Movie Review: Midnight In Paris [2011]

Midnight In Paris [2011]

Midnight In Paris [2011]
Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy/Fantasy/Romance
Language: English
Country: USA

Midnight In Paris, Woody Allen’s 41st feature film, has a bit of a misleading trailer. This trailer, which can be viewed below, portrays the movie as a simple romantic comedy set in the gorgeous city of Paris. This is not entirely accurate. Sure, the movie is a love story, and it’s true that it is set in Paris, but there is a startling twist that throws everything in a different direction. While many reviewers have found the need to spoil this twist, I feel that it would be an injustice to reveal the movie’s curveball. Consider this a spoiler-free review.

The film stars Owen Wilson as Gil Pender, a bored Hollywood screenwriter who aspires to write a successful novel. Gil and his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), have joined her parents on a business trip to Paris for a relaxing getaway. Gil immediately falls in love with the city, frequently dreaming of walking in the rain in 1920’s Paris. He waxes nostalgic, often thinking of what he assumes to be greater times. Inez, on the other hand, while appreciative of Paris is more concerned about spending time with her old friend, Paul (Michael Sheen), who just so happens to be visiting as well. Paul is the pseudo-intellectual type, a guy who acts as if he knows everything about everyone, and Sheen plays him to perfection.

Midnight In Paris [2011]

In fact, the acting is pretty damn good all around. I am not an Owen Wilson fan at all, but I enjoyed him here. This might very well be the best role I have seen him in. Rachel McAdams does well as Gil’s bitchy fiancee, although I get the feeling that anyone could have stepped in for this part with little difficulty. The supporting cast, however, is what really helps this movie. Corey Stoll, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hiddleston, to name a handful, all have fun roles of varying degrees of importance. Cotillard, in particular, shines as the beautiful and charming Adriana. Without getting too much into their actual characters (for risk of spoilers), let’s just say that the cast fits their counterparts perfectly, which is an admirable feat.

Midnight In Paris [2011]

It’s clear from the film’s opening three minute montage that Woody Allen is enamored with Paris, and this is basically his love song for the city. There are some truly stunning shots of the City of Light, and this movie really makes me want to go back and visit.

Unfortunately, while Midnight In Paris has a strong cast and some marvelous shots of the city, the movie itself feels a bit flat. The aforementioned “twist” is initially intriguing, but the jokes and running gags related to it grow old after a while. I didn’t find the movie as funny as others did, although Adrien Brody’s cameo had me cracking up. Also, even though many of the small roles were entertaining, it felt like the movie introduced way too many characters and gave them little to work with. Even some of the more “important” characters kind of disappeared into the background after originally being introduced.

Essentially, Midnight In Paris is a good, but not great, movie. It has some interesting ideas, but never quite lives up to its potential. However, this is a must-see for those who fancy American literature and European artists as there are numerous references to Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso and Dali, to name a few. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you may want to pass.

6.5/10

Movie Review: Irréversible [2002]

Irréversible [2002]

Irréversible [2002]
Directors: Gaspar Noé
Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery
Language: French
Country: France

I have heard over and over again that Irréversible is one of the most disturbing movies ever created, and finally I had to see what all the fuss was about. Let’s just say that by the time the credits rolled, I was absolutely speechless.

First things first, believe everything you have heard. This is a brutal and often downright disgusting film, and it is painfully hard to watch. The movie is about a woman named Alex (Monica Bellucci) who is out partying with her boyfriend Marcus (real-life husband Vincent Cassel) and her ex, Pierre (Albert Dupontel). After leaving the party, she is brutally raped by a stranger (Jo Prestia) while walking home alone. When Marcus and Pierre find out what happened, they set out to get revenge on the asshole by taking justice into their own hands.

Irréversible [2002]

Irreversible is told in reverse chronological order (a la Memento) so the brutality begins right away. In the early moments, we are taken to a gay nightclub called Rectum (how subtle) where the two guys believe the rapist is hanging out. While they frantically look for the assailant, the camera is twisting and turning all over the place, making it difficult to see what is happening. Although the frequent camera shifts are initially difficult to stomach, they actually work out quite well. We don’t really NEED to see everything that is going on in order to understand the frenetic actions on screen. The topsy-turvy camera is a major part of the movie, although it thankfully gets toned down a bit as the film progresses.

During this critical early scene, the music is undeniably fierce. Thomas Bangalter’s (one half of Daft Punk) score is tense, and often terrifying in its own right. His music truly adds to the frantic pace during the early-goings. He definitely encapsulated the raw experience on screen, although it is not what I would expect from one half of the electronic duo who created “One More Time.”

By the time the infamous rape scene happens – about halfway through the movie – it is beyond difficult to watch. All of that shaky camerawork I mentioned earlier is gone during this scene. Instead, the camera sits stationary while we are forced to watch Alex get raped for nine straight minutes. It is absolutely disgusting, and to call it “fucked up” is an understatement.

Irréversible [2002]

Still, even with the obscene violence and sheer brutality, Irréversible remains a fascinating film. The brilliant reverse storytelling makes you think about the events from a different perspective. The soundtrack is menacing and perfect for the actions on screen. And the camera work initially seems out of control, but somehow it just works. Kudos to Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel for having the cojones to go through with something like this.

This is not a movie for everyone, and there is no doubt that this is a cruel and punishing 90 minutes. There are no boundaries here, which makes for an unpleasant, yet stimulating experience.

Simply put, Irreversible is a stunning film that just does not hold back.

9/10

The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

The Saboteur
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Release Date: December 8, 2009

One of the most criminally overlooked games to come out in the last couple years.

The Saboteur is a Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox adventure game that is set during World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, France. It also happens to be Pandemic’s last game before the studio was shut down for good. You play as Sean Devlin, an Irish racecar mechanic who gets cheated out of a race and subsequently becomes involved in a serious revenge plot against the Germans. The story revolves around a number of ethnic stereotypical characters, but this never becomes an issue since it is presented in an easygoing “adventure movie” narrative. Some liberties were taken with the realism factor, but it is all done in the name of making this a fun video game.

Other than the 1940’s France setting, which is really freakin’ cool, what sets this game apart from other sandbox titles is its style. The Saboteur utilizes both color and black & white to its full advantage. In areas of heavy Nazi occupance, the game’s world turns black and white. As Sean helps areas of the city fight back and resist the Germans, color slowly starts to seep back into the locales. This transformation is so simple, yet so utterly brilliant. I can’t think of any other games that do something like this, and it’s amazing that merely a different palette can evoke such power in a video game.
The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

Whether you want to play through the story missions or just blow up Nazi installations is entirely up to you. You have the freedom to do whatever you please, and you are given the entire city of Paris (as well as some of the countryside) to do it in. The game takes pride in the fact that you can play through guns-a-blazin’ or opt for a stealth route by sneaking around in Nazi gear. While this option is nice, it is much more fun to run around Rambo-style than it is to sneak past guards. The stealth mode is actually a lot more difficult than it should be, as the enemies are often way too quick to sniff you out and blow your cover. It’s possible to get through the game this way, but not really optimal.

In terms of pure gameplay, The Saboteur is a blast. The 1940s setting is perfectly encapsulated with music from the era, classic vehicles and old-style fashion. Devlin has free reign and can steal any car he wants, climb any building (with slick Uncharted-esque controls) and purchase weapon upgrades from a number of black market dealers. When you tack on the side missions and hundreds of “freeplay events” scattered around the game world, it could take a good 40 hours or so to 100% the game (it takes roughly 10 hours to complete just the story on its own). In a world like The Saboteur, it is easy to get sucked in and not want to leave.

It amazes me that this game flew under the radar when it was released in December 2009. I didn’t know anything about it until just recently myself. The Saboteur is an all-around fun game with a good amount of depth, and it excels partly because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While the stealth features could have been polished up a bit, this is still one of the best sandbox games I have played. Definitely a steal at the $20 or so it runs for these days.

8/10