The Nice Guys

'The Nice Guys' movie poster

Release: Friday, May 20, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Shane Black; Anthony Bagarozzi

Directed by: Shane Black

Well, they’re not quite Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but The Nice Guys squeak in at a close second, offering up liberal doses of hilarity and action that’s more fun than perhaps it ought to be. Which just leaves Iron Man 3, screenwriter Shane Black’s only other directorial credit, coming in at a relatively distant third.

To Black’s debut crime comedy The Nice Guys owes a great deal, not least of which being the awkward disposal of a corpse, a neon-lit film noir tilt, and the constant banter and infectious chemistry between its starring duo — in this case, Ryan Gosling and hey, what’s this, Russell Crowe? That’s right. Crowe does indeed have a funny bone in his body, and it’s a big one.

Los Angeles in the 1970s. Porn stars and private eyes. Privatized businesses colluding. Birds choking on polluted air. Two private investigators stumble into a possible murder/suicide plot involving a once-prominent female porn star (Murielle Telio), who may or may not be one in a string of victims associated with the shady production and distribution of a new skin flick. When surly, prone-to-violence Jackson Healy (Crowe) discovers there’s another detective trying to get his beak wet on the action, he requests that Holland March (Ryan Gosling) cease and desist . . . by snapping his arm. (As any self-respecting P.I. must.)

It’s a classic case of the odd couple and, despite the familiar blueprint, what follows proves to be among the crème de la crème of the buddy-cop genre. Holland, a single father whose precocious teen daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) consistently calls him out on his bullshit, has the slick suit and a nice house — one he claims they’re just renting while he rebuilds the old one that burned down — and a solid(-ish) reputation around town to lose if this investigation goes south. Jack Healy, on the other hand, is considerably less mannered (and less licensed), towing a fine line between bad guy and misunderstood loner. In short, they make for two equally compelling characters, both destined for a redemption of sorts, that make the occasionally tedious two-hour runtime all worthwhile.

The Nice Guys is moulded by classic buddy cop comedies of old — the likes of detectives Riggs and Murtaugh aren’t very deeply buried inside this nostalgic throwback to the ’70s.  But it also functions effectively as a period piece. The milieu is undeniably retro, though seeing is only part of the believing here. Catch yourself grooving to a pop/funk-infused soundtrack featuring the likes of The Bee Gees, The Temptations and a wonderfully timed Earth, Wind & Fire classic while the sporadic placement of movie titles that would go on to define the decade entrench us further in times that will never be again.

It’s only around the hour-and-forty-minute mark we experience a lull in between major action/comedic set pieces, the best of them all arguably lying in wait at the very end. But even during the slower moments the young Rice provides a welcomed respite from all the foolish antics that pervade. Here’s a character well worth embracing if not for her intelligence then for her morality: “If you kill that man, Jack, I will never speak to you again.” She’s talking, of course, about the primary antagonist of the film, Matt Bomer’s suitably psycho John Boy, a man who has a vested interest in retrieving the film reel her father and Healy are after (but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking). Rice’s character is something of a role model for young girls, offering up a performance that is all too rare in these kinds of movies. She is absolutely fantastic.

The farce occasionally borders on cartoonish, but then again Black always seems to teeter on the edge of self-parody. Playing it fast and loose works so well for him, and it certainly works well for the two leads. Using this as a barometer, the summer slate has a lot to live up to in terms of delivering pure escapist entertainment.

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Recommendation: Gleefully farcical and profane in equal measure, The Nice Guys will best serve fans of Shane Black’s brand of comedy. It recalls the spirit of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang while managing to separate itself just enough. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “I think I’m invincible . . . I don’t think I can die!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

JCR Factor #4

July, along with sweltering temperatures, brings you the fourth edition of the John C. Reilly Factor — Thomas J’s latest character study. To find more related material, visit the Features menu up top and search the sub-menu Actor Profiles.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever rated JCR’s sexiness on a scale of 1 – anything. Does anyone actually think about this actor in that way? No? Okay. We’ll just continue, and pretend I didn’t introduce this next performance in that way. . .

John C. Reilly as Reed Rothchild in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights

Role Type: Supporting

Genre: Drama

Character Profile: An adult film actor, failed poet/writer and aspiring magician, Reed Rothchild is like many a young and wide-eyed Los Angelino waiting for their break into show biz. While always on the lookout for a better gig he is, for the time being, satisfied with his contributions to famed adult film director Jack Horner’s colorful filmography. When a new actor arrives on the scene in the form of Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler, initial tensions eventually give way to a lasting friendship that sees both young bucks jettisoning to the fore of America’s most recognizable adult film stars. Unfortunately it is a career path that proves to be just as (if not more) dangerous as it is alluring.

If you lose JCR, the film loses: Reed Rothchild — nothing more, nothing less. As much as John C. Reilly has presence in Boogie Nights, someone else with similar comedic timing and style could fill in for him and the role wouldn’t significantly change. The real strength of this film comes from its storytelling — the overarching journey of the lead(s) from the ’70s party scene and into the comparatively more gloomy and financially less secure ’80s. Reilly gets kind of swept up in the grandioseness of yet another PTA masterpiece. While his character is fun to watch interact with newcomer Dirk Diggler, Reed doesn’t have a big enough part in this film to evoke significant emotions. Count on Reilly to give a great performance but in a film crammed with mesmerizing performances he feels ever so slightly more expendable than usual.

That’s what he said: “You know, people tell me I kind of look like Han Solo.”

Rate the Performance (relative to his other work): 


All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.rowthree.com 

Blue is the Warmest Color

blue-is-the-warmest-color-poster

Release: Friday, October 25, 2013 (limited)

[Theater]

A film already mired in controversy surrounding it’s director and one of the lead stars, Léa Seydoux, stirs up a conversation I don’t think a great many of us have had at the theaters, perhaps ever. I think that’s because most conversations had when filing out of the exit doors don’t involve primarily talking about the sex scenes. If a movie was good, they’ll be remembering other things about the story, plot, etc, and maybe, yes, if there is a bit of that in there it’s an afterthought; but here is one that has already ignited a strong debate simply over it’s sexual content.

Understandable in some ways.

Blue is the Warmest Color subsists on a healthy diet of passionate (and quite frankly committing) love scenes, ones that become starkly contrasted against moments of suffering, loneliness and heartbreak, as well as anything and everything in between. Throughout this sprawling epic one comes to realize the ultimate circle of an intense love affair. Along with it, all the pains and the pleasures. Feelings on both ends of the spectrum are treated with Abdel Kechiche’s undivided attention. And it’s only fair that we give ours to them.

At the center of what’s being pitched as not your traditional relationship, is the fifteen-year-old Adele, a high school student who appears to distance herself from most people. We don’t at first know what the reasons are for her aloofness, but over time we can tell she is certainly conflicted with getting intimate with another person — in particular, this one guy in her class all her friends are urging her to start talking to. Finding herself practically cornered, Adele ends up sleeping with Samir (Salim Kechiouche), though soon she’ll encounter a blue-haired girl one day at a crosswalk. Her life will be irrevocably changed.

The moments throughout Blue that play out subtly are intentionally kept to a minimum, yet when they do happen they are brilliant. The moment the two find each other’s eyes for the first time is one such pivotal scene, setting the course of the rest of the film.

Perhaps its the fact that this is a foreign production — one that has garnered the supposedly straight actresses and its also-supposedly misogynistic director praise of the highest order at the Cannes Film Festival in the form of Palme d’Ors all around — that gives the proceedings an organic, dramatic feel; a delicate warmth and stone-cold conviction, flourishes that likely could have been stamped out if handled by American filmmakers. One can certainly argue that this film is a style all to Kechiche’s own, though. Whatever that quality might be is difficult to describe exactly, but the emotions contained within this sweeping chronicle of love feel earned rather than just given.

Adele finds herself overwhelmed with desire the night after she first sees her, and this prompts her to go out looking for the woman in night clubs around the area. (An argument for stalking could be made.) When she enters a lesbian club deep into the evening, she finds her again. It is here we get our first impressions of the pair’s on-screen chemistry — intoxicating right from the get-go. The girl’s name is Emma, and as a fourth-year fine arts student, its clear there’s some age difference between the two. Confident, stylish and matured, Emma finds herself also drawn to Adele’s touch. What starts off as a mutual attraction quickly evolves into a torrid love affair, making for some of the most immersive scenes modern filmgoers are likely to ever find.

Some part of me wants to label a couple of these extensive sex scenes as gratuitious. Similar to the way in which slavery is depicted in Steve McQueen’s haunting biopic 12 Years a Slave, the content at times reaches shocking extremes. But this part of me is the part that is awkward and uncomfortable. This is the part of me that doesn’t quite understand the dynamics of these relationships (perhaps relationships at all, for that matter), and since these cumulative 30-ish minutes of sex have been bashed by the gay community as being “clearly sex scenes filmed with heterosexual actresses,” it seems that perhaps even the director himself doesn’t, either. Admittedly there are a few shots that remain in the final cut that seem like they could easily have been done away with in previous edits, but they remain; a time or two the camera lingers on a particular body part for a second or two unnecessarily.

Regardless of one’s personal views, these moments are the reasons why Blue is an inherently controversial post on DSB. They also account for the rumors circulating that those involved in its creation had terrible experiences with it all. It’s a shame, this gray area.

A film that dedicates itself to raw truths about love shouldn’t get drowned out by the news of what goes on behind closed doors. Certainly at this point the controversy far outweighs the product. At least, to certain people it does. However it’s not appropriate for me to really weigh in on that myself, nor would I really be able to. From a filmgoer’s perspective, Blue is the definitive story about love. Forget about things like Titanic and Pearl Harbor — epic love stories tied into historical tragedies for the sake of widening the potential audience. Forget how convincing Anne Hathaway or Rachel McAdams or Julia Roberts is in any rom-com. Forget the classic, timeless fable that is The Princess Bride. Exarchopoulos and Seydoux’s relationship with their audience is about as intimate as the one they share on-screen, and the experience here is greatly improved because of it.

Boasting performances that would seem to transcend what’s required of method actors, Blue is ingenious in its expansive run time because it allows a single relationship to naturally grow and shrink over time, providing us with more than simply a snapshot of life on the big screen, something which most movies don’t have the luxury of affording due to more modest time constraints. This is a film that likes to take its time, sampling and appreciating the little things in life along the way.

Sometimes it’s the little things that end up consuming a great deal of who and what we are.

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4-5Recommendation: I find that I simply cannot dish out a perfect rating for this one based on the graphic nature of some of the scenes. This is like asking whether or not I would have given one to The Passion of the Christ (had that story actually been more than just simple torture), given all of its bloodletting. That’s not to say this film is one-dimensional, in fact it’s the furthest from it. But in all good conscience I can’t call what is ostensibly an adult film a “Must See” film. Still, it’s one that a great many filmgoers should see because it features one of the most open and honest relationships ever put to film. I applaud everyone on that, despite the film’s many issues, on and off the set.

Rated: NC-17

Running Time: 187 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com