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Indies, foreigns, docs, revivals and shorts...
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last update 2.Oct.16
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Anti Matter
aka: Worm
dir-scr Keir Burrows
prd Dieudonnee Burrows
with Yaiza Figueroa, Tom Barber-Duffy, Philippa Carson, James Farrar, Noah Maxwell Clarke, Yolanda Vazquez, Casey Lawler, Harrie Hayes, Holly Joyce, Julia Savill, Rachel Waring, Joseph Teague
Figueroa release US/UK Jun.17
16/UK 1h49

Anti Matter Stylish and intriguing, this British thriller plays enjoyably with science. Despite the portentous topicality, writer-director Keir Burrows maintains a witty, realistic tone that's completely disarming. The story unfolds as a twisty, tricky puzzle that feels deliberately jumbled. And it's thoroughly beguiling.

In Oxford, medical researcher Ana (Figueroa) makes an unexpected discovery with her long-time cohort Nate (Barber-Duffy), causing matter to disappear. On the brink of perfecting teleportation, they hire hacker Liv (Carson) to help boost their computer power. And then they progress their experiments from inanimate objects to plants and animals. Eventually, the natural question arises: what will happen if they send a human through their wormhole? And Ana draws the short straw.

What follows is both gimmicky and elusive, but the ensuing mystery is thoroughly mesmerising. Lushly shot, this is an intriguing combination of technical details and strong emotional overtones, plus a bewildering plot that takes awhile to resolve itself. These researchers quickly understand the ramifications of their work, which has the potential to change humanity. And as things turn strange, it becomes obvious that someone is up to something. To complicate matters, police are investigating potential cyberterrorism, and animal rights activists are on the warpath.

Figueroa has a demanding role, as Ana struggles against the feeling that reality is slipping out of her grasp. Her brain seems to leap around between dreams and reality, so she's not remotely sure who she can trust, and the film itself takes her perspective. But Figueroa manages to remain sympathetic even as everything around her goes a bit nuts. Barber-Duffy and Carson are also likeable and authentic, pulling the audience into the possibilities of the premise. And the chemistry between these three is sparky without ever tipping over into the usual cliches of the genre.

Essentially, this is a fairly simple thriller hugely livened up with some big ideas and inventively low-fi filmmaking. It feels bracingly original, along the lines of other small-budget brain-bending gems like Memento, Pi or Primer. Even the title has a range of tantalising implications. Burrows is terrific at insinuating a variety of meanings in every scene, leading the audience down several rabbit holes that freak us out right along with Ana. It's not a film you'll forget in a hurry. And all eyes will be on Burrows to see what he comes up with next.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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Dare to Be Wild
dir-scr Vivienne DeCourcy
prd Sarah E Johnson, Patricia Lambrecht, Rebecca O'Flanagan, Robert Walpole
with Emma Greenwell, Tom Hughes, Christine Marzano, Janie Dee, Lorna Quinn, Brendan Somers, Alex Macqueen, Don Wycherly, Carrie Crowley, Alaa Safi, Barry McGovern, Eamonn Hunt
hughes and greenwell release Ire/UK 23.Sep.16
15/Ireland 1h40
Dare to Be Wild Based on a true story, this is a remarkable tale of tenacity and positive thinking. The movie feels rather simplified, with all of the rough edges smoothed over to suit a family audience. But even with a few corny plot points, this is a beautifully made, thoroughly involving movie that might help change the way you think about nature.

In rural Ireland, gifted artist Mary (Greenwell) refuses to lose her instinctual connection with the magic of nature. Which isn't easy when she moves to Dublin to work with with snooty garden designer Shah (Marzano). Mary's distinctive designs earn Shah is a spot in the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, and she callously sacks Mary to go to London. So Mary applies on her own, which means raising sponsorship to build a garden that combines wild plants and ancient history. While dreamy friend Christy (Hughes) resists her plan, his nature-loving father Mike (Somers) agrees to help.

The film is lovingly shot with a terrific sense of natural beauty that contrasts strikingly with the narrow-minded attitudes of people who use nature for their own ends. Writer-director DeCourcy keeps everything upbeat, with only hints of the darker sides of the story, even in a side trip to Ethiopia. There's the oddly old-fashioned sense that Mary's gloomiest emotions only emerge because Christy doesn't take her seriously. More intriguingly, Mary's passion leads her to take startling actions that would seem implausible if the story weren't true.

Greenwell is engaging at the centre of the film, a blast of fresh air amid people who have forgotten the power of nature in everyday life. Her costumes may be a bit overpoweringly flowery, but Greenwell makes her so smart and sensitive that we can't help but cheer for her. Hughes is clearly the story's romantic lead, so his relentlessly harsh behaviour to Mary feels like little more than a plot device. But we know Christy won't resist her for long, and their chemistry is very nicely played.

The film is packed with important ideas about reconnecting people to what's important in life, from city dwellers to residents of the African desert. Mary's designs are elegant and earthy, a blast of honesty in an over-manipulated world. Her optimistic approach is genuinely inspiring, especially when it generates a bit of magic as she undertakes an impossible task. Watching everything come together, one setback after another, is so entertaining that we don't mind the film's soft, smiley approach.

PG themes, language
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The Greasy Strangler
dir Jim Hosking
scr Toby Harvard, Jim Hosking
prd Daniel Noah, Andrew Starke, Ant Timpson, Josh C Waller, Elijah Wood
with Michael St Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex, Joe David Walters, Sam Dissanayake, Abdoulaye Ngom, Holland MacFallister, Carl Solomon, Sal Koussa, Jesse Keen, Dana Haas
elobar and st michaels release US/UK 7.Oct.16
16/US 1h33

sundance london
The Greasy Strangler With its relentlessly crude filmmaking, this gonzo horror-comedy feels like Beavis and Butt-Head tried to make a mash-up homage to John Waters and David Lynch. Except that the movie is never remotely funny or scary. And director James Hosking spends too much time wallowing in grotesque nudity and repeated catch-phrases to give the premise any kick. At least it's a true original.

Middle-aged Brayden (Elobar) lives in a falling-down house with his grumpy dad Ronnie (St Michaels), who insists that his meals must be soaked in grease. As they work as guides for disco tours of Los Angeles, Brayden falls for the flirtatious Janet (De Razzo). But Ronnie hates the thought of Brayden moving out, so he tries to steal Janet for himself. Meanwhile, Ronnie has a double life as a grease-coated serial killer, stalking anyone who crosses him. But when he moves on to murder his annoying friends, it sparks Brayden's suspicions.

There's a clever idea here that offers several layers of possibility, but Hosking never exploits any of that, concentrating on the trashy surfaces instead. All of the actors are essentially drag queens, wearing colourfully silly clothing (when they're clothed) or wacky prosthetics and merkins (when they're not). All of this is shot in a deadpan style with an abrasive musical score that emphasises how outrageous and ridiculous everything is. Except that it's actually rather dull.

The actors are never allowed to add any texture to their characters. St Michaels seems to have been directed to just stand still, scream his lines and grimace madly. Elobar is nothing more than a dopey lump. De Razzo has little to do but grin vaguely at whoever is in the scene with her. All three are frequently naked, and their dialog consists mainly of endlessly echoing phrases ("hootie tootie disco cutie!"). And all os this is so absurdly pointless that the film becomes inert.

So while the running time is mercifully brief, the movie feels like it drags on twice as long. There's no internal logic to the plot, so the audience simply gives up trying to make any sense of anything that happens. And it's impossible to care about the tension between this father and son when each scene is played like a Saturday Night Live sketch that simply refuses to end. Chucklehead audiences (ie, Napoleon Dynamite fans) may find plenty to giggle at. Everyone else is hereby warned.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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People You May Know
dir-scr JC Falcon
prd Guillermo Escalona
with Sean Maher, Andrea Grano, Mark Cirillo, Curt Hansen, Nacho San Jose, Trey McCurley, Carmen Maura, Tara Karsian, Jimmy Shaw, Cynthia Webster, David Vega, Isabel Serrano
hansen and cirillo release US 27.Sep.16
16/US 1h41
People You May Know As it traces a year in the messy romantic lives of its three central characters, this film strikes an introspective, warmly engaging tone. The three-strand plot features several startling developments that push the characters to some extreme situations and moody reactions. But for the most part, the film remains smart and involving.

As he struggles to write a novel in Los Angeles, Joe (Maher) indulges in anonymous sex while tentatively developing a relationship with the elusive Tom (McCurley), who lives in New York and plans to visit while travelling on business. Joe's friend Delia (Grano) hates that she can only interact with her husband Rodrigo (San Jose) on Skype, since he has been reassigned to Madrid. Meanwhile, their lovelorn friend Herbert (Cirillo) runs into hot young animal rescue worker Nicholas (Hansen) and his bearded dragon Pancho. But the path to true love isn't remotely, ahem, straight.

The film has a very intimate vibe, getting into the heads of the characters as their romantic lives refuse to fit the expected patterns. To make this even more vivid, filmmaker Falcon includes sexy sequences that feel like fantasies (because they probably are). He sometimes works too hard to push the emotions, cranking up the crippling self-doubt Joe, Herbert and Delia are feeling. Thankfully, there's plenty of offhanded wit in their interaction, and some soap-style surprises in their twisty relationships.

Performances are loose and relaxed, creating characters who, as the Facebook-inspired title suggests, feel instantly recognisable. It's a bit simplistic to explain away their lapses in judgement on loneliness or inebriation, but the casual acting style helps keep things believable. Although his plotline gets the short shrift, Cirillo's Herbert is the easiest character to identify with, due to his disarming sense of humour. Maher and Grano lightly handle the outrageous complexities of their characters, whose drug-fuelled hook-up has serious complications.

Some of the melodrama feels rather overwrought, as the script seems to take a route that's more complicated than it needs to be. This sometimes leaves the film feeling rather mopey, wallowing in its messy situations rather than looking at them truthfully. And then there's the wobbly moralising, such as when Rodrigo's mother (the great Maura) offers genuinely terrible advice that's presented as emotionally honest. Falcon wedges too much into the movie, with a continual stream of surprise revelations. And yet it's moving and thought provoking, and even if the resolutions feel somewhat simplistic they leave us smiling.

18 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
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