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



Update and Film Review – The One I Love (2014)

So, here’s an update on why I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been battling depression for the better part of my adult life. Some of you may have read a few things on this website that has dealt with some personal events and thoughts. I try to keep this website movie related but sometimes I just need to write out my feelings on a medium that won’t just be read by myself in a few months. My fathers side of the family is riddled with depression history and while I’ve managed to function correctly since high school, a month ago everything kind of came crashing down. I had a week where the only time I left my bed was to work and the work I did was shit anyway. So I decided to get some help and see a psychiatrist and ask if maybe medication was right for me. I started taking a mild anti-depressant about a week ago and I’m finally finding the energy to sit down and write. I have been watching a few movies here and there but most of them are either films I’ve seen already or movies that have been talked to death. I recently watched all three Indiana Jones films for the first time. Do I need to talk about them? No, because everybody and their mothers have seen those films. Expect more musings from me in the near future. I think I actually might make it to the theater tonight. We shall see. Here’s a short review of something special I saw last night. As always, thanks for reading…

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 81%
ON NETFLIX

Directed By – Charlie McDowell
Starring – Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss, and Ted Danson

Nope. You’re not getting a trailer for this one. Hell, you’re not going to even get much of a review. This is a film that you need to go in blind. The only thing I can tell you is that Duplass and Moss are married and are seeking help in the form of counseling from Danson suggests going away for a weekend. That’s it. That’s all you get. The film isn’t something that is going to absolutely blow you away with mind bending twists and turns, but rather it’s a film that just can’t be talked about in any form of detail without giving away key plot points that make the film a fun watch.

I will say that Moss and Duplass are fantastic together. The chemistry they have resembles a real husband and wife going through a struggle and let’s just say their performances are very layered. I was very impressed with both of them.

The film really gets to the core of what it means to spend your life with somebody you love and while I can’t go into why it does, the ending of the film is very uplifting and promising if you yourself are going through the same problems.

Please see the film. It’s on Netflix. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

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 – Boyhood (2014ish)

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%

Directed By – Richard Linklater
Starring – Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, and Zoe Graham

The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.

**WARNING – CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS AND SLIGHT SPOILERS**

I usually hate doing this, but I’m going to talk about what happens in this film a little bit. The film hit me on such an emotional level that I can’t not reference events. I’ll try to keep them as cloudy as I can.

What can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said. As of now it is sitting with a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and should go down as one of the best reviewed films of all time. The story of a young boy growing up before out very eyes is a a concept that doesn’t seem extraordinary enough on paper, but when you see it with your own eyes is a revelation in film. I was lucky enough to attend a screening at the IFC Center in New York City that had an intro from Linklater and Coltrane. They were humble and only talked briefly but what was the best part about it was seeing Ellar Coltrane as he is today, a 20 year old kid. The film started and all of a sudden he was five years old. It was like watching a home movie except what I didn’t expect was that I, like many, would find the nostalgia and deep seeded memory of my own life almost overbearing, as if somebody had opened a window and let my childhood out to play on the screen. Let’s dive into this thing.

Let me first say that the opening and closing shots of this film are just perfect. We open up on Mason peering into the sky. Right from the beginning, Linklater portrays Mason as an intellectual who is trying to find his place in the world. It’s a theme that will be played out heavily through the course of the nearly three hour run time. Trying to remember the times when your age consisted of a single digit is hard. For most of us, that was almost two decades ago, but for me, here comes this film that almost completely made me remember and almost get emotional about seeing my childhood on a screen. Riding bikes around, exploring the forests, looking at Victoria’s Secret, playing Oregon Trail in school when I’m supposed to be working. It was amazing seeing all these little details about growing up that you just don’t remember right away. You remember the big things of course. You remember when your voice started to change or when you had confrontations with other kids. You remember your first girlfriend and how disgusting the idea of the member of the opposite sex was. You remember moving away from your best friend, or in my case having your best friend move away from you. You remember having sleepovers where you and your buddy stayed up all night and watched all three Star Wars movies but falling asleep halfway through Return of the Jedi. You remember the fights your parents would have as they to grew up with you. I was just thinking this, but in a couple years I’m going to be the same age as my father was when he was born. I haven’t figured anything out in my life yet and this guy was having a kid. It’s something that made this film more than about a boy growing up before your eyes. It was about a family growing up with him.

Mason has an older sister by I believe two years and a mother and father who are divorced. Sam, played by Lorelei Linklater, is a typical older sister, sarcastic but still loving. Her opening scene was hysterical. At first Mason’s father, played perfectly by Ethan Hawke, is never really around. It’s only when he really starts to see his kids growing up that he decides to move back closer to him. He, along with his son Mason, is trying to find his place on this planet. He’s an aspiring musician who occasionally has a job, but I never for a second considered him to be a deadbeat. The love he showed for his children oozed out from him every time he was on screen, He gave advice when he could and tried to teach them lessons, especially Mason. Patricia Arquette plays the mother and in a way, this is also her story. She goes through a wave of good and bad decisions that seem to plague everybody in their lives. She’s raising two kids pretty much on her own and while she has relationships along the way, you never really feel like the three of them fit anywhere other than each other. By the end of the film you see this woman who has made so many choices in her life, good and bad, and she still wanted more. It’s a line in a film I’ll never forget. “I wish there was more”.

I connected with so much in this film. My brother, who is younger, would constantly be the bearer of my torture. I remember those long car rides where the urge to fight one another was so overwhelming that a “barrier” had to be placed in between us so we didn’t kill each other. Mason in high school was almost a direct representation of me. I went through the phase of wearing studded belts, band tee shirts, wristbands and long hair. I was feeling my way through my interests with photography and writing. I would bring my books to school to read when we had free time before the end of class. I was awkward but sociable with girls. There was a scene where Mason and his friends go “camping” at a friends house with his older brother. The conversation they had COMPLETELY nailed the conversations you have about beer and getting laid. Everybody had a girlfriend they slept with in summer camp or the place they used to live in. Everybody. I denied the offer of a beer, not because I’ve never had a beer before and was afraid of making that step in my life and what my parents would think of me, but rather because I didn’t want a beer. Those awkward years of trying to figure out what is wrong and what is right seemed like torture, but I’ll be damned if I would deny the chance to try again. The feeling of self discovery is such a rare thing for me nowadays that having a couple years where it happens every weekend would be amazing and terrifying at the same time.

The relationships. Oh man the relationships. It’s hard when you haven’t figured yourself out and yet you’re trying to make it work with another person. I’ve been going through this pretty hardcore recently. I’m 25 but I honestly don’t feel it. I feel like I’ve hit a major crossroad in my life where all those exciting self discovery moments have disappeared and I’m left waiting by the door waiting for them to come. I’ll get visitors to this door. Friends, family, and an amazing girl who seem to want me to come with them, out of the doorway, and into a place of happiness and growth, but I’m still left waiting at the door for a sense of inspiration that just isn’t coming. This film reminded me of who I used to be. I used to be the kid that was into photography and reading. I have read maybe two books in the last two years. I have tried to get back into art. I bought a paint set that has been sitting at the foot of my bed for three weeks now untouched. I’m even having trouble sitting down and watching films all the way through. It’s something I’m having a tough time with. In the end though, I know it’s going to work out. I know that I’m going to find an exit to this state I’m in. I’m going to get out of that doorway and experience my life as it comes to me with the people I love and care about.

THAT is what this film is about.

This film is about stages in your life, the great, the horrible, and maintaining a constant forward motion and coming out ahead. This film is about the people you meet who inspire you to be better. This film is about the people you meet who inspire you to never be like them. It’s about finding your way through this brief time on earth with the people you chose to take with you. You’re going to leave people behind, it’s a fact. Those people will either have left you with a lump of shit or a new way of looking at the world. I’m still trying to figure myself out. I have a lot of regrets. Mason had a lot of regrets. His mother had regrets, His father had regrets. They all figured it out by the end of this film though. Linklater didn’t just throw a happy ending at us. He threw a glimpse into the lives of four people who intertwined themselves with others, the good and the bad, and still came out the other side looking forward. By the end of the film I was thinking the same thing that Mason’s mother was thinking as she watched her son go off to college, “I wish there was more”. I wish there was more.

5/5