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How graffiti survived

June 06, 2008|Mark Olsen, Kevin Thomas, Gary Goldstein, Michael Ordona

Though it has already been rolling out to theaters elsewhere, the graffiti documentary "Bomb It" hits Los Angeles at just the right moment, as local headlines have recently been filled with tales of online tagger braggadocio and subsequent high-profile arrests. As a form of art and social resistance, graffiti has become a site of confrontation between expression and authority, with one participant declaring graffiti culture "bigger than the Renaissance."

Directed by Jon Reiss, the film traces the form's origins in Philadelphia and New York and then trips on to France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, England, South Africa, Brazil and Japan before winding up in L.A. The film gives a surprising amount of time to those who consider the form an urban blight, simple vandalism and destruction of property, but it is never in doubt which side Reiss is on. While at times feeling a little too much like it is designed to play on background monitors in hip shops, "Bomb It" is a remarkably compact and engaging overview of the history and ideology of this urban outlaw art form.

-- Mark Olsen

"Bomb It." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. In English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish with English subtitles. At the Laemmle Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.

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Argento fulfills his horror trilogy

"The Mother of Tears" completes a trilogy of tales of three all-powerful witches that Italian horrormeister Dario Argento began in 1977 with "Suspiria" and continued with the 1980 "Inferno." Long a cult figure, Argento is a visionary in depicting the eternal struggle between good and often supernatural and seemingly overwhelming evil.

Although "The Mother of Tears" teeters on the preposterous and awkward, it is diverting and reveals that the filmmaker's signature bravura flourishes and use of sinister settings are still intact. Asia Argento, the writer-director's daughter, always a striking, edgy presence, stars as a student working at Rome's Museum of Ancient Art who opens a recently unearthed chest only to awaken the spirit of a witch bent upon causing the Second Fall of Rome. "The Mother of Tears" is uneven but unmistakably the work of Dario Argento, which will be enough to please his admirers.

-- Kevin Thomas

"The Mother of Tears." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At the Nuart through Thursday, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; (310) 281-8223.

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Unlikely stanzas from 'The Poet'

There's a viable story lurking within the World War II melodrama "The Poet," but much of it likely landed on the cutting room floor. The plot's connective tissue is deficient from the start as Oskar (Jonathan Scarfe), a disillusioned, poetry-spouting German soldier, rescues Rachel (Nina Dobrev), the beautiful daughter of a Polish rabbi, from a horrific snowstorm, beds her, then instantly declares his love for the "verboten," already-engaged Jewess. This sets off a string of equally hasty and unconvincing sequences separating Rachel and Oskar until their contrived, third-act reunion at a German military camp on the Russian front. A string of implausibilities follows, abetted by the largely Canadian cast's spotty Eastern European accents, Daryl Hannah's overly measured turn as Oskar's saintly mother and the late Roy Scheider's cameo as an avuncular rabbi who gives "open-minded" new meaning.

-- Gary Goldstein

"The Poet." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.

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Here, it's double the disaster

When is a gay-themed disaster movie not a gay-themed disaster movie? Here Films, a division of Here "Gay Television on Demand," shows how to be and not be both in the current double feature, "Solar Flare" and "Polar Opposites." Unfortunately, the features don't feel like fully realized cinematic experiences, more like the ultra-low-budget TV movies they are (set to premiere on the network later this month). Hence, there isn't nearly enough disaster in these disaster movies.

In "Solar Flare," a naive young genius (newcomer Chris Brochu) can predict the titular disturbances, some severe enough to cause serious inconveniences. His mother, the foxiest strip-club bouncer in Los Angeles (Michelle Clunie of "Queer as Folk"), and an idealistic scientist (Tracey Gold, "Growing Pains") must protect him from an evil corporate dude who wants the teen genius' technology for nefarious uses. The film tries to be a cautionary tale against corporate interference in both the environment and technology, but it really serves as a warning beacon against enervated staging and ineffectual dialogue. Sometimes the words really do get in the way.

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