Movie Reviews: Alien Trespass, Paris 36, Sugar | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Movie Reviews: Alien Trespass, Paris 36, Sugar 

Also, Valentino: The Last Emperor, Who Does She Think She Is? and more

Wednesday, Apr 1 2009

ALIEN TRESPASS What’s most admirable about onetime X-Files producer R.W. Goodwin’s Alien Trespass, a simulacra of the ’50s flying-saucer flick, is its bypassing of the wink-wink condescension that usually defines screen flashbacks to the Eisenhower era. Its problem is the absence of any detectable personality in place of that wink. The plot is straight Amazing Stories boilerplate. Dateline 1957: A “meteoroid” touchdown in the Mojave crash-lands an intergalactic marshal and his prey — a faux-cheap, one-eyed purple people-melter à la It Conquered the World. All attention seems to have gone into the period’s surface elements (though the pseudo-Technicolor saturation doesn’t jibe with the black-and-white B-picture material). There’s Jody Thompson as a Good Housekeeping cover girl in her halter-neck print dresses, mint finback Chevy rentals, and all the proper tropes herded into place: disbelieving small-town constabulary; a tabloid-addled hick; necking teenagers; and a final, contemplative “We’re not alone” monologue. But the pleasures of genre depend on invention within margins, not just prop department scavenger hunting. It’s hard to see why Alien Trespass seemed necessary with the well of mid-century sci-fi homage having already been memorably visited by — off the top of my head — Matinee, Maniac Mansion, that The Blob remake and Mars Attacks! (the last worthwhile thing Tim Burton touched). All that’s here is diluted nostalgia and Johnny Rockets décor. (Mann Chinese 6; Monica 4-Plex; Playhouse 7) (Nick Pinkerton)

AMERICAN SWING Mathew Kaufman and Jon Hart’s doc on Larry Levenson’s raunchy hideaway, Plato’s Retreat, unwittingly reminds us that homos were getting it on to much better music back then. Levenson, a genial, schlubby horndog from Long Island (like several of his establishment’s habitués), operated the XXX playpen from 1977 to 1985, first in the basement of The Ansonia and then at a warehouse on 34th Street and Tenth Avenue. Talking heads (sexperts, journalists, patrons, Plato’s staff, Ed Koch) recall, with varying degrees of fondness, the bar mitzvah–like atmosphere, the $25 all-you-can-eat buffet and the “mattress room,” where people “writhed together like a bucket of worms.” As Al Goldstein succinctly puts it, “Larry was boring; his whole world was genitalia. He never read a book.” Likewise, American Swing never really gets it up, rarely mentioning what was happening in either New York City or the culture at large in the ’70s and ’80s. Though sweetly reminding us that some outer-borough suburbanites did find liberation at Plato’s, the film tries — and fails — to swing both ways, wanting to swing both ways, nostalgically glorifying its subject only to smugly revel in Levenson’s ignominious demise. (Sunset 5) (Melissa Anderson)

BABY ON BOARD After a cute, stork-filled animated title sequence, this inane comedy opens on Angela (Heather Graham), a Chicago ad exec who passes gas during a big presentation, scaring away both the client and her tough-as-nails boss (Lara Flynn Boyle, looking justifiably depressed). Angela is pregnant, but before she can give the good news to her husband Curtis (Jerry O’Connell), she sees him in the arms of another woman. He’s innocent, but she kicks him out, even as he comes to believe (moronically) that the baby isn’t his. Written by Russell Scalise and Michael H. Wright, and directed by Brian Herzlinger (My Date With Drew), Baby On Board feels like a movie made by men whose world views were shaped, primarily, by Porky’s and American Pie. The big jokes here include an old geezer with testicles that sag to his knees, and the equally sorry sight of Curtis’ hound-dog best friend (John Corbett, officially invalidating his Sex and the City charms) being caught masturbating by his long-suffering wife. One winces for the cast, although end-title outtakes suggest that the principal stars had a high time — which can only mean that when it comes to loving whoopee cushion humor, there is no middle ground. (Downtown Independent) (Chuck Wilson)

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