Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists and turns that the audience never sees coming. It's a complex series of events that sometimes gets a bit bogged down in the under-explained details, but the characters are fantastic. And at the centre, Matthew McConaughey shines in a role that requires him to completely change the way he looks.
It's set in the late 1980s, as the fast-talking salesman Kenny (McConaughey) is trying to raise funding in Reno for a project he has been dreaming about for decades: prospecting for gold in Indonesia. He is sure there's a fortune in those mountains, but everyone else is dubious. And even as he's on the verge of losing everything, his wife Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) quietly stands by him. In desperation, he gets on a plane to Jakarta, pitching his idea to local adventurer Michael (Edgar Ramirez), who escorts him into an area populated by head-hunters. When the companies back in America hear that they've found gold, there's more money than Kenny and Michael can count. But the FBI suspects it's a scam.
McConaughey is magnetic as the balding, overweight Kenny, a guy who simply won't take no for an answer. He is convinced that there's gold in the rainforest, even though no one has ever seen any, and his optimism is infectious to both the other characters and the movie's audience. This makes all the men in suits opposite Kenny look rather dull by comparison. Howard gives her role a powerful kick of emotion, although Kay is sidelined by the plot. And Ramirez gets some terrific scenes as the Indiana Jones-style explorer. All of these people seem to be caught up in a flood of events they have no control over, and the film races along without pausing for breath.
Continue reading: Gold Review
There are moments when this three-strand drama almost ascends to the emotional resonance of writer-director Paul Haggis' Oscar-winning 2004 movie Crash. Perhaps even more ambitious, this film is exploring issues of creativity, attraction and grief, but Haggis puts so much effort into the literary trickery that he fails to create characters the audience can connect with. So the drama ends up being interesting but never moving.
The central plot-thread is in Paris, where blocked writer Michael (Liam Neeson) is holed up in a hotel after leaving his wife (Kim Basinger) and arranging to meet his whip-smart mistress Anna (Olivia Wilde). But their witty romance seems to get entangled with his struggle to write a new novel. Meanwhile in Rome, dodgy American businessman Scott (Adrien Brody) meets Monika (Moran Atias), a sexy Roma woman trying to rescue her kidnapped daughter from local gangsters. With his own haunting back-story involving a lost child, Scott offers to help. And in New York, fallen soap-star Julia (Mila Kunis) has hired a lawyer (Maria Bello) in an effort to get custody of her son from her wealthy-painter ex (James Franco). But her life has gone so far off the rails that it's unlikely any judge will see things her way.
There's a clear sense that these storylines are swirling around in Michael's head as he tries to write. Each character has parent-child issues, including the event that sent Michael's career into a downward spiral. But Haggis never quite defines all of this, leaving ideas and themes dangling everywhere without connecting them to authentic people or experiences. So it's very difficult to get involved in any of the story strands, even though the actors deliver open, raw performances. Kunis has the film's strongest role, a complex journey into the aching soul of a mother, and she plays it beautifully. And Bello finds some moments of consuming emotion in her smaller part. Everything else feels rather cliched, from Neeson and Wilde's cute-prickly romantic games to Brody's journey to the dark side of Italy.
Continue reading: Third Person Review
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