Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (2/16/14 - 2/22/14)

Dallas Buyers Club (Jean Marc Vallee) ***1/2 - Matthew McConaughey does indeed give a spectacular performance as Ron Woodroof, a man who finds out he's dying of AIDS and decides to form a "buyer's club" for potentially life-saving drugs not approved by the FDA. He is backed by an excellent supporting cast including Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner. The film itself is no masterpiece but just a solid AIDS drama. I actually looked up the real story after watching this and I found out that the real Ron Woodroof wasn't really the homophobe and was actually bisexual. But as a writer, I understood the change since it made the film more interesting and compelling with that arc. The alleged inaccuracy doesn't change the fact that McConaughey's committed performance is really something to see.

The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks (Edgar Neville) *** - Gabe Klinger was tweeting recommendations during the KG Freeleech event a few weeks ago (if you don't get those, I won't explain). These are one of the titles he suggested which I picked because it's the strangest title. I've never heard of it before. It's a Spanish film from 1944. It's about a superstitious young man who is approached by the ghost of a murdered professor who wishes him to protect his beloved niece. Where do the hunchbacks figure in? Well, that's the mystery. It goes through a lot of twists and turns with quite a few surprising laughs along the way. The third act becomes a bit German Expressionist but unfortunately, the film ends way too abruptly for my taste. It's still worth seeing.

Nebraska (Alexander Payne) ***1/2 - I personally don't think Alexander Payne has made a TRULY great film since Election. He's made very good films, just not QUITE great. This continues his streak. But it's still a very, very good film. This is thanks to a trio of great performances. Bruce Dern is of course terrific as the elderly man who wants to go to Nebraska to claim the million dollars he believes he's won from a magazine. Will Forte shows that he's more than just "MacGruber" giving us a taste of what he's capable. But for me, it's June Squibb who steals the show. She just livens up the film every time she shows up. I have to say that the film toes a fine line between celebrating the idiosyncracies of American Midwestern people and just making fun of them. That said, there's still plenty to admire about in this film.

Philomena (Stephen Frears) ***1/2 - This film was a very pleasant surprise. I didn't think I would like it as much as I did. It's middlebrow Oscar-bait. The type the Weinstein Company finances to win Oscars. I'm pretty much wary of it. I tend to see it with a very critical eye. But it eventually won me over due to Judi Dench's wonderful performance and a surprisingly funny yet honest screenplay. Contrary to what some people may say, as a Catholic, I didn't think it was anti-Catholic. Judi Dench's Philomena is a devout Catholic who is full of love and very endearing. It is a wonderful little film. I actually knew the outcome but that didn't stop me from getting misty-eyed.

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