“Inherent Vice” (R, 148 minutes, Warner); Joaquin Phoenix is Doc Sportello, a private eye living in the seedy environs of fictional Gordita Beach, Calif.
, in 1970 in this kaleidoscopic yet languidly compelling whodunit based on the 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon. “Inherent Vice” roils and simmers with epochal shifts, spiritual cataclysms and eerily prescient observations of present-day realities, from long-brewing mistrust of the police to a burgeoning security state.But as a viewing experience, it’s a remarkably mellow, even soothing experience. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who has made a career of capturing Los Angeles from every angle, era and collective mood swing, “Inherent Vice” unfolds so organically and with such humanistic grace that even at its most preposterous, viewers will find themselves nodding along, sharing the buzz the filmmaker has so skillfully created. Anderson enlists the best faces in the business to give warmth, humor and pathos to characters whose antic contradictions and off-the-wall pronouncements are nearly always suffused with unspoken sorrow. Katherine Waterston delivers an impressive breakout performance as the willowy Shasta, whose pull on Doc is palpable. Josh Brolin steals every scene he’s in as the square-jawed, straight-arrow Lt. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen. And Benicio Del Toro makes the most of his small part as Doc’s attorney, keeping a straight face at every bent, bizarro turn. Contains pervasive drug use, sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity and some violence. Extras include featurettes “Los Paranoias,” “Shasta Fay,” The Golden Fang” and “Everything In This Dream.”
“Paddington” (PG, 95 minutes, TWC-Dimension/Anchor Bay): Because of its adorable protagonist, laugh-out-loud gags and touching premise, this sweet little film about a cub who finds a family and home succeeds in a way most CGI/live-action hybrids do not. While the slapstick isn’t particularly original, director Paul King makes the silliness work. Based on a half-century of classic children’s books by Michael Bond, the movie is set in the present and keeps the focus in London, which is depicted as the ideal place for bears and other exiles. A marmalade-loving bear cub (voiced by Ben Whishaw) travels from “Darkest Peru” to England to find the explorer who long ago discovered the bear’s aunt and uncle. In addition to Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”) and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, the cast includes other comically adept actors such as Julie Walters (Harry Potter’s Molly Weasley), Peter Capaldi (the latest “Doctor Who”) and, most notably, Nicole Kidman as a greedy museum taxidermist who wants to “stuff” Paddington and put him on display. Contains mild action and rude humor. Extras include “Meet the Characters,” “When a Bear Comes to Stay” and “From Page to Screen” featurettes, and a “Shine” music video with Gwen Stefani and Pharrell. Also, on Blu-ray: “Shine” music video making-of featurette.
“The Gambler” (R, 110 minutes, Paramount): This remake of the 1974 crime drama is a sleek but trivial account of a privileged jerk hellbent on self-destruction. Mark Wahlberg plays the title character, Jim Bennett, a generally unsavory guy in Los Angeles who grew up rich. Addicted to gambling, he’s in the hole for $240,000 to two dangerous men (played by Michael K. Williams and Alvin Ing, and he has a week to pay up. Subplots involving Bennett’s supposed literary genius and a relationship with a comely student (Brie Larson) are mostly shallow. Director Rupert Wyatt fares better in the look-and-feel department and the soundtrack is full of gems, but it’s John Goodman who steals every scene. As a scary loan shark who might cough up cash to get Jim out of his pickle, Goodman elevates the material, showcasing the dark humor Wyatt was clearly going for. Contains strong language throughout and some sexuality.Blu-ray extras include a behind-the-scenes look, deleted/extended scenes, a featurette on updating the film, location and costume design shorts and a “Dark Before Dawn: The Descent of The Gambler” featurette.
“The Wedding Ringer” (R, 101 minutes, Sony): At certain moments, the film almost succeeds as a heartfelt comedy about male friendship in which its two stars, Josh Gad and Kevin Hart, get to demonstrate that they can act. Just when you start to care a little about the soon-to-be-married schlub (Gad) and the professional he hires to pose as his best man (Hart), this tonally confused farce careens back into shock-and-bawdy territory, seemingly determined to prove it has more than earned its R rating. As scripted by “The Break-Up” co-writers Jay Lavender and Jeremy Garelick, “The Wedding Ringer” is essentially a mashup of “Wedding Crashers” and “I Love You, Man.” Contains rude and sexual content, profane language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity. Extras include commentary with Garelick and Gad and a “Going to the Chapel of Love” featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: 15 deleted scenes, five outtake reels, Line-o-Rama (alternate shots of jokes on set) and Aloe Blacc’s “Can You Do This” music video.
“50 to 1” (PG-13, 111 minutes, Sony): Watching this horse-racing drama inspired by the true story of long-shot Mine That Bird’s upset victory in the 2009 Kentucky Derby is a lot like watching the original race, with about 100 minutes of pre-race television programming. As in real life, the exciting part lasts only a minute or two, and then it’s over. Opening with the bar fight where trainer Chip Woolley (Skeet Ulrich) and racing stable owner Mark Allen (Christian Kane) first meet, the movie paints its central characters as lovable reprobates and cantankerous misfits. The cadre of New Mexico cowboys responsible for Mine That Bird’s care and feeding also includes William Devane’s crusty veterinarian/co-owner Leonard “Doc” Blach, the team’s aging voice of reason. Ulrich has believable intensity and charisma that propel the film, even though for much of the movie he’s on crutches, a true-life touch after the trainer was injured in a motorcycle accident. Contains some crude language, suggestive material and a bar brawl. Extras include a making-of and a blooper reel.
Also: “Mommy” (Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner from Canada about a widowed single mom burdened with the full-time custody of her unpredictable 15-year-old ADHD son; in French with English subtitles, Lionsgate), “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973 Robert Mitchum drama, The Criterion Collection), “The Barber” (with Scott Glenn, ARC Entertainment), “Boy Meets Girl” (LGBT coming of age film, Wolfe), “Bedlam” and “La silence de la mer” (1949, The Criterion Collection).
Television Series: “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” (three-part, six-hour PBS documentary series), “The Mentalist: Seventh and Final Season,” “Wolf Hall” (PBS miniseries with Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis), “Covert Affairs: Season Five” (USA), “Suits: Season 4” (USA), “The Jeffersons: Season Seven” (1980-81), “I Love Lucy: I Heart Mom Edition,” “Sgt. Bilko — The Phil Silvers Show: Season 2” (1956-57, five-disc set), “Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo!: Season 1,” “The Mystery of Lord Lucan” (British crime drama starring Rory Kinnear, Catherine McCormack and Michael Gambon, Acorn), “New Tricks, Season 11” (BBC mystery series, Acorn), “Mama’s Family: Mama’s Favorites, Season Five,” “My Little Pony Tales: The Complete Classic TV Series” (1992), “Blood of the Vine: Season 3” (France), “Look of a Killer” (Finland) and “The Legacy” (Denmark).
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Washington Post staff writer Kay Coyte contributed to this report.