Monday, January 14, 2013

Seeking the Queen Raven

     In today's reviews we will be taking a look at an apocalyptic dramedy, a happy accident of a documentary, and a highly disappointing thriller.  Somewhat of a mixed bag, but let's open it anyway.  First up...

  Seeking a Friend For the End of the World - I am very picky about my comedies, but Steve Carell in the starring role is usually enough enticement to get me to check one out.  I find his ability to play even the most bizarre situations in a perfectly believable manner to be unparalleled in his generation, matched only by the great Bill Murray.  He is in typical top form here, even if the script is just slightly above average.
     I have not seen Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the film produced from screenwriter and director Lorene Scafaria's first script, but I am not particularly blown away by her sophomore effort.  There is some potential in evidence here, but it is far from realized.  The movie falls into the trap that many dramedies do and becomes too middle of the road.  The funny parts are too subdued, and the thematic development fails to go deep enough.  Everything becomes "kinda funny".
     Fortunately, Mr. Carrell and co-star Keira Knightley have excellent chemistry onscreen as well as terrific mutual comic timing.  This keeps the film watchable.  The picture is also improved by the presence of several notable supporting turns by performers such as Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt, and Melanie Linsky, just to name a few.  Thanks to the high caliber of acting involved, I do give this film a reserved recommendation.
3 1/2 of 5*

  The Raven - I had this real thing for the works of Edgar Allen Poe in high school, so no amount of poor reviews were going to keep me from checking this film out.  What did I think?  Well...
     I know director James McTeague is capable of better.  V for Vendetta was flawed, but FAR better than this.  I imagine him sitting behind a greasy recipe book and reading...
  Add 1 part Sherlock Holmes to 1 part Se7en and 3 parts cheese.  Several shots of vodka.  Stir until soggy but far from smoothly blended.  Have former respected indie star recite lines over phone into batter.  Preheat    expectations as high as possible, then leave concept in oven until thoroughly half baked.  (Try to stay awake until it is finished). Serve with relish.
     Mr. John Cusack is a talented actor with a wry sense of wit.  Projects like this and the disaster flick 2012 completely fail to utilize his strongest skill sets.
     If the film has one saving grace, it is that Alice Eve delivers a beautiful reading of "Annabelle Lee".  Told you I had a thing for Poe.  1 1/2 of 5*

     The Queen of Versailles - Sometimes great things just happen, without really being planned.  Such is the case with this documentary.  It started out as a film about a family that was building the largest residential home in America, modeled after the French palace Versailles.  Unexpectedly, the family gets caught in the recent financial collapse and the story changes radically.
     Somehow the whole accidental storyline comes together beautifully.  Despite their opulent lifestyle, you feel for the family when they struggle.  Yet you have to laugh at them a bit at the same time.  All of the viewer's emotions become engaged and you can't help but walk away from the film feeling that all people, whatever divides of wealth or culture may exist between them, have more in common than seems readily apparent.  This is the first of director Lauren Greenfield's documentaries that I have seen, but I'm very interested to see what she does in the future.  I can easily recommend The Queen of Versailles.  4 1/2 of 5*

     And that's it for this time.  My reviews have fallen a bit behind my viewing, so forgive me if my next few posts seem a little bit rushed as I catch up.

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