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.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Opening Day!

Baseball season begins again! Alright, technically it began in Japan last Tuesday. Not sleeping well I turned on my TV at 6 in the morning to find the Red Sox and A's heading into extra innings. And the Braves and Nationals are playing right this moment. But for everyone else tomorrow is the first day of baseball season. As many of you know I'm a long-time Baltimore Orioles fan. So naturally they're expected by many to be in fact the worst team in baseball this season. I'm also a Mariners fan for obvious reasons. Among other teams I like, there are the Cubs ('cause hey, you've gotta love the Cubs), the Padres because of my dad being from San Diego, and the Dodgers 'cause I've just always kind of liked the Dodgers. Of these five teams, two (Mariners and Padres) have never won a World Series. The Orioles haven't won it since I was a year old in 1983, the Dodgers last won it in '88 ("Eckersley's gonna make a mistake"), and this season the Cubs mark the 100th anniversary of their last World Championship. Yes, I'm a pessimistic baseball fan. But hey, I still love it and every spring I eagerly await that first pitch. To get you ready here are clips from the two best baseball movies ever made.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mini review: "The Bank Job"

Well it's been out for a few weeks now but I just finally got around to seeing "The Bank Job." It's the very entertaining (if convoluted) story about a real bank heist in London in 1971. Director Roger Donaldson ("The World's Fastest Indian") does a fine job. The many plot turns and double crosses become hard to follow at times but ultimately it's best to just not worry about them and enjoy yourself.
Jason Statham pretty much does his Jason Statham thing, but hey, he's good at that. And I for one am not going to argue with Mr. Statham.
A fun movie. It drags a bit at times but all in all a good time. 7.5/10

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Run Fatboy Run

A good six months after being released in Britain, "Run Fatboy Run" has finally made its way to the U.S. The new romantic comedy starring Simon Pegg is coming out this Friday but I caught a sneak preview last night. For those of you who've missed them, Pegg is the co-writer and star of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" (my number 1 film of '07), so I've been pretty excited for this one.
The film opens on the wedding day of Dennis (Pegg) and Libby (Thandie Newton, "Crash"). With families in attendance and a pregnant Libby in her wedding dress, a frightened Dennis makes a run for it. Five years later he's still running. Badly. As a security guard who's "not fat...just unfit." Dennis is a character more along the lines of slacker Shaun than overachieving Nicholas Angel. Still, he's a good father to his boy Jake (Matthew Fenton). Or he tries to be anyway. Libby allows Dennis to be a part of Jake's life but her new super man Whit (Hank Azaria) may have something to say about that.
Whit is an American businessman living in London and he's successful at everything he does. That includes running marathons. In an attempt to prove to Libby that he can actually finish something, Dennis decides to run a marathon too, with only three weeks to train. With the help of his landlord Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel) and best friend Gordon (Dylan Moran, "Shaun," "Tristram Shandy"), Dennis starts to prepare physically and mentally for the grueling 26 mile run.
Written by Pegg and Michael Ian Black I would have expected more hilarity from this film. The story, while familiar is reasonably well told and the emotional content actually works pretty well. It's a testament to Pegg as an actor that we like Dennis in spite of what he does to Libby in the very first scene, and the scenes between Pegg and Fenton are genuinely touching. But the comedy doesn't hit nearly as well as it ought to. The only scenes that really inspire big laughs are the moments between Pegg and Moran and it shows that Moran is deserving of a lead comedy role very soon. His is the best performance in the film.
David Schwimmer (you know, Ross) makes his debut as a film director. He's done some TV episodes with a certain amount of success but he could use some work bringing comedy to life. He does have some fine moments, particularly when Dennis "hits the wall." Schwimmer has talent and with some honing he could make a very good movie director some day.
"Run Fatboy Run" was ultimately a disappointment. Worthwhile if you're a fan of Pegg or Moran, but nothing you need to rush to next weekend. It's certainly not going to make anyone forget about "Shaun" or "Fuzz." 6/10.

And now, some trailers that look really funny.

"Son of Rambow"

"Step Brothers"

Friday, March 21, 2008

There Will Be Vader

"Ladies and gentlemen, if I say I'm a Sith Lord you will agree. My name is Darth Plainview. This is my son and my partner Luke W. I've traveled across half our state to be here tonight and to see about this Death Star..."

This doesn't create the same kind of uncontrollable hyena laughter that "Vader Sessions" did, but it's pretty funny.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's enough to make me take up...something.

About a year ago it was reported that there was a movement in these United States to get the MPAA to slap an R rating on films simply for containing a character lighting up a cigarette. Now a group in Britain has decided that an idea this goofy must be co-opted by them. This from the BBC:

Call to restrict smoking scenes
Rowan Bridge
BBC News, Liverpool

An anti-smoking group in Liverpool is calling for all movies with smoking scenes to be given an 18 certificate.

SmokeFree Liverpool told BBC's Radio 5 Live it wanted to see the change but the film classification board said the idea was "heavy-handed".

The push - backed by the city council - comes amid research showing young people pick up the bad habit from watching films containing smoking.

One city official said Liverpool may even act alone to restrict film access.

Andy Hull, the city's head of public protection and chair of SmokeFree Liverpool, said an adult rating on movies that depict smoking will reduce the number of young people lighting up.

"The international that one in two children between 11 and 18 who witness smoking in movies actually experiment with - and therefore start - smoking themselves," Mr Hull said of recent research.

Liverpool already carries the unenviable title of lung cancer capital of England, with some of the highest smoking rates in the UK.

Not popular

Mr Hull said Liverpool wants the British Board of Film Classification to act.

HAVE YOUR SAY I thought we elected councils to provide services not become our moral guardians? Russell James, Wirral
But a spokeswoman for the film board said smoking and alcohol use are already taken into consideration when a film is rated and a blanket 18 certificate for all smoking scenes is "heavy handed".

"To simply classify a film 18 because people smoke in it would not be popular with the public," the spokeswoman said, adding an extensive public consultation has already examined the issue to come up with existing guidelines.

For example, if a character popular with children such as Harry Potter was somehow promoting cigarettes or seen smoking, the film would be rated accordingly, she said.

"We would take that very seriously," she added.

Dr Stacey Anderson, of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, said the evidence of smoking's influence on young people is very clear.

I think to simply classify a film 18 because people smoke in it would not be popular with the public
British Board of Film Classification spokeswoman

"The more smoking a child views in films, the more likely they are to take up smoking," she said of the scientific evidence gathered in the United States and elsewhere.

Dr Anderson said characters do not even have to be smoking for there to be an adverse influence, just the sight of a pack of cigarettes or a tobacco advertisement has an effect on youth attitude.

She said if part of the role of the film board is to protect young people from potential harm, then smoking should be included in those considerations.

Mr Hull said if the BBFC is not prepared to adopt an 18 certificate then the city will consider using licensing laws to bring in its own stricter ratings for films screened locally.

So there you have that. I considered going off on a rant about this but I've got to leave for work soon and the one thing that I love about stupidity is that it so often speaks for itself. Have a good one. Smoke if you got 'em.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Edgar Wright gives confirmation!

Straight from Edgar’s myspace blog, confirmation about his upcoming collaboration with Michael Cera:

"George Michael Versus The World!
Some of you may have read the trade announcements of a certain Michael Cera playing a certain Scott Pilgrim. All very exciting indeed.

I can’t go into too much detail, but I hope that at the very least, the prospect of myself and Michael working together on a film, will put to bed any notion that we are sworn enemies due to the Superbad Press Junket Meltdown. Some people on messageboards are still confused about that one."

This is an insanely awesome comic pairing. I can’t wait for this thing to get made and hit theaters.

Michael Cera and Edgar Wright!

The funniest young actor working today plus the best comedy director of this decade equals a movie I'm already chomping at the bit to see. It's only in the development stage right now and it may not happen at all, but gosh darnit, it's too exciting to ignore.
Wright, the man who brought us "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," is set to direct "Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life," which is based on a series of graphic novels. Like every other graphic novel, I have not read "Scott Pilgrim." It's nothing against graphic novels mind you, it's just that I've never actually read one. Maybe someday I will. In any case, word on the street is that George Michael Bluth himself, Michael Cera, will be playing the lead role when cameras start rolling. Thanks to Reel Fanatic for bringing my attention to this. Here's a bit of what he had to say about the film's story:

"Here, as best as I can tell, is what the story is about: 23-year-old Canadian Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a wannabe-rockstar living in Toronto and playing bass in the band Sex Bob-Omb. He falls in love with American delivery girl Ramona V. Flowers, but must defeat her seven "evil exes" in order to date her."

It sounds perfect for Cera and Wright. I really hope this happens. Now if Johnny Depp would just make time for Bruce Robinson so "The Rum Diary" could finally materialize I'll be set.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Two Great Losses

Earlier today the news broke about the loss of two great storytellers, Anthony Minghella and Arthur C. Clarke.
Minghella is best known as the writer-director of 1996's Best Picture winner, "The English Patient." Even more important to me however was his excellent follow-up, 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley." He was only 54 years old and leaves behind his son Max, star of 2006's "Art School Confidential."

Clarke, 90, co-wrote the screenplay of "2001: A Space Odyssey," based on his own book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Return of Screwball?

Smart, quick-witted characters trading snappy dialogue in the middle of crazy situations fell out of favor long ago. Movies like "His Girl Friday" and "The Philadelphia Story" just don't get made anymore. When "What's Up, Doc?" was released in 1972 it came with the tagline, "A screwball comedy. Remember them?" 1972! So to see two screwball comedies getting released in the space of a month is a welcome sight. The upcoming "Leatherheads" with George Clooney (who also directed), Renee Zellweger, and "The Office's" John Krasinski promises to be an absolute blast. First up though is "Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day," with two of the best actresses working today, Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. It's not as zany as "His Girl" or "Doc?" but it has enough screwball elements to qualify and that's good enough for me.
Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) is a British governess who has just lost another job. It's clear she's not bad at what she does, she just seems to rub her agency's high class clientele the wrong way, not to mention her boss who's not going to give Guinevere another "last chance." Out of desperation Guinevere breaks the rules, seemingly for the first time in her life, and sneaks off to the London home of American starlet Delysia Lafosse (Adams). Upon Guinevere's arrival, the two radically different women find themselves working together to get Phil out of the flat and clean up the mess of last night's party before the home's owner, Nick arrives. Guinevere and Delysia make an unlikely but effective team almost instantly. This early sequence is very long but very funny and it's a terrific showcase for McDormand and Adams.
The rest of the film takes place over the course of the day, with Delysia bringing Guinevere into a world she's only ever cleaned up after. Delysia also spends the day trying to decide between being with the young cad Phil (Tom Payne), the rich but controlling Nick (Mark Strong), or the poor but noble Michael (Lee Pace of "Pushing Daisies"). Guinevere knows the right choice as do we. Meanwhile Guinevere herself meets Joe (the always dependable Ciaran Hinds), a man in the world of British high society but not of it. However, his engagement to the vindictive Edythe (the great Shirley Henderson) is a serious problem.
With a screenplay by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy and directed by Bharat Nalluri, "Miss Pettigrew" often feels like a play on film, but for this kind of movie it works. This is the sort of film that's all about great actors trading great lines with the occasional moment of physical comedy in between.
Like the character she plays, McDormand is the definition of professional. It's nice to see her in a lead role again. As for Adams, she can add screwball comedy to the list of things she excels at as an actress. She's going to be around long after Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan have been forgotten.
The outcome is predictable and it's lighter than light but that's as it should be. At one point Guinevere asks Joe, "Am I that old fashioned?"
"Yes," he replies. "And all the better for it." So is this movie. 8/10.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"Semi-Pro" and "The Other Boleyn Girl"

We're already two months into the year and there are finally movies coming out that I actually want to see. The question now is are they actually worth seeing?

Semi-Pro: Apparently trying to take on every sport in the known universe, Will Ferrell has delivered a very funny film about NASCAR and an even better one about figure skating. Silly comedies don't get much better than "Blades of Glory." However the third film in Ferrell's sports anthology, the basketball comedy "Semi-Pro" is most likely his weakest movie to date.
Telling the story of Jackie Moon (Ferrell), "Semi-Pro" is set in the 1970s, during the final year of the ABA as it is dissolved into the NBA. The plot consists of Jackie and his team of comic misfits trying to save their team, the Flint Tropics, from dissolution. The NBA is only going to take on four teams from the dying league, and thanks to Jackie's outburst at the owner's meeting (he's the team's owner-player-coach which is one of the only funny things about the film), it is decided that the NBA will take on the four teams with the best records and the best attendance.
The problem with this plan is that the Tropics have the worst record in the league and while their fans are loyal, the number remains small. In an attempt to improve the Tropics' chances, Jackie trades the team's washing machine for veteran player Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson), while beginning a series of radical promotions which include Free Corn Dog Night and Jackie wrestling a bear after a game. I don't really know much about the ABA but apparently promotions of this nature were a big part of the league.
Going into any sports movie you know that the standard formula is that a lousy team pulls together to become a good one. "Semi-Pro" follows this road map steadily, which is not the movie's problem. After all "Dodgeball" followed this formula and it's one of the funniest films of this decade. The problem with "Semi-Pro" is that the comedy doesn't work. Much like "Nacho Libre" it's the sort of movie that you watch and think, "I'll bet this was funny on the page, it was probably funny while they were shooting it, but put together as a movie it just doesn't work." Most everything falls terribly flat. Throughout the film it's obvious where the jokes are but they just aren't funny. When the sight of Will Ferrell wrestling a bear can barely elicit a pity smile from me it's a sign that this thing just ain't working. Let me say that again. Will Ferrell. Wrestles a bear. And it isn't that funny. Where did this movie go wrong?
"Semi-Pro" is also incredibly vulgar. While the vulgarity in "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" was funny because it came from a believable place and characters with heart, here it just seems to be purely for the sake of vulgarity. What Ferrell, writer Scot Armstrong, and director Kent Alterman fail to understand is that crudeness for the sake of crudeness does not equal comedy.
As the film's straight man, Harrelson gives a good performance. He seems to be in a different movie from everyone else. Whatever movie it is it's clearly a better one. I was hoping it might be playing next door.
"Semi-Pro" is not irretrievably awful, but it's certainly not worth your time. Just because a comedy is dumb doesn't mean it shouldn't be funny. Ferrell knows that. Hopefully when he makes films about squash and the two-man luge he'll remember it. 4/10.

The Other Boleyn Girl: Royal history is full of scandalous tales, backstabbing, and intrigue. How this brought about a film as drab as "The Other Boleyn Girl" is a mystery.
Sisters Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman as the self-proclaimed "other") are as close as can be. However their father and uncle create a fierce rivalry between them when they attempt to gain power and position for the family.
After marrying William Carey ("Amazing Grace's" Benedict Cumberbatch), Mary is quite happy to live life quietly. The older and ambitious Anne wants more however. She gets her opportunity when her father and uncle set her up to be King Henry VIII's latest mistress. Henry (Eric Bana) is quite taken with Anne but it's not long before his attention is turned to Mary, who reluctantly bows to family pressure to have an affair with him. Together Henry and Mary produce a baby boy, but due to Henry's marriage to Katherine (Ana Torrent) the child cannot be heir to the throne.
After a time Henry casts Mary aside and goes after Anne who tries to convince Henry to annul his marriage so that she can be Queen and mother to the future King.
I've never had a problem with Brits playing Americans or Americans playing Brits. It's called acting for a reason and if you can pull it off my hat's off to you. Having said that, Portman and Johansson needed to spend more time with the dialogue coach. Otherwise Johansson gives a decent if unmemorable performance. Portman meanwhile doesn't fare as well. She's wonderful in films like "Leon" and "Garden State," but she really needs to stop playing royalty, a lesson she apparently didn't learn from "Star Wars." The normally outstanding Bana, like the rest of the movie, is pretty lifeless here.
Kristin Scott Thomas as mother Lady Elizabeth Boleyn and Jim Sturgess ("Across the Universe") as brother George are amongst the film's few bright spots. Lady Elizabeth is the one character in the film who knows from the very beginning that things are going to go very badly for everyone involved. Despite her best efforts however, there's really nothing she can do. It's much like Thomas, whose performance deserves to be in a better film. Maybe she and Woody Harrelson should team up.
Written by Peter Morgan, "The Other Boleyn Girl" is full of dialogue that spells things out a little too neatly for the audience. The film has several lines that come across like background information as opposed to people talking. Having delivered such an excellent script for "The Queen," my first instinct is to give Morgan the benefit of the doubt and assume that nervous studio execs are responsible for these bits of dialogue. I could be wrong, but "The Queen" didn't have this problem so for now I'll let Morgan off the hook a bit. Just a bit mind you because the rest of the script is nothing spectacular.
Director Justin Chadwick, a vet of British TV, doesn't really do anything terribly interesting or engaging. There are a few breathtaking shots but much of the film looks rather bleak. This is befitting of the picture's mood, but even gloom can be stylish. This is not.
If you want to see how this sort of thing is done right rent "Becket" with Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as Henry II and "The Lion in Winter" with Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine and...Peter O'Toole as Henry II. (Hey, the man was good at it.) Both of those films bring royal backstabbing and intrigue to vibrant life through crackling dialogue. As for the story of Henry VIII and the Boleyns I still need to check out Showtime's "The Tudors," which by all accounts does a much more interesting job of telling this story. 4/10.

That's two no go's. Let's hope things get better.