‘ABCs’ and ‘Emperor’ fail, ‘K-11’ breaks out in theaters

Of the three new movies that I reviewed during the March 14, 2013 edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine,” the only one worth seeing is “K-11” – a women-in-prison exploitation flick with a twist. The other two – horror anthology “The ABCs of Death” and historical drama “Emperor” – are barely even worth the words printed on this page.

‘The ABCs of Death’

This anthology film is comprised of 26 individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet and given free reign in choosing a word to create a story involving death. Playing exclusively at the FilmBar. (NR – 129 minutes)

You know that your anthology film is a failure when its best chapter was helmed by an amateur filmmaker whose short was selected by popular vote in an online competition. “T is for Toilet” is one of only two shorts featured in “The ABCs of Death” that are even remotely worth watching (the other one being “D is for Dogfight”). The other 24 of them range from pointlessly disgusting to simply pointless and nothing more – absent of any of the guilty pleasure that you typically get from watching such scenes in an ordinary horror flick with an actual plot. (Grade: F)

‘Emperor’

Matthew Fox plays a general who, as the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, is tasked with deciding if Emperor Hirohito will be hanged as a war criminal. Tommy Lee Jones also stars. (PG-13 – 98 minutes)

At one point during the new post-WWII drama “Emperor,” Tommy Lee Jones retorts, “I don’t need a history lesson.” My thoughts exactly – especially one as devastatingly dull as director Peter Weber’s new motion picture. There are mere glimpses of a remotely fascinating film found here and there – namely the scenes shared by Matthew Fox and Eriko Hatsune, who plays his character’s love interest – but said scenes are fighting a losing battle with a story so scant on style and padded with pokerfaced performances that you will be willing to fall on your own sword to escape it. (Grade: F)

‘K-11’

Goran Visnjic plays a record producer who comes around after binging on drink and drugs and finds himself in a section of the Los Angeles County Jail reserved for homosexuals, which is ruled by a transsexual named Mousey (Kate del Castillo). Playing exclusively at Harkins Valley Art. (NR – 100 minutes)

“K-11” is trashy, disconcerting and unscrupulous – the three key ingredients of the women-in-prison exploitation genre that was popularized back in the 1970’s. In fact, writer/director Jules Stewart – mother of “The Twilight Saga’s” Kristen Stewart – adds a unique spin to the format, using characters that are actually gay, transsexual and transgender men, thereby augmenting the already alarming aspects of it all. Having said that, Stewart sometimes slips off either side of the thin line that separates seriousness from camp and some story elements in the movie are a bit muddled but this is certainly a piece of scandalous cinema. (Grade: B)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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