NOT QUITE 20/20: Focus, What We Do in the Shadows and All The Wilderness


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Warning: SPOILERS
focusFocus, the new film written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, comes from a genre with a proud heritage: the rom con game. It’s a genre that was extremely popular in the greatest period in film for romantic comedies, the 30’s, with such movies as Trouble in Paradise and Desire. But it has always had an endearing quality, as in such films as It Takes A Thief, The Pink Panther, The Thomas Crown Affair, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and more recently, Duplicity.
And this latest entry does have some of the qualities of these other films that ingratiate them so much to us: a cool and suave leading man; even cooler cons; and more than a touch of wit.
In addition, there is one marvelous scene of grifting involving an Asian businessman who loves to gamble and who finds himself going nose to nose with the movie’s hero on a series of more and more outrageous bets. You know what’s coming, though when it does, you’re not sure how it could possibly have been pulled it off. And then when it is explained, you marvel at the audacity and chance taking of it.
But this scene also works for reasons that much of the movie doesn’t. In the end, though there are some nice moments here, Focus never really quite rises to the level of many of these other films. Continue reading

APEOCALYPSE NOW, OR OF APES BOTH NAKED AND HAIRY: Venus in Fur, Life Itself and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


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
venusThe new movie, Venus in Fur, co-written by bad boy old timer Roman Polanski (who also directed) with relative new comer David Ives, from a play by Ives that was influenced by a book by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (yeah, that Sacher-Masoch—oh, no, don’t even try it, you know very well whom I’m talking about, you can’t fool me), begins during a somewhat impressionistic rain storm on a deserted street in France (so I guess the slight touch of impressionism shouldn’t be a surprise) backed by a music score of sublime slyness.
In fact, the score is so sublime, so sly, so clever, so flippant, so wicked, so…well, just so everything that I found myself being driven crazy because I couldn’t place the composer. And then at the end, during the credits, there it is—the name Alexandre Desplat, and all I could think was, of course, who else could it possibly have been. Continue reading