Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)… “I’d fix Ted up with Helen Dubin, but they’d probably get into an argument over penis envy; the poor guy suffers from it so.”

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Manhattan-Murder-Mystery

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 7.4

IMDB link: Manhattan Murder Mystery

Dearest reader,

Being a huge Woody Allen fan, it kills me to find one of his films that I do not want to give 10 out of 10. Not that this is not a good film, it is just that it is my least favourite film of my favourite director…

Every time Woody Allen and Diane Keaton star in a film where they are lovers or in some way involved (I am now specifically referring to Annie Hall, Manhattan and this film, in chronological order) it feels as if Woody Allen is exploring the different ways the original relationship between Alvy and Annie (in Annie Hall) could have taken. Allen is therefore constantly referring to himself and his previous films; his whole oeuvre (or his first “Manhattan cycle”) seem to be an intertext.

-I haven’t done any research on this, but it would be interesting to see in which ways these films are connected-

As always, this film is about the city. It is about New York, and the way it has a complex love-hate relationship with its inhabitants. More than that, this film is based on the classic murder-mystery narrative.

If you ever read a Nancy Drew, or just watched a Scooby Doo you will recognise the characteristics; the murder takes place, something suggests foul play, the clumsy protagonists investigates, nothing is as it seems and just when they are ready to give up they solve the mystery and apprehend the villains.

The film is filled with Allen’s customary wit and cynicism. Diane, on the other hand, displays her usual charm and together the form a perfect yin and yang. Their relationship is simple in some ways and complicated in other- the perfect combination!

There is one particular scene which shows so much artistic genius that I just have to mention it. Hitchcock and Sirk is known for their extraordinary work with mirrors. In this film, Allen pays homage to that by adding a scene (the one where Larry confronts the “killer”) in the theater that uses multiple mirrors and different lightning- a perfect scene!

Want to read more on Manhattan Murder Mystery? Try these…

Review: Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) Woody Allen.

Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)… Or we have shepherd’s pie peppered with actual shepherd on top. And I’ve just begun. Here’s the politician, so oily it’s served on a doily, have one.

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Sweeney Todd

IMDB rating: 7.5

My rating: 8

IMDB link: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Dearest Reader,

Much has been said over the years about the Burton-Depp-Bonham Carter trio that it feels almost redundant making any mention of it again… But the magic that they create together cannot be understated and, to me, it reaches a climax with this dark musical.

The character Sweeney Todd first appeared in a penny dreadful circa 1846. The equally intriguing character of Mrs Lovett also originates from the same penny dreadful. According to Wikipedia “[T]he tale became a staple of Victorian melodrama”. This Burton adaption is, of course, a musical.

Not only does one get to see Johnny Depp play another of his caricatures (and this time round the grotesquely bloodthirsty Sweeney Todd does not disappoint), he is supported (and in some ways overshadowed) by the talented Helena Bonham Carter. Watching this film in 2014, one realizes that Sacha Baron Cohen plays his role just as brilliantly, and that this film is most likely the reason he and Helena was cast as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier in Les Misérables.

Although the setting and the feel of the film is distinctly Burtonesque, to me, the Gothic Victorian world that Burton creates for these characters is truly seminal in his oeuvre; as far as his non-animated films go. Somewhat reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow this film adds a decadence to the highlighted dark Victorian that adds another dimension to the film altogether.

I always get a lot of criticism when I mention this at dinner parties, but although Johnny Depp is extremely talented in playing caricatures, I prefer him playing more ‘realistic’ characters (I believe that his best role is Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow) as I believe that requires more talent. But this is most definitely the only way in which I criticize the film, and it is not even true criticism, only a personal opinion.

Want to read more on Sweeney Todd? Try these…

rogerebert.com: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

To the Wonder (2012)… “You shall love, whether you like it or not.”

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To the Wonder

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.0

IMDB link: To the Wonder

Dearest reader,

I believe that you will find only a few movies throughout the course of your life which are as difficult to watch as the film. And it is not because it is explicit or gory or violence filled- it is because it shows a dimension of reality which is uncomfortably close to your own.

Terrence Malick, the director of the film, is able to connect the characters and the viewer that is quite touching. One feels Neil’s inability to love and connect to both Marina and Jane, but more than that the viewer is able to justify his actions without him ever having to defend himself. In other words, the viewer feels what Neil feels; the way he can love, but not commit or be present in the relationship.

There is a very unique voyeuristic quality to this. As the viewer, being able to connect with the characters on this level, it adds another dimension to one’s understanding, but in another sense one is still morally bound to reject Neil’s actions- mainly because one also connects with both Jane and Marina.

The two woman are quite different and the fact that he ‘chooses’ both of them is therefore very significant. It is, in other words, not the person in the relationship which he cannot commit to or fully love, it is the relationships themselves. In a psychoanalytic sense it is most probably himself that he is disconnected from, and that in turn causes the failure in the relationships.

Both the direction and cinematography in this film is quite expertly done. Lovely landscape scenes with soft hues, is contrasted to the more dull looking Paris cityscape (which seems impossible, but is quite well done). Empty rooms and houses are often shown, especially Neil’s house, which could also be a direct metaphor for his investment/place within the relationship.

It is certainly worth while to watch the “making of” documentary of this film, which can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mYCDuxl3tU

Not everything in the film I liked. I could, for example, not really grasp the purpose of Javier Bardem’s character in the film. Some people also find Malick’s type of filmmaking quite pretentious and overdone.

This film is definitely for the serious arthouse lover. The progress is slow, the film is quite long and nothing truly happens.

Want to read more on To the Wonder? Try these…

To the Wonder.

To the Wonder Review.

To the Wonder.

Roger Ebert: To the Wonder (Fun Fact: This was the last movie review Roger Ebert filed)

The Longest Week (2014)… How am I supposed to care about a group of over-privileged, affluent types who go gallivanting around without any sort of a moral compass?

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The-Longest-Week-2014-Poster

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 5.4

IMDB link: The Longest Week

Dearest reader,

My one friend texted me after watching this movie saying that she is seriously developing a Jason Bateman crush… And I totally agree! He understand something about comedy that, to me, not a lot of people do and that is that there lies a certain amount of disconnection in the comedic.

First of all, this movie is director Peter Glanz’s first film, that had a limited release in 2012, followed by a more official release in 2014. As soon as you start the film, it becomes clear that Glanz is influenced by the “droll narration” (as the rogerebert.com review puts it) of Wes Anderson and the spectacular love for New York á la Woody Allen. Does this sound pretentious to you? Well, it is! And that is one of the films biggest charms…

Make no mistake, this film is extremely pretentious- but it never tries to be anything other than that. In fact, the film comments and reminds the viewer again and again that it is, well… pompous!

What saves the film, though, is the fact that it never, at any stage, takes itself seriously. The characters are overblown and their actions tend to be absurd, but to me the message in the film was still crystal clear…

Don’t take this film seriously, don’t take yourself seriously!

Of course, not all critics were as favorable to this showy way of film making. The aforementioned rogerebert.com review gave the film one star out of five saying: “Not even the able actors that Glanz somehow managed to rope into his project can do much with the draggy story and the vapid characters that they have been given to play.”

The A.V Club on the other hand describes the film as “clearly the work not of a lazy thief, but of a raw talent who’s still struggling to find his own voice. In the meantime, his impressions are pretty darn impressive.”

Therefore, I feel it is important to let this film talk to you as a comedy and not necessarily a comedy-drama, as it is often described.

Want to read more on The Longest Week? Try these…

Film Review: The Longest Week (2014).

Movie Review: “The Longest Week”.

Movie Review: The Longest Week (2014).

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)… My mental impressions are cloudy. Are they cumulus clouds or cirrus?

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MagicintheMoonlight

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 6.9

IMDB link: Magic in the Moonlight

Dearest reader,

I have never made any secret of the fact that I adore Woody Allen. I believe him to be one of the only true geniuses of our time. But what is it about him that I find so great? Is it his narcissistic wit? His ability to write the perfect female roles? His love for spaces and cityscapes? His fascination with the magical? His eye for breathtaking cinematography? Or just merely the fact that he can write, direct and star in his own film and it would still be great?

Yes, all of the above! And all these things are once again evident in Magic in the Moonlight. Colin Firth as Stanley is Allen reincarnate with his cynic attitude, his clever wit and borderline Oedipal-complex. Every shot he takes of Emma Stone as Sophie, underlines her youthful, natural beauty. She is also a strong character and in one or two ways even stronger than Stanley.

Beside the beautiful shots of Provence and the two of them driving through the majestic countryside, there is an amazingly beautiful scene in the observatory. Stanley opens the roof and the two of them just bask in the moonlight.

This is not the first time that Allen had opted to delve into the magical. For example in Scoop he himself plays a magician and again the theme of trickery is prominent. Illusions are another form of trickery that Allen investigates and which is also seen in this film.

The film definitely contains some of the traditional RomCom characteristics, which does add a certain charm to the film, but in true Allen fashion, he never succumbs to sentimentality or over-acted happy endings with no artistic support.

Is it Allen’s best film? No. Is it worth a watch? Yes, even if you are an Allen newbie, you will love this gentle comedy about the trickery of life and love.

Want to read more on Magic in the Moonlight? Try these…

Magic in the Moonlight – A Fairly Incoherent Review.

WOODY ALLEN REVELS IN THE MAGIC OF THE FRENCH RIVIERA.

Why watching Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” made me ask: “Do I sound like that?”.

This is Where I Leave You (2014)… “It’s hard to see people from your past when your present is so cataclysmically screwed up”

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This is where I leave you

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.7

IMDB link: This is Where I Leave You

Dearest reader, 

First of all, literally everyone in this cast is extremely beautiful. And like one of my friends recently texted me; I am seriously developing a Jason Bateman crush…

That being said, I can definitely understand some of the negative comments that this film had received. The film definitely had this whiff of August: Osage County, but instead of just being a tragedy, this film quite effectively plays into the tragicomedy genre.

What I especially like is the ending; I certainly did not read it as a happy ending. Yes, Judd and Penny make up, but it is not a reconciliation. They promise to try it in the future, probably because they both know that Judd’s state of mind would ruin the relationship immediately.

The movie contains almost all the relationship and family archetypes; I see my brother in Paul, myself in Wendy, my varsity fling in Phillip… etc. And having recently also gone through a death in the family, I feel that the different manners of grieving is portrayed extremely thoroughly in this film. More than that, the frustration one feels when members of your family does not grieve the same way as yourself, was done quite well.

Jason Bateman is amazing in this film, I am fast becoming a big fan of his awkward kind of acting and uniquely realistic take especially on Judd.

Was it funny? Yes. Did it make you want to call home? Yes. Is it too touchy-feely? Not at all. I would definitely recommend this film.

Want to read more on This is Where I Leave You? Try these…

This Is Where I Leave You (2014) – Josh.T.

This is Where I Leave You.

FILM REVIEW: This is Where I Leave You.

Manhattan (1979)… “I think people should mate for life, like pigeons or Catholics”

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Manhattan

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 8

IMDB link: Manhattan

Dearest reader,

Make no mistake- I love Woody Allen! I believe him to be one of the greatest directors of our time. Furthermore, looking at the way that he revolutionised not only comedy, but the cinematographical representation of the city, his impact on film will still be felt for a while to come.

As the poster shows, the movie contains one of the most iconic images in cinema. Manhattan is shown through Allen’s dorky, in this case black and white, lenses. His love for the Big Apple is more apparent than ever!

Allen explores not only the romance of the lead characters, but also the romance of the city. This romanticising of New York City is emphasised by Allen’s decision to film the movie entirely in black and white. The use of lighting, together with the black and white leaves the film with a romantic glow, which causes the viewer to see New York exactly as Allen does.

Besides the cinematography, the movie contains Allen’s usual blend of romance and comedy. Pairing, again, with the enigmatic Diane Keaton and young Meryl Streep, Allen plays the divorced and out-of-work television writer Isaac. Woody Allen has been criticised time and again for his narcissistic, cynic male leads. Although Isaac reminds one a lot of Alvy from Annie Hall, there is still a certain kind of romanticism to Manhattan that Annie Hall lacks.

Allen’s later films Midnight in ParisTo Rome with Love and even Vicky, Cristina Barcelona are as much odes to cities that Allen has fallen in love with as Manhattan or New York City was his first big love.

What really makes Allen’s earlier films unique is the evolution of Allen’s own personal style of comedy that can so clearly be mapped and that has become so iconic. It is not only his very dry sense of humour, or his almost existentialistic view on life that separates him from the rest, it is the combination of all these elements together with the detailed feminine roles that he writes and his separation from really obvious humour (that has become so popular nowadays).

This is most definitely my favourite Woody Allen film. Although I have not seen all of them, I believe that this film is such a visual and comedic treat that everyone will be able to take something beautiful from this movie.

Want to read more on Manhattan? Try these…

Manhattan (1979) Woody Allen.

Review: Manhattan (1979).

Movie Review: Manhattan (1979).

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen; Part 7: Manhattan (1979).