Diana Vacc sees “Thor: Ragnarok”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

November 3, 2017, Marvel Entertainment released the third installment of the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok.  This film in the Thor saga follows our hero as he attempts to prevent the all-powerful Goddess of Death, Hela, (Cate Blanchett), from destroying his kingdom of Asgard.

THE GOOD:

  • Director Taika Waititi brings us a superhero story with intense action and humor that will keep you on your toes and laughing all the way through.  One scene that speaks to this is when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in a gladiator fight against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). You may think you’ve seen everything these two characters can dish out, but this still will be a delightfully entertaining surprise.
  • Chris Hemsworth is the epitome of Thor.  Not only the look but the delivery of the dialogue.  Hemsworth was born to play this character.  Same could be said about Tom Hiddleston as the adopted brother of Thor, Loki, the God of Mischief.  These two are utter perfection in their roles.
  • The chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston is magical. I thoroughly enjoyed the sparks created by both of them in the scene when Thor returned home to Asgard and sees Loki impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).
  • Quit the surprise was Cate Blanchett as Hela.  I’ve always seen Ms. Blanchett as prim and proper and definitely not a villain.  Glad I was proven wrong.  When she first arrives on screen (major spoiler alert) and breaks Thor’s indestructible hammer it’s shocking, to say the least.
  • The unexpected placement of the humor throughout the film by writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost was rolling on the floor laughing material. The most humorous scene was Thor sitting handcuffed to a chair and talking back to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), reminding his captor that “I am the God of Thunder, not Lord of Thunder.”

THE BAD:

  • This film was jaw-dropping entertainment. Nothing here disappointed me.  Leaving the theater I felt that at last I had learned the definition of the phrase: “Pure enjoyment.”

THE REST:

If you want a totally enjoyable escape from your daily life – and these days who doesn’t? – Thor: Ragnarok is for you.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Gerry Conway Sees GUARDIANS

by Gerry Conway

Finally had a chance to watch the Russian superhero film “Guardians,” and, wow.

It isn’t very good, but it isn’t very bad either.

It’s like a superhero movie made by people who kinda know what a superhero movie is “supposed” to look like but aren’t quite clear about why.

Most of the dialogue (I watched the subtitled version) feels like the sort of thing you write in a fast first draft, most of it of the placeholder variety. (I should have a character say something witty here; something somber here; a bit of introspection here; a wisecrack there– ToBeDetermined.)

It’s worth a view ‘cause it’s short enough that you won’t feel like you wasted an evening, and it’s always interesting to see another culture’s take on familiar tropes. And the bear-Hulk is unintentionally hilarious.

Yes, I said bear-Hulk.

There’s a bear-Hulk.


Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.

John Ostrander: The Bourne Formula

by John Ostrander

NOTE FROM LB: Some of you may read this as a film review. But if you look upon John’s words here as a writing lesson, well, you and your readers and viewers will be mighty glad:


Spoiler note: Various plot elements of the Bourne movies may be revealed below. The movies have been out for a while so I’m assuming those who want to see them have seen them. Nevertheless, the spoiler flag is flying just in case.

There are a number of movies that, when I come across them on the tube, I’ll stop and watch them. I tell myself that it will be just until a certain scene or bit of dialogue but the fact is I usually wind up watching them through to the final credits. When this happens late at night, I can wind up staying awake for far too long and suffer for it the next day.

The Bourne series of movies fall into this category. They include The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum and Jason Bourne but not The Bourne Legacy which, despite its name, has no Jason Bourne in it and appears to be ignored by the series filmmakers so I do, too.)

The reason I’m doing this retro review is to look at how something that starts fresh can drift into formula.

The films center on an assassin working for a clandestine special ops CIA agency. Born David Webb, he has become Jason Bourne – among other identities. Trained to be a living weapon, Bourne (wounded on one failed assignment) has become amnesiac. Over the course of the films, he starts to recover that memory.

The series starts with 2002s The Bourne Identity, loosely (some say too loosely) based on Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name. It was a refreshing take on the spy/action genre, which previously had been defined by the James Bond films. The action was more realistic as were the characters and the situation. There was a car chase but it involved what I think was a Mini. The villain in the movie was not a huge over-the-top megalomaniac but the very agency that employed Bourne. The female lead was not a striking Bond girl but a Bohemian woman named Marie. The film ends with Bourne and Marie putting a new life together for themselves and the agency that hunted them has been closed down.

The film was a big success and re-defined the genre; the Bond films were re-cast in the Bourne mode – tougher, grittier, more realistic. They had needed to change and Bourne showed the way.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004) continued the trend. There’s a successor to the black ops agency in the first film but there’s a traitor inside who frames Bourne for a failed mission. In attempting to take him out, Bourne’s love Marie is killed. This is startling; Marie was a major character in the first film and her death has a major effect on Bourne, giving him a motivation that continues through the series. Still, the Big Bad is again the Agency or, at least, elements of it. We’re seeing a pattern developing.

The third film in the series, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, once again has Bourne and the Agency at odds. This time, the film winds up bringing Bourne back home to the U.S., specifically New York City. He learns the truth about his origin and there are touches throughout that bring us back to the first film suggesting this is the final installment in a trilogy.

And it was, for 12 years.

In 2012, the studio tried to capitalize on its franchise with the Bourne-less The Bourne Legacy. It also tried to make Bourne more of a superhero. That didn’t work all the way around.

Last year saw Jason Bourne (with returning star Matt Damon) hit the theaters. Once again, a woman who is close to Jason is killed and once again the central villain is the Agency (or someone at the Agency). And the formula is starting to become obvious.

Every film has a car chase, each becoming more spectacular than the last. The first one was relatively modest and interesting. After that, any time Jason takes the wheel insurance rates are going up and there will be considerable collateral damage. In all the cars being upended or hit, I just imagine people being hurt and dying. I’m no longer impressed.

There will be a big hand to hand fight between Jason and… somebody. Somebody trained enough to give Jason a good fight but the outcome is never in doubt, It will be very violent and no music plays during it.

In every film, Jason says some variation on “This ends here.” Except it never does. If the studio has its way, it never will. So why even say it?

The antagonist is always the Agency or someone at the Agency. Always. Jason might as well be fighting Spectre and Blofeld.

In two out of the four films, a woman close to Bourne is killed. The first time it was effective if startling and had real impact and consequences. It’s starting to look like a trope.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed each Bourne movie I’ve seen and I wouldn’t mind seeing another. But what started out as fresh and different is becoming old and formulaic. That’s hard to avoid when you’re working on a series. How do you keep from repeating yourself especially when part of the attraction for the fans is that repetition of fave motifs and lines?

It can be done. The next Bourne should avoid the Agency or maybe have Bourne work with the Agency, Different settings, different stakes. As it stands now, they’re not doing sequels; they’re doing remakes.

The Bourne Repetition.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Doug Snauffer’s Short Takes: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

by Douglas Snauffer

Saw WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES last weekend — and loved it.

Although, as I sat there watching the movie for 2 hours and 20 minutes, I had to doubt its appeal to today’s younger crowd (ages 18-25).

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is a writer’s delight in that it’s totally character-driven. Dialog matters in this film – a lot – while the action scenes this time around are extremely limited right up to and including the end.

In other words, it could be described as ‘slow-moving’ by young moviegoers more accustomed to the all-out CGI apocalypses so common in today’s tent pole extravaganzas. The kind of movie I love, but young moviegoers today simply love to avoid. The film’s current worldwide gross is around $100,000,000, with the U.S. gross just $56.5 million from 4,022 locations. In other words, as Variety says, WFTPOTA “is coming in on the low end of expectations….”

In addition to the fine script, Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson offer up wonderful performances. And the director is Matt Reeves, whom I consider one of the best young directors in the business, with credits that include 2014’s DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the superb LET ME IN (2010) and CLOVERFIELD (2008).

I hope more moviegoers give this one a chance.


Doug Snauffer is TVWriter™ Contributing Editor.  His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel. He’s also the writer of several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Learn more about Doug HERE.

Diana Vacc sees ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

On May 26, 2017, Disney released the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. This volume of the franchise follows Jack Sparrow as he searches for the trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact with the power to break all curses of the sea. 

THE GOOD:

  • Writer Jeff Nathanson brings back the magic that made the original so successful.  The humor, the chemistry, and the story.  I loved the return of the romance of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly).  I enjoyed finally learning the back story of Jack and how he became Captain.
  • The newest love story of Henry and Carina (Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario) is reminiscent of Will and Elizabeth and you know what? I was cool with it. The chemistry of both actors was breathtaking, and who would want to get in the way of that powerful an attraction to each other?
  • The motivation of Will son’s Henry to break the Curse of the Dutchman over his father tugs at the audience’s heartstrings. Thwaites performs with sure determination, as if Bloom is his actual father.
  • The performance of Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar was creepy and gross but in a good way.  The black goo that comes out of his mouth is disgusting but it works for the character.

THE BAD:

  • Not enough Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.  I wish they were in the film more. I have loved these characters and their romance since the first film of the series.


THE REST:

  • I realize that I’m in disagreement with a majority of critics, but this film is pure fun. It brings back the magic that the last Pirates lost.  I definitely recommend you go see it.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Wonder Woman: A Hero Beyond The Screen

LB’S NOTE: Yes, it’s true that Monday is usually my poetry day. However, all kinds of things, including a mysterious visitor from my past, omens of good fortune and fair trade, and an overcrowded schedule mean that the next epic from yours truly can’t be here today but absolutely will be online June 19th, in honor of Father’s Day.

As we used to say on Hawaii Five-0 (the real one)“Be there!”

Meanwhile, Kate Graham graces us with her insight once again:


by Kathryn Graham

We write about TV here at TVWriter, but for this past weekend, all of the attention has been on the silver screen. There’s one reason for that.

Wonder Woman.

Since this is the kind of film I’ve waited my whole life for, I am going to write about it, TV emphasis be damned. I cannot be confined!

My review of Wonder Woman is:

I need to watch it again.

I went into it expecting to be absolutely blown away, and truth be told, I wasn’t. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t the spectacle all of the hype had me believing it was.

That’s exactly why I need to see it again. I need to be able to take it for what it is – a beautiful, powerful superhero movie with a sprinkling of deeper meaning and a lot of women kicking ass.

Because that part, oh that part was glorious.

See, I don’t like superhero movies in general. The main reason is I know that I’m going to see something that’s meant for men, which apparently means three things: women are scarce, women are love interests, women wear skin tight clothing.

I hear a lot about how important it is that little girls can look up to Wonder Woman. No doubt. But I’d posit to say: adult women need her just as much if not more. I need her more.

Wonder Woman wants women to feel the same thrill and excitement that every man has felt his entire life when he watched Spiderman, Superman, or Batman take the bad guys down. It isn’t that we can’t identify with Superman, of course not, but you tell me it doesn’t say something when only one gender is kicking the hell out of evil and the other is the ‘love interest’.

You tell me how it feels when your main purpose is to be hot. When no matter how badass you are, you always need someone to save you.

Not so with Wonder Woman.

Women were in tears while watching her fight because this was a realization of a long-awaited dream.

The importance of this film stretches far beyond a simple superhero movie, not just for the audience, but for the industry.

Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins are superheroes for all women in the film industry. Hollywood is so sexist, they don’t even bother to hide it. Anything a woman touches is judged ten times harsher because she is somehow representative of her entire gender. Every failure is a setback for half of the damn population instead of a shitty movie.

One bad superhero movie and suddenly no one wants to see female superheroes. One bad female directed movie, and well, we know women couldn’t direct, didn’t we boys?

Wonder Woman saved us.

It never should have come to this. If we lived in an equitable and free meritocracy, we would have thousands of movies directed, written, starred in, crewed, and more by women. All of them judged by how stupid the plot was, how great the acting, the big booms and zooms, and not by the gender of the person who worked on it.

We don’t live in that world. Even with Wonder Woman, the number of women working in film is abysmal, and I’m skeptical about just how much better it will get now. But this movie has given us a ray of hope.

Sure, I would have loved to have seen a bulkier woman play Wonder Woman, but Gal Gadot did a great job. Yes, I would have loved for there to be more women in the movie later on, but I understand why they weren’t. Yes, I want to see Wonder Woman have a female love interest someday, and yes, I’ll be happy to write that script for you, thank you for asking!

Anyway…

This movie was a small step forward that feels like a giant leap.

Wonder Woman may not be the hero we deserve (do we deserve better or worse? you decide), but she is a hero we can believe in. Thank you, everyone who worked on this movie. Truly. I’m off go to see it in IMAX.


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and our very own wonder woman although she probably doesn’t believe that. Learn more about Kate HERE

Diana Vacc sees ‘Beauty and the Beast’

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

Friday March 17, 2017, Disney Studios released the live action version of their iconic animated film Beauty and the Beast. Growing up, I loved the animated film and watched it countless times, so I was truly excited to see how Disney would reinterpret the classic fairy tale of a prince who is imprisoned in the form of a beast and can only be freed by true love.

And guess what? I was not disappointed.

THE GOOD:

The actors inhabit their roles perfectly. Emma Watson was born to play the beautiful Belle and brings truth and power to the role. Dan Stevens as the Beast gives us the heart we need to empathize with him and his situation. Watson and Stevens have great chemistry, making us root for Belle and the Beast to get to know each other better so their love can develop and grow strong.

Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts bring their motion capture characters to life. The CGI feels absolutely real, and I admit that I teared up toward the end as we were presented with a terrible fate for these characters.

Luke Evans as our villain, Gaston, brings the all the narcissism of this classic character to life with humor to spare. One scene in particular sums it up as we watch Gaston profess his love for Belle…while admiring himself in a mirror.

The makeup on the Beast was fantastic. Every bit as striking as in the animated film.

The music by Alan Menken, who also did the original’s score, returns with great additions. Yes, those  additions are often corny but are fun nevertheless, and overall the music does a fine job of helping the story move forward while bringing out the emotion in each scene.

The writing by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos not only lives up to the original, it add info that the animated version missed. Many critics have complained that it is mostly “unnecessary” backstory, but I loved seeing the party and the Enchantress changing the prince into the Beast. And as somebody who always wondered why Belle and her father were living in that little backwater village, I especially loved this version’s answer as well as discovering so much more about Belle’s mother.

THE BAD:

There is no bad for me. This film is truly magical.

THE REST:

If you loved the original Beauty and the Beast, you will definitely love this version too. And even if you’re not the biggest fan of the original, the additions may well change your mind.

I highly recommend this film and look forward to future live action versions of classic Disney animated films.