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last update 20.Apr.09
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A Four Letter Word
dir Casper Andreas
scr Casper Andreas, Jesse Archer
with Jesse Archer, Charlie David, Cory Grant, Steven M Goldsmith, JR Rolley, Virginia Bryan, Jeremy Gender, Allison Lane, William Hernandez, John Kaisner, Margret RR Echeverria, Max Rhyser
archer and david
release US 28.Mar.08,
UK 20.Apr.09 dvd
07/US 1h27
a four letter word This film plays so much with gay stereotypes that it comes dangerously close to being both cartoonishly unbelievable and annoyingly preachy. But the characters at least acknowledge the cliches, and there are some solid observations in the film's scattergun approach.

Luke (Archer) works in a gay Manhattan shop with his friend Zeke (Grant), where they argue about promiscuity and other elements of the gay lifestyle. Luke thinks he stands out from the crowd, but he doesn't. And when he meets Stephen (David) in a sex bar, he thinks he has found Mr Right. But the idea that Stephen has another life as an escort makes Luke crazy with jealousy. Meanwhile, Luke's friend Marilyn (Bryan) is getting married, which leads to tension for her as well as their happily coupled friends Peter and Derek (Goldsmith and Rolley).

As in American TV series, this is one of those scripts that tries to encompass every aspect of gay life all at once--murky sexuality, free-living singletons, strained long-term relationships, politics, addictions. As a result, no plotline gets quite enough attention. Frankly, the rom-com about Luke and Stephen would have been enough for a movie, with an intriguing exploration of issues like monogamy and attitudes to sex. Although in these areas the screenwriters can't resist the temptation to get up on a moral high horse.

The debate about love vs sex is a strong one, and gives the solid, extremely good-looking cast a chance to play some surprisingly serious scenes amid the more over-the-top queeniness. "You like this guy, but you're petrified of love and do everything to keep your distance," observes one. And as their interaction develops, the film does find a footing in its thoughtful themes and realistic situations.

Each character has a compulsion of some sort that he or she needs to sort out, which helps us identify with them as they work their way to a predictably cute final act. But along the way there are some sharply provocative scenes, as well as some hilarious comical moments and snappy dialog. So if you can take the pushy message with a grain of salt, it's an extremely enjoyable romp.

18 themes, language, sexuality
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A Love to Hide
4/5   Un Amour à Taire
dir Christian Faure
scr Pascal Fontanille, Samantha Mazeras
with Jérémie Renier, Louise Monot, Bruno Todeschini, Nicolas Gob, Charlotte de Turckheim, Michel Jonasz, Olivier Saladin, Philippe Faure, François Aramburu, Miroslav Kosev, Thomas Suire, Françoise de Stael
todeschini and renier
release Fr 7.Mar.05,
US Apr.06 mglff,
UK 13.Apr.09 dvd
05/France 1h42
a love to hide This intensely emotional film takes its premise from a little-seen side of the World War II experience, combining a personal story with some big issues that are still pivotal today.

In 1942, golden boy Jean (Renier) works with his parents (de Turckheim and Jonasz) in their family shop in Nazi-occupied Paris. When Jean's old friend Sara (Monot) appears, overwrought because her entire family has been murdered, Jean takes her to his friend Philippe (Todeschini) to help her get a non-Jewish identity. Sara soon realises that Jean and Philippe have a secret of their own: they're hiding their romance. But when Jean's brother Jacques (Gob) gets out of prison, the delicate balance begins to tip.

The collision of political viewpoints makes the film rich, involving and more realistic than the usual good-vs-evil WWII dramas. Each character is in a different place along a sliding grey-scale, from Jean's father's pro-Petain racism to his brother's murky links with anyone who's helpful, regardless of ideology. It may feel slightly post-modern (in the 1940s, would Jean actually say about his sexuality, "I didn't choose this; did you choose to have blue eyes?"), but the honest approach gives the actors a lot to work with, balancing their characters' yearning for happiness with the brutal realities of the situation.

And as the story begins to take some truly vicious turns, we realise that the filmmakers aren't heading for a sweet payoff to Jean and Philippe's giddy romance, which is played with an engaging purity by Renier and Todeschini. Meanwhile, Renier and Gob catch the complexities of a brotherly relationship. And Monot shines in her complicated relational connections to all three men, which are stretched beyond the breaking point.

Despite some moments of bright humour and romance, this is a dark and emotive movie, with strongly intense sequences and moments of genuine heartbreak (keep a tissue handy). And it's this contrast that makes the film something extraordinary; it's not easy to watch such raw, physical happiness be battered in way that affects the mind, body and soul in such grisly ways. but this is a beautifully made film about a seriously evil chapter in human history.

15 themes, violence
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My Name Is Bruce
dir Bruce Campbell
scr Mark Verheiden
with Bruce Campbell, Grace Thorsen, Taylor Sharpe, Ted Raimi, Ben McCain, Ellen Sandweiss, Tim Quill, Dan Hicks, Logan Martin, Ali Akay, Ariel Badenhop, James J Peck
harris and the twins release US 31.Oct.08,
UK 2.Mar.09 dvd
08/US 1h26
my name is bruce Bruce Campbell pokes gleeful fun at himself and his career in this goofy monster horror romp that owes more to what's arguably Campbell's greatest film, Bubba Ho-Tep, than all of the ludicrous B-movies he has made over the years.

In the mining town of Gold Lick, the demonic Chinese ghost Guan-Di (Peck) has suddenly started beheading everyone in sight. So a nerdy fanboy (Sharpe) turns to his hero, B-movie legend Bruce, to save the day. This means kidnapping Bruce from the set of his latest sci-fi dud (CaveAlien 2), something he's not too happy about until he meets the local hottie Kelly (Thorsen). That she wants nothing to do with him doesn't remotely put him off. Although the fact that Guan-Di turns out to be a real monster does.

Campbell is hilarious as an arrogant, thoughtless, womanising version of himself, flirting shamelessly, dismissing his fans and shouting down the phone at his sleazy agent (Raimi), who's of course sleeping with Bruce's ex (Sandweiss). He picks his nose, drinks from his dog's bowl and argues (briefly) with his own conscience. He also hilariously ravages his own filmography, namechecking everything from Spider-man to McHale's Navy. And as a director, he gives the film a terrific low-budget vibe, with lots of cheesy lighting and corny effects. But he also knowingly skewers every cliche of both the genre and the experience of being a B-movie god.

In other words, the film is a perfect gift from Campbell to legions of loyal fans who have stuck with him from the highs of Evil Dead to the lows of, erm, Serving Sara. On the other hand, beyond the knowing comical jabs, there's not much here. The plot is bare-boned simplicity, with constant wacky asides, quick jokes and rampant innuendo but no actual suspense or interest. Some of this is deeply hilarious, livened up by the sardonic, scruffy approach, but most of the film is pretty obvious and stupid. And for every subtle reference or witty wordplay, there are at least five silly gags that fall flat. Although that's a better average than most bigger budget movies.

15 themes, language, violence, innuendo
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3-Day Weekend
dir-scr Rob Williams
with Douglas Myers, Derek Meeker, Derek Long, Stephen Twardokus, Daniel Rhyder, Chris Carlisle, Gaetano Jones, Joel Harrison
harrison and meeker release US 8.Aug.08,
UK 9.Mar.09 dvd
08/US 1h24
3-day weekend Clunky filmmaking undermines what's otherwise an interesting premise for an ensemble comedy-drama about gay relationships. While some plot strands manage to say something intriguing, most of the film falls flat.

Three friends--Cooper (Long) and the couple Jason and Simon (Myers and Meeker)--are getting ready for their annual mountain cabin getaway when they decide to invite a single friend each to spice things up. Jason brings nerdy colleague Mac (Carlisle), while Cooper invites his nude yoga instructor Kevin (Jones). This year, Cooper's boyfriend Ace (Twardokus) decides to come as well, bringing sexy airhead Cameron (Harrison) with him. But it's Simon's invitee who shakes things up: Andre (Rhyder) is an escort who knows several of the guys a bit too well.

The potential is here for a raucous romantic comedy, but filmmaker Williams fumbles the writing, directing and editing (not to mention the simpering score). Scenes are stiffly set up in such a way that removes any sense of pacing, the camerawork is deeply amateurish, and the script isn't much better. Characters sit around barely talking to each other and, when they do speak, the dialog is painfully banal. So despite all of the melodrama going on, this looks like most boring weekend imaginable.

That said, there are some nice observations along the way. The two central couples manage to overcome the cliches: Jason is gripped with jealousy even though he and Simon have an open relationship; Cooper and Ace are at a crossroads in their monogamous, loved-up life together. Neither of these situations is very original, but at least Williams approaches them with honesty. What does catch our interest is the unlikely pairing of Mac and Kevin, allowing Carlisle and Jones to give the film's best performances as Kevin helps Mac overcome a self-image problem that most men (gay or straight) can identify with.

Watching this, you get the feeling that it's meant to be a comedy with a dramatic edge, but since nothing is remotely funny, it just feels like a lifeless, strained drama punctuated with badly staged sex scenes. And it feels corny when Williams starts hammering in his simplistic message (do what's right for you!). This kind of schematic approach could probably turn this material into a decent stage play, but it doesn't really work on film.

15 themes, language, nudity
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall