By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
AMERICAN ZOMBIE Recent films like Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later presented zombies as the embodiment of suburban complacency and human hostility, while genre patriarch George Romero offered the zombie-as-mindless-consumer in his landmark Dawn of the Dead. Now, with American Zombie, director Grace Lee gives us the zombie-as-oppressed-and-invisible-minority. Lee plays an exaggerated version of herself in this mockumentary, which follows a pair of filmmakers as they shadow four zombies in an effort to infiltrate Los Angeles’ undead community. Lee’s high-functioning protagonists hold down menial jobs at offices and stores, and besides being plagued by tissue decay, they struggle with the same headaches we do: dead-end relationships, irritating roommates, creative dissatisfaction. Computers don’t exist in their lives (a convenience-store slacker publishes a Xeroxed zine, not a blog); Live Dead, the zombies’ annual desert festival, is meant to be a Burning Man stand-in, but its dirty dreadlocked attendees and Ani DiFranco–esque balladeers are more reminiscent of Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair. Even American Zombie’s social criticism seems drawn from an obsolete episode of MTV’s The Real World. Homelessness, AIDS and wage slavery are addressed, yet the Iraq war, the oil crisis and global warming don’t appear on Lee’s radar. The best zombie movies shock us into a realization about ourselves and the world in which we live, but how much can zombies teach us when their world so closely resembles 1995? (Sunset 5) (Sam Sweet)
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Argento flashes her come-hither stare.
GO BOARDING GATE There’s basically one reason to see Olivier Assayas’ self-consciously meta-sleazy English-French-Chinese-language globo-thriller Boarding Gate, and her name is Asia Argento. Argento’s Sandra — a Paris-based ex-hooker, erstwhile industrial spy, freelance drug dealer, and eventual hit lady — is introduced with her back to the camera and hair piled up, the better to display the “23” tattooed on the nape of her neck: She’s hot stuff. Sandra’s former lover, the capitalist swine Miles (beefy Michael Madsen), wants out of his import-export racket, and he wants Sandra back in his life. The pair embarks on a long conversation on who got off on what, during the course of which Sandra, being Argento, pokes the finger of one hand into her mouth while idly exploring her crotch with the other. There hasn’t been so insolent a bad girl since the late-’70s punk queen Lydia Lunch, or so bizarre a femme fatale since the pre-humanitarian Angelina Jolie. Boarding Gate returns to the jagged yet posh faux-vérité style that Assayas introduced in his last international thriller, 2002’s Demonlover; the film is a mélange of suave jump cuts, confusing close-ups and light-smearing action pans. But, unlike Demonlover, Boarding Gate has little new to offer, and Assayas’ attempt to hijack and import a strobe-lit, glass-shattering, Hong Kong–style chase-cum-shootout, complete with drugged drinks and interpolated karaoke, is disappointingly mediocre. (Sunset 5) (J. Hoberman)
FLAWLESS The CV of director Michael Radford is nothing if not a lesson in cultural diversity: Born in India to a British father and an Austrian mother, he studied at Oxford and has directed films in England, Italy (that Oscar-nominated trifle of tourist porn, Il Postino), Africa and the U.S., most of which would scarcely be missed were the world’s celluloid stockpiles suddenly requisitioned for an emergency guitar-pick shortage. Radford’s latest — a jewel-heist caper set in London and filmed in Luxembourg — is no exception. In an abortive comeback role, Demi Moore stars as the sole female executive at the fictional London Diamond Corporation, who, upon learning she’s about to get the boot, teams with a crafty cockney night janitor (Michael Caine) to empty the corporate vault of its 100-million-pound inventory. Rife with the lipstick traces of Inside Man, The League of Gentlemen (which it explicitly references) and countless other superior heist pictures, Flawless is the sort of movie that tends to get called “enjoyably old-fashioned,” except that there’s nothing enjoyable about it. The pacing is torpid, the plotting slack, and the performances utterly joyless — chiefly Moore, who seems so intent on being taken seriously that she walks through every scene with her face stretched into an expressionless mask, her lips pressed into a permanent pout. All of which is preferable to the movie’s nauseatingly P.C. save-the-world coda, so heavy-handed you expect Sally Struthers to greet you with a donation cup as you exit the theater. (The Landmark; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Scott Foundas)
IRINA PALM Nobody can reduce tawdry material to doddering quaintness like the British, but this staggeringly inane joint effort of U.K., Belgian, French, German and Luxembourgian film financing represents a true coalition of the witless. With her dying grandson unable to afford life-saving treatment in Australia — so much for Michael Moore’s miracles of socialized medicine — a matronly middle-aged widow (Marianne Faithfull!) timidly answers a London sex club’s job posting. Dutifully divested of diva-hood, Faithfull is stationed at a glory hole with enough lotion to capsize Eliot Spitzer, instructed to polish every knob that pokes through. Voilà! She finds mad money, likely romance and newfound self-esteem, as so often happens with aging sex workers in the anonymous coin-op jerk-off trade. The whole ridiculous thing could serve as one of Lars von Trier’s lurid melodramas of female abasement, if director Sam Garbarski’s tone didn’t fluctuate between kitchen-sink miserabilism and the smirky archness of a Very Special Are You Being Served? — and if it weren’t such a pack of cozily sanitized lies. Except, of course, for the movie’s urgent warning about the hazards of “penis elbow.” (Nuart) (Jim Ridley)
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