5 ideas about a movie: Cafe Society

Movie reviews

Hello!

The newest Woody Allen picture that hopes to be an awards’ contender has reached theatres, so let’s discuss it!

IMDb summary: In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.

  1. Woody Allen’s filmography is extensive and impressive. I’ve mostly familiar with his latest European adventure films (Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in ParisYou Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, To Rome With Love and Magic in the Moonlight which I reviewed when it came out in 2014) as well as his latest features set in The States (Blue Jasmine and Irrational Man which I’ve also reviewed). I also really want to watch some of his older classics, starting with Manhattan and Annie Hall. Speaking about his newest picture – Cafe Society – it is a Woody Allen film to the bone. In addition, if Hail, Caesar! was The Coen brothers’ love letter to Hollywood, then Cafe Society is Allen’s homage to the Golden Age of the movie capital as well as a subtle critique of it.
  2. Like always, Allen wrote the script for the movie himself. Once again, he explored his signature ideas, like love and romance, and asked the existential questions. He also invited the viewers to think what would have happened if the characters made different life choices. Looking at the format of the narrative, the film didn’t have a linear story. The plot consisted of character moments/scenes, which were connected with/through narration (done by Allen himself). Since the picture was partially set in Hollywood, it made a lot of movie references, which I, as a cinephile, appreciated. Cafe Society was kinda an absurd comedy but not a dark one – it was full of light, heartfelt satire. It also had an artsy and a dreamy aura about it with a touch of charm.
  3. Woody Allen used his signature camera movements and filming techniques to create this feature. Together with the famous Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Allen crafted beautiful steady shots that allowed the viewer to calmly appreciate the gorgeous mise-en-scene. The back and forth over the shoulder shots and wipe and fade away transitions brought a classical Hollywood narrative film feeling to the picture, while the tracking shots added some movement and energy. The framing of the picture was neat as well – I loved how the characters moved in and out of the frame and how the filmmakers played with on-and-off-screen spaces. My favorite scene of Cafe Society was Kristen Stewart’s and Steve Carell’s characters’ confrontation with interruptions – it was crafted magnificently and was not only entertaining and funny but emotional and meaningful. Lastly, the movie had Allen’s signature warm color palette and the lovely and quirky upbeat soundtrack.
  4. The two leads were played by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. This was their 3rd movie together (the first two were Adventureland and American Ultra). The pair had a very subtle chemistry which worked really well in a film like this. I enjoyed seeing Eisenberg in his usual role of an awkward yet adorable guy and did enjoy how he portrayed the character’s transition and growth. While I like Eisenberg the most in the roles likes this one and in films like The Social Network and Now You See Me, I also want to see him trying something different. I actually do want to see what will he do with the character of Lex Luthor as BvS ending was promising. Kristen Stewart was also really good in the film, she probably played her most feminine role yet which was quite interesting to observe. I was used to Stewart playing a rebel of some sorts like in Still Alice or Camp X-Ray.
  5. The supporting cast of the film did a great job as well. I was quite surprised to see Steve Carell (The Big Short) in the film but he was really good – he even made me, as a viewer, empathetic towards a kinda creepy character. Blake Lively was amazing in her small role too – her dazzling look and almost regal and sophisticated yet still flirty demeanor fit the setting of old Hollywood perfectly. I’m finally seeing her movie The Shallows next week. Jeannie Berlin was super funny – I loved how blunt her character was. Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, Black Mass) was also great and added some grunge to the overall glamorous picture. Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) was also great with her laughing-through-tears scene.

In short, Cafe Society was another great film by Woody Allen. It is a must watch for all the fans of the auteur and I would also recommend it to all the fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Cafe Society trailer

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Movie review: American Ultra

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, I’ve already told you that I’ve moved to Scotland. However, before boarding my late night flight to Edinburgh on Friday, I had some spare time in the morning to sneak to the cinema for one last time. So, I watched the only new release that had a morning showing time – American Ultra – and this is going to be my review. And also – the official opening of the fall movie season.

IMDb summary: A stoner – who is, in fact, a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

Writing and Directing

This movie was written by Max Landis of Chronicle. Although I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chronicle, I haven’t actually seen it. Speaking about his American Ultra script and story – it is not that great. For one, the premise of the film made no sense. Why would you send terrible and crazy agents to eliminate another dangerous agent, who would not be dangerous if you just left him alone. Also, I am starting to feel bad for the CIA, because they are always portrayed as the worst organization in the world on the silver screen. Also, the film had way too many characters and way too many subplots, which lacked development and frankly, were not needed at all. Also, this film crossed the line of humanity way too many times. I, for one, couldn’t root for the main character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, just because of how mercilessly he killed others despite the fact that it might not have been his fault. Now I worry about Suicide Squad because there is a very fine line between antagonist and a villain and movie studios shouldn’t expect the viewers to be on a villain’s side.

Lastly, this might make be sound stupid, but I will still say it. This movie really lacked seriousness. I know that this is a stoner-comedy-action flick, but even those time of films can be much more sophisticated and more interesting. When you base a film on a stupid premise and execute it in an SNL skit form, you cannot really end up with a great final product.  The ending of the film was also really crappy and totally unrealistic.

Max Landis’s next film will be coming out later in the year. It’s a horror film and a new adaptation 1818 novel Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Victor Frankenstein. I am not a fan of horror films, but I might just give Landis one more chance to impress me, just because that film has amazing leading actors – Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy.

While I was disappointed with the story, the directing aspect of the film was quite good. The continuous fight scene in the supermarket at the end of the film was exciting and the animated end credits looked cool as well. Surprisingly, this film was directed by Project X’s Nima Nourizadeh. His skills have definitely improved since the 2012’s found-footage cult flick.

Acting

  1. Jesse Eisenberg as Agent Howell. I don’t even know what to say about his performance. First of all, his hair style was really distracting and I really don’t want to see similar wig on Lex Luthor in BvS but I guess I will just have to deal with it. Eisenberg pulled off his action scenes quite nicely, but I have seen him do better when it comes to dialogue. The Social Network is still my favorite movie of his, though I loved Now You See Me as well.
  2. Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson. Kristen played my favorite character in the whole film and I was not expecting to get any twists in her story, but the one we got was quite cool. I also loved that she eventually turned out to be a bad-ass in her own right, despite the fact that Eisenberg’s character wanted to save her. I was always a fan of Kristen’s (yes, I was a 12-year-old Twi-hard once) and loved her in Still Alice and Camp X-Ray. I really want to see Clouds of Sils Maria as well, because Stewart won the prestigious Cesar Award for that film.
  3. Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter. Victoria was one of the supervisors of the program that turned Eisenberg’s character into an agent. She ultimately tried to save him. The mother-son relationship that they wanted to explore with her and his characters was not really working.
  4.  Walton Goggins as Laugher, John Leguizamo as Rose and Topher Grace as Adrian Yates. Although all of these immensely different actors played different roles, I want to talk about them as a group – a group of caricatures. Their characters were not original and they relied on stereotypical cliches and really stupid humor way too much. Frankly, it was just boring to watch them on screen.

All in all, American Ultra was an okay movie. The acting was good but some characters were way too boring, the story wasn’t that original, while the directorial execution was quite good as a sophomore project of the director. I might have seen way too many spy/agent movies this summer, so my bad opinions towards this film might be influenced by the movie fatigue of this specific genre.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: American Ultra trailer

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