A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy Review
Director – Woody Allen
Cast – Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer, Julia Hagerty, Tony Roberts, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Redfield
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy lies somewhere in between those examples. It is not a Great Film to be sure, but not every movie has to be. Here we have a breezy, light, slightly fantastical take on romance, all done in Allen’s unmistakable style.
The story concerns a group of friends, three couples, who rent a house out in “the country” to spend a small vacation together. Of course each person finds themself desiring a member of another couple, and hijinks ensue. People climb out of windows, meet in wooded glades, and deal with the inevitable confusions and mixups that it all entails. It is all very laid back, but has a dry wit and enough imagination to keep it flowing nice and smoothly.
Allen also adds some strangely fantastical elements. A subplot which becomes a bit more relevant towards the end of the movie concerns spirits, and Allen’s inventor character even has a bicycle powered flying machine. Does it all quite fit? No, but we don’t care. Ferrer is funny in a strangely funny and sympathetic “old leche” role, and the cinematography is lush and vibrant. Woody Allen doesn’t normally do movies in natural settings, and purposefully wanted to try something different here, despite his self-professed hatred of anywhere outside of a city.
All in all, the movie is best described by its title. It is as relaxed, warm, and modest in ambition as a lazy, hot summer late-afternoon. It aspires to nothing more, and while it may not achieve too much, it is comforting and pleasant. I wish there were more movies like this.
Don’t expect a huge amount from A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, but it is a sweet 90 minutes. Woody Allen has made better, to be sure, but he has also made much worse. This may not be a ringing endorsement, but is in no way an insult. Pleasant is the best word for this movie, just pleasant.
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John Carter Review
Review # 146
Director – Andrew Stanton
Cast – Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Cirian Hinds, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, James Purefoy
After Brad Bird’s excellent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the bar was set for Andrew Stanton. Another prominent Pixar director who was making the switch to live action, Stanton had found success with his Finding Nemo and Wall-E, two little films you just may have heard of. His entry to the live action realm is John Carter, an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi book A Princess of Mars. Featuring a Civil War veteran mysteriously transported to Mars, the book is a widely loved and admired piece of work. It is a pity that the movie is set to be anything but. Critics have been lukewarm at best towards it, and it has been savaged by the industry for its alleged massive budget. I doesn’t look to be gaining much of it back, either. Even comparisons to Ishtar have been made. Ouch.
Maybe the whole situation was just made worse by Bird’s excellent film preceding this by mere months. It built up expectations that in the end just couldn’t pay off. While Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was witty, fast, and delivered exactly what it promised, John Carter is dry, derivative, and dull. Very, very dull.
The key issue is the writing, frankly. It’s expositional, stiff, and all about plot. We can’t get good characterization if every line is “We must get over there!”, or “The good guys have the blue flag, the bad guys the red!”. Several different Mars factions are shown, from humanoids to 9-feet tall four armed aliens. None of their motivations are extremely clear. Mark Strong heads one group, so they must be the bad guys. Poor Mark Strong, you do something well and that’s all they’ll hire you to do…
It doesn’t help that Taylor Kitcsh is miscast as the titular character, and growls out every line as if imitating Christian Bale’s Batman voice. “I am JOHN CARTER!” The strange voices aren’t limited to him though; Lilly Collins has an affected British accent that comes and goes with every other line. James Purefoy and Dominic West come out unscathed, as do the special effects team. In fact the special effects are excellent. The production design and the effects are without a doubt the best thing in the movie. The 3D is pointless though. Even Stanton has said he didn’t really want it or like it.
John Carter is dull, muddled, and at least half an hour too long. Characterization is flat and uninteresting, and while it does have a couple laughs and half way interesting moments (the sequence near the beginning where John is repeatedly arrested is a sign of where the movie could have gone), the rest of the movie is dry as dust. Not recommended for any but sci-fi addicts.
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The Iron Lady Review
Director – Phyllida Lloyd
Cast – Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Iain Glen, Olivia Colman, Anthony Head, Nicholas Farrell, Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam, Michael Pennington
The Iron Lady features Meryl Streep in an Academy Award winning role as the legendary (and to some, infamous) British Prime Minister. Streep is excellent. So is her makeup. And that’s all that works, really.
If I was feeling vicious I might say the movie is ridiculous, and that a dull pencil has more of a point. If I was feeling generous I might say that the movie lacks focus. As it is, I will just say that I was by turns bored, frustrated, and bored again.
In attempting to follow Thatcher’s life, we jump back and forth from the present (where, in a shockingly insensitive plot device, she constantly hallucinates images of her dead husband), to the past, where we get a bare thumbnail sketch of what made her the woman she became; and what we are given is composed of very broad strokes, I must add. Her father was politically conscious and a Conservative, so of course we see him addressing a group of similar feeling folk with a speech straight out of Torie 101. We constantly hear his face over the film in these sections… “Be Strong, Margaret,” “Be yourself, Margaret.” The platitudes do not let up as we continue, either.
Once we reach the stage in her flashbacks when she is prime minster, the movie falls into a rut of scenes in the past alternating between crushing political defeats and uplifting Great Moments (you know what I mean, the moments from which trailers can cherry pick to their heart’s content), to Margaret hobbling around her small flat, hallucinating that her old hubby is still around, charming her with his eccentricities. There really is no point, nor is one ever implied. I found myself yearning for something resembling a through line, but there is nothing, not amongst the plot, the films comments on Thatcher, her governing style, the era, nothing. The Iron Lady is essentially the emotional equivalent of a Transformers film; while the latter may bore us with repetitive and dull action scenes, the former hits us over the head with one dry, manipulative, and dull Emotional Moment after another.
How is Meryl Streep so good, yet is so rarely able to choose projects worthy good as her talents? This film, a period drama biopic, was for some reason helmed by Phyllia Lloyd, the same person as Mamma Mia. Mamma Mia… the ABBA musical. The ABBA musical that also somehow managed to be dry as dust and absolutely pointless. Are we supposed to like Margaret Thatcher? To hate her? To see her as just a human being? I don’t think the movie knows or cares, and by the last of the sugar-coated Great Moments, our teeth are numb, we feel listless, and we don’t care either.
The Iron Lady is frustratingly inept, but has a commanding performance by Meryl Streep. Actually, most of the actors acquit themselves well, but a lame duck of a script and muddled direction stop the movie from becoming anything. It is mainly frustrating because the motives behind the movie are so obviously pure. I can really only recommend this to Streep purists.
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