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last update 20.Jan.13
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The Falls
dir-scr-prd Jon Garcia with Nick Ferrucci, Benjamin Farmer, Brian Allard, Quinn Allan, Harold Phillips, Audrey Walker, Kacey Manny, Barrie Wild, Justin Koleszar, Garland Lyons ferrucci and farmer release US 11.Dec.12,
UK 14.Jan.13 12/US 1h32

See also:
The Falls II (2013) The Falls III (2016)
The Falls Underneath its sensitive, low-key tone, this is a fearless exploration of serious issues that churn within American society. It may be set in the Mormon church, but writer-director Garcia tells such a personal story that the film will offer a glimmer of hope to gay young people in religious communities. And their families.

From Idaho, 20-year-old RJ (Ferrucci) heads to Oregon for his Mormon service. When he and his mission companion Chris (Farmer) start meeting real people, their cosy worldview is pushed to the brink, which strains the relaxed bond between them. This also begins to bring out issues that have been buried by the church. And as they befriend a bitter pot-smoking veteran (Allard), their distinct crises of faith draw them closer to each other. Which leads them into some subtle and not-so-subtle rule-breaking. And a transgressive gay romance.

The film has a low-budget approach with bare sets and understated scenes that vividly convey the awkwardness between the characters, as well as a strong sense of their physicality. It feels almost uncomfortably realistic, nicely shot in an earthy, almost documentary style. And it helps that filmmaker Garcia never pokes fun at Mormonism, even as he explores shifting doctrine, ignored historical facts and the church's oddly blinkered approach to sexuality.

More than a polemic, this is a realistic look at the daily life of these young men. With the added wrinkle of palpable sexual tension. These are two unusually fit young men who work out together, talk about their athletic pasts (RJ was a wrestler in school) and quietly reveal their yearning to break free from the rules. This starts when they fight back against bullies in the street, then move on to listening to pop music and attending a movie. But even talking about their sexuality is even more dangerous. And their first kiss is like a bomb going off.

Ferrucci and Farmer bring a striking honesty to their scenes. "I try to keep these feelings at a distance," RJ prays, agonising over his inability to feel attracted to a woman. Impressively, Garcia refuses to shy away from the tough questions, even as he keeps the confrontations thoughtful and grounded. In fact, the film builds to a surprisingly strong expression of truthful emotion that will leave audiences, and probably the church, shaken.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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The Men Next Door
dir-scr Rob Williams
prd Rodney Johnson, Rob Williams
with Eric Dean, Michael Nicklin, Benjamin Lutz, Heidi Rhodes, Christopher Schram, Mark Cirillo, Devon Michael Jones, Rachel Alig, Ronnie Kroell, David Alanson, Christopher Patrino, Trevor Knight
lutz, dean and nicklin
release US 11.Dec.12,
UK 14.Jan.13
12/US 1h24
The Men Next Door Serious themes and likeable characters give this cheesy gay comedy some resonance. And while there's enough meaning under the surface to make it worth a look, the broad performances and some overly sentimental dialog keep it from being a proper indie gem.

After his friends stand him up on his 40th birthday, Doug (Dean) is feeling both old and alone until a chance encounter with sexy new neighbour Colton (Lutz) restores some self-confidence. But Doug is in for a shock when he finds out that 30-year-old Colton is the son of 50-year-old Jacob (Nicklin), whom he has also been casually seeing. Both men think of Doug as their boyfriend, and he cares for them, but how long can they go on like this? Eventually, he'll have to figure out what he wants.

Writer-director Williams overcomes his low budget with style and attitude, letting the actors overplay situations that never quite break out into full-on farce. Supporting roles are corny but engaging, including Doug's panicky single-mum pal (Rhodes), a slutty employee (Schram) at his gym, his lusty best friend (Cirillo) and his twin brother (Jones), to whom he only ever speaks on the phone. These four highlight aspects of the struggle all men have with ageing. And in the gay scene this can be accompanied by discrimination and outright cruelty.

These side characters offer telling advice to Doug in his dilemma, which doesn't seem quite as urgent as the film tries to make it. Dean has relaxed chemistry with both Lutz and Nicklin, which helps make their awkward conversations feel eerily realistic instead of movie-style melodramatic. Even if some of the interaction feels rather obvious, at least the situation is never simplified. Although the rom-com structure assures us that it's all going to work out once the dust settles.

What sets this film apart is the fact that the characters all talk about the situation, accepting that both men are in relationships with Doug without any moralistic hand-wringing. Sure, we know they can't end up as a happy threesome, but their openness is refreshingly honest in a way movies rarely are. As a result, the climactic confrontation brings out some real issues to draw a knowing smile from the audience. It's also surprisingly moving.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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Pam Ann Non-stop: Live from New York City
dir Laurel Parker
scr Caroline Reid
prd Mark Upton
with Caroline Reid
reid release UK 12.Nov.12
12/UK Anchor Bay 1h31
pam ann non-stop This no-frills production captures Caroline Reid's ramshackle stage performance at a small club in New York as outrageous flight attendant Pam Ann. As always, she astutely makes fun of airlines and the global travel business while mercilessly taunting her audience.

Pam Ann sets the stage with a row of airline seats and a drinks trolley packed with props. She then launches straight into the front row, which is her first class section, flirting shamelessly, pouring their drinks and tormenting them over any perceived ethnicity. Each of these nationalities launches a riff on a national airline, from Alitalia to Japan Airlines, complete with silly accents and some pretty rude visual touches. Virgin Atlantic is portrayed as an orgy in the sky. Air Jamaica is a pot-smoking party.

From Australia, Reid invests Pam Ann with a gleefully chirpy personality that's consistently offensive. Her rapid-fire delivery guarantees that gut-wrenchingly funny jokes are frequent, even if the show often feels like it could collapse at any moment. This is because of the improvised structure, which sometimes grinds to a halt while she regroups for the next assault. But she really knows her audience, poking fun largely at the gay subculture that has made her a global star.

The video isn't very well-produced, with some clunky camerawork, dodgy sound recording and extremely cheesy graphics. But there's also an opening animation sequence that hilariously spoofs safety procedure videos. And Pam Ann's schtick is hilarious even if you've seen her before. By now she has perfected her persona as a sassy, nasty stewardess so well that we almost feel like we've seen her on a plane.

This particular show relies on cues from the audience and features less music (which some might be happy about). Not all of the jokes are new, but she dives into them with gusto; the performance of her signature tune From New York to L.A. is enjoyably rough. On the other hand, the New York audience seems eerily reticent, laughing nervously while they wait for her to make fun of them. Perhaps she needs to record her next video in her hometown of Melbourne, or even London, where audiences would be more likely to play along and even try to steal the spotlight. Good luck with that.

18 strong themes, language
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Walk a Mile in My Pradas
dir Joey Sylvester
scr-prd Rick Karatas, Tom Archdeacon
with Nathaniel Marston, Tom Archdeacon, Kirsten Lea, Tom Arnold, Mike Starr, Dee Wallace, Darren Keefe, Rick Sudi Karatas, Emrhys Cooper, Lindsay Hollister, Chandler Lutz, Bunny Levine
marston and archdeacon release US 15.Nov.11,
UK 3.Dec.12
11/US 1h27
Walk a Mile in My Pradas This goofy Christmas comedy makes some serious points, so it's worth seeing. But the script fails to make the most of its premise, relying far too heavily on the trite cliches it's supposedly trying to undermine. With a more thought-out approach to the important central issue, it might have been essential viewing.

After being taught as a child that "gay is evil", nice-guy construction worker Tony (Marston) indulges in on-site homophobia with his colleagues (Keefe and Karatas). But the supervisor on their new job is gay designer Steve (Archdeacon), and their thoughtless comments quickly get them in trouble. At a holiday party tempers flare, as does a bit of magical realism, and Tony and Steve swap sexualities. The problem is that now Tony can't muster up interest in his fiancee Sarah (Lea), while Steve alienates his boyfriend (Cooper) with boorish tough-guy behaviour.

Annoyingly, the screenwriters fall back on stereotypes to portray the switch: Tony suddenly wants to smell flowers, have his nails done and cook a gourmet meal, while Steve suddenly knows how to fix a car, starts leering at women and becomes addicted to football. This shallow, corny approach misses the entire point and belittles the offhanded, realistic characters. So while trying to highlight casual homophobia, the film indulges in the worst imaginable stereotypes.

That said, there's plenty of sparky banter and genuinely funny humour. And as the story progresses, the stupid cliches become less important. The plot builds to a series of farcical situations that are somewhat pointed: a visit to a gay bar, Christmas with Tony's narrow-minded parents (Wallace and Starr), a homophobic attack. Then of course there's the requisite change of heart for both characters, followed by a corny race to reverse the spell, complete with random explanatory mythology.

Even if it's irresponsibly offensive and deeply silly, the film holds our interest because the characters are rather likeable. And as it goes along, it also touches on something more telling than superficial ideas of masculinity: the frustration of being attracted to the "wrong" gender. This is something young gay and lesbian people have to cope with every day, and for them the film might give them something to laugh at as well as a sliver of hope.

15 themes, language, violence, imagery
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall