Review: Gold

Are you old enough to recall Bre-X? If not, Stephen Gaghan’s Gold is a fanciful, fictional retelling of a story about Wall Street greed and hubris that is happy to take the cautionary tale and gild it with Hollywood glitz. Investment bankers taking wild speculative gambles, the roller coaster of unsupervised capitalism; one might ask incredulously, what could possibly go wrong?

In the vein of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, Gold charts the progress of a mining company that hits the largest gold strike in the 20th century, deep in the jungles of Indonesia. More so, it is an opportunity for Matthew McConaughey to play an oily and charismatic slob, Kenny Wells, complete with snaggle-tooth, bald pate and pot belly.

We see Wells, early on in the picture, crudely romancing his girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), unrecognizable with a late 1980s perm and a push-up bra, a la Erin Brockovich, presenting her with expensive baubles and cheap (but earnest) philosophy in his father’s office. He takes the meeting with his dad (Craig T. Nelson) who offers the moral of the film and the modern prospecting business: “I don’t have to do this, I get to do this.”

Some years later, the younger American prospector-dreamer has brought his father’s company to a pretty low point. In a Hail Mary pass, he liquidates his meager assets to team up with sexy geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez) on a jungle prospecting adventure.

Watching Ramírez unconsciously (effortlessly) channel Oliver Reed up against the backdrop of Robert Elswit’s superb 35mm cinematography — albeit, Thailand dubiously subbing in for Indonesia — trumps the Wall Street shenanigans of the film. The bromance is more compelling than the business at hand, but the film doubles down on the conference rooms and Waldorf ballrooms that occupy vast swathes of its two-hour running time.

The local peasantry have been panning the Busang River in Borneo for thousands of years, but it is Wells and Acosta that come in with a modern engineering approach and take a plethora of core-samples in the nearby mountains. When the results indicate that the region contains rich deposits of gold, the madness truly begins. Word in the financial district that the Wells’ company is, quite literally, sitting on a gold mine, prompts everyone from billionaire bankers (such as Bruce Greenwood, stealing his all-too-brief scenes) to Indonesian dictators to the mainstream media to want a piece of the action.

Wells lets his ego and his natural showmanship fan the flames before, well, you might expect that things go a bit off the rails. Wells’ mantra vacillates between the whimsical, ‘a bird without feet sleeps on the wind’ and the far more pragmatic, ‘you land where you are stuck.’

He fights with on-again, off-again Kay, who is fine with being assistant manager at a furniture store, while Kenny rides the rollercoaster. The mythology of the ‘big American vision’ takes a pounding, but we all learn something, a canard favoured by M. Night, Mamet, and of gamblers everywhere: ‘The last card you turn over is the only one that matters.’

If that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Cinecast Episode 400 – A Waterfall of Love

After 400 episodes, you might think there would be some animosity, down in the dark recesses of our subconscious. With a special mailbag segment of the show, we get to the bottom of things and it is a wellspring of love and support. Or maybe not, as some listeners think it is a good idea to draw new lines of warring factions with other podcasts (really McNeil?… really!?). Otherwise it is business as usual in the Third Row.

We debate the high water marks of Pixar, past and present, and talk about the margins and the minutiae of their latest endeavor, Inside Out.

We ponder the opening and unconventional first episode of the second season of True Detective. Will it evolve into greatness, or even be worth discussing (or even watching) for an entire season?

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening! After all these years and episodes we are grateful for any and all audience that hangs with us, week in and week out. Onwards.



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Some Thoughts on the Worldview of Interstellar


Before reading below, it should be noted: THERE BE *SPOILERS* HERE, TOP TO BOTTOM.

One of my favourite quotations from recent science fiction cinema comes from Steven Soderbergh’s shockingly underrated 2002 remake of Solaris. When discussing how mentally equipped mankind is for stellar discovery, the mission-leader, Dr. Gibarian opines, “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” To be specific however, it was the ghost of Gibarian, or perhaps even a construct from an Alien intelligence projected from the mind of psychologist Kris Kelvin. Maybe it was just a dream. It’s complicated, but you get the idea. We go out into space to learn more about ourselves, finding new life and civilizations is just something incidental along the way.

In the case of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, we not only want mirrors, we also want old-time agriculture, book-shelves of dead-tree textbooks, battered and well loved pick-up trucks, baseball, and presumably, 35mm analogue film. In other words, apple-pie Americana with minimal materialism or digital devices. The only thing missing in the film’s love of all things twentieth century are the churches; in a way they too show up incorporated heavily into Hans Zimmer’s score. Co-incidentally enough, if the bombastic score were absent the epic organ-chime moments, it would very much resemble the subtle, driven work in Cliff Martinez’s score for, of all things, Solaris. Mirrors, indeed.

There is a bit of classic political head-butting in dusty small town America when former NASA pilot turned farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) goes into his kids’ school for parent-teacher interviews. In what is perhaps the films best scene, the principle and school teacher inform Cooper that the administration has ranked every 15-year old student’s future career path by a computer algorithm, a nanny state decision which must be abided. To add insult to injury, these governmental stewards charged with educating the youth are also moon-landing deniers and take umbrage to Coop’s daughter bringing ‘outdated textbooks’ into the classroom. Cooper, being the more come-what-may kind of cowboy (“alright, alright, alright kids, flat tire be damned, lets harvest and repurpose that old Indian solar wardrone!”) who likes manual-transmission, Morse code, and flying by the seat of his pants. The shackling of the future, and of history for that matter, to the lowest level of ambition, merely surviving, or as he puts it, staring down at the dirt, instead of looking up at the stars, gets his dander up. He’s a believer in technology, optimism, and problem-solving around a fast-ticking clock, in a world which has no interest in engineers or ideas. He funnels this frustration into his relationship with his bright and willful daughter. When the school administrators are looking to him to discipline his daughter, he tells them he is instead taking her to a ball game, and giving her popcorn and soda-pop besides. (Her suspension from formal schooling is the quick result of his insolence, but nevertheless yields the result of her eventually saving the human race. Take that big-government liberals!)

In the mean time, the United States is experiencing a second Great Depression and Dust-Bowl scenario. We are never specifically told what is happening anywhere else in the world over the run-time of this inward-looking film (heck, we don’t even know what year it is!) Presumably, either America’s climate change denial, or its preemptive strike foreign policies, possibly even over-subsidizing corn-production to the point of mono-culture, has brought the whole ecosystem to the brink and the human population has been reduced to a fraction of the 7 billion souls at the beginning of the 21st century. Environmental blight and ecological collapse is diminishing the remaining oxygen supply to the point where there is only enough for a few more generations. That is the scenario and it is grim, possibly man-made, and quite likely, irreversible.

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Trailer for Chris Nolan’s Interstellar

The full trailer for realist science fiction Blockbuster Interstellar not only does a great job of explaining Murphy’s Law, but it also brings Matthew McConaughey full circle to his big role in Robert Zemeckis’ Contact. The visuals looks just right here, the emotion hits the significant notes for the genre, and 21st century dreams and fears seem to be realized simultaneously.

I simply can’t wait for November, folks.

Cinecast Episode 342 – Nobody is Happy After a Three Way

The only regret on this episode is that Matt Gamble couldn’t get Frank (from Film Junk) to cry at some point. From Kurt’s drunken obsession with the female form (seriously folks, it is profound) to Andrew’s bafflement at the hatred for Colin Farrell’s lens flares. It’s a good thing Ryan McNeil is somewhat of a veteran of the show as it takes a special type of mortal to endure this kind of full throttle podcast that only the Cinecast can deliver. Lessons learned: Kurt may or may not have had a three-way, gigolos are “amazing”, Robin Wright’s labia is probably what was in Marcellus Wallace’s brief case. Amongst all the tomfoolery, there is a debate on the merits of the Second Indiana Jones film and Amber Heard should retire yesterday. It’s all in here along with plenty more. Thanks to our guests for sticking it out late; it was a show for the ages – yet we magically come in at under three hours – this is what passes for ‘concentrated’ with this podcast…

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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Cinecast Episode 337 – Hand on the Tiller

Another week another episode of quality TV. Quality of course being an understatement as we bask in the best television (and Matthew McConaughey) has to offer in “True Detective.” With nothing playing in the January mutliplexes, we time travel back 30 years to continue The 1984 Project. Sitting around the marijuana campfire, we lament the demise of The Doobie Brothers, drink full bottles of Jose Cuervo and bask in the Jungle and Lite-Jazz adventure that is Romancing the Stone. The Watch List this week is brief with Joe Dante and Ken Burns. And just for fun, there is a very quick Top 5 list in the mix. No time for the ol’ in and out, we’re just here to read the meter.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Cinecast Episode 336 – The Delivery of Disapproval

Trying out a new segment this week in our 1984 Project. We’ll be reviewing a different high profile (to us, anyway) film from 1984 each week for the foreseeable future. This week, that picture is 1984’s highest grossing film, Beverly Hills Cop. Before we get there though, we talk Iran’s submission for the foreign language Oscar (not nominated), The Past (Le passé). We also have a television show for one of our main reviews in episode one of HBO’s new series, “True Detective.” Lastly, there’s a bit of a watch list tucked in there towards the end of the show as well in which Andrew finally sees the latest Spike Jonze masterpiece and Kurt travels with Julia Roberts and Ms. Streep to Osage County.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Teaser: Interstellar

After all that grim business of Batman and terrorism and financial meltdowns with the Batman Franchise, it looks as if Christopher Nolan have decided to go with a more positive outlook for America. The trailer of Interstellar doesn’t tell us much, other than to dream and hope, and hold hands in a (probably government subsidized) cornfield.

But here is your wiki-synopsis: When a wormhole is newly discovered, a team of explorers and scientists embark on a voyage through it to transcend previous limitations on human space-time travel.”

I admire this trailer even as it leaves me rather flat in the same way that Star Trek: Enterprise’s intro left me flat. Or, perhaps this unaffected feeling is due to the unintended similarity to the clunky and cornball bumper shown as part of Cineplex Canada’s pre-show infotainment.

2013 Independent Spirit Awards NOMINEES

spirit awards 2013
To the surprise of no one, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave leads all nominations this year with seven – including of course best picture, best director, best screenplay and three of the four acting categories.

And they’re back. Awards season. Of the bigger ceremonies, The Spirit Awards are certainly among the favorites here in the third row. We always feel obliged to kick off our shoes and socks, roll up our cuffs and PBR me ASAP along with the guests of the award show – which will be held on March 1st (the day before the Oscars) literally on a beach in Santa Monica. And to add to the fun, Patton Oswalt will be hosting the awards. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

These are just the nominees and the actual statue handout is a long way off. Though there’s not really much in here to be surprised about with these nominations, excitement does begin to build today and we’re super excited about this year’s crop of movies that are actually good!

Catching my eye off the pitch is a nod to Spring Breakers for best cinematography. That’s cool it didn’t get lost in the shuffle. And I didn’t see The Spectacular Now (I don’t think it looks all that interesting), but I am happy to see Shailene Woodley back again for her role. Also Mud being recognized for not only best director (Jeff Nichols), but also getting the Robert Altman Award which is cool.

How bout you? Anything on the below list catching your eye?

12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis

Shane Carruth, Upstream Color
J.C. Chandor, All is Lost
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Jeff Nichols, Mud
Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Gaby Hoffman, Crystal Fairy
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now

Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost
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Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Screenplay:  Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, and Steve Zahn.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 117 min.

Dallas Buyers Club

A clear Oscar contender, Dallas Buyers Club continues Matthew McConaughey’s recent streak of monumental roles. A moving film that focuses on the AIDS epidemic during the late 1980’s, it manages to captivate if only moderately. While it delivers some of the best performances in years from McConaughey and costar Jared Leto, it lacks a clear focus, and struggles with pacing. Though it is compelling, it doesn’t manage to carry its own weight.

Though not a biopic, the story centers on antihero Ron Woodroof. A blue collar Texan electrician, misogynist, cowboy, homophobe, and drug addict, Woodroof finds out he’s become HIV positive. Likely due to one of his many conquests, he is thrust into a world he’d never imagined he’d become a part of. Given the looming prognosis of 30 days to live, he refuses to admit defeat. “Sorry, lady,” he shouts to his physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), “but I prefer to die with my boots on.” Venturing across the border for healthier alternative medication to then toxic AZT, he proceeded to bring them back to Texas in order to help others like him: the sick and dying without a shot in hell.

It’s an excellent film, but Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t seem to have a clear point. Ron Woodroof’s story is a compelling one, but this isn’t a biopic. It touches on the toxicity of AZT, the first U.S. Government approved HIV treatment, but only as a plot device. Similarly, it introduces the drug abuse and latent homophobia that ran rampant when AIDS became an epidemic, but never forms a dialogue on the matter. All of these factors come together to form a touching, and entertaining film that winds up blindly trying to hit a strong point, and ultimately missing. Would you like to know more…?