Sunday, June 21, 2009


Written & Directed by Woody Allen

Where & When: Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena, CA June 21, 2009, 8:00PM

I have to admit that I really didn't get Woody Allen. I had seen "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" and I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Of course, I was sixteen around the time those films came out and his films were too serious and too "adult" for me. I didn't understand what the characters were babbling on about. "Grease" and "Star Wars" were the type of movies that appealed to me at that time although I had sneak in to see "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex" when I was about eleven. I thought it was kinda funny... and weird. I didn't completely get that movie when I saw it at that time either.

I have since seen "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" (and the "Sex" movie) as a more mature person and I really enjoyed them but the first film that I actually "got" and made me appreciate Mr. Allen's talent is "Hannah And Her Sisters". I loved his sense of humor and his vision as a filmmaker. I have seen almost everything he has made every since. Not all great but I still enjoyed seeing them. Today, my partner, Dean and I went to see Mr. Allen's fortieth film as a director, "Whatever Works". I really liked it although he doesn't stray from his usual themes: the meaning of life, the fear of death, and a questionable fascination with much younger women.

Larry David plays Boris Yelnikoff, a pessimistic, self proclaimed "genius" who has a very dark view of the world. Boris can also see the audience watching this film while no one else can. People think that he's crazy but he speaks to us and proceeds to tell us his story. One day, Boris was returning home when a young woman is living at the bottom of his stairs. Her name is Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood) and she begs Boris to give her a meal. Boris is obviously suspicious but he gives in and let's her into his home.

Melodie has runaway from home in a small town in Mississippi to start a new life in the big city. She has not experienced much in life and is impressed by Boris and his apparent wisdom. Against his better judgement, he lets Melodie stay with him until she gets settled and finds a job. Over time, Boris fills Melodie's impressionable mind with his point of view of the world and she appreciatively soaks it all in. Boris has fought his feelings for Melodie but he finds himself in love with her. So despite an at least a forty year age difference, Boris asks Melodie to marry him and she accepts.

A year later, Melodie's mother, Marietta (Patricia Clarkson), a devout woman, is knocking on their door. The sight of her long lost daughter in the arms of a man too old for even herself is too much for her to bear. We find out that Melodie's father has left her mother for her best friend. Marietta is appalled by Boris and New York but she eventually warms up to the city... but not to Boris. She turns her back on her religion. She decides to stay and she starts an unconventional new love life and new career as an artist. She also wants to find a nice, young man for her daughter. Melodie's father (Ed Begley, jr.) shows up and wants to make amends with his wife. He's a little late but he also discovers a new side of himself he has been suppressing while in the city. Melodie reluctantly finds herself getting involved with a man her mother has set up her with which leads her to be torn between her new love and Boris.

"Whatever Works" is a typical Woody Allen film, so you can expect a well written, well acted and kinda funny sort of film. Although this is certainly not his best but if you are a fan, you won't be disappointed. And to be honest even if you aren't a huge fan, you will be entertained.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

AWAY WE GO (2009)

Written By Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida

Directed By Sam Mendes

Where & When: Landmark West LA, Los Angeles, CA June 17, 2009 5:00PM

The problem I have with Sam Mendes is that although I am a fan and think he is very talented, I just can't say that I really loved any of his films. Starting with "American Beauty", a film I did like a lot but would have preferred if "The Cider House Rules" had won the Oscar that year. Even last year's "Revolutionary Road", I admired the film and the performances but I was not surprised it didn't do much during award season as some had predicted. It was good but definitely was not a great film. So I must say that those feelings continue with his latest offering, "Away We Go" a little, quirky type of film that I like to see. The problem is that compared to another quirky film like "Juno", "Away We Go" is no where near as good or as clever as that film.

We meet Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) in bed. He is under the covers, pleasuring his girlfriend when he notices something "different" about her. He suspects that she is pregnant. He is correct. Some time later at dinner with parents (Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) they discover that they are planing to fulfill a life long dream of moving to Belgium for two years. This news upsets Burt and Verona because they moved to Colorado specifically for his parents to be near the new baby.

After considering what they should do, they decide to travel across the country until they find an idea place to raise their forthcoming child. The first stop is Phoenix where they meet up with Verona's former boss, Lily (Allison Janney) and her family. Lily has no filter and says whatever is on her mind and it doesn't matter who is around. Her children are zoned out and her husband pacifies himself with booze. The perfect dysfunctional American family. After spending some time with them, they decide that Phoenix is not an ideal location and they continue on.

Next is Tucson where they visit Verona's sister, Grace (Carmen Ejogo). They lost their parents and they only have each other now. Verona fears she and Burt are slackers and have no direction. Grace reassures her that they are not and reminds her how lucky she is to have Burt. They continue on to Wisconsin where they visit Burt's family friend who he called "cousin" while growing up. Her name is Ellen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) or as she now calls her self LN. She has a couple children and lives with her man. LN is one of those new age, hippie trippy types who has very different views on life and child rearing with a strong aversion to strollers.

After a heated exchange with LN, Burt and Verona head to Montreal to visit a couple, Tom and Munch who were friends in college. They have several multi racial children that they have adopted. On the surface they seem perfectly content but after a few drinks they confess that Munch just had another miscarriage and their sadness in their inability to have a child of their own. Burt gets a call from his brother in Miami. His wife just left him and he doesn't know what to do or how to tell his daughter. They promptly head to Florida. Burt and Verona have traveled many miles but are still unclear of where they should settle down. After some soul searching, they soon realize where "home" really is.

This is a well made film with great performances but none of the characters seemed believable. While some of the dialogue is very funny, it certainly wasn't anything a real person would really say to someone. You will not regret seeing "Away We Go" but on the other hand it is not something you should rush out to see either.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Written By Pamela Cuming & Lee Ross

Directed By Johan Renck

Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5 West Hollywood, CA , June 9, 2009 1:30PM

"Downloading Nancy", a bleak and disturbing film, is about a woman named Nancy (Maria Bello) who was sexually abused as child and now suffering the effects of this as an adult. She cuts herself to feel something and has recently lost the will to go on. She just wants her pain to stop.

Nancy leaves a note for her husband, Albert (Rufus Sewell) telling him she is visiting friends in Boston. Unaware of her actually knowing anyone there, he's unfazed and goes on with life as usual. After four days, he hasn't heard from his wife and has no way to contact her. He still feels no strong urge to call the police. It doesn't appear that she has ever told him about her history, not that it would appear to matter much to him. He doesn't seem to have noticed how sad and depressed his wife has been lately and more shockingly, the cuts all over her arms and legs.

Nancy has actually gone to Boston to meet Louis, a man she has been corresponding with though the Internet. This man is played by Jason Patric and she has sought him out to help her end her pain. She feels that he understands her and that she is love with him. Before he actually does this, they go through a series of "love games". These are sexually charged where he tortures her emotionally and physically. This includes a particularly nasty scene involving a blindfold and mouse traps.

We learn that Nancy has been seeing a therapist (Amy Brenneman) to try and help her cope with her feelings. This therapist is so inept that she seems to be causing Nancy more harm than good and could use some serious therapy herself.

For some strange reason Louis decides to pay Nancy's husband a visit. He pretends to be a computer technician there to fix Nancy's faulty E-mail and is let into the house. Once Albert realizes this man knows his wife because he is wearing a personal item that belongs to her, he does the obvious thing -- No, he doesn't call the police. He knocks him out with a golf club and hog ties him. When Louis comes to, Albert demands answers. Louis is not forthcoming so Albert bashes him again with the golf club. This seems to turn Louis on, so now Albert doesn't know what to do.

Nothing about "Downloading Nancy" feels real or believable. Every single character is dark and heavy. The dialogue is just plain bizarre and the director's idea of showing emotion is having characters either scream at each other or throwing things or destroying a room. There is not one single light moment to be found throughout the entire film.

The only thing I got out of this was a feeling of depression and despair which is not my idea of entertainment. Nor was this film particularly interesting. I think the filmmaker took a serious subject matter and cheapened it for pure shock value. If there was some kind of point to all of this, I could not even begin to figure out what that was. "Downloading Nancy" is an ugly and disturbing mess and should be avoided at all costs.