The stereotype of the smothering Jewish mother and her passive (and passive-aggressive) grown son is nothing new in pop culture. The Guilt Trip could have easily dipped into a mewling mommy-hating therapy session but star Barbra Streisand manages to transform a New Jersey widow who loves collecting frogs coffee klatches and coupons with her fellow yentes into something more than her neuroses. Seth Rogen is an amiable foil as her son Andy a frustrated organic chemist whose invention — a cleaner so natural you could drink it! — is going nowhere. Frankly Andy and his product are both pretty boring until Joyce comes along.
Andy makes a rare pit stop at his childhood home before launching on a cross-country tour trying to convince execs to stock his product. After Joyce reveals a rather humanizing tidbit about her past he decides to invite her along. She's thrilled to spend time with her son who seems alternately amused and bemused by his colorful mom. They fall into a familiar squabbly rhythm that hits pretty close to home especially during the holiday season.
Streisand and Rogen's chemistry keeps The Guilt Trip going. You get the feeling that Rogen who has been stretching himself in more serious roles like the cuckolded husband in Take This Waltz almost just shows up to have Streisand bounce off of him. It's hard to believe he's simmering with rage at his overbearing mom and it's easy to see that she is lonely and harmless; without these two factors the movie could have fallen flat or taken a much darker turn. (The latter would have been an interesting drama although a different movie entirely.) His little digs at her are mumbled asides that seem harmless but add up although Joyce can be kind of annoying in a particular way that only a child can sense about his/her parent. Another actor with a less gentle demeanor could have made Andy a real jerk but even in his jerkiest moments he's just sort of sad. There doesn't feel like there's much at stake here. The smaller moments are what sing even if they're a little sappy.
What's so often overlooked by family comedies especially ones that have the opportunity to vilify the mother is that your parents are human. They had lives before you ever arrived and they will continue to do so after you've left. More importantly they have love lives and sexual histories whether you like it or not. Joyce is no naïf; she's less flummoxed by stopping at a strip club (bartended by the wonderful Dale Dickey) than Andy is. She likes to have a good time and men like her. People like her. They don't particularly like or are impressed by Andy. Although Joyce questions whether or not she's been a good mother especially since Andy is still single (The horror!) she never verges on truly castrating or cruel. When she finally lets loose in a total Streisand moment with a monologue that begins "You little sh*t…" you're on her side. Andy is being a little sh*t. Like many of us especially around the holidays he forgets his mom is human.
The Guilt Trip is an interesting companion to the Apatow canon if we can call it that. It's hard not to associate Rogen's Andy Brewster with his earlier comedic roles. There's not a lot to him although Dan Fogelman's script does try and add a few layers that should surprise us. If we try to fill in the blanks it's easy to wonder if Andy is a slightly more grown-up version of Ben Stone who in Knocked Up has a dysfunctional relationship with his father and only got it together when he was trying to impress a woman. It would have been good to get to know Andy a little bit more but it's hard to compete with Babs and he's smart to let her take over.
In the end The Guilt Tripis more about Joyce than Andy which makes it much more in line with adult fare like Hope Springs than Rogen's typical beat. While Joyce is still defined by her lack in many ways — she's single because she reasons she wants to be able to eat M&M's in bed without anyone judging her and we don't see how she supports herself or what she does other than cluck over old home movies — she's still a helluva lot more woman than we normally see on screen.
The ensemble dramedy Crazy Stupid Love. has the makings of greatness. Its cast brims with nimble and likable actors including Steve Carrell Julianne Moore Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and its screenplay written by Dan Fogelman (Cars Tangled) is replete with moments alternately touching funny clever and heartbreaking. So why then is the end product ultimately so unsatisfying? Perhaps it’s because the film as constructed by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is a mess a jumble of disparate plot elements and shifting tones its whole significantly less than the sum of its parts.
Crazy Stupid Love. begins with a breakup: Emily (Moore) after 25 years of marriage to Cal (Carrell) declares to him in a busy restaurant that she wants a divorce then subsequently admits to an affair. As Cal and Emily grapple with love’s demise their thirteen-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is feeling its first stirrings having developed a formidable crush on the family’s seventeen-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). (He remains undeterred even after she walks in on him doing well what thirteen-year-old boys do.) Alas Robbie’s feelings appear doomed to remain unrequited as the girl only has eyes for Cal. The implications of her crush to which Cal is entirely oblivious (this isn’t American Beauty 2) aren’t made clear until much later.
Indeed the implications of much of what happens in Crazy Stupid Love. aren’t made clear until much later. The film meanders about – without clear aim or purpose – for a good portion of its running time drifting back and forth between Cal’s story and those of its supporting players as Ficarra and Requa seem more intent on laying the groundwork for a Stunning Third-Act Twist than crafting a coherent and compelling narrative.
Devastated by his wife’s revelations Cal sulks nightly at a swanky uptown bar where he earns the sympathy of its resident player Jacob (Gosling). A sharp-dressed blunt-spoken dilettante he takes on the gloomy pathologically uncool 44-year-old as a kind of apprentice upgrading his wardrobe and schooling him on his pick-up strategy which involves not so much seducing women as overwhelming them. The efforts soon pay off when Cal beds a daffy middle-school teacher (Marisa Tomei) followed by a bevy of anonymous bar babes.
But just as Cal enjoys promiscuity’s first fruits he finds himself pining for Emma whom he still loves and who has clearly come to regret her dalliance. Crazy Stupid Love. wants us to believe the two are soulmates destined to be reunited but nothing about their scenes together suggests this to be true. The best the film can offer are wistful tales from the couples’ days as high-school sweethearts – surely not the stuff of which successful marriages are made. The most telling statement on their relationship is made in the opening sequence when Cal would rather leap from a moving vehicle than listen to his wife talk.
More credible is the unexpected bond Jacob forms with Hannah (Stone) a canny law-school graduate first seen flatly rejecting him (she’s the only woman in the film to do so) earlier in the film. After her attorney boyfriend (Josh Groban) proves a bust she runs (literally) into his arms and shortly thereafter to his posh bachelor pad. But what starts out as a one-night-stand turns into an all-night conversation. Hannah first presses him to reveal the steps of his seduction routine then to catalog his list of late-night Sharper Image purchases. When he complies it feels like a requiem. Can a scrofulous cad really be redeemed over the course of one evening? He can if he’s Ryan Gosling – and if his redeemer is Emma Stone.
The charm of that scene is nearly enough to redeem Crazy Stupid Love. Then comes the Big Twist the point of which is debatable the absurdity of which is not. Afterward the film which has heretofore alternated between sharp insight and sentimental contrivance opts exclusively for the latter. The only thing missing from its sap-soaked climax is a slow-clap.
Al Pacino is a pretty old dude -- and, sure, maybe his most recent film Righteous Kill wasn't his best work (alright, alright -- it was horrible) -- but c'mon, he's still Al fucking Pacino. And any time Pacino does something, well, we take notice of him doing that something. According to the LA Times, screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Tangled) is "on the verge" of landing Pacino for Imagine, his directorial debut that tells the story of an aging rocker who "tries to lead a better life after receiving a lost letter that had been sent to him by his idol John Lennon more than 40 years ago."
Pacino is currently in negotiations for the leading role, and Steve Carell was originally supposed to play that character's son, but decided to be a major bummer and drop out earlier this month. It's okay though because hopefully, god-willing, "aging rocker" is code for "see Al Pacino wear skintight leather pants" -- which, regardless of the quality of the film, would just be hilarious.
Source: LA Times
So in news that doesn't surprise anyone, when you're Tom Cruise, movie studios are willing to pay you a lot of money. According to Deadline, Warner Bros. has purchased an untitled pitch from screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love) with Cruise attached to star for over $1.5 million. He'll play a politician who gets caught in an affair and retreats to his hometown to confront his troubled past. Vulture suspects that this could actually be an the adaptation of Andrew Young's novel about the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair called The Politician (that Aaron Sorkin plans to direct), but like we said, that's just speculation.
A little back story - the Black List is not a “best of” list by any regard. Instead it is referred to as a “most liked” list. Each year Franklin Leonard asks several members of the entertainment industry elite - top agents, managers, executives, people like that - to vote for their favorite unproduced screenplays and each year he publishes the resulting list. Several of your favorite unique movies of the past few years (Juno, 500 Days of Summer, Lars and The Real Girl) appeared on the list and it has helped launch quite a few careers.
Having said that, there is a caveat. While the criteria calls for the screenplay to be “unproduced” several of these works have either been optioned and/or are in production. In fact, a few have already been made. And there have been whispers that some agencies and managers stack the list for their own clients so this is by no means a fair or accurate list. But alas, that’s Hollywood baby.
Anyway, on to the most promising sounding scripts!
College Republicans - Wes Jones. Taking the top spot this year is the true story of Karl Rove running for the presidency of the College Of Republicans under the guidance of Lee Atwater. Rove is one of the most devious little bastards of the American political system in the past two decades. It’ll be interesting to see this story translated to screen. Shia LaBeouf and Paul Dano are loosely attached to the project.
Jackie - Noah Oppenheim. The second place script follows Jackie Kennedy in the immediate week following JFK’s assassination. While the nation mourned the loss of its leader, she mourned the death of her husband...intriguing to say the least. Sounds heartwrenching. Steven Spielberg is on board to executive produce through Amblin, with Rachel Weisz in talks to star.
All You Need is Kill - Dante Harper. Third place goes to the first skeptical inclusion, an adaptation of a graphic novel. Its high ranking somewhat ensures that it is indeed good, but still the fact that it isn’t original isn’t promising. The story follows a soldier in the future who finds himself caught in a time loop after dying on the battlefield. His tactical skills become more concise after each "death". Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) to direct.
999 - Matt Cook. A group of corrupt cops have to shoot a fellow officer in order to get away. How can you not like the sound of that? John Hillcoat to direct, Chris Pine in talks to star.
Margin Call - JC Chandor. Our first produced screenplay! This one stars Kevin Spacey and a gaggle of gifted performers. You’ll be able to see it next year as it premieres at Sundance.
American Bullshit - Eric Warren Singer. Another true story of an FBI sting in the US Congress. This is a perfect example of the unwritten rule of the Black List: if you want your film on it, give its title a little dirty word.
The Last Son of Isaac Lemay - Greg Johnson. An aging outlaw is convinced his children are evil and sets off to kill him. However, his worst fears come to life when he meets his last remaining son. Sounds a lot like Dexter and I’m completely okay with that.
Die in a Gun Fight - Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari. A contemporary take on the Romeo & Juliet tale. This one just had Zac Efron attached to it and has a good chance of getting made.
Imagine - Dan Fogelman. You’ll be seeing this one soon enough with Steve Carell as the son of an aging rockstar discovers the life of his father he never knew existed.
Chronicle - Max Landis. Three teens discovers they have gained superpowers after contact with a mysterious substance in the woods. Things start off all fun and games until they start to turn on each other. Finally! Something not involving politics!
Your Bridesmaid is a Bitch - Brian Duffeld. A guy agrees to be a groomsman for his sister’s wedding only to discover the woman who broke his heart is also a part of the wedding. Why the guy (or the sister for that matter) didn’t see this coming remains to be seen. But again, put a dirty word in your title = recognition.
What Happened To Monday? - Max Botkin. A group of identical septuplets has to investigate the disappearance of one their siblings when the government forces families to only conceive one child due to population overcrowding. The possibilities of this seem amazing and due to the title it seems likely each sibling is named after a day of the week. Go me.
The Butler - Danny Strong. A black butler in the White House services eight US Presidents. Could be Forrest Gump. Could be TMZ. Either way, I’m there.
One Day - David Nicholls. Here’s the official Black List summary, “Dexter and Emma meet for the first time on college graduation day in 1988 and proceed to reunite one day a year for the next 20 years.” Here’s my official reactiong, “Bluuuuurgh.” This one is in post-production with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess starring. Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs.
Murder of a Cat - Christian Magalhars & Robert Snow. A dark comedy about a guy investigating his cat’s death? Why hasn’t this been made sooner?
Can You Keep A Secret - Megan Martin. A woman spills all of her secrets to the stranger on a rough plane ride. Turns out the stranger is the CEO of her company. This logline actually made me laugh out loud. I really hope it gets made.
Cinema Verite - David Seltzer. “Based on the PBS series ‘An American Family,’ cameras follow a family as they go about their daily life.” I’m sorry, I couldn’t make it through that sentence. I had to copy and paste.
The Girl With Something Extra - Terrence Michael. A girl enters high school and suddenly realizes she’s a boy who has been raised his whole life to believe he is a girl? Talk about an awkward first day of gym class.
Ricky Stanicky - Jeff Bushell. Three childhood friends invent someone to take the blame for all of their shenanigans. Eventually their wives demand to meet this person and they hire and actor to play him. Sounds like a Farrelly Brothers movie and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. James Franco is attached.
Zombie Baby - Andy Jones. You don’t need to know anything other than the title. Trust me.
Boy Scouts Vs. Zombies - Carrie Evans & Emi Mochizuko. Again, no other information necessary.
Prom - Katie Wech. “High school students prepare for their prom.” No, seriously. That is all there is to it.
Fucking Jane Austen - Blake Bruns. Again, use a dirty word, get Black Listed. But this one actually lives up to its title. Two men are pissed at Austen for creating unrealistic expectations about love among women (preach it brothers!) so they get sent back in time. Unfortunately the only way for them to get back is to have Jane Austen fall in love and sleep with one of them.
Paint - Brit McAdams. From the list, “A Bob Ross-esque PBS painting show host must fight for his career when his station brings in a rival painting host.” Stop, you had me a Bob Ross-esque.
Comedy is a community and when you like working with someone, you tend to work with that person again and again. This explains the recent news regarding Steve Carell. His latest movie, Crazy. Stupid. Love., was written by Dan Fogelman and Carell plans to re-team with Fogelman for his directing debut, Imagine.
In Imagine, Carell plays the son of an aging rocker who learns about his son through a letter John Lennon wrote to him, thus explaining the title. That’s about as much of the plot as we know but boy does this sound like a winner. I’m sure the ghost of Lennon is thrilled he and his songs are connected to movies about a rock star discovering his bastard son. And a movie about said discovery is named after a song hailing the return of peace and love (and also socialism in a way but that’s for some overwritten thesis, not I). If I actually cared about The Beatles I would be upset about this, but I’m a Stones guy. However, I’m actually more concerned about Carell’s career. He doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to picking movies (40-Year-Old Virgin aside) to star in. At least, none seemingly worth his comedic chops. Hopefully Crazy. Stupid. Love. and Imagine will change that for him.
Also some slight news for CSL as well. Apparently the producers focus grouped it and they came up with a better idea for the movie, which was to change the original title to its current form of Crazy. Stupid. Love. The original title was horrible, misleading, and has been known to cause new born infants to grow rashes all over their bodies. I fear retyping it but because I care about you so much I’ll do my best. The original title was... oh no, I’m not sure if I can do this... I must press on... the people must know... the original title was... be strong! What would Woodward and Filmdrunk do? You can do this! The original title was... the pain! The original title was Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Oh wow. So glad I’ll never have to do that again. Thankfully the producers were benevolent and changed it to the much more agreeable Crazy. Stupid. Love. Phew.
Playing second fiddle to a more famous sibling can be rough. Just ask Fred Claus (Vaughn) a regular guy who has had to grow up under the shadow of his little brother Nicholas Claus (Paul Giamatti) aka Santa. That’s a big shadow to say the least both figuratively and literally. As an adult Fred has pretty much steered clear of his family but when he finds himself in dire need of some fast cash he calls his brother. Pleased as punch to hear from him Nicholas nonetheless makes him a deal: If he comes up to the North Pole for a visit and to help out the few days before Christmas then Fred can have the money. Fred reluctantly agrees and soon he’s being whisked off in Santa’s sleigh by head elf Willie (John Michael Higgins). But once Fred gets to the North Pole nothing seems to go right and soon he is the cause of much chaos--which unbeknownst to Fred causes Nicholas even more stress since his North Pole operation is one step away from being shut down by a cold-hearted efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey). Can Fred quit being bitter in time to save his brother’s livelihood? Of course he can. Hmmm Vince Vaughn minus the R-rated Wedding Crashers/Old School irreverence? It’s a stretch. Seeing the comic actor playing it PG is a little weird but you might enjoy how Vaughn infuses his unique energy into Fred Claus. From getting all the elves to boogie down in Santa’s workshop to going on one rant after another (on his brother: “He’s a clown a megalomaniac a fame junkie!”) to pilfering money on the street and then being chased by Salvation Army Santas it’s all good. Giamatti too seems a little out of his comfort zone as the saintly St. Nick. The actor who usually plays such endearing sad sacks has already played against type to great effect this year as the maniacal bad guy in Shoot ‘Em Up but he isn't nearly as successful in doing the flipside of that in Fred Claus. And what the hell is Kevin Spacey doing in this? As the villain of the film he fills the shoes nicely but he is almost too good at it (natch) for such a feel-good family film. Even Higgins--a character actor who is usually so hilarious in films such as The Break Up and all of Christopher Guest’s movies—has to shed the cheekiness and sugar himself up for Fred Claus. There’s also Rachel Weisz as Fred’s beleaguered girlfriend (you heard right) and Kathy Bates as the Claus boys’ mother who always sees Fred as inferior to her other son to fill out a cast of big names doing family fare. Director David Dobkin is a Vince Vaughn favorite having directed him in Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons but like his muse Dobkin seems a little out of place guiding this material. Granted Dobkin creates a pretty magical North Pole complete with an entire city of little dwellings a Frosty Tavern and a huge domed Santa’s Workshop. The montage of Fred delivering presents on Christmas Eve—falling down chimneys stuffing cookies in his face zooming around in the sleigh—is also well done. But overall Fred Claus is a Vaughn vehicle—even as sugary sweet and family-friendly as it is--and all Dobkin really does is turn the camera on and let the man do his stuff. Dan Fogelman's script is also so very bland full of any number of holes and only picks up once Vaughn starts to improvise. Bottom line: If you’re looking to take the kids to a sweet Christmas movie and are a Vince Vaughn fan then Fred Claus is for you.