Thursday, March 1, 2012

Film Round-Up for March 2012: No Room for Rock Stars, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, Rampart, Jiro Dreams of Sushi

The shiny, happy version of the Film Round-Up, where I wonder if I'm becoming the new Mark S. Allen. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I liked everything I saw.

These reviews appeared in the March issue of "ICON" and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)


Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Dir: David Gelb). "I don't think I have achieved perfection," says Jiro Ono, 85, a world-renowned sushi chef who hones his skills in his small Tokyo sushi restaurant. There are no other pursuits in a life dedicated to exacting standards and routine. Gelb's charming, artfully filmed documentary—food is frequently prepared in slow motion to the strains of classical musical—playfully examines the mixture of quirk and dedication required in this particular creative endeavor. What elevates the film beyond quaint treasure is its emotional heft. Gelb reveals how Jiro's passion has both strained and united a family. Jiro's older son, Yoshikazu, forever waits to take over the restaurant and impossible expectations; at a second location, younger son Takeshi can't charge the same prices as his father—he doesn't have the old man's reputation. Jiro expresses everything through work—all he's known since leaving home at age nine—including love for his sons, who have learned from a culinary master. This is a touching, satisfying, and mouth-watering film that makes it points slowly and sweetly. [PG] ****

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Dir: Marie Losier). Genesis P-Orridge, the industrial rock pioneer and performance artist, met a willowy young NYC-based dominatrix named Lady Jaye in the early 1990s. The two lovers were so consumed with the notion of becoming one that they endured multiple surgeries to look like each other. For his part, Genesis got breasts, dressed in women's clothes, and adopted Lady Jaye's blonde locks. The mirroring also doubled as a piece of performance art known as "Creating the Polymorph." Losier's jittery, homespun documentary follows Genesis's life and the couple's time together, switching between mundane scenes (a birthday party, Genesis through his albums) to unusual snippets of performance art to a concert tour. The film's herky-jerky style and artsy insistence will irritate some, whom shouldn't lose sight of how Losier captures the humanity behind the incomprehensible. What you're watching is a compelling, ultimately sad love story. The packaging is just different. [NR] ***

No Room for Rockstars (Dir: Parris Patton). For years, the Vans Warped Tour has funneled counterculture musical acts into the mainstream. No Doubt, Eminem, and Blink 182 were part of the raucous outdoor summer concert series before becoming chart toppers. Patton follows the 2010 tour, which covered 93 cities and nearly 30,000 miles in 52 days, and its various personalities. They include Mike Posner, whose appearance coincides with staggering commercial success; 19-year-old Cristofer Drew of Never Say Never, a sensitive heartthrob whom the teen girls adore, struggles for normalcy after three years on the road; and Mitch Lucker, the heavily tattooed screamer of Suicide Silence, who relentlessly tours for one reason: to provide for his daughter. At each stop, Forever Came Calling, an unknown California-based band confined to a decrepit van and a non-existent budget, sells homemade CDs and inches their way toward notoriety. Despite a lack of investigative crunch or conflict—the film is part of Warped Tour promotions—Patton ably captures the color and chaos that contribute to a labor of love. [NR] ***

Rampart (Dir: Oren Moverman). Starring: Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Ned Beatty, Ice Cube, Ben Foster, Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver. In 1999 Los Angeles, veteran police officer Dave Brown (Harrelson) has become irrelevant. His racist views and strong-armed tactics make him dangerous, especially in a city still hurting from the Rodney King beating. At home, his two ex-wives (Heche and Nixon, playing sisters) are tired of the headaches and make it clear that they don't need him. When Brown is involved in two high-profile job-related scandals, the LAPD wants him gone. Brown's desperate insistence that he's a victim, the target of a cover-up, quickly causes his life to unravel. Harrelson's blistering performance of a pathetic soul searching for a happy ending that will never arrive keeps our attention even when Moverman (The Messenger) and James Ellroy's script covers the same ground. A sobering, unforgiving look what happens when heroism passes its expiration date, captured with gritty flair by cinematographer Bobby Bukowski. Foster, who was Harrelson's co-star in The Messenger, also produced. [R] ***1/2

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