New in Theaters: ‘Inherent Vice’

Owen Wilson and Joaquin Phoenix sleuth confusedly in 'Inherent Vice' (Warner Bros.)
Owen Wilson and Joaquin Phoenix sleuth confusedly in ‘Inherent Vice’ (Warner Bros.)

inherentvice-coverWhen Thomas Pynchon published Inherent Vice in 2009, it became very clear that the revered author of Gravity’s Rainbow was still interested in his basics (baffling plots, conspiratorial confusion) but was now also cool with knocking out an honest-to-God fun read. Paul Thomas Anderson’s resume of overbusy, overcrowded Southern California anthology meta-fictions (Magnolia, in particular) would seem to make him the perfect man to bring this book to the screen.

Inherent Vice is opening this week in limited release and likely to wide befuddlement; it’ll go wider around the nation in January. My review is at Film Racket:

“Thinking comes later,” mumbles Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) at the start of Paul Thomas Anderson’s foggy, funny film of Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelia-noir Inherent Vice, only he never quite gets around to it. A lot of things get in his way, you see, from the moment that his ex-old lady Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston, an angelic , transfixing moonbeam of a smile but with not much to do here) lays on him a whole rap about needing help with her new old man. In the grand tradition of beautiful women whose true motives are submerged beneath shimmering layers of twinkle, Shasta’s initial request is more complicated and dangerous than it initially seems, particularly after she goes missing. Doc’s journey starts off being about making sure that Shasta (clearly the love of his life, though neither of them may know or want to know it) is okay, it turns into a quasi-historical tour of a Southern California counterculture circa 1970 on the verge of imploding under the weight of its own bafflement and paranoia…

Here’s the (fantastic) trailer:

Now Playing: ‘The Immigrant’

Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Immigrant' (Weinstein Company)
Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix in ‘The Immigrant’ (Weinstein Company)

theimmigrant-posterThe newest lovesick melodrama from James Gray is a gorgeously-shot period piece about an immigrant woman (Marion Cotillard) caught between two dueling performers (Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner) as she desperately tries to free her sister from quarantine on Ellis Island.

The Immigrant is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

James Gray’s relentlessly, intoxicatingly melodramatic period love triangle The Immigrant starts on a passenger ship docking at Ellis Island in 1921 and never gets much further than the teeming tenements and seamy fleshpots of Lower East Side. It’s a claustrophobic story, appropriate to the heated-up emotions at play and the specter of a poisoned, dangerous Old World waiting for the heroine should she fail to find a place in the New. Like Gray’s other New York potboilers like We Own the Night and The YardsThe Immigrant is a stubbornly old-fashioned lovesick tale in which the bonds of passion and family are stretched to their snapping point…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Her’

'Her': Loving what's not there
Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Her’: Loving what’s not there

her-posterEveryone always says that they just love this phone or that gadget. So it makes sense that Spike Jonze’s visionary but powerfully naive new sci-fi rom-com Her would take that romantic displacement to its ultimate conclusion by having a guy (Joaquin Phoenix) fall in love with his new operating  system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

Her opens this week. My review is at Film Racket:

In the future, computers will be not only our friends and lovers, they’ll also help us discover our better selves. That seems to be the message of Spike Jonze’s partially genius, often infuriating yuppie sci-fi fantasy about love and meaning in the post-smartphone era. It’s a film that spends so much effort perfecting the sun-dappled look seen in digital-tech commercials, and squinting to see how technology will operate a few years hence, that it doesn’t have much energy left over for its humans. Jonze seems more truly engaged by Samantha, who is the most well-rounded character in the film. Notably, she’s not human…

'Her': Happiness is an advanced operating system
‘Her’: Happiness is an advanced operating system

Here’s the trailer, soundtrack by Arcade Fire:

New on DVD: ‘The Master’

the-master_image_1

themaster1One of the greatest, weirdest films of 2012 was Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Synopses don’t quite do it justice; just find it and watch it (the DVD and Blu-ray are available as of today).

My full review is at Film Journal International:

The Master makes what should have been long obvious now utterly clear: Paul Thomas Anderson can lay claim to being one of the era’s few American writer/directors afflicted with greatness. It is hard to think of another home-grown filmmaker who so consistently brings such psychologically astute scripting, and ability to coax nakedly revelatory performances from actors—that classically trained eye for widescreen framing—to each film he makes. The Master may not match the level of artistry or thematic intensity seen in There Will Be Blood, but it is Anderson’s most approachable film in years, not to mention his most vividly realized characters to date…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘The Master’

The Master makes what should have been long obvious now utterly clear: Paul Thomas Anderson can lay claim to being one of the era’s few American writer/directors afflicted with greatness. It is hard to think of another home-grown filmmaker who so consistently brings such psychologically astute scripting, and ability to coax nakedly revelatory performances from actors—that classically trained eye for widescreen framing—to each film he makes. The Master may not match the level of artistry or thematic intensity seen in There Will Be Blood, but it is Anderson’s most approachable film in years, not to mention his most vividly realized characters to date. There won’t be much else like it on screens this year…

The Master opens Friday in limited release and expands wider over the next few weeks. My full review is at Film Journal International.

The trailer is here:

Trailer Park: ‘The Master’

A lot of the initial buzz that’s going to swirl around Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master will center on whether it’s inspired by Scientology. It’s easy to see why: the 1950s setting, the cultish leader who poses as a hybrid master of all disciplines, the dark threads of systematized paranoia and neurosis. But if the trailer is any indication — lush visuals, Joaquin Phoenix in full Walk the Line meltdown and Philip Seymour Hoffman owning the screen in that sulphuric Talented Mr. Ripley fashion — focusing on that subject alone could sidetrack attention from the potentially genius qualities of what could be the film of the year.

Check it out: