Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Banned Daffy Duck Cartoon!

Always my favorite cartoon character (Freakazoid is a close second), here's Daffy Duck messing with Nazis:

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Snow Cake" opens in NY and LA! Release info for other cities.


* 4/27/2007
* Los Angeles, CA
* One Colorado
* Laemmele

* 4/27/2007
* Los Angeles, CA
* Sunset 5
* Laemmele

* 4/27/2007
* Santa Ana, CA
* Edwards South Coast Village
* Freed

* 5/4/2007
* Los Angeles, CA
* Music Hall
* Independent

* 5/25/2007
* Palm Desert, CA
* Cinemas Palm D'or
* Independent

* 5/25/2007
* San Diego, CA
* Ken Cinema
* Landmark


* 5/11/2007
* Washington, DC
* E-Street
* Landmark


* 6/1/2007
* Atlanta, GA
* Midtown Art
* Landmark


* 5/9/2007
* Honolulu, HI
* Doris Duke
* Independent


* 6/1/2007
* Cambridge, MA
* Kendall Square
* Landmark

* 7/6/2007
* Newburyport, MA
* Newburyport Screening Room
* Independent


* 6/8/2007
* St. Louis, MO
* Tivoli
* Landmark

New York

* 4/27/2007
* New York, NY
* Cinema Village
* Independent

* 6/1/2007
* New York, NY
* Little Theatre
* Little Theatre


* 5/18/2007
* Portland, OR
* Hollywood Theatre
* Paulson


* 6/1/2007
* Philadelphia, PA
* Ritz 5
* Landmark

South Carolina

* 7/24/2007
* Columbia, SC
* Nickelodeon
* Independent


* 7/6/2007
* Seattle, WA
* Varsity
* Landmark

Last June I walked into the Neptune Theater in Seattle with the knowledge that the film I was about to see was called "Snow Cake" and that it starred Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. Everything else that followed was a surprise, and a wonderful one at that. It was easily one of the best films I saw in 2006 and now it is finally getting a proper U.S. release. Of course Seattle has to be last, but at least there's a date for it. Here is part of the review I wrote for it upon seeing it:

It manages to walk the tight rope between comedy and heartbreak. I don't want to get too into detail because so much of what makes this movie great is how full of surprises it is. Writer Angela Pell and director Marc Evans are clearly well versed in the universal dramedy playbook. They know all the standard cliches and avoid ALL of them. What could have been a saccharine and manipulative story in the wrong hands, is a film of enormous joy and effecting sadness, often at the very same time. Evans gets the most out of the wintery landscape and his actors. Rickman, Weaver, and Carrie-Anne Moss have never been better. Pell is also an outstanding screenwriter and I can't wait to see what she does next. Anyone who can write the line, "It's a bereavement cookie," knows what she's doing.
I really can't say enough about this film. The rumor is that it's going to be released in the fall or winter in the U.S. However since there is no U.S. distributor as yet, the rumor is just that. I am very optimistic about this film's chances at getting released. Much more than Craig and Justin are. And when it does (yes, DOES) get released I will be first in line to see it again. However, don't expect it to be a wide release so go seek it out. You will be glad you did. 10/10

Well it turns out I was right to be optimistic. Do not miss this one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"In the Land of Women" and "Fracture"

In the Land of Women- A mere hours after watching his older brother Jake's "The TV Set" I saw Jonathan Kasdan's debut feature, "In the Land of Women." With both of these films the Kasdan brothers stick to the famous advice, "Write what you know." The main focus of both of these films is a frustrated screenwriter. Unlike Mike Klein of "The TV Set" however, "Women's" Carter Webb (Adam Brody) is younger and lower on the food chain. So low in fact that he's stuck writing scripts he doesn't care about until he can get something better.
In the opening scene, Carter is dumped by his actress girlfriend (Elena Anaya). In an effort to rejuvenate he leaves L.A. to clear his head and take care of his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis). While there he meets the Hardwicke family across the street. In no time at all he's taking morning walks with Sarah (Meg Ryan) and offering advice to her daughter Lucy ("Panic Room's" Kristen Stewart).
Carter is a likable guy, and as played by Brody, he can't not be. As he proved during his years as Seth Cohen he's an extremely talented actor and his comic timing is impeccable. The written lines are funny on their own but he brings something extra to them that very few actors could. Still, it seems strange that Sarah and Lucy are so instantly comfortable with this stranger that they feel that they can share their deepest secrets with him. I could buy it after awhile, but within days of his arrival just doesn't make much sense.
Kasdan's script is far from perfect, but it is interesting and bright enough that he shows a lot of promise. He also assembled the right group of actors. Brody is funny without simply re-treading Seth, Ryan is terrific and heartbreakingly vulnerable as Sarah battles against cancer, and Stewart does a fine job as Lucy. While "Women" does take a few predictable turns, it is very much worth watching for the performances and for the film introduction of Jonathan Kasdan. He's pretty good but he's going to get better. 7/10

Fracture- Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is being cheated on. His wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz of "Army of Darkness") and hostage negotiator Rob Nunnally (Billy Burke) are having an affair. Jennifer and Rob make a point of not knowing each other's real names, simply referring to each other as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but Ted knows all about them. One night as she arrives home, she finds Ted waiting for her. Ted toys with her a moment and then shoots her in the head. When the police arrive, along with an unsuspecting Rob, Ted is all too eager to confess that he shot Jennifer. Even so, Ted has found a way to cover his tracks.
Meanwhile, young district attorney Willy Beachum ("Half Nelson's" Ryan Gosling) is about to leave the D.A.'s office for a high paying job with a major firm. Willy doesn't like to lose and he feels good about prosecuting Ted as his final case as a D.A. After all, Ted has chosen himself as his own legal counsel. While Willy believes that this is quite literally an open and shut case, Ted has enough tricks up his sleeve to impress Hannibal Lecter.
"Fracture" is a film full of surprises and for awhile the screenplay by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers works. Whether somebody could actually pull off what Ted does or not, it comes off plausibly, and Beachum is an interesting character, brought to life terrifically by Gosling. Still, Ted is never developed in a satisfying enough way. Hopkins is deliciously evil as only he can be, but I think there's a truly classic character in there if only he were developed further by the script or by director Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear").
This is a pretty enjoyable movie until it does something so ridiculous that it almost ruins the whole thing. I won't give it away, but you'll know it when you see it. I wanted to shout at the screen, "THAT WOULDN'T HAPPEN!" The reason this almost ruins the entire movie is that the last act is dependent on that happening. There was a way they could have made that work, but the way it was done just undoes the good will that had been established. A stupid ending to a pretty smart movie. 6/10

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The TV Set

Anyone who has read this page regularly knows how I feel about the state of television, so I'll spare you another rant about greatness being axed to make way for puerile trash. I love TV, I just tend to love shows that are destined to get canceled.
Writer-director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence) is familiar with the harsh world of network television. He worked on such wonderful series as "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" only to see NBC and Fox respectively pull the plugs. So it was no doubt cathartic for him to make his satire of the industry, "The TV Set."
Mike Klein (a paunchy David Duchovny) is very close to having his pilot script for "The Wexler Chronicles" optioned by the Panda Network. Studio suit Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) loves the script. It's original, but "frankly, original scares me a little bit." First, she wants to cast over the top scenery chewer, Zach Harper (Fran Kranz) in the title role, while Mike wants the more subtle and appropriate T.J. Goldman (Simon Helberg). Then there's a little problem with the story. The main character's older brother has committed suicide, which as Mike sees it "is the premise for everything that happens," but Lenny suggests to him that "suicide is depressing to like 82 percent of everybody." This isn't her saying this, mind you, this was found through thorough research. Mike's one ally is Richard McAllister ("Amazing Grace's" Ioan Gruffudd), just brought over from the BBC to give the Panda "that class thing," as Lenny puts it. Richard wants to help Mike keep his vision for "The Wexler Chronicles" but in no time at all both are making little compromises that eventually add up to big changes.
"The TV Set" is a very funny satire that is not as insider as some reviewers would have you believe. If anything it exposes the world of television in a way that people with little or no knowledge of TV can enjoy. I can't claim to know the truth about the way shows are chosen, but is it really that difficult to imagine that real network executives make their decisions based on the recommendations of their 14 year old daughter, even if the show is aimed at adults? The Panda's biggest hit, "Slut Wars" is sadly probably going to be a real show within the next couple of years and it will probably be a huge hit. Meanwhile, focus groups and mall surveys will continue to turn a great script into a mediocre show.
This is a film that does for the television industry what last year's "For Your Consideration" did for the movie industry. It shows the whole process from start to finish, the compromises made along the way, and the toll it takes on those who make them. Unlike "Consideration" though, we see the reasons these compromises are made in a realistic way. It is often very uncomfortable to watch (but in the good, cringing through laughter kind of way), particularly whenever Weaver's Lenny is on screen. Anyone who's seen TV lately knows that Lenny exists and is the reason that it is in such a sad state of affairs. It's more great work from Weaver. Duchovny is perfect in the lead, delivering what is probably his best film performance. His Klein is a good writer and cares about the quality of his show, which makes it all the more painful to see him make the little compromises along the way. Gruffudd is terrific as well. He genuinely wants to make good television, but he's realizing that the Panda is a long way from the BBC, and Los Angeles is a long way from anywhere. His wife (Lucy Davis of BBC's "The Office") cannot stand the place.
Judy Greer and Lindsay Sloane are very funny as well, but the performance of the film actually belongs to the unknown Fran Kranz as Zach. Through Kranz we see Zach as a man who actually does have talent but is afraid that if he isn't "big" enough that people won't like him. He's the most interesting character in a movie filled with them.
"The TV Set" is playing in limited release. It's hard to find but well worth seeking out. In Seattle it plays at the Uptown 3. Also, don't leave immediately once the end credits begin. A great scene awaits you. 8.5/10

Monday, April 23, 2007

The "Lawrence" Experience

Sometimes, when you're not standing in a puddle with torrents of rain falling down around you, and you're not surrounded by what Justin refers to as "armchair philosophers," Seattle can be a pretty great town.
One of the perks of living here is the assortment of movie film houses, the grandest of which being the Cinerama. Yes, they rarely use the gigantic curved screen anymore and to hear people like Craig tell it, it's a shell of its former self, but if it's a shell, it's still pretty amazing. Especially when you get to see "Lawrence of Arabia" in 70MM. And especially when Craig knows, well, everyone, and you get to see it for free. Plus, Justin, Brandon, and I got a chance to hop into the booth there and see the first 8 reels (everything before the intermission) spooled up. For those of you who aren't like me and don't speak movie geek, 8 reels of 70MM (millimeter) film is absolutely enormous. 70 MM is a process that just isn't used anymore, which is a shame since it is twice the resolution of the 35MM prints we see on movie screens all the time.
It wasn't a packed house on Sunday, but it was a pretty good sized audience, especially considering that the Cinerama barely advertised this. I'd only ever seen "Lawrence" on DVD and while it is still a great movie that way, the small screen just does not capture the majesty of David Lean's masterpiece. You have to see it big, in 70MM. The vastness of the desert, Omar Sharif starting out as a tiny speck on the horizon as he slowly rides toward us. The detail is nothing short of staggering.
"Lawrence" is not an action spectacular and it does not move at break neck pace. David Lean didn't have short attention spans in mind. It is steadily-paced and probably the most assured movie I've ever seen. It's not like anything else. "Lawrence" isn't conventional in any way. It is a movie to take in rather than merely watch. The screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson is clever and offers Peter O'Toole the chance to deliver one of the greatest, if not the greatest, performance in motion picture history. The transformation of Lawrence over the course of the film makes Lean's sweeping epic an intimate character study. Made in 1962, "Lawrence of Arabia" is still a masterpiece and absolutely one of a kind.
After the movie in one of life's little coincidences, we stopped by a record store and what do I find but the vinyl album of Maurice Jarre's famed score. For 99 cents. The package was in terrible shape but the record looked perfect. Cool!
If you weren't able to make it yesterday you have three more chances to catch it at the Cinerama:
Tuesday the 24th at 7:15 PM
Sunday the 29th at 12:15 PM
Tuesday May 1st at 7:15 PM

It also plays tonight at the Ken Cinema in San Diego apparently. Not sure if they're running it in 70 or 35, but if you live down there you should check it out on the big screen. Trust me. "It's going to be fun."

Friday, April 20, 2007


In 2004, co-writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (already known in the UK for their TV series "Spaced") burst onto American movie screens with the single greatest romantic zombie comedy ever made, "Shaun of the Dead." What made "Shaun" work so well was that it worked as a romantic comedy, a buddy comedy, a zombie movie, and a satire of genre conventions, instead of being a lame parody ("Scary Movie 17"). Now three years later, Pegg and Wright re-team to satirize and celebrate overblown action films and the result is the most fun you will have in a movie theater for a long time to come. Forget "Spider-Man," forget "Pirates," it's all about "Hot Fuzz."
"Fuzz" opens with overachieving London cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) being reassigned to the quaint little village of Sandford. The reason: His arrest record is 400 percent higher than anyone else in the service and as his chief inspector (Bill Nighy in a hilarious cameo) informs him, he's "been making the rest of us look bad." Martin Freeman (Tim from the UK "Office") and Steve Coogan also appear in this scene, assembling four of the best comic actors Britain, or any country, has to offer.
Upon arriving in Sandford, Nicholas is depressed and bored, but it doesn't take him long to realize that something is amiss in this quiet town. It is at this point that "Hot Fuzz" becomes a mystery in the vein of "The Wicker Man" (I'm talking about the original good one now, not the vomit inducing re-make from last summer). Bodies start to pile up and while Nicholas sees murder, everyone else in the town just sees a series of accidents. In fact the only person willing to follow Nicholas is the doughy son of the town police chief, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, who played Ed in "Shaun"). Danny instantly looks up to Nicholas but is surprised to learn things like Nicholas has never "fired two guns whilst jumping through the air" or seen "Bad Boys II." Danny yearns for the excitement of a Michael Bay movie but the low crime rate in Sandford leaves the police with more pressing matters, such as a swan escaping or dealing with a living statue for being annoying. But with "accidents" on the rise Angel is digging where local supermarket king Simon Skinner (played with relish by Timothy Dalton) doesn't want him to.
Like "Shaun," "Hot Fuzz" infuses so many genres that it becomes a totally original film while at the same time being every film it was influenced by. While "Shaun" was more consistently laugh out loud funny, "Fuzz" is actually a better satire, much of the humor being subtle and under the surface (which is very British of them). The jokes are borne out of the characters and the story, not the other way around as is the case with the average parody. Yes, this movie lampoons buddy comedies and action extravaganzas, but it also works as one on its own. References to "Leon" and "Trainspotting" don't call attention to themselves and if you don't catch them it's alright. However, catching references to other movies is a lot of the fun of this one and it's going to take me another viewing or two to spot them all. Pegg and director Wright poke fun, but only because they love those movies so much. Danny actually teaches Nicholas how to "switch off" by watching a DVD double feature of "Point Break" and Bad Boys II." When Nicholas sees the action and gun play in those movies however his first thought is still, "There's gonna be a lot of paperwork."
Much of "Hot Fuzz" is a murder mystery and the action doesn't really kick in until the last half hour or so, but once it does it becomes an all-out frenzy in which Angel goes Dirty Harry times ten. It is a violent, bloody, and hilarious piece of directing by Wright, who has become even sharper than he was on "Shaun."
As it squeaks past the two hour mark, "Hot Fuzz" may seem a little long for a comedy. Yes there is too much of everything in this movie, but the movies it's satirizing have too much of everything, so it works.
So go see the best action buddy murder mystery slasher cop parody satire comedy ever made. If you don't I'm going to send the fuzz after you! 10/10

Monday, April 16, 2007


So I watched the first three episodes (all of which I think are available on myspace), and it's actually pretty cool. When I first saw commercials for it I didn't expect much from it but then I saw that Nathan Fillion was on it (Mal from "Firefly") and in the words of Pootie Tang, "I can't say danayno."
The premise of "Drive" (co-created by former "Firefly" writer Tim Minear and Ben Queen) centers on an illegal cross country road race set up by an unknown group of people (the blue hands? :)) who entice some with the promise of $32 million and coerce others into it by kidnapping someone close to them. It's pretty interesting to watch it unfold. Charles Martin Smith (Terry the Toad in "American Graffitti") plays the man who communicates to the contestants for the powers that be. The car scenes vary. Some are cool, others are obviously (and painfully) CGI. What makes this show work though is the mystery and the characters, something you wouldn't expect from a show centered around fast cars. Fillion especially is outstanding.
Be warned however. "Drive" is good and it's on Fox. It's not going to last long.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, and...MEATWAD!

It's true that there are a lot of awful movies out there, but the truth is that there are always plenty of varied options out there that are worth your time if you know where to look. Whether you're in the mood for a film about an obscure but fascinating piece of history, or a movie spun off of a TV series featuring a box of French fries, a milk shake, and a childish ball of meat who must stop an evil piece of ancient exercise equipment, you have choices.

The Hoax- In 1971 unpublished author Clifford Irving was a desperate man. Staying at a hotel one night, he is abruptly kicked out, along with hundreds of others to make room for one man: Leonardo DiCap- er, Howard Hughes. "That's power," Irving realizes, and with that the seed is planted for the great elaborate scam that was to follow. Irving (Richard Gere), with the aide of his best friend Dick Susskind (the always great Alfred Molina) and wife Edith ("Mystic River's" Marcia Gay Harden), cooks up a plan to write the autobiography of Hughes. I knew nothing of the true story prior to seeing this movie but it's told in such an entertaining way that it doesn't matter. Based on Irving's own re-telling of these events, screenwriter William Wheeler and director Lasse Hallstrom ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape"), give us a film that's a lot of fun, and like Irving himself, is light on its feet.
Gere is note perfect as Irving, a man who convincingly lies with the showmanship of a magician. The trouble he gets himself into and subsequently out of is proof of a master storyteller.
What's so fascinating about this story is that Irving and Susskind were able to sustain the lie for as long as they did. It was a remarkably long time before Hughes came out to tell the world (in what would be his final public appearance, by phone) that he had no idea who Clifford Irving was. If "The Hoax" had not been based on a true story it would be written off as not being believable. As it is though, it is a terrific and lively look at one of the greatest cons (and con artists) that almost worked. It also features great supporting performances from Hope Davis ("American Splendor") and Julie Delpy ("Before Sunset"). Oliver Stapleton's cinematography deserves special mention as well. 8.5/10

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters- In 2000, Cartoon Network's popular Adult Swim line-up introduced what was to become perhaps its tent pole title, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." The concept, which is displayed in the first episode, involved Frylock (a brilliant talking box of fries), Master Shake (a lazy, snarky milk shake), and Meatwad (a dumb yet lovable meat ball who's never happier than when he hears "a good beat"), fighting crime and solving mysteries. Somewhere between the first and second episode it was determined by its creators, Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, that a crime fighting show just wasn't that interesting. I can just see them sitting around and one saying to the other, "Ummm...let's not do that anymore."
"Yeah, no. Let's just have 'em like...hang out and stuff. And we can have some aliens maybe and umm,...yeah."
"Whatever. Yeah. Yeah, that sounds alright... Sooo, you wanna go to Taco Bell?"
"ATHF" went on to become a bizarre, ridiculous, thoroughly nonsensical, and absolutely hilarious show, introducing us to Plutonians, Mooninites (ya know, the guys who recently terrorized Boston), a mummy who just wants to be hugged, a depressed doll with "action bills," the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Future From the Past, and of course, their long suffering human neighbor Carl. The concern with "Colon" was would the formula of a meandering TV show with an average running time of 12 minutes be able to sustain a nearly 90 minute long movie film. The answer is surprisingly, it actually sort of does.
I will say if you've never watched the show then you're not going to get this movie. As it is it took me about two or three episodes to get on "Aqua Teen's" wavelength. It's very much a movie made for fans. It sports quite possibly the strangest plot of this, or any, decade, in which the Aqua Teens must stop a piece of evil exercise equipment from "turning the world as we know it into a world as we never imagined it." We are also given the origin story, about six or seven of them actually, each making less sense than the last. But no one ever watched "Aqua Teen" for coherence. Like "Reno 911!: Miami," the movie is less consistent than the show it spawned from, but also like "Miami," "Colon" works often enough that fans will have a great time. Besides, it has Bruce Campbell as Chicken Bittle, and that's really all one can ask of a movie.
Also, DO NOT be late. The funniest moment of the entire movie is at the very beginning. It features none of the characters we know and begins as a "Let's all go to the lobby"-style song and dance number. It is a crazy, screamingly funny warning to get the audience to shut up. It made me wish that it could run at the front of every movie. "YOUR MONEY IS OURRRR MONEY!!!" 7/10

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"It's going to be fun."

Sunday, April 22 at 12:15 PM. One of my all-time favorite movies, "Lawrence of Arabia" at the Cinerama (Seattle) in 70MM.
Meet Bob in person! :0

These look so awesome!

Monday, April 09, 2007

I Hate TV Networks

Why do I even bother? Every show I like gets canceled. This from Big Yella Joint:

NBC Cancels Andy Barker, P.I.
Source: Variety
April 9, 2007

NBC has pulled Conan O'Brien's critically adored midseason comedy "Andy Barker, P.I." from its Thursday slot effective immediately. It will be replaced by "Scrubs," which had been set to inherit the 9:30 p.m. timeslot April 19.

NBC has been streaming and selling all six produced episodes of "Andy" for several weeks now. This week it will also air the skein's final two episodes in network TV's death slot, Saturday from 8 to 9.

O'Brien, Jonathan Groff, Jeff Ross and David Kissinger executive produced "Andy," which starred Andy Richter as a CPA-turned-private eye.


It was funny while it lasted.

Get More From Life- Go Out To a Movie!

Heed those words, as they will serve you well! "Grindhouse," the highly publicized double feature event from Robert Rodriguez ("Sin City," "Once Upon a Time in Mexico") and Quentin Tarantino is three plus hours of movie-going bliss. I say that as a movie nerd, but I can't pretend that I know the films that Rodriguez and Tarantino are paying tribute to here. I know of them, the low budget, high carnage films that played very briefly in movie houses during the seventies. There would be a very small number of prints made and as they would travel from town to town, they would become scratched and torn and occasionally lose reels along the way. I only know this from the stories of those who witnessed these pulpy pieces of cinema. People like Rodriguez and Tarantino. About the only grindhouse style movie I've seen that comes to mind is 1976's "The Human Tornado," the wonderfully over the top sequel to "Dolemite" (which I have still not seen). And while I (along with the vast majority of the audience) have no point of reference when it comes to the grindhouse experience (the little grubby theaters they were shown in), the film most definitely succeeds in making us wish that we had.
After the real trailers we are taken into the first fake trailer, Robert Rodriguez's "Machete," starring Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin. It is a hilarious and bloody mess, and the perfect way to start out our night out at the movies. This is immediately followed by Rodriguez's 90 minute long zombie feature, "Planet Terror." It's thoroughly disgusting, violent, out of control, and an absolute blast from start to finish. Rose McGowan stars as Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer who wants to become a stand-up comedian. Over the course of the evening however, Cherry's dreams of being a stand-up anything become considerably less likely. You see her left leg is ripped from her by a horde of hungry zombies. It's a good while before her man Wray (Freddy Rodriguez in certified badass mode) is able to replace it with the machine gun that everyone knows from the posters and trailers but the whole movie is so much fun that you don't mind. Everything works wonderfully here. The celebrity cameos, the one-liners, the filth, and the fury. What really makes "Planet Terror" great in the end though is the look of it. Rodriguez really goes all out in making the film look as scratched and beaten up as possible. A reel even goes missing at one point, and when the next one starts up, clearly a whole lot has happened. You can almost imagine this being the last time that this print will be playable before it completely deteriorates. I don't want to give away anymore so as not to spoil the fun. That's what "Planet Terror" is all about. After this comes the intermission. This is not however a "Lawrence of Arabia," "2001" style "you can stretch your legs, go to the bathroom and not miss anything" intermission. It's fake trailer time again!
This is where "Grindhouse" is at its best, is during the break between the two features. Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the SS," starring Udo Keir and Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu is thoroughly tasteless and terrific. Edgar Wright's ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz") "Don't" may be the funniest of these trailers. I won't even bother trying to describe it because no description could possibly do it justice. It just has to be witnessed. Or maybe I should say, "''T!" Then Eli Roth ("Cabin Fever") gives us a horror film set on a holiday that the genre has overlooked, "Thanksgiving." "White meat, dark meat," the narrator intones. "All will be carved." There are also some wonderful little advertisements throughout this segment that really enhance the overall experience.
After this it's time for the second feature, Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof." I've always been a big fan of Tarantino-speak. The unique language of his characters has always been the best part of his films, and the reason we become so invested in his characters and situations. This is why "Death Proof" is somewhat of a disappointment. If your bladder can't sustain "Grindhouse's" running time then I suggest making your mad dash to the bathroom about 10 minutes into this one. "The girls" as they're described in the opening credits just aren't likable. I don't know if it's the dialogue itself, which feels oddly re-heated from QT's previous stuff, the performances of the actors (most notably Sydney Poitier, the daughter of Sidney Poitier), or that the characters were just unlikable, but for whatever reason, "Death Proof" doesn't really pick up until the introduction of Stuntman Mike (the outstanding Kurt Russell). (Stuntman Mike claims that his brother got him into the business. A guy named, Stuntman Bob. For my brother and I that's very funny, for obvious reasons.) Right off we can see the slight menace of this film stunt driver, even if the women he meets can't. It is a gleefully scary performance from Russell, and I actually kind of found myself rooting for him while he terrorized the first group of girls. The second group, led by Rosario Dawson and professional stunt woman Zoe Bell, are more interesting and a little bit more likable. Some of the dialogue still doesn't quite work, but a lot more of it does than it did in "Death Proof's" first half. The fact that Bell's character and Kim (Tracie Thoms) are supposed to be stunt people sets up an incredible final half hour with a car chase that goes well beyond exhilarating. By the time we get to this point we are rooting for the women now because hey, we like these people a lot more. It should be noted that Zoe Bell did all of her own stunt work in this amazing action sequence. Incredible work!
Tarantino's film is mostly devoid of the pops and hisses that "Planet Terror" had. There are some early on, but once we meet the second group of women they become virtually non-existent. Tarantino doesn't want to make a great z-grade movie like Rodriguez, he just wants to make a great movie. While "Death Proof" falls short of that mark on a number of counts, the final sequence, the performance of Russell, and yes, some great dialogue (hey, this is Tarantino after all- there are some genuine pearls) make it a worthy addition to "Grindhouse" and to filmmaking.
Overall, it's Dolemite, baby!

Planet Terror: 9/10
Death Proof: 8/10
Fake Trailers: 10/10

Grindhouse: 9/10

Monday, April 02, 2007

"The Lookout" and "Blades of Glory"

The Lookout- Chris Pratt ("Brick's" Joseph Gordon-Levitt) miraculously survived a terrifying car accident four years ago. In an instant he went from being a high school hockey star on top of the world to being a young man living with the effects of a serious head injury. Chris doesn't have amnesia (which would have been the typical movie thing to do), but he has trouble putting events into sequence. Simple things like opening up a can have become terribly frustrating. His roommate Lewis (the always terrific Jeff Daniels) is a blind man, thus being the only person who treats Chris like a real person. When Chris describes his sequencing problem Lewis simply tells him, "It's like a story. Start at the end and work backwards. You can't tell a story if you don't know where it's goin'."
Writer and first-time director Scott Frank ("Out of Sight," "Minority Report") clearly understands Lewis's view on storytelling. This isn't to say that "The Lookout" unfolds in a "Memento"-like fashion (it is entirely in sequence), but Frank's assuredness of where he's going prevents his film from going into detours or having extraneous scenes. Every moment informs what comes next, and every character decision makes sense. We understand why Chris follows Gary Spargo ("Match Point's" Matthew Goode) even though we immediately know he's trouble. It doesn't hurt that Gary sets Chris up with Luvlee ("Wedding Crashers'" Isla Fisher) as Gary gradually brings him in on his plan to rob the bank where Chris works as the night janitor. Chris is understandably against taking part in this, but of course Gary knew that would happen and knows exactly which buttons to push to get Chris on board with the simplest, yet "most important" job of all, that of the lookout (I mean...why else would they call it that?).
"The Lookout" is sleek, entertaining, and incredibly cool without the cool calling attention to itself (this isn't the first half of "Lucky Number Slevin"). It didn't do very well at the box-office this weekend and will certainly be gone from theaters quickly. But do yourself a favor and try to catch this one while it's out. Then when it becomes a cult hit on DVD you'll be able to say, "Oh yeah, well I saw it in the theater." (I can say that about "Office Space." Can you?) 8.5/10

Blades of Glory- Some people are snobs. They just are and will never give a movie like "Blades of Glory" a chance simply because it's a "dumb comedy." I am not one of those people. Anyone who takes movies seriously should know that making a dumb comedy work is a fine art. They can recognize the brilliance that lies under the surface of such visibly idiotic movies as "Pootie Tang," "Dodgeball," "Zoolander," and "Dumb and Dumber." One of the great artists of our time when it comes to this is Will Ferrell. If you disagree with that statement (or any of the ones I just made really) then you're not going to get anything out of "Blades of Glory." If however you appreciate Ferrell or just a well-made dumb comedy in general then you need to check this movie out.
Ferrell stars as the bad boy of men's figure skating, Chazz Michael Michaels, an uncouth drunken slob, and the ultimate ladies' man (something that doesn't exactly go hand-in-hand with men's figure skating). His routine is improvisational and markedly different from that of his rival, Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), a sensitive young man who's routine is so artful that he even skates with a dove in his hand. Upon tying for Olympic Gold (the Olympics are called the Winter Sport Games here, presumably because the Olympic committee is comprised of well, snobs), they break out into a battle royale on the medal's stand which leads to the brilliant gag that was all over the trailers in which a mascot is set on fire. (Just like the wrench throwing scene on "Dodgeball" it's somehow even funnier in the context of the movie even though we've seen it numerous times already.)
They are immediately banned from ever taking part in men's figure skating again and we meet them again three and a half years later, each of their lives in a complete state of disarray. An obsessive fan of Jimmy's however ("Art School Confidential's" Nick Swardson) finds the loophole that will change Jimmy and Chazz's lives. They can compete in pairs. With the help of Jimmy's old coach (Craig T. Nelson credited only as "Coach"), the two of them reluctantly agree to take part simply because both realize it's the only chance either of them has to return to glory. This is the set up for many great comic opportunities that the screenwriters and co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck take full advantage of. Not every joke works, but enough of them do and come at such a rapid pace that we have no time to focus on the ones that don't.
Ferrell is at his finest as Michaels and fans of his will "drink it in." Heder isn't a great actor (Napoleon aside) but in the right role he is very likable and funny, as is certainly the case here. The real standouts in the cast though are Amy Poehler and Will Arnett (Gob on "Arrested Development"), the real life husband and wife who play a brother and sister skating pair, the Van Waldenberg's. In one of the film's great comic touches we learn of the tragedy they had to overcome to become champions, because as anyone who watches the Olympics knows, every athlete who gets there had a family member get eaten by a bear or something. Arnett and Poehler are absolutely brilliant as the evil twins who will do anything to destroy Michaels and MacElroy. Jenna Fischer (Pam of "The Office") co-stars as their sister whom they guilt into spying on MacElroy. It turns out the two make a great couple. Heder and Fischer are cute and awkward together, making for some very funny scenes.
"Blades of Glory" also features a hilarious and imaginative chase scene (Ferrell and especially Arnett get a chance to show off their prowess as physical comedians) and some truly great costumes that should (but won't) be remembered come Oscar time. This is after all, just a "dumb comedy." 7.5/10

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Fight Club 2" to Take Shape!

From Movie Shiznit Magazine: Twentieth Century Fox announced this morning that it would be re-teaming Brad Pitt and Edward Norton for a sequel to the ultra-popular 1999 film "Fight Club." The film, scripted by "Fight Club" novelist Chuck Palahniuk would pick up in the present day with Norton's character "Jack" and Marla Singer (this time played by Keira Knightley) living in Vermont, hiding away from Project Mayhem, who now control the world's governments. Tyler Durden (again played by Pitt) will return to haunt "Jack." In an exchange directly from the newly finished script we find out some hard hitting truth.
Jack: What-what are you doing here? I thought I'd killed you.
Tyler: Well guess what, IKEA boy. I'm right here.
Jack: What have you done? Where's Marla?
Tyler: The question you should be asking yourself is...who's Marla?
Jack: Wait, what are you-what are you talking about?
Tyler: You still fall asleep for days at a time, and guess where she is.
Jack: No.
Tyler: Yes. More and more you've let yourself become...Marla Singer.

In an interesting move, Fox has decided not to hire first flick helmer David Fincher and instead hand the reins to "Die Hard 2" and "The Covenant's" Renny Harlin. In a written statement, producer Art Linson explained, "We feel that Renny can bring the much needed edge to this franchise that it was sorely lacking with Mr. Fincher." The whirlwind production is set to begin within the month with a projected release date of Christmas 2007.