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Movie Review: Young Adult Plus Bonus Unsolicited Philosophical Ramblings!

Movie Review: Young Adult Plus Bonus Unsolicited Philosophical Ramblings!

Young Adult Charlize Theron and her dog I liked Young Adult – which is somewhat surprising, given how much I hated the last collaboration of Jason Reitman (director) and Diablo Cody (screenwriter): the vastly overrated Juno.  I even previously posted about how much I hated Cody’s too-cute-by-a-gazillion “hip teen slang.”  I was as embarrassed for Rainn Wilson as I’ve ever been for an actor in a movie – and I’ve seen Pia Zadora’s The Lonely Lady.   Most “dark comedies” don’t quite live up to the name, usually either featuring non-dark characters/situations, or ending with a wow-everything-worked-out dance number.  Spoiler alert: neither is the case here.

Speaking of embarrassed, I’ve seen two different reviews of The Offspring’s single “Cruising California (Bumpin’ In My Trunk)” and both have prominently featured the word “embarrassing.”  Holy sh*t.  I just watched it.  God.  I’ll give that a full paragraph later.  Wow.  That was worse than Wilson’s lines from Juno.  I feel like I need to shower.

Back to YA, I didn’t remember the creative team behind the movie until the credits started rolling, which is probably good since my PTSD symptoms from having to hear an episode of United States of Tara would have likely prevented me from pushing the Purchase button.  Either my ear for sh*tty dialogue is getting worse, or Cody really toned it down for this one.  I guess I never had a problem with Reitman anyway, Up In The Air was pretty good, as I recall, except for the idiots that brought their six year old with his Gameboy into a 10:00 PM showing in Chelsea, nearly resulting in a very awkward brawl – with all genders, sexual preferences and various races being accounted for.

Anyway, Young Adult is about a seemingly successful writer chick (Charlize Theron, managing to appear delicious despite playing a despicable character) who has moved away from her childhood sh*thole town in Minnesota to the Big City of Minnesota, but finds herself at a bit of a personal crossroads.  She concocts a brilliant plan to go back home and recapture some of her magic by winning back her old college boyfriend (Patrick Wilson, who should probably have at least 1/3 of Fassbender’s roles – and I think Fassbender is great, but PW is solid too) who just happens to be married and a brand new dad.  Hilarity ensues.  Not really.  This movie isn’t very laugh-out-loud funny.  Maybe one or two instances.  It’s more cringe-funny.  But it’s def worth seeing, if not on PPV or whatnot, check it out on Netflix when it hits the stream in six years.


Top Five Things About Young Adult

1.  Charlize Theron – Manages to seem desperate and pathetic while looking quite hot – that’s a tough line to walk

2.  Patton Oswalt – Any review of any movie with Patton Oswalt in it is obligated to say that Patton Oswalt was good in the movie

3.  The title – “Young Adult” isn’t just the literary genre of choice for the pro/antagonist, it’s also a sarcastic criticism of her development as a human being

4.  Reitman capturing the beauty of a Minnesota Hampton Inn just right –  so opulent

5.  The main character’s name is Mavis


Bottom Five Things About Young Adult

1.  Promotes the use of chicken cutlet bra stuffers – if Charlize Theron is using them, shouldn’t everyone?  False advertising

2.  Patton Oswalt got nakeder than Charlize Theron – not cool, Reitman – didn’t you see that Sarah Polley got Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman buck naked recently?  It’s all the rage

3.  No 110 lb woman can drink that amount of hard liquor without dying

4.  Patrick Wilson’s wife seemed like she’d have a darker side to go to (I used “darker” so as not to have to use a SPOILER tag…”darker” suggests that she may have gotten somewhat dark, so you – the reader – will be pretty surprised…unless she happens to grab a f*cking butcher knife and kill everyone, in which case you’ve just been REVERSE SPOILERED)

5.  Mavis managed to hit for the Kentucko Hut cycle – or three-legged stool, if you prefer…actually that’s probably more appropriately suggestive language for eating at all three places…I doubt Theron could eat a Dorito Taco and an Original Recipe drumstick, much less power down a couple personal pan pizzas and 3 more items from each place, no matter how bad her hangover.


This movie hit close to home (no pun intended), as I also find myself back in the state where I grew up  after having lived in an exotic far-off land and having a glamorous, high-paying job for a decade – no matter that those adjectives might have been more than slightly misleading.  Like Mavis, I often find myself shaking my head in disgust (and coincidentally, sometimes while consuming mass quantities of YUM Brands product.)  However, I suspect if you find yourself constantly saying “look at all these d*ckheads” then there’s a good chance that YOU might actually be the d*ckhead.  I’m probably way too guilty of measuring success based on professional (re: how much cash do you have) success, rather than personal success (nice family, friends, hobbies, other assorted fairy tales).  Along those lines there was an interesting article in the Times the other day about how not everyone can be extraordinary – and it’s just in time, since I am trying to shift my “success measurement paradigm” to respect the ability to refresh the NFC West Blog on thirty times per day just as much as the ability to make tons of dough or have, like, friends.  Hmmm, I guess that wasn’t very philosophical, after all.  Well the title is done, so hopefully somebody will read that Times article and do their own philosophizing.

Finally, Offspring – what the f*ck???? Is this thing a joke, or what?  I understand wanting to get some 19 year old surfer girls in skimpy bikinis on your bus, but does the song have to be so ridiculous?  And are you guys older than me?  This evokes Rebecca Black far more than “Come Out And Play”…I think this might actually be a massive joke.



Swingers: My Generation’s Citizen Kane

Swingers: My Generation’s Citizen Kane

For people of a certain (middle) age, one film from the mid-90’s resonates like no other.  God that sounds terrible – how about one is really fucking excellent and awesome?  That’s better.  (I can’t really tease this further since the title of the post gives away what movie we are talking about).  Swingers fucking ruled/still rules.  Why post about a 13 year old movie?  I was taken aback when a recent Bill Simmons article on suggested that The Hangover had replaced Swingers as the go-to film for Vegas references.  Listen, I loved The Hangover – but it was no Swingers.  NFW.  Swingers perfectly captured the essence of 90’s friendships – the competitions over chicks/sports/video games, the epic drinking nights, the steady guidance in the face of (often-temporary) insecurities, the fights.  So many perfectly-rendered scenes, so many breakout stars, so much alcohol, so many hotties that never exploded like the guys did – it’s all there.

In real life, I’ve quaffed a few drinks at the Dresden Room and drunkenly explained to Marty and Elayne how meaningful the movie was for Generation Old.  The only real downside I can think of to Swingers was how big swing dancing became, and how my roommate at the time became a huge swing dancer with the wallet chains and whatnot.  (Allegedly, it was a good way to meet women, but I think it was perhaps another accessory for his personal closet.  Time will tell.)  As lame and overused as “Vegas, baby, Vegas” has become, it’s still a calming salve to one’s ears upon arriving in Las Vegas, Nevada.

5 Reasons Swingers Is Awesome

1. Swingers injected more new talent than any other movie in recent Hollywood history

Look who's all grows up...and all grows up and all grows up...
I would enjoy having some drinks with Double Down

Doug Liman and Jon Favreau have both directed huge tent-pole franchises (the first Bourne flick, Iron Man).  Vince Vaughn became a $20 million per movie actor and has starred in some of the highest grossing R-rated comedies ever.  Heather Graham emerged from her post-Drugstore Cowboy career coma and became a borderline A-lister.  Ron Livingston was in Office Space, which should make him eligible for a career achievement Oscar one day.  Even Nikki (Brooke Langton), the girl Mikey left 15 ill-advised messages for, was the female lead in a Keanu Reeves movie!  That’s an incredible post-Swingers group resume (even though Charles and Sue are nowhere to be seen).

I honestly can’t think of another movie that launched so many substantial careers –  maybe The Blair Witch Project?

2.  The resultant Swingers‘ drinking games have been outlawed in many states

Playing by standard rules – take one drink any time you hear a character say “baby” or “money” – most normal humans will be sporting a Miguel Cabrera-esque BAC before Mikey and Trent exit the casino.  Even if the drink of choice is Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Seriously, give it a shot*.  (Unless you live in SD, ND, FL, AL, AK, HI, MO, MS or ID.)

Basking in the success of another, a rarity
I make that face sometimes, too, T.

3.  There’s lots of solid trivia throughout to amaze and annoy other people who are watching

The guy winning big at the $100 table is Vince Vaughn’s dad; the older woman who hits a hard seventeen (even though the biker guy next to her is silently imploring her to stay) is Favreau’s mom.  During the famous answering machine scene, the answering machine itself disappears intermittently throughout the scene, even though it is the focal point of the shot and at one point is speaking to Mikey (about how big of a tool he is).  Spielberg casting VV in the Jurassic Park sequel after watching the “Groucho” scene to approve its use of the Jaws music.   The Goodfellas and Reservoir Dogs homages are nice touches, as well.  Any real fan should be able to run his/her own commentary track.

4.  There’s hot chicks

I honestly thought that Deena Martin (Christy, the Vegas waitress that Trent picked up – the one who wasn’t Dorothy) had star potential.  She was easy on the eyes and appeared to even have some acting chops when consoling Trent following the “brother” story and helping deal with Mikey’s lameness.  Haven’t seen her since, and it appears that the only thing she’s done recently is update her facebook page.  Sadly there’s not even a decent picture available on google.  The aforementioned Nikki was also insanely attractive while carving Mike up as she recalled him asking for an application at her coffee shop.  Heather Graham actually managed to look un-attractive in this, but the part required her to turn down the hotness a bit.  (That didn’t effect her standing in my world rankings.)  Strong work by the casting director.

Even in b&w, swing dancing is stupid
Even in b&w, swing dancing is stupid

5.   The movie remains hilarious…

Despite having seen it like 800 times, I still find practically every scene funny.  Lots of good stuff going on in the background (the aforementioned biker begging grandma to stay on 17, Mikey quietly calling T “Double Down” during the epic “Jenny Eat Something” monologue, Trent embarrassing Mikey with questions about the delivery guy, the fact that delivery was only 40s of malt liquor, etc).  I especially enjoy the final bar scene, with the guys celebrating as Mikey is finally making a move, Trent raking Sue over the coals about this girl (“we were playing football, I don’t remember you stepping away to call her”)…even the dramatic scenes had subtle stuff baked in (snowman on the par three course, “at least it’s Disney,” among others).

Apparently a lot of the material stemmed from the main cast’s real life interactions – Favreau, Vaughn and Livingston were really friends when they were coming up.  The “you’re like a bear, with fangs” speech was one Vaughn had given Favreau almost verbatim as he was trying to get over a breakup and re-enter the world, so that’s probably why much of the movie rings true.

5a.  …and still provides a vivid reminder of what it was like back in the good old days

Now that I’m old, when I hang out with friends we usually drink wine (and discuss tannins), play golf (and complain of back pain), talk about our meds, etc.  But Swingers is a nice reminder of the good old days, when we used to rag on each other constantly, talk shit, drink, play video games, talk more shit, try to pick up chicks, drink more, talk shit about who’s picking up more chicks, drink more while ineffectively trying to pick up chicks, do shots because your loser buddy is actually trying to pick up a chick, talk a smidge more shit, drink something out of a test tube, eat some greasy food at 3:15 AM, get close to starting fights with strangers….sigh….those were the days.  I’ve always maintained that Trent was the best friend in movie history, especially in light of his trailer park sacrifice (that part I do not remember from the good old days; I’m pretty sure most of my cronies would’ve said “you should go check your messages” and tried to hook up with Christy and Dorothy).  God bless you, Trents of the world, if you exist.

Somebody's head is about to bleed - hopefully not because of Sue and a curb a curb
Somebody's head is about to bleed - hopefully not because of Sue and a curb

Sadly, I’m writing this without the benefit of a recent screening, so I’m probably leaving out some important bits of analysis.  Swingers is the only movie I’ve ever purchased three times: twice on DVD and once on VHS, but sadly my copy is still in storage.  I might have to hit up the playstation network to make it 4x I’ve paid for it….

Have a nice weekend,


* is not responsible or liable for any injuries, monetary damages or hospital charges associated with such efforts.  For recreation only, not to be used for gambling or proprietary trading.  White zinfandel not included.

Wow, Three In a Row? District 9 is Very Good / Greatish

Wow, Three In a Row? District 9 is Very Good / Greatish

Three good movies in a row?  Pretty amazing given all the crap that’s made its way to the big screen this summer.  This hits especially close to home as it’s set in Johannesburg, South Africa; as you may be aware, I recently spent a significant amount of time (eight hours) in “the Burg,” as we townies call it.  I intentionally avoided any plot description given how spoiler-filled the world is now.  All I knew was that the film was made by a first-time director (Neill Blomkamp), with a no-name South African cast, set in South Africa and was some kind of apartheid allegory.  Producer Peter Jackson apparently owed Blomkamp a favor as he’d been scheduled to direct the Halo film, only to see it fall through due to studio squabbling.  So Jackson helped District 9 get made (it’s somewhat an expansion of an earlier Blomkamp short film).

I will not give away too much of the plot here, not for spoilery concerns, but because I’m pretty fucking lazy and want to get this done quickly, with not a lot of concern for quality of content.  The first and last bits of the film are in the increasingly popular “mockumentary” format, detailing how aliens landed in the Burg twenty years ago and how they’ve been integrated with South African society.  Did I say integrated with?  I meant segregated by. (Hint: I smell allegory!)  The documentary focuses on the main character, Wikus Van De Merwe, (channeling both Michael Scott and David Brent at the onset) who is in charge of the movement of the entire alien ghetto (District 9) to a smaller, more-removed-from-Joburg ghetto (District 10).  This documentary foreshadows that our Michael/David is going to deal with some adversity – the rest of the movie details those adverse situations and how he deals with them.  That’s enough about the plot.

The actors are all great, you’ve probably seen most of them on Law & Order or CSI: Salt Lake City at some point.  Actually, no, not a familiar face to be seen.  Honestly, I think movies benefit from casting unknowns in major roles, it’s becoming more and more difficult to separate oversatured actors from their most prominent roles (and near continuous media coverage).  (For example, maybe Christian Bale could star in less than eight movies per year?  He is bringing his (intentionally) wooden Batman persona to all his roles.  And he’s also apparently a dick.)  The lead is a 35 year old first-time actor named Sharlto Copley – I enjoyed his work here.  He was pretty entertaining from the onset as the naive office manager happy to enforce species discrimination for his monolithic multinational employer, but with a bit of a soft spot for the aliens (lovingly called “prawns”).  At some points his transformation doesn’t ring true, but I attribute that more to the script.  It’s unclear what his motivation would be for a couple of his actions in the last act of the movie.  Everybody else is largely a stock character ably brought to life – evil corporate CEO, evil military guy, too-hot and somewhat disbelieving wife, sentient alien lizard named Christopher Johnson – you’ve seen them all before.

Just hangin
Just hangin

The broad plot outline is fine, but there are some gaping holes in the will-be-important-later details.  Even if the mother ship landed in the Burg, it seems to me there would be a multi-national team of scientists/military covering every square inch of the area to figure out what’s what.  That’s not how it’s depicted here and the local police/military overlook some pretty important details.  I thought the Nigerian gang that ran the black market in the ghetto was a nice touch and rang pretty true, except they took a few extraordinary risks late in the movie and ran fewer email scams than I would’ve expected.  Is this an outlandishly fresh concept?  No, you’ve seen similar in 80’s fare like V, Alien Nation and They Live, but this is a nice extension of the concept, with some grown-up ideas integrated with the basic alien shoot-em-up.

Did I say shoot-em-up?  Yeah, there is a lot of shit blowing up in this flick.  Lots of heads/bodies exploding, limbs torn off, etc.  Several scenes evoke The Fly, and several evoke any number of video games involving big fucking guns that cause people to burst.  At one point a gun is shot that apparently shoots a fucking pig at someone – the porcine ammo does a surprising amount of damage.  (And I assume the shrapnel is bacon, which is pretty delicious during a firefight) I’ve seen some complaints of shakey-cam, but I didn’t really notice.  In that regard this was less offensive to me than the typical fight scene in a Jason Bourne movie.  Probably the coolest part of the movie is a very Transformer-like exoskeleton that possesses the heaviest of alien artillery.  They made this movie for $30 millionish and it looks friggin great, making one wonder why X-Men Origins, Transformers, etc don’t look 5 times better than they do.  To summarize: if you enjoy a side of shit blowing up with your apartheid allegory, then this is probably the movie for you.

Where do I rank this?  I have to say it’s behind The Hurt Locker, although it’s probably 85% as intense, which is a high compliment indeed.  I enjoyed it slightly more than (500) Days of Summer, so I’ll rank it #2 in my summer 2009 rankings.  Does Inglorious Basterds dare make it four in a row?  We will see….