Archive for the ‘Matthew McConaughey’ Category

BOOK: Sycamore Row by John Grisham (2013)

February 26, 2014

sycarmoreI’m not a big John Grisham reader — over the years, I’ve probably only picked up two or three of his books and while I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve never really been full-on bitten by the Grisham bug.  I’ve seen almost all of the movies based on his novels, though, and typically have liked them better than the books they were based on — as with Stephen King, I’ve often felt Grisham is a better storyteller than he is a writer.

I picked this one up, in fact, because I had just seen the Matthew McConaughey film A Time to Kill recently for the first time in years, and I had forgotten how good it was. For those who have forgotten or never saw the film/read the book, that story is about a young  Mississippi lawyer, Jake Brigance, defending a black father, Carl Lee Hailey, on trial for capital murder after killing the two racists who brutally assault his little girl.

Sycamore Row is a sequel to A Time to Kill, picking up a few years later.  Brigance is enjoying a booming career, thanks to his success in the Carl Lee Hailey case.  Also thanks to that case, he’s become the most trusted advocate for African American families in the region. It’s that reputation that undoubtedly made Seth Hubbard choose Jake to be the executor of his estate — a selection Brigance discovers the day after Hubbard’s suicide, when he receives a letter from the dead man in the mail.  The letter tells Jake to read the enclosed document — a handwritten will — but keep it a secret until the day after his funeral.   Then Jake is to file it with the court and get ready to defend it tooth and nail.  Why?  Because first Seth Hubbard changed his mind, and then he changed his will — his estate, all $24 million of it, is no longer to be equally divided up amongst his two (bratty) children, but instead to be given, almost in full, to his black housekeeper Lettie Lang.


As soon as the funeral is over, a huge legal battle erupts as the family members ousted by the new will try to claw their way back in.  Their father was dying of cancer and had prescriptions for heavy-duty pain medications; he can’t possibly have been in his right mind when he wrote this cuckoo-crazy new will, they argue.  Add to that the fact a previous employer of Lettie’s, another elderly person, had done almost the same thing decades earlier, not to mention Lettie’s no-good husband’s massive gambling debts, and it sure looks like Lettie may have intentionally influenced Seth’s choices at the end when he was blitzed on medication and blinded by intractable pain.

Yet as Jake and his old mentor Lucian look into the past for answers, the reason Hubbard made the decision he did becomes clear.  It’s a decision rooted in guilt over an incident a generation before his own, involving both the Hubbard and Lang families, a plot of land, and a hangin’ tree.  Over the span of the novel’s story, as more is revealed both about the past and about the present, the question becomes less, “Does Lettie Lang deserve the money?” and more “Will the people of Clanton —  white OR black — stand for letting a black woman become the richest person in town?”  The answer to the former might be an easy “yes,” but the answer to the latter is a whole lot more complicated — especially in Ford County, Mississippi.

Despite the fact Grisham goes a little overboard here and there with the drudgery of probate law (I mean, thanks for striving for realism, and all, but you could strive for a little less realism next time, sir. Because: zzzzzzz . . .), this is a really entertaining, well-written novel.  It clearly sets up the Brigance character for future novels, as well — something I’d definitely welcome after reading this one.  Solid, entertaining, and thought-provoking.



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MOVIE: Mud (2013)

June 12, 2013

mudEllis and his BFF Neckbone (“Neck” for short, because: obvs), are 14 year-old boys growing up poor in Arkansas.  Ellis lives on a houseboat on the Mississippi — his father is a fisherman — and he and Neck spend a lot of their free time zipping up and down the waterways in a boat, exploring the myriad islands that pepper the region.

One day, Neck takes Ellis to one of those island, eager to show him a discovery.  Out exploring, see, he’d come across the coolest thing — a big speedboat (I guess; I know naught of boats) stuck at the top of a tree, probably in the aftermath of a flood.  Excited to have found what amounts to a free tree house, the boys climb up and begin to explore, only to find the lower deck stocked with fresh food, a sure sign someone else got there first.

Just minutes later, they meet exactly whom — a tall, lanky, grubby-looking character named Mud (McConaughey).  Though Neck is wary, Ellis is immediately taken in by Mud’s personality, and his story.  He’s there, he tells the boys, waiting for the love of his life, Juniper (Witherspoon), to show up so the two of them can run away together.  The hitch?  He killed her last boyfriend in a fight — protecting Juniper, he says — and that guy’s extremely violent family is out for revenge.  What he needs is for Ellis and Neck to get him the supplies necessary to get the boat down and running again, and to find Juniper and pass her a few notes about the plan.

Neck is pretty “no way,” but Ellis, currently watching his parents’ marriage — and thus his whole world — crumble around him, is inspired by Mud’s yarns of everlasting love in the face of strife.  Which is how he quickly finds himself smack in the middle of Mud’s problems, danger (physical and emotional) and all.

This is a really beautifully made and thoughtful film, with astonishingly solid acting chops on both the boys at its helm.  The kid who plays Ellis in particular (Tye Sheridan) exhibits an incredible depth in a very 14 year-old sort of way (“I know everything, I am brave; I know nothing, I am afraid” is how I would describe that way).  The river as metaphor for the unknown, unforeseeable, and slightly scary paths we travel as we grow up works as well as it always does (think Huck Finn).

McConaughey employs his usual charms here, but this time with a hint of the unbalanced thrown in for good measure and to good effect.  He also gets an A for effort at looking ugly, never easy for him, though in putting in the crooked teeth, they might’ve made them slightly less Tony-Curtis-in-The-Great-Race white (*gleam*).  Mud is a complicated man with a complicated past, and he’s battling a set of very serious demons, as well as more than one delusion.  Watching Ellis get sucked into the “romance” of Mud’s life, only to get a series of smacks in the face from reality in response, is an incredibly gripping and moving experience.

Also:  Sam Shepard.  ‘Nuff said.

Highly, highly recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Drama
Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Tye Sheridan, Joe Don Baker, Jacob Lofland

MOVIE: The Lincoln Laywer (2011)

March 31, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a decent legal thriller, and even longer since I’ve seen Matthew McConaughey in anything particularly good, so when reviews of this movie came out and many of my favorite critics said it was fun, I was game.

And fun it is.  While the plot is nothing terribly original and definitely has a few weak spots (for example, when your friend is murdered while investigating something specific, it’s a pretty safe bet that the something-specific is what got him killed — you might want to start there, dummy), overall I found the film really entertaining and McConaughey thoroughly charming as its star.

Matty plays Mick Halter, a rich LA defense lawyer whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln town car, and whose license plate sums up both his track record and his cocky personality:  NTGUILTY.

He mostly specializes in getting bad guys off, living in perpetual fear of the day he’s forced to defend an innocent man and fails.  But when his pal Val (John Leguizamo), a bail bondsman, asks him to take the case of a super-rich young man accused of assault (Ryan Phillippe), Mick quickly realizes his greatest fear may be coming to pass.  The kid, Louis Roulet, seems innocent — his story makes sense, the woman accusing him is a known prostitute trying to get enough money to get out of the biz, and there’s even security camera footage that supports Louis’s description of what went down.

Things get complicated, though, when Mick discovers a connection between this case and one of his old ones.  A man he’d defended years ago and talked into taking a plea for a life sentence — in an attempt to avoid the death penalty — was accused of a crime that looked and sounded a lot like the crime Louis is accused of.  What’s the connection?  Who’s innocent and who’s guilty?  One?  Both?  Someone else altogether?

Though all the “twists” at the end were predictable and all-too-familiar to anyone who reads mysteries regularly (this flick’s based on a novel by Michael Connelly, by the way), I still found this movie good escapist fun.  McConaughey is great in this kind of part — intelligent, arrogant, and thrown for a loop — and the casting of Marisa Tomei, a middle-aged woman with wrinkles and everything!, as Mick’s ex-wife and occasional lover was utterly refreshing.  How nice to see a movie about a handsome guy dating a woman HIS OWN AGE!  Hear that, Harrison Ford?  Yeah, whatever, dude.

All in all, definitely a great way to spend an afternoon.  You can probably wait for the DVD to come out, since there’s nothing that spectacular about it visually, but it’s definitely worth watching somewhere, some how, some day for sure.  Recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston

MOVIE: Tropic Thunder (2008)

January 14, 2009

tropicthunderI actually saw this movie about two weeks ago, but I’ve been struggling with what I should say about it in a public forum.  Because here’s the problem with this movie:  it is soooooo very wrong.  SO VERY WRONG.  In sooooo many ways.  SO MANY WAYS.

And yet, oh my holy heckfire, was I ever dyin’ all the way through it, laughin’ so hard.  I actually started to get kind of hoarse by the end of the movie because I had been letting loose with so many throaty guffaws the entire way through.   Now that’s laughing, people!  Laughed so hard I done nearly broke my vocal cords!

In case you haven’t heard, this movie is about a group of actors hired to make a Vietnam war flick.  Out in the jungle somewhere (Laos?  Vietnam?  I can’t remember if/where they said they were), the actors are doing an absolutely abysmal job of it.  Only five days into production, they’re already “a month behind schedule” (heh), and everybody is getting frustrated, from the key grip to the studio head, a balding guy with major anger management issues played (in what has to be one of the most brilliant PR moves of all time) by Mr. Tom Cruise.

Yes, you read that right.  And damned if he wasn’t just awesome in this too.

The inspiration for the movie-within-the-movie is a memoir written by a Vietnam vet named Four Leaf (Nolte) who has accompanied the film team on location.  Annoyed with the pussyfooting around, Four Leaf convinces the director that if he wants his actors to get the job done right, he ought to fly them into the middle of nowhere in the jungle and leave them there for a few days, so they can see first-hand what surviving in that place is like.  The director agrees.  And things go rapidly downhill from there.

So very, very downhill.

The cast consists of Jack Black as a bleached-blond junkie primarily known for a series of comedies about flatulence, Ben Stiller as a rapidly-washing-up action movie hero, Robert Downey Jr. as a white actor playing an African American character (totally something I think ONLY RDJ could’ve pulled off successfully, god bless ‘im), Brandon T. Jackson as an actual African American playing an African American (his banter with RDJ is ridiculously funny), and Jay Baruchel as the rookie who also happens to be the only one of the group who showed up for the “boot camp” training before filming started.  In other words, the only one in the group who can read a map.

What happens after the gang is dropped into the trees is just weird and silly and ridiculous and hilarious.  But I still hesitate to express just how much I liked this movie just because it’s also sooooo irreverent in regards to soooooo many things that it almost makes me feel like I must be a horrible person for laughing so hard at it.  I am comforted if I think of it solely as a spoof of war movies.  But I’m pretty sure I’m still going to hell for recommending this movie.  Meh, life — it is such.

Recommended!  And make sure to watch the “previews” at the beginning of the movie — the sad thing is I would TOTALLY rent Scorcher VI.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Comedy, War
Cast:  Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Tom Cruise, Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Matthew McConaughey

MOVIE: Reign of Fire (2002)

February 11, 2008

You guys are never gonna believe this, but guess what! I loved this movie! Now wait, don’t get me wrong — there are about 86,000 things about this flick that I found totally and completely stupid. However, unlike with other dumb movies I’ve seen recently (ahem, Equilibrium, ahem), the really stupid parts of this one weren’t intrusive enough to distract me out of enjoying myself. Lovely!

The movie opens in London with a little boy named Quinn hanging out with his mom who works in a mine of some sort. He’s down there playing in the tunnels one day when he stumbles across, and I guess wakes up?, an enormous creature. At first, he has no idea what it is, but a few moments later, it emerges from the tunnel, flapping its wings and breathing fire, and to anybody who’s ever read a fairy tale, it’s immediately clear we’ve got a dragon on the loose. An hour later, everyone in the mine but Quinn is dead, including his mother, and man, do things go downhill quickly from there.

The next thing the human race knows, there are hundreds, thousands of dragons flying around the world turning everything they encounter into ash. At first, the humans try to kill them, but it soon becomes clear their conventional weapons are no good. At a loss for anything else to do, a few countries launch nuclear attacks. But, of course, as anybody with half a brain could’ve predicted (not that the government ever listens to anybody with half a brain, or a whole brain, for that matter), instead of wiping out the dragons, they pretty much finish off the rest of the planet.

Cut to about 15 or 20 years later, and now Quinn (Christian Bale) is all grown up and living in a stone castle (good idea — harder to burn your house if it’s made out of rocks) with a group of fellow survivors. He and his best friend Creedy (the utterly gorgeous Gerard Butler) spend their days struggling to keep their people clothed, warm, and fed, and their evenings reenacting scenes from classic movies for the entertainment of the group’s two dozen or so children (loved the Star Wars scene, by the way!).

For the most part, the group is muddling through. But they’re about to run out of food, and options, and they remain under constant attack by a group of local dragons that keep them from growing many crops or wandering too far from home.

However, lucky for the doomed Brits, they’re in a movie that’s clearly been modeled on World War II flicks, and soon the Americans are storming in with a group of tanks, a helicopter, a bunch of weapons, and a cigar-butt-chompin’, Southern-drawlin’ leader named Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey, totally having a blast with this role). Van Zan is determined to do more than just survive and he needs Quinn’s men to help him do it. At first, Quinn refuses to let any of his people risk their lives for what he thinks is a preposterous idea (killing the Germans — oops, I mean “dragons” — instead of just trying to stay away from them). But the more he sees Van Zan do, the more he starts to believe there might be a way out of this mess after all.

Now, there are a TON of things about this movie that made no sense whatsoever, and one of the primary ones was where in the hell they were getting all their fuel. The helicopter flies around constantly, not to mention the trucks, tanks, and motorcycles that are zooming around all the time, and yet fuel is never even mentioned, despite the fact it’s now almost 20 years after the apocalypse, and the dragons have set the entire planet on fire. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure fire is, like, really bad for fuel. And if the whole world’s been burned, where are they getting all this gasoline? They clearly aren’t storing it in huge tanks next to their castle, where the dragons are going to ignite and then blow it up. But there’s not exactly a functional Shell station down the street either.

Then there’s Van Zan’s plan to wipe the dragons out — he’s figured out that all the dragons they see are women, and that there’s only ONE male dragon, living in London, fertilizing all the eggs by himself. (Incidentally, Big Daddy Dragon is the same one Quinn awoke as a boy, the same one that killed his mother — so we know right away where that part of the story is headed, right?) Anyway, what this means is that if they can kill the Big Kahuna, they can wipe out the entire dragon race.

But, wait — there’s ONE MALE DRAGON for the whole Earth’s worth of dragons? Seriously? There were about 300 dragons alone in just one region of London — you’re telling me ONE MALE DRAGON is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dragons around the world?

No sir, I don’t believe it.

Not only that, but the way this storyline actually plays out at the very end also made no sense at all — I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody, though. For those of you who have seen the movie, I’m referring to the final final scene, set three months after the denouement. The scene in which there also needed to be kissing and wasn’t, by the way. Just another minor bone I wanted to pick. Not even a peck on the cheek to entertain the ladies in the audience? I was bitter.

Oh, and one more thing I just have to mention because it keeps showing up everywhere lately (including last week’s episode of Lost) — the word is CAVALRY, people, not CALVARY. Look it up.

The funny thing about this movie for me, though, was that even though there were all these things (and more!) that made no sense — things no less dumb than, say, the stuff that made me crazy in Equilibrium — I still enjoyed the beheysoos out of this movie. Sometimes movies that are full of cheesy, lame stuff or plot points that are illogical are really hard for me to enjoy. I get annoyed and I can’t relax into the story because I’m so distracted by the flaws. But other times, the problems just don’t seem to get in my way, and that was really the case with Reign of Fire.

In short, it’s kinda silly, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. And, since I know you are going to ask, I’ll just come out and tell you that I also thoroughly enjoyed Bale in this flick, and realized halfway through that the difference was all about his accent. I think the reason he makes me nuts in all his other movies is that American accent he so often does — it makes him hold his mouth funny and both sound and LOOK funny, as though he’s trying to force the words out through a throat full of marbles.

But here, he’s speaking in his natural voice, and though his mouth was also partially covered by facial hair, I just never found anything about him distracting at all (well, you know, except for his naked torso — that was kind of distracting, I will confess. Mrrrrrowl!).

What’s more, I finally started to understand why it is you guys all love him so much. I was thoroughly charmed by Bale in this movie, and though I’m still nowhere close to wanting to make him a Boyfriend of the Week, I do suddenly find myself giving the idea a little more consideration. If you guys have any other favorite Bale movies in which he uses his natural accent instead of the American one, post them in comments and I’ll be sure to check them out soon.

All in all, major thumbs up for me on this one, and I thank you guys for finally talking me into giving it a try, because I truly had a great time chillin’ out with the fire-breathing beasts this weekend. Yahoo!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Fantasy/War
Cast: Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco, Scott Moutter

Actual Boyfriends in the News Post!

October 16, 2007

Since I named this blog “Boyfriends in the News,” I figured maybe it was about time I actually posted some news about old Boyfriends of the Week.

For example, did y’all hear about Kiefer Sutherland?  He just pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of DUI (arrested in September) and violation of his five-year probation (a sentence granted after his DUI arrest in 2006).  Whoopsie!  Now rumors say he may serve up to EIGHTEEN WHOLE DAYS in jail. 

Dude, I’ve seen 24 — I know what can happen to that man in a single day.  So I can only imagine what EIGHTEEN of them in the slammer is going to be like.  I feel bad for his cellmate, who will surely be killed by a noxious gas or deadly virus right off the bat.   That’ll teach him a lesson about recidivism. . .

Maybe they should see if Wentworth “Permasmirk” Miller can cameo in season 7 of 24?  Set it in Panama, have it be about breaking out of prison, and see if we can’t get 24 to jump the shark AGAIN this year?

I also have some news about Adrien Brody that’s kind of interesting.  He’s just signed on to do a sci-fi movie called Spliced that’ll be about a scientist who makes funky new creatures by combining human and animal DNA.  I’ve always said Adrien had a beak for a nose. . . typecasting?  You be the judge.

This week’s Entertainment Weekly issue, by the way, is the annual “photo” one, which typically features lots of lovely photographs of all the celebrities they’ve written about in the last year.  Many of those celebrities tend to be ex- or future-Boyfriends, so I always enjoy this issue.  Until this year, anyway.  This year, they decided to feature fewer photos of people, and more photos of stuff we could care less about, like the gas station in Little Miss Sunshine, a pair of eyeglasses from To Kill a Mockingbird (that’s my favorite film, and I STILL don’t feel the need to see a photo of those eyeglasses), and Forest Gump’s leg brace.  Seriously?  The photo of the LMS gas station was a TWO-PAGE spread, for pity’s sake.  It must’ve been a dry year for EW’s photo department, huh?

In fact, I dare say the only interesting photo in the entire batch was the one of Matthew McConaughey. . . WEARING A SHIRT.  A rare moment, captured on film for all eternity.  The rest of the issue?  A total wash.