Last week was a great week for movies at my house. I watched three Woody Allen films, re-watched one of last year’s favorites (Spring Breakers) and one of my all time favorite films: Lars von Trier’s Dogville. I also managed to squeeze in a short film by Lukas Moodysson called Talk (1997). All in all a very satisfying week for movie watching. How about you guys?
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Zelig (1983) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.7) – Comedy, Fantasy (USA)
A black and white faux documentary written, directed and starring Woody Allen as a human chameleon, literally. Charming film, funny, thoughtful and probably one of Woody’s best film. I also like Mia Farrow in this, she’s great as the psychologist trying to cure Woody Allen’s character from his strange disease. I guess Woody was trying to make some kind of social commentary and of course reprising his usual themes (love, art, death) and the film has much more going on under the surface than what it looks like. Good film, works for me, recommended.
Spring Breakers (2012) – 8.5 (IMDb 5.7) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
Alyce (2011) – 7.5 (IMDb 5.1) – Horror (USA)
Good horror movies aren’t easy to come by these days, Alyce is certainly one of the best American genre films in a while. Successfully mixing comedy and horror (which is never easy) Alyce tells the story of a young woman that accidentally kills her best friend and her subsequent descent into madness. The film works so beautifully thanks to Jade Dornfeld’s convincing performance and a witty script. While the story and the subjects discussed in Alyce are hardly new or original its execution is well above average genre fare. The only thing bothering me is the blatant social commentary, which I agree with ideologically, but is poorly presented and mostly out of place.
Scoop (2006) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.7) – Comedy, Mystery (USA)
Another great Woody Allen film from his British period this time. Scoop starring Woody Allen himself, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman is a funny comedy/mystery. Typical Woody Allen humor, an intriguing case and some great performance make this film worthwhile. The story revolves around a young journalist (Johansson’s character) that gets a scoop about a serial killer from a dead journalist. Helpless she turns to Woody Allen’s character, an illusionist, who assist her, if only because she is so incredibly good-looking. Hugh Jackman’s character is the suspect and does a fantastic job at playing this charming rich kid above suspicion.
Au Hazard Balthazar (1966) – 7 (IMDb 7.8) – Crime, Drama, Criterion (France)
This film is a classic and part of the criterion collection, so it was about time I checked it out. This is the first film by French auteur Robert Bresson that I’ve seen and I enjoyed it. It’s about a young girl and her (mis)adventures, all of which are tied together by this donkey that shows up in her life very early on. It’s a character piece I would say, an exploration of many themes part of the human experience, so it’s difficult to pin it down to just one, because it’s about a number of things. Strong performances, a well wrought screenplay and gorgeous black & white cinematography are what sticks out for me in Au Hazard Balthazar.
Dogville (2003) – 9 (IMDb 7.9) – Crime, Drama (Denmark)
Small Time Crooks (2000) – 7 (IMDb 6.5) – Comedy, Crime (USA)
Considered one of Woody Allen’s lesser films Small Time Crooks is actually an excellent exploration of what fame and fortune can do to people. It’s also features one of Allen’s most hopeful endings, this and Midnight in Paris are as close at it gets to a happy ending for him. I really dug the story of this normal Manhattan couple who suddenly makes a lot of money selling cookies. The wife wants to be part of high society, but the “real” rich people don’t care about her, because she’s ignorant and has bad taste. Her husband, a thief, doesn’t care, he seems to be missing their old life. He was content with what he had, even if it was mediocre.
The Purge (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 5.6) – Horror, Thriller (USA)
Great concept doesn’t always equal great movie. The premise of The Purge is that in the future the US government will legalize crime for one night of the year, so that people “get it out of their system”. The film is about a family whose home is invaded and how they have to fight to survive. Besides plot holes and a cheesy script, I must say the atmosphere and tension mostly work. It’s the cast that sells it. The social commentary is so obvious I won’t discuss it, but it does make you think and it does bring up some interesting questions and issues. At the end of the day though this film is more interesting from a philosophical stand point than a filmmaking one.
That’s it for this week. I tried to keep the reviews really short: It saves time. See you next week!