Wonder Wheel Review

Nobody makes a film that oozes nostalgia better than Woody Allen. Despite what opinions people hold about Allen, especially in this very polarizing time within the industry and the world in general, he is truly one of the greatest American filmmakers ever. Woody has always had a way of making 20th century period pieces that make the viewer long for a time that they may not have even lived in. Allen once again does that with Wonder Wheel.

Allen’s latest effort is set against the backdrop of post-war New York on the famous Coney Island. Known for its famous rides (such as the cyclone and the famous Ferris wheel, Wonder Wheel) and famous Nathan’s hot dogs, it was a magical place for anyone growing up in such a time and place. 

Kate Winslet leads an all-star cast as she plays Ginny, a middle-aged woman, and mother on her second marriage to a carousel operator who has a difficult time laying off the bottle. Ginny is stuck in a rut as her young son has become a pyromaniac and can’t stop setting fires all over. She is a waitress who feels like life is keeping her down as it passes her by when she meets Mickey, a young, good-looking, educated lifeguard. 

Ginny and Mickey soon strike up an affair when Ginny’s stepdaughter Carolina drops in out of nowhere on the run from her mobster husband who is looking to have her bumped off. After eventually making up with her father Humpty, she slowly begins to make a life for herself while working as a waitress with Ginny and going to night school. Carolina soon meets Mickey and somewhat of a love triangle begins. While Ginny is falling hard for Mickey, his eyes begin to draw towards Carolina. It isn’t long before mobsters find their way to Coney Island looking for Carolina.

Starring alongside Winslet is Jim Belushi as her somewhat buffoonish husband Humpty, Juno Temple as the young and troubled Carolina and Justin Timberlake as the dashing and smart lifeguard Mickey. The cast is very solid with excellent actors all around, but this is one of the only times I can think of where Woody may have gotten some casting wrong. 

Justin Timberlake has turned into quite a good actor but his casting here felt a bit off. He still feels too contemporary to play a young veteran in the 1950’s despite having the right look, his performance didn’t quite seem to match the theme. Despite Timberlake (who still does a fine job acting) the rest of the cast is spot on as usual for a Woody Allen movie. 

Belushi is absolutely perfect as the somewhat slobbish yet hardworking, blue-collar husband who just wants to fish and have his wife around with him. Juno Temple is so great as the seemingly innocent young girl on the run yet still hoping to find love despite her current predicament. 

That leaves Kate Winslet. When I first heard she was going to finally be in a Woody Allen film I could not wait for the release, and she doesn’t disappoint. She conveys the neurotic and frazzled mind that Allen has so often written for his protagonist in so many of his films. You can feel the stress mount on top of her as she falls deeper into her affair along with struggling to be a parent and wife along with having to look over her shoulder for the mafia.

While Wonder Wheel has a great storyline along with a picturesque setting, it is not one of Woody’s best. While to say the film is bad or not good is not at all accurate either, it just felt like something was off. Winslet is without a doubt the films saving grace and really exudes the emotion of the character so well. 

This is in no way a negative review of the movie. Allen writes AND directs a movie a year all at the age of 82 so its fair to say not every film is going to be Annie Hall or Midnight In Paris. Wonder Wheel is a beautiful look at a time in life when things didn’t seem so complicated and a time which people seem to long for. One of the things we see though is that, things were complicated even then, despite what we think or remember. Wonder Wheel is now on Amazon Prime for your viewing pleasure

The Shape Of Water Review

I am very excited to review The Shape Of Water for one reason. Two and half years ago I wrote a post about how the creativity in the movie industry seems to be all but dead. I still wholeheartedly believe that but, like I said before there are some exceptions to this. Guillermo del Toro is maybe the leader of the original filmmakers in Hollywood.

His 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most creative films to hit cinemas in quite some time. He then brought the futuristic sci-fi action movie, Pacific Rim to theaters. This year he gave us yet another truly original story to life with The Shape Of Water. With an all-star cast including a slew of Oscar nominees, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer he brings his monsters back to life in beautiful style.

Set in the 1950s cold war in a highly secret government facility a mute cleaning woman who lives a small life who’s only friends are a fellow cleaning woman who looks out for her played by Octavia Spencer and her artist neighbor played by Richard Jenkins. When a secret project is brought into the facility by the nearly sadistic leader played by Michael Shannon. When Elisa (Hawkins) looks into the project too closely and discovers an amphibious creature which appears to be half man she finds herself unusually drawn to him and forms a friendship in secret.

When the Russians begin trying to capture the creature she forms a plan with her friends to take him out of the facility and bring him home to keep him from being experimented on. They soon pull off an unlikely heist which brings the creature to her home and has the government on a search to bring him back to the facility and keep him out of Russian hands. Elisa soon forms an even deeper bond with the creature that leads them to attempt to flee from everyone they know.

The mind of del Toro is something of people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas (early Lucas) and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, in our own time. It has been recognized by critics and award committees and fans worldwide. He has used the film medium to bring his creatures, or as he refers to them, monsters, to life.

What makes The Shape Of Water wonderful to experience is not just his creativity but the beauty in which he makes his worlds come to life. del Toro is not just creative but he is a great filmmaker and has a very unique vision. He has a great sense of character and emotion that all great filmmakers have, which is what makes them great. His mind and worlds can captivate every cinephile and bring them into a new place which is what movies are all about.

The Shape Of Water is rightfully being recognized all over this year as one of the years best movies and rightfully so. While his style and worlds may not be for everyone, those with a desire for originality will find The Shape Of Water a refreshing new find. We can only wait for his next creation to be taken away to another fascinating world and time.

1990’s Coupe De Ville Is A Hidden Gem Of A Movie

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

We all have movies tucked away that few other people remember or saw. These hidden gems tend to be some of our favorites despite whatever critical negativity they received or how poorly they did at the box office. Often these are the movies that are rarely run on cable or network channels and if they are it’s at 3 am when only on the night you can’t sleep do you end up re-familiarizing yourself with it. Now just because I mention a movie as a hidden gem doesn’t mean no one knew about it or it didn’t have any popularity, it merely means it’s been forgotten. For me, this is 1990’s Coupe De Ville.

Coupe De Ville stars a young Patrick Dempsey and Daniel Stern with Alan Arkin playing their father. The story is of 3 brothers who famously don’t get along assigned with the task of driving their mothers birthday present, a 1954 Cadillac from Detroit to Florida. The brothers encounter various problems along the way and go so far as to nearly wreck the car. They are then forced to repair the damage themselves before delivering it to their mother. While it may sound like a basic plot and movie, it is. What makes it stand out is the chemistry between the characters and the razor-sharp dialogue. You genuinely take this trip with them and feel as though, for a time, you are a member of the family. With comedy that will leave tears in your eyes to the love, each brother shows for the other that will fill your heart.

Coupe De Ville was written by then unknown Mike Binder who would go on to create the HBO series, The Mind Of A Married Man and write such films as The Upside Of Anger and Reign Over Me starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. His natural dialogue and superb character development are evident in all his movies, and Coupe De Ville was the beginning of great things to come.

COUPE DE VILLE, front from left: Arye Gross, Daniel Stern, Patrick Dempsey 

Until recently this movies was unavailable to purchase or rent on DVD. But it has since been released on DVD, so if you are looking to feel good and remember what its like to have a family member get under your skin than may we highly recommend Coupe De Ville.