Tag Archives: Acting

Inherent Vice Review, A Pretentious Bore of a Comedy

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Inherent Vice

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, and Eric Roberts

There was a time that I thought some directors could do no wrong. I’ve held directors up a pedestal, praising the genius of their work but they gotta fail at some point. Right? When walking into Inherent Vice I was slightly optimistic, I love Paul Thomas Anderson but didn’t like the book at all. It is sad to say that the book didn’t translate well to screen. Anderson returns to a time that he captured so well in Boogie Nights and to a genre that he loved with Punch-Drunk-Love. In a way he combines both of those movies, the strange comedy mixed with a period piece, and tried to adapt a book that was never meant to be adapted. I question the love for this movie, to me it is more a love for Anderson combined with the stubbornness to admit that he isn’t the perfect director everyone thinks he is.

The movie begins with Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) receiving some troubling news from his ex-flame Shasta (Katherine Waterston) about a conspiracy to send billionaire Micky Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) to an insane asylum. Not long after receiving the news both Micky and Shasta disappear without a trace. Doc is the prime suspect but he takes it upon himself to find out what has happened to his ex and her new boyfriend.

After I finished watching this movie, it immediately reminded me of The Counselor and that is in no way a good thing. The Counselor was a movie that used nonsensical dialogue to further the plot, only leading to a convoluted and disappointing ending. Inherent Vice is exactly the same way to me. The dialogue is overwritten to the plot that you completely forget what that began talking about. It is all about these interactions.

Labelled as a “comedy” is a bold statement. I found very little to laugh about. There were certainly funny and entertaining scenes scattered throughout the film but when you add in all the extended scenes of talking about nothing it’s really not effective. Josh Brolin’s character Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen provided most of the laughs. At one point he barges through Doc’s door and smashes it completely as he walks in. I found that amusing. I give a lot of credit to both Brolin and Phoenix for excelling in their roles and their presences elevate the movie slightly.

The supporting cast was mostly wasted. Outside of Josh Brolin and Martin Short, no one was utilized to their fullest potential. The 5 minutes that Short was in was exciting and fun and I credit to his zany performance. The female characters are worthless as well. The film is narrated by an unknown female character that isn’t even explained. She pops in and out of the movie as if she had an important role. For the longest time I believed she was just a voice in Doc’s headed. Shasta was an interesting character who is given two big scenes to shine. She mostly opened the story and closed the movie. The longest she was in the movies was an extended nude scene that leads to her telling the audience about the horrible nature behind her recent relationship. It makes sense in the grand scheme of things but fells a little exploitative.

There are certain things that I could praise about this movie. Paul Thomas Anderson is a director who understands the process of filmmaking. He takes on new and daring things and Inherent Vice still falls into the category. He knows what he wants and he gets it. The camerawork is absolutely great. He is always moving his camera in interesting ways and makes for a visual experience. The first scene where Doc talks to Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson) is the essential visual of a noir film. The score is also effective but slightly too much in certain scenes.

I keep going back to this but everything in this movie felt pointless to me. The interactions between characters and the story itself. What could have been a good movie turned out to be a very disappointing entry into Paul Thomas Anderson’s career.

Grade: D+

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A Million Ways to Die in the West Review, A Painfully Unfunny Parody of the West

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A Million Ways to Die in the West

Directed by: Seth McFarlane

Starring: Seth McFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, and Giovanni Ribisi

Family Guy is by far one of the most popular cartoons airing today, along The Simpsons. It has made Seth McFarlane a star, leading to two other TV shows and two movies. Seth McFarlane is certainly a talented man but at this point I feel that he is overreaching when it comes to his humor. His humor works sometimes but sometimes it’s just so grating that it ruins any other joke he just told. Million Ways to Die in the West had a funny concept but was so poorly executed that it is hard to find anything funny or humorous within the movie.

In 1882, in the same town of Old Stump, Arizona, sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth McFarlane) is dumped by his lovely girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Desperate and alone, Albert seeks the help of his friends which fails entirely. One night, during a fight, Albert saves Anna (Charlize Theron) from certain danger. Telling her about his problem, Anna agrees to help Albert get back his girlfriend and prove that he is a bigger man than she thought he was. Meanwhile Anna’s husband Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) is making his way to town to reclaim Anna and escape with the money that he stole. Albert is the one that has to fend off Clinch and proves that he has changed.

It is strange to see a comedy that takes place in a Western setting but when it happens it succeeds, like Blazing Saddles. Seth McFarlane’s second film failed to even achieve a similar level of comedy as Ted did and when you think of comedies that take place in the West it couldn’t even achieve any thing close to what Blazing Saddles so masterfully did. Seth McFarlane’s comedy usually involves cut away gags that really don’t affect the story or progress it, they are just there to get laughs. Family Guy does it all the time and sometime it works with the story and other times it feel like they are padding the runtime. A Million Ways to Die in the West does the same thing and they are there only to pad an already bloated runtime. Running just shy of 2 hours it is already longer than it should have been. The content of the film should have only been around 80 minutes but it keeps going and going until you get to the showdown between Albert Stark and Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) and then you realize that you still have 40 minutes left of a movie that should have been over at this point.

The run time isn’t the only problem, the acting ruins any kind of humor that was presented. I don’t think that Seth McFarlane can act, he does well with voices but emotions is a different story. Every delivery of his lines was really flat and bland. He brought nothing to the character and proved that he should stay behind the scenes. Only certain directors can achieve both acting and directing at the same time, it’s even harder when you’ve never acted before and only directed one other movie. Charlize Theron is able to provide some character development but even her acting feels stale and boring. Liam Neeson provides the typical archetypes that he is now known for but his limited screen time doesn’t do much with the material to have an impact.

My biggest criticism of this movie is the story. It is called A Million Ways to Die in the West but never really embraces the premise. There are several intercuts of wacky deaths that occur during the movie but it always felt like a after thought. The actual story felt like a typical romantic comedy. It is all about the man getting his girl back . It follows similar cliches that your typical rom com follows. It never felts risky like I’ve gotten use to with McFarlane’s humor. It was a safe execution without any attempt to make something interesting or fun. It was boring to the point of hatred. I will say when there was a joke involving the core concept it was actually humorous but those jokes are downplayed towards the rest of the movie.

I was hoping that Seth McFarlane would make something that was interesting and funny. Never have I been so bored of a movie recently. Outside of the core concept there is nothing that makes this movie good.

Grade: D-

My Thoughts of Channing Tatum

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After watching the trailer for Foxcatcher recently and I noticed that Channing Tatum has become quite the actor. His performance in Foxcatcher looks to be his most intense role ever. I remember seeing him in Step Up, sadly saw that on TV, and thinking that he would never make it as an actor. My thoughts were solidified when I saw the first G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra. Until recently I never thought he’d he’d be able to drop the pretty boy model but when I saw 21 Jump Street back in 2012 I noticed that he has embraced his pretty boy mentality and then made fun of himself during the film. Then I saw Magic Mike, a movie he was passionate about, and noticed that he is becoming quite the young actor. The buzz surrounding Foxcatcher has painted his performance as Oscar worthy and the best role of his career. I’m quite shocked by the way that he matured as an actor and hoping that he keeps getting interesting roles.