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
THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI As ploddingly familiar as it is good-looking, Roger Spottiswoode’s drama, based on the life of an Englishman who saved an orphanage full of boys from Japanese invaders and Chinese nationalists in the 1930s, distills China’s pain into the story of one white Westerner — plus his romantic interest and a wry native sidekick — making a difference while world history rages around him. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, a 21st-century Irish heartthrob appearing here with hair barely tamped down from its trendy coxcomb and an overcooked Oxbridge accent — is more incongruous than terrible as naive Brit George Hogg, who is saved from the Japanese by Chow Yun-Fat (hogging the light relief as a Chinese guerrilla who enjoys blowing stuff up) and further redeemed when a self-appointed American nurse (a capable Radha Mitchell) dumps him at a barely functioning orphanage. Once there, Hogg has the time of his life, planting veggies, fending off lice and foreign soldiers, and finally fleeing with the boys along the unforgiving Silk Road. Beautifully shot by House of Flying Daggers cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding, The Children of Huang Shi is a work from the heart, hobbled at the get-go by the anxiety that no one will finance, release or show up for such earnest material without recognizable stars younger than 35, regularly paced explosions and the usual narrative arc curving from despair to slim ray of hope. To read the full version of this review, go to www.laweekly.com/film. (The Landmark; Playhouse 7; TownCenter 5) (Ella Taylor)
GO THE COOL SCHOOL Taking its title from a 1964 Artforum article linking the rebellious spirit and bop attitudes of West Coast art to those of West Coast jazz, veteran documentarist Morgan Neville’s illustrated history of the painters and sculptors associated with Venice’s Ferus Gallery (1957–1967) is at once lively and analytical. Drawing on original and archival footage of the artists (John Altoon, Ed Kienholz, Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, et al.) at work and at play, on a polyphonic (and often dissonant) chorus of reminiscing heads, and on critical responses that range from the gaga enthusiasm of Ferus collectors Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell to the competitive carping of New York gallery owner Ivan Karp, Neville cobbles together a dramatic tale of two curators — Walter Hopps and Irving Blum — whose daring (if not entirely synchronized) visions of what the nearsighted Poulson/Yorty–era art market might bear put the city on the road to MOCA, Bergamot Station and 2006’s big retrospective of Los Angeles art at the Pompidou Centre. The proceedings are cheerily abetted by vintage black-and-white photographs by Charles Britten, Jerry McMillan, Bill Claxton, Kienholz and others, and a soundtrack that stretches all the way from the abstract expressions of Charles Mingus to the lighter-and-spacier Link Wray stylings of the original score by composer Dan Crane. (Grande 4-Plex) (Ron Stringer)
GO HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi’s arresting doc narrows in on the shifting fates and fortunes of Iraq’s only heavy-metal band, Acrassicauda, in the wake of the 2003 invasion. The four bandmates shrug off the novelty of Muslim youths moshing to Metallica covers: “We are living in a heavy-metal world,” one explains, as bombs rock the Casbah-like pyrotechnics at an Iron Maiden show. It only gets heavier, as civil war forces half the band into Syria and a blast obliterates their practice space. Inspired by a Vice profile, the HD-shot doc covers a lot of ground despite (or perhaps because of) its limited focus. Along with grim data about the “brain drain” flight of Iraq’s most educated citizens (and the continuing hemorrhage of refugees into neighboring countries), it offers a gritty travelogue of bullet-riddled Baghdad, which the jittery hipster filmmakers prowl with moonlighting bodyguards, whose paranoia surpasses even their own. In the process, the movie reclaims metal’s appeal to the powerless, as well as its threat — when you can get shot for wearing a Slipknot T-shirt (talk about “Death, be not proud”) or speaking the English you learned off Master of Puppets, raising those devil horns isn’t an empty act of aggression. Given the courageously downbeat closing note, here’s hoping a follow-up catches Acrassicauda rockin’ the free world. (Sunset 5) (Jim Ridley)
POSTAL Regurgitating Mad magazine, South Park and Borat into what he believes may be some sort of comedic superbarf, German fauxteur Uwe Boll exhaustingly and pathetically attempts post-9/11 cultural satire in his umpteenth video-game adaptation (see also: BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark, In the Name of the King, et al.), yet manages to be as toothless as he is tasteless. Poorly framed, tone-deaf, and nonsensical (yet still Boll’s best!), the story follows the perpetually disillusioned Dude (Zack Ward) and his hippie cult-leader uncle (Dave Foley, boasting the year’s most embarrassing full-frontal scene) as they scheme to steal cock-shaped plush toys, then fight the bumbling Taliban. Beginning with two terrorists in a cockpit arguing over the number of virgins they’ve been promised before crashing into the World Trade Center, ending with Dubya and Osama skipping hand in hand into a mushroom-cloud sunset, with Verne Troyer raped by 1,000 monkeys somewhere in between, Postal desperately needs to remind you that its middle finger is permanently raised. Anarchy, my ass — this movie’s about as dangerous (or as funny) as a mouthy, caffeinated suburban teen punk who just saw his first shit-flinging GG Allin performance on YouTube. (Culver Plaza; Monica 4-Plex) (Aaron Hillis) Also read an interview with Uwe Boll.
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