There are a handful of directors that will get me to the theatre sight unseen. Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, and a few others make films that I know I want to see even if I know nothing going in. Even if the critical evaluations have been poor. I don’t always love their movies and on occasion I've even come close to outright loathing them, but I am never disappointed in having seen them. Directors with a true vision can be a rare thing in Hollywood, and I’m always ready to see what they can do with it.
Woody Allen is one of those people. Out of all the director’s whose films I love, his output is probably the most uneven. Percentage wise, his films are also the ones I’ve seen the least amount of, but this is mostly due to his ridiculous amount of output. From the mid-1960s, when he got his start as a film director, he’s made just over 50 films. That comes down to roughly one film a year. Compare that to someone like Martin Scorsese who started roughly around the same time, but has made about half the number of films as Allen and you get an idea of how busy the man has been.
I’ve seen probably half of his cinematic output. I’ve liked just about every one of those and loved a good half dozen of them. Allen's films are always funny (except when they are incredibly serious) and always worth watching. A great many of them are light affairs, especially much of his output over the last decade or so, enjoyable to watch but ultimately forgettable. Still, from time to time he creates a real gem and so I watch them as often as I can hoping for the best.
His newest film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young man who leaves his family's jewelry business in New York to run errands for his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a high-powered agent in Los Angeles. Once there, he falls in love with Veronica (Kristen Stewart.) Gangsters become involved at some point. It also stars Parker Posey, Paul Schneider, Anna Camp, and Tony Sirico. You’ll forgive the lightness of the plot details, but I try to ignore those things before going into a Woody Allen film. The reviews have been mostly positive, but I haven’t heard any rumblings of it being brilliant. But middle-tier Woody Allen is better than no Woody Allen at all. With Allen turning 80 this year, we won’t be able to say that for too much longer. Until that day, I’ll be excited to see whatever he brings to the screen.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Alice: Through the Looking Glass: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland had a certain visual cleverness, but the story, like so many of latter-day Burton films was quite lacking. For the sequel, Burton is out as director, but the rest of the cast remains, plush Sacha Baron Cohen as someone called Time. The trailers show that its retained its day-glo color scheme but the reviews were lousy.
Independence Day: Resurgence: When the original Independence Day came out in 1996, my college roommate and I saw it opening night. We’d had the date marked on our calendars since we had seen the first trailer a few months prior. It looked like phenomenal eye candy and college was a time when I was not yet sick of eye candy. Upon first viewing, I was knocked about by the special effects. Who could forget when the aliens blew up the White House? Who cared if the story was kind of dumb? Upon second viewing, I kind of did. That’s the thing about eye candy - after you see it once you want something a little more substantial. By the time my roommate was given a copy of the VHS several months later, we were both making fun of it. There was pretty much no one looking for a sequel too it, certainly no one all these many years later.
Pan’s Labyrinth (Criterion Collection): I’m not as in love with Guillermo del Toro’s imaginative, nightmare-scape as everyone else seems to be, but I’m willing to see it again to see if I was wrong. Criterion has outdone themselves with this release. They’ve filled it to the brim with extras including an audio commentary from the director, making-of features, prequel comics, interviews, a director’s notebook, plus a 100-page illustrated book with numerous essays on the film. You can also buy it in a boxed set featuring two other films (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone) from del Toro that were previously released via Criterion.
Short Cuts (Criterion Collection): Based on a collection of stories from Raymond Carver, this sprawling film from Robert Altman details the everyday lives of a bunch of Los Angeles residents.
Fuzz: Kino Lorber are giving this 1972 crime satire a nice upgrade. I’d not heard of it before but it stars Burt Reynolds, Tom Skerritt, Raquel Welch, and Yul Brynner which gets me interested.
The Night Of: HBO’s miniseries about a man who wakes up next to a stranger he’s been partying with all night and finds her stabbed to death has gotten rave reviews from all the right people. It's high up on my list of things to watch soon.
Bates Motel: Season 4: Speaking of things on my list of things to watch, I’ve been meaning to watch this prequel of sorts to Psycho since it came out. Earlier seasons are on Netflix, so I guess I have no excuse not to get to it.
The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection: Includes the films The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers and Duck Soup. I’m sorely lacking in my Marx Brothers knowledge. I’ve only seen a couple of these films in fact. Looking forward to plowing through these and busting a gut laughing. Look for my review in a few days.