CELEBRITY (1998)

Written & Directed by: Woody Allen 
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Editor: Susan E. Morse 

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Winona Ryder, Famke Janssen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gretchen Mol, Greg Mottola, Charlize Theron, Judy Davis, Douglas McGrath, Joe Mantegna, Andre Gregory, Sam Rockwell, Adrian Grenier, Michael Lerner, Melanie Griffith, J.K. Simmons, Famke Janssen, Becky Ann Baker, Issac Mizrahi, Anthony Mason, Kate Burton, Debra Messing, David Marguiles, Tony Sirico, Bebe Neuwirth, Patti D’Arbanville, Ingrid Rogers, Jeffrey Wright, Hank Azaria, Karen Duffy, Aida Turturro, Allison Janney, Donna Hanover, Celia Weston, Wood Harris, Donald Trump 

Lee Simon, unsuccessful journalist and wanna-be novelist, tries to get his foot in the door with celebrities. After divorcing his wife Robin, Lee gets to meet a lot folks of the rich and/or beautiful, partly through journalism, and partly because he has a script to offer. But life amongst those from out-of-this-world is hard, and his putative success always results in defeat. Meanwhile, Robin meets a very desirable television producer and takes the first steps in the world of celebrities.


This seems to be more of a moralistic take more than a character piece. filming in black and white the film does come off looking beautiful and Classic but just like the characters, it’s empty.

This isn’t a typical woody Allen film. This feels more aggressive and verbose than usual a bit more hardcore. Where you can’t tell if he is angry or trying to fit in with the cinematic trends and language of the time. As this film and DECONSTRUCTING HARRY have that in common. 

While we have the typical Woody Allen type surrogate lead character played here by Kenneth Branagh. Here he feels disposable and never quite makes a mark. As he is just one of the many unlikeable characters throughout the film.

The characters are all physically beautiful but seem to be grotesque internally. As it seems only the lead character seems to know better. As he constantly cheats on his wife as his profile seems to rise, but as he slowly gets his comeuppance his suffering wife seems to become famous herself and finds love and good fortunes. 

The film seems more like a commentary on modern life at that time. The nature of celebrity web tabloids. A kind of acid commentary on it all. While feeling like a tabloid itself how it jumps around from character to character and tale to tale. Though it also feels like with this film though not surreal Allen seems to try to emulate Fredrico Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA to a degree. While it tries to feel like that movie it never quite rises to that level. 

Using the nature of having a lot of big names in his cast. They are here for a reason. While this little is a commentary the film seems scattershot and ultimately lost because it never seems to come to a point. Just cruelty  As the Lead and the movie goes on many misadventures on his way to trying to achieve being a great writer and screenwriter. He finds the romantic entanglements prove to be as artificial as the proper and the world he is trying to enter. Even if all are around him are supposed to be artists and of such depth and passion. Showing all to be more in the moment and inauthentic with a love of self More than anything. 

Falling in love with the image in which others see them and list after them. Loving their own image More than anything else. 

The most noteworthy thing about this movie is that it has Leonardo DiCaprio in it. Mirroring his TITANIC fame of popularity but this was filmed before that film’s release. So it seems like life imitating art. Though some of the films revolve around him, he isn’t actually in it much. 

While not a classic the film is admirable in it’s own ways. It is beautifully shot and tries to say something overall it just has a funny way of showing it. 

Grade: C

ROUNDERS (1998)

Directed By: John Dahl 
Written By: Brian Koppelman & David Levien 
Cinematography By: Jean-Yves Escoffier 
Editor: Scott Chesnut 

Cast: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Martin Landau, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Michael Rispoli, Famke Janssen, Josh Mostel, Melina Kanakaredes, Lenny Clarke 

A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks


The Film takes you into the backroom parlors and other places around the city where gambling and illegal gaming is going on.

The film puts you in the right atmosphere of a certain kind of elegance and well as an underground network of con men and illegal activities. Which the film tries to come off as cool and slick, but comes off as stiff. The confines though feel illustrious and classic. Like age-old traditions which help give the film a richness. All the scenes seem to filtered with deep dark reds.

By all means, considering the talent involved in the film, this should be a better film. The way the film plays, it acts like it’s a better film then what it is. While it has a pedigree, the film hasn’t earned that right yet.

While it has it’s share of surprises the story feels fairly predictable. The thing that keeps you watching is wondering when and how what you know is going to happen.

Though he is good Edward Norton seems to be coasting through this film. While Matt Damon seems to be taking it seriously while that works for him. It’s not too much of a stretch. While Norton seems to be trying to create a character with very few details. But seems to be going for classic gritty scumbag.
The film at least gives him an important decision to make but either way it is looking up for him whichever decision he makes. only one is more dangerous and uncertain. While the other he is good at but has no passion for.

At the time Hollywood’s it girl Gretchen Mol has what passes for a female leading role, though in the end, it comes off as a typical girlfriend role. There isn’t a real character there just a point in the script to give the lead something to be working toward and pulling him in one direction while the other direction entices him.

It’s fun to see John Malkovich hamming it up in his role. Where he gets to be a character and a heavy. While also getting to be funny

The film seems to have an attitude like it’s supposed to be or going to be a classic New York tale, yet comes off as mediocre and a story that feels familiar that is not necessarily better but isn’t worse than how we have seen it before.

It’s entertaining and a disappointment only because you go in thinking about the possibilities that it never achieves. One of the problems in this film is that we understand the bonds of friendship, but these guys are hustlers and poker players a game of not only skill but smarts. Now he realizes his friend is a screw-up which almost anyone except for him can see. So that when a betrayal does eventually happen He is so shocked. Yet expects loyalty even though they are not family.

I know I am hard on this film, it’s not a bad film. Maybe it’s just the fact I have seen so many films this one does little to distinguish itself. It’s a good film that is enjoyable yet there is nothing too special about it. I remember seeing this in theaters on opening night with a small audience. I expected a bigger more appreciative crowd. Yet the theater was nearly empty. The film is entertaining and as long as you don’t expect much it’s good. It’s just watching it and thinking of how much better it could hurt a little. It does set an intoxicating mood with it’s elements. Giving it a feeling of warmness in treacherous times.

GRADE: B

LAGGIES (2014)

laggies

Directed By: Lynn Shelton
Written By: Andrea Seigel
Cinematography By: Benjamin Kasulke
Editor: Nat Sanders 


Cast: Keira Knightly, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin, Mark Webber, Gretchen Mol, Daniel Zovatto, Sara Coates, Kaitlyn Dever

Megan’s approaching 30 with a good degree and a boyfriend in hand, but when he proposes at her friend’s wedding and everyone seems to think that the best way to advance in her career is to take a seminar where you find out what animal you are, Megan’s understandably feeling lost. After meeting teenagers who want her to buy them beer, Megan is drawn into 16-year-old Annika’s simpler life. She ends up moving in with Annika and her single father, juggling the life of a teen and that of an adult, two romantic interests, and the feeling of lagging behind.

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