Monday, March 23, 2009

Young @ Heart

No, they wont fix you, they don't have schizophrenia, probably no purple haze either, they are in their golden years, but hey-they aren't on the road to nowhere either!

This is the story of a group of elderly men & women from Northampton, Massachusetts who first formed in 1982. They've toured the world, singing their unique brand of musical reinterpretations to sell-out audiences constantly. And it is so easy to see why this group has connected so well to so many people. They are just ordinary everyday people who just love to sing. But, the crucial difference with this bunch is what type of music they perform. Led by the relatively youthful Bob Cilman, he isn't content with them just performing oldtime standards exclusively. He decided that more challenging material might push them out of their safety zone & that they might actually enjoy singing more contemporary material occasionally. If only they knew just what songs he had in mind, they might not have been so quick to to say yes! So in come songs by the Rolling Stones, Talking heads, Sonic Youth, Outkast, Ramones to name but a few. The look on their faces as they are introduced to these new fangled things is priceless, and more than a challenge to say the least.

The movie follows the group rehearsing for a new show & tour in 2006, and the dogged efforts of Bob Cilman to get them to understand & perform the new tunes to a reasonable standard. It becomes rapidly obvious however, that he has got his work cut out for him in no uncertain terms. Two tunes that come in for the most scrutiny are james Browns' "I got you (I Feel Good)" & Allen Toussaints "Yes we can (we can can)" The continual hashing of these songs drives Cilman to utter despair at times, but the group persevere constantly, seemingly to no avail. You get the feeling that there is only so much that the group wants to learn, but they are not going to give up that easily!

In a large group of this size, its inevitable that a few will stand out from the rest. First up is the incorrigible flirt Eileen, who at a sprightly 96 yrs of age, has a wonderfully positive outlook on life. And definitely loves the attention in the movie from director Stephen Walker. Next into view are the doggedly determined guys: Bob Salvini, Fred Knittle who are being asked to perform a duet together of Coldplays "Fix You" Fred & Bobs' stories are very touching and undoubtedly, very amazing in their attitude to their fellow choir members. They don't want to let anyone down, least of all, themselves. What happens to them is both happy and sad, and safe to be said, extremely moving.

This movie is, hand on heart-the best thing I've seen all year. It has moved me like no other movie has done in a long while. I Laughed (Really laughed out loud!), I cried, I totally connected with this film much than I thought I would. It is absolutely unmissable.

Young @ Heart has only one aim really. To tell anyone that may care to watch that the most important thing in how you live your life is your attitude towards it.

Attitude is everything.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Lost

Meet Ray Pye, a good boy who has an unhealthy fascination with....killing. He just wants to see what it feels like to kill a human being.

From the opening sequence where Crispian St Peters "Pied Piper" plays over a low camera shot of a of black booted person walking fast in the woods over autumn leaves, towards an unknown destination, you get a very ominous sense of dread that he's not not on a errand that has a positive purpose in mind. Indeed, this opening scene takes a few unexpected twists and turns. And, with that, we just need to know exactly who is this dark & menacing character? What the hell is his real motives that for the chaos he is about to bring to this sleepy town?

Ray is played with complete & utter conviction by an actor by the name of Mark Senter. Not a name I have seen previously, but if this performance is an indicator, then he is assured of a long career as a quality actor. Obviously, we will need to see him in other more varied roles before we judge him of any impending greatness. But, this is one hell of an intro! I've checked out on the IMDB and found that Marc Senter won a best actor award at the 2005 Screamfest. Totally worthy of such an award. Hopefully, it wont be his last either. Maybe if he could get a role in either a primetime TV series-or a blockbuster movie, his undoubted skills will be noticed by more people.

Thankfully though, he is not the only good thing in this movie. From the jittery girlfriend, the wary & subservient best friend, to the dogged cops, the new female employee at the motel owned by Ray's mom & a myriad of supporting roles, no-one puts a foot wrong. We care about all these characters as they become increasingly tangled in Rays web of destruction. There is nowhere to hide as Ray gets more and more psychotic. Then maybe, a brief respite of sorts as Ray meets a new girl in town. The mysterious Katherine is attracted to ladies man Ray, who is clearly smitten with this newbie. She is just as cool & charming as Ray is. Indeed she is maybe, just maybe-more than a match for him.

Then, after the honeymoon with Katherine ends too bluntly for the now obsessed Ray, he reverts back to the type of behavior he first exhibited at the start of the movie. But he's not a happy camper by any stretch of the imagination. No sir, he is now a man with a mission to fix everything that is wrong in his world, get out of his way fast-or suffer the dire consequences he has in mind. Hell hath no fury than a man infused with the belief that only he has the answer for the problems in front of him. And you just know there are going to be more than just fancy words spoken. Some pain is going to be delivered in the most sadistic way possible.

The final shocking end scenes are a masterclass in heightened tension, as the every volatile Ray becomes irreversibly engulfed by a rage that wont abate easily. This is at times, unbearably brutal to view. But, you cant take your eyes away from the screen. You need to know how its all going to pan out.

This festival movie is like my last post Shotgun Stories, another great example of the fantastic resurgence in the American Indie Movie scene.

The disturbing fact that this is based on a true story makes it that much more gutwrenching.

The Lost is completely compelling & an amazing debut for Marc Senter as the irredeemable pyschotic bad boy with no moral compass whatsoever. Don't miss this one. You wont forget Ray Pye easily...