The mass of men may lead lives of quiet desperation, but Power? He's living the drum.
"Adventures of Power" is "Napoleon Dynamite" with imaginary drumsticks, a quest movie for the Rock Band generation. Ari Gold (yes, that's also the name of the agent on HBO's "Entourage," and that show's Adrian Grenier plays the villain here) writes, directs and stars in the story of a dreamer from a small New Mexico mining town who longs to bash the fake skins.
Unfortunately, Power's passion for air drumming is a love that dare not speak its name. Says one character: "You aren't going to start that abomination again, are you? Because it's wrong!"
As labor unrest at the copper plant threatens to explode (the workers are led by Power's union-organizer dad), Power crosses the country to hone his skills at the pedal of a master. Naturally, there's a climactic contest for the big money ($2,000!).
Gold places his fond comedy in the '80s with all the cinematic skill of early MTV. It features a totally awesome period soundtrack (with plenty of Rush) and some rad pillow talk: "You have the golden locks of David Lee Roth," whispers Power to his lady love. There's also a glimpse into the dark underworld of Mexican air-drumming rings.
"Adventures of Power" just may teach the world that, as hard as it is to catch the wind, it's harder still to drum the air.
Michael Ordona --
"Adventures of Power." MPAA rating: PG-13 for some language including sexual references. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.
Accruing some bad 'Karma'
They say no one sets out to make a bad movie but after suffering through the atrocious "Creating Karma," I'm not so sure that's true. How else to explain a picture so emotionally, comically and, yes, karmically out of touch with the real world -- not to mention the sheer basics of filmmaking -- that watching it feels as if you're being "Punk'd," movie-style.
This shrill mishmash involves a cranky Manhattan magazine editor named Karma (co-scripter Carol Lee Sirugo), who loses her job, moves in with her New Age therapist half-sister (director and co-writer Jill Wisoff) and somehow becomes the darling of the downtown slam poetry set. Along the way, Karma encounters a wacky bunch of poets and free spirits who guide her to, I guess, enlightenment.
Under the best of circumstances, the movie would probably feel 30 years past its expiration date, but in the hands of helmer Wisoff it's virtually unplayable. The film is also a visual disaster filled with invasive optical effects and other head-scratching editing choices.
Triviaholic alert: "Saturday Night Fever's" Karen Lynn Gorney pops up here as Karma's globe-trotting, ex-hippie mother. It's been a long way down for John Travolta's old dance partner.
Gary Goldstein --
"Creating Karma." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande 4-Plex, Downtown Los Angeles.
Obnoxious role hurts gay story
"Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat" is just as silly and tedious as the first two unconnected tales of young gay love -- but lots worse. When director Glenn Gaylord and writers Phillip J. Bartelli and Q. Allan Brocka concentrate on the budding romance between handsome Zack (Chris Salvatore) and shy Casey (Daniel Skelton) the film is pleasant if predictable. Unfortunately, the film concentrates on Rebekah Kochan's ultra-foul-mouthed, dim-witted Tiffani, an exuberant man-chaser who unaccountably has made herself a gay community fixture.
Arguably, you can get away with saying just about anything as long as it's funny. Nothing that Tiffani and other ostensibly straight female characters say in the film is remotely amusing, just numbingly crass. And there's something downright disturbing about making a nasty, stupid heterosexual female character the dominant figure in an innocuous gay love story.
Kevin Thomas --
"Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At the Sunset 5, West Hollywood.
Actor brings 'Bronson' to life
A fearless, indelible lead performance by Tom Hardy propels the wildly riveting "Bronson," the harsh true story of perhaps Britain's most notorious prisoner, Michael Peterson. Trust me, you've never seen a biopic like this.
That's because Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (the "Pusher" trilogy), who also co-wrote the script with Brock Norman Brock, has approached his pitch-dark material with such uncompromising vision and invention that, wherever you come down on the irredeemable Peterson, it's hard not to get swept up in the film's audacious power and strange buoyancy.
Using an effective, if surreal framing device, the strapping Peterson heatedly recounts -- from the stage of a British music hall -- how he went from violent kid to ultra-violent adult, landed in prison at age 19 for a botched armed robbery and, thanks to fighting his endless parade of captors, has barely ever left the penal system. His flashbacks on time spent in an asylum, plus fleeting moments of freedom during which he became an underground boxer (re-christened "Charles Bronson") and also fell in love, are vividly depicted.
Whether it's Peterson/Bronson's more theatrical bits or his untamable character's many blood-spitting, knuckle-beating, explosions, Hardy chomps down on his once-in-a-career role with stunning ferocity and never lets go. He's extraordinary.
Gary Goldstein --
"Bronson." MPAA rating: R for violent and disturbing content, graphic nudity, sexuality and language. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.
High fives for
In the pantheon of parody-friendly film genres, blaxploitation cinema -- namely the afro-ed superhero kind embodied by "Shaft," "Dolemite" and "The Mack" -- hardly needs gilding for jokes. But the makers of the winningly nutty "Black Dynamite" (director/co-screenwriter Scott Sanders, and star/co-screenwriter Michael Jai White) keep the winking to a minimum by unleashing a straight-up '70s grindhouse flick. Instead, they let all the deadpan badass-itude and no-frills filmmaking (graceless zooms, cheesy stock footage) spark plenty of retro-immersion laughter. The craftiest gag of all is that White, as the movie's leather-coated ghetto avenger -- part CIA agent, kung fu tornado and all ladies' man -- is absurdly charming in his seriousness and a genuinely terrific action presence.
In short order, he seduces an activist (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), outmaneuvers hustlers and pimps, and waylays plenty of pool-hall goons, drug dealers and white devils. As with most spoofs of this sort, there are lags when you're stuck watching a story play out to which you have no real connection beyond gags at the expense of melodrama, outdated urban fashions and large, unwieldy sedans.
But overall, "Black Dynamite" -- captured with a saturated, grainy film stock and a funk-smothered underscore only a midnight movie sucka could love -- is an enjoyable celebratory ode to a fiercely entertaining counterculture-inspired genre.
Robert Abele --
"Black Dynamite." MPAA rating: R for sexuality/nudity, language, some violence and drug content. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. In general release.
Family secrets and kvetching
Although strongly acted and deeply felt, writer-director Jeremy Davidson's arcanely titled "Tickling Leo" is too theatrically conceived and diffusely told to satisfy its lofty aspirations. Davidson would have been better off choosing one of his script's bursting story strands and telling it well, rather than mashing them all together into this unwieldy, often grandiose stew.
We're plunked into a crumbling Catskills lake house on the days around Yom Kippur as soulful writer Zak Pikler (Daniel Sauli) and his pregnant girlfriend, Delphina (Annie Parisse), visit Zak's zonked-out, Bohemian poet father, Warren (Lawrence Pressman). They're joined by Warren's boorish brother, Robert (Ronald Guttman), and his jabbering wife, Madeleine (Victoria Clark), for ritual fasting, talky strolls and unpleasant familial revelations.
Only at the end, when the Pikler men descend upon the Manhattan retirement home of Warren and Robert's 90-something father, Emil (Eli Wallach, a joy), for an overdue reconciliation, does the movie coalesce in any gratifying way.
Unfortunately, the core issue here -- Emil's controversial, Holocaust-era involvement in a plan that saved almost 1,700 Hungarian Jews but yielded a tragic personal consequence -- is not only confusingly told but never gets beyond theoretically justifying his family's eternal angst.
Gary Goldstein --
"Tickling Leo." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. At Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.
A vivid tale of innocence lost
Behind the lurid-sounding title, "Warning!!! Pedophile Released," lies an ambitious and powerful experimental film written by its stars Kai Lanette and Shane Ryan, and directed, photographed and edited by Ryan.
It is a strikingly visual, deliberately fragmented work of evocative imagery counterpointed by a remarkably effective use of richly varied music.
Except for an occasional flashback, the film is devoid of conventional exposition as it tracks the blighted lives of a 12-year-old girl, Echo, and 18-year-old Malachi, who had formed a tender bond that has landed him in prison for six years for sexual molestation despite both insisting that it never happened.
Unfolding in three parts, the film jumps ahead to find Echo (Lanette) a 15-year-old loner wandering about a partly derelict coastal community, where she is impregnated after a gang-rape and thrown out of the house by her father. By the time she is 16, she is turning the occasional trick, doing drugs and shoplifting but surviving remarkably well, an individual of clear inner strength.
The first two parts, which have a gritty, rambling poetic quality and little dialogue, give way to an explosive final chapter in which the freshly released but unnerved and stigmatized Malachi (Ryan) returns home. Ryan tells little about this couple but reveals much of what they are about by the time the film is over. Lanette and Ryan have created a minimalist work of maximum impact.
Kevin Thomas --
"Warning!!! Pedophile Released." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. At the Grande 4-Plex, Downtown L.A.