Thursday, November 24, 2011

My 2011 Movie Odyssey - Part II

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Me, I am thankful for movies from the good to the bad, in their wide-ranging genres and subject matters.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
This is a fascinating look at the world of street art and the artists who make it. It starts with a montage of street artists plying their craft - some clever, some vulgar, and some outright vandalism - all while a song plays in the background declaring that “Tonight the streets are ours.” Then we are introduced to Thierry Guetta a clothing shop owner/documentarian/aspiring street artist. He’s quirky, full of life, and enjoys almost unlimited access to some of the biggest names in street art. But when he starts doing his own street art it’s derivative and repetitive (and most if not all of the actual artwork is done by other people). What results is a wonderfully entertaining look at several interesting people and the work that they do, even when their art is completely illegal.

Alien Nation (1988)
It tells an interesting story about racist attitudes towards the alien population in America, but it would have been better if the violence had been toned down and the fun factor increased.

Invaders from Mars (1953)
It has some wonderfully creepy moments in the first half hour as aliens take over the minds of various townspeople, but the end is rather unspectacular and not very distinguishable from similar efforts from Roger Corman or Burt I. Gordon.

Dogtooth (2009)
Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar and available on Netflix streaming, I thought I would check this movie out. I should have stayed away. It tells the tale of a family who isolate themselves from the world. The parents use scare tactics and misinformation to keep their children inside their little compound. Why? I have no idea because the movie never bothered to tell me. I kept waiting for something to happen to shake things up, and it finally happened in the last couple minutes of the film. But instead of exploring the implications of the first real plot development of the movie, they decided to roll the credits instead.

Metropia (2009)
This animated movie has an interesting noirish look, and the individual frames look really good. Unfortunately, the animation leaves much to be desired. The characters reside squarely in the uncanny valley - the human models are wonderfully detailed, but they move so little and unnaturally that the filmmakers might as well have just filmed Barbie dolls bouncing across the screen. The story tries to be a dystopia along the lines of The Matrix, but ends up making little sense, and none of the characters are particularly memorable either.

Ip Man (2008)
This is a fictionalized account of Ip Man, a martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee (and many others). The first half is a whole lot of fun featuring plenty of martial arts hijinks in a largely pre-industrial Chinese town. Then the Japanese invasion of WWII happens, and the film takes a decidedly serious turn. Ip Man and his fellow countrymen struggle to get enough food to feed themselves while still maintaining their honor in occupied territory. Ip Man is fascinating to watch, both in moments of quiet dignity and when he is laying down some martial arts smack-down.

The Secret of Kells (2009)
This beautifully stylized animated film tells a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells. The film takes many visual cues from the artwork in the Book of Kells, leading to a movie that looks like a moving illuminated manuscript.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
It's better than a Roger Corman movie, but not by much.

The King’s Speech (2010)
This is a well made movie that smacks a little of Oscar porn. There's not a whole lot that I loved about the movie, but really the only thing I didn't like about the film is that I felt they focused on the wrong character. Colin Firth's character is only interesting because he is a prince who stutters; take those two things away from him and he's rather dull. Geoffrey Rush, on the other hand, is quite engaging as the speech therapist who manages to help Firth overcome his speech impediment. Had they focused on his character instead, the movie would have been far more interesting.

Unstoppable (2010)
This is a fun action movie that wasn't as cliched as I was expecting it to be, though the ending was a bit of a letdown.

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