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Los Angeles. “Human Zoo” + “Pete Smalls Is Dead”

Tarantino says Rie Rasmussen has made “an electrifying directorial debut.” And Alexandre Rockwell returns to mixed reviews.
The DailyHuman Zoo

"Bearing a 2008 copyright, the film Human Zoo pops up for a one-week run at the New Beverly, presented by the theater's benefactor, Quentin Tarantino," writes Mark Olsen in the LA Weekly. "Best known to moviegoers as the star of Luc Besson's Parisian fantasy Angel-A, model/artist Rie Rasmussen is here writer, director, star and even co-editor, with the story apparently based on the experiences of her adopted sister." Tarantino, notes Jeff Otto at the Playlist, calls Human Zoo "an electrifying directorial debut. It's as shocking and violent as it is moving and charming." Olsen, on the other hand: "Incoherent and self-indulgent, the film can't even manage to be particularly fun — even the supermodel sex scenes are disconcertingly disengaged, and everything is shot with a dingy patina that parades about as gritty realism."

Back to Otto: "Tarantino and Rasmussen have become good chums. She visited the set of Inglourious Basterds and has recently been chatting it up with Tarantino about his hotly anticipated Django Unchained. 'I've been around him since day one when the script was being written and I've followed it through its development this last year and a half,' Rasmussen tells the Playlist. 'I knew the man was a genius, but... Jamie Foxx is going to motherfucking knock this one out of the park. He's gonna be a young Jim Brown. This movie is going to be a revolution."

Pete Smalls Is Dead

"Peter Dinklage is one of the subtlest and most magnetic actors now working," declares FX Feeney in the LA Weekly. "Fans of his work in HBO's Game of Thrones can readily attest to this, but ever since his 2003 breakthrough performance in The Station Agent, I've wondered if other filmmakers would seize the opportunity and the challenge of taking his diminutive height in stride, and write lead roles that would allow him to further mine his fascinating depths and fierce comic sense. Alexandre Rockwell has done exactly that with Pete Smalls Is Dead. The director's fifth feature since his 1992 breakout, In the Soup, is a ticklish lark, a thriller that somersaults from one shaggy bit of jeopardy to the next in the tradition of John Huston's Beat the Devil, with Dinklage in the Humphrey Bogart role of last sane man in the room."

The outline, courtesy of Mark Olsen, here in the Los Angeles Times: "A former screenwriter (Peter Dinklage) has his dog taken by loan sharks, and he returns to Los Angeles for the promise of quick money to help an old friend (Mark Boone Jr) bury someone they both once knew. The film has a mangy, oddball energy when it focuses on the fractured friendship between Dinklage and Boone, as even the sight gag of the oversize Boone and smaller Dinklage riding on a moped has a startling amount of mileage to it. Lots of familiar faces pop up in small roles — Steve Buscemi, Seymour Cassel and others — while Theresa Wayman of local LA band Warpaint makes a big impression in a small roll as a laconic femme fatale."

"The plot gets hopelessly convoluted, without anything ever moving forward," finds Drew Taylor at the Playlist. "Imagine a bunch of scenes where people ask other people for money, get beat up, and everyone speaks in profanity-laced pulpy paperback crime novel dialogue (sample narration: 'You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. So Jack and I went frog-kissing')…. Rockwell, as a director, seems to be losing his edge – what used to feel sharp and crisp comes across as nagging and cynical."

Meantime, also going on in Los Angeles this weekend, i.e., through tomorrow, is the LA EigaFest. Chris MaGee has an overview at the J-Film Pow Wow.

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