IS IT REAL OR IS IT MEMOREX: Ex Machina and True Story


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
ex machinaA critic once said that when you get down to it, there aren’t that many plotlines; after all, Frankenstein and Pygmalion are basically the same story.
This came to mind as I was watching Ex Machina, the new sci-fi drama written and directed by Alex Garland (who also wrote the very involving Never Let Me Go and the highly successful 28 Days Later…). For my money, what he’s done is basically combined both Mary Shelley and George Bernard Shaw’s seminal works into one narrative.
It’s intriguing. But for me, I also found it a bit slow, unfocused at times and, well, to be ruthlessly honest, more than a bit creepy in ways that may not have been intended.
The last is because the more I think about Ex Machina, the more it seems to me that what the movie is about is not what the movie is about. And what the movie is really about made me very uncomfortable. Continue reading

THE FRENCH THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE 2015-PART UNE: reviews of movies at COL-COA, The Last Hammer Blow, Atlit, My Friend Victoria


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
Warning: SPOILERS
Over the last week, I’ve been attending the COL-COA, or French film festival, here in Los Angeles. For those who are Francophiles or into foreign films (and even for those who aren’t), here are my takes on the movies I’ve seen so far.

 

last hammerThe title of the new coming of age film, The Last Hammer Blow, is taken from a Mahler symphony and concerns fate or how many times tragic things can happen in life. When Mahler wrote the symphony, it was during a year in which he saw constant death and personal misfortune. He had three “hammer blows” in his composition to imply fate. After his own fateful year, he would never have the orchestra play the last hammer blow in order to defy fate, and now conductors have the option to play the third blow or not.
Victor, the hero of The Last Hammer Blow, is not your usual teenager in films of this genre. He’s not a delinquent or constantly getting into trouble; he’s not into drinking or drugs; he does rather well at school and even helps tutor the little boy of his neighbor—who are Spanish and trying to learn French; and he is very good at soccer and has a chance at a training camp. He also has a thing for the little boy’s older sister.
In other words, he’s not a rebel with or without a cause. Continue reading

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 4/24/2015-5/1/2015


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE

 

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 4/24-5/1/2015
babadookON NETFLIX: The Babadook, Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent’s debut feature, a very scary horror film about a widow and her six year old son and what happens a mysterious book shows up at their house about a monster called The Babadook. Very well directed and truly creepy with a wonderful performance by Essie Davis as the mother.
amarcordON HULU: Amarcord is Frederico Fellini’s tone poem about the year in the life of a young boy and his small town as fascism is arriving.   Semi-autobiographical and without a real plot, it’s a series of scenes, at time very impressionistic, it’s a rapturous movie and one of Fellini’s finest. Continue reading

IT’S NOT THE SIZE, IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH IT: Child 44 and Unfriended


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
child 44 twoChild 44, the new mystery thriller that is about the hunt for a serial killer in post-World War II Soviet Union, has received terrible reviews. I mean, horrendous in some cases. It’s at 25% at rottentomatoes. And very few, so far, have had much too good to say about it.
Well, I’m here to suggest that maybe the movie is being a bit maligned.
That is not to say I think it’s great. I definitely do not believe it quite succeeds on its own terms or rises above what it is.
And it’s also possible that I went in expecting the worst, only to be pleasantly surprised. That’s certainly happened to all of us at one time or another.
But still, I think there is much to like here, especially if you are a fan of neo-noir or crime dramas. Continue reading

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 4/17/2015-4/24/2015


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,
 
And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE
My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 4/17-4/24/2015
united 93ON NETFLIX: United 93, my favorite film of 2006. Written and directed by one of the finest filmmakers working today, Paul Greengrass, it’s the story of how the passengers on United Flight 93 tried to stop their hijackers on 9/11. Not an easy movie to sit through due to the intense subject matter, it’s a powerful and emotional film.
earringsON HULU: The Earrings of Madame de, directed by Max Ophuls, is one of the great romantic dramas of all times. When the wife of a general secretly sells a pair of earrings her husband gave her and lies about it, it sets off a series of events that leads to tragedy. Continue reading

GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO: While We’re Young and Cupcakes


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
while were youngThere is much to like in writer/ director Noah Baumbach’s musing on growing older, though not necessarily wiser, in his new film While We’re Young.
It’s almost never less than entertaining. And it’s a technically solid piece of work. Baumbach, as a director, feels fully in control of the how the movie looks. As a writer, the characters are often very well drawn and the dialog has a nice rhythmic feel to it, a sort of stylized realism of people from an intellectual background.
At the same time, I’m not sure the movie really comes together as a whole in a fully satisfactory manner. For me, the story itself seemed to flounder at times as it was trying to figure out just what is was supposed to be about.
Overall, my feelings were often those of puzzlement. Is While We’re Young a modern day version of All About Eve that constantly gets off subject, or is it a generation gap morality tale that Baumbach had difficulty finding a strong structure for and sorta, kinda tried to fit it into that of the great film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz? Continue reading

HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE: an interview with Louis Pappas writer of the Halls of Jacob and The Last Hit


This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Next up: an interview with Louis Pappas writer of the Halls of Jacob and The Last Hit
 
PappasDirectorBorn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963, Louis Pappas began his career on stage, with the Drexel Hill Players in 1971. In 2004 he founded Angry Pig Productions with the idea of using the camera to bring about social change. His first film, Off Ramps, a documentary dealing with the issue of the criminalization of the homeless population in his town, had a successful run being selected in five festivals out of only seven submissions. Since that time, he has written and directed several short films winning festival accolades and awards all over the world. In recent years Louis has also returned to acting, and has booked roles in several films including: The Shift starring Danny Glover, and The Last Hit, where he plays the lead, a hitman who saves a young girl from a ruthless gangster.
 
  1. What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
halls of jacobI have been writing all of my life, but my first produced screenplay, called The Halls of Jacob, came shortly after my fortieth birthday. I think I spent too much time prior to that imitating the styles of writers I admired. Though I don’t believe any time spent writing is a waste, I feel strongly that, at the risk of sounding trite, you definitely have to find your own voice. I also believe the reason I finally gained traction on that project was that I chose a subject that had real meaning to me. If a story moves you, there is a good chance it will resonate with others as well. I am amazed at how many people donated their time and resources to help get that first film made because they believed in the story. The film, about an abused child and a dream that he has after being beaten unconscious, went on to win many festival awards and more importantly made me many dear friends who I still collaborate with to this day.

Continue reading