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On this page: BLACK | HE'S MY GIRL
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last update 7.Feb.11
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dir Pierre Laffargue
scr Lucio Mad, Gabor Rassov
prd Lauranne Bourrachot, Marco Cherqui
with MC Jean Gab'1, Carole Karemera, Francois Levantal, Anton Yakovlev, Mata Gabin, Thierno Ndiaye, Ibrahima Mbaye, Michel Duperial, Nicky Naude, Louis-Karim Nebati, Youssef Hajdi, Francois Bredon
gab'1 and karemera
release US Feb.09 sxsw,
Fr 15.Jul.09, UK 14.Feb.11 dvd
09/France 1h46

black This French thriller captures the sassy, muscular attitude of a Blaxploitation classic as it follows its beefy hero into a series of outrageously dangerous situations. Funny, gritty and even sexy, the film is great fun to watch. And it has quite a few surprises up its sleeve.
After an elaborate treasury heist turns violent, Black (Gab'1) is the only robber who gets out alive. He decides to lay low in Senegal, where he hopes to steal a bag of uncut diamonds paid to a government official (Duperial) as a bribe. But everyone's trying to get them, including a snaky arms dealer (Levantal), a gung-ho Russian military boss (Yakovlev), a voodoo princess (Gabin) and a sexy renegade Interpol agent (Karemera). As they all head for a showdown, Black finds himself with an unexpected partner.
The film has a snappy, comical tone as the confident, rather lucky Black heads off to do this job of a lifetime. And Gab'1 is terrific in the role, grizzled and tough like a black, French Mickey Rourke, and sure to get the improbably gorgeous girl. Of course, these kinds of capers never go to plan, no matter how meticulously thought through they are, and the characters are constantly forced to find new ways of out-manoeuvring each other so they can get their hands on the stones. This might make the film feel a bit cartoonish, but it's also thoroughly enjoyableas it charges ahead with full energy, crazed violence and dry humour.
As it progresses, the film shifts from an action mayhem to caper comedy to buddy movie, as Black and the agent reluctantly team up, chased by the Russians and a band of burly, shirtless trackers. But all the way through, filmmaker Laffargue maintains the film's funky, cool vibe with snappy direction, a jazzy score and performances that are so full of personality that they burst off the screen. We never have a clue where the story's going next. So when the final act takes a freaky and imaginative supernatural turn into animism, it actually gets even more engaging. The commentary on colonialism is rather subtle, but it gives the film a terrific kick.
15 themes, violence, language, sexuality
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He’s My Girl
3.5/5   La Folle Histoire d’Amour de Simon Eskenazy
dir Jean-Jacques Zilbermann
scr Antoine Lacomblez, Jean-Jacques Zilbermann
prd Dominique Barneaud, Nicolas Blanc
with Antoine de Caunes, Mehdi Dehbi, Elsa Zylberstein, Judith Magre, Catherine Hiegel, Micha Lescot, Taylor Gasman, Matthew Gonder, Max Boublil, Jean Lescot, Nada Strancar, Stephane Metzger
dehbi and de caunnes release Fr 2.Dec.09,
UK 14.Feb.11 dvd
09/France 1h26

See also:
he's my girl In this follow-up to 1998's Man Is a Woman, de Caunnes returns for more comedy and drama centred on sexuality and ethnicity. It's a sweet, funny film that makes us think.

When his meddling mother (Magre) moves in to recover from an injury, Simon (de Caunnes) struggles to cope with her constant demands. She also forces him to find somewhere else to see his two young lovelorn boyfriends, diva cross-dresser Naim (Dehbi) and sensitive Raphael (Micha Lescot). It also starts to affect his career as a musician. Then his actress ex-wife Rosalie (Zylberstein) returns to Paris with their 10-year-old son (Gasman), who Simon has never met. As things get increasingly complicated, Simon is forced to open his heart just a little.

As with the first film, a warm tone that balances the farcical story elements. The characters are thoughtful and likeable, with intriguing complexities. De Caunnes bravely plays Simon as a self-absorbed guy who simply can't bring himself to unite the disparate elements of his life. But his ego is nothing compared to his mother, who isn't afraid to use her experience at Auschwitz to make Simon feel guilty about throwing her out.

Watching Simon being forced out of hiding is both very funny and quietly provocative. He can't admit he loves a man, yet he's been kept from his son because he's gay. And he has never reconciled his career, Jewishness and personal life. Rosalie's return brings back all kinds of mixed feelings, especially as she draws the strands of her life back together. And when Naim hilariously poses as his mother's new live-in nurse, Simon seems surprised at what he discovers.

The silly plot wouldn't work if the performances weren't so earthy and raw. The actors' relaxed energy lets us enjoy both the humour and emotion. And relationships develop honestly, as each new wrinkle brings insight along with some hilarious humour and some intense emotion. De Caunnes beautifully captures Simon's fear of being honest with himself and the people around him, mainly from a reluctance to cause pain and a fear that he will lose everything. But living like that may mean he has nothing at all.

15 themes, language
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dir-scr Rob Williams
prd Rodney Johnson, Matthew Montgomery, Rob Williams
with Steve Callahan, Matthew Montgomery, David Pevsner, Jim J Bullock, Brian Nolan, Matthew Stephen Herrick, Ryland Dodge, Derek Long, Christopher Patrino, Kevin F Sherry
fahl and hopkins release US 16.Dec.10,
UK 7.Feb.11 (dvd)
10/US 1h25
role/play Strong themes and honest performances make this gently romantic drama much better than expected. They also help overcome the talky script and some somewhat corny plotting to both pull us into the story and get us thinking.

At a Palm Springs resort, just-outed and sacked soap star Graham (Callahan) meets recently divorced gay activist Trey (Montgomery). Both are full of attitude and deeply judgmental, and they're also in real pain over personal issues. Trey can't understand why a big actor would stay in the closet; Graham is annoyed that Trey's entire life is defined by his sexuality. They soon get over their differences and launch into a torrid holiday fling that, as they begin to be truthful with each other, turns into something more serious than either is ready for.

Framed by Graham's first interview since "the incident", the story centres on the days in the hotel rather than the chaos that put both men into the media limelight. Of course, the headlines are misleading: the real stories are much more complex, and as the movie progresses all manner of revelations come to the surface. Along the way, there's rather a lot of conversation, mostly centring on important, relevant topics. And this is balanced by continual scenes of relaxed nudity, although there's no simulated sex.

This mixture is a little awkward, but the issue-based dialog holds our attention. It also helps that Callahan and Montgomery are engaging actors who create chemistry that's strong and charming enough to overcome the abrupt direction and editing. They even manage to keep their balance when melodrama kicks in straight from screenwriting 101. In addition, Pevsner adds some nice moments as the resort manager. And the Palm Springs setting works well, as does a decent score by Jake Monaco.

Along the way, the film grapples with big issues in a thoughtful, challenging way. In addition to the overriding sexuality theme, there are strong explorations of life in the media spotlight and the complexities of maintaining a public image and a private life. Who has the right to ask what anyone does in the bedroom? And how is that relevant to his or her profession, whether an actor or an activist? Or a politician for that matter?

15 themes, language, innuendo
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Titanic II
dir-scr Shane Van Dyke
prd David Michael Latt
with Bruce Davison, Brooke Burns, Shane Van Dyke, Marie Westbrook, DC Douglas, Dylan Vox, Carey Van Dyke, Michelle Glavan, Jourdan Wittly, Myles Cranford, Joshua Michael, Matt Wise
burns and van dyke release US 24.Aug.10,
UK 7.Feb.11 dvd
10/US Asylum 1h22
titanic 2 A surging score tells us we're in Big Serious Movie territory, even though it's obvious from the title that we're not. Sure enough, it doesn't take long before the goofy, low-budget vibe rears its head. And even if the laughs seem unintentional, the film is painfully, sometimes thrillingly hilarious.

Playboy ship owner Hayden (Shane Van Dyke) launches his crowning achievement, the super cruise-liner Titanic II, arguing that it's unlikely for lightning to strike twice. But of course, they rushed the job building it so they could launch it on the 100th anniversary of the original. Meanwhile, iceberg specialist James (Davison) is worried about his daughter Amy (Westbrook) working on board as a nurse. She also has a history with Hayden. But this is nothing: James and his colleague Kim (Burns) have just watched a massive ice-field collapse, creating a mega-tsunami.

The script's soapy plotting is hysterical, as are cheesy production values that feature what is clearly an old and not-so-big ship and a cast of tens playing "crowds" of passengers. The shipboard scenes look like they were filmed in a high school, where the gymnasium plays the "ballroom". As city-sized chunks of ice are propelled at the ship ("Brace for impact!"), they can't outrun the wave because "these engines have not been properly tested". Oh, and "the lifeboats are deathtraps!"

The film's tone implies that all of this is deadly serious. But of course it's so preposterous that we can't help but laugh at the actors' straight faces. There's not a knowing wink in sight. It's quite possibly the funniest film of the year, and it gets more hysterically ridiculous by the moment, as we watch both the desperate rescue attempts and the all-out panic on board. But each frantic plan is more nonsensical than the last.

As chaos sets in, the acting quality degenerates (which you would think impossible from the early scenes), which makes the ship's sinking deliriously entertaining. Each scene is more ludicrously overwrought than the last, but there's no sense of menace, because the filmmaking is so hamfisted. In other words, it's so silly that it's a must-see. Honestly. Gather a group of friends to watch it: it'll be a night to remember.

12 themes, violence
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