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

Also, An Unlikely Weapon and Weather Girl

Tuesday, Jul 7 2009
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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)

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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)

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