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Review: Cowboy Del Amor


No, this isn’t some low-rent variation on Brokeback Mountain. Michele Ohayon’s documentary concerns itself with one Ivan Thompson, a.k.a. the “Cowboy Cupid,” a grizzled man’s-man rancher from New Mexico who specializes in arranging for frustrated American men to find their ideal Mexican wives. Though he charges a fee, Thompson isn’t looking for profit; he genuinely believes that American women, thanks to years of “Women’s Lib” and other social ills, have become too demanding, and that American men are better off looking south of the border. Indeed, there’s a lot of anger simmering within the soul of the Cowboy Cupid: A scene where he reads his responses to the hate mail he’s received plays like something out of a horror flick.
    Amazingly, Thompson is also quite a charmer when he wants to be. One can even understand why his ex-wife (a Mexican, of course) might still maintain cordial, almost loving relations with him. Or why a couple of the women he interviews for his clients turn out to be more interested in him than in their prospective husbands. Director Ohayon never tries to judge her subject — even if, as viewers, we may sometimes want her to intervene, given the resolute smugness with which Thompson proclaims some of his views. The director, to her credit, is content just to show Cupid at work, taking his latest client across the border, putting ads in the local papers, asking applicants about their weight and setting up interviews with prospective mates. One of those clients, a truck driver, even manages to find true love with an impossibly good-natured woman who perfectly, not to mention happily, fits the bill. Their success suggests that somewhere among the macho rantings of Thompson’s wounded male ego may lie a few uncomfortable kernels of truth about what men want. — Bilge Ebiri

Review: Heart of Gold
Neil Young himself said it best: It’s better to burn out than to fade away. But in this new concert film, he seems dangerously vaporous. Given that his director, Jonathan Demme, made the Talking Heads’ classic Stop Making Sense, Young had a lot to live up to in Heart of Gold, and he might have pulled it off. Despite possessing arguably the worst voice in rock, Young has one of the most admirable back catalogs. But Gold is tarnished by a full performance of an entirely hook-free new album, Prairie Wind. Where his old material was a tough, hearty granola with just a touch of honey to help it go down, these songs — mild four-chorders about God, roads, and old guitars — are like the honey without the grain. After ten numbers both inoffensive and inessential, even the classics (“Old Man,” “Heart of Gold”) seem unremarkable. It’s all well performed, and Young’s warm personality helps — but it’s just small for the man behind anthems as massive and quite literally unforgettable as “Rockin’ in the Free World.” — Peter Smith
Review: The Fallen Idol
Sir Ralph Richardson was the most soft-spoken of legendary British thespians. While the Oliviers of the world rampaged through their parts, Sir Ralph was often content to mumble, whisper, and shrug, creating characters so fragile that one misplaced word or gesture could undermine them. To get a sense of Richardson’s accomplishment, one need look no further than this restored new print of Carol Reed’s masterful The Fallen Idol (1948). Adapted loosely from Graham Greene’s short story The Basement Room (by Greene himself), Idol assumes the perspective of Phillipe, the young child of an unnamed ambassador living a luxuriant but lonely life in London. The boy worships the kind head butler, Baines (Richardson), a man who makes time for the kid while juggling his other duties and even sticks up for the boy against his own domineering wife. As Phillipe spends more time with Baines, however, he discovers that this scrupulously competent servant isn’t as in control as he seems; his marriage is on the rocks, he’s got a mistress mired in despair, and his fondness for the boy doesn’t preclude him from coaxing the kid to lie when it suits him.
    As they would go on to prove with The Third Man and Our Man in Havana, Reed and Greene had a unique ability to render human psychology in concrete terms that made for complex and gripping cinema. In their hands, what is effectively an internal story — our inevitable disappointment at those we love — becomes an unlikely noirish thriller, shot through with moments of hallucinatory expressionism and masterful suspense setpieces. Of course, such a gambit is hardly original — how many times have we seen the movies take psychological realism and turn it into cheap thrills? But that’s where their invaluable lead actor comes in. Richardson’s performance keeps things grounded by merely hinting at subtler, more menacing feelings going on beneath his troubled surface. His delicate portrayal of the elusive, flawed Baines makes The Fallen Idol one for the ages. — Bilge Ebiri
Review: Film Geek
Possessing an unhealthy love for movies, the title character in director James Westby’s predictable debut feature is fired from his video store job for sniffing cassettes. In fact, Scotty (Melik Malkasian) manages an indie trifecta: boy gets fired, boy meets girl, boy repeatedly whacks off.
    The girl is Niko, a bafflingly patient and empathetic artist who befriends the inept Scotty and perhaps even falls for him. She helps him forget that his film website has never received a single visitor, and shows him an alternative to movies: the comparatively rich realm of electronica, marijuana, and keg stands.
    As a lovestruck nerd, Malkasian does his best. At times, Scotty is, as Niko describes him, “kind of stupidly cute.” Unfortunately, he becomes less cute each of the many times he masturbates into the bathroom sink. And Scotty’s reason for loving film so much — “Movies let you be other people” — is as corny as Film Geek‘s twist ending. — Michael Mitchell
Date DVD: Doom
Since the Xbox360 debuted, you may have lost touch with your loved one. You’re mixing drinks and dimming the lights, he’s blasting away walking corpses, screaming like a Tarantino extra. How do you reclaim your date? Most people suggest cold-turkey solutions or ultimatums. But you risk getting dumped for no good reason if your lover just needs a few more days to finish the campaign mode of Quake IV — so don’t take it personally. Instead, try a less radical solution: weaning. Instead of begging for conversation or a date out, suggest a DVD date with Doom, the movie version starring The Rock. Instead of screaming, “Get off the fucking couch!” you can try saying “Honey, can I put this in the 360?” (In case your date has hidden this from you: the machine does indeed play DVDs.) You can break the monotony, and your lover won’t have to unplug his life support. How’s the film? Well, it’s nothing less than the best video-game adaptation ever filmed. Okay, that’s faint praise, since Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider weren’t exactly milestones, but Doom really isn’t bad. The Rock is hysterical, and there’s actually an unexpected plot twist (I swear!). Most importantly, it’s the first step to video-game-addict recovery. Take things one DVD at a time. — Logan Hill


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