Playing Catch-Up: The Nice Guys (dir by Shane Black)


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Last night, along with seeing Trainspotting at the Alamo Drafthouse and watching The BFG at home, I also rewatched The Nice Guys.

Now, I saw The Nice Guys when it was first released last May and I absolutely loved it.  However, before I started rewatching it, I was a little worried .  I remembered that The Nice Guys was a stylish and often hilarious action film, one that featured a great comedic turn from Ryan Gosling and a performance from Russell Crowe that showed why he deserves to make a comeback as a leading man.  I also remembered that, for all of its graphic violence and often profane dialogue, The Nice Guys was also an unexpectedly sweet-natured movie.  I loved not only the rapport shared between Gosling and Crowe but also the relationship between Gosling and Angourie Rice, the actress playing his daughter.  In fact, I remembered enjoying The Nice Guys so much that I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up to a second viewing.

It often happens when you love a film the first time that you see it.  On a second viewing, you start to notice all the little flaws that you didn’t notice the first time.  Lines that you remembered as being brilliant are no longer impressive, largely because you know they’re coming.  All too often, the films that blow you away fail to hold up over time.

(Anyone tried to rewatch Inherent Vice lately?)

But you know what?

The Nice Guys is not one of those films.  I watched the film for a second time and I loved it even more than the first time.

The Nice Guys takes place in Los Angeles in 1977.  It’s a time of wide lapels, leisure suits, tacky interior design, porno chic, and concerns that the L.A. air is so full of smog that not even bumble bees are willing to fly around in it.  Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a well-meaning if somewhat sleazy private investigator who has been hired to track down a porn star named Misty Mountains.  Of course, Holland know that Misty is dead.  Everyone knows that she’s dead.  She died in a car crash, one that made all the headlines.  But Misty’s aunt swears that she saw Misty after Misty’s supposed death.

Holland thinks that Misty’s aunt may have mistaken her niece for Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley), the daughter of Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger, whose presence is meant to remind audiences of L.A. Confidential), an official at the Justice Department who has been leading a crusade against pornography.  Holland starts to search for Amelia which leads to Amelia paying Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to intimidate Holland.

Who is Jackson Healy?  Well, he’s not a licensed private investigator, though he’d certainly like to be.  Instead, he’s a professional enforcer.  If you pay him enough money, he’ll beat people up for you.  Usually, he beats up stalkers and ex-boyfriends.  When he discovers that Holland is a private investigator, Jackson is intrigued.  Jackson would like to be a private investigator.  Of course, that doesn’t stop Jackson from breaking Holland’s arm.  Jackson’s a professional, after all.  As Jackson leaves Holland’s house, he runs into Holly (Angourie Rice), Holland’s twelve year-old daughter.  She gives him a bottle of Yoohoo.

Later, Jackson is confronted by two men.  Keith David plays Older Guy and he’s intimidating because he’s Keith David.  His partner is a giggly sociopath played by Beau Knapp.  For reasons that are too much fun for me to spoil, he is known as Blue Face.  The two men demand to know where Amelia is.  After Jackson manages to chase them off with a shotgun, he teams up with Holland to try to track down Amelia and find out what’s going on…

Got all that?

The mystery — which eventually expands to involve everything from porn to political protest to the Detroit auto industry — is deliberately and overly complex but at the same time, it’s actually rather clever.  And, as I can now say after rewatching the film, it actually holds up quite well.  But, to be honest, the mystery is not as important as the whip smart dialogue, the frequently over the top action, and the chemistry between Gosling, Crowe, and Rice.  As good as the action may be, the film’s best scenes are simply the ones that feature the three leads talking to each other.

(Upon discovering that Jackson both broke her father’s arm and that he beats people up for a living, Holly immediately asks how much it would cost to have one of her friends beat up.)

And you know what?  As played by Gosling and Crowe, they really are the nice guys.  Holland tries to be cynical but, for the most part, he’s just an overprotective father.  Jackson may beat people up for a living but he’s not a sadist.  He’s a lot like the film, violent but with a good heart.

The Nice Guys is full of wonderful set pieces, like when Gosling, Crowe, and Rice infiltrate a sleazy 70s party or the film’s explosive finale.  For me though, I love the little details and the quieter moments.  I love the fact that even one of the worst people in the movie responds postively to having someone innocently hold his hand.

(I also love that Matt Bomer shows up, playing a totally terrifying hitman.  It’s a small role but Bomer does so much with it.)

It’s a shame that The Nice Guys came out as early in the year as it did.  It’s also a shame that it didn’t do better at the box office.  The Oscars could use a little action and a little comedy this year, don’t you think?

Trailer: Magic Mike XXL (Teaser)


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I will be the first to admit that Soderbergh’s journey into the world of male strippers wasn’t on my radar when it was first announced and even when it finally premiered. Then again I don’t think I was the core audience.

Now, Lisa Marie did go see Magic Mike and to say that she enjoyed it would be an understatement. Her brief (no pun intended) but succinct review of the film could be summed up by it’s introduction:

“After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys.  Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out.  You will get laid!”  Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…”

So, we’re now three years removed from Soderbergh’s film. A sequel has been filmed and ready to be unleashed on the millions out there waiting to get back to the world of Magic Mike. While Soderbergh doesn’t return as director (he does go behind the camera as the sequel’s cinematographer and editor) the sequel does get Gregory Jacobs in the director’s chair. He was first asst. director during the first film and a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh (he pretty much has been Soderbergh’s asst. director in all his films).

Will Lisa Marie enjoy this sequel or will she return with a reaction of “seen it before” ennui? We’ll find out in a couple months.

Magic Mike XXL unveils for all this July 1, 2015.

Here’s What Won At The Golden Globes!


Film Awards

Best Film (Drama) — Boyhood

Best Drama Actor — Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Best Drama Actress — Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Best Film (Comedy) — The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Comedy Actor — Michael Keaton in Birdman

Best Comedy Actress — Amy Adams in Big Eyes

Best Supporting Actor — J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress — Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Best Director — Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Screenplay — Birdman

Best Animated Feature — How To Train Your Dragon 2

Best Score — The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song — “Glory” from Selma

TV Awards

Best Drama Series — The Affair

Best Drama Actor — Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

Best Drama Actress — Ruth Wilson in The Affair

Best Comedy Series — Transparent

Best Comedy Actor — Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent

Best Comedy Actress — Gina Rodriguez in Jane the Virgin

Best TV Movie/Limited Series — Fargo

Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor — Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo

Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actress — Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Honourable Woman

Best TV Supporting Actor — Matt Bomer in The Normal Heart

Best TV Supporting Actress — Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey

A Late Film Review: Winter’s Tale (dir by Akiva Goldsman)


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I liked Winter’s Tale.

And I don’t care what anybody else says!

And that’s a good thing too because, critically, Winter’s Tale has been one of the most maligned movies of 2014.  It came out on Valentine’s Day, at the same time as Endless Love.  And the critics absolutely hated it!  For a while there, the online film community was taking bets on which one of the two Valentine’s Day releases would end up with the lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes.  And, though it was a close race, Winter’s Tale actually ended up with the lower score, coming in at 13% as opposed to Endless Love‘s 15%.

That’s right — according to most mainstream film critics, Winter’s Tale was actually worse than Endless Love.

Well, those critics were wrong.  That’s how I felt when I first saw Winter’s Tale and, after watching it a second time on HBO, that’s still how I feel.  Winter’s Tale is not a bad movie!

(Incidentally, Winter’s Tale has a 6.2 rating over at the imdb, which would seem to indicate that I’m not the only person who knows better than Peter Travers.)

Admittedly, the plot of Winter’s Tale does not make much logical sense but that’s kind of the point.  It’s a tale and tales are not about being realistic.  Tales are about emotion and the whole point of listening to or telling a tale is to inspire feelings. To truly appreciate Winter’s Tale, you have to understand that this is a fairy tale that happens to be set in the most mythical of American cities, New York.

Opening in 1895 and ending in 2014, Winter’s Tale tells the story of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell).  When Peter was an infant, his immigrant parents were refused entry into Manhattan because they both had tuberculosis.  So, they put Peter in a toy boat and dropped him into ocean and watched as the boat slowly floated towards America.

Jump forward 21 years and Peter has grown up to be a thief, working for a gangster named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe).  What few people know is that Pearly is actually a demon who regularly visits his boss, Luicfer (played by Will “Yes, that Will Smith” Smith).  Pearly is immortal as long as he stays in New York City.

When Peter decides that he wants to leave Pearly’s gang, Pearly orders that Peter be killed.  However, while fleeing from the rest of the gang, Peter is rescued by a flying white horse.  While Peter’s first instinct is to fly the horse out of New York and spend the winter in Florida, he instead decides to rob one more mansion.  (It helps that the horse literally takes him to the mansion.)

While robbing the mansion, Peter meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a passionate and talented pianist who is dying of tuberculosis.  In what is literally a case of love at first sight, Peter forgets about robbing the mansion and instead has a cup of tea with Beverly.  They discuss their lives and Beverly tells Peter that everyone has a miracle inside of them and that everyone becomes a star after dying.

Soon, Peter and Beverly are a couple and Peter even manages to win over Beverly’s suspicious father, Isaac (William Hurt).  Peter and Beverly spend the winter at her family’s summer home.  Peter believes that his miracle is to save Beverly.  Meanwhile, an angry Pearly waits for his chance to get revenge…

Now, I will admit that there are some obvious flaws with Winter’s Tale.  Russell Crowe goes totally overboard, with his accent wildly going from Australian to New Yorkish to Scottish and back again.  Meanwhile, Will Smith is not necessarily a bad choice to play the devil and he actually gives a pretty good performance but it doesn’t chance the fact that, whenever he’s on screen, all you can think about is that he’s Will Smith and he’s playing the devil.

But, honestly, who cares?  This is an amazingly romantic film and Farrell and Findlay have a lot of chemistry.  When you see them together, you have no doubt that Peter and Beverly are meant to be together.  You care about them as a characters, even if you don’t always understand everything that’s happening around them.  Their love feels real and, when it comes to telling a love story, isn’t that the most important thing?

(Add to that, does any actor fall in love as convincingly as Colin Farrell?)

And the film itself is gorgeous!  From the costumes to the set design to Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography, the film is just beautiful to look at.  Undoubtedly, cynics would argue that the film is almost too glossy in its appearance but Winter’s Tale is not a film for cynics.  It’s a film for romantics.

So, yes,  I did like Winter’s Tale and I am not ashamed to admit it.