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Flick Clique: August 12-18

Easy Virtue (2008). Strange, choppy period comedy about a 1920s race car driver named Larita (Jessica Biel), a freewheeling young lady who lives for the moment. Her arrival at a staid British family’s mansion is a shocker, since she impulsively married the rebellious son (Ben Barnes) and ruined plans for the estate to stay in the family through the young man marrying the daughter in the family at a neighboring property. While the couple uncomfortably stays at the estate for a few weeks, Larita’s mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) and two sisters-in-law (Kimberley Nixon and Katherine Parkinson from The I.T. Crowd) endeavor to make things as difficult as possible for the young couple. The estate’s patriarch (Colin Firth), a laid-back vet and ex-junkie, takes it all in stride. Overproduced and not terribly funny. Firth is great; Biel seems out of her depth; the rest of the cast is all right. The film was jazzed up with unnecessary CGI and terrible music, which tells me that it was originally meant to be something like a dark satire but ultimately ended up as a frothy, unmemorable comedy.
Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010). Finally got to watch this one, after sitting on our Netflix instant queue forever. It was pretty interesting to watch, spoiled by central conceit that its main subject, a hyper Frenchman who goes by the handle Mr. Brainwatch, ended up being a fraud set up by the filmmakers to expose the art scene as a bunch of fickle, trend-seeking poseurs. Disappointingly, the art of enigmatic Banksy isn’t explored very much at all. The film left me kinda nonplussed about street art in general. Banksy’s stuff is different – at least it’s provocative and has a cheeky point of view. The other artists profiled in the film range from too-slick (Shepard Fairey) to simple and vague (the French guy who secretly installs Space Invaders-inspired mosaics here and there). The work of Mr. Brainwatch, whose ambitiously scaled L.A. installation forms the bulk of the film, seemed totally derivative and dumb. Of course, it was a huge hit.
Heidi’s Song (1982). This sugary Hanna-Barbera animated feature film is one of the latest offerings from the Warner Archive; my full review at DVD Talk is here. Below, a screen shot which didn’t make it into the final piece:

My Son John (1952). Strange, hysterical anti-Communist film that got recently reissued on home video from Olive Films. This was the film with Robert Walker (in his final performance) as a Washington diplomat who returns to the small town he grew up in a changed man. His religious parents (Dean Jagger and Helen Hayes) are baffled by his strange behavior. Eventually, the truth comes out – he’s a red! This was, frankly, a wretched melodrama, but it’s a fascinating curio of another age. My DVD Talk review. Here’s a screen shot of Helen Hayes and Van Heflin that didn’t make it into the review:

Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995). Fascinating documentary which we stumbled upon on Netflix. William Shatner narrates this penetrating look into the world of post-WWII atomic bomb testing, using loads of recently (as of 1995) declassified footage showing various atomic testing projects in chronological order. The footage generally looks great, with some powerful imagery that astonishes to this day. The use of portentous music wasn’t so thrilling, but otherwise this was a concise and absorbing peek into the circa 1945-65 horrible things the government did for the cause of keeping up with the arms race. It’s still hard to believe they did all that.

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