BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!
See "Brand Old." (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)
DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE
Originally set to be released during the Oscar-bait months as an odd sort of counter-programming, DOA is likely to work far better in the season of sunshine and school breaks. Corey Yuen (The Transporter) delivers one of the year's purest entertainments, the best butt-kicking PG-13 bikini jigglefest since the first Charlie's Angels flick. Based on a videogame, or just as likely a back-issue of Maxim, it involves a tournament on a mysterious island, run—as such tournaments and islands tend to be—by an evil mastermind (Eric Roberts) with a secret agenda. Among the world warriors are a father-daughter pro-wrestling team (Kevin Nash and Jaime Pressly, channeling Hulk and Brooke Hogan), an English jewel thief (Holly Valance), a renegade Japanese princess (Devon Aoki), and a black kickboxer with a green Mohawk and goatee (Brian J. White). The film's pretty much non-stop fighting, mostly in very little clothing, with the flair you expect from a master choreographer like Yuen. It's awesome. (Luke Y. Thompson) (AMC 30 at the Block, Orange; Century Stadium 25, Orange; AMC Pine Square, Long Beach)
THE GOLDEN DOOR
An aural and visual feast, The Golden Door is Emanuele Crialese's poetic tale of a Sicilian peasant family's emigration at the turn of the 20th century. Winner of the Silver Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival, the fable follows an illiterate farmer (a wonderfully expressive Vincenzo Amato), his mother and two adult sons who, after seeing doctored photographs of money growing on trees and gargantuan vegetables, set their sights on America. Clinging to their meager belongings as tightly as they do their old world superstitions, they board the ship, shadowed by a mysterious English woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Arriving at Ellis Island, bewildered passengers are treated like animals, poked, prodded, and interrogated by an assembly line of white-coated doctors intent on weeding out "undesirables." The film is a portrait gallery of faces, its long stretches of silence broken only by sounds of nature: the braying of donkeys, wind sweeping across rocky hillsides, the moaning of the ship as it lurches forward. With dialogue kept to a minimum, cinematographer Agns Godard does not disappoint, confirming her status as one of the most extraordinary visual artists working today. (Jean Oppenheimer) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)
See "The Mystery of the Tween Demo." (Countywide)
Post-college identity grappling gets a political twist in Amu. Kaju (Konkona Sen Sharma), a recent UCLA grad staying with relatives in Delhi and reclaiming roots, learns that her parents did not die in a malaria epidemic as she had been told. Instead, they perished in the anti-Sikh riots, set off when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Kaju's journey soon expands from a self-absorbed search for authenticity to a deeper quest for truth. It's an information-packed drama, but first-time writer-director Shonali Bose's juxtaposition of the personal and the political often feels forced, and like many didactic history lessons, this one's about 20 minutes too long. (Jessica Grose) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)
As New York Mirror devotees will never forget: In the summer of '59, Bronx lawyer and jilted lover Burt Pugach paid thugs to throw a jarful of lye in the face of his ex-girlfriend Linda Riss, who was blinded and disfigured as a result. To make a very, very long story short, Riss ended up wedding Pugach six months after he was sprung from jail in 1974. Now, despite some cute-old-couple squabbles that surface whenever Mr. and Mrs. Pugach stop for a bite at their favorite diner in Queens, they're living happily ever after. Extra! Extra! Violence against women has its upside! To be blunt, Crazy Love is a snappy, upbeat movie about sexual violence. What it sells—at a time when women are staying single more than ever, scaring those who prefer the clearer rules of engagement—is a way of life whereby the acceptance of brutish "romance" may be crazy, but easier than putting up a fight. (Rob Nelson) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
Look up in the sky: It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a giant silver eunuch on a radioactive surfboard! That's more or less the gist of this mercifully brief sequel to 2005's surprise hit about that other band of Marvel mutants, here joined by the eponymous big kahuna, who at first appears villainous but turns out to be the enslaved liege of an amorphous intergalactic baddie known as the Devourer of Worlds. As before, it's tough to know how much of the movie's hambone acting, Saturday-morning-cartoon dialogue, and pubescent sexual innuendo is accidental and how much is by design. Still, it all lends Fantastic Four: ROTSS an agreeable, sugar-coated goofiness for the first reel or so, as erstwhile scientist Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) prep for their long-delayed nuptials amid Paris Hilton levels of media scrutiny. Then the climate-altering, blackout-causing Surfer descends from the heavens and turns the marriage of the century into the biggest wedding-day debacle since the Moldavian massacre at the end of Dynasty season five. After which, it's pretty by-the-numbers superhero stuff, replete with the now-requisite allusions to 9/11 (U.S. military rushing to destroy the "foreign" invader), Abu Ghraib (the Surfer interrogated within an inch of his life), and, yes, even global warming. The script, credited to Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost and longtime Simpsons writer Don Payne, unsuccessfully strives for hipster irreverence, while one gag line about how the Promethean Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) gets his rocks off is enough to make you, um, gag. (Scott Foundas) (Countywide)
LA VIE EN ROSE
See "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." (Countywide)
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