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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 27.Jul.19
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Mark Blane, Ben Mankoff
scr Mark Blane
prd Carolina Gimenez, Mark Blane
with Mark Blane, Joseph Seuffert, Christian Patrick, Patricia Richardson, Jeanine Serralles, Peter Y Kim, Rodney Richardson, Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Matthew Shear, Lucy DeVito, John Duff, Zachary Booth
release US Jun.19 fff
"Based on a lie", this black comedy recounts the offbeat adventures of filmmaker Mark Blane when he moved to New York. It's a quirky, personal little film that unfolds with its own rhythms and themes. This makes it tricky to identify with, even if the characters remain engaging and intriguing. The way things develop may be stylised and often downright askew, but it's underscored with a sense of honesty.
After his mother (Richardson) helps him move from Indiana to Manhattan, oddball 26-year-old Mark (Blane) hides the fact that he has no plans. He finds a room to rent and gets a job babysitting 6-year-old Milo (Seuffert). Struggling to fit in, he reverts to childhood fantasies of Leather-Man (Patrick), his personal gay superhero. He befriends Russell (Rodney Richardson), who invites him to a book club. And his roommate Briahna (Norvind) keeps him supplied with mind-altering "medication". But Mark doesn't know how relationships are meant to work. And managing his life doesn't come naturally.
Mark's interior life is visible through clever animation and depictions of his daydreams. What this reveals is a childish young man with a vivid imagination, so it's hardly surprising that his best friend is 6 years old. But he's not as dopey as he acts, acutely aware of other people even as he's lead into a variety of problems. His concept of sexuality comes from a gay magazine he looked at as a boy, so his drawings are pornographic, even though he's essentially sexless.
In the role, Blane remains likeable even as Mark orchestrates most of his own problems. He may be a dork, but his pure intentions make even his most transgressive behaviour seem innocent. Other characters don't see him this clearly, so are often horrified. The actors play them with earthy realism that's a sharp contrast to Blane's cluelessness. Standouts include Serralles and Kim as Milo's distinctly different parents, and Shear, DeVito and Duff as Mark's eclectic flatmates.
Astonishingly, the film never laughs at Mark, refusing to poke fun at either his naivete, or the more shocking things he does without realising the impact of his actions. Blane has created Mark as a kind of alter-ego, and by allowing the writing and direction to remain sympathetic to Mark, the film actually finds some important things to say about protective childhoods and the way we choose to treat people who are different from ourselves. It's also disarmingly entertaining to follow Mark on this odyssey.
From Zero to I Love You
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Doug Spearman
prd Thomas Martin, Ren Heeralal, Steven Wallace, Meade Thayer
with Scott Bailey, Darryl Stephens, Keili Lefkovitz, Adam Klesh, Jay Huguley, Stephen Bowman, Richard Lawson, Leslie Zemeckis, Matt Cipro, Jimmy Shaw, Jai Rodriguez, Gregory Zarian
release UK Mar.19 flare,
US Jul.19 off
An ambitious romantic comedy with hints of deeper themes, this bright and watchable movie is loaded with good-looking people who remain likeable even when they do something stupid. Writer-director Doug Spearman orchestrates the twisty plot with some flair, although the film can't help but feel somewhat simplistic and predictable, especially with an uneven collection of side performances. But even if the story is somewhat arch, it's easy to identify with the central characters.
In Philadelphia, Jack (Bailey) is married to Karla (Lefkovitz), with whom he has two lively daughters. But he's finding it increasingly difficult to suppress his desire for men. In a bar he meets Pete (Stephens), a charming guy with a penchant for married men. His dad (Lawson), who's about to marry his girlfriend (Zemeckis), calls him on his commitment issues. But as Jack and Pete fall in love, it's Jack who will need to take action. And circumstances keep making this more difficult for him. Then Pete meets someone else (Klesh).
The path to romance in this film, as the title suggests, is rather sudden. Jack and Pete have such a cute meeting and courtship, and such intense love for each other, that it feels like something only a screenwriter would come up with. Then their various peccadilloes emerge, adding a loud clank of the rom-com plot machinery. Clearly the important thing is that the audience falls for these people, and at least Spearman makes sure that happens.
Stephens deploys his understated on-screen magnetism, effortlessly generating steam in each scene. His connections with everyone feel earthy and honest. Bailey has a scruffier likeability, but works nicely opposite his costars, including scene-stealing bit players. The supporting cast members bring plenty of spark to their roles, helping create a wide, lively community for Pete and Jack to live within. Although some of them badly overplay their roles.
This is the kind of movie that never feels terribly realistic, even though there are elements in the people and situations that resonate. It's certainly an easy film to enjoy, since its heart is in the right place, trying to explore the idea that love comes along when we least expect it, and that following our heart is the only way to move forward successfully. There's not much more to it than that, and if we engage our brains it all falls apart. But it's rather satisfying as a bit of warm, witty escapism.
Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Sergio Manfio
scr Sergio Manfio, Francesco Manfio
prd Francesco Manfio, Piotr Dzuibak
voices Johnny Bosch, Cherami Leigh, Bryce Papenbrook, Faith Graham, Landen Beattie, Keith Silverstein, Jamieson Price, Michael Sorich, Darrel Guilbeau, Tom Fahn, Tony Azzolino, Kyle McCarley
release It 11.Jan.18,
Recasting Leonardo Da Vinci as a teen action hero is more than a little contrived, but filmmakers on this Italian-Polish production have some fun with the idea, crafting an adventure that looks and feels like a low-budget variation on How to Train Your Dragon. Children won't mind the cheap-looking animation or the cheesy story. But some imagery is beautifully designed and the characters are sparky enough to be entertaining.
Teen inventor Leo (Bosch) has all kinds of projects in the works, while his chucklehead pal Lorenzo (Papenbrook) teases him that he likes their friend Lisa (Leigh) more than he admits. But Lisa worries that Leo's absurd inventions won't help with real-world problems, like the crop her father (Sorich) just lost. So Leo sets out to help her, seeking a mythical lost treasure that he thinks he can find using his inventions, teaming up with street urchins Agnes and Niccolo (Graham and Beattie). But there are mysterious figures lurking everywhere, including evil pirates.
Leo's inventions include cars, gliders, ink-filled pens and a diving suit that, along with the modern-day dialog, eliminate any real sense of the 15th century. The script is very simplistic, aimed at young children with its corny jokes, silly slapstick and cackling villains. There's no nuance in the characters or storyline, so it's about as involving as a Saturday morning cartoon. But it's fast-paced, brightly energetic and nutty enough to just about hold the attention of even a cynical film critic.
The voice cast is solid, offering enjoyably edges along the way. So even though everybody is somewhat bland, there are quirks that add a bit of interest. Without the rendering power of the big studios, the animation looks plasticky, with characters who aren't particularly original-looking. But the settings are often strikingly visual in wide shots, with some strong colours and textures in the backgrounds. Set pieces are staged with mildly suspenseful elements, but it's more comical than scary.
There are also some half-hearted attempts at drama, romance and even musical numbers. Although the generally goofy tone keeps the film from ever grabbing hold, it's diverting enough while it lasts, as the intrepid Leo and Lisa take on the greedy pirate captain (Price) and his bumbling goons, plus a shadowy bad guy who has his own secret mission. There are a few big wrinkles in the story that further complicate things, while adding nothing particularly meaningful. But it'll keep kids quiet for 85 minutes.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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