Review: The Nice Guys

THENICEGUYS-660x330 Director Shane Black’s latest is a comedic whodunit starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice that takes place in the captivating 1970s L.A. scene. In the style of his previous career rejuvenating Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black is able to take two actors known for more action and heavy drama roles and place them in an environment that in a way seems more fitting for them. The Nice Guys is simply one of the best movies of the year so far. From start to finish it sets up and delivers on everything it promises beat for comedic beat.

Private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) can’t catch a break no matter how hard he tries. With a winning personality he charms old ladies out of extra money for cases he’s hired on, he fumbles around L.A. making the occasional discovery but mostly wasting his and everyone else's time. Holland eventually gets a visit from Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to “encourage” Hollard to drop the current case he is working. Jackson is a low level enforcer who spends his days using brass knuckles to deliver brutal messages to would-be pedophiles and other nuisances like Holland. Eventually things come together as Holland and Jackson are forced to join forces to find the location of a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Their team up takes them on an exploration of the nightlife of 1970s L.A., from pornstar parties to exclusive car shows and everything in between. The atmosphere of the film is one of its greatest assets. Director Shane Black is able to recreate the magic of that time and place with great costuming, excellent location shooting, and a stellar needle drop soundtrack.

During their search for Amelia, the two men run into other mob enforcers, contract killers, and enough alcohol to drown Holland’s sorrows in all the while making their seemingly simple job that much more interesting. The two are then joined by Holland's daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), a precocious 14 year old that keeps Holland on his toes and settles Jackson’s more violent nature. There are so many wonderful performances in this film but the three leads are able to stand out without any problems. Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healy is one part lovable rogue, one part-terrifying thug. He balances so well against the fumbling Ryan Gosling, who in my opinion steals damn near every scene he’s in. You really do identify with Holland March as the audience going through this insane shoot-em-up journey and laughing all the way. Last but certainly not least is Angourie Rice. Even though she is only 14 years old, she is just as smart, funny, crass, and irreverent as her other co-stars. She certainly has a bright future ahead of her. This year has been filled to the brim with super heroics and CGI fests. It’s nice to get a small break from that and watch a film that is simple in nature but delivers on a grand scale.

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Review: Noah

Noah-Movie Largely based on the graphic novel adaptation of the same title, Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky tells the familiar tale of the biblical hero. Cataloging his works to save his family and the animals of the Earth from an apocalyptic flood brought on by The Creator. Noah is forced to battle the evils of man and question his own resolve and faith. Darren Aronofsky's Noah is an interesting film in a lot of ways. From its announcement, the film has been mired in controversy due to its lack of strict biblical adherence. That aside, the film takes a very modern approach to a story of fantasy, redemption and ultimately religious fanaticism. Noah (Russell Crowe) begins to have visions of what The Creator plans to do to the world. We get flashes of unbelievable (in Noah's eyes) brutality from people towards animals and their fellow brethren. From the earliest parts of Noah's memory he has seen the cruelty of men, and yet violence seems to come second nature to him if the situation calls for it. There are two very distinct versions of Noah that run throughout this film. One is the fanatic who will stop at nothing to do the work that is called of him by his creator. The other is the father figure who puts everything at risk for the protection and preservation of his family. These two versions of Noah will eventually collide and provide very well written conflict in the final act.

Noah is joined on his journey to save the world by his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his son Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll). In their pursuit of a safe place to rest their heads they encounter a dying girl, Ila (Emma Watson), who Noah takes mercy on and saves and raises as his own. This band of wayward nomads set off for safety all while following Noah as he realizes what he must do. There is a time jump in the story so we are pushed 10 years into the future, where Noah gets an understanding that he must build this ark. He seeks the advice of his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) on the way and has more pronounced visions and begins his construction. Noah gets the help from creatures named Watchers to build the ark. This is obviously the largest deviation from the biblical tale, but fun none the less. In the graphic novel, the Watchers are giant 6 armed ogre-types. However, in the movie they are made of rocks and frankly look god awful. They move around like something out of a 1960s stop motion movie scene. I am not sure why they went with that choice, but it was very poor one.

When Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), a brutal king, finds out that Noah is building an ark to prepare for a epic flood he will stop at nothing to either destroy it or kill Noah and take it. The dichotomy between Noah and Tubal-cain is drawn pretty easily, but at closer inspection they aren't really that different. Both hard driven fanatics trying to save their own hides at the expensive of others.

The obvious things happen and the ark set sails to hopefully greener pastures. To me this is by far the most interesting point the movie makes. As those aforementioned versions of Noah begin to collide we get to see the darker side of religion. Aronofsky makes it a point that Noah becomes basically insane due to his unwavering viewpoint. Yes, everyone has drowned, yes all the animals are onboard, but that's not enough! There is more that The Creator is asking for, right?! Noah begins to jump to conclusions about what is being asked of him and he lays down a pretty serious ultimatum. There are moments where the camera pans to see Noah lingering in the background staring at characters menacingly. A great fall for such a heroic character just an hour prior. Hard decisions are made and as Noah says, "some things can not be unbroken."

All and all, Noah is a good ride. Suffering from some horrendous CGI decisions and too quick pacing in parts the movie is far from a masterpiece, or even on par with Aronofsky's The Wrestler or Black Swan. Crowe did a great job as the hero falling from grace. Emma Watson really shined as Ila with passion and subtlety in the end. Logan Lerman as Ham was the most intense. Playing the middle son of Noah and displaying all the rights and privileges of that position. He is the most wounded by Noah's ways and Lerman makes you feel those. Ray Winstone was a stand out, a villain of biblical times but a level of brutal motivation that any modern bad guy should have. The rest of the cast was serviceable and did nothing to bring the level up or down for me. Jennifer Connelly was largely forgettable until one of her very last scene which was amazing. That one moment was frankly worth the wait. While not his best work, go see Aronofsky's Noah and see an old story in a new way.

[easyreview title= "Review of Noah" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]