Archive for the ‘CityBeat’ Category

Young @ Heart

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Musical director Bob Cilman founded the Young @ Heart retiree chorus in 1982 when he was 27. Now 25 years later he’s more determined then ever to stay relevant. Out with musty ditties like “Yes, We Have No Bananas”; in with Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.” The gray-haired songbirds complain, but they eventually come around enough to snap at documentarian Stephen Walker’s condescension. When Walker asks 92-year-old Eileen Hall – soloist on the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – “That’s punk, isn’t it?” Hall cracks, “I would say so – have you heard it before?” (She did only give up stripping two years before.) The boorish Walker mistakes his killjoy questions for investigative depth: “Are you worried the cancer might be coming back?” he blurts out to a charming octogenarian visiting a doctor.

Despite the director, the film is damned wonderful, as it tracks the choir through the rehearsals for their latest sold-out show. The subjects are sharper than tacks and give zip to the jokes. In their hands, the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” becomes an anthem railing against the culture of nursing-home zombies. But death intrudes, and the film’s knockout moment comes when sonorous baritone Fred Knittle deepens Coldplay’s “Fix You” into an elegy, and the hauntingly beautiful ballad – which originally had the depth of wind whistling through a tin can – sends chills down the spine.

Click here for Young @ Heart in LA CityBeat

Devil Girl

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Fay (Jessica Graham) is handy with a pool cue and a stick shift. She’s less skilled on the pole of the Burning Bush, a desert strip club in one of those rural stretches where a preacher blasts from every radio station. But an evil hitchhiker (Joe Wanjai Ross), grease-painted up like a harlequin, has stolen her wallet, so prancing around in pink marabou is the only way she can afford to fix her busted fuel pump and get the hell out of Dodge before the mysterious Devil Girl (Vanessa Kay) starts cracking skulls.

Howie Askins might be the first grindhouse director to kick-start a hubcaps-and-pasties flick with a Jung reference. From there, his slick time-waster about a demolition derby of the soul – between the sinister clown and the tough girl whose dad called her “grease monkey” – hews closely to the formula. Askins’s flick (co-written with Tracy Wilcox) is in lust with the road, bleached out and whipping by fast. It’s a fine piece of trash – that’s a compliment – with its retro kitsch collage of burlesque jiggles, poker chips, flames, crosses, and hot rods; it’s not as free-spirited or fun as the ’70s porn it references, but that’s because everything but the acting is trying too hard.

Click here for Devil Girl in LA CityBeat

Chaos Theory

Friday, April 11th, 2008

On the morning of his daughter’s wedding, regimented efficiency expert Frank (Ryan Reynolds) stops his twitchy future son-in-law (Chris Martin) from dashing out the back door by pouring a tequila and recounting the worst month of his marriage to peevish teacher Susan (Emily Mortimer). Deciding to trick her uptight husband (who only truly glows when talking about his To Do list), she messes with the minute hand on the clock, setting off a disastrous domino effect of flirtatious hotel bar Tangerinis, paternity tests, and naked streaking across a hockey rink.

The framing device is lazy, but allows for a sweet kick in the final scene. Ryan Reynolds’s acting deserves more credit: After all, he shacks up with Scarlett Johansson at night, then by day transforms into Hollywood’s lumpen everyman. He specializes in anti-romance romances, love stories that draw their power from admitting that love stinks (but it’s still worth it). Despite its polemic simplicity, Daniel Taplitz’s slight parable is charming. Reynolds has one Big Speech about the nature of the human heart, but Taplitz largely keeps the sadness just under the surface, where we can sense Susan and Frank’s marital frustrations, along with their hopes for a better tomorrow that we know lies ahead.

Click here for Chaos Theory in LA CityBeat