Sunday, July 31, 2011

Despicable Me

A moderately entertaining film that derives most of its entertainment from watching the kids around you giggle uncontrollably. The storyline goes as follows: Evil villain is trying to keep up with the times and plans an amazing heist. He gets caught up with three cute little orphans and adopts them to help out with his plan. He demonstrates his humanity. End of storyline. The comic relief comes from the myriad of assistants that the evil villain employs in his workshop. They are fun and cute. And I suppose that I can't give it too poor of a rating since there are a few lines that stick with you and you find yourself using over the course of the week following.
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter 7: Deathly Hollows 2 (3D)

The end is here... finally. Don't get me wrong, this is an astounding fantasy series and in total, is not matched in this decade. As a review of this film, it falls nicely in line with the others. It doesn't present the whole story, but enough of the story that if you have read the books, you remember the rest of it and your mind fills in the gaps. I can imagine that if you have not read the books, this is an moderately entertaining film. This is clearly the darkest of the films and not intended for kids by any means. And this is probably my biggest complaint with the film. Yes, it is dark and it has to be ... it has "Deathly Hollows" in the title after all. But it is also not fun. No fart flavored jelly beans, no wacky hi-jinks, no quidditch. Just angst and duty and battle to the death. Extravagant? Yes. Spectacle? Possibly. Fun? Sorry, but no.
3 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This is the best film I have seen all year. Buck Brannaman is a horse trainer whose primary job is to run weekly clinics around the country on horse training. He is the person behind the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer. He is much better than the film. Buck is astounding with horses, and his approach is indicated by his language... he works with "horse starting", not "horse breaking". The film captures the amazing understanding and love that Buck has for horses. It also give a bit of insight into the person of Buck and his family history. The entire story is a tribute to an outstanding human being. See it.
5 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


An engaging, comic and dark tale of grief and depression, leading to self discovery and historical awareness. Wow, you say, all this in one film? In a series of flashbacks that seriously challenged the linear time requirements of the elderly couple in front of me in the theater (but was fine for everyone else), we are told the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) after Hal's death 6 months ago. Hal was a gay man that stayed faithfully married to Oliver's mother until her death four years prior. Then he embraced and explored his homosexuality until his death. Oliver is grieving his father, his mother, the life they lived and the truths about this life that were not actually what he thought. The flashbacks are excellently done as they reveal conversations between Hal and Oliver that reveal how enlightened Hal was. These flashbacks are then seemingly integrated into Oliver's belief system in the present as he begins to interact with a new girlfriend. So this may sound confusing, but in actuallity it is interesting and charming. We don't get stereotypes, or cliche answers for life's difficulties. Instead we get struggle, and the willingness to struggle, and the realization that it is continuous.
4 stars (out of 5)

Exit through the Gift Shop

Billed as a documentary about Banksy (an anonymous street artist), the film comes out early in an interview with said Banksy. He says something to the effect of "This was going to be a film about me, but the filmmaker is much more interesting, so it is really a film about him". And it is true. There is only so much interest a shadowy, voice altered anonymous character can generate no matter how much graphic talent he has or how "real" he is (or isn't). But Thierry is a French guy who for many years filmed everything in his life. He is odd and a bit self absorbed. He gets involved with street aritists and again films everything, resulting is some excellent footage of the act and the process of creating street art. In the end, Thierry fancies himself an artist and creates "art". The most interesting part of this film is the reaction to Thierry's art. Both by the buyers (he became very wealthy) and by other artists (he cheated?). It raises the question of what actually determines the value of art. There seem to be unwritten/unknown rules about what the necessary process and credentials are to be considered an artist, and you only know you have broken these rules when you break them.
3 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Hours

Helene is artist Paul Berthier's niece and is the matriarch of her family and his estate. She lives in the family house which is basically frozen in time since the death of Berthier. When Helene passes away, her three children come together to figure out how to manage the estate. What I find interesting is how universal the simultaneous sibling connection and disconnection can be. The two brothers and a sister have completely different personalities, life goals, connections to the estate and interpretations of the past. And at the same time, they have an intuitive understanding of each other and a care for each other that runs deep. There is pain and laughter, and I suppose the relative proportion of each depends on each particular family. Here the two are balanced nicely, which makes for an enjoyable view into their lives.
4 stars (out of 5)