Movie Reviews – June 2010

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Exit Through the Gift Shop
Paranoid Pictures
In Theaters: 06.18
A refreshingly creative approach to the doc genre, Exit Through the Gift Shop is not so much about Banksy as it is about a French-American character Thierry Guetta and his personal journey to capture the worldwide street art scene. Guetta’s footage is fantastic—and the film opens with heart-pounding excitement as clips from one street artist after another show them scaling buildings, running from the law and painting in the dead of night. The viewer quickly understands just how dangerous this art form can be and what extreme physical risks these street artists take for their work. Street art heavyweights Shepard Fairey, Invader, Buff Monster, Swoon, Neck Face and others are all featured making art in the film, shedding new light on the process behind this underground lifestyle. Towards the end of Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy fans finally get to glimpse rare footage from some of his most prolific pranks: the renegade Guantanamo installation at Disneyland, Banksy hanging his own paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and every street artist’s wet dream of viewing the inside of Bansky’s actual working studio. Filled with wit, unseen footage and an unprecedented ending, Guetta’s personal journey through the street art scene is one not to be missed. –Lora Yori

The Good, The Bad, The Weird
IFC Films
In Theaters: 05.14
From the onset, writer-director Ji-woon Kim hurls the audience into an explosive treasure race set in 1930s Manchuria with an epic train robbery that leads to heightened deceptions and lavish gun fights. The adventure revolves around a map that may lead the three title characters to riches, but their merciless ambitions to outwit and outgun one another in order to possess the parchment could prevent the truth from being discovered. From one shootout to another, the action continuously increases and ultimately erupts into a magnificent pursuit through the vast desert landscape with an entire army squadron in the mix. Ji-woon veers from his successful strides in the horror genre and efficiently showcases his versatility with blending action, comedy and drama in one melting pot, while paying homage to multiple classic westerns. Intensity and flow are briefly hindered by the multiple backstories and lengthy verbal exchanges. The film’s finesse comes from the incorporation of choreographed showdowns that seem like a ballet of chaos and destruction, and three well-crafted characters with unforgettable physical appearances and mannerisms. With such an impressive character selection, viewers can root for their favorite individual without worrying whether they’re considered good or evil as they blast their way to the stunning finale. –Jimmy Martin

Iron Man 2
Paramount
In Theaters: 05.07
Each summer, audiences want more bang for their buck and filmmakers have to deliver the explosive goods without hindering the credibility of their projects. The majority of the team from the original Iron Man returns with a handful of new characters and thrives in harmonizing a heightened level of wild action with a dash of restrained yet necessary character development. It may have been two years since the original hit screens, but in the world of director Jon Favreau’s follow-up, it hasn’t even been five minutes. As Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, aka Robert Downey Jr.) confesses his heroic moonlighting activities to the world, Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) watches with resentful eyes in the snowy shadows of Moscow and immediately initiates a plan of retribution against the bustling billionaire. Back on American soil, an egotistical Stark becomes aware of the realities attached to becoming an icon of peace. Not only must he deal with the U.S. government’s attempts to confiscate his suit, and the smugness of fellow arms manufacturer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), but he must also solve the riddle of creating another power source for his artificial heart, because his current setup is killing him. Downey remains the only actor suited to pull off the pompous playfulness of Stark, but has some charismatic comedic competition with the whimsical Rockwell. Packed to the brim with new partnerships, multiple villains, discussions of collaborative superhero projects and a subtle romance, Iron Man 2 is on the verge of collapsing with oversaturation. But Favreau maintains its composure and offers an on-par continuation that acts as a building block of things to come. –Jimmy Martin

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
IFC Films
In Theaters: 06.25
Walking away from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival with the Documentary Film Editing Award for Penelope Falk’s beautiful compilation of footage regarding the legendary entertainer’s personal and professional lives, the time has come for the rest of the world to endure the delightfully distasteful humor of Joan Rivers. Over the past 40 years, Rivers has overcome monumental obstacles and continues to lead the fight for female comedians worldwide, but, as is the reality of show business, no one stays on top forever. In this riveting one-year peek into the private life of an actress/comedian/writer/mother/grandmother/friend, the audience is given the opportunity to witness Rivers’ vulnerability and constant fear of opening her schedule book and seeing nothing but a blank page. As the year progresses, the workaholic exposes her relentless desire for continued success as she tours with her self-scribed theatre production, appears on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice with her daughter Melissa, and performs her stand-up routine in various clubs around the country, both seedy and reputable. Directors Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg tastefully infiltrate the disheartening and encouraging sides of Rivers’ past and project the talented artist as an inspirational yet levelheaded subject. At 75-years-old, the crass comic can still make a ship full of sailors blush by keeping up with the rising comedians of today, but it’s her personal hardships, shrewd outlook on life and devoted family relationships that make her stand out among the crowd. –Jimmy Martin

MacGruber
Rogue Pictures
In Theaters: 05.21
Every time it’s announced that a Saturday Night Live sketch will receive a feature-length treatment, a warning flare is fired across the night sky. The history behind these adaptations has been rather shaky. There’s been the good (Wayne’s World), the bad (Stuart Saves His Family) and the ugly (Blues Brothers 2000). With that said, it’s no surprise that concern came along with the announcement of an adaption of the recurring MacGyver parodies of late, but it turns out this apprehension is completely wanton. The U.S. government’s most skilled gun-fearing agent, MacGruber (Will Forte), is called out of retirement when his top adversary, Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) is linked to the hijacking of a nuclear warhead, placing America directly in harm’s way. As the threat becomes more dangerous, the crafty hero must use the skills of an old friend and a military rookie, after accidently killing his original super-team with homemade explosives, in order to restore order. Without a doubt, this is the funniest SNL sketch adaptation in decades. Newcomer director Jorma Taccone unifies the excitement of raw action films with the raunchy hilariousness of R-rated comedies and provides his hysterical cast with enough room to improvise themselves into a laugh-out-loud hybrid. Forte offers everything thing he’s got comically, and then some, but the unexpected revivals of Kilmer and Ryan Phillippe in comical roles is a fantastic surprise. –Jimmy Martin

Mega Man
Sollar Systems Studios
Available Online at ScrewAttack.com
A new era of filmmaking has arrived with the development of digital technology—and it has only just begun. It is now conceivable for fans to generate worthy cinematic versions of their favorite characters and franchises from the comfort of their homes. Sure, copyright protections prevent the unauthorized creators from any form of monetary gain, but that stipulation won’t stop die-hard fans from bringing their visual interpretations to life. Such is the case with Eddie Lebron, who shot, edited, wrote and directed a live-action feature-length film of the 1987 Capcom-develeoped Nintendo classic, Mega Man. Lebron carefully follows the original concept of the video game as Dr. Thomas Light (Edward X. Young) and Dr. Albert Wily (Dave Maulbeck) unveil their Nobel Prize-winning robotic creations to the world in the year 20XX. Weary of his partner’s corrupt motivations, Light fires the envious Wily, only to have him return and reprogram the machines to assist his plans of world domination. As the robots terrorize the city, humanity’s only hope comes from Light’s latest creation, Rock (Jun Naito), a weaponized android with human emotions. Lebron’s boundless imagination has unveiled the true nature of what’s becoming possible in modern-day filmmaking. Are the fight sequences and visual effects as polished as those at the megaplex? Of course not, but who cares? Here is a coherent fan-made film full of emotion, decent acting and respectable direction with a handful of enjoyable jabs at the dated source material. –Jimmy Martin

Robin Hood
Universal
In Theaters: 05.14
In what should have been a joyous reunion given their previous partnership, director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe throw down the swords and armor from their Gladiator days only to pick them back up and offer a lengthy and dull origin story of the infamous archer at the turn of the 12th century. Brian Helgeland’s rambling script finds Robin Longstride (Crowe) in the tail end of the Crusades as he deserts his king’s army, only to come across a fallen comrade who begs him to return a sword to his awaiting father in England. Seeing this detour as a guaranteed safe passage home, Robin takes on the deceased’s identity, which eventually lands the impersonator in the middle of the well-established world of Nottingham and within the sights of the stern-yet-yearning Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett). After the king’s sudden death in battle, an onslaught of callous acts are forced upon the land from the recently enthroned tyrant (Oscar Isaac) and his right-hand man Godfrey (Mark Strong), though the deceiving aide has other plans for the country in revolt. Scott starts off strong with an inventive twist on the legendary tale, but exhausts attention spans with a clichéd story arch and incessant dialogue. The only two action sequences, while forceful and fierce, feel too reminiscent of earlier projects. This only reiterates Scott’s lack of originality toward this endeavor, making it feel more like a television pilot rather than a stand-alone feature. –Jimmy Martin

Shrek Forever After
Paramount
In Theaters: 05.21
In an attempt to revive the series after the dreaded third chapter, the creators behind the Shrek franchise offer this supposed final installment and partially succeed with a clichéd narrative that never seems to get old. The monotony of married life and parenthood forces Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) into a depressed lull. Seriously, if you ever question whether or not you’re ready to have children, watch the first 15 minutes and you’ll be purchasing a lifetime supply of Trojans in no time. As Shrek’s misery increases, he finds a temporary escape with a contract scribed by the sneaky Rumpelstiltskin (voiced by Walt Dohrn) that’ll reinstate his bachelorhood. However, a ruse in the contract actually sends the ogre into an alternate universe where he was never born. Realizing his error, the reinvigorated ogre must rekindle his love with his former bride before the day’s end or his existence will vanish permanently. Blending the lives of Back to the Future’s Marty McFly and It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey for a character arch, the film itself only offers an ordinary love story without enhancing the animation’s appearance in the slightest. The funniest aspects and one-liners, other than a hilarious nod at Eddie Murphy’s faux band “Sexual Chocolate” from Coming to America, come from subsidiary characters, leaving the main cast outshined with bland material. –Jimmy Martin

The Secret in Their Eyes
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 05.28
Based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri and the unexpected winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Juan José Campanella’s chilling crime drama follows the actions of retired criminal-court investigator Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) as he attempts to write a novel based on a rape and murder case he inspected two decades earlier. In an effort to spark his recollection of the unspeakable events, he visits his former coworker, now judge, Irene (Soledad Villamil), but the only item reignited is the unspoken romantic tension between the two. The story flips back and forth between the past, in which the young detective works with his alcoholic partner (Guillermo Francella) to solve the case in a corrupted judicial system, and the present, where a silver-haired Esposito yearns to finally unravel the mystery behind the young woman’s death. Campanella’s project not only offers a panic-filled caper with a heart-pounding story line, it also exposes the tragic consequences of Argentina’s sullied social structure. Shot with spectacular cinematography, including a jaw-dropping chase sequence captured in a crowded soccer stadium in one seamless shot, the finest element to emerge from this multi-layered thriller is the exceptional performance provided by the entire cast. Everything from the tacit facial expressions conveyed in Darín and Villamil’s interactions to the unnerving presence of the callous suspect (Javier Godino) help make this one of the most engaging movies of the year and undeniably worthy of the top accolades it has already garnered. –Jimmy Martin

Sex and the City 2
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 05.28
The feisty New York City foursome returns to the big screen and skyrockets their tastelessness to an unimaginable height as the reality of the aging process becomes evident both in their lives and their appearances. Fashion diva Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) sees her marriage becoming domesticated with nights of watching television on the couch with take-out food instead of clubs and cosmopolitans in chic Manhattan. Her closest confidants also find themselves in common episodic predicaments. Suspicious wife and mother Charlotte (Kristin Davis) questions her husband’s fidelity with the braless bouncing nanny, workaholic Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) finds herself being discriminated against by her sexist employer, and the smutty Samantha (Kim Cattrall) literally fills every orifice with age-defying ointments in an attempt to prevent the inevitable. Just as the misfortunes reach their pinnacle, an all-expenses paid luxury trip to Abu Dhabi offers a refuge for cultural mockery. Aside from the comical flashbacks to the girls’ horrendous 80s fashion faux pas, and an over-the-top uber-gay wedding complete with a boy’s choir and Liza Minnelli, the reminder of the film is 80% fluff and 20% embarrassment. Problems are resolved without conflict, leaving absolutely no room for character development, and bizarre side stories, including an underground women’s resistance and ex-boyfriend pop-ins, only add to the jumbled mess of high heels and couture clothing. –Jimmy Martin