Posts Tagged ‘Woody Allen’

This week’s releases include: a cancer drama made lighter; a Woody Allen masterpiece; director Billy Wilder’s best picture winner; a man giving up everything for love; a spy with a difficult choice to make; a found-footage horror prequel; Rocky with robots; a woman haunted by her competition; a chance meeting leads to an unusual friendship; a murder mystery; a throwback adventure film; an eye-opening look at the Bosnian underworld; and a film that made Oscar history. (more…)

This week’s releases include: the tale of a vengeful killer; a political biopic; Woody Allen’s latest picture; a scary Christmas story; a survival narrative; a vampire-werewolf romance; and a family’s struggle worked out in MMA. (more…)

This week’s releases include: a captivating tale of envy and ambition; the epitome of love stories; a single location murder mystery; the third chapter in a Muay Thai extravaganza; a missile on rails; the latest Woody Allen picture; and a gorier sequel to a serial killer flick. (more…)

The negative attitude towards people and the belief in uncontrolled luck centre stage in this film are not a far-fetch from Woody Allen’s own views on life.

Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is a crotchety hater of humankind that lives in selective isolation after a failed suicide attempt followed by a divorce from a picture-perfect wife and career as a physicist at Columbia. One night he reluctantly takes in Melody (Evan Rachel Wood), a naïve, impressionable teenage runaway from the South. Absorbing and learning from Boris’ insults directed at her and the world, Melody develops a crush on Boris and he finds himself viewing Melody in a less harsh light as well. The two get married and are relatively happy until Melody’s mother Marietta (Patricia Clarkson) appears on their doorstep, seeking her daughter and an escape from her cheating husband (Ed Begley Jr.). She faints upon learning Melody is married to an old, eccentric curmudgeon. Marietta unexpectedly develops into a sexually-free, boundary-pushing photographer that settles into a ménage à trois. However, still not content with her daughter’s choice, she schemes to unite Melody with a handsome actor (Henry Cavill) that claims to have fallen in love with Melody at first sight. Melody’s father eventually comes to New York too seeking to reunite his family but instead finds they are better off without him and he discovers he’s better off living without an oppressive lie. In the end, romantic partners uncouple and realign, learning there are no rules and you simply have to follow whatever works.

A typical component of Allen’s films is dialogue directed at the audience, rather than characters within the story world. In this case, Boris has several monologues spoken to the audience, directly at the camera. His genius is displayed through the fact that no one except Boris is capable of realizing there is an audience watching.

Whatever Works is character driven and explores the eccentricities of relationships and living a life that makes you happy. While Boris’ pessimism can be nagging, it’s nearly distressing when Melody begins to emit his negativity (what she understands of it anyway) like a poisoned sponge.

David’s character is similar to his Curb Your Enthusiasm counterpart, but more hateful as he doesn’t even crave love or sex. Even with the similarity, David was an ideal choice for this part, which was to originally be played by Zero Mostel before his passing. Wood’s portrayal of a dumb, inexperienced pageant queen lost in the big city and struggling to hold onto the first security she finds is impeccable. Watching, you just want to protect her from being gobbled up by the world or worn down by Boris. The supporting cast is also wonderful, with Clarkson’s entertaining transition from uptight Southern belle to free-wheeling artist and Cavil’s only real responsibility being be British and charming.

This is another amusing romp down unconventional lane with Allen and it’s as enjoyable as ever.


Woody Allen made a film without Scarlett Johansson. Coincidentally, it’s quite a bit better than his last few ventures.

Ian (Ewan McGregor) is unsatisfied with his lot in life. Instead of taking over his dad’s restaurant, he’s saving to invest in American hotels. He yearns to be like his well-off, exotic uncle (Tom Wilkinson). Ian’s brother Terry (Colin Farrell) is a compulsive gambler with a steady girl. But a lucky streak gets the boys enough cash to pay off their dream boat, which they fittingly name Cassandra’s Dream after the 60-1 long shot. But quick enough they’re in over their heads – Ian needs more investment money and Terry is in major debt. Their uncle has a solution to their problems, but it means a significant moral compromise on their part.

Allen returns to providing his intriguing character examinations, as well as an illustration of the great lengths a man will go to to keep a woman that’s probably out of his league. After several disappointments (with the exception of Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Allen has finally produced a film worthy of his time and ours.

Farrell and McGregor are wonderful; and Farrell once again displays his very competent acting chops. As they are very different people, their relationship as brothers is not based on how alike they are but on how they relate to each other, which they do in a very brotherly way. They match each other’s enthusiasm and melancholy nicely.

As with any Allen DVD release, there are no special features to evaluate.


Woody Allen has made a career of exploring relationships in film. Here, he once again delves into the world of adultery, overwhelming (and underwhelming) passion, and the threesome.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends but their views on love are in complete opposition. Vicky is engaged to a man who is stable and trusting; Cristina engages in whirlwind relationships looking for something she has yet to find. Shortly after the pair’s arrival for a summer in Spain, Cristina catches the eye of a handsome Spanish artist (Javier Bardem). Within hours, the three are on his plane with the predisposition he will sleep with one or both of them before the weekend is over. What follows is several torrid love affairs, both from afar and up-close.

This is not one of Allen’s best works but as is the norm, he gets wonderful actors to turn in magnificent performances. As so much of an Allen picture is based in dialogue, the cast must be very capable speakers. And this time it’s not only the cast leading the story with their words, but also a narrator. The voice is entirely expository; it takes the story from one scene to the next, revealing inner emotions and thoughts along the way. The experience is much like watching a stage play without the stage.

Bardem’s rapport with Penelope Cruz, who portrays his ex-wife, is incredibly authentic. The extreme passions they express for one another are fiery. And although very little of what we see is physical, it dwarfs the connection Juan Antonio has with Cristina. Johansson is credible but her performance is not award- worthy despite the nominations. Likewise, Hall’s fear, anxiety and desire are very believable.

The Spanish architecture, coast and countryside are their own characters, often stealing the audience’s attention. If you find yourself not loving Vicky or Cristina, you will surely fall in love with Barcelona.

As is also the usual with an Allen release, there are no DVD bonus features to review.

The thing about Woody Allen is you either love him or hate him. That’s been the sentiment on his work and his personal life for decades. And normally one would have nothing to do with the other, but in Allen’s case he effectively uses his films as vehicles to explore his phobias and neuroses. This collection groups together most of Allen’s films from the ‘90s as well as 2006’s Scoop.

Bullets over Broadway stars John Cusack as David Shayne, an idealistic young writer who will do anything to direct his first Broadway play – even if it means giving a mobster’s incompetent girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) a part in exchange for funding and selling out his ideas for better ones from an inexperienced hired gun (Chazz Palminteri). The addition of Palminteri’s character saves this flick from being a run-of-the-mill backstage comedy.

Celebrity is a string of cameos by some the biggest names in Hollywood, including Charlize Theron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Winona Ryder and Hank Azaria. Freshly divorced, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) explores his newfound freedom by shopping around his script and chasing women who are only interested in his car. Meanwhile, his ex-wife (Judy Davis) makes the improbable transformation from neurotic schoolteacher to high-profile TV talk show host. Allen’s decision to film this in black and white allows the actors and subtleties of the dialogue to take centre stage.

In Deconstructing Harry, Harry Block (Allen) has had three wives, six psychiatrists, dozens of girlfriends and numerous prostitutes. When he transfers his life’s experiences into a best-selling novel, his best friends and family become his harshest critics and worst enemies. As his sister-in-law and former-mistress exclaims, this book “is about us!” This film was one of his most ill received because it was his most self-reflexive.

Everybody Says I Love You is Allen’s first and only musical to-date. In this celebration of love, Joe (Allen) attempts to falsely win the heart of Von (Julia Roberts) while his youngest daughter (Natasha Lyonne) is constantly experiencing love at first sight. Meanwhile, his other daughter (Drew Barrymore) is torn between two men (Edward Norton and Tim Roth) and his ex-wife (Goldie Hawn) and her current husband (Alan Alda) try to manage everyone’s problems. All the actors, with the exception of Barrymore, sing for themselves.

In Mighty Aphrodite, Lenny (Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) attempt to save their marriage by adopting a son, who turns out to be brilliant. Convinced his parents must also be smart, Lenny becomes obsessed with tracking them down. When he discovers the boy’s mother is a dim-witted prostitute (Mira Sorvino), he does his best to marry her off to a similarly equipped boxer (Michael Rapaport). Interspersed is a Greek chorus relating the story to that of Oedipus. The chorus reveals the movie’s deep undertones while the main story remains a cheerful comedy.

Scoop stars Allen’s new muse, Scarlett Johansson as an inquisitive journalist who is given a career-making scoop by the ghost of recently deceased reporter (Ian McShane) at a 1950’s style magic show by the third-rate illusionist Splendini (Allen). Her investigation of a string of murders leads her directly to a handsome businessman (Hugh Jackman) who draws her in with his charm. In comparison to his earlier works, this is widely considered “minor Woody Allen.”

In Wild Man Blues, Allen embarks on a whirlwind tour of Europe with his New Orleans jazz band. He is an accomplished clarinettist and has played regular gigs in New York for over 25 years. The documentary is about the tour but most viewers are more interested in seeing a scandalous depiction of Allen and his adopted daughter and now wife, Soon-Yi Previn, who is less than half his age. While the movie isn’t gossip-worthy, it does reveal a stable and workable relationship.

Some commonalities in Allen’s films are his own participation on-screen as well as at least one character that represents and resembles Allen; it is easy to identify the character, as he or she adapts his mannerisms and speech patterns. Furthermore, his films are consistently star-studded as he continues to be one of the directors most actors want to work with.

Also typical of Allen’s DVD releases: there are no special features.