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Capsule reviews: `Kick-Ass' and others

The Associated Press, Thursday, April 15, 2010, 2:40am (PDT)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Death at a Funeral" — The original "Death at a Funeral" only came out about three years ago, so it may seem a bit soon to resurrect it. But director Neil LaBute and an all-star cast surprisingly breathe new life into the material. The British farce about an extended family coming together for a funeral, with elaborate hijinks ensuing, debuted in 2007 to mixed reviews and minimal box office. The main problem with director Franz Oz's film was that it was all over the place in tone — veering between dry wit, scatological slapstick and sticky sentimentality — with dull sections that dragged in between. This new version works better because at least it knows what it is. LaBute just goes for it, playing up the wilder elements of the story, of which there are plenty. And the hugely talented comic cast, led by Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan, is definitely up for such raunchy physicality — though no one is working outside his comfort level. It's a nearly verbatim remake, from chunks of dialogue to wardrobe details to an unfortunate scene of extended toilet humor. But the setting this time is the Los Angeles home of an upscale black family that's lost its patriarch. R for language, drug content and some sexual humor. 92 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Exit Through the Gift Shop" — Shrouded in shadow and his voice altered, the renown British graffiti artist known as Banksy acknowledges early in his film that it isn't "Gone With the Wind." But it is a curious and winning documentary. It's both an attempt to document the street art movement and a bemused examination about why the movie failed in that mission. Much of the joy of the film is the footage of artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Invader — normally such camera-shy folk — scrambling across rooftops like burglars. It's also about the man they entrusted to document their work: an enthusiastic, mutton-chopped Frenchman named Thierry Guetta. Things unravel right around the time Guetta remakes himself as "Mister Brainwash," leaving Banksy to take up the movie and ponder whether art is a bit of a joke. R for some language. 87 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"The Joneses" — David Duchovny and Demi Moore do a fine job hawking first-time writer-director Derrick Borte's satire of consumerism, even if the story does diminish from a razor-sharp opening to a meandering midsection to a mushy Hollywood ending. Borte presents a clever concept: A marketing company dispatches an insanely appealing family (Duchovny, Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth) to a new town to make their neighbors covet all the cool gadgets and products they've got. Audiences won't come away with any deep insights about our advertising age of acquisitiveness. But they will keep up with "The Joneses," whose stars make it breezy and entertaining despite the gimmick at the heart of the story. It stays fun even as the movie ultimately sells out with a fuzzy romantic climax. But like any good case of envy, the movie leaves you vaguely dissatisfied and wanting more. R for language, some sexual content, teen drinking and drug use. 95 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"Kick-Ass" — Director Matthew Vaughn has made a superhero action comedy so funny fans might need to see it again just to catch the gags they missed from laughing so hard the first time. The film is seriously, nastily violent, both satirizing the excesses of superhero flicks and showing genuine, hurtful consequences of the cartoon action Hollywood serves up. As an 11-year-old masked vigilante, supporting player Chloe Grace Moretz simply owns this movie, deliriously complemented by Nicolas Cage as her doting but dotty dad. They team up with a costumed comic-book geek (Aaron Johnson) to take on a crime boss (Mark Strong) and his son, a supervillain wannabe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Alternately sweet, savage and scary, Moretz makes you believe she really could beat the stuffing out of grown men two or three times her size. It'll never happen, but she deserves a supporting-actress nomination come Academy Awards time. R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug content — some involving children. 118 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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