About two-thirds through Skyfall, I could not help but to think of another Daniel Craig thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was reminded of how refreshing the Stieg Larsson books were, and that English language first movie. Full of international intrigue — and the intriguing variety nonetheless. Skyfall by comparison was overall quite dull and not helped terribly by Javier Bardem playing an exceptionally boring villain when you have in the back of your mind his fascinating introduction to the wide American audience, No Country for Old Men.
Skyfall was an unoriginal yawner punctuated with a few exciting sequences. Unfortunately the best one was the intro titles featuring the Adele song. 4/10.
Flight (now showing) is a well-done if not earth-shattering account of an alcoholic airline pilot, featuring an excellent performance by Denzel Washington. Solid, entertaining, and engaging; 7/10. For even better takes on the subject of alcoholism and addiction, see My Name is Joe (1998, Peter Mullan) , Leaving Las Vegas (1995, with Nicolas Cage in a well-deserved, Oscar-winning best actor performance), Spun (2002, Jason Schwartzman), or the “massively entertaining”, groundbreaking, Trainspotting (1996) (see prior post).
This weekend I also saw, as part of the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival here in San Diego, a feature called The Black Dahlia Haunting (2012). You are highly unlikely to come across this tiny indie, but if you ever do have the opportunity to see it, don’t bother. It was wretched — boring and horrible in the sense not intended by the festival organizer. It could not even recognize a camp or cheese factor which was well within its reach, in an attempt at salvation. 1/10
It is a unique treat to view a new film by Paul Thomas Anderson. One looks forward to a new movie from him in the same way one anticipates new offerings from Wes Anderson, Lars von Trier, and Sofia Coppola. You know you will be delivered a unique vision that is characteristic to the specific talents of these directors (see prior post).
The Master, PT Anderson’s latest (out now), does not disappoint in that regard. It is the story of a disturbed WWII veteran sailor (Joaquin Phoenix) who has returned to civilian life. He is unstable and disturbed, but powerful and strong. Shuffling from one minor disaster to another, he at one point randomly hops on board a boat for a little pleasure cruise. While on board, he meets another strong-willed character, “Master” as he is sometimes called (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is the head of a small cult of followers that may be likened to Scientology, though without all the alien nonsense.
The exceptional performances by Phoenix and Hoffman work well with the developing drama — to a point. The problem with this film is that it felt like half a film. There is superb character and plot development for about half the movie. But by the time the picture is nearing the end, we realize that Anderson has not really thought of what to do with these people and their circumstances. By that I mean he has not thought of anything particularly dramatic or interesting. This film lacks any sort of climax with a punch.
As The Master began to unfold, I felt like I had better brace myself because I would be in for one hell of a ride. Unfortunately the ride stopped short. Without hesitation I’ll watch in theater the next PT Anderson offering, and hope for something on the caliber of his past, generally excellent work, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. But this one: a mere 4/10. [UPGRADED; SEE UPDATE IN COMMENT BELOW]