For a moment I thought Inherent Vice was some kind of cheap knock-off film. Let me explain (no, no, there is too much, let me sum up), I was scanning through the new releases on Amazon as I do before writing this column. It is naturally sorted by best sellers. Inherent Vice was way down towards the bottom of the first page. I couldn’t believe that the real Inherent Vice - the one directed by P.T. Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon would not be #1 on Amazon. Well, maybe it would be behind Paddington, but surely it would be above that terrible-sounding Jennifer Lopez movie The Boy Next Door, The Wedding Ringer, and flippin’ season 7 of The Mentalist!
Sometimes, small-timers looking to cash in on something big will make a straight-to-video schlocker with a name just similar enough to the blockbuster to confuse folks and earn a few bucks off the backs of the gullible. I really thought that was the case here. Especially considering that terrible cover art. But no, I was wrong, Inherent Vice, the real one, is coming out this week and apparently isn’t as popular as New Tricks, Season 11. But here at Cinema Sentries' Pick-of-the-Week department we are not beholden to the popular, to the biggest money-makers. We are all about quality, artfulness. and pot-smoking '70s detectives.
Based upon a novel by Thomas Pynchon Inherent Vice is about said detective played by Joaquin Phoenix, who takes on a case which is more than he can handle and takes him on a drug-fueled ramble through 1970s Los Angeles. It's been compared to both The Big Lebowski and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. I love both of those films and dig me some P.T. Anderson so I’m super excited about this one. How could I not be?
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Paddington: I read a lot of children’s literature with my four-year-old and the Paddington stories are big favorites. This live-action version (with a CGI bear) stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Bonneville. It has gotten very decent reviews and looks to be a very gentle, sweet sort of film. My daughter will love it.
Wolf Hall: Damian Lewis as King Henry VIII? The PBS Masterpiece label? Consider me there.
The Gambler: Mark Wahlberg stars as a literature professor with a gambling habit. Of course it gets out of control. Of course the loan sharks threaten him with death if he doesn’t pay up fast. I like Mark Wahlberg even if he was Marky Mark at one point. Even if he’s made lots of movies that I have no intention of ever seeing. He’s also made a lot of great stuff. This one doesn’t look great, but it looks fun. Sometimes that’s all I need.
Ghost Story: The Turn of the Screw: I’ve never read anything by Henry James. I’ve never watched any film adaptation of The Turn of the Screw (though I did once stare at the VHS box for an older adaptation as a pubescent teen trying to determine if the film was as provocative as the title implied). I can’t say this new BBC version is making me want to remedy any of that. It stars a couple of folks from Downton Abbey and has apparently upped the ghost aspects of the story. Read my review.
Wire in the Blood: The Complete Series: There was a period of several weeks just before me and the wife moved to China in which we were living in our apartment in Indiana without much furniture. We’d moved most of it out early due to the schools of some family members but were staying in the place because my wife still had some things to do involving her graduate classes. We’d spend the day in the university library copying a dizzying amount of books and articles for her to read while abroad and spend the evenings laying on a blow-up mattress binging on anything we could get from the public library. This series was one such thing. I’d never heard of it, but I’m a sucker for serial-killer detective stories so I grabbed it on a whim. I won’t say that’s it's a great show, but it's a really enjoyable one if you like your killers in the sadistic and kinky variety. It's also got one of the most bone-chilling scores around.