Friday, July 29, 2011

The Clock

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just witnessed the most interesting movie I've ever seen. Christian Marclay's The Clock is a monument of nontraditional filmmaking; it has no consistent characters, no coherent score, and no legitimate story. It's a movie that consists solely of footage from other films, cut together into one 24-hour film about a single thing: time. The one through-line in the movie is that nearly every shot features a clock, a watch, or someone saying the time. The film is synchronized with the time the audience watches it (example: this screening began at 5pm Thursday and runs until 5pm Friday), allowing for a stunningly intricate - and original - theatrical experience.

The Clock
Director: Christian Marclay
Starring: Random actors from cinema history

If you're still confused as to how this thing is put together, a good example I can give you is if you were to walk into this movie just before noon, you'd see Leonardo DiCaprio playing the hand of cards that wins him tickets aboard the Titanic, and him rushing to make it in time. Then, you'd abruptly cut to Gary Cooper in High Noon, warily watching the clock as the bell tolls. This movie has no bounds, and cuts back and forth between cinematic eras and genres at will. It's fascinating, able to take us through a whirlwind of film history while simultaneously providing a constant reminder of the ever-ticking present.

If you're thinking, "this must have taken Marclay FOREVER to put together!" you're not the only one. This interview says it took the director and his team of assistants a year of searching and compiling footage before he even knew if it was possible to complete, and then another two years of editing to finish the movie. An unbelievable creation, The Clock is not just shots of large clocks in Grand Central Station or bank robbers synchronizing their watches during a heist: much of the movie is comprised of throwaway moments in which characters are walking through a room and a clock is on the wall out of focus behind them. After a few minutes of getting used to watching the movie, half of the fun becomes playing the game of trying to spot the timepiece in each shot. And sometimes, it's not even a clear view of what time it is, indicating a staggering level of detail that Marclay and his team had to utilize in order to pause and zoom in to confirm the actual time displayed.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film, though, is the way Marclay was able to edit the audio from thousands of different films down to a reasonably consistent level throughout. The hour of the film I watched was from 9:35pm to 10:35pm, so I was there during the famous 10:04pm lightning strike of the clock tower from Back to the Future. In that film, the main theme is blasting as Marty careens down the street in the DeLorean; in The Clock, the music is suppressed a bit to make sure the next edit to a completely different movie isn't aurally shocking when Marty and Doc are no longer needed. 

Marclay also would occasionally have audio from one clip bleed over into another, even if the time period or genre was totally different. In a black and white film noir, a woman steps out of the bathroom, talking to an unseen man in the other room. We then see a modern day color film shot of a man in a bedroom alone, perking his head up as if listening to the now-muffled-but-continuing conversation of the woman in the "other room." Many of these instances are done to humorous effect, and oftentimes conversations that make mention of time are cleverly placed for a laugh.

The director was able to craft a lot of visual gags as well. When one character exited a scene through a door, Marclay would cut to someone else from a totally different movie walking through another door and shutting it behind him. The result is a continuous "story" that can go in any direction, not shackled by traditional act structures or narrative constraints. Soon after I began watching this movie, I was completely spellbound. The Clock made me take a step back, allowing for reflection and realization that everyone - regardless of his or her stature or circumstance - is a slave to time. It's the one constant we all share, and no matter how different we are, it affects each of us and dictates the events in our lives.

Since The Clock pulls clips from thousands of movies, there's no way Marclay would ever be able to secure the rights to all of this footage; this makes it impossible to showcase in normal theaters unless it's a free exhibition (as I saw tonight at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Check your local museum schedule to see if it's coming to one near you. The Clock gets my highest stamp of approval and, along with being the most interesting, this just may be the most impressive film I've ever seen. Until next time...

Cowboys & Aliens

Jon Favreau continues to prove himself as an excellent director with Cowboys & Aliens, a movie that is a good summer flick that ends up being not quite as good as the sum of its parts. It's got a ton of energy, the cast is solid, and the effects are great, so even though the final product is missing that extra "spark," it's still a serviceable summer crowd-pleaser.

Cowboys & Aliens
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde

Favreau and his massive writing squad (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Otsby) are clearly passionate fans of the western genre, and their love for the material comes through on screen. The director takes a modern approach to framing vintage character archetypes, and his history of fantastic visual effects from the Iron Man films serves him well yet again. This is much more western than sci-fi, and that's to the film's benefit; the characters take this alien invasion seriously, and there's no joking tone or winking at the camera. It's a big world, full of similar vistas, gorges, and sweeping plains that you might find in an old John Ford movie. Favreau also battled the studio when they wanted the movie shot in 3D; he held his ground and shot it on film to capture the texture of those classic westerns that came before.

Daniel Craig is stoic, rugged, and dirty throughout - in other words, he makes a great cowboy. Taking a page from Eastwood's playbook, he lets his actions do most of the talking; his wandering amnesiac is a total badass, reminiscent (in attitude) of Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp in Tombstone. Harrison Ford gives one of his most inspired performances in years as the ridiculously-named Woodrow Dolarhyde, a hardass father with a good heart. The supporting cast does a good job, but ultimately their parts seem a bit undeserving of their talents. Guys like Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, and Walton Goggins have earned a bit more than what they were given here.

The alien design is pretty by-the-numbers (although better than the atrocious designs in Battle: Los Angeles), and their excuse for invading is laughably bad. Olivia Wilde's exposition gets a bit dreary at times, but it's evened out by some memorable chase sequences across stark scenery via land, air, and sea. The climax also features some memorable shots, including one in particular that was clearly influenced by Neill Blomkamp's District 9.

Listen, I liked this movie. It won't be among my favorites of the year or anything, but the structure and predictability is exactly the kind of "turn off your brain" entertainment that most people go to the movies for in the first place. It's well put-together, Favreau puts some style in it, and Craig and Ford go toe-to-toe in entertaining roles. But I still can't shake the feeling that it it was too predictable, the script suffers from its familiarity, and ultimately the movie just ends up coming up short. For summer fluff, Cowboys & Aliens is fine. Looking for anything more? Keep searchin', cowboy. Until next time...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 50 - Poltergeist

After a brief vacation, Ben returns to the podcast and joins Tyler in a discussion of Tobe Hooper's 1982 film, Poltergeist.

Character Name Game Intro - 3:25

Media Consumed
Shout-outs - 4:10
"Rizzoli and Isles" - 5:00
Zookeeper - 6:53

The Goonies - 9:24
Gone With the Wind - 15:12

Poltergeist - 25:05

Next Time: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - 57:07
Listener E-mail/Voicemail - 58:10
Character Name Game - 1:04:34
Up Your Specs - 1:07:00
Where You Can Find Us - 1:15:00

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Heading into Captain America, one question was at the forefront of my mind: could director Joe Johnston recapture the tone of his 1991 cult classic The Rocketeer and translate that into a superhero movie for today's audience? Thankfully, the answer is yes. This movie probably isn't going to be any Marvel fanboy's favorite, but it has enough action and humor to make it one of the fledgling studio's better efforts of the past couple years.

Captain America: The First Avenger
Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones

The newest in Marvel's ambitious multi-film buildup to The AvengersCaptain America shows yet another side to the studio's versatile approach to creating one consistent universe; while Thor delved into an entirely different world, Captain America takes place in a different time, making it Marvel's first true period piece. Johnston, a protege of Steven Spielberg and a former Academy Award-winning effects artist (responsible for designing Boba Fett's armor and the AT-AT units in Star Wars, among many other things), really seems to relish the look and feel of the 1940s in this movie. In a recent interview, Johnston revealed that he had two offices during the making of the film and one of them was in the art department so he could supervise the design and creation of the world; clearly, that aspect of production remains close to his heart. His team pulled off a really cool look here, a stylized vibe that reminds me more of a propaganda poster than what that actual time truly looked like.

After an interesting casting battle that featured "The Office" star John Krasinski and TRON: Legacy's Garret Hedlund, actor Chris Evans - who notably already played a superhero in Marvel's Fantastic Four series - accepted the role and did an admirable job with a pretty decent script. Once the scrawny Steve Rogers (a great bit of CGI trickery) becomes the jacked Captain America, the audience's ability to relate to the character dissolves a bit. It's tough to pull for a guy who's seemingly invincible; even Superman has Kryptonite, but there's never any real danger for Cap. He and his boys go around the world kicking ass, and it's cool and everything, but I wish there would have been a little more importance attached to his missions. 

Hugo Weaving as the villainous Red Skull was inspired casting, but he's essentially wasted on a character that never shows the true evil of which he's surely capable. He's gotta have that Darth Vader moment where he completely destroys something on a massive scale for the audience to really fear him, but unfortunately the character is never allowed that moment. The makeup is great, and Weaving was solid, but the character himself didn't really do much.

One of the reasons I liked Thor was because of how well the writers integrated the S.H.I.E.L.D./Avengers setup stuff, making it organic to the story instead of forcing it in (ahem, Iron Man 2). Since Captain America is a period piece, it's a little easier for them to deal with; the story revolves around the cosmic cube (referenced in Thor and surely an important part of the upcoming Avengers), and they incorporate Howard Stark's involvement into the story, filling out that character and allowing for some fun moments for Dominic Cooper to chew some scenery as, essentially, an older version of Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony. The rest of the supporting cast is serviceable, too. Names like Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci rarely disappoint, and more minor players like Neal McDonough (fantastic in "Band of Brothers") and Sebastian Stan (entertaining in Hot Tub Time Machine, totally forgettable in the otherwise-brilliant Black Swan) also did some good work. (Though their parts are woefully underwritten.) Hayley Atwell (Cassandra's Dream) takes center stage as Cap's love interest, Agent Peggy Carter. Her character isn't given much to do, but Atwell brings enough moxie to the part that I'm interested in seeing her again soon.

Like most of the other Marvel films, this one begins in media res and returns to the present time by the end. Aside from not detailing how exactly Cap is able to "sleep for almost 70 years" - and honestly, it doesn't matter - I thought all of the storylines were nicely wrapped up and, without trying too hard, Captain America ended up being a pretty fun stepping stone towards next summer's ultimate team-up flick. Until next time...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blu-Ray Review: The Superman Motion Picture Anthology

If you've ever wrapped a towel around your neck and pretended to fly, humming or whistling John Williams' iconic theme song, you've known the joy - even if it's just momentarily - of being Superman. If recapturing that feeling is something you desire, I can think of no better way to accomplish that than through the monumental Blu-ray collection of The Superman Motion Picture Anthology.

This astounding collection accumulates everything a Superman fan could possibly want: Superman The Movie, Superman The Movie: Extended Edition, Superman II, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Superman Returns. But not only does it include the films themselves (all complete with commentary tracks except Returns, itself loaded with a nearly three hour making-of documentary), this eight disk set contains over twenty hours of bonus features - enough to turn even the passing fan into a downright Superman historian.

I'm speaking from experience here: I went through and watched every film in this set (a couple of which I had never seen), and watched every bonus feature save for the original Fleischer Brothers cartoons (which themselves inspired the later Superman cartoon in the 1990's and, more importantly for animation fans, Batman: The Animated Series). In this review, I'll go through and give a few of my thoughts on each film. I can assure you, though, that this is the most definitive and authoritative set I've ever seen devoted to a single character. Through countless documentaries (one of which is feature length) and behind-the-scenes footage, including the original Making Of docs released analogously with each film, the origins of Superman are traced and detailed in an incredibly engaging way. Interviews with the various cast members through the years, archival footage, a tribute to Christopher Reeve, and even a never-before-seen failed TV pilot from 1958 called "The Adventures of Superpup" (it's insane, trust me) all contribute to this fantastic collection and all serve to impress upon us the sense of importance this character truly has in our society.

This is an incredible box set, the most complete and detailed I've ever seen. There's no question that your movie collection is not complete without The Superman Motion Picture Anthology, and I'd sincerely like to give a shout-out to Warner Bros. for putting together such an amazingly thorough product. You can check out the official site at For more of my thoughts on this series, you can listen to recent episodes of The Not Just New Movies Podcast, in which I discuss various movies and bonus features in our "Media Consumed" section.

Ep. 41 - Zardoz (Guest: Elisabeth Rappe from
Ep. 42 - Scarlet Street
Ep. 43 - Slither (Guest: Germain Lussier from
Ep. 44 - Once Upon a Time in the West (Guest: Mike Eisenberg from
GeekTyrant Weekly #118: Risky Hero Complex
Ep. 45 - Pulp Fiction (Guest: DC Pierson from "Mystery Team" and DERRICK Comedy)

Superman The Movie

Richard Donner's 1978 film was the launching point for the modern wave of comic book movie adaptations. Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind sought to bring the iconic character to the big screen in an epic way, and what better way than locking down Mario Puzo (The Godfather) to write the story and bring on the Godfather himself, Marlon Brando, as Superman's father Jor-El? Envisioned as a two-film story, the Salkinds knew Donner was the man for this job. Little did they know what would happen soon after...

But anyway, on to the movie. This was my first viewing in probably 15 years, and, as with all of the discs in this set, the quality is stunningly good. Sometimes you run across Blu-rays that are barely better than a DVD version: this ain't one of 'em. Donner and company wanted to put an unknown in the lead role here, rather than go with the studio's request of putting Robert Redford or Paul Newman in that big "S". In order to sell the film, though, they needed some big names surrounding our hero: Brando and Gene Hackman were some of the biggest at the time, and they both do great work here. Brando kills it (naturally) as Jor-El in the early scenes, bringing such gravitas to the role that Bryan Singer used his voice in Returns to great effect almost thirty years later. As Lex Luthor, Hackman was ridiculous and over the top, but he was also conniving and vicious; he kills a man in this movie before we even see his face. I had forgotten about Lex's lackeys - Otis and Miss Tessmacher - seemingly unnecessary characters only present for comic relief and to make Lex's self-assessed brilliance shine by comparison.

But as everyone knows, the real star of this movie is Christopher Reeve, an untested actor who embodied every quality of Superman with such zest and enthusiasm that he's unquestionably the best representation of the character ever committed to film. And Margot Kidder, who I found violently annoying years ago in this role, is actually a pretty great Lois Lane; she's got just the right balance of schoolgirl crush and smart aleck sass that any Lois needs (Kate Bosworth, take note). In my opinion, this film is the best of the franchise so far; it's the only one in which Donner was able to capture that true Americana and innocence associated with the character, and seeing a man fly has never had quite the same effect as it did that first time around.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

I'll group my thoughts on both the theatrical cut and Donner's version together here. For those unaware of the history, Donner filmed both movies back to back, but near the end of production on the second film - due to budget reasons and increasingly conflicting visions between Donner and the Salkinds - they decided to put the intended ending of the second movie onto the first one and call it a day. That means the "reverse the world" thing wasn't supposed to come into play until the end of Superman II, which makes a lot of sense considering the idiotic "amnesia kiss" the theatrical version currently has (improved upon by Donner in his take). Donner was unceremoniously replaced by Richard Lester, a man whose resume (as far as I'm concerned) is completely worthless, save for the Zero Mostel comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Though Donner had directed a majority of the movie since the projects shot simultaneously, Lester strolls in and takes all of the credit, and somehow managed to screw up what Donner had done.

Lester adds a scene in which Superman averts a bomb going off in the Eiffel Tower, taking Superman global for no reason other than a gimmick. In his version, Supes throws the bomb into space, an act which breaks General Zod and his minions out of the Phantom Zone which Jor-El had imprisoned them in during the opening moments of Superman The Movie. Donner's cut, however, makes much more sense: the opening scenes of his cut feature flashbacks from Superman The Movie, including a scene in which The Big Blue Boy Scout redirects a missile shot by Lex Luthor up into space. In his version, this is the explosion that breaks the villains free: a solution much more in kind with the expansive connectivity Donner hoped for between the two films.

Lester's theatrical cut also features a stupid subplot in which Lois hurls herself into Niagara Falls to prove that Clark is Superman, a scene wisely excised in Donner's cut. Though his take has Lois bailing from a Daily Planet window, his version also uses a screen test between Reeve and Kidder to enhance the character dynamic, a much better sequence involving Lois shooting Clark with a gun and him revealing he's Superman, only for her to reveal that she actually fired a blank. This is much more integral for Lois' character, an aspect for which Lester apparently has no appreciation.

The villain situation is cliched but interesting, with the slimy Lex Luthor popping in to team up with the Kryptonians to bring down his nemesis. Terence Stamp isn't quite as impressive a villain as I remember (or has pop culture has built him up to be), but Lex's interactions with them - including the betrayal of Superman in the Fortress of Solitude at the end - are right along the line of what we'd expect from these characters.

Overall, though, this movie isn't quite as fluid (in either version) as Donner's original predecessor. Though that scene where Clark kicks that guy's ass in the bar at the end gives the audience that rush of catharsis we'd been longing for...

Superman III

This project, the first complete movie in the series directed entirely by Lester, proves the man's incompetence. There's no nice way to say this: Superman III is an absolutely terrible movie. From the bullshit slapstick opening sequence that rings totally false with the series' own history to highlighting comedian Richard Pryor as a comic force to battle Superman, this movie is the definition of "bad idea." Lois is put on a bus to Bermuda, leaving Clark to head back to Smallville to rekindle his feelings for Lana Lang (played by Annette O'Toole, future Martha Kent on TV's "Smallville"). There's no Lex Luthor to be found, instead replaced by some jackass businessman whose claim to fame is building a snowy hill on top of Metropolis skyscraper. Wanna know what kind of movie this is? Richard Pryor, in full skis, falls from the top of this building - at least 100 stories, mind you - and lands in the street upright, with no broken bones or ill effects at all. This movie features a sequence in the Grand Canyon in which the villains sit around a computer and essentially play a Superman video game on a screen, supposedly corresponding to them firing real missiles at Supes as he flies toward them. How is this technology possible? Spoiler alert - it isn't. There's also a junkyard fight sequence in which a now-drunken Superman battles himself, and yes, it's just as stupid as it sounds. This film is true idiocy at its finest, and should only be viewed in a ironic capacity to derive humor from its earnest awfulness.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Though star Christopher Reeve cooked up the story - Superman rounds up the nuclear missiles of the world and hurls them into the sun - this one probably should have been shot down in the idea phase. It's a decent concept, but the lifeless direction of Sidney J. Furie can't make up for all the favors Reeve must have called in (including the return of John Williams to do the score and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor). Continuing the downward trajectory of this series, this movie features a young Jon Cryer as Lex's biker gang nephew, decked out in leather and essentially a copy of the Otis character from the earlier films. A tabloid purchases the Daily Planet, and while that idea actually has some bite to it, it never develops into anything interesting. After the ludicrous ending of Superman II, in which Lois no longer remembers Clark Kent is Superman, in this movie they go for broke and try the same gag AGAIN. Will this be the movie in which they finally evolve these characters' relationships and switch up the dynamic a little? Of course not - she forgets with another convenient "amnesia kiss." Well, I guess we know at least one person liked the theatrical ending of Superman II, and that was the writer of Superman IV.

To be honest, this one isn't worth talking about. It's the least respected film in the franchise for a reason, and that's because it's a horrible movie. It's basically a bad sitcom version of Superman, which - I kid you not - features an extended scene in which Clark has to switch back and forth between Clark Kent and Superman while he's supposed to be meeting two women in the same place at the same time. Let me put it this way - a regular human BREATHES IN SPACE at one point. That's how bad this movie is. Moving on.

Superman Returns

Now here's an interesting project. The behind-the-scenes documentary for this movie gave me a lot more respect for it, and I'd highly recommend checking it out for the sheer exhaustive nature of it. It's the most in-depth production documentary I've ever seen, and it really details Singer's decisions and shows the scope and difficulties in making a movie of this scope. From the opening credits, Superman Returns is an homage to Donner's original, and though that's the film's strength, it's also its weakness. It's so close in certain areas that it could almost pass as a remake: Kitty (Parker Posey) is a modern day Miss Tessmacher, Lex Luthor (in a wonderful performance by Kevin Spacey) has the same real estate aspirations as Hackman's original, and the film has this reverence and almost spiritual quality to it that echoes the 1978 version.

Speed and power are portrayed much better through the development of technology since '78, Brandon Routh was fantastic, and the plane crash sequence is really solid, but beyond that, there really isn't much to say about this movie that separates it from its homage qualities. The whole subplot with the kid never sat well with me, though in a big reveal it's implied this was Superman's child from when he had sex with Lois in the Fortress of Solitude in Superman II. Regardless of whether that decision makes sense in continuity, it's such a cliched story point that never goes anywhere and just falls flat. We go nearly two hours of screen time before Lex even sees Superman, and when he does, it's anticlimactic. That's actually the whole problem with this movie, I think - it's anticlimactic. There isn't enough action (Supes never throws a punch), and Lex's whole "learning about Superman through the Fortress of Solitude" thing just seems like a rehash of what happened in Superman II (Returns is supposed to take place five years after that film and pretends the others sequels don't exist). This film has its share of cringe-worthy moments, many of which involve Kate Bosworth as an abysmal Lois Lane (whose computer password is "Superman" by the way), but as DC Pierson pointed out in our recent discussion of the movie, it aims to be completely unironic and genuine, and there's something to be respected in that direction. Singer's talented, to be sure, but he missed the mark a bit with this one.

Are you a Superman fan? Plan on picking up this box set? Let us know what you think of any of the Superman films in the comment section below.

Official Synopsis:

Available now in superb hi-def, with new digital/hi-def film masters, the must-own comprehensive Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006) on Blu-ray includes all six versions of the films int he original Superman theatrical franchise - Superman: The Movie - Original Theatrical, Superman: The Movie - Expanded Edition, Superman II - Original Theatrical, Superman II: The Richard Donner CutSuperman III - Original Theatrical, Superman IV - Original Theatrical, plus Superman Returns. The Collection also boasts 20 hours of bonus features including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman Returns. Also included are two documentaries in hi-def, Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman and The Science of Superman, as well as You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman, deleted scenes, and much more. Fan-boys and technophiles will especially appreciate that all of the Superman films are being released with English DTS-HD-MA soundtrack for superior sound quality. Also included is Movie Cash good up to $8 off one admission ticket to see the newest Warner Bros. superhero film, Green Lantern, at participating theaters between June 17th, 2011 and July 3rd, 2011.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Until about three weeks ago, I had no relationship with the Harry Potter franchise. Never read the books, never saw any of the movies. So I decided to catch up with all of the older movies and see the final film in theaters. And though some of those earlier films are hit-and-miss, I don't regret my decision at all; the entire experience was unquestionably worth it just to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 wrap up this series in such an impressive way. People (myself included) throw around the word "epic" fairly often, but this movie is deserving of that description, instantly becoming my favorite of this franchise.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes

[It's nearly impossible to review this movie - or the entire Potter series, for that matter - without at least acknowledging the similarities to Lord of the Rings, another wildly successful franchise with a "hero's journey" story at its core. To list every similarity would be counterproductive for the purposes of this review, but suffice it to say there are many.]

Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picks up immediately where Part 1 left off, and thankfully has far more action and importance than its neutered predecessor. To the cynical outsider looking in, it would appear that Warner Bros. split the last book into two movies for no other reason than to make more money (a task at which Part 2 has excelled so far). But I'm actually glad they went down that path, considering how Part 2 feels like it's stuffed to the brim as it is; audiences surely would have been cheated out of this film's awesomeness if the writer had to cram the dullness of Part 1 into the same film. As long as Part 2 delivers - and trust me, it does - then I think it's justifiable that we suffered through the spinning wheels of Part 1 as a pure setup for this finale.

Steve Kloves, who wrote the screenplays for all of the movies except for Order of the Phoenix (my previous favorite of the series, coincidentally), did a great job wrapping everything up and bringing closure to a series that spanned such a lengthy amount of time. Even among the minor characters, no one felt shortchanged, and the Big Three of Harry, Ron, and Hermione were given the send-off they deserved. The flashback sequence was a particularly inspired bit of writing (taken, I'm sure, from Rowling's original novel), allowing for the dramatic reveal of Snape's past. And to avoid spoilers, I'll simply say I really enjoyed the way the elements of the Deathly Hallows were used in the story.

The younger cast members improved dramatically during their ten year run bringing these characters to life, and this was a high point for each of them. I can't wait to watch the trajectories of the main casts' careers move forward from here; Radcliffe, in particular, I can envision becoming a Ron Howard-type: someone raised in front of the camera, but evolving into a serviceable filmmaker in his own right. I also loved seeing lower-tier characters like Neville Longbottom make an impact here in Part 2, coming full circle from his introduction as the laughable loser back in The Sorcerer's Stone. The arcs of the Malfoys - both young and old - were also fun to watch as the movies progressed. (Villains who are THAT dramatic are always awesome.) One thing is for sure: now that this franchise is finished, cinema has lost one of the finest ensemble casts ever committed to film. It's hard to beat names like Gary Oldman, Jason Issacs, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Warwick Davis, and Emma Thompson when they join forces.

The visual effects in this movie were top notch, an unlike so many effects-heavy movies these days, these never elicited winces or scoffs from the audience. Director David Yates' team worked wonders here, honing The Battle of Hogwarts into one of the best set pieces of the year. Yates' vision has stayed consistent both with movies he's helmed and the ones he hasn't, recreating sets in Part 2 (the Chamber of Secrets, Gringotts, etc.) and in the process providing a great sense of geography and familiarity with the world of Harry Potter.

There's not much else I can say without giving away massive plot points, but I think Tyler (my co-host on The Not Just New Movies Podcast) and I are planning some sort of retrospective discussion on the entire Harry Potter franchise sometime soon, so keep a lookout for that in the coming weeks. It'll take a bit of reflection for me to be able to rank the Harry Potter films alongside my favorite movies, but as far as epic hero stories go, this saga is pretty damn impressive. Until next time...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 49 - Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia

Tyler still hosts and witnesses the return of Panther Joe Leininger as we discuss Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia starring Mr. Kennedy (...Kennedy).

Download Here [Direct Link]

Show Notes:

Intro and Opening Thoughts

Media Consumed
John Tucker Must Die
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Extreme Chef

Jimmy Pardo's Never Not Funny
Doug Benson's Doug Loves Movies
Paul F. Tompkins Pod F. Tompkast

Review of Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia

Find us in Cyberspace, Mail, Twitter followers, End Credits

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 48 - Weekend at Bernies

In this episode, Ben is on sabbatical, so Tyler steps in to host with employees Kate Erbland (@) and Allison Loring (@). We talk WEEKEND AT BERNIES and WEEKEND AT BERNIES 2, and then head on off to the all-night (and fictional) Chinese restaurant for some NJNM: After Midnight... ENJOY!

Download Here [Direct Link]

Intro and some Movie News (The Dark Knight Rises!)

Media Consumed

Horrible Bosses, NETFLIX hikes their prices, Battle Royale, Between the Folds, a literal cat fight and MORE!
Review of the Week

The new game
Know Your Specs (or Up Your Specs)

Find us in Cyberspace, listener Twitter and e-mails and exit.

And join us for NJNM After Midnight: Transformers Dark of the Moon, after the jump...

Monday, July 4, 2011

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 47 - Wet Hot American Summer (Guest: Frankie Muniz)

In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler are joined by Frankie Muniz (not THAT Frankie Muniz) to discuss David Wain's 2001 film, Wet Hot American Summer.

Character Name Game Intro - 3:03

Media Consumed
Black Swan - 3:48
Announcement of New Game - 7:17

Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" - 8:47

The Rocketeer - 13:08

Wet Hot American Summer - 16:48

Next Time: A Mystery Movie - 50:38
Listener E-mail/Voicemail - 51:25
Character Name Game - 56:10
Where You Can Find Us - 58:13

Articles Mentioned: Ben's Black Swan review, Coverage of The Rocketeer 20th Anniversary Event (Pictures Included), The Rocketeer animated short film.