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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

/* is this happening ? */ - Good night Adventureland !

What is it about Pittsburgh that produces depressing movies about lost characters - in evidence we submit The Deer Hunter, The Wonder Boys, Pittsburgh, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Adventureland.

Sometimes it can be jarring to see a favourite indie actor pop out of place in a major film: a la Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot or Undertow or Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg's Dear Wendy into Peter Jackson's King Kong or Camilla Bell emerge from The Quiet or The Ballad of Jack and Rose into 10,000 BC or Push. Meanwhile there is Jesse Eisenberg who apart from a M. Night sortee into The Village has stuck to Roger Dodger and the forlorn Walt Berkman in The Squid and The Whale.

And once again Jesse Eisenberg is the stoic yet sad Brennan, James Brennan in Adventureland. Brennan has just broken up with a girl he has known for all of eleven days. His high expectations of a six week summer fun vacation in Europe, then grad school at Columbia for journalism and staying in an apartment in New York City with his friend are his way out of hometown. Alas! are shot down in flames as his father is transferred at work to a lesser paying position. So he badly neds money to pay for his education.

A scholarship student majoring in literary, his proceedings in life have proven him inexperienced to even qualify for manual labour jobs in Pittsburgh.

His dysfunctional parents denoted by the copious alcohol consuming father and an ever blame-assigning mother drive Brennan to the desperation of accepting a summer job with his prankful and mean-spirited friend Tommy Frigo at theme park Adventureland.

On his first day out, he meets a girl whose demeanour seem wise beyond her years, yet there she is. Being the new guy Brennan spots her. "Hi, I'm the new guy." On the second day, the new girl saves Brennan from being stabbed over a big-ass panda. Which is where all the fun and drama begins. Adventureland is very skewed - this could have been a flat out comedy but veers towards the quirks and quirky highs in life.

Adventureland brings alive again a time where music defined the generation - The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum ruled amongst angst-filled kids - and Lou Reed is god. Adventureland maintenance man Mike Connell's claim to fame is playing guitar with Lou Reed one night. The cast of Adventureland is stellar and brings 1987 to life, yet Adventureland dwells in a nostaligic melancholy. Kristen Stewart wearing the perfect Lou Reed Velvet Underground t-shirt brings a very un-Twilight like performance - as Em, still an outsider concealing an inner self full of painful reminders. Her room is adorned with posters of the Buzzcocks Love Bites and Diamond Dogs Bowie, and she collects the coolest records - Big Star's Radio City is on display during the party. Ryan Reynolds as Connell doesn't rise above the rest of the cast - he does his daily chores with a matter-of-fact friendliness and gets along with James, dispensing bits of advice. Brennan's musical hero is Lou Reed and he has a copy of Transformer carefully perched on his system.

The Stardust is a place to hang out and drown the rest of the day while listening to Foreigner or Stones cover bands - Connell goes there with his attractive wife while trying to keep a dalliance with Em on the side, meeting up with her at his mother's basement.

The highlight of the summer is the arrival back of the bodacious Lisa P. played by Margarita Lavieva - along with her sidekick Kelly. Lisa P is hot and she knows it, always in tandem with the similar strutting Kelly - but even Lisa P. does not rise above it all - she does not have overbearing attitude and even deigns to go on a date with James. James is no fool, and recognizes it is probably a payback at one of her suitors, but hey! it's Lisa P!

But in the long run, what dominates Adventureland is this ever-budding bond and romance between the ever-virginal James and Em - they often kiss and fade to black [ she saves him from being knifed over a "giant ass panda" ! ]

Adventureland is this year's Dazed and Confused (and harkens the yearning undertones of The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, which is a good thing) except the events of the best time of their life transpires over a summer instead of one night with stellar performances from a starry cast keeping it real.

/* Sorry Lucy */- Michelle Williams is a treat to behold in the quiet of Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy is still hanging around Toronto - and if you have not seen this movie yet please make the time to go out and see this little gem. This was our impression from Day 2 back at TIFF08.

/* Sorry Lucy */ = Michelle Williams is a treat to behold in the quiet of Wendy and Lucy

7:45 pm

A girl and her dog on a road trip - stuck in Oregon on the way to Alaska.

Which basically sums up Kelly Reichardt's little movie Wendy and Lucy starring a wistful Michelle Williams - a girl on the road travelling with her dog - with no safety net of her own and no direction home, she is heading away from native Illinois for a better life and financial future in the promiseland of Alaska. But while passing through somewhere in Oregon, the car breaks down leading to a string of misfortune which we will leave you to find out for yourself for now

Reichardt indicated the movie is a reflection of post-Katrina America where the poor and misfortunate are still looked down upon and almost seen to be responsible for their own fates - a post Katrina America where the politicians assume those American people are supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps - but what bootstraps? And where is the financial aid?

Wendy meets a kindly older security guard who watches over the parking lot at Walgreen and they in a way befriend each other. But in the town she meets people without a heart. Michelle Williams as Wendy takes it all in with a quiet stoicism, mingled with a certain despair yet still buoyed by a hope for the best imparted by her new friend - it is only her determination which keeps her moving forward. When she stops her life gasps for air. By the end she is on the road again - on the road to nowhere? but moving on.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

It's April in Midnight Matinee

February flew by too fast so here we are on the April edition of Midnight Matinee.

It's April so what happened to April March?

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

So this month it's heaven or Glasvegas and the catchiest single of the decade with Geraldine.

Hopefully this single with its attendant video will not be the death to the band where Delilah might have spelled the death knell of a certain t shirt band. However, the entire debut album is composed of shimmery tunes from the days of loud earplitting yet bright shiny rock devoted to by fans of bands of the Lush and Curve variety. Glasvegas is certainly poppy yet vocalist James Allan imbues the Scottish quartet's songs with a heartache and sadness that would make a young girl's heart break.

Matinee Recordings

For a solo debut Bubblegum Lemonade has been gathering a whole lot of attention for another Scottish musician. From the label that gave you would-be-goods comes "Laz" McLuskey instrumentalist with his "band" Bubblegum Lemonade. Harkening the psychedelia of Three O'Clock or the original Thirteenth Floor Elevator. Too many prevalent influences may mar the experience of just enjoying this record - after all there can only be one Jesus and Mary Chain no matter how hard a group may try not to emulate it.

Speak Up
Matinee Recordings

Being late to the game but better than never, catching onto the third record from the Guild League is a discovered delight. The Guild League which started as a side project Tali White, drummer of The Lucksmiths has evolved into this still mammoth Australian six piece. With White upfront instead of behind the kit Speak Up and with a group consisting of cello/bass/sax/guitar and drums the sound is far from conventional but more poppy and sprite than expected and heralds the sound of favourites Pale Fountains [which is always a good thing].

/* You owe me a ten second car */ - it seems like old times in Fast and Furious

Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Conner are at it again in Fast and Furious - and the originals Brian Walker and Vin Diesel slip back into their counterpart roles with ease. As seen in the opening Dom Toretto is still at the same game south of the border - just with a different crew - save the presence of longstanding girlfriend Michelle Rodriguez as Letty who is back into the fold. What is jarring is seeing Brian O'Conner in a full suit running down his quarry in a foot chase reminiscent of the first Bond movie jumping from rooftop to rooftop and scaling over fences. He may be a FBI agent now but he is still the outsider being made to conform.

At the time of The Fast and the Furious streetracing may have been an underground culture but under the direction of Rob Cohen and fuelled by the adrenaline of fast cars and fast women and a killer BT soundtrack The Fast and the Furious paved the way for the next two movies. And now the fourth instalment arrives in Fast and Furious - directed by Justin Lin [ from the third Tokyo movie ].

The car chases in tight tunnels quarters and the and races in the streets of LA and the mindboggling stunts during the heists are as exciting and riveting as ever. Mind you the reunion of the four casts members with the winsome Jordana Brewster back as Dom's sister and Brian's heartbreak girl from the first movie back in 2001 stlll has chemistry but this is not on the scale of the first Star Trek movie where everybody cheered the first presences of their favourite characters. However for the purposes of Fast and Furious only five years has transpired abd the main action has been shunted to the two males, principally Vin Diesel with the two ladies providing the impetus and the glue for the movie.

Speaking of ladies - there are plenty of those eyecandy types with the high heels and the skimpy and tight clothing and the tough attitude that makes the movie easy on the eyes. The pace of the movie is fast for the action sequences with an easy and humorous banter between the two adversaries, but far from furious when they dwell upon the past and moral conundrums.

Fast and Furious is definitely worth the chase.