Young Adult

In Young Adult, Charlize Theron plays Mavis, a self-destructive, alcoholic, emotionally-stunted ghost-writer of teen novels, who travels back to her home town in Minnesota to try to win back her own teenage sweetheart Buddy. The fact that he’s happily married with an adored new baby is narry a problem for the manipulative Mavis. Her full throttle descent into humiliation as she tries to woo him is not always easy to watch.

“Young Adult” could have played as a kind of grim Fatal Attraction (25 years old this month!). Instead it’s a cringe-making black comedy and the laugh-out-loud moments come when Mavis’ own filter is turned to off. (“I like your decor. Is it shabby chic?”) Patton Oswald plays her counterfoil, sardonically punching holes in her imagined love affair. He’s great too. Without giving too much away, it all finally builds to a crescendo of mortifying embarrassment, following which Mavis finally has to accept growing up.

Mavis’ home town of Mercury, Minnesota doesn’t exist, and although the movie did shoot on location in Minnesota, New York State took advantage of most of the stand-in. Four key scenes were shot at Woody’s Village Saloon on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park on Long Island. Newsday has a sweet tale about the Woody’s manager who ended up an extra in some of the scenes.

Written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, Young Adult all hangs together rather well. Charlize is excellent, something of a tour de force – Oscar chatter abounds. However, in my jaded mind, the success of the film rests or fails, ultimately, on if you believe Charlize is actually acting, and isn’t herself a mad-crazy psychopath who has to learn to fake her emotions from a board. I’ll leave it at that.

Insidious

Insidious bills itself as a scary movie about the supernatural. No, not about how abnormally, disturbingly, distractingly beautiful a couple Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson make. Rather, there’s a nasty, aggressive ghoul who seems to be debilitating their young son.

There’s no logic whatsoever to the plot. Without giving too much away, Patrick’s mother drops a bit of a bombshell three quarters of the way through – a fairly pivotal piece of prior knowledge about the boy’s mysterious ailment that you think she probably might have shared with the poor distracted parents. But who needs logic? It’s pretty well paced, well acted (you actually care about the Bryne/Wilson unit) and it serves up some scary moments (well, until some silly bits towards the end.)

Otherwise Insidious has no stand-out locations to speak of – though IMDB mentions the Herald Examiner Building on LA’s South Broadway. I don’t remember that at all (see above re. distractingly beautiful cast members…..)

Watchmen

There are many, many, many things unwatchable about Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, so I shall name just four: Malin Ackerman’s moonface. Patrick Wilson’s chins. Matthew Goode (all of him), Billy Crudup’s blue penis. Off putting. When the Moonface and the Chins have disturbing close-up sex in a floating capsule, I was ready to break things.

There’s a nice premise in there somewhere – it’s 1985 and Trickie Dickie Nixon is still President of the USofA, and in a crack-down on crime, he has banned masked vigilantes. He’s also taken the world to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviets. But it goes nowhere. Slowly. The attention to artistic detail in each shot is magnificent and apparently it sticks pretty closely to the vibe if not the plot of the original graphic novel. However, I find that I don’t care. Watchmen is three hours of my life that I won’t get back.

It shot on a sound stage in Vancouver. Mars and the Antarctic were green screened.