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Unhappy family? Join the club

September 22, 2006|John Anderson, Stephen Williams, Mark Olsen

Georgia Lee's family dramedy "Red Doors" owes something to Chekhov and something to "Family Guy." The angst-ridden Wongs are so weird they transcend their Asian identity. The issues confronting them -- the suicidal impulses of Dad (Tzi Ma) or the hip-hop vendetta perpetrated by daughter Katie (Kathy Shao-Lin Lee) against the boy next door -- are of the type that make you forget you're watching a film in which Chinese-ness is supposed to be so paramount.

Following Woody Allen, Ang Lee and any number of sitcoms, Georgia Lee constructs her well-shot, well-written film around three daughters -- two overachievers (Jacqueline Kim, Elaine Kao) and a rebel -- who are trying to find happiness. Dad, meanwhile, keeps trying to check out, either because he's retired, or because he spends much of his time in front of a VCR, watching his daughters as then-happy children. He shouldn't feel so down. It's all a lot more upbeat than he thinks.

-- John Anderson

"Red Doors" (R for brief sexual content) Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Playhouse, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-6500; Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811; Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 29, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
'Feast': In Sept. 22's Calendar section, a photograph with a review of the movie "Feast" showed actress Krista Allen. Her first name was misspelled in the caption as Kirsta.


Documentary is hard to embrace

Compiled with reverence and mixed with distance by director Jan Kounen, the clips that make up "Darshan, the Embrace" follow a journey of several weeks in the life of Indian teacher/guru Amma, a world-famous spiritualist and winner of the Gandhi King Prize for her work among the poor. Amma, whose preachings inspire massive gatherings of disciples (many of them caught on film here), has lobbied around the world for hospitals, orphanages and housing in her country, and when she makes her annual pilgrimage through India, people line up for hours for her darshan, or tender, loving embrace. To date she has blessed 26 million followers with her darshan.

While Amma's teachings of love, inner peace and Karma, or action, resonate in the film -- obviously, Amma is a woman called to God -- her background remains pretty much a mystery. Less National Geographic and more personal history would have added a dimension to "Darshan."

Stephen Williams

"Darshan, the Embrace" (unrated) Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Monica, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica (310) 394-9741; Regency's Academy, 1003 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 229-9400.


Project Greenlight famine continues

The third (and apparently final) feature film to come from the Project Greenlight contest and television series, in which aspiring writers and directors win the chance to make a film under the vague tutelage of executive producers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, "Feast" brings the score to TV 3, movies 0. That the making-of television show has consistently yielded better viewing than the films ostensibly being made raises the question of how many other unsatisfying movies are the result of production turmoil with more narrative continuity and dramatic heft than the results that make it to the big screen.

Written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton and directed by John Gulager, "Feast" was Project Greenlight's first foray into genre filmmaking, with a story about a group of people in a middle-of-nowhere bar besieged by creatures intent on their demise.

The monsters themselves are rarely seen clearly enough to appreciate, and a moment in which two of them are spied procreating is odd, to be sure, but only highlights the uncertain-to-schizophrenic tone of the film. What presumably began as a more straightforward story of siege and standoff has apparently been retrofitted into horror-comedy mode in a vain attempt to paper over inconsistencies and lack of scares.

This is easily one of the most visually incoherent films to hit theaters in quite some time, as the who-doing-what-where of the action sequences comes across as a confusing jumble of splintering wood, flailing arms and snarling snouts. It would be dizzying if it weren't so annoying. A sad farewell to the promising Project Greenlight concept, this "Feast" leaves viewers with nothing satisfying to tuck into.

-- Mark Olsen

"Feast" (R for pervasive strong creature violence and gore, language, some sexuality and drug content) Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. Friday and Saturday at midnight, Laemmle's Playhouse, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-6500; Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; Vista, 4473 Sunset Drive (at intersection of Sunset and Hollywood boulevards), Los Feliz, (323) 660-6639.

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