Religious warfare spilling out onto the streets of a fractured America should be a fantastic draw for the great actors of the early 2000s. It was. Gangs of New York has such a strong cast to it and a great director behind it, Martin Scorsese. It is a bold and brash piece that features all the typical treatises and topics of a period piece that sets the Catholic and Protestant forces against one another on the streets of America. Scorsese is keen to guide that scope with some incredible casting choices and a knack for knowing how to handle that. Smooth the egos, set up the right levels of screentime and capture captivating performances from actors getting to grips with a thick and promising screenplay.
Paul Thomas Anderson proves once more that he must rely on a family member of the Hoffman bloodline to make a personable and frank display of cultural insignificance. Licorice Pizza is a film about nothing. A feature that feels closer to Robert Altman or David Byrne’s True Stories than something contemptible or active. It flutters through key pointers of the 1970s, from the political struggle and lack of honesty, the implications of public homosexuality and the taboo subject of age ranges and relationships. Anderson handles all of that with a predictably heavy hand at times, with little variation for the ethical considerations. That much is fair and understandable, the criticism of the relationship at the core of Licorice Pizza is thoroughly justified, but is that not the point?
Even the great innovator, Tony Scott, could not be stopped by the pratfalls and ridiculousness of stock car racing. It has an untimely, inevitable shtick attached to it where the stereotypes of the drivers infect the core mechanics of what is, essentially, a race. No twists, turns or obstacles, just a track that goes around and around. Turning that monotony into something as thrilling as Days of Thunder is no small feat of endurance. But knowing the tokenisms of Scott’s direction, and how well he works when collaborating with Tom Cruise, we can hold out hope on Days of Thunder delivering some layer of fast-paced, action-packed enjoyability.
Finally, a film that captures the joys of consuming corporate products. Who’d have thought we would need such a feature? With Herculean strength, a young arcade gamer tears the metallic steering wheel from the welded shackles. This would be my living hell, and I am so glad Ralph Breaks the Internet gives me and you the chance to experience what would happen if the spaceship from Wall-E lived inside your router. Two bumbling idiots go on a quest to save the day, and with no variation between them, they soon blur together as a charmless clump, far removed from what they were in Wreck-It Ralph. A sad downgrade as these protagonists wanders the new world of upgrades and the internet.
It is not often we receive an adaptation worthy of our time. We have not received one for the King of the Jungle in close to ninety years. Kong: Skull Island, initially impressed me. Popcorn entertainment applied thickly and with real grace to the big screen. How fast our memories fade. But what was it about this piece from Jordan Vogt-Roberts that I had initially liked? Simply put, the Vietnam historian within me was compelled by the setting and build-up, and I was spurred on by a love for the strong actors found in this ensemble. It is not often you get to see John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson together, and I was not going to let a pesky Monsterverse shtick stand in my way of seeing strong supporting performances.
As his world crashes around him, the fearful animosity and anger that Ron Burgundy transmitted through the airwaves of the 1970s comes to a close. His reign of terror is over. For a decade, movie-goers were able to enjoy a time of peace and tranquillity, a character based on Mort Crim would be laid to rest. Of course, no good thing can come to an end, nor, it seems, can a mediocre product. It will live forever, shuffling through the minds and hearts of somewhat nostalgic young adults. Their minds unphased by copious drinking and drug use, they are the perfect audience to experience Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. A hefty experience indeed, one whose running time exceeds that of many more rewarding experiences.
With such a promising ensemble, it’s hard to see how Magnolia could be anything other than a superbly layered character study of intertwining lives. Like Desperate Housewives, but over the course of two and a half hours, rather than an aeon. Paul Thomas Anderson’s dramatic titan sees a collection of stories, the highs and lows of a rough handful of individuals connected by chance, flimsy narratives or shady dealings. Whether it works or not, it’s hard not to appreciate how big of an ask Anderson proposes to his cast, a project that has to have the right amount of connection between roles, enough to engage an audience, but not enough to incite obvious cliché.
Throughout the 1990s, there was such a strange influx in gangster, crime and casino-oriented films. I blame Martin Scorsese for this decade long trend. He piloted this odd niche, crafting Goodfellas and Casino within five years of each other. Other directors attempted to latch onto this success, and newcomer Paul Thomas Anderson was one of them. In his directorial debut, Hard Eight, we’re thrown into a tepid relationship between a down on his luck casino player and one stranger who looks to pull him out of the dark and build him as his protégé. It’s an interesting premise that never quite takes flight.