Tag: matthew mcconaughey

The 10 Most Underrated Movie Villains

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A Google search of ‘greatest film villains’ will bring many familiar faces: Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, Alex DeLarge, Anton Chigurh and, of course, Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker – a character that has become omnipresent.

The villainy of these iconic performances is without question, but there are many more nasty characters in the annals of cinema history that are seldom if ever considered in the lists by various magazines, websites and institutes. Some are a pleasure to hate, whilst others cause the proverbial red mist to descend in righteous indignation. So, in no particular order:
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Joe (2013)

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Nicolas Cage disappears into his role as the titular Joe in a film that’s thematically rather familiar but also a surprisingly realist piece of cinema.

The film follows the principal characters Joe (Nicolas Cage) and Gary (Tye Sheridan). Gary is the only member of his degenerate family who is able to work and earn a living; he has been forced to become a responsible person by his vile, repulsive father Wade (Gary Poulter), a man who has abused his body so much and for so long that he can only speak in slurred, incoherent ramblings. I recently compiled a list of the 10 most hateful characters of cinema; I think Wade could quite easily be placed in it.

Joe is a recidivist who is haunted by his criminal history and continues to struggle with controlling his anger, it seems the only way he can stay out of trouble is by absorbing himself in his small landscaping company.

Joe leads a group of black workers, they clear wooded areas with these rather strange axes that waywardly squirt poison everywhere. Joe and Gary are brought together when the boy implores him to employ both himself and his father. Joe obliges and Gary proves to be a good worker, although the agreement is soon thwarted by his obnoxious father who is too polluted, weak and lazy to contribute to the team.

The cast of Joe’s workers and indeed the whole film is populated with actors who were seemingly taken from the street, their performances are completely natural and their language raw, colloquial and as a result sometimes completely incomprehensible! A few times I felt like an American watching Trainspotting, particularly during a row between the moronic Wade and a black worker, whose ebonics is the strongest I’ve ever heard.

Joe is a tough watch, there are characters that represent the very lowest form of human life, there’s seldom a room in the film that isn’t a filthy, cluttered mess. I didn’t expect it to be such a realist piece of cinema, its depiction of blue collar work and young Gary’s first foray into it is sure to resonate with anyone who’s had similar experiences, myself included.

Nicolas Cage doesn’t stick out at all, he effortlessly blends in with the surrounding cast of largely unknown actors. Like Leaving Las Vegas, Joe is an example of Cage moderating his idiosyncratic acting, which I like incidentally, and showcasing just how good he is.

Clear correlations can be made with Mud, a similarly themed film about a benevolent renegade forming a bond with Tye Sheridan’s conflicted teenage boy. Joe is the superior of the pair, although Mud boasted good performances from its leads, it was melodramatic and overrated. Tye Sheridan’s character Ellis in Mud, who is given far too much screen time, thought about love and human relationships in ways that 14-year-old boys just don’t – I didn’t believe in him. He also had a habit of vehemently punching people in the face that belied his prepubescent little frame. Joe’s Gary is a much better character, a measured boy who simply wants to make a living and prove to the men in his life that he’s no kid.

Mud lacked Joe’s gritty nastiness, it had treacly melodrama instead of stark reality. What they do share is the running theme of redemption, and in the case of Joe, I found its conclusion rather familiar and subsequently bathetic. Despite this, Joe succeeds in absorbing you in its masculine world and Nicolas Cage defies any naysayers by completely disappearing into his role as the titular rogue.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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This film is not a glorification, it’s an observer rather than a judge.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a rather straight forward rise and fall story, it’s Scarface with even more excess but without the M16 with an underslung M303 grenade launcher.

Some have said that this film is a glorification rather than a satire, a three hour parade celebrating Jordan Belfort’s excess instead of a stern condemnation. Despite all the drugs, decadence and vulvas in the film, I don’t think the film glorifies him, and I don’t think it’s a biting satire either.

The film is an observer rather than a judge; it displays Belfort and his minions’ debauchery in a grand three-hour narrative with the energy and gusto of GoodFellas, letting the audience decide what they think of it all. If one leaves the theatre impressed or inspired by Belfort, that’s very much a reflection of them rather than the film.

There is a lot of bad behaviour going on in The Wolf of Wall Street, understandably too much for some people, but over the course of three hours I didn’t find it exasperating like some have. In fact, I think one would possess a certain amount of sanctimony to deny that there isn’t a degree of allure to Belfort’s lifestyle; an element of excess should be everyone’s life, whether it’s occasionally ordering the most expensive thing on the menu or at some point in your life owning a car that does 20 miles to the gallon, just because it makes you feel good.

Of course, that wouldn’t begin to be enough for Jordan Belfort. His ideas on money, relationships and life in general were quite awful during his years at the helm of Stratton Oakmont, his company that employed the ‘pump and dump’ scheme to rob scores of investors of their money. It is Belfort’s obsession with wealth, material goods and just winning that makes him quite a one-dimensionally unpleasant character. The nature of the character made me question the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio.

This is not to say DiCaprio is in bad form here, his performance is teeming with conviction. Leo is in his element during Belfort’s rousing, maniacal speeches to his employees; his frenetic energy reminded me of Evangelical preachers found in the southern states. Of course, there’s nothing remotely Christian to be found in Belfort’s fervent rhetoric, only sentences of remarkable crassness, immaturity and myopia – ‘Does your girlfriend think you’re a fucking worthless loser, good! Pick up the phone and start dialling! I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich!’ – ‘If anyone here thinks I’m superficial or materialistic, go get a job in fucking McDonald’s because that’s where you fucking belong.’

Despite DiCaprio’s committed performance, I’m not part of the indignant crowd who demand that he finally win the Oscar for best leading man, particularly with this year’s nominations. He’s had a great career so far, he’s worked with Hollywood’s most revered artists and has had a consistent stream good roles.  Although his performances regularly display his great dramatic range, the problem is his huge Hollywood profile means that I feel like I’m watching Leonardo DiCaprio rather than the character he is portraying. It’s the same with The Wolf of Wall Street, Leo is just too cute and popular to play someone like Jordan Belfort – the casting gives a certain amount of sheen to him. Also, DiCaprio didn’t adopt Belfort’s New York accent, which is a pity because Leo’s South African accent in Blood Diamond was impressive.

While there are flashes of gross vulgarity in DiCaprio’s performance, the real Jordan Belfort is worse. To his credit, he is a naturally adroit salesman, he ran a successful meat business in his early twenties, he could’ve probably made a substantial legitimate living with his innate entrepreneurialism. However he didn’t, and now he remarks in interviews and speeches that ‘making money is easy’, what he forgot to add is ‘…when you broke the law like I did’. I’m not preaching here, I’m just reminding the crowds he draws to his motivational speeches that this man’s immense wealth hinged completely and utterly on criminality.

The other reason why Scorsese’s Belfort isn’t hateful enough is because the repercussions and victims of Stratton Oakmont are never shown, and to give a properly three-dimensional depiction of Belfort’s story, they should have been. Scorsese and writer Terence Winter have followed Belfort’s memoir so closely that it’s quite a one-track narrative, perhaps they could have stepped back from the book and explored the extent of Stratton Oakmont’s damage.

So, it is clear that there isn’t a particularly complex figure at the centre of Martin Scorsese’s latest film, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a misfire. This is more ‘Casino’/’The Departed’ Scorsese rather than ‘Taxi Driver’/’Goodfellas’/’Raging Bull’ Scorsese.

For me, the film’s terrific energy and vibrant aesthetics manage to carry its three-hour running time. Among this spirited, flashy spectacle are also some very amusing moments, particularly Matthew McConaughey’s great performance as Mark Hanna, a veteran stock broker who teaches an up-and-coming Belfort about his new profession, from ethics to the necessity of masturbation. What’s become one of the larger talking points of the film is the sequence where Belfort, overdosing on Quaaludes and in a state he calls the ‘cerebral palsy phase’, tries desperately to drive his Lamborghini Countach back to his enormous house.

Although the one-dimensional central character and its limited perspective means it is not Scorsese’s best film, The Wolf of Wall Street is an engrossing, sweeping rise and fall tale that is vibrant, funny and very striking.

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Blog: The Top 6 Most Interesting Actors Working Today

I don’t consider this list to be definitive, there are of course scores of other interesting actors who may turn out to be far more interesting than the individuals mentioned below. For now though, here is a list of six people whose career paths are following the most interesting trajectory.

6 – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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He’s not the most talented, nuanced of actors, but I’ve been a fan of the Austrian Oak’s iconic persona since I was a child. Schwarzenegger deprived fans for 8 years during his incredulous tenure as Governor of California, and he downright teased us in 2010 with his brief cameo in ‘The Expendables’. However, he is no longer the Governator, he has returned to his second career, the one that made him most famous. He’s already starred in ‘The Last Stand’ (2013), a film that annoyingly I haven’t been able to see yet. However it was great seeing him in last year’s ‘The Expendables 2’ which was, to quote Patrick Bateman, a ‘laugh riot’. I’m always up for a slice of Arnie cheese, and I’m sure ‘The Tomb’, ‘The Expendables 3’ and perhaps even ‘The Terminator 5’ will be entertaining, however I’m not sure how the latter will work out.

5 – Michael Fassbender

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Fassbender has proved his worth in small independent films such as ‘Fish Tank’ (2009) and ‘Shame’ (2011) and big-budget blockbusters like ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009) and ‘Prometheus’ (2012).  With films like ‘The Counselor’, ‘Jane Got a Gun’ and ‘Prometheus 2’ in his upcoming canon, the affable Fassbender seems to be forging a career that is both critically and commercially successful.

4 – Ryan Gosling

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It’s remarkable to think that a man who starred in the worst film ever made, The Notebook, could appear on this list. Since the offence in 2004, Gosling starred in films such as Half Nelson (2006) and Blue Valentine (2010). He didn’t truly come to my attention until 2011, when he assumed the role of ‘The Driver’ in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. His performance, like the film, wasn’t the most layered, but he certainly excelled in producing a steely aura and being just so incredibly cool.

The great thing about Drive was that it signalled Gosling’s encroachment onto the edgy, independent area of cinema. It was also hopefully going to be the first instalment in a cinematic collaboration between him and Danish director Refn. Those hopes were confirmed when images of Only God Forgives surfaced, showing Gosling with a badly beaten up face.

3 – Nicolas Cage

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He’s by no means a new kid on the block, quite the contrary, he’s becoming a rather venerable member of Hollywood. Since his emergence in the mid to late eighties, Nic Cage has appeared in approximately two million films.

Some may be surprised by his inclusion, his role decisions are becoming increasingly questionable, but I really like Cage, he’s idiosyncratic in more ways than one. Firstly, as Mark Kermode once rather rudely pointed out, he certainly doesn’t have leading man looks, and his hair is very, very strange. He is also famously capable of delivering unhinged performances, performances which can only be described as ‘Cagesque’. Among the finest examples in the ‘Cagesque’ oeuvre are ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ (1988), ‘Bad Lieutenant’ (2010), ‘Deadfall’ (1993), ‘Face/Off’ (1997) and ‘Matchstick Men’ (2003). It’s this combination of unconventional looks and persona that make him a favourite of mine.

Of course, Cage can also deliver more balanced, subtle performances if a director manages to tame him, as demonstrated in ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ (1995) and ‘Adaptation.’ (2002). Because of the sheer personality of the man, I’m always on the look-out for updates on his career – I was utterly delighted to hear that he will be appearing in ‘The Expendables 3′.

2 – Christian Bale

Christian-Bale-transformationChristian Bale is the undisputed king of ‘weight acting’.

His performance as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000) is one of my all time favourites, and his roles in ‘The Machinist’ and ‘The Fighter’ show how he’s a truly committed actor. Now that the vastly overrated Batman trilogy has ended, Bale can leave the boring character of Bruce Wayne and build on an already impressive portfolio. His appearance in ‘Untitled Terrance Malick Production’, which co-stars Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara is a step in the right direction. Bale will be offered the best scripts in Hollywood; we’ll probably find him in the Best Leading Actor category at an Oscars ceremony in the very near future.

1 – Matthew McConaughey

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Matthew McConaughey’s films have been famously commercially-minded for the past decade or so, with films such as ‘The Wedding Planner’, ‘Sahara’, ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ and ‘How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days’. This career move is understandable, the man has amassed a fortune from these films, however he has lost a damning amount of credibility in the process.

Not anymore though, over the past few years he has shown what he’s capable of in films such as ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, ‘Bernie’, ‘Magic Mike’ and ‘Killer Joe’, which for my money is the best film of 2012. I fawned endlessly over his performance in my review of ‘Killer Joe’, and for good reason, he doesn’t just break his typecast, he shatters it. It’s one of the most menacing performances I’ve seen in years.

It seems this upward trajectory isn’t slowing either, with McConaughey going all method actor and losing massive amounts of weight for his leading role in the upcoming ‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club’. Other roles include ‘Mud’ and Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. I’m all for this, but I can’t help imagining this rapid ascension has left McConaughey feeling rather smug, he’s gone from a mere rich heartthrob to a rich, critically respected heartthrob!

Killer Joe (2012)

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Some may be offended by it, but I think Killer Joe is the best film of 2012.

Killer Joe’s premise is simple but invigoratingly delivered. Chris Smith (Emile Hirsh) has got himself in trouble with the underworld, if he doesn’t produce some cash, he’s a dead man. He reasons with his father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) that everyone would be happier if his obnoxious mother Adele was killed, particularly as she has a $50,000 life insurance policy. Considering Adele is his wretched ex-wife, he agrees, as does his girlfriend Sharla (Gina Gershon) and teenage daughter Dottie (Juno Temple). Although Chris doesn’t have the money up front, Killer Joe, a Dallas police officer who moonlights as a contract killer, accepts the job on the condition that Dottie serves as sexual collateral.

‘Killer Joe’ is a fantastic thriller with a warped tension that you don’t encounter that often. This film confirms that Matthew McConaughey is on a rapid upward trajectory, he gives an intense performance that’s utterly steeped in menace. Though ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper remains largely restrained and ambiguous throughout the film, each syllable of his southern drawl is loaded with a palpable danger. His performance is captivating; it creates a pervasive, looming sense of dread and depravity that suggests something very bad is going to happen at any moment.

The praise doesn’t stop with McConaughey, the whole cast delivers to the best of their ability, it really is an actors’ film. If I hadn’t researched her, I would have assumed on the credibility of her southern accent that the British Juno Temple was a Texas native.  She shows good dramatic range as Dottie, the slightly strange, child-like girl at the centre of the film.

William Friedkin has outdone himself with his second collaboration with writer Tracy Letts; he directs the taut, punchy material perfectly. What’s most refreshing is that 77-year-old Friedkin was bold enough to release it uncut with the dreaded NC-17 certificate; he wasn’t going to allow himself to sell out.

Seeing as the film’s source material is a stage play, it isn’t a film of many sets; it seldom leaves the confines of the Smith family’s trashy trailer. Much like their first collaboration ‘Bug’, ‘Killer Joe’ impressively manages to deliver biting tension and a maelstrom of chaos in a cramped, domestic setting.

I can honestly compliment every area of this film. Tyler Bates’ score is brilliantly suspenseful, especially when it introduces Killer Joe, it further adds to his aura of danger. The film is also beautifully shot – it’s stunning in high definition.

Despite the menace and darkness of it all, the film is laced with deadpan humour, especially in the film’s final quarter, the demented absurdity of which leaving you wondering what the hell just happened!

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