Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Film Yap: Let Me In

In order to successfully remake a film, there has to be some reason behind it. Transferring the brilliant Swedish film Let the Right One In to America seems like it would just play off the different locations. Instead director Matt Reeves what he personally can bring to the subject material, not the country.

The plot and all of the key scenes are the same in both versions. A twelve-year-old girl moves into the neighborhood with her caretaker (Richard Jenkins). Every night the caretaker finds an unexpected person and slits their throat to bottle their blood for Abby, the little girl. Meanwhile young Owen is having trouble with bullies at school and strikes up an innocent relationship with Abby.

It’s the vampire romance film that’s actually…you know…good. The original version remains one of the best horror films of the last decade, but this one holds its ground as an equal. It is because there is strong enthusiasm in its filmmaking. All of the big set pieces in the original were designed to unsettle you, to creep you out. In Let Me In, Reeves is ready to scare you and he’s successful.

He doesn’t rely on gore, but there is plenty of spilled blood. Reeves is not ripping off Hitchcock or Carpenter, but creating his own style of effective horror. If the original was showing you a frightening image, Reeves wants to take a few steps closer and put you among the terror. Everything is more intense and that never cheapens what is going on. There is one extended sequence from inside a car that is just a wonder to watch.

With these additional steps towards the action, there seems to be more of a focus on the relationship. A love story among twelve-year-olds is a difficult one to accomplish, but Reeves lets them interact more. These honest moments makes the payoffs at the end of the film have more resonance and then the film is even more haunting.

The two young leads have already established their quality before in other films. Kodi Smit-McPhee was given acclaims for his role in The Road and Chloe Moretz stole the show in Kick-Ass. In this they continue to be impressive young actors, but Moretz takes it one step further. She brings something very profound as she adds an extra element of soul and soullessness to the performance. There hasn’t been this much sorrow in a character’s demeanor while still transforming into an animalistic monster. It will never happen, but she deserves a Best Actress nomination at this year’s Academy Awards.

This is a horror film that should have a powerful reaction to audiences. With so many films of the genre that are being spit out like on an assembly line, this stands out as a movie of true quality. Nothing is “Americanized.” It still challenges the audience with its subject material, pacing, and the intelligent way it presents the story. There were plenty of fears that the ages would be raised to 18, the leads wouldn’t be as disturbing, or elements of the ending would be changed. Instead there is a level of maturity and inspiration not typically seen out of Hollywood. For once, the remake does not belittle or embarrass but stand as a worthy companion to another excellent film.

4.5 Yaps

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Film Yap: The Killer Inside Me

This is not an easy tale. Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is a classic crime novel that was noted for its dark and frightening protagonist. It is considered unfilmable, but director Michael Winterbottom took on the task. Winterbottom is known for his brilliant Steve Coogan comedies, including 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy, and his more dramatic political films like The Road to Guantanamo and the underseen A Mighty Heart.

The Killer Inside Me is a curious middle ground where its incredibly dark subject material is seen as gritty reality but then it sometimes becomes dark comedy. Casey Affleck plays the sociopath Lou Ford. He is an officer of the law in West Texas who is called to talk a prostitute out of town. When he arrives at Joyce’s house he becomes physically violent with her, which ends up being sexually rewarding. Joyce (Jessica Alba) responds with the same acceptance and this starts a chain reaction of seeing how far Lou can go.

The violence in this film has been talked about to great length. It caused a physical reaction to people when it appeared at Sundance. It is unrelenting, difficult to watch and it was bold for Winterbottom to not shy away from this. As the insanity continues, the violence does not heighten. The audience has time to become adjusted towards the atrocities towards women and that is more frightening than anything presented on screen.

It is a bit of a controversial performance, but Affleck does a great job at underplaying the apathy and never trying to gain any sympathy for his actions. There is no remorse in his eyes; in fact it’s hard to tell what he is every really feeling. The problem is that disconnect is reflective of the film as well. There shouldn’t be an emotional connection with Lou, but morbid curiosity of where this will play out. That is missing from this film and that makes the film dissatisfying.

It’s relieving to see Winterbottom change up the format. In the noir and neo-noir genre, there are plenty of “Bad Decision” films. From Double Indemnity and, a recent example, The Square normal people make a criminal decision at the beginning and spend the rest of the film trying to correct it. They are filled with anxiety, paranoia, and fear. In this film, Lou is calm. He covers things up and continues going. It’s an interesting challenge, but it adds to the disinterest in the narrative. There are so many admirable things about this movie, but that still makes it difficult to recommend.

The bonus features are very laughable. Most IFC DVDs are bare, but this time they had three 3-minute featurettes focused on each of the three leads: Affleck, Alba, and Kate Hudson. It’s really just 2.5 minutes of the same clips but then the other 30 seconds are devoted to the actors talking about their role. Affleck is fine, but the other two are just embarrassing. Alba thinks the whole movie is a love story and Hudson gives us tidbits like actors think about their parts.

Movie: 3 Yaps

Extras: 1.5 Yaps

Monday, September 27, 2010

Film Yap: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

Love stories among artists seem to have a different resonance than other romantic tales. When they are artists there is a different framework for the audience to comprehend the intense feelings they are having as it is conveyed through their work. In Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, the people in question are two of the most prestigious figures in their field.

Set in Paris, Chanel is on the verge of creating her beloved Chanel No. 5 and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” did not open to a welcoming audience. They see something in each other that is respectful creatively and physically alluring. They simply must be together, despite the commitment Stravinsky has to his wife and children.

In many ways, this film is a companion piece to last year’s Bright Star. That Jane Campion film was able to create a film that was representative of the lushly romantic nature of Fanny Brawne and John Keats. The film flowed with beauty and wit while creating a world full of life and love. In many ways, that’s what director Jan Kounen did with this film. Chanel and Stravinsky are not people who would shout their love on the mountaintops or would chase down a train to say goodbye one more time. They are more reserved and the film reflects that.

A lot of the film requires the audience to interpret a lot of their emotions and thoughts. Some of this is satisfying, but it also creates a bit of disconnect with the audience. It makes sense that these two should be together on a rational, but there isn’t a strong emotional connection.

Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) deliver very strong performances. Without them the film could be lost because they are only things to help guide the film. If they didn’t have such a firm grasp on their characters, all of the (too many) scenes of lingering shots would just be empty.

The film works the best when Mouglalis and Mikkelsen are together and unfortunately that takes a bit too long to get to that point. The best scene in the movie is when they talk about how they compose and design. The film does not have many scenes of dialog, but that is when it drew me in the most. It’s not very often do we want a film to talk more.

The DVD is bare except for a very bizarre making of documentary. It’s composed of a lot of interesting technical footage of how they created certain shots but it also shows a lot of the actors talking about their parts with Kounen. It really makes it look like Kounen did not have control of this movie. It seems like this is really a Mikkelsen film, for better or worse. The Blu-Ray for this film looks visually stunning and helps make up for the lack of extras.

Film: 3.5 Yaps

Extras: 2.5 Yaps

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Film Yap: Get Him to the Greek

Comedy sequels are familiar, but comedy spin-offs are not. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a very fun success and the breakout star was Russell Brand. Brand played the nemesis of Jason Segal’s character but was too cool to hate. In Get Him to the Greek, the plot is refocused towards the crazed rock star and it completely works.

Jonah Hill plays Aaron Green, an employee of a music label, who has to think of a great new idea for his boss Sergio (Sean Combs). He comes up with a 10-year anniversary concert of Aldous Snow at the Greek Theatre. So it’s up to Aaron to travel to England, get Aldous, take him to the Today Show in New York, and then back to Los Angeles for the concert. Everything will go wrong.

As expected, there are plenty of distractions as Aldous torments Aaron and takes him through every drug possible. There are montages of depravity and plenty of desperate pleas for sleep and sobriety. Brand’s humor and energy carries the film through unexpected directions.

Get Him to the Greek does not just end up being a raunchy road-trip comedy. For every memorable scene of insanity, there are poignant moments of humanity. The film shows the rock and roll lifestyle from the perspective of Aldous’s downfall. In this weekend of his life, the film shows his personal struggles with loneliness and failed relationships in regards to his father (Colm Meany) and his ex-girlfriend (Rose Byrne).

By having these tangents, writer/director Nicholas Stoller takes risks and challenges you to actually care about these characters. It ends up paying off really well even if it cramps the movie a little bit. It’s this approach to comedy that makes this movie special. It fits within the Judd Apatow label, but also works towards its own Stoller touch.

Stoller’s films know how to keep the comedy consistent but also have it derive from the characters, which makes it stronger. No one is just an archetype, especially the women. There hasn’t been a comedy in a long time that allows the women to have as much fun as the guys in this kind of R-rated movie. Byrne and Elisabeth Moss are known for their dramatic work on Damages and Mad Men but they are hilarious here. Byrne, in particular, is incredibly dirty and always matches wits with Brand.

She even sings three of the songs in the movie, including the blunt “Supertight.” Since the movie is revolved around music, they created a full album of songs for the characters. They raised the bar with the Infant Sorrow songs from Sarah Marshall: “I Want to Do Something” and “Inside of Me.” Greek continues the sexual innunedos with songs like “The Clap” and “Just Say Yes.” The best ones are the ones written by Jason Segal including the dirty but surprisingly sad “Bangers, Beans and Mash.” The soundtrack ends up being as successful as the film.

As if enough work wasn’t put into this film, the DVD is fantastic. There are two great documentaries of archival footage and processes into the film and the soundtrack. A fake documentary about making the infamous song “African Child.” There are places to sing karaoke to the songs from the film. Plenty of quality deleted scenes, alternate beginnings and endings, a commentary, and music videos. If you’re a fan of these comedians, the “Line-o-Rama” is brilliant because you see them improvising a ton of brilliant alternate lines to the movie. The only misstep is promoting an “Unrated Version” which is only four minutes more of material. From what I could tell, this only includes a new scene with the hilarious Aziz Ansari and Nick Kroll, a jogging scene and more furry walls.

Movie: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 4.5 Yaps

Film Yap: Return to Oscar

Actors don’t get the chance to add new things to an established character too often. With a TV show, every episode is an opportunity to add nuances to the character. The Emmys reward the best and worst of this. With serial shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, they can applaud the new things John Hamm or Brian Cranston bring to their roles as the plot challenges the characters in new ways. But then they also nominate actors like Steve Carrel for his continued hilarity on The Office, but how is that performance different from Season Three Michael Scott to Season Six Michael Scott?

We see the same thing in film, but it’s more rare. When an actor wins or is nominated for an Academy Award their performance becomes something very accomplished. Reprising the role creates a very high standard.

This weekend Michael Douglas returns to Wall Street (That should be the title of the film!) in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. In 1987, Douglas won for his dynamic performance of Gordon Gekko. 23 years later he returns to comment on the new state of capitalism and, of course, greed. Paul Newman did a similar thing when he was nominated for The Hustler and ended up taking home the statue for The Color of Money, 25 years later. This worked out for him—besides the Academy realizing they haven’t given him a statue yet—because it’s a great sequel. Fast Eddie had a lot of energy and ambition in the first movie but later on he’s tired and more cynical. It really is a great examination of the character in a new light.

This also works for further nominations of Al Pacino as Michael Corelone and Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth. Most of the time, this is not the case. When there is a sequel, the movies don’t factor time and evolution into the character. Johnny Depp was nominated for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. I’m almost alone in still enjoying the sequels, but the movies aren’t designed to add new things to the character. It’s essentially the same entertaining performance.

This sort of thing has happened even back in the 40s. Bing Crosby won the Oscar for his role as Father Chuck O’Malley in the delightful film Going My Way. In the sequel, the character goes to a new church in the movie The Bells of St. Mary. He was nominated again (and so was Ingrid Bergman) even though it was the same performance but a different scenario. The same goes for William Powell playing Nick Charles in five addition Thin Man movies.

Those movies actually have good sequels. Sometimes there are diminishing returns. The Silence of the Lambs terrified audiences but how many people are big fans of Hannibal or Red Dragon. Anthony Hopkins deserved the Oscar for terrifying audiences the first time around, but each additional movie lost what was special about the original. In the first film, Hannibal Lector was more of a supporting player whose presence really stuck with audiences. The same goes for Tommy Lee Jones in his Best Supporting Actor winning performance in The Fugitive. Then he becomes in the lead in U.S. Marshalls, a very underwhelming thriller. In fact the first time we revisit the character he’s holding a gun while in a chicken’s outfit. Chicken outfits are the absolute best way to devalue an Oscar.

Ultimately, reprising a beloved role doesn’t have to be like a blue moon. It should be handled like any good sequel: Think about what new can be done. Just making the original again but “bigger” doesn’t always satisfy the audience. Handle it with care and understand the higher expectations and a good film could be made. Or it could be Alien3.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Bits of Information

Hey Everybody,

I'm a bit overwhelmed with a lot of my work so here is just random stuff.

Easy A - This movie ended up being a lot of fun. It's very clever and consistently funny. Sure I have a few flaws, but for the most part this was a very surprising hit.

I'm Still Here - This is the Joaquin Phoenix "documentary." I hate this film. A lot.

New episode of And the Nominees Are podcast is up on iTunes. For new readers, this is the podcast I have with Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones where we discuss every single Best Picture nominee. This one covers the first half of films from 1937.

I was also a guest on The Film Yap podcast. You can find that on their site or on iTunes. The episode is about "Directors Who Throw Changeups" like how Zack Synder went out of his comfort zone for Legend of the Guardians.

Oh and I realized through a conversation yesterday that I never bothered to post my Top Ten Films of 2009. So better (way) late than never, here you go:

1) The Hurt Locker
2) Inglourious Basterds
3) An Education
4) In the Loop
5) Up
6) Bright Star
7) A Serious Man
8) A Single Man
9) Star Trek
10) Fantastic Mr. Fox

Honorable mentions include Up in the Air, Where the Wild Things Are, Ponyo, Coraline, The Brothers Bloom, Bad Lieutentant: Port of Call New Orleans, Sita Sings the Blues, and Humpday.

That's probably it. Next week I'll have a bunch of DVD reviews and my official review of The Social Network. Get excited!!!!!2!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Higgens Network: Legend of the Guardians

There was something very surprising about Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. It is an incredibly beautiful film. This is almost perfect animation. The texture and details of every owl looked glorious especially when they were soaring or approaching a new landscape. It’s the type of movie where you can take any still image and put it up on the wall, framed.

I highly recommend the still image approach because when you add audio to the pictures, the film falls apart. The movie doesn’t make a lot of sense. When you step a mile back, it kinda works. Some owls need to save the world. Or something. This is based off a popular (I assume) series of books called Guardians of Ga’Hoole. Thankfully Hollywood simplified the title to Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Soren (voiced by Across the Universe’s Jim Sturgess) is an owl that loves to hear about “the Guardians.” These are the epic owls who are warriors who save the world they live in but no one thinks they’re real. Then Soren and his rivaling brother Kludd are kidnapped by some owls that are called “The Pure Ones.” So it seems like the film will be about breaking out of that kingdom to save the day, but that happens almost immediately. The whole film has taken place under a day so far but already Kludd wants to join the Pure Ones, Soren has learned to fly, and apparently the moon can give you a lobotomy if you stare at it.

I could go on with the plot, but it just becomes more confusing. Every scene introduces a new character or a new storyline, which adds a new level of mythology and a new location. Everything is so abrupt, that it’s hard to figure out what is going on with each scene. The plot is constantly redefined and this seems like a fun way to play with structure, but the movie just becomes too cluttered.

Most of the characters are built up to be essential to the plot, even to the point of prophecy, and then quickly disregarded. I’m still not sure how random blue rocks bring owls to the ground and what they’re used for. Watchmen’s Zach Synder’s style surprisingly translates well to children’s animation. His slow motion and epic framing excites the scene, but it doesn’t make up for the poor characterization and bizarre plotting. But…the movie is so beautiful!

Film Yap: Bored to Death

On paper, Bored to Death is brilliant. It’s the story of Jonathan Ames’s alter ego who is played by Jason Schwartzman. After his girlfriend dumps him, he randomly puts up an ad on Craig’s List as an unlicensed private detective. Jonathan feels he can easily do this since he’s read so many detective novels. His friends are played by Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson and his ex-girlfriend is Olivia Thirlby. This sounds amazing!

Then what happened? There is no life to this show. In order to have a difference between an ordinary life and a faux-noir life, I suppose the ordinary life has to be paler in comparison. That’s fine to have a character that is not a Bogart, but let him at least be bearable. Jonathan just whines all of the time.

This is a comedy and there are a ton of hilarious comedians in this. There just aren’t very many jokes per episode. All of the amusement comes from the actors adding in little quirks to the scene, seemingly to amuse themselves.

In just eight episodes, they managed to ignore the plot twice. If the title is correct and Jonathan is as bored as he claims, then how can his life easily involve losing Jim Jarmusch’s screenplay and forced to partake in a boxing match? There are so few stakes in every episode. Perhaps that is supposed to match the stoner, loser attitude of the character of Jonathan but that just makes for a boring show. It gets too caught up on characters that aren’t dynamic.

In addition to a lack of comedy in a comedy, there isn’t much mystery in the mystery. There are some standard cases, but if the premise is that Jonathan has read too many mysteries can we acknowledge this? Just a reference every once in awhile? When characters are obsessed with movies or video games, they tend to talk about them a lot. Jonathan just wants to talk about his girlfriend or whatever little problem he has. Scott Pilgrim is more focused than this guy.

It can not be said enough how much the actors save this show. The scripts are boring, but they have hilarious people like Oliver Platt, John Hodgman, Kristen Wiig, Parker Posey, Heather Burns, and Jenny Slate to give it just a little bit of energy. Listening to the commentary tracks confirmed my fears. Every little joke I liked or fun moment was improvised. Despite only having negative things to say about this show, these actors are so talented this is somehow a watchable show. This is also one of the greatest theme songs on TV right now, which of course was created entirely by Schwartzman.

The bonus features for the DVD are pretty lame as well. The audio commentaries are very boring where the real Ames, the director of the episode and Schwartzman just give us tidbits like “That was my luggage in the scene” or them just complimenting each other. There are also deleted scenes and two long featurettes. I think “Making of Bored to Death” actually moved faster than one of the episodes. That’s not good.

Show: 2 Yaps

Extras: 2.5 Yaps

Film Yap: The Secret in Their Eyes

This article was originally posted when this was in theatres, but has a new paragraph to discuss the bonus features.

During the last Academy Awards, there were a few upsets. Precious and The Hurt Locker were technically underdogs in their respected screenplay categories. The biggest surprise was the Best Foreign Film winner The Secret in Their Eyes. It wasn’t seen by a lot of critics at the time so it didn’t receive a lot of press at the time. Now it is being released in more theatres and people are able to decide for themselves whether it’s better than The White Ribbon or A Prophet.

Surprisingly, it is. There is joy in finding a movie that is so well constructed. This movie uses a very interesting narrative structure to tell its story. Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens) plays Benjamin Espósito, a federal justice agent who is looking back at a case that occurred several decades ago. He wants to write a novel about his experiences working on it. He looks to his friend Irene (Guillermo Francella) to help him remember what happened. She is more hesitant than Hastings.

The case is the rape and murder of a beautiful young woman. Espósito doesn’t know why he’s so compelled to this case but he is determined to solve it. He has to go through his corrupt system and his alcoholic partner, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella). Despite being a bit unstable it is Sandoval who ends up clarifying the way to find the guy: you can hide a lot of things about yourself, but you can’t hide your passion.

Passion is seen through many lights. It fuels the motivation of all of the characters and each one is done masterfully. There is suspense not only in the mystery aspect of the plot but seeing how certain relationships will ultimately play out. The film teases thanks to it jumping back and forth in time and occasionally having an untrusting narrator. Every single aspect of this movie is well thought out and appears to be effortless. Nothing is an accident ranging from Sandoval’s frequent trips to the bars to even the unique typewriter that’s used. It’s so satisfying to see everything tie together.

It’s not just the plotting that excels in this story but everything gels well. The acting, especially from the leads, was fantastically subtle. They really succeeded in portraying the characters from two different ages. They were able to show a different level of tension with the plot and they easily conveyed how long they were friends from a given point.

Just to single out one scene, there is absolutely incredible scene at a soccer game. It appears to just be one flowing shot that goes from an aerial shot, into the stands, and then into a powerful footrace. I know there has to be some tricky editing in there, but it really looked like one impossible shot.

The film comes together in a very satisfying conclusion while still leaving a lot to process. Easily one of the best mystery films in several years.

With the bonus features, there are two short featurettes. One is a five-minute “making of” where a few cast members talk about the theme of the movie but most of the time just shows film clips. The other one shows some of the auditions for the smaller characters and that was pretty interesting. Aside from the theatrical trailer, all that was left was a commentary track by director Juan José Campanella. It’s a very good commentary that really shows how intelligent he is when it comes to visual storytelling. His comments on creating a sense of memory through color are fascinating.

Film: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 3.5 Yaps

Friday, September 17, 2010

Higgens Network: The Town

In 2007, Ben Affleck impressed everyone with his feature-length directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. It was a very tight adaptation of the critically acclaimed Dennis Lehane novel. Two years later, Affleck is back in the director’s chair with another crime adaptation. The Town is based off of Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves, which is about a bank robber from Boston who falls in love with his former hostage.

Affleck plays the crack criminal who has grown up in the bank robbing capital of the world. He was just supposed to check up on Rebecca Hall’s character to make sure she couldn’t recognize anyone from her abduction. Perhaps he was charmed over by her or he felt guilty about her trauma but he continued to see her.

He’s worried about what his childhood friend (Jeremy Renner) who is a bit of a loose cannon. Also after their last heist there are FBI agents (Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver) tracking them down. On a completely subjective note, it was geeky awesome to see Don Draper and the Man in Black fight crime together.

Whenever the main character has a secret in a movie, it’s only a matter of time before everything is revealed. Most of the suspense is built around how that is dealt with or avoided. The Town doesn’t do anything new with this concept, but it definitely accomplishes the emotional connection and tension amongst its main characters. Renner is brilliant because he is so different than his role in The Hurt Locker. He’s really able to lose himself in this role.

The feel of this movie makes this very easy to recommend. The plot moves quickly and in an intelligent fashion. The car chases were some of the best I’ve seen in many years. I can’t remember chases scenes that focused on speed as much as the ones in this film. I was a bit disappointed that this movie wasn’t as visually interesting as Gone Baby Gone. Cinematographer Robert Elswit is typically very strong, especially when he’s working with Paul Thomas Anderson. I loved how they treated Boston as a city by depicting it as a warmer place, but then it’s difficult to understand that it is this neighborhood, which seems to have so many people tempted by crime.

Affleck has quickly established himself as a very competent crime director. He is a credited co-screenwriter and may stray a bit away from the source material, but is very faithful to their tone. As a fan of crime fiction, I welcome Affleck as a very talented director who knows how to make very memorable genre movies. Can’t wait for what’s next.

Film Yap: Devil

Every once in awhile there is a movie so dumb, you can’t help but wonder how it was made. I’m starting to assume the answer to that question is always M. Night Shyamalan. For Devil, he is not the director or a “credited” screenwriter, but this is the first entry of The Night Chronicles. Basically he’s producing at least three movies that will be made cheaply and he thinks up with the story for them.

Having the Devil trapped in the elevator with four other people and not knowing which one it is can be a very fun premise. It could be No Exit mixed with Sleuth or Deathtrap with a few more visual scares. It could also be a stupid clichéd mess. The opening credits perfectly sets up the movie. It’s composed of shots of downtown Philadelphia that are UPSIDE DOWN. The music is booming and becomes louder whenever there is ANOTHER shot of a building UPSIDE DOWN. If this does not shock you to your very core, this is not the movie for you.

The rest of the beginning is composed of illogical voice-over providing devilish mythology. Apparently the Hispanic security guard had a mother who told him stories about the Devil as a kid with incredibly specific details about what would happen if he would come to Earth. Most of this is stupid, but it doesn’t matter because it will quickly be contradicted by another random voice-over line.

There is also Detective Bowden who is played by Chris Messina (Away We Go, Greenberg). Apparently he lost his family in a hit and run accident and there is no way in the world this will ever ever ever connect back to the plot in an impractical fashion. So of course he is a recovering alcoholic and a brilliant detective. Brilliant is a stretch since every decision he makes is beyond the realm of logic. If people are trapped in the elevator that won’t open, why would you surround the building with police cars? Are you really looking for motive for these murders by looking into their back histories? Do you really think that they planned a mystical elevator halt?

Inside the elevator, there are five people competing for the worst performance. One is the Devil and it’s not that difficult to root through the candidates. (The movie is banking on the audience having not read a really famous mystery novel or a famous recent horror franchise.) Filming inside an elevator is a difficult task. Filming POV shots of characters looking at other characters mysteriously does not create a creepy tone, but just makes the audience think they’re playing a boring video game. In fact, the movie is never claustrophobic because despite all of the “suspense” resonating from the small elevator, majority of the scenes are in a large control room or outside.

It’s unclear why they had so many scenes in the control room. I am grateful because they were a bit hilarious. In one of the most amazing scenes, the Hispanic security guard proves the Devil is here by throwing a random piece of toast in the air and freaking out that it landed jelly side down. The reason this scene is amazing is because it wasn’t played for comedy!

The plot works hard to not make sense. The movie is only 80 minutes long with credits but it’s just jam-packed with contradictions and stupidity. By the time we get to the ending, the film just gives up. It doesn’t go crazy and have the Devil start lighting Philly on fire and singing Miley Cyrus backwards; it just signs and mutters “whatever.” Now that’s a movie!

1 Yap

Film Yap: More Classics in High School!

This weekend Easy A comes to theatres. It combines the two things everybody loves: High school and The Scarlet Letter. Buzz from Toronto is suggesting this may actually be pretty good. So let’s just jump on this bandwagon early and start greenlighting more classic tales into modern times. I have a few pitches.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn aka High School Huck

Huck (Zac Efron) just wants to be like every other kid. He doesn’t care too much about school and class. He’s so tired of all the teachers trying to correct his grammar. Until one day he just gives up. He becomes truant from school and along with one of the janitors, Jim (Chris Tucker), they hang around downtown running into crazy characters. The trailer will have shots of Huck in drag dancing to Kei$ha, scenes of Tom Sawyer trying to find Huck through Facebook, and scenes of the Duke and the King (Steve Carrel and Paul Rudd) trying to make a lucrative YouTube video.

Animal Farm aka Gimmie a P!

The head cheerleader of the squad gave some inspiring advice before graduating. All of the juniors spend summer break creating a new way to run the group. They devise rules like “All cheerleaders are created equal except for seniors” and “12 inches good, six inches better” in reference to their skirts. Power goes to their heads and their system starts to collapse. Not before they perform the coolest sexist dance sequences ever seen on film. From the director of Step Up 3D.

Crime and Punishment aka Whoops!!!

Ronnie is just a bored student. One day he just gets fed up and puts a kid in a locker. (Don’t worry he lives!). For the rest of the school week, he stresses about his decision, the morality of mankind, and whether or not they are going to win the big football game. One of the guidance counselors is on his back the entire time and keeps trying to get him kicked off the team. It all comes together during the big football game (Springfield Criminals vs. the South Bend Punishers) where the truth will come out.

Robinson Crusoe aka Stranded in Study Hall

Robby is the new kid in school. He’s very excited to study to be a lawyer, but he is having trouble fitting in. He attributes all of his social problems by being in a study hall with no cool people in it. He feels totally alone. He ultimately befriends a guy with the nickname Friday. Robby teaches him all about the complexities of the show LOST. Together they face off against the other bullies of the study hall. Robby finds love and they are all able to transfer to a better study hall.

A Tale of Two Cities aka The Best of Times!

Sydney is a popular kid who is one of the more powerful members of the student government. He’s called upon to help out a guy named Charlie from being expelled. (They’re played by the twins from The Suite Life of Zach and Cody) They become best friends had form a romantic triangle while the principal of the school is becoming more unreasonable. Don’t worry because it’ll all end okay! Through a series of pranks, they fire the principal and they each end up with an attractive girl. It really is The Best of Times.

It probably goes without saying but all of these films will be in 3D.

Film Yap: Boogie Woogie

There’s something about the art community that is different than any other sort of creative medium. People can be obsessed with movies or books, but there is this amazing elitism around “art.” This is the subject of Duncan Ward’s first feature film, Boogie Woogie.

There are plenty of characters centered around Art Spindle (Danny Huston) and his art gallery. Gillian Anderson and Stellan Skarsgård are a married couple who are obsessed with owning the best pieces. Heather Graham has worked for Art for years and is now looking to branch out. Amanda Syefried is the new girl who attracts the eye of everyone.

Alan Cumming is too nice of a guy and his ideas are always being shot down. Christopher Lee owns a very rare piece named “Boogie Woogie” that is the prize of his collection, but he doesn’t want to sell it despite how much they need money. Jaime Winstone is a radical new artist who is experimenting in video art, which includes documenting all of the intimate moments of her days. Jack Huston is more interested in perception art.

As expected, storylines converge and passion is heated among many of the characters. There are moments of cleverness as Ward and Moynihan play out their satire of the higher class but there is nothing that completely sticks. Most of the plotlines play out as expected, especially with Cumming and Graham.

It takes too long to set up the characters and they only really exist in order to have a purpose in the satire. There is so much potential, though, and actors like Huston and Anderson really add emotional depth to what is beyond the script. The movie feels more like a pilot for a TV show than a stand-alone movie. Even as the arcs reach a definite conclusion, it still just feels like the beginning of interactions with this set.

With more time, I think more can play out with the characters and their relationships. This movie doesn’t really start to come alive until the second act. Characters are nothing without their conflicts and these characters don’t feel full until they expose themselves in conflict. (Yes, literally in some cases)

With the art world under the microscope, Ward and the screenwriter/novelist Danny Moynihan are surprisingly restrained. This keeps the movie in check, but it isn’t used for any emotional moments. Give this movie a little more bite and a bit more characterization and you can have a very solid movie.

This is an IFC DVD, which means, once again, there aren’t any bonus features. Unless you count a trailer and a TV spot as a bonus feature. Ohh, ohh, there’s also an interactive menu!

Film: 3 Yaps

Extras: 1 Yap

Film Yap: But I'm Not Wrong

Bill Maher’s style of comedy divides peoples because of what is saying politically. There are those who adore his HBO show, Real Time With Bill Maher, and those who championed his film Religulous. He is very opinionated when it comes to the government and religion, in general. Even if you side with what he is saying, his latest special But I’m Not Wrong is bound to disappoint.

Nothing seems shocking anymore. Jokes and jabs against George W. Bush and John McCain just feel old. It’s difficult to cover topical humor when there are venues like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Twitter. I’m not laughing at Sarah Palin having notes on her hand because I’ve already heard a dozen similar jokes. Maher uses comparisons to pop culture as a way of making the bits unique, but none of them were strong enough to be quotable.

Maher is at his best when he is bouncing off people. That’s when he has to be on his toes and creative with defending his points. When it’s a one-man show there is a spark that is lost. He is just preaching to his choir. He tries to settle down the crowd by warning them he is going to talk about religion for a few minutes and they laugh. They laugh because no one who attends a Bill Maher comedy special should ever be surprised he is going to bash religion. Especially when it’s the same old song and dance. Yes, Scientology is crazy!!! We know.

Everything just feels stale and that is too bad. He has a fun stage presence and he’s very intelligent. This is just a boring entry that borders on irrelevancy.

2 Yaps

Friday, September 10, 2010

Film Yap: EARLY REVIEW - The Social Network

Last night there was a random and very small advanced screening for The Social Network. Since this movie does not come out until October 1st, I will not give a full review. I’ll leave that for Chris or Joe, but I will give some teasing early thoughts.

--Yes, this is “The Facebook Movie” and that should excite, not make people scoff. It may be a time-waster site but it’s now the biggest website on the Internet. I just read another report of it getting more hits than Google. If you haven’t heard the story of how this site came to be, you’re going to be really impressed/shocked/horrified/amused.

--In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg created The Facebook while enrolled as a student in Harvard University. It was a way of bringing the social scene of college online with all of its exclusivity, fun, and validation. The real question is how much of the website was Mark's idea. The tagline of the film is "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies." One of the bitter ironies of this film is counting how many friends Mark Zuckerberg has left after the many scandals and lawsuits.

--Aaron Sorkin is back. I adore the TV shows Sports Night and (the first four seasons of) The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin has a cool wit with his fast talking characters. Hiring him as the screenwriter for this adaptation was genius. This is one of the rare examples when the movie is better than the book. The dialog is amazing and he uses unconventional plotting techniques to tell the story. The suspense doesn’t come from whether or not Facebook is going to explode, but how it gets to that point.

--Director David Fincher is only as a good as his script in my mind. I don’t always connect to his films, but this was a blast. When you combine Fincher and Sorkin they make characters rambling about coding completely dynamic.

--This movie is not nice towards Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, but it is not completely villainizing him. This is definitely a ballsy movie since Facebook is still rising with popularity. This movie isn’t going to make them fall, but it will get people to talk.

--Jesse Eisenberg is brilliant as Mark Zuckerberg. His arrogance and apathy can dominate a scene but when he stops talking he can disappear in the frame. Since he doesn’t break down crying, I sadly don’t think he will be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.

--Andrew Garfield (Red Riding – 1974, the next Spider-Man), Justin Timberlake, and Rooney Mara (the next Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) are all stellar. These are actors on the rise.

--See this movie. It’s one of my favorites of the year so far.

Film Yap: How Many Sequels?

This weekend the fourth Resident Evil film is coming out, which has made millions of Americans wonder, “When in the world did they make four Resident Evil films?” Some sequels are big event movies like the welcoming of another Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Most sequels just arrive and are immediately forgotten like the taste of an individual chip. To hopefully prove my point, I’ve created a team of panelists to see if they can remember how many sequels a certain franchise actually has.

So this is my panel: Joe Shearer from this lovely site called The Film Yap; Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones from the immensely popular And the Nominees Are podcast; and Stephanie Bristow, the host of the Ball State entertainment news show called The Reel Deal.


Joe: Ummm, let’s say 6.

Keith: This is a series? No don’t write that! STOP WRITING! 4.

Kenny: Oh s***. 12?

Stephanie: 6.

Real Answer: 9

Final Destination

Joe: There are 4, currently with the fifth one coming.

Keith: Uhhh, there’s 4 right now but there is going to be five.

Kenny: Do they have…I remember three of them. 3.

Stephanie: 6.

Real Answer: 4 with 5nal Destination coming soon. (Seriously)

Friday the 13th

Joe: If we’re counting Freddy vs. Jason there’s 11—not including the remake, which makes 12.

Keith: Arent there like, 8?

Kenny: Oh s***. Does that include the remake? (Yes). 11?

Stephanie: (Deep sigh) Three.

Real Answer: 12 including Freddy vs. Jason

Nanny McPhee

Joe: There’s two I think.

Keith: There’s two.

Kenny: 2!

Stephanie: 2.

Real Answer: 2

Police Academy

Joe: (Laughs) Oh, let’s see. I want to say I think there’s 8.

Keith: 4.

Kenny: 4?

Stephanie: Oh I don’t even know. I’ve never even—I’m so ashamed. 2.

Real Answer: 7


Joe: There were 4, but my wife is saying is saying five.

Keith: Oh, um, 5.

Kenny: (Flustered) 5.

Stephanie: Oh.. 4?

Real Answer: 4


Joe: There were 6.

Keith: 6.

Kenny: 6 including Rocky Balboa!

Stephanie: Isn’t there just 3?

Real Answer: 6


Joe: Wow, Rugrats? I’ll say 3.

Keith: Like the cartoon? (Laughs) I think was at least the one. I mean duh. They went to Paris that one time. I don’t know if that’s the first one. I think that was the second one. I’m going to say 3.

Kenny: Movies? Ummmm, I saw the one. 4?

Stephanie: 3.

Real Answer: 3


Joe: Saw is 7 coming out this year.

Keith: The next one is going to be the…seventh.

Kenny: 6! That one I’m pretty sure about.

Stephanie: There are 6.

Real Answer: 6 with the 7th coming out this October

Star Trek

Joe: I better not get this wrong. Counting the remake is 11.

Keith: There’s 11.

Kenny: Oh Jesus Christ. 14! There’s a lot. That’s all I know.

Stephanie: Oh gosh. 7?

Real Answer: 11

The Thin Man

Joe: I don’t know. I’ll say 3.

Keith: 6.

Kenny: 7.

Stephanie: Yeah no clue so I’m going to say 4.

Real Answer: 6


Joe: This was the third one out now so 3 to date.

Keith: There is going to be 5 films but four actual stories, right?

Kenny: There are going to be 4 with a two-part third one.

Stephanie: Obviously there have been four books so four but there have only been three so far or have there been two? No I’m just going to say 4.

Real Answer: 3 with 2 more on the way

Film Yap: The Office Season Six

The Office has always been in a tricky situation. It was a remake of one of the most critically acclaimed modern comedies. The American counterpart struggled to find its own voice initially while it was on the verge on being canceled. Then during Season Two, the popularity began to grow and its style was unique and not reliant on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

Now the sixth season is hitting DVD and Blu-Ray. This brings the total number of episodes up to 126 with at least one more season on its way. There are now almost 10 times as many American episodes as British ones. It’s an easy thing to say, but it really feels like this version has been on way too long.

Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) has become so unacceptably childish that ignorance is no longer seen as humorous, but just mean. Every episode, I beg that he is fired because nothing he does is even close to reality anymore. In this season he has to confront a group of inner city students because he lied to them about paying for their college tuition. He throws a hissy fit because Phyllis wants to dress up as Santa instead of him. Also, as expected (?), he starts dancing in the middle of Jim and Pam’s wedding.

When I say the show has lost its reality, I’m not saying that it needs to abide in the world I live in. In the early seasons, the show set up its comedy reality and it has now lost its way. It has devolved instead of evolved. This is especially odd because one of the undeniable working parts of the show is the relationship between Jim and Pam. Instead of just playing with “will they, won’t they” they have let them move forward in a satisfying way. Their continued love, which grows with their wedding and child this season, has become one of the best TV romances. Then why is the show afraid to move anyone else do the same?

Every time something changes in the plot, it is reset a few episodes later. Even when Dunder Mifflin is danger of being bankrupt and bought by a new company, it still looks and feels like the exact same show.

Despite its dramatic decrease in quality, there are still fans of this show. I can easily see why. The cast is still very delightful. This season Jenna Fisher’s performance saved even the most lackluster of plots. Same goes for Ed Helms, Ellie Kemper Craig Robinson, and Mindy Kaling.

The show works the best when the actors just get to play off each other over the smaller things. Not banding together to complain about the Employee of the Month or whether the Italian insurance guy is a member of the mafia. Those are stupid plots. Turn this show into a sketch show. Let each episode not have a 30-minute plot weighing it down, but just have 5-7 minute vignettes focused more on laughs and characters. Until then, at least we still have reruns.

For fans of the show, there are plenty of amusing things on the DVD. There are over two hours of deleted scenes, commentaries for select episodes by the cast and crew, and original material. Some of the smaller characters band together to create a podcast led by one of the new actors, In the Loop’s Zach Woods. There is also a fun blooper reel and a full episode of Parks and Creation. The Blu-Ray exclusive BD-Live continues to question its existence and the Universal menus are stilly really ugly/annoying.

Season Six: 2 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps

Film Yap: R.I.P. At the Movies

Film criticism is in a scary position right now. The shift has changed from the power of the informed few to the reception of a collective. Websites like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic because they attempt to boil down several opinions into one. Also with the power of blogs, everybody can be a movie critic. Why should people hire them anymore?

Because there is still something special about those who are truly informed. Perhaps the greatest source of movie criticism has been cancelled this month. It was a show called At the Movies. In the 80s Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert created a show where two critics simply discussing the movies of the weekend. They were not sound bites, but actual discussions and back-to-back arguments. It became a phenomenon. The thumbs up/thumbs down critique is still in the pop culture lexicon. The whole show was popular because it was intelligent but still accessible. They were unique personalities who were well trained the art of analysis and film history.

In 1999, Gene Siskel died from complications during surgery for his brain tumor. His passing is still a very sad topic to those who grew up watching these reviews. Ebert continued the show with a series of guest hosts before eventually picking Richard Roeper. This ran for several years before Roger Ebert had to leave the show because of thyroid cancer. He recovered but he completely lost the use of his voice.

Roeper continued with a series of his own guest hosts, but then Disney decided to start anew. They hired Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz to be the new hosts. This was the lowest point in the shows history. Gone were the discussions and instead it was all about trying to be “hip.” Also Ben Lyons is a complete idiot and isn’t even a film critic. After one year this was scrapped but it returned better than ever. The new hosts were two of the most respected critics in the country: Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott of the New York Times. Once again the discussions were fascinating and articulate while still being fun. These guys even went on to discuss trends and were able to focus more on other directors.

Despite the return of quality, Disney canceled At the Movies. There will continue to be episodes until the end of August. This show has been a true staple of film criticism. It was respected among snobs and pedestrians. It is a true shame the studio doesn’t think there is place for it anymore. Roger Ebert says he plans on creating his own new show with this format and these hosts. I only hope it happens soon because I know in August, this show will be sorely missed. I don’t want that balcony to be forever closed.

A variation of this was originally written by Austin on the Ball State show The Reel Deal when it was first announced At the Movies was going to be canceled.

BLOG ONLY EDIT: Today, September 10th, Roger Ebert announced his new show. He is bringing back the name "At the Movies" and the almighty thumbs. It shall start in January with hosts Christie Lemire and Elvis Mitchell. I'm pumped. You can find more information here:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Film Yap: Machete

In a year of movies from video games, books, plays, SNL sketches, TV shows, remakes and reboots it’s no surprise to hear that Machete came from a fake trailer. Originally conceived as a comedic bit in between the feature films of Grindhouse, the Machete trailer told the story of a ruthless Mexican, played by Danny Trejo, who was framed and is now seeking vengeance.

Lines like “You just f****ed with the wrong Mexican” and having Cheech Martin as a shotgun toting priest made the two minute video a real treat. Writer/director Robert Rodriguez proved his grindhouse humor with Planet Terror so all should have been smooth sailing for the feature length version of Machete.

Trejo, Martin, and Jeff Fahey are all back and they replicate the shots from the original trailer that was made years ago. New to the party are Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal and Robert DeNiro. All of them are fun to watch but they don’t have much to do.

There is plenty of the violent madness that is expected where Machete destroys all that comes in his way. There isn’t enough of it, though. The plot appears to be a bit complicated, but the audience is always several minutes before the characters.

As much as we’ve praised Trejo on this site, he can’t headline a movie. Subplots continue to override his plotline and he just seems uncomfortable in this role. I would much rather have a movie starring Fahey, a criminally underrated actor.

A lot of the actors bring something beyond what is written for them. DeNiro is having a lot of fun being a hardcore right-wing politician and Lohan may not know she’s being filmed. Nobody is winking at the camera and the films sincerity separates this apart from other spoofs. In fact, Machete doesn’t want to be a parody of the grindhouse films but just wants to be part of the gang.

Like other films of its niche, it rambles about its political issues and it has at least one character with an eye patch. There’s just not enough there to make this a memorable film. There are no characters to attach to, just actors, and the awesome moments are too far apart.

Films like this should be treated like a comedy. There needs to be fun moments evenly paced throughout the film. Relying it on the actors who are saying flat lines creates for too many dull parts. This was a similar problem to Piranha 3D, which wasn’t as visually rich as Machete but a tad more exciting. If only we could edit this film down to just the most interesting shots and dialog……

2.5 Yaps

Film Yap: Robert Rodriguez: Awesome For All Ages

One of my favorite books about filmmaking is Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew. In that memoir he told about how he made his feature film El Mariachi. He paid for the movie by subjecting himself to medical experiments for quick cash. His entire crew consisted of a handful of people. With a little bit of luck and obvious talent, the movie was picked up and became a huge success.

That $7,000 film made Rodriguez one of the biggest directors working out of Hollywood. In an interview Quentin Tarantino gave some (arrogant) advice by saying if you’re going to make a first film, make something really awesome like Reservoir Dogs. That was the case as well for El Mariachi, which makes it no wonder they formed a friendship.

El Mariachi lead the way for Rodgiguez’s fun trilogy following a musician who ends up being a total badass killer. Antonio Banderas replaces Carlos Gallardo in the sequels, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Rodriguez plays with the violent and the ridiculousness while dropping probably millions of bullet shells into the streets. These are the best examples of his visual style and darker sense of humor.

This led to him making more awesome macho films outside of the trilogy. Joe praised From Dusk Til Dawn and there is a following towards The Faculty. I really responded to that type of humor in his installment in the Grindhouse double feature. His movie Planet Terror is my favorite Rodriguez movie because the humor is top-notch (“It looks like a no-brainer.) and he had a lot of fun with the genre. It was almost a punchline to people who weren’t interested in the movie, but I still think having a girl with a machine gun for a leg was hilarious/brilliant.

His most beloved movie is probably Sin City, but this is one of the ones that don’t work for me. There’s a cool style to it and Rodriguez knows how to assemble a cool cast, but I think a lot of it is empty. I attribute that more of Frank Miller’s craziness more than anything else.

In 2001, something unexpected happened with Rodriguez’s career. He made a kids movie that was a giant success. Spy Kids won over critics and audiences and it led to three sequels. It’s a very clever concept of having two siblings of secret agents being called in to save them. The imagination and the wit made this a hit with all ages, but this is yet another series that had diminishing returns. Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams was weirder and not as clever as the first one. Then Spy Kids 3D: Game Over…well, let’s just say it had Sylvester Stallone in multiple roles. Bleh. He just announced he is returning to the franchise with Spy Kids 4: Apocalypse with Jessica Alba. If those other entries weren’t enough to worry, Rodriguez also disappointed families with The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl and Shorts.

I love that this hardcore R-rated director is able to use his storytelling abilities in different genres, but I think he needs to have more of a focus on his audience. He knows what kind of movies he would love watching and then people really respond to films like Planet Terror, From Dusk Til Dawn and his upcoming Machete. With his kids films it seems like he had greater respect for their intelligence with the first Spy Kids and then lowered the standards. Kids like films they can revisit years later with the same sort of love. Spy Kids had that, but Shorts was just a travesty that only a very specific age would tolerate.

Despite some flops his canon, I get excited when he has a new movie out. There are only a few writer/directors who are still visually exciting with action films and Robert Rodriguez is one of them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Film Yap: Red Riding Trilogy

I’ve written about how much I love The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series previously on this site. The books are fantastic, but I can’t help but be disappointed by the second cinematic entry. That leaves me with even fewer hopes for the final film (until the American reboots). If you share the opinion, the Red Riding Trilogy may be the perfect remedy.

This was a big hit in England and never really had the same resonance here despite praise early in the year from critics like Roger Ebert. The three films are based off a quartet of crime novels by David Pence. The entire story stretches just under a decade with different characters taking the lead and others falling into the background. What makes this set a treat is that they were all filmed at the same time so the actors are the same, but the directors are different.

The first film is called Red Riding – 1974. It was directed by Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots, Becoming Jane, and Brideshead Revisited). This has the coolest visual style to it. It’s bleak, but the camera is always moving in unpredictable paths. Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and he’ll be the next Spider-Man) plays a young North of England Crime Correspondent. He quickly theorizes that the recent kidnapping may be tied to older unsolved ones. Following leads he goes up against difficult characters played by brilliant actors like Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky), Rebecca Hall (Please Give), and Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings). The movie is incredible tense and is extremely well plotted. Garfield is pitch-perfect as a boy who becomes obsessed with this crime.

The next film jumps to Red Riding – 1980. This one is more from the eyes of the police department. Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz, The Bourne Ultimatium) is personally brought in to investigate a murder that is worrying a lot of officials. The more he works on the case, the more difficult it is from within the department. This movie is directed by James Marsh who is best known for his amazing documentary Man on Wire. This one is more of an actor’s movie than a visual one, which works because Considine can easily carry a movie.

The final film, Red Riding – 1983, is difficult to describe because it focuses on the loose ends from the previous films. This movie brings David Morrisey (Doctor Who’s “The Next Doctor” and BBC’s State of Play) more into the foreground as he becomes regretful over choices he’s made in the past. Mark Addy (A Knight’s Tale, Robin Hood) also is looking into…something but from the perspective as a lawyer. Anand Tucker (Shopgirl, Leap Year) is the director in charge of wrapping everything up and he does a very good job as well. His level of suspense is more towards silence, which makes you very anxious to hear what the next line of dialog is.

My biggest fear going into this set would be that the films couldn’t stand on their own. Thankfully each of them has a distinct story arc that allows all of them to be satisfying. Like the Dragon Tattoo series, these movies treat the audience with intelligence and don’t rely on past clichés to tell its dark story of disgust and obsession. Together the films tell a complete and ambitious story that is expertly crafted.

The extras are disappointing, but that is expected from the IFC sets. Each disc has a brief interview or making of that is as brief as it is interesting. There are also a few deleted scenes. Also each DVD has the same set of trailers before getting to the menu…which includes the other two Red Riding films. Don’t show me a trailer for a sequel I want to watch! The trilogy is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Netflix Instant.

1974 – 4.5 Yaps

1980 – 4 Yaps

1983 – 4.5 Yaps

Extras – 2 Yaps

Red Riding Trilogy – 4.5 Yaps

Film Yap: And the Nominees Were - 1936

Austin Lugar, Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones started a podcast called And the Nominees Are. On this show they are attempting to review every single Best Picture nominee starting from the very beginning. Here Austin recaps the plot summaries of each set while teasing the longer discussions.

Whenever there are 10 nominees, we split it up into two episodes. This allows us to post shows at a decent time and the task doesn’t seem as overwhelming. We watch them in alphabetical order, just for simplicity sake. So it was very silly when we recorded the first episode and we were so enthusiastic about the films. Then we got to the second half and were very underwhelmed. Well, just check out these summaries…

Anthony Adverse

I hated this movie! For so many shows I’ve complained about clumsy and overstuffed adaptations and this is the worst yet. An entire life is jam-packed into this movie void of its own emotions. Anthony Adverse has a busy life. Plenty of family drama, traveling to Cuba, becoming a slave trader, and more silly stuff. Despite talented actors like Fredric March, Olivia de Havilland, Anita Louise, and Claude Rains this one is a dud.


On the other hand, this one is great. This is exactly what I want in an adaptation. Its story and characters are translated well and they never feel artificial. Sam and Fran Dodsworth go on a European vacation after Sam finally retires from his business. During the trip, Fran has difficulty accepting that she is becoming older. This story is top notch and knew how to end it.

The Great Ziegfeld – WINNER

Another complaint on the show is that when movies try to encompass a life, it’s too short of a movie and feels cramped. We got our wish with The Great Ziegfeld which is around 3 hours long. William Powell plays the ambitious Flo Ziegfeld, the creator of the Ziegfeld follies. It’s not a great movie, but there is plenty of entertainment for the duration. It never feels like a very long movie.

Libeled Lady

This was one of our big arguments on the show. I was completely won over by this top-notch screwball comedy with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow. Kenny was less impressed. The plot is lovably complicated and expertly written to accommodate each character’s motivation. I also think it’s very funny. Kenny on the other hand…

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

It’s so difficult not to be charmed over by Frank Capra. His plots are often a bit flimsy, but there is so much pure energy in his films that it all ends up working. This is another wonderful Capra film that shouldn’t work, but does in spades. Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) inherits millions of dollars and his simpler ways are taken as odd in the big mean city. Ignore the Adam Sandler version.

Romeo and Juliet

Neither of us are big fans of the original Shakespeare play. The writing is beautiful, but the story always leaves me cold. This one is not the worst adaptation, but it’s not the best. Both of the leads (Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer) are too old to play lovesick teenagers. George Cukor does know how to put together an impressive looking movie, in regards to set and costumes. Characters sadly fall to the wayside.

San Francisco

How did this one fail? We love Clark Gable and we adore Jeannette MacDonald. Instead this movie is almost void of conflict until the last half hour turns into a random disaster movie. That last half hour is really exciting, but the romantic triangle with no chemistry or stakes is just tiresome.

The Story of Louis Pasteur

This movie is fine. It’s not good and it’s not dreadful. It’s just fine. Paul Muni plays the titular Pasteur and we see him teach people about germs. It works as a video that could be shown to children to teach them to wash their hands, but most of what is over-described is basic knowledge by this point. Also Pasteur’s naysayers aren’t exactly convincing to say the least.

A Tale of Two Cities

Boring, boring, boring, boring. I’ve read the book and love the book but this movie has nothing going for it aside from a strong performance by Ronald Coleman. Yet Coleman isn’t even playing both characters and those who knows the story, that makes things a bit difficult to visualize. This movie is just lifeless and too reliant on title cards to create the necessary emotion.

Three Smart Girls

The title is a lie. In fact, it’s very easy to call this movie stupid. Three sisters travel to New York to stop their father from marrying someone who just wants his money. Its premise and tone is similar to The Parent Trap, but sadly that movie made more sense. This one just tries these odd things that don’t pan out. We’re probably too mean towards it, but in our defense the Academy nominated this for BEST PICTURE. Capra, it ain’t.

So some of the movies were some of the best we’ve reviewed so far, while others were just very lame. This seems to be the norm lately. We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are. This set was covered over three episodes both of which can be found for free on iTunes. Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’d like to play along with us, the next 10 films for 1937 are The Awful Truth, Captains Courageous, Dead End, The Good Earth, In Old Chicago, The Life of Emile Zola, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door and A Star is Born.