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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Let the Right One In

While every teenage girl (and apparently a whole lot of other people) was flocking to "Twilight" last weekend, I was checking out another vampire film. If you're like me and "Twilight" just doesn't interest you in the least, maybe "Let the Right One In" will be more to your liking.
This Swedish tale set in 1982 is about Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a twelve year outcast who spends the cold winter nights outside playing with his Rubik's Cube. There are suddenly strange happenings in the town of Blackeberg which just happen to coincide with the arrival of a girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson). Out in the snow they begin to talk with each other night after night even though Eli insists, "You and I cannot be friends...That's just the way it is." But between sharing his Rubik's Cube and his daily school horror stories, Oskar wins a friend. Eli is angered by the behavior of Oskar's schoolmates and tells him that he must "hit back." Oskar does and begins to discover his true nature. Meanwhile, Eli struggles mightily with hers as she creates a body count.
"Let the Right One In" is an unusually smart and effecting vampire film. Writer John Ajvide Lindqvist and director Tomas Alfredson create characters far more interesting and well developed than the average cinematic twelve year old (though we're never sure how old Eli is really). Oskar is very much a twelve year old boy but there is a sense of weariness to him. It is as if the horrid treatment of him has made him an adult already. It is his old soul that allows Eli to relate to him. The subtle performances of Hedebrant and Leandersson are all the more impressive considering their ages. These are two young talents who will be around for a long time to come.
The world these characters inhabit is cold, dark, bloody, and eerily beautiful as seen through Alfredson's lens. The cinematography is amazing but only serves to create the proper atmosphere, not as a distraction from the story.
"Let the Right One In" asks that we sympathize with Eli in spite of her vicious, murderous nature, and though she is good to Oskar, she is still a killer. She should not be let off the hook for this even though Lindqvist and Alfredson may want us to. I had a problem with this but in a movie with so much to like and recommend this did not deter me from enjoying "Let the Right One In" very much. It is currently playing in limited release. In Seattle it is at the Varsity Theater. 8.5/10.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stormtrooper Take Your Daughter To Work Day

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Instead of subjecting myself to the Seahawks Thanksgiving Day debacle at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, I figured I'd watch "Star Wars" instead. Not "Episode IV." Not "A New Hope." "Star Wars." The original uncut version released in 1977. Thanks to the brilliant "Vader Sessions" (which I have posted on this blog about two or three times) and "Robot Chicken," I'll never look at these movies the same way again. The poor Walrus man just wanted to complement Luke on his hair and just look what happened. From the latest all "Star Wars" "Robot Chicken" extravaganza comes Stormtrooper Take Your Daughter To Work Day. Yes that is Donald "Turk" Faison voicing the devoted dad in question. Happy T-day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

I went to two movies this weekend, both of which are a bit under the radar. The first was Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" and the second was a vampire love story that is not called "Twilight." I will review "Let the Right One In" soon.

Slumdog Millionaire - Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is one question away from winning 20 million rupees (about $400,000) on India's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Before time ran out for the night he correctly answered the 10 million rupee question but instead of spending his day sharpening his trivia knowledge for the final question, he's in another kind of hot seat. Suspected of cheating, Jamal is at the police station. No one believes that this poor, uneducated "slumdog" could know all of the answers to these very difficult questions. Certainly not the show's host, Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), who smugly mocks young Jamal throughout the game. Kumar sees an insignificant simpleton with a lousy job (Jamal gets coffee for phone company employees). So do the police officers questioning him.
The inspector (Irfan Khan) goes through each question on tape with Jamal. The inspector's doubts are only encouraged by Jamal needing to ask the audience on the second question, the answer to which is "known by every five year old in India." But question after question has a story behind it. Each answer has an incredible significance in Jamal's life journey. It is as if the poor, stark, brutal existence Jamal has experienced from childhood has been preparing him for this moment.
Through flashbacks we see Jamal's life and his many struggles. Jamal barely survives childhood in Mumbai, sometimes thanks to his brother Salim, but often in spite of him. Along the way, Jamal finds and loses Latika from his life. She is the girl he cannot forget and whom he never gives up on finding, even in a city of 19 million people.
Based upon the novel "Q and A," and with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy ("Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day," "The Full Monty"), "Slumdog Millionaire" has a sense of magic to it, even through the many dark times we see Jamal go through. Jamal, Salim, and Latika are all played by three different actors at different stages of life and all of them are terrific. Three actors successfully creating one character takes a certain amount of talent from everyone involved. In this film it happens three times.
Director Danny Boyle ("Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting," "Millions") has always had a knack for blending style with substance but this is his most heartfelt film. By the end he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. As Jamal went to the chair to answer his final question I felt the kind of excitement that only a skillful filmmaker at the top of his game can create. The audience I saw it with clearly felt the same way.
"Slumdog Millionaire" is a terrific and uplifting film with one of the most thrilling movie climaxes in recent memory. Currently in limited release, it is well worth seeking out and is highly recommended. In Seattle it is playing at the Harvard Exit. 9/10.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Movie/TV News Extravaganza!

As we near the end of what has to be the most disappointing year for film in television that I can remember, good news is cropping up. First off, Danny Boyle's new film, "Slumdog Millionaire" just opened in Seattle this weekend and it's getting rave reviews. The director of "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting," "28 Days Later," and "Millions" is back with a new movie that sounds a heck of a lot better than "Sunshine" (the only one of his movies I can really say I just didn't like). In addition to seeing that this weekend I'm hoping I can finally get around to Charlie Kaufmann's "Synecdoche, New York" and the only current vampire movie I care about, "Let the Right One In."
I've watched the trailers for "Twilight" which do nothing for me and I've yet to hear a more compelling argument than "Edward is soooo cute!" So no "Twilight" for me.
In other news my good pal (whom I've never actually met face to face) Keith from Reel Fanatic posted a bevy of movie and TV news this morning that I just have to pass along. This from Reel Fanatic:

In the latest development - and if I understand this the most solid one so far - ("Arrested Development") creator Mitch Hurwitz and backer Ron Howard have apparently signed some kind of deal for it with Imagine and Fox Searchlight. Hurwitz is apparently on board to write and direct the feature (again, if it ever happens), and Howard will be around to help out, and I assume narrate.

In less good news, Keith alerts us that the fate of "Pushing Daisies," a show I just started watching this year (and have really enjoyed), may be sealed:

It brings me no joy whatsoever to share this next bit of news.

The truly dismal facts are these: ABC has opted not to pick up three shows - "Dirty Sexy Money", "Eli Stone" and the only one of these I care about at all, "Pushing Daisies" - for a full season.

What does that mean for "Pushing Daisies" fans? Well, if I have this right, it means that after last Wednesday's "Oh, Oh, Oh, It's Magic," we have only seven more episodes left of TV's only primetime fairy tale for adults.

Given the rather poor ratings for season 2 so far I suppose you can't really blame ABC, but I'm gonna do it anyway. How in the world did they expect a show this odd - with an admittedly small but devoted following - to survive after only putting out nine episodes before the strike intervened and then none again until this October? Was there anything so compelling on ABC this summer that they couldn't have taken nine hours out of their primetime schedule to reintroduce viewers to this magical tale?

The final bit from Keith is less of a downer:

In the only bit of good news from ABC, however, "Scrubs" is about to come back to life, and I can only say welcome back. The hospital comedy returns beginning Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 9 p.m., in the time slot it started with way back before being moved all around (and pre-empted all the time) by NBC. We'll get two weeks of back-to-back episodes before it settles in for its regular half-hour run.

I'm hoping that NBC's "Chuck" doesn't end up suffering a "Pushing Daisies"-like fate. Week after week there's no show on television that's more fun than "Chuck." The story of a Buy More employee turned unwitting secret agent (played by the very likable Zachary Levi) is pure entertainment. I actually find myself more excited about that on Monday nights than "Heroes" (although that has definitely stepped up from last season).

And now I leave you with quite possibly the greatest news of all. In the summer of 2002 a little movie came out...well, actually it was a rather big movie. A big, loud, dumb, obnoxious movie called "XXX." What I had expected to be an exercise in uninspired stupidity turned out to be the most fun I'd had watching a movie in quite awhile. Three years later I passed on the Vin Diesel-less sequel but now it appears that the man himself, Xander Cage, is back to BLOW. THINGS. UP. "Variety" reports, "'XXX: The Return of Xander Cage' is getting off the ground with 'Terminator Salvation' scribes Michael Ferris and John Brancato in early talks to write a script that will reunite Vin Diesel with director Rob Cohen." I am so there. Now if only somebody would greenlight "Pootie Tang 2: Citizen Tang"...

And now I leave you with the trailer for 2009's "Star Trek." Hardcore fans are divided on this. As a casual Trekker I'll say this. This movie looks fun!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Two years ago the Bond franchise rose from the ashes of "Die Another Day" with the blunt and blistering "Casino Royale." Daniel Craig gave us a different take on the character and it was most welcome. Now that the novelty of the brand new Bond has worn off the question becomes is this new style still interesting? The answer is yes even if it isn't an unabashedly enthusiastic yes.
Picking up mere moments after the end of "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace" opens with a wild car chase reminiscent of the "Bourne" trilogy. This sequence sets the tone for every action sequence in "Quantum." Director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Stranger Than Fiction") is not exactly known for this and it seems as though he overshoots quite often. The sequences are good but they could have been better without the frenetic editing which makes these scenes difficult to follow. As for the plot, it's a bit murky. One thing is clear however. Bond wants blood for Vesper's death at the end of "Royale."
Being benched by M (Judi Dench) is not going to stop Bond from going after self-proclaimed environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), whose plan is to seize control of a country's entire water supply. Also setting out to stop Greene is Camille (Olga Kurylenko). Greene is in league with the man who murdered her family as a child and she's been plotting her revenge ever since.
Story wise that's really all you need to know. With these new Bond films audience interest is primarily on style as opposed to story. The stories in these 22 movies have all been essentially the same anyway. So how well does the new style work?
Like its predecessor, "Quantum of Solace" maintains a sense of reality for the most part (save for a ludicrous sky diving sequence). The new style also gives us a new kind of Bond girl. This worked splendidly for "Casino Royale" due to Vesper (Eva Green) being a well developed character who played well off of Craig's Bond. Camille however is nowhere near as interesting. Kurylenko's performance isn't terribly memorable, though to be fair she is given little to do with the role.
Craig is once again in top form. Some have complained that his Bond has no sense of humor, but at this point it wouldn't make a lot of sense for him to. He's still becoming the 007 we have known since "Dr. No." His anger has yet to give way to the cool detachment of Connery. For this film Craig's surliness is just right.
Written by the team that penned "Royale" (Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade), "Quantum of Solace" is a good movie that could have been better. They continue to do a great job of developing Bond but the lack of interesting supporting characters (including the villain and the love interest) keeps this from being all it could be. Still Dench's M, Jeffrey Wright's Felix, and Giancarlo Giannini's Mathis are worth noting.
Forster's direction of the non-action sequences is good, though not as sharp as his work on his previous films (I think "Stranger Than Fiction" is one of the most underrated movies of this decade). His best flourish is a super cool opera sequence which is far more "art house" than we're used to from these movies.
"Quantum of Solace" is a flawed but fun adventure with James Bond. It's not "Casino Royale," but few movies are. 7.5/10.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's simple, we kill the Batman.

I found this on IMDB and I just had to share:

The Mayor of a Turkish city called Batman is suing director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. bosses for a cut of their Caped Crusader film franchise.

Huseyin Kalkan has accused the brains behind The Dark Knight of using the city.s name without permission in the bizarre new legal action.

The Mayor states, .There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us..

And Kalkan goes so far as to blame the latest Nolan film for a spate of murders and suicides in Batman.

He also claims the stigma attached to the city makes it almost impossible for local businesses to be taken seriously abroad.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's/Armistice Day

November 11. Ninety years after the Armistice bringing an end to the First World War, men and women still fight and die in the cause of freedom. They serve their country. They serve us. Tomorrow is the day we show them our thanks and our admiration. God bless those of you who protect us every day.

This is specific to World War I. Armistice Day honors all those who fought from around the world.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I have never been a fan of Angelina Jolie. Not as bland of an actress as say, Julia Roberts, but certainly nothing special. I am however, an enormous fan of Clint Eastwood and his ability to tell a story better than most any filmmaker working today. At the age of 78 he continues to be one of the best in the business. His newest film, "Changeling," is based on the true story of Christine Collins (Jolie) and the disappearance of her nine year old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith).
March 10, 1928 was just another Saturday for Christine Collins, a Los Angeles single mother who needed to go into work while her son stayed home listening to the radio. "I can take care of myself," Walter tells her on her way out of the house, and in 1928 who would have thought otherwise? But Christine enters an empty house that evening and like any mother would, she immediately calls the police to report her boy's disappearance. "We can't dispatch anyone for 24 hours," an uncaring officer tells her over the phone. "We just don't have the manpower or resources." He tells Christine not to worry and that Walter will most certainly turn up by morning but this is no comfort.
After five months of desperate searching, Christine's prayers are answered when police Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) strolls into her office to say, "Your son is alive, Mrs. Collins." Jones is clearly more interested in the good press this will yield the unpopular department than he is in reuniting mother and son. So much so that the boy Christine meets at the train station (Devon Conti) is not her son. In spite of her insistence that this is not Walter, Jones tells her that she is surely mistaken and that she should take the child home "on a trial basis" until she finally comes to accept that this is Walter. Little details, such as this boy being a full three inches shorter than Walter are explained away by an LAPD hired doctor. "The spine can actually shrink from stress," he tells her. But Christine is not taken in by it and this quiet non-confrontational woman takes on Jones and the rest of the corrupt LAPD as she continues the search for her son. Offering very public support is Reverend Gustav Brieglib (John Malkovich). On his weekly radio program he champions Christine's cause and speaks out against the dirty cops who have covered the truth. This is not enough to keep Jones from having Christine incarcerated in a brutal psychiatric ward under the watchful eye of Dr. Jonathan Steele (Denis O'Hare). Steele offers to let Christine go if she signs a sworn affidavit stating that the stranger in her home is her son and that the LAPD has done nothing wrong. She will not give in and the struggle continues.
"Changeling" is a film interested in the details and like Collins, Eastwood and writer J. Michael Straczynski see this through to the end. In this way it is reminiscent of David Fincher's "Zodiac." We are given not only a thorough portrait of Collins herself, but also of the investigation into the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, spearheaded by one of the few good cops in LA, Detective Lester Ybarra (a very good Michael Kelly).
For the first time, I was truly impressed with Angelina Jolie. Her work her is terrific. It is a well written role and she makes the most of it. She shows us a woman who begins with no interest in rocking any boats or exposing police corruption, but simply wants her real son back. It is in the scenes in which she interacts with the LAPD replacement child that she and the film are most effective. It is shocking that this could have really happened and the strangeness of this situation is not lost on Eastwood or Straczynski.
The only element of this film I really had trouble with was in its depiction of the LAPD, simply because Jones and Chief James Davis (Colm Feore) seem to be painted with strokes that are far too broad. The roles are written and played with a kind of bold faced one dimensional evil that just doesn't ring true. For all I know, Jones and Davis really were this way, but the performances of Donovan and Feore just don't come across as believable. I must make mention however of Jason Butler Harner's work as the psychotic Gordon Northcott. He provides depth to a role that could have ended up being cartoonish in the wrong hands.
"Changeling" is a very good movie and another notch in Clint Eastwood's belt as a filmmaker. It is not a happy tale certainly, but unlike "Mystic River" or "Million Dollar Baby" (both great films themselves) this does not send you out the door depressed. 8.5/10.