Film Reviews: Blood: The Last Vampire, Herb & Dorothy, I Love You Beth Cooper 

Also, An Unlikely Weapon and Weather Girl

Tuesday, Jul 7 2009

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE The studios continue to dilute the meaning of “Asia Extreme,” and self-serious commercial pap like this Westernized fraud makes Dragonball: Evolution seem like high art. Korean actress Gianna Jun (formerly Jeon Ji-hyun, star of My Sassy Girl) is given little to do beyond titillating fanboys. She plays a 400-year-old Japanese half-vampire who works with a covert council to hunt other bloodsuckers in her ageless form as an undercover schoolgirl. But as enticing as Blade meets 21 Jump Street might sound, Kiss of the Dragon hack Chris Nahon’s live-action adaptation of a 2001 cult anime film is unexciting, incoherent, lamely acted and carelessly written (set during the Vietnam War, its attempt to add historical nuance is, “I can’t believe they’d let a Jap enroll here”), and even its F/X mishmash is an eyesore. Slick wire-fu spectacles come courtesy of a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon producer, while the incongruously clunky monsters are Ray Harryhausen throwbacks, and the movie’s incessant, cheaply produced CGI splatters look like oil geysers. There will be blood, yes, because you, too, will be ready to fall on your samurai sword. (Mann Chinese 6, M Park 4 Theatre, The Bridge) (Aaron Hillis)

GO  HERB & DOROTHY Chuck Close calls them the mascots of the art world. Christo and Jeanne-Claude once offered them a drawing in exchange for taking care of their cat, Gladys, for a summer. The passion for minimalist and conceptual art that aging Manhattan collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel have shared for nearly a half-century is sweet — if obsessive enough for a 12-step program — and has yielded one of the world’s major contemporary collections on a modest income. How did a retired postal clerk and librarian manage to accumulate thousands of important works (Picasso, Pollack, Schnabel), particularly when one of their rules of thumb is that everything must fit on the walls of their rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment? Former journalist Megumi Sasaki’s warm-hearted celebration of these adorable do-gooders — shot as the Vogels negotiated with the National Gallery of Art to take their collection for free (as one artist notes, asking the couple to sell even a single piece is like asking him to cut off a square yard from his painting) — cements their significance to the art world and introduces them to the rest of us. Watching the Vogels — who have no curatorial training beyond an instinctual, “We like what we like” — as they mull over art without fully understanding it only makes their delight more infectious. (Nuart) (Aaron Hillis)

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER Did erstwhile John Hughes protégé and Harry Potter progenitor Chris Columbus fall behind on his payments on a sub-prime mortgage? Or have to pony up for an emergency organ transplant? Even if so, I’m not sure it fully excuses this joyless, offensively stupid end-of-high-school farce, set into motion when nerdy valedictorian Dennis Cooverman (Paul Rust) uses his commencement address to profess his unrequited love for the titular cheerleading goddess (Hayden Panettiere). Complications ensue as the numinous Ms. Cooper pays a grad-night visit chez Cooverman, with two gal pals in tow and a coked-up Army-brat boyfriend (Shawn Roberts) in hot pursuit. Cue the listless succession of house trashings, party crashings, realizations that beautiful people can be insecure, too, and enough reckless driving to result in a double-digit body count — fitting for a movie that’s about as funny as a hit-and-run. At least Columbus and writer Larry Doyle are up front about their inspirations, giving Dennis a film-geek BFF (Jack T. Carpenter), who name-checks Risky Business, and a dad played by none other than Ferris Bueller wingman Alan Ruck. But why no love for Columbus’ own 1987 debut feature, Adventures in Babysitting, which went through these same one-wild-night paces with real ingenuity and pizzazz — and less need to persistently debase its characters? “This isn’t fun anymore,” says the wise young Cooverman after his third or fourth near-death experience. “Who says it’s supposed to be fun?” replies his unattainable lady love. Exactly. (Citywide) (Scott Foundas)

Related Stories

AN UNLIKELY WEAPON AP Photo hall-of-famer Eddie Adams is a textbook immortal for one Pulitzer frame: his snap of South Vietnamese general Nguyen Ngoc Loan’s expedient point-blank execution of a Viet Cong captive. Director Susan Morgan Cooper’s tribute to Adams embellishes on original interview footage of the man, who died in 2004, seen here perambulating near his East Village studio. What comes across is a professional, self-effacing and no-B.S. guy. (Disappointed by a charity book collaboration with Caroline Kennedy: “Speak Truth to Power? What the fuck does that mean?”) The shame is that there isn’t enough candid Adams to quite fill out a film. Infinitely more interesting than listening to antiwar platitudes from the likes of Morley Safer is watching Adams negotiate with his own conscience and an empathy for cut losses that bypasses political righteousness — for the retired General Loan, for the Vietnamese boat people of his 1977 photo essay, and so on. The drama, inevitably, slackens when documenting Adams’ move off the war-of-the-week beat to paychecking for the likes of Penthouse and Parade. No slight to Cooper — aside from some misguided musical cues, this is solid work, if essentially PBS/American Masters material. That said, watching oblivious Lilliputian “rocker” Dave Navarro show off his mural of the famous execution (“a reminder of human suffering”) for some Cribs cameraman is pretty priceless. (Music Hall) (Nick Pinkerton)

WEATHER GIRL “Partly Cloudy with a 90% Chance of Total Meltdown,” reads the humdrum but marketable tag line of writer-director Blayne Weaver’s humdrum but marketable comedy, starring a handful of humdrum but marketable faces from the small screen. In the first five minutes, Seattle morning–TV’s inexplicably referenced “sassy weather girl” Sylvia Miller (The New Adventures of Old Christine’s Tricia O’Kelley, who also produced what reeks of a star vehicle) freaks out on-air over the infidelity of her clueless, megawatt-smiley anchor boyfriend (Mark Harmon). Meant as a pivotal, plot-igniting moment, the sequence stumbles out of the gate as the first of countless stagey misfires — it’s quirky-funny like a sitcom, not a Zooey Deschanel movie. Unable to score another broadcasting gig after committing career hara-kiri, Sylvia moves in with her smug slacker bro (Ryan Devlin) and faces the existential storm of being a single, 35-year-old woman (enter Jon Cryer’s cameo as an awful blind date) until true love arrives as earlier telegraphed. O’Kelley performs with the confidence of an embittered Sex and the City girlfriend but more closely recalls the broad hysterics of a Cathy comic strip. Ack! (Sunset 5) (Aaron Hillis)

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Wed 16
  2. Thu 17
  3. Fri 18
  4. Sat 19
  5. Sun 20
  6. Mon 21
  7. Tue 22

    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!

Around The Web


  • Nicolas Cage's 10 Best Movie Roles
    As video-on-demand continues to become the preferred route of distribution for a certain kind of independent film, much is being made of Nicolas Cage's willingness to slum for a paycheck, with recent examples including already-forgotten, small-screen-friendly items like Seeking Justice, Trespass, Stolen, and The Frozen Ground. (His character names in these projects -- Will Gerard, Kyle Miller, Will Montgomery, and Jack Halcombe -- are as interchangeable as the titles of the films.) Aside from citing the obvious appeal of doing work for money (a defense Cage himself brought up in a recent interview with The Guardian), it's also possible to back Cage by acknowledging the consistency with which he's taken on "serious" roles over the years.

    David Gordon Green's Joe, which hits limited release this weekend (more details on that here), marks the latest instance of this trend, with Cage giving a reportedly subdued performance as an ex-con named Joe Ransom. In that spirit, we've put together a rundown of some of the actor's finest performances, all of which serve as proof that, though his over-the-top inclinations may make for a side-splitting YouTube compilation, Cage has amassed a career that few contemporary actors can equal. This list is hardly airtight in its exclusivity, so a few honorable mentions ought to go out to a pair of Cage's deliriously uneven auteur collaborations (David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes), 1983's Valley Girl, 1987's Moonstruck, and Alex Proyas's Knowing (a favorite of the late Roger Ebert).

    --Danny King
  • Ten Enduring Conspiracy Thrillers
    With the approaching release this week of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many critics, including L.A. Weekly’s own Amy Nicholson, have noted the film’s similarities (starting with the obvious: Robert Redford) to the string of conspiracy thrillers that dominated American cinema during the 1970s. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ten of the most enduring entries in the genre -- most of them coming from the ‘70s, but with a few early-‘80s holdouts added in for good measure. This is by no means an exclusive list, and more recent films like Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out (1987), Jacques Rivette’s Secret Defense (1998), Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State (1998), Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (2005), and Redford’s own The Company You Keep (2012) speak to how well the genre has sustained itself over time. Words by Danny King.
  • Behind the Scenes of Muppets Most Wanted
    "The endurance of the Muppets isn't just the result of the creative skills of Henson and collaborators like Frank Oz, or of smart business decisions, or of sheer dumb luck," writes this paper's film critic Stephanie Zacharek in her review of Muppets Most Wanted. "It's simply that the Muppets are just ever so slightly, or maybe even totally, mad. Man, woman, child: Who can resist them? Even TV-watching cats are drawn to their frisky hippety-hopping and flutey, gravely, squeaky, squawky voices." Go behind the scenes with the hippety-hopping Muppets with these images.

    Read our full Muppets Most Wanted movie review.

Now Trending