The Nice Guys


Viewed – 09 October 2016  Online-rental

I am a big fan of the movie Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and consider it one of the career highlights of Robert Downey Jr.  The same could also be said for Shane Black, who penned the script to Lethal Weapon amongst other accolades and also directed said Downey Jr vehicle.  So coming to this latest written and directed effort from Black, you could say my expectations were dialled on the high side.  We won’t mention Iron Man 3 (oops).

The Nice Guys

With a very similar vibe to Bang Bang, this sort-of homage to 70’s detective shows has somewhat amateur detectives Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling on the trail of a missing girl who is somehow mixed up in the shady world of the porn industry and the death of a famous starlet.  Immediately this is Shane Black on blistering form; at least dialogue-wise, which leaps off the screen and is delivered with no end of personality and charm by the principle leads.  This has many very funny lines and even funnier situations (that rotating car display) as our bumbling duo go from one crazy encounter to the next, topped off with some surprisingly thrilling moments.  Along for the ride is Gosling’s character’s daughter who it seems understands how to be a detective ten times better than her adult counterparts do and you could call her the Inspector Gadget’s niece of the trio.  Also we have a not-ageing-gracefully Kim Basinger as some department of justice bigwig sporting Botox or plastic surgery, but fails to really bring anything but familiarity to the party.

The plot takes a step back to Black’s flair for dialogue and moments and it shows, as what it all ends up being about is rather ‘meh’ and well, just what was all that with Misty Mountains?  The movie also threatens to spiral out of control with a bit too much  slapstick and occasionally really stupid humour … but is held together by a likeable trio of performances and a great sense of time and place.  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang suffered similarly but again that didn’t detract from what was otherwise solid entertainment – and the same can be said here.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Dazed and Confused


Viewed – 25 January 2015  Blu-ray

Dazed BluThis for a long time has been my go-to movie to just chill out and relax with.  Something about this 70’s set high school comedy-drama just feels very comfortable.  I’ll put this on occasionally because hell, I enjoy being in the company of these characters probably more than any movie I can think of.

Set on the last day of school this follows the (mis)adventures of various school kids as they go to parties, hang out, drive around, cause a bit of mischief, contemplate their futures and learn a little bit about themselves along the way.  You could say the main character is a freshman called Mitch (Wiley Wiggens) who is one of several targets for drop out thug O’Bannion (a before he was famous Ben Affleck) who likes to spank these kids with a softball bat as some sort of ‘initiation’.  Mitch gets into various encounters and we follow his story but at the same time we have quarterback ‘Pink’ who’s trying to figure out if he’s going to stay on in the college football team, and along the way we meet several other fascinating and interesting personalities like super-sleazy but super-cool Matthew McConaughey and a stoner hippy chick Mila Jovavich.

Dazed

I think there is a character in this movie for anyone to relate to, someone was one of these characters when they were at school – were you the cool guy the girls all looked at, or the geeky kid that just wanted to fit in, or someone in-between?  That’s the magic of this and add Richard Linklater’s assured, very authentic and (clearly in love with the subject matter) direction, mixed with a soundtrack to die for (Ozzy, Deep Purple, Cooper…they’re all here) … and I think this is one of the best high school movies ever made – if not THE best high school movie ever made.

Dazed MitchThe Blu-ray that I imported from the U.S. may not be the bells-and-whistles Criterion release (I reviewed the Criterion DVD release HERE).  Yet this Universal edition boasts a picture full of fine detail even if the colours lack a little vibrancy (but seem to suit the 70’s look and feel).  However the big showpiece here is the soundtrack with clear dialogue, decent use of surrounds and most importantly the iconic music given major, thumping treatment to really show off your speakers (has Alice Cooper’s School’s Out ever sounded better?).  Extras are rather limp however with no commentary and little more than deleted scenes and a music feature that you can bring up with Universal’s U-Play mode.  Very disappointing for a movie that that for me, is a stone cold classic.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

American Hustle


Viewed – 02 May 2014  Blu-ray

Kind of a blind purchase this one.  I won’t automatically leap to watch a movie based on it’s awards or nominations or general buzz … been there before and came away disappointed (The Life Of Pie, anyone?).  Yet with a cast consisting of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner – it seemed an invitation very hard to turn down.

AmericanHustle

Bale is professional con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Adams) go about scamming art dealers, accountants and pretty much anyone else to make a lot of money.  Business is good until FBI agent Richi DiMaso (Cooper) busts them and offers them a deal – whether go to jail, or have them use their expertise at conning people to help him nail a group of corrupt politicians.

The late 70s setting, the costumes and the atmosphere, all set the tone for an energetic, detailed and very absorbing tale of cons, relationships and who is back stabbing who.  Bale, an actor I’ve felt was starting to get a bit old news these days, is superb in the lead role, sporting what appears to be a very good Robert DeNiro impression (hopefully intended), which is fitting considering this has the pace, the feel (and the narration) of a Martin Scorsese picture.  The cast all get a chance to shine, especially Cooper’s over-eager, charismatic FBI agent … and Adams’ dangerously-sexy Sydney really marks her out as one of the best (and hottest) actresses’ around.  For a hustle movie, despite initial fears I was never left confused as to what was going on, loved every bit of the plan and every comical development … it just all sucked me in like a perfect hustle might, but at least didn’t leave me feeling conned by the end.  No, this was quality filmmaking, with a great cast, a superb soundtrack (Donna Summers’ I Feel Love, Wings’ Live & Let Die…) and genuine name-making direction from the mostly underrated David O Russell.

Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5