LITTLE ASHES 1/4
(Regent Releasing, Rated R)
Looking more like 1950s pinup model Betty Page than surrealist painter Salvador Dali, Robert Pattinson, apparently through no fault of his own, gets to be as silly as he is unhinged here, and with artistic genius having next to nothing to do with any of it. Pattinson, in transvestite mode, plays Dali from his college years through to adulthood, and his deplorable embrace of Franco-fascism. Part of a trio of young party-animal sexaholics, including Spanish Civil War martyr and poet Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran) and famed filmmaker Luis Bunel (Matthew McNulty), Pattinson and pals frolic full-time and never seem to be actually studying in a Spanish college that resembles an antique version of Animal House. There’s hardly much more to impart about this tedious, badly Spanish-accented, self-admitted historical fantasy about sexual orientation among famous Spaniards, in which art seems to take a back seat to libido—save for quite elegant cinematography courtesy of Adam Suschitzky, and the disconnect between the occasional insertion of lines from Lorca’s exquisite poetry or glimpses of Dali’s magnificently kooky works in progress.
(Magnolia Pictures, Unrated)
Tabloid cinema sinks to a new low with Kirby Dick’s gay-bashing documentary, Outrage. This gossip-mongering doc, bolstered by that “anonymous sources” school of sensationalistic journalism, salivates on screen in a crusade mounted to drag out of the closet suspect gay politicians, and ruin their lives and careers via multiplexes everywhere. Is the homophobic mass media the culprit here? Hardly. It’s self-righteous extremist gay goon squads, in a rabid and tasteless sexual-orientation witch hunt. Dick comes under suspicion himself, no matter what your political affiliation, for launching attacks against mostly Republican politicians like Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Idaho’s Larry Craig, while defaming conservative Fox News anchor Shepard Smith but sparing CNN’s liberal Anderson Cooper. And in the process, he ridicules the wives caught up in these at-times manufactured scandals, as gullible buffoons. Questionable claims are made, jihad style, that closeted gay politicians must be sacrificed to better promote pro-gay voting agendas, as the film at the same time accuses the commercial media of engaging in a vast conspiracy to keep these same men closeted, but without a shred of presented evidence. Sexual McCarthyism on the loose.
STAR TREK 2.5/4
(Paramount Pictures, Rated PG-13)
While Trekkie nostalgia buffs may bliss out on this newly reconceived excursion down intergalactic memory lane, others could have a more been-there, done-that attitude, in response to movie screens entirely too glutted with these hyper-digitalized magic shows. But what does distinguish Star Trek from the cookie-cutter crop of futuristic fantasies, and what led to its legendary status, is its humor and the personality of its characters, who can knock off the self-serious posturing from time to time, to laugh at themselves and each other. Though as usual, character rivalry, not so much with one another but with the imposing surrounding machinery and special effects, pushes the narrative to the margins, where it pales in comparison. Focusing on an intricate web of enduring family feuds, Star Trek traces the badass rebel attitude of James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) back to his birth, during which his dad met his demise at the hands of Romulan leader Captain Nero (Eric Bana). The occasional surprises materialize when all the noisy sci-fi machinery takes a break and allows the characters some quiet time to breathe through.
(Magnolia Pictures, Rated R)
Tilda Swinton masterfully pours much more than her heart into her drunken and dissipated damsel-in-distress performance as Julia, but while the audience is unfortunately left to languish without a clue as to how she ended up that way and who she may actually be when sober. Swinton is the perpetually inebriated protagonist in this rather untimely story of convoluted financial rip-offs and rampant greed by a host of morally deficient have-nots, at a moment in history when the planet has been plunged into economic misery by the corporate and banking elites for real. When Julia is befriended by a clearly bonkers Mexican immigrant neighbor Elena (Kate Del Castillo), who pressures her into a kidnapping plot in exchange for a tidy sum in order to retrieve her son being held by her rich boyfriend’s family, the intoxicated bimbo can’t see past the dollar signs, not to mention the complications of abducting while under the influence. But the particular pleasure of experiencing this movie is in watching Swinton do smashed, sassy and super-mean, as Julia attempts to pull off various criminal acts like a pro, while barely lucid.