Movie Review: The End of the Tour

In the mid-nineties, which is when the late novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) published the critically-acclaimed Infinite Jest, and “The End of the Tour” takes place, Wallace agreed to a Rolling Stone interview, though not without a great deal of ambivalence. Although it’s his idea, the reporter, a novelist of modest success and Wallace’s contemporary, David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) has a stronger reaction to being the one to do this. Reading a hyperventilating review of David Foster Wallace’s latest book to his girlfriend (Anna Chlumsky), he feels envy, even rage.

To make things worse, Jesse has the nagging suspicion that his girlfriend secretly prefers Wallace – and not just as a novelist. But in the end, intrigue wins out, and he persuades his skeptical editor (Ron Livingston) to let him drive out to Illinois in the dead of winter to interview the novelist, who shares his home with two rescue dogs and is teaching at a nearby college. As this is the pre-GPS era, he gets lost and attempts to contact Jason from a pay phone, breath steaming in the frigid air. Bad idea.

DFW, suspiciously: “Where did you get this number?”
DL, warily: “Your publicist gave it to me.”
DFW, even colder than the sub-zero temperature outside: “Well, then do me a favor and lose it.” Click.

One might predict from that exchange that the interview would not go well when Jesse finally shows up, but this doesn’t happen. They go inside and start to thaw – literally and otherwise.

Bon mots from the novelist:

On creating characters: “If you want your character to be funny and smart, have him say and do funny and smart things.”

On the Rolling Stone article: “I want to be in the article, but I don’t want it to make me look like someone who wants to be in Rolling Stone.”

On the Internet (remember this is in 1996): “It’s going to get better and better.” Meaning we’re going to be more and more tempted to spend all our time on it. And it’s going to be harder and harder to look away from our computer screens.

On the view from his home: “Thanks. I can’t take credit.”

This movie contains a lot of talking, as you might guess from a film structured around gathering material for an in-depth interview. Jason turns out to be a junk food junkie (when Jesse offers to take him someplace nice, he picks McDonald’s), so after foraging in a nearby convenience store, they settle in to talk. And talk. Jesse winds up staying over at Jason’s house (although the dogs are suspicious that he’s bunking there at first). He shadows Jason as he teaches a class, does a radio interview and a live reading (no Q&A period, thank you very much), then hangs out with several of Jason’s literary friends, with whom they go see a John Woo movie. Eventually, friction rears its ugly head, and they wind up arguing, not just debating. It’s clear from the beginning, that Jesse is looking for something – something he is not going to find, and Jason – well, he’s ambivalent about just about everything – he’s hyper-aware of the stereotype of the genius writer and  wants to avoid being portrayed that way. Like Kurt Cobain, another Generation X artist that ended his life prematurely, he doesn’t want to be the “voice of a generation.” And Jesse eventually realizes he doesn’t want to be his idol either. It’s not a cheerful movie, but it exemplifies the saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

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Movie Review: The Free State of Jones

Schedule-wise today, I had a choice of going to see either “The Shallows,” or “The Free State of Jones.” Although so far, the latter has gotten low ratings on the Rotten Tomatoes website, even being beaten by “The Secret Life of Pets,” I decided on “The Free State of Jones,” because after watching it, I was not going to have nightmares about Matthew McConaughey trying to bite my leg off.

The children’s writer, Katherine Patterson wrote a book called “Bridge to Terebithia,” (also made into a movie), in which two preteens get tired of being bullied and discounted by the various people in their lives, so they go off into the woods and found their own magical kingdom where they can be in charge. In “The Free State of Jones,” Matthew does something similar, only this is “based on true events.” In the first twenty minutes of the movie, which takes place during the Civil War,  a series of unfortunate events occur that cause Matthew to question everything he used to believe: including having a loved one die in his arms, losing another loved one, being mauled by a dog, and being left temporarily alone in a desolate, snake-filled swamp. At this point, the war is not going well for the South, so after deserting the Confederate army, Matthew returns home to his wife (Keri Russell), but soon becomes an outlaw, when his “crime” is discovered, and takes up residence in said swamp. With a runaway slave (Mahershala Ali), who he helps reunite with his children, Gugu Mbtha-Raw, who is also being mistreated by her master (but seems to have a lot of free time to sneak away and bring supplies to the camp), and assorted malcontents of different colors, ages and gender, Matthew decides to create a “free state.” However, this does not go over well with the Confederate army, who retaliates in a variety of ways, most involving people getting shot, blown up or burnt to death.

The movie occasionally jumps ahead eighty years later where a male descendant of Matthew’s character is being tried in court for allegedly having African American blood, and also having the temerity to marry a white Southern woman. This is because eventually, Matthew falls in love with Gugu and starts a family (it’s never explained how Keri supports herself while her husband is AWOL, but she eventually shows up and becomes part of the commune). After the Civil War ends, there’s more battles to be waged, over desegregation and voting rights. None of the day-to-day logistics of living in a swamp and remaining basically clean are explained, except we hear that Matthew figures out a way to grow crops there, thus ensuring everyone doesn’t starve.  The ending is not upbeat at all, and even though moving stuff happens to the characters all the way through, it just kind of meanders to an end. One of the trailers I saw beforehand was about an African-American slave in the same time period, who becomes a preacher and then leads a revolution of slaves, so if you want a movie with a non-white savior, it looks like there’s one coming out in the fall.

A Look Back: To Die For

You’re not anybody in America unless you’re on TV. On TV is where we learn about who we really are. Because what’s the point of doing anything worthwhile if nobody’s watching? And if people are watching, it makes you a better person.” Nicole Kidman’s character in “To Die For.”

A long, long time ago, the role of television was crucial to understanding the American psyche. Perhaps this was because few people had fully realized the possibilities of the Internet and because many people still considered “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” a must-see show (who knew there were so many ways to get hit in the privates or lose one’s pants in public?). You could certainly entertain yourself online back then, but today’s possibilities were still unknown.

Thus in the mid-nineties, TV was still where you turned to watch episodes of your favorite show, as well as “up-to-the-minute” news, and in 1995, along came the film “To Die For,” based on the eponymous novel by Joyce Maynard and directed by Gus Van Sant. “To Die For,” is a fictional account of the real-life Pamela Smart, a woman who manipulated her teenaged lover into (allegedly) offing her husband. Pamela’s counterpart is the snappily named Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) whose cherished ambition is to be on television. Told in the style of a mockumentary, it consists of interviews with the characters, alternating with the scenes they describe. Most of us scale down our dreams a bit as we get older, but Nicole, in the tradition of Hollywood underdogs, is not about to let anything stop her. If Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Election,” were older with her latent narcissistic tendencies in full bloom, she might resemble Nicole in “To Die For.”

In a sort of prom queen meets big man on campus match, Nicole meets and marries Matt Dillon, whose alleged family ties to the Mob outweigh the fact that he’s comparatively well-off compared to her. Still, she’s not about to become a stay-at-home mom, and manages to talk her way into an intern position of sorts at a local news station, where she eventually persuades them to let her announce the weather. There is not a lot of difference between how Nicole delivers her lines when she’s “off screen” in the movie and on; she states everything with a jaw-dropping lack of self-insight but an amazing amount of ego. Clearly, whether or not you are a psychologist, something is a little off about this woman. Most people would not agree that TV is more important than reality, that the only actions that count are the ones where you’re being observed by a large, anonymous audience, though Nicole does get one thing right. If people are watching you, you tend to behave better – regardless of who the audience is.

Eventually, Nicole, frustrated with what she perceives as the lack of support on Matt’s part about her new “career,” decides to assume the role of a mentor and visits a local high school to enlist students in a project called “Teens Speak Out.” She casts her net wide and manages to snare Joaquin Phoenix (handsome but dumb as a box of rocks), Casey Affleck (J.’s pal) and Alison Folland, who has problems with self-confidence. However, because mentoring tends to require qualities like empathy, Nicole winds up failing, as she uses the trio’s admiration, awe and sexual attraction (mostly Joaquin) to kill her husband. Though she manages to manipulate those in a position to punish her, so she gets off scot free, it’s those Mob connections that come in handy in making sure she gets her come-uppance. So what exactly was Matt’s crime? Nothing really; it was her perception of him as an obstacle that caused his death. Having high but fragile self-esteem is a constant balancing act to keep from having the wire pulled out from under you, and sometimes, ambition is enough to cause you to plunge to your doom.

Movie Review: Me Before You

Except for “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Dying Young,” in which Julia Roberts’ devoted nurse took care of Campbell Scott around the clock, I can’t think of other movies where the male lead is terminally ill. Actually, Sam Claflin in “Me Before You,” is paralyzed from the neck down after an accident, but wants to end his life, and so has to be cared for around the clock and cheered up with big dramatic gestures. When reviewing the weepy teen drama “Here On Earth,” in which Leelee Sobieski wishes to end her life asap because she’s in pain from cancer, despite having not one, but two, guys crazy about her, Roger Ebert thought her attitude was unrealistic. I did, too, as I did Sam’s ultimate decision in “Me Before You,” but I’ve never been in severe pain 24-7 with no relief in sight. So I admit I’m ignorant on that subject.

Surprisingly enough Sam, who used to enjoy extreme sports in his pre-accident life, is depressed and cynical and grouchy to his caregivers, resulting in them leaving. Although he is supposedly impossible to care for, it’s Emilia Clark who winds up sticking it out (and I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that it’s Sam Claflin). Emilia’s only other work experience has been in a tea shop (it takes place in England), so she’s rather awed when she discovers her new employers reside in a bona fide castle. Emilia is interested in fashion, but comes from a working class family and so has to take a practical job, while one of her sisters goes off to university. She’s quite a shock to upper-crust Sam – probably more because she dresses like Punky Brewster crossed with a preteen wearing clothes from her mom’s days with a repertory theater company. However, after the obligatory friction, they find themselves – gasp – falling in love.

Emilia does have a boyfriend (Matthew Lewis), but he is the sort to prefer a Will Ferrell movie to a subtitled one, and a jaunt jogging around a track instead of sitting through a Mozart concert – in other words, a guy who would only be considered a dick in a Hollywood film. She sticks it out with him, though, but then she overhears a conversation that tells her that Sam is considering suicide, and his parents are willing to accept his decision, and so swings into high gear with a campaign to convince Sam to live. Eventually, she does break up with Matthew, and I almost felt bad for him, because what guy could compete with Prince Charming in a castle, even if he is in a wheelchair? Emilia and Sam then take a romantic vacation together, which is beautifully choreographed, and there is a bittersweet ending.  The settings are gorgeous, the script itself is predictable, but there’s constant drama to be had in seeing what outfit Emilia will appear in next. Not to mention wondering where in the world she got some of the stuff.

Eighties’ Movie Dads: From the Abusive to the Clueless

Throughout cinematic history, fathers have been called upon to make great sacrifices for their children. Some of these include helping Santa, turning into a snowman or a ghost, or looking the other way while their child develops super powers and goes off to save the world. Looking back at eighties’ era movie fathers, we can see a huge range in parenting techniques, from the abusive to the negligent to somewhere in between.

In the eighties, John Hughes specialized in creating fathers who were either unredeemable or goofy. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) of the National Lampoon “Vacation” franchise is one of the latter. Chevy may irritate his son and daughter, but he clearly cares about them – although giving beer to a preteen Anthony Michael Hall may not be the wisest decision. Still, although eager to stay on schedule in Europe, he agrees to an impromptu shopping trip that his teenagers and wife prefer. As he puts it in “Vegas Vacation,” a family trip only works when you do it with your family. (True, Chevy doesn’t seem to notice that his children change drastically in appearance and age from movie to movie, but hey, no one’s perfect.)

In that era, Hughes also created some very bad parents who, despite staying offstage in “The Breakfast Club,” come in for a good helping of condemnation by their children (and by extension, the audience). All five of the “Club” members have parental issues and as the day unfolds, we learn of their offsprings’ anger and confusion toward them. The “athlete” (Emilio Estevez) has ended up in detention by bullying another boy, in order to impress his dad. (His dad informs him that his real sin is “getting caught.”) Emilio wonders aloud how his victim will feel when he has to confront his own father. Judd Nelson’s dad is classically abusive, but the other four characters are also mistreated in some way by their parents.

However, Hughes did give us several fathers who, while not exactly perfect, do wind up showing how much they care for their children. Molly Ringwald may have to parent her father (Harry Dean Stanton in”Pretty In Pink”), but he does support her gift for fashion design, as well as bring home dresses so she can make a prom outfit. Molly’s dad (Paul Dooley) in “Sixteen Candles,” may forget her sixteenth birthday, but he later apologizes and has a heart-to-heart talk with her about life. (According to one biography, Hughes’ own dad was fairly supportive during his son’s teen years.)

Another example of a well-meaning but clueless dad is Steve Martin in “Parenthood.” Throughout the movie, Steve is tormented that he isn’t doing enough to help his high-strung son fit in. He even entertains two fantasies – one in which the son is successful in life, the other where he goes on a rampage with a gun. Steve also tries overly hard to make his young son’s birthday party a success – he dresses up as “Cowboy Dan,” when Dan is otherwise engaged and cavorts around the backyard. At first the party guests aren’t impressed, but eventually everyone has a swell time. By the end of the movie, Steve has accepted that parenthood is an ever-changing game whose rules no one is completely sure of, but as long as you have your children’s best interests at heart, you should muddle through fine in the end.

Another “doofus dad,” is George McFly (Crispin Glover) of “Back to the Future.’ From the start of the movie, it’s clear his son (Michael J. Fox) loves but doesn’t respect him, but how can he, when Dad is constantly bullied by his boss (Thomas F. Wilson)? However, Michael is given the chance to go back to the fifties, where, after inadvertently causing his teen mom to fall for him, his job is to make sure his parents attend a fateful dance together (and fall in love). Crispin needs to learn to stand up for himself, and after his son teaches him this, life in the “future” improves considerably.

That era, while being known for “Father Knows Best,” types of dad, has two in “Stand By Me,” that are terrible by any standard. Gordie’s (Wil Wheaton) father (Marshall Bell) is still mourning his perfect older son, dismisses his other son’s gift for writing and criticizes his friends. Gordie’s best friend, Chris, (River Phoenix) comes from a family with a bad reputation and winds up nicking his father’s pistol, which he takes on their trip to “see a dead body.” To be fair, it comes in handy.

Further father drama comes midway on the boys’ pilgrimage, when their friend, Teddy, (Corey Feldman) has to be physically restrained from attacking a character who mocks his dad, (who the son considers a war hero), as a “loony.” Comments the older narrator dryly: “It was weird to me how, then, Teddy could care so much about his father, who practically tried to kill him. And I couldn’t give a shit about my old man, and he hadn’t laid a hand on me since I was three! And that was for eating the bleach under the sink.” However, the friends prove up to the task of comforting each other when necessary and providing moral support the adults can’t or won’t give them.

Two dark movies about teens that came out at the tail end of the decade, “Heathers” and “Pump Up the Volume,” feature fathers who, like their wives, are depicted as being well meaning but clueless. In “Heathers,” Winona Ryder’s parents seem to care about her welfare enough to offer her pate and a chance to talk when her classmates start dying in bizarre accidents, but Winona doesn’t find them helpful. Similarly, Christian’s dad (Scott Paulin) in “Pump Up the Volume,” cares that his son is having a tough time transitioning to his new school, but he’s also got a lot on his mind what with this crazy pirate radio DJ who seems to be leading an underground rebellion of the students. Of course, if the parents had bothered to listen to the content of said station, they would know it was their son – but they remain clueless until Christian is carted away by the cops. Not to mention that when his father finds Christian disheveled in the basement with Samantha Mathis, he draws the wrong conclusion – though it actually works to Christian’s benefit.

“Ordinary People,” stars Timothy Hutton as a teenager who is recovering from a suicide attempt after the death of his older brother (for whom he feels responsible). While Mary Tyler Moore has the more showy role as his uncomprehending mother who just wants things to go back to “normal,” Donald Sutherland plays the well-intentioned father whose attempts at support come across as awkward. Eventually, Donald begins seeing his son’s father figure therapist (Judd Hirsch) who helps him see just how much his relationship with his wife has deteriorated. When he tells Judd that he’s not a very good father, Judd responds that Timothy frequently mentions what a poor son he is, and shows him that they do have a bond.

“Dead Poets Society,” features two flawed dads, one of whom could be a candidate for Top Bad Cinema Dads of All Time. First, we have Ethan Hawke’s parents, who send their son the same gift (a desk set) year after year for his birthday, and (it’s implied) favor his perfect older brother. But they pale in comparison to Robert Sean Leonard’s father (Kurtwood Smith) who micro-manages his son’s school schedule, and upon discovering that Robert has the lead role in a community Shakespeare production, forces him to drop out – or tries to. A later punishment for his son appearing in the play anyway causes a tragedy, for which an innocent teacher (Robin Williams) becomes the scapegoat.

“Say Anything,” portrays a single father-daughter bond (Ione Skye and John Mahoney) as warm and supportive, seemingly the ideal in contrast to Ione’s boyfriend, Lloyd, (John Cusack) who is staying with his adult sister and her young son. While there’s friction between John and his sister, Ione remains self-confident in the knowledge that she can tell her father “anything,” even the details of her losing her virginity (today, we would call that an “overshare”). Appealing as he is, John doesn’t have a clue what his career path is going to be; in contrast, Ione knows exactly what she wants from life and believes her father has only her best interests at heart. Her discovery that he has been embezzling from the nursing home he manages – and it’s that money that has been financing her comfortable lifestyle, is the catalyst for her to take charge of her life – even if that means being with a boy whose tentative ambition is to be a kickboxer.

One might argue that Matthew Broderick’s father (Lyman Ward) in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is well-meaning but ultimately has a detrimental effect on his son. While he clearly loves Matthew, his parenting negligence has created a hotbed of sibling rivalry to the point where his daughter (Jennifer Grey) gets arrested trying to get attention, and his son almost (but not quite) risks severe punishment from his principal. (Not to mention the father manages to avoid seeing Matthew playing hooky, when they’re in adjacent cabs.) Giving too much freedom to your child can end up being a kind of abuse – even if he’s resourceful enough to come out on top.

Of course, Mr. Bueller looks like Dad of the Year next the absentee Cameron’s (Alan Ruck) father, who could also qualify for a Top Bad Movie Dads list (even though we never meet him). Even with insurance, it’s likely that Mr. Frye is going to lose it when he sees the remains of his beloved Ferrari which winds up being demolished to the point of no return. It’s likely too, that Cameron will need ongoing therapy to become a successful adult, and the dad may need it, as well, to recover from losing his car.

In the movies, the father’s character can run the gamut from sociopathic to adoring, and Dad can wind up doing crazy things when he’s trying to act in his child’s best interests. Sometimes in the movies, Dad even shrinks or blows up his kids, but at least some of the time, he’s portrayed – like many real life dads – as doing the best he can.

Movie Review: Now You See Me 2

When a great actor appears in a mediocre movie, I often find myself thinking back to their better ones, which is what happened in “Now You See Me 2.” It shares some similarities with “The Shawshank Redemption,” mainly Morgan Freeman in a major role, Morgan’s sonorous voiceover, a scene set to opera and a jailbreak. Both movies also take the time to dissect a character’s miraculous escape so that the viewer can see exactly what happened – or in this case, five characters. However, the theme has more in common with “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” which is about a group of egotistical individuals learning that they’re more powerful when they work (wait for it) as a team.

The opening scene (just in time for Father’s Day) features a flashback with Young Mark Ruffalo, his dad, a magic trick that goes horribly wrong, and Morgan present as someone hoping to expose the dad as a fraud. Then we’re back in the present, when we’re introduced to the various four Horsemen (only now there’s five): Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo and Lizzy Caplan, who gets to be the newbie. The FBI (headed by Michael Caine) is supposedly hot on the trail of the Horsemen, and Morgan’s character is in jail because of plot points from the last movie that are explained. However, Morgan is planning revenge. The characters wind up in the lair of Daniel Radcliffe, who also has it in for them because of other plot points that get explained – and he forces them to pull off a heist against their will – after somehow transporting them without them knowing it to China. (I’m guessing perhaps the real world version of Floo Powder was involved.) The object: a computer chip that will let you hack into any computer on the planet. (There’s a bit more to their task, but that’s the gist.)

The characters come up with a plan and end up in the lair of yet another evil genius, whose hermetically sealed top secret chamber where the card with the computer chip is gave me another flashback to the TV room in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – it’s white, sterile and difficult to extract oneself from. The escape involves a card trick, that is fun at first, but then goes on a little too long. Eventually, the characters turn the tables on Daniel, Michael and Woody’s annoying twin brother, who insinuates himself in the high jinks, as well early on. At the end, Mark obeys his conscience and gives the Everlasting Gobstopper back, and as it turns out, Slugworth has really been on their side all along. Well, not exactly, but out of the two movies, it’s the one with considerably more magic.

When Movies Go to Camp

When I decided to do an entry on films which take place at summer camp, it seemed like a snap. But then I realized that I hadn’t, after all, seen endless movies about camp, it just felt like I had, if you counted made-for-television movies and the show “Salute Your Shorts” which I think was on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. There are also quasi-camp movies, in which the main character spends the summer at an amusement park (“Adventureland”), water park/beach house (“The Way, Way Back”) or a family-style resort (“Dirty Dancing”) and undergoes a transformation, but here are some actual camp-set movies.

Kid Movies Featuring Kids

The Parent Trap (original with Hayley Mills and remake with Lindsay Lohan)

Plot: Two girls (first young teens, then in the remake preteens) who look exactly alike meet at summer camp and take an amazingly long time to realize that they are identical twins. At first they hate each other and engage in an all-out prank out war, which gets them bounced to the “isolation cabin,” a place that should probably be condemned, but instead they become friends. Since they’re both the daughters of single parents, they decide to switch places, a scheme that will hopefully get the parents back together. Toward the movie’s end, the girls repeat their pranks when they go camping with their dad and his snooty gold-digger girlfriend, Vicky.

The parents making what I assume they’d consider a mistake, is more believable in the original “Parent Trap,” because that was way pre-Internet. The remake makes it more believable because one of the twins lives in England. Why her mom didn’t play it safe and send her to camp there, is never discussed.

Heavyweights – If you know nothing about attending fat camp, you’d probably picture it as a place where you are forced to rise at the crack of dawn for a vigorous run and round of calisthenics, before settling down to a tasty breakfast of grapefruit and diet soda. That’s what the protagonist Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) of “Heavyweights” must be envisioning because when his parents tell him he’s going, he’s not stoked. But on the way there, he meets an amiable alum and realizes that it’s more low-key – and popular enough so that most of the kids choose to return year after year.

However, new management (Ben Stiller) has decided to impose an insane regime on the campers in order to promote his new weight-loss program. Ben is truly terrifying in this role, but the rest of the young cast is easy to root for, and they do triumph in the end – both over Ben and the obligatory rival camp on Field Day.

Camp Nowhere – This movie is noteworthy because a) the movie “Accepted,” shamelessly poached the plot, and b) everyone at least on the IMDB message board noticed right away. “Accepted” is about two college freshmen (Justin Long and Jonah Hill) who set up their own college for misfits, which basically becomes a 24-7 party. “Camp Nowhere,” is about four kids who are going to various camps but don’t want to, so they set up their own camp for misfits, headed by wacky Christopher Lloyd. They have the requisite blast, and also learn some requisite lessons about growing up. The only remotely “objectionable'” thing about this movie is the fact that one of the characters (Melody Kay) is considered fat. In a Hollywood universe, that is.

Teen Movies Featuring Teens

The “American Pie” franchise: I haven’t actually seen the spinoff “Band Camp” movie, but I’ve seen the first two movies, and can’t quite forget the moment when Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) explains to Jim (Jason Biggs) about band camp and the sexual education she found there.

Camp -Plot: A frustrated songwriter (Don Dixon) heads up a drama camp, attended by various teens, including Daniel Letterle and Joanne Chilcoat. Anna Kendrick also has a pivotal role as a mousy camper who morphs into what one character calls, “a scary little girl.”

Little Darlings – Plot: A girl named (irony alert) “Angel” (Kristy McNichol) and one named “Ferris” (Tatum O’Neill) compete to see who will lose their virginity first. Lots of bonding and life lessons occur.

Adult Movies That Are Supposed to be “Serious”

Moonrise Kingdom – Plot: A girl (Kara Hayward) who feels like a misfit in her family decides to run away with her quirky friend (Jared Gilman) with whom she’s been corresponding. Jared’s character is a foster kid who leaves the camp he’s attending so he can be with her. All the characters, kids and adults learn life lessons, but it’s Wes Anderson-directed so it’s done quirkily.

Adult Movies That Aren’t Remotely Serious

Meatballs (and sequel) – Plot: Bill Murray plays a counselor at a camp full of misfits, who bonds with new camper (Chris Makepeace) who he helps boost the confidence of by training him to be a long distance runner. There’s also a lot of politically incorrect humor, including a mentally challenged character who goes by “Spaz.” Somehow, I suspect that I wouldn’t find this movie quite as hilarious as I did when I was a kid.

* Wet Hot American Summer – I have not seen this one, but it has an intriguing cast, including Janeane Garofalo and Bradley Cooper, so I thought I’d add it. Also, when Roger Ebert reviewed this movie, he did it by writing a parody of “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” channeling his irritation into verse. As he put it,

“Wow, I hate this
Something fierce
Except for the astrophysicist, played by David Hyde Pierce.”

Well, at least we’ve come a way from characters named “Spaz.”

Happy vicarious camping.