Diana Vacc sees ‘Beaches’

Why in the name of creativity are these women smiling?

by Diana Vaccarelli

No spoilers here because it’s already spoiled!

Last month Lifetime premiered yet another remake Beaches.  As a feature film, Beaches was a moving drama following two young friends and their relationship throughout the years. Unfortunately, the only thing moving in this television film was my gag reflex.     

THE GOOD:

  • Nia Long gave a gut wrenching performance as the introverted Hillary Whitney. This performance is heartfelt and breathtaking.  I felt sympathy for her and was rooting for her to survive her disease.  One scene that stood out in particular is when Hillary is watching her young daughter Tori play with CC on the beach and smiles at the two of them. This scene represents hope, showing that Hillary knows that her daughter is going to be okay and that she can let go.   

THE BAD:

  • Where to begin? Lifetime, was it really necessary to remake such a classic? The writers, Bart Baker and Nikole Beckwith, didn’t come close to capturing the magic of the original. The original worked so well because of the chemistry between stars Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.  Those two perfectly displayed that the characters have been friends for a lifetime. Here…it’s like they just met during casting.
  • Idina Menzel portrays the character of CC Bloom made iconic by the Divine Ms. M aka Bette Midler.  Menzel as the character is annoying and frustrating.  At a pivotal moment of conflict between the two heroines, Menzel destroyed all credibility, yelling in a way that made listening even more painful than having to endure nails scraping on a chalk board. It’s not like me hate on an actor, but I wanted to slap her. Menzel’s vocal range as a singer matched Midler’s, but her acting in this film never comes close.
  • The scenes that were supposed to be funny weren’t at all comical. Writing flaw? Acting flaw? Directing flaw? I think the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of whomever made the decisions that brought all the participants together.

THE REST:

The remake of Beaches has no reason to exist.  It was completely unsatisfying. I can’t think of anybody I know to whom I would recommend it.  


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and one of the best people we know. Find out more about her HERE

Best Puppet TV Show You’ll Ever See

The puppet series for those who hate puppets. Don’t believe us? Check this out:

See what mean?

Now are you getting it?

Two seasons of Callie & Izzy await.

See ’em HERE

And HERE

Read a very cool analysis HERE

THINGS THAT A NEW WRITER SHOULD BE DOING

N.T. Sexton, a frequent contributor to sites like Good Reads and YouTube, and an aspiring novelist who knows how to command a video or three has uploaded a series of videos called – aw, you guessed it – “Things That a New Writer Should Be Doing.”

The dude has some interesting thoughts, and an even more interesting way of communicating them, so, hey, we think it’s worth taking a look:

Check ’em out and let us know how helpful they are!

Diana Vacc sees ‘Fifty Shades Darker’

Not sure about this pic. Maybe it’s Ms. Vacc holding on the gun this film?

by Diana Vaccarelli

No spoilers here because it’s already spoiled!

On February 10, 2017  Universal Pictures released the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, the not-so-cleverly-titled Fifty Shades Darker.  This film follows the continued relationship of Anna Steele and Christian Grey and their constant struggles to be completely honest with one another and how sex drives their relationship.      

THE GOOD:

  • After the battles behind the scenes of Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel were not asked to return for the sequel.  Instead the writing went to novelist and writer of the Fifty Shades trilogy E.L James’ husband Niall Leonard.  Leonard has written several television series and films such as Horatio Hornblower.  I mention this because this change from the first film to the sequel was a great success.  Leonard has shown that the characters have a relationship outside of intimacy. Better yet if you’re into this sort of thing, he also gives us some very real-seeming B &D. 
  • Director James Foley of House of Cards and Billions, brings the book more to life then Taylor Johnson did.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much Fifty Shades Darker film followed the book. Looks like sometimes it pays to leave control of a property in the hands of the creator.
  • The music continues in this franchise to be excellent.  It shows Christian Grey’s inner darkness and how his emotions change when he is around Anna.

THE BAD:

  • The main issue I continue to have with this series of films is the casting of Anna Steele. Dakota Johnson is, in a word,  drippy and doesn’t give the character one single ounce of personality.  On top of that, she speaks in the kind of monotone that would make anybody want to tie her up, preferably in another room…or city…or country.
  • It’s based on one of the most justifiably reviled novels of this century, which means that no matter how well made this film may be it still may make your skin crawl.

THE REST:

  • If you’re a fan of the books you will definitely appreciate the changes from the first film to the sequel.  If you’re a fan of films that have great music this film might make you smile…but a copy of the soundtrack would be a better choice. For my part, I give Fifty Shades Darker an overall two stars out of five, but my friends have always said that I’m generous to a fault.

    Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and one of the best people we know. Find out more about her HERE

 

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – February 20, 2017

…Aaand here we are with TVWriter™’s  latest look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Want to Read This Year’s Oscar Nominated Screenplays?

John Ostrander: TV ‘Flash’

LB: Where Did THE FALL GUY Live?

David Perlis reviews ‘Rogue One’

And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages were, also in order:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

The Logline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

Online TV and Film Writing Workshop

Student Central

Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Lew Ritter Film Review: ‘Hidden Figures’

HIDDEN FIGURES: Soaring into the history books

by Lew Ritter

CAUTION: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

In the late 1950‘s, America and Russia (then the U.S.S.R) were locked in a space race. Each nation was determined to place the first man into orbit around the Earth and eventually land a man on the moon. It culminated with Neil Armstrong being the first American to land on the Moon in 1969.

Prior to HIDDEN FIGURES, movies depicting the Space Race, such as THE RIGHT STUFF and APOLLO 13, focused on the exploits of the white astronauts, who were the pioneers of the space race. HIDDEN FIGURES is a historical drama about three hitherto unknown participants in the American space program. Most remarkable is that these unsung heroes were three African American women. Their contribution to the American space program went overlooked for half a century.

In the early 1960’s, the Civil Rights movement was still in its infancy. The African American women who worked for NASA were employed in a supporting role called “Computers.” It was essentially a data entry role, as the giant IBM mainframe computers were still in their infancy

The three women featured in the story are Katherine Goble (Tariji Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). Each of the women were ambitious and desired to advance in the program, but were denied advancement based on their skin color.

THE WOMEN

Mary Jackson ( Monae) was denied entrance into the engineering program. She was offered the excuse that she lacks the necessary credentials to qualify to be an engineer. Undaunted, she launches a lawsuit that would allow her to take the necessary night classes at the hitherto segregated high school in Norfolk. The judge resolved the lawsuit in Mary’s favor and she goes onto become an engineer..

Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer) is denied the role of supervisor by the testy Mrs. Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst). Undaunted, she borrows a book on FORTRAN, an ancient coding program for computers that used punch cards. Soon, she becomes the most capable Fortran programmer on the huge new mainframe IBM mainframe computer. She becomes the first African -American supervisor in NASA.

Katherine Gobel (Henson) moved from being an accessory “computer” into a vital member of the engineering team. Her ability to calculate precise coordinates and elliptical orbits astonished her white compatriots.

Act Three depicts the events of the John Glenn’s flight in the “Friendship Seven.” After orbiting the Earth several times, the heat shield begins to fail. The capsule heads for reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. For a few dreaded moments, Glenn’s capsule disappears from the radar and they lose contact with the capsule.

The control room fears that the capsule burnt up upon reentry into orbit. Everyone holds their breath, fearing the worst. After agonizing minutes, Glenn’s voice booms over the radio and his capsule splashed down safely in the ocean.

THE GOOD:

The cast is uniformly excellent. Henson and Costner are the standouts. However, all of the other actors deliver terrific performances and deserve Oscars for their roles. The dialogue and action is an accurate depiction of the 1960’s. The space mission scenes are a mix of live action mixed with documentary footage featuring such real people as Jules Bergman, the ABC News Science correspondent.

The most entertaining bit of type casting was Jim Parsons (BIG BANG THEORY). He is perfectly cast as the stiff necked scientist, who views Katherine as not his rival, or even part of the same team. He refused to add her name to any of the research reports or let her attend the all – male staff briefings.

Kevin Costner is solid as Al Harrison, the head of the project. He seems more obsessed with the success of his mission than the skin color of his employees. At the beginning of the movie, the women are told not to speak to him. He is either too aloof or busy with the space program.

Slowly, he begins to notice that Katherine, his “computer” works faster than most of her co- workers and has a knack for utilizing the complex Analytic Geometry formulas needed to calculate accurate re-entry coordinates. By the end, he becomes dependent on Katherine’s abilities to project changes in trajectory and safe landings.

The best scene in the movie is when Harrison grows annoyed that Katherine seems to disappear for several times during the day. Outraged, she confesses that she is forced to run half a mile to the segregated ladies room across the campus. Harrison strides into the far-away building and takes a sledge hammer to the sign “Colored Ladies Room.” He has the best line of the movie. ”From now on, he intones, everyone in NASA pees the same color.”

The screenplay is well structured. All of the women get a large chunk of screen time to have their professional and personal stories told. Theodore Melfi has established himself as a major director following his admirable work on last year’s poignant movie ST. VINCENT starring Bill Murray.

THE BAD

I certainly haven’t found anything “bad” here!

CONCLUSION

The movie was released in January, when studios traditionally dump movies they lack confidence in to recoup their investment. HIDDEN FIGURES has emerged as a surprise hit. Unheralded, it has dominated the box office during it’s first weeks in theaters. The movie has become a crowd pleasuring sentimental hit with audiences clapping loudly at the final credits. It will go onto become an Oscar favorite and perhaps a classic of it’s genre in the future.


Lew Ritter is a teacher, freelance writer, and  TVWriter™ Contributing Writer. Learn more about him here.

Want to Read This Year’s Oscar Nominated Screenplays?

A local poll of Team TVWriter™ has discovered that our favorite of the nominees for Best Original Screenplay is Arrival and our fave nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay is Moonlight, with Hidden Figures right on its heels.

These screenplays and their competition are all worthwhile reading, which brings us to our Valentine’s Day gift for you. Here are links to all the Oscar nominated screenplays in this year’s competition. Except, unfortunately, The Lobster. Sorry, but we haven’t found that one anywhere. (Guess its producers don’t want to share the goodies.)

  • Hell or High Water, written by Taylor Sheridan
  • La La Land, written by Damien Chazelle
  • Manchester by the Sea, written by Kenneth Lonergan
  • 20th Century Women, written by Mike Mills
  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
  • Fences, screenplay by August Wilson, based on his play
  • Hidden Figuresscreenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
  • Lion, screenplay by Luke Davies, based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
  • Moonlight, screenplay by Barry Jenkins, based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney