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The Prodigy (2005)
A scavenging rat of a film
The 2006 Edinburgh International Film Festival has premiered an array of high quality feature films, imported from around the globe. However, there will always be a few bad eggs that manage to slip through the festival's cinematic net. 'The Prodigy' is not so much a bad egg, as a scavenging rat that has the ability to close down the most reputable of London restaurants. Previously well received in the United States, William Kaufman's gangster flic resembles a B-movie, as it follows tough-guy 'Truman' around the blood-stained streets of Dallas, Texas, attempting to track down a psychopathic assassin who has kidnapped a local mob-boss' nephew. Too often than not, the dialogue is mind-numbingly boring and the pitiful performances are enough to tip a suicidal man over the edge. A truly terrible film.
El habitante incierto (2004)
The Uncertain Genre
A curiously haunting Spanish film, which, in terms of genre, refuses to be pigeon-holed. The story begins as a mysterious thriller when Felix allows a stranger into his home to use the telephone. Fear and paranoia set in when the visitor inexplicably disappears, leaving Felix to suspect that the man is still lurking within the house. The eerie noises from upstairs eventually become too much for the spooked Felix, and he seeks sanctuary in a neighbour's house. The narrative then unexpectedly changes direction and goes down an incomprehensible and voyeuristic road that confuses as well as questions one's morality. Guillem Morales' impressive, if ambiguous, debut feature film will, at least, prompt baffled viewers to press rewind, after the credits role, to make sense of a film that may be too clever for its own good.
Die große Stille (2005)
Give & You Shall Receive
To the average spectator this is agonising viewing that requires concentration, open-mindedness and above all, diligence. But give, and you shall receive, as Philip Groning's monumental production demonstrates. For a monk of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, located in the French Alps, his chosen life is about seclusion, silence, contemplation, routine, repetition and prayer. Not to mention the daily chores and regular haircuts. The rhythms of life are slowed right down for these holy men of the church, and their devotion to their God, combined with Groning's majestical photography, is utterly awe-inspiring. This astounding documentary challenges the viewer's patience, but, in return, purifies their soul.
Dead Man's Cards (2006)
Fistful of Scousers
Liverpudlian ex-boxer, Tom Watts (James McMartin), one day finds himself impotent, jobless and burdened with a wife that is intent on leaving him. His life takes a twist, however, when he is hired as a bouncer and is immediately sucked into a dark and violent world of drugs, guns and gangsters who do a lot of unpleasant shouting and swearing. Conducted by James Marquand and funded by his own production company (Stray Dogs Films) 'Dead Man's Card's' resembles a drunk boxer: it certainly cracks a mean punch, but it lacks direction. The amateurish acting is not helped by an unimpressive script; however, the sinister and seedy setting is still competently created by Marquand. And although the story takes a dive in the closing rounds, the film is still a commendable debut from Stray Dog Films.
Schwarze Schafe (2006)
Close Encounters of the Worst Kind
This is dirty, filthy and frenzied cinema, with an array of cataclysmic characters, hell-bent on creating a modern cult classic. The foul-stench of comical entertainment pollutes the air, but smells of fresh originality. The film's five ludicrous story lines brings the viewer close encounters of the worst kind of Berlin inhabitants, including Satan worshippers, sexually-frustrated teenagers, a drunk lottery winner and a foulmouthed tour guide. The vulgarity of it all will prompt the odd nauseous belch from audience members, but the humour outweighs the crudeness and Oliver Rihs' black and white film blinds with comic crudity and colour. Black Sheep may not break the bank at the Box-Office, but it is almost certain to cause a stir in DVD sales.
East of Havana (2006)
El Cartel and The Special Period
The Cuban hip-hop movement came out of 'The Special Period' when Cuba's communist block collapsed and the economy was hanging by a thread. Since then rapper groups, such as "El Cartel" have become cult figures within their local community. In the only way they know how, these men and women voice their generation's anger towards the country's economic blockade through American-influenced music to carry their message. Beneath these acrimonious and emboldened lyrics lies hope, love, and compassion for their fellow Cubans dreaming of a more prosperous life. This delicately crafted documentary speaks volumes as it portrays the impoverished lives of three young and gifted rap artists, with grace and glorious sensitivity.
Uncouth youths in West German suburbia
Birgit Grosskopf's hard-hitting debut feature film depicts four cigarette-smoking, alcohol-drinking, troublesome adolescents, who wander in between the concrete skyscrapers of downtrodden West-German suburbia. These uncouth youths are surprisingly not boys but girls, with attitude, quick-tempers and foul-mouths, who violently vent their scorn on any unfortunate soul who gets in their way. Surrounded by a society that is obsessed with health and sex, the alienated foursome are left to prick-tease their male peers and pick fights with their female rivals. Grosskopf's fine direction is coupled with a witty yet gritty script that contains daring sexual humour and brutal imagery. This is a fascinating and coldly told tale of friendship, abandonment and the beauty of youth, minus the innocence.
Minority Report (2002)
A perfect example of how Hollywood works...
Minority Report could have been THE best Steven Spielberg picture to date. The moment when Tom Cruise is incarcerated along with the endless fields of pre-crime criminals was the moment the credits should have rolled and my mouth would still be open in awe of a fabulous and expertly crafted film, even more so because it starred Tom 'so wooden a woodpecker is pecking at my wooden head' Cruise, and even MORE so because it was conducted by the co-founder of the Hollywood blockbuster and master of happy endings - Steven Spielberg.
But, alas, that is not how Hollywood works. That ending is too bleak, too ambiguous, too risky for the studios. Didn't you get the memo? Audiences don't want to feel this strange sensation in between their ears as they leave the movie theatre, it might be mistaken for a brainwave; hold the phones!! Audiences might start to think about the film long after they watch it, they might include themselves in audience participation and meet the director half way, they might like it!! Disaster!! They might start to eat less of their extortionately-priced Extra-Large-Does-Not-Satisfy-You-In-Any-Way butter-soaked popcorn!! The popcorn corporations might not reach their profit targets for this year!! THE END IS NYE!!!!!
Or that's what Hollywood wants you to think anyway, and that is the reason for the added twenty minutes of drivel, that raps everything up in a neat silk-covered package with a red- ribbon and a Hollywood studio seal-of-approval.
At that moment, before the drivel starts to seep into the nervous system, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the last ounces of Spielberg's artistic credibility cry its last high- pitched "I'm melting!" shrieks as he puts his signature on the studio contract.
The Killing of John Lennon (2006)
Piddington and Ball are destined for greatness.
"I was nobody, until I killed the biggest somebody on earth". The words of Mark David Chapman perfectly sums-up this Andrew Piddington biopic of the estranged murderer of John Lennon. Not only does the film track Chapman's movements in the months leading up to the fateful event, but it also follows what happened to the killer from the moment he shot the infamous Beatle, right through to his committal into a psychiatric hospital. The unknown Jonas Ball's portrayal of Chapman is splendidly subtle and disturbing and combined with the artful and experimental direction of Piddington, 'The Killing of John Lennon' makes for an aesthetically pleasing yet chilling examination into the mind of a killer who just wanted to be famous.
Modern Cult Classic
The collaborative minds of two French co-directors, Xavier Palud and David Moreau have produced a financially efficient modern classic horror. Based on a true story, the narrative is simple enough: After a mysterious attack, by unknown assailants, on two car-crash victims in the Romanian countryside, a happy French couple, living in a large rented house nearby, are one night terrorised by hooded intruders. With hardly any music, the film relies on diagetic noises and sounds to creep-out the audience, with devastating effectiveness. And combined with a masterful use of darkness to temporarily blind and disorientate the audience, as well as the characters, Palud and Moreau have created a heart-thumping jump-out-of-your-seat gripper with a surprising and chilling twist.