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Film Reviews 

For the week of March 31-April 6

Wednesday, Mar 29 2006
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GO ADAM & STEVE A bad date can come back to haunt you, a phenomenon that may derail the blossoming romance between Adam (Craig Chester) and Steve (a fearless Malcolm Gets), two New Yorkers who’ve yet to recall that they shared a one-night stand back in 1987, an occasion that ended with Steve having a bodily-function accident so disgusting that John Waters would surely cackle with glee. Adam has a few skeletons of his own, not least his accident-prone family, on whom ceilings fall nightly, which accounts for the traction harness his mother (Julie Hagerty, aces) wears like a fashion accessory. For his debut as writer-director, Chester, who starred in the 1990s queer classics Swoon and Grief, has devised some funny running gags for his supporting cast, which includes Parker Posey and Chris Kattan. Their antics distract nicely from the fact that Adam and Steve never actually say anything interesting to each another. But then again, profundity has never been a requirement for heterosexual movie lovers either. Adam & Steve is uneven, but it’s a relief to see a gay romance that isn’t about ab-perfect 20-year-olds, and which features lovers played by two long out-of-the-closet actors. Wonder of wonders. (Sunset 5; One Colorado; Art Theater) (Chuck Wilson)

ATL His parents having recently been killed in a car crash, high school senior Rashad (rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris) lives with and looks out for his impressionable younger brother, Ant (Evan Ross), on Atlanta’s mean streets, where kids tend toward drug dealing instead of college for a shot at a future. As soon as we hear Rashad’s jaded voice-over accompanied by a menacing hip-hop beat during the opening credits, the story arc of this Dirty South Boyz N the Hood is a foregone conclusion, but veteran rap-video director Chris Robinson gives his feature debut such energy and good humor that, for a long while, ATL skates along on its slick camera movements and the exuberance of its young cast. When Robinson lets Rashad and his posse pal around, hook up and have a few laughs, he evokes a sense of how good kids in bad neighborhoods nonchalantly face constant self-destructive temptations as a part of their daily routine. But eventually, Hollywood plot machinations rear their ugly heads, dictating a generic Romeo-and-Juliet love story and an even staler cautionary tale about the evils of drugs that completely stifle the film’s laid-back appeal. What starts out as a lively reconsidering of the thug-life mentality ends up having as much depth as, well, one of Robinson’s videos. (Citywide) (Tim Grierson)

GO AWESOME: I FUCKIN’ SHOT THAT This Beastie Boys concert film is billed as “an authorized bootleg,” a tag derived from the group’s decision to hand video cameras to 50 fans just before an October 2004 Madison Square Garden concert, with instructions to shoot whatever the fans wanted. The resulting footage was then sampled by director “Nathaniel Hornblower” (actually Beastie Adam Yauch) and stitched into this feature-length documentary. But while the creative driver’s seat is shared with fans, it’s clear from the start that Awesome is kissed with patented Beastie cheekiness: It opens with a non sequitur text scroll that’s played just for laughs, after which the viewer is catapulted into a sea of grainy, shaky images (at times, the film almost engenders motion sickness) that are nevertheless delicately braced with professionalism. The sound mix is gloriously pristine, catching every keyboard warble and turntable scratch, and Yauch’s precision editing simultaneously captures both fan hysteria and the energetic rush of the concert. While the joy that the Beasties have in performing is palpable, some of Awesome’s biggest highlights are snapshots of fan rapture — mosh-pit frenzy, air-guitar accompaniment and hyped mouthing along to lyrics. Keep an eye out for Ben Stiller in B-boy drag and fan-boy mode. Only hardcore aficionados will have the stamina to endure the full-on assault — the movie starts to drag near the end and feels longer than its 90 minutes — but that’s cool. It’s a love letter to the faithful in the first place. (Nuart) (Ernest Hardy)

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BASIC INSTINCT 2 Beginning with a multi­cultural finger between Sharon Stone’s legs, to her more than enthusiastic approval, Basic Instinct 2 pushes diligently along in a murder-and-mayhem-stuffed effort to demonstrate that (a) a sillier and more hackneyed movie than Basic Instinct is possible and (b) that shrinks have ids too, by golly. No more bent cops (okay, just a wee one, played by David Thewlis in the movie’s lone moments of genuine fun) for Stone’s Catherine Tramell. Looking stretched and tight and quite terrific, so long as you don’t expect her to look anything like herself (she looks as though she’s prepping to be Faye Dunaway), Stone delivers her lines with slinky grace, but there’s no helping out a plot with as many doggedly transparent twists as this one. This time Our Lady of the Dried Blood has her talons and other parts of her improbably buffed bod into Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey), an uptight, upright psychiatrist with a lovely office in London’s sleek Gherkin Tower (shot by cinematographer Gyula Pados in the steely hues beloved of thriller hacks, in this instance director Michael Caton-Jones) and an exploitable flaw on his résumé. Of the many ancillary corpses-in-waiting, only Charlotte Rampling adds a touch of class, even while bending herself around lines like “How Lacanian!” No doubt the otherwise intelligent Henry Bean (Internal Affairs, The Believer) cleared the smug, leery script (written with his wife, Leora Barish) with his Torah study group before turning it in. (Citywide) (Ella Taylor)

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Slideshows

  • Nicolas Cage's 10 Best Movie Roles
    As video-on-demand continues to become the preferred route of distribution for a certain kind of independent film, much is being made of Nicolas Cage's willingness to slum for a paycheck, with recent examples including already-forgotten, small-screen-friendly items like Seeking Justice, Trespass, Stolen, and The Frozen Ground. (His character names in these projects -- Will Gerard, Kyle Miller, Will Montgomery, and Jack Halcombe -- are as interchangeable as the titles of the films.) Aside from citing the obvious appeal of doing work for money (a defense Cage himself brought up in a recent interview with The Guardian), it's also possible to back Cage by acknowledging the consistency with which he's taken on "serious" roles over the years.

    David Gordon Green's Joe, which hits limited release this weekend (more details on that here), marks the latest instance of this trend, with Cage giving a reportedly subdued performance as an ex-con named Joe Ransom. In that spirit, we've put together a rundown of some of the actor's finest performances, all of which serve as proof that, though his over-the-top inclinations may make for a side-splitting YouTube compilation, Cage has amassed a career that few contemporary actors can equal. This list is hardly airtight in its exclusivity, so a few honorable mentions ought to go out to a pair of Cage's deliriously uneven auteur collaborations (David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes), 1983's Valley Girl, 1987's Moonstruck, and Alex Proyas's Knowing (a favorite of the late Roger Ebert).

    --Danny King
  • Ten Enduring Conspiracy Thrillers
    With the approaching release this week of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many critics, including L.A. Weekly’s own Amy Nicholson, have noted the film’s similarities (starting with the obvious: Robert Redford) to the string of conspiracy thrillers that dominated American cinema during the 1970s. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the most enduring entries in the genre -- most of them coming from the ‘70s, but with a few early-‘80s holdouts added in for good measure. This is by no means an exclusive list, and more recent films like Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out (1987), Jacques Rivette’s Secret Defense (1998), Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State (1998), Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (2005), and Redford’s own The Company You Keep (2012) speak to how well the genre has sustained itself over time. Words by Danny King.
  • Behind the Scenes of Muppets Most Wanted
    "The endurance of the Muppets isn't just the result of the creative skills of Henson and collaborators like Frank Oz, or of smart business decisions, or of sheer dumb luck," writes this paper's film critic Stephanie Zacharek in her review of Muppets Most Wanted. "It's simply that the Muppets are just ever so slightly, or maybe even totally, mad. Man, woman, child: Who can resist them? Even TV-watching cats are drawn to their frisky hippety-hopping and flutey, gravely, squeaky, squawky voices." Go behind the scenes with the hippety-hopping Muppets with these images.

    Read our full Muppets Most Wanted movie review.

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