Franco-LA

IMDb member since January 2005
    Lifetime Total
    50+
    IMDb Member
    16 years

Reviews

Geography Club
(2013)

Closing Credits
The movie, given its budget, is essentially technically sound as far as some aspects. The lack of money is clearly visible in some areas, such as the sign-age for the high school. In others, such as the football game, sufficient extras and the location match that of a higher budgeted project (e.g. Friday Night Lights, etc.) Some of the technical aspects were actually conveyed well, such as the cinematography: one good example is the rain scene kiss, some of the bike riding shots, etc. The acting is generally good, but with no real standouts.

However, where the story fails is with the character development, plotting, script. A good number of the reviewers here have complained with changes from the book to film; some of these have blamed the poor characterizations on this factor as well. However, a book is not a movie and, as someone who read the book some years ago, this is NOT the problem here.

Some of the changes are not apparently necessary, nor improvements (for example, there's no real good reason to make the Ike character into one form of stereotype in exchange for how he was portrayed in the book). Other changes (such as Russell not being sure he wants to identify as gay at the start of the movie, unlike book Russell), or the changes to other characters are really less issues, and in some ways, integral to the themes the movie wants to explore: coming out as a teenager is hard, teens have to deal with peer pressure on multiple levels, parental pressure, homophobia and bullying.

In respect to these themes, the movie fails and comes across as very dated, particularly when you consider movies far older than the book source (Edge of Seventeen or Get Real), covered these topics with much better scripts and character development. The YA adult section of any library also has a surfeit of books (any by David Levithan) with more interesting characters and plots than the source book here.

Where the characters (and thus the story) are harmed here is with their shallowness - such as Trish and Kimberly (Kimberly is a one dimensional aspiring drunk unable to go for the guy she wants so doing an end-run with his less desirable friend for some unexplained, unknown reason in spite of the portrayal as aggressive and domineering otherwise). In particular, it is implausible that four sets of parents would allow age 16 teens to go away for an entire weekend unsupervised. Yes, a set of parents could go out of town and their child could have a party with alcohol for one evening, for which other kids could sneak away, but we are unnecessarily told (for what happens) that is a two day event.

It's even more implausible that authority figures would not have done something to the boys who clearly pushed out the Brian character from the cafeteria closet, particularly given that adults are shown with the same clear site lines that the Nim character enjoyed as Russell slipped guiltily out. Most preposterously, the posting of the flyer with a fairly innocuous and truly ambiguous snap shot of a boy pushing a girl away is in no way an outing, and not particularly an embarrassing, shaming outing (in comparison to a bar, underwear and lipstick humiliation, say). Even the most homophobic student body would not so immediately discarded someone who just won a football game for them with such ease without further proof (and, unless the movie does not tell us this fact, but is chronological takes place in say 2001, the digital image from what looks like a current era cell phone would have been uploaded to social media, not pasted onto paper flyers).

The movie fails because it's shallow, simplistic and BAD; the problem is not deviation from the book, it's simply a poorly written/plotted movie with undeveloped characters. Yes, teenagers might benefit from stories about bullying, peer pressure and homophobia - but there are far more superior existing movies for that.

Role/Play
(2010)

Excessive, Plodding and Extremely Preachy
As others point out, this is a movie that has was too much dialogue (the comparison to My Dinner With Andre with Speedos is apt) - and the director is definitely in love with his words; unfortunately, it's an excessively narcissistic obsession that no one else will be able to share, much less enjoy.

What passes for wit is that even though the soap opera actor lead is 12 years older than the gay activist role, the mid-30s man living in West Hollywood and active in the gay community would not know some random pop culture references such as Dynasty and Dallas (for which the other actor would have been a teenager during their height).

As with a number of recent low budget films aimed in this market, there is a minimum of technical proficiency in some respects, but given that this level is hit by so many others films, it needs to do MORE than merely be lit or in focus - the camera work should have some vigor and move a story, capture nuances in performances, etc. Likewise, a script should not just plod from Point A to Point B, as the trope states, you could put a thousand monkeys in a room with typewriters and they might turn out Hamlet; in this case, apparently, one writer-director couldn't do much than turn out a vanity project of sorts.

eCupid
(2011)

Redundant Rom-Com Clichés
As someone else pointed out, this plot is a very predictable collection of romantic comedy clichés - with the minimal distinction that the leads are two men. It's equality in the sense that even lousy movies can be made for us, so that we as homosexuals can think of ourselves as more than clever or stylish, but as trite, boring, simplistic, absurd and illogical as "Who's That Girl," "My Bosses Daughter" or "All About Steve" - just think, that last movie, which got nominated as Worst Picture of 2009, with Bullock and Cooper as Worse Screen Couple (http://tinyurl.com/n8z3qnf).

Of course, this movie would never been recognized for a Razzie due to a lack of mass appeal. That it was picked as a selection at three gay film festivals (all three of which have some 4 or so dozen features selected) OR that it won some "awards" at three random festivals, awards which do not even get listed on a site such as IMDb (or any other similar sites) speak volumes at how minimal standards are today - when a truly interesting gay relationship story such as say DESERT HEARTS would have been the official selection and something like this would have been ignored by the selection committee.

El sexo de los ángeles
(2012)

Marketing misdirection
This title appears under "gay" - which could be considered accurate if you would consider the Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION to be a gay film. The box cover for the film is also inaccurate, in describing which character is the martial artist (and karate instructor would actually be far more accurate) and which was the observer; additional, it was a street pickpocketing, discovered in mid-theft, which turned physical in one brief blow, not a "violent mugging." For gay audience, this film is also problematic as others have pointed out, in that the heterosexual sex scenes are very nude and graphic (and in clear view taking place between two partners), while the gay sex scenes are brief, either very hidden or only partially unclothed and suggested. Personally, I don't have a problem - the forced, put upon full frontal nudity that some gay films feature -- particularly in this day and age when so much full on hard core nudity is so readily available for free, just feels strained at best. If they had shown only one of the graphic scenes between Bruno and Carla (probably the one after he came from the country, where it was integral to pushing the story where it was at that moment) would have sufficed, if they two male actors (or the director, and crew) were uncomfortable being more equitable - otherwise, this is a position that many similar movies have taken and it's equally annoying and a good reason to rate a movie as a pass.

Technically, the movie is reasonably proficient and uses it's low budget well, with the camera work being the best thing about it. The actress who plays Carla comes across as annoying and underwritten or, in her own words, written as pathetic, to know if her acting is any good. Being the mermaid in a large summer tent-pole movie (which was likely shot after THIS, not the other way around as some people have written based purely on festival and other distribution patterns) is not at all a recommendation for future roles.

The guy who plays the RAI role has a certain charisma but come across more as a user than anything else; the line where his friend says he is a seducer and more into the hunt than anything else is probably more telling, and that he didn't realize what getting involved with Carla would do - other than as another pelt on his belt, also speaks poorly for the character. He does gets off a few interesting lines, but these are the 2 am, sitting around in a dorm room, bullshitting with your friends, thinking you are brilliant to have discovered what the real world is and what it is like revelations. If you are young, immature and unworldly, yes, he's the character to get some pearls of wisdom from.

The movie has far too many 'fridge logic' moments (such as the lack of response in four days, listening to the toxic friend, throwing all the ex's stuff in garbage bags, ex shows up and garbage trucks are rolling away scene, as just one example) to make you engaged in the film. The leads are attractive enough, but they are actors - in a film, you don't expect any less from a scripted show on a lesser channel like the CW, yet you aren't necessarily going to give up an hour of life (including commercials) on it, are you. The story doesn't really tell us anything too, the situation it presents may have happened as laid out to the writer/director, but in addition to being far from universal, there's nothing there for most people to really feel entertained or informed after viewing.

The idea of fluid sexuality has been handled better in other projects. A movie about someone who has felt one thing for most of his life (in this case heterosexuality and a companionable affection and loving relationship with someone for numerous years) can suddenly feel something different and unusual for someone else - yet still desire the known quantity and wish for that companion and relationship - might have, with far better writing, made a mildly interesting character study, even if nothing new.

Bisexuality is not really dealt well as a topic - and many gay men are highly uncomfortable with true bisexuality so it would need to be marketed in a distinct and overboard manner, not as this was, but this is neither an accurate portrayal of bisexuality nor was it really meant to be.

Kiss Me Deadly
(2008)

Foreseeably Fatal Film
The really merits more of 2 and 3/4 stars, for the most part, it is adequately proficient for a low budget made for TV (with problems such as the exceedingly slow car chase, the equally exceedingly limited amount of action for an 'action/thriller' genre film) and is only hurt further by the very predictable elements thrown in (an entire spy agency takes forever - and fails to trace a phone, but the bad guy in the bad frosted hair job finds the phone in a bathhouse almost instantaneously?) further weaken the willingness to give credit for the cast and crew being somewhat game.

There's no chemistry between the actors and the performances, even from a known elements such as Rhys-Davies, are perfunctory at best. Ian Roberts is a very attractive man, but is wasted as a heavy, in a role typically given to stunt men who want to act, as an example of where the performances fail. The low budget elements (such as the makeup job on the lead's lover after the darkroom attack by the bad guys) are seriously, albeit unintentionally laughable.

This might have been more successful if they gone for a camp and fun spy conception, as Clive Owen did for his part in the Steve Martin version of the Pink Panther, or the David Niven (Bond) version of Casino Royale. Instead, this looks and feels like a TV pilot that a network spent some money on and then realized it didn't deserve to be picked up for a full season.

The Stranger in Us
(2010)

The Disappointment In Us (Who Watched This)
I saw this movie for free as a film festival volunteer in San Francisco. The way that the film festival works, you "work" a film, at the start AND the end of the film, to get to watch a film you really want to watch. While you don't have to stay and watch the film, most of the volunteers do. So if you work the system well and are lucky, you get to watch two movies you really are interested in, for the "price" of one.

However, this was not my lucky day. This was NOT a movie I was interested in, rather the volunteer coordinator sent out an email blast asking people to volunteer for this or a few other films that were not getting spots filled. As this movie was shot in and the filmmaker was from San Francisco, I figured what could it hurt, but boy was I wrong.

I love interesting, independent film. Complicated doesn't bother ("Pi," as just one example, since there are not too many gay themed films that can be considered very complex in their content and style); however, there is no genuine artistic merit or basis for the way the THIS particular story is told in respect to it's timeline.

In fact, the main problem that "The Stranger In Us" suffers from that of many first time gay films, which is the director making the choice of working from his own script. In this particular case, this guy has a few shorts to his credit, but in a short, you don't find the glaring mistakes that are amplified in an entire film - the choices that make no sense, the dialogue full of holes, the plot gaps that are as big as a bridge tunnel, etc. This film is replete with them.

The film doesn't have the saving grace of even having some innovative ideas or concept that could rescue it from simply being a mediocre film. The only really different aspect in this film is the treatment of spousal abuse between two gay men. The fact that this happen is often unreported in the gay press itself, much less touched upon artistically, either in short stories, films or by gay musicians. So there's the seed for what might be an interesting film or the aspect of a couple's relationship to explore in a film.

Otherwise, there's absolutely nothing to recommend this film - other than what an audience should expect - which is sufficient technical proficiency given it's budget: meaning, the sound is adequate and the film is in focus, etc.

Even as a free streamer on Netflix, where I noted recently that this was available, I would pass it along.

Get Your Stuff
(2000)

Unimpressive would be too kind
It's hard to imagine that anyone other than a financial backer of this film or the mother of the director or script writer would consider this the best film they had ever seen (perhaps it is the ONLY gay movie they have ever seen?) or that it was a cross-over hit (just as "Gigli" was that monster rom-com/action thriller that Hollywood was always hoping for to finally overthrown "Titanic" at the top of the box office).

The plot is highly contrived and even for the time it was produced, full of very clichéd roles (such as the drag queen in the pool party scenes at the start of the film) or the trite situations throughout the film, such as the "break up," "cheating," "flats of strawberry reconciliation," etc. As other reviewers have noted, there are just way too many scenes that would never ring true, even in a bad sitcom or Lifestyle movie of the week, such as the mother's rapid conversion to soberhood.

I was caring for a friend's dog and otherwise house sitting while they were out of the country and came down with a cold. They have Netflix streaming is this was one of a very few handful of gay films on Netflix I had not seen (and many of the films that fall in this category was actually even worse dogs then this -- we're talking NEGATIVE vote numbers like -10 if IMDb allowed those scores) or I would likely have also stopped watching this after the first few minutes, but it reminded me so much of the essentially plot of "Patrik 1.5" that I wonder if that script writer was aware of this dross. They do have Netflix in Sweden after all....

Patrik 1,5
(2008)

"Get Your Stuff" in Swedish
Honestly, one is hard pressed to understand how folks care so little to show any actual insight or to reflect thoughtfully on what they take in as films as to judge this so highly on the basis they typed out here in their other reviews. As many noted, this is very predictable. Worse then predictable is the contrivances set up so that the plot occurs as the screenwriters limited imagination and creativity drags it forward. Yes, some of the acting is decent or better, but none of these people are going to be nominated for their acting in any significant way. That it won an audience award at the SF film festival has more to do with people's desire for approbation and the fact that it was a foreign film - as similar films, such as "Breakfast With Scott" (again, weak plot, contrived scenes, decent acting) or even the more closely related film, except it featured two brothers, only one of which was homophobic, "Get Your Stuff," (and again a week, contrived plot albeit exceedingly similar in that the couple except a baby and ended up getting two pre - teens) don't get the same kind of love -- mainly and quite frankly -- because their defects are far more clear and obvious in English.

The Saddest Boy in the World
(2006)

The Sad Boys Club
This is a long-form type short, with a great sense of set design, art direction, framing and a number of other technical aspects; they all work to invite you into the narrative and help embellish and further the story. The coloring also gives this short a very EDWARD SCISSORHANDS or PARENTS look and feel which adds to the black comedy elements. Additionally, it benefits immensely from a strong script and a very strong POV from the director.

The performances, especially of the lead boy, Benjamin B. Smith, in the role of Timothy Higgins, are uniformly strong and this is highly recommend. Hopefully, this director will put his "trilogy" on DVD as some point for folks to enjoy, as these festival favorites are not currently available for view and shorts rarely are available outside of a few urban areas, as part of festivals. Particularly given that the director is Canadian, these have yet to be readily available in the US.

Dog Tags
(2008)

Padded and Confused
This film doesn't require the suspension of disbelief -- it's more like putting your complete trust and faith that some of the meaningless meanderings and pointless plot contrivances will actually solidify into something coherent -- however that trust and faith would be misplaced.

Unfortunately, the marketing of this film -- even in film festivals and by the gay press -- prior to it's release as another in a long line of TLA piece of craps -- was as a gay romance or even a bromance between a gay man and a straight man on a mission of self-discovery. That may have been a good story -- but instead we get all these side tracks, the bad tropes of someone who directed and wrote a piece of crap like BEVERLY KILLS and still hasn't learn anything better -- such as the fiancé who wants to get pregnant to get ahead in life AND wants to send her fiancé to the marines (where if he died in war, she'd get squat) and so she still jumps on anything and everything -- and pointless and annoying conversations with the mothers of both characters -- or a long segue-way at a 'exclusive' gay party of the proper kind of 'rich' 'sophisticated' gay men every gay boy should dream of being -- which of course means a lot of martini's and not wearing underwear and having sex with the two guys willing to do gratuitous full frontal nudity (aka the porn models brought on set).

As others have pointed out in their reviews, there are two many elements that make no sense or worse, add nothing to the movie -- other than to contradict what the director may have wanted to do with the characters -- such as having Andy lock his son in his car, not feed him, want to abandon him with either his mother or whomever took him while he was at said exclusive party. The scene having the Nate character walk all that long way to and from his supposed Dad's office was also unexplained -- and worse -- pointless. How did he know where the bathroom was without asking, much less the father's office, how did he know how to get around? And worse, as others pointed out, was the obvious use of a stand in portions of the so-called intimate scenes with Nate and Andy. In any event, there is no sense in how Nate goes from a fiancé who he is willing to impregnate to even simply kissing and showering -- and even more importantly -- trusting and just befriending a guy who is essentially a total stranger who was merely a transport from point A to point B.

These plot holes are either pointless or plot contrivances (having Nate be walking in the middle of the desert just to be found by the local porn producer) and make what little there may have been to point this movie down a successful path and just shove it down a fruitless one.

Socket
(2007)

Unusual Premise Poorly Plotted, Badly Acted/Directed/Executed
If your expectations are so low that nudity in a non-adult film is sufficient to get you to watch a movie, particularly given how easy it is to find nudity and near nudity on line without going to an adult site, then this is probably the movie for you. If you expect good technical production values, an excellent and plausible story, good direction and acting, then you want to avoid this film. It does feature a unique element in the plot - at least for a gay theme indie film, and the director did do a little more with the low budget than some other films out in the past five years have accomplished. However, this is another case where a first time director, working from his own plot, is felled (and his projects fails miserably) because there is no director to call the writer on the weakness of his plot, or no writer to argue with the director about where the move is being moved or pushed away from the script -- or simply to toss ideas around with.

The performances aren't horrible, but the two leads are not as charismatic, particularly Montgomery, to get the plot from point A to point B as per the story, and the movie finally fails on the weakness in the plot, particularly towards the end of the film.

Gone, But Not Forgotten
(2003)

Awkwardly Bad and (hopefully) Soon Forgotten
There are a lot of technical problems with this film, as have been pointed out in other user comments. Unfortunately, if the script is also weak (which is it) and the performances don't elevate the material, it highlights the other problems. This is the case with this film.

It features many of the problems with first time directors and first time writers, especially when they are working as one and the same. The script might have been improved with different direction, and likewise a director who was not trying to film his own material would have likely had more distance and objectivity about any number of the flaws, weaknesses, poorly developed plot points, bad dialogue and the numerous other problems present in this film.

A number of users have recommended the film as OK and NICE and therefore, at least, worth watching so long as you don't have the expectation of great art or, even, at minimum a genuinely decent, engaging film. If that's how you want to spend some two hours of life, time you will never get back, then I guess that's as logical a criteria as anything else. However, there is no shortage of independent films with gay content that feature a decent to good script, decent to good acting or other factors which help elevate the material from the typical indie film glitches than can happen on a low-budget film. You can and should expect more from a film and definitely more than this delivers.

La confusion des genres
(2000)

Well Made But Ultimately
The plot was too confusing and the protagonist was not that endearing to hold your attention. The acting was good, particularly the lead; however, his personality is not one that affirms he could have attracted such a broad and diverse group of males and females -- essentially everyone who came into his immediate orbit. The relationship between his employer seemed the more comfortable and most developed one and therefore her willingness to both sleep with and marry him was more believable. They both went into this disaster with eyes wide open and it appeared that they were willing to do it because they felt they had no real choices. It's an interesting movie and one can see the appeal to others, but it's a bit more precious without saying as much to recommend to everyone.

The Houseboy
(2007)

Genuinely Bad
It's surprising that anyone would think this is typical of a gay person's lifestyle; everything in the movie does happen -- some gay men are very aimless, spend a lot of time on line and look for casual pleasure, usually sexual, and some gay guys also abuse drugs. It can even be prevalent but it's not typical.

Probably the most realistic of the interludes was the one where the older gentlemen picks up the titular "House Boy," likely thinking he's homeless on a cold winter night, takes him home and offers him coffee in lieu of the hot chocolate Ricky (the HB) desires, and when Ricky goes to repay with oral sex (because, after all, that's all that a 21 year old aimless, depressed suicidal gay boy can offer in return), the older man reveals that he is HIV+ positive, which -- all of sudden -- makes Ricky want to dash out and away from this older, friendly face, even being rude in doing so with an offhand remark. This does happen, every day.

However, it's typical of the film (such as filling the gay couple's apartment with "strays" to bludgeon the audience with the plot point that the HB himself is a stray), to get its points mixed up, to confuse them with plot and character development and to use them to not only take an easy way out. Or the "hate the sin, love the sinner" phone call, with a sister who sounds old enough to be the protagonist mother's. The film is full of these elements to, once again, to hit the audience over the head with, such as the kitten at the end of the movie to mirror what Simon would find if Ricky did, indeed kill themselves, the entire seasonal aspect of the movie is just one easy, short-hand cop out by a filmmaker who lacks the true talent to make a genuinely touching movie.

This is just a bad movie with little rationale, poor dialogue, bad acting, an uninteresting, unimaginative plot and simplistic, narrative devices.

It makes no sense, for example, for Ricky to willingly do lines of one kind of drug but refuse to smoke an equally potent and harmful other kind of drug, at a later date, to be willing to let the Christmas tree die, to not take care of the pets as requested. Or to be willing to let an obvious user personality, invite guys over for his own pleasure, bringing excessive guys over, even when Ricky earlier on said "no more than one extra guy" and not care about feeding the turtle, and more importantly go on and on about committing suicide and not be willing, in this day and age, to do what countless of men who hook up for casual sex do, which is go down another guy. The scene where one of the guys on drugs chats with the HB about death and asks him Ricky to perform an unsafe sex act to completion with him and Ricky says no, makes little sense when the filmmakers are implying in the H**g2727 on line chat that he can't use a condom because none are big enough for him (thus suggesting they would have sex without condoms) and then moving to a scene of the same guy having anal sex with Ricky to completion. Finally, if he wants to die, one can see that he would think HIV would take too long, but if he would be dead within a few days, there isn't much rationality in the character's thought process to refuse unsafe sex or drugs -- for what? A prettier corpse?

Except for the drug fueled orgy, the guys he scores on his own are also way out of his league. They are not only older, better looking, better built, but appear far more functional; given the choice, there's no reasonable reason for them to have paired up with Ricky. Other than to get some gratuitous, unnecessary nudity. And like the nudity, the movie itself is pointless and arbitrary, just like the tacked on hot chocolate happy ending.

While not specifically about drug use and gay men, Half Nelson is a better movie about that, and for a movie that wants to explore intimacy and loneliness among gay men, and what extent they may go to find what they need, Circuit, as just one example, is far better.

Tout contre Léo
(2002)

Another Flawed Writer/Director Gay Themed Film Project
This is an interesting movie that reflects the elements of being a non-US release, and it has many nice moments, including moments of great bonding between the father and his sons, and between the brothers. However, the movie is marred by some very obvious and frankly trite interludes, such as the death of the chicken, the lengthy episode with Ivan and Marcel, some of the Paris scenes (while some were loverly moments, others just felt like they padded the film out - such as the bench scene, the sexual interlude at the hotel lobby with the desk clerk), etc. They don't add to the film and the detract from the narrative and mar the message (and frankly also help to muddy matters).

If the movie was overlong and narratively dense, it would be one thing, but the movie is very short and much of it jumps, without explanation. If the movie were merely an exposition of family life, it would be one thing. But it's not -- that's merely one element.

Another thing that hurts the film is the fact that a 1996 book (that likely was written somewhat earlier than that) that finally got made into a made for TV movie released some six years later (and despite some of the praise on here, the film does feel very much like a well-made and well-intentioned but filmed teleplay nonetheless), the notable thing about Close to Leo is how dated it is in its approach to an HIV diagnosis or to a drug cocktail (15 pills? No one is taking 15 pills as a first line HIV therapy in this decade, and certainly not in France in 2002). While the family may have been a provincial one, even in 1996, an HIV diagnosis was not a death sentence and certainly in 2002 it was definitely not one. While plenty still die from HIV and others do not want to take a drug cocktail, nothing is done to establish any real or genuine basis for the perceived ending of this film.

The other flaw of the film is the limited (and in some respects conflicted - such as her sudden desire to have sex with the father immediately after he consoles Marcel over the slap at the dinner table) role the mother is given. Some of what the actress is forced to do is absurd, such as the wearing of the burgundy (or perhaps it was intended to be blood red) dress without shoes and her collapse in the garden.

This is a typical problem with a writer director film, particularly unfortunate as this happens with their first film and this is at least his second film, depending on when they were produced and shot, versus the release date.

Watchable but not worthy of some of the comments on here or it's current higher score. Not as bad as some of the negative comments, just deeply and unfortunately flawed.

Yossi & Jagger
(2002)

Brokeback before Brokeback Was A Mountain
This is a very intelligent and well made movie, clearly a lower budgeted production but with far more thought and effort (as well as obviously more resources) than many other independent films. However, it is more a snap shots (or more accurately a series of snapshots), than a true film, more of a very extend short than a complete cinematic tale.

The performances are excellent throughout. The visuals and locations are put to good use; the biggest problems are some glaring weaknesses in the plots (for example, the role of the two women; this is not the role you imagine nor you come to see is accurate, of women in the military in Israel); as well, the conclusion is to be expected from the second half of the film, when the superior officer arrives and insists on the ambush. However, in spite of these and some other minor plot weaknesses, including the spareness of the film, it's overall enjoyable and recommended, particular for the performances, some of which are genuinely excellent.

Blue Citrus Hearts
(2003)

Over Ripe Fruit
Blue Citrus Heart is an independent film. It can be traditional to cut indie films some slack in certain areas because some technical aspects of the film making process do cost money. However, it certain respects - script, direction, basic acting competence, editing, etc., the viewer should have every expectation of a good product.

BCH fails in both respect - the sound mix is poor, the camera work is uneven (to put it nicely) and the lead performances, for the most part, are either underplayed, badly played, or in a few cases, overplayed. Perhaps this was more the scripts fault than that of the actors - it was full of clichéd characters (for example, the supportive, doting single mother; the abusive, overweight, balding, hairy backed "get me another beer" who doesn't seem to know the meaning of the words 'please' or 'thank you' and who is 'disappointed' in his overly sensitive son; the clueless, pushy "girlfriend," etc.). Worse of all, the script is highly predictable. Someone gives you a business card (or a handout or a pamphlet) from a local gay group and although you are a typical shy, secretive, distrusting teenager, you merely stick it in your clothes pocket - which of course you never empty out yourself - for your mother to find so she can have that 'heart to heart' chat with her gay son, which in this case the director chooses to lace numerous times with the F word for that added touch of realism.

Intentions (good or bad) do not make a watchable unless there is a camp value of some sort. In this case, where the vote count is middling, with a number of low scores and a number of rave comments, some by users with no other comments on any other films, and you have to unfortunately wonder how many of them are valid, from disinterested 'average' consumers who do genuinely like the film -- for whatever reason. Every film has a certain dichotomy where a few people will always rave and a few will always loath, but when it's the two extremes, especially to such a small film, you have to wonder. After watching it several times, and having reviewed nearly 100 films on here, I have to wonder about the raves, not the low scores. That's genuinely unfortunate for the people who come here wanting to know if something is worth renting, much less buying.

Hirsute
(2007)

Leaves You Interested In More
This short, by a gay filmmaker, has both some science fiction elements (time travel) and some gay elements, but to be considered either a sci fi or gay short both would miss classify and suggest something other than what this short actually is about - a very clever and interesting story about identity and self-perception.

This is the type of short that makes you want to see a longer feature by the writer/director, and also makes you want to know more about what happens to the protagonist. This is also the flaw, typical of shorts, that it is somewhat oblique and unresolved. Unfortunately, this is frequently the "nature of the beast," so to speak, due to funding and other time constraints. However, many aspects of this short are well handled, such as the time travel elements, with cleverness and imagination.

Garçon stupide
(2004)

The Gamut of Emotions and Feelings From L to K
Why L to K? Because that makes as much sense to me as the concept of this movie likely has for the director. This film suffers where many first time films fail (gay or straight) when a director chooses to film their own script. In this case, he also did the cinematography. The film is very impressionistic and also very slow. It takes some digressions, a few brief ones and one long one (the soccer player subplot), which in spite of some comments on here, really accomplishes nothing to advance the development of the main character that could not have been accomplished more logically, otherwise. The other flaw in this movie is the lack of logic. As an example, if Marie has goals and ambitions, in spite of whatever feelings she may or may not feel for Loic, why would she commit suicide, particularly if she had already sent him from her life. There is no rationale in some of the action in the film other than the director obviously did not know how to push the plot forward.

As a coming of age story, this is very weak. As a movie, the plot made little, if any sense. As a movie about the interior development of a character, of his realization of his place in society and the world, the movie suffers from an inconsequential lead with little to offer other than (at least apparently based on some reviews here and elsewhere) what some view as good looks. That is not enough to hang a life on, much less a 90 some minute film.

Nine Lives
(2004)

Six Degrees of Predictability
This is another example of an independent movie (particularly a gay themed indie) that suffers from a weak and (in this instance) self-indulgent screen play. Given the slim running time, another factor which hurts the film is the large number of "interlocking" (and I use the term loosely) stories with the limited time given to most of them -- with the exception of the dysfunctional gay couple. To be fair, it could be said that since they represent two of the nine characters, that their interlude was probably only longer for that reason -- however, the length allowed their segment to be more fully developed. Their story - and the remaining stories were, in turns, predictable, repetitive, unoriginal, and aspects of which have been handled in movies from Circuit to Jeffrey, All the Rage to Mysterious Skin, and any number of other movies (or books, plays, etc.) that predate this feature.

The feature also suffers from a more low budget look than typical. Given that the script tries to take places in several geographic locations and time frames, the obviousness of some locales was absurd. Downtown Los Angeles is often used successfully to take the place of New York City, yet for some reason a neighborhood in east LA was used -- most likely budget and permit issues. So, if you cannot afford to film in a good location, change your script! Likewise, the flashback with Carlos. Since the actor was obviously not a teenager in his interlude, why use him to portray his past life -- when it would have been easy to get a latino looking teenager in Los Angeles to do the confessional scene? The lighting, editing, and camera work were also substandard, particularly the lighting.

Another unfortunate problem with the script is a problem in how the director filmed some of the stories in such unrealistic elements and portrayals. For example, with the couple Corey and Daniel being so concerned about safety and HIV transmission, there's no basis (other than stupidity and lazy scriptwriting) to have either have unsafe sex -- more so Daniel, since he's the one who did it at least three times that we know of. Likewise, there equally unrealistic elements in other stories: if Carlos was upset about his parish priest and angry or upset about his mother, why would he engage in unsafe sex with anyone? There are additional incongruities in these stories and similar problems with every other interlude. Likewise, there were casting issues that (while typical of low budget productions) creates comparable incongruous issues with the pairings (for example, the Bo and Mikey hook up isn't plausible nor is the Corey Daniel relationship - as scripted).

The film is probably more of a 1.5 but since IMDb doesn't allow fractional rating, it only rates a one for my criteria. Not worth checking out and not worth even the price of a rental. If you want a dated film about HIV, get the more enjoyable and well made Jeffrey. If you want a more updated film about HIV, check out The Man I Love. If you want to check out a movie with mixed stories about men of a certain age, Love! Valour! Compassion! is a better bet.

Ha-Buah
(2006)

Well-Made, Watchable
I've seen nearly all of this director's film and found somethings that were not to my taste in all of them. This particular film, because it focus on a political conflict with religious and historical reaches that go back centuries, will never be simply viewed as a piece of art, but for the purpose of this review, I will limit my comments to technical ones regarding the film, performances, scripts, production, etc.

Technically, this is a very proficient film. The performances are, for the most part, uniformly good, particularly among the leads and most of the significant supporting characters. The description of it by some users as a sort of Sex In The City / Friend's hybrid is only correct to the extent that parts of the movie have that vibe and such relationships are universal, irrespective of whether the friends are in New York, Tel Avi, Buenos Aires or Tokyo. However, this movie is not a situation comedy by any stretch of anyone's imagination, nor does it resolves its problems in neat, compact story arcs. The script presents many interesting and intriguing elements. Where it takes liberties, it is clear that these are necessary to move the story forward.

The movie is watchable and well-made. It's certainly worth the rental and certainly thought- provoking. However, I cannot give it a strong recommendation purely for the fact that it disappointed me greatly in certain key parts, particularly the ending.

L'homme que j'aime
(1997)

Real Life vs. Reel Life
It's interesting to read the user comments after you have seen a movie. I think for Philadelphia, it was important to see the decline in health in Tom Hanks. In this movie, it's not unusual for someone with 2 (or even no) t-cells to be able to bike ride, work, etc. In fact, it's not uncommon. This is true today and this was true a decade ago, in 1996-97, when the film would have been in production and release. I myself knew someone with no cd-4 cells, who worked, worked out, etc.

Yes, this movie clearly takes some liberties with real life - however, all films do. Otherwise, they would be documentaries! The key is how well written and how well performed is the film - and are these liberties necessary to the plot or are the simply plot devices and short cuts taken by lazy and sloppy (or inexperience and inartful) filmmakers. In this case, the one real liberty that the filmmakers have taken -- that the character of Martin could fall genuinely in love (as opposed to lust) with the character of Lucas within the first five minutes of the film, or that Lucas would eventually discover - not so much his true nature but that he could care for and be genuinely in a romantic love to Martin, are the liberties taken. But these are crucial to the entire movie and, in my opinion, well written and -- more importantly -- well performed by the two leads.

The movie features excellent performances all around, including the supporting characters. I would have given it a higher score if they had fleshed some scenes and developed some things more clearly. As finished, the film went through some things too rapidly that could have been more fully developed and that could have benefit by more time and exposition (for example, Martin's friends, the hospitalization towards the end of the film, etc.)

However, a recommended rental and if you are the type of person who likes to ad films to your permanent home collection, this is one that bears more than one watching, so it can be a welcome addition to said collection.

Strange Fruit
(2004)

Interesting, but Fatally Flawed
This is a movie with an excellent concept for a story but that got sidetracked but a large number of clichéd sub-plots, hackneyed and unrealistic portrayed characterizations and performances, and some frankly implausible (and highly coincidental and, not to mention, convenient as plot points to move the story to its inexorable finish).

The lack of anything that marked the lead as actually gay, other than some coincidental references to Crow Bar or that he's gay, was troubling. It wouldn't have hurt to actually show him do something, even if it was just meet a friend for drinks.

It's worth checking out and has it's merits. There isn't much, even now a few years after the movie was released, in the way of movies that feature both a lead that is gay, or a significant gay plot line, and that is also about African-Americans. For that, it's worth checking out. I wouldn't look too hard for it and I wouldn't waste my time looking for it to own. This is a rental, and not a premium rental at that.

Say Uncle
(2005)

Props for Bravery . . . but
This review is based on a DVD rental. The DVD indicates there is a director's commentary but there wasn't - which is unfortunate, because the behind the scenes feature was, frankly, useless other than as a promotional - and a very brief one at that.

That said, many of the comments I could make were made by other reviewers so I'll limit my comments as follows: the film is technically good, shows high proficiency. The music was interesting and varied. The performance, while limited by the written script and scenes, were generally polished. However, the pacing at times was off. There were some lulls that didn't help move the movie along, especially with such a trim running time. At other times (for example, the furious painting scenes) were so rapid they didn't make much sense.

The main fault with the script was the judgment exhibited by some of the main supporting characters (the female friend Sarah, in the presentation of the gift by Morgan), the co- worker, in not removing the personal items or insisting they be returned, the fellow mom, when she felt the Kathy Najimy character was lying about the bathroom incident in the toy store. Additionally, and as commented by other users, the lack of sophistication or understanding by the Paul Johnson was simply too much to be explained by any other than lack of mental capacity -- which was, unfortunately, not sufficiently explained by the donut store grease fire incident. Too much gets too neatly tied up at the end, if not really resolved (how does someone support themselves on a telemarketing salary for all that paint, etc.; how does one fly from Japan to California in less than half a day? and why does an employer keep a naked picture of a child from a fired employee around?)

All in all, interesting and noteworthy for tackling the main subject matter and the issues that natural flow from that perspective. However, the execution shows that the filmmaker exceeded his grasp.

Vacationland
(2006)

Inadequate plot (and sub-plot) development
This movie has too many things going on. Another reviewer comments on the disjointed, episodic nature of the film as reflecting the director's memories - that's fine, if that is how it was written and performed. Instead, what we get is straight-forward narrative - some of the time - that jumps around, under and over, leaves us dangling in some instances, interrupts the flow with unnecessary digressions in other instances, and otherwise simply doesn't work.

There are also some plot details that just don't work. For example, why drag a body onto a beach in an urban area in broad daylight, as opposed to night time? Why leave your flat sheet on the body? Why would an artist who knew the Joe character for a brief time decide to leave him "everything" (even if it wasn't much)? This sub-plot was poorly developed to make that point work. For that matter, why even have the man be an invalid or an artist other than to provide the money and the gratuitous nude posing scenes? He could just as easily have been a photographer, or a opera composer? For that matter, how does someone rate an apartment in an Opera House - particularly without some clear connection to the Opera? The coincidences are also both too obvious and to unclear and unexplained. Why would the guys take everything in the warehouse and "disappear." If Tim was a 10 year old school mate in a town as small as Bangor, how could Joe lose track of him for 8 years, especially if they knew each other well enough that one would recommend the other for a job.

Some of the other subplots (like the mother and her boyfriend(s) and the sister wanting to escape felt like padding. There's some good ideas that might have made a feature with full development or could have been interesting shorts. As completed, this movie made little sense and offers even less.

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