Film Review – SMALL TIME CROOKS (2000)

Small Time Crooks (2000) - Photo Gallery - IMDbSMALL TIME CROOKS (2000, USA) ***½
Comedy, Crime
dist. DreamWorks Distribution (USA), FilmFour (UK); pr co. Dreamworks Pictures / Sweetland Films / Magnolia Productions; d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; exec pr. J.E. Beaucaire; pr. Jean Doumanian, Helen Robin; ph. Fei Zhao (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); ed. Alisa Lepselter; pd. Santo Loquasto; ad. Tom Warren; set d. Jessica Lanier; cos. Suzanne McCabe; m/up. Rosemary Zurlo, Werner Sherer; sd. Robert Hein, Gary Alper (DTS (Mono) | Dolby Digital (Mono)); sfx. John Ottesen, Ron Ottesen; rel. 19 May 2000 (USA), 1 December 2000 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 94m.

cast: Woody Allen (Ray), Tracey Ullman (Frenchy), Hugh Grant (David), Elaine May (May), Tony Darrow (Tommy), George Grizzard (George Blint), Jon Lovitz (Benny), Michael Rapaport (Denny), Elaine Stritch (Chi Chi Potter), Steve Kroft (Steve Kroft), Brian McConnachie (Paul Milton), Kristine Nielsen (Emily Bailey), Larry Pine (Charles Bailey), Julie Lund (Linda Rhinelander), Maurice Sonnenberg (Garth Steinway), Richard Mawe (Anthony Gwynne), Frank Wood (Oliver), Howard Erskine (Langston Potter), Marvin Chatinover (Dr. Henske), Dana Tyler (TV News Reporter), Carolyn Saxon (Candy Salesperson), Sam Josepher (Real Estate Agent), Lawrence Howard Levy (Dynamite Dealer), Diane Bradley (Cookie Store Customer), Crystal Field (Cookie Store Customer), Cindy Carver (Cookie Store Customer), Ray Garvey (Cookie Store Customer), Bill Gerber (Cookie Store Customer), Olivia Hayman (Cookie Store Customer), Laurine Towler (Cookie Store Customer), Fanda Nikic (Cookie Store Customer), Brian Markinson (Cop), Riccardo Bertoni (Winklers’ Butler), Isaac Mizrahi (Winklers’ Chef), Teri Black (Winkler Party Guest), John Doumanian (Winkler Party Guest), Phyllis Burdoe (Winkler Party Guest), Karla Wolfangle (Modern Dance Performer), Rob Besserer (Modern Dance Performer), Ruth Laredo (Concert Pianist), Julie Halston (Concert Party Guest), Anthony Sinopoli (Frenchy’s Chauffeur), Jesse Levy (Church Cellist), Josephine Calabrese (Churchgoer), Cindy Wilks (Churchgoer), Trevor Moran (Churchgoer), Peter McRobbie (Frenchy’s Lawyer), Douglas McGrath (Frenchy’s Lawyer), Christine Pipgras (Potter Party Guest), Nick Garfinkle (Potter Party Guest), Kenneth Edelson (Potter Party Guest), Ira Wheeler (Potter Party Guest), William Hill (Potter Party Guest), Ramsey Faragallah (Potter’s Waiter), Scotty Bloch (Edgar’s Wife).

Dishwasher and small-fry criminal Ray (Allen) hits on a plan with his partners in crime to re-open a local pizza place and dig through to the bank down the street. As his wife (Ullman) can’t cook pizza but does great cookies, that’s what they sell. While the no-hope tunnellers get lost underground, the cookie operation really takes off and the team find themselves rich business people. But the other local money isn’t quite ready to accept them.  The first half of this movie sees Allen in top form interacting with his bumbling team of bank robbers and sparring amusingly with the excellent Ullman as his cookie baking wife. Then there is a shift in gear and theme as Allen’s tale becomes more concerned in its message that class cannot be bought or stolen. Here, Grant is brought in as an art dealer seizing on the opportunity to educate Ullman and Allen in return for them funding his business plans. May is also on hand as Ullman’s dim-witted hired help and produces a very funny performance. Whilst disjointed, with some of the characters from the first two acts disappearing in the final act, there are great comedic moments, and it is nice to see Allen looking for a change of pace with a broader approach in this film. For the most part it pays off.

Film Review – MIGHTY APHRODITE (1995)

MIGHTY APHRODITE (USA, 1995) ***½
      Distributor: Miramax; Production Company: Sweetland Films / Magnolia Pictures; Release Date: 1 September 1995 (Italy), 27 October 1995 (USA), 12 April 1996 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 October 1994 – 16 December 1994; Running Time: 95m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby SR (Mono); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Woody Allen; Writer: Woody Allen; Executive Producer: J.E. Beaucaire, Jean Doumanian; Producer: Robert Greenhut; Associate Producer: Thomas A. Reilly; Director of Photography: Carlo Di Palma; Music Supervisor: Dick Hyman; Film Editor: Susan E. Morse; Casting Director: Juliet Taylor; Production Designer: Santo Loquasto; Art Director: Tom Warren; Set Decorator: Susan Bode; Costumes: Jeffrey Kurland; Make-up: Fern Buchner, Romaine Greene; Sound: Robert Hein.
      Cast: Woody Allen (Lenny), Mira Sorvino (Linda Ash), Helena Bonham Carter (Amanda), Michael Rapaport (Kevin), F. Murray Abraham (Leader), Olympia Dukakis (Jocasta), David Ogden Stiers (Laius), Jack Warden (Tiresias), Peter Weller (Jerry Bender), Danielle Ferland (Cassandra), Claire Bloom (Amanda’s Mother), Donald Symington (Amanda’s Father), Steven Randazzo (Bud), J. Smith-Cameron (Bud’s Wife), Jeffrey Kurland (Oedipus), Jimmy McQuaid (Max), Paul Giamatti (Extras Guild Researcher), Yvette Hawkins (School Principal), Jennifer Greenhut (Lenny’s Secretary), Kenneth Edelson (Ken).
      Synopsis: When he discovers his adopted son is a genius, a New York sportswriter seeks out the boy’s birth mother: a prostitute.
      Comment: Allen is a sportswriter married to Bonham Carter, an art curator. When they decide to adopt a baby boy who grows up to be a highly intelligent boy, Allen resolves to track down the boy’s mother. When he discovers Sorvino is a porn star, Allen resolves to put her back on the right path, but meanwhile, his own marriage is in trouble as Bonham Carter is wooed by Weller. In one of his most adult comedies, many of Allen’s typical tropes are evident – fragile relationships, personal insecurities, the need to educate and mentor – but there is a freshness in the way they are presented that makes the film a pleasure to watch. A witty narration is provided by a Greek chorus and the story whistles along to its ironic finale. Sorvino is wonderful as the porn star totally lacking in self-awareness and whose naivety charms Allen. The actor-director delivers many funny one-liners as he takes it upon himself to mentor her. The supporting cast is strong with Abraham the leader of the Greek chorus and Rapaport as a dim-witted boxer suckered by Allen into a blind date with Sorvino. Yes, the ending feels a little overly-contrived, but the piece is styled as a parable and largely works in this format. Look out for the many trinkets in Sorvino’s apartment. Dick Hyman acts as music coordinator and arranger presenting a number of standards on the soundtrack. Sorvino was awarded an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress with Allen’s screenplay also nominated.