We begin the third week of April with a whopping 19 movie releases, which is a huge amount of films for one single week, not including all those arriving on VOD. This is probably one of the worst weeks in movies of the year as well. When Johnny Depp’s biggest competition this week is Marlon Wayans and some bears, that’s got to be a sad state of affairs. I mean, there is a penis documentary called ‘The Final Member’ that sounds like a joke, but it’s true. Despite that, perhaps the most beguiling film of the week is John Turturro’s ‘Fading Gigolo‘ which includes a rare appearance of Woody Allen as an actor in someone else’s film. That in itself is a treat. Peruse the rest of the line-up and see if anything catches your attention.Read More
In my weekly syndicated radio segment on the Luis Jimenez Show, “Lengua, Cámara y Acción,” on X96.3FM IN NY, Luis and I chat about the latest details in the death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman and why some celebrities seem to dying from drug overdoses. Also, we tackle the Woody Allen sex abuse charges from his family. Listen to the radio segment and tell us what you think.Read More
Would you ever have thought that Woody Allen would be teaming up with Barranquillera Sofia Vergara in a movie? The mere thought is already funny and they’re not even the lead stars. The real protagonist is John Turturro who directs and stars. Read More
‘To Rome with Love’ is unequivocally a perfectly imperfect Woody Allen comedy that uses four very funny Italian vignettes to convey distinct reflective lessons on life. With his expected all star cast, including Spanish actress Penélope Cruz, Allen extracts all the beauty and charm of Rome, while injecting his indelible quirky, witty, and yes, outlandish humor to his latest narrative. At times you will laugh thunderously, but I must confess, for some brief points, you’ll be swept into bouts of a story gone astray, tethered to repetitive and stationary dialogue, unlike his previous film ‘Midnight in Paris’ which had a much tighter script. But even in his hiccup moments, Allen eventually finds a way to return the story to an intelligible, entertaining and pleasing culmination. This is not one of his top ten masterworks, but it does possess enough moments of utter brilliance worth your reveling in.
The plot begins with a traffic officer, an everyday Roman, giving us a succinct exposition about the millions of stories Rome provides on a daily basis. He then highlights four vignettes that introduce our characters and their intrinsic and comical stories: a well-known American architect reliving his youth; an average middle-class Roman who suddenly finds himself Rome’s biggest celebrity; a young provincial couple drawn into separate romantic encounters; and an American opera director endeavoring to put a singing mortician on stage (by far the funniest of them all).
Each of the four stories told here have its share of comical strengths and weaknesses, but perhaps the best written one is Alec Baldwin’s. His is the most ambiguously interesting and substantial of the tales told. It’s ingenious, sharp, engrossing and uses many artistic tricks reminiscent from ‘Annie Hall’ to convey Allen’s existential message.
Baldwin plays a well-known American architect named John who is vacationing in Rome, where he once lived in his youth. Walking in his former neighborhood he encounters Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man not unlike himself. As he watches Jack fall head-over-heels for Monica (Ellen Page), his girlfriend Sally’s (Greta Gerwig) dazzling and flirtatious friend, John relives one of the most romantically painful episodes of his own life. Throughout, John, for some inexplicable and mysterious reason, slips in and out of scenes, begging the question – is John reliving flashbacks of his youth as an imagined young Jack, or is Jack a real person who is getting wise romantic advise from a sage in John? Whatever the answer is, this is something that Allen has done deliberately. According to Allen, the safest way to view this imaginative and enigmatic device is with Alec’s character taking a walk down memory lane, meeting his youth in spirit, remembering what had gone on, the mistakes he made, and having that as a memory he never got over. Jack can be said to be John’s youth without being young John in flashback.
The second most astute and insightful episode, though not as abridged as the aforementioned, is the strange and riddling story of Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni). He is an exceptionally boring guy, who wakes up one morning and finds himself one of the most famous men in Italy without reason. Soon the paparazzi trail his every move and question his every motivation. As Leopoldo grows accustomed to the varied seductions of the limelight, he gradually realizes the cost of fame. The ending is profound and paradoxical. Just looking at Benigni can crack a rib from how funny he looks and acts.
Penélope Cruz in the meantime teams up in another Woody Allen movie since she won her first Oscar for Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (which was also the first for a Spanish actress) to play a witty and very seductive Italian escort. Regrettably, I don’t think she’ll be winning any Oscars in this role. She is in the least interesting of the storylines. Cruz plays Anna, a hired prostitute who ends up becoming a teacher, companion and therapist in the life of Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) who has arrived from the provinces in Rome hoping to impress his straight-laced relatives with his lovely new wife Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) so that he can get an upscale big city job. Through comic misunderstanding and chance, he and his wife are separated for the day. Antonio ends up passing off Cruz as his wife, while Milly (his real wife) is romanced by legendary movie star Luca Salta (Antonio Alban). Cruz is a fantastic actress who showcases her ability to act more than just in Spanish and English. Here she speaks Italian with ease and authenticity, as if she were born in Rome. It’s a remarkable skill for any actor to do, specially in movies. Curious enough, her next movie is “Venuto al Mundo” an Italian film.
But the undeniably funniest storyline is that of undertaker Giancarlo (renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato) who sings arias worthy of La Scala while only lathering up in the shower. What is also special about this vignette is Woody Allen. Not only did Allen write and direct the film, but he also makes his first acting appearance since 2006’s forgettable movie – ‘Scoop’ – starring Hugh Jackman. Convinced that talent that prodigious cannot be kept hidden, retired Jerry (Woody Allen) clutches at the opportunity to promote Giancarlo and rejuvenate his own career as an opera director. There is some really hilarious scenes that will make you embarrass yourself from how loud you will laugh. Whenever you encounter a movie that can provoke such reactions, it is an obligation to see. This chapter alone is worth the price of your ticket. Also, Allen’s return to acting is a big deal since we get to see in action the man who created the neurotic persona in film. It really is priceless to see him act. He’ll also surprisingly be acting in “Fading Gigolo” with Colombian actress Sofia Vergara, a John Turturro film releasing in 2013.
Overall, Allen has hits and misses here, though, the brilliant comedic moments, full of unmanageable laughter, do outweigh the slow and dragging moments.
As I watched the last minutes of ‘To Rome with Love’, I fondly remembered my visit to Roma with much enthusiasm. It left me with a nostalgic feeling about its glorious past and its restored faith in its present and future. Very similarly, it is in many ways the way I look at Allen’s milestone film career – one with a great past, but with a renewed sense of creative confidence that reminds me why he is a global cinematic treasure. It’s not invention, Allen has clearly gotten a second wind, and overall, it has been fun to watch.
The first pictures ofPenélope Cruzinthe newWoodyAllen,‘ToRomewith Love,’ are officially out. In thesefour photographs, we seeCruzplaying asexy andbeautiful woman flirting toan Italianman.
Theplot of ‘ToRomewith Love‘ is a story about a number of people in Italy, some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors, and the romances and adventures and predicaments they get into.
Theoutstanding castincludesWoodyAllen‘s returnto the big screen, EllenPage,JesseEisenberg, AlecBaldwin, RobertoBenigni, Penelope Cruz, JudyDavis, AlisonPill,andGretaGerwig.Allengota hit withMidnight inParis,nominated forBest Picture atthe Academy Awardsand we’re expecting this film to be a hit too.
‘ToRomewith Love‘ is scheduledfor release inthe U.S.on 20April thisyear.
There’s a lot of buzz about ‘Fading Gigolo’, a movie written by John Turturro who will also be the director and star. It has been confirmed that Woody Allen will be in the movie as an actor, he will play the character that will convince Turturro to work as a gigolo, so he would technically be his pimp. The big deal is that we haven’t seen Allen acting in a movie he’s not directing since the year 2000, when he had two small appearances in ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ of Alfonso Arau and ‘Company Man’ from Douglas McGrath.
The premise of the film is that Turturro and Allen (their names will be Virgil and Bongo) are best friends who are short of money and decide to go into the gigolo business, they live in a Hasidic Jewish community that starts taking notice rapidly. One of the twists is that Turturro’s character ends up falling in love with a Jewish widow.
Some of the ladies in the film will be Sharon Stone who will co-star and also most likely ‘Modern Family’s very own Sofia Vergara will be in a supporting role.
Allen will appear in his upcoming film ‘Nero Fiddled’ which might show in Cannes in May and then Sony Classics will release it in June. Turturro’s film is said to start shooting in New York City in April, he is under pressure since his last couple of directing works haven’t fared too well.
Just being in Paris at midnight is a memorable experience that true romantics will appreciate, and most likely, never forget. In the case of Woody Allen, he decided to make a movie about it. Its title is self explanatory – ‘Midnight in Paris,’ and it is without question, his best work since ‘Matchpoint’, a powerful drama that echoes the writings of Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It is also, through May, one of my top 10 films of 2011.
‘Midnight in Paris’ is a simple romantic comedy set in Paris that bursts with engrossment. As the story begins, Gil (played by Owen Wilson) and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) are tagging along on a trip to Paris with her father, John (Kurt Fuller), and mother, Helen (Mimi Kennedy). These two young people, who are engaged to be married in the fall, have Woody-Allen-like experiences there that change their lives forever.
In true Allen fashion, our New York legend need not be on screen to be felt. His words and direction are immediately recognizable from the onset as we hear the protagonist’s dialogue off-camera while the opening credits are still on screen. Allen, who is filming in Paris for the second time in his career (his first was Everyone Says I Love You), finds his imaginative form again here as his star Owen Wilson meets legendary historical figures of the literary, art and film world, including Spaniard/Mexican Luis Buñuel. It’s this type of inventiveness humor that has been sorely missed from his work. Somehow he has found it in ‘Paris’. Throughout the years, Woody has had a very consistent track record of making very good to very bad movies. Hislasttwofilms‘WhateverWorks‘and‘YouWillMeetaTallDarkStranger‘didn’t impressthe way ‘Matchpoint’or ‘Midnight’ do. In ‘WhateverWorks‘comedianLarryDaviddidn’t even managedto crack a smile on my face.The script wasn’t interesting enough nor was the payoff.In “YouWillMeetaTallDarkStranger‘,Woodyimprovedthe storyand even threw in Antonio Banderas for kicks, butit ended up being a rehashofprevious average films and had nothingoriginal. Then suddenly he comes out with a gem like this that is simple and honest, true to the Woody of old. To say it titillates the mind’s eye is more than effective.
On the acting front, Owen Wilson, fresh off being a part of one of the worst films of 2010 – How Do You Know – and the overhyped and awkward comedy ‘Hall Pass’, is obliviously innocent and likable as Gil, a hack Hollywood screenwriter that is penning his first novel which he can’t seem to get passionate about. He’s an uncouth and distracted person that finds it difficult to please his fiance or her family. Wilson plays the role with a wonderful, natural comic instinct and charm that we as the public have come to grow fond of. As is typical for a Woody Allen film, the rest of the superlative supporting cast is top notch. They range from stars like Adrien Brody and Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni to talented newcomers like Corey Stoll, Nina Arianda, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, and Léa Seydoux.
But no matter what actor steps in as the ‘star’, the real star will always be Woody Allen’s essence which he leaves on the screen so richly. The script is tight, it always moves forward and there are no frills to be had. The performances are quirky, funny, sexy and astute. ‘Midnight in Paris’ is Woody Allen’s valentine to the City of Lights, and I hope he comes back to New York yearning to recapture his love for the city like he has in Paris.
New York (June 20, 2011) – Woody Allen announced today the full cast for “The Bop Decameron,” his latest film in pre-production. Starring, in alphabetical order, are: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page. Co-stars include Antonio Albanese, Fabio Armiliata, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ornella Muti, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill, Riccardo Scamarcio and Alessandro Tiberi.
“The Bop Decameron” is a Gravier Productions film produced by Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum. This is Allen’s first film to be financed by the Italian production and distribution company, Medusa Film. “The Bop Decameron” begins production on July 11 and marks Allen’s first time shooting in Rome. His latest film, “Midnight in Paris,” is currently playing in theaters.