Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Assorted Reviews - 7-11-12

To Rome With Love

Woody Allen has always been very touch and go with me. Sometimes, he absolutely wows me with movies that are both artistic and thoughtful, while having a distinctly European air that adds weight and a desire to travel to the story that he creates. Other times, he creates an annoying piece of crap that slaps the audience in the face repeatedly with his uniquely annoying brand of comedy. Match Point and Midnight in Paris represent the former category. Scoop and To Rome With Love represent the latter.

In a film that could be renamed Casual Infidelity: The Movie, we are treated to a handful of two-dimensional shallow short stories that almost utterly fail to engage. This would be tolerable if it did a good job of capturing the city of Rome and what it must be like to travel there, but instead we are treated to a sequence of simplistic plots that seem out of some college teacher's Intro to Fiction 101 syllabus that just happen to take place in Rome. In short, my theory holds true: if a movie created by Woody Allen also stars Woody Allen, it is destined to suck.


I had zero expectations for this movie. A movie about a CGI teddy bear? Does nobody remember the failure of Garfield and every children's movie that's been made on a CGI animal before? And Seth McFarlane? I must admit, I'm a member of that tiny minority that sees Family Guy, American Dad, etc etc ad infinitum, and cringes. I've never been a huge fan of that type of humor for quite some time.

But then the movie turned out to be rather charming. Oh, I know. You were expecting the worst. But it actually managed to convincingly make me care for that damned teddy bear, even when it was being a vulgar, furry little fuck. Despite my fears, it was a rather touching movie that told the story of one guy's childhood friend, how they grew up together, and how they affect each others' lives, for better or worse, now that they're adults. For anyone who has ever had a friend who was considered a “bad influence”, you'll empathize with Ted. It isn't the greatest comedy I've seen, but it was pretty damn good considering how terrible it could have been.

Winston's War: Churchill – 1940-1945

This book is spectacular. Essentially, what it is is a narrative of World War II from the perspective of Winston Churchill, and boy is it a great one. Winston Churchill is one of the most epic figures I've ever read about in history, and Max Hastings' writing succeeds brilliantly in capturing Churchill's indomitable spirit, romantic bent, and utter determination.

This is a man who, despite a country that flip-flopped between wanting to negotiate surrender with the Naxis and wanting to just let the rest of the world worry about Hitler, wrested control of the spirits of Great Britain to hold out against the most fierce military machine the world had ever seen. It's hard to convey the sheer amount of obstacles that confronted the Prime Minister at every stage of the war; he had to deal with a population that found “Uncle Joe” (Stalin) and Communism more likable than the Americans, people harassing him to open up a second front in Europe by himself, despite the impossibility of doing so, and a United States President (Roosevelt) who constantly undermined him in order to insure that the U.S. Achieved dominance, materially and influentially.

Sadly, due to the failure of my Kindle, I got only 70% into the book before having to 'put it down', but I would still recommend this as one of the most addicting and inspirational biographies/histories I've ever read. It is even better than Hastings' Retribution, in my book, as, unlike Retribution's smorgasbord of different stories from different civilians and soldiers, Winston's War has a more singular and effective narrative that keeps you hooked.

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