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, April 26, 2011


Fairy tale is a term generally associated with princesses for whom endings are always happy. But anyone who's actually read one knows that they are often dark, disturbing, and meant to impart lessons to children in a terrifying way. Hanna (Saorsie Ronan, "Atonement") is a teenage girl with a love of such stories but also an understanding of what they're all about. However, she knows nothing of the world outside of the cabin she lives in with her father Erik (Eric Bana), deep within the woods of Finland.
Erik has brought his daughter up to learn not only to be strong but to kill. He insists that she will need to if she is to go out into the world she so desperately desires to explore. C.I.A. agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) is waiting for Hanna or Erik to pop back up and she will stop at nothing to find them.
The screenplay by David Farr and Seth Lochhead very slowly and cleverly reveals information to us about the characters, their pasts, and their motivations and I'd hate to ruin that for you here. I will say that Hanna is a unique and fascinating character. It's not easy to present a teenage girl who can kill without hesitation as an innocent but it's pulled off nicely here, thanks to the script and Ronan's performance. This depth is what makes "Hanna" so interesting. After all this movie is not meant to be believable. It's an all out action movie with a pulsing score (nice work from the Chemical Brothers) but no one is going to call "Hanna" a movie you "just turn your brain off for." There's real emotion and from moment to moment we know that something very big is at stake.
Directed by Joe Wright ("Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement"), "Hanna" is an entertaining movie with a terrific lead performance from Ronan and a sinister one from Blanchett. The road it takes is often surprising and it's well worth checking out. 7.5/10.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Conspirator

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. It's a war that I have been fascinated with since I was a boy and actually visited several battlefields as well as the location of what you really could call the final shot of the Civil War: Ford's Theater.
Every American knows (or at least I hope to God they do) that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by actor and Confederate zealot John Wilkes Booth. What is not as well known however is the story of the conspiracy hatched by Booth and several cohorts to not just kill the president, but to murder a number of other important government officials and essentially bring the Union to its knees just days after Appomattox.
The new film from director Robert Redford opens with the assassination and deals with the conspiracy but mainly focuses on the defense of Mary Surratt (Princess Butterc... er, Robin Wright). Surratt was a southern sympathizer yet lived in Washington, D.C., where she ran a boarding house. It was in this house that Booth (Toby Kebbell, "Control"), Lewis Payne (Norman Reedus, "The Walking Dead"), Surratt's own son John (Johnny Simmons), and others conspired to kidnap Lincoln during the final days of the war. Eventually the plan to kidnap became a plan to kill and while Lincoln was of course assassinated, the overarching plot was not a success.With Booth dead and John Surratt missing, the American people crave a person to direct their anger towards and swift justice. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) is determined to give it to them by trying Mary Surratt not by a jury of her peers but by military tribunal. Reluctantly, Union officer and inexperienced defense attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) takes Surratt's case.
"The Conspirator" is an interesting film because the story it's telling is fascinating but the movie itself somehow isn't. Mind you there's nothing wrong with it. The acting is fine, the script is perfectly acceptable, and there's a great story there that has somehow fallen by the cinematic wayside until now. But there's nothing remarkable about it either. None of the performances truly stand out and the script doesn't crackle with the proper electricity. But I guess the reason it didn't really captivate me in the end was that it only seems to tap the surface of a story that clearly has so much more to it. It would have made an incredible mini-series, giving the story room to breathe. We could have learned more about Surrat, Payne, and possible conspirator Stanton. But as a 2 hour film that sticks mainly to the courtroom it ends up dealing mainly with Aiken's uphill climb against a judge and jury who've already made up their minds and really examines little else.
This needed more punch and more time. This belonged on HBO as a three or even four night event. There's a fantastic story here and that's why the film falls short. 6/10

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Source Code

With 2009's "Moon," first time director Duncan Jones established himself as a talented filmmaker who just happens to be the son of David Bowie. Now he's back with a film that is decidedly more mainstream but no less interesting.
Awaking on a train in the Chicago area, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has no idea how he got there, where he is going, or who the woman (Michelle Monaghan, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") sitting across from him is. It's obvious she knows him though, but how exactly? And just who is that looking back at him in the mirror? Eight minutes of confusion ends with a literal bang when the train Colter is riding explodes. He should have been killed but the next thing he knows the U.S. Army captain finds himself inside a simulator capsule being asked by a woman named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air") what he'd learned about the bomb. Before he can understand what's happening Colter is going back to the beginning and waking up on the train all over again in an attempt to discover who bombed it and what the next target might be.
Like another recent sci-fi thriller, "The Adjustment Bureau," "Source Code" is an example of science fiction that doesn't really feel like science fiction. And much like "Bureau" it's a movie that doesn't waste time. Each time Colter goes back to the train he learns a little bit more not only about the bomb, but about himself, the man whose body he is inhabiting, and the other passengers. The script by Ben Ripley is smart in that we learn things only when Colter learns them. It also has enough emotional content to make us care and enough genuinely funny humor to relieve the tension when necessary.
Gyllenhaal does a fine job as Stevens, a man we grow to like more and more as the film progresses. He makes mistakes and makes some questionable decisions but they're completely understandable and I for one probably would have made those same choices. Monaghan makes the most of a fairly thin character, reminding us how good an actress she really is. There's a star waiting to break out there and I really hope she gets her day in the sun, preferably in a comedic lead. Farmiga makes Goodwin very sympathetic. She wants to help Colter in any way possible but protocol and the boss over her shoulder dictate that she can only do so much. The only disappointing performance belongs to the normally terrific Jeffrey Wright. As Goodwin's superior and a man who cares little for Colter, Wright appears to be out of a B-movie or worse, something made for Syfy. I don't think you can really blame the script for this because I don't think the dialogue he delivers or the actual character have anything particularly wrong with them. Wright just seems to have missed the mark.
It's not going to become a classic, but "Source Code" is a solidly entertaining and intelligent piece of storytelling that I'm willing to bet will be satisfying on a completely different level upon a second viewing. This is a good one. 8/10.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun - Sometimes a movie's title is so powerful and unique that it needs little else to sell it. For a certain kind of movie fan (and I am a certain kind of movie fan) "Hobo with a Shotgun" is really all I needed to know to get me excited for well, "Hobo with a Shotgun." The ludicrously over the top trailer and the fact that Roy Batty himself, Rutger Hauer, would be playing said hobo, only sweetened the deal. As I settled in last Friday afternoon, still sick and downing Robitussin like it was water I excitedly selected it from my On Demand menu. I don't know when this gun-toting tramp is going to show up at a theater near me so I intived him into my home. Was he a welcome guest?
Directed and co-written by Jason Eisener, "Hobo with a Shotgun" features a beheading by way of man hole cover less than ten minutes in. The victim is the younger brother of "The Drake" (Brian Downey), the man who owns Hope City by instilling fear into the hearts of every citizen and keeping the police force firmly in his pocket. The act is carried out by Drake's sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). It's vile and gratuitous and it's meant to be, though it's hardly the most shocking or graphic moment in the film's 86 minutes. Once Hobo (that's even how his name appears in the end credits) starts to take crime and the Drake head on it becomes one of the most gleefully disgusting movies anyone could possibly conceive of. It even crosses some lines that I've never seen another movie cross before.
It's clear early on that Eisener's trying to create a stew, a hobo stew if you like, of "The Warriors," "Repo Man," "Six-String Samurai," "Black Dynamite," and the early no budget films of Peter Jackson. And if this movie had actually worked the results would have been fantastic. The problem is though that "Hobo with a Shotgun" always feels too impressed with itself. It comes across like some guy who gets a tattoo and shows it off to everyone while proclaiming how much of a badass he is. The thing is if he has to make a point of telling everyone he's a badass...then he isn't.
That said, it's not a total waste either. There are times when "Hobo" is what we actually want it to be, such as the moment where our hero first decides he must take action. And Hobo's desire to turn town prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth) away from her current profession and into a life as a teacher is sweet and funny. When Eisener isn't smirking at his own cleverness he's really quite good.
For his part Hauer is absolutely fantastic. If only the script and direction had more wit. Hobo would be mentioned forever in the same breath with the "Evil Dead" trilogy's Ash and he actually could have been much more interesting. There is an interesting character there and Hauer did as much as he possibly could to bring him out but Eisener couldn't get out of his own way and like everything else in this movie, chacter development got buried under a river of blood.
It's not that I have a problem with playing gore for laughs. I don't and no one wanted to love "Hobo with a Shotgun" more than I did. But gore and a foul-mouthed quip in and of themselves aren't automatically funny. In the end it's the idea of "Hobo with a Shotgun" that's so funny and if I were ten years younger that might have been enough. But it's the execution that isn't up to par. So really I guess I had two guests into my home. Hauer can stay, but Eisener? I'm throwing the bum out until he learns a little humility. 5/10.