“Once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”
– Rust Cohle, True Detective
“Once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”
– Rust Cohle, True Detective
Christopher Nolan is brilliant. Let’s make that abundantly clear. This review is not meant as a middle finger to the man who made Batman cool again. That said, the combination of pulse-pounding suspense with intellectualism that seemed to be so easily achieved in The Dark Knight, Inception and Memento is not exactly a given in Nolan movies, apparently.
Mmmm… I can already smell the fanboy hatred brewing.
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Produced by: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Based (In part) upon: Kip Thorne’s theories
Genres: Science-fiction, adventure, drama
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Ellen Burstyn, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, Timothée Chalamet, Matt Damon
Voices of: Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Plot: As is the case in seemingly every high-concept science fiction movie, it is the near future and the Earth is, slowly but surely, dying out. Due to unspecified issues, the planet is ravaged by dust storms, and the entire planet has reverted to an agrarian society. One of the many farmers whose plots of land litter the devastated American landscape (Which brings to mind the Dust Bowl) belongs to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former engineer and NASA pilot who lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), his son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and his eccentric daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy). When Murphy leads him on a wild goose chase to find her imaginary friend, Cooper stumbles upon a yop-secret NASA base, especially shocking, considering that NASA was thought to have been disbanded years ago.
The NASA facility is led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant scientist who, along with the rest of the tattered remains of NASA, is desperately trying to find ways to save humanity. Driven to desperation, Brand’s Hail Mary plan is to send Cooper up to space in a spaceship with a couple scientists (David Gyasi and Wes Bentley), Brand’s daughter (Anne Hathaway), and a couple of robots ( and shoot ’em up into a recently-discovered wormhole around Saturn, taking them to a whole other galaxy, where humanity could find another place to settle down.
Seriously, before I get into this movie’s problems, I must stress that I did like the movie, despite its’ shortcomings, I enjoyed myself for, oh let’s say, 75% of the movie. The movie’s almost three hours long, but throughout the first bit, it actually felt like it was breezing along, although not fast enough for me to miss out on the ever so important interactions between the characters. The score is composed by Hans Zimmer, who I have to thank for the soundtrack to The Lion King and Gladiator, meaning that he is one of my favourite human beings of all time. Unsurprisingly, he delivers some beautiful, atmospheric music that may not be hummable upon leaving the theatre, but it sure as hell worked in the context of the movie.
The performances were also great, which is kind of a given with Matthew McConaughey as a lead these days. Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine were both good in their role, as was Jessica Chastain in her role as an aged Murphy, and I never once felt the urge to strangle the child actors in the movie, which is always a positive in my book. Mackenzie Foy, especially, was really terrific as young Murphy, and surprised me by displaying a lot of chemistry with McConaughey. Especially surprising, since her breakout role was in the goddamn Twilight saga.
I gotta say, though, the character of Tom, Murphy’s brother (Ably played by Timothée Chalamet and, later, Casey Affleck) seemed completely unnecessary to me. It could just have easily been a household comprised of Cooper, his in-law and his daughter, completely eliminated the character of Tom, and there would have been no less of an emotional impact to the proceedings in the movie. I dunno, I guess it was nice to see Casey Affleck in something.
It also bears mentioning that the movie is really, really gorgeous. From what I’ve heard, they actually had Kip Thorne be a sort of consultant on what things in space would look like (For lack of a better noun), so when you see a black hole, that’s what scientists are pretty sure an actual black hole looks like. That’s pretty frickin’ rad.
Christopher Nolan has done a pretty solid job at incorporating shorter, emotional scenes in mainly serious movies, but he has set a new bar for himself with Interstellar in terms of emotional punch. I wouldn’t say it emotionally wrecked me, but holy crap does it get intense. Go ahead and skip to the end of this paragraph if you really don’t want to know anything about the movie going in, go ahead and skip to the end of this paragraph, but my favourite scene in the entire movie was when, due to the theory of relativity, Cooper discovers that his kids are now older than him. It’s not only a brilliant way to explain relativity to somebody, but also the best scene of the movie thanks to its emotional resonance.
Fuck me, that was the saddest damn thing.
However, it can work to the movie’s detriment too. The movie, for the most part, does a really good job of accurately portraying the science that would go into a space voyage, which makes sense, given that theoretical physicist Kip Thorne served as an executive producer. However, as much as I appreciate the science behind the movie, it loses me a little when it starts emphasizing the main theme in the film, that love transcends space and time, being, essentially, the strongest force in the universe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against that being a theme in the movie. My problem is when the characters start spewing some bullshit about “quantifiable love”. I’m not going to go much more in depth for fear of venturing into spoiler territory, but seriously? I’m no physics major, that’s for damn sure, but I’m fairly sure that’s not actually a thing. The “power of love” crap may work in a movie such as Harry Potter, when the real-world applicability of the movie is non-existent, but in a movie such as Interstellar that puts such a large influence on the science, while keeping the human element mostly separate, you lose some brownie points from me when you try to spoon feed me with “quantifiable love.” It’s just too much of a stretch for a cynical bastard like me.
Also, the dialogue seemed really clunky at times. I had to restrain myself from exclaiming “what!?” after Cooper explained to Murphy why he named her after Murphy’s Law. Most of the time, it’s a pretty typical, slick Nolan screenplay, but at other times…Ugh.
Another thing that was working against me was the length of the movie. Whenever a movie goes beyond the 160 minute range, it’s already gotten on my bad side. It’s not like I automatically hate it (The Lord of the Rings movies are three of the best movies of all time. Try and dissuade me of that, hipsters. I dare you.), it just has to do a bit more in the way of keeping me interested in the story to keep me distracted from the fact that I just blew three hours of my precious time. This movie did not do that. There were several times during the last 30 minutes of the movie when I felt that it should’ve ended, but it just kept trudging along, and it got to the point when I was just willing the movie to end, which is a pity, because looking back on it, it was a damn smart ending to a pretty damn good movie, but the ending was presented in such a hectic and drawn out way that I just got lost. Maybe I’m just stupid, I dunno.
Overall: It’s overly long, complicated, and occasionally displays stiff dialogue, but it’s a visual treat and an engrossing experience as well. It may not be for everybody, but it’s worth a watch. Just plan your day around it.
Now that I’m done writing about baseball for a while, I’m jumping back on the (Long departed) Oscar review train and reviewing a movie that I saw before the actual ceremony, but that I put off reviewing (Along with Her and Philomena) for some inexplicable reason until now, which is odd, because I happen to have some pretty strong opinions on it. I also have, like six more Oscar reviews coming after this one (Namely the two aforementioned movies, Frozen, The Great Gatsby, Blue Jasmine, and The Great Beauty) and a couple of Razzie reviews.
Actually, now that I think about it, forget the Razzie reviews. Life’s just too short to waste an afternoon devoting myself to an analysis of A Madea Christmas and Temptations of a Marriage Counselor.
Besides, I’ve gotta free up some time to go to a couple of other movies I really wanna review, namely The Grand Budapest Hotel, because it has seriously piqued my interest, and Noah, because ditto and I’m a sucker for religious debate, and, just from looking at the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, I can tell that this is a movie that will be argued about for a long time.
Anyways, let’s just get to this insane freaking movie, shall we? It’s got Leonardo DiCaprio in it, so it must be great, right?
The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Produced by: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Written by: Terence Winter
Based on: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Genres: Black Comedy, Crime Drama
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin
Oscar nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay (Winter), Best Supporting Actor (Hill), Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Director (Scorsese), Best Picture
Plot: The film opens to stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) showing his exploits off to the audience, namely his opulent salary, highly entertaining workplace, unreal home on the Gold Coast of Long Island, and his beautiful ex-supermodel trophy wife, the beautiful Naomi Lapaglia (Robbie). Oh, and his ability to consume insane amounts of prescription and not-so-much-prescription drugs. How did he get to where he is in life? Well, let him tell you through narcissistic narration!
The setting flashes back to 1987, when Jordan is just busting into Wall Street as a low-level commissioned stockbroker (Or whatever) at L.F. Rothschild. While working there, his boss (McConaughey) suggests that he adopt a lifestyle based around cocaine, casual sex and masturbation in order to relieve tension and stay on top of his job. This works out well for him and the firm until Black Monday (A global crash of the stock market), after which the firm closes down and Jordan finds himself out of a job.
Jordan ends up taking a job with a Long Island boiler room, where he takes advantage of the lax regulations of penny stocks and earns his fortune. Eventually though, he quits this and starts Stratton Oakmont with his buddy, Donnie Azoff (Hill), a burnout with similar tastes in drugs, and starts aggressively scamming people out of millions of dollars, which ends up attracting the attention of FBI agent Patrick Denham (Chandler).
When outlined neatly, as I like to think I just did, the plot is pretty airtight. Sure, it can be a little bit hard to follow, especially when he explains all the fiscal jargon that goes into stockbroking and running a scam, but as far as I know, there aren’t any holes in the plot. Martin Scorsese directs the movie excellently, like he do, although the editing was kind of haphazard.
Honestly though, the movie is three hours long, and it only really heeded to be two and a half hours long. You could skip, let’s say, from the 30-minute mark until, say, the 90-minute mark, and you will have missed nothing except a lot of sex scenes and other scenes of debauchery that didn’t need to be there.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, I guess I should mention my biggest problem (And, I suppose, one the biggest controversial aspects of the film) with this movie, which are the gratuitous sex and drug use depicted in the first half of the movie. Now, if any of you are thinking of calling me a sheltered, conservative prude, I’d like you to take a moment to remember that I’m a 17-year old straight kid. Do you honestly think I’d have a negative reaction to a nude female body without a good reason? Especially when that nude female body belongs to Margot Robbie? Get real.
No, it’s not that these scenes are evil, or immoral, or whatever. It’s just that we’re given so many of these scenes in such a short period of time (An hour is a shirt period of time in a Scorsese flick) that it just ends up losing any shock value that it might have previously possessed, to the point where I realized that I had just been watching an extremely explicit orgy in an airplane that involved several gorgeous women and Leonardo DiCaprio (Because come on, nobody’s that straight) and felt absolutely nothing emotionally or otherwise. That really sucks, because a) I like seeing hot women in various states of undress (I just realized that this post is starting to make me sound like a huge pervert. Thank God for internet anonymity!) and b) There are so many ways that these scenes could have been used constructively but weren’t.
One example in this movie of a well-placed sex scene is the one near the end of the film where Jordan is banging his wife for the last time before she leaves him. This is a great scene because it exposes Jordan Belfort as the pathetic human being that he has become, begging his wife for sex and whimpering, if I remember correctly (Screw double-checking!). I fail to see how a scene detailing how Jordan and Donnie “double-teamed” some woman in an office is supposed to convey as much importance, though.
With that said, I feel like I should mention that, in all fairness, the movie cuts down on most of the filler after the halfway point, and became miles more engaging. It doesn’t elevate it to legendary heights or anything, but it’s still excellent. It’s just a damn shame that the second quarter of the movie, or so, is so fricking weak.
And as for the complaints about this film being “amoral”, I have these two points to mention to anybody using this weak excuse to discredit a movie.
Yeah, this movie is amoral. So was Pulp Fiction, and it’s a universally loved movie. If you wanna criticize this movie, try focusing on its’ legitimate flaws and try not to base your argument on a completely subjective feeling like morality.
Acting/Writing: As you will soon be able to tell from the briefness of this section and the interminable nature of the last one, I don’t have nearly as much to say about the actors. They do a great job with what they have (Which is also great). What else do I need to say?
The two Oscar nominees shine, obviously, with DiCaprio giving a great (If not too close to being his greatest) performance, even channeling a little bit of his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape at one point, and Jonah Hill further distancing himself from his links to Judd Apatow and turning in a wonderful darkly comic performance. Australian actress Margot Robbie is fantastic too, and kudos to her for managing to hold her own on the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio while being somewhat of a newcomer. Also, she’s the hottest human being on the goddamn planet.
What nominations did it deserve?:
Well, it’s not like I can do so much freaking Oscar reviews without doing a quick prediction. These predictions will have the same format as my Razzie predictions, with my top three picks for every category, except the ones which I haven’t checked out because they didn’t have any Best Picture Nominees (Categories with an “*” are categories in which I’ve seen less than three of the nominated movies). Also, if any movie that I did not watch wins their respective category, that movie will be added to my seemingly never-ending queue of reviews.
Best Visual Effects:
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. While Benedict Cumber-Dragon was amazing and J.J. Abrams lens-flared Star Trek into beautiful oblivion (I’m hoping that nonsense I just pulled out of my ass makes sense to somebody), Gravity had some of, if not the most the most, beautiful visuals I’ve ever seen in my seventeen years of watching movies.
Best Film Editing:
I’m still not entirely sure how one critiques editing, so admittedly, this category is kind of a crapshoot for me.
Best Costume Design*
American Hustle could beat out 12 Years, because it did have a pretty fantastic costume design team, or whatever (And Amy Adams’ necklines sure help), but I think that the latter’s costumes were just a little bit better.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling*
I’m shocked that American Hustle wasn’t nominated for this category, but honestly Dallas Buyers Club should win this award, based solely on the work they did with Jared Leto.
I’m kinda surprised that Nebraska was nominated for this category, because I really didn’t like the choice of black-and-white colouring, but whatevs. Gravity should and will win, anyways.
Best Production Design
Assuming that “Production Design” means “film sets and such”, I’d give it to 12 Years, mainly for the stunning contrast between the natural beauty of Louisiana and the brutality of the subject matter.
Best Sound Mixing/Editing
Yes, I know I mixed the categories of Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, but a) It’s pretty much the same movies, and b) I don’t know what the fuck the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is supposed to be.
That said, Gravity‘s soundtrack was downright gorgeous.
Best Original Song (I Haven’t seen most of these movies, but the songs are on YouTube, so all’s good.)
Let’s face it, Disney songs are pretty much the bomb. Keep in mind that this is coming from somebody who thinks that any song off London Calling is the pinnacle of Western Civilization.
Best Original Score
Like I said, Gravity‘s score is fantastic. I liked Hers’ soundtrack too, but Philomena‘s just seemed nondescript to me.
Best Animated Short Film, Best Live Action Short Film, Best Documentary-Short Subject, Best Documentary-Feature, Best Documentary Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Animated Feature Film
I haven’t seem any of the movies nominated for these, because a) Honestly, these are the least interesting categories to me and b) While I actually love animated movies, there’s no way I’m going to a theater filled with screaming eight-year olds to watch Frozen.
Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay
I didn’t find any of these scripts to be legendary, per se, but they were still pretty damn great. It could really go any way.
Best Writing-Original Screenplay
I wonder if I could somehow develop David O. Russell’s amazing dialogue-writing ability without also developing his crippling douchiness…
Best Supporting Actress
Holy shit, I son’t think you could have picked three cuter nominees for this category.
Jennifer Lawrence is my favourite actress, and June Squibb was awesome too, but there’s just no way they match up to Mexican-born Kenyan Actress Lupita Nyongo’s film debut.
Best Supporting Actor
Fassbender played Edwin “Evil Incarnate” Epps to perfection, and Somali actor Barkhad Abdi was awesoome in his debut, but they just had bad luck this time, going up against Jared Leto as the tragic Rayon.
I think that Cate Blanchett is gonna win, considering the love she got at the Golden Globes, but I loved Sandra Bullock.
Man, does Leo ever have bad luck getting easy opponents on Oscar ballots, huh?
I had to pretty much flip a coin to decide who I thought was better between McConaughey and Ejiofor. All I can say is that I hope I don’t have to type either of their names again until next Oscar season, at least.
I’m not that big of a director guy, but you don’t have to be one to know that Cuaron did a fantastic job with Gravity.
Just read my review of 12 Years a Slave, it’ll tell you all you need to know.
Hi, everybody! If you’re not too busy buying last minute gifts for your significant other(s), I have a movie review to check out!
Hoping that I picked a nice, easy to swallow, possibly romantic Oscar movie to review for Valentine’s Day, like Her or Frozen?
Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by: Jean-Marc Valee
Produced by: Robbie Brenner, Nathan Ross, Rachel Rothman
Written by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Genre: Biographical Drama
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
Other actors: Steve Zahn, Griffin Dunne, Dennis O’Hare, Dallas Roberts, Michael O’Neill
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup and Hair-styling, Best Film Editing
Plot: Dateline: Dallas, 1985. Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is living the high life. Or, you know, as much of a high life that a poor, cocaine-abusing redneck working as a rodeo cowboy and an electrician could possibly live. However, despite living on the ass end of the poverty scale, he lives a pretty carefree lifestyle, complete with banging lots of different women, macho posturing and good’ole 80’s homophobia. That’s why he takes it so hard when he discovers that he has been diagnosed with AIDS and is given a month to live (In those days, it was a common misconception that gay people were the only ones at risk for HIV and/or AIDS).
When he can’t get his hands on some AZT (An antiviral that was supposed to prolong the lives of AIDS patients), he smuggles some in with help from a hospital worker. However, the AZT doesn’t work (And his cocaine habit isn’t helping) and he’s checked into the hospital, where he meets both Dr. Eve Saks (Garner), who is sympathetic to his plight and Rayon (Leto), an HIV positive transgender woman, towards whom he is irrationally hostile.
Frustrated with the care he is receiving, Ron drives across the border to Mexico to see a sketchy doctor (One of Mexico’s leading tourist attractions), who gives him a crap-load of drugs that actually work, but who have not approval from the Food and Drug Administration to be used in the United States. Back in the States with his drugs, Mr. Woodroof reluctantly teams up with Rayon to form the “Dallas Buyers Club”, where AIDS patients pay 400$ a month and, in exchange, receive all the medication they need.
While the story is based off of real events, the screenplay is completely original, and it and the plot are airtight. The movie was so engrossing that its (relatively) short 116 minute run-time felt long, not because I was in agony, but because I was so intent on seeing how everything was gonna go down.
Also, how is it that director (And my fellow Canadian) Jean-Marc Vallee wasn’t nominated for Best Director? The care taken in each of these shots is damn near perfect.
The script was downright amazing. It was funny when it needed to be, dramatic when it needed to be, and heartbreaking when it needed to be, although that may be more a result of…
The Incredible Acting: Wow. Just. Wow.
My first experience watching Matthew McConaughey on film was his supporting role in Tropic Thunder. After the 106 minutes of hilarity that that movie brought, I found myself thinking back to his performance (For some reason) and thinking: “Sure, he was pretty funny…but can he play a dying, sickly, inhumanely skinny AIDS patient?”
You’re welcome, planet Earth.
As for his support (Leto and Garner), they both did fantastic jobs as well, especially Leto (Who you may recognize under all that makeup as being the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars) as the tragic figure that is Rayon. Garner was excellent as well, and definitely should have been at least seriously considered for an Oscar nod.
What Oscar Nominations Does It Deserve?:
It’s not often that I can safely call a film perfect, and, if I looked hard enough, I could probably find something to quibble about, but I don’t feel like it, so congratulations to everybody involved with this film (Especially McConaughey and Leto), because I’m gonna go ahead and give it my highest possible recommendation.
Overall Rating: 10/10
(On an unrelated note, if I ever have to type the word “McConaughey’ again, it’ll be way too fucking soon.)