September 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan
Directed by: Craig William Macneill (“The Boy”)
Written by: Bryce Kass (debut)

While it has sustained a strong interest among American folk historians and true-crime enthusiasts for decades, the story of Lizzie Borden, a young woman suspected of murdering her father and stepmother with an ax in 1892, has never received the cinematic attention that a crime of its notoriety would normally demand.

Four years after Christina Ricci portrayed the title character in the laughable Lifetime movie “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax,” which featured a lot of goth-punk music, the legendary murders are explored with more style and intimacy in director Craig William Macneill’s indie psychological thriller “Lizzie.” Despite a worthy effort by Macneill and first-time feature screenwriter Bryce Kass, Lizzie is more memorable for its foreboding atmosphere and believable performances by the film’s top-billed actresses Chloë Sevigny (“Lean on Pete”) and Kristen Stewart (“Adventureland”) than its storytelling prowess.

Along with setting up an ominous backdrop, Macneill and Kass should also be commended for depicting a host of unusual theories as part of the Lizzie Borden narrative, some of which seem to be loosely based on author Ed McBain’s 1984 novel “Lizzie.” In his book, McBain speculates that Lizzie committed the killings after her stepmother discovered she was having a tryst with their Irish housemaid Bridget Sullivan.

In “Lizzie” the film, it’s her father Andrew (Jamey Sheridan) — not her stepmother Abby (Fiona Shaw) — who witnesses the lustful encounter between Lizzie (Sevigny) and Bridget (Stewart). The situation is complicated even more because Andrew is taking sexual advantage of Bridget and has also decided to make Lizzie’s uncle John Morse (Denis O’Hare) custodian of her inheritance, a move that aggravates his daughter.

There are also threatening notes being left at the Borden household that suggest someone else in town might have an issue with the family (“No one will save you from what is to come” and “Your sins will find you” aren’t exactly neighborly messages). When Lizzie and Bridget’s resentment comes to a boiling point, they devise a plan to rid themselves of the people who are harming them.

Shot beautifully by cinematographer Noah Greenberg (“Most Beautiful Island”), “Lizzie” is a somber revisionist interpretation that fails to reach the story’s full potential as the minimalist murder mystery it hoped to become. The chemistry between Sevigny and Stewart is palpable as the sexual tension mounts throughout the film, but there just isn’t enough substance behind the relationship to warrant an entirely new take on what took place inside the walls of the Borden home more than a century ago.

American Ultra

August 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”)
Written by: Max Landis (“Chronicle”)

As part of a marketing campaign for “American Ultra” at Comic-Con, convention-goers who happened to be holders of a prescription for medical marijuana were able to be hand delivered branded weed and paraphernalia from the film. Gaining headlines and controversy, this stunt-marketing ploy was a dream scenario for Lionsgate; they got the word out, distracted audiences and got them interested into a movie that has nothing else going for it.

One night while working in a convience store, a stoner, Mike (Jesse Eisenberg), is visited by a woman who utters a secret code phrase to him. Unbeknownst to Mike, he is a trained CIA sleeper agent and when his life is threatened, ends up killing two guys with skills he was not aware he possessed. As he meets up with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), Mike must figure out why people are trying to kill him and why his own skills as an assassin are second to none.

Reuniting the principle cast from 2009’s “Adventureland,” Eisenberg and Stewart are once again paired together as a romantic couple. For Eisenberg, it’s a return to the type of frazzled, awkward, one-note performances he has displayed in the past. It isn’t entirely his fault, but his drug-induced paranoia that the humor relies upon isn’t sold well enough to get laughs. Stewart, who has been on a nice little run of solid performances with films like “Camp X-Ray” and “Clouds of Sils Maria” is fine, if not unspectacular. While the lead performances can at least be stomached, a few of the supporting ones are unforgivable. Most notable of those are Topher Grace, who should really stop attempting to play a bad guy, and Walton Goggins whose character of “The Laugher” feels like an interpretation of The Joker from a straight-to-video Asylum movie.

The script from Max Landis is perhaps the most troublesome element of a very troubled movie. Starting off with a thud, “American Ultra” has an almost instantaneous lack of energy. As it desperately searches for a tone, jokes miss left and right and anything character driven goes nowhere. When the actual plot of the film kicks in, it becomes painfully generic, feeling like an extended and rehashed version of a superhero film where a seemingly normal person realizes they have powers.

It’s the least of its problems compared to the muddy narrative. When it is revealed that Mike was part of a CIA project, everything that follows is unclear. The motives of characters make no sense and the plot twists are lame and more importantly, riddled with holes. With gunshots, stabbings, explosions and more, Landis and director Nima Nourizadah introduce a violent streak as the plot continues. It’s an odd turn, especially considering the violence is almost always meaningless (and made worse by really bad CGI blood spatter) and makes for a confusing, conflicting tone.

Flat-lined from the get-go, “American Ultra” is a poorly conceived disaster. It’s hard to tell where exactly Landis and Nourizadah went wrong, but the film sleepwalks for 90 minutes, throwing in obligatory plot contrivances just for the hell of it. There isn’t one single element of the film that works and its very existence, especially given the talent involved, is baffling.

Still Alice

February 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart
Directed by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera)
Written by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera)

At one point in “Still Alice,” Alice (Julianne Moore), a 50-year-old college professor suffering from a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, tells her husband John (Alec Baldwin) that she wishes she had cancer instead, citing the bravery people bestow upon cancer sufferers, wearing pink ribbons in their honor. Alzheimer’s only inspires pity and puts an immense burden on their loved ones, all while the sufferer’s life slips away one memory at a time. As a vibrant academic with a devoted husband, three grown children, and a personal life dedicated to reading, writing, and travel, its a fate the too-young Alice is horrified to confront.

Alice discovers her disease slowly at first, forgetting where she is during a jog. When her diagnosis is confirmed, Alice has the difficult task of not only breaking the news of her disease to her children (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish), but the chilling fact that this form of the disease is hereditary and there’s a test her children could take that comes with the knowledge that, if positive, there is a 100 percent certainty they too will develop the disease. What follows are scenes of Alice coming to grips with her fate, using her iPhone to quiz her memory daily and her webcam to record a video instructing her future self on how to commit suicide should her memory deteriorate too far.

Moore anchors the film with a heartbreaking performance, likely to finally nab her an Oscar, while Kristen Stewart–finally free of the banal “Twilight” franchise–reminds everyone she can be an engaging actress when given more to do than swoon. She gives the well-worn trope of the wayward daughter a little more depth than is written into the script. The rest of the cast, however, are as one-note as can be—which is fine, because this is Alice’s story, but it would be nice if a performer as intense and focused as Baldwin had more to do than play the sympathetic husband. Also, I can’t help but wonder if the film would have been more effective if Alice and her family weren’t well-to-do professionals with a beach house and university careers. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease no matter your income level, but what if Alice were a middle-class woman who couldn’t just stop working? Just a suggestion, Hollywood.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

November 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by: Bill Condon (“Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” “Dreamgirls”)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (“Breaking Dawn – Part 1”)

We made it, everyone! The end of “The Twilight Saga” is here! Husbands and boyfriends across the nation can rest easy knowing that, at least for now, the ham-handed, crushingly-romantic gothic nightmare adaptations are finally drawing to a close. The final chapter, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2” picks up where it’s terrible, interminable predecessor left off: with Bella Cullen’s (Kristen Stewart) awakening as a vampire. After her marriage to sparkly bloodsucker Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) results in a dangerously destructive pregnancy, Edward “turns” Bella while in labor in order to save her life. When the half-human/half-vampire baby is born, shape-shifting wolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) “imprints” on her, meaning the newborn is destined to become Jacob’s soulmate. Um…

Anyway, when the dust settles, wolf-Jacob, Bella, and her rapidly-aging daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) are spotted by distant Cullen cousin Irina (Maggie Grace), who mistakes the girl for an “immortal child,” an uncontrollable vampire turned too young. Such a thing has been forbidden, and Irina reports this broken law to the Volturi, the old-school velvet-caped, scroll-reading vampire clan led by Aro (an hilariously crazy Michael Sheen) and Jane (Dakota Fanning, wasted again). The Volturi set out to destroy Renesmee in order to protect the future vampires everywhere while the Cullens and their associates prepare to defend the young girl with both testimony and battle.

As with the first film, “Part 2” visibly strains under the pressure that came with splitting the final book of the series into two separate movies. After a game-changing introduction following newborn vampire Bella hunting both cougars and oblivious mountain climbers, the film settles in for a bloated, muddy middle act featuring the cast sitting around and waiting for the ultimate battle to come. Various half-cooked vampire allies trickle in along the way, each sporting shoddy make-up and a store-brand superpower seemingly stolen from lesser members of the X-Men. The series has never fully realized its potential when it comes to mythologizing its vampires, and this blown opportunity to expand its ranks with some cool, non-mopey badasses isn’t surprising, but it’s still disappointing.

Familiar problems still haunt the series, even with four massive blockbusters under its belt. The special effects remain frustratingly shoddy at times, such as the vampires’ super speed or the nightmare-inducing CGI baby Renesmee head stuck on a real child’s body.  The giant Quileute wolves don’t look great either, but the trade-off for that is less screen time for Lautner and the other terribly wooden actors that play human characters.

All is nearly forgiven, though, when the truly batshit climax unspools. I won’t spoil it here, but howls of laughter and gasps of horror give way to an amazingly inventive twist that, frankly, I didn’t think I’d ever see the likes of in a “Twilight” movie. Credit returning director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg since, tellingly, it’s here that the film deviates sharply from the source novel. If only that had been tried 4⅔’s movies ago.

Breaking Dawn – Part 1

November 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by: Bill Condon (“Kinsey,”)
Written by:  Melissa Rosenberg (“The Twilight Saga: New Moon”)

If you’re like me, a male in his early thirties, your introduction to the “Twilight” series of books  came by way of a wife or girlfriend who became utterly obsessed with them, swooning over the overlong tales of Bella Swan, the unremarkable teenage girl everyone loves for some reason, and her romance with Edward Cullen, the handsome, eternally-teenaged vampire who falls madly in love with her, again for reasons unknown, and the love triangle it creates when Native American werewolf Jacob Black also falls in love with Bella because, hey, why not?

If your significant other was anything like my ex-girlfriend, she was so taken with these crappy novels written for teenage girls that she started to buy into the idea of epic romance and glared at you with disgust because yeah, maybe you did practical stuff for her like scrape the ice off her windshield on cold mornings, but you weren’t punching werewolves in the face to save her life like Edward was. Never mind the fact that she was damn near 30 years old, she wanted some chiseled, dangerous, sparkly-skinned creature of fantasy to profess his undying love for her, not some regular guy with oily skin.

As far as the “Twilight” movies go, the filmmakers have so far done little to attract people who weren’t already pre-disposed to liking the books (read: men).  Stocked with attractive-yet-terrible “actors” and peppered with crummy special effects, the films deviated little from the novels, content with just puking the prose onto the screen with little regard for how stupid much of it looked and sounded when performed by real human beings. Sure, the fans of the book series ate them up, making them huge hits at the box office, but none of the films have actually been any good. But at least they weren’t as skull-crushingly terrible as “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” is.

The movie opens with the cast preparing for the wedding of human teenager Bella (Kristen Stewart) to dashing vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). Of course this angers Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who hilariously rips his shirt off in a rage during a rainstorm after hurling the wedding invitation to the ground. After he phases into a werewolf and runs away 15 seconds into the movie, everything grinds to a halt. In what is clearly an effort to make people pay to see another whole film next year, the decision was made to divide the final book of the series into two movies. The result is a movie that moves so slowly it threatens to go back in time.

Director Bill Condon (“Kinsey,” “Dreamgirls”) fills the first hour of the movie with narrative molasses like an interminable wedding scene that feels like it takes place in real time and a honeymoon scene that features our main characters playing chess, whereas the second hour ramps up the insanity while still moving at a snail’s pace. It’s tough to accomplish, but “Breaking Dawn Part 1” manages to make truly crazy things like life-sucking demon fetuses, arguing wolves (!),  and vampire C-sections completely and totally boring.

The title of the movie is a threat. Consider the phrase “Part 1” to be a dire warning that “Part 2” is coming.


July 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by: David Slade (“30 Days of Night”)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (“New Moon”)

“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” has a few factors working in its favor that the two prior installments were sorely lacking. With more humor, feasible action scenes, and less-tacky romantic interludes, the teenage vampire-werewolf pairing manages to give the series a bit more entertainment value than before right at its midway point. It’s just too bad the actors still have to open their mouths and actually say things.

In “Eclipse,” jealousy hits an all-time high as vampire hunk Edward Cullen (Rob Pattinson) and wolf boy Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) continue to vie for the love of human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart).

This time, however, the monster men must put their detestation for one another on hold and team up so they can protect Bella from killer vampiress (Bryce Dallas Howard who takes the role over from Rachelle Lefevre) and a brand new threat she has formed. An army of vampires led by Riley (Xavier Samuel), a missing college student from Seattle, has been transformed by Victoria and sent out to recruit “newborn” bloodsuckers.

“Twilight” fanatics will be pleased to know that while the cast doubles in size in the newest film, the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob still takes precedence over any additional plots that keep the saga moving forward. Along with the tweeny melodrama, Bella continues where she left off in “New Moon” and still longs for Edward to make her immortal.

Directed by David Slade (“Hard Candy,” “30 Days of Night”), “Eclipse” is the best of the franchise. That, however, doesn’t say much since “Twilight” and “New Moon” – despite raking in hundreds of millions of dollars and being adored by a committed fan base that actually think Stephanie Meyer’s books are well written – are nothing more than the equivalent of a supernatural Disney Channel-type show.

While darker and a bit less ridiculous that the first two movies, “Eclipse” is still adapted from sappy source material into a tired script by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. “Eclipse” – along with its next two installments – won’t have any trouble reeling in the alliance of screaming teenage girls and creepy moms that are already hooked, but no amount of Robert Frost poetry (“Fire and Ice” is recited in the opening scene) or ripped abdominals has made this sexless, angst-driven fad a memorable franchise thus far.

The Runaways

April 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Floria Sigismondi (debut)
Written by: Floria Sigismondi (debut)

There’s more to a music biopic than just the music. While music video director Floria Sigismondi captures the look and sound of the 1970s, the story of the all-girl punk band portrayed in “The Runaways” never stands out as more than an average narrative about a musical group’s rise to fame and fall from grace.

Despite its script’s flaws, actresses Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are well cast as bandmates Cheri Currie and Joan Jett. The story follows the band’s formation at the hands of devious manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who realizes he’s sitting on a gold mine when he brings a group of misfit girls together to create something no one else had ever successfully done before. He does it mostly by exploiting them as sex kittens.

“This isn’t about women’s lib, it’s about women’s libidos,” he says as the group practices in an abandoned trailer in the middle of nowhere.

Based on Currie’s book “Neon Angel: Memoir of a Runaway,” most of the story is hers mostly because she was the one that ended her time with the band only two years after it formed in 1975. We watch Currie’s troubles at home with an alcoholic father, but where the film needed to focus more of the drama on was the band and how it fit into the era and broke ground for other female musicians that came after.

While most music biopics have jealousy and drugs at the center of a band’s demise, that doesn’t necessarily make up this specific group’s real downfall depending on who you ask. No matter what the real reason the Runaways lasted only four years, Sigismondi plays the story safe. It almost feels like director Mary Harron’s “The Notorious Bettie Page” about the 1950s pin-up girl. When it’s pussyfooting along, it’s not very affecting. When it attempts to break into darker territory it feels like it’s posing instead of letting the story come naturally.

It’s one thing to watch Fanning taking drugs, it’s something else when she smashes a pill with the heel of her boot and subsequently kneels to the ground to snort the residue off the ground. All we can say to that is, “How very punk.”

Dakota Fanning & Kristen Stewart – The Runaways

April 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the music biopic “The Runaways,” actresses Dakota Fanning (“War of the Worlds”) and Kristen Stewart (“New Moon”) portray Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, the two lead band members of the 1970s all-girl punk rock band the film is named after.

The Runways were best known for their songs “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise.” The film, which was directed by Floria Sigismondi and adapted from Currie’s book “Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story,” follows the Runaways from their formation in 1975 to 1977 when Currie abruptly quit the band. The group officially broke up two years later.

During press interviews at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas last month, I sat down with Fanning and Stewart to talk about the film.

Dakota, all the characters in this film are going through a sort of rebellious phase. You’re 16 years old. Did you go through that or did you sort of skip over it?

Dakota Fanning: I don’t think I’ve every really had anything to rebel against. My parents aren’t really crazy strict parents. They’re really good parents. I wouldn’t ever want to rebel against them. I guess I just do that in films. I guess I skipped over that, whatever that really means. I think we all rebel against something at some point but I didn’t have a stage that I went through where I was a bad kid.

There is a fine line separating an actor actually portraying a real-life person or simply doing an impersonation. How did you keep from crossing that line?

DF: For me Cheri is really different from how she was so it was kind of impossible to do an impersonation of her. I watched a lot of videos because I thought the performances were the most important. That could almost be an impersonation. Like with the “Cherry Bomb” dance, she did the same thing every time she performed.

Kristen Stewart: It would be an impersonation if you were thinking about nothing when you were doing it.

DF: Right, I wanted [the dance] to be so engrained in my body that I didn’t even have to think about it because that’s how it became for her. I did get to that point where I started and finished and didn’t remember how I got there, which was actually pretty exciting.

What kind of advice did Cherie or Joan give you on the set?

DF: Cheri and I talked a lot about why it ended for her and why she decided to leave [the Runaways]. That’s pretty important for my character. I don’t know if she really gave me any specific advice.

KS: Yeah, there are a million things that come out that they tell you – deep emotional things. Joan is comfortable with who she is even though she’s shy. She’s not always what she might seem, which is really badass.

Tell me about the first time you read the script and felt like it was something you had to be a part of.

DF: I read the script and I didn’t know a lot about the Runaways so I looked up their Live in Japan videos. “Cherry Bomb” is the first one I saw. That’s when I realized I wanted to play her. I wanted to do that. They weren’t sure if I was old enough or if I was right.

KS: Which was ridiculous, actually.

DF: I was lucky they believed I could do it.

KS: I got really freaked out because you realize all the stuff that goes along with playing Joan Jett.

What is the difference between playing a real person and playing someone on paper that you can make your own?

DF: It was totally different. As much as Joan wanted to give me freedom and have me be natural I couldn’t improvise stuff as easily as I could in other movies. I didn’t like to fill in the blanks. I didn’t like to answer questions. I was always asking them. But you should always feel like your character is real. You should always feel like there is a whole person to do justice. But it is totally different when they are there and you’re friends with them.

How was it being able to play characters who explored some darker more destructive territory?

KS: In [interviews] I’m the one who is asked why I play a disaffected teen all the time. I’m a teenage and I like roles that are thought out and not one-dimensional and framed. You might as well take the character name off [in those instances] and write “girl” or “cute girl,” “ugly girl,” “hot girl.” I like stuff that gets you thinking.

DF: I’ve always been drawn to intense and emotional storylines and characters that are actually going through something that could help someone else. I feel like all the characters you play there’s someone like that out there. I just like give that person a voice.

Do you feel like this movie made you grow up?

DF: I definitely relate a lot of the experiences that I have now to Joan and Cherie and to the movie. I feel like me, Kristen, Joan and Cherie share something that is really unique. I think that has changed me – these relationships and the experience. I wont be the same after knowing these people and portraying their story.

KS: I feel like every experience in a movie changes you a little bit. This one is really hard to describe. I don’t know how to be specific about it, but it definitely has. It definitely made me more confident.

New Moon

November 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Directed by: Chris Weitz (“The Golden Compass”)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (“Twilight”)

It would be easy enough to dismiss “New Moon,” the latest vampire romance of the newly dubbed “Twilight Saga,” as easily digestible hokum, but you have to at least give author Stephenie Meyer credit for finding a niche in the horror genre no one else imagined. Whether or not you’re a fan of skinny pale vampires with waxed hair, Meyer has created a brand name that has impacted pop culture tremendously over the last four years.

But as millions of twihards swarm into theaters donning their “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” tees, most if not all go in with terrible cases of tunnel vision. Find someone with an unhealthy obsession for the “Twilight Saga” and you’ll find a devoted fan no matter how deficient the movie actually is. For anyone with a more discerning eye, it’s much easier to pinpoint all the flaws that make “New Moon” an average gothic fairy tale aimed at girly-girls not old enough to watch “True Blood” yet.

In “New Moon,” Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is starting her senior year in high school and still dating Edward Cullen (Rob Pattinson), the hottest blood-sucker on campus. As their relationship continues to develop, Bella can’t stop thinking of the impending future that awaits them. Someday Bella will be an old woman while the immortal Edward will forever be the hunky vampire she fell in love with.

The only solution Bella has is for Edward to turn her into a vampire so they can be together for eternity (talk about commitment!). Edward, however, isn’t enthusiastic on the idea of turning his lady love into a monster. After an unfortunate paper cut incident at Bella’s birthday party (a subtle tribute to Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” most twihards won’t notice), the sullen Cullen decides that Bella would be much safer if he and his family left Forks, Washington never to return.

Waiting in the wings to comfort Bella during her montage of depression is the always shirtless Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a Native American tween who Bella turns to once Edward is gone. The love triangle becomes more complex when Bella finds out Jacob has been hiding a secret from her the entire time they’ve spent together – he’s a werewolf…and he hates vampires.

It all sounds kind of silly reading it as it probably did for Meyer when she wrote it and when screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg adapted it. The script is definitely not one of the finer features of “New Moon.” Like it predecessor, the stale dialogue spewed out by the leads can’t be ignored. When Edward tells Bella “you give me everything just by breathing,” you’ll wonder who else in the world other than Pattinson could get away with delivering such a tacky one-liner to a girl without getting laughed at.

Besides the questionable choices in romanticism, Rosenberg places entirely too much emphasis on things we already know. Edward and Bella are star-crossed lovers, so why reference “Romeo and Juliet” again and again? While it’s in Meyers’ original text, it’s a cliché choice to have included in a film already inundated with enough hamminess to fill the next two films in the series 10 times over.


March 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader
Directed by: Greg Mottola (“Superbad”)
Written by: Greg Mottola (“The Daytrippers”)

Thematically speaking, “Adventureland,” the new comedy by “Superbad” director Greg Mottola, is fairly familiar. It’s a coming-of-age story that doesn’t necessarily break new ground but is so conscious of its own sensitive nature, each character the script introduces is like seeing a good friend after a long break.

If you’re looking for another hilariously raunchy night out with the boys like you got with “Superbad,” you’re not going to find it here. In “Adventureland,” there are shades of Mottola’s witty and bawdy sense of humor, but most of it (aside from some of the few repetitious jokes) fades nicely into the entire story.

Set in Pittsburgh in 1987, “Adventureland” follows recent college graduate and self-admitting virgin James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg, AKA Michael Cera-lite, who was great in The Squid and the Whale) as he is forced to get a summer job when his father is demoted from his job. Instead of spending the summer traveling Europe with his friend and discovering himself, James must now save up as much money as possible if he still plans to move to New York and attend Colombia University to major in journalism.

With an undergraduate degree in comparative literature, which he says “doesn’t even qualify him for manual labor,” James settles for a lame position working game booths at the tacky local theme park. There he meets a cast of characters including love interest Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), a NYU student who hates her stepmother and seems to be just passing the time. Martin Starr (“Freaks and Geeks”) plays nerdy friend Joel, one of the only intelligent beings working at the park, and a miscast Ryan Reynolds is Mike Connell, the grown-up maintenance guy whose claim to fame was jamming out with Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed a few years prior.

Less about the actual theme park and more about relationships and love triangles between new acquaintances, “Adventureland” is different because it spotlights the awkwardness everyone still find themselves battling even when they’re away from the cliché high school backdrop. Director Mottola is working with young adults here, not teenagers, who have come to the realization that life may never get better than what they are currently experiencing. It’s a darkly funny combination of charming romantic comedy plot points, modest 80s references, and an underlying depressing motif that makes the film feel all the more satisfying.


November 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (“Thirteen”)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (“Step Up”)

I completely understand the fascination with the “Twilight” series and I would go as far as calling author Stephenie Meyer a genius because she though of the combination of the horror/drama genre and tween demographic, which really hasn’t been tested before.

With that said, “Twilight” gets points for not falling into the clichés of its subjects like most vampire movies do. We don’t get bloody fangs, cloves of garlic, or faces melting in the sun, which is admirable. But what Meyer and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg replace some of this universal lore with is just as hokey as zapping one of the undead with holy water or shoving a stake through their heart.

In “Twilight,” Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves from Phoenix to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her father so her mother and her minor-league-baseball-playing new husband can go on the road. While fitting into her new school and making friends isn’t too difficult for her, Bella’s love life gets a bit strange when she becomes intrigued by the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a pasty heartthrob who she later finds out is a blood-sucking vampire.

But Edwards isn’t the type of vamp that kills people for sustenance. Although he does lust for human blood, he has learned how to suppress his hunger (good for Bella) and live off the animals in the nearby forests. Knowing this, Bella is never frightened of her new love interest, but is tossed in the middle of a rivalry when a group of rogue vampires come into town and find out Edward has feelings for a mortal girl.

While the foundation of “Twilight” is a love story, there is far too much dialogue between Bella and Edward that will have young girls swooning and everyone else rolling their eyes. While I could have ignored lines like “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you” as poetry any gothic teenager would write in their high school English class, Rosenberg chose to keep pushing the schmaltziness until the relationship between the star-crossed lovers is maintained only by long glances into each others’ eyes.

Instead of telling us more about the vampire culture (which might be saved for the two sequels), Rosenberg let’s Edward say things like “Her scent is like a drug to me” and “I never knew a lion could fall in love with a lamb.” It’ll hit the demographic fine, but for everyone else the romance might stall.