DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Five Lines; Kontroll; No Way Out; Slices of Life 1: The House Party; Slices of Life 2: The 50-50 Club; Napoleon Dynamite; Antares; Primer; Crash (2 films), Hustle and Flow, Undiscovered ,  Nine Lives, Thirteen Conversations about One Thing, 11:14 , Lewis & Clark

 

Title:  Five Lines

Release Date:  2000

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 110 min, approx

MPAA Rating:  R (not officially submitted)

Distributor and Production Company:  Brainbox

Director; Writer: Nicholas Panagopolus (also with Christian Zonts)

Producer:

Cast:   Nat Taylor, Marianna Houston, Emily Townley, Josette Murray-Ballo, Christian Zonts

Technical: Widescreen High Definition HDCAM

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site: gays in military; marketing; independent film

Review:

 

I attended a special screening at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD. on January 6, 2003, with preceding reception for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Showcase (MARS). This was shown in high-definition in a theater equipped to show it directly from a digital format. Relatively few theaters do this yet, and availability of this presentation mode (before conversion to standard 35mm) seems to improve clarity in presentation (particularly when there is varying motion at different distances from the viewer), so that the film looks a bit like Todd AO or VistaVision from the 1950s.

 

But, the real importance of the film is its content, issues, and screenwriting concept. And it was a labor or love, made apparently in 1999 and 2000, when the Washington Monument was being renovated. Which gets us to the concept definition: five strangers, who normally ride the five separate Washington DC Metro lines, have their very different lives crisscross, as, over the next five days, they head for tragic ends.

 

Now this sort of story of intersecting lives is rather popular in the art movie world, at varying levels of ambition and expense. Well known examples include Robert Altman’s Shortcuts, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999), and Jill Sprecher’s Thirteen Conversations on One Thing (2001) (Sony Pictures Classics). In Sprecher’s film, several of the acting performances are particularly poignant, such as Matthew McConauhey as the assistant DA who hits someone with a car, and Alex Burns as insurance agency executive Ronnie English, who treats a scene where he fires a subordinate with great finesse. The idea of having strangers interact in a geographically interesting place is often tried, as in the 2003 film Lost in Translation. Even the nature of a Metro system has been used before to generate screenplays, as in the 1998 film Sliding Doors, by Peter Howitt, exploring alternate universes with the London Underground. European film, especially French, likes to explore the connection of characters to specific places (remember Swimming Pool in 2003).

 

This film really keeps the moviegoer on edge, however, because of the problems it creates for the characters, the relevance of these problems to major societal issues, and because of the way it exposes, reveals, and develops the characters with increasing visual and precise visual detail.

 

For me, the most interesting problem was the young Army Staff Sergeant (E-6) Mike Catalano, played by Nat Taylor. Actually he looks too young to be that well-ranked as an NCO, and he seems rather clean cut and serious. He is challenged in a bar (after getting off the Foggy Bottom Metro near GWU on the Blue and Orange lines) for an initiation or tribunal exercise at the Iwo Jima Memorial along Route 50, near the Arlington Towers apartments and near the Arlington Cemetery. He gets there, and, all right, the exercise is to “roll queers,” (or, literally, “clean up some monuments”) and one of them is a former civilian buddy from high school who “wasn’t supposed to be gay.”  They leave the scene in a cab with a driver who couldn’t care less. The rest of this subplot will explore the hatred (however inconsistent across different commands) of homosexuals found in today’s military, especially after President Clinton tried to lift the ban and was forced to settle for “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Particularly disturbing is the visit of the soldier to his now paralyzed ex-friend in intensive care in the hospital, and then the attempt of his commander (a field grade officer) to cover it up. This film, even though this subplot takes about a quarter of the time of the film, is one of the most important made about anti-homosexual attitudes in the military and the collective “warrior male” sociology behind these attitudes in the past ten years of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; but since it is little known, the film has been little mentioned in the gay press. The idea in he minds of some soldiers that gays make convenient practice fodder for practice aggression comes through. (One of them describes the incident as a “fluke” after it makes The Washington Post.) So do Mike’s grief and contrition, in scenes late in the film, where his teeth literally communicate his despair.   

 

Also interesting in the scam artist Bench, played by Christian Zonts, a college dropout who will make his fortune the easy way, with pyramid schemes exploiting his frat brothers. He gets in trouble, of course, with the loan sharks and quickly becomes desperate, but his interpersonal charm and “always be closing” salesmanship comes across. In a typical cheesy telemarketing call he starts out with “How are you today,” then talks people into phony ID’s or signing over their bank accounts. People fall for it. The problem here is that Christian is gradually unveiled and he becomes only more and more likeable.

 

Then there is the homeless woman Anna played by Josette Murray-Ballo, for whom life is a shopping cart and a chance to see pretty lights one more time. She bails a young teen out of trouble (played gently by Ben Fernchok), and he will invite her to his home for dinner, where he encounters unexpected prejudice.

 

There is the young woman Stacie dying of an aneurysm (facing a fate similar to the character Colin in TheWB’s Everwood) but trying to live in denial. And there is the party girl Kathryn playing off two male lovers, one apparently an ex-husband, who now takes hidden videos of their sex scenes. The film plays back these videos as a well to show off, incidentally and by comparison, the benefits of High Definition. The filmmakers are not afraid to show hairy men—“bears”—even heavy, in very intimate scenes, a far cry from the buffed look of a lot of the stars on daytime soaps.

 

The Green Line con man Bench draws some extra reviewing attention I think. Christian Zonts plays this role with a degree of satiric comedy, which sets him apart from the other four main characters. Is this because he wrote the part for himself?  I get the impression that comedy is his forte, and, after all, good comedy sells (remember Anything Else?). Bench is a bit of the wild man risk-taker here, and Christian plays it kind of like Sam on Trump-a-Dump’s The Apprentice. There is a great scene where Bench has gotten away and teases his chaser from inside a Metro car, after the doors close. (They really will take a train out of service if a customer holds it open.) But, his own demise is then all the more brutal.

 

All of the outdoor scenes are on location, and use the Washingtin, DC metro area accurately. There are shots of the Capitol, Library of Congress, Rosslyn, Bethesda. The film gains a tense and sometimes menacing quality with quick black-and-white rapid-motion shots of the underground Metro, which has a chilling futuristic look when shot this way, even though it opened in 1976!  (David Greenwalt’s UPN Show Jake 2.0 has a very similar accelerated time-lapse shot of an underground Metro for an attempted ricin attack!) This sense of intimacy and connection to setting is consistently much more serious in many independent films than in Hollywood, where there is often a preoccupation the shortest attention spans in a multiplex audience. Here, the characters are gradually revealed, literally stripped physically a little at a time, sometimes in scenes (as with the flatliner in the hospital) that have you making sure you are still seeing them; then the characters are imagined almost undressed on the Metro itself in dreamscape. This film builds up a tension that reminds me of the technique of Gus Van Sant in Gerry and Elephant, Minnesota filmmaker Jon Springer in The Hymens Parable, or even New Market’s surprise etude, Memento.  One device to unite the characters is a homeless man accosting each of the five at some point in the film at a Metro station, giving them coins that could have come from Pirates of the Caribbean (Johnny Depp could have played this!), in each case sending the character into the last chapter of his terrestrial life. 

 

The showing started with a brief Brainbox short or prelude (in regular MiniDV), which I wasn’t sure whether it was a preview or a symphonic introduction to the film itself.  

 

My own experience at this film presents a certain irony. I had to leave a few minutes early to catch the last Metro leaving Silver Spring (against the backdrop of CSX freight trains) back downtown (on the Red Line), on a bitter cold night (and the station is above ground!). Yet, at the last minute, the couple that I had sat by got on the Metro car (they had chanced it) and told me the last few minutes of tragedy. I barely made the connection to the last Orange Line home (after almost going the wrong way), when a passenger, a young teen, would have an apparent medical emergency. I would spend the ride trying to communicate with 911 desperately from a cell phone blocked by the tunnels. After getting out at 12:30 AM at Ballston, I would have to do a “Clark Kent” through dark suburban streets to get home. Lines keep crossing.

 

I did, however, get the DVD to see the complete ending. The DVD presents an alternate beginning that reveals the denouement, but the film is stronger as is, with the last five days of each character going in time sequence.

 

For more about the film see

http://www.5lines.com/Press/DCOne/Index.htm

 

This film would seem to me to make an attractive offering for a distributor like Miramax, New Market, or Fine Line Features.

 

I mentioned the film from the audience at the June 2007 Digital Media Conference at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring, MD. Blogger discussion of its importance here.

 

Nine Lives (2005, Magnolia, dir. Rodgrio Garcia) is another film with short segments, mostly independent but with a little overlap, as the lives of nine women are shown in roughly 12-minute dramatic snapshots. There is a teenage girl who doesn’t want to leave home for college but who can tell her dad about Bilbao, Spain for a crossword puzzle. A woman faces a mastectomy. A woman at a funeral has to resist the advances of a deaf man, whose sign language is shown in subtitles, talks about his fantasies and is almost the only material in the film needing an R rating.

 

At this point, I would like to draw comparison of this (5 Lines) with a well known “big plot” and “big Hollywood” thriller, No Way Out (1987), dir. Roger Donaldson, from Orion Pictures (now MGM), 114 min. Now the first level of comparison is that this film is your “Washington” movie with political figures as character, whereas the independent film above is about ordinary people in our capital city. But some of the underlying problems are the same. There is an unintended death early in the film around which much of the plotting circulates. There are various intrigues and connections with the characters, not all of it conventionally heterosexual. But there is also Cold War politics. Film students and screenwriters love to talk about this movie as an ideal adaptation, of an earlier novel The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing, which made a tight black-and-white thriller in 1948. The basic comparison is about trying to get out of a building: in one scene, all the workers of the Pentagon are held at the exit while they hunt for a (fictitious?) spy! Here, the basic characters seem interesting: first, the young Navy Commander Farrell played by Kevin Costner, the Secretary of Defense David Brice played by Gene Hackman (who else?) and Susan (the mistress) played by Sean Young. And the screenplay is plot and more plot, keeping the viewer guessing with its labyrinth of twists. But when compared with a modern independent film, it now seems a bit corny. The homosexual general counsel Scott Pritchard (Will Patton) seems mean-spirited and a bit of a young J. Edgar Hoover; but in today’s world the character would seem to conform to the “old chestnut” stereotype that has been used as an excuse to drive gays out of the military and defense establishment. (But this was 1987, before the era of Clinton; in those days the whole issue of sexuality was whether private life could be kept separate from the job, and here it wasn’t.) The computer stuff is interesting insofar as it is pre-Internet, so you see mainframes and Unix and character displays, but terms like “Fourier analysis” are thrown around carelessly, and even by 1987 the NSA would have had 3090s and not just 370s. Here George Dzundza plays the computer  programmer Sam Hesselman and his wheel-chair-bound character is really interesting, as he feels compelled to report what he knows when he is asked to fake things on the computer—he really cares about the ethics of his job. There is a Metro scene with closing doors (like in Five Lines) but unfortunately underground they show the Toronto subway, not D.C.’s and there is no Metro stop in Georgetown (sorry!)  So you have a movie constructed well to entertain the multiplex audience, but to someone who knows better it seems clunky and a bit contrived. The new independent film here, by comparison, seems much more real throughout.

 

Kontroll (2003, ThinkFilm, dir. Nimrod Antal, R, 105 min) was a hit at the 2005 DC International Film Festival, and it will come across to film buffs as a companion piece to “Five Lines.” From Hungary, the film takes place entirely within the Budapest subway system, and the film has a claustrophobic, contained, dark but brooding look, unlike “File Lines” which often opens up before closing in on tragedy. Here there are threads of story about the subway system employees, and girl friends, drawing together over a series of homicides where people are pushed in front of trains. Now, when I lived in NYC in the 1970s I would read that this happens, and once in 1978 it had just happened (a women had lost a leg when pushed) as a D train pulled into the West 4th Street Station. In London and Paris the metros, on many lines, now have suicide and security plastic panels to prevent this sort of thing (and to prevent biological weapons from being thrown on the tracks).  We see a hooded figure, like a faceless monster, push a couple people, and we see the gore of the remains pulled off the tracks, as one employee vomits and then dry heaves on camera at the sight. Gradually the story focuses upon one particular inspector Bulcsu (Sandor Csanyi). Has he been committing the murders out of some kind of compulsion (or “harming obsession” as psychiatrists call it—the movie has a forensic psychiatric interview scene)?  Even more horribly, does he commit these crimes and then forget them?  His behavior—like staying in the subway all 24 hours a day and sleeping there, certainly draws suspicion. Toward the end he confronts an athletic young man who has earlier thrown mace at one of the inspectors, and pushes him before a train. He then runs down a tunnel, chased by the faceless hood, and this turns into a metaphor for the near death experience. At the end, as he is to walk up the staircase to the outside world with a female angel—is he going to Heaven despite his sins? Was he forgiven?

 

There is other fascinating action in the film, such as a man sliding down along the escalator (it looks like the Dupont Circle Metro escalator—do not imitate the stunt!), and the red lighting in the scene where Bulcsu is interrogated is fascinating and dream-like. There is one brief anti-gay remark.

 

Some other observations need to be made here: the subway looks a bit dilapidated for a European city, with graffiti. The entire cast is white, but there is plenty of homelessness and poverty around. 

 

Slices of Life 2: The 50-50 Club (The Urban Alternative, 2004, 75 min, PG-13, DV, dir. Russell Burger) was the senior project for the Arlington Career Center.  This is another converging story, this time of high school students (call them “the kids”) in Arlington, Va., across the river from Washington (the Metro runs through it but the Metro is not shown). As the film starts some students are holding auditions for the “50-50 Club,” with hip-hop one of the main musical genres. Now, I think hip-hop and “ghetto talk” tend to delete a story a lot (the teen dramas on TheWB don’t seem to use them), but the story picks up its threads quickly. Honor student Jeff Pierce (Dan Summers) is falling apart when he isn’t getting into the best schools. He runs naughtily into a ladies room and writes a homophobic slur when he finds out that a couple of his classmates are lesbians. Then he starts getting into methamphetamines. Yes, he does drugs. We really don’t know why. At the same time, Alexis (Brian Jimenez) is expected to put “family responsibility” over his desire to pursue and compose music (hip-hop) and get an after school job. It seems that “family responsibility” is more openly discussed in minority families. Another Hispanic female character, however, says at one point, “I live for myself, to make me proud.” This whole balance between self and family is an important and subtle issue to bring up in a youth film, because it doesn’t get debated much. The tension starts to build through “slices of life:  in a manner that recalls “Five Lines” and builds a sense of foreboding that something bad could happen at the school. You kind of expect a cameo appearance any moment from Michael Moore or Gus Van Sant. The ending is ambiguous, and not all that happy. On TheWB good kids turn out well, but not always in Slices of Life.

 

For the Career Center’s press release, see http://www.arlington.k12.va.us/about/press_releases/0304/040528_slices2.htm

 

The first film (2003) is Slices of Life: The House Party, PG-13, dir. Russell Burger, Matt Cavanaugh and others, wr. Matt Cavanaugh. Here the teens, dealing first with resistant parents and other subterfuges, converge at a house party thrown by Jayden (Martin Ocegueda) while his parents are out of town looking after grandma in the hospital. So, the teens seek freedom, of being home alone, away from family responsibility as well as parents themselves. Here the story lines are pulled forward by simple things: a confrontation between a son Jacob (Matt Meyer) and his working-class but beer-gizzling dad over leaving the water dripping, a girl Pooja (Sheekja Singh) facing an arranged marriage lest a horrible future as an old maid, or the teen who, when stoned, can’t remember the word “kitchen.”  There is an intriguing early scene where an English teacher teases her class about a “horror writer,” whom you first think might be Victor Hugo designing his hunchback Quasimodo, but then turns out to be Mary Shelly with Frankenstein, which she wrote as a nineteen year old—a point that I believe had been made in an old 1963 black-and-white movie “Blood of Dracula” that they used to play on Saturday night “Chiller.” Now, you can guess that the teens will get into trouble (police, parents who return home). They do. You want them to find more to live for. The DVD also includes a short “The Assets,” some character guidance clips supported by “Arlington Teens.”

 

The “House Party” concept would be covered on NBC “Dateline” Oct. 24, 2004, in a story about such a party in Harrison, New York in 2002 where a teenage football player died in an altercation and other students never properly came to his aid, out of fear of being caught drinking. The student would eventually be driven to a hospital where he would die a week later after a week in a coma. This story was also covered in Rolling Stone.

 

A student, Steven Vaglas, at Yorktown High School in Arlington made an eleven minute film of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Telltale Heart (Poe gives high school kids a chance to read horror for grade points), as reported by the Arlington Sun Gazette, May 11, 2006. If I can get or see this film, I’ll report on it. (Story is by Ryan Self, “Film Fest Champion Trains Lens on Future.”)   The closest imdb.com comes on this is a 1914 silent “The Avenging Conscience: Thou Shalt Not Kill”.  There is also a musical adaptation of Stephen Ambrose’s “Lewis & Clark Expedition” that I have seen as a school film. Ken Burns made a TV film of this in 1997 (Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, PBS, shown in July 2006, 230 min), which documents the arduous journey 1804-1805 upriver, encountering the Mandan civilization (near today’s Bismarck, ND) with a “city” larger than Washington, and then an exercise in Science and Truth – that there were high mountains where legend predicted a water passage. The history is well known. The men wintered near what is now Astoria, Oregon, and found the native population comparable to that of the East. After the men returned, Lewis would not free his slave. “Lewis and Clark went as students, came back as teachers, and we failed to learn the lessons that they had learned.”

 

 Of course, we have heard that kids in Los Angeles got in trouble trying to imitate "Fight Club."    

 

Napoleon Dynamite (PG, 86 min, dir Jared Hess, Fox Searchlight/Paramount/MTV films) presents a comedy of a gawky, introverted teen Napoleon (Jon Heder), which could have become an exercise in nihilism except for the basic integrity of the character that comes through at the end. (Doesn’t “Napoleon” sound like an appropriate name for a cat instead?)  He seems to have his eyes closed, he speaks in a mildly depressed monotone like someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. It seems as though his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and evil Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) have it, too.  In fact, it’s hard to believe that Rico could hold down a job as a salesman at all (here he sells plastic bowls and then breast enlargements). They all lead a pedestrian existence in Preston, Idaho, around the sand hills. Yet, the story moves when Napoleon befriends Pedro (Efren Ramirez) and helps him run for school class president. This is not exactly the same as Clark Kent’s running for class president in Season 1 of Smallville.  Here, we notice that many feature filmmakers have a hard time with writing likeable or even charismatic and gifted teens, like the kind you find on the dramatic series of TheWB. In the movies, they might descend into drugs, or here they go for comedy, and here Napoleon could be heading in the direction of Adam Sandler and some day some fatter roles. Instead, Napoleon (in his search for real “skills”) hits his groove just in time—he is a great break dancer. Finally, he gets to have a girl friend. It’s interesting that two major studios (as well as MTV) wanted this picture!

 

Heder hosted NBC “Saturday Night Live” on Jan. 1, 2006. Did something really happen to his body first? (No, he doesn’t get to become a werewolf.) There is also an opening skit with three other actors playing wrongplanet characters from the movie. Jon is asked if they are real. He says the movie is a work of fiction. But it seems to resemble real people pretty uncomfortably?

 

Antares (Film Movement/Lotus, 2004, dir. Gotz Spielmann, NC-17) may be one of the largest red giant stars but it is also a three-part film from Austria, centered around the “relationships” of various residents of a pastel-painted apartment complex in Vienna. The steamy sex scenes in the first part between the doctor and night-duty nurse are not erotic; but the film picks up with the tale of a woman (a grocery clerk)  pretending to be pregnant to get her boyfriend to marry her, and then a real estate condo broker who is a real jerk.  The film does furnish a fascinating soundtrack with piano sonata music of Schubert, the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto (like Shine), and a realistic gay disco scene with hard-driven music that I have recently heard during real dirty dancing (I think this scene was filmed in a real Vienna disco).  The film comes to an end with a car crash, and ensuring tragedies (the scene starts the film.) Remember the 1996 film Crash with James Spader?

 

Primer (New Line/ThinkFilm, 2004, dir. wr. Shane Caruth, 77 min, PG-13) is a fascinating sci-fi film made for just $7K. Three attractive upper-middle-class young men (Aaron, Abe and Robert played by Shane Caruth, David Sullivan and Casey Gooden), usually overdressed, it seems, in white shirts and ties, contemplate with what to do with an accidental discovery of a time machine (it has to do with a fungus and argon gas), that they work with “secretly” in a public storage warehouse. They wonder how to sell it, or even whether to sell it when they could use it, say, to play the stock market or win lotteries. The dialogue is sharp and detailed and often conveys a lot more information that is typical in many smaller scripts. There are lots of clever little lines that foreshadow the bigger issues, like an early conversation about whether to have steak or Tacos for dinner.  Later, the writing does deal cleverly with the time paradoxes, which are visually managed with changes in film saturation—I might have been tempted to use black-and-white instead. Family life is barely suggested in a few scenes, as if it were encapsulated and made invisible. The story suggests a certain paradox for me—how do I “sell” my own work?

 

Crash (2005, Lions Gate, dir. Paul Haggis, R, 100 min) is a “big” art film with a non-linear structure that reminds one of Altman, linking at one level from one plot thread to the next. Specifically, one scene will have a character make a comment about another character based on some kind of stereotype, and then the next scene will move on with that referenced character, as in a daisy chain. The film, in the first half hour, introduces a number of characters and plot strings this way, and creates a drama that seems like a number of parallel stories that (as in 5 Lines) gradually converge. The little stories demonstrate various aspects of racial tension in modern, post-Rodney-King LA, and circle around a couple of car crashes and, well, one of them may be intentional. Don Cheadle plays Graham, a black police officer fighting a false promotion. A young DA Rick (Brendan Fraser) and his wife (Sandra Bullock) get carjacked; a racist officer Ryan (Matt Dillon, who looks genuinely middle-aged now) shakes down and abuses a black couple (he incorrectly believes that the wife is white), and then his white partner Officer Hanson (Ryan Phillippe) will try to make things right, leading to the denouement. There is a lot of other stuff, like a rescue from a burning overturned car, a gun shop owner tensed up over anti-Muslim sentiment (and confusion among different kinds of Muslims), and even snow in Los Angeles (it does happen sometimes, and the movie is set around Christmas). Now this film needs to be set apart from other layered films like Adaptation or Bad Education, where one level of storytelling encapsulates another (as in a movie being made)—a technique that I use myself in one of my scripts.

 

There was an earlier film named Crash (1996, Fine Line Features, dir. David Cronenberg, NC-17, based on a 1973 novel by J. G. Ballard), features a “scientist” (James Ballard, played by James Spader) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) whose marital relations flounder. One night Ballard causes a car crash in which he is maimed. He becomes obsessed with sex in cars with car crash victims and even the anticipation of more wrecks.  This is very much an exercise in abnormal psychology. There is one girl with artificial legs at the hips, covered in pantyhose. This bizarre film used to be a cult hit. 

 

Hustle and Flow (aka “Hustle & Flow”) (2005, Paramount Classics/Crunk/MTV, dir. Craig Brewer, 114 min, R) was a sensation at Sundance and has enjoyed runs in major theater chains despite being a small indie film, particularly in areas where there is a large African American audience. The story is somewhat the inverse of what I attempt in my screenplay “Make the A List”. Here, a fortyish rapper (DJay, Terrence Howard) who will go for the hiphop or rap music world A-list by making a demo tape to impress a childhood ex-friend Skinny Black (Ludacris) who did make it big and who returns to Memphis, TN for the Fourth of July. This follows his finding an old digital keyboard and showing it to his kid. He befriends a club owner Arnel (Isaac Hayes) and churchgoer Key (Anthony Anderson) to help him make the tape. A skinny and articulate southern white music artists Shelby (DJ Qualls) helps with the keyboard and techie stuff. The film has a long middle section with various heterosexual entanglements as well as some good technology stuff, as when he needs to buy a better microphone (Electrovoice?) It seems his friend may be exploiting him, however. (In my screenplay, it is the A-list candidate who is the manipulator, although usually in a constructive way. By way of comparison, the aspirant in this film starts out as down and out.) There is a lot of black talk that sometimes makes the script a bit hard to follow. At the end, there is a confrontation in a bar, where a friend dumps the tape in a toilet. (After Djay pulls up his pants – “I am not a faggot!”) A brawl ensues, and a shootout, and Djay goes to jail, but the music takes off. There is a great song in here, “It’s hard out here for a pimp!” (Is DJay the “pimp”?) I felt that the film had a lot of choppy editing, which made the climax hard to believe; it would have been all right for a film like this to be 2-1/2 hours long (thirty minutes longer) if necessary to make all the loose ends and details clear.  The hip hop music sends locked in to one repeating note as it develops its poetry, then blossoms out into real music. It’s just not my kind of music.   

 

Undiscovered (2005, Lions Gate/Lakeshore, dir. Meiert Avis, 92 min, PG-13) is written by “John Galt”. I knew a man in Minneapolis who named himself that, and I don’t know if this is the same person. The story considers the fortunes of a menagerie of “Teen People” types who bop between the dipole ends of New York and L.A. in search of a recording career. The central character seems to be Luke Falcon (Steven Strait), who scores and then gets cancelled, only to see the repo man take his Porsche. Also starring are Pell James and Kip Pardue (from Remember the Titans), the latter of which is presented as a gentle if virile soul who lives out of his backpack and crashes from place to place. There are interesting things to watch, as a tumbling and trapeze training exercise where the participants are tethered and protected by nets, and two scenes in a baseball batting cage. In the end, Luke will get a publishing deal (on an airplane, on a flight for which he paid borrowed cash and was almost profiled as a terrorist). The story, however, doesn’t get a lot of traction. It bumps along and avoids getting too much into the real issues of making it.

 

11:14 (aka Eleven Fourteen, 2004, New Line, dir. Greg Marcks, 86 min) is another coincidence plot film like “5 Lines” and works backwards like “Memento” from a precise time 11:14 PM when all of these life-threads come together. It starts when a corpse thrown from an overpass in Middleton (Ohio?) lands on a car driven by Jack (Henry Thomas). He thinks he has hit a deer, and then he sees a girl. Afraid of getting caught, he tries to pack the body into the trunk but a good Samaritan woman Norma (Barbara Hershe) arrives, and she calls the policeman (Clark Gregg). The policeman tries to arrest Jack, and complications and chases ensue involving various other groups of young rascally characters, one of whom gets his penis chopped off in another accident. The plot works back to a deliberate convenience store shooting of Buzzy (Hilary Swank) and another hit-run. The problem here is that the situations, while clever, don’t get much interest or sympathy from the viewer.  

 

 

Related reviews: Soldier’s Girl  Gerry The Hymens Parable; Brainbox Million Dollar Challenge, Amores Peres, 21 Grams  Memento

 

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