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last update 2.Mar.10
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dir Kolton Lee
scr Michael Maynard
prd Lincia Daniel
with Lucy Stanhope-Bosumpim, Arinze Kene, Suzann McLean, Eleanor Wyld, Alfie Allen, Colin Salmon, Danny John-Jules, Rhoda M'hango, James Hamilton, Tarryn Algar, Loving Valentino Olanrewaju, Kristin Milward
kene and stanhope-bosumpim
release UK 26.Feb.10
09/UK 1h26
freestyle This British hip-hop drama has an intriguing premise, but it never seems to be more than a knock-off of the Step Up movies. And it's weakened by some corny dialog, a cliched story and not-that-impressive action.

Ondene (Stanhope-Bosumpim) is a light-skinned black girl attending a posh private school and preparing for her Oxford University entrance exams. But she'd really rather shoot hoops on the basketball court next door with the street thugs. When she hears about an upcoming freestyle basketball competition, she teams up with local boy Leon (Kene) to train, which really angers her high-achieving mum (McLean). As romance with Leon blossoms, trouble looms on every side for Ondene and the future her mother has mapped out for her.

The tone is more like a TV movie than a street drama, which means that the rough life on this grim South London estate actually doesn't look so bad. No one uses drugs or strong language, everyone is understanding to a fault. Even Ondene's mother, the obligatory villain of the piece, is only stern for her daughter's good. And the actors aren't strong enough to add nuance or texture to their characters. Only Allen has the nerve to go for a full-on performance as Leon's nasty lowlife hanger-on Gez.

But where the film comes undone is in the trite plot, which simply recycles story points from every other film in the genre. Even if the setting is realistic, the premise isn't. And director Lee strains for emotional resonance without actually giving us characters we can identify with, simply because we don't believe any of them. He also shoots everything in tight close-up with heavy editing, which makes it impossible to see either the ballgames or the freestyling.

The Step Up movies were pretty bad too, but at least they wowed us with the dance moves. Lee cuts away from almost every stunt or trick, and when he finally does show us a manoeuvre, it's simply not that impressive (which is due to the camerawork, not the talent of the performers). Some of these moves are quite whizzy, but they never make our jaws drop. And the film never manages to generate enough heat to make us care anyway.

12 themes violence, language
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Hollywood Je T’Aime
dir-scr Jason Bushman
prd Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
with Eric Debets, Chad Allen, Jonathan Blanc, Diarra Kilpatrick, Michael Airington, Donovan McGrath, Scott Romstadt, Ker'in Hayden, Leah Rachel, Randall Bacon, Sarah Domin, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
release US Jun.09 laff,
UK 22.Feb.10 dvd
09/US 1h35

los angeles film fest
hollywood je t'aime Likeable and often very funny, this is a rare comedy that actually manages to touch on some serious issues while never forgetting to have fun. It also features a seriously charming central performance.

After a bad breakup with Gilles (Blanc), Jerome (Debets) doesn't want to spend Christmas alone in wintry Paris, so impulsively jets off to sunny Los Angeles. He cluelessly moves into a dodgy Hollywood hostel and takes the slow bus to the beach, where he meets the dealer Ross (Allen), who introduces him to an agent client who helps Jerome get several auditions. Meanwhile, Jerome befriends a prostitute (Kilpatrick) who introduces him to drag diva Norma (Airington), who offers him a place to stay. In just a week, Jerome seems to have achieved the Hollywood dream.

Writer-director Bushman takes a distinctly European approach to the story, refusing to make it into either a simplistic fish-out-of-water romp or a rites-of-passage farce. Both of those things are here, but while the film has the style of a comical fantasy, it's much more layered and interesting, as the lessons Jerome and others learn along the way are quiet ones. The most important message here is that, even if everything goes well and you're in the sunniest place on earth, you still have to deal with your personal baggage.

This is most vividly displayed in Jerome's visions of Gilles haunting and taunting him at every turn. Debets plays this perfectly, with just the right amount of wide-eyed naivete and adorable cuteness that allows him to survive and even thrive in what can be a very hostile place. He's also transparently open, as opposed to everyone he meets: most of them want money, all have a private agenda. The entire cast is so natural that the dialog feels improvised.

This is also a rare film that captures what Hollywood is really like: trashy, gritty and full of colourfully scary people who are genuinely fascinating. Bushman packs the dialog with hilariously telling throwaway lines that highlight the culture clashes, unrealistic hopes and the fact that work is work whatever the weather, and you really do need to sort things out at home before you can move on.

15 themes, language, sexuality
26.Jun.09 laff
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The Shouting Men
dir Steve Kelly
scr Matt Daniel-Baker, Warren Llambias
prd Matt Daniel-Baker, Warren Llambias, Joanne Podmore, Rhian Williams
with Warren Llambias, Matt Daniel-Baker, Dudley Sutton, Vyelle Croom, Darren Ruston, Tom Gilling, Anthony Verner, Kelly Johnston, Andrew Osbourne, Polly Kemp, Craig Fairbrass, John Barnes
llambias, croom and sutton release UK 5.Mar.10
10/UK 1h32
the shouting men There's a promising story in this low-budget British football-fan comedy, but it's not developed enough to really grab our attention. And it's not very funny either, especially when it tries to find humour through political incorrectness. But it's amiable enough to keep us entertained.

Rod (Llambias) is a bored psychologist who spends all of his spare time with his pals watching local team Gillingham play. When they land a slot in the FA Cup, the gang decides that they want to travel the 300 miles to Newcastle for the big match. Enter Terry (Daniel-Baker), an abrasive, wheelchair-bound fan who loves picking fights. But he has access to a free minibus and fuel, so they all climb aboard for the trip. Of course, nothing goes according to plan.

Director Kelly sets the tone from the start with a gentle pace and an easy, low-energy style of filmmaking. This lets the rather superficial characters develop a hint of depth. And then the plot kicks in, and it's clearly one of those stories in which everything that can go wrong does. And then some. The first incident involves a ludicrously improbable bit of sat-nav slapstick, and things only get less believable from here as the story turns both silly and maudlin.

And it doesn't help that the humour is so misguided. Is it supposed to be hilarious that the words "Mental Health Authority" are written across the side of the minibus? Or that this cretin happens to be in a wheelchair? Or that several characters are depicted sitting on toilets? There's even a trite gay subplot that never develops beyond some simplistic jokes. And several celebrity cameos don't really add anything.

That said, the film does have a rambling TV-movie quality that makes it almost watchable. Some of the characters are endearing, most notably the hapless Rod, who Llambias plays with earnest conviction even in the most excruciatingly embarrassing scenes. And as the plot collapses into a collection of corny twists and sentimental moments, it's breezy and undemanding enough to hold our interest. But if you laugh at anything, you should be ashamed.

15 themes, language, violence
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dir-scr Gerard Johnson
prd Dan McCulloch
with Peter Ferdinando, Ricky Grover, Lorenzo Camporese, Neil Maskell, George Russo, Francis Pope, Lucy Flack, Kerryann White, Vicky Murdock, Ian Kilgannon, Ian Groombridge, Cyrus Desir
ferdinando release UK 29.Jan.10
09/UK 1h18

edinburgh film fest
tony Billed as a week in the life of a London serial killer, this film shows lots of invention in its low-budget vibe, but the script is too contrived and the performances too cartoonish for it to spring to life.

Tony (Ferdinando) is a lonely guy who feels like he's constantly being assaulted verbally and physically for looking at the wrong people the wrong way. It seems that everyone is taking advantage of him, including a couple of junkies (Russo and Pope), a thug (Grover) in a pub, a moronic job centre worker (Maskell), a hooker (Flack)--everyone he meets, really. And it only gets worse when he brings a guy (Camporese) home from a gay bar, explaining away the smell of rotting bodies as a problem with the drains.

The implication here is that Tony's repressed homosexual longings have driven him to become an opportunistic psychotic lashing out at society. He's not actually a serial killer at all, despite the Jeffrey Dahmer-like glimpses of dead bodies arranged on his sofa or bed. And the way sexuality is depicted in this film should be offensive even to non-gays, as it suggests that off-centre sexuality equals murderous impulses.

Tony reads straight porn, goes to gay bars and visits a female prostitute (although his limited cashflow leaves him asking, "How much for a cuddle?"). These disjointed facts could make for a fascinating character study, but filmmaker Johnson seems happy to wallow in something he sees as filthy. And Ferdinando plays Tony as an inconsistent nerd: awkward and goofy, with a nasal voice, greasy hair and slacker lifestyle, but far too much intelligence in his eyes. Around him, the cast members deliver theatre-style performances that feel false on-camera.

This lack of subtlety makes it impossible to engage with the film. We never feel anything for Tony, as he's essentially just an inarticulate creep with murderous impulses. That said, Johnson shoots and edits the film with considerable skill, and stirs in some superb black-comedy touches while vividly portraying life on a soulless housing estate. On the other hand, one scene involves a downstairs neighbour (Murdock) coming to Tony's door in need of a plaster and then inviting him to Sunday lunch. In a violent estate? Not likely.

18 themes, strong violence, language
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