Movie Reviews: Growing Out, I’ll Be There With You, The Lodger | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Movie Reviews: Growing Out, I’ll Be There With You, The Lodger 

Also, Prometheus Triumphant, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, and more

Wednesday, Jan 21 2009
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DONKEY PUNCH The personnel behind Donkey Punch could’ve released anything with such a “No way” title — if you haven’t been on the Internet since 1999, well, ask around — and probably recouped their costs off titillated adolescents trying to slip one past the ’rents. But they made a workmanlike thriller that works as an (unconscious?) autocritique of mainstreamed Internet-age hedonism — the title presupposes the universal saturation of online schoolyard smuttiness, the film positing a world where nobody thinks twice when the camcorder comes out at the sex party. Three Northern U.K. slags in Majorca get picked up by some smirky, overconfident lads (all interchangeable), the crew of an available luxury yacht. As they lure the ladies onto open water for “drinking fine champagne, and watching the sunset,” former music video director Oliver Blackburn submerges the film into seeing-tracers, pharmaceutical euphoria, the gals flitting about barefoot in Slo-Mo, sampling substances — until everything jackknifes on an amateur porn mishap. The blog-buzz DJ Kicks pop clicks off, revealing SomethingAwful.com amorality as the movie becomes a Knife in the Water for the era of Ugly Briton, package-tour imperialism. (Her Majesty’s subjects have gained an unprecedented reputation for painting pristine Mediterranean beaches with upchucked ecstasy and bitters.) The partiers toss their humanity overboard as quickly as you jettisoned Peter Bjorn & John from your iPod, with a resulting boys-against-girls massacre in the ship’s cavernous below deck. Resourceful use of emergency flares and an outboard motor. (Nuart) (Nick Pinkerton)

GROWING OUT After hiring on as caretaker in an old Victorian house, 20-something singer-songwriter Tom (Michael Hampton) discovers a human hand growing out of the dirt in the basement. Nonplussed, he begins watering the hand, which soon becomes an arm, and gradually an affable fellow named Archie (an engaging Ryan Sterling), who’s eager to hear Tom’s songs while waiting for his body to reach completion. Tom and Archie’s budding friendship has a certain Little Shop of Horrors charm, but regrettably, screenwriter Garett Ratliff and director Graham Ratliff fritter away the comic potential of their setup. Instead, they focus on Tom’s obsession with Veronica (Devon Iott), a girl singer who’s dating Philip (Chase Hemphill), the overbearing weird guy who lives behind the house. Philip and Veronica talk a lot in scenes that go on way too long, while the annoyingly morose Tom stares back blankly. After a while, you realize that there isn’t going to be a satisfying payoff to the hand in the dirt, the old woman hidden away upstairs, or Philip’s fear of his teddy bear. Well produced but overlong, Growing Out feels like a labor of love made by young filmmakers in need of a stern screenwriting professor. (Grande 4-Plex) (Chuck Wilson)

GO  I’LL BE THERE WITH YOU It’s a standard B-movie horror setup: A group of young, attractive friends take a road trip to an isolated setting for a vacation filled with sex and booze. Toss in a demented groundskeeper and a trio of escaped convicts, and let the fun begin. Writer-director Akihiro Kitamura stirs the formula with hard-turn plot twists, animated demons that haunt characters’ dreams (but also make blink-of-an-eye appearances during waking hours), a stylish burlesque show, and — most importantly — off-kilter humor that’s at once frat-boy silly and David Lynch–absurd. At the center of the madness are Aki (Kitamura) and his girlfriend, Annie (Adarsha Benjamin), whose relationship flux is fueled by Aki’s commitment phobia. Along for the ride is Aki’s best friend, Yabu (Daisuke Yabuci), a guy of dubious sexuality whose subtitled Japanese conversations with Aki prove to be a major plot device. As the film unfolds along genre tropes, intermingling sex and violence, repeating but then upending the obligatory depiction of female victimization, it becomes darker and knowingly sillier. Low-budget but slickly crafted, and decently acted by its multiracial ensemble, I’ll Be There with You hums with wittily orchestrated ideas, including its own contribution to the reams of academic sociopolitical readings of horror flicks: the radical positioning of the Asian male as a vibrantly sexual being. (Downtown Independent) (Ernest Hardy)

THE LODGER Is it just January, or is independent film so depleted that the excellent likes of Hope Davis, Alfred Molina and Philip Baker Hall have to grind away at breathing life into a dreary L.A. noir do-over of a 1927 Alfred Hitchcock silent classic? David Ondaatje, a first-time writer-director (and nephew of novelist Michael Ondaatje), blessed with little technical skill and fewer ideas in his style-obsessed head, favors speeding clouds, speeding freeway cars and opera on the soundtrack as filler, while a curved-blade slices through unhappy hookers in the exact manner of Jack the Ripper. In other news, across West Hollywood there dwells an unsatisfied housewife (Davis), whose unfeeling lummox of a husband (Donal Logue) keeps telling her to take her meds and keeps abandoning her for the ambiguous charms of their lodger (Simon Baker), who vants to be alone. Striving to connect the dots is a weary cop (Molina) mired in the usual overwork and domestic misery (amusingly, Mel Harris, once the chipper keeper of the thirtysomething flame, is his suicidal wife), and dang me if he doesn’t fall under suspicion, too. Nodding, winking and sighing, The Lodger lumbers its way to a final twist so anticlimactic and silly as to warrant an incredulous titter. (Sunset 5; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D In theory, 3-D filmmaking should amplify the effect Roland Barthes foresaw in Cinemascope — that of the viewer becoming a “little god” free to float about at will in the frame’s capacious space. In practice, it’s typically like watching a shitty movie with the added sensation of getting poked in the eye. Case in point (and point in the cornea): a remake of the 1981 Canadian slasher opus My Bloody Valentine, in which an implacable killer in mining gear taps a rich vein of nubile victims. In director Patrick Lussier’s dull update, the superior 3-D process is the only attraction: pickaxes regularly perforate the screen, accompanied by flung jawbones, jack-in-the-box eyeballs and golf-course sprinklers of arterial spray — and the 3-D gore effects are somehow less impressive than just the shots peering down endless mineshafts, or the many flashlight beams sweeping like light sabers across the auditorium. But the movie’s defeated by the plodding predictability of the stalk ’n’ slash form. There’s no excitement or terror in watching the 3-D execution of 2-D actors giving 1-D performances, just the steadily diminishing returns of the same eye gouge delivered ad infinitum. That said, as a piece of no-tell-motel slasher bait who spends her entire role nude — with one of the movie’s screenwriters, no less — Betsy Rue would pop off the screen even without the glasses. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

PROMETHEUS TRIUMPHANT: A FUGUE IN THE KEY OF FLESH Drawing upon numerous sources — from Greek mythology and Frankenstein, German Expressionism and The Phantom of the Opera — Prometheus Triumphant sets lofty goals for itself but fails to find an original entry point or live up to its objectives. This period piece, directed by Jim Towns and Mike McKown, follows white-masked Janick (Josh Ebel) in his attempts to raise his late lover, Esmerelda (Kelly Lynn), from the dead. Shot in grainy black-and-white, complete with intertitles, Prometheus Triumphant’s serious bid both to pay tribute and contribute to film history comes off as tiresomely quaint, since the film neither approximates the visual eloquence of its forebears nor yields fresh results. Intriguingly, the filmmakers seek to make explicit the sublimated eroticism of such obvious inspirations as Murnau’s Nosferatu; Esmerelda’s body lies glaringly bare as Janick attempts to animate it. But the naturalism of the nudity doesn’t gel with the otherwise overdrawn aping of silent cinema aesthetics, and so Prometheus gives off a stilted rather than sexual aura. The simplistic ending, on a moral note unrelated to larger themes — sealed with a risible kiss — gestures toward possibly campy intentions, even as its indecipherability in this regard relegates it to failed artistic pretension. (Grande 4-Plex) (Kristi Mitsuda)

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS was not screened in advance of our publication deadline, but a review will appear here next week. (Citywide)

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