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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 13.Jun.19

Deep Murder  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Deep Murder
dir Nick Corirossi
scr Quinn Beswick, Josh Margolin, Benjamin Smolen, Nikolai Von Keller
prd Eric B Fleischman, Andrew Swett, Jesse Berger, Brent C Johnson, Drew Foster, Patrick McErlean
with Quinn Beswick, Katie Aselton, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Chris Redd, Josh Margolin, Stephanie Drake, Jerry O'Connell, Christopher McDonald, Isaac Singleton Jr, Neel Nanda, Nikki Benz, Mickey Gooch Jr
release US 14.Jun.19
18/US 1h25

asleton, kennedy, mcdonald and drake
A bonkers comedy whodunit, this film plays like an extended comedy sketch as dim adult-movie characters try to catch a killer. The film opens in grainy VHS soft-porn style before the mayhem erupts, as it were. Yes, the plot and characters are utterly ridiculous. And for a porn spoof, director Corirossi never creates a single moment that's remotely sexy. But he drops witty gags all over the place.
Trapped in a Los Angeles mansion by a rather underwhelming hurricane, Doug (O'Connell) is having an affair with Babs (Aselton), the sister of his brother Richard (McDonald), whose nerdy teen son Hugh (Beswick) and his jock pal Jace (Redd) are hanging out with their lusty babysitter (Kennedy). Then sexy weather scientist Dr Bunny (Drake) arrives, and Doug turns up dead. Detective Cross (Margolin) turns up to catch the killer, but everyone has a motive. And Doug is only the first person who will die tonight.
The blurry video pastiche may end with the murder, but the actors never break character, remaining nonsensically goofy all the way through. The tone is broadly comical, with a punchline in virtually every snippet of dialog. Being characters in a porno, their initial instinct in every situation is to have sex, so they're rather confused that they're now looking for a serial killer. It's as if the fabric of their reality has come undone. And the odd mix of wackiness and horror makes the plot enjoyably unpredictable.

The actors manage to make these ludicrous characters both comically heightened and oddly realistic at the same time. Dialog is deliberately corny, and most interaction is flat-out absurd, but each actor somehow finds a grain of authenticity, which makes these likeably idiotic people easy to root for. Standouts are Beswick and Redd, who fully invest themselves in the craziness. Margolin hams up the detective role superbly, and Drake is hilarious as the eerily overqualified doctor.

With such a dense peppering of jokes, the hit rate is above average thanks to a knowing script and adeptly referential direction (Corirossi is a Funny or Die veteran). While the movie continually plays on porn and slasher cliches, one scene amusingly pays deliberate homage to the Bechdel Test, and there are surprising emotional moments as well. In other words, this wildly inane movie actually has elements of a strong satire. But more importantly, it's genuinely funny.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 13.Jun.19

Funny Story  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Funny Story
dir Michael Gallagher
scr Michael Gallagher, Steve Greene
prd Michael Gallagher, Jana Winternitz, Michael Wormser
with Matt Glave, Emily Bett Rickards, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo, Lily Holleman, Jessica Diggins, Aschleigh Jensen, Daisye Tutor, Pete Gardner, Jacob Wysocki, Blake Robbins, Reginald VelJohnson
release US 24.May.19
18/US 1h25

rickards and winternitz
With serious and even tragic story elements, this film attempts a delicate balance between edgy drama and brittle comedy. Realistic, understated performances help keep it grounded and engaging, as the knowing script explores unexpected connections, both new and lifelong ones. Intriguingly, the plot structure is difficult to predict, and there's a tenderness underlying the entire film that catches the audience off guard.
Former TV star Walter (Glave) has a pre-schooler with his pregnant girlfriend Lucy (Tutor), and wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter Nic (Winternitz), still angry that he dumped her mother for a much-younger woman. She tells him that her friend Kim (Rickards) is stranded in Los Angeles, so he offers to drive her to Big Sur. Walter and Kim struggle to get along until they stop for a few drinks and a spot of karaoke. And Then things go further. But this is a serious problem, because Nic and Kim are a serious couple.
Gallagher and Greene's script has a lot of fun with clashing personalities and awkward encounters. Nic's female enclave is hilariously warm and fuzzy, so of course it's threatened by Walter's inability to control himself. Sometimes, the entangled mess these people find themselves in feels rather soapy, because bringing all of the secrets into the daylight will potentially end every relationship. But the way it's played is refreshingly free from moralising, apart from, perhaps, the blood-is-thicker-than-water angle.

The actors are excellent, each finding earthiness in characters that have serious secrets and big issues to deal with. Glave has an offhanded charm as the actor who has botched his personal life in the past, and continues to do so. Still, his earnestness is likeable, even if his behaviour isn't. Rickards has perhaps the most complex role, a woman clearly battling internal demons while clinging to a chance for happiness. She's terrific, beautifully mixing joy and pain in every scene.

As a director, Gallagher maintains a comical tone that becomes very dark from time to time, sometimes wrenchingly so. This leads to a bit of mopiness along the way, as the plot lurches to a halt here and there. Sometimes, Gallagher fades out the dialog, as if he's struggling as much as the characters are with facing up to what has happened here. But these situations are deeply thorny. They're difficult to get through, and they force the audience to think about both our own behaviour and how we react to confessions from people we love.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 16.May.19

Last Summer  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
Last Summer
dir-scr Jon Jones
prd Cerise Hallam Larkin, Jon Jones, Katherine Lannon
with Noa Thomas, Gruffydd Weston, Rowan Jones, Christopher Benning, Steffan Cennydd, Ruth Ollman, Richard Harrington, Steffan Rhodri, Robert Wilfort, Nia Roberts, Nathan Sussex
release UK 7.Jun.19
18/UK 1h37

weston, thomas, jones and benning
With a powerful point of view and a riveting undercurrent of intensity, this otherwise relaxed and earthy 1970s-set Welsh drama gets deep under the skin. The fresh-faced cast and beautifully photographed locations make the film engulfing, even with a few niggling plot problems along the way. It's an open-handed, darkly moving film with a pointed message about how not to deal with a crisis.

Two sets of brothers are spending the summer running wild in the woods near their rural village. Young teens Davy (Thomas) and his brother Iwan (Weston) charge around with similarly aged Rhys and Robbie (Jones and Benning) from the farm next door. Rhys and Robbie's 19-year-old brother Kevin (Cennydd) has more responsibilities on the farm, but also takes time to teach them to fish. When tragedy strikes, the entire community goes into a massive convulsion, protecting the boys. But Davy is determined to help make things right again.
The story is told through Davy's eyes, which adds a personal, emotional kick to the film but also leaves several scenes feeling a little contrived. It becomes a little implausible that Davy is in all the right places at all the right times, especially in the climactic moments. Thankfully, the themes ring so powerfully true that this doesn't undermine the overall story. And writer-director Jones shoots the film with a doc-style urgency that pulls the audience in.

Newcomer Thomas is excellent in the focal role, an engaging lead who evokes both childish glee and very dark emotion without overplaying it. He has terrific chemistry with Weston, Jones and Benning as his three best mates, as well as powerful scenes with Cennydd, Wilfort and Roberts (as his parents) and Harrington (as a man involved in the situation). Each supporting role is strong enough to offer the cast members a chance to create properly layered characters, although Rhodri's police sergeant is a bit of a knee-jerk hothead.

This is quite a bold little film, and Jones fearlessly shifts the tone from nostalgic playfulness to extreme sadness very early on. Impressively, the serious issues never turn too heavy, and the narrative avoids melodrama, remaining refreshingly honest about how these people react to the dark series of events that set the plot in motion. There are also a few sideroads that offer intriguing angles (mainly involving animals like a misbehaving dog or an elusive barn owl), and at one point the film's central theme is clearly stated, reminding viewers to remember the good even when things turn bad.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.May.19

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