Guest Author - Secola Edwards
Kristen Stewart is carving out a highly enviable career for herself, becoming established as a quiet force in Hollywood. The Twilight franchise of films has catapulted her fame, but she has worked in several lesser-known, comedic films as well.
Directed by: Greg Mottola
Release date: April 3, 2009
Running time: 107 minutes
James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated from Oberlin College with exact plans to travel Europe before beginning graduate studies at Columbia University. The only problem with his plan is that his source of funding (his parents) for his European excursion has dried up.
Since his immediate future has James living at home for the summer, he accepts the only job he can find - as a game operator for Adventureland theme park.
What starts off as a mindless way to spend the summer and earn cash for Columbia turns into a life changing experience for James. He bonds with many of his co-workers, especially Emily 'Em' Lewin (Kristen Stewart), who is also a college student killing time for the summer. The two quickly bond and form a close friendship, fringing on romantic, but there are obstacles, namely Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the handsome, flirtatious, but married park maintenance tech and sometimes rock musician, who Em can't shake a strong attraction to. Em also has family problems which prevent her from completely trusting James, adding to both their sadness. Will they eventually work through it all and seize the moment?
Adventureland is a smart dramatic comedy, set in 1987. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are hilarious as park managers. If you're a fan of 80's music, you'll love the soundtrack. I particularly enjoy coming of age films and this one fits the bill nicely. Word of caution: the film is rated R and deals prominently with drug and alcohol use.
What Just Happened
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Release date: November 28, 2008
Running time: 104 minutes
Ben (Robert DeNiro) is a top-tier Hollywood film executive producer - at least for the moment. Due to a series of humbling events, and his vast inside knowledge of filmmaking, Ben knows he's being pushed off of the A-list. Who knew that unfavorable placement at a magazine cover shoot bore the same weight as the Scarlet Letter? The one event that may be able to salvage Ben's career is a new film project he's working on. The crux is that if it produces anything less than blockbuster success, the film will also be Ben's swan song.
What Just Happened gives viewers an honest look at the inexplicable agony Hollywood producers subject themselves to in order to see a film to completion. They sacrifice everything, including pride and family to reach the pinnacle. We see Ben juggling spoiled mega-stars (Bruce Willis and Sean Penn) and disenfranchised loved ones. His daughter (Kristen Stewart) is an emotional wreck and Ben spends most of the film trying to get to the source of her agony, plus his estranged wife (Robin Wright Penn) may or may not be cheating on him.
Even though it was a failure at the box office (art imitating life?), What Just Happened is engaged film making. DeNiro, Stewart, Sean Penn, Willis and Robin Wright Penn all deliver memorable, albeit sometimes over the top performances in this smart, often wry dramatic comedy. It's recommended viewing.
Catch That Kid
Directed by: Bart Freundlich
Release date: February 6, 2004
Running time: 91 minutes
Maddy (Kristen Stewart) is a thrill-seeking teenage girl with spunk beyond her years. She climbs the local city water tower for amusement. She also has two over-worked parents and a baby brother who falls under her care too often. When faced with an agonizing family crisis, Maddy utilizes her physical skills, her charm over her male buddies and craftiness to come to the rescue of her family.
Maddy's father, Tom (Sam Robards) is stricken with a serious illness and needs major surgery. The surgery is extremely expensive and the family doesn't have the money. Maddy's mother, Molly (Jennifer Beals) is a security expert who works for the local bank and she turns to her employer for a loan to pay her husband's medical bill. Molly is turned down by the bank's president, Mr. Brisbane (Michael Des Barres), whose character must have been modeled after Mr. Burns of The Simpsons. The rejection drives Maddy to resort to extreme measures and plot to rob the bank.
Maddy recruits her two best friends to help her. Austin, (Corbin Bleu, pre High School Musical) a high-tech prodigy and Gus, a mechanical whiz kid (Max Thieriot) are coaxed into the dangerous scheme by Maddy and the spell she has over both boys.
Catch That Kid is Disney meets Ocean's Eleven. It's fun, but not as engaging as Spy Kids. I suspect the film's creators were trying to create a Spy Kids type following. The film features cool gadgets such as go-karts that can reach highway speeds and remote control cars with spy cameras. Kids will love the genius of the film's stars and how they wrangle themselves out of hairy situations. They will also get many laughs at the expense of the two most inept security guards to ever walk a beat. Parents will marvel at Maddy's little brother who is the most well-behaved toddler I've ever seen. The climax is a bit of a stretch, but the ending is very fitting. Catch That Kid is clean, entertaining fun for all.
*I viewed each filmed reviewed on DVD's from my personal collection.