Following my watching of ‘Woody Allen: A Documentary’ a couple of weeks ago I’ve been trying to track down a few of the more acclaimed films from his back catalogue that have so far escaped me. I began with his mid-80’s film ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’. This is much more of a drama than a comedy, though does have a few big laughs, telling the story of several family members over a few years. In general I think I prefer the realistic human drama than forced one-liners. ‘Mighty Aphrodite’ (1995) on the other hand is more of a comedy, as Woody plays a father who decides to track down his adopted son’s biological parents only to find his mother is a prostitute.
It lacks any real laugh-out-loud moments but breezes along well. I could have done without the Greek chorus element though, I can see why he put it in there (it’s loosely based on a mythological tale) but it adds nothing. ‘Bananas’ (1971) is a much sillier early comedy, as Woody unwittingly becomes a key figure in a rebellion in a Latin American country. The live news commentary sections are very funny. ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ (1985) sees him stepping into fantasy drama as Mia Farrow escapes from her horrible husband by repeatedly watching the same movie in the cinema, only for one of the film’s characters to notice her and walk through the screen into the real world. It proceeds rather interestingly from this point, not perusing the direction I thought it might, and avoids a cop-out ending that some fantasy romances can fall for.
Hannah and Her Sisters – 3.5/5
Mighty Aphrodite – 3/5
Bananas – 3/5
The Purple Rose of Cairo – 3.5/5
Michael Caine gives a tremendous performance as a pensioner with a military history living on a horrible London council estate that is overrun with youth crime. After his best, and apparently only friend, is found murdered he decides to take the law into his own hands. His main target is a local gang led by a despicable foul-mouthed scumbag called Noel. In the youths, it manages a rare feat of creating screen villains that are at once utterly revolting and detestable yet also completely, and worryingly, believable. Audiences will have no problems rooting for Harry in his unlawful quest. It’s proved frighteningly prescient too, this was produced 2 years before the London riots of summer 2011 and the rioting scenes in ‘Harry Brown’ are eerily similar to real ones seen on the news a short while after. There are a number of plot similarities to Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’, produced one year prior, but Harry is a different breed, with Caine adding a strong dose of vulnerability to him, rather than simply playing him as a hardened badass . Bold, gripping and relevant.
After one look at the poster, informing us that this is an action movie called ‘Stolen’ about a father tracking down his missing daughter, one could be forgiven for assuming that this is just a shameless rip-off of ‘Taken’ (hardly original anyway). It’s not quite that, the father’s background is different, he is a former criminal just released from prison, but otherwise this is just a generic action movie of the quality that’s sadly now commonplace for Nicolas Cage. Barely making a dent in the box office, I actually thought this had gone straight-to DVD at first too.
While there have been a number of killer-virus disaster movies, I can’t recall any exploiting the macabre practices of real life parasitic organisms before. This Korean thriller does just that, as mutant, virus-infected worm-like parasites infect people, they gradually start to manipulate their host’s behaviour. While many people are dying from the ever spreading parasites, the production of a potential cure is being stalled by the real evil of the film; money-driven pharmaceutical companies. An exciting horror-thriller with a point.
‘Ring’s novel but now rather dated idea of a cursed video tape is updated to the modern world of smartphones and live streaming reasonably successfully in this new Japanese entry in the series. It has a couple of good scares but the 3D (I watched in 2D) effects are very much of the gimmicky throwing something at the screen kind, and the CGI is a bit ropey in places, undermining what is supposed to be quite a frightening spectacle near the end.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
So Abraham Lincoln had a secret life as a vampire hunter, which informed all his real-world good deeds. Commendably this makes its vampires (mostly) bloodthirsty killers, but the monster-slaying aspect doesn’t fit too well with Lincoln’s serious (slavery-related) intentions. Given its totally absurd premise, it oddly opts not to try and be a comedy, which might have suited it better. ‘Wanted’ director Timur Bekmambetov crams in a number of massive, effects-filled action sequences which are admittedly ambitious but start to become too much to bare.