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last update 28.Oct.12
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Bad Boy Street
3.5/5   Rue des Mauvais Garçons
dir-prd Todd Verow
scr Jim Dwyer, Todd Verow
with Yann de Monterno, Florence d'Azemar, Kevin Miranda, Todd Verow, Judy Minx, Cyril Legann, Nicolas Priouzeau, Cyril Legros, Mateo de Leon, Carine Baisseteguy, Lynn Richardson
Bad Boy Street
release US Jul.12 qfp,
UK 22.Oct.12
12/France 1h20
Bad Boy Street Even though it plays at a very slow pace, this romantic drama has a gentle and likeable tone to it, nicely underplaying the love story. Filmmaker Verow also coaxes engagingly natural performances from his cast, while keeping the action tightly contained between three principal characters we can identify with.

In central Paris, Claude (de Monterno) finds wasted hunk Brad (Miranda) lying in the gutter and takes him home. In the morning, they hit it off and get to know each other. Brad says he's from America, although his accent sounds suspicious, and they arrange to meet later. But when Claude's friend Catherine (d'Azemar) comes round, she's full of questions about this much younger man. The main issue is whether Brad will reignite Claude's stale love-life or whether he's just a passing stranger. And who is Brad really?

The twist comes soon enough, as Claude discovers that Brad is actually a rising movie star bound by a morals contract. Writer-director Verow (who also plays Brad's confidentiality form-wielding manager) is clearly taking a swipe at Hollywood hypocrisy, including a broadly cheesy spoof of Brad's Twilight-style blockbuster. But it's in the more subtle storytelling that the film comes to life. For example, the opening segment is like an especially nice short film, while the interaction between the three characters develops with gentle teasing and realistic dialog.

In many ways, the film feels like a play, with its meta-themes acted out in conversations and a series of events that rely heavily on coincidences. Meanwhile, Verow stages the film in a straightforward style, making the most of Claude's tiny flat in La Pigalle. The only thing that undermines it is a cheesy electronic score and some terrible sound recording. There's also an odd lack of extras in streets, cinemas and nightclubs.

After the big revelation of Brad's true identity, the film turns contrived and melodramatic, shifting gears away from the more character-based comedy. But the film remains grounded and keeps us curious about what might happen next. There may not be many surprises to come, and Verow gets rather heavy-handed as he takes on the system that forces actors to sign morals clauses and remain closeted. But the likeable characters leave a smile on our faces.

18 themes, sexuality
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La Mission
aka The Mission
dir-scr Peter Bratt
prd Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt, Alpita Patel
with Benjamin Bratt, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Erika Alexander, Jesse Borrego, Kevin Michael Richardson, Patrick D Shining Elk, Ruben Gonzalez, Max Rosenak, Talisa Soto Bratt, Rene A Quinonez, Leonardo Medrano, Cesar Gomez
werskey and lutz release US 9.Apr.10,
UK 23.Jul.12
09/US 1h57

La Mission Brothers Peter and Benjamin Bratt clearly put a lot of love into this issue-based film, but it's both simplified and overwrought. Even so, their hearts are in the right place, and there are moments of real dramatic power.

In San Francisco's Mission district, Che (Bratt) is a swaggering cool-cat bus driver who restores vintage cars in his spare time. But his A-student son Jes (Valdez) is terrified that his short-tempered, homophobic dad will discover that he's gay, complete with a serious non-Latino boyfriend (Rosenak). When Che finds out, he violently throws Jes out, announcing his disgust to the world. This stirs the community's deep-seated prejudice, but it also forces him think and softens his feelings toward an activist neighbour (Alexander). Well, for a little while at least.

The film has a gritty, low-key rhythm that plays on the subculture's collision of strong work ethics, compassion and rebellious streaks. The actors and script both play up the inner-city machismo, which is engagingly effective in the few moments when characters poke fun at it. But most of the time it's just obnoxious, making even the film's sympathetic characters look arrogant and bigoted. Essentially, Che's just a violent jerk who would rather throw a punch than listen to anyone. His few moments of sympathy feel like blips.

While Bratt's narrow-minded alpha-male is front and centre, complete with a romantic subplot, the story's strongest element in Jes' internal struggle, which is played by Valdez with a strong mix of introspection and inner strength. But the script pushes Jes into a stream of nasty melodramatic scenes with his dad, whose abrupt mood swings are hard to believe. Through Bratt's performance we can understand Che's bullheaded torment, but his journey feels scripted rather than organic.

In other words, the filmmakers have something important to say, and the events and characters are carefully developed, but they push the message instead of letting it flow honestly, with arch dialog and a bloated story structure that tries to touch on each community issue imaginable. Everything aside from the father-son story distracts us from urgent, personal themes that require a much more deft hand to draw out.

15 themes, language, violence
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The Seminarian
dir-scr Joshua Lim
prd Nicole Exposito, Joshua Lim
with Mark Cirillo, Javier Montoya, Matthew Hannon, Linda J Carter, Derek Renn, Jessica Blythe, Philip Willcox, Eric Parker Bingham, Jason Grasl, Ray Barnhart, Alex Matute, Jo McLachlan
bingham and cirillo release US 27.Mar.12,
UK 22.Oct.12
10/US 1h41
The Seminarian Low-key and offhanded, this film is packed with solid issues that are worth talking about, even if it never really grabs hold of us dramatically. This is due to a quiet, lifeless pace that specialises in speeches rather than realistic interaction. That said, it still makes us think.

Ryan (Cirillo) is a theology student working on a thesis about the purpose of love both as an evolutionary tool and a reflection of the divine. But he's finding it difficult to link those two things up, especially since he's secretly gay and is left feeling empty after random sexual encounters. But making a deeper connection with Bradley (Bingham) is proving difficult. And as he watches his two close friends (Montoya and Hannon) struggle with romance, his faith in love begins to wobble. He's also terrified about coming out to his devout mother (Carter).

We can feel the low budget in the simplistic direction, slack editing and low-energy dialog, all of which make the film feel like it's shot in slow motion. Scenes unfold in long, static takes that don't offer much insight. And the story develops very slowly, with encounters that feel contrived even if they're played with a level of truth. The acting is natural, and while it drifts into melodrama the script is intelligent enough to hold our interest.

Intriguingly for a hero we sympathise with, Ryan is so self-absorbed and naive that he jeopardises his friendships with the only two guys he can be honest with. And as he mopes around indecisively, reacts badly to what people say to him and over-inflates his romance in his mind, we lose patience with him. The miracle is that his friends stick by him even as he makes one childish mistake after another, mainly based on his simplistic view of the world.

It's also a problem that filmmaker Lim moralises shamelessly, picking and choosing what he clearly feels are the right and wrong ways to behave as a gay man. But this is so arbitrary that it feels hypocritical, especially in a theology-themed film that never really addresses the sexuality angle. It also undermines the more interesting themes about whether religion and love are a blessing or a curse.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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Vampires: Brighter in Darkness
dir-scr Jason Davitt
prd Jason Davitt, Mark Farragher
with Dan Briggs, Rhys Howells, Rebecca Eastwood, Tim Benge, Kyle Chester, James MacCorkindale, Abigail Law-Briggs, Dorival Mota, Richard Marshall, Sebastien Sprysak
briggs and howells
release UK 22.Oct.12
11/UK 2h02

Iris Prize Festival
Vampires: Brighter in Darkness Assembled from episodes of a web series, this outrageously camp feature is so cheesy that it's a guilty pleasure. From the hilariously convoluted plot to the riotously over-the-top performances, it's actually pretty entertaining. Although for a gay vampire romp, it's oddly unsexy.

The shy Toby (Briggs) is the object of affection of 1500-year-old vampire Lucas (Howells). Which makes Lucas doubly furious when his arch rivals Marcus and Anthony (Chester and MacCorkindale) attack Toby. Lucas has little choice but complete the process of turning Toby into a vampire, which seriously annoys Toby's snarky sister Charlotte (Eastwood). But there are bigger problems afoot, as vampire queen Lilith (Law-Briggs) is preparing to unleash hell on earth, and Lucas is going to need special powers to stop her.

Writer-director Davitt takes a more-is-more approach. Why just bite someone when you can hiss hysterically before pouncing on them? Why not require the hero to hitchhike on a private jet to Egypt to consult with an ancient mummy (Mota) in a kind of spacey netherworld? And why not encourage the cast to indulge in an Olympics of overacting? (Law-Briggs wins gold, with silver to Mota.)

There isn't a subtle moment, unless you count a tender shower shared by Toby and Lucas (shot chastely from the shoulders up). The plot is a series of video-game style levels in which the characters must find secret weapons to use in battle against each other, culminating in a brawl at the gates of the underworld. It's so wildly ridiculous that it should be utterly unwatchable. But a current of charm makes it rather endearing.

Briggs and Howells actually have some nice chemistry, creating engaging characters we root for as things get increasingly nutty. Eastwood is priceless, stealing every scene as the amusingly sceptical sister who may be the key to saving the world. And there's something in Law-Briggs' insane eyes that's thoroughly wonderful to watch. It would be an overstatement to say that this film is so bad that it's good. It's just bad, period. But it's having so much fun being terrible that we can't help but enjoy ourselves a little. Watch it with a group of friends and you won't be able to stop laughing.

15 themes, language, violence
7.Oct.11 iris
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall