris about this and he admits he originally heard the details about the policy from Rex, who also originally told him about Joe. The family all realize that Chris has been duped into hiring someone to commit this murder. Immediately afterwards, Chris tries to talk his sister into running away with him to escape the loan sharks. Dottie says she will go with him, but she must see Joe again first.

Ansel and Sharla go back to their trailer after the funeral. Joe is already there with Dottie. He comes out of her room and begins asking seemingly casual questions of Sharla. They become more and more pointed until ultimately they force her to admit that she knew the policy was really $100,000 (accidental death is double). Joe also has retrieved some nude photos of Rex which Sharla had taken which Joe uses to prove her affair to Ansel. Joe also shows them a check he has obviously taken from Rex, payable to Rex for $100,000. Angered, Ansel declines to protect Sharla when Joe punches her and forces her to simulate oral sex on a piece of fried chicken.

Joe knows Chris is coming to take Dottie away and makes Sharla put dinner on the table. After Chris arrives and they are all seated, Joe announces that he and Dottie will be married. Chris refuses to let them, ordering Dottie to leave with him, as Joe tells her to stay where she is. For a moment she sits there; then she gets up and turns and while the men yell out at her. Chris threatens Joe with a gun, and the two struggle. In the subsequent confusion, Dottie recovers the gun and shoots Chris, killing him. She shoots a few more times and wounds Ansel. Dottie turns the gun on Joe, telling him that she is pregnant. Joe appears overjoyed as he inches closer to Dottie. The film ends just as Dottie moves her finger back on the trigger.

REVIEW:

One of the best films, according to critics and their ilk, of the year that most people did not see was Killer Joe. I wouldn’t know about it either, if not for a friend that happened to catch it at SXSW and insisted that I see it ASAP (why he couldn’t just let come to SXSW, I don’t know). I’m always reticent when it comes to independent films, but this one seemed to have something different that really intrigued me.

What is this about?

Dimwitted drug dealer Chris hires Killer Joe to ice his mother for her insurance. But Chris is broke, so Joe demands his sister Dottie as collateral. Dottie’s not about to be treated as chattel, and Killer Joe soon wishes he’d never taken the job.

What did I like?

Hirsch-y. I guess Speed Racer didn’t kill this guy’s career, contrary to popular belief. He had a decent part in Savages and now he’s starring in this, giving perhaps the performance of his career. From what I’ve seen of Hirsch’s career, he’s always been the clean-cut, nice guy, but these last two films, especially this one, he’s really gotten down and dirty, and it works for him. If he keeps this up, his reinvention could be on par with that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Slimy, yet satisfying. McConaughey steals the show as this creepy, yet eerily calm cop that seems like he could snap at any minute, which he does in the tense final act. It is the tone of the whole film, though, that I’m referring to. Not only do you get a weird vibe throughout the picture that makes you immediately want to go take 10 showers, but it intensifies as things progress. Did I mention that this was rated NC-17?

What you don’t see. Joe is a killer, but the one thing we don’t ever see him do is kill his target. The first, and only, look we get of her is when she is seen in the trunk. This little bit of artistic decision, for lack of a better term, is genius on the director’s part, because later on when Joe gets violent about his money, it makes that more effective. I cannot really tell you why, but there is just something about a guy who doesn’t seem to get riled up over stuff suddenly snapping that is very yin and yang. Joe’s dark side is what makes him such a fascinating character, coupled with his obsession with the young daughter.

What didn’t I like?

Church. There was a time, long ago it seems, that this guy was the funny janitor on a little sitcom called Wings. He has come a long way since then, but this is not one of his better performances in my opinion. That isn’t to say it isn’t good, but it seems to be the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from him. With Hirsch and, to an extent, McConaughey stepping out of their normal comfort zones, I felt that it would have nice to see Church follow suit.

Texas pride. This is a small thing, but I have to bring it up. Why in the bloody blue hell was this filmed in Louisiana, instead of Texas?!? As a native Texas living in Louisiana, I can tell you that it was obvious they were far off from making this authentic, no matter how much they tried. I imagine it all had something to do with tax breaks and all that mess. I understand that, but there comes a point when you just have ti bite the bullet and go for it. You don’t see films set in New York being filmed down here!

Insurance and gangsters. After the target is killed, there is this whole discussion about insurance that just seemed to come out of nowhere. A little before that, we see Hirsch get a beat down by some guys to which he owes money. What happens after that? Nothing, really. There are a couple of mentions of them, but that’s it. As far as the insurance, well, that just seemed like it should have set up or defined better/earlier, rather than waiting until after the woman is dead to bring it up and then use it as the (weak) plot for the second half of the film.

Killer Joe is a disturbing, violet, dark comedy that is only for those that can take it. I would not recommend this to anyone unless you’re the kind that can handle a little violence and/or other controversial subjects. Does that mean this is a good or bad film? Yes, it is very good, but I think it stop just short of being great. I enjoyed the film, but I’m not going to rush out and buy the DVD. If you’re up for a good indie overlooked and underappreciated flick, this is one you should check out!

4 out of 5 stars