Movie Review: Me and Earl and the dying Girl

In order to get a movie into Sundance, or perhaps break into the movie business as a new writer, you have to be very different. Different is fine and OK if its interesting or very funny and a good example of this is the movie “Napolean Dynamite, which came out in 2004. This movie was highly unusual and downright weird but it was funny so you liked it. “Napolen Dynamite” was so different than anything you had seen before so the movie was a surprise hit. This movie, “Me and Earl and the dying Girl” attempts to be very different and weird and unlike anything you have seen before. The problem with this movie is that in many areas its too different, weird and unusual to make it a very good movie or a very funny movie. The subject of the dying girl in this story is the central theme of the entire movie and while this can be both touching and depressing at the same time, the premise is too sad to make the other parts of the movie; the parts that try to be funny or very different successful.

Overall I liked this movie and the attempts to be very different and funny, but for the most part, it was not funny enough to overcome the many flaws that include the fact that this movie is trying to be too weird and different to be an effective story. Different and quirky has to be paired with quality and while this movie had much of that, for me it just quite didn’t have enough.

I am neutral on this movie, so I cannot recommend or not recommend it. This movie should be seen by anyone who wants to see something different and something they have never been seen before.

Writing a movie to be different

Movie Review: Max

This is a good Disney-like movie about a dog who was in Iraq with his owner who is killed in combat and then the aftermath of how the dog is adopted by his owners family. The flaws in this movie are obvious and include giving the dog almost super-natural tracking skills and he is able to track some villains in the movie over a great distance, which is not very realistic. In typical Hollywood style, in order to make the movie more exciting the movie ends with a big chase/caper series of scenes which is also not very realistic, but overall this is a good movie and even a good movie to bring kids to.

I do recommend this movie.

Hollywood Movie Paradigm

Movie Review: Ted 2

I thought that TED 2 is better than the first one only because there is a greater number of good laughs in this movie than the last one.  About half of the attempted funny scenes or dialogue work, and about half don’t work.  Some scenes are more disgusting than funny but overall I was satisfied that this is a solid comedy movie overall.    I appreciated some of the attempts to reference other movies like the Breakfast club and the remark about Samuel L. Jackson (the same name of the female lead in this movie) being the black guy in every movie and the appearance of Morgan Freeman at the end of the movie as very often these 2 actors are confused.

Overall I thought this movie was pretty funny and I do recommend it.

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Movie Review: I’ll see you in my dreams

Many times small movies; movies that do well at the Sundance film festival or the Cannes Film festival are about ordinary people going through very common and ordinary circumstances. “I’ll see you in my dreams” is one of those movies. This story is about an older woman who lost her husband some 20 years earlier in a plane crash and she has been on her own for over 20 years and now she is in her 70’s. She has a dog at the beginning of the movie, but later in the story the dog, like so many dogs who are 14 years or older, dies and she has to put the dog to sleep. This woman has 4 close friends, which makes her lonely life more bearable and meets a man later in the movie, but I will not mention any more about this part of the story.

During the movie on several occasions, Blythe Danner, who plays the main character in the movie, shows pictures of her late husband which turns out to be a picture of her real life late husband Bruce Paltrow, who died in 2002 at age on 58 of throat cancer.

This movie is about an average life; the life of a woman who is getting older and realizing that life and getting older has a lot to do with losing friends and relatives and facing your own mortality.

I highly recommend this movie.

Screenwriting Inspiration

Movie Review: Jurasic World

Its hard to believe that 22 years have past since the amazing special effects of the first movie came out and that this is the 4th Jurassic movie. I was hoping that the special effects of showing all those different dinosaurs had improved in 22 years but there is really no obvious special effects improvement that I noticed in this movie. As with the previous 3 movies, there is no real story here and its always the same. We have dinosaurs, we have a park and or people on an island and then things go wrong. Then we have people running for their lives. One thing that really stands out about this movie is that the deaths of some people is especially disturbing and violent so it it definitely not a movie to take any child who is under 14 years old. Some of the deaths, especially one of a woman being eaten by Pterodactyls in water was way over the top and in my opinion it was not necessary to show such a violent death.

This is the first of the 4 movies where they show a hybrid dinosaur, one that was created in the lab by the first scientist who was in the original 1993 movie and this is the first re-appearance of this original Jurassic scientist. The entire plot centers on this dinosaur somehow fooling the security team of the Jurassic World park and somehow, because of its genetic ability, is able to avoid being detected by the heat sensors in his cage. This brings out the biggest problem of this movie, which is a believable idea. Way too often in this movie the producers made decisions based on the fact that they wanted some action or something amazing to happen so they can have a situation where Dinosaurs create havoc. If this were a real park then something would be inserted into all the Dinosaurs where they could not only be detected, but also disabled, should they somehow escape from their elaborate cages.

There are other situations in this movie where no normal thinking person would do some of the things they show them doing in the movie. The actions of these people are not only too risky, but downright stupid. We are also expected to believe that the main character in the movie is able to not only train and control Raptors, but also befriend them as well. This is of course, not believable. As always the Hollywood producers in this movie forego a very good script in favor of special effects and we have all seen this way too often in movies.

Go to Jurassic World for the action, the special effects but not for the story. Do not bring any children younger than 14 to this movie as some of the violence and death is way too much for a young child. I saw this movie in IMAX 3D, but this movie is good enough to see without these extra special effects.

Overall, I do recommend this movie.

Movie Special Effects

Screenwriting Practice

Movie Review: Love and Mercy

The one thing that stood out the most about this movie is that it was way too long. This story could have been shown in 90 minutes and there was no reason for it to last over 2 hours. There were many spots in this movie where it just dragged on way too long and were very boring. On the other hand, the movie was very well acted and while the story was rather depressing, this movie is definitely worth seeing and might get nominated for some awards this coming February, including best actor for John Cusack, who played Brian Wilson in his later years. One thing I noticed is that for the flashbacks of Brian Wilson during his younger years, the actor looked nothing like he did in his later years, when he was played by John Cusack.

The basic story of this movie had to do with the life of Brian Wilson, who was the lead creative force behind the Beach Boys and is considered a musical genius. Wilson was also very tortured and was a drug addict and it was obvious that the reason for this was because of his extremely abusive and jealous father. After his father’s years of abuse, Brian was later tortured by his psychiatrist who oversubscribed drugs and was also very abusive and its a wonder that Brian Wilson is still alive considering all the drugs he has taken in his life. The main part of the story is about Brian’s relationship with this girlfriend, which is a story that was told rather well, but it is not well explained why his girlfriend who became his wife stayed with Wilson when he was frequently on prescription drugs and was always around his psychiatrist, bodyguards and other people who very clearly hindered their relationship.

I found myself frequently checking my watch during this movie hoping that it would finally end, but overall I did appreciate the acting and the abusive and very difficult life of a tortured but brilliant songwriter. I also appreciated the depiction of the very difficult process of writing and producing music which was shown frequently in this film.

Overall I do recommend this movie, but be prepared to sit through a 2 hour movie that should only be 90 minutes.

Screenwriting do’s and don’ts

Movie Review: Entourage

I assume that fans of the HBO series are going to like this movie. People who never saw the series or who don’t get HBO are going to think that this movie is at best OK. The main thing I liked about this movie is that it provided some sort of an inside view of what it must be like to make a movie; with the problems, producers, money issues and shortfalls and the ego’s and bickering among executives, producers and the creative people who write, act and create the movie in the first place. This movie probably had more celebrity cameo’s than any movie ever has; maybe of all time. The many cameo’s neither took away nor did they add any value to the movie’s content. In the end, I thought the movie was just OK, not bad, but not that good either.

This movie has just a moderate recommendation from me.

Screenwriting pitfalls

Writing Subtext

Movie Review: Spy

In all the movie comedies I have ever seen I don’t remember ever hearing jokes like: “You look like this” or “You look like that”, exaggerating the way someone looks in some outlandish comedic way.  This comedic method was way overused in this movie. There had to be about 40 jokes like this and most of them were not funny.   Melissa McCarthy, the lead character in this movie has always been funny in all her movies, some of them in a subtle way and some of them, like the “Bridesmaids” in an overtly comedic way.

This movie was funny a good percentage of the time and enough of the time to recommend, but it could have been a much better movie if the story and the complex plot made more sense.  At the end, the explanations of what was happening barely made any sense which for me ruined the payoff of the movie at the end.

Overall this movie was good enough to recommend.

Screenwriting lessons learned