Movie Reviews: Fanboys, The Pink Panther 2, Push 

Also, Crips and Bloods, Luck by Chance and the 2008 Academy Award-Nominated Shorts

Thursday, Feb 12 2009

GO ABSURDISTAN A droll comic fable about a water shortage, a battle of the sexes and the teenage lovers caught in the middle, Absurdistan doesn’t have a ton of high-voltage laughs, but it’s a nonstop charm machine. Living in a remote, tiny village in the hinterlands between Europe and Asia, Aya (Kristýna Maléová) and Temelko (Maximilian Mauff) long to consummate their relationship, but vow to wait until a date suggested by Aya’s astrologist grandmother — four years in the future. When the day comes, though, Absurdistan’s desert community is suffering from a drought brought on by a decaying irrigation pipe, which the community’s lazy male population refuses to fix. So Aya organizes a female sex strike until the menfolk remedy the situation. The resulting gender war and Temelko’s attempts to bring water to Absurdistan are decidedly low-stakes affairs, but director Veit Helmer (Tuvalu) is more interested in crafting a gently amusing modern-day folktale in which the happy ending is assured from the first moment Aya and Temelko beam at one another. As demonstrated by the film’s low-grade special effects, Absurdistan makes a virtue out of modest, handmade storytelling without falling prey to cutesy self-indulgence, and Helmer gets astounding comic mileage out of the loutish stupidity of the village’s very hairy men. (Nuart) (Tim Grierson)

BLESSED IS THE MATCH: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF HANNAH SENESH Hannah Senesh, the ardent young socialist-Zionist who emigrated from Budapest to Palestine and was tortured and killed by the Nazis for parachuting into Hungary to stimulate Jewish resistance, has become such a sainted Joan of Arc to Israelis that it’s a relief to watch her scaled down into a flawed woman (of enormous bravery) here. Based on a memoir by Senesh’s mother, Roberta Grossman’s film is an ungainly hybrid of straight-up documentary and ingenuous re-enactment. Grossman smartly shifts the focus from the parachutist’s derring-do to the bizarre sequence of events by which, held in the same prison, Senesh and her mother managed to communicate with one another and buoy the spirits of other prisoners. Senesh had a soulful side — she wrote the poem, “Eli, Eli,” which became the famous Holocaust song — but, like many people of outstanding public courage, she was less adept at private life. To her regret, she never had a lover, and one of her surviving fellow partisans frankly admits that he found more in her to admire than to like. Senesh’s fortitude, and her intransigent refusal to beg for her life at the end, raise complicated questions about heroism, as Anglo-Jewish historian Martin Gilbert underscores when he asks what counts as failure in the context of the Holocaust. (Music Hall; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

CHOCOLATE The world may not have needed a Thai-language martial arts hybrid of Kill Bill and Rain Man, but, by God, it has one now. Already chopped into countless snippets and strewn across YouTube, director Prachya Pinkaew’s followup to the mighty Muay Thai epics Ong-Bak and The Protector offers more of everything: more score-settling for the West’s Asian-action culture thievery; more maudlin interludes; and more knees, fists and elbows to the skull than the oeuvres of Bruce Lee and Vince McMahon combined. In place of his former leading man Tony Jaa, Pinkaew offers instant action-hero JeeJa Yanin as an autistic girl who instinctively apes the fights she sees in movies and video games. When her ex–moll mom develops cancer, the girl goes collecting on old debts to pay for her treatment — and if you can stop goggling at the tasteless premise, the formula of a slight, scrawny chick pulverizing brawny thugs never loses its fist-pumping appeal. Though the plot just lets Pinkaew restage the same fight over and over on different sets, let it also be said that they get bigger and better each time — culminating in a neck-snapping, head-busting, leg-twisting, gravity-defying free-for-all played out on ledges high above a city street. This is backyard wrestling as cinema, and you can judge for yourself if that’s a recommendation or a warning. (Memo to Magnolia Pictures’ genre-movie subsidiary Magnet, which also put out the excellent Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In: More, please.) (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

click to enlarge FIRST RUN FEATURES - Absurdistan
  • First Run Features
  • Absurdistan

Related Stories

MADE IN AMERICA Why is there so much violence in South L.A.? What are the historical roots of the Bloods and Crips? Stacy Peralta’s documentary Made in America employs hip-hop beats and music-video aesthetics (quick edits, slick cinematography, artful use of still photography) to answer those twined questions. With narration by Forest Whitaker, Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants) turns his cameras on former and current gang members who outline the origins of gangs (one starting point: the once-racist policies of the Boy Scouts, which forced young black males to form makeshift youth groups of their own), the evolution of the gangs, their role in the civil-rights movement of the ’60s, and the American government’s hand in turning Bloods and Crips from community activists into community scourge. It’s a lot to take in, and Peralta does an admirable job cramming tons of history and insight into his reportage on how the “’hood” came to be. Made in America is fueled by his palpable frustration and unapologetic lefty sympathizing, which is the film’s strength. Its failure to really address the role of economic policies and job loss is a glaring weakness, however, underscoring not only a crucial information deficit but also Peralta’s real-life remove from his own subject matter. Those unfamiliar with the subject matter should use Made in America as the gateway film to check out the superior All Power to the People and Bastards of the Party. The latter, directed by former Blood Cle “Bone” Sloan, is the raw, underground joint to Peralta’s pop opus. (Sunset 5) (Ernest Hardy)

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Thu 10
  2. Fri 11
  3. Sat 12
  4. Sun 13
  5. Mon 14
  6. Tue 15
  7. Wed 16

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!


  • 10 Movies You Should See This Summer
    The phrase "summer movies" will never not mean broad, action-driven crowd-pleasers to me: I counted the days until Batman (June 23, 1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (July 3, 1991), and Jurassic Park (June 11, 1993) were released. For every Dark Knight there are 10 Prometheuses — and that's just among the films that are actually trying to be good — but the hype and anticipation of summer movies remains a fun spectator sport. (More fun than sports, anyway.) Here, 10 from Memorial Day weekend and after for which I have, as the song says, high hopes. By Chris Klimek
  • Doc Docs: 8 Powerful Medical Documentaries
    Code Black is the latest in a string of powerful documentaries examining the domestic health care system's flaws and profiling its physicians, caretakers and patients. In this film -- which will be released in select theaters on June 20 -- the cameras are pointed at the nation's busiest emergency room, that of L.A. County Hospital. Here are seven moving medical docs. Click on the film name to read the full review.

    See also:
    35 Music Documentaries Worth Seeing

    15 Documentaries That Help You Understand the World Right Now
  • Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel in Lego
    A Lego replica of The Grand Budapest Hotel was unveiled this past Saturday, June 14, by builder Ryan Ziegelbauer and star of the film Tony Revolori at The Grove in L.A. Ziegelbaur and his team built the 7-foot, 150-pound structure from over 50,000 Lego bricks. The celebration was held in honor of the Blu-Ray and DVD release of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel on June 17th by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. All photos by Mary Bove.

Movie Trailers

View all movie trailers >>

Now Trending