Saturday, March 5, 2011


Rated PG-13
Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp
Director: George Nolfi
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy/romance

Do we live by fate or free will? Always a good topic to start a philosophical discussion--and no doubt many are ablazing as we speak, following the opening of The Adjustment Bureau.

A couple in hot monkey love must deal with unrelenting interference from those who disapprove of their union. Sound familiar? But it's not family members who want to break them up. No, look're getting warm...higher still...THERE YOU's none other than the BIG GUY! And God--referred to by his operatives, or angels (using the term loosely because one of them likes to shout SONOFABITCH a lot) here on earth as "The Chairman," has an agenda. A Master Plan as it were. The angels' mission is to enforce the plan by placing roadblocks in the couple's path at every turn. Of course, from our lowly vantage point we can't decipher what that plan--or the reason for it--is. We only know that He/She thinks that if promising congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) ends up with talented dancer Elise, (Emily Blunt) it will deal a death blow to both of their lofty ambitions. And when David is made aware of this, he must decide whether to go with his heart and pursue the relationship at all costs, or sadly and reluctantly back off and allow fate to run its course.

Ever have a chance encounter with someone and become instantly taken with them? David and Elise meet in a men's restroom where she is hiding out (don't ask). He is startled to find her there, but after a bit of small talk, they throw themselves at each other and engage in a passionate kiss! They are interrupted and he loses track of her, until one day he runs into her on a bus. She writes down her phone number, but the angels--who all wear business suits and fedoras--kidnap David and steal the number from his wallet and burn it in front of him. This is the kind of stuff they do, because apparently when you take on a human body, you don't have to be nice to people anymore. (And that explains a lot about certain women I dated...but I digress).

Three years pass before David finds Elise again, and when the "Adjustment Bureau" gets wind of it, they go into action to thwart the budding romance again. At some point, the couple have no choice but to go on the run and try to fight the system with the help of angel Harry, (Anthony Mackie) who becomes sympathetic to their plight. Fans of The Graduate will find the buildup to the climax of The Adjustment Bureau to be giddily familiar.

Emily Blunt as Elise is stunning, in ways that transcend mere physical attractiveness, and therefore deftly cast as the kind of woman for whom a man would give up everything.

Matt Damon seems to be at his best when his character is caught up in a web of intrigue and has to use all of his wits and resourcefulness to survive, and he is re-Bourne into a similar identity here.

George Nolfi, co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatum, has caught lightning in a bottle in his directorial debut.

The Adjustment Bureau is one of the freshest, just-go-along-for-the-ride surprises to come along in some time. And it will give you plenty of food for thought if you've ever felt you were absolutely MEANT to be with someone. Wing your way down to the theater and catch it!

Grade: A -

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Rated: R
Stars: Gemma Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Lucy Punch, Freida Pinto
Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Drama/comedy

There are no single, lonely people at the beginning of Woody Allen's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger-- just married and lonely people--ready and ripe to fall under someone else's spell and rekindle the fire of romance that all too quickly peters out in the day to day reality of monogamous "bliss."

Helena (Gemma Jones) is a ditzy old gal who has been divorced by Alfie, (Anthony Hopkins) and now she's seeing a "fortune teller" who tells her just what she wants to hear. Alfie falls for a young opportunistic prostitute named Charmaine, (Lucy Punch) who likes the finer things in life that he can provide her--as long as his money holds out! Alfie and Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) is married to once promising--but now frustrated--writer Roy, (Josh Brolin) who has an eye for the exotic young guitar player in the window across the way, Dia (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire). Sally, who works at a high-profile art gallery, develops a thing for her boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas).

But are they all delusional?

In You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Woody Allen is exploring the idea of faith, or more accurately, the tendency that many of us have to want to believe in something--often another person--to the point where we are willing to believe only what we want to believe, and don't confuse us with the facts.

Woody's endearing (at least to me) brand of cynicism tinged with irony is all over this one--his fourth in a row set in London--but the sense that he is literally speaking through his characters, so apparent in some previous films, (I could close my eyes and hear his voice, even through his female characters, which was freaky) isn't present here--perhaps refreshingly so.

Quite an impressive cast he's assembled--and Gemma Jones is a hoot as Helena, who goes on ad nauseam about reincarnation as if she'd never heard of the concept before... happy as a clam because her psychic has told her she has lived before and will live again. (Not everyone--the Buddhists for example--are pleased about that wheel turning round and round and going back, Jack, and doing it again!)

But it's Lucy Punch as Charmaine--the happy hooker supposedly gone straight who is now Alfie's wife-- still playing him for all he's worth while maintaining an air of bewildered innocence, even when he catches her in the act with some young buck, who upstages them all.

Anthony Hopkins, who I never thought was very scary as Hannibal Lecter, is more believably cast as a guy who's extending his mid-life crisis--and all the delusional flamboyance that goes along with that-- into his golden years.

And there's a delicious twist at the end of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger that reinforces Woody Allen's philosophical bent that oft-times you can't win for losing.