Brian Markinson

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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion Review


OK
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion takes Woody Allen to some truly unfamiliar territory: Manhattan! I mean, can you believe it? Woody Allen in New York? But seriously: At least this time out we're in 1940 NYC, his first real old-timey flick since 1994's Bullets Over Broadway.

It's also (thankfully) another entry in the Slapstick Woody genre (a la Small Time Crooks), who seems to be doing a good job at keeping Serious Woody out of the picture since the late 1980s. Whew!

Continue reading: The Curse of the Jade Scorpion Review

Sweet and Lowdown Review


Grim
Woody Allen loves jazz. He loves jazz so much that he regularly skips the Oscars to play clarinet with his jazz combo. He talks about jazz all the time.

I love Woody Allen, really I do. I'm probably the only living critic who enjoyed Celebrity. I love jazz, too. Every Wednesday for two years, I saw a classic jazz quartet play tunes like "All of Me," "Rosetta," and "Old Man Time" in a dank cellar bar.

Continue reading: Sweet and Lowdown Review

Sweet & Lowdown Review


OK

Every time Woody Allen miscalculates and makes a movie as weak as last year's "Celebrity," I start to wonder if he's down for the count. I should know better.

Once again, Allen has come roaring back with "Sweet and Lowdown," a buoyant, saucy and deftly original faux documentary that purports to be about a fictitious jazz guitar legend named Emmett Ray (Sean Penn).

According to the old-timer radio jocks and jazz historians (writer-director Allen among them) that populate the movie's modern interview interludes, Emmett was a neurotic (no, really?), weasely egoist of a 1930s lounge lizard louse, whose curt and cocky facade barely masked a belly full of wild insecurities, the main one being that he was the world's second greatest jazz guitarist.

Continue reading: Sweet & Lowdown Review

The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion Review


Weak

It's a very convincing 1940 in Woody Allen's "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," and impetuous Howard Hawkes-style love-hate sniping -- infused with the requisite Allen neuroticism -- is the foundation of this comedy about an insurance detective hot on the trail of the cagiest jewel thief he's ever encountered: Himself.

Allen stars as C.W. Briggs, his company's best (or is it just luckiest?) in-house dick for the last 30 years. You can tell C.W. thinks he's a pretty smooth cat because he walks with a saucy bounce in his step and chases young secretaries around the office. He's the guy who found a stolen Picasso rolled up in a telescope, after all. "And it wasn't easy," he boasts, "because I was supposed to be looking for a painting of a woman holding a guitar, but it was in all these little cubes!"

But C.W. is stuck in his ways, and these days he spends most of his energy butting heads like a stubborn billy goat with the company's new tough-as-nails efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). She thinks his department is obsolete and that the firm should hire out when it needs a detective.

Continue reading: The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion Review

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