More Festival Reviews . . .
EVERYTHING'S GONE GREEN. With, say, a Fox Searchlight or some other mini-major behind it, director Paul Fox's charming adaptation of Doug "Generation X" Coupland's sole screenplay might have been a contender, but as it stands, this winsome tale of a Vancouver slacker stumbling into success, love and something approaching maturity will likely slip away. It shouldn't, least of all because Paulo Costanzo (from Joey and a few studio releases in which he's always the Best Friend) emerges as a most amiable leading man. Costanzo's Ryan is the Coupland archetype: aware but not engaged, older but not grown-up, thoughtful but not quite there. He loses his girl and his gig, only to wind up writing about lottery winners for a supermarket magazine until he meets another girl (Steph Song) and her con-artist boyfriend (J.R. Bourne), with whom Ryan ends up in business. Of course, he's forced to choose between the two, but it's not the big picture that charms here, it's the details. It's also funny to see a movie shot in Vancouver in which Hollywood's frequent redressing of Vancouver is a small plot point. More than anything, though, Costanzo's kind of irresistible—a spindly Everydork who grows up not because he has to, but because he just kinda wants to. (Robert Wilonsky)(Sun., 8:30 p.m. at Edwards Island)
HAVE YOU SEEN ANDY? Melanie Perkins presents a harrowing, enlightening and gutsy documentary on the disappearance of her 10-year-old friend Andy Puglisi one hot summer day in 1976. Perkins grew up with Puglisi in a low-income, government-housing project in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and she was among the dozens of children who were playing with the boy in the housing-project pool shortly before he vanished. The story has obviously haunted the filmmaker ever since, and we can feel her pain through the screen, but the only problem with Have You Seen Andy? is you see too much Melanie Perkins. It is fine that Perkins uses her personal connection to the case to establish why she made the film in the first place. But when the maker of a documentary sits before the camera to be "interviewed" on the subject of the piece? Well, that's just screwy. (And Perkins isn't the first to do this.) Fortunately, the bare-all interviews of other people Perkins collected; the serious questions about the police investigations she raised; and the facts about pedophile predators, ignored evidence and lifelong sorrow she uncovered redeems her project. Fortunately, those are the things about Andy that will stick with you, too. (Matt Coker) (Thurs., April 26, 5 p.m. at Edwards Island)
JUST LIKE THE SON. A petty thief gets community service as a janitor at an East Village elementary school, where he works his way into a classroom, befriends an 8-year-old boy and whisks him away across many state lines on a road trip partially funded by stealing, robbing and shoplifting. That's the way the cops and media would describe it to a horrified public they have sold on prison overbuilding, three-strikes laws and a lock-'em-up-and-let-God-sort-it-out mentality. But as demonstrated by writer/director Morgan J. Freeman (no, not that Morgan Freeman; this one lives in Long Beach and co-created MTV's Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County—but please don't hold that against him), there is often more to the story than the arrest report. Twenty-year-old Daniel Carter (Mark Webber, magnetic) and the boy, Boone (Antonio Ortiz, cute as hell), are lost souls looking for better lives—and they need each other to get there. That Freeman makes you root for them despite the crime spree is solid storytelling. That he makes you wonder how many Daniel Carters are rotting away in prison is a public service. (MC) (Wed., 3 p.m. at Edwards Island)
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT DOCUMENTARIES. Split more or less neatly into pairs, the four short Oscar-nominated docs in this program prove again that the old style-vs.-substance debate is never sillier than when it's applied to nonfiction film. That is, when this collection includes works about children orphaned by AIDS in China and extreme poverty in Guatemala, what does it matter that, of the remaining films about privileged American artists, one ("Two Hands," about pianist Leon Fleisher) is extremely well-made and the other ("Rehearsing a Dream," about high school arts grant winners) isn't? PSA-style narration by Edward James Olmos doesn't much hinder "Recycled Life," whose portrait of resilient bottom feeders at the 40-acre Guatemala City Garbage Dump includes images of small children in cardboard-box cribs and interviews with the city's head of social services ("I believe the dump is a reflection of the entire state of Guatemala"). And "The Blood of Yingzhou District" puts no stylistic obstacles in the way of its powerful lament for orphans who are outcasts in their villages because of widespread fear of a disease that some can't even name, much less understand. Director Ruby Yang, who's also co-creator of the China AIDS Media Project (CAMP), never once pushes for the sort of easy uplift that Oscar-seeking documentarians tend to offer. Thankfully, the Academy Award ultimately went to her, and if there is any justice, greater attention to her cause will follow. (Rob Nelson) (Mon., 7 p.m. at Edwards Island)
THE SEARCHERS. I'd argue that it was in this 1956 John Ford classic that John Wayne got the closest to playing the antihero type Clint Eastwood would later turn into a cottage industry. (A spaghetti cottage industry?) As Confederate veteran Ethan Edwards, the Duke goes on this crazed search for the niece (lil' Natalie Wood, almost old enough to drool over) who marauding Indians kidnapped while wiping out the rest of her family. Sure, if she were my niece, I'd be out for blood, too, but it turns out Edwards does not exactly want to save the girl. In his twisted view, she's been infected by the savages, and there's only one, um, cure for that infection, and well, no one survives that cure. Nothing against ol' Rooster Cogburn, but John Wayne should have won the Oscar for this role. (Or, here's a crazy idea: give him two!) He was never more believable, more commanding and more utterly frightening. (The scene in which he gives Natalie the death glare still gives me nightmares.) Incidentally, Wayne named his son Ethan after his character in The Searchers. Remind me never to piss off Ethan. (MC)(Sat., April 28, 2 p.m. at Regency Lido)
THREE COMRADES. Ruslan, Ramzan and Islam were longtime buddies with shared interests in movies, rock music and cruising the streets of their hometown Grozny, Chechnya, in the early 1990s. They eventually started careers and families but remained tight until everything changed with the downfall of the Soviet Union and Chechnya's subsequent bloody struggle for independence. Moscow-born documentary filmmaker Masha Novikova captures the historic but tumultuous times and the three men's personal stories thanks mostly to the footage left behind by aspiring cinematographer Ramzan. Each comrade decided separately to move their wives and children to safety while they stayed behind amid gunfire and falling bombs. Sadly, each also became war victims who left behind grieving families, a city destroyed and thousands of everyday Grozny citizens—Chechens and Russians alike—who despise with equal vigor the leaders of the powerful nation and the would-be republic. (MC) (Tues., 4:30 p.m. at Edwards Island)
TRUE GRIT. A young tomboy (Kim Darby, who seemed to be in everything back in the day) seeking to avenge her father's death recruits a tough old lawman (John Wayne) because he's got "grit." Mattie Ross (Darby), Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) and Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glenn Campbell, like a rhinestone cowboy only without the rhinestones), who is seeking the killer for a different crime, travel from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the wild Indian territory of what is now Oklahoma on their manhunt. This 1969 Henry Hathaway film would be the first in a string of roles in which Wayne played a crusty old cuss, but this is also the one where he delivered just enough of a solid, critic-proof performance to be awarded his only Oscar—handed to him by none other than Barbra Streisand (let that sink in for a moment). It may have been something of a sentimental vote—even Wayne afterward handed his statuette to fellow best-actor nominee Richard Burton, whom he considered more worthy—but True Grit is still a fine dusty old yarn and the leading man certainly sells you on the point that he is Rooster Cogburn. (MC)(Sat., 5 p.m. at Edwards Island)
EDWARDS ISLAND CINEMAS IS AT 999 NEWPORT CENTER DR., NEWPORT BEACH; REGENCY LIDO IS AT 3459 VIA LIDO, NEWPORT BEACH, (866) NBFF-TIX; NEWPORTBEACHFILMFEST.COM. $10 PER SCREENING.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.