See this movie. Scoop, a Woody Allen movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, is … actually, what more do I need to say? It’s a comedy caper film that involves magic, mystery, and murder. Basically, a student journalist (Johansson) is magically greeted by a recently deceased professional journalist who tells her to pursue a juicy story – Peter Lyman, an extremely wealthy man played by Jackman, may be the infamous Tarot Card Killer. What’s nice about this film, compared to some of Allen’s other films, is that it has likable characters whose interesting conflicts drive the plot. What I noticed Allen doing in this movie that I wish other movies and TV shows would do is including speech errors, such as stuttering, stopping mid-sentence to switch to another thought, and other things that realpeople do when they are collecting their thoughts as they talk. The story is pretty interesting and keeps the audience trying to figure it all out, and the pace is nice and snappy.
I have really been debating about whether I should give it four stars or four and a half, and while I really do like it a lot, is has a few issues. The big twist/climax is really predictable, and the ending is bitter-sweet when in this particular film I think it should have been happier and stronger. I have a difficult time explaining what I mean by stronger, but I essentially want to leave the film feeling like the story is completely finished and resolved, so I can mentally/emotionally leave the characters. I do not need this from every movie of course, because some stories should not have that kind of ending, but I kind of feel that this one should have.
Aside from the end, I was still bothered by the clichés. For example, the lead character pretends to drown to get the guy’s attention. This film also has the apparently obligatory “Apology for Pretending to Be Someone Else” scene, and the bit in when the person dragged into someone else’s lies makes it terribly obvious that they’re lying and tells stupid lies. Honestly, I only laughed out loud a few times, but overall the comedy is pleasant, and there are some great lines that are so, so Woody Allen. I am fully able to enjoy the movie despite its clichés, however, because the characters and story are very interesting, and Woody really shows his expertise as a director in this film. This is probably the film I would recommend most highly as an introduction to Woody Allen films. As long as he gets a bit of his pessimism and his commentary on death in there, I’m happy.
It’s easy to criticize a filmmaker as infamous as M. Night Shyamalan and completely ignore his good decisions, but in Signs, one must acknowledge that there’s a lot of good aspects to this movie. The credits are visually appealing, the music is basically good, the characters and their development are fine, the suspense is well done, etc. From what I’ve seen though, Shyamalan seems like he doesn’t take things very seriously. The upside to that is that he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, which makes working with him easier. The downside is that he doesn’t seem to take his films seriously either.
He ignores the obvious problem in the story completely, making it one of the most talked about plot holes in history: the aliens that must not touch water came to a planet that is mostly water. There are other story elements that do not make sense, such as how every television station decided to stop broadcasting their regular programming to show the same network’s coverage of a story that may have been a hoax. This is completely unbelievable, and while some may say that the unbelievable is acceptable in a science fiction story, when ordinary humans are portrayed reacting to events inappropriately, it really hurts the story. From a dialogue perspective, the writing is still not totally realistic in many parts of the film, but the children were written for rather well.
While the child actors are certainly very impressive, the movie offers little that is new or impressive from a story perspective, and does not stand out all that much as an alien invasion story. It is not terrible, and it has some redeeming qualities, but its flaws make it feel very “meh.”
A mostly pleasant film, Babes on Broadway is one of the MGM musicals starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, directed by Busby Berkeley. Berkeley is known for a certain style of musical that stops the plot to show off a huge group of dancing girls doing synchronized choreography in particular geometric shapes that he liked. This is not one of those musicals. This is a Rooney and Garland film, meaning it is very focused on the story of two charming, fun-loving, musically talented, innocent teenagers who eventually fall in love. Having seen two of their other films, I pretty much knew exactly what to expect. The studio system was especially factory-like at the time, meaning MGM had no problem making the same movie many times with the same cast.
The music is nice overall, and many of the musical numbers are shot absolutely brilliantly with great choreography, but there are numbers in the film that have essentially nothing to do with plot and pretty much just slow down the film. It is difficult for me to determine what I think of Mickey and Judy’s acting since they are portraying teenagers that are nothing like modern teenagers. So while the characters they portray seem unbelievable, they are charming and delightful regardless, with impressive talent shining in just about all of their scenes. Still, the plot does feel recycled from their other films, so by the time it got to the big closing number, I just about decided to skip it since I knew how the movie would end. However, I am glad that I stayed for the end because, to my shock, the finale of the film is a minstrel show on steroids. (They go all the way with Tambo, Bones, and a huge number of dancers in blackface – all of which happens after they have praised Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves, so something about this seems inconsistent….) I know that this is from a different time/culture, but regardless, it is really ridiculous and offensive, so don’t bring the kids.
Overall though, the movie is an impressive one, and it would be good for any movie buff or film student to watch the film for its historic value. Also, bonus points for Will Lee.