Our Critics Pick the Best (and Worst) of 2018

Once again, the time has come for your favorite film critics to choose the films they loved – and hated – from 2018.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know below.  Happy New Year!

THE BEST

Michael A. Smith‘s TOP TEN

1.VICE – Like his Oscar winning THE BIG SHORT, writer/director Adam McKay gives a humorous take on the life and times of our 46th Vice President. 

2. BOY ERASED – Stellar performances by Lucas Hedges and Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and directed) in a film dealing with “conversion” training.  Edgerton is beginning to look like he will be one of the best filmmakers of the next generation. 

3. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – The story of Freddie Mercury and his musical group QUEEN.  Some complained that Mercury’s X-rated lifestyle was tamed down too much but Rami Malek’s award worthy performance is the real story here.

4. A STAR IS BORN –  Damn you, Bradley Cooper!  Is there nothing you can’t do?  Cooper stars and directs in the fourth telling of the familiar tale, adding enough twists to make it seem new.  Extra points for casting the amazing Lady Gaga.

 5. BLACKKKLANSMAN –  Easily Spike Lee’s best film since DO THE RIGHT THING, the film’s 1970’s era message is just as important today.

“Risking life and limb for our entertainment”

6. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT – The best of the M:I films, with Tom Cruise once again risking life and limb for our entertainment.

7. CHAPPAQUIDDICK – An early film this year that looks into the fateful accident that derailed the Presidential dreams of Ted Kennedy.

8. BLACK PANTHER – Not a great Marvel Movie…just a GREAT MOVIE.  With FRUITVALE STATION and CREED already on his resumé, director Ryan Coogler has proven to be a voice to be listened to.

 9. HOSTILES – A January release, this is an outstanding period western starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi and, sadly, Scott Wilson in one of his final roles.

 10. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? – Award worthy performances from stars Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant highlight this true story about an author who had to resolve to forgery to make any money.   

Lauren Damon’s TOP FIVE

1.BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE – I cannot speak highly enough of Drew Goddard’s follow up to one of my Halloween faves, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Once again Goddard holes up his small cast in a single location that is not quite what it seems and is a joy to explore. And what a cast! While bigger names like Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm deliver reliably solid performances (the latter chewing all the scenery with a fabulous southern accent), the real revelations are from relative newcomers Cynthia Erivo and Lewis Pullman. The Tony-winning Erivo is the film’s heart as a struggling singer who checks into the El Royale ahead of a nearby gig. When she gets wrapped up in a scheme with Bridges’ character, Goddard uses her powerhouse voice to deliver “You Can’t Hurry Love” in easily my favorite single sequence of the year. Meanwhile Pullman is just barely holding everything together as the hotel’s lone caretaker whose role entails much more than cleaning towels and whose past is bubbling beneath his boyish, twitchy surface. I really just wanted to hug him. Finally, as with CABIN, Goddard goes ahead and subverts Chris Hemsworth’s affable hero persona. This time by casting him as a vile Charles Manson type–this is the 60’s in California after all– whose limited screen time serves merely to concentrate the sinister vibes emanating off his gyrating abs. Everyone is supported by top notch production design, a rocking soundtrack and some gorgeous Seamus McGarvey cinematography. It just really sizzles.

“It’s a crime that Collette isn’t in the major film awards conversations (yet?)” 

2. HEREDITARY – This slow burning descent of one family after the death of their secretive matriarch may be an all time fave viewing experience in a packed theater. Where a lot of modern horror relies on jump scares, Ari Aster held us captive in many scenes by showing the terrors just slightly to the side in the gloom of the frame or holding on the silence after a traumatic event–all while my audience slowly lost its mind. Which was fitting, because we were watching Toni Collette’s character doing roughly the same. It’s a crime that Collette isn’t in the major film awards conversations (yet? C’mon Academy!) because she was so engrossing and almost painful to watch.

3. BLACK PANTHER – Ryan Coogler’s brilliant entry into Marvel was remarkable for so fully realizing a whole new world within a “Universe” we’ve already been living in for the past decade. And unlike some chapters of the MCU, he did it right here on Earth. Wakanda was beautiful and populated by such a well drawn cast of characters, it was nearly impossible to pick a favorite (but it’s Shuri, come on). Meanwhile, unlike some big purple menaces, Erik Kilmonger’s (Michael B Jordan) ‘villainous’ motives were some of the most complex that the franchise has dealt with. So much so that Chadwick Boseman’s T’challa had to face a real crisis of conscience that not many Marvel heroes do!

4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU – I feel like the less I say about this film, the better new viewers’ experiences will be. Boots Riley’s take on the desolate modern economic landscape just throws a LOT at you with a notable hard turn in the second half that will likely decide where you land on this one. As someone who is rarely surprised at movies today, I was fully on board.

5. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – I knew going in that every outlet in the Disney-Marvel Marketing Machine kept saying “It’s Thanos’s movie, it’s really going to belong to Thanos” but boy, I was not prepared for…Thanos’s movie! Not only did the Russo brothers bring to life a presence worthy of scaring the bejeezus out of ten years of assembled super heroes, but that they let him Do That was a true shocker. It’s hard for me to judge INFINITY WAR fully until I see what goes down in ENDGAME because, to quote THE PRESTIGE, “making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.” But for now, I sit stunned.

Michael D. Smith’s TOP TEN

1. BLACK PANTHER – The best movie of the year, BLACK PANTHER proves to be one of the two or three best titles in the 10-year Avengers odyssey. Directed by the brilliantly talented young filmmaker Ryan Coogler (CREED, FRUITVALE STATION), this supremely entertaining, comic book epic has a superb cast and an engaging, intelligent story. Its story of a young king who thinks he knows what it takes to be a ruler but is faced with a day of reckoning that turns his views upside down is a potent one. The climax is tragic to the point that it’s Shakespearean and it’s all assisted by one of the most consistently good performances by an entire cast that you will see, especially in an action movie. Michael B. Jordan, who was cheated out of an Oscar nomination for his role in CREED, is a powerful presence in the film as its lead antagonist. BLACK PANTHER has everything you could ever want in not only a superhero movie but in a movie period. 

2. A QUIET PLACE – In terms of creativity and originality, A QUIET PLACE is only rivaled in recent times by last year’s masterpiece “Get Out.” A brief, yet sophisticated sci-fi horror tale brimming with mystery, A QUIET PLACE stars the husband/wife team of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple struggling to keep their family alive in a world taken over by aliens who react to sound. You must pay attention to the little details in this one to spot clues to the backstory, which itself is horrifying. The story has a bit of a Stephen King-like vibe to it as the suspense builds around the impending birth of a new baby. A must-see.

3. FIRST REFORMED –  Ethan Hawke shines in what is arguably writer/director Paul Schrader’s greatest cinematic endeavor. It is a work of art in every sense of the word as Hawke plays the minister of a tiny congregation in an old church in upstate New York. His character is haunted by a past that riddles him with guilt and leads him to drink. When we meet him, he has begun to keep a diary of his tormented thoughts as he tries to mentor those that are just as much pain as he is. Hawke is mesmerizing in the most brilliant performance of his career with strong supporting help from Amanda Seyfried and a nice dramatic turn by Cedric the Entertainer. The ending is haunting to say the least and will leave you and anyone you watch it with debating what it all means. 

“Olivia Colman delivers the best performance by an actress in 2018 and it’s not even close”

4. THE FAVOURITE – With some of the best costume designs you will see in any film, THE FAVOURITE is a wonderful historical drama containing the most splendid, witty dialogue of the year. Set against the backdrop of early 18th century England, two women (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vie to be the favorite of the increasingly sickly Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). The political intrigue is delightful as Weisz and Stone’s characters will go to any lengths to be the apple of Queen Anne’s eye, thereby having access to tremendous power. Colman delivers the best performance by an actress in 2018 and it’s not even close. She is brilliant in every sense of the word as portrays a woman teetering on insanity after having had 18 pregnancies but no living children. There are ultimately no winners in all of it. Just tragic losers. 

5. LEAVE NO TRACE – While watching the powerful performance delivered by New Zealand-born actress Thomasin McKenzie in the drama LEAVE NO TRACE, it is impossible to not think about what director/writer Debra Granik once pulled out of a relatively unknown young actress named Jennifer Lawrence. It is perhaps an unfair comparison considering that Lawrence received the first of her four Oscar nominations for her role as a tough, teenage Ozarks girl in 2010’s WINTER’S BONE. However, as Tom, McKenzie provides something that is special to watch on the silver screen. Through her eyes alone she projects her character’s tough, determined nature which she also reveals is just a façade masking a 13-year-old girl’s desperation to please a father (Ben Foster) traumatized by war. Foster once again demonstrates how skillful he has become in recent years. Pain leaks out of every pour in Foster’s skin as his character is so consumed by PTSD from combat that he puts Tom in danger every day they are on the run without thinking about what he is doing. Based upon the 2009 book My Abandonment by American novelist Peter Rock, LEAVE NO TRACE, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, is a moving work of genuine sadness that will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has a heart.

 6. BLACKKKLANSMAN – In what is Spike Lee’s best effort in years, BLACKKKLANSMAN is an engrossing crime drama loosely based upon real events. It tells the tale of new African American, Colorado police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who infiltrates a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s via the phone. To represent himself in person, he convinces a Jewish detective (Adam Driver) to be his face. While it’s an entertaining piece of work that takes a lot of dramatic license, Lee’s effort tackles racism head-on and reveals its ugliness likes few films do. As such, it’s not without controversy but because of that it accomplishes the goal of making people talk and think about racism in America. 

7. GREEN BOOK – Inspired by a true story, this period drama is a surprisingly complex, emotional work considering its director, Peter Farrelly, is best known for comedic fare like SHALLOW HAL and DUMB AND DUMBER. With GREEN BOOK, Farrelly captures the stark racial divide of 1962 America with an exploration of the relationship between white bar bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and black pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as they travel across the Midwest and Deep South. Mortensen dazzles with his knack to bring to life every subtle nuance of the characters he plays. This role is no exception as he helps make Tony Lip someone we can truly care about even though in the beginning it’s a little tough to do. Ali, a 2017 Oscar winner for MOONLIGHT, gives Don a vulnerable sophistication while also breathing out a certain degree of naïveté without seeming to break a sweat. It all adds up to GREEN BOOK being the type of rare movie where everyone can feel a little bit happier about the world when the lights go back on. 

8. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? – Like many other people, I grew up on Mr. Rogers so perhaps I’m a little biased, but this documentary feels like a warm and cozy sweater vest. It dispels a lot of myths about the man who wanted nothing more than to work with children. We learn a lot about this kind, gentle soul from those closest to him and it’s refreshing in this age of cynicism and character assassination to discover he was pretty much exactly like he was on the TV.

9. HEREDITARY –  Simply put, this is one of the most messed up movies you will ever see. HEREDITARY is tale of a family being turned upside down when the family matriarch’s death starts a sequence of horrifying events that lead to a supernatural, head-scratching, unsettling climax. Toni Collette is fantastic as the mother of two who becomes increasingly unraveled thanks to a plan set into motion by her recently deceased mother. It goes without saying that a film is automatically creepy when it silently begins with a nondescript obituary on the silver screen. Don’t stay up too late to watch this. Otherwise you will feel the need to keep all the lights on and the covers over your head.

“Rami Malek absolutely commands the screen”

10. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – Some of have criticized this film for not devoting more time to the exploration of the late Freddie Mercury’s private life. However, this rock biography is not titled “The Freddie Mercury Story.” Instead it focuses on the rise of a band with a singer who had a rock voice like none other before or since. While the story is admittedly a little glossy, the core strength of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is the incredible performance by lead Rami Malek who absolutely commands the screen. He masters every movement, every voice inflection, every insecurity, every bit of bravado of the real Mercury. It is a legendary accomplishment and is worth every penny to see.

Jeremy Werner‘s TOP TEN:

“It’s good for the souls of the young and old.”

1. EIGHTH GRADE -Back in August I wrote, “Cringy. Heartfelt. Anxiety inducing. Unflinching. Heartbreaking. Hopeful…Bo Burnham’s debut film seemingly has it all, and it does.” That still rings true after a few rewatches. Four months later, along with dozens and dozens of screeners, EIGHTH GRADE, is still my favorite film of the year because of how raw and emotional it is. It’s good for the souls of the young and old.

2. BLACKKKLANSMAN -Last year, GET OUT made me feel what it’s like to be a black man in a predominantly white situation or setting. This year, BLACKKKLANSMAN made me feel my own white guilt. Both movies are timely and timeless. BLACKKKLANSMAN is a church sermon that needs to be heard by everyone within an earshot. This is easily Spike Lee’s best film since DO THE RIGHT THING if not his magnum opus.

3. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE – Phil Lord and Chris Miller should just have their own animation studio. They were robbed of an Oscar for 2014’s LEGO MOVIE and it’ll be another crime if SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE doesn’t win best animated picture this year. It’s a trippy journey that blurs the line between comic book and cinema. Not only is it the best animated film of the year, it may be the best superhero movie of the year. Sorry Disney.

4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU -What begins as a satire, quickly becomes a hyper absurd sci-fi that blends commentary on racism and classism, along with jabs at America’s path towards corporatocracy. Boots Riley brings a fresh voice and unique criticism that’s familiar, yet distinct. It’s the kind of film with no middle ground. You’ll either love or hate it.


5. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? -In today’s climate, the world might need another Mr. Rogers, if that’s possible. Without mentioning any names or incidents, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? feels like a pertinent documentary about the impact kindness and compassion has. Even the iciest of hearts will have a tear in their eye by the end credits.

6. VICE -Comedy doesn’t quite the praise it deserves. Ask any actor or creator how hard it is to craft something funny. Now add in a dose of reality and seriousness. Just like in THE BIG SHORT, Adam McKay tackles a difficult subject and makes it palatable for general audiences. VICE is a dark riot, making us laugh and realize the expanding power of the Executive Branch.

7. BOY ERASED -Not only is this a powerful story about sexual identity, but it’s a somber reminder about how one of the America’s most heinous acts, conversion therapy, remains legal. The film does a nuanced job of highlighting the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical cruelty that conversion therapy puts it’s victims through. It’s simply tragic.

8. MANDY– What if heavy metal music became a movie? You’d have MANDY, an 80’s acid nightmare come to life, with the help of a gonzo, smiling Nicolas Cage, covered in blood. This is a midnight film that will surely develop a cult following, or at the very least, a legion of Cheddar Goblin fans.

9. WIDOWS – This is Steve McQueen’s most mainstream film, yet it’s still visually intellectual like his previous films. McQueen is a master behind the camera and weaves a caper that’s not only rich with heavy material and social themes, but engaging from beginning to end.

10. THE FAVOURITE – THE FAVOURITE  is devilishly funny and cynical. It’s the kind of movie that could delight those who loathe period piece dramas, like myself. The humor and dialogue crackle for two hours as the film’s three leading ladies find new, humorous ways to stab each other in the back.

HONORABLE MENTIONS : SUSPIRIA, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, FIRST REFORMED, ISLE OF DOGS, ROMA, BLOCKERS, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, LOVE,SIMON, CRAZY RICH ASIANS, MOM AND DAD

AND…THE WORST

Jeremy Werner: 

1. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM -The bigger the budget, the more it should be looked down upon. This movie cost nearly $200 million and it stunk like one big pile of dino crap. Just think how many good, small budget films could have been made instead, but that wouldn’t have raked in over a billion dollars, now would it?

“Like one big pile of dino crap”

2. BOOK CLUB -Not only do they still make crap like this, but they release in theaters and trick good actors and actresses to star in it. This is pure drivel. Keep this crap off the silver screen and keep it on the Lifetime Network.

3. WELCOME TO MARWEN -The more I think about it, the more this film makes me mad. It’s a steaming crap that’s beneath the actors in it, it soils Zemeckis’ good name and unfortunately mishandles a true story. Unlike most train wrecks, you can look away from this one.

4. SUPER TROOPERS 2 -Careful what you wish for. Fans of the original should have looked towards other fanbases who asked for a sequel, like GHOSTBUSTERS, THE HANGOVER, etc. and got a big pile of crap instead. This movie is an unfunny dumpster fire that should offer a refund to it’s IndieGoGo supporters.

5. TERMINAL – Didn’t hear about this one? Good. To reiterate my favorite word in this list, it’s crap. This is the kind of film I could easily placed at the top, but it’s not as deserving as my scorn as the other films noted above because it quietly came and went without ruffling too many feathers. Still though. This one is crap. Don’t even bother looking it up out of curiosity.

Michael A. Smith:

1.LIFE ITSELF – As I say on our Podcast, I’ve never been so happy to see someone hit by a bus.  THIS IS US plots work in small doses, but on the big screen, they suck!

2. THE MEG – If my 230 pound body can’t swim by people without attracting notice, then a 50 foot shark sure as hell shouldn’t be able to.

 3. OCEANS 8 – Boooooooooooorrrrrrrrrring!

4. LOVE, SIMON – What could have been a film that delivered a great message takes the easy way out by making everything peachy too easily.

5. GRINGO – I had so many high hopes for this film.  Sadly, Nash Edgerton did not get any of the film making skills his brother Joel inherited.  

Film Review: “Vice”

VICE
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Adam McKay
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hrs 12 mins
Annapura Films

Our Score: 5 stars

On the animated program “Lil’ Bush,” which was a comical look at the administration of President George W. Bush, his vice-president, Dick Cheney, was portrayed as possibly the son of Darth Vader. If Adam McKay’s latest film is to believe, Cheney may in fact actually have been Emperor Palpatine!

Dick Cheney (Bale) is a man who came from a troubled youth – lots of drinking and carousing – and rose to be within a heartbeat of
holding the highest office in the world. And, if the film “Vice” is to be believed, he did it in the most ruthless way possible. You have to love a movie that informs the viewer at the beginning that it is a “true story,” than clarifies itself by explaining it’s as true as it can get considering nobody really knows anything about Dick Cheney.

After being kicked out of school and forced to live with his wife, Lynne (Adams), in her parents house, Cheney is given the ultimatum from the missus to either make something of himself or hit the road. He is chosen to be part of a group of young men whose job is to assist members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C. and is chosen by the straight-shooting Congressman from the state of Illinois, Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). Sensing a kindred soul – or lack of one – Rumsfeld takes Cheney with him as he progresses through the ranks of government. And, like Michael Corleone, he teaches Cheney to keep his friends close and his
enemies closer.

I have always marveled at the talents of Christian Bale. From first seeing him at age 12 in “Empire of the Sun” through “American Psycho,” the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy and his Oscar winning turn in “The Fighter,” he has always impressed me. So when I say that here he gives the best performance of his career, give me credit that I know what I’m talking
about. In fact, if you didn’t know Bale was in this film I would dare you to tell me you know it’s he portraying Cheney, so immersed in the character is he. He is joined note for note by Adams, the strong woman-behind-the-the man, who adds another award-worthy performance to her repertoire! Throw in Carell, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Tyler Perry as Colin
Powell, and you have a true actors workshop on display.

The other half of this film is the script from director Adam McKay. Long known as Will Ferrell’s partner in crime on such films as “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” McKay hit the big time by winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Award for his film “The Big Short.” “Vice” is told in a similar way, with narration and flashbacks that make you chuckle while still lamenting the fact that this guy was basically helping to run our government. With no apologies. In fact, when the incident where Cheney, on a hunting trip, accidentally shot a fellow hunter in the face, we are shown the news clip where the VICTIM actually apologizes for causing any inconvenience to the Cheney family!

Dick Cheney has been with us for over four decades. Like cockroaches and Keith Richards, he may never go away. But if there is one positive to his story, it’s that it gave us what, in my opinion, is the best film of 2018!

Blu-ray Review “Vice Principals: The Complete First Season”

Actors: Danny McBride, Walton Goggins, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Georgia King, Sheaun McKinney, Busy Philipps
Directors: Jody Hill, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Number of discs: 2
Studio: HBO
DVD Release Date: February 7, 2017

Season: 3.5 out of 5 star
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Vice Principals” is the latest project from HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” co-creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill. It is a set series with two seasons and 18 episodes total. The first season consisted of 9 episodes was pretty kick ass and definitely left me wanting more. Definitely excited to see what they have cooked up for the second half of the series. Danny McBride and Walton Goggins are awesome together and play off each other really well. I would have loved to see this series go longer than just two seasons but I also appreciate when something has a proper beginning and end. Definitely worth binging on before season two airs this year.

Official Premise: In this new comedy series “Vice Principals”, the longtime principal of a suburban high school steps down, leading ambitious vice principals Neal Gamby (McBride) and Lee Russell (Goggins) to both set their sights on the vacated top spot. But when new rival Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) enters the picture, these bitter antagonists must form an unholy alliance to bring down the outsider by any means necessary.

HBO is releasing this season as a combo pack with a Blu-ray and Digital HD copy included for this show. The special features are decent and worth checking out if you enjoyed the show. Who doesn’t love a good Blooper Reel?! This Blu-ray packs a bunch of solid laughs with this one included. There are audio commentaries for each of the episodes, which is awesome with cast/crew participating. This was a great way to re-watch the season and get to enjoy it more due to the comments. Lastly there are a bunch of deleted/alternate scenes included that are worth checking out.

 

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Enter to Win a Digital HD Copy for Season 1 of “Vice Principals”

To celebrate the digital HD release of Season 1 of “Vice Principals”, Media Mikes would like to give two of our fans a chance to win a digital HD copy of the film. If you want to win this great prize, please leave a comment below your favorite role from star Danny McBride. This giveaway will remain open until November 25th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Looking for something “profanely hilarious” (TV Guide) to watch this fall? Season one of the “funny as hell” (Deadline) HBO comedy series Vice Principals is available now on Digital HD!

Created by Danny R. McBride and Jody Hill (creators of HBO’s Eastbound & Down, along with Ben Best), Vice Principals: Season 1 tells the story of North Jackson High School and the two people who almost run it, the vice principals. McBride and Walton Goggins star as the school administrators, who are in an epic power struggle, vying for the top spot: to be school principal. But when new rival Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) enters the picture, these bitter antagonists must form an unholy alliance to bring down the outsider by any means necessary.

Also featuring Georgia King, Busy Phillips, Shea Whigham, Sheaun McKinney and guest stars Bill Murray and Susan Park, the new comedy series was a critical and audience hit this summer on HBO. Heralded by Rolling Stone as “the summer’s best new comedy,” Vice Principals is a “must watch” (Entertainment Weekly) series for Eastbound & Down fans and comedy lovers alike.

Blu-ray Review “Inherent Vice”

Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon
Directors: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Run Time: 148 minutes

Film: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

“Inherent Vice” made it on to some critics, top films of the year list…for myself though it made it onto my worst films of the year list. It is rare that I literally turn a film off mid-way through but that was the case here. It took me three sitting to finish it and I was left as bored and confused as a was when I started the first. Paul Thomas Anderson has his specific audience that loves everything he does and I am sure they love this one also but it was not for me at all, plus at nearly 2 1/2 hours long, no thanks. It is a real shame as well when you look at the films cast including Oscar® nominees Joaquin Phoenix (“Walk the Line”), Josh Brolin (“True Grit”), Owen Wilson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”),Oscar® winners Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”) and Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic”), Martin Short (“Frankenweenie”) and Jena Malone (“The Hunger Games” series) doesn’t help either.

Official Premise: When private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a loony bin…well, easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic `60s and paranoia is running the day and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” that’s being way too overused—except this one usually leads to trouble. With a cast of characters that includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as The Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists…part surf noir, part psychedelic romp—all Thomas Pynchon.

Warner Bros released “Inherent Vice” as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital HD included. The film, despite being impossible to watch in one sitting, is well shot thanks to cinematographer, Robert Elswit. The 35mm film looks nicely transfered to 1080p, same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which works for the dialogue and film’s music. The special features are terrible like the film itself. There are three short promos included. The first is “Los Paranoias” narrated by Shasta (Katherine Waterston). Next is “Shasta Fay”, which is another promo for Shasta and “The Golden Fang” is another trailer. Lastly “Everything in this Dream” is a deleted/alternate sequence.

Own “Inherent Vice” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on April 28 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

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Film Review “Inherent Vice”

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Katherine Waterston
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 28 mins
Warner Brothers

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh feature film is the perfect culmination of a visual and storytelling style that he has been honing to a fine point since his first film, “Hard Eight,” in 1996. “Inherent Vice,” based on the 2009 novel from reclusive author Thomas Pynchon, hits perfectly. With outstanding performances, great music, and stunning – yet unobtrusive – production design.

The only thing I can think of that can be thought of as negative, is that this movie MUST be viewed multiple times. There are layers upon layers, and so many things that are easily missed with a single viewing. This film is definitely not for a passive viewer. I have seen this film several times now and I can’t even say that I completely follow the story. But I trust that all the information is there.

Watching Paul Thomas Anderson make the switch from the 2.35:1 aspect ratio down to the 1.85:1 ratio has been strange; as I have always loved anamorphic widescreen. But Anderson has complete control of his film frame, and no longer has that angsty drive to move the camera constantly. He puts the camera exactly where it needs to be and just lets the actors perform. And perform they do.

Joaquin Phoenix gives another spectacular performance; as does his co-star, Katherine Waterston, who matches him perfectly. Waterston was unknown to me up to this point – even though she is the daughter of Sam Waterston – but she holds her own within this ensemble cast. Her character of Shasta Fay Hepworth is probably the least quirky of all the characters within this story, but she delivers a much-needed vulnerability.

While the story is set in 1970, it doesn’t feel like a period piece. It LOOKS like one, but doesn’t feel like one. The costumes, set decoration, hair styles, and all around general look of this film say 1970 but it doesn’t do it in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. You are never distracted by the cars they drive, or the fact they use telephones with cords on them. “Inherent Vice” is a period piece with a contemporary feel. Which is a hard thing to pull off. It’s easy to lose a younger audience by showing them a time and technology they never knew.

With a running time of 148 minutes it would be easy to get scared off by the length, but this film is never slow. It runs the perfect line of fast-paced performances offset by long, continuous takes. There are at least two shots within this film that are over five minutes long. And they work!

“Inherent Vice” is an off-beat masterpiece. Its story is as real as the actor’s portraying the characters believe; and they make the audience believe. It is one of the only films I have seen this year that I feel has the potential to have multiple awards consideration. Lead actors, ensemble, score, adapted screenplay and directing. It is a solid film from every angle, and definitely, DEFINITELY worth seeing.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Advance Premiere of “Inherent Vice” [ENDED]

Media Mikes has teamed up with Warner Brothers to give (25) readers and their guest a chance to attend the advance screening of the new film by Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice,” when it premieres in Kansas City on January 7, 2015. The screening will be held at the Kansas City Alamo Draft House in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and will start at 7:00 p.m.

All you need to do is head over to: http://www.gofobo.com//main/sweepstakes/NFRkz44927 and register. On Monday, January 5, 2015, (25) random entrants will be selected and those chosen will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening. Winners will be notified by email.

Starring Golden Globe nominee Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson and Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice” opens nationally on January 9, 2015. Good luck!

Universal’s Peter Schade talks about restoring “JAWS” for Blu-ray

“Jaws” fans can now breathe a sigh of relief because after years of begging and pleading Universal Studios is about to release Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster in an all new Blu-ray DVD package. But how do you take a film almost four decades old and make it look like better then brand new? That job fell to Peter Schade, Vice President of Content Management and Technical Services for Universal.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication and Film from California State University, Schade began his career as a scheduler for Turner Entertainment in 1989. He later worked in the technical services departments of both Turner and Worldvision. In 1999 he joined Universal as Director of Worldwide Home Video and Television Servicing, playing a key role in the relocation of International Home Video Servicing. He was promoted to his current position in August 2002. While finalizing his work on “Jaws” Mr. Schade found the time to sit down with Media Mikes.

Mike Smith: You have a Bachelor’s Degree in Telecommunication and Film. What were your goals when you left college? Did you intend on working in the technical side as you are now or were you looking to be more hands on as a filmmaker?
Peter Schade: When I was in school I always gravitated more towards being an editor. On student projects I was always the guy putting them together. But when I got my first “real” job after school I did intend to grativate more towards the technical side but circumstances pulled me more towards a management role. But I am managing a technical department so I’m very happy where I am.

MS: Can you describe a normal work day?
PS: Wow. My job has many facets so there are really no two days that are alike. My department sits right between production and distribution, so upstream of me you’ve got production both in the feature and television side creating content and delivering it to the studio. Then my team creates all of the archived assets that are made in support of distribution and then downstream of me are divisions like Home Video and Television…International…Domestic…Non-theatrical. So we’re delivering content every day to any number of those groups. The rest of the library has us dealing with contents that are decades old to contents that are brand new so there are lots of challenges. There’s never a dull moment!

MS: Were there any special processes that you needed to employ to transfer “Jaws?”
PS: The special processes begin in the way we care for the elements, from the original negative on down through any of the distribution masters that we make. We have our own vaults – buildings that are specifically designed to store material – that are kept at the proper temperature and humidity. In terms of taking the original negative and transferring it…digitizing it…we specifically used a film scanner that employed wet gate technology. This means the film is passed through a chamber before the gate which is filled with a liquid that is the same as the film base. Therefore any surface damage on the film is filled in and we don’t see the things that have gotten on the film as a result of its age. It’s scanned at 6K resolution, which is probably eight to ten times more then you’d see on High Def. Once that image information is digitized off the filmwe use any number of tools to work on color correction and dirt fixes and stabilization. There are manyparallel processes that go on at the same time that take weeks and sometimes months until we have a product that we think is of the quality needed to put out on Blu-ray.

MS: In the featurette describing the processes currently on line, it looks like you’re actually inspecting , cleaning and digitalizing the film frame by frame. Is that correct?
PS: There is an inspection that goes on. Before you put the film on a mechanical device you want to make sure there’s no broken sprocket holes or loose splices. You have to make sure the film is in good shape before you even begin to scan it. That is what they are referring to in the documentary as far as studying the film frame by frame. It’s literally a negative expert who is used to handling film. They go through every reel and hand inspect every foot…every frame…of that film.

MS: Do you also spend any extra time working on the supplemental aspects of the disc? I know the fan documentary “The Shark is Still Working” is included. Did your team work on that film as well?
PS: My team only focuses on the actual feature itself. There are other groups that focus on the supplemental material.

MS: I think I can speak, not only for “Jaws” fans, but for film fans when I say that the release of “Jaws” on Blu-ray is probably one of the most anticipated releases in the history of the format.
PS: It’s a great film. It’s one of my favorites as well. It stands the test of time. And coming out on Blu-ray, we’re very proud and honored to get it out there and have fans see it better than it’s ever been

 

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