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Movie Review: Jimmy in Pienk

Jimmy in Pienk is an offbeat fish-out-of-water comedy set in South Africa from the mind of writer-director, Hanneke Schutte. Her award-winning idea of a boer dropping his sheep shears to take up salon scissors, won a competition and gradually developed into a fully-fledged Afrikaans comedy feature starring Louw Venter, Terrence Bridgett and Gys de Villiers.

After Jimmy Bester's father's passing, family secrets come to light. Not only is there a R150,000 debt to against the farm but Jimmy learns of his father's long lost twin, whose successful career as a hair stylist has made him a millionaire.

It's a fantastic concept, one that opens the door for plenty of fish-out-of-water comedy and heart as our hero immerses himself in the city and gay culture, while cultivating a new skill for hair dressing. Yet, it's not an entirely new theme after Adam Sandler went from Israeli Special Forces soldier to flamboyant hair stylist in You Don't Mess with the Zohan and Josh Hartnett battled Bill Nighy for top hair dressing honours in Blow Dry.

Each of these comedies haven't quite lived up to expectations based on the talent involved. In many ways, Jimmy in Pienk is a blend of the two films meshing the Zohan's drastic day-and-night transition and the more sombre themes behind the high stakes hairstyling competition in Blow Dry. While Jimmy in Pienk shares these commonalities, it's not as over-the-top as You Don't Mess with the Zohan or as down-to-earth as Blow Dry.

Jimmy in Pienk's sweet tones of home and off-beat sense of humour are what make it unique. There's a Wes Anderson preciousness for the characters and setting, which is tempered by the smart true-to-life quirkiness of a Jason Reitman comedy. This is best translated in the first act as we become acquainted with Jimmy, his quest and his obstacles.

As a debut feature, you can applaud the film-makers for delivering a film that keeps its promises and delivers a mature, subtle brand of comedy that is new territory for South Africa. It's a big concept on a low budget and they've done a great job in bringing it to life. As sweet as it is, you do get the impression that the constraints took their toll as the story's initial zest struggles to stay the course.

Louw Venter plays it down-the-line as Jimmy, really getting to grips with his "call a spade a spade" character and anchoring the rest of the cast like Jason Bateman did in Arrested Development. It's a well-balanced performance, one that keeps the emotional integrity and nuttiness in check.

He's supported by the flamboyant, Terrence Bridgett, who plays his mentor Bunny, turning Jimmy in Pienk into something of a buddy movie. Bridgett is likable, funny and has enough natural charm to make you think he's related to Oliver Platt. Gys de Villiers plays Buks and his twin Frederique, a role reminiscent of Bill Nighy in Blow Dry. It's an uncharacteristic performance from de Villiers, but one he truly owns like the Godfather of hair stylists.

Gerard Rudolf also takes on an atypical role opposite de Villiers as his partner, Gigi. The two share some great moments and add some clout as reluctant game show villains. David Isaacs and Garth Collins make an odd yet funny couple as bumbling entrepreneurial loan sharks. Then, it would have been nice to have seen more of the budding romance between Jimmy and Tinarie van Wyk Loots as Rika.

With such a zany and likable collective of characters, it's difficult not to like Jimmy in Pienk. The premise is a wind-up and has been treated in a sweet, light and fun manner. While the odd balls are stacked against him, Jimmy never really seems to get brick walled or weighed down by the many obstacles to saving the farm. This makes it all seem too safe - escalating the inconsequential and predictable, while diminishing returns on the adventure.

Having said that, it follows Material and Fanie Fourie's Lobola as another promising step for comedy in South Africa. As it stands, it's an entertaining, sweet and light-hearted off-beat comedy that teases the story out by gently nudging its funny characters in the right direction. It's amusing and watchable for its quirky tone, lively performances and cut-above writing that give the story weight and an innate sweetness.

The bottom line: Fun


'Scapegoat', a goat-out-of-water South African comedy...

When you're traveling in a foreign country, you do not want to piss off the locals, unless you're Liam Neeson. Scapegoat, a comedy short that won in its respective categories at this year's 168 Film Festival takes a funny look at what happens when an American tourist knocks over a goat on a rural road in South Africa. The short film, directed by John DeVries and starring Mfihlakalo Mazwembe and Kyle St John Peters, pokes fun at two young guys trying to overcome cultural and language barriers.

Movie Review: Welcome to the Punch

Welcome to the Punch for lack of a better joke, lacks punch. While it's slick and spectacular as a Michael Mann style crime thriller in the vein of Miami Vice, the story is overly complicated, the cast deliver Wednesday performances for thinly scripted characters and it's just not distinct enough to separate itself from a growing glut of middling crime thrillers.

It's good guy versus bad guy, as a young detective (McAvoy) tries to settle an old debt by bringing down an international thief (Strong) when he returns to London after a heist involving his son goes wrong.

James McAvoy (Trance) has starred in a number of solid films to date and his best is yet to come. Welcome to the Punch is not it and he's about as good as that puzzle piece you force into place. It's not to say he's not watchable and likable, it's just not a good match... no matter how inexperienced his cop character.

He shares the screen with Andrea Riseborough (Shadow Dancer), whose unassuming beauty and presence add more than a complex love interest. Riseborough could have done with more screen time, but this one's more about tough guys with guns than copper girls. Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) is making a name for himself as a movie bad guy and continues this trajectory with a complicated villain, whose mission becomes less apparent with each scene.

Writer-director Eran Creevy has concocted a film that looks the part, representing a sleek London with a plot that mimics the new Sherlock Holmes TV series for its character make-up. Instead of a young Holmes we have Lewinsky, whose partner is not Watson but Hawks with Sternwood replacing Moriarty as his nemesis. He's even borrowed the political undertones of the new series with a political backdrop.

The film pales in comparison. Not only are the characters less charming and more two-dimensional, but the plot has thickened in terms of intellect and lacks the intensity you'd expect from a dark Brit crime thriller. While visually stimulating and atmospheric, the overall effect is underwhelming and easily forgettable. It's mildly entertaining and only going to register if you're in it for the shoot outs and car chases.

The bottom line: Insubstantial

Movie Review: Vehicle 19

Vehicle 19 is a crime thriller about an American tourist caught in a web of Johannesburg police corruption, starring The Fast and The Furious's Paul Walker. It's an ambitious film that tries to leverage its star, city and concept to great effect. Unfortunately, the end result is vapid, messy and ultimately unsatisfying.

Johannesburg is one of the crime capitals of the world. The cross-section of life and cultural diversity make this city a living and breathing urban artwork. Businessmen, beggars... the city is a hub for the everyman and a dangerous jungle for the uninitiated. As a setting, it bristles with frenetic energy and makes a sprawling backdrop of hard-living for a crime thriller like Vehicle 19.

The title and setting echo Neill Blomkamp's District 9, butVehicle 19 is a low budget crime thriller set in the here and now, and the only alien is an American who gets into the wrong rental car.

The film-makers have tried to mimic films like Brake and Buried, thrillers that locked their lead actors in a claustrophobic space and leaned on their acting talents. In Brake, Stephen Dorff plays a Jack Bauer style character trying to escape the clutches of his captors and foil a terrorist plot. In Buried, Ryan Reynolds plays an American who has been buried alive. Instead of temporary imprisonment, Vehicle 19 has "locked" Paul Walker into a rental vehicle.

As a concept, there's less pressure on Paul Walker's performance as Michael Woods. We witness a diverse Joburg backdrop as urban scenes flash past the car windows. Fresh faces enter the fray as he bounces off various subplots. However, the concept draws too much attention to itself as the fish-out-of-water protagonist is invisibly tethered to his rental car. There's no underlying claustrophobia or ticking time bomb to create tension and simply being a foreigner in Jozi traffic doesn't up the stakes.

Without palpable tension, special effects or vivid storytelling, Vehicle 19 leans too heavily on a central performance, a cityscape and an ambitious concept. While Paul Walker's good looks, earnest demeanor and valiant acting keep us rooting for his Fast and Furious persona, his character lacks traction, making him seem vapid and expendable. We're just not invested enough in his plight to win back his anonymous girl.

There are some great ideas, but a lot of moments seem implausible to laughable as Woods seems intent on burying his head deeper-and-deeper into a dangerous situation. An uncertain supporting performance from Naima McLean serves as a gimmick to tie Woods into his quest, but it's already too late as our interest starts to wane.

You can admire Mukunda Michael Dewil for taking a shot at such an ambitious concept thriller on a low budget. The ingredients are all there, but this picture is fueled on a high profile star, a good idea, loads of passion and not enough presence of thought. As such, it doesn't jel, lacks the depth, thrills and entertainment value we would have expected.

The bottom line: Underwhelming

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