IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE: Movie Reviews of Demolition and The Jungle Book by Howard Casner


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Warning: SPOILERS
rev 1For the first third of the new drama Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Davis,  a man whose wife recently died in a traumatic car crash, one which he witnessed (he was in the passenger seat beside her).
After the accident, he starts acting, well, somewhat odd.  He doesn’t seem to show any emotion or even grieve in any way.  He returns to work earlier than expected.  He distances himself from a scholarship his father-in-law wants to create in his daughter’s name.
But most important, at least in terms of the story, after a candy machine refuses to give him his order, he starts writing to the customer service department of the manufacturer.  However, he doesn’t just air his grievance, he also spills his real feelings about his wife and what is happening to him. Continue reading

SOUL SEARCHING: Knight of Cups and Confirmation


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
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
rev 1 Knight of Cups, the new film from art house fave writer/director Terence Malick, begins with some excerpts from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, spoken, I believe, in the dulcet tones of Sir John Gielgud.  The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory about a man who is weighed down by his sin and must seek a path to righteousness, but he finds many dangers, toils and snares along the way. 
I suppose the allegory in that classic is supposed to also be an allegory for Rick, the central character in Malick’s drama, and his journey.  Rick is a screenwriter who basically just drifts from place to place, observing the world he encounters while avoiding screenwriting as much as possible.  It’s sort of like a movie by Federico Fellini, 8 ½ or La Dolce Vita, character studies of a men who are spiritually lost or have writer’s block, set against dwarfing architecture and a somewhat impressionistic view of the local’s lives.
I have to say I liked Knight of Cups, though I also have to say I’m surprised that I did.  In Malick’s last film To The Wonder, the filmmaker told an almost impossible to understand story, made almost impossible to understand because it was not told in chronological order.  And since you were spending so much time just trying to understand what was going on, it was difficult to become emotionally involved in the movie.  And it didn’t help that when you did figure it out, it was a pretty bland and banal story line.

Continue reading

Is There Balm in Gilead: Aloha and Love & Mercy


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
alohaI’m not sure that I can really add to the general response to the movie Aloha (it’s 20% at rottentomatoes.com and I don’t think the box office is of the more optimistic size), but far be it from me not to join in and kick a man while he’s down.
About three quarters of the way through the new rom com written and directed by Cameron Crowe (who also gave us the very good Almost Famous, Say Anything and Singles, but not much else since except for, well, Jerry “Show me the money” McGuire, but, no, I’ll stick with not much else since, thanks), I turned to my friend Jim and said, “I’m sorry, but I have to be honest: I have no idea what’s going on here”.
Jim laughed and sighed in relief because he had no more of a clue than I did.
The plot eventually does make sense; well, within the context of a not particularly well written movie it makes sense, but overall, as a piece of writing, it really makes little sense at all. Continue reading

THE DEVIL MADE HIM DO IT: Horns and St. Vincent


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
hornsHorns, the new supernatural, fantasy, horror, neo-noir written by Keith Bunin and directed by Alexandre Aja, has a clever, if not neat, little concept.
A young man, Ig Perrish, universally hated in the small town he lives in (for good reason, in many ways, since he’s accused of killing his long time girlfriend Merrin), grows a pair of devil’s horns which causes everyone he meets to confess their deepest desires and even fulfill them, no matter how awful they may be, if the young man gives them permission.
And there are some clever scenes here and there as these normal on the outside, white picket fence, Sunday go to meeting citizens suddenly revel in their cravings to carry out their secret, if often perverse, yearnings.
But in the end, the movie never really comes together and gets bogged down in what may seem an extraneous through line concerning the rape and murder of said girlfriend.
I’m not sure why everyone felt the need to make the story a murder mystery. It’s that way in the novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), so I can’t really blame Bunin and Aja. But this aspect of the story only seems to get in the way of what really works here, this look into the hearts of darkness of people you originally thought were just a few steps up from pod people. Continue reading

PEOPLE COME, PEOPLE GO. NOTHING EVER HAPPENS: The Grand Budapest Hotel


grand-budapest_2813768bThe Grand Budapest Hotel, the new demi-farce written by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness and directed by Anderson, is like a box of chocolates.  The outside is lovely to look at, even entrancing, and when you open it up, the chocolate itself gleams with droolful anticipation.
And then you bite into one and sometimes you get the deep, rich double chocolate you have always dreamed of, and sometimes you get the sour cherry cream (or whatever ingredient you consider to be the one you grimace at and throw back in the box after taking one quick bite). Continue reading

JAUNTY AND WITTY AND GAY: THE MONUMENTS MEN and DATE AND SWITCH


596e67fb-12a3-4e02-9512-88a162ead196_monumentsmen_featurette_gsAs I watched The Monuments Men, the new George Clooney film about trying to save stolen art during World War II, the word that kept coming to my mind was “jaunty”. Yes.  It’s a very…jaunty movie, with a, well, jaunty plot, and jaunty characters played by jaunty actors and all backed by a very jaunty score, a wonderful bit of musicality by the wonderful Alexandre Desplat that kept reminding me of the Colonel Bogey march from The Bridge on the River Kwai—it’s that jaunty. Continue reading