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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew McConaughey’

Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe

Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe

“SEA OF TREES” My rating: C

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

At the outset of Gus Van Sant’s “Sea of Trees,” a university lecturer played by Matthew McConaughey buys a one-way ticket to Tokyo and has a taxi deliver him at the entrance of Aokigahara,  a vast forest and park famous — or infamous — for the number of people who go there to commit suicide (100 or so each year…some of the bodies are never found).

Even before we see the signs advising visitors to think of heir families before killing themselves, we know that the American — eventually we learn his name is Arthur — is in bad shape. He’s hollow-eyed and morose and has a vial of little blue pills with which he plans to chug-a-lug himself into the hereafter.

Arthur hikes deep into the dark and eerie forest, but before he can do the deed  he is interrupted by Takumi (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese businessman wandering about lost, his shirt cuffs bloody from a botched attempt to slit his wrists. Apparently the guy’s career has spiraled into the crapper and he can’t stand to lose face.

Altruism trumps suicide, and Arthurs decides to put off offing himself until he can steer Takumi to a trail out of the park. It’s the decent thing to do. Except that Arthur is himself seriously injured in a horrendous fall off a cliff, and now the two men must rely on each other to — ironically enough — survive.

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Matthew McConaghy

Matthew McConaughey

“THE FREE STATE OF JONES”  My rating: C+

139 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A little-known and thought-provoking slice of Civil War arcana gets the full Hollywood treatment in “The Free State of Jones.”

Too bad it rarely rises above the level of a well-staged history lesson.

Written and directed by Gary Ross and starring Matthew McConaughey, this long (2 hours 20 minutes) epic is a Southern-fried melding of “Robin Hood” and “Spartacus.”

McConaughey plays Newton Knight, a real-life Mississippian who comes to believe he and his fellow poor whites are dying in the war for a system that only enriches wealthy slave owners.

Going AWOL from the Confederate army, Newton returns to his native Jones County, joining other fugitives — escaped slaves and army deserters — in an impregnable swamp.

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Matthew McConaughey (center) and colleagues explore a water planet

Matthew McConaughey (center) and colleagues explore a water planet

“INTERSTELLAR”  My rating: B- (Now playing wide)

169 minutes | Audience rating: PG-13

Did I miss something?

Because while I don’t regret having spent three hours watching Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” I can’t quite shake the feeling that there’s less here than meets the eye.

That maybe the Emperor has no clothes.

The film has an epic scope, great visuals, good performances and a payload of scientific/metaphysical ideas percolating throughout.

And unlike many of Nolan’s efforts (among them the most recent incarnation of Batman, “The Prestige” and “Inception”), it has a backbone of genuine emotion.

But why, when the lights came up, was my reaction more “meh” than “wow”?

The film begins in a not-too-distant future. Earth is rapidly dying.  Corn is about the only crop not devastated by blight and massive dust storms.

Former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConauhey) works a farm in what might be eastern Colorado. A widower, Coop lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow) and his two kids.  He’s got a special relationship with Murph (Mackenzie Foy), a fiercely intelligent girl who reports ghostly goings-on in her room, with books being pulled from the selves by invisible hands.

Jessica Chastain...back home on a ravage Earth

Jessica Chastain…back home on a ravaged Earth

This activity and other clues lead Coop and Murph to a secret base in the mountains where what’s left of NASA (as far as the public knows  the program has been shut down) is working on a project to save humanity.

Coop’s old mentor Professor Brand (Michael Caine…always the voice of reason in Nolan movies) explains that a decade earlier a human crew was sent into space, through a wormhole near Saturn, and into another galaxy to look for Earth-like planets to which humanity might migrate.

That earlier mission is presumed lost. Now a second is being mounted.  Coop’s arrival is serendipitous — he was NASA’s best pilot — and he is recruited to head the new effort.

But that means saying goodbye to Murph, who is angry and devastated by what she sees as a betrayal by her beloved father.

This takes up “Interstellar’s” first hour. The rest of the film alternates between the mission in space and the lives of Coop’s family back on Earth.

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wolf 2“THE WOLF OF WALL STREET” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Dec. 25)

179 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Is “The Wolf of Wall Street” the result of some sort of show-biz wager?

It’s as if Martin Scorsese (arguably America’s greatest living filmmaker) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Scorsese’s latter-day DeNiro) accepted a challenge to make a three-hour movie that would entice us to laugh along with despicable characters – just because they thought they had the special juice to pull it off.

And there are moments when they come close.

“Wolf” is based on the memoir by Jordan Belfort, a poster boy for ‘90s stock market shenanigans, who made millions selling his customers worthless securities and ended up going to prison for his misdeeds.

Now I’m the sort of fellow who tries to find the essential humanity in just about everyone, but Belfort is the financial equivalent of Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot. He’s arrogant and greedy and virtually without conscience – capitalism at its most corrupt.

And DiCaprio and Scorsese have to sweat like stevedores to make him a palatable companion for 180 minutes.

This is a speedball of a movie that maniacally tears along from one scene of misbehavior to the next, hardly ever slowing down to contemplate just what message we’re to take away. Presumably Scorsese disapproves of Belfort and what he represents … but the film feels just the opposite. It seems a monumental  celebration of greed and excess.

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sksksk N A  and Matthew McConaughey

Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland and Matthew McConaughey

“MUD” My rating: A- (Opens April 26 at the Leawood, Barrywoods 24, Studio 30, Cinemark Palace)

130 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Damn that Matthew McConaughey.

Just when you’re comfortable writing him off as a lazy, pretty-boy romcom hack, he decides to start really acting.

Over the last couple of years he’s blown off his easy-going leading-man ways and tackled edgy, multifaceted characters in films like “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “The Paperboy” and “Magic Mike.” Even if you don’t like the movies, you’ve gotta love what McConaughey is accomplishing here.

That great run continues with “Mud,” the third feature from Arkansas filmmaker Jeff Nichols.

Nichols writes and directs superlative dramas about working-class folk. His first two efforts — “Shotgun Stories” (about a modern day feud between the brothers of two families) and “Take Shelter” (with Michael Shannon as a disaster-obsessed man who builds an elaborate tornado shelter in his yard) – achieved a sort of gritty poetry.

“Mud” is just as powerful. Maybe moreso.

Unfolding along the waterways of the Arkansas Delta, “Mud” centers on 14-year-old Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his best bud, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland).

Both kids survive on what their families can scratch out of the river. Ellis helps his father catch and sell crawdads, fish, and turtles. Neck, an orphan, lives in a seedy mobile home court with a slacker uncle (Michael Shannon) who harvests fresh-water oysters with a crude homemade diving helmet. (more…)

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