From the director of “Swingers” comes a black comedy tracing the outrageous misadventures of a group of young American delinquents. 18-year-old check-out girl Ronna (Sarah Polley – “The Sweet Hereafter”) is trying to score some rent money before she is evicted on Christmas Eve. Accompanied by reluctant partner in crime Claire (Katie Holmes – “TV’s Dawson’s Creek”), she embarks on her first drug deal… Meanwhile, impulsive Brit Simon (Desmond Askew – TV’s “Grange Hill”) is driving a stolen car with buddy Marcus (Taye Diggs – “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”) during a no-holds-barred night of partying in Vegas, as TV stars Adam (Scott Wolf – TV’s “Party of Five”) and Zack (Jay Mohr – “Jerry Maguire”) find themselves in the middle of a real-life drug sting – and a very creepy Christmas dinner…
1999 – Certificate: 18 – American Film
Rating Details: Strong sex, coarse language and drug use
8.0 out of 10
I don’t do music festivals. Never have. I’ve been to hundreds of gigs over the years but only a few festivals, which have mostly been indoors and only lasted a day; in fact I’ve only been to four outdoor music events ever. In 1983 I did hitchhike from London to Stranraer in Scotland, got the ferry across to Larne in Northern Ireland, before hitching down through Belfast and then Dublin, to go to the Punchestown Racecourse. That was to see The Undertones last ever gig (until the band reformed in 1999). Dire Straits was the headliner, but I left before it came on. This was still a one-day event, but I slept in a random field in the open by a haystack the night before. (Until that is, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a lot of very drunk Irish guys, who ‘insisted’ I slept in their tent, which just happened to be elsewhere in the same field. Being woken up by being dragged along the ground in your sleeping bag in the middle of the night by a load of incoherent drunks is a strange experience). But that’s the nearest I’ve got to the real ‘festival experience’… until this year. For some reason I rashly agreed to buy a £167 ticket to go to the Boomtown Fair near Winchester in Hampshire last month; four days of dance, reggae, ska and punk, all mixed up in a ‘pop-up’ town with 38,000 other people. Four days of drinking cider at 10:00am; eating nothing but bread and falafels; getting virtually no sleep courtesy of camping right next to the Hidden Woods and it’s seemingly non-stop diet of what I think young people might consider dubstep; and wandering around in what tuned into a quagmire of mud. I was lying in my tent one morning, holding onto the inner part of it in the hope that the tail end of what used to be Hurricane Bertha wasn’t going to blow it away; I’d never seen tent poles bend like that before. (Typical Yanks, sending us their worn out, second-hand weather.) I ‘lost’ my wallet at NOFX, (who were pretty crappy actually); lost my red/black hat (a huge tragedy) as I got too drunk; had something weird happen to my eyes so it looked like I’d not slept for 50 years; got so sunburnt that my nose fell off (well nearly); and spent a lot of time wondering about and occasionally dancing even more stupidly than normal to bands such as New Town Kings, Dirty Revolution, The Skints, Imperial Leisure, Culture Shock and Sonic Boom Six. For most of the Skints’s set it poured down; not normal rain, but the sort of rain that Noah had to deal with. I couldn’t have been wetter if I’d sat in a bath in my clothes. There’s something very surreal about dancing in the pouring rain on a surface that’s rapidly turning into a mud slide. The best ‘new’ bands were Smiley & the Underclass and (by coincidence) Smiling Ivy. Other than the music, the other sound I heard most often was people filling balloons full of nitrous oxide to inhale. In places the ground was covered in the little metal canisters it normally comes it. We were also asked at least a dozen times if we were ‘selling’ anything. I never realised I looked so much like a drug dealer. Then again, about 99% of the people there were younger than me, so I guess to deal drugs is the only reason ‘old people’ go to festivals. And then there were the toilets… Would I go again? Fuck, yeah! And for those of you interested in the rather random set of photos I took, they can be viewed here. This is a film about musical culture too, in this case the rave scene at the end of the 90’s. (Nice segue me.)
So, this isn’t a film about the ancient, Chinese game of Go. A sort of cross between “Pulp Fiction” and “Trainspotting”, we follow the exploits of a group of young friends over a weekend, seeing the story unfold three times as it focuses on different people. It feels a bit OTT and kind of dated (pre mobile phones), but is actually very funny and well put together. I’m not sure what I was doing when all this rave stuff was going on originally. I seem to remember it was towards the end of the 80s and early 90s. I own some 12” singles from that period, which would suggest I had some knowledge of it, but that’s all. Maybe I was totally out of it on E, X, J or W, or whatever letter of the alphabet people took in them days. Or perhaps I fell asleep in front of the TV for a few years or something. Yeah, reach for the lasers…
For a film about rave culture, it has surprisingly little music in it and what there is sounds a bit bland. It’s okay but a bit of a wasted opportunity; a little like this sentence really. It does have Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” in it, which seems to turn up in a lot of films. But it was used in “Star Trek; First Contact”, so that’s a good enough recommendation for me.
The trailer’s not bad. Actually it works quite well as an introduction to the film without giving much away.
Recommended for people who work in supermarkets, drug dealers, dodgy cops and losers in general.
2 cats, no chainsaws or decapitations. Cute cats, awwww. One has some top dialogue; it’s dubbed into English too, which is great for anyone that doesn’t understand cat language.
Top badass moment? To raise money to pay her rent, Ronna starts selling aspirin and antihistamines and telling people that they’re drugs. (That’s drugs as in drugs, not drugs as in, em, drugs). People buy them and then think they’re having the sort of effect they expect. It reminded me of how bottled water is sold to the masses. Marketing pointless crap to stupid people successfully is, begrudgingly, badass.
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.
Academy Award® nominee Viggo Mortensen leads an all-star cast including Guy Pearce, Academy Award® winners Robert Duvall and Charlize Theron and an incredible debut performance from Kodi Smit-McPhee. “The Road” is a thrilling and deeply moving tale of survival as a father and his young son journey across a barren, post apocalyptic America. Respectfully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s hallowed novel, “The Road” boldly imagines a future in which men are pushed to the worst and the best that they are capable of; a future in which a father and his son are sustained by love.
2009 – Certificate: 15 – USA
Infrequent strong violence, language and gory images
It’s Sunday evening. Monday is Christmas Eve. Unlike most of my colleagues at work and indeed most other people everywhere else around these parts, I’ll be at my desk tomorrow, protecting the planet so the rest of you can enjoy the festive season, secure in the knowledge that the Earth is in safe hands. Scanning the skyline for environmental Armageddon and other unpleasant circumstances, I’ll be poised, like a coiled snake, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, should someone send in an e-mail for any reason that’s needs answering. I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but when I’m at work I really do feel like I’m one of the Avengers or part of the Justice League. This movie features a hero too.
The trailer is really quite deceptive (and actually not very good), as it seems to suggest this is some sort of action film. It does have moments, but overwhelmingly it’s slow, quiet and thoughtful, with most of the action involving hiding rather than fighting. I have to admit to having a soft spot for post apocalyptic movies; I think they probably reflect my life in some ways. However, this is possibly the best film I’ve seen for the first time this year. It has few weaknesses. It’s heartbreakingly sad. As you watch an ordinary, decent guy trying to protect his wife and young son from everyone and everything, the hopelessness it presents will pretty well jump out of the screen, sit down and embrace you; eww, gross. With so many superheroes and action-heroes routinely overcoming impossible odds in films, it’s easy to forget that most of us aren’t actually like that and there’s a limit to what we can do. Seeing The Man (none of the characters’ names are ever given) slowly give up more and more of himself and his humanity is depressing beyond words and what few happy moments there are (and “happy” has to be taken to mean better relative to everything else), are quickly crushed. The scene with the wallet and wedding ring is a real killer and the ending will make you want to cry; it did me. The scene when they catch up with the guy who’s stolen their belongings is pretty shattering too. The photography is great. I watched it on a Blu-ray disc and really gets across the whole look and feel of the landscape; everything dead, everything smashed up, looted, burnt out, destroyed, colourless. The whole time it’s damp, cold and miserable, the sun hardly shines and it rains, a lot. (Actually that’s not unlike the view from my lounge window recently, what with the weather and all the fly-tipping around the rubbish bins.) The acting is top draw stuff too. The two main characters spend most of their time sleeping, looking for food, trying to keep warm and walking. This doesn’t sound very interesting, but the script is so good that you’ll want to celebrate whenever they get a bit of luck. The only thing that lets it down slightly is the ending, which has a rather big “why didn’t they” moment. I actually wanted to get something to eat whilst I was watching it, but I felt so bad for the characters that I didn’t; I needed to empathise with their hunger, (although I did draw the line at soaking myself in the shower, opening all the windows and rolling around in the dirt outside in the dark). This is a bleak movie; it offers a few moments of hope, but it’s overwhelmingly a wrist-slasher. It’s also a must-see film. I’m going to buy the book it’s based on.
Recommend for anyone with emotions. Probably not a great film for Christmas Day viewing; or Lieutenant Commander Data.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Like Batman, he’s not perfect and he doesn’t have any superpowers, but The Man’s single-minded devotion to protecting his son is pure Badass. Yes, that’s badass with a capital B.
It’s the beginning of a long hot summer, and thirteen year old Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki) and her family settle into their isolated cottage for what’s set to be another perfect holiday. But for Janey this will be no ordinary holiday, it will change her life forever. Every day she swims, fishes and cares for her brother Jim, while her mother Kate (Sarah Pierse) embarks on an affair with photographer Cody (Martin Csokas) and her father Ed (Alistair Browning) sits in the back yard, drinking whiskey and ignoring his family. Every night their parents throw parties to disguise their growing marriage problems and surrounded by adults drinking and flirting, she soon discovers her own sexuality with severe consequences. Rain is the provocative and moving debut feature film from acclaimed New Zealand director Christine Jeffs (Sylvia), set in the lush backdrop of New Zealand’s beautiful coastline.
2001 – Certificate: 15 – New Zealand
With all the rain most people seem to have been having recently in the UK, I thought I’d show a bit of solidarity with my sodden comrades and watch this film. Cactus World itself seems to have avoided the worst of the weather and today is presently sitting at a comfortable cloudy but dry, 24°C. (The latter’s in my lounge; I’ve no idea what the temperature is outside, but I don’t think it’s especially cold.) I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my neighbours too, for having their heating on so I don’t need to use mine. I haven’t had it on at all today. You know how hard it is to buy a Christmas present for someone who has everything? Well I like to think of this as my Christmas present to the Earth, but it’s proving to be a bugger of a thing to wrap up. The planet also has about a billion Christmas trees, which seems just a tad ostentatious even when compare with those people who cover their homes in sleigh-shaped lights and stuff, so I’ve not sure which one to put it under anyway. Despite its name, it doesn’t rain in this film at all. It does however, have a somewhat overcast vibe.
It’s time for another movie about a dysfunctional family. Yeah! This one’s set during a summer in the 1970s. From the use of Sherbet’s “Howzat” as part of the soundtrack, I’d say around 1976. (They don’t make songs like that anymore; thank goodness for punk.) A 13-year-old girl realises her parents have a dysfunctional marriage and whilst watching their drinking, depression and adultery, tries to figure out how to model her own behaviour. She spends most of the film trying to keep her (really very cute) younger brother happy and developing a crush on her mother’s lover. Of course, you know it’s not going to end well and my crystal ball tells me she’s going to have some pretty bad hang-ups when she’s older. Despite being made in a nice location in nice weather, the whole film has a slightly depressing and seedy 70s feel about it. There was something quite sad (as in sad pathetic rather than sad miserable) about the party scenes, a lot of adults pretending to have fun rather than actually having any; I’m glad I didn’t get invited, I’d rather have gone to see a dentist. The acting is good and the girl who plays the lead character Janey does a good job of playing a really quite complex character very well. As for the adults, they were all pretty pitiful really. They deserved one another. A decent film worth a watch, but not one New Zealand Tourism is likely to make heavy use of.
Recommend for people who have some sort of nostalgic connection to the mid 70s. Perverts! You can get treatment for that sort of thing these days; I suggest you go get some.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? This is a toughy. In fact I’m going to give up. Janey may have done something, but I can’t for the life of me think what. I’m afraid all the adults were far too boring, useless and flawed to have a hope in hell of being badass. Badass needs heroes and the strong, not contemptible weaklings!