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'Kissing Frogs' is more fun than it sounds like

CAPSULE REVIEWS

September 12, 2008|Kevin Thomas, Robert Abele, Sheri Linden

No wonder "Tired of Kissing Frogs" was big box office in Mexico. It's a delightful romantic comedy, traditional in form but contemporary in feeling. It has a great look, a scintillating cast and a bouncy pace. Its talented star, Ana Serradilla, her distinctive supporting players and her shrewd director, Jorge Colon, and his clutch of writers can catch a viewer by surprise with the film's deft finish.

Suspense builds as to whether Serradilla's Martha will lose her chance at true love by a mix of shortsighted attitudes, misunderstandings and just plain bad luck. This heretofore frothy film becomes a reminder that even a person as privileged as Martha is vulnerable to the capriciousness of fate, making it possible to care more about her than one would have imagined.

When Martha confirms her suspicions that her wealthy attorney fiance (Juan Manuel Bernal) may be straying, she signs on to an Internet dating service. The perils are amusingly predictable, but meanwhile her fiance doggedly tries to win her back even as an aspiring young actor (Jose Maria de Tavira), who serves her coffee in a cafe every morning, falls in love with her in silence. To its credit, "Tired of Kissing Frogs" has a zesty, turn-the-tables feminist spirit without weighing itself down with a heavy-handed attack on machismo; it's possible to imagine Martha ending up with either suitor as a happy ending -- or, sadly, with neither man.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Tired of Kissing Frogs." MPAA rating: R for sexual content and some language. In Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In general release.

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The emperor of the velvet rope

Forever standing outside but acting like he's inside, the club doorman is a power position that Manhattan night-lifers love to hate -- and a surprisingly ripe subject for a mockumentary about the cruel allure of glittery access. "The Doorman" is filmmaker Wayne Price's "Borat"-ish attempt at a character comedy in which an arrogant, air-kissing velvet-rope holder named Trevor W. (Lucas Akoskin) wields his gatekeeper prowess -- sifting out the flawed from the flawless at hot spots, Fashion Week and even a rock star's bus -- until the camera crew following him (led by Price himself) begins to notice the unmistakable sense that Trevor is on his 15th minute. Seemingly most of the cast is played by "Himself" or "Herself" -- club impresarios, doormen, media types and celebrities along for the gag -- but Price keeps the humor believably shallow and the movie from getting too far from the aim of chronicling an exclusivity junkie's fall. (With only a few forced bits at the end does it betray its roots as an idea for an "SNL"-like skit.)

Most important, the Argentina-born Akoskin exudes a winningly empty-headed charisma, even managing a trenchant scene of pitiable fame-conscious confusion when, faced with his documentarian's proof that he's jobless, our Euro-tragique hero can't figure out whether the camera should be on him or off him for his most vulnerable moment.

-- Robert Abele

"The Doorman." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.

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It's late to the spoof shootout

Cult director Takashi Miike's English-language "Sukiyaki Western Django" has style to burn but self-destructs like a wildfire as it attempts to spoof spaghetti westerns -- a passe endeavor -- and Sergio Corbucci's "Django" (1966) in particular. "Sukiyaki" is all but impossible to follow, which means its deliberate use of cliche dialogue -- "A man's got to do what a man's got to do" -- grows tedious, and its extreme violence, meant to be a darkly absurdist put-on, becomes a turnoff. Not even a brief appearance by Quentin Tarantino and a ton of references to other movies enlivens the proceedings much.

Amid a thicket of characters and complications, the film is, for all its inscrutable bravura, an oft-told tale of two clans -- or gangs -- vying to snag a trunk full of gold nuggets hidden in a mountain town. The film's strongest element is Takashi Sasaki's inspired production design, which conflates the look of a frontier town in a western with that of a village in a samurai movie in a way that is boldly imaginative and engaging -- qualities seriously lacking in the picture otherwise.

Admirers of such audacious and distinctive Miike films as "Audition" (2000), an unforgettably chilling example of the potency of unspeakable horror completing itself in the viewer's imagination, or the pitch-black family comedy "The Happiness of the Katakuris" (2002) may well be disappointed. But "Sukiyaki Western Django" cannot be said to be without a point, as familiar as it is: that the machine gun and the pistol are mightier than the sword.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Sukiyaki Western Django." MPAA rating: R for strong violence, including a rape. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At the Nuart through Thursday, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 281-8223.

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