Director: Gary King
Cast: Christina Rose, Joe Schermann, Mark DiConzo, Debbie Williams
How do you write a Joe Schermann song? That's the question Joe Schermann's asking himself as he struggles to finish a musical. A veteran of the off-Broadway scene, he's been touring audition rooms for years, accompanying women hoping to be the next big lead. Among them is girlfriend Evey (Rose). She's got talent - and ambition to match - so why hasn't Joe ever penned a song for her?
Joe would answer - but he's too busy falling in love with Summer (Williams), a singer whose voice leaves his eardrums head over heels. That’s when the theatrics really start.
Directors: Tom Kingsley, Will Sharpe
Cast: Chris Langham, Simon Amstell, Sophia Di Martino, Will Sharpe
Black Pond is a bleak, off-kilter, faux-documentary drama about life, death and media treatment of suspected criminals. The set up is like a TV show where they show you the aftermath of a murder, but darker and funnier - it's way better than Crimewatch.
"Where do you come from?" That's the question Khazar Fatemi is trying to answer. A Swedish citizen born in Iran and raised in Afghanistan, Khazar's parents fled her birthplace when they were put on a death list for dissidence. Returning to her childhood home for the first time in 20 years, she takes us on an emotional journey through a country full of voiceless victims.
It's never easy watching the stories of lives ruined by war. Walls riddled with holes and trees hit by explosions are just the physical symptoms as businesses and families suffer tragic losses at the hands of regimes and conflict. But Khazar's story gives things a personal perspective - she sees old classmates and neighbours, and returns to childhood places with a different viewpoint (literally in one bakery she visits, which has a high surface she never used to be able to see as a kid), and that heightens the emotional impact of the powerful images on screen.
"I wanna meet someone different. With half a brain." "Around here?" That's what Kieran tells best friend Sam in Julian Kerridge's tale of teenage drama. Growing up in a dead-end beach town, Sam wants to do something with his life, while Kieran is happy to drink all day, ignore his girlfriend Moony, and visit Pirate Land, the naff local theme park.
Then in walks Lori and changes everything. Clever, kooky and philosophical, she's not the Albanian pikey that Kieran thinks, and Sam is blown away. It's a typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl scenario, as Lori introduces Sam to art galleries, spontaneous running through parks and other such quirky activities, and Seamonsters perfectly captures the fantastical world of new romance with nicely-lensed landscapes and heady music.
"You gotta be super smart to count cards." "Maybe we should tell that to Rain Man, because he practically bankrupted a casino, and he was a retard." That's The Hangover's take on using maths to beat casinos at their own blackjack tables - but it turns out it's not just retards who can count cards. Christians can do it too. And a team of them do it every week in America, making hundreds of thousands of dollars by cheating the cheaters. They're called The Church Team. Does it contradict their religious beliefs? Oh no, says the team's founder, Ben. After all, it's not illegal. It's just... frowned upon.
So begins Bryan Storkel's fascinating look at the world of organised religious non-gambling. Ben's decision to start the scheme, which sees a group of players hit the tables, keep track of how cards have been played, and (more often than not) get kicked out by security, is an odd step, but he sees it as completely logical. It's a job for the team members, a way to make money in a short space of time so they can spend more time focusing on church. Oh, and most of them are pastors, by the way.
Grieving Oona (Bridget Collins) returns to her late mother's house in a quiet coastal village. Sorting through old possessions and cleaning the mould from the floorboards, she finds Mani (Adeel Akhtar) kipping on the living room floor. So she does what we all do with homeless people: invites him to live in her shed.
It's a small gesture in a film about small gestures. As Oona and the outsider begin to grow on each other, directors Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal let the camera linger on tiny details. Oona's eyes. Manny's beard. A beetle crawling up a stick in the garden.
Of course, no-one talks very much. "How long have you been homeless?" asks Oona. Mani says nothing and stares straight ahead. Only later do we get a glimpse of his back story (and his own fading parent figure) as the dialogue starts to flow across the social divide between them.
“Ladies and gentlemen. I’d like you to meet Giles. He’s quick to learn, eager to please. He doesn’t get tired. And he goes off like a firecracker,” says Holly. Then she takes off all her clothes and shags him on the living room floor in front of a group of excited housewives.
Welcome to Sydney, world capital of sex and hookers. Apparently. Jon Hewitt’s X is a thriller set in the seedy underbelly of the Australian city. And things couldn’t be seedier if the movie starred Peter Stringfellow eating a bag of seed covered in linseed oil and planting flowers in the garden.
No wonder veteran prostitute Holly (Viva Bianca) is looking for a way out.
Into this world strays Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), the kind of naïve young girl who gives money to any hungry girl she sees on the streets and doesn’t know what to do once she’s in a client’s car. Of course, everything comes crashing down around her extremely short skirt when she agrees to help Holly out in a threesome with a rich gangster, only to end up witnessing to a murder.
Acts of Godfrey, in case you don't know, is a rather peculiar sort of a show. The director's a few pence short of a purse, cos he decided to write the whole thing in verse. Not the Iambic Pentameter of Shakespeare, but a string of stanzas that play on the ear. 84 minutes of rhyming couplets? It sounds well annoying but I actually loved it.
Ok, love is a slightly strong word, but any creation that is this absurd, that still manages to tell an intriguing story (alongside its language tricks and its word sorcery) is hard to dislike and not easy to hate - it even tackles the notion of fate.
Vic (Iain Robertson) is a salesperson, who goes on a hotel course in self-assertion, but why is his car clutch in need of repair? And why does he find himself attracted to Mary, Myfanwy Waring's rival (as cruel as she's cute) with hard-selling tactics and nice breasts to boot?
"Sometimes the things that are absurd make sense, and the things that make sense are absurd.” So speaks Joe Davis, the man who once genetically modified a pink apple to tempt the Devil.
We first come across him at a bar in Massachuetts, washing up the dishes for free chicken and beer. And although he looks like a lunatic, from his bright yellow mac to his sprawling white hair, you suspect there’s something more to him. An artist who uses science to explore humanity and himself, he realises the two aren’t separate disciplines, but tools that can ask and answer each other’s questions.
From his unconventional application to join MIT to his bad luck with housing and repeated evictions, Davis rushes through life from one crazed idea to the next. He recreates Carl Sagan’s Arecibo message of 1679 binary digits sent into space in the form of water bottles in an MIT library, where intelligent people might be best placed to understand it. No one does.
Then he constructs radio and audio microscopes to listen to the sound of paramecia and stentors – an excellent project (reminiscent of Semiconductor’s superb Black Rain), which director Peter Sasowsky captures with colourful close-ups and deep, booming sound waves.
These seem like the creations of a madman, but as his friends and colleagues tell the camera, Davis is a genetics pioneer and his plans are all based in hard science or (wonderfully warped) logic. Why broadcast a recording of vaginal contractions to extra-terrestrials in the universe? Why create a light stethoscope using a torch, a naked woman smeared in honey, and a thin layer of gold dust? Why design and build a laser that can neutralise natural weather and potentially save the world from storms? A quiet shot of Davis standing at the wreckage of his brother’s home, torn apart by a Hurricane Rita is as revealing as it is moving.
Montevideo is the romanticised whimsical tale of the first Yugoslav national football team and their journey from the streets of Belgrade to the first World Cup in Uraguay. The film has done incredibly well in its homeland of Serbia, and is their foreign language entry for the Academy Awards - it's also rather brilliant.
The tale is told through the eyes of Stanoje, a kid who hero worships his older friend 'Tirke' Tirnanić - he has skills and fantastic hair. Enter 'Mosha' "He was great, even when football was small" Marjanović, the talented rich kid everyone fawns over. He comes with a cart load of trouble, living the footballer lifestyle long before Best or Ronaldo.