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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cher as Catwoman... Not gonna happen.

Is there anyone anywhere who believes this nonsense for even a second? This from The London Telegraph's Jessica Salter:

The 62-year-old singer and actress is reported to be in talks to play Catwoman opposite Christian Bale in the third Batman film from British director Christopher Nolan.

The Oscar-winner will join a cast that includes Johnny Depp as The Riddler as she plays the whip-carrying burglar. The character has also been played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry.

A studio executive said: "Cher is Nolan's first choice to play Catwoman. He wants to her to portray her like a vamp in her twilight years.

"The new Catwoman will be the absolute opposite of Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry's purring creations."

Filming of the new Batman instalment, provisionally entitled The Caped Crusader, is due to begin in Vancouver early next year.

The Dark Knight, this summer's blockbuster, has become the most successful of the Batman movies. Warner Bros expects the film to make about $530m.

It stars the late Heath Ledger, who was found dead in his Manhattan apartment after taking an accidental drugs overdose. His performance as The Joker is widely expected to garner an Oscar nomination.

Cher's recent acting performances have included Tea with Mussolini in 1999 and Stuck on You, in 2003 in which she played herself.

Wow. Very clever of them to post this on Not April Fools' Day. As for Johnny Depp as the Riddler...No. He won't be the Riddler anymore than he was going to be the Joker. I remember that rumor too.
Christopher Nolan is not an idiot and the fact that he had the imagination to cast Heath Ledger as the Joker when no one else did also shows that he's not going to make any dull casting choices (i.e., Depp as the Riddler). As for Cher as Catwoman...Not gonna happen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

A stranger approaches you and a friend with an offer to take you on a trip and then suggests something wholly inappropriate. The stranger does this with the utmost confidence. What do you say to such an offer? If you are Vicky (Rebecca Hall) you sensibly say no. If you are her best friend Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) then you can't help but be intrigued. If you are that stranger, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), then you simply keep persuading these two until they get on to your plane.
This is the set up for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," the new film from Woody Allen. Vicky and Cristina are college students spending the summer in Barcelona when Juan Antonio whisks them away to his Spanish home town. Worldly Cristina is instantly charmed while the engaged and upright Vicky is eventually worn down. Both women experience a transformation over the course of the summer, but in very different directions.
Juan Antonio believes that life should be lived fully, without societal rules to keep people from doing as they wish. In "No Country For Old Men," Bardem played the Devil at his most terrifying. Here he plays the Devil at his slickest. He is all charm, his bald-faced honesty ultimately a lie. He is always in control. Until Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) comes back into his life. She is volatile, scornful, and turns Juan Antonio into a nervous sputtering mess. You can even see glimpses of the "Woody Allen character" in these moments. The two of them are drawn powerfully to each other. Too powerfully. They can only seem to wreak havoc in one another's lives. Somehow though, Cristina's presence seems to make things work. Cristina stays with Juan Antonio and Maria Elena, living life freely and without restrictions, while Vicky tries to make things work with her dull fiance Doug (Chris Messina).
What is so interesting about Allen's film is that he shows what happens when people live without rules for an extended period of time. Sure it's fun at first but before too long it's going to blow up in your face.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is the sort of film that is so enjoyable and engaging that it's not until afterwards that you piece together how depressing it all really is. Ultimately nothing works out for these characters the way they had hoped. Bardem plays Juan Antonio as a man who on some level knows this is doomed from the start. Hall gives a good performance though a great many of her lines seem to sound over written, though that can hardly be put on her shoulders. Johansson once again proves a good fit into the Woodyverse. Her Cristina is not as bohemian or European in spirit as she thinks. It's a very honest performance. The highlight though is Cruz. She dominates the whole of the film, even the scenes she's not in. It's a powerful portrayal of a character fueled by emotion, love and hate almost indistinguishable.
Allen's continuing his European vacation and I am all for it. While "Vicky" is not "Match Point" (some dialogue rings false and the narrator is unnecessary) but all in all it's a very good film and well worth your time. 8/10.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Day After Radiohead

Yesterday I was up for 22 and a half hours. That's right. Woke up at 5 to go to work, Justin and Janelle picked me up in Kirkland a little after 4, we drove in bad (not awful) traffic to Auburn, got some quick dinner, and then White River. Three years after seeing Coldplay there we learned that there have been absolutely no improvements in getting people out of the lot after the show. A completely disorganized mess. The concert itself ended about 11:30, I got home to the 'Ville at 3:15.
Still, it was a good time. Justin and I talked about the usual geek stuff on the way home, Janelle sleeping in the back seat. At one point she groggily asked, "Are we home?" We had moved about a foot and a half in the lot at that point.
As for the concert experience itself we were up on the lawn, the stage and musicians appearing as specks. The opening act was an English group called Liars. Really good stuff. Atmospheric but rockin' too. Nice combination.
Then about an hour after they finished up Radiohead finally took the stage. Thankfully the projectors were on. Thom Yorke's stage antics are always fun to watch and it would have been a shame if we couldn't have been able to see them well. Justin tried writing out the setlist on his hand until it started to become a sprinkling mist at about the halfway point. Near the set's end and through both encores the rain only got heavier but no one was too bothered by it. Thankfully the interweb has provided us with a setlist. Thanks to

01. 15 Step [Ed encourages the crowd to participate in the 'Yay!' chorus]
02. Reckoner
03. Optimistic
04. There There
05. All I Need
06. Pyramid Song
07. Talk Show Host
08. The National Anthem
09. The Gloaming
10. Videotape
11. Lucky
12. Faust Arp [Thom messes up lyrics several times, starts singing Neil Young's "Tell Me Why"; Jonny tries to follow along but can't quite get the chords. Phil comes out and drops an American dollar bill out in front of Thom and Jonny and runs away laughing. Thom and Jonny crack up completely to loud cheers. Thom tries again, says "Fuck it!", but then continues and finishes the song.]
13. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
14. Climbing Up The Walls
15. Dollars and Cents
16. Nude
17. Bodysnatchers

Encore 1
18. How to Disappear Completely
19. Arpeggi/Weird Fishes
20. Idioteque
21. In Limbo [Tambourine accompaniment by Nigel Godrich. Thom, 'This is Nigel', Ed, 'He makes our records.']
22. Street Spirit

Encore 2
23. You And Whose Army?
24. No Surprises
25. Everything In Its Right Place

Great set. The highlights for me were "Optimistic" and "Talk Show Host." Two of my favorite Radiohead songs that were just unexpected. I would have loved to have heard "Paranoid Android" and "Just" but the thing about seeing one of your favorite bands is that there will always be something that you won't get to hear that you really wish you had. It's hardly worth whining about.
I bought my ticket back in April and one of my first orders of business at my new job was making sure I got a post-concert recovery day, which thankfully I have been allowed. Here's some video from the previous night in Vancouver.

"Talk Show Host"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropic Thunder

In the world of comedy, satire may be the most difficult thing to do well. It can be dangerous. It can inspire protests, even rage, and the sharper the knives the greater the likelihood of this. But if your comedy is as sharp as your knives it can be brutally and brilliantly funny.
"Tropic Thunder" is a film with sharp knives. As we've known for months Robert Downey, Jr. spends almost the entire film in black face. But when I went to the ticket booth what did I see? An official statement from DreamWorks about the film's use of the word "retard." Black face was not the most potentially offensive element of a movie made in 2008. Director, co-writer, and star Ben Stiller was clearly taking a risk with this picture. All I can say is I salute you, Mr. Stiller.
"Tropic Thunder" is the story of self-obsessed actors making a Vietnam epic entitled, well, "Tropic Thunder." Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is the action star who's one flop away from being an industry outcast thanks to falling flat on his face in his attempt for Oscar glory in a film called "Simple Jack." Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is a comedy star who's putting his entire future up his nose and into his veins. Kirk Lazarus (Downey) is the five-time Academy Award winning Australian who takes method acting well past the limits of sanity. He got surgery so he could take on the role of the black sergeant. Rounding out the cast of the Vietnam film is rapper turned actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and unknown (even to his cast mates) Kevin Sandusky ("Knocked Up's" Jay Baruchel).
The three superstars' childish behavior has put British director Damien Cockburn's (Steve Coogan) film in jeopardy. Pressure from studio head Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) isn't helping Cockburn's state of mind. Desperately, he foolishly takes the advice of the man whose story "Tropic Thunder" is based on, war hero Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte), who suggests taking the guys out into the jungle and filming guerrilla style with hidden cameras and real terror. Within moments of their arrival we get one of the funniest and most ludicrous death scenes ever caught on film. With this the actors are left to fend for themselves when bullets start flying. Speedman is convinced that it's all part of the film but the reality is they've been caught in the middle of a drug war.
From the very beginning, which is a series of fake trailers for the upcoming films of "Tropic Thunder's" stars, Stiller is right on. This is a Hollywood satire far sillier than "The Player" or "Sunset Blvd." but possibly even more savage. As mentioned above, the film takes dead aim at method acting, Hollywood drug addicts, and extreme self-absorption. Being a satire it of course goes beyond reality, but it's all steeped in truth.
As far as the movie's two most controversial elements, Downey in black face is a comic slam dunk. The way it's written and performed, the joke is very clearly on the lengths Lazarus goes to in the name of "true art." The actual black character, Alpa Chino, is the voice of reason who calls Lazarus out time and time again. Occasionally Stiller seems to lay that on a bit thick. He doesn't want anyone in the audience to think for a second that this film is racist. If he had pulled back a just a bit it would have been just as clear that this movie is not racist and reasonable intelligent audience members would have gotten it. The easily offended won't like "Tropic Thunder" anyway.
As for "Simple Jack" the target is not the mentally challenged, it's the Hollywood belief that playing a character with a disability is their ticket to Oscar gold. In quite possibly the funniest moment in the film, Lazarus explains to Speedman why going "full retard" is the reason he didn't win any awards. I won't spoil the exchange for you here. Stiller is less obvious with this element which is no doubt why it's caused more outrage. Some people can't read between the comic lines.
Everyone is funny in "Tropic Thunder." Downey remains on the hot streak started three years ago with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." A role that would have sent most actors running away screaming he sinks his teeth into and he could not be funnier. For Stiller this is easily the best thing he's done since "Dodgeball," and Black's plea to not be judged while holding a gun on a small child while manically running towards a crack house is as funny as anything in the film. (I know we disagree on this one Keith, but that's okay. :)) Baruchel, Coogan, Matthew McConaughey, and especially Cruise add to the hilarity. Cruise's typical mannerisms and constant yelling have become tiresome, but those are the very things that make his work in this film so funny. His character's life is one giant tirade and it's absolutely hilarious.
A lot of people will find "Tropic Thunder" to be one big sick joke, but that's what happens when you make a satire. For the rest of us, it is a very funny, very entertaining film and one you won't want to miss. 8.5/10.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New "Star Wars" movie?...Soooo?

Like for so many of my generation "Star Wars" is something so deeply ingrained in me that I don't remember the moment I was first introduced to it or came to love it. I didn't see the films upon their original releases. I was only a year old when "Return of the Jedi" came out. But the "holy trilogy" was a fixture in my living room from an early age. "Jedi" was the first VHS I ever received at age five for Christmas.
I had all the toys, most of which were handed down from Mike, but that doesn't make playing with the Millenium Falcon any less fun. When I wasn't playing with the action figures I was using a wiffle bat as a makeshift lightsaber. My favorite character wasn't Luke, Han Solo, or Boba Fett. I was all about C-3PO. When you're a little kid what's cooler than a talking robot? Threepio is still my favorite because as a 26 year old man what's cooler than a talking robot?
As I grew older my sensibilities changed. My favorite went from being "Jedi" to "Empire." It was around that time that George Lucas announced the "Special Edition" re-releases. The "Star Wars" trilogy on the big screen! And with added scenes. The moment where Luke visits Biggs on Tatooine that I only ever knew from the official picture book. Obi-Wan's inexplicable lightsaber burnout that had always bothered me would be fixed! C-3PO unleashing the wampas! I could not wait. This was going to be amazing.
I saw none of those things. We don't see Biggs until the end of the film, Obi-Wan's lightsaber still burns out for no apparent reason, and C-3PO's single moment of genuine badassery remained on the cutting room floor. Instead we got the cringe inducing "Jedi" musical number, Luke screaming like a little girl, and somebody shooting before someone else. Can't remember who...
But these disappointments would pale in comparison to what "Star Wars" geeks across the world experienced on May 19, 1999. At the time I, along with so many others, told myself, "Okay, it's not as good as the other ones, but it's still good." But deep down each of us knew the truth. That "The Phantom Menace" is a deeply mediocre film with atrocious dialogue and poor acting, save Liam Neeson, who proved he is bullet proof to George Lucas the writer. But yes it was a letdown. A letdown sixteen years in the making.
Most of the wrath was pointed directly at the Gungan. As Simon Pegg so perfectly stated in a classic episode of "Spaced," "Jar Jar Binks make the Ewoks look like f---in'...Shaft!" But "Episode II" would be better. It had to be.
Armed with a title that would have made Ed Wood cringe, "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" gave us an even worse script. Exhibit A:

Padme: We used to come here for school retreat. We would swim to that island every day. I love the water. We used to lie out on the sand and let the sun dry us and try to guess the names of the birds singing.
Anakin: I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is actual dialogue from "Episode II." The biggest shame of all is that Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen are very good actors in the hands of someone who can write a script. Meanwhile, the dependence on CGI made watching "Star Wars" feel like watching your friends play XBox. Now we all now what that's like. You're sitting on the couch at somebody's house you barely know but you don't want to go home 'cause hey, you're out with a few of your friends and all you really wanna do is go get something to eat but these guys are so wrapped up in their game and... Sorry, I used to end up doing that a lot. That's like a 9 on the scale of Most Boring Ways to Spend an Evening. But I digress. "Episode III" was a dramatic improvement but it was still far from perfect.
One of the big questions post-Prequel Trilogy, besides "Can I have my childhood back?" was, "Why didn't we actually get to see the Clone Wars?" They were talked about so much in the Original Trilogy and it was something we had all been dying to see finally. Now a new film actually titled "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," in essence "Episode 2.5," is coming to fill in that gap. And all I can say is... I couldn't possibly care any less. Still, I'm really glad it was made. There's something therapeutic, even empowering about being able to say the words, "A new 'Star Wars' movie is coming out... and I just don't care." If this entire post hadn't already sold me out as a complete geek that last statement certainly did. But I don't care. It doesn't matter. And neither does this movie. Not to me. George Lucas no longer wields any power over me. I am now immune to mind tricks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


So in the interest of catching up on reviews that I've been neglecting here is a new blog to...catch things up.

Brideshead Revisited- I've always thought the term "British costume drama" was rather odd. Admittedly I've used it myself but it always seems silly. Like actors don't wear costumes in every movie? Unless it's like, "Nude: The Movie - The Director's Cut (w/subtitles)." "Brideshead Revisited" will be most commonly referred to as a "British costume drama" but the drama of this film is from well drawn characters.
Introduced to the privileged lives of an upper crust family, Charles Ryder ("The Lookout's" Matthew Goode) lives a lifetime in the years leading up to WWII. Brideshead is the palatial home of the Flytes. His friend Sebastian (Ben Whishaw) introduces him to the estate and to his sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). Charles becomes a part of the family but he soon finds this world is not what he first believed. The Flyte's are ruled over by stern matriarch Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson).
At its heart the film is about the struggle between atheist Charles and the family's belief not so much in God, as a belief in a version of God that Lady Marchmain has created for her own ends and has made her children live in fear.
"Brideshead" is a difficult film to enjoy but you certainly feel a connection to these characters. The heart is much more evident in Julian Jarrold's film than it was in his previous effort, "Becoming Jane." If you're looking for fun give "Brideshead" a pass but for a serious minded film with compelling characters it's a good bet. It's worth seeing for Goode's performance alone. Ever since "Match Point" it's been evident that the man is going places. 7.5/10.

"Bottle Shock"- The magical moment in the Men's 4x100 Relay is hardly the first time the Americans have taken on the "superior" French. And won. In 1976 British wine critic and Parisian resident Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) set about to dispel the myth that only France could produce worthwhile wine. He found what he was looking for in Napa Valley, California.
Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) is a Californian with a dream and a firm belief that he can produce some of the finest wine in the world. It didn't seem believable to most at the time but Jim and his son Bo (Chris Pine, the new Captain Kirk) were out to prove the world wrong.
Directed by Randall Miller, "Bottle Shock" is an enjoyable little film telling the true story of the first time American wine was taken seriously. It's hardly perfection but it has a big heart and some great performances by Rickman, Pullman, Pine, and Freddy Rodriguez ("Planet Terror") who just keeps turning in terrific work. It's a good time and no, it's not anything like "Sideways." 7/10.

"Brideshead Revisited" and "Bottle Shock" are both currently playing in limited release.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pineapple Express

Last summer writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg delivered "Superbad," a teen comedy that rose far above that typically tepid genre. Now they're tackling another movie sub-genre: the stoner comedy. Some of you may ask, "Wait, don't I have to smoke weed to like this movie? Isn't that the only way I'll get it?" No. I never have. I've also never killed German terrorists in an L.A. high rise at my wife's Christmas party but it doesn't stop me from enjoying "Die Hard."
Dale Denton (Rogen) is a pot loving process server with a teenage girlfriend (well at least she's 18) and a dream of being a talk radio personality. His dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco), is in a perpetual haze. He spends his days watching seventies sitcoms and selling weed to people he doesn't like. Except Dale, who he has something special for today. It's a new brand of reefer called Pineapple Express, which Saul describes as "hands down the dopest dope I've ever smoked." Dale happily buys some on his way to serve his next client. That client however, turns out to be drug lord Ted Jones (Gary Cole) and he's in the middle of making a hit. Dale's drug induced haze makes his escape a bit difficult and noticeable. It doesn't help that Ted has a crooked cop (Rosie Perez) on his side. With no one else to turn to, Dale finds Saul and the two end up on the run.
Rogen and Goldberg clearly understand male friendship, while Rogen and Franco play it as only real friends could. They haven't lost a step since their days together on "Freaks and Geeks." Dale and Saul aren't best friends because they want to be. They just are and it's as if it's completely out of their control. The decisions these two make in trying to escape Ted's hit men (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson) are often idiotic but believable. For one they're still high and for another, what would you expect from two guys who've never been chased by hit men before? It's rare that we see characters in movies making stupid decisions and we can honestly say, "Well...Yeah, I probably would have done that too." Rogen plays Dale as the more level-headed of the two. The straight man to Franco's brain-fried stoner. This is easily the best Franco has ever been in a movie. It's probably the funniest performance in a film so far this year and he's the best cinematic drug dealer since "Withnail and I's" Danny.
Director David Gordon Green is known for somber indie dramas such as "All the Real Girls" and "Snow Angels." This is the first time he's ever taken on comedy or action, let alone both in one film. He shows he clearly has the chops. The action sequences are well put together and are genuinely funny. He's also staged a fight scene that made me laugh harder than I have in a movie theater in a long time. Dale and Saul versus Saul's dealer Red (Danny McBride). It's awkward, ridiculous, and completely believable. It's also the sort of scene that seems to go on and on but for some reason that actually works to its advantage. It's a brilliant little set piece.
"Pineapple Express" is not quite to the level of "Superbad." Some characters and subplots don't work and the first few scenes feel a little off, but once it gets going it's an absolute blast. So far this is my favorite comedy of 2008. Well done Camp "Freaks and Geeks"! 8.5/10.