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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Woody Allen

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Went to Coney Island and Man, We’re People Annoying.

It’s Coney Island in the 1950’s and there are a bunch of people who are just doing their best to get by, whatever the hell that even means. There’s Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house and yeah, she doesn’t quite like it. There’s Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband who just wants the best for his family, even though he knows that’s easier said then done. There’s Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and instantly takes a liking to Ginny, despite her marital-status. And lastly, there’s Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Together, all four are just trying to get by, finding work, finding love, and oh yeah, finding a whole heck of a lot of issues along the way.

He could save me from drowning any day.

Wonder Wheel is, yet again, another one of Woody Allen’s less inspired efforts, although it does flirt with the idea of being something so much more and something so much better. And yet, it doesn’t. It sort of just sits there, stagnate, telling its story, its characters, conflicts, and just moving at its own even-pace. Which is odd, because Wonder Wheel is never all that funny to be a comedy, nor is it really all that sad or emotional to be considered a “drama”; it’s mostly just a bunch of dialogue, with bits that seem like comedy and drama, yet never reach that magnitude.

Which had me thinking, “Why doesn’t Woody Allen give television another try?”

I know that Crisis in Six Scenes was considered a bomb (though I didn’t mind it), but seriously, with so much TV out there that blurs the line between comedy and drama, there’s a part of me that wonders, with more time, effort, and care, Allen may be able to make a great TV show. Of course, though, you could say the same thing about the movies he makes, where each and everyone only takes a year to write, shoot, edit, and release, which is surprising for an 82-year-old man, but also obviously inconsistent. It’s almost as if every 7th flick or so from Allen is good, whereas all the others are just incredibly mediocre or fine.

And yes, Wonder Wheel is that movie where it seems like it Allen may have an inspired idea, but doesn’t really go there. He could have chosen to crack jokes about post-WWII America and the utter nostalgia that frames every inch of the beautifully-lit screen here, but instead, he settles for a story about four people, finding love and inspiration on Coney Island. If Allen actually cared, these characters would be compelling, but that’s the rub: It almost seems like he doesn’t. It’s as if everyone written here were already small sketches that he somehow got the green-light to make more of, but rather than working on said characters, he just continued to write more and more plot.

It’s like the Sopranos, with Jim Belushi, somehow.

And it’s a bit of a sad affair that, without the actors in it, would have been terribly boring.

But it isn’t and that’s because the cast all come ready to play and give it their all. Kate Winslet is going way wacky and over-the-top here as Ginny, but the woman sells it because she’s funny, a little sad, and a little different from what we’re used to seeing from Woody Allen’s heroines. For one, she’s older and going after a younger man, so already, she’s a ground-breaker, but yeah, she’s also an enjoyable presence in the movie that I would have loved to have seen in another movie that cared more about her. Justin Timblerake is fine as the lifeguard that Ginny falls for and while a lot of people have been ragging on Timberlake’s performance here, he’s okay enough to where he handles himself well, even among the crowd of talented people he’s stuck with.

But really, my favorite is probably Jim Belushi as the depressed and rather upset husband of Ginny. This character is interesting in that we’ve seen Allen play with these sorts of characters and make them completely awful human beings (see Danny Aiello in the Purple Rose of Cairo), whereas Belushi’s role as the husband is a lot more sad and sympathetic. Usually, these characters are mean and cruel, but this guy seems like he just wants a little bit more love out of life, isn’t getting it, but isn’t going to give up, either. He’s the kind of character who I wanted to give a hug, too, but once again, Allen steps a bit shy of actually giving this character more to deal with. It’s mostly just Belushi doing all that he can and he makes it work.

Wish I could say that about the rest of the movie.

Consensus: Never quite settling on a tone, Wonder Wheel is another middling-effort from Woody Allen, who seems to get by with beautiful visuals, a nostalgic setting, and solid cast, but can’t quite get his scripts to work.

5 / 10

Wrong attire for the beach, but hey, at least you’re here!

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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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

New York Stories (1989)

Now that I think about it, New York’s kind of lame.

New York is chock full of interesting little lives and stories that are just waiting to be heard and seen. One concerns a passionate, but confused painter (Nick Nolte), who is struggling to come up with new and interesting ideas, none of which are made any easier when his girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette), walks back into his life without promising to be everything that he needs. Another concerns Zoë (Heather McComb), a little schoolgirl who lives in a luxury hotel and constantly dreams about her father (Giancarlo Giannini) and mother (Talia Shire) getting back together, once and for all. And lastly, one concerns a New York lawyer named Sheldon Mills (Woody Allen), who thinks he’s finally met the love of his life (Mia Farrow), even if his overbearing mother (Mae Questel), doesn’t think so. This brings Sheldon to wishing that she’d just go away once and for all; his dream eventually does come true, except not in the way that he wanted, nor did he ever expect.

Paint it black, please.

Paint it black, please.

The biggest issue with anthology films is that you always run the risk of one portion being way better than all of the rest. In the case of New York Stories, given the talent on-board, it’s honestly a shock that none of the segments are really all that good; there’s one that’s more tolerable than the rest, but honestly, it’s sort of like grasping at straws. And yes, just in case any of you were wondering, New York Stories is an anthology flick featuring three, 35-40 minute segments from Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen, respectively.

Let me repeat them all one more time.

Martin Scorsese.

Francis Ford Coppola.

And Woody Allen.

So, why the heck on Earth is this movie incredibly lame? Honestly, from what it looks like on the outside, all three directors had been wanting to do something together for quite some time, however, just never had the right time, or package to do so. Then, a hot-shot, studio exec thought of a grand idea, in having them all contribute to a three-part anthology flick, where people would all get drawn in by the fact that these three directing legends are somehow, slightly coming together on a project for the whole world to see.

Except that this was all happening in the late-80’s, and not the mid-to-late-70’s, when they were all at the top of their game. And also, rather than waiting for them to all have something worthy of filming and throwing into the movie, it appears that each director picked up whatever script they had lying on the ground, had an obligation, was forced to direct something, and just decided to roll with that. Sure, I’m speculating here, but after seeing the final product, I couldn’t imagine New York Stories coming together or being put-together in any other way.

Pictured: The future heir to the Ford Coppola legacy

Pictured: The future heir to the Ford Coppola legacy

For one, Scorsese’s bit is “meh”, at the very best. He gets a lot of mileage out of a neat soundtrack that seems to intentionally ram “A Winter Shade of Pale” down our throats, but honestly, there’s no meat to whatever story was supposed to take place here. Apparently, Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette’s characters are supposed to have some sort of sexy, fiery and ruthless relationship, but they don’t have any sex, and then Steve Buscemi shows up, and uh, yeah, I don’t know. Nick Nolte paints a lot and that’s about it. It’s boring, nonsensical, and most of all, uninteresting.

Words I never thought I’d describe something of Scorsese’s, but hey, such is the case.

Then again, Scorsese’s segment isn’t nearly as terrible as Coppola’s.

Yes, Coppola’s segment is notorious for possibly being the worst thing he’s ever directed in his life and, well, I can’t argue with that. It’s really bad, in the sense that it seems like Coppola had no clue of what to film, or actually do with the time and money given to him, so he just decided to make a movie for his kids. Sure, the character of Zoe is cute, but it’s placed in the middle of two, very adult segments that really, it serves no purpose or place in this movie altogether. Why anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place, is totally beyond me.

Heck, I don’t even think Coppola knows what to make of it still to this very day.

But thankfully, the smartest decision of New York Stories is to allow for Woody Allen’s segment to be the very last because, well, it’s the best. Once again, that’s not saying much, but it works because it’s quintessential Woody – light, breezy, simple, funny, and most of all, entertaining. The other two segments, despite appearing as if they were fun to film, don’t really come off as such; Woody, working with a really silly, almost cheeseball-ish plot-line, gets a lot of mileage out of looking like he’s enjoying his time filming this goofy story.

Does it save the movie?

Sort of. But if there was ever a reason to not feel optimistic of any anthology feature, regardless of talent involved, it’s New York Stories.

Consensus: Despite Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese each having something to do with the final product, New York Stories sort of begins on a whim, continues with a snore, and ends on a somewhat likable whimper.

5 / 10

Every Jewish man's dream and/or nightmare, come true. It depends on who you talk to, really.

Every Jewish man’s dream and/or nightmare, come true. It depends on who you talk to, really.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Whatever Works (2009)

Living with Larry David can’t be all that bad.

Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is pretty tired with the world around him. When he’s not picking a fight with the kids he teaches chess to, he’s crying on and on about everything he can find himself to complain about like politics, sex, books, entertainment, and yes, women. He even goes so far as to talk to “them” – mysterious people out there in the world that he thinks are always watching him, no matter what he does or says. That’s why, one night, he decides to end it all and throw himself out of a window. Problem is, he doesn’t succeed and is forced to live with his sad and miserable life. It all changes one day though, when a random drifter named Melody (Evan Rachel Wood), comes to his door-step all of the way from the Deep South. While Boris is initially against Melody, the two end up hanging together, more and more, teaching each other things about life that neither originally knew about. Which is fine and all, until they start to fall for one another – something that everyone around them seem to have problems with.

Even Ed is begging for that next season of Curb.

Even Ed is begging for that next season of Curb.

Why haven’t Larry David and Woody Allen worked together before? Honestly? I mean, with the exception of his small bit in Allen’s segment in New York Stories, it’s crazy to think that two people on this Earth as similar as David And Allen haven’t gotten together to cook-up something lovely and magical before. Sure, you could blame that on the fact that David liked to stay behind-the-scenes for a large portion of his career, but either way, it’s worth bringing up because, even though Whatever Works isn’t Woody’s worst, it also isn’t his best, either.

Which is a shame because, once again, David and Allen could make magic happen.

However, time has passed and over the years, Woody Allen has definitely lost his touch. That’s why another story featuring a much-older man and much-younger woman falling for one another, for no reason because they stand one another and talk about the more infuriating things in life, already sounds boring. After all, it’s the story that Allen’s been working with since the beginning of his career and honestly, just taking him out and putting David in can only help matters so much.

And yes, David is playing himself, but he’s also the stand-in for Allen himself, which is a tad bit confusing, because the two aren’t all that different. In fact, it’s honestly a wonder to me how much of this was scripted, or how much of it was David deciding to take an eraser to some stuff he didn’t like and just roll with what he had? I really don’t know, but regardless, David is fine in this role; he can sometimes lash out and say the same things, over and over again, but that’s sort of the point of this character. He’s supposed to be a grump and always have an issue with the world around him.

In other words, he’s Larry David. Signed. Sealed. And delivered.

Others around David are quite fine, too. Evan Rachel Wood’s character may start out as a caricature, but eventually starts to show more shadings that make her likable; Patricia Clarkson shows up about halfway through and makes the movie a whole lot better; Henry Cavill in a young role of his, is as charming as they come and as you’d expect for Superman to be; and Ed Begley, Jr. showing up for not too long, is actually the funniest of the whole cast.

Where's his glasses?

Where’s his glasses?

But still, a fine cast doesn’t always make a great movie, and that’s where Whatever Works sometimes falls. It isn’t that the movie itself is bad – Allen’s annoying writing is toned-down enough to where it doesn’t get in the way of the story, or the characters – but it also doesn’t change much up about what we’ve seen from Allen in the past. His characters talk about existentialism, they fight, they screw, they drink, they host dinner parties, they listen to jazz, they go on walks to the park, and yeah, that’s pretty much it. Occasionally, Allen himself will throw a small twist in there for good measure to make us think that he realizes a lot of his movies are the same, but really, does any of it matter?

Woody is getting up there in age and a lot of his movies are starting to seem a little like the same thing, over and over again? Does that make them “bad”? Not necessarily; they’re enjoyable and pleasant because he has a knack for catching the right tone with his movies and always getting the best and brightest talents for his flicks, but that doesn’t always make a “great” movie.

Even if your movie does have Larry David complaining to the camera.

Now, how could that be “bad”?

Consensus: While not his worst, nor his best, Whatever Works gets by because of its charming cast, but really, is a solid example of Woody possibly running out of ideas.

6 / 10

She's going to learn to hate life and everyone in it after that conversation.

She’s going to learn to hate life and everyone in it after that conversation.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

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

Irrational Man (2015)

If you’re depressed, sometimes, all you need is a little crime.

Philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) isn’t exactly in the right place of his career, or his life currently. For one, he’s just taken up a new teaching job at a Rhode Island college, Braylin, for summer courses and he’s always bored. He’s also going through something of an existential crisis where he contemplates suicide daily and can’t seem to maintain an erection, even when he’s with the lovely and super horny Rita (Parker Posey). And now, to make matters worse, he’s starting to find himself fall head-over-heels for a student of his, Jill Pollard (Emma Stone), who feels strongly about him too, even though she’s already gotten a boyfriend (Jamie Blackley). Though Abe doesn’t want to have any sort of romantic relationship with Jill because it would be inappropriate and unprofessional of him, he still can’t seem to hold back on his affections. So basically, Abe is not feeling too happy about his life right now and needs something to wake him up from this metaphorical slumber and put him back on-track. What will wake him up, though? Or better yet, will it even be legal?

It’s hard to talk about a movie like Irrational Man, because from what I know, not many people know about the twist that occurs about half-way through. Even though it was definitely hinted at in the months of pre-production and filming, many people I have spoken to, or at least have read reviews of, claim to have not known anything of the twist. Honestly, that surprises me a bit, but because I am a nice, kind, and generous human being, I will decide to hold back on spoiling anything related to the twist.

To be with Stone....

To be with Stone….

Which is a shame, because it surely makes this movie a lot harder to review now.

But what I will say about Irrational Man, in relation to that twist, is that when it comes around and shakes things up, Woody Allen’s writing gets a whole lot sharper. What’s interesting about a lot of Woody Allen’s movies is that they’re very hard to classify as “dramas” or “comedies”. He’s definitely had many that are either the latter, or a combination of both, but he doesn’t quite do the former nearly as much as he should. Even though Cassandra’s Dream was a bust, Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors forever rank as two of his better movies because they show Woody Allen in a different light than ever before. Sure, he may be able to deliver on the funny when need be, but when he wants to deliver a dark, sad and sometimes harrowing story, he can still hang with the best of them, even if there is a small wink at the audience every now and then.

And with Irrational Man, it seems as if he’s definitely come back to being slap dab in the middle of being a comedy, but with many, many dramatic undertones. Sometimes, that can cause a bit of a problem with this movie as it’s never full-known whether Allen himself is intentionally trying to make a drama, or if a lot of his dialogue just comes off in an incredibly stilted way, that it seems like comedy, but either way, there’s something more interesting here to watch than there is in say, something like To Rome With Love. Even if the bar isn’t set very high with that one, it’s still worth pointing out as a lot of Allen’s recent movies are very hit-or-miss nowadays.

Still though, there’s a lot to like here.

With Allen soon approaching 80, it’s not as if he really has anything new or interesting to say about life, love, relationships, poetry, literature, or anything else that’s discussed in his sorts movies, but there’s still something entertaining about the way in how these characters talk to one another. While the philosophical squabbles don’t really go anywhere, it’s interesting to see the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone deliver them to one another; the dialogue may not be as sharp as a tack, but it’s something different than what we’ve seen from these two before and it offers some entertainment just based solely on that level. There are bits that are funny, as well as there are ones that are just plain dramatic, but no matter what, it’s neat to see how Allen, no matter what number movie he’s on, seems to get certain stars to deliver his dialogue to the best of his ability.

Or, to be with Posey?

….0r, to be with Posey?

And with that said, Phoenix himself is pretty good here in a lighter role than from what we’re used to seeing from him. Phoenix doesn’t too often get to do comedy nowadays, and while he isn’t exactly supposed to be the most hilarious guy in the room here, there’s still some shadings of slight humor to be found if you look closely and deep into the cracks of this character and this performance. At the same time though, there’s still a lot going on with this character that’s a tad unsettling, and it just goes to show you the kind of talent that Phoenix is, to where he’s able to make you laugh along with him, as well as be disgusted by him as well.

The perfect antihero if there ever was one; something that Allen doesn’t write much of anymore.

Stone is quite good here, too, and gets to show that she’s a bit better at handling Allen’s dialogue than she was able to do in Magic in the Moonlight. The only problem that there is to be found with this character is that, sometime by the end, she goes through a change that makes her go from this lovable, doe-eyed and naive schoolgirl, to this Nancy Drew-like character who picks up on all sorts of clues that are miraculously dropped in her way. Once again, I’m being as vague about this fact as humanly possible, but it is something that didn’t seem too believable to me, even if Stone does try her hardest to make it work.

Because no matter what, it’s hard to hate this face. Maybe this face, but not this one.

Okay, I’m done now with my crush.

Consensus: A tad darker than most of Allen’s recent outputs, Irrational Man is slightly uneven, but benefits from solid performances from the cast and a smart twist that keeps certain themes from growing old.

7.5 / 10

Think it over, Joaquin. You've got some time.

Think it over, Joaquin. You’ve got some time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fading Gigolo (2014)

Always count on a neurotic Jew to score you some major poon.

Fioravante (John Turturro) is an aging man living in New York City who has come to a bit of a stand-still in his life; his bookshop has just recently closed down and now his flower shop may be in trouble as well. However, his best buddy, Murray (Woody Allen), comes up with a plan that may be a bit ridiculous, but ultimately, may work out for both of them in the end: Become a male prostitute. Murray believes this is a good idea because he knows a couple of lonely women that are in need of some male lovin’ – especially a Jewish widower by the name of Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who, despite being all about her faith, and the strict guidelines that come along with it, is willing to give Fiorvante a shot and see what all of the fuss is about. However, problems ensue for all three of them once a local policeman (Liev Schreiber) discovers what’s going on, and wants to take them all down. Which won’t just ruin the business Fioravante and Murray have going on, but the relationship they’ve built with Avigal herself.

You’ve got to hand it to John Turturro – the dude isn’t just writing and directing here, but he’s doing so in a movie that has him being portrayed as a total ladies man, that each and every girl he meets is willing to pay nearly $1,000 to bang. Not saying that Turturro isn’t a charmer by any means, but what I am saying is that since he’s the one who is all behind this piece, it does seem like he’s giving himself so much credit, that it becomes nearly “a fantasy”. Then again, you could say the same thing about more-than-a-half of Woody Allen’s movies, so I guess it all evens out.

"Love truly isn't something another person can understand. You know?"

“Love truly isn’t something another person can understand. You know?”

And speaking of Allen, his inclusion here in the cast seems very reasonable, although quite distracting to the final product: The movie itself seems like something Allen would write and direct in his own spare time, yet, isn’t. Instead, as mentioned before, this is a John Turturro movie and, needless to say, not everything’s as lovely as we’ve come to expect from a Woody Allen movie, no matter how mediocre one may be. Most of that has to do with the fact that Turturro just doesn’t seem like all that much of a charismatic director. Sure, he has a neat story on his hands, but surprisingly, it’s a rather dull, unexciting one that doesn’t take full advantage of the “fun” premise concocted here.

Some of that could be attributed to Turturro’s rather bland writing and directing, but some of it could also be pointed right towards he himself, the actor. See, Turturro, despite being one of my favorites, was surprisingly boring here. Not only does it seem like he’s sleep-walking through the role, but has intentionally written himself out as being so, just so that he can use that as a tool to allow the supporting cast to shine on and on, like most of them do on more than a few occasions. But, there’s a problem with that, because although Turturro allows the others to do their thing, his character constantly stays in the spotlight and when you have somebody as uninteresting as Fioravante, it’s hard to really want to see what happens to his character next. This is all bizarre too, because Turturro, in almost everything I’ve seen him in, is as charming as he could possibly be. But here, he’s just dull and painfully so as well.

And like I said before, this allows the supporting cast to do whatever it is that they want to do and have a good time doing so. Out of everybody, Woody Allen is the one who really seems like he’s having a blast, by just playing his typical, neurotic self. It’s an act that never ceases to get old or tiring, regardless of whose script it is that he’s reading. And although Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara bring some much needed sex-appeal to this story, their characters seem more like the stereotypical rich, horny and bored housewives that need more sexy-time than what they get from their own spouses. While it’s fun to see this unlikely duo play friends and be a little sexy, they don’t seem real, just two characters cobbled up from Turturro’s own imagination.

"So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?"

“So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?”

The only character who really seems to be devolved from any bit of reality is Vanessa Paradis’ Avigal, who plays this sad, lonely and slightly scared Jewish widow. Though she is fine in this role and she and Turturro create some nice bit of chemistry, the whole idea that the Jewish community would be going absolutely insane over such a unity is downright extreme. Maybe I’m wrong and this is what happens in those small, intimate Jewish communities, but something tells me the portrait Turturro has created here isn’t just unrealistic, but somewhat insulting. That these highly respected Jewish men would capture a person and take them in for countless lines of questioning relating to their business-dealings seems so goofy, that it’s not even funny – it’s just stupid and seemed like a lame way for Turturro to bring out any bit of comedy that he could.

That’s not to say that the whole movie is bad, it’s just that you can tell that, in the right hands, it could have been so much better. Maybe had this been in the hands of a more capable creator like, well, I don’t know, say Woody Allen, then this movie probably would have been better off and been able to actually be more than just a ludicrous “sex comedy”. Instead, it’s a ludicrous sex comedy that doesn’t have much of anything interesting to say, nor does it really seem to know what it’s about. It just goes through the motions and depends on its charming cast to win everybody over.

Which, in a way, it does, but only because of that damn Woody Allen.

Consensus: While it gets by mostly on its charming cast, Fading Gigolo doesn’t really have any point or direction in which it wants to go in, so instead, just relies on cheap gags and unbelievable plot-points that border on being “fantasy”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don't ever get.

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don’t ever get.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Imagine the film-version of Coldplay’s “Magic”, except less depressing and no Gwyneth Paltrow. Thankfully.

Stanley (Colin Firth) is a British illusionist who disguises himself as Wei Ling Soo, but when it comes to being off the stage and believing in anything like “magic”, or “tricks”, he can’t help but scoff at the idea of them actually being real. That’s why when an old confidante of his (Simon McBurney) asks him to come out to a friend’s land to expose a certain kind of “fortune teller”, he doesn’t hesitate to make his move. That’s why when Stanley shows up and realizes that this fortune teller of sorts is a young, bright little thing by the name of Sophie (Emma Stone) he chooses to not be swayed by his attraction to her, and keep his eyes on the prize: Showing the world that Sophie is indeed a phony. However, exactly what Stanley didn’t want to happen, happens when he finds himself not only falling for Sophie as a person, but also believing that she could be in contact with these dead spirits she goes on and on about/with. But, is Stanley not paying attention to what really lies in front of him because of the idea of love being present, or is Sophie really who she says she is?

“Another year, another Woody Allen movie” seems to be a constant statement whenever we come around to this time of the year and for the past decade or so, it’s a statement that’s usually been said with a slight groan following. That’s not to say that every Woody Allen movie lately has been considered “bad”, it’s just obvious that when a creator begins to lose his craft just a tad bit. But then one also has to think: If you’re constantly putting out a movie once, or in some cases, twice a year, does it really matter how amazing each one is in their own right? Or, can an auteur just be commended for his ability to constantly have something new cooking up, each and every year, no matter how old that person may be getting?

"I sense that sometime, quite possibly in the nearest future of all, I'll be working with the same guy standing behind that camera."

“I sense that sometime, quite possibly in the nearest future of all, I’ll be working with the same guy standing behind that camera.”

Personally, I believe that it’s all about the craft and if Woody Allen wants to keep making movies every year for the rest of his life, then I’m fine with that. Just as long as they are more like this and nowhere near being that piece of crap known as To Rome with Love. Or Cassandra’s Dream. Or You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Or Whatever Works. Or Anything Else. Or Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

But okay! I think you get where I’m going with this now – not every Woody Allen movie is going to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean they have to be crap either; they can just be extremely mediocre. Which is exactly what Magic in the Moonlight is, except a hell of a lot more breezy. Most of that has to do with the fact that this takes place in a lovely countryside of France, as well as kind of having something to do with the late summer release-date this has, but most of it, I’d like to think, can be attributed to the fact that Woody Allen has found himself a lovely pair of leads in the forms of Colin Firth and Emma Stone.

Yeah, I myself would have never ever thought that I’d see the day where Mr. Darcy was paired with Gwen Stacy, in a film directed by Woody Allen nonetheless, but such is the case we have here and it’s very interesting in that aspect. Not because Allen plays to both of their strengths very well (even though he does), but because these two actually have a nice bit of chemistry that is able to get us out of thinking that he’s way too much older than her to begin with. In fact, the 28-year age-gap sort of makes sense in a movie like this; Sophie’s rather mature and honest for her age, whereas Stanley himself is such a down-beat nonbeliever in anything happy, he borderlines on “immaturity”. And somehow, with these differences in character-description, the two are able to craft a lovely, yet believable chemistry that sometimes pushes its way into being “too cutesy” at times. But not enough to where it gave me that sick taste in my mouth, nor that creepy feeling in my head of him being way older than she is.

Then again though, it is a Woody Allen movie and with Woody Allen movies you have to expect an older guy to be foaming at the mouth for them younger ladies. Such is a fact in both his movies, as well as his own personal life.

But anyway, I digress. Stone and Firth are lovely together and in their own rights, show that they are more than capable of creating interesting, compelling characters for the time being. That’s why it’s such a shame that the rest of the cast are either, second-thoughts, or thinly-written. The only real member of this cast that I can think about who gets to do a little something more is Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s Aunt; everybody else is sort of just there in the background, occasionally given a chance to say or do something that doesn’t make it seem like a total waste of their talents. Like, I don’t know, say when all you have for Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden to do is stand around her character’s daughter and be a tad feisty, there is a shred of disappointment that can’t help but be felt.

Oh yeah, total resemblance.

Oh yeah, total resemblance.

That said though, Woody himself is fine with just moving the story along at a sweet, pleasant pace. There’s plenty of darkness to be found here, as there is with most of his movies, and most of that comes from the fact that Stanley just doesn’t believe in real magic ever being a thing in our world. He believes that people want to believe what makes them feel a whole lot happier and safer about their lives, much rather than the actual, sometimes stinging truth itself. That’s pretty much exactly how every Woody Allen-character, Woody Allen has ever played, is, except with Colin Firth around, it feels more genuine, if that was even possible in the first place. However, it’s still Woody Allen himself talking, which is where this movie gets a bit more interesting in how Woody explores the idea of love and how, it doesn’t matter what else bad stuff is happening to you, that if you have love in your life, it all mostly goes away and can sometimes, blur-up ones judgment. That’s not to say that love is bad, really, but it’s just a fact of life that one needs to have. Regardless of how painful it may be at certain points.

Now where have I heard that before?

Consensus: While not being anything deeper than just a late-summer rom-com, Magic in the Moonlight is another charmingly breezy hour-and-a-half that can sweet and soundly be added to Woody Allen’s list of mediocre movies.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"You mean to tell me that while I was performing Shakespeare to sell-out crowds, you were just a cell?"

“You mean to tell me that while I was performing Shakespeare to sell-out crowds, you were just a cell?”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Scoop (2006)

People love their magic, like they love their murder. That’s something people say, right?

Up-and-coming American journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) gets the story of a lifetime when deceased journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) somehow contacts her from the afterlife. The story goes like this: He knows that this wealthy, very powerful man Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the man behind all of these brutal murders that have been occurring around England and granting him the nick-name, “the Tarot Card Killer”. Though Sondra is slightly hesitant at first to believe in this, she takes the bait anyway and gets a local magician (Woody Allen) to join her. Together, they’ll pretend to be a father-daughter combo and try to win over the heart of Peter Lyman, while simultaneously looking for any clues, hints, or pieces of evidence they can find to make this story big and at least somewhat “legitimate”. But as time goes on, and the rouse gets to be a bit tiring, Sondra begins to fall for Peter, and even entertain the idea that he may in fact be the killer. This is not an idea the magician wants to put to rest, but it may be too late.

It’s kind of a known fact that despite Woody Allen being able to release a movie, just about every year, they’re not always amazing. And now that the guy’s getting way up there in age, the moments where he strikes gold are becoming more and more rare. Therefore, it’s up to us as an audience to appreciate all of the work that he does, because even though Woody Allen may not make great movies all of the time, a not-so good Woody Allen movie, is still way better than your usual, average bad movie.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

But somehow, this is the one that’s right on the verge of being considered “crap”, to being just “meh”.

And that’s not to say that this is Woody’s worst flick I’ve seen of his (Cassandra’s Dream was pretty god-awful), but it’s his most recent that I’ve seen of his that’s left me wondering just where all of his creativity and energy went. Surely he could have come up with something more than just a normal story about a journalist falling in love with her subject, while a murder-mystery occurs on the side? Maybe he was trying to hint at the idea of irony and how sometimes, things we don’t expect to happen, or better yet, people we don’t expect to act a certain way, do happen/act that way? Or maybe, he was trying to harmonize on the importance of life and how we all should savor it while we still can?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the guy a bit too much credit here. Because yes, even though this movie is not terrible, it still seems like Woody’s retreading on familiar waters. We’ve already seen Woody Allen make fun of the rather snobbish upper-class in Small Time Crooks, so whenever Woody takes it upon himself to make a few wisecracks towards them as a whole, it not only feels like he’s just yucking it up for no good reason, but also that he’s running out of ideas to write about or even explore. Even the lead Sondra Pransky, is basically just the female version of him and how he acts.

That’s not to say that ScarJo isn’t fine with this impersonation of sorts, it’s just that she’s just sort of there to take up a role that could have easily been done by Woody himself; although, to be honest, it would have been strange to see him constantly flirting and making out with the buff and macho Hugh Jackman. Then again though, it’s never too late to try something new out every so often!

And although I do kid around here and get on Woody’s case a bit, he’s sort of the best part about it. He’s quintessential Woody Allen and that’s always a pleasure to watch on the big screen, especially since all he does is act like a cynical, miserable bastard, yet, still be able to show some compassion towards those around him that treat him well. He had me laughing on more than a few occasions and it’s just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter how old Woody may get, the guy’s a charming little fella that seems to always play to his strengths and have himself coming out on top.

Now, that’s not to say that he’s selfish or anything, because Woody is more than welcome to giving the rest of his cast their own opportunities to shine, but none of them really leave as much of an impact as he does. Like I mentioned before, ScarJo is fine at playing a lovely-looking nerd that not only gets up swept up in the idea of love and romance, but even gets to forget who she is at one point. This was, of course, before Johansson became a dependable, respectable name in the business, so there are a few rough patches here and there, but most of that, I think, has more to do with some of the awkward-phrasing of the script and the lines she’s given, where she’s made to sound like Woody Allen, but just can’t pull that off perfectly.

I'm sorry. You were saying?

I’m sorry. You were saying?

Then again, nobody really can. That’s why we have Woody Allen in the first place.

Also, it was nice to see Hugh Jackman be the dashing man that he is and show us that even though there’s a lot mystery surrounding who he really is, you yourself can’t help but be charmed by his lovely ways. Makes it a lot easier to sympathize with our lead once she gets swept up in his life, but also makes you forget that he could be the prime suspect in this murder case after all. Ian McShane is also given a relatively major role as the deceased journalist who gives Pransky the story hints in the first place and is fine with what he has to do, but it’s pretty disappointing just to see him show up every once and awhile, say something vague and literally then disappear into thin air, because, well, he’s dead and the Grim Reaper doesn’t like it when dead people come back and talk to those who are living.

Honestly, now that I think about it, I would have much rather liked to seen a movie where the Grim Reaper himself and Ian McShane squared-off, mono-e-mono. Written and directed by Woody Allen, of course. The one and only.

Consensus: Not Woody Allen’s best, nor his worst, Scoop is rather pleasing because of its cast, but feels like a tired and tried piece of material that we’ve seen Allen himself do much too often in far better films of his own.

5 / 10 =  Rental!!

"I hate the media. All they do is get on people's cases. Like, I don't know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter."

“I hate the media. All they do is get on people’s cases. Like, I don’t know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

If any movie theater can allow for this to happen, then perverts are going to be knocking at the door.

Cecilia (Mia Farrow) lives one of the saddest lives you will ever witness a lady of her age living, and it only seems to get worse. Not only is she clinging on to a job that seems like she’s going to be fired from any second now, but her husband (Danny Aiello) is a philandering gambler that thinks every discussion must be solved by either a slap or a hit. Cecilia puts up with this all because, quite frankly, like everybody else during the Great Depression, she had nowhere else to go and was lucky enough to even have a house, a job and a husband. However, life isn’t all that bad for Cecilia once she steps into her local movie theater at least once, or twice, or maybe even three times a day, escaping the harsh reality of the world outside, and just setting her eyes on the fantastical world that these movies create, placing her into something entirely new and imaginative, even if it is only for an hour or so. One movie that Cecilia seems to really be addicted to is this new feature called The Purple Rose of Cairo, so much so that she sees it five times in-a-row. She’s so addicted that even one of the characters, Tom (Jeff Daniels), notices this, walks off the screen, takes her by the hand, exclaims his love for her and whist her away on a journey where they will most likely fall in love and be together, forever. Problem here being that not only is Tom not a real person, but the movie he left is now stopped, without any signs of moving forward, leaving all of the other characters in the movie without a single sense of direction. They just wait, wait and wait some more until Tom comes back to the dull, monotonous life of a movie-screen character, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that anytime soon.

Have no clue why I went so balls to the walls with that synopsis, but once I started typing, I just couldn’t stop. Most of you will understand, and for that, I say thank you, For the ones who don’t understand, then whatever. On with the review!

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

This little gem is from the creative mind of Woody Allen who, if you don’t know by now, usually hits big, or misses terribly. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former, then again, that will most likely continue to be more common since he is getting up there in terms of age, and he still continues to make at least one movie a year, if not some other ones on the side. But back in the 80’s, Woody reigned as supreme as he could get with acclaimed hit, after acclaimed hit, and it only got better and better when the 90’s rained in. Here, with this movie, the man not only shows his love for the past, but for the present, and possibly, future of film, while also letting us know that it’s all bullshit in the end.

See, while you don’t expect Woody to throw in a frown here, despite all of the happiness, joy and romanticism on full-display, he somehow does and is able to make it work, feeling as if you are in fact watching a Woody Allen movie. There’s plenty of times where you can tell that his love for film transcends any generation, but more so here because he was born in the 30’s (when this story takes place), and it makes you feel even closer to the story, just as much as he probably does making it. Plenty of the signature Woody wit and charm is to be found in the writing, but the cute feelings of falling in love with someone completely out of the blue is what really resonated with me so well, and this is, might I remind you, coming from the same guy who made Annie Hall, Manhattan, Husbands and Wives and plenty other “love and life suck” movies.

And even though there is a romance at the centerpiece of this movie, you still get the idea that Woody’s using it as a tool to get across his feelings about the art of cinema itself; an art form that will be around forever because it has real human-beings escape the world they live in, but yet, is also filled with so many unrealistic hopes and dreams, that it can sometimes be detrimental to those said human-beings’ minds as they will most likely buy into these visions if they begin to take these lessons of these films to heart. While that does sound terribly bleak and unpleasant, it is, once again, a Woody Allen movie, so you have to sort of expect it nonetheless. But even though it seems like Woody may be against, in some small regards, the form of art that is film, in other larger regards, he embraces it wholeheartedly and fully, letting us know that he’s as happy as banshee to be a filmmaker in a day and age like today; and even more happier and thankful for the ones who have came before him, most likely throwing inspiration his way.

Yet, don’t be fooled by how downbeat I may be selling this flick as, because while it does end on a rather grim note (one that I wasn’t expecting in the slightest bit), there is still a happy idea about movies and what they do to a person, for better and for worse. However, Woody knows that movies are supposed to make people happy, take them into a world, and all while informing them a bit as well, which is exactly what he does here, to ever so great effect, all before ending on a rather sad note. But like I said, it’s expected knowing Woody, the die hard cynic.

If that's Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

If that’s Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

Speaking of this being a Woody Allen film, since this was one made in the 80’s, it only made perfect sense that his gal-pal of that decade, Mia Farrow, would get a lead role in this movie as Cecilia. However, even though Woody did this plenty of times for his next couple movies, it still never felt unnecessary, as if she didn’t deserve all of the favoritism she was getting from his lovable, yet, soon-to-be wandering, eye. Because yes, even though they were going out at the time, Farrow still deserved to be in most of these roles because she’s a very talented actress, making it easy for us to believe that she can play all of these different roles, under the same direction of the same dude she goes to sleep with at night. All of that aside though, Farrow is great here in her role as Cecilia because she really is such a cute little darling, that you hate to see it when she’s sad and depressed about the life that she’s been living. Heck, the only time she ever gets anything remotely close to pleasure or happiness, is when she pays a dime to go see a movie, where she is ultimately thrown into a world unlike any other. This may have a negative effect on her mind, her innocence really makes you forget about all of that nonsense and just be there for her when she finally finds the love of her life, even despite him not being a real person; just a movie character.

Jeff Daniels also does a pretty effective job as this movie character, Tom, because while he’s so naive about his existence, it would be so easy for us to write him-off as “annoying” or “a joke done-to-death”. Like for instance, instead of handing the waiter actual money, he hands him the fake money he has in his pockets from the movie, and doesn’t know why the dude’s reaction is so negative. But Daniels somehow overcomes all of those problems and gives us a really likable guy that we would love to see walk off with Cecilia in his arms at the end, even if it does seem highly unlikely, or even illogical. He also is given another chance to show us another character of his in this same movie, except this time, he’s playing the actor of the character himself: Gil Shepherd. This is where Daniels really shines in showing us a guy that seems like a pretentious dick, but one that also may be a good guy underneath the whole facade of this Hollywood superstar. We never know what type of angle he’s playing though, and that’s when Woody himself comes in and gets all dark and sinister on our asses.

Once again, he’s a die-hard cynic. Don’t forget about that.

Consensus: The Purple Rose of Cairo works as a joyful, pleasant and sweet unabashed love letter to the art of movies, but also works as a symbol of love, showing us that the man still does believe in the feeling’s power, yet, also knows that, like movies, sometimes the reality is harder to chew on than the fictional ideas surrounding it.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The calm before the storm, as they say.

The calm before the storm, as they say.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Rich people can be sad too, they just are able to water it down in martini and lemons.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all: The rich husband (Alec Baldwin), the lavish lifestyle, the money, the looks, the riches, and all of that fine and happy stuff. However, like most good things, it all came crashing down in an instant and left Jasmine bankrupt without anywhere else to go in the world, except for his lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins)’s house. There she pries more, than actually gets her act together and begins to find out that having to take care of yourself doesn’t mean just making money, it means taking responsibility for your actions and not drinking your life away. Or maybe that’s just what I gathered. Actually, it more than likely is.

Woody Allen has had his fair share of hits, and he sure as hell has had his fair share of misses, but I still remain loyal to the guy as he always brings whatever he can to the big-screen, with his witty writing, and a stacked-cast that always gets on-board with anything he does. He just has that type of power that will get anybody going and for a little while, with Midnight in Paris, had everybody back on their feet, waiting to see what he would do next, as if the King had returned to his throne. However, then To Rome with Love came around, and everybody realized that maybe Paris was just a flash-in-the-pan for Woody. Maybe, just maybe.

She's still good enough for me.

She’s still good enough for me.

However, Woody’s not going to give up without a fight and is back yet again with Blue Jasmine, the type of flick it seems like anybody would make if they had some spare-time in their schedule to just make a movie, hang out with some big names, and get paid while doing so. That’s not to say that the movie’s good or bad, it’s just to say that the flick carries that type of lax-feel and pace where everybody involved seems to be happy and more than ecstatic to be working with a screen-legend like Allen, but at the same time, doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either. They’re just working to work, which is entertaining since everybody’s fun and happy, but it doesn’t really get this material up off the ground as it should.

For awhile, actually, I felt as if the movie I was watching was more of a stone-hard drama than any bit of witty and quirky comedy that we’re so used to associating with Allen’s flicks. That could have just been so since with Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, he’s shown us that he can do a dark drama, regardless of if it fails or not. So that’s exactly why I felt like I was watching a drama right from the get-go. Obviously, there’s plenty of moments where Allen allows the humorous part of his script to creep in whenever it so pleases, but there’s still a seriousness to this final-product that I at least appreciated more than anything Allen’s done in awhile. He treats Jasmine, as well as every other character with tender, love, and care, it’s just that they don’t really pop-out at us like they should.

Case in point, our main character herself, Jasmine. Jasmine is the type of character that seems perfectly fit for Allen because he’s able to show us all of her flaws, as well as her positives as well. The former gets presented more than the latter, but that’s not to say that the former doesn’t rear it’s beautiful head in every once and awhile neither. We get to see enough of Jasmine that it allows us to care for her and sympathize with her, even when she’s constantly ragging on everyone for not being exactly like her in every which way. She’s not the type of gal I would want to be stuck with near the punch bowl at a party, but I definitely wouldn’t mind having a casual conversation with her every once and awhile, just to do a quick game of catch-up and see who’s more miserable than the other. With that game, she may win, but it would come pretty close.

So I guess it’s safe to say that Jasmine is an interesting enough character to have a movie revolve around her and her all of her misery and self-indulgence, but the movie doesn’t seem to really go that deep enough into her psyche as to what makes her, well, her. We see what she’s done in her past, how she’s gotten over it, and how terribly she was treated to be such a witch in the present day, but it still didn’t feel right to me. Something, whatever it was, wasn’t perfectly fitting with the tone and the art of this character and I wish I got to know more of her, rather than just snippets of what seemed like a pretty mean person, but a meanie that actually had somewhat of a soul. Allen can do well with these types of characters when he’s focusing on just them and them alone, but he moves the focus all around to where we see more of the supporting characters, rather than her. Which is fine, if they were just as interesting enough as her, but they just aren’t.

That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t work well with these roles, because they really do, and make the movie a whole lot better just with their presence being felt. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as Jasmine as she’s able to capture all of the types of moods and feelings that go through this gal, most of which are abrupt and random, but still realistic enough to warrant some amount of sympathy. As I’ve said up above, Jasmine is an interesting enough character to want to watch a whole movie about her and her ways of getting her life back together, and that’s because Blanchett is able to make us loathe this character, while also feel like she could do a hell of a lot better in her life, if she just lowers her guard a bit and smiles. Then again, with the past that she’s had, you’ll see why maybe putting a grin on that face may be a little easier said then done. Got to give Blanchett a lot of credit for this role, not because she’s able to be funny, mean, and sympathetic all at the same time, but she’s not afraid to “ugly herself up” either.

Assuming she didn't have a problem with his profession.

Assuming she didn’t have a problem with what he does for a living.

Sally Hawkins plays her sissy, Ginger, and is good at playing the trashy-type that’s very different from Jasmine’s stuck-up self. Hawkins has always been a treat to see in any movie she shows up in and it’s good to see her working in something again, especially with Allen. They both comment each other well, as she hits the funny-marks her character is supposed to, while also giving us a nice glimpse inside the world of a lady that just wants as much love and respect as her sister does, she just doesn’t demand it as much. The always-loveable Bobby Cannavale plays Chili, her boyfriend that Jasmine despises, and does a nice job being funny and a bit sweet at the same time. Any movie would have painted this guy as a dick, but here, instead we see him as a guy that just wants to be with the woman he loves and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means getting a little bitter at times. Especially with Jasmine.

The rest of the cast is fine as well, even if some of their work is only comprising of “showing up on screen for a bit, and then going away seconds later”. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s ex-hubby, Hal, and plays up the d-bag type of character we know and sometimes love him; Louis C.K. almost steals the show playing against-type as a possible match-made-in-heaven for Ginger, which is funny because all he does here is try to play it all smooth and cool, both of which Louis is not, but plays it so well if not just for laughs; Andrew Dice Clay, another random comedian thrown into the mix, is fine as Ginger’s ex-hubby who doesn’t really do anything funny but is good for what he has to do with the material he’s given; Peter Sarsgaard is serviceable as the object of Jasmine’s eyes, and actually feels like a genuinely nice guy that would love and care for her when she needs it the most; and Michael Stuhlbarg is odd and strange as head-dentist of where Jasmine works and does exactly what I said he had to play, and does it well.

Consensus: Though there’s plenty of pleasing moments from Woody’s script, as well as the fine cast that he’s assembled, Blue Jasmine comes off more as a somewhat mediocre flick from his library, if not one that held plenty of potential.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"I have a hangover, somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please."

“I have a hangover. Somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please.”

Small Time Crooks (2000)

Cookies are usually on my mind when I’m smokin’ stuff, not robbing vaults. That’s just me though.

Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) is an ex-con who has big dreams and an inability to hold down dish-washing jobs. His next plan in life is an inspired one: Rob a bank with his buddies. However, the main problem with robbing the bank is Ray being able to get it past his wife (Tracey Ullman)’s head. Even when he does, thinks don’t go so according to plan and that’s for better, and for worse.

That short synopsis up there may not seem like much, but trust me, once you see this flick and realize that I didn’t give away half of what happens in the second-half, the better for ya and the more thanks to me. See, the trailers and advertisements for this movie will have you think that it’s about Woody Allen, and all of his clowning-buddies, trying to hash together a plan to rob a bank, but being the buffoons that they are, just can’t get it to work. For the first 30 minutes or so, that’s exactly how it plays out in typical, Allen fashion. It’s fun, goofy, zany, witty, and very classy in the way that it’s just having a joyous time with itself and not worrying about going anywhere deeper than just a regular, heist movie.

Then something changes.

Without giving away too much of what goes down in this flick, especially in the latter-parts, I will say that it is the usual, kind of Allen we are used to seeing and loving so much, but much more important in the way it talks about it’s subject matter and the characters it usually points a funny finger at. For instance, all of the people that we are surrounded by in the latter-act are a bunch of richy-riches that act as if their shit don’t stank, don’t have a worry in the world because they can just get their butler or maid to do whatever they need done, and are totally absorbed in being fine, fancy, and loaded with cash. Allen makes fun of this but also brings up an important idea of how we all get absorbed when we have money, but yet, not everything about us gets affected, right?

It's a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn't going to be any shots of New York?

It’s a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn’t going to be any nostalgic shots of New York?

It never goes anywhere deeper than that, which is probably one of Allen’s main faults with this movie, but that’s fine because the way Allen makes jokes and satirizes this life-style really made me laugh, as well as feel as if I was seeing real people, actually be affected by all of the money they have for themselves. Some people get wrapped-up in it all; some just stay the same. Some people like to see a fine opera on their Saturday night; some like to stay at home, hang out with their buddies, slug a couple of brews, eat chips, eat pizza, play some cards, and bet some moolah. Some people like to venture out to Europe to see what the life out there is all about; some are just content with staying home and enjoying all that’s around them, without having to jump aboard a plane.

Yes, if I was given $5 million, most likely, I would be going a tad bit insane with it all, just throwing it away and acting like I didn’t have to worry about bankruptcy, losing it, or wasting it at all, but would I change? That’s what I thought about with this movie and it’s always a testament to Allen’s fine writing as to how he is able to give us something more to think about then what we are seeing, even if he is still hitting the notes on making us laugh and have a good time. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is still hilarious and will make you chuckle more times than you can imagine, but the way that Allen is able to incorporate more general-thoughts, is what really stands-out with this flick, and sort of stands-out from everything else that he’s done. Allen is a very hit-or-miss director nowadays, but thankfully, it’s safe to say that this is a sure-hit for him. He’s creepy and all, but at least he makes good movies.

Regardless of who he prefers to go to bed with, Woody Allen is still a talented mofo, and a very likeable one at that. His performance here as Ray, the down-and-out con who just wants to re-live his glory days, is actually very surprising to see from him. No, don’t get me wrong, Allen still plays up his whole blubbering, frantic-phase that we all see and hopefully love from the guy, but not matter what, he stays lovable, easy-to-relate-to, and very believable as the type of guy that would actually be feigning at the knees to pull-off another heist. Allen never seemed like the bad-boy type to me, and I’m pretty sure everybody else feels the same way, but he will surprise you here by how much he’ll change your opinion on that as soon as it’s time for him to act. He’s still goofy, but he’s very smart too, and it’s never annoying.

The one who really steals the spot-light from Woody, just so happens to be Tracey Ullman as his wife, Frenchy. Ullman is really playing-up her New York, Jewish-look and accent but it works so well for this character because she’s so quirky, so funny, and so obvious at times, that you can’t help but like her in the way that she wants to be rich and accepted. The fights between her and Allen feel real because they never really escalate to the point of near-death, but actually just keep you laughing because they feel like two people that are just getting tired of each other’s shit, even if they know that they love each other in the end. Allen and Ullman on their own, are hilarious, but when they’re together; they’re freaking dynamite!

Still shocked that he isn't on the front-paper.

Still shocked that he isn’t in today’s head-lines.

Elaine May plays Frenchy’s sister, May, who is definitely not the brightest bulb of the bunch, but definitely charmed the hell out of this character. Not only is she hilarious at playing a total ditz, but she also has a sweet and sympathetic-look to her that isn’t all about playing dumb to be cute, but more or less just a lonely girl, that gets discouraged because she is stupid. Yeah, maybe I am looking into it just a tad much, but that doesn’t mean that the motivations for that character aren’t there and shows that there are at least more to her than we may presume. Nice job on both May and Allen for that side-addition. Everybody in this cast is pretty good, but most of them do feel underused. People like Jon Lovitz, Tony Darrow, and Michael Rapaport are all good for what they do, but also get thrown to the side once Hugh Grant shows his beautiful, British-self into the mix. Those damn Brits! Always stealing our screen-time, even in Woody Allen movies!

Consensus: The shift in narration may change some viewer’s opinions about Small Time Crooks, but nonetheless, still shows Woody Allen in top, comedic-form as a guy that loves playing around with conventions, characters, and humor that we all think we’ve seen before, but with a couple of surprises along the way.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"It's so artful."

“It’s so artful.”

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

I never pay prostitutes to have brains. Just enough low self-esteem that they’d consider to be with me.

Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) are in love and want to start a family. However, Lenny’s not quite ready for that yet so they decide to adopt a child named Max. A couple of years go by, Lenny is feeling neglected from Amanda, but is always there for Max and surprised by how smart and knowing he is. That intrigues Lenny so much that he starts to begin a search, behind Amanda’s back, for Max’s birth-mother and finds out that she’s a porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny is obviously shocked by this result but he doesn’t let it get to him, and tries to change her so that she can meet-up to his vision and leave the life that she’s been living, despite it being the only way she can manage a steady-income. While Lenny is off being a counselor of sorts, Amanda’s off on her own having her own sort of affairs, main which being one with her art-gallery owner (Peter Weller).

An “okay” Woody Allen movie, is better than no Woody Allen movie. That’s all there is to say about the man, especially since he churns out a movie every year, gets an even-more stacked-cast than before, and continues to find more and more interesting ideas for his stories, and how to tell them. They don’t always work, but it’s always nice to see the guy back on the big-screen, no matter how regular or average the film he’s working with may be. Although some may definitely disagree with me on this: Yes, Mighty Aphrodite is average and regular.

Mighty1

“32 years younger? Good enough for me.”

As usual, what I always like about Woody’s flicks is that the guy has a keen sense of humor, no matter how dark or grim the subject-matter may be. Which is weird considering how the movie starts off light and straight-forward with him and his girl adopting a kid. It feels like a film that’s a bit too innocent and sweet, especially coming from the finger-prints of Woody Allen himself. Thankfully, once the movie goes about 20 minutes into itself, we are then introduced to a whole other story-line that makes the film any bit of being memorable. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Ms. Mira Sorvino herself as the screechy-voiced prostitute herself, Linda Ash.

See, I can’t go on and on any further without mentioning her right off the bat because she makes this movie. Sure, Woody’s good, his writing is inspired, and everybody else in the cast has their bright and shiny moments, but it’s this woman who takes this movie, brings it up by the grips of her hands, and never lets go of it, even when she isn’t on-screen. Her presence is always felt in this movie, and that’s a good thing because she keeps it hilarious and fun, while also giving it it’s right amount of heart and sympathy as well. Of course this is Mira’s best performance, not only because she won the Oscar for this, but because she hasn’t really done much after this. And hell, even the stuff that she did do with her career, was nowhere near as challenging or as exciting as this role.

She’s given the hard task of taking a character that would be easily considered “annoying” and “bothersome” by about the first 10 seconds of screen-time that we spend with her fine-ass, but surprisingly, the girl keeps her rompy, to where it’s almost like a whole person herself. Easily, without a doubt, she could have been played-up for just a bunch of laughs as if she was more of a caricature that we usually see in these types of flicks that concern a low-bit, NYC hooker, but the combination of Woody’s sharp-writing and Sorvino’s general likability, is what keeps this character more than just a cliché. She actually has a heart and soul that you feel for, not because she’s way too in over-her-head with certain things, but because she actually does plan on being a person that makes a difference in someone’s life, even if it does concern still hooking around and whatnot. Sorvino’s so good here, in fact, that knowing that she hasn’t really done much with her career ever since, makes it all the more better because it’s the snap-shot of brilliance that comes every once and awhile.

Did that hype the performance up enough for ya?

"So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?"

“So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?”

As I said though, saying that she’s the best part of this movie isn’t too discredit any other aspect of this movie that makes it work. It’s a joint-effort and more than likely, the flick works. Woody’s always been, and probably forever will be, a welcome-presence of the big screen, even if it is a bit odd to see a 60-year-old man, adopt and raise a child as if it was the most casual act of kindness on the entire face of the planet. Others are good too, especially the highly-underrated Michael Rapaport, who plays a boxer at a gym that Lenny cons into going out on a date with Linda and has the under-lining, good-boy sweetness to him that allows you to get past the fact that he’s a total idiot. Then again though, she is too and watching them together is probably the high-lights of the movie. In fact, those scenes are so good, as sparse as they may be, I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing one whole flick just surrounding them and their blossoming relationship. Now that would be a Woody Allen flick I’d be very excited to see, but probably may never, ever get.

The ones in this cast who I don’t think worked were very small problems here and there. I like F. Murray Abraham in just about everything he does, and is even good here, but the whole act that his legion of cult-singers narrate the story and tell us what’s lingering at the end of it, as if it were a Greek, modern-tragedy, got old and only took steam out of the flick. Also, it served as a pitch perfect example of what it’s like when Woody can get a little too up his own ass and seem a bit pretentious. And before I go and forget to mention it, Peter Weller, as snarling and oozy as he may be, feels like he’s here more than nothing else to be a dick, and nothing but. Come on, Woody! You can do better than that!

Consensus: Whenever Mira Sorvino isn’t on the screen at all, Mighty Aphrodite isn’t as sharp or as entertaining, but when she is around, for us to set our eyes on, she’s fun, exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt, in only the type of way an Oscar-winning performance could be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, I'm going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career."

“One day, I’m going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career.”

Manhattan (1979)

I guess you can’t fall in love in Brooklyn?

A neurotic writer named Isaac (Woody Allen), who was just recently dumped by his ex-wife (Meryl Streep) for another woman, is finding love in all the strangest places. Take for instance, the new gal he’s going out with: 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). Together, they surprisingly share a nice connection that’s built more upon the fact that she has plenty to learn with her life, but will spend whatever life she has now with him, that is, until she gets bored of his old-ass and goes for somebody younger and more nimble in the sack. However, it may take some by surprise that Isaac is in fact the one getting a bit bored with his jail-bait and is finding himself more and more attracted to his best friend’s mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton).

Here’s the quintessential, Woody Allen comedy that everybody loves and considers a masterpiece and yet, I have no idea why. Is it because I’m not from New York? Is it because I’ve never been involved with a person that’s 25-years-younger than me? Or simply, is it because I’ve already been spoiled by Annie Hall so close to this movie? I think it’s more of the latter, considering I watched Annie Hall literally two nights before I popped this in the VCR, but still, something doesn’t seem right with me and this movie, and I’ll try my hardest to explain why, even though it probably won’t come out the best way imaginable.

"For some reason, I feel a slight attraction to girl's way, way younger than me. Oh well, no reason to worry. It's probably just a phase."

“For some reason, I feel a slight attraction to girl’s way, way younger than me. Oh well, no reason to worry. It’s probably just a phase.”

Woody Allen’s knack for turning an actual issue like human-beings, the way they interact with one another, and best of all, love one another, into a thinking-piece as well as a bit of a joke, never loses it’s bite no matter how many years go by. It’s been 30 years since this flick came out, and you’d think that we’d all get bored and tired with the same old, richy-rich, New York-types that go way too into depth about art and philosophical ideas, and don’t think enough about other people’s feelings at the most opportune moments, but it surprisingly doesn’t. In fact, it’s still fresh and edgy even by today’s standards, which is mainly because I couldn’t tell you who “our version of Woody Allen” is right about now. I mean, the dude’s still making movies and whatnot, so I guess we sort of have to wait till he croaks in order to crown the new leader in Jewish, neurotic comedies, right?

As with most of Woody’s flick, it’s always interesting to listen to these people talk, no matter what the subject may be, and to see how each and every one respond to the other, which is used to great effect here. The movie isn’t as big as you may think, with maybe 6 or 7 actual main members of the cast getting more than a couple lines of actual dialogue, which means that there is plenty time for us to just get involved with these character’s lives, understand them, their problems, and what they’re going through whether it be a broken heart, broken mind, writer’s block, or a simple, mid-life crisis that can’t be solved by an inordinate amount of drugs. And that was all fine with me because Woody’s writing is always snappy, always entertaining, and always worth a listen, even when he seems to be reaching a bit farther with this material than you’d expect.

There’s a lot of talk about love and how it makes people lose their minds and the essence of reality, and nobody’s more guilty of that then Woody himself. Most of his movies, in fact, feature him swooning over the idea of love, making things up in his mind about it, and getting a bit too carried away. However, that’s the darker side of love that Woody is more than happy to explore, but here, he’s surprisingly a little less cynical about love and probably more hopeful. Rather than leaving us on a depressing note that makes us question the person we lay next to be with every night, it makes us wonder whether we should have more faith in love, or human-beings for that matter. We’re always so used to blaming others for being so idiotic with even the most simplest tasks like keeping a relationship afloat, when we always forget to hold out some hope just in case they don’t screw it up. Woody’s always a bit mean with his views and opinions about the idea of love and whether or not it’s ever-lasting for all of the reasons we may think, but he shows that he was growing softer in his older age and better yet, was getting a little sweeter as well.

Because come to think of it: It was only a matter of time until he met a little lady named Mia. And then, shortly after that, it was only a matter of time until he met another little lady, this time, named Soon-Yi.

Nothing strange here at all. It's just a dude and his granddaughter out and about.

Nothing strange here at all. It’s just a dude and his granddaughter out and about.

Some of you may be wondering why I chose to bring this up, considering that it’s all been done to death by now whenever the name “Woody Allen” gets mentioned anywhere, but seeing this plot and realizing that it was about 13 years earlier before what actually happened in real-life, takes it on for a whole other spin that’s very, very disturbing once you get to thinking about it. Woody’s character gets mixed-up with this 17-year-old, and it’s never explained how or why, we are just dropped-down in the middle of it occurring/blossoming and are told to accept it for what it is. If it was any other writer/director at work, it probably would have been way too creepy to even get by, but somehow the man makes it work because he has a certain amount of grace and skillfulness to showing it that’s more about the actual love part, and not about the age part, even if it is too hard to not think about the latter when you think of the former. Or maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

Anyway, age problems aside, Woody’s great in this role because he does everything we know and love him for, and it never gets old. Mariel Hemingway, on the other hand, really gets us going because she’s so good and so interesting as a female character, that it’s a shame we don’t get much more of her in this flick. Obviously Hemingway has that whole “young, innocent”-presence about her going on that works and makes us care for her, especially when Isaac shows a slight sign of boredom in their adventures as a couple, but she also shows some adult-like sensibilities in the way she acts and speaks that has me wondering just where the hell this dude found her, and why was she so attracted to him in the first place. I believed that they were a couple and could actually be together for awhile, but I didn’t understand why she was so naive when it came down to realizing that she has a full-life to live, but still shows that she’s smarter and more capable of making smarter decisions than half of the adults in this flick. I didn’t quite get it, and I think it was more of a screen-writing trick that Woody tried pulling so we wouldn’t pay too much attention to the creepiness of what was going on, but I latched on pretty quickly. Hemingway is still good, and so is everybody else, but maybe this is where Woody’s tricks started to show a bit more obvious now. Then again, maybe it’s just me. I don’t know.

Consensus: Though some consider Manhattan to be Woody Allen’s end-all, be-all masterpiece, some of it still rings a bit too false for me to really get engaged like everybody else, yet, the true and sweet sentiments are here for us to take in, and they work even after all of these years, if you can believe it or not.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We've all seen the picture 100 times, but isn't just so damn pretty?

We’ve all seen the picture 100 times, but isn’t just so damn pretty?

Annie Hall (1977)

Thanks, Annie. All we needed in this world were Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Thanks a lot.

Meet Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): He’s a neurotic, 40-year-old living in New York who’s had a pretty undefined life so far. He was born underneath a roller-coaster, has been married twice, and has yet to understand the meaning of what makes you happy in life. He’s never met a person that’s really took him by surprise and he’s never really been able to look on the bright side of things; always negative and always downing those around him. But that all somehow changes when his buddy (Tony Roberts) introduces him to a spunky gal named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The rest, as they say, “is history”.

Yes, this marks my first viewing of Annie Hall and before any of you jump down my throat right as soon as I open the gate, I have a reasoning for doing so: The time just never amounted itself. See, there’s a little something you folks out there may not know about me and my movie-viewing that I’m going to let you in on right about now, I have a weird thing about me where I need to watch a movie that I hear is “perfect” and “a masterpiece”, in the most perfect way possible. That means not on my computer, not on some lap-top, and sure as hell not in the middle of the day. It needs to be done in a way where I can watch it on my own, personal television (that’s rather huge), and needs to be done during the night, especially when I’m thinking of it the most. Hence why it took me over 2 years to actually crack-open the old VHS tape and actually watch this bad boy.

Don't drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Don’t drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Thankfully though, in the 2 years that it’s taken me to view this, has also lead me on to leave 2 years of my life that I feel were necessary enough to fully “get” just what exactly this flick was all about, for better or worse. I’ve been through a couple of “get-togethers” in the past 2 years and I’ve come to the realization that most relationships are exactly what you make of them and how much effort and love you want to put into it, but then my brain also gets raddled-around when I begin to think about all of the other aspects of a relationship like the people involved themselves. I begin to wonder, “well, maybe it was supposed to happen like that”, or, “it’s her, not me”, and you know what, that’s absolutely, positively true. So why the heck do we always go through with the same old stuff like relationships, even if they begin, go on, and end, mostly all the same?

That’s the type of question that Woody Allen brings up perfectly here not just once, but more than a couple of times but it never feels preachy or annoying; it feels like there’s really a man trying to get behind all of the stupidity and sappiness about what makes relationships loving and caring, and figuring out what the hell’s the point of it all. Allen himself seems to have had that problem many times in his life, but this time it was the most drastic-change for him where he needed to get his word out there, for all of the rest of the world to see, hear, and feel as well. It worked, and 4 Oscars later, Woody Allen will never, ever lose that cliché of his that “wasn’t better than Annie Hall“.

I can’t disagree with that statement, but that’s more of a positive than a negative because Allen has had his fair share of blunders in the past, but also his fair share of wonders as well, and this one only showed the world that he was more than just a satirist who was ready to make an easy joke out of any situation. This time, he showed a compassion and feeling towards the things that he was making fun of, as well as a reasoning behind all of the mucking it up. He shows us that humor is the quickest and best way to making a person happy, and is able to get them away from all of the hard-ships they may, or may not be happening in their life at the present time, even if it’s only for a second. Sounds like a sappy thing to say, but it’s the truth and it’s present in just about every frame here when Allen’s script comes out hitting us like a ton of pins and needles.

The one-liners the guy has to present are hilarious, regardless of if you don’t get them or not (and trust me, you won’t, but neither did I so it’s okay). But with every situation and happening this story goes through, the movie always finds the lighter side of the equation, even if the man himself who’s telling it, is a pessimist himself. Everybody knows that about Woody, and especially about Alvy the “character” in this movie that he’s playing, which brings us more of a real-world glimpse at the world of love, happiness, and sadness, without ever seeming like it’s the Hollywood-ized version or anything of that nature. It’s the way that Allen sees the world and everything that inhabits it, and it’s such a pleasure to see, for many more reasons than one, but the most important one being that it’s as real as you’re ever going to get and ever going to need, especially with a subject like love and relationships.

There’s a reason why every rom-com that’s any percent above the usual cookie-cutter, conventional rom-com, always seems to find itself compared to this flick, which is reasonable because this is one of the first rom-coms to ever really scratch the surface with such an attending eye as the one that Allen himself has. It touches on relationships in the way that they don’t last forever, just like love as well, and it’s up to us to decide whether we want to go through with any of it anymore, or just give up it all entirely and save ourselves some pressure and some time. However, there’s also this idea that one may need love, no matter how desperate it may actually be.

See, couples can have fun and be happy. It just doesn't last forever. Wah.

“Yeah, take a picture of me doing this so I can remember the happy time we had every time you piss me the hell off, woman!”

Love is like a must one person has to have in their life, if only for just a short amount of time. It can either be the first person who said “hi” to you on your first day of Junior High; your ex who left you for the best man/bridesmaid at your wedding; or it can even be the significant other you’ve stood by after all of these years, even if you do get tired of hearing their dreaded snoring, night and night again. It doesn’t matter who you felt love for, it’s as long as you’ve felt it, if just for one time. Love is what people constantly throw themselves into, time and time again, regardless of if it comes out negatively or positively. It comes out in a way that reminds you what life is all about and even if you lose that person you love, well, life still goes on and you will continue to meet more and more people, experience new things, and may eventually come to realize that that person you held an affection for, maybe wasn’t the best person who deserved it in the end. Just maybe.

As you can tell, this movie made me think a whole lot and it still will, even after I finish this review. That’s the sign of a great movie, and dare I say it, “a masterpiece”.

However, no film at all would be complete without great performances from it’s cast, which is exactly what this movie has, but benefits more from the wonderful chemistry by it’s two leads, the same two that were rumored to have been out and about during the time of this movie’s release and filming. Many people considered this work to be “autobiographical” in the sense that everything that Annie and Alvy go through and experience together, is exactly what Woody and Diane did as well, but something tells me that that’s only taking credit away from the perfect jobs these two did together, especially by actually getting us to believe in this couple right from the get-go. Except I’m still mad at Diane Keaton for giving us this. Why, Diane! Why?!?!?!?!?

Woody Allen still plays-up his usual, neurotic-shtick that never gets old or annoying, it’s always hilarious to see him react to the others around him, even if it comes from a source of a mind that’s a bit too miserable to be around. Then again, all of the problems this guy has with the world around him seems reasonable and understandable, especially considering the way he was brought up in the world. Woody Allen has always been a bit of a charmer in his movies, but his comedic-timing and wit was on fire during this movie, and rarely ever kept me from laughing. It’s an act that some people thought would have been done to death by now, but has yet to have over-stayed it’s welcome. Don’t ever change, Woody. No matter what all the nay-sayers may, ahem, say.

Only thing that's dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she's the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it.

Only thing that’s dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she’s the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it but times have changed, my friends.

Diane Keaton though, all jokes aside, really gave it her all with this performance and is absolutely loving and cute as our titled-character because she feels real. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been mixed-up with a couple of cooks back in my day, but I felt closer and closer to this relationship because I could see why somebody would want to be together with someone, break-up with them, and get back together a couple of days, hours, or seconds later. As a human-being, some of us are prone to making mistakes and trying to undo them as soon as possible, which is exactly what Annie tries to do throughout the whole movie. She tries to cater to Alvy’s own needs and wants, yet is keeping herself away from something that she herself wants to do; she allows herself to be made fun of and criticized for the way she talks and acts, even if she’s still not sure why she does or says certain things, it’s just who she is; and she continues and continues to go through with a relationship that’s more than shaky at times, all because she needs somebody in her life, especially somebody like Alvy.

It’s a beautiful relationship these two form and one that I felt more of a connection to, being that I’ve been through a couple of crazy relationships of my own. Together though, Keaton and Allen make a wonderful screen-couple because they feel real, honest, and as heart-breaking as ever, even if you may want to punch the other in the face sometimes for being such a ding-bat to the other’s emotions and feelings. However, that’s just how relationships go. You can’t always satisfy the other, from beginning to the end of your relationship; your always going to mess up and have to kick yourself in the ass for doing so. But then, you get back up, continue forward, and work at it. If the relationship doesn’t work out as you or the other may have planned, then so be it. Life goes on, relationships will come and go, and love will continue to find itself back into your soul, whether you want it to or not. Case closed.

Consensus: Annie Hall is considered “one of the greatest rom-coms of all-time” and well, with good reason: It’s beautifully-told tale that’s honest, hilarious, perfectly-acted by Woody and Diane, and leaves room for plenty of thought and discussion, even if it all comes through one’s life experiences and own ideas. Still though, you’ll feel the bug of love eating at you long after the credits roll.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Hi. I'm Woody Allen and I hate everything that's good and right with life. Now, watch my movie."

“Hi. I’m Woody Allen and I hate everything that’s good and right with life. Now, watch my movie.”

The Big Wedding (2013)

Now I know why I’m single, but steady. Ladies?

Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes) and Missy O’Connor (Amanda Seyfried) are getting married. There seems to be no problem with two, young lovers wanting to get hitched, except for the fact that Alejandro’s family is anything but functional. His dad (Robert De Niro) and mom (Diane Keaton) have been divorced for over 20 years, while he lives with (Susan Sarandon); his sister (Katherine Heigl) pukes at the sight of kids; and his bro (Topher Grace) has yet to settle down and lose that V-card of his. Oh, and if that didn’t suck already, his “real mom” is flying up for the wedding but is extremely catholic so Alejandro has to make sure that his real mom and dad act as if they are still married. Hilarious hi-jinx ensue, as you could imagine.

Since it is ripely considered “wedding season”, it’s more than obvious that Hollywood would take advantage of this time and start popping-out all of the wacky and nutty wedding movies, that were meant for those older-peeps who don’t care much for weddings, or those single peeps who are lonely and in need of some reassurance that they will find that special someone and have a beautiful like this one day. Maybe. I’m in the latter and I still feel no reassurance. Nor do I really need it. I’m flying solo forever, baby!

Going into this movie, I knew it was going to be terrible but here’s the thing about me: I like weddings, I like movies about weddings, and I like to watch a dysfunctional family act like asses around one another. I don’t know what it is about me but the idea of being around a bunch of family members that are as fucked-up as mine, really puts a smile to my face and a pen in my hand so that I can finally get to writing that note for Santa’s wish-list of a better life (it will happen one day). But this movie just isn’t what I wanted. Not at all.

Robin's totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

Robin’s totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

As usual, movies like these try so damn hard to be funny, that they almost sprain themselves on the way down. This is one of those movies, but it isn’t as painful as I may make it sound. Granted, it is a pretty bad movie that isn’t really funny and totally has problems with it’s editing (more on that ish later), but it can be pleasureful if you are really, really lonely. And I mean: REALLY LONELY. Like, not a single member of your family is alive to remember your face or who you are. You may have an Uncle, Aunt, or Grandfather that may be going a tad crazy and lose sight of whether or not you’re the grandson or the dog, and that counts. But seriously, this movie is meant for those people who can’t enjoy and celebrate a wedding with friends or family. The only way you can is by watching actors and actresses (aka, really good-looking people), act as if they are all family, love each other, but also love to fight even more. Yep, THAT LONELY.

Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s not. That’s usually either hit-or-miss depending on the type of person. But what no person can deny is that this movie is terribly-filmed and edited. Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I remember this flick was supposed to come out around some time last year, because the trailer hit, and so did the poster, but no release date. But considering it was so early, everybody assumed it was going to come out in 2012. Whether or not it’s all true, doesn’t matter because this flick has definitely caught some fire and wind in the editing-room. Woo-wee!

The problem with this movie and it’s editing is that it feels as if somebody didn’t quite know what movie they wanted to make. So, instead of keeping the comedy and drama elements splish-splashed together for evenness, they just go straight for the comedy, all in a row, without any drama or anything. I wouldn’t have minded that so much if it was funny; but it wasn’t. By the end, the problems start to become even more apparent once people start revealing stuff that would change one person’s life in a heartbeat, but somehow has no effect whatsoever on that person. I don’t want to drop down to spoiler-territory, but it’s really random, stupid, and odd how kosher this flick seems to be with certain things like adoption and not knowing who your real parents are. Not saying adoption is weird, but something about this movie makes it seem weird. Oh, who the hell! Just watch it if you want to see what I mean!

If there is any saving grace to this movie, anywhere at all: it’s the cast. After turning out an Oscar-nominated role in Silver Linings Playbook, you’d automatically assume that it meant Bobby De Niro was with a new agent and back in full-force. But I was so, so, so, so, so wrong. De Niro isn’t bad here, it’s just that his character of being a womanizing-perv doesn’t quite work for the guy as well as it might have about a decade ago. Now, it’s just over-played, stupid, and a bit creepy considering all this dude wants to do is bang someone or something. Diane Keaton plays his estranged ex-wife, and is fine for what she needs to do but is simply phoning it in as if she just wants the lovin’ from Warren Beatty or Woody Allen back. No matter who she chooses to have back, she’s going to get some lovin’.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

As for the kiddies, they are all fine, but feel as if they are just phoning it in like most supporting-acts in rom-coms do. Topher Grace is still trying to make us forget about Eric Forman and it’s still not working; Katherine Heigl is still trying to make us forget that she bitched-out Judd Apatow (aka, her best role EVER), and once again, it’s still not working; Amanda Seyfried has barely any scenes to herself, but when she does, it’s just blank the whole time; and Ben Barnes is charming and does what he can with that Spanish-tongue of his, but still can’t over-come the fact that he’s just there, stuck in the middle of all of this havoc. Poor guy. Get a new manager.

The only peeps in this cast who really seem ready to play are Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon. Williams seems like he’s having fun playing the same role he basically played in that god-awful movie where he played a priest where two younglings were getting married. Not going to call it by it’s name, and just leave it at that. Susan Sarandon is probably the best out of the bunch because of the way she plays her character, and the way they make her character. Since Bebe, the character she plays, swung-around with De Niro when he was still married to Keaton, you would think that she’d be perceived as a bottomless whore that can’t get a man her own, so she goes for one that’s already got dibs called on. You would think, but the movie actually makes a smart-decision in not taking that low road and giving her more to be sympathetic about and show us why she isn’t such a bad lady. In ways, she was even a better mommy than Keaton’s character was. But that’s bad because the Catholic Church thinks divorce is evil and breaths fire and brimstone. Okay, I’m done attacking anything right now. Let’s just get this thing over with.

Consensus: For anybody who wants to get away from their porno-infested computer screens for an hour or two, The Big Wedding may be the right fit for them, but for the other people that are married, in a relationship, or just don’t really care to waste their time in general; then it won’t fit. At all.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

And Diane be like, "Oh lawwddd!"

And Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Now I know what the ‘B’ in Barcelona stands for now. Yeah, I’m a dirty boy.

Two American women named Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) spend a summer in Barcelona to re-connect with the lives they think they have, and hopefully be able to find inspiration in terms of love and life. When vacationing and trying to discover themselves in Barcelona, they meet an artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who is attracted to the both of them while still enamored of his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz). Somehow, everybody starts boning one-another and it’s all deserved. Why? Because it’s Barcelona, that’s why!

Regardless of whomever the hell he prefers to go to bed with at night, Woody Allen is a film maker that knows his shit and knows how to do it right. He always has a knack for writing these stories that are so simple, so down-to-Earth, and so plain, that they make you feel as if you could have written the general-premise of half-of them when you were still drawing circles with your big crayons. That’s not to discredit Mr. Allen in any way, shape, or form, it just shows you that if you have the talent to make you writing witty and always fun, then you can do no wrong. Sadly, this is not the one movie where he exhibits his best work. Sorry, Midnight in Paris. Maybe we’ll get another like you, sooner or later.

The problem I think that Allen runs into with this flick, is that he’s more concerned with the look and feel of the whole movie, rather than what makes it so important in the first-place: the characters. This may come-off as a shock to you readers out there, but surprisingly, the characters in this movie aren’t as electric or thought-provoking as you’d think. The two female leads that this story practically breathes and dies by, Vicky and Cristina (hence the title), aren’t anything more than just a bunch of confused, American college students that just seem to be the types of people who think too much about the little shit in life, and don’t ever decide to wake-up, smell the cauliflower, and get the hell on with what’s in front of you at the time-being. There’s even this one scene where we see how much of “feeler” Vicky truly is by the way she listens to a Spanish dude play guitar, and practically cries about it once it’s over. Why? I don’t know, maybe because Woody Allen likes these types of characters that make more meaning to stuff than their really is in the first-place.

Looks like Scarlett's wearing the same hair my sister's barbies used to have.

Did Scarlett kill a Barbie doll for that hair?

It may sound weird since I am talking about a Woody Allen movie, where the characters are mostly neurotic to the point of where they have to bring a freakin’ tranquilizer with them everywhere, but it just doesn’t work here as well as it does in other films. You could even go so far as to argue that maybe the same case with the characters being too neurotic and quirky are evident in mostly all of Allen’s work, but what separates the best, from the worst, is the way he’s able to cover it all up with witty and hilarious-dialogue that keeps you interested in seeing/hearing what these characters have to do or say next. I never really felt that with these characters and I sort of just wanted them to stop their damn talking, and get back to the whole love-makin’ idea. But without Javier Bardem in the mix. If you know what I mean?

If there is anything that Woody Allen can fall back on in this movie it’s that he is so determined and inspired to show Barcelona in it’s finest, and most extravagant form, that it actually works. Barcelona is a place I would always love to venture out to, but being 19, with no job, no wife (not that I know of, no kids (not that I know of), and no relation whatsoever to a billionaire, may never get the shot to. And if that is the depressing, but true case, then this is probably the closes I’ll ever get to that trip and I have to say it’s better than nothing because you really feel as if you are there in this setting, where the pharimones between these fellow-residents are just running-wild. Seriously, if this movie doesn’t get you hot at all, I don’t know what will. And I’m not just referring to watching this during the Summer-time, neither. If you know what I mean?

The other key-factor to making this movie work is the cast that, as usual with most of Allen’s flicks, is star-studded but shows everybody doing their best to make it all work out. For the most part, they succeed. Javier Bardem was just coming off of his Oscar-win as the bad-ass Anton from No Country for Old Men, and took a pretty risky, but big-move in his career gunning for a role that’s as suave and sexy as this. Thankfully, Bardem pulls it off like crazy and shows that the guy can play charming and cool, but also have you totally revved-up to go out there and tell babes to get in their plane for Barcelona in an hour. Thank you, Javier Bardem. You give hope to all men out there in the world, in the hopes that they will one day, find woman that are as desperate for sex as themselves. It’s sad, but true.

However much you want baby, I'll pay. I swear.

However much you want baby, I’ll pay. I swear.

People get on Scarlett Johansson’s case for not being the greatest actress since the glory days of Elizabeth Taylor (or some royal beotches like that), but the girl’s got a look and style to her that works and have you feel something for her character, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is. She’s got this real sense of vulnerability and confusion within her act that makes you feel bad for her character when she gets a tad screwed-over from time-to-time, and makes you just want to give her a hug and possible smooch on-the-side. However, we all know that will never, ever happen unless you’re Ryan Reynolds or Sean Penn (present-day, mind you), so it’s all hopes and dreams from here. Rebecca Hall is always showing-up in heavy-duty dramas where she plays the straight-laced, serious gal that does her own thang and likes it, and her performance as Cristina is pretty much the same old song and dance for her, but with a bit of a lighter-feel this time. Hall is good at playing up-tight and shows how one girl can practically go from despising everything, to just wanting more out of her life of living, and life of lust. Hall is always great in what she does, but here, I saw that the girl could really handle comedy and make it work. Let’s just hope Hollywood takes notice of this and stop making her co-star as the female love-interest all movies seem to need.

The most-popular and noted aspect of this movie was probably Penélope Cruz, with her Oscar-winning role as the psycho, ex-girlfriend. It’s a role that suits our usually high-strung actress like a glove, but also doesn’t do much for the story or it’s meaning. The whole movie, you are constantly just waiting for Cruz to show up and light everything on fire and have her presence be known, but she shows up to the party a bit too late, and doesn’t really liven things up like I expected her too. It’s sort of like me that one time at my own Sweet 18th. All I wanted to do was get my ladies, my money, and my food, and I had to wait 3 hours for that crap! What the hell?!? Anyway, back to Cruz. As she usually is with anything she gets thrown at her (even you, Tom Cruise), she’s great with this role and definitely brought out the most laughs from the cast. Everybody was pretty damn serious up until she reared her beautiful self in, but still didn’t keep me as awake as I would have wished for and being that this was an Oscar-winning role: I was expecting a shit-load more from her. But then again, who doesn’t just love when Cruz breaks-out her native tongue? Huh? Huh? Am I right or what, fellas? Okay, I guess I’m the only perv around these parks. Thanks everybody!

Consensus: Allen’s writing in Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t as sharp or as entertaining as it has been in the past, but still, with a cast and setting like Barcelona, you could do a hell of a lot worse with a hell of a less expectations.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I'm staring.

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I’m staring.

Metropolitan (1990)

Maybe having so much money and being so snobby isn’t that bad after all.

Proletarian Fourierist Tom (Edward Clements) is immersed by chance in Manhattan’s upper-crust deb world. At first, he is against all of these late-night parties but soon starts to enjoy them as well as the people the surround him.

Writer/director Whit Stillman is a dude that I always hear about, but never actually get myself to see. I thought of him as more of a “Woody Allen, if Woody made teen movies”. Now I kind of feel like a dick for saying that in the first place.

What I liked most about Stillman’s script was just how damn entertaining it was to hear these people speak and talk about certain subjects I had no idea about. Subjects like Jane Austen, Luis Buñuel, public transportation, and the work that they do in school are all foreign subjects to me that have no meaning but the way Stillman puts in his own dry wit and sarcasm makes it all the more entertaining. That’s why I have to say that this is a very funny flick that doesn’t rely on some big punch-line to get you laughing. You have to pretty much listen in to what these people are talking about to eventually get the joke at hand. Sounds a little too complicated for a comedy about a bunch of rich people, hanging around, getting drunk, and spittin’ out their knowledge of suits, but it’s still something to listen to and I can totally see why this script got nominated for an Oscar after all.

Most of the comedy from this film comes from the way we see these rich yuppies hang around, and how pompous they can be but Stillman surprisingly takes a sympathetic look at them. Of course Stillman shows us that these people can be assholes who think they’re better than everybody because their daddies make more money in an hour than you do in a year, but it’s more about how these kids, no matter how rich, are just like us in many ways. There are plenty of scenes where these kids are drinkin’ and shootin’ the shit on God knows what, but there are also plenty of other scenes where these kids actually do things that normal teenagers would do such as playing strip poker, burning a piece of toilet paper with a lit cigarette for a dime to fall in, and telling fake and phony stories about another person just to ruin his/her reputation. Let’s not also forget to mention that these kids have a lot of wonders in their lives that they don’t have the answers for just yet and it’s that real insightful speak that Stillman gives us that is meaningful.

These kids may be rich, dress fancy, and get any kind of car they want come their birthday, but they also have dreams, questions about the world, and to still have the need to want to have a good old time, even if that does mean arguing about French socialism a lot more. This may not make you look at these yuppies types any differently than half of you reading this do now, but Stillman’s script still makes you realize that these teenagers are just like you and me, with heftier wallets.

My problem with this flick was that since the film was so low-budget, there will a couple of problems when it came to editing. Certain scenes seem to run on too long and give it this awkward silence and then the scene suddenly ends out of nowhere. It’s really strange and it happens a couple of times and almost made me laugh a couple of times unintentionally. I think some of that also has to go along with the fact that some of these actors aren’t that good and they seem to over-sell a lot of what they’re trying to say. Sounds like a weird complaint but I still can’t get past the fact that maybe Stillman had to check out the final product a bit more.

I think the main reason why his script worked so well too, was because he had a good, young cast to deliver it. Edward Clements is very good in the central role as Tom, and creates a sincere and very real character that is the perfect dude for us to see connect with this group because with anybody else, it would have surely been a bit more stranger. Carolyn Farina plays melancholy, shy type as Audrey, and gives a very cute performance that feels like a real girl who just wants to be liked by somebody even if she can never find that one special dude. The one performance that really had me laughing though was the one given by Christopher Eigeman, who plays the totally snarky and cocky Nick. Eigeman is great in this role because he has a lot of funny moments that are just dedicated to him being an ass. At first, he’s terribly unlikable but he ends up being the most memorable and likable character of the whole bunch when it’s all said and done. Like everybody else in this flick, I wonder where they have all went because I don’t notice these faces and it’s a surprise that this flick didn’t put them all on the map.

Consensus: Metropolitan pokes some fun at the rich and pompous yuppies we usually see in these kinds of social satires, but Whit Stillman is more about showing these characters as your normal, everyday teen that may have more money, but still thinks the same as your or I. Also, his script is great and definitely deserved the Oscar nomination that it got.

8/10=Matinee!!

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!!