(US - 2016)
Written and directed by Woody Allen. Cast: Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Jeannie Berlin, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll, Ken Stott, Sari Lennick, Stephen Kunken, Sheryl Lee, Paul Schneider, Anna Camp, Douglas McGrath, Tony Sirico, Richard Portnow, voice of Woody Allen. (PG-13, 96 mins)
CAFE SOCIETY is the annual Woody Allen obligation, 2016 edition, and it's his strongest work since he directed Cate Blanchett to an Oscar in 2013's BLUE JASMINE. Latter-day Allen, particularly in this decade, is wildly inconsistent, ranging from his biggest commercial success in decades with 2011's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS to two of his career worsts with 2012's completely phoned-in TO ROME WITH LOVE and 2015's embarrassing IRRATIONAL MAN. Mainly, late-period Woody consists of mildly enjoyable trifles that are forgotten soon after watching. His 47th film as a director in 47 years (1981 was the last year he took off), CAFE SOCIETY isn't top-tier Allen by any means, but it's better than a lot of what he's done in the last ten or so years, exhibiting a bit more ambition and depth to go along with the requisite Windsor font-opening credits set to a scratchy jazz standard (most of the compositions are new recordings by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks). Working for the first time with the great Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (LAST TANGO IN PARIS, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE LAST EMPEROR), Allen achieves one of his best-looking films with the digitally-shot CAFE SOCIETY, which has a lot of laughs but is never played too broadly, with a melancholy streak that grows more apparent as it goes on.