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SHUT UP AND KISS ME | THE STRANGER IN US
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last update 11.Jul.12
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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
eCupid: Love on the Download
dir-scr JC Calciano|
prd JC Calciano, Joe Dain
with Houston Rhines, Noah Schuffman, Matthew Scott Lewis, Brad Pennington, Andy Anderson, Joey Komara, John Callahan, Morgan Fairchild, Galen Drever, Gary Riotto, Chris Rubeiz, Mike Manning
release US 5.May.12 dvd,
UK 14.May.12 dvd
There's no edge at all to this fluffy exploration of a gay couple facing the seven-year-itch. But even if it's not particularly insightful or surprising, it has a warm, light touch that soothes over the preachy script.
Marshall (Rhines) feels like his seven-year relationship with Gabe (Schuffman) has become a bit stale. Chatting to friends online, he runs into eCupid, a "divine" dating app that selects a series of guys who are supposedly perfect for him. When Gabe finds out that Marshall's unhappy, he moves out, leaving Marshall at the mercy of the manipulating app's parade of lusty men, including the the new intern (Lewis) in his office. Meanwhile, Gabe discovers that he has an admirer (Pennington).
Bright, silly and often farcical, the film breezes through its twisty plot without raising a sweat. Everything that happens feels thoroughly scripted, in a corny way that tries to make us forget that we know exactly where this is heading. With a little more depth, and a more earthy sense of the characters, the film might have had more resonance in its exploration of how to keep the romance alive in a long-term relationship.
As with Is it Just Me?, Calciano's bland direction softens everything with generic, over-lit sets and an insipid score. Fortunately, the cast members are sexy and likeable, which helps smooth over moralising message. Frankly, the "think but don't act" rule rings hollow in a film filled with erotic but never consummated fantasies that also echo the film's general fear of sex and nudity. The actors can't make the script's melodrama feel believable, but they at least make it watchable.
The plot hinges on contrived touches, such as how eCupid blocks calls, deletes texts and causes all manner of mischief between Marshall and Gabe. The idea of people being controlled by their smart-phones is pretty funny, especially since no one seems to know how to silence them or even make a call. Eventually, the plot requires the magical intervention of an fading TV star (Fairchild), but at least Calciano refreshingly avoids gay movie cliches. And the relationship issues he touches on give us something to think about, even if the solutions are eye-rollingly simplistic.
15 themes, language, sexual images|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
dir-scr Alan Brown|
prd Agathe David-Weill, Kevin Ginty
with Seth Numrich, Matt Doyle, Hale Appleman, Bobby Moreno, Chris Bresky, Charlie Barnett, Adam Barrie, Sean Hudock
release US Jun.11 fff,
Adapting Shakespeare's most famous play is tricky, due to its over-familiar story and tragic ending. And then there's the challenge of having modern-day characters speaking 16th century dialect. This bold film is full of surprises, although it never quite brings the story to life.
At a private military academy, eight cadets left behind on a long weekend are studying Romeo and Juliet for their literature class. But feathers are ruffled when Sam (Numrich) falls hard for Glenn (Doyle). Josh (Appleman) is the main aggressor, who bullies Sam with pranks, sporting challenges and physical attacks. As everyone comes to blows, Sam and Glenn fall deeper in love, which leads everyone inexorably to a big confrontation.
The film opens in the classroom before Shakespeare's dialog starts to invade the cadets' speech in the hallways, dorm-rooms and gym. So each character is addressed by two names (film and play characters), which not only distances us from the story but also makes it feel silly (referring to Glenn as Lady Juliet). Sure, coming out as gay in the military would be intense, but by refusing to adapt the play to the situation, writer-director Brown never truly grapples with the issues. This blurs the sudden romantic entanglement and diffuses the plot's tension. It also highlights the pretentiousness of reinterpreting Shakespeare's dialog as pun-style innuendo.
The strikingly handsome young cast deliver terrific performances. Their physical interaction is charged with energy, and the actors make the dialog feel offhanded and real, even with a couple of contrived musical interludes. Even so, it's difficult to remember who's whom, since they all look so similar and slip between names and roles. And the archaic dialog frequently throws us out of the story, making this a cinematic experiment rather than a truly emotional story.
There are elements that hint at the much stronger film this could have been, as the all-male school setting touches on issues of machismo and bullying, not to mention the sexuality of the central couple. Brown shoots this with hand-held camerawork that gives the story a sense of masculine urgency. But even though it's inventively directed and finely acted, the clashing tones ultimately undermine the story's power, obscuring the strong themes behind too much artifice. It's a worthy experiment that just misses the mark.
15 themes, violence|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Shut Up and Kiss Me|
dir Devin Hamilton|
scr Ronnie Kerr
prd Devin Hamilton, Ronnie Kerr
with Ronnie Kerr, Scott Gabelein, Kindall Kolins, Joey Russo, Nate Scholz, Jennifer Ruth Jones, Isaac Brantner, Berna Roberts, Jon Gale, Fia S Perera, David Moretti, Dylan Vox
release US 14.Sep.12,
Despite an obviously low budget and inexperienced filmmaking, this gay rom-com takes a surprisingly complex and engaging approach to people and relationships. It's also nice to see leading characters in this genre who look and behave like normal people.
Fitness trainer Ben (Kerr) is looking for love, but only finds losers through internet dating. His nutty friends (Kolins, Russo, Scholz, Jones and Branter) continually try to hook him up, even though they know he's afraid of commitment. Then he develops a crush on a jogger, Grey (Gabelin), who passes his house every day. Finally they go out for dinner, discovering they have strong chemistry. While both of them have relationship issues, they're willing to give it a try. And Ben's coy approach to sex might be just what the promiscuous Grey needs.
There are several interesting ideas in here, although the film's resolutely simplistic tone makes it tricky to engage with. It helps that Kerr is a likeable protagonist, playing Ben with a disarming charm that makes it fairly impossible to understand why he's single. If it's because of his commitment phobia, there's no reason to think he'll do any better with Grey (nicely underplayed by Gabelin), especially as his primary attitude seems to be clingy, puppy-dog adoration.
Director Hamilton never quite overcomes his micro-budget, with sets that are conspicuously under-dressed, awkward camera work and editing, and cheesy segments like a montage of cliched bad dates. This also indicates an under-developed script, which includes some jarring leaps in the timeline and a tendency to drift into melodrama. And the doc-style gay glossary cutaways are a rather corny touch. Even so, there are several strong scenes along the way, most notably in the meandering, somewhat offhanded dialog.
These conversations are packed with telling observations about relationships and some potent comments about serious issues like monogamy and HIV status. The film is also notable because both Kerr and Gabelin are fairly regular-looking guys: sexy and handsome, but not overly toned or groomed like most American actors (especially gay ones). And the most important point the film makes is that you'll never be fully happy in a relationship if you expect the other person to change.
15 themes, language, nudity|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The Stranger in Us
dir-scr Scott Boswell|
prd Cheryl Simas Valenzuela
with Raphael Barker, Scott Cox, Adam Perez, Jeffrey Weissman, David Scott Keller, Veronica Klaus, Brian Levy, Luis Quiroz, Alex Rodriguez, Kelly Sanchez, Jesse Schoem, Marc Scruggs
release US 7.Dec.10,
This artfully made film follows a man's relationship history over the course of a year. But by fracturing the chronology, it ends up feeling rather long and repetitive. And it lacks the emotional punch it could have had with a more forceful dramatic arc.
Six months after a rough break-up, aspiring poet Anthony (Raphael) cruises the streets of San Francisco looking for love. He hires a rent boy, but that doesn't help. And his mind continually drifts to the lively hustler Gavin (Perez) he befriended over the past few months. But the days drift by in a fog as he recalls his arrival in the city a year earlier, when his now ex-boyfriend Stephen (Cox) was the only person he knew.
The film has a poetic, introspective tone that immediately puts us into Anthony's perspective, and Barker finds ways to inject humour and energy into the character even as he mopes around. The fragmented structure feels sometimes jarring, throwing us out of the story even though writer-director Boswell signposts scenes with an on-screen timeline. But by scrambling it so thoroughly, the film becomes an artful exploration without much narrative momentum.
Along the way, Boswell captures a full range of believable relational situations, from the joy of a forward-moving romance to the agony of watching it fall apart, followed by the vague emptiness of adjusting to being single again. There are constant moments along the way in which Anthony's expectations and hopes are met with reality in varying degrees of harshness. Which makes the film feel more than a little pessimistic about love.
The film is very nicely shot on a limited budget, giving the actors space to relax into their characters. Some of the inter-relationships work better than others; Anthony and Gavin's series of small scams become a bit annoying, as are Anthony's feeble attempts to score drugs or fend off unwanted interest. These things add little to the overall film, although they do give the story an autobiographical authenticity. This helps us identify with the characters from time to time, even if the choppy structure prevents us from really feeling it.
15 themes, language, sexuality, some violence|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall