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, October 26, 2008

You Too Can Be Like Don Draper

Tonight is the season finale of "Mad Men" and honestly I have no idea how they're going to wrap everything up. Season two has somehow managed to be even more absorbing than the first. But enough about that. I want to know how I can be like Don Draper. Well last night on "Saturday Night Live," the man himself, Jon Hamm, showed us how. This is required viewing for those of you who want to be more Draper.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Practical Question

Justin, Drew, and I went to the Cinerama this afternoon to see a brand new print of "The Godfather." Goes without saying it's an excellent movie. I don't love it to the extent that so many do. Trying to make mobsters sympathetic just bothers me. Before a bunch of fanboys going flying off the handle, let me say again, it's an excellent movie and I really do love it. But I've gotta say that a practical question came to mind during quite possibly the most famous scene of the entire film. As you may have guessed the scene in question is the "horse's head" scene. If you've never seen "The Godfather," be warned, this is not for the squeamish.

Now... The question came to mind. Is Jack Woltz the heaviest sleeper in the world? How do you not notice when someone walks into your room in the middle of the night, then puts the severed head of a horse in your bed, leaving your sheets soaked in blood? I posed this to the fellas (along with Drew's buddy Mark who we ran into outside the theater afterwards). It turned out I wasn't the only one who wondered about this and we considered the many twisted and hilarious possibilities for what probably would have happened realistically. Here's one of them in screenplay form.

INT. JACK WOLTZ'S BED ROOM. NIGHT. The door opens slowly. As it creaks Luca tip toes inside carrying the head of Khartoum, blood dripping everywhere. Luca steps up to Woltz's bed. Woltz snores even louder than your grandpa between giggles. He's having a very funny dream about chickens the size of people who play pianos. Luca slowly lifts the covers and very carefully he places the he-

(bolting up)
Chicken piana playas!

Luca is stopped cold.

What have you...WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!!!!

Well...this I must admit Mr. Woltz...This is embarrassing.

Woltz begins breathing heavily, too shocked to produce words. Luca looks around holding the head, not quite sure what to do next.

May your first child be a masculine child.

Luca unceremoniously drops the head on the floor and quickly exits the room, carefully closing the door behind him. Woltz now begins to scream in a tremendous display of overacting. Cinephiles everywhere gush for the next 36 years.

Well I hope you enjoyed my fabulous re-imaging of one of the most memorable moments in the history of film. And may your first child be a masculine child. Good night.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Movie Fanatic Rule Number 1: Diversify!

Three new reviews and I really don't know how much more different these movies could be. It

The Duchess – A couple of months ago in my review of “Brideshead Revisited,” I stated, “I've always thought the term ‘British costume drama’ was rather odd.” After all, every actor wears a costume. Still, rightly or wrongly, it’s a label that’s been attached to a certain kind of film. “The Duchess” very much falls into that category and while it is not a bad film, it puts a little too much emphasis on the costume and not enough on the drama.
Directed by Saul Dibb, this film tells the story of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley), and how she was loved by everyone and loved by no one. Her husband, The Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes), is a cold man with no real understanding of love or emotion. He connects more to his dogs than to his wife and it doesn’t help matters that Georgiana gives birth to three girls. His need for a male heir remains unfulfilled.
Still, everyone else seems to love Georgiana, especially Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), a dynamic young politician who has long known her. Her one real friend, Bess Foster (“Brideshead’s” Hayley Atwell), encourages Georgiana to pursue her heart, but there turns out to be an ulterior motive for Bess.
“The Duchess” starts off slowly. The early scenes entail people staring out of windows and shots that linger on flocks of birds. It reminded me of the description of Russian plays from “Withnail and I.” Thankfully it picks up a bit, but the script, credited to three writers, seems to give Knightley little to work with in what could have been the role of her career. Georgiana’s life is so tragic and yet we rarely feel terribly moved by her plight. Fiennes is given a little bit more to work with and he flies with it. He makes the Duke scornful yet pitiful and there is something strangely comical in his complete inability to understand the feelings of anyone. It’s a performance that should be kept in mind come awards season.
“The Duchess” is worth a look if it’s something you’re already interested in, but otherwise you can do better. It has neither the substance of “Sense and Sensibility” nor the eye popping appeal of “Marie Antoinette.” If you want both rent “Barry Lyndon.” 6/10.

Appaloosa – I suppose you could call the western the “American costume drama.” Once upon a time it was the most popular movie genre in the USA, but now it seems we get one a year, maybe two as we did last year. Going in it appeared that “Appaloosa” was going to have more in common with the overrated “3:10 to Yuma” than the underrated “Assassination of Jesse James.” (If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know my love for that movie knows no bounds.) Thankfully though, I enjoyed “Appaloosa” more than I expected.
“Appaloosa” is the second directorial effort from Ed Harris (the first being “Pollock”) and from the start it’s clear the man has an affinity for old school westerns. The sorts of movies where good guys were good and bad guys were very bad. This is the right approach to bring to the story of Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen). In an opening bit of narration, Hitch explains to us that these two friends have been keeping the peace together for the last 15 years, going wherever they’re needed.
The town of Appaloosa needs them desperately and within minutes of their arrival it’s clear to outlaws everywhere that these two mean business. The murderous cattle rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) believes he can keep control of the town and its residents in spite of the presence of Cole and Hitch and a battle of wills begins. Things are complicated when Cole falls for the new woman in town, Allison French (Renee Zellweger). Hitch has feelings for Allison too but out of loyalty he pushes them away.
“Appaloosa” is essentially made of three pieces. As a traditional western it works pretty well. The characters, dialogue, scenery, and gunplay work nicely. It’s not “Unforgiven” but it’s quite good.
As a love story it does not fair as well. I lay the blame squarely on Zellweger for this. She excels at comedy but in dramas she seems to only be able to provide what my friend Justin refers to as “acting face.” She simply doesn’t have the range to play this role and “Appaloosa” is weaker for it.
It is as a story of friendship that “Appaloosa” shines. Harris and Mortensen play off of each other splendidly. Cole and Hitch’s friendship is incredibly authentic. We absolutely believe these two have been riding together for 15 years and their loyalty to one another is beyond question. They communicate with nods and glances and when Cole can’t quite seem to figure out what word he is looking for, Hitch is there to provide him with it. I would never spoil the ending of a movie for you, but suffice it to say that the final scene of this film is one of the greatest displays of true friendship I have ever witnessed in a movie. This is what sets “Appaloosa” apart. 7.5/10.

An American Carol – This movie doesn’t work. It simply isn’t believable. Take its main character. Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) is a smug propagandist filmmaker who cleverly edits interviews and encounters so as to further his own agenda, regardless of the context of the situation. Still, he passes his films off as documentaries, he wins numerous awards and educated people eat his work up. As a film viewer I can only suspend my disbelief for so long. Are we really to accept that such a man could exist in the real… Oh… Oh wait.
“An American Carol” tells the tale of Malone’s campaign to abolish the Fourth of July while he unwittingly makes friends with terrorists. Outlandish to be sure, but this is brought to us by director and co-writer David Zucker (“Airplane,” “The Naked Gun”). Malone is loud, brash, and anti-American at every turn. His Scrooge-like view of the USA is about to be challenged though, when he’s visited by the ghosts of John F. Kennedy, General George Patton (Kelsey Grammar), and George Washington (Jon Voight). Plot wise it’s easy to see where “Carol” goes from here.
How this movie got made is truly shocking. Zucker and everyone else involved are putting themselves on the line and in Hollywood anyone seen anywhere near this movie won’t be making friends. Regardless of your political stance you have to admire the boldness it took to make “An American Carol.”
From the start, the movie takes dead aim not only on terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. The Hollywood elite, college professors, obviously a certain director, and anyone else camped in the “blame America first” crowd are targets. Having attended the University of Washington I had a special appreciation for the shots taken at liberal professors and students who think their outspokenness makes them brave. I’m not a very political person but I do know that if Hollywood and major universities have one thing in common, it’s that being a liberal does not make you a risk taker. Zucker knows it too and these college scenes are amongst the sharpest in the movie. There is also a fair helping of slapstick (which is hit and miss) but “Carol” is at its best when exposing the hypocrisy of those who declare that free speech is essential until someone says something they disagree with. It’s not at the level of “Team America: World Police,” but it is often very funny. If you’re conservative and want to see a movie that shares your point of view for a change or if you’re a liberal who can laugh at yourself, “An American Carol” is worth a look. As for those of you who turn queasy at the site of politics, it’s just funny. Most critics (the vast majority of whom wear their liberalness on their sleeves) will tell you it’s not. Not everyone can laugh at themselves. 7.5/10.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Sad, Sad Day

My fellow Americans, we now live in a world where the number one movie in America, taking in $29 million domestically is called "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." I want to cry a little.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

I've already been to three movies this weekend and I'll probably end up getting to one more today. For the moment I really only have the energy to write one review so I'll do the one I saw Friday night. But there's more on the way.

"How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" - Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) has grown up believing that the key to happiness is to be famous. That once one is let past the velvet rope, no bad thing can ever befall them again. Until he's let in though all he wants to do is tear down those who've been allowed inside. The editor of a snarky London magazine that stomps on celebrities, Sidney's stunts include crashing a shindig with a pig in tow. These shenanigans catch the attention of Sharp's Magazine head man Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges). Sidney flies away from his dysfunctional band of writers to New York, in what he believes is Harding's attempt to recapture his own "glory days."
However Harding is not about to give Sidney a free ride, even if this Brit does remind him of his younger self. "There are seven rooms," Harding explains coldly. "You're in the first one. I am in the seventh one."
The prospects for making the seventh room seem grim from the start, as Sidney's greatest talent lies in offending everyone he meets. His co-workers, the celebrities, everyone hates him. The one exception is fellow first roomer Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst), who merely dislikes him immensely. Still, he's being allowed glimpses of the world he's always yearned to be a part of. It is during one of these glimpses that he first meets rising starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox of "Transformers"). Alison assures him he has no chance but Sidney's determined to make it happen even at the possible expense of his journalistic ideals. Hijinks, gaffes, and offenses ensue.
"How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" is based on Toby Young's memoir of the same name and while I haven't read the book, so much about Robert B. Weide's film feels tremendously watered down. With each of Sidney's misadventures I could only think the real thing was probably ten times funnier and more shocking. Weide and screenwriter Peter Straughan can't decide if they're making a razor sharp skewering of celebrities and our cultural obsession with them or an engaging romantic comedy about a lovable screw up. The result is that it's not terribly successful as either.
The cast tries. I'm thoroughly convinced that no movie starring Simon Pegg can be a complete waste of time. He plays Young as an annoying sycophant yet he's far more likable than almost every other character in the movie. It's not his finest work by any stretch (the man is at his best with Team "Spaced") but he makes this movie far more watchable than it would otherwise be. Watching him explain to elitist snobs why "Con Air" is the greatest film of all-time generates some big laughs.
As Alison, Dunst isn't given a whole lot to do and in her early scenes she just seems to be off her game. The performance gets better as the movie goes along and she and Pegg do their darndest to make the romantic comedy aspect of the film work. With a better script these two could be incredibly funny together. Fox shows that she's not really much of an actress. Hollywood airhead Sophie could have been a brutally funny character in the right hands. Bridges is good as always though I wish he had been given more to do. Harding's an interesting character. Gillian Anderson is essentially wasted in the role of Sophie's agent but Max Minghella's ("Art School Confidential") turn as her other major client, a pretentious indie filmmaker, is a glimpse into the movie this should have been. Everything that comes out of his mouth is funny.
"How To Lose Friends" is not a bad film but it had the potential to be so much better. If you're a Pegg fan it's worth a rental but it's a mere snack before "Paul" (written by and starring Pegg and "Spaced"/"Shaun"/"Fuzz" buddy Nick Frost). 6/10.

Now here's a clip from "Spaced," 'cause why not? Embedding's been disabled so here's the link.

  • The Truth About "The Phantom Menace"
  • Wednesday, October 01, 2008


    When Chuck Palahniuk's name is attached to something you know it's going to be something unique, jarring, offensive, probably kind of repugnant. But it will be wildly entertaining and often hilarious. His first novel, "Fight Club," introduced his voice to the world and literature would never be the same. David Fincher's film of the same name...well chances are it shows up very high on your list of all-time favorite movies. Heck, it's my number 2. Several books later, we still only had the one film adaptation. Until now, with the long awaited release of "Choke," adapted and directed by working man actor Clark Gregg.
    Victor Mancini (the perfectly cast Sam Rockwell) is an addict, a scam artist, and a lowlife. He also happens to be "the backbone of colonial America," working as a historical re-creationist at a pre-Revolutionary War theme park. His days are full between his job, attending a sex addiction support group with his best friend Denny (Brad William Henke), and visiting his mother (Anjelica Huston) in the hospital.
    By night, Victor goes out to restaurants, stuffs too much food down his throat and finds the wealthiest looking person in the room so that they may come to his rescue and save him from choking to death. "You make a friend for life," he tells us. "It makes them feel good... They feel responsible for you." They most certainly do. His saviors send him money, which he then uses to pay his mother's hospital bills.
    For his mother and every other elderly woman with Alzheimer's at the Catholic hospital, Victor is someone else, and without trying he helps them work out some issue in their lives that they had buried long ago. Victor doesn't care about any of that though. What he really wants is for his mother to hang on long enough for her to tell him who his father was. His best hope is a young doctor, Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald, "No Country For Old Men" and "Trainspotting"), who's willing to go to unconventional lengths to help him. Unlike every other woman he meets, Victor has real feelings for Paige, only complicating matters. Their relationship is odd but befitting of these two characters. When Paige proposes a rather unbelievable possibility as to where Victor really comes from, he starts to wonder if he is such a bad guy after all.
    First off, for those of you expecting something the caliber of "Fight Club," don't get your hopes so far into the stratosphere. "Fight Club's" don't grow on trees. This does not mean however that "Choke" is a disappointment. Far from it, it's a very funny look into the life of a man utterly revolting but still strangely likable. I have not actually read the source novel (terrible, I know), but everything about this movie is patently Palahniuk. Gregg does a fine job in his screenwriting and directorial debut. His style doesn't call attention to itself but he paces the film very well and has a few nice cinematic touches that you just can't get on a page.
    Between this and his work in "Snow Angels," 2008 is quietly shaping up to be the year of Sam Rockwell. He is an actor of outstanding range (see "Galaxy Quest" and "The Assassination of Jesse James") and he manages to give depth to a seemingly shallow character. The best and worst (of which there are many) qualities of Victor Mancini are put on display and he plays them all pitch perfectly. The supporting cast, including Gregg as a fellow re-creationist who takes his job very seriously, all do fine work, but this is Rockwell's show.
    "Choke" is certainly not for everyone, but for fans of Palahniuk, Rockwell, or just stories and characters that are anything but cookie cutter, it is something not to be missed. Now if only Palahniuk's "Survivor" (for my money, an even better novel than "Fight Club") would come to the big screen, then we'd really see something amazing. "Choke" is currently playing in semi-wide release. In the Seattle area it's at the Metro, Meridian 16, and Alderwood Mall. If you don't live near Seattle then that doesn't really help you. 8.5/10.