Ellison & Penley: Episode 1

Ellison: I'm Estefan Ellison.
Penley: And I'm Will Penley.
Ellison: We are going to be discussing films we have seen recently. The first film on today's show is Walk the Line. In this film directed by James Mangold, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon play country singers Johnny Cash and June Carter, respectively. We follow Cash as he goes from recording his first label to descending into drugs. This is a good film, but it felt like a made for television movie and could have worked better as a mini-series. The highlight of Walk the Line are the very good performances from Phoenix and Witherspoon, though. In fact, Phoenix manages Cash's singing voice perfectly. I give Walk the Line a thumbs up.
Penley: Thumbs up for me as well. And you're right, Phoenix is fantastic as the legendary country star. I know it's a longshot, but I'm really rooting for him to get the Oscar.
Ellison: He might not get it, but Witherspoon has it in the bag. She should already be up there.
Penley: Agreed.
Ellison: And I'd prefer Phoenix over Ledger any day.
Penley: Not having seen Brokeback Mountain, I'll trust you on that.
Ellison: Okay, moving on to lighter fare, here is another Oscar frontrunner, albeit in Best Animated Feature: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The British duo who starred in three brilliant shorts were given a big-screen adventure last year and it is spectacular. It is the annual vegetable competition, but the dreaded Were-Rabbit is in it's midst and eating everyones food. Only the cheese-loving inventor and his dog, Gromit can save the day. I am a huge fan of the shorts and the film stays true to them. It is very funny and the voices are wonderful. I especially enjoyed Ralph Fiennes playing the story's villain. It's disappointing that films like Madagascar and Chicken Little fared better at the box office, but hopefully it will find a large audience curious to see it after it wins the Oscar. A huge thumbs up for Wallace & Gromit.
Penley: Big thumbs up for me, too. I liked this film a lot in theaters, but enjoyed it even more after buying the DVD. The film is quite an achievement, considering the way it was animated. All the voice artists are spectacular, most notably Peter Sallis and Fight Club's Helena Bonham Carter. And yes, this one is way better than the mediocre Chicken Little or the absolutely atrocious Madagascar.
Ellison: I see Helena Bonham Carter starting to provide more voices for animated films, especially after Wallace & Gromit and her wonderful work in Corpse Bride. I hope more stop-motion feature films are made in the future, especially since there haven't been that many.
Penley: I agree. I'm interested in making one myself, actually, sometime in the future.
Ellison: I hope to see that one, too. So, my film picks of the week are Wallace & Gromit and Walk the Line. And you, Will?
Penley: My first pick of the week is Barry Sonnenfeld's very funny Get Shorty. John Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a mobster sent to Hollywood to collect a debt. While there, he discovers that the movie business may be right up his alley. John Travolta turned his career around with Pulp Fiction and it's clear that he's making better choices now. The supporting cast, including Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito and Rene Russo are fantastic as well. Scott Frank's screenplay, based on Elmore Leonard's book (he also wrote the marvelous Jackie Brown), is clever and witty and Barry Sonnenfeld's direction is top-notch. A very enthusiastic thumbs up for me.
Ellison: I also give it thumbs up. John Travolta's best performance is in Get Shorty. Don't know if I agree about him making smart choices now. Case in point: Battlefield Earth.
Penley: Well, it's a different time. I think Tarantino should do another film with him.
Ellison: Yes, of course.
Penley: My second pick of the week is a really fantastic one. Kevin Smith's masterpiece -- Clerks. Dante, an employee of the Quick Stop, is called into work on his day off, where he must deal with girl troubles, his sarcastic best friend Randal and a host of other strange characters including the local dope dealers, Jay and Silent Bob. This is one of my two favorite films of all time (the other being Pulp Fiction). Kevin Smith's script is just amazing. Jeff Anderson has the best performance in the film as Randal, who is one of the greatest characters of all time in my opinion. Clerks was made for only $27,000 and shot almost entirely in one convenience store in New Jersey. As film critic Janet Maslin said, "it's a classic example of how to spin straw into gold." Huge thumbs up -- scratch that, all my fingers and toes up -- for Clerks.
Ellison: I saw it for the first time just recently and I also thought it was brilliant. If ever there was an award for the ultimate independent film, Clerks should win it.
Penley: I agree completely.
Ellison: That Kevin Smith had to only shoot in the Quick Stop at night makes it even more impressive.
Penley: Plus, he still had to run the store during the day so he was probably swallowing bottles of aspirin throughout the shoot.
Ellison: He he. So, the films we reviewed today are all available to rent or own on DVD.
Penley: That's right. And they're all well worth a rental/purchase in my opinion.
Ellison: You can read more about our opinions on our blogs, My Film Rambles and Reel Paradise. Any last words before we part, Will?
Penley: Well, considering this episode is taking place the night of the Oscars, I suppose all I have to say is... Good night...and good luck.
Ellison: And if you can't do, teach. If you can't teach, teach gym. See you next time.
Penley: I'm Will Penley.
Ellison: And I'm Estefan Ellison.