Unwanted house guests are, very, very broadly speaking, the theme of this week’s three Blu-ray releases on The Shelf this week… I mean, I guess. We have a movie about a wild animal making a mess of a typical English family’s house, a dirty hippie trying to weasel his way into the business of very rich people, and a psychotic hot guy who becomes obsessed with a single mother. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
January movies do not always mean January quality. While generally movies released right after the New Year are, shall we say, less than stellar, that’s not always the case. The Grey got dumped in January and that movie ended up being awesome. Also, movies released here in this country in January aren’t necessarily debuting in January in the rest of the world, as was the case with British export children’s movie, Paddington, based on the works of Michael Bond. It may have been relegated to January status here, but in the UK, it was a massive Christmas holiday movie that stayed in the box office top ten for well over a month. And everyone there loved it, critics and non-critics alike. I think it’s just as magical as a family movie ought to be.
Paddington tells the story of a young bear from Darkest Peru who lives with his elderly aunt and uncle who once, a long time ago, met an English explorer. These bears, you see, are different to every other bear in the world; they’re smart, they can learn, they walk upright, and eventually they can learn English. After a tragedy, the young bear is sent to England to try to find the family of this explorer, but without any contacts or ideas of where to go, he’s pretty stuck. That is until a family passes by and the compassionate, free-spirited matriarch (Sophie Hawkins) thinks they ought to help, much to the chagrin of her fussy and overly cautious husband (Hugh Bonneville) and their two kids. However, it’s hard not to like the polite little bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) and they decide to call him “Paddington” and endeavor to help him find is place in London. Unfortunately, a rather nasty woman (Nicole Kidman) wants to take Paddington to some place he probably wouldn’t like to go and she uses trickery and the affections of the bear-and-family’s neighbor (Peter Capaldi) to do it.
This movie is just so much fun and, believe it or not, for a kids movie, not at all stupid. It’s just nice and refreshingly kindhearted and, yes there’s a few rude jokes, but overall it’s a movie that people of all ages will watch and enjoy. I don’t have any kids, and I in fact watched it by myself in my living room, but I found myself really having a good time and happy to be spending time with all of these characters. The plot is a little predictable, but it’s done so masterfully and all the actors perform so well, not to mention the fabulous CGI work for Paddington, that it just works. Go see it.
Only a filmmaker like Paul Thomas Anderson could hear the term “unfilmable novel” and think it’s a challenge. The man who, for his whole career, has made the films he wants to make when he wants to make them, turned his attention to Thomas Pynchon’s highly dense and drug-fueled P.I. novel Inherent Vice. It’s an example of the result being, I think, a lot better than it had any right to be and also being a great movie on its own, independent from the source material. This movie wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and even a lot of PTA fans weren’t into it, but I actually think it might be my favorite PTA movie. So there.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc Sportello, a druggie private investigator in Los Angeles in 1970. He loses the thread of cases a lot because he’s usually so stoned, but he actually is a good investigator, not that the LAPD would ever let on, especially the habitually angry and tough-as-nails Lt. Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) who’s always trying to bring Doc in for something. One night, Doc’s old flame Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) shows up and asks Doc to help her find her boyfriend, a rich land developer, whom she believe has been kidnapped by his wife. That’s how it all starts, but that’s definitely not as simple as it sounds. Soon Doc is embroiled with other missing people, former junkies, a dangerous Asian cartel, lots of thunks to the head, murder, incrimination, and never knowing what’s going on from all the rampant drug use. It’s like a Film Noir as dreamed up by Timothy Leary.
Anderson does a great job of making each scene’s pace dependent on what drug Doc has just taken as well as trying to show us what Doc sees during these periods. There’s many questions asked in this movie and you’ll probably not be able to answer them all, and I think that’s perfectly all right. The journey is worth not knowing everything and for me, unlike a lot of PTA movies, the ending is highly satisfying. I think the greater public will reevaluate this movie in some years’ time and it’ll be hailed as one of PTA’s best, even if for now a lot of critics and audiences just scratched their heads.
The Boy Next Door
It’s been a really long time since there’s been a good obsessive stalker movie. They, for whatever reason, used to be all the rage in the ’90s. Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, whatever that one with Mark Wahlberg was called (it was called Fear, I’m just trying to pretend like I don’t remember it); in recent years, though, the subgenre seems to have fallen out of favor, except on Lifetime probably. Jennifer Lopez is actually no stranger to movies where she’s pursued by a crazy man and has to fight back. That movie was called Enough, made 13 years ago. Lopez is back in stalked-mode for Rob Cohen’s new film The Boy Next Door. It’s been a really long time since there’s been a good obsessive stalker movie; that streak continues.
The Boy Next Door is one of that special breed of movies that suggests that all men are terrible and all women sort of want to be submissive. That kind of attitude is dangerous, especially in a movie like this. The 91-minute movie has been cut to pieces and re-shot, and it’s painfully obvious, it seems in a bid to give it an R rating, with nudity and swearing shoehorned in where possible. It’s never clear what the tone is, what the motivations of the characters are, or why anything happens in the order and time frame it does.
Jennifer Lopez plays a high school teacher, a mother to a high school-aged boy, and a wife estranged from her husband, who cheated on her. The titular “boy next door” is a 19-year-old high school student (Whaaa?) who is really handsome and nice and smart and who befriends Lopez’s inexplicably outcast son and reads the classics. What a nice guy! While her son is on a camping trip with his father, Lopez and Hottie McNeighbor Guy bond…and by bond I mean he basically forces himself on her, she says no SEVERAL TIMES, but then they end up having sex anyway. She’s obviously mortified the next morning and nips the thing in the bud, but he, it turns out, is not the kind of man to be ignored, Dan, and he begins exhibiting ever-creepier and violent behavior that could lead to, at best, Lopez getting fired, and at worst everybody dying horrible deaths.
The Wedding Ringer – Josh Gad hired Kevin Hart to be his friend and best man at his wedding…and hilarity ensues?
The Friends of Eddie Coyle – Robert Mitchum plays a low-level gangster who decides to snitch on his friends rather than spend his golden years in prison.
From a Whisper to a Scream – Vincent Price relays four tales of horror for the late-80s set.
Le Silence de la Mer – Jean-Pierre Melville’s first film, about a small house in Nazi-occupied France that gets commandeered for a high-ranking German official in town for Nazi bad stuff.