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, September 27, 2008
Empire Magazine Top 500
"Empire," easily the best film magazine around, just had an online poll asking readers to name (in order) their top 10 favorite films of all-time. Well the results are in and they're quite interesting. The fact that each reader's personal top 10 is incredibly varied made for results that were pretty unpredictable. How else would "Point Break" come in ahead of "Fargo"? Come to think of it how does "Point Break" come in ahead of "Fargo" at all? Of my own personal top 10, which is located below, only "A Fish Called Wanda" didn't make the cut, which I find strange given that "Empire" is a British magazine. So now without further ado, here are my own personal top 10, and "Empire's" top 500.
10. A Fish Called Wanda 9. Lawrence of Arabia 8. Amelie 7. Dr. Strangelove 6. The Empire Strikes Back (I would have selected both "Star Wars" and "Empire" for this but they only let you do one in a slot. I decided to leave "Star Wars" out as I hate seeing top 10 lists where 2 films from the same series are in there separately.) 5. Rushmore 4. Network 3. Magnolia 2. Fight Club 1. Withnail and I
The star of "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke," "The Sting," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and "The Hudsucker Proxy," has passed away at 83. A ten time Academy Award nominee and winner for "The Color of Money," Newman was a legend in his own time.
In case you didn't already know (and if you've been reading this blog lately how could you not?) I put Ricky Gervais in the running for Funniest Person on the Planet. His work as co-creator, co-writer, and star of "The Office" and "Extras" has cemented his position as a comic genius. As far as films go he's only taken a few bit parts. He has a few great scenes in the very funny "For Your Consideration" and he's the saving grace of the otherwise awful "Stardust." With "Ghost Town," co-written and directed by David Koepp, Gervais takes his first starring film role in a part that was just made to order for him. Bertram Pincus (Gervais) is a dentist, which is perfect for him as it allows him to physically make people shut up. For Pincus hell truly is other people. He displays his contempt for those around him by stealing cabs, shutting the elevator door (on the same woman no less), and berating a charge nurse for asking him "irrelevant" questions, such as, "Do you drink alcohol?" His annoyance with the human race only deepens as he heads into surgery with a doctor (the always funny Kristen Wiig) who seems a little more interested in discussing her tan than the job at hand. After he gets out of surgery he realizes something is not quite right. He complains to his surgeon about hallucinations and demands to know if anything unusual happened during the surgery. In a very funny scene, the surgeon and the hospital's lawyer explain that he died for seven minutes. Well, "a bit less." On top of this revelation his life takes an Osmentonian turn. He can see dead people. (The word "Osmentonian" is officially trademarked by Bob.) All of them need something from him because as philanderer Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) explains, "New York is silly with dead people. They're all pushy...just like when they were alive." Frank knows what he's talking about. He's been deceased for a year. Pincus doesn't like the dead any more than the living, Frank least of all. But he's willing to do Frank one favor due to the promise that, "If you do this one thing for me you'll never see any of us ever again." His task? To keep Frank's widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) from marrying "a real jerk," uber-humanitarian Richard (Bill "The Rocketeer" Campbell). Pincus takes on the mission and before long Frank realizes that the bitter dentist has a heart after all when he falls for Gwen. Romantic comedies are not known for being full of surprises in terms of the storyline and "Ghost Town" really isn't an exception. What makes this movie work like a good romantic comedy should is that we actually like and care about these characters. The screenplay by Koepp and John Kamps is very clever and they manage to make what could have been a saccharine ending truly moving. This is also thanks to the casting, which is spot on. Gervais makes the transformation of Pincus believable and no one is funnier trying to squirm out of an awkward situation. I can't imagine any other actor doing a better job with this character. Leoni is very good in an underwritten role, breathing life into the widow who clearly deserves better than she'd had with Frank. Kinnear meanwhile shows how well he plays a cad. In spite of Frank's many shortcomings we can't help but like him. "Ghost Town" is a very enjoyable and funny film that you can take your mom to and shows that Ricky Gervais is a viable lead on the big screen. 7.5/10.
In other Ricky Gervais news word on the street is that the Oscar people are trying to get Britain's funniest export to host the big night. All I can say is I really hope this happens. And if it doesn't work out then bring Steve Martin back.
And just because I'm determined to get more people to see the work of Ricky Gervais here's another clip from the hilarious "Extras."
Yeah, I didn't watch them either. Glad to see "Mad Men" and "John Adams" did so well. The clips I've seen of the five "reality" hosts hosting the show just made me even happier I didn't bother to sit through the thing. By all accounts of those who suffered through it, Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell provided the show's lone worthwhile moment, which I now present to you through the magic of your tube.
As I am on call this weekend I have to wait to go see Ricky Gervais in his first leading film role, "Ghost Town." So for now I'll just have to be content with these clips from "The Office" and "Extras" respectively. If any of you out there get a chance to see the movie this weekend let me know what you think. For now, enjoy these and if you've never seen the original (and for my money superior) UK "Office" or the excellent "Extras" both are available in their entirety on DVD and it won't take you that long because each only ran for 12 episodes plus a Christmas special. This was by design not due to ratings which were anything but bad.
I think everyone who loves movies has a few of them. The movies that seem to be speaking directly to them. They don't come along often but that makes them all the more special when they do. From the opening moments of "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" I knew this was to be such a film for me. Wilson (Scoot McNairy) is a struggling screenwriter whose move from Austin to L.A. hasn't worked out as well as he'd hoped. It's New Year's Eve, the most depressing year of his life is coming to an end, and all he wants to do is crawl into a corner somewhere and forget about it. But Wilson's best friend Jacob (Brian McGuire) won't let him. Against his better judgment, Wilson takes Jacob's advice and posts an ad on Craigslist. "We're inviting total insanity into our house," Wilson laments. But Jacob insists, "That's a good thing!" It's not long before Wilson's phone rings. Not knowing what he's getting himself into Wilson reluctantly agrees to meet with the pushy woman on the other end who tells him, "I'm meeting three other guys today and I'm gonna decide in five minutes whether I like you or not." The awkwardness that follows in the next few scenes is very true to life. Wilson insisting he's not comfortable in the ridiculous outfit Jacob has picked out for him and the moment Wilson meets Vivian (Sara Simmonds) are very funny and realistic. Vivian talks fast, chain smokes, and is giving Wilson until six o'clock to make an impression. The two are not sure where this is all going but their conversation is lively and engaging as they walk through the surprisingly photogenic streets of Los Angeles. While we may think we know where this is going (and up to a point we do as you'll see from the trailer) the film actually ends up somewhere we don't expect. The subplot involving Jacob and his girlfriend Min (Kathleen Luong) plays a part in that as well. It's a subplot more interesting than the main plot of a lot of films. Written and directed with black and white photography by Alex Holdridge, "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" is a great film sharply focused on character and dialogue, similar in spirit to "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." There are a couple moments that feel a little too Kevin Smith, but for the most part this is great dialogue that sounds unique. Comedy, drama, and romance all flow together beautifully here. Holdridge casts well too. McNairy is likable throughout and he's so natural that you really can't catch the man acting. Simmonds has a bit of a tougher task with a character that could have ended up a cliche in the wrong hands. She does a wonderful job displaying the many sides of Vivian to Wilson and the audience. This is the kind of movie that makes writing these reviews worthwhile. I'm guessing most of you have never heard of it but I really really want people to find this one. It's a terrific movie that you won't soon forget. It is currently in limited release. In Seattle it plays at the Varsity through Thursday. 9/10.
As I noted in my review of "No Country For Old Men" last November the Coen Brothers are responsible for more of my favorite movies than any other one filmmaker. Since 1984's "Blood Simple" they have turned out 10 great films, 1 pretty good one ("Intolerable Cruelty"), and only 1 that just wasn't very good (their remake of "The Ladykillers"). Their newest, "Burn After Reading," is film number 13 from the brothers. Which category will this one fall into? Osborn Cox (John Malkovich) has a drinking problem. At least that's what he's told when he's fired by the CIA. He of course proceeds to tell everyone that he quit and when his cold wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) asks what he's going to do now his answer is, "I'll do some consulting...or maybe write my memoirs." Katie poses the very reasonable question, "Who would want to read those?" The answer it turns out is Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), a dunderhead personal trainer who stumbles upon the disc that contains all of Cox's "secret files." In the interest of helping out his friend and co-worker, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), who has no way of paying for her upcoming elective surgeries, Chad realizes he can give Osborn the disc back for the price of "the good samaritan tax." Chad and Linda's boss Ted (Richard Jenkins) is "uncomfortable with this," but the pair of positive thinkers are too simple to realize that what they're "engaged in is blackmail." They really believe they're doing something nice that deserves a reward. Harry Pfarrar (George Clooney) meanwhile, is a paranoid former G-man who's cheating on his wife with Katie and Linda simultaneously. As Chad explains to Cox ever so stealthily, "Appearances can be...deceptive." The same is true of this film's plot. In the hands of most filmmakers, "Burn" would have been a fairly simple story with a few contrived twists and turns thrown in to make it seem more involved. As done by the Coens it's actually an extremely involved plot with several pieces and we're never quite sure how they fit or where this is all going. For me at least, it's actually too involved. Not in a "I just don't get it" kind of way, but in a it really slows down the fun sort of way. "Burn" takes its time getting off the ground. The first twenty minutes or so are rather slow and not nearly as funny as they ought to be. Once Pitt shows up it begins to kick into gear. He's never really done anything like this and he's absolutely hilarious. To do this within a year of "The Assassination of Jesse James" is all the proof one needs of the man's range. Malkovich does a fine job but he seems to take a back seat as the film goes on and his character seems more interesting than the Coens really allow him to be. Swinton and Clooney do fine but don't do much that's terribly interesting. McDormand does a terrific job as Linda. This character is a far cry from "Fargo's" Marge Gunderson, but as in that film she provides a sunny outlook that serves as a great contrast to the rest of the proceedings. Jenkins, as always, is very dependable. I also have to make special mention of David Rasche ("Sledge Hammer") and J.K. Simmons as Cox's former CIA superiors who are trying (and failing) to make sense of this whole mess. Their two scenes together are comic gold and they're the most well-written scenes in the entire film. In the end, "Burn After Reading" is a pretty good movie. The slow start and some rickety moments here and there hold it back from being the movie it could have been, which is the kind of movie the Coens usually make. So in short, Coen fanatics such as myself will be a bit disappointed but will definitely be glad they saw it. Plus it's nice to see a movie set in D.C. with absolutely no political ax to grind, and all the digs made at Seattle are just hilarious. It's no "O Brother," but you'll have a good time. 7/10.
Saw "The Dark Knight" IMAX style again on Sunday night. More and more I'm convinced it's "The Empire Strikes Back" of comic book movies. My favorite scene in the film is the famed hospital scene in which The Joker brings Harvey Dent "down to [his] level." I found it as an audio clip because the actual video clips disappear within a few hours of being posted. Enjoy...
Courtesy Edgar Wright's own Myspace blog (he's the director of "Hot Fuzz" in case you didn't know), here is an amazingly funny video from Youtube user TulseLuper (giving credit where credit's due). It's "Hot Fuzz." It's "There Will Be Blood." It's "There Will Be Fuzz." Timothy Dalton drinks your milkshake.