“The Kings of Summer” review: a sweet but forgettable teen comedy


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You have to wonder what a filmmaker like Wes Anderson would have done with “The Kings of Summer.” A likeable but disposable coming-of-age comedy that was one of the buzzed-about hits of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the indie movie follows three outcast Ohio teens as they decide to escape society and live out in the woods in a ramshackle house they built themselves. Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, “The Kings of Summer” boasts some of the deadpan melancholy one associates with Anderson’s best work, but it doesn’t have quite the same bite or insight. It’s quirky, but not in any way that’s really memorable.

Nick Robinson plays Joe, the leader of this geeky trio. Raging with hormones and uncomfortable around his newly-widowed father (Nick Offerman, slightly less ornery than on “Parks & Recreation”), Joe has decided that he needs a break, figuring that some time in the wilderness will clear his head. Joining him on this adventure is his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and a deeply odd guy named Biaggio (Moises Arias) whose short stature and quietly strange disposition make him almost more of a mascot than a companion.

Working from a script by first-timer Chris Galletta, Vogt-Roberts has set out to craft a comedy about the seemingly endless freedom of summer during your youth, spiking the jokes with a determinedly off-kilter tone that values improvisational bits and throwaway gags. (The cast also includes Alison Brie, Tony Hale and Megan Mullally.) “The Kings of Summer” is a salute to the warm-weather months, but Vogt-Roberts wants to undercut the nostalgia a bit, allowing for an emotional undercurrent to run underneath the laughs without permitting the proceedings to get too goopy.

Unfortunately, despite some distinctive camerawork that makes the boys’ adventure feel almost like a dream, “The Kings of Summer” remains frustratingly conventional. Predictably, their imagined Eden is ruined by the presence of a potential romantic interest. Erin Moriarty plays Kelly, Joe’s true love who starts to take a shine to Patrick, causing the sort of complications one would expect. But the problem comes from the utter ordinariness of these three. With the exception of the increasingly bizarre Biaggio, the movie’s central characters are mostly sweet, dull sorts: They’re all nice enough, but the filmmakers haven’t dug deeply enough to make any of them particularly compelling. It’s a soft, safe movie in which even the kids’ parents aren’t really that bad, just mildly annoying, which makes Joe and Patrick’s desire for independence not all that urgent.

There’s an argument to be made that a lackadaisical teen comedy like “The Kings of Summer” is a modest rebuke to the over-amped shenanigans of button-pushing peers like “Project X” and “21 & Over.” (And to be fair, it’s also probably a more “realistic” portrait of young love than Anderson’s finely tuned eccentricity in “Moonrise Kingdom” or “Rushmore.”) But as the film pleasantly ambles along, you may wish it had more shock value or wit. It’s an underdog tale that never really asserts itself.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

That 70s show

That '70s Facts

10 Things You Didn’t Know About That ’70s Show

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Every That ’70s Show fan has a favorite character, favorite episode, or even a favorite “Circle” moment. But how well do you know the show? Check out some interesting facts about the series and the Wisconsin gang.

1. Chuck Norris Almost Played Red Forman

Red That 70s Show

We said everyone has a favorite character, and let’s be honest: it’s Red. And Red almost had the ability to lay out Hyde with a swift roundhouse kick to the head. Chuck Norris was considered for the role of Eric’s dad, but was unavailable due to filming Walker, Texas Ranger, opening the part for Kurtwood Smith’s incomparable portrayal.

2. Mila Kunis lied about her age to get the role of Jackie.

That 70s Show Jackie

Snotty (but surprisingly smart) Jackie propelled Mila Kunis to stardom. She got the part by being perfect for it, and by playing older than she actually was. Auditioning at age 14, she told the producers that “I’ll be 18 on my birthday,” neglecting to mention said birthday was still four years away. Having an actual teenager play a television teenager for once is a nice novelty.

3. The show was almost named after a Who song.

That 70s Show Theme

A ’70s-set sitcom couldn’t help but be defined by music, but That ’70s Show was legally forced into its final name. Early ideas included “Teenage Wasteland” and “The Kids Are Alright,” but pressure from The Who’s lawyers forced the creators to come up with something better. At which point they found that test viewers had already given it the wonderfully self-aware name.

4. “The Circle” was a way to get around censors.

The show’s trademark camera spin was a powerful comedic tool for endless one-liners and honest moments where the characters talked directly to the camera. Most importantly, it allowed the show to make it clear the characters were totally baked while never showing them actually smoking pot.

5. Leo Was Really Arrested For Drug Charges

Leo That 70s Show

Hyde’s drug-inspired boss Leo incarnated the ’70s stoner culture on several levels. Not only was he played by the iconic Tommy Chong, but he disappeared from the series for a while because he was serving a jail sentence for selling drug paraphernalia. It was such a natural chain of events, Tommy was surprised they didn’t write it into the show.

6. You can blame a movie for Blonde Donna.

Blonde Donna

Blonde Donna 2

Donna claimed she dyed her hair blonde after her marriage to Eric was called off. But the truth is Laura Prepon went blonde for the lead role in the 2006 psychological thriller Karla.

7. Topher Grace was discovered in a high school play.

Eric That 70s show

Topher Grace got his start in show business after That ’70s Show creators Bonnie and Terry Turner saw him in their daughter’s high school play. We assume he wasn’t constantly called “dumbass” in the play, but he wowed the Turners just the same.

8. Red really is from the “Craphole” state.

Red That 70s show

Kurtwood Smith is the only actor from Wisconsin, where the show is set. In fact, Red Forman is even more authentically Wisconson-ian, being based on Smith’s stepfather, who passed away shortly before the pilot was filmed. Yes, there actually was a real Red.

9. Josh Meyers was originally going to play Eric after Topher Grace left the show.

Josh meyers that 70s show

Josh Meyers, brother of Seth Meyers, was hired to replace Topher Grace, who’d left the series to fight Spider-Man on the big screen. Eric’s suddenly different appearance was going to be explained by the changing effects of coming back from his trip to Africa as a newly grown man, but the writers eventually ditched this ludicrous idea. Instead we got Randy Pearson, a fusion of Eric’s snarky humor and Kelso’s way with the ladies.

10. Eric’s Vista Cruiser license plate marks the passage of time.

That 70s show license plate

That ’70s Show almost lasted an entire decade with eight seasons, but it only took up four years of fictional time. And you can tell what year each episode takes place in by the license plate at the end of the theme song.


Lorne Visits the Cat Ranch

Lorne Michaels Finally Talks to Marc Maron on WTF

Maron returns to IFC in 2016.

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A historic summit of comedic minds has finally happened in the Cat Ranch — Lorne Michaels sat down for an interview on Marc Maron‘s WTF Podcast. And you can listen to it here.


20 years ago, Marc had a meeting with Lorne about possibly taking over Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. But then Marc never got a a callback—and his brief meeting with the SNL guru has haunted him ever since. This week on his WTF podcast, Marc finally got closure. As Marc wrote on his website, “In the history of WTF, Lorne Michaels is talked about more than any other person. Now he is finally a guest.”

In addition to discussing why Marc wasn’t ready to join the Not Ready for Primetime Players, the episode’s wide-ranging conversation also covers the reason Michaels started the show back in 1975 and what keeps him doing it each and every season.

Listen to WTF on iTunes or download from the WTF podcast website. And be sure to check IFC.com for more updates on Marc and season 4 of his comedy series Maron, which returns to IFC spring 2016.

Jon Benjamin

Jon's Erotic Tales

Jon Benjamin Developing ‘Erotic’ Anthology Series for IFC

Jon Benjamin is getting racy for IFC.

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Photo Credit: Derek Storm/Everett Collection

Get ready to get hot and heavy with Jon Benjamin.

IFC has teamed up with Benjamin and Leo Allen (Jon Benjamin Has a Van, Review) to develop Jon Benjamin’s 100 Erotic Nights, a show filled with personal, passionate tales perfect for awkwardly watching with your family. “I always wanted to make a show that my kid could watch and I’m thrilled that IFC has given me this opportunity,” said Jon Benjamin.

The scripted comedy anthology series (currently in the pilot presentation stage) finds the man behind Sterling Archer and Bob Belcher starring in and narrating a series of lurid tales of secret passion, burning desire and ruthless betrayal sure to raise a few eyebrows. As the tales unfold, Benjamin’s narrator is overcome with confessions of love, lust, romance and sex, from the local waitress to a church nun, to a lover who’s revealed to be a robot.

“IFC is excited to dive into deadpan erotic humor, a new and untapped genre of scripted comedy for us,” said Christine Lubrano, IFC’s SVP of original programming. “As a send up of Red Shoe Diaries, these steamy and seductive tales represent a hilarious departure from familiar erotica. As our narrator and guide, Jon Benjamin’s irreverent and revealing journey will leave viewers gasping for more.”

Be sure to check back here for more updates about Jon Benjamin’s sure to be salacious series.

Gigi Does It Ep6

Get Freaky With Gigi

5 Ways Gigi Can Help You Become a Better Lover

Gigi limbers up for love tonight at 10:30 PT/ET.

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Coming down off this weekend’s Pixy Stix sugar high? Well, rather than raid your grandkids’ candy sacks for some stray Charleston Chews, tune in to tonight’s all new Gigi Does It at 10:30P ET/PT for enough sweet sass to send you into a diabetic coma. But before you fire up the ol’ Life Alert, here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s episode that will also improve your moves in the boudoir.

1. Relive your crazy Halloween.

Sure, you’ve already rung in All Hallows’ Eve with some petty vandalism and your best Taylor Swift getup. But it’s never too late to break out the spooky ghoul costume and do like Gigi and put that TP in the trees to good, practical use.

2. Try something new in the bedroom.

Every healthy relationship ought to include some variety in the intimacy department, which is why it’s always smart to brush up on what those wild kids are doing in the bedroom these days. (If you’re confused with any of the terms, consult your male nurse.)

3. Limber up.

Physical therapists advise against sitting or lying down for extended periods of time, so take a moment to stretch out those quads and hammies with Gigi – regardless of how many “good legs” you have.

4. Browse the Web with a friend.

Surfing the ‘net with a pal can be fun. Just watch out for those nasty pop-up ads.

5. Watch the video that is too hot for Facebook.

Deemed “Too Hot for Facebook,” this Gigi clip removes the bleeps and blurs for a raw, NSFW look at the foul-mouthed granny in action.

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