Film Reviews: Antarctica, The First Basket | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Film Reviews: Antarctica, The First Basket 

Plus, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, The Alphabet Killer and more

Wednesday, Nov 12 2008

THE ALPHABET KILLER Any number of TV shows in recent years has depicted an out-of-the-ordinary investigator who either talks to ghosts, sees what the killer sees, or believes what no one else will. Eliza Dushku, veteran of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Tru Calling, is perhaps the perfect choice to tweak this formula a tad, as a detective who does indeed see dead people ... because she’s schizophrenic. A mixed blessing, that, as it makes her obsessive enough to figure things out but also subjects her to visions of scary zombified victims that really aren’t as helpful as they could be. The mystery itself, allegedly based on a true story, is fairly rote: Someone is killing little girls with alliterative initials, and the perpetrator will presumably turn out to be one of the principal cast members. But when that roster includes the likes of Michael Ironside, Tom Noonan, Cary Elwes (massacring a Noo Yawk accent) and Bill Moseley, it makes the guessing game a little tougher and the story a lot more entertaining. Wrong Turn director Rob Schmidt ably goes through the motions, though the hook for a sequel at the end is truly annoying. Still, The Alphabet Killer may well make enough money to justify a Part II, as it features a split-second shot of Dushku topless, guaranteeing hefty rental revenues from the Buffy-ites. (Monica 4-Plex) (Luke Y. Thompson)

 GO ANTARCTICA Gay film slipped palatably out of Israel’s closet with the films of Eytan Fox, who with his partner Gal Uchovsky made Yossi & Jagger, The Bubble and the subliminally homoerotic Walk on Water. But writer-director Yair Hochner takes it to a daring new level that both invites and challenges the mainstream audience. Like The Bubble, Antarctica takes urban loneliness as its subject, but though all the characters are strikingly attractive, there’s nothing frothy or pandering about Hochner’s hermetic homosexual world — mothers and siblings included — where uncompromising carnality and an endless supply of ring-tones define the shifting couplings of gay men and lesbians ineptly looking for love and family in Tel Aviv, Israel’s answer to New York. The script, by turns crisply iconoclastic, wistfully romantic and sublimely silly (an alien landing is thrown in for the fun of it), supports Hochner’s fluid juggling of tone. In what passes for escapism in Israeli film, Antarctica is resolutely apolitical, but there is a subversive politicking in its insistence on portraying gay life as is, promiscuity and all. Which may be why the only Israeli theater that would show this lovingly goofy tribute to John Waters is a cinematheque. (Regent Showcase) (Ella Taylor)

B.O.H.I.C.A. D.J. Paul’s anti-war screed B.O.H.I.C.A. (the acronym stands for “Bend over, here it comes again,”) has one thing to recommend it, but even that will likely appeal to a small subset of filmgoers: the cult of Brendan Sexton III. Sexton, who made his film debut as a scowling, inept, preadolescent white-trash rapist in Welcome to the Dollhouse, has made a just-below-the-radar career out of playing all manner of scruffily marginalized young men. Here, he initially plays to type but then flips it with the revelation of his character’s religious beliefs and political theories. That turnabout illustrates the problem with B.O.H.I.C.A. as a whole. Stranded in an arid patch of Afghanistan, four U.S. soldiers (Sexton, Nicholas Gonzalez, Matthew Del Negro, Jamie McAdams) pass the time boozing, tormenting one another and holding talking-points filled conversations about religious bigotry, the brainwashing power of the American political machine, and assorted other sociopolitical topics du jour. When a sinister duo of lost airmen appears, the film stays its talky course a while longer before tragedy inevitably strikes. Paul and co-screenwriter Joseph “Bo” Colen wear their left-leaning politics on their sleeves, which is fine. But it’s not art or artfully rendered, and nothing they’re saying is news. Still, it is good to see Sexton again. (Fairfax) (Ernest Hardy)

click to enlarge Antarctica
  • Antarctica

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DALTON TRUMBO’S JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN Having already been a novel, radio play, movie (famously excerpted by Metallica for the “One” video), and one-man stage show, it’s hard to know what’s gained by yet another take on Johnny Got His Gun. Nonetheless, here’s a film version of the stage version, with The O.C. vet Benjamin McKenzie’s entirely creditable turn as Joe Bonham, lifeless World War I corpse. Stripped of his arms, legs and facial features, Joe rants and raves his way into an understanding of where he now belongs in the world. First there are the nightmares, then the flashbacks to better times and finally, a furious, rejected desire to be put on display to dissuade all further war. Leigh Allen’s lighting design is tops, and director Rowan Joseph does the most he can behind the camera, seizing the opportunity for an overhead shot whenever possible to open things up. But filmed theater is an inherently dubious genre, and Johnny Got His Gun is little more than a good performance of dated material. Originally published as part of an effort to keep the U.S. out of World War II, Trumbo’s pacifist rant now seems pleasantly corny in its memories of small-town America and absolutely irrelevant to the very real issues of present-day warfare. (Sunset 5) (Vadim Rizov)

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