MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Woody Allen has been famously up and down in his noughties film-making career. Everyone loved to hate Match Point and Scoop (I rather liked them – ok, maybe not Scoop); but then, Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a triumph. I also liked Belinda and Belinda, but others loathed it.
Midnight in Paris is a joy – whether you’re a fan of the old, old Allen or just someone who likes a good rom-com. Well, this is better than a good rom-com; it’s interesting and textured and odd, as you might expect.
Owen Wilson charms as the slightly dreamy Gil, visiting Paris with his straightforwardly commercial, money-loving fiancée Inez, played with perfect shiny awfulness by Rachel McAdams. Gil writes shallow Hollywood scripts by day, but dreams of writing novels in a garret (in Paris), whose Jazz Age literary tradition he particularly loves. His fiancée does not share the latter part of his dream. There’s a scene near the beginning – with that wonderful Allen mixture of cheese, kitsch and irony – where the couple stand on a bridge in the Tuileries together (pictured) and Wilson asks if Inez could ever imagine living in Paris. She says, without a hint of softness, no.
One night, after dinner with her equally shiny, stiff parents, Wilson is invited to step into a black car. Beckoned by its bon vivant occupants who are smoking and drinking champagne, he can’t resist. But what’s this? Suddenly he’s drinking with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. As well as falling in love with the 1920s, he falls in love with a beautiful woman, an ex-lover of Picasso’s, played by Marillon Cotillard.
Night after night he gets back in the car, the gap in heart and mind widening daily between his formal reality (fiancée, Louis Vuitton, dinners, being snapped at), and this dreamy paradise of Paris past.
This is one of the most interesting and pleasant romantic comedies in recent years and shows that Allen has suddenly sweetened with age.
JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN
Rowan Atksinson led the first Johnny English, made in 2003, into juicy box office territory with his Mr Bean-style parody of James Bond (the film was actually scripted by Bond film writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).
Now back in all his ill-fated, inelegant sub-glory, Johnny English is recalled from hiding in disgrace after a mission in Mozambique five years ago. Leaving the Tibetan monastery where he is in martial arts training (great for dangerous ops), he is brought back to MI7’s (yes, 7) HQ in London. English finds himself embarking on another mission, this time in Hong Kong, where he must stop a group of international assassins before they kill a world leader and – naturally – cause global meltdown. His new boss at MI7 is played by Gillian Anderson; Rosamund Pike, a former Bond Girl, stars too.
Chaos arises after a meeting in a Kowloon tenement, when English and a cronie rendez-vous with a rogue CIA agent, who reveals he’s part of an alliance called Vortex, which possesses a chemical weapon, control over which is sought by an MI7 mole. Needless to say, English doesn’t handle the case smoothly. Taking more from recent Bond films (of the Pierce Brosnan era particularly) than the first one did, this should have you smiling sporadically (or guffawing, depending on your sensibilities). Of course, the sheer stupidity of the whole thing will be more of an irritation than a virtue to some.