Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown On The Lot Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 42: On The Lot 110

Again, I’m one for two.

This week we said goodbye to Kenny and Mateen, I was really surprised by Mateen’s exit. Ah well.

This week the theme was Comedies with a hint of Romance.

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown On The Lot Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 41: On The Lot 109

Recorded this one last week, but just got a chance to post it today.

One for Two on the last episode.

This week we said goodbye to Shalini and Hilary. I had predicted Shalini and Will but had debated about Hilary.

This week’s films:

  1. Andrew Hunt – Zero2Sixty
  2. Jason Epperson – Sweet
  3. Kenny Luby – The Losers
  4. Mateen Kemet – Catch
  5. Sam Friedlander – Key Witness
DVD Review Text Reviews

A Trio On DVD This Week…

(I didn’t see any movies at all in theatres this weekend, and while I do have a DVD review or two coming up in the near future, there are three movies coming out on DVD this week that are all highly worth seeing: The Host, Zodiac and Renaissance. the following reviews have appeared elsewhere before my work was picked up by The Fanboy Smackdown, but they still apply to all three of these movies… by the way, these three movies are all out this week in what is a true geek-gasm of a week on DVD- you also have a special 2-disk set of John Woo’s epic action film Hard-Boiled (very much worth seeing) and an 80s kids classic The Monster Squad (which I think is very entertaining).)

Theatrical Review: The Host
(from Arpil of 2007)

The Hills Have Eyes 2 is one end of the extremes of movie viewing this weekend, then the Korean-made The Host is at the other extreme and is truly, to paraphrase a St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic, a monster movie that transcends the genre… and as far as I’m concerned, right up there with 300 as one of the best things that I’ve seen this year thus far… Do not miss this if you get the chance…

The Host details the story of a mutated sea creature that begins to terrify Korean citizens and supposedly in it’s aftermath, it leaves behind a virus that kills anyone who’s had contact. We follow the Park family through this saga, the father Gang-Du, his daughter Hyun-Seo, his sister Nam-Joo, his brother Nam-Il and Gang Du’s father, Hie-Bong, who runs a food stand. Gang-Du himself is sort’ve without direction, but his daughter is a true light in his life. And when the monster takes Hyun-Seo from him and his family- it obviously re-purposes this father… and the rest of his family.

What follows is an absolutely engrossing sequence of events which just left me in awe of just how much fun a good, old-fashioned monster film can be when it’s handled just right… The Host does just that, delivering one of the coolest movie monsters in recent years and giving you a group of characters that you actually give a damn about. Where I think it stumbles (but only so slightly), is in some of the accounts given about the virus, which is basically a bit where the movie tries to get a little political. Oh, it doesn’t bang you over the head with it, but then it doesn’t really have a lot of direction either- with some direction, and being well-done, it could give you a bit of something to think about, and yet the way it’s done here, it’s more in the way than anything else…

But do not let that get in the way of seeing this– Director Bong Jung-Hoo has crafted something extremely special here that’s all at once dramatic, funny, terrifying and exhilarating to watch. I think that Richard Roeper called the visual effects “cheesy” (which is something he likes to throw around every now and then) and frankly, here, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about- from the first moments that the monster appears, it’s just as convincing as can be with not only great, grand effects moments but some real subtle ones as well. This is a thrill ride done right, and it features an ending that is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time…

You might have to work to seek this one out, but if you want to see a quality monster/science fiction movie, then make the effort (I got to see it at St. Louis’ premiere art house, The Tivoli, in it’s main room… next week it will be out of that room to make way for David Lynch’s Inland Empire, another one of the movies that I’m most anticipating this year) because honestly I have no idea how long this will be around in most theatres. This will be fun to watch on DVD later, but really don’t deprive yourself of seeing this on the big screen if you get the chance… highly, highly recommended…[

Theatrical Review: Zodiac (from March of 2007)

In the late 60s and the early 70’s the Californians between the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas were terrorized by the exploits of a serial killer known as the Zodiac. It’s a case that to this day remains technically unsolved, although there are many facts that point to one specific subject presented in Robert Graysmith’s book Zodiac.

Zodiac is David Fincher’s latest film and it details the efforts of the San Francisco Chronicle and various police departments in their search for finding the killer before he can terrorize again, focusing primarily on three key players, SFPD Detective David Toschi, San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery, and San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, with a lot more characters in tow. And it’s one hell of a film from Fincher…

A word of warning already, this is a very long movie coming in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, Fincher almost has this as two movies in one, with the first half of the film being very procedural and detailing efforts from all quarters in solving this. The second half though is focused around Graysmith and his point of view dealing with many of the prime characters a few years after the Zodiac was more in his prime. Like Craig Brewer does with Black Snake Moan, David Fincher does the same with Zodiac giving you a movie that visually invokes a lot of style of films from the 70s, even going so far as to using the logos for Paramount and Warners from that period in opening the film.

But it goes further than that… this film is intricately detailed, but not in a way that seems implausible or that it would be hard to follow. In fact I’d go out on a limb and say that this might be the most researched film that I’ve seen since United 93 with Fincher taking great strides to show you just how hard it was to even coordinate efforts in that time period compared to now, making this case extremely difficult to solve… there were no computers, very few fax machines, no internet, no DNA testing during this time frame, and it’s a wonder that all quarters made as much progress as they did.

Fincher’s got a great cast here, with Mark Ruffalo as Toschi, Robert Downey Jr. as Avery and Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith and they’re well supported by folks like Anthony Edwards, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, James LeGros and Chloe Sevigny. Special notice has to go to the always good as gold Brian Cox though for playing attorney Melvin Belli to a tee (there’s even a mention of his Star Trek appearance in the film).

Anyway, this was obviously a great weekend at the movies for me, without a doubt, Zodiac joins Breach and Black Snake Moan as one of the early best of 2007. I think that if you’re a fan of Fincher’s other films (Se7en, Fight Club and Panic Room) you really owe it to yourself to go out and see this in theatres just to watch a master filmmaker at work… highly, highly recommended…

Theatrical Review: Renaissance (from October 2006, a couple of weeks before Casino Royale opened)

It’s Paris in the year 2054. A high level scientist/executive for a leading corporation has vanished, and now it’s up to an intrepid police detective captain, Karas and the victim’s sister, Bislaine, to track her down and the mystery at the core of her disappearance.

And in brief, that’s the core story of Renaissance, an incredible new direction in computer animation from the French that is simply the most visually stunning movie I’ve seen this year. Basically the film has been shot using motion captured actors, then computer animated. But then the computer animation has been processed over in a stunning, stark black and white process that for many will invoke Frank Miller’s Sin City comic. Personally, I think the look of the film is closer to the work of artists like Steranko or Paul Gulacy- but it doesn’t matter, the end result is just beautiful and an effective way to tell a story for adults using computer animation.

The story itself owes much to past efforts like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell or even more recent films like Aeon Flux or Ultraviolet and it’s both complex and yet, as long as you’re paying attention, easy to follow. And the filming techniques are also evocative of past films, for me, most notably Hitchcock.

The animation though is the star of this show, and it’s really, really quite well done, especially with this process. Had this been animated in color with a traditional technique, it probably wouldn’t approach the efforts of a Pixar or a Squaresoft, but using the black and white process, there’s amazing life here, especially in the animation of Karas, where there’s a great deal of character subtlety.

Even though it’s been animated with motion captured actors, it’s been voiced by better known screen actors, with Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, Ian Holm and Johnathan Pryce leading the cast, and they’re all quite good here, in particular Craig- who even with his voice work here makes me look forward to what he’ll do as James Bond even more.

Without a doubt, this is definitely one of the best-looking movies I’ve seen all year. and even though it’s story is fairly traditional, the technique of the film is enough to make you want to follow this thing all the way through. Director Christian Volckman and his crew have really created something quite stunning here, and once again the possibilities in computer animation breaks new ground. Highly recommended.

(Happy viewing!!! There’s some great stuff here all worth seeing…)

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Paprika

Paprika is the story of a device called the DC Mini. What the DC Mini does is allow someone to walk through another person’s dream and it’s use is for deep psychotherapy. At the start of the film, we’re given a glimpse into the dreams of a police detective, Konokawa and how he’s suffering from a trauma caused by a murder he can’t solve. This therapy is being directed by a young woman named Paprika who gives Konokawa much comfort. As we shift to the center where the DC Mini is used, we’re introduced to more characters: Chiba, the doctor in charge of the use of the DC Mini, Shima, her direct superior and Takita, the largely overweight and nerdish inventor of the DC Mini, and we also discover that a DC Mini has been stolen, and with it’s theft and unauthorized use, it’s starting to affect those that come into contact with it, and this builds to the point of the dreamworld starting to bleed over into the real world.

Paprika is an epic Japanese anime from director Satoshi Kon who’s best known for his previous work Tokyo Godfathers and it’s quite the thought-provoking film, which after seeing something like Transformers seems like just the thing that I was in the mood for. What this first brought to mind for me anyway was an American film called Dreamscape that starred Dennis Quaid. Paprika is Dreamscape taken to a degree that it probably never could’ve been taken to if made either as live action or as an American movie. It’s a serious story that really does delve into the psyche of it’s characters, primarily Chiba, Konokawa and Takita in ways that seem, at least to me, very right on how dreams work.

The animation is wonderful and there’s a lot of great imagery at work here. The style of the film sort of reminds me of a cross of what you’d get if you took American comic artist Jim Starlin and had his work interpreted as Japanese anime. But being anime, don’t exactly expect it to have the same vibrancy that you might get from American animation, it works on it’s own level and that level basically treats this just the same as a live action film might be treated, which what I mean by that is that human characters here are very human in expression and action and not at all over-the-top in portrayal.

There’s a lot to chew on here as far as it’s story goes taking some twists and turns that absolutely demands your full attention- i.e. this ain’t exactly the sort of movie that you watch and turn your brain off to. Yes, there’s plenty of twists and there’s certainly a few things that directly owe to Japanese culture, but if you’re paying close attention, you won’t have any trouble following this whatsoever.

Paprika is an absolutely wonderful film and if you’re a fan of anime, you already no doubt know about the film. Most who want to see this will probably have to wait for a domestic DVD release, but if so it’s worth the wait. We were fortunate and it opened here at St. Louis’ premiere art house theatre, the Tivoli and we got to see it in the theatre’s main auditorium on it’s biggest screen, and it was certainly a wonderful experience. Very much recommended.

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown On The Lot Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 40: On The Lot 108

I was wrong about who was getting eliminated on the last episode.
Sorry, Shira-Lee.

In this week’s episode, the theme is ‘When Two Worlds Collide’. From this episode, two of the five directors will be eliminated.
The movies reviewed in this episode:

Adam Stein – Worldly Possessions
Hilary Graham – The Legend of Donkey-Tail Willie
Shalini Kanatayya – First Sight
Will Bigham – Spaghetti
Zach Lipovsky – Time Upon A Once

Other Links from this episode

Mike’s Hot Dish
DL Nexus
Fear The Boot
SciFi Smackdown

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Transformers

Deep in outer space, war has ravaged a planet inhabited by mechanical creatures called the Autobots and the Decepticons, and now the object of their origin has been ripped from their planet and heads on a direct course to Earth- leading both packs of mechanical beings on a search of the planet- the Autobots attempting to save the Earth and the Decpticons ready to unleash what happened to their world on our world. And a handful of humans are ready to stand in the way and ally with the Autobots.

That’s the nutshell description of Transformers the latest movie from director Michael Bay that owes it’s origins to a toy line created by Hasbro back in the day. I’ve got to admit I don’t have the connection to this that others do. When the Transformers were big, that was also around the same time of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe and I sided with the critics of those that the cartoons were just overblown commercials for toys more than anything else, they just didn’t grab me. Well, that was snobbish then, and now I’ve got a little more respect for the properties, but I still wouldn’t call me a convert. The trailers for this movie looked incredibly impressive, and so that got me really interested. Plus, I’m not exactly Michael Bay’s biggest fan, but at the same time, I don’t exactly look at his movies with the same disdain that others do either… he makes big-ass spectacle popcorn films, and things like The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and The Island all work for me on some level or another (Personally, I think The Island is his best film). So really, I was looking forward to seeing this.

When he’s dealing with the big-ass action and the various robots themselves, I think this movie really excels… it’s just that when he deals with the people, this movie falls apart (with one exception- I’ll get to that in a moment). The people in this film are cartoony sit-com, almost like what you’d expect to see on ABC’s comedy shows and really they garner no sympathy from me whatsoever. There’s a point in the end where Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, talks about this thing in humanity that he sees that makes them worth saving, and I only saw that with the military special forces that first come into contact with a Decepticon in the film- all of the rest of the people are spending all of their time doing snarky comedy bits in the midst of the action.

Michael Bay has said in a recent interview in Wizard magazine that he was going for total realism in this movie- he succeeds with the Transformers themselves, I’ll certainly give him that, but with the exception of the military force that I mentioned above, fails on any of the other human reaction, like I said devolving it to TV sit-com situations. As I’m watching people like Shia LeBouef, Megan Fox, Anthony Anderson and John Tuturro in this, it almost becomes cringeworthy in seeing their reactions to situations, not so much with LeBouef and Fox, but incredibly so with guys like Anderson and Tuturro. Anderson in particular is almost painful to watch especially considering that he’s made some real dramatic strides on shows like The Shield here he just resorts back to type, or in his case, stereotype. And Tuturro plays this total cartoon character in charge of a super-secret organization that keeps their knowledge of these beings from everyone else, and he just falls into a basic Hollywood cliche of yet again being this authority figure that’s just made to look silly against the man on the street. The first tip-off that everything is going to go into a cliche comes during a meeting of top minds called by the Secretary of Defense (played by Jon Voight) and we focus on a group of geeks recruited fresh from school who are bound to be the ones that find out more than anyone else does at the start (oddly enough, these geeks have within them, their hot chick, who’s more wish-fulfillment fantasy on-screen than anything that might approach reality– but Megan Fox is also that same way).

There’s a scene in the film where Shia LeBouef, playing a character named Sam Witwicky who has ties to the robots, first gains their confidence and decides to throw in. He then begins to sneak around his house trying to find the object that they need, only to arouse his parents suspicions, and this whole scene just plays out as a big joke- an excuse to have a person who’d be the most uptight in the scene say the word masturbation and get a cheap laugh from the audience… it’s just embarrassing to watch.

The saving grace in the acting department goes to Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and the other actors playing the Special Forces unit that first comes into contact with the Decepticons. These guys I totally buy here, they don’t treat the situation like a big joke and they’re good at what they do. I could’ve just watched a movie based around these guys and come away much more pleased.

This gets a very mixed review here, but more going to the thumbs down side of things. On the positive side, you could just look at this as this huge fireworks type of Fourth of July spectacle and probably have a pretty good time with it (and again, I certainly give it points for it’s last half hour which is just pure action and a lot of fun to watch), the robots are the star of the show, that’s for sure. But the people are who they’re fighting for, and Bay just doesn’t even for a moment want to give the common guy a moment of sincerity in the film and as such ultimately fails in delivering to me a movie that I could give a damn about.

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown On The Lot Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 39: On The Lot 107

We have winners to the contests. They will be announced next week.

This week’s show is again about On The Lot.

I was apparently not alone in not caring for David May’s How to Have a Girl

The films I review in this episode are:

Midnight Snack – Andrew Hunt
Eternal Waters  – Jason Epperson
The Malibu Myth – Kenny Luby
Profile – Mateen Kemet
Anklebiters – Sam Friedlander
Open House – Shira-Lee Shalit

Thanks for listening!

    Text Reviews Theatrical Review

    Theatrical Review: Live Free or Die Hard

    A plot has been hatched to take down the United States from it’s very infrastructure, by disabling communications and utilities, the United States has become gripped in a very real terror of just not being able to go about their everyday lives… all of this at the will of a former NSA security specialist who seeks revenge on the USA for shutting him down. NYPD Detective John McClane has been dispatched to retrieve a hacker that unwillingly participated in this scheme and from there, finds himself in a situation where again, he must stop terrorists from completing their acts, and saving family along the way.

    And that’s the premise to Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth film in the Die Hard series featuring Bruce Willis as John McClane. This time around, director Len Wiseman (Underworld) is at the helm of the film and what they deliver here is for the most part a very entertaining thrill ride, with Bruce Willis in fine form, still quipping as McClane, but also certainly a little more weathered by time.

    Wiseman moves this one at a rapid pace, and even it’s “quiet” moments feel kinetic. There’s some real nice set piece stuff at play in this movie (including one scene near the start of this film which is liable to send some fanboys in tears in regards to the what is being destroyed on screen), some of which is quite intense. To me anyway, this is better paced than either of Wiseman’s Underworld films and feels right at home with the prior Die Hard’s directed by John McTiernan and Renny Harlin. The one little misgiving I have with it, and I don’t hold this against the movie, is that some of the action might be a little more over-the-top than some of the other films (in particular a scene near the end involving a jet plane).

    Wiseman’s well aided in this movie from composer Marco Beltrami who’s music score is certainly evocative of the first two Die Hard films.

    Bruce Willis is terrific, always fun to watch and even still there with his patented horse-eye look when firing his guns at the bad guys. Justin Long (who you know as Mac in the Apple computer commercials) is really good here as the young hacker that’s forced to team up with McClane and he really holds his own with Willis. Timothy Olyphant is Gabriel, the mastermind behind this plot, and he’s also magnetic to watch and just as much a threat as Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons was in the other movies. And look out, even Kevin Smith is in the film, maybe giving the most animated performance that he’s ever given as a cohort of Long’s.

    This is the very definition of a popcorn movie, and yet I tend to think that its scheme is maybe one of the scariest that I’ve seen in a movie in awhile. Having gone through almost two full weeks in the last year without power in my home, I know just how helpless that makes a person feels. There’s just a couple of niggling points in the film as far as consistency of action goes, but easily forgivable as far as I’m concerned. It’s a fun movie as it is, though, and I’d certainly recommend it, as long as you’re a little willing to just give it a few points.

    Text Reviews Theatrical Review

    Theatrical Review: Ratatouille

    Remy is a rat, but a rat that’s quite a bit different than his family- Remy likes the finer things, he doesn’t eat garbage and he has a palette and a sense of smell for gourmet cuisine. Remy idolizes a human French chef named Gusteau, who has one of the finest five-star restaurants in all of Paris, but that restaurant has been brought down to a three-star restaurant thanks to a food critic named Anton Ego. Now, through a series of events, Remy has found himself allied with a young man named Linguini, as they both seek to find themselves in worlds totally unfamiliar to both: Linguini in trying to belong in a restaurant and Remy, in the world of humans.

    And that’s the basic premise in a nutshell to Ratatouille the newest film from Pixar studios and the follow-up to the previous collaboration between Pixar and writer/director Brad Bird’s, The Incredibles and it is quite simply one of the best movies of the year, easily something that will make it near the top of my Top 10 list for 2007. There is of course, way more to this story than I’m telling you above, but really to say any more would be to deny you the pleasure of watching this unfold for yourself.

    The credit for just how fantastic this film is is primarily Brad Bird’s who has certainly demonstrated in both The Iron Giant and The Incredibles a need to advance the animation artform in this country. Both of those movies are high watermarks for both 2D and 3D animation, and Ratatouille raises that bar even higher… not just with it’s beautifully stunning 3D animation, but also with it’s story, a story that is certainly universal for all audiences, but really having a way more pleasant appeal, at least in my eyes, for a more mature crowd. Bird, in his previous films, has had a bit of a retro feel to those movies as well, and he does it here too. Ratatouille at times feels like the sort of movie that Blake Edwards would’ve made back in his heyday.

    Pixar’s animation makes something like Shrek The Third look like it was done by amateurs, that’s just how advanced this looks. Camera angles, lighting, attention to detail and above all, characterization is just a step beyond what we’ve been seeing in computer animation, and you just want to bask in this over and over again. The thing is, Pixar does this well enough on their own, but when working with Bird, their game is stepped up, and Bird’s mind takes their tools and works them in directions that’s just not typical for these films. The combination of these talents, and their willingness to work with some more uncoventional story elements is what makes movies like The Incredibles and Ratatouille not just great animated films, but great movies beyond the form.

    There’s some really fine voice acting at work here too… Patton Oswalt is the voice of Remy and he’s just terrific here, bringing a real earnestness to the part that sort of reminds me of a Michael J. Fox back in his better days. Ian Holm is the voice of Skinner, the chef who’s taken over Gusteau’s and his just might be the best voice work in the film, very emotive, but also totally filled with character. Peter O’Toole is the voice of Anton Ego and as with anything Peter O’Toole ever says on screen, you’re just totally enthralled when he speaks. The whole film has been voice-casted with careful attention, and these aren’t just computer animation models on screen, but totally feel like living, breathing characters.

    This was another film that I got to see in digital projection and that was just icing on the cake on a truly fantastic film experience. For a film that has food as one of it’s centerpieces, it actually makes that computer generated food look luscious and succulent and leaves you wanting to eat at the end of the film… and I’ve never seen an animated movie that has done that before. Do not miss this movie, like I said above, easily one of the very best movies of the year…