Scissor sister: Rodrick and Rochon
First Run Features

Written and directed by Tim McCann
First Run, opens March 25, Quad

With all due respect to the oeuvre of John Wayne Bobbitt, Nowhere Man might be the best film ever made about a guy who gets his dick cut off. Tim McCann's witty video cheapster takes its squirmy premise both at face value and as deadpan metaphor, folding high-trash theatrics and psychosexual angst into a sly study of male ego and insecurity. Conrad (Michael Rodrick), first seen staggering out of a Nyack hospital, is desperately searching for his fiancée, Jennifer (B-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon), who, it turns out, is in possession of his penis, apparently severed during a domestic dispute. Alternating between Conrad's quest to reattach his member and the buildup to the traumatic snip, Nowhere Man systematically complicates viewer sympathies. Jennifer turned castrating bitch because of Conrad's abusive rejection, itself the result of a less literal emasculation—the discovery of an XXX movie she once starred in, alongside black porn legend Daddy Mac (porn star Frank Olivier). McCann, who directed the shrewd indie mindfuck Revolution #9 (and obviously loves the Beatles), is a skillfully precise low-budget operator. The scrappy look and in-joke casting acknowledge a schlock-flick lineage (Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman cameos as the doctor bearing bad news), and Nowhere Man, despite a tossed-off ending, is a compulsive bit of meta-exploitation. DENNIS LIM

Apollo, opens March 25, Cinema Village

Brimming with more visual panache and emotional complexity than most features, Chris Landreth's Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, Ryan, re-creates a conversation between its director and Ryan Larkin, a Canadian animator who mysteriously dropped off the map some 30 years ago following a handful of groundbreaking shorts. Landreth brilliantly corporealizes the psychological damage wrought by artistic anxiety, failed relationships, and drug addiction, using 3-D animation to depict his characters with deformed and missing body parts—Larkin is barely there, his face nearly invisible behind his still-intact glasses. Live-action is well represented by Little Terrorist, a humanist story of a boy's adventure on the wrong side of the India-Pakistan border. And then there's the reprehensible Best Live Action winner, Wasp, a day in the life of a poor single mother and her four kids that plays like a Mike Leigh film drained of progressive politics. JOSHUA LAND

Directed by Lisandro Pérez-Rey
March 23 through 29, Two Boots Pioneer

This zero-frills documentary on Cuba's 1980 Mariel boat-lift (no relation to Kevin Spacey's Bobby Darin biopic) traces the agonized route of close to 130,000 refugees as they fled Castro's crumbling regime for sanctuary in the U.S. Director Pérez-Rey works in PBS-doc vernacular, cutting between interviews with boat-lift veterans and stock footage. The interviewees dredge up vivid details with surprising good cheer. One remembers vomiting the whole trip from Mariel Bay to Key West; another recalls the concentration-camp-like squalor that awaited them in mainland detention centers. This is hardly the most in-depth doc on Cuban refugees (see the epic Balseros). Still, Beyond the Sea grants a quiet dignity to its subjects without sanctifying them. And the less-than-ideal outcome of many of their lives rings all the more powerfully for being so plainly presented. DAVID NG

Written and directed by Angela Robinson
Destination/Samuel Goldwyn, opens March 25

Directed by John Pasquin
Warner Bros., opens March 24

Angela Robinson's D.E.B.S. aims for a mix of Heathers wit and Batman TV-show camp. Buried in the SAT is a secret personality test measuring aptitude for espionage; top scorers are outfitted with the Uzis and Catholic-schoolgirl uniforms of an elite assassin squad called D.E.B.S. When D.E.B. Amy (Sara Foster) confronts notorious criminal Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster) her triumphant handcuffing morphs into girl-girl crushing. The racy preppy humor starts to pill up quick, but Stillman-starved haute bourgeois will chuckle when Lucy's sidekick (Jimmi Simpson) asks a Pollyanna D.E.B., "Did you go to Dalton?" If you did, and played Buffy beer shots at your safety school, this one's for you. For everybody else, its distributor hopes, there's Miss Congeniality 2. After going undercover in a beauty contest last time round, Gracie Hart is made "the face of the FBI." When she's teamed with a hothead bodyguard (Regina King), the usual black-white 'sploitation rigmarole ends cute with a bonding experience over a hostage case. Bullock manages medium charm, but you gotta feel for King, forced to play dat-bitch-crazy butch to Bullock's untrammeled femme. As Agent Sam Fuller (some script doctor is grinning somewhere), King is called upon to routinely assault co-workers. When you add in MC2's dyke jokes, D.E.B.S., with its gay-till-graduation exuberance, scores as the more congenial miss. LAURA SINAGRA

Directed by Ruth Leitman
Koch Lorber, opens March 25, Angelika

Generations before Lucy Lawless, brawny tough broads were engaging in unladylike behavior for eager audiences and, if they were lucky, a decent wage. Lipstick & Dynamite pays tribute to the first female wrestlers who enjoyed a heyday in the 1950s. Now in their sixties and seventies, the women share histories of abuse, abandonment, and sex-bartering, but director Ruth Leitman's interviews are lax and inconclusive. To what extent were the girls' bouts staged? How many of them were sleeping with sleazy promoter Billy Wolfe? Did the Great Mae Young really get off on a murder rap (as one of her colleagues alleges)? L&D is short on answers, but not on glamorous head shots. In the press notes, Leitman calls her subjects "some of the most stunning, un-self-proclaimed feminists of sports entertainment history." Poor, undereducated, exploited women scratching, hair-pulling, and eye-gouging their way to a check—smells like feminism to me! JESSICA WINTER

Directed by Christopher Long
Regent, opens March 25, Quad

There are many dreadful elements in this chronicle of aging gay male porn star Colton Ford's quest for crossover success in the music industry: sub-amateurish camera work, a maddeningly repetitive score, and a listless narrative. Surely Ford was accustomed to higher-quality productions as an erstwhile cocksman. It is Ford himself—along with his progressive parents, a mutually nurturing relationship with ex-porn partner Blake Harper, and his bloodsucking, breathtakingly stupid former manager—that makes the film at all watchable. Boy can sing too. PETER L'OFFICIAL

Directed by Tim Fywell
Walt Disney, in release

This reviewer's just as much a sucker for pre-Homeric, post–9-11, semi-phenomenological retellings of the creation myth as the next seven-year-old moviegoer, but Ice Princess takes the theme a little too far. When her quest to find an "exact aerodynamic formula" for the physics of figure-skating stunts proves successful—a heavy-handed nod to early Nordic politics—hardworking high schooler Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) must choose between Harvard, the school of her and her mother's (Joan Cusack) dreams, and Harwood, i.e., a championship skating career under the tutelage of the sexy, urbane ex-Olympian Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall). The surprisingly twisty plot skates along with zero friction, giving new meaning to "Disney on Ice." NICK SYLVESTER

Written and directed by Savi Gabizon
Wellspring, opens March 25

Nina's Tragedies' peculiar humor stems from Israeli director Savi Gabizon's tender regard for the insistent imperfection of people and things. The story is told from the perspective of 14-year-old Nadav (Aviv Elkabets), whose observations begin with his divorced parents: his mother, a fashion designer with a wild sex life, and his father, an air force pilot turned religious extremist. Nadav's favorite object of study is his high-strung Aunt Nina (Ayelet July Zurer), whom he loves with a passion psychologists would deem unhealthy. After her husband's death in a terrorist attack, Nadav moves into his aunt's apartment to comfort her. The overstuffed plot involves a middle-aged Peeping Tom, Hasidim dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv, and a researcher of sleep disorders who is also the dead man's doppelgänger. With improbable charm, Gabizon knits it all together, his characters' sexual obsessions and earthiness tempered by a soulful melancholy. LESLIE CAMHI

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