Tag Archives: Paul Thomas Anderson

Boogie Nights (1997) Review

BOOGIE NIGHTS, Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, 1997

Boogie Nights

Time:  155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams/”Dirk Diggler”
Julianne Moore as Maggie/”Amber Waves”
Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner
Don Cheadle as Buck Swope
John C. Reilly as Reed Rothchild
William H. Macy as “Little” Bill Thompson
Heather Graham as Brandy/”Rollergirl”
Nicole Ari Parker as Becky Barnett
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Scotty J.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

In the San Fernando Valley in 1977, teenage busboy Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) gets discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who transforms him into adult-film sensation Dirk Diggler. Brought into a supportive circle of friends, including fellow actors Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Rollergirl (Heather Graham) and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Dirk fulfills all his ambitions, but a toxic combination of drugs and egotism threatens to take him back down.

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I remembered going into Boogie Nights for the first time only knowing it as “that one movie about 70s porn” and being quite surprised at how great it actually turned out to be. Having watched it a second time, I can very much say that it is one of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s best movies.

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First of all, the script from PTA is fantastic. The story is set against the backdrop of the low-rent machinery of the adult film industry, and it was quite interesting to watch. Boogie Nights is known as that one movie about porn, and while porn that plays a notable part in the plot and the characters are involved with it, it’s not essentially at the core what the film is about. Essentially it is a story about fame, its highlights but also the downsides of fame, and how it doesn’t last. The story starts off in the 70s, in which you see the more extravagant and outlandish side of the business. However halfway through, it moves to the 80s, and there’s a distinct tonal shift. Everyone’s depressed and drugged up, and it’s a much darker look at life. The characters are trying to make normal livings for themselves, but their pasts are lingering over them and makes things difficult for them. The transition from the light hearted high on life and fast paced comedy to the emotional, serious and dark drama is done greatly, and doesn’t feel tonally inconsistent, you can tell it is still very much the same movie. Something that benefits this movie is the memorable and well-developed characters, who really shine. It’s also a very entertaining movie, there’s some good humour throughout much of it, there’s a lot of quotable dialogue, and it’s quite fun to watch. Despite the very long length of 2 hours and 30 minutes long, the script is very tight and not a single scene is wasted.

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This movie contains a strong ensemble cast, and each of them deliver masterful performances. First of all, Mark Wahlberg gives a career best performance as the lead character of Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler. Wahlberg did great at portraying the up and coming star in this movie, over the top when he needed to be, and also grounded in the more serious moments. The supporting cast are fantastic too, with the standouts being Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Even some of the actors who are only in a few scenes make an impression, Alfred Molina for example is very memorable in his scene later in the movie. All the actors had great and believable chemistry together, with Wahlberg and Reynolds really sticking out for me.

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Paul Thomas Anderson already showed himself a confident director with his debut film Hard Eight, and his work here is even stronger, it is astonishing on a technical level. The cinematography is amazing, the camera movement is quick and feels alive in this movie, especially during its numerous long tracking shots. Every scene is shot to perfection, feeling so electric it was hard to not be engaged. That paired with the exceptional editing really made it quite an experience to watch. The 70s and 80s were captured perfectly in this film from the environments and costumes to the music. Speaking of which, the soundtrack was phenomenal and the songs were utilised very well in the scenes.

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Boogie Nights is an incredibly well made movie on just about every level. The story was engaging and entertaining, the characters were memorable and well acted, and the direction was phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Licorice Pizza (2021) Review

LICORICE PIZZA

Licorice Pizza

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language, sexual references & drug references
Cast:
Alana Haim as Alana Kane
Cooper Hoffman as Gary Valentine
Sean Penn as Jack Holden
Tom Waits as Rex Blau
Bradley Cooper as Jon Peters
Benny Safdie as Joel Wachs
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.

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Licorice Pizza (once titled Soggy Bottom) was on my most anticipated films of 2021 list. Along with having a good cast, it is the next film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, whose work I really like. It would be something of a coming-of-age movie, and I’m not really big on those kinds of movies and the trailers weren’t exactly selling it to me, but I was willing to watch it. Having finally seen it after months of it being critically acclaimed by many people, I can say that the movie is decent, although disappointing.

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There isn’t much of a narrative to Licorice Pizza. It definitely fits into the category of hangout/vibe movies like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I’m just not a fan of those types of films. The messy nature of the story made for a somewhat uninteresting and boring movie as the plot meanders through a number of underdeveloped subplots. For the first half it works okay but it really loses steam in the second half. When it eventually reaches its ending, it just felt unsatisfying. It is also a coming-of-age movie, and like hangout movies I’m not a huge fan of those. A big part of coming-of-age stories is that they rely on you caring for the story and characters and I just couldn’t do that with Licorice Pizza. The lead characters were watchable, but it felt more like I was observing them rather than being with them on their journey, despite PTA’s best efforts for it to be the latter. There’s just also something about the movie that felt empty, just mildly entertaining but nothing else. Any enjoyment I had watching them in the first half has fizzled out by the end. I couldn’t connect to any of it, and I can tell that on a rewatch I’d find the film to be worse. Licorice Pizza is definitely a comedy, and it is funny in parts, minus a couple questionable jokes involving Asian accents, whose inclusions are just some of the many odd and bad choices in the film. Finally dealing with the elephant in the room, at the centre of the movie is a relationship between a 15 year old boy and a 25 year old woman, causing quite the controversy even before its release. I went in rather open minded and waited to see how it works in the movie, and I came out of it finding the relationship to be very weird. I get that its somewhat meant to be a little uncomfortable and there are acknowledgements of it being wrong, but the way its resolved by the end just made me wonder what kind of story we sat through, or what PTA was going for here. Without spoiling things, that ending is honestly quite a confounding and strange choice. I would say that its not enough to take you out of the movie, but it is the core part of the film and so it is hard to look past.

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There is a good cast involved. The two leads are Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, and they are very good in their parts and deliver great performances. However, the relationship between the two characters were still weird and the connection just wasn’t that believable. The supporting cast are also good, including people like Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, and Benny Safdie. Some of them only appear for a few scenes, but they usually make strong impressions when they do appear.

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The direction from Paul Thomas Anderson as expected was great and stylish, not as impressive as some of his other movies but still pretty good. It transports you back to the 70s, with the production design, the grainy look to fit with the 70s and the good soundtrack even if the needle drop moments were a little generic and forgettable. I also liked whenever PTA’s trademark long takes make their appearances.

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While I’m prepared to say that I like Licorice Pizza, I can’t help but feel a little let down. Despite everything surrounding the film, I really had a lack of investment in the story and characters. Loose narratives can work, but I wasn’t interested enough to be constantly interested. In fact, the more I think about the movie, the worse it gets for me. Honestly, I would consider this to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s worst movie but I wouldn’t call it outright bad, the performances were great and so was the direction. I am aware I’m probably in a minority of people who aren’t loving it, and it is worth checking out at the very least.

Phantom Thread (2017) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock
Lesley Manville as Cyril Woodcock
Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants, and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.

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Phantom Thread had a lot of talent involved. Not only is this directed by Paul Thomas Anderson but this is Daniel Day-Lewis’s final performance. However I’ll admit I wasn’t really as hyped for it as I wanted to be, I can’t tell if it’s the premise or the trailers but for some reason it really didn’t interest me that much (even though I knew I was going to watch it eventually). Despite my thoughts before going into it, Phantom Thread blew me away on pretty much every level. Paul Thomas Anderson has expertly crafted a meticulous and possibly near perfect film, accompanied and elevated by fantastic performances. It’s one not to miss.

I know that the trailer makes Phantom Thread look like a one note, drawn out movie with not too many surprises, but it’s actually not that at all. As the movie progresses you learn little things about each of these characters that only leads you to become even more interested in the story. It also feels a bit like a mystery thriller without actually being that, it feels rather Hitchcockian at times. I’m not going to spoil what happens, it’s best going into Phantom Thread not knowing too much. All I can say is that its an unconventional romance that is quite unpredictable. This movie is surprisingly funny at times, its not a comedy but it has quite a bit of effective humour. Phantom Thread is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and its quite slowly paced, which can be off putting for some but for me I was interested from start to finish. It is also not for everyone, just like a lot of PTA’s other films, Phantom Thread goes into some areas that may be weird for some but I loved that he went there. This movie is also filled with so much detail that I have a feeling that I’m going to pick things up with repeat viewings.

Saying that Daniel Day-Lewis gave a great performance is kind of redundant, because it’s obvious that he’s going to, but he truly is fantastic here. Unlike some of his other performances like in Lincoln or There Will Be Blood, he looks like himself but yet he transforms so much into this character Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock is really one of these artists who is so dedicated to his craft who can be very difficult to say the least. As the film goes on you begin to learn more about him as a person. The performance is just so incredibly subtle, layered and nuanced and it really works. You really end up studying his reactions. If this is truly Daniel Day-Lewis’s last performance, then he has gone out on a high note. There are two other performances that shouldn’t be overlooked. One is Vicky Krieps playing the character of Alma. She doesn’t have an easy task, with her playing opposite Daniel Day-Lewis but yet she pulled it off and was incredible. Krieps’s performance is very expressive and external, which balances out DDL’s very subtle performance. There is a lot more to Alma than it initially seems. The relationship and power struggle between the two are the driving forces of the movie and the chemistry between the two actors really helped in making them work effectively. Another great performance is by Lesley Manville as Reynolds’s sister, she is probably the most composed of all the performances yet commands so much presence when she’s on screen, she was great as well. All these three come together to make the movie even better.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction is very fantastic as always, the film is so beautifully shot, lit and directed. There is so much thought put into what’s on screen, and so much detail that could be seen. The production design is great and unsurprisingly the costume design was really great (given that the movie is about a dressmaker). Jonny Greenwood’s score was also great, it beautiful, elegant and haunting and only adds to the movie even more. Everything about Phantom Thread has been polished to perfection.

Phantom Thread was a truly remarkable film. The performances were outstanding, the story was intriguing and unpredictable and Paul Thomas Anderson as usual directs it incredibly well. This film is filled with so much detail that I can see this movie being even better upon repeat viewings. Phantom Thread is one of the best films of 2017 and it is well worth the watch. If you have been waiting a long time to see this, trust me well I say it’s well worth the wait, I’m certain that you won’t be disappointed.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

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There Will Be Blood

Time: 153 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence and content that may disturb
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an oil prospector in the early years of the 20th century. He travelled with his adopted son H.W. to Little Boston, California to dig for oil. Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) is one of a pair of twins who family farm Daniel purchases for the major oil deposit located on it. Eli is a preacher and wants the money from the sale of the property to finance his own church. The tension between these two men grows, as does the greed. This film is loosely based on the 1927 Upton Sinclair novel “Oil!”

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Although the premise may not seem like an interesting movie, somehow this movie manages to be that, and much more. With beautiful cinematography and a perfect performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood is a great movie and is one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best.

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The story does take its time to progress, it is a drama; it’s also long at 2 hours and 40 minutes. I can’t be sure that everyone who watches this movie will like it; it might not interest some people. I know that not many people would be interested in this movie on its premise alone. Another reason that people might not like this movie is that it is often quite negative. Other than H.W. (the adopted son) there aren’t many people you can relate to in this movie; Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday are particularly bad people. Also, the story mostly follows Daniel Plainview and his interactions with others instead of the main plot and that may disinterest some viewers. The script is really great and the characters are well fleshed out; any script that has a character has complex as Daniel Plainview is great.

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The best part of this movie is the performances, mainly by Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Daniel Plainview; this is one of the most fascinating characters in cinema. He is a character that can’t be summarised in one sentence, only in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. The film follows him nearly the whole time and it’s interesting to see his character as you learn more about him. Plainview is an unstoppable force, filled with greed and ambition and Daniel Day-Lewis was the best actor for this complex role. Not to be overlooked is Paul Dano’s performance. Some people may say that his performance was over the top and a bit annoying, but for the character he was trying to portray, he did it well. When you see these two characters and their rivalry, you can see contrast between the two but at the same time, some similarities.

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Paul Thomas Anderson can always make his movies look great and There Will Be Blood is no exception. The production designs are well crafted, the film takes place in different locations and they all feel authentic. Same goes for the cinematography which is filmed really well, an example of this is an incredible scene involving fire – you’ll know which scene I’m referring to when you see it. When the cinematography is paired with the soundtrack, it is especially good. The soundtrack really fits the movie’s tone.

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If you are a film buff, you should check this movie out. I know it’s not for everyone; it might not be interesting for people, it may be too long or maybe it might be too gritty and dark for some people. I do recommend watching the movie even just for the performances – in particular by Daniel Day-Lewis who gives one of the best performances shown on film. There Will Be Blood is one of cinemas all time greats and I’m glad that I watched it.