Move over Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise officially has a new arch-enemy.
A charismatic intellectual named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) launches a religious organization following World War II. A drifter named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes his right-hand man, but as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the drifter finds himself questioning the belief system and his mentor.
Whether you’re a Scientologist and have been waiting to protest outside of every movie theater across the nation, have been waiting to see the return of “normal” Joaquin Phoenix, or have been waiting to see what writer/director P.T. Anderson has kept himself busy with over the past 5 years, chances are, you’ve been pretty amped for this flick, as well as I have been. I mean hell, I reviewed two movies, from the same director, for the past two days! I rarely do that, and I was definitely willing to make an exception for this guy just because he once again, proves that he is one of the best directors we have working in America today. Without a doubt.
One thing that could be said about this tale (but not taken away from, however) is that a lot of it plays out in the same vein as There Will Be Blood. Don’t believe me? Okay, well think about this: instead of oil, you have religion; instead of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, you have religion-starter Lancaster Dodd; instead of the loose-cannon Eli, you have the loose-cannon Freddie; and instead of the relationship between Daniel and Eli being at the fore-front, you have the relationship between Freddie and Lancaster. The only difference here is that Freddie and Lancaster actually seem to get along with one another, rather than drinking each other’s milkshakes. But I digress.
Whatever way you want to look at this film, you cannot deny the artful skill and compelling nature that lies behind every frame of this movie that Anderson beautifully constructs. From a technical standpoint, this film honestly could not be any better as certain scenes will just have you forgetting about what’s going on screen by how beautiful and wonderful they look. Anderson captures the look and feel of the 50′s as if he actually took a DeLorean back to those days, along with his film crew, and just started filming right on the spot. The long landscape shots that Anderson captures are even more beautiful and breathtaking as the ones he took in There Will Be Blood and I highly suggest you see it in the 70MM way it was meant to be seen in. I would like to complain and say that it was almost distracting how wonderful this film looked sometimes because it really does take your eyes off the action at-hand, but I can’t diss art and that’s exactly what Anderson has painted here.
Then of course, you got the score from Johnny Greenwood that uses the same exact trifling with sounds as he used in There Will Be Blood, but this time almost plays out a bit differently as Anderson gets back into the grand scheme of things by allowing pop-music to ironically poke it’s head into some key scenes that will probably fit any type of emotion Anderson was going for in the first place. No, there’s no Sister Christian or Aimee Mann songs to jam out too, but still some nice quality tunes that shows Anderson is the perfect guy for when it comes to meshing music with scenes.
One of the biggest buzzes surrounding this flick is whether or not this is Anderson’s take on the early days of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. There are a whole bunch of similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology, but Anderson never seems like he feels the need to go so far and just openly describes what it is and that was a pretty brave step coming from Anderson as he could have taken as many cheap-shots as he wanted to with this subject material. However, this does give him plenty of room and opportunity to talk about religion and whether or not this “Cause” is actually good for any of the people that follow it. You can tell that these people love being able to believe in something that makes them feel like they live in a beautiful and wondrous world, but at the bottom of it all though is the fact that some of this may just be all based on a bunch of lies. But still, even though this seems like an area that Anderson can get into and almost badger the hell out of, he smartly doesn’t and allow the viewers to make up their own interpretations about whether or not this religion is the right one to follow. Once again, another brave move by Anderson and shows you why he is in fact, one of the smartest-working writers and directors on the planet. That’s right, ON THE PLANET.
But as much as this film may seem to be about this underground religion and all of the effects it has on its people, this film is really all about the relationship between the two main characters: Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Both are very, very different from one another as one is the leader of a smooth-talking, happy-all-the-time “religion”, and the other one is just a drifter who can never seem to control his anger, or his drinking for that matter. This contrast between the two characters is probably one of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of this whole flick because we see them both work wonders for each other in ways that we thought weren’t even imaginable from the first meeting the two. They actually care for each other and both want what’s best for them, even if they don’t fully make it work every single time they try. One scene that comes to my mind the best when I think of the relationship between the two is when Dodd actually tells the cops to not hurt Freddie, even after he continues to beat the ever loving crap out of them all. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the whole film not because it’s a turning-point for the whole direction in where the story was headed, but because it shows you the depths of the relationship these two have together.
What I think makes the relationship between them both the most memorable, is the fact that they are played so brilliantly by its two leads: Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was so damn happy to see Joaquin back in full-on acting mode because it’s performances like these that make me realize the type of talent this guy has that shouldn’t be wasted on a faux-rap career. Phoenix is mesmerizing as Freddie Quell because he brings all of that vent-up frustration and strangeness that he had with his “character” in I’m Still Here, and let’s that play-out in a way that’s as memorable as it is compelling. You can tell that this guy is going to flip any chance he gets the chance to and it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t have the best conscience out there, either. However, there are a couple of key scenes that show Freddie in a very sympathetic light that may have you understand why this guy is always so off his rocker. He comes off as a fully-realized character that has plenty of sides to him and you honestly can’t take your eyes off of. This performance is nowhere near the type of actor’s play-day performance Daniel Day-Lewis had with Plainview, but it’s still something that’s worth loving and remembering come Oscar time.
Then, you got Hoffman playing the type of Plainview-like character as Lancaster Dodd, a character that couldn’t have honestly been played by anybody else except for Hoffman. Hoffman does a great job with Dodd because he plays the character, like a guy that has so much charisma, so much heart, and so much warmth to him that it makes you realize why everybody feels so close to him that they could follow him and every word he speaks out. He’s almost reminiscent of Orson Welles in a way of how he’s all tight-lipped with his speeches and rarely ever loses his cool, but when he does, it’s one of the more memorable scenes since we see this character slowly start to unravel right in front of our eyes. It’s not like this character is treated like an evil piece of crap that nobody should care for, but is instead shown off to be a guy that believes in his own way of life and wants to spread that across to everybody else. Yeah, that could be viewed at as a bad thing but the film never quite portrays it as that and it’s another brave step Anderson was not only able to take with this story, but this character that Hoffman has also fully-realized in his own charismatic way.
Some may be surprised to see that Amy Adams doesn’t have a bigger role here as Dodd’s wife, Peggy, but does a nice job giving her character a very dark turn that I wasn’t expecting in the least bit. Still, out of the other two, she sort of comes off as the weakest-link and could have used a bigger and better role to be more substantial to everything that’s going on and the plot itself. Everybody else is good here too, and I like how Anderson made every character in this cast worth something and have their own moment, even if it may only be for a second or two.
So, here I am, going on and on and on about this flick and how amazing it is and you are probably sitting there wondering, “Oh em gee! Is he going to give it the prized 10/10 I haven’t seen in God knows how long??!?!”. Well, no. Sorry to burst your bubble everyone but this film did still have some problems in its own right and it’s that I think the emotional connection for this film was a bit more off this time around, probably due to the fact that the story is always weaving around and whatnot. With Daniel Plainview, it was easier to follow this character and know him for all that he was because it mostly just about him doing his own, evil thing, but here, the story goes back-and-forth between Freddie and Lancaster so much that it was a bit hard to build-up the tears when that ending came around. Also, there was this really strange scene that had to do with Amy Adams, Hoffman, and a bathroom that is still fresh in my mind because it made no sense and seems to be a bit misplaced in a film that seemed to really go for it all, in terms of being sane and keeping itself in reality. Still though, minor quibbles if you ask me.
Consensus: The Master could easily be a title that director P.T. Anderson is giving himself, because that is exactly what this guy is. Everything from the visuals, to the landscapes, to the score, to the performances, to the fully-developed story, to the religion movement; all are done with the masterful craft of Anderson and is sure to be one of the films to watch out for, come Oscar season.
Gets me more and more excited for the live-action adaptation of “Don’t Wake Daddy” directed by Wes Craven.
Crashing the biannual RIMPAC exercise, a mysterious alien spaceship makes the month-long training event more important than ever before for our naval forces. Unaware of their goals beyond apparent wanton destruction, with a force field keeping what’s out out, and what’s in in, it’s down to a handful of ships and erratic lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) to take down the alien forces and save our world from being turned into dust.
Any person that was even somewhat bummed to hear that Michael Bay was done with the whole Transformers franchise, can only be happy to see that there may be a new franchise brewing. For some odd reason, though, it’s based on a board game that I only played when I was really, really bored. I was a very hyper kid in case you didn’t know.
Instead, taking over duties as director is Peter Berg. Berg is a dude who knows how to do action well even though his scripts may not always be perfect. Case in point, flicks like The Rundown and Hancock, are two films that hit-hard with its action and entertains the hell out of everybody watching even though it may not be winning any awards in its originality department. Still, the guy knows what he’s doing and that’s pretty obvious with this flick too, but it almost seems like he wanted to be more like Bay rather than try to put his own stamp on this soon-to-be movie series.
First of all, before I start to crack down on this film I would like to say that it is pretty fun and action-heavy, if that’s all you want. Berg definitely has a lot of fun with this loud, crazy, and insane atmosphere and story that it almost seems like he has a bit too much fun with all of the havoc but you still can’t help but be entertained watching it all yourself. I will say that the action did hold me over for many parts and I think that’s mainly because the special effects do actually look quite good. Berg’s huge visual FX team definitely makes this film look legit and plenty of the scenes where it’s just the alien’s ships squaring off against the Navy’s ships are actually very realistic. However, that can’t get past everything that is so lame.
I’ve been using that word a lot lately. “Lame”. But that’s exactly what this flick is because as fun and entertaining Berg and his FX team try to make this flick, they continue to get bogged down by the fact that this script is so damn shitty and unoriginal. I get it that I’m not supposed to be going to this flick for witty and powerful writing, but you got to give me something to work with here that can at least hold me over when shit isn’t blowing up. However, this film’s dialogue is so overly cheesy, so obvious, and so ridiculous that whenever there is a moment of everybody being serious, there is tons and tons of laughter, but whenever the film is joking around with us, the film ends up just being stupid and a lame attempt at comedy. It’s also annoying since every single character here seems to have their own witty line, right before they go off and do something heroic or bad-ass. Are lines like “Boom” and ”Mahalo Motherfucker” really needed for a flick like this? Actually, they don’t even say the “F” word, they just cut it off because they didn’t want to lose their fan-friendly PG-13 rating. Lame.
This film isn’t so terrible just because it tries to be funny, plenty of action flicks nowadays try their darn near hardest to do that, but it’s more that there’s nothing new or original really offered here. All of the action revolves around ships trying to blow each other up by constantly tossing missiles at each other and the aliens being able to throw any kind of weird or strange sci-fi shit at the opposite team. It becomes fairly boring and monotonous, that only seems to be used for the sake of keeping our minds off of the fact that this script blows. Probably also didn’t help that all of the action was played with a loud-ass noise constantly blaring through the speakers. Actually, I think one of the speakers in my theater blew out and I was not surprised because my ears are still ringing from all of that loud ruckus. I sound old, I know.
What was also another bummer about this flick was the aliens themselves. Yes, once again in a Summer blockbuster there seems to be aliens as the villains but honestly, who else could pull off such a thing as the villains in this flick? Russians? Arabs? Swedes? Anywho, the explanation for them being on Earth is pretty dumb and sounds like the same reason I heard last Summer in Super 8, and the way they look is terribly unintentionally funny. With their helmets on, they seemed like a bunch of soldiers from the cancelled Halo movie, and when they take them off, they all look like evil Goblins and seem way too silly to be considered a bunch of evil and menacing pack of aliens. They seem more like the ones you want to cuddle with, or save from the government. Not throw out in the open and have them killed.
As far as the cast in concerned, everybody tries but they aren’t given much to do with this material. Taylor Kitsch plays Alex, a slacker who joins the Navy, and within weeks is the senior officer on the big, bad naval ship, being allowed to call all of the shots. This didn’t make any sense but Kitsch definitely tries with this character, even though the guy comes off very bland and does too much of the “Christian Bale Batman’s voice”, but I think he obviously has talent, just needs the right movies to show it off. Maybe that’s what Savages will be for. Brooklyn Decker isn’t as convincing as the military physical therapist, but she definitely is easy on the eyes.
Liam Neeson is one of the big draws of this flick, but he’s barely in it and whenever he does show up, he’s the absolute man and steals the show away from everyone around him. Shame the dude didn’t get more screen-time but he was probably off doing 10 other flicks around the filming of this one and hell, I don’t blame him for leaving. I would have too. Alexander Skarsgård also isn’t around that much either but that’s for reasons I can’t say, even though I am so damn tempted to. Oh yeah, and we also have pop singer Rihanna making her feature-film role debut and is absolutely terrible. She plays one of those bad-ass female roles that’s usually made for and done a lot better by Michelle Rodriguez, but she can’t even do any of that right. Honestly, Berg should have just called me up, told me to get a slight tan, cut my gonads, and get a butch-looking wig, and I could have honestly done a better job than whatever the hell this chick does here. Rihanna, you’re a great singer but stay away from movies and closer to Chris Brown’s hands. Oh yeah!
Consensus: Battleship definitely thrills with it’s loud explosions and fun direction from Peter Berg, but the script takes away from everything else with its overt silliness, lines that seem like they are jokes in and of itself, and characters that don’t make any sense but are just here to give us people to care about and root on to win the good fight. Michael Bay will be back people, get ready.