Tag Archives: Matthew McConaughey

Gold

“We work hard in this business. Sometimes for nothing.”

I’m gonna go ahead and say this straight away, if you’re going to release a “based on true events” film in February, do yourself a favour and make it good. Because having just sat through Gold, hoping for something worthy of the time of year it’s been released in, I’m starting to burn out on uninspiring true stories.

Matthew McConaughey is Kenny Wells, a third generation miner who’s struggling to keep himself afloat. Desperate for a lucky break, he turns to fellow prospector Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) in a last ditch attempt to find a score worth talking about.

When the pair start digging holes in Indonesia, what seems to be a waste of time soon turns more than a little profit. With their freshly golden find, the money starts pouring in at a rate nobody can believe and as the list of investors grows, so do the zeros on the bank balances of everyone involved. But as is always the case, things aren’t as great as they may seem on the surface and between bigger businesses muscling in on Wells and Acosta’s mine and Wells himself spiralling out of control, it’s a fight to see what will ruin things first.

Gold tries so very hard to be a film it clearly isn’t. It’s got the DNA of so many brilliant films yet always feels like it’s playing second fiddle to greats like The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street. Watching Kenny Wells and his partner struggling at the tail end of the financial crash should be a thrilling tale of a guy (or guys) pulling themselves up from the dirt they’re digging around in.

Instead, it’s a story that’s paint-by-numbers in every sense. Every twist and every turn is telegraphed and predictable in a way that ironically I honestly didn’t expect. By the end, I was spending more time looking at my watch in bored frustration than I did the screen.

Oscar winning writer and director Stephen Gaghan – the man responsible for films like Syriana and Traffic – seems to have let his stars hit the auto pilot, as he has done too. The man that made such well thought out, tense pieces in the past has settled for what I consider possibly the blandest film he’s ever been a part of. The same goes for its stars: McConaughey and Ramirez are both usually so good nowadays and yet here they seem quite content with phoning in a performance just to get the film made. I’m just so disappointed with the pair of them.

The best acting on that screen was from Matthew McConaughey’s makeup department. Most notably from the annoying snaggletooth that seemed to stay pearly white as the rest of the man’s teeth got progressively more yellow. It was the best bit of acting of the entire production, and a literal standout performance.

There are a dozen biopics that tell this story much better than Gold. I honestly cannot recommend it. I mean, it’s ok, but it just seems like a project that everyone got involved in to get a few bills paid. No one here put a full effort in. I expected great things from this in Oscar season, but it turned out to be another movie put out with the trash, ready to be forgotten with everything else out this month.

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Sing

“You won’t be scared, once you get out there and sing.”

I wasn’t sure about Sing. When I saw the first trailer for it, after the Illumination Entertainment logo appeared, I was pretty underwhelmed. I remember looking at my wife and saying “where’s the jokes?”. I was so used to the films these guys put out, like Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets being all about the jokes. Whether or not the films turned out to be good was immaterial, I always chuckled at the trailers. This time around? Nothing.

But we’ve all heard good things about Sing, so I bundled up the wife and kid – also known as “the reason I get away with watching animated films on a Sunday morning at the cinema” – and headed off to last weekend’s previews with my expectations low.

Sing is the story of a down and out koala, Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), who’s theatre is on its last legs both financially and structurally. His business is flopping and he owes more than he has to his staff, his backers and the bank.

In a last ditch attempt to save his livelihood, Moon has auditions for a singing competition. With the entire city coming to his doors to try for the competition’s (accidental) $100,000 prize money, the entrepreneurial bear selects a handful of the best contestants to perform in his finale.

Putting together what could be the theatre’s last show, Buster tries for the best lineup he can. Pairing singing housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) with crazy German dancer Gunter (Nick Kroll) for his opener. Followed by a true variety show lineup with teenage rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson); Sinatra wannabe Mike (Seth MacFarlane); piano playing Johnny (Taron Egerton) and soul singer Meena (Tori Kelly). Each contestant comes with their own baggage and as the big day draws near and all their troubles descend on the Moon theatre, the group of performers must come together to make it a success.

While I went in skeptical, I admit I came out pretty happy with Sing. It’s a very well told family film that, while I do think it’s missing the humour from Illumination’s previous films – a situation compounded by the constant reminder that these guys invented the Minions in their logo before the film – there’s no denying the quality animation from this studio.

Everyone on voice work is outstanding. I couldn’t pick a best performance even if I tried. More surprising to me is when the cast start singing. Not everyone on this bill is known for their pipes and each of them puts in the work and it sounds excellent. I mean, I won’t be buying the soundtrack or anything, but I’ll gladly buy the film and let the kid bop along to it while it’s on.

You can’t deny the musical finale when it happens, no one will come out of it not smiling. Considering it’s filled with pop and R’n’B tunes, I can only imagine how someone who resonates with that style of music felt by the end.

I can’t not recommend Sing. It’s such a great, inspirational, family film that I just want to watch it again and again with everyone at home and sing along, cheering for everyone involved.

Failed Critics Podcast: Hobbity tosh, Pottery hogwash & Intersellar oh-my-gosh

interstellarWelcome to this week’s super-professional well-researched spick-and-span highly-polished episode of the Failed Critics podcast!

The main release review this week is Christopher Nolan’s $165m space-time-travelling science fiction thriller Interstellar. A film so long, we extended our podcast an extra 15 minutes with the return of our Spoiler Alert section alongside our regular spoiler-free review.

Despite that, there was even time for Owen to take in the first two (well, one and a half) Lord of the Rings films this week; for Steve to reveal exactly why he’s watching through all seven Harry Potter movies; and for Carole to have a meta-meta experience with 90’s slasher sequel Scream 2.

Jon us again next week as we review the acclaimed wartime drama The Imitation Game.

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Into ‘stellar?

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Ever since man has first looked up at the stars, the question has been asked: What do you do when you see a space man? Yes, of course the correct answer is “you park in it, man” (please, please, hold your applause, you’re too kind).

However, for thousands of years, man has written Christmas cracker jokes looked up and wondered what lies beyond the blue skies of our planet’s atmosphere. For most people, it’s only led to further questions. How can “space” exist? Why does it exist? Why do we exist? From religion and faith, to science and theory, everyone seems to have their own opinion on what they like to imagine fills the vast expanse of the Universe and beyond. It takes people way smarter than this bozo to fully comprehend the question, never mind the answer. Luckily, it’s not just people cleverer than me who have thought about this question. There have been people with far more imagination who have been able to put their thoughts and ideas into film and literature.

Most recently Christopher Nolan did so with the terrific Interstellar. Which prompted me to create this article. What other movies are out there that deal with man’s exploration of space and time that are worth watching? Well, here are ten films that I would recommend you start with if you too are into ‘stellar (geddit?!) This list is by no means comprehensive, by the way. I’m fully aware big names such as the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises are missing, as well as this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This is just 10 films I’d suggest watching if you enjoyed the adventure into space that was Interstellar!


event horizonEvent Horizon (1997) Paul W.S. Anderson’s best film, it tells the story of a crew comprising of captain Laurence Fishburne, doctor Sam Neill, (plus others) who investigate of a spaceship that went missing some years ago called the Event Horizon. It miraculously returned with no crew left on board. It transpires that what happened was not quite as simple as they might’ve first thought. Next to Alien, it’s the perfect example of how to create an intelligent, atmospheric, space-horror. Quotes seemed to be almost directly lifted from Event Horizon in Interstellar (particularly the discussion around wormholes). It also raises interesting questions around what Hell is (or could be?) Complete with great performances, especially those of Fishburne and Neill around the descent into madness. Think of it as Hellraiser meets Alien. A real gem of a movie.


Contact (1997)contact In 1994, Robert Zemeckis released what will probably be the film he is remembered for, Forrest Gump. Well, with the exception of Back To The Future, perhaps. But one film of his that seems to have directly inspired the story of Interstellar is Contact, with its daughter grieving for her father and potential contact with another as yet unidentified life form. Using the relationship between father and daughter, it tries to bridge a gap between science and religion, life and death, between hope and reality. The concept behind Contact and how / what that will be like with other dimensions or lifeforms is handled with grace, whilst Jodie Foster gives a performance worthy of a movie such as this. The cast also features Matthew McConaughey, the star of Nolan’s epic! It’s a shame the ending lets the film down a little, but the rest of Contact is well worth a watch.


europa reportEuropa Report (2013) After a crew are sent on a fact-finding mission to one of Jupiter’s moons (that would be the one called Europa…) they end up finding a bit more than they bargained for. I almost feel like I should disclaimer this movie to people as besides being a sci-fi set mainly in space, it’s also a found footage movie. If you can name another found footage movie set in space that’s better than this (Apollo 18 shouts will not be recognised) then congratulations, but I probably won’t believe you. It takes its time to find its feet, as the crew (Sharlto Copley, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist etc) slowly grow into their roles, but for a film that takes place mostly inside a tin can, there’s a fair amount of tension and drama to be found. The structure is slightly unsatisfactory and non-linear, but the ending will be what determines whether or not you’ll like this movie. Personally, I found the slightly existential journey surprisingly entertaining.


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)2001 I couldn’t really let the opportunity to recommend one of the greatest ever movies – not just sci-fi movies – pass me by without at least name-checking it. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, shot one year before the actual moon landings (that if you believe some conspiracy-nuts, the man himself shot in a studio) is more of an exploration of life and being than it is about space travel, but if there’s a sci-fi movie released post 1968 that isn’t at least in some minor way influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’d be very surprised. Cerebral, contemplative and exceedingly beautiful. If you want to hear me rave about this film yet again, check out our Stanley Kubrick Corridor of Praise podcast.


solarisSolaris (1972) For the more cultured film fan, Tarkovsky’s very – very – art-house science fiction film about a living planets attempts to contact a man orbiting it will be one of your favourite sci-fi movies. The problem is, of course, how do you communicate with something that you have no way of understanding? In my Decade In Film article for 1972, I mention Ludwig Wittgenstein who proposed that “if a lion could speak, we would not be able to understand it”. If our frames of reference are so far apart, so completely different, how could we possibly hope to even know when an alien species is attempting to communicate, never mind actually understand what it’s trying to say? The Fermi Paradox suggests that if aliens exist, why haven’t we heard from them yet? Well, perhaps they do try to contact us, but we don’t realise it. This is one of the driving principles behind Solaris, and beyond its 167 minute run time including lingering shots of ponds and motorways, and absolutely astonishing cinematography, it tries to answer some of these philosophical quandaries.


Moon (2009)moon A breakthrough semi-indie production in 2009, Moon stars Sam Rockwell as a worker on a lunar station coming to the end of his three-year stint. I suppose he has what can be described as a crisis of personality as his shift draws closer to an end. Atmospheric and remarkably well written, if at times a little bit silly, Moon is a very entertaining movie. Similar to one aspect of Interstellar, it deals with being in space and having no reliable means of contact with Earth. Whilst there’s a heck of a lot more to Duncan Jones‘ relatively low budget British BAFTA nominated movie than simply isolation, it would seem almost rude not to suggest fans of Interstellar give it a go. 


this island earthThis Island Earth (1955) The 1950’s heralded a new age in sci-fi movies. The likes of Don Siegel and Jack Arnold probably led the pack with films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space (in 3D no less!) However, This Island Earth by Joseph Newman was an incredibly ambitious project. It had a somewhat turbulent production history, which resulted in Jack Arnold himself being brought on board as an uncredited director. The sections of the film set on distant worlds and intergalactic battles became a bit too expensive and was shorter than planned, but it’s still admirable for the intention behind the film as well as its anti-war messages. It’s also a lot of fun in that cult-50’s sci-fi movie kind of way.


A Trip to the Moon (1902)trip to the moon There’s a huge amount of things one could say about this wondrous, imaginative, inventive and wholly original fantasy story made over 110 years ago by the inspirational Georges Méliès. From a technical point of view, Le voyage dans la lune is splendid. Suffice to say, it’s very impressive; from the special effects of the exploding moon people, to the incredible! science!-exclamation!-mark! The illusions Méliès crafted required true imagination and creativity. He was one of the first to create a movie such as this, of course! Even now, this short film is fantastic – in every sense of the word.


loveLove (2011) After writing my car off in February this year, I began the long commute to and from work via bus. During this time, BBC iPlayer kept me from grinding my teeth to stubs on my journey. I downloaded a lot of movies and documentaries to my tablet from iPlayer, some I’d heard of, some that were completely new to me, such as this mixed bag. I read the premise via the app, thought it sounded like it could be a really neat little indie sci-fi… and in part, it was. There’s strands that run throughout about isolation, human connection and indeed love, that are thought provoking and unique as an astronaut finds himself stranded on a spaceship. But, at the same time, it comes across as a meandering, dull, bewildering mess. You will either love or hate the soundtrack by Angels & Airwaves. It may have worked better as a short film as it does feel like a pop video, but it is atmospheric and definitely unlike a lot of other movies on this list.


Gravity (2013)gravity I’ve purposefully left Gravity until the end of this list for a couple of reasons. One, you’re probably sick of seeing comparisons between Gravity and Interstellar by now. They were after all released by the same studio (Warner Bros) on the same date (7 November) and are both about space and gravity. The other reason is, just about everybody interested in seeing Gravity has by now seen it. However, the second best film of 2013 (according to Sight & Sound’s readers poll) in many ways laid the foundations for Interstellar. A sci-fi story that was taken seriously by critics, particularly at the big award ceremonies, and features some mind-boggling special effects. The story may be pretty simple, threatening to hold back what has the potential to be an all-time classic, but it is one of the best modern sci-fi’s and if you get a kick out of Interstellar, then Alfonso Cuarón’s film (clocking in at just ever so slightly over half the run time of Nolan’s blockbuster) should tick a few boxes for you. Oh, and watch it on as big a screen as possible. In 3D if at all possible. Honestly. 3D.


And that’s that! If you have any suggestions of your own or think I’ve missed some vital inclusions, or even if you have any recommendations for me, just post them below. You can find Owen’s Interstellar review here, and he will also be talking about it with Carole and Steve on the upcoming Failed Critics Podcast!

Interstellar

Incredible visuals, slightly iffy dialogue, a multitude of ideas and thought-provoking concepts orbiting a sentimental plot about a father and daughter relationship told in a slightly non-linear pattern, yet enormously entertaining. Yup, Interstellar is definitely a Christopher Nolan film alright.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

interstellarAn occupational hazard of reviewing films for Failed Critics, whether on the podcast or on these written reviews, is that you see some films you really wouldn’t have otherwise been arsed about. Whether it’s with a slight resentment over the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last month, Transformers: Age of Extinction a couple months back, or one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, I, Frankenstein, optimistically hoping they’re better than you think they’re going to be, they were all seen by me in the name of this little website.

However, for every time I’ve forced myself out into the cold, reluctantly putting my jacket on and sighing to myself about the next three hours I’ll spend watching something I’ll probably not enjoy, there’s also been times when I’ve made the short walk from the car park to the cinema a bit giddy in anticipation. Given the recent so-called backlash that director Christopher Nolan has received over his $165m project, this past weekend, Interstellar joined the likes of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy and Godzilla on my “fingers-crossed walk from car park to cinema” list. I really, really, really wanted Interstellar to be good. I have not jumped on the anti-Nolan bandwagon just yet. To my mind, he still makes incredibly enjoyable blockbuster movies with more brains than your average multi-million dollar project. But I’ll come onto whether or not Interstellar lived up to my expectations in a minute.

Firstly, the basic plot revolves around Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a single father of two, in the not too distant future. He was once an educated, highly skilled astronaut-come-engineer, but due to the dwindling population crisis and apparent slow death of our planet, necessitating the need for a focus on agriculture rather than scientific exploration, he is now a farmer of corn; one of the few remaining crops not effected by blight or the constant dust storms. His ten year old daughter, Murph (so named after Murphy’s Law), experiences something she describes as paranormal activity in her bedroom; books fly off shelves, figurines break in half and the dust settles in a peculiar pattern. Eventually, the pattern begins to make sense and Cooper stumbles upon a research centre planning to shoot some folks off into space to find a new home across the galaxy after a message from them – and I don’t mean some giant man-eating ants.

And thus begins one small crews journey across space, time and, erm, gravity in order to save their species.

In all manner of speaking, both in terms of the good and the bad, Interstellar is a very Nolan-esque movie. From his first real breakthrough with Memento, to one of our listeners/readers top 10 movies of 2012 (The Dark Knight Rises), and all that came inbetween, his films have all had a certain visual flair. The way they look and feel can easily be recognised as one of his movies within the opening quarter of an hour. They’re epic in their depictions of scope and scale, yet often contain frames with just one or maybe two characters at a time appearing in them. He creates a fantastic realism, and what with a large proportion of this movie being set in space, on distant planets or inside a shuttle with a wise-cracking robot, that’s no mean feat. You get people interacting with each other, as people do, but all the while there’s an element of fantasy about what’s taking place. Some truly astounding visual effects that might even eclipse those of Gravity, released this time last year. It’s almost a type of poetic realism. You know, that realism that occurs when people travel through worm holes. But poetic.

Continuing along those lines, the dialogue also has a balance of authenticity and complete and utter cobblers. Attempts to weight scripts with what could be seen as real science talk is largely superfluous. This is a ship containing three men, one woman and a bendy iMonolith travelling to another part of the galaxy; it’s safe to say that I have already conceded that my disbelief will need to be suspended in order to enjoy this. There’s really not any need to convince me of the whys and hows that this star hopping is actually possible. Although, that said, it was a nice change to not be treated like a complete idiot by a movie. Sure, there’s the typical exposition that you get in all blockbusters these days, but to have explanations that aid understanding without especially dumbing down, for example David Gyasi embodying the spirit of Laurence Fishburne in Event Horizon to explain to fellow crew members Cooper, Brand (Anne Hathaway) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) how wormholes work, was a nice treat. It was relevant, informative but not bogging the film down in droll pseudo-scientific theory.

Whilst these are two things that you could transfer to pretty much any films in Nolan’s back catalogue, one thing that is virtually out of his hands is that of the performances from the cast. The ever-reliable Matthew McConaughey (who would’ve thought that could be a thing three or four years ago – certainly not James) puts in a performance that is (pardon the pun) out of this world (I did say “pardon”!) It more than likely won’t grant him an Oscar for the second year in a row, but for a film of this magnitude with such high profile stars in it (Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon and so on) who are all on form, for him to outshine them in the way that he does is pretty extraordinary.

As said earlier in the review, I wanted this movie to be good. I can see how that might suggest the potential for me to be lying to you – and maybe even myself. However, I honestly do believe that Interstellar, whilst not without its problems, is quite probably the best film Nolan has created… objectively speaking. Everyone has a favourite Nolan. He has seven movies in the IMDb Top 250, with one of those currently sitting in fourth place and a further two in the top 15! He’s an incredibly popular filmmaker and not without reason. My personal favourite may not be Interstellar, but it’s his most sophisticated, well made, and intelligent movie yet. Yes, better than Memento before anybody suggests it.

Owen, Steve and Carole will be chatting about Interstellar (and no doubt Nolan in general) on the upcoming podcast.

The Week In Film – 24 September 2014: Over Elaborate Movie Titles

This weeks article is brought to you by the hashtag #OverElaborateMovieTitles. If you don’t get it the title, listen to the last podcast and then check out our Twitter page.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

true detectiveReal Crime Investigators

Casting news for the second series of hit HBO show True Detective has been drip fed to us this week. Colin Farrell is set to star alongside Vince Vaughn.

These are a couple of brave choices to pick for lead roles. Neither have the acting chops that stars of the excellent first series, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, have.

Both can be good on their day but both have had very hit and miss careers in the silver screen.

Vaughn was good in the likes of Swingers, Old School and Dodgeball but has been in a lot awful – just awful – comedies and the only serious role I can think of him in was the Jurassic Park sequel.

Farrell’s career has been better but he is still capable of a Miami Vice sized stinker.

The first series will command optimism for the second, the current cast may dampen it.

Where Batman’s From

The Batman prequel (I think) Gotham premiered in the US to mixed reviews.

The show tells the story of Gotham pre-Batman and features Bruce Wayne as a child and is more about the early careers of Commissioner Gordon and some of the most iconic villains from the comics.

From the sounds of it they tried to cram too much in to the first episode in terms of nods and references but hopefully it can develop in to a good series on par with fellow DC small screen show Arrow.

Men and Women Who Are Mutants

Bryan Singer is returning to the X-Men franchise to direct the next outing, X-Men: Apocalypse.

Singer directed the first two and Days of Future Past which absconds him from responsibility of the awful third and the standalone Wolverine films.

A Group of Mates

When researching this weeks column I found a quiz celebrating the 20th anniversary of Friends. 20 questions testing your knowledge on the much loved sitcom.

I am not the shows biggest fan, I can take it or leave it. Saying that I have probably seen every episode due to years and years of repeats.keanu reeves

I scored 15 out of 20. Respectable. Does the fact that a programme that I would not rank in my top 10 in its genre is so ingrained in my brain show just how good it really was?

I actually scored 1.7% less on a 15 question quiz on Spaced, which I like much more than Friends.

69 DUDE!

Some guys have all the luck. Keanu Reeves has found a girl in his library and in his pool in the last few weeks.

Imagine that. Having a pool and a library. Some towns don’t even have those resources.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.

Failed Critics Podcast: 100 Episodes in and EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

HerAfter a disastrous attempt at recording our 100th episode last week, we’re back after our brief hiatus with our ‘official’ centenary podcast. And it’s more packed than ever, with no less than six new (or nearly new) release reviews. We argue over whether or not The Lego is awesome or simply just very good; we look at two very different explorations of humans/machine relationships with Her and Robocop, and we still find time to talk about Dallas Buyers Club, The Monuments Men, and Cuban Fury.

We also discuss the Bafta results, make our Oscars predictions, and you finally get the Cutthroat Island review you’ve all been waiting for.

Next week we’ll be ‘live’ from Glasgow Film Festival, with reviews of 20 Feet From Stardom, Mood Indigo, and The Zero Theorem plus loads more.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Oscars, the McConaisance, and the Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf of Wall StreetThis week’s podcast is less than half the length and features hundreds fewer F-bombs than our main review this week, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Don’t worry though, we were all massively doped up on ludes.

We also look at the Oscar nominations, discuss the incredible rebirth of Matthew McConaughey, and look ahead to the Glasgow Film Festival. Owen reviews The Last Temptation of Christ, Steve finally watches The Impossible, and James’ journey around the world in 80 films sees him in Denmark, with Lars Von Trier’s The Boss of it All.

Join us next week for reviews of Inside Llewyn Davis, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (if we can be bothered).

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GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 18/02/13

Glasgow Subway System - open at normal times today, not that's you'd know
Glasgow Subway System – open at normal times today, not that’s you’d know

Today was the day I really felt I was covering a film festival. I had tickets for back-to-back showings, in the middle of the afternoon, on a Monday. There’s just something glorious about watching films when you’re ‘supposed’ to be at work.

I tweeted that I was prepared for an uncomfortable afternoon in Cineworld Screen 18, as I’d chosen to watch Compliance and The Paperboy in quick succession. What I wasn’t totally prepared for was how horribly my prediction would come true.

Compliance is inspired by true events [BEWARE – HERE BE SPOILERS], and is a study in authority and, as the title suggests, compliance. It is a technically well put together film, with a few excellent performances (particularly Ann Dowd as the restaurant manager, who essentially allows the events to happen). However, this was not an enjoyable film; watching it felt like a violation of my own body. If it actually had anything new or original to say on the subject of people unquestionably following orders from authority figures, then I might be able to admire the emotions it elicited. Instead, the story feels as if it is told purely to shock us, the cinematic  equivalent of the stand-up comedian who tells a rape joke. Yes, some humans are abominable shits, but all Compliance feels capable of doing is confirming this fact without further understanding of what drives people to such behaviour. As it is, all that’s left for this movie to be is a piece of entertainment and, like The Human Centipede or A Serbian Film, I genuinely worry about the mindset of anyone who enjoys a film like this. Compliance: sometimes the story is better off staying a Wikipedia article.

The Paperboy was a little less shocking, but equally sordid in its tone. Set in 1960s Florida, it tells the story of sibling reporters (Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron) investigating the conviction of a cop-killer played by John Cusack. Luckily this film just about holds it together, largely due to its impressive cast. McConaughey continues his recent career renaissance here, and Zac Efron proves to be more than a pretty face. Most entertaining though are Cusack (in a greasy, malevolent role that is his finest performance in years), and Nicole Kidman, whose turn as an Alamaba sexpot is the dark heart of the film. The film still contrives to be a bit boring at times, but the last 20 minutes are phenomenally tense and well executed.

Pick of the day for Tuesday 19th Feb – Breakfast with Curtis

If you fancy watching a film made by a unique writing/directing talent, filmed in the director’s house over a few weeks and starring their friends, well, you could try and blag a ticket to one of the sold-out screenings of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, or you could watch Laura Colella’s heart-warming Breakfast with Curtis.

Five years after an incident that caused a seemingly irreparable rift with his neighbours, online bookseller and care-free bohemian Syd asks their 14-year-old son Curtis for help recording a video blog. What follows is a beautiful coming-of age film about one of those seminal summers where rifts are healed, old secrets emerge, and boys finally become men.

Breakfast with Curtis is showing at 7pm at the CCA Cinema.

BD_Logo_White

The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

And the Oscar doesn’t go to…

oscarsYesterday saw the delightful Emma Stone and the diametrically opposite Seth MacFarlane announce the contenders for this year’s Academy Awards. By the time you read this, countless actors, directors, producers, and especially agents and assorted hangers-on will be knee deep in champagne, cocaine, and hookers in celebration. But let’s spare a thought for those who will have seen the nominations and gone home to kick their cat and/or personal assistant.

Join us on the Failed Critics Podcast later this week as we discuss the list in full, as well as offering our thoughts on Les Miserables which garnered eight nominations for the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, which takes place on Sunday 24th February.

The following contains a The Dark Knight Rises spoiler.

Paul Thomas Anderson

The mercurial director who has been nominated five times in the past was ignored in the Director category, and the Academy even went as far as nominating nine films for Best Picture and leaving out The Master. After being marked out as the early rival to Spielberg’s Lincoln it seems that while the emperor isn’t naked, he’s certainly getting a few odd looks on his attire.

Marion Cottilard

The Oscar-winning actress redeemed her appalling death scene in The Dark Knight Rises with a stunning turn in my favourite film of 2012, Rust and Bone. Although Rust and Bone lost out on France’s nomination for the Foreign Language category (to the admittedly excellent The Intouchables, which sadly also failed to make the final short-list), there were rumours Cottilard could receive a nomination in the Best Actress category. That’s my £1 bet at 25/1 down the drain.

Kathryn Bigelow

Another Oscar-winner to miss out on a nomination this year. Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty may have made it onto the Best Picture list, but her absence from the Director category was a surprise. Her achievement in becoming the first woman to win the Oscar  for Direction with the Hurt Locker has often been overshadowed by accusations that she won it precisely because she is a woman. Despite the fact that she beat James Cameron’s pretty mediocre Avatar, and Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (far from his finest film). This year was her chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke, with arguably a better picture. It appears America isn’t willing to condone torture in its prison camps, or its cinemas, any longer.

The Imposter

The best documentary of the year doesn’t get a nomination. Hopefully director Bart Layton is already working on his next incredible story; how the Academy managed to fuck this up so badly.

Matthew McConaughey

Okay, so he would have been a left-field choice, but what more has the man got to do to get a nomination? He’s already won over his harshest critic with fantastic roles in Magic Mike and Killer Joe, and he’s even given up leaning against women on the posters of trashy rom-coms. After seeing him sleaze it up in Magic Mike, a lot of people laughed at me for suggesting an outside chance of an Oscar nomination. Well who’s laughing now? Oh.

Ben Affleck

Makes twice the film that Good Will Hunting is, and gets none of the personal nominations. Maybe he should have directed it with Matt Damon? If we’re not careful we’ll push him right back into the arms of Daredevil!

Failed Critics will be live-blogging the Oscars Ceremony on February 24, and discussing the undeserving winners and unlucky losers in our podcast the next day.

Magic Mike

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.  

Morpheius, The Matrix (1999)

The blue pill, in the case of Magic Mike, is the marketing campaign for what I keep hearing is ‘the Channing Tatum Stripper Movie’. The same campaign that, when I told my mate I was reviewing the film, made him smirk and question my manhood. After all, isn’t it a bit…well, you know? The posters don’t help, featuring Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Mathew McConaughey topless, with no mention of director Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar & Palm d’Or-winning director that brought you Ocean’s Eleven, Solaris, and Sex, Lies and Videotape.

This review is the red pill. In the words of Morhpeus: remember… all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.

Despite the big budget trailers, the film immediately looks and feels wilfully independent. Soderbergh takes his cinema seriously, and it shows. Next you’re hit by a realisation that these actors, easy to write off as eye-candy cast to attract a certain demographic, can actually act.

Tatum is the titular Magic Mike, a thirty year-old entrepreneur / furniture designer who supplements his income by stripping. The film is apparently based on Tatum’s real life stripping exploits before he broke Hollywood. Even if this isn’t a particular stretch for him as an actor, he carries the film through sheer dint of his charm and movie star likability, also showing off his comic chops that appeared from nowhere in 21 Jump Street earlier this year.

The star of the show though is undoubtedly Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the Svengali of Mike’s ‘dance troupe’. This part-Peter Pan, part-Fagin is the stripper who can’t give up the thrill of entertaining the ladies, while throughout the film his surface bonhomie slowly peels away to reveal a quite sinister paranoia and survival instinct.

The film falls down on its familiar plotting (with every twist and turn sign-posted a mile away) and some weakly written female characters (Cody Horn and Olivia Munn do the best they can with archetypal ‘love-interest’ roles). Ultimately though, this film focusses on the men it’s portraying. Just not in the way you might expect.

Magic Mike is a funny, charming, and relatively unsexy film. It would be a shame if half the population disregarded the film based on the marketing. Indeed, there is far more oiled male flesh and homoeroticism in blokey favourite 300.

 

Magic Mike is available to buy on DVD/Blu-ray today.

Failed Critics Review: Argo

___________Argo______________Failed Critics Podcast_______________Based on a classified story_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________James____________________Steve_______________Owen_______________

______Gerry___________________Next week we’ll be discussing our favourite zombie films in Triple

Bill_______________________

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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Failed Critics: Episode 13 – Magic Mike

Attention ladies! Are you ready for the big show?! Four hungry young men – well, three relatively young men and one older and always hungry man – are here for your entertainment! This week we review the Channing Tatum ‘stripper movie’ Magic Mike, as well as choosing our favourite movie creature in Triple Bill.

We also prepare for next week’s Batman Special with exciting live draws and giddy schoolboy excitement.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Matthew McConaughey – An Apology

Over the last few years I have repeatedly accused Matthew McConaughey of a number of horrible things, with the general theme being that he is a charlatan of an actor making his way in Hollywood  by dint of his impressive physique, his ‘airhead charm’, and his incredibly smug and punchable face.

In my defence, he made it very easy for me to jump to this conclusion with a number of career choices that gave the impression he was happy taking a pay check to appear topless in films that according to their posters seemed to be about a man who has lost all the walls in his life and has instead chosen to deploy attractive women to lean on while looking ever-so-cool and charming..

 

In between filming these romantic-tragedies he ‘stretched himself’ in films like U-571 (a film which makes Churchill: The Hollywood Years look like a Simon Schama documentary), and Sahara where he plays a character very much like Indiana Jones – if Indy had stared into the Ark of the Covenant and his charisma had melted away.

And then there was this advert.

There may be a hint of jealousy here. I’m an overweight four-eyes who spends his evenings watching films and then writing about them for a handful of strangers on the internet afterall.

But I would never want to be Matthew McConaughey. I’m jealous of artists – not well-defined bags of bronzed flesh. My problem with Matthew McConaughey is that he seemed happy to be Matthew McConaughey – wasted potential and all.

Then in the last two weeks I have seen Magic Mike and the Lincoln Lawyer. We’re reviewing the films on this week’s Failed Critics, but before we record I wanted to register my apology to Mr McConaughey.

The man can seriously act. He steals the show in Magic Mike with his performance as Dallas (a cross between Peter Pan and Fagin, but in the world of Tampa male strippers). He is all blustering arrogance on the outside, and cleverly plays on the same audience perceptions of Matthew McConaughey the man that I was referring to earlier while at the same time displaying flashes of almost violent self-doubt and paranoia. I just hope he isn’t overlooked come award season.

And in The Lincoln Lawyer he simply carries the entire film on his shoulders. Appearing in virtually every scene, McConaughey finally portrays a believable schemer onscreen with a very nice line in quick put-downs and moral ambiguity. I finally found myself caught up in the life of and rooting for a McConaughey character.

I’d love to also be able to discuss his performance in Killer Joe – however despite having four cinemas all within walking distance there is only one showing of this film daily at an awkward time. That’s not McConaughey’s fault though.

So Mr McConaughey – I’m sure you’re a fan of Failed Critics, and I hope that you’ll accept this apology. Maybe even pop on the podcast sometime to discuss your favourite French New-Wave films?

Be warned though – one more film poster of you leaning on a woman and I’m coming for you…

Q – When is a fluffy ‘chick-flick’ not a fluffy ‘chick-flick’?

A – When it’s a smart and funny film from an Academy Award and Palm d’Or-winning indie-darling director.

Last night I went to see Magic Mike. I know what you’re thinking, as my friends were honest enough to tell me to my face.

Why?

The quickly-formulated and defensive answer I gave was that it was a free screening and we are planning to review it for the Failed Critics podcast next week. This followed by quickly changing the subject to a discussion on the failure of youth football coaches in England to teach the technical skills needed for our players to play at the highest level seemed to satisfy them that my manhood was not in question.

After this conversation played out a few times, I started getting annoyed. Why shouldn’t I go to see this film? I put this to one of my best mates and he smirked, said it all seemed a bit…well, you know, and pointed out a bus poster he had seen for the film. The implication was that this isn’t a film for a man to go and see. He was completely unaware of the fact that indie-directing legend Steven Soderbergh had directed this film, or the critical praise that both Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey have already received for their performances.

The poster for the film that I have seen plastered across seeming ly every bus in town shows the three leads of the film (Tatum, McConaughey, and Alex Pettyfer) topless and dancing on stage. The quotes used say things like “Terrific Entertainment” and “Funny, Sexy, Cool”. Nowhere does it say “From the director that brought you Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape”. The trailer promotes this “fun, sexy, cool” vibe with over half of it showing the stripping (which accounts for about 10% of the actual film), and standard rom-com set-up lines between Tatum and Cody Horn – plus a Rihanna song – that doesn’t feature in the film – playing loudly in the background to remind you of this film’s fun, sexy, and cool charms.

At first I was angry that the film’s publicity team had taken their eye so badly off the ball, but it only took me a few seconds to realise this probably was the impression they wanted to give. At its heart, Magic Mike is an independent film – but where is the profit in attracting a broad range of cinema lovers to a film? The distributors of this film know that their profit lies in the thousands of women who will persuade their friends to go with them to see the film where Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey strip.

They’re not going to be disappointed. There is a fair amount of Tatum flesh on display in this film – but there is also a healthy (depending on your viewpoint) amount of female nudity, and some pretty dark drug-taking sequences. It’s certainly not ‘The Full Monty with fit blokes’.

I enjoyed the film, and I’m now going to have to start the process of defending it as a piece of art rather than the mindless man-candy fun its distributors would have you believe it is. Almost every man I know enjoyed the film 300. Magic Mike has only half as much oiled man-flesh on display, and about a tenth of the homoeroticism.

Magic Mike is released on July 11th, and we will be reviewing it on Failed Critics Episode 13.