Monday, November 12, 2012

Summer Movie Roundup #4

This is the second of my catch-all posts passing summary judgements on movies I saw over the past few months (mostly last summer), for which I didn't get around to composing full reviews.  Last week I covered the movies I did not like.  This week, some that I enjoyed but fell short of classic (or even semi-classic) status.

Hysteria (Tanya Wexler)- This is an oddball kind of movie, with a provocative theme about doctors treating women for the titular malady in the nineteenth century, but the tone is almost that of a screwball comedy.  Maggie Gyllenhall, who is usually pretty good, goes over the top with the stereotypical elements of her role as the crusading feminist, but the rest of the cast strike just the right tone (Rupert Everett, as the main character's dissolute best friend is the best).  I wouldn't go out of my way to see this again, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend one evening.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb)- This franchise has developed to the point that it requires little more than strong actors and top of the line special effects to maintain its entertainment value (or maybe that's just inherent to the character?).  But now, a little while after seeing it, I can't remember any particular points that made it special, and certainly nothing to justify a retelling of the origin story so shortly after the Tobey McGuire version (was that even ten years ago?).

Bernie (Richard Linklater)- I could rank this higher just on style alone, but in the end the story is just a bit too slight to stand with Linklater's best work (though, now that I think of it, the plots to Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, and School of Rock aren't exactly Tolstoian in conception either).  Jack Black plays a beloved small town mortician who murders Shirley MacLaine playing a small town harridan, and the rest of the community wants him to get away with it.  I have a feeling that this is a movie that will grow in my estimation when I see it again, which is almost a sure thing.     

God Bless America (Bobcat Goldthwait)-  I was always a fan of Bobcat Goldthwait's stand-up comedy, and he's brought his peculiarly warped sensibility to the movies he's directed (check out World's Greatest Dad as well-- quite possibly the best Robin Williams movie ever).  This is truly black comedy, as an ordinary schlub, mistakenly believing that he is dying, goes on a murderous spree targeting all the idiots who diminish our collective humanity (you know, like reality TV stars and high school bullies).  The humor is extremely dry as well as dark, so this won't be for everyone, but I found it among the most original movies I've seen in years.  The picture above features the stars Joel Murray (Bill's little brother) and Tara Lynn Barr, both of whom are excellent.

Next time, I'll list out my favorites from last summer.

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