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CAPSULE MOVIE REVIEWS

Ex-con gets reacquainted with family in 'Chain Link'

Also reviewed: 'Eleven Minutes,' 'Hookers Inc.'

February 20, 2009|Gary Goldstein; Kevin Thomas

While Dylan Reynolds deserves credit for his confident, singular approach to crafting the stark drama "Chain Link," the writer-director's self-described emphasis on "performance over perfection in image" nets mixed results. Even so, this low-budget effort contains enough flashes of vigor and vision to put the first-time filmmaker on the industry's radar.

In presenting a single, fateful day in the life of Anthony (Mark Irvingsen), an ex-con trying to square things for himself and those around him, Reynolds employs a series of long, hand-held takes that effectively immerse us into a gritty world of losers, hotheads and strugglers. There's a raw authenticity here, but several unconvincing plot devices, some jarring editing (also by Reynolds) and a shortage of nuance undermine the movie's frequent power.

As Anthony, the ponytailed Irvingsen makes for a believable screw-up but lacks the wiry intensity and seductive charm crucial to the part. Jim Storm chews the scenery as a crabby but helpful junkyard owner, and Peter Looney is gratingly one-note as a nasty cop. But Jody Jaress as Anthony's devoted mother, Rhea, Yassmin Alers as his wary ex-girlfriend and the mother of his young son (Luciano Rauso), and veteran actress Lelia Goldoni as Rhea's devout friend are all quite good.

-- Gary Goldstein

"Chain Link." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande 4-Plex, 345 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (213) 617-0628.

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Tension in N.Y.'s fashion world

The title of Michael Selditch and Rob Tate's lively and suspenseful "Eleven Minutes" refers to the time allotted aspiring designer Jay McCarroll to show his first line of clothing at New York's Fashion Week in Bryant Park. McCarroll was heralded in 2004 as "the next great American designer" when he won that season's "Project Runway" reality show. But it wasn't until 2006 that he was able to mount his first collection.

Between February and September, it is a flurry of nonstop activity, constant decision-making, a tug of war between McCarroll, a talented novice with a vision, and his experienced, dedicated publicist, Nancy Kane. The filmmakers cram their slice of the fashion world with no detail overlooked, and in doing so they capture that brisk, intoxicating New York atmosphere of smart, no-nonsense professionalism.

As the show draws nearer, the tension increases. McCarroll is a strong personality but a vulnerable man, admitting to bouts of angry insecurity, loving fashion and the creation of it, but aware both of its financial realities and its absurdities. For his first collection, he takes inspiration from architectural fantasies, creating clothes that are simple and beautiful but that are vibrant with color and distinctive motifs. By the time of his debut, the campy, witty McCarroll has us rooting for him.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Eleven Minutes." MPAA rating: R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. At the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 848-3500.

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Hookers get all madcap

When you sit down to review a movie called "Hookers Inc.," expectations don't exactly run high. So it's a nice surprise to discover this goofy farce, which could have as easily been titled "Slimmy and Stewy Make a Porno," is actually pretty amusing. For about the first half-hour, that is. But there's 45 minutes to go, and where it goes is mostly nowhere.

Slimmy (director and co-writer Tim Pingel) and Stewy (Matthew Dowling) are an oddly resilient pair of aspiring filmmakers, stumbling along as drivers for an escort service run by a rich "playa" (Kareem Elseify) who'll help them fund their movie debut -- as long as it's of the triple-X variety. The game duo is saddled, however, with a couple of co-dependent hookers inexplicably named Starship (Joy Somers) and Starshyp (producer and co-writer Camille Solari), who are like the "Dumb and Dumber" of sex workers. These inept "masseuses," whose excess screen time often usurps the potentially riper porn shoot bits, become as unfunny as their near-identical names -- a wan gimmick that's milked to death.

Still, any flick that contains the line, "Are you discriminating against a perfectly good epileptic hooker?" -- asked of Kato Kaelin (playing himself) regarding the seizure-prone Starshyp -- can't be completely dismissed.

-- Gary Goldstein

"Hookers Inc." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. At Laem- mle's Grande 4-Plex, 345 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (213) 617-0628.

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