Dirty (2005) Chris Fisher

Posted in D on December 4, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $3 million
Domestic Gross: $274,000

Dirty follows Officer Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr.) through a day in which all he is supposed to do is go to IA over a shooting incident he was involved in. His partner Salim (Cuba Gooding Jr.) gets him involved in an illegal scheme to get close to higher ups in the department. Sancho soon finds himself in over his head with stolen drugs and several people out to kill him and his partner.

So from that description, the box cover, and everything else you get the clear impression this is a quick cash in on the success of Training Day. One of the responses from people when I mention this movie is “Cuba is playing the Denzel Training Day role!? Really?” While I certainly admit he’s not playing his usual type with this role, I was at least more hopeful about this movie. I mean, I’d rather want a Cuba who is at least trying than some of his other DTV crap like The Devil’s Tomb where he is almost sleepwalking through it. There I go with that ‘hope’ thing again.

Dirty is so incompetent and over the top I was laughing quite a bit throughout. There is no subtlety to anything in this movie. Salim is not just a bent cop, he might as well be tying women to railroad tracks and bombing orphanages while twirling a mustache. In five minutes alone he sexually assaults a woman on a public beach in broad daylight, all the while screeching the N word at anyone within earshot, then goes back to his patrol vehicle where he guzzles from a gallon size bottle of vodka. He gets into several shoot outs over stolen drugs he took from the evidence locker, then gets in his car to go to IA with a bullet wound in his leg wrapped up in duct tape.

Why does he do this? There is a vague promise of getting in good with the dirty captain and whatnot but what it boils down to is a pair of playoff tickets. Yup, playoff tickets. I was absolutely laughing my ass off when Salim, after going through hell and is going to IA, the Sergeant takes back the playoff tickets since he won’t be using them stuck in IA. It’s like, not only is this guy evil, but he is a Lumberg from Office Space type douchebag who will take back gifts. What an asshole.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is hilariously miscast in this role. He tries to do the “King Kong ain’t got shit on me” act but he just can’t pull it off. He tries by using every racial epithet and curse word and is screaming to the rafters and yet he still carries about as much menace as Meg Ryan. Now I know Cuba has cultivated a persona of an action hero. And while I normally buy him as a soldier or a hit man, I just don’t get the fear of god dread from his act. Someone like Clint Eastwood in his 80′s can still say “You every meet someone you know you just shouldn’t have fucked with *spit * That’s me.” and people would still be nervous. With Cuba I still think he should be driving an ice cream truck with Skeet Ulrich.

Obviously this movie doesn’t work on its own terms. Every character is irredeemable from the start so we don’t care what happens to them. The writing is so heavy handed and over the top and the plot gets downright confusing with unnecessary double and triple crosses. And despite my laughing at the insanity of it all, I was missing some action scenes. I mean there are some minor shoot outs but in a movie so crazy in every other department, why are they shirking on the violence and nudity? You should at least strive to be more outrageous than the movie you are trying to rip off.

I really don’t know how to adequately sum up here. Obviously for most of you out there don’t watch this. It is a terrible movie. What I am more struggling with is if bad movie aficionados should watch it either. Like I said, I was laughing pretty consistently at the terrible writing and the over the top acting. But that being said, it feels like it is missing out on the action or the gross excess that would make this a must see bad movie. Ultimately I think with all its lacking, plus the fact every character is so patently unlikable, that I can’t even recommend Dirty in that regard either. But at the very least, it is more interesting than The Devil’s Tomb.

Annapolis (2006) James Wan

Posted in A on October 3, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $26 million
Worldwide Gross: $17 million

Annapolis is about Jake (James Franco) who gets accepted to the US Naval Academy. Jake is having trouble especially under the strict instructor Cole (Tyrese Gibson). Jake is an amateur boxer who joins the academy boxing tournament in the hopes of beating champion Cole.

This movie received absolutely rotten reviews, garnering a 10% on Rottentomatoes. Most of the reviews seemed to focus on the similarities between this and An Officer and a Gentleman and even Top Gun. Now I’ll make a confession that I have not, as yet, seen An Officer and a Gentleman. But despite that just by reading the plot description I can’t see it being a rip off. Yes, both are about a Naval academy and a tough drill sergeant type character. I personally don’t care if Lin was remaking or ripping off An Officer and a Gentleman as long as he does it well. It just strikes me as odd that is front and center in their dismissal of this movie. I have my problems with Annapolis but it has nothing to do with that.

Right off the bat though I will say this isn’t nearly as dreadful as the tomatometer would have you believe. At the very least Annapolis is a functional movie. It is surprising that despite being about Annapolis the movie doesn’t bash you about the head with ‘Rah Rah America Fuck Yeah’ rhetoric. It is focused on a guy getting through a boot camp which could have taken place just about anywhere at anytime. I really didn’t see anything to indicate Annapolis is any different or any more difficult than any other basic boot camp. But at the heart of it is a simple story about a loner learning to accept help from friends and about the power of teamwork.

Everything is basic but functional from the plot elements to the acting. It is mediocre, but none of it flat out sucks. That might be an even worse thing to say really. People can laugh at a movie that sucks but being forgettable may be a worse crime. It doesn’t help that the acting is all so bland. James Franco is just so unbelievably bland. He gives you absolutely no reason to care about our main character at all. That might be forgiven if he had a good antagonist but Tyrese Gibson is in a competition to see who can give less of a screen presence. Gibson is supposed to be the ruthless drill instructor. This is a part begging for scenery chewing but all Gibson can manage is his constipated face to everything. Jordana Brewster exists. That is about all I have to say about that. Okay, in all honesty she’s fine, rather her character is non-existent. I like she started out as an empowered female character but by the end the movie does the lame predictable thing by making her the token love interest. Keep in mind this is not due to anything in the story really showing a relationship growing but just because we need a romance I guess.

Now I said everything is basic but I will give a few more flaws with the overall movie. You notice my initial plot synopsis? You notice how it seems disjointed? You know, in the first sentence I mention boot camp and then in the next I’m talking about both doing some boxing tournament. Well, the movie plot is just as disjointed. Now I know what the writers were trying in theory but in execution it fails. In theory instructor Cole is supposed to be Darth Vader in dress whites. I mean we are supposed to hate him with a violent passion. Normally you can’t go around slugging your superior but in this tournament there is no rank. So the events of the film are supposed to lead up to Jake (and subsequently the audience) getting so pissed off at Cole that he will do anything to take a shot at him in the ring.

But much of the movie is spent with Jake trying to get through boot and getting over his own problem of accepting help from others. The conflict comes from Jake himself and the challenges from boot aren’t all that crazy. That’s another thing too; it’s because of that I don’t consider Cole all that bad of a character. We are supposed to think he is evil incarnate and he deserves to be knocked out but he doesn’t really do anything any other instructor would do. So in the third act we switch gears to a Rocky training montage and the tone also switches with an audible thud. To use Top Gun as an example, it would be like going through the Top Gun tournament complete with Iceman winning and then instead of the regular third act, Maverick spends 20 minutes training for a squad kickboxing tournament. It would be something poorly established and I wouldn’t consider Iceman to be someone who needs knocking out. They are rivals yes, but they take it out in flight exercises and in volleyball games; not real fighting though. Point is, the third act doesn’t mesh with everything that has happened so far in the film.

I didn’t hate Annapolis as I was watching it. Keep in mind I do this for a review blog so I’m kind of forced to sit though this. Just because I don’t object to having to watch it doesn’t mean I would recommend it. It has its problems but none of it amount to it being a horrible movie. If you were interested in the trailers and caught it on TV then go ahead. But really the movie is too bland and generic for you to take time out of you schedule and watch it.

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) Mark Waters

Posted in S on September 4, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $90 million
Worldwide Gross: $162 million

The Spiderwick Chronicles was one of many fantasy books turned to movie upon the success The Lord of the Rings and more notably Harry Potter. The movie did receive mostly positive reviews however that did not prevent it from flopping at the box office. The story is about divorced mother Helen (Mary-Louise Parker) bringing her children Mallory (Sarah Bolger) and twin brothers Jared and Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore) to the secluded house of a lost relative. The children find a journal of the relative Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn). This journal containes information on all of the creatures that normally stay hidden in the worls like fairies and trolls. The troll Mulgrath (Nick Nolte) wants the journal to take over the world.

While there are movies that feel more like cheap and lazy cash ins like Eragon and The Seeker, The Spiderwick Chronicles feels like it is actually trying. The plot has elements that could be from Harry Potter, but it is not the beat for beat retread from say Eragon. You do have that hidden world element along with magical creatures, but it is repackaged nicely in a kind of Charles Darwin exploration and cataloging of this mystical world.

The story works best bundled with the surprisingly well written character stories. Much of the story is about Jared coming to terms with his parents divorce. In the beginning he is a complete ass to his mom and a bit of a troublemaker. I actually like that because it gives his character an arc. Many of the problems with these movies are the protagonist is a perfect goody goody from the start. Here he has to get over some personal problems and at times it was more interesting than the magical stuff.

There was something about this movie though that kept it from being great. Something I can’t quite put my finger on. One thing I hear is the writers combined several of the Spiderwick books into one movie. That might be the case because the story did seem to meander a bit. We do have to wait a while until we finally learn about an actual threat to the children. The world also doesn’t seem as large as it should be. After all, we are told that there is an entire world hidden from us that is just now being exposed, and in the end we spend most of the movie in a cabin in the woods speaking to a few trolls and fairies. Or it could be that some of the writing to get our protagonists out of danger is a bit too childish even for a children’s story. What harms the trolls? Ketchup. Maybe that could have been established better but it seems way too goofy for me.

The acting of the movie is pretty good all around. Nick Nolte as usual plays a homeless man well and Mary-Louise Parker is charming enough as the mother way in over her head. David Strathairn is fine although he doesn’t get nearly enough time. The best performance goes to Freddie Highmore who plays the twins. Even though it sounds like a cutsie gimmick, he actually does a good job in making them distinct and you don’t think about it after a few minutes.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is an entertaining movie. It establishes its own universe which is distinct enough to not feel like a retread. The characters are interesting and you are genuinely invested in seeing what happens next. There is something lacking from the writing which keeps me from saying this is a great movie. Whether that be from losing something from translation from the books or whether it is something else I’m not too sure about. Still, as a children’s film I certainly recommend it.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) Des McAnuff

Posted in A on August 25, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $76 million
Worldwide Gross: $35 million

Yeah, I know the reaction. I think everyone who sees the poster or trailer have the same reaction. Well, now that I think about it, there were two reactions. The first was: has Robert DeNiro done anything more embarrassing than this? The second was either “oh god…” or “Why?”. Because it is just one of those concepts that shouldn’t be made into a movie.

For one I don’t know why this had to be made into a live action film period. I know in Hollywood there is a perceived hierarchy of movies and doing something live action is somehow better than an animated movie. It is why Akira can never be left alone and every year we get the “AKIRA is being made live action!!!” news headline. But in an age where movies like Finding Nemo are crushing other live action movies (or in the case of an already existing franchise The Simpsons animated movie) I don’t get what the fetish is. People just haven’t learned. There are things you can get away with in cartoons that you just can’t in real life. The real life Scooby gang looks friggin’ stupid, the Flintstones looked hideous, and a real life Homer Simpson would be a wide awake nightmare.

But even overlooking the big picture of live action animated movies in general, Rocky and Bullwinkle still shouldn’t have been considered for a full length movie. Why? It is the same reason I gave a shudder when The Three Stooges came out as a film. I’m sure the Farrellys wanted to be faithful to the material; I had no problem with that. It was because most times the Stooges were best taken in small doses which is why the shorts were great. They got in and out fast and the Stooges never overstayed their welcome. Rocky and Bullwinkle was really a 20-ish minute show and it wasn’t even completely filled with Rocky and Bullwinkle. Remember Dudley Do-Right? Peabody’s Improbable History? Fractured Fairy Tales? In the show things played off like a variety show which made things fresh and interesting. But when Rocky and Bullwinkle don’t even fill 20 minutes of their own cartoon, how in the hell are they going to fill 90 minutes? I don’t think I can hold your suspense on whether this movie is bad. But the real question is how bad? I gauge the absolute worst on the level of the Rocky and Bullwinkle NES game which I actually played btw.

If I were to praise this movie it would be that, in terms of other cartoons turned live action movies, this one does stay more faithful to the source material than most. We don’t get the other segments like in the cartoon, but the overall bad puns and self-referential humor of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon is present.

But then that transitions to the big problem of this movie. This movie only really has one note and it hammers it and hammers it and hammers it for 90 minutes. You are going to be bludgeoned with cheesy lines and puns that should all be followed by the “WAH WAH WAHHHHHH” over the soundtrack. Just look…

R: Bullwinkle, you weigh 400 imaginary pounds. B: Yeah, but it’s all moose-le.

‘Bullwinkle, can you rappel?’ ‘Sure. I’ve been repelling viewers for years.’

Cappy: Bullwinkle, allow me to be frank.
Bullwinkle: OK, allow me to be Bullwinkle.
Cappy: I’m Cappy Von Trent.
Bullwinkle: I thought you said your name was Frank.
Cappy: Shut up Bullwinkle.
Bullwinkle: All right Frank.

You get the gist. Now I’m fine with a cheesy pun every now and then. But after sitting through an entire movie you get fed up. I actually made a note. There was a moment where I had to look at the timer because that was just about where I got bored. It was the moment where the plot went about as far as it could go, and the humor was overstaying its welcome. I still had an hour to go at that point.

I could even have forgiven the beyond bare bones plot and the lame humor if there was any kind of characters in it but there is not. I know, I am bitching about characters in a Rocky and Bullwinkle movie but hear me out. Having character arcs or having something for the characters to overcome is not limited to serious dramas. Take the recent Muppets movie for crying out loud. They actually have a similar story in that both acts are struggling in a world where they have lost their relevancy. But the muppets had their own problems of getting along and the human characters had to deal with moving their relationship to the next level and whatnot. I’m not asking for deep insight here but you have to give the characters SOMETHING to do.

In fact, one of the only slightly interesting things was the female protagonist FBI agent Karen Sympathy, who was driving the plot along. I’ll give it to the actress Piper Perabo, she was acting the shit out of this movie. And for a movie like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, she didn’t have to give much effort. Of all the real actors playing the cartoon characters, the only one I felt did a decent job was Rene Russo as Natasha. I say that and she is the only actor to get a Razzie nom for this was Rene Russo. DeNiro is just kind of in this movie and doesn’t contribute much besides embarrassment. Jason Alexander is actually really bad in his role. Most of the time he reverts to George Costanza and he has these prop teeth that he wears that was extremely distracting rather than amusing.

This isn’t the worst thing ever. I’ll admit there were sparse moments where there was a self referential joke or a pun that even got through my defenses. Although for each of those moments there was another that was painfully embarrassing. Take, for example, one of the few times this movie actually goes “modern” and Bullwinkle gets “jiggy with it”. And the less said about DeNiro doing his “You talkin’ to me…” shtick in this movie, the better we will all be. Really, this movie is just a chore to sit through. By the time the cartoon would have been over Rocky and Bullwinkle runs through all its best material and you still have to sit through another 70 minutes. There is no plot, no characters, and there is nothing else to distract you from the monotony like the show would have. And really, why the hell do we have to have a $76 million dollar Rocky and Bullwinkle movie? At the end of the day, that is the question investors should have been asking. But no, this isn’t as bad as the NES game as there are few things worse than that. The movie is dull but not offensive and far from the worst thing ever.

Branded (2012) Jamie Bradshaw/Aleksandr Dulerayn

Posted in B on July 24, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: unknown
Worldwide Gross: $3.7 million

Yeah, I know no known production budget. Let’s just say with my limited experience in movies I can tell this movie didn’t cost less than $2 million dollars. While I didn’t find hard numbers I know this movie was called a bomb and like with other titles like this, if I find numbers to contradict it I will note the correction. Anyway, onto the review.

When you see the trailer for Branded, you get the clear impression this is a sci-fi movie akin to They Live. In the trailer we see strange alien like creatures are being mass marketing and are subliminally controlling people to buy their products. They Live worked because its tone played as goofy as the premise.

Branded is a film that almost has to be seen to believe. Almost. I say that because while They Live played things tongue in cheek, Branded decides to take the concept and play it completely straight. And boy is Branded a train wreck because of that decision. In the first minute alone we get a boy being infused with the powers of marketing by a constellation of an astral cow and they being struck down by a bolt of lightning. Again, this is played completely straight.

This movie feels kind of like another movie I reviewed called Dragon Wars (or D-War). It was a Korean film that was meant to be a kind of hybrid American/Korean film to appeal to both audiences. It had American actors but featured a story about a Korean legend about these spiritual dragons and whatnot. It was a movie supposed to appeal to American tastes but ended up feeling, well, odd. The same feel permeates this movie. We have American actors like Leelee Sobieski and Jeffrey Tambor to make it seem like a domestic picture, but once you watch it you get this weird spiritual cow stuff that makes you think this is more relevant to the Russian audience to where this was made. It seems to draw from spiritual folklore from that region (which seems silly to us), as well as cultural beliefs. Sure, in America advertising and marketing are crazy here, but you get the feeling in Russia especially after such a long period of Communism (where they didn’t have much exposure) there is more hostility about it. The message of this film simply isn’t “advertising has gotten out of control” but marketing in any form is immoral and is corrupting both culturally and spiritually. The very end of the film has all the nations of the world band together to ban marketing. That isn’t defined either, marketing in its generic term is banned. That makes no sense. I’m not even going to go into how having all nations band together for anything would be impossible but how would you ban marketing? Our main character even gloats about how a sign on the front of your business is marketing so people can’t even have signs with names? How would you find your way to any place?

I know, I’m getting sidetracked by stupidity but that is all you have to focus on. This is played as a cautionary tale like 1984. So Max von Sydow plays an evil marketing guy (with no name) who promises to make fast food moguls rich by changing people’s opinions that fat is now sexy. Misha (Ed Stoppard) is the up and coming ad specialist who I explained earlier was blessed by a sacred cow. Anyway, he soon learns the god like power he possesses and puts himself into exile ala John Rambo. He then performs a ritual where a white cow turns gold and then he decapitates it, burns the remains in a Russian version of the Wicker Man, and covers himself in the blood of the cow. And this means he can now see the things which have latched themselves onto people causing the evil marketing to…work? Misha then uses his marketing powers to cause the brands to fight each other until they are all dead.

Wow my head hurts from the stupid. Worse is this crap isn’t even internally logical. I still don’t get any of it. Who is Max von Sydow’s character supposed to be? Satan? Generic demon? You may think that due to the spiritual cow but the brands take the forms of giant grub worms and dragons. Why is he doing this? Money? Power? What the hell are the giant grubs and why do they care about advertising or if someone eats a damn burger? Are they aliens? You already feel dumb watching it, but now I feel worse because I am arguing the logic of a movie with magic cows and giant grub worms that feed off of the gluttony of children.

As I said, this movie almost has to be seen to be believed. This movie has so many moments where you scream “WTF!?” that it is like Russian Battlefiend Earth or Russian The Room. Words cannot describe my face when the brand of a vegetarian restaurant which is an egg hatches to become a dragon and the dragon fights a giant grub worm which is the brand of the in-movie MacDonalds brand. Your logic circuits just blow up in your brain and you have the most quizzical expression. There are many parts that if I had a group of friends that were game, we would rip this movie a new one MST3K style. This is a movie that needs to be Rifftrax’d.

What keeps me from recommending it for that is the movie is not all crazy. In fact, a good portion of this movie is boring. For about an hour of the film we go away from the main plot about aliens and advertising and focus on Misha and his relationship with Leelee Sobieski. There is this whole story about how we learn Misha grew up poor and that is why he wants to be a famous ad guy, and he learns hard life lessons with his first job, and then he dates Sobieski’s character and it goes on and on and you just don’t care. This isn’t Once Upon a Time in America, this is a movie where a guy has sex with a girl with a giant CGI worm on her back.

Make no mistake about it, this is a horrible movie. The only thing I have left to debate is whether this is enough to recommend to the crowd of bad movie aficionados or to skip it. It says something that after all my years of watching movies that I have come across a movie so uniquely stupid. Other movies have become cult classics for a lot less. But there is so much down time, boring character exposition, and incredibly slow talky scenes about advertising and relationships that it becomes a lot harder to recommend. In the end you have to judge for yourselves on what your tolerances are for pain. Branded sure is a memorable movie though.

Scoop (Woody Allen) 2006

Posted in S, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 4, 2013 by moviemoses

Ugh.

Sorry, I know that’s not helpful. I also know many people find this to be a funny light comedy from Woody Allen as evidenced by its score on IMDb. All I know is I’ve seen this both times. Both of the times I’ve seen it have come after the good comeback of Match Point and both times this has killed the good will that came from that movie. Allen is like an addict to laziness and here he has had a relapse.

Scoop is about an American journalism student named Sondra (Scarlett Johansson). She gets a tip from the ghost of a legendary journalist (played by Ian McShane) that wealthy aristocrat Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a serial killer known as the Tarot Card Killer. Sondra tries to investigate but finds herself falling in love with him.

It is really not a good sign when Allen is seemingly going back to the realm of Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Small Time Crooks. Alright, I’ve been trying to write about this movie and have been sitting in front of my computer for a long time because with all these movies and reviews, I am really struggling to think of things I haven’t said already. How fitting given the fact I am reviewing a director that is struggling to think of things he hasn’t said already.

I have bemoaned several times the laziness of Allen and maybe I need to go into that a bit more. I know several Allen apologists who will mention the fact he has made a movie every year since he started and it wasn’t effecting his quality before. To that, I say we are talking about a different Woody Allen. Younger Allen was energetic and had a million ideas bursting out of him. He was always experimenting with tones and styles and camera work. While he tried at times to emulate directors he loved, he was still trying to do his own thing. So while he made a movie a year, none of them felt lazy because they were earnest attempts at art.

Now it seems like Allen does movies, not from a genuine love of film but because he can’t be retired. It is like the man has no hobbies and no friends to hang out with so doing something like Jade Scorpion is a better thing to do during the work week rather than sitting at home doing nothing. The ideas for his comedies lately have been rejected joke concepts that he keeps in a dresser drawer that he blows the dust off of. It doesn’t help he makes cracks that he only does one take with actors because he would rather be at the Knicks game than doing this.

Younger Woody wouldn’t have made Scoop for the same reason he threw the joke concept in his desk drawer in the first place. It is because there isn’t enough to make a good movie out of it. The jokey premise is that a dead journalist comes back as a ghost to help this useless student crack a massive story but they do nothing humorous with it. The premise is there solely to get the plot moving but Ian McShane is wasted and so is the character. He just shows up every 10 minutes to say something like “You need to figure out who the Tarot Card Killer is.” and then disappear. That’s it.

Really the comedy in this movie is all about the kind of buddy cop-ish dynamic of Scarlett Johansson and Woody Allen. First off, Scarlett is just odd in this movie as she is I guess trying to do a Woody Allen impression like Branaugh and Cusack and it so doesn’t work. There are brief moments where Allen throws out a funny quip but for the most part, it seems like scene after scene of bickering that is trying to disguise itself as witty banter. I felt as if this movie was in a loop becuase every five minutes we would get this scene:

Sid: Peter is the Tarot Card Killer
Sondra: That’s crazy Sid! I swear you have a screw loose.
Sid: *stammering* Then how do you explain X.
Sondra: That could come from anywhere. Jesus Sid, how suspicious are you? Peter is a nice guy he couldn’t have done it!
Sid: *stammering* The guy is weird, Joe Stromberg…
Sondra: You’re wrong Sid. Peter wouldn’t hurt a fly! I’m done! You guys are crazy! You have a screw loose!

These scenes go on and on and on and on and on and they recur every couple of minutes. Where is the joke? Where is the witty banter? Yes, I know I’m not quoting verbatim but that is the gist. One person brings up a bit of circumstantial evidence and the other person whines that the other person is crazy. That’s it! By the 50 minute mark I was stupidly yelling at the TV to shut up because all the characters would do is pointlessly bicker at one another.

It doesn’t help that our main character seemingly doesn’t give a fuck about solving the case. Seriously, there is almost nothing in it for her. The story isn’t that Sondra is super motivated to be a journalist. She feels like she was forced to England out of obligation and the story falls in her lap. She doesn’t feel threatened by Peter and falls in love with him. So why should we care? Remember back to a movie called So I Married an Axe Murderer? It was a while ago when Mike Myers had a career. Anyway, that movie is a masterpiece compared to Scoop. The character in that movie is scared for his life and is actively looking for evidence that either confirms or denies his beliefs. Along the way he is put in awkward and sometimes life threatening situations. The story is always moving, the characters are motivated, and most importantly that movie was funny.

Scoop is not funny. Take one of the few recurring jokes of the movie in which Allen, who plays a minor magician called Splendini, wows upper class twits with stupid card tricks. I guess it is a joke that these snooty upper class aristocrats are amused by the same thing that would barely amuse a five year old but they don’t just stop with one time. Allen does that joke another three times during the movie. Or take another “joke” near the end where Sid dies trying to rescue Sondra because he always had trouble remembering to drive on the left side of the road. That joke is barely a joke for one but it is strange that that is seemingly the high point of the humor for this movie. I shouldn’t have to be digging for the jokes in this supposed comedy.

I know I am being a real grinch despite doing this retrospective out of love for Allen. But it is hard going through all of his movies and experiencing the dreadful lows this man has done. I know there are die hards who will disagree vehemently and who will call this a breezy fun comedy. To me Scoop was painful as it is 90 minutes of bickering and extremely forced comedy from someone with whom comedy was effortless at one point in his career. This was a hard movie to sit through this late in the retrospective.

Match Point (Woody Allen) 2005

Posted in M, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 4, 2013 by moviemoses

Match Point is about Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a semi professional tennis player who is now an instructor at a country club. He gets in a relationship with Chloe (Emily Mortimer) and has hopes of marrying into an upper class family. Trouble comes when Chris falls for struggling actress Nola (Scarlet Johansson) who threatens his family life.

Initial reactions toward Match Point probably were more glowing than they should be but I can certainly understand why. Slogging through Allen’s filmography recently has been like eating Ramen noodles for every meal for a month. Your first real meal back will probably seem like Filet Mignon no matter what. In this case, we don’t get Filet Mignon, but a well cooked steak nontheless.

The obvious movie to liken Match Point to is Crimes and Misdemeanors. But it would be unfair to say that even though they share the same themes that they are necessarily trying to do the same thing. While Crimes was trying to be a pure philosophical statement about morality, I think Match Point is settling for being a straight thriller. In Crimes, the murder was simply a means to get to the discussion. In Match Point, follow Chris as we learn all about him and his situation. Our questions are more about what he is going to do and whether he will get away with it or not, rather than musings about justice in a godless universe.

This is where the film really shines. Allen does a great job with creating tension in this movie. All during the crime we are unsure as to what mistakes he will make or whether anyone will see him. After it happens, we are on the edge of our seats during his interviews with the police and whether he will slip up with his story.

There are things that still keep this movie from being as interesteing as Crimes. For one, Chris is a little too cold and calculating to be a lead we can really get invested in. I get that was the point that Chris can think ahead which makes him capable of what he was doing. But in Crimes we could somewhat sympathize (at least a little bit) with Landau’s tortured character and his moral crisis. Chris’ cold demeanor has him come off more sociopathic than anything else.

I also found myself more entertained with the two stories of Crimes than the one in MP. The Allen subplot was a welcome respite from all the heavy material. In Match Point all we have is the one story which make things a little tedious by having it be one note.

Match Point is obviously no Crimes and Misdemeanors but it is still a very good and effective thriller. Allen effectively ramps up the tension when it comes to the third act. While the themes of morality and class are not as strong as in Crimes, they still do elevate the material. This is a refreshing film after the dreadful last couple of films and it doesn’t hurt it feels like Allen actually gives a crap on this one. This is definitely one worth recommending to people.

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