Shorties: Fat Israelis, Unhinged Angels, a Depressed Naturalist, and Much More


girl-on-train1) A Matter of Size

A pack of highly insecure, obese working-class Israeli gents decide to stop dieting and become sumo wrestlers. Yes, The Full Monty goes sabra. Amiably lighthearted and blatantly generic, this crowd-pleaser by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor has already been bought by the Weinstein Brothers for an American remake.

'So, Mr. Richard Gere, if you can gain 200 pounds by sundown, have I got a starring role for you." A highlight of the forthcoming 14th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, this big-bellied comedy proves once and for all the Jewish proverb "Worries go down better with soup."

2) Legion

The next time you go to see a film, don't be surprised if the ticket booth has been demolished and the management is just passing a plate around. As for the concessions booth, you better expect Holy Water to be sold in small, medium, and large cups along with the buttered popcorn.

If you haven't guessed, Scott Stewart's Legion is yet another apocalyptic Christian entertainment where mankind is on its last legs. This time God is the villain. Yes, the Lord has broken his promise to Noah and has decided to get rid of all humans for once and for all. Why? One character notes that her mother told her, "I guess he got tired of all the bullshit."

To do His dirty work, the angels led by Gabriel (Kevin Durand) are sent to Earth where they let loose a whole bunch of plagues. As if that isn't enough, old ladies with walkers and little kids start walking on ceilings when they're not biting into necks and talking dirty. It's sort of like Night of the Living Gentiles.

Thankfully, the angel Michael (Paul Bettany) has decided to give God what He needs and not what He wants. So Michael cuts off his own wings, stitches up his back, and drives up to Paradise Falls, an isolated diner in the Mojave desert, where a very pregnant, unwed waitress named Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) is about to give birth to the "Christ" child. If the baby lives, so do we. If not, it's curtains for all.

Goofily entertaining, especially when the cast isn't speaking, this rip-roaring blasphemous diversion is worth a gander or two, especially for those who enjoy bug attacks, exploding crucified humans, grossly expandable limbs, and loads of gunfire. However, for those who desire a more cerebral profaneness, delve into Philip Pullman's rather brilliant His Dark Materials trilogy.

3) Creation

If you're hungering for those old Ken-Russell, over-the-top biopics on the likes of Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers) or Mahler, the ones where everyone, including the audiences, could benefit from a prescription for Paxil, hunger no longer.

Director Jon Amiel, who proved his mettle way back in 1986 with the TV version of The Singing Detective, here tackles Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany again angering God). The despondent naturalist is harboring hallucinations about his then deceased 10-year-old daughter Annie (Martha West). Imagine The Lovely Bones as written by Mr. Wizard.

After the opening credits, we get to spend a delicious amount of time with the uncharismatic Darwin as he struggles to pen On the Origin of Species, cope with Annie's inability to stay buried, and not antagonize his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly), whose devout Catholicism argues against every kernel of truth in Darwin's treasured theories. So will Emma allow Charles to publish his work? I just wonder.

Intellectually stimulating and a true treat for anyone on LSD (does anyone still trip?), Creation is surely a must-see for History Channel buffs and Masterpiece Theater aficionados.

4) The Girl on the Train

Every world-class director is allowed to misstep now and then, so don't be too hard on Andr Téchiné (Wild Reeds).

Inspired by the true story of a messed-up young woman who fabricated that she was attacked on a train in a Paris suburb by anti-Semites who mistakenly thought she was Jewish, the screenplay runs off the tracks early on.

Jeanne (Emilie Dequenne) is a mama's girl. That her mama is played by Catherine Deneuve makes it quite understandable. But one day while roller-skating, Jeanne's spotted by the obsessive yet hunky budding wrestler Frank (Nicolas Devauchelle), who's also on wheels (photo at top of page). The two eventually move in together, but only after Frank and his then roommate threaten to gangbang Jeanne against her will. It's only a joke though. Ha! Ha!

From this moment on, which by the way Téchiné invented, the film goes downhill with an unrelenting vigor. In fact, the whole finale about the aftermath of the "attack" makes no sense, which might just be the point of a rather pointless film. - Brandon Judell

brandon.jpgMr. Judell is featured in Rosa von Praunheim's forthcoming documentary New York Memories. In the spring, he'll be teaching "The Image of the Jew in Post-World War II European Cinema" and "Gay and Lesbian Literature" at The City College of New York. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi).