Thursday, December 30, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

I am, by no means, an art connoisseur, but this movie seemed really intriguing to me because I've seen these street art images and I wanted to know more about them. I'm glad I picked this documentary because it was great.

Thierry Guetta is a French immigrant who has lived in Los Angeles for the latter half of his life. He is married with three kids and had a successful clothing boutique. Always attached to his hand was a video camera. While on a family trip, he found out his cousin was street artist Invader. Guetta was immediately taken with the movement and began to follow the artists he was introduced to with cameras. Going back and forth between Paris and La for years, Thierry needed to meet the most elusive of street artists: Banksy. One lucky happenstance later, they were traveling around LA together with Banksy believing he was shooting a documentary. At the time, the footage was just being stored in a box. After Banksy realizes this, he suggests that Thierry go out and make his own art. Little did he know, he was creating a monster.

Not a film about Banksy, but a film by Banksy about Mr. Brainwash, Thierry Guetta. This film is as much about the street art world as it is about the ease of spreading commercialism and creating artists out of nobodies. It takes a shot at the notion of celebrity and what it really takes to be an artist. Guetta clearly ruffled some feathers and, whether you like his art or not, his road to artistry is a story unique enough to be shared, and I'm glad it was. I only wish there was more. Enjoy. Grade: A-

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Get Low (2010)

Oscar season tends to bring out the best in movies that are not as good as the performances in them. This movie is again the case with a great performance by Robert Duvall but a slow moving film, to say the least.

Circa 1930, Felix Bush (Duvall) is a hermit. He lives in a house on 20 some acres in the far end of town. He's the type of person children heard stories of as being a monster. The type of person who has a reputation and does nothing to help clear it. After hearing an elderly man in town died, he realizes he must not have that much time left either. He asks the cash strapped funeral director Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) to help him throw a live funeral, so he could hear the stories people had to tell of him. To up the ante, he is also going to raffle off his land during the proceeding. However, when the sister of the woman he used to love shows up, he realizes that this is the time to get a horrible secret of his chest. And he needs her and the whole town to hear it and perhaps change their perception of the crazy old coot who lives in the woods.

Robert Duvall was terrific. Just the speech he gives towards the end alone is Oscar worthy, though I know he may not even get nominated. Bill Murray and Lucas Black were good as the funeral workers who must put up with him. What hurts the actors chances is the slow and almost dull pace of the movie. Not every movie needs to be consistently moving, but there needs to be something gripping you during those down times. This movie did not have that. See it for the performances, but don't expect a whole lot else. Grade: B-

The Town (2010)

What guy doesn't love a good heist movie? Even better when it's a great heist movie, like the exciting, yet poorly titled The Town. This movie just adds to Ben Affleck directing resume.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) is part of the Not F--king Around Crew, a group of criminals in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood who specialize in bank robberies and armored car heists. His best friend is Jem (Jeremy Renner) and he is the out-of-control member of the group. The one who keeps his emotions on his sleeve. After a bank robbery where the alarm is triggered, the group takes the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) as a precaution in case the cops show up. After they let her go, it's Doug's job to follow her and see if she's talked to the FBI. While doing that, Doug strikes up a relationship with her and soon starts to fall in love. It's at that point when he realizes that she has talked to the feds. He's battling his feelings from both sides, while also trying to get out Charlestown and out of the bank robbing business. But it's not that easy. He's going to have to work his way out.

This movie proves that when Ben Affleck is really trying, he's not that bad of an actor. This also continues to follow on the steps of Gone Baby Gone and prove he is a terrific director. While I'll always hold a candle for Gone, I really liked this movie. It's tough to tolerate the Boston accent, but it really felt authentic. Also helping was Jeremy Renner, who is continuing his hot streak of great acting roles. I think he's assured a Best Supporting Actor nod for this. Go see it. Grade: A

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I had a friggin' blast watching this movies. It's a video game/comic geek's dream. Fast-talking, high-flying with unbelievable effects. Just fun times.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a very poor bass player for Sex Bob-Omb. They have a hard time getting gigs and making any real money. Scott is also coming off a rough break up and begins dating a high-schooler named Knives. Before long though, he sees the literal girl of his dreams in Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He basically stalks her until she finally agrees to "hang out" with him, leaving Knives in a lurch. Before they've really even started dating, Scott is greeted by Ramona's 1st Evil Ex-Boyfriend. After defeating him, Scott comes find he has 6 other Evil Exes (including Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman) to beat before Ramona is all his. The Exes continue to get harder and harder and now he's trying to decide whether it's even worth it at all.

This movie was fun as hell. Be prepared for fast moving action and dialogue that keeps coming and coming. There are also plenty of video game references to go around. You do need to escape reality a bit because they are living in this video game world where people glide around and burst into coins as they die. That being said, the dialogue was a bit weak at times, but that's to be expected from a comic book movie. Cera was perfect for this role but the MVP of this movie was Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate Wallace. Every time he said something I was laughing. Go see this if you want just a great time. Grade: A-

Monday, December 13, 2010

True Grit (2010)

This movie was terrific. It was classic Coen Brothers. Every character was very well developed and, yup you guessed it, authentically gritty. But really, can Jeff Bridges do no wrong?

Fourteen year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is on a mission to avenge the death of her father by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Since she's a child, she sets out to find help and comes across Rooster Cogburn (Bridges). Cogburn is a fat, drunk, one-eyed Marshall who has a seedy reputation but always tends to get his man...dead or alive. After finally agreeing to Mattie's terms, Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon) also joins the manhunt for Chaney. The ranger and Rooster are at odds from the start and Ross is stuck in the middle trying to be the adult of the situation. As they get closer to Chaney, the path gets more treacherous and they take a sneakier approach. But Chaney's now teamed up with a gang of criminals. How are three people going to be able to outsmart that band of misfits? Can they?

Like I said, Jeff Bridges can practically do no wrong. He was terrific in this and I bet is up for another Oscar nod. Damon and Brolin were there usual great selves but I was most impressed by 13 year old Steinfeld. The way she kept her own against all of those seasoned veterans was amazing. She is a sure bet for a nomination. I highly recommend this. Grade: A

Monday, December 6, 2010

Get Him to The Greek (2010)

To put it lightly, this movie was a total disappointment. I love Russell Brand's style of comedy and I don't mind Jonah Hill's, but this just was an unfunny mess.

Ten years after rocker Aldous Snow (Brand) and his band Infant Sorrow rocked The Greek club in LA, he is a solo artist who just produced the "Worst Single of the Decade." Many feel he's lost his edge. Aaron Green (Hill) is a low level talent scout at Pinnacle Records, under the tutelage of Sergio Roma (Sean Combs). He convinces Sergio that an Infant Sorrow reunion show at The Greek is a good idea and so Pinnacle sends him to London to get Aldous out of his binging ways long enough to return to LA. What follows is a mess of run-ins, debacles, drug-mulings and misplaced tomfoolery. The question soon stops being "When," but rather "If?"

While it had some fleeting comedy, the bulk of the movie was such a drag. Brand's usual quick witted sense of humor was lost in a road trip movie. Combs was surprisingly good in his role. He had had smaller roles in other movies (Monster's Ball), but this seemed to fit him. The supporting cast was non-existent despite being the talented Rose Byrne and Elisabeth Moss. All in all, don't see this. Don't waste you're time. Watch the genius that is Forgetting Sarah Marshall again and forget this mess. Grade: C-.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (2010)

I liked this movie, but I was not thoroughly impressed. I was hoping it would build on the Half Blood Prince, which I thought was the 2nd best of the franchise. It was great to see how dark and subversive the actors can get for a "kids" book.

As Lord Voldemort is gaining power, he is going to use any means necessary to obtain and kill his nemesis, Harry Potter. This means that Harry and his friends must go into hiding. The Dursleys abandon Harry and Hermoine makes it so her parents have no memory of her ever existing. Let the life on the run begin. With the Death Eaters closing in and surrounding the group, the main three decide to run off on their own, disapparating from place to place in an effort to destroy all of the remaining Horcrux. But the effects of the horcrux are beginning to take hold of Harry, Ron and Hermoine. Jealousy and betrayal begin to rear their ugly heads and now they must weather to battle within themselves, as well as surviving a life on the run. All of this is will come to a head in Part II.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have made such strides as actors since this series began that they were more than capable of putting this movie on their shoulders and, with this movie, the standout was Grint. He went through a range of emotions that was both frightening and impressive at the same time. It helped because for long stretches of this, I was bored. The actions and intensity of certain parts made up for it, and I know it's building towards a sequel, but it was still no fun for parts. That being said, I am excited for the conclusion of the franchise. I do recommend this, but heed my previous warnings.