Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 13.Jun.05
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Dead Cool 2/5
There's a solid premise underlying this British comedy, but an uneven script keeps it from taking off properly. Despite some decent performances, it's impossible to engage with the film, which is neither funny nor dramatic enough, and then takes a startlingly distasteful turn at the very end.
  Henny and Josh (Stubbs and Callis) are extremely happily married until an accident leaves Henny to raise their sons on her own. Seven years later, she meets the awfully nice Mark (Calf), but her teen sons David and George (Geller and Johnson) aren't happy about the idea. Then Josh starts appearing to David, advising him on ways to undercut the relationship. Which gets easier when Mark's outspoken ex (Arquette) appears on the scene.
  The issue of blended families is definitely worth exploring, and there's a strong autobiographical sense here (not least because the central character shares the writer-director's name and ethnicity). The film has a knowing sensibility that continuously threatens to blossom into honest wit and feelings. But it never happens; the script continually takes half-hearted steps toward humour, and tries far too hard to push the emotions.
  While a few performances wobble, the central figures are very well-played. Stubbs nicely captures Henny's sense of hopefulness mingled with frustration. And Geller is a promising young actor who manages to hold onto David's singular personality despite some inconceivably awkward dialog. Arquette is the film's bright spot, and it all sags badly when she's not on screen. But this too is a problem, because she's essentially a colourful side character who becomes the life of the party. And when her character moves into the middle of plot, the film just falls apart. And it was never on solid footing to begin with.
  There's definitely an impression that Cohen has a decent story to tell here, and he fills the film with clever little touches. But he struggles to get it on screen in a meaningful way. As a scruffy micro-budget indie, the film has value. But audiences will find it very difficult to connect with.
dir-scr David Cohen
with Imogen Stubbs, Rosanna Arquette, Steven Geller, James Callis, Anthony Calf, Liz Smith, Martin Cole, Aaron Johnson, Gemma Lawrence, Olivia Wedderburn, Joseph Ashworth, Kulvinder Ghir
stubbs, arquette and cole
release UK 10.Jun.05
04/UK 1h30
15 adult themes, language
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The Sun   3/5
This is the third in Sokurov's series about fallen leaders (although neither 1999's Moloch, about Hitler, nor 2001's Taurus, about Stalin, was released in the UK). He's an incredibly artful filmmaker who gets well beneath the skin of his characters and storylines. But watching his films isn't easy.
  It's the end of the war, Japan is in ruins, and Emperor Hirohito (Ogata) is holed up in a bunker beneath his Tokyo palace. He goes through the carefully structured routines of his everyday life, second-guessing his own place in history, knowing that something has to happen soon. Eventually the Yanks roll in, and he meets General Douglas MacArthur (Dawson), finally agreeing to be the first Japanese emperor to appear on film and on radio, to end the fighting and to renounce his divinity as the descendant of the sun goddess.
  Sokurov creates an intriguingly murky, grubby visual tone with low-contrast photography, an extremely limited colour palate and an unsettling sound mix. The claustrophobia is palpable, as is the boredom of this kind of existence. None of the cast has much to do here; Ogata just shuffles from room to room, indulging in bits of eccentric business that are often quite hilarious. He has a remarkable combination of boyish charm and faded nobility, hesitant and childish, obsessed with oceanography (he even dreams about fish), Hollywood movie stars and historical figures (when things start going wrong, he slyly slips his Napoleon figurine into a drawer). And he has fascinating relationships with his advisors and butlers, his wife (Momoi) and even MacArthur, who Dawson plays as an assured, thoughtful diplomat, rather than the barking thug we usually see.
  But despite the flashes of wit and insight, the film resolutely refuses to take wing. It's achingly slow and deliberate, like the emperor's measured life, all empty ritual and hollow kowtowing. For patient filmgoers, it's quite involving, since we know exactly what has to happen in the end: total humiliation at the hand of his conquerors. And even when that arrives, it's portrayed with such calm stillness that we barely see it.
dir Alexander Sokurov
scr Yury Arabov
with Issey Ogata, Robert Dawson, Kaori Momoi, Shiri Sano, Shinmei Tsuji, Taijiro Tamura, Georgy Pitskhelauri, Hiroya Morita, Toshiaki Nishizawa, Naomasa Musaka, Yusuki Tozawa, Kojiro Kusanagi
in the bunker release UK 2.Sep.05
04/Russia 1h40
PG themes
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Tiresia   2.5/5
Writer-director Bonello adapts a Greek myth to modern-day France with intriguing results. The film is full of powerfully emotional scenes, even if it's almost entirely untouchable--obtuse, bewildering and almost agonisingly slow.
  Terranova (Lucas) lives alone in a grim house that's bereft of beauty. So he kidnaps the Brazilian prostitute Tiresia (Choveaux) and holds her prisoner. But Tiresia is a pre-op transsexual, and without her hormones, she slowly starts turning back into a man, which drives Terranova to take desperate action. Blind and abandoned, Tiresia (now played by Thiago Teles) is rescued by a young girl (Catalifo) and her father (Castel), and discovers a gift for premonition. But this doesn't go down very well with the local priest (Lucas, again).
  If you're familiar with the mythology, it's intriguing to watch Bonello play around with themes and ideas of sexuality, identity, beauty and offences against nature. There are a lot of intriguing things going on in this film, and some gorgeously shot scenes. But as a movie it's very difficult to watch, and not just because of the story's horrific moments. Bonello's filming style is painfully pretentious, lingering silently on extended shots that clearly have a lot of meaning for him, but don't actually convey anything to us. Much of the film is wordless and very aloof. Why should we care about any of these people?
  Fortunately, the acting is very strong, and Thiago Teles especially captures our interest with his sympathetic approach to the role. Lucas is far too cold--completely stone-faced and impenetrable. We never have any idea what he's feeling in either role he plays. This lack of context infuses the entire film, as random characters appear without explanation, as do odd cutaways to flashbacks and fantasies (including inexplicable glimpses of explicit sex). Bonello does capture an intriguing sense of prophecy and healing, as well as a tone that's strangely hypnotic and mysterious. But it's just so infuriatingly undefined that it'll only ever appeal to lovers of the most adventurous and difficult art films.
dir-scr Bertrand Bonello
with Laurent Lucas, Clara Choveaux, Thiago Telès, Célia Catalifo, Lou Castel, Marcelo Novais Teles, Alex Descas, Fred Ulysse, Olivier Torres, Stella, Isabelle Ungaro, Abel Nataf
castel and teles release France 15.Oct.03, UK 15.Jul.05
03/France Haut et Court 1h55
18 themes, violence, nudity, language
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Yes   2.5/5
Sally Potter takes a poetic approach with this lyrical and ethereal romance in which the characters speak in rhyme while circumstances threaten to choke their love. It's intriguing to watch, and punctuated with genuinely powerful scenes, but it's overloaded with dialog and ideology, and extremely heavy going from the start.
  The story centres on an unnamed Irish-American woman (Allen), in a cold marriage to an oblivious Londoner (Neill), who strikes up a sensuous romance with a Lebanese chef (Abkarian). Once the warm glow of attraction cools down, real life reasserts itself, and the racial, political and religious gulf between them becomes a major obstacle. Meanwhile, the hired hands around them watch silently, unnoticed by their bosses, commenting on what they observe.
  The message seems to be that we need to notice the people we deliberately ignore, from those we rely on right in our own homes to oppressed groups around the world. Within this a couple is trying to say "yes" to life in a world that only says "no". This is a very strong message, and an especially important one, but the film is so dense that it's nearly impossible engage with it. The wordy dialog is almost impenetrable, and the pace of the film is alternately lurching and draggy.
  Potter's one trump card is Allen, who delivers yet another raw and achingly honest performance as a woman yearning to live her life, but held back at every step. Her passion contrasts vividly with Neill's steely need to control everything; both are bored almost to death. And the male-female clash between them vividly echoes the east-west/Arab-Christian divide between Allen and Abkarian, who's also good.
  All while Henderson buzzes around the edges as a pixie-like cleaner, talking and eyeing the camera, observing that "dirt doesn't go, it just gets moved around". But the film's so weighed down by the overly artful style that not much gets through. We are alienated by the dull pacing and convoluted dialog and overwhelmed by the intensity of the film's many messages. In the end, it's challenging but dull.
dir-scr Sally Potter
with Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neill, Shirley Henderson, Samantha Bond, Gary Lewis, Sheila Hancock, Stephanie Leonidas, Wil Johnson, Raymond Waring, Barbara Oxley, Beryl Scott
abkarian and allen release US 24.Jun.05,
UK 5.Aug.05
04/UK Sony 1h35
15 adult themes, language
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall