Tag Archives: 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

(Originally written March 6th 2010)

Released: March 26th 2010
Plot: A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

Review: I think there are only 2 things that I’ll get up at 8am for on a Saturday, free food or a free screening. In this case, it’s the latter.  I managed to wake up and schlepped some 15 miles away all for a free IMAX movie. I was grumpy, tired, and SURROUNDED by little kids with lots of energy and parents who couldn’t control them. When the movie started, the first thing we see is a bouncing ball jumping out at us to basically inform the audience that yes, this is indeed in 3D. My eyes hate 3D because I can’t 3D that well and just based off this little graphic, I was sure I was going to hate this movie. But I was very wrong.

The movie jumps right into the action. The Viking village is under attack by dragons and all the Vikings are running around fighting off the dragons and trying to save their food.  Stoick, the head Viking voiced by Gerard Butler, is running around barking orders. People are scrambling, buildings are burning and debris is flying at us causing lots of kids to scream and yell, ”WOAH!” at the screen.  The villagers begin knocking the dragons out of the sky one by one but they’re no match for the most dangerous dragon, Night Furry.

Lots of movies made for kids about scrawny heroes tend to follow a simple layout: Kid is weak. People don’t like kid. Kid needs to prove self. Kid finds way to prove self. It blows up in kids face. Kid had what he needed all along. People like kid. End of movie.  But this is a movie made by DreamWorks Animation. Sure they don’t have the budget or the writing staff of Disney but, they come very close.  DreamWorks Animation has produced hits like Shrek, Madagascar, Kung-Fu Panda, and Monsters vs. Aliens.  Kung-Fu Panda was one of my top 10 movies in 2008. It has a very typical story line about an underdog making it to the top, (remember that layout?) but it wasn’t just the story that held my attention, it was the attention put into making the audience like and relate to the characters.  That’s what DreamWorks Animation tends to do, and that’s what they do in this movie.

Hiccup isn’t a very strong kid but he’s kind and smart. And Jay Baruchel does a great job at voicing his character. He wasn’t annoying or just some random kid, he was Hiccup.  The animators managed to give him and lots of other characters in the movie a personality and personally, that’s something I think every movie should have.  Many film makers believe that kids don’t need character development. They just throw a character on screen and make them do their bidding. DreamWorks adds life to their characters which is why Shrek has become such a huge franchise for them.  You throw in some personality and great voice-over actors and you’ve got a hit. In this case, throw in some 3D IMAX and you’ve got a super hit.

Hiccup later goes to find Night Furry only to discover that he injured him while trying to take him down and that he’s still wrapped in his ropes. He frees him and Night Furry attacks, but doesn’t kill him like he was taught a dragon should do.  He observes him for a few days and helps Night Furry fly again by giving him an artificial tail wing.   It’s during this time that we get to know Night Furry now renamed Toothless by Hiccup because it appears he doesn’t have teeth but they are actually retractable. Toothless is very similar to Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. Both How to Train Your Dragon and Lilo and Stich were directed and written by Dean DeBlois.  Both characters have the same stubborn attitude and both characters look the same; big round eyes, cute big nose, big floppy ears and big smile.  They both are slightly frightening but gentle and cute creatures much like my Landseer Newfound or a bulldog. But, of course, Stitch is an alien and can talk and Toothless is a dragon and does not talk. Instead, he roars and grunts in a very adorable way.  I wouldn’t be surprised if an animated series is in the works for this movie like Lilo and Stitch. In fact, being a huge fan of Lilo and Stitch, I look forward to it.

I was really surprised with the 3D.  I expected spears, knives and daggers to be penetrating the screen every few seconds but it wasn’t like that at all.  The most 3D came during the action scenes.  There were a few moments where a splash of water would jump out at us, but overall it was nothing too distracting.

Every actor was awesome. Craig Ferguson channeled his inner silly Scotsman through his character Gobber and Jonah Hill’s character Snotlout reminded me of a small teenage Jack Black. The animation was great and surpasses Shrek. I would expect it too considering Shrek is 9 years its senior.

This movie was really fun, and I’m glad I got to see it in IMAX 3D. Normally I’m anti 3D, but in this case, it was done really well. I never thought I’d be saying that about any type of 3D movie. I’m sure this movie will become a franchise with a silly character like Hiccup and a lovable one like Toothless. The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that all of the adults in the village spoke with these thick Scottish accents while all the teens spoke with American accents. Maybe it’s just a generational thing like when your Scottish grandmother emigrated to the U.S.A and spawned future blood lines.  In that case, it makes sense.

(I should note that I recently saw an Episode of Craig Ferguson and he says shut up about the accent, it’s just a movie.)

9 out of 10


Vampires Suck (2010)

Released: August 18th, 2010

Plot: A spoof of vampire-themed movies, where teenager Becca finds herself torn between two boys. As she and her friends wrestle with a number of different dramas, everything comes to a head at their prom.

Review: Now, you may be wondering why I’m watching a movie that was written and directed by the same guys who wrote and directed Disaster Movie, Date Movie and Epic Movie (all of which would end up in my “most hated movies” list) Well, the answer is, I’m a sadomasochist and I enjoy putting myself through vigorous amounts of agony. Oh and Ken Jeong.

It’s a well-known FACT that Disaster Movie and Epic Movie are two of the worst parody movies ever made. So one may wonder why director/writers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer would even attempt to pen another parody. Well for one, these movies always make back what is put into them and then some. And for two, redemption. The latter may not be true but, I like to think it is. Friedberg and Seltzer’s past parodies have proven to be way over the top, boring, and completely non-sequitur to the movie’s title. In Vampires Suck, both directors have seemed to catch on to their past movies flaws, and refined the meat of their movie.

Vampires Suck is about vampires (duh) and parodies The Twilight Trilogy with focus on Twilight and New Moon. Scary Movie is a parody that focuses on one single concept (scary movies) and parodies it throwing in a pop culture jab here and there. Both writers had a hand in writing Scary Movie and, unfortunately, didn’t take that format with them. Instead, they are known for taking an abundance of pop culture references (such as Amy Winehouse and Juno in Disaster Movie) and squeezing them all in to one movie. It’s distracting and the movies are usually all over the place. But not in this movie.

Vampires Suck follows Becca and Edward who are obviously meant to parallel Bella and Edward.  This movie does a good job at following the Twilight story and picking at all the angst and annoying things we hate about Kristen Stewart and Bella. It shows just how funny and ridiculous Twilight truly is without the need for Miley Cyrus to pop in and out. This movie actually has a plot and one that won’t leave you wishing for the movie to be over. The jokes aren’t the funniest in the world, but I got a good chuckle or two out of them. Heck, I’ll admit, I even laughed out loud a few times. If you don’t know things like who the Black Eyes Peas are then these are moments you’ll be scratching your head thinking “I don’t get it.”

When it comes to spoofing anything, it’s best to have actors that do a good job at replicating the characters. Becca’s character is played by first time actress Jenn Proske and let me say this, if there is ever a biopic (and let’s pray there isn’t) done on Kristen Stewart, she will play Stewart. What made me like this movie even more was Proske ability to mimic all of Stewart’s mannerisms that we all hated in Twilight: the twitching, the biting of the lip, looking down and stammering, the pulling of her ear, and constant blinking. Her performance really made it that much more funny. And the same goes for Edward played by Matt Lanter and many of the other characters. When an actor can successfully mimic the one they are spoofing, it makes a movie so much funnier. Tina Fey comes to mind with her Sarah Palin on SNL. Thankfully, there is no Carmen Electra for once. I love her but she doesn’t need to be in anymore of their movies.

There are knocks to the head (LOTS of them), ball shots, and random jokes that leave you face palming. It doesn’t exactly make you want to come back for more, but it leaves you satisfied in the end.  Movies like Airplane and the Naked Gun series live on because they are made to be funny, not made to draw in a young audience for a quick buck. While this movie is obviously no Airplane, it’s still a HUGE step up from Disaster Movie and Epic Movie.  It’s even much more enjoyable than Twilight itself. This is the type of movie to see on a plane or while skimming through the channels in your underwear on a Sunday night.

5.5 out 10


Winter’s Bone (2010)

The things I like most about Winter’s Bone are the things it doesn’t do.  They’re things that other writers or directors might do with this story, these characters, or the setting.  And it’s not to say that doing them is a BAD thing, it’s just refreshing and interesting to watch a movie that doesn’t go the road that others’ would’ve likely taken with this project.  Sorry I’m being all Meatloaf-y and not explaining the “that.”  Allow me to go ahead and do that.

Winter’s Bone tells the story of a 17-year old girl named Ree who lives with her mother and takes care of her younger brother and sister.  Her mother’s lost her mind and never talks and the kids are too young to survive on their own.  They live in the Ozarks, which is essentially a mountainous region spanning Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and a little bit of Kansas.  The important thing about this is that it is beyond the middle of nowhere.  It’s as hillbilly as hillbilly can get.  It turns out that Ree’s father, Jessup, was arrested for cooking meth again and put up their house and land as collateral on his bond.  Everyone knows he’s going to miss his trial date, so Ree sets out on a mission to find him.  She descends deeper and deeper into the hillbilly crime underworld where everyone’s got the same blood.  She pries for information, seeks out the wrong people, and gets into some deep shit.

Now, about “those things” it doesn’t do.  The first thing it doesn’t do is make a caricature out of the people and their culture.  It’s not exploitative or over-the-top, and that makes it all the more interesting.  There have been countless hillbilly hermit families and characters in cinema history, and they’ve mostly been far off into the caricature territory.  Winter’s Bone doesn’t go that route.  It’s not trying to make a show of how country these people are or how different the culture is, it just shows it.  And honestly, it comes off as one of the most honest and authentic-feeling representations of this type of culture I’ve ever seen in a movie.  Now I have no way of knowing whether or not it is accurate and honest to how the people of the Ozarks actually live, but it feels that way.  And that really is an important element to the movie.  The plot is nothing extravagant or crazy and it moves at a slow, steady pace.  What helps make it compelling the whole way along is this authenticity.  It feels like you’re watching something that is very real and also very new, and it kept my attention the whole time.

The other thing that makes this movie so interesting and refreshing is its’ ending.  Now I normally have a pretty negative outlook on things and when it comes to movies, I find it extra special when there’s heavy doses of cynicism and despair.  But every once in awhile, a movie will come along with great characters and a great story and they’ll end on a positive note and mostly all is well.  It’s in those times that I feel a bit better about human beings and the world around me .  Winter’s Bone is one of those movies.  As you move through the movie, you meet some genuinely nice and good people.  They may be flawed or have destructive habits or pasts, but deep down you can see what they’re about.  That is why it’s so refreshing to see the story end on a bittersweet note where things have essentially worked out.  I can’t help but feel like this story, these characters, and this setting could easily resulted in a litany of torture and punishment and deep, violent descent into the criminal underworld if handled by a big studio.  It would be easy to make all the druggies bad and all the non-druggies good and show brutal violence and killings of the criminal underworld and all those things that are standard affair for plot-lines like this.  Luckily, we don’t get that here.  It’s a well-written, restrained and honest look at people and family and manning-up and taking responsibility for their lives.

But, not all the credit need go to the film-maker, seeing as it was adapted from a book of the same name.  And the movie isn’t perfect.  The beginning slogs a bit and becomes slightly repetitive, but not for long.  The lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence is quite good, and a lot of people are really singing her praises on the internets.  She’s definitely good, but the real attention-grabber for me was John Hawkes, who plays Lawrence’s uncle Teardrop.  I’ve seen him in a few things, but never like this.  He is phenomenal.  Oh yeah, there’s a scene on a rowboat at the end that is completely awesome and plays really well with a crowd.  Pretty fun watching people react to it in a theater.


Greenberg (2010)

Released: April 1st, 2010
Plot:A New Yorker moves to Los Angeles in order to figure out his life while he house sits for his brother, and he soon sparks with his brother’s assistant.

Review: Greenberg is where today’s hipsters go to die. Let me start of by saying that I’m not a huge fan of Noah Baumbach as a director or storyteller, but I am a fan of his writing and ability to create some interesting characters. Baumbach does a great job at crafting strange and idiosyncratic characters and I personally think that character driven movies are some of the best movies.

First of all there is no plot. Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg a 40-something year-old guy who is house sitting for his brother and just wants to be doing nothing in his life. It’s pretty boring. And I don’t want to be one of “those people” that tells people who hated it that they just didn’t get. There really isn’t much to get. Greenberg is one of those movies where we’re forced to focus on the characters and many people don’t like doing that and that’s understandable. So it’s very much fair to say that this movie isn’t for everyone.

Roger Greenberg is a jerk and quite pretentious at times. The entire movie I just kept thinking of all the skinny jean wearing hipsters I’ve ran into over the years and I see lots of them in Greenberg; still immature, impulsive, and not ready to really grow up. Ben Stiller does an excellent job at playing the aged jerkster. One would think he’s out of his element doing this indie art house movie, but he was clearly properly cast. This role fits him not just because Stiller is middle aged himself, but because he manages to bring out the character’s insecurities and faux pas. It’s nice not seeing Stiller trying to  not purposely make me laugh for once.

The story (if you want to call it that) is slow but not too slow. The variation in Greenberg’s character interactions are what held my attention. I kept thinking “OK, what is he gonna do next?” I believe everyone has experienced the same confused and lost feelings about life like Greenberg has, just at a younger age maybe. With a great supporting cast featuring Rhys Ifans and Greta Gerwig, this movie serves as a great character study of what it means to grow up and find your place in life.

The trailer for this movie implies that the movie is this dark comedy romp when it’s, in fact, quite the opposite. Again, this movie isn’t for everyone. If you like a steady plot, exciting visuals, a 3 act structure, and happy endings then this movie isn’t for you.

7 out of 10


The Last Airbender

I know it might sound stupid, and this might not be the most appropriate place to say this, but one day I want to make movies. In fact, I know dozens of people who would one day like to make movies. We’ve all got ideas and the motivation to get stuff done, but we just can’t afford to stop what we’re doing and make movies for the rest of our lives. We don’t have a major studio giving us any money or support for our movies, but for some reason, they trust M. Night Shyamalan, a man who hasn’t made a legitimately good (not great, just good) movie in a decade. They trust him so much that they backed his movie with almost $300 million, let him run off unsupervised, and said, “Go crazy!”

I can’t think of any other reason that this movie would exist. I can’t possibly believe that anybody could’ve read this script, been on set as he directed this, sat through dailies and screenings and oversaw the marketing of this movie, and would still let it be released. There is no excuse for a movie like The Last Airbender.

In the same article that is linked to above, the Chief Executive of Paramount said of Shyamalan, “Like every filmmaker, Night has had his hits and misses, but I believed in his vision and that he could execute it. It’s a bold step because he had to create a potential new family franchise.” No he didn’t. No one was asking for this movie to be made. This is a live action adaptation of the first 20 episodes of a cartoon series that ended not five years ago. No one was asking where this movie was, and after seeing it, they aren’t going to be asking for more.

I have never seen a minute of the animated series, but I don’t need to be a fan to know that fans should despise this movie. Anyone who likes stories of any kind should hate this movie. Fantasy movies usually get a bad rap, mainly because they ask their audiences to accept a lot, usually the idea of a new world or culture that is entirely a product of it’s creators mind. However, without somewhat relatable or likeable characters to guide them along into this unknown territory, there’s no reason for an audience to care about the conflict they’re being introduced to. Who cares about the fate of a strange land that doesn’t exist if there aren’t any hobbits or child-like princesses, or farm girls from Kansas for us to root for?

The main (but by no means the only) problem with The Last Airbender is that not only does the audience have any of these kinds of characters, but there simply are no characters in this movie. The only, only purpose any of the people who appear in this movie have is as a source of exposition. They don’t speak or act like real people. They only interact through question and answer sessions.

You’d imagine that at some point, Shyamalan would feel comfortable that his audience understands enough that he doesn’t need to provide them with anymore information, but his actors go so far as to say what they are thinking, feeling, seeing and doing at any given moment during a scene, just in case, I don’t know, there are any blind people in the theater.

Characters reveal their entire back-stories and motivations in unmotivated monologues, we are constantly reminded what section of what elemental nation we are viewing a particular scene in, and entire relationships are created using a sentence of voiceover. Supposedly important characters come and go, often forgotten until their reappearance, and important mythological information is thrown on so thick and fast that it’s impossible to know what’s important because no one seems all too concerned about anything.

And that probably is equally the fault of the actors and the script, seeing as they aren’t given much to work with, and act accordingly. If someone sounds like they’re reading from a page, it’s because the page probably read like a D&D manual. It’s nothing but substance, but nothing seems substantial. They toss out paragraphs about ancient myths, holy wars, sacred scrolls and spiritual callings with the excitement of reading a box of cereal.

And I place all of the blame on no one but M. Night. Actually, I place it on all of the executives, producers, actors, assistants, script supervisors, and anyone else who took part in the making of this piece of garbage, and didn’t say anything to this guy while he was making it. If your character responds to the question, “Are there any sacred places here?” with, “There is a sacred place. This city was build around this sacred place. I will take you to this sacred place”, and you don’t say something to the guy who wrote, produced, and directed you to say it, then you don’t deserve to be seen on 2,000 screens across the United States on the fourth of July weekend.

There are so many people out there with great original ideas, fantastic performers just looking for that big break, and we’ve got people like M. Night Shyamalan who is given the gross national product of a small country to make an unnecessary, horrifically bad adaptation of a beloved property (after making The Happening, no less!), and we wonder why this summer sucks. We wonder why there are so many remakes, reboots, sequels and adaptations when we reward crimes like this. You can call this art, M. Night, but I call it shit. Not only is this the worst movie I’ve seen this year, it’s probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen, an insult to anyone who likes movies, and makes me, as a movie lover and hopeful maker, think less of movies, at least on a big-budget scale.

But, the effects were mostly ok. And it’s fun to make fun of. But not for $11.

Fuck This Movie out of 10.

Happy Josh?


Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

You may be asking, what the fuck is Undisputed? Or more to the point, what the fuck is Undisputed 3:  Redemption? Well, Undisputed 3 is a direct-to-DVD prison fight movie with a bunch of people you’ve never heard of, made by someone you’ve never heard of.  Nonetheless, as unappealing as that may seem, the movie is pretty fucking awesome.

Now, if you were to do a little search of hype/talk/reviews about this movie, most people would be talking about the “like OMG totally amazing fight choreography” and fight scenes, so let me get that out of the way.  They are good.  Very good.  Especially for a direct-to-DVD fighting movie.  BUT.  For me, I like my movie fights to be realistic.  As far as I’m concerned, showing a guy knock someone out in one brutal punch is much more telling of his toughness than 50 montages of gleaming, sweaty muscles, grunts, and ridiculous fights where each behemoth lands haymaker after haymaker, only to be standing after 95 rounds.  But that’s just me.  At the same time, I realize that this movie isn’t going for that.  It’s going for choreography and endless punches being landed.  To its’ credit, this movie not only has wonderful fight choreography, but the director and actors make it look quite real.  You can see some punches definitely land.  The flesh ripples out in a flash and the muscles contract, and you see it, which really adds a layer of awesomeness to the whole thing.

The final fight scene is pretty damn incredible.  It is long, epic, and delivers completely.  There’s a mix of crowd pleasing choreography, well-directed moments of emphasis, and just all-around awesomeness.

But, there’s a middle section of the movie where virtually no fighting takes place.  And to me, it was JUST as entertaining as the fights.  Part of what makes this movie actually fulfill its’ awesome status is the story/character parts.  I’m glad the people making the movie didn’t just say “okay well dude like lets totally make the most like sweet, crazy fight scenes man and it’ll be like so badass” and leave everything else to shit.  Endless action and violence leads to blandness and boredom.  Instead, we get three fantastic characters.  The main guy is a Russian beast named Boyka.  We follow him as he recovers from a brutal leg injury (I’m guessing he suffered in Undisputed 2) and makes his way into the first-ever prison fighting tournament.  8 fighters compete, all from different countries.  Boyka is a quiet, brooding bastard who doesn’t like to talk much.  His antithesis is a US prison fighter named Turbo who is all talk.  He doesn’t shut the fuck up.  Naturally, the two don’t get along.  Then, there’s a Columbian prison fighter named Gaga.  He’s a pompous dickhead and his home prison is hosting the tournament, which means the wardens and big-wigs are fixing the damn thing so Gaga wins.  Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Boyka and Turbo.  What ensues is actually interesting.  Watching the characters deal with each other, their environment, and the situation is quality stuff.

While it definitely looks like a direct-to-DVD movie a lot of the time, what it delivers is total quality.  I’m hoping these people are given a bit more recognition and money next time they try to make a movie.  If this movie had just a slightly higher production value and some studio backing/distribution, it’d be an incredible thing to watch in a crowded theater on a monstrous screen.


Toy Story: The Final Chapter 3 3-D

It’s always so much easier to figure out why you don’t like a movie than to put into words why you do. After seeing a movie like Toy Story 3, you leave the theater smiling, thinking to yourself, “Wow, that was great!” But why was it great?

These are characters that almost everyone that I know has grown up with. In this movie, we are all Andy: a now grown up kid, unwillingly forced to leave his childhood behind him. Maybe that’s why this worked so well for me, as well as it seemed to work for the packed audience of other twenty-something I saw it with. Everyone was laughing uproariously, sometimes so much, I couldn’t hear dialogue for seconds at a time. Just as I’m sure there were many who were crying as the final minutes of the movie played, knowing that this was the end of this story, and seeing just how perfect that ending was.

But what was it that I loved so much about Toy Story 3? Instead of trying to dissect the development of these characters and their story, spanning three movies and fifteen years, I’ve instead compiled a short list of phrases that describe why I loved this movie, and would also make pretty good band names (in my opinion):

Mr. Evil Dr. Porkchop

Death By Monkeys

Big Baby

Chuckles’ Exposition

Silence The Monkey

Mr. Flatbread Head

El Buzz-O

Death In the Face of the Reverse Volcano!

From The College Box

The Last Playtime


9.5 out of 10.



There’s not much to say about Jonah Hex, not only because it’s not a very good movie, but also because, with a running time of 80 minutes, there just isn’t much movie here to critique.

Normally, people criticize a movie for being too long, for having too many plots that don’t go anywhere, and filler that serves no purpose. Watching Jonah Hex, you can see that the problem is quite the opposite: there’s no room in this clip show of a movie for anything to happen. It feels like nothing happens because after something does happen, we’ve already moved onto the next thing, which doesn’t feel important at all, seeing as there’s no gravity to the situation. In addition to the feeling of disinterest the filmmakers seem to have with their own film, the audience can’t be bothered to care about anything because it’s over as soon as it’s introduced.

We’re introduced to our main character, educated on his otherworldly situation and all of his magical powers in a three minute, animated clip. The credits boast such actors as Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, and Will Arnett, but combined, they all share about seven minutes of screen time. Relationships that are supposed to add depth and tension to the story are given single scenes to both be introduced and developed. Oh no, the local gunsmith who Jonah seems to like in the two-minute scene they’re in together might be in danger during the climax of the movie! Should we care?

No, because like the rest of the movie, everything happens exactly the way we expect it to. But, hey, at least they get it over quick!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad this wasn’t another blown-out, super blockbuster like Transformers 2, but it’s on the opposite end of the same spectrum. It doesn’t matter how long a movie is, if it’s an hour and twenty minutes or two hours and twenty minutes, as long as it tells a coherent story with characters we feel like we know and hopefully like. It’s all of the clichés, without the benefit of details.

Yeah, there’s a bad guy who wants use a doomsday device to blow up Washington, D.C., but we’re never told how it works (except that it explodes).

We’ve got a conflicted hero, who insists he’s better than his rival, but he literally blows up entire populated towns for $100.

We’ve got the tragic back-story of how our hero became what he is today, but it’s entirely glossed over in a series of vague sequences that result only in the laughter of the audience.

Actually, I’m not sure that an extended running time would make this movie any better, but it could’ve made it a little more…tolerable. If you’re going to show me a piece of shit, at least try to make me think you tried.

On a positive note, there’s one or two pretty awesome sequences, one involving Jonah Hex being resurrected, yet again. Although it completely drains any concern for Hex’s life from the audience (knowing he can’t ever really die), it’s pretty awesome to see. Also, (even though it’s more likely a result of a low budget) having Hex’s scarring be the result of makeup, and not CGI, helps avoid more potential awful effects. And the soundtrack by Marco Beltrami and MASTODON also helps…a lot.

It says, "The Eastwood template of the troubled anti-hero always gets slapped."

But it’s all too little in what’s already not much. Sorry, Josh Brolin…this won’t be your Dirty Harry. Hell, this won’t even be your Wild Wild West.

3 out of 10.


Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

This movie is part character study, part art exhibition.  I originally wanted to see this because I read somewhere that it featured Banksy, arguably the best street artist in the world.  What I didn’t know is that it was directed by Banksy himself.  What I also didn’t know is that it was about a French man, Thierry Guetta, who goes from “film maker” to street artist.

Thierry Guetta emigrated from France to Los Angeles in the 80’s. He opened up a shop selling vintage clothes. He has a nice house and a nice family. And just like those sentences, he was a very simple except for one thing, he’s never seen without his video camera.  Thierry brands himself as a film maker because he films everything; his trip to the market, his kids eating breakfast, or strangers on the street. He never stops filming.  While visiting family, he sees his cousin Invader (a pseudonym chosen for his mosaic Space Invader street art) piecing together titles for his next project.  This sparks an interest of street art in Thierry and begins his 2 year long journey into the world of street art.

Thierry sets out through the streets of London and Los Angeles following some prominent street artists such as Shepard Fairy known for his use of repetition using the now iconic “OBEY” under a photo of Andre the Giant.  Aside from cut in interviews done by some of the street artists, the movie is mostly composed of things Thierry filmed while following the street artists.  Thierry’s goal is to gather enough footage to make a proper documentary about street art and to also meet the biggest and hardest to meet street artists, Banksy.

It’s during these 2 years that the audience really gets to see the world of street art for what it is, art. Many street artists are just normal people who, like many other artists, just want others to see their form of expression and in this case, it happens to be on the sides of buildings.  Street artist have always interested me. As a kid (and as an adult) I wondered how they got up high enough to put these tiny pictures of even these HUGE pictures in the oddest places.  As I kid, I was also fascinated with the idea of having these awesome pictures outside. Thierry did a good job at doing what he does, filming everything and capturing the personalities and the philosophies of the many street artists he comes across.

As time goes by, Thierry finally makes his documentary but, as Banksy states, it was “rubbish.” Inspired by Banksy and all the subjects he’s captured over the years, Thierry decides to leave his film making behind and become a “street artist” himself. At this point in the movie we see that crazy is a good color on Thierry. Thierry, much like Andy Warhol, manipulates things from pop culture into his own view.  But unlike traditional street artists, who do their operations on a small scale, Thierry starts his own printing studio complete with staff and does his art on a mass scale. Rebranded with the alias Mr. Brainwash, Thierry creates a huge and very expensive art exhibit inspired by Banksy.

Throughout Thierry’s street art career we’re left thinking is this man really smart or really dumb and are the people who buy his art really smart or really dumb? Anyone can take a picture of Elvis and put a gun in his hand and anyone can dress a spray can up like a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can. But one thing we can say about Thierry Guetta is that he is a determined man.  Once something piques his interest, he sticks to it and works hard at it. Thierry may not have made a decent documentary, but his documentary helped spawn this documentary and because of that, we got a decent and honest look into the street art world and the life of a slightly insane man.


Leaves of Grass (2010)

I originally saw this for one reason and one reason only, Ed Norton. I’ve always loved him as an actor. So I took this opportunity to see him play a dual role as a set of twins.

Honestly, there really isn’t much to say about this movie. Ed Norton plays the brothers Kincaid.  Both brothers were born and raised in rural Oklahoma but one brother, Bill, left to pursue a career in philosophy while the other, Brady, stayed behind in Oklahoma selling weed for a Jewish drug lord.  Bill is forced to return home when he hears the news of his brother Brady being murdered. What Bill doesn’t know is that Brady’s “murder” was a ploy set up by Brady to get him to come home and help in his scheme to take down his drug lord boss. Brady needs an alibi, or in this case a look-a-like, to cover for him while he goes to another town to attempt to take down the drug lord.

This movie is one of those movies that focus a lot on the characters. You have Bill who has dropped his southern accent and now lives his high-class yuppie life as a college professor. And then you have Brady who is deeply southern, (I had no idea people from Oklahoma were considered “country”) not very smart, and sells drugs.  Growing up, Bill was always considered the smart one and wasn’t as close to his pot smoking mother as Brady was. This causes a little tension between the siblings.

The movie focuses on family and going back to one’s roots. It shows how far someone will go to help a family member no matter how much that family member may piss you off.  I love Ed Norton in this movie.  It’s hilarious to see him on screen with himself playing Bill the Philosopher and Brady the hillbilly pot head. There are some pretty funny moments with Brady and his friends because rednecks tend to be funny in movies. But unfortunately, those are best part of the entire movie for me. Susan Sarandon was great. I don’t think she’s ever done badly in a film but Keri Russell was flat and boring. The story was OK. It tries to pull at your heart strings a bit but fails. I thought Ed Norton’s southern accent was pretty dead on  and comical at times, but apparently from what I read, he did a horrible Oklahoman accent.

It’s a funny movie with some pretty good acting but in the end, I left shrugging my shoulders. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t superb.

6 out of 10

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