Blog Archives

Welcome to Me movie review

Kristen Wiig stars in Welcome to Me, a movie that can’t quite decide if it’s a comedy, a drama or both.   While I wouldn’t hit this flick with the dramedy tag, I can’t say it’s a bad movie, either, despite the discrepancy.  It’s not great – but it probably should have been. Read the rest of this entry

The Love Letter (1998) movie review

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of The Lake House, the 2006 film about time travelling letters that reunited Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock for the first time since Speed.  Before everyone was bored to tears by this star-studded romance through time, there was The Love Letter, a Hallmark TV movie that has nearly the same plot and rather than being stupid, it’s just kinda insane.  Read the rest of this entry

American Buffalo movie review

F@ck you!  This is a review of American Buffalo, you piece of shiz! I know about people, okay, I know about FRIENDSHIP – I understand relationships, and movies, and how stage plays translate to film, God D@mn it!  David Mamet! And f@ck you if you don’t like it because MAMET, MOTHER F@CKER!  Who the hell are you to tell me how to review American Buffalo?  You go straight to hell!  Read the rest of this entry

The Deep Blue Sea (movie review)

One does not watch The Deep Blue Sea but rather, the viewer collides with it – it’s like a visual and auditory game of bumper cars. Read the rest of this entry

Stuck in Love movie review

What can I say about Stuck in Love? Here’s some rambling thoughts: It features great performances from its cast, it has quality cinematography (although not what I would call a visually memorable film, but there’s some good stuff in there at the beach and the reflection on a car windshield, etc) and the movie movies at a decent pace… It’s a fine story but I’m not sure I buy the ending (or much of the plot between Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly), but it’s a satisfying enough movie. Perhaps it would have been better to focus on one of the love stories rather than trying to make all three the center of the film… the thing is, none of them are really strong enough on their own but when placed all together in the same film, they almost distract from each other.The second act turn doesn’t come out of nowhere, but… that’s not what I thought was going to happen, that’s for sure, so I can’t say that the movie is especially well written, but it’s not badly underwritten, either. I wouldn’t say this is a melodrama, but it’s dangerously close and yet somehow still pulls it off.

Anyway, Stuck in Love is a decent film and worth a look. It’s currently streaming on Netflix, so this is a low effort watch, too!

The Good Wife (TV Review)

To be fair, the  following is not an overall review of the CBS drama The Good Wife or a review of any specific episode – I just wanted to be clear in the post title that I am in fact talking about the TV show and the 1987 film of the same name.

the-good-wife-tv-showI ended up on the CBS website yesterday and saw the above image for The Good Wife, a show that I know nothing about.  From this photo, I can infer that this woman is the titular character and she’s good at… what exactly?  Well, I can tell you what it looks like she’s good at from this picture!  Let’s just say that at Christmas, she thinks it’s better to receive – nes pa?

The Social Network movie review

Tom from MySpace complains, “Where’s my effing movie?!?”

If The Social Network is anything, it’s a showcase for performance.  Outside of Jesse Eisenberg, I hadn’t really seen any of the peeps in this movie do anything, but everybody delivers a great performance:  Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Erica Albright…  very impressive cast.  The dialogue was really snappy, but then, what else would you expect form Aaron Sorkin?

It’s hard to know what to say about this movie – it’s a really good movie, that much is clear – and when a movie is based on fact and isn’t necessarily a work of fiction, this can make it difficult to create the sort of drama that I expect in terms of an overall arc.

spoiler alert

 

 

The movie doesn’t offer much in the way of a conclusion… consider:  The movie is a story about Mark Zuckerberg, and we meet him when his girlfriend is breaking up with him, so he events a website that ranks girls against each other (and farm animals?) and everyone is mad at him.  Seems like he’s in a bad situation.  Then he meets Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (twins played by Armie Hammer – everybody who made this happen did a great job, by the way) who were impressed by Zuckerberg’s website and want him to program their idea for a social networking site…  I think it’s called Harvard Connection or something like that.  Zuckerberg’s character asks them what makes this different than MySpace or Friendster or any of it’s competitors (which I think is a great point about Facebook itself, but I’ll get back to that later), and the idea is exclusivity – you must have a Harvard email address to join.  Zuckerberg agrees to create the site, but doesn’t.  He spends his time creating his own social networking site and sends the Winklevosses (Winklevi?) endless emails that he’s too busy to meet with them to work on their site.  Finally, when he is inspired to add a relationship status feature, he puts his own site, TheFacebook.com live.  Obviously, the Winklevosses find out about TheFacebook when it’s all the rage on Harvard’s campus and in the student newspaper (The Crimson) and they are mad and send a cease and desist letter, which  Zuckerberg ignores and Eduardo freaks out, and things seem bad…

(I just need to stop for a moment and talk about how adding the relationship status is supposed to be an epiphany moment for Mark’s character – it’s kind of silly.  Like ‘relationship status’ is one of the great ideas of the twenty-first century or something.)

I have no intention of summarizing the entire movie, but what I’m trying to say here (admittedly, I’m not doing a good job) is that the characters always seem to be a bad place.  As I mentioned in my drama post, the main character should have a conflict that drives the story and introduces all of the characters (act 1), he gets into the worst possible situation (act 2) and then he gets out (act 3).  The problem is, the Zuckerburg character never really gets out of his bad situation – at least not in a satisfying way.  Let’s break it down:

  • ACT 1:  Mark’s girlfriend breaks up with him and he creates Facebook, but the movie is moving back and forth through time, so we’re all seeing the deliberations of the big law suit – so it’s also sort of act 2.
  • ACT 2: Facebook is blowing up into a phenomenon on college campuses, but Sean Parker gets arrested and embarrasses the company, and embarrassing the company seems to be something that Mark desperately wants to avoid.
  • ACT 3:  Some text books comes up on the screen and tells the results of the lawsuit.  Mark sends a friend request to the girl that dumped him at the beginning of the movie and waits to see if she accepts it.

This isn’t what I’d call a satisfying third act for the audience, but that’s how the movie ends.  Now if this is how the story really goes, the film makers are constrained by the real life narrative, and that’s cool.  In any case, it’s still an OK movie:  good dialogue, better performances,  just not a great ending…. OK, maybe it’s a little pretentious, but it’s worth a watch.

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Drama: Understanding the Three Act Formula

drama masksI’ve created a few companion posts to go along with my reviews:  a rating system and a spoiler alert warning.  Now, I’m ready to take it a step further and explain what I mean when I reference Act 1, Act 2 or Act 3 in a review.

When I say ‘drama,’ I’m not just referring to a specific genre; all stories have drama.  When I reference an ‘Act,’ I understand your mind may immediately jump to theater, but the three act system of story structure is relevant to all mediums.  In the simplest terms, Act 1 is the beginning, Act 2 is the middle and Act 3 is the end.  Each act has to accomplish specific goals:

batman beginsACT 1: you meet all of the characters and learn about the central conflict that drives the story.
EXAMPLE:  In Batman Begins, we meet Bruce Wayne, Rachel Dawes, Alfred Pennyworth and other characters and learn about the central conflict that drives the movie:  Bruce’s parents were murdered in front of him when he was a child.  To reconcile this conflict, Bruce becomes Batman and begins working on bringing justice to Gotham City’s criminal underworld.

ACT 2: the main character(s) is thrust into the worst possible situation they could be in.
EXAMPLE:  Batman Begins – Bruce’s house is burned down, all the criminals break out of jail and Ra’s al Ghul is going to release his fear toxin on Gotham City.

ACT 3: the main character gets out of the horrible situation.
EXAMPLE:  Batman Begins – Batman beats Ra’s al Ghul and is confident that they’ll pick up the remaining criminals still at large.  Bruce begins rebuilding his house.

It’s that simple:  conflict, conflict inside of conflict, resolution.  Let’s try it again, but this time with a comedy:

The 40 Year Old Virgin

the 40 year old virginACT 1:  Andy is a lonely and in some ways juvenile man and at 40, has never had sex.  To address this conflict, Andy  starts dating and meets Trish, who he quickly falls for.  Although Andy hides his virginity from Trish, they decide to wait 30 dates before having sex.

ACT 2:  Trish and Andy fight when Trish attempts to initiate sex and Andy is still afraid and hasn’t told her he’s a virgin.  When she arrives at his apartment, she finds a box filled with pornography that she assumes is Andy’s property and Trish is angrier still and storms out.

ACT 3:  Andy reveals to Trish that he’s a virgin and not some pornographic crazed psycho killer.  Andy and Trish get married and have sex, ending Andy’s virginity.

A good story should have characters that grow and change throughout the story.  As the conflict resolves, they’re not the people they were when the story began; this is because what happened in Act 2 was so stressing that they had to react to it in Act 3, hence they come out different on the other side.

Hope this was helpful!

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