Tag Archives: ambiguous endings

Killer Joe

I’m so shell-shocked from this movie I’m having trouble writing about it.

When Chris, a not so great guy from a not so great family ( Emile Hirsch) has a stash of drugs stolen from him by his mom, he has to come up with cash quick, or he’s dead. He and his father, Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church) hatch a plan to kill the mom and collect on her life insurance policy. texasAnd Chris knows just the guy to do the job – Killer Joe, a Dallas detective who happens to be a hit-man on the side.  Too bad they can’t afford to pay his retainer…until Joe spots Chris’s sweet little sister Dottie (Juno Temple) and decides that sexual collateral will do just the trick.

This film is trash. Trash trash, not trailer trash. Don’t be fooled by the actual trailer park. These people aren’t just hicks, they’re actual filthy, morally bankrupt people. This fact is established very very quickly – it’s immediately vulgar, over-the-top vulgar, and that’s before the beaver gets flashed in your face. Chris’s stepmom (Gina Gershon) has no boundaries and apparently no pants. Letts, the playwright, is adept with fucked up families (think August: Osage County) but this one takes the cake.

So I was repulsed by this movie, and this from the girl who didn’t blink once while watching Sin City a few weeks ago. My revulsion was knee-jerk and I went straight for the “bad movie” label – bad, bad movie. But I didn’t turn it off. And as I watched more, I realized that the badness is on purpose. It’s the point. You’re not supposed to like these people. This film is showing us a very dirty, seedy class of people. The badness is actually pretty expertly done, which doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch.

Enter Matthew McConaughey, a southern gentleman and a breath of fresh air. His demeanor is calm, his drawl is polite. He injects the movie with a much-need hit of stillness that lets us catch our breath after all the frenetic coarseness. The audience wants to eat him up which is a very effective device because it turns out he’s just as morally reprehensible and probably the most soulless character yet. He just has a more polished facade.

There’s so much tension in this movie that occasionally a giggle will bubble up, guiltily, without relieving even an ounce of the tension. This movie will make your jaw ache. It’s brutal. It’s sadistic. There so much fetishistic sexual cruelty that you won’t know where to look. If you’re comfortable exploring dark, nasty, demented sides of people without every really scratching the surface, then by all means, you won’t do better than this movie. I sort of hesitate to call it exploitation cinema, but isn’t that what it means? To be a voyeur in this condemnable underworld and enjoy watching the bloody violence and perversion vicariously? But Killer Joe has the capacity to really catch people off guard, and not in a good way. (You won’t ever eat fried chicken again.) It’s provocative but doesn’t really attempt to teach us anything. The characters are not remotely redeemable, but neither is the movie. Galling, outrageous, and ultimately superficial. And as polarizing as the movie is, just wait til you get to the end.



(And if by chance you’ve landed on this site just needing to talk about what you’ve seen, then please take the chance to do so in the comments. Assholes Watching Movies is providing a public service: vent, ask questions. Others be forewarned that there may be spoilers.)


I didn’t understand all of Interstellar and it wasn’t my fault.

intChristopher Nolan was so impressed with composer Hans Zimmer’s slightly over-bearing score for Batman Begins that the two have been practically inseparable ever since (with the exception of The Prestige). Zimmer’s work on Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy (usually) compliment Nolan’s story and images nicely, adding drama and suspense in all the right places. The only trouble is, when Nolan cranks the volume up to 11 and the music really starts to swell, it can be nearly impossible to make out some of the dialogue. It doesn’t help that the director loves to have his actors mumble and whisper their lines (sometimes even from behind a Bane mask).

This is even truer of Interstellar, with the roar of space shuttles and pickup trucks, dust storms, and Zimmer’s score render the dialogue completely inaudible in several places. What’s worse is this is not a movie where you can really afford to miss anything. Nolan packs as much information, theorizing, and heart-to-hearts as he possibly can into Interstellar’s nearly three-hour running time and missing even a minute is missing a lot. So, SPEAK UP, will you, Coop? And turn the music down.

As a fan of Christopher Nolan since Memento, I had been looking forward to this movie for months so I was a little disappointed when it got off to what I thought was a bit of a rough start. Matthew McConaughey, who’s been on a surprisingly long winning streak lately, plays Coop, a corn farmer who should have been an astronaut and almost got to be one once. But we don’t need astronauts anymore.

We spent so much money and resources on the space race and arms race that we have run out of food. This is an interesting vision of the not-so-distant future but we are brought up to speed on what’s been going on in some uncharacteristically (for Nolan) clumsily written scenes. Coop soon discovers that he has been “chosen” to lead a team through a wormhole into another solar system to find another planet for us to live (and ruin). Nolan rushes through all of this with plot conveniences, clumsy exposition, and lazy writing, as if he’s as eager as we are to just move this story into outer space as fast as possible.

The film really gets off the ground once the shuttle takes off. The images of space travel are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie and decisions these characters will have to make are sure to make for passionate discussions during the ride home from the theater. What significance do we as a species have in an infinite universe? What does it mean to “save the human race?”. Should we follow scientific data or our heart when deciding how close we want to live to a black hole?

Nolan’s always been very good at this, even when making superhero movies. The questions he raises about human nature have made for some of the best post-movie discussions I’ve ever had. This is no surprise. What surprised me most about Interstellar were the scenes of Coop receiving transmissions from his children who are still stuck on Earth, surprisingly moving from a filmmaker who usually prefers to mess with your head than aim for the heart.

In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan gets the chance to show us new aspects of his talent that are pleasant surprises. I still think he’s at his best when he raises troubling questions about the monster inside all of us and I am not sure how I feel about this new Look to the Heavens and Love Conquers All side of him. But whether or not its director has gone soft on us, Interstellar is well worth watching.



This asshole not enough for you? Read Jay’s review over here.


Chris Nolan is a closet softie, and a not-so-secret fan of the happy ending, and has now twice been given the opportunity to kill of Anne Hathaway and not taken it. Spoiler Alert! Catwoman lives!

I recently sat in the very packed IMAX theatre at SilverCity for three hours that didn’t quite feel as long as they were because Nolan packs a lot in his punch and there wasn’t much I would cut. Even from the vague trailers, you knew going in this was going to be an epic story.

Confession: I came out of the movie very frustrated with a certain paradox that the audience is just supposed to accept because some space cowboy told us so. It felt like lazy story-telling to me.

And also: this is a cold movie. You’re going to want to bring a sweater.

Back to the story. We are presented with a very dusty, dirty future where the only viable crop left is corn (sidebar: as someone who grew up among the rows of corn in a small town named after it, this feels to me less like the future and more like hell). McConaughey is a not-too-happy-about-it farmer when he stumbles upon an underground bunker containing not only NASA, but mankind’s only hope for survival, aka, a secret mission to outerspace! And even though just moments ago this mission was going full steam ahead without him because he didn’t even know it existed, his help becomes so necessary that, with the burden of extinction on his shoulders, he leaves his motherless children behind (in the grouchy old hands of John Lithgow) and takes off for the stars in a search for a suitable planet to call home.

Then this film becomes about difficult choices. They’ve got to be made. And so characters constantly wonder aloud – to whom do we owe the most, our children, our species, ourselves? Oh man. So hard. And as my lovely sister pointed out, in case you missed an important decision being pondered, the music swells in all the right places, and very probably, someone will begin dramatically reciting a Dylan Thomas poem though they will miss its point and use it in all the wrong contexts. But they’re scientists, goddammit, not artists. Scientists who miss glaringly obvious data for convenient plot twists, but still.


And the film is also about time. Not just time-is-running-out, though it is that too – the people on earth will not survive beyond existing generations. They are starving and suffocating. It’s about this “relativity” concept, how time runs differently out there, and just one ditzy-damsel-Anne Hathaway moment can cost McConaughey a decade with his kids. Those are maybe the most real moments of the film, when he’s just a father grappling with time’s passage, the agony of a sacrifice bigger than he ever knew or understood.

So yes. I had problems with how Nolan explains away the essential question of the film. He sets up something vague yet plausible but then ruins it with ego and pathos. I hated the basic premise of let’s throw away this earth and find another to rape and pillage. At times the film is downright bad (the “love transcends all” theme seems forced and childish and simplistic, and the ending is a little too Hollywood for my taste – Nolan, I expected better), but it’s also quite quite good in others. Visually stunning for sure. Haunting. Beautiful. Lonely in the right ways. And contains many nuggets of interest that are sure to be water-cooler talk for the rest of the month at least. Warts and all, it’s worth the watch.