Inherent Vice- 2014
Set in 1970 Los Angeles between the Manson Family murders and Watergate, private detective Larry "Doc" Sportello takes on a case to find his missing ex-girlfriend. Imagine the noir genre of film smoking a quarter bag of pot with influences of Cheech & Chong, The Big Lebowski and Dragnet thrown in. Paul Thomas Anderson creates a period film so authentic you'd be pissed if he decided to shoot this film digitally. Thankfully he went with 35 mm. Joaquin Phoenix transforms into "Doc" proving he is one of the greatest actors today and Katherine Waterston is sexy and mysterious as Shasta, his former girlfriend. Bit parts are played by Eric Roberts, Martin Short and Owen Wilson who all play contributing factors to "Doc's" journey. Reese Witherspoon plays a tiny role as one of "Doc's" flings and they carry with them their chemistry from "Walk the Line", which she starred in with Phoenix. The real powerhouse of the movie is Josh Brolin who portrays L.A. Detective and failed actor "Bigfoot". Imagine if Jack Webb from Dragnet was entirely frustrated, angry at life and hated hippies, yet manages an alliance with the very hippy he hates. I've read that readers of Thomas Pynchon, author of the novel Inherent Vice, are delighted by the faithfulness to the source material. As a movie goer who's unfamiliar with the material, I appreciate the film for it's production and Paul Thomas Anderson's ability to squeeze every emotion from his actors. The plot and motivations are awfully confusing and are extremely hard to follow. No doubt that many of the film's images are "Doc's" hallucinations. It's possible that some of the characters are a product of "Doc's" drug abused self-conscious. Despite the confusion and choppy plot, I recommend a viewing just for the sake of film as a true art form. RATING: 3 out of 4 stars - Chris Tarride
Unbroken - 2014
The film tells the true story of real life Olympian and WW2 veteran, Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was a bombardier aboard a B-24 Liberator, which malfunctioned and crashed into the Pacific. Most of the crew died and the survivors floated at sea for a record 47 days. They were found by the Japanese and tortured in two POW camps until the war ended. Considering this was Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, the movie was built to not fail. The cinematography was beautifu, the dramatic score was seamlessly placed in the appropriate moments and the writing was... safe. The "evil and ruthless" Japanese commander (calling himself "The Bird") threatened the POW's with promises of ruthlessness but I felt that ultimately only cliche' mustache twirling "villainy" was delivered by him. Unbroken isn't a bad movie (it's built to succeed) and certainly joins the fraternity of modern WW2 films alongside Saving Private Ryan and Fury. However, it never achieves the epic scope or intensity of those films. There is one awesome scene in the film that comes in the end though - the real life "Louie" Zamperini running through the streets of Japan at age 80 carrying the Olympic torch. That was the shit.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. - Chris Tarride
Big Eyes - 2014
The film follows events of the lives of painter Margaret Keane and her narcissistic husband Walter who took total credit for her work. I read the real events of the Keanes and even though there are embellishments to entertain, the meat and potatoes are there. The movie is beautifully shot and has seasoning of Burton's signature style without beating you over the head, which is when he's at his best. Shots of the "cookie cutter" suburbs are reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands and 1950s Beatnik San Francisco made me think of what Ed Wood would experience had he side stepped into technicolor. Of course there's the Danny Elfman score that jumps between Margaret's despair, hip 50s Beatnik jazz and Hawaiian standards from the islands Margaret considers paradise. No doubt Christoph Waltz (Walter Keane) deserves in the least a nod for his role this awards season. I've seen some reviews that criticize his performance for not being "abusive" enough but he's such an egotistical douche bag you can't help but laugh at his pathetic used car bullshit at the end when Margaret gets her revenge. Amy Adams once again proves she's one of the top actresses in Hollywood. Sadly though her triumphs only come at the end of the film while she doubles as nothing more than a punching bag for the first 2 acts. This movie easily ranks up there with Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Batman. It doesn't hit masterwork status of Ed Wood or Big Fish, which are amongst Burton's best.
Rating 3 out of 4 stars. - Chris Tarride