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.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Slow Movie Weekend.

Yes, a gigantic dogpile of movies came out this weekend and the only one I actually care about is Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding." "No Country For Old Men" is in wide release now so chances are it's playing just around the corner from you, wherever you are (including Marysville). One of the year's absolute best so don't miss it. And now I leave you with Radiohead covering my favorite New Order song, "Ceremony." Ahhh, that's the stuff:

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Country For Mr. Magorium

Saw 2 movies this weekend, so let's get to it.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium- Last year Zach Helm gave us the amazing screenplay to "Stranger Than Fiction," a magical and imaginative film (not to mention thoroughly underrated). When I first heard about "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," a film about a magical toy store, it seemed only right that it come from the mind of Helm. Unfortunately the execution is nowhere near as magical as the idea behind it.
"Magorium" is narrated by nine year old Eric (Zach Mills). His only friend is the toy store's manager, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman). He's a shy child with a big imagination, which doesn't win him a lot of friends. Every day he shows up at the store to play and to help Molly out. The store's owner, Edward Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is a 243 year old eccentric who's never looked at a receipt. He explains to Molly that he's leaving and passing over the store to her. In order to do that, he hires an accountant (or "mutant" as Magorium calls him) to figure out what the store is worth. Henry the "mutant" (Jason Bateman) takes his job very seriously and is unable to see the magic contained in the store. Magorium, who is in perfect health, insists to everyone that it is just his time to die. Molly desperately wants him to stay but he's ready to go.
I realized not far into "Magorium" that I would rather go to the store than actually watch the movie. The wonderful (sure, I'll use the most obvious word) world of the store never quite translates onto the screen. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's Helm's inexperience as a director ("Fiction" was directed by Marc Forster), or maybe it's just because he doesn't develop the characters as fully as he did in "Fiction." That said, there are some things I really did enjoy about the film. First off, I love that in the world of this film kids have imaginations. They love playing with toys. Also, it displays the idea of death in a light that children can understand without being frightened by it. Helm also thankfully avoids doing anything stupid such as having a character getting covered in slime for no apparent reason, and no toilets explode. In other words he doesn't use "kid movie" staples.
The four leads do decent work, Hoffman coming off the best. He plays Magorium just silly enough while making the sadder scenes work. Portman is okay but doesn't really stretch herself here. Bateman is fine but he's not given enough to do. The young Mills is a step up from a lot of child actors but he's not great either.
"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" is certainly not a bad movie, and as kids movies go you could easily do much worse, but it is a disappointment. Not enough magic in this one. It is currently in wide release. 6/10.

And now, for the main event...

No Country For Old Men- Joel and Ethan Coen are responsible for more of my favorite movies than any other filmmaker. "Blood Simple," "Raising Arizona," "Miller's Crossing," "Barton Fink," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," and "The Man Who Wasn't There." For a writer-director to be able to lay claim to one of those movies would be impressive. That's a list of nine. "Intolerable Cruelty" was good, but nowhere near the caliber of the rest, and their most recent film (a remake of "The Ladykillers") was the first of their movies I can really say I didn't particularly like. Had the Coens' lost their mojo? Were their glory days behind them, never to return? The answer is a resounding no. So much so that "No Country" ranks among their best. It may actually top the list (a second viewing will probably determine that for sure).
The picture opens with the arrest of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Within moments he's escaped and committed his first acts of on screen brutality. Meanwhile, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is out shooting some deer when he stumbles upon the aftermath of a bloody shootout, and a bag full of cash. Not surprisingly, Llewelyn brings the bag home. His candor with his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald, "Trainspotting") about the bag is refreshing to see in a movie. Llewelyn's conscience gets the better of him though and he decides to return to the scene to help the last surviving victim. "I'm fixin' to do somethin' real stupid," he explains to Carla Jean, "but I'm gonna do it anyway." This sums up characters' decision making in the world of the Coen brothers. His return is what sets the wheels in motion, and what sends Anton after Llewelyn. Trying to make sense of the crumbling world around him that creates men like Chigurh is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). Bell knows Llewelyn, though it's not made clear up front exactly how.
Chigurh's pursuit of Llewelyn is unique in the way it's played. Llewelyn really is out of his element and surviving purely through sheer force of will. There are no elaborate action sequences where Llewelyn becomes John McClane and the film is less talky than any of the Coens previous works. Several minutes go by with no dialogue, as Llewelyn and Chigurh listen for each other and prepare for what is to come. These scenes are amongst the most riveting I've seen in a very long time.
"No Country" is the least quirky Coen film since at least "Miller's Crossing" and possibly ever, which is probably due in large part to the fact that it's based on Cormac McCarthy's novel. That isn't to say it's not recognizable as their film. It most certainly is. The dark sense of humor is just buried beneath the surface a bit more. Of all of their other movies it's most comparable in tone to "Blood Simple." They also once again display their ability to cast just right. Who else could have seen the potential of Josh Brolin? I certainly hadn't, but he's outstanding here. Bardem's performance is as chilling as they come. His take on the psychopathic killer without remorse is unlike any other I've ever seen. There's no theatricality or relish to Anton Chigurh. He just is who he is. The part of Bell is tailor-made for Jones, but not in the way you would expect. Like the Coens themselves, he's buried his usual ticks beneath the surface. The result is his best performance since at least "The Fugitive," and one that is actually more interesting. Macdonald is great as always, and she really knocks it out of the park at film's end (I promise that doesn't give anything away).
Set in 1980 Texas, "No Country" is notable for being a film that could have taken place now with only the subtlest of tweaks. Technological advances don't change men such as these.
"No Country For Old Men" is the kind of movie we just don't see enough of. It's an art film that truly entertains. (It also more than washed the "Southland Tales" out of my mouth.) This is a spectacular movie and one that I cannot wait to see again. It is currently in limited release but opens wide on Wednesday. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. 10/10.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Southland Tales

Thanks to Justin, my computer lives! Once again man has triumphed over machine. It was a beast of an undertaking but he did it.

Well I gave you a taste, and now here it is in all its glory. My review of Richard Kelly's long-awaited post-"Darko," "Southland Tales."
This was the first preview screening I've been to in awhile and the atmosphere is always good at those. The Varsity wasn't quite full, but there was a good sized crowd. Some were really into it. Others, such as myself, were not. Now for the why.
"Southland Tales" opens on July 4, 2005. As the film has been sitting on the shelf for some time, it feels as though we are seeing the events of the future. On this Independence Day, a nuclear blasts hits Abilene, Texas. Over the next few minutes, Kelly shows us the events of the next three years. USIdent watches our every move (and...movement...eww) as we reach the summer of 2008.
Popular actor Boxer Santaros (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), a man with ties to the Republican's Vice-Presidential candidate has gone missing for several days. Upon arriving back in L.A. with amnesia, no one knows where Boxer is, except for porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Together, the two have written a screenplay about the end of the world, and as "Southland Tales" unfolds we see that their script is more accurate than they could have imagined. Meanwhile, a Los Angeles cop (Seann William Scott) has been kidnapped and some neo-Marxists have replaced him with his twin brother (also Scott) to stage a murder on film. This is about as far as I can go in explaining the plot of "Southland Tales" without breaking out a road map that neither you nor I would understand.
Along the way, all manner of nonsensical pretentious things occur, including a scene in which a character dances from one room to another, self-indulgent musical sequences, and Kevin Smith wearing a ZZ Top beard, all while Justin Timberlake narrates. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that Kelly seems to think that the mere presence of midgets is somehow comic gold. It's not.
I could forgive a lot of what Kelly does here if this film had the same sense of atmosphere that he delivered with "Donnie Darko" and more importantly if the humor in the film had come off. A few things do land, such as The Rock's nervous fingers and the scene where he and Gellar explain their screenplay to Scott. The three leads (the Rock, Gellar, and Scott) all do quite well. Their performances are all the more impressive when you consider how bad most of Kelly's dialogue is. But unfortunately they can't save the sinking ship, or in this case the megazeppelin and the floating ice cream truck. The supporting cast doesn't do nearly as well. First off, I don't know what Wallace Shawn was doing in this movie ("Inconceivable!") and the neo-Marxist played by Lisa K. Wyatt may be the most annoying character I've seen in a film since Jar Jar Binks. Most of her scenes are with "SNL" vet Nora Dunn (who doesn't do so well herself here). Every word out of Wyatt's mouth is supposed to be funny. Between Kelly's dialogue and her shrill delivery of every line, none of it works.
At 2 hours and 24 minutes, "Southland Tales" is now shorter than when it premiered at Cannes a year and a half ago. Kelly needed to keep cutting. It probably wouldn't have made the movie any better but it would have at least stolen less of my life. Also, I don't need to be beaten over the head by a political message, particularly one that was designed for the sole purpose of making college students cheer. The politics interspersed with infantile attempts at comedy bring "Southland Tales" down even further.
I will say this for the movie (which Craig and Justin also felt). I remained intrigued about where it was all going. From one scene to the next I couldn't predict what was coming. That in itself is not enough to make a movie good, but at least it keeps you awake.
Going in I strongly suspected that I was going to be scratching my head at the end of this movie. I wasn't sure though if it would be because I didn't get it, or because there would be nothing to get. It appears quite clearly to be the latter. Either Kelly really thinks he's smart and actually isn't, or he knows he's not that smart but desperately wants the audience to believe he is. In either case, "Southland Tales" is a jumbled mess of a movie that offers little in the way of entertainment or imagination. It opens in limited release tomorrow. 3/10.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hi everybody!

Hey, I haven't been on since Saturday because some jerk faces spywared up my computer. We're still in the process of getting rid of all of it (thanks to Justin who's been going head to head with it like a pro), so I'm at the li-bary. Went to three movies this weekend. Sunday was "Ghostbusters" in 70mm at the Cinerama followed a few hours later by "Blade Runner: The Final Cut" also at the Cinerama. "Ghostbusters" has been one of my favorites since I was about five years old so finally getting to see it on the big screen was absolutely fantastic. The childlike smile on my face never vanished.

"Blade Runner" was a spectacular experience as well. Then Monday night Justin, Craig, and I caught a preview screening of "Southland Tales" at the Varsity. Nonsensical pretentious garbage, it is. Richard Kelly's first film since "Donnie Darko" is a step down to put it mildly. I'll do a full review when I don't have a clock on the screen telling me how much time I have left.

Other than that I've just been reading, writing, working, hanging out with Justin. Ya know, the oosual. Hopefully the spyware and adware will be a thing of the past this time tomorrow. I certainly hope so. Then I won't have to put on my coat just to go onto this series of tubes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

89 Years Ago.

This Sunday marks the 89th anniversary of the end of World War I. Now we call it Veterans Day. But on November 11, 1918 they called it Armistice Day. It brought an end to four years of bloodshed the likes of which the world had never seen. However it would only be 21 years until the wound opened up again.
The Great War remains a landmark period in human history. It also remains one of the most tragic.
As you all know, I love film. I love it for its ability to transport us, entertain us, take us into the realms of imagination. But I also love it because it preserves the past. It is so important that we have this documentation of what men struggled and died for ninety years ago. They must not be forgotten.

Here is a very interesting page to look at as well. It is
  • the diary of a British soldier
  • who served in the Great War.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    An Update.

    Well I haven't been saying much here lately. I've been having kind of a nice break not feeling the need to run around to three or four movies a week. Instead I've been working on some of my own writing, doing some reading (about 50 pages into "The Hunt For Red October," and yes I am aware that it's been out awhile), trying (with little success) to catch up on my TV shows, and re-watching "Ratatouille" and "Stranger Than Fiction," both of which hold up very nicely. It looks to be yet another slow weekend new release-wise which is perfectly alright by me. I do however intend to catch "Ghostbusters" in 70mm at the Cinerama this Sunday and I may just stick around for "Blade Runner: The Final Cut" as well. In case anyone's interested "Ghostbusters" plays at noon Sunday and 8 PM Tuesday.

    Here's an overview of what is still playing:
    American Gangster: 8.5/10
    Control: 8.5
    Lars and the Real Girl: 9
    Michael Clayton: 8
    Elizabeth: The Golden Age: 4
    Lust, Caution: 8
    The Darjeeling Limited: 9
    Eastern Promises: 7.5
    The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford: 10
    The Kingdom: 7.5
    Across the Universe: 4

    Until we meet again, don't cross the streams:

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    The Best Death Scene in All of Cinema?

    I have to put the question mark because I of course have not seen every movie ever made (shocking, I know). But for my money, this is the best and most effecting screen death I've ever seen. I'm not a hard core Trekkie (unlike Justin, he who just had his wisdom teeth pulled this morning). I'm more of a casual fan, but "Wrath of Khan" is just about as perfect as movies come. Having finally seen "Free Enterprise" today (which if you've never seen, you must!) it just got me itching to watch "Wrath of Khan" again. And now I hope to make all of you want to re-watch it as well. And if you've never seen "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (in which case you may not want to watch this clip) then make that the next movie you rent!
    "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one."

    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    Somewhere Grandpa is Smiling.

    This post has nothing to do with film or television, but ya know what...smy blog.

    Navy 46
    Notre Dame 44

    The 43 year losing streak is over. GO NAVY!

    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    Thank Goofy For Smoking