Review of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

2011/05/24

The Good

I happen to have my own artistic and literary heroes the same as in Woody Allen’s latest 2011 romantic comedy Midnight in Paris, so I loved the film.  Brunel, Dali, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso… Is there room to fit more, yes, Rodin, Monet, TS Elliot…  A fitting comparison for the viewing experience would be an accidental find of an antique shop full of all the items you fantasized about from a previous golden era; and then some that you didn’t know you would fall for, nonetheless fall for them with wide eyes, a pumping heart, and a few giggles.  The cultural references may be highbrow, but Allen redeemed himself by making the quirky one liners humorous, if you get his references that it.  Woody Allen’s movie is rarely for everyone.  I’d think any attempt on the whimsical and the fantastic with a narrow set of references would not be an easy path for universal enjoyment.  Kids in a candy store can pass for the universal; but baseball cards of all MVPs of “world championship” MLB would not – as strange as this may sound to Americans.  I happen to love Paris, so listening to a love song written by Allen set in night clubs on Left Bank, slow walks around the White Church or in drizzle on the New Bridge, or panorama view from the center of the city worked just fine.

The Bad

It has been a tiring discussion that Allen is no Kubrick.  He does repeat himself a lot – Purple Rose of Cairo, Everybody Says I Love You, Bullets over Broadway, Vicky Christina Barcelona, to name just a few; though new elements do occur such as time travel within a literary and philosophical context that serves to the main plot and themes of the movie.  As much as I love all the cultural references, it does feel like indulgence at times, partially because they are simply piled up or laid one next to each other like library reference cards, or reading notes in a forgotten drawer.  Let’s try a more engaging metaphor, an avocado salad with froi gras, toro, uni, grilled salmon skin, cold smoked sable, colored with saffron and topped with condensed teriyaki sauce, all serve on top of a East Coast oyster in a half shell.  Yes, you indulgent food lovers, you know what I’m talking about.  Some Iron Chef would try and get away with it for novelty and excess in Las Vegas, but even the most indulgent Roman during a food orgy probably would wish that they come as six separate servings.  Plus, we would indulge ourselves to expect more sophistication from Allen at this point in his long accomplished career.

I’d see potential in a rough cut, if this part of the film – some three quarters of the whole movie – was a research first draft of compilation of a roster of famous actors doing auditions for their respective art and literature giants from a century ago.  For that reason, their acting also suffers.

The Ugly

The baseball cards reference is fitting here since almost all characters are cartonized.  While so many references jammed through the mid-night transcendence of the almost funny Owen Wilson – partially the charm of the movie – you may argue that it is hard to develop any of these characters.  You would be right, underdeveloped as characters, their lines are often forced.

Advertisements

Review of Source Code

2011/04/04

The Good

Think of combining Three Days of The Condor and Moon, and then gamify the hybrid, you get Source Code – almost. A highly enjoyable movie experience with the suspense, the pace, the unknown identity (not quite as exciting and intense as the first Borne Identity movies though), and the pressure to piece together a puzzle that will save a city and redeeming a personal love discovery.  Duncan Jones proves he can delivery even more than Moon.  And Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting was solid.

 

The Bad

The premise of the story is flawed.  It doesn’t take much away, but left you wonder after leaving the screening on that premise – did Colter live on in the alternative universe accidentally created by Source Code through the 8 minutes of memory flashback of Sean the teacher?

Goodwin’s humanity, and Dr. Rutledge’s drive for success is quite cartonized, so was the bomber, and even Colter’s personal redemption with his father.   Think of the Unthinkable, a thriller that gave every character some layers that as extreme as their actions might be, there is a psychological accessibility for the audience.


Review of The Adjustment Bureau

2011/03/11

The Good

Wouldn’t it be nice to put all of our unknown fate into an identifiable shape, be Jesus Christ, Buddha, or a group of perfectly dressed, slightly understated big time bankers or law firm partners as the case officers in the Adjustment Bureau?  Wouldn’t it be nice to see, to yell at, to stare right into the eyes of fate literally; to negotiate, to inquire, to plea, or to simply to throw a fit, to be stubborn and impulsive with fate?  Don’t you wish sometimes to be able to take a left hook right into his face, to see him in pain, to condemn him… and sometimes, just “to make a run for it”!

Once again, a movie enshrines the magic of the island called Manhattan (and  Brooklyn), and downtown that even angels get confused about its streets.

The Bad

The Angels are so underwhelming.  Maybe that’s the charm?  And the story is quite incredible, saved only by the thin but convincing connection between David (Matt Damon) and Elise (Emily Blunt – thankfully, George Nolfi let her do more than Christopher Nolan allowed for Marion Cotillard in Inception).  They better, what else is there.


Review of POTICHE (Trophy Wife)

2011/03/08

The Good

It’s a a frothy comedy, but managed to touch upon complex issues of gender, personal triumph and defeat, marriage crisis, ideologies and political dynamics intertwined with personal lives. It’s done so without getting heavy, almost effortless, making the viewing experience a delight.

Suzanne Pujol is another star vehicle for Catherine Deneuve. And no matter how many times I’ve seen this, and regardless of her age, she seems to deserve it as her birth right.  Deneuve bounced off descent performances by a star line-up of half of the who’s who in French cinema including the likes of Gérard Depardieu, and it was fun to watch.

The plot and the ending are not over the top, though very polished still somewhat true to life.  Easy said than done for a personal triumph story in a light comedy.

The Bad

Deneuve seems to be having so much fun in her role, but I never quite cared as much.  At more than one occasions, their performance may appear effortless at first, but getting thin and tiring quickly.  The characters’ youthful indiscretions, twists and turns in the plots seem to be strong spices without good food to cling on to.

The Ugly

It is so polished that, at times,  I feel three or four short trailers would have done the job. Kind of  like visiting a small pantheon of contemporary French acting Gods in a lazy Sun afternoon.


Review of The King’s Speech

2011/01/07

A wonderful film, and a uplifting human triumph that’s authentic in life’s redemption.  With all the great efforts King George VI had made, he triumphed in being able to perform his duty that he never really wanted. One can only imagine the pain behind his coherent speech.
It’s a wonder that Firth and Rush can pull such relevant performances. Anything different from what they did in the movie will turn it probably into a comedy or total disaster.  The director choose to shoot in a more difficult and unusual way for English period piece, narrow corridors and dimmed rooms, maybe a metaphor for the suffocation the King was feeling.


Review of Black Swan

2010/12/25

This movie will be remembered as one of the best psychological thriller ever made.  Three cheers to Darren Aronofsky. He may have missed the chance to direct The Fighter, but this one re-captured the strange beauty in his Requiem for a Dream, and the devastating redemption in the Wrestler.

The suspense, the pace of the story, the acting by Natalie Portman especially her face during the ending scenes were powerful, and even the cliché of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake music was not only appropriate to the story, but masterfully integrated into the shots.

It’s breath-taking, enchanting, tragically beautiful, and strangely true to life and beyond.


Review of Cronos

2010/12/25

The Good

For a horror movie, the characters, especially Jesus Grits were well-developed. For what I suspect to be reasonably low-budget, Del Toro did a descent job in merging fantasy clockwork and mutant insect with human actors without too much help from special effects.

The Bad

Camera works at times were dull. As loving as the relationship as grandpa and little girl, it seemed scripted and never reaches its full potential.