Tag Archives: matthew mcconaughey

Frailty – Review

23 Apr

To get into the mind of a serial killer can be close to an impossible task. With everything going on in the world, there can be many triggers that can change a seemingly normal and functioning mind into that of a psychotic and murderous lunatic. This is the strongest part of the film Frailty, the directorial debut of the well known character actor Bill Paxton and the feature screenwriting debut of Brent Hanley. This movie made a big mark when it was released in 2001, with people like James Cameron, Sam Raimi, and Stephen King all hailing it as one of the best horror films to come out in years. This is a powerful movie that would’ve been a perfect psychological thriller if it wasn’t for a god awful ending that has the potential to spoil the entire experience.

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In the present day, FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) is called into the office late one night because a man calling himself Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) says he has important information on the serial killer known as the “God’s Hand Killer.” According to Fenton, his brother Adam, who has recently committed suicide, is the killer. The evidence for his claims dates back to 1979, where the younger Fenton (Matt O’Leary) and Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) are living a simple yet happy life with their widower father (Bill Paxton). That happiness is destroyed one night when their father claims to have been visited by an angel with the instructions to collect a grouping of holy weapons then find and destroy demons that are walking the earth disguised as humans. As the bodies begin to pile up, the young Fenton becomes more and more uncomfortable with his father’s “mission” and knows that somehow he has to put a stop to it. In the present time, as an older Fenton recants this story, Agent Doyle begins to suspect that something isn’t right with this mysterious visitor in the night.

The first two thirds of this movie are really something special in the most dark and twisted kind of way. What we have is a brutally clever and psychological story about a man who seems to lose all sense of reality, and in doing so completely shatters the psychological well being of his two young sons. This makes for a very interesting story that was made scary by its realism. Anyone who reads up on serial killers knows that for a lot of them, God is a major factor in their twisted psyches. This isn’t to say that all serial killers murder people because of God, but there have been instances in the past where the phrase “God told me to do it” has been uttered. It didn’t have to be God that made Fenton’s father feel the need to kill. The whole point of interest is that he went from a normal human being to something a whole lot worse, but Frailty almost plays this in a way where we don’t want to hate the killer.

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As I was saying, and let me really emphasize this, the first two thirds of the movie are note perfect and part of the reason is because of the superb acting on display. Matthew McConaughey doesn’t really have a huge part, but his acting is entirely believable and appropriately eerie. Bill Paxton steals the show as the perfect father who’s own supposed mental breakdown changes him into a totally different person. The part that Paxton is in is complicated, having the duty to portray a serial killer who the audience is supposed to understand and feel for in a way. He is still totally off the walls and makes for a frightening human being. Even the two kids, Matt O’Leary and Jeremy Sumpter, do commendable work, which I really wasn’t expecting.

All’s going well so far. Then… Oh, then… A third act comes along that ruins the movie in a way that an ending has never done to me before. I don’t want to spoil anything, although it’s really difficult not to. There’s so much I want to say about this god awful joke of an ending. To summarize, let’s just say that it takes everything that was really cool, scary, and interesting and completely throws it all out the window for some bullshit twist. Ever since The Sixth Sense, it seems almost obligatory that psychological thrillers of this kind have some kind of twist to them. Well, the difference between The Sixth Sense and Frailty is that the twist of Shymalan’s masterpiece is tricky and thought provoking instead of stupid, like what we see in Frailty.

I don’t want to say that Frailty is a bad movie solely because of the ending, because that wouldn’t be fair. In all honesty, Frailty is an above average psychological thriller that people seem to have forgotten. It deserves the praise that it’s gotten from people like Sam Raimi and Stephen King, but I can’t help but be really bothered that someone thought the ending was a good way to wrap up the story. I don’t want to dissuade anybody from seeing Frailty because it really is a good experience, just be ready when the ending completely throws you off due to the writer’s need to try to make the movie more thought provoking than it really needed to be.

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Dallas Buyers Club – Review

20 Jan

I feel like everyone in the world would agree with me that the mere thought of AIDS is enough to make your heart race a little faster. It’s a terrifying disease with horrible bodily effects which is really just slowly hammering nails into your coffin. In Dallas Buyers Club, I had the opportunity to see a character face this head on and instead of backing down and accepting his own death, he opts to survive. I have seen other films with AIDS as a plot point, but none were as powerful and moving than Dallas Buyers Club.

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Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is an electrician and cowboy, who is known amongst his friends as being outwardly homophobic and intolerant. His life is spent drinking, indulging in cocaine, and have lots and lots of sex. This fun and easy life style is shattered when he gets blood work done revealing that he has AIDS. Woodroof is automatically outcasted by his friends and coworkers, with only a sympathetic transgender Rayon (Jared Leto) to give him any support. Rayon is also suffering from AIDS and an addiction to drugs, so he begins working with Woodroof to smuggle medicine and vitamins unapproved by the FDA from Mexico and other countries to open a buyers club for AIDS victims. The FDA and local hospitals get wind of this and do what they can to stop Woodroof and promote their own drug, AZT, which despite saving a lot of lives, can have devastating side effects.

This movie is heavy. Like, really heavy. By the time the credits began to roll, I had a hell of a lot to think about. First of all, Dallas Buyers Club is one of those movies that makes you reflect on your own life and how it is you’re living it. In the beginning of the movie, the doctors only give Woodroof 30 days to live. Just getting that laid on you out of the blue would, to me, be too much to handle. I had a lot of “What would I do?” thoughts while I was watching this movie. I feel like that’s the backbone of this movie. The performances are great and the story itself is moving, but the real weight of the movie comes from putting the real life situations of these characters, and relating them to your own life and a very scary possibility that everyone has to be very mindful of.

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The themes in this movie stretch across more than just the AIDS epidemic, and I was really surprised about that. I haven’t seen any trailers for Dallas Buyers Club, so I really had no idea what this movie was even about other than a story about AIDS. The whole plot of the FDA and hospitals making it next to impossible for the people who are slowly dying to get the medical treatment that they want is despicable. Now, some of this movie did take dramatic license, so I’m not sure how biased it was in real life. The story of Woodroof and Rayon is also really great. Woodroof’s character arc through the entirety of the movie is huge and we actually see different points in his life where he takes another step forward towards change. It’s a slow evolution that you see over the period of time that this movie takes. He’s a very well written character.

Even though a character is well written doesn’t necessarily mean that the character is going to be any good, and that’s where Matthew McConaughey comes in. It’s rare to see a career change so drastically in the course of a few years. McConaughey went from films like Sahara and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to films like Killer JoeMud, and now his best role yet in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey lost a total of 47 pounds for this movie and he handles the change of his character so fluidly and believably. He’s one of the best actors alive right now. Oh yeah… Jared Leto. Wow. I never really had much to say, and only really saw what he was capable of in Requiem for a Dream, but this role is unbelievable. He is unrecognizable as Rayon and you can see the commitment that he put into this character. It’s seriously unreal. Both actors deserve Oscars for their performances. This is going to be an interesting year for the awards.

All in all, Dallas Buyers Club is one of the best movies of the year. McConaughey and Leto show major acting chops here and further establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with. The directing and writing are just fine, but the real interesting scenes go to the actors. Thematically, this is a really heavy movie and may be upsetting to some people, but it is a very worthwhile movie that’s almost medicinal. It’ll help you think about your own life and how you view the lives of other. Now that’s some powerful stuff.

The Wolf of Wall Street – Review

18 Jan

Martin Scorsese has a way of creating these epic stories of crime that may stretch on for a very long time, but somehow he can keep people’s undivided attention the whole time. That’s exactly how it was for me with The Wolf of Wall Street. I had no doubts that Scorsese’s latest crime epic was going to be anything less than entertaining, but what I saw was not only one of the best films of the past year, but may very well be one of my new favorite movies. It’s funny, dramatic, and not afraid to go places other films dare not tread.

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Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) has dreams of making a name for himself, and also of making as much money as he possibly can. After the business he is working for as a stock broker, run by his mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), is shut down after the events of Black Monday, Belfort finds himself working for a boiler room that deals in penny stocks. Belfort sees potential in these penny stocks, and how the commission that he makes is far more than he can make with a legit business on Wall Street. Jordan starts up his own business, Stratton Oakmont, and along with his right hand man, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), starts making millions in these illegal stocks. His life of debauchery, prostitutes, money, and drugs seems to be going fine, until FBI Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins investigating the dealings at Stratton Oakmont and sees potential to crumble Belfort’s empire.

What makes this movie all the more appealing to me is that it is all based off of a true story of a man who actually did this. Jordan Belfort’s memoirs is the source material for The Wolf of Wall Street, and the unapologetic amount of excess that Belfort engaged in could never be boring to witness. Martin Scorsese obviously does not approve of Belfort’s actions and means of income, but the way he is presented in this movie might be deceptive at first. Rise and fall stories are very interesting to me, like Scarface and the entire arc of all three Godfather movies, and this one is no different. At first, we almost seem to want to be a part of Belfort’s life, but towards the end we can’t even stand looking at him. He’s amoral, but so much fun.

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This movie is so full of energy, it actually made me all hyped up after it was over. Leonardo DiCaprio is at the top of his game here, and I’d go so far to say that he deserves the Academy Award for his performance. It carries the entire movie and he seemed willing to really make a goof out of himself. Of course he has Jonah Hill by his side to keep the energy alive, and it’s really interesting to watch Hill’s career grow as an actor. He’s no longer just a funny guy. He’s quite a serious actor. Not to mention McConaughey’s brief screen time is some of the best the movie has to offer.

The stars behind the camera are just as effective. Everyone and their mothers know that Martin Scorsese is one of the best film makers of all time. There’s just no disputing that. His sweeping camera work has just as much fluidity and energy as the rest of the cast, and the different choices of lenses for certain scenes as another fun layer of creativity to the entire experience. Terrance Winter, the creative mind behind HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire (one of my favorite shows), brings his A-game to the table for The Wolf of Wall Street. His dialogue is sharp as a tack and extremely quick. An exceptional instance of his writing is the first time Belfort and Agent Denham first meet on Belfort’s yacht. It’s an amazing word duel that I will never forget. Finally, I need to mention Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing. The intercuts and crazy editing keeps the film feeling kinetic. It’s perfect.

The Wolf of Wall Street was an excellent film that was one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a movie in a long time. It’s kinetic film making at its finest, and Martin Scorsese once again proves why he is cinematic titan. DiCaprio’s and Hill’s performances solidify their Hollywood talent, and I really want to see this get some recognition at the Oscars in terms of acting, writing, and editing.

Killer Joe – Review

17 Jan

I have been waiting to see this movie for months, so you can imagine the twang of concern I felt putting it in my Xbox for the first time to watch it. What if it didn’t reach my high expectations? That would mean months of waiting were for nothing. Killer Joe has not only met all of my expectations, but surpassed them. This film is a brutal, unforgiving, and darkly comic ride into crime and suspenseful insanity that would make Hitchcock proud.

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Chris (Emile Hirsch) owes gangster Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay) a lot of money. He soon learns that his mother has a $50,000 life insurance policy and that there is a man named “Killer” Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a cop/killer, who will get the job done for a fee. Chris’ entire family is on board for the whole idea, but an unexpected complication soon surfaces causing the family to clash heads harder than they have before. Not only that, but Joe wants his money and he will do anything to get it.

I will never ever make fun of Matthew McConaughey ever again after seeing Killer Joe. I never thought he was a bad actor, but this is the movie that really has convinced me that with the right direction, he can be great. William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist and The French Connection, does have a great track record after all. The rest of the cast is great, too. Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon totally sell their roles and Emile Hirsch makes it very east to dislike his character. Special kudos goes to Juno Temple, who plays Chris’ sister for sale, in a role that could not have been easy.

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This film was unfortunately met with a lot of controversy before its release concerning the rating. The MPAA were really pushing Friedkin to edit the final product to bump it down from an NC-17 to an R rating. To paraphrase Friedkin, he said that if he cut anything out, he would be destroying it and not saving it. I can absolutely attest to what he is saying. While I was watching the movie, I could see what they would want to cut out so it could be shown in more accessible theaters, but if anything was cut than a lot of the intensity would be missing. The first hour or so of this movie is a very slow build up to an unbelievably grotesque climax that is well worth the wait.

That being said, this is not a movie for the feint of heart or the weak of stomach. It is very violent and relishes in it. Killer Joe isn’t just a physically disturbing movie, but a mentally disturbing movie which evens out quite nicely. To be honest, some of the mental aspects of the movie are a lot more upsetting than the physical, even though when characters get their asses kicked in the movie, it isn’t really easy to watch.

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Killer Joe is a wonderfully suspenseful film with loads of detestable characters and stretched out scenes of dialogue that slowly drag the viewer along. These scenes really accentuate the stage roots of the movie. The first time I watched it, I watched it again two hours later because it was just that good. Use caution, but definitely check out Killer Joe.