Back to School #69: Superbad (dir by Greg Mottola)


One of the great things about the 2007 comedy Superbad is that it has a title that allows for snarky but overworked reviewers like me to come up with an easy review.

For instance, if I disliked Superbad, I could just say, “Superbad more than lives up to its name!”  However, since I happen to like Superbad, I can say that Superbad is supergood, supercool, and superfun!

See how easily that works?

Plotwise, Superbad tells a story that will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a teen comedy.  Three guys try to get laid.  Seth (Jonah Hill) is the rotund and boisterous one, the one who has a crush on Jules (Emma Stone), who is your basic good girl with a wild side.  Evan (Michael Cera) is the sweet and sensitive one.  And then there’s Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the nerdy one with the thick glasses.  Fogell is the one who gets a hilariously bad fake ID, one that tells the world that his name is McLovin.


After Jules invites Seth to a party, he and Evan enlist Fogell to use his fake ID to buy them alcohol.  However, as often happens in the type of films, things get complicated.  While Fogell is buying the beer, the convenience store is held up.  The police arrive and Evan and Seth panic and run off.  Meanwhile, Fogell is befriended by the two cops (played by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader), both of whom are incredibly impressed that their new friend has as wonderful a name as McLovin.

(“You’re name’s McLovin?  That’s badass!”


And so, while McLovin bonds with his new cop friends, Seth and Evan continue to try to find beer and make their way to Jules’s party….

Superbad was produced by Judd Apatow and it features his usual combination of raunchy humor and sentimental bromance.  In fact, it’s such a male-centered film that I’m always a little bit surprised at how much I enjoy it.  However, Superbad is a seriously funny movie.  The script (which Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg reportedly starting on when they were 13 years old) is full of great lines and Michael Cera and Jonah Hill make for an adorable comedy team.  And then there’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse who takes the character of Fogell to his most logical extreme and then just keeps going.  McLovin’s adventures may not be the most realistic or subtle part of the movie but they are still a lot of fun to watch.

Speaking of McLovin and his adventures with the cops, I love the performances of both Seth Rogen and Bill Hader.  If you don’t laugh at the way Seth Rogen says, “Oh no!  It’s the cops!,” then you need to be worried about your sense of humor.

Superbad is supergood, supercool, superfun, supersweet, and just plain super.


Quick Review: The Newsroom (S1:E1) – “We Just Decided To.”

Quick story before the review. If you’d like to skip this, just scroll down a bit.

About a month before The Social Network came out, I was able to catch a special sneak preview of the film in Manhattan. The preview was special because after the film, Sony planned to have a Q&A session with some of the stars. While waiting on line and listening to some of the conversations, one person pointed out that they were waiting to see Aaron Sorkin.

“Excuse me, who?” I asked. The name didn’t ring any kind of bells with me. No Ratattouille – light in front of my eyes or anything.

“Sorkin. The West Wing.” She said.

“Ah, I’ve heard of that, but never saw it.” I said.

“A Few Good Men?” she added.

“Ah, I see!” I exclaimed, smiling. My sister and I loved that movie.  She actually memorized the “You can’t Handle the Truth” speech, we liked it so much. Okay, I had a handle who this was.

When the movie ended, we were presented with Armie Hammer, Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Munn, and Aaron Sorkin, seated in front of the audience. Being in the third row, they were all in hitting distance of my soda. The Q&A lasted for about a half hour or so. Walking out of there, my thoughts were that Aaron Sorkin was just a writer. By the time I got home and hit the internet, I found out that opinions on him, however, were polarized. It’s kind of interesting when all you have to do is throw out a person’s last name to start anyone talking. His work was either really revered or spat upon like a leper. I hadn’t seen anything like it since Joss Whedon, who’s writing I never knew of during the Roseanne years, absolutely could not stand during the Buffy years, and who finally won me over after seeing early morning episodes of Angel on TNT as the show was ending its main run.

So, that’s where I stand with Sorkin. He’s not a “Writer That Can Do No Wrong”, but I’ll admit that I like the conversational style he uses for characters. It’s almost similar to David E. Kelley’s work in a way. It’s not always required and can sometimes hinder things – Matthew Weiner is a good example of someone who does just fine without the tommy gun speeches – but it does work when it needs to.

My Thoughts (Where the Review actually begins…): 

The Newsroom starts out with a televised interview where a number of people are arguing politics back and forth. Seated between them is Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), who doesn’t have much to say, but listens. As he does so, he has a moment where he kind of zones out when he notices a woman up in the stands. This gives us a hint to the vertigo issues he supposedly has. When asked why he thinks that America is the greatest country in the world, he notices the same girl who holds up a notepad reading “It’s not, but it could be.” Will chooses to give an even keel answer, but when forced to give ‘a human reaction’, he admits to not feeling that America’s all that. He loses it, stating that even though we proclaim ourselves to be the only free country in the world, there are tons out there. “Canada has freedom! Japan has Freedom. Belgium has freedom!”, he rattles off. He points out that the only thing America really is good at is having a high incarceration rate, for the most part. He then goes on to add the good things the country did over the years. Once the interview ends and he leaves, he turns to his colleagues and asks “What did I say out there?!”

And that was all before the opening credits. I thought that was a good way to start. Definitely a hook, though the responses overall to the scene could be interesting.

Will returns into work the following morning to find most of his staff missing. After a conversation with Maggie (Allison Pill), he finds out he needs to speak with his superior, Charlie (Sam Waterston). I like Allison Pill as an actress. She was great in The Pillars of the Earth, but here is where Sorkin kind of stumbles. Granted, her character is handling being newly promoted to a position she isn’t ready for, but she’s almost too jittery. She’s almost a ball of nerves. It’s the Winifred Burkle / Lexi Grey / Ally McBeal archetype of the “New Girl with a Lot on her Plate”. Before you start in on me, take a look at the first season of Weiner’s Mad Men and you’ll see an example in Elizabeth Moss that’s handled stronger than Pill’s character is here. It’s almost the same situation, but where Moss’ character finds small ways to stand on her own, Maggie’s just a little lost. I’m hoping that in future episodes, she’s able to shake that and come into her own.

We’re also introduced to some of the other characters that run the Newsroom. You have Don (Thomas Sadoski), Will’s former Associate Producer and Neal (Dev Patel), who is the resident tech analyst. We find that Charlie has brought on Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) on as the Executive Producer, who Will has a serious problem with. Most of the episode is spent in Will’s office, arguing over how we can do better, and how he has the opportunity to make the news show stronger than what it was. Personally, I felt there were more interesting things going on outside of Will’s office then in it. At one point, a news blip comes in (courtesy of an iNews like program, which was nice), which touches on the start of the oil spill in Louisiana in 2010. It’s then that we’re told this is the time period we’re in. The show begins to accelerate and by the time that Will is actually on air, we get the notion of what the show could be if they rubbed out a little of conversations in between. That was very cool, like watching a submarine crew at work. The newscast scene is actually the strongest part of the episode overall, and Sorkin’s machine gun style dialogue helps there a lot, I felt. Dialog, he can do.

The only problem is for me is that we’re locked to this one location. It’s like watching a play unfold.  You’re in one location, and all of this information comes in. It’s discussed and action’s taken, but I didn’t get the feeling that the characters were growing or had room to. Let me put it this way. The star of the show isn’t any one person. It’s the News desk. The most important part of the show happened at the News desk, and while that was great, I’m thinking that for the characters involved, where are the subtle changes?

Here’s the thing (and I go to back to Mad Men, which I’ve also started watching from the beginning). By the end of the first episode of that show, you come to find that it’s main character, Don Draper, changes. You’re shown details that shape his attitude and come to find that he’s not the picture perfect fellow you may have thought he was. I didn’t get any of that with this episode of The Newsroom. I’m eager to see where it goes, because I like what’s being said, but I haven’t hit a point where any one of these people – even Will – is someone I feel I could hook on to. There’s always at least one character that stands out in a show for me – whether it’s Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad or Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. I’m hoping that something changes here to help me find that. The only hint of growth or personal reflection seemed to come at the last few minutes between Mac and Will, when he discusses the conversation he had with her father. That, I would love to see more of.

Overall, the Newsroom isn’t a bad show. It kind of moves like a pilot should, a one shot that has to hit the audience with it’s strongest punch to make sure they’re hooked, while at the same time trying to plant seeds for future episodes. It does what it tries to – give the news – but I walked away feeling like I visited this business, watched what went on and then promptly left with only the mildest of introductions to the staff. I don’t really know anyone here.

It can definitely be improved upon, and it’s all the start of something. I’m just not exactly sure I know what that is.

6 More Quickies With Lisa Marie: Beginners, Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, Paul, Prom, and Terri

When I swore to myself that I would write a review of every new film I saw in 2011, I failed to take into consideration that 1) I see a lot of films, 2) I have a day job, and 3) I’m like Ms. ADHD.  So, as part of my effort to catch up, here’s 6 quickie reviews. 

Beginners (directed by Mike Mills)

Beginners opened with a lot of critical hype earlier this year and, though it’s not quite as great as it’s being made out to be, it still deserved the majority of that praise.  At the very least, I retain better memories of Beginners than I do this summer’s other similarly hyped film, A Better Life.  Ewan McGregor is an artist who struggles to come terms with the death of his gay father (Christopher Plummer) while falling in love with a French actress (Melanie Laurent).  The autobiographical film effortlessly shifts from flashbacks to Plummer’s life in-and-out of the closet to McGregor’s relationship with Laurent and the end result is a meditation on love, secrets, and life.  Most of the pre-release buzz dealt with Plummer’s performance but, honestly, Plummer is good but you never forget you’re watching Christopher Plummer and Goran Visnjic, who plays Plummer’s boyfriend, overacts.  The film really belongs to Ewan McGregor who gives one of his best performances in this film.  Seriously, does any actor fall in love as wonderfully as Ewan McGregor?

Hall Pass (directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly)

Best friends Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis are given a “hall pass” (i.e., permission to cheat) by their spouses (Jenna Fischer and Cristina Applegate).  The film’s forgettable but seriously, guys, don’t go asking us for a hall pass, okay?  One interesting point is that this film was co-written by the guy who won the first season of Project Greenlight.  Remember that show? 

Horrible Bosses (directed by Set Gordon)

Jason Sudekis also appeared in another comedy this year and if Hall Pass is one of the year’s most forgettable comedies, than Horrible Bosses is one of the best.  Basically Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Sudekis are stuck working for horrible bosses (played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston) and they decide that the only way to handle the situation is to commit mass murder.  There’s a lot I could say about this film but chances are, you’ve already seen it.  Therefore, you already know that this is a rare dark comedy that actually has the guts to be truly dark.  You also know that the entire cast brings an almost heroic sincerity to their often bizarre roles with Charlie Day’s misunderstood sex offender as an obvious stand-out.  Probably the best advice that I can give in this review is to enjoy and appreciate this film while you can before the inevitable sequel comes out and screws up all these good memories.

Paul (directed by Greg Mottola)

I didn’t see Paul when it was first released in theaters because the trailer really made it look kinda awful.  However, I did eventually give it a shot OnDemand and I was pleasantly surprised.  Two English sci-fi fanboys (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are taking a road trip to visit all of the major UFO sites in the U.S.  This leads to them meeting an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is being pursued by the typical guys in black suits.  Anyway, this is a predictable film and the balance between the serious and comedic is often a bit awkward.  However, it’s still a likable film and how can’t you enjoy watching Pegg and Frost?  They can make even the lamest of jokes hilarious.  Kristen Wiig steals the film as a fundamentalist who, upon being enlightened about the nature of the universe by Paul, embraces blasphemy with endearing enthusiasm.

Prom (directed by Joe Nussbaum)

No, I did not force Jeff to take me to see this when it was first released in theaters back in April.  I tried, mostly be saying things like, “Wow, Prom looks like it would be a funny movie to see and spend the whole time making mean jokes about and making all the little tweens in the audience cry…” but he saw through my ruse and, if memory serves me correct, I ended up seeing the second worst film of 2011 (a.k.a. The Conspirator) instead.  Anyway, I ended up seeing Prom OnDemand last month and it’s not really that bad.  It’s not good either.  It’s just kinda there.  In other words, Prom is incredibly meh and that’s one thing prom night should never be.  (I loved my proms, by the way, and, whenever things seem overwhelming, I often think to myself, “If only every night could be Prom Night…”)  Prom is forgettable and inoffensive but come on, tweens deserve better films.  They are the future, after all.

Terri (directed by Azazel Jacobs)

Terri made me cry and cry and was one of my favorite movies of the summer.  It’s a surprisingly poignant film that worked wonders with material that, at first glance, seemed awfully conventional.  Terri (played by Jacob Wysocki) is a sensitive, obese teenager who is taken under the wing of an unconventional assistant principal (John C. Reilly).  It’s a familiar story but director Azazel Jacobs tells this story with care and sensitivity and Wysocki and Reilly bring their characters to life with such skill that you can’t help but get caught up in their story.  Terri’s loving but senile uncle is played by Creed Bratton, who proves here that he’s capable of doing a lot more than just parodying himself on The Office.  When I went to this movie, two old women sitting behind me went, “Awwww!” at a scene where Wysocki spontaneously hugs Reilly.  The film earns the sentiment.

Most of these films are available via OnDemand or are currently available on DVD.  Horrible Bosses and Terri are scheduled to be released in October while Beginners will come out in November.