Movie Reviews: Kung Fu Panda, Mongol, Mother of Tears 

Also, The Go-Getter, Trying to Get Good and more

Wednesday, Jun 4 2008

BOMB IT Graffiti taggers wearing masks, lurking in the shadows, watched by security cameras and running from the police inevitably suggest a different kind of resistance fighter against globalism. And their signature phrase, “Bomb it!” (i.e., paint it, tag it, hit it, put a spray can to it), places graffitists uncomfortably close to jihadists. Certainly, Jon Reiss’ briskly edited and energetic documentary captures a lot of anger. From the Bronx in the ’70s to the border walls in Palestine to the banlieues outside Paris, we hear the same basic “Fuck it!” from young people and outcasts who insist that since society won’t invest in them (often true), they’re entitled to strike back. Some taggers vow never to deface a person’s home; others maintain a more anarchist credo, attacking “whatever is paid for by taxes.” Bomb It’s uncritical survey of world graffiti culture nods to history and cave art, then basically repeats itself (in Tokyo, São Paulo, Barcelona, etc.), making no distinction between gangbangers, pissed-off teens and artists. Though street satirists like Robbie Conal and Blek le Rat appear briefly to argue their case, along with guerrilla designers Marc Ecko and Shepard Fairey, Bomb It doesn’t have the patience or the smarts for real analysis. Those who despise graffiti are made to look like old fools; those who tag are inarticulate but undeluded that their work, or names, will outlive them. (Sunset 5) (Brian Miller)

GO  THE GO-GETTER Distraught over his mom’s death, adorably awkward but soulful 19-year-old Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci) steals a car belonging to plucky boho babe Kate (Zooey Deschanel), who oddly befriends, guides and flirts with her victimizer via cell phone. Passing eccentric strangers from Oregon to Nevada, the Great American Hipster Road Trip ensues, as Mercer quests to find his estranged half-brother and roadside romance to a soundtrack jammed with Black Keys, Elliott Smith and a nifty score by M. Ward (who, along with Deschanel, makes up indie-rock flavor of the moment She & Him). And yet, if you can look past writer-director Martin Hynes’ familiar fest formula, his film modestly rewards with gorgeous sun-spotted cinematography, tender digressions in rather brave quantities, and believably charming dialogue that doesn’t all sound like it came from the same brain (listen up, Diablo Cody). A bit reminiscent of the 1992 cult comedy Roadside Prophets — if, say, that film’s Ad-Rock and Arlo Guthrie were substituted with wild child Jena Malone and a philosophical pornographer named Sergio Leone — The Go-Getter is a lovely escape, unless the idea of restaging the Madison sequence from Band of Outsiders makes you cringe. (Monica 4-Plex) (Aaron Hillis)

KUNG FU PANDA By all means, gather up the little ones and take them to this perfectly pleasant, very good-looking, modestly funny, dispiritingly unoriginal variant on the nerd-with-a-dream recipe that’s been clobbered to death in animated films for at least a decade now. Hectic as ever, Jack Black voices Po, a potbellied panda who’s stuck making noodles with dad (a goose — for reasons that escape me — voiced by James Hong), even though he lives and breathes kung fu trivia and longs to become a Master. The call comes from Dustin Hoffman as a pint-sized Zen guru, under whose grumpy tutelage Po and five other trainee critters with famous voices band together to save the world from a disgruntled snow leopard (Ian McShane). The movie’s design is striking, the colors are gorgeous and the fight sequences are pretty suave — but the adorability quotient is set a little high for this jaded palate. And is there a child around the moviegoing globe who couldn’t lip-synch by now the smug sloganeering about following your bliss, playing to your strengths and learning to be a mensch in good times and bad? Department of small mercies: For once, the moral voice (or “takeaway,” as it’s excruciatingly called in the production notes) comes more out of Buddhism than the Protestant work ethic. So we’re talking smash hit in Marin County and Dharamsala. (Citywide) (Ella Taylor)

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