Matias Bombal’s Hollywood

The MPAA has rated this PG-13

Hollywood and New York in the late 1930's are luminous with Jessie Eisneberg and Kristen Stewart

Hollywood and New York in the late 1930’s are luminous with Jessie Eisneberg and Kristen Stewart

Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” is released by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate and marks the first time that the master director has photographed a movie in digital format, a transition from using actual motion picture film negative that he has entrusted to the capable hands of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who has lit this movie with the inner radiance of a painting by Maxfield Parrish. In the golden light of an idealized past, with comedy, we are told the story of young Bobby, who at loose ends in New York, needs a job. His mother calls on her brother, an actor’s agent in Hollywood, to give him a job at the coast.

After arriving in tinseltown, at that time, at the peak of movie studio greatness, Bobby waits a long time to meet his uncle Phil Stern. Uncle Phil has little time for him or anyone else. Steve Carell plays Phil Stern, whose character’s name may have been a tip of the hat from Woody Allen to the NBC sports announcer of that era Bill Stern. Bobby is played by Jesse Eisneberg. Phil is just too busy to give Bobby the time of day, so he asks his secretary Vonnie to show him the town. After seeing a few sights they stop in for a bite in a little Mexican restaurant off the beaten bath, and Bobby confesses he’s interested in her.

Vonnie is played by captivating Kristen Stewart who I don’t think has ever looked more alluring than in this movie. During their lunch and to the strains of Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s “I Only Have Eyes for You” played by Ben Selvin’s orchestra, she informs Bobby she has a married boyfriend, who will prove to be quite problematic for Bobby when he finds out who he really is. Bobby gets involved in the nightclub business through a racketeer relative and returns to New York to forget Vonnie, or at least try. There he becomes enchanted by Veronica, played by Blake Lively.

The entire soundtrack is joyfully filled with the exquisite musical taste of Woody Allen. There are many Rogers and Hart selections, among others, including a few in classic recordings such as Benny Goodman’s 1939 recording of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” featuring a vocal by Louise Tobin. Ms. Tobin, former wife of both Harry James and Peanuts Hucko is still living in the Dallas area! Good for her. Newly recorded delights by Vince Giordano, whose Nighthawks in New York lead the vintage music preservation scene there today, include a version of “Manhattan” that is so creamy and delicious, it will linger in your mind for many pleasant days. SONY Classics has released a sound track album featuring fifteen selections and it is excellent, you’ll want to add it to your collection.

There is a scene with Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin’s 1934 song “June in January” adding just the right support to finish the total effect of the moment. It occurs as Bobby gets to know Veronica one late evening in a jazz club in New York. The use of music by the director one of the most subtle and delightful aspects of Allen’s creativity in this and many other of his other movies. Often you will hear an instrumental, played under the dialog. If you know the tune and recall whilst watching the unheard lyric in the soundtrack, you will find exactly how Allen works magic with music in the movies. Invariably that unheard lyric directly ties in with the action on the screen, an added bonus that connects at that level for those who appreciate the music of the great American songbook.

Ms. Lively is radiant as Veronica, just the way a glamorous star should appear on the screen. This is a special movie. Parker Posey livens up the production as a curly haired blonde in her singular manner and the picture also stars Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott. The era is beautifully and lovingly recreated from costumes to set dressing.

Even though Mr. Allen has embarked on a new movie already, one never really knows if it may be the last and I savored every moment. As an artist who has given us at least one new movie every single year since 1982 and going back to 1965 almost every year, one must admire his output. I find him clever, brilliant and nostalgic, all values I highly admire and which are all there on the screen for you to see in this movie.

Allen narrates the picture in his own voice and I was saddened slightly to hear his voice wane with age; a once crisp and sharp voice with rapid fire zingers is now slow and deliberate and filled with a wistfulness that permeates the picture. Seeing a Woody Allen movie is like a first date; filled with great hope and possibility, an occasional moment of awkwardness, a sparkle of champagne, and the full knowledge that it must end soon. I urge you to see this one, it is beautiful.


The MPAA has rated this R


Sabrina Lantos/Gravier Productions, Inc. Amazon Studios/LionsgateDave Franco rockets Emma  Roberts into a world of cyber dares for money.  Photo: Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate

Sabrina Lantos/Gravier Productions, Inc. Amazon Studios/LionsgateDave Franco rockets Emma
Roberts into a world of cyber dares for money. Photo: Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate

This was one of those movies I was ready to dismiss because of what I had read about the subject matter in a promotion paragraph for the press. I went anyway and found it to be much more than I had expected, a horrifying and accurate assessment of gaming culture in youth, a warning, ultimately about the dangers of constant connectivity to electronics, insecurity and the lust for popularity in youth.

Author Jeanne Ryan lives in the pacific northwest. Before writing her book “Nerve” she worked in the fields of war game simulation and youth development research. The book has been adapted to the movie screen by Jessica Sharzer in her screenplay for Lionsgate, a perhaps unintentionally harrowing look at youth culture and mobile devices and video gaming made real, not entirely unlike the recent craze of Pokemon Go, where gamers are thrust into the real world from their dens and homes, yet rarely look up from their phones whilst out and about to notice what may be surrounding them.

Unlike Pokemon Go, Nerve is a game of increasing public dares viewed simultaneously world-wide. These dares begin in small, petty activities, but soon escalate to giant, life threatening shenanigans and illegal activity. It is also unlike Pokemon Go in that the players of this fictional game actually make money and more money incrementally as each new dare is completed and becomes even more outrageous.

Vee (Emma Roberts) is in high school, a quiet thoughtful girl. Tommy (Miles Heizer) is interested in her, even though her heart is set on one of the football players on the school team. When her frequent rival Sydney (Emily Meade) accuses her of not standing up for what she wants in a restaurant where the athlete is eating with pals, Vee will not accept a dare from Sydney to go ask the boy for a date. Sydney asks for her and she hears from the youth he’s not interested. Devastated, sad and angry, she runs home, turns on the internet and decides to engage in the Nerve game, to live more adventurously.

The Nerve game is comprised of watchers and players. Players get paid and have a sense of popularity by the number of viewers they have, ever in the mold of competition to be number one, a value so constantly instilled as important in the culture in the USA, a culture where competition is fostered and encouraged. Once she becomes a player, the game accessed all of her personal computer data and tailors the dares specifically to her deepest fears, with connections to her favorite things, culled from past social media postings on places like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It also has her bank information, in order to deposit money in her account for successful dares.

Vee’s first dare is to kiss a total stranger. She confides in Tommy about what she’s up to and Tommy begrudgingly agrees to go along to look after her. The two find a likely subject in a dinner, who happens to be reading one of Vee’s favorite books. Coincidence? Sensing a connection on seeing the book in his hand she suddenly kisses Ian, a total stranger played by the handsome Dave Franco. Tommy is understandably uncomfortable, as Ian has charmed his girl. No time for chit chat, Ian and Vee are suddenly notified of their next dare, to suddenly and at once go to New York together. They must arrive by a certain time in order to collect. She decides to have an adventure and off go Ian and Vee on his motorcycle to the city. One dare follows the next once in the city, and they escalate into the ridiculous, both caught up in the adrenaline of the thrill of money, popularity and connectivity through electronics.

Sydney, also a player, is not happy that Vee’s new found popularity and adventures are beginning to eclipse her own popularity as she has been playing Nerve for some time. This spurs her in to a rivalrous competition with Vee as the two try to outdo each other. The movie becomes darker and darker and a biting social commentary on the potential horrors of a sub-cultural addiction to this game and ones that are similar in real life.

It is not readily apparent, as the story progresses, if the movie’s two directors, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are celebrating how “cool” they think this concept may be, or by the end of the feature making it a moral tale of warning. I found the latter to be true, but many young people may dismiss it all as a silly “what if?” scenario after they have seen the picture, failing to grasp the real possibility of this becoming a possibility in the not too distant future, not unlike the predictions of George Orwell.

The movie is beautifully photographed with a dazzling color design by Michael Simmonds. Composer Rob Simonsen has created a score with a distinct 1980’s feel after a conversation with the two directors, who wanted something that would work on the audiences nerves with an electric result echoing the excitement in the movie. The soundtrack is available through Lakeshore Records. Also in the picture; Juliet Lewis as Vee’s struggling and worried mom, Kimiko Glenn and Machine Gun Kelly, the stage name for musician Richard Colson Baker, as “Ty”. “Nerve” is not for everyone, but a movie I found profound in prediction of a possible frightening future.
BLOW-UPS OF 2016 Matias Bombal’s Hollywood Turns Three

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