Kam on Film: ‘Vacation,’ ‘Tango Negro’ and What’s New In Theaters

—by , July 29, 2015

Vacation

Warner Brothers Pictures

Rated R for brief male frontal nudity, sexuality, crude humor, mature themes and pervasive profanity

Next Generation Of Griswolds Heads For Walley World In Travel Franchise’s Seventh Episode

National Lampoon’s Vacation is an enduring film franchise launched back in 1978 by the late John Hughes, the brains behind such Chicago-centric screen classics as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Trains, Planes & Automobiles; Home Alone; Uncle Buck; and Baby’s Day Out, to name a few. The original Vacation adventure featured the Griswold family’s very eventful road trip from the Windy City to L.A.

This nostalgic seventh installment not only resurrects Walley World amusement park as its destination point, but has Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprising their iconic roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold, respectively. However, the couple’s been reduced to a cameo appearance in favor of a plot revolving around their son Rusty’s (Ed Helms) nuclear family.

At the point of departure, we find Rusty sorely in need of a break from the rat race as an overworked pilot for a budget airline carrier. He plans to both spice up his stale marriage and spend some quality time with his sons during the drive across the country. Of course, the highway gods have other ideas in mind, as the perils laying in wait range from robbery to raw sewage.

My biggest problem with this relatively-salacious episode rests in its obsession with sexuality, and often in offensive fashion. For example, when younger son Kevin (Steele Stebbins) asks, “Dad, what’s a pedophile?” he is inappropriately informed that “It’s when a man and a boy love each other very much.” It doesn’t help that the kid subsequently encounters a “glory hole” in a rest stop bathroom ostensibly cruised by gay men.

There is also a homophobic tone cast over the entire picture, coming courtesy of Kevin’s relentless bullying of his effeminate big brother, James (Skyler Gisondo). The mean-spirited mistreatment includes teasing his sibling about having a vagina and choking him with a plastic bag. Even the boy’s father piles on periodically, like when he suggests that Kevin scratches like a girl when he fights instead of punching. Rusty’s wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) isn’t much of a role model either, between overimbibing in a “Chug Run” during a pit stop and ‘fessing up about having developed a bad reputation in college for showing her breasts to anybody who asked.

From full-frontal male nudity to an F-word laced theme song, Vacation is a cringe-inducing disappointment that bears little resemblance to the original it so desperately endeavors to pay homage to.

 

Fair (1 star)

Running time: 99 minutes

 

 

Tango Negro

ArtMattan Productions

Unrated

Musical Documentary Examines The African Roots Of The Tango.

The word “tango” means “sun” in Congolese. Given that derivation, it comes as no surprise that the dance thought of as South American might be traced back to Africa.

That explains the mission of Tango Negro, a labor of love marking the writing and directorial debut of Dom Pedro. What makes the project of educational value is the fact that Argentina, the country most closely associated with Tango, has generally been averse to admitting its African heritage.

Truth be told, a post-slavery purge of blacks there resulted in a whitening of the region by the early 20th century. For, while the descendants of Congolese slaves were being slaughtered or run out of the country, immigration was encouraged by settlers from Italy, France, Lebanon and Syria.

Thus, it is argued in Tango Negro that “the history of the Americas is an absolute lie, from the extermination of the indigenous peoples to the destruction of African cultures.” And it is further stipulated that this shameful legacy “will have to be acknowledged for reconciliation to occur.”

Besides the revisionist lessons this informative documentary includes numerous songs and performances of the Tango. Unfortunately, the music proves to be the low point of the picture, due to its woefully low-production values.

Nevertheless, three ole’s to director Dom Pedro for daring to raise the taboo subject right in Buenos Aires, an ethnically-cleansed environ where it’s admittedly hard to find any dark-skinned citizens.

Ole! Ole! Ole!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

In Spanish, French and English with subtitles

Running time: 93 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening July 31, 2015

 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (PG-13 for action, violence and brief partial nudity) Fifth installment of the espionage franchise finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) reassembling his crack team of spies to take out the international syndicate of deadly assassins targeting IMF agents. Cast includes Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Ferguson.

 

Best Of Enemies (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity) File footage documentary featuring the series of nine, nationally-televised, live-TV debates between liberal Gore Vidal and arch-conservative William F. Buckley covering such hot-button topics as politics, religion and sexuality, which degenerated into name-calling affairs where the pair referred to each other as a “crypto-Nazi” and a “queer.” Includes commentary by Dick Cavett, Kelsey Grammer, Noam Chomsky, John Lithgow and the late Christopher Hitchens.

 

The End Of The Tour (R for profanity and some sexual references) Road flick revolving around the five-day interview conducted by Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) with the late David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) while the troubled scribe was on a book tour for his inscrutable, 1,000-page best-seller, Infinite Jest. With Ron Livingston, Anna Chumsky and Joan Cusack.

 

I Am Chris Farley (Unrated) Reverential retrospective about the life of the late comedian from his meteoric rise to an early demise. Featuring reminiscences by colleagues like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, David Spade, Bob Saget, Molly Shannon and Jon Lovitz.

 

Jenny’s Wedding (PG-13 for mature themes and a crude sexual reference) Katherine Heigl plays the title character in this out-of-the-closet comedy about a lesbian who only informs her homophobic parents (Linda Emond and Tom Wilkinson) that she’s gay the day she and her longtime “roommate” announce their engagement. Ensemble cast includes Grace Gummer, Alexis Bledel and Matthew Metzger.

 

The Kindergarten Teacher (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama, set in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, revolving around a kindergarten teacher (Sarit Larry) who takes a special interest in a precocious, five-year-old poet (Avi Shnaidman). With Lior Raz, Jil Ben David and Ester Rada. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

 

A LEGO Brickumentary (G) More than a toy documentary, narrated by Jason Bateman, examining LEGO as a cultural phenomenon.

 

Listen To Me Marlon (Unrated) Vanity biopic chronicling the life and times of Marlon Brando from the late screen icon’s own perspective as preserved in his personal archive of home videos and audio recordings.

 

The Pilgrim: Paulo Coelho’s Best Story (Unrated) Against-the-odds biopic tracing the Brazilian writer’s (Julio Andrade) rise from humble roots and mental illness to best-selling author of The Alchemist and dozens of other novels. (In Portuguese and Spanish with subtitles)

 

The Seventh Dwarf (Unrated) Animated variation of the Snow White fairytale finds the seven dwarfs embarking on a perilous adventure in search of a prince to revive a sleeping princess (Peyton List) with a kiss and thereby awaken the somnolent kingdom from a century-long slumber. Voice cast includes Nina Hagen, Cameron Elvin and Norm MacDonald.

 

Staten Island Summer (R for sexuality, nudity, crude humor, drug use, teen partying and pervasive profanity) Raunchy teensploitation flick revolving around a couple of recent high school grads (Graham Phillips and Zack Pearlman) who take summer jobs as lifeguards while trying to decide what to do next with their lives. With Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Will Forte, Method Man, Fred Armisen, Cecily Strong and Jim Gaffigan.

 

That Sugar Film (Unrated) Super Size Me-style exposé written and directed by Damon Gameau in which the Aussie actor conducts an experiment on his own body to illustrate the deleterious effects of a high-sugar diet.


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