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last update 1.Sep.18
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Action Point
dir Tim Kirkby
scr John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky
prd Derek Freda, Bill Gerber, Johnny Knoxville
with Johnny Knoxville, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Chris Pontius, Dan Bakkedahl, Clover Nee, Johnny Pemberton, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Eric Manaka, Joshua Hoover, Conner McVicker, Matt Schulze, Camilla Wolfson
worthington-cox and knoxville release US 1.Jun.18,
UK 31.Aug.18
18/US Paramount 1h25
Action Point The main purpose of this movie is to let Johnny Knoxville and friends do a series of insane stunts without concerns about safety, which is why they had to shoot it in South Africa. There's a loose narrative, but the writers forgot to include actual comedy, apparently hoping the Jackass-style tomfoolery would entertain the audience. Ironically, the antics feel too safe, as does the plot.

While watching people hurt themselves on YouTube, DC (Knoxville) tells his granddaughter (Nee) the summer he launched Action Point, an amusement park featuring wild rides before health and safety were things anyone worried about. But a developer (Bakkedahl) wants the land, and a competing corporate theme park has opened nearby. Meanwhile, DC's daughter Boogie (Worthington-Cox) is in town for the summer, staying with him and his equally dopey brother Benny (Pontius). And while trying to bond with her dad she gets involved in the team's crazy attempts to sabotage the competition.

Some physical slapstick is amusing, but many gags are exaggerated to the point where they're not funny anymore. Even so, there's a nice undercurrent: DC's main strategy to attract customers is to create rides that break the rules, allowing people to do things safety-conscious venues would never allow. Urging people to take responsibility for their own actions is a rather simple idea, but the filmmakers have a point. And the movie, which is loosely based on a real New Jersey waterpark, has a refreshingly scruffy 1970s underdogs versus the world vibe.

So it's annoying that everything seems so underdeveloped. Knoxville is likeable as a guy who wants his park to be a "lawless, reckless free-for all" that everyone wants to visit. The ensemble playing DC's chucklehead staff also get in on the silliness, indulging in messy stunts, crazy capers and drunken revelry. But Pontius is the only one with a memorable personality, and Bakkedahl is a one-note baddie. Also wasted is Worthington-Cox, whose father-daughter plotline feels like a distraction.

There's something enjoyable about seeing a place go completely off the rails, with no-holds-barred mayhem. The Kiddie Land section is especially amusing, with its wildly dangerous petting zoo and opportunities for children to unleash their most destructive urges. So it's a shame the storytelling is so substandard, never making the most of the characters or situations. And it's also never quite as gleefully anarchic as it should be. Indeed, the closing-credits outtakes are the funniest bits in the movie.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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dir-scr-prd Anthony J Caruso
dir Marc Turtletaub
scr Oren Moverman, Polly Mann
prd Wren Arthur, Peter Saraf, Guy Stodel, Marc Turtletaub
with Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Bubba Weiler, Austin Abrams, Liv Hewson, Audrie Neenan, Helen Coxe, Barry Godin, Myrna Cabello, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Lori Hammel
macdonald and khan release US 20.Jun.18,
UK 7.Sep.18
18/US Sony 1h43

Puzzle Layered writing and acting elevate this quietly understated drama, which resonates in surprising ways as it rolls along. Anchored by Kelly Macdonald in superbly observant performance, the film finds a lot to say about family relationships and personal yearnings. But even more pungent are its observations about how easy it is to simply be pushed along by life.

Shy and awkward, Agnes (Macdonald) run her family home with attention to detail and even balances the books at the garage her husband Louie (Denman) owns. Golden son Gabe (Abrams) aims to be the first in the family to attend university, although he's distracted by his vegan Buddhist girlfriend (Hewson). Younger brother Ziggy (Weiler) hates working at Dad's shop, afraid to admit he wants to be a chef. Meanwhile, Agnes has reignited her love of jigsaw puzzles, secretly traveling to Manhattan to practice for an upcoming championship with the cynical Robert (Khan).

Director Turtletaub lets this story play out almost entirely on Macdonald's expressive face. This pulls the audience into Agnes' slow-blooming realisation that she has her own value. Agnes has spent her life taking care of men around her; they're not bad guys, but they don't realise that she lost herself in the process. Her rebellion begins softly as she sneaks out for puzzle practice, then she starts lying. But it takes a while before she realises that she has never actually lived.

Macdonald's delicate acting makes it easy to identify with the thoughts and emotions flickering through Agnes' eyes. With her love of rules and order, she seems almost autistic. But the fact is that Agnes just loves making things fit together, and as a result she has never allowed herself to experience her own reality. Khan is terrific as a funny man whose life is a mix of success and pain. Denman finds some pathos in good-ol'-boy Louis, who can't conceive that Agnes might need more.

Where this story goes is predictable, as it's obvious that Agnes is going to shake things up until the men around her notice her. As her carefully ordered life begins to unravel, it's a joy to watch Agnes find her voice. These kinds of stories have been told before, but Macdonald's unusually sensitive performance makes this film stand out. As do the dynamics she creates with each of her costars, exploring the nature of being a spouse, parent, child and partner in provocative, pointed ways.

15 themes, language

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dir-scr Mark Wilshin
prd Gareth Hamilton
with Jo Weil, Pip Brignall, Roger Bonjour, Lucca Bitzer, Claudia Jakobshagen, Tim Hertel, Gertrud Aschenborn, Marlene Meitzner, Markus Alwast, Leonie Tugend
brignall and weil release US Jul.18 laof,
UK 10.Sep.18
17/UK 1h34

east end film fest
Sodom Whether the title is referring to sexuality or the kindness of strangers, this stripped-back British drama has a nicely introspective approach. Following two men over the course of one night, writer-director Mark Wilshin makes a few odd attempts to add visual glimpses into the characters' minds, but it's the understated performances and the subtle moments of sharp connection that resonate strongly.

While out on his stag night in Berlin, British 20-year-old Will (Brignall) is handcuffed naked to a lamppost. Passing by half an hour later, nearby resident Michael (Weil) makes fun of him, but also offers some clothing and helps free him. Back at Michael's flat, the two begin to flirt and their unexpected chemistry leads to sex. They also begin to talk, sharing about themselves starting with the broad details before loosening up with a few tequila shots. And Will finds it difficult to leave, tempted by the idea of taking another path.

Strikingly shot by Beniamino Barrese mainly in close-up, the film's imagery and script avoid adding context to the plot or characters. This is a random encounter, but that doesn't mean it's not profound. As seen through Will's eyes, the film is shy about sex but also fantasises about it. And the evolving conversation is understated and honest, as these young men admit things to each other they've said to no one else. The big question is whether each of them can overcome his hang-ups and take a risk to live more authentically.

Brignall brings an offhanded ease to Will, a guy who considers himself straight but messes around with guys "just for fun". His deeper emotions continually sneak up on him. Weil's Michael is more prickly, a musician who doesn't work. As he dodges personal questions, he's clearly hiding emotional pain about an ex. Neither of them play into a gay stereotype, and they clearly like each other on a level neither of them saw coming. And this dynamic, as they find both a physical and soulful connection, brings them both to tears.

This interaction develops organically, with laughter and teasing in between moments of more raw honesty. The delicacy of the approach with its limited cast and setting make the film feel a lot like an stage play. And as these two men talk, it's insightful and provocative, exploring how being gay makes someone fundamentally different, far beyond the issue of attraction. It's about wanting to fit in and needing to be different, living life both guarded against threats and open to possibilities.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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dir Tupaq Felber
scr Tupaq Felber, Jon Foster, Robyn Isaac, Simon Meacock, Jamie Zubairi
prd Samantha Chitty, Tupaq Felber, Kamilla Hodol, Emilie Jouffroy
with Jon Foster, Robyn Isaac, Simon Meacock, Jamie Zubairi, Roderick Hill, Amanda Rawnsley, Garry Carr, Stephen Craft, Rosie Holcombe
fosterm isaac, meacock and zubairi release UK 7.Dec.18
17/UK 1h39

london film fest

Tides There's a loose, improvisational style to this British comedy-drama set on a canal-boat holiday in the Surrey countryside. It's shot in black and white, presumably to lend it some dramatic heft, and the actors use their own names. Their interaction is lively and often very funny, so it's engaging even if the plot is rather vague.

For a weekend reunion, Jon and Zooby (Foster and Jamie) hire a narrowboat and hit the canal, meeting en route with Red (Isaac) and then Simon (Meacock). Zooby has an announcement to make, and Jon is struggling with grief that he's holding inside. As wine flows, they catch up on each others' lives; in the morning, they nurse hangovers. In their early 40s, Jon and Simon compare notes about having kids. The childless, gay Zooby expresses himself with his guitar and sketchbook, and Red feels like a free spirit longing to be rooted.

Cinematographer Paul O'Callaghan captures a range of details, from glimpses of life on a boat to scenes along the riverbank as they sail by day and moor up by night. This literal meandering reflects in the storytelling, which moves along at a gentle pace, revealing aspects of the people and their years of friendship. Hints of dark shadows appear here and there, as alcohol is used in fine British style to keep them from ever getting too deeply connected.

The performances never feel like acting. So when little plot points appear, it's almost surprising. And the actors quietly layer in a variety of intriguing touches in each of the various relationships. This helps bring to life the fact that these four people have known each other for years, and have no barriers between them, on the surface at least. So as tensions emerge, they're potent. When it comes down to it, perhaps they don't know each other very well at all. But the years mean something.

There's almost the sense that filmmaker Felber merely shot a canal-boat holiday with his mates, then edited it into a movie with the help of an atmospheric score by Kas-tro. There are small dramatic moments along the way, but no real sense of a plot: the film consists of a series of bracingly realistic conversations interspersed with scenic shots of the journey. It's enjoyable, even if the monochrome photography leaves it at a distance. But then, the point seems to be that British people bond only so far, really.

15 themes, language

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