Category Archives: Teen

Cold November (2017)

So…guns, huh? I came to review Karl Jacob’s Cold November a few days after the mass shooting in Santa Fe, and viewing the trailer my kneejerk reaction was: “Oh great. A movie about gun nuts.” With the epidemic of school shootings ongoing in America, the prospect of a film about a young girl given a rifle for her twelfth birthday then taken out into the woods to kill a deer wasn’t terribly appealing. I guess that’s the problem with the climate these days – the dialogue between left and right has become so fraught that as soon as anything prickles against one’s political leanings even a little, there’s a tendency to reject it out of hand as belonging to the other side of the aisle.

Even without the current climate, I would’ve expected to find the film quite alienating anyway. I’ve never even held a gun, let alone fired one, so the idea of deliberately giving a rifle to a kid and showing them how to use it is totally nuts to me. Then there’s the whole wilderness thing they’ve got going on over there in the States – that’s completely incomprehensible to someone from England like me. It’s impossible to get lost in England. If you lose your bearings all you have to do is walk in any direction for about half an hour and you’ll come across a roundabout with a Burger King, Tesco and Currys superstore in the middle of it. Or if you don’t fancy walking, just stay still for long enough and you’ll get stumbled upon by walkers, doggers, or someone looking for a good spot to dump a stolen moped.

Anyway, I digress. Cold November introduces us to Florence (Bijou Abas) on her 12th birthday. When we first meet her, she’s playing with toy cars in the garage. A little while later at her birthday meal, her family will give her a gun as a present. The weapon is a cherished heirloom, having been passed down generation to generation. With it her matriarchal family will gently guide her through a rite of passage, taking her out into the woods to shoot her first deer.

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The Breakfast Club (1985) – OBEY! CONFORM!

Like many people of my age, I loved a good John Hughes movie growing up, but never considered that there might be any subtext to his films. After all, he was a director who made a career writing, producing and directing frothy, fun, mainstream flicks aimed primarily at younger audiences.

However, I only saw The Breakfast Club for the first time recently, and the touchy-feely story of teen angst was instantly my equivalent of Nada’s special shades in John Carpenter’s They Live! – suddenly I saw the innate conservatism behind Hughes’ work, which is fine, and the hidden message behind his superficially rebellious pictures – OBEY and CONFORM!

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Let the Right One In (2008) – What happens if you fall for a vampire…

What happens if you fall in love with a vampire?  Released the same year as the first installment of the Twilight saga, Tomas Alfredson’s low-key adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel attempts to answer the same question.  While the conclusion reached is more frightening, the central romance is certainly more touching.

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Twilight (2008): Why Did The Vampire Cross the Road?

You think vampires are evil?  I had a girl like Twilight‘s Bella work with me once.  Her attitude stank so bad I gave her a special job to do.  I had a huge pile of old papers that needed shredding, and told her that the information was so sensitive, she needed to go through every page and black out every line with a marker first.  It took her four days.

I’ve been building up to actually watching Twilight for so long now, just so I could form my own opinion, and I end up starting with that non-movie related anecdote.  I guess I was just groping around to find a way to describe how much Kristen Stewart’s character irritated me.

The first act of Twilight plays like a less fun version of The Lost Boys, as morose teen Bella Swan moves from her hometown Phoenix to stay with her divorced dad in Forks, WA. a town so quiet, small and ordinary it looks like David Lynch’s worst nightmare.

The ungrateful sourpuss is quickly befriended by her new classmates, but her attention is grabbed by the mysterious Cullen clan, who swan around the school in a stately manner and keep themselves to their ultra-cool selves.

Bella is quick to spot hollow-cheeked hunk Edward (Robert Pattinson), although his reaction to her on first meeting in Biology class is unfortunate.  When he catches a waft of her scent, he looks like he’s about to lose his lunch.

Through a series of quavering, awkward conversations, the glum pair get the hots for each other. When Edward miraculously saves Bella from being flattened by an out of control van in the parking lot, she realizes he might not be quite what he seems…

Bella and Edward fall heavy for each other, but there is a problem – namely, Edward’s a vampire.  Bella’s not too fussed, though, even when he explains her scent  is like curry to a pisshead for a vampire.

Questions inevitably arise; Edward wants to give her a good old sucking, and Bella clears wants to be sucked.  What about sex?  Edward doesn’t eat regular food, or sleep, so does he get a boner?  Or does that only happen when two people are both vampires?

Or once they’re both blood-suckers, do they just waft around aesthetically together, gazing longingly at each other for eternity in a daze of deliciously fatalistic ennui?  Or do they just take turns ravishing each other, sucking one another dry?  I hope the rest of the Twilight Saga will answer these questions…

Other characters include Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a native American wolfboy (it’s only alluded to in this episode, but it’s hard to avoid the trailers).  The Native Americans wear durable materials, check shirts and jeans, and drive pickup trucks; the genteel Vampires nonchalantly flaunt the affluence of presumably Old World ancestors.  They also have lots of fast cars in the garage, although vampires need cars as much as Jaws needed a speedboat.

I enjoyed Twilight.  I deliberately disengaged the movie snob and let myself go with it.  I was disappointed to see what they’ve done with classic motifs of vampire lore – the vampires don’t live in the cloudiest, wettest part of the US by mistake.  But it’s not to prevent them bursting into flame, it’s to stop them twinkling like a Snoop Dogg tie pin.  What trauma!

They are also clearly visible in mirrors, which explains how they manage to keep perfectly groomed.

I resisted making any judgement about Twilight until seeing it, although based on the trailers, I did suggest it looked like a bit of a cheapo rush job.  The trailers mainly feature two sullen teens moping around in the woods, or else running away from bad CGI in the woods.  Of course, the woods, along with abandoned warehouses, are often a surefire location clue to a cheap production.

However, I thought the locations in Twilight were very atmospheric; plenty of moping in the woods, granted, but also stunning coastal scenery, lakes and glowering storm clouds.

Despite my initial desire to give Bella a sadistically large pile of mind-numbing paperwork to do, Stewart is relatively effective in the role, somehow suggesting a free spirit wanting to escape her awkward, morose exterior.

The real one to watch is Pattinson, of course.  I’d never seen the guy in anything other than a Twilight trailer, so I was eager to see what the fuss was about.  My initial reaction was he looked like an ultra-lifelike creation by Jim Henson’s Shop, with the bloodless line of an unsmiling mouth, a jutting nose and stern eyebrows.  But, when he smiles…yes, girls, OK I get it.

Some might say the Muppets are more expressive, but I get the feeling there’s a good actor in Pattinson waiting for better material.  Twilight is ultra-safe, sanitized and focus-grouped to appeal to the widest possible audience without offending anyone, and the script is hardly giving him the chance to cut loose.

There’s a couple of good lines – I enjoyed him talking about sucking on animals being like regular carnivores eating tofu.  Most of the dialogue is made up of ultra-sincere swooners aimed at lovelorn teenagers –

Edward: “That’s what you dream about?  Being a monster?”

Bella: “I dream about being with you forever.”


Edward: “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore.”

Bella: “Then don’t”

There is a disappointing lack of vampire action in Twilight, however, and I think anyone who by some miracle doesn’t know anything about it would be best approaching it as a straightforward teen romance rather than a vampire film.

If I was a teenage boy looking for a few scares and a good old vampire monster mash, I’d come away very bored indeed.

Despite all my criticisms, I got pretty engrossed.  I found a stand off between the good vampires and bad vampires surprisingly tense, and I found the thing quite romantic.  Bring on New Moon!

PS: Punchlines to the title joke gratefully requested…


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