Tag Archives: Phoenix

Irrational Man

31 Jul

“Irrational Man,” the new movie from Woody Allen, is a hodgepodge of parts held together by an enigmatic protagonist – a swaggering nihilist who teaches philosophy and, despite a flabby, alcoholic paunch, invites much favor from attached women, even though he can’t get it up – and a finely nuanced performance by Joaquin Phoenix taking on that role. Phoenix’s Abe arrives to a small New England liberal arts institution (filmed in Rhode Island), where there is as much dread over Abe’s debauchery as there is awe over his revered mind and that one big book he published that made him a philosophical rock star.

073015i Irrational ManAbe gets himself into a love triangle faster than he can down a shot of bourbon or spout a lazy line about “mental masturbation.” On the faculty side he’s got Rita (Parker Posey, digging into the role nicely), semi-unhappily married and dreaming of wine and roses and dirty sex with a kindred miserable spirit. Rita’s counterbalanced by the fawnish Jill (Allen’s muse du jour, Emma Stone, so good in “Birdman” and proving that inclination correct here), a student with a jockish beau. Things go from mentor-student banter to inappropriate friendship even with clothes on. Abe, in all his louche self-loathing, has become the black hole of the campus. But then, near the nadir of his pontificating wretchedness, he finds an up.

Allen has been making movies for almost 50 years. The sardonic joys of “Manhattan,” “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and her Sisters” radiates across the decades, the self-deprecating nebbish new and relevant again in every generation. There’s no doubt to his genius, but recent years have seen change-ups in his works, some too hauntingly self-reflective or suggestive of refutations of public opinion of his media circus life behind closed doors (“Husbands and Wives”) and forays into Hitchcock (“Match Point”). His last truly great film was “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (before the whole fallout with longtime partner Mia Farrow), and while there have been flourishes of the unique and the old Woody (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Blue Jasmine”) there’s almost always a two off that seem unformed, and that the old Woody wouldn’t have done or developed more to a point. No matter – his output of a film a year is nothing less than impressive.

“Irrational Man” fuses the old quirky Allen – with sharp characters ensnared in the mundane and struggling to get out – with his more current predilection for Hitchcockian dabbling. It almost works, but in the denouement, stumbles (irrationally) and falls down the shaft of the absurd. If you don’t see it coming, it’s not because you weren’t paying attention, but because you were.

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Inherent Vice

9 Jan

There’s drugs and free love a’plenty in Inherent Vice, but the characters steal the show 

Doc’s Orders

Joaquin Phoenix takes the audience on a trip in  'Inherent Vice'

Warner Brothers Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix takes the audience on a trip in ‘Inherent Vice’

Clearly Paul Thomas Anderson has a thing for the storied eras of America’s past. Boogie Nights welcomed in the rise of the porn industry during the flared-pant, disco-fueled 70s; the more nuanced The Master took up the arc of an L. Ron Hubbard-like charlatan in the wake WWII; while There Will be Bloodnegotiated the nasty, avaricious early roots of the American oil grab. Anderson’s latest, Inherent Vice, is no exception. In texture it’s an ode to the psychedelic 70s of free love and rampant recreational drug use.

Anderson’s always been a contemplative filmmaker with a keen sense of perverse quirk, and those qualities really come to the fore in Inherent Vice, a gumshoe noir on LSD if ever there was one. The stalwart indie director —who proved his ability to handle the opus works of literary lions by spinning Upton Sinclair’s Oil! into There Will be Blood — delves deep into Thomas Pychon’s far-roaming 2009 novel with baroque gusto. Continue reading

13 Sins

19 Apr

April 19, 2014

Published in Pate Magazine

<i>13 Sins</i>

“The devil made me do it,” might be an apt response for some of the mayhem and mischief that goes on in 13 Sins, but greed and desperation are more to the point. The film, directed by Daniel Stamm and based on the Thai film, 13 Games of Death, rides a one-trick-pony for all it’s worth. It might not be original, or superbly cut together, but it does pay dividends as it the scale of sociopathic doings becomes ever more satanic.

After a baroque opener that has an elder gentleman in a suit and tie launch into a four-letter-word fit at a podium only to perform impromptu digit surgery on a beloved one once he’s arguably calmed down, we meet Elliot (Mark Webber) who’s having the day from hell. His mentally impaired brother (Devon Graye) needs expensive meds, he’s expecting a child with his fiancée (Rutina Wesley), and with all the downward financial pressure, he gets tossed from his job by a patronizing ass of a boss, and we haven’t even gotten to his drunk, racist dad (Tom Bower) who needs to move in with them, and drops a few N-bombs on his African-American daughter-in-law-to-be just to let everyone know exactly what he’s thinking.

So it’s fortuitous, or ominous, when Elliot gets a call from a random avuncular soul who tells him, that if he kills the annoying fly buzzing about in his car, he’ll get a thousand dollars. At first, Elliot looks around to see if he’s been punked, but then complies. Boom, the money lights up in his account. (Smart phones are such great plot accelerator for rote horror films) and then he’s told, that if he then eats the squashed bug he’ll get three thousand more.

Continue reading

All is Lost

25 Oct

‘All is Lost’: Redford, alone at sea, silent, carries film soaked with beauty and fear

By Tom Meek
October 24, 2013

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Vastness can be an aesthetic wonderment, breathtaking to behold like the dark cold of outer space in “Gravity” or the endless desert in “Lawrence of Arabia,” but given a rip in a suit or a missed rendezvous at an oasis, that hypnotic intoxication with the serene forever can quickly become the edge of a hapless demise where outside intervention becomes a mathematic improbability and personal perseverance is the only shot at salvation.

102513i All Is Lost

In his sophomore effort, “All is Lost,” young filmmaker J.C. Chandor – who got an Academy Award nomination for his bold debut “Margin Call” – employs the sea as his beauteous hell. The film’s title is a shard from a letter written by a hopeless yachtsman adrift at sea in a life raft.  Continue reading

Link

The Rhode Island International Film Fest

9 Aug

The Rhode Island International Film Fest

My 2 cents on it in the Providence Phoenix

World War Z

24 Jun

‘World War Z’: Flesh-rippers come at you fast, and so does this globe-racing flick

By Tom Meek
June 22, 2013

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Zombie apocalypse and anything vampire seems to be the hot ticket out of Hollywood these days. The subtext that we prey on each other and that life is a precious and fragile thing is a piquant notion that gets magnified to its fullest when examining how man comports himself as civilization crumbles.

062213 World War ZSans rules and with limited resources, what would you do? Snatch and grab, help out or hole up doomsday-prepper style?

That’s the special sauce that makes any apocalypse-cum-horror flick grip the road. Real people, supernatural horror, deep shit. George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead” was more about the dynamics and dissent among a band of survivors barricaded in a farmhouse than it was about the throng of shambling flesh scratching at the walls. Decades later, guys such as Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later”) and Zack Snyder (the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”) got the nifty idea to make the dead move at warp speed.  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.