Asia is terrifying. With its obscure languages, stifling humidity, tropical foliage, peculiar deities, dubious military regimes, weird food and proximity to historically hazardous war zones, American citizens would be insane to go near any part of it. The only Westerners capable of successfully navigating Asia’s myriad unpredictable hazards seem to be washed-up ageing military types with a penchant for hookers and karaoke. Toss a white bread Southern family, freshly reassigned by their shady industrial employers, into even the most innocuous Asian city, and a full-blown coup d’etat is almost guaranteed to erupt the moment they step off the plane. The streets will be awash with blood by morning, as white-faced bystanders are gunned down with indiscriminate ferocity and abandon.
On this week’s show I talk to Phil about No Escape, the Asia-based thriller starring Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan, before touching on Mabel Cheung’s A Tale Of Three Cities, apparently inspired by Jackie Chan’s parents.
The world is tiring of Vince Vaughn, and his reluctance to change up or expand his schtick isn’t helping his case much. Here he re-teams with his Wedding Crashers cohort Owen Wilson to basically rehash the best parts of Old School – albeit as interns at Google. The result is a gag-inducing 2-hour commercial for the Internet company, where all the best moments come from other actors – namely Max Minghella and Josh Brener – while the “talent” does little more than show up and collect their paycheck.
Let’s assume you are in your 30s or 40s, into what we now call “tech,” though you are old enough to remember when the same thing was called “computers” and although you are feeling “older,” you certainly don’t think of yourself as “old.”
If that sounds familiar, then there’s a pretty good chance you will enjoy The Internship, a diverting if largely unremarkable comedy starring Vince Vaughn (who also co-wrote the film) and Owen Wilson, directed by Shaun Levy (Night at the Museum, Date Night).
Vaughn and Wilson play ageing, down on their luck salesmen who embark on a quixotic adventure to try and land a job at Google. Their shtick is familiar and in its best moments still appealing. Rose Byrne largely phones in her forgettable appearance as Owen’s love interest, but there are much better performances from Aasif Mandvi as the supervisor of the internship programme, Tiya Sircar as one of the fellow interns and a spectacular cameo from Will Ferrel as Owen’s brother in law.
There are plenty of laughs and amusing situations, though how far this film moves you, either comically or emotionally, may depend a lot on your age and the extent to which you identify with the premise of the film. I had a good time with The Internship and felt for its view of how cynical and screen dependent today’s youth are and how much the culture of work has changed in recent years. But, then again, I’m a crusty old geek who bears more than a passing resemblance to the semi-redundant characters Vaughn and Wilson portray.
Sweeping generalizations are often employed when discussing the lengthy filmography of Woody Allen. Whether referring to his “older, funnier films” of the 70s and 80s, or the bleak period of Bergmanesque introspection that followed. Husbands and Wives marked a turning point, and the 90s proved to be a strong decade for Allen. Since the dawn of the new millennium, however, the impressively prolific filmmaker has become increasingly erratic and the new rule of thumb is that the films in which Allen acts are weaker than those in which he employs a surrogate.
Allen remains the centre of his own universe and as a result his main characters continue to be neurotic intellectuals with a proclivity for younger women, and the success of these films often hangs on how convincingly the lead, be it Larry David, Will Ferrell or Owen Wilson, pulls off their Woody impersonation. Recent years have also, and perhaps more surprisingly, seen the filmmaker leave the confines of his beloved New York to explore some of Europe’s most exciting cities. We have been treated to films set in London, Barcelona and now Paris, while he continues to employ many of the world’s finest actors.
To-date, all Allen’s films open the same way: black screen, white lettering in the same understated font while a classic jazz record plays in the background. Midnight in Paris opens instead with a montage of picture postcard images of Paris, albeit with jazz on the soundtrack. Once the tune ends, only then does the screen go black and the familiar credits appear, over which we hear Gil (Owen Wilson) enthusing about the magical energy of the city, while his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) remains markedly unconvinced. Though subtle, this marks a deliberate break from convention for Allen.
Gil is a successful yet dissatisfied Hollywood screenwriter, who is dragged to Paris to visit his future in-laws, only to fall in love with the city’s beauty and creative spirit. When they run into old friends from the US (Nina Arianda and a wonderfully irritating Michael Sheen), Gil escapes into the night, only to be whisked away on a delightfully magical adventure. To say any more about the film’s plot would spoil its many surprises, suffice to say that as Allen has shown in particularly THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO – he is not adverse to fantastical flights of fancy.
Midnight in Paris is an absolute delight and Allen’s best film in many years, boasting a fine ensemble of talent that includes Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody and Tom Hiddleston. The film is reverently appreciative of the writers, painters and thinkers who made Paris a thriving hub of artistic expression almost 100 years ago, yet also warns us against nostalgic folly. Allen urges us to appreciate our own time, to make today special for future generations to appreciate, as in the end – and as much as it must pain Allen to concede – the present is all we have.