Short Reviews: Monsters, The Kids Are All Right, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Catfish

Monsters | Gareth Edwards, 2010

Last year, District 9 and Moon showed us that as long as you are talented and have a creative mind, no budget can hold you back. This year, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters once again shows us this, but it doesn’t even come close to reach the level of greatness of the other two movies.

In this movie, NASA went to collect samples of alien life within our solar system, but on the way back the shuttle crashed in Mexico. A few years later, new life forms started to appear. The story follows Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), a photographer for a US magazine. He is in Mexico trying to get a picture of one of the creatures. While there, he gets a call from his boss telling him that he must bring back his daguther Samantha (Whitney Able) back to the U.S. before they close off the passage for six months. However, their passports are stolen and they are forced to reach the U.S. illegal immigrant style, by crossing the infected zone.

Before I get to what drags the movie down, I must say that Edwards showed that with a bigger budget he can do wonders. He knows how to create tension and make you feel like you are in the middle of things. However, there are not enough of those moments, purposely, and the actor and the script have to carry it the rest of the way, and this is where the movie fails

First off, the performances are not very good. You can tell these actors are pretty new to the game. That would have been alright had their characters been more interesting, but they weren’t. At first we don’t know anything about them, and then they try to give us some vague background to make us sympathize with them, but it doesn’t work. Then there is the “love story.” Like I said, we don’t know much about the characters, and the actors have almost no chemistry between them, so we don’t really believe that they are in love. And then the dialogue that they speak is godawful.

I appreciate the movie for its ambition and the director is talented, but it didn’t work in all departments.

The Kids Are All Right | Lisa Cholodenko,2010

Every year, there is an indie comedy about a serious issue that captures the hearts of the critics and with the art house crowd, and that love carries it through the awards season. This year, that movie is The Kids Are All Right.

This movie takes on the dynamics of a marriage between two women who have two children who were born via sperm donor, from the same father. They are a pretty normal family. Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nick (Annette Bening) go through the same things that any other couple goes through, and their kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) have the problems that all teens have. One day, the kids meet the man who donated his sperm and gave them life (Mark Ruffalo), and things start changing right away. They like to hang out with him, and he gives them cool advice and such. Jules, meanwhile, starts working for him, and starts an affair.

There are a lot of things to like about this movie. The dialogue is sharp and believable, Moore, Bening, and Ruffalo are fantastic (particularly Moore), and the story is pretty great. However, there is something about it that didn’t make me go crazy over it. It could have been Cholodenko’s passive direction, but I think it works. I guess it just doesn’t have kick that other year indie gems have. But I’m sure when it’s oscar time it will score nominations for Bening, Ruffalo, and Best Picture (and hopefully Moore, but it is unlikely).

Exit Through the Gift Shop | Banksy, 2010

I knew about this movie before I watched it, but I didn’t know what it was about other than it was about street art, something I’m not too familiar with. So, I was pretty surprised at what it was truly about, and dumbfounded by what happens in the end.

According to Banksy in the beginning, the movie started out as a documentary about him by Thierry Guetta. But then he realized that the man behind the camera was more interesting, so he decided to make the film about that man. It turns out that Thierry always had a fascination with cameras. And one day, after spending some time with his cousin, renowned street artist Space Invader, he became obsessed with the movement and started recording these people doing what they were doing under the pretense that he is doing a documentary, but isn’t really doing anything. The movie follows Thierry through that up to when he started doing his own street art and became an overnight sensation.

This movie is fascinating from beginning to end. Since I new next to nothing about the street art movements, I was fascinated by that, and also by the man who wanted to record all of that. Also, seeing the impact that this movement had on the art world is quite great, particularly the parts about Banksy and how he goes farther than any others to get his art out there. But by the end, after we seen Thierry becoming a star in the art world, and seeing Banksy and others saying that they were suprised by it, I started to wonder if this is just some elaborate joke to tell the world how little they know about what true art is, etc. Either way, they made their point, and this movie is great.

Catfish | Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2010

We have all heard that the internet is a dangerous place because people can deceive you and then they can steal your identity and what not. But it is also a place where through sites like Facebook and forums you can make some good friends. Catfish is about both aspects of the internet, and while you think it is going a certain direction, it turns out to be quite different.

In Catfish, the directors decided to record the friendship between New York photographyer Nev Shulman and an 8-year-old artist named Abby from Michigan. From then on, he becomes aquainted with the rest of her famly, particularly with her sister Megan, with whom he sort of develops and online.

I don’t want to say much more, but trust me when I say that it’s not quite what you expect. It is actually a rather sad and sometimes touching story. It definitely is one of my favorites of the year so far.

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