“I felt objectified,” whines a well-endowed sociopath, post-orgy, in Paul Schrader’s micro-budget debacle “The Canyons.”
This particular American psycho (the latest from writer Bret Easton Ellis) is played by porn actor James Deen, whose working acquaintance with objectification is one of his two attributes.
With the ever-troubled Lindsay Lohan cast as a Hollywood barnacle clinging to Deen’s wealthy, sadistic producer, “The Canyons” initially tantalizes with hints of fact-fiction bleed-through.
But any hope of sneaky commentary or ironic appropriation of porn’s tawdry incompetence disappears long before Deen’s pants.
Made notorious by a remarkably candid piece in The New York Times Magazine last January, “The Canyons” is less entertaining than the article, a flat, disaffected amorality tale throwing stones at Hollywood’s artistic bankruptcy.
Devoid of the wit and outsider empathy of Shrader’s sex-creepy “Auto Focus,” the Shrader-Ellis collaboration is just sour and disdainful.
The cuddly, handsome Deen, known for his unlikely niche as porn’s nice Jewish boy-next-door, plays Christian, a sneering trust-fund jerk about to produce his first movie, a low-budget slasher film.
In the Malibu mansion he shares with his do-nothing girlfriend Tara (Lohan), Christian organizes Internet hook-ups, filming other men having sex with the go-along Tara.
She, meanwhile, is having an affair with the hunky young actor (Nolan Funk) cast in Christian’s horror movie.
What any of these vapid characters sees in the others is a mystery far greater than who’s going to kill whom. Without its day-of-the-week subtitles, the film would have no momentum at all.
Lohan has moments of authenticity -- she plays desperation well -- while Deen’s battle with ineptitude is as close to endearing as this strange time-suck gets.
“The Canyons,” from IFC Films, is playing in New York and is available on demand through iTunes, XBox and other digital platforms. Rating: * (Evans)
“I want more than a moment,” Cassidy (Brie Larson) tells her boyfriend, Sutter (Miles Teller), as she dumps him in “The Spectacular Now.” “I want a future. And you can’t do that.”
Sutter is Mr. Fun, a budding alcoholic well-liked by his fellow high-school seniors, even if they consider him (as the class achiever tells him, not unkindly, in a moment of honesty) a joke.
Once he’s unmoored, his gaze happens to land on Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a sweet, inexperienced girl who helps her mother on her paper route. Soon she’s sipping eagerly from the flask he carries.
The blossoming-love emotions this charming film calls up aren’t all that different from the ones you might encounter in a Nicholas Sparks movie, yet the intimacy between Sutter and Aimee feels real.
Neither the humor nor the pain seems forced -- at least not until the end, when the director, James Ponsoldt, feels called on to provide a resolution. The only real melodrama in the movie is the kind the kids supply themselves. At that age you can’t live without it.
“The Spectacular Now,” from A24, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***1/2 (Seligman)
More is much less in “2 Guns,” the Mark Wahlberg-Denzel Washington action comedy that shoots its best shots long before the halfway mark.
An extended and clever preamble raises our hopes: Unbeknownst to one another, bank-robbing drug smugglers Bobby (Washington, nailing it) and Stig (a glib Wahlberg) are undercover agents: Bobby with the DEA, Stig with Navy Intelligence.
Too successful for their own good, the bickering duo pulls off a $43 million heist, and “2 Guns” devolves into an ultra-violent mad, mad, mad world. Everyone’s after the loot, from the DEA, the Navy and CIA to Mexico’s angriest drug kingpin (Edward James Olmos).
Director Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”) and screenwriter Blake Masters (adapting Steven Grant’s graphic novel) lose control of the convolutions, and cleverness gives way to a tiresome barrage of generic action-movie mayhem.
“2 Guns,” from Universal Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Evans)
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Muse highlights include Lewis Lapham on books and New York Weekend.