Sunday, July 31, 2011


Written by Dan Fogelman
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

Jacob: Be better than the Gap.

Well, I'll give them "crazy" and "stupid" but that's pretty much where the love stops for me. CRAZY STUPID LOVE is yet another romantic comedy that gets lost in all the crazy highs and stupid lows we have all come to associate with that elusive and all-encompassing emotion we call love. And while love certainly causes all of us to exercise poor judgment from time to time without question, a good chunk of us still crave its complexity regardless. We've all certainly been there but hopefully when we were there, we were nowhere near as pathetic as this ensemble comedy is.

CRAZY STUPID LOVE is the second directorial effort from duo, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS), and even though two heads should be better than one, you would think no one was in charge from how aimless and tired this plot plays out. Their choices, whey they actually make some, are simple enough for any love struck idiot to understand. We know from the moment the film starts that the love is gone for Cal and Emily (Steve Carell and Julianne Moore) by what they're wearing on their feet. Everyone at the restaurant is playing footsie under the table with their fancy footwear except for these two. Cal is wearing running shoes so we know that he's given up trying. He also drinks from a straw and his wife does the driving so we know he's a sad man. At one point, they end up in an argument in a school parking lot, shortly after it looks like they might reconcile no less, and it begins to rain down heavily on Carell after Moore walks away from him dramatically. "What a cliche," he exclaims and I could not have agreed any more.

After Cal and Emily separate at the beginning of the film, Cal tries to get back out there. This is where he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a smooth operator, who for some inexplicable reason, takes pity on Cal and decides to help him become a real man. Of course, becoming a man people can respect means buying into a world of materialism and detachment, two paths that certainly do not lead to love. As fantastic as it is to watch Gosling let loose for a change, it is clear from the start that ultimately it will be his womanizing ways that will need adjusting in order for him to find true happiness, especially if he intends to land the beautiful Hannah (Emma Stone). And as if there weren't enough tumultuous sub-plots intersecting already, screenwriter, Dan Fogelman (TANGLED), gives us a few more love conundrums to ponder involving a babysitter with an inappropriate crush, a 13-year-old lovesick boy and Kevin Bacon. The point is to distract and make us laugh but all it does is weight the whole project down with heavy awkwardness.

I will not pretend to know too much about love. It seems to me it comes in many different forms and we can only know what it does to us as individuals when we're in it. I can say that my experience has been that it is a transformative emotion well worth every pain that comes with it. It is tricky enough to navigate in the real world though and hard to take seriously in a world as contrived as the one created in CRAZY STUPID LOVE. While Ficarra and Requa attempt to convey how our modern society has made it even more difficult to find love and hold on to it once we have it, they still hold true to the archaic notion that we all have one perfect partner, a "soul mate" if you will, waiting out there for us to find. As far as love in the present day goes, that notion is about as stupid and crazy as they come.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Written by Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus
and Hawk Otsby
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde

Jake Lonergan: I don't want any trouble.

Aliens have tried to take over our planet dozens of times in the movies already. Every time they do, it seems like they always choose major metropolitan areas and the setting is always current day. While I’m sure there are exceptions to these rules, who is to say that aliens couldn’t plot their attack a couple of hundred years ago? They’re aliens; they’re advanced; they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. And if you think you’d be scared if aliens decided to attack us today, imagine what it would have been like for a cowboy in 1837 to come face to face with one of these massive monsters. Imagine that real good and you’ve got yourself a new breed of alien movie, you’ve got COWBOYS AND ALIENS.

Director Jon Favreau tows a very fine line between these two genres to ensure that he is somehow loyal to both without sacrificing much from either side. Like a good Western, it starts out quiet and lonesome. A man wakes up in the desert, bleeding from what he presumes is a gunshot in his side, with no recollection of who he is and with a bizarre metal bracelet around his left wrist unlike anything he has ever seen. As it turns out, this man is Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and he is wanted for a bevy of assorted crimes, not the least of which is the murder of his former lover (Abigail Spencer). Jake moseys into a nearby town and right before he causes too much damage, a strange light appears in the sky. The whole town looks on as if a miracle is about to take place. Why wouldn’t they? They’ve never seen an alien disaster movie before so how could they possibly know what horror was in store for them?

The concept of COWBOYS AND ALIENS is so strong and while Favreau has crafted a sturdy blend of the two film worlds, there is something inherently amiss about the combination. One genre is often subdued and subtle while the other is loud and raucous. At times, the differences are too far apart to fully come together, like it wants to take flight but its too heavy to get off the ground. The pace picks up once the story crosses from cowboy loner to invasion survivors banding together. Craig is joined by typical tough guy, Harrison Ford, who is obviously enjoying himself a great deal in the part and Olivia Wilde, who just seems like she enjoys being window dressing way too much. Regardless, along with a few other determined town folk, they set off to take on the invading army with everything they’ve got, which admittedly is not much. This is where Favreau finds the commonality that ties the genres together – the endurance of the human spirit and the need to persevere.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


When I woke up this morning, I still didn't know. Even by the time I was sitting amongst friends at the TIFF 2011 press conference, I still had no idea whether my press accreditation request would go through or not. By the time I got home though, my confirmation e-mail was sitting pretty at the top of my inbox. There may have been an exuberant jig around my living room, I can't be sure.

What a great year to be covering TIFF. It is their 36th and they continue to outdo themselves. Sure, I've only been going to TIFF for going on five years now, and can't really say what the previous 30 were like, but it feels to me like they up the excitement every year. And this year is no exception.

TIFF co-directors, Cameron Bailey and Piers Handling announced a hefty handful of the films that will screen at this year's festival to dozens upon dozens of journalists and one Sarah Polley. Among the gala presentations, of which only half were announced this morning, there are already five I cannot wait to see. David Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD stars Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keria Knightley and looks at the complicated triangle between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and a patient they shared. Bennett Miller finally follows up his brilliant debut, CAPOTE, with the Brad Pitt baseball true story, MONEYBALL, also starring Jonah Hill. George Clooney's latest directorial effort, THE IDES OF MARCH, gets political and stars Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The aforementioned Polley, gets behind the camera again for TAKE THIS WALTZ, a relationship comedy starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen. And the one and only Madonna will hold the North American premiere of what is being billed as her directorial debut, W.E., at TIFF. She put out a feature previously (FILTH & WISDOM) but we're apparently pretending like that didn't happen.

Oh my God ... I might meet Madonna. Again, oh my God.

42 Special Presentation announcements took place today, which represents a good chunk of them from what I understand. New films from directors like Pedro Almodovar, Fernando Meirelles, Alexander Payne, Lars von Trier and Francis Ford Coppola will screen as part of this series. Amongst the other titles, I am most excited for 50/50, the cancer comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen; FRIENDS WITH KIDS, a contemporary comedy with Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig; JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME, from the guys who brought us CYRUS; SHAME, Steve McQueen's follow up to the brilliant, HUNGER, staring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan; the much talked about and mega hyped up DRIVE, starring Ryan Gosling; and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, only because that is all I remember people talking about at Cannes.

TIFF is also getting it's rock and roll on this year. For the first time in its history, a documentary will open the festival and this one is about one of the biggest bands in the world - U2. Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award winning director of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, which screened at TIFF last year, returns with FROM THE SKY DOWN, a look back at "Achtung Baby", one of U2's more definitive releases. And if that isn't enough rock for you, Cameron Crowe will be holding the world premiere of his rockumentary, PEARL JAM TWENTY, a portrait of the band throughout their 20-year career.

Other tidbits from today's conference include the announcement that the Princess of Wales Theatre has been added to the venue list this year for large premieres and that TIFF Bell Lightbox will be stepping up its presence at the festival this year, now that it has a year's experience under its belt. There will also be increased public screenings during the day and something respectful is being planned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, as the date falls during the festival. Finally, all of TIFF's marketing is being done in-house for the first time this year and they have given us, "See it happen here." This is TIFF's new slogan and it is meant to encourage discovery of new films and artists.

There are 10 more Galas to be announced still and now that I know I will have full access to all of them, I can't wait to find out what they are! Now, if you will excuse me, I believe another jig is in order.

For more information, please visit

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Directed by James Marsh

Nim Chimpsky was born before I was and I can’t say I had ever really heard of this famous chimpanzee before PROJECT NIM, James Marsh’s follow up to his Oscar winning documentary, MAN ON WIRE. You only have to meet Nim once though to be completely taken in by his antics and thoroughly impressed by his abilities. Nim was born into a science experiment that would shape his entire life and before he died of a heart attack at 26 years old, he would be known to millions as the chimp who could talk to people.

Marsh has a wealth of archival footage at his disposal for PROJECT NIM and he makes great use of it, integrating passionate interviews and some respectfully recreated footage into the fold. As a result, Marsh is able to introduce his audience to Nim at as early a stage as two weeks old, when he was taken from his mother and placed into a family of nine. The hypothesis that Nim would either prove or disprove would frame the argument for nature vs. nurture. What if a chimpanzee was raised in a family as if one of their own? Would he adopt their practices and more importantly, would he learn to speak with them? Marsh then introduces us to the multitude of people who would play temporary caretaker to Nim over the years, from the mother who would first take him in and let him roam free on her hippy-esque commune, to the teachers who would never be the same for having spent time with him. Dedication to this animal is quite high considering how many times he has bitten these very same people.

For no other reason other than natural growth and progress, Nim eventually became too big and too potentially volatile to continue the experiment. Before it would end though, Nim would be able to use sign language to express dozens of words and, more importantly, it would appear that he would be able to string those words together to express actual thoughts. Nim’s transition to more traditional chimpanzee captivity environments would prove especially difficult. This is a chimp that has always been a part of the family and now he was living behind bars. It is a cruelty that would ordinarily seem socially acceptable if it weren’t for all that Nim had come to know in his life. He was always surrounded by love, which itself gave the chimp something of an ego, but now it was as though he was discarded by everyone he ever knew. And so animal cruelty would go from being seen as a purely physical act to emotionally damaging as well.

Marsh presents PROJECT NIM as succinctly as he can and allows his audience to gage what they consider to be cruel all on their own. His subject choices continue to show a fascination with the colorful and the eccentric and he proves with this project that he is a strong voice in today’s vast documentary landscape. By introducing us to Nim, he reminds us of the dangers of using animals for our own advancement, no matter how well intentioned we may be. Teaching Nim was the focus but it was actually Nim who would teach those he touched about themselves and their own baser instincts they may not have been aware of. And now, thanks to Marsh, many more will be able to learn these same lessons.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving

Peggy Carter: You can't give me orders.
Captain America: The hell I can't; I'm a captain.

I was weary of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER before watching it but still optimistic. After all, I had been very pleasantly surprised by previous Avenger installments, IRON MAN and THOR. I had not expected either of those to be anywhere near as good as they were so the captain could still impress. So what if Joe Johnston, who has not made a solid film since 1991’s THE ROCKETEER, directed it? Who cares if it stars Chris Evans, who’s never done anything more memorable on film other than take off his shirt? And why should it matter that the film is coming in at the tail end of mounting audience superhero exhaustion? Unfortunately, all of these potential detriments come together quite nicely to create a disaster worthy of being called captain.

Johnston takes a decidedly cartoonish approach to the iconic superhero, which could work given the film’s comic book origins but just comes off as amateurish. Before Captain America dons the uniform and shield he is known for, he was nothing more than a scrawny, scrappy boy trying to fight for his country. This is a problem as Evans is nothing if not a fine male specimen. To make Evans look that pathetic, his face was digitally plastered onto a smaller man’s body. The intention is good; the emotional attachment to the character would not have followed through the film if he were played by someone else in these earlier scenes. The execution is not great though as he looks more like a bobble-head than anything else. Throw in Stanley Tucci’s ridiculous German accent, the mad science experiments complete with sparks and electrical currents running through the air and Hugo Weaving with a red skull for a head and you’ve got a film desperate for credibility that undermines itself at every turn.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER had to happen to properly set up all the steps towards THE AVENGERS. I’m sure Evans will fit in just fine amongst those guys next year but for now, he feels trapped in a project that never comes together. Comic book movies are big movies; they need to play to wide audiences to justify their budgets but as gigantic as the comic book movie business has become, it does not mean that every one translates well to film. A different director might have made the difference here as there are semi-interesting themes that were only partially explored but Johnston tries too hard to appease the fans and the masses at the same time, which ultimately alienates both groups. Captain America has to prove himself for the longest time but thanks to this film, he only proves himself to be a joke.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Will Gluck
Directed by Will Gluck
Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis and Woody Harrelson

Dylan: Why do relationships start out so fun and then turn into such a bag of dicks?

Dating is complicated. The scene today can be so cold and callous that most people in it are forced to disengage emotionally from it in order to survive. Enter Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in FRIENDS WITH BENFITS, director Will Gluck’s follow-up to last fall’s breakout comedy, EASY A. They have a plan that will save everyone from the walls they’ve erected around their hearts by using those walls as the foundation for their mating practices. The logic is that if you’re already emotionally messed up, then you can avoid further damage by not involving emotion anymore. Voila! Dating oversimplified.

Timberlake and Kunis play Dylan and Jamie, two New York City singles at the top of their professional games who have essentially taken themselves off the market to preserve their already battered hearts. They click instantly when they meet and the fast friends decide they should take advantage of their natural chemistry and see if it translates in the bedroom, except without all the mushy stuff. Once they get going, they can’t get enough of each other but is it the sex they’re addicted to or is it each other?

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS tries very hard to disassociate itself from your typical romantic comedy but doesn’t realize that it actually plays into most of that genre’s conventions simultaneously. Fortunately, Timberlake and Kunis are adorable together; their chemistry and comedic timing endears the viewer to their plight, however trite it is, and saves the film from total cliché. Still, the light, casual tone of their relationship, I mean, arrangement, permeates to the rest of the film, making it just as tricky for us to connect emotionally as it is for Dylan and Jamie. It may be about a casual sexual relationship but it plays out more like a one-night stand.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Written by Leslie Dixon
Directed by Neil Burger
Starring Bradley Cooper Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro

Carl van Loon: So Eddie Morra, what's your secret?
Eddie Morra: Medication.

Drugs are bad. While that is generally the rule, how can anything that allows you to access the full potential of your brain actually be bad for you? Well, it can if the mere idea of it inspires a film as base as LIMITLESS. This Bradley Cooper starring vehicle (Cooper also executive produced the project) certainly places the budding Hollywood star front and center for all to see and admire, but when you’re surrounded by as much garbage as Cooper is in this film, you eventually stink just as bad.

Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a writer who doesn’t write, a man who barely appears to shower. Through happenstance, he runs into a former in-law and former drug dealer, only the latter is actually not so former. This is how Eddie comes to start taking NZT. He thinks its F.D.A. approved so we can’t really judge him, but he quickly finds out there is no way this drug is ever going to make it to market. NZT allows you to tap into the 80% of your brain that goes unused every day. The resulting clarity allows Eddie to take everything he’s ever taken in, in his entire life, and make perfect sense of it in seconds. Needless to say, Eddie never intends to get off these drugs and soon finds out he might not have a choice in the matter.

Director, Neil Burger, coasts through LIMITLESS and rarely attempts to access any of his own greater potential. Visual trickery meant to signify the depths of Eddie’s thought processes and amplified abilities come off as not only gimmicky but tacky as well. All the same, the talent is passable (Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish have scant parts compared to Cooper) and the moral question behind taking the drug to begin with is intriguing, but the climax of this film is so ridiculous and off-putting that it went, for me, from a time-filler to a complete waste of time. It’s ironic really how a film about untapped intelligence could be so utterly stupid. Or perhaps even more so, how a film called LIMITLESS could feel so limited.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman
and Ralph Fiennes

Harry Potter: Is this all real or is it just happening in my head?

Professor Albus Dumbledore: Of course it's all in your head, Harry, but that doesn't mean it isn't real.

As you may or may not already know, I have only ever followed the literary icon, Harry Potter, on film. When the character made his first movie appearance, I watched simply because I was curious to see what everyone else was obsessing about. I even saw the next few films that followed for no other reason other than pure fascination with the incredible spell they cast over their fans. Fantasy has never been my favorite genre but I have always appreciated its grandness and imaginative nature. Despite this though, my interest in Harry Potter changed somewhere along the way (most likely when David Yates took over as director) and I went from mere observer to eager participant. And now that it’s over, I simply wish it weren’t.

As a stand-alone film, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO is not the strongest of the series. In succession with the first part though, it is extremely satisfying. Honestly, how could it not be though? When Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) face off for the last stand to end all subsequent stands of any kind, it is inevitably transfixing. This moment has been coming for years now and even though we all know how its going to play out, whether you’ve read the books or not, there is still a desperate need to see Harry rise to the ultimate occasion of his life. Structurally though, the final installment is somewhat shaky at the start, feeling more like an afterthought instead of the greatest conclusion of all time. It also lacks the whimsy that has always been present in past Potter pictures, no matter how bleak the scenario seems. There is arguably no room for it here but the heaviness can be sometimes too much to bear.

Once HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO lays everything on the table though, it is relentless. In fact, Yates has no interest in holding any casual viewers’ hands for this last outing. It is an emotional journey that must sink deeper and deeper into despair before any hope of success can be found. The battles are epic and characters from the many years at Hogwart’s return to either perish or flourish within those battles. And then there is Harry himself, alongside his two closest allies, Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson). Their growth as both actors and characters has perhaps been the most consistent and compelling aspect of the entire series. Watching them come into their own and develop new understandings of their characters and of themselves has been the series’ secret weapon all along. As they leave the nest, they leave us with one of the most bittersweet farewells at the movies in as long as I can remember.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Ralph Fiennes

Harry Potter: Blimey, Hermione!

Everyone who experiences the Harry Potter saga on film can be categorized into two separate groups – those who have read the books beforehand and those who have not. Those who have read them have likely read them several times. They know exactly what each film will bring, just not how it will bring it. For the rest of us, the young wizard exists only on the big screen and never has his world looked so great or been as engaging as in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART ONE. No matter which group you belong to though, the Harry Potter film experience is entering its final chapter and the anticipation is palpable.

Director David Yates has outdone himself this time out. Despite the enormous amount of pressure on his back to bring one of film history’s biggest franchises to a satisfying and successful close, he seems to be flying through the Harry Potter universe with incredible ease after piloting the last three films. Yates also helms the second half of “The Deathly Hallows” but first he has masterfully and delicately handled this decidedly dark first half, where nothing is as it was. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his most trusted allies, Hermione and Ron (Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) do not return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, like they do at the beginning of each previous installment. No, now this trio of role models to children the world over are officially dropouts, but with good reason of course. Harry must soon fulfill his destiny as the one who lived to vanquish he who used to not be named (psst .. that's Voldemort – Ralph Fiennes). I know how it sounds but if you made it this far, you must have bought into this already and it’s still surprisingly compelling.

I can only imagine that J.K.Rowling’s last book operated in much the same fashion as Steve Kloves’ screenplay. Kloves has written every one of the Harry Potter films and in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART ONE, he oscillates between somber, dark, sometimes downright frightening moments and a warm, nostalgic yearning for seemingly simpler times. As the series nears its end, familiar faces, places and things resurface to honour both the history and the fans while new addition to the Harry Potter family, cinematographer, Eduardo Serra, lenses the Harry Potter landscape with depth and grandeur unlike anything I’ve seen in the first six films. The mounting magnificence of the Harry Potter films is infectious and to remain so fresh and relevant so many years later is some of the best magic I’ve ever seen.

For further Harry Potter Black Sheep reviews, just click the titles below:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Written by Leigh Wannell
Directed by James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbra Hershey

I hate to be the guy who does this but as I had to look it up before watching the movie, I feel justified in saying that if you look up “insidious” in the dictionary, you will learn that it means proceeding in a gradual, subtle way but with harmful effects. And so INSIDIOUS, director James Wan’s first hit since he exploded in blood-soaked glory onto the horror scene with SAW in 2004, is aptly named. Wan slowly draws you into his hyper-stylized haunted house and those harmful effects I mentioned, they begin to take hold.

The trouble with paranormal based horror films is that their build is usually intense and potentially brilliant but their reveal is ordinarily ridiculous. INSIDIOUS begins with great promise. The low lighting, bizarre imagery and frighteningly sharp score pull you into the nervous energy that permeates the walls of the house in question. A new family has just moved in and the lack of familiarity itself is a device to cause more anxiety in the characters. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play parents to young Dalton (Ty Simpkins), who has seemingly fallen into a coma after a mysterious experience in the attic. As it turns out though, it is Dalton, and not the house, that is haunted and unfortunately, the means with which Dalton’s rescue is orchestrated, which I will not spoil for you here, change the tone of the film so greatly that the subtlety required for it to live up to its name is all but lost completely.

That said, just because I wasn’t convinced does not mean that many believers out there will not be fully taken with INSIDIOUS. When it comes to the paranormal, you either believe or you don’t and it should be the filmmaker’s job to change the mind of even the most ardent of non-believer. While that didn’t happen for me here, I can say that the film gave me chills on more than one occasion. In fact, I had to distract myself when watching, which could mean that I’m not at all interested but in this case, it just meant that I was too scared to look.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best of Black Sheep: Black Sheep interviews Matthew McConaughey

Once a Lawyer ...

The first thought I had when I saw that Matthew McConaughey was starring in Brad Furman’s THE LINCOLN LAWYER, a modern day dissection of just how far the legal system’s corruption reaches, was how could he not be sick and tired of playing lawyers at this point in his career.

McConaughey’s first big break was in Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, but he was propelled into the stratosphere of stardom that we know him from, when he starred as Jake Briggance, a fresh, Southern lawyer taking a crack at his first big case in Joel Schumacher’s A TIME TO KILL. Clearly, he was pretty memorable for me as Briggance because it turns out he hasn’t set foot in a courtroom since – well, he hasn’t set foot on a courtroom set since then anyway. And here I was thinking that all the man ever played was lawyers. Fortunately, I did a little research before meeting him.

“I don’t want to say I like lawyers too much in real life but I sure do like playing one,” McConaughey jokes when we meet at the Thompson Hotel in Toronto, the latest pit-stop on his whirlwind of a press tour for his first film in two years. Speaking of whirlwinds, chatting with McConaughey is a lot like what I would imagine getting stuck in one is like. Ask the man a question and he will give you the long answer every time. I could hardly figure when to ask another question because I could never tell if he was done talking. That said, he is also charming, articulate and quite handsome. I’m pretty sure the same cannot be said of whirlwinds.

One of McConaughey’s favorite things to talk about? THE LINCOLN LAWYER. “When people like it, I can tell,” the veteran junket junkie proclaims. “And people are enjoying this film so there is stuff to talk about.” McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a recurring character in a series of legal novels written by Michael Connelly, a character he describes as both a “bottom feeder” and an “idealist”. Mick is a defense lawyer who defends whoever can pay him the highest price at the end of the day. He knows every loop and every hole to get around anything the system throws at him. It’s certainly a far cry from the greenery of Jake Briggance (pictured below).

“Jake was much more small town, just starting off,” McConaughey reveals when asked to compare the two roles. “Mick, this is the world he deals with every day. Everything is barter or a deal. Mick is a poker player.”

The world McConaughey is referring to is one of mistrust and questionable scruples, disguised as the almighty justice system. Mick is set to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), a hotshot realtor who has been accused of attempted rape and battery on a known prostitute. When it becomes apparent that Louis’s innocence may not be so clear cut, every facet of Mick’s life, from his relationship with his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) to his work on previous cases, begins to fall apart.

“He’s juggling a lot of things; it’s a bit vaudeville,” McConaughey quips. “They can’t just all land at once.” If it didn’t appear as though they all would land at the same time though, it just wouldn’t make for very good drama, now would it?

To further throw off Mick’s balance, he learns that a man he once defended (Michael Pena) was wrongly convicted. He can’t prove it though without breaking the rules he is bound to as a lawyer and this conflict makes his circus act much trickier to uphold. “I was intrigued by this box he is in,” the box being metaphoric, of course. McConaughey continues, “What happens if you found out today that you put, not allowed, but put an innocent man in jail? I can’t imagine a worse nightmare.”

At 41, McConaughey’s real life is anything but a nightmare. He has starred in nearly 40 films and they have grossed over $1.2 billion in North America alone. The man who was once arrested for disturbing the peace, playing bongos in the nude in his home, is now a family man.He has two children with Camila Alves, a Brazilian model, a baby girl who just turned one and a son who will turn three this summer, and they live a happy little life in Malibu, California.According to McConaughey, he enjoys the change of pace a great deal.

“I’ve got enough going on that I don’t need any other ‘new stimulus’,” he says cheekily, complete with air quotes. “When I’m on a film and I’m working, it’s work. I go home after and I have a structured lifestyle. Even if that's the watching the game on television.” His family even travels with him on junkets now.

So what is next now that McConaughey has returned to acting? Well, he continues to go full circle with his career as he is set to star in another Linklater film due out this year, called BERNIE. The best part about this new role? He will once again be playing a lawyer.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Directed by Rodman Flender
Starring Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien: I don't know what it would be like to stop. What does that even mean?

I am usually in bed before any of the late night talk shows come on but you don’t have to watch late night television to be aware of the melodrama that ensued during NBC’s Conan O’Brien / Jay Leno debacle from last year. After walking away from “The Tonight Show” after just a few months, O’Brien took to the road with the “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour”, a trek that forms the backdrop for the new documentary, CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP. They aren’t kidding around with that title either. This often hilarious behind-the-scenes look at the madness of O’Brien’s life and mind shows us a humbled man grappling with rejection, appreciative of his admirers at first, but seemingly irritated by the attention he himself demands as the tour nears its close. This portrait is nothing if not honest, but simply left me feeling just as annoyed as O’Brien eventually comes across.

Not watching late night television also didn’t prohibit anyone from taking sides in the debate, myself included. My not being a Leno fan, it was easy to throw my support behind O’Brien. I’ve never admired O’Brien with any consistency by I do find him funny and I did feel that he got the shaft when NBC decided to move the Leno show into “The Tonight Show” time slot. CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP essentially picks up with O’Brien shortly after he is let out of his contract. One of the stipulations for letting him break that contract was that he was not allowed to make any television appearances for a certain number of months following. His not being able to “stop” though would make this forced hiatus to be rather difficult and so he decided to put the tour together. You can feel O’Brien’s nerves on the screen. He has never toured before and is genuinely struggling with no longer having a televised platform to make people laugh in the way that he’s always known. Is it a need to entertain though that he must feed or is it really more of a need for attention?

As the tour takes shape and the dates start passing, O’Brien’s drive is noticeably falling off and it isn’t long before he begins to do nothing but complain about the demands that are being made on him due to this tour. Now, to be fair, I have never been on a multi-city comedy tour before and therefore do not know how taxing the experience is. In that same vein, I am not a celebrity of any sorts and do not know the hardships that come with that lifestyle. That being said, it is difficult for me to sympathize with O’Brien when he spends the first half of the film telling us how much he needs to entertain to live and then spends the second half complaining about his wish coming true. CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP is still funny but if you listen closely, you will hear the contempt and irritation in O’Brien’s tone. It is masked in humour though and therefore somehow supposedly not as hurtful. O’Brien may not be able to stop but he might consider actually trying. I’m thinking a little rest might make him a little less cranky.