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, March 29, 2007

Gettin' My Review On!

Reign Over Me- Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) is a successful New York City dentist. His life however is far from perfect. His parents live in his apartment and are not talking to each other, while his marriage to Janeane (Jada Pinkett-Smith) has become so full of routine that dropping his daughter off at a friend's house is like a rare moment of freedom. On top of this he's being threatened with a lawsuit by a mentally deranged patient (Saffron Burrows) who is obsessed with him. However, things are put sharply into perspective for him when he runs into his old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler). Upon meeting on the street, it takes awhile for Charlie to remember Alan, who desperately wants to help his old friend in any way he can.
Charlie's wife and daughters were on one of the high-jacked planes on September 11. More than five years later, Charlie is still shut down emotionally, avoiding his in-laws or anyone who reminds him of the life that he's lost. He's not reclusive (he goes out to bars to play drums in a local rock band) and is happy to re-connect with Alan because as one character puts it, "You're the one person who doesn't remember Charlie's family." But any mention of his previous life or his family sends him into a fit of blind rage, often directed at Alan.
"Reign Over Me" is written and directed by Mike Binder, and like his previous film (2005's "The Upside of Anger") it is a unique and moving film filled with terrific dialogue and it believably flows between comedy and drama. And as he proved in "Upside," he writes interesting female characters far better than most screenwriters. Every character in this movie, no matter how small has a personality and makes an impact on the world of the film. Ultimately though, this is Alan and Charlie's story. While Charlie struggles to open up to anyone about what he has suffered, Alan struggles to open up to his own wife about their current lives together. Alan needs Charlie too.
"Reign Over Me" clicks the majority of the time, and the rare occasions when it does not are brief. Strong work by all involved. 8.5/10

Shooter- While the new film from Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") is certainly watchable and has some good explosions, it's also a blatant knock off of everything from "Rambo" to "Commando" to "The Fugitive" to "Unforgiven" (well one particular scene in "Unforgiven" anyway).
Now it has been established in recent years that Mark Wahlberg is pretty B.A. and he certainly is here. Michael Pena ("Crash") also manages to give a worthwhile performance as a young FBI agent who believes that Wahlberg's character, Bob Lee Swagger (yes that's really his name) did not in fact assassinate anyone. You see Swagger is on the run from the EEEEVIL G-men who set him up. They are led by Danny Glover who reaches levels of what Waylan Smithers would call "cartoonish supervillainy." Sadly, Glover's mustache is not long enough for him to actually twirl. Throughout the movie's game of cat-and-mouse with explosions, we also get plenty of unintelligible dialogue (Wahlberg mumbles while Glover reaches new levels of gruffness that only work if your name is Tom Waits). And the makers of "Shooter" decided that they had to make this movie "important." Honestly if I wanted to be beaten over the head with a political message I would turn on the news. There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours, but there are a whole lot of better ones too. 4.5/10

The Namesake- The story of the Ganguli family takes a little while to get going but once it does it becomes a very rewarding experience. We meet Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan) as a young man as he rides the rails. The normally shy Ashoke pulls his head out of his book (Nikolai Gogol's "The Overcoat") long enough to talk to a stranger who encourages him to see the world while he is still young. Mere seconds later Ashoke becomes the sole survivor of a violent crash. Ashoke credits Gogol's book with saving his life. When it comes time to name his first child with his arranged wife Ashima (Tabu) in New York, Ashoke knows the name he wants. As a small child Gogol loves his name, but as he grows up it makes him the butt of constant jokes amongst his American classmates.
Gogol (Kal Penn, atoning for "Epic Movie") is really a typical American kid in many ways, rocking out to Pearl Jam in his room. We see his transformation over the next decade as a man who knows virtually nothing of his Indian heritage to a man who fully embraces it while remaining as American as he ever was.
Mira Nair and Sooni Taraporevala's film from the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri is a very engaging look at a family that anybody could relate to. Most movie dads are either bumbling idiots, snarky disciplinarians, or so nice it hurts. Movie moms tend to be overbearing trainwrecks or too perfect to be believed. Not these ones. As they are written and played by Khan and Tabu we see very realistic parents doing things we could see our own parents doing.
"The Namesake" is a very good film, and it refreshingly tells its story in chronological order, something you don't normally see in this sort of movie anymore. Also, special mention of the makeup work in this film. We really see people age here in a natural looking way. 8/10

Also playing: I Think I Love My Wife- 5/10
Amazing Grace- 8.5/10
Zodiac- 10/10
300- 6/10
Color Me Kubrick- 9/10 (in select theaters and on DVD)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Film For...TV?

It's probably an April Fools joke but come Sunday night at 10 PM I'm going to be recording Cartoon Network, because if their commercials and website are to be believed then "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters" is going to be shown in its entirety. This has to be an April Fools joke. But even if it is I want to see what they do 'cause it will probably be funny.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Colour Me Kubrick: A True...ish Story

I've got some other reviews to come, but I'll start you off with the best of the recent bunch:

Alan Conway (John Malkovich) is not who you think he is. He is in fact Stanley Kubrick, or so he'd have you believe. As the title suggests, this is in fact a "true...ish" story. During the 1990s, several years after Kubrick had made his most recent work, "Full Metal Jacket," a British man named Alan Conway claimed to be the reclusive director in order to mingle and dine with high society. Conway looked absolutely nothing like Kubrick and didn't really know very much about the man, however the ruse lasted for quite a long time.
Writer Anthony Frewin (a long time assistant to the real Kubrick) and director Brian W. Cook create a film that satirizes the cultural obsession with celebrity, not only by examining Conway, but also the people who were so eagerly taken in by him. Loaded with references to Kubrick's films (some very subtle, others not), "Colour Me Kubrick" (the opening titles use the "u" so that's how I'll spell it) occasionally causes fits of laughter and keeps a smile on your face from first frame to last. Malkovich is incredible as the man who would be Kubrick, providing a different Kubrick voice for each of his victims. It's a detail that's so strange that it must have been real. The way Malkovich plays Conway we see a man who was fast on his feet. At one point an excitable young victim asks him what his current project is. Driving past a pharmacy, Conway informs him it's titled "All Night Prescriptions" and that Madonna wants a role but that she ought to stick to her day job. "The sing-ging."
"Colour Me Kubrick" is a bizarre and wonderful movie. It also features Richard E. Grant in a small role, and we all know how I feel about Richard E. Grant!
Oddly, the film which was put out in limited release on Friday arrives on DVD today. It might explain why there were only three of us at the Varsity on Sunday evening.

The Lily Tomlin-David O. Russell Blow Up

It's the talk of the town but if you haven't seen this already here is the infamous footage of the on-set meltdown between Lily Tomlin and director David O. Russell during the making of "I Heart Huckabees." This movie came out two and a half years ago so why this is only surfacing now I really don't know. I'm puzzled that most people who watch this seem to place all of the blame squarely on Russell. To me neither of them come off well at all. Yes he overreacted to the EXTREME, but at the same time if you try to push around a director on his set, he has every right, and in fact ought to, push back. I just feel bad for the crew and actors Dustin Hoffman and Jason Schwartzman who had to sit quietly and wait for this display to come to an end. Hopefully this will spark some interest for those who missed the movie itself which is very underrated. Warning, lots of profanity ahead:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The TV Set Trailer!

Jake Kasdan knows what it's like to deal with narrow-minded, unimaginative, and gutless TV executives. Why else would "Freaks and Geeks" (which he directed a number of episodes of) have been canceled after half a season? His new film called "The TV Set" stars David Duchovny as the creator of a TV series who's being forced to make compromise after compromise in the name of "accessibility." It also stars Sigourney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd ("Amazing Grace") and Judy Greer (Kitty on "Arrested Development"). It opens in select cities on April 6 and will expand in the following weeks:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Iran Declares War on Sparta!

This is too funny:

  • Iran Will Crush Sparta!
  • Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Have a Bonoless St. Patrick's Day!

    Listen to the Pogues instead!

    "Streams of Whiskey" by the Pogues:

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Andy Barker, P.I.

    Yesterday was Thursday, or as I like to call it, the night of too much good TV. Now that the Amazing Adventures of Atwood and Cohen are over it's slightly less jam-packed with goodnessitude, but there are still plenty of things to watch. Ironic then that I watch neither "CSI" nor "Grey's Anatomy," despite the fact that EVVVVERRYBODY watches them. Just never got into the whole "CSI" thing and I'm waiting until "Greymania" (I just made that up, let's see if it catches on) dies down until I decide to sit down and give it a watch. Honestly, if I here anyone described as being McAnything ever again, I'm going to go off on them Dr. Cox style, which brings me to one of MY Thursday favorites, the always brilliant "Scrubs." In its sixth season it's as sharp as its ever been. J.D.'s caveman fantasy within a fantasy last night (complete with cavespeak narration) will certainly enrage the stars of Geico commercials but it made me laugh hysterically.
    Then there was the premiere of Andy Richter's new series, "Andy Barker, P.I.," about a bored C.P.A. who unwittingly gets dragged into becoming a gumshoe. Nobody does lovable schlub like Richter so he's perfect for this. What really made this show for me though was Tony Hale (Buster on "Arrested Development") as his sidekick, Simon. Simon manages the video store downstairs from Andy's office and he's an endless font of movie trivia. On a stakeout Simon explains to Andy that his knowledge of gangster movies makes him essential to solving the case because he knows what's gonna go down. For being a comedy series, there were quite a few action sequences. Not sure if that's going to be a mainstay or if it was just for the pilot. In any event it certainly sets it apart from the average sitcom. What I really enjoyed about "Andy" was that it was very funny and also worked pretty well as a P.I. show. He's no Veronica Mars, but Andy's gonna be a lot of fun to watch.
    Then there was last night's "Smallville." I'm still in complete shock. What an amazing episode. I'm not gonna spoil it for you if you haven't watched it yet but let me just say,...WHOA! That was insane. There were more big events in that episode than most shows do in an entire season, and it wasn't even a season finale.
    Add "Earl" and "The Office" (rerun tonight) to the mix and Thursday is absolute crazinocity. And no, I don't watch "Ugly Betty." Not now, not ever.

    Monday, March 12, 2007


    Well you knew this was coming. What was Bob going to think of the highly anticipated and highly divisive "300"? It seems that with Zack Snyder's big screen version of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name there are two schools of thought: 1) "It's AMAZING!" 2) "What absolute tripe!" So I will now proceed to alienate EVERYBODY by saying that ya know what, it's decent...but not great.
    "300" is a movie filled with some things I liked a lot, and other things I really didn't. First off, I haven't read the original graphic novel, but it sure feels like I have. I feel like a good adaptation of something ought to maintain the spirit of the original work but also bring something new to the table. For much of the film Snyder really doesn't seem to be making his own movie, but simply re-creating a comic book and setting it to music. There are moments when he breaks away from this, such as a battle scene in which the outnumbered Spartans (of course they were outnumbered, I mean there were only...three...something, I don't remember the actual number) defend a narrow passage way. We hear the furious clash of shields as a Spartan shouts, "Is that the best you've got?!" It is intense and savage and I'm betting that it's true to the source material while at the same time being a movie instead of a comic on screen. This is a rare moment however, as most of the battle scenes are presented as slow motion ballet. It becomes very tiresome very fast. I get that a comic book film is going to be highly stylized, but if you're going to create a brutal battle scene then don't shy away from showing its brutality. Snyder employs more slow motion here than six whole episodes of "The A-Team." My brother and I have always felt that people fell in slow motion on "The A-Team" so the impact wouldn't hurt as much. That may sound like a digression on my part, but I'm wondering if Snyder had the same idea we did. This overdose of slo-mo and the fact that every frame of "300" was shot in front of a green screen actually led me to remark at one point, "Wow, look at those Persians falling off of that cliff...a whole six feet onto a P.E. wrestling mat."
    I was also bothered by the fact that in "300," physical weakness seems to equal moral weakness. The uglier and more deformed you are, the more corrupt.
    As I remarked in the opening however, "300" does have its strong points, not least of which is its cast. Gerard Butler (a long way from "The Phantom of the Opera") is terrific as King Leonidas. You never doubt for one second that these three hundred men would follow him to their deaths without a moment's hesitation. There is also fine supporting work from Vincent Regan as the King's Captain as well as David Wenham (Faramir from "Lord of the Rings") as Dilios, the man who honors the King's most important order. The real standout however is Lena Headey ("The Brothers Grimm") as Queen Gorgo. It is her plea that Sparta stand up to the tyranny of Xerxes that is "300's" finest moment. It is a plea that desperately needs to be heard today and the fact that it made it into a major Hollywood production is incredible.
    For me "300" was very much worth watching, but ultimately a disappointment. I only wish it had been directed by someone who'd wanted to make a movie instead of a comic book.
    So I now await your responses. Your criticisms of my take will probably blot out the sun, but I will fight in the shade!

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Captain America

    I don't read comics, I never really have, but you don't kill Captain America. It's just not done.

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    I'm back and so is David Fincher!

    One of America's best and most exciting filmmakers returns with his first movie in five years. As much as I enjoyed 2002's "Panic Room" it was hardly a follow-up befitting of the man who had just come off of directing the earth-shattering masterpiece "Fight Club." Now in 2007, that follow-up has arrived. This isn't to say that "Zodiac" is a film in the same vein as "Fight Club," but it is every inch a modern masterpiece.
    On July 4, 1969, a young couple in California is brutally attacked by a man with seemingly no motive. The boy survives and the girl does not. Four weeks later the first letter arrives at the San Francisco Chronicle, along with another message written in code from a man identifying himself as the Zodiac. As the months and years go by he claims more and more victims, taunting the police, the press, and the public all the while. For political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), and columnist Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) finding the identity of this man became an all-consuming obsession. This film is the story of that obsession. "Zodiac" is also a film about time. We see the grueling process that these men go through to uncover the truth, and by the end of the picture's 2 hour and 40 minute running time, we are able to see the toll it has taken on them. Despite its length and the fact that we never have a real resolution (the case is still open after all), "Zodiac" is a perfectly paced and enthralling film. Fincher keeps things moving and the screenplay by James Vanderbilt is filled with wonderful and believable dialogue. Nobody in this movie talks like they're in a Hollywood thriller. The leads are all excellent. Gyllenhaal (the man who would be Donnie Darko) gives what may be his finest performance. It's not always easy for an audience to understand a character's obsession, but we'll follow his Graysmith anywhere (and believe me, we do). The always likable Ruffalo is outstanding as well. We really want Toschi to put the handcuffs on Zodiac though we know he never will. And Downey, Jr. continues his hot streak ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," "A Scanner Darkly"). Most actors would have played Paul Avery too over the top. Downey fearlessly dances up the edge but never goes too far. There are also fine supporting performances from an array of talented actors, including Donal Logue ("The Knights of Prosperity"), Chloe Sevingny ("Shattered Glass"), Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter in "Manhunter"), and Philip Baker Hall ("Magnolia").
    "Zodiac" was also a joy to watch for the film geek in me (the reason I write all these reviews in the first place). Fincher uses the Paramount logo from 1969 to open the movie. Spanning 22 years, each part of "Zodiac" looks like a movie made from that time. It's done very subtly and it didn't even dawn on me until after it was over. One of the reasons I love David Fincher so much is that he is an incredibly stylistic director, yet his style never overwhelms or calls attention to itself, it's there to serve the story. He also never sensationalizes the true horror that the victims (a few of whom are still alive) went through. He genuinely respects those who were affected by the Zodiac.
    I also absolutely must note that I had no idea while I was watching "Zodiac" that it was shot on digital. I have grumbled and ranted many times about the horrid look of digital films, particularly in movies like Michael Mann's "Miami Vice" and Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto." "Zodiac" really looks as though it were shot on film and if I hadn't stumbled across that information this morning on IMDB, I still wouldn't know. Fincher and cinematographer Harris Savides are to be congratulated for making a digital movie that looks amazing.
    "Zodiac" is an incredible achievement from top to bottom. Get yourself to the theater now! 10/10

    I'm back!

    It has been far too long since I wrote a proper review of anything...and it'll be just a bit longer. I'm cooking up a full review of David Fincher's "Zodiac" but until then here are some capsule reviews of movies currently in theaters:

    Reno 911!: Miami- The format translates better to television than to a full length movie, but if you're a fan of the series (which I most definitely am) then you need to see it. Be sure to stay through the credits. 7/10

    The Astronaut Farmer- The story of a man building his own spaceship inside a barn is absurd to be sure, but the Polish Brothers and the performance of Billy Bob Thornton make us believe in it. In the same vein (though not as good) as "The World's Fastest Indian." Worth seeing and it's about time Bruce Dern was in a movie again. 7/10

    Music and Lyrics- Hugh Grant does his Hugh Grant thing, and ya know what, that's all I need. The man's always funny (even if the movie's a stinker, like say, "American Dreamz"). Some very clever touches from writer-director Marc Lawrence as well. Hopefully it will convince VH1 to resurrect "Pop Up Video." 7/10

    Breach- Chris Cooper is fantastic as American spy Robert Hanssen in the new film from Billy Ray (the director of the great but little seen "Shattered Glass"...not Cyrus). Very intriguing character study. 7.5/10

    Pan's Labyrinth- Yeah it's very good, but why the unbridled worship? Maybe I need to watch it again. 8/10

    Venus- The main story is less interesting than the subplots but it's got Peter O'Toole at his best. He and Leslie Philips are a joy to watch as two cantankerous aging actors. Those who claim they're "Withnail and I" in their twilight years make a valid claim. Which reminds me, Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann need to make another movie together. 8/10

    Now on DVD: I finally saw "Half Nelson." A great, great performance from Ryan Gosling that establishes him as one of the finest young actors working today. 8/10

    Next up: Zodiac...