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last update 22.Mar.10
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The Big Gay Musical
dir-prd Casper Andreas, Fred M Caruso
scr Fred M Caruso
with Daniel Robinson, Joey Dudding, Jeff Metzler, Joshua Cruz, Michael Schiffman, Andre Ward, Brian Spitulnik, Liz McCartney, John Hillner, Steve Hayes, Marty Thomas, Brent Corrigan
robinson and dudding release US 1.Sep.09,
UK Oct.09 iris
09/US 1h29

london l&g film fest
the big gay musical A clever script and solid acting raises this colourful gay romantic comedy above most films in the genre. And even though it's sometimes corny, it's also full of astute observations about life on and off the gay scene.

Paul and Eddie (Robinson and Dudding) are starring in the Off-Broadway musical Adam & Steve: Just the Way God Made 'Em. But it's their life off-stage that's causing the problems. Paul has just split from his boyfriend (Cruz) and is exploring a commitment-free life; Eddie has never had a relationship, and struggles to reconcile his sexuality with his religious background. Ultimately, they find answers through their show, which playfully includes tap-dancing angels and raucous satires of televangelists and the ex-gay movement. Maybe people should just be who God made them to be.

Yes, there are some pretty hefty themes in this film, and while it occasionally gets just a bit preachy, it also finds a remarkable balance between realism and idealism. This is primarily due to the snappy script, which is both funny and telling, touching on aspect of relationships (gay or straight) any viewer can identify with. All of the songs (cowritten by writer-director Caruso and Rick Crom) are witty and punchy; the film refreshingly refuses to shy away from the big issues.

It also manages to be genuinely engaging due to the likeable performances from Robinson and Dodding, who create characters who are deeply flawed but always sympathetic. They also have terrific chemistry, without the filmmakers feeling the need to throw them into bed together. This makes their journeys feel much more honest, even when things get a bit farcical with the slutty dancers, prudish parents and general wackiness of the New York gay scene.

In some ways though, the film is preaching to the choir, as its strongest statements will be missed by people who would never watch something called The Big Gay Musical, even though they might find that the story resonates strongly. On the other hand, gay audiences will also enjoy the film for its sassy attitude and genuinely sexy interaction. Not to mention the stage show within the film, which really needs to go on tour now.

15 themes, language, sexuality
7.Feb.10 llgff
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dir-scr-prd Factotum
with Lalor Roddy, Mary Lindsay, Jonathan Harden, Fra Gunn Niall Cusack, Paul Garret, Juliet Crawford, Paddy Bloomer, Nicholas Keogh, Allan Hughes, Leontia Flynn, Stuart Watson
release UK 20.Mar.10
09/UK 1h22
ditching Made by Stephen Hackett and Richard West under the name Factotum, this offbeat post-apocalyptic adventure demonstrates a clever use of existing settings, but it never really works at all.

John and Maeve (Roddy and Lindsay) are traversing the derelict countryside in Northern Ireland after the complete collapse of society for some unknown reason. In an abandoned passport office, they meet Paul (Harden), who joins them as they roam around. But they're waylaid by a group of bored soldiers led by Alan (Garret) and taken back to the fort for some strange games. Another soldier (Gunn) accompanies them when they leave, taking them to visit a mad-inventor friend (Cusack) before heading for a mysterious temple where John will hopefully find a cure for his illness.

Shot on video, the film actually looks pretty good, thanks to the soggy landscape and some truly fascinating fallen-down buildings. But the photography and editing are extremely choppy, leaving us unsure what's happening within individual scenes and never providing any sense of perspective at all. Worse still is the deliberately obtuse narrative, which feels almost made up as it goes along and never achieves any sense of momentum or purpose.

As a result, the entire film feels both fragmented and deeply indulgent, even though there are flashes of irony and humour along the way. In this sense, it sometimes feels like a medieval Monty Python romp without the jokes, especially later on when our merry little group is confronted by a group of knights dressed in loosely knit red woollen burqas. But awkward filmmaking dogs every level of this movie, aggravated by the choppy sound mix and grating score.

But all of this could have been overcome with characters we were genuinely interested in. Instead, the actors deliver goofy performances that feel broadly contrived from the start. The dialog meanders pointlessly, and we never engage in the people or their story at all. Not to mention the nagging fact that the premise is deeply flawed: apparently all knowledge, including the ability to convey information verbally, seems to have been lost completely, except for useless slogans and games. In other words, this would even strain the patience of a film festival audience.

PG themes, some language
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My Last Five Girlfriends
dir-scr Julian Kemp
prd Michael Kelk, Marion Pilowsky, David Willing
with Brendan Patricks, Naomie Harris, Kelly Adams, Cecile Cassel, Jane March, Edith Bukovics, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, Mark Benton, Johnny Ball, Chris Gascoyne, Brendan O'Hea, Michael Sheen
patricks and harris release US Apr.09 tff;
UK 19.Mar.10
09/UK 1h27

edinburgh film fest
my last five girlfriends Packed with extremely clever touches, this film demonstrates that brains simply aren't enough for the rom-com genre. No matter how inventive your structure is, you've still got to get the audience on your side.

Duncan (Patricks) is an awkward guy who, when we meet him, is about to commit suicide due to his disastrous last five relationships. So we travel into his mind to meet his girlfriends: Wendy (Adams), Olive (March), Rhona (Cassel), Natalie (Bukovics) and Gemma (Harris), who might finally be the one. But no, the path to true love isn't remotely simple.

What makes this film watchable is filmmaker Kemp's wild imagination, as he indulges in surreal animated cutaways and wacky fantasy sequences that are both original and visually fantastic, although the framing device of a Duncan World theme park, in which each girlfriend is a specific type of thrill ride, wears a bit thin. But along the way, Kemp makes some astute, witty observations on how relationships develop and collapse.

But it's a shame that Duncan isn't more of a compelling central figure. Patricks is fine in the role, he looks like a nice enough guy, but the character is so painfully pathetic, and Patricks has so little on-screen charisma, that we never really care what happens to him. What perks up the film are the women, most notably the always-engaging Harris. Although even they are ill-served by the script, which frequently drifts into insufferable smugness.

Kemp is clearly a filmmaker to watch, and he has crafted a lively, cool-looking movie on a very small budget (it has echoes of both Marc Webb's 500 Days of Summer and Paul King's Bunny & the Bull). But he needed to get more of a spark from his cast and create a much more engaging central character who we could actually cheer for as he stumbles through the carnage of each relationship. The script touches on all kinds of extremely telling themes and isn't afraid to be strikingly honest, but we can feel the film straining to be both dramatic and comical. Yet it ends up being neither.

15 themes, language
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dir Lawrence Gough
scr Colin O'Donnell
prd Julie Lau
with Neve McIntosh, Shaun Dooley, Linzey Cocker, Trevor Hancock, Dean Andrews, Paul Opacic, Kevin Harvey, Jessica Baglow, Debbie Rush, Ray Nicholas, Shahid Ahmed, Kyle Ward
dooley and mcintosh release UK 19.Mar.10
09/UK 1h19

edinburgh film fest
salvage A sharp attention to character raises this freak-out thriller far above most examples of the genre. And besides featuring people we can actually identify with, the film itself is actually pretty terrifying.

On Christmas Eve, Jodie (Cocker) is dropped off to spend the holidays with her estranged mother Beth (McIntosh) in Liverpool. And their first meeting doesn't go well, as Beth is with a man, Kieran (Dooley), she only met the night before. Jodie leaves to stay with a friend (Baglow), and before anyone knows what's happened, the neighbourhood is cordoned off by heavily armed commandos. Details are scarce, but a vicious killer is on the loose. As carnage spreads, Beth and Kieran are going to have to work together.

Beautifully shot in an insinuating, seductive, fiendishly witty style, director Gough gets us on edge from the start by letting us know that no one is safe. It helps that the performances are so natural, because the off-handed style makes even the most outrageous slasher-movie nuttiness feel eerily realistic. After establishing the murderous premise in the prologue, the film cleverly and effectively sets up the domestic situation before plunging everyone (including us) into frantic and seriously grisly horror.

McIntosh and Dooley are terrific as two people who hardly know each other and are trapped in a house together, each with their own preoccupations. Their interaction is fascinating, as they react in different ways to the perceived threat. There's a real sense that these people are truly shocked by the violence around them, rather than the way most movie characters react with vengeance, resilience or a sudden knowledge of military commando moves. These people are recognisably frightened and desperate, inventing unlikely explanations and only barely clinging to their sanity.

It's rare to see a film that continually refuses to let the characters fall back on stereotypes and cliches, so even though this one indulges in sometimes over-the-top grisliness, it feels fresh and unsettling, and it's utterly riveting. Not to mention genuinely scary. And some surprisingly bitter and nasty moments along the way are made even more potent by the carefully drawn interpersonal relationships.

18 themes, language, strong violence, sexuality
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