Tag Archives: Joaquin Phoenix

Irrational Man

The small college campus in Newport, Rhode Island, goes along pretty much as usual – until the day a new philosophy Professor starts. His reputation arrives before he does – he’s a brilliant thinker, but a womaniser and an alcoholic. He’s Abe Lucas (played by Joaquin Phoenix). His arrival is much heralded, but the reality is a little different. In class, Abe is as expected – a reliable, fascinating teacher. But in his personal life, he’s jaded, burnt out, negative, drinking too much and seeking something more. A fellow professor, Rita Richards (by Parker Posey) is fascinated by him and doesn’t hide the fact she’s attracted to him, but this washes over him. However, his student, Jill Pollard (by Emma Stone) sparks his interest. She’s smart and unknowingly beautiful – a relationship starts and Jill quickly gets serious about it, but Abe is not committed. One day they are out having coffee when they overhear a conversation in the diner. Abe is captivated and suddenly decides this is a sign, it’s why he was put on the planet in the first place – he must take some action. But what he’s set on doing, whilst straightforward and obvious to him, will change the course of many people’s lives …

This movie promises much, but leaves me a little cold. As usual with Woody Allen movies, you never quite know what you’re going to get – sometimes they are delightfully entertaining, other times they’re a bit drab and uninspiring. This is one of the latter types, but I’m not sure why – the plot has interesting points and both Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone are good, but that’s it. Parker Posey’s role is underdone and I get the feeling nobody is really trying too hard in this movie. Wait for this to come on television – and then only if you’ve got nothing better to do.

Made in 2015. Directed by Woody Allen


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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Movies


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Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a high-tech, digitised world where practically everything is done in the virtual space. He’s a writer – of personalised letters on behalf of his clients. He spends his days composing tender, empathetic and meaningful prose, sent as personal letters by email to people in relationships who have neither the words or time to write their own. Outside work, Theodore’s life is beige – he is constantly connected into his virtual news feed, emails, calendar and internet. His instructions are all verbal and the content is all fed back to him through his earpiece – his “window” to the world. Since his marriage to Catherine (by Rooney Mara) ended two years ago, he’s been on his own, but he really wants a new relationship. His neighbours, Amy (by Amy Adams) and Charles (by Matt Letscher) are great – they care about his welfare and even set him up on blind dates from time to time. In his solo, digital world he plays video games and browses the web-sphere for things to spark his interest. One day, he sees an advertisement for the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system – but, not just a plain operating system, this one will “learn as it goes … it will change and adapt the more you use it”. Theodore is intrigued and gets right into it, he loads the new system and starts to chat with it. He gives it a female voice and when he asks its name, after reading the entire encyclopaedia of baby names in two seconds flat, it calls itself “Samantha”. Theodore is delighted. Samantha (by Scarlett Johansson) has a sweet, charming and quirky personality and Theodore quickly warms to it. He develops a friendship, then a relationship with Samantha and she responds to him the same way. He finds a refreshing happiness with his new OS – but then things happen in this relationship, just like they’d happen in any other – there’s excitement and joy, but there’s anguish too … Theodore feels a familiar dread as their relationship evolves and Samantha’s personality develops further. What’s the future for this seemingly ideal partnership? … What awaits Theodore?

This is a beautifully made movie. The production alone is meticulous – everything in Theodore’s world is neutral … beige, grey or cream … with specific flashes of colour only from Theodore’s clothes or personal items around him. This is very well done and gives the audience an appreciation of the way Theodore sees things. The entire piece is thought provoking – it brings forth familiar issues in relationships and will no doubt raise questions in the mind of anyone who sees this … What’s common about all relationships? Why do we seek “human” interaction, or at least interaction that includes passion and emotion? Can we exist without it? What’s the right balance of intelligence, spontaneity, trust and respect in a successful relationship? Are the best relationships the exclusive “one-on-one” type? The depiction of the three support characters, neighbours Amy and Charles, the office co-ordinator Paul (by Chris Pratt), is masterful and they all provide a good opposition to the virtual relationship of Theodore’s. In a bizarre twist, nobody’s particularly surprised to know that Theodore is in a relationship with his “OS” – he’s not the first, it’s almost commonplace in this future. Amy and Charles are robotic – particularly Charles, whose wooden character’s speech is staccato and forced. Whether this is the script, the direction or the actor’s natural style, it works really well here. Amy Adams’ character, Amy, is superficial and she is weirdly vacant, but that also works. In some ways, Paul is soul-less too – it’s all very curious. Theodore is lovely – he’s so sensitive, tender and yearns to have love in his life. He’s never really recovered from his marriage breakdown and his interactions with Catherine (Rooney Mara) are thoroughly realistic. In 2014, the movie won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and was nominated for Motion Picture of the Year, Music, Original Song and Production Design. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and an AFI Award for Movie of the Year. It’s great. Well done everyone.

Made in 2013. Directed by Spike Jonze.

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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Movies


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Walk the Line

John R. Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix), born in Arkansas, USA in the 1930’s, has grown up with the terrible trauma of his much loved older brother’s death casting a shadow over his family and his childhood. His father Ray (by Robert Patrick) is hard on him as hasn’t developed much in the way of skills, but he has a deep love for music. He joins the Air Force and is shipped off to Germany, where he buys his first guitar and starts to write music. When he returns he proposes to Vivian (by Ginnifer Goodwin), they marry and settle in Memphis, where he tries to support his family as a door to door salesman. One day, he gets a break with his band and cuts his first record at Sun Studios. He goes on tour, along with the beautiful June Carter (by Reese Witherspoon), who already has a blossoming career. The seed of performing and a passion for June is sparked inside Johnny and he just can’t get enough of the touring, the life on the road and of June. He spends more and more time away from home and develops a dependency on drugs. He becomes desperate and can’t live without drugs or June – but he finds solace in neither. He continues to perform in tours with Elvis Presley (by Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (by Waylon Payne) and Carl Perkins – and he persists in asking June to marry him, but she never agrees. On a road of total self-destruction, his career founders, along with his marriage and he is left destitute, his only companion his drug dealer. Eventually, things turn around thanks to the strength of people around him who love him – he manages to kick his habit and get back into his music. June agrees to tour with him once again and then she agrees to marry him – after he proposes to her one night in 1968, in front of their live audience, with perhaps their most famous songs, “Jackson” and “Ring of Fire” as their concert highlights. They continue to live, raise their family and perform together for several decades, then they die within months of each other in 2003.

This movie is fascinating. It explores the early life of John (Johnny) Cash well and demonstrates the deep love built through challenge and struggles between himself and June Carter Cash. They are matched very well together and each mimic the style of their characters with excellence – it is remarkable that they both actually do sing their parts on the soundtrack. If you enjoy the early music of Johnny Cash, right up to the time of the Folsom Prison concert, you’ll really enjoy this – there’s plenty of his music throughout the piece. Also, it is perhaps the best I have seen Reese Witherspoon. I understand that James Mangold directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Gill Dennis, basing it on two autobiographies written by Cash and in collaboration with the couple. In the 2006 Academy Awards (Oscar) presentations, Reese Witherspoon was awarded the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – she is excellent and the recognition from the award is very well deserved. Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for his excellent performance in this movie in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – as it should be. Overall, the only thing is that it may be a little long, but still interesting to watch – it’s a good drama. 

Made in 2005. Directed by James Mangold

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Movies


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Bobby Cooper (played by Sean Penn) is headed to Las Vegas in his slick, red convertible. He has to pay off a gambling debt to Russian gangsters and he’s behind in his payments – he’s already had two fingers cut off by the mob, one for each of the two weeks he’s late. While travelling down the Arizona highway, his radiator hose bursts and he must find somewhere to get it fixed. He finds Superior, a tiny desolate mining town and tracks down Darrell (by Billy Bob Thornton) – a greasy, rather unsavoury looking mechanic at the only gas station within 50 miles. Darrel cheerfully suggests Bobby “check out the town” while he fixes his car. So Bobby takes a look around.

Of course, this town is populated by some strange characters – he meets a wise, old Native American (by Jon Voight) who sees the world through blind eyes, the innocent teenager Jenny (by Claire Danes), Toby N Tucker [TNT] (by Joaquin Phoenix) a youth itching for a fight and the sexy but lonely and desperate Grace McKeena (by Jennifer Lopez) – who entices Bobby into a liaison which develops into a sticky situation with her rich husband Jake (Nick Nolte). The mobsters manage to track Bobby down while he is in Superior and when things get tricky, Superior’s Sheriff (by Powers Boothe) is on hand, These bizarre people each interract with Bobby in their own way, even though he tries to keep to himself. But then things take an even stranger turn when Bobby realises he doesn’t have the money to retrieve his fixed car and unless he gets money somehow he’s virtually trapped in Superior …  then as the stakes and tensions rise, things only get worse for him.

This really is a great movie. You can feel the tension from the minute Bobby steps into Superior – and practically taste the dust in your dry mouth when you watch him explore this bizarre town. Each of the strange characters evokes a particular emotion or moral dilemma for Bobby and Sean Penn plays this role marvellously. Billy Bob Thornton is totally unrecognizable as the strange Darrell and Jennifer Lopez is at her alluring best as Grace. Nick Nolte plays her rich husband running his own agenda magnificently too  The twists and turns in the plot are developed well and clearly depict Bobby’s building frustration and desperation. The excellent cinematography takes you right into the desert with Bobby and you feel hot, dry and sweaty right along with him. As you watch, you really do hope the movie is going to end well but somehow you also know that just might not happen. It’s a very good movie.

Made 1997. Directed by Oliver Stone

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Movies


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