These reviews are part of New Times' continuing coverage of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
The New Twenty — First-time feature filmmaker Chris Mason Johnson couldn't have possibly anticipated the current goings-on in the financial world, so don't hold it against him that two of his main characters in this moody urban drama are young investment bankers. They're among a circle of five friends who have hung together since college and who, on the cusp of turning 30, find their personal and professional lives in upheaval. Cocky, charismatic Andrew is embarking on a risky business venture and about to tie the knot with Julie, a self-described sexy Asian chick who laments that she can't leave her job because she keeps getting promoted. (These two are the bankers.) Her brother, Tony, is gay and unsure of himself, especially after he gets involved with an HIV-positive professor. Tony's roommate, Felix, is a painfully sensitive lost soul and borderline drug addict who, it is hinted, may have once been in love with Julie. The quintet is rounded out — literally — by the teddy-bearish Ben, also gay, who's like a one-man conglomeration of all the other characters' neuroses. Despite their self-absorption, this is a fascinating bunch, thanks to a witty, incisive script (co-written by Johnson, who also co-produced). The movie makes good, matter-of-fact use of its New York City locations, and there's all-around solid work from the cast of relative unknowns — Ryan Locke, Nicole Bilderback, Andrew Wei Lin, Thomas Sadowski, and Colin Fickes — supplemented by indie stalwart Bill Sage as the professor and stage veteran Larry Pine in a fleeting appearance as an "old cowboy" who offers Ben a blowjob. (Sunday, October 26, 7:45 p.m., AMC Coral Ridge, 95 minutes.) By Michael Mills
Click below for a trailer of The New Twenty
FLIFF Reviews - Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival: The New Twenty, The Auteur, The Last Lullaby, Rez Bomb
The Auteur — The guys who made this movie must have been laughing their asses off when they came up with the idea. You know, like let's go over the top. There's an egotistical, theatrically temperamental film director who wants to make porn flicks the way Europeans like Godard and Fellini used to make art movies. There's an easygoing stud leading man (John Breen) with the requisite giant dong and a bevy of starlets, nude and eager. The story unspools like a spoofy faux-documentary, with flashbacks and some intimate scenes in and around Portland, Oregon, during a movie pornfest. Maybe there's a whiff of genius about Arturo Domingo (Melik Malkasian), who bridles under the strap of profit-minded producers (why else would they make this shit?). A kind of Orson Wells of porn, Arturo is desperately trying to raise money for his next pic, Gang Bangs of New York, to revive his dwindling reputation. Critical recognition comes (no pun intended) from a festival screening of the "director's cut" of his long-forgotten classic Full Metal Jackoff (lots of airborne ejaculate, like salvos of Silly String). Hi-effin'-larious. But it's hard to figure out what director James Westby and company are spoofing here. Porn? Don't industry people do a pretty good job of satirizing themselves? How about film auteurs? Not many of them left. The only remedy for this mixed-up heap of pretension may be to take it up a couple of notches. March The Auteur all the way into Naked Gun territory. Can we get Leslie Nielsen involved? How about that Queen Elizabeth look-alike doing a pratfall in the middle of a porn set. I hear O.J. Simpson is looking for work. Laugh it up, guys. Really. (Wednesday, October 29, 8:45 p.m., Cinema Paradiso, 80 minutes.) By Edmund Newton
Click below for a trailer of The Auteur
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Rez Bomb — A rule of thumb for aspiring auteurs: Avoid using the word bomb in your title unless you're very, very sure you don't have one on your hands. Sadly, this forlorn mess of a movie lives up to its moniker early on. It's an amateurishly acted, choppily edited story of a pair of unappealing star-crossed lovers whose self-destruction seems to know no bounds. It's set mostly on (and was filmed on) the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, hence the slangy rez of the title. Our ersatz Juliet (Tamara Feldman) is Indian, while her Romeo (Trent Ford) is not, and their ethnic and cultural differences are the basis for feeble attempts at commentary on bigotry and racial injustice. She, for instance, uses "You owe us" — you, as in the white man — as justification for shoplifting, then turns around and tries to seduce her captor. He, on the other hand, goes to jail for six weeks for stealing a van at the start of this tale of woe, then dabbles in breaking and entering, burglary, and drug dealing, stopping to hit his brother and parents up for cash along the way. This catalog of criminal behavior is meant to be excused because the two miscreants are oh so in love, not to mention expecting an unplanned child. A greedy, stop-at-nothing villain (Chris Robinson) is thrown in to up the ante, to no avail. This is pretty much a lost cause from beginning to end. (Thursday, October 23, 7:45 p.m., Cinema Paradiso. 95 minutes.) By Michael Mills
Click below for a trailer of Rez Bomb
The Last Lullaby — Jeffrey Goodman's intention in directing The Last Lullaby was to combine "the playfulness from the French new wave" with the "slowness of some art films," the "naturalistic style of early '70s American film," and a "commitment to narrative taken from film noir." Presumably, Gordon did not intend to produce a "credulity-stretching piece of crap," yet this is what he has done. The Last Lullaby is the story of an aging hit man, Price (played with valiant mookishness by Tom Sizemore), who comes out of retirement to do one last job. Unfortunately for him, he falls in love with his quarry, thus becoming mired in a web of betrayal and familial intrigue and blah blah blah — do you care? The story is so unselfconsciously hardboiled that it demands paprika. The execution is inconsistent too. Lullaby's big-shot criminals are urbane, clearly drawn from big-city Mafioso archetypes, but the whole movie is shot in what looks like rural Louisiana. This is jarring, and so is the film's lopsided approach to character development, which provides us cheesy armchair-psych insights into the lives of supporting characters while ignoring the protagonist altogether. Never once, for example, does Lullaby explore why Price might have fallen in love with his erstwhile victim. Thankfully, we don't really feel the need to know. (Sunday, October 26, 5 p.m.; and Monday, October 27, 7 p.m., AMC Coral Ridge, 93 minutes.) By Brandon K. Thorp