Film Review – RADIO DAYS (1987)

Image result for radio days blu-rayRadio Days (1987; USA; DeLuxe; 88m) ***½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma; m. Dick Hyman (supervisor).  Cast: Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Jeff Daniels, Tony Roberts, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen, Seth Green, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker, Wallace Shawn, David Warrilow, William Flanagan, Mick Murray, Paul Herman, Mike Starr. A nostalgic look at radio’s golden age focusing on one ordinary family and the various performers in the medium. Allen’s affectionate tribute to the 1940s is a series of vignettes based around a family of Jewish New Yorkers living in Brooklyn. Along the way we meet vulnerable characters encountering the challenges of poverty and life who get their pleasures from the radio programmes of the time. Warm and funny, its lack of a central plot is compensated by its strong ensemble cast of characters. [PG]

Film Review – BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984)

Broadway Danny RoseBroadway Danny Rose (1984; USA; B&W; 84m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman (supervisor).  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Sandy Baron, Milton Berle, Craig Vandenburgh, Herb Reynolds, Paul Greco, Howard Cosell, Corbett Monica, Jackie Gayle, Morty Gunty, Will Jordan, Howard Storm, Jack Rollins. In his attempts to reconcile a lounge singer with his mistress, a hapless talent agent is mistaken as her lover by a jealous gangster. Delightful comedy with Allen is superb form as agent Danny Rose and farrow delivering an atypical performance as the gangster’s moll. It’s all wonderfully photographed in black & white by Gordon Willis. The character driven jokes work well in a charming tale. Many old comics appear to recount their favourite Danny Rose stories. [PG]

Film Review – SHADOWS AND FOG (1992)


Related imageShadows and Fog
(1992; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, Madonna, Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, Kate Nelligan, Donald Pleasence, Lily Tomlin, John Cusack, Michael Kirby, Camille Saviola, David Ogden Stiers, Dennis Vestunis, Katy Dierlam. With a serial strangler on the loose, a bookkeeper wanders around town searching for the vigilante group intent on catching the killer. Allen mimics German Expressionism whilst channelling Bob Hope in this dark comedy. The cinematography and production design (by Santo Loquasto) is outstanding. There are star cameos throughout, which sometimes distracts from the story. Ultimately, the main plot goes nowhere and is a mere cypher for character interactions, which lack depth. An interesting, but flawed, experiment. Based on a one-act comedy play called “Death”, published in Allen’s “Without Feathers” (1972), the play and movie are themselves a pastiche of Franz Kafka’s work in general, and of his novel “The Trial” in particular. [15]

Film Review – CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989)

Image result for crimes and misdemeanors blu-rayCrimes and Misdemeanors (1989; USA; DuArt; 104m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Sven Nykvist; m. Joe Malin (co-ordinator).  Cast: Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Martin Landau, Claire Bloom, Jerry Orbach, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Dolores Sutton, Sam Waterston, Joanna Gleason, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Gregg Edelman, Daryl Hannah, Kenny Vance, Joel Fogel. An opthamologist’s mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman. Allen’s examination of the moral dilemma is played out over two intertwining stories – one deadly and darkly serious, the other satirically comic with Allen delivering incisive one-liners. That the cocktail works beautifully is a credit to Allen’s skills as writer and director. Landau and Huston deliver scintillatingly real performances. Alda is also superb as a pompous TV producer. [15]

Film Review – ZELIG (1983)

Image result for zelig blu-rayZelig (1983; USA; B&W/DuArt; 79m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Mary Louise Wilson, Sal Lomita, Michael Jeter, John Rothman, Marvin Chatinover, Patrick Horgan, John Buckwalter, Stanley Swerdlow, Paul Nevens, Howard Erskine, George Hamlin, Ralph Bell, Richard Whiting. “Documentary” about a man who can look and act like whoever he’s around, and meets various famous people. Technically brilliant and cleverly scripted this is one of Allen’s most original films. The actors are seamlessly blended into the archive footage through Willis’ superb cinematography. Allen’s absurdist wit shines through in this minor gem. [PG]

Film Review – CAFE SOCIETY (2016)

Café Society (2016; USA; Colour; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Vittorio Storaro; m. Stewart Lerman (supervisor).  Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott, Anna Camp, Gregg Binkley, Paul Schneider, Sari Lennick, Stephen Kunken, Sheryl Lee. A young man from the Bronx falls in love with his Uncle’s secretary in Hollywood. He then returns to New York and runs a high society night club. Allen revisits familiar themes of happenstance, misguided relationships and regrets in this sumptuous period piece. There are no surprises in Allen’s screenplay, but it does have its humorous and poignant moments and is not lacking in charm. First-rate production design and gorgeous use of colour, to accentuate the glitz of Hollywood, are real standouts. First time that Allen has narrated a film without appearing on screen since RADIO DAYS (1987). [12]

Film Review – A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY (1982)

Image result for a midsummer night's sex comedy blu-rayMidsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, A (1982; USA; Technicolor; 88m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer, Julie Hagerty, Mary Steenburgen, Tony Roberts, Michael Higgins, Timothy Jenkins, Adam Redfield, Moishe Rosenfeld, Sol Frieder, Boris Zoubok, Thomas Barbour, Kate McGregor-Stewart. A wacky inventor and his wife invite two other couples for a weekend party at a romantic summer house in the 1900s countryside. Allen explores themes of lust and love in this contrived and whimsical comedy interspersed with funny one-liners and visual gags. Sumptuously photographed country setting makes it a visual treat helping to overcome the narrative faults. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (1955), which also inspired Stephen Sondheim’s musical “A Little Night Music”. [15]

Film Review – HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma; m. Puccini.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Maureen O’Sullivan, Dianne Wiest, Max von Sydow, Lloyd Nolan, Daniel Stern, Julie Kavner, Joanna Gleason, J.T. Walsh, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins. Between two Thanksgivings, Hannah’s husband falls in love with her sister Lee, while her hypochondriac ex-husband rekindles his relationship with her sister Holly. Brilliantly observed portrayal of the lives of three sisters, their relationship with each other and with the men in their lives is amongst Allen’s finest achievements. Sharp and witty script is enhanced by superb performances from the cast. It is a movie that presents its three-dimensional characters in a way that is utterly engaging and believable. Caine, Wiest and Allen (as writer) all won Oscars. [15]

Film Review – SCOOP (2006)

Scoop (2006; UK/USA; Technicolor; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Remi Adefarasin.  Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, Woody Allen, Romola Garai, Kevin McNally, Jim Dunk, Geoff Bell, Christopher Fulford, Nigel Lindsay, Fenella Woolgar, Matt Day, Rupert Frazer. An American journalism student in London scoops a big story, and begins an affair with an aristocrat as the incident unfurls. Lightweight comedy mystery is one of Allen’s lesser works. Allen and Johansson spark well with Allen relishing his role as a cheesy magician. The mystery elements are less satisfying and not all the one-liners hit home, but it has just enough to make it an entertaining diversion. [12]

Film Review – BANANAS (1971)

Bananas (1971; USA; Colour; 82m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Mickey Rose; ph. Andrew M. Costikyan; m. Marvin Hamlisch.  Cast: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales, Miguel Angel Suarez, David Ortiz, Rene Enriquez, Jack Axelrod, Howard Cosell. When a bumbling New Yorker is dumped by his activist girlfriend, he travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion. The gags come fast and furious and as many miss the mark as hit the mark, but this is still a frequently funny satire inspired by the lunacy of the Marx Brothers and silent comedians. The “sports report” bookends of the assassination and the consummation are priceless. Watch for a very young Sylvester Stallone as a hoodlum. [15]