September 2006

School for Scoundrels

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Billy Bob Thorton has given us another fun, if somewhat brutal, comedy.  Jon Heder and Thorton star in School for Scoundrels where a young loser finds the courage and self-esteem to stand-up for himself, even to his teacher who has his own plans for the loser’s girl.

School for Scoundrels
3 & 1/2 Stars

I’m not a huge Jon Heder fan, but I think Billy Bob Thornton is great.  School for Scoundrels puts both in situations to do what they do well.  Thornton plays a mean-spirited but humorous creep, and Heder takes another turn as the lovable loser.  Add to that some very good physical humor and some off the wall humor and you’ve got a good, if not great, fall comedy on your hands.

Roger (Jon Heder) is a loser.  By day he is abused by fellow workers and law breakers in his job as a meter-maid.  By night Roger pines for his neighbor, a sweet girl named Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) whose roommate (Sarah Silverman) is as sarcastic as Amanda is nice.

Unable to express his feelings to the woman he loves Roger decides to join a secret confidence building course run by the unscrupulous Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton).  There he meets other losers like himself (Todd Louiso, Horatio Sanz, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Leonard Earl Howse) and for the first time begins to feel a part of something.

Roger’s success in the class has some dire consequences.  Dr. P decides to challenge Roger and make a move on Amanda, using every dirty trick imaginable.  Roger is forced to either tell the truth or beat his professor at his own game.

The film is full of gags and some increasingly brutal humor.  It doesn’t have the balls to go for the big laughs Thornton got in Bad Santa, but it is consistently funny throughout.

The supporting cast, stolen mostly from former SNL casts, does well.  Silverman plays her typical bitch on wheels and is a little too shrill for me here.  If she’s serious about giving acting a chance I’d like to see her branch out a little more.  There are two cameo roles that stand out, Ben Stiller and David Cross, who are so good you wonder why the script couldn’t fit them into the plot more.

It’s a fine comedy that won’t bore you.  It doesn’t have the huge belly laughs you would expect from this material, but it is consistantly funny throughout.  If guy humor, men getting shot in the crotch with paint guns, and losers trying pitifully to impress women sound like your thing, you should enjoy yourself.  It’s well worth the price of admission.

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More Like Hell

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Haven
  • IMDB: link

haven-posterHaven is like watching a mediocre movie on cable television and switching the channel to a different mediocre movie every 30 minutes and occasionally going back to see if the others have gotten any better.  Well, it’s not quite that good.

The film begins with the story of successful business man Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton) and his teenage daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner), who flee the country to the Cayman Islands to avoid prosecution.  Carl has laundered money from some illegal activity (the film never explains what this was, or the limit to Carl’s involvement).

Once in the Islands, Pippa (what an awful name) rebels and hangs out with a local wannabe gangster (Victor Rasuk) who steals a car, takes her to a party, gets her high and then arrested.

[click to continue…]

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Give Peace A Chance

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how controversial John Lennon was, especially for those of us who were born after his most, if not all, of his performances, music and otherwise.  The U.S. vs. John Lennon is a new documentary that looks at the struggle between a musician from the UK and the United States Government.  How powerful was Lennon?  Powerful enough to scare the President of the United States into a conspiracy to get him deported?  Why?  Read on and find out…

The U.S. vs. John Lennon
4 Stars

The year of the documentary continues.  The U.S. vs. John Lennon takes its place along a great list of documentaries released this year that include An Inconvenient Truth (read that review here), Who Killed the Electric Car? (read that review here), Cocaine Cowboys (that review is coming, I promise), and Wordplay (read that review here).  Aside from being informative and entertaining the documentary is quite timely; I urge everyone to watch closely at the speeches Richard Nixon gives about the Vietnam War and compare them, as the film does in a very small part, to our current administration’s conflict in Iraq.

Imagine all the people, living life in peace,
They say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

John Lennon was a God in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  He was also an intellectual, and in a way that would make Toby Keith go into fits of rage, a strong antiwar activist.  The documentary begins with a summing up of the political and cultural landscape of the time.  It discusses the Nixon White House, the Black Panthers, political activists Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others.

From there the film jumps to Lennon’s height of popularity with The Beatles, his meeting with Yoko Ono, and how he evolved from the lead singer and spokesman of a British band into one of the world’s most outspoken anti-war activists.

The film follows Lennon’s attempts atpeaceful activism including his “Hair Peace, Bed Peace” sit-ins and his famous “Bed-Ins” in Amsterdam and Montreal, the recording of the album “Give Peace a Chance” which would become the international anthem for the peace movement, and the even more eccentric “Bagism” where Lennon and Ono were interviewed by reporters while completely covered under a bag.

Despite the couple’s list of eccentricities and oddities, Lennon was so popular and so out-spoken against the Vietnam War that Richard Nixon’s White House began a campaign to deport him.  The documentary follows those years of Lennon fighting the system and trying to stay in his adopted home of New York City, as Senator Strom Thurmond and INS worked just as hard to kick Lennon out of the country.

The film is fascinating watching interviews with those who knew Lennon inter-mixed with clips and music from the time period.  My sole complaint with the film is it’s a little slow getting started.  The first half-hour or so tries to paint the picture of the period and events before it ever gets to Lennon specifically.  While great for youngsters, many people will find this remedial history a tad boring.

However, once the film shifts focus to Lennon and his battles against the Nixon White House things get good, really good.  Lennon and his legacy are in good hands here, and we are given some timely and balls-on perfect commentary by Gore Vidal about Nixon’s White House and the Bush White House today.  I’m sure it will be enough to send Toby Keith into fits of rage, which is of course always a good thing.

John Lennon was an idealist, he was a little crazy, and he was right.  We need people like him today.  The documentary shows how this country needs people like Lennon to open their eyes to troubles we are all too willing to ignore.  Unlike today’s celebrities who pick up and leave causes at the drop of a hat, without ever really understanding them, Lennon understood, and felt deeply personal over, the issues of his day and saw a need and responsibility to share those views with the word.  He is missed, today more than ever.

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Open Season

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Is it wrong to hope that all the annoying animated animals in a film get shot by the hunter?  Does that make you a bad person?  If so then you might want to stay away from Open Season.  Not the worst animated film of the year, but a dismally mediocre one that will leave you bored to tears.

Open Season
2 & 1/2 Stars

More animated mischief in the woods, this time with Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher as the lead voices.  Joy.

Boog (Martin Lawrence) is a big domesticated Grizzly Bear who has been raised in captivity by a forest ranger (Debra Messing).  Boog’s life is perfect, all the food he can eat, a mother who loves him, entertaining youngsters with his trained act.  His life is paradise.

Then a dimwitted deer named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) turns his whole world upside down, and Boog finds himself out in the woods only days before hunting season is to begin.  Boog and Elliot try to make it back to town, avoid the hunters – especially the villainous Shaw (Gary Sinese) who has it in for the pair – and make it home in one piece.  Along the way they cause trouble, meet new friends and explore the woods.

There’s nothing too original here, the plot is pretty straightforward.  The film has a nice joke at the beginning as Shaw compares Beth to a Girl Scout.  Enjoy it; the next laugh will take about an hour to find you.  Many of the children in the screening I attended seemed bored, disinterested and only vaguely aware a film was showing.  Not a great endorsement.

It’s not that the film is bad; it’s just not more interesting than any animated show you’d find playing on your television.  The supporting cast includes Billy Connolly, Jon Favreau, and Patrick Warburton, but even their humor does little to lighten the mood.

On a side-note, for animation buffs, the film breaks a cardinal rule of animation by not only having the characters discuss “taking a crap” (their words), but actually showing it.  The scene is supposed to be funny, but when an animated PG-rated film has to stoop to such low humor to elicit a laugh, then you know you’re in trouble.

There’s been a glut of animation that has hit theaters this year after a relatively poor showing in 2005.  Compared to the likes of Cars (read that review) and Over the Hedge (read that review), and even Barnyard (read that review) and Monster House (read that review), Open Season fails to measure up.  Still, it’s marginally better than The Wild (read that review here); at least that’s something, right?

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Tube Watch

by December Lambeth on September 28, 2006

in Television Reviews , Uncategorized

The new fall season is now in full swing boys and girls, and we’ve got a look what you can find, where you can find it, and what to watch.  There’s a whole slew of returning shows hitting those idiot box airwaves in the coming week; the list includes Ugly Betty, Smallville, Supernatural, Saturday Night Live, Everybody Hate’s Chris, All of Us, Girlfriends, The Game, Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars, Lost, The Nine and Freak Show you’ve got a full week indeed.  Take a look at all the shows premiering over the next week, starting tonight…

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Here’s what’s coming to your TV set next week.  To get the next batch of shows check back for next week’s Tube Watch.  Enjoy!

* Note #1 – all times are eastern/central
**Note #2- as I feel that reality TV is neither reality nor TV, anything so classified has been left off the list.

Thursday, Sept. 28:

Ugly Betty -  From ABC’s “Pilot” description: In the superficial world of high fashion, image is everything. Styles come and go, and the only constants are the superthin beauties who wear them. How can an ordinary girl – a slightly plump plain-Jane from Queens – possibly fit in? How exciting, a series on real life people and the best part is America Ferrera (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Real Women Have Curves) plays Betty, this should be good. (8 pm ABC)
Smallville – In the beginning there was Clark Kent and now he’s back to save the world and deal with the trauma of teenage life and being a super hero. [8 pm CW]
Supernatural – Sam and Dean are back investigating the paranormal and supernatural events. Really, this show is kind of weird, but cool and interesting. Supernatural is a young adult ghost hunt that keeps you on your toes. [9 pm CW]

Saturday, Sept. 30:

Saturday Night Live – What description does SNL need? I miss the good old days when it was exciting, funny and on the edge; now it’s bland, boring and not as original. [11:30 pm SNL]

Sunday, Oct. 1:

Everybody Hate’s Chris – Chris Rock narrates a in your face show about a teen growing up in Brooklyn, NY during the early 80’s. Season 3 on it’s way. [7 pm CW]
All of Us – Wow, this show started in 2003, who knew? From CW’s site: Returning for a fourth season, ALL OF US, the series inspired by the domestic adventures of entertainment superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, reflects a new generation’s enlightened attitude toward juggling ex-spouses, dating and professional lives with humor, sensitivity and heart. [7:30 pm CW]
Girlfriends – Season 7 continues the relationship of 4 girlfriends and life. They experience the ups and downs of love, loss and life in general in a series that at times is both funny and sorrowful.[8 pm CW]
The Game -  [8:30 pm CW]

Tuesday, Oct. 3:

Friday Night Lights – The big screen is coming near you in a “mini-me” fashion. This new TV series is based on the film Friday Night Lights. [8 pm NBC]
Veronica Mars -  Veronica is a high school student by day and a private eye by night, she goes through trials and tribulations in this addictive TV show and it’s just as powerful and dramatic as the first few seasons.[9 pm CW]

Wednesday, Oct. 4:

Lost – It’s about time, I just finished up the last of Season 2 and I’m totally itching for Season 3 to start. What a cliff hanger folks, Jack, Kate and Sawyer kneeling on a dock, Michael boating away and Charlie and Claire kiss…WTF. Got to see what happens next. The great thing about Lost is, it keeps you wanting more. [9 pm ABC]
The Nine -  From ABC’s Website: “Pilot”
Nine strangers end up in a Los Angeles bank on a fateful morning, as two men lock the doors, pull their guns and announce a bank robbery that will “only take five minutes.” These nine survivors are now banded together as an unlikely family, as they re-enter their lives and grapple with how this seminal event has changed them forever… [10 pm ABC]
Freak Show – From comedy central’s website: “Freak Show” follows the misadventures of the Freak Squad, a band of carnival oddities secretly employed by the Pentagon to execute low-priority missions. Need someone to read the meter at the embassy in a war-torn country? Freak Squad, assemble! [10:30 pm Comedy Central]

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Comic Book Shelf

by Alan Rapp on September 27, 2006

in Comics

Hey there true believers!  Today the seventh issue of our Comic Book Shelf edition hits our newsstand.  Want to know what’s getting released today at the old comic shop but too busy, or lazy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), to bother?  Well no sweat Bat-fans as we’ve got the scoop of what comics and graphic novels are hitting the shelves today.

This week’s releases include Action Comics, Captain America, Snakes on a Plane, Batman, Daredevil, Green Lantern, Ninja Scroll, Justice League of America, American Virgin, Ultimate Spider-Man, and more!

If you’re looking for graphic novels you don’t want to miss JSA: Mixed Signals, Ultimate Iron Man, Superman: Up, Up and Away!, Tom Strong Book 6, Justice Vol. 1, Daredevil Vol. 6 and Thor: The Eternals Saga Vol. 1.

For the full list check inside…

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New on DVD

by December Lambeth on September 26, 2006

in DVD Reviews 

We’re here to keep you informed on hot choices for renting or buying new DVD releases. Here’s a few of the new releases today: The Lake House, Curious George, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, The Notorious Bettie Page, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 2-Disc Ultimate Edition & One Tree Hill – The Complete 3rd Season.

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Here’s what is getting released today on DVD:

Film:

The Lake House -  I’m not sure if America needed to revisit the casting of Speed in the form of a romance-heavy romantic comedy, but nevertheless The Lake House is at your local video store.  And even though the commercials showcase a plot so ridiculous only Uwe Boll wouldn’t question it, the film is able to win over the female demographic with ease.  Even if they have a hard time admitting enjoying a chick flick, the guys just might find themselves rooting for a final scene shows Neo and Ms. Congeniality locking lips. Get the rest of Ian’s opinion on The Lake House.

Curious George -  The children’s classic story comes to life in this sweet and old school hand drawn animation. With voice talent from Will Ferrell as The Man in the Yellow Hat and the additions of Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy and Dick Van Dyke bringing George to life with all sorts of trouble. A perfect young family film.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – It’s the Fast and the Furious without Paul Walker or Vin Diesel filmed in Tokyo with prettier, smaller and faster cars. Little to back this film up, but entertaining if you are into the street racing genre films of today’s youth.

The Notorious Bettie Page – For those of us too young to remember Bettie Page was the pin-up girl of a generation whose popularity rivaled (and in many circles eclipsed) that of movie icon Marilyn Monroe.  For many she was the icon of her age.  The new film tries to capture snapshots of her life dealing mostly with her career in front of the camera and takes a look at the young southern gal who would become The Notorious Bettie Page. Get the rest of Alan’s opinion on The Notorious Bettie Page.

Special Edition:

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 2-Disc Ultimate Edition – Even though this film was done in 1974, Tobe Hooper knew what he was doing, it’s grimmy, gritty, gross and dirty. Even for today’s time with Rob Zombie’s House of a 1000 Corpses and James Wan’s Saw, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre takes the horror film genre to the far end of that counter. I’m still disturbed and freaked out with every moment, this film is based on actual true events, it’s hard to deal with people doing such hideous and disgusting acts. And now, for you really big fans, you have 2 Discs to be infatuated with. The set boasts commentary from actors, the director, art designer and cinematographer. It has original trailers for both TV and Radio spots. To top it all off there are at least 2 documentaries over an hour long that includes the shocking truth about the story and a tour of the house. Plus deleted scenes, outtakes, a blooper reel and still galleries…good times for all.

Television:

One Tree Hill – The Complete Third Season -  One Tree Hill is another attempt to repeat the luck The WB had with shows like Dawson’s Creek and Felicity, but fell short of the tree. I’m surprised it’s made it to season 3; the first season was alright, but the second season went straight to pot. It’s a TV show about raging hormonal teens dealing with the drama of being a member of the basketball team, cheer-leading, teen marriage, a lot of teen sex and parental issues. Amazing to me that most of these kids have missing parents throughout the complete series, I’m not sure how they get along with little to no guidance. What guidance they do receive is by the over the hill basketball coach who has a bit of a drinking problem and the, now town mayer, who is a back stabbing ass of a man, who couldn’t raise a boil on his butt, little own sons. One Tree Hill is what it is, either you like it or you don’t.

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This Week

by Alan Rapp on September 25, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week?  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released which include The Last King of Scotland (on Wednesday), Billy Bob Thorton and Jon Heder going mano e mano in School for Scoundrels, Ashton Kutcher as a dimwitted cartoon (and he stars in an animated film out today too!).

All that and more; c’mon in and let us get you ready for the week! 

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more?  Just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look?  Just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

Opening Wednesday, in Limited Release:

The Last King of Scotland

James McAvoy plays a Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician of the vicious and brutal President of Uganda (Forest Whitacker); he discovers he can no longer stand the dictator’s tyrannical rule and attempts to flee the country.  Oscar buzz is swarming all over this one which is based on the novel by Giles Foden describing the real life dictatorship of Idi Amin who ruled Uganda with an iron fist in the 1970’s.  Kevin MacDonald (Touching the Void, and the 2000 Oscar winning documentary One Day in September) directs, and Gilian Anderson and Kerry Washington also star.  The film opens Wednesday in limited release in select cities.

Opening Friday:

School for Scoundrels

A lovelorn loser (Jon Heder) enrolls in a secret confidence building class to improve his self-esteem and win the girl of his dreams (Jacinda Barrett), only to see his self-absorbed instructor (Billy Bob Thorton) attempt to beat him to the girl.  Zany comedy abounds in this one in a somewhat sweeter version of the humor Thorton used so well in Bad Santa.  Todd Philips (Old School, Road Trip, Starsky & Hutch) directs.  The supporting cast includes Sarah Silverman, Ben Stiller, Michael Clarke Duncan, Todd Louiso, Horatio Sanz, and David Cross.  The film opens on Friday and we’ll have the review.

Open Season

You know what we needed?  Another mediocre animated film about critters in the woods.  Yeah…  just exactly what we need.  This one follows the story of a bear (Martin Lawrence) raised in captivity by a forest ranger (Debra Messing) who must adapt to life in the forest as Open Season for hunting begins.  The film also includes the voice talents of Ashton Kutcher as his nit-wit friend (what else?), Billy Connolly, Jon Favreau, Patrick Warburton, Nika Futterman, Jane Krakowski, and Gary Sinese as the obessed hunter Shaw.  Somebody please explain Ashton Kutcher’s career to me, please!  The film opens on Friday, so check back for our review.

The Guardian

Speaking of films we don’t want to see starring Ashton Kutcher…  Kutcher stars as Maverick cocky Jake Fisher, the “best of the best,” who trains with famous rescue swimmer Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) to work in Alaska saving lives and learning about life.  Anybody else think this sounds like Lifetime Television for guys?  The supporting cast includes Clancy Brown, Shelby Fenner, John Heard, Leigh Hennessy, Dule Hill, Sela Ward, Bonnie Bramlett, Matt Laub, Neal McDonough, Melissa Sagemiller, and (the awesomely named) Danny Cosmo Higginbottom.  The Guardian starts drowning theater goers this Friday.

Currently in Limited Release, Opening Wide on Friday:

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

If you’re not a Beatles fan just scroll down to the next film.  John Lennon was the man.  More than just the front man for the biggest rock band in England, or the world, Lennon was an idealist and visionary.  The new documentary examines the life of Lennon and his struggles against the war in Vietnam.  The documentary is the latest from the writer/director team of David Leaf and John Scheinfeld (The Unknown Marx Brothers, Dean Martin: That’s Amore, Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of “Smile”).  After playing two weeks in select cites, the film will be release wide on Friday.  (Read our review here).

Haven

A businessman (Bill Paxton) flees the United States for the Cayman Islands with his daughter (Agnes Bruckner) to avoid prosecution.  After arriving their fates become intertwined with a local (Orlando Bloom) planning a crime that will shock the nation.  Written and directed by Frank E. Flowers (Swallow) the film also stars Zoe Saldana, Victor Rasuk, Lee Ingleby, Sarah Carter, Rachel Miner, and Robert Wisdom.  The film has languished in the festival circuit for two years (it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004).  It’s been playing in select cities for a few weeks and opens wide on Friday.  Check back for our review.

The Science of Sleep (Science des reves, La)

As the lights came up I sat in the theater trying to put my experience of watching this film into words.  What I came up was simply this – bizarrely fascinating.  The film centers around a man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who lacks the ability to separate his dream world from reality, with dizzying results, and his love for his new neighbor (Charlotte Gainsboroug).  Nowhere near conventional, the film reminds me of Terry Gilliam’s early work (before he went crazy and started making “films” like Tideland and The Brothers Grimm).  It was released in select cities last week (read our review) and Friday begins its wider release.

Opening Friday, in Limited Release:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Writer/director Dito Montiel’s autobiopic stars Robert Downey Jr. ad Montiel returning home to Astoria, NY to come to terms with his past.  Seriously, how cool is it for Robert Downey Jr. to play you in your life story?  Shia LaBeouf plays Mentiel’s young self, and the film has a nice supporting cast that includes (RazorFine fav) Rosario Dawson, Chazz Palminteri, Dianee Weist, Channing Tatum, Melonie Diaz, and Eric Roberts.  Montiel’s personal story did well at Sundace pulling in both the Director’s Award and the Special Jury Prize for ensemble performance.  The film opens Friday exclusively in New York and Los Angeles.

Jesus Camp

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (the pair gave us 2005’s The Boys of Baraka) present this documentary look at children who attend the “Kids on Fire” summer camp for born again children.  The film focuses on three children from 9 to 12 years-old, and examines the broader impact of the Evangelical movement still strong in the Midwest.  Oddly enough, the film is being marketed to Christians despite it’s slightly slanted view in the other direction (Michael Moore looooves it).  It’s been a big hit on the festival circuit, including here in Kansas City.  Jesus Camp opens in select cities on Friday.

Facing the Giants

Another football coach movie?  Grant Taylor (Alex Kindrick, who also directs and co-wrote the script with his brother Stephen) isn’t the great football coach or motivator; his teams have lost consistantly for years, he’s about to be fired, and his wife is infertile.  Deciding he has nothing left to lose he turns to God to help inspire his players.  Not to misquote Star Trek, but what does God need with football?  The film was put together by an all volunteer Baptist cast in Albany, GA.  The inspirational pro-Christian message is sure to play better in red states.  It opens Friday in select cities.

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Flyboys An Interview With The Producer & Cast

by December Lambeth on September 22, 2006

in Uncategorized

Razorfine, and other members of the Kansas City Film Critic’s Circle, got the opportunity to set down with James Franco, David Ellison, Dean Devlin and Rachel Olschan actors and producers of the War World 1 film, Flyboys, at the KC Air Show.

Flyboys
3 & 1/2 Stars

Very lucky for us, Dean Devlin was there; he’s one of the producers on the project and very hands on and passionate about the film. He spoke in great detail about elements to the film and the history behind it; Dean gave us some wonderful insights.

“The director, Tony Bill, welcomed the help and liked having the suggestions. He doesn’t have one of those extensive egos, so I was able to help out on set wherever needed, from feeding the lion to feeding lines to the cast. He allowed me to work hand and hand we were partners all the way through.” Dean Devlin

David Ellison played Eddie Beagle, a young pilot who couldn’t get anything right till the end. David has been a pilot since he was 13 and ranked one of the top 3 acrobatic pilots, it was quite comical he played a role that couldn’t shoot, barely fly and screwed up things pretty big back home. Flyboys is David’s first feature film, he played a small role in The Chumscrubber, you could tell he was a little shy and new at this whole interview thing, but added a great deal to his character and the role he played in bringing Eddie to life.

James Franco was a little out of it; he actually may have dozed off in the middle of the interview. James played the lead with Blaine Rawlings character, a headstrong no holds bar country boy who just lost the family ranch and felt it was time for a change. Blaine started out with a sense of self-preservation, but ended up in love and with a strong sense of duty to the other men in his quadrant and what they stood for.

Flyboys is the first WW1 film made in over 40 years, it represents true events and composites of real life heroes in the research of letters from soldiers during the conflict and history books written about the war and adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille.

It’s a film full of life during a time when a gentleman’s war still existed for the pilots. As with life Flyboys gives us many ups and downs from romance, humorous lighthearted moments to death, sorrow and a sense of duty.

“What was going on in the sky was an end of the era. The last gentleman’s war, there was a code of conduct in the air, unlike on the ground. There was trench warfare and chemical weapons happening below.” Dean Devlin

Q:: Let’s start with why did you choose a War World 1 picture, little alone a history piece?

Dean:: It’s been 40 years since Hollywood has made a picture about these unsung heroes. Flyboys is a film based on true events and characters meshed together from WW1 about American fighter pilots. We thought it was time to revive the genre and time to honor some guys who have been forgotten.

Q:: Are any of you history buffs or did you do any serious research for your character’s role or the film in general?

Dean:: Well James reads all the time; he’s one of the biggest readers I know, so he did plenty of research.

James:: That’s true, I think I may have had too many books.

Dean:: However, the director has the largest collection of books about WW1 and his research and extensive knowledge on the era was of great help and importance; he was a real resource for us.

James:: There was a 2 Volume set put together for us to use about the pilots from the Lafayette Escadrille crew. This was one of the biggest helps of all.

Dean:: Our aerial battles where even drawn from the letters from these pilots back then all the way down to the detail with the description of tracer fire looking like spider webs in the skies.

Q:: To keep it historically accurate, how much time did each one of you put into research for the film, on your own?

James:: I signed on in December so about 4 months I trained as a pilot and did as much reading as I could. I watch the old films; they were a lot closer to the actual war.

I even got my pilots license.

Q:: Would you have done that with out the film?

James:: No, probably not, I have a hard time motivating myself to do things unless forced. I do a lot of great things, but I have to get the movie first.

Q:: Would you want to do another film that involves flying?

James:: Yes.

Q:: Were there things that surprised you during your research? Incidences that were truer than fiction?

David:: Yes, I just knew the lion had to be fake, but when I opened the book and was reading the biographies of the gentlemen from the Lafayette Escadrille, there they were holding 2 lion cubs.

Dean:: I loved the lion. At the end of the film, I snuck in the cage and fed him; I had spent a lot of time during the filming of this movie feeding the lion so I knew we had a bond. He wasn’t a trained lion.

David:: The other thing is, I’ve been a pilot since I was 13 and thought for sure that someone else was the first African American pilot, I had no idea that Eugene Jacques Ballard, Eugene Skinner’s (Abdul Salis) character really was the first African American to fly in combat and in the United States. There were a lot of surprises that came from reading the history for the film.

Q:: Out of other films you have worked on did you feel like you owed a little more to the memories of the characters you portrayed in Flyboys? They did do something original, something that can never be repeated again.

Dean:: Yes, even though I felt I owed a lot to The Patriot, many did not know about the story of the Flyboys. So there was a sense of responsibility to really honor these guys.

Q:: Since you have worked a lot in the science fiction genre, like Independence Day, do you find it easier to do a film where you make something up or when you do a period piece like Flyboys?

Rachel:: It’s harder to recreate reality than fiction. With period pieces there are more fans and critics out there checking all the facts and making sure you get everything spot on, but when you are making something up, there isn’t anything to compare it to and no one you must honor or commemorate.

Q:: Why was it that the only real character was Captain Thenault (Jean Reno) and the rest where composites of other men from the story?

Dean:: The Captain Thenault character was easiest because there was only 1 captain, but it was easier to mix the other 38 men from the Lafayette Escadrille into fewer characters to make more of a connection with the audience and each individual got more consideration. The thing is that everything that happened in the movie is something that truly happened during that conflict.

Q:: Basically you did it to keep a more coherent narrative?

Dean:: That’s right.

Q:: On a lighter note, what was your favorite day on set?

Franco laughs….:

David:: Everyday was pretty fun and fairly tedious. The days we were shooting and doing any of the flying scenes were fun.

Q:: You were the most experienced pilot on the film, but the character you played was a bit of a screw up?

David:: Yah, he was. It was really fun and different to play such a challenging role.

Q:: Back too serious. As I was reading the press kit, I noticed that the average life span of one of these pilots was 18 hours, is this true?

Dean:: Yes, it greatly depended on when you were flying because the machines were being invited as the war went along. Improvements happened everyday. At one point the life span was only 16 hours and for the Escadrille it got up to 3 to 6 weeks.

Q:: Do any of you have friends or family in the military?

Rachel:: Every man in my family were and are in the military.

James:: Both of my grandfathers fought in WW2

David:: So did mine.

Come to find out Flyboys was done completely independent, it had no relation to the Hollywood studio system. We truly commend Dean for that.:

Dean:: This project was a real labor of love, from the time I got the script to when James and David signed on it had been 6 years. This project was done completely outside of the Hollywood studio system; the film was totally independently funded. For a film of this size and of its nature, I believe that is the first time that has ever happened, so it really was and is a labor of love.

Q:: Why was it done outside of the Hollywood system?

Dean:: Even if I could convince the studio execs to make a film of this genre, the process is a very cynical one and the there is a huge fear of films like this not being hip and edgy and the MTV mentality might not like it. I think if we had done it in the studio system it would have made the film less. We would not have had the director and the creativity and strengths we had on set with new and less recognized talent, true talent not the stars who are ranked by who they are dating and not by their skill. We may have had some director whose only claim to fame is the latest rock video and a writer who knew nothing about classical film.

With the type of staff we had plus shooting in England we got more. We got more work out of everybody on set, they all went above and beyond the call of duty for this project; we got more than we paid for. For example, Franco never left the set, from the time he stepped on in the morning to the end of the shoot, he didn’t go back to his trailer and said “call me when you need me”, which is what a typical Hollywood film set would be like.

And Jean Reno is brilliant, it just takes one look and he’s got you. He is diffidently one of those actors that you get more with less, just a tiny eye movement, you can get so much power. The guys would watch shooting just to watch Reno act. He’s such a real actor, a great gentleman and an excellent addition to the crew and the film.

We got the quality and hard work out every member of the cast and crew, it was a wonderful experience and created a cohesive full length film.

Q:: You can tell that the extra work was put in. It completely translated to the big screen! Do you think not having the money to throw at problems forced you to think outside the box more and create a better film?

Dean:: Of course, think about some of the scenes and shots we had. We had a costuming budget equal to television, but here we are with unique and replicated costuming. The scenes where to scale and happy little accidents happened all over the place. There was a scene where James character had kissed the girl under a tree in the rain, but originally this scene was to be shot on a sunny day. With a small budget, you cannot set around and wait for the sun to come out, you have to compromise and make it work. This created a more intense scene than originally planned and was left in the film. The first scene, if shot, may have ended up on the cutting room floor.  You have no choice, but to be creative when you have a finite amount of money.

Q:: I commend your style of filmmaking. It wasn’t all-serious there was some very genuine happy moments or rather, light hearted moments that came across, such as life. Was this intentional, or another of those happy accident types of moments?

Dean:: That says something about you as a viewer, because the comedy is not written as comedy, but humanity and that’s truly where humor comes from. In the Hollywood studio system, they would say “where’s the jokes, where are the one-liners?” and they wouldn’t get that humor. We always felt that the audience is not stupid; the truth is people get it and you don’t have to hit everybody over the head with a sledgehammer. We wanted them to find the humor out of the humanity of the moment. The greatest feeling you get is when you hear people laugh at moments in the film.

There isn’t just humor and a bit of romance, but war action and male comradery, however we don’t throw the violence in your face. We don’t show blood and guts, what we show are the conditions and the idea of what’s to happen.

Flyboys is a film that reminds us of a time when men acted like gentlemen and did things out of a sense of honor and duty. It also shows us that, no matter what generation it is or what era, there are always heroes and those select few, men and women, who are willing to live on the edge and be the first to accomplish a great purpose. The story and accommodations shown for the heroes back then still stand true for our heroes in war today.

I think there are large similarities between the Flyboys and what is going on now. Any man or woman who volunteers to fight for their country out of a since of honor and duty are all heroes; they were heroes then and they are heroes now and I think that is something that never changes. Dean Devlin

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Knights of the Sky

by Alan Rapp on September 22, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Flyboys follows the stories of young Americans who volunteered to join the war effort as fighter pilots against Germany in WWI.  Not great, but when the film stops getting in its own way there’s plenty to enjoy, and it’s got some of the best dogfight sequences Hollywood has put out.

Flyboys
3 Stars

Flyboys main problem is it’s just too Hollywood.  It’s too nice, it’s too stylish, and it’s just too damn clean.  Despite being based on a real story the film feels Hollywood fake, which is a problem.  Still the actors do what they can with the script and find a way to make a good, if not particularly memorable, film.

WWI is raging across Europe and America stands idly by.  A group of young Americans, of different backgrounds, from different states, and for different reasons, travel to France to join the fight.  They volunteer for the Lafayette Escadrille, an elite fighter pilot division, to take on the German air force.

The characters in the film are your standard army film group.  There’s the best of the group Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) who is burdened with a conscience and falls for a local woman (Jennifer Decker).  There’s the black fighter (Abdul Salis) who doesn’t want to fight, the screw-up who can’t shoot straight (David Ellison), the one who succumbs to the pressure (Philip Winchester), and the spoiled rich kid (Tyler Labine).  It wouldn’t be a war film with a noble captain (Jean Reno) and a mysterious and aloof flight instructor (Martin Henderson).

The film begins with how each came to volunteer, follows their training and early missions, and their final mission of glory.

The acting is as good as it can be given these stock characters and relationships.  The real stars of the film are the dogfights.  At the beginning they are a little to much like a video game for me, but they improve over the course of the film as the squad becomes part of the fighting unit.

There are problems of course.  The story is far from original and relies too much on the aerial dogfights and likeability of its cast.  It’s also is a little too brash for my taste; it has all the subtlety of a Michael Bay film.

I would have preferred a film that had paid a little more attention to detail rather than try to look as lush and clean as this one.  Everything is just too Hollywood beautiful.  And what a rich country France must have been during the war, to have every single member of their country dressed in new clothing, perfectly washed and pressed daily (even as they evacuate cities).  And who knew that French military uniforms are so resistant to dirt and wear they always look like they were just sewn.  Amazing.

Despite the films flaws, gross generalizations, and lack of accuracy in small matters, it still is an enjoyable film, and one of the few war movies acceptable for young teenagers.  It’s nowhere near as bad as Pearl Harbor, but is inflicted with some of the same flaws.  Still, for what it does right it is easy enough to recommend.

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