Saturday, March 5, 2011

Film Round-Up for March 2011

Not much to report here, just proof that January and February are the coldest months if you're a movie reviewer. Except for Making the Boys--that was excellent.

Oh, and another thing: Poor, poor Kelly Lynch.

These reviews originally appeared in ICON. (Thanks, Trina.)

Kaboom (Dir: Gregg Araki). Starring: Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Kelly Lynch. Pansexual college freshman Smith (Dekker) is pursuing the normal campus activities—beach sex with anonymous hunks, drug-induced one-night stands with kinky coeds—when he starts being pursued by mysterious figures in animal masks. This leads, logically, to the discovery of a powerful secret society to which he is intimately connected. I feel fortunate to have taken away that much. Araki, who also wrote the script, cannot commit to any storyline or style for more than five minutes. The movie has no identity, no compelling point of interest. It's about cynical college kids lifted from The Rules of Attraction, another awful movie! No, it's a murder-mystery! Wait, wait, it's really a conspiracy thriller! Regardless of genre, what's onscreen is incomprehensible and condescending. I think Araki wanted to comment on today's dissatisfied and adrift youth, but by making his characters little more than pop-culture spouting sex machines, he shows how little he cares about the characters or the audience. All Araki is concerned with is context-free shock. Kaboom isn't a movie. It's an 86-minute long slap in the face. [NR] *

Making the Boys (Dir: Crayton Robey). In 1968, Mart Crowley's play The Boys in the Band opened off-Broadway. At the time, it was considered groundbreaking because it depicted gay characters with real problems. The show quickly became a hit, moving to Broadway and inspiring a movie and touring shows. Its success was a double-edged sword. As the sixties morphed into the sexually empowering seventies, critics scoffed at the play's stereotypes and self-loathing attitude. After his second play flopped, Crowley traveled the world aimlessly before becoming a producer on Hart to Hart. The show's cast had difficulty landing roles after the play; sadly, some succumbed to AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. Robey deftly juggles multiple angles regarding the play (its development and influence, the story of its cast and creator) and how social history has influenced its legacy. The interviews make the film, with a tart and eloquent Edward Albee emerging as the best. The legendary playwright, after reading The Boys in the Band, deemed it a "highly skillful work that I despised." Regardless of your take on the play, Robey offers a heartfelt story of gays' emergence in popular culture. [NR] ****

Carbon Nation (Dir: Peter Byck). The press release for this documentary features such adjectives as "optimistic," "solutions-based," and "non-partisan." "Humdrum" isn't among them. Byck travels across the United States to learn how forward thinking individuals and businesses are reducing carbon output, which is leading to global warming and related maladies. Though it's nice to see an objective, friendly stance on an environmental issue, it makes for a movie that has the passion and urgency of a science class lecture. Its biggest mistake is to not have a symbol—the way Cool It employed Bjørn Lomborg or Gasland featured director Josh Fox as the ignored everyman—to make us care about what's going on. The topic alone is not enough to justify the film's existence. Byck, whom we don't see, tries to compensate by being cheeky and sarcastic with the script and interviewee bios. That, plus Bill Kurtis's smooth, wink-wink narration, makes us long for Byck to express himself instead of hiding behind coyness (say the title out loud) and the same old pleas for environmental action. [NR] **

Immigration Tango (Dir: David Burton Morris). Starring: McCaleb Burnett, Carlos Leon, Elika Portnoy, Ashley Wolfe. Uninspired, transparent romantic farce features two Miami couples committing domestic duplicity so sexy Russian business student Elena (Portnoy) can avoid deportation. She agrees to marry and cohabitate with hunky Mike (Burnett), the boyfriend of her best friend, Betty (Wolfe). To keep up the ruse, Elena's chef boyfriend, Carlos (Leon), shacks up with Betty, a law student whose rigid demeanor exists solely to move the story along. The four friends quickly discover that the arrangement creates new feelings—and awakens dormant ones—that complicate everything. Morris, who also co-wrote the script, tries to goose a plot that's been rehashed in countless sitcoms and movies. He wants a genial comedy that deals with heavy emotional issues, an impossible compromise. Morris seems to know this, since he happily dumps any dramatic wrangling for the requisite sunny solution. Immigration Tango is not charming, and it's certainly not convincing. There's no reason for the original two couples to be best friends outside of screenwriter's convenience. The rest of the movie follows suit. [R] **

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