Showing posts with label matthew mcconaughey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label matthew mcconaughey. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Serenity (2019) Delivers Justice to The Hype Train

Promo tours often limit actors from not leaking intricate or even obtuse details about their upcoming highly-anticipated films. Persuading audiences to see their project based on a trailer, the director's skills, and chemistry between the leading stars is a tricky sell and not something I envy. This marketing spin, usually left up to Big Important Movies like action flicks and superhero sagas, has surprisingly worked for Serenity - an independent film with big names and an even bigger plot twist that's proving sometimes not shouting the story from the rooftops is worth its weight in tuna - I mean, gold.

Everyone on Plymouth knows everyone else’s business. There’s no hiding who is sleeping with who, the gossip between tourists and locals, and if someone’s venture immediately starts to flail. Plymouth is claustrophobic, to say the least, for Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey) -  a washed-out fisherman obsessed with catching tuna, drowning in the memories of his son and struggling to make ends meet. When his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) comes into town offering him $10 million dollars to kill her current abusive husband, Baker must be led away from a tempting payday that could push him further into madness.

The magic about Serenity is that, like a lot of action flicks and franchise players, it’s best to not know a lot about it. Director Steven Knight, either by pure happenstance or sheer insanity, wrote a script that has a lot of things going for it – both good and bad. Namely, the story starts off relatively simple – a hard-knocks guy trapped on a tropical island where everything should be easy breezy, and it’s not. Like the insufferable heat, Baker is suffocating in "paradise" where every day becomes more lucid than the last. It's within the film's most normal moments that the tension builds as Knight implores the cinematography and mood into a modern noir.

And, then eventually the plot grows out of control to instill the twist that has everyone talking. The plot’s swerve, in all honesty, is not that hard to miss. As Baker howls, shrieks and wallows in his sorrows and obsessions, Knight slides in clues and even straight-out tells you where the story is heading. Every shot aims towards growing intrigue (okay, maybe not the ones of McConaughey in the nude but still there's something to take away from those too) and holds the promise that if the audience just stays with it a little longer, they're in for a surprise. Thus, audiences shouldn't feel shocked by a film that is blaring what is going to happen, but all that suspense transforming into true hard facts is a real mind-boggler. It’s a storytelling switch so audacious that one is left not only trailing the breadcrumbs to assess everything the film had laid out before, but also coercing you to pull back the layers of a very surreal onion that only increases the confusion and captivation.

If the film is stripped of the plot twist, Serenity contains a level of tremendous detail by its head honcho in Knight as well as a genuine commitment by the cast. Between Baker falling apart over mysterious visions about his son to Knight's tonal shifts with Plymouth's idyllic aesthetic, the film makes for an adequate drama on its own. In particular, McConaughey and Hathaway give performances that reach varying levels of Nic Cage’s looniest cinematic moments as well as their career bests. Other supporting stars have more trouble finding their place in the story as they only make-up parts of the whole and nothing more. The film has its own set of ambitions to be "a serious film to be taken seriously", but also seems to confuse authentic mystery with being over-the-top.

To be honest, Serenity could've become a drop in the ocean of bargain bin movies – it has all the right elements of a convincing contemporary noir and then it becomes something else entirely. It's hard to think about its stylistic intentions without feeling like some parts of it was a massive prank the audience stumbled upon. Without the instant-reactions of social media, there's a true chance this might've not gained its notoriety so quickly and for its cult potential to live on. And that’s sort of the blessing and crux. Knight worked some kind of vision into his idea that might be worthy of watching once and forgetting about, or revisiting in five years with the sense that this movement of enthusiasm for the film was fun to be a part of. It breaks the rules and defies expectations in the most unexpected ways, leaving 2019 into a rocky but awesome start.

Rating: ★
a gold star for trying
Have you seen Serenity? What did you think?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Genius of Reinvention: Matthew McConaughey

I loved EdTv growing up. The main character is an average Joe who is contracted by a television network to follow him around 24/7 by a camera crew. All of his personal relationships and family downfalls are aired for the world's entertainment. He becomes a major celebrity with college girls watching him every week together huddled in their dorm rooms, and temporarily he seems a hero to all of closest buds.

Before our culture eventually embraced the chaotic crazy world of crazies showing us every minute detail of their ordinary lives, the movie then seemed like a preposterous future. Today no channel is without a show about someone arguing with their friends, getting drunk, competing for cash, or showing off their ridiculous obsessions. Now, the movie seems less than special. Except to me it always has been because it brought Matthew McConaughey into my sphere.

He became my king of the big screen. His southern drawl, his good-natured spirit, his ability to play a normal guy with vigor and passion unlike I'd ever seen drew me immediately towards such an average character. McConaughey wasn't the first movie movie star I fell in love (John Travolta) nor the one that I declare to be my husband one day (Leonardo DiCaprio), but he was the biggest underdog.

Everyone seems to love McConaughey, or on some level, always did. Do you remember when he and Kate Hudson hit out of the park with How To Lose a Guy In Ten Days? It's your average chick flick of two people using each other to get ahead in their own careers, and then their "quirky" ambitions allow them to fall in love. Their chemistry was magnetic, McConaughey showed off his pecks, and the movie was a huge hit. Even before this chick flick that put him on every woman's radar, he was then building a career with popularized Dazed and Confused and Contact.

As a celebrity-loving culture, we often take severe notes over when we consider an actor or actress have hit their peak and 'fallen atrociously from grace'. Usually this happens in the course when someone's choices seemingly go from A+ material to something that may not even be worthy of a F- ranking.

A major tide turned for the Texan cowboy and his rom-com place in Hollywood: it went all over the map. In The Wedding PlannerFailure to Launch and Fool's Gold, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past he was attached to portraying a charming manboy who could swipe the panties off his love interest three thousand miles away. Every character slighted differently  but the scope his career took didn't reach expectations. Most people only remembered those movies and thought that's as far as he could reach.

Though he was never far away from movie making - he's made at least one almost every year since the 1990s - Hollywood and McConaughey made himself "a comeback kid" in 2011. After a "rough" decade of varying dramatic roles (several that I loved) like Two for the Money, Reign of Fire, and We Are Marshall, he finally gained notoriety in some better executed indies.

Suddenly taking notice of this electric presence on-screen, critics and audiences agreed he had finally made a return. With roles like Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Mud, and most recently The Dallas Buyers Club, how could anyone possibly ignore him. Throughout genres, he's carved an image of anti-hero. He was trying to catch lightning with more dramatic roles and he caught several bolts finally lighting up the world.

Similar to action stars like Nicolas Cage, we as audiences don't expect actors who take on blockbusters to have the level of intellect or intelligence they show when they are gifted with the opportunity to show it. They become servants enslaved to our pop culture expectations that they only have one side of their abilities whether it's blowing things up or being a shirtless sex god.

Though the material may range for McConaughey's carefully crafted talent, no one can deny the enigmatic spotlight he carries in every motion picture. That brimming smile, his thick accent, and that palpable energy. When he talks, he's on fire. You're hooked to his every charismatic and charming word. During his SAGS award acceptance speech, most people only heard Neptune and wouldn't let it go. I was watching someone with passion for his craft which was finally being taken "seriously".

Nowadays, actors are so immensely chillaxed about their life and career they barely have any personality orr energy. Everything seems to roll so lackadaisically off of people's shoulders, nobody seems to be affected either positively or negatively by their success, failures, and triumphs. Everyone is riding on neutral. Except Matthew McConaughey - he's soaring and always has been.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mud (2013)

Photo Credit: Mud / Lionsgate / Roadside Entertainment
Two young kids in their motor boat voyage out to an abandoned island on the Mississippi River. Thinking it'll be a day of wandering exploration, it's quite a welcoming surprise to Ellis (one of the two boys) when they meet a lean dirty straggler. He has a few cracked teeth, been living in a dilapidated boat, and owns nothing but the shirt on his back and a glock. His name is Mud.

The mysterious presence around him is what makes us itching to know more about why he is a lone wolf on deserted land. After persistent probing, when Mud finally unveils a passionate confession about murdering a man who had beaten up the woman he loves, Juniper, the intrigue doesn't dissipate. Played by Matthew McConaughey, he pours out the truth with such heartache, you can't help but take him at his word.

But we hear different perspectives of who Mud is. The boys help Mud make connections to his family and Juniper back on the homeland while helping him rebuild a boat for an escape. His father declares that his son is a foolish soul who misplaced his ambitions in life - not just love - to a woman who never cared about him at all. Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who walks the fine line of settling for Mud and wanting to escape his adoration (or even obsession), says that he is a born liar; one that tells fibs to make himself out to be something he's not. While we may not fully trust Mud, we rely on what he reveals to Ellis to be the truth - for what its worth.

The clock is ticking down. State troopers are setting up roadblocks and plastering his wanted photo all over town. And, the relatives of Mud's victim are ruthlessly searching for him as well - not even stopping at berating Juniper and Ellis in a dirty motel room in a palpable verbal beatdown. Though the story doesn't excuse the violent actions of the bounty hunters nor Mud, there isn't one character who is a true villain. Nobody carries a specific antagonist persona because everyone has something worth fighting for.

In many ways Ellis is a younger version of Mud. When his parents announce their separation, he relies on Mud's faith to Juniper to believe love exists. He's a young boy who is experiencing his first romance to an older teen Mary Pearl, who isn't exactly his other half Like Mud, he only knows the definite feeling of love in his bones. Their physical representation of devotion is swinging in on a vine and flailing their fists in protection against meddlers. They believe this might encourage their feelings to be reciprocated. It can't be controlled and hearts are trampled along the way.

Through the relationships of father and his son, a mother and son, a man and a woman, love and its limitations is weaved by how each character has their own way of protecting one another. Experience and time brings its own expression through different avenues of reciprocation. Sometimes it means standing true to the ones you love, and loving someone enough to leave them behind and go your own route.

The biggest impression Mud left with me was that it's a slow-churning movie about trust. The deep south is a culture of your word being your bond, and the movies' characters and story reflects that. Mud and Ellis' faith and companionship is what the film relies on. Every performance from Matthew McConaughey as Mud to Ray McKinnon as Ellis' father Senior carries the film to its palpable intrigue. And the test of love binds them all together from friends, lovers to children and parents. Director Jeff Nichols' complex story keeps you riding its waves from beginning to end.

Rating: ★★★