In every group of friends—most notably, in those that happen to form an Arctic-bound oil-drilling team—there will always, invariably, be one member who, at some point, utters the following phrase: “I’m pretty sure I could take down a wolf.”
If you’re like me, you’ve heard this prophecy time and time again, from a friend who you know is far from being up to the task of martially dominating the supreme canis lupus. Sure, he’s lain out his strategy for you—he’ll vie for a stray branch, aim for the legs, a blow to the head, yadda yadda yadda. To be fair, you stopped listening to this frequently repeated rant some time ago. Bottom line: no matter what your friend says, he cannot beat a wolf in a fight.
Unless, of course, he’s a celebrity.
See, celebrities aren’t like normal people. They come from a different world. A world where everyday skills, like cooking and Jenga, are obsolete. But in the absence of these abilities, celebrities have developed their own set of special powers. Powers that grant them the aptitude to mesmerize entire nations, institute new waves of thought and behavior, and maybe—just maybe—to face off with a wolf in ultimate combat…and come out the victor.
We all know that Liam Neeson can easily take down an entire wolf pack. In fact, I’m pretty sure The Grey is just a documentary about a voluntary trip he took into the Alaskan wilderness while on a Red Bull high. But what about other members of the public eye? By what means might some of your other favorite actors, musicians and TV personalities aim to fend for themselves when set against those ferocious and gnarling fangs? Well, I’m glad you asked (reading the previous statement counts as asking!), because we have come up with a few fun theories matching the beloved leaders of the celebrity circle with their preferred method of lupine takedown.
Let’s start right out with the traditional approach to wolf fighting: good ol’ MMA. Gina Carano, the star of Steven Soderbergh’s new action-thriller Haywire, might be one of the few stars in Hollywood who could physically hold her own against an approaching predator.
It’s usually good advice not to say something if you can’t back it up. But some people are so profoundly gifted at mouthing off, that no real substantial proof is needed to accept that what they are saying is valid. Either that, or you just kind of get sick of hearing them yell at you and you walk away. Mark Wahlberg has become synonymous with the spouting of threats, boasts, and all around big talk.
Now, I'm sure Rooney Mara isn't exactly like her The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo character...but her Addams-esque attire on the Golden Globes Red Carpet suggests that Lisbeth Salander's dark, ominous and overall intimidating nature might derive from reality, to some degree. If Mara's haunting persona is any indication, one of her patented cold stares would be enough to deter aggressive growls.
Let’s be honest. Ryan Gosling doesn’t need to lift a finger. The minute any human, wolf, or North American bipedal cryptid gazes into the glimmering eyes of the Goss, all bets are off: sun breaks through the concrete mist, harp music accompanies the settling winds, and the love that Dickinson wrote about pierces the souls of all occupying that and any adjacent hemispheres. Some say that the very first aurora borealis was actually formed when Ryan Gosling smiled into a mirror while trekking through Northern Canada. Thus, any wolf—no matter how vicious or people-hating—would fall victim to the charms of ol’ Ryan with the mere wink of an eye.
Lady Gaga has done a great deal on the offense against human-on-human bullying. So who is to say that her talents would not be equally as effective on other mammals? L-Gags (give it a week, everyone will be calling her that) would simply write an inspiring ballad imploring the wolves to accept her for her differences. Before you know it, you’ve got a pack of wolf-monsters—which, genetically, are quite different from werewolves.
Last spring, the comedy sensation Bridesmaids got a lot of praise for proving that women are more than capable when it comes to delivering comedy traditionally associated with men. Of course, a good deal of the credit rests with the hands of Bridesmaids' star and SNL's MVP, Kristen Wiig. So, logic dictates, if Kristen Wiig can do anything a man can do, she can probably do anything a wolf can do, too. So, if in the given situation, we can expect that Wiig would emulate the behaviors of the wolf, assimilate into their society, and perhaps become their duly elected leader. And if you ask me, a wolf society led by Kristen Wiig is exactly the kind of future this world needs.
The Kid from Hugo
Asa Butterfield might not be physically built for fending for himself in the wilderness (just yet, anyway...remember what happened to Walt on LOST?), but he's got that "I'll make you believe in your dreams!" power that comes along once in a generation. Before him, holders of the power included Shirley Temple, Elliott from E.T. and Feivel Mousekewitz. But the dreams of the present rest on the shoulders of Butterfield—after a quick display of gumption and belief, the young actor will not only find himself accepted into wolf culture, but also convincing each pack member that they, too, can be dancers and cellists. Everybody knows that wolves are just compensating for shattered dreams, anyway.
It doesn't really matter, since the whole fight would actually be a staged performance piece that Franco devised to provoke a resurgence of the Beat Generation.
That's got to have some pull.
Finally, the big guns. The man who has transcended the barriers between human and wolf, bringing to light the intolerant dichotomy that has existed between our races for years. Not to generalize, but I'd say that it's almost a given that most wolves are on Team Jacob. And you've got to figure that all that time spent playing a wolf would have instilled in Lautner a good deal of sympathy for the species. So if Taylor Lautner ever found himself among his real target fanbase, we might be in for a Rise of the Planet type of scenario.
So there you have it. Ten human celebrities (and one demigod) representing the variety of ways one might face off against the mysterious, beautiful canines of the North. While celebrities may be the only ones who can afford these adventures, we shouldn't be kept out of the fun of speculation. Let us know how you would fend against a wolf pack in the comment section, or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).
We’ve seen the story, time and time again: a woman and a man who are meant to be with each other, even though one of them is already involved with another person. But it’s clear to us in the audience that this third party is the wrong person. So we root for the other two to get together, against all odds, knowing full well that love takes precedent over established commitments and general practicality.
But Young Adult gives us an interesting twist on the romantic comedy formula: a woman heads back to her hometown to win back the man she loves. The man is, of course, involved…to the point of being married. Happily married. With a child. And absolutely no interest in leaving his wife for our heroine. Yet still, she is hell bent on taking her desired mate away from his perfect life in order to satisfy her newly discovered affection for her old flame. And she’s not above going about achieving her goal dishonorably: she uses manipulation, deceit, alcohol, the works. So you might ask yourself, “How on Earth are we supposed to root for a union like that?” Well, that’s the thing. We’re really not.
In fact, we’re not really supposed to root for the main character at all. Sure, we come to learn a lot about her. We understand her, we pity her, we might even find ourselves relating to her. But throughout, we are never forced to endure a “change of heart” about Mavis Gary, played magnificently by Charlize Theron. She doesn’t find enlightenment from an unexpected place. As a matter of fact, Mavis’ path, albeit filled with surprising turns, only ends up furthering her displaced self-image.
What is outstanding about Young Adult is how well it manages this unusual take on a familiar cinematic formula, all the while presenting a story that feels wholly original. The entire team can be thanked for this. Diablo Cody’s writing style is fresh and electrifying, and teams quite well with Jason Reitman’s colorful, humanizing direction. And the performances are a godsend all around. Theron plays Mavis with both hilarious comic timing and a heartbreaking and haunting humanity. Patton Oswalt delivers a shockingly prominent dramatic turn as Mavis’ former classmate with a much less favorable high school experience. Patrick Wilson, Collette Wolfe and Elizabeth Reaser each contribute superb characters who are uniquely destroyed by Mavis’ path of destruction.
Young Adult is a victory both in its comedy and its drama. Even while chronicling a pitiable downfall of the movie’s central character, it maintains a palpable dark sense of humor. But the film never sacrifices its story or its exploration of Mavis for the sake of laughter—its comedy comes directly from our increasing understanding of who (and why) Mavis is.
The film resonates as one of the freshest in recent cinema—not afraid to embrace both the tragic and the funny aspects of a human story. Thanks to its writing, directing, its stellar cast, and the profound use of music in the movie, Young Adult delivers something that at once entertains and genuinely affects its audiences.
How is it possible to both care about someone deeply and, at the same time, find him or her completely reviling? Anyone who has ever dated a musician might be able to answer that. But otherwise, it’s a hard phenomenon to come upon.
But a certain type of great acting performance earns this dichotomy of emotional connection from its audiences. It takes a rare, special talent to draw us so impossibly close to a character who we’d smack ourselves for ever associating with. Somehow, this bizarre brand of cathartic chaos is achieved in the Jason Reitman-directed, Diablo Cody-written Young Adult, thanks to the mystical powers of its lead actress, Charlize Theron.
Young Adult is an interesting twist on the romantic comedy. The story follows Mavis Gary, a moderately successful ghost writer for a young adult (just like the title!) novel series, who returns to her Minnesota hometown to win back the love of her life. The twist: he is happily married and has a new baby—and she knows this. See, in your typical romantic comedy, the female lead is the hero. The underdog. The good guy. In Young Adult, she’s a despicable, manipulative, self-serving suspended-adolescent. So why, then, do we get attached to her?
The truth is, in the hands of a lesser actress, the character might not call for our sympathies at all. Mavis Gary might easily come across as an overgrown version of the one-dimensional “mean girl” archetype that has been propagated for all the wrong reasons ever since a mass misinterpretation of the message of Tina Fey’s eponymous 2004 comedy. But thankfully, instead of this, we get Theron, who does wonders with Mavis. We don’t get some cutout spouting vindictive one-liners for some baseline humor, or a hollow “bad guy” character chronicling her own downfall as we sadistically embrace the delight in her collapse. What we get is a full-fledged, frightfully relatable and unquestionably—and realistically—corroded human being.
This is not to say that Theron does not give a humorous performance. Young Adult is, in large part, a comedy. And it is stacked with terrific comedic players, including Patton Oswalt and Collette Wolfe. But Theron is made to shoulder the bulk of the delivery of Young Adult’s comedy. She is funny when Mavis Gary is being funny. She is funny when the world is being funny to—at, in contrast to, at odds with—Mavis Gary.
And at the same time, she is worth crying over. This supreme narcissist, this oblivious buffoon, this mechanically malicious woman-child is someone we cannot help but to feel for. Theron instills Mavis with a force of humanity that surfaces gradually from beneath her countless layers of malignity. Few performers can deliver a character as multifaceted as Mavis Gary, but Theron is in that minority.
Theron gives us a Mavis Gary who we find grotesque, yes. But she gives us one who we can understand. Sure, none of her actions are admirable. And one can only hope that the majority of us would not, in fact, follow in Mavis’ footsteps if placed in her position. But that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to appreciate her. As a matter of fact, by the end of the film, we find ourselves connecting with Mavis Gary to a degree far beyond what our comfort levels might permit. We never find Mavis to have a “heart of gold” masked by a crusty outer shell. We never really forgive her for the things she does. But we do come to “get” her. And this is the real triumph of Theron’s performance—she makes us laugh at and with, cry for and because of this character. And through all of that, she gives us a human being who we can come to truly know.
Here are six reasons to care about Young Adult:
1. It is directed by the guy who made Juno, Thank You For Smoking and, to a lesser extent, Up in the Air
2. It is written by the woman who wrote Juno, The United States of Tara, and an episode of Childrens Hospital
3. It is narrated by J.K. Simmons, the most powerful man in the world
4. Among its cast: Nite Owl, the standup who does the Black Angus jokes, and a Hot Tub Time Machinist from Cougar Town.
5. It's about a divorced fiction writer in a state of arrested development who returns to her small-town home with the intentions of rekindling an age-old romance with a now married man.
6. The biggest reason of them all, Charlize Theron (pictured below in the first image from Young Adults), who, considering everything we know about the movie and her limitless talent, could very well end up with an Actress in a Leading Role nomination (at least).
Check out the first image from Young Adult and click it for more of the lovely Ms. Theron:
In case you're not as big a nerd as I am:
1. Jason Reitman
2. Diablo Cody
3. J.K. Simmons (that one was easy)
4. Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt and Collette Wolfe
5. There's a previous-work joke in there
6. Charlize Theron is awesome
Hot Tub Time Machine a comedy about four friends transported to 1986 by a malfunctioning jacuzzi is funnier than a film built around such a patently dubious premise has any right to be. It’s so funny in fact that it could rightly be called — and I promise never to make this analogy again — the Hangover of home-appliance time-travel comedies.
A title like Hot Tub Time Machine creates certain expectations and so its story spares little time getting us to the eponymous plot device laying down the barest of setups before its four protagonists are jettisoned back in time: Lou (Rob Corddry) is a caustic drunk who must feign suicide to get friends to return his calls; Nick (Craig Robinson) is hopelessly whipped by his domineering wife; Adam (John Cusack) is a type-A insurance salesman reeling from a nasty breakup; his acerbic nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) lives in the basement his every waking moment devoted to his Second Life virtual world. And he’s arguably the coolest member of the group.
The quartet of schlubs sets out for a bromantic ski vacation but no sooner have they unpacked their bags then a bizarre accident involving a grimy hot tub an illegal Russian energy drink and an ill-tempered squirrel sends them hurtling back to 1986 where they awake bewildered and hungover in the middle of the momentous Spring Break weekend that childhood friends Lou Nick and Adam spent together while in high school. It’s a comedic Twilight Zone scenario fraught with all sorts of scary space-time continuum ramifications not the least of which threatens the very existence of young Jacob who had yet to be born in 1986 and whose mother (Collette Wolfe) he awkwardly discovers was a raging slut back in the day.
The greatest hazard with such a storyline is the temptation to overdose on cheap ‘80s jokes (everyone has big hair!) or time-travel ironies (Michael Jackson was still black!) and while Hot Tub Time Machine indulges in both (how could it not?) director Steve Pink (Accepted) looks mainly to his talented leads to carry the bulk of the film’s comedic weight. It’s a smart bet. Duke and Corddry are the cast's clear standouts but Robinson is close behind and even Cusack nearly matches the number of laugh-out-loud lines he delivered in 2012.
Hot Tub Time Machine’s hilariously warped journey through time is not without its bumps in the road. The holes in its plot extend beyond the excusable logical lapses bred by time travel and its complexities and the film’s handful of gross-out moments feel forced and unnecessary (save for one uproarious bit involving Corddry’s mouth Robinson’s penis and Karate Kid badboy Billy Zabka). A superfluous romantic subplot between Cusack’s character and a quirky music journalist (Lizzy Caplan) seems little more than a transparent ploy to add a quadrant to the film’s demographic reach — or perhaps to give more “weight” to its star actor’s role. But with a comedy like this it’s always best to travel light.