Monday, February 28, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 31 - G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Guests: Allison Loring from Gordon and the Whale and Joe Leininger from The Playing Field)


In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler are joined by Allison Loring (from GordonAndTheWhale.com) and Joe Leininger (from The Playing Field) to discuss Stephen Sommers' 2009 film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.





Introduction
Character Name Game intro - 01:45

Media Consumed
Allison
A Single Man - 2:37
Adele concert - 3:16

Joe
Most Wanted - 4:15
Season 1 of "Breaking Bad" - 9:23
(We briefly discuss "The Chicago Code" - 10:23)

Tyler
Blade II - 12:10
Barenaked Ladies albums, Stunt and Maroon - 14:25

Ben
Just For Kicks - 15:58

Review
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - 19:10

Wrap-Up
Next Week: Secret Window - 1:07:35
Listener Voicemail/E-Mail/Twitter - 1:09:05
Character Name Game - 1:13:45
Where You Can Find Us - 1:17:31


Article Referrenced: Fake Casting Captain Planet: The Movie

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hall Pass

After a successful string of movies in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Farrelly Brothers have had a shaky track record lately. Their newest directorial effort, Hall Pass, is the most recent entry in the raunchy adult comedy genre revitalized by Judd Apatow and his contemporaries over the past decade. It doesn't quite live up to the Apatow standard, but impressive chemistry and an inherent likability between the leads makes this an easy movie to digest.

Hall Pass
Directors: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate


Owen Wilson has had some issues in his personal life in the past few years, but all of that seems like ancient history for him here. He's back - not quite his full self, it seems, but invested enough to keep us entertained throughout. The aloof schtick, his bread and butter, is firing on almost every cylinder once again, and as enjoyable as Wilson is to watch, I think this movie is further proof that he's just a small part of a greater equation: he needs someone to bounce back that rapid-fire dialogue. In Hall Pass, Wilson's partner in crime is current SNL star Jason Sudeikis, shining here as he makes the transition to leading man after a solid supporting turn in one of 2010's best romantic comedies, Going the Distance. The two work very well together, coming close to the phenomenal chemistry of Wilson and Vince Vaughn in 2005's underrated Wedding Crashers. They play suburban husbands granted a "hall pass" by their wives - one week off from marriage, in which they can theoretically do whatever they want (read: have sex with whoever they can).


On the female side of the gender line, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate aren't given as much to work with, but the actresses are equally capable at throwing quips and digs as their male counterparts. (This project actually marks a reunion for Sudeikis and Applegate, who also co-starred in Going the Distance.) This film is being told from mostly the male perspective - take a look at the Farrelly Brothers' filmography and this shouldn't come as a surprise - so most of the best zingers go to Wilson and Sudeikis. While many of the best moments of the film are seen in the trailers, one of my favorite sequences comes during an ill-timed conversation between the two male leads during a housewarming party for a rich couple: the rest of the party - including the wives - has moved into a safe room and listens in as the guys spout off a serious of wildly inappropriate comments about the people at the party, completely unaware they're being eavesdropped upon.


This movie has its moments, but ultimately I'd say it's just worth a rental. There wasn't anything that truly separated it from other films of this kind, and the script felt watered down at times, with the kind of typical story beats that make you roll your eyes if you've seen more then fifteen movies in your life. It's the kind of thing you hope a movie like this might have the balls to rise above, but disappointingly this isn't that kind of movie - it's still a studio comedy, and though it's certainly funny at points, it's not all that special in the grand scheme of things. Hall Pass is better than its release date would indicate - for you newbies out there, early months of the year are typically dumping grounds for terrible films - and it works as a nice little buddy comedy for the male leads, but it won't change your life.


I could spend a few more paragraphs nitpicking some plot points and details (including some of the worst Photoshopped family photos I've ever seen on film), but this isn't the kind of movie that deserves that kind of attention to detail. It knows what it is, and embraces its identity as best it can - Hall Pass is a studio comedy that attempts to push the boundaries at times (including a full frontal male nudity scene that makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall looks like a kid's movie), but succeeds mainly as a showcase for satisfying chemistry between Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis. Until next time...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Unknown

After the surprise box office success of Taken in 2008, it makes financial sense for studios to attempt to replicate that formula and capitalize on the revitalized star power of Liam Neeson. Such is the case with Unknown; though the movie truly isn't much like Taken at all, that won't stop WB from marketing the film as if it's a spiritual sequel. Questionable marketing aside (there could be - and probably is - an entire blog devoted to questionable marketing), Unknown is a solid thriller that cashes in on that oh-so-catchy hook: mistaken identity.

Unknown
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones


Instead of Taken, a more apt comparison would be to Roman Polanski's 1988 movie Frantic. In that film, Harrison Ford plays an American businessman visiting Paris, and when his wife disappears from his hotel room, he goes on a citywide search to track her down (with not much help from the bureaucratic authorities). In Unknown, Liam Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a biotech researcher who experiences a car crash in Berlin and whose wife no longer recognizes him after the accident. Not content with simply a difficult situation for its protagonist, this film takes the concept to the next level - there's another man in town who says HE is the real Martin Harris, and this guy actually has all of the correct documentation (Neeson's passport was lost before the accident). Director Jaume Collet-Serra cribs from Polanski's twisty thriller in more ways than one, most notably utilizing the same panicked tone and building a paranoid atmosphere that helps us identify with the protagonist's struggle. (This same atmospheric world-building was used recently to great effect in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.)


There's nothing particularly noteworthy about Unknown; it's a fast-paced puzzle that is simply a good time at the movies. The performances are satisfying: Neeson strikes an admirable balance of stoicism and hysteria, January Jones is unobjectionable as Martin's "is-she, isn't-she" wife, Diane Kruger gets to flaunt an accent as a Bosnian cab driver pulled into the fray, and even Frank Langella makes an appearance to do some damage control near the end. He and Jones have perhaps the most thankless roles in the film, but the structure and pacing keep the plot flowing so quickly that their shortcomings (along with the script's) don't seem too offensive.


Unknown asks a lot from the audience in the realm of believability, especially as the story progresses and the twists are revealed. I'm not talking only about the physicality, either - the basic building blocks of the plot are so flimsy that it just takes a whisper to knock them over. The pacing moves quick enough so as not to allow us to stop and consider the true silliness of the scenario, but not quick enough so that we don't roll our eyes a bit in the process. It's so much easier to excuse small flaws in a well-executed movie like this than in something like Just Go With It, a cinematic disaster in every sense of the phrase.


Contrary to the marketing campaign, this movie is much more of a straight-forward drama than an action extravaganza. It comes down to this: if you're looking for Liam Neeson kicking ass, Unknown probably isn't your best bet. There's a great car chase set piece in the middle of the film and a nice fight sequence at the end, but the infrequency of the action makes the movie feel much more adult than its contemporaries, many of which have seemingly been trying to emulate video games instead of actual films. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a contemporary thriller that plays on notions of identity and the potential breakdown of reality as seen through the viewpoint of a single character, this is your solution.

The film was just released yesterday, and already Collet-Serra has used its success (or perceived success) as a stepping stone to more projects: he's got a Dracula project called Harker set up at WB, will direct a new television pilot for ABC called "The River", and just signed on to direct a movie called Red Circle, which is a remake of a 1970 French heist film. I've got high hopes for the latter; hopefully the director's ability to bring the mistaken identity genre to the modern day will translate well to the heist genre (one of my favorites). Sound off in the comments section if you've had a chance to check this one out - what did you think? Until next time...

Friday, February 18, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 30 - The Wizard (Guest: Eric D. Snider from Cinematical)


Ben and Tyler are joined by Eric D. Snider (of Cinematical.com and Film.com) to discuss Todd Holland's 1989 film, The Wizard. The tagline - which we don't normally have on this podcast - for this episode comes courtesy of Eric this week: "It's basically like porn, where instead of sex, it's video games."




Introduction
Character Name Game intro - 01:45

Media Consumed
Eric
Big Momma's House: Like Father, Like Son - 3:03
Hocus Pocus - 5:19

Tyler
Monday Night Raw - 6:56
"Eagle Heart" - 8:10

Ben
Insomnia - 11:10

(Oh, and Tyler stopped watching "The Cape" - 16:09)

Review
The Wizard - 17:24

Wrap-Up
Next Week: GI Joe: Rise of Cobra - 51:40
Listener Voicemail/E-Mail/Twitter - 52:59
Character Name Game - 54:38
Where You Can Find Us - 55:36

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 29 - Lawrence of Arabia


In this week's episode, Tyler and Ben discuss David Lean's 1962 epic, Lawrence of Arabia.





Introduction
Character Name Game intro - 01:10

Media Consumed
Tyler
Acquisition of Retro Duel - 2:05
Final Fight - 3:15
Season 2 Premiere of "Justified" - 7:55

Ben
Rocky - 13:10

Review
Lawrence of Arabia - 19:15

Wrap-Up
Next Week: The Wizard - 59:40
Listener Voicemail/E-Mail/Twitter - 1:00:55
Character Name Game - 01:02:12
Where You Can Find Us - 01:06:20

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just Go With It

A year from now when I look back at the films of 2011, I will remember Just Go With It for one dubious reason alone: it is one of two "comedies" I've ever seen in which I literally didn't crack a smile during its entire duration.

Just Go With It
Director: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson


Just Go With It actually impressed me. I was expecting it to be terrible, and it was somehow worse: it was unwatchable. Every character is unlikeable, every beat is telegraphed, and worst of all, it was painfully unfunny. I know this might offend some people, but Just Go With It targets an entire subset of the population I never want to encounter: the absolute dumbest, trashiest crowd who cackles at nutshots and roars with raucous laughter at jokes that could have been written by a 10-year-old. It's almost hard to hate the movie when people next to me are giggling like idiots as a child runs his head into Sandler's balls in the equivalent of a Chuck E. Cheese's and yells, "Mommy, that man put his pee pee on my face!", because there is clearly an audience out there for this kind of "comedy". But it's the worst possible audience, and the few douchebags sitting next to me laughing are the reason the cinematic landscape is filled with this type of bullshit year after year while the studios laugh all the way to the bank and executives pat themselves on the back for another job well done.


The marketing for this film goes out of its way to reach out to a male audience. Along with objectifying women in the most blatant way possible (slow motion shots of model Brooklyn Decker coming out of the water in a bikini while everyone stares slack-jawed), commercials command men to "tell your girlfriend it's a romantic comedy," implying that secretly the film is actually something else, perhaps interesting or different from what we expect. Unfortunately that's not the case at all - if you told your girlfriend it's a romantic comedy, you'd just be telling her the truth. And not only that, it's the worst kind of romantic comedy, one with a formula more stale than a month-old bag of pretzels. And whatever, Sony: if it's a romantic comedy, that's fine - but don't act like you're letting us in on something and then give us a pile of cinematic crap with zero redeeming qualities. Take your bait-and-switch tactics and shove 'em.

I'm not one of those people who will try to claim Sandler has never been in anything good before. I dug Funny People (though it was about an hour too long) and I found many of his early films legitimately interesting from a character standpoint (even if he plays overgrown man-children in many of them). But in recent years, the guy's been making movies that look more like the fake movies from the filmography of his character in Funny People than real films. Here, he's the same character he's played in almost every movie of the past decade, with no attempt to separate himself from that stereotype in any way. If this is one of America's favorite box office comedy stars, I weep for our country.


In a plot so stupid it makes my head hurt, a jilted Sandler uses a fake wedding ring to get women (just like that episode of "Seinfeld"). He flaunts his conquests to his assistant (Aniston, who we're supposed to think is average looking), a single mom with two kids. But when Sandler meets a 23-year-old elementary school teacher named Palmer (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker in her feature debut), he inexplicably seems to have decided this is the woman of his dreams. Though since they have no real connection or meaningful conversation, this point seems questionable at best. Of course, complications quickly arise when Palmer discovers his fake ring. Instead of telling her that he's divorced - common sense, right? - Sandler reveals that he's about to be divorced, and through a series of nonsensical demands presumably justified by the writers just speaking the title of this movie aloud, Palmer wants to meet everyone involved (and apparently spend as much time with them as possible). Naturally, a fake family dynamic is set up, and who better to use than Aniston as Sandler's fake wife?

This movie is so bad I found it hard to convince myself it was a real movie while watching it. The acting was so forced from everyone - including vets like Sandler and Aniston - and there was no passion to be found in the entire thing. Technically speaking, it looked horrible: flat, visually uninteresting, staged. A majority of the movie takes place in Hawaii (the result of yet another series of unfunny jokes and Sandler's character's seemingly unending bank account), and there director Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Benchwarmers) managed another improbable feat: making a movie with Hawaiian locations boring to watch. The actors seemed as if they were simply going through the motions, but it's even worse when you can tell there's no zest from the crew behind the scenes either.


While Sandler and Aniston gave performances in line with their recent work, model Brooklyn Decker rose to the challenge of filling out a bikini - and that's about it. Her actions make the least sense of any character in any movie in recent memory. Comedian Nick Swardson brought his usual over-the-top brand of comedy to his role, but showed no spark of life even in the most ridiculous scene, which involved performing CPR on a poorly designed fake sheep. Watching Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews was akin to seeing someone you love being tortured. Sure, they played despicable characters, but their acting was downright reprehensible. And many of you are probably aware of my hatred of most children in movies, but the two that are featured here are some of the most annoying in cinematic history (one speaks in a repulsive faux-British accent the whole time, the other is quiet but a potential sociopath).

If you've seen two or three rom-coms in your life, you know exactly how this is going to end. Mark Twain once said, "I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which really happened." Unfortunately for us all, this movie really happened. If you respect your time on Earth, you won't waste it on Just Go With It. Until next time...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 28 - Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Guest: Raffi Asdourian from The Film Stage)


In this week's episode, Tyler and Ben are joined by Raffi Asdourian (from TheFilmStage.com) to discuss Kerry Conran's 2004 film, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.




Introduction
Character Name Game intro - 01:21

Media Consumed
Tyler
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - 02:00
Amazon.com's free Star Wars novella, "The Lost Tribe of the Sith" - 06:40
Angry Video Game Nerd's Star Wars episode - 07:35

Raffi
The King's Speech - 09:50
Elite Squad - 12:51
Killzone 3 beta, Little Big Planet 2 - 15:10

Ben
"Lights Out" - 17:20
Raffi recommends "Home Movies" - 19:47

Review
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - 20:50

Wrap-Up
Next Week: Lawrence of Arabia - 46:30
Listener Voicemail/E-Mail/Twitter - 47:27
Character Name Game - 48:45
Where You Can Find Us -50:22

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 27 - Blind Fury


(Apologies for the late posting this week. The next episode should be posted within a few days.)

In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler discuss Phillip Noyce's 1989 film, Blind Fury. A blind Rutger Hauer with a samurai sword? Yes please.




Introduction
In My Netflix - 01:56
Character Name Game Intro - 9:54

Media Consumed
Tyler
Mirrormask - 10:48
Season 2 Premiere of "Archer," newest episode of "The Office" - 15:30
Terminator 5/Indiana Jones 5 crossover trailer - 17:29

Ben
John Lithgow's one man show, "Stories By Heart" - 21:53
Sundance highlights - 24:09
"Parks and Recreation" Season 3 - 26:12

Review
Blind Fury - 30:30

Wrap-Up
Listener Voicemail/E-mail/Twitter - 1:12:48
Character Name Game - 1:16:30
Next Week: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - 1:22:40