The Quick Spin on Woody, Blue, Blood and Lucy

Here’s a quick rundown on 2 flicks still in theaters (Magic in the Moonlight and Lucy) and 2 on Netflix (Blood Ties and Blue Ruin):

Magic in the Moonlight

Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen’s latest is a postcard pretty period-piece set on the sun-splashed French coast and countryside.  Here a renowned magician (Colin Firth) travels to France at the behest of his friend to debunk an American spiritualist (Emma Stone).  The whole film, like Emma Stone (luminously photographed in classic Allen fashion to play up her best features – that red hair, those blue eyes, that mischievous smile) is ridiculously good-looking and light on its feet.  Stone soaks up the sun and Allen’s directorial affections, plumbing her plucky personality to its most glorious depths.  Her performance, which takes on the allure of a subtle silent film starlet, is almost transcendent.  The film, far from Allen’s greatest, is sill a pleasure to watch, and would’ve been forgettable if not for Stone’s classically styled star turn.  Word on the street is she’s signed up for another Allen flick.  Like her character, clever girl.

Bottom Line:  Spin once.  Watch out for Emma Stone’s next Woody.

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A Review of Tom Tykwer’s “The International”

Clive Owen is here to tell us this Istanbul-sh*t is about to hit the fan in THE INTERNATIONAL.

Clive Owen is here to tell us this Istanbul-sh*t is about to hit the fan in THE INTERNATIONAL.

Classy Globe Hopping Thriller Pays its Dues, 16 February 2009
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

A world-weary but determined INTERPOL agent (Clive Owen) teams with a District Attorney from New York City (Naomi Watts) to bring down a corrupt bank funding arms deals in Tom Tykwer’s accidentally timely globe trotting conspiracy flick, The International.

My drab one-line plot synopsis in no way prepares you for this film’s smartly executed centerpiece, an outlandish and wildly entertaining shoot-out at the Guggenheim Museum that is both a bullet-riddled blood-soaked multi-media homage to Hitchcock and an artistic F-you to all of the mindless “shattered glass” suspense thrillers that have come down the pike in the last twenty years.

Tom Tykwer saw this and envisioned a chase scene with bullets and blood.  Now thats art!

Tom Tykwer saw this and envisioned a chase scene with bullets and blood. Now that’s art!

Those who have been keeping tabs on director Tom Tykwer’s career, from the frenetic originality of Run Lola Run to the ungodly weird epic sumptuousness of Perfume, might mistakenly think he was doing this one just for a paycheck. However, The International is far more ambitious than its genre conventions imply. Tykwer and his crew create an engaging and twisty film that combines the thematic elements of our modern CSI-style detective shows with the visual elements of Hitchcock’s 1950’s vista-vision thrillers. Here Tykwer’s vistas are architectural landmarks from around the world that serve as picture-perfect set-pieces and back-drops for the carefully stacked plot and action.

In a modern movie world where thrillers are currently regulated to the pulse-pounding non-stop movement of the Jason Bourne films or the dumbly torturous sentimentality of something like Taken, it’s refreshing to see a film of this ilk built in such a classical way.  The International begins “in medias res” with one of those clichéd secret meetings gone wrong, then delves into a series of expository scenes that lead to a masterfully staged assassination attempt in Milan that leads to rising action (during which I overheard a viewer behind me proclaim so succinctly that the suspense was killing her) culminating in the aforementioned Guggenheim shoot-em-up that leads to falling action that ends with a roof-top chase over the lively markets of Istanbul.

Naomi Watts does her best Veronica Lake INTERNATIONAL style.

Naomi Watts does her best Veronica Lake INTERNATIONAL style.

In its attempt to keep the plot one step ahead of the viewers, and the viewers one step ahead of the characters, the sometimes convoluted screenplay loses its footing and sense of pace. The cast, however, is game to play against this jaw-dropping architectural scenery. No further proof is needed beyond this film to show Clive Owen would’ve been a superior James Bond. Naomi Watts, whose natural charms and beauty are felonies of their own, is a bit miscast, but she does her best with the role. The revolving door of supporting players is top notch as it goes through the requisite motions. All transmitted through the keen eyes of Tykwer, The International crackles with tension and arrives on the world scene as a refreshingly old-fashioned suspense thriller in a post-modern milieu.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

A Review of Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men”

Interesting but Overcooked Speculative Drama, 9 January 2007
7/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Alfonso Cuaron (most well known for directing the overrated and raunchy coming-of-age story “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and the third–and the best–of the “Harry Potter” series) does a nice job of setting the mood with his gritty and eclectic take on a dystopian future where women have become infertile and Britian is a volatile police state where the biggest crime is being an illegal immigrant. This central conceit is mildly interesting, but the screenwriters populate the allegorical fiction with stock characters: people and ideas painted with broad strokes and little development, and peppered with quirky side-stories and characters who are often more interesting than the overly symbolic main plot line.

What emerges is quasi-entertaining movie bubbling over with overcooked details and a few good scenes. Though dropping the ball in the intimate interludes that are supposed to add dramatic weight (the screaming match on the bus between Clive Owen and Julianne Moore about grief seemed especially staged and unreal), Cuaron directs the suspense and action scenes with appropriate zeal. Sadly, everyone in the film constantly looks tired (Owen taking a nap in a car and Moore actually yawning in one pivotal scene), so between the good stuff I often felt the same.

There are three really well constructed sequences that on their own are very thrilling: a reverse vehicular escape from a an angry mob that ends tragically, another vehicular escape at dawn down a dirt farm road where the car just doesn’t want to start, and one of the closing scenes of a lonely rowboat in a choppy bay surrounded by fog.

The rest is haphazard filler that had me distracted most of the time. “Children of Men” eventually became of movie of frustrating details. For instance, the title makes no sense when you think about it. Unless sprung from immaculate conception, we are currently all children of men, so this would only be an appropriate title if all the women in the world were dead and men started having babies. The movie cost over $80 million dollars to make (and it looks great) but why couldn’t they fork out the extra cash to pay for the real Rolling Stones’ version of “Ruby Tuesday” instead of a lousy cover? The song plays a crucial part yet becomes aggravating to hear. Finally, instead of caring about what happens to the two lead characters during the excellently filmed siege of the refugee camp, I cared more about what was going to happen to some poor gypsy woman and her little dog.

Though it has plenty of interesting minutae to keep things entertaining, the film never coalesces as a whole. Despite three really good scenes, “Children of Men” unfortunately solidifies Cuaron’s status as the best director yet to make a great film.

Originally published on the Internet Movie Database

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