At 34, struggling Seattle musician Sam (Mark Duplass, “Humpday”, “The League”) finds himself broke, jobless and losing touch with the person he wants to become. When his girlfriend kicks him out, he’s forced to crash with his Aunt Sharon (Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”) and is reluctantly enlisted to take her teen son, Oliver, and his friend Jake camping. Edgy, funny and honest, Craig Johnson’s film follows the trio into the rugged Pacific Northwest as unforeseen revelations and transformations force them to face adulthood. Set to a mesmerizing soundtrack featuring both emerging and established artists including Band of Horses, The Black Keys and Devendra Banhart, “True Adolescents” remind us that sometimes people need to get lost to truly find themselves.
2009 – Certificate: Not Rated – American Film
7.0 out of 10
I didn’t want to get up yesterday morning. It was raining outside (again), grey and unpleasant. On my journey to work, I was busy mentally congratulating myself on my meteorological forecasting skills and subsequent ability to make the journey during a break in the rain, just as it started to pour down for the last few minutes. I got soaked. It’s Fair Trade Fortnight and where I work was attempting to serve free tea, coffee and breakfasts to people outside; the rain pouring off the canopy in front of the building and onto the pavement was ‘intense’. Strangely, I left work at about six feeling quite upbeat. On my walk home I was wondering why, after such an unpromising start to the day, it had turned into quite a good one. I didn’t really come up with anything, other than there were a number of nice, small things and a lack of bad things, which probably did the trick. A CD/DVD I’d ordered on Sunday was delivered. This was unexpectedly early. I was due to have to go and do something all day, (basically sit and observe someone delivering a training course), but the date for this has now been changed, so I had an extra day in the office and got a lot of things done that I wasn’t expecting to get done. I had a nice lunch with a colleague in the cafe, something I don’t often do. Someone in the office got a grant of £2,500 to do some work; we were only expecting to get a few hundred, so this was a welcome surprise. For the first time that I can remember, all eight volunteers and staff were in at the same time today; the place felt quite alive and buzzy. Someone bought a big, homemade cake in. I completed a grant claim that’s been hanging about for ages and I’ve had loads of hassle over. I got a few other bits of outstanding work done that had been playing on my thoughts for a while. I didn’t go into Tesco on the way home and buy crap for my dinner; I came home and cooked proper food instead. So there you go, my recipe for an okay day.
A thirty-something guy takes his nephew and his nephew’s friend camping for a weekend. They all grow up a bit. The end. This is a decent enough film that’s worth watching mainly for Mark Duplass’ man-boy character, who’s funny but in a believable way. The main thing that bugged me was the fact that many of the various things that happen to them, especially the two most significant ones, don’t seem to get dealt will in any depth; they felt more like plot contrivances to take us towards the end, rather than big events that ought to have been considered in more detail. Shame that. It’s a decent enough watch though.
This film makes much of its musical content and the main character is also a guitarist/singer in a not very good indie rock band. Unfortunately most of the music is pretty mundane. That’s a shame too.
Like a lot of things, the trailer is there or thereabouts. It does a good job of not spoiling the film, but at the same time doesn’t tell you a great deal about it either.
Recommended for not-famous guitarists, rubbish indie rock bands, teenage boys and kindly aunts.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? The two lads ask Sam if he’s going to wear his hiking boots. Sam glances down at what looks like a rather battered pair of Converse baseball shoes on his feet and says, “These are my hiking boots”, (with the emphasis on “are”). Yeh, that’s rock ‘n’ roll for you! I then spent the rest of the film all tensed up, waiting for him to turn his ankle over. Weirdly, this fate befalls one of the other characters. As someone who sprained his ankle hiking a couple of years ago, I could relate to this, which makes it badass. Converse boots really aren’t good for hiking.
Isolation… alienation… happiness. In America they all go hand in hand. Buy a new TV and you will be happy. Still not happy? Experience alienation. Can’t afford a new TV? Then live in isolation. “Be happy”, and if that doesn’t work, pretend to make it work. For the characters in Todd Solondz’ award winning, subversively funny film “Happiness”, the struggle to attain such a state is fraught with perils both heartbreaking and hilarious.
1998 – Certificate: 18 – American Film
Rating Details: Adult theme, strong sexual references, language and sex
8.5 out of 10
The National Lottery spoilt my day today and it was going so well too. It started off sunny. Then I drove to Berkhamsted, which included a slow selection along the M4. This provided me with a golden opportunity to open all the windows and ‘educate’ my fellow motorists in what good music sounds like, whether they wanted educating or not. It’s never too early in the day for some noisy punk rock. I then passed my MiDAS trainer/assessor reassessment. This means I can continue to train people to drive minibuses in my own, inimitable style. (e.g. “Just put your foot down.” “It’s not your vehicle, so don’t worry.” “You’re not paying for the insurance.” “You’re bigger than they are.”) I then drove home again with the windows open. This time there was no slow section, so thanks to a large articulated lorry I no longer need to tidy up the interior of my car, as all the rubbish in it suddenly got sucked out of the window as the lorry went past. Then I got home and opened a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service, which was happy to report that I’m not a pervert or a weirdo; at least not one that’s been caught anyway. But then the Lottery spoilt my happiness by rejecting a funding application I’d made for a project. For the second time! Bloody hell! I even buy two lottery tickets every week by Direct Debit. That should guarantee success. (Then again, I don’t know why this surprises me. In the 19 years it’s been running, I’ve bought one or two tickets virtually every single week and personally never won more than £10; and that’s not happened more than a few times either. I’m relying on a Lottery jacket win to act as my pension too.) My failure was highlighted in some nonsense about insufficient evidence of need. I guess interviewing every single person on the whole planet about the project and finding that all 7,164,915,211 of them supported it and would benefit from it, wasn’t sufficient. Still, I’ve been invited to reapply if I can provide more information. It’s lucky I’ve just got my DBS Certificate, as I’m now going to need to hang about in various maternity wards and try to consult with some babies as they come out of the womb, as just about everyone else has already expressed an opinion. It’s not the rejection that hurts, (well okay it is really), but the fact that some of my colleagues north of the border seen to be able to provide enough evidence for similar applications, by simply stating that they think the project they’re apply for money for would be “nice”. This doesn’t make me very happy. It’s so easy being Scottish. We have to work hard in the South East of England for everything. I think a career as a diplomatic would suit me better. That would make me much happier too. This is a film about happiness.
This is a sick film. It’s exactly the sort of perverse movie that the DBS should ask about before issuing Certificates. It’s also very funny, in a blacker than black way. There’re loads of reviews of it on the Internet, half of which say it’s great and the other half say they walked out of it after 15 minutes because it was so “disgusting”. Despite its reputation as a bit of a dodgy film, it’s also surprisingly moving and very well acted. I think I like it as it features a load of people who think they’re happy but actually they’re not, yet they still are in a rather strange way. I like to see people bought down to my level. It’s a movie for grow-ups you should watch. You can always use a pair of sharp scissors to cut the DVD in two if you don’t like it. (But remember to take care with the scissors, especially as DVDs can suddenly shatter into sharp pieces when stressed. I’d advise you wear gloves and goggles too, just in case.)
There is a soundtrack but it’s pretty unmemorable. Music is sparsely used, although when it is it does support the action nicely. On many occasions it’s used more as an element in the scenes themselves, rather than simply as background ‘noise’ to build tension or whatever. Michael Stipe does sing the theme song though.
Recommended for weirdos. (Sorry, I can’t be arsed to write anything else.)
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? At the start of the film, Allen strikes a blow for downtrodden men everywhere, with his “I’m Champagne” tirade. Admittedly he picks on the somewhat weedy Joy as the target for his ‘stand’, but nevertheless he knocks the ball right out of the ground. Yeah; men rise up and take back your birth right! No more will we be under the thumb of woman-kind! Reclaim the mighty sword of masculinity and trousers of relationship power! (Do I come across as sounding bitter or twisted at all?)
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.