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Reviews for August 29th, 2008

Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild
- Directed by Todd Stephens.

Nico (Jonah Belchman), Andy (Jake Mosser), Griff (Aaron Michael Davies) and Jarrod (Jimmy Clabots) are back and having a fun time on spring break at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida resort. To spice up their life, they participate in the annual “Gays Gone Wild” competition, which crowns the guy who fucks the most men as the winner. RuPaul plays the activities director who also runs the competition. What ensues is a very campy comedy with lots of over-the-top, gross-out visual gags and lots of sexual innuendos. Of course, there’s also some offensive humor involving a priest. Writer/director Todd Stephens doesn’t include as much laugh-out-loud moments as he did in Another Gay Movie and, this time around, he simply tries too hard to throw every kind of jokes to raise the bar and shock you into laughter. Some of the jokes work while most of them fall flat. Whenever the plot veers toward drama or romance, that’s when it becomes just plain corny and treads water. At least the cast seems to be having a lot of fun in their roles, especially during a few brief musical numbers. Their upbeat energy and excitement (pun intended) are quite palpable and contagious from start to finish, which helps to keep you mostly engaged as long as you suspend your disbelief and check your brain at the door. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by TLA Releasing. Opens at the Quad Cinema.

Disaster Movie
- Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.

A group of dim-witted young adults, including Will (Matt Lanter), Amy (Vanessa Minnillo), Calvin (G. Thang), Enchanted Princess (Nicole Parker), and the Juno look-alike, Juney (Crista Flanagan), try to survive a serious of natural disasters. There’s really no point in explaining the plot because it’s so thin and inane. Much of it will make you feel like you’re watching a bunch of skits. No one expects the characters to be intelligent, but the writing should at least be smart enough to make you laugh, which it doesn’t except for a few brief scenes. As an insult to injury, co-writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer remind you of The Love Guru in spoof that’s even less funny than that terrible comedy itself. Of course, they add a joke about Michael Jackson’s pedophilia. If you’re in the mood for lots of dumb, juvenile, gross-out and recycled humor, then, by all means, you’ll be able to survive this unfunny, tedious spoof without losing any brain cells. Everyone else will either frequently shake their heads and roll their eyes while fighting the urge to stop watching the film or they’ll just fall asleep counting all the pop culture references. Either way, let’s hope that Disaster Movie finally ends the lame series of spoofs since the moderately funny Date Movie. Number of times I checked my watch: 18. Released by Lionsgate Films.

I Served the King of England
- Directed by Jirí Menzel.

In Czech and German with subtitles. Based on the novel by Bohumil Hrabal. Jan Dite (Oldrich Kaiser) recalls his experiences as a young man (now played by Ivan Barnev) back in the 1930s when he moved up the chain of working as a waiter and had a fervent passion for women, sex and money. He had romanced a German woman, Liza (Julia Jentsch), who stood by his side even during the period when the Germans occupied the Czech land. A charismatic performance by Ivan Barnev saves the film from drowning in the many poorly paced, contrived and meandering scenes. Writer/director Jirí Menzel, best known for his very low-key, human drama Closely Watched Trains, awkwardly and abruptly goes back and forth from the experiences of Jan in the present day to his past, which diminishes the film’s momentum and makes you feel emotionally detached from its story. Some of the dry, offbeat, satirical humor generates laugher, but for the most part, the comedic attempts fall flat. Jirí Menzel should have written the drama with much more sensitivity and realism which would have made it more engrossing and captivating. Instead, it only manages to be moderately engaging and ultimately forgettable. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Maria Bethânia: Music is Perfume
- Directed by Georges Gachot.

This lively, soulful documentary focuses on Maria Bethânia, a Brazilian singer who has been famous in Brazil since the 1960s. Until the 1980s, she sang songs that were iconic of the Tropicália movement, when artists interwove music and poetry simultaneously. Director Georges Gachot captures her palpable passion for music and her charisma throughout the many interviews. She’s clearly wise, down-to-earth and very articulate about the way she feels about her music. For those who live in Brazil, especially the poor, music serves as a daily bread which keeps not only their souls alive, but their culture. Bethânia also makes a very intelligent point when she states that music is like a perfume that envelopes your senses and transports you, in a way, through memory lane. Her powerful message is easily justified simply by listening to her sing with such raw emotion and energy. From start to finish, Maria Bethânia: Music is Perfume encapsulates the abundance of heart, spirit and soul that Maria Bethânia expresses through the music and lyrics of her many life-affirming songs. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Released by ArtMattan Productions. Opens at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater.

My Mexican Shivah
- Directed by Alejandro Springall.

In Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew with subtitles. In Polanco, a Jewish section of Mexico City, the family of Moishe (Sergio Klainer) comes together for a shivah to mourn his recent death. Each member of his family has their own problems to deal with during the 7-day mourning period. Richardo (David Ostrosky) tried to convince someone at the shivah to give his lover an abortion. Moishe’s grandson, Nicolas (Emilio Savinni), returns from Israel as a Hassid, but runs into troubles with the law and, to make matters worse, falls in love with his cousin, Galia (Sharon Zundel) . Then there’s Moishe’s daughter, Esther (Raquel Pankowsky), who won’t forgive Moishe for having an affair with a non-Jewish woman, who, of course, ends up at the shivah after all. Meanwhile two elderly, Yiddish-speaking spirit angels (Enrique Cimet and Max Kerlow) must decide whether Moishe will go with the Angels of Light or Angels of Darkness, so they write down his pros and cons about his life as a Jew. The plot gets much more convoluted as it progresses, which feels quite headache-inducing. Some of the performances, especially that of Raquel Pankowsky, are over-the-top to the point of being simply irritating. Director/co-writer Alejandro Springall fails to effectively blend the genres of comedy, drama and tragedy without having scenes that feel awkward. Moreover, there’s nothing funny about shivahs to begin with, so he would have been much wiser had he stuck to drama and tragedy with just a few moments of comic relief which every film needs (yes,even in a war movie). Had he focused on just a few characters and expanded on their backgrounds and personalities much more, he would have added some much-needed warmth, genuine emotion and insight to an otherwise unimaginative,bland and chaotic film. Number of times I checked my watch: 7. Released by Emerging Pictures. Opens at the Quad Cinema.

Sukiyaki Western Django
- Directed by Takashi Miike.

A gunslinger (Hideaki Ito) helps Shizuka (Yoshino Kimura) battles against the Heiki to seek revenge against the Heiki leader, Kiyomori (Koichi Sato), who killed her husband. Shizuka’s mother (Kaori Momoi) also helps her in the fight. Meanwhile, Kiyomori battles against Yoshitsune (Yusuke Iseya), the head of the Genji clan that has been at war for hundreds of year. Anyone expecting a brilliant plot with strong character development and poignant scenes should look elsewhere. Instead, this spoof of Spaghetti Westerns serves as pure escapism and as a guilty pleasure. Writer/director Takashi Miike includes plenty of dizzying action sequences and stylish, colorful visuals, some of which go intentionally over-the-top. Not all of the tongue-in-cheek, dark and twisted humor that works, but at least Sukiyaki Western Django maintains its energy from start to finish. You’ll be mostly entertained as long as you’re able to open your mind, suspend your disbelief and check your brain at the door. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by First Look Pictures. Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Year of the Fish
- Directed by David Kaplan.

Ye Xian (An Nguyen) scrubs floor at a massage parlor run by the wicked Mrs. Su (Tsai Chin), who tries to stop her from falling in love with Johnny Pan (Ken Leung). A goldfish that a mysterious blind woman, Auntie Yaga (Randall Duk Kim, gave Ye, occasionally narrates the story. Loosely inspired by the Cinderella story, the plot suffers from being very contrived, bland and unimaginative with mediocre performances at best. Therefore, it’s difficult to be truly immersed in the film. Writer/director David Kaplan doesn’t include enough witty or refreshing scenes that stand out. The bright and colorful rotoscope animation certainly looks lively and adds some much needed energy, but it doesn’t really go far enough to truly amaze you. However, soon enough, its entertainment value wears off and you’re left with a mostly bland and contrived film that could have used a much more intelligent and imaginative screenplay. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by Gigantic Pictures. Opens at Angelika Film Center.

Young People Fucking
- Directed by Martin Gero.

Five groups of people who go through the stages of sex which, in chronological order, goes from Prelude to Foreplay to Sex to Interlude to Orgasm and, finally, to Afterglow. There’s the First Date, Ken (Callum Blue) and Jamie (Diora Baird); The Couple, Abbie (Kristin Booth) and Andrew (Josh Dean); The Exes, Mia (Sonja Bennett) and Eric (Josh Cooke); The Friends, Kris (Carly Pope) and Matt (Aaron Abrams); and, finally, The Roommates, Dave (Peter Oldring) and Gord (Ennis Esmer) who share the same girl, Inez (Natalie Lisinska). For those of you expecting lots of nudity will be disappointed because it’s all softcore style much like you’d find on very latenight Cinemax (or Skinamax, rather) show. However, director/co-writer Martin Gero includes plenty of graphic sexual content and wickedly funny dialogue that makes any “Sex and the City” episode as it were tame. Much of what happens to the many different characters in the film can actually happen to anyone in real life—not just the sex, but what they end up talking about, none of which won’t be spoiled here. Watching all the scenes feels a bit voyeuristic in the sense that you’re watching the private lives of these young adults as they share their intimate feelings with one another. Ultimately, though, Young People Fucking manages to be undeniably provocative, intelligent, honest and, of course, playfully sexy. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Released by THINKfilm. Opens at the Village East Cinema.

Youssou N’Dour: Return to Gorée
- Directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud.

This mildly engaging documentary follows Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour as he travels from the island of Gorée, Senegal to America and back in hopes of recruiting musicians for a jazz concert in Gorée. French musician Moncef Genoud joins him through his journey which takes him to cities such as New Orleans and Atlanta. Unfortunately, director Pierre-Yves Borgeaud fails to include interesting interviews with Youssou N’Dour which would have allowed you to get to know him better not only as an artist. It’s somewhat interesting, though, to observe as N’Dour discovers new potential musical talent who have their own unique ways of expressing their passion for music through other forms, such as gospel and blues. Not musical artists are articulate offstage. However, they should at least have the chance to answer intriguing questions that bring out their personality, which N’Dour doesn’t quite get a chance to do here. As a result, Youssou N’Dour: Return to Gorée, manages to have only a few fleeting moments of poignancy and intrigue, but it leaves you feeling mostly cold and detached without enough emotional and intellectual depth about Youssou N’Dour or his music. Number of times I checked my watch: 6. Released by ArtMattan Productions. Opens at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater

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