Video ReviewsShadows on the Tube

Things I caught on video or DVD or airplanes or in a rerelease...
LAST PARTY 2000 [The Party’s Over] | TO END ALL WARS
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last update 19.Jan.04

back to the top BEEFCAKE
dir-scr Thom Fitzgerald
with Daniel MacIvor, Josh Peace, Carroll Godsman, J Griffin Mazeika, Jonathan Torrens, Joe Dallesandro, Jack LaLanne, Russ Warner, Jim Lassiter, Dave Martin, Valentine Hooven, Bob Mizer
release US 13.Oct.99; UK 5.Jan.04 dvd • Alliance Atlantis 99/Canada 1h33 3 out of 5 stars
Canadian filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden) heads to 1950s Los Angeles for this stylistic trawl through the world of men's physique magazines. His premise is that they started out innocently, as a way to celebrate masculine physicality, but people misunderstood them and inferred all sorts of seedy innuendo, culminating in a notorious courtroom trial. The film combines real interview footage with models and photographers alongside period-style dramatisations telling two parallel stories: As photographer Bob Mizer (MacIvor) creates the genre and works with his mother (Godsman) to publish Physique Pictorial from the late-40s into the 1990s. Contrasting this is the story of a naive young man (Peace) who becomes a model and never notices how seedy things are all around him.
  Lashings of archive photos and footage (real and recreated) add to the film's camp value, while the dramatised sequences in a goofy amateurish style that gives the film a terrifically entertaining flair but kind of kills any emotional connection we might have felt with the characters. This is a pity because ethere are several characters we should be able to identify with here, especially since the performances are natural and fresh. Fitzgerald does an excellent job balancing the innocence of the photographic scene with the seedy undercurrent of drugs and prostitution, nicely highlighting how the critics' prudish paranoia and artistic ignorance masquerade as moral indignation. On the other hand, it's quite obvious that these people weren't as chaste as they pretended to be! Then he quotes someone saying that what we find beautiful may appear banal or ugly to others. And the point he's making here becomes much clearer ... and far more essential. [18 strong adult themes, nudity, language] 13.Jan.04
back to the top EXPIRATION
lane and heffernan
dir-scr Gavin Heffernan
with Gavin Heffernan, Janet Lane, Erin Simkin, Yetide Badaki, Denise DePass, Paul Rogic, Laen Hershler, Christine Heffernan, Margaret Garrard, Johann St-Louis, Gregory Terlecki, Evy Kartus-Solomon
release US 25.Sep.03, Canada 1.Feb.04 • 03/Canada 1h42 3 out of 5 stars
This atmospheric drama from first-time filmmaker Heffernan certainly has its moments, creating a real sense of foreboding and mystery as it sends three people on a life-changing all-night odyssey through Montreal. And while it suffers from some of the pitfalls of first-film syndrome, it's also an auspicious debut from an actor-writer-director to watch.
  Sam (Heffernan) is a nice guy in his small-town suburb, somewhat shocked when his friend Niki (Simkin) tells him she's pregnant ... with his child. Wanting to do the right thing, he takes her out for a nice evening in the city, but along the way everything goes wrong and they're separated. Sam joins with the annoyed young Rachel (Lane) to track down a thief (Hershler) who's stolen something important from both of them. Meanwhile, Niki encounters a seasoned hooker (DePass) and her rebellious teen daughter (Badaki). It's all leading to a moment of truth as the sun rises in the morning.
  Beautifully shot, with a nice use of light and shadow as well as the expressive faces of the young cast, the film looks terrific. Meanwhile, the introspective script keeps us interested in the various twists of fate for Sam, Niki and Rachel. The dialog is refreshingly natural, even as the plot goes through some fairly outrageous turns. Performances are solid--especially from Heffernan and Lane--and yet the film's pacing is just a bit too muted for us to get emotionally involved with the characters. It's clear that Heffernan is building his story to an emotional epiphany, and yet when it happens it's low-key, simplistic and a little bit forced. But along the way there are some remarkably strong scenes, mostly off-handed conversations when the characters aren't in rather contrived life-threatening situations. All the film needs is a bit more kinetic energy and emotional urgency. Even so, this is a solid first film that shows remarkable skill both in front of and behind the camera. [R themes, language, drugs] 19.Jan.04
back to the top THE IRON LADIES
dir Youngyooth Thongkonthun
with Jesdaporn Pholdee, Sahaphap Tor, Ekachai Buranapanit, Giorgio Maiocchi, Chaicharn Nimpulsawasdi, Kokkorn Benjathikoon, Shiriohana Hongsopon, Phomsit Sitthijamroenkhun, Sutthipong Sitthijamroenkhun, Anucha Chatkaew
release UK 20.Jul.01; US 7.Sep.01 • 00/Thai 1h47 3˝ out of 5 stars
This lively and hilarious Thai comedy is about an all-gay volleyball team that makes to the national championships against increasing opposition. Queeny and camp, the film would be almost too heartwarming if it weren't a true story. And while some of the characters are far too prissy (most notably Nimpulsawasdi's team leader Jung and Maiocchi's ex-soldier Nong), the film has real charm and actually addresses all kinds of forms of prejudice without ever getting heavy-handed about it. The coach character (Hongsopon) goes a long way to helping address this balance. And there’s also a seriously strong but nicely understated message about tolerance; all in all, the kind of thoroughly gay film Hollywood could never dream of making. [themes, language, some violence] 20.Oct.03
back to the top LAST PARTY 2000 [aka The Party’s Over]
dir Rebecca Chaiklin, Donovan Leitch
with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Noam Chomsky, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Ralph Reed, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, Newt Gingrich, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle
release US 24.Oct.03; UK 19.Jan.04 DVD • 03/US 1h29 3˝ out of 5 stars
As 2004 is an American election year, what better time to release a documentary following the last six months of the previous campaign trail, right up to its insane conclusion. This gripping feature film centres on actor Philip Seymour Hoffman as he digs beneath the surface of each political group, travelling to the major conventions and various political rallies, talking with people on the streets and getting quotes from actors, musicians, media stars, political figures and other experts. So far so good, especially as he and the filmmakers dish the dirt on both parties fairly evenly. They only seem to be backing the common-sense policies of the Green Party, standing up against the corporate greed that drives the Republicans and Democrats ... and thus the entire country. Then it goes hugely one-sided at the end, adopting a clearly biased stance that takes several cheap pot shots at Bush. It's not that these arguments don't have weight, but by throwing out the balance, the filmmakers undermine their own position badly. And what should have been a revealing documentary starts to feel like a propaganda piece that will only ever preach to the converted. Still, it's a must for all Michael Moore fans! [15 some language, violence] 10.Jan.04
back to the top TO END ALL WARS
mcmenamin et al
dir David L Cunningham; scr Brian Godawa
with Ciaran McMenamin, Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Strong, Yugo Saso, Sakae Kimura, Masayuki Yui, James Cosmo, John Gregg, Pip Torrens, Adam Sinclair, Shu Nakajima
release US 6.Dec.02; UK Nov.03 dvd • 02/UK 1h41 4 out of 5 stars
Inexplicably ignored in cinemas, this superb film deserves to have a long life on DVD as it tells a true story from WWII with energy and passion. It's a companion piece to Bridge on the River Kwai, but much more realistic in its depiction of life in a Japanese camp in the Thai jungles, where prisoners of war were forced to build a 420-kilometre railway. Scottish soldier Ernest Gordon (McMenamin) tells the story (the film's based on his book) from his capture right through three years of backbreaking imprisonment. The story includes all kinds of episodes, including his attempts to start a school to build morale among his fellow captors. We also vividly see the various interrelationships--with his tough-minded commander (Cosmo), the hot-headed second officer (Carlyle), a tenacious Yank (Sutherland), a generous Brit (Strong) and an Aussie doctor (Gregg), as well as Japanese guards who are brutal (Kimura) and more kindly (Saso).
  Extremely well-made, this film looks excellent and features strong performances from the entire cast, held tightly together by McMenamin's soulful central turn as the perhaps slightly too-heroic Gordon. But even this character defies stereotyping--all of these men are complex and unpredictable, constantly generating moments of surprising bravery, cruelty, compassion, bullheadedness, horror, redemption. It's a pretty gruelling film, really! Gritty and very realistic, the direction and writing have a muscular intensity that really gets under our skin and more than makes up for a few sweepingly sentimental sequences. There are welcome scenes of light relief here and there, as well as an extremely moving (and brief) real-life coda that Spielberg could learn a lot from! And what makes this film far better than most is its central question: What does it take for a man to lose his dignity; how far is he willing to fall just to survive? This theme is explored with authentic power and emotion. [15 themes, violence, language] 24.Nov.03
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© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall