A Modern Woody Allen Retrospective (2005-2011)

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There are countless features on the ‘classic work’ of Woody Allen, and by that I mean the likes of Annie Hall, Manhattan ,Sleeper and Hannah and Her Sisters. When it comes to Allen’s recent output the response has been mixed and I believe that since 2005, Allen has produced some fine pieces of work including the Academy Award nominated, Midnight In Paris (Released on DVD on the 6th February). Here is a little run down of Allen’s last seven features, that are (mostly) worth checking out.
Match Point (2005)
Stars: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Scarlett Johansson & Emily Mortimer
Match Point is a London-based, dramatic-thriller that follows a young tennis instructor (Rhys-Meyers) who marries into a privileged family but finds his new social position is questioned when he begins an affair with his brother-in-law’s fiancé. This is straight up one of Allen’s most serious films and was an end to Allen’s run of preceding flops – making over $85m on a $15m budget. Match Point is a thriller at its best, truly absorbing  and provocative direction from Allen with outstanding performances from its cast.

Scoop (2006)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson & Woody Allen
Allen’s latest feature, Scoop, is a far more light-hearted affair than Match Point and was subject to a far less enthusiastic critical reception.  Scoop sees an American journalism student (Johansson) in London where she believes that she has discovered the identity of a notorious murderer – the son of a wealthy aristocrat (Jackman). She is aided by a magician (Allen) who poses as her father as they go undercover to try and crack the case.  Scoop is silly and hugely entertaining fun, along similar lines to his vastly underrated 1993 feature, Manhattan Murder Mystery.  The on-screen pairing of Allen & Johansson is an amusing combination and brings an element of freshness to the proceedings. Despite British backing, the Scoop never received a UK-based theatrical release (although faring better with UK critics), however the film did well in the US making just under $40m.

Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
Stars: Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell & Tom Wilkinson
Given the success of Match Point, it is inevitable that the writer-director would want to revisit a darker film. Cassandra’s Dream follows two brothers (McGregor & Farrell) facing financial woes who turn to crime after their rich Uncle (Tom Wilkinson) asks them to kill someone for him.  This a gritty, dark look at human nature with an unforgettable performance from Colin Farrell. Farrell’s gives one of the barest and most convincing performance of his career as the brother consumed by guilt. Unfortunately, critical and financial reception to the film was less than enthusiastic.

Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
Stars: Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson & Javier Bardem
We have what feels like a pattern developing as Allen makes a wonderful return to romantic-comedy in his next feature Vicky Christina Barcelona. The film follows two American’s (Hall & Johansson) holidaying in Spain, where they are charmed by free spirited Spanish painter, Juan Antonio (Bardem) unaware his fiery ex-wife (Cruz) is about to make a re-appearance. Allen truly makes the most of the beautiful Spanish settings whilst still managing to be witty and engaging. He also manages to evoke an eclectic mix of performances from the wonderfully talented cast. Vicky Christina Barcelona became one of Allen’s most profitable films and picked up a Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy as well as an Academy Award & BAFTA for Cruz’s supporting performance.

Whatever Works (2009)
Stars: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Henry Cavill & Patricia Clarkson
Whatever Works sees Allen team up with Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David, which should have been a landmark comedy combination, however, it ultimately falls a little flat. The films follows an upper class New Yorker (David) who abandons his comfortable lifestyle in favour of living a more bohemian existence. He soon meets a young Southern girl (Rachel Wood) and learns his plan to live carefree is not so easy.  Despite some entertaining moments and relatively strong performances – Whatever Works feels forgettable and lacks the originality of his previous features.  It’s worth watching and is still above par, just not up to Allen’s usual standard.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
Stars: Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas & Frieda Pinto
Allen’s return to the London based comedy follows two married couples whose relationships have broken down for various reasons. Whilst not as consistently amusing as Allen’s previous efforts – You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger manages to be entertaining and a worthwhile watch throughout. The interesting cast is the main draw – particularly Hopkins storyline which is amongst  the films strongest assets.  It may be slightly forgettable but it’s a charming addition to Allen’s back-catalogue. The film performed reasonably well financially despite near-scathing reviews.

Midnight In Paris (2011)
Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen & Kathy Bates
Allen’s latest feature, Midnight In Paris is the standout of Allen’s recent features and is being touted by many as his return to form. Midnight In Paris follows budding novelist, Gil (Wilson) and his fiancé, Inez (McAdams) vacationing in Paris whilst Inez’s parents are there for a business deal. Gil, begins to wander the Paris streets at night for inspiration and finds that Paris becomes a hugely different place after midnight. Midnight In Paris is an utterly charming and witty cinematic experience chock full of literary references – it’s really not to be missed. Fingers crossed that it picks up one of the four Academy Awards its nominated for.

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