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Posts Tagged ‘Joaquin Phoenix’

Joaquin Phoenix

“YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE”  My rating: B- 

89 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A brutal character study encased in an overripe — some might say rancid — melodrama, Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really There” offers Joaquin Phoenix at his moodiest.

Depending upon your point of view, that will be either a warning or an enticement.

When we first meet Joe (Phoenix) he’s cleaning up a hotel room where something very nasty has occurred.  He’s wrapping a bloody hammer in plastic and rinsing gory items in the bathroom sink.  There are also insert shots of someone — it’s hard to say just who — struggling to breathe with their head wrapped in a plastic dry cleaning bag.

Joe — who has the graying beard and long hair of a ’60s Jesus freak and seems to be about 50 pounds overweight — is not, as you might think, a serial killer.  Nor is he a hit man, exactly.

His specialty is retrieving lost children — kids who have been snatched or sold into sex slavery. It’s hard to say whether he’s in it for the money, for the sake of the kids, or because it gives him a good excuse to go Neanderthal on some really despicable people.

Job completed and fee collected, he shuffles off to the Bronx house he shares with his invalid mother (Judith Roberts), with whom he shares a love/hate relationship.  There are moments of genuine  tenderness here.  There are also flashbacks to Joe’s tormented childhood; apparently he spent lots of time locked in a closet while Mom entertained.

Other brief blips from Joe’s past reveal him to be a veteran who fought somewhere in the Mideast. (more…)

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Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin

Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin

“INHERENT VICE”  My rating: C

148 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has been on such a long, productive run (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master”) that it was inevitable he’d mess up one day.

While you can’t categorize “Inherent Vice” as an outright disaster, it spends an awful lot of time going nowhere in particular. Mostly it spreads around lots of  stoner whimsey while wasting the efforts of a terrific cast.

It’s overlong, underpopulated with anything like real characterizations and — perhaps most frustrating of all — it’s a mystery yarn so uninvolving that 10 minutes after seeing it I could no longer recall who dunnit…or what they done.

Critics describe Inherent Vice as the most reader friendly of Thomas Pynchon’s dense, hallucinogenic novels.

As compared to what?  A trigonometry textbook?

It’s a riff on the classic L.A. detective yarn, set in the late 1960s and offering as our private eye protagonist a ganja-addled, sandal-wearing doofus.

“Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, sleepy-eyed and moving at half speed)  is a beach-dwelling sleuth with offices in a free health clinic. He’s visited one night by his former girlfriend, Shasta (Katherine Waterston), a one-time flower-power love bunny who is now the mistress of the ruthless Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), L.A.’s most celebrated real estate developer.

Shasta tearfully asks Doc’s help in stopping a conspiracy by Wolfmann’s wife and her lover to have him committed to a mental institution. Doc — who for all his pharmaceutical excesses works to maintain his integrity — assents for old time’s sake.

But then both Wolfmann and Shasta go missing, and Doc finds himself dealing with coke-snorting dentist Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short),  killer Adrian Prussia (Peter McRobbie), and a sax-playing junkie (Owen Wilson) who was declared dead but is now back among the living.  Not to mention the Golden Fang, a vast drug-smuggling cartel.

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Joaquinn Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix…isolated, but not for long

“HER” My rating: A- (Opens wide on Jan. 10)

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The sentient computer — the mechanical brain that becomes self aware — has been with us for many years now (perhaps most famously in the person of “2001’s” HAL 9000). But writer/director Spike Jonze’s “Her” pushes that idea in new and wonderful directions.

Along the way it becomes the best film of 2013.

In the near future — so near you can’t categorize the film as science fiction — a computer operating system is developed that so perfectly imitates human thought and emotion as to make the iPhone’s Siri seem like a grunting Neanderthal.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely romantic.  Lonely because he and his wife (Rooney Mara) are divorcing — though Tehodore cannot bring himself to sign the papers.  Romantic because his day job is writing heartfelt letters  to strangers.

He works for a company that, for a fee, will compose personal letters to family members, dearly beloveds, friends and acquaintances. Apparently in this near future most personal written correspondence is limited to texting abbreviatons and emoticons. Some folks will pay big bucks for a well-written, sincere and “handwritten” letter (actually, a computer provides the appropriate font and coughs it out of a laser printer).

Theodore is a master of this old-fashioned form of communication — which only makes his sterile personal life all the more ironic.

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