Monday, April 30, 2012

The Avengers

Samuel L. Jackson's brief cameo at the end of Iron Man in 2008 forever changed the possibilities for superhero films. No longer did every franchise have to be a distinct entity - multiple movies could now take place in the same fictional universe, and the collective imagination of fans everywhere exploded at the potential for a massive crossover event bringing everyone together in one film. With The Avengers, Marvel has achieved a seemingly impossible task: not only did they spend years building the foundation that supports this film by bringing together A-list stars from different franchises, but they managed to turn a project that could have collapsed under the pressure of its own ambition into one of the most crowd-pleasing superhero movies ever created.

The Avengers
Writer/Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 87 - The Producers (1968) (Guest: Allison Loring from Film School Rejects)


In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler are joined by Allison "Folklore" Loring (from Film School Rejects) to discuss Mel Brooks' 1968 film, The Producers.



Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 3:15

Media Consumed
Tyler
The Cabin in the Woods - 4:15
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey - 11:25
Fire and Ice - 14:35

Allison
The Five-Year Engagement - 19:05
Sound of My Voice - 23:20
"New Girl" - 25:25

Ben
Harlan County, USA - 30:00
Bare Knuckles - 32:35
Detour - 37:25

Review
The Producers (1968) - 39:20

Wrap-Up
Next Time: Mystery Movie - 58:15
Listener E-mail/Voicemail/Twitter - 59:25
Character Name Game - 1:05:05
Cinematic Soundscapes - 1:07:00
Where You Can Find Us - 1:18:10

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Safe

There is a simplicity to many of Jason Statham's films that a lot of his fans surely appreciate. As an action star, he's a throwback to the icons of the 70s and 80s, stoic heroes who could wander into a bar, kick a man's ass for looking at him funny, then silently sit down and finish his drink. The heightened Crank films, and perhaps some of the more insane martial arts sections of The Transporter series, seem to contradict this notion, but make no mistake: Statham is as close as modern audiences are going to get to these stars of old without throwing on a Blu-ray of The Dirty Dozen. His newest film, Safe, feels like a movie ripped from the 70s, with corrupt cops and embattled gangs criss-crossing New York City and Statham and a little girl caught in the middle of it.

Safe
Writer/Director: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Reggie Lee, Chris Sarandon



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Raven

I love it when movies take ridiculous dramatic liberties with real-life people and events. Not so much in something like The Social Network, wherein the people depicted are still alive in our real world, and the movie plays so close to reality that it could be deemed troubling; more like in Inglourious Basterds, where seeing an over-the-top scenario play out in a fully realized cinematic world can excite the imagination and even be a cathartic experience. James McTeigue's The Raven technically falls into this category by offering one possible series of events that led to Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death, but the film itself is so monotonous and predictable that it ultimately cancels out whatever excitement the premise holds and turns into a slog of a murder mystery more interested in capitalizing on the success of the Saw franchise than living up to its potential.

The Raven
Director: James McTeigue
Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement is cut from the same cloth as 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall and shares many of the elements that made that film successful. It was co-written by Sarah Marshall writer/star Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (who directed both FSM and this movie), and has a cast that effortlessly embodies the movie's characters. Along with a certain sweetness that permeates both films, there's also something here that most romantic comedies are sorely lacking these days: characters that actually feel like real people. Thanks to Segel and Stoller's writing and the easygoing and likeable cast, I can easily imagine life for these characters both before the film starts and long after it ends, a feat to which I'm not sure any movie in the "Katherine Heigl" subgenre of rom-coms could lay claim.

The Five-Year Engagement
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Alison Brie, Chris Pratt



Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star as Violet and Tom, a couple one character later describes as being "almost perfect for each other." Tom is a chef at a sleek San Francisco restaurant and works with Alex (Chris Pratt), who I swore was his character's brother, but realized upon looking it up he's just his best friend. Violet is applying to grad schools to become a psychologist, and in the opening scene, the two get engaged and take the audience through a flashback of the night they met. Violet quickly gets accepted to a graduate program, but much to the dismay of her sister (Alison Brie) and mother (Jacki Weaver), the new program is all the way in Michigan, so the wedding is delayed. Tom gives up a head chef position and ends up working at a local college sandwich shop while Violet studies with her new professor, an arrogant ladies' man named Winton (Rhys Ifans), and with wedding plans perpetually pushed back, you can see where the conflicts would arise.

I don't want to make this film out to sound groundbreaking or anything, because it definitely follows a standard formula for these kinds of movies. If you've seen four or five romantic comedies in your life, chances are pretty good you'll be able to chart out every major plot point in this film before you see it. But the same thing could be said about a lot of action movies after watching their trailers, and ultimately, enjoyment comes down to the execution. Segel and Blunt are wonderful to watch (and, I suspect, inherently likeable in almost any role because of their infectious personalities). The supporting cast is made up of a ton of funny people, including Brian Posehn and Chris Parnell as Tom's creepy and sometimes-inappropriate friends and Kevin Hart and Mindy Kaling as Violet's co-workers who are obsessed with masturbation and gossip, respectively.



Pratt and Brie are especially hilarious, but I'll admit that my fondness for them stems heavily from being an avid fan of their NBC shows "Parks and Recreation" and "Community." (Despite the fact that I may be blinded by bias, Brie's English accent is impressive and consistent throughout the movie, even during an adorable scene in which she and Blunt speak to each other in Sesame Street character voices because children are nearby.)



Stoller seems to have mastered the art of directing talented comedians, employing his typical reserved style and allowing the performances to outshine the flashiness of the direction. There's always something authentic about his films that seems to justify their existence outside of a simple premise or one sentence synopsis, and if I were to pinpoint that specific element, I'd say it's a sense of heart. We care about what these characters are doing because they're so well-crafted and well-acted; as we watch them for two hours, their relationships matter. I've seen a few criticisms that point out this film's thesis is basically "settling is good enough," but I don't actually think that's what's being said here at all. Yes, one of the characters might have said those words (or similar ones) in the movie, but if you look at the larger picture and see what these two mean to each other, I think a more positive message can be taken away from this experience.



The Five-Year Engagement deals with some complicated issues but never gets bogged down with them, always remembering that it's a comedy first and foremost. A decent premise, honest characters, and a really funny script put this movie way above the average romantic comedy. Until next time...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 86 - Heat (1986)


In this week's episode, Tyler and Ben discuss Dick Richards' 1986 film, Heat.



Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 2:40

Media Consumed
Tyler
Season 1 of "Game of Thrones" - 3:40
Sonic For Hire - 8:05

Ben
Series Finale of "The Shield" - 9:45

Review
Heat - 16:28

Wrap-Up
Next Time: The Producers (1968) - 1:02:05
Listener E-mail/Voicemail/Twitter - 1:04:00
Character Name Game - 1:09:15
Where You Can Find Us - 1:12:15

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 85 - Friday the 13th Parts 1 and 2


In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler discuss Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th and Steve Miner's Friday the 13th Part 2.



Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 1:55

Media Consumed
Tyler
Jim Henson's Monster Maker - 2:40
AVGN's Friday the 13th review - 4:45
Comedy Bang Bang Episode 150 - 5:06

Ben
The world premiere of The Avengers, and GeekTyrant coverage - 6:36
The Raven, with John Cusack Q&A - 8:24
Reign of Fire - 11:50

Review
Friday the 13th Part 1 and 2 - 15:21

Wrap-Up
Tyler's Interview - 1:03:00
Next Time: Heat (1986) - 1:06:32
Listener E-mail/Voicemail/Twitter - 1:08:10
Character Name Game - 1:10:35

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

If by some miracle you're reading this without having seen any trailers, TV spots, or clips of The Cabin in the Woods, do yourself a favor and keep it that way before you see the movie. In a world of leaked set photos, trailers for trailers, and general marketing overload, I tend to lean toward avoiding as much of that stuff as I can for most movies anyway, but this movie unquestionably deserves that treatment. There are few films these days that offer up as many twists as The Cabin in the Woods, and there's nothing quite like that revelatory feeling of being completely surprised at the movies. For fans of horror movies, and even those who just have a cursory knowledge of the cliches of the genre, this is a must-see.

The Cabin in the Woods
Co-writer/Director: Drew Goddard
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Richard Jenkins, Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Fran Kranz, Amy Acker, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 84 - Mr. Baseball



In this week's episode, Ben and Tyler talk about Fred Schepisi's 1992 film, Mr. Baseball.



Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 1:46

Media Consumed
Tyler
The Rock-afire Explosion - 2:30
Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade - 6:10
Up Your Bookend: "The Neverending Story" - 11:50

Ben
NBC's "Awake" - 14:45
Goon - 21:10

Review
Mr. Baseball - 28:30

Wrap-Up
Next Time: Friday the 13th Part 1 and 2 - 58:27
Listener E-mail/Voicemail/Twitter - 1:01:01
Character Name Game - 1:07:06
Where You Can Find Us - 1:11:01

Saturday, April 7, 2012

American Reunion

It's been almost ten years since we last saw the main cast from the American Pie movies on the big screen together. But if you have fond memories of Jim, Michelle, Stifler, Finch, Oz, Kevin, Heather, Vicky, Jim's Dad, and Stifler's Mom, chances are pretty good you'll enjoy this outing too. A lot of the jokes are a little too easy, and at some points the comedy feels less than organic, but overall it's a solid comedy that gives us an opportunity to catch up with some lovable characters and have a few laughs.

American Reunion
Writers/Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The NJNM Podcast: Ep. 83 - The Iron Giant


In this week's episode, Tyler and Ben discuss Brad Bird's 1999 film, The Iron Giant.




Introduction
Character Name Game Intro - 2:40

Media Consumed
Tyler
Wrestlemania 28: Rock vs. Cena - 3:40
Gator - 9:42
Up Your Bookend: William Shatner's "The Return" - 13:40

Ben

Review
The Iron Giant -27:15

Wrap-Up
Next Time: Mr. Baseball - 1:07:08
Listener E-mail/Voicemail/Twitter - 1:08:08
Character Name Game - 1:10:28
Where You Can Find Us - 1:12:55

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

Acclaimed documentarian Morgan Spurlock has made a career out of dissecting aspects of popular culture in the zeitgeist, and his newest effort is no different. This time, he sets his sights on San Diego Comic-Con, one of the largest pop culture gatherings in the country. What started out as a small way for fans to meet comic book artists and writers back in 1975 has exploded into a huge event that features first looks at some of the most highly anticipated comics, television, and movies of the year, regularly playing host to over 100,000 attendees. Spurlock has a behind-the-scenes team that knows a thing or two about this world: "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" creator and The Avengers director Joss Whedon "presents" the film along with comic book legend Stan Lee, while Legendary Pictures' Thomas Tull and Ain't It Cool News creator Harry Knowles are two of the film's producers.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Starring: Holly Conrad, Skip Harvey, Eric Henson, Chuck Rozanski, James Darling