Matthew Mcconaughey has never been nominated for an Oscar. It might be because not many people take the 42 year old actor so seriously, what with all the shirtless paparazzi shots taken of him over the years and the flamboyant partying he is so well know of doing. Well guess what? In Steven Sodebergh’s Magic Mike Mcconaughey is –yes- shirtless and does in fact still have that party animal instinct in him yet he resonates deeply in the viewer’s mind as Dallas, the owner of a male strip club that dreams of one day hitting it big with his business. It’s an incomparable, scene stealing performance that shows us the great depth the actor can have if given the right role. Dallas is a man that knows how to make money and understands the business he is in. It is also not a coincidence that Dallas is the first person we see in the movie’s opening scene – a memorable one that sets the pace for what is to come and has Mcconaughey teasing us with a finger waggingly hilarious intro. In fact, the movie – a slight cautionary fable at best- suffers when Mcconaughey is not on screen, which is a testament to the actor’s appeal throughout the movie. Ask anyone who has seen Magic Mike, they would most likely put Mcconaughey on top of their Best Supporting Actor shortlist. He’s that good.
It's not easy being Christopher Nolan. You have the art-snob critics -or so I call them that- who practically hate the guy for his puzzle-like action films that really are, well, too puzzling and complicated for them and then of course you have Nolan's fanboy fanbase, an online community of wannabe film critics that think the guy is God, yet dissect his every frame with enough criticism to make any normal moviegoer just roll his eyes in laughter. Listen, there are just as many haters of Inception as there are admirers. Don't remember? That movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio as a dream invader in a screenplay that had more than its fair share of flaws -a Nolan trademark- yet had enough ambition and ideas to fill an entire thesis paper.
In 2008, Nolan put a landmark stamp on the superhero movie with The Dark Knight. It was the followup to 2005's Batman Begins and had an incredible, Oscar winning performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker. The Dark Knight not only ended up making close to 600 million dollars in the domestic box office but it also made critics go gaga all over its substance-filled frames. You see The Dark Knight was a kind of metaphor to 9/11 evil and condemned both sides in the war on terror. To defeat Ledger's Joker, Batman had to use in-heroic acts of violence, how much evil must one commit to defeat evil? Talk about deep stuff for an superhero action movie.
This all leads to The Dark Knight Rises. A film that comes with the highest expectations I've ever seen for a Hollywood movie. Expectations that were so high they were bound not to be met. I can safely tell you they are not met, which is not to say The Dark Knight Rises is a bad movie -it's actually a pretty damn good one. The problem is that there is no flashy performance here such as what the late Ledger did in 2008 nor is there the same relevance to our contemporary world, although Nolan does attempt to bring in an Occupy Wall Street themed rebellion to the forefront (it works at times). Bane is the villain and he is played with brutal elegance by Tom Hardy, an actor that has always taken pride in investing everything in his roles. For this movie Hardy packed on 30 pounds to play the bulking monster that is known in comic book lore as the one who broke Batman's back - I found Bane to be just as scary, if not scarier than the Joker.
Even though its flaws might be highly apparent -a useless twist at movie's end, a climax with ticking time bomb cliches, the complete uselessness of Marion Cotillard's character, uneven pacing- The Dark Knight Rises more than makes up for these mishaps in ambition. Clocking in at 165 minutes, Nolan's movie goes well beyond anything you will see in The Avengers or Spiderman. For the sake of its sheer scope and ideas, Nolan's movie is the blockbuster to beat this summer in terms of artful ambition. That is why we are ever so attentively paying attention to it and have been highly anticipating its release ever since we laid eyes on its pre-production notes. Nolan's comic book world is served black with a touch of realism that is not easily found anywhere else in the Marvel world.
No need to spoil any of its dark, twisted surprises in this review but watch out for Joseph Gordon Levitt's superb performance as a cop turned detective who investigates Gotham's criminal undergrounds, he is sensational and IS the movie's true heart. The unlikely bond he shares with Wayne is more than meets the eye. Also beware of the dark, sexy vibe Anne Hataway brings as Catwoman, a burglar of the rich that turns into the unlikeliest anti-hero of the franchise. Even though the film is anticlimactic, the final 10 minutes more than make up for it in terms of sheer, hypnotic suspense. As Hanz Zimmer's great score is playing, we are treated to a conclusion that more than justifies the impeccable trilogy Nolan has created for us in these quickly passed 7 years. He's raised the stakes for the superhero movie and I highly doubt it will get topped.
Oh Oliver Stone, no one can blame him for aiming high. The director of such classics as Platoon and JFK isn't one to do things subtly, his levels of excess in movies such as U Turn, Any Given Sunday and Nixon can be too much. In his latest called Savages you get both the good side of Stone and the bad side. He miscasts Blake Lively in the lead role of O (short for Ophelia) a muse and lover for two big time pot dealers Ben and Chon, played by Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch. The boys' product is incredible, their secret? They get their marijuana seeds from Afghanistan, where Johnson was stationed as a Navy Seal and got a contact. Things get tight and the plot kicks in when the Mexican cartel tries to get their share of the business and the boys reject their offer. In comes Salma Hayek's queenpin Elena, who's love for her neglecting daughter far exceeds the brutal business she handles. Elena doesn't like the rejection from Ben and Chon and decides to kidnap O to make them change their minds. Plot twists ensue that shouldn't be revealed.
Stone, co-writing the screenplay with Don Winslow and Shane Salerno, doesn't skimp on the violence, here in Stone's world the blood is real and so are the stakes. Just like in his underrated U Turn from 1997, Stone pounds our heads with so much that the film can't help but have flaws within it edges. For one, the 131 minute running time is typical of a director who's had practically a dozen 2 hour + movies in his career. the plot structure can also be incoherent at times, abruptly jumping from one scene to the next and skimming through plot points without second notice. Thirdly, there's the ending. Which is a botched -ambitious- attempt at Tarantino-ing up his film. Too bad, because when it does get its juices on Savages becomes a hell of a ride that shows just how talented a storyteller Stone can be.
At his worst -Natural Born Killers- he will send a movie's message to his audience with a nail hammered to their heads but at his best -Platoon- he will uncover deep, dark truths with the kind of subtlety and grace that has been so unnatural to him in his career. Savages fits right in the middle of that pack. There isn't really much substance to it, unless you look at it as a pro-marijuana legalization film, yet its action is relentless and made by a madman who's made a career on being a madman. This isn't high art, even though Stone might want you to think it is, it's just another vision from an auteur who hasn't yet calmed down and wants to continue to be heard. His new picture will surely rile up some people, there were walkouts at my screening, but that's just part of the fun that comes with having a new Oliver Stone movie.
It's not hard to see why Fanboys everywhere are creaming their pants at the recent summer blockbuster The Avengers. It has almost all -no Spidey- of the popular Marvel comic book heroes and is directed by Serenity and Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Josh Whedon. Whedon is much loved by fanboys worldwide because of his mucho popular stamp on horror and science fiction. I don't buy it. Never been a big Whedon fan and after having seen The Avengers, I sure am not now. Bash me all you want but The Avengers lacks the realist bite of The Dark Knight and the great action of Spiderman 2. Instead it relies on its impressive list of characters to support a story that is as thin as paper. Now don't get me wrong, there were times during the movie -such as the mid-way half hour action sequence on the plane- where my palms were getting sweaty and I literally was at the edge of my seat but there weren't enough moments like that one to fully sustain my appreciation for the film. People calling this 600 million dollar box office monster anything else but dispensable entertainment are out of their minds, If Whedon's film does not take itself so seriously then why should we? Its 8.6/10 rating on IMDB is also ludicrous and a bit too much for this film fan, who's seen better stuff done with this kind of genre at a much lower budget (Kick Ass? Iron Man? The Incredibles?). Well just look at me, ranting on and on about this much hyped about film yet this is going nowhere, you will likely stumble upon another Avengers fan on the street that will spill his undying love for this empty, recyclable movie. Love can be blind after all. Bring on The Dark Knight Rises.
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