Here’s a basic screenwriting lesson for everyone: Screenwriters are taught that their central character must have an internal as well as external conflict. This means that in addition to whatever struggle they are facing that makes up the plot of the movie, they also should have some sort of struggle of the heart or mind to overcome. I bring this up in regard to “Draft Day” because while I found the external struggle absolutely riveting, it made the internal struggles seem all the more distracting.
“Draft Day” stars Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver, the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. He has to prove himself to the team’s owner (Frank Langella) or he’ll be fired, as well as avoid the distraction of the team’s prissy new head coach (Denis Leary). In the hours leading up to the draft, phone calls are made to various other teams in the league, deals are worked and re-worked, and young NFL hopefuls wait on pins and needles. The script by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph sizzles, and Ivan Reitman is back in top form directing some truly electrifying and suspenseful scenes. When the film focuses on Weaver, the players, and all of the behind the scenes goings on of the NFL draft, “Draft Day”is sensational.
Loosely based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 1866 novel "Crime And Punishment," "Norte, The End Of History" tells three intersecting stories. A young father is falsely accused of murder and imprisoned, the real murderer grapples with his conscience, and the family of the prisoner struggles to adjust to life without him.
Filipino writer/director Lav Diaz places high values on patience, observation and, ultimately, time. He seems utterly disinterested in the commonplace vernacular that produces films 90 to 120 minutes long. Many movies introduce all their characters and are circling back to them again in the time Diaz uses holding a single static shot. So, mindful, purposeful decisions cause "Norte, The End Of History" to clock in at just over four hours.
At first glance, screenwriter/director Daniel Schechter's ("Supporting Characters" ) "Life Of Crime" seems like an exciting, fun movie version of the late Miami-phile Elmore Leonard's novel "The Switch." The story of a semi-botched kidnapping of a rich land developer's wife by ragtag shysters, starring Tim Robbins, Jennifer Aniston, and an interesting supporting cast is worthy of a closer look. Isn't it?
It wouldn't be accurate or fair to say that the complete works of Elmore Leonard are the rightful territory of only one filmmaker, but if forced (at gunpoint, in the trunk of a 1978 Oldsmobile 98) to choose only one, the name would be Quentin Tarantino. "Jackie Brown" (1997) is not only one of the best adaptations of Leonard's work, but among the five best films by the lauded director. So, how do Schechter and "Life Of Crime" stack up?
Like the character she portrays in "May In The Summer," writer/director/star Cherien Dabis ("Amreeka" ) is an American of Palestinian/Jordanian descent. May (Dabis) is in Jordan for her wedding to Ziad, a New York Muslim. She and her two sisters, who also flew in from the U.S. for the wedding, were raised Christian, by an American father and a born-again Jordanian mother who objects strongly to her daughter marrying "outside her religion."
So, Mother Nadine (Hiam Abbas, "Munich" ) declares she will boycott the wedding. Ziad (Alexander Siddig, television's "24"), meanwhile, has decided to make a grand entrance by staying in New York until the last minute to "finish up some work." This gives Nadine plenty of time to treat her daughter like a dog meant for "pure" breeding.
Espionage thrillers are all about pace: Too fast and the audience can’t keep up, too slow and the intrigue is reduced to a bore. “The November Man” is the latter. Numerous watch-checking slow moments, tedious action and loose ends inhibit the otherwise smart story from really taking off. This is the epitome of a “meh” movie, fittingly coming at the end of a distinctly “meh” summer.
Pierce Brosnan stars as Peter, an ex-CIA operative trying to enjoy his retirement in Switzerland. His old handler Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) pays him a visit to say Peter’s former girlfriend Natalia (Mediha Musliovic) has dirt on an aspiring Russian political candidate named Federov (Lazar Ristovski), and that the operation is so hush-hush only Peter can get Natalia out of Russia safely.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad. After their memorable hook ups in “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates,” Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore see if lightning can strike a third time with “Blended.” It doesn’t.
In “Blended” Sandler stars as Jim, the manager of a Dick’s Sporting Goods store and recently widowed father of three girls. Barrymore plays Lauren, a woman with a dead beat ex (Joel McHale) and two boys of her own. After an awful first date at a Hooters, fate conspires to have them run into each other. The first time is at a pharmacy store where they give each other advice on how to shop for the opposite sex. Of course, the store has a cashier who is way more talkative and nosy than any cashier would be in real life. Trust me, I worked at a CVS in high school—cashiers want to ring you out and send you happily on your way. Conversations about tampon size are not in the cards. But what would a hack comedy script be without the embarrassing pharmacy store scene? At least they went with tampons. They could have gone with condoms, which is even more painfully cliché.
-“We’re on on a Monday night in August…which means that the Emmy’s are about to be cancelled.”
-Seth Meyers’ opening joke just about accurately sums up the night.
-“This will also be the final season of ‘Glee,’ ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and just about every show premiering this fall.” Those who read my Fall preview know this is probably not far from the truth.
-“TV is a booty call” joke…lame.
-Ty Burrell wins second Emmy for “Modern Family.” Prepared speech by non-nominated “Modern Family” kids unworthy of his humor.
-Gee, do you think Zooey Deschanel wanted Louis C.K. to win? Calm down, there, awkward.
Last week I outlined the slew of new shows coming to ABC and CBS and, overall, it was a ho-hum offering of all things we have seen before: More political, medical, and crime dramas and a couple stale comedies. Looking at the roster for NBC and Fox, we can see the trends continuing. Failed attempts at high concept shows like “Terra Nova,” “FlashForward,” and “Revolution” seems to have scared studio heads away from trying something new and exciting.
“Utopia” (Premieres Sunday, Sept. 7 at 8:00)
Fifteen contestants are thrown together in the wilderness with the purpose of creating their own community. Will they decide on leadership – dictatorship or democracy? Will they grow their food or hunt? The series will follow the contestants for a full year and document the rise of their new community.