The Pestle Movie Podcast

The Pestle is a new movie podcast hosted by Wes Evans who is a director, writer, and actor, along with Todd Sapio who is an actor, producer, and musician. Together, they review films and look to provide interesting tidbits and insights into the filmmaking process.

Sometimes they find a particularly interesting theme to discuss, or a camera technique being used in a clever way. For instance, in the movie Warrior they do a deep dive into the various techniques used to immerse the audience in the world of the film and that represent the various relationship arcs taking place throughout the movie. In Wonder Woman they analyze the ways that feminism is represented as well as the visual effects.

As far as movie podcasts go, this is one of the best film podcasts around and very much worth the time to listen and appreciate that they stay on topic instead of riffing on irrelevant things that have nothing to do with the movie they’re covering, because they have so much to say on any given movie you never feel like you’ve wasted your time listening to each new episode. I highly recommend The Pestle Movie Podcast!

Here are a few of my favorite episodes for you to listen to:



Guardians of the Galaxy 2:

“The Boys Are Back” Movie Review

“The Boys Are Back” is a tender view of a hurting family, this film is a jewel of acting, photography and story. Based on a true story, this follows Joe Carr (Clive Owen) who has recently lost his wife, and now he needs to connect with his son while juggling work and another son from his previous marriage. The tagline says it all, “Growing up can be the adventure of a lifetime.”

Why you’ll like this:
Great simple family-drama, if you enjoy movies like “Hearts in Atlantis” or “October Sky” then this should be up your alley.

The acting is absolutely flawless, and I cannot think of a single role that went flat at any point. Clive Owen continues to show his brilliance as a character missing his wife and learning to be a father. He’s astoundingly genuine in his anger, frustration, love and determination. Having such a lead must have made it easier on everyone else, but that does not diminish how fantastic and nuanced every character shines on-screen. Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay play the sons, the latter being 6 years older, and their chemistry is magical yet they bring stark differences to the table, one being a wild-child, the other being a sensitive introvert in need of father. Simply outstanding performances, I may go as far to say that “performance” is a cheap word when describing it, they simply felt real and honest. The entire cast (including Emma Booth, Laura Fraser, Julia Blake, EVERYONE) sunk me straight into the story and moment, as true a compliment as any actor can receive.

Acting can go unusable if not filmed properly, but director Scott Hicks was perfect in his execution. The entire film lived in this higher floating moment, kind of a nostalgic memory ranging from forlorn and yearning to feeling the sunlight hit on a cold autumn day. The music played right into these still-life moments using light acoustic guitar strumming in a melancholic direction. Even after the credits rolled it was hard to turn it off, beautiful music. In this regard it reminded me much of “Garden State”, where the music serves to really underscore the drama and fill this resonating undertone to everything happening.

Why you won’t like this:
No deeper subplots worth mentioning, this is a straight forward drama.

The story itself remains rather simple in nature, but I think the best dramas live in simplistic narrative so as to leave room for the emotional journey of its characters. While I’m not a huge feel-good story kind of guy, this movie seemed to teeter between heart-felt indie drama and mainstream drama, but it never sells out and never extorts your emotions. Clive Owen made me sit down to watch, but the collaborative effort made me want to revisit this underseen film.

4 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Clive Owen, Emma Booth, Laura Fraser, George McKay, Nicholas McAnulty
Director: Scott Hicks
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.
Release Date: November 6, 2009

“Waiting for Superman” Movie Review

"Waiting for Superman" movie poster“Waiting for Superman” is a passionate documentary about five kids, from very different backgrounds, who are relying on a broken education system to kick their lives off on the right foot. While this is a film that dives into the world of our public schools, it really is centered around how it all plays into the lives of these children, so ultimately director Davis Guggenheim allows us to draw our own conclusions, but the writing is certainly on the wall. The system is broken, but it isn’t hopeless.

Why you’ll like this:
Expertly made documentary; very interesting view of the education system; the kid’s are amazing

There’s a lot of nooks and crannies this film shines a light on, many of which I was not previously familiar. I was very pleased though that this was not a partisan documentary effort, it felt natural to lay the blame at both parties, because everyone elected seems to promise that it’s time to fix our education system, and yet we remain stagnant. One of the bigger shocks to me was the notion that this isn’t necessarily a socio-economic problem either, in the public school system everyone seems to be about evenly affected.

My favorite section of film revolved around the Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada, who gives us the movie’s namesake. If nothing else can be said about this documentary, I think it’s well laid before our eyes that there’s a lot of very passionate people who have the desire to see the children of our country receive a great education, and Mr Canada is certainly a champion of this notion. He believes so thoroughly that kids anywhere in our country can learn and keep up no matter their background, that he decided to take on one of the hardest sections in our country, Harlem, and has been wildly successful proving that it isn’t about a child’s ability to learn, but rather the expectations we place on them.

I can only find one small nitpick of an issue in this excellent documentary, and it’s that I was hoping for a look into different styles of education. Not in terms of “let’s teach them songs to help with math”, but more of a dive into the very roots of our education style. I’ve always heard that our school system was born to teach us to be good factory workers, “do a task until the bell rings, then start a new task…”, and I was hoping to see or learn more about where our philosophic approach to education came from, and if there were other ways to teach rather than just relying on good ol’ Science, Math & English for a few hours every day.

Why you won’t like this:
You care neither for learning (ironic) or for documentaries period.

But again, the focus of this movie more than anything was about the kids, who are in the middle of a system so wrecked by teacher’s unions and bureaucratic nightmares that their biggest hope rests in winning the education lottery, where they’ll get to attend one of the coveted charter schools. There’s so much information here that alone warrants a viewing, but there’s tons of heart and hope, and it’s bound to stir up passion. I would beg anyone to watch “Waiting for Superman”, because a well-informed group of people will understand that it’s in our best interest to have an educated youth for a whole host of reasons, but why they aren’t getting the best education is something we all need to seek to understand, and this film is a great step in that direction.

4 out of 5 stars.

Director: Davis Guggenheim
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

“The American” Movie Review

"The American" movie poster“The American” is riveting in the most unexciting of ways, but riveting nonetheless. The most recent film that this reminds me of is Polanski’s “Ghost Writer”, which I thought was only okay, but I feel like “The American” was fantastic in its retro-execution (no pun intended). However, this is certainly one film that’s like a fine wine, you certainly need to have the palette in order to appreciate it.

Why you’ll like this:
Slow methodical pacing; great cinematography; excellent acting; character-driven plot

George Clooney plays Jack, an assassin hiding out in Italy waiting for the dirt from his last job to shake itself out while also taking on his final assignment. Posing as a photographer he attempts to keep his presence minimal, after he puts together the weapon for a cooperating hit-man he fully intends to leave behind this life.

This is not an action movie, but oddly, there may actually more bullets fired than words spoken. No prologue, no epilogue and no exposition, everything you need to know is written on Clooney’s face. With such a remarkable lack of information it may be easy to write the acting off as simple furrowing of the brow, but if that’s the case then it’s the best brow furrowing I’ve seen in some time. Clooney is absolutely magnetic, there’s a weighted presence to everything he does on-screen, the life of a hit-man is ripe with regret and solitude. Both of which never goes unnoticed thanks to fantastic pacing, score, cinematography and of course acting.

“The American” was brilliantly shot, making complete use of the Italian backdrop. Not a lot of steadicam usage, instead opting for more classic filmmaking, using set shots allowing people to enter and leave the frame rather than tracking with them. It becomes a very stark contrast in mindset when there’s a transition from peace to danger-mode, really great storytelling through photography.

Why you won’t like this:
Not an action film, no explosions or dead bodies flying everywhere.

A graceful film that never rushes towards anything you cannot predict, in this way it feels like a relic dusted off from an AMC vault. However, if you’re wanting something closer to “Syriana” or “Bourne Identity” then this is the wrong locale to post up for, you may be better catching “Machete” or “The Expendables”, there’s far too much nuance in “The American” to be confused with any of those movies. However, if you’re in the mood for something contemplative, then there are subtle thrills to be enjoyed in “The American”.

4 out of 5 stars.

Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten
Director: Anton Corbijn
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: September 1, 2010

“The Last Exorcism” Film Review

“The Last Exorcism” ultimately fails to deliver the promise of a very simple premise, instead it decides to exercise my wallet. It’s not that there isn’t a good setup, because there is. It’s not that there’s no compelling characters, because there are. It really boils down to re-hashing old “Blair Witch” ideas, and I wasn’t the only to say it.

Why you’ll like this:
You have to see every single horror movie about exorcists, and you love them all.

The film opens with the revelation that a minsterial child-prodigy has grown to become a renowned Protestant exorcist, but the only problem is that he’s lost his faith in demons and the whole religious game, but that doesn’t stop him from making a buck off the racket. His conscience leads him to invite some documentarians with him to his final exorcism so that he can reveal and dispel the practice for what it is, a joke. Let the mind-bending ensue.

The entire film is shot in documentary style, much like other films such as “The Blair Witch Project”, “Cloverfield”, “Paranormal Activity”, etc. Towards the end of the movie it did start to grate on me and give me a bit of a headache, but I guess sitting in the front row in this type of movie will produce that affect. This style is generally used to generate a hyper-sense of reality, to make us feel like we’re just watching what was popped into the VCR, except with some superimposed labels mixed in…because that’s what you do after a terrifying experience, make sure you label people’s names with digital effects.

I actually did like the setup, it provided a great context and excuse to see some screwed up stuff. I suppose they just forgot to add it in. The minister is an interesting guy, and the possessed girl is highly likable and sweet. The build up of the first two acts based on these characters makes you wonder how crazy is this going to get once it finally hits the fan. Somehow they managed to let it hit the fan and then completely kill the momentum, a pretty difficult feat it would seem.

Why you won’t like this:
The third act fails to impress, and the closing scene doubly so.

Ultimately, this felt like a mash-up of Christopher Lee’s “To the Devil a Daughter” and “Blair Witch”, but if you have me thinking of other productions in the middle of watching your own then you probably failed. This isn’t a horrible movie, and in a sense it’s genius, because it’s a metaphor, the minister who has lost his faith represents the filmmakers, but rather than just deciding to stop being a minister/filmmaker he decides to humor us, “put on a show” that we want, take our money and leave, while we’re slack-jawed that we fell for it. Bravo, mission accomplished, great long-con fellas. Next time can you make a movie about a kid who steps off a carnival ride and slaughters the carney for the awful entertainment value?

2.5 stars out of 5.

Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum,
Director: Daniel Stamm
Genre: Horror
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.
Release Date: August 27, 2010

“Brothers” Film Review

“Brothers” is a simple but effective drama, and I liked it. There didn’t seem to be any effort to turn this into an obstacle course of plot-twists and outrageous character developments, opting instead for a steady and smooth diet of good acting and even performances. Director Jim Sheridan reveals once again he’s a very capable dramatist, so hopefully he won’t do any more 50 Cent flicks.

Why you’ll like this:
You enjoy drama, and are a fan of any of these actors.

“Brothers” centers on the family of Captain Sam Cahill, played by Tobey Maguire, and his wife Grace (Portman) and recently incarcerated brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal). Captain Cahill is deployed to Afghanistan where his chopper is gunned down and he is declared a casualty, devastating his family back home. Tommy, ever the screw up, finds a role and uplifting purpose in being there for the wife and children of his deceased brother…until his brother is discovered to be alive.

While there’s three big names involved in Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, I would consider Portman to be the only true heavy hitter when it comes to acting chops, even though Gyllenhaal has certainly had some memorable performances, Portman is the upper class of this batch. However, after watching them all perform I can’t say that they didn’t all prove their worth, but one performance was head and shoulders above the rest, Bailee Madison (playing the daughter “Isabelle”) was absolutely a thrill to watch. She had me locked in, and I would dare say she made the movie possible, watch out for this girl, she’ll have us all eating out of the palm of her hand for as long as she wishes to continue acting.

The simplistic story never felt in danger of losing my interest, the characters were so well played, but even the cliche conflicts were nailed about as well as one could hope. I was also a fan of how organic all the conflicts came about, nothing at all felt forced about the narrative which is often the trickiest part of helming a drama, because it’s so easy to slip into TV dramatics and just have characters start yelling out their feelings, but here was a great display of allowing the emotions to simmer and pop, arising from unexpected places.

Why you won’t like this:
This is a pure drama, minimal war action though one of the characters is depicted at war.

If “Brothers” stays on my mind, it’ll be mostly because of how relatable the material is. War is ugly, its affect on people is one of the many tragedies and watching people disintegrate from loving humans to detached shells is gripping, but not necessarily from an entertaining point of view, rather the humanity we know of ourselves and see how this could happen to our own loved ones. A worthy watch, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Bailee Madison
Director: Jim Sheridan
Genre: Drama
Rating: R (language and violence)
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Release Date: December 4, 2009

“Pirate Radio” Movie Review

“Pirate Radio” is a dandy of a film, giving a great deal of attention to the meaning of camaraderie and the spirit of doing what you believe in, which in this case is the power of music. The movie opens with text informing us that in the 1960s rock music in England was a bit turbulent, and in order to side-step the legal tape radio stations would set up on boats in the ocean. We follow a young man who is sent to stay with the ship’s Captain, his godfather, and he’s introduced to the world of rock radio on the high seas with an eclectic group of DJs, rocking the airwaves 24/7.

Why you’ll like this:
Great 60s rock music and vibe, fun characters and a charismatic spirit.

“Pirate Radio” manages to seamlessly strike a chord of familiarity while maintaining its originality. Everyone feels authentic, the characters all feel totally fleshed out with nuance and a line of quirks you’d imagine 60s rock DJs would have. The cast work in blissful harmony, the friction seems real but always with an underlying sense of fondness for each other. Just like any good work environment should have. The plot itself rarely advances, instead opting for “day in the life” novelties and hi-jinx, which suited me just fine in this case.

The music is sublime, as it should be. What good would a movie surrounding 60s music be if it didn’t rock? Thankfully, the soundtrack is great and completely underlines everything going on in the lives of the hippy seamen. A lot of tracks will be familiar, but there’s also a few that I didn’t recognize and loved hearing something new from an era gone. Featuring tracks from The Beach Boys to Smokey Robinson and everything in-between, a sonic pleasure.

Why you won’t like this:
No structured plot, and no historical accuracy.

I think what amazed me most was turning to the DVD Extras and finding that there was an additional 40 minutes of unused footage, and nearly all of it was just as good as what made the cut. I highly advise watching the deleted scenes, just skip past the bureaucratic stuff, it felt limp and unnecessary in both the theatrical cut and deleted scenes. Personally, I was enthused at the credits’ sequence when there’s hundreds of album covers roving the screen, particularly because there were a lot of rap albums and I love the nod towards what should be considered a genre that is truly a nod toward the spirit of rock ‘n roll. Back when radio-waves were still plundered by the steel nerves of castaway pirates.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost
Director: Richard Curtis
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.
Release Date: November 13, 2009

“Knight and Day” Movie Review

"Knight and Day" Movie poster“Knight and Day” is the absolute epitome of a bunch of Hollywood executives sitting in a room, trying to formulate the perfect movie, and it sucks. But hey, it sucks perfectly. I’m not some anti-Tom Cruise guy, I loved “War of the Worlds”, all the “Mission: Impossible” movies, and I’ll be willing to see whatever else he comes out with next, but this is definitely not how you make a comeback, by patronizing movie-goers with soulless paint-by-numbers film garbage.

Why you’ll like this:
You like the mindless predictable action-comedy film genre.

“Knight and Day” is about the everyday super-hot, yet somehow still single, girl in her late 30s who crosses paths with the more friendly American James Bond in his quest to stop evil people from doing evil things, while clearing his name and making sure no one he deems worthy gets hurt, everyone else be-damned. Let the super-cool action and hilarity ensue!

This movie is a mess from head to toe. The characters are drawn as well as my stick-figures, with the generic dialogue to match. The story is as involved as a knock-knock joke, and the action sequences are as original as Lady Gaga (HEY Gaga, you’re the lovechild of Madonna and Andre 3000, you’re not new!). Frankly, insulting this movie even feels like a waste of time, I should honestly just copy/paste other insults in order for it to be fitting, but even I’m not that lazy.

The biggest shock for me was that there were so many actors that I respect involved. Peter Sarsgaard is one of my favorite actors, I hope he made a pretty penny off of this, because I’d like to see him involved in better projects. Same goes for Paul Dano and Viola Davis, those are three tremendously talented actors who should in no way be associated with trash like this, their talent far exceeds the mundane generic movie like this. We’ve come to expect Cameron Diaz to work on pop films, and Tom Cruise was clearly in dire need of some good publicity, so I can’t say they lose any respect since it was only there in moderation to begin with.

Why you won’t like this:
You respect yourself.

When you have an uninspired script, director and actors, then you can really only come away with a total waste of time. I refuse to let a film that relies on stupid villains (and audience members), old hat jokes, and a stupendous amount of luck get anything positive said about it. A horrid attempt at taking my money, luckily a friend paid for it at the dollar theater, so the joke is on you Hollywood, but how do I get my time back? I’ll find a way, and it’ll be original when I do.

1 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Maggie Grace
Director: James Mangold
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.
Release Date: June 23, 2010

“The Expendables” Movie Review

“The Expendables” was the modern day 80s flick, and I mostly enjoyed it, but it does all depend on your expectations. If you’re looking for an involved plot then stop it, there’s no Christopher Nolan attached to this film. If you’re looking to emotionally connect, then you’re once again missing the point of what we’ve got going on here. There’s only two questions you should be asking yourself: 1) How big are the explosions? 2) How many people get their ass kicked? That’s all that matters, and it’s really all that’s delivered.

Why you’ll like this:
You devour raw meat directly from the side of a still breathing baby calf, and smile. (That’s code for you only want to see a mindless action film with some action icons.)

Stylvester Stallone wrote “The Expendables” with the intention of gathering a ton of action studs to deliver a testosterone induced cinematic death-coma. Originally he went after all the old school stars like Steven Segal, Van Damme and even Chuck Norris, but could only come up with Dolph Lundgren, and a cameo from Bruce Willis and Schwarzenegger, so he filled it in with more modern day action stars Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke. They all play mercenaries who do whatever dirty work needs gettin’ done, until they come across a mission that gives them a shot at redeeming a small part of their soul. Bullets enter stage right.

I liked the medley of big-time action heroes getting on screen. I was surprised that of all of them Jason Statham really gets the most screen time and story development, but considering that he’s easily the most consistent actor of them all then maybe my surprise is unwarranted. The opening sequence of death by our squad is rather simple and not eye-popping, but that’s all made up for in the last 30 minutes, so much skull cracking and explosions that it really only should be witnessed with the fellas. In-between there’s still plenty of car chases and butt kicking, just not quite as fun as the climax.

The obvious sore spot is the character development, story and dialogue. Sly has put out some really solid stuff lately with “Rocky Balboa” and “Rambo”, so I was somehow a little disappointed that he didn’t put a bit more effort into creating some characters that didn’t seem to be cut out of cardboard, or a story that was a bit more than of the “save the girl” variety. I didn’t let that ruin my enjoyment of course, but I had this small side of hope that he’d not only deliver a great action movie but maybe even pack in some authenticity with it as well, but not so much.

Why you won’t like this:
You’re expecting something with more depth than “The Marine”.

So yeah, the story is dumb, the characters are simple, the dialogue is laughable and the wit is left somewhere out in the haze of gun-smoke, but I freaking enjoyed myself. At one point, stuff starts blowing up and you don’t even know why it’s exploding, it just needed to, and that’s good enough for me.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Stylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Charisma Carpenter
Director: Stylvester Stallone
Genre: Action
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: August 13, 2010

“Eclipse” Movie Review

“Eclipse” is the least offensive in the Twilight Saga series, but that’s like choosing your favorite flavor of liver. All in all there was marginal improvement, just not exactly the hockey-stick charts of growth that reflect its money sucking nature. I still can’t truly say that I have seen any character growth whatsoever, even though there was finally an afterthought of such a novel idea, but Bella is still the wavering pit of self-centeredness that we’ve witnessed since the first unfortunate installment of this ill-fated franchise.

Why you’ll like this:
You dearly love the books and/or the other Twilight films and there’s no hope for you save amnesia.

Fine, from the top. “Eclipse” starts a few weeks after “New Moon” leaves off, Edward and Bella are eternally-ish in love, and willing to sacrifice anything-ish in order to be with each other. Sadly, there’s murders lingering in the air and it seems to once again to be tied to Bella, but now there may be a truce between vamp and wolf in order to stem the rising tide of death.

There’s few things I can honestly say I actively enjoy about “Eclipse”, but at the top of the list absolutely has to be that they shot the daylights out of it. The Director of Photography earned his paycheck, and hopefully his way onto a better project. I cannot think of a single shot in the film that wasn’t superbly nailed, and even a few that I wouldn’t mind trying to emulate myself. I know Seattle is a great terrain to shoot on, but they took full advantage here, capturing the gothic mood and intensity, even when the acting and dialogue failed to deliver. In that same vein, the music took a slight dip from the first two films, but still contributed a noteworthy effort.

The acting is a virtual mess. Taylor Lautner does a mostly adequate job, and I’m also Dakota Fanning and Anna Kendrick fans, and Peter Facinelli also proves that despite being a vampire he does in fact have a pulse. Them and Ashley Greene are the exceptions. All the other principals are living somewhere that doesn’t require much more than modeling for the camera, not that the source material gives them a lot to pull from anyway, that didn’t stop the aforementioned from being believable, but I also suppose less was riding on their shoulders.

Dear Hollywood, has this franchise not earned enough money to get some mildly decent CGI yet? Awful. Poor effort all around. The wolves still look highly computer-y, and nearly everything that required CG suffered for it. Thankfully, the opening scene showed some improvement in the lightning speed that vampires move at, rather than showing them in fast forward it was much more of a blur and an audio effect, far superior. See? You don’t need to show something for me to believe it, it’s called painting a picture in the mind’s eye.

Why you won’t like this:
A lack of story-arcs, character development, good dialogue, chemistry, logic and everything else that makes the Academy Awards meaningful.

If only visual effects are where the pain stopped. The action sequence was a decent delight, the big battle between vampires and werewolves, but the issue there was the fact that there was still nothing truly at risk. The risk would only come if we ever felt anything for Bella, or the victims of these “mysterious murders”, but the emotional depth is as subtle and original as a fireworks show with nukes. At the end of it there’s nothing to enjoy, because it’s been two hours of poorly painted teenage puppy love and the golden rule of film is continually betrayed: show me, don’t tell me; and good GOD all they do is talk about their feelings. “Friday Night Lights” will continue to be a superior realization of how teenaged drama can be universally appreciated by the young and old alike, with nuance and realism. “Eclipse” knows neither nuance nor realism, despite its desperate flailing attempts that scream “love me” at the top of its lungs. Drama.

2 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anna Kendrick, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Dakota Fanning
Director: David Slade
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 4 min.
Release Date: June 30, 2010