Movie Reviews – August 2012

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The Amazing Spider-Man
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters: 07.03
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Didn’t they just do a Spider-Man origin story?” the answer is … “kinda.” It’s been over a decade since Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire brought the superhero to life on the big screen, but after three features, the duo left the franchise, leaving the studio scratching their heads on whom to bring in next. Luckily, and oddly enough, they chose fairly new-to-the-game filmmaker Marc Webb (yes, that really is his last name) and actor Andrew Garfield to re-launch the series. The Amazing Spider-Man is another telling of how Peter Parker (Garfield) becomes the hero web-slinger, but rather than Mary Jane as his love interest, it’s Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Webb focuses his film more on the mystery of the disappearance of Parker’s parents, and does so by introducing audiences to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who inevitably becomes the scaly villain, The Lizard, who once worked with the orphan’s father. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is pure magic to witness as Webb perfectly captures their teenage insecurities and vulnerabilities. Garfield brings a subtle humbleness to the boy inside the suit that makes his character that much more fragile. The main setback with Webb’s undertaking is a lackluster villain who does little to evolve the storyline, and Ifans is given very little to perform. However, with the exceptional performances delivered by the leads, the charming casting of Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and eye-dazzling aerial swinging sequences, Webb has served up an unexpected yet remarkable chapter to the franchise that is on its way to becoming a well crafted trilogy. –Jimmy Martin

The Dark Knight Rises
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 07.20
This comic book blockbuster summer has seen The Avengers break multiple box office records and The Amazing Spider-Man successfully reboot an established franchise, but the time has come for Christopher Nolan to bring his visionary adaptation of one of DC Comic’s largest franchises to a close. The third and final installment finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) eight years after the events of its predecessor. After being blamed for the murder of Harvey Dent, he’s a recluse with a broken spirit and believes the need for Batman is over. As the playboy billionaire sinks further into obscurity, a brutish mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) unleashes a merciless strike on Gotham City, forcing the Dark Knight to return. In order to overthrow the violent menace, the masked vigilante must avoid capture from Gotham’s finest and utilize resources from some unusual characters, including a catty thief (Anne Hathaway) and a rookie beat cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The most respected aspect of Nolan’s trilogy is that it’s well rounded and was clearly mapped out since its inception. While Bale still grumbles his lines of dialogue (which is still more audible than Hardy behind his mask), he presents a powerful presence with the mask both on and off. Undeniably outstanding performances come from Hathaway, who’s tough, vulnerable and sassy, Gordon-Levitt, who’s stronger than ever and poised for greatness, and Michael Caine, who concludes his role as Alfred with a heartfelt performance. The action is top-notch and the Batman versus Bane fistycuffs scenes are unbelievable as you can feel the rage-fueled testosterone with every punch. Nolan bows out of the franchise with a stunning finale that makes the entire journey worthwhile. –Jimmy Martin

GG Allin & The Murder Junkies: Blood, Shit, and Fears
MVD Visual
Available On DVD: 05.22
Unlike many of my male peers in high school, I never got into GG Allin—I just couldn’t take him seriously, opting for more “intellectual” aspects of punk rather than base spectacle—I was essentially a lesbian liberal arts grad student. Approaching my mid-20s, I haven’t been conditioned to appreciate GG Allin, but I do have a theory: Allin ate exquisite meals, ’cause that motherfucker loved to eat his own poo. Approaching Blood, Shit, and Fears, I was aware of the notion of him shitting onstage, but it wasn’t until viewing the first three home-video recordings in Memphis, New Orleans and Knoxville (1991) that I saw and realized, “Whoa. He shit onstage. Now he’s imbibing it and spitting it at people.” Otherwise, the first three performances feature a naked Allin trotting around and fondling his wiener, accosting women as he feels while early-’90s punk dudes wrestle him away. Four of the five show recordings display Allin’s proclivity to have mic problems, whether they won’t emit sound or blare feedback. The third recording, at the Orpheus Theater in Knoxville, begins with the band announcing that Allin won’t play with the rest of them, which pisses the crowd off. Though Allin does appear after a minor audience ruckus of shouting, it made me decide that I kind of like his backing line—they look like Lemmy, but dirtier and in underwear. The later two performances, in Youngstown, Ohio and Richmond, Va., aren’t as crude, but Allin seems more prone to start fights with audience members––1993 was a rough year. Ultimately, I watched GG Allin and the Murder Junkies perform the same seven songs five times and felt depressed that I watched this alone without some bros to make jokes with. Fans will like this, but I haven’t crossed over. –Alexander Ortega

Focus Features
In Theaters: 08.17
Credit (and extensive mental examinations) must be given to those who willingly participate in the grueling work that goes into stop-motion animation features. It’s astonishingly time consuming, but the final product is fascinating to witness, and directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell have tossed their hats into the ring and achieved a entertainingly bizarre, family-friendly horror film that’s scary fun for all ages. Their film, which features multiple homages to classics from the horror genre (i.e. John Carpenter’s theme from “Halloween” used as a ringtone), follows Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an odd child who has the ability to communicate with the deceased, which certainly hasn’t helped his social status among the community. After being informed by his dead uncle that he must maintain an annual ritual to keep the town’s legendary witch at bay, Norman quickly flubs the task and must work with his friends and family to save the town from being ravaged by the undead. As soon as the old-fashioned “Feature Presentation” slide starts the film, it’s evident Butler and Fell are not providing the same ol’ song-and-dance kid film. The animation is unique, and the unnerving images are there for everyone to enjoy. It’s not every day a filmmaker would include a corpse’s tongue rolling onto the face of a juvenile. While the film’s anti-bullying message seems as though it was forced into the storyline in order to appear more pertinent, it’s still well received, but it’s the film’s twist on classic genre components that’s even more welcome. –Jimmy Martin

The Queen of Versailles
Magnolia Pictures
In Theaters: 08.03
Rather than going the been-there-done-that route of a rags-to-riches story, director Lauren Greenfield accidently (yet exquisitely) delivers a riches-to-rags tale with this intimate glimpse into the wealthy lives of David and Jackie Siegel. As the president and CEO of the largest timeshare corporation in the country, David is the epitome of the American dream, and his beauty pageant trophy-wife is living proof. While the film’s initial purpose was to document the development of their 90,000 square-foot home (the largest in America), once the financial crisis of 2008 impacted banks globally, David soon finds his entire empire in jeopardy. Greenfield captures the highs and lows of being in the top 1 percent, even though most of the bottom 99 percent would love to give it a shot no matter the repercussions (I always did want an ice rink in my home). It’s fascinating to watch the discourse between Mr. and Mrs. Siegel, two individuals who came from poverty, but have different interpretations of the importance of life. Watching the chaotic rollercoaster that is Jackie Siegel allows audiences the chance to laugh at the elite. At one moment, you empathize with the princess billionaire with the heart of gold, but once she attempts to classify herself as the “average” person, one can only watch with resentment. Either way, Greenfield offers a crowd-pleasing documentary that leaves a lasting impression on audiences. –Jimmy Martin