Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 054: No Country for Old Men

Tony and Adam talk up podcasters, podcast novels and the Oscar Best Picture Award winner, No Country for Old Men.

More detailed show notes when Tony recovers from his wicked weekend and this week’s Jury Duty.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: 21

Ben Campbell is a young MIT student who’s got dreams of being a doctor and has just been accepted into Harvard Medical School. Unfortunately for Ben, the tuition and the living expenses are astronomical, and his only hopes right now rest on getting a coveted scholarship. Ben is brilliant though, and soon gets the attention of one of his professors, Micky Rosa, who drafts Ben onto a team of students who have been trained to use their math skills to count cards int he game of Blackjack. First hesitant to engage in the game, he’s soon persuaded by a fellow member of the team who Ben is very much attracted to. And soon, Ben gets sucked into the life, enjoying his new persona for his Las Vegas expeditions as well as all the perks that go with that, even though things start to suffer for him on a more personal front back at MIT. But eventually that new persona begins to catch up with Ben in Vegas, and something goes horribly wrong for him, threatening to destroy any life that he has at all, both as a student and a gambler.

21 from director Robert Luketic (who I’m not that familiar with) is based on the book Bringing Down The House (also something that I’m not that familiar with) and I expect that the book probably contains a little more meat than what the movie gives us. The movie, at least to me anyway, is just “OK.” It’s about 15-20 minutes too long and it suffers from it’s slow pace. A movie like this should really give you more of an idea of what it’s technique (in this case, counting cards) is more like, and while it tries, at the end, I still really don’t have any sort of good idea about how it works. They’ve got their way of presenting it in the movie, but to me it’s almost like the little girl reading The Golden Compass in the movie of that same name, it works because this is the way it’s supposed to and you’re just having to accept it that way. At the same time, there’s not much that comes as a big surprise in the film either, now that’s OK, as long as there’s a little style and panache and edge that goes with it, but 21 doesn’t quite want to do that, instead more creating something that fits it’s PG-13 rating and is a little more appealing to it’s targeted younger audience. For me anyway, this ended up being more having to endure it until the end rather than getting sucked into it.

Young actor Jim Sturgess (who I’m also not familiar with any of his past roles) plays Ben, and while I’m sure he’s what the filmmakers wanted here, for me anyway, he just didn’t do a whole lot to really make me care about him one way or the other. He’s typically nerdy in his MIT sections (scenes with him MIT nerd/geek friends are almost embarrassing to watch sometimes) and his Vegas transformation comes on as a bit sudden, it just didn’t quite connect with me. He’s backed up with some good performances from Kevin Spacey, Lawrence Fishburne and Kate Bosworth (this is the third movie now that Spacey and Bosworth have been in together). The Spaceman’s really good here as Micky Rosa, and I also really like Fishburne in his part as a Loss Prevention specialist for the Vegas casinos. Both of these guys suggest that there’s way more to what’s going on with this racket than what’s shown on screen, and I think that might’ve been a way more interesting story to see.

From what I’m gathering though, I think my opinion of the film is in more of a minority than most. Your own mileage may vary and you may very well enjoy it a great deal, for me though, this was another case of a great trailer, but a so-so film, a film that could’ve benefited from having a little more edge and style to it, as well as quicker pacing that would just make it more compelling to follow.


We have been Infected!

We did it before and we are doing it again.

Scott Sigler’s new print version of Infected gets released on April 1st, 2008. Over the next few days, his publisher has allowed him to give away copies of the PDF version of the book for free.

We are helping him do just that.

For more information on Scott and Infected, visit

If you want share the file with friends, get them to download it from this page or from:

By getting the file from that link, it’s proving to the big publishers that we podcasters have a clue about what we are doing.

This file will only be active for a few days, at which time the link will become inactive and you’ll have to go to the bookstore to read the story. Which you should do anyway.

(Note:  If you didn’t get the file, you missed out.  Now get your ass out there and pick up a copy of INFECTED!)

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown Season 02 Shows Special Guests

FBSD Episode 053: Pirates of the Caribbean

With special guest Tee Morris.

Tee’s podcast audiobooks are Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword and Morevi: Remastered.

Tee won’t be making it to Archon this year. Boo!

Tee plans on being at Balticon, the New Media Expo, and Dragon*Con.

Tony drops an F-Bomb because of Star Wars. Tee drops one because of Tony.

Movies Referenced (in order of utterance):

  • Super Mario Brothers
  • Batman: The Movie
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
  • Joust
  • Resident Evil
  • The Matrix
  • The Matrix: Reloaded
  • The Matrix: Revolutions
  • Shawn of the Dead
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Pirate Movie
  • Les Miserable
  • La Cage aux Folles
  • Henry V
  • Captain Blood
  • Cutthroat Island
  • Masters of the Universe
  • Superman Returns
  • Superman: The Movie
  • The Usual Suspects
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • Batman Begins
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman and Robin
  • Batman: The Dark Knight
  • Batman
  • Batman Returns
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Prequel (Jack, Barbossa, and the Monkey) – Credit to T. Mast, T. Morris and A. Pinilla for concept
  • Sahara
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • Fantastic Four
  • Fantastic Four – Roger Corman’s version
  • Ghost Rider
  • Spiderman 3
  • Star Wars: Episodes 1-3
  • Star Trek: The Reboot
  • Mission: Impossible 3
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Mission: Impossible 2
  • Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Breach
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • No Country for Old Men (Next week’s flick)
Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: The Bank Job

The time is 1970 and the place is London, England. Michael X, a Malcolm X-like black leader, is coming to prominence, but has both MI-5 and 6 on his tail for illegal activities, primarily drug trafficking, but they can’t do anything about it in courts because of pictures that he has of one of the Royal Family in a sexual indiscretion, held in a safe deposit box in a London bank. One up and coming MI-5 agent puts together a plan using a former model named Martine Love, who’s just been arrested for possession as she’s coming back into the country. Love has her own connections in the city and she goes to a few childhood friends, themselves no strangers to illegal activity to plan the job. These friends, run by a car dealer named Terry Leather, don’t have a clue to Martine’s real reasons, and look at this as the one big score that they’d need to get out of “the life” little suspecting that the bank holds much more than just this set of photos and large amounts of money.

And that’s the opening premise of The Bank Job the newest movie from veteran director Roger Donaldson, and let me say up front, this is really one impressive little film, extremely fast-paced with something different going on all the time. The action leading up to the actual robbery is some very nice set-up, doing a good job at establishing the characters of all involved, and once the robbery does take place, the pace really picks up further, as the secrets behind the robbery not only have mobsters involved, but also local police as well MI-5 and 6, right up to the very top of English government.

But with all that does go on in the film, none of it is confusing in the slightest, and the viewer never has any problem at all following all of the events as they unfold.

Donaldson’s got a very good cast here, led by Jason Statham as Terry Leather and Saffron Burrows as Martine Love, with the rest filled out by what I suspect to be a lot of top British character talent. Statham continues to impress me and his Terry Leather is a very grounded character, you won’t see him pulling off the fantastic moves that he has in some of his other films, here he more demonstrates that he is a good actor in addition to being a great action movie star. For most people, Statham will be the only actor that they really “know,” so it’s going to be really easy to buy what goes on with the rest.

This review is a little late in the game, as The Bank Job opened two weeks ago, the same time 10,000 B.C. opened, and this weekend was a bit of a dead one as far as new releases, so I knew I’d be able to come back and still see this in somewhat of a timely manner. The word on this was good from the start and I know for myself it’s opening weekend was a real toss-up between seeing this and 10,000 B.C. and so I opted for the bigger effects movie which I figured would have the better presentation, little suspecting what a disappointment 10,000 B.C. was going to be, but still better late than never at all (even though this had moved around at the theatre that I saw it in, going from a good room to one of the smaller rooms by the time I did see it). I’d still urge folks to seek this out, as it’s a great example of better heist movies out there, extremely well made and well performed, this one’s a whole lot of fun.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Funny Games

“Fiction is as just as real as reality – because you can see it.”

This line, spoken by one of the main characters of Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s 2008 remake of his own 1997 film, sums up the message of the film pretty nicely.

I had pretty high expectations walking into the theater. The original was fantastic, and forced me to consider the way I view media, which no film I had ever seen did before. I was thrilled when I sat in the back row, in my favorite seat, with about 8 other people in the theater with me. No screaming children, no one on cell phones. Because of this, I was really able to get into and enjoy the movie.

I’ll preface the rest of the review by saying this: This movie is definitely not for everyone. Four of the eight other people in the theater with me walked out within the first 45 minutes of the film. It definitely polarizes its audience.

Funny Games is about a upper middle-class family who are accosted by a pair of Abercrombie and Fitch psychopaths at their summer home and forced to play humiliating “games” in order to stay alive. The opening scene, to most people’s surprise, is extremely serene. Ann (Naomi Watts) and George Farber (Tim Roth) are driving with their son George Jr. (Devon Gearhart) to their summer house. They play guessing games with opera CDs, and then, abruptly, John Zorn’s song “Bonehead” blasts over the soundtrack, and in red, block-style lettering the title of the film is emblazoned onto the screen.

The film’s a scene-for-scene remake of the original, so it’s not treading new ground as far as the direction. The sets look exactly as they did in the 1997 version, and everything’s essentially the same. Where this film truly shines over the original is the casting. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play the traumatized parents brilliantly, and the pairing of Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet as the perfectly polite psychopaths Paul and Peter is awesome. Their innocent looks contrast their sociopathic tendencies.

There’s a cloud of nihilism that overcasts the entire film. There’s nothing wrong with the Farbers. They haven’t committed any real crimes, and they have a great familial bond. Paul and Peter chose them because they were next door. There’s an interaction that occurs between Paul and George Sr. just after the “games” begin. George asks, “Why?” and Paul replies quickly, “Why not?”. This is indicative of the message the film is trying to portray.

Funny Games is putting a mirror to the faces of the viewers, using the tropes of the genre to manipulate our feelings towards the film. Paul’s breaking of the fourth wall throughout the movie indicates this more than anything else. When Ann is searching for the family dog, Lucky, playing the ‘cold, warm, hot’ game with Paul, he looks at the camera and smirks. This fazed me the first time I saw the film, and took me out of the movie for a moment, forcing me to review what I’d watched so far, and more specifically, why I was watching it. What motivated me to come and watch this particular movie?

These are the questions Haneke is evoking when Paul acknowledges the film, saying things to the camera like “You’re on their side, aren’t you?”, making the audience look at who they were really behind. They came to a thriller to see the protagonists go through hell and come out the other side, so in a way, the viewer wants the villain to torture and harass the protagonists. His objective is to show you that by enjoying the film, you’re a part of it. The viewer is helping turn violence into entertainment, and Haneke delights in making his audience uncomfortable about watching his film.

My biggest problem with Funny Games is that I’ve seen it before. The message hasn’t changed at all. Although it’s still relevant today, it’s lost some of its force in the ten years between the films (especially with the success of the Saw series and its stance towards violence). Haneke’s retreading old ground here, and the question I kept asking was “Why?” There’s no reason, in my eyes, to remake this film. He’s said what he wanted to say already.

I enjoyed this movie pretty much from start to finish, but the message has been told before, by Michael himself in the original, as well as Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange. He’s not doing anything fresh, and as a fan of his work, I’m a bit disappointed that he isn’t putting his energy into new and more interesting projects. This is the only flaw I saw in this film, and were it not a remake, I would give it my full and uncompromising support.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Doomsday

In the near future, a deadly virus called the Reaper Virus breaks out in Scotland, which as a result, causes UK forces to erect a wall all around the nation, effectively quarantining them from the rest of the world. 30 plus years later in the year 2035, England feels the effects of what their actions has caused, with other nations turning their backs on them and the nation itself beginning to collapse under drastic economic conditions. And yet it begins to get worse, with an outbreak of Reaper Virus resurfacing in London. But continuous satellite scans of Scotland have revealed that there are a smattering of human survivors, leading officials to believe that there is a cure and that one of the architects of that cure, a Doctor Marcus Kane, still behind those walls was successful. Now, the best police operative in London, Eden Sinclair is charged to lead a team back into Scotland to find that cure.

And that’s the basic premise of Doomsday the newest movie from director Neil Marshall, who previously directed two other great genre films, the military/werewolf thriller Dog Soldiers, and the story of a spelunking trip gone awry, The Descent (my own pick as the second best movie of 2006). And at least for me, Doomsday is right up there with them, a movie that’s an homage to post-apocalyptic films of the past (in particular Escape From New York and the Mad Max movies, but a fun little ride all it’s own as well.

Marshall crams a hell of a lot in this nearly two hour film, and it’s clear to me that he, his cast and crew are having a great time with it. This isn’t just an homage to the films that I mentioned above, but also to the style of cool over-the-top B-movie, Grindhouse sort of action movies… hell, at the end of this, I thought Rodriguez and Tarantino should be inducting Marshall into the club.

There’s exploitation thrills galore in the movie, and it’s all conducted at a pretty fast pace. It absolutely looks terrific, with some really nice set pieces, including a cool gladitorial type of fight scene, and capping off with a nifty car chase that’s not quite up to what George Miller did in The Road Warrior (it’s just not as epic), but still filmed really well and just the thing that should cap off something like this. Marshall is really aided well here with the music of Tyler Bates that manages to have some echoes of John Carpenter’s music as well as some of the strains from 28 Days Later. Bates is really a rising star in film score composition and I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

Marshall’s got a really cool cast assembled here, with actress Rhona Mitra leading the way as Eden Sinclair. As far as I’m concerned, this is breakout stuff for Mitra- no she won’t win any sort of Oscar for this, but she certainly does establish herself as a presence in the film and she’s really committed herself to the over-the-top action in a big way. She’s backed up with a great assortment of UK talent, including Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig, David O’Hara, Adrian Lister and Sean Pertwee amongst others. And again, at least for me, it looked like they were all just having a great time here.

Anyway, I just thought this was brilliant fun, not just as a good high-paced action piece, but also as a great mish-mash homage to all the films that obviously have influenced Neil Marshall as a filmmaker. For me, it was as much fun finding his references as it was just watching the action unfold, and oh was it so cool to see a film like this just come in and be this incredibly fun exploitation piece. On top of all of that, nothing but cool trailers leading the way, including The Incredible Hulk and another fun looking fright-fest called The Strangers. Between this and Funny Games this is probably one of the best weekends I’ll have at the movies all year. If you’re looking for something life-defining and dramatically weighty, look elsewhere, but if you’re wanting to see some good old unapologetic genre fun, Doomsday fills the bill (and for me, after such terrible genre fare as Jumper and 10,000 B.C. this was just what the doctor ordered). Highly, highly recommended…

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown Season 02 Shows Special Guests

FBSD Episode 052: Stay

Oh Noes, we have something approximating show notes!

1. Intro with Melina

2. Spoiler free review of Stay

3. Trampas’ Review of Star Trek: Of Gods and Men

4. Tony and Adam make fun of Melina for falling asleep during Gone Baby Gone

5. Total movie plot synopsis and analysis

6. Picking apart the movie, like only FBSD can do

7. Random TV/Movie spoilers – Warning: Don’t click the link if you don’t want about 20 films spoiled for you.

8. Tony and Melina blast The Notebook

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Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Funny Games

As our movie begins, the Farber family, George, Ann and son George Jr. are traveling to their vacation home, ready to enjoy a quiet time away from home and be with friends. As they drive to their home, they see some of their neighbors with a couple of young men visiting with them, and they think nothing of it really. Eventually though, the two young men, dressed as though they’re a couple of rich boys ready to hang out at the tennis club, work their way to the Farber house, one helping George put his sailboat in the water and the other approaching Ann to borrow some eggs. The one borrowing the eggs, drops them and gets Ann to give him some more, starting to grate on her nerves in the process and then the other then comes into scene as both young men are chased back into the house by the Farber’s dog… and from there, a night of terror begins, as the young men force themselves upon the Farbers, injuring George, and then encouraging the family to play games with them leading up to a bet they made of whether or not the Farbers will be able to survive until the next morning.

And that is how Funny Games begins, but beware, the Funny Games of the title aren’t the “games” that the young men are “playing” with the Farbers, it’s more the game that director Michael Haneke is playing with the audience in this intense study of more how voyeuristic an audience gets with the presentation of extreme violence.

Funny Games is a direct remake of Haneke’s original German language version of the film. And when I say direct, it’s just that, shot for shot but this time cast with English speaking parts. I’ve been fortunate to have seen the original (I actually own it on DVD) and I was blown away by it the first time I saw it, and I honestly think that this new version is even more effective just by the fact that it is shot in English and as such, I’m not necessarily dividing my time watching the action and reading the subtitles (which I normally don’t have a problem doing anyway). Haneke has a definite message that he’s putting forward here and I very much admire how he does it, even though I may not necessarily agree with it (Lars von Trier is the same way, I may not agree with his message in many of his films, but I certainly respect how he does it, especially considering that he’s not part of the Hollywood “machine”).

Now when I tell you that the movie is extremely violent, it’s more in your perception of that violence than anything else as much of it is handled off-camera, except for one key point in the film, and that key point will be the point that will be the deciding factor for most of the audience, there they’ll either get it, or they’ll wonder what the hell they’ve been doing in the theatre for the last hour and a half. And though this moment is set up with prior scenes, it’ll still be the one that’s the deciding factor. Prior to this version of the film, I’ve only seen this movie home alone, so actually seeing this with an audience (albeit a small one) and hearing the reaction when the moment came up was actually satisfying, and really played into Haneke’s game, but concludes in a way that the audience doesn’t want it to conclude.

Haneke’s got an incredible cast at work here, Tim Roth and Naomi Watts are George and Ann and both performances are terrific and with Watts in particular I think it’s one of the best things that she’s done yet. Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett are the young men, and they’re very good in the parts of these unlikely villains, almost seeming fragile in appearance, and playing both cloyingly polite and sadistic at the same time.

Funny Games is certainly not for everyone, I’ll tell you that straight up. It’s definitely an art house movie and the audience for the movie has got to be ready to bring something to the table as well. If you’ve been able to watch such disturbing fare as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover or Irreversible or Man Bites Dog and have been able to “get” those movies, then Funny Games should be right up your alley. It’s certainly right up mine and so far is an early contender for one of the best movies of 2008, at least in my eyes.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: 10,000 B.C.

10,000 B.C. tells the story of a young warrior, D’Leh (pronounced Duh-lay) and a chosen female, Evolet and their tribe, the Egal (spelling). The Egal depend on hunting down Mammoths for their survival, and at the outset, D’Leh is out to take one down and then claim Evolet as his own. After that happens and D’Leh struggles through some personal issues of his own, the tribe is attacked by a group of fearsome warriors who abduct many of them to take them to work as slaves for their masters. D’Leh manages to avoid capture but Evolet is taken, and now D’Leh begin’s his journey to save her and along the way fulfill his destiny.

And with that, you have the premise of 10,000 B.C. the latest film from popcorn filmmaker Roland Emmerich, who at least in my eyes has seemed to suffer with his films since he and former partner Dean Devlin have broken up. That suffering continues with 10,000 B.C., a movie that ultimately proves more boring than anything else.

Sure there’s lots of big sequences and some great visual effects, but it doesn’t work at all when the characters are as dull as they are here and there’s nothing done with them to have any sort of fun with the film. I’ve read how others have problems with the historical inaccuracies in the film and really I could care less about that, if it at least would’ve tried to have been maybe more pulp fiction in its nature.

The Egal talk in the film and speak a broken English, but the way it’s spoken is more right out of a 50s or 60s Italian period epic. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re watching a 50s or 60s Italian period epic, but this film seems like it’s trying for a higher ideal and as such you expect a little more. Mel Gibson did this quite well with Apocalypto keeping the tribe’s language their own and relying on the audience to read it as subtitles, what Gibson does well with that is at least let his characters have some natural qualities in their delivery. Zach Snyder does the opposite in 300 with all of the characters speaking English, but the language and performances are all so over-the-top that at the very least, they’re a lot of fun to listen to. Here, you halfway expect the language to be peppered with a few “hows” or “ughhs” and while I certainly wouldn’t want them speaking in a contemporary way, there’s still better ways to do it than as stiff as it comes off here.

But the characters themselves are just extremely boring, there’s nothing that seems “lived in” at all about the performances. One actress, Camilla Belle who plays Evolet, just looks entirely out of place even, and while some of that is by design with the nature of the character, it still shouldn’t come off as a Hollywood actress type who’s just scruffed herself up a bit, to me she comes off as a Lohan sister who’s just out of place in the film.

Another thing that both Apocalypto and 300 do right is embrace the pulp nature of their stories and both go way over-the-top with their violence and their attitudes towards their characters. They’re both R-rated films as well, and so certainly have the license to do so. 10,000 B.C. is PG-13 and as such, it seems like Roland Emmerich is trying his best to just not offend anyone, that’s all fine and dandy but it doesn’t really make for an exciting film. This, even being rated PG-13, could’ve done a few things with it’s action to make it a little more savage but just doesn’t even bother.

Omar Shariff does the narration for the film, and what it does is it keeps the viewer detached from the action. Sure, 300 does the same thing, but at least the narration is by one of the film’s actual characters and it does other things that keeps you drawn in. The narration here mainly just sets you up for enduring the events as they take place and does little to actually draw you in.

I think Emmerich’s heart is in the right place for making this, but he really needed others working with him that would at least make this a little more fun to watch, former partner Dean Devlin might’ve done that. As it is, 10,000 B.C. is right on the verge of being that sort of movie that it’s more fun to make fun of as you’re watching it than it is being any sort of adventure that has any sort of emotional resonance, and the final result is a film that’s more boring than anything else.