Archive for the E Category

Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen) 1996

Posted in E, Woody Allen Retrospective on February 27, 2013 by moviemoses

Without even going into the movie I already have to give Woody Allen some credit.  I spent the last few reviews criticizing him for being lazy and coasting by with his comedies.  I prefer Allen when he is going out on a limb and at the very least you can say that by making a musical comedy.  ESILY doesn’t so much have a central plot so much as several sub plots.  It is mainly about the people in this large upper class New York family finding love.

Musicals are a hard thing to do even with the best of directors.  Scorsese tried with mixed results with New York New York.  It’s not so much to do with skill (although that helps) but a certain mentality/talent.  Woody Allen is one of the best directors ever, and while I think he does an admirable job, there are some problems with this musical.

One thing that isn’t a major problem but more of a nagging thing is the music selection.  The songs are all Cole Porter type numbers from the 30’s.  Allen has a love of that music and musicals from that time.  The nagging part comes in where this movie is set in the 1990’s.  Something tells me he might have set it in the 30’s if he had the budget like in Shadows and Fog but since he doesn’t he just set it in the now.  It might even help if there was something to tie it to the story like if the family were big fans of old musicals and their imaginations constructed these numbers for them.  There isn’t though and there is a slight disconnect when you hear these people sing numbers from your grandfather’s time.

There is a scene in the movie where a couple (played by Drew Barrymore and Edward Norton) are in the hospital cause Barrymore’s character swallowed a wedding ring.  They then launch into a big production of Makin Whoopie.  This song has absolutely nothing to do with anything and has no reason to be in the movie.  I give that example to show my second issue.  The typical rule with musicals are that the songs should advance the plot or characters in some way.  And there are times when the movie does that, however there are other times when it seems like Allen puts a random song in because five minutes have passed and we need a song in there.

I think Allen also made a decision based on the budget by having the actors sing their own songs.  Now I’m not criticizing that.  For one it plays into the comic theme of a musical for an ordinary family.  The songs also help in that they are all low key and don’t stress these non-trained actors too much.  Even Allen can get by with Ooooh-ing through a ballad with no trouble.  The surprisingly best singer was actually Edward Norton, who was actually told not to sing as well as he did.

The musical numbers did grow on me during the course of the film and I found it to be sweet but here comes the “but”.  But I wish Allen engaged in a bit more spectacle.  There is a scene that is actually so great that it made me resent some of the inaction in the rest of the movie.  Probably the most memorable number is when Joe (Allen) and Steffi (Goldie Hawn) are walking along a river in Paris reminiscing over old times.  The two then have a musical number with a waltz beside the river.  Allen is dancing with Hawn and he is able to pick her up and throw her through the air with some wire work.  It is a really magical and sweet scene as you see them having this beautiful dance through the air.  It seems like the inspiration and the reason why Allen wanted to make this movie.  After that I was a little resentful that Allen didn’t use the same imagination when it came to all the other numbers.  Occasionally there is a dance number with a production but the majority of the numbers are cast members sitting around or standing still while softly singing.  Musicals are about the spectacle.  They are escapism and either you wow them with great singing or you give them a spectacle of great artistry or dancing.  Yes these are ordinary people with ordinary voices but who says they can’t be imaginative and engage in elegant dream like fantasies. 

I have talked about the music a lot but that is because that is the thing to notice about this movie.  The plot and the situations are all light and inoffensive.  The situations don’t even rise to Three’s Company level of raunchiness because again, this movie is modeled after old musicals Allen loved.  This is the cinematic equivalent of whipped cream.  It is sweet but has absolutely no density.  Really that’s the whole movie.

I liked Everyone Says I Love You.  I was always interested by what was going on and it never drags.  The music and the earnestness behind it all won me over and in the end I found it sweet.  The music portion is flawed and I wish Allen showed imagination all the way through like he did with the Paris waltz scene.  And the movie never rises to the great homage Woody Allen probably wanted it to be.  But this was a pleasant movie and a nice change of pace for Allen to spark some creativity.

The Eagle (Kevin MacDonald) 2011

Posted in E on August 3, 2011 by moviemoses

The Eagle is about a young Roman soldier named Marcus (Channing Tatum).  Marcus‘ father lost a coveted battle standard which is the titular eagle in an expedition into northern Britain.  Marcus decides the best way to get the Eagle back and restore his family name is to go in with only his slave Esca (Jamie Bell) to guide him.  The reasoning is two men can hide more effectively than an a large number of soldiers.  Esca, is of the same tribe as the one that slaughtered the eagles‘ company.  The main question is how much can Marcus trust Esca?

The main focus of this movie is the relationship between Marcus and Esca.  Marcus obviously has to have some reason to allow this slave who could betray Marcus at any time to lead him deep into enemy terrirtory.  And Esca also has to have to have some reason in order to help someone who is his mortal enemy.  I heard someone else mention it in another review but I think it is somewhat apt.  Think of this as a movie about a Taliban terrorist helping an American soldier.  Marcus represents everything Esca has grown to hate about the Romans and has spent his whole life fighting them. The movie should give me some good reason why this unlikely pairing gets along well at all but we don’t.  We don’t get a feeling that these two people really grow as friends.  Nor do we get a feeling that either side learns anything about the other.  You would think during the course of this adventure, Marcus would learn about how hard Esca had it as a slave and being persecuted by the Romans or that Esca could understand Marcus‘ position about honor and duty.  I got no impression of that either.  It just seems like they always mutually respected one another and went along together just cause the script needed them too.  Which, keep in mind again that this is one of the main parts of the narrative.  So when it seems like they don’t do anything to develop it, we care less about the characters and what they are trying to do.  It even makes the story borderline unbelievable as Esca goes on to betray the people he has always identified with for no good reason.

The rest of the movie is very straight forward; Marcus has to go to point A and retrieve plot device B.  There are no real twists or challenges along the way.  Which, I’m not saying there necessarily has to be.  But when you make a movie that is very basic, there has to be something special to make it stand out amongst all the competition.  In this case, I didn’t feel that way.  Everything was done competently, but nothing at all stood out as being all that good.  Even the ending left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth as the writers tried too hard to wrap everything up in a pretty bow.  It didn’t feel like it developed naturally during the course of the film and just felt wrong.

The main actors of this movie are Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell.  Jamie Bell, pretty much as usual, gives a good performance.  What I will more focus on is the casting of Channing Tatum.  Channing usually plays an inner city tough who speaks in slang.  So it is, shall we say, questionable when he is cast as a Roman trying for a Brit accent.  It’s kind of like if you cast Eminem in this role.  Now Channing does have the look of an action star and he doesn’t do a terrible job, but he is not exactly compelling either.

Director MacDonald does a good job in trying to pull this movie out of mediocrity.  The locations, sets, and the music are all done well considering this is a rather small budget release.  The action is also alright with the exception of the director’s odd aversion to blood.  Again, I’m not saying this movie has to be gory, but MacDonald seemingly goes in the opposite direction and does so much to cut away from any kind of blood it feels like he is trying to make the only G rated action movie.  I’ve never seen someone work so hard to hide so much blood.

In the end, The Eagle is another bland summer actioner.  Even the title crys out as to how bland and unassuming it is.  While there is nothing that is horribly wrong or offensive, there is nothing to make it stand out amongst all the other movies out there.  If you were to catch it on TV, I thnk you would think it is an okay movie, but I don’t think there is anything for me to recommend that you go out and watch it.

Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *But Were Afraid to Ask (Woody Allen) 1972

Posted in E, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 28, 2011 by moviemoses

Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *But Were Afraid to Ask is tied along side The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain as the most annoyingly long titles in movie history. Actually I would give the edge to this movie because of the punctuation. It is one thing to shorten a title like TISCWSLaBMUZ but quite another to add asterisks. Seriously, it can’t be shortened. You can’t say ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA. Seriously, fuck you Woody Allen.

Movie title humor aside, ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA is named after the book it is based on also titled ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA. The book was a nonfiction book which was, at that time, THE book people read about sex and answering common questions. The rights were held for a while but no one could figure out how exactly to translate this to film. Woody Allen made this as a collection of comedy short films based off of questions in the book. Each of these shorts are roughly 10-15 minutes but there are exceptions.

I keep referencing Take the Money and Run but once again I think it highlights the problem with a structure like ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA. When you are telling rapid fire jokes, it is okay if several fall flat because you quickly move onto something that works for the audience. With this film, I have yet to see someone that loves every one of the short films. Eventually there is going to be one which either isn’t as good as the others or just isn’t funny for you and you are trapped for the next 10-15 minutes in an unfunny bit. One short I absolutely hated was when Woody tried to parody an Italian sex farce complete by having all the characters speaking Italian with no subtitles. For the first minute I thought to myself “That’s cute, he is trying to mock Fellini and whatnot” but then dragged on and on and on.

Another problem could be that the joke runs out of steam before the short is actually over. That was the problem I had with the Gene Wilder sketch. In that one, Wilder is a doctor who tries to help a patient who has fallen in love with a sheep. Wilder falls for the sheep and his life goes downhill from there. The sketch is funny, but again after fifteen or so minutes it was played out. This is something that Monty Python would have perfectly timed in a short five minute sketch or so.

That being said, I think there is still plenty that people will enjoy and that the positives outweigh the negatives. Even though some sketches didn’t work with me, I was still laughing a lot at the other ones. My favorites have to be the mad sex scientist (played by John Carradine of course) who releases a giant tit on the world and the sketch of the inside of the human body which is run by little people (and a tiny Burt Reynolds). For me this film is lower than Take the Money and Run and Bananas (so far in my Allen retrospective) but it is still a very funny movie. Anyone that is a fan of Woody’s early comedy I think will really like this movie.  Up next on the Woody retrospective is Sleeper.

Easy A (Will Gluck) 2010

Posted in E on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Olive (Emma Stone) is an unpopular high school student until she tells a lie that leads to a rumor she lost her virginity. Olive likes the attention she gets and decides to keep the ruse going. Other students approach Olive and ask if she will give them imaginary flings in order for them to shed some of their loser status. The school soon after brands her a whore and Olive adopts a scarlet A to match The Scarlet Letter they are reading in English.

You will hear this worn out phrase a lot but it fits. This movie owes a lot to John Hughes movies. Not only does it share many themes of a John Hughes flick, it makes many references and jokes about them. This is a high school fantasy with Emma Stone playing more the female equivalent of Ferris Bueller. Olive is an intelligent girl who is not at a loss for a smart ass quip. I do appreciate the fact though her dialog doesn’t get too smart for its own good (like Diablo Cody’s script for Juno).

There are things people can nitpick about this movie. You do have adults playing teen roles, you have the beautiful Emma Stone playing an unknown book worm, and you have peculiar plot elements like people giving way too much of a crap over someone losing their virginity. Seriously, you have people branding her a whore for losing her virginity when I would argue in today’s high school it is more a question of who ISN’T getting some kind of action. And this isn’t some kind of small town in the middle of Bible country this is California. However, like I said this is fantasy complete with singing numbers (Ferris Bueller) and the cliched nerdy girl transformation into beautiful girl.

This movie is very funny. In addition to the many references, the dialog is funny and witty. Much of the praise can go to Emma Stone who carries most of the movie. She plays well with the cast and has good banter to what could have been a stale teen sex comedy. Much of the rest of the cast also has funny supporting roles from Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, and Amada Bynes. The only weak spot would probably be Lisa Kudrow who probably doesn’t know how lucky she was she had Friends in her career.

I don’t get into many comedies but I enjoyed this one. This will be a movie I will get when it comes out on DVD. This isn’t a classic, but it had me laughing consistently throughout. The trailers may not have been that good, but I give this a recommendation.

The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone) 2010

Posted in E on August 23, 2010 by moviemoses

This is a movie that I have been looking forward to for a while. Now the fact so many people are anticipating this movie has baffled some critics. After all, why are you so amped to see a bunch of geezers go out for one last ego boosting hurrah. Well it is because some of these still have what it takes to be entertaining and some of these guys are even better in their older age than when they were younger. I’m just going to use Jean Claude Van Damme as an example even though he doesn’t have anything to do with this movie. With his latest smaller productions I can now safely say that JCVD is a good “actor” where before uttering that sentence would be as ludicrous as saying the Earth has a delicious nugat center. And really I prefer JCVD’s most recent productions to most of his movies when he was most popular. But to even apply this to Stallone, even he seems to be enjoying a comeback. I thoroughly enjoyed Rocky Balboa and Rambo so I thought he could make a fun Dirty Dozen type movie.

The movie is about a group of mercenaries who are hired by a shadowy figure to overthrow a Latin American dictator. Aaaaaand that’s about it. Yeah, you don’t want me digging too deep into the plot because only bad things can come from it. This is some of the most basic action movie material with nothing special or new to the formula. Which would be fine if the movie stood out in some other way. After all, I didn’t come to this movie to see a gripping plot but to see a bunch of action movie icons tear the place down. We don’t really see that either.

This movie is not so much The Expendables as it is the Stallone and Statham show. They are the people we see through the majority of the movie. We get the expendables in the first five minutes or so and the last 10 minutes, but this isn’t a Dirty Dozen type ensemble cast. Most of the rest of the cast could have done their work on a few days of shooting. As far as everyone geeking out over seeing Bruce Willis and Ahnuld in the trailer; calm down people. If you have seen the trailer, then you have seen their entire role in the movie. Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren have a little more to do in this movie, but not much. I have to say (despite limited screen time) I thought Dolph had the best part in the movie. He was the only person that really tried given the rather crappy material.

I can’t really say the scenes with our main characters are that entertaining anyway. Oh sure they “banter” a lot which is supposed to be hilarious but I just wasn’t feeling it. They don’t really interact as people would and just throw around lame jokes about each other’s physical appearance. The only person with a chance to act is Mickey Rourke who is given a good five minutes to squirt out some tears in the only well written monologue then gets his paycheck and leaves.

Now I know what you are going to say because I said it after reading people’s reviews and I have read other people say it too. “Yeah, well, I’m still gonna see it anyway.” I know the knee jerk reaction is say that we just don’t get it. We are coming into this movie looking for Shakespeare while you are know better and just want to be entertained by loud noises and seeing the cast. I went into it with those low expectations too. I know what I wanted from this movie. Rambo didn’t re-invent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. But it had so much action, blood, and pure “balls” that I absolutely love it. I went into the Expendables if just to see (to use the phrase) mindless action. I hope you listen to this; you will be disappointed. It is like Stallone forgot how to shoot an effective action scene. In the fight scenes with Jet Li and Jason Statham the cameras are brought in waaaaaaay too close so we can’t see what the hell they are doing when in fact the camera should be pulled out so we can see all the action. Believe me, Jet Li is a pro at this sort of stuff. He can do a good martial arts scene in his sleep. You do not have to confuse us with shitty camrea work as if he were some bum who can’t stage a good fight scene. Most of the other action is poorly staged and generic. Even parts in the last fight were so poorly shot and dimly lit, that I didn’t know which Expendable was fighting which generic bad guy and who was winning. Not to mention the movie is full of CGI gore and effects which just look awful and even detract from the movie.

The Expendables (given its budget, actors, talent, and potential) is a failure. Sure, this isn’t a horrible movie. There are some good scenes peppered here and there, some (emphasis on SOME) of the dialog is funny, and there are some moments (Jet Li vs. Dolph) which were nice. However, those points are few and far between. This is a disappointment all around and shouldn’t really be worth your $10 bucks at the theaters. Maybe when it is available for rent you can check it out on a slow night.

The Eiger Sanction (Clint Eastwood) 1975

Posted in E on July 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Clint Eastwood plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock who is a government assassin. During his off time, he is a professor, mountain climber, an art collector, and a lothario. He is brought back for the trademark “one last job” to get revenge for the death of a friend. The only knowledge Hemlock knows is that the assassin will be climbing the Eiger soon and that he has a limp. Hemlock quickly has to get himself into shape for this killing or ‘sanction’ as they are officially called.

Now many will compare this to James Bond or Indiana Jones. I’ll actually reference my Sahara review and say it is closer to Clive Clusser’s Dirk Pitt. Pitt was an extension of Cussler’s real life diving exploits and adding spy intrigue. Hemlock here seems to be James Bond with a mountain climbing interest. Yeah, it seems rather lame, but this movie is about climbing up the Eiger to kill someone.

This movie is very over the top and I can see people being confused as to how to take it. I have read some calling it dated (which it is) and a movie in which you see Eastwood’s ego at its largest. We see Eastwood showing off his physique constantly, Eastwood once again as the gruff badass, and women falling over themselves to bed him. But I am almost firmly convinced this is just a pure satire of James Bond and Bond off shoots. In this movie, the M equivalent (here called Dragon) is an albino who can’t take any kind of direct light and has to have his blood replaced constantly. You have African American and Native American Bond girls which are the cause of some rather awkward race jokes, You also have an over the top gay villain who even calls his dog “faggot”.

The acting is a little hit or miss. Eastwood is miscast in this role. Sure, he does the physical work well and is comfortable when he has to grunt out one liners. The problem is when he plays the suave professor of art. Watching Clint play the intellectual Don Juan while muttering out lines in a Dirty Harry voice was a little unsettling. Thankfully after the first third they drop that pretense and just focus on the action. Actually the best performance is by George Kennedy who plays a long time friend of Hemlock. It really says something when Eastwood is out acted by a smaller supporting role but its that good.

I will give credit to Eastwood behind the camera though. The final third is when the characters climb the Eiger and it is shot extremely well. Anyone that has seen their fair share of MST3K knows the deep hurting when they hear the words “rock climbing” but this is actually interesting. The photography is beautiful and the climbing scenes are as interesting as they should be.

Overall this is a fun little movie. The plot is so over the top it is funny and the action is very good. There are flaws, but nothing that really cripple it. This is a forgotten movie in Eastwood’s catalog and it is a bit surprising. This is entertaining but probably got lost in the shuffle between Eastwood’s Western period and his Dirty Harry period.

Europa (Lars Von Trier) 1991

Posted in E on May 5, 2010 by moviemoses

The Europe trilogy was Von Trier’s first major attempts at film.  All of the films are centered first around traumas of Europe both past and present.  The other themes are of people that unflinchingly follow a dogma and which turns out to be their downfall.  The Element of Crime is about a detective brought in for one last case (because of his specialty training to put himself in the mind of a killer).  In the end, we learn because he has done the technique so much his mind became deranged and he has become the killer he had been hunting.  In Epidemic, we follow a doctor determined to cure a spreading plague across Europe but finds out he had been the carrier the whole time.  In Europa (or Zentropa) we are in postwar Germany.  Leopold is an American of German descent who gets a job as a sleeping car conductor from his uncle at the Zentropa railway.  Leopold wants to remain completely neutral but is pulled both ways by an American general wanting him to be an operative and a femme fetale who wants to draw Leopold into sabotage on behalf of the Werewolf (the remnants of the Nazi sympathizers).

Now the Europe trilogy was rather inconsistent and more a way of Von Trier to feel himself out before finding his stride as a major filmmaker.  The Element of Crime was more style out of substance and Epidemic was a huge steaming pile of sh*t.  And that’s coming from a huge Von Trier fan.  Europa is the most balanced of the three and among his better efforts.

For one, this movie is gorgeous to look at.  Von Trier uses every camera trick from color images imposed in a black and white film, artful use of back projection, a dreamy noir like atmosphere, and nicely composed shots.  You can tell that Von Trier has seen all of the great noirs and it plays like a greatest hits collection. The story is a tad inconsistent.  Near the middle it is a little too meandering, however the ending is exciting and makes up for it.  I have never seen Jean-Marc Barr in a movie before, but he is cast perfectly as an everyman caught in the middle of international intrigue.  We also get welcome cameos from Udo Kier and Max Von Sydow (doing a voice over through the movie). Europa is one of Von Triers most accessible and straightforward films and probably the easiest movie of his to get into.  It is just a well executed and intriguing noir.