Posted tagged ‘drugs’

Adventureland – Sticking the eyes on bananas

September 24, 2009

When did I start watching so many romantic comedies? (500) Days of Summer should have slated my thirst for indie rom-coms for months, yet here I am watching Adventureland. Adventureland is a sweet little film. Like (500) Days it deals with a twenty-something guy who is a hopeless romantic stuck in the ordinary world. Through their monotonous work the main character meets the girl of their dreams Em/Summer. Pretty, intelligent, deep and just a little damaged. Now our hero James/Tom can save her with his love. Looks like indie has gone mainstream.

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But you’ll have to wait to hear more about the film. Just like I had too. I rolled up to Luton with the cinema in mind. I hadn’t checked times but was surprised to find they weren’t showing anything for the next two hours. Luckily they were showing Adventureland as the next film, I wasn’t about to stick around to watch Gamer. Now two hours isn’t the longest amount of time, but it can feel that way in Luton.

If you aren’t familiar with Luton, you are lucky. Spending time there is a difficult and thankless task. It has a large shopping centre and the usual high street full with shops you could exchange for anywhere else in England. What bothered me was how everyone there seemed to have given up. The air was full of defeat and anguish. The one hopeful character was a Chugger (charity + mugger) named Alan. Alan was working for the charity UNICEF, but he was having a hard time of it.

Alan stood out amongst the crowd because he was moving with a frantic energy that the sedate populace was lacking. He was also wearing an electric blue jacket. He quickly moved himself into my line of sight as I stalked Luton’s streets to kill time. I didn’t really want to talk to him, but I understand how difficult it is having that job. So I humoured the lad. Luton was not so kind.

Sensing that I was treating another human being as such, Luton set about to put an end to it. A truck drove down what I thought was a pedestrian area to try and hit poor Alan. Then it was a road-sweeper who sought to run the blighter down. By now I feared for his life. I made my excuses and left him to prey on the guilt of the next person who went by. He was a nice guy, trying to get people to listen to him. If you have a minute check out the UNICEF website and see what you can do.

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So after two hours the film is about to start. Yippee. The cinema was dead and as a result you had far too many members of staff milling about with nothing to do. They all looked disinterested and dissatisfied. With a serge of zeal one member of the damned ran over to me to check my ticket. During the film a security guard, drunk on power, strutted into the theatre and let us all hear his walky talky go off several times. What a stud muffin he is.

Towards the end of the film our friendly neighbourhood bureaucracy enforcer returned to warn us not to have our feet on the chair in front. The cinema only had a dozen people in and yet four had their feet up. Myself included. But there is a catch. I had my feet resting one on top of the other in the gap between the chairs. No part of my shoe was in contact with the chair. I was too engrossed in the film to get into a debate on the topic but feel I should have mentioned it on my way out. He had run away by that point. Pansy.

Watching the film I had a funtastic time. That isn’t a typo, it’s a clever quote from the film. Now you can use it with your friends and seem really hip. Sure the film is set in 1987 making you some twenty years late to the party, but better late than never. Because the film is set in the late 80’s it is a great excuse to have an awesome soundtrack. Lou Reed is practically part of the cast with his face on posters, t-shirts and album covers. This proto-punk outlook is seen in James and Em. They are stuck in Pittsburgh when they have a more cosmopolitan view on life.

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James is a very quiet rebel. Played capably by Jesse Eisenberg, James has just graduated university and looking for what to do next. That sounds very familiar to me. I’m going through the same thing at the minute. I don’t have a theme park near by but I imagine scrubbing dishes in a pub’s kitchen will be similarly depressing. The upside being that I might just meet a girl I’m crazy about.

Em (played by Kristen Stewart) is that girl for James. And I can see why. She is exactly the type of girl I was nuts about in high school. Pretty but didn’t know it. Angry but not militant. Desirable but distant. A few names spring to mind instantly. James can’t believe his luck when a girl like Em invites him to one of her parties. He does the miraculous and manages to not make an arse of himself. Too much. Their small romance feels very private and genuine. Jesse Eisenberg did not have to try very hard to look like he enjoyed kissing Kristen Stewart.

Like most young men, James frequently thinks about sex. This leads to some awkward erection jokes that shows that this film is from the director of Superbad. This is a much more sedate and mature affair though. Whilst Superbad was screwing around with your friends before college, this is about what you have to do to save yourself from becoming a screw up. None of the adult characters are adequate role models for the main characters.

From watching interviews with writer and director, Greg Mottola, I can tell this is very personal. His speech patterns are almost identical to James’s. It seems like we have a man with arrested development, still hanging onto that high school crush that messed his head up. I’m sure he had a lot of McJobs before he was taken seriously as a film maker. Sometimes you just have to stick the eyes on bananas.

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Bill Hader provides excellent comic relief in this film that could otherwise tip into melodrama. He plays the crazy manager at Adventureland who has a very certain way of how he thinks the park should be run. None of these expectations bare much resemblance on reality. But that doesn’t matter for his smitten partner who thinks he is just wonderful. It is sweet and surreal.

The story of Adventureland is simple and the characters are routine, but in a nice way. It all feels everyday because that is what it is trying to be. This isn’t the doomed romance of Kristen Stewart’s much other big film this year. It is about life and how it has a way of screwing up. This film is not for everyone but I’d say it is capable of doing a couple of lengths in the pool. At its worst it is treading water, at its best it soars.

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ActorScope: Jeff Bridges – What can’t he do?

September 12, 2009

Welcome to the first ActorScope where I examine an actor. ActorScope will be looking at their past, present and future film projects. We’ll also cover trivia, rumours and any cool connections they may have. Our first actor in the spotlight is none other than Jeff Bridges. Scientists have often wondered how someone as cool as Jeff Bridges came into being. I imagine it was a magazine editor who entered a bowling tournament when, suddenly, he was sucked into a computer and was forced to steal his business partners high tech armour to escape.

Jeff Bridges has been in a lot of movies. Born into an acting family, Bridges was raised on the set. I’ll be looking at his more modern films today. I’m sure there are many great films I’ve missed off but I wasn’t alive at the time to watch them. What I have watched is the Big Lebowski. This is a brilliant film. It’s by the Coen brothers so you can expect all the quirky dialogue and vivid visuals that goes with that. The Big Lebowski has a massive cult following, in one day I saw three people wearing different slogans from the film on their t-shirts. The Dude abides, The Dude and Little Lebowski Urban Achievers. For indie film makers the Coen brothers sure know how to merchandise.

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I watched Iron Man again the other day. What a fun film. Whilst Robert Downey Jr steals the show, Jeff does a great turn as Obadiah Stane. It is very strange seeing Bridges yelling at scientists when they can’t recreate the Iron Man armour. When the slackers finally do piece it together, Iron Monger’s voice is great. Hearing a guy as cool as Bridges saying “collateral damage” really chills me. I’m sad he won’t be back in the next one.

A Bridges film I’m very keen to see would be Fisher King. Not only does it star the focus of this ActorScope, it’s also directed by Terry Gilliam. We all know I love him. Terry Gilliam is clocking up quite a few tags on this blog now. Wait till the Imagianarium comes out. A film I don’t really want to see is Seabiscuit. Now admittedly seeing Spider-Man and the Iron Monger in one film would be good, I doubt it would live up to the awesome Batman/Wolverine picture (The Prestige).

K-Pax. That was an odd one. It starred the ever watchable Kevin Spacey alongside Bridges. The only thing was that Spacey is sure he is an alien from the planet K-Pax. Bridges plays the psychiatrist trying to inform Spacey that he is human. It is an enjoyable film, but not one of my favourites. I felt frustrated that Bridges never accepted the idea that Spacey could be an alien, because if he had the film may have been more fun. It was a psychologically interesting film though.

Surf’s Up is skewed much more towards fun and away from psychological intensity. Bridges plays a hippy surfer penguin called Big Z. If you thought that premise was funny, you’ll probably like this movie. It has a lot of heart and as I remember it was very funny. The Beef (Shia LeBeouf) stars and he is a lot less irritating when you don’t see his smug little face. All I can say is that I hated Happy Feet with a fiery passion, so Surf’s Up went a part of the way towards redeeming the penguin genre.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People saw Bridges as a magazine editor who had lost his edge. Before he had always been about serious journalism and bringing to light what the government wanted hidden, now he did cover stories on little starlets. Bridges does a great job of showing someone who as forgotten why they do their job. Simon Pegg stars as the bumbling young journalist out to show Bridges how to get it back. An entertaining film that lampoons modern celebrity culture. The love story between Pegg and Kirsten Dunst feels tacked on but doesn’t destract greatly from a fun film.

TRON. No look at Jeff Bridges’ career would be complete without mentioning the 1982 geek bonanza. I am ashamed to admit I have not seen it. But I will before the sequel, TRON Legacy, hits cinemas. I’m sure it will be all over our television sets in the run up to the new film. We’ve all been touched by the vast cultural impact of TRON. Whether it is TRON guy on youtube or the light-bike race on Family Guy. Check out the exciting teaser trailer below. Bridges looks a little bit evil in this one, which is great fun.

The most exciting upcoming project, for me, of Jeff Bridges has to be The Men Who Stare at Goats. It looks incredible. A journalist (Bridges has a thing for those) discovers that America has been secretly training psychic super troops for thirty years. Or Jedis as they call themselves. It stars George Clooney, who starred in another Coen brothers’ classic – O Brother, Where art thou?, and Ewan McGregor. Bridges stars as the psychic instructor. A true hippy who looks like the dude on anti-depressants.

“I often feel that the actual movie is like the skin sloughed off the snake; it’s the by-product of the real valuable stuff, which is the real-life experience of doing it.” Jeff Bridges

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Some kind of high-powered mutant

September 5, 2009

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for some time. I have a lot of trendy friends who often discuss important issues like Gonzo journalism. Dicks. After watching the film I can’t say I have a greater understanding of the subject. But from the all knowing Wikipedia, I understand it to mean when the journalists own life comes to be the story rather than what they were reporting.

If you watch the film, with no knowledge of the king of Gonzo – Hunter S Thompson, none of that will come across. Instead you have a film about drugs that is so potent in its delivery that it makes you feel intoxicated. My sister was so moved by the film that she had to stop watching it when our two heroes stumbled into a circus/casino.

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I need to stress something. Stumbled does not do justice to just how they two men walked into the venue. High on ether, a powerful anaesthetic, they inch their way to the entrance. Raoul Duke (skillfully played by Johnny Depp) walks with bowed legs at the best of times but in this scene he challenges gravity as best he can.

What Raoul Duke cannot do as an able-bodied biped, he makes up for with ingenious inner monologues. Raoul’s inner monologues are the motor of the film. Which is impressive for a guy who has a cigarette in his mouth at all times. Almost all the dialogue in the film can be attributed to Raoul, but that is in no way a bad thing.

As much as this film is the story of Hunter S Thompson, it is through the distinct lense of Terry Gilliam. I’m not going to lie to you, I love Terry Gilliam. Brazil and Monty Python and the Holy Grail are two of my favourite movies of all time. Whilst Fear and Loathing won’t earn such a high honour, it is never the less a good film.

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Gilliam brings his usual richness to the visuals of this films. The lizard monsters (yes, lizard monsters) look incredible. The hotel suite the two men stay in as a terrifying mix of war zone, marsh and opium den. And not one actor looks savoury or wholesome in the whole film. They are all very sweaty too, it’s a bit like porn.

Where Gilliam falls short, in my opinion, is his editing. The scenes often seem to begin and end at very arbitrary points and don’t quite gel together. Granted, Raoul tries to describe how he keeps blacking out and this may be part of showing that. But, I’ve noticed this before in some of his films.

My favourite moment of the film came as a complete surprise. A man walks into a restroom and is horrified at what he saw. We are then treated to one of Raoul’s many musings on what was to become of this man. It was a tiny scene, with no significance to the plot, but it was also brilliant. I’d happily watch it as a one minute short.

In some moments of the film it was eerily similar to the 2000 film, Requiem for a Dream. Requiem is a far darker tale, but Fear and Loathing does take a nasty turn at the end of the second act. Raoul takes some drugs given to him by Satanists. This film obviously received an 18 rating. It cites its sole reason as “drug use.” The next time I see someone smoking a joint I will tell them to take some adrenochrome and stop misusing drugs.

This film has no problem keeping its head above water, but it’s not about to swim the channel. I’d recommend you see it just to hear this quote I want to use. We can’t stop here. This is bat country.

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