Tag Archives: Neo Noir

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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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Review, A Visually Striking Misstep

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller

Starring: Mickey RourkeJessica AlbaJosh BrolinJoseph Gordon-LevittRosario DawsonBruce WillisEva Green, and Powers Boothe

Lightning doesn’t always strike twice and neither do movie sequels. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is trying to something it’s not, a worthy sequel to a very well crafted original. It is so desperately trying to mimic the visual style and ingenuity that Sin City was so easily able to capture. For it’s time Sin City was a cultural and filmmaking success. It revolutionized the was you were able to make movies and inspired so many movies to use the same style. The biggest problem this movie faces is the fact that it is at least 7 years too late. In my eyes this really hurt the film and it’s need to remind us how stylistic and relevant we still are.

The movie begins with a short segment dedicated to Marv (Mickey Rourke), don’t worry he pops back up in each segment as the Sin City’s equivalent of Gandalf the Grey in the Hobbit. Marv is the brute of the movie and the “main” character. He helps out the other character out with their predicament and then he is off on his own once he is done. The characters mostly “use” him for their own benefits but without him the story just wouldn’t work. Sadly his segment is the most forgettable. Like “The Customer is Always Right” in the first one, “Just Another Saturday Night” leads us into the movie and shows us what we are getting into.

Just Another Saturday Night” begins with Marv forgetting how he got the scene of a crime. Cars are piled up and two dead bodies are shown by the wreckage, the cause of death isn’t so much the accident as it is Marv and his brutal sense of vengeance. He starts taking his medicine so that he can make sense of the situation. He beings remembering and what he remembers will set him on a course to Oldtown to finish off what he started.

The Long Bad Night“, after the opening credit scene we are introduced to Johnny (Joseph Gorden Levitt), a new character to this universe. He is a cocky gambler setting his eyes on Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) and his high stake poker game. After beating and winning all of Roark’s money, Johnny takes the waitress Marcy (Julia Garner) out on the town and blows throw his winnings. Meanwhile Senator Roark decides to teach Johnny a lesson about power and he hunts him down. After being beaten and bruised Johnny devises a plan to show Roark who’s the real “winner” and prove that he is the better player.

A Dame to Kill For” is the main focus of the movie and uses the time allotted wisely. Dwight (Josh Brolin) is a man with a dark past, which isn’t really explored that much. He is a private eye working on a case with an adulterating husband and his wife. After finishing the job he receives a phone call from Ava (Eva Green), a former lover and damsel in distress, about meeting up with him at the local bar. She begins to spew the truth about her husband and her love for Dwight. Dwight begins to investigate the suspicious Ava and the life that she is currently living. This lead him down a path that he never expected and will learn more about the mysterious Ava than he ever expected.

Nancy’s Last Dance” is the final and the most uninteresting storyline. After the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy (Jessica Alba) has lost control of her life. She is constantly drinking on the job, wallowing in self pity, and hell bent on revenge. Every night she is practicing at the gun range, prepping to kill Senator Roark. Her self loathing continues every night she is on stage. One night she cuts up her face in an attempt to use Marv for her own benefits. The two end up attacking the Senators house in an attempt to get revenge on him for the death of Hartigan.

The movie suffers from over confidence. It’s trying to be something that it’s not. It wants to be a noir thriller and do it a different way than before. Sadly it is far behind the movie that actually achieved that, Sin City. The original felt fresh and something that we’ve never seen before but now it just feels as if they are trying to survive off the good will from the first one. Sequels are meant to build off the universe that the first one created but this feels as if it is just trying to copy what the first did without actually building on it. The movie feels vapid and the actors seem uninterested. The beautifully rendered environments can’t save itself from an emotionless execution.

Mickey Rourke essentially carbon copied his performance from the first one. His segment is narrated in the same way that  ” The Hard Goodbye“. It had the same exact lines and reason behind the lines. The amount of times he says “I have a condition” in this series is insane. This might be my personal opinion but I know he has a condition because they told me in the first one and it fell redundant to have him repeat himself. Maybe it is for the new audience but even so he isn’t given anything in his own segment that it really doesn’t matter. The same goes for Jessica Alba. She was energetic in the first and in this movie she seems as if she if just collecting the paycheck and half assing a performance. As she is on stage her looks is so vacant that it feels like she is a robot. Her role in this movie really doesn’t matter either. Her story is the most disposable and could have been removed entirely and the film would be a much tighter and worthwhile effort.

However Eva Green killed it as the villainous Ava. She brings a vibe that is both electric and cunning. She was perfect cast as Ava and deserves any praise she gets. With 300: Rise of an Empire and now Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, it is clear that Eva Green could have a good career as strong female character that is both villainous but sympathetic.

The stories are some what dull. I liked “A Dame to Kill For” but it felt too long and could have been cut down. A lot of it had unnecessary moments that really take away from the film. Like I stated before both Marv’s and Nancy’s stories are useless and really didn’t add much to the film. On the other hand I felt “A Long Bad Night” was the best story overall. Each of the stories have a great deal of violence dealt onto expendable characters and are also ridiculous to the extreme but Johnny’s story is completely different. It deals with the character and his luck with gambling. It is a story that had a more toned down and felt like it was the closest to being an actual noir film. The ending is much more depressing than the other ones but it is also the most sincere.

Now the big thing this movie does is use it’s style. It’s overly stylistic and it is completely ridiculous. It is what made the movie so popular when it was released and it works just as well in this film. The use of color mixed with black and white makes for a completely interesting viewing experience. The visual style makes it all it’s own. The environments are like nothing I’ve seen before. Where this movie lacks in story it makes up for it in it’s visual brilliance.

Though it fails with it’s stories and acting, it excels in it’s visual style and some rather interesting moments that it’s a worth while theater experience.

Grade: C+