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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Balls of Fury

As anyone who read my review of "Hot Rod," or checked out my all-time top 50 which includes "Pootie Tang" (and is located directly below this post- CHECK IT OUT!) knows, I love me a good dumb comedy. Sure most dumb comedies are garbage, but the good ones (i.e., "Dodgeball," "Blades of Glory," "Dumb and Dumber") are sources of never ending joy for me. So I went into "Balls of Fury" with great hope. After all it was written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant of "Reno 911!," one of the funniest shows on television in recent years. It's got a ridiculous premise that sounded funny to me. A former ping-pong star who's fallen from grace is working for the FBI to infiltrate the world of illegal underground table tennis. Should be a good time, right?
"Balls" starts out funny enough (at least the first scene or two). Twelve year-old ping-pong prodigy Randy Daytona is destined for gold at the 1988 summer Olympics. Unfortunately he's going head to head with the uber-intense East German Karl Wolfschtagg (Lennon). Feeling the pressure from his father (Robert Patrick), Randy loses and embarrasses himself in front of the whole world. His father is then killed by the order of a man named Feng.
In the present, Randy (Dan Fogler) is a Vegas lounge act, that is until he is fired for accidentally giving a crowd member a heart attack. He is immediately drafted into FBI service by Agent Rodriguez (George Lopez) in order to capture Feng. On his way there he must train with Master Wong (James Hong) and Wong's niece Maggie ("Live Free or Die Hard's" Maggie Q). Once he passes the tests they move into Feng's tournament of death and discover that Feng does not in fact look like "Star Trek's" George Takei. He actually looks just like Christopher Walken.
"Balls of Fury," under the direction of Garant, never manages to take off. A few bits made me chuckle here and there but the only thing that really made me laugh hard was Patton Oswalt's brief appearance. His ode to "The Warriors" is the funniest thing in the movie and almost no one will get it. For the most part the set-ups are not clever or imaginative and the payoffs either lack punch or are going for very cheap laughs (which admittedly did sort of work for me once or twice). As for Walken, enough already with the kooky comedy schtick. It worked really well when we didn't expect it from him, but now it's as if he wants people to forget that he really is a complete actor. As much as I love hearing him say, "I gotta have more cowbell!" I really hope that he is known for more than that. Here he's really just a caricature of the persona he's carved out for himself in recent years.
I couldn't bring myself to hate this movie. Fogler (whom I'd never seen before) is likable and I think given the right script he could carry a comedy. But I couldn't bring myself to like "Balls of Fury" either. Rent "Pootie Tang" instead. 4/10.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Top 50

Yes they're silly and meaningless, but who doesn't love a list? Anyone who's as into movies as I am has certainly made a list of all-time favorites. What this list is is just that. A list of favorites. Anybody can make a list of what they think are the greatest films ever made and many have. It tends to be the same list over and over again with minor variations. It's boring, it's dry, it's been done and I have no interest in repeating that.
I don't consider these to be the be all end all 50 greatest artistic achievements in the history of film. These are movies that effected me personally or which have entertained me endlessly over the years, and in some cases both. "The Godfather" is obviously an outstanding film and a staggering artistic achievement. But "Die Hard" is just more fun, isn't it? Well at least I think so. If you don't then make your own list. And if you do make one that's unique to you. Think of the movies that really effected you and have stuck with you.
There are so many movies that I was surprised didn't make my list. I'm sure if I make this list again a year from now it will look different. I'll have seen more films, new and old, and films I've seen will move up and down, in and out of the list. That's the beauty of this. It's always evolving. So here it is, Bob's Personal Top 50 Favorite Movies as of August 28, 2007.

50. Blue Velvet (US, 1986. Director: David Lynch)
49. Snow Cake (Canada, 2006. Marc Evans)
48. Amadeus (US, 1984. Milos Forman)
47. 2001: A Space Odyssey (UK/US, 1968. Stanley Kubrick)
46. Singin' in the Rain (US, 1952. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly)
45. The Incredibles (US, 2004. Brad Bird)
44. The Lion in Winter (UK, 1968. Anthony Harvey)
43. Batman Begins (US, 2005. Christopher Nolan)
42. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (US, 2005. Shane Black)
41. Punch-Drunk Love (US, 2002. Paul Thomas Anderson)
40. What's Up, Doc? (US, 1972. Peter Bogdanovich)
39. Pootie Tang (US, 2001. Louis CK) (Yes I'm serious. Wadatah!)
38. Duck Soup (US, 1933. Leo McCarey)
37. Army of Darkness (US, 1993. Sam Raimi)
36. Garden State (US, 2004. Zach Braff) (Trash on it all you want, I don't care.)
35. Everything Is Illuminated (US, 2005. Liev Schreiber)
34. Casablanca (US, 1942. Michael Curtiz)
33. Sunset Blvd. (US, 1950. Billy Wilder)
32. Charade (US, 1963. Stanley Donen)
31. The Usual Suspects (US, 1995. Bryan Singer)
30. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (US, 2000. Joel Coen)
29. Dawn of the Dead (US, 1978. George A. Romero)
28. Die Hard (US, 1988. John McTiernan)
27. Glengarry Glen Ross (US, 1992. James Foley)
26. Trainspotting (UK, 1996. Danny Boyle)
25. Almost Famous (US, 2000. Cameron Crowe)
24. American Graffiti (US, 1973. George Lucas)
23. The King of Comedy (US, 1983. Martin Scorsese)
22. This Is Spinal Tap (US, 1984. Rob Reiner)
21. The Royal Tenenbaums (US, 2001. Wes Anderson)
20. Hot Fuzz (UK, 2007. Edgar Wright)
19. Raiders of the Lost Ark (US, 1981. Steven Spielberg)
18. Heat (US, 1995. Michael Mann)
17. L.A. Confidential (US, 1997. Curtis Hanson)
16. The New World (US, 2005. Terrence Malick)
15. Pulp Fiction (US, 1994. Quentin Tarantino)
14. Fargo (US, 1996. Joel Coen)
13. Das Boot (West Germany, 1981. Wolfgang Petersen)
12. Unforgiven (US, 1992. Clint Eastwood)
11. Ed Wood (US, 1994. Tim Burton)
10. A Fish Called Wanda (UK/US, 1988. Charles Crichton)
9. Lawrence of Arabia (UK, 1962. David Lean)
8. Amelie (France, 2001. Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
7. Dr. Strangelove (US/UK, 1964. Stanley Kubrick)
6. Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back (US, 1977 & 1980. George Lucas & Irvin Kershner)
5. Rushmore (US, 1998. Wes Anderson)
4. Network (US, 1976. Sidney Lumet)
3. Magnolia (US, 1999. Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Fight Club (US, 1999. David Fincher)
1. Withnail and I (UK, 1987. Bruce Robinson)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday

A lot of movies came out yesterday but the only one I was actually excited about at all was Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris." Since I wasn't in the mood to drive all the way down to the Harvard Exit to see it last night I figured I would go watch one of the five new wide releases that I didn't particularly care about because hey, it's something to do.
I've enjoyed some Mr. Bean over the years, mostly from his sketches. I saw the film "Bean" about ten years ago and I seem to remember it having its moments but not being anything special. Personally I preferred Rowan Atkinson as the scheming Blackadder, particularly in the WWI comedy (yes, WWI comedy), "Blackadder Goes Forth." It's fun to watch Hugh Laurie play the anti-House in that series as well.
"Mr. Bean's Holiday" is (not surprisingly) essentially a series of sketches held together by an incredibly flimsy plot, which would be fine if the sketches were funny. Most of them however are not. It's only 80 minutes long but stretches of it are pretty boring and unimaginative. Atkinson does his Bean schtick, which is sometimes funny and other times maddening, and other actors such as Willem Dafoe are just sort of there. There are however a few moments of absolute brilliance interspersed, including a very funny reference to Omar Sharif's entrance in "Lawrence of Arabia." The scene works even if you don't get the reference, but I always like my comedy with a side of comedy. Dafoe's character, an egotistical film director, premieres his latest film at Cannes, and the clips we see of his movie, "Playback Time" are easily the funniest thing in "Mr. Bean's Holiday." This is not a terrible film, but the few moments of genius aren't enough to salvage what is mostly a dull time. You're better off sticking with the old "Bean" series or Jacques Tati's "Play Time" to see how this sort of thing is done. 4/10.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Death at a Funeral

Daniel's (Matthew Macfadyen of "Pride and Prejudice") father has just passed away and it is the morning of the funeral. He has a lot on his plate. He's trying to get a new home for he and his girlfriend, he's writing a eulogy, and hoping to convince his jet-setting author brother Robert ("V For Vendetta's" Rupert Graves) to put aside his selfish ways and take care of their mother for awhile. On top of all this the wrong body has just arrived for the service. "We'll go back and get the right one," the man from the funeral home promises.
Other mourners on their way to the funeral include Martha (Daisy Donovan of "Millions") and her nervous boyfriend Simon ("Firefly's" Alan Tudyk). While making a brief stop to pick up her brother Troy("Love Actually's" Kris Marshall), Martha grabs Simon a valium, or so she thinks. There's also Howard (Andy Nyman) and Justin (Ewen Bremner, Spud from "Trainspotting"), bringing along the wheel-chair bound Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan). Once there no one seems to recognize the dwarf in the corner (Peter Dinklage, "The Station Agent" and "Elf"). It turns out that the dwarf's name is Peter and he has photos proving that he and the deceased were more than just good friends. Unless Daniel pays him 15,000 pounds, he's going to go blabbing to everyone in attendance.
"Death at a Funeral" is an old-fashioned British farce, where the comedy is dark and characters run from room to room, hoping that no one else will figure out what's really going on. It's a little slow going at first. Not in the pacing but the comedy itself doesn't quite connect in the first act. Some moments work but the film never really finds its stride until everyone has arrived and then boy does it. First the accidental acid Simon took kicks in (Tudyk, as always, is brilliant) and things just go from bad to worse for everybody. Writer Dean Craig and director Frank Oz ("What About Bob," "Bowfinger," also the man behind Yoda and Miss Piggy) perform the comedy juggling act very well for the final two-thirds of the film. Macfadyen gives a great performance as the straight man, trying to keep things together to little avail and Dinklage and Marshall are both very funny as well. While not everything clicks in "Death at a Funeral" more than enough of it does to make this a very worthwhile film. There is some brutally funny dark comedy here which is always welcome. Just make it through the first half hour and you will be rewarded with a fun afternoon at a funeral. 7.5/10.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

In a time when mockumentaries are popping up left and right (Christopher Guest films, either version of "The Office," "Reno 911!," the upcoming "Chalk") you could be forgiven for thinking that "The King of Kong" was yet another in a long line of these. The people in it are far too funny and painful to watch to be believable. The fact that it is all real is what makes "King of Kong" so mesmerizing.
In 1982 a young man named Billy Mitchell became the all-time record holder on what old school gamers consider to be the most difficult video game to master, "Donkey Kong." No one had gotten anywhere close to breaking this record for over two decades. That is until a man from Renton, Washington (hooray!) named Steve Wiebe (pronounced Wee-bee) decided to step up to the plate, or rather, the arcade machine.
Mitchell is a legend in the gaming community, and his army of cronies includes Walter Day, the founder of Twin Galaxies, which confirms and posts all video game records, and a protege by the name of Brian Kuh. Mitchell and his crew are wary of outsiders, so when Wiebe breaks Mitchell's record and submits the tape of him doing so (which includes his son shouting at him to "stop playing 'Donkey Kong' and clean my poopy!"), the Twin Galaxies people become suspicious. So suspicious that two of their members even wangled their way into Wiebe's house to the objection of his wife. After taking apart his machine they arbitrarily decide that Wiebe's record shouldn't count because it didn't occur live in an arcade. The rest of the film is about Wiebe's attempts to re-break Mitchell's record and Mitchell's devious attempts to keep it.
Director Seth Gordon clearly has chosen a side here and it's easy to see why. Wiebe is a good kind man who loves his wife and children. He's had a lot of hard luck in his life and we can see that his pursuit of the record has nothing to do with "Donkey Kong." He needs to prove to himself that he can be a winner, something that eluded him in high school sports. Mitchell is clearly the villain, embarrassing himself (as does his little flunky Kuh) repeatedly on camera. At first we laugh at his ridiculousness which finally gives way to genuine anger. This is an awful human being. This makes the already likable Wiebe that much easier to root for.
Characters this fascinating and well-rounded are hard to come by and I have a hard time believing they could have been invented so richly. It is often hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking. "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" is one of the best films I have seen all year and maybe the best documentary I've ever seen. It's in very limited release right now but if you can make it you will not be disappointed. It's playing in Seattle at the Varsity Theater. 10/10.
Here's the trailer for "King of Kong":

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Year (thus far) in review.

As we head towards the fall the time comes for studios and indies alike to serve up the most high-minded fare they've got. I am of course speaking specifically about "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "The Comebacks." Two of the worst looking trailers I've seen in years aside, there are many films coming out gunning for Oscar gold. Some look amazing ("The Darjeeling Limited," "No Country For Old Men," "There Will Be Blood"), while I'm wary of others ("American Gangster" looks good but I fear that Denzel Washington is going to be in overwrought "Training Day" mode). Most of the films we'll see in the coming months will be dramas, but so far this year has been dominated by great comedies and I'm really glad for that. I hope there will be some more to come. I'm going to do a 0-10 rundown of every new release I've seen so far in '07, but first an explanation of my rating scale, because let's face it, it can seem a little strange sometimes. So here we go:
10/10- Outstanding in every way. Wouldn't change a thing.
9.5-9- Great movie that you can't miss.
8.5- Very very good.
8-7.5- Not without its flaws but a solidly good movie.
7- Good with noticeable flaws.
6.5- A lot to like but doesn't quite come together to make a good all around movie.
6- Not bad but only recommended for the very curious.
5.5-5- Mediocre. Not terrible but there are better ways to spend your time.
4.5-3- Bad. A redeeming quality here or there but not enough to be worth your time.
2.5-0.5- Varying degrees of awful. Stay far away.
0- Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.

So here is the list of what I've seen so far. A few scores have been adjusted with either a second (in one case a third) viewing or just time to digest them. I don't write these things in stone after all:
Breach- 7.5
Music and Lyrics- 7.5
The Astronaut Farmer- 7
Reno 911!: Miami- 6.5
Zodiac- 10
300- 6
Black Snake Moan- 6
I Think I Love My Wife- 4.5
Amazing Grace- 8.5
Color Me Kubrick- 9
Shooter- 3.5
The Namesake- 8
Reign Over Me- 8.5
The Lookout- 8.5
Blades of Glory- 8
Grindhouse- 9 (Planet Terror- 9; Death Proof- 7; Fake trailers- 10)
The Hoax- 8
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters- 6.5
Hot Fuzz- 10
The TV Set- 8.5
In the Land of Women- 7
Fracture- 6
The Flying Scotsman- 7.5
Spider-Man 3- 5
Everything's Gone Green- 8.5
28 Weeks Later- 6.5
The Ex- 4.5
The Valet- 7.5
Fido- 10
Knocked Up- 10
Waiter- 10
Ocean's Thirteen- 8.5
Alien Autopsy- 7.5
Eagle vs. Shark- 6
Live Free or Die Hard- 7.5
Ratatouille- 9
Transformers- 8
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- 8
License to Wed- 2
Sunshine- 5.5
Interview- 8
The Simpsons Movie- 6
Becoming Jane- 7
The Bourne Ultimatum- 9
Hot Rod- 7.5
Stardust- No number rating because I gave up with 20 minutes left, but what does that tell you?
The Ten- 6.5
Diggers- 8
Rush Hour 3- 5
Superbad- 10 (3 times I've seen it. It just gets better.)
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters- 10

I'll do a full review for "King of Kong" soon and I'm planning to see "Death at a Funeral" tomorrow, which I'm very excited about. Later.

Monday, August 20, 2007

In Ten Years He Will Simply Be Known As, "The Funniest Man on the Planet."

Here's an interview with "Superbad" and "Arrested Development" star Michael Cera, from "New York Magazine." Written by Adam Sternbergh.

Michael Cera is too good to be true. He gets this reaction a lot. He gets it onscreen, as when producer Judd Apatow watched his audition tape for the new comedy Superbad and thought, This guy is off-the-charts funny. And he gets it offscreen, where Cera is so courteous, so apparently down-to-earth (on Letterman, when Dave asked him if he’s part of “new Hollywood,” Cera said, “Well, I don’t think anyone here’s ever heard of me”), and so astonishingly untainted by what should be, by all rights, his looming megafame (of his current publicity tour, he says, “The traveling is really exciting for me. And they pay for it all. Food and everything”) that you start to worry that his whole persona is some sort of Dadaist media prank.

I first had this experience when I met him three years ago on the set of Arrested Development, the too-beautiful-for-this-world Fox sitcom that was later canceled, in 2006. Back then, Cera was only 16 (he’s 19 now), a child actor from Brampton, Ontario; he had not yet spent three seasons on an Emmy-winning TV comedy, nor been subsequently signed by CBS to do his own Web sitcom, Clark and Michael, nor been clutched to the bosom of hipster Hollywood and cast as the lead in a Judd Apatow–produced movie that, thanks to the sweeping success of Apatow’s Knocked Up, now sails into theaters on August 17 on a gust of giddy goodwill. He had not yet, in other words, had every opportunity to swell into an egomaniacal teen star run amok. And he hasn’t, it seems, embraced that opportunity. He still lives in Brampton with his parents. When he says, “It’s nice—there’s not too much pressure for me to do things. I don’t have to support anyone,” then adds, “but I am planning to have a wife and kids in the next year,” he is not having a Culkin-esque child-bride crack-up; he’s making a dry joke. He is very adept at dry jokes.

While Apatow was directing Knocked Up, he invited Cera to the set and asked if he wanted to be part of something they were filming for the DVD. Basically, he had Cera sit in on a scene with Katherine Heigl, and then stage a huge mock blowup. Cera, despite—or, perhaps, because of—his naturally reserved, self-effacing manner, is very good at huge mock blowups. So when Apatow asked for more energy, he sniped back, “Quit shouting shit out to me when I’m in the middle of a sentence!” Trouble was, Apatow and Cera hadn’t told Cera’s mother, who’d accompanied him to set. As she watched her son very uncharacteristically tell the producer of his new film to go to hell, she grabbed the person next to her and said in a panic, “Oh my God! He’s throwing it all away!”

The current vogue in comedy is for the doofus man-child—the guy who mines laughs in the yawning chasm between his feeble abilities and his inflated self-regard. It’s hard, in fact, to think of a male comedy star who doesn’t fall into this category, from Vince Vaughn (hipster man-child) to Will Ferrell (rampaging man-child) to Owen Wilson (surfer-dude man-child) to Adam Sandler (impish man-child). In Superbad, Cera plays an actual child-child, a teenager going to one last party before his high-school graduation. In a sense, Cera’s comedic approach is the opposite of what’s popular: He’s the guy with ample abilities but no self-confidence. His straight-arrow, approval-hungry George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development was a hilarious portrait of adolescent awkwardness. In one episode, when he gets caught by his dad trying to buy pot for his uncle, he valiantly tries to take the rap, saying, “It’s for me. I was going to smoke the marijuana like a cigarette.”

“Almost all comedy comes from anger,” says Apatow. “His comes from a different place.” Even Cera’s not sure where his sensibility evolved from. His comedic idol is Bill Murray, but as he says, “Everything Bill Murray does, he’s like the really cool guy, very confident.” In a sense, Cera is less like Murray than like Woody Allen, if you vacuumed out all the Jewishness and raised him in Canada.

Which makes Cera the perfect counterpoint to Jonah Hill, his Superbad co-star, who’s all sweaty bravado and sputtering libido. (“If this was 1910, they’d work together for the next 60 years,” says Apatow. “They’d be Laurel and Hardy.”) Cera can sell a line like “Imagine if girls weren’t weirded out by our boners, but actually wanted to look at them. I want to live in that world,” and get not only laughs but, at least from young women in the audience, swooning awwws. “It’s funny to show people who both want intimacy and are terrified of it,” says Apatow. “The guy who’s going to put his heart out there, either to be embraced or be crushed.” Cera once did an entire stand-up routine during which he read an earnest poem about his ex-girlfriend, while on the verge of tears. There were no jokes, save for the meta-joke of squirming in the presence of someone so vulnerable. “But that’s the only way I can feel comfortable addressing an audience,” he says. “Having that security blanket of being in character. I’ve never done straight stand-up, where you just are yourself. That’s too terrifying to me.”

Cera also plays in a band with his friend Clark Duke, another former child-actor he met in L.A. Cera’s a huge fan of Weezer, the grunge-pop band, whose resident genius, Rivers Cuomo, endured a mental meltdown and wound up living in an apartment with the windows covered and the walls painted black. I ask Cera whether he ever wonders, in his own life, if personal demons are prerequisites for great art. He considers this, then says, “I’m not really trying to make ‘great art.’” He understands the romantic pull of the lying–in–bed–like–Brian Wilson types. But Cera’s more like an antidote to the paradigm of the tortured, John Belushi–on–a–bender comedian out of control. He’s a sweet, well-adjusted kid from the suburbs who happens to be exceptionally talented at finding the comedy in being a sweet, well-adjusted kid from the suburbs. As such, he’s easy to root for, and easy to fall for. When they screened Superbad in San Diego, Apatow remembers that, afterward, every other question from the audience was a cute girl asking, “Michael Cera, will you marry me?”

When I mention this to Cera, he gets a little squirmy himself. “It was really uncomfortable,” he says. “And it only happened, honestly, like, twice.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Superbad"- Full review

"Superbad" (written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by Greg Mottola) is yet another hilarious film released in what has become the Year of the Great Comedy. It tells the story of Seth ("Knocked Up's" Jonah Hill) and Evan ("Arrested Development's" Michael Cera) in the final days of high school.
Their desires are simple and typical of the average teenager. It's Seth's last chance to get Jules (Emma Stone) and Evan's last chance for Becca (Martha MacIsaac). Jules is throwing a party and needs alcohol. When Seth and Evan's third wheel Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is able to get ahold of a fake I.D., the boys have the perfect in. Get the girls the booze and be heroes. Fogell's fake Hawaiian I.D. simply says McLovin on it. Miraculously the I.D. works but after a liquor store robbery, Seth and Evan are on their own when it comes to getting the booze. Meanwhile Fogell is riding around with the most inept cops outside of Reno (Rogen and "Hot Rod's" Bill Hader).
"Superbad" could have been just a lame teen comedy, but the script by Rogen and Goldberg, while packed to the brim with crude humor, is incredibly smart. The situations are ridiculous and outlandish but Seth and Evan are believable all the way. Hill is terrific as the desperate Seth and Cera (who raised playing an awkward teen to the level of art on "Arrested Development") gives an amazingly hilarious performance as Evan. His timing and delivery could not be better. This is a guy with a big future in comedy. Mintz-Plasse's McLovin is going to be the new teen icon. Mark my words, we'll be seeing McLovin t-shirts by October. (I'll buy one!) Rogen and Hader are outstanding as well. I've been a fan of Rogen since his days on "Freaks and Geeks" so it's great to see him get the kind of recognition he's been getting lately.
This has been compared by many to "American Pie" and "Dazed and Confused," but "Superbad" is a far better film than either of those. It has more substance than "Pie" and has none of the pretentiousness of "Dazed." At it's heart this is a movie about the last days of what has been a lifelong friendship. As someone who's been seeing a lot of close friends move or otherwise drift away lately this really connected with me.
"Superbad" is a painfully funny movie that you will love. I've already watched it twice! 9/10.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Don't have time to write a full review before work but I will say that "Superbad" is every bit as awesome as we'd all hoped. See it tonight!

Also, adjusted score for "Rush Hour 3"- 5/10. It just gets less good (and it wasn't all that good to begin with) the more I get away from it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"The Ten," "Diggers," and "Rush Hour 3."

The Ten- Sketch comedy has a tendency to be hit and miss as it is. Sketch comedy films even more so. "The Ten" (written by Ken Marino and directed by David Wain) is a series of ten sketches connected by being based on one of the Ten Commandments. Tying them together is narrator Jeff Reigert (Paul Rudd) who introduces each story while telling us his own in between. The first sketch starring Adam Brody is great. He plays a young man named Stephen Montgomery making his first ever sky dive. He's so excited that he jumps without his parachute. Stephen survives but he's imbedded so far into the ground that if he is moved he will die. He becomes a national celebrity as a result of this and the media raises him the level of a god. That is until the public gets tired of him. The lesson: "Thou shall have no other gods before Me." Much like the rest of the sketches, the actual commandment is almost an afterthought.
Some of these sketches are absolutely brilliant. "Thou shall not murder" with Marino as a doctor who loves to "goof" is very funny. "Honor thy mother and father" is hilarious and features Oliver Platt as an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator. "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods" is an over the top bit of genius starring Liev Schreiber as a man who just has to have a CAT scan machine (you just have to see it) and "Thou shall not steal" with Winona Ryder (I love it!) is bizarre and hilarious. The rest of the sketches along with the links with Rudd are less consistent. "Thou shall not bear false witness" doesn't work terribly well and a few of the other sketches are decent but just go on for too long. As a complete film, "The Ten" isn't great, but enough of the sketches are that this one is definitely worthwhile. It's currently playing in Seattle at the Varsity and the Uptown. 6.5/10.

Diggers- Another film written by and featuring Ken Marino and starring Paul Rudd came out earlier this year. I (along with pretty much everyone else) missed this one during its brief theatrical run, but it's now on DVD and most definitely worth checking out. It's the story of four friends struggling on Long Island in 1976. The friends, all clam-diggers, are played by Rudd, Marino, Ron Eldard, and Josh Hamilton. Hunt (Rudd} has just lost his father and also has to worry about losing his job. Lozo (Marino) has a large family to feed but refuses to give in to the corporate giant South Shell. There isn't much else to set up.
"Diggers" is a film about real people with characters and dialogue that are very believable. It's a very enjoyable dramedy and shows us a side of Paul Rudd that we don't usually see. 8/10.

Rush Hour 3- I just got home from this about 45 minutes ago and so much of it has already disappeared from my memory. Like "Rush Hour 2," it's a fairly enjoyable watch but nothing really special. Chris Tucker is very funny and there is a great car chase through Paris. Jackie Chan seems to be relegated to second banana this time. There's not much else to say about this film. I had a decent time. It's not bad but it's certainly disposable. And for some reason I spent the whole movie thinking that Max von Sydow was Christopher Plummer. Sorry Max. 6/10.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Goodbye, Tony Wilson.

Anyone who loves great music, whether they know it or not, should be grateful for a man named Tony Wilson. He was instrumental in getting British punk bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, and the Clash recognition in the genre's infancy. He also founded Factory Records which gave us the Happy Mondays and the legendary Joy Division which became New Order after the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis in 1980. New Order is still going strong today and if you've listened to modern rock at all over the past five years it's clear that the Joy Division/New Order legacy is alive and well. He passed away on Friday at the age of 57. The great 2002 film "24 Hour Party People" tells Wilson's story. Highly recommended if you haven't seen it. Steve Coogan gives a brilliant performance as Wilson and the man himself even makes a brief appearance. R.I.P., Tony. Thanks for the music.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


"Are the stars looking back at us?" is the question posed by narrator Ian McKellen in Matthew Vaughn's film based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. If the stars caught a glimpse of this movie I imagine they would look away. This badly executed fantasy tale of a fallen star, a girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes), and a young man named Tristran (Charlie Cox) actually had potential to be enjoyable.
Tristran is in love with Victoria (Sienna Miller) who is set to marry the snobby Humphrey, unless Tristran can capture the star they saw fall from the sky. When Tristran discovers that the star is in fact Yvaine he does what any well-adjusted upstanding citizen would do. He chains her to himself to return her to Victoria as a birthday present. (I must remember that.) Along the way they get into all sorts of adventures with the likes of conniving brothers competing for the crown, a witch (Michelle Pfeiffer), and a sky pirate (Robert De Niro).
It comes across very dorkily for the most part. Danes and Cox do their best but there's little they can do with the material. Peter O'Toole has a great scene early on, but his character is on his death bed so, yeah, Pete doesn't stick around for long. Ricky Gervais livens things up at around the halfway point, but it's not enough to overcome many failed attempts at humor, and De Niro is just embarrassing here. It's a cringe-inducing performance by one of the greatest actors to ever grace the screen.
I finally gave up on this movie with about 20 minutes to go. They'd already had one ending and I figured it had about four more to go. I just didn't care. So out of fairness I won't give this a number rating, because I don't know, maybe it becomes "Casablanca" in the last twenty minutes. But I'm guessing that it was probably still "Stardust." Stay far away from this one.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Bit of Everything

I've been to four movies in the past week including an awful screening of "Labyrinth" at the Varsity. The print was in incredible shape but what a horrendous audience. Snickering Seattle people. Even worse than my experience at "Sunshine," which had some awful people too. Anyway, the three new releases I saw were...

Becoming Jane- Having brought most of her novels to the big screen already, Jane Austen was due for her own biopic. "Becoming Jane," detailing Austen's early life before she was published is an interesting concept and American Anne Hathaway ("The Devil Wears Prada") does very well in the role. James McAvoy (the real lead in "The Last King of Scotland") plays Tom Lefroy, a man whom the filmmakers clearly speculate was the inspiration for "Pride and Prejudice's" Mr. Darcy. Julian Jarrold's ("Kinky Boots") film has some interesting things to say about the process of becoming a writer and while it's probably more fiction than fact, it is a pretty enjoyable look at what Austen's young life may have been like. However it never takes flight the way the recent "Pride and Prejudice" or Ang Lee and Emma Thompson's "Sense and Sensibility" did. Austen seems to have said the most interesting things about her life through her own fiction. 7/10

The Bourne Ultimatum- Somehow Jason Bourne becomes more and more badass with each film. This time Bourne is out to find those responsible for turning him into a killer and taking his memory from him. Matt Damon gets better in the role every time out. We really believe that Will Hunting can beat trained assassins to death! Director Paul Greengrass (who directed "Supremacy" along with last year's "United 93") keeps the tension up and creates action sequences that actually did make my jaw drop.
Much is made of the hand held style that Greengrass uses. Some seem annoyed by it. I barely noticed it in this film. He has you so wrapped up into the world of the film that it doesn't distract in any way. Julia Stiles and Joan Allen (maybe the most underrated actress working today) return and newcomers David Strathairn, Paddy Considine (one of the Andy's from "Hot Fuzz"), and Albert Finney are all terrific as well. The best "Bourne" of the bunch. 9/10

Hot Rod- Every year Hollywood gives us a selection of unabashedly dumb comedies. Some are the cinematic equivalent of having your face shoved into a toilet ("Dude, Where's My Car?"), while others ("Pootie Tang") are like a breath of idiotic fresh air. "Hot Rod" thankfully falls into the latter category. Rod Kimble ("SNL's" Andy Samberg) is a man in his late 20s (or possibly early 30s) with no job who spends his days and nights as a stuntman. Rod's problem is that none of his stunts have been successful. Ever. But he and his friends are having too good a time to notice. In fact the only person who seems to see Rod as a failure is his step-father, Frank (Ian McShane of "Sexy Beast" and "Deadwood"). Rod wants nothing more than Frank's respect, which he can only earn by punching Frank in the face in a fair fight. Frank has a weak heart however and can't afford the transplant. It's up to Rod to raise the money by pulling off the most amazing stunt the world has ever seen.
With his friends (including "SNL's" Bill Hader) and the girl of his dreams (Isla Fisher of "Wedding Crashers" and "The Lookout") by his side, Rod's training kicks into high gear. "Hot Rod" is supremely stupid every step of the way, and I loved almost every minute of it. Pam Brady's screenplay gives us characters who we like and root for right away and Akiva Schaffer makes all of this work. Somehow he manages to make Europe songs seem cool, which is an achievement in and of itself. He doesn't even use "The Final Countdown," which as much as I love for its special brand of awfulness, would have been way too obvious.
"Hot Rod" is a movie so stupid it makes "Blades of Glory" look like a Merchant-Ivory film. And it has Will Arnett playing a jerk. In other words, it's "cool beans!" 7.5/10

Friday, August 03, 2007

Which "Hot Fuzz" Cop Are You?

What Hot Fuzz Cop Are You?

You are PC Danny Butterman, the most endearingly naive policeman officer to ever carry a badge. You've seen every action film ever made, you've an affinity for beer and rugby, and you adore PS Nicholas Angel like it's your job. You're loyal, friendly, and generally a good person. Almost everybody coddles you.
Take this quiz!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Sunshine," "Interview," and "The Simpsons Movie."

Sunshine- Danny Boyle is a director of many talents. His resume is as impressive as it is diverse ("Trainspotting," "Shallow Grave," "28 Days Later," "Millions"- all good things). So the thought of him taking on horror/sci-fi was very exciting. Sadly, "Sunshine" does not measure up. What's so disappointing about this film is how Boyle manages to bring virtually nothing new to the table. The premise is great. The sun is dying so a crew of scientists has been sent to restart it with a very large bomb. Unfortunately instead of building an original story around this premise, Alex Garland's screenplay is cobbled together from bits of "2001," the "Alien" series, and an episode or two of "Firefly," just to name a few of them. Icarus II is the name of their ship, which of course means that Icarus I didn't complete the mission. There's the obligatory tension amongst the crew of people who couldn't be more different and the inevitable moment when they discover that the previous crew, long thought lost, may still be alive. Thanks to Boyle's visual flare and cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler, this is all very nice to look at and Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans do their best as the two crewmen at each others throats. But none of this can change that there's nothing terribly inventive here and the ridiculous twist in the last 20 minutes didn't help matters. 5.5/10.

Interview- Pierre Peders (Steve Buscemi, who also co-wrote and directed) is a serious political journalist who's been assigned to a story he believes to be far beneath him. He's sent to interview movie and TV mega-star, Katya (Sienna Miller). Pierre and Katya meet in a restaurant for the interview and it only takes moments for the two to be at each other's throats. Still, when Pierre is injured in a car accident, Katya feels responsible (Pierre's cab driver got into an accident while shouting to Katya on the street), and takes him back to her apartment to put some ice on his forehead. The rest of the film is an evening long conversation between the two polar opposites. One minute they're eviscerating one another, the next they're connecting. It goes back and forth like this but for the most part it works very well. The flow of conversation and mood comes across as natural and the performances of Buscemi and Miller are outstanding. The two play off of each other very well and in spite of the extreme unlikability of the characters, "Interview" never ceases to be intriguing. Worth catching if you can find it. Tomorrow is its last night in Seattle at the Metro. 8/10.

The Simpsons Movie- I've only seen a couple of new episodes of "The Simpsons" in the past few years. It's not that I thought it stopped being funny, it's that I just felt like enough was enough. Still, it's one of the greatest shows in the history of television so I was going to make a point of seeing the movie. It's very hit and miss. The biting social satire that made the show so great for so long only rears its head every once in awhile here. Stretches of it are pretty lifeless and I was left with an overall "meh" feeling. Although seeing Professor Frink on the big screen was pretty awesome. Not bad but pales in comparison to the show on even an average day. 6/10.