Film Review : Sicario (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Directed By – Denis Villenuvue
Starring – Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Jon Berntha, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffery Donovan, Maximiliano Hernández, and Julio Cedillo

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

I’m back. No explanation needed. I’m back.

I’m confronted with an interesting question after today. Who is the best working director in the present time? Before this morning, the answer was simple, Paul Thomas Anderson. How could it not be him? The Master? Masterpiece. There Will Be Blood? Masterpiece. I have Inherent Vice coming into my mailbox for a second viewing tomorrow, but after the first viewing, it seems his latest effort has fallen short of such previous accolades. What other directors deserve such mention? Well, if Shane Carruth could put out more than one film every eight years I’d say he deserves mention. The Coen brothers have been as consistent as anybody working today but it’s that consistency that seems to prevent them from pushing themselves to the top in my opinion. I’m a man of change, a man of ever evolving interests and I need a director that encompasses such a viewpoint. Insert Denis Villenueve. Like Paul Thomas Anderson, Villenuve has a very broad and diverse resume of films. He’s covered psychological thrillers with Enemy, drama with Prisoners and Incendies, and even the art house quiet film that is Maelstrom. Let me get this out of the way, Incendies is one of my favorite films of all time. It slays me, every time. I’ve been hooked to Villenuve ever since he opened Incendies with a close up shot of a middle eastern child soldier set to Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army”. Prisoners was haunting. Enemy was baffling. Now, he comes along with a film like Sicario and I’m left puzzling over whether this auteur from Canada could really be my favorite working director I still don’t have a clear answer, but honestly, right now, I think I have a feeling. Denis Villenuve may just have beat out PTA for the top spot in my highly coveted favorite director position. It’s an honor both earned, and deserved. Let us talk about his latest film…Sicario.

Has a film started out with such a bang before?

Jesus. What a way to open a film.

The thought of a SWAT team operation is reserved for the pivotal action set piece in most films and here we have Villenuvue opening his film with a full on tactical assault on a house in what seems to be Walter Whites neighborhood. What follows is nothing short of horror. I’m sitting in my chair, nails deep in my arm rests and it’s only been fifteen minutes into the film. I know what I’m dealing with and I know what is at stake.

I live in New Jersey. That is a far ways away from Mexico. I don’t really understand what it is like living next to such a country. I mean, I live next to New York. I’ve walked those streets. Never have I felt like I was in any danger. Mexico? That’s another world altogether. I can’t even imagine living in Juarez if it’s anything like how it’s portrayed in this film. It is hell on Earth, a warzone dolled up like a functioning city. In a way, this was the most shocking part of this film, that such a place can exist.

Villenueve knows what the fuck he is doing. This story is actually kind of simple. You take a cop from a Kidnapping division and insert her into a big boy league narcotics assault division. These people know how to get results. They laugh at fear. An average director would take such a premise and throw glitter at it, add a couple CGI action scenes and call it a day. Not Villneuve. There isn’t a single scene in this film that doesn’t reek with the smell of dread. The opening sequences only set a precedent that is carried out throughout the duration of the film. This is life. This is Juarez. Get used used to it. I was blown away by the rawness and overall bleak nature that Villenuve showed us in nearly every scene. Sure there were some scenes of humor, like the shot of Josh Brolin sitting in a meeting room wearing sandals as if they weren’t talking about a psychotic drug lord, but rather who was going to bring the potato salad to the company picnic. These moments are always snuffed out though with a musical score that reminds the viewer…hey, this is real shit. This isn’t some run of the mill TV episode about how the drug trade is supposed to work. This is why I love Villenueve. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He doesn’t hold back when you think they should. He has close ups of rotting dead corpses. The has lingering shots of bodies hanging from Juarez overpasses. If the general tone is supposed to be horrific and uneasy, he’s going to show you. It’s reason why this film sticks out over the rest. It’s a raw hellride of momentous proportion.

Jesus, I haven’t even mentioned the acting. I’m not a big defender on the importance of awards season, but if Benicio Del Tori and Emily Blunt don’t get recognition for their roles in this film then there is something rotten in the state of Denmark if you know what I mean. Blunt carries the film for the most part with an absolutely dedicated and harrowing performance. She does this however, knowing, that this really isn’t her film. She isn’t really the main character in my opinion. Sure she gets the most screen time and fully takes advantage of this by giving a career performance, but this sin’t her film.

This is Benicio Del Toro’s film.

We’ve all seen what this man can do. He’s a virtuoso. A chameleon. His performance in this film only goes to show he’s one of the mot underrated actors working in Hollywood today. Del Toro SLAYS this role. His importance to the mission within the film is questioned throughout the run time but only towards the end do we know why his character is so important to the film and this is where Del Toro really shines as a menacing force. Every time he’s on screen I reel back with anticipation on what he’s going to do next. Even when he’s in a situation where the action should be the main player, he’s taking over the scene with his presence. By the end, you don’t know whether he’s somebody you should root for or somebody you should root against, and he plays this uncertainty brilliantly. He shines.

Cudos to my man Roger Deakins. I mean, I really don’t have to say that. He’s a master of his craft and only proves so again with his gorgeous cinematography. This film is all over the spectrum visually with scenes coming at night when the horizon is open with a Mexican sky unlike any other. His night vision and thermal camera scenes are perfect and engaging. Villenuve and Deakins team up to provide what is easily the most intense and “on the edge of your seat” harrowing extraction scene through Juarez that holds up to any action scene in recent history. I can’t stress that enough. From the moment they left in their caravan til the moment they arrived back at the base, I was enthralled. It’s easily one of the most adrenaline fueled scenes in recent memory for me. I loved it. I had to catch my breath at the end of it.

I just can’t say enough about this film. It’s a raw and brutal telling about the Mexican drug trade and doesn’t shy away from showing what horror such a business can show. The camera work, acting, musical score, and story pacing are top of their game good and I’m literally drooling at the chance to see this again. I’ve been a big fan of Denis Villenuve for years now and he never ceases to let me down. With all the “action” films released this year, besides Mad Max, this is your chance to see a film that not only provides top of its class action, but also a story and visual presence that will linger and make you think long after the credits roll. It’s my film of the year so far.

5/5




Advertisements

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




Film Review : Maelstrom (2000)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 80%

Directed By – Denis Villeneuve
Staring – Marie-Josée Croze, Stephanie Morgenstern, Klimbo, and Jean-Nicolas Verreault

After plunging her car into a river, a woman encounters a man who helps her come to terms with her life.

So…after seeing “Enemy” last week I decided that I needed to explore the back catalog of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who is quickly becoming one of my favorite up and coming directors. As I wrote last week, “Incendies” is one of my favorite films ever and “Prisoners” and “Enemy” entertained the shit out of me. I’ve heard interesting things from “Maelstrom” and interestingly enough, it so happened to be near the front of my Netflix queue so I push it to the top and here we are. Honestly, I wasn’t floored with the film like I was floored with his other work but I have my reasons for both sides of the argument. I will also note that this review will be brief as I do not enjoy giving out too many details of the plot, which in the case for the film was all over the fucking place. This wasn’t a bad thing by the way.

So that description above the previous paragraph? Yeah, you can go ahead and forget that. The story is really about the life of Bibi, the daughter of a famous French fashion designer that is going through a bit of a life crisis. The film opens up with her getting an abortion and the fun times just start pouring out after that. Poor Bibi. She just couldn’t catch a break, mostly because she’s kind of an idiot but she’s our protagonist so we’ll give her some slack. Bibi goes on to make a few bad decisions and by the middle of the film, has a great deal of guilt racked up on her shoulders. Did I mention we have a talking fish as our narrator? I didn’t? Silly me. Not only is he a talking fish, but he is many talking fish who are getting cut up as the story progresses. The film had a thing with fish. Water, the color blue, fisherman, TALKING FUCKING FISH…you can see the theme here. It was like Villeneuve watched the Three Colors Triology and a shit load of David Cronenberg and decided to write and film this movie. For good measure, he added a bunch of creepy spoken word tracks from Tom Waits, you know, you jazz it up a bit.

So it seems like I’m bashing the film. I’m not doing that. I am just in a weird mood and the sarcasm is leaking from my fingers. Truth is a ended up liking the film. Sure it had flaws. This is one of the first major features of a young director. Have you ever seen the first films of some famous directors? Some are horrid. Some are funny. Some are like this where you can see the originality oozing from the screen but the final product just isn’t as polished or coherent as you would like. I think this is either because young filmmakers have had an entire lifetime of film ideas to put into their first one that they over do it a little. Take Alfonso Cauron for instance. The man just won Best Director at The Oscars but if you go back to his first film, “Love in the Time of Hysteria”, which I reviewed on this site by the way, you’ll notice a film that is far from the quality of his more acclaimed films. It was a funny film but that’s about all. “Maelstrom” on the other hand was able to deliver some emotional scenes backed with some gorgeous camera work. The story was a bit muddy at points and seemed to skip around leaving unresolved questions but it was an experiment and an entertaining one at that.

Seriously, there’s a talking fish in this movie. He’s got a cool accent. I don’t know what his purpose was but it made me laugh.

3/5

Suggested Viewing – Three Colors Trilogy, Naked Lunch, The Sweet Hereafter, Incendies, Head – On



Film Review : The Counselor (2013)

<img src="” alt=”” />

IMDB Score – 5.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 34%

Starring – Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, and Edgar Martinez
Directed By – Ridley Scott

A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.

Earlier last year I wrote about how excited I was that this film was even happening. The cast, aside from Cameron Diaz, was fantastic. I am a Ridley Scott apologist. I thought “Prometheus” was a gorgeous film and although it was written by a man who should have no business in science fiction, I thought the film did space horror justice. The film boasted one of my favorite authors at the helm of the screenplay. I have enjoyed everything Cormac McCarthy has ever written and was excited for his first work written directly for the screen. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG GUYS?

Everything. Everything went wrong.

This was one of the most pretentious pieces of hot garbage I have ever seen. It was like Ridley Scott found a pile of shit in the middle of the room, found out who made it, denied it was a pile of shit, and threw glitter on it. How is that image doing for you? I’m actually proud of that analogy. It is fitting to what this film ended up being. So we have a lawyer played by Michael fucking Fassbender. This lawyer decides to get into the drug trade and then I honestly don’t understand what the hell happens next. Actually, if I had not read the synopsis before watching the film I would have had no idea what was happening during the entire two hour run length. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy films that make no sense. Those films however know what they’re aiming for and try to present it in a unique and experimental fashion. This films plays like McCarthy watched a Tarantino film and decided he was going to write one and use much bigger words. I love the mans writing but this was just a huge failure in trying to be profound and philosophical. NOBODY TALKS THE WAY ANYBODY IN THIS FILM TALKS. The last line was spoken by Cameron Diaz and she used the word “famished”. She wasn’t even being ironic. It was like a high school drama student was trying to sound cool on facebook. I’m just completely surprised by how bad the entire film was.

That isn’t to say there weren’t a few stylish elements I enjoyed. For one, Ridley Scott is just a natural behind teh camera and I enjoyed the colors portrayed in the film. There are also two very entertaining scenes that involve wire and Cameron Diaz fucking a car.

Yes. I just said that. I’m sorry if I ruined it for you but there is no way in hell I’m not talking about this. Cameron Diaz fucked an automobile. The term “catfish” was used in the film to describe what such an experience would be like. I vomited in my bed. Cameron Diaz owes me new sheets.

Let’s elaborate on Cameron Diaz for a moment. Why was she cast in this film. Her character is supposed to be ARGENTINIAN. Does she look Argentinian? Does she sound even remotely Argentinian? That must have been one hell of a blow job she gave to the casting director because that’s the only way that untalented woman got this job. Actually, that could probably be said for most of her career. I’m so glad that she didn’t end up doing what she always ends up doing, ruining good films. Her involvement in this was just an extra piece of lunacy added on to a debacle of a movie. Penelope Cruz was underused and had horrible lines given to her which she delivered with a subtle hint of “am I really saying this?” Javier Bardem decided to do this just so he could have his hair styled like that. I have know idea what he said in the film because of his outrageous blow out haircut. Brad Pitt played the same character he always plays, in the same voice, with the same everything.

Why did this have to happen. It was like the entire production company set us up for something brilliant and then delivered us a failure pile with a party hat on it and a note saying “Suck it population!”. I feel bad for people who paid to see this.

Let me summarize this who thing before I write Netflix a letter asking them why they didn’t email saying “NO PLEASE DON’T” when they saw I had this movie in my queue. The film was a mechanical pretentious slob of pseudo philosophical drivel. That sentence was brought to you by the Thesaurus. The same thesaurus that Cormac McCarthy used to construct 90% of the dialogue in this film. It had a few entertaining scenes. I believe a mentioned a car being slobbered on by an old untalented vagina. It was not entertaining enough though to hold even the slightest of my attention and I would like my two hours back. Oh, an there were Cheetahs in this films that were treated like both horses and house cats. I feel violated.

0.5/5

Recommended ViewingBaby Geniuses




Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

IMDB Score 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 75%

Directed By Martin Scorsese
Starring – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, P.J. Byrne, Jon Bernthal, and Matthew McConaughey

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.

I feel like I should be on Quaaludes right now as I type this up. I feel like everybody should be on Quaaludes while they read this. How about just…Quaaludes.

Writing this a couple days after Leo won the Golden Globe for Best Actor, I’m starting to realize that this may be the year that Leo finally wins and Oscar, and he would totally deserve it. Leo stars in this absolutely insane film about rich people in the stock market and what kind of luxuries go with that. To my surprise, the theater in which I saw this film was still packed to the brim which was great but also horrible because I always seem to be a magnet for people like to talk during the entire duration of a film. The fact that this was three hours long only impressed me more on how awful people are. Even with those distractions, I still enjoyed the film.

Scorcese has always been a interesting director to me. Sometimes he’ll have a film that is a well balanced machine of great acting, wonderful camera work, and interesting story. Goodfellas, The Departed, Hugo, and Shutter Island come to mind. Then there is the Scorsese that seems to miss on the subject matter but still gets great performances out of his actors. Casino and Gangs of New York featured powerhouse performances but just fell a little short story wise although were entirely entertaining. The Wolf of Wall Street will be joining those two films. It’s a film filled with great acting and fun but really didn’t have any substance to carry in into my top film of the year.

Leo was amazing. I hope he does more comedies because the man is hilarious. The timing he developed with Jonah Hill was amazing to watch and like I said in the beginning I expect him to take home his first Oscar. In a year FILLED to the brim with amazing male performances, I hope Leo takes home the statue. He earned it. Like everything he does, he went full on crazy in this film. The scenes with him on drugs, which is like every scene, were some of the funniest scenes of the year and it was because of the brilliant way Leo controls his face. He’s always been a fantastic actor but this just rounds out his resume as being a jack of all trades. Jonah Hill cemented the fact that he can act with his supporting role as Donny, Belfort’s Vice President.

The film was just a non stop freight train of debauchery that had many people laughing, gasping, and shutting their eyes while also being memorized with the circus unfolding at every angle. The only thing I could say was that the story just didn’t hold up. I honestly didn’t find myself engaged in fact that these people could possibly do serious jail time. I didn’t care if they were caught or died or anything. It was like dumping sprinkles, sugar, chocolates, and ice cream on a steak. The fun and craziness of the film completely overpowered any substance underneath. That being said, it’s one of the few films that adheres to that structure that I still found very good and worth the price of admission, if you can handle it that is.

Shit, the ludes are kicking in.

3.5/5