Movie Reviews (& Jake Gyllenhaal Rant): Nightcrawler

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Nightcrawler directed by Dan Gilroy

I usually don’t enjoy watching Jake Gyllenhaal movies. I’m a huge fan of Donnie Darko and Zodiac, and thought Source Code was pretty good. You see, Jake does well when he doesn’t try to recapture what might have been in his failed attempts at nabbing the Spider Man or Batman roles. When in the hands of a good director, he does well. When he tries box office roles as a leading man, he fails miserably (Prince of Persia, The Day after Tomorrow). He has talent, but isn’t really a likeable character in almost anything he is in. Nobody says, “Hey, are you going to see the new Jake Gyllenhaal movie this weekend?”

He is a modern day Dennis Quaid.

Does Dennis Quaid star in a bunch of films? Yep. Do they all suck? Nope. Are any of them good? A few. Does anyone consider him a star? Nope. Do people think he can act? Sometimes. You can pretty much make a checklist and start marking off boxes and you’ll see a match fairly quickly.

In other words, who do you go to when the top 7 actors you wanted turned the script down, then the next 5 actors demand too much money, then the next 3 actors choose another project or a broadway show instead?

You go with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Going into Nightcrawler, I was expecting the worst. The preview said it was one of the best pictures of the year, which I roll my eyes at everytime I hear that. Every film is the “best” at something, from the “Number One picture in America” all the way down to “The top comedy in America” (When there are two cartoon sequels, a comic book movie, and a remake that same weekend, and the film technically finished in 8th place).

What I watched was astounding. This was “good Jake” acting like an obsessed lunatic, in an anti-hero coming of age story in relation to the media business. It could be social commentary on news, or people behind the news, or an allegory for competition in America and winning at all costs. It was slow at parts, but in a good way. The director let the story breathe. The story built up to an epic third act that had me totally engrossed in the film, up until the very end. I enjoy character stories such as this, and Drive, and wish Hollywood made more of it, rather than trying to please all four quadrants of the audience chart. If they made The Godfather to please the kids, grandma, women, and all ethnic demographics instead of just making the best Italien mobster movie of all time, could you imagine the disastrous result?

This could very well have been the best movie I saw in 2015 on DVD.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Doughnut Shop Confrontations

Guest Reviewer: “Bad Jake”

You best step off your commentary on my films. What you witnessed isn’t a one and done phenomena. If you watched the entire library of Jake-G films, you’ll witness the range of his acting. Hello … did you see Jake go “Full Jake” in Brokeback Mountain? He rolled around in Bubble Boy before Games-2-U made it a modern day past time. Are you seriously going to knock his “Hot and Cold” box office tentpoles? Jake was merely exploring the duality of a futuristic Ice Age and a past age in the desert. You see, Jake saw the writing on the wall and skated to where the puck was going way before Game of Thrones jumped on this Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon. Why am I talking about myself in the third person? Well, as it turns out, I’m going undercover studying what it would be like to be a little bit nuts. It seems I’m being typecast a little bit of late, and need to do more to gain an edge on the competition. I need to go smash a house now.

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Writing Rant: Chewbacca Mom & Another Low in Publishing

 

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The Chewbacca Mom, Kristina Hagman and Another Pathetic Low in the Publishing Business

Comparatively speaking, like the movie industry that is saddled with reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels, due to desperation for big tent pole franchises to battle for box office supremacy each weekend in order to make enough money to offset the money losing movies, the publishing industry has fallen into the same trope. The majority of books lose money in print. The big name authors and movie tie-in books tend to make the majority of profits each year to offset all the debut and shrinking mid-list authors that didn’t sell well enough through the channel to take another chance.

In essence, with only a few major studios and a few major publishers left, they are in a business of risk aversion.

There have been countless autobiographies of unimportant people. With that, I mean those who don’t have a meaningful impact on the world in any way. I would argue politicians and thinkers (usually mutually exclusive) should have autobiographies to better understand their life’s work and achievements.

Over the last 30 years, there has been an evolution to make an instant buck by pre-empting the autobiography, for more of a “Here I am now” book. You know, celebrity autobiographies; usually actors and musicians and athletes/coaches, some with only a single “achievement” on their resume. Win a gold medal at 21? Let’s make an autobiography. Get 1M fans on youtube? Let’s make an autobiography. I’m sure agents have run down the Chewbacca mask lady begging her for her autobiography.

You see, I’m not naive. It is now about capitalizing while the iron is hot and making most of people’s 15 minutes of fame and temporary fandom.

But today, I saw something on yahoo news that showed just how much farther the publishing business has fallen. St. Martin’s Press (part of one of the big 5), published an autobiography of Kristina Hagman. Who the fuck is she? She is the daughter of Larry Hagman. Who the fuck is he? Well, he was on a TV show called Dallas, and was famously shot as JR in a cliffhanger. So let me get this straight, this was a publishable project because she is the daughter of Larry Hagman, a deceased celebrity from a TV show from the 1980s that few people remember, and she has more insight to him (Let me guess, it will touch upon abuses of sex/drugs/alcohol, because this adds just so much insight and helps the world cope in a meaningful way).

I was going to classify this as a new evolution of celebrity autobiographies, as the “relative of a celebrity autobiography” until I looked at the cover and was flabbergasted.

Kristina didn’t even write the book.

A new, ugly literary beast was created. They published a “ghost written, relative of a celebrity autobiography.” I guess it was too difficult for Kristina to write about her father, so she scribbled some notes for someone else to fill in the blanks on her relationship with her father. Yes, I know most autobiographies are not written by the person, but at least the source of interview material is from the actual person with the achievement or fanbase.

It is unbelievable that they killed a living tree for this book.

What’s next? An autobiography of the woman who sold the Chewbacca Mom her mask, ghostwritten of course. Imagine it … 225 pages going over the 2 minute transaction, starting with a slow replay as she put the mask in her cart and tried it on (maybe she did or didn’t, maybe dramatize it a bit) and walked few passes near the register (maybe she did, or didn’t) down the aisle and inter-splice a breakdown of the security camera footage at Kohls like the zapruder film. Maybe there can be interviews of everyone in line that day, especially the important toy clerk who brought out (a 60% chance he brought the mask out, because Dave and Shirley were on break, but let’s not get into facts) the Chewbacca mask that she bought. Maybe there was a bag checker at the door who was the last guardian for freedom.

To you authors out there struggling to get your Great American Novel sold to a publisher, don’t fret, there is still a chance you can track down a relative of someone famous 30 years ago.

Back to Kristina. Remember the book cover above? Do you see something noticeably different than the one below? Guess what Kristina removed on her website … yep, she the “Wood Block Print Artist, Painter, Writer” removed the ghostwriter name from the version on her site. Riddle me this, how would you fill in this blank: Kristina is a ____ Artist.

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The Black List (Part 9)

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So I do have an update. Approximately 6 weeks after I uploaded and requested 2 paid reviews from the Black List, I finally got assigned readers. They sent me the below email when the script was finally assigned a couple days ago. Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.44.49 AM.png

How doe this feel? I don’t know, a little anti-climactic to be honest. There is not much time before the festival I entered this for to get consideration. I’m a person that follows through with everything, so I wanted to see this through. I’ve been told my novels are well constructed (I plot everything similar to a film) so was curious what someone who reads a ton of scripts thought.

One curious thing to note is how many views I received in the last week. I pretty much went from 2 views for 5 weeks, then jumped to 8 views on the 6th week. This is one thing I learned about the website, yes, it provides a way to submit your material for consideration, but it is unlikely you will get read unless you get 2 reviews, because only scripts with ratings get sorted and filtered to see what is the cream of the crop. I assume established writers in the writing guilds or with representation might get looks, but from what I saw, many of those were protected. (If you want to see the script, contact ___ agency for a copy).

So I continue to wait. It can take up to a week to get a review. I’ll share it with you folks so you can see what type of feedback they offer. What I am curious at this point is after getting reviews, will my reads increase dramatically, or will it not make a difference?

PART 10

 

 

Movie Reviews: Mad Max Fury Road

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Mad Max Fury Road directed by George Miller

When I first heard that they were making a new Mad Max film, I honestly rolled my eyes. Hollywood is obsessed with sequels and franchise reboots and reimaginings of old stories and the first thought that came to mind was that the only way I would be interested is if they stayed true to the old movies and brought back Mel Gibson. Yes, I know what you are thinking, but come on, let’s move on. They are actors and I can separate a role and a personal life. What I wanted was something after Beyond Thunderdome because that was the movie I liked growing up.

Then I heard Mel Gibson wasn’t going to be in it. What?

I didn’t know what to expect, but part of me was a bit childish in protest. Recasting an iconic movie character from my childhood should be second nature these days, but I dismissed George Miller and his vision in protest.

Then I heard Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy were starring. Hmm … okay, this was interesting.

Then I caught the trailer for it … and it took 30 minutes to pick my jaw up from the floor. Holy damn shit. I was back on the George Miller bandwagon. The uncompromising art. The vision. The practical effects. He was going to blow away one of the greatest live action car chases ever done in the original Mad Max.

I was excited and pumped.

When I finally saw it, the first 30 minutes blew me away. This was a director who had enough creative control to make whatever he wanted. Fast forward shots. No narration or dumb-ass prologue. Keep the audience as confused as Tom Hardy was. Make the villain one ugly ass motherfucker with henchman looking weird as fuck. Then give him a harem of beautiful women and imagine what the hell he was doing. Demographics be damned, George Miller showed us what good storytelling is. Movies are a cross between stunning visuals movements, special effects, sound, scores, acting, costume design, cinematography, and writing. Could you imagine the storyboards for this movie?

George Miller looking over to his set designer, “Yeah mate, I’m gonna need you to make an air guitar flamethrower.”

Set Designer slowly raises his eyes, “Say what George?”

George wiggles his round spectacles and smiles. “And I need a red onesie and solid straps to mount Coma the Doof Warrior on the hood, since the vehicle will be moving, of course.”

Thank you to the studios that financed the film. Thank you to the actors for starring in it and putting up with what must have been a difficult shoot. (Lots of fighting on set in the desert between actors and the director) Thank you or Charlize Theron for shaving your head and showing what a strong woman can do on screen. This is a strong role. Not Sandra Bullock in The Blindside, not Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, and not Brie Larson in Room. Charlize Theron should have won another Oscar. She owned this role. Furiosa is iconic and will be remembered in 20 years while nobody will remember any of the weak roles women get nominated for.

Do you want to know how to empower women in film? When there is a big box office film directed by a legend, and the woman is the moral ground and action hero, constantly tries to sacrifice herself saving other women, and wins the day and the movie audience supports it by buying a shit ton of tickets, then nominate her for an Academy Award, because she did the impossible. It’ll help other actresses demand similar roles and producers wanting to greenlight real empowering films for women.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Sexy Women locked up in a chamber

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Movie Reviews: Fight Club

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Fight Club directed by David Fincher

The first rule about Matt’s Movie Reviews is you don’t talk about Matt’s Movie Reviews. You’ve all done a fantastic job respecting this first rule. The only viral post I’ve had wasn’t a movie review at all, it was Game of Thrones fan theories regarding Hodor. I have to stay underground as a rogue reviewer, so thank you for not forwarding or retweeting or posting any of my bizarre reviews on Facebook or other social media. The last thing I would want would be underground movie review clubs sprouting up all across the country.

Back to the movie; Fight Club is one of my favorite films. It is always ranked in my top 5 because of how well it holds up. Maybe I was the appropriate age when I first saw it in college. Maybe its my generations mantra, not really the need to get back to basics of genetic evolution, but rather, the world of commerciality we are stuck in as humans. I’ve watched this movie maybe 25 times in my life, twice with commentary tracks. I’ve read the book twice. I’ve watched all those corny videos of all the mistakes in the film. The film has aged well.

So let’s get to the real question. Who would I fight?

Bruce Lee

Why? What kind of story is it to fight Shatner or Gandhi? That isn’t impressive. If you had one choice, why not go to the top of the mountain? Maybe some of you will pick Chuck Norris, it doesn’t matter. Be bold, be brave, be a badass.

The casting is perfect. Ed Norton is great. Brad Pitt should have been nominated for an Oscar for this film and competed against Kevin Spacey. Not sure who wins that fight.

This movie it a masterpiece.

Movie Rating: 11/10 Soaps.

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Movie Reviews: The Martian

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The Martian directed by Ridley Scott

I had a little deja vu when I watched this. I swear I saw Tom Hanks Matt Damon who worked for FedEx NASA get stranded on an island Mars and have to figure out how to get off, not before losing a ton of weight and growing a beard.

Yes, I know, I jest a little, but the movie was totally like that. On one hand we have Matt Damon talking into a video cam so the viewer can know this thoughts. On the other, we have Tom Hanks talking to Wilson the volleyball.

I preferred the volleyball.

The producers had already made the conscience choice to deviate from the novel and focus half the story with people on earth to give it an Apollo 13 vibe. I don’t know why we had to suffer through a ton of dash cam footage of Matt Damon as he attempted to grow potatoes. They could have treated the audience as adults and not made the feel like they were in 9th grade chemistry. People didn’t give a shit about the sciences that goes into potato making before and won’t give a shit after. Just show a montage of what he was doing and fast forward.

And for this, I’ll have to say we have a decent film, but caked in a red planet for boredom. Riddle me this; why did Matt Damon want to get off of Mars? Because it was boring as hell.

The movie could have done more. Maybe they should have totally copied Apollo 13 and showed Matt Damon on Earth beforehand and the relationships he had built before the mission, and then the reaction of when everyone thought he was lost. Then we could have pulled for those people the entire film. Can you imagine the emotional reaction of his loved ones knowing he was alive instead of random scientists? I don’t know about you, but most films don’t typically rely on scientists, in this case actual rocket scientists, to be the emotional counterweight.

It’s tricky adapting books into film. Sometimes the film is better, like in The Bourne Identity, The Hunt for Red October, The Shining, 2001 Space Odyssey, Jurassic Park, and Get Shorty. Sometimes it is reverse, like in Timeline, Sphere, The Hobbit, Enders Game, and Atlas Shrugged. I don’t really know how this movie compares with the book since I’ve only read the first 30 pages or so, but based on how boring it was to watch, I am unlikely to ever finish reading the novel.

Leave a comment and let me know which category the film fits in.

Movie Rating: 7/10 Potatoes

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Movie Reviews: Any Given Sunday

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Any Given Sunday directed by Oliver Stone

I saw this movie when I was in High School. I had seen the previews that advertised it as the most intense movie about football ever made. I went in with my father and was blasted with the story of Willie Beamen and his coach, Tony D’Amato of the Miami Sharks. This really wasn’t I expected, despite being an Oliver Stone film. I walked out in a little dazed, to be honest.

You see, the vast majority of sport films on the professional level are a comedy of some sort: Major League, The Replacements, Bull Durham, and The Longest Yard. Many times, the team stinks at the beginning, but through a diverse group of eccentric characters they come together and overcome their obstacles to win at the end. It’s a trope, but America loves tropes.

This wasn’t that movie.

It was about the sacrifices of professional football through he lens of those coming into the league and those on the way out. It showed the limits of what people pushed themselves to in order to achieve what they wanted, on the field, in their personal lives, and professional ambitions.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite appreciate the film when I first watched it. I said, “hey, what the heck, I can’t quite believe this is pro ball because the uniforms are different.” Now, I understand the NFL is protective as hell over their brand and only allow it to be used in fake fairy tale stories. I didn’t understand the big deal about Cameron Diaz wanting to move the team. Now, shit, that has been the NFL ever since with the constant moves and threats of moves for stadium deals. I didn’t understand Al Pacino’s message, which I have come to understand wasn’t to Willie Beamen, it was to the viewer. And most of all, I didn’t understand all the fast cuts Oliver Stone used to interweave players of a bygone era. Now, I’ve come to understand and appreciate he was trying to say the players today forget the sacrifices of the mangled football player of the past who grew the sport to the moneymaking venture today.

The movie was ahead of it’s time.

I’ll argue this. If the NFL would have a allowed them to use a real NFL team, this would be considered the greatest sports movie ever made (competing with The Natural, Remember the Titans, Miracle). The casting is good. The directing is great. The story is relevant (talking about concussions 15 years before anyone else was putting the issue out front).

And it gives one of the greatest sports speeches of all time with Al Pacino’s story of fighting for inches. I feel like I want to put on a helmet and get some plays in after watching that scene each time.

Movie Rating: 7/10 Pantheon Cups

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