Bad Words


When brainstorming movie ideas, “raunch comedy” and “spelling bee” are not two things that one would expect to come together. And yet it’s exactly that combination that landed the script for Bad Words on the Blacklist. And now a film of that script, directed by and starring Justin Bateman, is hitting theaters. Unfortunately, the film is of the variety of comedy that mistakes shock value for quality humor, and it’s mostly insufferable as a result. If there’s a cinematic spelling bee itch that you must scratch, look no further than Spellbound. Filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz and his crew followed eight kids as they prepared for and later competed in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. It turns out that spelling is much more than just memorizing words. These contestants dive into whole histories of languages and get to understand English in and out. There’s a reason they’ll ask for a word’s language of origin or definition if they’re stumped — such information can help them intuit how to spell it. The amount of studying it takes to master this, on top of already above-average course loads (these are all honors students, of course), builds a not-inconsiderable amount of pressure on the kids. READ MORE AT NONFICS


Jason Bateman in Bad Words

Bad Words is a really dark comedy. Its lead, Guy (Jason Bateman), is crude and selfish, and he won’t stop until he proves his point. Sometimes he goes about his plan in mean-spirited ways, but for Bateman it’s pivotal that an audience embraces the character. That’s not as difficult as it sounds. He makes the National Spelling Bee contest actual fun, so you’re already on his side from the start. Not only is Guy likable despite his edges, but he’s also empathetic. Andrew Dodge‘s script gives him the right kind of motive that never interrupts the film’s initial comedic tone. There’s just enough of Guy’s past and his twisted and sweet friendship with a kid, never too much of it to make him an unbelievable softie. There’s plenty of tonal tightropes in this movie, but Bateman, who was also in the director’s seat for the movie, was well-aware of them from the start. I spoke to Bateman at SXSW this week, and this is what he had to say about his anti-hero character, directing for the first time and more:


Kathryn Hahn in Bad Words

Cinema has no shortage of great sex scenes. Just last week we saw a prime example of steamy hate sex from 300: Rise of an Empire. Eva Green’s snarling dominance over a soldier will never be forgotten. It’s up there with some of the finest sexual encounters in history: Kevin Costner going at it while driving in Revenge; Mulholland Drive‘s much talked about piece of lovemaking; the opening shot of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; and the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Someone all those scenes were seriously lacking: Kathryn Hahn. If Kubrick wanted to turn the heat up during that orgy, then he would’ve thrown Hahn into the mix. She’s proven herself as more than capable when it comes to making sex much funnier and even more awkward. Who could forget when Alice (Hahn) rode Dan (John C. Reilly) like an animal in Step Brothers? If that didn’t do it for you, then Alice’s “stay golden, pony boy” goodbye sure did. We discussed Hahn’s finer moments of acting at the Bad Words press day during SXSW. Here’s what she had to say about how awkward sex makes her career come full circle.


Grand Budapest Hotel

March may not be the most wonderful time of the year, but this year it’s a pretty wonderful 31-day span. There’s a Wes Anderson movie, Muppets, a biblical epic, and the return of one of TV’s most charming characters. This month is overwhelming with quality, so much so that I had to exclude Eva Green’s performance in 300: Rise of an Empire from this list. Not only is that semi-sequel more fun, self-aware, and bonkers than the original, but Green chews up every bit of CG scenery in her sight. I already feel shame for scratching it off. Make sure to experience Green’s performance in 3D. Never before has a woman kissing a decapitated head been portrayed with such grace, but somehow Green and the power of a third dimension makes the romantic act more beautiful and visceral than ever. None of the 10 films featured below has the actress killing it in the third dimension, but they all have their own things going for them. Again, it’s an excellent month to look forward to.



Once an actor stars in something that’s widely loved enough among Internet circles to be considered as having “geek cred,” they earn quite a bit of leeway when it comes to judgment over whatever lame projects that they might do afterward. We’ve seen this phenomenon take place when everyone was willing to sit through six seasons of Castle without doing much complaining, just because of how much they loved Nathan Fillion in Firefly. We’ve seen it when people have actually been willing to buy tickets to go see Donald Glover rap. There’s perhaps been no bigger example of someone being handed a nerd cred get out of jail free card in the history of modern entertainment than Jason Bateman coming off of starring in Arrested Development though. AD was basically like nerd catnip—it was funny, it was weird, it was underappreciated, it was intricately self-referential—and after Bateman’s turn as the series’ awkward straight man, Michael Bluth, he suddenly found himself anointed as the new comedy geek Jesus, after experiencing a period where he was being looked at as something of a has-been—an answer to an 80s pop culture trivia question. Unfortunately for everyone though, Bateman’s career since AD was cancelled has also become basically the most egregious example of someone pushing that nerd cred leeway past its breaking point that we’ve ever seen, to the point where his face showing up in a movie trailer has now become the sort of thing that forces former fans to unconsciously let out […]


Nicolas Cage

What is Casting Couch? It’s your Monday look at all of the great work casting agents and PR people did over the weekend to keep those Hollywood gears turning. UPDATED: We dreamed too soon, kids. It seems like Sylvester Stallone is fully committed to his experiment of figuring out how many big name celebrities have to be packed into an Expendables movie before one of them actually becomes interesting. The latest news regarding his quest (found on Stallone’s Facebook page by JoBlo) is that Nicolas Cage has been confirmed for a role in The Expendables 3, and that Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, and Mickey Rourke are the names he intends on recruiting next. You keep on trucking there, Mr. Stallone. With the addition of just five or ten more celebrities, The Expendables 3 is bound to be the one that finally gets out of first gear and actually becomes a decent action movie. We have faith!

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published: 12.18.2014
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