Film Fest Picks and Such for Thursday, April 2

April 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm 2 comments

According to a John Hodgman tweet, today is Canada’s April Fool’s Day. Act accordingly.

The King of Ping Pong As we recently learned from the freakishly beloved vampire teen pic Let the Right One In, Sweden is no place to grow up. A secular alternative to that one — and, coincidentally, not nearly as effective — Jens Jonsson’s snow-covered dramedy zeroes in on a hopelessly deadpan fat kid (Jerry Johansson) who lords his mad skills with ping pong over all. Jonsson avoids a lot of the clichés of the genre and goes in some unexpected directions; Johansson’s jock brother, as it turns out, gets along quite well with him, for one. However — and I do so tire of typing this sentiment — what starts out nicely balanced between comedy and drama goes full tilt boogie into the latter category in the second half. Come on, people. Is this really so hard? Grade: C+ 2:15pm, Ritz East.

The Burning Plain The theme of my festival coverage: if it’s really, unmistakably terrible, take the higher road and don’t dwell. And while Guillermo Arriaga — the screenwriter behind Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel — is respected by many, he’s quite the opposite in the circles in which I travel. No, sir, we don’t like his pointlessly puréed up plays with time, nor his facile commentary on how we’re all interconnected in this global village of ours. Having broken up with Alejandro González Iñárritu, who directed the three mentioned above, he now brings us his vision unencumbered by another major creative voice. And, well…it’s basically sad — Arriaga running on empty, beating a dead horse, whatever the metaphor you prefer. Charlize Theron is a miserable woman who bangs just about anyone. Meanwhile Kim Bassinger is having an affair with a noble Mexican (Joaquin de Almeida), much to the consternation of her daughter who kind of looks like a young Charlize Theron. How are these connected? Are they even taking place in the same decade? And will Arriaga seriously withhold the painfully obvious truth till into the second hour? I know people who bailed early; a twisted sense of professional obligation kept me sitting tight, only to be rewarded with a finale that barely qualifies as trite. But already, I’ve said too much. Dude, your shit is tired. Grade: C- 7pm, Prince Music Theater.

Zift Like Landscape #2, Javor Gardev’s Bulgarian retro-noir is a metaphor for some Eastern European beef — notably life post-WWII — whose complexities will likely sail over most Americans’ heads. But the first half-hour of this mean B&W number maintains a surreal, mordant tone, with a bulletheaded anti-hero (Zachary Baharov) being released from a falsely-accused stint in jail, and encountering even more rot and decay. But Gardev can’t sustain the balance for very long, and the film quickly tumbles into tedious plotting and retro-misogyny. Nice start, though. Grade: C+ 9:30pm, Ritz East.

Kassim the Dream Show Ugandan war child-turned-World Champion boxer Kassim “The Dream” Ouma today, happy. Show Ugandan war child-turned-World Champion Kassim “The Dream” Ouma when he was a war child, unhappy. Repeat ad naus. Ouma’s story is indeed incredible. Thing is, I’ve just basically told you the story, and Kief Davidson’s film doesn’t delve much deeper than asking “Isn’t it just insane that this kid went from killing people to beating them up?” Yes. And? To which Davidson has frankly got nothing. Grade: C 9;30pm, I-House.

Previously Reviewed

Unseen So Far But Looks Notable (Possibly)

  • I have it on good faith that Old Partner, a South Korean doc about an old man and his donkey, is very good and not pure ick. 12:15pm, Ritz East.
  • More Eastern European miserablism! The Tour, financed by Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, brings a darkly comic look at an acting troupe who wind up on the front lines of Bosnia’s civil war. Whoops! 4:30pm, Ritz 5.
  • Another entry from what is apparently a Mexican New Wave (see also: I’m Going to Explode, Lake Tahoe, the upcoming Sin Nombre), The Desert Within finds a father circa the 1928 Mexican revolution so religiously fanatic he places his family’s life in jeopardy, all to build a church in the desert. 4:45pm, Ritz East.
  • Iran’s Loose Rope follows the exploits of two men instructed to take an injured and persnickety cow to a Tehran market. And what exploits, presumably. 7:15pm, Ritz East.
  • Perversely scheduled during the day’s final slot, Terence Davies’ doc-cinepoem Of Time and the City (trailer above) summons up post-WWII Liverpool with the aid of photos, songs, old radio shows and whatever else he can get his hands on. This is Davies first film since the rather good The House of Mirth; the exceedingly respected filmmaker also brought you The Long Day Closes and Distant Voices, Still Lives. 9:30pm, Ritz East.

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