I’m sure nearly everyone has had a moviegoing experience in which they are seated next to morons who mistake the theater for their living room, talking throughout the whole film. I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by more morons than I was at the screening I attended of Catching Fire so I was about a whisker shy of HULK SMASH the entire 2.5 hours and I’m going to admit right upfront that since my experience was so unenjoyable, that my review may be unfair. I considered not even reviewing the film at all, but I can tell you my basic opinion: Did you like the first movie? You’ll like this more. Did you find the first movie exceedingly problematic and dull in large portions? You’re going to still like this movie more, but the problems are still there. Continue reading Movie Review: The Hunger Games Catching Fire (2013)
If you like Matthew McConaughey, Mud is the best thing that is ever going to happen to you. At no time in his film career has McConaughey been so McConaughey as he is in Mud. It is….maximum McConaughey.
Mud is the story of two best friends in the SOUTH (we’ll put that all in caps because one of the two is named “Neck Bone” so we’re damn SOUTH) who run across a boat stuck in a tree by a hurricane and a bundle of McConaughey living in it. The boys strike up a friendship of sorts with the wanderer who is not what he seems. Mud is less about the titular character than it is Ellis (played by Tye Sheridan who carries the whole film). Ellis is losing his family, his home on the river and at 14 sits poised on that awkward cusp between childhood and adolescence. He latches on to Mud because he needs something to believe in, and given that Mud is a wanted murderer, that belief becomes a very dangerous thing.
The main criticism I can level against Mud is that the pacing of the movie is about as fast as the title. It is a looooong two hours and ten minutes of movie. The cast is great, when things finally get moving the story is gripping, but the journey to get there is at times extremely trying.
Since there was plenty of time to think as the boys kept motoring across the Mississippi to Mud’s island and back, I kept thinking that I have no problem believing this IS how Matthew McConaughey actually lives. That his part was just filmed by documentary crew outside his tree/boat house he lives in between films where he has to shower. I mean, what screams McConaughey more to you? This:
You know I’m right. Mud is a good rental if you have the patience for it. Good performances (especially by Tye Sheridan) and, like I said, whole lot of maximized McConaughey (that is really difficult to type over and over…I’m programming a macro).
Cecil Gaines lived an astounding life. From a childhood in the cotton fields of the south in the 1920’s, Gaines became a butler at the White House and served Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. During one of the most transitory periods in United States history, Gaines stood in the room, often, when the plight of Civil Rights activists was being debated. His own son was a Freedom Rider, arrested countless times for civil disobedience with Dr. King and other brave men and women struggling for equality. He served the Presidents that ordered our involvement in the Vietnam War before, during and after his other son fought and died in the conflict. As a child, he saw his father shot by a white man for objecting to that man’s rape of his mother. As an 89-year old man he saw Barack Obama become the first African-American President of the United States of America. His is a remarkable life. It would be, that is, if it were real.
Cecil Gaines is not a real person. The film is based on an article written by the Washington Post about the life of White House Butler Eugene Allen. I highly encourage everyone to read the piece “A Butler Well Served by the Election” by Wil Haygood. Eugene Allen absolutely served in The White House for 34 years and was a witness to history. He began at the White House during Harry Truman‘s second term in 1952 and left during Ronald Reagan’s second in 1986. Eight presidential administrations; he never missed a day of work. He broke barriers and by his quiet dignity in the everyday lives of most powerful people in the world, altered the course of history. He has one son who works as an investigator for the State Department. Eugene Allen lived a remarkable enough life that his story should have been told; his name should be remembered. For some reason this film thought Eugene Allen’s life not enough of an epic to bear his name and his legacy. That is something Mr. Allen would have never tolerated in his day at The White House. That is a disservice.
As a piece of fiction, the film is good, but not great. It’s filled with excellent performances from a cast brimming with the finest actors: Forrest Whitaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Liev Schrieber, John Cusack, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda (who plays Nancy Reagan in one of the most surreal actor-meets-role moments I’ve ever seen). It’s not a biography; it’s not a Civil Rights epic; it’s not a family drama. It tries to be all three over a period spanning eighty years and, as a result, everything is spread so thin that nothing that should gain weight and import, does. It spends as much time with the character of Louis Gaines, Cecil’s son who goes from being a Freedom Rider, to a Black Panther, to a United States Congressman, as it does with Cecil Gaines.
It’s difficult for me to evaluate it as a film, though. I wanted to look up Cecil Gaines and read more about him when I got home (largely because the film didn’t give me as much information as I wanted on his interaction with eight United States Presidents). I then found out about Eugene Allen. I read about his life. His REAL life. I wonder how many people will go the extra step and do that? I wonder how many people will remember his name rather than that of Cecil Gaines? I’ll remember Eugene Allen. I hope you will too.
7.0/10 as fiction
0/10 as historical record
Finally, a summer movie that lives up to expectations! This summer has been such a depressing series of half-successes and outright failures that I was beginning to think we weren’t going to get a single one that knew how to stick the landing. Now You See Me and Despicable Me 2 were both tons of fun, but they didn’t have much substance past the fun. Elysium delivers both.
Quick plot synopsis: In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined planet. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the crime and poverty that is now rampant throughout the land. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.
Elysium is Neil Blomkamp‘s first film since his Oscar-nominated debut in District 9. This film will, inevitably, be compared to District 9 and that’s not entirely fair. District 9 was an apartheid/racism allegory disguised as a science fiction film. Elysium is a summer blockbuster with clear relevance to issues of class. Blomkamp shows himself to be no fluke with a tightly paced, gripping sophomore effort. His take on science fiction is gritty, at times brutal and realistic (odd descriptor but still apt within the confines of the plot). With more money to spend than on District 9, Blomkamp makes every shot spectacular. I wish I’d seen this in IMAX because it’s certainly warranted.
It’s good to see Matt Damon in an action film after a break following the Bourne movies. He’s an unlikely, but extremely charismatic action star in addition to his dramatic talents. Also very nice to see Jodie Foster back on the screen, but her role is much smaller than the marketing would have you believe. Much more prominent is her bounty hunter played by Sharlto Copley, one of the most underrated actors working. If you watch him in District 9, The A-Team and then this, it’s extremely hard to believe it’s the same man.
Without ruining some turns in the plot, the script has a weight that most blockbusters lack or have tried desperately to force this summer. The action is fantastic, the fights brilliant and the cast stellar. It IS better up there. Get out and see Elysium. New top picture of the year!
PS – When will humanity get that robot-building is never a good idea?
PPS – It’s nice to see LA still looks the same in 2154.
Pixar loves to throw little nods to past projects into their films and have going back to old short film references in the original Toy Story. If you’ve seen Monsters University, did you catch these?
This number refers to the classroom where John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, and Andrew Stanton studied at CalArts.
Pizza Planet Delivery Truck
The delivery truck in the drive away is the same one that carried Buzz and Woody to the now iconic pizza restaurant.
The ball with a star on it made it’s first appearance in a groundbreaking short produced in the early days of the studio.