Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mini-Reviews: The Counselor, Oldboy (2013)

And I’m back. However I’m sad to report that I failed to finish the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I don’t want to bore you with my real life shit but I was distracted by a particularly bad personal issue that was immediately followed up by an equally life altering one so my November was mostly spent staring at ceilings in deep contemplation rather than writing (incidentally that’s also why it’s taken me so long to get this up). Things are still extremely volatile, my future is not very assured and I’m not feeling anything close to 100% or really up to doing any writing. BUT WRITING IS WHAT I MUST DO!!!!!

Anyway we’re firmly in December and you may have noticed that I haven’t written a single 5-Panda movie review this year. That’s not good. Frankly it hasn’t been a great year for movies, not like last year which had several really awesome films floating around (hell yeah Moonrise Kingdom, Looper, and Wreck-It Ralph). While I’ve seen good movies I’ve yet to see any truly great flicks this year and with my annual Top Ten Favorite Movie list just around the corner I’ve been stressing over what I’ve had to work with far. But it is Oscar bait season and there’s a lot movies coming out during this time that studios are banking on to be contenders for best film and other Academy Awards. So maybe if I watch as many of these movies as possible I’ll find that 5-Panda movie…or go insane from an overdose of pretension. We’ll see.

At least for today I’ll be doing the Mini-Review format. We’ll be looking at The Counselor, the latest film from Ridley Scott, and the American Oldboy remake.

Two new reviews after the jump.

The Counselor
Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriter: Cormac McCarthy

Starring: Michael Fassbender; Cameron Diaz; Javier Bardem; Brad Pitt; Penélope Cruz
[WARNING: This review contains spoilers for this movie.]

The Counselor (Fassbender) is a well off lawyer with a beautiful girlfriend (Cruz) but gets convinced by his friend Reiner (Bardem) to come in with him on an potentially extremely profitable drug deal. But when things go south with the job the Counselor finds his back against the wall as a powerful cartel holds him responsible.

Your first reaction to this man will likely determine if you'll like the movie
I had high hopes for this movie as the screenwriter is none other than the guy who wrote the novel that No Country for Old Men was based on. Despite its maddening third act and abrupt ending I really enjoyed that flick (not enough to have to sit threw it a second time as I’m not sure my soul could take another viewing). This film has something of an All-Star cast. With Fassbender, Pit and Bardem together in one film it seems clear that Ripley Scott wanted some serious acting firepower. And all three do a good job with what they have to work with. The characters aren’t very deep so they tend to be one note but the acting is easily the best part of this movie.

Everything else in this movie ties for the worst part.

As I said the characters here aren’t very good. They are stock characters, with maybe the exception of Cameron Diaz’s Malkina who is compared to Anton Chigurh, the villain from No Country for Old Men, but completely lacks the screen presences as that character. The Counselor is the worst offender here as he’s rather dull. He’s naïve and sort of helpless. Once the drug deal goes bad he basically spends the rest of the movie crying about what the Cartel will do to him. He’s not smart enough to turn the tables on them nor is he strong enough to take the fight to them; he just sort of sits there waiting for the plot to move forward. Sometimes that sort of thing can work in fiction but it does not work at all here; The Counselor is a boring guy to have to watch for two hours.

Westray: So Counselor, have you considered not being a chicken shit?
The Counselor: Nope.
I wasn’t expecting this movie to be fun or nice or even have a proper ending but I was hoping for a good movie. Instead I got a lot of ideas that never got off the ground starring characters I can’t get behind involved in a plot I don’t care about. No Country for Old Men had some similar issues as this film, unsurprisingly considering the writer, but that film had a great game of Cat & Also Cat Cat & Mouse between the protagonist and the antagonist where this movie has a naïve lawyer way in over his head and everyone around him pay the price. At first I was going to give this an average review and suggest you make your own decision but I’m fairly sure you’ll be better off avoiding this one. This is ultimately another mediocre film to add to Ripley Scott’s growing pile.

Oh yeah, I should mention this movie possesses one the least sexy scenes I've seen in a movie for a while. You shouldn't do that to a car, dude. Not cool.

I give The Counselor 2 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


-Good cast, solid performances


-Weak characters

-Weak plot


-Has way too many superfluous sequences

Oldboy (2013)

 Director: Spike Lee 

Screenwriter: Mark Protosevich

Starring: Josh Brolin; Elizabeth Olsen; Sharlto Copley 

Joe Doucett (Brolin) is an ad executive who is also womanizing, alcoholic asshole who is very neglectful of his three year old daughter. One night, while on a drunken rampage after losing a large client, Doucett is kidnapped and taken to what appears to be a hotel room which he is unable to escape from. He learns from the news reports on the TV that his ex-wife has been brutally murdered and that he has been framed for the crime. Over the next twenty years Doucett dreams of escaping until finally one day he is unexpectedly released. He now plans on finding a way to clear his name, be a proper father to his daughter, and find out who had him imprisoned and why.

This is either Oldboy or Marvel Comics' "Fear Itself"
For the uninformed this film is a remake of a Korean film of the same name directed by Park Chan-wook, which itself is loosely based on a Japanese manga of the same name by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi. Now the Korean film is in several circles considered to be one of Asia’s best movies so there have been a lot of people a bit upset by this remake. I wanted to give it a chance. After all Let Me In was considered a good remake of Let the Right One In and I actually thought the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was better than the original.

In this case, while I cannot compare this film to its Korean counterpart I can tell you that’s it’s not exactly a great flick. Josh Brolin is awesome as Joe and is easily the best part of this film. He wears a lot of hats in this flick and showcases a great range. But we already knew that; Brolin is a top notch actor. Elizabeth Olsen is also very good here but since I remember her as a little girl from The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley from years ago I feel pretty goddamn old seeing her here…and creepy. The rest of the cast was alright however I’m certain it will be Brolin’s performance that people will be talking about. This film can be pretty brutal from a violence stand point, which I liked though it’s not as frequent as I think it needed to be.

I guess the problem is that with this movie is that, aside from Brolin’s performance, there’s nothing very little above average about this film. It’s fairly standard thrill/revenge stuff and there are far better examples of both out there, which would have been fine except I feel like expectations were high all around. Where the film stands out is the twist ending which, while very well executed, was agonizing to watch. I mean really, it f**ked me up and stayed with me for a long while after I left the theater. Not in a good way. From what I understand is was mostly the same ending as the original so any disgust for the content or praise for the great unexpected reveal can’t be given to this film since it’s a remake.

With the exception of an ending that made me want to vomit forever I found this movie to be decent but not really in the upper tier of good movies in 2013. Not even close. Brolin’s performance is excellent but that is the main drawing point to catch this movie. Especially if you have a weak stomach (…that ending, man). I’ve heard all across the board that this film is inferior to the original so perhaps the Korean Oldboy is still worth watching. Sadly for me it’ll be a while before I get the courage to have to watch that movie again. 

I give Oldboy 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Great performance by Josh Brolin 

-Brutal action 

-A well-executed twist 


-Much of the film feels typical 

-Doesn’t really live up to the hype 

-That well-executed twist made me want to set everything on fire forever

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