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The Counselor (2013)

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If there’s something remarkably unique to be said about “The Counselor,” it’s that the creation of said film brought to fruition an immensely sought-after joint-venture (a ballsy one at that) between director Ridley Scott and writer Cormac McCarthy. Now, you might be thinking that this statement can be applied to any film written and directed by separate individuals, especially when considering how many filmmaking tandems exist already, regardless if it be in reality or cinephiles fantasies, and you’d be somewhat right. That being said however, it feels as if this time around the minds behind this collaboration are much greater than any previously attempted high-profile partnership in cinema. Don’t believe me? See McCarthy and Scott’s illustrious track-records, they speak for themselves. Very rarely are we treated to a collusion of such magnitude. Two of the great artistic minds working today in cahoots to spawn the visual manifestation and absorption of a compacted novel to unleash upon us…what could be better, right?

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Nonetheless, as much as we, the cinephiles, research, obsess, predict, and conclude, we can never pinpoint the exact product that will be presented before us on release day…that just happens to be the beauty of inspiration, imagination, and creation. Sadly though, judging by the harsh negativity and criticism, it seems as if “The Counselor” wasn’t what most critics and film lovers were expecting, even in the most general sense. Did the genius of Scott and McCarthy unfortunately allow for fanatics to set the bar unreachably high? Was McCarthy’s transition into screenwriting premature? Has Scott lost his touch behind the camera? Since I’ve seen it, I’ve debated endlessly about what exactly the root of this onslaught against “The Counselor” is. Why has it let so many viewers down? Well, I’d love to tell you, unfortunately however, I’m not apart of the former camp. I rather enjoyed “The Counselor.” It might not be everything I anticipated, but it’s damn close. I see no fault to the extreme degree to warrant the way in which critics and film lovers everywhere are destroying “The Counselor.”

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Let’s begin with McCarthy’s responsibilities in the film, story and dialogue. The most prominent and seemingly universal complaint about “The Counselor” is the thick, complicated interactions that some go as far as to deem wordy to a point of illogicality and misunderstanding. Now, what’s most disconcerting about this accusation is that I perfectly understood the narrative and back-and-forths. So either the general public is insane, or I am. Not to be pretentious, but the reason for this might be my education in english, literature, and writing. Nevertheless, McCarthy’s talent certainly didn’t falter in the transition from literature to screenwriting. He’s kept the lyrical way about him and transfered the typical beauty he infuses into gloom and destruction. Granted, the dialogue is dense, almost unbearable heavy. Yet, it’s also hypnotically descriptive, serene in its own way.

The author of a few novels adapted to the big screen such as “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men.” McCarthy certainly knows his way around captivation and how to construct a meaningful story…”The Counselor” is no different. Keeping his wits about him, McCarthy continues to utilize traits he’s mastered and best suited for his style. I mean, the story’s complex, sexy, violent, and intelligent, what else could you ask for? What’s that? Not good enough? Want even more? Fine McCarthy says and adds a pitch-black layer of comedy to this already stellar tale. Honestly, Cameron Diaz literally has sex with a car, I can’t make this much clearer. Even if all these cool facets aren’t right up your alley, the love and passion infused into each character is astonishing. It creates such a stunning contrast of humanity, vulnerability, and ruthlessness. I think its safe to say that McCarthy held up his end of the responsibilities.

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As for Ridley Scott, director of classic masterpieces such as “Alien” and “Blade Runner” and more recently academy award winner “Gladiator” and the tragically underrated “Matchstick Men,” once again triumphs. Scott is one of the most revered and talented filmmakers in cinema history, so any outing he is attached to, no matter how discredited, has some form of merit. “The Counselor,” as it is for McCarthy, is no hamper on his storied career. Watching Scott’s work behind the camera here is nothing short of astounding, yet it baffles me. Every angle, every movement, every shot is impeccable. What’s even further proof of his prowess is his ability to digest and regurgitate the complex, dramatic, diabolical, even obscure moments of “The Counselor.” If ever there was a question regarding Scott’s abilities, “The Counselor” put those worries to rest.

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So, Scott and McCarthy weren’t enough to draw you into the theatre to see “The Counselor?” How about an A-list cast that features Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem? That get your attention? Mmhmm…I thought it might.

First off, let me clarify for the fangirls, Pitt is a supporting player in this flick, not the star. So don’t go getting your panties in a bunch when Fassbender handles the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, Pitt is fascinating here and if you’re a fan of his work as much as I am, “The Counselor” is a must see. As for the aforementioned Fassbender, I feel as if any praise I give will just be me repeating myself. His performance here might not compare to what is soon to be his Oscar winning performance in “12 Years a Slave,” but is superlative nonetheless. In my honest opinion, Bardem’s the one who steals the show. Everything from his questionable attire, erratic hairstyle, and emotional vulnerability is bewildering. He’s funny, honest, and devilishly persuasive. Overall, it’s an intoxicatingly memorable performance. To my surprise, Diaz garners the most screen time outside of Fassbender and utilizes every second. I’m not usually a fan of her work, so when I give her any credit, you know its deserved. Finally Cruz, who rarely makes an appearance in the film, is without question the most seductive and earnest. Still, would have been nice to see her in a larger role.

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Look…the film isn’t perfect, rarely is a film ever. “The Counselor” suffers from time to time because its clever, intricate plot is muffled by subtlety and McCarthy’s dialect camouflage. It’s occasionally over-the-top (Diaz dry-humping a car) and a tad cliched. Yet, these minor imperfections and tiny, superficial errors are mere peanuts compared to the film’s successes. It’s extremely difficult to attract, debrief, and attach so many talented minds, and even harder to enact on a singular wavelength.

The Counselor: 8.5 out of 10.

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The Guest List: Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings

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Well, it might be only the third edition of The Guest List, but I think it’s already a huge success. It’s accomplished exactly what I had hope, introduced fellow film lovers to one another, spurred on some debate, and definitely stirred the pot. And I can already tell that this week’s edition featuring James from Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings is only going to improve upon the segment. If you don’t know who James is or haven’t already followed/subscribed to his website, I highly recommend you do so right now. You’ll find some solid reviews, terrific articles, and a lovely segment entitled “Who’s That?” when you head on over. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Now, I have to get some administrative stuff out of the way. For those of you who have signed up for The Guest List segment, could you please post a comment below on when I can be expecting your article. I am very organized about my posting and would love to get a schedule going with this segment.

If you’d like to submit your very own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how to do it! First, shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.

Also guys, please if you haven’t already, check out my TIFF 2013 reviews. I wouldn’t usually beg like this, but I worked extremely hard on them. It is totally worth your while, there are a bunch of films reviewed that haven’t even be released yet with plenty more write-ups to come. So head on over to a review or two by clicking on the picture under the sidebar entitled TIFF 2013.

Okay, now that the boring stuff is all taken care of, I am going to turn things over to James, enjoy!

Top 10 Films of the 2000s: by James

Thanks Joseph for allowing me to spread my opinions out across your blog here! This is my pick of the top ten films of the last decade. There are endless films which could have made it into here but didn’t, such as Oldboy, so feel free to criticise, praise, rant or rave at me and my choices in the comment section below! For now though, take a look at what I did pick out:

10: Spirited Away

This charming tale of a young girl who ends up in a mysterious place inhabited by gods and monsters is the only animated film to make it onto this list, and it truly deserves its place here. It’s some of the finest animated storytelling of all time, and a personal favourite to re-watch.

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9: Battle Royale

Shockingly different to the previous entry; Battle Royale has kids killing each other off in all sorts of ways after being forced into a nightmarish situation. For its satirical commentary and also sheer entertaining spectacle Battle Royale makes it onto this list.

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8: Volver

One of the first films that introduced me to Almodóvar, Volver quickly became one of my favourite films for it’s well handled and performed story of loss and redemption. If I said any more I would spoil it, but please do seek it out if you haven’t already seen it.

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7: Kill Bill: Volume 1

I often describe the final third of this film as being perfect cinema; and anyone who listens long enough will hear me rant and rave about the use of colour and music, the well-handled action, and the enormous sense of fun that Tarantino seems to be having which then crosses on over to the audience. The rest of the film isn’t too far off this level of entertainment either, making Kill Bill an obvious entrant into my list here.

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6: The Pianist

Adrien Brody is incredible here as he takes us through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. This isn’t an easy or an uplifting watch, but it’s certainly one that lingers in your mind for a long time after the credits roll.

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5: Hero

This is one stunning film. The focus on the splendour of the visuals may not be for everyone, but Hero really deserves more praise than it often gets. It is not a fast paced action film; rather it’s an exploration of movement.

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4: City of God

Now this is where the list becomes really tricky, I can play around with the ordering of these last four movies endlessly and quite happily put any four of them in first place. City of God is a tale of violence set in Rio de Janeiro and is essential viewing if you haven’t already seen it. The directing style and rawness to the film makes it a pretty special watch.

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3: No Country for Old Men

Javier Bardem is an unforgettable presence in what is arguably the Cohen brothers’ best film, and yet its success is not all down to those three. Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly Macdonald all contribute fantastic work and collectively make this one of the best and most important films of the decade.

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2: Lost in Translation

My personal favourite out of all the films on this list, or in this decade, Lost in Translation is the deceptively simple story of two people who meet in Tokyo and form a relationship that’s more meaningful than they could have previously imagined. It features excellent performances by both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who have brought characters to life here that I have grown far too attached to and fond of. This is easily one of my absolute favourite films.

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1: Adaptation

I know of no other film which so confidently, nor so successfully breaks itself apart and exposes itself. This is unquestionably a fantastically handled film that is about film; it’s about itself, the creation of itself and then the evolution of itself. Not only is it incredibly clever though, it doesn’t come across as pretentious but is instead warm hearted, funny and occasionally touching with great performances given by Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. I cannot recommend Adaptation enough.

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What an outstanding list. A BIG thank you to James for contributing his list this week. Remember, check out the criteria for submitting your own list above. Have a great weekend!

Top 10 Films of 2013 Predicted

To make the directive of this list clear. The films contained are what myself and cinema2033 believe to be the best hopes for cinema in 2013. Again, these are our preferential films, not that of the general viewing public. We are simply predicting what we think will be our favourite or preferred films of the year. We will be creating a separate list with what we believe to be the most anticipated films of 2013. That list will be our perceived notions from discussing and judging the amount of publicity, budget, and overall excitement of the general public. Without further delay, Enjoy another chapter of our top 10 series.

Let’s begin this list with the honourable mentions. Stoker, A Single Shot, The Look of Love, American Hustle, Don Jon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Fifth Estate, Out of the Furnace, Kill Your Darlings, and Before Midnight. We would also like to insert Terrence Malick’s 2013 film, even though its cast, story, and release date are kind of up in the air at the moment.

10: Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed and written by the Coen brothers and starring Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman. Inside Llewyn Davis is sure to be another Coen brother smash.

9: Mud. Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols, the mind behind Shotgun Stories and the hauntingly epic Take Shelter. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Michael Shannon.

8: Trance. The new film from the brilliant Danny Boyle. Trance is a mind-bending thrill ride featuring outstanding performances from James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel.

7: The Counselor. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s incredible novel and helmed by none other than Ridley Scott. With its outstanding cast that features Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Javier Bardem. The Counselor is ripe with genius and ready for viewing.

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6: The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendelsohn. The Place Beyond the Pines is an intricate gem.

5: The Way, Way Back. What seems to be an endearing coming of age romantic comedy. The Way, Way Back looks to have another outstanding performance from Sam Rockwell and an unusual role for Steve Carrell.

4: Nymphomaniac. Directed by the creative and controversial Lars von Trier. Nymphomaniac appears to be a fresh take on sexual addiction with Shia LaBeouf, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Stellan Skarsgard leading the way.

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3: The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, need I say more?

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2: Only God Forgives. The Duo of Gosling and Refn appear to be stealing the spotlight from Scorsese and DiCaprio, and rightfully so. This follow up to their 2011 hit Drive is one of the most anticipated releases of 2013.

1: Twelve Years a Slave. Steve McQueen, director of Hunger and Shame, teams up once again with Michael Fassbender for this mid-1800 slavery epic. Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and Scoot McNairy. Twelve Years a Slave has all the key facets to take top spot as our best film of 2013 predicted.

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If you think we overlooked a film or made a grave error on our list, please comment below. Also, if you have recommendations for future top 10’s, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Top 10 Films of 2012

We might be a bit late to this particular list’s party, but better now than never. This was a difficult list to compile, lots of great pictures to chose from. But myself (monster1711) and my bud (cinema2033) think we’ve created a diverse and respectable list. If you feel that we overlooked a certain film or have any suggestions for future top 10’s, please comment below. Without further anticipation, let’s get started.

10. Looper. Easily the best science fiction film of the year. Featuring terrific performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Looper is a brain scrambler that will leave you stunned.

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9. The Cabin in the Woods. Speaking of brain scramblers. The Cabin in the Woods is definitely the most bizarre film of the year. Mixing the hilarious and terrifying elements of horror and poking fun at them, it is sure to be a cult favourite.

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8. Skyfall. Quite possibly the best Bond film to ever grace the big screen. Skyfall is witty, charming, and one hell of a ride. With towering performances from Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, Skyfall is not to be missed.

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7. Seven Psychopaths. Another entry into Martin McDonagh’s violent comedies. Seven Psychopaths is full of violence, hilarity, and outstanding performances from Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken.

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6. Argo. Winner of the 2012 Oscar for best picture, need we say more? Directed and starring Ben Affleck, Argo is history come alive.

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5. Silver Linings Playbook. Thought by many to be the best picture of 2012. Silver Linings Playbook is another solid outing from David O. Russell and features a return to form for Robert De Niro. Not to mention the emergence of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as real acting heavyweights.

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4. On The Road. Possibly the most controversial film on the list, On The Road left audiences divided. Based on Jack Kerouac’s generation defining novel. On The Road features entrancing performances from Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and especially the lovely Kristen Stewart.

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3. Django Unchained. The second chapter in Tarantino’s yet to be finished history trilogy. Django Unchained landed Christoph Waltz another supporting actor Oscar. Also starring Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, and a deliciously evil performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained is violently hilarious.

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2. Zero Dark Thirty. Best picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty is brought to you by the creators of The Hurt Locker. There really isn’t anything else that needs to be said. Incredibly tense, monumental performances, and impeccably scripted. Zero Dark Thirty is an unstoppable force.

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1. The Dark Knight Rises. The conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy, directed by the brilliant Christopher Nolan. With Tom Hardy as Bane, The Dark Knight Rises has the best villain performance of the year. Including an unmatchable cast and an epic finale no one saw coming, The Dark Knight Rises might be the greatest comic book adapted film in the history of cinema.

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Honourable Mentions. Lincoln, Sightseers, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, End of Watch.

To the Wonder (2012)

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It just wouldn’t be a Terrence Malick premiere without a divided audience, one half cheering ecstatically while the other group claps a bit less enthused. At the Toronto International Film Festival this past year, To the Wonder was perceived by some of its viewers to be choppy and disengaging while others found it vibrant, full of artistry, and undeniably heartfelt. I was in attendance and was in the latter category. To the Wonder is a respectable follow up to The Tree of Life proving that Malick’s sudden splurge into rapid filmmaking hasn’t hampered his abilities. Starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem, To the Wonder has plenty of talent to showcase both on and off screen. As with most Malick films, the sparse dialogue and his infatuation with letting the visuals do the talking might discourage even the most avid filmgoer.

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Upon visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina (Kurylenko) and Neil (Affleck) return to Oklahoma where Marina has trouble adapting to her new lifestyle. Marina confides in Father Quintana (Bardem) who is struggling with his religion and faith in humanity. While Neil and Marina continue to distance from one another, Jane (McAdams), a childhood friend of Neil’s enters the picture. As Neil and Jane become closer, Marina fades out of Neil’s life and he is left trying to recoup their relationship.

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A bit more structured than Malick’s past endeavours, the intertwining tales in To the Wonder much like The Tree of Life criss cross the limitations of faith, family, and fate. The themes and scenarios might be too diagnostic and preachy for some, but To the Wonder knows its message and subtly displays it in beauty and strength. After viewing To the Wonder at its TIFF premiere, I was taken back by Olga Kurylenko’s performance. She is weightless as she drifts in and out of her characters own importance as it clashes with her daughters, trying to live her life while still doing right by her child. Ben Affleck, Kurylenko’s other half is primal and compassionately segmented between love and reality. McAdams and Bardem, while scarcely used are scene stealers whenever they do hit the screen. Malick doesn’t miss a beat in directing To the Wonder even though it is the fastest consecutive film he has ever completed. To the Wonder is transcendent, illuminating, and bold, a must see for fans of Malick and cast.

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To the Wonder: 8.5 out of 10.