Tag Archives: Jeremy Piven

Danny Cannon’s Phoenix

Phoenix is a half forgotten, neat little Arizona neo-noir noir that isn’t about much altogether, but contains a hell of a lot of heated drama, character study and hard boiled charisma anyways, which in the land of the crime genre, often is an acceptable substitute for a strong plot. Plus, a cast like this could hang around the water cooler for two hours and the results would still be engaging. Ray Liotta is terrific here in a mid-career lead role as an a police detective with a nasty temper, huge gambling problem and just an all round penchant for trouble. He’s joined by his three partners in both crime and crime fighting, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and Anthony Lapaglia. There’s no central conflict, no over arching murder subplot and no orchestrated twist or payoff, it’s simply these four sleazy cops just existing out their in the desert on their best, and it’s a lot of sunbaked, emotionally turbulent fun. Liotta vies for the attentions of a weary older woman (Anjelica Huston, excellent) while he’s pursued by her slutty wayward teen daughter (Brittany Murphy) at the same time. He’s also hounded by eccentric loan shark Chicago (Tom Noonan with a ray ally funny lisp) and trying to close countless open cases in his book. Piven and hothead Lapaglia fight over Piven’s foxy wife (Kari Wuhrur) too, and so the subplots go. The supporting cast is a petting zoo of distinctive character acting talent including Glenn Moreshower, Royce D. Applegate, Giovanni Ribisi, Xander Berkeley, Al Sapienza, Giancarlo Esposito and more. I like this constant and obnoxious energy the film has though, like there’s something in that Arizona sun that just drives peoples tempers off the map and causes wanton hostility, a great setting for any flick to belt out its story. Good fun.

-Nate Hill

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Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla: A Review by Nate Hill

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Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla was the third British crime comedy caper for the director, and it could have easily been the misstep that signaled him wearing out his welcome. Happily I can tell you that it’s a winner, and although not as cracking as Lock Stock or Snatch, it sinks into its own distinct groove that’s fairly removed from it’s two predecessors. Once again we are treated to the life and times of a bunch of hoods and gangsters in London, but not the grungy, back alley soup kitchen London that we’re used to from Ritchie. No, this is a glistening, prosperous London, filled with real estate money ripe for the taking and developers making underhanded deals with shady businessmen. The climate has definitely changed in Ritchie’s aesthetic, but the characters remain the same, just as witty, eccentric and chock full of piss and vinegar. The story centers around the wild bunch, a cozy little clan of East end petty thieves led by One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba). Their third musketeer is Handsome Bob, played by a hilarious Tom Hardy who has a secret up his sleeve that spills out in what is the most adorable scene Ritchie has ever written. The gang is hired by a mysterious chick (Thandie Newton) to rob some dudes, and that’s where the trouble starts. Elsewhere in town, arch gangster Lenny Cole (a frothing Tom Wilkinson) negotiates a land deal with dangerous russian billionaire Uri (Karel Roden switches up his trademark psychosis for smooth talking menace here) that hinges on a missing painting. Lenny dispatches his right hand bloke Archie (Mark Strong, subtly trolling us) to find it along with his rock star nephew Johnny Quid. Got that? Nevermind, half the fun is the how and not the why of Ritchie’s stories, and I find it best to just let the flow of it wash over you as opposed to thinking out each detail and missing the sideshow. Toby Kebbell is off the hook as Quid, a wiry stick of dynamite and a comic force to be reckoned with, truly the most exciting performance of the film. Ritchie has a knack for bringing out the funny side in actors, even ones that aren’t usually the type to make you laugh. Strong is terrific, with a few carefully timed moments of sheer hilarity that deftly make you forget how dangerous he is. Ludacris and Jeremy Piven are fun, if a bit out of place as two event promoters. Butler and Elba have an easy-peasy rapport that’s light, friendly and believable. Wilkinson dances between alpha assuredness and aging buffoonry nicely, always commanding the scene and oddly reminding me of Mr. Magoo. There’s a playful tone to this one, glitzy and celebratory in places where Snatch was grim and sketchy, and the whole affair feels like a new years party with a bunch of old friends. Watch for cameos from Matt King, Nonzo Anonzie, Jimi Mistry, Mundungus Fletcher and Gemma Arterton. Very fun stuff.

Frank’s Thoughts on Mark Pellington’s I MELT WITH YOU 2011

I am a Man

Now I remember

I am divorced

I can’t get hard

I love my wife

I don’t love her

I lie to myself

My mother is dead

I’m rich

I’m a failure

We forget

I am the bread winner

I am married

I am a failure

She left me

I’m under 50

I’m just like my father

I’m nothing like him

I’m over 21

I can fuck

My kids need me

I’m losing my hair

I need glasses

I am afraid

I love you

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     I MELT WITH YOU is one of my absolute top five films of all time.  I have two top five films, one made up of my favorite films, and one made up of the best films that I have seen.  I MELT WITH YOU is in both top fives.  I would like to preface this post by saying that this film is incredibly hard to watch.  It is an in your face, fast burning film that does not pull any punches what-so-ever, and the film takes dark leaps that you don’t think it will.  This is a film, that last time I checked has an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes and was dubbed the worst film of 2011.  That’s all bullshit.  The problem with I MELT WITH YOU is that the director, Mark Pellington (ARLINGTON ROAD, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES), uses this film as a mirror, and holds it inches from your face.  What you see in the reflection is real, raw and the unapologetic truth about who we are, and what we hide from others and ourselves.

     I equate the film to being very THE BIG CHILL esq, the plot of the film is about four middle aged friends, Richard (Thomas Jane) who is a “failed” writer and now a high school English teacher, Jonathan (Rob Lowe) a high-end general practitioner who is taking money in exchange for prescriptions, Ron (Jeremy Piven) a fraudulent investment banker, and Tim (Christian McKay) an artist who has lost his soul mate in a crash he caused, and these four have gotten together for a weekend every year since they all graduated college together.  The weekends are loud, drug induced and partying that makes THE WOLF OF WALL STREET look like a PG rated film.

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     The first act of the film is laugh out loud funny, with the four friends partying their ass’ off and reminiscing about old times.  The chemistry the four actors have is absolutely paramount, and looks and feels incredibly genuine and the comradely overflows through the screen, and you feel like one of them, hanging out, taking pills and drinking whiskey.  It’s all fun and games.  A great time.

     There are many messages, themes and realities this film conveys, but at the bottom of all that is the foundation of love.  These men love each other more than anything, it’s a bond that is not easily achieved, and can never be broken.  They love each other, regardless of their individual failures and successes, it doesn’t matter.  The four of them are always there for one another.  Nothing will ever change that.  Nothing will ever change the love and support they have for one another, until it does.

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      The second act of the film takes an incredible, and I mean incredible, dark turn.  Everything in the film is turned upside down, causing the characters to deal with the reality of what happened, and the bigger picture of the reality of a pact they made when they graduated college together.  This causes them to reexamine who they are, what they’ve become, and how far away they are from who they once were.  How they didn’t stay true to themselves, and became hypocrites.

     Richard (Jane) is the realist and the leader of the group.  He was in love once, it didn’t work out, and spent the rest of his life having sex with a vast amount of women.  Richard is the idealist, reminding the rest of the friends who they once were, who they have become, and why they haven’t stayed true to themselves, and each other, and he reinforces the pact they made, signed with their blood.

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     Jane gives his finest performance, and that is saying a lot, from BOOGIE NIGHTS to THE MIST, he is always incredible and has an emotional depth and range to bring any character he plays to life.  Fleshes them out, and makes them real.  Jane’s affability rolls over into his character, where he’s the “cool” high school teacher.  His students like him, and we like him.

     Rob Lowe gives his finest dramatic performance as Jonathan, the broken doctor who set out to help people, make them better, give them hope.  He turns into the biggest hypocrite of all, and sells prescriptions to his wealthy patients, and loses himself, and the oath he took, and somewhere before that, loses his wife and son.  His wife is remarried and their son calls the stepfather Daddy.  Jonathan is a broken man who has lost his way, much like the rest of them, slowly going through life without any progressive momentum.

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     The four actors: Jane, Lowe, Piven and McKay give soul bearing performances.  I can’t think of many ensemble casts that not only provide the best they can be as an actor, but also showing us an incredible emotional range.  This film is truly special, and it is remarkable in every way possible.  I’ve been watching films seriously for the past fifteen years, and there has not been a film that is grounded in reality and as heavy, deep, moving and self reflective as I MELT WITH YOU.  After all this film is about the purest form of love, and these four love each other so much, they stop the world and truly do melt with each other.

This film is available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime.