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Round-Up

Here’s a bit of a round-up of the more forgettable of recentish films. And one Woody.

First up, Unstoppable eventually grinds to a merciful halt when the runaway train that Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are stuck with hits the 80-something minute mark and we alight at Thank Fuck. The credits have scarcely been as blessed. This was, I read somewhere, ‘Tony Scott back on form!’ Not so: this is Tony Scott strapping his camera onto a stomach-swivelling ‘carousel-cam’ in a ridiculous, lazy, laugh-and-sick inducing conceit clearly intended to invoke ‘tension’ and ‘compulsive thrills’. It’s a disastrous and howlingly-bad (and way, way over-employed) move that kills any ideas the film may have had about being a decent chase-thriller. And the hard-faced gall of expecting us to buy Chris Pine and Denzel Washington (fine, and therefore wasted) having a heart-to-heart about Pine’s unravelling family situ whilst the train they’re on is rattling towards high-speed imminent carnage is yet more heckle-enticement.

Due Date features Robert Downey Jr failing to endure Zach Galifiniakis on their unlikely race-against-time road trip from Atlanta to LA, amidst which you get the usual picaresque standards as dogs pulling themselves off, crippled thugs, dead people being mistaken for coffee and car smashes. There are 15 great minutes buried in here, honestly – the other 75 or so are a hammy, dull borefest.

Date Night pairs Tina Fey and Steve Carell as a couple trying to rekindle their stale marriage by getting tangled in all kinds of mistaken-identity peril. It works, but the film doesn’t, not even as a harmless comedy. Watch it only to see two fine comedic actors that have understood they are in a turkey phone in their interpretation of a flaccid script.

Finally, Whatever Works is a ‘return to form’ for Woody Allen – not that I am the best person to judge. I would watch any Woody Allen film, even the wretched, savagely misguided ones, and get plenty out of it, since he is God. So that fact that I think this Larry David vehicle is both extremely funny and may well be the best thing he’s done since Bullets Over Broadway is probably meaningless.

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  1. March 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Bullets over Broadway is one of my favourite Allens so it’s nice to see another fan.

    Looking at that picture, it’s not another story of an old man having an unlikely romance with a frankly very young but very pretty girl is it? I think Allen should possibly stay away from those. Still, best since BoB is high praise.

    The other three do sound dire.

    • March 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Oh boy – I’m a huge Woody fan. What are your other faves if I may ask?

      I honestly think it is (and yes, it is another old geezer with charming young girlfriend, and just as ridiculous as ever) the best since BoB. I mean, it’s the usual: misanthropy-monologues, the meaningless of existence and so on but it’s just so enjoyably maintained.

      The other three are truly terrible.

  2. March 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    The classics like Annie Hall of course. I liked Hannah and her Sisters. I actually have a soft spot for Manhattan Murder Mystery which is slight but fun (quite European in a way – the French are good at that sort of thing so it fits Allen would be too). I’m less taken by his very early zany stuff (though I do love the nervous sperm).

    I actually haven’t seen a lot of his later work now I think about it.

    • March 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      I predictably love all the choices there: if pressed, Hannah and her Sisters is possibly my favourite Allen film. A friend pretty much verbatim holds your take on Woody: they love stuff like Crimes and Misdemeanours but are less keen on Sleeper, for example.

  3. Mary Gilbert
    March 19, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I went off Woody Allen after Deconstructing Harry. I think it was the sight of old, wrinkly Woody snogging Elizabeth Shue which made me feel quite sick though I know that the real wrinkly Woody does have a young wife….). They still love him here in France so I’ve seen some quite terrible recent ones including the tennis one ( dreadful) and one with him as a magician ( even worse) and now I need to be convinced before trying another one.
    However I can forgive him almost anything for Annie Hall, Radio Days and Manhattan Murder Mystery and above all the superb Crimes and Misdemeanours. C and M combines all the Allen brilliance being extremely witty and sad at the same time. It has a sublime cast including Alan Alda and it also raises enormous moral questions about what makes a good life and a good human being.

  4. March 21, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Mary, couldn’t agree any more about Crimes and Misdemeanours (and indeed the rest of the films you cite – MMM in particular seems very under-rated). Definitely in my top 5 Woody films.

    It’s true that some of the more recent ones have been dire, but I’m just going to stick in there ’til the end I’d imagine. It’s a bit fannish I know but Whatever Works, while far from great, is often very funny indeed in a uniquely (some might say recycled) Woody Allen way and suggests that he may yet throw out another classic. We can but hope: Philip French, in yesterday’s Observer, was getting a bit melancholic about how terrible Woody’s new one (and also took time to lament his more recent fare) is, so perhaps it’s all just marking time.

  5. Mary Gilbert
    March 21, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of that Philip French review Lee – how I agree with him. The film not released in the UK is Scoop the one I refer to as having a magician in it – I’d erased the actual name of the film from my memory.French is right to emphasise how utterly cack handed Allen is at skewering the nuances of class and status in British society. In Match Point Allen seems as in thrall to the British upper classes as that paean to the posh Four Weddings and a Funeral but without that film’s accompanying wit.

  6. March 21, 2011 at 11:54 am

    You do wonder what on earth he’s doing with his ‘London’ films. In a recent interview he says that London ‘suggests certain things’ re: film. I think the slew of demolition jobs done on this late-period sequence of pretty disastrous films suggest that he should at least stick to Manhattan.

    And attempting to get to grips with why US filmmakers (or indeed anyone) would be particularly ‘in thrall to the British upper classes’ is pretty daunting. But they are. It’s an odd one.

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