Tag Archives: comedy

VIFF 2015 Review: 100 Yen Love (百円の恋)

Ando sakura plays Ichiko: a slacker who suddenly has a desire to succeed at something in 100 Yen Love.

Ando Sakura plays Ichiko: a slacker who suddenly has a desire to succeed at something in 100 Yen Love.

Every VIFF I hope to see at least one film that’s a country’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the Oscars. I had my first chance when I went to see 100 Yen Love: Japan’s official entry. It was not what I expected for a Japanese film. Nevertheless I was very impressed.

The story starts with Ichiko, a 32 year-old slacker. She became a downer with an I-don’t-care attitude since she dropped out of university. She lives at home with her mother who owns a restaurant and her yet-to-be-divorced sister and young son. For the heck of it, she applies for a job at the 100 Yen Store. During her nightshifts, she deals with her boss, a talkative creepy co-worker named Noma and a homeless woman who comes frequently in the back area to take food past the best before date.

Ichiko doesn’t expect much to happen but walking to work, she passes a boxing gym and there’s a man training there that catches her eye. His name is Yuji and he also visits the store frequently to buy bananas to which Noma calls him ‘Banana Boy.’ Yuji can sense Ichiko’s interest in him. One night Yuji buys the bananas but instead of paying, he gives Ichiko and Noma tickets to the fight. They go with Noma being a creepy partner and Yuji loses. At the dinner after the fight, Noma lies to Yuji claiming he’s her boyfriend. Then Noma goes all berserk overnight on as he rapes Ichiko and takes money from the 100 Yen Store till.

Ichiko changes after the rape. Still an employee at the 100 Yen store, she’s now Yuji’s girlfriend and she takes an interest in the boxing gym Yuji is no longer a part of as he had passed the maximum age of fighting at 37. At first she just goes there for the exercises. However things change after Yuji gets a job with a tofu delivery company and has an affair with a female carter. That infuriates Ichiko to move back with her mother and take her boxing lessons seriously. It even gives her a desire to want to be a fighter herself and even a hunger to win.

She’s given her first and possibly only fight as the maximum age for females is 33. She uses this as an opportunity for Yuji to prove his love to her. At the fight, family gather and Ichiko is hungry to win. However her opponent is one who’s already won four fights with a KO. This sets up for an ending that’s unexpected, bittersweet but positive and humorous.

I know I’ve talked a lot about foreign ‘movies’ being shown at this VIFF and other VIFFs. This goes to show that other countries are in the stage where they want to move away from strictly making films and move onto making movies that delight crowds. And not just movies of anything or something too simple, movies with something. I’m sure I was like a lot of people that think that when they go to see a film from Japan, we expect it to come from a director that wants to be the next Akira Kurosawa. I didn’t see anything in the film that made me think Masaharu Take wanted to follow in Kurosawa’s foot steeps. Guess I should adjust my expectations.

One thing that makes this film succeed as a movie is that there a lot of themes that are universal. There’s people that are slackers. There are slackers that ‘gave up’ because they slipped below expectations, including their own. There are jobs in which they hate doing and are ‘dead ends.’ There’s love and the complicated love triangles that come with it. And there’s the desire to want to move out of the shell of being a misfit and want to succeed. There’s even the 100 Yen Store which would be Japan’s equivalent to our Dollar Stores. I can see people in many countries, including here in North America, identifying with many of the themes in the film despite it taking place in Japan and in Japanese.

However the thing that grabs me most about the movie is that it consists of a lot of underachieve characters and underachiever scenarios but it’s taking place in Japan. I admit it I’m guilty like a lot of other people who have believed in the stereotype of the Japanese as people of high standards, people determined to succeed, people who go through strict competitive education programs to achieve great things. Here we have a slacker who appears done with life, a single-mother sister who returned to living at home, a convenience store owner, a loser who’s a fail at just about everything including making friends, a homeless woman, a person who sells food on a bike-cart and a person who wants to achieve in sports. These are people contrary to what we expect to see in Japan. It’s a reminder there are people like that in every country, even Japan. Sometimes I think that was the point that Take and scriptwriter Shin Adachi was to show the rest of the world. This is a story consisting of Japanese people we all forgot about.

Take and Adachi did a great job with a script that’s relatable and universal. However it was chancy too as including a rape scene in a comedy is very risky. Nevertheless they pulled it off well. Top nods however go to Sakura Ando for playing Ichiko. The whole story rested on her shoulders. She had to make it work. She even had to transform Ichiko from this 32 year-old slacker who couldn’t care less about the world to a woman with ambition and make it work. It paid off even to the point the sudden transition of Ichiko from the walking dead to a woman with a hunger worked. Sudden transitions like that don’t always work out well but Ichiko made it work. Additional kudos go to Hirofumi Arai as the boyfriend who is in the same boat as Ichiko but is romantically confused, Tadashi Sakata as the creepy Noma and Toshie Negishi as the entertaining homeless woman. The addition of a bluesy-sounding score adds to the story and even the humor.

100 Yen Love is an enjoyable Japanese movie. I didn’t know what to expect at first but I ended up enjoying it.

 

VIFF 2014 Review: Housebound

Housebound is a thriller-comedy from New Zealand that's way better than what you can get from Hollywood.

Housebound is a thriller-comedy from New Zealand that’s put together way better than anything you can get from Hollywood.

Housebound was another one of those 11:30-at-the-Rio films I wanted to check out. It was my first of such. Glad I saw it. Very funny and entertaining.

Kylie Bucknell attempts to commit a robbery on an ATM. The robbery doesn’t work out as her partner is knocked out and she totals her getaway car thanks to driving fast over a big speed bump. The judicial system decides the best thing for her would be house arrest at her mother Miriam’s house. It seems like the right choice to do but the house is old and leaves Kylie with an eerie feeling.

Kylie’s feelings are justified when she hears Miriam call into a radio show talking of how weird it is around there. Then Kylie gets a taste of the eeriness as she notices things like an animated stuffed toy suddenly coming to life and even an old Motorola phone ringing out of nowhere. Even a dental partial has her suspicious. Kylie tries to alert authorities and others but they won’t believe her. Guests and other neighbors around the house are actually pleased at the possibility of a ghost.

Nevertheless Kylie and Miriam are persistent. The only one who believes her is Officer Grayson who knows of past incidents associated with this house such as this being a halfway house for young offenders. In fact the first person who’s the prime suspect in all of this is their shady neighbor. Despite his nasty attitude, he doesn’t register as a positive. However things become more suspicious when a friend of Miriam’s appears suspicious. Eventually the murderer is solved but not without an eerie chase.

For a horror-comedy like that to fly, it had to be done with the right acting, the right direction, and the right story. There have been horror-comedies done before but they would mostly come across as looking ridiculous in the end. Even Hollywood can get it wrong sometimes. This film got it right. From the start with a clumsy robbery attempt to the sense of something wrong in the house to the moment of climax at the end, it was done right. Even the parts intended to be dramatic didn’t come across as ridiculous nor did it dip into sentimentality that was too sappy. Looking back, it would be hard for me to see where the movie did things wrong. Even in terms of the gore, the film didn’t overdo it and it did its most gory part at the right time.

I will admit there were some parts that left me confused about what was happening. However they’d make sense in the end. Simply this is a movie that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Its intent was to deliver a humorous thriller/horror story and it came across as way better than something Hollywood would do. It even had excellent balance between the dramatic parts and the humorous parts. If it didn’t, it would look ridiculous. I would have to watch over and over again to see if it made a false note. Even the death of the perpetrator didn’t come across as ridiculous despite it actually being a ridiculous death.

The comedic acting was just right in order to make this movie work. Morgana O’Reilly needed to deliver a protagonist character that had dimension despite having one that could come across as wooden. Instead she did a good job with Kylie and it came across very well. Rime Te Wiata was the show-stealer as the mother. Her role as the mother added to the comedy to the film thanks to the excellence of the performance. The male actors also did a good job in their roles despite being the supporting players. This is Gerard Johnstone’s first feature -length film and it’s an excellent finished product. Very entertaining and very professional. Another great thing about the script is that it didn’t deliver an awful lot of one-liners and instead delivered more on situational comedy. That worked for the better in this movie.

Housebound is an excellent horror-comedy that both keeps you intrigued and makes you laugh without having ridiculous moments like so many other horror-comedies are prone to do.

Movie Review: Some Like It Hot (1959)

Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe put on an unforgettable show in Some Like It Hot.

Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe put on an unforgettable show in Some Like It Hot.

The AFI (American Film Institute) ranks Some Like It Hot as the best comedy of the 20th Century. No doubt it’s one of the most legendary comedies ever made. The question is does it still have what it takes to entertain people today?

Here’s a brief synopsis for those who’ve never seen it. It’s 1929 in Chicago. Joe and Jerry are musicians by day, bootlegging gangsters by night. They face themselves in a lot of trouble first with a rival mob for being in the crossfire of the St. Valentine’s massacre and secondly for the money Joe owes thanks to losing it on gambling. Their talent agent finds them a job to help them get away from the mob racket and make the money. There’s one catch. It’s with an all-girls band–Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators—and they’re heading to Miami. They accept and agree to pose as women: Josephine and Daphne.

The beginning is not the best. As they board the train to Miami, they meet Bienstock, their manager who is one to give band members a cheap feel. However they do meet band member Sugar Kane who likes to take a drink every now and then and takes a liking to the two women-in-disguise. They soon start a good friendship after Sugar accidentally drops her liquor flask and the two try to cover it up to bandleader Sweet Sue.

Sugar confesses to the two on the train trip how she’s interested in millionaires. However they can’t make passes at her because they know they have to keep their disguises as women. Once in Miami, Joe disguises himself as a millionaire named Junior to woo Sugar: heir to Shell Oil who has a problem with his ‘disinterest’ in women. However Jerry faces a pursuit of his own as an aging millionaire Osgood Fielding III takes an interest in Daphne.

One night Osgood invites Daphne for dinner on his yacht. Joe convinces Daphne to keep Osgood occupied onshore so that he can take Sugar to the yacht as Junior and pass it off as his. Once on the yacht, Junior tries to convince Sugar that he is impotent because of psychological traumas. He does say he’ll marry anyone who changes that. Sugar tries to arouse him and it’s after some amount of effort that she succeeds. Meanwhile Daphne’s very good at charming Osgood as the two tango all night.

It’s right as Jerry tells the good news to Joe– that Osgood has proposed to him and a divorce upon the truth will result in a huge cash settlement–that they learn the charade has to end. Spats and his gang of mobsters from Chicago are in the hotel for a ‘Friends of The Italian Opera’ conference and they have to quit the band and escape the hotel. This also means that Joe has to disguise himself as Junior again and break off the engagement to Sugar. He succeeds by telling her he has to marry a woman of his father’s choosing but it breaks her heart.

But it doesn’t end there. The two finds themselves in pursuit of the mobsters from the Valentine’s Day killings. It’s right after a revenge shooting at the conference that the two find themselves in pursuit again by Spats and his gang. Even their disguises as dames won’t help them get away for long. They face an additional problem as Joe notices on stage how brokenhearted Sugar is. It’s there that Joe has to tell Sugar the truth and kisses her in his Josephine guise.

Soon Sugar, Joe and Jerry have to leave in a getaway boat for Osgood’s yacht. They all find the boat in time but not before a drunken Osgood runs out. It’s right in the end with all four in the motorboat that all the truths come out, but with unexpected results.

As I pointed out at the beginning, Some Like It Hot has received renown since its release and over the years as both a film and as a comedy. There’s always the question of whether today’s moviegoers will understand the films significance or its comedic value. There’s no question that people of today would still find men dressing as women funny. Heck, the ‘S*** Girls Say’ videos are a hit partially because of it. However we’re at a time where we’re not that unfamiliar with drag queen shows and men dressing up as women. We may not be blasé but we wouldn’t be as shocked as say a crowd from back in 1959 would be upon seeing this. Even the sight of two women kissing would be less shocking to us. Humorous but not so shocking.

We shouldn’t forget that this was released during a different time. A Streetcar Named Desire caused some controversy because of its depiction of promiscuity and a failing marriage. Rebel Without A Cause raised eyebrows with its portrayal of teenage crime. And Blackboard Jungle was being labeled as ‘outrageously violent.’ All these movies would be considered tame by today’s standards. It just goes to show how far we’ve come.

Even Marilyn Monroe’s sex appeal comes into question. By now we’ve had all sorts of screen actresses who have had their own shots at achieving sex appeal with male moviegoers. By now the top screen queens would be Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence and Megan Fox. Most males who are charmed by them would probably have a look at Marilyn and probably think she’s not as ‘babe-like.’ They may also think she “doesn’t show enough skin.” Heck some might even think she’s ‘fat.’ It wouldn’t surprise me, knowing today’s casting standards in Hollywood. Anyways those who know the screen goddesses of the past would know Marilyn was about more than her looks. She was also about her charm and charisma. That’s something today’s top screen queens lack.

The one thing that surprises me about Some Like It Hot is that it has cross-dressing during a time when Hollywood movies were still subject to the Hays Code. For those of you who don’t know or are too lazy to click on the link, the Hays Code was a rigid code used on movies and television up until 1966. It allowed for certain things to be in the movies but disallowed a lot of things too like an image of a toilet bowl or negative depictions or religious figures or certain things about sexuality. Even while watching it, I was thinking of the Code that was used at the time and wondered about certain scenes—the kiss between Sugar and Josephine and the “Well nobody’s perfect” scene—that left me wondering how they were able to get away with it at the time. Actually back then it did receive some flack from the Catholic Legion Of Decency who gave it a C (Condemnatory) rating. They’d also give Psycho a C rating the following year. Soon after other later films followed with a C-rating, it would lead to an overhaul and eventual end to the Hays Code in the 60’s. You have to give credit to some of these movies of the 50’s for pushing envelopes at the time and eliminating a lot of censorship in Hollywood in future decades. Mind you I don’t see why ‘decency committees’ should have a problem with cross-dressing. Besides we shouldn’t forget that Milton Berle dressed up as a woman on TV frequently during that time.

This is another winning movie for Billy Wilder. Billy is sometimes known for darker movies but rarely for comedies. This is probably his best comedic effort. Not his first but his best. He really took some challenges in making this film but he pulled it off well. This was also very good acting from both Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Their performances were very humorous and it was amazing to see Jack, or should I say Jerry, instantly get into character as Daphne. Marilyn was also good but we shouldn’t forget that in this, like most movies, she was encouraged to play the movie sex goddess we all know her for. She pulled off her part very well. It’s still surprising how Marilyn is the biggest actress never to have even received as much as an Oscar nomination. Character acting from the supporting actors was also very good and added to the movie. The big surprise is that costuming was done by Orry-Kelly. Usually in the movies at the time, especially in Billy Wilder’s movies, it would be Edith Head who would do the costuming back then. Yeah, there were two types of costumers back in Hollywood back then. There was Edith Head and then there was everybody else.

Also interesting to see all the accolades this movie has received over the years. Besides being ranked the #1 Comedy by the AFI, the movie has been ranked #14 on their list of the Top 100 movies of all time back in 1998, then changed to #22 in their 10th Anniversary list in 2007. The line of “Well nobody’s perfect” ranks as the 48th-best movie line in their 100 Years…100 Lines list. In fact “nobody’s perfect” is even on Wilder’s epitaph. However it was not as lucky back at the year-end Oscars. That year the big toast of Hollywood was Ben Hur which would receive 12 nominations and 11 wins including Best Picture. The big surprise is that Some Like It Hot was not even nominated for Best Picture. Nominations did go to Wilder for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and Lemmon was the only nominated actor with his Best Actor nomination. The only Oscar win was for Orry-Kelly for Best Costuming – Black and White who even beat out Edith Head. Some Like It Hot did fare better at the Golden Globes for wins for Lemmon, Monroe and Best Picture – Musical Or Comedy.

Some Like It Hot is a cutting edge comedy of its time in which most of today’s film goers who go to see it might not understand why it’s labeled the “Best Hollywood Comedy Of All Time,” especially since they’ve seen more shocking and more outrageous stuff. People who appreciate old movies and know the history of Hollywood film making will understand why and appreciate for such. For me, it was my first time seeing it and I was entertained.

Movie Review: 50/50

You’d think a story about a young person dealing with a potentially fatal form of cancer would least make for comedy material, right? 50/50 succeeds in making a comedy out of it, and a good one too.

Adam doesn’t sound like the type of person to get cancer: a 27 year-old who jogs, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t eat junk food and always plays it safe to the point where he doesn’t even own a driver’s license. But everything changes when he gets his back checked. The doctor gives him the sudden news: cancer. What’s he to do? He checks on the internet and learns his cancer has a 50/50 chance of survival. His mother is shocked, his artist girlfriend Rachael finds the news sudden but his crazy friend Kyle tries to keep his spirits high “50/50? That’s better than a Vegas game.”

Things change for Adam once he stars going for chemotherapy. On the plus side, his girlfriend decides to the one to look after him. She even buys him a dog.  During chemo treatments, he meets a pair of older men also receiving treatments and they share a lot together, including marijuana-laced macaroons. On the negative side, his mother is concerned to the point of being overbearing especially since she also has to deal with a husband with Alzheimer’s. He also sees a young therapist who’s very inexperienced. Adam is only her third client. On the in-between, his friend Kyle tries to keep his spirits high by doing and saying things that are off the wall, like hold a party for Adam on the day he leaves work and gives Adam his body shaver to shave his head.

Things change for Adam: some for the better, some for the worse and some for the weirder. Kyle catches Rachael cheating on Adam. The relationship is over. Kyle encourages Adam to use his dog walking and cancer ordeal to get laid. Adam stars becoming more open with Katharine the therapist. The bond between the two men he sees during treatment grows. And Rachael moves out. Adam and Kyle celebrate by egging, cutting and burning her picture for him.

Then comes some biting realities. One of the men Adam meets during treatments dies. The doctor delivers the news that Adam’s cancer is worsening and needs a risky back operation or else he’ll die. Adam is now at the end of his emotional rope. He starts distancing himself from Kyle. However he starts opening up more to Katharine to the point there’s more than just a therapist-patient relation happening. Just before the operation, he learns that Kyle bought a book on having a friend with cancer. He also learned his mother attended a support group of parents who have children with cancer. It makes for an ending that not your typical simple happy ending but an ending that’s genuine.

There’s no question that there are a lot of comedic elements with this movie and there are the times when the movie does try to push a few buttons. One thing about the movie that’s the best quality is that it tries to be funny but real at the same time. It may poke fun at the after-effects of eating a marijuana-laced macaroon and some of but it also focuses on human relations and the feelings one goes through during cancer at such a young age. It focuses on the relationships of the patient and those around them. Despite that, it doesn’t sugar-coat things. It also shows that nasty things like a girlfriend cheating on the Adam does sometimes happen. It also reminds you that some of your friends that are going through cancer like you could die the next day. It’s a mix of some of the nasty and some of the happier things too. That’s the strongest part of the comedy is that it’s able to balance it all out. Interestingly enough is that this comedy is based upon the cancer ordeal of the scriptwriter: Will Reiser. Who would’ve thought that a plot like this would be a winning formula?

No question that the script of Will Reiser was winning. It created a good mix of humor and real life. It could qualify as autobiographical but I don’t know Will’s personal life. The acting made it work. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the perfect fit for Adam. There couldn’t have been a better pick for Kyle than Seth Rogen. Anna Kendrick was also excellent as the inexperienced therapist who becomes the best thing for Adam. Jonathan Levine also did a good job of directing. Definitely a refreshing alternative from your usual box office fare. I will admit there was the occasional lewd and crude humor from Kyle but overall it made for an excellent movie.

50/50 was the surprise hit comedy of this fall. It has received a lot of acclaim as one of the best comedies of the year. Unfortunately it did not receive any Oscar nominations, not even for script. I’m not too worried because I’m sure with the help of DVD and Netflix this movie’s charm will last for a long time. It does seem odd to make a comedy about dealing with a life-threatening form of cancer, especially for someone so young, but it’s an example of how the younger generations are dealing with cancer. You can notice how cancer services and support groups and charities have changed over the past thirty years. Thirty years ago, the slogan was “Cancer can be beaten.” Now cancer funds and groups are using their own methods to encourage the younger generation to get involved. There are fundraising groups with the slogan “F*** cancer!” There are breast cancer funds with the slogan “I love boobies!” It may seem too in-your-face to some but it’s how the younger generation is now dealing with the fight. It’s all in the passing of the torch. Now to have a cancer survivor make a comedy about cancer that does sometimes rattle cages but is also very genuine in both the positive and negative aspects, it’s an accomplishment of its own.

They say laughter is the best medicine. 50/50 is definitely worth it. Until there’s a sure-fire cure for cancer, there’s 50/50 to laugh things off.

From Summer Movie Sizzle To September Slump

We’ve already seen the latest summer movie season come and go. The excitement, the hits, the blockbusters, the special effects, the stars, the flops, the sleeper surprises. It all shaped the summer movie season of 2011, which I will elaborate on in a future article. The Labor Day always opens the movie month of September up on a bright note.

What happens in the next three or four weeks should be known as the September Slump. Now that all the big movies had the summer to reap in the money, it’s now quieter fare during September. That usually makes for a low box office month. In fact September has the lowest box office gross of any month of the year. For the record, the highest grossing September was back in 2007 with $554.7 million. Also for the record, the highest opening weekend for a September release is Sweet Home Alabama way back in 2002 with $35.6 million. Pretty paltry compared to other months, eh?

So you think that the month of September should have some drab fare, right? Wrong. There are lots of reasons to go see a movie in September even though you’re no longer on vacation and back at work or back to school. Look what the month has:

THIS WEEKEND:

Contagion: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law. Medical drama about trying to stop an airborne virus from spreading into an epidemic.

Warrior: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton. Could this be the first hit movie about Mixed Martial Arts?

Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star: Nick Swardson, Don Johnson, Christina Ricci. An over-the-top comedy with an over-the-top scenario.

The Black Power Mixtape 1968-1975 Excellent for those who are into documentaries.

Main Street (limited): Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson. Colin Firth plays an American! A Southern one!

September 16:

Drive: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston. A Hollywood stuntman who moonlights with the underworld is on the run.

I Don’t Know How She Does It: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer. A businesswoman who can juggle her career, family and marriage until she meets her business associate.

Straw Dogs: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth. When an L.A. Screenwriter relocates to his wife’s Southern hometown, it leads to some Southern discomfort.

Restless (limited): Mia Wasikowska stars in a dark ropmantic drama directed by Gus Van Sant.

September 23:

Moneyball: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill. Can a computer design a winning baseball team on a budget? You be the judge.

Abduction: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina. Can Taylor Lautner be bankable with something other than Jacob? And with his shirt still on? Stay tuned.

Machine Gun Preacher: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon. A true story of a reformed bad boy becoming a crusader for Sudanese children.

Killer Elite: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert de Niro. A kidnapping drama that will capture the action movie crowd.

Puncture (limited): A legal drama starring Chris Evans.

Dolphin Tale: A family movie starring Morgan Freeman.

You may have noticed I left out September 30, right? And for good reason. That weekend has more days in October than September. So there you go. Some good movie choices for the month of September. Even movies already out like The Help and The Debt make for good choices about this time. I’m sure even in your hectic schedule or workload, overtime, or homework or family business, you can find time for a movie.

SOURCES CITED:

Box Office Mojo

IMDB

Movie Review: Midnight In Paris

Midnight In Paris turned out to be one of the most unlikely sleeper hits of the summer. Little was expected of it: Owen Wilson being the biggest name, a romance featuring characters older than the 20’s, a Paris setting and a trip back to the past. Somehow it was able to capture people’s imaginations and make moviegoers want to see it.

The story is about Gil: a Hollywood screenwriter who’s successful but easily distracted. He’s engaged to Inez, a daughter of wealthy conservative parents. While the four are vacationing in Paris, Gil is struggling to finish his first novel about a man working in a nostalgia shop; a novel for which he plans to give up his scriptwriting career and move to Paris for inspiration. This does not sit very well with Inez’s parents as they don’t favor the arts or Paris nor does it sit well with Inez herself as she intends to live in Malibu. Meanwhile Inez’s friend Paul who appears to know a lot of the artistic greats makes things more complicated as Gil finds him insufferable and even phony.

 After a wine tasking one night, Gil is drunk and alone outside the hotel. At midnight, Gil comes across a coach leading a group to a secret place. Gil joins the group and the people appear to be celebrating 1920’s couture. Later we see that the coach leads to a place where the 1920’s come alive with the Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and wife Zelda. He even meets Gertrude Stein and offers her to look over his novel. One catch we learn as he returns to the hotel, he’s back in the present.

Gil goes to return the next night novel in hand and offers to bring Inez with him but she’s annoyed with what he says and returns to the hotel. The coach returns at midnight and this time Ernest Hemingway is inside. He gives Gertrude his novel and she introduces him to Picasso. Gil encounters Picasso’s mistress Adrianna whom he has become attracted to. The following day Paul  shows Gil and Inez Picasso’s painting of Adrianna at a museum and tells his story about it. Gil contradicts with the truth he just saw the other night, only to annoy both Paul and Inez.

Gil visits the past more often for inspiration for his novel which annoys Inez. Her father even hires a private investigator on him, only to be lead to the Versailles during the era of Louis XIV and never to be found again. Gil spends more time with Adrianna, who leaves Picasso for Hemingway. This confuses Gil as he feels he’s falling in love with her. Meanwhile he meets with surrealists like Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Luis Bunuel who see nothing strange about him coming from the future. Gil goes furniture shopping with Inez but comes across and an antiques dealer who’s selling Adrianna’s diary. He also learns from a conversation with the antiques dealer herself that she also has the same fondness for the 20’s Gil has. Later a guide from the Rodin Museum translates Adrianna’s diary and he learns she’s in love with him. Gil returns to the past and confesses his love to Adrianna. A coach leading them to the days of the Belle Epoque drives up and Adrianna opts to go in, talking of how she longs of the days of the Belle Epoque and how the 1920’s are so imaginative. It there that Gil learns about the illusionate lure of nostalgia and learns to accept the present for what it is. In the end, the romantic triangles between all involved take a surprising turn and Gil makes some surprising decisions.

I don’t think the movie is stressing too many points but rather telling an amusing love story where artistic inspiration and one’s passion are the top themes. It does pay an admiration for the writers and thinkers in the past but it reminds us to admire their influences rather than dwell back to their time.

Another theme that’s common in Woody Allen’s movies is about artists and their inspirations. It shows how a top Hollywood writer feels that burning desire to create a novel that no Hollywood millions can take the place of. Allen puts in many legendary artists, writers and filmmakers—including some from an American expatriate group in Paris at that time–who received their inspiration in Paris to make his point. It also reflects on Allen’s feelings of conservatism being stuffy, especially with the Tea Partiers. Interesting how Gil is an artist mesmerized by legends of the past while Inez’ father admires a political party known for its past thinking.

In terms of the movie’s acting, this is the best acting I’ve seen from Owen Wilson. He seems in these past few years to be leaving his past Slacker Pack schtick behind and is now doing more sensible roles. This is an excellent move for Wilson. Here he plays a man who’s smart but easily distracted. Very good job. The supporting roles were also excellent, especially the character acting. Most of the characters of people from the past are so well-acted, you easily forget who the actor is. It took me a while to recognize Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, Marion Cotillard as Adrianna and Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald. The most recognizable was Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein. Nevertheless her acting was still top quality.

The best effort has to come from the directing and writing from Woody Allen. I will admit that Woody Allen’s humor and comedies are not as fresh as it was during the 70’s and Midnight isn’t that different. If there’s one thing I like, it’s that Woody Allen is able to keep quality and good effort in comedy. While most comedic writers rely on cheap shots, one-liners and slapstick to make hit comedies, Allen keeps the intelligence in his storylines and presents comedies with amusing situations, full characters and an ending that differs from your typical Hollywood endings. Here we have characters that make you laugh and think at the same time. Here we have a return back to the past that fits the story well. Here we have a romantic comedy that doesn’t end the way your typical Hollywood romantic comedy ends. in terms of box office, Midnight is Woody’s highest-grossing film in North America ever. Impressive.

Midnight In Paris is not a comedy for everyone. I don’t think a trip into the past in Paris at the stroke of midnight will draw everyone. Nevertheless it is a refreshing break from your typical predictable, formulaic Hollywood fare and will impress whoever is willing to view it.

Movie Review: Paul

Okay, you’re probably wondering why on earth am I just posting this review now when Paul has been out for at least a month? Here’s the thing. I don’t immediately rush out to the theatres whenever a movie comes out. I see them when I see them. Often when there’s a big hit movie, I wait weeks until the crowds die down to go see it. So that explains why you get my review of Paul later than most. So after explaining all that…

Who is Paul? He’s a fugitive. He’s a celebrity. He’s a slacker. He’s a joker…He’s an alien. Paul is all those things, and the subject of a recent comedy movie. The latest concoction of the British writing/acting collaboration of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. So how does this close encounter of the funny kind end up?

Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are two British comic book dweebs with a passion for sci-fi and alien encounters. The love it so much, they rent an RV and take it from San Diego’s Comic-Con all across the US for their own alien encounter tour. Little do they know they’d find themselves in trouble. First they come across some homophobic hunters who suspect them to be a couple. They head off, accidentally denting their truck. On the run, they get hit by a car driven by, among other things, an alien named Paul. The two bring Paul along in the RV. Little do they know that Paul is actually in pursuit by a shady government agent named Zoil who even recruits two inept FBI agents in the capture.

Later during a campfire over at a campground run by Moses, a strict Christian and his daughter Ruth, Paul tells the twosome that while captured by the government, he helped with Spielberg’s E.T. and the X-Files’ Mulder. Ever since he learned the government planned to dissect his brain, he’s been on the run since. Ruth is then kidnapped by the two. Once in the RV, she learns of Paul and refuses to trust him as it contradicts her devout beliefs. Once Paul heals her blind eye, blind since she was four, she trusts him to the point she becomes eager to sin.

Meanwhile Zoil and the two agents question Moses who says she was abducted by demons. Graeme, Ruth and Willy once again meet up with the homophobic hunters, but Paul comes to the rescue. Upon pursuit of Paul, Zoil and the agents come across him. Once Paul makes his escape, all three are after him but for their own separate pursuits each. Meanwhile Moses is chasing for Ruth.

Paul finds refuge in an old house which is owned by Tara, a young girl who saved his live back in 1947 and is all grown up, reclusive because of the ostracism she received throughout her life. Tara is relieved to find that Paul is real. After turning on the stove, a shootout ensues at her house, causing it to explode with Paul, Graeme, Clive, Ruth and Tara on the run. The three agents go on their pursuits again but only Zoil survives in meeting up with Paul, who is in a field waiting for his UFO to take him home. Instead, it’s a helicopter with ‘The Big Guy’, Zoil’s superior. Zoil reveals he was the one who helped Paul get away. Zoil disarms the men but is shot in the shoulder. Tara punches out ‘The Big Guy’. Moses shoots Clive dead. Paul heals him but his healing powers come at the risk of his own life. After Clive is revived, it appears Paul is dead but he’s just exhausted. Paul’s ship arrives, crushing ‘The Big Guy’. Heading for home, he invites Tara to come with him and finally live a life. Two years later, Clive, Graeme and Ruth return to Comic-Con. This time, they are on stage as successful comic book writers thanks to their comic book Paul.

I have to say the biggest overall glitch with this movie is that it often appears to rely on the crude and rude one-liners in many parts. It has enough humorous subject matter and comedic characters without having to resort too often to such lines. First off,  the incorporation of the subject lines of many alien shows of past, like Star Wars, Close Encounters, E.T. and the X-Files. Second off, there are already a lot of talented actors that have been able to prove of recent that they can do comedy well. Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader have proved their humor in Saturday Night Live and other movies they’ve acted in. Blythe Danner, Sigourney Weaver and Jason Bateman were also able to make their roles work in the movie. Seth Rogen, already a reputed funny man himself, did a good job in the voice over as Paul. Pegg and Frost are already known for their comedic acting as well as their writing for Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. They don’t have to resort too often to such low brow material.

Outside of that, the movie was a good job of meshing 3D animation with live-action, an alien encounter story with comedy, and even romance with sci-fi dweebs. Pegg and Frost once again show that they’re at their best when they’re together. They also showed they can do a good job with an American story line for the first time. Also it was unique to see a comedy not just revolve around an alien encounter but also with San Diego’s Comic-Con, which has grown in popularity in recent years to the point even A-listers make appearances.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who both wrote and star in Paul, describe it as a ‘love letter to Steven Spielberg’. You could describe their two previous big-screen comedies, Shaun OIf The Dead and Hot Fuzz, as ‘love letters’ too. If you saw Shaun Of The Dead, you’d tell it was a love letter to all those zombie movies. If you saw Hot Fuzz, you’d definitely know it was a love letter to all those gunslinger action movies of the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t think Paul is so much a love letter to Spielberg as much as it is a love letter to sci-fi as a whole. Good mesh of stories but I feel this movie is more of a salute to sci-fi dweebs and comic books geeks the world over.

Paul is an enjoyable movie. Even though I felt it could be better with the humor in the script, it is a delight to watch. Pegg and Forst know how to do enjoyable movies and they do it again here.