Saturday, April 12, 2014

Film Review: The Monuments Men (2014)

The core argument of The Monuments Men is one that is provocative in the abstract, though less than compelling as the driving force for a lavishly produced war drama. In telling the true story of art scholars who went to the European Front to find, identify and protect great works of art stolen by the Nazis, co-star, co-writer and director George Clooney reframes the conflict as not just being between conflicting ideologies. It was also a battle for history, and the Nazi effort to steal art - and, later in the war, to destroy it - was an attempt to rewrite the very history of the world. In that context, the efforts of the Monuments Men to protect the past seem important, even noble, rather than something flip or insubstantial when compared to the death happening around them.

Film Review: Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

There has always existed at the heart of The Muppets a tension between a love of old-fashioned, slightly creaky Vaudevillian showmanship, and a simultaneous desire to mercilessly critique that style. After all, Jim Henson not only created a troupe who desperately tried to entertain a frequently uninterested audience; he also created Statler and Waldorf, their most vocal critics. Kermit and co. have always made fun of the artifice of performance, either by directly breaking the fourth wall or skewering the personas of the flesh and blood stars who graced the stage of the Muppet Show, but they've also spent decades trying to put on a show. Fozzie's jokes might have been mercilessly torn to shreds by the patron saints of hecklers, but he kept getting back onstage because there is something noble in trying to entertain, even if you can only do so by failing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Shot/Reverse Shot - The Alternate 100: Preview

Finally making good on a promise we made way back at the start of the year, this episode finds Joe and I laying out our plans for an ambitious attempt to create our own Top 100 list of great films that aren't really talked about enough. This will be a 10-part series which will start next week and run throughout the year, but we wanted to put out an episode detailing our aims for the series first, as well as to lay out the rules for which films were eligible so that we don't have to do so at the start of every subsequent episode.

I also use the episode to introduce the Shot/Reverse Shot drinking game, which I created in order to make these slightly longer than usual episodes more conventionally fun, and there's a bit of nonsense about Game of Thrones for good measure (which is itself something of a teaser, since we'll be digging into that show once the fourth season has finished). Check back next week for the first installment in our idiosyncratic, Walter Hill-heavy canon.

As always, you can stream the podcast using the link below, or preferably (from our point of view) you can subscribe using iTunes. If you choose the later, please rate it and leave a review because it helps us to get more listeners, and also gives us something to obsess over. Speaking of which, you can also Like us on Facebook, assuming that you do.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Take2 Guide to Steven Spielberg

Today marks the official release of the ebook "The Take2 Guide to Steven Spielberg", which was edited by Adam Zanzie, and features essays and reviews from Joseph McBride, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Matt Zoller Seitz, Tom Carson and James Berardinelli. Oh, and me! You can find more information about the book here, and you can buy it from Amazon here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pixar Giveth, and Pixar Taketh Away: Get Ready for The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3

Pictured: Pixar, resigned to making more sequels
News broke today that Pixar, in addition to working on the previously announced Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory and the original features Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, have begun work on a sequel to Brad Bird's The Incredibles, which was released way back in the less superhero-clogged days of 2004, and a third film in the Cars series. The latter announcement wasn't that surprising since, even though neither of the previous Cars films were as warmly received as the films that preceded or followed them in the Pixar chronology - I myself likened Cars 2 to demented fanfiction, and said that giving Pixar a pass for how terrible it was would be akin to covering up for a loved one after they killed someone in a drunk driving accident - they were sizable hits, and between them grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide. (Not to mention that the franchise has been a huge cash cow for Disney/Pixar in terms of merchandising.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shot/Reverse Shot: True Detective

Artist's Impression of Joe Gastineau (left) and me.
Following on from our 2014 Preview, in which we singled it out as a show we were very much intrigued by, this week finds Joe and myself poring over the first season of HBO's True Detective, the finale of which aired last Sunday. In addition to wondering just how Dion Dublin fits into the broader mythology of the show, we discuss the aesthetic choices of director Cary Fukanaga, the influence that Weird Fiction had on the tone of the show, and address some of the criticisms of the show, in particular accusations that it is sexist and misogynist, rather than an exploration of sexism and misogyny. (Claims that I think have some considerable merit.) We go into a bit of detail about the resolution of the show, so please do not listen if you haven't seen the whole season.

We also find time to talk about where we think the show will go in the future given that creator Nic Pizzolatto has said that each year will focus on different characters. If HBO want to draw from their stable of past performers, and if the rumours that the next season will focus on female detectives turn out to be true, then I'd like to start the campaign for Melissa Leo and Amy Ryan to headline season two. I mean, I'm not going to start a petition or anything, but I'd just like to throw the suggestion out there and hope that finds purchase.

As always, you can stream the podcast using the link below, or preferably (from our point of view) you can subscribe using iTunes. If you choose the later, please rate it and leave a review because it helps us to get more listeners, and also gives us something to obsess over. Speaking of which, you can also Like us on Facebook, assuming that you do.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Film Review: The Wind Rises (2013)

Flight has been a key factor in both the life and work of Hayao Miyazaki. In his films, flying represents freedom, hope, magic, and the sheer wonder of nature, but Miyazaki's family benefited financially from selling plane parts during World War Two, living in relative comfort as a direct result of the Japanese war effort. This experience seems to have given Miyazaki a very dim view of war, as seen in films like Nausicaa Valley of the Wind and Howl's Moving Castle, but it's especially germane to The Wind Rises: In telling a highly fictionalised account of the life of aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English-language dub) it directly addresses the life of someone who achieved success and renown for designing weapons of war, as well as the tension that exists between conscience and the desire to create something beautiful. Despite its basis in real history, The Wind Rises feels like Miyazaki's version of The Tempest; a fantastical, oblique yet deeply personal work about the craft of its creator.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Oscars 2014 Prediction Scorecard

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, I broke down the Academy Award nominations and set about predicting which films I expected to win which awards. As part of that process, I predicted that Gravity would sweep most of the technical awards and take Best Director, that Dallas Buyers Club would take home three awards, and that American Hustle, despite being nominated for ten awards, would win only a handful. I think Meatloaf has a song which is pretty pertinent to those predictions.

Let's see how I did overall.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Film Review: Nebraska (2013)

Thanks to its stark black-and-white visuals, there isn't a huge difference between the geography of the Midwest and the lines etched into Woody Grant's (Bruce Dern) face. Both evoke a quiet, consuming sadness that permeates every aspect of Alexander Payne's Nebraska, a sweetly melancholic comedy-drama in which Woody travels to Lincoln, Nebraska with his son David (Will Forte) in order to collect a million dollar prize that he believes he has won. The question of whether or not he has actually won is not a terribly important part of Nebraska; it's pretty clear to David, his brother (Bob Odenkirk) and their mother (June Squibb) that Woody hasn't won anything, and that the 'prize' is just a ploy to get people to order magazines. What is important is Woody's insistence on going to Lincoln regardless of what everyone says. Whether his desire comes from genuine belief or just senility is never entirely clear.  Again: it doesn't really matter. What matters is that it gets David and Woody in a car together, and how spending time with each other reveals and affects their relationship.

Film Review: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

When I first watched 12 Years a Slave back in November, I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I felt like I couldn't write about it. It wasn't merely that it was good, but I found the story of Solomon Northup so moving that I couldn't really put my thoughts into any cogent order. Despite that, I had no qualms putting it in my Top 20 of the year, and was pleased to see how much success the film enjoyed both critically and commercially.