ANTZ (1998)

Directed By: Eric Darnell & Tim Johnson 
Written By: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz & Todd Alcott 
Editor: Stan Webb

Cast: (voices) Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtain, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, John Mahoney, Paul Mazursky, Grant Shaud, Jim Cummings 

Z, the worker-ant strives to reconcile his own individuality with the communal work ethic of the ant colony. Falling in love with the ant-Princess Bala, Z strives to make social inroads, and then ultimately must save the ant colony from the treacherous schemings of the evil General Mandible that threaten to wipe out the entire worker population. Themes of individuality run rampant.


This was one of the first animated films to really have an all-star cast of voices and really put the film out like a blockbuster with real stars. It is a hit most studios thought that that formula would work. It worked for a short period of time until the audience realized the story matters too. 

While the ensemble all-star cast is here some are odd casting choices that reek of Stunt casting at times and are More like picking actors who would never co-star together regularly.

One of the reasons now anytime an animated film comes out that it is successful for the most part is more than it seems as there are no purely live-action kids films. Animated is usually the only form of children’s entertainment that is coming out unless you count fantasy films though those are aimed at the whole family.

Woody Allen perfectly cast this as his comedy film with broad humor and from an outsider viewpoint amongst his peers, again an unbelievably gorgeous female lead he gets to romance. Though essentially it also feels like a Woody Allen Movie. Only with more action and outside of New York and of course for a younger audience. 

This film came out against the similarly themed A BUGS LIFE life from Pixar.  which I will admit is more impressive visually, but I find this film to be more all-around enjoyable. This is more pedestrian and not as impressive in the animation. This is kind of basic. Not made to be so special. Full of more enjoyment.

A BUG’S LIFE seemed to think visuals first story second believing the audience to be so enraptured by the animation they won’t care about the other details as much. The same type of thinking that reminds me of the film AVATAR

Grade: C+

ANTZ (1998)

Directed By: Eric Darnell & Tim Johnson Written By: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz & Todd Alcott

Editor: Stan Webb

Cast: (voices) Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtain, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, John Mahoney, Paul Mazursky, Grant Shaud, Jim Cummings 

Z, the worker-ant strives to reconcile his own individuality with the communal work ethic of the ant colony. Falling in love with the ant-Princess Bala, Z strives to make social inroads, and then ultimately must save the ant colony from the treacherous schemings of the evil General Mandible that threaten to wipe out the entire worker population. Themes of individuality run rampant.


This was one of the first animated films to really have an all-star cast of voices and really put the film out like a blockbuster with real stars. It is a hit most studios thought that that formula would work. It worked for a short period of time until the audience realized the story matters too. 

While the ensemble all-star cast is here some are odd casting choices that reek of Stunt casting at times and are More like picking actors who would never co-star together regularly.

One of the reasons now anytime an animated film comes out that it is successful for the most part is more than it seems as there are no purely live-action kids films. Animated is usually the only form of children’s entertainment that is coming out unless you count fantasy films though those are aimed at the whole family.

Woody Allen perfectly cast this as his comedy film with broad humor and from an outsider viewpoint amongst his peers, again an unbelievably gorgeous female lead he gets to romance. Though essentially it also feels like a Woody Allen Movie. Only with more action and outside of New York and of course for a younger audience. 

This film came out against the similarly themed A BUGS LIFE life from Pixar.  which I will admit is more impressive visually, but I find this film to be more all-around enjoyable. This is more pedestrian and not as impressive in the animation. This is kind of basic. Not made to be so special. Full of more enjoyment.

A BUG’S LIFE seemed to think visuals first story second believing the audience to be so enraptured by the animation they won’t care about the other details as much. The same type of thinking that reminds me of the film AVATAR

Grade: C+

VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA (2008)


Written & Directed By: Woody Allen 
Cinematography By: Javier Aguirresarobe 
Editor: Alisa Lepselter 

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn, Zak Orth, Chris Messina

 

Sexually adventurous Cristina and her friend Vicky, who is bright but cautious, holiday in Barcelona where they meet the celebrated and wholly seductive painter, Juan Antonio. Vicky is not about to dive into a sexual adventure being committed to her forthcoming marriage. But Cristina is immediately captivated by Juan Antonio’s free spirit and his romantic allure is enhanced when she hears the delicious details of his divorce from fellow artist, the tempestuous Maria Elena. 


This is a partially unusual film for Woody Allen maybe it’s because it is set in Spain and the country is both artistic and romantic and sensual. This film is one sexy movie now all the leads are of course good looking and have been in tons of other films. Where they have been sex symbols and objects and that is what most films are there to do to make the actors look the best they can but in this film, they practically sizzle the film shows them at their best. 
 

Now in the Woody Allen canon of movies, it’s not the best but it is better than some of his others but it still seems slight this one as usual revolves around artists and muses and the philosophy of relationships. As Rebecca Hall’s character goes to Barcelona to finish her thesis and is engaged she brings her friend Scarlett Johansen who is a flight sexy beauty and they meet Javier Bardem and both end up falling for him though Rebecca Hall tries very much not to so Scarlett Johanssen ends up staying with him trying to find her own identity but problems soon arise as his ex played by Penelope Cruz comes back into his life.  

This is pretty much Penelope Cruz’s movie even though her character comes is not in the film until halfway in. She is talked about so much that when she finally shows up she is everything you expect and worse. Javier Bardem is good as the lothario with sex appeal. Which he should be since Woody specifically wrote the role with him in mind and had no other choice lined up to play the role. 


Scarlett Johansen gives a good experience but she still suffers from the Rosario Dawson syndrome. Where a star actress is always stuck in the girlfriend role. Only here Scarlett is sexy given tons of screen time but not too much to actually do other than be almost a prop in the background always she isn’t given a real character to play. On the other hand, Rebecca Hall makes a deep impression maybe it’s because she is in a way playing the Woody Allenish character the nebbish only this time female. The film is the best-looking cast Woody has ever worked with. 

This is a film that shows the bohemian ideals that seems to be at war with the nouveau riche the establishment represented by Patricia Clarkson and Kevin Dunn. Clarkson’s character is a romantic dreamer who always wonders what if she would have run off with a poor lover years ago. She imagines her life could have been more exciting and fulfilled, Whereas now she has money but is bored she loves her husband, but he doesn’t seem to return the favor he cares more about business than objects. He views her as just another possession I don’t know if that was intended but that is how I felt watching the film. 


 In essence, this is a film about the What If. The ideals and problems you could have by running off with that smooth talker. It is also the nightmare story of the ex-girlfriend who never leaves and haunts and stalks you who takes things to the extreme to try and get you back and intimidate your new girlfriend. Though the film doesn’t go the thriller way it chooses to be a little more realistic in a dramedy romantic comedy way.


The film is a good movie to watch it is a good time waster. I’d say it is worth buying if it was 14.95 and would be a lot more interesting if Woody Allen gave a commentary just to see what his thought process was since this is such a big departure from his other films around that time. Which at that point was an improvement. 

 GRADE: B

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

CAFE SOCIETY (2016)

CAFE

Written & Directed By: Woody Allen
Cinematography By: Vittorio Storaro
Editor: Alisa Lepselter 


Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carrell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Anna Camp, Richard Portnow, Paul Schneider, Jeannie Berlin, Sheryl Lee, Saul Stein, Tony Sirico, Don Stark, Elissa Piszel 


In 1930’s Hollywood, the powerful agent, Phil Stern, is attending a party and receives a phone call from his sister living in New York. She asks for a job to her son and Phil’s nephew, Bobby, who decided to move to Hollywood. Three weeks later Phil schedules a meeting with Bobby and decides to help him. He asks his secretary Veronica “Vonnie” to hang around with Bobby, showing him the touristic places. Bobby immediately falls in love with Vonnie, but she tells that she has a boyfriend, a journalist that travels most of the time. However, Vonnie’s boyfriend is indeed a married man that is also in love with her and soon she has to make a choice between her two loves.

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MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (2014)

Magic-in-the-Moonlight-DI-1

Written & Directed By: Woody Allen
Cinematography By: Darius Khondji
Editor: Alisa Lepselter 


Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Simon McBurney, Eileen Atkins, Catherine McCormick, Erica Leerhsen Hamish Linklater, Ute Lemper

Stanley is a magician who has dedicated his life to revealing fraudulent spiritualists. He plans to quickly uncover the truth behind celebrated spiritualist Sophie and her scheming mother. However, the more time he spends with her, he starts thinking that she might actually be able to communicate with the other world, but even worse, he might be falling in love with her.

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IRRATIONAL MAN (2015)

irrationalman

Written & Directed By: Woody Allen
Cinematography By: Darius Khondji
Editor: Alisa Lepselter 

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Ethan Phillips, Joe Blackely, Robert Petkoff, Sophie Von Haselberg

A new philosophy professor arrives on a small town campus near Newport, Rhode Island. His name, Abe Lucas. His reputation : bad. Abe is said to be a womanizer and an alcoholic. But what people do not know is that he is a disillusioned idealist. Since he has become aware of his inability to change the world, he has indeed been living in a state of deep nihilism and arrogant desperation. In class, he only goes through the motions and outside he drinks too much. But as far as sex is concerned, he is just a shadow of himself now: depression is not synonymous with Viagra! For all that, he can’t help being attracted to one of his students, pretty and bright Jill Pollard. He enters into a relationship with her which remains platonic, even if Jill would not say no to more. The situation remains unchanged for a while until, one day, in a diner, Abe and Jill surprise a conversation that will change the course of their lives dramatically…

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