Archives for posts with tag: Film Critique

Some years ago, I took a screenwriters’ workshop with Robert McKee, the author of STORY, an award-winning screenwriter himself, and famous for his workshops. The workshops started out in Los Angeles and were attended by not only screenwriters but actors, such as Julia Roberts.

At our workshop in San Francisco, “The English Patient” and “Memento” had been recently released and McKee spent an entire session in trashing those popular films. (In other sessions, we also analyzed “Chinatown” and, in particular, “Casablanca”, both of which McKee loves.)

He pointed out the logical flaws in “The English Patient” and when we went to “Memento”—McKee said incredulously, “You like that movie?”

I love all four movies and so did many of the participants in the workshop.

McKee thumped his chest with his fist and said, “I felt nothing.”

Fast forward to 2021. We, my husband Tom and I, decided to have a Christopher Nolan Movie Night, upon the release of “Tenet”, a time travel film, or living-backwards-in-time film.

I’m an expert at time travel and living-backwards in time. I extensively researched Summer of Love and The Gilded Age (both republished in ebook and print formats by Bast Books) and, a story, “Illyria, My Love” (republished in my second story collection, ODDITIES: 22 Stories, also by Bast Books).

So I was really looking forward to “Tenet”. The word “tenet” is the first word in Summer of Love, which leads with “Tenets of the Grandmother Principle”.

Nolan’s style, right from the start, is to set up a complex plot—sometimes overly complex—and cast the film with an ensemble of characters who move through the subplots. Nolan intercuts the subplots faster and faster leading toward the climax.

This intercutting style makes some subplots increasing incomprehensible but, more than that, makes the characters cardboard and unsympathetic.

Tenet” starts with a super-charged, anxiety-producing, super-violent opening and slows from there. The film introduces the idea of “inverted entropy” and proposes people in the future want to destroy the past.

THIS IS NONSENSE. If future people destroyed the past, they wouldn’t exist in the first place to do the deed. That is elementary time-travel science. So right away, I totally disagree with Nolan’s premise.

The film scrolls with subplot after subplot (you can check the details of the plot on Wikipedia—I’m not going to reprise it here) with increasingly unsympathetic characters.

Curiously, for such a long film, the plot and subplots run out of steam in the last half an hour. A few less bombs exploding backwards in time and bit more plot would have been in order.

I was disappointed in “Tenet”. The international Box Office didn’t do well, not earning out the $200 million budget, even considering the Plague.

Only recommended for hardcore C. Nolan fans and hardcore science fiction fans.

Next up, “Inception.” We saw the film when it was first released and I remember liking it very much. The premise is interesting—“extractors” perform corporate espionage using technology to infiltrate their targets’ subconscious and extract information through a shared dream world.

This resembles my concept of “telelinking” into a “telespace” in my first novel “Arachne”, the second novel “Cyberweb”, and the upcoming third and final novel, “Spyder.” Like in Nolan’s film—before the film—you need technical equipment to achieve the mind-meld.

So the premise “Inception” is relatable and the concept of dreaming is common to everyone. There are two sympathetic subplots—the extractor’s wife’s suicide due to the illusion of shared dreaming and the son’s bedside watch over his dying industrialist father. Also, the extractor’s alienation from his children, which gets resolved.

Then Nolan sends an increasingly unsympathetic ensemble cast off into subplot after subplot, intercutting the subplots faster and faster until the film becomes wearisome. (Again, you can check the full film synopsis on Wikipedia.)

I liked “Inception” less than the first time.

Recommended for C. Nolan fans and fans of interesting ideas.

Finally, “Memento”. We saw the film also when it first released. Chris Nolan’s brother wrote the screenplay, C. Nolan directed it, the film was made for a cool $5 million. No special effects, just story.

As usual, there is a complicated plot—two subplots, actually, one going forward in time, the second backward in time. There is crime and mystery going back and forth. (Once again, you can read the synopsis of the film on Wikipedia.)

I’d disagree with Robert McKee on this one—there is a very relatable premise—due to an accident, a man can’t remember more than the ten previous minutes of his life. This plays into everyone’s fear of dementia.

That the camera stays for the two intersecting subplots on the main character, played by a Guy Pearce in a personable, nuanced, humorous performance, makes this film very enjoyable—if a little confusing at times.

Of all three C. Nolan films reviewed above, this is the best.

Recommended for anyone who likes a complex cerebral film.

So there you have it, my friends. Enjoy your movie night!

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Our last Movie Night, in May, was a Girls’ Power Night. We loved the first Wonder Woman movie and were eager to see “Wonder Woman 1984”. About “Birds of Prey” and “Charlie’s Angels”, I’d heard mostly good things on Facebook so we were eager to see those, too. A good movie night was had by all, with some disappointment along the way.

The first Wonder Woman was helmed by writer-director Patty Jenkins and WW84 was, too. The first WW was fresh and action-packed with the gorgeous Gal Gadot.

This time Patty Jenkins is listed first as the screenwriter, on the next line Geoff Johns, and on the next line Dave Callaham, joined by “&”. When you have a screen collaboration by two (or more) writers, you will see the names on one line joined by an “and”. The separate lines for the names and the “&” means the subsequent writers added enough, or changed the first script enough, to warrant screen credit.

In other words, there were three iterations of the screenplay. Jenkins should have hired a fourth writer, a strict script doctor, for a fourth iteration to kill some of her darlings.

Because after the dynamic opening—a past-history sequence showing Diana in a competition as a child, and a present sequence, showing glimpses of Wonder Woman taking care of a present-day crisis—the film slows to a crawl (like “Tenet” in my previous film review).

As usual, you can read the whole plot on Wikipedia—I won’t reprise it here—but the problem is too many subplots. Unconvincing subplots. The main premise focuses on the Dreamstone, an ancient artifact with the power to grant one person one wish. Many critics have pointed out this is a cliché, but I was willing to consider the premise. (A missed opportunity: when Maxwell steals the Dreamstone, there is a large ring that once held the stone with writing inside. WW should have slipped on the ring as a bracelet and gotten more powers. That didn’t happen.)

Sadly, the twists and turns of the premise turn out to be not so twisty. Diana (WW) wishes for a deceased lover. The romance premise keeps her in civilian clothes and passive for most of the movie. And presents one controversial problem—her dead lover reincarnates into a presently living man. Some critics point out that the scene of Diana having sex with her dead lover is rape of the living man. That doesn’t bother me so much (sorry, guys) as the trope of body-switching. I wish it had been done better.

The subplot of the “cheetah woman” left me queasy.

Tom said he didn’t like seeing Diana cry or Wonder Woman beaten up.

The scenes of the failed entrepreneur, Maxwell, wanting his young son’s love were unconvincing. The son doesn’t resemble Maxwell—with the mother lacking, a serious casting mistake.

We (correctly) guessed the ending about half an hour to forty-five minutes before the film finished. I shouted at the screen, “Get on with it! Don’t drag it out!” The director didn’t get on with it, she dragged it out. Sigh.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, WW84 “underperformed” in the international BO, even considering the pandemic. THR also reports that a third WW movie is underway. Let’s hope Patty Jenkins hires that script doctor this time.

Recommended only for fans of Wonder Woman. The nice homage to a Wonder Woman Past midway through the credits was a nice touch.

Next up, “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) with Margot Robbie as the title character showing off a zany side of her acting that didn’t manifest in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”.

The film is based on a cartoon and, probably appropriately, is cartoonish, gangsterish, and super-violent. As usual, you can look up the full plot on Wikipedia. Midway through the plot, though, the story gets serious and involves some bonding friendship, much to the film’s credit. The story pretty much stays focused on the main plot.

The “Birds of Prey” vigilante group of kick-ass women is formed at the very end, opening the way to a sequel.

Some critics loved it, some hated it. The film underperformed at the international BO, not earning back its budget.

Recommended only for fans of super-violent cartoon movies. We sort of liked it.

Last up, “Charlie’s Angels” (2019). This is another vigilante women’s group pioneered on television in the late Sixties and Seventies.

In this iteration, the three leads are very appealing and the main thriller plot stays on focus. The film has described as an “action-comedy”.

As usual, you can read the entire plot on Wikipedia. I won’t reprise it here.

There is plenty of female braininess, female physical power, and female bonding.

There is even a huge surprise twist at the end, which WW84 and Birds of Prey lacked.

Of the three films, this was the best.

Recommended for fans of female-centered, action films.

So there you have it, my friends. An enjoyable Movie Night was had by all.

Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!
Join my other patrons on my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206.
Leave a tip to the tip jar at PayPal to http://paypal.me/lisamasonthewriter.
My second collection, ODDITIES: 22 Stories, is on Kindle worldwide including in the US, in the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, in the Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, India, and Japan.
ODDITIES: 22 Stories is in Print as a beautiful trade paperback in the US, in the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan. New in
AustraliaCHROME is in U.S. print as a beautiful trade paperback. Also in U.K. print, in German print, in French print, in Spanish print, in Italian print, in Japanese print and NEW! in Australia.. The ebook is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, India Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, and Mexico Kindle.
Find the Print book of SUMMER OF LOVE in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and New In Print in . New in Print inAustralia The ebook is on US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

All Is True” has a glacierly slow beginning but a painterly cinematography of Stratford-on-Avon, an idyllic village far from London. This was William Shakespeare’s home town and where he married, raised a family, and built a substantial brick-and-stone house on a lovely plot of land. He was also seldom at home, having gone off to London, written a body of work—plays and sonnets—praised in his own time as the greatest poetry ever written, earned good money from his genius, and managed the complex business of the Globe Theater where his plays were performed.
When a stage prop malfunctioned and burned the Globe Theater to the ground, Shakespeare, now middle-aged verging on old, returned to Stratford-on-Avon, to his family and house, and never wrote again.
(Plot spoiler: EVERYone back home is pissed off at WS when he went off to London and became a famous playwright.)
This film tells of that time and is a sad revelation of Shakespeare’s last years, of the tragedies and scandals which befell his family and his confrontation of them.
There are points of wit, as you would expect of a film about Shakespeare. A fan, a young man, approaches WS as he is laboriously digging a garden, and asks him about writing. WS snaps, “You become a writer by writing.” But the fan insists, where do your ideas come from? WS replies from his imagination. When the fan persists, WS says, “Cherrio. Cherrio.” And in a conversation with a friend, WS says, “I never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
There’s even a ghost story, as appropriate for Shakespeare.
If you enjoy an intimate character study, with tear-jerkers along the way, and an ultimately redemptive ending, “All Is True” is for you.
A bonus feature of getting the DVD: This is a Sony Classic Picture, and half a dozen interesting small films are pitched in the preview: “Stan and Ollie”, which husband Tom wanted to see and I didn’t so much (I’ve never cared for old-timey black-and-white slapstick), but the preview made me laugh, so that’s a Go. Films about the first all-women crew to sail a sailboat around the world in a competition, a film about Oscar Wilde, a film about underground artists in Nazi Germany, and more. I wrote the titles down for future reference.
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206  and help support me after the Attack. I’ve just posted “Arachne”, my FIRST story published in OMNI magazine, the premiere fiction venue at the time. Upcoming in a few days, a blog about how I got my first story published in OMNI, inspiration, influences, and research, plus the October Writing Tip, how to expand a novelette into a novel.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

The Critic’s Corner
Review of Aquaman
Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as the title character, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nicole Kidman in supporting roles. The film premiered in 2018, and we saw it at home in Late Spring, 2019.
This is yet another film based on yet another lucrative DC Comics universe. The outsized eponymous character, played by the amazing Jason Momoa, is a spin-off of a previous Avengers multicharacter universe. Apparently Aquaman made such an impression on the fans (and on the movie producers) in his brief appearance and role in that Avengers film that he got to make his own showcase.
First of all, the underwater scenery is so original (and what other comics take place mostly underwater?) and so dazzling that the visuals of the film nearly overwhelmed me. Seahorses as warrior horses, jellyfish, sharks, darting schools of colorful fish, even sea dragons. Wow. Yes, the visuals were overwhelming to this viewer.
Some overwhelming complex films I want to see right away a second time before I have to return the DVD to Netflix, or buy the film for our collection to see again sometime in the not-so-distant future.
But….
For my reservations and the rest of my Review of Aquaman, join me on my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206.
Donate from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!