Woody Allen Gift Set (8 Disc) - Movies - DVD

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Overview

Synopsis


Bananas
One of Woody Allen's earlier, more slapstick-oriented efforts, Bananas tells the story of Fielding Mellish (Allen), a neurotic New Yorker who follows the object of his affections, Nancy (Louise Lasser), to the fictional Central American country of San Marcos, where she is involved in a revolution. Nancy wants nothing to do with Fielding, but he soon becomes a guest of the country's dictator (Carlos Montalban), before accidentally becoming the leader of San Marcos himself. Fielding is eventually shipped back to the US and tried as a subversive, but being that this is a comedy, and an especially light one at that, everything works out in the end. A far cry from Allen's later, more somber films, Bananas still works as an often hilarious amalgam of sight gags, one-liners, and bizarre asides. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi, Rovi

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask
Woody Allen's in-name-only adaptation of the once notorious sexual reference guide by Dr. David Reuben contains seven episodes based on "helpful" questions answered in the book. In "Do Aphrodisiacs Work?", Allen appears as a court jester who uses a love potion to spark the erotic interests of the Queen (Lynn Redgrave). "What Is Sodomy?" stars Gene Wilder as a doctor who throws away his marriage, career, and position in the community when he falls madly in love with an Armenian sheep named Daisy. "Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching Orgasm?" is a parody of stylish Italian films of the '60s in which a slick playboy (Woody Allen) discovers his wife (Louise Lasser) can climax only when they make love in public places. In "Are Transvestites Homosexuals?," Sam (Lou Jacobi) has his little secret revealed at a most inopportune moment. "What Are Sex Researchers Actually Accomplishing?" features John Carradine in a great parody of his mad-scientist roles as Dr. Bernardo, whose research into human sexuality has led to a fearsome mutation -- a 50-foot tall female breast! "What Are Sexual Perversions?" takes us to a broadcast of the popular game show What's My Perversion?, in which Jack Barry leads a panel of celebrities (including Regis Philbin and Robert Q. Lewis) in guessing the erotic obsessions of their guests. And "What Happens During Ejaculation?" takes the audience inside the body of a man in the throes of passion; The Brain (Tony Randall) guides the body's functions, with the help of his assistant (Burt Reynolds), while Allen plays a nervous sperm cell not sure if he can make the big jump. While the quality of the episodes is uneven, the best rank with the funniest moments of Allen's career, especially Gene Wilder's touching romance with the sheep ("I think we can make this work, Daisy") and the final sequence inside the male body ("What if he's only masturbating? I'll end up on the ceiling somewhere!"). ~ Mark Deming, Rovi, Rovi

Sleeper
In 1973, health-food store owner Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) enters the hospital for a routine gall bladder operation. When he expires on the operating table, Miles' sister requests permission to cryogenically freeze her brother's body. After 200 years, Miles is unwrapped by a group of scientists and awakens to a "brave new world" of deadening conformity, ruled with an iron fist by a never-seen leader. Miles is forced to flee for his life when the scientists -- actually a group of revolutionary activists -- are overpowered by the leader's police. He eludes the cops by pretending to be an android, and in this guise is sent to work at the home of Luna (Diane Keaton), a composer of greeting cards who thinks that the world of the future is perfect as it stands. There's more, but why spoil your fun? Sleeper is the most visual of Woody Allen's earlier films, and demonstrated a more pronounced rapport between Allen and his off- and onscreen leading lady Diane Keaton than had previously existed. The Dixieland score is performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi

Love and Death
Woody Allen's Love and Death is purportedly a satire of all things Russian, from Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky novels to Sergei Eisenstein films, but it plays more like a spin on Bob Hope's Monsieur Beaucaire. Allen plays Boris, a 19th century Russian who falls in love with his distant (and married) cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton). Pressed into service with the Russian army during the war against Napoleon, Boris accidentally becomes a hero, then goes on to win a duel against a cuckolded husband (Harold Gould). He returns to Sonja, hoping to settle down on the Steppes somewhere, but Sonja has become fired up with patriotic fervor, insisting that Boris join a plot to kill Napoleon. Intellectual in-jokes abound in Love and Death, and other gags are basic Allen one-liners; for instance, after being congratulated for his lovemaking skills, Boris replies nonchalantly, "I practice a lot when I'm alone." The pseudo-Russian ambience of Love and Death is comically enhanced by the Sergey Prokofiev compositions on the musical track. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi

Annie Hall
Woody Allen's romantic comedy of the Me Decade follows the up and down relationship of two mismatched New York neurotics. Jewish comedy writer Alvy Singer (Allen) ponders the modern quest for love and his past romance with tightly-wound WASP singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton, née Diane Hall). The twice-divorced Alvy knows that it's not easy to find a mate when the options include pretentious New York intellectuals and lifestyle-obsessed Rolling Stone writers, but la-di-dah-ing Annie seems different. Along the rocky road of their coupling, Allen/Alvy weigh in on such topics as endless therapy, movies vs. TV, the absurdity of dating rituals, anti-Semitism, drugs, and, in one of the best set pieces, repressed Midwestern WASP insanity vs. crazy Brooklyn Jewish boisterousness. Annie wants to move to Los Angeles to find that fame that finally does in the relationship -- but not before Alvy gets in a few digs at vacuous, mantra-fixated California. Originally entitled Anhedonia (the inability to enjoy oneself), Annie Hall blended the slapstick and fantasy from such earlier Allen films as Sleeper (1973) and Bananas (1971) with the more autobiographical musings of his stand-up and written comedy, using an array of such movie techniques as talking heads, splitscreens, and subtitles. Within these gleeful formal experiments and sight gags, Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman skewered 1970s solipsism, reversing the happy marriage of opposites found in classic screwball comedies. Hailed as Allen's most mature and personal film, Annie Hall beat out Star Wars for Best Picture and also won Oscars for Allen as director and writer and for Keaton as Best Actress; audiences enthusiastically responded to Allen's take on contemporary love and turned Keaton's rumpled menswear into a fashion trend. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi, Rovi

Interiors
Diane Keaton, Kristin Griffith, and Mary Beth Hurt play Renata, Flyn, and Joey, the grown daughters of wealthy Arthur (E.G. Marshall) and his emotionally disturbed wife, Eve (Geraldine Page). When Arthur leaves Eve, her three daughters rally around her. As it turns out, none of the daughters are ideally suited to provide an "anchor" for their distracted mother, but all four women are strengthened by their renewed relationship. Interiors received five Oscar nominations, including Best Director for Woody Allen, Best Original Screenplay for Allen, Best Actress for Geraldine Page, Best Supporting Actress for Maureen Stapleton (who plays Arthur's new love), and Best Art Direction for Mel Bourne and Daniel Robert. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi

Manhattan
On the heels of Annie Hall, the Oscar-winning romantic comedy that rocketed Woody Allen to the front ranks of American filmmakers, Manhattan continued Allen's romantic obsessions in a slightly darker, more pessimistic vein. Allen stars as Isaac Davis, a TV comedy writer sick of the pap he is forced to churn out and harboring dreams of being the great American novelist. His love life is in barbed-wire territory: he is tormented by his second ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), a lesbian who has written a tell-all book about their marriage, and he is dating teenager Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), to whom he refuses to commit, and keeps hinting that a breakup may be imminent. Isaac's disillusioned (and married) best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) has begun an affair with the cerebral writer Mary Wilke (Diane Keaton). While Isaac makes a last minute, sink-or-swim decision to quit his job and devote all of his time to book writing, and neurotically moans about what the lack of a full time job will do to him ("My parents won't have as good of a seat in the synagogue," he moans. "They'll be far away from God... away from the action") Yale is crippled by his lack of resolve, as indicated by his inability to leave his wife Emily (Anne Byrne). Meanwhile, Isaac and Mary begin to fall for one another. Tracy then tells Isaac the basic truth that none of his hung-up friends and past lovers fully realizes: "You have to have a little more faith in people." Manhattan is both a seriocomic dissection of perpetually dissatisfied New Yorkers and an ode to the city itself, filmed in glorious black-and-white by ace cinematographer Gordon Willis, and set to a score of rhapsodic George Gershwin music. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi

Stardust Memories
Woody Allen's tenth film as writer/director, Stardust Memories opens with a scene reminiscent of the opening of 8 1/2 and continues to use that film for inspiration. Sandy Bates (Allen) sits in a train at a train station, the car filled with very unhappy looking people. In a train on another set of tracks, Bates sees a wonderful party going on. A beautiful woman blows him a kiss as the happy train pulls out of the station. Bates is a famous film director who has been invited to attend a festival of his work being held at the Stardust hotel. He attends the event, but is ceaselessly harassed by fans who accost him and repel him in equal measure. While consistently hearing the complaints from fans, critics, and even space aliens that his earlier comedies are superior to his dramatic work, Bates juggles a trio of women in his private life. His encounters during the course of the retrospective force Bates to take a long look at himself. Sharon Stone makes one of her first film appearances as the woman who blows Sandy a kiss. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi, Rovi



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