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Blue Jasmine poster

Review: Blue Jasmine, Riddick, What Maisie Knew, Romeo & Juliet: A Love Song and The Best Offer

By Cinema and Reviews

Max Casella, Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannvale in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine (2013)

When did “late-period: Woody Allen start? Was it with Match Point (when he finally left New York for some new scenery)? Or should we consider these last ten, globe-trotting, years as late‑r Woody? The last ten years have certainly been up and down in terms of quality. Scoop was all-but diabolical. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was robust and surprising. Midnight in Paris was genial but disposable (despite being a massive hit) and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was barely even a film.

Blue Jasmine posterNow, Blue Jasmine, in which Mr. Allen uses the notorious Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi crimes as inspiration for a story about the fraud’s victims as well as the collateral damage inflicted on a woman oblivious of her own complicity. As the eponymous Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the wife of Alec Baldwin’s shonky NY businessman, their relationship told in flashback while she tries to rebuild her life in her adopted half-sister’s (or something — the relationship seems unnecessarily complicated for something that has no material impact on the story) apartment in an unfashionable area of San Francisco.

[pullquote]As they used to say on television about kittens, “a child isn’t just for Christmas, a child is forever.”[/pullquote]Blanchett unravels beautifully and almost maintains our sympathy despite the repeated evidence that she doesn’t really deserve it. In support, Sally Hawkins as the sister is more watchable than usual and others — notably Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. — get moments to shine even though some of those moments can seem a bit repetitive. Mr. Allen’s ear for dialogue seems to have entirely deserted him — these people talk like they’re being quoted in New Yorker articles rather than conversing like living, breathing humans — but the structure is satisfying and Blanchett takes the entire project by the scruff of the neck and makes it her own.

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Review: The Master, Gangster Squad, Whole Lotta Sole, ParaNorman and To Rome With Love

By Cinema and Reviews

Between its heralded US release in September last year and its arrival in a (very) limited number of New Zealand cinemas this weekend, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master seems to have been transformed from masterpiece and annointed Best Picture contender to also-ran, disappointing scores of local PTA fans in the process, many of whom were crushed that we weren’t going to see the film in the director’s preferred 70mm format. Turns out it was touch and go whether we were going to see it on the big screen at all.

Anderson’s previous film, There Will Be Blood, was a close-run second to No Country For Old Men in my 2007 pick of the year, and his back catalogue is as rich as anyone else of his generation — Boogie Nights, Magnolia and even Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. Like Blood, The Master is painted on a big canvas. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, an alcoholic and self-hating WWII veteran, stumbling between misadventures when he stows away on the San Francisco yacht commanded by academic, author and mystic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd combines rudimentary psychotherapy with hypnosis to persuade gullible followers that their past lives can be used to transform their disappointing present.

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Review: It’s Complicated, Cirque du freak: The Vampire’s Assistant & Astro Boy

By Cinema and Reviews

It's Complicated posterThe first thing you need to know about It’s Complicated is that it isn’t very complicated at all. The plot, the characters, the gags (dear God, especially the gags) are all perfectly comprehensible — even to those of us with only modest intellectual faculties. Rest assured, at no point will anyone be talking over your head in this one.

Nancy Meyer’s previous film was The Holiday, which easily remains in the bottom ten of the 1200+ films I have reviewed in these pages, so It’s Complicated earns a single point for not being that bad, but that’s where I run out of positives.

Meryl Streep plays Jane, successful baker and businesswoman, who has a drunken one-night-stand with her rogue-ish ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin. He thinks that they should try again. She isn’t so sure — mainly because he is now married to the woman he left her for ten years earlier and she really doesn’t want to be the “other woman” to the “other woman”.

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Review: A Serious Man, Adam, What Just Happened, Flame & Citron and The Twilight Saga: New Moon

By Cinema and Reviews

A Serious Man posterWe’re born alone and we die alone and in between nothing goes according to plan and the people around us are mostly unreliable and occasionally malevolent. Meanwhile, God either doesn’t exist or is indifferent to our suffering. Either way, A Serious Man, the new film by the prodigiously gifted Coen Brothers, is a very serious film. It is also a very funny one.

In a mid-west University town in the late 60s, Physics Professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) has a happy family, a great career and a beautiful house in a nice neighbourhood. Actually, he has none of those things. His wife (Sari Lennick) has fallen for smooth-talking Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) and needs a Get (a formal Jewish divorce), his daughter wants a nose job, his son is preparing for his bar mitzvah by smoking dope and listening to rock music and his unsuccessful brother (the great Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch and draining his cyst in the bathroom. At the same time, the tenure committee at the University is receiving anonymous complaints and his white-bread, red-neck neighbours are mowing their lawns in a particularly threatening way.

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