Every once in a while audiences need a reminder that Matthew McConaughey can do more than take his shirt off (you heard me, Magic Mike fans). This is from Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter), who draws on his Arkansas upbringing to bring us the story of Neckbone and Ellis (Jacob Lofland, Tye Sheridan), a modern-day Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer who stumble on a mystery at a critical time in their lives.
That mystery starts with what they think is a "deserted" island, where they find a boat in a tree. A storm put it there, apparently, but it's not as empty as it looks: a man called Mud (McConaughey) is hiding out there, waiting for his girl, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Mud enlists the boys' help ferrying supplies and messages to Juniper's shabby hotel room, meanwhile shiny cars with Texas plates start to arrive in town, spelling bad news for all involved.
There's almost no soundtrack, just the sound of the flowing river. It's deceptively calm, the story deceivingly simple: there's actually a lot going on, once you factor in the love story/thriller, Ellis' coming-of-age story and Nichols' elegy to a dying way of life. McConaghey is great; Witherspoon is very good; supporting cast members are fantastic. But everything hinges on the boys, who are so genuine, they seem to have been born on the bayou.
The Last Stand
After a second career as politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger is part of the dogged trend toward aged action heroes. He's almost 66 years old; Sylvester Stallone is 66; Liam Neeson is 61; Bruce Willis is 58. But we're still shelling out big money to see them kick butt on screen.
Arnold plays Ray, a lawman who mans the fort when most of the tiny town of Sommerton, Ariz, is away at a football game. But no sooner does Ray say "it should be a quiet weekend" when strange things start happening. At the same time in Las Vegas, the transfer of a brutal criminal named Cortez is taking place. And that event leads to a deadly high-noon style standoff, but with much better firepower.
Retro in the style of those '80s action films with a big body count and short sentences of dialogue that are easy for everyone to follow. There are some great actors here (Rodrigo Santoro, for example, who really classes up the film), but then we have Johnny Knoxville in a bathrobe and aviator hat, a misstep. Lots of special features: making-of extra, car chase breakdown and several annoying bits with Knoxville in it.
Stand Up Guys
Al Pacino plays a guy just getting out of prison, met at the gates by his old pal Christopher Walken. Together they bust Alan Arkin out of a seniors' home and the old gang is back together. But there's a catch: one of them also has a side gig, an assignment to kill one of his buddies. This is the second feature directed by actor Fisher Stevens (who won an Oscar for a documentary he directed a few years back, The Cove). This is the story of what happens when the Goodfellas and the Sopranos of this world live to see their 70s, and still refuse to go quietly. Plot is threadbare in places but you want to see this just for the performances of Walken and Pacino.
Jason Statham plays part of a criminal crew who then turns on him, cutting him loose. So honorable criminal Statham sets out, with the help of lovely inside gal Jennifer Lopez, to steal the loot and eliminate in all sorts of gory ways his two-timing former buddies.
With the exception of a few fantastic fight scenes, the action and the revenge plot just doesn't fuse together the way it should. Lopez plays the eye candy nicely but fails to convey the desperation of her character. Nick Nolte is underused but is good fun. Based on the best-selling book series, the film is for Statham fans only.