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?”.

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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).

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.

Want to read more on The Prestige? Try these…

The Prestige: You want, to get…fooled..

WEEKEND LOOKBACK MOVIE REVIEW: THE PRESTIGE.

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…

We’re the Millers Review.

We’re The Millers Review.

We’re The Millers review (Thuber, 2013).

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

Examiner: Wild Things

Chronicle: Wild Things

Begin Again (2013)… Musicians for the most part are monosyllabic teenagers who really don’t have a whole lot to say.

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Begin Again

My rating: 8

IMDB rating: 7.6

IMDB link: Begin Again

Dearest reader,

I have to admit that I was somewhat afraid to watch this film. Watching director John Carney’s second “big” musical and this time mainstream musical, seem to me like a cliche in the making… but I was pleasantly surprised!!

Everything that I felt wrong with Once (his previous film, that I also reviewed) was addressed in this film; the slow-moving narrative was replaced by a flowing attention-grabbing plot, the shaky-cam was traded for beautiful shots of New York City and contemporary hipster culture, fitting to the music, was emphasized. The director did not betray himself to the mainstream though, as with Once this film is also about (different) heartbreaks and its (different) impacts.

Both films also trade their feel-good, happy ending for a consuming finish that really gives no final resolution. As with Once, the relationship between the main characters does not grow into love, it rather reinstates certain loves already present in their lives.

Looking at the actors; I would definitely say that the biggest surprise is Mark Ruffalo. He achieves that delicate mix between sympathy for and anger towards the main character that always make for a very convincing lead. His artistic notions and the way he views music, places the viewer in a very exciting position as witness to his philosophical journey back to the true meaning of music.

In South Africa, where I live, they also make musicals (believe it or not), but it is seldom any good because the lyrics to the songs that need to contribute to the narrative, is just simply too forced. But with this film, every song plays his part as supporter of the over-arching narrative and surprises with lyrics like:

“Don’t you dare let all our best memories bring you sorrow
Yesterday I saw a lion kiss a deer
Turn the page maybe we’ll find a brand new ending
Where we’re dancing in our tears…”~ Lost Stars (Adam Levine)

All in all, I would definitely recommend this unique musical that features some beautiful camera work, great acting and an overall lack of RomCom cliches.

Want to read more on Begin Again? Try these…

Begin Again – 2014.

Movie Review – Begin Again (2014).

Begin Again (2013).