Movie Reviews: Bandslam, Flame & Citron, The Time Traveler's Wife | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Movie Reviews: Bandslam, Flame & Citron, The Time Traveler's Wife 

Also, The Goods, It Might Get Loud and more

Wednesday, Aug 12 2009
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BANDSLAM Deep into this latest ride on the High School Musical bandwagon, the death of a main character’s father is treated as less devastating than the social-clique intel it uncovers. Besides that bit of OMG hysteria, Todd Graff’s film is written with a desperate cleverness that clamors for attention over the brainless, against-the-odds music-competition plot. Chinless new kid Will (Gaelan Connell) finds his encyclopedic audiophilia pressed into service when nervy Charlotte (singer Aly Michalka) wants to enter her garage trio in a regional battle of the bands. He also finds a partner in crime in sarcastic outsider “Sa5m” (played by HSMer Vanessa Hudgens), while his long-necked and fretful mom (Lisa Kudrow) hovers. Thus, Will achieves the bizarre dream of becoming a band manager, in a story littered with musical references (Bowie, CBGB) that are more 50-year-old screenwriter than platinum teenybopper. The fleeting first kiss between Will and Sa5m is the rare sweet moment on the trudge toward the big night, when a tinny lineup of finalists in various ersatz styles climaxes with Will’s nine-piece band — actually called “I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On.” (Citywide) (Nicolas Rapold)

GO  FLAME & CITRON Of all European nations, Denmark enjoys the nearest thing to a heroic record of resisting the Nazi occupiers — which adds both poignancy and punch to Ole Christian Madsen’s fact-based drama about two posthumously honored Danes. Framed without cynicism as a gangster picture (the point being that contract killing turns everyone into a thug, however noble the cause), this slickly produced picture stars the almost unbearably charismatic Thure Lindhardt and the saturnine Mads Mikkelson as co-assassins — one loves killing, the other makes a mess of everything but killing — charged with executing Denmark’s Nazi collaborators. Flame & Citron is less about the battle between good and evil than about losing one’s way in the fog of war, which makes it hard to tell friend from foe and harder yet to sort through the rules of engagement, and complicates the heroic honor codes of movies about the “good war.” Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 masterpiece, Army of Shadows, exerts a palpable influence, but in its own right, Flame & Citron is the film that the horribly overrated Black Book could have been, had Paul Verhoeven not indulged in the puerile reversals of sensitive Nazis and treacherous partisans. (Royal; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA Credited as the first “action figure,” G.I. Joe came to life in 1964 as Hasbro’s answer to Mattel’s Barbie doll. There were actually four Joes — one for each branch of the armed forces — and in the imaginations of boys everywhere, they fought Nazis. Forty-odd years later, the Joes have evolved into an international band of soldiers seeking to bring down the evil Cobra Command. In the first of what’s likely to be a lucrative new film series, director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) outfits actors Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans in “accelerator suits,” which allow them to jump cars and buses in a single bound as they and their team attempt to retrieve a suitcase containing nano technology that a lunatic billionaire (Christopher Eccleston) plans to use for world domination. After a first hour that plays like a bad TV show, Sommers hits his groove with an over-the-top Paris chase sequence, which, in turn, leads to an underwater finale that’s absurdly overproduced, momentarily diverting, and then instantly forgettable. The script — by Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett — is full of embarrassingly bad dialogue, but a recent midnight screening audience laughed benignly, as if to say that they hadn’t exactly been expecting profundity and wit from a summer-season toy-soldier flick. (Citywide) (Chuck Wilson)

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THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD Making copy editors’ lives everywhere easier: The Goods doesn’t deliver. Don Ready (Jeremy Piven, not changing a note from Entourage) is a hired-gun slasher salesman, the guy you call when your used-car business is in trouble. With his team, Don’s a genius at clearing out stagnant lots. Producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are firmly in Anchorman territory, which means there’s zero time wasted on token sentiment. They also miss a chance to immerse themselves in a potentially rich environment, shown in all its gimmicky grandeur in John Landis’ underrated used-car-salesman documentary, Slasher. Nothing here convinces. Briskly vulgar, The Goods skips scatalogy and goes straight for the gonads: “I have hair on my balls, and I sell cars” is how Ready introduces himself. Compared to 2009’s truly vile specimens (like Miss March), The Goods is unobjectionable but shoddy. The few real laughs — all two minutes’ worth — come courtesy of Russ Meyer veteran Charles Napier as Dick Lewiston, the angriest macho male anachronism of the year. “I don’t like Jews, queers or Eskimos,” he announces apropos of nothing. “I was raised that way.” Napier connects the dots between economic disenfranchisement and subversive humor; the rest of it is just a bunch of absurdist dick jokes. (Citywide) (Vadim Rizov)

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