Behind the Candelabra (2013)

behindthecandelabra_1rStarring Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Dan Aykroyd, Rob Lowe, Debbie Reynolds, Scott Bakula, Tom Papa, Nicky Katt, Cheyenne Jackson, Paul Reiser, Boyd Holbrook, David Koechner

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Expectations: High. I’m becoming quite the Soderbergh fan.

threehalfstar


As I sit here wondering where to start the review, I’m realizing that articulating what I liked and didn’t like about Behind the Candelabra is going to be tough. What I can easily say is that just about everything I loved about the film stems from the performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Liberace and Scott Thorson respectively. The duo is absolutely smashing together, so even when the film hits some dull, obvious scenes through its relatively standard biopic arc, it’s hard to knock the film too much because the sheer amount of acting prowess on display is huge. Douglas and Damon would be high on the contention list for the Oscars if this wasn’t a film made for HBO.

Behind the Candelabra begins by showing us how Scott comes to meet Liberace. Scott works as a dog trainer on films, hoping to one day parlay his passion for working with animals into a career as a veterinarian. His life path shifts when his buddy Bob (Scott Bakula) takes him to a Liberace show. The performance dazzles Scott (and every other audience member), and when Scott goes backstage with Bob, Liberace immediately takes notice of Scott’s youth and good looks. There are warning signs all around Scott, but in the face of such showmanship, he can’t help but get sucked in.

Continue reading Behind the Candelabra (2013) →

Elysium (2013)

elysium_1Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Expectations: Very high.

threestar


I don’t know about you, but I LOVE District 9. Elysium is definitely no District 9, but it’s kind of unfair to even compare them, as Elysium is a much more ambitious film. Due to this, it’s also a more disappointing film because it doesn’t always hit the marks it strives for. At the same time, it features so many great ideas and awesome moments that it would be hard to walk away from Elysium without a smile. If nothing else, it’s got fantastic design work throughout, and the future Earth dystopia/utopia presented in the film is a pretty spot-on extrapolation from the current state of economic inequality in the US.

Elysium is a very simple story at its heart, but it’s also a multilayered story that deals with multiple characters and tells their stories simultaneously until they all converge. The basic kernel is that after Earth became too overpopulated and polluted, the rich people built a space station called Elysium where they could enjoy their money in the peace of space, along with virtually neverending life thanks to their revolutionary med-bays that can identify and cure any ailment. Back on the surface of Earth, Max (Matt Damon) is an orphan who has always dreamed of going to Elysium, and because this is a movie, we enter his life as he’s thrust into a situation that might make that dream a reality.

Continue reading Elysium (2013) →

Contagion (2011)

Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Sanaa Lathan, Elliott Gould, Anna Jacoby-Heron

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Expectations: High, I have a good feeling about this one.


I’m not a huge Steven Soderbergh fan, but I respect him immensely. Where most Oscar-winning directors are happy to stay sheltered within the studio system once they receive their acclaim, Soderbergh is not one to be shackled to any one genre or tied to any specific type of film. He consistently makes the films he wants to make, casting unknown actors in one film and then following it up with a slickly produced Ocean’s Eleven film. If there’s one style that has become synonymous with his name though, it’s the ensemble cast drama, even if he hasn’t really made too many of them. Traffic was clearly his defining film for most people (and me as well), so going into Contagion I had an idea that it would be “Traffic with germs”.

That’s pretty much what I got, but that’s far too simple of a way to put it. It both sells the film short and fails to convey the triumph that Soderbergh has achieved with Contagion. There have been lots of viral epidemic movies throughout the years, but never have they been as hyper-realistic as this. Contagion methodically moves from day-to-day, tracking the course of the outbreak across the world. It focuses on a number of people in various locations around the world, and together their stories weave into an overall picture of the epidemic story that is Contagion. It’s like a disease procedural, so if you zoned out or got bored during this paragraph, then perhaps this film is not for you. If, on the other hand, this sounds interesting and up your alley, then definitely give Contagion a shot.

Continue reading Contagion (2011) →

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Anthony Ruivivar, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp

Directed by George Nolfi

Expectations: Super low. I thought the trailer was laughable, but others talked me into seeing it.


For most people I imagine this will satisfy and delight, but for me, a hardened sci-fi nerd with a distinct love for Philip K. Dick, it didn’t cut it. There’s very little in the film that feels even remotely connected to an idea Dick may have had, and that is much too great of a transgression to forgive in my book. When dealing with one of the greatest minds of classic sci-fi, you’d think he’d get more respect from Hollywood, but once again his story is co-opted into mainstream drivel for the masses. At least this time around it is successful in translating itself into a moneymaking mainstream film, which, oddly enough, might do some good for Dick’s name.

Continue reading The Adjustment Bureau (2011) →

Mini-Review: Hereafter (2010)

Starring Matt Damon, Cécile de France, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Lyndsey Marshal, Thierry Neuvic, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mylène Jampanoï, Jay Mohr

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Expectations: High, but somewhat tempered because I know a lot of people had lukewarm reactions to it.


I genuinely have nothing bad to say about this movie. Sure, it is slow-moving, but it is perfectly paced for the story it tells. Matt Damon is superb in his role as a tortured psychic that can legitimately contact people’s recently deceased loved ones. Cécile de France and Frankie & George McLaren hold down their equal share of the film as well, turning in strong, touching performances. These individual stories are each given time to develop naturally, with each character having a unique point-of-view. It is not a Matt Damon vehicle, it is a film that Matt Damon is but a component of. I think therein lies a lot of what the mainstream audience that hated Hereafter didn’t like about the movie.

If I was having a bad experience with the film (as most seem to have had), I may have balked at some of the occurrences in the last half hour. Instead I enjoyed them and while their believability is somewhat in question, the events leading up to them are all logical enough and make sense for each character, so I can easily put to rest any misgivings or calls of Deus ex Machina. At the end of the day, I just want to have a good time at the movies, and the ending offered up here gave me what I wanted.

I also greatly enjoyed that the film never crosses into the religious fantasy afterlife that so many films tend to, and actually presents a few differing viewpoints on the subject. It is unfair to go into the film looking for answers, though, as it will provide none. It is fiction and should be taken merely as a jumping-off point for fun, intellectual discussions with your friends or family (or online acquaintances). It should be noted, though, that the mere existence of the film and the character’s brushes with an afterlife suggests the filmmakers believe in some sort of life after death, but what is truly intriguing about the film’s portrayal is the lack of religion in the discussion. I found that to be a stroke of brilliance.

Hereafter is easily one of my favorite films from last year and was much more deserving of a Best Picture nomination than some of the more lackluster nominees. It is definitely not a film for everyone, but those willing to give Eastwood some time to develop the characters will be rewarded with a moving film.

True Grit (2010)

True Grit (2010)

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Corbin, Roy Lee Jones, Paul Rae, Nicholas Sadler

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Expectations: Moderate.


It took the Coen Bros. to get me out of the house to see one of these new-fangled remakes, but unfortunately I cannot report that it is entirely worth the trouble. The original True Grit is a household favorite from my childhood and I’ve probably seen it through at least twenty times, with many half viewings and random scenes thrown in for good measure. It was such an integral part of my youth that certain lines became standard jargon around the house. Imagine my surprise when many of these lines are represented within this newer, shinier grittier version. I can’t say that I expected that.

Continue reading True Grit (2010) →

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Starring Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Dennis Farina, Paul Giamatti, Harve Presnell

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Expectations: High. I remember loving this. It’s been a few years.


Here’s another History class review.

Saving Private Ryan opens and closes on the same image of a faded American flag. The only sound is the quiet rippling it makes as it moves with the wind. In honor of the soldiers that have fallen and everything that has been sacrificed for the lives of their countrymen, the flag waves steadily and means much more that the simple colored fibers it is constructed of. Like the flag, the film is a commentary on the value of life and what one man is worth. Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is the top of the game in terms of World War II films and with good reason. It is an absolute triumph on nearly every level.

Continue reading Saving Private Ryan (1998) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,058 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages