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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Fido" Review From SIFF!

As I have said before, the Seattle International Film Festival is a beast. A behemoth of dare I say, too many good movies. Every year I want to get to several of the films offered so it's hard to believe that I had only ever been three times. Fortunately for me though, they were all three incredible movie-going experiences. A 70MM print of 1967's "Playtime" at the Cinerama in 2004, and last year "Snow Cake" and "OSS 117" both at the Neptune. Last night I made my fourth ever trip to SIFF and once again I have seen a truly great movie. Justin, Drew, and I joined a packed house at the Neptune to see Andrew Currie's Canadian zombie comedy, "Fido."
While the idea of zombie comedy is not new ("Dead Alive" and "Shaun of the Dead" being the "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca" of the genre), "Fido's" style and concept set it apart from the pack of lame zomedy attempts of the past few years. Finally a film worthy of mentioning in the same breath as "DA" and "Shaun."
"Fido" opens showing us a 1950s style educational film about the zombie war and humanity's triumph over the zombie outbreak. We see that standard George Romero rules apply. The dead rise and become zombies and feed on the living to create more. The only way to finish off a zombie is to remove the head or destroy the brain. After the war was won and the outbreak had gotten under control, Zomcon created an electric collar to make zombies docile so that they could "be productive members of society, even after they're dead." As the short ends we see it really is the fifties and a classroom full of kids is hearing about the wonders of Zomcon from their top man Mr. Bottoms ("Clear and Present Danger's" Henry Czerny). "Without Zomcon we'd all be dead. And then where would we be?" he asks the class of wide-eyed kids. The only skeptic in the room is Timmy Robinson (K'Sun Ray), a kid bullied by his classmates, and kept at a distance by his dad Bill (Dylan Baker). His mother Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss) feels embarrassed that they're the only family on the block without a zombie, so she brings one home, officially adopting it from Zomcon. Bill, who once had the traumatic experience of killing his zombie father, is less than thrilled about this. Timmy isn't fond of the zombie either, until he rescues him from his tormentors at the park.
Through Billy Connolly's wordless performance we come to love the zombie as much as little Timmy does. Fido, as Timmy comes to call him, is a killing machine when his collar comes off, but it's not his fault. Eating people is just his nature. When Fido eats evil old Mrs. Henderson Timmy knows in order to keep Zomcon from taking Fido away and killing him is to clean Fido up and bury what's left of Mrs. Henderson in the park.
What really sells Fido is the way in which the characters look, speak, and behave like 1950s stereotypes. It is a world where having a zombie (or possibly several zombies if you're well to do) is the norm. Only neighbor Mr. Theopolis ("O Brother Where Art Thou's" Tim Blake Nelson) seems to come from a different time. The early to mid-sixties. We don't want to know what he's up to with his zombie Tammy.
"Fido" is screamingly funny throughout and as I can most definitely attest to, it is a crowd pleaser. It's scheduled for a regular theatrical release in the next few weeks, so keep this one in mind. It's one of the best movies of 2007. Expect Bob Award nominations for this one! 10/10

Here is the "Fido" trailer:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I've Been Busy

Yes, I have. I've got some more stuff to come soon but for now I'll just tell you "The Valet" is very good and very French. Some think the two can't coexist but anyone who's seen "Amelie," "The Grand Illusion," "OSS 117" or knew my Grandma (who was half-French and half-Scottish) knows that the country can't be all bad. Check out "The Valet" if it's playing near you and before it gets a crummy American remake.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yet Another Great Show Gone.

Every once in awhile I proclaim the virtues of "Veronica Mars." Sadly, once again, another show I happen to love gets the ax. It's not exactly shocking, but it still annoys me. I hope the last two episodes this coming Tuesday resolve things. This from the "San Francisco Chronicle":

The CW network canceled the cult hit "Veronica Mars" and will try to pick up steam in its second year with series about the snobby rich, transplanted families and a bounty hunter for the devil.

The network, created out of the ashes of the former WB and UPN, had already ended the long-running family dramas "7th Heaven" and "Gilmore Girls." On Thursday the ax fell on "Veronica Mars," which starred Kristen Bell as a wisecracking teenage private eye.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

3 Reviews

The Flying Scotsman- The inspirational sports drama may actually be the most cliche ridden genre in all of film. It seems that even though all of these films are "inspired by a true story," that the true story is always remarkably the same. Most of them just end up following in the footsteps of "Hoosiers" and pale in comparison to that 1986 film. Understanding this makes you realize just how refreshing "The Flying Scotsman" is. Rather than being a melodramatic look at a stereotypical team that "no one believed in," it's a character study, and it studies a fascinating character.
Graeme Obree ("Trainspotting's" Johnny Lee Miller) learned how to ride a bike as a child to escape his tormentors. When we see him as an adult he's still riding away. We see Obree as a bicycle courier and the owner of a small bicycle repair business, but his true passion, and true talent, lie in racing. Crafting a revolutionary bike of his own design, Obree decides to go for the one hour cycling record. With the support of his wife ("A Knight's Tale's" Laura Fraser) and new business manager Malky (Billy Boyd, who you probably know as Pippin), Obree trains for his dream.
There are a few typical sports movie cliches here, such as the character who will do anything to keep Obree from succeeding. Yes, the character is based on a real man, but his villainy is never explained terribly well. He's a movie character surrounded by real people.
Despite a few missteps, writer-director Douglas Mackinnon keeps his focus (and ours) where it should be. On the long-suffering Obree, who's still scarred from his childhood experiences. Miller is fantastic in the lead here as we see a man who is sympathetic, determined, and always on the edge of breaking down. The rest of the cast is great as well, particularly Brian Cox ("Braveheart," "Rushmore") as a local minister who offers Graeme encouragement and support. Also, kudos to Mackinnon and cinematographer Gavin Finney. The film is beautifully shot and they give the race scenes the energy that is required. This is one sports film "inspired by a true story" that gives us something new. It's in limited release. If you can't find it be sure to give it a rent on DVD. 7.5/10

Everything's Gone Green- Over the last fifteen years or so audiences have become accustomed to Vancouver, British Columbia portraying virtually every city in the world, except for itself. This is where much of the joy of "Everything's Gone Green" comes from. Shot and set in Vancouver, it tells the story of Ryan ("Joey's" Paulo Costanzo), a 29-year old with seemingly no ambition. This lack of drive is what causes his girlfriend to dump him and kick him out of her apartment at the film's beginning. The day goes from bad to worse when he gets put on suspension at his job. The news that his parents just won the lottery turns things around however. That is until they discover that the ticket is for the wrong day.
In spite of this series of events, Ryan's optimism is never really damaged, and he starts writing for "Winners" magazine, which details the lives of lottery winners. It is at this point that Bryce (J.R. Bourne) comes to Ryan with an unsavory, though not illegal, proposal.
The film (written by Douglas Coupland and directed by Paul Fox) is a very funny examination of seemingly everyone's desire to get rich quickly without actually working for it. As Ryan muses at one point, "What's wrong with just being middle-class?" But even he is lured into the world of get-rich-quick.
For being such a low budget affair, "Green" looks wonderful. Fox and cinematographer David Frazee bring Vancouver to life. Seeing the city play itself is a real treat, especially for someone who has been up there a number of times and knows what a great looking city it really is. What really raises this film to another level though is its acknowledgment of this. Ryan's potential girlfriend, Ming (Steph Song) is a set decorator whose job is to make Vancouver look like Oregon one day and Phoenix the next. We even see "Mars, Texas" (a sly "X-Files" reference) being filmed across the street from Ryan's parents house. Sadly, this movie only played for one week in Seattle and is nearly impossible to find most anywhere. But be sure to check this out on DVD when it comes out. We need more movies like this one. 8.5/10

The Ex- As you all certainly know, "Arrested Development" and "Scrubs" are two of my favorite TV series ever. So when I heard that Zach Braff and Jason Bateman would be playing adversaries in a movie, I was pretty darn excited.
"The Ex" tells the tale of Tom Reilly (Braff) and his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet). Tom gets fired from his job as a New York City chef mere hours before Sofia gives birth to their first child. They take this as a sign that they are supposed to get out of New York and move to Ohio, where Tom can get a job from Sofia's father (Charles Grodin). The company is an advertising agency called Sunburst, one of those goofy sorts of places where there are no offices, employees ride around on segues, and everyone looks a lot happier than they really are. This is where Tom meets Chip Sanders (Bateman), a wheel chair bound ex-flame of Sofia's. A battle of wills ensues.
The cast, which also includes Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler, and Amy Adams is what made me want to see "The Ex," but sadly this movie proves that a great cast can't save a movie from a screenplay that needed a couple more drafts and a director with virtually no sense of comic timing. Jesse Peretz just doesn't seem to understand comedy at all. Set-ups which should lead to hilariously uncomfortable payoffs just end up being uncomfortable. I love, LOVE, awkward humor, but too much falls flat here. The cast do their best. Bateman and Adams (who's in this all too briefly as a new agey mom) come off particularly well. Bateman's smarmy Chip deserves a better movie (with some better dialogue) to be in. If you're a big fan of Braff and Bateman like I am, it's good for a few laughs, but there aren't nearly enough of them. Skip this and pop in your DVDs of "Arrested Development" and "Scrubs" (which has been officially renewed for one more season!) instead. 5/10

Finally, if you see only one movie that's currently in theaters, make it "Hot Fuzz." It just gets better and better every time I see it. Cinematic bliss!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

"Casablanca": Rated R

I cannot BELIEVE this! From IMDB: Smoke in Movies -- Get an "R"
In a rare alteration of its movie ratings system, the MPAA said on Thursday that the panel that assesses Hollywood movies will begin considering "depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context." Until now, the subjects that movie raters have primarily considered are violence, language, nudity, and drugs. In a statement, MPAA CEO Dan Glickman said, "There is broad awareness of smoking as a unique public health concern due to nicotine's highly addictive nature, and no parent wants their child to take up the habit. ... The appropriate response of the rating system is to give more information to parents on this issue."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

28 Weeks Later

In 2003 Danny Boyle reinvigorated the horror genre by giving us the anti-zombie. "28 Days Later" featured the "infected living" as opposed to the undead we had seen in George Romero's "[Blank] of the Dead" movies. The infected were overcome with rage, killing all they came into contact with in exceedingly violent ways. The film set in Britain introduced us to Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow on "Batman Begins") and was just, ya know, like cool and stuff.
"28 Weeks Later" (directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) picks up after the last of the infected are believed to have died. Britain is being rebuilt and patrolled by the U.S. military. Meanwhile, Don ("Trainspotting's" Robert Carlyle) is being reunited with his children. The opening sequence sees Don escaping a horde of the infected back at the beginning of the outbreak, leaving his wife ("Braveheart's" Catherine McCormack) behind. Don tells the kids that there was nothing he could have done and that she had died. Well Don is in for a surprise!
"28 Weeks Later" has very little in the way of character or story development. It's pretty much a series of escapes and massacres, but it's as fast moving as any movie I've seen in a long time. There are some really outstanding sequences, including a great one involving helicopter blades that recalls the original "Dawn of the Dead" and the recent "Grindhouse." Fresnadillo's film is thoroughly watchable but it never quite connects the way it should. It doesn't really develop the story further than the first movie did, which spent a lot more time on character and the way the outbreak had effected the survivors. It's worth watching but it just feels a bit empty ultimately. 6.5/10

Still to come... "The Flying Scotsman" and "Everything's Gone Green." I also plan to see "The Ex" very soon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spider-Man 3 (I finally got around to writing it)

Why are the mechanic from "Wings," the son from "That 70s Show," and Daniel from "Freaks and Geeks" all trying to kill that kid from "Pleasantville"? Because "Spider-Man 3" has a lot going on, that's why. With the contracts of director Sam Raimi, and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst running out after this outing, Raimi decided that it was kitchen sink time.
By now you've either already seen this movie or you've made up your mind whether you're going to or not, regardless of what anyone else says, so I'll try to keep the plot explanation brief. Try is the operative word. As I said, there is a lot going on in this movie.
"Spider-Man 3" opens with Peter Parker (Maguire) feeling pretty great about life. The whole world loves Spider-Man, he's doing well in school, and he finally has Mary Jane Watson (Dunst) all to himself. But it doesn't take long for Harry Osborn (James Franco) to take the Green Goblin mantle from his father and start causing trouble for Peter and Spider-Man. After a pretty wild aerial battle, Harry is knocked unconscious. He awakes in the hospital to see Peter and Mary Jane with no memory of recent events. It's as if he'd never harbored a grudge against Peter for believing that he'd killed his father, Norman Osborn.
Meanwhile, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) has just escaped from prison and while on the run he falls into a giant pit of sand that just happens to be getting experimented on. Before you can say "instant superpowers" Marko's molecules are restructured, making him the Sandman. Also turns out that Marko is actually the man who killed Uncle Ben, not the thief we saw in the first film.
Then there's the black substance that attaches itself to Peter and gives birth to Venom, unleashing Peter's dark side. Plus, Peter and Mary Jane have their problems and blah blah blah. (I think I did that pretty quick actually.)
None of these story lines are bad. In fact they're all quite interesting. And if only a couple of them (not to mention a villain or two) were cut out all together, this would have trumped the first two Spidey films. Once we get into one story line it's dropped for more than a whole reel in favor of another. I liked seeing the ups and downs of the Harry-Peter friendship over the course of the trilogy and wish that that had been given more attention in this film. At the same time, Venom isn't given nearly the attention that he should. Topher Grace does just fine as Eddie Brock, but he doesn't get to do much with Venom. I've never really read the comic books, but for those who do, Venom is a big deal. Even I felt cheated. Throw in Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a bizarre sequence in a jazz club (it's so strange that it just kind of works) and you've got yourself one bloated blockbuster.
All in all I had a good time with this movie and so will you, but it's over-villained and everyone and everything are short changed as a result. The movie's best moment is, you guessed it, the scene with Bruce Campbell. If you know nothing about it, I won't give it away. I will say it makes me want to go to a French restaurant. 6/10