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last update 3.Oct.07
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Dragon Tiger Gate   3/5
Dragon Tiger Gate Drawing on the story's Manga roots, director Yip invests this action thriller with strongly mythical proportions while indulging in plenty of outrageous battle sequences and never taking it too seriously.

The story centres on Tiger Wong (Tse), a good-hearted martial arts expert who inadvertently comes into possession of a plaque that can demand the obedience of the Lousha Gate, a vicious criminal organisation. Lousha's chief henchman is Dragon Wong (Yen), and when Tiger meets Dragon he realises that they are long-lost brothers. A young upstart fighter named Turbo Shek (Yue) joins him in his quest to sort out the mess, while a couple of women (Dong and Li) complicate things even further.

The main issue here is whether Dragon has turned his back on his past, going over to the dark side, in which case he is unfit to enter the family's martial arts group, the Dragon Tiger Gate. Through both flashbacks and present-day action, the brothers' relationship is revealed, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Their relationship is genuinely emotional, punctuated with a number of startlingly sweet moments as well as several vicious duels. While Tse and Yen go for broke with these charismatic, fascinatingly complex characters.

The production design is extremely stylish, with elaborate sets and a cast of hundreds, often all fighting at the same time. Parts of the film are grounded and earthy, while other segments have a futuristic fantasy feel. The action is sudden and fast, combined with a deadpan sense of humour and frequent playful nods to the chop-socky genre. Clearly, the must-have hair-do for a top fighter includes a fringe that flops into the eyes. And there's always time for corny lines like, "It's not a matter of strength, but of the heart!"

In the end, the striking visuals and excessive digital effects slightly overwhelm the film, and there's a strong sexist streak as the women are basically only here as gofers for the guys. But the big showdown climax is impressively flashy and fabulously brutal, complete with a descent all the way, apparently, to hell.

dir Yip Wai-Shun
scr Edmond Wong
with Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Dong Jie, Li Xiao-Ran, Yuen Wah, Chan Koon-Tai, Xing Yu, Wong Yuk-Long, Vincent Sze, Tang Sheren, Yuan Xiao-Li
Dragon Tiger Gate release Chn 28.Jul.06,
UK 25.Jun.07 dvd
06/China 1h32
15 themes, language, violence
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Poltergay   3/5
poltergay This thoroughly silly French comedy feels like its trying to cash in on both that retro 1970s vibe and the current vogue for harmless gay themes. And while it's fluffy entertainment, there's at least a subtle message here about tolerance.

Marc (Cornillac) and (Depardieu) move into a mansion that's been sitting empty for 30 years. They don't know the basement was once a gay nightclub, which burned down leaving the noisy ghosts of five disco bunnies roaming the halls. Their incessant chatter and constant dancing to Boney M classics drives Marc around the bend. Although Emma can't hear it, so she thinks Marc is up to something. Eventually she leaves him, and Marc loses his job due to the sleepless nights. In desperation, he turns to the ghosts themselves to help put his life back together.

Director-cowriter Lavaine shamelessly recycles every gay cliche imaginable, from the Village People to Queer Eye. It's not particularly clever or inventive, and merely uses sexuality as a gimmick, but there's also a gleefully camp tone and some fairly involving characters along the way. Cornillac is especially good, avoiding the temptation to play it too broadly; he's an everyman caught up in the comical haunting and open-minded enough to actually get through the situation.

The dancing queeniness is played out in the goofiest way possible, as the obnoxious ghosts shriek and quiver through each scene, only barely registering as characters. There's nothing particularly sexy going on at all, and even the hints and innuendo is pretty harmless really. This is one of those sniggering French farces that implies a lot of naughtiness but doesn't deliver much. On the other hand, it is rather a lot of fun.

dir Eric Lavaine
scr Héctor Cabello Reyes, Eric Lavaine
with Clovis Cornillac, Julie Depardieu, Lionel Abelanski, Philippe Duquesne, Gilles Gaston-Dreyfus, Jean-Michel Lahmi, Georges Gay, Alain Fromager, Anne Caillon, Michel Duchaussoy, Christian Pereira, Dave
cornillac and friends release Fr 25.Oct.06,
US 7.Jun.07 siff,
UK 29.Oct.07 dvd 06/France TF1 1h33
15 themes, sexuality
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Queer Duck: The Movie 3.5/5
queer duck This hysterically silly romp carries on the goofiness of the notorious shorts with animation that's pretty basic, but script and voice work that more than makes up for it.

The plot is totally random, as Queer Duck (voiced by Bullock) and his pals Openly Gator (Richardson), Bi-polar Bear (West) and Oscar Wildcat (LaMarche) indulge in general wackiness, practical jokes and movie mockery. Queer Duck also befriends a flamboyantly wealthy diva Lola (Hoffman), who proposes marriage. He can't quite imagine life as a straight duck, so he goes for counselling with a fundamentalist reverend. But this turns into full-on brainwashing, and he emerges as a mono-browed, stubbled tough guy. And perhaps Barbra Streisand is his only hope.

The comedy flies as fast as a particularly dense episode of The Simpsons, with one-liners and throwaway references wedged between outrageous film spoofs and a continuous lampooning of gay stereotypes. In addition to pastiches of everything from Baby Jane to A Clockwork Orange, we also have satirical guest appearances by the likes of Rosie O'Donnell, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers and Bjork. Not to mention the "overturned Chers". The Queer Eye guys even show up to redecorate.

This rapid-fire humour keeps us chuckling, especially when combined with a gleeful irreverence for iconic images, Hollywood in-jokes and all things Disney. There's even a gag-reflex gag. And the comment that: "You're the gayest thing I've ever seen, and I've been to England!" On the other hand, the animation itself is extremely cheesy; it looks like it was drawn with magic markers. The frequent songs are goofy, funny and, frankly, terrible, poking fun at every style of music, including Gilbert & Sullivan.

With all of the ruthless innuendo, double entendre and vulgar puns, it's quite clear that writer-creator Reiss is happiest when he's going for the cheapest, most childish jokes. But he also takes some carefully aimed jabs at gay subculture, plus the whole idea of what exactly is a "normal life". Mainly thought, it's just ridiculous good fun for "ladies, gentlemen and lady-like gentlemen".

dir Xeth Feinberg
scr Mike Reiss
voices Jm J Bullock, Jackie Hoffman, Kevin Michael Richardson, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Estelle Harris, Tim Curry, Andy Dick, Mark Hamill, David Duchovny, Bruce Vilanch, Conan O'Brien
QD and pals
release US 18.Jul.06,
US 25.Jun.07 dvd
06/US Paramount 1h12
15 themes, language, vulgarity
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Surveillance 3.5/5
surveillance One of the first British films to get its initial release as video-on-demand, this intriguing little thriller is amiable and involving, avoiding Hollywood cliches at every turn. Although the CCTV footage motif is a bit over-stretched.

Adam (Harper) is a sporty teacher, happily going about his active life. One evening in a gay nightclub, he picks up the intriguing Jake (Brosnan), but the next day his life starts getting rather strange. Jake disappears, while Adam is clearly being followed. And it soon becomes clear that a tabloid hack (Steele), a powerful media baron (Jones) and a government spy (Hollick) are all after something. Eventually, Adam meets "The Saint" (Callow), a shadowy man who knows what's up, and why Adam may hold the key to bringing down the British monarchy.

Despite the opening claim that this film is made up of surveillance footage, it clearly isn't. But at least the filmmakers try to achieve an inventive camera style, peering through gaps and around corners to catch the action, and filling the plot with tracking devices, tiny spy-cams and mobile phone trickery. Yes, it's extremely gimmicky, but it also makes a strong point about privacy and security. Especially since the whole story is assembled like a news channel's reportage.

Director Oremland (Like It Is) creates a moody tone with sharply comical undertones. He also tries to be scary and tense, but never quite gets there. On the other hand, the film is visually textured and cleverly edited, with a fascinating mystery that keeps us hooked. At the centre, Harper is very likeable as an innocent man caught up in some very nasty intrigue. Brosnan is sexy and offbeat, and looks so much like his dad Pierce that it's distracting, while Callow is having a ball chomping on all the scenery.

Since it's told more like an intimate drama than a thunderous action movie, the story's quite engaging. The flashback structure works nicely to let us get to know the characters before all of the plot twists kick in. And when it all starts to come together, in a kind of gay twist on Diana conspiracy theories, the film finally finds a gripping sense of pace.

dir Paul Oremland
scr Kevin Sampson
with Tom Harper, Dawn Steele, Sean Brenden Brosnan, Simon Callow, Nicholas Jones, Abigail Hollick, Ian Rose, William Osborne, Michael Elwyn, Julian Date
steele and harper release UK 18.Jul.07 vod
07/UK 1h27

15 themes, language, violence
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall