God loves everyone. Even murderers of 81-year-old grannies. Yes, even them.
Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is a well-liked, somewhat effeminate, small town assistant-funeral director from rural eastern Texas who first befriended and some years later murder a wealthy but highly-disliked widow named Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacClaine). It sound simple and understandable, however, Bernie is probably the most loved man in town and some people find it really all that hard that he killed a woman in such cold blood. This is where Texas State’s Attorney Danny Buck (Michael McConaughey) comes in to set the record straight, once and for all.
That synopsis sounds like a pretty straight-forward, understandable thriller, but what makes it so different from others is the fact that it is all real, all took place, and pretty much, all features the real-life people involved. I mean with a compelling story like this, you could have easily wrote it down as a documentary, or television special that features candid interviews with people who knew the subjects, people who are interested by what’s happening, and the actual subjects, themselves. It would have been a pretty interesting documentary that I probably would have checked-out some time down the road, but writer/director Richard Linklater takes it one-step further by not only going along with the whole documentary look-and-feel, but also making it a very, glitzy dramatization of it as well, offering us both sides of the coin and to see what may, or may not have actually happened.
Being that this is half-documentary, half-dramatizations, there’s a lot more to interest the hell out of you and make you feel as if everything you are seeing, is in-fact, exactly how it went done. The reason for that being, is the fact that Linklater offers a whole bunch of candid interviews with these townspeople who either heard of the subjects, met them once in life, had them over for Thanksgiving dinner, played ball with them, had their funeral-service by them, or just plain and simply knew them for all that they were. This aspect of the movie is so cool to see since every person they get to actually talk in this movie, are pretty funny to listen to and use colloquialisms as if Linklater was standing there with a $5 bill, holding it in-front of their noses, waiting till they use some witty-line in order to gain the moolah. They’re all very funny, very entertaining to watch, but most of all, very insightful as you feel like you’re getting the real story from real people that know what type of shit they’re talking about.
However, the other aspect of this movie, the dramatizations, aren’t that shabby either as they are just as interesting as the actual-interviews themselves. Without these dramatizations, the movie would have been pretty damn depressing if you ask me, but they keep the story going to where you understand the characters, understand the setting, and understand exactly what we’re getting ourselves into with the situation and it actually offers up some funky ideas about life, being human, and the way the people work, that I really wasn’t expecting for it to hit.
For instance, most of you probably already know by now that Bernie does in-fact end-up killing this old lady because he’s practically tortured by her and all that she makes him do, without any real kindness involved whatsoever. Even though he does eventually get pinched for it and confesses to the crime, people still feel as if he shouldn’t be put away, despite being a known, cold-blooded killer. Yes, Bernie killed this old lady, Marjorie, but you also can’t seem to blame him all that much either. Yeah, the guy may have want a bit overboard by killing some old lady no matter how mean she was to him and as well all know, killing never solves anything, but he’s not a bad guy, doesn’t seem to have a bad bone in his body, and most importantly, doesn’t even seem like he has any rhyme or reason to ever, ever kill again. He’s a just simple guy that ‘effed-up big-time and for all I’m concerned, I actually feel like the guy deserved a second-chance, even though other cases like these ones I would have probably shooed away instantly. You start to think what’s justifiable and what’s not, and it’s just pretty interesting to see how this film makes you think, a lot more than you expected to and it’s something that Linklater does best whenever he’s telling a story, whether it be real or fictional.
Where I think Linklater runs into a big-problem with this story is, is the fact that we can never really take it too seriously, to the point of where we feel an emotional-connection to the story. The only really serious bone in this movie, comes-out probably twice and both actually concern Bernie himself, coming to terms with the fact that he’s doing something terribly, terribly wrong. Murder is a subject in a movie that has been done to a very dark, comedic-effect before, but it just feels off here and you can never really take anything this movie deals with, as seriously as most of the real-life people in this movie actually do. It’s never funny, but it’s always interesting, and as great as that was to see on-screen, I still wished there was more of an understandable and reasonable approach to a story that could have meant more.
But the person who really makes up for all of those problems in terms of tone and pacing, is the one, the only, everybody’s most-hated actor, Jack Black. Yes, Jack Black does in-fact star in this movie as Bernie Tiede and even though most of you now probably saw the poster, read the synopsis and saw that J.B’s name was attached to it, you most likely already wrote it off as a piece of crap that doesn’t need to be seen, especially since the guy will probably sing and dance like a buffoon. In case you were wondering, yes, Black does sing, he does dance, and he does do everything else that you know and (mostly) hate him for, but it’s a lot different this time around with Bernie. See, since Bernie is such a nice, calm, and peaceful fellow, Black plays-up the whole “wholesome” angle to this guy that made the real-life person so beloved and cared-for in the first place. He acts like the nicest guy in the room, and 9 times out of 10, usually is. You can’t help but fall in love with this Bernie guy, almost as much and almost as quick as the actual townspeople themselves, and most of that is all thanks to Black and how even though he doesn’t change a single-lick about his act, appearance or demeanor, still is fun to watch and keeps the story moving just when you think it may, just may run out of steam.
Just like Black here, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine both play, real-life people and although they don’t steal the show quite like Black, they still do alright jobs with what they’re given. McConaughey is fun to watch as the show-boating, hammy district attorney that just wants more recognition to his name, rather than actual pride and respect; and Shirley MacLaine is alright as the mean, old, and nasty granny that is Marjorie, but isn’t someone we really care about, think about, or remember once she’s all gone from the story. As for the actual-townspeople themselves, most of them play them actual selves in the dramatizations, but also some actors and actresses play in their roles as well and it’s sort of annoying because it makes you question just how much of this is really as legitimate as it may propose. The interviews with the real-life people were good, but once I started to find-out that more and more of these interviews were scripted with actors in the roles, I was a bit skeptical as to what I was just forced-down my throat and whether or not it was the truth, or just plain and simple, liberties that all filmmakers take with any story to spice it up. I’m feeling a bit of the latter part, myself.
Consensus: Being based on an actual, cooky story is what helps Bernie in being a compelling and interesting take on a story none of us had ever, ever heard about before, yet, you still never really know what exactly happened and if it was all for real, or just a bunch of scenes added for dramatic-effect. Hmmm, only few and few people actually know that and I’m mostly looking at you, Linklater.
You don’t have to be a dick to be an actor, but it seems like a good excuse.
Seventeen-year-old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) spends his days dreaming of the bright lights of Broadway. Richard happens upon Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and his fledgling Mercury Theatre company. Richard impresses Welles and lands an unpaid bit part in the Mercury’s forthcoming run of Julius Caesar. He is taught the ropes by a beautiful, ambitious production assistant, Sonja (Claire Danes). Richard falls into Sonja’s womanly charm almost instantly.
Now I haven’t checked out every single piece of work this legend (Orson Welles) has to offer, but from what I hear there seems to be three things about him: he 1. was talented, 2. was very big on his ego, and 3. was a huge dick. But hey, you can probably get away with number 3 when you’re considered one of the greatest actors and directors of all-time.
I was a tad disappointed to see that Richard Linklater directed this without adding anything of his own writing, but it didn’t matter too much once I realized just how fun and charming a flick like this can be. I have only been a part of 2 or 3 plays and I can easily say that Linklater definitely nailed down what it’s like behind-the-scenes of one. Everybody’s constantly rushing, getting tense, and trying so hard not to mess up their lines that almost anything the slightest thing makes you crazy or pushes you to forget everything. All of that continuous hustle-and-bustle from the first rehearsal to the final show is captured here perfectly; the passion of the people who surround the play is so present that it brings you into this place that makes you forget it’s the miserable thirties.
But who am I kidding?! The real reason this film works so damn well is because of Christian McKay‘s larger-than-life performance as Orson Welles. I have never heard nor seen McKay before but I think he definitely nails everything about Welles from the gruff in his voice, to the ways his eyes move when he’s mad. Welles (as portrayed here) is a genius but is also very egotistical in the way that he only wants the show done his way, and anybody else who dares to argue against his vision will either be kicked to the streets or used for their opening night, then kicked to the curb. Welles may have been a guy that only cared about himself, and himself only, but he also shows a lot of talent when it came to getting just about every detail right and the performance from McKay only proves that to be even more true. McKay doesn’t just sound or act like Welles, he is Welles and for the whole time I was watching him, I couldn’t get past the fact that who I was watching right now wasn’t actually Orson Welles himself. Definitely a performance that should have made him a lot of a bigger name but I guess it was the film’s limited release that sort of screwed him over in that case.
However, as amazing as McKay as Welles is here, he’s also the biggest problem with the flick because when it isn’t on him and is focusing on all of this other junk, it sort of gets a little fluffy and uninteresting. All of the stage stuff was fun to watch but when they started focusing on the story outside of it all, I really started to lose my interest as I found this coming-of-age story to be rather, —bland. It seems like the writers here just borrowed from a whole bunch of other coming-of-age flicks, and found their ways to throw them in there without any real interest in actually moving the plot along. Basically, it’s just here to give us another story that isn’t all about the stage but that’s what I started to miss out on and I think if Linklater at least wrote this, it would have been a lot better.
Claire Danes is pretty good here as Sonja and definitely is a lot happier in this role than she was in Shopgirl. Zac Efron is also good in his role too as Richard (how cute, Linklater), but he definitely sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes right down to it. It’s not that Efron is bad, it’s more that he is just way too Hollywood for this role and movie, and the costuming just looks a little too goofy on him. He definitely has charm: charm that we will see more of in upcoming years, but like wise he doesn’t seem anywhere near the perfect fit for this role.
Consensus: Me and Orson Welles is at its best whenever it focuses on the behind-the-scenes stage antics of 1937 Manhattan and McKay’s perfect performance as Welles, but whenever the focus goes towards its fluffy and bland coming-of-age story, things get a tad uninteresting.
What if the one that got away still stayed hot and you looked really creepy?
Nine years after spending a night together in Vienna, Jesse Wallace (Ethan Hawke) is reunited with Celine (Julie Delpy) while on a book signing tour in Paris. There’s an obvious attraction still between the two but Jesse only has a short amount of time until his plane leaves which means that their meeting may be brief.
Before Sunrise was just about a near-perfect film for me. It had all the ingredients you could ever need for a great romance and I honestly do believe it’s one of the greatest romantic films of all-time, and that really is saying something. So for there to be a sequel to see what happened between the couple that graced that flick, made me anticipate just what the hell happened. Thankfully, I was not let down.
The whole film is about 80 minutes of these two people walking around Paris, talking, going into a coffee shop, then going onto a boat, and then talking some more but the film is never boring. Every single word that these characters let out had me on edge the whole time and I never felt bored by these two talking because even though they talk about generally nothing again, they still do talk about something, if that even makes sense.
What really works with this screenplay is that co-writer/director Richard Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy all came together on this script which gives it this realistic and almost heart-breaking truth to it all. In the first flick you see how these two have this sort of fantasy look at love and the world but now that they are older, everything is a lot more sad and angry around them. These two see the world in a different way like when it comes to relationships and they soon realize that the word “love” isn’t exactly what they thought it meant considering you had to worry about all of the non-nonsensical crap that comes along with it. It’s sad but at the same time realistic because you see how two people grow up and realize that the world isn’t what they once thought it was but still keep a grasp onto what made them happy in the first place. This also leads me into another idea that the film brings up: memory.
The conversation these two have constantly bringing up the miraculous one day they had together and most of the memories they have are very clear and feel as if it was just yesterday. These two are always reminded of that one day that they shared together not just through the way they speak to each other but also through their lives as both constantly could not escape or forget that faithful day that made them realize they really have something special together. The film is basically infused with the idea that as long as you and the other person are alive, the memory will never ever go away and no matter how much you try to run away from that fact it will always come right back to you.
Without Linklater behind the director’s chair though, I don’t think that this film would have even felt the same. Linklater is perfect at just letting the story and characters speak for themselves but that still allows him to do some cool tricks such as these long tracking shots that last almost 10 minutes every time. I love tracking shots and it’s just so great how Linklater can use them to create a certain amount of tension of realistic feel even if it’s just by focusing on one shot the entire time. Also, even though our minds are on the two characters the whole film, Linklater still allows for some beautiful imagery of Paris come into play and give us this view of the lovely place we knew in the first flick.
Where the real brilliance of this film lies is within the performances of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, who feel real together. Even though these two never worked again after the first until this flick, their chemistry is still there if not better because as I have said before, they are a lot older now and a lot more sad and angry emotions come out of each other. Right from the get-go, their chemistry feels natural and everything they say all seem improvised even though that is not the case. They are playful with each other and you know that there is just something special between them even if they don’t want to come clear with it themselves and watching them just exchange little glances at one another giving each other little smirks, made me feel like there was more sex in this film than there was in Shame. Both of them start to break-down in front of one another where they both not only show regret but also anger towards the whole situation of how they could have been together, but just missed out somehow. These two are just perfect together and I think the fact that Linklater allowed them to shed some personal issues into their script as well. Delpy was on the rise as an actress, finding roles that she liked and being happy with them, while Hawke was sort of going through a lot of personal problems with his wife at the time, Uma Thurman, and a lot of that shows through by the way his character talks in this flick as well. It’s great to see two stars working together not only on-screen, but on the script as well and shed some real human emotions that come from their own lives as well.
Consensus: Before Sunset is just as great as the first one with a perfect chemistry between Delpy and Hawke, a screenplay that feels natural and realistic, and the real human emotion of watching these two meet up after all of this time. Hopefully, there’s one last one to close out the series but in the mean-time let’s just get ready for Still Dazed and Confused: the 20 year reunion.
Wish I had more first encounters like this.
This film from director Richard Linklater stars Ethan Hawke as an American backpacker who strikes up a conversation with a lovely fellow traveler (Julie Delpy) on the train to Vienna and persuades her to spend his last day in Europe with him. Wandering the picturesque streets of the Austrian capital, the two share stories of their pasts and their dreams for the future, ultimately forging a bond that leads to love.
Writer and director Richard Linklater really does know how to show real emotions, between humans on screen. Although Dazed and Confused may be more of a comical way of showing it, this is the more serious, and romantic way.
The script is basically superb in all the right ways. The film starts off a bit awkward with talks here and there about philosophies, but nothing special, but then these two start to get an actual feel for each other and that is when things start to pick up. I love the fact that these two talked about life, love, and the great big city of Vienna, and just how they want their life to be something but somehow just isn’t.
Not much happens here, but just these two walking and talking about a lot of things, and there are plenty of philosophies that are brought up, but never do they feel forced out on us or used in a preachy way. In a way this actually made me think more about the world I live in where people expect me to do something, and have this huge understanding of what I’m going to do next, and you feel like everything is so planned. Why not take risks sometimes? And why not do something that may change your outlook on life, or possibly something that may change your life forever because you went with your gut-feeling? Many themes are brought up, and this insightful script gives us a beautiful glimpse into these two people’s minds as they discover that love is something more powerful and rich when you least expect it. The human nature really is a beautiful thing, and this film is an examination of that and how this a relationship is something we all want, but to often sadly see slip away. It’s such a shame that this is more true than some would actually expect, but listening to these two talk about love, and everything else in between, I realized that there’s so much more to the huge, transient universe we live in.
I think my only problem here is that I do wish I was older to actually fully understand everything that these two are talking about, so I could actually relate more to. But I think later on in life, I’ll check this out and it will have a bigger effect on me however I must say that I loved what I got here.
These two together right here are just downright amazing. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy may seem like polar opposites from the beginning but by the end of the film, they create what is one of the more realistic and believable romances I have ever seen on screen. Obviously, there is a lot of talking here, and that’s all it really is but these two create these perfectly textured three-dimensional characters that seem so real, that even with this short amount of time, you actually do believe they could make it all work and fall in love over night. I was so happy that I with these two throughout the whole night and listening and watching them talk, walk, sing, dance, and gaze at the beautiful sights of Vienna, just had me believe every part of this film, and just totally fall for these characters.
Consensus: Writer/Director Richard Linklater has created a perfect script about love, life, and the universe we live in, by putting it along with a perfectly acted romance from Hawke and Delpy, which culminates in being one of the most believable and lovely romances ever put on screen.
One of the trippiest movies, about tripping.
Working as an undercover cop in a world where almost everyone is addicted to Substance D — a drug that produces split personalities in its users — Fred Arctor (Keanu Reeves) sets up an elaborate sting to nab a notorious drug runner named Bob. Little does Fred know that “Bob” is his alter ego.
This is not the most easily accessible material I have seen on screen, sometimes there are moments, where we don’t know what the hell is going on, and hell I don’t think the characters do as well, but that’s the whole point of it.
Drugs create illusions in your mind, and it gets so deep into your mind, that soon your just all caught up in it, and you don’t know what’s real, or fiction. This film does a great job of showing how that can affect you, as well as the others around you. You create these ideas in your head, and then you just get paranoid all around, and you can’t control it, cause it has taken over your mind, body, and soul. Then you, know there’s no actual way of turning back.
People criticize director Richard Linklater, cause they say he wasn’t the best suit for this material, but in all honesty, I think he does the best job of keeping this stuff alive. The crazy-ass visuals, may seem like a gimmick at first, but then you start to notice it actually goes along with the film, because it shows you how consumed these people are with the drugs, and the visuals it creates in your mind. I also really did like the script and thought as weird, crazy, and insane as they were, all of them were interesting. You hear these people talk about the craziest crap ever, and you don’t know whether to laugh, or be sad that some people are this far into drugs that they would talk like this, but in reality these are how people talk, especially when they are totally under the influence.
The problem with this film was that i felt the constant political messages, got way too out of hand, especially by that lackluster ending. I wish more of the message was pointed at the drugs, instead of crappy political satire that doesn’t work. There is scene where a former cop harangues people in a street about the war on drugs being itself the real problem. I honestly believe that one in 3 criminal justice professionals already recognize this truth. Drug abuse is a public health issue and should be taken out of criminal justice. That will not happen for the simple reason that market for selling and fighting drugs are both too profitable.
Keanu Reeves is good in this lead role. He doesn’t get too Johnny Utah-like for me, yet he doesn’t get too Neo-y for me either, he’s just the dude that the film revolves around. Winona Ryder surprisingly brings a lot to her role, providing enough details of cool, sexiness, and charm, that had us loving her in the beginning. Woody Harrelson is also in this, playing himself I would presume, basically the guy is always high. But the best here is Robert Downey Jr., who’s character is so taken back by the drugs, that the wildest things, come out of his mind, but he does it so well, that it’s actually believable to the fact that he’s just too real to be true.
Consensus: A Scanner Darkly may rely too much on one message, when it should have on another, but the direction is solid, with the trippy visuals, actually doing a lot for the story, as well as the wonderful acting from the cast.
3 friends meet to what becomes the most awkward conversation ever.
After 10 years apart, three friends (Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman) reunite in a motel room to play out the unresolved drama of their final high school days. As layers of denial are peeled away, each character is provoked into revealing his or her true nature and motivation.
Tape is based on a play, that is filmed on a real digital camera, giving it that authentic feel, and shot in real-time. I liked these two ideas that director Richard Linklater does because it feels thought the 86 minutes your watching this film, your right there with them.
The film is written so well, as it feels as though its actually real-life. The dialogue after awhile, gets really harsh and terribly true, to a point of where it almost feels like your watching a documentary before your very own eyes. I liked the screenplay so much, cause it shows how people can obtain something differently, and how after 10 years of one little incident not much has changed. The film builds, and builds, and builds right up to the point of where you think what’s going to happen, doesn’t happen, and your overall, terribly shocked.
I had a problem with the film by the way it ended, and that was how not everything added up like it could have. I was sort of let down, by what actually happened to these three 10 years ago, and I think through watching this whole film, I sort of deserved to know the real answer.
I loved how the film was just a great way to show that these three actors, can sure as hell, act. Ethan Hawke is such a dick in this movie, that you want to kill him, but in some ways, he is very funny and you actually kind of enjoy him. Robert Sean Leonard is also very good here, showing a great deal of consent for his actions as the movie moves along, giving off a very believable performance. The most memorable performance here in this film has to be Uma Thurman, her transitions from flippy manipulation, to steering honesty represents some of the best of her versicle career.
Consensus: Tape doesn’t deliver what you want, but features a realistic, well-written dialogue, that in ways is terribly true, and backed up by the three strong performances.
God, I wish I partied in the 70s.
Director Richard Linklater takes an autobiographical look at some Texas teens (including Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey) on their last day of school in 1976, centering on student Randall Floyd (Jason London), who moves easily among stoners, jocks and geeks. Floyd is a star athlete, but he also likes smoking weed, which presents a conundrum when his football coach demands he sign a “no drugs” pledge.
The film is basically set around a bunch of high school kids, on the last day of school, just partying, smoking weed, and getting drunk. All sounds stupid, but somehow its not at all.
Linklater is probably one of the best writers in the business we have today. He makes all these different types of characters, seem more than the image their given. This movie feels exactly like high school, and just by the way these kids talk. You sense the realism within the characters when they talk about anything from drugs, women, cars, etc. You see how everybody interacts with each other and who’s cool with who. Not only does he capture the essence of the spirit within these kids but also the sense of boredom in their small town.
The film captures so much spirit and life its hard not to be jealous. You feel the world that these kids live in, and you actually want to be there. They have so much fun so little time, but in real life they still have problems. That is what brought out the humanity in this film and when it actually becomes realistic by how sad these kids are running their lives. You felt like you were with these kids the whole time this partying was going down, and you kind of wish you were with them. The rocking soundtrack consisting of wonderful 70s rock classics just make this film even better and add such a fun taste to the film, as if it wasn’t already.
I felt like the hazing idea of seniors beating on freshmen was a little too over-played to the point of where it was just boring. I mean I could only believe in this story of seniors doing this for so long until it became a bore for me, and then I actually wondered: are these guys bored too?
The whole cast is so great, and so young that you can just spot up-and-coming stars with these performances. Jason London brings a lot of humanity to his character, also with Adam Goldberg the nerd that has heart. But the two best and probably funniest in this film for me was definably the two great stoner characters. Rory Cochrane as Ron Slater is very funny, and I can see where James Franco got his character from Pineapple Express from now. But honestly he is no match for the greatest of all-time, get ready for it, Matthew McConaughey. That’s right people McConaughey is simply the funniest part in this film, with so many great lines, you just want to jump in the screen and just stand right next to him and taste the coolness. He is such a great character that Linklater creates, that I have to give him as one of my favorite of all-time, yeah I just went there. There are also funny little young performances from Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, and of course a funny young performance from Ben Affleck.
Consensus: Dazed and Confused is a 24-hour period tale that is filled with such rich dialogue, a great rockin soundtrack, and wonderful characters and performances that you don’t want this party to stop.