Tuesday, August 7, 2012

SCRIPT REVIEW - THE IMITATION GAME


SCRIPT REVIEW – THE IMITATION GAME
By: Graham Moore
Based On: “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges

Premise: The story of how Alan Turing cracked the impossible “Enigma” code, which helped the Allies win World War 2.




Alright, gotta be honest about why I’m choosing to review this script now. After I read that questionable Chewie script, my page count went way the fuck up...and since you fuckers seem to want Black List script reviews...why not go with the number one script on that bad boy!

Which leaves us here. With the masterpiece that is The Imitation Game. I talked about it in my review of When the Streetlights Go On, and it bears repeating...but seriously, this script is the real deal. While almost every other spot on dat big ol’ Black List is gonna get questioned by people, the number one spot is pretty much indisputable. Read any script that was #1 and that shit will blow you away. Fucking guaranteed at this point. Which again, leads us to today’s script...The Imitation Game.

If you weren’t already aware, the script is a biopic centered around puzzle-enthusiasm Alan Turing. (I’m not trying to be insulting...he repeats over and over how into cracking puzzles he is). Anyways, our boy Alan is cut from the same cloth as a lot of other biopic types...the Zuckerbergs, Bobby Fischer, John Nash type. He’s a ridiculously smart dude who has trouble connecting with others but that also has a really strong desire to figure something out. To solve a problem that only he can solve...all that shit. So what’s special about Turing, what the fuck is this damn Enigma machine? Why the fuck is this script #1 on the BLACK LIST?!?!!?!



‘Cus this baby moves you. It’s weird, starting this script...I thought it was in for a long haul. It starts off with this strange V.O., and you’re thinking it’s gonna be an overwrought V.O. heavy biopic that’s starting with his death and showing you the lead-up...all that clich√© biopic shit. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT...nothing. It pretty much does exactly that. BUT HERE’S the difference...

...Every scene matters. Supposedly, the guy who wrote this (and made a fucking million dollar sale out of it...nice) wrote and rewrote this thing for a year plus. And man, does it show (in the best way possible). Every single scene in this script is the type to make you remember and talk about it after. There’s scenes that are TRULY hilarious...like genuine laugh out loud moments...and I’m not talking about some bullshit little comic relief moments...I’m talking about scenes that will rival the funniest scene in a comedy this year. And there’s scenes, especially those towards the ends, that are truly heartbreaking. Again, if you weren’t aware, turns out Turing was gay. He’s not running out waving his arms about it, in fact, he’s incredibly private and possibly even confused about it, but (spoiler) he ends up being...punished...shall we say...about it in the end. And damn, by the time you finish...if it doesn’t absolutely bring you to some emotional high then you are a goddamn robot. Leave my page, robot of Google. Wait ‘til I get some Terminators on my side, then we’ll see who’s boss.

Back to the script, it’s this high hIgh HIGH! Level of emotion that’s embedded within every scene that makes this one so memorable. Sure, there’s a lot of other reasons it works so wonderfully as well. Namely, in it’s structure and plotting...but it’s the great GREAT moments of character that are the most memorable. You’d be surprised how many biopics I’ve read where the motherfucker who’s supposedly BIOPIC worthy is the most boring part about the whole thing. Not Turing, no. Not his first love, Christopher. Not his boss Menzie...I could go on and on here. They are all original, three-dimension, and HUMAN characters with strong motivations and fleshed out ideals that make them pop off the page.




But like I mentioned, there’s also some unbelievably great structure shit going on here. While most biopics want to milk their leads story for every bit it’s worth (COUGH AND NOT SO SUBTLE LOOK TOWARD J. EDGAR), The Imitation Game is too smart for that nonsense. Instead, it’s a three part story...starting with his life after arrest, going back to his early days as an unpopular teenager...and for the majority of the story, as a young man attempting to solve the Enigma puzzle. The way all of it dovetails together in the end is beautiful, and from a structural standpoint, really creative...you don't see them coming together as perfectly as they do in the best of ways possible.

But again, this Engima machine run by the damn Germans sends out codes of attack during the war. It’s impossible to solve, but this is what makes it so desirable to a guy like Turing. Without even realizing it, the goals/stakes/emotions/weight of Turing needing to solve the Engima have been laid ALL OVER YOUR ASS and you didn’t even know it. Yup, look at you, thinking you know every trick in the book...and then here comes The Impression Game, sneaking in loads and loads of drama and empathy for its character/story without you even noticing. This is good writing, people of Earth. Nothing is slammed over your head. Nothing is repeated ten fucking times and underlined for your dumbass to make sure it remembers something. Everything is simple, subtle, nuanced, yet powerful and empowering. Good shit.

I’m not gonna jerk off all over this one as much as I did with Streetlights. It’s already got Numero Uno spot on Black List...I think it’ll survive...but it really is on the same level. It’s a script that can’t be emphasized and explained to you enough, you really just got sit your lazy ass down and read it. And trust me, it’ll be worth it. There’s very few reads these days that leave me shaking by the end of it...but man, this is one of them. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A+


TV REVIEW – BREAKING BAD: S5: E4: “FIFTY-ONE”


TV REVIEW – BREAKING BAD: S5: E4: “FIFTY-ONE”

So, a little housekeeping, I had to take a week off of this ‘cus of traveling/real life and missed reviewing last week’s ep of Breaking Bad, but like Austen Powers, I’M BACK BABY! Get excited.

“Fifty-One” starts off with somewhat of a bang. We’ve got Walt and Walt Jr. picking up the now repaired Aztec before Walt offers the mechanic $50 to buy it off him and reacquires the Heisenberg Hat. I gotta admit I totally forgot where the fuck that hat wandered off to, and it’s such a great look on Cranston with that black Heisenberg fedora, that I gave a kind of indoor hoot of excitement when Walt’s eyes lit up upon finding it. After that, Walt ditches that lame-ass Aztec for some sweet ass hot-rods and even buys one for Jr to drive around and show off next time he stops in at IHOP for breakfast (more on Walt Jr. and breakfast moment in a bit). In what was a somewhat odd montage, Walt repeatedly pulls into the driveway while some dubstep blasts from the soundtrack. You could tell from the get-go that whoever was behind the camera for this one was probably someone with a couple grander credentials behind them—and, whatta ya know—motherfuckin’ Rian Johnson is back in the chair. Johnson directed the fantastic Brick with JGL that I’ll review on a later date, but he also directed something even better...my FAVORITE episode of BB – bar none—The Fly. Somewhat akin to being the “Pine Barrens” episode of Breaking Bad (albeit with a fucking fly instead of a psychotic Russian gangster), it was one of those episodes that really reminds you what great, adult, serialized drama can bring...so I was stoked as Walt Jr. getting some more bacon (the Walt Jr breakfast praise ain’t gonna stop) at the realization that this would be a Rian Johnson helmed ep.




            Surprisingly though, much of the episode is actually pretty quiet. Most of it is centered around moody-blues Skyler, still depressed and passive-aggressive as ever, as her and Walt relationship sinks to some new lows. It turns out she’s still holding a grudge about the whole...being-a-meth-dealer-supplier-guys-coming-to-kill-their-children-and-murder-their-infant-daughter-thing, so she proposes getting the kids outta the house and trying to lead them into a “safe environment” away from Walt. When Walt eight-sixes (is that how you spell that?) the idea, Skyler decides to commit suicide in the pool in the midst of Walt’ fifty-first bday. Turns out Skyler even sucks at killing herself as she decides to drown herself in front of the entire party and Walt eventually saves her, as awkward Hank jokes about Skyler turning it into a pool party at first. All jokes aside, this is one of the better shot scenes in the episode. The way Johnson lights the pool, Marie’s reflection, Skyler’s face appears haunted in the midst of terrible-suicide-attempt...it’s real nail-biting shit even though you know this isn’t gonna turn out well.



What turns out even worse? Trying to talk about it with Walt afterward. The two get into a screaming match that ends with Walt transforming into Heisenberg at Skyler’s threatens him, and ends with Skyler wishing Walt’s cancer back on him. It was some cold-blooded shit from both parties, and again, was another chance for Johnson to shine in some real-deal directing of the scene. Later in the episode, we see Skyler chain-smoking cigs right in front of Walt and to cloud up the house, looking like one icy queen, and it's one of the most chill-inducing moments for a show that's usual chill-inducing moments include a fast-food chicken manager's face being blown up by a dude in a wheelchair. 
            We also got the reappearance of one of my new favorite characters—Lydia. She is high-strung, neurotic, and entertaining as ever, as she attempts to get out of her deal with Mike by apparently planting a fake tracker on the bottom of the barrel. She also makes Jesse go through the ringer making sure it’s him...and I just love it honestly. I can’t remember the last time since Paulie Walnuts we’ve had a truly dark, neurotic character, but Lydia is a welcome member to the gang, and I look forward to her idiosyncrasies in the near future.

It was a pretty “quiet” episode for the most part. Again, it seems the writers are mostly setting things up for the latter 8 episodes when things will apparently go full measure and absolutely bat-shit nuts. But for now, we’re getting a lot more intrapersonal dynamic explorations, and the tantalizing tease of Walt’s new watch from Jesse foreshadowing the ticking time bomb that is Walt’s future...

Grade: B+/A-




PS. We also got my favorite shot of the series, when Walt Jr insists on Skyler making a good “Fifty-One” for Walt’s breakfast via the bacon ritual...and the look of horror on Walt Jr’s face when she steals a piece of his bacon was absolute gold. Coupled with Mitte’s: “Nn—nn...nooo”...it was a heartbreaking and hilarious piece of television. Can’t wait for Sunday’s episode, I'm back for real now.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

TV REVIEW: THE NEWSROOM: S1: E1: “We Just Decided To”


TV REVIEW: THE NEWSROOM: S1: E1: “We Just Decided To”

            OK, so originally, I wasn’t gonna watch this show. I’m a huge Sorkin fan, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War, The American President, Few Good Men...but when it comes to TV, he can be a bit of a worry. Yes, West Wing was a masterpiece. Sports Night? Really good but definitely far from great. Studio 60?...No. So, Sorkin decided to go with the ol’ fourth time’s the charm rule with his favorite of genres in doing a backstage revue show that follows the characters of a major production and following their personal lives along with the ins-and-outs of the production. The show’s coming on the curtails of Sorkin winning an Academy Award, and it appears that, when given the power to do whatever the fuck he wants, he’s still obsessed with this type of show. In some of the previews, I saw a lot of things that looked great, but a lot of things that I was worried the show was exactly going to be. Long, preachy sermons regarding politics and news? Check. The two main characters who have a relationship together but will attempt to work together again? Check. The outrageously Sorkin-ese dialogue, which admitted is brilliant at times, but at others, is just too much? Kinda check. The reviews all confirmed my suspicion, so I decided to sit this one out. Maybe a couple years down the road I’d watch the show in a marathon session and what not. But then, I had a couple hours to kill today. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give the first hour a try, and now, here I am.

The Jeff Daniels I'll always remember

            The show revolves around broadcaster Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), who goes off on an unabashed Sorkin tirade about how much America sucks and how great it used to be. It was the scene most heavily used in the advertisements and was kind of exactly what I worried about the show becoming. Having watched the whole scene, there are things I like about it. Whatever anyone says about Sorkin, the guy is a master craftsman when it comes to the very mechanics of how to write, and I did end up enjoying the rant. I don’t think it was quite as earned or as powerful as intended to be, but it did point out a lot of interesting ideas regarding our current politic spectrum that was interesting to hear. We’re then treated to one of the worst opening title sequences of all time. Showcasing a kind of history of news broadcasts and then the main characters over laden with the most ridiculous schmaltzy music imaginable...I have no doubt that I’ll be fast forwarding thorughit at the start of each episode from now on and it’s really disappointing to see. A great opening title sequence should comfort the viewer, give them a fun sense of the show and it’s tone, and I guess I am making this call a little bit early...I’m gonna have a hard time getting past it.

Sorkin
            The rest of the show sets up our main characters, introduces the major players and their dynamics, and revolves around the first broadcast with Will’s new crew. And here, is where the show makes its absolute worst mistake. Rather than set it in the present day with fictional news account that would give it a much better sense of realism and character, the show is set in the very recent past and chronicles the news team following major stories that we now have the full knowledge and facts surrounding them. It’s an incredibly head-scratching move and makes the show eye-roll inducing in ways that I was exactly worried about. In this first episode for instance, the major event revolves around the BP oil spill. The senior producer receives news of it happening, and due to his incredible intuition, knows what a major disaster it will be and how they should be the ones covering it instead of the news of the new iPhone. He’s able to gather these resources because his sources were college roommates, and in the end, credits it to good luck. Sorkin...Sorkin, Sorkin. What? For an otherwise incredibly well crafted episode (from a writing standpoint at least) this is one of the biggest WTFs from Sorkin I can remember. Yeah, let’s not give our main characters obstacles. Give them knowledge that nobody else would possibly have. Allow them to succeed because of our present knowledge of the past...yeah, no. This is unusually lazy writing for Sorkin, and it’s disappointing to see. In a lot of interviews I’ve been reading, Sorkin keeps douting on the fact that the show is set in the time it is, allowing him the hindsight and dramatic irony...but even though he’s an Oscar winning, absolute cream of the crop professional writers out there...I gotta disagree. It really doesn’t work and it makes the characters seem too smart, and as if they are in some way, condemning the other news outlets for their decision at the time. EXCEPT THEY DIDN’T HAVE FUTURE FACTS AHEAD OF TIME AT THEIR DISPOSAL. This basically creates a forum for Sorkin to play Monday morning quarterback for incredibly sophisticated and complicated real world events that just doesn't make sense as a viewer when watching the news unfold. It would be so much more interesting to watch the characters develop, research, and sort out fictional news stories that would allow them more competition and without the hindsight of future knowledge...but who knows, I’m only an episode in, maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

For now, I’m pretty mixed on the show. These flaws are pretty hard for me to get past, and again, Sorkin is enough of a master craftsman as a writer for you to be entertained, but I’m not sure whether this is one I’ll be returning to. As a TV show, it’s interesting because Sorkin pretty much treats the actual newsroom itself as sort of a theatrical stage. You could easily have done this pilot episode on a theatre stage, and I’ll be curious to see if future episodes are treated in a similar way in terms of their geography. And even as a dialogue aficionado (see my Two Night Stand script review), Sorkin’s dialogue at times is too dizzying. Call me a moron, but his characters sometimes speak wayyyy too fast for any normal human being to both comprehend and come back with a witty response to in the millisecond time in between. There’s time where the characters are speaking so goddamn fast I have to rewind just to make sure I’m keeping up with them, and while I can definitely respect that in a way, it’s just too much at times. I think it worked in Social Network and Moneyball, but I think Sorkin unchained and left too his powers can be a bit disarming. Perhaps it’s that he doesn’t have Sony/long time collaborator Tommy Schlamme (yes...that is a real name, unbelievable) that Newsroom just feels like Sorkin on steroids. Ugh, frustrating one. I think I’ll watch the second ep and do a follow up post just to see how I feel about it further, so we’ll see.

Grade: B/B- 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW -- ELECTION


MOVIE REVIEW – ELECTION

Last night, I decided to rewatch Payne 1999 film Election. I hadn’t seen it in years, remembered loving it, and wanted to re-see where Payne’s grown in his years and where I would place it in his body of work nowadays. I think I can safely say that it is still his best film, granted I haven’t seen Citizen Ruth, but damn, this one kicks ass.
            The story revolves around a high school class election for student president. But more importantly, it revolves around the best performance of Reese Witherspoon’s career as Tracy Flick. Tracy is one of those annoying as hell, Straight-A students who’s entire adolescent years are spent being better than the kid next to her by studying a lot and being as involved in co-curriculars as she can be. She has set her next goal on winning Student Body President, and the only thing that’s standing in her way is one of the high school teachers—Mr. McCallister played by Matthew Broderick. Broderick feels the need to stop her, that Tracy’s aggressiveness into the world must be stopped, so he recruits the retarded football jock that’s popular with the entire school—Paul Metzler—(Chris Klein) to stop her. Complicating matters further, Paul’s lesbian-adopted sister Tammy decides to execute her revenge against the school, her brother, and her now ex-girlfriend by running in the race, as well. That’s the gist of the story but things becoming increasingly complicated throughout. Subplots involve Broderick’s affair with his wife’s best friend, Tracy sleeping with a former teacher, the cover-up of the election by both Broderick and Flick when it suits them...etc.


            The movie has a lot of the Payne trademarks: issues of marriage, subverise/black comedy, seemingly random but hilarious comedy bits. I think my favorite would revolve around Broderick’s character getting stung by a bee in the near-climax of the film. I’ve been really thinking about why the hell they would include this in the story. Maybe there’s some really deep reason that some asshole film student could let me know, but the way I’ve read it, and that I think I’ll keep reading it, is that it’s an act of seemingly random but absurdly hilarious cosmic unluckiness. On the day of this guy’s most prized obsession, finally getting to sleep with his wife’s horse-toothed best friend, when he’s finally gonna get laid, he gets stung in the eye by a bee. As the day goes on, he appears to have an allergic reaction to the sting that develops in a MASSIVE eye swelling that almost completely shuts his eye. It’s a really weird, but oddly hilarious moment that I wish more films would have the balls to include. ‘Cus seriously? Why the fuck would you ever let that happen in the movie? It doesn’t have some big payoff, isn’t that funny, and to happen to your main character in the midst of the climax...none of it makes sense...but you know? It’s funny and memorable. I really dug it.
            Anyways, from a pacing standpoint, the film is remarkable both for how fast it flows but also from how weirdly it’s structured. The first third of the movie is pretty much setting up these main characters along with their quirks and histories through voice-over and incredibly past editing and flashbacks. Nowadays, it’s really overused by wanna-be quirky filmmakers, but Payne really finds a way to make it engaging, comic, and what could be incredibly boring exposition to be some of the best stuff in the film. Again, just from a structural standpoint, it is a bit strange. We’re basically given the set-up in the first five minutes—that Tracy wants to win President—but then we get about thrity/forty-five minutes of set-up between Paul, Tammy, Tracy, and Broderick. The back-story of Tracy fucking this other teacher goes on way too long for what is very little payoff at the end, but I guess I dig it. Payne always makes sure the scenes are either hilarious or done in some unique way to keep it engaging, but as I was watching (and maybe it was because it was the 2nd time around that I was really noticing) that beginning just felt strange to me. The middle of the movie is basically the meat and potatoes of the movie, you get the real plot, the escalation, Broderick (SPOILER) covering up the votes, all that. But then in the end, it goes on a weird tangent like the beginning again by showing you the history of the main characters a year later and beyond. It’s pretty funny (but also tragic) with both Tracy and Broderick, and yes, it’s unusual for the structural, but it did give it a final touch of bitter-sweetness that separates it from the rest. Maybe sometimes it is better to go the unusual route, eh?!!? I mean, as I’m describing and thinking about it now, the last hour is actually my favorite part of the movie. So who knows anymore.


            Anyways, back the good stuff again, all the performances are pretty fucking amazing. Like I said, definitely my favorite Witherspoon role. I can’t fucking stand those Legally Blonde movies, and while people say she’s great in them, it’s just such a vapid fucking role I don’t really get what there is to celebrate. Yes, she’s good at playing a dumb spoiled moron who uses her cute and spoiled ways to make it in Harvard and prove her doubters wrong (fucking kill me) but it’s role like this...as Tracy Flick, that you really remember her for. Here, she uses that natural cute-ness and eager energy in a much more subversive and introspective way. There’s shots where Tracy is staring at one of her competitors, whether it be Broderick or one of the other candidates—and you can see her seething. You can really tell there’s a lot going underneath the surface for the character, about how crafted she is about all this, how Machiavellian...she’s given a lecture by the teacher she fucks early on about how her loneliness is her price to bare for all this success...and while it’s treated kind of comedically, it truly is pretty heartbreaking. You can tell there’s some serious shit going on with her mother. That her mother is just as controlling and obsessive as she is, that she doesn’t have any real positive male influence in her life, and thinking about it now—it’s pretty heartbreaking. Broderick says this in a really on the nose VO at the end when Tracy is now working as a Senator, and he remarks about how sad it is by how structured her life remains—not to mention, empty. Unfortunately, it’s all also undercut by the absurdity of Broderick feeling sorry for this character, when his entire life has gone to shit and he thinks he’s still a rockstar teacher livin’ a happenin’ life. In a lot of ways, even though this would just make an already pretty dark comedy even darker, is if Payne had just let the moments play without V.O. at end. For instance, they show Tracy in college at Georgetown. She’s finally here, where she thinks she’ll meet others like her and all her work ethic is finally gonna get rewarded—but instead, it’s more of the same except only worse. Instead of being able to seclude herself at home, she’s now surrounded by the college roommates in the hallway and her room, and the fact that she’s more alone now than ever is so in her face...it’s beyond heartbreaking. There’s a shot of Witherspoon kinda realizing this before then shoving her face in a book again, and you really feel for her. You’ve gone from kind of skitting the line between laughing with her and then at her...and now you just wanna cry for her a little...it’s sad.

Best Broderick Picture
            With Paul, as well, there’s some real gravitas Payne adds that makes him so much more than just the dumb jock that movies like these usually write. Paul’s shown to be a really genuinely good guy who’s looking out for those around him, who really wants to make a difference—but he’s a dumbass jock. Here’s a guy who’s been handed everything in life, who’s dumb as a rock, whose whole purpose in life was to play football...and now that’s taken from him too. So here, Broderick’s character steps into use him, and then all the non-sense with the election happens and the rug is pulled from Paul’s feet once again. One of the genuinely great scenes used to give a great, subtle but very clearly characterization of each character, is in a scene where all three characters pray the night before the election. Payne starts out low on each character and then cranes way above them as they pray to God, and ask Him for help winning the election, etc. With Tracy, she thinks God owes it to her in a sense and that if chosen, she’ll help spread His word further. With Tammy, she prays to the “god” she doesn’t believe in, and with Paul, he genuinely asks God to help but that he’s OK with whatever he chooses...it was a really unique way of giving insight to the characters that I’ve never seen before. The way Crane uses the camera in tandem with their prayers helps elevate it, as well. It might be favorite scene in the movie.



            Payne’s incredibly genius at these types of moments come to think of it. And for aspiring screenwriters, it’s a really good lesson to remember. He’ll give each character a very specific moment to react in a way that only their character would truly react, and then we watch them fly. So, there’s a rally at about the midway point where each candidate gives their speech to the entire assembly. Tracy, of course, is perfect to a T. You can tell she’s been working on this speech her whole life. Paul reads his speech so unbelievably fast that it’s hard to make out a word he says, as he also leans on his past football winnings as the majority of his argument for why he should be elected. And then Tammy, basically calls for anarchy. Like the prayers scene, it’s just a perfect way to encapsule each character in a very subtle but unique way that’s why this movie is so memorable. You really feel like you understand exactly who each of these characters are in a way that doesn’t rely on throwaway one-liners or characterizations. You get insight into their personalities, feelings, dreams, sensibilities...it’s good shit.
            I could talk about this more, and perhaps will in a later post, but for now, it’s still Payne’s best in my opinion (again, barring the fact that I haven’t seen Citizen Ruth). It’s got a lot to say about high school, politics, and the way one lives life—it’s all that good shit you go to the movies for.

So go see it (again)...since this review supposes you’ve seen it.

Grade: A

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SCRIPT REVIEW -- TWO NIGHT STAND


SCRIPT REVIEW – TWO NIGHT STAND
Author: Mark Hammer

Premise: After committing her first ever one-night stand, a young woman begins her walk of shame, only to realize she’s been snowed in. But the worst is yet to come, for when the man she slept with wakes up, she quickly realizes she hates him.

Alright, after going overboard with how much I loved When the Streetlights Go On, I thought I’d tackle a script that I could be a lot more ...critic-y about. Unfortunately (or fortunately I guess) I loved this one, too. Not as much as Streetlights or anything, but a big fan of it nonetheless for a number of reasons on both a narrative and practical level.

But let’s get all that plot shit outta the way, luckily, this one’s INCREDIBLY simple so it shouldn’t’ be that much of a drag. Our story begins with a young post-graduate by the name of Megan. After finishing college, Megan sits around all day twiddling her thumbs and dicking around on the web, which annoys her roommate FAIZA. Megan’s malaise revolves around the fact that she’s broken up with her long-time boyfriend and doesn’t know what to do with her life anymore. The roommate....Faiza...(I seriously can’t fucking stand when a script throws in some ridiculous name just for the sake of being different. You have a character named Megan, and her roommate...FAIZA?! Who the fuck have you ever met FAIZA?! “Hey, Faiza! How was your da—NO. No, you haven’t ever said that. End rant.) Anyways, fucking FAIZA tells Megan it’s time to get laid. She should have an anonymous one night stand to get her out of this funk, and after a few drinks and a failed night out on the town, Megan is down. She hits up OKCupid and meets a guy. Yadda, yadda, yadda...they end up bangin’. And now for the twist...



So the morning after Megan and anonymous one-night-stander Alec make sexy time, there’s a crazy snowstorm that traps them inside the apartment. As they start talking and actually introducing each other, Megan realizes she fucking hates this dude. And the dude realizes, he fucking hates this chick. The rest of the script is basically these two nudniks arguing/bantering back and forth until eventually kinda/maybe falling in love. You’ll have to read yourself to find out.

Lotta positive here though that you gotta love, but most importantly, and the reason this script got any attention are for two reasons: 1) dialogue and 2) containment.

  1. Dialogue—holy shit. I am a dialogue aficionado, Quentin Tarantino—the King of Dialogue himself—is my favorite director. I comb endlessly through scripts trying to get my clever dialogue fix that isn’t a Tarantino rip-off and can literally think of about 5 scripts out of the HUNDREDS I read...that come close to giving you that great exhilaration as only great dialogue can deliver. And this is one of them. I started reading this script without looking at the author’s name, and then about half-way through realized that this was some of the best dialogue from women I’ve ever read. The whole way through I was thinking it was funny, because so often it’s that female characters are so woefully underwritten and the male characters are dominatingly clever/funny. So when I finished this, I was thinking surely that a woman had to have written this because of how goddamn well-written the female dialogue was, and how so-so the male dialogue was. And wow was I shocked to find out it was written by a dude named fucking Mark Hammer. Seriously though, a script like this is going to live or die based on how good the dialogue is.  I’ll get into it more in the second part of this, but in any contained movie like this, your dialogue better be fucking golden if you’re going to have the balls to write something that’s literally going to be two dumbass mid-twenty years old bantering about bullshit back and forth for a hundred pages...but there’s a reason this fucker made it on the Black List...and this is undoubtedly one of those very major reasons. I could point to numerous discussions throughout the script, but perhaps my favorite and most clever sequence is when the two decide to have sex again. The catch this time, however, is that they’re going to be brutally honest critiquing each other throughout their escapade. Hammer really lets his dialogue chops fly in these couples page, and it was a real treat to read. The main thing is though, they fucking talked like real people! Megan and Alec have arguments that will go on for 3 or 4 pages about the same small thing, and although all these asshole screenwriting gurus will tell you to veer away from shit like that, that scenes can only be 3 or 4 pages, blah blah blah bullshit...fuck it. When it works, it works.

                        The great thing about good dialogue is there’s no science behind it. Any dickhead who reads enough Blake Snyder and has seen enough movies in general can write a screenplay. I know it’s hard to believe, but there’s hundreds of people banging their heads against a computer every day structuring their baby so that Main Character Dumbass meets his First Obstacle that will fuck his shit up on page 17, because this is where the inciting incident must be, and in order to set up the payoff on page 63...no. Shut up. You’re boring and turning screenwriting into a math equation. Great dialogue is great because there’s no formula to it. No one can tell you how to do it. I know people in the industry like to suck Snyder’s dick because he wrote that idiotic Save the Cat book (which I shall rip a new one into at a later date), but here’s the SparkNotes version of my thoughts on that...Snyder’s claim to fame is...Blank Check. Yes, the Academy Award winning, huge cult following, often remembered for its writing...oh shit, whoops, wrong movie. It’s that beyond idiotic Disney movie about a – fuck it. Not gonna waste a breath. Back to my point, good dialogue comes from a place of authentic passion and real character driven ideas. It’s about the characters taking over and moving from beyond the page to say what they want to say. Not whatever the writer puppeteering them desperately wishes they would say, but what they want to say. If they want to have a couple pages to yack about bullshit, sometimes...you gotta let ‘em. Now, 99.9% of amateurs are not gonna be able to pull this off by thinking it means that their all the next Mamets and Tarantinos and Kevin Smiths and that their monologue about jerking off that woudn’t even be funny in a standup bit is gonna kill for fifteen pages...but hopefully, you get my drift. That 1% out there who are really good at dialogue need to shine sometimes, and this script is a great case study for that. 

Can't decide which picture is funnier so used both

  1.  Containment – The other factor for this little shitter of a script becoming such a standout? It finds an ingenious way of containing its story that is so elusive to so many other screenwriters working right now. There are pretty much two solid factors that will help catapult a spec above the rest towards being reasonable to get made these day – Found Footage (FUCK! BOO!) or Contained Setting (Fuck yeah if it works). This is the latter. If I had to nominate one movie for most genius screenplay to work as your initial screenwriting and directorial debut, it would be...Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Here’s a movie that practically takes place in a single room and that also sent a shockwave into saying how you could structure a movie towards the entire industry. Containment is obviously incredibly attractive because of how much it’ll help reduce the cost. If there’s one great way to get your script attention, it’s to find a really clever way of containing your script. I’m not talking about some bullshit about them being trapped in a hut while the zombie apocalypse rages on or some dumbass shit like that...but making a romantic comedy where they get trapped in by a snowstorm? Not bad. Is the snowstorm thing kind of convenient and dumb...kinda. But you know what? It works. Mostly, again, because Hammer’s dialogue is so goddamn stellar, but it really is a smart way to do a romcom in this industry’s day and age. Unfortunately, this is the Catch-22, as the script does have some faults in this area. As some of its critics have pointed, Hammer doesn’t really take advantage of the location as much as he could. As much fun as it is just kicking it with our two leads, they could have done some more stuff around the entire complex, with his landlord, etc. The scene of her refusing to shit in his apartment and stealing the landlord’s plunger is funny but I just wish there was more of that. Maybe it sounds nit-picky but it is the one obvious area you wish a little more had been done.

Lotta good shit in this one. Really funny, good character work...the ending is kinda annoying and gets a little sappy. I really wish it could have ended with them still in the apartment and everything. But overall, a really good read and something that definitely gave me my dialogue fix that I’m usually having withdrawal symptoms from after watching Pulp Fiction for the millionth time.

Also, heavy dialogue scripts are also really fast reads for you lazy fuckers out there.

Grade: B+/A-

Monday, July 23, 2012

TV REVIEW: BREAKING BAD: S5: E2: "MADRIGAL"


TV REVIEW: BREAKING BAD: S2: E2: “MADRIGAL”

In episode two of the best show on the air right now, it’s a bit of a slow down from the hectic heist opening of the premier. We’re introduced to a cast of new characters, but more importantly, get to spend a great deal of time with one of our veteran characters who has always been one of the most badass, but unfortunately, gotten so little screen time – MIKE EHRMANTRAUT (Jonathan Banks).
            Mike’s been one of my favorite characters on the show since his first appearance. He’s so mysterious but goddamn badass, you keep just waiting for him to put Walt in his place. Mike feels like a throwback to the Badasses of Old – a Charles Bronson type—who is methodical but tired about his profession as a killer. Mike’s always had this world weary way about him, that he’s been around the block a few more times than he’d like, and tonight’s episode finally gave us a bit further glimpse into the man of so many questions.


            Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we’re back in our same timeline of following Walt directly after last week’s episode. There are no more glimpses into future Scarface/Mr. Lambert/Walt needing his machine gun, but instead, we’re back to the gang attempting to restructure their drug empire from the ground up. First things first though, the episode finally delves a bit deeper into everything with the ricin cigarette and Walt vis-√†-vis Jesse. It appears Walt will be holding onto the original cigarette, as he places the fake one in the Roomba for Jesse to find, and showing Walt’s ability to hide that thing was one of my favorite parts of the episode. Walt’s incredible meticulousness has been a source of both profound genius and comic laughs at times, and this one definitely hit somewhere inbetween for me. And when Walt gives Jesse the “What the fuck is that” look at the sight of the slow maneuvering Roomba, it gave a good laugh that you knew was coming.
            With so little to do so far, Aaron Paul finally got a good chance to shine this week by making himself cry at finding a cigarette in a Roomba as he remembered (correctly) that he held Walt at gunpoint over the incident. There’s truly nothing more sickening and entertaining than Walt convincing/covering up one of his lies in front of someone important to him, and this instance certainly delivered as Walt again relished in his fake goodwill toward Jesse over all things Ricin.  And in related news, Skylar has never been more distraught by her position in life and relationship with Walter than ever before. As much fun as it is to hate on her character, the performance this week was actually one of her best in having to telegraph so much with her body language and eyes. And with both episodes this season ending with Walt coming home to her, who knows what will be happening in that godforsaken household in the oncoming weeks. (Also relevant: WALT JUNIOR GETTING TO EAT BREAKFAST AGAIN!!! I worry the writers are too aware now how hilarious the running meme of Junior and his breakfast has become...but for now, I shall continue to relish in every Walt Jr. breakfast scene I get.)




Back to the plot, Walt & Jesse come to Mike with the proposition of restructuring and returning to the meth business, which the latter is (justifiably) very wary about. Mike knows all too well the kind of trouble that Walt leads with him, but you knew it was only a matter of time before the writers found a way to pull him back in with them. 

This comes in the form of Lydia:


Unfortunately, not this Lydia


Lydia, I can already tell, is going to be one of my new favorite characters. Upon first meeting her, she is a neurotic mess. Practically pulling a Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces trying to order some tea, it’s apparent very on that she is a nervous wreck who may or may not know what she’s doing and has very definite plans of putting to bed anybody formerly involved with Gus and his operation with Hermanos.
            I’m not entirely sure what to make of the Madrigal/Germans so far, but the idea of taking Walt and Jesse international is intriguing for the most part. This was definitely an episode very much about introducing and setting up things, more so than much actual movement, but as always with BB, it was entertaining nonetheless. The interrogation scene between Mike and Hank was particularly entertaining, as both these hard-asses are the no-nonsense/need the last word-type, so as soon as Mike sat down I couldn’t wait to see who would have the upper hand. As Hank reveals his intel with Mike’s granddaughter and the two million dollar bank account, the grimace on Jonathan Banks’ face and the dangling foreshadow of how badly Mike will want the money only makes the anticipating for next week and the rest of the season that much higher.
            Not much to really say about this week, as again, it was mostly a lot of opening moves for what will surely be a hell of a chess match of a season, but so far...all things Lydia definitely seem intriguing. And as we know, any appearance with Mike and a gun means shit’s going down.

Can’t wait.

Grade: B+

Saturday, July 21, 2012

MOVIE REVIE -- THE DARK KNIGHT RISES


MOVIE REVIEW – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES


So I guess there’s no way to start this review without first talking about the tragedy in Aurora...right now, it’s a tragedy looming over the head of the movie. It’s obviously a tragedy that caused greater consequences and ramifications than hurting a movie about a guy dressed in a bat outfit making out with a woman in a cat outfit and fighting with a dude in a mask that he can’t remove or he’ll die (still confused as to how he eats).

Yes, gun control, mental health care, and public safety are all topics of great discusses that need to be brought up in relation the incident, but I’m not gonna let the tragedy of this make it mean that you’re not allowed to review or disucss the movie any more. It’s not fair that one psychopath gets to destroy the one pastime that so many people use as an important and popular source of entertainment and discussion. So with that out of the way, let’s get going –

BATMAN 3 AKA DARK NIGHT 2: THE DARK KNIGHT...RISES





Spoilers Ahead:

Here we are, eight years after the events of The Dark Knight to find a broken and reclusive Bruce/Batman. There’s now a Dent Act passed in Aaron Eckhart’s honor that’s apparently eliminated organized crime because there’s no more paroles or something. It’s really not explained: is it an enhanced RICO Act? Are there no more strikes for criminals? Fuck it. Anyways, crime is somehow basically gone. And as a result, Bruce Wayne’s been up to...not much: chillin’, pissing in jars Howard Hughes-style according to legends, growing a sweet goatee, bantering with Alfred, moping over Rachel, installing uncrackable safes that are cracked when we first meet them, designing sweet canes for his limp, etc. etc. He’s even down to host charitable events at his house where hundreds of people will attend even though he doesn’t want to see anybody.

We’re introduced to Selina Kyle – aka Catwoman – Aka hot as fuck Anne Hathaway. Selina’s never explicitly called Catwoman (or says “hear me roar” thank God) but she a cat burglar, wears fuzzy Cat ears...if I had to take an educated guess, no doubt dresses like a Cat on Halloween like so many other unoriginal hot girls during the one Holiday for a hot chick to get creative. But anyways, she’s jacking the pearls Bruce’s mother stole, but more than that, she’s jacking Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints. This is due to the fact that she wants a USB File that will apparently erase her name from every computer database ever and give her a clean slate. This is the first of many very comic book-y logic things for the audience to expect, and although other critics are getting all riled up about it, it is fine with me. It’s not as outlandish as the Joker’s plan with not getting arrested, then getting arrested so he can break out with the Asian accountant and all that...fine by me.

We’re also introduced to Bane. Like I mentioned above, his thing is that he wears a mask that muffles his voice into an ADR Speaker System and he’s also super strong. He doesn’t have the venom-steroids like in the original comic-book/Schumacer movie (thank God again) but it’s just understood that the dude is crazy strong and crazy...crazy. He’s also been trained by the League of Shadows in order to connect it to the other movies and what not...and I liked that. Kind of an interesting connective tissue between the films. He has a penchant for winter coats and killing people, but he's also played by one of my favorite actors recent years...Tom Hardy. Hardy was great as the equally crazy Charlie Bronson in Nicolas Windig Refn's fucking nutty prison movie Bronson. He's tasked here with creating utter ferocity using his voice, eyes, and physique and for me at least, he completely delivers.



Our other final new character of importance is Joseph Gordon-Levitt aka JGL’s...JOHN BLAKE. He’s a cop/orphan who has known from the outset that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and upon first meeting him, Bruce doesn’t seem to have any problems not refuting this at all. It’s getting kind of scary to me how willy-nilly superheroes are becoming about their identities being revealed in these movies. In the piece of shit that was the latest Spider-Man movie with Eduardo Saverin starring as Spidey, the dude has his mask off every five minutes with apparently all of New York knowing his identity. Thankfully, Rises gets nowhere close to this bad, but it seems that Catwoman, John Blake, Lucius Fox, Gordon, Bane, and Miranda Tate (Talia Al Ghoul) all know whatsup, so it’s kind of weird. Back to Blake though, the guy is an eager hotheaded cop (as he’s referred to in a negative way many times) that is eager for the return of the Batman. He’s been a Batman fan boy all his life like the rest of us and wants his idol to come back to the city.

The plot uses bits and pieces of both the Knightfall and No Man Land’s story line involving Bane taking control of Gotham and becoming a kind of warlord who also wants the city to be burned to ashes in a couple of months. It’s kind of oddly constructed, because there’s this immediate suspense and tension and then it turns out Bane wants GOTHAM TO BE DESTROYED!!!...IN A COUPLE MONTHS...and the movie loses a bit of urgency. It also misses some great opportunities in those months that could have been interesting to explore. How the hell is Gotham getting food? What are regular people’s reactions to suddenly living on this isolated city? WHEN THE FUCK are they gonna realize this is probably the worst goddamn city to raise a family, etc...

But fuck it, during this time, Bats has had his back broken (tongue twister for ya) in awesome fight between him and Bane that ends with him getting left in a hole somewhere in Africa or something. This is maybe my favorite sequence in the movie, and there’s probably a great movie somewhere in here alone about a guy having to fight his way out of this weird hole/prison and retraining with a broken back and all that. It’s got some revisionist history with Bane’s story line/Talia al Ghoul, etc.but for me, it was cool...it worked. That’s all I can ask for.

In terms of the movie overall, I really liked it. As I do with the rest of Nolan’s movies, but it’s definitely miles away from The Dark Knight 1. Bane, simply, just doesn’t service the story as well as the Joker/Harvey Dent. In terms of just being awesome and badass, Bane and Joker are definitely competing...but Joker’s themes of anarchy and chaos tied so perfectly into the larger mechanics of The Dark Knight’s story line that it created this perfect continuity between derangement and thematic purpose that Rises fails to accomplish. While Bane’s psychotic attitude and terrorist aspirations are certainly interesting, they seem to be a bit muddled about what exactly they wanna be about. Is he a 99%-er pissed about the Gotham elite? Just another Ra’s al Ghoul philosophy about Gotham sucking needing to be burned? Some crazy terrorist out for chaos? It’s kind of unclear, but this is just being nit-picky. Bane’s still better than 99% of movie/script villains I’ve seen so far this year. It’s just when you’re competing against the benchmark set by the Joker, who has transcended into the great movie villain pantheon with Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, etc...you’re going to find a lot more criticisms. I really wished at some point his mouth piece had been completely removed and you were going to see something really fucked up...but it was still cool anyways, better to leave it to the imagination I supposed.

Hathaway really kills it as Catwoman. I’m not sure who would have been a better choice, and she seems to eat up every opportunity for flirtation and duality between good or bad that’s written for her. I’m not sure how intimidating as a villain she can really be when her greatest asset is her stilettos...Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from the Burton movies would definitely kick her ass six ways to Sunday in my estimation (not counting the fact that she also literally gets eight other lives like a cat)...but she’s one of the better additions to the new movie.

With JGL’s Blake, there has been speculation since day one about him taking up the cowl when they kill Batman and what not. And I gotta say, just as a fanboy, the reveal of his real name – ROBIN – absolutely brought a smile to my face. I was both worried and excited that the final shot was gonna be him in a Robin costume or something, but Nolan’s too smart for something like that and it ends on a perfect note. You always wanna leave the audience wanting more, and I gotta say, I would absolutely love to see more of a Year One type storyline with our new Robin taking on crime in Gotham.

Nolan’s thesis about Batman being a symbol more so than a character is an interesting and entertaining idea that I’m glad they executed with confidence. In a way, Bruce Wayne should always be Batman in a way that no other Batman can. This is not James Bond where any spy can just be trained and given the 007 codename. Batman has to be Bruce Wayne, a spoiled billionaire who transforms himself into the greatest fear of a city’s criminals, but for me, for whatever reason, Nolan makes this Blake-Robin transformation work.

I know I’m nit-picking and being critical towards a lot of different aspects of the movie, but I really did enjoy this. Bane is a great physical threat for the Dark Knight, and when he does what Bane’s famous for doing for Batman, I absolutely loved it. Batman’s triumphant return and new toy of The Bat provided some great audience pleasing moments as well. It’s been a fun ride, a bittersweet ending, and I wish the best of luck to the sad sap that gets stuck with trying to find a better way to top Nolan’s trilogy in the inevitable upcoming years.

Enjoy Florence, Bruce. 

Grade: A-