I Am Kaboom Pass (Weekly Links)

Jason Sudeikis, guilty of the sin of Onan, Hall Pass

Reviews I wrote for the Herald this week:

Hall Pass. “A basically conventional scenario dressed up with a few naughty bits.”

Kaboom. (link dead; review below)

By Robert Horton

Hints of the “end of days” come in all shapes in sizes—none more cheerfully garish than Gregg Araki’s “Kaboom,” a smiley-face indie account of some very odd things happening.

At first glance, we seem to be in familiar territory for the director of “The Living End” and “The Doom Generation”: a story of young people bed-hopping with a variety of partners. The hero is Smith (Thomas Dekker), a wispy bisexual who daydreams about his dorm roommate (Chris Zylka) but has a fling with a co-ed (Juno Temple). He tells his best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) about these unsettling visions he’s been having lately, which seem to be coming true. One of them involves Stella’s new girlfriend (Roxane Mesquida), a sultry type who, like the hero of last week’s “I Am Number Four,” is able to shoot light beams out of the palms of her hands.

And then there’s the night Smith spots the people in animal masks roaming across campus, just before a classmate turns up dead. Are these failed auditioners for the “Donnie Darko” sequel, or has Smith come across some really bizarre harbinger of doom?

The answers to these questions tumble out across a candy-colored series of scenes, strung together with a busy soundtrack of drop-dead cool songs. Araki is a magpie when it comes to collecting great sounds and costumes and bits of lingo, and he loves smashing them together in a jangly mix.

Make no mistake: while “Kaboom” has a certain underground-movie rattiness, it moves along with confidence and authority. Araki knows how to flip one scene into the next and build suspense, even if the movie’s main tone is comic.

The ending may leave people wanting more, me included. I realize the entire movie is built around a particular ending—but still.

Also, Thomas Dekker, probably best known for the TV series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” doesn’t quite have the heft to give this wacky outing a strong central spine. Haley Bennett and Juno Temple have a good time spitting out the one-liners, and James Duval is a hoot as the dorm’s Resident Advisor, so stoned he does everything but quote Cheech and Chong routines.

Independent films have gotten into something of a rut in recent years, all decent and respectable and Oscar-nominated. One thing to say for “Kaboom”: there’s nothing decent or respectable about it, and that is oddly welcome.

I Am. “An evolutionary case could be made for cooperation and communication.”

Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. “The motion picture has no equal when it comes to furnishing evidence.”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about Nuremberg and its emphasis on film as proof, a subject much in the headlines right now. Listen here; the movie bit can be heard commencing at the 15-minute mark.

Next Wednesday night, March 2, I will be in Clarkston, Washington, delivering a lecture in the Humanities Washington Guest Speaker program: “Alien Encounters: Sci-Fi Films and the Cold War Culture of the 1950s.” That’s at 7 p.m. at the Asotin County Library. May the mountain passes be clear by then. Series info here.

At my other website, What a Feeling!, I post an original review of The Lost Boys, in which Joel Schumacher does vampires.

Movie Diary 2/21/2011

Crashout (Lewis J. Foster, 1955). Jailbreak with good people: more here.

Loophole (Harold D. Schuster, 1954). Sometimes these “undiscovered noirs” turn out to be justifiably undiscovered, but this is actually pretty swell, with a straightforward line of action and a splendid antagonist – not really a villain – in the form of Charles McGraw. He’s the insurance investigator hounding accused bank teller Barry Sullivan.

Kaboom (Gregg Araki, 2010). At this point Araki is old guard, and it shows in his command of rhythm and story-teasing-out, however zany the subject matter gets. (full review 2/25)

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974). Certain movies keep showing up in a working life as a critic, for a whole variety of reasons; and here’s this one yet again. And there’s Fassbinder, dismantling the status quo – the status quo of society and filmstyle – because the status quo is an impediment to human happiness. The more you watch this director, the more human happiness keeps coming into view as his true subject.

Over at my other website, What a Feeling!, we keep turning up more impediments to human happiness – like Police Academy 6: City Under Siege.