Cinema News and Reviews for the Rest of Us


Exit Through the Gift Shop

Is it real?  Is it a hoax?  Does it matter?  Famous masked artist Banksy’s thoroughly excellent documentary about the rise of street art and its inevitable “gallery world” perversion examines art in all its essentials; its purity, its resolve, its egotism, and, most interestingly, the possible ridiculousness of the whole damned enterprise.  What at first seems like an enjoyable night time look at the illicit careers of prominent graffiti artists morphs into something of a reverse Amadeus, with a genius trying desperately to wrap his mind around the rise and success of a hack.  What is the line between bad art and great art?  What motivates them both, and what does the reaction of the public at large have to do with their respective merit?  These are fascinating question that Banksy doesn’t come close to answering, but his curiosity and incredulity about the inner workings of his own world come through in every frame, and that makes for some exhilarating cinema.  (5 STARS)

Nowhere Boy

There’s something to be said for defying audience expectations, but in this case that dooms the film to irrelevance.  The story of the teenage years of Beatles frontman John Lennon should make for exciting or at least intriguing filmmaking, but here it just devolves into a mostly uninteresting melodrama about a talented boy’s bad-but-not-so-bad family life.  There are some bits that grab attention (the suggested attraction between Lennon and his estranged mother being one), but this is mostly just a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be.  I like never hearing mention of The Beatles, but the times where music makes an appearance are by far the most enjoyable, and the film should have hemmed a little closer to expectations in that regard. (2 STARS)

The Other Guys

Far funnier than it has any right to be, considering the sketchy writing and bland direction, this buddy-cop comedy relies entirely on an unexpected chemistry between leads Mark Whalberg and Will Ferrell.  The film makes the right choice in reversing types, making Ferrel the mild-mannered straight man and Whalberg the neurotic short-fuse, and the scenes that just sort of ramble on between the two turn out to be the most enjoyable.  The plot is nearly irrelevant, frequently fading into the background, but that’s not really a fault, more a realization on the film’s part of its best element; letting these two guys prattle on about nothing in particular.  (3 STARS)

Despicable Me

It’s tempting to say that merely being a nice, well-intentioned kids’ flick is enough to warrant a recommendation, but in the Age of Pixar, that just isn’t so.  The film has some good voice-acting from its leads, its animation is solid if unspectacular,  and the story of a softened supervillain- cum-adoptive father is touching at times, but the jokes are too often unfunny, and the film is aimed too young for viewers over the age of ten to get much out of it.  When someone raises the bar for the genre, it’s up to its peers to at least come close, and this amiable little film just isn’t close enough.  (2 STARS)

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

I can’t recall many films as fun to sit through as this.  Reaching into a deep bag of flashy pop-art tricks, director Richard Wright hits every single aesthetic mark, creating an incessantly visceral film that somehow never feels gratuitous.  Michael Cera may be playing yet another twenty-something adolescent with a near-speech impediment, but his assumption of steeled determination by the film’s end is hard-earned, and Wright manages to elicit genuine emotion out of this fairly simple boy-fights-for-girl storyline.  A wonderful romantic ode to the desires and neuroses of the video game generation, this is a phenomenally-directed piece of cinematic candy.  (4 STARS)


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