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.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Sometimes a movie gives you exactly what the title promises. "Dumb and Dumber." "Snakes on a Plane." "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford." "Hot Tub Time Machine" is such a movie.
The thing about a movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine" is that I'm not expecting it to set up hard and fast rules for time travel and to stick to them. I'm not expecting complex character development or revelations that make you think about your mortality, the human condition, or why Hitler was a very very bad man. All I really want is for it to be funny. But is it?
Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson, "The Office") have lost touch over the years but find themselves brought back together by their old friend Nick's (Rob Corddry) near fatal accident. Really Nick's not a friend so much as "he's an a--hole, but he's our a--hole," as Adam explains.
In an attempt to relive the good times they had more than 20 years earlier the three decide to spend a weekend in Kodiak Valley skiing and getting incredibly drunk. Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), who wasn't quite born the last time they went to Kodiak Valley comes along for the ride.
Upon arriving at the old ski lodge they find that it's not the happening place it had once been. Frequented now by senior citizens and with a cranky one-armed bellman on staff (Crispin Glover, ya know, George McFly), it's a bit of a hellhole. Determined to enjoy themselves anyway the three old friends and Jacob proceed to drink heavily in their room's hot tub and when they awake they find something's not quite right. Yes, they have gone back in time to 1986. When the guys realize what's happened and that their younger selves were there on that very weekend they determine that they must do everything the exact same way they did the first time around, fearing the so called "butterfly effect." Of course that doesn't work out as well as they'd planned.
There are definitely more aggressively unfunny comedies out there but really the funniest thing about "Hot Tub Time Machine" is its title. There are a few chuckles here and there, many of them thanks to Glover in a role that just seems to fit him so perfectly, but in the end this movie just isn't that funny. Cusack and Robinson are fine but don't really have a whole lot to do. I liked Corddry during his days on "The Daily Show" about six or seven years ago (around the time I quit watching it with any regularity), but I've just never really liked him in movies, even movies I've liked otherwise. Nick is just another variation on the obnoxious, unlikeable character he always plays and it never has been funny. Of the four leads Duke comes off the best. I liked that the guy in his early twenties was the voice of reason for the guys in their early forties. Very reasonably his character's only real concern is making sure that he still ends up being born.
"Hot Tub Time Machine" is stupid yes, but that's not the problem. It could have been the right kind of stupid and it almost is. But it just never gave me a really hearty laugh. It's as simple as that. 5/10.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Bob Awards!

Good news, everyone! The Bob Awards are here! No trophies, no meaning for the film industry, but there are mailed Red Robin gift certificates involved. Mickey Rourke, I still need your address from last year.

Art Direction
OSS 117: Rio Doesn't Answer - Like its predecessor, this French spy spoof is full of rich colorful detail that goes perfectly with the film's silliness. Maamar Ech-Cheikh did outstanding work here.

Black Dynamite - Most cinematographers today would have just used a computer to create the saturated look of a '70s "blaxploitation" movie, but Shawn Maurer opted to create the look naturally on film. The result goes a long way towards "Black Dynamite" being much more than a genre parody. It helps it become a '70s blaxploitation movie while satirizing them.

Costume Design
The Brothers Bloom - Beatrix Aruna Pasztor's costumes were as stylish and timeless as Rian Johnson's underappreciated second film.

Film Editing
The Hurt Locker - From first scene to last this film is as intense as anything you've ever seen. Editors Chris Innis and Bob Murawski ratchet up the relentless sense of fear.

Star Trek - I couldn't come up with anything clever to say here. It just wins.

Original Score
Up - The best film scores are perfectly in sync with and even help establish a movie's tone. Michael Giacchino did just that in Pixar's latest masterpiece.

Original Song
Crazy Heart - In a time when so much so-called country music is bland and watered down, Ryan Bingham and T. Bone Burnett reminded us how great it can really be with "The Weary Kind."

The Road - The sound work is key to this film's sense of dire atmosphere and moments of terror.

Visual Effects
Avatar - The biggest box-office hit of all-time is notable as a piece of filmmaking for its technological breakthroughs. Now if only there had been a decent story, interesting characters, and even a scrap of heart.

Supporting Actor
Peter Capaldi: "In the Loop" - Spewing a constant stream of bile and obscenities has rarely been this funny. Or creative. Malcolm Tucker was the funniest character on film in 2009.
Christoph Waltz: "Inglourious Basterds" - This German actor previously unknown to American audiences simply steals Quentin Tarantino's revisionist WWII tale. "It's a bingo!"

Sup. Actress
Rinko Kikuchi: "The Brothers Bloom" - In a nearly wordless performance, Kikuchi was the right mix of expressive, hilarious, and mysterious as a con-artist with a love of dynamite.

Sam Rockwell: "Moon" - Criminally overlooked by pretty much every movie award organization but this one, Rockwell gives the performance of his already stellar career. The day will come when he's finally recognized as one of the finest actors of his generation but he may never be better than he is as an astronaut clinging to sanity.

Carey Mulligan: "An Education" - We've seen coming of age movies about teenage girls "wise beyond their years" before, but I'm hard pressed to think of an actress who's pulled it off as well. Her performance as a brilliant 17 year old in 1961 London is natural and effortless.

Monty Python Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Star Trek: The degree of difficulty here was extraordinary. An entirely new cast was asked to become characters whom fans have held dear for over forty years. They haven't replaced the original cast but they have become the crew of the Enterprise for the 21st century.

Adapted Screenplay
"Up in the Air": Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner - 2009's most timely film is really a thorough character study of a middle-aged man trying to truly connect with someone for the first time in his life.

Original Screenplay
"(500) Days of Summer": Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber - A romantic comedy free of cliches and that feels like real life? Yes. An independent film script that doesn't rely on quirkiness? Double yes. Fresh, funny, and just plain wonderful writing.

John Hillcoat: "The Road" - No film had a stronger sense of place than this unheralded post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son just trying to survive. From the very beginning you feel immersed in a world that's bleak to be sure, but it's powerful and atmospheric filmmaking.

Best Picture
(500) Days of Summer - This "story about love" may not advance film technology or tackle important social issues but it's my number one film of the year because it's a great story, well told, with characters who feel like real people. And that's what it's all about, isn't it?

And now the Fun Stuff...
Funniest Movie: Black Dynamite

Funniest Performance: Peter Capaldi - In the Loop

Most Entertaining Movie: The Brothers Bloom

Favorite Quote: "Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!" - Black Dynamite

Best Action Sequence: The first ten minutes - Star Trek

"Withnail and I" Award For Best Friendship: (tie) - Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, "I Love You Man." Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, "Sherlock Holmes."

Best Fight Scene: Black Dynamite - "I told you never to call me when I'm doing my kung fu!"

Funniest Scene: Black Dynamite - Breaking down the conspiracy. "LITTLE RICHARD!"

Best Dramatic Scene: Carl and Ellie's married life at the beginning of "Up." Unforgettable.

Best Villain: Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Most Despicable Character: Kyle (Daryl Sabara) - World's Greatest Dad

Best Couple: John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph - "Away We Go."

Best Movie You Probably Missed: World's Greatest Dad

Best Local Movie (that was actually shot in Seattle!): World's Greatest Dad

Best Work Movie: Adventureland

Worst Performance: Verne Troyer - The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Worst Movie I Subjected Myself To: Miss March

Best Animated and Family Film: Up

Best Cameo: It's in "Zombieland." If you've seen it you know who it is. If you haven't I dare not spoil it for you.

Best Sequel: OSS 117: Rio Doesn't Answer

Best Ending: Away We Go

Monday, March 01, 2010

Shutter Island

While I don’t feel it was for his most deserving film, I am glad that Martin Scorsese finally won his Oscar for “The Departed.” Not because it was really a lifetime achievement award that said, “Sorry about ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull,’ ‘The King of Comedy,’ (my personal favorite) and ‘Goodfellas.’” It is because now with it out of the way he can just go back to making movies without the pretense of trying to win an Academy Award. While I enjoyed “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” and “The Departed,” there was a sense with all three that he was caring a little too much about a little golden statue. “Shutter Island” isn’t going to win him any awards but he has made one heck of an entertaining thriller.
U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are investigating the disappearance of a woman named Rachel Solando from the Ashecliff Hospital for the criminally insane in 1954. As the head psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) explains, “It is as though she had evaporated. Right through the walls.” From the very start “Shutter Island” is brimming with a foreboding atmosphere. Scorsese seems to be having fun just spinning a yarn. The cinematography, costumes, dialogue, and music are all there to remind us we’re watching a movie and to just surrender to the storytelling. He maintains this feel throughout its 138 minutes which actually fly by.
Teddy and Chuck have a hard time believing that Rachel Solando, a woman in Ashecliffe for drowning her three children, could have just disappeared as Cawley is claiming. The facility’s location on a remote island and the brewing hurricane suggest that even with Rachel getting out of her cell it’s unlikely she’s still alive. It also keeps the Marshals on Shutter Island even as they desperately want to escape, sensing a sinister plot.
As “Shutter Island” is a film full of surprises that unfold not as shocks but as logical progressions in its story I won’t say anything more about that. I will say though that Scorsese and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis have adapted Dennis Lehane’s novel into something thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. That said, “Shutter Island” is hardly a happy film. Flashbacks to Nazi death camps and the senseless murders of children figure heavily into it. Still, it’s not quite as monumentally depressing as “Mystic River” (also based on a Lehane novel).
One of the elements I most appreciated about what Scorsese does here is that he uses visual effects in ways that are not only striking, but also serve to tell the story. Something James Cameron knew how to do when he made “Terminator 2” but recently forgot. The effects are a part of the emotional impact.
“Shutter Island” isn’t Oscar bait but it’s very much the movie I wanted it to be. I think most movie fans will feel the same way. 8.5/10.