Gay Israelis vs. Unkosher Twin Witch-slayers

Yossi 

Eytan Fox's superb sequel to his award-winning love story, Yossi & Jagger (2002), has finally arrived. The original told of two Israeli soldiers situated on the Lebanese border, whose clandestine love affair was struggling to survive in a friendly yet homophobic atmosphere. Jagger, who was a little more out there, did his darnedest to loosen up Yossi (Ohad Knoller), begging him to quit the army and live with him in a more tolerant ambiance such as the one Tel Aviv could furnish. The rosy vision unsettled Yossi, but not for long. Jagger was killed in an ambush - - and buried as a brave heterosexual, at least in the eyes of his parents and his compatriots.

Now jump a decade ahead. Dr. Yossi Hoffman is a highly respected cardiologist, yet a lonely, slightly out-of-shape homosexual. A workaholic, he refuses to take vacations, and his free evenings are neatly eviscerated by TV shows with laugh tracks. Then one day, Jagger's mother shows up for a checkup at his hospital. Yossi recognizes her from the shiva he attended at her home. To her he looks familiar, but that is all.

From this chance encounter, Yossi's need for some sort of affection becomes insufferable. Traipsing from computer dating to bars without conviction, he's about to give up all hope of companionship when he comes across some hitchhiking soldiers, one of whom is a "modern" gay. This apparently means being aggressively out to everyone except his parents. Get ready to step on some glassware.

Directed by Eytan Fox, the gifted helmer of the international hit Walk on Water, Yossi, a work of special depth, is yet another of his incisive character studies of a man who doesn't quite fit in until he finally does.

Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft

There are now two Hansel & Gretels you are not going to pay to see. There's one currently playing in the malls, which stars Jeremy Renner and is subtitled Witch Hunters 3D. The other, Warriors of Witchcraft, a straight-to-DVD atrocity that hopes to cash in on the similarity in titles, boasts as its leads the actual twins Fivel and Booboo Stewart as Ella/Gretel and Jonah/Hansel. Yes, these two forlorn teens with complementary pouting physiognomies portray high schoolers sent away to an elite boarding school, Lebkuchen-Haus. [Translation: Gingerbread House.] Oh, no! Calculus and the threat of acne are more than enough to deal with, but throwing in a coven of witches secretly being trained on campus to take over the world is really unfair.

So who is the leader of the nefarious force that is feeding upon the souls of the young? Eric Roberts in his worst lifetime performance as Mr. Sebastian, the head of the school, or Vanessa Angel as Ms. Keegan, a guidance counselor? Or is it their agents who got them these parts?

No, the fault lies with David DeCoteau, possibly the least-talented living director in America. And while we're at it, throw in Costa Rica and Sweden, too. Apparently, knowing nothing about helming, casting, dramatic structure, or editing hasn't stopped this bumbling, Portland-born, ham-handed purveyor of crapola from making over 50 movies since 1985. Do the titles tell it all? Try on Beach Babes 2: Cave Girl Island; Santa's Summer House; 1313: Haunted Frat; or 2: Voodoo Academy for size. If you don't believe me, try sitting through any trailer of his. 1313: Hercules Unbound, for example. If you can sit through this one, you've either expired or overdosed on Valium.

Sadly returning to Hansel & Gretel, the special effects are as nonexistent as is the film's inner logic. As for the supporting cast, which includes Niclas Gillis, Tyne Stecklein, and Courtney Turk as the spoiled upper-class witches, they showcase less Wiccan talent than the broom display at your local Home Depot. The film only comes alive for a few minutes when the Keanu-Reeves lookalike Booboo takes off his shirt, a talent he probably learned from his co-star Taylor Lautner in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. But when your pectorals out-act your mouth, something is out of whack.

 "Bad" films can be loads of fun. Just seek out the classics of Ed Wood. There is, however, no joie de vivre to be found here, just dreary, uncampy mediocrity shoveled up like manure on a pig farm. - Brandon Judell

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Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theatre" and "Gay and Lesbian Identity in Literature" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice,indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate,and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.

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