Friday, February 26, 2010

Movie Review: The White Ribbon

As one of my previous posts states, this film was pretty high on my list of most anticipated films of 2010.  Haneke's Cache is one of my favorite films of all-time.  Still, even five years later, I think about it.  Questioning.  And so I went into this hoping for more of the same.

While nowhere near the same film as Cache, The White Ribbon is riveting in its own right.  Set in Germany in the weeks before WWI, the film takes place in a small town.  And Haneke really allows the audience to immerse themselves in this town, almost like we're there.  And from there, terrible things start to happen throughout the town... without a single clue as to who or what is behind these instances.  Once fully entrenched in the film it is hard not to want to solve these puzzles... and, just like Cache, Haneke does an amazing job of giving you more than enough clues to put your own answer together - but never actually answering the question.

What struck me more than anything about the film was the cinematography.  Besides Haneke's always interesting camera angles, the film represents one of the most breathtaking black and white films I've ever seen.  It was actually shot in color and then converted to black and white.  I hope it wins the Oscar for best cinematography.  

Movie Review: Bronson

After seeing the trailer, I've been dying to see this movie since last Spring.  I'm a sucker for insane lead character, particularly violent ones.  And this trailer, and even the small bits you get to see of Tom Hardy's Bronson - had me excited.

It's actually part of Magnet's 6 Shooter Series - which contains six films I really want to see (the sixth being Neil Marshall's Centurion which was just added this week).  So - good for you Magnet.  Although I wish you could push these films at the theaters more.

When I opened the Netflix for Bronson I immediately realized I knew the director.  Nicolas Winding Refn. An eastern european, he has directed a handful of films I've seen before - most notably Pusher, Pusher 2 and Pusher 3.  So I thought it would take me on a dark ride like those.

Let me start by saying that my gut reaction to Hardy was dead-on. He is incredible. One of the best performances I've seen in a long time. He's like a tightly wound coil at all times - you never know when he is going to explode. A man of violence, but not filled with any hatred.  He just happens to find his peace amidst violence. He says early on that prison felt like home to him because he was constantly on his toes. Ready for battle. And Hardy captures this brilliantly.

However, the film itself doesn't really go anywhere. It is more a character study devoid of any narrative.  To be fair, Bronson (real name Michael Peterson) has spent the majority of his sentence in solitary. So, within the confines of prison there isn't much for him to do.  Unlike a film such as Chopper, which existed in the outside world as well as prison.  And for this reason it left me feeling disappointed.  But look for some big things from Tom Hardy.  And I will continue to look out of Nicolas Refn's work.

Movie Review: Shutter Island

A lot of fun at the movies.  That's the bottom line for me with Shutter Island.  All of the acting is great, which goes without saying for Scorcese and this cast.  It has the feel (through production design, dialogue and acting) of an old detective film - which is one of the reasons I liked it so much.

There was definitely a lot of talking, and Scorcese would have been better served holding back a bit.  Once the mystery starts to unravel we are introduced to character after character explaining what is going on.  But it kept me guessing throughout.  I actually knew what was coming from the trailer - and the film actually made me second guess myself a few times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Page from R.E.M.

Haven't updated anyone on what is going on with the R.E.M. graphic novel in a while... that is because I don't have much as of yet.  Marco wanted to draw the book entirely before he inked it, which is more than cool with me... but he is going to finish one of the first scenes.  Here is a pretty sweet page from it.

This is his first full comic/graphic novel, and he is proving that big things are in his future.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2010

After my least anticipated list, you had to know this was coming... right?

2010, at least on paper, looks to be a year of really solid films.  There are a slew of comic books adaptations I'm looking forward to (Iron Man 2), as well as some remakes (Clash of the Titans, The Crazies) and books being brought to the big screen. And some that are a bit of both (Alice in Wonderland).  It might even surprise some viewers that there are original movies being made (The Social Network).

1.   Tree of Life
             Terrence Mallick, one of the great auteurs of cinema,
             directing Brad Pitt in a movie about the tree of life -
             a subject I've become somewhat obsessed with since
             doing research for R.E.M.  You'll be hard pressed to
             find a director who's films are more visually arresting,
             and who's performances are better.

2.   Clash of the Titans
             Although I hate the nerd battlecry of 'Release the
             Krakken' it does give me chills.  The trailer is action
             packed and I have believed Worthington was the next
             big thing long before Avatar came out (just having
             Cameron cast you as the lead is more than enough
             for me).

3.   Iron Man 2
            100% fun, with really good action - a formidable bad
            guy (Mickey Rourke) and Scarlet Johannson didn't
            actually bother me in the trailer.

4.   The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
            I don't know much about it, but I'm drawn to it.
            Massive hit overseas.  Dark, creepy, mysterious.

5.   Green Zone
            Greengrass and Damon, together again - in the Middle
            East. Some people might think war films are played
            out... but Hurt Locker proved that a great story told
            well is all the difference.

6.   Robin Hood
             Russell Crowe back in a Ridley Scott action film.  And
             I'm a big Robin Hood fan - I love action that doesn't
             involve guns.  Close quarter combat, or a bow and
             arrow and I'm in.

7.   Inception
             Leonardo Dicaprio in a Christopher Nolan mind-bender?

8.   The Social Network, aka The Facebook Movie
             When I first heard about this it made me cringe. The
             idea seems completely uninteresting. Then I saw that
             Aaron Sorkin wrote the script.  Then I found out that
             Justin Timberlake was playing the weasel from Napster.
             And then David Fincher came onboard to direct.

9.   Salt
            Phillip Noyce might be the most underrated director
            working today.  He delivered the goods in A Quiet 
            American, which he managed to do even with Brendan
            Frasier - so I have high hopes for this...

10. The Expendables
            Either going to be an amazing film, or an amazingly bad
            film - either way, amazing.

Alice in Wonderland
Most people that know me well, know that I am an Alice in Wonderland fanatic and would have thought the film would be #1, or even on this list.  However, I think Tim Burton jumped the shark a long time ago.  I haven't actually liked a film he's done since the original Batman.  Seriously.  Great production design doesn't make for a good movie.  And he bastardized one of my favorite films of all time, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I will see it, but only because I have to.

White Ribbon - going to see it tonight.  Haneke is a master.
Let Me In - remake of a great foreign film.
The Losers - looks like the out-of-left-field better version of the A-Team.
A-Team - cause I grew up watching it and the cast is awesome, so it can only let me down.
Brooklyn's Finest - giving Fuqua one more shot.  The script was great, so if it sucks, to hell with him.
She's Out of My League - besides the token friends who suck, actually looks funny.
The Runaways - my, my... how Dakota has grown up.
The Warlords - Chinese epic with two legends.
Date Night - not because of Carrell, but because Fey is an amazing writer.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - dying to see how they bring Gecko back.
Prince of Persia
Jonah Hex - comic book movie.  James Brolin is cool again.  And Megan Fox back to looking hot.
Last Airbender - the last shot of the teaser got me.  I don't even want to see the trailer.
Predators - with a cast this odd, something must be up.
Red Dawn - please God, please be good.
The Killer Inside Me - I like Michael Winterbottom, I like dark films, so this could be awesome.
Splice - the film I most want to see out of Sundance.
Rum Diary - Depp in another Hunter S. Thompson book, but this one makes sense
A Prophet - French film I've heard nothing but good things about.

Movie I'll go see, but will hate myself afterwards:

Movie I won't see in theaters but will watch repeatedly on TV:
Get Him to the Greek

Monday, February 22, 2010

Top 10 Least Anticipated Films of 2010

There are a lot of films that I find innocously bad, like Eat, Pray, Love - but I see their appeal and possible artistic merit. These are films I dread ever seeing a frame of...

1.  Hot Tub Time Machine
          Easily the least funny comedy trailer all year. 
          Complete with bad Michael Jackson joke.

2.  Cop Out
          Won't Kevin Smith just retire already? It was downhill
          after Mallrats my man. Give it up.

3.  Remember Me
          How long before Pattinson is on TV after the last
         Twilight movie?

4.  Sex and the City 2
          Are women this desperate for entertainment aimed
          at them?

5.  Beastly
          Out of all the High School Musical cast, Hudgens is
          easily my favorite - but why, Good Lord, why? She
          should fire her agent, and CBS Films should crumble
          around this trainwreck. Worst trailer of the year.

6.  MacGruber
           So it's a MacGuyver spoof with an unfunny cast
           member from SNL. See you there.

7.  Furry Vengeance
           Brendan Frasier is involved. Enough said.

8. Killers
           I like Kutcher as a person, or at least his outward
           persona... but Heigl?  If you're going to replace Cruise
           and Jolie, bonafide stars I want to see, with Heigl and
           Kutcher, you better start sending out your resume.

9.  Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
           I know it is trendy to like Edgar Wright, but I don't.
           In fact, I hate his films.

10. Tron: Legacy
            I'm betting not even Olivia Wilde can save this one.

Red Meat

Since around New Year's I've been really limiting when I eat red meat.  For those that don't know what red meat does to your body, and the toll it takes - read a book.

For those that know me, my favorite food (besides candy) is steak.  And cheeseburgers.  So it makes it really hard to cut out red meat.  But I've done a pretty good job, along with alcohol.  And I've started to turn a corner in my training. 

I had half a burger on Saturday night and woke up sluggish on Sunday.  Last night I had steak tidbits for dinner and again feel very sluggish today.  I was trying to figure out why and a lot of reaons popped into my mind; overtraining, mentally exhausted from so much on my plate... And then I looked at my diet for the past few days.  Now, I don't know if this is the reason I feel tired, but I would bet money on it. 

From now on, no red meat.  Okay, once a month to celebrate being a live.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Comic Book Creators/Artists and Directing

The Hollywood Reporter had a good article about comic book writers/artists breaking into the film industry as directors.

I'm trying to do the same, but in reverse.  I am in the film industry, but there is such a stigma attached to producers who are trying to write/direct... because everyone in Hollywood has a script of their own.  So I took to the drawn page to show everyone that I have a vision, can direct - even though I have my BA  in Film Production, won a few awards with some shorts from Hofstra and then attended the best film program at the best film school in the world.  It's always an uphill battle - and you need to give yourself as many weapons as possible.

I'm all about finding inspiration in others and through words, and Joss Whedon finishes the article with a great quote:
Whedon predicts that comic artists shuttling between books and movies is the wave of the future. "I was a writer who said I wanted to direct, and they mocked me," he says. "Now, it's not strange. People bopping between TV and movies used to be a stigma, and now it's not anymore. What you're seeing, and what technology is allowing, is people creating a chance for themselves."

My reason for getting into comics wasn't strictly to direct.  I wanted to create properties around my scripts.  Something tangible.  I'm also a comic book nerd, and growing up wanted to be a comic book artist/creator.  Then I started playing lacrosse and going to art school was never realistic if I wanted to play lacrosse in college.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Skin Trade - Announcement

They let the press release out earlier than I thought... and my coming onboard as a producer wasn't much to announce, in my humble opinion - but I am grateful they view me in such a positive light. 

You can read it here.

I am extremely proud and excited to be joining Mike the Pike Productions in helping bring George R.R. Martin's The Skin Trade to the big screen. 

From the best -selling author of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series comes The Skin Trade, a chilling story of a werewolf out for more than blood... When a string of grotesque killings begins to strike her small town, private detective Randi Wade becomes suspicious. The grisly murders remind her all too much of her own father's death over 20 years ago. Now there is a killer in town who not only slays his victims, but also takes their skin. Undaunted, Randi prods the police as the murders continue, each more brutal than the last. When a close friend suddenly becomes a target, he is forced to reveal a startling secret about himself and Randi is quickly pulled into a dark world within her own town where monsters exist and prey on the living.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slacking with my Posts

I have not been very active in posting here... I apologize. I feel like I have some good excuses though... In the last month or so:

Finished the artwork for Harbor Moon. Not only are we preparing the files for the printer, but we have been working hard to lock a PDF to distribute to development executives on the film side. It has been an uphill battle and we don't have the best solution - but we have a solution. It is just taking time to complete.

We're done with the main artwork on the children's illustrated book Warm Fuzz. Waiting on the artist to finish the cover and splash page. Then he needs to paint the text. He's in China, barely speaks English - so it is taking more time than we had hoped.

Overseeing the ongoing artwork for the R.E.M. graphic novel.  By excellent artist Marco Magallanes.

Finished the outline to the novel for my feature script The Beast

Closing a deal to come onboard a project as a producer. I don't want to give too many details - but it is written by one of the most renowned fantasy authors and I'm very excited. Expect an official announcement shortly.

Revising the business plan for the feature film R.E.M., after closing a deal to bring on producer Luiza Ricupero.

Pounding the venture capital pavement for funding for my next four graphic novels, Filmworks Finishing Partners and the feature films King of the Night and R.E.M.  This means sending out email after email, constantly researching venture capital firms and following up with all correspondence.

Writing a business plan for a filmmaker.  And re-outlining a writer's script.

Training at Panza MMA just about every night, and in the mornings on Saturday.  In between going to the gym every day.

All while helping take care of my grandfather (we recently hired someone full-time which has been a huge help). With a ton of work knocked out, my focus now is on R.E.M., specifically rewriting it based on some good notes by Luiza. The sooner I can turn it around the better...  So it will be about a week or two with sporadic updates, as I won't be watching, listening or doing much of anything but working and training.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shortening a Script

After my post on 'Submitting a Script', I got a slew of emails.  Most of them yelling at me because their scripts were perfect and if they weren't, why would they be ready to submit?  I won't even touch that one...

What I wanted to discuss were ways to shorten your script without butchering your baby.  You've bled over the draft (even later drafts... especially later drafts) and you hear the dreaded words,
Hmm... it's good, but I'd lose ten pages."

Ten pages!?  My forehead was bleeding just getting it down a few lines!

It's all fine and well to have someone say - cut it down ten pages - but how do you actually get this done?  So, rather than just be someone who tells people what to do without being there with them in the trenches, I thought I'd jump in the fox hole and return some fire. Please keep in mind, these are my preferences as a writer... Take em' or leave em' as such...
  • First off, DO NOT, under any circumstances, touch the margins or font size. Anyone who reads scripts can spot this a mile away.
  • Spacing. Some people prefer two spaces before and after Sluglines. I do not. I actually thinks it makes for slower reading. Set your spacing on Sluglines to 1 before and after. But, if you do this, you should also BOLD your sluglines.
  • Crush all the spiders! My girlfriend hates spiders and as a writer so should you.  A spider is a single word on a single line. Most of the time people will refer to these in a section of dialogue. But I think you can apply it to your whole script. If you have dialogue or prose that leaves one word on a line by itself - get rid of it. You may need to rework the sentence or paragraph a bit, but it is worth it. If you think you just cannot get rid of that line - you're wrong. You are 100% wrong. Step back and figure it out. You will be surprised how much tighter your script is. Even half a page, removing unnecessary lines, is invaluable.
  • More's and Continued's. This is my own personal trick. Although trick is a misnomer, it is heart-wrenching and hard act. It involves killing your babies and your grown children. Sacrificing soldiers for the greater good of the war. The basic conceit is that when you are finished, there should be no (as in zero, not one) page where the dialogue continues onto the next page. To achieve this, you may need to not just revise the dialogue, but the dialogue or prose in the scene to cut lines. You may even have to go back a page or two and cut to get that break onto a single page. The object is to keep cutting until you can rid of those breaks.
  • Don't leave any cliff hanger scenes. A similar situation is a scene that leaves a line or two on the next page. Get it so that the scene ends at the bottom of the page. I used both of these techniques recently for a script that was 126 pages. My goal was to get it down to 120 pages.  Just by doing this, I was able to get it down to 119 pages. And I didn't have to cut out any of the heart of my story.  I didn't have to remove a storyline to cut 5 pages. Or a full scene. At least not yet. And then I went back and did it to my other scripts. It was exhilirating.
      • Although there is no reason for this other than it helps me cut things I wouldn't necessarily cut, you will find that your script is a smoother/faster read.  And not just because it is shorter.
The bottom line is - do not be satisfied.  Do not get complacent.  If this is something you want, then bust your ass to make it happen. Most people do not have the fortitude to write. And that means rewriting, revising and sharpening your work to make it the best it can be.

You need to challenge yourself in the rewriting process. It is daunting and it sucks sometimes, but it is necessary if you want your script to go from good to great to excellent.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Salvaged Weekend

Snow.  It was supposed to descend upon NY like a plague.  A good friend, DJ Justin Freeman, was starting his residency at Cheetah Lounge in the city.  But the threat of snow scared enough lightweights that only a small scattering showed up (it may have also had something to do with Swedish House Mafia DJ'ing at M2)... Either way, Cheetah has a lot of potential.  I got to see some of my friends I haven't seen in a while and made the most of it.  I'm training to fight, so I'm not drinking - except for a few glasses of wine every now and then.  I broke down and had a few beers (but was extremely impressed that I did not during the Super Bowl).

After Cheetah, I was supposed to hop a bus down to Baltimore to visit a good friend for his birthday and watch the Super Bowl.  The snow we never got hit them hard, over 2 feet, and my trip got canceled.  It looked like the weekend was shaping up to be somewhat of a bust.  I resigned myself to hitting the gym hard and catching up on a lot of reading/work.

However, I wound up going to my girlfriend Lauren's house to have dinner with her family and spend time with her daughter.  I've been on timeout for a few weeks as she gets her life in order after an upheaval for them both.  I had gotten her a Dorothy dress from Wizard of Oz and Lauren let me come give it to her.  The dress was a hit and I had an awesome time.  I have no qualms about buying my way into her heart.  But we get along great anyway.  I get along much better with kids than adults.  I speak their language.  And the kid is awesome.  So having my Baltimore trip canceled was a blessing in disguise.

And then I watched the Super Bowl in Farmingdale at the Nutty Irishman and caught up with my brother who was one of the lightweights from Friday, some friends I haven't seen in a while and a good friend of mine who I went to high school and college with who happened to be bartending at the time.  So, all-in-all, the weekend was salvaged. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Film Review: In the Loop

Going in, I had heard this was the funniest movie of 2009 from a lot of critics... but the logline didn't exactly excite me.  I tend to despise movies about politics.  And satires like Wag the Dog churn my stomach to the point of excretion. 

But I must say that this is a must-see film.  It was shot in the same verite style as British comedies such as The Office... and the humor was dry like that, although at no time did it feel like a sitcom.  Something that kept it grounded was the fact that at its core were real stakes - war, and are the nations going to war.  It felt real, and thus the comedy felt real.

All of the actors were spot on, but I think I may have found a new favorite actor from across the pond in Peter Capaldi.  I know Christopher Waltz will win Best Supporting Actor, but it is a shame - because Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker is amazing.  His profanity laced dialogue from start to finish is so sharp and his delivery is so cutting, he deserves to win something.  A working actor for a long time over there, I think this role will catapult him into some bigger films - and I hope to one day work with him.

Steve Coogan (director Armando Ianucci directed most of the episodes of Alan Partridge) shows up for a great cameo.  David Rasche and Gina McKee put in a very notable performances as well.

The film has that frenetic pace that is only emboldened by the verite style... and the subject matter never feels heavy. If you have the chance, make room for this on your rental list.