Friday, August 31, 2012


Alternate Title:  The Sixth Sense 2:  Sense Harder

One sentence synopsis:      A lonely boy who can talk to ghosts must stop an undead witch from destroying his town.

Things Havoc liked:  First of all, shut up. I know this isn't my usual fare, but my sister insisted on seeing this movie and I consented to do so after she insisted to me that all reviews pointed to it being a good film. Of course the last few times that happened resulted in Prometheus and Tron: Legacy... but we won't hold that against her (much).

Claymation films are not exactly my specialty, and invite (for me) flashbacks to The Nightmare Before Christmas and the more forgettable rest of Tim Burton's stop motion oeuvre (including the upcoming Frankenwenie, which I shall endeavor mightily to miss). Paranorman, however, is produced by Laika pictures, a company mercifully unconnected with Tim Burton's burgeoning madness, responsible for the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and who chose to employ a convoluted process involving 3-D printers in order to bring this film to life. It certainly paid off. The film is gorgeously done, the animation smooth and crisp, with none of the stiffness that has bedeviled claymation since its inception. Movement, even violent fighting and action scenes, are accomplished effortlessly, blending in so well with the CG-generated elements that I very quickly forgot (save in one or two shots) that the film was anything but another animated film. Designs are stylized just enough to avoid uncanny valleys, but not so much that we don't instantly identify the archetypes being employed.

And speaking of archetypes, for a film that starts out ripping everything possible off from the Sixth Sense, Paranorman quite rapidly shifts gears into some strange combination of The Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead 2, and The House on Haunted Hill. The core story centers around Norman, a lonely, sensitive kid who sees ghosts and is relentlessly bullied for it by his peers and ostracized by his uncaring family. Rather than devolve into a psychoanalytical tale as Sixth Sense did, however, this movie quickly becomes an adventure flick when Norman is tasked by his lunatic uncle (voiced by John Goodman) with preventing a Salem-era witch from returning from the grave to devour the town, in the course of which he is forced to team up with his fat comic-relief best friend, his angry older teenaged sister, her would-be boyfriend, the brainless jock, and the school bully. And just as we're settling into the familiar five-man-band horror territory (albeit with kids), the movie does another U-turn as Zombies attack the town, angry mobs are formed, and evil witches come to life, until we're in a pastiche of a pastiche and trying to decide what the film will rip off next.

And yet, the material, derivative as it is, is handled well overall, with several touches of self-aware cleverness that I found very well done. One of my favorite sections involves a group of flesh-eating Zombies stumbling into town and being spotted by the populace, only to be savagely beaten, Tom-and-Jerry-style, by the very townsfolk that in another movie would be panicking and being devoured. The assembly of our "heroes" and the process they go through to try and solve this situation is straightforward and makes sense, and the movie wisely sidesteps the almost obligatory scenes where "our heroes are not believed by the unthinking adults" or "nobody recognizes the threat except for the child-hero." Moreover, the voice acting, from various child-stars of Kick-Ass and Let Me In, is evocative and effective, and imbues the characters properly with life.

Things Havoc disliked:   That said, for all its self-referential humor and archetype swapping, Paranorman is a kids' movie, and a fairly ham-fisted one at that. The sequence midway through the film where an angry mob of townsfolk prepares to hang or burn Norman as a witch is hopelessly contrived, and the "shaming the mob" speech that gets them to stop had me rolling my eyes. I don't mind basic storytelling, or kids' movies in general, but the standards for both are high, and there's just nothing about this story that elevates it above something seen many times before. The ultimate resolution of the movie, while logically and thematically consistent, is as predictable as a drum beat, and laden with a heavy-handed moral lesson that a better movie would simply have implied. Kids aren't stupid, and can pick up a lot between the lines without needing to resort to this level of by-numbers plotting.

There's also a real lack of focus in this film. Though the movie starts off like a Sixth Sense ripoff before turning to a new direction, the shift is so abrupt that promising concepts established at the beginning of the movie are never followed up upon. An inventive sequence early on in the film shows Norman walking down the street to school, talking and exchanging greetings with dozens of ghosts apparent only to him, each with their own prsonalities and implied stories. Yet once the plot begins moving, Norman scarcely ever sees another ghost save on the rare occasions where the plot requires him to. Similarly, the five-man-band story that seems to be building is dropped unceremoniously midway through the movie as Norman has to learn the necessary lessons to deal with the threat by himself, leaving all the other characters with nothing to do. As a result, the film feels choppy and badly unfocussed, bouncing from idea and style to idea and style without much regard for what has been established before. It's all logically consistent, but not thematically so, resulting in a movie that simply doesn't know what, ultimately, it wants to be about.

Final thoughts:  Paranorman was a film I didn't expect much out of, and by that scale I was pleasantly surprised. It's a fun little movie, cute when it needs to be, hilarious when it needs to be, and biting when it needs to be (and sometimes when it doesn't need to be). I wouldn't call it classic children's cinema, destined to be remembered throughout the ages, but it's a harmless film with a good heart and a good bit of fun to be had in it. And honestly, what more can you reasonably ask for?

Final Score:  6.5/10

The Expendables 2

Alternate Title:  Ooo-Rah

One sentence synopsis:      A group of elite mercenaries must stop a psychopath from selling plutonium to terrorists.

Things Havoc liked:  One has to adjust one's expectations for a movie like this.

I felt that the original Expendables, which came out before I started this project, was a mixed movie in many ways. On one hand, it was a love-letter to the great Action films of the 80s and early 90s, the ludicrous extravaganzas with body counts in the four digits and an extremely loose affiliation with such notions as physics and plausibility that I worshiped as a kid and still look back on fondly today. On the other hand, the movie never really seemed to cut loose, miring itself in a "serious business" plot that was plainly recycled from the same era as these films, and burdened with needless cameos intended clearly to provide trailer shots without giving us what we wanted. The movie wasn't bad, indeed I enjoyed it, but I felt that it did not live up to the potential it held, holding back instead of going for the gold.

Having seen this new movie, I think I'm not the only one who diagnosed it that way.

The Expendables 2 is louder, stupider, bigger, funnier, and significantly more recognizable as the absurd experiment that this entire project was intended to be, and I for one could not be happier. It exceeds the previous film in almost every respect, giving us everything I was left wanting from the previous installment of the film, ditching the dour seriousness of the previous film for a plot so sharply drawn it might as well have been written with sharpee markers. Not content to give us the returning spectacle of Stalone (still incomprehensible), Statham (finally playing the asshole I always thought he should return to), Lungren (who becomes the subject of riotously funny in-jokes for aficionados of the genre), Li (sadly reduced to a cameo role, albeit a badass one), Couture and Crews (in tertiary roles), the movie now also adds in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, upgraded from their 90-second cameos in the first movie into full-fledged supporting badasses, Chuck Norris (who gets to play an indescribably bad dude-with-no-name who periodically shows up to add hundreds to the body count), and, of course, the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme, playing the bad guy with so much scenery-chewing evilness that he manages to make Stalone look restrained and measured. None of the above should be taken as criticism

And yet, the movie's greatest strength is not actually its cast, but the tremendous wealth of knowledge about the making and portraying of action films that is on display in this movie. With a cast this thick and rich, representing practically the entire action movie genre from an entire decade, helmed of course by the Academy-Award-Winning writer and actor Sylvester Stallone (a fact I never tire of bringing up), it should come as no surprise that the movie is designed, shot, and edited together with an expertise that harkens back to the glory days of the action movie. You will find no shaky-cam, no frenetic video-game editing, no Michael Bay-inspired SFX overloads here. You will not see what we used to call "MTV-ification" blighting the shot-lengths of this nigh-operatic spectacle of violence. What you will see is glorious, awesome action sequences, one after the next, their pace flowing and ebbing in an expertly-choreographed rhythm. The vast majority of the effects and stunts are practical effects, a decision I always applaud, giving the film a gritty reality that contrasts nicely with the ludicrous ultraviolence being engaged in. The stunt work, even from the aging action stars, is top quality, perhaps less athletic than it might have been in these actors' heydays, but no less punishing for it. My favorite sequence of all is probably one of Statham's, involving as it does an orthodox incense censer and throwing knives, but there's frankly not one single action sequence that falls flat.

Things Havoc disliked:   Wow, is this movie stupid. It wasn't just the action sequences, the cast, and the choreography that was imported from the great 80s action movies of yore, it was the plot as well, wherein our hero(es) have to go up against what amounts to "The Grand People's Army of Evil". Hundreds (and hundreds) of mercenaries are employed by Jean-Claude Van Damme for the apparent purposes of both doing evil and being slaughtered in enormous numbers. There's a concept from Hong Kong action flicks of "mooks", defined as armed men whose role is to die in large quantities so as to showcase the skills of the hero(es). It's been a long while since I saw this many blatant mooks in a movie.

There are moments in this film where the movie tries to turn away from its working formula of "all action all the time" to more character-driven or (worse-yet) plot-driven elements, and these moments are easily the weakest in the film. Anyone who can explain to me what the role of Liam Hemsworth is in this film or what Jean Claude Van Damme's overall plan was is welcome to enlighten me, because the movie does not see fit to supply either of these facts to us. Meanwhile Yu Nan, the token woman in the group this time, is shunted so unceremoniously to the side that she doesn't even receive billing on the promotional materials (granted, there's a lot of people to get through here, but she doesn't appear at all). I don't object so much that these things are badly handled, that's par for the course. But why include them at all if you're not going to introduce anything interesting via them? As it stands, all these sequences serve as are padded interludes between action scenes.

Final thoughts:  But hell, it's a bit churlish to object to the fact that a movie that sets out to replicate a stupid 80s action movie resembles it in more ways than one. Expendables 2 was a hilarious, ludicrous, awesome film, filled with reverent (and irreverent) nods to an earlier time with movies that were equal parts farce and blood opera. Is it good enough to stand in the company of the classic titans of 80s camp action such as Terminator, Aliens, Hard Boiled, or Die Hard? Probably not. But it's still a damn good and incredibly fun action flick, the likes of which we should be so lucky as to see more of.

Final Score:  7/10

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man

Alternate Title:  The World before Google

One sentence synopsis:     A handful of South African music aficionados from the fall of Apartheid go hunting for an obscure American musician whose music inspired them.

Things Havoc liked:  On a cold night in Detroit, in the winter of 1973, a struggling young musician known only as Rodriguez got up on stage in a bar somewhere near the waterfront, and performed music from the two albums he had released several years earlier. Unknown save to a handful of music snobs, heckled by the crowd, and beset by money and shyness troubles, Rodriguez played his last set before a sullen, heckling crowd, thanked them politely for their attention, drew a gun, and shot himself dead right there on the stage.

Such, at least, is one version of the story of Rodriguez, as related to us by a series of interviews with various now middle-aged South Africans who in the late 70s and 80s, participated in the exploding music scene in South Africa. Some tell us that Rodriguez died of a drug overdose, some that he burned himself alive on stage, and other lurid, strange tales born from the fact that Rodriguez, completely unknown here in the United States, was, in South Africa, bigger than Elvis, and yet totally mysterious to them. His music, brought by bootleggers into the sealed society that was Apartheid South Africa, became the driving force of a generation of white South African protestors in the same way that Bob Dylan did for American youth in the 60s. One such South African, who still goes by the name of "Sugar" (drawn from one of Rodriguez' songs), explains to us that in his country, Rodriguez' music was as ubiquitous to him as any other artist that could be named, and that walking into a white liberal house in South Africa, one would expect to see a Rodriguez album sitting right next to the Beatles.

Searching for Sugarman is the story of a search by a handful of these South African music fans, as they sought in the early-mid 90s to determine the story behind this mysterious musical phenomenon, unknown in his own country, whose two albums are still considered some of the finest music ever produced by the handful of people who have heard them, and who seemingly vanished without a trace shortly after completing them. In an age before Google, Wikipedia, or the widespread use of the internet, these people began to search, via contacts with record companies, postings on early internet bulletin boards, and slow piecing together of rumor and story, attempting to understand who Rodriguez was, where his music had come from, and why and how he had died. So unknown was Rodriguez domestically that nobody in the United States even knew that he had become popular in South Africa, and attempts to track down anyone who had even met him vanished into tangled webs of royalty payments and corporate ignorance. Yet doggedly these men continued to search, seeking to know more about the musician that had influenced their lives so heavily.

Searching for Sugarman is a documentary record of this search, what it uncovered, and what resulted from the discoveries they made. To tell you what happens in the turns of this story would be to spoil the point of seeing it, but I can tell you that the documentary untangles this story with amazing dexterity. From Detroit to Cape Town to Los Angeles and back to Detroit again we roam, talking to music fans, to friends of Rodriguez from his recording days, to record executives and journalists picking up the story, and on and on. All throughout the story we learn about Rodriguez himself, the son of Mexican immigrants who worked in backbreaking manual labor in the poorest regions of Detroit, and wrote music nobody (here) heard that was deeply infused with political messages and vignettes from working class life.

Rodriguez' music fills the soundtrack of the picture, and it's damn good music. His voice is a cross between Don Maclean and James Taylor's, a smooth, even voice over music that reminds me strongly of Bob Dylan's best work. Like pretty much every American, I had never heard of Rodriguez in my life, but the film spends a great deal of time with experts and record executives, explaining how revolutionary Rodriguez' sound was, and expressing their utter mystification at his failure to break through in the United States. By the end of it, we feel like experts on this obscure man's music, and I would wager that more than a few of us were inspired to go searching for these nigh-unobtainable albums. I certainly was.

Things Havoc disliked:   This is a strange tale, and it's told well, with many turns that I could predict and some I could not. I will not spoil any of them here, as learning all the things that the researchers learned is half the fun, but I will talk about a subject that stuck with me. Early on, as the South Africans are looking for Rodriguez, they resolve to follow the money trail of royalty payments from South Africa back to the labels in the United States. There, the documentarians meet with a record producer named Clarence Avant, one of the original men who knew Rodriguez and produced his two albums. They confront Avant with questions concerning where all the money from the records ended up, only for him to become extremely defensive, refusing to answer questions about the money, and accusing the filmmakers of headhunting. Later on, one of Rodriguez' relatives suggests that there was no money, that the albums never made money even in South Africa, because piracy and bootlegging soaked up the sales that might otherwise have been made.

Um... excuse me?

These records were released in 1970 and 1971. Their popularity in South Africa commenced about five years later. While there certainly was bootlegging in the 1970s, this was long before we could blame Napster and Bittorrent for all the ills of the music industry. We see hundreds and thousands of perfectly legitimate copies of these albums, vinal, cassette, and CD, in stores and homes all across South Africa. We speak to record labels in South Africa who explain that they paid extravagant royalties to companies in the United States. The albums were both certified platinum by the South African Recording Industry, an award based solely on the number of actual legal sales. And yet when Avant blusters and Rodriguez' relatives wave their hands at piracy, the documentary appears to simply drop the subject, as though that answers everything. The question is never brought up again, and the strong implication that the filmmakers leave us with is that ungrateful music pirates kept Rodriguez from enjoying the fruits of his labors. I've heard some nonsensical statements on piracy proffered by the RIAA and other such groups, but never with such bald-faced gall as the subject is introduced here.

Final thoughts: Honestly though, by the end of this film, even I had forgotten about the piracy issue. The story here is not about piracy or record sales or money lost or won or earned or stolen. The story is about a strange and unique man, and the excellent music he produced, labored over, and believed was forgotten about, only for it to unexpectedly become the voice of a generation he never even imagined. It's one of the finest documentaries I've ever seen, carrying us along a story so strange that I would not have believed it if it hadn't been laid out for me in such an effective way. By the time this story finally ends, we're left with a sense of profound wonder that all these things should have happened, and that people like this should have lived. After weeks of dross, boredom, and teeth-grinding annoyance, it's good to meet people who neither waste my time nor fray my temper, but simply wish to tell me a story of music, art, and the bizarre crapshoot that is 'recognition'. And that this story and not those was the true one is enough to make anyone smile.

So do yourself a favor, and give it a listen. And you might just start searching for Sugar Man yourselves.

Final Score:  8.5/10

Friday, August 17, 2012

Farewell my Queen

Alternate Title:  Let them eat Boredom!

One sentence synopsis:     The French Revolution throws the life of Marie Antoinette and her servants into turmoil.

Things Havoc liked:  The French Revolution was one of the turning points in western civilization, bringing down the old order in France and paving the way for a new...


Things Havoc disliked:   ... you know what? No. I'm sorry. I can't do this. I can't go through this review the way I went through all the others, pointing out positive and negative things and giving the fair and balanced treatment. I just can't do it. This movie is... vapor. It might as well not exist. This film is so goddamn boring that I literally fell asleep during it, woke up ten minutes later, and missed nothing. It is the living stereotype of french films, a movie that is not only about nothing, but seems to have been made in between the shots of a different, better movie which we are not allowed to see.

Okay, a little explanation. The film takes place over four days in the French palace of Versailles, and centers around Marie Antoinette (played by Inglorious Basterds' Diane Kruger) and her "reader" (a servant whose job it was to read to the queen), played by MI4's Léa Seydoux. These four days occur just before, during, and in the aftermath of the famous storming of the Bastille, during which the King was forced to accede to the demands of the French Estates-General, ministers were beheaded, and any nobleman who could manage to do so fled the vicinity of Paris for their country estates, for other countries, or to raise armies in defense of the monarchy. It was a time of ferment and disorder, one of the great turning points in world history.

But forget all that boring crap, we have lesbians!

Yes, this movie discards all that boring riots/mobs/storming the Bastille stuff in favor of a character study of Marie Antoinette and her lesbian lover, the duchess of Polignac. At least I think that's what they're going for. Frankly, the story is so slow and mood-driven that I'm not sure what the point of all this was. We get long, drawn out tracking shots of Marie Antoinette looking longingly at her lover, while she is being watched by her servant, only for the screen to darken and a title crawl to inform us that it is now the next day, so that we can have further scenes of the same sort. There's a framing story, or to be more accurate there's about six framing stories, concerning the reader and her on-again off-again lover, and her friend, and her friend's boyfriend, and the gossip among the servants about the Duke of X or the Baron of Y and some old guy whom the reader knows who appears periodically and explains in a monotone voice that events which would be far more interesting have just happened so that everyone can stare longingly at one another again. It's not badly shot, it's not badly acted, it's not even badly made, it's just SO GODDAMN BORING that you want to claw your eyes out. I seriously wished I'd brought a newspaper.

Final thoughts: And that's it! That's literally all I can say about this movie. You might suspect in reading this that I must have missed two thirds of the movie, but there's basically nothing else to say here, good or bad. It is a series of scenes of the Queen of France making small talk or staring longingly at things until two hours is up and everyone goes home. The movie is not badly made, the cinematography is very nice, in that it shows off Versailles not as an idyllic paradise but as a dirty, threadbare, pestilent stone prison/castle (accurate to the time), and the costumes and makeup are all quite well done. But one would find more excitement watching a Ken Burns documentary on the same subject, and certainly more to talk about.

The final text crawl reminds us that Marie Antoinette, her husband, and children were all executed by a howling mob, baying for their blood. I would recommend the filmmakers consider that example very closely the next time they purpose to waste several hours of my time with this sort of tripe.

Final Score:  4/10

Monday, August 6, 2012

To Rome with Love

Alternate Title:  The Sack of Rome, Part 2

One sentence synopsis:     A number of Italians and Americans have strange experiences in the Eternal City.

Things Havoc liked:  Rome is one of my favorite cities in the world. I love the history of Rome, the atmosphere of Rome, the food of Rome, the art of Rome, the ambiance of Rome, I love everything about Rome (at least at a remove). And given that Woody Allen has recently decided that his life's goal is to chronicle all the great cities of Europe in film (Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris), I was glad to hear that he'd gotten around to Rome. So what if the plot was an artificial cobbling together of a number of unrelated vignettes? So what if it's all a transparent excuse to get a bunch of A-list actors together and film a lighthearted romantic farce in the Eternal City? Midnight in Paris had no greater excuse for existing, and was wonderful. I entered this movie hopeful, expecting a lighthearted love letter to a city I also admire, as directed and written by one of the most acclaimed American filmmakers of this or any age.

Things Havoc disliked:   Suffice to say, that is not what I received.

Woody Allen is an acquired taste that some people never acquire. His nebbish personality and stilted, stream-of-consciousness dialogue style are hard to take for an extended period of time, and there are some who simply dislike it, though I never counted myself one. Yes, his style is somewhat repetitive, but I've always rather enjoyed his offerings, even when they're not great cinema, and I thought it rather unfair to object to his usual in-character personality, especially when he's often portrayed precisely as the stammering, whining idiot that he seems to be.

Well goddamn, I sure get it now.

To Rome with Love is structured into a series of unrelated vignettes, chronicling the misadventures of a series of American and Italian tourists (and Roman natives) within the Eternal City. The best that can be said for this structure is that we aren't forced to put up with any particular set of fantastically annoying characters for too long, but as the alternative is only another set of equally annoying ones, that's perhaps not saying much. Worst of the bunch (by far) is Woody himself, playing a retired opera director who arrives in Rome to meet his daughter's fiance. Bereft of the superb timing and oddball detachment that previously made his characters bearable, Woody here plays the sort of character who in a better movie would be shot and thrown in the Tiber to drown. A particular scene midway through the film, where he simply refuses to shut up about some show he wants to put together with his son-in-law's father is so teeth-grinding and awkward that I was literally counting the seconds before the film finally, mercifully cut away (17). Had it gone to 20, I might have set the screen on fire.  When he's not being as annoying as humanly possible, he's casually throwing in constant references to his own psychoanalysis and film theory.  Par for the course for an Allen film, yes, but these references are so pointless and shoehorned-in that they just serve to make the people speaking them look stupider.

But bad as Woody is, the real tragedy is what he has done to all the other actors in this movie. One sequence involves Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page as two young students who fall in love in Rome, while Alec Baldwin plays a sort of Jiminy-Cricket-like adviser, warning Eisenberg against the pitfalls of his budding romance. All three of these people are excellent actors whom I enjoy watching, and all three of them are godawful in this movie, primarily because the dialogue they are given is so wooden and on-the-nose that Lawrence Olivier could not have performed it credibly. This is the sort of film wherein a character, wishing to express how they are falling in love with someone in an unexpected and even unwelcome manner, will express this by turning to someone else and saying, out loud, "I am falling in love with someone in an unexpected and even unwelcome manner". Eisenberg is forced to narrate his own feelings at such nauseating length that he winds up sounding like a complete prat, while Page is grotesquely miscast as a "sexpot" who recites a list of cliched "free-spirited" backstory points with all the verisimilitude of a drunk at a party bragging about his 'game'. I loved Page in Juno and Inception, but this performance is so bad I'm not sure I can even blame Allen for it. And none of this is helped by Alec Baldwin floating through the movie and pointing out, explicitly, how stupid every line Page recites is.

The other two vignettes are in Italian, which normally would serve to dampen the awkwardness of the dialogue (subtitles have that effect), but here does not, simply because the plots are so stupid that there's no salvaging them. Roberto Benigni's story involves him being spontaneously treated as a celebrity, a premise which begins well enough, but ends with Benigni acting like an spastic idiot and learning a stupid, unforgivably saccharine lesson about the nature of fame. The other story, the only one even vaguely tolerable, stars Penelope Cruz as a prostitute mistaken for the new wife of a nervous man from rural Italy. I say 'vaguely' tolerable because even though the dialogue is less awful this time, this only allows the audience to turn its attention to the terrible pacing of the sequence, as the entire movie grinds to a halt every time Allen checks his watch and decides that it's probably time for someone to be "funny" again.

And yet, reciting story by story what's wrong with this film doesn't tell the tale, as the fundamental problems with this film are so elemental that it's almost shocking. Five or six times throughout the film, characters stop and remark to one another things like "Isn't this a great place we're standing in, in full view of the Spanish Steps?" all without showing us the Spanish Steps in question.  Every single vignette is intended to be viewed (I think) as farce, yet the movie's total inability to tell a joke without weighting it down means the farce is never allowed to take off. We see things like a man singing opera while standing in a portable shower (don't ask), but as the movie has no faith in our ability to perceive humor, we then are treated to the equivalent of ten minutes of characters telling each other about the fact that there's a man in a portable shower singing opera, belaboring the point until it's been mutilated past any point of humor. This happens for every single joke in the film.

Final thoughts: To Rome With Love is one of those movies that you leave in a daze, stunned by the sheer scale of the ineptitude you have just witnessed. I have seen bad movies before, even bad movies from otherwise talented filmmakers, but never a catastrophe so baffling as this one. Given that Woody Allen made the borderline-amazing Midnight in Paris only last year, a movie which was effectively a clone of this one (neurotic American goes to European city for crazy vignettes with local color), I have absolutely no explanation for what could possibly have happened here. I thought originally to claim that Allen had somehow been reduced to ripping himself off, but I find now that even that explanation doesn't suffice. This movie plays like a parody of a Woody Allen film, a parody lacking entirely in wit, substance, charm, or even basic filmmaking skill, made by someone who hates Woody Allen and wishes for him to suffer. How Allen, one of the most revered American filmmakers of the last fifty years, contrived to put something this terrible together and pass it off as a real movie is entirely beyond me, but this film was so bad that it caused my mother to swear off Allen's movies forever. I find it hard to blame her.

Ultimately, I'm left with the response I received from another woman who saw this film at the same time we did, and whose opinion I solicited as we were all making our way out of the theater. "This movie," she told me, "was the worst piece of shit I have ever seen."

Final Score:  2/10

The General's Post Summer 2018 Roundup

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