Movie reviews: Openings in L.A., Oct. 28
As romantic comedies go, the low-key “All’s Faire in Love” has a cheeky beggar’s appeal not unlike its setting: the hammy world of Renaissance Faire performers. Into this eccentric playground of role-playing costumers is thrown college football star Will (Owen Benjamin), who must join a motley theater troupe to earn a passing grade.
Though always ready with a snarky comment about the tortured Elizabethan speechifying and past-era nerdiness around him, he becomes smitten with Kate (Christina Ricci), an aspiring actress, and eventually cottons to the idea of joining in — be it jousting, charades or playing peon to the fair’s queen (Ann-Margret) — to win Kate’s love.
While there’s regrettably nothing terribly witty or surprising about any of this as either love story or laugh machine, director Scott Marshall does manage a breezy, good-natured tone toward this oft-mocked cultural phenomenon that allows for eye-rolling and smiling in equal measure. (Just not necessarily guffawing.)
The only grandly comic turn comes from Chris Wylde as a true fool in royal’s clothing, merrily meta-villainous and at times simply lunatic with the period playacting. He’s so mesmerizingly weird that you can practically see him on a 16th century stage, giving Globe Theater patrons a “Twelfth Night” Toby Belch for the ages.
“All’s Faire in Love.” MPAA rating: PG-13 for some sexual content including references. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes. At selected theaters.
Richard Gere has always benefited from his squinty-eyed slickness, lacing good-guy parts with unnerving oiliness while bringing suave verve to his dirtier characters. The spy thriller “The Double” gives him one of his better roles in late middle age: a decorated CIA vet threatened with professional embarrassment if, as a hot-shot young FBI agent (Topher Grace) insists, the Russian assassin he claims to have killed years ago is still alive and back at work.
Director Michael Brandt, who wrote the screenplay with Derek Haas, is after a kind of fun-house espionage yarn in which loyalties are suspect, identities are fluid and generational differences make for inherently tension-filled exchanges. But there’s a sanded-off, textbook creativity to “The Double” that forsakes rich cloak-and-dagger textures for generic twists, hackneyed flashbacks and telegraphed moments of peril.
The movie’s few pleasures, though, do belong to Gere, who makes the most of his preening caginess as a spook thrust back into the cold. Grace, though, comes off more whiny than tantalizingly adversarial.
Eventually the movie seems to just give up, turning into the kind of guns-and-chase showdown more befitting a run-of-the-mill cop yarn than a tale of international intrigue.
“The Double.” MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images and language. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At selected theaters.
In its first concert film, the band Sigur Rós was captured playing in unconventional places around its native Iceland. “Inni,” a follow-up of sorts, shows the group performing a two-night stint in 2008 at London’s Alexandra Palace venue.
The concerts were filmed in HD video, then transferred to 16-millimeter film and rephotographed, with director Vincent Morisset occasionally adding abstracted effects, giving the black-and-white footage a surprisingly supple look. The lustrous mix of tones nicely complements the yearning qualities of the music.
Sigur Rós fans are intensely devoted — lore describes people passing out at shows in some sort of overwhelmed, ecstatic state — and “Inni” finally gives some sense of why and how that might happen.
In between a few of the songs are brief snippets of video footage from throughout the band’s history, showing the musicians sometimes in jeans and T-shirts crowding onto some small club stage. The sequences serve in interesting contrast to the costumes the band’s members wear for the Alexandra Palace shows — foppish feather collars, striped jackets and polka-dot socks.
Better than just a fans-only document and something more than a simple primer, “Inni” is somehow both an introduction and tribute.
“Inni.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.
The innovator of the Wing Chung martial arts style, Ip Man, already has been the subject of two hit films in China starring Donnie Yen in the title role. With “The Legend Is Born — Ip Man,” actor Yu-Hang To takes over as the man in his younger days for a prequel covering the years of Ip’s tutelage and study leading up to the opening of his first martial arts academy.
There is actually surprisingly little action in the film’s early going — as much time is spent simply talking about the then-upstart Wing Chun fighting style as on demonstrating the moves. While it can be hard to understand the emotional investment the characters take in debating the distinction of hand movements or finger positions, in such moments “The Legend Is Born” appears to turn on the desire to develop something new in the same way as do films like “The Social Network” or “Moneyball.”
Yet the actual drama of Ip’s stylistic development is too often left aside for cartoonishly drawn Japanese villains and a bit of romance for good measure. (Don’t all young ladies want a meet-cute first-date martial arts lesson?)
The website IMDB lists the title of the film as “Ip Man Zero,” an obvious nod to its coming before parts one and two, but unfortunately, it’s also an inadvertent comment on what this particular film has to offer.
“The Legend Is Born – Ip Man.” No MPAA rating. In Cantonese with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At the Culver Plaza Theatres, Culver City.
Spirituality and family dynamics come together in the subtle documentary “My Reincarnation.”
In 1959, amid fierce fighting that resulted in the Dalai Lama’s exile, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu fled his native Tibet to resettle in Italy. Soon after, Norbu, a master of the esoteric teachings of Dzogchen, began working to spread his strain of Tibetan Buddhism to the West. He also married and fathering a son, Yeshi, who was subsequently determined to be the reincarnation of a close relative and lama killed during the Chinese crackdown. The film follows Yeshi’s slow transformation from corporate success to Buddhist teacher.
Director Jennifer Fox was working as an assistant to the Tibetan teacher when she began to film Norbu and his family in the 1980s. In piecing together footage juxtaposing home life and Norbu’s public lectures, collected off and on over 20 years, the filmmaker also examines the evolving relationship between Yeshi and Norbu, as the son seeks a deeper connection to the man he has known more as teacher than father.
Languid and contemplative, the film is typical of the intimate, paired-down aspect of Fox’s style, a documentary in which lives accumulate in small moments.
“My Reincarnation.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. At Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.
“Oka!” (“listen” in the Akka language) takes audiences on an engaging journey to the Central African Republic, specifically the remote village of Yandombe, home to the Bayaka Pygmies.
Enter Larry Whitman (Kris Marshall), a New Jersey ethnomusicologist with a bum liver and an obsessive need to return to Yandombe — where he once lovingly captured its indigenous music and distinctive natural sounds — to find the molimo, an ancient, elusive instrument that has become Larry’s holy grail.
Once back in Yandombe, Larry discovers the powerful Bantu mayor (Isaach de Bankolé) is in cahoots with a Chinese logging developer (Will Yun Lee) to destroy the Bayaka’s rain forest. The committed if sometimes hapless Larry then leads the jovial Pygmy tribes-folk, with whom he maintains a near-mystical tie, on a mission to reclaim the forest and, in turn, protect them from being framed in a related elephant-poaching scheme.
Producer-director Lavinia Currier, who co-wrote the screenplay with Louis Sarno and Suzanne Stroh (based on Sarno’s memoir), proves more adept at capturing the land’s uniquely vibrant atmosphere, replete with a safari’s-worth of exotic animals, than in advancing the movie’s somewhat splintered narrative or keeping an energetic pace. Still, what meets the eye — and the ear — here makes “Oka!” worth the trip.
“Oka!” No MPAA rating. In Sango, Akka, French and English with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, West Hollywood.
Anubhav Sinha’s exhilarating fantasy “Ra.One” is Bollywood at its best. It has energy, spectacle and humor, song and dance, but razzle-dazzle special effects and action stunts never overwhelm its story of enduring love that unfolds amid an intricate and inspired sci-fi odyssey.
Star Shahrukh Khan has been called the King of Bollywood, and in “Ra.One,” he uses his sinewy, expressive body and striking face to move effortlessly from comedy to heroics. He’s initially no hero to his young son Prateek (Armaan Verma), for Khan’s Shekhar, a London-based video game designer, always allows the good guys to win.
To earn his son’s esteem, Shekhar creates a villain so evil and powerful, Ra.One (Arjun Rampal) — an update of the mythical Hindi demon Raavan — as to be invincible. All hell breaks loose when Ra.One escapes his video game into real life.
Sinha and his writers have created a family that adults and children can identify with, and Sinha’s stars deliver nuanced, evolving portrayals amid a film that has the look of a live-action comic book adventure. Khan is perfectly paired with Kareena Kapoor as his devoted wife, while Verma’s Prateek matures before our eyes.
“Ra.One” No MPAA rating. In Hindi with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 36 minutes. At selected theaters.
One of the more strangely entertainment-free genre films in a while, “13" means to disturb our sensibilities and quicken our hearts with its tale of a secret, high-powered Russian roulette tournament and the young, cash-strapped electrician (Sam Riley) who stumbles upon it as a participant.
But this obvious, wanly macho grope toward torture-laden tension is about as exciting as a hopscotch contest. It’s conspicuously not bloody, but dramatically it’s bloodless. That is, unless the sight of Mickey Rourke (contestant) mumbling in a Southern accent, Jason Statham (gambler) taking bets, Ben Gazzara (gambler) standing among extras and Michael Shannon (referee) maniacally shouting rules over and over offers some kind of natural adrenaline rush.
It’s still not clear what Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is doing in the cast, apart from hanging around, then leaving.
Mostly the whole claustrophobic, close-up-driven slog feels like a piece of lead-filled, exploitation runoff that Cannon Films might have released in its ‘80s heyday, even though this is director Gela Babluani remaking his own flashy black-and-white French-language feature debut from five years ago. Unfortunately, he’s turned his acclaimed original into a turgid copy, a case of pulling the trigger one too many times.
“13.” MPAA rating: R for disturbing violence, language and brief drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.
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