By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Anthony D'Alessandro
MY BROTHER Further evidence of the distressing state of African-American cinema, this torpid, independently made urban melodrama follows aspiring standup comic Isaiah (Nashawn Kearse) as he takes a job “moving packages” for some shady Middle Easterners in an ill-advised effort to make a better life for himself and his developmentally disabled brother (Christopher Scott). As the shit hits the fan and Isaiah finds himself on the run from shadowy men who want to bust his kneecaps, My Brother flashes back to show us how both boys came of age on the streets of New York — first under the care of their TB-stricken mother (Vanessa Williams) and, later, as wards of the worst state-run institutions this side of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. When he isn’t trafficking in that risible old notion that a black man’s only hope of movin’-on-up in America is by turning to a life of crime, writer-director Anthony Lover (not surprisingly, a vet of ABC afterschool specials) takes such a kid-gloves approach to his handicapped star that he achieves the opposite of the intended effect: Every time Scott enters a scene, it’s as if someone just told the entire cast, “Whatever you do, don’t say ‘retard.’ ” (AMC Magic Johnson Theatres) (Scott Foundas)
NOMAD: THE WARRIOR Centuries before Sacha Baron Cohen elevated Kazakhstan to a destination on the Great Silk Road, the Eurasian territory was inhabited by nomadic tribes whose refusal to band together left them vulnerable to marauding invaders. In the early 1700s, the biggest and baddest of the plundering hordes were the Jungars. This sweeping historical drama follows the rough outlines of Kazakh history in presenting the tale of Ablai Khan, who unified the feuding societies just in time to beat back the Jungars. Wide-screen cinematography captures the austere beauty of the semiarid, windswept steppes, the costumes and horseback riding are impressively authentic-looking, and the cast of B-picture, handsome Western actors — Mexico’s Kuno Becker and Americans Jay Hernandez and Jason Scott Lee — convey appropriate stoicism, though not much real emotion. With a commendable sincerity but also an unfortunate Hollywood veneer, Nomad is a poor man’s Gladiator. (Music Hall; One Colorado; South Bay Galleria 16) (Jean Oppenheimer)
PREMONITION Barely a year after she sent love letters to a paramour in a really different time zone in The Lake House, Sandra Bullock toys once more with the laws of physics in this hackneyed supernatural thriller that plays like a cross between a Lifetime network spinoff of Final Destination and the infamous Bobby-in-the-shower episode of Dallas. Clearly itching to show us that Miss Congeniality has a dark, brooding side, Bullock here plays a seemingly well-adjusted suburban wife and mom who answers a knock at the door and finds out that her husband (Julian McMahon) has been killed in a car crash on his way home from a business trip. But when Bullock wakes up the next morning, hubby is alive and well and hasn’t even left town yet. Then, the morning after that, it’s back to planning the funeral arrangements — oh, and figuring out why her daughter suddenly has mysterious scars all over her face, and who that mystery blonde is who keeps lurking in the shadows. As generic as its title, Premonition continues to toggle between the A-side and B-side of Bullock’s fractured life, while she makes some predictably unsavory discoveries about her husband and is ultimately forced to decide whether she should let her beloved meet his grisly end or attempt to thwart the course of fate. The moral complexities inherent in that scenario — which may be the strangest metaphor for female empowerment ever to grace the screen — are well beyond what German-born director Mennan Yapo and screenwriter Bill Kelly are prepared to deal with. They only want us to play that tiresome guessing game: Is it all a dream or is it really happening? Instead, you may find yourself asking: Is this cinema or merely Cinemax? (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)
TORTILLA HEAVEN God loves all his children, including the imbeciles who make up Falfúrrias, New Mexico, the fictional small town that provides the setting for director Judy Hecht Dumontet’s clumsy family comedy. Cut off from the highway, and thus civilization, Falfúrrias’ community of 73 Mexican and Native American residents lead a quiet religious life — everybody prays all the time — until Isidor (José Zúñiga), the owner of the town’s only restaurant, discovers Jesus’ face on one of his tortillas. Quickly thereafter, miracles start popping up all over town, zealous neighbors demand to gaze at the holy tortilla, and Gil (Miguel Sandoval), an out-of-town charlatan, arrives to fill Isidor’s head with visions of merchandising rights. If it was simply a jokey commentary on the dangers of greed and religious fervor, Tortilla Heaven would be forgivable. But Hecht Dumontet deserves special derision for her hypocritical condescension toward Falfúrrias’ simple-folk caricatures, rendering them as God-fearing dolts worthy of scorn until the patronizing finale, which tries for a spiritual uplift that’s as disingenuous as it is incompetently executed. As a director, she encourages copious mugging, which is particularly galling when a low-budget film manages to wrangle talents like Sandoval and Lupe Ontiveros and then gives them only bad physical comedy to work with. The press notes trumpet the film’s hiring of real Mexicans and Native Americans to provide an authenticity often missing from mainstream films about the region. After sitting through Tortilla Heaven, these two groups will probably wonder what they ever did to deserve such “authenticity.” (Citywide) (Tim Grierson)
THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEYSee film feature.
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