Friday, January 14, 2011


Please excuse the formatting issues we had with this week's REALTOR Report.

Here is the broken link to the video we posted today.

We're working the bugs out of the system, and hopefully all issues will be corrected before next week's e-blast.

Have a great weekend.

Joe Scott,
Communications Director
GRRA, Inc.
23 Oak Branch Dr.
Greensboro, NC 27407

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

[PODCAST] Now in 3-D!


Grab your special 3-D headphones because Joe and Mike spent Avatar sums of money to deliver this week’s episode of the Movie Show in Super Stereo Audiovision 3-D.

They also deliver a trilogy of stories about studios chasing 3-D dollar signs, an advanced review of Black Dynamite, this year’s Sundance winners, and the latest from Tiger Beat sensation Zac Efron.

Soundtrack Selections:

“It Took a Long Time” by LaBelle from Precious;

“Help Yourself” by Sad Brad Smith from Up in the Air;


“Man with the Heat (Superbad)” by Adrian Younge from Black Dynamite.

Stream it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

[PODCAST] Bronson, Conan, and The Craig


On the first ever Monday edition of The Movie Show, Joe and Mike hand over the turn tables to Screamin’ Craig Lidnsey of the Raleigh News and Observer and his friend Daniel Johnson from Film Babble Blog. Mike calls Craig out for dissing entire movie franchises after seeing only the worst of its sequels and Craig fires back by calling Mike out on being, well, Mike.

They also review “Bronson” and “Extraordinary Measures” while giving the latest news on Mark Romanek, Ben Stiller, and the “Conan the Barbarian” remake.

Stream It!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Ten Best Films of the Geek Decade

I'm calling it right now: In terms of film, the aughts (or 00's) were most definitely the Geek Decade of cinema.

Inspired by the 1999 release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, a truly boring movie that managed to pull significant dollars due to its geek demographic potential, studios began to consider other ways to harness the box-office pull of fanboys. The logic was sound. Online film sources like Aint-It-Cool-News, Dark Horizons, and JoBlo did an excellent job of whipping audiences into a frenzy while more and more print critics found themselves out of a job. And when a studio played a film like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, you suddenly had people hanging out in the parking lots dressed as characters from the movie, transforming it from a movie into an event, free of charge.

More importantly, filmmakers like Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, and Sam Raimi fought to test the Geeks' loyalty if the films being made for them were actually good.

This meant that while 90's geek films like Batman and Robin and Mystery Men were total abortions, their 00's counterparts like Spider-Man 2 The Dark Knight made for some of the most memorable moments inside a movie theater. Meanwhile, "legitimate" dramas and indie films like 90's best of decade contenders American Beauty, Boogie Nights, and The English Patient languished over the last ten years. Partially because the print critics that would have supported them in local papers had been laid off, and also because of the studios' misguided notion that people over 35 have no interest in seeing movies.

So without further adieu, here are my top ten (or 14) movies of the decade. Not all of the movies here are "geek" films by any means, but they are the best films I've seen in the last ten years.

1) City of God


The true story of a photographer as a young man woven seamlessly into the history of the violent town where he grew up, City of God is fantastic storytelling on both an intimate and grand scale. Fernando Meirelles and his under-credited co-director Kátia Lund commanded amazing performances from a cast of child actors, many of whom were members of gangs like the ones presented in the movie. And while all of the films on this list are great, memorable cinematic experiences, none were quite as influential. The editing, handheld photography and color palette used in many of this film’s scenes have later reappeared in other movies trying to borrow part of the movie’s intensity, including The Bourne Supremacy and Quantum of Solace for starters.

When Danny Boyle won the Oscar last year for delivering a tidy, Walt Disney riff on City of God via the inferior Slumdog Millionare, the only part of me that wasn’t indignant knew it was merely latent praise for what was truly one of the best movies ever made.

2) The Lord of the Rings (trilogy)


To this day, I am still baffled as to how Kiwi director Peter Jackson - who was infamous for making z-grade schlock horror flicks - was able to convince a studio to risk its entire bottom line on a three-part epic fantasy trilogy. But the gamble paid off in spades – not only at the box-office, but with the overall quality of the films as well. What Jackson and his devoted team of writers, actors, crewmembers and technicians did was essentially craft a nine-hour ode to the importance of friendship that was punctuated by epic battles. Speaking of which, between Gladiator and Avatar, there were many filmed epic battles this decade, but none were more thrilling or operatic than the Battle of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers, my favorite movie in the trilogy.

3) Lady Vengeance (aka Sympathy for Lady Vengeance)


Park Chan-Wook was my auteur discovery of the decade, and while many of my friends and colleagues favored Oldboy above the rest of the director’s films, this one gets my vote. The beautiful Yeong-ae Lee plays Geum-ja Lee, a woman wronged in worse ways than even Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill. Of course, Lee seeks revenge – albeit in one of the most cold and calculated ways portrayed on-screen - but in a twist that echoes the other two parts of Park’s revenge trilogy (including Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), comeuppance does not lead to the satisfaction or resolution frequently portrayed in movies. Beautifully filmed, this is a twisted story that shows heart in rather strange and unique ways.

4) The Royal Tenenbaums


The final installment of Wes Anderson’s youth cycle of live-action cartoons, this movie marks the one and only time in the filmmaker’s career when a movie he made was a box-office smash. And while it’s a shame his other films couldn’t net the same love, this broken family dramedy scores heaps of laughs via the most subtle of punchlines. Before “Tenenbaums” I never saw a movie make an audience chuckle at the mere sight of a bizarre painting (i.e., masked marauders on three-wheelers). Nor did I ever see one of Anderson’s characters achieve more redemption than Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), a displaced patriarch who must finally atone for the selfish and philandering ways of his past.

5) The Dark Knight


It took both of Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 as well as director Chris Nolan’s first stab at Batman in Batman Begins to get us here, but The Dark Knight is the first comic book film to transcend its source material and become a great piece of cinema. Lifting the compressed narrative style of comic book panels, this intricate, fiercely-edited thriller finds Batman as a hero that can’t win for losing. Vicious dogs – a motif throughout the film – chase him relentlessly; the love of his life dies horribly; and the methods he uses to fight crime appear worthless in the face of the Joker (Heath Ledger), a new villain that doesn’t believe in rules. There’s irony in the fact that one of the film’s Joker-inspired taglines was “Why so serious?” since the movie was nothing if not serious itself.

6) Kill Bill (vol. 1 & 2)


Quentin Tarantino is the great rap artist of cinema. Like all rappers, he finds discarded sources of media that most people find irrelevant – in this case, samurai and kung-fu movies from Asia – spins them together into a new beat and adds great lyrics (or dialogue) to create a song that everybody loves. So it only makes sense that Tarantino would collaborate with actual rapper and Wu-Tang member the RZA to craft this feminist manifesto of violent, bloody revenge starring Uma Thurman, who is by far the action hero of the decade. Let’s just hope that unlike other action heroes like John McClaine and John Rambo, she manages to dodge crappy sequels.

7) Amélie


Starring in a movie that’s genuinely sweet and warm as a fresh-baked cookie, cinema has given few protagonists more adorable than Audrey Tautou’s Amélie Poulain, a young woman who seeks to change the loneliness in her life by being kind to strangers. Some critics have regarded Amelie as a maladjusted sociopath, and to an extent, they could be right. But when the norm in life is to isolate people via boundaries and circumstance, can anyone really blame her?

8) Brokeback Mountain


In 2005, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the greatest film released in the previous year a nomination for Best Picture. They then took that award and gave it to the grossly undeserving Crash. More than just ‘that gay cowboy movie’ scores of hack comedians mocked it for being years after its release, Brokeback Mountain is a film about the perils of living a lie, and the many casualties incurred from making that choice. My colleague Mike Compton was spot on when he criticized that while Heath Ledger got the most accolades of his career for playing the Joker, his best role was in this film as the repressed Ennis Del Mar. When society praises murdering psychopaths over gay men, it’s no wonder Ennis kept his true feelings secret.

9) Children of Men and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (tie)



I placed both of these films in a slot together because they accomplish the same goal perfectly: they take what are essentially science fiction stories and ground them in a realistic, contemporary setting. So many sci-fi movies strive to imagine a future more advanced and different than our own. But now that we’re living nine years after the date in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, it was refreshing to see directors Alfonso Cuarón (Children) and Michel Gondry (Eternal) realize that while we don’t have flying cars or cyborg cops patrolling the streets, the time we’re living in now is the future most people dreamed of decades ago. The tones and overall plots from both of these movies could not be more different, but if you ever watch these films back to back, I promise you’ll agree that these are the finest examples of the type of sci-fi movies the geek decade created for movie audiences.

10) Me You and Everyone We Know


With her quirky masterpiece of low-fi cinema, first-time filmmaker Miranda July bested an entire wave of digital filmmakers like Lars von Trier by proving that just because you shot your movie with digital cameras doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. This film is about personal connections, and how difficult it is to achieve them at a time when people are constantly separated by formalities, technology, divorce, business and dying. ))<>(( forever, indeed.

Honorable Mentions:

Roman Polanski's The Pianist is yet another reason why we must consider the merits of art and the artist separately; The Orphanage scared me senseless while warming my heart, all at the same time; Friday Night Lights is the best sports movie ever made, this coming from a guy who typically hates sports movies; Spider-Man 2 was the best comic book movie ever until The Dark Knight came out; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is by far the best of the series; Up in the Air was my favorite of 2009, but has yet to stand the test of time; Donnie Darko is an immortal mind-bender of a flick, though stay away from that awful director's cut; "Superbad" was great; so was everything by those brilliant folks at Pixar (sans the still decent Cars); and May is one of the most hilarious and disturbing American movies ever made.

Worst Movies of the Decade:

1) Running with Scissors was the worst of the Wes Anderson knock-offs; 2) Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was officially where I abandoned all hope for the franchise; 3) Spider-Man 3 proves one can make a great movie followed by a very, very bad one; 4) Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was long, dumb and racist; 5) Those '[BLANK] Movie' parodies might have cost nothing to make, but they were worth even less.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: "Sherlock Holmes" (2009)


Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” is that rare piece of forgettable mediocrity not content with leaving the audience to guess how it could've been a better film. Instead, the movie chooses to one-up us by showing how it could be better in the first half.

As played by Robert Downey, Jr., the Holmes in this film is an uncouth and scruffier detective than the ones we’ve seen in previous adaptations. Some might complain he no longer wears that ridiculous deerstalker hat or the fact that he never says, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” That said, opening scenes are quite steeped in what really made Sherlock Holmes such a fascinating character – his uncanny sense of deductive reasoning.

Hot on the trail of a murderous cult leader named Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), he spots some hired muscle guarding a corridor. Then in an inventive sequence, we hear Holmes’ inner monologue as he sizes up the goon’s various weaknesses based on the way he walks. Meanwhile, Ritchie’s ever-anxious camera gives a slowmo, telegraphed demonstration of how the fight will actually go down, followed by a sped-up version wherein Sherlock bests his foe with almost phantom speed and accuracy. A similar moment takes place later on during a hilarious boxing match, but then this approach is abandoned for the rest of the film. This is a real shame, as it was a lot more fun to watch than the mindless fisticuffs that punctuate the latter two-thirds like exclamation marks in used car lot ads.

We get another great moment after Lord Blackwood is apprehended wherein Dr. Watson – played by Jude Law who walks away with the entire show – coaxes Holmes to leave his cluttered office for a change and meet him at a restaurant. Holmes obliges, arriving at the restaurant early only to lose his mind paying attention to the tiny physical details and tics he could use to identify every single person in the room. Again, this moment was a solid inclusion for a movie attempting to reinvent Sherlock Holmes for the Mountain Dew generation. If the good detective must become a scruffy action hero, at least let him be a thinking man’s scruffy action hero.

But then the movie ditches the point of view that powered the first act in favor of slap-happy double and triple crosses that make little sense in terms of both the characters and story, and worst of all, the film loses sight of Holmes. Oh, we still see him all right, but we’re no longer inside his head as he investigates a mystery that points to Blackwood returning from the grave after being executed for his crimes and attempting to put his pagan cult in control over London. And when it comes to movie villains, Blackwood is more of the dumb James Bond variety. He might be brilliant enough to invent the first remote control biological weapon, but he bungles important details like loading his bombs with enough explosives to kill his enemies when they detonate them.

According to the opening credits, “Sherlock Holmes” was scripted by three screenwriters – Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg – and while this is not unusual for a studio blockbuster, my hope is that the producers will realize which ones were responsible for the movie’s best parts (i.e. the beginning) and rehire them alone to pen the inevitable sequel.

The only praise I could give the trio of writers collectively for their Frankenscript is that they had the smarts not to make Sherlock’s foes capable of actual magic. I spent much of the film dreading that this is what they were going to do. And while you can deprive the detective his hat and oft-quoted line, if you remove the logic as well, you might as well call it something else.

(** & 1/2 out of 4)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of 2009 (Part 9 of 10)


2) The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment, dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
The very definition of a close second, The Hurt Locker might be the first movie about our current wars in the Middle East to present an American soldier as a genuine hero. Ducking the politics behind the conflict altogether, screenwriter Mark Boal gives us U.S. Army Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), a soldier who must serve his country by disarming IED’s. James might suffer from a severe case of risk addiction, but regardless of what you might think about the war, his courage and nobility under fire are above reproach. On DVD and Blu Ray on January 12.

'Up in the Air': The film both of and about 2009


Whenever I think of America circa 1969, I will remember the film Easy Rider, which was made in the same year.

This might seem absurd since I wasn’t born until 11 years after the fact, but the film demands a knowledge about the year it was made in order to be appreciated and understood. Strip away the historical context of an America that was undergoing a cultural revolution at the time - one which the two main characters were clearly fighting for by cycling across the country with their long hair waving in the wind like organic flags of rebellion - then Easy Rider becomes the movie a lot of uninformed young people see today: A couple of dudes riding motorcycles and taking drugs. And because it’s no longer a big deal for men to have long hair and dodge gainful employment by engaging in various recreational activities and pharmaceuticals, a lot of people my age think the film is no big deal as well.

Forty years later, I now believe that if I ever think about our country during 2009, the one film I will remember is Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air.

2009 was a year in which millions of Americans were laid off from their jobs. And they were most likely laid off by people like Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a professional hatchet man that companies hire to lay off their employees because they are too cowardly – or culpable – to do it themselves. And while his job certainly puts him at odds with the freedom loving hippies in “Easy Rider,” these characters share one thing in common: They find their home in a perpetual state of transience. For the “Easy Rider” characters Captain America and Billy (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper), their home is the road, a place where they find kinship, hope, love and ultimately death; Bingham, on the other hand, makes his home in the skies, where one could argue he finds all four of these things as well.

Where Bingham and the two Easy Riders differ is that Bingham’s life is far more complex. The drama witnessed by a professional hatchet man is considerable. In the span of the film, Bingham is accused of being various types of evil; he’s blamed for the possibility that an axed employee might no longer be able to afford his daughter's asthma medicine; and in one instance, a recently laid off worker threatens to commit suicide. To give viewers a real sense of what Bingham would have to endure each day, Rietman makes ingenious use of interviews with real Americans who were recently fired from their jobs.

Coping with this stress would be a challenge for anyone, but Bingham deals with it as best he can. First, by actually being great at what he does. After firing employees, Bingham recites a series of pre-prepared lines to help ease what will be a very difficult transition in these people’s lives. What’s more, it seems like he actually believes them. For example, the exchange between Bingham and a father of two played by J.K. Simmons actually ends with Simmons’ character potentially inspired and on the verge of a new direction in his life. Second, Bingham has made a philosophy out of avoiding personal entanglements. This includes relationships with his immediate family, a fact which renders him as merely a guest at his own sister’s wedding. Not missing anyone in his life allows him to travel more freely because of his job, and while his sister accuses him of being a lonely man via cellphone call, he looks around a crowded airport and says “I’m not alone, I’m surrounded!”

Bingham even created a self-help lecture out of his no-baggage philosophy, which he preaches during seminars around the country, a fact which only adds to the certainty he carries about this worldview. This certainty will later be challenged, however, by two women: Alex (Vera Farmiga), a fellow traveler who strikes up a casual sexual relationship with Bingham; and Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a young protégé at his company who has developed a way for Bingham and his co-workers to fire people from around the country via the internet. In a way, one might view both Alex and Natalie as essentially the same woman – just at two different points in her life. Alex is extremely worldly, and perhaps more like Bingham than even he is. Meanwhile the somewhat naive Natalie views life as a series of checkpoints, and will likely see the world just as Natalie does if her life stays in its current direction.

As Bingham falls for Natalie and both teaches and learns from Alex, the certainty he used to navigate his sometimes-volatile existence starts to crack. And after an episode where he helps his sisters solve a family crisis, this stone cold cynic realizes he has a softer side at a time when it might be too late. There is also a surprise in the third act that I refuse to spoil. But I will say it reinforces Rietman’s knack for changing the way we view his characters in the span of a brief scene.

The death Bingham finds at the end of the film is not physical like Captain America and Billy’s at the end of Easy Rider so much as it is a spiritual one. He keeps and achieves everything he wants in the movie’s first act, but the suave certainty he used to pursue these ends is shattered. The sole remaining comfort is travel, but like Bingham’s former life philosophy, this is impersonal as well. When the bikers sawed up and down the country in Easy Rider, it looked vast, wild and untamable. From Bingham’s perspective forty years later, the same terrain is much smaller and chopped up into geometric grids.

So if new audiences today have a problem understanding Easy Rider, will the same happen to Up in the Air? If this means that like men with long hair, mass unemployment won't be an issue in 40 years, I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

[PODCAST] Critical Mass 2009


Which films, scores, and soundtracks were the best of 2009? On this week’s episode of The Movie Show, Joe and Mike invite Yes!Weekly’s Glen Baity for his final ride as a professional film critic as they count down the many high and low points of the year.

Stream it!