By Mark Schuster
JOPLIN, Mo. —
“Pirate Radio” (Rated R)
Before I tell you what “Pirate Radio” is, let me tell you what it did to me.
It made me dance around my house while singing into a hairbrush. It made me dance in my yard while my dog ran circles around my feet, excited and probably more than a bit confused. I danced until I collapsed and fell asleep with visions of Ikettes, Raylettes, Ronettes and Chordettes dancing in my head.
When I awoke the next day I was renewed and energized, filled with the eternal lusty flame of rock ’n’ roll. This mania was brought on by “Pirate Radio,” the too-cool-to-be-fiction story of a group of renegade disc jockeys who bucked the stifling media control of a stodgy ’60s-era British government. They broadcasted from ships anchored in international waters, close enough for their signals to be picked up by every transistor radio in England.
Providing necessary gravitas is a subplot involving a crusty government official (Kenneth Branagh) who desperately and hilariously tries to find ways to stop the pirate broadcasts at any cost. Never has rock ’n’ roll been as palpably dangerous or as thrillingly relevant onscreen, and the movie milks every breathless moment for maximum impact.
Like a 33 rpm record played at 45, the frantic pace never lets up, and every member of the wonderful ensemble cast is given ample room to shine. Aside from Branagh, the only widely familiar face in the movie is that of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The movie gambles on using lesser known actors, but the risk pays off in spades, as the lack of megastar actors focuses all the attention on the wonderful script and, more importantly, on the music.
And that is perhaps the best way to describe what “Pirate Radio” is. It is the closest approximation to a rock ’n’ roll song in cinematic form that I have ever seen.
It pulses and throbs. It is brash and unapologetic. It worships the gods of rock ’n’ roll, and has no master other than the music. It captures the spirit of youth that forever burns within each of us.
It is, bar none, the most fun I have had watching a movie this year.
“Youth in Revolt” (Rated R)
There’s a quirky and unique subgenre of films being spawned around the most unlikely and unassuming of actors: Michael Cera.
You may remember him from TV’s brilliant (and quickly canceled) “Arrested Development,” but most likely you will recall him as Ellen Page’s baby daddy in “Juno.” Cashing in on that exposure, Cera has gone on to star in a number of small indie comedies. The best of these, in my opinion, is “Youth in Revolt.”
“Youth” tells the story of meek 16-year old virgin Nick Twisp. Nick meets a tantalizing young beauty while camping with his parents. When the camping trip ends and he returns home, Nick is left to hatch a wild scheme to reunite with his lady love.
This scheme, which plays out hilariously over the majority of the movie, sees Nick raising holy terror and even spawning a mustachioed alter ego to spur him into anarchic action.
“Youth in Revolt” expands the charming and likable Cera stock character into darker territory. The alter-ego character, Francois, is a hilarious stroke of genius, and plays brilliantly with audience expectations of who Cera is and how he should behave onscreen. If nothing else, the portrayal of Francois proves that Cera is not above poking fun at his own “boy next door” image, and could prove an exciting harbinger of things to come in his young career.
A film that plays it cool while knowing when to turn up the heat, “Youth in Revolt” is a gem, the kind you can carry around in your pocket and look at when you feel down. It is hilarious, angsty and ultimately heartwarming. And even if Michael Cera is a one-trick pony, his trick is so consistently entertaining, who am I to complain?