Friday, December 31, 2010

Next Big Thing?

Hard to ignore some of the similarities between I Am Number Four and the old Roswell TV series. What's interesting is the apparent target audience: young males/boys. Will that audience will respond in the same way tween girls did with the Twilight franchise? Jumper tried and mostly fizzled. BTW, James Frey (yes, that one) is the devil. Don't believe me? Read this.

I like the narration by the kids, but the rest appears to be more of the same. Still, Steven Spielberg is the executive producer, so I'll give it a couple of episodes.

The only thing I know about trends is not to chase them. Aliens might be hot now, but all it takes is a flop or two.


Figured I had enough time to squeeze a few more thoughts into 2010...

The Crazies

Never saw the original, but I'm a fan of Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant. Expected much more than I got: THE GOVERNMENT IS EVIL! HIDE YOUR WIFE! HIDE YOUR KIDS! THEY'RE CONTAMINATING EVERYBODY OUT HERE! (AND TRYING TO COVER IT UP.... WITH NUKES!) And while we're on the subject, why don't zombies/crazy people ever attack each other?

Doctor Who Christmas Special - A Christmas Carol

Fun take on the Dickens classic. Schmaltzy and manipulative? Without question. Many reviews were decidedly mixed. However, I always try to keep in mind that Doctor Who is a kid's show first and foremost. Adults are welcome, but know your place.

The Fourth Kind

The screenplay by writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi was on the 2008 Black List. Although I haven't read it, I imagine the story showed more promise on paper than the final product delivered on film. There are some intriguing ideas and imagery presented, but it fails to come together in any meaningful way. BTW, Osunsanmi has another script that made the 2010 Black List, Dark Moon. Pretty impressive accomplishment.

The Lovely Bones

Peter Jackson can do no wrong in the eyes of some, but he did plenty here. A long, pretentious bore. Hated it with every fiber of my being. Hated myself for sitting through the whole thing. Did I mention how much I hated it?

Misfits - series 2

Another crude and obnoxious series -- but in a good way! Sometimes Nathan gets too much attention, while characters like Curtis and Kelly get the short end of the stick. I enjoy the shortened U.K. seasons (series), but things can feel rushed at times. Interesting developments with Simon. Can't wait to see what their new powers will be.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hellboy II Revisited

As much as I enjoyed Hellboy, the sequel didn't quite click with me. There's no denying that it's a gorgeous piece of cinema, but I felt the story was somewhat lacking. No big surprises or unforeseen twists. Too straightforward for my tastes. Within seconds of introducing Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala, you pretty much know how a certain issue would be resolved. It's also a problem when your antagonist is way more interesting and charismatic than your protagonist. With all that being said, the 3 Disc Special Edition for five bucks on Amazon was just too good to pass up for Christmas.

The funny thing about Guillermo Del Toro's commentary track is that he addresses the majority of my complaints. Some people said the first film was too dense and that Rasputin's goal wasn't clear enough, so he attempts to simplify here. Del Toro makes an admirable effort laying down some visual clues instead of bogging down the story with too many subplots. He also talks about certain story choices and trying to make an anti-superhero film. Clearly, the screenplay wasn't put together on some willy-nilly decisions. I'm still not in love with the film, but his excellent commentary has given me a lot to think about. Gonna check out the feature-length documentary on Disc 2 shortly.

DVD commentaries are a screenwriter's best friend. They're like a film class at your fingertips. Here's a great site I used to frequent a few years back and rediscovered today, Not as active as I remember, but hopefully, more writers will take advantage of it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lost Boys: The Thirst

A definite improvement over Lost Boys: The Tribe. Okay, that’s not a blurb you wanna slap on the DVD cover... Tribe set the bar pretty low -- so low, it probably fell through the earth and popped up somewhere in China. Although the original screenplay was about werewolf surfers, someone got the bright idea to turn it into the next installment of the Lost Boys straight to DVD films. The story goes something like this: Edgar Frog is enlisted by a Stephanie Meyer type author -- played by Tanit Phoenix (see below), who’s rumored to be the top choice for the new Wonder Woman TV series -- to rescue her brother from vamps who plan to sacrifice him during a big rave.

Lost Boys: The Thirst is an interesting experiment of trying to turn a supporting character into a lead. The result is somewhat successful. They flesh out Edgar a bit. Made him an angsty loner with nothing but comic books and a superior vampire killing ability -- which surprisingly doesn‘t pay the rent. He’s also clueless about the cute chick from the comic book shop who’s totally digging him -- even after she decides to tag along on his mission.

Sometimes it felt like Corey Feldman was playing it a little too straight, while everyone else kinda winked and nodded at the camera. The way I’ve always understood it is that all your characters (no matter how insignificant their role) should think they’re the hero of the story. I see some of that here, but there should have been more.

There’s a cool flashback to a scene from the original film and a nice tribute to Corey Haim. Honestly, there’s not much to say after that. Director Dario Piana does a fine job with a limited budget. Some of the set pieces and action are above average for straight to DVD flick. I think it’s pretty safe to say this won’t be the last we’ll be seeing of Edgar Frog.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Red: Werewolf Hunter

Finally caught this over the weekend. A nice change of pace from their usual fare. It's hard to knock Syfy's tried and true formula, but how many mutant alligator-squid monsters and killer storms can viewers take? The plot here wasn't that complicated — are they ever? Red (Felicia Day) brings boyfriend home to meet the folks and to reveal a family secret... they’re werewolf hunters! A rogue werewolf shows up and destroys the truce between the hunters and lycanthropes. Things get even more complicated when boyfriend gets bitten.

I must have zoned out in a few spots because I can’t recall why the rogue werewolf could change at will. Overall, the story wasn’t bad and the acting was solid, but the computer generated werewolves are the weakest link. I’d almost swear they’ve been recycled from another film. The Syfy Channel's philosophy must be, 'Cheesy CG is better than no CG at all!' A slightly bigger budget or a less-is-more-approach could have done wonders.

And speaking of bigger budgets, Syfy and Universal are starting Syfy Films. Are they really going to try the Syfy formula on the big screen? Are they going to be looking for writers? Can it work? Saturday night cable viewers are much more forgiving than your average moviegoer. Still, a sci-fi film like Skyline did decent business with just a $10M budget. Even though I have my doubts about this venture, it's never a bad thing when folks want to make genre films.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Vanishing on 7th Street

Yesterday, I tweeted about The World, The Flesh and The Devil and now I come across the trailer for the upcoming Vanishing on 7th Street. The former seems more focused on the mystery behind the disappearances, while the latter dealt with social commentary, but look is similar. Compare the trailer with this scene...

You could also add 28 Days Later, I Am Legend and Night of the Comet to the mix as well. It's part of the usual set up for these post-apocalyptic stories, but the obligatory montage of the protagonist wandering through some deserted major city (which is almost always NY or LA) can be tiresome.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Stumbled across one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes from the 80s — Hmm, maybe I should start doing Throwbacks again. A young horror buff's new neighbor (Ralph Bellamy) claims to be a monster. There's a little debate going on in the comment section about the ending. I always thought it was pretty clear...

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wishing on a Star

I'm totally clueless on whether Dead Awake is any good or not. Heck, I only discovered it a few days ago. There was a limited release over the weekend — $31,400 in 55 theaters. The DVD will probably arrive on Netflix shortly. The cast and the $3.5M budget (plus the Twilighty font) is what really caught my eye. Lately, I've been collecting hard-to-find contact information over on Mostly producers and a director or two, but I have increasingly thought about querying actors. Just gotta pick the right ones...

At first glance, Nick Stahl might not seem like a big name, but he did star in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which grossed over $400M worldwide in 2003 — the worldwide part means an awful lot these days. Significant screen time in a big movie can go a looong way, even if it was a while ago (see cast and budget of The Expendables).  Rose McGowan and Amy Smart have both been in modest hits. Rose is probably more popular from her stint on Charmed than anything else. There's a huge list that ranks actors in terms of value, I forget its name. Relativity Media has some sophisticated algorithm that takes into account certain variables such as star power, genre, director, budget, etc. and spits out a number that indicates if the project is worth making. Sounds incredible if it works. *cough* Warrior's Way *cough*

Sunday, December 05, 2010


After Chris Nolan's Inception, I'd say Gareth Edwards' Monsters is right up there as the second best science-fiction film of 2010. What's that? You've never heard of it? No. Not the animated movie with Reese Witherspoon... *sigh*

Understandable, since it was released in only 25 theaters and grossed a grand total of $213,091. There are shades of District 9, Cloverfield and even a pinch of War of the Worlds, but the premise stands firmly on its own two feet.

Basically, NASA discovers life in our solar system. They send a probe to collect samples and bring them back to earth. Unfortunately, the probe crashes on re-entry, the alien life-forms escape and hijinks ensue. Fast forward a couple years later. Half of Mexico is quarantined and an enormous wall has been constructed in an attempt to prevent the creatures from invading the United States. That's the backdrop for a story about an American photojournalist who, after a slight mishap, has to escort the boss's daughter across the infected zone and back into the States.

Made for just a few hundred thousand dollars, Monsters succeeds as a highly engrossing Sci-Fi adventure with a message that never gets too preachy. Don't expect wall to wall action or gratuitous money shots of the creatures. A lot is wisely left to the imagination. The lesson here is that low budget is no excuse for poor storytelling or a crappy premise. I should also point out that everyone worked off a treatment and not an actual script. Although the DVD doesn't come out until February, Creative Screenwriting Magazine has an excellent (slightly spoilerly) podcast with the two leads, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able.

BTW, this poster makes for great wallpaper.


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