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CAPSULE MOVIE REVIEWS

'Cloud 9'

Also: 'Orgies & the Meaning of Life,' 'Play the Game,' 'This Beautiful City'

August 28, 2009|Kevin Thomas; Robert Abele; Gary Goldstein

The murky, pretentious and self-indulgent "Orgies and the Meaning of Life's" writer-director-star Brad T. Gottfred has written that "I do think it should be known that I did find the idea of exploring the meaning of existence through stick figure animation, orgies and stranded turtles rather amusing." It also should be known that his film is not even remotely amusing or the least involving and is instead lifeless and relentlessly tedious.

Gottfred casts himself as Baxter, a good-looking young man who's halfway through writing a book about a stick figure searching for a portal to the three-dimensional world. Meanwhile, he's trying to find a woman who will be his salvation, which means that the film is mostly taken up with Baxter bedding down a series of women while imagining at times being surrounded by a bevy of female onlookers. Baxter seems to be yearning for multiple partners and so do some of his partners, but he doesn't act upon his desire. Indeed, Baxter ponders that the three-dimensional world that his fictional hero seeks may not exist, but then his lesbian roommate Denny (Katherine Carlson) also may not exist even though she tells him she may be the girl for him; she in turn has a yen for curvaceous Allison (Lindsay Wray), the woman who seems to excite Baxter the most -- but perhaps neither she nor any of the women actually exist, and are just expressions of his tepid sex fantasies.

The film, actually quite discreet in its suggestion of sex, could itself be the stranded turtle that Baxter encounters.

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Kevin Thomas --

"Orgies and the Meaning of Life." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande 4-Plex, Downtown Los Angeles.

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If 'Cloud 9' were a lame comedy

Just like a kiddie flick that talks down to children while boring the parents in tow, the comedy "Play the Game" -- about the twin romantic complications of retirement home widower Joe (Andy Griffith) and his ladies' man grandson David (Paul Campbell) -- panders dispiritingly to elderly moviegoers while being unlikely to engage date-movie lovers of any age.

As brightly lighted as a bad sitcom, writer-director Marc Fienberg's effort clumsily merges a handsome rake's progress -- cynical car salesman David's backfiring campaign to attract smart (but bland) Julie (Marla Sokoloff) -- with what could be a lost "Love American Style" episode about senior trysting. The youngsters' half is mostly blase and cliched about wooing gambits (running out of gasoline, really?) but there's something disconcerting about Griffith -- enjoying a career upswing after "Waitress" -- being reduced to playing an old man written like a naive child.

What octogenarian of sound mind hasn't heard of Viagra or oral sex? But also, who wants to see such a sturdy hand at plain-spoken comedy as Griffith act out scenes -- and, er, moments -- involving these two overused tropes of movie raunch? Veering between syrupy sweet and awkwardly dirty, "Play the Game" is a woefully scoreless exercise.

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Robert Abele --

"Play the Game." MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. In selected theaters.

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The film does no

favor to Toronto

"This Beautiful City" is an awfully optimistic title for such a grim and often ugly movie, but that's clearly the point. Unfortunately, it's the only clear point writer-director Ed Gass-Donnelly makes in his grating melodrama about two messed-up Toronto couples whose disparate lives crisscross with theatrical contrivance.

Harry (Noam Jenkins) and Carol (Caroline Cave) are upscale marrieds living in a downtown condo, whose apparent stability is shattered after Carol falls -- or maybe jumps -- off the balcony, one of many things here we never really know. The incident leaves Carol, as well as her relationship with Harry, scarred and crippled, causing them both to stray: Carol into the arms of a troubled cop (Stuart Hughes), while the tortured but handsome Harry becomes ridiculously intrigued with a could-she-be-any-skankier hooker-crackhead named Pretty (Kristin Booth).

Pretty, meanwhile, has a mentally wrecked, dentally challenged druggie boyfriend (Aaron Poole) who tricks with guys in bathrooms to make bus fare out of town because he and Pretty want to "start over." Right. Oh, did I mention Carol's cop beau is Pretty's father?

Gass-Donnelly tricks up this phony baloney with nervous camerawork and editing while also stranding his actors with scads of second-rate dialogue. A bad time is had by all.

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Gary Goldstein --

"This Beautiful City." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande 4-Plex, Downtown Los Angeles.

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