Young Adult

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Jason Reitman‘s fifth feature film, Labor Day, hits theaters this Friday, but while I haven’t seen it yet the advance word has been a far cry from the critical acclaim his movies usually receive. To be fair, it’s also by all accounts a different beast from Reitman’s previous films as it concentrates more on the drama than on the acerbic, darkly comedic wit. It’s for this reason that I decided to go back a few years to Reitman’s last film, the blackly comic, emotionally tragic, and sadly under-seen Young Adult, for this week’s commentary listen. Well, that and the fact that one of the best films to play this year’s Sundance, Listen Up Philip, reminded me positively of it. Both movies are excellent entries in the canon of “asshole cinema” in that their lead characters are irredeemable pricks struggling to conceal their humanity and causing all manner of hilarity and emotional distress along the way. Charlize Theron plays a young adult novelist who returns home to her small town to reclaim her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) in the hopes that it will knock her out of the doldrums of both her career and her life. Her efforts don’t quite go according to plan and instead she’s forced face to face with the reality of the person she’s become.

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cody

Going from screenwriting to directing isn’t an easy transition for most. Some writers have found great success behind the camera, while others have buckled under the pressure. It’s a different job with its own set of demands. With Paradise, Academy Award winner Diablo Cody takes her first crack at directing with the story of a young girl named Lamb (Julianne Hough), who visits Las Vegas after a serious plane crash leaves her with burn scars and a desire to explore places outside of her religious community. Whether we’ll see Cody direct again is a real question mark. Instead of proclaiming how amazing her experience was, Cody expressed to us her problems with the job and the way certain critics respond to her flawed female characters. Here’s what she had to say about those critics, writing women and, of course, her take on Gravity:

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Recent months have been very kind to the career of young actress Shailene Woodley. Not only did she make herself ridiculously famous basically overnight by standing toe-to-toe with George Clooney in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, but recently she signed on to play the very high profile role of Mary Jane Watson in Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man sequel. This freight train of success isn’t stopping with acclaimed dramas and big comic book blockbusters, however, because Heat Vision is reporting that Woodley is now closing in on a deal to star in the next big YA adaptation, Divergent. Divergent, if you’ll remember, is the first adaptation of a planned trilogy of Veronica Roth novels, and is set to be directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist). Amazon’s description of Roth’s novel gives the story the following synopsis:

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Seeing as shooting is set to begin next month on Harald Zwart’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s smash-hit YA fantasy novel “City of Bones,” it’s starting to become crunch time as far as putting together a cast is concerned. When we made our last casting update, pretty much every major role had been filled other than that of Luke Garroway, the teenage protagonist’s surrogate father-figure, and Valentine Morgenstern, the primary villain of the story who has many and sometimes mysterious ties to the pasts of the protagonists. Well, worry not, fans of demon-killing Shadowhunters, because it looks like the film is going to be able to fill all of its big roles with weeks to spare. First off, Luke Garroway: he’’s the gruff, flannel shirt wearing fellow that spends a lot of time hanging around with the protagonist Clary’s (Lily Collins) mother (Lena Headey). Though I can’t find any place where this casting was actually announced, Irish actor Aidan Turner is now listed as playing the role. He’s probably best known for his role on the BBC show Being Human, which is also heavily concerned with creatures of the night, so he should feel right at home dealing with mystical and dangerous things.

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Casting is currently at a fever pitch regarding the next great hope in the Young Adult film franchise arms race, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The most recent news we had about director Harald Zwart’s series-launcher is that Game of Thrones and Mad Men vets Lena Headey and Jared Harris had landed roles as two of the adult characters, and today comes news that two of the teenage roles that make up most of the primary cast have also been filled. The thrust of the City of Bones story, again, is that a girl named Clary Fray (Lily Collins) becomes suddenly involved in the hidden world of Shadowhunters (powerful beings who hunt demons right under our noses). The first Shadowhunter that she comes across is dreamboat Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), a troubled orphan who comes complete with a foster family. Said family is most importantly made up of two siblings who Jace lives and hunts demons with, Isabelle and Alec Lightwood. These are the oh-so-important roles that have now been filled.

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Kevin Durand and Robert Maillet

After the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games, film executives all over Hollywood are presumably falling all over themselves trying to find the next series of young adult novels that could become a film series cash cow. Smart money has to be on the upcoming adaptations of Cassandra Clare’s ‘Mortal Instruments’ series of books, the first of which is called ‘City of Bones.’ They’ve got everything a young adult series needs: a protagonist with a vague destiny, supernatural shenanigans, monsters to be killed, a love triangle involving a bad boy and a nice guy; everything. Two of the main roles for the ‘City of Bones’ adaptation (just called The Mortal Instruments) have been filled for a while. Director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid) has cast Mirror Mirror star Lily Collins as the protagonist, Clary Fray, a girl who finds that she has ties to a race of mystical demon hunters called Shadowhunters, and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland, the troubled and mysterious Shadowhunter who Clary develops a crush on. And now things seem to finally be picking up on the casting front, because Variety has a report that Zwart has started the process of filling the film’s villain roles.

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Over Under - Large

When writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman teamed up on the 2007 film, Juno, the responses were mixed. Some people liked it quite a bit, not just because it was clever and quippy, but also because it presented a realistic, affecting look at the inherent drama of teenage pregnancy. Other people thought that it was painfully self-conscious in its hipness and insufferably annoying in its quirk, so they raged against any praise that came its way. Their next team-up, Young Adult, was different though. Not only did this look at a washed-up YA author traveling back to her home town in order to break up her high school sweetheart’s marriage do well with Juno fans, it did quite well with those who couldn’t stand Cody’s writing up to that point, as well. Charlize Theron’s painfully honest protagonist and Patton Oswalt’s achingly tragic supporting character really hit home for most. On the other end of the spectrum, the 2005 film Lonesome Jim doesn’t get very many mentions in a very many circles. On a couple levels, that makes sense. It’s a micro-budget indie that doesn’t provide any spectacle and didn’t get much promotion, and it was only seen on a handful of screens during its theatrical release. On the other hand, there are several reasons why you’d think this movie would have gotten more play over time. It’s one of the few films directed by Steve Buscemi, who everybody seems to love, it’s got great lead performances by Casey Affleck […]

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Belated Week in DVD! Last year SXSW caused me to post a lesser incarnation of this column as I had no time to check out most of the week’s releases. That didn’t go over so well, so this year I decided to simply delay the column so that I’d have time to cover the titles in my usual (ie more thorough) manner. So let’s get to it! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Young Adult 2011 was a good year for divisive film reactions as very few releases garnered anything resembling near-universal acclaim. (Even the year’s Best Picture winner experienced as much hatred as it did love.) Jason Reitman’s latest film had viewers split as well with its story of a selfish and often mean-spirited writer who returns to her home town to woo an ex-fling who’s now happily married. Charlize Theron gives a stellar performance as an unlikeable and possibly irredeemable protagonist, and Diablo Cody’s script is her most mature and intelligent effort yet. It’s funny, sad and one of the most honest films of last year.

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Reel Sex

People were up in arms Tuesday after the announcement of nominees for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. So many seem to forget that every year they are disappointed with the nominees and every year there is some film or performer who was left off or included on the prestigious list. I may have spent the final weeks of 2011 lamenting my utter ennui with last year’s films, but I never in a million years expected some of the Oscar outcomes. No Supporting Actor nomination for Albert Brooks, whose performance in Drive unnerved audiences to the core? Or the blatant disregard for solid documentary filmmaking in The Interrupters, Buck, or Project Nim, three entries into filmmaking that will forever impact the way we view the world around us? No, the Academy seemed to forget the impressive and daring offerings in favor of an adorable dog in a silent film. What is this, 1920? Last I checked The Jazz Singer pushed us into the land of the talkies. I could spend all day gnawing my tongue over which films shouldn’t have been included in this year’s awards recognition, but just like arguing the virtues and evils of the MPAA, our time is better used talking about some of the sexy pieces of work that the Academy felt were too provocative to include (for reasons I have completely made up in my mind. Hey, they have their prerogative, I have mine.). Going along with the Academy’s new voodoo math rules of deciding the […]

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Culture Warrior

In a recent article from The Atlantic, business journalist Derek Thompson poses several compelling questions about the business model of contemporary theatrical distribution. Why, he asks, must we pay the same for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as we do for Young Adult at our local multiplex? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the comparably underperforming film, Young Adult, were distributed with lower ticket prices in order to cultivate greater competition against wintertime blockbusters, and thereby (perhaps) gain a slightly greater audience for a film whose appeal is limited by comparison? After all, movie studios don’t so much “give audiences what they want” as much as they calculate degrees success (if you don’t believe me, go ask your local AMC to bring A Separation or Carnage to your theater), so why don’t ticket prices reflect this already-transcribed fate? It’s an interesting scenario to imagine, but one that becomes more difficult to envision once one parses through the details. As the author points out in his #4 reason why we have “uniform pricing,” varied pricing would likely create an unwarranted stigma against less expensive films, much like straight-to-DVD films have. That said, two other assumptions informing Thompson’s provocative question warrant further exploration: 1) we as consumers already have varied pricing, and we have developed patterns of determining a film’s “worth” in our choosing of where and in what conditions we see a film, and 2) movies would largely benefit if the perceived value of the opening weekend lessened significantly.

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The Writers Guild of America has released the nominees for their Writer’s Guild Awards today, and while there’s certainly some room for quibbling as far as their choices go, the screenplays they’ve nominated in their film categories are at least a diverse array of projects. There’s something here for everyone. I balked at these choices a bit on first glance, they’d left off many of my favorite films of the year. But after thinking about what was missing for a few seconds I started to realize that a lot of the films I really loved over the course of 2011 relied more on mood and photography than they did their screenplays. In my mind, there was no real superstar script this year, like Inception and The Social Network last year. I loved things like Drive and Shame, but did their greatness really lie in their screenplays? Still, I can think of a handful of things that I would have liked to have seen included that weren’t. As far as original screenplays go, I think a film like Warrior was a master of structure, and is more deserving than something like Bridesmaids, which was a fairly generic comedy plot and which probably relied largely on improvisation for its humor. And I really miss a nomination for something like The Skin I Live In when it comes to the adapted screenplay section; especially when they’ve nominated a film like The Help, which cannot name writing as one of its strengths. Check out […]

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Young Adult, Shame, and The Descendants. 2011’s holiday movie season ended the year with a barrage of relatively conventional heroes. From Ethan Hunt saving the world from yet another MacGuffin to Sherlock Holmes solving an additional mystery to a cyberpunk and a journalist battling wealthy Swedish career-misogynist neo-Nazis, December was packed with varied iterations of good triumphing over its clearly delineated evil opposition. In contrast, the holiday season’s slate of smaller-scale filmmaking brought forth several protagonists who function in strict contrast to your conventional hero. These protagonists are (decidedly) so toxic, broken, unheroic, and even unlikeable that they can’t even be deemed antiheroes. These characters (to varying degrees of success) challenge the assumed connection that filmic convention makes between the “main character” and the “film itself” by presenting protagonists who don’t triumph over adversity, who don’t fight or win a “good” battle, and who frankly don’t warrant an act of rooting. These protagonists trip up an oft-unquestioned notion conditioned by cinematic tradition: that films should serve as a means of rooting for a clearly demarcated, pre-telegraphed, unassailable idea of goodness. These are three protagonists that we aren’t often asked to spend ninety minutes with.

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Reel Sex

Last week we delved into the top layer of sexy films out this past year, suggesting that 2011 might have been one of the bolder years when it came to honest portrayals of sex in cinema. In 2011 we saw characters dealing with sexual violence, sexual addiction, and sexual curiosity, all in the most brutal and thoughtful ways possible. It’s years like this that we are reminded film is art that not only speaks to our souls, but also to our real life experiences while captivating us in intense and engaging 90+ minute periods. But as you’d expect for all the good we saw this year, there was also awkward, ridiculous, uncomfortable, and even maddening sexual depictions. We could spend the next four paragraphs discussing the “sharting” scene in Hall Pass or attack the universally despised wet dream that is Sucker Punch (despite how much I enjoy the latter film), however the really disgusting cinematic sexual moments this year actually said something about a film’s characters while making the audience squirm with disgust. While there are a few films I have yet to see before next Sunday ushers in the beginning of a new year, I have seen enough this year to offer up a varied selection of some of the worst sex moments in 2011.

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“Guys like me are born to like girls like you.” If you’re one of those guys – someone who finds unrelenting asshole women irresistible – Young Adult will leave you with a new crush. If you’re a socially normal human being who knows how destructive an asshole can be, Young Adult will leave you with a new on-screen enemy. I fall in the middle. Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) could not be further from likable and sympathetic, and that’s the whole point. The young adult writer, not the most subtle character trait, is never glorified as being a “cool smokin’ bitch,” something that she only starts off as. As the film progresses, the beautiful womanchild is stripped down to something so ugly, unappealing, hopeless, and, in some uncomfortable ways, a little relatable.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr goes rogue and infiltrates his local IMAX theater. First, he scales the wall of the plus-sized building and slides in undetected through the air vents. He slowly lowers himself into a theater seat to enjoy an early screening of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Unfortunately, he finds himself in the middle of a wild crowd of six-year-old kids for the early screening of the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. To deal with the psychological damage, Kevin then stumbles into the Sherlock Holmes sequel and later finds an extra seat in Young Adult, where he can imagine that his chubby caboose could land a hottie like Charlize Theron.

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The Reject Report

It’s December 16th, and the winter blockbuster season is very nearly upon us. This coming weekend sees three huge movies hit, all of which are sure to be box office megastars. Yes, even the chipmunks. One of those films, the one where that one guy from Top Gun runs a whole lot, is only hitting IMAX, so it’s day of box office bloodletting will have to wait. In the meantime, Sherlock Holmes and, yes, the chipmunks are going to be taking the box office by storm. Plus, unlike 2009, they won’t have any blue aliens to contend with. It’s this week’s edition of the Reject Report, and this shiz is about to get Chipwrecked.

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Good morning from Los Angeles, where we announce major award nominations at 5:30AM on a Thursday morning. That’s how much we value your sleep patterns and sanity. Now that I’ve pulled myself out of a state of under caffeinated shock over some of the Golden Globe nominations – namely, that Ryan Gosling was nominated for lead actor in both the drama and comedy and musical categories, though neither of those nods was for Drive (Crazy, Stupid, Love.? really? I had no idea that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was so into abs!). Beyond that jolt to the system, there were a number of standard choices for the awards. The Artist? Well, of course? But all that Ides of March love? Interesting. The Artist leads with six nominations, followed by The Descendants and The Help with five each, and The Ides of March, Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball with four nods. But despite the overwhelming sense that (per usual) the Globes are just softball awards, there are some surprisingly good picks buried amongst the fluff – Tilda Swinton getting a lead actress (drama) nomination, Michael Fassbender earning a lead actor (drama) nod for Shame, Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris up for Best Picture (comedy or musical), Charlize Theron getting a lead actress (comedy or musical) nomination for Young Adult, The Skin I Live In up for Best Foreign Film, and Albert Brooks getting his nod for supporting actor for Drive (drama). The Golden Globes will air live on January 15. Check out […]

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This is it: the final month of the year, a.k.a. the month to shell out as much cash as you got at the theaters. December is always the best and worst movie-going time. There’s so many damn pictures hitting the screens, and it’s the time where everyone’s running around, trying to get things done before the New Year. It’s wonderful, annoying chaos. This December is different, though. In fact, it’s going to be about 100 times more chaotic. Folks, if you plan on seeing all of the good to the “this will be up for Oscars, kid!” movies this month, plan on forking out a lot of dough. This is unquestionably the strongest month for films this year. Without further ado, here are the ones to end the year on a great note with:

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For the past few weeks, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody have quietly been bringing special “pop up screenings” of their new collaboration, Young Adult, to small arthouse theaters across the country (and Canada!). Invites were scarce, but those who were quick enough (and savvy enough) to get into one of six screenings was treated to a first look at the film, a special Q&A with its makers and stars, and a unique poster to take home with them. I was lucky enough to get into this week’s Los Angeles pop up screening at the New Beverly, during which Reitman trotted out Cody, Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, and Elizabeth Reaser for a pre-screening introduction and a post-screening Q&A. While it’s been widely speculated as to why Reitman didn’t take Young Adult on a more traditional festival jaunt (which he’s previously done for his biggest hits), the director himself explained it simply, he wanted to take the film on its very own festival route, picking cities and venues that fit the film. To add to that festival atmosphere, each pop up screening got its own specially crafted poster, made by a local artist and distributed to the audience at each screening. Young Adult is a departure for Reitman and Cody, shunting aside the sunniness of their previous collaboration Juno for a much darker (and deeper) tale of female maturity gone totally wrong. After the break, check out all six posters for each of the pop up screenings, each taking a different […]

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In a post-Juno world, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody have re-teamed for a much darker spin on inappropriate maturity levels and their inevitable consequences. Whereas their hamburger phone-chatting, bon mot-spouting teen Juno was almost too mature for her own good, their latest heroine is undoubtedly too immature to even be considered a real adult. In Young Adult, Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a YA author who has much more in common emotionally and intellectually with her characters than she does with anyone her actual age. Mavis heads back to her small hometown, still gorgeous as ever, but with a real chip on her shoulder (to put it mildly). Mavis wants her high school sweetheart back (Patrick Wilson), and she doesn’t care if he’s married, and she doesn’t care if she’s a real bitch to everyone else, and she just…well, she just doesn’t care. Check out the first trailer for Young Adult after the break, with bonus Patton Oswalt as one of Mavis’ former classmates who is also a bit stuck in the past.

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