Gatsby who? Check out these cool rep flicks instead! Plus: more new movies.

Pub date May 10, 2013
SectionPixel Vision

This week: two, count ’em two, series dedicated to oft-overlooked films produced outside the mainstream, dedicated to the seamier things in life: “I Wake Up Dreaming 2013” at the Roxie (Dennis Harvey’s take here), and “Girls! Guns! Ghosts! The Sensational Films of Shintoho” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (I drool here.)

Short takes on wider releases below, including The Great Gatsby, a film adaptation that finally realizes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s deathbed wish: that one day, his most beloved work would be shot in garish 3D. Clearly, only suckers read books anymore.

Aftershock Dumped into theaters without fanfare or advance screenings, this collaboration between co-scenarist/producer/star Eli Roth and Chilean director Nicolás López deserves better — it’s possibly the most luridly entertaining of numerous recent jokey homages to retro grindhouse cinema. Roth plays a character known only as Gringo, a divorced Yank lawyer on vacation traveling around Chile with two local friends, brash Pollo (Nicolás Martínez) and mopey Ariel (Ariel Levy). Their tour of raves, clubs, drugz, and tail-chasing — the rare warm-up half-hour that’s actually very funny and enjoyable — comes to an abrupt halt in Valparaiso. Partying with three newly met multinational lady friends (Lorenza Izzo, Andrea Osvárt, Natasha Yarovenko) they find themselves caught in a major earthquake — and the carnage that it causes is just the beginning of their woes, as crisis piles upon crisis. Spinning ’70s disaster-flick tropes toward crass gore-horror, Aftershock is gleefully trashy enough to get away with outrageous cruelties, including mortal harm served out to characters shockingly high on the cast list. (1:30) (Dennis Harvey)

The Crumbles The awkward slackers and damaged hipsters of The Crumbles live in a sun-strafed, paved-over Los Angeles habitat of coffee shops, taco trucks, bookstores, budding filmmakers, and living room band practice. Darla (Katie Hipol) is slouching nowhere fast when her zany, charismatic cool-girl chum Elisa (Teresa Michelle Lee) enters the picture, looking for a place to crash. Elisa’s wacky, erratic, and unreliable, but she’s also capable of generating real excitement — and a mean little keytar hook — and the girls’ band, the Crumbles, gets off the couch and threatens to get all involved to bust out of their shells. Though director Akira Boch never quite dips into the deep background of his characters’ various dysfunctions — the threatened readings of Darla and Elisa’s psychic friend never quite sheds light — the first-time feature filmmaker has a real feel for the drifting, up-for-anything quality of Cali 20-somethings and an appreciation for their highs and lows that makes this familiar, loving, lets-put-on-show-kids update compelling. (1:13) Roxie. (Kimberly Chun)

The Great Gatsby Every bit as flashy and in-your-face as you’d expect the combo of “Baz Luhrmann,” “Jazz Age,” and “3D” to be, this misguided interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale is, at least, overstuffed with visual delights. For that reason only, all the fashion-mag fawning over leading lady Carey Mulligan’s gowns and diamonds, and the opulent production design that surrounds them, seems warranted. And in scenes where spectacle is appropriate — Gatsby’s legendary parties; Tom Buchanan’s wild New York romp with his mistress — Luhrmann delivers in spades. The trade-off is that the subtler aspects of Fitzgerald’s novel are either pushed to the side or shouted from the rooftops. Leonardo DiCaprio, last seen cutting loose in last year’s Django Unchained, makes for a stiff, fumbling Gatsby, laying on the “Old Sports” as thickly as his pancake make-up. There’s nothing here so startlingly memorable as the actor and director’s 1996 prior collaboration, Romeo + Juliet — a more successful (if still lavish and self-consciously audacious) take on an oft-adapted, much-beloved literary work. (2:22) (Cheryl Eddy)

Kiss of the Damned This first feature by Xan Cassavetes isn’t remotely like the Method-y angstfests her late father John used to direct (although he did act in upscale genre movies like 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and 1978’s The Fury). Instead, it’s an homage to the erotic European horror movies of the late 1960s through early ’80s, with further nods to Dario Argento, 1983’s The Hunger, and other fan-bait. Mysterious Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) is immediately attracted to hunky screenwriter Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), and vice versa. But she’s reluctant to follow through, and when he presses, she explains why: she’s a vampire, albeit the respectable kind who only “hunts” wild animals. When he decides that is a drawback he can deal with, they seem set to spend an undead eternity together. Unfortunately, they soon get an unwelcome guest in Djuna’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), a classic “bad girl” type who has no such compunctions about feasting on “stupid humans,” and whose recklessness threatens the cover of any associated fellow vampire. Like its models, Kiss drags at times, and probably will seem too arty and slow to those attuned to mainstream current horror cinema. But if you’re a dweeb enough to know who the likes of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco are, this aesthetically slavish (on a faithfully low budget) salute to their sexy-bloody vintage schlock should amuse, with Steven Hufsteter’s original score an encyclopedia of vintage Eurotrash soundtrack tropes. (1:37) (Dennis Harvey)

Love is All You Need Copenhagen hairdresser Ida (Trine Dyrholm) has just finished her cancer treatments — with their success still undetermined — when she arrives home to find her longtime husband Leif (Kim Bodnia) boning a coworker on their couch. “I thought you were in chemo” is the closest he comes to an apology before walking out. Ida is determined to maintain a cheerful front when attending the Italian wedding of their daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) — even after emotionally deaf Leif shows up with his new girlfriend in tow. Meanwhile brusque businessman and widower Philip (Pierce Brosnan), the groom’s father, is experiencing the discomfort of returning to the villa he once shared with his beloved late wife. This latest from Danish director Susanne Bier and writing partner Anders Thomas Jensen (2006’s After the Wedding, 2004’s Brothers, 2010’s In a Better World) is more conventionally escapist than their norm, with a general romantic-seriocomedy air reinforced by travel-poster-worthy views of the picturesque Italian coastline. They do try to insert greater depth and a more expansive story arc than you’d get in a Hollywood rom com. But all the relationships here are so prickly — between middle-aged leads we never quite believe would attract each other, between the clearly ill-matched aspiring newlyweds, between Paprika Steen’s overbearing sister in-law and everyone — that there’s very little to root for. It’s a romantic movie (as numerous soundtracked variations on “That’s Amore” constantly remind us) in which romance feels like the most contrived element. (1:50) (Dennis Harvey)

Peeples Kerry Washington and Diahann Carroll star in this Tyler Perry-produced family drama set in the Hamptons. (1:35)

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s This glossy love letter to posh New York City department store Bergdorf Goodman — a place so expensive that shopping there is “an aspirational dream” for the grubby masses, according to one interviewee — would offend with its slobbering take on consumerism if it wasn’t so damn entertaining. The doc’s narrative of sorts is propelled by the small army assembled to create the store’s famed holiday windows; we watch as lavish scenes of upholstered polar bears and sea creatures covered in glittering mosaics (flanking, natch, couture gowns) take shape over the months leading up to the Christmas rush. Along the way, a cavalcade of top designers (Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, Jason Wu, Karl Lagerfeld) reminisce on how the store has impacted their respective careers, and longtime employees share anecdotes, the best of which is probably the tale of how John Lennon and Yoko Ono saved the season by buying over 70 fur coats one magical Christmas Eve. Though lip service is paid to the current economic downturn (the Madoff scandal precipitated a startling dropoff in personal-shopper clients), Scatter My Ashes is mostly just superficial, fan-service fun. What do you expect from a store whose best-selling shoe is sparkly, teeteringly tall, and costs $6,000? (1:33) (Cheryl Eddy)