125 Movies!

The Palm Beach Film Festival ate my tan!

Grace and the Storm

Pipe's not such a bad guy. I mean, he moves major amounts of illegal drugs, and he's not above having his bodyguard, a bullet-headed dude named Roman, gut-punch a street dealer because the payoffs are too slow. But Pipe (Christopher Amitrano) is a real softy. Really. In this veteran drug dealer's chest beats a sensitive heart. He keeps a picture of his ex-girlfriend Ashley in a dresser drawer. And he muses about leading a straight life. "I'm going to buy a tie and a fuckin' alarm clock," he says, only half joking. And there's the God thing, which keeps popping up in conversation (and in his voice-over narration). This is all fascinating enough -- underworld angst, a complex goodness at the heart of darkness, a story that would have thrilled Graham Greene -- but writer/director Christopher Baldi keeps slipping into unintentional parody. It's classic noir with a frisson of silliness. For instance, Pipe suddenly plugs two cops after realizing their bound-and-gagged "perpetrators" are the real cops. "Most bad guys don't sweat when you tie them up," he says, smoking gun in hand. "Only cops do." The story centers around the pursuit of a drug called "Grace," a narcotic so powerful that it offers glimpses of paradise. It's like being present at your own conception, the story goes. "I've proven the existence of God," says a blitzed-out druggie named Rich Karma (Dean Cameron), the only character in the movie who actually gets to try the stuff. Pipe -- who, as played by Amitrano, is a bit of a stiff and, worse, really hard to like -- sees a big shipment of the stuff as his road to retirement. But Pipe's associates start turning up as corpses, the saintly Ashley (Ashley Yeater) reappears, Roman (Clarence T. Jones Jr.) has a sinister secret -- and, hell, it wouldn't be noir if things ended happily. (2 p.m. Saturday, April 17, Muvico Parisian; see listings for other showings) -- Edmund Newton

Collette (left) and Vardalos: It's a real drag.
Collette (left) and Vardalos: It's a real drag.


Through Thursday, April 22, at Muvico Parisian 20, CityPlace, West Palm Beach; and at Sunrise Cinemas Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-362-0003.

Girls from Ipanema

Rio de Janeiro has changed a lot since, 40 years ago, Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim penned that bossa nova classic about the tall and tan beauty strolling to the beach. Australian documentarian Wendy Dent makes that clear right from the get-go. Rio has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with 800 murders a month, most of them related to drug trafficking. Overflowing favelas spill into rich neighborhoods, homeless kids are assassinated by death squads, and diseases like dengue fever run rampant. So, we're finally going to get a true, up-to-date picture of this lovely city, which First World tourists have glorified as a soft-focused mecca of tropical sensuality, right? Wrong. What we get here -- after the alarming information at the start -- is the same old drivel, with booty shots of Ipanema bathing beauties, pseudo-philosophizing about the Brazilian fun-loving character, and lots of rambling conversation about nothing. Do you like the really skimpy "dental floss" bikinis, or do you think it's sexier to cover up more? Which is better -- bossa nova or disco? There's even a long, unexplained sequence of Rio-at-sunset shots that the local tourist and visitors bureau might have produced. There's one riveting scene, with a teenaged street rapper leaping into spontaneous recitation about Rio's homeless children, "the abandoned boys who wake up with the sun," but then the film resumes its unbridled silliness of runway models and Ipanema boutiques. Shots of beautiful Brazilian buttocks make you happy? This is the movie for you. (10:15 p.m. Sunday, April 18, Muvico Parisian; see listings for other showings) -- Edmund Newton

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