Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 19.Oct.05
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Blood & Bones   2.5/5
Spanning 60 years, this epic drama looks at racial and cultural issues framed against the tumultuous 20th century. But it's so big and intense that it completely wears us out long before the bitter end.
nbsp; In 1923 the young Shun-pei leaves Korea for lucrative work in Japan. But life is hard, and as he grows older Shun-pei (Takeshi) takes out his anger on everyone around him, mostly his terrorised wife (Suzuki). His children (daughter Tabata, son-narrator Arai) observe this with horror, but everyone gets on with life as their miserly, drunken brute of a father makes a fortune and keeps it for himself, abusing everyone and remaining unflinchingly cruel even as the world changes around him.
  Strong production values make the film watchable--it's beautifully staged and shot, with an earthy attention to detail that intriguingly traces the passing years. And Takeshi delivers a startlingly potent performance, with moments of charm amid the relentless brutality. The problem is that Shun-pei is a one-note character, the guy who walks into a room with a stick and starts swinging. He's an unstoppable force of evil, and by the end we wonder if even Takeshi isn't a bit bored with him. The entire cast is good, although there are so many characters we struggle to keep them clear. Especially when people come and go at random intervals.
  The film's strongest aspect is the tension between the Japanese and the Koreans who live in their midst and dream of a perfect homeland far away. The prejudice and oppression go both ways, and the script also chillingly captures the terrible machismo that keeps the women as abused slaves, while no one bothers to help. Combining this with the epic tale of a family battling their vicious tyrant of a father makes the whole film rather hard to take. Especially as it goes on for what feels like 60 years! Even as director-cowriter Sai makes some intriguing observations about bad blood--how the sins of the father are echoed through future generations--the cruelty, tragedy and epic dysfunction are overwhelming.
dir Yoichi Sai
scr Wi-Shing Chong, Yoichi Sai
with Beat Takeshi, Kyoka Suzuki, Hirofumi Arai, Tomoko Tabata, Joe Odagiri, Yutaka Matsushige, Yuko Nakamura, Kazuki Kitamura, Mari Hamada, Miako Tadano, Mihoko Suino, Shigemori Matsu
the kids try to fight back release Jap 6.Nov.04,
UK 22.Oct.05 lff
04/Japan 2h24
18 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality
19.Oct.05 lff
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Forty Shades of Blue  2.5/5
There's an earthy, bluesy tone to this film that nicely captures life in the Memphis music business. It's especially notable since the story is told from a strikingly female point of view, but it's also so depressive and mopey that it's not easy to watch.
  Alan James (Torn) is beloved on the music scene as a writer, producer and musician, happy with his Russian girlfriend Laura (Korzun), with whom he has a 3-year-old son (Henderson). Although he does still indulge in extramarital activity with a wannabe star (Steen). As he gets ready for a big party, his grown son Michael (Burrows), from a previous marriage, comes to stay. Familiar with Alan's excesses, Laura and Michael find an understanding ear in each other. But are their conversations leading to something else?
  Director-cowriter Sachs maintains an almost documentary feel through his raw approach to dialog and cinematography. It's all extremely low-key and natural, centring on character interaction to such a strong degree that the film feels more like a collection of unconnected scenes than a larger narrative. This gives it an aimless, plodding quality that's only overcome in the fine performances.
  Korzun (Last Resort) is fascinating in the central role--charming and bored, scared and thoughtful. And her interaction with the soulful Burrows (Northern Exposure) has an absorbing low rumble of over-familiarity, which can either be a spark of chemistry or a deeper understanding. Or both. Meanwhile, Torn delivers an astonishingly honest performance as a man who basically lives his life however he wants to--loving, talented, hot-tempered and a very bad drunk. But trying his best. In a more perfect world, he'd be a shoo-in for the Oscar.
  While the film captures the desire for joy, any joy, in life, it only manages to show a few brief moments of lively happiness. This lack of energy makes it difficult to watch, and leaves us scratching our heads in either apathy or confusion at the end. Intriguing but sad, with only a faint glimmer of hope--it almost feels like a propaganda film for Prozac.
dir Ira Sachs
scr Michael Rohatyn, Ira Sachs
with Dina Korzun, Rip Torn, Darren Burrows, Paprika Steen, Red West, Jenny O'Hara, Jerry Chipman, Andrew Henderson, Emily McKenna Cox, Joanne Pankow, Liz Morton, John Boyd West
torn and korzun
release US 28.Sep.05,
UK 12.May.06
05/US 1h48


15 themes, language, sexuality
20.Oct.05 lff
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Murderball   3/5
Documentaries aren't usually so exciting and emotional, but this look at a handful of sportsmen tells a series of incredibly powerful stories. It's also an important examination of a subculture most people would rather ignore.
  There are three main guys: Zupan is a young man who hasn't let his quadriplegia slow him down. He's a member of the American Quad Rugby team, playing an aggressive sport nicknamed "murderball", in which guys in armour-clad wheelchairs go for broke. It's also a Paralympic event. Joe Soares, meanwhile, was America's top player through three world championships, but when age finally catches up with him, he's cut from the team. In a fit of rage, he takes the job as coach of the rival Canadian team. Finally, Cavill is a recent quadriplegic, a young man trying to rebuild his life from scratch.
  There are other stories here as well, and each is distinguished by a distinct back-story. What they have in common is a force of will and a burning desire to live full and complete lives. And here's where this film becomes something far more vital, as it simply shows us a group of men for whom their disability isn't a handicap.
  Yes, it does get a little heavy-handed at times, cranking up the sentiment and even falling into sports movie cliches as we watch the nail-biting championship matches. But none of these guys are portrayed as saints, and the bullying Soares isn't even very likeable. The film's structure is also a bit haphazard, darting from personal histories to human-interest sideroads to the central Quad Rugby competitions.
  It's all great material (and it goes into detail on sexuality, which is the one question we all want to ask, yet don't dare), but if the filmmakers had maintained a more coherent structure it could have had an even more potent impact. Not that they need to manipulate their clips in any way: this is the kind of film that, while it entertains us, can change completely the way we look at someone in a wheelchair. So in that sense, it's essential viewing.
dir Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro
with Mark Zupan, Joe Soares, Keith Cavill, Bob Lujano, Scott Hogsett, Andy Cohn, Christopher Igoe, Robert Soares, Patti Soares, Jessica Wampler, Jeff Nickell, Frank Cava
team usa release US 8.Jul.05,
UK 4.Nov.05
05/US MTV Films 1h26


15 themes, language, sports violence
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The Ordeal   3.5/5 Calvaire
The 1970s horror revival lives on in Belgium, where filmmakers are free of the constraints of Hollywood's commercial censorship and political correctness. This grisly thriller is utterly mesmerising as it gets increasingly gonzo.
nbsp; Marc Stevens (Lucas) is a lounge singer beloved by widows all over Belgium. On his way to a Christmas gig, he gets lost in the woods. And then of course his van dies. In the middle of a torrential rainstorm. A strange man (Couchard) comes by looking for his lost dog, and leads Marc to the Bartel B&B, where the innkeeper (Berroyer) stresses that Marc should not go to the local village. Alas, he does, he sees something unspeakable, and then things start to get really strange with Mr Bartel.
  Firstly, anyone familiar with early 80s horror knows that you never, ever stay in a hotel named Bartel. Director-cowriter du Welz clearly strikes a blackly comic vibe with this gruesome horror odyssey, blending Rocky Horror with Deliverance as he stirs every backwoods cliche into a raucous, chill-inducing mix. At the start, it's filmed like a documentary, with handheld cinematography that simply captures scenes without offering insight. Then it goes completely wild as lighting and camera angles become almost as extreme as the torment inflicted on poor Marc.
  Lucas bravely endures every indignity imaginable; he looks more ridiculous as the film progresses, and yet he plays it dead straight even with all the nutcases around him. His slowly dawning realisation that something is badly wrong is quickly replaced by sudden terror, and then inconceivable shock at the hopelessness of his situation. And the clothes he's asked to wear. And his botched hairdo.
  As the rather thin story continues, the film's style becomes as psychotic as the villagers. The centrepiece is a jaw-dropping barroom dance that defies description. Not to mention the hunting pig who helps the locals rescue their precious calf. (Don't ask.) And as the surroundings become ever more otherworldly, the film takes on a surprisingly effective tone--scary, wacky and thoroughly entertaining. If you like chills running up and down your back, that is.
dir Fabrice du Welz
scr Fabrice du Welz, Romain Protat
with Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer, Philippe Nahon, Jean-Luc Couchard, Brigitte Lahaie, Gigi Coursigni, Philippe Grand'Henry, Jo Prestia, Marc Lefebvre, Alfred David, Alain Delaunois, Vincent Cahay
lucas release Bel 9.Mar.05,
UK 9.Dec.05,
US 11.Aug.06
05/Belgium 1h34
Cannes Toronto
18 themes, violence, language
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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall