Dir Jonathan Levine US
‘I see the dopeness in life,’ free spirit Steph tells Luke – meaning, in hip hop slang, that she sees the good. ‘You only see the wackness.’ But perhaps Luke’s propensity towards the negative is justified. It’s the summer of 1994, he’s just graduated from high school, and he doesn’t know where life is going. He can’t get a girlfriend and his dad has lost a lot of money – in fact, they’re being evicted.
And so, in an attempt to raise enough funds to keep a roof over his family’s heads, Luke turns to his talent for illegal activity. Along the way he receives help from an unlikely source – his psychiatrist Squires (Ben Kingsley), himself going through an existential crisis. Then Luke falls for Squires’s step daughter, and for a moment things are looking up. He tells her he loves her. She answers, ‘woah, dude’. Life disappoints again.
Though shrouded in a haze of narcotics and questionable morals, The Wackness is at heart an incredibly sweet film. That Luke and Squires form a deep friendship is uplifting without being schmaltzy – possibly because it is set against the realities of failed relationships and drug dependency. Kingsley is hugely likeable as the ‘out there’ psychiatrist pining for his youth, while Josh Peck’s portrayal of an aloof teen who starts to say how he feels is both refreshing and believable.
Overall, this is an enjoyable coming of age tale, the kind you’ll want to watch again. An extremely uncharacteristic cameo by Mary Kate Olsen provides a bonus.
Dhs80 from Virgin Megastore
Dir Masayuki Ochiai US
Yet another US remake of Asian horror (this time the original was Thai), Shutter pulls off an unusual trick in that it starts out a bit rubbish before surprising with an unexpectedly decent ending. The trouble being that most viewers may have switched off by then.
When newlyweds Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Transformers’s Rachael Taylor) travel to Tokyo for a working honeymoon, things turn sour after a car accident leaves Jane convinced she killed a young girl. The police can find no trace of the body, but strange shadows start to appear in photographs that the couple take during their stay. Jane is freaked out, Ben is dismissive, but soon things get too spooky for even him to ignore.
The film’s attempts to scare are so formulaic that they are largely underwhelming, or even laughable (like, oh no, the ghost trapped her in a curtain). Ben and Jane are so bland they don’t even annoy, they just bore. The whole thing smacks of laziness – personified by Jackson, who has long failed to live up to his potential, and here visibly puts in as little effort as he can get away with.
And so comes the reasonable twist. But five minutes from the end, it’s not enough to make the preceding humdrum worth the while.