American Sniper - 2014
American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle "the deadliest sniper in US military history" and his wife Taya. Half of the film shows Kyle's various tours in Iraq, which are intense and unapologetic and the other half shows Kyle's life at home before, during and after his tours in the Middle East. His wife Taya gets generous screen time as a woman coping with her absent husband (who is even absent in her presence) and the dealings of being married to a man dedicated to his duty. This film also brings awareness to fighting men and women who return to this country after war with post-traumatic stress disorder, Chris Kyle's struggle to regain his humanity, his wife's help getting him there and Kyle's new mission to help other soldiers regain theirs as well. The thing that impressed me most about this movie is its 84 year old director, Clint Eastwood. He still has it. Incredible cinematography, unbridled intensity and the ability to direct excellent performances from Bradley Cooper (Chris Kyle) and Sienna Miller (Taya Kyle). I can't recommend American Sniper enough. It's intense, gripping and gives you a look at soldiers' lives on the battle field, how they cope when the fighting is over and the victory of those who overcome the adversity of the battlefield.
Rating: 3 and a half out of 4 stars. ~ Chris Tarride
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