Young Adult

A new review from The Movie Snob

Young Adult (B).  The writer-director team behind Juno (Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman) reteam for this dramedy starring the lovely Charlize Theron (Hancock) as Mavis Gary, a 37-year-old divorcee who lives in Minneapolis and has been making a living ghost-writing a series of novels for young adults.  She drinks way too much, her books have stopped selling, and she is generally dissatisfied with her life.  Then she gets an email announcing that her high-school boyfriend, Buddy Slade, and his wife Beth have had their first child.  Although she apparently hasn’t seen Buddy much if at all since high school, Mavis decides that getting Buddy back would be just the cure for her blues, so she packs her Mini Cooper and returns to her small hometown of Mercury, Minnesota, with the avowed goal of wrecking his marriage.  Mavis is both monstrous and pathetic, but Theron invests her with enough humanity to keep me feeling a shred of sympathy for her.  The reliable Patrick Wilson (Little Children) turns in a nice performance as the thoroughly unremarkable object of Mavis’s attention.  Patton Oswalt (The Informant!) plays Mavis’s unlikely confidante, a classmate who was left crippled by a horrific hate crime–because some jocks mistakenly thought he was gay.  Not many laughs, but the movie definitely held my attention and didn’t always go where I thought it was going.  I liked it.

Up in the Air

From The Movie Snob

Up in the Air (B+). This is another solid effort from director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking), and it is getting great reviews (current Metacritic.com score: 82). George Clooney (Leatherheads) stars as Ryan Bingham. Bingham has an unusual job: when a company needs to fire a bunch of employees, they hire Bingham’s company, and Bingham comes out and performs the actual firings. He supplements his income by giving “motivational” speeches about how the best way to live life is with as few encumbrances as possible–and he counts both possessions and human relationships as encumbrances. Consequently, Bingham basically lives on the road, spending maybe 40 days a year in his desolate apartment in Omaha, Nebraska, and he is well on his way to achieving his single goal in life–accumulating 10 million frequent-flyer miles. But of course the real world won’t let Bingham off that easily. At work, a young whippersnapper named Natalie (Anna Kendrick, Twilight) proposes to cut costs (and Bingham’s travel budget) by doing the firings over the internet. Bingham’s little sister is getting married, and he feels obliged to attend despite his espoused philosophy. And in the course of his travels he meets an alluring blond (Vera Farmiga, Orphan) who seems to travel as fast and light as he does. How does an avowed nihilist deal with the unavoidable fact that no man is an island?

I liked it. It’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking movie–and though not a comedy, it has some very funny lines. A few flaws keep it out of “A” territory for me, but I definitely recommend it.

Juno

New review from The Movie Snob

Juno (A-). The ample buzz around this little movie is, to my mind, completely justified. I guess it’s sort of being billed as a comedy, but it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. There are some things you smile or chuckle at, but I thought it was a very thoughtful movie about serious issues and about characters you easily come to care about. Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand) plays 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, a precocious, pint-sized high-schooler who seduces her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera, Superbad) and promptly gets pregnant. She considers and quickly rules out an abortion, tells her dad and stepmom in a great scene, and decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple that is desperately seeking to adopt (Jennifer Garner, Danny Collins; Jason Bateman, Paul). The movie basically takes us from conception to delivery, and Page carries the film like a pro. Sure, there are minor imperfections. Juno is a little too sophisticated for a 16-year-old. Although she and Paulie are supposedly best friends, it seems like they never talk about this rather significant development in their relationship. But these are just quibbles about a movie I really enjoyed. I’d also single out Garner, an actress I have never cared for, for a very nice performance. But they’re all good. Go see it. (But do be warned — it is pretty crude in spots. The PG-13 rating seems a little generous to me.)

Night Watch; Thank You for Smoking

DVD reviews from the Court’s newest reviewer, CBG.

Night Watch

Maybe you saw this movie and just didn’t know it. It’s the first of a trilogy which centers on the epic struggle between good and evil and an unfulfilled prophecy about the ONE who will change everything. Smartly shot. Cool Special Effects. Choreographed Fight Scenes. Yeah, yeah, yeah… what was it? The Matrix? No—that’s not it—LOTR? No, no, no . . . Star Wars? Wait a second, that had six parts. Regardless, if you like epics—see this movie. If you like vampires and shapeshifters—see this movie. If you like stuff that creeps you out—see this movie. If you like movies that pay a dividend when you pay attention—see this movie.

Yeah, it’s got a derivative plot line. Guy with special powers finally figures out he’s special—an “Other”—and gets swept up in the eternal battle between the forces Light and Dark, which constantly monitor each other during the night and day respectively (hence the title). But the film works. Originally shot in Russian (I was disappointed they only released the dubbed version), the post-Soviet, eastern bloc feel is perfect for this horror/science fiction/fantasy fare. It’s got a grimy, dark feel that builds momentum as it goes forward.

It’s got its rough spots—some of the special effects are cheap looking and the dubbing doesn’t always work—but this is definitely worth renting and would probably stand up to a second viewing. And this is the perfect time of year to check it out. Stay up late, turn off the lights and crank it up. You won’t regret it.

Judgment: B+

Thank You for Smoking

This is like eating a truffle. Tasty, but not that substantial. This movie has a lot to offer: snappy dialogue, great characters with great actors behind them, a healthy dose of cynical humor all wrapped up in a spiffy, well paced, post-Michael Moore mocumentary package.

Want to see what’s wrong with our culture (okay, SOME of what’s wrong)? Check it out. Want to know why? That’s not this movie. Keep that in mind. There’s nothing wrong with truffles, as long as you don’t eat them all the time.

Judgment: B+

Thank You For Smoking

A new review from The Movie Snob

Thank You For Smoking (B-). This is the first non-IMAX-documentary film that I have seen in forever! What has happened to me? Anyway, this movie is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, son of famous right-wing journalist William F. Buckley, Jr.  Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole) is the chief lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, the chief lobbying organ of Big Tobacco. He is completely amoral and yet amazingly charming as he goes on the Joan Lunden Show and cozies up to the standard-issue “cancer kid” far more easily than the stiff, indignant public-health-watchdog guy does. The movie has plenty of amusing moments, such as Naylor’s weekly meeting for drinks with two other lobbyists, for alcohol and firearms, who collectively refer to themselves as the “MOD Squad,” for “merchants of death.” William H. Macy (Fargo) is dead-on as a humorless Vermont senator who abhors smoking and wants to put a hideous skull-and-crossbones on every pack of cigarettes. Rob Lowe (St. Elmo’s Fire) is good as a Hollywood producer who’s completely willing to get movie heroes, rather than villains, smoking again — for the right price. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts, and I walked out confused as to what the message is, if any. Lobbying is bad, I guess. Worth a look.