Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, “Six Feet Under”), a widower of five years, lives an aimless life as a college economics professor in suburban Connecticut. When Walter reluctantly agrees to fill in for a colleague at a conference in New York City he discovers a young couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira), have been scammed into illegally renting his vacant flat. Walter agrees to let them stay until they find a place of their own. However when an interaction with the police lands Tarek, an undocumented New Yorker, in an ICE detention centre, Walter emerges as the only person able to visit Tarek. When Tarek’s mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) appears in search of her son, Walter’s emotional commitment in Tarek’s case is sealed. As the four people struggle to deal with the stark realities of the US immigration system and their own individual lives, their shared humanity is revealed in awkward, humorous and dramatic ways.
2007 – Certificate 15 – USA
Rating Details: Infrequent strong language
8.5 out of 10
In the last two days I’ve had the same, unnerving and surreal experience, twice; once last night and once this morning. I’ve travelled on two trains and each time had a whole carriage to myself. (I’ve seen plenty of films where people travel on empty trains and they never end well.) Last night I could sort of understand; who wants to go from Oxford to London at seven minutes past midnight on a miserable, Monday evening? (I’d been at a Stranglers gig; amazing band.) But today I was going from Reading to Winchester at just gone midday. I was really quite surprised (although relieved) to reach my destinations and not be accosted by a psychotic killer or two, or the undead, or some zombies; it was quite disappointing really. There is something uniquely creepy about being on what feels like an empty train at night; you can’t see anyone, you can’t see anything out of the windows, you’re just in this metal tube that’s rumbling through the darkness like an out of control monster-thing. It’s a bit of a tenuous link, but the last scene in this film takes place in a train station.
This is a great film. It’s really well written, filmed and acted. It makes a point (about the immigration system in the USA). It has characters that don’t feel like they were cut out of the back of a cereal packet. The interaction in it between people who, on the surface have little in common, is top stuff. Despite their ‘illegal’ status, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Tarak and Zainab; in fact I can’t imagine anyone with any shred of humanity not sympathising with their situation. Tarak is also Syrian, which give the film an extra poignancy at the moment, although it was made just before the civil war there started. He comes across as a decent, nice person, a little reminder that most people there are just like the rest of us. (At this point I started going on about Syria, politicians and diplomats, but when I read it back to myself it sound like total shite, so I deleted it; yes, it really was that bad.) Anyway, yes, this film. It was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also wrote and directed “The Station Agent”, probably one of the best ten movies ever made. “The Visitor” isn’t as good at that, but it’s still pretty awesome. Watch.
This is another of those films where the music is almost a character in it. I love them. A lot of the ‘action’ revolves around Tarak teaching Walter how to play the djembe.
No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.
Recommended for the living. Plenty of emotional ups and downs, so maybe not so good if you tend to throw up on rollercoasters.
Top badass moment? When it comes to doing new things, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a coward. My comfort zone is very well-defined and heavily defended by some serious, state of the art hardware. Seeing Walter join the drumming circle in the park is most definitely badass.
I went to a gig last Saturday, to see Random Hand, Tyrannosaurus Alan and four other bands. One of the latter was Tallowah, a great reggae band from Southend-on-Sea which I hadn’t seen before; but now I have I’ll want to see again. I haven’t been to that many gigs over the past couple of months and oh boy did I feel it; all that ‘dancing’ and stuff people do. I felt really unfit and my neck is sore now too. It was like I’d forgotten what to do; weird. Random Hand was great; it’s pretty well always great. I’ve no idea why it’s not huge; (but then again, having heard today that the most pirated artist in the UK is Ed Sheeran, that doesn’t really surprise me). Tyrannosaurus Alan is continuing to get better and better. Saturday was by far the most moshing I’ve ever seen at one of its gigs. A highlight was the tallest guy in the room crowd surfing for an entire song without touching the floor; he must have been at least 12 feet tall and as is usual for the tallest person at every gig I’ve ever been to ever, he’d managed to stand in front of me. On the train journey home I also thoroughly enjoyed the antics of the snogging young couple sitting opposite. She finally ended up asleep with her head in his lap, (well I think she was sleeping); probably due to a lack of air, poor thing. I think this all goes to prove what a jolly nice, decent and tolerant person I am. However…
2001 – Certificate: R – USA
Rating Details: Drug use, language, some sexual content and a scene of violence, all involving teens.
One thing I really hate is when the cover of a DVD has little to do with the content. Here we have a classic example. Whoever it is that’s on the cover, she’s not in the film at all. Not only that, but her knickers are clearly white, whereas any we seen in the film are black; (and her skirt is totally different to the ones worn in the film too). That’s two DVDs in a row I’ve watched that have suffered from ‘false advertising’ in this way. Whoever designed and authorised the sleeve used for this DVD should go directly to prison and suffer some embarrassing, undignified and degrading experiences in the toilets, before finally being put up against a wall and shot. Well okay maybe just life imprisonment then; I did say I was a tolerant person. Oh, and before I forget, the title of the film is entirely misleading too; there’s no pastry-based food featured in it anywhere, with or without a sweet or savory filling! So anyway, now I’ve trashed the marketing, what about the film itself? Well, it basically follows a group of boring, spoilt, rich kids who go to a private school in New York, who spend most of their time taking drugs and trying to be ‘rebellious’. Of course, someone gets killed, friendships get tested and we all learn a bit more about life and ourselves; well, I’m certainly glad about all that then and I’m sure you are too. Actually I’m probably making it sound worse than it is; it is entertaining enough in its own way. Dominique Swain (Cat Storm) looks great in a school uniform (nice legs) and her mother is some sort of saint. It just somehow doesn’t really seem to get going before it’s all over. Even the injection of some oh so naughty bestiality and shocking gay sex can’t wake it up. (I bet you really do want to see it now.) Actually there’s a brilliant review of it on IMDB, which is so good it sort of put me off even trying to write anything better here. Go read it.
Recommended for boring, spoilt, rich kids, school uniform ‘enthusiasts’ and fans of the private education system.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? In a film filled with boring, self-centred people, the only contender is Lily Storm. Faced with an argumentative, selfish daughter and with an equally crappy ex-husband, she remains supportive, caring and understanding. Being the sort of mother everyone needs/wants is totally badass.
I went to see The Skints last night, at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston; (that’s Kingston-Upon-Thames, London, not Kingston, Jamaica). The Skints are a great, punk-edged reggae band from east London. Now, I have three irrational fears in life; getting my hair cut in a hairdressers/barbers, public toilets and seeing bands in venues I haven’t been to before. Given that selection, you’ll be please to know that my experiences last night only concerned the latter. Kingston is a bit of a pain to get to from Reading by public transport; well it’s okay to get to but really difficult to get back from afterwards, mainly because the last train times aren’t very bohemian. So on the odd occasion I go there I have to drive, which means I both add a little more towards the destruction of the planet (and suffer weeks of guilt-ridden nightmares as a consequence) and also of more immediate concern, I can’t really drink anything. Why new venues freak me out I’m not sure. I think it’s a fear of not knowing how to find where the stage is, while everyone else there knows the most intimate details of the place and will basically notice my confusion and inability to navigate myself around, leading to my being laughed at by them all (complete with pointing fingers) and as a consequence having to run away after suffering this public humiliation and never ever being able to go to a gig again, in case anyone recognises me and tells everyone and the nightmare starts again. Now I totally realise that this probably inflates my worldly importance and significance somewhat and that in reality no one would even notice or give a dam, or would just tell me where to go if I asked, but I did say it was an irrational fear. The venue in the Fighting Cocks is basically a shed (it looks like a garage from the outside) next to the pub. So after arriving and sitting in my car for ten minutes to build up the courage to go, I walked up the road to meet my nemesis. When I arrived the bloke on the door was giving some guy trying to get in a hard time, suggesting that the photo on the Driving Licence he’d provided as proof of his age had been tampered with; something to do with his eyes looking in different directions. Anyway he was got in in the end and I just walked past the bouncer; no one asks me to prove I’m over 18 these days; not sure why… Anyway, I walk into the place and what do I see? Giant writing on the wall saying “Toilets and venue this way”, with a big arrow to reinforce the message. (Well I think that’s what it said, I was just so happy that I could have thrown myself on the floor and prayed to God for thanks). There was also a bit of a queue too, which helped reinforce the suggestion; (well it could have been a queue for the toilets I guess). Inside the place wasn’t much bigger than a double garage, with a small bar in one corner, a stage in the other and paint peeling off the walls everywhere. I managed to end up trying to dance more or less under the speakers, as I slowly went deaf and the sweat of 150 people dripped down the walls. Yes, it was a pretty cool place! Great gig too; a benefit for the band (so it got to keep all the money from the sale of the tickets), as it had a van with most of its gear and merchandise in it stolen a couple of weeks ago. I only managed to stand on one person’s feet, which wasn’t too bad for me, but he was very forgiving. In a complete contrast to all this, Cruel Intentions features nothing materially seedy but lots of very questionable characters.
1999 – Certificate: 15 – USA
I love this film. I shouldn’t, but I do. Offering some terrible role-models and dodgy morals, we get to see so-rich-its-obscene kids taking pleasure in fucking up other people’s lives just for the fun of it. They aren’t even politicians or bankers either! In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” I was always more of a Willow than a Buffy fan, but Sarah Michelle Gellar manages to turn her character in this film into a total sex diva. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to slobber all over her as she tells you to be like Captain Picard and “boldly go where no man has gone before”. (I’ll just add that one to my Bucket List, shall I?) A smart script makes the most of a less the original story and the characters are sufficiently well written and acted to make this a genuinely awesome, must-watch movie.
Recommended for fans of excellent films and those that like to say things like, “what a bitch” or “what a bastard” while watching them, especially when the primary emotion when saying them is jealously.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? Sarah Michelle Gellar gets to be the sexy-bad-bitch-from-hell that Buffy could have become if she’d not have been a prime-time TV character; except without all the fighting. Her every word in this film is badass and not ‘good’ baddass either. However, I’m almost sorry she got her comeuppance in the end. What a bad person!