Toy Story 3 – by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner. Revisions by David Guion and Michaelk Handelman. 6/8/2005.
The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli is definitely preachy, but ithas some style, at least in some of the fight scenes. The problem is, well, not that it is that original as a post-apocalypse movie to begin with, but an absolutely ridiculous and eye-rolling ending completely renders this movie a waste of time.
A Perfect Getaway
I expected A Perfect Getaway to be just another silly horror movie, but it turns out to be a pretty entertaining thriller. The plot may not make complete logical sense, but there is enough suspense to worth a watch. It is however very nice to see Milla Jovovich in a non-rubbish movie.
Adapted from a South Korean movie, The Uninvited‘s twist is quite transparent from the very beginning, which takes away some of the fun. That being said, I appreciate the effort to scare by atmosphere and suspense, and not have to rely on gore.
Reservoir Dogs, the film that made Tarrantino’s name, still holds up. It doesn’t really matter now that a lot of it is “borrowed” from other movies, since Tarrantino has made paying homage to other cool films his own.
I usually quite like French romantic comedies as they are quite different from the ones made in the U.S. But L’arnacoeur (Heartbreaker) is actually quite Hollywood. So it’s not surprise that there is an American remake in the works already. Still, I enjoyed it – the lead is amusing and the farcical scenes are quite funny. The Dirty Dancing scene is always a crowd pleaser.
Oh, the fashion of the 80′s… Valley Girl is quite funny and entertaining in a familiar kind of way. Then again, that probably says more about the movies since then than about Valley Girl.
Despite the lackluster reviews, I enjoyed Wild Target for the charm of the actors.
Yes, the music is good. But it’s a bit of an easy cheat to make a scene better by adding a classic rock and roll soundtrack. Many of the characters are fun and would probably be more interesting if we could spend a bit more time with them. All in all, Pirate Radio has too many characters but lacks a center.
The original Heartbreak Kid (as opposed to the Ben Stiller remake) is a wonderful comedy/tragedy. It is funny, but the humor is almost a by-product of the story. In other words, the humor does not feel forced.
I just don’t see the point of Jonah Hex. Even with only an 80mins running time, it felt so long and pointless. How did they get so many big name stars to be in this dud?
Legion is a predictable B-movie with some fairly decent action sequences. The old lady in the diner scene was the most interesting one in the movie.
Reign of Assassins (劍雨)
The plot of Reign of Assassins is silly to say the least, but the mood and atmosphere of the movie evokes the world of martial arts in novels. The martial arts world in novels is the basis of this genre of cinema, but very very few films could retain that essence. The Reign of Assassins succeeds in this regard.
Toy Story 3 by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Predators – Screenplay by Robert Rodriguez – 1st Draft, Aug. 2, 1996.
Frost/Nixon – Screenplay by Peter Morgan – 8/24/2007 Draft.
I really like slice of life movies like Please Give, or pretty much anything with Catherine Keener. This movie is similar in style to Nicole Holofcener’s two other movies, Friends with Money and Lovely and Amazing, where the plot is not the really focus. Holofcener prefers to pay more attention to the flawed characters, and the dynamics between them. There is even a Woody Allen-esque feel to her films.
While Splice is certainly a good thriller, there is a deeper level of human emotions (and the questioning of it) that makes it quite a wonderful sci-fi. A bit like a futuristic Frankenstein, the interesting part of the film is human parents/monster child dynamics. I like that the filmmakers are willing to take it far enough to be both shocking and disturbing.
I don’t think The Rebound, even with Catherine Zeta Jones as the lead, got a U.S. distribution. It got released in the U.K. though. Compare it with a lot of the recent romantic comedies, it is actually quite sweet and charming for the most part (although the part with toilet humor just does not seem appropriate). However, the plot is entirely predictable.
Mama Mia is without a doubt a guilty pleasure. Apparently, some of the catchiest pop songs ever made + gorgeous scenery + beautiful people + lots of dancing = Box office gold. What more can you say about Meryl Streep? She is absolutely fabulous again. Pierce Brosnon, on the other hand, is such a terrible singer that it actually adds to the fun of the movie.
Zwartboek (Black Book)
Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book has so many twists and turns, betrayals and double betrayals, that there is not a dull moment in its 145 mins running time. It is also quite melodramatic. Carice van Houten is fantastic as the heroine.
I like Juno even more after reading two drafts of Diablo Cody’s script, and watching the film a second time. It helps that it is perfectly cast.
Another WWII movie. Max Manus is a well made, if a bit straight forward, account of the Norwegian resistance during World War II. Max Manus is a well known hero in Norway, but I must admit I’ve not heard of him before watching this film. It is always fascinating to learn something new about a culture or history of a country that I do not know much about.
The Special Relationship
The third film of the Peter Morgan’s Tony Blair trilogy. The Special Relationship, a HBO film, has many of Morgan’s signature elements. And it is another intriguing and entertaining re-imagination of two high profile public figures.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen has an very entertaining and interesting opening in France. But the main story never really gains any momentum. The superhero storyline never develops. There is a lack of character development. And too many unnecessary subplots drags down the movie. Good fight scenes though.
Predators - screenplay by Robert Rodriguez, 1st Draft, Aug.2, 1996
This 1996 Robert Rodriguez screenplay of Predators has undergone so many rewrites that it is almost completely different from the final movie.
Frost/Nixon - Screenplay by Peter Morgan - 8/24/2007 Draft.
Coco Before Chanel is a rather conventional biopic, but I was interested in the subject enough to like it. However, I think I would be even more interested if it was about Coco as Chanel. Audrey Tautou displays a cold edge that is very different from Amelie.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
The main problem I have with this eagerly awaited sequel is that Gordon Gekko is not the main character. It was perfect for him to be the villain and supporting character in the original, but he is now the reason to see Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and the film struggles to hold my attention whenever he is not on screen. It doesn’t help that the main storyline and the protagonist are just not interesting enough.
A homage to 70′s car movies (among many other genres), Quentin Tarrantino’s Death Proof is a lot of fun to watch. I was kind of dreading to see a lot of gore (but that’s actually more of Robert Rodriguez’s thing), but the film never really descends to that level. Tarrantino is more interested in the violence and the intention, and not just the consequences, which gives this movie an edge over Planet Terror. Rodriguez’s movieis such a gorefest that I just couldn’t really enjoy it. It is supposed to be a homage/parody, but apart from having actors who can act, and expensive action set pieces, is it any better than those cheap grind house movies?
I am going to ignore the Aliens vs Predator nonsense spin-offs and only count these three: Predator, Predator 2, and Predators as the true Predator movies. The original one, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a solid 80′s B-movie with an excess of muscles. The second one, set in LA with Danny Glover, doesn’t have the much point and lacks the tension and memorable action scenes in the first one. The newest one, Predators, goes back to the jungle with a cast of interesting characters. The story is paper thin. It’s all about the dynamics of the characters and action sequences. In that regard, it is an enjoyable sequel to the original.
Juno - written by Diablo Cody
Great read. Cody has such an unique voice. Her dialog is quite brilliant.
It is not an easy task to elicit sympathy being a constantly drunk man-child who has pretty much everything in the world, but Dudley Moore pulls it off quite beautifully in Arthur. It helps to have a funny screenplay and be surrounded by a cast of wonderful actors and. I supposed Russell Brand would be a logical choice to play Arthur in the remake, but he will have his work cut out.
Industrial design is an area that I have always been interested in, and objects that are as sleek and cool as those featured in Objectified do get me excited. Gary Hustwit’s first film, Helvetica, is a fascinating look at typography, which I really enjoyed. His second film, Objectified, is equally nerdy, stylish and entertaining. What can I say, I am his target audience.
10 is now mostly being remembered as that movie with Bo Derek running on the beach in slow motion, but it is actually a good and funny movie about a man facing mid-life crisis with Bo Derek running on the beach in slow motion. Who are we kidding here? She is absolutely gorgeous in the movie!
The Karate Kid
The original Karate Kid was so sweet and charming that none of the sequels measured up to it. Now comes a remake of the original, set in China, with Jackie Chan playing the Mr. Miyagi role. After seeing the trailer, my expectations were extremely low. There are plenty of flaws in this version – it’s way too long for sure, the kid is probably a bit too young to be doing that kind of fighting, and it’s too unbelievable for someone who has only practiced martial arts for a short period to do those moves in the tournament – but I must admit, I don’t hate it.
Knight and Day
I was pleasantly surprised that I was quite entertained by Knight and Day, perhaps because the initial expectations were so low. Maybe that’s the trick – just expect everything is going to be rubbish. Tom Cruise turns on his mega movie star charm and makes you forget his real life weirdness for a couple of hours.
Iron Man 2
Most comic book/action movie “franchises” tend to want to up the antes, and make everything bigger and louder. Iron Man 2 is not any different. But the problem is it is too in love with all the fancy visuals. Arbitrary conflicts are conjured up as excuses just to showcase flashy CGIs.
Another 80′s movie that I missed back then. A pre-Batman Michael Keaton stars in this adequately entertaining albeit sitcomish movie about a reluctant stay at home dad. It relies too much on the likability of Keaton and Teri Garr rather than any genuine jokes.
Get Him to the Greek
Reprising his scene stealing character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Russell Brand is funny in Get Him to the Greek whenever he gets to do his thing. Brand is so over-the-top and has such a distinctive voice as a comedian, it is always difficult to fit him into a conventional movie without either stifling him or risk him running riot. I think Get Him to the Greek does a fine job of utilizing Brand’s talent with a cast of interesting supporting characters.
The Paper Chase
The Paper Chase has an intelligent script about smart people, but the real reason to see it is John Houseman. Houseman got an Oscar and a TV series for his portrayal of a tyrannical law professor. Even though he is a supporting character, everything in the movie centers around him.
Talladega Nights – Screenplay by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay – April 6, 2005 draft.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Not that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is not at times quite fun to watch, but it is amazing that so much money, talent and energy can go into a project and ends up with something so devoid of any personality. The CGI and the action scenes are expectedly well done. I have never played the game, so I have no idea how much it actually resembles the video game. And I am still a bit unsure of movie adaptation of video games, are we to expect some kind of game play element from the movie? In any case, apart from a few “video game”-esque pan shots, the filmmakers do not seem too concern about that.
Penelope is sweet and it has some flair in its fashion and art directions. It has a promising premise and the set up is intriguing. The actors are fun to watch. But ultimately, the filmmakers play it too safe and the story becomes just too middle of the road to be memorable.
Talladega Nights - Screenplay by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
This draft of the screenplay doesn’t have the buddy character (the John C. Reilly character) yet, and it still lacks something. I like the short intro of Ricky Bobby’s early life in the movie better than taking up several pages of his childhood in this draft of the script.
I somehow managed to miss this male bonding classic, and its many quotable lines for over 14 years. Now I get why Vince Vaughn is famous – his character in Swingers is a funny, sweet, loyal to his friend, likable jerk (unfortunately, all his recent characters are just jerky without being likable). The movie has an easy going feel to it, much like the friendship between the characters.
The Expendables is a very 80′s action movie in so many ways. It’s entirely stars (all 80′s muscle icons) driven, all its action scenes must have big explosions, and of course, a forgettable plot. All three aspects (actors/action/plot) feel out of date. But, as someone who grew up watching these guys in silly action movies, I must admit I enjoyed this new silly one just enough to not dislike it.
Wet Hot American Summer
Is Wet Hot American Summer a parody of cliché teen camp movies, or is it just a mediocre teen camp movie? There are some funny moments scattered through, but the movie is too uneven and unfocused.
Cross My Heart
I remember liking Cross My Heart quite a bit when I saw it in the late 80′s. It only came out on DVD very recently, so I decided to re-watch it after 20 or so years, and it turns out I actually like it more now. Sure, there are flaws, such as several moments where it would make sense for the characters to tell the truth instead of lying. But those are easily forgivable. I like the filmmakers’ courage to trust the strength of the conversations between the two main characters to drive the movie, which is rare for a mainstream Hollywood romantic comedy.
Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)
Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) is such a good norish thriller that it’s surprising that the French director never made another film in that genre. Calling it a genre film is actually quite misleading, as the beautifully shot B&W film doesn’t give in to genre conventions. The story is unpredictable and the Malle allows his characters to explore their lives, their emotions, and their predicaments.
Pick of the Week:
An easy choice this week. Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)
The Yes Man – Screenplay by Nicholas Stoller. Based on the Book The Yes Man by Danny Wallace. First Draft: February 2nd, 2007.
Despite a strong cast, Meet Bill is a underwhelming movie. Pretty much all the characters in Meet Bill are underwritten and underdeveloped. The bland protagonist Bill, an underachiever having a mid-life crisis, does not give us much too root for. Aaron Eckhart is probably miscast as the helpless loser.
I have never heard the term “Baxter” before, but it apparently means a nice guy who never gets the girl. I vaguely remember this movie coming out at around the same time as The 40 Year Old Virgin, which was very unfortunate, as the nerd in that movie gives us so much more to root for. The nerd in The Baxter is rather dull in comparison, and you almost feel that he deserves not to get the girls. However, there are two good things in the movie: Michelle Williams and Peter Dinklage, who both seem to be able to make any character interesting.
The Damned United
The Damned United was one of my favorite films of 2009. And after reading the novel, reading the screenplay, and re-watching the film, I still enjoy it immensely. Screenwriter Peter Morgan makes some creative choices that makes the film more uplifting than David Peace’s novel. The Brian Clough in the film is more ambitious, and full of fire, in contrast to the cynical and weary Clough in the novel.
Alice in Wonderland
My biggest problem with the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland (directed by Tim Burton, screenplay by Linda Woolverton) is that it makes too much sense. One of the pleasures of the novel is its liberty with logic, but this movie version explains and ties everything up so neatly that actually makes it seem like the filmmakers are trying too hard.
Salt – Written by Kurt Wimmer. Current revisions by Brian Helgeland. Jan. 19, 2009.
Whip It – Screenplay by Shauna Cross. Based on her novel.
Solitary Man (written by Brian Koppelman, and direct by Koppelman and David Levien) is a great character study of a sleazy character. It’s a character almost tailor made for Michael Douglas who has a knack of making unpleasant characters watchable. I can’t wait to see Wall Street 2.
Dick is one of the most imaginative, funny and smartly written teen movies I have seen in a long time. The fact that it is a teen movie set against one of the biggest political scandals is clever (and daring) enough. The two actresses (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) play dizzy brilliantly. Dan Hedaya plays a hilarious Nixon.
Ne te retourne pas (Don't Look Back)
Kudos to a fresh and daring execution of a tried concept. Ne te retourne pas (Don’t Look Back) features two of the most beautiful European actresses, which is reason enough to see it. It is more of an experiment, which means that there are flaws. But there is enough intrigue in the set up to last most of the 110 mins. The score and some of the atmospheric shots , however, maybe a bit overdone and forced.
I really like the natural dialog in Diner. Barry Levinson’s now iconic first film is a slice of life ensemble piece, which is always difficult to pull off. Hollywood is usually more at ease with a single protagonist because they like to believe that average viewers would have a hard time following more than one main character. Come on viewers, let’s show Hollywood we’re smart enough!
The Secret of Kells
The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Oscar in the animation category, but it was up against some stiff competition (Pixar pretty much owns the category). The film has some gorgeous and inventive 2D graphics, which is very different from the computer generated animation we see in most films today. The story and characters are a bit underdeveloped, perhaps due to the the short 75mins running time.
Ip Man 2
Despite its cliché superhero (and a bland one at that) formula, the first Ip Man was enjoyable for its accurate (well, a bit more than your average martial arts film anyway) depiction of the Wing Chun style of martial art. This sequel has an even more flawed plot, more forced conflicts and shameless and simpleminded patriotism, but without the authentic martial arts.
2012 was so long that I was pleasantly surprised that it’s still 2010 when I finished it. I actually finished reading a screenplay while watching it. Every once in a while, a pretty cool destruction of Earth scene would make me look up and go whoa, but the ”story” part of the movie is still dreadful. Not that I was expecting anything better from the maker of Independence Day and Godzilla.
Salt - Written by Kurt Wimmer
This version of the script (January 16, 2009) is still a draft and is still quite different from the movie. The protagonist in the final version is better defined. I like reading this kind of “action” script just to learn the rhythm of writing actions scenes.
Whip It - Screenplay by Shauna Cross
I really enjoyed Whip It the movie. The script is written by Shauna Cross, adapted from her own novel. This draft is quite close to the movie version. Now I want to read her book.