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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Judy Davis

Café Society (2016)

Hollywood was so much better when people drank all the time.

Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) is a Jew living in New York during the 30’s. He’s not very inspired with his life there and even if he can join his brother (Corey Stoll)’s line of business, he opts not to, in hopes that he’ll make it big in Hollywood once he gets there and hooks up with rich and successful uncle Phill (Steve Carell). While it takes awhile for Bobby and Phill to eventually meet, when the two do get together, Bobby gets a chance to meet the nice, lovey and sweet Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) – a gal Bobby becomes smitten with right away. After all, she’s the opposite of everything Hollywood stands for – she’s pure, original and not at all expecting to be rich, famous, or on the silver-screen. The two end-up hitting it off, even if Vonnie has a boyfriend already, which makes Bobby try even harder for her heart. Little does Bobby know, however, that Vonnie isn’t just going out with anyone in particular – she’s going out with someone very near and dear to Bobby. Someone that will change Bobby’s life and aspirations altogether.

Blake knows beauty.

Blake knows beauty.

Another year and guess what? Another mediocre Woody Allen movie. That seems to be the general theme with Woody’s past few movies over the last couple of years; while none of them have ever been “awful”, the haven’t been as nearly “outstanding” as we’re sometimes used to expecting from Woody. Gone are the days of Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hannah and her Sisters – now, we have to get used to more Woody Allen movies like Café Society.

Which, in all honesty, isn’t such a terrible thing, because the movie is actually quite nice.

This isn’t to say that it’s “great” by any means, but what Café Society does, and does well, mind you, is give us that sense of old-Hollywood nostalgia that, yes, can be a tad bit corny, but also feels genuine and allows you to feel closer to these characters and these settings. Of course, old-timey Hollywood is no new territory for Woody to explore, but he gets a lot of mileage of this time and place, showing us how most of the people back in the day who came to Hollywood, all expected to fame and fortune right off the bat – like the sort of place where dreams are made of.

And yes, I know that Woody has already covered this sort of ground in his movies before, but it still sort of works. There’s a certain balance that he’s able to find between “nostalgia” and “corniness” that’s surprising; we’d all assume for Woody to lose his touch and just start making more and more annoying mistakes, but nope, he surprisingly knows what can work for the audience, and how much mileage you can get out of a conventional story, so long as you inject with some humor, heart and most of all, interesting characters.

Though Café Society may not have the most illusive and spell-binding characters to date, what helps most of them is that the actors in the roles are good enough that they make them more compelling than they actually have any right to be.

Case in point: Jesse Eisenberg. As a Woody Allen surrogate this time around, Eisenberg gets a few things right – he knows how to be neurotic without over-doing it, and he knows how to deliver a lot of Woody’s tongue-twisters that aren’t at all genuine, but are still sometimes entertaining to hear. But then, halfway around the midpoint, Eisenberg’s character and performance changes, to where he’s more grown-up, angrier and, well, more adult. It’s a hard transition to pull off in a Woody Allen movie, but Eisenberg does well with it, as he shows that he’s able to get as much out of this thinly-written character as he can.

That comb-over, though.

That comb-over, though.

Kristen Stewart’s pretty good, too, as Vonnie; for the third time, her and Eisenberg are together on-screen and they make it work. There’s a genuine chemistry between the two and you can tell that they help the other when push comes to shove. Though Bruce Willis was initially cast in the role, Steve Carell works just fine as Phill, a mean, sometimes conniving Hollywood agent. Sometimes, he can occasionally sound a little too modern, given the time and place of the story, but because Carell’s comedic-timing is impeccable, it still works.

And the rest of the cast is quite solid, too. That’s something that Woody has never lost his knack for, thankfully. However, if there is an issue with Café Society is that, yes, it does unfortuntaely feel like a whole bunch of previous ideas and themes that Woody has worked with in the past, cobbled-up together to make something that’s a lot like his other films and is sort of made-up as it goes along. In a way, you almost get the sense that Woody had some sort of idea to start with, got enough money and star-power to film it all, and just filled in the blanks once the last-act came around.

There’s no problem with that, but sometimes, a story needs to be mapped-out a whole lot better and not just feel like another wasteful opportunity for someone to make a movie for no reason.

Consensus: Light, funny, well-acted, and surprisingly heartfelt, Café Society hits a sweeter spot in the Woody Allen catalog that may not light the world on fire, but still works and shows that he’s got the goods.

6.5 / 10

Jesse and K-Stew should just get married already! They're damn-near inseparable!

Jesse and K-Stew should just get married already! They’re damn-near inseparable!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Celebrity (1998)

Never mind. I’m fine with being a peasant.

After divorcing his wife, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) now has a new mission in life and that’s to be dive deeper and further into the entertainment industry, where he’ll be able to wine and dine with all sorts of celebrities, be a part of their lives, and see the world through their eyes. However, Lee gets too close to some and often times, he finds himself struggling to keep himself calm, cool, and collected, while all sorts of decadence and debauchery is occurring around him. Meanwhile, Lee’s ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis) is trying her hardest to live life without fully losing it. While she’s working at a talent agency, she doesn’t really know where to go next with her love life. That is, until she meets the charming and successful TV producer Tony (Joe Mantegna), who not only strikes up a romance with her, but also brings her into the celebrity-world – the same one that Lee himself seems to be way too comfortable in.

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

In the same sort of spirit he had with Deconstructing Harry a year earlier, Celebrity finds Woody Allen with a fiery passion to get something off of his chest. However, instead of throwing all of his anger around towards those around him who he holds most near and dear to his life, Woody positions everything towards the whole celebrity culture in and of itself. Which isn’t to say that he makes fun of celebrities and mainstream talent (which he does do), but more or less that he criticizes the whole idea of being an actual “celebrity”; in Woody’s eyes, it isn’t if you have any talent, per se, is what makes you the biggest and brightest celebrity, sometimes it just matters who you’ve slept with and whether or not you’re at the right place, at the right time.

Sounds pretty smart and interesting, right? And heck, you’d even assume that someone who has to deal with celebrities, pop-culture, and tabloid sensations as much as Woody Allen has had to, that there would be some shred of humanely brutal truth, eh?

Well, unfortunately, Celebrity is not that kind of movie.

Instead, it’s one where Woody Allen tries to recycle old themes and ideas that he’s worked with before, but this time, with a much larger ensemble, more unlikable characters, way more of a disjointed plot, and well, the biggest issue of all, no originality or fun. Even in some of Woody’s worst features (of which there are quite a few), you do sort of get the sense that he’s still having fun, even if he doesn’t totally feel any sort of passion or creativity within the project itself. Here, with Celebrity, a part of me wonders where the inspiration actually began – I already know where it ends (at the very beginning of the flick), but why did Woody want to make this movie, about these characters, and using this story?

The question remains in the air, as there’s so many characters to choose from, it’s hard to really pin-point which one’s are actually more annoying and underdeveloped than certain others. But to make that decision a little easier for yourself, just watch whatever Judy Davis and Kenneth Branagh are doing here because, oh my, they’re quite terrible. And honestly, I don’t take any pride in saying any of that; both are extremely likable and interesting talents who have honestly knocked it out of the park, more times than they’ve actually struck out, but for some reason here, they’re incredibly miscast.

Seeing as how he never worked with Woody before, it’s understandable why Branagh was miscast, but Judy Davis?

Really, Woody?!?

Anyway. the biggest issue with Davis is that her character is so over-the-top, neurotic and crazy, that you almost get the sense that she’s doing a parody of what a crazy person should look, act and feel like. It’s never believable for a second and just seems like an act, above everything else. Then again, when compared to Branagh’s impersonation of Allen, Davis almost looks Oscar-worthy, because man oh man, he’s even worse. Though it’s never been too clear who’s idea it was to have Branagh act-out in every Woody-mannerism known to man (I say it was Woody’s, but hey, that’s just me), either way, it doesn’t work and just hurts Branagh; his constant flailing around, stuttering, pausing, and general awkwardness is painful to watch because, like with Davis, we know he’s acting. We never get a sense that he’s actually “a person”, but more or less, “a character” that Woody has written and made into another version of him.

Bebe knows best.

Bebe knows best.

And while nobody else is bad as Davis and Branagh, they’re not really all that much better, either. In fact, despite the huge list of impressive names, no one here really stands-out, or is ever given as much time as they should; Joe Mantegna and Famke Janssen are probably the only two who get actual real time in the spotlight, whereas all of the names get pushed to the side for what can sometimes be constituted as “glorified cameos”. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, in his very young-form, shows up, curses a lot, assaults Gretchen Mol at least a dozen times, snorts coke, has sex, and never hits a single comedic-note.

Of course though, that’s not Leo’s, or anybody else’s fault, except for Woody Allen himself.

While it may appear like Celebrity is Woody’s worst, it really isn’t; it’s got a funny moment or two spliced between all of the silly love-triangles and pretentious speeches, but there’s not enough. And honestly, Woody really missed the opportunity on reeling in to Hollywood and the celebrity-culture itself. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about it, so why not let your feelings heard loud and clear for the whole wide world?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Consensus: Despite an immensely stacked and talented list of actors, Celebrity fails by not being funny, interesting, or original enough of a Woody Allen comedy, that sometimes wants to be satire, but then, other times, doesn’t want to be.

3.5 / 10

They've stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven't stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

They’ve stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven’t stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Screw too many women, trust me, you get screwed, too.

Harry Block (Woody Allen) has had a pretty crazy and unfortunate life. He’s been with many women, has made many mistakes, and has a lot of opinions that don’t always make him the most popular guy in the room. And now, he’s gaining fame and fortune off of all of that by putting into a new book of his, one that people love, with the exception of the few he’s actually writing about. Most of the women from his past have disowned him, which depresses Harry to a great degree. However, the only thing keeping him alive and well is the fact that he has a son, who he knows will have a bright future. Also, Harry finds out that the university that once kicked him out, now wants him back for a ceremony to honor him and all of his accomplishments. This gives Harry an idea: Take his son with him on this trip and allow for all sorts of fun and adventure to occur. Little does Harry know that he’s kidnapping his son to go along for the ride with him, along with the likes of a friend (Bob Balaban) and hooker (Hazzelle Goodman).

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Due to the fact that Woody Allen likes to make a movie almost every year, a lot of people tend to get on his case. Obviously, some movies are better than others and, especially as of late, it appears like some of them aren’t even worth watching, but because they’re movies by Woody Allen and feature great talent in front of the screen, people can’t help but see what he’s got cooking up next. After all, a bad Woody Allen movie is at least better than most of what we seem to get out there, right?

Well, either way, where it seems like some of the issues with Woody releasing a new movie every year is that the movies tend to all follow the same formulas, ideas and themes of all of his movies. They’re mostly all lighthearted affairs that have to do with dysfunctional families, Judaism, forbidden love, sex, writing, poetry, classical music, jazz, or anything else of these natures. They’re all very similar and it honestly makes me wonder why Woody himself doesn’t bother to go deeper and darker with himself, or his material.

Cause, honestly, Deconstructing Harry is that perfect example of what Woody Allen can do when he decides to throw all caution to the wind and just not appease to anyone. While some of themes and ideas may be the same from before, here, they’re much more darker and sinister; rather than appearing to play for the big and broad laughs, Woody’s going for something much more meaner and angry, where it appears that he does in fact have an ax to grind.

Who is he grinding it at/for?

Well, no one in particular, but it allows for Deconstructing Harry to be better than most of his other flicks, because it proves that the guy actually has a point. He’s not just making a movie because he’s got the budget, the stars, and an inchworm of an idea that he’ll decide to play around with after the first-half – nope, this time Woody is going for the kisser and not apologizing for it. This is all to say that Deconstructing Harry is quite funny, but in a far different way that makes me feel better about Woody Allen, the writer – his jokes aren’t necessarily played-up for the smarter people of the crowd, but more for anyone who appreciates a good joke when they’re given one.

It sounds so stupid in hindsight, but honestly, good, consistent humor in a Woody Allen movie can sometimes be hard to find. Sure, every once and awhile, you’ll get a sly or witty line passed by some character here and there, but here, Woody’s throwing out jokes left and right. Do they all work? Not really – the whole bit involving Billy Crystal as the Devil could have probably bit the dust in the editing-room – however, the moments where the comedy works, it really works and is worthy of a big, howling laugh.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Yes, I know, it sounds stupid, but trust me, it totally matters.

But it’s not like Deconstructing Harry is better than most other Woody Allen movies because it’s darker and funnier (although, those are two attributes that help it), but because what Woody himself seems to be talking about is interesting. Harry Block’s life is such a whirlwind filled with heartbreak, anger, resentment, and controversy, that writing about it, gets him into hot water with those around him and eventually, he alienates himself from the rest of the world. Clearly, Woody seems to be channeling his own, inner-most demons and it’s neat to see play-out, as Woody himself definitely feels guilty for hurting the people that he’s hurt in the past, but also knows that the same hurt that he’s caused, is the same kind that’s brought him so much fame, fortune and respect in the biz.

So yeah, Woody’s talking about himself a lot here, but it works. Woody himself is quite good in the movie, but really, he’s meant to let others do all the work for him and show that they’re worthy of being here. People like Tobey Maguire, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Kirstie Alley, and others, don’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but are still funny and well worth their short time here. Why none of these people have bothered to show up in a Woody Allen movie is beyond me, but then again, maybe they, too, don’t want to waste time on something that’s going to just be “mediocre”.

Then again, neither do I, and I still can’t stop watching his movies.

Consensus: With a darker, more energetic edge, Deconstructing Harry shows a meaner side of Woody Allen that we hardly ever see, that’s both funny and interesting.

8 / 10

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Barton Fink (1991)

Started the whole, “What’s in the box?” idea, way before “What’s in the box?” became a pop-culture sensation.

Barton Fink (John Turturro), an acclaimed playwright, is asked to come out all the way to Hollywood, despite his own, as well as his agent’s reservations toward that line of business. When Barton does get to Hollywood, not only does he go through an incredibly terrible case of writer’s block, but everything else around him seems to be falling apart and not making a single-lick of sense, either. But that’s why he has a good buddy, in fellow neighbor Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) to keep him company and most of all, keep him sane. Eventually though, Charlie’s word begins to crumble down, piece by piece, as well,  and Barton starts to realize that maybe Charlie isn’t exactly who he seems to be at all. Hell, he may not even be real.

People, people, people! It’s time for me to reveal to you all a deep and dark secret: I still don’t get this movie. I know, it’s been three years since the last time I actually sat-down and watched this movie, didn’t know what to make of it the first time, wrote a crappy review of it, posted it, advertised it and forgot all about it. However, three years later, something hit me in the head and made me realize that maybe now that I pay attention to movies a lot better and understand more, maybe, just maybe, this movie will have as huge of an effect on me as it seems to be having on every single-person who has ever watched?!!??! Ehh, then again, maybe not. But at least it tried and made me like it a lot more than last time.

Exactly how I feel when watching a Coen Brothers movie: Scared, worried, interested, but also left in the dark.

Exactly how I feel when watching a Coen Brothers movie: Scared, worried, interested, but also left in the dark.

The Coen Brothers have never really made it “their thing” to go out there, write movies and absolutely confuse the hell out of people with under-lining themes and symbolism. A lot of their material has twists and turns you don’t expect, and sometimes, feature shifts between genres, but they never have really pulled anything where it made me scratch my head. They are sort of straight-forward directors that tell straight-forward stories, yet, are very complex in their own right. This one is by far their most complex and I think that’s with good reason because the Coens have something to talk about and finally have the chance to be taken seriously.

And for the most part, being taken seriously is something they didn’t have to worry about being absent from their future because this movie definitely shows that these guys got something “going on” in terms of originality. The story starts off pretty simple, and then gets a bit weird, then weirder, and weirder, and weirder, until you have no idea what the hell is happening. But through it all, you can tell there are buckets of inspiration streaming out from the pores of the Coens, that just comes with them working their rumps off. You never know where this story is going to go with itself, or why, but that’s sort of a good thing because it added to the unpredictability of it all and made the ride through this guy’s wacky brain all the more entertaining and intriguing to be apart of. Never have nervous-breakdowns been so much fun to watch.

Now, aside from what the Coens do with this flick, I do have to say that there is some stuff here that I still don’t get, but also still don’t feel like I have to. It’s late right now as I’m typing this review and in all honesty, I’m probably going to go to bed after this, which really means I’m not going to get to read, each and every single line and detail of this movie on it’s Wikipedia page. I kid you not, you go on over to that link right there and just gaze at how freakin’ long that page is! Seriously, I mean, I thought I thought about this movie a bit too much, but hell, it seems like I didn’t think of enough because everybody else in the world was going bonkers over what the meaning was behind that mysterious mosquito.

I like films that make me think more than I’m expected to, I do, but this film seems like it has a bit too much going on with itself to the point of where not only did it lose me, but loses itself a tad as well. Let me get something straight, critics freakin’ love this movie and hail it as a masterpiece and I know exactly why: Filled with allusions to other works, symbolism out the wazoo, makes fun of Hollywood, all while focusing on about 3,000 different themes of the human-condition and themes of that era. That’s the sort of stuff that critics “get” and absolutely love (no offense to my fellow homeboys out there), and it’s no surprise that most of this film flew over my head, as well as most of the regular-viewing audience that was probably expecting the Coens to comeback with guns, twists, turns and a bit of bloodshed. Some of that does eventually happen, but in a more “intellectually sound” way, to be exact.

But being a “critical-darling” isn’t the best thing in the world to have, and that’s where it hit me that this film may have thrown out more than it could have held. The Coens definitely have a sharp-ear for dialogue that interests the hell out of you and visual-tricks that catch you off-guard, but this story and what it’s trying to say really takes away from all of the beauty here. I get that Hollywood blows and it’s very hard to get a script financed there because how everybody’s so tight and strict up there. Don’t worry, I got that part, more than a few times. However, right when I thought I wanted a new theme/idea for the Coens to bring up, I wanted to go back to the whole Hollywood-angle, mainly because the Coens started throwing all of these other ideas at the screen, seeing what would stick and what would fall without anybody noticing, since because they are, you know, THE Coen Brothers. Some characters will bring up the war, some will bring up homosexuality, some will bring up the common-man and others will just bring up drinking and having a good time and all seem like meaningless, small-talk, written by guys who know how to do it compellingly, but it just becomes a total cluster-fuck of ideas that are never drawn-out well-enough to fully have everybody’s attention and have us understanding everything, either. Then again, it’s always a refresher to get a movie that doesn’t always spell-out everything for ya and at least allows you to do some of the brain-work on your own time.

Usually, the sight of John Goodman walking towards me would make me smile with glee, but with the flames in the background: Eh, not so much. I'd just run.

Usually, the sight of John Goodman walking towards me would make me smile with glee, but with the flames in the background: Eh, not so much. I’d just run.

I just wish my brain didn’t hurt so much right now as we speak and while I type this. Ouch!

Even though he’s the guy that gets caught up in all of this craziness and rubble, John Turturro still comes out unscathed and does a magnificent job as Barton Fink, if not giving one of his best performances ever here. What makes Fink such an interesting character from the start, is that the guy is a bit of a weirdo, but he’s just like you or me: He’s talented at something so much, that he’s going to venture out and see if he can make a living in the big-leagues. I know everybody wants to do this and that’s what makes it so cool how Fink is just ready to get started right away as soon as he gets the call. Then, we start to sympathize with Fink as time goes on and things start to get weirder and weirder for him, but Turturro never loses that edge that makes us like the guy so much in the first place. Turturro is great here because he keeps this character worth watching, even when Fink himself may not make the best decisions. However, it’s just what makes him a person. Loved watching Turturro in this because the guy just continued to get crazier and crazier, but as he was, he was also getting more believable and sane, if you can believe that or not.

John Goodman plays the friendly-as-heaven neighbor of his, Charlie, and is just a ball to watch on-screen as you couldn’t have asked for a more lovable guy to play a lovable character. Goodman has this look and feel to him that just makes you feel at home whenever he shows up here, automatically making the flick better and liven things up with this story, as well as Barton himself. He and Barton have a nice friendship that starts off well and believable, and never loses that aspect as  the movie continues on. The way they talk, interact and make each other feel (not Brokeback Mountain-feeling, neither), without having to worry about all of their troubles out there in the real world, it all just felt real, despite all of the nuttiness surrounding it. They are just two dudes, who met one another and are now just hanging out whenever they can. It’s so fun to watch and it’s also definitely one of Goodman’s best performances, as well.

However, as much as Turturro and Goodman may be the two main stars here, they don’t steal the show. The real one who steals the show the most in this flick is Michael Lerner as Jack Lipnick, the head-honcho at Capitol Pictures. Lerner has three scenes that probably each last about five-minutes each, but he makes every single second count and is just so much fun to watch as he brings energy, bombast and creativity to a role that could have easily just been a bunch of “Hollywood sucks” cliches thrown right at the screen. Obviously Lerner left a big enough impression because the guy was nominated for an Oscar, but still, that doesn’t matter; because without him, this probably wouldn’t have been as smart or entertaining of a take on Hollywood than it already was. But, once again, trust me, it’s not Hollywood they just talk about here. Just check that Wikipedia page again if you’re at all interested and want to stop reading my rants and raves.

Consensus: No doubt about it, people will forever be scratching their heads and wondering just what the hell is up with Barton Fink, but you still can’t deny that it’s entertaining, interesting, original and a very well-acted piece of work that keeps your brain working the whole time, even if you do end on a bit of a question mark.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If only Jersey beaches were this calm, peaceful and poetic.

If only Jersey beaches were this calm, peaceful and poetic. Damn you, Wildwood!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Just eat cakes! Who cares if she said it or not!

If you were the one who fell asleep during “the French portion” of World History Class, don’t worry; this movie has you covered. Kirsten Dunst plays the Archduchess of Austria and soon-to-be Queen of France from her beginning days where her and her husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) struggle to bang and get pregnant, to the latter where she had a whole country demanding her head. Funny how time changes, isn’t it?

Even though I know the song about her, and I know the (untrue) statement she apparently made, I still know a lot about Marie Antoinette; who she was, what she did, and all of the other background shizz about her. No, it’s not that I’m some weird dude who enjoys looking up historical figures, it’s mainly because the class I’m taking now for college, just got done covering her, France at the time, and the aftermath. So, yeah, basically: I know my shit.

Apparently, by the looks of it, Sofia Coppola doesn’t. There were plenty of times in this flick where I wanted to slap her, or slap something by all of the historical inaccuracies here, solely for the fact that it probably would have helped the film. I get that Coppola couldn’t be any less concerned with the nitty-bitty details of M-A’s life, but when you have a movie that’s focusing on making her a sympathetic/real person; you need to have all of those details in there and not simply make random shit up. I don’t mind when a movie does that just for shits and gigs, but it didn’t feel right here. It felt like Coppola tried to do whatever she could to keep this movie fun, entertaining, and interesting, but even taking liberties with the story didn’t seem to help either. Something else was going on here that I still need to put my finger on.

Ehh, I've seen bigger and more lush!

Ehh, I’ve seen bigger and more lush!

Coppola has that certain style to her directing and writing that works wonders, and other times; totally misses the mark. Here’s one of the latter-instances. Coppola is a gifted-filmmaker in the way that she is able to tell a story and an emotion, not just through having the characters say something, but by giving us a visual or a single-shot that convey whatever it is that she wants to convey. She’s one of the very-rare filmmakers that can do that now, and actually get away with it without being labeled as “pretentious”, “snobby”, or “an artsy-farsty mofo”. However, it doesn’t aid in her in anyway here, and makes the story seem duller instead.

For instance, there are plenty of scenes where it seems as if Coppola didn’t really seem to worry too much about the story, and decided to focus on what made the movie look pretty. It works, that’s for sure, but it does seem like over-kill and a bit of a waste, considering that this is a 2 hour film, that’s primarily dedicated to shots of Dunst playing in the grass and looking happy. Once again, doesn’t matter if you want to pull off a good shot once or twice, but when it starts to take over the rest of the movie and get rid of the substance, then it gets dull. Very, very dull.

But I can’t talk too much crap on Coppola and her visuals, because she does a hell of a great job with them. Not only is this movie beautiful from head-to-toe, but it’s also very impressive by all that it was able to capture on film. Apparently Coppola was actually able to film in and out of the actual Versailles, which is an opportunity that Coppola does not take for granted, considering she makes us feel as if we really are with all of these high-class, royal S.O.B’s, and watching them as they party, drink, smoke, have sex, fondle, and play games as if they were at a P. Diddy party.

Oh, and they are all doing it to the sweet tunes of whatever the hell Coppola had on her iPod at the time of filming. In the beginning of the flick, we get a bits and pieces of actual, alternative-rock songs playing somewhere in the background, but for the most part; Coppola keeps it cool with the anachronisms. Then, out of nowhere, Coppola seems to have had enough with 18th Century ways, and decides to unleash what she’s got ringing in her ears, and it’s all thanks to that Bow Wow Wow song that you’ve heard a million times (and done better by this guy, by the way). After this track comes seemingly out of nowhere, then Coppola goes ball to the walls with any punk rock/alt. rock song in the history of man that she can find, and it works more than it doesn’t, because it actually glues you into the party-atmosphere that these snobs seem to be reveling in. Goes to show you that Tarantino and Luhrmann aren’t alone when it comes to using songs randomly, but perfectly to fit a tone.

The fact that Coppola was able to make this story more centered towards M-A, what she went through, how she got through it, and all of the problems she had to overcome, worked in most areas, but didn’t in others. The areas that it did work in were all thanks to Kirsten Dunst as M-A because she gives not only a great performance that shows her being young, nimble, wild, and free to do whatever she wants and (sort of) get away with it, but it’s also a very subtle one in the way that she’s able to convey so many feelings this lady must have been going through in real-life. The fact that M-A was so young when she got married, was forced to get pregnant, and basically thrown on the throne as queen is something that makes you think about how she got over all of it, but also makes you feel for her a bit, the same way you would want someone to feel for you, had you been thrown into the same situation. This part of the character is where Dunst works best in and once the movie decides to drop the champagne, the cakes, and the sex-games, then that’s when Dunst decides to take herself a bit seriously and you see a young girl who has seemingly come into her own. However, as we all know: it was too little, too late for her.

"Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year."

“Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year.”

In a role that seemed more like an in-joke, rather than anything worth even taking seriously, Jason Schwartzman does fine with what he has to do as Louis XVI, but the movie isn’t all that bothered with him or his character. The whole first-half of the movie is practically dedicated to him just being a pansy, not being able to make love to his wife, and knocking her up. Once that’s all said and done with, then the guy is shown as a pansy who can’t keep his wife satisfied and basically allows for her to stay at these parties where she (presumably) bangs other dudes. Don’t know how much of that is actually true, but from what I’m able to gather: Louis XVI was a bit of a wimp.

The rest of the cast is fine and seem like they had a great time going on the set for a little play-date they liked to call dress-up. Rip Torn plays the philandering king to perfection because he’s grimy as you could imagine; Asia Argento loves scumming it up as the whore that the king is philandering with; Judy Davis does her usual, weird-face thingy that we all know her for; and Steve Coogan is here as well, but not really doing anything funny. When you have “The Coogs” in a movie, I don’t care what it is: you have to make him do or say something in the least-bit funny. Without any of that, what’s the point of even having him around in the first-place? Just for show? Baloney!

Consensus: Coppola’s style and vision slows the feel and pace of Marie Antoinette down, especially when it doesn’t need to, but at least it’s still left to be seen with it’s beautiful look, desired-attention to the finer-details (talking about the set-pieces, not the actual story), and fine performance from Dunst in the lead role, that showed that she was maturing more and more by the roles she began to take.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, you're going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, just like your mother was."

“One day, you’re going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, who wasted all of her country’s money on lavish parties to satisfy your boredom.”

To Rome with Love (2012)

Come back to America Woody! Spare all of these other countries of your quirkiness!

The film is made up of four distinct vignettes of people in Italy —some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors—and the romantic adventures they get into.

After last year’s sleeper-hit, Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen seemed like he was destined for a real comeback and people would start taking him seriously again. Sadly, he sort of knocks that reputation back down in the ground.

This whole film is played off as a bunch of skits, that just take place over one movie without any real connection to one another, other than the fact that they all take place in the same city. This would have totally worked perfectly if any of these skits were as interesting as they seemed to be. Allen’s writing is usually funny and witty, but here, a lot of it feels forced and a lot of the skits get drawn-out a little too much to the point of where it’s over-kill and you just want him to move onto the next story. Problem with that, is the next story is probably more lame than the one that preceded. Therefore, you just have a bunch of skits that don’t work and you can’t really look forward to.

I usually get Allen’s sense of humor, which in some cases, I did here as well, but I don’t think there was a single serious moment in this film. All of the drama here, is downplayed and made to be like it doesn’t exist just because these characters and these stories are too zany and wild for it. To me, I thought there could have been some more emotional honesty to this product, especially when you have stories about couples that are sleeping around on one another. Now I wasn’t asking for Allen to get down and dirty with his dramatic self, but I was just asking for a bit more drama here than I actually got.

Although, as lame as this film may be, most of it is made better because of the cast, some of which are great, and some of which that just don’t hit the right notes. Woody Allen‘s long-awaited return to the front of the screen, is probably the highlight of this movie, not only because he knows how to sell his own material perfectly, but because it seems like his character will never grow old or get annoying. He’s just Woody Allen being Woody Allen, and that’s all I asked for. Well, that’s all I asked for when it come to the acting department. Penelope Cruz brings a lot of flair to her role as a sexy call-girl, in one of the stories that actually is a lot more interesting and could have been played out in it’s own film alone.

Another good performance from this cast is from Alec Baldwin, even though it was very unsure what the hell his character actually was in this movie. He comes off as a narrator for this one story involving Eisenberg, then everybody else sees him and can communicate with him, but then he just sort of shows up out of nowhere, like a ghost who just won’t go away. I really didn’t get this character and what made it even worse was that the story he was in, totally sucked. Honestly, when you have two talents like Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page together in a Woody Allen movie, you would expect them to be hilarious, passion-driven, and believable, but sadly, none of that happens for either of them. Eisenberg’s shtick doesn’t do much and Page comes off as an annoying pretentious actress that just wants to hear herself talk and I get that is what the film is trying to convey about her, but that doesn’t make me like her anymore than I already did. Also, no passion between them whatsoever and I would have much rather seeing Eisenberg and Gerwig in a film together, all by their lonesome selves.

Oh, and I must not forget about Roberto Benigni, who I haven’t seen in quite some time and probably has one of the dumbest skits in the whole movie, which is really saying something. His plot is basically all about him being this random celebrity that people want to know more about, girls want to sleep with, and little kids want autographs from, but it’s never made clear exactly why that is and exactly what’s so extraordinary about this guy in the first place. Benigni’s a lot more tied-down in this role and doesn’t let himself get too crazy with this role, but when he does, it’s annoying and it just made me wish he stayed away from this film with the remains of Pinocchio. Don’t worry, this movie is better than that one.

Consensus: It’s obvious that Woody Allen loves Rome and all of its beauties, but he never shows that through his writing or direction here. Instead, everything comes off as forced, contrived, lame, boring, and nothing all that exciting to stay around for and watch again. It’s just a lazy Woody Allen. Boooo!

3.5/10=Crapola!!

Husbands and Wives (1992)

Breaking up with a person really does take a lot of energy.

Director Woody Allen stars with Mia Farrow in his comedy as a long-married New York couple whose own relationship starts to crumble when their best friends (Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis) announce they’re separating. Smoldering resentments and unexpected jealousies soon rise to the surface, erupting in savage humor and hilariously unpredictable reunions.

When it comes to showing human emotions, basically about anything, Woody Allen is always known for showing it in its best, and brutally honest way. Although he is a huge dirt, I still love his work and can consider this a good one as well.

The one thing about this film that you have to know is that it’s incredibly honest about how relationships really are. We leave them sometimes, and were not exactly sure, until we start to think about it over ourselves and know we made a mistake. Allen brings that up countless times, showing these 4 characters trying to find anyway of expression of love, so they can be happy, as well as their partner. As usual with Allen, there is plenty of dry humor in this, but it’s also very dark. These people are constantly bickering, fighting, betraying, and hurting one another, all over love, and it’s kind of in a way it’s very mean spirited, but we don’t get that because of Allen’s tone.

I did have a couple of problems with this film that kind of did take the effect of this film down for me. I never understood why they were doing a random documentary feel to the film. It was kind of stupid and didn’t really allow many things to happen on its own, it was just telling us. Also, the little sub-plot between Allen and Juliette Lewis starts off good, but after awhile things just start to get dumb, because I knew what was going to happen between these two, everybody else watching this movie did too, his character was the only one who didn’t know, or even think about it, which was pretty stupid.

Woody Allen is as usual good here, playing Woody Allen nothing else. Mia Farrow is also sweet, but good ehre as well, and this was their last film together until the shit hit the fan with Allen and “his adopted daughter” Soon Yi Previn. It’s weird watching this film, cause the whole time it just feels like fore-shadowing between these two. The two best in the cast without a doubt is Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis who just eat up the screen every time their on it. You can see the emotions they feel, through their speech, and through they way they act, which is something great, cause they use their comedic timing to connect with the audience and make their characters all the more realistic. Liam Neeson is in this two before he became a big star, and does pretty good with the material, giving a lot more to his character than we were expecting.

Consensus: It may not be the best thing Allen has ever done, but it is cleverly written, with enough comedy, and dark drama, to keep you watching, as well with the perfect performances backing it all up.

7/10=Rental!!

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Sometimes Woody Allen can be such a trip.

Self-absorbed novelist Harry Block (Woody Allen) sees his literary chickens come home to roost after he pens a roman à clef that offends, enrages and alienates everyone in his orbit. The film’s sterling cast also includes Elisabeth Shue as Harry’s ex-girlfriend, Kirstie Alley as his former spouse, Bob Balaban as his best pal and Judy Davis as the erstwhile sister-in-law who wants to murder Harry.

The central plot features Block driving to a university from which he was once thrown out, in order to receive an honorary degree. Three passengers accompany him on the journey: a prostitute, a friend, and his son, whom he has kidnapped from his divorced wife. However, there are many flashbacks, segments taken from Block’s writing, and interactions with his own fictional characters. The random cuts between fact and fiction may confuse some but once you understand the characters who are real and fake, then you’ll get the story.

A lot of this is taken from Woody Allen’s own life as sort of an autobiographical take, and I must say this is probably one of his most challenging, tragic, and mature work to date. This film still has his great writing that is witty and packed with many of his smart ideas about his own personal life and overall everything else in the world. There is a lot of dirty talk which I was very surprised about coming from an Allen film, and I think he hits the mark on how he uses his art to connect.

The jokes I had a huge problem with though, and its that it isn’t the smart way Woody Allen uses his jokes. Its too much about the stereotypes of Jewish people, and black people that kind of got old by the third act. Also, the joke of how Robin Williams was always out of focus was funny at first then they used the joke probably about 14 more times to the point where it became an annoyance.

The best thing about this film is its leading performance from the always great Woody Allen who basically takes this lead role, and make it into a real-life person. He captures the confusion, and depression of his characters life, and always seem real. Except that his character is such a dick and has messed his life up so much that its kind of hard to root for him and enjoy him when he’s on-screen. The film has a lot of good side performances but nothing memorable, except for probably the Billy Crystal who uses a lot of ad-lib between him and Allen, and is a great thing to see.

Consensus: Woody Allen doesn’t make his best work with Deconstructing Harry, but surely one his most mature work. Too many jokes seem out-of-place, and over-used, but with enough smart writing and a good central performance from Allen, its a pretty difficult enjoyable trip.

7/10=Rental!!