Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Dark of the Moon is not only the best entry in Michael Bay's Transformers saga, it's also one of the best action movies of the year. Bay does what he does best - make stuff look awesome - but more importantly, the story and characters actually feel important to the film instead of ancillary functions of a purely CGI-driven creation. Ehren Kruger's script is a perfect match for Bay's directing style, balancing just the right amount of story with terrific action beats. Though it clocks in around two hours and forty minutes, the last hour is one of the most action packed segments in recent film history.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich


Let the record show that I believe Michael Bay is a brilliant filmmaker. Allow me to be clear: the man doesn't necessarily make brilliant films (OK, never), but he's a craftsman of the highest order who is able to accomplish things that no other director in Hollywood can. He has made an art of shooting helicopters, explosions, chase scenes, and destruction. He uses his actors as chess pieces in a larger game, and if you're willing to play that game along with him, you're going to have a hell of a good time.

One of the many reasons the second film, Revenge of the Fallen, didn't work that well for me was because (and I realize this may sound crazy) there was an overabundance of robots. It was nothing but gnashing metal and mechanisms, a soulless piece of work that reeked of problems due to the then-in-full-swing Writers Guild of America strike. Dark of the Moon corrects all of these issues, boiling down the number of Transformers to the essential players and avoiding unnecessarily complicated mythologies.


The action in this film is jaw-droppingly impressive. The opening scene, an epic (and I don't use that word lightly here) battle between the Autobots and Decepticons on their home world, rivals any space battle from any of the Star Wars films in the realm of size and scope. Much of this credit should be given to ILM for creating the visual effects, which, aside from being gorgeous, are easy to comprehend and immensely complicated. I normally don't put much stock in the Oscars, but if the Academy fails to acknowledge the incredible effects work done in this movie, they truly are an irrelevant organization.


The reason I believe the action works so well in Dark of the Moon is because Bay essentially took scenes from the original Transformers and improved upon them. There is a fantastic highway car chase sequence (among the director's best, an accomplishment in itself) that's basically a more involved version of a similar scene in the first film. Same goes for the final 20 minutes, in which Shia LaBeouf runs through a huge city against all odds toward a piece of alien technology. Though some may find this a bit repetitive, I have absolutely no problem with it: since these scenes are all bigger and more bombastic than the first film (there are District 9-type alien ships floating above Chicago this time, and FAR more destruction and chaos in the streets), the movie doesn't feel like a poor imitation of something we've already seen. Bay's use of live action 3D here is phenomenal, and best used in a base-jumping sequence that was shot practically with the same technology that James Cameron invented for Avatar.


Rosie Huntington-Whitely is a step up from Megan Fox, and even though Rosie's character isn't quite as involved as I would have liked, she's still a tenfold improvement from Fox's Mikaela Banes. Rosie is definitely a "Michael Bay girl" (women in his movies should have their own classification, like Bond girls) and therefore isn't relied on as much as the male protagonists, but for what it's worth, I liked her a lot. She gives Sam Witwicky added motivation for self-improvement, and her presence seemed to insert a jolt of energy into what could have been a tired performance from Shia (who I'd imagine is getting sick of this character by now). And as a longtime LaBeouf fanboy, it should come as no surprise to that I was a big fan of his schtick here. He's a true movie star in my mind - tremendously watchable and easily foreseeable as the next big A-list powerhouse in line with DiCaprio.

Dark of the Moon also succeeds in pulling together a strange collection of character actors to fill in the human roles in the movie, including John Turturro, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong, Patrick Dempsey, Alan Tudyk, and the always-entertaining John Malkovich. I've heard complaints that the comedy didn't work for many people, but I laughed a lot and found almost everyone enjoyable to watch. The exception, surprisingly, was McDormand, an actress I normally like, but found severely annoying after her first five minutes on screen. Even Ken Jeong was fun to watch, though he was acting as an amalgamation of every character he's ever played.


In my review of the original Transformers, I wrote that I had "never seen so much debris in my life," and now it falls on me to update that statement: Dark of the Moon now holds the record for the most debris of any film I've ever seen. Even if you're not in it for the whole thing, the last forty-five minutes stands as one of the most impressive visual spectacles to hit theaters in a long time. Every other summer action film - Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, even Fast Five - must bow down to Michael Bay as the king of the summer blockbuster. When Bay is at his peak, nobody does it better. Until next time...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 46 - The Big Lebowski (Guest: Dan Eckman, Director of "Mystery Team")


In this week's episode, Tyler and Ben are joined by Dan Eckman (director of Mystery Team) to discuss the Coen Brothers' 1998 film, The Big Lebowski.




Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 2:18

Media Consumed
Tyler
"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" - 3:35
Lionheart - 6:10

Dan
Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons - 8:47
Magic: The Gathering - 12:45

Ben
Midnight in Paris - 14:24
Swingers - 16:45

Review
The Big Lebowski - 20:10

Wrap-Up
Next Time: Wet Hot American Summer - 58:15
Listener E-mail/Voicemail - 59:41
Character Name Game - 1:00:43
Where You Can Find Us - 1:05:20

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Drive

Though Drive's premise - a Hollywood stuntman moonlights as a getaway driver - seems similar to action-heavy fare like The Transporter, this film takes a B-movie plot and turns it into A-list quality, resulting in a movie unlike anything I've ever seen. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn infuses Drive with smoldering suspense and punctuates it with moments of intense violence, delivering a Los Angeles crime noir that revs up the tension with each passing minute.

Drive
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks


Though Drive is Refn's Hollywood debut, the director is already well respected in film nerd circles for the Pusher trilogy and Bronson, the film in which Inception and The Dark Knight Rises star Tom Hardy delivered his breakout performance. Drive is his first stateside production, and Refn is acutely aware of the badassery that has come before him in Hollywood. This movie is unquestionably post-modern, referencing other films constantly; from its hot neon pink cursive opening credits reminiscent of Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. to early moments of the downtown skyline that resemble Michael Mann's superlative L.A. movie Collateral, the city of Los Angeles is as much a character to Refn as the people inhabiting his film. The references don't stop with the city, though: Ryan Gosling's character is a hodgepodge of cinematic badassery through the years. Never addressed by name in the film, Gosling is credited as "Driver," similar to Charles Bronson's character of "Harmonica" in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West or Eastwood's Man With No Name from that director's "Dollars trilogy." Driver chews on a toothpick the same way Chow-Yun Fat grinds on a match in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow, and he wears a jacket with a scorpion embroidered on it much like Robert Rodriguez's mariachi character throughout his own "Mexico trilogy" of films.


Refn chooses his music carefully, and this movie could easily be his Pulp Fiction in terms of soundtracks. Drive has one of the most interesting soundtracks I've heard in a long time because the music mirrors the ambiance of the film. Blending sounds from the 80's and today, the retro vibe of many of the tracks call attention to the way Drive is influenced by its predecessors but, at the same time, adds a modern edge. (Check out Kavinsky's eerie "Nightcall" or College's fantastic "A Real Hero" for examples.)


The performances are magnetic, with Gosling and rising star Carey Mulligan leading a charge of talented character actors including "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston, "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks, the ever-menacing and versatile Ron Perlman, and a surprising turn from comedy legend Albert Brooks in a deadly serious role. Refn and writer Hossein Amini populate the movie with quiet moments, allowing the actors to carry the film instead of relying on excessive action. But when those action scenes kick in, they're brutal as hell; the shocking violence (and incredibly loud sound design) shatters audience expectations as much as fragments of bone on screen. And while some may complain "not much happens" in the first half of the film aside from relationship building and creating tone, it takes a turn halfway through that eventually brings it to a pretty vicious conclusion.


The excellent opening scene is unlike any car chase I've ever seen. Refn resists the urge to pull his camera back, opting instead to shoot the entire sequence from within Driver's vehicle, giving us a realistic perspective of a getaway. By breaking expectations early, Refn lets us know what we're in for as an audience: a slow burn noir heavy on character and atmosphere. Fantastic direction, a great soundtrack, intense action, and solid acting make Drive one of the best films of the year. Though I won't assume it'll work for everyone, it worked wonderfully for me and I can't wait to see what Refn does next in Hollywood. Until next time...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 45 - Pulp Fiction (Guest: DC Pierson from "Mystery Team" and DERRICK Comedy)


In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler are joined by writer and comedian DC Pierson (Mystery Team, DERRICK Comedy) to discuss Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film, Pulp Fiction.




Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 5:00

Media Consumed
Tyler
True Grit (2010) - 5:20

DC
"Game of Thrones" - 14:25
Mesrine: Killer Instinct - 21:15

Ben
Superman Returns - 22:45

Review
Pulp Fiction - 32:00

Wrap-Up
Next Time: The Big Lebowski - 1:25:05
Listener E-mail/Voicemail - 1:26:15
Character Name Game - 1:29:00
Where You Can Find Us - 1:31:45

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Green Lantern

Of the plethora of superhero movies coming out this summer, I had the lowest expectations for Green Lantern. The marketing bounced back and forth between good and bad trailers so often I was convinced the movie would be a disaster. Strange aliens, outer space, a giant cloud taking over a city? Could even action maven Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale, Mask of Zorro) pull this all together into a coherent and interesting movie? Surprisingly, Green Lantern is far from a catastrophe. It’s certainly not transcendent, but it’s imminently watchable entertaining summer fare that surpassed expectations.

Green Lantern
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong


After a ton of exposition setting up the history of a group of intergalactic warriors known as the Green Lantern Corps, the film whips through space and shows the demise of Abin Sur, the Corps' best soldier who crashes on earth and instructs his energy ring to find a worthy successor. Enter Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a test pilot for Ferris Industries with a chip on his shoulder. See, his old man was also a pilot and went down in flames, so he's cocky, brash, arrogant - you know the type. Sound a bit like Top Gun? The comparisons don't stop there. A flight simulation early in the movie was so close to Tony Scott's iconic imagery that the filmmakers may as well have inserted footage directly from Tom Cruise's dogfight sequences into Green Lantern and called it a day.


And though this movie has shades of "we've seen this before," it eventually goes to some interesting places. Hailed as a "space opera" since its inception, the film lives up to that description by following our newly-minted hero to a planet called Oa. Home to other green lantern members - including the Guardians of the Universe and Sinestro (Mark Strong), the hardass leader of the Corps - Oa is a home base for Hal Jordan as he trains under the tutelage of a hulking alien named Kilowog (voice of Michael Clarke Duncan). And while the "power gaining/training" sequences in superhero films are almost always the most plodding plot points, this one is surprisingly cool. The Green Lanterns (Hal Jordan is the only human, but there are thousands of others across the universe) harness the energy of willpower, and their rings allow them to create whatever their minds can imagine. So in this training sequence, what should have been a fairly boring segment of the movie as we wait for Hal to fight the real bad guys was actually entertaining; by setting up they can create anything from their minds, the audience never quite knows exactly what's going to be created, so we're always at least a bit surprised with what we see (which is more than some superhero movies can say).


The plot details aren't worth hashing out here - it essentially boils down to an intergalactic war between willpower and fear - but Martin Campbell and the four screenwriters are able to take a difficult premise and condense it into easy-to-digest summer entertainment. You probably won't see anyone referring to Green Lantern as "the greatest superhero movie since The Dark Knight" (as some did with X-Men: First Class), but it's far better than it has any right to be. Why? Ryan Reynolds. The man is just so damn charming, it's impossible not to root for him. I think he may be the perfect mainstream movie star. Those who witnessed the rise of Tom Cruise may disagree, but I think Reynolds has more charisma and screen presence than Cruise, one of the biggest movie stars in the world.


Blake Lively, on the other hand, has none of Reynolds’ charm or comic timing. As Carol Ferris, she’s Jordan’s childhood sweetheart; though the character is ostensibly supposed to be a strong powerful female figure, she’s basically just the same old love interest we’ve seen time and time again. Don’t get me wrong - she’s serviceable in the role, but she doesn’t elevate the material nearly as much (or as effortlessly) as Reynolds. She stands around and looks hot, providing the occasional “I’m disappointed in you” speech to our hero to spur him into action.


The rest of the cast is mostly wasted: the voices of Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan are used briefly during the training scenes on Oa, and the versatile Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, RockNRolla) scowls his way through about 15 minutes of screen time. Perennial favorite Peter Sarsgaard does some interesting work as scientist Hector Hammond. While examining the body of Abin Sur, Hammond becomes infected with a part of the Parallax consciousness, allowing him to read minds but unfortunately expanding his head to disgustingly monstrous proportions. Add to this the fact that Hammond has been jilted by Carol Ferris since childhood in favor of Hal Jordan, and you’ve got a motive for vengeance. Academy Award winner Tim Robbins is perhaps the most underused of all, playing a politician that could have been played by just about any male actor with a pulse. My roommate brought up a good point in our post-viewing discussion: he was hoping Robbins would provide the type of gravitas that Jeff Bridges brought to the role of Obidiah Stane back in the first Iron Man film, but sadly that character wasn’t given the opportunity.


To me, the most impressive aspect of Green Lantern is the disparity between the visual effects in the trailers and the finished effects in the movie. On many a GeekTyrant podcast, my cohorts and I discussed the strengths and weaknesses of Reynolds’ suit, a completely CGI creation. It works much better than early looks indicated, though the mask is still the most laughable aspect of the costume (and the film thankfully addresses this). Parallax, the villainous cloud that uses fear to consume souls - and that’s not a joke, by the way - is rendered beautifully. Never has an evil space cloud looked so good. Scenes in which it rampages through a city looked cheesy in the trailers, but work fairly well in context. Even the 3D is effective, truly utilizing the vastness of space to enhance the experience and giving the audience a sense of distance that was lacking even in the other world-spanning superhero movie released earlier this summer, Marvel’s Thor.


I’d imagine any film version of Green Lantern was always fighting an uphill battle between balancing the comic book lore for fans and spreading the appeal to a wide audience, and though I still hold to my beliefs that Ryan Reynolds would have been a much better Wally West (aka The Flash) than Hal Jordan, I believe Martin Campbell was able to use him to strike that balance to a successful degree. The action is fun and interesting to watch, the heart of the story is straightforward, but there are enough visual flairs in place to separate it from the seemingly never-ending stream of superhero films we’ve been getting since Singer breathed new life into the genre with X-Men back in 2000. This is as mainstream a version of this story as we’ll get, but for fans of the character (and fans of this genre in general), I imagine that will be enough. Until next time...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 44 - Once Upon a Time in the West (Guest: Mike Eisenberg from ScreenRant.com)


In this week's episode, Tyler and Ben are joined by Mike Eisenberg (from ScreenRant.com) to discuss Sergio Leone's 1968 western Once Upon a Time in the West.




Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 1:20

Media Consumed
Tyler
The Go-Go's in concert - 2:00
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted - 2:55
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale - 5:51

Mike
Face/Off - 9:20
Midnight in Paris - 10:15
Tree of Life - 12:15

Ben
Super 8 - 17:45
Superman 3 - 31:18

Review
Once Upon A Time In The West - 38:10

Wrap-Up
Next Time: Pulp Fiction - 1:17:08
Listener E-mail/Voicemail - 1:19:40
Character Name Game - 1:21:05
Where You Can Find Us - 1:23:00

Friday, June 10, 2011

Super 8

Further establishing himself as the next generation's Steven Spielberg, triple threat talent J.J. Abrams (writer/producer/director) has teamed up with the legend himself for the first original project of Abrams' feature directing career. Much like Chris Nolan's Inception last year, Super 8 is an idea that has been in Abrams' mind for many years and is a complete passion project. Spielberg produced Super 8, and you can feel his influences permeate every frame: visual style, character moments, relationships, and most importantly, what some people are referring to as the "nostalgia" factor (more on this later). Abrams successfully cribs Spielberg's old Amblin vibe, adding his own energy to an alien-on-the-loose story that is easily one of the best blockbusters of the year so far.

Super 8
Writer/Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Kyle Chandler


In 1979, a group of teenagers is making an 8mm film for an upcoming competition. A train crashes while they're filming, and the mysterious creature being transported is set loose in their small Ohio town. As the military quickly swoops in to clean up the wreckage, everyone - including one of the teenagers' fathers, the town sheriff - is searching for answers. Though the movie's scale grows as time passes, Super 8 still feels like a very personal film. It's the story of a young boy coming to terms with the passing of his mother and reconnecting to his father in the process. (It's similar to Hesher in that regard alone.) This is small town Americana filmmaking at its best, not shot on a studio backlot or a lot built for filming in New Mexico (ahem, Thor), but instead in a real West Virginia town to establish a sense that these locations actually exist.


As someone who generally is not a fan of kids in movies, the casting was surprisingly great. Everyone in Super 8 put in some really solid work, especially the main group of kids. That's the thing about movies like this and Joe Cornish's brilliant Attack the Block: it's fun to see alien-related events through the eyes of a younger crowd instead of the deadly serious eyes of adults all the time (see: Battle: Los Angeles). Joel Courtney was substantial as the lead and Elle Fanning provided a rare case in which nepotism wasn't annoying, but Riley Griffiths was my favorite as Charles, the director of "The Case," the short film the characters are working on (stick around during the credits to see the finished product). His catchphrase ("that's mint!") was irritating to some, but I'll admit I found it amusing. 


The adults were a bit less impressive, with Kyle Chandler wandering around looking confused and the best friend from The Truman Show unconvincingly playing a hardass military general. All things considered, though, the good outweighs the bad here. All of this is highlighted by the disgustingly talented Michael Giacchino, giving us a score that takes its cues from John Williams as much as J.J. took his from Spielberg. Abrams' script is essentially a "Romeo and Juliet with aliens" take, and gets a bit sentimental at points (especially the ending, reminiscent of Close Encounters but also District 9), but the movie is still totally watchable and highly enjoyable. And my God - that train crash sequence is spectacular beyond belief.


My cohort at GeekTyrant, Free Reyes, referred to Abrams as "Spielberg 2.0", an apt nickname that specifically captures the director's intent with this project. He is truly able to recreate the experience of many of Spielberg's old Amblin movies (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. immediately spring to mind), grounding spectacular events in a realism that makes it easy to identify with the characters. The nostalgia factor that everyone talks about comes from seeing kids left to their own devices, making movies and goofing around. I used to make movies with my friends (granted, I was much older than these kids were), but Super 8 still evokes that feeling of being in the moment and being passionate about a project you're working on. Everyone has experienced that at some point. I've seen people hate on this movie by saying something like, "just because the kids ride bikes, does that make it nostalgic?" I would say yes, actually. My generation in particular (born in '85) is probably among the last age bracket to physically remember what it feels like to not have the internet at our fingertips at all times. We grew up in a time when we would actually go out and ride our bikes around the neighborhood, playing outside with our friends. (Derrick Comedy's Mystery Team also riffs on this "bike riding as nostalgia" concept.)


But Abrams doesn't just operate within his mentor's shadow in this movie - he steps out of it to explore ideas of his own. There is a lot to be said about the concept of a "movie within a movie" here, with Abrams granting a similar sense of importance to the act of filming as he did as a producer on Matt Reeves' fantastic Cloverfield back in 2008. Not only is filming itself deemed important, but the power of performance is given an almost holy quality in Super 8. There's a scene before the train crash in which Alice (Elle Fanning) is rehearsing her lines for their little movie, and completely mesmerizes the guys with her acting. Later, Joe (Joel Courtney) applies zombie make-up to Alice's face and she asks him for pointers on how to play a zombie; when she goes into zombie mode, Joe is spellbound again. These are small moments, but I read them as a statement from the director praising film's potential to change the lives of audiences.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

I'm also of the mindset that Super 8 is a prequel to Cloverfield. Apparently Abrams has denied this in interviews back when the movie was first announced, but regardless of his misdirection, I think there is enough evidence to support the theory that the alien in Super 8 is somehow related to the alien we see in Cloverfield. I go in detail about this in the GeekTyrant audio review of Super 8, so check in there for more information. As a producer on Cloverfield and someone with a penchant for including his signature in every movie (Slusho, seen here on a blink-and-you-miss-it sign at the gas station), I don't think it's too much of a stretch to imagine Abrams wanting a connection between those films. Also, when you consider the aforementioned similarities of the importance of filming both to Super 8 and Cloverfield, I think the case gets a bit stronger. Regardless of J.J.'s intention, I consider this a spiritual prequel to Reeves' film. But what do you think? Sound off in the comments - I'm legitimately interested in hearing from everyone on this.

Super 8 is my preferred summer blockbuster: a project with talented names attached and an original concept. If it does well, you can bet Hollywood will make sure we continue to see films like these mixed in with our board game and superhero movies in the summers to come. Until next time...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drive Angry

A Panther Joe Payback
Drive Angry 3D (2011)
Director: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, William Fichtner

"I'm going to kill you, then I'm going to defile your corpse..."

Wait, wait, a Nicolas Cage movie that Ben hasn't reviewed yet on this site? Shenanigans. It's well documented that Cage is easily Ben's favorite actor, and possibly desired mentor, so I have no idea how this is possible. Unless he's been writing on another site. Sorry...really, NJNM, didn't mean to bring it up. Ben would never cheat on you. Honest.

For the casual viewers who were slowly being turned off by the clumsy and expensive option of 3D in theaters, I'm here to tell you that you missed out on one of the most entertaining action films I've seen in years. Drive Angry presents itself merely as a revenge, car driven movie but slowly unfurls as a story that broaches other realms of your psyche, kicks you in the nuts, jerks your emotions around, and does this all with Nic Cage shooting, cursing, and fornicating his way to the bad guys.
We meet up with Milton (Cage), who is hell bent on finding the perpetrators responsible for killing his loved ones. During one of his stops through the countryside, he meets up with a starry-eyed waitress named Piper (Heard), who exchanges her Charger for his protective nature. Meanwhile, a mysterious man named The Accountant (Fichtner) is tracking Milton's every move and will stop at nothing in his bounty hunter role.

The men that Milton are trying to find are part of a Satanic cult, led by the visceral Jonah King (Burke). I can't begin to tell you how creepy this character was without spoiling too many of the goodies, but Burke's performance gave this film a legendary antagonist that had Milton's wishing to "drink beer from his skull."
Even though this is an action movie and you can probably guess how most of the story will wrap up with a combination of any of three or four resolutions, Drive Angry was more about the journey than the ending. Nic Cage delivers one his more powerful performances and allows us to reminisce about earlier films like The Rock and why we loved the guy in the first place. Even though the nature of his character stunted much of the emotional connection with others, Cage flawlessly transitioned from vigilante to caring father to honest friend to horny, warm blooded male and back again.

I could sit here and tell you how awesome and attractive and (probably smart) Amber Heard is, but the reality is that she was cast as the female lead meant to slow Milton down. However, after digesting this movie completely I can safely say that Heard's portrayal of the confused, flighty waitress Piper was one of her best efforts. In your action movie mindset, you inherently yearn for Piper and Milton to have more of an emotional connection, but it doesn't matter because Milton is on a war path anyway and we don't know enough about Piper to understand why she just goes with the flow and helps Milton whenever he needs it. Piper tells us about halfway through the movie that she more or less just wants to be part of something and no longer wants to sit around waiting on people--a keen adianoeta referring to her employ and stagnant life dominated by hackneyed choices and an abusive boyfriend.
I really wish you liked guys.
I initially found the mysterious character of The Accountant a little corny to begin with, but William Fichtner (who I remember vividly as the bi-curious Amway salesman in Go) really did him enough justice throughout the story to salvage him from being the weak link in this movie. There's also a mini subplot where The Accountant (below) and Milton discuss and use a gnarly, antiquated shotgun known simply as the "God-killer" that helps to expand the ridiculousness and 3D attributes of Drive Angry in one fell swoop.

From a design standpoint, this film looked gorgeous and I can only imagine it being an exhilarating ride in the theaters, third dimension or not. The bookend sequences reminded you of a dark graphic novelization while the bulk of the movie was painted with this matted exterior set against these muscle cars that exuded nothing but masculinity. The special effects for the guns, explosions, and gore were all exaggerated and pulled off in a charming way similar to the effect desired in other campy action films like Kill Bill Vol. 1 and From Dusk till Dawn.
Honestly, I can't find any serious hangups I had about this violent, unforgiving rollercoaster. Perhaps the only thing that was a little tired was Piper actually dropping a line about Milton "being honest just this one time...." At this point she had thrown her conventional life away, and in reality Milton had no reason to be completely honest with her about his past--after so many shotgun shells and misadventures with cultists it was all semantics anyway.

I cannot recommend Drive Angry enough, especially to those who have lost touch with the ways of the smarmy Nic Cage. 9/10 stars.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trehern-Panther Podcast: That's What I Am

A Trehern-Panther Exclusive
That's What I Am (2011)
Written and Directed by Michael Pavone
Starring Ed Harris, Chase Ellison, Alexander Walters, Mia Rose Frampton and Randy Orton

In this mid-week podcast movie review romp, Trehern and Panther Joe (of ThePlayingFieldBlog.com fame) are at it again with their concise, mind-bending and crack-wise review of the WWE produced That's What I Am. We also take it to the papers with some Up Your Queue action. Check it out!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mrs. Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room

Researched and Executed by Alan Trehern

Mike Le Han directed, produced and co-wrote this enchanting short tale about a little girl and her search for some answers. The questions? Did her mother love her before giving her up to adoptive parents? Who is Mrs. Peppercorn? And where in blazes is the butcher and candlestick maker???


Mrs. Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room (2011)
Directed by Mike Le Han

Starring Emily Coggin, Margaret Jackman and Kerry Downing


Coming in at an admirable 25 minutes, my first impression was that this movie could in no way successfully weave a tale and then conclude it within that time span. Well, Mr. Crow, bon appetit! Le Han managed an excellent job of establishing the necessary character elements while simultaneously introducing the audience to the mystical and isolated town of Black Lake. The town serves as a character all its own, with its dark and unexplored alleyways and its eerie silence. The time setting is quaintly unclear, with Jeep Wranglers and cobblestone streets, adding yet another interesting facet to this strange but fantastical story.


The characters, as mentioned, are brief but well received. Coggin delivers a soft and noteworthy performance, balancing her character between too timid and too reckless. Her curiosity coupled with her politeness has the audience interested in her adventures without the stigma that usually accompanies child actors.


The music was beatifically composed, and played a larger role in the film then many might think. With so few characters, and little dialogue in some scenes, the music is commissioned to carry the film at some points, and Kliesch achieves this with an outstanding score.

In conclusion, Mrs. Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room is worth a viewing, and should be considered a jumping off point for a possible television series or wide release project. Le Han (who co-wrote the story with Helen Le Han) takes a short tale and garnishes it with amazing special effects, moving scores, and competent characters. A lovely, simple story in a world where "complexity" and "anti-heroism" is the new entertainment.

To view the film, visit http://www.mrspeppercornthemovie.co.uk/

Mrs Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room - Online Screener from Black Lake Films on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 43 - Slither (Guest: Germain Lussier from Slashfilm.com)


In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler are joined by Germain Lussier (from Slashfilm.com) to discuss James Gunn's 2006 film, Slither.





Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 1:21

Media Consumed
Tyler
DC is "rebooting" many of its comic titles - 1:56

Germain
Thrashin' - 11:05

Ben
Taking Flight: The Development of Superman - 24:15

Review
Slither - 31:11

Wrap-Up
Next Time: Once Upon A Time In The West - 57:22
Listener E-mail/Voicemail - 59:06
Character Name Game - 1:03:55
Where You Can Find Us - 1:07:25
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