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Martin and Orloff

UCB founding members Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh (who co-wrote the screenplay with fellow Brigader Katie Roberts) play the titular characters, respectively an advertising man who has just been released from the hospital after a recent suicide attempt and his unconventional psychiatrist. Martin’s last job was on a campaign for egg rolls that would lead to the accidental death of the actor hired to wear an egg roll character costume. Back at work, Martin has another crisis of conscience, as his new clients, the China Chef Frozen Food Corporation, want a campaign with their new line of spare ribs that almost mimics the egg roll situation. When Martin turns for counseling from Dr. Orloff, he begins a series of misadventures that may cure him, or cause him to become more suicidal. Along the way, Martin is introduced to Dr. Orloff’s circle of friends: Orloff’s girlfriend Kashia (Kim Raver), another one of the new breed of beautiful strippers who never gets naked and holds a PhD in psychology; Kashia’s friend and fellow stripper Patty (Amy Poehler), who fastens herself on to Martin the moment they meet; Keith (Jon Benjamin), a Desert Storm veteran who has a problem relieving his bowels in sinks; Dan (David Cross), a emotionally unstable and extremely ostentatious director of a appalling local dinner theatre; and Jimbo (pro wrestler Sal Valente), the 500 pound pro football player and jealous ex-boyfriend of Patty’s, who is out to kill Martin.

The filmmakers wish people to see “Martin and Orloff” as some kind of mixture of surrealist manifesto and Dada headtrip, which makes this reviewer wonder what Roberts, Walsh and director Lawrence Blume were going through at the time they made this film, for whatever it was, they must have been the only ones who felt the many tired and unoriginal gags in the film were remotely funny. Longform improvisation, the specialty of the UCB, simply does not work in the cinematic format, with this film suffering heavily from lack of structure within what little story there is here.

Judging from several visual clues in the film, it was shot shortly after the end of the UCB television show, which would mean the film sat on the proverbial shelf for three years before being released. Those who do brave this film also look forward to uninspired cameos from Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Janeane Garofalo and Andy Richter.

This film is little more than a blip on the otherwise stellar work of a group of talented comedians, one that is almost instantly forgettable.

Rating: D

Barbarian Invasion, The

Seventeen years later, Arcand has returned to these characters with “The Barbarian Invasions,” crafting an intense and provocative new work that complements “Decline” while remaining an enjoyable and worthwhile film to those who have not seen the first film, or are aware the two films are connected.

In the days after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Quebec history professor Remy (Remy Girard) still has the same lust for life in his fifties as he had in his thirties. But when he is diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Remy discovers he had much to reconcile in his remaining days, with his ex-wife Louise (Dorothee Berryman), his Socialist friends and, most of all, his son Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau), now a wealthy investments banker living in London. To the son, father has always been a cold and distant man solely concerned with feeding his own desires. To the father, son is a decadent symbol of all that is wrong in the world in the pursuit of money. At the urging of his mother, Sebastien returns to Quebec for the first time in many years, to reconcile with the man he disdains. Yet, despite all the wounds of the past and the continued stubbornness of the dying man, Sebastien is compelled to help his father not only find peace from his physical pain but to reunite Remy with his old friends from the past for one final get-together.

As Sebastien works his way through the Kafkaesque nightmare that can be the Canadian Socialist Healthcare system in order to secure his father a private room, the friends, former colleagues and mistresses of Remy come together, the ties of camaraderie remaining strong enough after all those years for each to drop whatever they are doing today to spend time with their soon-to-be fallen comrade. As Remy falls sicker, his friends and family decide to throw him one final dinner to celebrate his life.

What makes “The Barbarian Invasions” work so well is that it takes a much different path that a similar American film would take. Rarely, if ever, would an American film have a conservatively minded main protagonist regularly score heroin for his father as a way to dull the increasing pain as cancer ravages onward. Yet this is just one of the lengths Sebastien is willing to go to for his dad, and helps set the film up with one of its best characters, Nathalie (Marie-Josee Croze), the junkie daughter of one of Remy’s past mistresses, who not only helps teaches the older man how to smoke heroin but teach Sebastien a couple of important life lessons about tolerance and understanding.

Girard, Rousseau and Croze (who won an award in Cannes for her role) all turn in staggering, yet understated and very real, performances, permeating the characters with real emotions and reactions. And while the film is about the final days of one man, it is rarely a bleak or depressing experience. Writer/director Arcand (whose screenplay also was feted by the Cannes jury) is more concerned about what is so great about life, creating a film with a sense of joy and wonder as it celebrates our existence, while reminding us of some of the human traits, like stubbornness and vanity, which keep us from enjoying life as much as we should. How novel to have a film about death be so positive about life.

“The Barbarian Invasions” is one of the best films of the year. This film was reviewed as part of the 2003 New York Film Festival.

Rating: A

More Details Emerge Concerning ”Species III”

Shooting on the direct-to-video sequel, originally scheduled to begin this past October, has been delayed until February 2004, giving longtime television director Brad Turner more time to prepare for his first film in seventeen years. Turner, whose television credits include “Nikita,” “Stagate SG-1” and “Playmakers,” was recently hired to helm this Natasha Henstridge-less sequel, which we were the first to <a href=”article.php?id_new=301″>report</a> on in August.

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Eleven Films to Compete for Animated Feature Oscar at the 76th Awards

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted to activate the category for the 76th Academy Awards.

Eleven films were accepted as eligible to compete by the executive committee of the Short Films and Feature Animation branch of the Academy, which recommended that the Award be given for this year.

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