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.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Biopics about famed musicians have become Oscar bait over the past few years. "Ray" and "Walk the Line" each examined the lives of troubled artists and their paths to redemption. What separates "Control" from those films is that for Ian Curtis, there was no redemption.
"Control" opens with a sixteen year old Curtis (Sam Riley) walking to his home in Macclesfield, England, a brand new record under his arm. He speaks to no one as he enters his house, not even his own family. He simply walks into his room, puts on Bowie's latest, lies on his bed and really listens to it. It is a perfect introduction to the man. We never see Curtis genuinely happy at any point in the film. The rare smile only serves to accentuate his pain. His major life decisions are displayed as failed attempts at happiness. His marriage at 19 to Deborah (Samantha Morton, "Minority Report") and the birth of their child Natalie are both things that he comes to regret. They weren't the cure all he believed they would be and he resents both wife and child for it, embarking on an affair with a Belgian music journalist. The only thing he truly puts his heart and soul into is his music. Anyone who has listened to Joy Division (and no, Curtis for all his many faults was not a Nazi) can hear Curtis giving every piece of himself to the music.
"Control" is surprisingly straightforward in the way its story is told. Linear storytelling in biopics seems to be coming back into fashion (see also "Assassination of Jesse James"). Don't expect the lighthearted atmosphere of "24 Hour Party People." That 2002 film was the story of Tony Wilson (the man who signed Joy Division), with Curtis and the rest of Joy Division only getting a smattering of screen time. Here the roles are reversed and the tone and pace of "Control" are befitting of Curtis and the band.
Shot in beautiful black and white, first time director Anton Corbijn brings his passion for the band with him (he was their official photographer and shot their videos). He does a very good job but he does occasionally show himself to be new to the craft of feature filmmaking. At times scenes become a bit like video montages instead of scenes for a film. For the most part though he does well to let the actors and music have the spotlight. A lot of credit to Corbijn and the sound department for making the concert scenes sound as close to a real concert as I've ever heard in a feature film. (It didn't hurt that they played it loud at the Egyptian.)
"Control" is a very interesting film while not being terribly insightful. What is fascinating about the lack of insight is that in addition to Corbijn directing, it is based on a book by Deborah Curtis. It shows that even those closest to Curtis were never really able to understand the man. I also liked that the film doesn't try to make you like Curtis. He comes across as a man who was not terribly likable and Riley does well to play him as such. The supporting cast is excellent, particularly Joe Anderson ("Across the Universe") as bassist Peter Hook and Tony Kebbell as band manager Rob Gretton. Morton does a fine job as Deborah but she looks far too old to be playing a woman in her early twenties. Corbijn should have cast younger. I'm just glad they didn't cast Jude Law as Curtis as was originally rumored. Curtis was only 23 at the time of his suicide after all. Corbijn's treatment of the final hours of Ian Curtis are agonizing to watch and Riley really shines here.
This review has been a bit long. Joy Division is one of my favorite bands of all-time and I guess like Corbijn, I'm indulging myself a little ("Control" is a bit longer than it really needs to be). It is a flawed film to be sure, but it is really incredibly good. My hope is that it will introduce the band to a new generation of fans. Almost thirty years later, the band's only two full length albums, "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer," have never been duplicated. The music Curtis wrote remains unique and for all the bands Joy Division has influenced, no one can truly sound like them. Of course, if it means living a life like Curtis, I can't imagine anyone wanting to. "Control" is in limited release in several cities across the country. In Seattle it is playing at the Egyptian Theater. 8.5/10.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Control" Out Tomorrow!

One of my most anticipated movies of the year, "Control" (the story of Joy Division's Ian Curtis) comes to Seattle tomorrow at the Egyptian Theater. To get myself (and hopefully you) psyched for it here's the trailer for the film along with a couple of the best songs Ian Curtis ever wrote:

"Digital": I wanted to put a live version of my favorite Joy Division song but I couldn't find one that didn't cut off the end.

"Transmission" live:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Catching Up.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age- Nine years ago, Cate Blanchett officially became a star as Queen Elizabeth I in the time leading up to her taking the throne and how she handled her early days upon it. Shekhar Kapur's film was loaded with intrigue, outstanding performances, and terrific dialogue. Kapur and Blanchett are back (along with Geoffrey Rush) for a film that shows Elizabeth at the height of her powers. She's grown a great deal as a queen and a woman.
This could have been a great movie and as Blanchett is one of my favorite actors I was very excited to see what she would do with the role this time. Unfortunately she pushes the fireworks a bit much. I don't think it's possible for her to actually give a bad performance but this is as uneven as I've ever seen her be. She isn't helped by the dialogue which is often overblown. Fairing even worse is the normally fantastic Clive Owen. His Sir Walter Raleigh is a bit too old Hollywood pirate. It would be a great performance if it were a new "Sinbad" movie (and I mean like "Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" not..."Jingle All the Way 2: The Reckoning".) Here it just doesn't fit at all. Rush is only on the fringe in this film and Samantha Morton is barely used as Mary, Queen of Scots.
Much has been made of the woeful historical inaccuracies that this film is apparently guilty of. Honestly I don't know how accurate it is or is not and to me that really isn't the issue. The issue is that this really isn't a very good movie. Not awful, but not good. I guess everyone is entitled to an off day. Stick with the original 1998 film instead. 4.5/10.

"And then I saw ya on the TEEVEE!"
So this new TV season. A bit disappointing. Haven't found a lot of new shows that have been worthwhile. "Back to You" was a bit of a dud. Only "Chuck" and "Journeyman" have really captured my interest. (I keep getting told I need to check out "Pushing Daisies" and I swear I will soon.) So far as returning shows go, "Heroes" has been slow going for me after five episodes. Most of the new characters have been very uninteresting. Micah's cousin the Katrina victim (the girl who can mimic whatever she sees) has been pretty bland so far. Maya and her dude (who were thankfully absent last night) have done nothing but bore me. Even injecting Sylar into that mix (it IS a small world after all) hasn't made those two any more interesting. Only Stephen Tobolowsky's company man has really been a worthwhile addition. Hopefully Kristen Bell's new character (introduced last night) will get more to do in upcoming episodes. I'm not really worried about that but last night it was basically like, "Veronica Mars is back on TV! Sweet!" That's enough for one episode but they've got to give her more to do next week. As for Hiro, I know I'm not the only one feels this way, but seriously get Doc Brown to fix up the Delorean already. There has yet to be a single scene with he and Ando together this year and that's just not working for me.
Just like last season, Mr. Bennett (Claire's dad, HRG, whatever you want to call him) is the character who interests me the most. Now it's time to give him as much screen time as last year. The slow build of season one worked beautifully and by the time the show really kicked into high gear we were already hooked. This year the slow build has felt slow in the laboring sense, not the good "this is building the tension" sort of way. Here's hoping it picks up real soon.
"The Office" has been hit and miss thus far. Putting Jim and Pam together at last has actually come off just fine for me. Their trip to the Schrute farm last week was hilarious and Jim reaching out to Dwight (who in turn reached out for a hug) was a terrific moment. But events such as Michael driving a car into a lake and kidnapping a pizza boy have just been too silly for a show that should be steering clear of silliness.
Please don't get me wrong. I am more than happy to let this show be its own show. Trying to imitate the British series would be an exercise in futility. This is a great show and one of TV's best. But seriously, this ain't the original. I've been re-watching the UK series lately and it just reaffirms my belief that it was a far superior show on every level. And they always played fair by the rule that these characters were aware they were being filmed. The current series only seems to acknowledge that the show is supposed to be a documentary when it's convenient. Sorry, I know it's become a tired debate which version is better but I just had to get that off of my chest finally.
As for "Friday Night Lights," I'm gonna sound like a broken record but Landry murdering a guy (accidentally)? Really? Landry was the character last season who people like me could relate to. He was one of the only ones who was not actually a football player and his nerdiness was a great counter-point to the cast of jocks. Now they not only have him actually on the team but they've got him involved in a soap opera like storyline on a show that otherwise so wonderfully captures ordinary life.
Okay, so I feel kind of bad now. I need to say something positive because really, I don't enjoy being negative. "Scrubs" finally comes back this week so that's welcome news. And they didn't kill Chloe on "Smallville" after all. I probably would have quit watching if they had. Sort of like "FNL's" Landry, she's the character the audience can actually relate to. Now it's time for me to get caught up on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Mad Men." Both shows started out great this year so I'm excited to finally sit down and watch the rest.
Well that's about all I have to say. Except that "Fido" is out on DVD today so check that out. Now some comedy:

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Behind.

Well I had a big weekend movie wise, so I'll just take on two for right now. Yesterday I saw "Michael Clayton" and "Lars and the Real Girl."

Michael Clayton- Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is what is known as "a fixer." He's the guy that law firms call at three in the morning to go to a client's house after that client has just committed a hit and run. He's the best there is and he's been doing this for seventeen years. He's had enough.
Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) is an old associate of Michael's who's recently gone off his meds. He's committed an act that will require of a man of Michael's talents to save him. Michael genuinely cares about Arthur and when Arthur threatens to bring down a major corporation that's responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, that's when things really get ugly.
Tony Gilroy (who wrote the "Bourne" screenplays) wrote and directed (his first time in the chair) a film that probably has more dialogue than the three "Bourne" movies combined. It's a good thing too because the dialogue is great. Particularly what he writes for Wilkinson who delivers an outstanding performance reminiscent of Peter Finch in "Network" (and there's nothing wrong with that). Clooney is solid as usual, though he certainly doesn't stretch himself here. Tilda Swinton is great as always, if underutilized.
"Michael Clayton" is a well-made and intriguing thriller, even if it takes a few turns along the way that feel familiar. It also features a very satisfying ending that could have come off as a little too neat, but Gilroy pulls it off. 8/10.

Lars and the Real Girl- Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a lonely young man living in a make shift apartment in a garage. His brother Gus ("Assassination of Jesse James's" Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) care for him very much (it's their garage) and desperately want him to be happy. He's well-liked at work and at church but he just can't seem to connect with anyone. One morning a co-worker tells him about a website that sells inflatable (and anatomically correct) women. When Lars brings one home, convinced that she is a real person named Bianca, Gus and Karin are, needless to say, very worried about him. The next day, Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) explains to Gus and Karin that it is essential for them to go along with Lars's "delusion." Lars takes Bianca in for regular check-ups which Dagmar conducts while finding out what's going on with Lars.
The premise for "Lars" could have either been the set-up for a one joke (and possibly rather crass) comedy or it could have come across as utterly unbelievable. No one seems to know exactly why Lars needs Bianca (he's not using her for the same reason his co-worker would have), but they do know that he needs them to accept her, and that's enough. The fact that the entire Wisconsin town Lars lives in is treating Bianca like a real person for his sake really does come across as believable. In an early scene in which Lars is attending church the pastor explains God's most important command: to love each other. The town demonstrates that love fully for Lars, trying to help him in any way they can. It's a very positive message that never comes across in a heavy handed way. Screenwriter Nancy Oliver and director Craig Gillespie (who also directed "Mr. Woodcock"...huh) do a terrific job of walking that tight-rope, and they make sure that Lars is never the butt of the joke.
As Lars begins to open up about Bianca (and himself) he gets closer to Margo (Kelli Garner) a co-worker with a crush on him. For the first time it seems he is ready to step into adulthood.
"Lars and the Real Girl" is a very enjoyable and effecting film that works often when it seemingly shouldn't. It only really seemed to trip up once in my mind but that's a lot more than I can say for most movies. It's a film that you will enjoy very much as you watch it and will grow on you after it's done. Tell your friends about it too. This is a movie to share. 9/10.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Some people clear their calendars for movies about pirates or some sort of man, possibly with spiderish qualities ("Do you have other men in this house, Marge? Radioactive men."). I on the other hand clear mine for movies directed by Wes Anderson. "Bottle Rocket" introduced an incredibly talented director to the world, "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" are both on the short list of my favorite movies, and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," while not perfect, is a film that I enjoy thoroughly. All of them (especially from "Rushmore" on) are instantly recognizable as being Wes Anderson movies. Like so many of my favorite directors his films are stamped with a personal style that no one else could hope to duplicate. He has his detractors, but if you're an Anderson fanatic (and even if you didn't like "Zissou") "The Darjeeling Limited" is unmissable.
The film opens far more frantically than any of his past efforts. A business man (Bill Murray credited as The Businessman) is in a desperate rush to make his train. Bursting from his cab on the streets of India he runs through the tunnel and onto the platform. Seemingly out of nowhere bursts another man, who takes a brief moment to study the Business Man's face before jumping onto the back of the moving train. The Business Man doesn't make it, and the man, Peter Whitman (Adrien Brody), watches him get smaller and smaller as the Darjeeling Limited pulls away. Once on the train Peter meets up with his brothers, Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and Francis (Owen Wilson), who's still recovering from his recent motorcycle collision. The Whitmans have not seen each other since one year earlier at their father's funeral.
Francis (the oldest) dictates everything about the trip. It was his idea, he's made laminated itineraries for his brothers and he even orders their lunches for them. Each time one of them leaves the sight of the other two, they share secrets they don't want the third brother to know about. Of course none of the secrets are kept and they behave in the childish manner Anderson's adult characters are known for. The train's chief steward ("Zissou's" Waris Ahluwalia) is constantly threatening to remove them from the train. The threat of being kicked out is a prevalent theme in Anderson's work, and if you've seen his previous films you probably know their eventual fate.
The comedy of this film, like his others, comes from the little things. It's in the particular wording ("We haven't located us yet") and the way that "a spiritual journey" is dictated by a laminated itinerary. "Darjeeling" also displays Anderson's affinity for displaying the character of faces and his ability to take the real world and skew it in such a way that every inch of it is staged precisely where he wants it. Every shot is framed within an inch of its life (credit also going to cinematographer Robert Yeoman), everything in its right place. This is especially impressive considering that all of the train scenes were shot on a real moving locomotive.
The performances of Wilson, Schwartzman (who co-wrote the film with Anderson and Roman Coppola), and particularly Brody are excellent. Their ability to go from complete pettiness to unconditional love in the span of a moment convinces us that these men could only be brothers. Brody also delivers the film's most effecting line, maybe the saddest line an Anderson character has ever uttered.
I would rate this my third favorite Anderson film ("Rushmore" and "Tenenbaums" being 1 and 2 respectively). It's not quite a masterpiece, but it's a great movie that die hard Anderson fans (which I obviously am) will love. It's currently in select cities and will expand in the weeks to come. In the Seattle area it's playing at the Guild 45th, Meridian 16, and Lincoln Square (Bellevue). 9/10.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Shaun. Police Constable Nicholas Angel. And now Mr. Scott. All I can say is YES!!! This from Variety:

Paramount Pictures is beaming up Simon Pegg to play Scotty in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek."
Pegg joins Eric Bana, Anton Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Leonard Nimoy in the latest bigscreen incarnation of the classic TV series.
Penned by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the story chronicles the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members during their time at Starfleet Academy. Chris Pine has been offered the role of Kirk.
Paramount has set a November start date for the film, which will bow on Christmas Day 2008.
Abrams and Stratton Leopold are producing, while Kurtzman and Orci will exec produce alongside Bryan Burk and Damon Lindelof.
Pegg, whose recent credits include "Hot Fuzz," will star in the upcoming satire "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford- By 1881 the glory days of the James Gang were far behind them. All that remained of the original group were oldest brother Frank, and of course, Jesse. The gang now consisted of country simpletons desperately desiring to bask in the glow of the two criminal and American legends. None was more honest about his longing to be near it than a man named Robert Ford.
Written and directed by Andrew Dominik (based on the novel by Ron Hansen), "Assassination" is the story of a young man's need for validation from his idol and what happens when he does not receive it. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) first sees his hero sitting around a campfire, sharing stories and jokes with those around him. It is a very human moment that Robert first sees Jesse (Brad Pitt) in, but one look at Robert's face suggests otherwise.
His older brother Charlie (Sam Rockwell, "Galaxy Quest") is a part of the gang and maybe the one member who isn't there for some sort of reflected glory. He's just having a good time. Robert begs Frank James (Sam Shepard) to become a member of the gang. Frank wants no part of him ("You give me the willies") but Robert's persistence wins over Jesse.
What follows is one of the most well put together sequences I have seen on film in a very long time. The train robbery is brimming with atmosphere and a sense of wonder. It's as if we are seeing it through Robert's imagination, the smoke and train lights making it all feel like a dream. It is in stark contrast to the brutality that Jesse displays on the train. This is a man who isn't afraid to kill, even when no one else sees the necessity.
After the robbery, the gang splits up, Frank gives up criminal life for good, and it's not long before Jesse is forced to move his family once again. Taking Robert into his home leads to some uncomfortable moments. "Do you wanna be like me, or do you wanna BE me?" Jesse asks, just before asking him to leave. After this the paths of Jesse and Robert only intersect here and there, but with each meeting Jesse falls several notches in Robert's eyes. This is not the man he'd grown up reading about in dime novels.
"Assassination" shows Robert Ford as possibly the first celebrity stalker, and we see wide-eyed wonder turn to disappointment and finally to bitter resentment. Casey Affleck's performance is truly incredible. He is childlike and off-putting in the same moment. Rockwell's work as Charlie is equally impressive. No one does the fake "I'm smiling so I don't get shot" smile like he does. He knows his younger brother well and while he often treats him poorly there is still a fierce loyalty there. But it is Pitt who gives the performance of his career. His eyes speak volumes and yet he never fully lets us in, just as the character never fully lets anyone in, even his own family. Every time we think we have Jesse figured out, Pitt takes him another direction that we never expect. He makes the man unknowable in the same way that a celebrity, or a legend, is unknowable. In a career full of great performances, this is his best work.
We know from the title what the outcome of this film is going to be. What makes this a great movie is the journey there. The "assassination" scene is a moment of perfection, and the aftermath lifts this film into the stratosphere.
Long delayed, "Assassination" proves to be worth the wait. Dominik writes some of the best dialogue of the year and his direction is every bit as great. The cinematography of Roger Deakins and the musical score of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis combine to create an atmosphere that is both beautiful and mournful. The supporting cast is stellar. No matter how brief the role, Mary-Louise Parker (as Jesse's wife Zee), Ted Levine, and Paul Schneider (as Dick Liddil) do incredible work. There is also a brief appearance near film's end by the always welcome Zooey Deschanel.
"The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford" is a film that takes its time (2 hours and 40 minutes) but never drags. It is an enthralling experience and one of the best movies of 2007. This is a film that will stick with you for days afterward. 10/10.

I also finally got myself to David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises." While nowhere near the level of "A History of Violence" or "eXistenZ," it's a good film with fine performances all around (especially Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassell). It is Cronenberg though, so be prepared for some truly grotesque moments. 7.5/10.

And just in case I haven't fully sold you (and I don't know how that's possible), here is the trailer for "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford":

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Proof That Studio Execs Really Are Idiots.

One of the movies I'm most excited about for the rest of the year is the upcoming Ian Curtis biopic, "Control." Now granted (especially in the U.S.) not everyone knows that Ian Curtis was the lead singer for Joy Division until committing suicide in 1980. You figure though that most people who are interested in the movie would know it and you have to figure that those who are DISTRIBUTING the movie would know. You think maybe they would have watched it or something given that they're responsible for putting it out into the world. Apparently not. This from

Shortlist magazine has revealed that distributors in the US, working the new Anton Corbijn film Control, asked if Joy Division could perform live at the US premiere.

Says Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook (pictured):

"Someone from the film's US distributor's office phoned up saying that the New York premiere was on 25 September and would Joy Division play?

"I replied, 'Well, the last I heard, the lead singer was dead but I'll give them a ring and see if anything has changed'."

Control, which focuses on Joy Division singer Ian Curtis' life and eventual suicide on May 18 1980, is released in the UK on Friday (October 5); its soundtrack compilation, featuring David Bowie, The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks alongside the obvious two, is out now on Warner Music.

All Bob can say Maybe they didn't want to release it with that ending. As I learned in "The TV Set," "suicide is depressing to like 82 percent of everybody."

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Serenity" (sequel) now!

Oh I hope this is true. It's a very unlikely source considering the fate of Wash (my favorite character) in "Serenity," but here's what Alan Tudyk had to say on (Big thanks to Reel Fanatic for bringing this to my attention.)

“They had to put [the new DVD] out because they’ve been selling out of the other one and so Universal’s like ‘So, let’s do another one’. And now… there’s now a chance there’s going to be another movie”.

Tudyk agrees that even if it was a direct-to-DVD movie, it’d still be worthwhile. Especially since the whole DVD sequel is a big trend.

“It really is”, says Tudyk. “Everybody in the Firefly crew – and that includes the ones who died in the movie – are excited about the prospect of doing another”.

Nathan Fillion, says Tudyk, is especially keen. “We were out a couple of weeks ago together at a party and there was a bunch of people there, and he was like ‘Oh, look we’re Browncoats”.

Great to hear Fillion’s still as crazy as ever about wearing the Tightpants again.

Tudyk says he heard from creator Joss Whedon a few weeks back – but mainly about Tudyk’s role in the new Western “3:10 to Yuma”. “He sent me an email when it first came out because at first he thought I was a different character – by the trailer”, he laughs. “He was like ‘My god! You’re playing such a bad-ass!’ That was Ben Foster, who is such a bad-ass in that movie, and is just brilliant, just brilliant, and we both have a similar look – we both have polish genes – and anyway, Joss writes back ‘Sorry, I didn’t realise you were the sympathetic funny character – how would cast you as that?’. Joss, that would be you!”.

The actor, who appears in the new Frank Oz film “Death at a Funeral”, is absolutely blown-away by the life “Firefly” has had. He’s even headed downunder next week to appear at a science fiction convention. It amazes him even more that he got to do a feature film version of his 12-episode series. “That’s wild; you don’t see that happen until years later when it becomes a campy spoof of the thing. But even then, shows like Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch were huge hits [from the beginning, and they didn’t do movies straight away] this was something that was a hit only with a group of people and it just grew.”

The Bob would LOVE to see more "Firefly/Serenity" awesomeness. And I'm sure many of you would too. So with that I will leave you with Jayyyyne! The man they call Jayyyne!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Movies with "King" in them.

King of California- Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) is a sixteen year old girl who can take care of herself. She has too. Her mother abandoned her and her father Charlie has just been released from a mental institution. Charlie (Michael Douglas) returns home with a wild beard and an even wilder idea. While in the institution he did some reading about a 17th century Spanish treasure buried in the very California town he and Miranda reside in. Miranda is of course, skeptical, but as she tells the audience, "Our parents have power over us. We want to believe in them." Miranda is really the parent in the relationship but she still can't resist helping Charlie with his quest. She needs to believe that he's not crazy.
After several attempts at Applebee's, Chuck E. Cheese, and the local country club, Charlie's map leads him to one conclusion: CostCo. If his calculations are correct the treasure is buried beneath the floor of the store. Miranda is ready to give up at this point but Charlie insists. "I'm not going to be beaten by six feet of concrete!" he tells her. Again Miranda can't say no so she gets a job at CostCo. so she can scout the situation by day, and so they can dig by night.
"King of California" is the first film from writer-director Mike Cahill. It has its flaws to be sure. Some of the comedy feels forced and the film is often too quirky for its own good. But in the end the movie won me over. Cahill writes a very believable and warm relationship between father and daughter. Douglas and Wood bring the Don Quixote-Sancho Panza dynamic to life in a wonderful way. By now Douglas is a reliable old pro, but Wood continues to prove herself and surprise with the depth that she brings to every role. Last week I said (in my review of "Across the Universe," which I didn't even really like) that Wood is one of the best young actresses working today. The truth is she's one of the best actresses working today period. This is a pretty fun movie. I look forward to Cahill's next effort, which will likely be far more assured. "King of California" is playing in select cities and it is currently at the Metro in Seattle. 7/10.

The Kingdom- First off, I have one request to reviewers everywhere. Stop comparing this movie to "Syriana." It's not like "Syriana." Let "The Kingdom" be "The Kingdom." There. I feel better.
Peter Berg's (TV's "Friday Night Lights"- watch it) film opens by giving us the basic history of Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the United States from 1932 on. It's sort of a Saudi 101. This leads into a lazy afternoon of Americans playing baseball at a military installation. This quickly gives way to a terrorist attack that leaves hundreds dead. The FBI quickly puts together a team to go and investigate. Led by Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), the team of four will have their work cut out for them due to the rigid local customs. Rounding out the team are Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman).
Upon arriving in the Kingdom, Colonel Al Ghazi (the outstanding Ashraf Barhom) is their guide. He's there to make sure that nothing happens to them and that they don't inadvertently violate Islamic law by going places they aren't allowed to go. It makes their job exceedingly difficult and gathering evidence is almost impossible.
"The Kingdom" is a very entertaining movie. I was surprised by the amount of humor in the film. Writer Matthew Michael Carnahan's dialogue works more often than it doesn't. The snarky wisecracks (mostly delivered by Bateman) are believable. (On a side note I have to mention that Bateman took a page out of the Bob style book. For half the film he's wearing a Baltimore Orioles cap and a Pixies t-shirt. I can't even tell you how many times I've gone out dressed just like that. It makes me like Michael Bluth even more.)
"The Kingdom" is not a staggering artistic achievement and occasionally the camera work makes it difficult to figure out just what's happening on screen. But it's very enjoyable and bonus points for being a film that dares to say that maybe America isn't the most evil country in the world after all. On that count I'm shocked it got made. I won't give away the final shot, but it is a chilling reminder of the kind of resolve that we face in the world today. 7.5/10.