Tag Archives: Matthew McConaughey

The Dark Tower (2017) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

THE DARK TOWER.png

Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers: Akiva Goldsman (screenplay by), Jeff Pinkner (screenplay by)
Stars: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

Plot: The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black, 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.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 16%   Audience 46%

Why I Watched it: Two reasons it was on iTunes for .99 cents and of course I had to see if it was really that bad.

Random Thoughts: The series of books written by Stephen King, I do believe seven in all in the Dark Tower epic saga was something of the white whale in Hollywood for what seems like decades there was talk of getting this on the screen.  When they finally did it, well let’s say they didn’t make the fans, critics or film lovers very happy.  I t got made and there’s still talk of a TV series but man this stink is going to be hard to get rid of.

What I liked: The film is not very good and honestly it’s hard to find good things to say but I will say that Idris Elba is good here and if given a better script and more time I think he could really flesh out the Gunslinger character, here in this film he’s uses his charm and acting ability to give us a shadow of what that character could have been and is in the books.  Tom Taylor is fine and the scenes with him and Elba are good.

What I didn’t like: Now lets get something straight on it’s own The Dark Tower is a not a good movie, it’s not the worst in the world and people like Elba and McConaughey so if we take it as just another Hollywood Summer movie that failed we could live with that but they took not only a book but a well loved series of books and they crapped the bed.  To take seven books and turn them into one movie that is just over 90 minutes is just plan dumb, so much of this series isn’t there it’s a film version of Cliff Notes, we get a rushed summary.  Say what you want about books not mattering when they turn them into films but I disagree when you use a title then that comes with expectations, they’re using the title The Dark Tower to get people into seats, they’re using Stephen King’s name to promote the movie but this film is not anywhere close to the books.

In films right now we talk a lot about world building, and for most of the bigger films it takes a whole 2 hours to properly build a world, and that builds to sequels.  Why world building is important cause we have to know where we are, what the rules are and what we’re aiming towards, it’s a lot of work to be told on film and this film just flat out doesn’t do it.  I can’t call it lazy it’s borderline incompetent.  The film the world their in makes no sense, we aren’t shown enough to get a sense of what is even going on. The biggest problem I have is with the Matthew McConaughey character, demon/devil whatever but it’s clear McConaughey never got a handle on him cause he’s all over the place with his performance, there’s a scene where he’s cooking chicken waiting for someone and it goes nowhere.  His acting isn’t bad but man he’s not sure how to play this guy cause he’s written really badly.

The other big point is how bad the special effects are and how bad at times the film looks, they went cheap and when you do that on something that you’re building up as epic, well let’s say it feels like false advertising.  I was shocked at how cheap the film looked, this needed a bigger scale and a much grander view.  With the cheap let’s also talk about how short this film is for the story they have to tell, the film does feel very chopped up and it doesn’t feel connected at times. Stuff is introduced, characters shown and they go nowhere. The ending also feels very rushed and not well thought out.

Final Thoughts: Very disappointing for a film that had this much history of the making and such a wealth of source material to play with and to just be so sloppy and confusing is terrible.

Rating: 3/10

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Interstellar (2014) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

INTERSTELLAR

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan,  Christopher Nolan
Stars: Matthew McConaughey,  Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Christopher Nolan is one of the great directors already, having more than earned that right with a collection of genuinely brilliant films. He’s also one of my personal favourites and with Dunkirk on the way, I thought I’d delve back into some of his work. Nolan’s got a reputation for being quite the cerebral director with films that often make his audience ponder, especially with extremely ambiguous endings and the celestial epic Interstellar from 2014 has all of that in an abundance.

The proceedings start on a farm, in an unnamed US state, with the focus on Cooper (Matthew McConaughey); a widowed, ex-NASA test pilot that’s now left caring for his family and father-in-law (John Lithgow). He has two kids, his eldest son Tom (Timotheé Chalamet) and daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). The latter more like her father in nature with an added feistiness. It’s set in the near future, though the actual date is never specified, but it would be fair to say that the world isn’t in a good place. In the midst of a decade long crop blight with even Coopers crop of choice (corn) beginning to fail. Strange happenings begin to occur culminating with an energy anomaly that leads to Murph and Cooper tracking down strange coordinates to a secret NASA base.

Within this base is Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant scientist with an optimistic plan to save humanity. Well, two actually. One revolving around the simpler task (that should tell you something) of building a human colony on a suitable planet, whilst the other involves sending gargantuan spaceships into orbit with a sizeable portion of the planets population on board. Unfortunately for humanity, and despite his implied genius, the mathematical equation to make the second scenario feasible is proving impossible to crack. Which perhaps explains why Brand almost immediately asks Cooper (an old associate) if he’d be interested in leading the Endurance mission when their paths unexpectedly cross again.

The mission involves sending a four man astronaut team into a wormhole that’s formed near Saturn in order to confirm the findings from three potential, life bearing, exo-planets, within a solar system potential hundreds or thousands of light years away from ours. Professor Brand, you see, had previously sent ten other manned crafts through with only three signals returning and needs assurances of their suitability before forming concrete plans. Having long held aspirations of heading to the stars, Cooper of course, decides to accept the proposal in a final attempt to secure his children’s future and also save humanity, even if it does require him to perhaps leave them behind forever. This is really the key theme at the heart of Interstellar. Embedded within the epic sci-fi setting, is a powerful story about sacrifice, love and, more specifically, the relationship between Murph and Cooper.

It’s also very much a film of two halves. The first half focuses heavily on the plight of humanity and Earth, focusing on the mission and its progression up until the journey through the wormhole. The second half enforces a nice change of scenery and pace, switching to the more intimate environment of the spacecraft, but also the wondrous setting of the alien solar system. I have to say, I much preferred the second half of this film. It had a real emotional resonance that much of Nolan’s films have lacked in the past and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was close to blubbing when Cooper watched the 23 years worth of stored family vlogs from his children, this despite only having been separated for months (some crazy physics explains how that’s even possible and I’ll get into shortly). McConaughey’s multi-faceted acting performance in that scene alone was genuinely incredible.

Another reason for enjoying the second half though was the aforementioned mind bending physics and also the jaw dropping visuals (they were good before, but somehow got better). The teams forays onto alien landscapes were exhilarating and breathtaking in equal parts. Their risky journey to the oceanic planet to retrieve a homing beacon, where every hour spent equated to six months in Earth time (thanks to the immense gravitational effects of a nearby black hole) was an intelligent way of increasing the emotional stakes, and more importantly, all entirely possible in real life (if we could get close enough to a black hole that is). Whilst the show-off with Matt Damon’s, crazed, scheming scientist Mann on the stark, ice world brought a heart rending twist and a quick burst of action.

The most incredible moment from both a visual and story aspect however came when Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway, who was fantastic) and Cooper attempted to use Gargantua (the massive black hole) as a slingshot to reach the third and final planet in the solar system. At this point, Cooper chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice, jettisoning his part of the craft off across the event horizon of Gargantua along with the enigmatic and witty, blocky like AI character, TARS (Bill Irwin), who delivers a humorous performance very much in the vain of K-2SO. This sets up an even more mind bending, five dimensional trip that attempts to resolve the mystery of those earlier oddities in Murph’s room and also bring about a satisfying conclusion to the story. This ending divided opinions at the time and for many was so ambiguous and head scratching that it left more questions than answers.

Personally, I loved this damn ending, but I enjoy films that actually make me think. The key to everything in the end was both love and gravity. Cooper having interacted with the five dimensional being that created the black hole, discovers that he’s able to communicate with Murph, (thanks to said being/s creating a three dimensional surrounding to help him process things) using the love he has for his daughter and gravity itself to effect her environment and relay the necessary information to crack the equation. This is never properly shown might I add, but heavily hinted at, and ultimately, this makes it possible to get all or most of humanity off of the planet. It’s an ending that’s only rivalled by Arrival last year for me.

I can’t finish the review without heaping praise on both the cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytama and composer, the great Hans Zimmer. The score is so unbelievably beautiful in this film and there’s so many perfect little moments of genius where, for instance, the music will suddenly stop that add to film massively. The visuals are literally out of this world. The shot of the spacecraft passing Saturn was awe inspiring, as was the encounter with Gargantua’s event horizon and the planets all looked like realistic other worldly environments. The AI character TARS was also phenomenally well done.

I’ve prattled on quite enough, so I’ll keep the conclusion short. If you haven’t watched this for whatever reason then do yourself a favour and address that quickly. It’s an excellent piece of cinema with some really good performances, especially from McConaughey, Hathaway and Jessica Chastain (older Murph).

Gold (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

GOLD

Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writers: Patrick Massett, John Zinman
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard

Supposedly based on real life events, Gold follows the rags to riches tale of Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a down on his luck prospector that risks everything with fellow eager geologist, Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez), in an attempt to make millions from mining gold in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia.

It all begins with a younger Kenny, working under his father, who owns and runs a highly successful mining company. We see him explaining the nature of his job to a beautiful, young woman and attempting to woo her by giving her a piece of jewellery. Not long after, he chats with his father, the latter staring out at a rather scenic cityscape and Wells, who’s narrating at this point, mentions that this was the last time he saw his father alive. The film then takes a significant jump into the future and we see the now heavily receded, more portly figure of Kenny, struggling to come to terms with leading his fathers business. He’s clearly turning to drink and after failing to convince financial backers to invest in his business venture, he hits rock bottom.

It becomes apparent early on that Kenny is going to be the equivalent of a human rollercoaster though and nothing much keeps him down for long. He’s well aware of his limitations too, and so going on a hunch, he jets out to meet Michael Acosta, a morally ambiguous geologist, who after some gentle persuasion agrees to enter into a partnership with him. This following a promise of financial support from Well’s provided Michael could find an appropriate mining location nearby the local river. The pair then set out together, heading up river and passing a promising sign in locals that are looking for gold on the banks themselves, before finishing with a back breaking trek into the jungle to the chosen site.

After recruiting several indigenous locals, setting up camp and digging for core samples, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Overworked in dreadful conditions, the locals strike and leave the site. Worse still, Well’s develops a fairly severe bout of malaria during this period, leaving him unable to do much other than rest. Appearing delirious in the midst of this, he gives a crestfallen Michael, who’s ready to quit, the last of his credit cards and money to convince the workers to return and get things back on track. Michael manages this, by ingeniously providing them with a clean water supply. With the workers now back, Michael is finally able to dig up enough samples and the results are extremely promising, all of which is music to a y-front wearing, reawakening Kenny’s ears.

Returning to the US significantly richer than when he left, a euphoric Kenny meets his girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), at a plush hotel. Their relationship which can only be described as tumultuous takes a further nosedive when Kay, worried for his wellbeing and seeing the piranhas circling, tries to warn him about being manipulated and used. Of course, Kenny, who’s been heavily drinking as per, is in no mood to be lectured and believes with his new found prestige that he’s invincible. What follows are several highs and rock bottom lows. From the floating of his company, Washou Mining, onto the Wall Street stock market and picking up prestigious mining awards to being screwed over by associates Mark Hancock/Import Holdings, removed from the mining site by the military and having to face a full grown Tiger, just to impress the powerful Soharto’s son and wrestle control of the operation back.

There can be no denying that McConaughey is the main man here and he carries the film for long stretches. This may be down to the personal connection he felt with Well’s story, which apparently shares a lot of similarities with his father’s life and the piping business that he successfully ran. However, I did get the sense that he was deliberately chasing an Oscar with another transformative role, that involved unnecessary weight gain and a shaved head, but perhaps I’m being overly cynical? There is other fairly strong performances too. Edgar Ramírez was excellent as Michael Acosta; Corey Stoll was good as the sleekit, snake, Brian Woolf and Bryce Dallas Howard was decent too, although not blessed with a massive amount screen time. She also had the distinction of being about the only person in the film not motivated purely by money. Toby Kebbell had a short role as FBI agent Paul Jennings and I’ll give a shout out to him too, purely because he’s a fantastic actor and starred in one of my all-time favourite films in Dead Man Shoes.

There’s a few twists at the end of the film, maybe one too many in actual fact. The first involves the revelation of there being little to no gold on the site. The second is Michael ‘peppering’ the core samples with water based gold leading to a vastly overinflated value of the land and company, before buggering off with millions of dollars. His somewhat sheepishly, sharp exit at the aforementioned awards ceremony was a subtle hint of the double cross that was to transpire. This of course left Kenny in something of a pickle. Having not sold any stocks off himself whilst the going was good, he found himself penniless again and under intense scrutiny of the FBI, with his involvement in the fraudulent activities inconclusive. The reason behind the narration Well’s provides throughout is then revealed, with special agent Paul Jennings of the FBI intensely questioning him on his role in the whole affair. I wasn’t overly enamoured with the final twist and would’ve preferred the film to end on an entirely sour note. It wasn’t to be though.

Ultimately, it was fairly slow to start and the thematic message about greed and the American dream has already been done much better recently in films like the Wolf on Wall Street. Better is definitely expected given it’s a Stephen Gaghan film and his previous for excellence. Gold was neither outstanding or truly terrible. It was just ok.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

Director: Travis Knight
Writers: Marc Haimes (screenplay), Chris Butler (screenplay)
Stars: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey

Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest film from talented stop-motion animators, Laika studios. It follows the story of a young boy who is forced to flee his evil grandfather with his mother, after having his left eye vengefully taken out. Able to weave magic by plucking away at the strings on his shamisen, he endures a journey full of hardship, loneliness and familial ghosts from his past. Never complaining, however, he shows a wisdom way beyond his years, leaning on his memories and love to guide him through.

It begins with Kubo (Art Parkinson) and his mother fleeing their evil family on a small boat, caught in a choppy and dangerous storm. “If you must blink, do it now” our protagonist narrates as the pair encounter trouble, both being flung into the water before ending washed up on a beach. Kubo’s small form is seen beneath a blanket, his mother quickly rushing to comfort him, before the film cuts to the present.

The two of them are next seen living an isolated existence in a small cave, high upon a large, jutting rock formation, near the shore. Kubo’s mother by this point is a pale shadow of her former self and looking frail, exhausted and extremely forgetful. Kubo’s loneliness is palpable in these early stages, which perhaps explains his regular jaunts to the nearby village. On the first visit we see him make, he puts on a magical show for the residents, using his shamisen (a lute like instrument) to bring wonderful, complex, little, origami characters to life, as he displays quite the talent for storytelling. Time eases by rather quickly, as the travails of the small warrior play out, until finally darkness approaches, forcing Kubo to suddenly end the show and make a quick exit, much to the chagrin of the villagers. Returning to his mother, we are given a small insight into their backstory through her sad stories of his late father, Hanzo, a brave samurai warrior. She then provides a gentle warning to her son not to remain out too late in the darkness or his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), will come for his other eye.

Kubo then returns to the village, presumably at some point in the near future and speaks with the same kindhearted, old lady, seen previously. He is encouraged to stay later to enjoy the firework shows and other festivities taking places during the celebrations. Ignoring the previous warning from his mother, Kubo becomes distracted, emotional and quickly frustrated at his failed attempts to communicate with his dad. He loses track of time, as he forlornly watches the other villagers lanterns fill with light after seemingly successful contacts are made with their loved ones. Looking up he quickly realises his error as the light within the lanterns extinguish and the cold, shrill, laughs from the Sisters, his two aunts, echo through the wood. A quick chase takes place before his mother makes a intervention and uses the last of her magic to save him, sacrificing herself in the process.

When Kubo awakes, the sight of a snowy tundra meets his eyes and before him is a talking monkey, brought to life from the small token he carried everywhere, who goes by the name of Monkey (Charlize Theron), who’d have guessed it? She tells with him to hurry and follow her or risk being discovered again by his aunts and grandfather. Seeking refuge within a cave, the pair eat, whilst the now inquisitive Kubo is given three questions to be answered by his new guardian. Echoing his mothers last words, he is told that he must find three pieces of Hanzo’s armour in order to defeat the Moon King. These being; The Sword Unbreakable, The Armour Impenetrable and The Helmet Invulnerable. Heading out on their quest, guided by an origami samurai come compass, it doesn’t take long for them to cross paths with the clumsy, multi-talented, forgetful and also extremely likeable half-man/half-beetle creature, known as Beetle (Matthew McConaughey). Sharing a vague connection to Hanzo himself, he’s extremely keen to join in on the whole adventure business.

Together this unlikely trio set about collecting each armour piece, enduring several battles along the way towards the climatic finale. Whether it be fighting a gargantuan skeleton, whilst Kubo tries to find the Sword Unbreakable lodged in its skull or the duel fight in the Long Lake between Kubo, Beetle and an ensnaring underwater creature whilst Monkey battles one of the aunts on a magical leaf boat above the surface. Managing to collect the first two parts, Kubo is tricked by his grandfather within a dream into travelling to his fathers former fortress, believing the final piece, the helmet is there. This in fact turns out to be a trap, with the remaining aunt lying in wait for them. There’s a few good twists at this point, which I’d prefer to not to discuss in the review. But needless to say, afterwards, a lonesome Kubo, filled with more determination than ever and now aware of the actual location of the Helmet Invulnerable, thanks to his origami compass friend, heads back to the village to claim it and set up one last battle with his grandfather.

The Moon King, aka Kubo’s grandfather, predictably appears at the village, trying to smooth talk his grandson into giving up without a fight. When it becomes apparent that this won’t happen, his veil of friendliness soon slips, leading to a thunderous battle between the pair. The Moon King, transforming into a giant serpent, initially has the upper hand, before Kubo decides to ditch the armour and return to his trusted shamisen, now strung with one of his mothers hair strands. He utilises the magic of love and memories of his family within him and his fellow villagers to finally come out victorious. His grandfather doesn’t die however, but merely becomes a mortal man once again, appearing forgetful and frail, much like his mother at the beginning. The villagers decide to forgive him, rewriting an alternate background for the now apparent amnesiac. There’s just one final, poignant scene, involving Kubo returning to the river with a lantern, this time it successfully lights and he’s once again reunited with his parents.

There’s some cracking performances in this film. Art Parkinson does a wonderful job as Kubo, injecting some real emotional gravitas into the character to the extent where you can’t help but bond with him over the course of his journey. Charlize Theron is a real standout as Monkey, the no nonsense, voice of reason within the trio of heroes, whilst McConaughey portrayal of the hapless, good intentioned Beetle, helps to inject just the right amount of humour into what is at times a fairly somber affair. Ralph Fiennes is flawless in his relatively short cameo as the Moon King. He’s proven that he can nail the villain roles numerous time before and this is no different. Speaking of villains. Rooney Mara does a great job doing double duty as the Sisters. And an honourable mention to George Takei who plays a mere villager, which should help give a sense of the overall roundedness of the cast.

I can’t do a review on this film without discussing the visuals. My god the visuals on this film are tremendous. I mean really. Major kudos to Laika studios for the unbelievable attention to detail in the characters, the buildings and the creatures, especially the giant skeleton. The leaves boat that Kubo built using his magic was astonishingly beautiful looking. I really can’t praise the visuals enough here. There’s times when you forget it’s stop-motion, and the brain tricks you into believing it’s CG. I actually read there was 27 separate people working on individual scenes with a weeks work encompassing 3-4 seconds of footage, which just blew my mind.

The score is also extremely good in this film. Oscar-winning composer, Dario Marianelli, does an impressive job of building the score around the shamisen parts played by Kubo, expanding these simple little melodic lines out into a full blown orchestral score. There’s obviously a real Japanese theme, which given the films setting shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but it’s all blended together beautifully and helps add a real emotional layer to the film. As a massive Beatles fan, I have to give a shout out to the While My Guitar Gently Weeps cover by Regina Spector at the end too, which was a cool version.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film. I was always a fan of stop-motion stuff when I was younger, with James and the Giant Peach and the Wallace and Gromit tv series in particular being firm favourites. Admittedly, animation isn’t a genre I’ve kept up with in my adult years, though I have nothing but respect for the dedication it takes to make this style possible. It’s not just the visuals, however, it’s got a great, little story and features some brilliant performances. I’d highly recommend giving this a watch if you haven’t already.