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Thumbnails Aug 16

by Tony Medley

Café Society (7/10): What writer/director Woody Allen has done best in his latest movies is to capture the ambience of the period he is filming, through outstanding production design, fine costuming, and evocative music. This film is no exception. In fact, he might have reached his zenith in recreating Los Angeles and New York in the ‘30s. During pre-production, my house was considered as a location but it was not “’30s” enough. Allen’s clever story and script involving Hollywood and New York café society are delivered with spot-on performances by Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, and Steve Carell. The Los Angeles locations are filmed so lovingly that it makes one yearn to be there then instead of now. While, as is true in all Allen movies, the music is wonderful, I have a small criticism of the multiple uses of “Mountain Greenery,” which was the first hit written by Richard Rodgers (with lyrics by Lorenz Hart). While it has a catchy, lively melody, it was a hit in 1926, and I doubt that it was still being played in the late ‘30s as often as shown in this movie.

Independence Day: Resurgence (7/10): As with lots of these space things, the attackers are gargantuan insects, but obviously a lot smarter than we are, even though they are ugly as sin and apparently can’t communicate. Their society is based on a beehive, yet they conquered space and time! If you can buy that, this is a pleasant, non-threatening sci-fi adventure set in an impossible future. Since nobody can take it seriously, most of the characters face the horrible disaster of the total destruction of the earth with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts.

Anthropoid (7/10): If you don’t know anything about the assassination of Nazi monster Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1942, this is an interesting and relatively well done film that can educate you on the horrors of the Nazi regime, and what conquered countries had to go through. Unfortunately, it is far too long, throws in what seems to be a Hollywood-inspired bogus love story, adds a beginning that seems defamatory to a brave man that probably has no basis in fact, and the color is so washed out it could have been better in B&W. Like most films today, it is at least 30 minutes too long. But the rest of the film seems to be extraordinarily factual, especially the recreation of the assassination attempt and the final denouement, both of which are unnerving. Opens August 12.

The Legend of Tarzan (5/10): If you think the story is ridiculous (and it is), wait until you see the ending! It is so stunningly idiotic it would ruin any movie, much less this one that didn’t need much to be ruined in the first place. Whatever tension had been built up as Tarzan chases Chrisoph Waltz, playing his usual role as the charming bad guy, completely dissolves by an ending so bad it can’t even qualify as anti-climactic. In addition to Waltz, Margot Robbie gives a pretty good performance as the feisty Jane. But a 21st Century gal like this Jane would have been at sea in 1890. Some of the lines she utters wouldn’t have been understood by any 19th Century person. Speaking of that, the film takes place in 1890 but all the natives speak perfect English, as if they were all educated at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which these guys playing the natives probably were; so much for verisimilitude. Despite all the terrific CGI, this is little more than what would have been a B film in the 1930s-40s, the second feature of a double bill, and it might not have even made that cut.