Film Review : Inherent Vice (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 69%
Academy Award Nominations for Best Costume Design and Dapated Screenplay

Directed By – Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newsome, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, ERic Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams, Hong Chau, Jena Malone, and Martin Dew

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

It’s been just over two weeks since my last post. Apologies for that. My viewing habits happen to be changing week to week but good news is that I should have a few more posts coming up after I finish seeing the Oscar nominated films. I also may write up an actual post on the Oscar nominations but I’m debating it because I’ve honestly stopped caring about the show. Anyway, thanks for reading as always.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON HAS A NEW FILM OUT! YES!

Being my favorite living director right now, I have been excited for this film while also actively avoiding anything related to the film. I wanted to go into this thing fresh. Turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I watched the trailer or how many articles I read, I would have left the theater confused either way. I honestly have no clue what the hell happened in this film. Now, normally this would be a negative. Normally, this would be an indication that the screenplay was weak, disjointed, or too complex. That isn’t the case for this film. I heard and understood every single line of dialogue in the film. I just don’t know what most of it means. Sure, the film is complex and offers about a thousand different characters with their own connections with the story. Some of these characters appear in the beginning and disappear for two hours only to be revealed at the end as a major plot device. Some of these characters only grace their presence once and after the scene changes they’re gone. I don’t have a problem with too many characters. Hell, Magnolia is one of my favorite films of all time and there are just as many characters in that as this. What makes this such a hard watch is simple, we experience the film like our main protagonist Doc Sportello experiences it, in a very foggy haze. It’s this haze that makes things murky and confusing. There is nothing wrong with that in my mind. PTA has crafted a film that even he doesn’t understand. Seriously, he said that in an interview with Marc Maron. While I haven’t read the source material, he states that a lot of the films dialogue and story arc is just how Thomas Pynchon wrote it in his book. Pynchon, who is one of the most unique writers of the last thirty years, had his book translated into film beautifully by PTA. The only problem with that is how it affected the audience which was a mixed bag.

I had two reactions during the two and a half hour run length of the film. The first half I was actively trying to keep up with the story and understand everything that was happening. I wasn’t enjoying the film that much. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a grasp on the significance of each character or that Joanna Newsome, who acted as the narrator of the film as well as a friend to Doc, would keep chiming in with Pynchon jargon. Don’t get me wrong, Newsome was great in this, and I liked the narration. It just didn’t help with the frustration of trying to figure out what’s going on. Halfway through the movie I decided to give up and just let the amazing cinematography, acting, and 70’s vibes wash over me. I should have done that from the beginning because I enjoyed the film so much more.

Joaquin Phoenix plays our protagonist Doc, a weed smoking private eye who is tasked to put this puzzle of a story in the right pieces. I’m not even sure if he does by the end or if everything that he went through was even real. PTA did a fantastic job of making the film feel like you just smoked a huge doober. The cast is overbearing at times. Del Toro, Short, Witherspoon, Wilson, and Roberts aren’t in the film enough. This is all Phoenix, Brolin, and Waterston. Josh Brolin plays Bigfoot, a longtime acquaintance of Doc and also the person who wants to see Doc arrested. Waterston plays Doc’s ex ladyfriend whom has gone missing. We see her in flashbacks and sporadically through the film but she’s incredible whenever we do. The last scene we see her in is especially impressive as it’s a long, almost seven minute take with just her and Doc talking, and then some. The comedy comes mostly from Brolin, Phoenix, and a hilarious Martin Short. The cast kicked ass is what I’m saying.

Obviously I’m going to have to see this again. Even if I wasn’t confused I would see it again given that it’s a film by a living, and young, legend of cinema. There’s just something about PTA’s films where these whole other chambers reveal themselves and open up on repeat viewings. This review is a lot shorter than what I expected a PTA review would be but honestly, I can’t talk much about what I don’t understand. I’ll say this though, there is literally nothing like a Paul Thomas Anderson film. It’s a strange, hypnotic, hysterical, haze of a film that demands repeat viewings and crackpot fan theories. There are scenes in this film that are bizarre and puzzling mixed in with scenes that are just flat out outrageous and funny. It’s always a fun time in the cinema with PTA.

Plus, I don’t mean to spoil anything, but at one point Josh Brolin tells Doc that he smells like a patchouli fart. That’s hilarious. Damn hippies.

4/5




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Quick Review : St. Vincent (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes – 76%

Directed By – Theodore Melfi
Starring – Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Kimberly Quinn, and Terrence Howard

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.

There are very few things in life that instill a complete sense of tranquility whenever they’re present. A nice roaring fire on a cold night, a juicy burger and a tall cold beer, a nap during a rainstorm…and Bill Murray.

I love Bill Murray. I know everybody generally loves Bill Murray but I ignore them all and just savor the fact that this man is still making me laugh in movies. Ever since I heard him explain to the mayor of New York that Walter Peck had no dick in Ghostbusters, sarcasm has been a friend. Sometimes it doesn’t go over as well as when Bill uses it. I’ve been in some awkward situations in public situations where my sarcasm has been laid down too strong and prompts me to explain how I’m not really a jerk. Bill never has to do that though. He’s Bill Murray. He’ll always be Bill Murray and nobody else will ever be Bill Murray. That doesn’t make sense. I don’t care.

St. Vincent, a film that I obviously wanted to see ended up being a sweet, cute, very funny film that didn’t do anything special in terms of story of style, but just raked in the smiles from the on screen cast. It reminded me a lot of Chef earlier this year where we have a young actor playing opposite of a more known actor and letting the story kind of run in the background. Sometimes you really just need a relaxing comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s what we have here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some emotional scenes in the film that landed as being sincere. The film tackles divorce and Alzheimer’s pretty seriously but the film never drops into it too long before coming back with a laugh.

Bill Murray was obviously awesome. There was a scene that was in the trailer so I don’t mind talking about it here, involving Bill sitting in a lawn chair while Oliver (Lieberher) mows his dirt. McCarthy asks him if he’s drinking alcohol and we get this long Bill Murray stare and response of “I honesty don’t remember”. I died. I had seen the scene in the trailer but honestly it’s so funny that it surprised me when it happened. Bill turns on and off a Brooklyn accent for the duration of the film and REALLY did a phenomenal job at the end of the film. I won’t say what happens, but I’ll just say it was really a perfect interpretation of what people really go through after such an event. Speaking of accents, Naomi Watts may have done one of the worst accents in the history of film. Her character is Russian and her attempt at the accent is just laughable. She sounds like if Niko Belic and Yakov Smirnoff decided to be a lady. It was horrible. Chris O’Dowd is amazing. I could have watched the scenes with him in the classroom for two hours. The cast was great.

The film was delightful while not being a special snowflake. Does that make sense? It’s like comfort food. Mashed potatoes aren’t special but sometimes they’re the perfect thing. Also, Bill Murray.

3.5/5



Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

Film Review : Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Directed By – James Gunn
Starring – Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Booker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz, Glenn Close, and Benicio Del Toro

In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

As of today, I have seen less than five Marvel films, including this one. I was never really into comic books and honestly, the films have not impressed me besides the first Iron Man and The Avengers. Everything changed after seeing this though. A lot of people are claiming this is the best film of the year. They claiming this is the best Marvel film ever. I’ll tel you this. It is NOT the best film of the year. It is arguably the best Marvel film along with The Avengers. This is a film that has one thing going for it, something that it can claim to be unmatched by any other film released in 2014. You will not have more fun in a theater. It’s the funniest movie of the year with pretty great action sequences and special effects. I was shocked by how much I laughed. This is a better comedy than most comedies that have been released in the last five years. Believe the hype. This is the blockbuster of the year.

Like I said earlier, I had no idea what the hell the film was about before I went to the theater. I saw a trailer or two but really only remember what the main cast looked like. I’ve always been a DC person having grown up immersing myself in Batman things besides the comics. Yes I realize I’m not a true nerd by saying that. During the Marvel renaissance I tried to get into the worlds but they never grabbed me. In a way, this film was just like that. The film started and while they did a good job explaining the worlds to me, I just wasn’t grabbed. The antics from Pratt were funny throughout, but it really wasn’t until the last hour of the film where the movie went from decent to fucking awesome. Pratt is a sure fire star in the making. I’ve known this for a while now after seeing him constantly be the funniest part of Parks and Rec but this just iced the cake. Zoe Saldana seems to get cast as the ass kicking alien chick in ever single film so I wasn’t really wowed there. It was just the same routine. Dave Bautista was a scene stealer as DJax, a brute of a man seeking revenge. The ones who made me laugh the most though was the team that made the whole film for me, Rocket and Groot. Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, talked way too much and Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, talked too little. It was a perfect blend of character and the two of them provided the most belly laughs from me. There are a bunch of scenes involving Groot that had me hunched over. The supporting cast was pretty great, as we get a fantastic performance from Michael Rooker and an evil one from Lee Pace. The cast was just perfect overall.

I did’t really expect the film to be this charming either. The film opens with an emotional punch that leaves the audience reeling and then we have Chris Pratt dancing to 80’s tunes in the scene after. The back and forth between intense and powerful set pieces and goofy fun never felt exhausting. It blended together effortlessly which was to be expected from James Gunn. He was able to do the same in his previous films such as Super and Slither. He crafts serious genre films but in a style and humor that goes back and forth without losing the viewer. He was a perfect choice for this film. It’s going to be very interesting seeing what he does with the sequel, one of which I’m already waiting for.

It’s honestly hard for me to talk about this film. I don’t know the universe well and there were SO MANY scenes that had me cracking up that I just can’t talk about on opening weekend for spoiler reasons. All I can say that is the hype is real. This is one of the better blockbuster films of the last couple years and certainly the most fun you can have in a theater right now. Planet of the Apes may be a better piece of art, but Guardians of the Galaxy is just way too much fun to pass up. See it.

4.5/5




Film Review : The Double (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%

Directed By – Richard Ayoade
Starring – Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Cathy Moriarty, Chris O’Dowd, and Paddy Considine

A clerk in a government agency finds his unenviable life takes a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is both his exact physical double and his opposite – confident, charismatic and seductive with women.

I decided, for the first time since moving to Fort Lee, NJ, to head into the city and see a movie. I tried picking a theater where I could see a double feature and settled on seeing “The Double” and Only Lovers Left Alive” at the Landmark Sunshine on East Houston street. I figured that since I live next to the most famous city in the world that just so happens to have a billion theaters showing films that show nowhere else around me, it might be a good idea to start venturing in and taking advantage. First up is “The Double”, directed by the extremely talented British quirk, Richard Ayoade.

His first film, “Submarine” is one that I have actually seen but remember nothing of. I must have been outside my head that day because even though I have tried, I can’t remember a single thing from that film. I stated he is talented because of his work on “The IT Crowd” and the fact that he was the only entertaining thing about “The Watch”. I’ve also heard him in a bunch of interviews and he seems like a very intelligent and unique person. All those qualities showed up in “The Double:, an adaption of a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel of the same. Jesse Eisenberg, who was brilliantly cast for this role, plays Simon, an employee at a data processing firm who can’t seem to catch a break or the recognition from his peers. In walks James, an identical looking/dressing Simon who is everything Simon is not, charismatic, funny, charming, and outgoing. He picks up women as he pleases and he wins the smiles of everyone he encounters. I remembered seeing the trailer when it was released and thinking that the film was going to be a trip because I had no idea what was going on. Having seen the film I’m still not quite sure. It’s going to take a second viewing to understand fully what happened but one thing the film was…impressive.

Besides the obvious science fiction elements, for example the fact that the film takes place in an obvious dystopian world not of our own, the film is a comedy. It’s a quick draw of wit around every corner and delivered perfectly by Eisenberg who secured an Oscar nomination for playing a character who is fast talking and witty. Ayoade did his homework. Eisenberg, who plays both main characters, played them both wonderfully. Simon is shy, neurotic, and miserable whereas James is outgoing, engaging, and seems to be the favorite person of every single employee and person in the city. Nobody mentions the fact that they both loo exactly alike which is the game played on the viewer. I was constantly trying to understand why nobody seemed to notice the similarity and why bad things continually seemed to follow Simon around. It’s only as the movie progresses that we start to accept the vagueness of the other characters and start to focus in on the similarities of James and Simon. The ending of the film was a bit disappointing as we are led to believe the mystery behind the two is a conclusion that we’ve seen in film countless times but for what the ending lacks in originality, the rest of the film thrives in being a type of comedy I’ve never seen before.

Oh, and the cameos by Paddy Considine and Chris O’Dowd were fucking hilarious.

The film showed just how talented Ayoade is as a young filmmaker and I’m going to be looking forward ti what he does next because if it was anywhere as unique as “The Double” then he has a bright future ahead of him.

4/5

Suggested Viewing – Brazil, 1984, Enemy, Dark City,