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Harry wasn't the only one in anguish.

Harry wasn’t the only one in anguish.

Every now and then I’ll see a film which I want to like or love but wind up despising. Sometimes Out of curiosity I will watch that film again on DVD if there’s an audio commentary and deleted scenes involved. It has to be a steadfast rule with me, though. It has to both. Sure, most of the time I’ll rent from my local library. but free or not, it has to be worth my time. But generally speaking, I’ll watch a bad movie intentionally to hear what was going though people’s minds especially if it is a writer and/or director.

My thoughts on The Amazing Spider-0Man 2 haven’t changed much since last spring. I still find it disappointing to say the least. But I’m also glad I re-watched it with commentary and viewing some deleted scenes. One can ;earn a lot from this stuff and absorb it. That’s even if you think the film is a chunk of mud.

Much was talked about Shailene Woodley being cast as Mary Jane Watson then her character edited out of the film. I wondered if those deleted scenes were on Blu-Ray, they were not on the DVD. From what it appears, it would seem that not much of those scenes were actually filmed. During the commentary with Executive Producer Avi Arad, Producer Matt Tolmach and writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinker, not much is mentioned about it. But I took note of a few details:

* It was Sony who wanted Felicia Jone’s character, Harry’s secretary to be named ‘Felicia’. This is a possible *and widely assumed) nod to Black Cat. However, in the previous film, the character in the post credits scene was supposed to have been Electro, only now it isn’t. That character is renamed The Gentleman. So this may or may not be The Black Cat character (and I hope it’s not)but the fans are assuming it is.

* A test audience was okay with the death of Gwen Stacy. Specifically parents who thought young children can handle it. Yet it seems the filmmakers think such audiences (or young children) cannot handle Harry becoming the Green Goblin. Let me tell you something right now I think kids would have been okay with the Osborn transformation. I’m willing to bet they would think it was awesome. (Also, it’s in the deleted scenes, so there’s a possibility they might get a peek at it anyway)

* Alex Garfield and Emma Stone have good chemistry. I don’t doubt this, young adult relationships seems to be Marc Webb’s biggest strength. If he didn’t have Spider-Man, imagine what he could do with something like Mortal Instruments or other young adult box office misfires. That said, one of the things that annoyed me in the previous film was the character of Gwen Stacy being borderline contrived. It’s one thing if Peter was an intern or snuck into Oscorp. It’s quite another when Gwen is one of the top researchers and she’s still in High School. Gwen still works for Oscorp, in spite of a top scientist turning into a monster and there are cover ups going on.

* Many plot points were dropped over the editing of the film, but some of them made their way into the trailers, which got our interest in the first place. Reason why they were dropped was for pacing issues. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. But most of the time, a pickup or ADR line is needed in case those deleted scenes hurt the narrative of the film. That’s what happened in the previous film, where a supporting character was kidnapped by The Lizard and never seen again (a deleted scene “cut for time” explained the plot hole). In this film, a deleted scene shows off not just a Goblin transformation but the exo-suit as ell. It still doesn’t explain the pumpkin bombs (but my theory on that is the filmmakers are using our previous knowledge of the previous franchise so we know that’s “the” Goblin) but had there been a pickup to cover some of this “The Goblin” would not have some out of what seems to be nowhere.

* A great touching moment which I liked in the film, Spider-Man helping out a kid targeted by bullies. It is a great scene. While this isn’t the previous franchise; Peter Parker wasn’t bullied or pranked. it still is something which we can relate to and the fact that this sort of behavior is getting more attention is recent years. So what’s the downside? The ending. Same kid stands up to Rhino who has machine guns, rockets and a metal suit ten feet tall. Everyone watches, nobody runs. It’s kind of like an earlier scene with Electro and a barricaded crowd (as if they expected him to show up) and in that last scene, Spider-Man shows up after a few months off (as we are informed) and the action comes to a stop. The filmmakers and writer “thinks” this was a great idea. It isn’t. It backfires. Unless Rhino isn’t such as bad guy. letting down guard for a turn of remorse and mercy. Spider-Man is more of a fair fight and there’s more of a rematch opportunity.

Which of course, the audience is robbed of. Was The Rhino needed at all? His inclusion was a setup for The Sinister Six, a MAJOR problem with this movie’s marketing. Don’t believe me? Well, okay. Why then, in the marketing of the film, was there a big tease of the Six? Why tweet out a picture of a soundstage with “Sinister Six” on it and get the fanbase worked up over it? Why give us the easter eggs in the endless slew of trailers? They tell us we are getting a spinoff film with the Six and those characters teased at the end credits might not be even in the film.

Add all this up. It almost sounds like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. That’s exactly what went wrong with this movie – it is a tug of war between camp (Rhino, Electro, the planes and convenience) and serious (Peter,Harry/Goblin and Gwen relations) with threads from the previous film left dangling but just enough for some interest only to be unresolved (mystery of Peter’s parents)The film should have been (and could have been) one or the other. Oddly, I’m siding with what was the best thing about Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It wasn’t a cool villain (Sandman) but the…wait a minute. what did I just say?

No, I meant that. For the past few years, I am stunned by the outright hate-on Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. It has ts drawbacks, don’t get me wrong. but let’s get a scorecard, shall we? In that film, Harry becomes a mask-less Goblin. He has had some practice on his flying surfboard, has access to pumpkin bombs and such. Yet the strongest highlights of that film is the relationship between Peter, Harry and MJ. Flash foward to now and ASM2. Here we have another talented actor, who becomes a mask-less Goblin who can operate a Glider in less than an hour, laugh like the Goblin and use weapons which he had no prior access to. Strongest arc in the film? The Peter-Gwen-Harry dynamic.

It almost comes across to me that nobody quite has a handle on where to go with this. The franchise is far from in trouble, however, In fact, I’ll make a little bet. Should the S6 project get canned and maybe the Venom solo film and Amazing Spider-Man 3 has those characters…the series will be recast and rebooted once again, probably called Spectacular Spider-Man and then “the fans” will proceed to trash talk all the good things about the past trilogy as if it were all an abomination and yes, I’m also willing to bet someone in the wild screaming with a fist in the air “Give the rights back to Marvel!”

Like that’s going to work.

Kick the tires and lite up the fires!

Kick the tires and lite up the fires!

A lot of people seemed surprised that the third Expendables movie underperformed at the box office. After watching the film, I wasn’t among them. Sure, I liked some of the action – that opening scene with Wesley Snipes was great, new cast members Antonio Bandaras and Ronda Rousey shine during the film and how can you NOT dig the Desperado-like shootout and the ju-jistu team up at the end? Mel Gibson also has some nice lines here, and overall, the film isn’t bad. Yet, the film didn’t strike a nerve with audiences, Some point to the lack of an R rating, others the leaked HD copy and some the marketing. Which to believe?

I’ll telkl you what I believe. Not one of them – except a little bit with marketing, but not much. Jet Li’s role was shortened in the previous film. This time around, it’s a cameo shooting off a machine gun from a gunship. No wushu moves, no scene like Expendables 2 even. So what’s that got to do with Marketing? Everything. Jet Li got his character poster. Yet, even character actor Robert Davi has more screen time than Jet Li. In fact, let’s call it like it is – there is that great (re)introduction of Wesley Snipes at the start of the film. “The Doctor” When the team runs into a former teammate Stonebanks (played by Gibson) who is now a gun smuggler, Terry Crews’ character Caesar is severely wounded. The team is disgraced enough where Stallone’s Ross decides to disassemble the team and look for younger, fresh recruits along with Bonaparte, an ex- mercenary played by Kelsey Grammar.

And there’s your problem where the movie failed, right there. Were you looking at your watch? The film’s momentum becomes a turtle race. It just dies as we are ‘introduced’ to the new team members. Only two are memorable – Bandaras does a Zorro-like move with hypoer energy and makes a punchline. Rousey’s into is cliched (“look!the bouncer is a girl”) but charmingly good. and Yes, Grammar’s character would have been better played by Fred Willamson or Burt Reynolds, but that’s not the problem here.

Here’s a hint: remember those character posters? Remember that kick-ass opening scene? Guess who’s not around for a good hour of the movie? Let me guess- could it be half the characters the audience has grown to like and gotten used to for two films in now? Are we concerned about the well being of Hale Caesar? Aside from Rousey and Bandaras, was there anything memorable about the other recruit scenes? Dead weight scenes, all of them, and to add insult to injury. all the new young team is captured by Stonebanks.
By the way, what exactly is the underlying premise of The Expendables idea again? A film composed of older action stars for the most part, right? Right! So when the actors/characters an audience has come to see has been sidelined at Jet Li gets only a minute firing a gun? Mel Gibson had great lines, but the previous film’s Jean Cluade Van Damme was more of an exciting fight at the end. Stonebanks dies rather dumb for such an intelligent foe and with less fanfare. The team fights endless masked thugs, it’s hard to track who is doing what….yes, this isn’t a bad film but the gas is out of the tank.

You can check the brain at the door if you want to, but who and what did you want to see? Other than that, Sly went up against a talking gun toting raccoon and a ninja turtle so it may have just been bad luck. Or was it?

It’s been a little over a year or so since I posted anything here. The reason for this was that I spent my time divided in three or four places. One such place was The Movie Snitch, an offshoot of The Movie Blog . For a little over a year now The Snitch had been doing so-so in readership. There would be a spark of momentum, then *crash boom bang putter putter* there would be gaps in posts,. The fact of the matter is it was a two man show, then as Rodney got swarmed, it soon was a one man show. I can only hog a spotlight for so long, and for those that have known my rep since 2000 from the good ol’ Projector Booth days (1999-2004) , you know I ride things out until the bitter end. But despite some appearances, I tend to favor collaboration.

It feels that way for The Snitch. Late July of this year, there to seemed be, shortly after my post about how to make a Deadpool movie work, and an odd offer from Anthony White to return to The Movie Blog (co-incidence?), a slight mess on WP dashboard of The Snitch. We are now under spammer swarm, and there’s not a diddly thing I can do. I wanted to review some films both new and retro (Forgotten Friday) but I been locked out for time being. Add to that the state of most film internet ‘movie news’ sites are, sadly, only half that nowadays.

Not everyone is like this, of course, but there is a scourge, and it won’t be before long a studio promoting a film will just come out and tell the honest truth about a project with tons of bombshell spoilers. And nobody will believe them because half the “movie news” sites report otherwise. When you search the net for movie stories to put on a blog, and most of what you get is a wheel barrel of bullshit. is it even worth it anymore? The stories I tended to write about wound up being fan based and/or human interest stories and how they relate to film. Not really “movie news” per se, but I got more enjoyment and more likes when I located and shared those stories. But finding those articles are becoming more and more rare. Everyone it seems wants those hits on the page, they won’t check into facts or sources. They will reword phrases or jump to wild conclusions. And they never stop and think.

Anthony White said to me the owners of The Movie Blog (who have driven that once good place in the dirt) don’t have a problem with me, it’s with Rodney and I can come back if I choose. I said I’ll think about it. That thought went between the ears for about a minute. My answer was and iss no. I have to pass.

Really? They slapped my cyberknuckles, deleted ALL of my posts there…which if you put in a lot of volunteer work at websites and then find all your time and energy is all for naught, it does kind of feel like…despite some passion, you could have had better things to do. I climbed that peak. I reached that summit. And I was treated like dirt on a scuffy looking shoe. Less than a week later of saying no Movie Snitch gets locked. I’m not suggesting it’s connected, I’m just saying….y’know I notice stuff.

So after a month, it’s time to dust this off and start again.
I

My IMDB Page

My first official credit is now listed on IMDB. I wonder what I could add to the trivia section. What would be useful info…? I could look up old classmates Tony Sims who crewed a few films in the early 90s and most likely Ammar Desariah, who does some acting gigs here and there.

Being an extra on Chris Robin Hood’s thesis film ‘Count’ back in…oh when was that? 1992 or 93 I think. Worked at Merha Tube, Grand Blanc, MI in the late 90s-early 2000s. The Rabbit Lady from Roger& Me – Michael Moore’s late 80s doc- worked there.

Oh, there’s the “Dusty” gig at AutoWorld in 1990. The place is now the UM parking lot.

Hopefully, this is the start of good things.

In any case, “Forced Donation” my first produced short, will be screened at the Independent Filmmakers Convention
in Indiana next week, June 7th.

That would be an interesting double bill...

That would be an interesting double bill…


Even though I have the DVD, for some reason I found myself watching, at least the latter half of 2001’s Donnie Darko on the Blockbuster channel (Dish). Nothing else was on at the time to suit my fancy. I also know that I’ll re-watch the film later on in it’s entirety sometime soon. It’s just a rule of mine. But re-watching even part of it transported me back to the the first time I seen it at the 2001 Austin Film Festival. I loved the film then, and I still love it now. I got the screenplay/book, big time fan. I still have hopes for the films writer-director, Richard Kelly, even if he did go on to later direct The Box and Southland Tales, that he will return to the brilliance seen in this film.

In any case, I got a little curious and wanted to brush up on my Darko trivia. Went to the IMDB. Surprised that I discovered that Darko had a bit part for Seth Rogen, his first onscreen role. Hung my head in shame that I didn’t know that or had simply forgotten. Hey, we’re all human. We all err, right?

Headed to the goofs section. My jaw hit the floor.

You gotta be kidding me.

Goof: Anachronisms: When Donnie leaves the theater to burn Jim Cunningham’s house down, we see that the films playing at the theater are The Evil Dead and The Last Temptaion of Christ. Although the film is set in 1988, The Last Temptaion of Christ wasn’t released till 1989

I had long since forgotten my old IMDB account so I promptly made a new one with my Facebook. I’m sorry. I feel it’s my civic duty. Even at three in the morning. How long has that been there?

We are only human, right?
And, lo, it’s also concerning that overrated piece of stuff the otherwise brilliant Scorcese did. Never thought in a million years I’d be the guy to set the record straight. Least the person can go back and use spell check. But here’s my correction, and I hope IMDB has the wisdom to let it stand-

When Donnie leaves the theater to burn Jim Cunningham’s house down, we see that the films playing at the theater are The Evil Dead and The Last Temptation of Christ.Some think the ‘Last Temptation Of Christ’ wasn’t released until 1989. The fact is the film was first given a limited release on August 12, 1988. It is possible that the film was re-released in early 1989 to drum up Oscar support. In addition, while the film would have been out of release theatrically by the events of ‘Darko’, the double bi ll is at a second run theater, or that ‘Evil Dead’ was booked for the Halloween season.
Type: Incorrectly regarded as goof

Even the IMDB lists the release of Last Temptation in August. On top of that, it’s The Last Temptation Of Christ. The protests that summer were even more remembered more than the movie itself. But it got me thinking about something. How many “goofs” people talk about on various films aren’t really goofs?
Your Friendly Big Brother hasn’t got the time to police all the pages, but I can’t help but post about this.

I don’t know why it hits me this way. It just ticked me off. I have nothing to do with the film other than being a film watcher. And this…”goof” ticked me off. Makes me think of all the rotten little things that nitwits on the net do. Like going into Spoilers R Us on Wikipedia. Seriously! But here comes another ballgame, calling out errors when there aren’t any. And all IMDB has to do is ONE QUICK FACT CHECK. But I’ll play optimist.

So maybe the writer of that entry also saw the film on Block, and said, “hey! This film takes place in 1988! Last Temptation was in 1989!” to which is equally as dull because it just takes ONE QUICK FACT CHECK to know for sure.

Maybe nobody cares. Life goes on.
But sorry whoever wrote that. I can’t let that slide.
Not as a Darko fan, not as a film fan, not as an aspiring writer-director. Just all the above.

And a concerned citizen.

christianbale I never thought it would come to this, but I really am disappointed with my film-geeker blogger pundits and peers overall in regards to The Dark Knight Rises. It’s not that they disliked the film, or, even if they did, they saw it and formed an opinion. All film is subjective. I understand that. But when my peers put together the top tens of 2012, the reason for having Rises lower than other films -specifically The Avengers- is due to Dark Knight Rises having too many plot holes. I found it rather odd. While The Avengers is pure popcorn fun and I’m not really knocking it in any way, many have noted the film has the most movie error mistakes of the past year. Some people noticed, some didn’t. Some….just don’t give a rip. But my point is…why dump on one film while giving the other a pass? To add to that, last summer I heard of all the “plot holes” in Dark Knight Rises and was confused more by those who made those charges. Didn’t they see the same film I did? Well, I bought the latest Batfilm on video and re-watched it a few times. Even did the Ultraviolet – Flixter thingie. Now, I think…I think…I know what went down. View full article »

dniezby_film_strip203While many of my film blogger-y type peers have already put out a Top Ten of 2012 and a Worst 10 of 2012, I chose to hold off mostly until the start of the New Year. I was debating whether or not to put it in posts up at Movie Snitch, but chances are I’ll probably do so…after I see Lincoln and Les Miserables.  So it may change. But it’s still a tough choice on a “final” top ten. There were a surprisingly abundance of great films this past year. I also believe that there were less rotten duds that hogged the spotlight away from the gems. View full article »

Resolutions for the new year:

- Keep writing.
– Get more work
– Keep the faith!
– Be a little more active on my personal blog.
(gears may change soon)

But there are also things which have come to attention on a personal level that some bridges are still burned for whatever reason. Most of these things should be water under the bridge. Most of these things, if not all of them, have already been forgiven. You are still, in spite of everything, a friend. You know who you are. So I leave 2012 with a scene from 1989’s ‘Dead Poets Society’.

I’ll be back soon with a closer look at one of the past year’s best/worst films. I’ll also share that post on Movie Snitch. There will be also an in-depth look at one of the past years biggest films in the week or so to come.

Happy 2013!

- DjS

Time For An Update…


It’s been awhile since I visited, much less posted on my own blogsite. I’ll be ramping things up shortly on this end.

Here’s what’s going on since:

One of my short scripts, Forced Donation, has been filmed. It is currently in post and will be finished soon. It filmed late last summer. The same folks behind this are also considering another short of mine ‘Mystery Of Mister Y‘ Matt Reilly and Kristian Steel are the first folks to interpret my brainwaves.

The Servant.
Things have changed a bit since the last post regarding this some time ago. While I am in contact with the previous party that was interested in this, another party has since stepped in – they even tracked me down - and they are doing most of the pitching at this time. As of now I cannot publicly say who they are due to contract (it’s not a ‘public announcement’) but I’m convinced this will happen someday in some sort of format.

The Clean Up Crew and Breaking Eggs are on the back burners for now. They are question marks.

Spring Comfort a short, has gotten some interest. I’m rewriting it to mold into the filmmaker’s needs. If it happens, it will be part of an anthology, and that’s all I can say about that at this time.

The Find
I can talk about this one a little bit. Hopefully, prep and pre-vis will happen in early 2013. The script originated as a entrant in a DVX userfest with an ‘Alien’ theme. The version at DVX is slightly different than the version on Simply Scripts – the latter more ‘Heavy Metal’ if you will. By ‘Heavy Metal’ I mean like a CG version of the ’81 cult film and/or graphic novel-fantasy magazine and not the Headbanger’s Ball. In any case, shortly after I posted the longer version on SS, someone from the Art Insitute Of Pheonix read it and made me an interesting offer. While payment is credit and a bag of mints, the script has a strong chance of being some sort of project over there. Cross your fingers on that.

When I’m not writing, I’m usually peer reviewing at Talentville or Simply Scripts. Or hanging out at Movie Snitch (formerly Reel Time)

-DJS

Source Code Ending Debate

Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Jeffery Wright in Duncan Jones' 'Source Code'

Source Code is one of the best reviewed films of 2011. There is a lot of twists, turns and drama in this sci-fi thriller where if it were just that alone, it would be fine. But director Duncan Jones (Moon) and writer Ben Ripley go an extra mile and make a decent drama out of it too. It is a must-see film if you haven’t seen it already.

It’s also a layered, non-linear film of sorts, that is so smart and sharp that it went over the heads of some viewers, as the film underperformed at the box-office. Some wonder if Jake Gylenhaal is leading actor material, since most of the films he’s been in tanked. I’m not one of those who buy into that, because I have yet to dislike his work in the films he has done since Donnie Darko. In fact, I think it’s a shame that the masses avoided ‘Moonlight Mile’ many years ago, and ‘Jarhead’ also deserved a better fate as well, and not because my fellow high school alum Ammar played the Iraqi tower guard either.

But I think folks avoided ‘Source Code’ due to early bird viewings in regards to the film’s last five minutes.

Beware all ye who read further! This discusses the ENDING of the film and SPOILERAGE is afoot!

About the ending. If it was me personally I would have chopped it right at the freeze frame moment as Goodwin decides not to pull the plug, but to reboot him and erase the memory. This way, in Steven’s mind, he did save the train and stop the bomber. He’s seen and expierienced death countless times (even the first time around, noticing the character’s “war condition” which may also play in mental truama) More importantly, he “talked” to his father for the last time. (Note: I found out this this was a bit of an Easter egg, as his father was voiced by Scott Bakula. That was a nice touch!) That’s not a real Hollywood ending, but since his mission was to identify the bad guy, and said bad guy was “caught” he still saved countless lives. If the film ended right there, it would be outstanding.

I didn’t outright hate the ending we are given, with one exception.  Because of the ending, the film blinks and becomes less than perfect. The insert shots of Chicago landmarks from earlier I feel are afterthoughts in an editing room to cover some butts. It doesn’t work for me, and I think it violates the story. Here’s why:

Steven has been in the machine for at least two months. When the train bombing happened, The Source Code project was put into effect.  Steven could only go in for eight minutes. When Stevens saves the passengers at the end, and the time unfreezes after eight minutes,it should be Sean Fentress – who we seen in the mirror and on the driver’s license. Instead we see Stevens.  While the message was sent BEFORE the eight minutes were up, it is quite alright for Goodwin to get the message in the changed reality. But the last bit of the message “is Source Code works and for her to tell him the truth when the next ‘mission’ happens.” is incorrect, given the premise of the movie and the ending itself by itself.

And that’s what’s bugging people. It’s implied that his conciousness is still in Fentress. Fentress should – should have his body back. It would have been neat if Fentress has “memories” of Stevens, and, I think, playing by the rulebook. THEN have the flashes of landmarks, meaning that those are Fentress’ memories, Not his.

So…when Stevens goes on another mission, his conciousness is transported into another person, right? Wrong! Because he’s in Fentress! The only other wild possibility is that “Fentress” is in Stevens body, but that’s not what Stevens says. In addition, Fentress’ spirit cannot be dead since he /Stevens/ saved the train. Hence, Fentress didn’t die.

But…there was that mention of being an alternate timeline, as flimsy as it is (in which case, Rutledge was also correct) and since in the “real” timeline, Rutledge stopped Goodwin from pulling the plug…

Either the ending is one big lie (the last “happy” memory of Stevens before his memory is stricken) or Ben Ripley and Duncan Jones bungled.

The filmmakers suggest that the ending is a new reality, and that everytime Stevens was sent back, a new one is created. But those alternate universes only had a span of eight minutes; the result is unavoidable. It can also be said that Stevens’ time span in “the real world” (his mind capsule) is only seconds from the time he comes back. Eight minutes are in the past, not the future. But there’s another problem with that phone call. It’s made that morning as Stevens has saved the train. Which can’t really happen, since he wasn’t sent back after he saved it
I would have been fine with it if it wasn’t for the line of ‘tell me the truth’. That one line, and the fact that Stevens is still in Fentress (did he just steal Fentress’ girl in one morning!?) does cast a big cloud over the film. Still, I can’t entirely condemn it. It gets people talking in debates. That is big accomplishment in today’s film-land.

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