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Getting Lost, Getting Saved
“As you know, this business is type-casting,” says Bill Collector star Gary Moore. “And when you’re a good fit for the part it’s just so fun and easy. And I was just really Lorenzo. I was arrested at sixteen years old for being a pretty major drug dealer. And I was sent off to a work farm in South Dakota. And when you’re in South Dakota in the winter, on a work farm, you tend to think your life over real fast. I thought, ‘Wow! Where am I now? I’m a Chicago inner-city kid in the middle of nowhere, and I think God’s trying to get my attention!’”
Tasty, Light, and Flaky
Like Bill Forsyth’s films, James Hacking’s Kitchen is well stocked with local flavor (in this case, the fictional town of Wooten Dusset) and low-key characterizations. And like Hero, Kitchen features an American character as the wildcard who stirs the pot: Kate Templeton, a food critic (and divorcee) on sabbatical… whose globe-trotting daddy just happens to live in the town where once-promising chef (and widower) Rob Haley proposes to resurrect his low-profile culinary career. If you can stomach a little schmaltz with your entrée, Love’s Kitchen is a tasty little cinematic treat. Just don’t expect cailles en sarcophage… but you’re not likely to need Rolaids, either.
In the Mold of Surf Classics
In this ultra-image-conscious and commoditized age, it appears that the surfing community is taking the reins of its self image, and making sure (to a degree) that what appears onscreen bears some positive and constructive resemblance to the values it actually espouses. The outcome of the plot is predictable (and at times awfully cheesy), but the good news is that this film is actually more squeaky clean, relatively speaking, than the values presented by most Disney teen-star films these days. The surfers in this film care about each other and about their planet more than they care about money, pop culture, and drugs or booze. So Funicello, aside from that silly hair, would almost fit right in.
Well Worth a Look
Newcomers Leland Klassen Daren Streblow both bring a measure of down-home real-world comedy to bear on their acts. Klassen’s bit about border crossings is particularly good, and he puts his gangly appearance (and large hands) to good use in a satisfying display of physical humor. Streblow is like the nerdy guy from your fifth grade class all grown up and funny—and he makes particularly good use of material from his family life, good-naturedly poking fun at the quirks of his kids. I laughed often and freely with these two. The liveliest act in the pack, though—and the most polished—is returning comic Bone Hampton, who gets good mileage out of being black in front of a mostly whitebread audience.
C. Thomas Howell anchors what would otherwise be a largely uncompelling story and cast. One weakly-staged and -played plot complication aside, there’s not an awful lot happening in this story that my three-sentence synopsis doesn’t convey. The pace is languid though not boring, and there’s just enough story to fill up the 83 minutes of running time without overstaying its welcome—though some of the scenes do feel a little repetitive. Ali Faulkner is enjoyable as Mia (even if her character could have been written more strongly and memorably) and the supporting characters are mostly distinctive. When all was said and done, I liked Secret at Arrow Lake because I like gentle mysteries—and Arrow Lake came up with a surprising resolution that didn’t feel forced.
What You Expect, But Not
I’m really not sure how much to say about The Encounter—because if I tell you why I liked parts of it, I’ll probably spoil most of the effect for you. In short, The Encounter is David A. R. White’s surprising, often humorous, and decidedly Christian-niche-market micro-budget take on the classic travelers-meet-mysterious-stranger story. If that’s all you need to know from me, stop right here. And remember that I said “I liked parts of it” and that my primary adjectives were “surprising” and “often humorous.” What makes David A. R. White’s take on this tale a particularly Christian-niche spin is his decision to blend the stock story with a semi-related niche staple: the mysterious stranger who is a stand-in for Jesus.
Gosh, yes, I’m biased when it comes to director Cristóbal Krusen and his films. The good news for readers is that I’m telling you about it all up front; the bad news for Cris is that I’m typically harder on films when I know I’m reviewing material about which I am likely biased! The better news, all the way around, is that The Bill Collector is consistently entertaining, even when it dips into the come-to-Jesus moments that typify most PureFlix releases. At the heart of it all is an engaging performance by Gary Moore as Lorenzo Adams, a collection agency star who’s so effective only because he knows a thing or two (or three or four) about recalcitrant debtors.
Classical storytelling style dictates that the first third of the story provide expository information to gradually introduce the the story’s protagonist and antagonist and establish the central conflict. By contrast, director Meir Sharony does all this before any real storytelling even commences. In short, and I do mean short, Julia, a recently-divorced successful author and bookseller, has a lunch date go really bad. Having established this lickety-split, Sharony then languidly leads the audience toward the inevitable retributive showdown some 80 minutes or so later. On the one hand, this short-hand treatment of sexual brutality is both unsettling and off-putting. On the other, it’s kind of nice watching a revenge movie that doesn’t use the threat of sexual violence as a tension-building device.
Not Surprisingly, It’s Funny
Colin Mochrie’s and Brad Sherwood’s live shows bears a lot resemblances to the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? Fans will know that Sherwood has been one of the bright spots of the stateside version, and will in no way be disappointed in what they find in this 67-minute DVD. Personally, I’ve always preferred the original UK version of Whose Line. It also starred Mochrie and Ryan Stiles as part of the more-or-less rotating four-comic panel, but it was less concerned with sexual innuendo. I of course find myself laughing at crotch jokes and other suggestive humor—but I also know it’s terribly juvenile and an easy mark for stand-up comedy.
Spooky, Kooky Genius
This is first-time feature producer/writer/director Matt Dallman’s ambitious alternate-present indie thriller, a preposterous, irresistibly compelling car-wreck of a yarn in which, essentially, the Jesus Seminar and Dan Brown fanatic conspiracy theorists win, theologically—and succeed in having the “Third Testament” of the Gnostic gospels canonized. Yes, you read that right. Part holy-roller tract, part skeptical Scripture debunker, and 100% “take that you neo-myth-making shysters” in-your-face comeuppance, The Third Testament has enough gall to offend just about everyone who’s thinking of embracing this film as “one of their own.” Who’s side is Dallman on, exactly?
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