If you looked at the American box-office revenue for Woody Allen’s movies over the last couple of decades, you would find a body of work that has been at best marginally successful and often less than that. But everything seemed to change with Midnight in Paris.
The film has taken in about $56 million in the United States, according to Box Office Mojo, making it Allen’s most lucrative work in a very long time. Overseas, where Allen’s work is greeted more enthusiastically, it added $83 million to the take. And it appears to be among the contenders in awards season.
Indeed, it is the winter of Woody. He was the subject of and a participant in a recent American Masters documentary that will make its way to home video in February. And Midnight in Paris arrives on video Tuesday (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray).
The film is a sweetly romantic piece starring Owen Wilson as Gil, a Woody-like writer. (Since Allen is now 76, he has taken to hiring surrogates to play the sort of roles he used to do himself.) Gil is one of those folks who wishes he had lived in a more stimulating past — in his case, Paris in the 1920s, when Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and other artistic greats could be seen and heard. A visit to modern Paris with his fiancee (Rachel McAdams) only increases his longing.
Then, late one night, he finds himself transported back to that time, seeing in the flesh his idols — and becoming especially intrigued by a young woman, Adriana (Marion Cotillard). Daytime finds Gil back in the present day, but each night he returns to Paris of the past, taking knowledge from one world to the other.
Midnight in Paris draws on techniques and bits Allen has used in previous (and better) movies. But it has a certain sweetness, a mellowness that was at times missing even when Allen was at the height of his fame and success — before falling in esteem because of his personal scandal. There is a lot of fun and there is a nice turn at the end. And, besides the actors already mentioned, the cast includes Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody (very funny as Salvador Dali).
The lone DVD extra is a five-minute piece from a Midnight in Paris news conference at the Cannes Film Festival.
The juggernaut that is TV’s Glee has hit some rocky spots lately, with much debate over the creative direction of the series and a reported decline in its TV audience. But the warning sign came late in the summer, when a 3-D film shot during the concert tour by the show’s younger cast members could not draw fans into the theaters.
This was somewhat surprising because the movie is for the most part quite entertaining, both in the concert footage and in vignettes about inspiring real-life young people.
To be sure, the film had some of the flaws of the series, including excessive screen time for the ever more irritating Rachel, played by Lea Michele. (The cast members appeared mostly in character for the concerts.) Introductions done on the tour by Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) were not in the film, although they have been made available on the video versions in an On Stage With the Cast extra. But I thought it worked overall.
The video versions from Fox Home Entertainment ($29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 3-D Blu-ray) also add two musical numbers, Dog Days Are Over and Friday (the latter an acoustic version by five of the men). There are also extended versions of Ain’t No Way and the Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again medley, and a backstage segment.
Down video road: Star Trek: The Next Generation will begin its move onto Blu-ray with a three-episode sampler on Jan. 31. It includes the original series pilot and later-season episodes The Inner Light and Sins of the Father. The first season is expected on Blu-ray later in 2012 as the show marks its 25th anniversary.
Also: Logan’s Run, the TV series based on the book and hit movie, comes to DVD on April 10; Gregory Harrison starred. … Criterion will release a four-film set, David Lean Directs Noel Coward, on DVD and Blu-ray on March 27; it includes In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter. … The 1959 TV adaptation of The Jazz Singer, with Jerry Lewis starring, will be on DVD on Feb. 7.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at http://heldenfels.ohio.com and on Facebook and Twitter. He also does a weekly video chat for Ohio.com. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.