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Woody Allen
Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver
Woody Allen

A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$69,480 on 111 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Descriptive Service
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 12/16/2014

• “Behind the Magic” Featurette
• “On the Red Carpet” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 10, 2014)

Just a year shy of his 80th birthday, Woody Allen continues to pump out movies at a relentless pace. Amazingly, Allen last failed to direct a new film in 1981!

2014 brings yet another Allen effort via Magic in the Moonlight. Set in Europe circa 1928, Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) masquerades as a magician called Wei Ling Soo. Despite the nature of his craft, Stanley remains extremely skeptical about any form of mysticism, and he often debunks claims of “real magic”.

Along those lines, Stanley learns of Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), an alleged clairvoyant. Stanley gets the job to figure out how Sophie works her supposed “magic”, and along the way, complications – romantic and otherwise – ensue.

At this point in Allen’s career, we go into the director’s work with a common set of expectations, and Magic checks the usual boxes. Over the last decade, most of his films take place in Europe – check! Allen loves the shenanigans of the idle rich – check! And he seems enamored of stories with a bit of a fantasy twist such as Midnight in Paris - check again!

That 2011 hit offers the high point of Allen’s work since 2005’s Match Point, and Magic can’t recapture its easygoing charm. At best, Magic gives us an amiable romantic comedy, but despite Allen’s merits and the skills of a talented cast, it remains resolutely ordinary.

Much of the problem comes from the film’s essential lack of narrative and its semi-rambling quality. While I don’t require a tight plot, even by Allen’s standards, Magic seems unstructured. It sets up its theme and goes little beyond than that, as it expects us to feel so enamored of its characters that we won’t notice its inherent lack of narrative momentum.

Unfortunately, the personalities lack the magnetism to allow the aimless material to go anywhere. Allen’s gift for dialogue abandons him here, as his attempts at 1930s style snappy patter fall flat. We discover the occasional witty lines but most of the bits remain bland and ordinary.

The overall theme won’t win any awards either. Magic goes with the standard “uptight guy who learns how to live when he meets a free-spirited woman” motif and never expands beyond that. If Allen brings any nuances or freshness to the topic, I can’t discover it.

At least Magic lacks the usual Allen doppelganger, as it boasts no characters who really resemble the Woodman. Uptight Stanley shares some of the typical Allen traits but Firth never attempts to emulate the director, which comes as a relief since most actors who portray faux Woodys fail. Owen Wilson in Paris did better than most because his natural film persona has its own similarities with Woody’s, but I think the sight of Firth as Allen would’ve been a disaster.

Firth does perfectly fine in the lead, as whatever flaws he displays stem more from the lifeless dialogue. The same goes for Stone’s Sophie, as the actor’s normal charm gets a bit lost in the stiffness of the writing. Marcia Gay Harden’s work as Sophie’s mother gives off a few sparks, but she appears on screen too little for this to matter.

Even with these flaws, Magic maintains a moderate level of entertainment value. Maybe I’ve endured enough bad Allen movies over the last few decades that a mediocre one doesn’t bother me. That said, I find it hard to expect that anyone not enamored of Allen’s work will take much from this ordinary film.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Magic in the Moonlight appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the restrictions of SD-DVD, the film looked pretty good.

For the most part, sharpness looked nice. At times, wider shots tended to be a little soft, but those examples weren’t terribly intrusive. Much of the film appeared pretty accurate and concise. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minor. Source flaws also failed to create problems.

In terms of colors, Magic tended to go with a golden hue. The colors veered in a warm direction and looked fine given the stylistic choices. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows showed good delineation. Overall, this was a pleasing presentation.

I thought that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Magic seemed fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most Allen films, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides.

Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. A few scenes opened up better, though, like one in a thunderstorm. However, most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed positive dimensionality. This track was good enough for a “B-“ but didn’t particularly impress.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find two featurettes. Behind the Magic goes for 11 minutes, 21 seconds and offers info from actors Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver and Hamish Linklater. The show looks at character and stories, sets and locations, cast and performances, and working with Woody Allen. “Behind” lacks much depth but it comes with some decent details.

On the Red Carpet fills two minutes, 46 seconds and takes us to the LA premiere. It delivers comments from Firth, Linklater, Weaver, critic Leonard Maltin, producer David Permut and actors Simon McBurney and Erica Leerhsen. They tell us a little about their experiences on the film in this brief, fluffy promo piece.

With 2014’s Magic in the Moonlight, we find average Woody Allen. While it works better than his lesser efforts, it never becomes anything special. The DVD offers mostly good picture and audio as well as minor bonus materials. Allen buffs will probably enjoy it but I can’t recommend it much to others.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
3 3:
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