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BAMcinemaFEST (June 16th - June 26th, 2011)

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Directed by Andrew Haigh.

      BAMcinemaFest opens with Weekend, a genuinely heartfelt romantic drama about Russell (Tom Cullen), a young man who hooks up with Glen (Chris New), an artist, after meeting him at a nightclub. The one-night-stand blossoms into an unexpected romance as they both gradually fall in love with one another throughout the weekend. Writer/director Andrew Haigh knows how to keep audiences engaged by maintaining realism unpretentiously. Russell and Glen both seem like real human beings with complex emotions, so, in turn, their chemistry is quite palpable. Haigh deftly balances the romance and drama with just the right amount of comic relief. On top of that, the cinematography looks crisp with exquisite compositions, and the film moves as just the right pace. One particularly memorable scene is a long shot of Glen walking on a path as Russell watches him from his apartment above. It’s worth noting that Haigh does not resort to creating tension via shaky camera movements because, instead, the tension comes from the well-written characters themselves.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Sundance Selects.
Opens Sept 23rd, 2011 at the IFC Center.

      The Color Wheel, shot in grainy black-and-white, follows a socially awkward brother and sister, Colin (Alex Ross Perry) and JR (Carlen Altman), who embark on a road trip. JR needs to get her things back from her ex-boyfriend, so Colin joins her for the ride which has many emotional bumps along the way. The brother and sister’s relationship with one another seems creepy from the get-go as if they were lovers given that they’re so open with each other. They're young adults, yet they behave very naively and embarass themselves amongst friends. Further adding the creepy factor is that Perry’s voice sound almost exactly like Michael Cera’s voice while Altman sounds kind of like Sarah Palin. Director/co-writer Alex Ross Perry together with co-writer Carlen Altman balance the creepiness with some quirky humor and wit, but at its core, the film has many tragic elements that make you feel very sorry for the two protagonists. The third act, which won’t be spoiled here, takes a very eyebrow-raising turn that will surely have you talking about it for days.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
No distributor date, yet.

      The documentary Dragonslayer has no dragons or any slaying, but what it does have his pro skateboarder Josh “Skreech” Sandoval. The film follows him as he struggles to make ends meet while living life on the edge out in California. Skreech candidly admits that he suffered from depression for a while. He might seem aimless and a bit rough around the edges, but he’s actually quite charismatic, articulate, interesting and, above all, honest, so he makes for a very entertaining subject. The same could be said for his younger girlfriend who tags along with him as he moves around a lot from place to place. Director Tristan Patterson wisely avoids the standard talking-heads form of interviews and, instead, films Skreech going about his daily routines for the most part. He also includes stylish editing that gives the films some energy and a fast pace without any bits that drag. Avid fans of skateboarding will find themselves engaged the most, though.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
No distributor date, yet.


Directed by Azazel Jacobs.

      Terri Thompson (Jacob Wysocki), an obese, lonely teenager, lives with his senile uncle, James (Creed Bratton), and prefers to wear pajamas to school. In his free time, he’s either taking care of his uncle or setting mice traps to kill them and to watch as hawks swoop down to eat them. The school’s vice principal, Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly), ask Terri to step into his office after the umpteenth time that he has arrived late to school. Not surprisingly, he tries to lend him an ear to help him cope with teen angst and all the bullying that he experiences day-to-day. Eventually, Terri befriends two schoolmates who also happen to be social outcasts, namely, Chad (Bridger Zadina) and Heather (Olivia Crocicchia), a beautiful yet troubled teen who got caught in an embarrassing situation when others, including Terri, witnessed her getting fingered by a classmate in school. Surviving high school is far from easy especially given that Terri feels lonely, confused and alienated, and lacks a parental figure in his life, but now he has the chance of overcoming his hardships thanks to his new friends who pay attention to him.

      Unlike most teen angst films that rely heavily on comedy, sex, drug and foul language as a means of entertaining, Terri focuses on the dramatic, darker elements of teen angst while remaining character-driven and, more often than not, grounded in reality. Most importantly, writer/director Azazel Jacobs together with co-writer Patrick DeWitt blend the heavy drama with just the right amount of comic relief, particularly during the scenes with Mr. Fitzgerald. Jacob Wysocki, the heart and soul of the film, gives such a convincingly moving, well-nuanced performance that he turns Terri into a more engrossing coming-of-age tale than usual. You’ll find yourself either sympathizing with Terri or, perhaps, empathizing with him because, after all, many people had experienced bullying and angst while growing up. There’s so much pain and suffering bottled up inside the character of Terri that you’ll wonder why he doesn’t get angry out of frustration at any given moment. Everyone channels his/her frustrations in different ways, though. Terri should feel lucky that he met someone like Mr. Fitzgerald who’s honest, compassionate and smart despite that he shows those qualities in rather offbeat, somewhat over-the-top ways.

      At a running time of 1 hour and 41 minutes, Terri manages to be a refreshingly mature, perceptive and engrossing coming-of-age drama that boasts a well-nuanced, tender performance by newcomer Jacob Wysocki.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens July 1st, 2011 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Released by ATO Pictures.

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