Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sundance 2011: Complete


Thanks to Joey and the gang over at GeekTyrant.com, I was able to attend my first Sundance Film Festival. I had an awesome experience hanging out with many of my blogger colleagues, meeting a lot of them in person for the first time. I saw 20 movies while I was there and did reviews for 19 of them, so check out all the coverage over at GeekTyrant.com if you missed any and keep an eye out for many of these films to be arriving in theaters near you as 2011 progresses. I'll leave you with a list of my Top 5 Favorite Movies from the festival, so hit that for the highlights if you don't care about the rest. Until next time...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Take Shelter

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Take Shelter at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 26 - Legendary and Knucklehead


Tyler and Joe (from The Playing Field) attempt to discuss WWE produced films Legendary and Knucklehead, both from 2010.

(Also, during the first part of the episode, Tyler thinks walking away from the microphone doesn't affect his sound. It does. Sorry.)




Introduction
Banter - 00:38

Media Consumed
Joe
Fahrenheit 9/11 and Capitalism - 08:00
"Kitchen Nightmares" - 10:30

Tyler
"Holly's World" - 13:00
"The Cape" - 16:11

Games
Character Name Game Intro - 24:00
"In my NetFlix" - 26:04
Is "Is it META" meta? - 32:00

Review
Legendary- 32:47
Knucklehead - 53:02

Wrap-Up
Character Name Game Finale - 01:12:50
Listener E-mail/Twitter/Closing - 01:16:45

Reviews Mentioned:
Krull
Red Sonja

Red Sonja

By Master Swordsman Alan Trehern

Yep, I did it again. I ruined a completely good afternoon by watching another sh*tty movie. I was still up on my action/fantasy high from Krull, so I checked out another sword and sorcery film based on a character created by author Robert E. Howard. This is the same guy that created Conan the Barbarian. But after 89 minutes of Red Sonja, I was ready to cut my losses...and my throat.

Red Sonja (1985)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Starring Brigitte Nielsen, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandahl Bergman

Netflix educated me on the awards this movie received in 1986: Razzies for Worst Actress and Worst Supporting Actress (Nielson and Bergman, respectfully). That's pretty ironic since the movie is based around strong female characters, and they're the actors who sucked the most. Ugh...let's get started.

Story
The story begins with a flashback to things that happened probably fifteen minutes prior to the flashback. Why not just show what just happened? It's not like you don't have the footage, because you used it in the flashback! Anyway, Sonja (Nielsen) is left beaten and abused outside her now burning cottage. Her parents are dead (I guess?) and some spirit gives her super-strength (I think?). Ghost is never mentioned again.

The film quality of a 70s movie in 1985...

Fast forward maybe 4 days.

We now find Kalidor (Schwarzenegger) riding to a temple where the great Talisman is about to be destroyed. This Talisman can create/destroy the world, so obviously, it's pretty important. Well, we only ever see it create some nasty storms and nothing else. Yeah, real powerful; the Chinese government does that in an afternoon.

The evil Queen Gedren steals the Talisman, the same Queen that killed Sonja's family (!), Sonja goes after it, meets up with a boy King and they beat the evil Queen. It's pretty elementary here; if you're really interested in the plot, just watch the movie. I'd be insulting your intelligence if I spoke any further on the subject matter.

Waiting for his career to take off...
Characters
Sonja is terribly acted by Nielsen. I mean just "nails on the chalkboard" bad. Not as bad as the evil Queen Gedren (Bergman), mind you, but almost unwatchably bad. Does her attractiveness cancel out the terrible acting? Probably, but I'm bias since I'm a dude. The acting is terrible all around, but you can't blame the actors! Whose idea was it to put Schwarzenegger and Nielsen, a native Austrian and Dane, in a movie together? It was like a fantasy movie produced by Hooked on Phonics!

And Nielsen looked like she was about to laugh throughout the entire film. She had this smirk whilst fighting that totally said, "I cannot believe the script calls for this! No one taught me how to fight! Why was there only one take?!" Of course, in her head, this is all in Danish. But I agree with her. The fight scenes looked to have been one take, cut and run. Sloppy and pretty comical.

The Hyborian Yankee Candle store. Buy 2 Get the 3rd 1/2 off.

The dialogue was atrociously laughable in every sense of the phrase. It was some of the most generic, useless and completely intolerable jargon ever produced by any type of cinematic production company. They actually didn't need to say much, but I guess Nielsen and Arnold were getting paid by the word (and groan).

Final Thoughts
The only real "good" part of this film was when they wrestle a mechanical crocodile in a water-filled catacomb. Pretty bad-ass idea, and since I have a thing with monsters in the water, I was kinda freaked out. Other than that, this movie was a total let down. I really dug the Conan movies, COBRA and Krull, so I think I may have placed my hopes too high for this movie. It's...worth one watch with some friends? MST-ing it is probably your best bet if you want to enjoy it. This is not one of those movies where you have to sit and be quiet. F you, people that tell me to sit quietly. I'll do my Crow T. Robot voice if I want; I'M A GROWN. ASS. MAN!!!!!

** Red Sonja on Netflix Instant Watch.

Bone club guy was great.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Bellflower

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Bellflower at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Hobo With A Shotgun at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Salvation Boulevard

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Salvation Boulevard at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

The Mechanic

Seemingly more obvious than many other actors, Jason Statham's films seem to fall into two distinct categories: badass or nearly unwatchable. In the former, movies like Crank and the first two Transporter films make it obvious why the guy has leading man prowess and enough charisma to make him one of the best action movie stars working today. In the latter, misfires like Transporter 3 and War leave us questioning his career choices. Unfortunately, we can now add The Mechanic to that latter category.

The Mechanic
Director: Simon West
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland


A remake of the 1972 film of the same name starring Charles Bronson, this version of the movie has been in development since the early '90s. The original was extremely slow paced (it was the 70's after all) and probably not worth seeing unless you're a huge fan of hitman films. To Statham's credit, he actually signed onto the project with the assumption that they would film the remake with the exact same script as the original. Of course, Hollywood had its way with it and through many different writers and countless drafts, they cannibalized it until the meat of the original was completely lost and we're left with nothing but a very average plot we've seen tons of times before. The film is heartless and - in perhaps the biggest flaw an action movie can have - boring at times. 


I got a chance to speak with Statham at the press junket for the movie and he revealed that one of the opening scenes in which his character jumps off a bridge (he performed the stunt himself, by the way) was actually one of a few scenes that were added during reshoots because the film didn't have enough action in it. Funny - even after watching the finished cut of the movie, I still didn't think there was enough action in it. Everyone knows what kind of film this is supposed to be, but what little action there is was displayed in the trailer and the rest of the film trudges through a murky plot in which any semblance of intelligence from the '72 film is left undetected. Ben Foster referred to the movie as "gun porn," but that misrepresents the film as actually caring enough about guns to highlight them in an interesting way. There are a few montage training sequences, but that's about it as far as guns go. So we can't even enjoy it on that level.


Donald Sutherland reunites with Statham and essentially reprises his role from The Italian Job remake, but, like this movie as a whole, doesn't bring any fun to the proceedings. If you've been reading my reviews for a while, you'll know I'm a huge proponent of having fun in the theater. I'm aware that not every story told on the big screen needs to be light and breezy, but in action films like this where it's clear no one is there to watch the drama of the story unfold, I do expect a certain level of understanding between the director and the audience. I've written about this before, and it still holds true - the director needs to live up to his or her end of the bargain and provide us with, at the very least, a few memorable action scenes to make the film stand out. (To be completely fair, I can't remember another movie in which an SUV drives up into the back of a bus. But it doesn't matter when we don't care about the characters.)


Not surprisingly, the film makes many of the same stereotypical mistakes characteristic of action films of the past few years. It utilizes the "sage black man" character, an alcoholic who sits in a rocking chair on a dock and tells Statham things like, "your heart's telling you you're homesick for a place you've never been." There's also a girl (there's always a girl), but in this movie she's not even important enough to get a name. That's OK - she doesn't know Statham's name; so it's all one big anonymous metaphorical orgy happening in the theater. Sex and violence are one and the same here, evidenced by a scene in which Foster is sitting at a bar after being viciously beaten and a girl comes up to him and says, "I wish someone would hurt me like that." Cut to: sex scene. Yeah, it's one of those movies. But there's one thing I have to credit with making me laugh: a line of dialogue from the main bad guy. "I'm going to put a price on your head so big, your reflection is going to want to shoot you in the face."

The Mechanic makes The Expendables look like a masterpiece - and you'll know that's a semi-sarcastic remark if you read what I thought about that movie. It's not inventive, the story is unclear about certain character's motivations (as if we cared), and even the action - though filmed competently - is just plain boring. Like all of the characters in it, this movie is bland, lifeless, and disposable. Until next time...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Oregonian

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of The Oregonian at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Mad Bastards

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Mad Bastards at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Martha Marcy May Marlene at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Troll Hunter

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of The Troll Hunter at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Red State

Check out my Sundance 2011 review of Red State at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

Check out my review of Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Cedar Rapids

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Cedar Rapids at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Troubadours

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Troubadours at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

The Ledge

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of The Ledge at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Like Crazy

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Like Crazy at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

The Future

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of The Future at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Knuckle

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Knuckle at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

The Guard

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of The Guard at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

Margin Call

Check out my Sundance 2011 Review of Margin Call at GeekTyrant.com by clicking here.

I'm at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival


As you may or may not know, I'm currently in Park City, Utah for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Over the next week, Venkman and I will be writing a ton of coverage of the festival at GeekTyrant.com, so be sure to click here if you're looking for word on the best (and worst) movies that everyone will be talking about in the next year.

I'm not going to copy and paste my full reviews over here, but I'll make individual posts dedicated to each film I review and link to the post at GeekTyrant. I'll also be taking a week (maybe two?) off from The Not Just New Movies Podcast, but it looks like Tyler (and guests) will be holding down the fort while I'm gone. Check out what they're watching - and other nonsense - at the podcast's Twitter page. Until next time...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Krull

A Sword and Sorcery Tale with Alan Trehern

This film has been baking in my queue-oven for almost as long as I've had Netflix. So it was this weekend that I finally got the chance to sit down and take in the "heroic fantasy" that is Krull. At least, Wikipedia calls is a "heroic fantasy"; Trehern calls it a fantasy/sci-fi epic with an affinity to adventure! Read on, sires!

Krull (1983)
Directed by Peter Yates
Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony and Liam Neeson

Two suns? Damn. AC bills go what??

It came to my attention by Ben Pearson that Yates, the director, passed away last week. Sad news, but he left behind this heartwarming tale of love, aliens and fantastical journeys on the planet of Krull. Yeah, Krull is the planet. Didn't see that coming, did you? Me neither. Thought Krull was the prince the whole time...but then they called him Colwyn. So I thought it might have been the weapon he used, but it wasn't that either. Had to read about it online. Nice job with the title, writers.

Characters
Most, if not all, of the characters in this film are likable, although somewhat predictable. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and there's really no threat of that character-landscape changing. Colwyn (Marshall) marries the princess Lyssa (Anthony) to unite two fairytale kingdoms. After a bloody attack from alien invaders, Colwyn and Lyssa are left as the royal rulers, but Lyssa is kidnapped and taken to the Black Fortress.

Our hero is then met (predictably "epic") by a wizard, who sends him off into the unknown world to collect a magical weapon that will help him in his quest to rescue his bride and exterminate this foreign invader from the planet forever.

Colwyn is met by a band of thieves, a terrible magician and a cyclops. Pretty cool? Yeah, I thought so too! Neeson makes his appearance as one of the thieves, but doesn't deliver anything worthwhile.

Soundtrack
The music is astoundingly enjoyable. Crafted by James Horner, who recently did the score for The Karate Kid and a film entitled...**adjusts spectacles and squints at notes** Avah-tar? Hmm.

From the very beginning of the film to the sweeping camera shots of Krull's geographical landscape, Horner's music is part of the enjoyment in watching this movie. At the beginning, you think you're going to see a science-fiction film with the appropriately themed music, but then Horner is able to revert to those classical fantasy/adventure themes you get used to throughout the rest of the showing.

Attributes
I usually like to say what I liked about the movie before I bring up my problems with it. Not necessarily problems, mind you, just critical questions. Soundtrack was great. Characters were fun. And the adventure was there, and I like that. Movies today have a really hard time achieving a good adventure movie when directors have that 3D-Product Placement Contract so far up their butts.

Wait! You forgot your carry on!

That weapon that's blazed across the movie poster? Colwyn doesn't use it until the very end. He gets it at the very beginning, fights and fights and fights, and THEN decides to use it. Further, Colwyn is way too happy throughout this movie. His wife has been kidnapped and taken to a f*cking BLACK FORTRESS OF DOOM, and this guy's gallivanting around with his Merry Men and a cyclops. It's like a Weblo camping trip for him.

The fantasy and the science-fiction are a good mix, but the fantasy is waaay too much. At every turn, the group is talking to another magical being that has all the answers. Why the alien is here. Where the alien is located. How to deal with the alien. But these beings keep getting killed off before Colwyn gets all the answers. Listen, buddy, why not jot down all the questions you have and the next time you run across an ancient druid of the Third World, get his answers for ALL of them. You're wasting time. The wife could have been killed 7-times before this "hero" realizes he's walking the wrong way!

I sensed a number of common themes and attributes in this film that can be found in other sci-fi/fantasy epic, most coming our AFTER Krull was released in theaters, possibly giving Krull a "pioneering" role in cinema. Masters of the Universe (Hmmm...no review of this here? That should be remedied.), for instance, merged science-fiction and traditional fantasy together, and many of the scenes in Krull are similar to those in that Dolph Lundgren classic. Dune and Conan the Destroyer come to mind, as well. Krull had the sci-fi feel of Dune and the fantasy feel of Conan; meaning I loved it.

Also, Krull felt very much like a Dungeons and Dragons game scenario: the task, coupled with an assembly of heroes (wizards, warriors and thieves), and the final boss battle (i.e. The Beast of the Black Fortress). Somewhat of a throwback nerd reference, but I stand by it.

The Krull weapon never does that. False advertisement.

Final Thoughts
I would recommend this film to people who like the films I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Like I've said, it contains the adventure of a classic fantasy with the intriguing undertones of a science-fiction film. However outdated it may be, the endangered "movie-magic" is still fun to see, and the music is beautiful. Check it out on a rainy day. As for me, catch me weekly on the NJNM Podcast as Ben's quasi-reliable co-host or at my main squeeze blog, The Solar Sentinel.

NOTES:
** Krull on NetFlix Instant

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No Strings Attached

As with most romantic comedies, I wasn't expecting much from No Strings Attached. Even legendary director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Stripes) behind the camera couldn't get me excited, no doubt because of the quality (ahem) of the films he's directed in the last ten years. And while it still wasn't what I would call "a great movie," this film surprised me with its charming story and genuine chemistry between the lead actors.

No Strings Attached
Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline


While many recent rom-coms appear horrifically contrived, terribly acted (I'm looking at you, Heigl), and poorly plotted, this one seems to have a bit of zest behind it. That zest comes courtesy of the writer, Elizabeth Meriwether. One of four members of "The Fempire" - essentially a female screenwriting club, featuring the likes of Diablo Cody - Meriwether hits the expected beats with No Strings Attached, but also manages to imbue the film with a bit of realism that goes a long way. For me, it was reminiscent of the Drew Barrymore/Justin Long film Going the Distance in that regard: for the most part, the characters acted like real people instead of characters in a movie.


The relationship between Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) seemed believable, and though for the majority of the movie the characters basically joked and messed around, there were also a few emotional scenes (near the end, of course) that I thought were really effective and even bordered on touching. Kutcher wasn't quite the insufferable jackass he is in most of his films, and Natalie Portman (who's about to have a heck of a year if this Oscar thing pans out for her) did some good work as a character who tries her hardest to stay emotionally detached. Her arc is incredibly formulaic, but her considerable talent makes it easy to digest.


The stars shine thanks to a supporting cast filled with stock characters, including a scandalous father (Kevin Kline), the vulgar best friends (Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling for Portman, Jake M. Johnson and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges for Kutcher), and the wise-beyond her years sister (Olivia Thirlby). The dynamics between these characters managed to feel fairly honest, but if you're one of those strange people who decides to see R-rated movies even though you don't like foul language, you may want to sit this one out: nearly every interaction with either gender of "best friend" is crude on an Apatow level - mostly to amusing effect.


Generally, the film makes us feel as if this story has been told before, and it will definitely be told again quite soon in the upcoming Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis movie Friends with Benefits, a title to which No Strings Attached once laid claim. It's a perfectly fine romantic comedy that doesn't reach "classic" status, but there are enough redeeming qualities to put it slightly above average on the scale and make it a tolerable viewing experience. Until next time...

[I was a bit bothered by the idea presented in the film that essentially Natalie Portman's character is "wrong" and the entire movie is about her being convinced to change, but, to be perfectly honest, I'm getting ready to leave for Sundance and don't have time to explore this concept further right now.]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 25 - Starman (Guest: Elisabeth Rappe from Film.com and Chud.com)


This week, Ben and Tyler are joined by Elisabeth Rappe (from Film.com and Chud.com) to discuss John Carpenter's 1984 film, Starman.

(Also, during the episode I said I wasn't that familiar with Carpenter's filmography. This isn't entirely true - now that I look at it, I've actually seen Halloween, The Thing, Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and They Live.)




Introduction
Is That Meta? - 01:38
Character Name Game Intro - 6:47

Media Consumed

Tyler
"Family Ties" - 07:41
"Storage Wars" - 08:48

Ben
Batman: Under the Red Hood - 11:30
Spaceballs Q&A with Bull Pullman (link here) - 18:30

Review
Starman - 21:00

Wrap-Up
Listener E-mail - 01:02:16
Character Name Game Finale - 01:04:42
Where We Can Be Found - 01:07:05

Also Mentioned:
Top 5 TV Channels
Batman: The Killing Joke
A Death in the Family

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The NJNM Podcast, Interview Edition: Director Mike Le Han


I'm introducing a new aspect of the podcast in which I interview random people from the entertainment industry. Don't expect this to happen nearly as often as the weekly podcasts themselves; instead, consider this more of a bonus episode.

This week, I spoke with Mike Le Han, the co-writer and director of a short film called Mrs. Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room. As you can see from the trailer below, the movie has an awesome look, and Mike's directing style has been compared to that of Guillermo del Toro. Check out the trailer, and you can go to the film's official website for more information.

Music for this episode comes courtesy of the film's score, composed by Kevin Kliesch. Feel free to follow me and Mike on Twitter, and leave a voicemail with your comments at (904) 469-6566.



Friday, January 14, 2011

The Green Hornet

When it came to The Green Hornet, I was more curious than anything else. What would a buddy-cop action superhero comedy written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg and directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) look like? Don't let its troubled production history fool you - this is actually a really enjoyable movie. I've been calling it this year's The A-Team; the plot makes very little sense at times and the physics are ridiculous, but it's a lot of fun to watch.

The Green Hornet
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz


The opening scene is a good representation of the tone we get in the rest of the film. A young Britt Reid has his favorite superhero toy's head ripped off by his father, an overbearing news magnate played by Tom Wilkinson. While not subtle in the least, the message is clear: this is not going to be your typical superhero movie. Turns out that promise is only partly true; The Green Hornet plays on the conventions of the superhero film that we all recognize but succeeds in separating itself enough from the pack that it stands as its own relatively unique project. Ten years after Bryan Singer's X-Men and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man helped usher nerd culture to the mainstream, it's impressive that any superhero movie can feel even remotely fresh.


As to be expected from a script co-written by Rogen and Goldberg, the characters here feel especially self-aware. Nowhere is this more evident in the case of the main villain, a character named Chudnofsky underplayed by Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (in a role originally played by Nic Cage). Chudnofsky is not your normal Los Angeles gangster: he's constantly worried about his reputation and how scary he appears to his fellow members of the underworld. He carries around a gun with two barrels ("very difficult to make") and seems to take criticism of his clothing choices to heart. He's a likeable villain, someone with enough little character moments to overshadow the lack of originality in his evil plan. (At one point, he wants to change his name to "Bloodnofsky" because he thinks it sounds scarier.)

A high profile cameo in the early minutes of the movie adds to the humor of the villainous portrayals. He comments about the furniture in his lair ("I've got sh*tloads of glass everywhere...I have a see-through piano!") and seems totally aware of both the ridiculousness of his surroundings and the expectations of how a movie villain is supposed to dress and behave. This is easily one of the most entertaining scenes in the film.


The rest of the movie hints at a deeper understanding of the genre and its conventions, but seems to stick just a little too close to the formulaic nature of an origin story instead of truly mining new ground. Long sections of the film that feel as if we've seen similar content before are almost enough to make us question the flashes of creativity which with Gondry peppers the movie - almost. If you're even loosely familiar with Gondry's filmography (which includes Eternal Sunshine, The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind, etc.), then you're aware of the man's distinct visual style. That gets lost through most of The Green Hornet, but the occasions in which those touches make it on screen are pretty spectacular. Kato's fight sequences turn the character into an almost Terminator-like character (complete with red eyes), with Gondry opting for POV vision that highlights bad guys' weapons in red but puts martial arts on full display. Perhaps the most "Gondry-esque" scene plays out near the end of the film, in a lengthy exposition scene that would be unbearable if not for his unique approach.


Seth Rogen dropped a lot of weight for this movie, and looks good as a result. He never shows much of a physical presence as the masked hero (or is it anti-hero?) Britt Reid, but he doesn't have to: he can hide behind the toys designed by his coffee maker/mechanic Kato (played by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou). A gas gun and the infamous Black Beauty are utilized to their full potential, though some could make the argument that the latter is a bit overused. They seem to form a friendship fairly quickly, but there's no conceivable reason as to why Kato would want to be friends with Britt in the beginning - he's kind of a douche who only finds his calling as the Hornet after what essentially is a lucky break during a drunken night out with Kato. In real life, Chou's language barrier hinders the banter of the characters; it's clear Rogen, who cut his teeth in improv comedy, wishes he could have someone who could keep up with him in that area, and the film is written as if Chou has those abilities even though he's clearly lacking. 

Regardless, the characters' friendship progresses and the rest of the movie is spent meandering through ganglands with them as they dispense vigilante justice however they wish. This pisses off Chudnofsky, who is watching the Hornet rack up massive media attention while he gets left in the dust. Since Britt's father died (under suspicious circumstances - guess if THAT will come back as a plot point), Britt now controls a huge media empire and devotes all the resources of the newspaper to giving coverage to the Green Hornet. Britt and Kato know nothing about journalism or the criminal life they're trying to infiltrate, so they enlist the help of the unwitting Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz in a forgettable part), a secretary who basically uses her "minor in criminology" to inform the guys' decisions as the film progresses. Like I said - much of this film makes very little sense.


For me, the most surprising aspect of this movie was how great the 3D looked. This is some of the best post-converted 3D we've seen, and this film stands as a beacon that this process can be completed with successful results if done correctly. Much has been made of the rise of 3D, and many of the complaints surround dark picture quality and murky visuals. There's none of that to be found here, since Gondry and company have somehow cracked the code: the image is crisp, and even scenes set in the dark pop and have nice contrast. And I don't think I can rave about this enough: the final credits sequence looks phenomenal. Even if you absolutely hate the film, go to sleep and wake up for the end credits because that's nearly worth the price of admission.


I'm not sure how many people are truly anticipating The Green Hornet, considering it's based on a character popularized on the radio in the 1930's and in an almost forgotten TV series playing second fiddle to Adam West's "Batman." But if you're willing to excuse many of the logical flaws and a preposterous climax involving a car riding in an elevator, I think you'll find a few things to like about this film. Until next time...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Burning Palms

What better way to start off 2011 than with one of the most offensive movies I've seen in the past decade? The tagline for this film is "five stories that will mess you up for life," and though they're being a bit cocky assuming anyone will remember this film for the rest of his or her life, it's definitely representative of the extremely bizarre subject matter featured throughout.

Burning Palms
Writer/Director: Christopher Landon
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Nick Stahl, Dylan McDermott, Rosamund Pike, Jamie Chung, Paz Vega


Full disclosure: I had never even heard of this movie before I received an invite to a screening of it, but after checking out the cast and realizing this was Chris Landon's directorial debut (screenwriter of Disturbia, which I liked a lot), I figured I'd check it out. I didn't read a plot summary or anything, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And I'm warning you right now: if you're even remotely offended by "taboo" content, stay the eff away from Burning Palms.


The film inexplicably presents its five Los Angeles-set storylines as if they are framed in a comic book, with page-turning transitions and artwork between each part of the anthology. This made little sense to me; it appeared Landon was just ripping of Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat (review, podcast), which put the same stylistic effect to good use by having each of the stories overlap, providing a unity to the film that Burning Palms sorely lacks. Each story supposedly deals with stereotypes of five different areas of L.A. (Santa Monica, West Hollywood, etc.), but with as messed up as this film is, I'm not entirely sure what Landon is trying to say about each of these areas. Is Sherman Oaks a hotbed for rapists? Does Santa Monica regularly house sadistic daughters with Oedipal complexes toward their fathers? If there's a legitimate point to this film, then I missed it. I was distracted by how "in your face" the story was at all times, all but begging us to be offended by its crassness and politically incorrect content.


This is one of the worst movies I've seen in the past 10 years that features relatively known actors. From an actor's standpoint, I can see why they'd want to be in a movie like this: it provides them an opportunity to act in a way that would rarely be acceptable in a mainstream Hollywood film. So I don't really blame them for being in this movie, but Chris Landon just takes this story past the point of entertainment and to another level entirely. Watching this film is a miserable experience, and almost all of the characters are despicable. Even the ones we're supposed to care about are incredibly annoying - Rosamund Pike's jealous fiancĂ©e character, Jamie Chung's regretful schoolgirl, Paz Vegas' mistreated maid. It's hard to find three characters (out of about twenty) that are in any way tolerable, so perhaps relatability is this film's greatest weakness.

I wish I could just sit here and type out everything that happened in Burning Palms so you could read it in incredulity, wondering if I'm joking. The problem is I can't even recommend this movie to people I know who enjoy messed up movies; it's just kind of terrible, even if it has subversive subject matter. I will give away the plot for the final story in the film, so if you plan on seeing this (again, an act I wouldn't encourage) then stop reading for the next two paragraphs. 

Spoilers Ahead

The final storyline begins in an apartment decorated for Christmas, with Christmas music playing in the background. One of the first images we see is Zoe Saldana, face down on the floor of her living room, being raped by a guy named Robert, dressed in a hoodie and a white mask (played by Nick Stahl from Sin City and Terminator 3). He leaves, and she slowly recovers. The next morning, she finds his wallet under her couch and tracks the guy down at the pizza joint where he works. She confronts him and says she'll give him the wallet back if he meets her at another pizza place later that night for dinner. He's shocked by this, and tries to just get her to leave him alone, but eventually reluctantly agrees. 

They meet for dinner and she talks him up as if it's a date, going so far as to ask him back to her apartment. Naturally, Robert is taken aback: he just wants his wallet back and nothing to do with this scenario anymore. She's getting kind of creepy. After she reveals that the wallet is actually back at her place, they go there, play a board game (!), and as tensions rise - this whole time we think she might be planning some massive act of revenge - she begs him to rape her again. What. The. Eff. And he does. And she starts crying because she doesn't want him to leave. But he gets his wallet and leaves. Close up of the mask on the middle of the living room floor. End of movie.

End of spoilers


So if you happened to read that last section, you'll have an idea of what kind of messed up stuff you'll experience if you ever see this film. And trust me, that's only part of it; the entire movie has a similar tone. Normally I'd say writer/directors should be rewarded for going outside the norm and trying something different, but I can't in good conscience recommend this to anyone. I respect the filmmakers for their efforts - it's hard to get any movie made these days, let alone one like this - but I don't condone what they've done with Burning Palms. Until next time...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 24 - Death to Smoochy (Guests: Free Reyes and Jim Napier from GeekTyrant.com)


Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for listening to another episode of The Not Just New Movies Podcast. This week, Ben is joined by his cohorts at GeekTyrant.com - Free Reyes and Jim Napier, aka Mazer and Tiberius - to discuss Danny DeVito's 2002 film, Death to Smoochy.


Don't forget to click our brand new buttons below: check us out on Facebook, subscribe to the show in iTunes, send us an e-mail at notjustnewmovies@gmail.com [or call and leave us a voicemail at (904) 469-6566], follow us on Twitter, or add us to your RSS feed. Come back and join us next week as we review John Carpenter's 1984 film, Starman.



Breakdown:

Intro and Character Name Game: 00:00 - 2:20

Media Consumed
Jim: I'm Still Here, The Horde: 2:20 - 4:25
Free: Gran Turismo 5, upcoming TV shows: 4:25 - 6:35
Ben: Breaking Bad, Party Down, Best Worst Movie: 6:35 - 14:30

Review of the Week: 14:40 - 49:16
Apple II: 49:16 - 50:12
Listener Voicemails, E-Mails, and new Twitter followers: 50:12 - 55:58
Character Name Game Wrap-Up: 55:58 - 1:00:24
Conclusion: 1:00:24 - End