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last update 29.Jun.08
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dir-scr Noel Clarke with Noel Clarke, Scarlett Alice Johnson, Jacob Anderson, Ben Drew, Don Klass, Adam Deacon, Femi Oyeniran, Arnold Oceng, Cornell S John, Red Madrell, Shanika Warren-Markland, Danny Dyer clarke and johnson
release UK 20.Jun.08
08/UK 1h39

See also:
adulthood Set six years after the events in Kidulthood (2006), this urban drama is similarly overwrought and overserious. There are solid themes running through the script, but mediocre dialog and dodgy acting let it down.

Just out of prison, Sam (Clarke) is back on the streets of West London but can't seem to connect with his mother or little brother (Anderson). And it appears that everyone wants revenge for the man he killed, however accidental that was, from a bitter dealer (Deacon) to a thug-for-hire (Drew) to his victim's widow (Madrell). Then he meets the fragile Lexi (Johnson), who might offer him a whiff of hope if he can stop the cycle of violence.

Yes, it's extremely rough and raw, with edgy street-speak dialog and frequent explosions of violence. And writer-director-star Clarke doesn't miss any opportunity to moralise through convenient plot turns, unsubtle ironies and mini-sermons. As a result, this feels like a message film aimed at kids in the hood. And no one else, really.

The cast is somewhat uneven, but contains some bright sparks. Drew (aka the rapper Plan B) proves to be a screen natural, and the returning Oyeniran is very good as a guy who decides to leave this life of violence and misogyny. His smart, sassy girlfriend (Warren-Markland) sits in stark contrast to the otherwise abused and beaten-down women. Johnson is also good in the most interesting role, and finds strong chemistry with Clarke, who postures a bit too much to make Sam believable. But despite the realistic London dialect, the dialog suffers from obvious grittiness and a lack of intelligible exposition.

As a director, Clarke keeps things visually whizzy, with snappy editing, camera trickery and lots of split-screen eye-candy. As a writer, he's examining the point in life where becoming an adult, with all its privileges and responsibilities, turns into something serious and life-changing. But as we saw in the first film, these kids grew up far too quickly to begin with, so their sense of reality is already warped. In other words, this is an important issue to examine, but the film is a bit too cocky to step back and tell its story with honest power or emotion.

15 themes, very strong language, violence, sexuality, drugs
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My Winnipeg
dir Guy Maddin
scr Guy Maddin, George Toles
with Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage, Amy Stewart, Brendan Cade, Wesley Cade, Louis Negin, Lou Profeta, Fred Dunsmore, Kate Yacula, Jacelyn Lobay, Eric Nipp, Jennifer Palichuk
savage and ledge man
release Canada Sep.07 tff,
US 13.Jun.08,
UK 4.Jul.08
07/Canada 1h20

my winnipeg Maddin turns his distinctive filmmaking style on himself for what he describes as a "docufantasia" about his hometown. The result is, of course, both hauntingly strange and deeply hilarious. It's also remarkably moving.

"Snowing, sleepwalking" Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the coldest city on earth, and Maddin (Fehr) wants to leave. But he can't escape the city's grip on him. So he decides to film his way out, renting his childhood home and moving in with his actress mother (Savage) and actors (Stewart, Cade and Cade) playing his siblings. His cinematic odyssey explores how the city's history intersects with his own life, most notably in his pungent memories of the Winnipeg Arena, home to the Canadian national hockey team, which his father managed.

Using his trademark melange of aged black and white footage with careful splashes of colour, rear-projection effects and vaguely surreal narration and titles, Maddin creates a stunningly involving portrait both of his life, his family and the city he grew up in. Recurring images and phrases give the film a poetic structure, as he continually talks about forks in the river, his mother's lap, the arteries of transportation and the Happyland amusement part, which was destroyed in a stampede, vividly recreated with some wonderfully low-budget effects work. Stir in a few nuns with turkeys, frozen horses and revered gay buffalos.

He also plays gleefully with the whole idea of memory, with sleepwalking, dreams and recollections of growing up in the "gynocracy" of his mother's hair salon. The history of Winnipeg is recounted through highs and lows, with special attention paid to scandals. Highlights include a balletic séance in the city hall (apparently built as a massive Masonic temple) and a recreated melodramatic fight between Maddin's mother and sister after an incident with a car and a deer (or maybe it's all about sex).

And beyond being an ode to Maddin's childhood and hometown, this is also a surprisingly sharp look at progress, as the city officials blindly demolish venerable landmarks that are replaced by greedy corporate boondoggles. What makes this film remarkable is that Maddin's offbeat, surreal themes are actually deeply recognisable for everyone who watches their childhood happyland give way to bracing reality.

PG themes, innuendo, nudity
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Somers Town
dir Shane Meadows
scr Paul Fraser
with Thomas Turgoose, Piotr Jagiello, Ireneusz Czop, Kate Dickie, Elisa Lasowski, Perry Benson, Huggy Leaver, Anna Jenson, Trevor Cooper, Eddy Hasson, Mariusz Gajewski, Tomasz Kamola
turgoose and jagiello release US Apr.08 tff,
UK 22.Aug.08
08/UK 1h15

Best British Film:
edinburgh film fest
somers town An authentic sense of humour and a brightly rendered sense of hopefulness lend this film the qualities of a timeless cinematic classic. It may be short and slight, but it's also completely engaging.

Tomo (Turgoose) is a 16-year-old who leaves Nottingham for the Big Smoke, hanging around Somers Town, the area between the three main northbound train stations in central London. After being robbed by a gang of teens, he meets Marek (Jagiello), who's roughly his same age. They gradually become friends, as Tomo's fast-talking wit sparks Marek's easy-going humour. Marek smuggles Tomo into his bedroom, hiding him from his Polish immigrant father (Czop). And as the two teens start pursuing a sexy waitress (Lasowski) and working for local wheeler-dealer Graham (Benson) they start to have hope for their future.

Using striking black-and-white cinematography by Natasha Braier, Meadows creates a fable-like atmosphere with this simple story. The gritty-gentle style also feels thoroughly authentic in the way it follows two teen boys as they work out their approach to everything life throws at them. Their decisions are often drastically wrong, but they pick themselves up and move on, and both of them show an internal resilience that gives a positive spin to the depressing headlines we see in the news.

Turgoose and Jagiello are terrific--an energetic, funny and thoroughly endearing screen duo that interacts amusingly with every other member of the cast. Turgoose is particularly good, proving that This Is England was no fluke as he continually surprises us with depth of character and small touches that make Tomo a truly fascinating character. He's also fearlessly hilarious, with a natural gift for physical comedy and throwaway dialog. And their chemistry together is wonderful.

And really, that's what this film is about: the beginning of a great friendship. Meadows has crafted a witty slice of life, painting a beautifully rounded portrait of youthful exuberance and inventiveness, as well as naivet’ and outright stupidity. And in the months-later coda, an almost ludicrously cool full-colour home movie, he cuts through our cynicism with a blast of genuine sweetness that leaves us feeling lighter than air. Yes, it's a small film, but it's perfectly formed.

12 themes, some language, violence
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dir-scr Mitchell Lichtenstein
with Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Hale Appleman, Ashley Springer, Josh Pais, Lenny von Dohlen, Vivienne Benesch, Nicole Swahn, Julia Garro, Adam Wagner, Hunter Ulvog, Ava Ryen Plumb
hensley and weixler release US 18.Jan.08,
UK 20.Jun.08
08/US 1h28

teeth With his tongue firmly in his cheek, filmmaker Lichtenstein indulges in some seriously grisly shenanigans as he takes a creepy legend and runs with it. The result is one of the most squirm-inducing thrillers in recent memory.

Apparently a typical teenager, Dawn (Weixler) has so firmly embraced a religious virginity promise that she's a complete stranger to her body. But she's about to discover that she's walking proof of the vagina dentata myth. And it will be an even worse discovery for the boys who are pestering her, including her tentative boyfriend (Appleman), a nerd with a crush (Springer) and her seedy stepbrother Brad (Hensley), who actually encountered Dawn's extra set of teeth on the day they met.

Yes, the central idea in this sometimes clunky, low-budget film is so over-the-top that it almost defies description. But it's to Lichtenstein's credit that he spins this premise into an entertaining romp of a movie, wallowing in gruesome imagery while letting our imaginations go much further. He also has the nerve to spin the horror genre significantly, never allowing Dawn to be a victim of her condition.

The young cast are all very good, although they don't really have much to do. Even Weixler has little to convey besides nervous anticipation and shaky resolve. The boys are all predatory, although not necessarily in evil ways; each is a bundle of goofy charm and sexual aggression in differing degrees. Lichtenstein cleverly refuses to make them pure villains, although he doesn't exactly offer them any mercy either. Meanwhile, a subplot involving Dawn's mother and stepdad (Benesch and von Dohlen) is only barely developed.

There are plenty of inventive touches that make this film worth seeing, even if the subject matter is likely to put off most audience members. Lichtenstein is making some intriguing observations about gender roles and societal pressures (two gigantic cooling towers loom ominously over the town). And he also manages to examine the collision of chastity and teen lust in a way that's funny but never cynical. Although despite the dryly hilarious nastiness, it ultimately turns out to be a fairly thin tale of female empowerment.

18 themes, language, grisly violence, sexuality
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