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Movie Review: “Irrational Man”

Starring
Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley
Director
Woody Allen

Woody Allen is the ballplayer of filmmakers. He probably takes more swings than any other writer-director working today, so when he misses, even badly, they often go unnoticed. That was certainly the case with his 2014 film, “Magic in the Moonlight,” a lifeless romantic comedy that wasted the talent of its two stars. Allen’s latest movie, “Irrational Man,” is all about life and the pain that comes with it, and though it isn’t quite a homerun, it’s a solid double down the line that ranks as one of the director’s funnier and more engaging character studies.

Everyone likes Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) except Abe Lucas. His students and peers consider the philosophy professor to be mysterious, intriguing and sexy, but he has nothing going for himself since his wife left him and his best friend passed away. One of his students, Jill (Emma Stone), takes an interest in Abe and all his misery, as does a lonely professor named Rita (Parker Posey), but despite being romantically pursued by a young girl and a gorgeous woman, Abe remains a Debbie Downer. One day, though, his whole attitude and outlook on life changes when Abe and Jill overhear a conversation at a diner. Without spoiling it, the conversation gives him a reason to stop talking about making a change in the world and actually make one, and convinced of his newfound sense of purpose, Abe only becomes more lost than he already was.

Abe Lucas is one of Allen’s more unlikable protagonists. He drinks and drives, sleeps with a married woman, and his mission ultimately makes him something of a monster, although a very real and human monster. Abe’s lesson to his students is to accept your flaws and embrace your selfish desire; at the expense of others, he’ll do whatever it takes to survive. This all sounds very vague, but like “Midnight in Paris,” the turn in Abe Lucas’ journey is surprising, and it’s best to experience it blind.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to July

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After a rather lackluster June with very few major releases (and even fewer that were any good), the summer season kicks back into high gear this July with a trio of highly-anticipated sequels, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a handful of original comedies that could end up being the biggest surprises of the month.

“Terminator Genisys”

Who: Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke
What: After finding himself in a new timeline, Kyle Reese teams up with Sarah Connor and an aging terminator to try and stop Judgement Day.
When: July 1st
Why: The “Terminator” movie franchise has been limping along for over a decade now, first with the terrible “Rise of the Machines,” and more recently with the failed reboot starring Christian Bale, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from trying to keep the series alive. So what makes this latest attempt any different? For starters, it has James Cameron’s official seal of approval, and it’s easy to see why, since the movie is tied very closely to the first two installments, playing with the time travel aspect in the same way that J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” did to reinvent the franchise. It still doesn’t look very good, but we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because we love watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in full Terminator mode.

“Magic Mike XXL”

Who: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello and Jada Pinkett Smith
What: Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.
When: July 1st
Why: One of the biggest complaints about the first “Magic Mike” was that it was a lot gloomier than moviegoers were expecting for a film about male strippers, and Channing Tatum has addressed those issues with the promise that the upcoming sequel will be a much lighter affair. Though it’s sad to see Matthew McConaughey isn’t involved in the project (he was, after all, one of the highlights of the first film), “Magic Mike XXL” doesn’t appear to be short on colorful characters, including bigger roles for supporting players like Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello, and the addition of Jada Pinkett Smith. And if the trailers are any indication, it hasn’t lost its self-mocking sense of humor, either.

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