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Two buddies get to ‘Last Stop,’ finally

With a little more production panache than your average tourist armed with portable digital technology, filmmaker Neil Mandt turned a crew-less, monthlong trip to more than 20 countries into the largely improvised buddy comedy “Last Stop for Paul.”

If your attention span is no greater than the adventures on “The Amazing Race” -- or that of a Web series, which is how the footage first was distributed -- you might be charmed. The nominal storyline covers a few weeks in which two aging cubicle workers (played by Mandt and Marc Carter, also the cinematographer) with a dead friend’s ashes to spread fling themselves at Jamaica, Chile, Greece, Japan and Vietnam before crashing Thailand’s Full Moon Party.

There are sexual escapades, wacky strangers, sightseeing blips, run-ins with authorities and a touch of romance, all zippily paced but not terribly funny or enlightening as an event-filled travelogue. Mostly there’s a loosey-goosey tug of war between Mandt’s forced, what-happens-in-wherever-stays-in-wherever brand of humor and a sentimental desire -- endlessly repeated in his character’s narration -- to stir you into seeing the world.

“Last Stop for Paul” is a micro-indie passport party that, while well-intentioned, stirs the same feelings that have been known to arise from being subjected to your friends’ vacation movies: I’m glad you had an awesome time, but why am I supposed to be interested?

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-- Robert Abele

“Last Stop for Paul.” MPAA rating: PG-13 for some drug use, sexual content and a disturbing image. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; and AMC Loews Broadway, 1441 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica,(310) 458-6232.

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Albert Ayler doc lets it all loose

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John Coltrane’s dying request was that two musicians play at his funeral. One, Ornette Coleman, is still a creative force as he nears his 78th birthday. The other, Albert Ayler, would be dead at 34, his body fished out of the East River. Ayler’s iconoclastic free-form innovations still have a devoted following, but in the pantheon of 20th century jazz innovators, he remains a relatively obscure figure. With “My Name Is Albert Ayler,” Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin doesn’t set out to solve the mysteries surrounding Ayler’s life and death so much as to honor them. His well-researched documentary is an impressionistic portrait of a man whose ecstatic braying tenor sax still sounds fresh.

When Ayler says that he believes he is the prophet, it’s not a boast but an assessment of his visionary approach. Through some very lean years, he never wavered in his commitment to his particular form of free jazz, whose primal dissonance raised eyebrows even in the avant-garde scene of the ‘60s. Ayler had faith that fans would get him eventually.

Collin leaves unmined the matter of Ayler’s influence on contemporary music, and the film’s exploration of his spirituality is hazy at best. But when he puts headphones on former bandmates and plays the old recordings, the effect is profound. “I’d never before let loose like that,” says drummer Sune Spangberg, visibly moved. “Not since either.”

-- Sheri Linden

“My Name Is Albert Ayler.” MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes. In English and Swedish with English subtitles. Exclusively at Laemmle’s Grande 4-Plex, 345 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (213) 617-0268.


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