All posts tagged: Woody Allen

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DVD Review: “Magic in the Moonlight,” Woody Allen’s Lives Up to its Name

Berlin, 1928. Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is a renowned magician working under the guise of Wei Ling Soo. He marvels audiences by making elephants vanish on stage, cutting women in half, and performing a trick in which he enters a box, disappears, and then rematerializes in a chair ten feet away. But there’s no magic involved here; there is logic behind everything Stanley does and if pressed, he can answer how he pulls off each trick. You see, Stanley doesn’t believe in magic, or God, or even true love. Much to the chagrin of his beloved Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Stanley is a cynic. One evening, Howard (Simon McBurney), Stanley’s oldest friend, visits the illusionist. Howard was hired by American socialites, George and Caroline (Jeremy Shamos and Erica Leerhsen), to debunk the clairvoyant powers of a woman named Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), who has taken Caroline’s brother, Brice (Hamish Linklater) and mother (Jacki Weaver) under her spell. Brice is so smitten he wants to marry Sophie. Caroline is concerned for her brother’s well being, as …

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CD REVIEW: Julian Velard, “If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave”

“No one plays Gershwin anymore,” laments Julian Velard in “That Old Manhattan,” the penultimate and one of the standout tracks from his exceptional new album, If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave, which is being released June 17. As if to accentuate his point, in the chorus he throws in the main riff from “Rhapsody in Blue” on the piano, albeit modified for 3/4 time.

10 Movies…That Had Better Titles In Pre-Production (Like ‘The To Do List’ Had)

A lot can happen from the time a script is turned in to a studio to the time the film actually goes into production. Actors are cast and then recast, shooting locations may change, the script gets rewritten a bunch of times, and even the name of the damn movie might end up getting tweaked. Such is the case with this week’s The To Do List, which, subtly and playfully gets across the point that the movie is about a girl racking up sexual experiences before she leaves for college…but it’s not nearly as raunchy, or absolutely unmarketable, as the original title, The Hand Job. Here are ten other movies that chickened out and went bland and familiar instead of evocative and bonkers. Last Action Hero This ultra-meta parody of extremely violent action movies was supposed to be called…Extremely Violent. Scream This ultra-meta parody of scary movies was supposed to be called…Scary Movie. (That title was then, ironically, used for a series of horror movie parody films.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Yeah, The Texas Chainsaw …

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10 Movies…About Magicians (To Prepare You For ‘Now You See Me’)

I’m not sure Now You See Me is a real movie—I’m pretty sure it’s part of the massive viral marketing campaign for last weekend’s huge Arrested Development revival. Evidence: it stars Michael Cera look-alike Jesse Eisenberg, new A.D. cast member Isla Fisher, and the plot concerns both the theft of money and cheesy, Vegas-style magic—I mean illusions. (“A trick is something a whore does for money. Or cocaine.” — GOB Bluth.) Here then are 10 certifiably real movies about magic anyway. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone If they’d made that Arrested Development movie, and it was solely about GOB and his rival magician, Tony Wonder, this would be that movie.   Scoop The ghost of a man played by a notable actor hamming it up (Ian McShane) helps a cute young girl (Scarlett Johansson) and her bumbling friend (Woody Allen) solve a mystery. Fun fact: Woody Allen wrote this in 1971 as a Scooby-Doo spec script.   Hugo It’s about movies, and magic…but really the “magic” of “movies.” Awww….   The Geisha Boy Jerry Lewis stars …

Farkakte Film Flashback: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” Edition

Thanksgiving is upon us once again, and you know what that means: Dinner, and awkward interaction with little-seen family members. And then dessert. Because let’s face it — without food we might as well just call each other and have awkward silences over the phone. And the cinema is no different. So, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I’d revisit some films where the dinner table is practically its own separate character, because somehow these movies wouldn’t be the same if the characters went bowling or water skiing instead of sitting down to break bread (although in a few cases those are options I would like to have seen). Notorious (1946): There are so many little rules you should follow if you want to throw a truly special dinner party. For instance, you may want to consider cloth napkins folded like a swan. Also, if your wife is a spy, make sure the man she really loves doesn’t come to rescue her from certain poisoning when you’re having all your high-ranking Nazi friends …

TV Review: “Independent Lens – No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos”

The latest installment of the vaunted PBS series Independent Lens is No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos. The documentary about the legendary Hungarian cinematographers debuts this week around the country. Check your local listings for time and channel. Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond met at film school in Budapest in the 1950s. When Soviet tanks rumbled into the city to crush the reform movement in 1956, the two friends took to the streets to document the horrors of the crackdown. They understood the importance of the footage they had, and volunteered to smuggle it out of their repressed country. The two filmmakers eventually settled in Hollywood, where they did all sorts of odd jobs before getting opportunities to work on low-budget horror and biker films. Over the next 40 years, they created some of the most indelible images in the history of film. Kovacs got his break when he was tapped to be the Director of Photography for the seminal film Easy Rider in 1969. He went on to be the cinematographer on some of …

CD Review: Porcupine Tree, “The Incident”

A famous occurrence found its way into Woody Allen’s film Manhattan. The director has just explained all the artistic allusion and metaphor in his latest work, pouring over details and really attempting to make an artistic statement. Then comes time for the audience Q&A session. First question: when are you going to be funny again? I had this thought while listening to Porcupine Tree’s latest, The Incident. Before you misconstrue where I’m headed, let me say I enjoyed The Incident quite a bit. It is, as the prog rock geeks prefer, an epic with that first and title track actually being a suite of songs and interludes (14 in all), ranging from the opening piece of aggressive guitar, “Occam’s Razor” to the affecting pop-hard rock of “Time Flies,” the centerpiece of the suite, to the melancholic and affecting closer, “I Drive The Hearse.” Four additional songs are found on a second disc, unrelated to the suite but no less tonally similar, and here lies my hesitance about The Incident. The band’s output has been steady …

DVD Review: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008, The Weinstein Company) purchase this DVD (Amazon) Whatever your feelings about Woody Allen — and Lord knows I’ve had my ups and downs with his movies — it’s impossible to overestimate his influence on American comedy. It’s sort of ironic, because Allen isn’t always very funny, but his classic films proved that people will pay to watch characters do little other than talk about their problems — heck, we’ll even show up if the movie doesn’t come with one of those stereotypical Hollywood endings. When he’s on his game, Woody will convince you it’s a good idea to pay full ticket price for 90 minutes of wordy self-analysis — and you’ll probably even get a few belly laughs out of it. Of course, Woody isn’t always on his game, and as he’s moved into the autumn of his career, he’s often gotten full credit for partial work, especially from critics who remember Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters and are grateful they no longer have to review stuff like Celebrity, …