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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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.

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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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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…

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Movie Review: The Longest Week (2014).

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.

The Prestige (2006)… We both had half of a full life, which was somehow enough for us. But not for them.

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The Prestige

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 8.5

IMDB link: The Prestige

Dearest reader,

In celebration of brothers, Christopher and Johnathan Nolan’s Interstellar hitting the big screen early this month, I watched this film as an example of one of their early collaborations. (Also, I watched it because my brother threatened to disown me if I didn’t!)

After watching Houdini earlier this year, I have been quite amazed at the world of “magic” and its place within the theatrical society before the emergence of television. For entertainment, people literally showed up by the hundreds to view these optical illusions, performed by “magicians”.

Success in this industry was intrinsically linked to the charismatic presence of the magician and his assistant. The characters in this film, one charismatic and the other brilliantly gifted in the art of trickery, opposes each other perfectly. As does the actors chosen to portray these characters; in this sense the biggest surprise most definitely is Christian Bale who plays the talented an fiery Alfred Borden.

The surprise element in this film, is what keeps the viewer interested throughout the entire 130 minutes. Just when you think you know who has the upper hand, the other reveals a trick so grand that it leaves the viewer stunned. Through the course of this complicated struggle for power, the themes of revenge (and its consequences), loyalty and family are explored.

Neither these characters can truly be regarded as protagonists, as the one is as treacherous as the other. Of course, in such an intricate game of changed loyalties there are always some collateral damage and therefore the two main female characters (played by Scarlet Johannsen and Piper Perabo) does invoke some sympathy with the viewer.

Another quite touching thing about this film is the very unique father-daughter relationship that is portrayed through the course of the film. In spite of all the treachery, the family aspect is constantly explored.

Nominated for best achievement in cinematography at the 2007 Oscars, this film is definitely worth the watch.

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The Prestige (2006).

We’re the Millers (2013)… You can buy a house and run away from it.

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My rating: 6

IMDB rating: 7.1

IMDB link: We’re the Millers

Dearest reader,

Full disclosure: this is not my type of movie at all! And after The Hangover, I cannot stand Jason Sudeikis. His type of comedy is just not that funny to me.

That being said, I watched this movie as a distraction from pre-conference jitters and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised! The jokes were quite original, the characterization (which in comedy is most important) was quite good and the dialogue very witty.

Thinking about it, there are quite a few comedies nowadays that challenge the position of the nuclear family. The typical American family is satirized, not only by the Millers, but also by the Fitzgeralds. Sexuality, especially, is one of the mediums through which this challenging of the traditional family is achieved.

In this sense these comedies, like this movie and for example Neighbors (starring Zac Efron and Seth Rogen) is part of a sexual revolution which the traditional sealed marital bed is undergoing.

Back at home in South Africa, which is still extremely Calvinistic, these issues are still “sealed” and definitely never satirized. The emphasis on the sexual is seen as a very nasty Hollywood by-product that everyone should avoid as it compromises purity.

In this sense, I think that comedies such as this plays a big part in the sexual liberation of the US (and perhaps even the rest of the world). Being able to joke about these issues show a certain healthy distance from the problem that can aid in the liberation process.

All in all, I think this film is worth the watch as it does not only provide some much needed comic relief, it also forms part of a bigger picture that is certainly very important in my country.

Want to read more on We’re the Millers? Try these…

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Wild Things (1998)… Where did she get the shoes? “Whores for less”?

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Wild Things

My rating: 7

IMDB rating: 6.5

IMDB link: Wild Things

Dearest reader,

I love films like these that sparked such a controversy when they were initially released that they achieved cult status through the years and still get referenced in several of today’s films.

This raunchy, smoking-hot film features a cast that contains something for everyone’s fantasy. In fact, in his review Roger Ebert calls it a

“...three-way collision between a softcore sex film, a soap opera and a B-grade noir.”

There are literally no leads in this film, that has not got some or other aesthetic value. Kevin Bacon, who I have the biggest crush on, gives just a little taste of what I consider to be his best role, that was yet to come, as Ryan Hardy in The Following.

The plot, which starts out as your regular clear-cut antagonist-protagonist situation is thrown completely of the map when the different betrayals are revealed. One is never sure when and who exactly is in control; it is a constant steering between not only the sexes, but also the authority figures and the manipulation of said structures of authority.

Is it more than a highly sexed web of lies? Does it really need to be? I think the charm in this film lies in the fact that while on the one hand it is a celebration of youth, it is on the other hand a study on the corruption of youth and its subsequent betrayals. While the over-arching theme undermines both these theories by simply sticking to the fact that no one is ever to be trusted.

Want to read more on Wild Things? Try these…

Roger Ebert: Wild Things

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Chronicle: Wild Things