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70 reviews in total 
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Intacto (2001)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
disquieting, amoral and atmospheric, 14 March 2006

Spanish film Inacto has an unusual premise: what if luck can be stolen? It then becomes a commodity to trade and be rich in.

Federico (played by Eusebio Poncela) is an earthquake survivor who has the power to rob others of their luck with a touch. He works at an island casino for Holocaust survivor Sam (Max Von Sydow). But when Federico quits, Sam removes his luck.

Years later, the vengeful Federico finds Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a thief and the sole survivor of a plane crash. He draws Tomas into a strange underworld where status is determined by luck, gambling is the norm and the stakes are high. Tomas is pursued by policewoman Sara (Monica Lopez) who has luck of her own.

This is a fascinating and well-structured film from first-time writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. The moral ambiguity of the luck-based subculture is disquieting, and gives rise to some powerful scenes, the highlight of which is a race of blindfolded people through a forest.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
an wry and enjoyable pansexual rom com, 14 March 2006

Goldfish Memory is a multi-layered romantic comedy in the style of Bedrooms and Hallways from Irish writer/director Liz Gill.

When Clara sees her boyfriend Tom kissing Isolde, it sets off a chain of romance and heartbreak that goes full circle. Clara pursues and dumps TV journalist Angie who then falls for horticulturist Kate via a one-night stand with gay bike courier pal Red. Meanwhile philanderer Tom has a rocky road to love, while Isolde decides to explore her options.

Gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, it seems that when it comes to love, some of these characters suffer from a three-second Goldfish Memory. While some seek commitment, others just can't help themselves.

Goldfish Memory is a well-paced, humorous and lighthearted film that switches between story lines smoothly. Although it's not original enough to become a classic, it's a great date flick, with solid ensemble performances.

a fairy story formed from a dubious truth, 14 March 2006

Truth is sometimes more disturbing than fiction, which is perhaps why it's best to regard Mark Forster's new film Finding Neverland as a wondrous fairytale, rather than condemn it for distorting history.

Adapted from Allan Knee's stage play, "The Boy Who Was Peter Pan" by David Mcgee, Finding Neverland explores the birth of Peter Pan, one of the most well-loved children's' stories of all time, through emphatically rose-coloured glasses.

Perhaps this is for the best. Who would want to watch the biopic of a 1.5m tall almost certainly impotent man, a man that allegedly falsified a dying woman's will to gain guardianship of her boys – his greatest friends? No, the real JM Barrie sounds at the worst sinister and at the best...strange.

Give me Johnny Depp's Barrie any day, understatedly handsome, kind and with a touch of his role in The Pirates of The Caribbean left in him that only comes out in play. Add a reason for the source of his devotion to the Du Maurier boys – their lively and beautiful but ailing mother Sylvia (Kate Winslet). Explore an idyllic summer of games, picnics, and Cowboys and Indians between a simpatico group: Depp, Winslet, the four Du Maurier boys and a dog. It's thrilling to witness the birth of such a well-loved story.

As for the barriers to their union, Barrie's wife Mary (Radha Mitchell) is a shallow social climber whose elegant costume is the best thing about her. In the film, of course, not in history, as is the disapproval of Sylvia's mother (Julie Christie). And although the film opens with Barrie's latest play flopping at the box office, to the discomfort of American producer Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman), in reality, Barrie was at the height of his success.

But back to fantasy. The several segues into magical landscape recall those of Heavenly Creatures (1995) but are smoother, and without the darkness of that film. The costuming and set design recreate Edwardian London, with Mitchell and Winslet's dresses being particularly exquisite. Accents are appropriate, although Depp's Scottish burr is not entirely convincing. Despite this he deserved his Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.

This Barrie selflessly shares his creative wisdom with the youngest boy, Peter (impressively portrayed by Freddie Highmore) – a current skeptic and future writer. This Barrie inspires Sylvia's crotchety mother to clap her hands and say, "I believe in fairies". This Barrie is the kind of man we want all great artists to be: generous with their time; emotionally intelligent; eccentric but normal. A man we can understand. But how many great artists truly are like that? I don't care: I want to believe.

Eating Out (2004/I)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
low budget queer comedy of errors, 14 March 2006

Eating Out is a warped college sex comedy from up-and-coming indie US director, Q Allan Brocka.

Shot in ten days on MD, it's about Caleb, who falls for fag hag Gwen, infamous for turning all her previous boyfriends gay. The way for Caleb to steal her heart? To pretend that he's gay, according to his roomie, Kyle. But the plan backfires when Gwen decides to set Caleb up with her best friend, Marc.

The cast includes Scott Lunsford as Caleb, Emily Stiles as Gwen, Ryan Carnes as Marc and Jim Verraros as Kyle. Rebekah Kochan has a memorable cameo as Caleb's kinky bonk-buddy Tiffani.

Eating Out is light, pacey and funny, although it's obviously been made on a shoestring budget. In addition, the actors never transcend caricature to behave like real people. In one scene Caleb and Marc get it on, with Caleb only able to do so while Gwen whispers phone sex talk in his ear. It's clear that Marc's being used here, but he barely even notices.

If that doesn't faze you, you'll probably enjoy Eating Out, which screens as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, running from March 11-21.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I wish someone would pay me money to make films with my friends!, 14 March 2006

In Australia, we called it poison ball in primary school, and I loved it. Well, in the US it's called Dodgeball, it's growing in popularity and it's now the backdrop for another comedy "Brat Pack" feature.

Vince Vaughan (Swingers) is Peter La Fleur, owner of cash-strapped Average Joe's gym – a gym for "average Joes". But the body-beautiful owner of Globo Gym, White Goodman (Ben Stiller) is moving in for a takeover. Until Peter and his buddies form a rag-tag team to compete at the Las Vegas Dodgeball championships for a $50,000 prize.

For most of its 92 minutes, Dodgeball is a hilarious homage cum parody of underdog sporting films. It's the first feature from writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who gave us Terry Tate, Office Linebacker.

There's some hilarious supporting characters – including Alan Tudyk (I Robot) as a pirate, and Missi Pyle as a scary Romanian Dodgeball champion. The comedy is rapid-fire and sometimes shocking – "if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball", says coach Rip Torn to the team. And there are some great cameos, including David Hasselhoff as an irate German coach.

Unfortunately, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story does "drop the ball" towards the end and get just too corny for its own good. The scene where Vaughan is motivated by cycling star and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong was very schmaltzy, perhaps because its status as parody was unclear. Yet, if you're looking for a film where laughter will be torn from you, submit to Dodgeball. The first half of the film is worth it.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
a solid documentary about a very important news network, 14 March 2006

Control Room is the latest film from the Egyptian-born Harvard-educated director of, Jehane Noujaim.

It follows the only independent news service in the Middle East, Al Jazeera, for six weeks, starting one week before the US invasion of Iraq in 2004.

The war's press coverage was delivered from US military Central Command in Qatar, right near Al Jazeera's HQ. One of the things Control Room demonstrates is just how manufactured the news stories of the war were.

We hear from several Al Jazeera employees (including women), some Western journalists and also from US Lieutenant Josh Rushing, the idealistic Central Command Press Officer.

There are several reasons why Control Room is compelling viewing. Firstly because Al Jazeera is an independent satellite service in a culture which does not have a history of freedom of the press.

Also, because both the US Government and many Middle Eastern governments condemn Al Jazeera for broadcasting propaganda, it reminds me of the conundrum often facing Australia's ABC. Yes, Al Jazeera gets it wrong sometimes, like any other broadcaster, but they are attempting and I'd suggest, often succeeding, at delivering relatively balanced journalism.

One of the things most criticized about Al Jazeera was for broadcasting messages from Osama Bin Laden. But I think just about any network that had that exclusive would do the same thing, as demonstrated by so many networks quoting the Bin Laden tapes. Unfortunately this is not covered in the film, but another Al Jazeera technique criticized in Control Room is their decision to broadcast footage of US military hostages, including the dead. As an NBC correspondent said, they just don't do that kind of thing in America. But it's very common for Western viewers to see and be shocked by horrific images on television. By broadcasting footage of these US soldiers, at least some of the Al Jazeera demographic would empathize with the suffering Westerners. Before that, much of their footage was of how Iraq's civilian population was suffering. In hindsight, now that it's been revealed that the US tortured prisoners, Al Jazeera's stance seems vindicated.

2 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
What this film needs is more information, and less empathy from the filmmakers, 14 March 2006

This documentary has been highly rated in Australia and overseas, winning several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Washington DC Independent Film Festival.

The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan follows a year in the life of eight-year old Mir, who lives in the ruins of what was formerly Afghanistan's foremost tourist attraction. In 2001, the Taliban dynamited the 1600-year old Buddha statues, condemning them as idolatrous.

Although Mir's family and neighbours are so poor they literally eat grass, Mir's cheerfulness is a vivid demonstration of human tenacity. The community that surrounds him are also very candid in their interviews.

Filmmaker Phil Grabsky has avoided voice-over to concentrate on the human aspect of the story, letting the Bamiyan community speak for itself, with occasional BBC news reports playing over the scenery. The soundtrack, by Dimitri Tchamouroff and Dawood Sarkhosh is very emotive and, although beautiful, illustrates one of the flaws of this film.

The Boy Who Played on the Buddhas of Bamiyan is sentimental, sometimes overstated and also very slow. Although the plight of Mir, his family and neighbours is compelling, a more conventional approach to documentary-making, including voice-over and expert interviews, would give us more insight into the situation and speed up the pace.

Saved! (2004)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
a satire that treats its subjects with respect, 14 March 2006

Watching over-the-top US comedy Saved! is like stumbling into an alternate universe as perturbing, in its own way, as Richard Kelly's cult hit Donnie Darko.

At American Eagle Christian High School, where Christian is all there is, it's the zealots who top the teen totem pole. Among them is Mary (Jena Malone) who's headed for a fabulous senior year with her best friend and leader of the Christian Jewels, Hilary-Faye (Mandy Moore), a mulleted gun-toting Barbie drowning in blue eye shadow. But when Mary falls pregnant to her gay boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) after surrendering her virginity to save him in the belief it will be miraculously restored, she's an outcast. While Chad's sent off to Mercy House, Mary befriends the 'freaks': Hilary-Faye's wheelchair-bound brother (Macaulay Culkin) and his troublemaker girlfriend Cassandra (Eva Amurri), the only Jewish girl in school. Meanwhile, Mary's Christian Interior Decorator of the Year mum (Mary-Louise Parker) begins a tentative romance with charismatic school principal Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan).

Director Brian Dannelly, who co-wrote the script with Michael Urban, wanted to satirise the intensity of teen Christian worship, where fainting at prayer meetings is not uncommon. Performances are good across the board, but Mandy Moore almost steals the film with her outrageous Hilary-Faye.

Saved! is an enjoyable teen comedy that has some important subtexts: it argues for tolerance of diversity, and the importance of looking beneath the superficial when choosing friends. It embraces families that differ from the traditional nuclear model and demonstrates why sex education is needed. But what's best about Saved! is that the characters don't abandon their faith, simply incorporate it into a more tolerant world view. Whether you're a Christian, atheist or something different, Saved! will gently amuse without overwhelming you with political correctness.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
stylised and fashionably tongue-in-cheek, but a little soulless, 14 March 2006

Napoleon Dynamite is a downbeat US indie film about an oblivious, low-EQ geek and his relentlessly strange family.

After some inventive credits featuring canteen food and a Chap stick, you're warped into Napoleon's unrealistic milieu, meeting his chat room-addicted Pampas-dependent brother (Aaron Ruell), his dune buggy-riding grandmother (Sandy Martin) and her pet llama, and Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) – a door-to-door salesman obsessed with time travel.

At school, there's immigrant Pedro (Efren Ramirez), whose broken English and new kid status make him Napoleon's default best friend. And when you meet 80s throwback pseudo fashionista Deb (Tina Majorino) and her pastel pink stirrup pants, you sense that Napoleon mightn't always be unlucky in love.

Writer/director Jared Hess (whose wife Jerusha co-scripted) have created a cult hit and shot the film's gangly lead, Jon Heder, to relative stardom. But despite the eccentricity and occasional hilarity of this film, there's no emotional core. Like Bad Santa, Napoleon Dynamite's peopled with characters you'd cross the street to avoid, but they're presented as zoo exhibits, rather than real people. And while it's daring not to play for laughs, this gamble doesn't entirely pay off – making Napoleon Dynamite slightly flat and slow moving. That it's original, however, you can't deny.

Watch out for Hilary Duff's little sister Haylie as teen queen Summer.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
forgettable but harmless animation kidflick, 14 March 2006

Disney animation Home on the Range stars, probably for the first time ever, three cows! Now maybe it's just because I'm lactose intolerant, but I've always thought cows were kind of boring, but when they're voiced by Dame Judi Dench, Roseanne Barr and Jennifer Tilly, they'll hold your attention.

Home on the Range is set in the wild west when prize-winning dairy cow Maggie is given to Pearl, the owner of the "Patch of Heaven" farm after her owner's bankrupted by cattle rustlers. Then Pearl finds out she's got three days to pay off her bank loan or she'll lose her home and livestock. So three dairy cows go to trap cattle rustler Alameida Slim so that they can claim the reward and save the farm.

It's not Disney's best, but it's lovingly rendered and beautifully coloured. And Cuba Gooding Junior as wannabe hotshot horse Buck is hilarious. I rate it 3½ stars for kids and 2 stars for adults.

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