IT’S A DISASTER: The Magnificent Seven and Deepwater Horizon


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I am now offering a new consultation 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?  FosCheck 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
 
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Warning: SPOILERS
rev-1Two films have opened as of late which have disaster in common. One falls into that genre and one almost is one.
There is one transcendent moment in the most recent version of The Magnificent Seven. It comes at the end as the credits begin by showing each of the characters. At this point, behind them, one can here the incredibly epic score by Elmer Bernstein from the 1960 version. It’s stirring, splendid, glorious, stunning…
Unfortunately, this tiny fraction of the movie only really ended up serving one purpose: it clearly reminded the audience of the earlier version, and not to the benefit of the present one, and only went to show how bland and uninteresting the music is when it comes to James Horner and Simon Franklin’s score for this Western remake of a remake (yes, it apparently took two people to come up with something so dull). Continue reading

LONG DIVISION: Captain America: Civil War


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I am now offering a new consultation 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 1It takes a while for the new superhero movie Captain America: Civil War to reach the scene that everyone has paid their hard earned bucks to see: a knock down drag out between the two sides of the Avengers, one headed by Iron Man and one headed by the titular hero.

 

But when it gets there, it proves to be more than worth the wait.

 

Let’s just say, it ain’t your parents’ Sharks versus the Jets.

 

In fact it’s one of the wittiest and smartest over the top superhero fight scenes we are likely to see for some time.  It’s not just the dialog that is clever and earns its laughs, it’s also the way the fight plays out, which character gets pitted against which and how their superpower works against each other. There’s such a slick smoothness here, as if the planning of it was completely effortless; everything just fits together so well. Continue reading

ART ISN’T EASY: Straight Outta Compton and She’s Funny That Way


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
straight outta compton 1Though bearing almost no resemblance in any other way (to say the least), two movies have opened of late that demonstrate, to paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, that art sure isn’t easy.
Straight Outta Compton is a tale told of the rise of three best friends who stop becoming friends and then find their way back to being friends before the credits come up (or as we say in the biz, guys meet guys, guys lose guys, guys get guys). It’s the tale of Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre who took the universe by storm with this newfangled sound called Rap and changed the world of music forever.
The film basically has four types of scenes in it: the first are scenes that show the horrors of growing up in the projects and how blacks are treated by the authorities (even when the authorities are black and in one case, find themselves to be music critics); second are the scenes that show the relationship of the three central characters, especially on tour, including the downtime of hanging out and getting high and laid; third are scenes of confrontation between the artists and their managers; and the fourth are the scenes where they actually perform.
I would say that all but the second set of scenes work well, sometimes astoundingly well, and are strong and rich in dramatic conflict. But the story tends to stall whenever the characters are doing little but hanging around just being themselves (the Beatles from A Hard Day’s Night they ain’t). Most of these scenes have little vibrancy or originality to them, while others resemble and have as much depth and insight as an MTV music video from the same period.
And as riveting as so much of the film is, somewhere in the second half it starts to lose forward momentum and I did sort of wish that they would wrap things up already at times. Continue reading

AVENGERS ONE, SMALL DEFENSELESS EASTERN EUROPEAN TOWN, ZERO: Avengers: Age of Ultron


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
avengers ultron 1It seems that after razing New York City to the earth more than a few times, the makers of movies from Marvel comics have now decided to turn their eyes on a smaller, more defenseless municipality in the fictional Easter European nation of Sokovia, smashing it to smithereens in the new tentpole film Avengers: Age of Ultron.
And one really has to feel for this poor little town. Not only has it survived World War I, World War II and the Holocaust, the Cold War occupation (under Stalin, even) and the difficult adjustment after the fall of the USSR, it once again is going to be ravaged, this time by a man made robot with sentience.
I mean, I don’t know what this city did to piss off writer/director Joss Whedon, but it must have been really something. It really gets the shit kicked out of it.
The basic premise of …Ultron is that age old trope of this is what happens when man tries to play god. In this variation on the theme, Tony Stark creates an AI to protect humankind from dangers of all kinds. But in true Colossus: The Forbin Project fashion, Ultron, the AI, very quickly, and probably very wisely and logically, realizes that humankind is most in danger from, well, itself and decides to take over to save us from us. Continue reading

WHAT HAPPENED TO ONE THROUGH FIVE: Big Hero 6 and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya


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
big heroI’m sure you’ve heard the old joke, the one about the guy who said, “I’m not going to see Henry V because I haven’t seen the first four yet”?
Well, don’t worry, fair filmgoers, Big Hero 6 is not a sequel (though believe me, to paraphrase Paul Thomas Anderson, there will be sequels). It’s more an origin story of a group of X-Men like super young adults set in a city named San Fransokyo (so called because it’s an alternative future where Japanese immigrants rebuilt the city where I left my heart after the 1906 earthquake).
Big Hero 6 is a fun and satisfying enough animated movie, especially in the first half where it tends to show a bit more heart and emphasizes emotional resonance over the more prevalent action oriented approach of the second half.
True, it’s fairly familiar and almost Disney paint by number. I mean, c’mon, you gotta know that a mother or father or mother figure or father figure to the central character is going to die early on because, well, it’s Disney, and the only thing that studio likes more than making animated movies that rake in a ton of money is trying to traumatize pre-teens in the first fifteen minutes of their films (unless it’s about a dog, then they wait until the last fifteen). Continue reading

MOVIE MURDER MOST FOUL: The Judge and The Blue Room


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
judgeHow can I cliché thee? Let me count the ways.
In the opening scene of The Judge, the new courtroom cum father/son we hate each other so much we love each other drama, defense attorney Hank Palmer (the kind of attorney who’ll defend anybody for anything as long as the price is right) is confronted by the prosecuting attorney Mike Kattan (the type of character that believes in truth, justice and the American way, so the filmmakers chose an actor, David Kromholtz, whose mere appearance would elicit laughter, to play the part next to the Ironman, alpha male, washboard stomach Robert Downey, Jr., who plays Hank) and they have one of those scene thingies where they debate the morality of it all.
At the end of the discussion (accompanied by mature goings on like Hank peeing on Mike’s pants), Hank sums up all the clichés that have taken place in that one encounter (and using the word “cliché” to describe it).
If the writers, Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, were attempting to get away with the use of overdone platitudes, familiar formula and trite tropes by calling attention to what they were doing—well, okay, in their defense one can at least one can say they knew what they were doing when they were doing it and were trying to do something about it. Continue reading

BRAIN DEAD: Transcendence


Transcendence5-600x338Transcendence (or perhaps more aptly titled Trance-enduscence), the new sci-fi thriller written by Jack Paglen and directed by Wally Pfister (a first feature for both, though Pfister was the cinematographer on many Christopher Nolan films), is about a scientist, Will Caster, who tries to turn the world into a dystopian Eden when his brain is uploaded into a computer.
The basic structure is as familiar as any standard piece of Victorian literature, the period when Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein, a horror story about an egotistical scientist who tries to play God by creating a man out of a bunch of miscellaneous parts from dead bodies. Continue reading