Thursday, September 8, 2011

Contagion

The scariest things in the world are the things in your world. Giant CGI monsters can give you a brief startle, but it’s always the elements around you that can make you uneasy. While taking a practical approach, Steven Soderbergh made one disease this year’s greatest villain.

As humans we feel so strong, despite being physically weak. We have fragile little bodies that can easily be infiltrated by a complex organism with the simplest touch or breath. In “Contagion” that’s all it takes to change the world.

Gwenth Paltrow returns from Hong Kong feeling a bit ill. Then it starts to spread. Everyone she comes into contact with is at risk. At the beginning, Soderbergh focuses on the objects with great effect. The camera follows the glass instead of the person holding it. So the audience is on the edge of their seat as they look what the hand touches and what path that leads. It’s unnerving and brilliant.

Just like the disease, the world expands for the movie. The cavalcade of A-list stars and respected character actors make this feel like the disaster films from the 70s. In an ensemble where there isn’t one star, everyone is in danger. Smaller parts can feel richer because there is someone like John Hawkes or Enrico Colantoni to bring depth into their few scenes.

There have been plenty of movies where the world goes to hell. Most of them jump right to the more cinematic bits of humanity feeling lost with all of the looting and fear. “Contagion” wisely takes its time by adding a strong sense of realism. The closer it is to how people and businesses behave can make it all the more terrifying. It all pays off because the scientific montages and CDC bureaucracy become as fascinating as the panic in the streets.

The script is very good. It feels like a Michael Crichton story without the high-concept premise. However why everyone should see this movie is because of what Soderbergh brought to it. The speculation of his retirement has been confirmed and denied every other month. He’s allowed to change his mind, that’s fine. What’s great is that there is a creative resurgence. Just like Conan O’Brien’s last week at The Tonight Show or Kevin Smith trying to change his career, Soderbergh is giving everything he has. There is not one moment of “easy” cinematography—like the over the shoulder shots that now bug him—because every single moment adds something special to the story. It’s so compelling you can’t look away.

You also can’t look away because the theatre has become a war ground. You only want to focus on the movie as if it’ll give you some advice to save your life. Every cough and sniffle by your fellow moviegoers will be noticed. There is a point when Kate Winslet talks about the high number of times people touch their face a day. It’s that sort of uncomfortable self-awareness that makes you afraid of yourself as well as the possibilities of what others can do to you. Are you brave enough to see this?

Film Yap: Dressed to Kill

My relationship with Brian De Palma is much like The Doctor’s with River Song, aside from all the sexual tension. Thanks to time travel complications those characters keep meeting in the wrong order. His future is her past. Growing up on films, I kept seeing new De Palma films like “Mission to Mars” and “The Black Dahlia” wondering why people regarded him so highly.

Then I watched “Blow Out” this summer and I got it. This was a movie by an exciting new voice who has a deep love of cinema. It was an understated masterpiece with a unique style and patience. “Dressed to Kill” is the movie he made just before “Blow Out” and…boy is it a mess.

On one hand, it’s amazing. Visually, it’s fascinating. He’s a writer/director who has comfort in his own script where he doesn’t need to have dialog for a long sequence. The best scene is when Kate (Angie Dickinson) goes to a museum and sees a mysterious man. They move around the hallways in a flirty and dangerous manner. The emotions shift suddenly but thanks to the camera and performances everything is clear.

There are plenty of moments of suspense juxtaposed by borderline ridiculous sexuality. The opening shower scenes last for so long you’re worried she may become too clean. Yet she’s only scrubbing certain body parts…

Then the rest of the movie is madness. Not in a fun “Kaboom” sort of way, but more like De Palma has no idea how to tell a story. The structure of the movie is this odd rip-off of “Psycho” but he focused on all the wrong parts. He tries to shift main characters and fails. Kate was a conflicted character who no longer feels attractive. Liz (Nancy Allen) is an overacting prostitute who only talks in sexy things De Palma wants to hear.

All of his tricks like the split screen or messing with the foreground made sense in “Blow Out” because it responded to the themes and plot. This movie is a list of things that seem sorta interesting but don’t gel together. Michael Caine seems confused, Dennis Franz is acting crazy, I’m still not sure that Allen can act.

Then the movie ends and it’s terrible. It’s a lousy ending that wasn’t very clever and once again, ripped-off “Psycho.” Then there’s another ending that is well shot and exciting but also doesn’t make any sense. There’s plenty of inventive style wasted on a mangled mess. I can see why De Palma made people excited as a director, but he rarely is able to put it all together.

If you love this movie, you’ll love the extras on the new Blu-Ray. There is a 45 minute documentary about the making of this movie filled with awkward comments by De Palma and Dickinson. There are also a few more featurettes, a gallery, and a trailer.

Film: 2.5 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/09/08/dressed-to-kill/

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Film Yap: Everything Must Go


The premise of “Everything Falls Apart” is that a man has sunken so low that all of his possessions are on his front yard and he will sell them so he can start again. It’s a great metaphor for an exposed life because everyone driving by can examine how he is functioning. The problem is how do you get someone to that point.

Will Ferrell plays Nick Halsey who ends up on his lawn. It takes about ten minutes for him to hit rock bottom from every direction at once. He is cruelly fired by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” ’s Glenn Howerton. He loses his car, access to his house, his identification, almost every friend he has, he started drinking again, and he may go to jail since he’s awkwardly living outside.

The situation sounds like a Greek tragedy on paper, but it’s played off as just another opening to a movie. It seems based in realism and only the driest of humor. Once they’ve placed this character in this impossible situation, where can they go? The answer: the simplest path towards recovery. He instantly meets the kind-hearted neighbors (Rebecca Hall and Christopher Jordan Wallace) who will serve as spiritual guiders who also need a little help.

For a premise so ripe with material, this just felt a little lazy. It’s based off a short story by Raymond Carver, whose work has inspired films like “Short Cuts” and “Jindabyne”. I haven’t read the short fiction, but I can already guess what scenes were added in. There are too many subplots that don’t feel like enough of carthasis for Nick, including when he runs into an old high school friend played by Laura Dern. Stephen Root is also in this movie, but I’m not sure why.

What this movie does get right is letting the actors play within the scene. Ferrell has a ton of props to work with on his lawn. Not in a goofy Carrot Top fashion, but as a source of emotional pain. He parks himself on the La-Z-Boy like the king of his domain, choosing what is and isn’t important to him. Ferrell is great in this because it’s another reminder of how good of an actor he is. His man-child comedy shtick is running dry, but as a dramatic actor the possibilities seem endless.

As a DVD review, I feel safer to go for the obvious recommendation of “Rent It!” because there are plenty of nice small things throughout the film. It has an overall decent story with just a few too many questionable choices.

The DVD is limited with its bonus features. There are two featurettes cut from the same interviews with the cast. One is praising Ferrell for being brilliant, the other is praising the story. Both are dull even though Hall is always delightful. There are also deleted scenes and a commentary with writer/director Dan Rush and third billed Michael Peña, another fine actor who wasn’t given much in this one.

Film: 3 Yaps

Extras: 2 Yaps


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/09/04/everything-must-go-2/

Film Yap: Pixar Talk -- A Bug's Life


Every week Austin is going to have a chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on November 18th. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.

Austin: Here we are, back again, another week another Pixar film. I’m going to start with the same question: When was the last time you’ve seen “A Bug’s Life”

Victoria: Probably a year.

Austin: How was it different for you now?

Victoria: I definitely don’t love it as much as I did when I was a little kid. This was the first Pixar film I saw in theatres and I was in awe back then. I thought it was funny as I grew up and now I don’t think it has held up.

Austin: I would agree. It doesn’t have as many iconic lines. It has a lot of great characters but the story isn’t as strong as “Toy Story”.

Victoria: The story is, I think, darker than “Toy Story”. I mean it’s about tyranny, basically.

Austin: Exactly! It’s funny. I’ve been watching hours of bonus features and they never mentioned this movie. It’s very similar to “The Seven Samurai”, the Akira Kurosawa film with a small village under a similar problem and they find some warriors, this ragtag team of samurai. Not circus performers, but they aren’t the best samurai in the world.

It’s still so interesting about how likable the movie is. The characters are so simple, yet so likable.

Victoria: The characters are well though out. We have this huge caterpillar who is a total idiot—and German!

Austin: Very German.

Victoria: And we have the stick bug who looks like he can’t take anyone on. He’s the smartest one in the group. Then the ladybug, who is not a lady which is the ongoing joke.

Austin: It’s almost a replacement for the Mr. Potato Head jokes. It’s the go-to joke to take a pause from the plot. Dennis Leary, great casting choice. He’s very funny and masculine, in an angry sense.

Victoria: Loved David Hyde Pierce as Slim.

Austin: This is another great cast. We have Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, Dave Foley—I love Dave Foley. Never would imagine him to be a lead in…any film really.

Victoria: Such a great voice, though. Did you see “Prep and Landing”? The half hour show they play around Christmastime? He’s the voice of the head elf. It’s so great. I wish that Disney would come out with a new one every year.

Austin: I know he’s going to be in one of the new ones. I think the upcoming dinosaur one. He’s such a great voice. I love “NewsRadio”. Also we have Kevin Spacey as a great villain.

Victoria: That’s his best roles, playing villains.

Austin: Apparently they met him at the Academy Award nominee dinner. They were nominated for “Toy Story”, he was nominated for “The Usual Suspects”. They asked if he wanted to be in an animated film and he said “Sure, why not!” He was even there after playing a villain. Oh. Spoiler for “The Usual Suspects”…

Also we have Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller…

Victoria: And Hayden Panettiere! She was Dot.

Austin: That surprised me.

Victoria: That was before she was Hayden Panetteiere.

Austin: I think she was a better actor when she was 9. Again, all the characters are so sweet and you understand their motivations. Flik is a great main character. He’s the earnest, stumbling underdog. But there’s still something missing from the story.

Victoria: Yeah, I agree.

Austin: It feels like so many things should work. They have these great moments when he flies on the dandelion across to the city. There are exciting action scenes, this convoluted circus performance and they are fun to watch but I still don’t remember them. It doesn’t last as much. I still don’t know why.

Another thing I noticed is this movie is so technically impressive. The jump of animation quality skyrocketed since “Toy Story”. It almost seems like they were too ambitious. There were too many locations, too many characters. There are a billion ants always moving.

Victoria: And they all hook arms at the end against Hopper. I was very impressed with that.

Austin: All different animals, too. With “Toy Story” they had models to base them. We all know what Mr. Potato Head looks like. This was a chance for them to make all these new specific characters. They look great, especially in Blu-Ray. The colors are really strong.

Victoria: Speaking of locations, I loved the ode to Times Square. They set up the Chinese boxes, they have the bugs that look like taxis, the lightening bug switching between the two Christmas lights directing traffic. That’s one of my favorite parts now; it’s so creative. When I was little, obviously, I didn’t know this was supposed to be Times Square but now I just think it’s brilliant.

Austin: Those are the Pixar touches I love. It makes you understand the world and all the nuances of it. Yet there is one time when that didn’t work for me in this movie. It was one of my favorite scenes as a kid, but now it didn’t work at all. It’s the opening joke with the leaf

Victoria: I love that joke.

Austin: I did too. I laughed, but the more I watched the ants walk around normally it doesn’t seem like it’s the same ants. They aren’t so conformed with their day to day life. They can pick their own seats for the speech, they can hang out together on their own path. It never seemed like the same ants who would see a leaf and not know where to go. Even though it’s a really funny idea for a joke. I was upset it didn’t work for me this time.

Victoria: I can see that now that you’ve brought it up.

Austin: Now that I’ve ruined it for you?

Victoria: I wouldn’t say “ruined”. I still love the “This doesn’t compare to the twig of ’93!” Love that line.

I like how the humor is still funny. I love the adult jokes they have like when the mosquito sits down at the bar and orders a Bloody Mary O-Positive. There’s also the humor my niece and nephew would laugh so hard at. Like when Francis is flying Slim through the trees and he loses him. “Where are you?” “I’m the only stick with eyeballs!”

Austin: That’s really funny. I love how they didn’t choose to animate the character. The audience can’t find him, either.

Victoria: I always look for him too.

Austin: Also the joke where Francis hits Slim with the wing, he falls down and says “Slapstick!” That makes me laugh.

The thing I laughed at the most, and this is what my dad was obsessed about. He would talk to people for weeks. “Did you see Bug’s Life? Did you stay for the credits?” These outtakes are the greatest idea.

Victoria: I don’t think I’ve ever seen them…

Austin: You never finished the credits?!

Victoria: This is news to me!

Austin: They made these animated outtakes of characters messing up their lines.

Victoria: I know they did it for “Toy Story 2”…

Austin: They did it first with “Bug’s Life” with the boom mic falling into the frame, the characters purposely mess up their lines to mess with other people, props fall down, they hit the camera which smudges the camera. It’s such a clever idea. They wanted to do it for “Toy Story” but they ran out of time. It’s such a fun thing to do, which is so simple and it works so well.

Victoria: I think one of my problems with the movie is that I never remember the ending. As I was watching it today, I can never remember what happens after Hopper is put in the cannon. He flies and grabs Flik…then Ada comes to his rescue…then I really don’t recall any of that happening.

Austin: It’s been a weirdly nostaligic week for me. I’ve seen “Toy Story”, “Lion King” and now “Bug’s Life”. For the first two I remember every character and every scene even though it’s been many years since I’ve seen them. This one, not as much. I know what has to happen for the story to function.

Again, I don’t know why this happened. It’s a beautiful movie. I love the opening when it pans down on the grass.

Victoria: I still don’t understand when I get on Entertainment Weekly and I look at how they rank the Pixar movies. “A Bug’s Life” is always the last one. I wouldn’t go that far.

Austin: Exactly. Because “Cars” and “Cars 2” still exist. Well, this just bugs me for a lot of storytelling but when the main conflict is when someone is telling a lie. That means by the end of the film, the lie will be revealed, the person will get upset, and then everything will be better.

Victoria: Yep. They never get away scot-free. It never goes according to plan.

Austin: Exactly. So there will be this ten minute part when everyone is upset with the main character. Then there’s a new plan and everything is okay. Every romantic comedy ends that way especially when it doesn’t make sense. Like “Hitch”…

With this, it really didn’t work for me. “Oh they are circus bugs!!!” Then the Queen decides to get food again. They just built a giant bird!

Victoria: That’s going to work!

Austin: It’s impressively built. Really impressively built. Yet every one gives up and finds seeds and hopes Hopper doesn’t kill them all.

Victoria: What did you think of P.T. Flea? Our John Ratzenberger cameo.

Austin: You know, I forgot who he was in the movie. So when I heard the voice it was a treat. He’s really funny. I love how manically he jumps around. Probably my favorite joke in the movie is after the big circus disaster, there is one of the flies in the audience yell “Burn him again!” He’s just a fun dirtball of a character.

Victoria: I view him a secondary villain because he seems to really enjoy tearing them all down. How many times did he ruin stuff for them? He comes in and tells everyone they are circus bugs…

Austin: He does fire them…after he was burnt.

Victoria: They have Plan B which is to use the bird and he lights it on fire. What is the matter with this dude!

Austin: He’s very oblivious. He’s like what we talked about with Sid. Sid is not mean to Andy. So he doesn’t know he’s being mean to real characters. Whereas, Hopper is trying to kill the queen, enslave all the ants, run a random resort.

What did you think of his brother?

Victoria: I love how the voice, Richard Kind, looks exactly like him. I thought he was a great match for that character. It was a bit cliché though. It always seems like, especially in animated films, the villain has someone who is a complete idiot. That’s what he’s there for. He’s the comic relief to make the villain look better or something.

Austin: I think it creates more distance with the grasshoppers. Not all grasshoppers are evil, just Hopper. It really sets him up as a villain when he pens the brother against the wall and says “If I didn’t promise mother I wouldn’t kill you, I would kill you.” It’s such a great line, especially in a G rated film. Then ultimately the brother joins the circus at the end.

Victoria: Oh yeah. Again, I’ve forgotten the ending already.

Austin: I keep forgetting they actually go back to the circus

Victoria: I forget that too until I remember Heimlich turning into the weirdest butterfly I have ever seen. So I remember they fly away because Heimlich can’t fly so they all have to carry him. Random bit of trivia, that is one of the animators as the voice.

Victoria: I love it when they do that.

Austin: They kept trying to find an actor, but the guy who recorded the scratch tracks was the funniest one so they cast him.

Victoria: Wasn’t one of the animators Roz from Monster’s Inc?

Austin: I think so. I know Brad Bird was Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” and another was Dug from “Up.”

Victoria: I like when they don’t get celebrities. It’s not needed.

Austin: Exactly. My go-to favorite Disney movie, “The Great Mouse Detective”, only has one celebrity in it: Vincent Price as Professor Rattigan. He’s happily over-acting and bringing a dark sense to the character. The rest are trained voice actors. So you can’t recognize them. So I have only heard them in these roles. They are only Basil and Dawson.

That reminds me, going back to Hayden Panetteiere. I like it when they cast actual kids as kids. That’s what makes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” so special is because they are awkwardly pausing and saying the sentence like a child would. Same with Dot, she has this energy you can only find as a kid.

Victoria: I remember when I was younger, I watched behind-the-scenes of “Monsters, Inc.”. To get the little girl to do the voice, she just ran around the playroom and they followed her with a mic.

Austin: I think that is some of the fun of voice directing. The things they do to get a different read on the line. Again, it’s Pixar having fun and being genuine.

Victoria: To actually get back on topic, I appreciate “A Bug’s Life” for it aimed towards little kids unlike some of the others, like “Up”. My nephew says he loved that one, but he only laughed twice during it. The rest was either adult humor or depressing. So I think this is still good for little kids, but it hasn’t held up.

Austin: It might just be because it’s a simpler story. The other Pixar stories like “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc”, and “Finding Nemo”—Nemo is basically a road trip movie but it’s still a complex road trip movie. Then you go to films like “Ratatouille” and “WALL-E” which is structurally complex and memorable because you haven’t seen this story before. This is just a simple underdog story, but done very well. So lower-tier Pixar is still a really good movie.

Victoria: Well yeah, it’s Pixar.


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/09/03/pixar-talk-a-bugs-life/

Film Yap: Cougar Town Season Two

Why isn’t “Cougar Town” a bigger hit? On paper it all makes perfect sense. It’s run by Bill Lawrence, the man behind “Scrubs” all the way to its unofficial finale. (I didn’t mind the med school year but it was unnecessary.) It stars Courtney Cox, one of the leads of the biggest sitcoms of all time. It has a really strong ensemble made of up Christa Miller (“Scrubs”), Busy Philipps (“Freaks and Geeks”), Dan Byrd (“Easy A”), Josh Hopkins, Ian Gomez, and Brian Van Holt. Oh yeah it’s consistently funny week to week.

It can’t just be the title. Right?

Right?

Yes, it’s true that the first few episodes of Season One revolved around single mom Jules (Cox) trying to find younger men, but that changed. The show realized its strength by letting this cul-de-sac crew bounce off each other. Jules is in a solid relationship with Greyson (Hopkins) and shockingly there is still room for comedy.

The reason it works is because the show is wonderfully character based. All of the story arcs are based around their emotions, instead of their plots. As funny as they are, they take each character seriously. Even Bobby (Van Holt), who is Jules’ ex-husband and easily the most cartoonish character, is treated with respect when looking at his relationship with his son or his friends.

It’s never a flashy show. The most “epic” adventure they had was when they went to Hawaii in the finale. Yet that was still centered around Travis’ pain, Jules’ and Grayson’s disagreement about their future, and Laurie’s realization about how far she must go to support her friends. Its light nature doesn’t downgrade the show but makes it something special. They’ve created this welcoming environment where it is a treat to see this group every week. What they do is almost irrelevant because they are strong enough on their own.

Ignore the title. This is a delight.

The bonus features include a featurette about the season where they spend most of the time bashing their title. They keep rumoring they will change it, but who knows. Even their menus consist of mocking the title. It’s a bad title. There is also all of the “Andy’s Dreams”, which are webisodes based around Andy dreaming of some of their reoccurring jokes. I adored the inspirational sports trailer based around Penny Can, their beloved game where they throw pennies into a paint can. It’s fun. There are also deleted scenes and bloopers.

Season: 4 Yaps

Extras: 4 Yaps


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/31/cougar-town-season-two/

Film Yap: Running Wilde


In an interview he gave to The A.V. Club, Mitch Hurwitz was very honest about how FOX was treating his show “Running Wilde”. Hurwitz is adore for creating “Arrested Development”, arguably the funniest show ever made for American TV. When he returned to the network that has cancelled his show in the past, he seemed to have a numb approach to it all. He received notes telling him to make it nothing like his previous masterpiece.

The final result is a neutered and boring mess. The cast is great including Will Arnett and Keri Russell as the leads. He’s a rich spoiled man who is still in love with his high school sweetheart who got away. She’s now a hippie who travels the world to help charities with her daughter, Puddle. They all decide to live together in his mansion. Will hilarity ensue? WILL IT?

Turns out it doesn’t. They tried to make such a simple show that nothing happens per episode. The typical shot of the show is two characters standing in the middle of the room talking about the plot. At one point a character thinks they know what is going on, but someone is lying. By the end, the truth is revealed and nobody moves forward.

The plots are very dull and each one teases at something more fun. Rob Corddry plays a former party friend of theirs who has gone sober. Characters don’t believe he’s on the wagon so they keep trying to get him to drink. It’s so close for them to push the line or do something interesting and then everyone apologizes before it becomes funny.

They bring in some of the funniest people alive like Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross, who may just be there to further remind everyone this isn’t “Arrested Development”. Everyone just seems bored as they stand around saying the easiest punchlines revealing their shallow hypocrisies. The only one having fun is Peter Serafinowicz (“Look Around You”, “Spaced”, “Shaun of the Dead”). Despite being a tan Brit, he plays Fa’ad a ridiculous Middle Eastern billionaire. The way he twists every word into a silly declaration makes him endlessly watchable. He should be more famous in America because he has incredible range.

Even FOX sees this as a boring product. The DVD uses photoshopped production photos for the DVD. There aren’t any bonus features. There aren’t any quotes of praise. They don’t even say what episodes are on which disc. Actually it doesn’t even say how many episodes there are. (13).

One of the only things the box says is “From the team behind ‘Arrested Development’”. This is why people are so frustrated by FOX.

Season/Series: 1.5 Yaps

Bonus: N/A


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/30/running-wilde-season-one/

Film Yap: Storage Wars: Season One

There is a career from storage auditioning. A weird cast of characters to go storage units where the owner stopped paying for their rent. Then the door is opened and for five minutes people can look what’s inside…from outside. They can’t go in and nobody knows what is inside until the lock is chomped off and the door opens. Then they bid with cash and someone new owns a giant room of stuff.

This could make for a solid 90-minute documentary because it’s full of natural drama. The bidding, the mystery, the chance for profit. Yet the show always takes the laziest route and the results are boring.

The pigeonholed characters are Darrell “The Gambler”, Jarrod “The Young Gun”, Dave “The Mogul”, and Barry “The Collector.” They’re fine people with different levels of skill and experience. Instead of letting them be themselves, they have to be reality stars. They have their stupid scripted interviews to the camera where they spit out clichés about “raising the heat”. Instead of learning more about their individual processes for selling the discoveries, they all stick to their catchphrases.

Most of the fun of the show is seeing the random things that are in the bins. There was a crazy set of flare guns, one dated from the Civil War, in one episode. When they find these unique items that need to be valued, they take them to one of their “friends”. Every time, the expert is trying to explain the history of the item and then the show cuts away to the dealer saying how they talk too much. Learning about something does not fit into the show’s outlined formula.

It would be nice if this were a more understood show. If they broke format and had an episode where they investigated who used to own these bins, that could be something worthwhile. Instead, every episode is 5 minutes of really interesting television and then the typical reality show idiocy.

The Season One DVD has 19 episodes of the show which totals to 7 hours of content. I don’t know why this is a show that someone thinks they need to own. It plays on A&E a lot and isn’t something that is easy to marathon or even rewatch an episode. There isn’t any bonus features so it’s even more confusing of a set.

Season: 2.5 Yaps

Extras: N/A


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/29/storage-wars-season-one/

Film Yap: Attack the Block

The first time we really see our heroes in “Attack the Block” they are mugging a defenseless woman. They are cruel and irredeemable. Then aliens fall from the sky. The gang’s first reaction to encountering a creature from another world? Kicks it to death because it scratched up Moses’s face. That’s what happens during an alien invasion. Some people panic, some people go back to their flat to pick up their baseball bat.

Joe Cornish wrote and directed this fantastic debut. It’s such a well-paced and inventive movie, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been making films like this for years. The way he uses smoke, for example, lets him redefine a familiar location into something terrifying and foreign. Once the fight begins, it never completely slow down. The creatures aren’t stopping to plan anything out because they are so animalistic. There is no reasoning with them. They don’t have individual personalities or names. You can’t even see their eyes. They are the blackest black except for their identifiable teeth.

Having the army fight aliens is so overdone, it has become boring. Having a bunch of punk British teenagers is incredibly refreshing. Their lingo is so dense and fun to listen to. It works like “Brick” where specific words go over the head, but it always makes sense with their context. They don’t think too far ahead and until it starts becoming scary, they’re just having fun. They each have their own weapon as if they were Ninja Turtles. (They even have an April!)

The script comes together as a nice complete story with plenty of payoffs for the many characters. While having 10 characters bouncing around and always going to different parts of the block would be difficult to keep track of. Yet Cornish allows the actors to add their own personal charm to their characters. The movie goes by so fast there isn’t time for backstories or even to learn some of their names. They all function well as a group.

This film has been rolling out slowly hitting up most of the major cities before Indianapolis. The reaction from those cities and its initial run in England has been very positive. I just wish this came out a few weeks earlier, because this is one of the more satisfying summer movies. The action is strong, the characters are real, and all ages can enjoy (Given the ages are okay with profanity). If you thought “Super 8” had too much focus on trying to be nice to the alien, this is for you.


4.5 Yaps


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/27/attack-the-block-2/

Film Yap: Detroit 1-8-7

They’re the easiest shows to put on the air: the cop show. Every network has had their share of weekly mysteries. Some of them have been some of the best shows put on air (HBO’s “The Wire”, FX’s “The Shield”, CBS’s “Homicide” and NBC’s “Hill Street Blues” to name a few), but most just fall into mindless entertainment. It’s all of the countless “CSI” spin-offs and rip-offs. “Detroit 1-8-7” wants to be different, but its changes are almost irrelevant.

It was originally going to be a mockumentary show with a documentary crew following around the cops of the station. They removed that concept when they reshot the pilot, because there are too many shows like that on the air. The handheld style remains, but it is never used effectively. A show like “Friday Night Lights” uses that method so the actors can react organically and not always stand on their mark if it doesn’t feel natural. This just looks like every other cop show…sans tripod.

Michael “Stop Calling Me Christopher” Imperioli stars at Detective Fitch who is grumpy, but solves cases. They hinted at something darker in the pilot, but it wasn’t that interesting. Mostly he’s just the token name actor with a cast of unknowns. Imperioli is a fine actor, but he has so little to work with. Most of the dialog is eye-rolling and the cases are too easy to forget while watching.

What the show does have going for it is a subtle style. The score for the show is the usual bland “This is an exciting part!” but when they use actual songs it moves smoother. The city and their offices have a nice unpolished feel to them, even though it all seems too well lit.

I love TV and I tend to follow a lot of TV news. I honestly couldn’t remember if this show was still on the air. “Detroit 1-8-7” was cancelled by ABC last season as part of the slaughtering that most of the networks performed on their new shows. I’m sure this had a few fans, but there are too many shows that can do the same thing with more style and cleverness.

There are no bonus features. Just the 18 episodes that aired on ABC.

Season/Series: 2 Yaps

Bonus Features: N/A


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/27/detroit-1-8-7-season-one/

Film Yap: Pixar Talk -- Toy Story

Every week Austin is going to have a chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on November 18th. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.

Austin: So here we are at the beginning of our Pixar marathon and let’s ask this: when was the last time you saw Toy Story before this weekend?

Victoria: Maybe 6 months ago?

Austin: Really?

Victoria: Yeah they play it a lot on ABC Family so I catch it usually every time.

Austin: How many times do you think you’ve seen it?

Victoria: Oh geeze. Probably 20 times?

Austin: Yeah? Was this one of your favorites as a kid?

Victoria: Oh yeah. It’s still one of my favorites, actually.

Austin: I remember seeing this one in theatres. I’ve seen every Pixar film in theatres. It was someone’s birthday and we went to go see Toy Story.

Victoria: Yeah, I didn’t see it in theatres. I think the first Pixar movie I saw was A Bug’s Life in theatres. I do remember when Toy Story came on VHS. Got it for my birthday, I think one year and loved it ever since.

Austin: It was one of those big Disney boxes too. Not the simple sleeves, the BIG ole obnoxious plastic boxes! So did you find anything different this time around? Like what did you notice more?

Victoria: I can’t pick out a specific moment, but I just love the humor now and didn’t realize as a kid how many jokes were targeted straight towards the adults. But I still liked it that kids could laugh at the actions the toys had.

Austin: Absolutely. Pixar doesn’t make as many pop culture references. I only caught one in this movie where they are at Pizza Planet and there is a game, a Whack-a-Mole game, but it’s aliens going through a guy’s stomach. It’s great that’s in the background because Dreamworks’ references for adults are very blunt.

There are just a lot of things that are for adults and it amazes me how insecure every character is in this movie. They are just freaking out about Andy’s birthday and how they’ll be replaced and never seen again. They have deep psychological issues to where Buzz even says at one point “I’m just a little depressed right now” after he had a major identity crisis. He fell and disfigured himself and loses his mind.

Victoria: And turns into Mrs. Nesbitt.

Austin: Which is really funny. It’s exactly what the story needed because it just had this really tragic scene of him trying to fly—

Victoria: It’s really sad.

Austin:—and failing and crashing and having his arm ripped off. It’s such a dark moment for the character but works out so well. Then how do you be funny? The answer is put him in a silly hat and have a tea party.

Also it’s a scary movie. Sid is freaky.

Victoria: As a kid I wasn’t really scared of him but as an adult I’m wondering how I wasn’t terrified of him. That kid was insane. How was the mother of Sid not worried? The kid has posters saying “I <3 Explosions”. He blows toys up in the backyard, which shakes his house and his neighbor’s houses and no one complains.

Austin: Do we ever see his parents? We see his sister…

Victoria: We don’t actually see any of the adults if you think about it.

Austin: We see Andy’s mom.

Victoria: Do we ever see her face?

Austin: When she asks, “Let’s go to Pizza Planet” she walks into his room.

Victoria: Oh that’s true. But you never see Sid’s mom. You just hear her voice saying, “Sid your Pop Tarts are ready.”

Austin: Exactly. And it’s amazing if you take away the toy world, Sid is just harmful to himself and his sister like most kids are. He’s not mean to Andy. As an antagonist, he’s just mean to what he assumes are inanimate figures. He’s just a psychopath on his own. Until all of his toys rise up from the ground and tell him that he should never do this again, which should be scarring for a child.

Victoria: And I always wondered about that. It would have been funny if they made a little five-minute short just about Sid to see what happened to him.

Austin: He’s in “Toy Story 3”.

Victoria: I noticed that. Isn’t he a garbage man? But I mean…that would have happened either way.

Austin: So you just want to see him in a rubber room freaking out?

Victoria: Just screaming about toys.

Austin: I was worried that Andy would be psychologically harmed. At one point he should walk into his room and say “Hey, why is my bulletin board down? Why is my globe on the floor? Why are all of my toys constantly in the wrong place?” He should slowly lose his mind.

Victoria: He tended to leave his toys out after he played with them. So I always wondered how did the toys remember exactly where to go.

Austin: It’s funny how they set up this mythology like how the toys shouldn’t be seen and whatnot, but then not focus on it. They could have done a whole story about how the toys have to hide from humans, yadda yadda yadda. Instead they focus on the characters, which is so smart. They only test the mythology when they confront Sid when they “have to break a few rules.” We don’t even know what the rules are. It doesn’t need long exposition. Let’s just do this and move on.

Victoria: I just like this one the best out of the three because if you take away the fact that toys can’t actually come to life, this is the most believable story. They get taken by the neighbor; they have to get across the street. They’re toys. It seems like forever away. I really enjoy the others, but some of them were a little more far-fetched than this one.

Austin: Well they are running through an airport in the second one.

Victoria: Yes and a trash compactor—

Austin: Hell. It is hell. But yes, it is like “Honey I Shunk the Kids” where they have to go through the forest that is the grass. The farthest they get away from the house is Pizza Planet and the gas station. This is the other side of the world for these characters.

It’s really impressive how tight the story is. There aren’t too many locations. I know there is a lot of back history of how this movie got made. This is such a gamble for Pixar. There was no animation like this before, especially in feature length form. They had their successful short, but this was a huge thing. To have this ambitious project…they could have easily had a simple story like “Here are some happy bears”. Instead they said “Here are some dark characters with identity crises having this big adventure.”

It was also smart for them to have new characters and familiar characters.

Victoria: Everyone had a Mr. Potato Head. Everyone had a piggy bank.

Austin: There were a lot more Potato Head jokes than I remember. Every two minutes is a joke about him losing a limb. He’s a bit of a jerk in this movie.

Victoria: I noticed. I used to love him as a kid and now that I’m older I’m thinking “What a complete ass.” He just likes to put other people down.

Austin: He’s not forgiving at all.

Victoria: Every single time Woody tried to explain himself, he shuts him down.

Austin: Rex is still really funny to me. Such a fun casting choice to have Wallace Shawn.

Victoria: I especially love Rex. That voice coming out of what’s supposed to be this terrifying toy and it’s just the most nasal, high pitched voiced that a man could possibly have.

Austin: And they’ve used him again. He was the boss in “The Incredibles”, the very small boss.

Victoria: Yes!

Austin: But that boss doesn’t sound like Rex to me. It should distract a kid, but it’s still such a good fit for every character.

Victoria: What I loved about these movies is that they really seem to think of which celebrities they want as the voices and they pick them perfectly every single time. I don’t think I’ve seen a Pixar film when I’m thinking, “Why did you cast them?”

Austin: My only one would be to doubt Owen Wilson in “Cars”, but even then it’s still fine. They never highlight the stars; they never say in the commercials Tom Hanks is Woody because that would ruin the illusion for a child.

Victoria: Exactly. Like they do with “Shrek”. Mike Myers as Shrek!

Austin: Especially for “Shrek” they should never say it’s Mike Myers because that’s such an irregular voice for him. No one should recognize him.

It’s funny because I can definitely hear Tim Allen in this movie, but I still only think, “That’s Woody’s voice” for Tom Hanks.

Victoria: And I still love the fact that John Ratzenberger is in every single one. Of all of the stars that were in “Toy Story” he’s the one that gets a part in every single one. I don’t like to look up who he’s playing, but I like to try and figure it out. You know, this has bugged me. In “Finding Nemo” is he supposed to be a bunch of fish? Or is he one fish who speaks for the whole?

Austin: I think it’s the school of fish at once, if I recall. Either way it’s funny.

Victoria: I look for him, but I don’t think about him during the movie. He’s just a piggy bank or an abominable snowman or a big semi all with the same voice, but that doesn’t make me think about him in particular.

You know I don’t care much for Pixar sequels.

Austin: The Toy Story ones are pretty good.

Victoria: Yeah, but I would have been fine with the one. It has a happy ending.

Austin: They get a dog!

Victoria: They move away from the crazy kid…

Austin: Which Pixar film have you seen the most?

Victoria: Probably “Toy Story”, but I’ve seen “Monster’s Inc” so many times. I’ve seen “A Bug’s Life” a ton. Most of their early ones.

Austin: Did the animation bother you in “Toy Story” this time around?

Victoria: It’s a lot different than it is now, but it really doesn’t bother me. It’s my favorite out of all the Pixars and not just because it’s the first one. They set the bar so high that I don’t think any of them have quite matched it. They’ve gotten really close, though.

Austin: It was even up for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, which it honestly deserves. They brought in Joss Whedon to help out with the script.

Victoria: I saw that! I saw that and thought, “Are you kidding me?” I would have never have guessed.

Austin: The other three credited screenwriters are people working with the Pixar brain trust, including Andrew Stanton who would go on to direct “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E”. They wanted to bring in someone who was a known screenwriter to help them with structure and format and whatnot. Then they got one of the best. There are so many clever things in it. Like I can’t get over how funny the idea of “The Claw” is.

Victoria: The claw….

Austin: Of course they would be a crazy cult who were stuck in a box all day worshiping this claw. This makes so much “sense”…once that you acknowledge toys are real. It’s all of the clever things that make the world feel real. The way Etch-a-Sketch doesn’t talk, but communicates through quick drawings…

Victoria: And I love all of Sid’s toys. He’s mangled them, but it hasn’t dampered their spirits. They’re helping everybody.

Austin: None of them speak though.

Victoria: Maybe he tortured them so much that they just can’t anymore.

Austin: And this is a kids film! It reminded me of that really old film “Freaks” One of us, one of us. Yet they aren’t rising up against anyone; they are just this community to support each other because they’re owned by a crazy person who buys rockets all the time.

That reminds me. There is a lot of broad comedy in this one. Woody falls from a great heights all the time.

Victoria: Yes and at one point Buzz punches him and his head goes around three or four times. I really liked the humor you had to think about. I laughed so hard at the beginning when Woody was holding the meeting about how the plastic corrosion lecture went really well the other night. I was floored.

Austin: And it creates this bigger world of what happens when Andy’s not playing with them. Also the army soldier stuff is so funny.

Victoria: I love when they are setting up base. Then the mom steps on one of them. A good solider never leaves a man behind!

Austin: And I noticed the one who is stepped on is the one looking for landmines, which was always the lamest one. He has no gun or anything. He has the thing that looks like a vacuum cleaner looking for landmines.

Victoria: I was wondering what that was supposed to be.

Austin: So that’s why I think it’s funny that he gets stepped on more than anyone else.

Victoria: Love that and love the end scene where Buzz flies. That gets me every time. It’s so emotional. I get goosebumps.

Austin: Absolutely. And it’s not only Buzz coming to terms with what he is and what he wants emotionally, being able to achieve the impossible without losing his head, it’s also the happiest Woody is the entire movie. Woody gets to fly, essentially; the cowboy who gets to fly through space.

Even though I know every scene of this movie, back to front, I’m still so happily surprised when they go to the car instead of the moving truck. That’s great storytelling! Despite the fact that Andy should have noticed if his toys were on top of a box BUT STILL!

Victoria: “Oh I found them!” “Where were they?” “They were here in the car!”

Austin: So does this rank the highest for you?

Victoria: Oh yeah. This is one of my favorite movies, not just my favorite Pixar.

Austin: It’s definitely Top Five for me, but I want to keep watching them all to see where they land. It’s still an incredible film that every age can easily enjoy.


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/26/pixar-talk-toy-story/

Film Yap: Senna

The first thing everyone notices when watching “Senna” is the look of the documentary. It’s using the footage of the times and that wasn’t filmed digitally. Most sport documentaries have the slick ESPN feel, but this one is more like ABC’s Wide World of Sports. “Senna” doesn’t cut to interviews that are filmed today, but always keeps within the time of each race.

Ayrton Senna was a Formula One racer who became a world champion. For those who are not familiar, this style of racing is more dangerous partly due to their racecourses that are full of turns. Every crash in racing, whether it is NASCAR or Indy racing, is tragic but this seems even more unpredictable.

Most subject documentaries, even the best ones, have family members and experts talk to the camera with all of their hyperbole. All of the new interviews are just used as voice over, but that is more about clarification than anything else. Anything else would be unnecessary. There is so much footage of Senna in and out of the car, he can be his own defense. There are plenty of moments of him at his best and worse, showing him a full human being.

This honest portrayal of the athlete makes him more sympathetic. The specific races don’t seem as important, but the want to see him succeed. Most sport movies say they aren’t about the sport, but this really does seem to just be about this character. He is completely charming as he flirts with a talk show host with seemingly little effort. His support for his home county of Brazil was heartwarming and genuine. His rivalry towards him teammate Alain Prost is frustrating but believable.

The movie has to hit so many things right in order to successfully pull off its ending. Through strong editing and the right focus, this is a special movie. The man and the film can’t live up to the level of praise it has received. It was not about what races he won or where his story went. This film will live on because it knew how to capture one fascinating man.


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/24/senna/

Film Yap: Week Five TV Contest Results and WINNERS

As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every show that was suggested to him during one weekend. He’ll watch 3 episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Sunday on The Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV related prizes.

Nathan Barley

Previous Relationship: I had to look this one up. It’s from Chris Someone who made one of my favorite recent comedies, Four Lions, so that was a plus.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Episode 1”, “Episode 2”, and “Episode 3”

And…? This was not what I was expecting. Right away the jarring visual style is gross and unappealing. It’s obnoxious, vile and empty. Yet this is the world of Nathan Barley. Nathan is an idiot who most idiots find to be cool. The audience guide through the satire is “Mighty Boosh” star Julian Barratt who plays a journalist who despises the “rise of the idiots.”

His frustration ends up being really funny and like most satires, depressing about how he’s doomed. He doesn’t want his sister to date Nathan and he doesn’t want to cover vapid artists for his magazine. Sometimes the world is too punk for me, but the show remains smart about what it’s presenting. Also since it’s well established there are only 15 actors in England, it’s starting to be no surprise to see great comedians like Richard Ayoade and Noel Fielding show up with great bits.

Will I continue watching? There are only three episodes left so….yes.

Grade: 4 Yaps

The O.C.

Previous Relationship: I said “Welcome to the O.C., bitch!” several times in high school because the ad was on a lot.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Premiere”, “The Model Home”, and “The Gamble”

And…? This was recommended by a friend who has been telling me to watch this for some time. I knew of its popularity, but never really heard anyone say it was good. Well, I’m not sold yet. There are plenty of questionable moments in judgment throughout the episodes, the child leads are acting very flat, and they all talk in that Josh Schwartz (“Chuck”) way of saying their emotions through clichés. Also Doug Liman directed the first two episodes and it’s visually pretty tame. He had just made “Go” and “The Bourne Identity”, I expected a little style.

And yet, there is something there. There’s something bubbling under the surface that suggests hope for more. They treat the teens not just as horny idiots. There is respect towards the characters and their situations. The show has patience to let them interact without entirely being on the plot. It seems rough now, but I think it needs more time.

Will I continue watching? My friend lent me the season, so I’ll finish it.

Grade: 3 Yaps

Hill Street Blues

Previous Relationship: I threw the pilot into my Hulu queue and hadn’t gotten around to watching it.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Hill Street Station”, “Presidential Fever”, and “Politics as Usual”

And…? Wow, that pilot is something. Weeks ago, I compared “ER” to “Homicide” because I was impressed on how real the second to second lifestyle was in their buildings. Turns out it’s all because of this show. A lot happens in that opening episode and it wasn’t until a few more was I able to get a grasp on its large cast.

It’s a cop show going for a new level of realism with how the cops deal with the small and big cases and the phone calls that never stop. That pilot was risky for them, so maybe that’s why the next two episodes focus on something very heightened. I don’t know how much I really buy the President of the United States wanting to do a fact finding in their district and Furillo making deals with gangs to let him pass. Yet, I really appreciate the story went over one episode and all of the characters continue to move forward. It’s clear how inspiring this is to so many shows I love.

Will I continue watching? Its seven seasons are daunting, but I’ll watch a few episodes at a time on Hulu.

Grade: 4 Yaps

Modern Family

Previous Relationship: I saw the pilot weeks before it aired and was certain it would be cancelled. (I also made this assumption for How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory.) After it became incredibly popular, I watched two more episodes a year later and still didn’t like it. Take 3?

I watched Season One, Episodes 3-5 “Come Fly With Me”, “The Incident”, and “Coal Digger” (ABC aired episodes out of order, so I’m going with air date)

And…? Ugh, this show is so broad. There’s not a laugh track but it feels like it sometimes. Most of the jokes are telegraphed and obvious. I hate when the pseudo-documentary style doesn’t make any sense with the plot. The characters are simple and likable, but I’ve seen them before on countless shows.

These episodes were a bit better because the little things rose to the surface. Like I keep bringing up with every family show I review, the ensemble works better when they all get to be together. There they can use throwaway lines and looks that land because they aren’t focused as the primary jokes. I didn’t laugh during the three episodes, but at least that made me enjoy the company a little more.

“Community” remains the best sitcom on TV right now.

Will I continue watching? Nope, but then again I did say that twice before.

Grade: 2.5 Yaps

Sons of Anarchy

Previous Relationship: I’ve liked a good majority of FX shows, but somehow I have never seen an episode of this one.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot”, “Seeds”, and “Fun Town”

And…? This didn’t blow me away. This was one of the shows I was really looking forward to trying because I have heard so many great things. I think I would have liked this more if I hadn’t seen “The Shield”. There are a lot of similarities with SAMCRO and the Strike Team, especially when they are trying to hide their crimes. What “The Shield” didn’t have was a character like Gemma. Katey Sagal plays her like the biker Lady Macbeth, which is fun but it’s already starting to feel a little repetitive.

The opening shows have a formula to them with just enough internal conflict each time to spice it up. The plot about whether or not the gang should be dealing drugs seems like it can’t go far because I doubt they will decide to go straight and not have a show. A lot of FX shows have a bumpy start and pull around a great first season. Let’s home there is something new around the corner.

Will I continue watching? At least to the end of the season.

Grade: 3.5 Yaps

Cowboy Bebop

Previous Relationship: Back in high school, a friend showed me the movie. I remember liking it, but I can’t tell you one thing about it now. Maybe the end takes place in a mall like building? No clue.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Asteroid Blues”, “Stray Dog Strut”, and “Honky Tonk Women”

And…? Too few shows nowadays recognize the potential for a good theme song. This has one of the best. It’s cool, hip, and badass. Remarkably, the show continues that feeling to the end of the episode. In the future, humanity has continued into space but some jobs stay the same. Spike is a bounty hunter working on a ship called Bebop. His hair is ridiculous, his suit is great, and he makes smoking look cool. He dresses like a model, but feels like a bounty hunter.

I’m not an expert on anime, but this feels like something special. A show about bounty hunters could be very repetitive, but “Cowboy Bebop” is exciting because it has the feeling it could go anywhere. There is a larger story starting to boil where I think its secondary characters will start to reappear, especially the very fun Faye Valentine.

Will I continue watching? Yep.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

AND I’M FINISHED! One day before school starts up and I finished my five week long marathon of 35 shows and 105 episodes of various lengths. Some were fantastic and some were horrible. Did I learn anything from this? Not especially, but it is a good feeling to get to someone’s recommendation in a timely manner. The conversation afterwards is worth it. I would like to do something like this again, but with movies. It’ll probably have to wait until next summer though.

Now let’s give out some frivolous awards.

Best show: Cheers

Almost the Best Shows: The Prisoner, Black Books, Friday Night Lights, Skins, Men of a Certain Age, All in the Family and Green Wing.

Worst Show: Jersey Shore

Almost the Worst Shows: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Doodlebops, Pretty Little Liars, The Dresden Files, and Lie to Me.

Funniest Show: Black Books

Show I will start watching again first: The Prisoner

Most Surprising (Good thing): Men of a Certain Age

Most Surprising (Bad thing): Hogan’s Heroes

Best Cast (Comedy): Green Wing

Best Cast (Drama): Friday Night Lights

Best Episodes: “Thomas” – Skins, “Writing the President” – All in the Family, “Give Me a Ring Sometime” – Cheers, and “24 Hours” – ER

Worst Episodes: “Managing Mom” – Keeping Up With the Kardashians, “Queen for a DeeDee” – The Doodlebops, and “The Boone Identity” – The Dresden Files

I have a handful of TV Seasons to give away and I will be contacting the ones who recommended the best shows very soon. Thanks everyone for recommending and reading my write-ups!

Now everyone heed my recommendations and watch “Arrested Development”, “Breaking Bad”, “Community”, “LOST,” “ “Mad Men”, “Sherlock”, “Spaced” and “The Wire”. Oh yeah, and this pretty good show called “Doctor Who.”


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/21/week-five-tv-contest-results/

Film Yap: And the Nominees Were -- 1940

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.

After watching one of the greatest year in Oscar history, the follow up is bound to be a little disappointing. 1940 falls into a regular year of nominees where a few stand out as beloved and recognizable titles, where the rest run on Turner Classic Movies a few times a year at odd hours.

All This and Heaven Too

Melodrama can be done well, but it can quickly slip down the path into ridiculous. After an annoying scene where Bette Davis is the new teacher, it’s time to flashback into a two-hour story that stalls way too much. There is murder and betrayal…eventually. First it’s time to devote time to overacting and ridiculous plot turns.

Foreign Correspondent

Oh I love me some Hitchcock and this is one of his most underappreciated. A journalist gets his first assignment as a foreign correspondent on the brink of World War II. The subject is assassinated on the steps and this starts off a great mystery full of espionage and secret identities. There are plenty of really exciting moments including the grand finale.

The Grapes of Wrath

Ever since “Stagecoach”, John Ford has been more visually impressive. Yet, there is still something missing from a few of his movies. I’ve read the John Steinbeck novel twice now and this adaptation doesn’t match the same difficult tone. Henry Fonda is still solid, but the world doesn’t look as desperate as it needs to be.

The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin is still remembered as one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of the medium and this is a perfect example of why. He is taking extreme risks not only in technical achievement, but attacking a crazy man currently in power. There are a ton of hilarious scenes of physical comedy and witty lines, but what is remembered the most is the jaw-dropping monlongue Chaplin gives to the camera at the end. Wow.

Kitty Foyle

I love Ginger Rogers and I’m thrilled she won an Oscar. I wish it wasn’t for this, though. She is fantastic in comedies like “The Major and the Minor” or any of her Fred Astaire collaborations. “Kitty Foyle” is a movie that really wants to be important, but hurts any feminist message it is trying to create. It’s all about love triangles and boring decisions. Such a disappointment.

The Letter

It really isn’t a year with the Academy Awards if there isn’t one or two movies with Bette Davis freaking out. This time she kills a man at the beginning of the movie out of self-defense. An incriminating letter appears that reveals she may have known a bit more about what was happening. There are some good twists and scenes, but it feels compromised by having to abide to the Production Code’s tacked-on ending.

The Long Voyage Home

Bette Davis and John Ford. Those are the staples for the time and with the right material they can be great. This is a bit better than “Grapes of Wrath” because he controls the pacing in an unconventional way. A lot of time is spent with John Wayne and his crew on their boat. There is plenty of silence and fear throughout the film to the point where this doesn’t feel like a Hollywood film. It’s unique style does leave the audience a bit detached at times, though.

Our Town

Oh my. I somehow missed out on seeing any production of this Pultizer Prize winning gem. Instead this was my first venture into suffering through this 90 minutes of hohum madness. The gimmick becomes insufferable within the first monologue and ever actor looks like a fool trying to play simple as very simple. This is still very ripe for parody.

The Philadelphia Story

On the other hand, this is just ripe. This Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn/Jimmy Stewart romantic comedy still holds up as absolutely hilarious. It works as one of the best within its genre because it stays faithful to its characters. People don’t end up together because that’s the clean solution, instead time is invested to make sure it all works. Great script and three wonderful performances by the leads.

Rebecca—WINNER

Did I mention, I love me some Hitchcock? Two nominees in one year makes this year a treat. This film is seen as his transition film from England to America and it made quite an impression. The increase of budget allowed him to make a really creepy tale of Daphne du Maurier’s beloved novel with Laurence Olivier at his very best. It had been years since I’ve seen this and I forgot some of the great twists. And that house…chills. Well worth watching.

We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are as well as discussing the other awards from this year. This set was covered over two episodes both of which can be found for free on iTunes. We’d love it if you left us a review! Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter and our brand new website.

If you’d like to play along with us, the next 10 films for 1941 are “Blossoms in the Dust”, “Citizen Kane”, Here Comes Mr. Jordan”, “Hold Back the Dawn”, “How Green Was My Valley”, “The Little Foxes”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “One Foot in Heaven”, “Sergeant York”, and “Suspicion”


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/18/and-the-nominees-were-1940/

Film Yap: Tabloid

The greatest stories are the ones that are close to reality so they are relatable. In order to be relatable, most stories play with conventions that can apply to the most amounts of people. However, the real stories—the ones that happen to regular people—are often random, unexpected, and often irrational.

To call Joyce McKinney a regular person is a wild exaggeration, but the point still stands. If “Tabloid” was presented as a fictional narrative, nobody would ever believe this could ever happen.

Yet, it did. This wild and crazy story happened and everyone involved is overjoyed to tell it. The trailer for “Tabloid” is impressive because it only gives the tip of the iceberg. Staying within its restraints, this movie is about McKinney who flew to London to save/kidnap her Mormon fiancée and forced him to have sex with her.

The reason Errol Morris is such a great storyteller is because he lets them tell their story. The takes are longer than a typical documentary interview. There are so many different interpretations of the “truth” about Joyce McKinney even down to whether the “Sex in Chains” story actually contained rope. Morris interjects with title cards and ironic juxtaposition, but that is never to create favoritism towards anyone’s story. It’s just to laugh at the absurdity of it all about the barking mad woman and the men who were obsessed her.

In 87 minutes, there isn’t enough time to get comfortable. The second one thing is explained, the story darts into crazier territory. This isn’t a morality tale about bad decisions or even a criticism against media. This is a celebration of the absurd. Every time the tabloid papers pressed, the more insane it became. They didn’t even have to do much because McKinney would throw herself into the spotlight more than they would. Even though her way of “avoiding” the spotlights drew even more attention.

Thanks to the surrealism, this is actually the funniest movie of the year. All of R-rated romps and romantic “will they or won’t they” cann’t match up to the twists and turns of this. It’s not as dense at some of Morris’s other work, because this isn’t about rising up for activism. It’s about being able to enjoy that sometimes insanity will win over logical expectations. This joins “Man on Wire”, “Sex on the Beach” and “The King of Kong” as some of the best real life finds.

I hope this isn’t a generational thing and not everyone knows about Joyce McKinney and the “Maniacal Mormon”. For this is a life that only gets weirder.


4.5 Yaps


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/18/tabloid/

Film Yap: Jane Eyre DVD


Like most film critics, I see too many films a year. I see new releases that look lousy and turn out even worse than expected. I see films that are incredible where I note every nuance. The rest of the bunch ends up in the middle.

I bring this up only because of a perk of writing a DVD review is the short moment to offer a revision. Critics have to predict what elements will stand the test of time based on initial impressions of a piece of art they recently experienced.

So then what is remembered of Miss “Jane Eyre”? I read the book when I was in junior high and can recall several distinct images. I saw the recent adaptation in theatres months ago and the answer is the same. After mastering how to use a wider location to enhance the frame for the focused character in “Sin Nombre”, director Cary Fukunaga moved himself into a more limiting inside story.

The mansions have more shadows that does give an invitation to its many rooms. There is no home for Jane Eyre, which is a nice way to give a visual push towards frustration for a emotionally repressed character. There are some films that are played like gothic horror, which seem a bit out of place, but are individually strong.

The two leads are brilliant. Mia Wasikowska gave a jaw-droppingly good performance in HBO’s “In Treatment”, but has never given the opportunity to show that range in cinema yet. This is a close attempt where she takes the difficulty of the character and puts it behind a strong mask. Michael Fassbender continues his streak of solid performances by playing up the cold charisma of Rochester.

The structuring of the film is an attempt to make the 400 page novel into a reasonably timed movie, but it feels clumped at times. There could have been even more scenes between Jane and Rochester, but they had to do more with less. That makes the ending less climatic than it could have been, but several moments still work throughtout.

The DVD and Blu-Ray have a number of featurettes on them. There is one about the score, the look, and the production of the film. There is also a commentary with Fukunaga talking with himself and a bunch of deleted scenes.

Film: 3.5 Yaps

Extras: 3.5 Yaps


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/15/25586/

Film Yap: Week Four TV Contest Results

As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every show that was suggested to him during one weekend. He’ll watch 2-3 episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Saturday on The Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV related prizes.

Corner Gas

Previous Relationship: I had only seen one Canadian sitcom before and that was the lovely “Slings and Arrows” which I highly recommend. Apparently this was their most popular show, so I was excited.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Ruby Reborn”, “Tax Man”, and “Pilates Twist”

And…? People tend to say that English humor is dry. They have nothing on Canadian humor. It’s about a few people who work at a gas station. Something very small and quaint happens and then they all sarcastically respond to it. I never laughed, but I didn’t dislike the show.

The show captures a part of life that is worth telling to a friend, but not necessarily worth filming. Characters mix up the exercise pilates with Pontius Pilate; it’s an amusing concept that gathers a smile. This is one of the major comedic set-ups in the third episode. It’s sarcasm upon sarcasm without anything strong to be sarcastic towards. This makes it entertaining and light, but not necessarily that good.

Will I continue watching? Nope.

Rating: 2.5 Yaps

Pretty Little Liars

Previous Relationship: I’ve seen a tad bit of advertising for it. The high school murder mystery element made me think it could be the next “Veronica Mars”.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “”Pilot”, “The Jenna Thing”, and “To Kill a Mocking Girl”

And…? This is no “Veronica Mars”. It doesn’t really work as a high school drama or a mystery. The four liars interact with the world without any genuine scenes. They giggle at a joke that was heard before the scene started, they talk only in a way to avoid spoiling any secrets, and they are vapid dull people.

The mystery is centered around the year long disappearance and eventual death of the fifth member of their friendship. Before they found her body, they all have been receiving text messages from an “A” they assumed to be her. They try to keep every aspect of their path a secret to prolong the story as much as possible. It’s hard to keep track about what is not supposed to be known and why any of it matters. The texted messages in particular feels so contrived that there is no way they will provide an answer that makes any sense.

Will I continue watching? Nah.

Grade: 2 Yaps

All in the Family

Previous Relationship: I knew of how important this series was, but knew just a little about the plot.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Meet the Bunkers”, “Writing the President”, and “Oh, My Aching Back”.

And…? Wow. I did not expect this. This doesn’t feel like any other sitcom I have seen. They have the typical amount of family banter, but they start to feel like a stage play. They take genuine positions on issues and argue them in an entertaining manner. Carroll O’Connor is unflinching as the bigoted father who is still seen as someone who is likable.

His loyalty to his family, despite his verbal abuse, is always evident. The pride he has towards his country, especially the title of the President. In some fights he’s right, most of the time ‘Meathead’ has the upper hand. Throughout all of the political substance, it still remains every funny. I’m shocked how well this lived up to the buzz.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

Adventure Time

Previous Relationship: I knew of its popularity with those who entertain a certain recreational substance.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Slumber Party Panic”, “Trouble in Lumpy Space”, and “Prisoners of Love”.

And…? This was some silly fun. It’s not very long, but uses every single one of its minutes with an unrelenting pace. It feels like when you’re a kid playing outside. You’re making up the adventure while moving off pure imagination. The story could change at any given second as a new idea pops in your head. This show incorporates that ridiculous sense of direction as Finn and his talking dog Jake fly through the world (and sometimes space).

A lot of the humor is based off the randomness that ensues. Yet they have done incredible work creating these characters with just a little bit of time. They each have a unique voice and personality. Nobody questions their wacky world, but just has fun with it.

Will I continue watching? I won’t seek it out, but I’ll definitely casually watch some more.

Grade: 4 Yaps

Beast Wars

Previous Relationship: It sounds vaguely familiar. May have caught one episode as a kid.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Beast Wars, Part I”, “Beast Wars, Part II”, and “The Web”.

And…? I’ve seen the three Transformers movies and didn’t like any of them. Some people have tolerated the franchise, because they have had some sort of nostalgic attachment to the toys and cartoons. I never had that, but I can kinda see the appeal. Not yet, though.

Sometime during the Transformers mythology, they crash land on Earth during the prehistoric times. They scan the planet for new forms to transform into so they become like cheetahs and dinosaurs. They fight and fight and fight. This is “Beast Wars” as the characters clearly point out.

The problem is there aren’t any stakes. They will shout their name and optimize, but there doesn’t seem to be any chance of anyone taking real damage. “The Web” was a bit better storyline since it was more plotting between the characters. There is opportunity for some clever things in the future, but right now I rather play with the toys.

Will I continue watching? Nah.

Grade: 2.5 Yaps

Taxi

Previous Relationship: I think I’ve caught a few scenes on TV as a kid. Also I’ve seen “Man on the Moon” which featured the show for a good chunk.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Like Father, Like Daughter”, “One-Punch Banta” and “Blind Date”.

And…? This has a lot of fun elements, but a lot of things that fell flat as well. The reason I’ve been watching three episodes apiece is because that gives the time a little bit more room to figure out what it is. Usually it takes more time into the season, but three episodes is enough to figure out the potential.

“Taxi” is one of the quintessential workplace comedies. Most of the show is centered around a taxi garage as their drivers come in and out. Yet they mostly just linger. Most of them are really solid characters like Alex, his insufferable boss Louie, and the simplistic Tony. Ones that aren’t so strong is the naïve new guy (who I hoped was just going to be in the first episode) as well as wanna-be actor Bobby.

Sometimes the plotline can lead to some great moments of comedy and characters, like when Alex meets his daughter for the first time in 15 years. Or it could be a big misstep as seen by Alex on his blind date with an insecure larger woman. When everything focused, this show seems like it could make some great episodes but I hope it doesn’t take that long to hit a streak.

Will I continue watching? I’ll catch a random one on TV every now and then. I would like to see Christopher Lloyd play his part.

Grade: 3.5 Yaps

Next week, I actually shall be finishing this with my remaining shows: Cowboy Bebop, Hill Street Blues Modern Family, Nathan Barley, The O.C., and Sons of Anarchy.


http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/14/week-four-tv-contest-results/