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, July 28, 2008

Step Brothers

As I've noted quite often there's a fine art to making dumb comedy work. Movies such as "Dodgeball," "Blades of Glory," "Walk Hard," and the "Citizen Kane" of Dumb Comedy, "Pootie Tang," took a lot more skill to pull off than meets the eye. And each of them makes me laugh myself silly. Of course do dumb comedy wrong and you could end up with "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector." Happily "Step Brothers" is no "Larry." Still, it's no "Citizen Tang" either.
"Step Brothers" tells the tale of Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly), two middle-aged men who never grew up, and who end up sharing a bedroom when their parents get married. Brennan's mom Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) and Dale's dad Robert (Richard Jenkins) have each been able to put up with one slacker, sleepwalking son, but two proves too many. It doesn't help that the guys hate each other. After a series of childish shenanigans in which the boys almost kill each other, the parents decide Brennan and Dale are going to get jobs and get out. Finally, the pair bonds when Dale punches Brennan's overachieving brother Derek (Adam Scott) in the face, which Brennan has clearly wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately for Nancy and Robert, the guys becoming best friends only exacerbates things.
Ferrell co-wrote the screenplay with director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Talladega Nights"). Like those films, "Step Brothers" is a movie where a whole lot of gags are thrown at the wall. Fewer things stick in this movie than in the previous ones. As the title characters Ferrell and Reilly play off each other well but the man child bit gets annoying more often than I would have hoped. A few times I found myself sympathizing with Jenkins' character, who nearly gets the whole family into a collision reaching for the backseat to throttle the boys. Jenkins gives a funny performance in what could have been a thankless role. The real standout is Scott as the smug Derek. He's made brief but memorable appearances in "Knocked Up," an episode of "Veronica Mars," and has a hilarious scene in the unfairly maligned "Art School Confidential." He really gets a chance to shine here and is easily the best thing in the whole movie.
This is not amongst Ferrell's better efforts, though it certainly towers over "Semi-Pro." Reilly, in my opinion, is one of the most versatile actors on the planet, and also one of the funniest. He's fine here but he's done better things and most definitely will again in the future. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jon Brion's music. It's subtle, but as always, Brion does a terrific job.
It's not consistent by any stretch and enough things hit that it's worth watching a matinee if you're interested. 6.5/10.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Be a Geek, Not a Fanboy

Movies can be the source of many a disagreement. Sometimes they can be civil disagreements amongst friends, other times it's the juvenile ridiculousness of the IMDB message boards. I unabashedly proclaim myself to be a movie and TV geek. Many of my friends are. We're good people with level heads and on the occasions when we do disagree we never fly off the handle about it. When we see a show or a film we don't like we're vocal about it and the reasons why, but true geekdom is more about the love of these things. I would always rather write or talk about a movie I love than a movie I hate. Geeks are about love.
Fanboys, on the other hand, are all about complaining. No matter what they will find something to complain about and fixate upon it. If they don't nitpick about the movie itself (which is incredibly rare) then they have to focus their bile elsewhere. Namely anyone who doesn't feel the exact same way they do. Fanboys think that anyone who doesn't fall in lock step with their exact point of view is an idiot who should have their movie watching license taken away from them.
As you well know, I love "The Dark Knight." I think it's far and away the best movie thus far in 2008 and easily the best comic book adaptation I've ever seen. But if someone doesn't feel the same way I respect their right to disagree and acknowledge that them not loving it just as much does not make them a moron. Some of the smartest people I know have vastly different tastes than I do. And that's okay. Apparently, not everyone thinks so. This from IMDB:

Newspaper critics who failed to shower The Dark Knight with undiluted praise have themselves been deluged with sometimes ferocious criticism from the film's fans, Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein observed today (Friday). Goldstein, who says that he himself admires the film, notes that the latest critic to feel the heat is the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern. (Most reviews of the movie appeared last Wednesday or Thursday, in sync with the early release of the film in many cities; Morgenstern's appeared on Friday, the "official" release date.) Morgenstern told Goldstein, "I've gotten 250 or 300 e-mails, almost all with the vilest, most abusive language you could possibly imagine. I was stunned. These people aren't just discourteous. They're insane." The abusive attacks on Morgenstern spilled over onto other entertainment websites and blogs. "I write for an educated readership and usually the responses to my reviews are courteous and collegial," he remarked. "But this was really ugly. It did feel like a mob."

In closing, be a geek. Get excited over things that seem silly and unimportant to the average Joe. But please, please, please, don't be a fanboy. It's just ugly. I don't want being a "Dark Knight" fan to come attached with a stigma because of these children. Let's be about joy people. Being a geek should be a happy experience.

You've Got to Love the MPAA

Being sick frees up all sorts of time, doesn't it? Between cups of tea and phlegmy coughs I've been watching the features on my "Spaced" DVD (I've already finished the entire series) and going on the information superweb. In my virtually traveling I came across this bit of news from The AV Club:

The MPAA Thinks You're Stupid
July 18th, 2008
Legend has it that at the first screenings of The Great Train Robbery, the movie that is considered to be the first narrative film, audiences ducked and ran for cover when the on-screen bandits turned their guns toward the camera and began shooting--which is understandable. After all, The Great Train Robbery came out in 1903, a time when people had limited exposure to both moving pictures and quiet dignity (as well as bluetooth technology--which is the best technology). However, now that it's 2008--a time when you can have your uterus outfitted with a tiny plasma screen so your unborn child can just watch Dora and maybe stop kicking you for five seconds--people don't have such dramatic physical reactions to film. Most of us understand that movie bullets aren't going to suddenly fly out of the screen and into our bodies as we sit there, vulnerable, in the theater. Still, the Motion Picture Association Of America doesn't want to take any chances, which is why they told the director of Watchmen, Zack Snyder, that he couldn't have a guy pointing a gun at the audience in the trailer. Snyder replaced the gun with a walkie-talkie. This way, if anyone from 1903 watches the trailer, instead of ducking and/or running for their life, they'll just drop their bowler hat, curl up into a ball, rock back and forth, and mumble into their shirtwaist, "What world is this? What is happening to me? Where am I?"
From MTV Movies Blog: “[The assassin] has a gun,” Snyder explained. “So the MPAA said, ‘Look you can’t have him [holding the gun]‘ … I don’t even think it’s one second. I think it’s like 12 frames. He’s pointing the gun at the camera, and they said, ‘You can’t do that.’” For years, the MPAA has prohibited weapons from being pointed at the “viewer” in advertising, presumably for fear that it will freak them out. That’s why you always see guns pointed at angles on movie posters and in film trailers. Good job, MPAA. It's good to know that someone is looking out for people from 1903 who have maybe fallen through wormholes, and/or people in America who have never seen a movie or television before. You know what else might freak out and produce visceral reactions in those people? Movies in general. They can be very upsetting. Someone should really do something about all the movies these days.

I don't know, it might be kind of fun to party like it's 1903. Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, the Wright brothers were creating flight, and handlebar mustachioed bare knuckle boxers were the epitome of cool. Well they still are. That's eternal. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go make some soup while pointing a gun at a slight angle at someone so it doesn't freak them out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Dark Knight": The IMAX Experience

You've probably seen it by now and if you haven't yet you've probably already got your tickets. I bought mine for last night nearly three weeks ago. Opening night was already sold out and while I could have gotten tickets to most any other theater, to see it for the first time in IMAX I was willing to wait a day.
As I've been shouting up and down for months, "The Dark Knight" is the first Hollywood film to ever shoot in IMAX. It's not the entire movie but it's a lot more than the "four sequences" we've been hearing about. The result is jaw dropping and serves to create the appropriate canvas for the showdown between two men with "a taste for the theatrical."
Picking up nearly a year after "Batman Begins," Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Alfred (Michael Caine) are living in a Gotham penthouse and storing Batman's gear in a much more well-lit make shift bat cave. Wayne Manor is still under reconstruction. With the criminal underworld running scared, Batman's foes are hardly formidable. But it was only a matter of time before Batman's theatrics inspired a new kind of criminal to pose a serious challenge. Known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger), this is a man who robs, kills, destroys, and who will push Batman to his limits. He does all of this for no other reason than it's fun. It's going to take the help of Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to take on the Joker.
So after the months of build up and the kind of anticipation that has not been seen in years, "The Dark Knight" had a lot to live up to. You know that part of you that died inside the day "Star Wars: Episode I" came out? This film brings that back to life. It is epic not only on a visual level, but emotionally as well. The Joker makes Bruce Wayne face darkness he is not prepared for and forces him to take extreme and arguably unethical measures. Even upright D.A. Dent will be put to the test. For those of you who don't know your Batman lore I won't spoil anything for you regarding Harvey Dent. I will say it allows for a quietly outstanding performance from Eckhart.
Like Gotham, "The Dark Knight" is shaken up by the Joker. We've been hearing Oscar talk for the late Heath Ledger and all I can say is, yes, he deserves it. He is genuinely terrifying and manages to be theatrical and completely steal the movie without being hammy or chewing the scenery. My claim nearly a year ago was that Nicholson's Joker, while fun, was really just Jack being Jack. Ledger was really going to be the Joker. Every once in awhile I get something right. He gives a performance that is instantly legendary, with or without the actor's tragic untimely death, which adds an eerie quality to a few moments. I cannot really think of what else to say about Ledger's work in this film that hasn't been said already. You simply have to see it for yourself.
The acting is uniformly solid. Bale, Caine, and Oldman all deliver terrific understated performances, and Maggie Gyllenhaal stepping in for Katie Holmes was clearly the right move.
As "Memento" was taking the indie-film world by storm in 2001, in an interview with, director Christopher Nolan said, "I don't consider myself to be an 'art' film-maker at all. I actually have pretty mainstream tastes, which may come as some surprise." Seven years later we now know exactly what he means. Not only is he making mainstream films, he's taking the mainstream to a higher level. He's making mainstream art. The screenplay co-written with his brother Jonathan is a perfect balance of story, character, dialogue, and action. This is great writing that doesn't call attention to itself. Nolan's decision to shoot in IMAX was a bold move that ups the ante for all event films moving forward. Cinematographer Wally Pfister should just be handed the Oscar right now. What he and Nolan create is spectacle with a purpose. Also, the score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, particularly in what's written for the Joker, is outstanding and imaginative.
Hopefully I've managed to sing this movie's praises without gushing...much. If it's playing in IMAX anywhere near you (I'm talking within like a three state radius) I urge you to see it there. It's absolutely worth it. For the first time in 2008 I can award a film 10/10.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Just in terms of what we as Americans like to do for fun on the Fourth of July there's baseball games, barbecues, fireworks, and perhaps most popular of all, going to a Will Smith movie. What can I say? I am a fan of all of these things.
Smith's latest is the superhero comedy "Hancock," in which Smith plays a lazy, drunken slob with superpowers who only seems to inspire hate amongst the very citizens he protects on a regular basis. From the very beginning this film is interesting because Hancock's identity is known to the whole world. He doesn't sneak around like Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, or Clark Kent.
The opening sequence, which sees Hancock putting an end to a car chase in a way the police cannot, is a great introduction to the character. He gets the job done but he manages to do more harm than good. The public outcry against him, while funny, is essentially ripped straight out of "The Incredibles." No one seems to like Hancock at all. That is until he saves the life of PR man Ray Embry (Jason Bateman). Over dinner with Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and their son Aaron (Jae Head), Hancock is told, "People should love you." It's apparent to Ray that this is what Hancock wants, even if the superhero doesn't show it. Ray is determined to take Hancock from reviled to accepted to loved.
Written by Vince Gilligan ("The X-Files") and Vincent Ngo, "Hancock" is a film that blends comedy and action mostly with success. Director Peter Berg ("The Kingdom," "Friday Night Lights") puts his distinct stamp on the film as well. The hand held cinematography is unusual for a superhero movie, but Hancock is an unusual superhero.
The performances are all very good. Smith plays a variation on the character he usually plays, but the man is so charismatic that it just doesn't matter. I can't think of another actor working today who can bring an audience along with him so readily. We believe him no matter what. Theron, while an Oscar winner, still seems to be underestimated and she does a terrific job here as Ray's conflicted wife. Bateman manages to make honest integrity genuinely funny, which is harder than I think a lot of people realize. For "Arrested Development" fans the Bateman-Theron relationship will cause immediate laughter. Intended or not, there's another big reminded of "Arrested" in the film, but I don't want to give that away. There's something else about the film I'm not giving away either. Suffice it to say, it is a genuine surprise. I had a little trouble with it at first but it eventually grew on me.
"Hancock" is a very entertaining movie with plenty of laughs and some good explosions. And when it's a Will Smith movie on the Fourth of July that's all I'm asking for. 7.5/10.

Happy America Day!

Hey everybody. Just want to wish you all a happy Fourth of July. Since it's the first day of a three day weekend it's especially happy. Not a whole lot of plans right now. Gonna eat some burgers and dogs later, might go see "Hancock" in a bit. The last movie I went to was "Mongol," which is about the young Genghis Khan. Not great but pretty good. However they completely skipped over his trip to 1988 where he trashed a sporting goods store in San Dimas. I don't know how many times I have to emphasize the importance of historical accuracy to filmmakers.
And now, I'm "gonna go America all over" you.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

So here we are 232 years later. Have a wonderful day and please enjoy these: