Archive | May, 2013

Francis Ha

24 May

‘Francis Ha’: Loose and breezy, yet pointed and true on how adults are made

By Tom Meek
May 24, 2013

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“Francis Ha,” the intriguing and endearing new film from Noah aumbach, is an amiable urban fable about finding one’s self through the most passive aggressive means possible. There’s little action and it’s chock full of fluff, talk, mundane interludes and ennui. Think the French New Wave or “Before Sunrise” and that series’ subsequent installments by Richard Linklater and you’d have the right idea.

Talk is cheap on the big screen, but it’s hard to do it well. The casting and chemistry has to be just right. Linklater seems to be in on the secret, as is Jim Jarmusch, and “My Dinner with Andre” might be the epitome of all the talky, no-action excursions that grip and hold with every syllable. Of course Woody Allen’s scope was much bigger, but his Manhattan classics (“Manhattan” and “Annie Hall”) were perfect synergies of quirky comedy, barbed witticisms, phobia and an undeniable spark with leading lady Diane Keaton.  Continue reading

Disconnected

23 May
Published in the Huffington Post on 5/22/2013

Social networks are wonderful tools that can spark and foster friendships. They can also disable them too, especially when it comes to politics and ideology and two opposing egos get in too deep to acknowledge the commonality that joined them in life and the World Wide Web in the first place.

Such was the bitter lesson I learned in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. I had made a post stating that the best place people could send contributions to benefit the victims and the town of Newtown was through the United Way of Western Connecticut. It was what the town’s website had expressed and there were reports that the gifts and the hodgepodge of contributions that were pouring in through other means were choking the relief efforts.

So my ‘friend,’ someone I had known for over a decade through work, countered with a post that Newtown was too wealthy and that he was going to make his charitable contributions elsewhere.   Continue reading

Star Trek Into Darkness

22 May

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Adrenaline-infused trip through a convoluted tale

By Tom Meek
May 21, 2013

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I now know why Paramount was so tight about letting the press get an advance peek at the second installment of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek enterprise; there’s a huge reveal in the middle of “Star Trek Into Darkness” that will have Trekkie loyalists either in rapture or hell.

That aside, the 2009 release of Abrams’ series resurrection hit a nasty snag here in Boston when the Globe ran a review more than 24 hours before the embargo date the studio set and expected the media to respect. It was a four-star review, but you could see people at the studio and the PR firms here in town that were handling the press leaping from the windows.

But back to the darkness. Many sci-fi franchises – including “Star Wars,” “Alien” and the initial big-screen launch of “Star Trek” – hit their golden moment in the second coming (“The Wrath of Khan,” “Aliens” and “The Empire Strikes Back”). Not so much here, but it’s close. “Darkness” has a lot more action and twists than the 2009 film, but while that film was hampered by set-up and backstory, It is addled by too much circumvolution and plots within plots. It’s great to see how it intertwines with longstanding Trek lore, making connections that hit with sudden realization and nostalgia, but I’m not entirely convinced all the plot threads that begin here tie neatly into the Trek future we already know.  Continue reading

The Iceman

20 May

‘The Iceman’: Potentially titillating, but tale of suburban killer for hire leaves you cold

By Tom Meek 
May 19, 2013

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Back in the ’60s there lurked a semi-notorious hit man by the name of Richard Kuklinski who was known as “the Iceman” for his detached demeanor. Allegedly he killed more than 100 people while in the employment of the mob over three decades. Pretty pat stuff for a homicidal sociopath who enjoys gruesome grunt work, but what makes Kuklinski intriguing is that he did it while married and living a suburban existence, replete with two teenage daughters. Whitey didn’t have those numbers or a family.

Comparisons to “The Sopranos” or “Goodfellas” are more than fair, especially since “The Iceman” does feature ’prano  John Ventimiglia and ’fella Ray Liotta, but this is Michael Shannon’s show. As Kuklinski he’s aloof, repressed and always about to explode. The hook is he’s awkward socially, most notably when he first meets Deborah (Winona Ryder), the woman he will marry, but after a pool hall game where an opponent briefly derides her as a “virginal cock tease,” Kuklinski slips into the heckler’s back seat and cooly slits his throat.  Never mind that he has no problem blowing away a friendly bum as a screen test for a mob heavy (Liotta) who had formerly employed Kuklinski as a porn distributor.   Continue reading

Assholes Rule

18 May
Max is the Minimum

By TOM MEEK  |  September 16, 2009

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It seems that, these days, being a self-righteous boor is the new “in” thing. Kanye West and Serena Williams’s very public outbursts and subsequent apologies have made them Zeitgeist villains of the moment. Then there’s Tucker Max, the unapologetic frat boy who’s made a career out of blogging about his tales of debauchery and defilement (for a taste, if you must, go to tuckermax.com).

Max, who is in his mid thirties and attended Duke Law School, spun his bombastic tell-all antics — most every one of which features booze, vomit, and sex — into a New York Times bestseller, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. That title has now been turned into a feature film, which is giving Max more opportunities to accrue stories of booze, vomit, and sex.

To promote the movie — and himself (in the film, it should be noted, the role of Max is played by actor and New Hampshire native Matt Czuchry) — Max has launched a tour bus to hit college towns across the country. Stop number 14 was Harvard Square in Cambridge (which Max incorrectly lists and repeatedly refers to as Boston on his Web site). Outside the theater, the Max faithful lined one side of Church Street while the other was buzzing with protesters, accusing Max of employing date-rape tactics.

The anti-Max camp brandished such signs as GETTING HER DRUNK FIRST = RAPE and TUCKER DOESN’T REPRESENT MEN. (More curiously, one person held a sign that read LOVE WOMEN, RAPE CHRISTIANS.) Max and his camera crew, drinking beer, ju-jitsued the opposition, asking such insidious questions as, “Who has killed more people in America — nuclear power or Ted Kennedy?” (Kennedy had not passed away at the time of the screening.)

Inside, before the movie began, Max asked the friendly audience members — who had paid to see the premiere — to entertain him with their own tales of silliness. One young man recounted yelling “Shazam!” while getting a blowjob, while a video-game geek proclaimed that he earned oral honors when he got a high score.

Then came the big non-event of the evening: the movie (check the Phoenix next week for the review), followed by a post-screening Q&A (more like a love-in, with this group). In that session, Max, who routinely referred to women as “sluts,” admitted to being a narcissist and attention seeker, but rejected accusations of being sexist or a misogynist, pointing to the number of female audience members in attendance. One asked where Tucker would be later on. Max eyed the young lady and told her to hang around, she might make due — if he couldn’t “trade up.”

Max has created a perfect cycle: drink, screw, tell about carousing, garner audience, and repeat, cannibalizing those that wish to be anointed. We built this “asshole” (his word). Hopefully, Hell will be a lot less fun than he imagines.

 

 

The Great Gatsby

12 May

‘The Great Gatsby’: Fitzgerald classic remixed with lots of spectacle, but no soul

By Tom Meek 

May 10, 2013

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald never really made it in Hollywood (he was an uncredited revisionist on the script for “Gone with the Wind”) and Hollywood never got his seminal novel “The Great Gatsby” right in four attempts and a TV movie, or the latest go by gonzo stylist Baz Luhrmann.

The bookgot midling reviews when it was published in 1925 and sold only 20,000 copies. Fitzgerald died in his forties unfulfilled and unrecognized, topics (fame, wealth, longing and loneliness) that are recurrent and at the fore of his works. Some of his works, such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Last Tycoon,” his reflection of his feckless times in Hollywood, have translated well onto film, but not Gatsby, not yet.

The original title Fitzgerald had for the book was “Trimalchio,” a reference to the Roman purveyor of porn who orchestrated wild orgies in “Satyricon.” Luhrmann takes this all to heart, staging the bashes at Gatsby’s estate on the near tip of Long Island as both festive and fetishistic. Imagine Victoria Secrets’ angels, salvos of fireworks and bottomless buckets of confetti in a ceremony of pomp and display with all the resources of an Olympic opening or closing gala – and a descendant of Beethoven is brought in to tickle the keys on the massive pipe organ.  Continue reading

Iron Man 3

6 May

‘Iron Man 3′: Director of excess brings some kid, kiss, bang bang

By Tom Meek
May 5, 2013

Fans of Iron Man born after 1980 might not be familiar with the name Shane Black. They may recognize him as one of Arnold’s soldiers in tow in “Predator,” but probably didn’t know he was one of the highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood (along with Joe Eszterhas) in the late ’80s and early ’90s, churning out the “Lethal Weapon” series and “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” He also directed one film – starring Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. – called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” There must be something about all those kisses and RD Jr., because Black, after a stint in hibernation, is back behind the camera and pen for the latest installment of the marquee Marvel movie franchise.

Strange pairings seem to be a part of “Iron Man” history. Start with the casting of RD Jr. I always thought of him as the actor who made small, edgy, near-indie films. Who knew he could don a cape (or metal suit)? Then there’s Jon Favreau, the guy who starred in “Swingers” and has a minor reoccurring role in the series. He directed the first two “Iron Man” chapters, yet cedes the task to Black here.  Continue reading