Boogie Nights (12/30/12)

Boogie NightsMovie Three Hundred!!!

In Boogie Nights,  young man equipped with a special gift makes it big in the porn industry.

*sorry I couldn’t resist the pun*

In 1977 in an LA night club, young Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) is discovered by star adult film director, Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and due to his tremendous talent, begins a new life in the porn world as “Dirk Diggler”. Dirk quickly becomes friends with fellow adult film actor Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly) and together, they create a very successful series of adult films about two secret agents named Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell. When Dirk gets started on drugs things begin to falter in his porn career and things get rough for Horner when his main financier goes to jail for child pornography charges. As times change, the rise and fall of the industry and the individuals involved are all laid out.

Boogie Nights fulfilled my goal of watching 300 movies in 2012!  I wanted movie #300 to be something special, something I maybe hadn’t seen in awhile and/or also tied into New Year’s Eve. Boogie Nights fit the bill on both counts. Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted some wonderful movies but Boogie Nights may very well be my favorite film of his. It literally has everything: sex, drama, laughs, incredible long shots, great characters, bell bottoms, etc.

The main thing that grabs me about Boogie Nights is the frequent and numerous long shots. Boogie Nights has more than a few and as the film progresses and the tone shifts, the cuts get quicker and then finally start getting longer again. I didn’t notice this when I watched the film several years ago, but this time around I almost wanted to time each shot to see what exactly is happening with the camera. The scenes aren’t just long, though, they are amazingly crafted and shot. Even if the action on screen was dull, which it usually is not, the way Boogie Nights is shot would still be impressive.

Due to the somewhat touchy subject matter at hand, Boogie Nights skirts much of what could make the film completely gratuitous. There are definitely some exceptions, including the final scene, but for the most part, PT Anderson is almost making a spoof of the industry for the audience. The cast in Boogie Nights is so varied and everyone has their story and everyone has their place in the film. The movie is not about the porn industry itself, but the characters.

Boogie Nights is not just a technically well-crafted film, it is a film that truly has purpose and heart.

I give it 5 Brock Landers and Chest Rockwells out of 5.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Master (10/6/12)

The MasterMovie Two Hundred Twenty Five

A troubled Naval veteran returns from war and finds himself befriended by the leader of a cult-like movement in The Master.

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a World War II veteran from the Navy that has an increasing problem with drinking homemade concoctions, involving chemicals and substances that most will cringe at. Freddie finds odd jobs, notably as a department store photographer and cabbage farmer, but his drinking gets him into trouble. One evening, he wanders onto the boat chartered by Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd is quickly taken by Quell and uses Quell’s fragile state of mind to help mold his pseudo-religious movement, The Cause.

I have struggled with how I am going to write my review of The Master (also part of the reason why I am writing the review now, over a week after seeing it). First, let’s discuss the things that I know I liked and can be universally recommended. Everything about The Master on a technical level is a remarkable achievement. The cinematography, the editing, the thrumming soundtrack, and perhaps most of all, the acting. Both Hoffman and Phoenix (and even Amy Adams, who plays Dodd’s wife) give groundbreaking performances here. I’ve seen several derisive comments about Phoenix’s role not being too far from when we last saw him in I’m Still Here, but he is an actor, and I will defend that he is a powerhouse in The Master.

I will also say that I was thoroughly engrossed with The Master from the opening frame and well after the film ended  I was still contemplating my thoughts on the film. My mother asked me what I thought of it “I don’t know…” I said, as I trailed off without being able to expound on my thoughts. My biggest issue with the film is that nothing is presented in a clear manner, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except the film is too nebulous for its own good some of the time. Character’s motives and thoughts are strongly hinted at but never developed in a manner that satiated me and the result is a film that doesn’t seem to quite come out from the fog of one of Quell’s hangovers.

If you asked me if I liked The Master I would now instantly be able to say “yes” without hesitation. My problems with the narrative did not hold the film back from being something tremendous, but it does make for a slightly frustrating experience. I would not be able to easily recommend The Master, though. In the theater I was in, I was the youngest viewer by around 15 years, I would guess, and I was surprised that some of the people didn’t walk out when Quell was behaving in completely bizarre ways at the beginning of the film. The people I expected to walk out were thoroughly confused by the film by the end, and loudly voiced their dissent as the credits rolled.

The Master is a divisive film; you will likely love it or hate it and in that respect, I consider it this year’s Tree of Life. There’s a wonderful film here but it is held back by it’s own persistence in not giving us a full story. The film seems to want to tell the origins of Scientology but doesn’t, though it does offer some perspective on conditioning. If The Master had only been a bit more straightforward with its intentions, I really think the film would be undeniably amazing but as it is now, it’s a mixed bag that would be hard to recommend for all viewers.

I give it 4 Torpedo Juice cocktails out of 5.

Continue reading

Mary and Max (9/13/12)

Mary and MaxMovie Two Hundred Twelve

Mary and Max is about a lonely Australian girl finds a pen pal in New York and the two become lifelong friends.

Mary Daisy Dinkel (Bethany Whitmore and Toni Collette) is a young girl living in Australia. She is unpopular and ridiculed and has an unstable family life. She decides to write to a pen pal in New York City and finds Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an older, autistic man that is also an outcast from society. The two remain pen pals for many years and as an adult, Mary studies psychology and writes a book about Max and his disorders, which angers Max. After Max decides to forgive Mary, she decides to travel to New York to finally meet her best friend.

Admittedly, I left a lot of the finer details of the plot out of my synopsis which may make Mary and Max seem like a fun-going movie about friendship but it doesn’t detail some of the darker points of the film. The film, although claymation, is not for kids but it is a very surprising and touching story. I have seen very few films that deal with life in such a way that Mary and Max does. It is slightly comical but also very realistic and ultimately endearing. At first, the characters seem a bit off-putting but then the film gives them such personality that you feel for even the weirdest of characters, and boy are some of them odd.

I have dreaded writing this review for Mary and Max for one reason: the ending made me sob like a baby for nearly 30 minutes after the credits had ended. I just sat there staring at the Netflix menu after the film was long over and my heart just ached for the characters. The reason I was so affected by the film I will not get into, but I was never expecting to be so touched by Mary and Max. The animation and story are both so unique that it may give a different impression if you are used to Wallace and Gromit, Mary and Max may strike you as incredibly odd but try to stick with it. The oddities of the animation and characters are weird but endearing.

While I would struggle to make it through a second viewing any time soon, I would instantly recommend Mary and Max to everyone. The film does not shy away from various mature subjects while maintaining it’s great animation style. Mary and Max is one of the bigger surprises of the year for me.

I give it 4 chocolate hot dogs out of 5.

Continue reading

The Ides of March (5/16/12)

Ides of MarchMovie One Hundred Twenty

The Ides of March is political drama about the both a running candidate for the presidency of the U.S. and his staff as things begin unfolding for the campaign.

Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a young up-and-comer campaign adviser working alongside Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) for their candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). As the campaign heats up for Morris as he tries to win the democratic nod for presidency, things begin to fall apart for Stephen. The rival campaign manager meets with Stephen and the press finds out, leaving Stephen out of a job. Around the same time, Stephen learns a dark secret of Morris’ and he learns what politics is truly about.

George Clooney co-wrote and directed Ides of March and while the screenplay is smart and the direction is well done, something is missing here. Perhaps it’s the depressing message that politics are absolutely messed up that drives the movie. Evan Rachael Wood plays an intern on the campaign that gets involved with Stephen and I simply cannot stand her. When she is on screen it’s like a talentless black hole sucking all the life out of the picture, even including Gosling’s intense staring fits. I may not be in the majority with that slightly hyperbolic opinion, and it may not affect your viewing experience should you choose to see this film, but it marred Ides of March for me. Oh, and Marissa Tomei has a role as a reporter and they made her look like a crazy cat lady that never bathes, so why cast Marissa Tomei in that role?

The story is something the film does quite well, the characters all have their place and the entire thing is, sadly, believable. While the film focuses on democratic candidates, I didn’t notice any real political potshots taken at either party. If anything, it makes the entire two-party democratic system look bad. By the end of Ides of March I was left wanting a bit more. I enjoyed my time with The Ides of March and could watch Ryan Gosling stare intensely at a wall for 90 minutes. It’s certainly not a film I think everyone would enjoy, judging by some of the Amazon user reviews, lots of people hated it. While I had a positive experience with Ides of March, it seems like it’s the type of movie that needs to be experienced first-hand.

I give it 4 I’d vote for George Clooneys out of 5.

Continue reading