Not to be missed:  Big Man Japan
Not to be missed: Big Man Japan
Not too bad:  Garage
Not too bad: Garage

NOT WORTH YOUR $$

The Art of Travel
. An uptight, wealthy city boy (Christopher Masterson) gets cheated on by his fiancee and decides to travel the world. When he bushwhacks in Panama alongside James Duval and Johnny Messner, it’s kind of fun. The rest is cloying and a structural mess, despite scenic locations.

Camille. A white-trash loser (James Franco) is pressured into marrying a beautiful but annoying loudmouth (Sienna Miller) who wants to honeymoon at Niagara Falls. Along the way, their motorcycle crashes and she dies, but inexplicably won’t stay dead. With hubby being accused of her murder, and the still-lively body starting to decompose, it’s a race against time to get to Niagara and rekindle their relationship. The bizarre premise is never properly explained or exploited; you’ll feel like the undead watching it.

El Brindis. A Mexican photographer (Ana Serradilla) travels to Chile to meet her terminally ill estranged father (José Soriano) and the family she barely knows, all of whom are Orthodox Jews. While there, she falls for the rabbi (Francisco Melo). If you were expecting fireworks or drama to ensue, don’t.

Familiar Strangers. Casting Shawn Hatosy and DJ Qualls as brothers is a stroke of brilliance. Unfortunately, it’s the only one in this listless dramedy about (sigh) a family get-together over Thanksgiving. Mostly, the characters debate whether or not to poison dad’s cancer-stricken dog, and in one scene, play basketball while riding on donkeys, which sounds more interesting than it is.

The King of Ping Pong. Swedish drama about an inexpressive fat kid who can’t swim, isn’t as popular as his handsome little brother, and gets his jollies by dominating younger kids at Ping-Pong. When family secrets are revealed, his relationship with his brother changes drastically, and suddenly, after a whole movie of not much happening, crazy shit goes down. If this kid were your classmate in school, you’d avoid him. Doing likewise with the movie won’t hurt.

Leaving Barstow. A high school senior (Kevin Sheridan) in Barstow weighs whether to go to college or take care of his hopeless single mother (Michelle Clunie), who has a penchant for hooking up with all the wrong guys. This could have been something, but the casting is all wrong: Sheridan is 26 and looks it, and Clunie’s a mere 12 and a half years older than he is.

Man Maid. A schlub (Phillip Vaden) who also happens to be the only male maid at a small-town hotel asks his beautiful boss (Sara Rue) out on a date in order to try to make the actual object of his affections jealous, all while trying to organize a benefit concert to save the town from evil developers. A story this clichéd really needs to push the envelope in other ways—going either more absurd or more tragic—but this just lies there, inert.

Sherman’s Way. Yet another uptight, wealthy city boy (Michael Shulman) gets ditched by his girlfriend and ends up hitching a ride from a burned-out ex-athlete country boy (James LeGros). Together, they learn Valuable Life Lessons, with the aid of a de rigeur free-spirited small-town girl who looks like a model and just happens to be single and horny for nerds. Not an uncontrived moment goes by.

The Stone Angel. Think The Notebook divided by two. Ellen Burstyn plays a feisty senior losing both her mind and her health; as her put-upon son (Dylan Baker) tries to get her into a home, she remembers her entire life story, starting in childhood and all the way through divorce and the death of her ex. Good acting from the leads, and Cole Hauser and Ellen Page show up along the way, but it’s stultifyingly by-the-numbers.

32A. Aidan Quinn’s sister Marian wrote and directed this female coming-of-age story (the title refers to bra size) set in 1970s Ireland. When 13-year-old Maeve (Ailish McCarthy) starts developing breasts, she catches the eye of a hunky boy, but his affections prove fickle. Quinn has a great ear for dialogue, but an unfocused story that ultimately doesn’t satisfy.

The Universe of Keith Haring. You probably know Haring’s art: those thickly outlined figures that look like they stepped off a traffic signal, and appear on an album cover or two. His work is fun and dynamic, but this documentary isn’t: The late artist himself isn’t compelling as an onscreen presence. For fans only, though they know all this stuff already.



lythompson@ocweekly.com

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