12 O’Clock Boys (2013)

12 O'Clock Boys (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: January 31, 2014
Director: Lofty Nathan

Pug, a young man from a dangerous block in Baltimore, Maryland is enthralled by a band of people who partake in illegal street riding calling themselves the 12 O’Clock Boys. When his older brother, Tibba, dies – Pug looks to the Boys for guidance, much to the worry of his mother, Coco, and others in Pug’s family. Pug must weigh his obsession with bikes and this group against a rising police response to the riding and his inner desires to become a veterinarian.

To be clear – I kind of accidentally stumbled into this documentary. I went with my girlfriend to a place called the Space Gallery in Portland, Maine – and we were supposed to be going to a women’s writer group Q&A seminar. As we sat down and waited, we wondered why the audience was overwhelmingly male. We had our answer in a few minutes as the documentary started. We had come on the wrong day, and we already paid so we stayed – and I’m glad we did.

First off, the style was fresh and kinetic. Lofty Nathan, the director, filled the frame with choice morsels that assisted the narrative in telling the deep and complicated story that is Pug’s life and upbringing. Not once did he delve into stereotypical urban characters – but let each person identify themselves through their own ways. Some were gangsters, some were struggling parents, some were police officers, some were just kids.

Rather than glamorize the dangerous lifestyle led by the 12 O’Clock Boys, Nathan portrayed them as human beings in a tough situation relying on what they feel is their only release other than gang activity, drugs or other less-positive things. Through Pug and his own tough life, we understand that belonging to a group and being good at something (even if it’s just being able to wheelie really well) is what we all strive for. We all secretly want to be a 12 O’Clock Boy.

A good documentarian holds a mirror up to the rest of us and says “Look. This is you – this is your reality” and makes us reflect on it, think about it. I felt that way when watching this film. I do love documentaries but this is one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while. Lofty Nathan does not insert himself directly into the narrative as is sometimes the case with other documentarians, but we see through his eyes the disarray that this suburb, inner-city culture has become and all the problems that stem from it.

In Pug we have someone who is truly likable and easy to care about. We see his struggles and we want him to get on that bike. We see him training and we root for him as he gets better and better at riding and doing wheelies. We see the danger and we wish someone would stop him before he gets in over his head. It’s a really complicated emotional response evoked, at least in my case. Pug starts out somewhat innocent but then slowly evolves (or de-volves, possibly) once his world view perspective is changed over and over again.

On the other side of things, just visually it’s entertaining to watch. There are many dynamic shots and kinetic images on display for the visually-oriented folks out there like me. There are lots of slow-motion shots of the riding as well as fast-paced chase scenes and tension-ridden conflicts between police and the Boys.

12 O’Clock Boys is the total package. Go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For 12 O’Clock Boys

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Hot Rod (2007)

Hot Rod (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: August 3, 2007
Director: Akiva Schaffer

Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is the son of a stuntman who worked alongside Evel Knieval, and he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. So, he repeatedly attempts to do stunts, failing in the process. At the same time, he tries to make his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane) respect him…by beating him in hand-to-hand combat. When Frank gets sick and it’s discovered he needs a heart transplant or he’ll die, Rod decides to kill two birds with one stone and make the ultimate jump for the ultimate cash prize.

If you’re going into this movie expecting any Oscar-worthy performances or storyline, you obviously don’t know about Andy Samberg’s group, Lonely Island.

Hot Rod is basically a meld of Saturday Night Live and Lonely Island skits. Samberg does a great job with his usual comedic stylings, along with his other Lonely Island group members. Other cameos and supporting roles by great comedic actors like Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Will Arnett round out the bunch. Isla Fisher was okay, but there weren’t exactly a lot of great women’s roles, if you’re looking for that. Still, she was fine for what the role intended and she is very quirky in her own right and seemed to fit naturally within the film’s silly world that is at times reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite.

I base my enjoyment of movies on what they were trying to accomplish and how successful they were at it, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the silly spectacle of this movie for what it was….which is an hour-long skit medley.

If you enjoy silly humor and need a night of laughs, watch this. (Also, the soundtrack is amazing)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Hot Rod