Movie Review: Café Society

I would assume that most big fans of Woody Allen long for the days when his movies were exceptionally funny as well as well told stories. Good examples of this would be Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hanna and her Sisters. These examples of great Allen movies seem to be very far in the past now, perhaps due to his age or his extremely difficult personal life which seems to always come up after a few years, most recently at the Canne’s Film Festival. I for one am amazed at Woody Allen’s ability now at age 81 to write and direct a movie at a rate that is at least once a year especially when you add the stress of what people have been saying about his personal life since 1992. For over 30 years Woody Allen has been the captain of his own ship and has been able to write direct and produce his own movies his own way with his own company, with the new production company for this movie Amazon Studios. This ability to do everything his way for so long is probably unprecedented​ in the history of movies and because of this several all time movie classics have been created.

This new movie Cafe Society, is really two completely different movies that are not connected at all. One is a love triangle involving the main character played by Jessie Eisenberg and the other is about the Mafia-like criminal acts​ of his brother who during the movie kills about 4 people and places them into the same cement sidewalk. ​I thought it was very unusual​ that Allen would have two disconnected main and sub-plots in one movie, which is something that I have rarely if ever seen in any film that I can remember and this idea really does not work very well in this story.

The other actors in the love triangle include Steve Carrel who plays an important Hollywood producer and Kristen Stewart who plays his secretary. At first, the relationship between Carrell and Stewart is going to result in his leaving his wife to marry her and then he changes his mind and after that breakup Stewart’s character gets involved with Eisenberg only to have Carell change his mind again, leaving​ Eisenberg the odd man out who then returns to New York city.

One of the best and telling parts of this movie is when Carell and Stewart, now married, return to the nightclub Eisenberg is running in New York City with an attitude of total callousness, not caring for a moment how Eisenberg might react when he sees them together. This seemed like real life to me as I have often been amazed at the callousness and indifference some people can have concerning the feelings of others. After the breakup with Stewart, Eisenberg’s character met and married another woman, played by Blake Lively and they quickly had a child together. It seemed a little far-fetched that Eisenberg’s character would be able to get involved with two very attractive women at this level, considering his very average looks, so this part of the movie seemed to be a bit far-fetched. As this story and love triangle progressed​ there would be more scenes that involved Eisenberg’s Mafia brother and more murders, even involving​ a rude next door neighbor that felt very out of the place and had nothing to do with the main plot of this movie. For most movies sub-plots always have some kind of a related connection to the main plot but not in this film which I found to be highly unusual.

Cafe Society is not a bad movie but not really a good one either. I would have rather seen this same film with much more humor involved, maybe even including Allen himself as one of the characters and in this movie and he was the main narrator​ at certain points of the story. There are not too​ many laughs during this movie and the story seemed to be nothing special so for these reasons I cannot recommend Cafe Society.

Movie Review: Bad Moms

The writers of the comedy “Bad Moms” have done something that is very rare in my experience. They have made a life reality, namely the high stress, very often depressing and overwhelming true life of so many women and men in the real world and then tried and succeeded in making this funny. Even more impressive is that the writers of this movie Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are male and the writers of the 3 Hangover movies. One of best lines of this movie is where the main character, played very well by Mila Kunis says, “being a Mom is impossible” and you realize immediately whether or not you have kids or are a mother or father that this is true. It really is impossible, when you consider having to work for a living and all the stress and problems that come with every job, then the time constraints of PTA meetings, soccer practice, driving the kids to and from school, to the doctor, the dentist to a recital and then the potential of divorce along the way. This very funny movie addresses all of these things and does it extremely well. This film also makes some raunchy language and scenes funny which is something I have rarely seen in any comedies lately and most of the great lines in these scenes are delivered by Kathryn Hahn, who has never been funnier in any film I have seen her in.

The villain in this movie is played extremely well by Christina Applegate and she adds a tremendous amount​ of stress as the school bully to every mom in the middle school where she is the head of the PTA. Her presence is most of the time very funny, but her personality is based in reality as we can all think of bad people like this in our lives that make your day by day existence almost unbearable​. One example her bullying include a bake sale where she excludes just about every ingredient off the list of allowable foods. This is an over the top moment and it is an exaggeration,​ but it puts another spotlight on yet another unnecessary stress that is placed on overburdened moms every day by other people judging them in their private lives and on their jobs. Kunis also has another common problem in her part time job, a very annoying boss who expects everything from her even though she is a part-time​ worker who works only 3 days a week.

The point of this movie is that at a certain point a person can “take no more of this” and several moms played by Kunis, Hahn and Kristen Bell start to rebel and declare themselves “Bad Moms” to the ire of Applegate and her two friends played by Jada Pinkett Smith and Ann Mumolo, who seem to delight in terrorising and annoying every mother in the school. One solution is for Kunis’s character to run against Applegate for the head of the PTA which sets up the conclusion of this movie. As is typical​ of Hollywood films but unfortunately not real life, everything turns out fine in the end which for me did not take away anything from this very good comedy movie which I highly recommend.

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Movie Review: Jason Bourne

The movie “Jason Bourne” is one of the very few movies I can remember seeing where I thought it was going to be great and it wasn’t. This movie is not really even that good and at best it’s a stretch to call this movie even average. The entire film is mostly about one thing. Following Jason Bourne from city to city, building to building, alley to alley to cars, planes and then another new city where the CIA is able to find out his whereabouts using their sophisticated computers, face recognition software and cameras which seem to be everywhere in the world.

The movie opens up during some kind of a riot in a foreign country and Bourne is practicing his fighting skills competing in organized street fights. He then reunites with another CIA agency Nicki Parsons, played once again by Julia Stiles. Then for reasons not really explained they are both chased by other CIA agents trying to kill them and the quality of the night action is murky​ which is hard to follow because of the strange camera angles, darkness​ and too fast movement​ of the chasing of these two people in and out of dark alleys and streets. One can only wonder whether the producers meant to have the film look so bad in this part of the movie on purpose or it was just a very poorly shot action scene. The movie from this point on is just the camera following Bourne, played again by Matt Damon as he walks very quickly​ into and out of dark buildings and streets. The highly sophisticated fight scenes which were so great in all of the previous 3 films with Damon are missing in this version and what remains are shorter and more brutal fights without the high-level​ Karate skill that we all saw in the previous movies.

Alicia Vikander plays a new CIA agent for the first time and is one of the few bright spots in this movie where the lead character had almost no lines and had almost no real understandable or relatable story. Vikander has been in many movies lately, having recently won a Best Supporting Actress win for the “Danish Girl”, which is also reviewed in this blog. She is an up an coming movie star who will have a long and great acting career ahead of her.

This film ends in the city of Las Vegas with a giant series of car crashes on a Las Vegas highway. Even this huge scene had its problems once again because of the darkness​ and the erratically​ moving camera. In the end, Bourne fans will gain some additional information about Bourne’s past including his father and the possibility that maybe he will go back to the CIA in the future, clearly pointing to another movie in this series.

This movie is not that good because of all the reasons I mentioned and for that reason I cannot recommend it.