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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Irrational Man

written & directed by 

[Academy Awards for Woody Allen: 
Best Original Screenplay Oscars for Midnight in Paris (2011), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Annie Hall (1977) & Best Director Oscar for Annie Hall (1977)]

ENJOYMENT: ***½ (out of 4)
"Thought-provoking dark comedy – 
probably appreciated more if you're a diehard Woody Allen fan."

It's that time of year again. Woody Allen has come out with another film. He's made at least one every year for over 45 years and, as you can imagine, some are much better than others. Allen has made masterpieces such as Annie HallCrimes and Misdemeanors  and Midnight in Paris, and he has made duds such as Shadows and Fog, Anything Else and To Rome with LoveIrrational Man falls somewhere in between. In some ways it's classic Woody Allen, with an obsession about existence, death and morality. Some of the pieces of this film were intricate, thought-provoking, hilarious and unpredictable, and watching the misadventures of the main character, Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), was entertaining. On the other hand, the acting sometimes felt cheap (as if there was only one take per scene), the screenplay maybe half-baked and the movie felt like it was off of an assembly line. I know a bit about how Woody Allen writes his films, where he literally pulls pieces of paper from a box that he contributes ideas to throughout the year and develops his favorite of them into a screenplay. He also has very little, if any, pushback from producers, and so some films are likely better or worse simply because of his own creative mood or capacity that year. Still, this has always made Woody's films feel more like paintings than movies, and I would argue what has made them so incredible in the past. It has allowed us to get to know this complicated man and see a side of life we may never be exposed to otherwise. Woody Allen is a deeply pensive man and obsessed with philosophy and morality and in that way Irrational Man feels deeply personal. It is not his best and that's okay. However, there was enough wrong with this film that it felt more similar to many of his duds at times. Nonetheless, I've thought about this movie for many days since seeing it and it will be remembered fondly. All I can say is that I liked it, critics mostly did not and you may not either, but maybe it's worth a shot – if that helps. 

Other ratings: IMDB (7.1/10), Metacritic (54/100), Rotten Tomatoes (38%)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

directed by 
director filmography: Jack Reacher (2012), The Way of the Gun  (2000)

written by 
writing filmography: Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Jack Reacher (2012), Valkyrie (2008), The Usual Suspects (1995)
Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay (1996) – The Usual Suspects

ENJOYMENT: ***1/2 (out of 4)
"Fun film, non-stop & exhilerating action"

I don't know what it is – if it's the summer, the need for some exhilaration in my life, the desire for mindless entertainment or to see shit blow up, or my appreciation for Tom Cruise – but regardless, the newest Mission: Impossible succeeds on all levels. This film is remarkable for many reasons. One, Tom Cruise is 53 years old and is still more agile and fierce than anyone else (including Jon Stewart, who admits being younger and so out of shape in an interview last week). Cruise will beat the hell out of anybody and in this film, unlike some of his previous films, it is very believable. Two, Tom Cruise does many of his own stunts. Yes, that's really Tom Cruise hanging off of an airplane and, yes, it's really Tom Cruise going over 100 mph on a motorcycle on curvy mountain road without a helmet.  He's fearless and it adds a lot to the realism of the film. Three, the action felt fresh and the story was not predictable. There was one part that I was able to see coming, but the others, including action sequences and plots twists seemed to come out of nowhere – in a good way. And four, all of the movie's costars were brilliant. Most of the stars from the previous Mission films were there, and though most people watching only care about Tom Cruise, the other costars do add a lot to the film. All in all, this is exactly what I want from a summer blockbuster. I'll be there on opening night for Mission: Impossible 6 too.

Other ratings: IMDB (8.2/10), Metacritic (75/100), Rotten Tomatoes (93%)