Monday, August 31, 2009


I had the great fortune and misfortune to see a whole slew of movies this weekend. I'll say one thing: I should always trust my instincts.

I'm not sure how, but I can almost always tell, via a movie poster or the the DVD cover art or the coverage on a movie if I'll like it or not. It's rare I'm wrong. And it's rare the American public is wrong. Most often, the most successful movies are the best movies.

By 'successful' I mean movies which succeed monetarily in compared to the scope in which they are made. It is rare a movie which does poorly is very good; the fact it did poorly is because none of the critics liked it and most people who saw it in the theater did not as well, so they told their friends and they told their friends...and no one went. I'm not saying critics are right, but when they all hate something, there is something there.

Let's start with Coraline.

The pitch:

A young girl walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life - only much better. But when her adventure turns dangerous, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home - and save her family.

The trailer:

This is one fucked up movie. It's strange, surreal, odd and, in the end, dull. It's also the kind of movie snobs will say is great even when they are bored because they feel they have to say it's great by the sheer fact it's so odd.

The film follows the story of a misfit girl named Coraline who discovers an alternative reality where she meets her 'perfect family', replete with buttons for eyes and sweet, caring souls.

There isn't much more to say about the story except for that. The plot is very simple and of the garden variety misfit tale.

There is no denying the artistry which went into making the film. The animation and the feel of the movie is creepy, layered and staggering. The tone is savage and mean; you wait every moment for someone to become plummeted with knives. The team behind this movie clearly took years and years to make this.

The filmmaker is Henry Selick, the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone. His style is very much that of an artist with an an individual vision. It is a vision which is bleak, nihilistic and in love with the grotesque. There is a reason his name is often confused with Tim Burton. Their visual style is very much in sync, but their storytelling style is not.

Whereas as Burton can become lost in his dark aesthetic at the expense of emotion and story, he has made a body of work which has been, at times, very emotional and accessible. Selick's work is so otherwordly and dark, it's difficult to find something to identify with or latch onto...instead, his movies are technical marvels to watch and study, but not movies, sadly, to enjoy.

The reason the movie made $75 million can be attributed more to the effective 3-D than to the story or the film itself. It deserves all the kudos out there for it's amazing technology and it's oddly shaped and disturbing characters, but the film isn't engrossing and rather off-putting. I found myself fading in and out halfway through and only enjoyed it for it's lush colors and magnificent animation, but if most viewers were honest (and most critics) the movie is beautiful in the darkest of ways, and also one of the most boring animated films I've seen in a long time, and I see lots and lots of animated movies.

From a writing perspective, this is from the novelist, Neil Gaiman, the very accomplished and prolific author from Britain Mr. Gaiman is a man who takes his work and storytelling very seriously. I've only read one of his novels and the subject matter was not to my liking, but he does know how to weave a tale. Many are fans of his comic book (oh, sorry, graphic novel) Sandman...I've read that as well and while I liked it I didn't love it.

I've found the rules and structure of fantasy and horror writing to be unruly and difficult to deconstruct. It's as if the rule book is thrown out of the window with such work. Maybe it's my own unwillingness to live in those worlds long enough to understand them...they are much too dark and violent for me.

Mr. Gaiman has a delightful website where he posts often.

Here he is:

Mikey Movie Madness score:

7 for technical achievements; 4 for storytelling. Unfortunately, even in 3-D, not worth your time.

Next up: Adventureland

The pitch:

In 1987, James dreams of a summer European tour before studying at an Ivy League school in New York City are ruined after his parents have a severe career setback. As a result, James must get a summer job to cover his upcoming expenses at the decrepit local amusement park, Adventureland, where he falls in love with a witty co-worker. The young carnies have unforgettable and painful learning experiences about life, love and trust.

The trailer:

I know the kind of people who say they love this movie. They are the kind who are in Graduate Writing or Sociology Programs at Columbia university and are working on their dissertation about the use of irony and fate in society and/or late 20's century drama. Or, better yet, they live in the East Village and attend rally's in Washington Square Park and smoke pot and run poetry slams to empty halls.

It's difficult to tell you what is good and what is bad about this movie, because I found the tone so annoying and frustrating, it was difficult to sit back and let it wash over me. If there is one thing this movie is, it's smug. Smug in it's attitude for well-structured movies, smug in it's anti-societal views, smug in how grating the lead actor is (sorry, but I find Jesse Eisenberg very, very grating, even though he always plays the downtrodden Jewish guy), smug in how it finds the format and movement of good movies so passe, smug in how it views the world and it's quirky sense of irony...

It reminds me of the worst works of Wes Anderson. I simply do not like them but I feel like I should like them and that if I don't like them then there is something wrong with me. I used to feel it was simply that I didn't 'get' these kinds of movies and there was some illiterate and defective part of my obsessive movie gene which resulted in my making a knee-jerk reaction to these movies, but now I know better. Most people know better (which is why they make no money and hardly anyone goes to see them, except those noted above). They are dull and worse, smug, about their own perceived intellectual superiority at the loss of story or forward dramatic momentum.

Smug: marked by excessive complacency or self-satisfaction; "a smug glow of self-congratulation" (according to the Princeton online dictionary).

Mikey Movie Madness score: 4 for trying to make a drama about people in their 20's that has serious, literary ambitions; 2 for execution and, well, smugness.

More soon...


Monday, August 24, 2009

Keep The Fires Burning

Definition of the word 'inspiration':

Use inspiration in a Sentence
1. an inspiring or animating action or influence: I cannot write poetry without inspiration.
2. something inspired, as an idea.
3. a result of inspired activity.
4. a thing or person that inspires.
5. Theology.
a. a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.
b. the divine quality of the writings or words of a person so influenced.
6. the drawing of air into the lungs; inhalation.
7. the act of inspiring; quality or state of being inspired.

I was reading Princess Bride's writing blog early today (see it here - if you ask me, she's the shit:

Princes had a posting entitled "Married to It", as in, how does a writer finish scripts?

I am a 45 year old, unproduced writer who has written many, many scripts over the years. Two of them were very, very close to being made. I met with Jill Clayburgh for a role I had written, I had met with Jessica Lange, I had famous producers involved, Robert DeNiro expressed interest, money was on the table, casting sessions were in place, but alas, they were not made.

Eight years ago, I stopped writing. I didn't see the point. Why write when no one was going to see my work? Works by artists are meant to be seen and I felt invisible. What did my work or my thoughts or feelings matter if only my close circle of artist family members read my work?

Fiction writers told me screenwriting is not writing, it's constructing. Playwrights told me they loved the medium of screenwriting but movies are run by mean entertainment suits who wouldn't know art if it bit them in the ass, so why bother? Plus, no one ever really sold a script and made a living writing screenplays, they said. Such thinking is a pipedream.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with movies. My most vivid memories as a child are of opening the entertainment section of the Seattle Times and circling, in red, all of the movies I was going to see on opening weekend. I would get so excited I would get gas. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep until I saw the movies I wanted to see.

Therapists have told me why I was obsessed with movies. They said it was my way of coping with a terrible and abusive childhood. They're not wrong, but their analysis is a bit narrow. I went to the movies to gain insight into life. And I did.

Like most writers who must write movies, I have a handful of films I saw as a child which have defined me. I rewatch them ever few years and I taken back to the moment when I first saw them and they made me feel. This is why I went to the movies. It was a place for me to safely feel. I felt the world was unsafe and cruel and in the movies, I could cry or laugh or shudder in the company to total strangers and not feel so alone.

When I stopped writing, I took to drinking lots of wine and filling up my time with nothingness. Then, one day, I popped in one of the handful of films I saw over and over again when I was younger. I sat on my couch and watched it, uninterrupted, from beginning to end, alone.

I started writing again the next morning. I have continued to do so to this day. I realized to give up on writing was to give up on me. I couldn't allow that and neither should you.

But how do you keep toiling away on a script when you have the following things to deal with:

1. Mortgage
2. An outside job to pay the mortgage
3. Kids
4. Sex life
5. Absence of a sex life
6. Anxiety
7. Depression
8. Marriage issues which never seem to go away
9. In-laws
10. Needy friends, lovers, co-workers
11. Annoying friends, lovers, co-workers
12. A lawn to mow
13. A gutter to clean
14. A dinner to make
15. A lack of friends who feel screenwriting is writing or who don't understand why you won't get a 'real career'

No need to go on. But you get the picture. How do we all stay inspired to keep writing every day and find our inspiration?

Here is what I think - I think all of us had one thing happen to us which made us want to write the script we are now writing. An image, a word, a feeling, a song, a person, a loss, a reward, an act of generosity or hate, a trip, a work of art, the way the old woman on the corner touched our elbow and looked in our eyes before crossing the street and reminding us of our mother and Oh My God, what if she was psychic and Oh My God what if she read my mind and then and then and then...

That moment is the moment writers must keep returning to day after day when they are writing and toiling away on an art form as noble and deeply felt as screenwriting. Otherwise, how on earth do you keep writing?

I've had countless professors tell me, "Well, there is no magic bullet! You sit your ass in the chair and you work. There. There is the secret to finishing the work!"

Such thinking has never worked for me. I am too sensitive. I'll put up my guard in pitch meetings and I'll let the callous and cold-hearted comments of frightened development executives roll off of me like warm, summer water off a plump duck's ass, but in a writing class or group or program, I find yelling and 'tough love' accomplishes absolutely nothing except feed the ego of the instructor.

The place of creativity is a mystery. We will never, ever be able to define it and that is how it should be. But what is not a mystery is what first sparked us to write the first word of the outline or the draft.

I have seen, time and time again, when the writer is stuck and cannot finish a draft and revisits the reason they first started writing this specific piece...they can write again.

When they look at the initial image which sparked them, or listen to the piece of music which moved them so deeply, or feel again the insight they felt on that day they realized, "Yes, this is what I want to teach people, this is the insight into the human condition I want to find a story to wrap around..."...they start writing.

It's like the novelist Ian McEwan once said: "I want to write a narrative with ideas that is as addictive as a drug." Perfect.

We write because we have a conscious emotional insight into this life we want to share with people. Selfish, true, but valid and important. Our job is to wrap that emotional insight (read: theme) inside of a narrative as addictive as a drug (and yes, that is where the years and years and years of work comes in).

But we can only do that if we know what we have and we can only know what we have if we finish the work.

Princess Scribe detailed how it took years and years for some written work to become realized. She's absolutely right. The fact any movie actually gets made is amazing. But that cannot be our concern.

Our concern must be for the act of expression and the act of putting that down on the page. If it is good and from the heart, it will get noticed. Let's be honest - why would any choose the profession of writing if they didn't felt they must express themselves and their insights about life?

Movies are shifting, changing emotion art pieces. Our goal in writing movies is to create art which makes sense of ourselves and our place in this world (even if some of those movies have exploding cars and gratuitous sex and are supporting by silly and unrelenting marketing campaigns).

Never give up. Never surrender. Never stop expressing yourself. And always remember what made you first want to write the script you are now writing and visit that each and every day. In the morning. In the afternoon. Before bed.

Know what you want to say. Articulate it. Feel it. Find your genre, find your story, wrap it around what you must say and write.

Don't let anyone stop you.

If you do, you aren't letting down the one person who matters most.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

I love you, man OR How far buddy movies have come...

This blog will be two fold.

The first half of each posting will be what I honestly thinks of a movie. It will be the kind of 'real review' anyone who isn't in the business would tell their friends over dinner.

The second half of the posting be tailored to the writer who is crazy enough to write screenplays. I've taught screenwriting at New York University, at New York Film Academy, have had work optioned, I work in entertainment and run many writing groups.

Hopefully, this will foster a healthy and helpful discussion on writing movie scripts.

So...let's cut to the chase!

I saw I Love You, Man on DVD and was shocked.


Friendless Peter Klaven goes on a series of man-dates to find a Best Man for his wedding. But when his insta-bond with his new B.F.F. puts a strain on his relationship with his fiancee, can the trio learn to live happily ever after?


The verdict? It's a good movie. Like, pretty damn good.

Why is it a good movie? Well, for one, Paul Rudd is in it. The man can do no wrong. Yes, Jason Segel is good as well, but he's willing to let Paul Rudd walk away with the movie. What a nice guy.

My hubby knows nothing about movies, except that I force him to watch them all the time. He even said to me, "Isn't this what they call a 'bromance'"? I was tickled. He actually knew the term. I said, I guess it is. And if there is such a thing as a progressive 'bromance', then this is it.

The pitch is so thin it made me not want to see the movie. It's lukewarm. Also, the pitch, via IMDB, is not the real story. It's about how does Peter become the man he wants to be AND find a B.F.F., which he's never done before.

One of the most helpful things any teacher told me about writing movie stories was this (he was a cranky NYU professor, but I digress): "There is the plot of the movie and then there is what the movie is about."

Figure that out and you're halfway to writing a movie.

What is surprising about the movie is how surface it appears, but when it gets it's groove after the first ten minutes, it asks some fairly deep questions I haven't seen asked with this kind of courage in a commercial studio film in a long, long time. It's nothing new to the independent world or to European cinema, but for American cinema, it's pretty damn fearless.

Which is, I feel, why it didn't do very well at the box office. It's pretty bare. I can see the faces of guys going into this not knowing what to do with the subject matter or the bigger questions is asks, such as "What defines being a man in today's culture" or "How intimate are men with each other" or "Does Paul Rudd really fart that loud in public?"

Sorry. Couldn't resist. It's still that kind of movie.

If you are looking for a Road Trip style movie or Superbad movie, this isn't it. But if you are looking for a new kind of cross pollenation genre between a kinda chick flick and a man's feeling comedy, then give this a shot and you'll be very, very surprised.

And whatever you do, make sure you view the *gag* real in the special edition DVD as well as the *making of* feature with the director, John Hamburg. He is one cool and enlightened dude.

Now, for the writers out there...

Despite the fact this is a soft-pitch movie, what I found startling about this was that it plays with the very clear conventions of a romantic comedy but one with two decidedly heterosexual men and their blossoming love together.

Because I've been reading more of the work of recently deceased Blake Snyder (RIP, fine sir), I took at look at his very basic view of what he calls "Rom-com Buddy Love" and despite his very general views, this pretty much hits on all the points of the genre he details which, according to Mr. Synder, are:

1. -- The main character is a person who is incomplete and missing something (a physical thing, emotional or spiritual insight) which he needs the help of another to 'fix'.

2. --A 'mirror' person who gives the hero what she or he needs to be complete.

3. -- A complication to the whole things.

As writers of movie scripts, we are always looking for a new angle on an existing genre. While I Love You, Man is a love story and hits all of the above beats, what separates it from the pack is the twist of a very candid and liberated heterosexual point of view on the nature of platonic love between two men and the depth of the comedic and dramatic writing.

The main character, Peter, is a super guy who has always been the guy who has girlfriends his entire life, both romantically and platonically. He's never, ever had a male BFF. He and his finance both remark how 'incomplete' Peter feels and that the only way for him to become the man he wants to be (at his job by combating a snarky co-worker and being a more confident self in the relationship) is to find a BFF.

After the enjoyable and obligatory scene of him trying to find his platonic male soul-mate, he stumbles upon the complicated yet entirely fuzzy enjoyable Sydney Fife (I know the writers chose that name of a reason - bet is an anagram). Of course, Sydney is everything Peter needs to become whole. He's carefully reckless, terribly honest, blatantly confident and, perhaps, not everything he appears to be. More than that, he's a guy who, in the best light, knows how to be a guys' best friend.

Complications ensue when Sydney pushes a bit harder than he should for Peter to live an honest life and when Peter's fiance becomes jealous of her future husbands 'bromance'. Personally, this is the weakest part of the movie, but I can see why the writers felt they had to insert this in.

I find romantic comedies difficult to write. Just as you have to come up with a smart and fresh idea, the guts of the story has to contain deeper insights about the human condition most people are aware of but cannot articulate. It is, as Blake Synder once told me, the 'art of writing scripts.' It's important you hit the points in the story you must, but the real art is the stuff in center.

It's illogical for any of us to watch a movie without taking into account our own personal filter. I'm a gay man. My filter came into play before the movie. Whenever I hear about a new 'bromance' I cringe. Gays are always the brunt of the jokes with these movies, but the writers and creative behind I Love You, Man are so confident in who they are and their ability to question their relationships, there was not one moment my partner and I cringed.

The rising action in the second act sounds soft but plays well. We want so to badly to see Rudd acclimate and find his other 'bro-half' we are rooting for him the entire time as spends time with Sydney in many various activities, trying to find his inner 'bro'. Very clean and typical second act set pieces, leading up the the reversal in the center.

You can deconstruct this by the book in terms of act breaks and 'all is lost' moments...I don't think, for writers, such an analysis will help. What will help with this is a bigger picture view of how the writers took a genre and made it their own by making it very current, topical and very, very real.

One note: I'm fairly sure many of hysterical 'goodbye lines' (you'll know what I mean when you see it) are improvised. Normally, improvised movies are ultimately rather dull as they have no formal structure, but in this movie, it all works and it's very funny.

I Love You, Man is a gentle, sweet bromantic comedy with more on it's mind than the average flick. It's worth it for all writers who want to write a romantic comedy and are looking for a new way to tell one of the oldest tales in movies.

See you at the cinema!!



There will be many who read what I'm about to write and will feel I missed the point of the new movie District 9. Trust me when I write this - I didn't.

I get the metaphor to the events in Johannesberg. I understand the parallels to genocide and how the filmmakers turned the genre on it's head by swivelling around story conventions so the exact opposite of what we will assume will happen, happens. I appreciate the clear work, effort and thought which went into the style of the movie, it's tone, the much-adored 'documentary' feel for horror movies today - a very effective technique to break down the 'fourth wall' in drama so there is no separation between the events being shown and our involvement in them.

I see all of the work and talent and sheer audacity which went into the film, but this is my personal bottom line - it made me sick to my stomach. And to make matters worse, I walked out after 1 hour.

So I can't fully review what may have transpired in the final third act. It could have turned into a rock 'em, sock 'em action flick (which, from what I've heard, is partially the case), there could have been a great redemption in the end to counter the nihilist streak I endured the first hour of the film. I'll only know when I see this on DVD (perhaps).

But for me, this is what I saw in the first hour and it made me want to leave:
  • Aliens peeing on garbage
  • Aliens eating garbage
  • Aliens being hacked to pieces and devoured
  • A man mutilated by an alien
  • Said man tortured and cause grievous pain in a laboratory under harsh lights so all can be seen, screaming and begging for his life
  • Men vomiting and vomiting and vomiting
  • Fingers pulled from fingers; blood gushing following
This was all portrayed without a bit of irony or humor. I know why the filmmakers chose this, they were making a point about genocide, about war, about human cruelty, the same way Spielberg made a statement about war in Saving Private Ryan, but the simple truth is parts of these two films I found very painful to endure and I don't feel I want to spend my time enduring a movie without any base level of redemption or enjoyment (SPR did have redemption, it's true, but the first act is, quite possibly, so difficult to sit through it ranks in the top 10 movies I will never, ever see again).

I seem to be alone in this opinion. District 9 made $17 million on it's first day. Fairly astounding for August. And for a cheap movie. America is eating it up and I'm not entirely sure why. Entertainment Weekly calls it the best movie of the summer. They have spent millions pushing and pushing the movie. Except for a few gasps in the theater where I saw the first hour, everyone seems rather...placid. How they can remain placid during such graphic and unrelenting violence confuses me.

This is a matter of critics in the country praising this because of it's metaphorical content, thus absolving the filmmakers and not challenging them to find a more interesting way of showing graphic violence then close-up's on bloody arms and gushing heads blown apart. It's okay as long as the movie has a message, right?

The film reminds me of a film I personally loathe. Cloverfield. Cloverfield wasn't violent like District 9, but they both have the same feeling of a very elaborate and expensive hat trick pulled on the American public. Cloverfield relished in promising us something very interesting and visceral via online web ads and Internet campaigns and blogger postings. Fiscally, it worked. The movie made $171 million world wide and had a reported budget of $10 million. J.J. Abrams laughed all the way to the bank on that one. But the movie was, in the end, garbage both stylistically and in terms of narrative and cock teasing. All teasing; no showing.

District 9 isn't garbage; it simply isn't for me. While I truly don't understand why America is flocking to such violence, I respect it is tapping into something, yet I find what that 'something' is a bit disturbing. Makes me wonder why Peter Jackson chose to invest so much of his life into this. Must be some madness and rage behind those eyes we aren't privy to.

Despite what is, I'm sure, to all men under the age of 30, an instant 'classic' and 'totally cool', I'm going to have to say this:

Mikey Movie Madness scale - 5 for sheer technical and professional execution but a solid 3 in terms of gut-wrenching and painful viewing unenjoyment.

See you at the cinema!!


Friday, August 14, 2009


I got a splattering of emails lambasting me for forgetting to mention Ponyo opening today!

THE PITCH: An animated adventure centered on a 5-year-old boy and his relationship with a goldfish princess who longs to become human.


It's hard after seeing the preview NOT to go. And look at that tagline! Good, good stuff. The director is the infamous Hayao Miyazaki who is mostly known to American audiences for The Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, which is a shame. The man has a body of work that would make Scorsese blush.

His use of imagery and fable is fantastic. I'm not sold on how well the new English voice overs will hold...I tend to agree with this blog posting note on the New York Times from one viewer:

"Watch it in Japanese with subtitles if you can
I love these movies but prefer to watch in Japanese with subtitles. The voice overs usually rots the spirit and charm of the original."
— Ian, New York

"Rots the spirit and charm...". Ah, New Yorkers.

This needs to go on your list of movies to see this weekend as well

Mikey Movie Madness review - I give this a solid 7; if the voice overs work with the animation, this may go as far as 8.5...


Studio Weekend Movie ROUND UP

Loads of studio movies opening up this weekend.

Let's take a gander at what I suspect will be the top 4 Hollywoodish slicks coming out, shall we?

At weekend end, I'll give thoughts on those I've seen and discuss Independent flicks as well.


District 9THE PITCH:

An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.


Cool. Very cool. Fun. Violent. Scary.

This is the one all the pimply-faced 13 year old boys in Long Island will try to sneak into this weekend. I'm sure I'll see this as well. Why? Because Peter Jackson is involved. And despite what you may think of him, deny the Lord of the Rings trilogy is brilliant and I will brand you an idiot when it comes to movies.

The guy also made one of the most horrific and terrifyingly funny horror films of all time, Dead Alive (originally titled Braindead in New Zealand).

Rent it at your own risk. Just don't eat dinner during.

Trailer for Dead-Alive (aka "Braindead"):

I'm excited for District 9 film because I think it will be a sci-fi movie of ideas. But I also know it will very bloody. You can count on it. I am not a fan of gore, particularly when it involves explicit human suffering. I used to be a HUGE horror fan when horror was fun and funny in the 80's and 90's. Now it's plain sick.

Why filmmakers want to show graphic violence with people suffering during is beyond me. Like we need this in the world right now? Sure, show me suffering, life is equal suffering and joy, but I don't need to see the knife going into the skull slowly while the person screams, okay? Sadistic motherfuckers.

I do think, however, this is a film to see in the theaters.

So on a Mikey Movie Madness scale of 1-10, (1 being 'see if on your couch if your sick and can't leave the house' and 10 being 'you need to be flayed and set out to pasture if you don't see it in the theater'), I give this a
tentative 7.

The director, Neil Blomkamp, is a New Zealand based visual effects guy. We all know the tract record for visual effects guys being able to tell a story is pretty awful, but I am optimistic. Again, when Peter Jackson is nearby, it's really hard to fuck up.

Speaking of Peter Jackson, have you seen the new Lovely Bones trailer? Sweet Jesus. I want to buy a ticket NOW. The book was pretty damn good, but the movie? Gonna blow us away, I do believe.

Lovely Bones trailer:


Time Travelers WifePITCH:

A romantic drama about a Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and the complications it creates for his marriage.


Another flick opening today is The Time Travelers Wife. I read the book and let me tell you - if you like sappy love stories which make NO logistical sense, then this may be your cup of tea. Everyone told me, "Oh the book is SO good you HAVE to read it." I did and it's...okay. The point of view of the main characters is pretty fantastic and she's very dry and funny. I hope they kept the same tone in the movie.

Look, I know movies are hard as shit to make so the fact they actually made it and it's in the theater is pretty amazing, so yes, PROPS FOR GETTING THE MOVIE MADE. But I'm not sure on this one.

For one, Eric Bana is in it. Now, I like the guy. I do. He was an amazing badass in Star Trek and is good when he plays a fucker. When he plays the nice guy...not so interesting. This may be a case of Boring Nice Lead Characters (see yesterday's post on Nurse Jackie), but hey, I could be wrong.

Bana was pretty great in Munich, but then, it's a Spielberg film so no one is the star but Spielberg. He was also good in Black Hawk Down, another war movie we had to endure and I'll never endure again, thank you very much. He survived the lumbering bore which was and somehow made it out of the Ang Lee fascinating wreck of a movie, Troy Hulk, so the guy is a fighter I'll give him that.

Rachel McAdams is the 'wife'. She is an interesting actor. I'm not sure what kind of true acting chops she has, but it's hard to fault her after seeing her in Mean Girls (what a cunt) and in the slam-bang, super-duper, nifty action thriller Red Eye...she's done some crap, like The Family Stone (someone make Sarah Jessica Parker quit acting, please) and the kinda-funny Wedding Crashers, but she may surprise us. I hope so.

The real reason I think this has a chance is the delightful Bruce Joel Rubin did the adaptation. This guy can do hardly any wrong. I don't care what anyone says, Ghost and and Deep ImpactJacbo's Ladder and even Stuart Little 2 are great movies. Great, great movies. Sure, he wrote Brainstorm (poor Natalie) and The Last Mimzy (what happened there?), but no career is perfect. Can't be. And we'll never, ever, ever know the true story behind the fights between Mr. Rubin and the studios and the directors. It's all a hellish business and the fact the movies got mad at all is fucking brilliant.

Mikey Movie Madness score: 5 - maybe in theaters if District 9 is sold out, but probably a good DVD


Also coming out is The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard starring the ever sexy actor the NYC theater community hates, Jeremy Piven. Jeremy Piven is like Stanley Tucci. They will be 70 and I'll still find them sexy. Why is that?

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard


Used-car liquidator Don Ready is hired by a flailing auto dealership to turn their Fourth of July sale into a majorly profitable event.

Eh. Not sure why, but doesn't make me want to see it. Hard sell on the trailer, tho.

Anyway, the movie looks like something you'd watch on a plane from LA to NYC. I don't know...maybe it's better than it looks, but it looks like Judd Aptow meets desperate Will Ferrell meets Paul Rudd slumming to pay for his new house in Montauk.

I'm not excited. I'm sure guys who smoke pot on a Saturday afternoon and think Bevis and Butthead is subversive comedy (which, yes, it was, sometimes) will LOVE this, and those who truly feel Talladega Nights is a smart, genuinly funny comedy, but I...I...I'm worried.

The director, Neal Brennan, has done a tone of TV, big with the sorta-funny but very smart Chappelle Show which lots of people adore, but he has yet to do a big screen flick. I hope he pulls it off but my hopes are not high.

The writers wrote Balls Out (yikes) starring weirdly hot Seann William Scott and (get ready) Randy Quaid. It was direct to DVD. Not a good sign...ever. I've seen countless direct to DVD and most are plain dull and deserve their unfortunate fate. Maybe the writers are solid and they have yet to show how solid they are because rabid and mean William Morris agents keep fucking up their studio deals, who knows...but I hope, for them, the script shot was the one they sorta wrote.

Mikey Movie Madness Score - I give this a 4, but may go up to a 6 if I hear it's any good.


The other flick teenage girls and gay guys might see, is Spread with the immensely diverse and Tycoon-driven Ashton Kutcher.


A sex comedy centered on a serial womanizer and his jilted lover.


I saw the trailer and I thought there was something there with Mr. Kutcher's performance. I don't know what it was, but he was playing with his voice, his mannerisms, his body language...I saw, maybe, some acting there. I hope I'm right.

Mr. Kutcher is one diverse motherfucker. He produces TV, he produces movies, he's married to a woman addicted to plastic surgery, he's smart, driven and very, very handsome (to some...I still think he's kinda 'dude' hot; hot but not really hot but fun to hang with and drink).

While I don't think this movie will rock anyone's world, I do think, down the road, a lot of people will consider this one of the better films Mr. Kutcher was in. Why? Because the director is David Mackenzie who made the truly disturbing and well-grounded sexual thriller Young Adam with a fearless Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton, as well as the very underrated Asylum based on the mind-boggling Patrick McGrath novel of the same name.

He's a daring, talented Brit who knows his way around the darker parts of us humans and is not afraid of exploring them all for our glee. I think he is going to bring out a part of Mr. Kutcher we don't often see...and, Anne Heche is in it (very, very good in the current HBO series Hung), and we all know how good she is at playing a fucking psycho.

This woman has some major psychological demons. Good for her for getting control of her life. I mean that. Still can't believe this was her years ago:

Mikey Movie Madness score - I give this a 6, but I am hoping, after seeing it, it will rise to an 8.

That's it for now, kids.


See you at the cinema!!!

Mikey Bryan - Your Movie Madness Guru...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Wonderfully Fucked Up and Brilliant NURSE JACKIE

One of the biggest surprises this summer on TV has been Nurse Jackie. It's a tough, caring, complex, involving bullet of 24 minutes each week. It proves, again, why Showtime, in many ways, is more daring than HBO in terms of taking pay programming chances and delivering more honest and watch-worthy shows.

I write screenplays. Never sold or optioned anything, but I have studied with ALL of the masters. You name a 'screenwriting guru' and I've read their book, been to their seminar, paid for their DVD's or enrolled in their classes, always on the hunt for the answer.

This is the answer - there is no answer. There are good guides out there, but there is no answer. Story is the answer and character is the answer. And structure (screenwriters love to go on and on about structure at the sacrifice of art - but that's my bone to pick).

I once asked the now-deceased Blake Snyder (of 'Save The Cat' fame, a system of deconstructing movie story structure many writers rabidly follow at the cost of their own individuality) how he came up with all of the stuff in between the many, many points in a story a writer must hit in order for a story to be 'successful'. He said, 'That's where the art comes in."

One of the biggest fallacies in movies and TV is the main character has to be 'likable'. I've lived in NYC for years and only know writers in NYC and most of them are cranky and balk at the idea of Hollywoodish screenwriters needing their main characters to be 'likable'. They think it means selling out and writing characters to make cranky studio executives happy and soccer moms in Idaho gush. I've read reams of books on how to make a character like Travis Bickle (from "Taxi Driver", a thoroughly disturbing and unrelenting work of questionable 'art'), and most of them miss the point.

Nurse Jackie is a good example. This woman is the head nurse at a fictitious hospital in Manhattan ("All Saints" - how great is that?). She is a loving mother to her two daughters, one of which has anxiety disorder. She is loving and supportive of her hot, cute husband. He is loving and adoring to her. She is always cutting corners at her job at the expense of the system but never at the expense of the patient. She is truly an 'all saint' in how she is always looking out for everyone else.

Except she has a drug addiction, lies about being married at work, fucks the local pharmacist to feed her addiction, lies to her boss, her best friend, steals money to pay for illegal medical expenses and lives such a complete double life everyone watching knows soon, she will crash and burn in a spectacular way.

But we love her and respect her the entire time and turn away knowing she'll have to pay the price soon. Or will she?

It's true, one of the reasons we love her is because Edie Falco is in it. The woman can do no wrong. She's so good it's breathtaking. She is real, she is a woman, not a character. Also, the tone of the show is wonderfully 'non-TV'. It's glossy and pretty but realistic. It's got guts. As Blake Snyder might have said, 'it's art'.

Although the writing is spot-on and the acting is pretty amazing, the reason the show really takes off is the directors they've been able to nab. Scott Ellis, Steve Buschemi and Craig Zisk? Are you kidding? These guys are directors at the top of their game. NYC talent making a NYC-worthy show. The producers are smart - hire a great lead actor, give her a fucked up main character who is very human and surround her with directors who don't direct TV and understand

Also, Merritt Wever (a NYC theater actress turned TV star - she can act because she came from the theater NOT Beverly Hills High) is fairly breathtaking as Zoey Barkow. Ms. Wever teeters just on the bring of being ridiculous but pulls it back and makes her character so very human. She is the moral center of the show, the stable force, the 'fool' as so many screenwriting books like to call her. The one no one takes seriously but shows everyone in the end the true lessons in life.

Haaz Sleiman is in it as well. His character's name is Mohammed "Mo-Mo" De La Cruz. I have a hard time concentrating when Mr. Sleiman is on the screen. He's so handsome it's a bit unnerving. I am praying the writers will put in an ER-like moment of complete unbelievabile and have a helicopter crash into the ER or perhaps a secret arsonist so Mr. Sleiman will be forced to run around for an episode with his shirt off.

Seriously, Mr. Sleiman is wasted on the show. He's the funny, acerbic and hot gay character who does nothing but make witty remarks. I wonder why the writers waste him as they do? He was so very, very good in the sublime movie, "The Visitor." Great movie, great acting, great, great story.

Jackie is entirely fucked up but she's entirely human. Some people think her character is taken to the extreme, but I think she's the kind of model we need for movies and TV now. So many characters are so damn baseline sweet and nice, it's impossible to associate with them. Rather than pour over books on how to make characters complex and 'likable', writers and viewers need to watch fictional characters like this...ones who are LIVING.

The show has 2 more episodes before it ends and I, for one, am glued to the TV. Everyone should be. Writers and viewers alike.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are you obsessed?

Love movies?

Watch TV more than you should?

Wish someone out there would tell you the truth about movies with no objective? Someone who can tell you weather something stinks or is worth your ever dwindling time in life?

We are all dying, after all...

Love to discuss stars who think their actors?

Do you write screenplays and want to bash your head against the wall if you hear ONE MORE TIME you have no 'rising conflict' or your ending is 'weak'?

Does Jessica Lange's face lift depress you because once, just once, for a beautiful 7 years she was our best American screen actress?

Think DeNiro is overrated? (Hint: he is. I know. I used to work for him and I was very good friends with his father. Oh, child, the things I could tell you about THAT family...).

Wish Val Kilmer would lose weight? Do you have any idea who Val Kilmer is?

Did you know movies can change your life in under 2 hours. Cheaper and more effective than 25 years of therapy.

Do you want to know more?

Do you?

Come with me...join in the discussion.

This is only the beginning.

Your Movie God