Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Closer You Look, the Less you See


All is Not What It Seems in “Now You See Me”

“Now You See Me” is the cleverest, smartest film I have seen so far in 2013. This offbeat heist flick is directed by France’s Louis Leterrier (“Transporter,” “Clash of Titans”) and written by Ed Solomon (“Men in Black,” “Bill & Ted’s Adventures”) and Boaz Yakin, who also produces.
The script is essential in a complex story that hinges on magic tricks and illusions, performed by a group known as The Four Horsemen.
“The closer you look, the less you see,” warns Horseman Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), whose specialty is misdirection. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is Atlas’ former assistant, love interest and escape artist. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist whose specialty is shaking down victims with embarrassing personal information.
The four illusionists are called together by a literally shadowy figure to perform four increasingly spectacular tricks involving stealing money from bank vaults and showering the audience with the proceeds, Robin Hood-style.
The first stunt is performed onstage at MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas but the booty is spirited from a bank vault in Paris. How did they do it?
Pondering this same question is comically irritable FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), calm Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) and magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). Watching the show with detached bemusement is insurance mogul Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).
“Now You See Me” is a cat and mouse game played from Las Vegas to New Orleans to New York City. Remember the initial admonition “the closer you look the less you see,” because the plot has a giant end twist I wager few will anticipate.

As an alternative to the usual car-chase, big-bang, fly-around summer adventure, “Now You See Me’ is a thinking person’s summer romp. Just don’t think too hard. 

Finding Father "After earth"


“After Earth:” We Have a Problem

There are fundamental problems with “After Earth.” When I first learned of the stars, the writer-director and the premise, I thought uh-oh, is this a vanity project?
No, it is not, but it is a miscalculation by co-writer, producer and star Will Smith and co-writer-director M. Night Shyamalan.
Shyamalan’s career has been “checkered,” to put it charitably since his box office hit “The Sixth Sense.”
Evidently Will Smith admired what Shyamalan did with “The Last Airbender” in 2010, because a month after it opened he contacted the writer-director with his own pitch.
Smith got the idea watching a television show in which a father and son had a car accident and the son heroically rescued his wounded, disabled dad.
“After Earth” is set in the distant future after Earth has been ravaged by cataclysmic events and abandoned as uninhabitable. Earth’s human population has been transplanted to a distant planet outside out solar system called Nova Prime.
Will Smith is Cypher Raige, the hotshot General of a cadre of space cadets known as Rangers. Real-life son Jaden Smith is ranger-in-training Kitai Raige.
Like his dad, Kitai is rebellious and rather reckless, and because of this he has not been advanced to the exalted status of Ranger.
Cypher’s wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo) sees Kitai’s misbehavior as a cry for help and love from his distant, mostly absentee father.
I bet you alert readers can see where this is heading. Yep, on a mission to the forbidden planet Earth with son in tow, Cypher’s spaceship encounters an asteroid storm and is damaged so badly it must crash-land on Earth. Cypher and Kitai are the only survivors. Both Cypher’s legs are badly broken, and he is bleeding internally. Kitai is miraculously fine. Dad tells his son their only hope for survival is to retrieve a beacon in the fractured tail section of ship some 100 kilometers distant. Kitai has only six popper capsules, worth 24 hours each, which enable him to breathe Earth’s oxygen-poor atmosphere. If that weren’t bad enough, Earth is now populated by freaky ferocious animal mutations. Can Kitai triumph against all odds and save the life of dad, who will finally see his true worth?
I will ask alert readers to guess that one.
Asking 14-year-old Jaden Smith to carry the weight of this hugely expensive sci-fi spectacle is quite a tall order. Jaden may have been only 13 when principle shooting was done on location in scenic Costa Rica. Moviefone web site reports Jaden wants the gift of emancipation for his 15th birthday July 8. This movie may supply some cues.
As a science-fiction, futuristic thrill-a-rama, I found “After Earth” less than all that. We have seen it all before, a hundred times, maybe more. It’s gratifying to see a father and son working together, but it doesn’t necessarily add up to great art, gripping entertainment or heartwarming inspiration.

Growing Up is a Bitch


Growing Up is Hard to Do in “Frances Ha”

By Skip Sheffield

“Frances Ha” is a creative collaboration between two people who love and understand each other.
Those people are writer-director Noah Baumbach and wife, writer-actress Greta Gerwig.
Baumbach is a semi-famous filmmaker with such provocative fare as “The Squid and the Whale” and “Greenberg.” He has also done commercial stuff: “Madagascar 3."
Greta Gerwig is 14 years younger than her husband. She has played young babe roles in “No Strings Attached” and “Arthur.” Like Gerwig, her character of Frances (last name Hawthorne, we finally learn) is at a crossroad at age 27. She came to New York City to pursue a career as dancer, even though she is a bit klutzy. She rooms with Sophie (Mickey Sumner, daughter of rock star Sting), her best friend since high school. The girls love each other, but not in a sexual way. When Sophie announces she is moving out to live with her boyfriend, Frances feels saddened and betrayed. When Frances fails to get a part in a big Christmas show she was counting on, her entire career seems in doubt.
“Frances Ha” is about that awkward time after college graduation and before “real life.” Frances has been living a prolonged adolescence, and moving from place to place, comic mishap after comic mishap, she learns ruefully she needs to “grow up-” whatever that means.
“Frances Ha” is by no means a downer. Despite her disappointments, Frances always has a veneer of optimism, consistently radiated by Gerwig. This is a “chick flick’ with important male characters who are neither evil nor nefarious, but agents of change. The film is a kind of 83-minute mood piece on the letting go of childish pursuits. It is neither sad nor happy, but as performed by this ensemble in just 12 shooting days in luminous high definition digital black-and-white, it is quite lovely.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Legacy of Jonathan Larson


“Tick Tick Boom!” Rings True

Ah, to be young, gifted and insecure!
That describes playwright/composer Jonathan Larson, creator of “Tick Tick Boom!,” onstage through June 9 at the Mizner Park Studio Theatre.
“Boom” is the second effort by the young, gifted Outre Theatre Company, and it is a much more satisfying effort than their inaugural “The Wild Party.”
For one thing Boom had a previous production with two of the same principals: Mike Westrich as Larson’s alter ego Jonny and Sabrina Lynn Gore as his aspiring dancer girlfriend Susan. The setting is New York City just a week before Jonny’s 30th birthday. Adding to the pressure is a workshop production of Jonny’s ambitious musical “Superbia.” Jonny has word that potential backers will be at the show, and perhaps even his artistic idol, Stephen Sondheim.
Adding to the pressure and Jonny's general malaise is the fact Susan wants to give up her show business dreams and move to some place peaceful, say Cape Cod, and settle down.
Jonny’s best friend Michael (Jerel Brown) has already bailed and taken a lucrative job at an advertising firm. Michael gently nudges Jonny that he could be using his creative energy in a more practical and productive way by selling stuff for others.
Michael Westrich, who was previously seen in Slow Burn Theatre’s terrific “Avenue Q,” is a compact, nervously energetic guy who embodies the love/hate dynamic of a searching, desperately creative soul. Westrich has a powerful, wide-ranging belt voice ideally suited to Larson’s eclectic pop-oriented songs.
Sabrina Gore is also a very strong singer, though seeing her as a dance professional is a bit of a stretch. Gore embodies the power of a woman who feels her time is running out, and is willing to make the most of herself with or without the man she loves.
Jerel Brown is a new and welcome addition to the ménage a trios as Michael, a gay man and successful advertising executive whose time is also running out. The very tall and black singer/actor contrasts physically and comically with his diminutive, pale and harried co-star.
If you have seen “Rent” you will recognize the pop-operatic style of the songs, with plot-advancing titles such as “30/90,” “Green, Green Dress,” “Johnny Can’t Decide,” and the droll Sondheim tribute/parody “Sunday.” The tunes are played by an onstage quartet led by musical director Kristen Long at the keyboards. The musicians, including drummer Mark Annio, guitarist Danny butler and bassist David Carrey at one point join in on the action. They are very precise. One can only wish they get more “off book” to be more fully engaged.
Director Skye Whitcomb stages the show efficiently in one act without intermission for an attention-deficit audience, Jonathan Larson went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his rock opera “Rent.” He died at the young, tragic age of 35 on the first night of previews, never realizing his masterpiece would be so appreciated. For this reason “Tick Tick Boom” rings oh so true.
Tickets are $20-$30. Call 954-300-2149 or go to

A Lovely, Lyrical, Bittersweet "Dancing at Lughnasa"


A Lovely, Bittersweet “Dancing at Lughnasa”

By Skip Sheffield

Hand it to the Irish to find the beauty in struggling, suffering and failing to reach an elusive life's goal.
Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” is a lyrical and lovely, bittersweet memory play set in the year 1936, wonderfully realized by Palm Beach Dramaworks through June 16 at 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
“Lughnasa” tells the melancholy yet enchanting tale of five grown sisters in the tiny fictional village of Ballybeg, just as the Spanish Civil War is heating up and the Nazis are gaining power.
Older brother Jack (John Leonard Thompson) is on leave from 25 years at a Leper colony in the African British colony of Uganda. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent Jack’s retirement is not entirely voluntary.
The story is told by Michael Evans (Declan Mooney), the grown illegitimate son of the dreamy youngest sister, Chris (Gretchen Porro).
The father of Michael is Gerry Evans (Cliff Burgess), a charming Welsh traveling salesman with a gift of the blarney. Eldest daughter Kate (Julie Rowe) is a devout Catholic and the only one gainfully employed as a teacher. Maggie (Meghan Moroney) serves cheerfully as the family’s cook and maid. Agnes (Margery Lowe) is a shy, quiet woman who harbors a fierce crush on dashing Gerry Evans. Rose (Erin Joy Schmidt) is none too bright, but filled with the joy of life and expectation of love.
In Act One the ladies anticipate attending a dance in town. In Act Two they deal with harsher realities of job loss, Gerry’s departure for war, and the departure of two of the sisters.
Directed with almost supernatural sensitivity by J. Barry Lewis, “Lughnasa” is beautifully staged on a set by newcomer Jeff Modereger, artfully lighted by Ron Burns, with precise sound production by Steve Shapiro involving vintage radio broadcasts and old-time music.
In an ensemble show like this there are no star turns. You love each character for what she is. Less admirable are the males, but we understand. This is a memory play, and that’s how it was in Ireland in 1936: sad but lovely.

Tickets are $55 ($10 students). Call 561-514-4042 or go to

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever


A Sumptuously Beautiful Film Called “Renoir”

By Skip Sheffield

“Sumptuously beautiful:” that in a nutshell is a film called “Renoir,” opening May 24 at FAU’s Living Room Theaters.
If you like French Impressionist painting of the late 19th and early 20th century, you will love this factual biographical film by Gilles Bourdos.
There is more than one Renoir in this film. The patriarch is the great painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), who in the summer of 1915 is at the twilight of his life at his estate in Cagnes-sur-mer, but no less creative. The great French actor Michael Bouquet, who is now 87, plays the artist wracked by pain and partially crippled, but still obsessed by his search for and creation of beauty.
He finds his latest inspiration in a stunningly gorgeous young actress named Audree Heuschling (Christa Theret), whom he hires as a model.
Renoir loved to paint “au plein” (outdoors), and he preferred his models to be "dishabille" (unclothed or barely clothed). This evidently led to a lot of hanky-panky earlier in his career, but by this time the artist’s sexual drive has vanished in reality, yet lingers in his fond imagination.
There are three other Renoirs: Jean (Vincent Rottiers), a certified war hero who is on leave because of injuries; a ten-year-old kid brother Claude "Coco" (Thomas Doret), and an older brother Pierre (Laurent Poitrenaux).
Apart from Pierre-Auguste’s philosophizing about art, the nature of beauty and the futility of war, “Renoir” is a blossoming romance between Andree and Jean, who are based on real-life characters. In 1915 Jean fantasized about the new art of making films, and he promised Andree she would be his star.
This really happened. Jean Renoir, best-known for “The Grand Illusion,” became a pioneering figure in French cinema and Audree was his leading lady.
But this all happened after 1915. “Renoir” marks the ending of one fabulously creative career and the beginning of another. It is a deliciously enticing package of beauty, romance, duty to family and country and love. If you care anything about these things, “Renoir’ may seduce you.

Mo' Fast, Mo' Furious, Mo' Fun

Fast & Furious: More of the Same, and Funny

By Skip Sheffield

You can only go so fast or get so furious. In order to keep a franchise going, you finally have to add a third F: funny.
That’s exactly what Jason Lin has done with “Fast & Furious 6.” This is Lin’s fourth time as director of F&F, so he must be doing something right.
Entertainment Weekly magazine featured Fast and Furious as its cover story of its May 17 issue: “50 great Guilty Pleasures.”
Since I like car chases and amazing stunts, FF 6 was the easy choice over another sequel, “Hangover 3.” How many different kinds of hangovers are there? Whereas car chases, crashes and stunts have an infinite variety.
ET provided a handy-dandy guide to all previous F&F movies, dating back to the first in June, 2001. For each episode it categorized the bad guys, cars crashed and the time it takes for the first car to crash. Suffice it to say, with each feature the crashes came sooner, happen more often, and are more spectacular.
For FF 6, Lin has reunited a whole mess of heroes and villains for one big mixup.
In the previous “Fast Five,” ex-con street-racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and FBI agent Brian O’Connor’s (Paul Walker) heist toppled a Brazilian bad guy and rewarded their crew with $100 million.
The crew scattered across the globe, but when you are accustomed to living fast and furiously, retirement can seem rather boring.
While the crew snoozes, tireless FBI agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) has been tracking a ruthless gang of mercenary drivers across 12 countries. The chief bad guy is Ian Shaw (British badass actor Jason Statham), aided by a mysterious badass girl.
The girl is Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s former girlfriend he thought was dead.
Nope, Letty is very much alive, but in Chris Morgan’s screenplay she conveniently has amnesia. When Hobbs challenges Dom to re-assemble his crew in London and do battle in the streets, you just know he will accept the challenge.
In addition to being an action-adventure and a comedy with a smidgen of romance, FF 6 is also part-travelogue, starting in Russia, moving to Macao, London, Los Angeles and all over Europe.
The cast is a United Nations of ethnic and racial types: Italian stallion Vin Diesel, Latina lovely Michelle Rodriguez, Caucasians Luke Evans and Paul Walker, Asian Sung Kang, African-Americans Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, and part-Samoan former University of Miami Championship football player and professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson in particular has gotten better as an actor, with a sharp sense of comic timing that contrasts humorously with the guttural, deep-voiced, laconic, but much smaller Vin Diesel.
There are so many car crashes, you tend to lose count, but I’m sure someone will. What is unforgettable is the use of a combat tank for wholesale vehicle destruction. What possibly could be next one wonders? We will find out next summer with installment seven.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Star Trek Into Darkness a Thrill Ride with Meaning


“Star Trek Into Darkness” Fast, Funny and Touching

By Skip Sheffield

If you liked the 2009 reboot of the “Star Trek” series, you are going to love the sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
When director J.J. Abrams re-imagined the science-fiction space odyssey that began as a cheesy 1966 television series, he cast a group of young actors who resembled the original cast, only better-looking.
William Shatner brought a blustering egotism to his Capt. James Kirk, commander of the spaceship U.S.S. Enterprise.
The new Kirk is Chris Pine, a ridiculously handsome guy with magnetic blue eyes and a more modest vulnerability that makes him more palatable to a new generation.
As his first officer Spock, Zachary Quinto could be the real-life son of Leonard Nimoy, who (spoiler alert) makes a cameo appearance for the sake of tradition.
The list goes on. Zoe Saldana brings a smoldering sensuality to officer Uhura, the possible love interest of dispassionate Spock. Brilliant British writer-comedian Simon Pegg infuses a new life to the excitable engineer Scotty. Justin Cho is stoic and solid as office Sulu, who is asked to step up in this episode.
The movie begins with a splash of the color red with the Enterprise characters scurrying about a forest of red trees inhabited by white, clayish-skinned creatures that look like something out of a Kabuki theater. It turns out Capt. Kirk has been a bad boy and he violated the rules by allowing himself to be seen by the white creatures. The Enterprise is ordered back to Earth, where Kirk is reprimanded and busted down in rank, and Spock is transferred. Kirk’s disobedience is overshadowed by a terrorist bomb explosion in London, killing dozens of innocent people. A second attack follows in scenic San Francisco. It is theorized that the perpetrator is one of Starfleet’s own. Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) orders Kirk to the hostile planet Kronos, where it is thought a turncoat named Harrison (astute British actor Benedict Cumberbach) is hiding out.
It is impossible to watch the latest “Star Trek’ without thinking of the current volatile world situation, where entire countries are cowering in fear at the threat of terrorist attacks as drones scan the skies and politicians argue double cross one another endlessly. This story is old-fashioned in that it is about honesty, integrity and courage versus cruelty, deceit and random violence. What makes it even more appealing is its deft use of comedy to defuse dire circumstances. This is the funniest and fastest-paced “Star Trek” yarn I have ever seen, yet it does have emotional moments that tug at the heartstrings.
I am not now nor have I ever been a “Trekkie.” I thought the original television series was pompous and silly. The movie reboots were more of the same, with the exception of "Wrath of Khan" (love that rich Corinthian leather).
This sequel is hip, smart, funny where it needs to be and emotionally involving when it counts. That’s quite an achievement for a summer season blockbuster. It looks like the Star Wars franchise is secure for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"War Horse" a Unique Epic at Broward Center


“War Horse” Unique, Epic Story of Love and War

By Skip Sheffield

“War Horse” is unlike any usual theatrical presentation this year or any other. This moving story of a boy and his horse continues through May 19 at Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.
“War Horse” is almost like an extended dance, with amazingly intricate choreography intermixed with agile, athletic puppetry, interacting wordlessly with human actors. The story is based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s story which was adapted to the stage by Nick Stafford and debuted in London in 2007. It also is the basis of Steven Spielberg’s award-winning 2011 live action film.
The story is much like the traditional, sentimental children’s tales “Black Beauty,” “National Velvet’ and “Lassie Come Home,” except in this case it is set in the ghastly, grisly time of World War I in Europe.
Spielberg used real horses in his epic movie. This stage play, based on choreography and movement by Toby Sedgwick, uses ingenious life-size puppets created by Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa.
We were seated right down front in the third row. On one hand that is good because we could see clearly the actors and their subtle expressions. On the other hand it is not so good to be so close because you can see the puppeteers inside the horse puppets manipulating the beautiful machines and creating the horse sounds with three human voices working on concert. It blunts the illusion.
There are a lot of explosions, bright lights, loud noises and gunpowder smells sitting so close, as the show recreates the horrors of being in the trenches in France, battling the German forces of the Kaiser. Be forewarned of the racket, flash and smoke.
The story begins in 1912 with the birth of a beautiful horse witnessed by a 14-year-old boy named Albert Narracott (Alex Morf). The production has incidental music throughout reminiscent of the period. Particularly appealing is the recurring them “All Be Remembered for What We Have Done.” Nathan Koci and John Milosich are fine strolling troubadours.
When the colt comes up for sale two years later, a bidding war arises between the brothers Arthur Narracott (Brian Keane) and Ted Narracott (Todd Cerveris). There is an intense rivalry and some bitterness between the brothers. Arthur boasts of his battle experiences in the Boer War, though it was Ted who was the real hero, wounded in action and left lame. Ted uses alcohol to ease his pain. Sometimes it gets the best of him, as it does when he recklessly wins the bid at 39 guineas- an enormous sum at the time.
Albert literally falls in love with his fine Thoroughbred horse, which he names Joey. When Great Britain is forced into the war against Germany, Ted agrees to sell Joey to an army officer (Jason Loughlin) for 100 pounds. At 16 Albert is too young to enlist. Eventually he will lie about his age and elist, only to witness firsthand the horrors and sorrows of hand-to-hand combat.
Alex Morf is a very emotive actor who bears a striking resemblance to a young Ronnie Howard. “War Horse” is also a story of repeated loss of Albert’s best friends and comrades. If it weren’t for its upbeat cliff-hanger resolution, it would be almost unbearable. Instead it is inspirational and a marvel of a very large group of talented people working together in perfect concert.
Tickets are $39.50-$89.50 ($119.50 Club Section. Call 954-462-0222 or go to

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jazziz Nightlife in Boca Raton

Photo of Molly Ringwald by Michael Gora

World-Class Jazz and More at Jazziz Nightlife

By Skip Sheffield

When Michael Fagien first decided to open a nightclub and restaurant to complement his Jazziz magazine, he considered a space in the former Cartoon Museum at Mizner Park in Boca Raton.
As luck would have it, Fagien got a better offer from the owners of Hard Rock Cafe, so Michael and his twin brother Steven opened a Jazziz nightclub as one of the first special attractions at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.
Seminole Hard Rock was not an ideal fit and after three and a half years, Jazziz left the building. The Fagien brothers returned their full energy to the music magazine they founded in 1983.
Jazziz is now the largest-circulation jazz magazine in the world, and it finally has a companion Jazziz Nightlife restaurant and concert facility in the very same spot the Fagien brothers first considered in Mizner Park.
“We always wanted to have a Jazziz club in Boca Raton,” Michael Fagien said recently during a tour of the facility. “Both my brother Steven and I live in Boca Raton. Steven moved here in 1988 and I followed from Gainesville in 2000. Opening Jazziz Nightlife is the culmination of our dream.”
Media were invited to a pre-concert tour conducted by Michael Fagien before actress-singer Molly Ringwald took to the stage with her virtuoso jazz quartet. Ringwald is a perfect example of the fact that jazz music has many facets, not just one narrow definition.
“The problem with jazz is that many believe it is just for a certain kind of people,” Fagien explained. “There is an image of jazz snobs. We are not that way at all. Jazz is what you believe it is. To prove that we often book people who are not primarily thought of as jazz musicians.”
Molly Ringwald is better known as an award-winning film and stage actress, but her interest in the “Great American Songbook” and jazz classics is real. Ringwald’s father was a professional jazz musician and she grew up with music. She proved her vocal prowess powerfully with a killer set that underscored the allure of her sultry, husky singing style.
Both the Fagien brothers have medical degrees earned at the University of Florida. Steven Fagien still practices surgery in Boca Raton. It was at the U of F that Michael developed a passion for jazz, and began writing about it. When he decided to start a magazine, Michael got a big boost from Dr. Robert Cade, inventor of Gatorade.
“The University of Florida got the rights to Gatorade, but Dr. Cade did just fine,” says Fagien. “We started a partnership 25 years ago. He always believed in Jazziz magazine.”
One thing that brought Jazziz to international prominence was its innovation of a free 5-inch CD with each issue.
“We became the de facto promoters of the 5-inch CD format,” Fagien notes. “We still include CDs with our print issues.”
As good as CD quality is, there is no substitute for live performance. The Fagiens poured untold amounts of money to transform what had been Zed 451 restaurant into a state-of-the-art restaurant and live concert facility. Jazziz pledges to bring in top artists of all descriptions. Private memberships are offered as well as are New Orleans-style brunches on weekends.
National acts tend to be booked Wednesday and Thursday with 7 and 9 p.m. dinner sets. Tickets are required only in the “Live Room” where the stage is. Live entertainment is offered other nights at no charge.
Coming attractions include Larry Carlton May 15-16; Yellowjackets May 22-23; Nestor Torres May 29-30 and Bobby Caldwell June 5-6.
Call 561-300-0732 or go to

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Fan Movie for Woody Allen From France


“Paris-Manhattan” a Woody Allen Fan Film

By Skip Sheffield

Woody Allen is not universally admired. In fact some despise the whining, neurotic Brooklyn comedian who found his voice in movies that express his sad-sack outlook on life.
If you don’t like Woody Allen you will not like “Paris- Manhattan.” If you do, you may find this debut film by writer-director Sophie Lellouche a fluffy, slight delight.
Woody is the muse to Alice Ovitz (Alice Togliani), the lovely daughter of a Paris pharmacist.
Alice has a large portrait of Woody in her apartment. Her thoughts are often expressed in quotations from Woody Allen movies, spoken in Allen’s New York voice and subtitled in French, which makes Woody seem all the more deep and profound.
Alice is gorgeous but insecure and single. Her well-meaning father (Michele Aumont) is always pushing her to find some suitable match.
One such candidate is handsome Pierre (Louis-Do de Lenaquesaing), who takes an interest in Alice at a party. However, Alice’s more aggressive since Helene (Marie Delterre) muscles in on the conversation and snatches Pierre away before Alice’s disbelieving eyes.
Alice continues living her solitary life, working in the pharmacy and finishing her education. Helene marries Pierre but all is not peaches and cream.
Alice’s father gives the drug store business to her at age 30, and it seems despite her great beauty she is destined to spend the rest of her life behind the cash register. Then two men enter her life.
Vincent (Yannick Soulier) is dashing, sophisticated and handsome. Victor (Patrick Bruel) is a lowly burglar alarm salesman who is rather plain, older than Alice, and has never even seen a Woody Allen film.
“Paris-Manhattan” has a plot patterned after “Play It Again, Sam.” Instead of Humphrey Bogart giving advice to hapless Woody Allen, Allen himself gives advice to frustrated Alice. The film is an unabashed fan letter to Woody Allen and to Paris. It culminates with an appearance by the man himself. It is not a great or profound film, but if you are a fan of Allen and beautiful women, you may find it delightful.

Iron Man in Miami


Iron Man Quips and Jokes His Way Through Armageddon

By Skip Sheffield

“Iron Man 3” is a critic-proof movie. Before it opens in America May 3, it will have pretty much made back its production costs abroad.
What separates IM 3 from the rest of the Marvel Comics universe is its leading man, Robert Downey, Jr., and a clever, strong supporting cast.
Downey has a wry, world-weary demeanor that suits his character of brilliant, eccentric inventor/industrialist Tony Stark. How Stark earns all the money to support his lavish lifestyle is never explained. It’s just a given, as is Stark’s gravity and physics-defying Iron Man armor that transforms him from mortal to super hero. Now parts of the suit fly through the air from distant parts to land on Tony in the nick of time.
As with every other super hero adventure, the world is at peril. This time it is from a shadowy figure who calls himself The Mandarin. Insert bad Chinese jokes here.
The Mandarin is played by Anglo-Indian actor Ben Kingsley, an actor who can radiate menace and power as well as complete silliness. In this role Kingsley is asked to do both.
Both Tony Stark and The Mandarin have their weak, vulnerable sides. This adds to their appeal both as hero and villain.
The IM 3 script is co-written by Shane Black (and at least five others). Black is responsible for the script of the original “Lethal Weapon” and its sequel as well as “Last Boy Scout.” He does have a way with a witty quip, which is Tony Stark’s secret weapon between explosions and catastrophes. This is a good thing, because without the jokes, IM 3 would be pretty boring. It already is too long.
It is evident that all the principal characters have spent serious time in the gym. This includes Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony Stark’s gal pal, Pepper Potts. Pepper even gets the chance to don an IM suit and do some butt-kicking of her own.
Stark’s best buddy Col. James Rhodes, played by Don Cheadle, looks immaculately buff and is good at a deadpan quip as Downey.
There is a lot of absurd scenery-chewing going on, with character’s eyes glowing red before they go wacko. The chief chomper is Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, a devious schemer who is also a wannabe boyfriend of Pepper Potts. Rebecca Hall gets pretty crazy too as double agent Maya Hansen.
The complex and incomprehensible plot culminates in Miami, natch, where the famed Viscaya becomes a lair for the villains and the sky over Key Biscayne becomes populated with falling people.
So line up and pay your money if you’d like. What I or any other reviewer thinks does not matter. Frankly there is not much else going on in May other than sequels (Fast & Furious 6, Hangover 3, Star Trek Into Darkness) and the remake of “The Great Gatsby” with Leo DiCaprio.