Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making a Better TOMORROWLAND

I remember being so excited when I first heard
about this movie. I remember reading that the
script was based on objects found in a box from
Walt Disney's old office. Pretty sure that was just
PR BS now, since I didn't come across any reference
to this box in reviews or interviews with the director.
I know--this seems like an easy target, but nothing frustrates me more about a bad film than if it's a missed opportunity to do something that could have, and in this case should have, been amazing.  When it comes to optimistic science fiction films, I'm in the camp that believes we need more of them (despite the fact that I generally prefer dystopias and post-apocalypses in my stories).  In that sense, I agree with this film's message, but not how it goes about expressing it--as everyone who has seen it knows, this film does damn near everything wrong.

No, that doesn't mean I'm going to write a ten-part series on the failings of this film (though, I could).  What I am going to do is explain how I would have recut and reshot portions of TOMORROWLAND so that it would make a better, more watchable movie.  I usually focus on how I would have rewritten the script, but this time, I'd have rewritten the entire thing from scratch, making it pretty much unrecognizable, compared to what Disney let reach the screen.  It really is that wrong-in-the-head.  After the spoiler alert, I will go into a short explanation of the thing biggest problems I had with the film and then I will get to how I'd retool the final cut.


OK, so, one of my biggest problems is...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Saving SENSE8 and a Few Other Internet-First Shows, Too

In case you haven't heard of it, SENSE8 is a new genre show from The Wachowskis and it's available on Netflix.  I feel like there really wasn't very much publicity for this show.  I hope this show does well despite the lack of ads.  Is it perfect? Well, I'm writing this, aren't I?  That means it needs some kind of saving and it needs more than better advertising because I almost gave up on it several times and would do so no matter how much it had been hyped.

First, what works?

The premise of SENSE8 is that eight people, around the globe, from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, discover that they are somehow psychically connected. Not only that, they can temporarily take over each other's body, kind of like Scott Bakula's character in QUANTUM LEAP.  It's a pretty neat concept, but there's a catch and I call it Internet-First Syndrome.  I'll explain that in a bit.  Before that, more of what worked.

The premise.  The premise worked really well and it is a fascinating concept. I don't want to go into too much detail without a spoiler alert (keep reading for that), so just trust me when I say that it is a great premise for a show about people (as opposed to shows about specific conflicts).

The acting is largely perfect.  I think every single actor on the show seemed to really get where their character was coming from.  What I loved the most about the casting was the diversity.  Anyone who knows me, knows I'm tired of seeing white faces everywhere.  Especially white male faces.  While there are a couple of them in this show, there are also Latino faces, African faces, Asian and Indian faces, and even a trans woman's face.  She is also played by a trans woman, as well, which is nice.  A trans character is not the only non-traditional story element in this show.

The themes explored are varied and fascinating.  This isn't just your typical, X-FILES rip-off where there is a single through-line and we spend the entire series in service of it like Sony Playstation Network's POWERS.  While there is a general level of predictability in it, there are plenty of surprises and really, really, wonderful moments for both the story and the characters.  I did find certain aspect of the story to be lacking, mostly in the main plotline that ties them all together.  I'll get to more on that in a bit.  I'm still gushing...

The story isn't just diverse in themes, it actually veers away from the main story quite a bit into really interesting corners of human culture that mainstream genre shows and movies really don't venture very often.  This is simply not a show that would ever be made via traditional Hollywood channels (literally and figuratively).  It's so much of what I long for in American storytelling.  I'm glad I stuck with it, though it really was frustrating for the first four or five episodes.

So far, you might wonder where the bout of IFS is involved.  Well, right here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Can TERMINATOR: GENISYS Save the TERMINATOR Franchise? (Answer: No, it's too late.)

Full disclosure: I didn't think there should have been a single sequel or spin-off in any media after the original, 1984 TERMINATOR film.  I enjoyed each of the films to varying degrees (they got more and more forgettable as they multiplied) and I never read any of the comics because I felt they violated the premise of the original film: that Skynet had sent one Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Comics were just starting to climb in price back then, and I figured, I could afford to see a Terminator sequel film every once in a while. However, keeping up with the comics, just in case they were good, would be too pricey.  So, I stuck with the live action stuff.  I'm glad I did, but even the best of the bunch left me a bit "meh."

Yep, I'm going to say it: TERMINATOR 2, left me a little flat.  Sure, the liquid metal Terminator was cool, but the original film explained that only one killer robot was sent back, not two (or more).  Sure, I overlooked it just to enjoy the movie, but with all the awkward sentimentality mixed in, I kind of wish I hadn't. I mean, the "bond" young John Connor and the "good" T-800 developed was hokey and cliché. 

"Asta la Vista"? Really?

The other films had some interesting ideas, but ultimately, they were just poor excuses for making some cash off of the TREMINATOR brand.  So, when I first heard about TERMINATOR: GENISYS, I quickly questioned the wisdom of the money-people behind it.  This just seemed like an almost shameful attempt to squeeze the last drops of cash out of this stone.

Then I saw the trailer.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


So, "AMERICAN HUSTLE" got nominated for some Oscars, right? The acting in it was superb, right? Loads of people saw it, right?

So, what's to "save"?

The whole damn movie, that's what.

You may have enjoyed it for the acting. Or the great period costumes. Or Amy Adams' precariously placed breasts. But one thing I did not enjoy was the pacing. Wow. I started zoning out once the relationship between Adams' and Bale's characters was established. I never really zoned back in after that. Well, that's not entirely true. I made myself pay attention once the story seemed to be reaching the climax.

The thing is, the climax is pretty anticlimactic. In fact, I have to struggle just to remember what it is. I guess it was the part where we discover how Bale's character turns the tables. That whole scene has such a calmness to it, that it felt weak to me.