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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 5.May.21

Fried Barry  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Fried Barry
dir-scr Ryan Kruger
prd James C Williamson, Ryan Kruger
with Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Bianka Hartenstein, Sedick Tassiem, Sean Cameron Michael, Reese Dettmer, Jonathan Pienaar, Paul Snodgrass, Graham Clarke, Carin Bester, Siya Mayola, Lauren Steyn
release UK/US 7.May.21
20/South Africa 1h39

Is it streaming?

clarke and green
Loud and heavily stylised, this South African comedy thriller pounds to a metallic beat as it follows a loser on an insane odyssey. Filmmaker Ryan Kruger keeps the squalid imagery right in the viewer's face, often using gratuitous grisliness as punctuation. While the lurid style has a B-movie charm, happily taking some insane turns, the storytelling approach is deliberately indulgent, misogynistic and homophobic. Which adds a provocative kick.
A drug-addled lowlife who neglects his wife and son, Barry (Green) is on a heroin trip when he's abducted by aliens, probed and then trapped in his mind while something takes control of his body and walks the streets of Cape Town, trying to make sense of drunken revellers in the streets and nightclubs. What follows is an odyssey of drugs, sex and violence, plus a sojourn with Barry's wife Suz (de Jager). He's also arrested and sent to a mental ward, finds moments of healing and does a bit of flying.
Kruger's full-on approach dives headlong into situations that are played in the seediest way possible, while the reality-bending effects are subtle but remarkably effective. The plot feels meandering and random, but there are strong sequences along the way, such as an encounter with a woman that produces an instant baby, born in gynaecological closeup. Or the brief intermission after Barry's knocked out by street thugs, followed by a freaky encounter with a man who has abducted a crowd of children.

Green's wide-eyed performance is riotously physical, twisting his body and face through the nutty situations. His alien abductor mainly just stares, soaking in each encounter and the spectrum of people he meets, and there's no sign of Barry trying to get out. But everyone seems drawn to him for some reason, giving him drugs, dragging him aside for sex, taking him somewhere unexpected or launching a frantic rescue. None of the side characters is around long enough to properly register, but each is played to the hilt.

The narrative is rather repetitive, circling through a series of similar frazzled situations, slow-motion wackiness and heated encounters. But Kruger's direction gives the film a superbly grounded visual sheen that keeps it watchable even with the abrasive language and aggressive violence. Everything is so grubby that it's instantly clear that this film was not sanctioned by the Cape Town's tourism officials. And perhaps that's the point, offering an alien's eye view of the mean streets, something far more real than the beauty we usually see.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 29.Apr.21

Making Sense  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Making Sense
dir-prd Gregory Bayne
scr Doug Cole, Gregory Bayne
with Jessi Melton, Richard Klautsch, Justin Ness, Taylor Gonzalez, Miguel Ayala, Makenzie Ellsworth, Mike Barnett, Nyk Fry, Brian Telestai, Brooke Burton, Lily Yasuda, Jim Quinn
release US 30.Apr.21
20/US 1h24

Is it streaming?

Fry, Ayala, Ellsworth, Gonzalez and Melton
While it's clearly made on a limited budget, this science-tinged thriller throws both intriguing ideas and soapy plotting into the mix to hold our attention. Filmmaker Gregory Bayne certainly doesn't scrimp on the cliches, but the underlying concepts are clever enough to spark curiosity about the possibilities. And the over-familiar style of storytelling creates some engagingly low-key suspense in between the snappy cosmic theorising and sometimes corny emotions.
As neuroscience grad student Jules (Melton) explores sensory reception, she's contacted by Dr Frederik (Klautsch), who thinks her work could help unlock a sixth sense. Frederik wants to harness enhanced perceptions of people who have lost one of the five senses, but he's having his own cognition problems. He's also in trouble with the FBI, so two tenacious agents (Yasuda and Quinn) are on his trail. This means that Jules and her team (Ayala and Ellsworth) are now on the run with him, collecting some more sense-challenged cohorts (Gonzalez, Barnett and Fry) along the way.
Refreshingly, the radical science in this movie feels almost believable, rooted in logic rather than a screenwriter's random flight of fancy. This gives us something to think about even if the plot itself is by the books, complete with a requisite bullheaded professor (Telestai) blocking Jules' work and the convenient appearance of people without the ability to see, hear, smell, taste or touch. Bayne's direction is a bit uneven, not helped by a rather insipid musical score and the fact that he lets some actors shamelessly overplay their roles.

As a young woman struggling with her dark past and future possibilities, Melton has compelling presence. Jules is in court-ordered addiction treatment after a tragic car accident, so this project is an act of redemption for her. Klautsch's role is more wistful, but he too has a tormented past, having lost his beloved partner (Burton) in earlier experimentation and obviously wanting to rejoin her somehow. As events unfold, various nicely played relationships emerge, including new connections, renewed friendships and restored bonds.

Even with filmmaking that's bland and occasionally clunky, the bigger themes and ideas remain fascinating, which keeps us involved in the story as it progresses. One smart touch is the presence of Frederik's sceptical son (Ness) throughout the adventure, questioning everything right up to the full-on bonkers conclusion. It's not a particularly slick film, but it's steadily entertaining. And as it delivers pointed comments on shared humanity and the importance of pushing knowledge forward, the movie also encourages us to look at our senses from a new perspective.

cert pg themes, violence 21.Apr.21

The Outside Story  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
The Outside Story
dir-scr Casimir Nozkowski
prd Frank Hall Green, Brian Newman, Joseph Stephans, Casimir Nozkowski
with Brian Tyree Henry, Sonequa Martin-Green, Sunita Mani, Olivia Edward, Lynda Gravatt, Michael Cyril Creighton, Hannah Bos, Matthew Maher, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Asia Kate Dillon, Maria Dizzia, Jordan Carlos
release US 30.Apr.21
20/US 1h25

Is it streaming?

henry and martin-green
In this amusing and pointed New York comedy, writer-director Casimir Nozkowski creates engaging moments in a simple premise. There isn't much to it, but the witty dialog and situations offer charming observations about the stresses of city life. The broader gags don't always work, but the more grounded incidents find laughter in everyday situations, and there are some much more powerful comments woven into scenes along the way.
As a film editor, Charles (Henry) does most of his work at home, and likes it that way. Recently single, he now has even more reasons to stay inside. Then he locks himself out of his apartment in his stocking feet. Preoccupied with a work deadline he's now unable to meet, Charles gets some help from a variety of neighbours (including Creighton, Edward and Gravatt) and a chaotic friend (Maher). And as he has a series of small adventures over the course of a long day, he can't stop thinking about his ex, Isha (Martin-Green).
During his ordeal, Charles recalls events from this relationship, from the night they met in a club to how his jealousy pushed them apart. Meanwhile, he faces obstacles like persistent parking cop Slater (Mani) and a cat that triggers his allergies. But he manages to befriend Slater as they share local discoveries. He finds himself helping others in small ways that make a big difference. And just getting outside helps Charles begin to realise what he's been missing out on by refusing to leave home.

The likeable Henry brings Charles to life as a hapless guy who can't seem to get a break. Sensitive and friendly, he discovers a new side of himself as he interacts with people who were previously unknown but now feel like extended family. Standouts among the ensemble include young Edward as a sparky preteen whose mother (Dizzia) doesn't see her and Gravatt as an older neighbour who has plenty of life in her. And a late sequence with Martin-Green is beautifully played.

This gently warm movie roots around for positive vibes in interaction between strangers. Nothing that happens is terribly nasty, but the enjoyably random conversations spiral around deeper issues that have strong resonance, most notably as Charles questions his own jealousy in light of the feelings he still has for Isha. And what lingers is what Charles discovers when he finally begins to open up to people he normally ignores. Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to broaden your perspective.

cert 15 themes, language 20.Apr.21

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