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With: H.P. Mendoza, Jake Moreno, L.A. Renigen, Sigrid Sutter, Gigi Guizado, Larry Soriano, Allison Torneros, Kat Kneisel, Brian Raffi, Jim Wierzba, David Scott Keller, Paul Kolsanoff
Written by: H.P. Mendoza
Directed by: Richard Wong
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references
Running Time: 95
Date: 03/21/2006

Colma: The Musical (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

City in the Clouds

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This ultra-low budget film is scheduled to open in San Francisco as well as New York and Los Angeles, but will anyone outside the Bay Area get the joke? Colma is located just south of San Francisco. Due to limited space and various city ordinances, people aren't allowed to be buried in San Francisco proper, so Colma has become the land of cemeteries; it has more dead people than living. Additionally, it's a small town, enshrouded in fog, with not much to do. The surprisingly delightful, hilarious Colma: The Musical begins just after three friends graduate from high school and try to figure out what their lives might have in store for them. Rodel (H.P. Mendoza, who also wrote the music, lyrics and screenplay) is an aspiring writer who must hide his homosexuality from his father (Larry Soriano). Billy (Jake Moreno) is an aspiring actor who still hasn't gotten over his old girlfriend. He gets a job in a mall, lands a part in a local play and begins dating Tara (Sigrid Sutter) all at once, which strains his friendships. Maribel (L.A. Renigen) is the boys' stalwart, energetic female friend, and the one who appreciates Colma's secret beauties. Making his feature debut, director Richard Wong shot on digital video but transferred the final product to a 2.35:1 widescreen frame, and he uses it with amazing finesse, emphasizing wide, empty spaces and dramatic positioning within. Mendoza's songs are catchy, with a low-tech charm (they sound like they were recorded in a home studio with an old synthesizer), although sometimes the amateurish mixing buries the lyrics within the electronic drum beats. Thankfully, nobody bothered to choreograph dance numbers; the camera mostly drifts along with the singers as they walk through Colma's desolate landscapes. The acting is all above average, but Paul Kolsanoff as Billy's boss is a comic standout. Parts were shot in San Francisco, notably in the Java on Ocean café near my house. Apparently, the only other movie shot in Colma has been Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude (1972).

DVD Details: Extras on Lionsgate's DVD include a commentary track by director Rich Wong and writer/composer/actor H.P. Mendoza, deleted scenes, and trailers for other Lionsgate releases (including the vile Good Luck Chuck). The optional English and Spanish subtitles include song lyrics.

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