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CAPSULE MOVIE REVIEWS

'Donkey Punch,' 'Growing Out,' 'The Lodger' and 'Prometheus Triumphant'

January 23, 2009|Kevin Thomas; Robert Abele

The none-too-convincing point of Graham Ratliff's "Growing Out" seems to be that if a nerdy wannabe folkie withstands some uninspired shenanigans in a creaky, dark old house, he will gain self-confidence -- and might win the girl as well.

Tom, a shy, struggling songwriter-guitarist (Michael Hampton), takes a job as a caretaker at a rundown Victorian. A nosy, intense guy (Chase Hemphill) lives in a trailer in the backyard with his beautiful girlfriend (Devon Iott), another aspiring musician who instantly is attracted to Tom. Meanwhile, a young man (Ryan Sterling) is gradually emerging from the sandy floor of the old house's basement. Don't ask.

Overly talky and slow, the film is tedious and unpersuasive. Ratliff fails to integrate the mechanics of supernatural horror with his concern for youthful passions and dreams, and the result is glum indeed.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Growing Out." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande 4-Plex, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 617-0268.

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'Lodger' can't make the cut

Now that we live in an age in which slasher flicks are golden oldies that merit retelling (the newly 3-D "My Bloody Valentine," the upcoming "Friday the 13th" remake), there's something almost quaint about the arrival to theaters of "The Lodger."

A West Hollywood-set tale of murdered prostitutes and the gruff detective investigating the crimes (Alfred Molina), writer-director David Ondaatje's film has story tentacles that go way back -- back to the 1927 Alfred Hitchcock silent movie it's repurposing and the Marie Belloc Lowndes novel on which that film was based, back to hard-boiled fiction (Molina's cop is named Chandler) and back to the Jack the Ripper slayings that have fascinated frightmeisters for more than a century.

Unfortunately, this strained, empty effort doesn't work as homage or update, and in its darkly violent sensibility has neither the glamour of Brian De Palma's referential nightmares or even the narrative fuel of the serial-killer-obsessed procedurals that dominate television.

The biggest mystery, perhaps, is why accomplished actors such as Molina and Hope Davis agreed to be in this.

-- Robert Abele

"The Lodger." MPAA rating: R for violent content, language and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500; Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811; Paseo Camarillo Cinemas, 390 Lantana St., Camarillo, (805) 383-2267; Rancho Niguel 8 Cinemas, 25471 Rancho Niguel Road, Laguna Niguel, (949) 831-0446.

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'Prometheus' finds its way

Jim Towns and Mike McKown's "Prometheus Triumphant: A Fugue in the Key of Flesh" is an admirably ambitious homage to the pure emotional power of the classic silent cinema.

In a remote German community in 1890, where "the last great plague" has struck, Janick (Josh Ebel), a young doctor, has invented an electrical device he claims is capable of bringing the dead back to life. After being condemned by the academic community and having acid thrown in his face -- shades of "The Phantom of the Opera" -- he becomes a recluse, driven by loneliness to try to resurrect his beloved Esmeralda (Kelly Lynn), who has succumbed to the plague.

It was perhaps impossible for Towns and McKown to escape some degree of self-consciousness in this attempt to evoke the timeless anguish of a Lon Chaney film or the masterpieces of German Expressionism. In any event, "Prometheus," for all its poetic visual bravura, seems distant when it should be dynamic, yet still worth the effort. By the time it reaches its bold conclusion it has moved beyond pastiche to come entirely into its own.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Prometheus Triumphant." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande 4-Plex, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown Los Angeles. (213) 617-0268.

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