Sunday, July 22, 2012

"To Rome With Love" - Woody Allen (2012) - A Video Review

Woody Allen is back on both sides of the camera in "To Rome With Love."

The film is a continuation on Allen’s tribute to Luis Bunuel he started with "Midnight in Paris." 

This an homage to the eccentric bunuel of "The Discreet Charm of the Burgeiosie," not the psychotic Bunuel of "Un Chien Andalou." 

Allen continues his obsession with sex, fame and death, or more specifically, infidelity, fame and death. 

"To Rome With Love" is comprised of four intercut vignettes. And they take some surreal turns, feeling a bit like Harry Block's short stories from "Deconstructing Harry." 

The most satisfying story line features Jesse Eisenberg and his infatuation with Ellen Page, his girlfriend's friend who comes to stay with them in Rome.  

Alec Baldwin plays the conscience of the love triangle. 

He follows Eisenberg and Ellen Page around like an intimidating Jiminey Cricket. 

The only difference here is Baldwin's role as a conscience is to advise in reason, not morality. 

If you've seen "Hard Candy" you won't be surprised to hear that page gives the film's best performance, but Baldwin’s comedic timing is welcome. Other stories involve characters played by the likes of Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni and Judy Davis. 
It's wonderful to see Davis in a Woody Allen film again, although she's featured in the weakest of the four stories.  

It's also nice to see Benigni back in his element. 

Fortunately, we're treated to the quirky Benigni from films like Jim Jarmusch's "Down By Law" and "Night on Earth" as opposed to the sad caricature he made of himself twelve years ago. 

"To Rome With Love" has gotten mediocre reviews so far and that feels about right. It's not Allen at his best or worst. 

If you're already a Woody Allen fan, you'll like this film just fine. If you're not, "To Rome With Love" isn't going to convert you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" - Christopher Nolan (2012)

Let's just get the question on everyone's minds out of the way.
No, "The Dark Knight Rises" is not as good as "The Dark Knight," but how many movies are?
The two films belong in different genres entirely.  "The Dark Knight Rises " is an action film on a massive scale while its predecessor was a brooding crime drama.
Having said that, there's no reason why anyone shouldn't enjoy the new Batman movie; it's spectacular.
The film opens up with an impressive action sequence that introduces us to a new brand of Batman villain.
It involves Bane allowing himself to be taken into custody and then promptly escaping by crashing a plane and killing a lot of people.
When one of Bane's henchmen willingly goes to his death, we realize we're not just dealing with criminals, but fanatics.
Tom Hardy plays Bane with a serviceable menace.
Bane bests Batman in a fight and it's surprisingly unsettling to see Batman defeated.
Showing all that rage and sadness with most of his face obscured is a tall order and hardy has Heath Ledger's enormous shoes to fill, but he manages to make it work beautifully.
As for the other villain, Anne Hathaway is simply fantastic as Catwoman.
At the start of the film, Hathaway plays her character with a convincing meekness with superb underlying intensity.
When she takes a sinister sharp turn, we completely believe her.
She establishes herself as someone who can more than take care of herself and her character evolves from there.
And just a side note the character actors featured in the film were chosen very well, from Burn Gorman to Matthew Modine.  (I was especially pleased to see "Torchwood's" Gorman.)

I'm afraid of saying too much in this review just because nobody wants to be spoiled.
Suffice it to say there are a couple of twists at the end.
I did not see one of them coming and the other you would have to be an idiot not to spot in the first act of the film.
So go, with my blessing.  Enjoy Batman in all his stylized glory.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"A Dangerous Method" - David Cronenberg (2011) - A Video Review

David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" is nothing short of a masterpiece.

I realize the film is hardly new - it's been on Blu-ray and DVD for months now, but after watching it several times, I have to post something about it.

I'm at a loss trying to think of a word stronger than "adore" to describe how i felt about this film.

I wish this movie were a lollipop so i could lick it.

A friend of mine who had seen the film said she would have liked to see more about the work and lives of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

But that's not the point of the film.

"A Dangerous Method" isn't about the work of these pioneering psychoanalysts, but about how their egos overshadowed their work.

The film follows Jung and his patient, turned protégé, turned lover, Sabina Spielrein.

Spielrein is truly the protagonist of the film and her character defines both Jung's character and frames the conflict with his mentor, Sigmund Freud.

Artists have examined human sexuality for centuries and most come to the obvious conclusion that humans are driven by their desires.

But with films like "A Dangerous Method," "Crash," Videodrome" and "Dead Ringers," David Cronenberg takes it a step further.

He argues, rather articulately, that everybody is, at their core, perverse, a sentiment I happen to agree with.

We're not as much motivated by our desires as we are dominated by our perversions.

With "A Dangerous Method," Cronenberg makes his point beautifully and affectionately.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Coriolanus" - Ralph Feinnes (2011)

Ralph Feinnes' "Coriolanus" is just a treat. 

Whether you're a Shakespeare fanatic or just love a good melodrama, don't miss this.