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Archive for the ‘Blogfinger Movie Review’ Category

By Paul and Eileen Goldfinger, editors @Blogfinger.

Italian Vacation is a hilarious and gorgeous  film with wall to wall laughs, delicious foods and beautiful scenics of Italy, along the Amalfi and Liguria coasts.  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two English comedians who embark on a high class Italian road trip, following in the footsteps of poet Lord Byron and his buddy Shelly who once took a grand tour of Italy in the early 19th century.  The two friends, Rob and Steve, get to stay at the best hotels and go to the finest restaurants, all paid for by the newspaper that sent them on a foodie travel  assignment.

We take the tour with Steve and Rob as they joke their way across Italy in a mini-Cooper.  The banter between these two comics, who improvised the entire film, left us in stitches as they did impressions of many famous and not-so famous stars such as Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Richard Burton, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman,  and so many others. They also took some shots at singers Michael Bublé and Alanis Morissette.

Even if you missed some of the lines, as we did, due to their British accents and comedic references that were unfamiliar to us, you will find this very original buddy movie to be hysterical. But you have to like wordplays, one-liners and movie references.  These two are so on the same wave length that they are capable of anticipating the next line in the conversation, so the dialogues tend to be rapid-fire.  Rotten Tomatoes referred to it as “crackling chemistry.”

I especially enjoyed the portrayal of how 21st century middle-aged men view the world and themselves.  There are serious moments as they discuss women, family and work. It is about male companionship which is always somewhat competitive. One complained ruefully that when he catches the eye of a beautiful young woman, she usually offers a smile “like you would give a benevolent uncle.” But despite that sort of remark, these two are good looking guys who enjoy the fine meals, the wines, the conversations, and, yes, the exchanges with women along the way.  They say that women like men who are funny, so I suspect that Steve and Rob will have no problems in that area, even as they get much older. Getting older is a theme for these guys who worry about their mortality.

The foods, mostly scrumptious looking seafood dishes with pasta, are photographed beautifully, but Eileen complained that they shortchanged the preparation of these spectacular dishes. I agree. We would have enjoyed some scenes in the kitchen as we saw in “The Hundred Foot Journey” which we recently reviewed.

The movie made us hungry for Italian food, so after the show, as we attended a late afternoon screening,  we went straight to our favorite Italian restaurant around here—Jimmy’s in Asbury Park on Asbury Avenue.  This restaurant is consistently good with authentic cuisine. They have been around for ages and they attract a knowing and appreciative crowd. It feels very old fashioned to us, reminiscent of places we visited in the past in Big Italy and Little Italy.

Bar at Jimmy's during the week. Tables for dining are to the right.  Two large dining rooms are in the back.

Bar at Jimmy’s during the week. Tables for dining are to the right. Two large dining rooms are in the back. That’s our waitress. (the one on the right)  Blogfinger photo ©

We chose a booth out by the bar—-it felt homey, warm and relaxed.  We’re not Italian, but Eileen cooks like one, and I play one on Blogfinger, so we fit right in at Jimmy’s.  We shared a “Jimmy’s salad” with the dressing on it—not on the side.  Then we split an order of lobster fra diavlo over linguine. The premium house wines were excellent—we had a Tuscan Antinori wine and a Ruffino Ducale chianti (by the glass).  An essential component of such a meal is the  Italian bread and olive oil  which I enjoyed before, during and after dinner, some pieces with butter, but Eileen amazingly avoided it totally.    By then we had to skip dessert because we were stuffed. The dinner was excellent and was the perfect finale to our Italian movie and dinner-date.

We saw this movie at the Bow Tie Middlebrook Cinema on Route 35 in Ocean. It is a sequel to Steve and Rob’s  first such film called  “The Trip” which began as a mini-series for the BBC and is now available on Netflix.   Adio!

ALANIS MORISSETE  Her album Jagged Little Pill  is featured in this movie.  But, this particular song by this Canadian singer is from the movie “De-Lovely” about Cole Porter.

 

 

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By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor  @Blogfinger

In recent years, most of Woody’s films have been shot in Europe. Magic in the Moonlight is beautifully filmed in the south of France by Darius Hondji who also was the cinematographer for  “Midnight in Paris,” a more successful Woody film.

The story is set in 1928 among the expatriate Brits and Americans who enjoy the Roaring Twenties from their vantage point at the French Riviera.   Beside the gorgeous photography, there are the usual Woody strong points of lighting, clothing, homes of the wealthy and fine period music.  But the plot is only mildly interesting and, at times, cumbersome.   There are some classic Woody funny lines, but not enough of them.  Woody, himself, is not in this movie.

The story is about an Englishman who is a famous magician played by Colin Firth who seems to be in any English role ever devised, especially when it is about the upper classes.  His character , Stanley Crawford,  is well known for being a guy who can tell a phony psychic when he sees one.  Stanley is  an annoying, sarcastic, critical person who is asked to help a wealthy American family which has fallen under the spell of a young and attractive psychic named Sophie, played by Emma Stone.

Stone, age 25,  is mesmerizing in her roll because of her edgy acting and her red hair and big green eyes.   Her wardrobe is worth the price of admission.   She does a great job of  confounding Stanley’s efforts to prove that her conjuring skills are phony.  But Stanley becomes attracted to her  and he has trouble proving that she is an impostor. I must admit that I fell asleep a couple of times during some ponderous conversations.

A subplot brings up the possibility of a romance between Stanley and Sophie.  That plot line is sort of spoiled by the 25 year age difference between them .

One critic who is a Woody fan said that Woody is not over the hill;  he merely had “an off day.”  We gave Magic in the Moonlight 3 Blogfingers.

CHICK ENDOR:   This song plays throughout the film, but the movie  soundtrack is not yet available.

 

BONUS: Woody’s best one-liners:     Woody’s best one liners

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Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

Do you like the following things: French or Indian  food, gorgeous scenery, a picture book French village, actress Helen Mirren, Cinderella stories, romantic comedies,  beautiful people falling in love, and perfect happy endings with no loose ends, then go see “The Hundred- Foot Journey.”  If you see it at the Monmouth Mall,  you can sink down into those plush chairs, elevate your legs, and laugh and cry all in the same show.

The “Hundred- Foot Journey” is a visually beautiful movie and it is fun to watch the restaurant war between Mirren’s Michelin one-star establishment and the immigrant Indian family-run  masala and tandoori palace 100 feet across the street.

This film is like a string of pearls where each pearl is a predictable component that had to be included, like the love affair between the superstar Indian chef and the lovely sous-chef working in the kitchen across the street.  The food photography is so sensuous  that critics call it “food porn.”   Much of the movie is improbable, and suspending disbelief is hard for me, but others, like Eileen, get sucked into the whole package and don’t allow themselves to find anything implausible in this sugar-coated movie.

The male Indian stars Om Puri (the Indian patriarch) and Manish Dayal  (the young talented chef)  were excellent, and I, a confirmed people watcher,  really enjoyed the cultural portrayals of the characters on both sides of the street.

69 year old Helen Mirren was wonderful as the perfectionist who lusts for another Michelin star. She is angry towards the Indians one hundred feet away, but after awhile she sees things differently. It’s not even clear why this fancy restaurateur  is worried about the new establishment across the street.  Some of the characters are flimsily drawn, leaving you wondering, “Who are they?”

One of the pearls which  was included, just to heat things up, was a passionate inter-racial love scene—- well, it  is just an extra long and complicated kiss.  Actually, the movie contains no actual sex  (not that I’m an expert on what actual sex is or even what is is.)

However, unless you are a hard core cynic, you probably will really enjoy this movie.  It’s the sort of film that people say, “Why don’t they make movies like that anymore?”

We give this film three Blogfingers

Here is a trailer:

A.H. RAHMAN    From the soundtrack:  “You Complete Me.”

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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

I will see any movie that is about music provided that the music doesn’t get lost in a melodramatic story such as in the failed bios about Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and even the Jersey Boys.  Begin Again is a music movie which actually is about music.

It is a romantic comedy set one summer in New York City. Keira Knightley, the English actress,  plays Gretta, a singer-songwriter, who has just broken up with her newly-successful musician boyfriend played by real-life rocker Adam Levine.   If she looks familiar it’s because she’s been in 40 movies, and she is only 29.

Gretta is idealistic and she despairs that her unique compositions will never be heard. By chance, while she is performing one of her songs in an East Village joint, her music is heard by Dan, a down-on-his-luck record exec. played by Mark Ruffalo.

Her singing is subdued, and her song, though very nice, is stiff, and the audience is indifferent.    Yet Dan, despite his drunken depressed state,  hears something original in the music, and this scene, played over again a few times through the eyes of different characters, got my attention when Dan imagines that some instruments on stage—cello, violin, bass, piano, drums—- come to life and provide an orchestral background so that we can hear what he hears in his mind’s eye.

He tells Gretta that he wants to help her make an album and he proposes the novel idea that they record outdoors at different locations around town. They hire musicians, Dan produces the album, and the result is excellent, tempered by the ambient sounds of the city.

Begin Again  then becomes the story of the making  of a winning musical production done in a very unorthodox manner, and that is the part that is original and captivating.

There are some sub-plots regarding the characters and their personal lives, but mostly the film is about music.  Dan and Gretta get to begin again personally and musically, and we get to enjoy the results.

At the end of the film, as the credits roll, we learn how this unusual album gets marketed in a 21st century way. Unfortunately, that part wasn’t presented very clearly, and probably should have been eliminated.

I recommend this movie.  It is honest, enjoyable, and memorable—qualities not often seen these days at the movies.

We give it 3 1/2  Blogfingers.

ADAM LEVINE:  From the soundtrack of Begin Again:  “No One Else Like You.”

 

Begin Again is currently playing at the Bow Tie Cinema on White Street in Red Bank.  Here is a trailer:

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  On August 8, Woody Allen’s film  Magic in the Moonlight opens, and it  looks like a winner to me, despite some negative advance reviews,;  but I will see it and probably like it, because it contains all those wonderful Woody attributes:  Original story written and directed by  him, setting music, cinematography and humor. It also will be at the Bow Tie in Red Bank.

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Woody Allen and John Turturro

Woody Allen and John Turturro

 

 

Fading Gigolo is a quirky new movie directed and written by John Turturro, who also stars in the film as Fioravante, a florist. But the most important name is that of 78 year old Woody Allen who costars as Moe and delivers his best performance in years. He returns to his old ways of New York style humor, but his character is less neurotic, hypochondriacal, intellectual, and bumbling than the old Woody, and this time he is more real and has some touching and believable moments alternating with laugh-out-loud lines, making the movie worth seeing if you are a Woody fan as I am.

 

Allen and Tarturro play old friends who are down on their luck. They form a partnership where Tarturro becomes a gigolo while Woody is his “manager.” Tarturro is so charming, sensitive and sexy that women who look like Sharon Stone (she plays Woody’s dermatologist) want to pay to sleep with him. I found that to be a tad unrealistic, but Eileen, who has a weak spot for Italian men going back to Alan Alda in Mash, did not find it difficult to get. The relationship of two old friends with nearly 30 years separating them is great fun.

 

I have to say that there are enough wonderful moments in this movie, including the marvelously rich cinematography of New York City by Marco Pontecorvo and a fine jazz score with Gene Ammons, that you can overlook the sometimes ridiculous plot lines.

 

And the actresses in this film are funny, sexy and beautiful. Vanessa Paradis, a French singer and actress, is cast as a widowed Hassidic woman who is lonely. The Hassidic plot line gets awkward at times, but she is wonderful in that part.

 

If you like the idea of this film and the performers who star in it, then go see it and let yourself enjoy the great parts and don’t get too picky over the elements that don’t work so well.

 

It is at the Bow Tie Cinema in Red Bank on White Street. There is a big parking lot across the street.  —-Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

GENE AMMONS.   “Canadian Sunset” from the soundtrack of Fading Gigolo,

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Boardwalk Empire: A 1920's Atlantic City nightclub.

Boardwalk Empire: A 1920’s Atlantic City nightclub. HBO photo

Boardwalk Empire. Photo is of a young Al Capone (center) and his two brothers who are busy creating the family business out of Chicago. HBO photo

Boardwalk Empire. A young Al Capone (center) and his two brothers are busy creating the family business, out of Chicago. It’s good I spell his name correctly, because in this episode, Capone makes a personal visit to a newsman who got the spelling wrong. HBO photo

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Ocean Grove and its buildings have appeared in a number of movies including Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” (1980) and “According to Greta” with Hillary Duff (filmed in 2007). Except for Greta, Ocean Grove has appeared because of it’s unique seaside appearance rather than because it is Ocean Grove. In Stardust Memories, the town was presented as a generic seaside resort, and the Great Auditorium became the Stardust Hotel. In Greta, the town actually was portrayed as OG.

Which brings me to the opening episode of Boardwalk Empire’s 4th hit season on HBO. This multi-award winning series is film-making at its best. Set in 1920’s Atlantic City, during Prohibition, it is about Nucky Thompson, a gangster who struggles to maintain his hold on the booze trafficking into New Jersey. As many of you know, we at BF are big fans of the production including its music, and we often post songs by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, the Grammy winning group that provides much of the music.

Last Sunday it began again with its usual precise and georgeous portrayal of an era and a place. The costumes and the settings are magnificent. The plots are fascinating. Now it is 1924, and Nucky has carved out his territory which is from Cape May up to Asbury Park and west to Trenton. He is having trouble with rival gangsters from New York and Chicago, and his marriage has failed. Now he is living in a fancy suite in an Atlantic City hotel.

Late in the episode he steps onto the porch to get some sea air, and this is what we see:

TV photo.  HBO's Boardwalk Empire, season 4, episode 1. Sept. 8, 2013.  PG photo

TV photo. HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, season 4, episode 1. Sept. 8, 2013. This scene is set in Atlantic City. On the porch is Nucky Thompson (foreground) and his personal assistant. PG photo

The setting is Atlantic City, but that sure looks like our Albatross Hotel. So I went over to Ocean Pathway to compare, and, as you see, the look is very close—too close to deny. Inside, owner Bill Reilly decided to let the cat out of the bag.

A crew from HBO showed up a couple of months ago. They thought that our Albatross looked like a 1924 seaside hotel. So they took photos and measurements inside and out, and then, somehow, with some modifications, re-created our Albatross in Atlantic City.

The Albatross in Ocean Grove, Sept. 13, 2013.  Paul Goldfinger photo.  ©

The Albatross in Ocean Grove, Sept. 13, 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

So once again, OG is shown in a successful film production, but this portrayal is unique, because the hotel exterior scene in this episode was not actually filmed in the Grove.

Considering the sex scenes, the booze, the violence and the chorus girls (and the current absence of a boardwalk in the Grove) it is amazing that a part of OG has actually found its way into this production, especially one ironically called “Boardwalk Empire.” But that did happen, and maybe more scenes of the Albatross will show up later.

VINCE GIORDANO AND THE NIGHTHAWKS, From the original soundtrack of Boardwalk Empire: “Margie” Their soundtrack recording won a Grammy. Vince appears regularly in New York City.

STEPHEN DeROSA plays Eddie Cantor in the show, and in this episode he proposes the following song for his performance in the AC nightclub backed by Nuckie. (“From the soundtrack: “The Dumber They Come, the Better I Like ’em”)

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xxxxx

In the middle are Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay.  Photo by Sony Films

By Paul Goldfinger, Blogfinger movie critic. This is our one film retrospective of Blogfinger reviews–back up to 2013. Occasionally we try to time travel, re-posting some of our most widely acclaimed articles.

Let me begin by saying that I would see any movie made by Woody Allen. But that doesn’t mean that I think that everything he has done is wonderful. However,  I have never seen a Woody movie that didn’t have something to really like.

The ingredients that I am usually drawn to in his films include the cinematography, the music, the characters/ casting, the design/sets, and the brilliant screenplays.

Blue Jasmine is a superior  film, but it is not like most of his movies.   It has some flaws including elements that don’t seem to fit together very well and some repetitiousness in the story.

However, there is much to admire here, especially the acting and the characters, so see it again.

Cate Blanchett, the Aussie actress who won an Oscar as a Queen Elizabeth I, is so good that it’s impossible not to be fascinated by her performance throughout the entire film.  Her role as Jasmine is enough reason to see Blue Jasmine.

Ginger, Jasmine’s blue collar sister, is a joy to watch as played by the British actress Sally Hawkins. She would triumph as Elisa in the 2017 Best Picture “The Shapeof Water.”

Chili, the muscular guy who is dating Ginger, is a Stanley Kowalski type, played brilliantly, wearing sleeveless undershirts, by Bobby Cannavale,  who was wonderful in his role as a psychopathic gangster in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Cate plays Jasmine French, an elegant, sophisticated New Yorker who is married to a rich but shady financier—a Madoff type of guy.  She has every material wish granted and she spends her time going to matinees, organizing charity events, making entrances at grand parties and travelling first class.  But that world shatters, and she spends the rest of the film unraveling.  She loses everything after her adulterous husband  Hal (Alex Baldwin)   goes to jail and she travels to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger, who is a cashier in a super market.

To see someone fall from such heights is fascinating, and you feel sorry for her because once those trappings slowly disappear, she tries to recover, but her basic strengths are meager, and she deteriorates mentally, pops Xanax, and finds comfort in alcohol.  Many reviewers think she resembles Blanche in “Streetcar Named Desire.”

Andrew Dice Clay, the foul mouthed comedian of yore, is excellent as the blue collar ex-husband of Ginger.

None of the characters is without some personal flaws, but Jasmine is in front of that line and is the central focus of the film.

Once again, the superb Santo Loquasto is the production designer;  and the apartments and other settings, coupled with the color palatte of the film,  and the lighting are the ingredients which always make Woody’s films feasts for the eyes—whether they are set in Paris, Manhattan or a low-down neighborhood in San Francisco.

But don’t just take the word of the Blogfinger reviewer  (ie me)—this film is receiving high praise elsewhere:   David Denby of the New Yorker stated,  “In all, this is the strongest, most resonant movie Woody Allen has made in years.”

Blue Jasmine is playing in Red Bank on two screens at the Bow Tie Theatre on White Street. It opened today. (if you can time travel back to 2013.)

LIZZIE MILES  (This song is featured on the soundtrack of Blue Jasmine, although the recording below  is from her album “1920’s Hit Tracks, Vol 2.”  In this cut, she is accompanied by Sharkey and his Kings of Dixieland.)

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Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin star in this flick. There are also a few great looking women in small parts and small clothes

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin star in this flick. There are also a few great looking women in small parts and small clothes.

By Blogfinger  mini-movie reviewers Paul Goldfinger and Eileen Goldfinger, who wouldn’t let Paul buy Snowcaps.

This giant dud…….. (review over).

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Daniel Day-Lewis as President Lincoln. From Chronicle.com

By Paul Goldfinger

Eileen and I saw “Lincoln”—the movie— a few days ago. We went for a 7:00 p.m. showing and we got there early to get a good seat. When we walked into the theatre, no one was there but us. That was surprising; surely everyone wants to see this Steven Spielberg masterpiece starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

I really did not know what to expect, since I don’t read reviews before seeing a movie. But I had high hopes—which I always have for Spielberg’s work, especially since “Saving Private Ryan.”

And Daniel Day-Lewis has been a favorite of mine ever since “The Last of the Mohicans” when he played an 18th century white man living among the Indians. That marvelous film was also based on history. It opened, as many such movies do, with a bit of rolling background that you read in order to understand what-in-the world is going on as Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas race through the woods of North Carolina. I’ve always liked voice-overs and written introductions to help understand the setting.

But “Lincoln”, a long dramatic film with a great deal of historical detail, gives no such preparation, and I found myself stunned and confused, right out of the starting gate.

Didn’t we learn in high school that the Civil War was about the defeat of slavery? Sure I read subsequently that it really was about economics or Southern culture, or other theories, but I always thought it was primarily about freeing the blacks.

This film is set in 1865 towards the end of the war and after the Emancipation Proclamation. It is mostly about Lincoln’s determination to get a Constitutional amendment passed (the 13th) before the North had to worry about Southern demands as part of a peace deal.

But what startled me was that Lincoln had trouble getting the House of Representatives to agree to the bill which had already passed the Senate. Could it be true that there were a large number of US Congressmen who could care less about abolishing slavery? Is it possible that the 13th amendment might have been defeated?

I watched the story played out on the screen, but it took me awhile to believe that this was not some sort of Oliver Stone rewriting of history. By the time I left the theatre, I was fantasizing hunting down my old high school history teachers and parading them down Park Avenue in Rutherford with signs that say, “I gave Goldfinger a lousy education.”

This is a superb film—fascinating and inspiring while, at the same time, teaching us about how unpredictable and miraculous our form of government is and was, even under the leadership of a great leader. The similarities between then and now regarding the workings of government are unmistakable, but these events only occurred about 150 years ago.

Don’t miss this movie, but please read some history before you buy a ticket.

And, if you want to dig into this subject in detail, click on this article from The Chronicle magazine   (thanks to Mel Goldfinger for this reference.)

Movie review link The Chronicle

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