Thursday, August 16, 2012


"There's a downside for everything," someone says midway through Lauren Greenfield's entertaining documentary, The Queen of Versailles. The queen here is Jackie Siegel and "Versailles" is the new house, a 90,000 sq ft, 30-bathroom behemoth in Orlando, being built by her and her husband--David Siegel, founder of Westgate Resorts, the largest time share company in the world. The downside in this case? The house is only half-built, one of a litany of casualties resulting from the recession of recent years.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Month in Review: July 2012

Belatedly, things I watched in July:

After seeing Whit Stillman's terrific Damsels in Distress a couple of months ago, I wanted to catch up on his work. Having already seen his 1990 debut Metropolitan several years ago, I settled on his second feature, Barcelona. Similar to those others, it focuses on characters who are hyper self-aware and upper class, with Stillman's particular ear for affected and stylized dialogue that is both funny and piercing.

My review of The Amazing Spider-Man is linked here. In a summer that also saw The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, I'm pretty comfortable saying--though thoroughly surprised to do so--that it's probably my favorite superhero movie this year.

Like clockwork, Woody Allen comes out with a new film every year. Continuing his recent European tour, he lands in Italy with To Rome With Love, following a large cast of characters in a vain similar to his recent You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger or his mid-90s musical, Everyone Says I Love You. Allen's in typical form here--both as a writer/director and, in a rare occasion (first since 2006's Scoop), as an actor. Like the jazz he loves, a lot of Allen's work these days are merely variations on a theme. It's not Annie Hall, or even Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but if you're attuned to his particular rhythms (and enjoy them), it's worth a try.

I'd provide a link to my review of Seth MacFarlane's Ted, but somehow more than half of it got deleted. I don't care enough to go back and rewrite it, so in a nutshell, I found it sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, most times completely unfunny. MacFarlane tries to be raunchy and offensive without fully getting there. Part of what makes humor work is when the comic goes for it. In this case, I would've actually liked Ted to be raunchier. Much of the remaining humor comes simply from the presence of obscenities. The rest of it is hit-or-miss and a B-story involving a creepy Giovanni Ribisi (redundant?) doesn't work at all.

I caught up with Robert Redford's directorial debut Ordinary People, the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 1980. It's a dark and emotional film with nice performances all around, including an against-type turn for Mary Tyler Moore (more famous for her comedic work on The Dick Van Dyke Show and her own self-titled sitcom) as the tough mother dealing with the death of one of her sons.

I also attended my first ever press screening for Lauren Greenfield's hit Sundance documentary, The Queen of Versailles. I'll post my (positive) review of it upon its release locally at the Enzian later this month.

If I'm correct, then The Dark Knight Rises is the last superhero comic book movie to be released this summer and, frankly, not a moment too soon. As I alluded to in my review, while I may have enjoyed it sitting in the theater, it immediately loses its luster the moment its assault on you finally stops and your senses begin to recover.


The last superhero... until the next one.

The movie summer of 2012 may very well go down as the summer of the comic book superhero, with one major franchise getting its reboot and two others reaching its apparent apex.


What to expect when you're expecting.

It's impossible, going into any movie you even know the slightest bit of information about, to leave your expectations at the door. As a critic, you do your best to be open to what you're about to see. We want the movies to be good. Sure, quietly I think some enjoy (I sometimes do) being able to make fun of a movie we think is just by most standards laughable. But that's when we encounter a movie that actually deserves it. Otherwise, we approach each movie hoping for the best.

Unless, of course, we expect much less. We're only human after all and it's difficult, with the endless promotions, the commercials, the cross-platform tie-ins, and, more importantly, the multiple-film franchises, to not sit down at a screening without some measure of pre-judgment or, worse, outright cynicism.