When hospitalized, Ron Woodruff(Matthew McConaughey) finds that his… MoreWhen hospitalized, Ron Woodruff(Matthew McConaughey) finds that his lingering cough was not connected to his smoking but to his having AIDS related pneumona which he was unaware of. His doctors(Denis O'Hare & Jennifer Garner) are actually surprised that he is still alive, what with his T-cells being at 9, and give him only a month to live. Denial goes as badly as one would imagine, involving much booze and drugs and lasts all of one day. Bargaining is much more productive, as it at least puts Ron in a library for a change, where he gathers valuable information about clinical trials of AZT which he takes a short cut on. On his next visit to the hospital, he ends up sharing a room with Rayon(Jared Leto). At least, the Mexican clinic visit turns out to be productive, as Ron returns to the states with all sorts of proteins and non-approved drugs, while the old Dress-Up-As-A-Priest-To-Smuggle-Drugs trick does not work as well as he hoped.
Anchored by superb performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club" is a raucous and rowdy movie about the least likely hero ever. And it is not just because of Woodruff's homophobia which evolves over time but the reasons he sets up the buyers club(from an idea he heard about from New York), first as a means of self-preservation, second to make a profit and if it all possible to get laid. He is amazed as everybody else that he is actually doing some good. But maybe not so much, considering the early scenes that consist of his not only hustling bets but also overriding co-workers to call an ambulance for an undocumented worker. Interspersed with these are the treatment protocols of the time, most chillingly represented by the consulting doctors wearing surgical masks. So, obviously Woodruff is not the only one on a huge learnng curve.
In Washington, DC in 1841, Solomon Northrup(Chiwetel Ejiofor) wakes up… MoreIn Washington, DC in 1841, Solomon Northrup(Chiwetel Ejiofor) wakes up in chains. He remembers dining with Hamilton(Taran Killam) and Brown(Scoot McNairy) the previous night before recalling the full details of how he was shanghaied into slavery with only the memories of his family back in Saratoga Springs keeping him going. He is not alone in being sent to the slave market in New Orleans where he is purchased to be worked on a plantation.
"12 Years a Slave" excels in certain departments, including the performances of its great cast, especially that of Chiwetel Ejiofor. And then there are the graphic depictions of floggings, part of the arbitrary cruelties and abuses under the heinous institution of slavery, reinforcing the wrongs done, and continuing director Steve McQueen's running exploration of the horrors committed to the body, as he should be applauded for lingering on particular scenes. But the movie is too polished to properly convey the day to day privations the characters face, as what is needed is the crudely intense McQueen of "Hunger" rather than the current version who just wants to be Ron Howard. And while "12 Years A Slave" is based on a true story, Solomon seems maybe more than a little naive in believing the best in people, thus implying the lack of racism in the Antebellum North which I find a little hard to believe.
With the dull docmentary "Room 666," Wim Wenders wastes a valuable… MoreWith the dull docmentary "Room 666," Wim Wenders wastes a valuable opportunity when he talks to several notable directors during the 1982 Cannes Festival.(However, Werner Herzog is fun to watch but you knew that already.) What he asks them is about the end of cinema which is the subject of a hack article every six months. Look, since you're reading this, you know cinema is not dead, thirty years later. And thirty years from now, cinema will still be thriving, even as it may look a little different and available for downloading directly into your brain at the Georgetown Metro Station.
"No Maps for These Territories" is a moderately interesting… More"No Maps for These Territories" is a moderately interesting documentary wherein noted author William Gibson is interviewed on various subjects while he rides around in a car on the west coast. Admittedly, this might interest those who are fans, as I only have read one of his novels, "Neuromancer." I think my problem with that novel, which was not bad, by the way, was that it was a case of technology being more important than the characters. Here, Gibson favors new technology in its all forms, whereas I do believe we have to be much more cautious, because, not to get too Star Trek, we can't let it get too far ahead of humanity's collective emotional intelligence. That would be fine if pornography was the only application, but it is also the military applications we should be worrying about.
In learning how to be a photographer, Putilov(Vadim Prokhorov) went… MoreIn learning how to be a photographer, Putilov(Vadim Prokhorov) went into deep debt to Johann(Sergey Makovetskiy), a mobster, who even frightens Victor(Viktor Sukhorukov), one of his henchmen. Even though Johann specializes in marketing pornographic films, he has a crush on Liza(Dinara Drukorava), the same as Putilov who Radlov(Igor Shibanov), an engineer and Liza's father, would almost definitely prefer as a potential son-in-law.
"Of Freaks and Men" is a simultaneously sad and perverse movie. While partially being about how progress is not always a good thing as seen through the lack of imagination in pornography, lying just beneath the surface of polite society, the movie has even more to say about modern day Russia. That's even though the film mostly resembles a silent movie, not just in its soundless opening sequences, but also later as it is shot in sepia tones with intertitles throughout. All of which is in the service of showing who the freaks really are.
Speaking of "Damsels in Distress:"
Violet(Greta Gerwig),… MoreSpeaking of "Damsels in Distress:"
Violet(Greta Gerwig), Heather(Carrie MacLemore) and Rose(Megalyn Echikunwoke) recruit new student Lily(Analeigh Tipton) into their cause. Said cause being suicide prevention. Which they intend to do through donuts, coffee and tap dancing. When that does not work, there is always busting down doors which they do when they rescue Priss(Caitlin FitzGerald) who claims she was only glum. Otherwise, Lily is content with being the third wheel to Xavier(Hugo Becker) and Alice(Meredith Hagner).
With "Damsels in Distress," writer-director Whit Stillman manages to prove once and for all that he has his head jammed firmly up his backside with dialogue that no human being would ever say in the real world in his hard hitting expose of cliques on college campuses. Out of that there are maybe a couple of nice moments.("Did you stay at the Motel 6?" "No, I stayed at the Motel 4. It was cheaper.") Plus, the movie has a rather cavalier attiude towards mental illness. Well, since the spoken word had no chance, then maybe Stillman should have made a musical with this material which he hints at repeatedly until the musical number that finally arrives too little too late.
In "The Raven," it turns out that Edgar Allan Poe(John Cusack) has… MoreIn "The Raven," it turns out that Edgar Allan Poe(John Cusack) has more important things to worry about in Baltimore in 1849 than his writer's block, not being able to buy a drink in a bar, and the threats from the father(Brendan Gleeson) of his girlfriend Emily(Alice Eve). That's because there is a murderer on the loose. Since Frank Pembleton is not yet on the police force, Inspector Fields(Luke Evans) is on the case, discerning some parallels between the gruesome deaths and Poe's work. And that's only the beginning...
Unlike "The Following," "The Raven" certainly knows its Poe, if not its Jules Verne. Nor is it that badly staged. But I am sad to say that maybe for the first time that John Cusack gave a performance that was not only bad, but one that took the movie down with it; when in fact it required somebody who could chew on the scenery raw, like say Nicolas Cage. Luke Evans does what he can but Brendan Gleeson is somehow left with little to do. Plus, the derivative story does not make any kind of sense with its cliched damsel in distress.
"Sleepless Night" starts with Vincent(Tomer Sisley) and Manuel(Laurent… More"Sleepless Night" starts with Vincent(Tomer Sisley) and Manuel(Laurent Stocker) robbing an illegal drug shipment. Since one of the victims brought a knife to a gun fight, things do not go perfectly as Vincent is stabbed and there is one dead. That is now one crime that Vincent and Manuel have to investigate in their day job as police detectives. Oh, and Jose Marciano(Serge Riaboukine) would very much like his drugs back, if it is not too much trouble, as he has Vincent's son Thomas(Samy Seghir). The exchange would have gone well if Vignali(Lizzie Brochere), an internal affairs detective, had not been trailing him and moved the drugs from its hiding spot. She reports all of this to Lacombe(Julien Boisselier), her supervisor, who is in cahoots with Manuel.
"Sleepless Night" proves that all you need for a well-crafted lean and mean crime thriller is some drugs, guns and one cool location, plus maybe a sense of humor. Of course, you have to keep the plates spinning non-stop which this movie does with a great deal of skill. Plus, it helps that all the depserate characters each have their specific motivations. However, there is a twist half way through the movie that takes some of the edge off but nobody's perfect. And by the end, I realized that for a movie involving a kidnapped child, this movie is surprisingly not mawkish in also being about a father's love for his son.
Upon turning 21, Tim(Domhnall Gleeson) gets The Talk from his… MoreUpon turning 21, Tim(Domhnall Gleeson) gets The Talk from his father(Bill Nighy). No, not that one. The one about the men of their family all being time travelers. Tim is naturally skeptical until he takes a test run and undoes an embarrassing moment at a New Year's Eve party. However, that trick does him no good with Charlotte(Margot Robbie). But then it turns out he may not need time travel after all to find love when he meets Mary(Rachel McAdams) which would be considered love at first sight if it did not happen in a blacked out restaurant.
"About Time" does have certain things going for it such as a totally relatable couple for a change and showing everybody the right way to do a musical montage sequence. But like Richard Curtis' previous film, the bloated, if entertaining, "Love, Actually," he again proves his willingness to overstuff a romantic comedy to the brim. This time, he adds time travel into the mix but except for one strange detail does not do anything original with it, as Tim seems content to stalk in the fourth dimension. That's not to mention the whole business with Tim saving Harry's(Tom Hollander) play being so contrived, since Harry is such a pompous jackass that the Dalai Lama would not even help him. For the record, that sort of is par for the course in "About Time" whose central message is that women can only find true happiness in the most boring man possible, as Tim's dad uses time travel to catch up on his reading.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" starts with Katniss… More"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" starts with Katniss Everdeen(Jennifer Lawrence) saying her goodbyes to Gale(Liam Hemsworth) before departing on her victory tour with Peeta(Josh Hutcherson). But first President Snow(Donald Sutherland) has a quiet word with her to make sure she stays on script. After that lasts all of five minutes, Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee(Philip Seymour Hoffman), the new gamekeeper, formulate a new fiendish plan while stroking their chins. So, it turns out that Haymitch Abernathy(Woody Harrelson) picked the right week to not give up drinking heavily...
Like any halfway decent sequel, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" continues its story in fine fashion while raising the stakes and budget without as many surprises but with new characters and shifting alliances.(It becomes increasingly clear that Elizabeth Banks is simply no Jim Rash.) Even while choosing her spots, Katniss has less to do this time around, especially in having less control as to who she wants to be with.(The elemental threats in the arena are a clear sign of this.) As the movie puts it, that just gets to show you that no one individual is bigger than the revolution or the state, which is sometimes the same thing, especially with the Panem coming to resemble the Soviet Union. However, with a dystopian society like this one where the seams are starting to literally show, it would help if the world building was not just production values but better detailed in this otherwise rewarding film.