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Posts Tagged ‘woody allen’

Those that have talked to me about this past summer of movies can easily retell you – I was extremely disappointed.  Whether it was a gluttony of bad scripts or a lousy sequel, there were simply too many depressing moments.  Hollywood is blaming the gluttony of blockbusters amongst the shrinking audience or the increasing competition of other media – both of which are true, but in my opinion – very few of the films this summer resonated or were well made overall, thus creating bad word of mouth and a general lack of disinterest.  I don’t believe this will be my last summer film recap forever as summers likes 2012 showed that the medium can still be both profitable and high in quality, but I sure hope Hollywood studios understand the reasoning behind the faulty exterior.  

The films below are a grab-bag of both my good/bad opinions of this past film summer season (especially since I fell behind reviewing) and of course, I haven’t watched all the films of the summer so do keep that in mind.  Check them out:

Favorite Blockbuster/Guilty Pleasure: Pacific Rim 2013-movie-preview-pacific-rim
Dumb but fun – Del Toro’s Pacific Rim encapsulates the exact opposite of what I find so lacking in the Transformers series from Bay.  Del Toro pays respect to his inspirations while knowing to never be overly serious with his crazy subject matter.  Although the film could have taken a few more steps to be a truly great films for the ages (whether it was some really awkwardly acted scenes or some lackluster sub plots), the film threw some great surprises and understood the nature of pacing and showmanship.  Pacific Rim was the most fun I had this summer and even though it may have been oddly marketed in the US or perhaps overly geeky – it still makes for a really great ride that deserves to be seen on the big screen.  

Runner-Up: This is the End
Not a big fan of the ending and almost goes into the territory of being too in-jokey but hey, This is the End was probably the funniest movie of the summer with some surprisingly candid, funny laughs and great cameos.  

Overall Favorite Film: Fruitvale Station fruitvale-station-main
Although it was overly simplistic and lacked a bigger picture perspective, Fruitvale Station is one of the most touching and well-acted films of the summer and perhaps the year thus far.  Although the whole cast deserves much credit for brining both candidness and gravitas to this up-and-down story, Michael B. Jordan deserves the best nod here as a young man who is quick on his feet and seemingly bright with a shady, conflicted past that continues to haunt him.  It’s a film about family; a film about racial profiling; and perhaps most importantly, a film about the gravity choices, however big or small.  A terrific film all-around.  

Runner-Up: Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine lacks the charm and love of the film’s location, San Francisco, as other Allen films and starts out so depressing and never really gets any brighter.  Still, Blancett’s acting is absolutely terrific and the script helps dive the characters into a myriad of mistakes, lies and misery – Allen is as insightful as ever.  

Matt Damon (left) and Sharlto Copley in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM.Most Disappointing Summer Movie: Elysium
With so many sequels and remakes this summer, it was surprising to see that an original film from one of my past favorite film’s directors, District 9’s Blomkamp,  earn the distinction of being my most disappointing summer movie.  Although Elysium is beautiful in it’s vision and gives off an initially fascinating world, the film devolves into poor writing and strange plot points.  What we are ultimately left with is a rote, mindless action film added with one-note characters, unnecessary repetitive scenes and one of the weakest endings this summer – a mighty shame given the fascinating backdrop Blomkamp and team created.  

Runner-Up: Man of Steel
Love-it-or-hate-it, unfortunately, Snyder’s Superman interpretation falls for me as a ‘hate it’.  A number of aspects push the film down from it’s schizophrenic story to poor plot beats that end up with characters that I never emphasized much with.  Add on top of all this a second half that has grand action scenes without much care for the surroundings and a lack of emotional pull equates to one of the most disappointing superhero films of the summer.     

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Allen is known, in recent years, for his European fascination in films as he showcases his love for the foreign nations he has visited into some brilliant and insightful pieces on both the human psyche and in turn his perspective on the nation itself.  Each nation seems to truly bring a unique and different story from it and Italy is no different in To Rome with Love.  The question is – does it effectively tell it’s story and give some unique insight, especially since it divides it’s duty into four smaller plot threads?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always succeed as not all of the four stories are coherent or deep as it may have originally been thought out, but the end product itself is still a fun and interesting romp through Rome.

To Rome with Love follows four different small stories.  One is with John (Alec Baldwin) who is on vacation in Rome and decides to walk around his old living grounds when he comes across Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who invites John to his home where Jack’s girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) lives and where they all learn that Sally’s best friend, Monica (Ellen Page) is moving in while she tries to figure out her life .  The second involves Jerry (Woody Allen) and his wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) who are visiting Rome to meet their daughter Hayley (Alison Pill) and her new fiancee Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti).  The third involves Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) who has just come to Rome for a job with his new wife, Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi).  However, when Milly gets lost in the city, Antonio gets an unexpected visitor from a prostitute, Anna (Penelope Cruz) who won’t leave.  And finally, there is a plot involving Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) who is a normal Roman citizen who suddenly gets an influx of paparazzi and media attention for no discernible reason.

The main problem comes with the imbalance of the strength of the stories.  Half of the film feels weaker than the other, an unfortunate problem that affects the more small story/sketch-like format of the film.  Even though the film’s style is more evocative of Allen’s earlier comedies, at least two of the smaller narratives aren’t as strong or have a fairly weak follow-thru that becomes all the more apparent because of the stylistic choice that was decided on.  The two that seemingly seems the most affected by the narrative are from Leopoldo (Benigni) and Antonio (Alessandro).  Their premises are actually interesting and thematically seem to have some good insights into both Allen’s views on Italy and society as a whole.  However, the ideas seem to run out of steam fairly quick at the outset or soon after.  Regarding Benigni’s plot, for instance, the much more reserved role works fairly well to point out the radical change that occurs for the character, but the theme and message are fairly obvious and by the time the plot point comes back up again, it feels overused as it offers nothing truly new to the audience and especially since most of the film is supposed to be humorous, these points come out to be some of the weakest.  Perhaps that’s an overall feeling of the film – none of the plotlines feel fairly revelatory or thematically potent.  The result is a whimsical look that is cute and innocuous but not truly deep.

However, there are still some good humorous moments to be had and does provide some interesting looks into Allen’s unique mindset of Rome and it’s surroundings.  The other half of the film definitely is much more enjoyable and intriguing to see play out.  Allen’s storyline involving his daughter’s fiancee’s Italian father is quite humorous and although the main joke becomes a little stale by film’s end, the interesting notion feels both classical and fresh thanks to the witty and inane banter of Allen and Davis foiled with the rest of the family and the ‘dream’ that they want to accomplish.  It provides an interesting dichotomy to a theme of ambition versus luxury and skill versus luck.  Baldwin’s storyline is probably the most fascinating of the film due to it’s structure.  Although the ‘secret’ behind the storyline is fairly easy to figure out a few scenes in, Allen continues to support it with strong writing and the appropriate actors that can pull it off such as Eisenberg and Page who have an intelligence and speed that makes the scenes move by so quickly yet feel deep.  Additionally, it uses Rome as a backdrop for romantic mischief and feels that it has the most interesting insights.  Both insightful and clever, these plotlines shine on their own and feel fun to watch play out along with the general structure of the film that views Rome as an interesting arena for such small stories that pop up among the locals to the foreigners and both.

Allen’s latest European-centered film isn’t perhaps his strongest work but still has a lot of charm and some smart insight into love and society.  On the one hand, some of the humor and plotlines fall flat as they go on for too long or seem more random than insightful and engaging.  However, that isn’t to say Allen fails as the other plotlines still radiate some original interesting perspectives and (as usual) a loving look into Europe with some beautiful framing and insight into Allen’s unique perspective on what the country means to him.  Perhaps, in the end, that is his ultimate takeaway from Rome, a city full of whimsical and human stories without a sense of too much gravitas, even if it ultimately meant creating some stories that were more or less incomplete thoughts while being able to uncover some fascinating ones.  

Director: Woody Allen
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Rated: R

The Wie muses: *** out of *****

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Director: Woody Allen
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Directors and writers are fascinated with cities of all types.  Small, large, cosmopolitan, rural; some of the best films can create feelings of all types by fixating themselves within the city and truly weaving an unforgettable journey within.  Paris has been a constant location of exposure and has been home to many great films that really represent both the city’s values and shows situations and emotions that have never been thought of before.  Woody Allen’s anticipated, Midnight in Paris, is another film to add to this category.  A much more fantastical entry than many may think, Midnight may not be Allen’s most emotive and insightful film but is still a fascinating watch that represents both the city’s magical past and a message to artists.

Midnight in Paris follows Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams) as they explore Paris after deciding to stop by to congratulate a business deal made between Inez’s father (Kurt Fuller) and another company.  Gil, an aspiring novelist and former screenwriter, has become fascinated with the city and after the couple run into Inez’s old friend, Paul (Michael Sheen), Gil takes off on his own during the late hours to roam the streets of Paris to find inspiration for his upcoming novel.  Accidentally, he stumbles into a car and partakes in an adventure and meets some larger than life literary figures.  In both a journey of sanity and inspiration, audiences are taken into a strange and intriguing character study.

The film’s biggest source of debate will be in its plot direction and some content.  Hopefully, the story will not come out as a surprise to any reader by now (or from any preview or trailer), but it goes in fantastical directions that is core to the story and experience.  Some audience members that come into the film expecting a more real and grounded experience are going to have a difficult time taking this in.  Perhaps it is because of the marketing or the direction that Allen takes with the plot progression, but I do feel it is a real issue because of some trouble transitioning the story style which will alienate viewers that do not accept the plot when it finally does transition.  Additionally, characterizations are limited in terms of most of the periphery characters, especially those associated with the ‘real world.’ They feel oddly hollow and one-sided than interesting and mature as many of the great Allen characters are.

However, to those that can get past these points, Midnight delivers a witty, fun, and insightful adventure.  The main characters are well developed and thought out.  Gil, especially, is such a wonderful centerfold, embodying Woody Allen himself and what it must have been like for him to walk through Paris as an outsider and the artistic inspirations he receives from the city.  Speaking of the city, as many successful films do, Allen breathes so much life into Paris itself as well.  Especially as changes start to happen within the city, Allen does not hold back on showing off his love and respect of the locales and history which translates to Gil’s obsession with them.  The cinematography, while not grand or unique, lovingly lingers on these locales to further emphasize this point, especially in the introduction.  And finally, all of these positive points can be attributed to the sharp writing.  Even the slightly zanier sections where Gil meets the larger than life figures never feels like it devolves into slapstick or complete lunacy.  There are laughs to be had ,but they come out of both the initial shock factor and some clever connections with the core plot device (that viewers will have to find out themselves), and smarlty connects with the characters’ core personalities and growth.  Issues of artistic inspiration, cosmopolitanism, and love are all taken and examined with some touching and intriguing results.

Midnight in Paris is a good Allen film that takes a city and creates an artistic interpretation of both the cities values and his own.  Some viewers might be off-put by the plot’s wacky set-up and the ensuing chaos along with a few skimpy characterizations and plot conventions.  However, what these viewers may miss is the fascinating character that Allen has created out of the city of Paris and how natural it feels to interplay it with the likes of a stellar cast and sharp writing.  Allen captures the stories a city can have and weaves a tale around an exciting and vibrant history of one location.  Much like Gil and all the major artists that have come before, he creates an inspired story that only those with that same fascination and mystique will seemingly appreciate.   

The Wie muses: *** ½ out of *****

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