Benicio Del Toro

NYFF 2014: ‘Inherent Vice’ suffers only against Paul Thomas Anderson’s past work

It’s not just that Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies tend to defy any one genre description; it’s that, often, it seems as if the writer-director is trying to play with many genres simultaneously. The only reason that Boogie Nights isn’t the best drama of the 1990s is that it spends a lot of time trying to be the best comedy of the 1990s instead. So Anderson’s newest, Inherent Vice, is a departure in that it mostly sticks to one style (sun-drenched film noir) and one tone (absurdist comedy). It’s also a fine film, which suffers only when measured against the insanely high standard that Anderson’s past work has set.

Inherent Vice

NYFF 2014: ‘Inherent Vice’ a narcotic vision that demands multiple viewings

Even if you were not around during the 1970s, Inherent Vice comes across as a faded, nostalgic memory. Being a faithful adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, the film recounts the dying days of the free love era, laced with the look, feel and paraphernalia of the subculture. Anderson’s comedic thriller peppers itself with restless, almost out of place laughter, while dedicating itself to the themes of the early Seventies. One is reminded of private-eye classics such as Roman Polanski’s Chinatown and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, with traces of Zucker-Abrahams comedies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. For many, the homage to 1970s filmmaking will be a very real and thrilling look down memory lane. For others, it’ll be a history lesson like no other found in modern day filmmaking.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is good, freaky fun

Of course, Guardians isn’t perfect, as it struggles to find a consistent tone. Sometimes it wants to be more adult, with bawdier language and sexual innuendo. For instance, Quill’s rumination that “If I had a black light, this place would look like a Jackson Pollock painting!” is pretty sophisticated for mainstream PG-13 fare. Other times, it feels as though the filmmakers are pandering to a much younger audience. You can almost visualize a ‘Dancing Groot’ doll gyrating in your kid’s Happy Meal.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is solid entertainment, despite some wonky action and character work

For every good sequence, there’s one that’s muddled with bad camerawork and editing. Like a lot of blockbuster action, it’s barely legible; you have to work to keep up with it, and that work interferes with the enjoyment. The story also sags in the middle, as it seems to exist mainly to fill out the run-time. The protagonists take the MacGuffin to a dude they wish to sell it to, but the only real function of the section is to exposit what it is. It turns a big chunk of the plot into a shrug.

New trailer for Marvel and James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

A galaxy’s apparently at threat, but despite all the aerial combat and general punching of people, the trailer for Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy is positively jovial in spirit (in the sky). James Gunn (Super, Slither) directs this adaptation of a comparatively lesser-known superhero property, which stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Rooker, Peter Serafinowicz, and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. To this writer’s mind, the (good) feeling that this looks like a weirder version of Firefly is strengthened by this first full trailer, which you can view below. Big damn heroes, etc.

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