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Boy Culture (2006)
Confessions of a hooker - and quite good fun, at that...
Quite an interesting story of an insular, high-class, hooker "X" (Derek Magyar) who prides himself on staying emotionally detached and having never fallen in love. He shares his apartment with "Joey" (Jonathon Trent - who adores him) & "Andrew" (Darryl Stephens) and lives a faux-idyllic existence until he discovers a new client who doesn't want him for his body, but who helps him to identify what's missing from his rather empty life. It transpires that he is really in love with his roommate but hasn't a clue how to make it work.... This film is quite sensitively told - maybe the narrative style as "X" talks us through much of the film is a little grating at times, but It's quite an enjoyable drama with a slightly quirky ending.
Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (2014)
An nice little triumph for optimism...
This is a lovely, gentle film about a blind lad (Ghilherme Lobo). At school he meets new student (Fabio Audi) who helps him on his quest for independence from his loving, but overbearingly controlling parents; from his best girlfriend "Giovana" (Tess Amorim) and from the practical limitations of his visual impairment. Slowly, they fall for each other and this becomes a story about identity and confidence. The plot isn't going to surprise you; but the performances are strong and convincing and the dialogue flows well too. There's a good bit of Belle & Sebastian music thrown in, too.
The Surface (2015)
A little too light and fluffy, but the lead performance is worth the watch...
Harry Hains' portrayal of "Evan", an orphaned 22 year old is quite sensitive in this melodrama about a lad searching for a sense of identity and for family. He buys an old movie camera and some films and sets about restoring them to discover they are about the family of the man he bought it from. This triggers in him a need for a sort of emotional freedom so he splits from his long term boyfriend and takes up with the son of the man who sold him the camera. It's a good looking, if hardly ground breaking, film that tries to deal with self-appreciation and longing; and it makes a decent fist of it.
A truly stunning tale of bravery above and beyond....
I doesn't feel right reviewing a film of this stature when I watched it sitting in the comfort of an IMAX with a glass of Malbec in one hand and someone else's hand in my other... This depiction of the true horror of WWI really does get to the heart of the sacrifices made by ordinary, afraid, young men and lay them bare. I didn't find it particularly gory, or even scary for that matter, but Sam Mendes' direction, particularly of a wonderful George MacKay, but also of Dean-Charles Chapman is tender, taut and emotionally charged in a way that I haven't seen "Saving Private Ryan". The more established members of the cast - Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott feature sparingly, and do add value - but the film belongs undoubtedly to the two youngsters sent on an almost impossible mission across enemy lines to warn their comrades (one, being MacKay's brother) and save hundreds of lives. Thomas Newman's sensitive scoring and some magnificent cinematography from Roger Deakins make this an enormously engaging telling of courage, determination and loyalty. I'd sort of assumed "the Joker" was unstoppable as the best film at the Oscars this year; I certainly don't think that now! It does need a big screen to do it justice; and is very much worth seeing.
Diqiu zuihou de yewan (2018)
Way, way too long and meandering film noir.
I usually tend to consider the concept of a journey as having some sort of identifiable end - i.e. we get somewhere. This ponderous exercise seemed doggedly determined to frustrate me on that. There are a few more engaging scenarios (the young man who lives in the mine with the scooter, for example) but otherwise this failed to engage at all. Jue Huang portrays a man who returns to Guizhou after many years and we dance between his search for a woman of his past - told in real time and via his imagination and an investigation, of sorts, into a murder. The dialogue is contrived and the pace a little too glacial. It's quite an interesting observation of life in a run down Chinese city, but I felt that it offered me little more than that.
George Raft as I'd never imagined him - and he's great.
I wasn't aware of this film until I saw it last night at the BFI in London. I had always just assumed that George Raft is/was and always would be a gangster. Well he certainly isn't in this. His portrayal of a ruthlessly ambitious professional dancer is quite an eye opening experience - and he can definitely dance. Carole Lombard is equally engaging as his dance partner as they try to rise (largely with constant investment from his brother) from downbeat New York dance halls to glitzy Parisien salons. Ravel's "Bolero" was never my favourite piece of music (I blame Torvill & Dean) but it works really well here. It isn't an amazing film, but it has plenty of style, even a little humour and bags of charm.
Mediocre screenplay done on a grand scale...
An epically staged historical drama about the uprising in the Sudan by the Mahdi (Sir Laurence Olivier) and his army of Dervishes against the British Empire. Prime Minster William Gladstone (Sir Ralph Richardson) was initially opposed to committing troops to reverse this defeat, and so instead decided to send as an imposing military figure as he could - General Charles Gordon (Charlton Heston). Respected and loathed in equal measure, he travelled to the war zone and our story tells the tale of his attempts to combat the religious fervour and desire for freedom from this local population. The is a great looking film from Basil Dearden and the scale of the battle scenes are impressive; the acting less so and there is something frankly ridiculous about Olivier's portrayal of the Madhi. It's a long watch, too....
Mysterious Island (1961)
Plenty of oversized beasties and pirates to keep your imagination going...
This is one of Jules Verne's least well known stories. US Civil war prisoners (Michael Craig & Mickey Callan amongst them) escape captivity in a balloon and end up stranded thousands of miles from anywhere on a desert island. Shortly afterwards they are joined by two women - including a very refined "Lady Mary Fairchild" (Joan Greenwood) who have survived a shipwreck and they all wait to be rescued. Meantime, they encounter giant crabs and chickens, pirates and ultimately an equally stranded "Captain Nero" (Herbert Lom) who might just have a plan to escape. It's all just good sci-fi fun.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
An enjoyable take on some fun mythical adventures.
I always find with these stop-motion animation films that the wonderful Harryhausen creations always far out-act the human talent! Sadly, here is no different - Todd Armstrong in the title role and Nancy Novak as " Medea" are as wooden as the Argo in this retelling of the ancient Greek myth. It is still, however, an exciting action adventure though, with plenty of episodes to keep it moving along as Jason fights monsters and treachery to seek out the legendary Golden Fleece from the distant land of Colchis. It's got a decent enough, largely British, supporting cast with Honor Blackman standing out as his patron "Hera" and Nigel Green making for a wonderfully over-the-top "Hercules", but the spoils definitely go to Talos, the Harpies and the skeleton battle is fabulous.
A delicate, enjoyable example of less being more...
This is a lovely film. Mateo Chiarino is "Martin" a down on his luck young man who is looking for work. He stumbles across his childhood friend Manuel Vignau "Eugenio" who offers him some summer work as a handyman. The film then sedately turns into a love story. It is in no great rush to get anywhere; the photography is beautiful and the score gently nudges us to what we hope is the inevitable conclusion. The dialogue is sparing; much of the emotional tension is implied rather than imposed and though the lead characters are attractive, they are much less "pretty" than in, say, "Taekwondo". This is a classy piece of work.
As Elvis might have said "A little less conversation..."
Boy, talk about a slow burn! This is a gorgeous to look at film about a group of good looking straight (?) young men who get together for a weekend and spend much of it naked and stoned discussing their previous or next sexual conquests. Thereafter, it isn't really about anything - or did I miss something? We get a sense from early on that Gabriel Epstein "Germán" has the hots for his taekwondo buddy Lucas Papa ("Fer") but the meandering way in which this story progresses makes for a terribly ponderous route to courtship. It isn't that it needs to be end to end sex, it's that it ought to be end to end something! Basically, nothing happens....
A poignant tale of young love and bigotry...
Quite a well told story of a young footballer ("Szabi") who quits his team and his overbearing father to move to Hungary where his late grandfather has left him a dilapidated old house. Once he gets there, a few of the locals try to steal his motorcycle; he catches one ("Åron") and the story tells of their budding relationship as they work to restore the house (and to keep bees!) against a backdrop of traditional ignorance, intolerance and fear. The two leads deliver convincing performances for most of the film (the sex scenes don't work at all well) as they struggle to come to terms with what they want/need from each other, but the ending let's it down rather badly. Nonetheless, a much less sanitised coming-of-age story than many and well worth watching.
Missed opportunity, poorly executed.
Quite an annoyingly plodding tale of two friends - one successful, one not - who take a weekend trip and, of course, have the statutory "find themselves" sequence of conversations before reaching an ending that depicts appallingly violent behaviour in an almost comic, throw-away manner. It may well be that the artistic value here is in that Indian cinema was creating gay cinema at all, but this is not a good film, on any level.
God's Own Country (2017)
Francis Lee comes up trumps with this.
Josh O'Connor ("Johnny") is excellent as the frustrated rural English farmer cruising through life on the bottle, peppered with the occasional romp with the only other gay in the village (Harry Lister Smith). His father (Ian Hart) has long since stopped being able to run their farm and can now only contribute to the futility of his son's existence. They recruit an itinerant Romanian worker (Alec Secaeanu) to help out with the heavy lifting and a bond quickly forms that initially induces confusion and conflict before they realise that what both truly seek they can find in the other. It's a film that doesn't pull it's punches; isn't at all sentimental and aside from the occasional gentleness provided by his mother (Gemma Craven) is much less of a sanitised "urban" story about homosexuality than perhaps we are used to.
Dolfin Megumi (2018)
More about lust and unrealistic hope than love.
Quite an ordinary short film essentially depicting the tale of a one-night-stand between two twentysomethings. It's a good looking piece, but I couldn't help feel that it is merely trying to intellectualise a basic need for sex by injecting a little conversation and a forlorn hope that maybe afterwards comes companionship and/or even love.
Not at all what I was expecting...
Starts off as a rather pedestrian boy-meets-boy from a chat room story: Manu (preppy, butter-wouldn't-melt) and Julio (tattooed, edgy) and they go back to Manu's apartment whether they have rather clumsy pre-sex chat then off they go... Except, there is quite a bit more to this as it starts becoming a little more sinister and we become uncertain as to what's really going on. The ending is daft, but the route taken by director Marcelo Briem Stamm in his debut feature is quite interesting.
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
A bit over the top on the testosterone, but a fun action adventure...
Lee Marvin is charged with a mission to drum a dozen criminals and reprobates into some sort of cohesive military unit with a view to destroying an heavily guarded chateau that serves as a respite for high ranking Nazi officers. The challenge looks impossible as the band are assembled - a bigger crowd of cowards, thugs and zealots you would never hope to see; but with the assistance of his stoic sergeant (Richard Jaeckel) he manages to get Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Sonny Bono, Jim Brown and a woefully sleazy John Cassavetes to pull in the same direction. It's all good stuff, with plenty of humour to keep it all going nicely. Maybe a bit too long, but a good wartime action drama.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Brilliant, enthralling wartime drama...
A super adaptation of Alistair MacLean's wartime adventure story about a disparate team of army experts given the seemingly impossible task of destroying a German fortress on the Greek island of Navarone which houses two enormous guns capable of sinking a fleet of destroyers being sent to rescue a battalion of soldiers trapped on a nearby island. A great story with a first class ensemble cast of David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quayle, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker and Irene Papas star in this end-to-end action movie with plenty of twists and a cracking ending.
Amazing Grace (2018)
Fans will overlook the obvious flaws in this slightly idolising reflection of a great singer.
An observational documentary as Aretha Franklin's prepares to sing at a Baptist church in LA in 1972. It combines footage demonstrating the sheer power of her performance with a bit of the social politics of the time; the dominating role of the church in her (and the African-American community in general) life and of her deeply religious family. I found it more astonishing because a) someone at Warner Brothers had the idea to film such a low-key performance with quite such intimacy and b) that is survived pretty much intact. It's not great - there is too little performing and way too much pontificating, but it does offers us a realistic insight into how she lived her live back then.
The Last Straight Man (2014)
A decent effort at balancing hope, regret and uncertainty.
"Lewis" (Mark Cirillo) has always had a bit of a crush on "Cooper" (Scott Sell) so when the long-term friends get a bit drunk before the latter's bachelor party and end up having sex; he thinks his ships have all come in. Sadly not to be, though they continue to meet once a year in the same hotel room to relive their experience. Initially as a purely physical activity, but gradually, over the years, their reunions become more complex and emotionally charged. The pair gel quite well together, and the story tries to tackle sexual confusion and societal norms in an adequate, if not particularly novel fashion. It's a single-set production which is both limiting and focussing, but it still manages to gently challenge some pre-conceived behavioural concepts.
Quite an unique approach to gay fulfilment.
Quite an interesting tale of an handsome young hooker (Benjamin Bonenfant) who finds himself caught up in an architectural equivalent of an Escher drawing - he can't seem to find his way out! Whilst searching, he has a series of almost surreal encounters with various characters who need a variety of forms of sexual satisfaction. The ultimate encounter, rather unexpectedly, offers him some satisfaction of his own - physical and emotional - as he comes to terms with his own frailties. It's done on a shoestring, but classily and with some style. There is some nudity, but nothing gratuitous - it's a search for self, and actually works quite well.
Violent, gritty and authentic take on urban gay identity
A rather hard to watch, depressing tale of a young, emotionally repressed, gay man who hangs about with a gang of drug-fuelled yobs who like to terrorise and assault randomly. Wayne Virgo is good as "Cal" - and the story does pick up a bit of optimism as he slowly falls for one of the men they had previously beaten up and we start to think that maybe there is some light at the end of his tunnel? Once his "friends" and family discover his secret though, he is effectively disowned and driven into hiding. Marc Laurent who plays "Olivier' isn't the best, but this is still quite a realistic challenge to middle-class values of acceptance and tolerance.
A refreshingly honest challenge to typical twinky gay cinema
This isn't as edgy as "Shank" but the really rather quality performances from both Wayne Virgo and Tom Payne engender a great deal more hope in this sequel. It is, however, a bit more contrived and less plausible - and so loses much of the potency built up as "Cal" comes to terms publicly with his sexuality and deals with a positivley homophobic sick mother and a drunken aunt. It is quite an addictive watch, but ultimately that hope I was hoping for doesn't materialise and the ending is really quite weak.
Treasure Island (1950)
"ooh Arrrr, Jim Lad"
This is a cracking interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale of a hunt for a legendary treasure on a remote desert island. Bobby Newton is superb as the double-dealing, one-legged "Long John Silver" who would betray his own mother if needs be, enlisted by the foolish "Squire Trelawney" to raise a crew to get them to Hispaniola where Flint's treasure is reputedly located. Basil Sydney, John Gregson and Denis O'Shea complete the complement of "loyal" officers as against a crew riddled with cut-throats. It's a great seafaring adventure with it's fair share of twists and turns. It's odd to see Geoffrey Keen ("Israel Hands") as a baddie and John Laurie, Finlay Currie and a super Francis de Wolff all help Byron Haskin's adaptation to be the best of all...
Turtle Hill, Brooklyn (2013)
Nothing new here....
A fly-on-the-wall style drama that centres around the 30th birthday party of a gay guy in New York that has a few party games, reveals a few unpleasant secrets and generally retreads a well worn path of gay deceit, campness and betrayal.... In the end, I reckon the piñata got off lightly. Yada yada yada...