Friday, February 29, 2008

Lost Season 4 Episode 5: "The Constant"

Time travel is a hard theory to illustrate in any medium. It is just such a confusing concept that the risk of losing your audience seems inevitable. That was the downfall of "The Constant." It's like having a conversation with someone about computers, and then realizing 5 minutes in that they know way more than you about not only computers, but programming, motherboards, RAM and a whole bunch of other stuff that you could care less about. You just end up nodding along, pretending like you're not in over your head. Needless to say, there was a lot of nodding going on during last night's episode. While I appreciate the concept of the episode, I'm not totally convinced that the execution was flawless. Here is what I took away from it all.

1.) Wherever the island is in relation to the real world, there is apparently some sort of wormhole (whatever that is) or void in the space/time continuum on the way there. We're definitely dealing with a rift in the linear passage of time, which is probably why the island is impossible to find unless you have "the exact bearings" to find it.

2.) Desmond's backstory is almost as boring as Kate's.

3.) I actually like Jeremy Davies' character in the show, which is a complete shock to me. However, in the flashback he looks like a jackass with that bad long hair wig. But I actually like his character, Daniel, and hope that he turns out to be a larger part of this season's story arc.

4.) Sayid is apparently the Iraqui MacGyver. I know this may be something that I should have noticed about three years ago, but whenever something in the show is broken, regardless of what type of equipment it is, Sayid will fix it. That is kind of a cop out to me. Just once I'd like someone to say "Sayid, can you fix it?" and have him say, "Absolutely not. What are you, an asshole?"

5.)I enjoyed the match-cut editing for much of this episode (when cutting between Desmond in 1996 and 2004.) Though, I did find that it got less and less interesting as the show went on. It was a tad gimmicky, but I suppose it worked given the necessity to show Desmond falling back and forth between two times.

And I apologize-- apparently I mixed up which episode we were on last week. I accidentally said that this week's episode was the one that supposedly would be a "revelation" type episode. It's actually next week's episode--episode 6-- and the preview does indeed seem pretty exciting.

I guess we'll see...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I've just completed an article for the premiere issue of Monster-Mania Magazine. It's a retrospective of the "Evil Dead" films, and will be published in conjunction with the Monster Mania convention next month. And it just so happens that the star of the "Evil Dead" series, Bruce Campbell, is the headliner at this year's convention.

I thought about posting the entire article for all to read, but I figured the publisher may not want me to do that just yet. And hey-- you should go out next month and buy the magazine anyway-- support your local Jon Rocks! But seriously, the magazine will be available at the convention, on the website and you'll also find it at local bookstores. If you're interested, and can't seem to get a hold of it for some reason, let me know and I'll point you in the right direction.

I'll post more info as it becomes available.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DVD Review: "Michael Clayton"

Tony Gilroy's directorial debut "Michael Clayton" has all the makings of a muckraking political message film-- evil corporations, corrupt lawyers, a class action lawsuit and, of course, George Clooney. But, for all of the chances the film had to stand upon a soapbox and beat the audience with it's message, thankfully it didn't. The movie is a taut, engaging conspiracy thriller, with just enough action to keep things interesting.

Clooney's titular Michael Clayton is a lawyer, whose main responsibility at the prestigious law firm for which he works is to be what is known as a "fixer." In short. he's the guy who makes problems disappear. When the senior partner (Tom Wilkinson) at Clayton's firm has a mental breakdown, the multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit he is negotiating is endangered. Clayton is asked to step in and neutralize the situation, by any means necessary, long enough for the case to be settled, avoiding a costly and scandalous trial.

The film was expertly acted by all involved. Clooney was, well just what he always is-- himself. His range is not exactly on par with the rest of the cast, but he's good as the subdued, disenchanted Clayton. Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson both earned their respective Oscar nods the hard way-- by giving truly great performances. My only quibble with Swinton was that her accent did slip out through most of her dialogue heavy scenes. What impressed me the most about the film is how first-time director Tony Gilroy was able to sustain such high levels of intrigue and suspense through to the very last frame. Known mostly as a screenwriter, Gilroy's direction definitely makes his future projects something to keep an eye out for.

And, incidentally, I found the poster/ad campaign for the film (shown above) to be one of the best of the year. So simple, yet very effective. And I should also mention, this film should have won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, hands down.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Monday, February 25, 2008

Call for local Screenwriting group...

I'm looking to start a local screenwriting group in the Philadelphia area. I want to just get a small group of other writers together semi-regularly just to workshop/critique/discuss anything we are currently working on. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, regardless of whether you know me or not, drop me a line either in the comments or at my email. Also, you can see the post I've listed at about the group here.

The group will meet at a Barnes & Noble or somewhere similar, and anyone of any experience level is more than welcome, just as long as you are interested in screenwriting. Hopefully this will grab a couple of writers who enjoy a workshop environment, like I do.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar Results...

Well the Oscars were on tonight. they actually came in on time, and without incident. They were also, umm, boring. Anyway, the highlight of my night was seeing "Once" get the Oscar for Best Song. And the only real shock of the night was on the face of David Bowie look-alike Tilda Swinton's face when she won for Best Supporting Actress. Oh, and Diablo Cody won the Oscar for Best Screenplay-- what a surprise. Did you know that she was a stripper? Wow. How not interesting. Below is a list of all Oscar winners from tonight. Enjoy.

Best Film: No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)

Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)

Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody (Juno)

Best Costume Design: Elizabeth The Golden Age

Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille

Best Make-Up: La Vie en Rose

Best Visual Effects: The Golden Compass

Best Art Direction: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Short Film: Le Mozart des Pickpockets

Best Animated Short: Peter & the Wolf

Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood)

Best Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Best Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)

Best Film Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Best Foreign Language Film: The Counterfeiters (Austria)

Best Original Song: “Falling Slowly” (Once)

Best Original Score: Dario Marianelli (Atonement)

Best Short Documentary: Freeheld

Best Feature Documentary: Taxi to the Dark Side

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lost Season 4 Episode 4: "Eggtown"

"Eggtown" is one of those episodes that I won't look forward to when I rewatch this season on DVD. There was no glaring problem with the episode, it just wasn't all that interesting. Having said that, here is what stuck out to me...

1.) Why the hell is the episode called "Eggtown?" Yeah, I know Locke said he gave Ben the "last two eggs", but did I miss something? If someone knows, please drop me a comment and let me know.

2.) The meeting between Miles and Ben was... how can I say this... not as interesting as advertised? Miles talked a big game, but when it came to the "threat", he just seemed a bit impotent. Talk about anti-climactic. I mean, give me something to chew on, here.

3.) Kate's backstory is not all that enthralling anymore. I know she killed her stepdad, and her mom is going to testify against her. Move on with it...

4.)Which brings me to my next point... when Kate's story finally did move on, it was awesome. When the reveal came that her "Son" was Aaron-- that is what I was waiting for all episode. Too bad it came literally at the last possible second.

As stated above, it wasn't the greatest episode, However, from the preview for next week's episode, I'd say episode six should live up to the hype. It looks terrific. Hopefully now that the WGA strike is over, we'll be able to see the entire season, instead of just the first 8 episodes.

As always, we'll see...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Oscar picks...

With the Oscars coming up this Sunday, I figured I'd give my 2 cents on the topic, because you know, it's not like every other blogger will be doing the exact same thing. Anyway, my picks are broken down like this:

Who will win:
Who should win:

Not too hard to follow. Here we go...

Best Picture

Which will: "No Country for Old Men" - The Acadmey loves Joel and Ethan Coen, and Scott Rudin produced. I think it'll get the gold.

Which should: "There Will be Blood" - Regardless of Director, Producer or anyone else involved in the movie, this is the best picture of the year.

Best Actor

Who will: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who should: Daniel Day-Lewis - If he doesn't win the Oscar, I wil be thoroughly convinced that the whole thing is a sham.

Best Actress

Who will: Julie Christie - This is a meaty role, and a legendary actress. The Academy voters love giving awards to veterans who are still making good movies. See: Michael Caine.
Who should:Julie Christie

Best Suporting Actor

Who will: Javier Bardem
Who should: Javier Bardem - This is one of those cases where the Oscar has been unoffically in his hands since the film was completed. Hard to argue with that in this case, though.

Best Supporting Actress

Who will: Cate Blanchett - What can I say-- she is playing a man (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) and that makes people simply want to give her an award. Bo-ring.
Who should: Amy Ryan - She gave the only truly effective performance in a cast of extreme heavyweight actors. She was terriffic at playing a really trashy character, without making it an over-the-top caricature.

Best Director

Who will: Paul Thomas Anderson - If the Academy doesn't recognize the rare genius that Anderson tapped into with "TWBB", I really don't know who they have voting for these awards.
Who should: Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

Which will: "No Country for Old Men" - This was an incredibly faithful adaptation of a really terrific book. I have no problem at all with this script winning the Oscar.

Which should: "There Will be Blood" - However, what PT Anderson did with "Oil!" in turning it into "TWWB" is nothing short of amazing. I'd be just as happy if this script pulled in the gold.

Best Screenplay (Original)

Which will: "Juno" - What can I say, Hollywood is in love with the story of Juno writer Diablo Cody. I have absolutely no comment...
Which should: "Ratatouille" - I'd like a precedent to be set by giving the Oscar to an animated film. But they won't, because did you know Diablo Cody used to be a stripper! And this is her first Script! And she is just so cool! Woo-hoo!

Best Cinematography

Who will: "No Country for Old Men" This one is a toss-up. I think the Academy will go with "No Country..." because of Roger Deakins...
Who should:"There Will be Blood" - But, I would give it to "TWBB".

So that's it-- just the major categories. If you agree or disagree please feel free to drop me a line in the comments section and tell me all about it.

The Oscars are on ABC this Sunday, February 24th at 8:00 PM.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Not that it really makes sense to post this since, if you're reading this, you've obviously already found the page, but I now officially own the domain

So tell your friends, tell your mom, tell your dad-- tell anyone who will listen to the news-- I'm legit. There is no longer a need to type that pesky ".blogspot" part anymore.

I feel more important already.

Lost Season 4, Episode 3: "The Economist"

This week's episode was okay. Here is what I took away from it--

1.) Sayid is one of the "Oceanic 6." That's weird. I thought for sure I knew who they were going to be. I was wrong.

2.) I have to say-- some of the story is getting a little convoluted. When I saw that Sayid was "working" for Ben I immediately thought, "Christ, I hope they've got this all thought out." I don't know-- I hate to sound like one of the detractors, but I would like a few answers every now and again.

3.) The way Sayid's hair looked when he showed up for that date was ridiculous. He looked like a bearded woman. With those lustrous locks, he could be doing Pantene commercials-- no joke.

4.) I don't like the whole Locke's group vs. Jack's group storyline. I don't think it's working, mainly because of things like Sawyer holding Kate captive in that bedroom. Everything we've learned about Sawyer would lead me to believe that he would tell Locke to eat shit before he went against Kate. It just didn't seem to work for me.

5.) The promo clip for net week's show was bad. Usually ABC sells the next episode like it's the best thing we'll ever see. The commercial for next week's show was just very bland.

From what I've read, the 6th episode this season will be a so-called "world-changer" (that is, the world of Lost and the island). So I guess that is something to look forward to.

We'll see...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ain't life grand?

While posting last night I happened to catch a glimpse of my hit counter at the bottom of the page. To my surprise and delight, I have now had over a thousand hits on my blog! Thanks to anyone who stops by and checks it out on a regular basis. I promise I'll try to keep up on the posting regularly -- someday.

I should mention, about 993 of those hits are probably from me looking at the page myself. Just FYI.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why'd I buy that?

This is the first in what will surely be a series of posts about the many DVD's that are in my collection for which I have no defense. Maybe it was a cheap 3-for-$10 at Blockbuster, or maybe I had some extra cash that I wanted to burn, but there are just a few titles that every time I see them I ask myself, "Why did I buy that?" Hell, with the ever ballooning size of my DVD collection (about 650 now), I guess by the law of averages I'm bound to own a few bombs, right?

The first entry is the 2007 Michael Bay clunker "Transformers."

I own this film, and what's worse-- I purchased it sight unseen. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I figured it had to be a decent popcorn film, and it's got really spiffy DVD art, to boot. Hell, picking it up for only $18-- I figured I'd gotten a deal. I figured wrong. The film is a boring mish-mash of bad acting, typical bombastic Michael Bay action and technically incredible-yet-visually confusing special effects. After watching the film, and all of the not-so-special features, I found myself asking, "That's the movie that made all that money last summer? Really?"

Beyond the film's effects, and the slight tinge of nostalgia I felt for the franchise, there just isn't much else to be had. The only positive I can find in all of this is that I didn't spring the extra $15 for the HD-DVD version, considering how that format looks to be doing.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is-- when you spend an entire summer purposely avoiding a certain blockbuster, steer clear of it on DVD, regardless of how enticing the packaging may be.

Embarrassment Factor: 2 out of 5

Next time: Some television shows from childhood were awesome back then because you were a child, but not so much when you drop $34.99 per season on them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

R.I.P. Roy Scheider

Veteran actor Roy Scheider died today-- that's right, Police Chief Brody has died. He'd been suffereing from multiple myeloma (Cancer) and passed away at the age of 75.

While I obviously loved "Jaws", Sheider had a rather good filmography otherwise, as well. "The French Connection", "All that Jazz" and later "RKO 281", "Seaquest" and don't forget his turn as a Russian Mob Kingpin in "Third Watch." All good stuff.

Not much more to say, other than it sucks when people die. I guess they'll have to re-edit the "In Memoriam" montage for the Oscars this year.

In honor of the man himself, here is the original trailer for the film for which he will always be known-- "Jaws." What an absolutely fantastic film! Enjoy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lost Season 4, Episode 2: "Confirmed Dead"

I'll keep this short and sweet. Last night's episode was decent, if a bit scattered, because it was telling 4 different new character backstories. Here are the things I noticed:

1.) The guy who plays Miles, one of the helicopter crew, is a terrible actor. His name is Ken Leung and his performance was probably the weak point of the episode last night.

2.) Jeremy Davies is completely proving me correct. So far, he is portraying his typical, loopy, oddball character. I was hoping he would go completely against type and be the bad-ass. Then again, you never know what the writers have up their sleeve... maybe he's just biding his time. We'll see.

3.) I'm going to go ahead and say that we shouldn't read too much into the fact that Miles is a "ghost hunter." I think that is a typical red herring for the writers to throw out and make people say "Hey, aybe everyone on the Island are ghosts!" No-- they're not. Remember, they are not there to save the Oceanic survivors. If he is there to talk to anyone, it would be an Island native.... maybe Jacob?

4.) Ben neds to be hog tied and gagged. Apparently the Losties haven't realized that he is not to be trusted yet. That just smacked of sloppy writing to me... How would they have let him possibly get near that gun, let alone shoot someone?

It's always hard to get used to a new season, because I like the older seasons so much... but for the amount of new information they are bringing in to the show, the show really is maintaining a high level of quality. I'm glad to say that it looks like the writers strike may be nearing an end, so hopefully production will resume on "Lost" so we'll get the full 16 episode run, instead of the 8 they have finished as of now.

Until next week...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

DVD Review: "The Brood"

David Cronenberg has been one of my favorite directors over the past few years. I've enjoyed the new direction of his work as of late, but I'd always felt like my knowledge of his impressive resume of films was seriously lacking. In an attempt to rectify this, I picked up his 1979 film "The Brood." Markedly different from his more recent films, the movie is an unsettling little ditty about a custody battle, a new brand of psychiatry and, well, inhuman, murderous dwarves.

The story is about Frank Carveth, a man whose wife is undergoing treatment in an experimental psychiatric therapy called psychoplasmics. Her psychiatrist has developed the radical new form of therapy in an effort to help his patients release years of pent up rage. The result of treatment is a physical manifestation of the anger which shows up in some patients as bodily sores, others as metastatic cancer, and in the case of Carveth's wife, it literally takes on a life of its own.

When Carveth discovers bruises and scrapes on his daughter after she had spent the weekend with her mother, he decides to investigate what is going on at Dr. Raglan's cult-like treatment facility. What he finds is that even Dr. Raglan didn't anticipate the extent to which Mrs. Carveth's rage would release itself. She need only think about a person whom she wishes bodily harm and her anger is physically borne into the world, in a human-like form that is intent only on seeing her ill will brought to fruition.

Needless to say, this is not your typical custody battle film. It's been described as "Kramer vs. Kramer" meets "Alien." While that may be a tidy way to categorize the film, I believe this one, like most Cronenberg films, defies categorization. We are expected to buy right into the "psychoplasmics" element of the story, even though there isn't in the way of an explanation about it. However, I believe that works in the favor of the film because Carveth is kept away from his wife for the duration of her treatment. In a way, we are discovering information about her treatment along with him, which makes the impact of the ending that much more surreal. And believe me, it is surreal.

While the setup is a bit rushed, and the logistics of the story were never completely explained, the film is still an undeniably creepy and interesting watch. Rumor has it that this film has been tapped for a remake, which seems odd to me. Part of the character of a film is the time in which it was made-- like a true film noir having been made in the 40's or 50's . "The Brood" is a distinctly 1970's film, owing much of it's creepy aesthetic to being a product of that time. Furthermore, do any directors today have big enough cajones to keep the final scene of this film intact? I think not. Stick with the original, you'll be glad (or horrified) that you did.

Score: 3 out of 5

Monday, February 4, 2008

M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" Trailer

People have a lot of hate for M. Night Shyamalan. I absolutely do not. Yeah, I think "Lady in the Water" was a miscalculation on his part, and maybe "The Village" wasn't exactly the most original of his works, but what can I say-- I still like the guy. His films are always "event films" for me, and for the most part I like what he does.

His new film "The Happening" is due out soon and, if this trailer is any indication, it looks like it'll be pretty good. It seems he took a bit of a darker path on this one, and considering the film is about a worldwide epidemic of mass suicide, let's hope he went for a hard R, instead of the lame old PG-13.

One point that sticks in my crawl is the tagline: "We've Sensed it, We've seen the Signs, now... It's Happening." It's just way too self-referential and annoying for my taste. Let the film stand on it's own, separate from his others. Also, Shyamalan has reunited with his DP from "Unbreakable", Tak Fujimoto, and it shows that they work well together. Keep an eye out for the shot of the bodies falling off of the roof at the construction site-- that looks incredible.

Here is the trailer, check it out for yourself.

The Happening - Trailer

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lost Season 4, Episode 1: "The Beginning of the End"

Last night marked the season premiere of season 4 of "Lost." I'd have to say it pretty much lived up to the hype. We got a good bit of info about each of the main components from the final episode of Season 3. Here are a few key things I took away from it.

1.) There were only 6 people that "made it off of the island." In the opening flash-forward of this episode Hurley gets arested. When he is being dragged off by the police he yells ot "I'm one of the Oceanic 6!" So Hurley made it off the island, and we know that both Jack and Kate made it as well. So who are the other three of the Oceanic 6? It stands to reason that it would be Claire and Aaron (because of the Desmond vision) and Sawyer. And why only 6? I suppose we'll find out for sure soon. Then again it is "Lost", so maybe not...

2.) Jeremy Davies is the Hollywood go-to "creepy guy", so it seems only fitting that he'd show up on the island. I like the guy, but I really hope that he doesn't fall into his "guy who has lost his mind" routine that we've seen in "Solaris" and "Rescue Dawn", as well as in his television portrayal of Charles Manson.

3.) Jacob, or whever is in that cabin, is pretty damn scary. I really hope to see more of that in the next few episodes.

Overall, episode one was pretty good. I'm definitely still getting used to the whole "flash-forward" thing, but I like what they're doing with it so far. I sincerely hope that the writer's strike ends soon, because I want more than just the 8 episodes that are already in the can.

Score: 4 out of 5

DVD Review: "Saw 4"

Another year, another couple gross-out set pieces, ho hum. At the rate of degradation these sequels are going at, we're about two removed from a direct-to-cable quality film. Director Darren Lynn Bousman does a serviceable job, inasmuch as the film isn't embarrassingly bad. But the logic and the real hook of the film leave much to be desired. Even hardcore fans of the series would have to admit, the same old shtick is getting just a bit tired.

This installment opens with the uber-bad guy "Jigsaw" dead as a doornail. And just in case the gaping wound in his neck isn't proof enough, we're treated to a very realistic (or not, according to my wife), and equally unnecessary autopsy. But, ah, that is where it gets interesting, because "the game is not over yet." Of course not. Jigsaw left one more tape for the film's detectives to figure out-- it was inside of his stomach. The police scramble to figure out who the tape is meant to endanger, while in the meantime a few peripheral characters meet a grisly, bloody demise in true Saw fashion.

I couldn't help but notice that the traps of this film are somewhat anticlimactic. They just didn't have the ingenuity that I've come to expect from these films. In fact, I didn't even understand how a few of them worked. This may be due largely to the fact that much of this film is devoted to a fleshed out backstory for Jigsaw, or John Kramer. This was the part of the film that I found most interesting. This was also the first time that any real amount of screen time was devoted to the man behind the contraptions, and how he came to be the creepy serial killer we all know him as.

I understand that the Saw films make money-- lots of it-- and that's why the films keep getting made. However, in terms of quality, I have to imagine that the films are suffering by rushing to meet the self-imposed requirement of one Saw film per year, every single year. I've enjoyed the series, but I would be lying if I said that they were maintaining any real level of quality. Since Saw 5 has already been greenlit, let's just hope that they are devising a clever way to end the series, or more accurately, put it out of it's misery.

Score: 2 out of 5