Monday Morning Critic – 1/26

On tap this week:
— A Movie A Week That’s in English
— Oscar fallout
— Travis makes a funny
— Jenny Rushing stops by to share her grace and beauty in our Top Fives
And slightly much more!

Obviously when you write with people for as long as I have on Inside Pulse, you develop the sort of friendships that are only possible on the web. I say friendship as opposed to any other marker because that’s what it really is. You get to know people with similar interests and passions, sharing them over a process of years. Heck, I even got to eat a Lou Malnati’s Pizza with Mike Noyes and the picture on the Super Secret Writers’ Forum had the caption of “Skinny Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen on Dinabol” from the guys. It was kind of cool to hang out with someone who I considered a friend, but not in the conventional sense.

Another one of those people has been Travis Leamons, czar of the DVD Lounge. Our rise through the ranks of IP has mirrored one another and we manage to talk about movies at least four nights a week. He’s a good guy who is responsible for a large part of my DVD library. Often times, there’s some humorous exchanges that turn into catch phrases amongst each other (or in real life). Others just turn into funny things that pass as original humor from either of us. This is one of them.

Scott: Dude, one thing keeps bugging me about Dark Knight.

Travis: What?

Scott: The scene where Jim Gordon gets the text from Batman and knows instinctively it’s him giving him a head’s up. I keep thinking “how does he know it’s the Batman.”

Travis: He could just know the number and doesn’t put it in his phone. Plausible deniability and what have you.

Scott: Perhaps, but imagine the oft-times he doesn’t need to send Gordon a text to save Gotham City. I can only imagine that at like 3am Bruce Wayne calls him, doing the Batman voice, and is all like “Hey Jim. I met these two girls and need a wingman. You in?”

Travis: Or “Hey Jim, I got a [redacted] from this girl in a club and now I’ve got a rash. Can you come over and take a look at for me?”

These are the thoughts that kept the both of us out of good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

Well, after much consternation last week in regards to the Oscars the waiting game is over. It was certainly interesting to hear the awards unraveled and the choices were amusing to say the least. Since I spent a huge portion of my column last week commenting on whom could get picked, let’s take a look at who did get picked.

Best Picture:

The Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: Huge shocker as The Reader stepped into the spot that The Wrestler and Dark Knight were both slotted in for. I figured it as a long shot but the Academy is goofy like that. The other four picks went down as expected, as it’s hard to argue against the other four picks. For the most part the Academy got it right.

Best Director:

The Nominees: > David Fincher (Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Gus Van Sant (Milk), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Thoughts: Chris Nolan and Darren Aronofsky both lose out to Stephen Daldry, again a huge shock, but it’s not surprising as usually Best Director follows Best Picture.

Best Animated Feature:

The Nominees: Bolt, Kung-Fu Panda, Wall-E

Thoughts: It’s all but over, but Wall-E gets a solid consolation prize by winning this category. It’s not even a debate. Wall-E is going to win.

Best Actor:

The Nominees: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Thoughts: Langella is in the wrong category, as his was a supporting role in terms of weight in the script, but this is a loaded category without his inclusion. The five best performances of the year are truly in this category.

Best Supporting Actor:

The Nominees: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)

Thoughts: Shannon is the wild card, as he plays a near cameo role in Road and went completely under everyone’s radar (including my own). Ledger is still the favorite, and a consolation for Dark Knight fans, but it’s a loaded category.

Best Actress:

The Nominees: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Thoughts: If Kate Winslet is going to win, this would be a heck of a year to do so. Outside of Jolie, who inexplicably got nominated despite a relatively mediocre performance, this is a good field.

Best Supporting Actress:

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji Henson (Button), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

Thoughts: Cruz, Tomei and Adams are the real nominees, as Davis and Henson get nominated for what are glorified cameo roles and will be in the Rudy Dee position last year: there to make it five.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – Harsh Times


It was a film that didn’t get massive amounts of publicity but has a surprisingly good cast. Christian Bale is Jim, a Gulf War II veteran and Army Ranger who has come back to his native Los Angeles after serving his time in the service. Unable to get a job in the LAPD due to failing their psychological test, as he still suffers from extreme PTSD, he and his best friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) reconnect much to the chagrin of Mike‘s girlfriend Sylvia (Eva Longoria). She views him as a horrible influence, and rightly so. Jim may be a decorated war hero and potential member of Homeland Security but he’s got some issues.

The film, directed and written by David Ayer of Training Day fame, is an interesting character study about Jim and Mike. Jim has a girlfriend in Mexico he wants to bring into America but he needs a job first. He’s a guy whose life before the service has changed after the kinds of things he did in war.

Mike is his last connection to that life, but both their lives have changed since then. Mike’s job has been outsourced and he’s looking for work. Sylvia wants him to grow up, with the implication being leaving his relationship with Jim behind while getting another job.

The film follows them as they try and accomplish both goals with differing results. But it’s mainly a character study about the two and their reactions to everything. It’s a virtual acting clinic by Christian Bale, however, as he takes what’s not a very well written part and carries the film. For a guy who wrote one of the better scripts of the decade in Training Day it’s a bit disappointing as the film kind of meanders from certain points as opposed to being as focused like some of his other screenplays have been. Ayer is normally much more focused, as his screenplays for Training Day and Dark Blue were much tighter and the picture he helmed (Street Kings) had a smoother flow. For a guy whose main experience is in the crime genre it’s interesting that when his focus goes away from cops and goes towards the seedier underbelly of L.A.

Still worth a view, as Bale again shows why he’s probably the best working actor in Hollywood now. It’s a nice companion piece to Rescue Dawn, which was another good film but a showcase for his acting skills as opposed to being a great film.

Mail Bag!

The Awful Trailer of the Week has to be postponed because I got some mail to answer.

Dear Kubryk,
Did you ever see that movie Fireproof, with Mike Seaver in it? Cause I’m just curious how on Earth that film made as much money as it did. My in-laws kept raving about it but we’re not the religious type, if you know what I mean, and I read somewhere that the film just made a ton of cash. What gives?
— A Reformed Catholic in Tuscaloosa —

Hey Buddy –
Didn’t see it, as I’m not a Christian and don’t fit the demographic. Heard lots of good things but couldn’t commit to dropping the cash to see it.

How did it make a ton of dough in theatres? Easy. It appealed to a distinct group of people and was advertised by word of mouth. The guys who did the film are the same ones that did Facing the Giants, another Christian hit, and they got the same crowd of people who Wanted doesn’t appeal to and got them in. And got them to come back, too, and tell all their buddies. A buddy of mine from college, her and her husband saw it and raved about it and they’re in the target demo. It’s an untapped target audience that came out for Passion of the Christ and will come out for the right film.

To think that it outdrew Mike Myers’ The Love Guru when they spent more on marketing alone than Fireproof cost to make, as well as Leatherheads, Meet Dave as well as three of the five films nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture is something else.

Top Five Challenge

Another week and another member of the Inside Pulse family joins me for some movie-related shenanigans. This week it’s Jenny Rushing. Jenny has been a regular contributor to the DVD Lounge for some time, and the only woman who has survived on a staff of movie geeks, so it’s shocking she’d honor this column with her grace and charm. So we asked her about that:

You are one of the few women that have had any sort of staying power in the DVD Lounge. Being a woman gives you a particular voice on a portion of the site filled with movie geeks. What five movies that you love that most people wouldn’t expect and why?

Most people wouldn’t expect me to like most of the movies I like. My dad is a pastor and my mom is an elementary school teacher, so I grew up mostly on Disney films.

5. Alvin and The Chipmunks – Personally, I don’t think this movie deserved half the razzing that it got. What did we love about the original Chipmunks? They were a) really cute b) had funny high-pitched voices c) they were normal kids with normal kid problems and d) they could RAWK! This movie had every single one of the elements that made me love the Chipmunks so much.

4. Lady in the Water – I’m a devoted Shyamalan fan. I even saw The Happening opening weekend, although that was the first Shyamalan movie that I really did not like. Lady in the Water got so much grief, but I don’t think it was nearly as bad as everyone said. In fact, I really enjoy this movie. I love the fairy tale feel and I love that it doesn’t have a now-cliché Shyamalan twist ending.

3. Horror movies in general. Given my upbringing, nobody expects that I love nasty, gory, disgusting, disturbing horror flicks. I have a soft spot for zombie films, and I really dig the films that could be called “torture porn”. I just love ’em.

2. This is getting difficult…That people wouldn’t expect? I guess I will say foreign films. It’s just not something that is very common in everyday life. On the internet is a different story, since you can meet people with your bizarre interests and they come out in droves. But if you’d ask the people in my real life world, they’d probably say that the foreign films drive them nuts. I’m always wanting to watch them, and then share them with everyone. Specifically: Pan’s Labyrinth, Love Me If You Dare (Jeux D’enfants), and just about every Chan-Wook Park film. Which ties in nicely to…

1. My 2nd favorite movie of all time (just behind Gone With the Wind), Oldboy. I’m always recommending this movie because I love it so much. I’ve lent out my copy countless times and I still haven’t found anyone who loves that movie quite as much as I do. When they return the movie to me, the reaction is not always as enthusiastic as I hoped. I seem to forget just how…disturbing that movie is.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and Northwestern University Co-Eds with low standards at the Rhythm Room

New in Town – Renee Zellwegger gets to experience Minnesota. Its cold there, ya know?

Skip It – Another stupid fish out of water comedy meshed with a romantic comedy with perhaps the most annoying top line actress of the past 20 years. Will someone end the “Zelwegger as a headlining actress” experiment? Honestly, Jerry Maguire was over a decade ago and someone can’t live off those laurels for this long.

Taken – Some guys kidnap Liam Neeson’s daughter. He’s gonna mess them up like it’s his job.

See it – Middle aged Jason Bourne killing bad guys in France? I’ll be there.

The Uninvited – Elizabeth Banks engages in a battle of wits with Emily Browning in a classic stepmother/stepdaughter showdown.

Skip It – South Korea must be the new hotbed for horror flicks because here’s another one remade from a South Korean original. It is PG-13, too, so Elizabeth Banks naked isn’t a possibility either. Meh.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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