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TIFF Review: The Martian (2015)

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The Martian (2015)

 

 

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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.

Top 10 Movie Monsters

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Whether you’re following vast, deep footprints through destruction and carnage, searching for a safe zone, or staring down a snarling, drooling, gargantuan beast face-to-face. Nothing beats the sheer adrenaline, fear, and conscientious clarity that comes with outrunning, out-thinking, and hopefully beating the best movie monsters. Sure, there will undoubtedly be casualties and the emergence of this immense life-form could possibly spell the end of civilization as we know it. But, in all honesty, how awesome would it be to take down one of these mothers? But I digress…

For the record, I am not including monsters based off of existing creatures. This means that “Jurassic Park,” “Jaws,” and “King Kong” will all be excluded from the list. However, this mention is somewhat of a shout-out to each films ability to create truly terrifying, malicious beasts out of prehistoric or current beings.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

 

10: “Super 8” alien life form (J.J Abrams, 2011). I know that a lot of you will disagree with this choice. I know the film might have been a bit to nostalgic or cliche for some, but I absolutely adore this J.J Abrams flick for precisely those reasons…oh, and the monster!

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9: “Ghostbusters” Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (Ivan Reitman, 1984).  I know it’s a little wimpy, kind-of funny, but it is still a lot of fun and unnerving…down-right disturbing actually.

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8: “Monsters” alien life form (Gareth Edwards, 2010).  I know most of you won’t agree with this choice, most of you probably haven’t even seen the film. But it is low-budget, science-fiction brilliance and the aliens are just astounding and atmospheric.

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7: “Pacific Rim” Kaiju (Guillermo Del Toro, 2013).  I know it is a bit recent and that some didn’t enjoy the film. However, there is no denying the coolness of the Kaiju.

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6: “The Fly” Brundlefly (David Cronenberg, 1986). Okay, it may not be as monstrous or destructive as the other creatures on this list. Nonetheless, Brundlefly is quite possibly the most petrifying.

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5: “The Thing” (John Carpenter, 1982). I don’t really know what to say about this one. The Thing is a sick, twisted, malicious being that doesn’t stop until everyone and everything is dead.

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4: “Cloverfield” alien life form (Matt Reeves, 2008). The scene where one of the main protagonists is consumed by this foul being still haunts my dreams to this very day.

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3: “The Host” mutated amphibious life form (Joon-ho Bong, 2006). An outstanding monster flick that tackles more than its fair share of questionable subject matter. “The Host” has a misunderstood, agile monster at its centre, but make no mistake, it is badass.

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2: “Godzilla” I am not going to put a specific film or director on this one, seeing as the franchise continues to rejuvenate. This is the ultimate, timeless, gigantic monster. The only surprise here is that you all expected it to be at number 1.

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1: “Alien” franchise, Xenomorph. Hands down my all time favourite movie monster. The Xenomorph embodies everything a movie monster should be and so much more.

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Okay all, that’ll do it for this week’s edition of the top 10. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed compiling it. As always, if you feel I’ve overlooked a monster or listed one that shouldn’t have been ranked, please comment below. Have a great weekend!

Matchstick Men (2003)

Sorry guys, this will be another quick post as I am beyond exhausted. I hope each and every one of you had a great weekend. Also, I want to thank you all for your continued support of my site through these difficult first few months :).

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A light, delicate, well managed thriller sporting outstanding performances from its three leads. Matchstick Men may deviate from Ridley Scott’s genre sweet spot, nonetheless is proof of Scott’s ability to handle a variety of themes. Never having an issue keeping the attention of its audience through a paced, yet deliberate build to a clever, heart wrenching finale. Matchstick Men might be a tad predictable and sentimental in its delivery, but not so much as to hamper its psychological advantage. Reaping the benefits of its lulling nature and jolting the viewer with heavy doses of harsh realities and unforeseen twists. Matchstick Men never takes itself too seriously which would usually be a death sentence for most thrillers. But Scott and company manage to obtain the best of both sides. Starring Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Alison Lohman. Matchstick Men’s cast are as absurd as they are grounded, which is a terrific mix for a film of this caliber.

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Roy (Cage) is a con artist living in Los Angeles. Working with his protege Frank (Rockwell), the two own and operate a fake lottery, selling water filtration systems to vulnerable victims. Roy suffers from a variety of mental illnesses such as OCD, agoraphobia, and an aggressive tic disorder. Roy eventually attends therapy and receives medication in return for his visits. During a session, Roy unveils information about a past relationship and the possibility of him being a father. When Roy convinces his therapist to contact his past lover, he learns his has a 14 year old daughter named Angela (Lohman). Just as Angela and Roy start to conduct a meaningful relationship, an opportunity arises to con a wealthy businessman out of a lot of money.

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The story may be foreseeable to an extent. However, Matchstick Men separates itself from the litter of horrifically cliched psychological thrillers with unfathomable emotional depth and a criminally artistic muse portrayed by exceedingly loveable cons. Ridley Scott takes a break from shooting the vastness of space and ancient ruins to remain in place on Earth. Although the plot is still relatively uncommon and extravagant. The core of it is something sensible and every viewer can empathize with. Whether you’re dealing with parenting issues, mental illness, or self preservation, Scott manages to extract the human element in an inhumane story. Scott’s terrific filming and camera techniques mastered to capture large scale cinema transfers to the simplicity of struggling to comprehend reality.

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Nicolas Cage perhaps gives the performance of his career with his lead roles in Adaptation being the closest comparison. Cage portrays a severely delusional con artist suffering from extensive OCD and loneliness. Every twitch, tweak, and repetition is carefully calculated and delivered with impeccable timing. What is truly remarkable about his portrayal of this socially challenged individual is the authenticity he brings to the role. It’s nice to see Sam Rockwell somewhat break free of his typical roles to inhabit the body of the antagonist for Matchstick Men. There is something about his mannerisms that always seems to draw the viewers attention to him, he acts like a magnet. Alison Lohman does an outstanding job capturing the disorientation and angst of a boundless teen hanging on to her sanity by a thread.

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With its tremendous cast, incalculable plot, and firm direction from Scott. Matchstick Men is a psychological thriller that should impress even die hard fans of his more ambitious pictures.

Matchstick Men: 8 out of 10.

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.