Matthew Lickona 2:02 p.m., Sept. 23
Magic in the Moonlight
A magician (Simon McBurney) asks a lifelong friend and arrogant rival illusionist (Colin Firth) to help debunk a captivating young spiritualist (a regrettably miscast Emma Stone). Set in 1928, there’s bewitchment in production designer Anne Seibel’s ritzy period recreation and Darius Khondji buffed ‘Scope cinematography, but Woody Allen doesn’t have enough rabbits up his sleeve to pad what had the makings of a dynamite third of a trilogy to feature-length proportions. Allen has always displayed a fascination with the romantically transformative power of magic, but not even Houdini’s sleight of hand could have done much to beguile audiences with this talky, half-conjured chicanery. It might have worked had Woody been able to spark the illusion of romance between Firth and Stone, but together they make chemistry disappear and simply deliver the expository dialog as directed. With Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jacki Weaver. 2014.