Who won a wild weekend? Was it Altered Carbon, Solo, Cloverfield, Avengers, Jurassic World, an unknown Swedish movie? The Super Bowl itself? Mish-Mash Monday has the answer and so much more!
I have a request to anyone who wants to join the “rip off Blade Runner universe” movement.
It’s done. It’s over. It’s 30 years ago. The aesthetic is tired. From the overpriced sequel to Ghost in the Shell to Altered Carbon to Mute. Stop.
First of all, it’s proven that the audience for this stuff is niche. I’ve seen more Bronies than Bladers. But more importantly, writers need to come up with their own shit! Duncan Jones’s Mute script (the next in line of the Blade Runner ripoffs) is terrible. It’s beyond awful. It makes no sense. There’s no story. It only exists so that Jones can play in his ripped-off version of the Blade Runner universe. Stop people. It’s over. Time to come up with something other than floating cars and giant TV ads on the sides of buildings with Japanese women. It’s over.
I’m so glad I got that out of my system.
Speaking of originality, I saw a movie this weekend I’m still trying to process. It’s called “The Square.” I sat down expecting, as I usually do when I’m about to watch a movie, something that made sense. But The Square had no intention of adhering to logic. I’ve never seen a movie like this. David Lynch’d walk out of this one scratching his head. It seemed to be written via a series of individualized sequences linked together by nothing other than they involved the same characters.
The movie, which takes place in the art world, starts out with a great scene. A man is leaving the subway with dozens of other people, and all of a sudden this woman comes running towards him, screaming. “Help! Help! He’s after me! Hellllp!” The man, a curator at a museum, is thrown into the role of protector. The fleeing woman leaps behind him while another man joins him as the crazed man approaches. They prepare for battle. The chaser barrels up, grabs our hero, then says, “Eh, never mind,” then walks away.
What’s so cool about this scene is the way it’s shot. We never cut away from the curator. We hear the crazed guy coming, but we can’t see him. We only see our guy preparing, the woman grabbing him from behind, screaming for help. In a Hollywood movie, we’d be cutting through 20 different angles as he got closer and closer. But staying with the man made the scene so much more harrowing.
The woman thanks him afterwards. Our hero high-fives the other guy who helped, then everyone goes their separate ways. A minute later, hopped up on adrenaline, our hero reaches into his pocket, only to realize that his wallet and phone are gone. He was scammed. It was such an unexpected development, I thought, “This is the way to start a movie! I’m in.”
The movie then cuts to the museum, a place that curates only the most cutting edge contemporary art. One of the exhibits is a giant TV screen with a video on loop of a 50 year old muscled man with bad teeth growling into the camera. To say it’s unsettling is an understatement.
This is followed by a 7 minute staff meeting that is shot so realistically and deals with details so mundane, you wonder if it was put in the movie by accident. Soon after, we get another endless scene, this time an interview with a famous artist. The scene focuses on a man in the audience with Tourette’s Syndrome who keeps screaming out horrible things, like “Show us your cunt” to the female interviewer. You get the sense that maybe this is an exhibit? Performance art? But the movie never lets on. It’s up to the viewer to decide.
Afterwards, a woman (played by Elizabeth Moss of The Handmaiden’s Tale) mistakes the curator for the artist in the interview, and, in an attempt to endear herself, mocks the event, “Show us your cunt!” she belts at him. The curator, who has no idea what she’s talking about because he wasn’t at the interview, mistakes it for a come-on. He then goes to her place and sleeps with her, only to find out she lives with an orangutan. Yes, you read that right. She lives with a giant monkey. You can’t make this stuff up.
Usually I HATE these movies where the script is all over the place. But the movie is shot so beautifully, so uniquely, and the events are so unexpected, it’s impossible to look away. If you’re tired of watching the same old stuff and need a movie that surprises you, by golly I’ve found it. Check out The Square and report back. I’m curious to see what you think.
I can’t do a Mish-Mash Monday without an update on The Last Jedi. The movie’s box office take has fallen even quicker than expected in recent weeks. Three weeks ago, a lot of box office experts had the film hitting $670 million. I thought it’d get to $630. It’s middling now at $615, making a paltry 2 million bucks over the weekend.
It’s finally safe to say that the majority of people who saw this film hated it. I know there are people out there who genuinely like the film. But they’re in the vast minority. More and more people are being honest with themselves and admitting the truth. This is a bad script on almost every level – pacing, plotting, characters, choices. And hey, if you’re still trying to convince yourself you liked it, I understand. I convinced myself I liked The Phantom Menace for a full year after it was released.
What’s odd about the whole Last Jedi thing is the Riansplaining Tour. I know Rian Johnson is just answering questions people ask him. But I’ve never seen a director spend this much time defending his movie. Ever. Tell me one director who’s ever done this. Some people didn’t like The Force Awakens. I think JJ Abrams did, maybe, two interviews responding to the criticism? Rian Johnson has done like 50.
For the purpose of sites like these, these explanations give us a rare glimpse into the screenwriting process of major franchises. It also highlights a rarely talked about trend that can be dangerous in screenwriting – using the tools of the craft to talk yourself into bad ideas.
I discussed this the other day, actually – this notion of tools. And how tools are there to help you. But they only work when used in conjunction with your gut. In a recent Collider Interview, Rian rehashed why he made the now infamous choice for Rey’s parents to be nobodies. This is what he said:
It was more a dramatic decision of ‘What is the toughest thing she could hear about her parents? What is the thing for her and for us what will make her have to stand on her own two feet and will make things the hardest for her?’ Because she’s the hero and that’s her job—to have things be the hardest for her.
This is a well-known screenwriting tool – making things as hard as possible on your character. But used in isolation, it can lead to some seriously bad choices. For example, if I wanted to “make things as hard as possible” on the hero of my latest screenplay, Lou, I could kill off his entire family. If critics who disliked the choice said, “Don’t you think that was a bit harsh? Killing off his entire family?” “No,” I’d say. “Because in storytelling, you want to make things as hard as possible on your hero. And you have to agree this made things hard on Lou, right?”
Uhhhh…but…well… I guess?
The missing element here is gut. While the tool is used to build the choice. It’s your gut that must decide if the choice is correct. If something in your gut tells you it doesn’t feel right? That means it’s the wrong choice. Rey’s parents being nobodies doesn’t FEEL right for a Star Wars film, regardless of whether the tool said the choice should work. And that’s the component Rian Johnson forgot to apply. Just remember, guys, a tool is something that builds a possibility. But ultimately it’s up to you to decide if the choice feels correct.
Moving on to the Super Bowl spots. I think it’s pretty clear who won the night. It’s Cloverfield, baby. For those who didn’t hear, not only did Netflix debut the first trailer for the film during the Super Bowl, they’re releasing the film TONIGHT! SAY WHAT!!??? First off, kudos to Netflix for continuing to change the game. They said, “What can we do that nobody else can?” What they can do is debut a movie whenever they want. They don’t have to send it to 10000 theaters. That’s what good screenwriters do. They ask, “What can I do with my concept that nobody else can do with theirs? What’s unique about my story and how can I exploit that?” Nobody has EVER DONE THIS BEFORE. Released a major movie trailer and then had it come out ON THE SAME DAY!!! Kudos to JJ for continuing to surprise us. Kudos to the marketing team for thinking up this clever stunt. When is a movie ever going to be in more demand than right after its Super Bowl commercial? Genius.
Sadly, not everyone hit a home run. I’m going to wait to talk about Solo since they’re releasing the new trailer tomorrow morning (I’ll add my thoughts to the end of this article when it debuts). Someone forgot to tell the people at Avengers Headquarters that a trailer is more than 5 close-ups and the words, “May 8th.” The Jurassic Park trailer was so bland. Rule number 1 for a sequel trailer. Show us what’s different this time around. They’re hoping that adding a girl’s bedroom will be different enough to bring in crazy box office? Yeah, good luck with that. Skyscraper, a script I reviewed here on the site, did nothing to improve my thoughts on the project. But The Rock is The Rock so maybe that’s all that matters. Mission Impossible looked pretty good but it’s the same problem. What’s different this time around? Tom Cruise broke his foot?
I’m stoked for the Stephen King Universe on Hulu. I’ve been DYING for a good TV show. This one highlights Shawshank AND has Pennywise in it? The exact same actor as in It? Uhhh… dial me up and call me Sally. This looks tremendous. I’m torn on Annihilation. It looks unique. It’s directed by Alex Garland, who wrote and directed one of my favorite scripts of 2015, Ex Machina. But I’ve started and stopped reading the book 5 times now. I can’t get through it. There’s something about it that doesn’t work. Paramount trying (and failing) to sell it off doesn’t bode well either. I’m actually shocked they’d pay for a Super Bowl spot. Usually when studios are unsure about a movie, they give it a smaller marketing campaign, not a bigger one. I’m hoping this is good.
I’ll be back when the Solo trailer debuts. The word on the street is that Alden Ehrenreich either can’t act, is unconvincing as Han Solo, or both. Some people who claimed to see footage have even floated the rumor that they’re considering dubbing him with a different actor. I doubt that’s true but, hey, it would stick with Star Wars tradition, right? So that’s what I’ll be looking for in the trailer – Han speaking. Because based on the small sampling of footage in the Super Bowl, the movie looks pretty cool. Almost to the point where you’re like, “What’s the big worry?” The big worry is a movie called “Solo” where the actor playing Han Solo is the worst part of the movie. Nothing else matters unless they get that right. I’m praying they do!
****Solo Trailer Reaction – Coming Soon!****
It’s here! The full Solo trailer. So what do I think?? I think it looks good! I tried to watch the trailer through the eyes of someone who had no idea about the film’s troubled production. As a trailer, all by itself, was it good? And I’d say the answer is a resounding yes. You’ve got lots of action. There’s a distinct look to this thing. There are some really cool aliens (who’s that badass masked drifter dude?). Han originally trying to work for the Empire. Even Woody Harrelson looks cool.
The question mark has always been Alden Ehrenreich. And while I don’t think he blows anyone away in this trailer, he doesn’t seem nearly as bad as rumors have suggested. One thing to keep in mind here is that Han Solo is not “Han Solo” in this movie yet. He wasn’t always a carefree wisecracking shit-grinning rogue. I think they were hoping to do three of these Solo movies, and one of the ideas was to show how Han got to that place. Which would mean starting from another place – one that was more serious. If you’re younger and more idealistic, your personality is going to be different. I’m guessing that’s what’s going on here. I’m not saying that it’s going to work. But that was probably their thought-process.
If we’re ranking pre-interest based on trailers for Star Wars films, I put this behind Force Awakens, but definitely ahead of Last Jedi and Rogue One. Actually, this feels like the movie Rogue One should’ve been. We were told with that film we were getting all these cool rogue Star Wars underbelly characters. Instead we got a bunch of lame boring losers. Solo seems intent on correcting this. These characters look more colorful (literally!) and more fun. By the way, is that Maz Kanata at 36 seconds in??
As Han would say, though, we’re not in the clear yet, kid. This is supposed to be the first “full” trailer and the title card arrives at 1:06. That seems early. Like they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill an entire trailer. Then again, I think they’re still shooting this thing. They literally might not have enough footage! I’m intrigued, though. I think this movie could be cool. Let’s hope so for the sake of this franchise! It has to win back fans after Last Jedi.