Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Stretch

Director: Joe Carnahan; Main Cast: Patrick Wilson, Ed Helms, James Badge DaleJessica AlbaChris Pine;

Stretch

Joe Carnahan has a knack for wacky, convoluted stories. I liked the wild ride that was Smokin’ Aces and Stretch doesn’t disappoint! It reminded me a bit of Into the Night, since this movie follows the misadventures of the titular character (Wilson), a down-on-luck limo driver, for roughly 24 hours and most of the crazy stuff happens during a long night. Stretch is plagued by a big debt with his bookie (who wants all his money back by midnight) and by a pushy competitor limousine service; in addition he’s still heartbroken since his girlfriend left him for a pro football player… and his day has just started. Clearly matters don’t improve and the viewer goes down the rabbit hole along with Stretch. After the short appearances of David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta as themselves, both over-the-top and funny, the real treat and revelation is Chris Pine: absolutely hilarious as eccentric demanding billionaire that involves Stretch in a shady and dangerous deal with a promise of a hefty tip. I won’t add more to avoid spoilers. The film flows quite well with twists and turns that keep you interested and eager to know what crazy thing will happen next. The ending is a little predictable but it is still enjoyable and doesn’t detract from the overall fun of the film. Wilson is well cast as underdog that fights his way out of troubles, he gives a solid performance that carries the film from start to finish. If you like something weird in your entertainment this film is what you’re looking for. Zany —7/10

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Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson; Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen WilsonKatherine WaterstonBenicio Del ToroReese Witherspoon;

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

The lastest film by Paul T. Anderson is somehow a crossover between The Big Lebowski and Chinatown.  This slightly surreal and meandering story starts like a classic noir: an ex-flame comes back into Doc Sportello’s (Phoenix) life asking for help. Our hero is a private detective with glorious sideburns and a penchant for smoking pot. His ex, Shasta (Waterston), once a flower child with the same proclivities, has since moved on to greener pasture: her current lover is a real estate magnate.  After her cryptic visit, Shasta disappears and Doc begins a strange journey following weird clues, stumbling on the kidnapping of said magnate, searching for a phantom ship and dealing with all sorts of crazies. He’s helped by faithful friend and lawyer Sauncho (Del Toro), deputy district attorney and occasional lover Penny (Whiterspoon) and he ends up making common cause with Dirty-Harry like detective Bigfoot Bjornsen (Brolin). Set in 1970, this strange and rather convoluted tale, based on the eponymous book by Thomas Pynchon, might be slow-burning and very unlike Anderson’s previous film (The Master) but it’s captivating to follow. Doc is an oddball character and, most of the time, he’s stoned but, improbable as it may seem, he’s also pretty good at his job. In addition there’s Bigfoot, he starts out as a “benevolent nemesis” or “evil guardian angel” to Doc, but he reaches an understanding with him after their investigations  cross path. In a way, Bigfoot has similar traits to Doc: loner, determined and capable (with a visceral hate for hippies but that’s just a colorful side of his persona). This film with its eerie atmosphere and intricate plot turns out to be more  a character study on acid and it really works due to the superb performances of Phoenix and Brolin. Anderson has managed again the difficult task of keeping the viewer engaged with a star-studded, 2.5 hour-long movie based on a pretty wacky premise: chapeau! The cast in general is rather spectacular: curious, unexpected cameos and intriguing portrayals, it is clear that there’s a sure hand at the helm. The soundtrack and the photography complement the story and contribute greatly to the bizarre feeling that pervades the film throughout. Anderson’s style might not be everyone’s cup of tea and this film is even stranger than his usual fare so consider yourself warned. Mesmerizing –9/10

 

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Nightcrawler

nighcrawler

Director: Dan Gilroy; Main Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill PaxtonRiz Ahmed;

Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) makes a living with capers, criss-crossing the line of legality, in a rather forlorn-looking Los Angeles. He is very single-minded about getting a stable, more lucrative job and, by chance, he stumbles upon the world of freelance cameramen, who hunt down shocking and gruesome accidents or crimes and then sell their footage to the local news channels. He starts small with a cheap camera and a police scanner, after getting a few tips by a pro, Joe (Paxton), and manages to get the attention of a news producer, Nina (Russo), of one of the local stations. Things are looking up for Louis, he makes more money and he hires a intern/assistant, Rick (Ahmed), to help him navigate the streets at night while chasing after police calls that sound promising. On paper, the story seems a straightforward American dream: underdog/down-on-luck guy finds a way to improve his lot using his skills and smarts. It turns out it’s far more complicated and layered and that’s what makes this debut film by Gilroy intriguing and thought-provoking. Right off the bat it’s clear that there’s something amiss with Louis, C3PO has better social skills and empathic reactions compared to him and, slowly but surely, the audience realises that he is indeed a sociopath. In his world people are just means to an end, to be used and discarded without any afterthought; sometimes they are even a nuisance since Louis has to convince them or charm them or threaten them to get what he wants. The nocturnal forays into the city hunting for crimes would already provide by themselves a grim view of modern life but combined with Louis’ unique personality make for a truly disturbing picture. I won’t say anymore to avoid spoilers but it’s a dark tale. The film really works because of the superb performance of Jake Gyllenhaal: well-rounded, nuanced and with a sapient use of body language, impressive! The supporting cast is solid, in particular Ahmed as the trusting and little naive assistant, perfect foil to the sociopathy of Louis. Kudos to Gilroy, as first-timer on the director’s chair, he has done an impressive job. I look forward to seeing what he does next. Gripping —7.5/10

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Bosch (season 1)

bosch

Main Cast: Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy AquinoLance ReddickAnnie Wersching

I’ve decided to watch Bosch because of Titus Welliver, finally someone had the guts to give him a chance as lead actor after decades of solid work as character actor in many TV-shows  and a few films (most viewers will remember him as “the man in black” from Lost but to me he will always be War, the horseman, from Supernatural and Jimmy O from Sons of Anarchy). The show is co-created and co-written by Michael Connelly, based on his successful (apparently) series of books. I’ve never read the books so I cannot judge on the quality of the source material but the on-screen version works well, with a vibe halfway  between Southland and a Michael Mann’s movie.  Set in Los Angeles, Harry Bosch is a homicide detective in the Hollywood division with a reputation for being tough, not following the rules but always getting the job done (seriously?!?). In addition our hero has a tormented past (war vet and traumatic childhood), a difficult love life, he’s a loner, a workaholic and a distant father. What can I say: all the boxes for the most used cliches about detectives are checked so let’s move on, nothing new here. What really works is Welliver’s performance, he makes the character believable and, as a viewer, you can’t help but root for him. It also doesn’t hurt to have two The Wire alumni among the main cast: Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar, Bosch’s partner, Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irving. Both actors do their best but, unfortunately, their characters have little depth and are mostly one-dimensional. Fans of The Wire might cringe a bit thinking that Lt. Daniels has metamorphosed into Deputy Rawls, all politics and no real police work, but hey that’s life (if you have not seen The Wire, you should definitely do that before even thinking of watching Bosch!). Amy Aquino is Bosch’s direct superior, Lt. Billets, smart, tenacious but also a good friend. Luckily she has a more well-rounded role and it’s a fair depiction of a woman in a tough line of work. Same goes for Wershing’s rookie cop: pushy and go getter, who champs at the bit and can’t wait to be a detective. She also happens to be Bosch’s love interest that, naturally, will complicate his life even more. The two intertwined story lines of a cold case and a serial killer on a rampage keep you interested and mildly invested and I liked the photography and some of the directing choices. So all in all a honest, quality cop show without thrills or innovative approach. Reliable —6/10

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Mob City (TV mini-series)

Main Cast: Jon BernthalMilo VentimigliaNeal McDonoughAlexa DavalosRobert KnepperEdward Burns;

mob-city

Frank Darabont tries his hand at TV again (after The Walking Dead). This time it is about gangsters and cops in L.A. in the late forties and, let me tell you, it is a cloyingly sweet love letter to the noir genre. You get all the cliches: the grey cop, the femme fatale, the righteous policeman, the fixer, the corrupt cops, the mob boss, the ruthless hitman, the shady bar, the glamorous nightclub, blackmailing, tons of night scenes and rain puddles (in L.A.? sure!). The attention to details into recreating the noir genre is borderline OCD but it is an empty exercise, the story is flat and rather boring. Notwithstanding the brave efforts of the actors and the lovely soundtrack the six episodes end up being uninteresting and predictable. Pity, it completely missed the mark. Watch L.A. Confidential to see how it’s done right. —5/10

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