DRAMA SUGAR (1 5) 1 14min eeee

Premier Baseball’s Latin American slave trade route and the immigrant experience go under the microscope in this offbeat and compelling character study from the makers of 2006’s Half Nelson.

Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) aka Sugar is a wannabe pitcher from a poor town in the Dominican Republic. Struggling to make it into the big league and pull himself and his family out of poverty, he finally makes it in the US minor leagues. When he is shipped into America with a bunch of other Dominican rookies he realises that success in the land of the free comes with a healthy dose of corporate greed, isolation, casual bigotry and loneliness. When an injury puts him on the bench he has to choose whether to return home or go in search of a different kind of American Dream.

With their ‘good teacher with a bad drug habit’ drama Half Nelson (starring everyone’s favourite young method actor Ryan Gosling), writer/directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden showed they were no strangers to ideological complexity and dab hands at genre bemusement. Working on a level of sophistication and courage that leaves many of their low-budget counterparts in the dust, Sundance favourites Boden and Fleck have a way of leading the viewer into the most unexpected of places. Sentimentality and humour are frequently born of desperation but the humanity they bring to sketching even the most subsidiary characters has a way of warming the coldest heart.

With fine performances from an unknown cast and Andrij Parekh’s bleachy and steady lens work (owing a debt to that of \filmos Zsigmond’s 703 work on The Hired Hand and Sugarland Express) Sugar is a unique and precious coming of age drama. That Boden and Fleck can’t help but undermine all their great work by resorting to that most infuriating of sports film cliches the montage sequence is a small price to pay. (Paul Dale)

I Selected release from Fri 79 Jun.

52 TH. LIST 11—25 Jun 2009



Love. naivety and loneliness in a modern Mexican megalopolis are essayed in this charming and quirky bittersweet comedy. When factory worker Marina (Cecilia Suarez) wins an all-expenses-paid trip for two from her employer. she realises that. because of her solitude. she has no one to take with her. When Victor (Enrique Arreola) approaches claiming he is an old school friend. she tells him she has no memory of him. But as the holiday deadline approaches she decides to take a chance on this odd stranger. This feature debut by Mexican short filmmaker Ernesto Contreras is essentially an insular and kooky two hander in which the search for love and connections is constantly under threat from loneliness and awkward inertia. Marina and Victor's is a rarefied world. a specific universe filled. like its characters. with pale shades of blue. if they are to be sustained at any great length. the success of mundane fantasies like this largely depends on the strength of the performances. ln Mexican star Suarez (best known here for Spanglish and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) and respected stage actor Arreola. Contreras has chosen well. By turns compelling, sweet. funny and pathetic. they keep you watching long after the stretched and schematic screenplay by the director's brother Carlos runs out of steam. (Paul Dale) I GFT. Glasgow, Tue 23— Thu 25 Jun; Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh, Mon 29 Jun— Thu 2 Jul.

COMEDY THE HANG-OVER (15) 100min 0000

DRAMA LITTLE ASHES (15) 112min e

‘No Rules. No Regrets. No Returns' promise the breathless ads for Paul Wondrous Oblivion Morrison's homage to the Catalonian spirit. detailing the relationships between three of Spain's greatest creative temperaments. notably playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran). filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Matthew McNulty) and artist Salvador Dali (Robert Pattinson). ‘No Good' more accurately describes this laughable travesty. showcasing a range of shock wigs and wayward 'l'm from Barcelona accents that Sacha Baron Cohen might reject as too comic.

Opening with the foppish but painfully shy teenager Dali arriving in Madrid circa 1922. Little Ashes principally traces Dali‘s infatuation with Lorca. an unrequited love which provokes the moustachioed maverick to a full on monkey spanking as he spies the object of his desire getting it on with a female writer.

Disrespectfully stripping the politics out of well documented lives in favour of anonymous. lushly lit compositions. Morrison has made a plodding biopic no great artist would aspire to. Yet by dint of featuring the poster boy of the Twilight series. Little Ashes will find a far bigger audience than it deserves. Pattinson may well draw in tween audiences. but even the most lovestruck schoolgirl is unlikely to be impressed by the cartoonish art- history portrayed here.

(Eddie Harrison) I GFI', Glasgow, Fri 7 2—Sun l4 Jun.

It's worth toasting The Hangover as one of the Hollywood comedies of the year. Todd Phillips' film is a buddy movie that really delivers with its riotous cocktail of memorable characters. outrageous situations and explicit humour.

Two days before his wedding. Doug (Justin Bartha) heads to Vegas with best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) and future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) for a final bachelor blow out. Waking up the next morning. however. Phil. Stu and Alan have no recollection of what happened the night before or. more importantly. where they might have left Doug.

Phillips is no stranger to the buddy comedy having previously directed Road Trip and Old School but with The Hangover he really excels. Piecing together all of the elements is fun and often genuinely surprising. while the camaraderie that exists between his principal cast is second to none. All three make their mark and Galifianakis' ‘fat Je3us‘ is particularly fine .

The appeal and danger of Vegas is vividly captured by Lawrence Sher's eye catching cinematography. while Jon Lucas and Scott Moore‘s script is almost always on the money no mean feat for a duo whose past efforts include the lamentable Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases. What's more. the film cleverly stays real enough to appeal to anyone who's ever endured a fuzzy morning after the night before. while simultaneously existing in its heightened

state of comedy. (Rob Carnavale) I General release from Fri 72 Jun.