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, June 21, 2009

Year One

What happened to Harold Ramis? The director of "Caddyshack," the writer of "Stripes," and co-writer of "Ghostbusters," one of the cleverest and most underrated scripts ever written. How did he end up co-writing and directing a movie with Michael Cera, Jack Black, and a host of other very talented actors...that's just so bad? In the almost 24 hours since watching "Year One" my feelings on the film have gone from bad to worse. There was so much potential here. So what happened?
"Year One" is a look at biblical and ancient history through a comedic (well attempted comedic) lens. Zed (Jack Black) is the worst hunter in his village, while his only real friend, Oh (Michael Cera) is a shy gatherer with a crush on Zed's sister Eema (Juno Temple). Zed wants to do something special, something important. Mostly he wants to impress Maya (June Diane Raphael). He decides to find the Tree of Knowledge and eat an apple from it. "It has sort of a knowledgy taste," he declares. But it also has "a forbidden taste," so when his fellow villagers find out, Zed is banished and forced to roam the earth. His exit doesn't help anyone though when he accidentally burns the village down upon leaving. Oh reluctantly joins him while Eema and Maya are captured by a slave master.
The opening is a bit slow but there was a sense that once Zed and Oh embarked on their journey the story (and hopefully the comedy) were going to pick up. Sadly, it never really does. Their meeting with Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd) has the potential to be a comedic home run. Instead it's more like a weak single trickling past the second baseman. It's kind of funny but not nearly as much as it ought to be. Still, it ends up being one of the best scenes in all of "Year One." Most gags feel flat, rarely hitting their target. Black and Cera try but they have very little to work with. Not even Hank Azaria and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin) as Abraham and Isaac can liven things up. The script by Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, and Lee Eisenberg is incredibly weak. It didn't help that virtually everyone involved with the making of "Year One" kept trying to compare it to Monty Python's "Life of Brian." Where "Brian" was a smart and very funny satire that had something to say, "Year One" is a series of lazy poop and penis jokes that lack imagination. The fact that Stupnitsky and Eisenberg have been hired to write "Ghostbusters III" now concerns me greatly.
"Year One" is a tremendous disappointment involving a whole lot of people who must have known on some level that this just wasn't up to snuff. This is one to avoid. 3/10.

To wash the taste out of my mouth, here's a clip from "Life of Brian":

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Brothers Bloom

Two young boys, Stephen Bloom, age 13, and Bloom Bloom, age 10, are not typical kids. They talk different, they dress different, and they can never seem to find a set of foster parents willing to put up with their shenanigans. Life has been hard for the boys and they have difficulty connecting with others and finding something they are good at. But when Stephen comes up with a fantastic story designed to help Bloom make friends and more importantly to Stephen, make the brothers some money, the brothers Bloom find their calling. The first con doesn't quite work out the way they had hoped, but there's no going back for these two.
The story picks up nearly 25 years later with Bloom (Adrien Brody) vowing to walk away after a con in Berlin. Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) knows Bloom will come back. He always does. But this time it will take something special to get Bloom to return to the life. It takes Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz).
Penelope is a lonely shut in living on the spacious estate left to her by her billionaire parents. For Stephen she is the perfect mark. Like the first con they ever had, this one begins with, "Bloom talks to girl." He gets to know the eccentric Penelope who fills her days "collect[ing] hobbies." Bloom convinces Penelope to come along with him on a little adventure, giving her a chance to get out and live, and making the brothers rich. "The perfect con," Stephen explains, "is one where everybody gets what they want." As they set sail for their adventure, Penelope is introduced to Stephen and the mysterious Bang Bang ("Babel's" Rinko Kikuchi).
"The Brothers Bloom" is the second film from writer-director Rian Johnson. 2006's "Brick" was an inventive modern day noir that never quite came together as a whole. With this Johnson realizes his full potential as a storyteller and filmmaker. The tale is as expertly crafted as it is fun to watch. The snappy dialogue, colorful costumes, and quirkiness of the characters all serve to immerse us in the movie's world. There are no quirks for the sake of quirks. The characters are fully developed and the relationships between the four are interesting and revealing.
Johnson gets terrific performances from his actors. As the cautious and more tender of the brothers, Brody is outstanding. His weary face says so much about Bloom's state of mind. Ruffalo is a blast to watch as the more mischievous Stephen and in their scenes together they are totally believable as brothers. Like most sibling relationships complexity and simple love go hand in hand. Weisz provides depth to the kooky Penelope. She shows us a woman who is about to burst with excitement after spending her whole life inside. But it's Kikuchi who just about runs away with the movie. As Bang Bang she says almost nothing but that only makes her more interesting. With the range she displays with a simple facial expression, Kikuchi doesn't need words. "She just showed up one day," Bloom explains. "And one day we figure she'll just disappear."
It may not be your typical summer movie fare, but "The Brothers Bloom" does have explosions and action to go along with the quotable lines, wonderful story, terrific performances, and sharp filmmaking. It's currently in limited release but if you can find it don't miss out on "The Brothers Bloom." 9/10.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"Up" and "Terminator Salvation"

Up - Pixar has consistently produced not only the finest crop of animated films of the past 14 years (beginning with 1995's "Toy Story"), but some of the finest films in that time period. With their first venture into 3D, they have made a film that is a towering achievement even by Pixar's standards.
Like so many Pixar films, "Up" is the story of dreamers. When we meet young Carl Fredricksen, he is a wide-eyed little boy with visions of exploring the world. At the top of his list is Paradise Falls in South America, considered by many to be the last true wilderness on earth. As he walks through his neighborhood balloon in hand, he hears a little girl playing in an old broken down house. He goes inside and meets Ellie, a talkative and happy go lucky child who lives for adventure. "You don't talk very much," she tells a dumbstruck Carl. "I like you!" She likes Carl even more because he's promised to go with her to Paradise Falls some day.
The next several minutes of the film are more emotionally powerful than most whole movies. It's a wordless sequence in which we see Carl and Ellie grow up and grow old together. They save money for their dream adventure but life's complications and obstacles force them to spend the money they save on house repairs and medical bills. Sadly, Ellie passes on before they get to go to Paradise Falls. Life understandably just isn't the same for Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) anymore. Living alone, surrounded by construction crews he's become cantankerous and connected to no one. When he's faced with a court order to move into a nursing home, the former balloon salesman knows that for Paradise Falls, it's now or never. With thousands of balloons tied to his roof, Carl's house takes to the skies for South America. Unbeknownst to Carl, he has a hitchhiker. A boy scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai) needs only one more merit badge for assisting the elderly and he just happened to be on Carl's porch the moment the house took off. Together this unlikely pair is going for the adventure of a lifetime. All the while Ellie's presence is palpable. We know that she's right there with them and loving every minute of it as they make new friends along the way.
Co-directed by Pete Docter and screenwriter Bob Peterson, "Up" is a film of rare beauty, artistry, and humor that has the greatest emotional impact of any Pixar film to date. At its core is the lesson that it's never too late to take that grand adventure and maybe the kids who see this will gain a greater understanding of their grandparents, realizing that they were young once too.
As for the 3D, it was fun watching "Up" with the dark glasses but it's not necessary in order to enjoy this movie to the fullest. 2D or 3, "Up" is a wonderful adventure that ranks alongside "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" for the best of Pixar's best. 10/10.

Terminator Salvation - Six years after the enjoyable if not spectacular "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," the "Terminator" franchise gives us the fourth installment in the series. With Arnie busy Governating, "Terminator Salvation" focuses on the future, the year 2018 to be exact, and the resistance against the machines. At this point John Connor (Christian Bale) is not the leader of the human resistance just yet. For some he's the ultimate symbol of hope, for others a false prophet. Kind of like Batman.
Connor knows what he is destined to become and will stop at nothing to ensure that destiny is fulfilled. All will be for not though if Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) is unable to survive. Reese is only a teenager now, but unbeknownst to him, he is the elder Connor's father thanks to time travel (Reese is played by Michael Biehn in the first film).
The third key player in "Salvation" is Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a killer who's awoken in the future, unsure how he got there, but determined to do some good with his life.
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris and directed by McG, "Terminator Salvation" is a very entertaining if flawed film that is a worthy addition to this franchise. The film's biggest weakness is actually its main storyline. Whenever we were with Connor I kept wanting to go back to the Reese and Wright storylines (which are intertwined more effectively than the Connor story). We know full well that John Connor will be the leader of the resistance and it doesn't feel as though any new light is shed on the character or his purpose. Reese is far more intriguing and Yelchin more than makes up for being the weakest cast member of "Star Trek." He is absolutely terrific here. We see the man he will become in "The Terminator."
Even more interesting is Wright. His unfolding story is the most surprising and well developed. Worthington plays the role just right. This is a man who remembers where he came from but who has no idea how he got to where he is. His journey is an effecting one. It takes a special kind of actor to pull off what Worthington does here and I have a feeling this virtually unknown Australian is well on his way to becoming a major star.
McG's film is no classic but it's got good action and is far more fun and much more well executed than most are giving it credit for. If you're even a casual fan of this series you will enjoy this movie. 7/10.