“Enjoy therapy.” – A Screening and Q&A with the Cast and Filmmakers of The Way Way Back

The Way Way Back Promo Still

Posted by Sage

The fine people at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens were kind enough to schedule this advanced screening of Fox Searchlight’s The Way Way Back on the day before the official start of Communies Take Manhattan, a meetup planned by an east coast group of TV-loving Twitter friends. Why would Community fans be particularly interested in seeing this coming-of-age comedy together, aside from their impeccable taste? Let’s just say this movie is where their favorite show meets the silver-DEAN.

Communie Selfie

Communies go to the movies!

The screening was followed by a talkback with cast members Liam James (Duncan) and Sam Rockwell (Owen), plus writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. That’s right, my friends. This poignant and witty ensemble dramedy is the brainchild of Ben Fox and Dean Pelton.

Nat Faxon and Jim Rash at MoMI

Nat and Jim answer audience questions.

Okay fine, so they’re also ACADEMY AWARD WINNING screenwriters. Nat and Jim took home the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for their work on The Descendants, which gave them the Hollywood muscle to take the lead on their next project. At the talkback, they told us that they also carry around the “travel size” versions of their awards, just in case they ever need to prove something. Nice strategy, but The Way Way Back is proof enough for me that they are and will continue to be the real deal.

The Way Way Back chronicles a summer that 14-year-old Duncan spends with his mom Pam (Toni Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s surly daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) at Trent’s east coast vacation house. While his mom tries to keep up (“It’s like spring break for adults.”) with Trent’s summer friends Betty (Alison Janney), Kip (Rob Corddry), and Joan (Amanda Peet), Duncan escapes the house to be befriended by Owen, the boyish and capricious manager of the local waterpark. Duncan wear his loneliness like a Water Wizz employee t-shirt, so Owen offers him a job at the park. He blooms under the interest of his new friends and Duncan’s mysterious new confidence draws the attention of Betty’s restless daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), if not that of his distracted mother.

Frankly, you could put this cast in a reenactment of an episode of Whodunnit? and it would probably be gold. Toni Collette plays Pam as a confused woman doing her best to navigate a huge transition in the life of her and her kid. I can’t ever remember seeing Steve Carell play such a boundlessly unlikeable character, and he did it so well that I’m still a little mad at him. Jim Rash described Trent in the talkback as “passive aggressive” and that’s an understatement. He approaches his life with teeth bared, looking to take someone down before they can get to him first.  (Shallow Editor’s Note: Carell also clearly bulked up for this role and the ladies in our group were…well, reacting. Kim even appointed him to her Top 5.)

Steve Carell the Way Way Back

Me-ow.

Alison Janney is – as always – completely delightful as lovable lush Betty. And no one could have played a more complete or engaging Owen than Sam Rockwell, an actor who doesn’t so much disappear into his roles as he overlays his own distinct qualities onto them. The film basically rests on the performance of Liam James, since the audience shares the perspective of Duncan. (If I remember correctly, there is no scene in the film that occurs outside of Duncan’s sight or hearing.) Liam nails both Duncan’s reserve with his family and goofy chutzpah as Water Wizz’s Employee of the Month. Rob Corddry’s Kip is a willfully ignorant good-time guy who pretends not to notice how Peet’s prickly and jealous Joan fixates on Trent’s new relationship. I’m always pleased to see Maya Rudolph, whose character Caitlyn is tired of playing mother to Owen and urges him to grow up – just a little. Faxon and Rash cast themselves as other members of the Water Wizz team – fratty Roddy and sad-sack Lewis, respectively.

MoMI screened this film as a part of their Coming of Age Comedies: The Summer Edition screening series, which also includes classics Meatballs, The Goonies, and The Sandlot. Those movies and others like them are so ingrained in my soul, that I at first didn’t consciously recognize what an influence they had on this film. An audience member pointed out the scarcity of tech in this film, though it’s set in the present, which heightens the alienation that Duncan, Pam, and Susanna feel and the urgency of friendships they make. Nat and Jim talked about the timelessness of those summer places – the friends you only see once a year; the houses that are never redecorated. That retreat from the real world sets the scene for bad behavior or uncharacteristic heroics. The Way Way Back follows in that grand tradition of magical summers, the tropes of which are familiar to me as breathing. But this movie isn’t at all formulaic. It flips those tropes on their head, especially as they pertained to the grown-up/kid power dynamic.

The Way Way Back water gun

**MILD SPOILERS AHOY**

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On Telling Tony Soprano Something Important…

Guest Post by Anna

Like the rest of the world, we were shocked at the sudden death of James Gandolfini this evening.  Sadly, The Sopranos is one of our pop culture blind spots, so we could never do justice to his body of work and what he meant to television and pop culture in general.  So when our friend Anna reached out to us wanting to write about one of her favorite actors, we were more than happy to give her a venue to share her feels.  Here are her thoughts on the passing of an icon… –Kim

One morning, I woke up in a panic, crying from a dream I barely remembered that had something to do with the fear that I would never really be able to emotionally connect with my dad before he dies. Not that my dad’s sick or anything –  it was just a general fear of the inevitability of his death.

It was the morning after Mad Men’s Season 6 premiere, which was dripping with emotionally absent dads, existential fear and dread. Also, it was a Monday, which generally sucks.

Like…shit, the writing team who work on Mad Men and who’ve worked on The Sopranos really know how to yank out my deepest, darkest emotions and fears by the collar. But the root of my attention here could never have been the same without James Gandolfini, who embodied the father of all fathers (at least in my view) Tony Soprano. It’s kind of weirdly fitting that he passed away not so long after Father’s Day.

I can’t even remember the last time I cried over a celebrity death. I’m not sure if I ever even have. But Tony Soprano fucking means something, for better or worse.

I’ve had recurring dreams about my father being Tony Soprano. The sort of power that can only be wielded by privileged males, the aloofness, the immaturity, the erratic emotional displays/repression/instability, and almost above all else, the mysteriousness and implications of deception uncomfortably ring familiarly to me.

Of course, my dad isn’t a murderer, but it seems like every time I get together with older members of my family who remember him back in the day, I always find out the most surprising and sort of unsettling things. Kind of like when you read a book written in the ‘40s or ‘50s and it’s like totally normal for the main character to have lost their virginity to a hooker. Like, how would these people even function in the world of today? The answer is secrecy, self-absorption, near-comic displays of macho swagger, and self-repression. And sometimes murder too, I guess, in the case of Tony Soprano.

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“We Own Tonight” – The Package Tour Hits New Jersey

New Kids on the Block High Five

Posted by Sage

“Somebody said somebody wouldn’t last too long. Somebody’s still goin’ strong.”

It was my absolute pleasure to spend last Thursday night at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey in the company of 12 perfectly-aged song-and-dance men, as well as 15,000 of my fellow screaming fans. Man bands are the new boy bands. And they are like a fiiiiiiine wine, my friends.

NKOTB I like the Remix

On the heels of the NKOTBSB mash-up tour, this bill brought the New Kids on the Block together with R&B legends Boyz II Men and the newly reformed 98 Degrees. And to avoid any confusion about the reason this tour exists, they decided to name it…wait for it…The Package. I am not making this up. Ladies, line up the babysitter, put on your sparkliest Loft blouse, and kiss your husband goodbye. Your fantasy sidepieces await, and they’re wearing matching outfits.

Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men The Package Tour

The show started at 7:30 on the dot when the three remaining members of Boyz II Men took the stage. I’ve written a report on them for eighth grade music class; had many a sweaty-palmed slow dance to their songs; and cried with my classmates to “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” at my junior high graduation, but I’ve NEVER seen them live. I’m happy to report that my 20 years worth of expectations were met. Even minus an original member, their harmonies on classics like “On Bended Knee” and “End of the Road” have never sounded better. They threw roses to ladies in the audience during “I’ll Make Love to You,” which was clearly the highlight of their career and this set. And what is it about confetti drops that’s so magical? I’m a sucker for a confetti drop.

The set was short and sweet, so the group wasn’t able to venture outside of their biggest hits. They closed out their portion of the evening with “Motown Philly,” obviously, and the choreography was ON POINT. They may be a little older and a little bigger, but once they started dancing, the years fell off. I hope I’m that light on my feet when I’m 45. Or ever.

98 Degrees

98 Degrees Group

We had little time to process that bit of crippling nostalgia before 98 Degrees was introduced. Ah, 98 Degrees. You remember them, right? Nick and Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons, and The Other One. (Sorry, that’s mean. His name is Justin or something.) They were best known for their ballads and their biceps, but definitely weren’t on the same level of dance game as their late ’90s boy band peers. Every time the 98 Degrees guys danced, you knew it was because someone told them they HAD to. They do a lot of box-stepping, I’ll just say that.

Jeff Timmons The Package Tour

They announced their comeback last summer, and I was at their first full live performance at the Mixtape Festival in Hershey, PA. 98 Degrees kept most of that same setlist for The Package Tour, except for tragically dropping “True to Your Heart,” their flawless contribution to the closing credits of Mulan, for some of their new stuff. It’s not bad, but of course, we were all there to sway to “I Do (Cherish You)” and “The Hardest Thing.” We were reminded of that directive to every early ’00s pop act to work in some Latin influence, however misguided, by the delightfully ridiculous “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche).” And I will be forever grateful to 98 Degrees for opening with “Heat It Up,” a b-side from their second album, with some of the ’90-est ’90s lyrics that ever ’90-ed. Remember how all boy bands had to have a song that introduced themselves and/or explained their name? Jam on cause Backstreet’s got it. ‘N Sync has got the flow.

“Baby, let me love you till the 98th degree, girl,
And heat it up.
(I’m dowwwwwn.)
Girl, let’s heat it up.
(I’m dowwwwwn for ya.)

Halfway through the set, every member but Justin (womp womp) stripped down to the boy band company-issued wifebeater. Good news: the barbed wire tattoos are still there. It’s a comfort to know that some things never change.

Nick Lachey The Package Tour

They’re perfectly capable performers with some songs that I LOVE, but there’s something about 98 that I’ve never really connected with. I’ve seen them live plenty of times between the height of their popularity and this new era, but they’ve never inspired serious fangirling. Show a little personality, boys. Fandom cannot survive on torsos alone.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK!!dhfdskdkfhksd!

New Kids on the Block The Right Stuff

FINALLY. LET’S DO THIS.

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The Nolanization of Superman – Kim on Man of Steel

Posted by Kim

Eight years ago Christopher Nolan revitalized the Batman franchise with Batman Begins which focused on the origins (duh) of Batman.  Batman Begins is dark and gritty which is a marked difference from the Batman films of the late 90’s (let’s not discuss Batman and Robin, okay?) and it was heralded for its sense of realism and how it focused on Bruce Wayne/Batman’s tortured psyche.  Three years later Nolan took it to the next level and made what is arguably the greatest superhero movie ever with The Dark Knight.

Wait a minute.  If this post is about the new Superman movie Man of Steel then why am I talking so much about Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy?

Well, Nolan is an executive producer of Man of Steel for one.  But more importantly the Dark Knight trilogy inspired a trend in Hollywood of “rebooting” famous franchises and making them darker and grittier and making the heroes more complex and more tormented by their superhero-ness (Yes, I just made that a word.  Deal with it.).  Think about it.  Post Batman Begins we’ve had a reboot of James Bond, Spider-Man (a mere 5 years after the Sam Raimi helmed trilogy), X-Men and a failed attempt to reboot Superman.  And all of these films (save for Superman Returns) took a page from the Nolan aesthetic and story structure.  Now before you start yelling at me…I don’t think that’s always a bad thing.  I think Casino Royale is freaking brilliant.  I loved X-Men: Origins and while we really didn’t NEED to see how Peter Parker became Spidey again, The Amazing Spider-Man was quite enjoyable.  What I have a problem with is darkening up a character to the point where he is unrecognizable and THAT is what happened in Man of Steel.


Let me start by saying this: I am a child of the 80’s.  I grew up with the Christopher Reeve films and I always loved them (well, except for The Quest for Peace) so I very much have a vision of how Superman should be engraved in my brain.  So when details for Man of Steel began to emerge, I was already filled with trepidation.  A darker Superman?  A Clark Kent who was a loner who drifted from place to place tormented by the burden of his “otherness”?  It just didn’t sound like Superman to me.  Also, I am not at ALL a fan of Zack Snyder’s work.  I thought Watchmen was so in love with itself it bordered on masturbatory.  Also, I fell asleep in it.  So I was worried from the beginning that he would bring the same sense of self-importance and indulgence and aggrandizement to Man of Steel.  And sadly, I was right.

To quote my friend Megan on Twitter: “Why so serious, Superman?”

Also…spoilers after the jump.

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I Need to Talk About Grigg Harris For A Minute

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg candle

Posted by Sage

Please send help. I’ve fallen, headfirst, into the Hannibal fandom.

Hannibal smell me

Maybe. What are you gonna do about it?

So much so that I felt an overwhelming urge last week to rewatch the 2007 rom-com The Jane Austen Book Club, starring our tortured Hannibal hero, Hugh Dancy. Because Hugh is doing WORK on that show. It’s a visceral, virtuoso performance that deserves and will get its own post. I don’t trust the Emmys to get anything right ever, but I will still make empty threats about quitting TV all together if he’s not recognized by every award-bestowing body for playing Will Graham.

But let’s discuss Grigg right now.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg book

The Jane Austen Book Club is based on the Karen Joy Fowler novel of the same name, and it’s precious. Sylvia’s (Amy Brenneman) husband has just left her, and her friends organize an all-Jane book club to help her escape FROM and bring her back TO the real world. Other members of the JA book club are den mother Bernadette (Kathy Baker, who should be in all the things); severe but fragile Prudie (Emily Blunt); Sylvia’s headstrong daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace); and independent Jocelyn (Maria Bello), who invites along a serious cutie-patootie she meets in an elevator to set Sylvia up for a May-December comeback fling. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Grigg Harris.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg hat

There’s so much to love about Grigg – and that stupid pom-pom hat is pretty high on the list – that I couldn’t let his perfection go uncelebrated. I mean, why even HAVE a blog if I can’t use it to swoon over characters in obscure, low-grossing, 6-year-old rom-coms? Grigg is just the best, and I’ll prove it.

Grigg Harris actually LIKES women. Yet, remains completely baffled by them.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg confused

As it should be.

Grigg is clearly into Jocelyn when they first meet, and would have accompanied her to a tractor pull if she’d invited him. But once he joins the book club, Grigg is so disarmingly IN IT. He’s open and sincere and actually (hallelujah) INTERESTED in the lives of his new friends, these women. He likes being around them, though they still hold the power to mystify him. He has sisters, who raised him to be the kind of man they thought he should be AND simultaneously ruined him for the crasser aspects of modern life. Grigg Harris doesn’t meet his boys at the bar after book club to laugh at those old broads and congratulate himself for coming up with such a foolproof scheme to get into Jocelyn’s pants. And now I am imagining the evil alternate universe version of this movie wherein Dane Cook does just that. There’s a fart noise in the title.

Grigg Harris is an unapologetic geek.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg sci-fi

He is undeterred when Jocelyn dismisses the science fiction that he loves so much. Grigg knows that it has value, both to his own personal narrative AND to the culture at large. And he tells her so. Geek pride, you guys. Do not recede into the woodwork. Stand your ground.

Jocelyn and Grigg’s flirtation and confusion is symbolized by that willingness to take something into your life without letting preconceptions get in the way. Austen is new to Grigg, and he’s excited to see what Jane’s got for him, without mentally tagging those novels as “girly” or “old-fashioned.” But Jocelyn waves off Grigg’s recommendation of the books of Ursula Le Guin, because she doesn’t “like” sci-fi. It’s not for her. It’s silly, it’s trite. She’s never even tried it. (Get it? GRIGG is sci-fi! Sneaky filmmakers.) Then she does and they make out, which proves that giving someone a really kick-ass book recommendation is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

But also just a total fanboy.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg Empire

He’s not embarrassed about going solo to the Buffy convention or having an R2D2 ringtone or comparing Mansfield Park to Empire.

Just when you’re sure he’s safely in the Friend Zone…

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg dance

Just because Grigg’s not the kind of dude who’ll paw at you endlessly when you’re trying to have a polite conversation doesn’t mean he can’t make his intentions very clear when he has to.

Those sisters of his. We should send them flowers.

Grigg Harris read Jane Austen.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg Persuasion

As if Grigg wasn’t lovely enough before, he has now been elevated by reading all six Jane Austen novels. Doing this categorically makes you a better person.

A boy who can discuss whether or not Marianne Dashwood settled for Colonel Brandon before taking you in a manly fashion on the couch you helped him buy? Sometimes I want to scream at Jocelyn for taking so long to realize that she was LIVING THE DREAM.

Grigg Harris is a software millionaire (probably), but gives no fucks about money and has a shitty car and rides a bike everywhere.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg bike shorts

This man has no earthly idea how much money he has, but it’s probably a shit ton. This could not matter less to Grigg. He bought the first couch he saw. (“It’s a difficult color.” “I like things that are difficult.”) He bought the first HOUSE he saw. His car runs on grease. He gets adorably excited about the reusable cup coffee refill deal at Starbucks. He’s not cheap, he just remains un-jaded. He’d rather spend money on tricking out his living room as a haunted house for the Northanger Abbey discussion (swoon), old comic books, and – thank you, Jesus – bike shorts.

My head canon is that Grigg anonymously donates enough money to completely fund the library where Sylvia works, but never tells anyone, not even Jocelyn. The book club continues to buy a table at the fundraiser and toast the secret benefactor every year. Accepted? Accepted.

I’m running out of words to describe the faultless Grigg Harris, so let’s just…

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg kiss

Nope.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg kiss 2

Rude.

Jane Austen Book Club Grigg kiss 3

I take it all back, he’s actually the worst.

Thank you for helping me appreciate Grigg Harris, who is a little Darcy, a little Tilney, a little Wentworth, and even a little Edmund Bertram. If Jane were writing our lives, there’d be a lot more of him around.

Wanted: A Mad Man with a Box – Head Over Feels casts the 12th Doctor

Doctor Who One Last Trip Gif

Don’t leave us, Matthew!

Posted by Kim and Sage

The TV Gods give and they take away.  On Saturday the Community fandom rejoiced at the news that Dan Harmon would be returning for season five.  Hours later the Whovian nation was rocked by the news that Matt Smith would be regenerating in this year’s Christmas special.

Quote from Sage: HOW CAN THEY DO THIS TO US AT CHRISTMAS???

Troy Why are you making us feel these things

Because the British are cruel, that’s why.  You all saw this year’s Downton Abbey Christmas special, right?

This is going to be our first real-time regeneration as Whovians and we are not at all ready for it.  But rather than sit in a corner and sob, we are doing our best to redirect our feels towards thoughts on who should be cast as the 12th Doctor.  While it is highly likely that a relatively unknown actor will land the part, we have compiled a list of dream choices for our next Mad Man in a Box and the pros and cons about them…

UPDATE: Our casting list contains massive spoilers for Game of Thrones, so if you are behind, I advise that you stop before you get to number 10.

1) Jack Davenport

Jack Davenport smirk

Pros: Jack was one of the best parts of Smash (RIP #SmashBash) and now he is finally free to do something worthy of his talent.  He has worked with Steven Moffat in the past (on Coupling).  He has the crazy hair that clearly is a prerequisite for anyone playing The Doctor.  While he IS older than Matt, I think it is high time we move back to an older Doctor.  And can you imagine how deliciously snarky and cranky his Doctor would be?  I would not be able to handle all the hot crankyness.  Once this was suggested to me, I could not unsee it.  I NEED Jack as The Doctor in my life.

Also, look at him.

Cons: From the looks of it, Jack already has a job lined up.  So unless it is a limited run series, he may not be available.

2) Matthew Lewis

Pros:  Having played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies, Matt definitely knows what it is like to work on an iconic franchise.  Neville was not such a MAJOR part that we would never be able to get past seeing him that way (a con for one of our other choices).  If they want to keep The Doctor young, Matt is the right age.  And talk about an ugly duckling turning into a swan.  Congrats on becoming a FOX, Matt Lewis.  Also his name IS Matt, so no one would have to learn a new name.

Cons: Does he have the acting chops?  The modern Doctors leave some VERY big shoes to fill.  Other than that, I don’t see any cons.

3) Tom Hiddleston

Pros: Tom is known to be a massive fanboy, so he would bring the same giddiness of playing a character as iconic as The Doctor that Matt Smith has.  He’s classically trained, so we already know he would act the SHIT of it.  He’s incredibly charismatic on screen…I may have cheered for Loki more than the good guys in The Avengers (#sorrynotsorry).  Also, naturally a ginger.

Cons: He’s probably too heavily associated with Loki for audiences to accept him as The Doctor at this point.  Also, I highly doubt that he would leave behind a thriving film career for a several year commitment to a TV Series.

4) Rupert Grint

Pros: Ginger.  We know how desperately The Doctor wants to be ginger.

Cons: I don’t think people would be able to get past the fact that The Doctor is being played by Ronald Bilius Weasley.  That is the problem with being the lead in a franchise as iconic as Harry Potter.

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Star Trek Into Darkness: A Comprehensive List of All The Times We Overreacted

SNL Reacting more than we need to

Posted by Sage

When your co-editors go to the movies together, we should probably offer preemptive apologies to everyone around us. It’s virtually impossible for us to sit quietly when the emotions roll in; there’s lot of hand-holding, random arm movements, and strangled squealing. Maybe we should just put a few rows in between us.

Our behavior in Star Trek Into Darkness was even worse than usual. We’re both fans of the 2009 series reboot, and the sequel built on all the best aspects of the first one, namely: hot guys in uniforms and excessive displays of heroism and bromance. In space! It’s my favorite movie of the summer so far for sure. And now, let’s relive all the Enterprise moments that had us flailing to beat the band.

**Editor’s note: Neither of us are Trekkie purists, so any complaints about crimes against the source material will be politely ignored. Thank you and good night.

Spoilers on the Bridge