If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!


SICARIO Review – ***½


Take your pick, they’re both good posters. Better than the movie, even.

After impressing me greatly with the haunting Prisoners and the marvelously maddening Enemy, I was eager to see what Denis Villeneuve would do next. Then, this opened at Cannes, to solid but not outstanding reviews, and the trailers failed to truly excite me. So my level of anticipation dropped accordingly. Then subsequent reviews proved more favorable, so much so that it now sits at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes–and I thought Villeneuve might have done it again after all.

I should have trusted my initial reaction. While not a bad film by any means, Sicario lacks a real reason for existing, and fails to say much about cartels or the War on Drugs that hasn’t been said before, nor does it feature such compelling characters or such dazzling craftsmanship as would compensate. It’s well done in most every aspect, but never takes that vital leap into being something special.

(NOTE: I also saw The Martian this weekend, and quite liked it, but I’d like to see it again before writing my review.)

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EVEREST Review – ****

60 years ago, it would have been in Cinerama. (Source)

60 years ago, it would have been in Cinerama. (Source)

Everest is not a film that inspires extended commentary, at least for those who are not mountaineers, armchair or otherwise. That’s not because it’s a bad film, though–indeed, despite the somewhat muted (if ultimately positive) reviews, it’s a very good example of a true spectacle, a film designed for the IMAX 3D experience, which for its first week of release it is being shown exclusively in.

And if you can, you should see it thus. The 3D might not add much (though I confess it has almost never done so for me), but the vast screen and especially the enveloping sound make for a galvanizing experience, elevating quite a solid film into something like a cinematic event.

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We all knew this would be a major Oscar contender from the outset. Last year’s winner for Director (and Picture, and Screenplay) teams up with a cinematographer who’s just won back-to-back Oscars, a star who’s widely considered damnably overdue, a co-star who’s very hot at the moment (and has two other major films this year), and a strong up-and-comer (Domhnall Gleeson). They shoot on location in Canada in the dead of winter, and planned to shoot in sequence (apparently, they weren’t able to), and release the film right in the thick of December.

They know what they’re doing.

And, while I really need to see this trailer in a theater to get the maximum effect, I won’t lie; my interest is being maintained. I could see this being overwrought and too self-serious, but I could also see it being surreal and haunting. It’s a little hard to tell just how good a performance DiCaprio is giving, but I doubt he’ll disappoint. Hopefully future trailers will show more of the rest of the cast, but for now we’ve got Lubezki’s incredible cinematography and Iñárritu’s vivid direction to whet our appetites. The mountain of skulls in particular could be one of the year’s defining images.

I’m predicting many nominations, with Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Editing, Makeup/Hairstyling, Score, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing being the strongest possibilities.

And here we’ve got the latest from my nemesis…David O. fucking Russell. Read on:

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INHERENT VICE Review – ****

"It's not what you think, Doc." "Don't worry, thinking comes later."

“It’s not what you think, Doc.”
“Don’t worry, thinking comes later.”

This could be one of the easiest or one of the most difficult reviews I’ve yet written. Inherent Vice is the kind of film which cares less about making sense than you might think, a film which plunges into a world where the 60s are curdling into the 70s, where free love isn’t so free, where the dope so casually consumed by our protagonists is, literally and symbolically, tainted, and where peace, love, and understanding slowly crumble in the face of greed and conspiracy.

It’s a noir where so much of the central mystery remains unresolved at the end that you’re not sure whether the answers aren’t in plain sight, hidden behind the mumbles of our so-often-stoned hero, or whether the mystery is mostly the result of his “hippie paranoia”, so avidly mocked by his opposite number in the LAPD. It’s a mess and it knows it. A single viewing is probably totally insufficient to grasp it–which presumes it could ever be grasped.

But–you’ve no doubt noticed the “****?” above–this is a P.T. Anderson film. One of our best working filmmakers, making the first-ever adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel (where it once seemed that Pynchon would never allow it), with a top-notch cast and crew. A major event indeed. And as confused as I was, particularly at the end, I laughed so much, and was so pleased with the lovely cinematography, with Anderson’s craftsmanship as director and adapter, and with the performances, that I doubted not but that this was some kind of a great film.

These are not my final thoughts on the film. Hopefully before too long I will see it again and will append my additional thoughts to the end of this review. But you can only see a film for the first time once, and a film like this…doubly so.

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It’s finally arrived. I can now only think of one more major trailer that has not yet arrived–that for Ava DuVernay’s Selma.

Now, what do I think of it? I think it looks fun. I’m getting a definite Big Lebowski vibe (which has been confirmed by a friend of mine who’s read the book), along with a hint of Fear and Loathing–and since I love both of those films, that is, I would say, a good thing. I will say I’m not sold on it being in my Best Picture lineup (not yet, at least), but I do think it’s got potential (from both the Academy and myself) for Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (for Josh Brolin), and Costume Design recognition. And who knows, Joanna Newsom’s narration might earn her Supporting Actress consideration.

Really, though, I don’t know what to expect. Anderson’s trailers often feature footage that didn’t make the final cut (The Master especially), so who knows what we’ll really get? I’ll read the novel before I see the film, but even that might not prepare me for what Anderson’s going to do to it. He’s going from arguably his bleakest film to his funniest.

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Sure, put Willis on the poster even though he's barely in the damn thing. #TeamPowersBoothe ()

Sure, put Willis on the poster even though he’s barely in the damn thing. #TeamPowersBoothe (Source)

I didn’t get to see the original Sin City in theaters, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it beginning to end–but I know of its painstaking stylization, its grotesque violence, its gruesomely tragic characters. I liked it. But when the sequel was announced, and delayed and delayed, finally being pushed back from last October to last Friday, one might reasonably have assumed the worst. It proceeded to flop horribly, opening in 8th place (the original opened at 1st), and received mixed-to-negative reviews. And there’s a reason for that: it’s not a very good film. There are many reasons why it’s not a very good film, but most fundamental is this: very few of the people involved seemed to believe in what they were doing. I’m not even sure if Miller and Rodriguez did.

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