Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 9.Feb.05
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Andrew & Jeremy Get Married   3/5
There's a nice observational tone to this ragged documentary about an unlikely romance--starting from a position of scepticism and moving to an almost admiring warmth. It's not particularly well-made, but the subject is fascinating enough to make it work.
  Andrew Thomas is 49 years old, a blokey retired South London bus driver with a history of heroin addiction and rough anonymous sex. His partner is Jeremy Trafford, 68, a writer who lives a comfy upper-middle-class life in Chelsea with his arty friends. As the film progresses they discuss their improbable-but-strong attraction and why they stay together. And they also talk about life before they met--including Jeremy's failed attempt to live an acceptable straight life.
  Writer-director Boyd covers about 10 months, encompassing a lively birthday celebration, two Gay Pride events and a trip to visit friends in Southern California. Along the way, he gets under their skin, examining their relationship in a startlingly honest way that makes most on-screen gay couples look deeply fake (Six Feet Under being the one exception). Besides a 20-year age gap, Andrew and Jeremy are complete opposites. The film only rarely shows them interacting with each other, but together there's a surprising tenderness that echoes their five years as a couple.
  The film builds to the day in May 2004 when they get married--or rather, register their partnership--at London's city hall. And Boyd's main feat is to turn these slightly offbeat men into the lovable stars of a sweet romance. The quality isn't terribly sharp--it looks like a home video, roughly shot and crudely edited with some scenes that go on too long and others that seem completely random. But as it progresses, Boyd captures something almost too glaringly honest (and obvious): relationships are the same everywhere, regardless of who's involved. They feature moments of high comedy and dark jealousies, deep soul-searching and day-to-day tedium. The compassion and companionship between Andrew and Jeremy are vivid, as is their interaction with friends and family members. In the end the film doesn't say much beyond, "Gay people discover love in the strangest places too!" That's not exactly revolutionary, but it is rather comforting.
dir-scr Don Boyd
with Andrew Thomas, Jeremy Trafford, Hanif Kureishi, Jean de Paul, Jackie Skarvellis, Bruce Winslow, Warwick Stanley
jeremy and andrew release UK 6.May.05
05/UK BBC 1h15
15 themes, language
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Kung Fu Hustle   3.5/5
After Shaolin Soccer, Chow continues to warmly lampoon Chinese cinema with this gangster action comedy. Not only is it hilariously funny, but it's also a fiendishly entertaining (albeit somewhat cartoonish) action movie in its own right, complete with spectacular Yuen Wo Ping choreography.
  Sing (Chow) and his sidekick (Lam) are so desperate to get into the notorious Axe Gang that they pose as gang members and pay a visit to Pig Sty Alley, the last place any real Axes would ever go. But they inadvertently discover that the poverty-stricken residents aren't as pathetic as they seem. And soon it's all-out war, much to the annoyance of the real Axe henchman (Chan), who has to call in some rather startling reinforcements.
  From the beginning, Chow rifles his way through cinema history--combining stylish Wild West showdowns, gravity-defying wuxia battles, swaggering Tarantino attitude, edgy Jeunet & Caro wit, and gonzo mayhem straight from a Looney Tunes cartoon. He's clearly having a ball shooting every frame here, and the result is utterly eye-popping. This is a busy, fast-paced, hysterically wild film that's a pure delight to watch. And Chow is also clever enough to get a solid level of subtext into the story as well, with Sing's aimless quest actually teaching him something rather important about himself. And there's also a terrific unpredictability in the fact that no one is actually who they seem to be.
  Performances are fairly broad, but grounded in both reality and impeccable comic timing. As we meet progressively unbeatable kung fu masters, the characters grow increasingly endearing and complex, in a comical sort of way. Everything--acting to costumes to sets--is packed with telling details. There are some strong social comments thrown in as asides, especially in the upended gender and sexuality stereotypes. And alongside the story of redemption and comeuppance, we even get a rather offbeat little romance in the bargain. Easily one of the most astonishing films you'll see all year. And also one of the most enjoyable.
dir Stephen Chow
scr Stephen Chow, Tsang Kan Cheong, Xin Huo, Chan Man Keung
with Stephen Chow, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Chan Kwok Kwan, Leung Siu Lung, Huang Sheng Yi, Lam Tze Chung, Xing Yu, Chiu Chi Ling, Dong Zhi Hua, Feng Xiao Gang, Liang Hsiao
chow and the gang release US 8.Apr.05,
UK 24.Jun.05
04/China 1h35
15 themes, violence, some language
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Mondays in the Sun Los Lunes al Sol   3/5
It's taken nearly three years for this film to make it to the UK, but it's well worth seeing for yet another staggeringly strong performance by Javier Bardem. As a result, this examination of masculine frustration is gripping, even if it's also repetitive and long.
  It's been two years since the violent protests that accompanied the laying off of thousands of shipyard workers in northern Spain. Santa (Bardem) is the fiery soul of a group of still-unemployed friends that includes Lino (Egido), who watches helplessly every day as younger men get every available job; Reina (Villen), who gives in and works as a security guard; Rico (Climent), who opens a bar for his friends, even though he knows they can't pay their tabs; and Amador (Bugallo), who tries to forget his home problems by spending his time in the bar.
  The film is made up of small, often hilarious scenes showing these men desperately trying to find a shred of dignity in a society that's thrown them away before they've hit middle age. Director-cowriter de Aranoa follows them with a wry smile--laughing at their raucous sense of gallows humour, smiling at their petty grievances, sympathising with their deep dissatisfaction, and accepting the cruel world emerging around them. It's extremely strong filmmaking, beautifully shot and vividly well-acted by actors who cleverly sheath their emotions in bravado, then let us just about see through it.
  This is a story we've seen before on screen (The Full Monty is the obvious precedent), and de Aranoa isn't content to let the themes emerge subtly through his anecdotal structure. He hammers home his point frequently, even preaching a few times. This isn't remotely necessary, and the result weakens the film, running on and on long after we've got the point. But it's such an important issue that we're willing to go along with him, especially when Bardem is on screen with his pent-up rage and charismatic emotional resonance.
dir Fernando León de Aranoa
scr Ignacio del Moral, Fernando León de Aranoa
with Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, José Ángel Egido, Nieve de Medina, Enrique Villén, Joaquín Climent, Celso Bugallo, Aida Folch, Serge Riaboukine, Laura Domínguez, Pepo Oliva, Fernando Tejero
tosar and bardem release Spain 27.Sep.02, US 25.Jul.03,
UK 27.May.05
02/Spain Sogepaq 1h53
15 themes, language, brief violence
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This astonishing documentary--from the team behind the equally entertaining American Movie--follows the exploits of two guys who are equal parts practical jokers, performance artists and political activists.
  Bichlbaum and Bonanno's early activities included challenging gender stereotypes by adding gay musclemen in the background of the macho videogame SIM Copter, and swapping voice-boxes between talking Barbie dolls and GI Joes. Their singular purpose is "identity correction", stealing an identity and presenting a more honest face. So it's hardly surprising that their next target was George W Bush, who during his first campaign hypocritically claimed to be the "environmental governor" even though during his years in office Texas became the most polluted state in the nation. The kids loved the Barbie-GI Joe thing, but in response to the Yes Men's antics, Bush replied, "There ought to be limits to freedom." Even though their spoof Bush website merely told the truth.
  This film follows their parody of the World Trade Organisation, including conference and TV appearances where they present what the WTO would say if they were being honest. Namely the fact that the organisation, originally established to help poor countries, is actually exploiting them and sending profits back to American corporations. (The world's poorest countries lose 14 times more money due to unjust WTO policies than they receive in aid from the West.)
  Bichlbaum and Bonanno's approach is so bone-dry that most audience members don't get the joke, no matter how absurd they get--from a gold lame business-leisure suit for monitoring sweatshop workers to the "re-burger", a gruesome third-world starvation solution. They make their point with a combination of wit and passion, simply by highlighting the upside-down world we live in.
  The film has a gripping narrative structure, following Bichlbaum and Bonanno from New York to Paris to Finland to London to Australia--a series of increasingly daring appearances. The filmmakers tell the story with razor-sharp photography and editing that focuses on the central characters and lets them express the important issues without forcing the point at all. The result is bracingly engaging--simply because Bichlbaum and Bonanno are so likeable, hilarious, smart and provocative. Essential.
dir Dan Ollman, Sarah Price, Chris Smith
with Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, Barry Coates, Sal Salamone, Patrick Lichty, Matt McElligott, Michael Moore, Snafu, Richard Robbins, Ryan McKinley, Laura Nix, Bob Ostertag
bonanno and bichlbaum release US 24.Sep.04,
UK 18.Feb.05
04/US MGM 1h20 the yes men
15 themes, language
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall