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Posts in: October 2008

Warrior

Author: Gavin O’Connor and A.M. Tambakis & Cliff Dorfman

Genre: Sports/Action

Storyline: 7

Dialogue: 6

Characterization: 5

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

Estranged brothers train to fight each other at a mixed martial arts tournament.


Synopsis:

In a South American hotel room, TOMMY CONLON, a 28-year-old street-fighting pill-popper, is awakened by a phone call. SILVIO, a cold-hearted Brazilian in his 40s, is calling to get him to come downstairs. He’s late for a fight. On the way, Silvio says he has him booked in “the Badlands” tonight. Tommy grumbles that he’s only under Silvio’s thumb for six more weeks. In a remote section of the Amazon rain forest, elaborate cameras are set up to tape a fight between WHITE LIGHTNING and his opponent, THUNDER. Tommy prepares to fight a huge logger named BUZZSAW. Silvio tells Tommy not to take him down until the second round. Tommy doesn’t want to. Tommy crushes Buzzsaw but keeps him in it just enough to keep it going until the second round, where he takes Buzzsaw out instantly. After the fight, Tommy goes home—to an abandoned, shipwrecked freighter in Mexico. It’s been robbed.

In Los Angeles, TESS CONLON undergoes an examination from a cardiologist—she’s had a heart transplant, and the doctor says she’s healthy and is almost back to normal, but she should avoid big crowds and particularly stressful activities. Her husband, BRENDAN, asks about sex. Their six-year-old daughter, AUBREY, asks what sex is, leading to some awkwardness. JODI PINNIX, the transplant coordinator, hands Tess some medical masks. Tess is ready to go home for the first time since her transplant. As they drive up to the house, Tess is overcome with emotion. The next morning, Brendan makes breakfast for Tess. He notices an envelope addressed to Jodi and figures out Tess is trying to find out who her heart donor was. Brendan reminds her the donation was anonymous, and she shouldn’t pursue it. Brendan goes to work, teaching high school physics. He’s a good teacher who treats the diverse students like adults.

That night, Tommy and Silvio arrive in the Badlands of South Dakota. Tommy tells him to throw the fight, offering nearly 10 times his usual payment if Tommy will take a dive. Tommy refuses, but Silvio reminds him it’s not open to discussion. As they fight, state troopers and the Native American Tribal Police bust them; their Native American contact didn’t pay them off. Tommy wants to get paid because, technically, he didn’t win. Silvio doesn’t want to pay because Tommy would have won. Silvio reminds Tommy that he owns him—permanently. Silvio pulled Tommy out of his Mexican prison cell, and he can put Tommy back. Tommy drops Silvio, lifts his wad of cash, and pays off a bartender to keep it quiet. Then he leaves.

Outside a Long Beach cathedral on Christmas Eve, a drunk Tommy surprises PADDY CONLON—his father. He offers Tommy some harsh words about leaving—at age 14—with his mother and having to bury her recently. He also offers a Christmas present: a bottle of whiskey. Paddy tells Tommy he’s sober now. He takes Tommy back home. Tommy looks at some old photographs, some of which reveal Brendan Conlon to be his brother. The next day, Paddy wakes Tommy up and surveys his old room—a time-warp of 1994, with shelves cluttered with wrestling and boxing trophies. They go to a diner for breakfast. Paddy tries to discuss Tommy’s Marine duties by describing his experiences in Vietnam. Paddy drives Tommy past Colt’s Gym, and Tommy tells Paddy to let him out. Tommy buys a gym membership.

At the Credit Union, it’s explained to Brendan that he’s in dire financial straits and has no way out except bankruptcy. Later, Brendan catches a newspaper ad for an amateur mixed martial arts fight night. The owner of the gym, COLT, catches Tommy training. He pairs him up with MAD DOG GRIMES, his best fighter. Tommy destroys him, until Colt breaks them up. Brendan lies to Tess about having to go to a “parent teacher thing,” and Tess believes he’s having an affair because he no longer finds her scarred body attractive. Brendan placates her but still leaves. He goes to the parking lot of a strip club, where he fights and wins. That night, Brendan creeps into the bathroom. Tess is awake and tells him to turn the light on. Brendan confesses he went to fight and turns on the light, revealing his bruised and swollen face. Tess isn’t happy, but Brendan admits their financial problems and tells her it’s the only way.

The school is abuzz with Brendan’s fighting. He’s hauled into PRINCIPAL JOE ZITO’S office and chewed out. At the hospital, Tess mentions cases of heart-transplant patients developing strange new quirks and interests after the surgery. Tess has developed some quirks of her own—notably an addiction to Chicken McNuggets—and urges Jodi to mention some of these things to the family. If they want to remain anonymous after that, she’ll stop pursuing it. Brendan goes to see FRANK CAMPANA, telling him that since he’s now suspended with pay, he wants to train hard to enter Sparta, an MMA tournament with a $5 million prize. Campana is reluctant, but their history prompts him to accept the challenge. Meanwhile, Tommy asks Paddy to train him to enter the same tournament.

In Iraq, a Marine named MARK BRADFORD sees a video of Tommy fighting on the Web. He realizes Tommy is the same man who pulled him and his unit out of an overturned tank. Brendan and Tess have another argument about his fighting. Paddy takes Tommy to Colt’s gym to fight some of Colt’s other fighters and make sure his winning wasn’t a fluke. Later, Paddy shows up to tell Brendan that Tommy’s back. Brendan wants nothing to do with Paddy, after his alcoholism put Aubrey in danger a few years ago.

Tess visits a middle-aged Native American, whose son provided Tess’s heart. She tells Tess that, after all that’s happened, she’s learned that what’s going to happen will happen, no matter what. At the gym, Frank teaches Brendan with the help of an iPod, blaring classical music to remind Brendan of three things: to stay calm, to remember this is an art form, and to remember to keep a certain rhythm. Weeks later, Brendan is back in top shape. Seeing how serious he is, Tess reluctantly decides to forgive him—if what’s going to happen will happen, she should support him instead of fighting him. Frank announces he’s decided to send Brendan to Sparta in Las Vegas. Tess wants to go, but Brendan reminds her that she can’t be near crowds.

In Las Vegas, Paddy and Tommy run into Silvio, who’s there with White Lightning. He assures Tommy they’ll finish “what he started in the Badlands.” ART DAVIE, founder of Sparta and Ultimate Fighting Championship, holds a press conference to introduce the competition and the 16 fighters who will duke it out for $5 million. On the odds board, Tommy is 20-1—Brendan is 5000-1. That night, the story of Brendan saving Mark Bradford has hit the evening news. Bradford posted videos on the Internet, and suddenly Tommy’s a reluctant hero known to everyone as “the Superman.”

Brendan and Tommy meet up after Brendan sees the news report. He’s stunned by his brother’s courage, but Tommy denies it and argues with Brendan over choosing sides—that he choose “some girl” over their mother. When Brendan reminds him that “some girl” happens to be his wife, Tommy doesn’t care much. They both walk away angry. At the high school, some of Brendan’s students beg Joe Zito to let them use the gym to broadcast the Sparta match for all the students. Joe won’t let them.

Sparta begins, with BRYAN CALLEN and RANDY COUTURE calling the fight. They work through preliminary rounds, with “Superman” Tommy continuing to impress and Brendan surprising everyone by crushing the “Nigerian Nightmare.” Afterward, Art chastises Tommy for walking out of the ring after winning instead of waiting for announcements and interviews. Tommy says he’s just there to fight. They continue through more rounds, with Tommy and Brendan each defeating their increasingly difficult opponents—including Tommy defeating White Lightning. People gather at Colt’s gym to watch. High school kids gather at a local drive-in, which is broadcasting the fight on their behalf. Even Joe Zito shows up. Tess watches on TV.

That night, Tommy opens up to Paddy about why he bailed on the Marines and why he’s not a hero. He also implies he went to that Mexican prison on behalf of one of his fallen brothers. Then Tommy turns on him, saying Paddy’s lost all his fight since he sobered up. The next morning, Tess shows up to support Brendan. He tells her the crowd is too dangerous, but Tess says the cage is dangerous, too. Military Policemen show up to arrest Tommy, but Art convinces them to wait until the final round is over. Paddy gets trashed on whiskey, acts crazy, starts bawling, loses steam and slumps into bed. Tommy covers him with a comforter. That night, Tommy fights Mad Dog Grimes and slaughters him. Brendan fights a guy called KING KONG and barely manages to win. It’s down to the finals—Tommy versus Brendan.

Tommy is vicious, but Brendan has skill. He manages to get Tommy into an arm-lock. He urges his brother to tap out, but Tommy refuses—Brendan ends up breaking his arm. Finally, Brendan gets Tommy in a choke-hold. He continues to struggle despite having no air, but finally, he taps out. After, Tommy tells Brendan to take care of Paddy. The MPs escort Tommy out.


Comments:

As a generic sports movie with a lot of action, Warrior knows its purpose and serves it well. With very little exception, the last 40 pages is nothing but mixed martial arts action. The story leading up to this is serviceable but has some glaring clichés. Nonetheless, it works well enough for its genre.

The conflicted family unit is psychologically empty. We’re given external motivations for everything. Brendan and Tommy fight because they need money, Brendan and Tommy had a falling out over a never-specified incident having to do with their parents and Paddy’s alcoholism, both kids hate Paddy because of said alcoholism… However, despite some on-the-nose lines of dialogue, none of these characters have any kind of psychological complexity. At one point, Brendan mentions going unrecognized by Paddy (who seemed to favor Tommy) and ending up as an underdog in general. So, is he fighting to prove something to himself, his father, his wife…?

Is he even the protagonist? We spend much more time with Tommy without getting any more insight into his character. In fact, the more the writers tell us about him, the less sympathetic he becomes. By the third act, he comes across like a shrill, immature jackass rather than a tough, taciturn bad-ass. This characterization had me rooting for Brendan by the end, and he wins, but all things considered, I can’t imagine the writers actually want the audience to turn against Tommy. Delving into the conflict that made him leave with his mother might make him a bit more sympathetic. The writers leave this intentionally vague, but it’s Tommy’s only hope if they want audiences to like him.

More troublesome is the mixed message of both Brendan and Tommy. Tommy and his mother left because of an incident that had to do with Paddy’s alcoholism; Brendan is estranged from Paddy, also a result of the alcoholism. Paddy has sobered up (although he seems to have missed the “making amends” step), but Tommy encourages him to relapse, and then at the end they’re all a happy family again? It’s a little bizarre, considering what little we know about their past conflicts all stemmed from this, that they would just up and forgive this relapse.

The writers also drop the ball a bit in resolving the initial conflict with Silvio. This occupies a great deal of the first act. Silvio then disappears completely until the third act, but after Tommy defeats White Lightning, we never see him again. Silvio’s portrayed as a bloodthirsty criminal, and Tommy pummeled him, stole his money, and ran away. He’s not shown to be the kind of guy who would just let that go because Tommy beat White Lightning, fair and square.

Despite the flaws, it’s reasonably well-paced and well-plotted. The writers have a good feel for dialogue, aside from a few on-the-nose moments, and if they spent some more time working on these characters, it’ll be a pretty solid script. It’s not unique, but it’s not unsatisfying, either.

This will definitely appeal to fans of boxing/wrestling/MMA or martial arts in general. It could also appeal to a broader base of sports and action fans.

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Not the Bradys XXX

In eager anticipation of X-Play/Hustler Video’s latest classic-sitcom spoofs—Not Bewitched, This Ain’t the Munsters and Not the Bradys 2—I’ve decided to take a closer look at 2007’s highly popular, award-winning erotic comedy, Not the Bradys. Although it’s a mixed bag, I admit that it entertained and aroused me. Can I ask for more than that? Yes. Will I get it? In this case, no.

The trio of Will Ryder (director), Jeff Mullen (writer, producer, composer, art director) and Scott David (producer, art director) have crafted a loving parody of Sherwood Schwartz’s hokey sitcom, The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). References abound (Cindy’s Kitty Carry-All doll!), although Mullen misses opportunities to go deeper here. More puzzling, it includes some odd moments that I assume were intended as references, but they don’t quite pan out.

At one point, Greg begs Sam the Butcher (played with bizarre spunk by Ron Jeremy) for a job, but Sam grumbles that he already gave that job to Bobby. I think they were trying to reference 1972’s classic “Big Little Man,” in which parallel stories feature Bobby trying to overcompensate for his diminutive stature while Greg gets the job at Sam’s. When Greg and Bobby both get locked in the freezer, Bobby’s size actually saves them—he can squeeze through the freezer door’s window, which Greg couldn’t have managed. It taught us all a valuable lesson about finding strength in who we are, no matter what our perceived shortcomings. But at no time in the episode does Bobby get the job or attempt to steal the job out from under Greg. Perhaps if they had boned up on their Bunch trivia (or engaged me as a consultant—I’m happy to help out, pro bono), such absurd mistakes wouldn’t exist.

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Heroes & Villains

Author: Michael A. M. Lerner

Genre: Biography/Drama

Storyline: 7

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 8

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Recommend

Logline:

After suffering a nervous breakdown, pop star Brian Wilson undergoes a radical psychotherapy treatment.


Synopsis:

A montage introduces us to the early career of Beach Boys founder/bandleader/songwriter/producer BRIAN WILSON. In the late-’70s, a late-30s Brian’s a disheveled mess. He shows up to daughter CARNIE’s birthday party, to the disappointment of ex-wife MARILYN and his own nurse, DORIS. Brian neglects everything as the sounds around him transform into music, but after humiliating himself simply by being there, Doris drags him out. She drives me to a law office, where Brian is confronted by brother/bandmate CARL, cousin/bandmate MIKE LOVE, bandmate AL JARDINE, and manager LARRY SCHIFF. They’ve fired him from the band and petitioned the court to take his publishing royalties.

That night, Brian tries to write a song, but the voices in his head drive him to distraction. He tries to hit up Doris’s young children for money, then drives a cab around L.A., bumming money from friends. He goes to visit brother/bandmate DENNIS on his beloved yacht, and Dennis immediately hops in the cab and drags Brian to the Troubadour. At the Troubadour, the LEAD SINGER of the band onstage notices Brian and Dennis walk in, and he points out his admiration for Brian. This cause him to freeze up. In fear, he accidentally knocks over a table. The audience laughs, the voices in his head roar, Brian runs away from the Troubadour and collapses in the street. He’s nearly hit by a car. An MTV News clip shows KURT LODER describing Brian’s latest breakdown, along with words of admiration from ELVIS COSTELLO and TOM PETTY.

At the hospital, Carl, Dennis, and Doris gather with AUDREY, the Wilson boys’ mother. DR. EUGENE LANDY, early 40s, shows up. He once treated Brian but was fired by the band. He badgers the family into letting him take care of Brian once again—but only if he can have 24-hour access and move Brian away from the drugs, alcohol, and distractions of his life. When they reluctantly agree, Landy gets Brian on a gurney, drags him to an ambulance, put him on a plane, and take him to a house in Hawaii. Landy awakens Brian the next morning, offers him breakfast. He gets him in a minivan, where Landy’s girlfriend, DIANDRA, is waiting. They drive him along a dirt road to the bottom of a mountain and abandon him, telling him to walk back up the mountain to the house.

Brian barely manages to reach the house. He continues to struggle with visual and auditory hallucinations. When Brian wakes up, Landy’s there, waiting. Brian confesses he doesn’t want to go back to the “loony hospital.” Landy tells Brian that if he works with him, puts his complete trust into him, Landy will help Brian manage his disorders and become a functional part of society—and Brian will never have to go back to the loony hospital again. A montage shows Brian repeatedly going up the mountain road—struggling but getting stronger, until he’s able to reach the top without any trouble.

Diandra complains about Brian’s ripe smell. Brian tells Landy he’s afraid of the shower, because he’s hallucinated snakes coming out of the shower head. Unafraid, Landy gets into the shower, fully clothed, and turns it on. He takes Brian’s hand and lets the water run under it. Encouraged, Brian’s able to get in the shower. Brian hears his song “Surf’s Up” in his head, and it provokes a flashback to 1966. Sitting with lyricist/folk musician VAN DYKE PARKS, he continues to play the song. Van tries to encourage Brian to release his newest song, Smile, as a solo album—Van fears the other Boys won’t “dig” the new, less commercial style. Brian doesn’t agree.

In the late ’70s, Brian cleans a glass obsessively. Landy asks him why he’s doing that. Brian doesn’t know, but Landy badgers him until Brian tells him about an incident with his father in 1956. In flashback, MURRY (Brian’s father) listens to 14-year-old Brian’s jazzy, beautiful music. Brian says he doesn’t know where to take the song, so Murry tries to help by playing some schmaltzy, old-fashioned music. Brian laughs. Murry notices a glass on top of the piano. He picks it up, and it leaves a sticky ring. He flies off the handle, whacking Brian several times, until Brian slams his head against the piano bench, leaving him permanently deaf in one ear.

Back in the late ’70s, movers show up with a piano. Landy keeps it locked until Brian explains to Landy how he comes up with a song. Brian tries to explain with another flashback, this time to 1965, showing him attempt to put two dissonant harmonies together. His musicians don’t think the music will work, but when the entire orchestra plays it, it sounds beautiful. In the ’70s, Brian says he just hears it all in his head, linked together. Landy’s baffled. Some time later, Diandra tells Landy that the Beach Boys are playing in Hawaii. She also shows Landy and Brian some press clippings, suggesting Landy has kidnapped Brian. They dress Brian up in a suit and coach him on what to say regarding this. Brian shows up at a press conference with the other Beach Boys, where he addresses the allegations with good humor.

Seeing him in such good health, Carl Mike, and Dennis encourage Brian to return to the Beach Boys. Landy refuses to let him. Marilyn shows up with Carnie, but Brian humiliates himself with a faux pas about Carnie’s size. Landy takes Brian back to Los Angeles, where he’s rented him a huge house in Malibu and hired two personal assistants, BRICE and JOSH. Landy says that now that he’s in peak physical condition, they need to continue working on his mental condition. At a supermarket, Brian flirts with a cute checkout girl (MELINDA LEDBETTER). He takes 25 pills a day, strictly monitored by Brice and Josh. He jogs along the Pacific Coast Highway. Landy forces Brian to start writing music again, with Landy as the lyricist. They take the songs to the other Beach Boys, who think the music is serviceable but the lyrics are trash. Enraged, Landy decides it’s time for Brian to put together a solo album—and to celebrate this monumental occasion, he takes Brian to a Cadillac dealer to buy a car. Brian finds Melinda working there now. He tells her he’ll buy the car she likes best. He flirts with her, and she flirts back. Landy barges in and takes Brian away.

At a café, Dennis spots Brian jogging up the PCH. He calls to him and they catch up on old times. Dennis says he’s tried calling a lot, but Brian never got the messages. He encourages Brian to ask out Melinda. They talk about solo albums, and Brian hypes up Landy’s affiliations in the industry, saying he produced Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” Dennis laughs and corrects Brian—Landy had nothing to do with it. Brian’s confused. Dennis drives Brian home, and Landy is livid. He verbally abuses Brian, and when Dennis shows up at Brian’s house the next day, Landy and Brice won’t let him in. He goes away, dejected. Brian remembers the early days of the Beach Boys, with Mike accusing Dennis of not being able to play the drums. Brian encourages Dennis and helps him get the beat.

In the present timeline, Brian gets a phone call: Dennis is dead. Drunk, he dove off his yacht and drowned. Brian locks himself in his bedroom, listening to his song “‘Til I Die” on an endless loop. Gaunt and unenthusiastic, Landy takes complete control of the solo album. The engineer gets into a fight with him and quits. Brice gives Brian tickets to a Moody Blues concert. Brian works up his courage and calls Melinda. He asks her to go to the concert; she agrees. Landy passive-aggressively tries to discourage Brian from going on a date with her, but Brian won’t relent. He takes her to the concert. Landy sends Josh to spy on them, so Melinda takes her backstage. After, Brian takes Melinda back home. He leaves, awkwardly, then taps on the window of her apartment. He asks her to go to a barbecue he’s throwing. She agrees.

At the barbecue, Melinda notices that everyone there is one of Landy’s friends—she’s Brian’s only friend there. Brian shows her where he writes songs, says he doesn’t write much anymore. She asks why, and he explains—accompanied by flashbacks—the race to beat the Beatles in terms of increasingly ambitious songwriting and production techniques. The Beatles put out Rubber Soul, which encouraged Brian to make Pet Sounds, then they came back with Revolver, he released “Good Vibrations,” and then the Beatles trumped it all with Sgt. Pepper’s. Brian tried to make Smile to outdo them one last time, but the Boys hated the songs—except Dennis. The family rejection gave him a nervous breakdown and couldn’t finish.

Landy disrupts Brian and Melinda, then sends her home. After that, Brice and Josh begin screening the calls and not giving the messages from Melinda. She drops by the house and catches him while he’s jogging—the only time he’s allowed to leave the house. Brian asks her out again, but Landy is livid because he’s booked recording sessions. Landy rants and raves at the assistants, whom he hired to watch Brian’s every move. After hearing that, Brian starts hiding his medication instead of taking it. He takes Melinda horseracing, then on a boat trip. Annoyed by Josh monitoring them, he convinces Melinda to dive off the boat. They swim to shore and make love. When Brian gets back home, Landy confronts him with the untaken pills he’s found. He says he’s shocked and disappointed. Landy goes to Melinda and tries to manipulate her into going away, because she’s causing too much stress on Brian. Landy forces Brian to go to a lawyer to sign some mysterious papers. At the recording studio, Brian sneaks away to call Melinda to meet him there. He says Landy drugged him up and made him sign legal papers, but he doesn’t know what they are. Brice calls Landy about Melinda, and Landy races to the studio to threaten her. She ignores him.

Some time later, Melinda sees a newspaper with a headline about Landy—PSYCHIATRIST INVESTIGATED BY HEALTH BOARD. Melinda goes to meet Brian for a date, but Brice won’t let her in. Landy tells Brian she called to cancel, but Brian doesn’t believe him. Landy doesn’t know why Brian thinks he would lie, but Brian reminds him of “Eve of Destruction.” Brian shoves him, but a frightened Landy says he has power of attorney over Brian. While Landy’s distracted, Brian steals the documents from Landy’s briefcase. When they send him jogging, he goes all the way from Malibu to Santa Monica. He goes to Melinda, who’s baffled. She wants to help but they can only get the ball rolling with the help of the family. Carl and his attorney take their petition against Landy to the state’s attorney general.

Landy goes to confront Melinda, but when he approaches her at the Cadillac dealership, court servers serve him with papers. Landy and Diandra are forced to move out of Brian’s house.

In 2003, Brian and Melinda are married and have three young children. He’s patched things up with his older children—they’re a big, happy, accepting family. One night, Brian starts playing “Heroes and Villains” and decides it’s finally time to finish Smile. With the help of DARIAN SAHANAJA and a computer, Brian goes through the old Smile tracks and strings it all together as an album. They rehearse it, but Brian has another breakdown. Melinda tries to console Brian and tells him he doesn’t have to do this, but Brian insists that he does. Smile debuts live in London to rave reviews, as does the subsequent album.


Comments:

One of the biggest problems facing biopics is the monumental task of paring down a person’s lifetime into a single cinematic story. By starting the story with Eugene Landy’s deep, experimental, live-in psychotherapy—spanning roughly 1978 through the mid-’90s—the writer concentrates a story that not many people know much about. He also does a very skillful job of portraying everyone as humans, instead of larger-than-life pop-culture icons. More than that, his handling of Eugene Landy as a character is expert—at first portraying him as the confident, compassionate therapist whose radical methods work wonders, then peeling back the layers to show him as an unpleasant thug exploiting Brian’s mental illness. He also does a nice job of paralleling him to Murry, Brian’s father. The writer skillfully handles Brian’s hallucinations in illustrating how his mental problems may have helped him to create music.

Although he does a nice job with the love story, the writer falters in the third act. The entire Smile bit, true and triumphant though it may be, feels tacked -n for this particular story. Brian’s found new love and divorced himself from yet another manipulator—now he can pick up the pieces. But the story just keeps going after that. I like the idea that the writer narrowed the scope to this specific, difficult time in Brian’s life, but if he’s going to widen the scope to include the Smile resurrection, he should also broaden it to go into more depth on the original recording sessions. For something that cast such a pall over Brian’s life, relegating it to a few pages of narration over a flashback might not be the best choice. Also, Brian’s narration is one of the few examples where the writer slips into flagrantly expository dialogue. He vividly captures the nuance of Brian’s speech patterns elsewhere, but the narration in this section reads like a press release.

Despite these flaws, the writer has written a dense script packed with complex characters true to their real-life counterparts. Even though he sometimes plays loose with the facts and the timeline (as any biopic does), the hopeful story of this time in Brian Wilson’s life is true enough and well-written enough to make a compelling film.

This will undoubtedly appeal to fans of classic rock and will likely have a broad international appeal (considering Brian Wilson’s music is, at this point, probably more popular in Europe and Southeast Asia than it is in the U.S.). With the right cast and crew, this could turn into a big prestige picture (à la Ray or Walk the Line).

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Jack vs. Future Jack

Author: Christopher Leone

Genre: Comedy/Sci-Fi

Storyline: 4

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 3

Writer’s Potential: 4

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

Commitment-phobic Jack receives a visit from himself, from five years in the future, urging him to marry his longtime girlfriend.


Synopsis:

JACK, 30, notices some odd things one morning: he has a duplicate toothbrush, he finds a Post-It on a photo of his girlfriend reminding him of a date he never made… He goes to a coffee shop, and the barista, ALLISON, questions Jack about visiting twice in one day. Jack’s confused. He goes to work, at a bargain-bin video-game developer, and his best friend, BRADLEY, tells him that Jack’s girlfriend called. Bradley urges Jack to marry her, but Jack says he has to keep his options open. At a meeting, Jack’s boss, BILL, reads a hostile e-mail signed by Jack. Although Bill agrees with both the sentiments and tone of the e-mail, Jack denies writing it. Bill gives Jack the opportunity to pitch his very own pet project, Murder Legion, to big-shot investors. Jack’s thrilled. He tells Bradley his five-year plan is coming together.

Jack calls his girlfriend, CHERYL, and invites her to dinner, naming the restaurant and time from the Post-It note. Cheryl says it’s perfect timing—she has a surprise to discuss with him. Jack calls the restaurant to make the reservation, but the MAITRE D’ gets confused. Jack already made the reservation. After work, Jack sees someone has written him a message in the dirt on his car: “Don’t be late.” At the restaurant, the Maitre D’ is confused some more because he believes he’s already seated Jack. He seats Jack and Cheryl “again,” and Cheryl reveals her big news: she landed an account to do the interior design for an entire hotel chain—in Japan. She’d have to leave for a year or two, on Thursday. This quickly turns into an argument about Jack’s lack of commitment. Cheryl wants to know when Jack plans to take things to the next level. As Jack tries to back away from a further commitment, the Maitre D’ has the house musicians play “Here Comes the Birde,” and busboys appear with roses. The Maitre D’ slips Jack a ring box. Inside, with the ring, is a note telling Jack not to break up with her.

Jack panics. He catches sight of a MAN trying to sneak away from the restaurant, and Jack chases him into the men’s room. He discovers the man is—himself, from five years in the future. FUTURE JACK tells him breaking up with Cheryl was the biggest of his life. Baffled Jack leaves, taking Cheryl’s hand and pulling her out of the restaurant. He takes her home, and Cheryl thinks Jack is panicking about her new job, but he’s actually panicking about Future Jack. He goes to a diner to clear his head, but Future Jack finds him. Jack asks him personal questions to verify his identity. Future Jack explains that he came back because he’s been miserable without Cheryl. When Jack asks him about the future, Future Jack says they have two rules—he can’t talk about the future, and he can’t change major historical events. He’ll be around for three days, and he’s staying with Jack.

At Jack’s apartment, Future Jack explains that he still lives in the same apartment, still has the same crummy job—he’s going nowhere. Haggard, Jack tells Future Jack he’s going to bed. The next morning, Future Jack tells Jack he’s not going to work—he’s going to Cheryl’s office to propose to her. Jack argues. They go to the coffee shop, where Future Jack reveals that he “nailed” Allison in the future, right after he and Cheryl broke up, and that Jack should stay away. In the car, Jack says he has to go to work to pitch Future Legion. Future Jack explains that it’s pointless—the investors will pass, anyway. Future Jack offers to pitch the game instead, if Jack will propose to Cheryl. Jack tries to remind Future Jack of all of her irritating qualities. Future Jack argues that she’s hot. At Cheryl’s office, Jack leaves Future Jack with the car, which Future Jack remembers how to operate it because he’s still driving it in the future.

Future Jack goes to work, where he verbally abuses Bradley about something Bradley hasn’t done yet. At Cheryl’s job, Jack and Cheryl run into each other at the elevator. She asks what he’s doing there, and Jack says they need to talk about the future. A woman jumps to the conclusion that he’s talking marriage, causing Jack to panic and pull Cheryl off the elevator at a random floor. Instead of proposing, he chickens out. Enraged, Cheryl points out her many good qualities and says they’re good together, but Jack blew it.

Back at his office, Future Jack excuses himself to go to the bathroom, while Jack calls Bradley to complain that he and Cheryl broke up. Bradley’s baffled. He begs Bradley to pick him up at Cheryl’s office. Bradley and Jack go to the diner, where Bradley offers vague consolation until FUTURE BRADLEY shows up. He says he’s been sent to track down Future Jack, because his plans may violate the rules. He urges Jack to break up with Cheryl, then mentions the reason Future Jack hates him is because Bradley slept with Cheryl right after the break-up. Future Jack pitches Murder Legion like a jerk, intentionally insulting both the investors and Bill. Bill fires Future Jack, which throws Future Jack’s timeline into disarray—now, he’s been a lifeguard for the past five years. Horrified, Future Jack finds Jack and asks how things went with Cheryl. Jack tells him they broke up.

Jack and Future Jack get drunk, and Jack calls Cheryl. The two Jacks fight over the phone, leaving Cheryl thinking Jack is nuts. The next morning, Jack wakes up ready to propose. He has a plan. While Future Jack showers, he goes to get coffee. Bradley and Future Bradley grab him. Future Bradley shows Jack a photo of Cheryl’s future wedding photo, to a hunky blond guy. Future Bradely urges him to not ruin her future. At the apartment, Cheryl shows up to collect her things. Future Jack is nice and complimentary, making it more difficult for her. Cheryl leaves, but Future Jack goes after her. When Jack returns with the Bradleys and finds Future Jack gone, he knows Future Jack has gone to propose to Cheryl himself.

They find Future Jack at a mall, buying another ring, but Jack loses him in the chase. Jack goes to Cheryl’s office, only to find out she isn’t there. Future Jack follows Cheryl to a private party at the SkyBar. Future Jack embarrasses her by acting like an overbearing creep, and then he notices Jack arriving. They get into a fight, out of Cheryl’s sight. Jack ends up unconscious in a pool. Desperate, Future Jack saves him with his lifeguarding skills. Soaking wet, Jack approaches Cheryl. Future Jack has vanished. Jack tells Cheryl to go to Japan—she’d have a better future without him. Cheryl doesn’t disagree.

The Bradleys are waiting for Jack, but they find Cheryl instead. She asks for a ride, and they’re happy to oblige. Jack goes to a bar to drown his sorrows and finds Allison tending. They go out to eat, and Allison shows herself to be vapid, shallow, and annoying. Jack goes back home, where he finds Future Jack waiting for him. Future Jack finally reveals that Cheryl’s marriage is a disaster—the husband’s a cheater, and they’re getting a divorce. Jack decides it’s not too late. He and Future Jack go to the airport, but Jack has to buy them both tickets to get past the security screener. Future Jack gives Jack the ring, then disappears— back to the future. Jack continues on, proposes to Cheryl at the gate. She turns him down. The HUNKY BLOND GUY—her future husband—tries to console Cheryl.

Jack gets a call on his cell phone. It’s Bill, un-firing him because the investors loved his no-nonsense approach. Jack gets on the plane and goes to Cheryl. He announces that he is, apparently, moving to Japan. He had to make a choice, and this is his. He presents the ring, and Cheryl accepts.


Comments:

This ineffectual comedy has more than a few smile-worthy moments, but nothing truly funny or clever. The premise—a man from the future convincing himself from the past to fix his romantic problems—has great potential, but the execution is disastrous. The writer piles on romantic-comedy clichés without ever giving us a compelling reason to believe in the Jack-Cheryl relationship. If we can believe in that, the entire story collapses.

Future Jack, the only one who seems invested in this relationship, generally comes off like a creep. It damages his credibility and, by extension, makes present-day Jack less likable. Cheryl has zero development. Jack and Future Jack spend ample time discussing why she’s great, but why does she think he’s great, and more than that, why does she think they’re so great together? Nothing Jack says or does suggests he’d be a great catch for anyone, and the writers never make us understand what attracted Cheryl to him in the first place, why she sticks around, why she’s so eagerly waiting for his marriage proposal, or why she’s so surprised that he doesn’t, since she herself describes him as a commiment-phobe. Inconsistencies like this are never resolved, which makes the resolution unsatisfying.

The time-travel gimmick gives the screenplay its only spark of originality, but even this isn’t exploited well. Aside from the myriad inconsistencies in their time-travel logic, Future Jack learns nothing from his experience, and Jack doesn’t seem to learn a thing until the last three pages—and yet, the concluding “job vs. girlfriend” decision comes out of nowhere. Here, there’s an opportunity for two men to hold up a mirror to one another. Jack can see what he’s become and realize he should do anything in his power to avoid becoming that guy, while Future Jack, looking at his past self with the benefit of hindsight, could see him as an even more pathetic figure because he refuses to accept responsibility for his future and embrace adulthood. But then, as presented in the current script, Future Jack hasn’t accepted responsibility or embraced adulthood, either.

A flashy trailer might make this appeal to teen or college-age audiences who enjoy mediocre sex jokes and don’t understand or particularly care about the shallowness of the central relationship. Ironically, the time-travel conceit will likely keep audiences away, despite the un-sci-fi nature of the actual story.

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Clive Barker’s Dread

Author: Anthony DiBlasi

Genre: Horror

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 5

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A disturbed philosophy student convinces two filmmakers to document dread, but they have to fight back when he takes things too far.


Synopsis:

A young BOY and his MOTHER and FATHER arrive at their rural home at night. They don’t notice a mysterious MAN lurking in the shadows. After tucking the Boy in, the Father walks out to the porch and sees the Man, who claims he was in an accident. When the Father steps closer to offer help, the Man stabs him in an axe. The Father shouts for the Mother to run away, but she doesn’t. Her screams wake the Boy, who walks downstairs to discover the Man and his bloody axe, standing over his parents’ corpses.

STEPHEN GRACE, 22, sleeps on the bench of a train platform. A wristwatch alarm wakes him, and after a moment the train arrives. Stephen arrives at his job, at a college campus bookstore. He feeds a caged, wounded crow called Poe and greets co-worker ABBY, 22, who has a large “port-wine birthmark” on her face, neck, and most likely a portion of her body covered by clothing. CHERYL FROMM, 22, arrives at the register with a book. Like Stephen, she’s a film student. She’s also interested in Poe. That night, Stephen and Abby lock up the store. Stephen has a night class to get to, an ethics class he finds dull— except for one pretty girl. During a break, Stephen smokes a cigarette in an alley. QUAID, somewhat older, smokes a joint in the alley. He strikes up a conversation about philosophy with Stephen, then it moves on to film, then the relation between the two topics. Quaid encourages him to ask out the girl. After class, Stephen approaches, but he chickens out. Quaid chastises him but suggests they have a beer. Stephen doesn’t want to, but Quaid convinces him.

At the pub, they continue their cinema/philosophy discussion, but Quaid notices Stephen isn’t enthusiastic about drinking his beer. He tries to figure out the reason, and Stephen finally admits it’s because his brother was killed in a drunk-driving incident. Stephen’s watch alarm goes off “for the tenth time tonight,” and Quaid accuses Stephen of being afraid to live. Stephen tries to change the subject to Quaid, who makes a bland sex joke instead of opening up. Quaid takes Stephen to his house, a nice place in the suburbs. He finds the key under the mat and lets them in. While he fixes himself a drink, Quaid tells Stephen to go upstairs and grab a DVD from his room. Stephen goes upstairs, opens the bedroom door—and finds a married couple, sound asleep. Downstairs, the front door slams, waking the WIFE. She sees Stephen and screams, waking up her HUSBAND. Stephen, in silent terror, runs away.

Stephen chases Quaid down the street. When he catches up, Quaid tells him it was both a joke and a psychological experiment—creating long-term fear in both Stephen and the Husband and Wife, who will no longer sleep soundly. Stephen’s horrified. The next day, at the bookstore, Quaid shows up pretending to be a cop. Stephen isn’t amused. Quaid loans him some DVDs and tells him to come by his real place that night. He compliments Abby on her birthmark, which unsettles her. That night, Stephen shows up at Quaid’s, a dilapidated tenement in a bad neighborhood. Quaid’s painting a nude model, SHAUNA, and Stephen’s impressed by the artwork. Quaid claims it’s just a hobby, and he destroys them all after finishing. Quaid dismisses Shauna, then mentions an idea for Stephen’s thesis film. He wants to do a study of fear, a la Kinsey’s study of sex. Stephen can take advantage of Quaid’s obsession by filming it. Stephen isn’t sure, but Quaid convinces him. They celebrate the decision by going to a rock club, where Quaid picks up two girls—SAMANTHA and the girl from their ethics class, ZOOEY.

They all get drunk and go back to Quaid’s place. Stephen awakens from a passed-out state to find Quaid going down on Zooey. He’s jealous, but Samantha starts pawing Stephen, so he gets over it. The next day, Stephen visits Cheryl, who is editing a film. He invites her to join the dread project because she was struggling with a thesis topic. She agrees. Meanwhile, Quaid sets out rows of prescription pills, swallows each one. Stephen posts ads and flyers for the fear study. Cheryl prints up dorky t-shirts. They set up an editing bay in Quaid’s basement. Then they begin interviewing people—everyone describes fairly generic fears. Stephen’s watch alarm breaks it up, and he and Cheryl go out to dinner. They flirt playfully, with Cheryl insulting her choice of salad while Cheryl mocks his sloppy burger and says she hates meat.

When they get back to Quaid’s, he complains that the interview subjects aren’t good enough. Their fears are too dull. When Stephen and Cheryl disagree, Quaid gets angry and smashes Stephen’s ever-chirping watch. To defuse the situation, Cheryl sits down in the interview chair to express her biggest fear. She’s horrified, disgusted—and, yes, afraid of all meat products because her father used to work at a meat-packing plant, and he sexually abused her, so the stench of the meat now fills her with fear. Stephen and Quaid are both shocked and impressed by her confession. Cheryl tries to get Quaid to talk about his fears, but he freezes up. Stephen starts joking around to lighten the mood. Quaid decides that all their interviews need to be like Cheryl—they need to post better ads and lose the t-shirts. Stephen agrees. Later that night, Quaid opens his medicine cabinet and begins dumping his pills down the drain. Stephen stays the night, and he asks about Quaid’s parents. He said they died when he was very young, and now he lives off the insurance money. He won’t say anymore.

That night, he has a wild dream. It takes place in his current house, but his parents are there, and so is the Axe-Man. Quaid runs into Stephen’s room and begins screaming—then he wakes up, safe in his own bedroom. Stephen heard Quaid screaming in his sleep, comes to investigate. Quaid admits that his parents were killed right in front of him when he was six-years-old. He makes Stephen promise not to tell anyone.

At work, Stephen’s acting weird. He confesses to Abby that he’s weirded out by Quaid, and he mentions the incident scaring the Husband and Wife. Abby mentions her house had a break-in once—nobody was hurt, but her mother never slept well afterward. Guilty, Stephen writes an anonymous note to apologize and explain the prank. When he arrives at the suburban home, he finds it empty, with a “For Sale” sign on the front lawn. He goes to Quaid’s house and finds he’s bought an exact replica of the Mustang Stephen’s brother died in. He’s also found a good interview subject—JOSHUA SHAW, a student who got hit by a car and was temporarily deafened for three years. He lives in constant terror that the deafness may come back.

Quaid, Stephen, and Cheryl celebrate their first legitimate, high-quality subject. Quaid gives each of them keys to his house. Quaid goes to a strip club to ask Shauna to model for him again. She says she’s busy and suggest VALERIE; Quaid’s unimpressed. Walking out, Quaid hallucinates that he sees the Axe-Man, watches him kill Valerie and rip out her breast implants. Disturbed, he shakes off the hallucination. At the bookstore, Abby volunteers to take part in the fear study. After class, Cheryl gives Stephen a new watch—indestructible and with a less irritating alarm. Later, Stephen goes to Abby’s dorm room, to interview her alone. She confesses her embarrassment about the birthmark and the fear that she’ll continue to be exposed for her imperfections. She strips down to show Stephen how much of her body is occupied by this birthmark, then makes sexual advances. Stephen rebuffs her, and Abby makes him leave.

Stephen convinces Quaid to go to Abby’s room and get the equipment he left behind. Quaid doesn’t understand why Stephen didn’t sleep with her; he doesn’t like Stephen’s interest in Cheryl, and they get into an argument about whether or not this fear study is more than just a school project. Quaid’s a little hurt that Stephen doesn’t think more of it, but he agrees to get everything from Abby and destroy the tape of her interview. Stephen says he’s taking the Mustang, which surprises Quaid.

Stephen gets Poe from the bookstore, then picks up Cheryl. Quaid picks up the equipment and flirts with Abby. Quaid having raucous sex with Abby is intercut with Stephen and Cheryl freeing the recuperated Poe in the woods. Quaid has a nightmare that the Axe-Man kills Abby at the height of their passion. This makes Quaid decide to become an interview subject for Stephen and Cheryl. He doesn’t say anything revealing— just a lot of strange, disturbing patter. The group waits for the final interview subject, TABITHA, who wears a leather choker and tells the story of being diagnosed with agoraphobia, then facing the death of her mother, not doing a thing about it for three weeks because she couldn’t leave the house, then trying to commit suicide by slitting her own throat. Quaid accuses her of lying and gets violent, knocking her to the ground, ripping off her choker, and yanking off her latex scar. Tabitha’s humiliated, but Stephen and Cheryl are angered. In retaliation, Quaid destroys the camera, and the editing computer with all the footage.

Angry, Cheryl storms out. She finds a DVD Quaid slipped into her backpack—it’s an endless loop of Abby stripping and kissing Stephen, without the part where he turns her down. Some time later, Stephen finds Cheryl, who has cut off all communication. He thinks she’s mad at him about what Quaid did, but she mentions the Abby footage. Stephen denies anything happened, but Cheryl’s livid. Stephen talks to his professor, wanting to get some kind of extension, but to his surprise, a completed thesis film was turned in. Quaid pulls up in the Mustang as Stephen walks home, wanting to apologize. Reluctantly, Stephen gets in the car—and Quaid blasts off, drinking whiskey and speeding, terrifying Stephen. He slams on the brakes just short of a brick wall, and Stephen gets out, shouting obscenities, leaving a drunk Quaid to drive himself home. Meanwhile, Cheryl goes to Quaid’s basement to pick up the wreckage of the computer. His tarped paintings catch her attention, and she uncovers them—finds every single one a painting of a beautiful woman brutally murdered. Quaid appears behind her, wants to know what she’s doing. He tells her she can help him take their project to the next level.

For their last day at work, Stephen and Abby get drunk. She confesses sleeping with Quaid, then afterward, they discover footage of Abby disrobing for Quaid is being played on every single television on campus. She’s mortified, so she gets hammered and then tries to scrub off her birthmark with steel wool. Meanwhile, Quaid invites Joshua Shaw back—then beats him down, ties him up, and tries to simulate Josh’s feared deafness. He decides simply muffling his hearing won’t work, so he pulls off the soundproofing material, holds a gun next to his ears, and fires.

Stephen manages to find the bloodied Abby and calls an ambulance. At the hospital, crazed and deaf Joshua sees Stephen pass his room. He follows Stephen. Stephen notices a fire axe on the wall, pulls it out of its glass case. Joshua follows Stephen back to Quaid’s. Stephen tries to inflict terror on Quaid with the axe—he’s in a murderous rage, but at some point, he realizes what he’s doing and sets the axe down. Quaid holds his gun on him, then knocks Stephen out with it. Stephen wakes up tied to a chair in an upstairs bedroom, and Quaid plays footage of his torturing Cheryl for nearly a week, keeping her trapped in the basement with nothing to eat but a big chunk of meat. She gets crazier and crazier, and the meat gets more and more rotten, but finally she relents and eats the disgusting, maggoty, rotten meat.

Quaid hears a crash downstairs. He thinks Stephen’s brought someone with, so he goes up to investigate. Stephen struggles until he gets to Quaid’s palette knife and cuts himself free. With the knife, he goes upstairs to track down Quaid, while Quaid searches for the mystery visitor. Stephen finds Quaid, but in the darkness Quaid can’t see him. Suddenly, there’s a screech of audio as the projector returns to life. Quaid sees the Axe-Man leap out of a door and jam the axe into Stephen. In reality, it’s Joshua with the axe. Quaid starts shooting at his hallucinated Axe-Man, killing Joshua. In voiceover, Quaid explains that he was able to face his biggest fears in this way. Quaid pulls the body of Stephen down into the basement, where Cheryl is still trapped. He leaves her with the body and the pocket-knife and speculates on how long it’ll take her to get hungry enough to eat the mangled corpse. Cheryl screams, and Quaid slams the door.


Comments:

The writer does some nice things with the characters, showing how their deep-seated fears have impacted and continue to impact them. He also does a nice job of wrapping everything in a neat, if disturbing, package at the end. As far as horror movies go, this could be a lot worse. But it could also be a lot better.

Whatever nice things the writer does with the characters, Quaid is fairly bland as the demented villain. It’s obvious he’s the boy from the first scene, it’s obvious his obsession with fear stems from this trauma, and it’s obvious that he’ll take everything too far. The story goes wild in the third act, but most of the first and second acts feel like little more than prolonging the inevitable. Endless, pretentious pontifications on philosophy and fear pad out most scenes. It doesn’t create suspense, since audiences know exactly what’s going to happen; it will mostly make them want to check their watches, and the constant references to Stephen’s watch don’t exactly help that. With Quaid acting as a mystery man who isn’t a mystery, his descent into madness and mayhem should start much earlier.

Despite the unsubtle trajectory of Quaid’s “arc,” the story does have some moments of unpredictability, especially the ending, but overall it’s a disappointment. Nothing happens that hasn’t been seen before, and the writer doesn’t put any unique or interesting spins on these old favorites. Even the ending, while shocking, pulls its punches: the red-herring of tortured Joshua turning into the axe-wielding maniac keeps both Stephen and Quaid from seeming like outright murderers. In the case of Quaid, why does it matter? Even if it was Stephen with the axe instead of Joshua, it would be an act of self-defense, but besides that, he’s the villain. Turning him into a more cold-blooded murderer wouldn’t ruin audiences’ good times. Stephen’s already come after him with an axe once, but he managed to control his anger. Why wouldn’t seeing Cheryl get tortured make him fly off the handle? Wouldn’t Quaid’s treatment of her qualify as justifiable homicide? The irony of Quaid having to face his deepest fear as a direct result of his fear-torturing is diminished by the fact that it’s Joshua, not Stephen, who administers Quaid’s torture. The ending would be made doubly ironic by the recurring theme that Stephen is too afraid to really go after what he wants, especially when it comes to women. Now, he’s finally putting fear aside, and Quaid kills him for his trouble. Joshua doesn’t add anything to this struggle; in fact, he takes away from it.

Dread is a decent, if predictable, horror story that could be great with a few tweaks like this.

I don’t know if horror fans still line up to see anything with the “Clive Barker” name on it, but the upcoming Hellraiser remake might renew interest in his brand of horror; if successful, it would increase the potential audience for Dread exponentially. Even if it isn’t, horror fans may find this alluring because of its surface similarities to Hostel– and Saw-esque “torture porn” movies.

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Diminishing Returns

Everyone, I have some shocking news: ratings are down. In a trend blamed largely on the writers’ strike, second-year shows are especially down, but all television shows are down overall. Networks want to blame the strike, citing the apparent no-brain that when the shows went off for too long, it didn’t occur to viewers that they’d come back this fall. Thanks for treating TV owners like a gaggle of simple-minded rubes, networks! That’ll really draw in the viewers!

Look, in the day and age of TiVo, thousands of free online TV guides, digital downloads, streaming and the thousands of other ways people can find out about—and watch—their favorite shows, it’s asinine to suggest nobody realizes the shows have come back. It’s asinine to suggest that maybe viewers forgot these shows’ alleged greatness. For the past three or four years, 24 has aired in a five-month shot from January to May, leaving a seven-month gap in between—yet it still manages to find an audience. Same deal with Lost and Medium, both of which recently attempted the same airing pattern. Basic-cable shows often air in the same way, in 13-week chunks with a nine-month break in the middle, and while they never managed the ratings of the networks, they don’t lose viewers who just forgot the show existed.

Most of the articles referencing this alleged decline use season averages—for instance, ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money had 7.1 million viewers for this week’s premiere, down one million from last season’s average, but up from its finale in December (6.5 million); Pushing Daisies did see a sharp decrease, but not as sharp as they’d like you to think. While it lost around three million viewers from its average, the premiere (6.8 million) dropped around half a million viewers from its December finale (6.3 million). However, while Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles—last season’s best new show—performed reasonably well last season, (averaging eight million and scoring slightly above average in its season finale), it debuted to 6.33 million viewers and has seen a drop of nearly one million viewers since then.

You might think that proves the network’s case—viewers just plain forgot about it. Except for one thing: Terminator started its run in January and ended in March.

I’d put it down to the quality of the shows, except Terminator is still great (and getting better), while I saw the Pushing Daisies premiere as a bit of a disappointment, and I’ve already lost interest in Dirty Sexy Money (see below). I could chalk it up to Fox’s notoriously bad promotion of its own shows, or their bastard-stepchild treatment of it, or the fact that sci-fi is a hard sell (even if it comes packaged with the Terminator brand).

The fact is, I don’t know why people aren’t watching. Maybe they don’t see what I see. Whatever the reason, it’s not because they forgot about it.

Bones (Fox)—What a lackluster episode. A nonsense story about Booth wanting a chair, making the Angela-Hodgins breakup even stupider by having Angela conflicted about the awkwardness and a meager mystery enhanced only by casting a guy who acted guilty as a ruse. Bones set itself apart from usual half-assed procedurals with strong characters and amusing writing. After last week, I guess I expected too much. I’d like to think of this as a craptacular cool-down. Hopefully they’ll put more thought into next week’s episode.

Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)—I figured its second-season premiere is the best time to let you all know that I’ve bailed on this show. Although it’s not a bad show, it started to make creative decisions that made me less and less enthusiastic about it as the weeks went by—mainly the emphasis on the Nick-Karen relationship nobody cares about. The final nail in the coffin actually came during the hiatus, when ABC announced that Samaire Armstrong’s real-life shenanigans forced them to reduce her from a regular to a recurring character until such time as they can write her off the show completely. Armstrong didn’t make or break the show, but the twins’ relationship was one of the highlights.

At the end of the day, I just watch too much TV, and this was at the bottom of the list of shows I would watch if I had more time. But I don’t, so I won’t.

Everybody Hates Chris (The CW)—Paul Ben-Victor (who memorably played Vondas on The Wire but has been in no fewer than 800,000 other TV series and movies) joins the Everybody Hates Chris as a new foil for Chris; unlike Ms. Morello, he’s bigoted out of dickishness, not ignorance. The story did little more than establish new ground for Chris, so I don’t know where they intend to take the conflict, but let’s hope they give his character some more dimension (as they did with Ms. Morello). On other fronts, I’m glad to see Greg’s still kicking around, and Tanya’s subplot working in the beauty shop was pretty amusing for what little screen time it got. This was a solid, funny episode, but because of the natural focus on Chris, we didn’t get quite so much of the sharp, well-observed comedy from the vast supporting cast. But hey, there’s time for that.

Fringe (Fox)—Let me start, as Fringe often does, by laying down a straightforward idea in the most confusing possible way: for many of the same reasons, the past week’s show was both Fringe‘s best and worst episode.

The good: details on “The Pattern,” giving one of the characters (Peter) a legitimate conflict to work through and resolve by episode’s end, the creepy hairless guy, the “good” vs. “bad” mind-readers. Even the overall plot, as nonsensical and unresolved as it was, kept me more interested than the usual “new spin on a shitty B-movie” storytelling.

The bad: thanks to the details on “The Pattern” and the introduction of the creepy hairless guy who may or may not be an alien or a time-traveler or something otherworldly, Fringe won’t shed its “X-Files Lite” image any time soon. Living in the shadow of such an iconic show is a double-edged sword: The X-Files‘ best material makes Fringe look like something written in crayon by Young Authors participant; The X-Files‘ worst leads me to assume Fringe will succumb to an enormous decline in quality and coherency, making it seem like a wasteful time investment. (The fact that Alias suffered the same fate doesn’t help Fringe‘s case, either.)

The ugly: Walter’s monologue. More interesting than anything ever featured on the show, achingly delivered by John Noble, this could have been Fringe‘s defining moment. But the underlying ideas—that Walter met the Observer once before, that he saved both Walter’s and Peter’s lives, and that one day he “might need” Walter—undid the good things brimming to the surface in this episode. Peter accepting the notion of The Pattern was enough; we don’t need to put these two main characters at the center of The Pattern. It makes everything both too neat and too convoluted…

Then again, that’s pretty much Fringe in a nutshell.

Heroes (NBC)—My heart sank when I saw the promo pairing Noah Bennet and Sylar. After my enormous disappointment with last week’s premiere, I wondered how much further the show could sink. That promo answered the question.

So it surprised the hell out of me that I didn’t hate the episode. Granted, I still didn’t like the Bennet-Sylar team. I don’t like anything about Mama Petrelli being Sylar’s mother, either. Christine Rose brought an alarming, incestuous quality to their scenes together that made the whole concept much more interesting than anything in the writing—but I’m still not on board. None of it’s as terrible as I expected, but it heads all of these characters down roads that will get worse before they get better.

The disappointment train continues in the Hiro/Ando subplot. Thankfully, they ignored the premiere’s “Hiro no longer trust Ando” conceit until the end of the episode, which returned us to a bit of the old-school fun and charm of their friendship. However, the Flash girl—whose name I haven’t committed to memory—managed to drag the subplot down with her. When will television producers (and actors, for that matter) realize there’s very little cuteness to smug, obnoxious characters? If they’re trying to set up a possible romance between Hiro and the Flash girl, they need to try much, much harder. Even the tedium of his romance with the Japanese princess was more rewarding.

Meanwhile, the writers self-corrected some of their mistakes pretty quickly—yanking Nathan off the crazy train (sort of), yanking Peter out of Francis Capra’s evil, shout-powered body, and letting the two villains escape. The bank-heist subplot, rote as it was, actually worked for me. The writers showed more skill in presenting these new villain characters, even the ones that died, than they have in giving new twists on characters we already know. Even Parkman’s African safari has already come to the point and will, hopefully, end within the next episode or two. Most surprisingly, the storyline with “Tracy Strauss” got suddenly and surprisingly interesting. Her sad scenes with Micah were very affecting, but the “crazy ol’ doctor” stuff is what really piqued my interest.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this show, but unlike last week, the good outweighed the bad.

King of the Hill (Fox)—I tend to like Bill-focused episodes. Although he is, by far, the most tragic character in the Hills’ universe, his unbridled, misguided optimism always dulls the black-edged comedy of his existence. In this case, he’s diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes, and a hostile, House-like doctor browbeats Bill into buying a wheelchair, which convinces everyone he knows he’s disabled. Greedy for the attention, he lets them think this, befriends some actual disabled people—and, well, it gets kind of ugly from there.

One of the great things about the way the writers attacked this episode is that it doesn’t rely on humiliating Bill repeatedly; he makes a drunken mistake (by getting up and walking in front of his new, wheelchair-bound friends) and has to pay the price, but nobody laughs at him, nor does he laugh at anyone. He wants friends, he wants attention and—in one of the show’s funniest ironies—he really did have a problem, but hanging with the athletic disabled guys got him into the shape to keep his diabetes under control. They don’t vilify Bill or his new friends; in fact, Thunder (voiced by Jake “Body by Jake/Big Brother Jake” Steinfeld) works with Hank and the alley boys to pull Bill out of his post-humiliation funk.

They also did a good job of tying this into a Peggy-Bobby subplot in which she wants him to eat healthy so he doesn’t end up like Bill. It didn’t get much screen time, but it had a surprising—and satisfying—resolution. It offset Bill’s more-obvious “beat up Dr. House” ending.

Mad Men (AMC)—A friend once grumbled that he won’t watch Mad Men because he doesn’t like the idea of 21st-century writers saying “that’s how people were” in the ’60s. I could have mocked him for coming to this conclusion without ever seeing the show. I could have mocked him because, even if nobody on the writing staff was alive in the ’60s (which might not be true—I honestly don’t know), neither was my friend. Instead, I tried to reason that this isn’t a show about “the ’60s.” It may use the period to reflect on contemporary society, but it’s not trying to say, “This is how all people were at this time in history.” It’s saying, “This is how these people were at this time in their lives.” If he forced me to cite an example, this is the episode I’d choose.

So Freddy Rumsen pisses himself just before an important pitch, leading Duck and Roger to decide he has to go. It’s interesting, again, how they use Duck as a glowering villain—he’s a teetotaler!—instead of making him into a compelling character. Granted, I love the irony of calling him a teetotaler when he’s an ex-drunk, but he does nothing here but make Don angry, and we’re forced to pick Don’s side.

Freddy, Roger and Don go for one last night on the town before they send Freddy away for “the cure” and a six-month leave of absence, which even Freddy knows is a permanent vacation. With the exception of the high theatrics of Don slugging Jimmy Barrett, it was pretty much just a depressing, quiet night between three sad drunks. And yet, I’d wager it was a pivotal night for each of them—for Freddy, the change is obvious; for Don—well, I can’t imagine punching Jimmy will end well for either of them; and Roger, after listening to Don’s drunken ramblings justifying his own amoral behavior, decides to leave his wife… For Jane. I gotta say, I didn’t see that one coming, especially after Roger’s scene with Joan. And yet, you watch the scene again and realize it makes perfect sense. Well played, Mad Men.

Pushing Daisies (ABC)—The return of Pushing Daisies marks the return of my doubts about the show continuing its success in the long term. I still love the cast (Chenoweth excepted, though she’s 10% more tolerable when I can skip through her song-and-dance crap), they have great guest stars, and this week’s mystery might have been the most well-crafted since the pilot—

But they can’t keep up the pace. At a certain point, the “talking quickly = hilarity” formula will stop paying dividends. By the end of the first season, cracks formed in the cutesy façade. They started taking it into a character-focused, soap-opera direction, which normally I like but, for some intangible reason, it just didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because these characters are so far from reality, I have a hard time feeling the empathy. Maybe it’s because the depressing moon-eyes between Ned and Chuck got less effective each time they repeated it. It’s telling that the only character whose story remains interesting is Emerson Cod’s. He’s the closest thing to a grounded, real character they have, and the pop-up book he’s designed to help his estranged daughter find him is as depressing as it is sweet. Will they abuse this the same way they abused Ned and Chuck?

I haven’t stopped watching, but I fear Pushing Daisies‘ future.

Raising the Bar (TNT)—Raising the Bar may not be the best show on television, but this week offered a textbook example of what the show wants to do—and, unlike last week, they did it pretty well. The closing bar scene between Jerry and Bobbi might have taken it from subtle to obvious, but the he finally articulated the difficulties of the criminal justice system without coming across like a whiner. The writers also focused more on this complicated case—and Jerry’s complicated defense—than on the interpersonal shenanigans. Ernhardt barely appeared in this episode, and the awkward “Bobbi’s married but flirting with Jerry and her husband’s kind of a dick” subplot actually worked for me. It was marginal enough to not distract from the cases, but it also didn’t feel extraneous. Well done.

Sons of Anarchy (FX)—I realized something about Sons of Anarchy that doesn’t bode well for its future, unless the writers get their acts together. Creator Kurt Sutter has fashioned a modern-day Hamlet story from this biker gang, but I find the story of recent ex-con Opie (Ryan Hurst) and his put-upon wife, Donna (played by Jericho‘s Sprague Grayden), much more compelling than storylines that get infinitely more screen-time.

The other characters do interest me, but the situations the writers have put them in, so far, have not piqued my interest. Some subplots have worked better than others, but it shouldn’t be such a crap-shoot. More than that, they shouldn’t keep the most interesting story and character relationship on the furthest back-burner—even in an episode that featured Opie prominently, his actual conflict took a backseat to the way the others felt about Kyle coming to town.

I have the patience to see the season through, but this episode just underscored all the mistakes the writers have made thus far, and it didn’t declare any intentions of repairing them. I don’t know how I feel about that; if they don’t want to improve the show, why should anyone keep watching it?

Supernatural (The CW)—Sometimes I’m shocked by how good this show is. Actually, it shocks me more often than I’d like to admit. I always want to lump this show in with middling sci-fi/horror fare like Charmed and The Ghost Whisperer, what with its pretty-boy cast and its EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: McG credit. Over the years, though, it’s grown into something great, and episodes like this week’s remind me of just how far it’s come since its pilot.

Aided by a thoroughly bad-ass guest appearance by The X-Files‘ Mitch Pileggi (who seems to be everywhere these days—not that I’m complaining), the episode took Dean back in time and explored the unusual history of the Winchester brood. They packed a whole lot of revelations into this: turns out, the Campbell side of the family were all hunters. The Yellow-Eyed Demon—who will kill the boys’ mother and torment them—comes prowling around Lawrence, making unfair “deal-with-the-Devil”-type trades to build some sort of half-human, half-demon army. That’s right, Sam’s psychic powers came straight from him and suggest he’ll go bad. Oh, and John Winchester knew nothing of the hunter ways at all, making it depressing and ironic that the lifestyle consumed him after her death. Also, the Yellow-Eyed Demon killed both of Dean’s grandparents, but not before letting Pileggi rock out as the demon-possessed old man. Then Dean’s mother had to make the deal to bring John back to life.

Got all that? In between, they shoved in a complex mystery, a metric ton of Back to the Future references, more conflict with Castiel the Bad-Ass Angel—and they kept Sam and Dean separated but it didn’t bother me a bit. I don’t know how I’ll feel if this season is all about Sam going to the dark side, but if they keep up the top-notch writing, I’ll probably love it.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox)—I want to knock some points off because of the writers’ reliance on “Cameron has a glitch, does something weird” plots, but they always handle it so well, I can’t complain.

Also, how can you go wrong with something resembling a terminator Ark? Am I crazy? I saw a bunch of caged humans—but, more importantly, a bunch of caged animals—on a big-ass boat. What are those future terminators up to? What is Shirley Manson up to? What does she really want with Ellison? What’s the deal with her “daughter”? Could she have sent herself back in time to protect the person whose identity she will steal in the future? Or are they actually going for the “Terminator Baby” thing? Busy Philipps’ pregnancy has turned into an important element in the show thus far, and I can’t imagine it ending well for anyone involved. But what’s the deal? Is her ex-boyfriend some kind of special machine? An Impregnator?

So many questions, so few answers. On to the matter at hand—the fascinating story of Cameron forgetting herself and believing she is the girl whose DNA she effectively “stole” in the future. Teaming up with guest star Leah Pipes (former star of the late but unlamented CW series Life Is Wild), who did a pretty good job as a rebellious street urchin. This might sound weird, but my one complaint about the episode is that Cameron didn’t kill her. They just had to give us the shot of her regaining consciousness, gasping for breath. It would have been much more ballsy to off her, but I’m guessing the network had some problems with that.

As for Future Cameron (or, um… Past Cameron, considering in her “lifetime,” these events took place earlier), they still managed to answer a couple of questions about her while still keeping the overall agenda mysterious. Did Future John reprogram her, or did they dig up more dirt from the machines? Time will tell…

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SEXth Element

I’ve come to expect very little from Private. Their pandering to bizarre Eastern European fetishes in films like Top 40 DPs and Without Limits gets worse with each film, but I had some hope for SEXth Element. A big-budget sci-fi film driven by special effects, the film could have been a genre masterpiece. Instead, its disappointing, incomprehensible storyline sinks it, making this a late entry in the competition for “Most Disappointing Film.”

I guess I should have known better than to expect anything from writer/director Andrew Curtis and executive producer Milk; they’re in too deep with the Private aesthetic. Still, I didn’t expect a film so confusing and dramatically inert that I could only say, “What?” when it faded to black. That’s the bottom line: SEXth Element has a story that makes no sense. Apparently, Curtis and Milk assume the effects will dazzle us into believing we’ve watched a Star Wars-like epic. This plunges even lower into the depths of badness than Star Whores: The Phantom Anus.

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Who Is Doris Payne?

Author: Eunetta T. Boone

Genre: Biograhy/Drama/Crime

Storyline: 4

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 4

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

A chronicle of Doris Payne, who spent her life as a jewel thief.


Synopsis:

2005. A WOMAN, obscured from the security cameras monitoring her, steals jewels from a department store. In a Las Vegas hotel room, it turns out the thief is 74-year-old DORIS PAYNE, who watches James Frey on Oprah. Doris goes to steal from a Nieman Marcus, contemplating in voiceover how she got here.

West Virginia, 1943. Doris, 13, plays dress-up with her sister, LOUISE. Their mother, CLEMENTINE, tells them to go to a local store and put money into her account there. Doris notices the shopkeep, MR. BENJAMIN, is distracted with a customer trying on zoot suits. She begs Mr. Benjamin to let her try on a watch, even though she notices the $20 price tag. Mr. Benjamin reluctantly allows her to try it on, then tells her if she wants it, it’ll cost $50. While he’s distracted, Doris steals the watch.

At home, Doris works on a school project. Clementine tries to pull her away to clean, but Doris’s father, DAVID, argues to let Doris keep working. They get into a physical altercation, which prompts Doris’s brothers and sisters to all leap into the fray. In voiceover, Doris explains this is what attracted her to chaos.

Doris is now older. She, Louise, and a few friends go to a sleazy juke joint. Doris attracts GEORGE VADEN, and they go out to Doris’s car. They have a make-out/heavy-petting session with Louise and their friends complaining from the backseat.

1950. Doris and George are married now, with two kids—RONALD, 5, and newborn GLENN. George collects rent at whorehouses. He’s a gambler, a drinker, a smoker, and a horn-dog. When he gets drunk, he tends to lash out at her verbally. At a baby shower for a friend, Doris learns a man named JAMES isrunning a money-order scam out of the back bedroom. After he explains the scam, she asks to get in on it, so she can sock some money away to get herself and the kids away from George. George overhears this.

1952. Doris is in prison for passing bad money orders. In voiceover, she complains that she spent three years in prison, and George refused to bring any of her kids. Clementine brings Ronald on occasion. George is now shacking up with a woman named MARY, who’s helping out with the kids.

1954. Doris is out of prison, living with Clementine and her new husband, RICHARD. She works as a nurse at a retirement home with ADA LURCH, an attractive Jewish girl. Ada invites Doris to the Club Caprece, a club for African-Americans run by white, Jewish HAROLD “BABE” BROMFELD. When Doris and Ada arrive, they find Babe breaking up a fight between DEXY McCOY and another man, over MAVIS JOHNSON, a cute waitress. Doris admires Babe’s intellect and his lack of pretension about associating with African-Americans. At the nursing home, Doris is sent to a more extreme section of the home, where she has to deal with rotting bedsores and teeth. Horrified, Doris runs from the home. She recalls stealing the watch from Mr. Benjamin’s store and decides she will do anything to make enough money to get her kids back.

1959. In Pittsburgh, Doris is dressed as a nice. She bewilders a jewelry store clerk until she is able to steal ssome of the merchandise. Outside the store, Doris runs. In voiceover, Doris explains that she realized she needed a partner. She trusted Ada, so she asked her.

Ada hooks Doris up with Babe, a well-known entrepreneur with connections to the Jewish jewel market. Doris isn’t sure. Ada forces Doris to dance with Babe, and at closing time, she makes her pitch to him: she’ll get the diamonds if he can sell them. Babe is dubious, but when Doris shows him the merchandise, he agrees to consider it.

In her nurse’s outfit, Doris heads up to Windsor, Ontario, where she pulls the same scam she did in Pittsburgh—except the only Greyhound back to the States is canceled. The next one doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning. Panicking, Doris spends the night in the bus station bathroom. She hides her nurse’s uniform, steals a bathroom-user’s coat and hat, and blends in with a Native-American family on the bus. The police walk right past her. Babe’s impressed, wants to see her work. She says she only works out of town, but Babe’s taking a business trip to Philadelphia, so they agree to go together. She steals from a jewelry store while Babe poses as her husband. They share a hotel suite and get to know each other. That night, they make love. Later, Babe wants to know exactly how Doris pulls off the thieving. She tries to explain it. He asks if she’s afraid of prison, but Doris says she’s already done time. Babe suggests Doris dress up as a classy woman—a socialite or a schoolteacher. A nurse is too easy to track. They also make a set of rules on who they’ll steal from and who they’ll sell to.

In voiceover, Doris explains that the FBI began targeting “dangerous” African-Americans. AUBREY LIVINGSTON, an African-American agent, recites his oath of office and settles in to the Cleveland field office—just as Doris and Babe settle in to Cleveland Park, a wealthy neighborhood in the city. Babe and his wife, MYRA, invite Cleveland’s elite to buy diamonds. Doris poses as a ritzy broker from New York. Ronald, now a young man, shows up at Doris’s house. She’s happy to see him, but it’s awkward at first. They quickly settle back into their old routine. Doris calls George’s house to wish a happy birthday to her daughter, DONNA. George refuses to speak to her.

At the Club Caprece, Babe says he has a lawyer working on ways for Doris to regain custody of her kids. Dexy McCoy threatens Babe. Sick of Dexy running out his dwindling patronage, Babe fires Mavis. She’s enraged and makes threats herself. In the back office after closing, Babe loads shotguns and tells Doris to hide in the closet. Doris wants a gun, to help him, but Babe insists. Two THUGS stomp toward the office, and Babe blasts them each in the kneecaps. Doris emerges from the closet just in time to see Dexy coming—but Babe doesn’t see him. Doris throws a handgun to Babe, who has just enough time to blow Dexy away. Babe is amazed and impressed by the woman who just saved his life. In voiceover, Doris explains that she saw this incident as a sign that it was time to get her kids.

1968. Babe drives Doris and Ronald back to West Virginia. She reintroduces herself to her kids, who have all grown quite a bit. Glenn is a little excited to see her, but Donna has a hissy-fit, assuming Mary had just been mean when she said she wasn’t really her daughter. Glenn and Ronald help her calm down. George comes home, sees Babe, and gets jealous and violent. Mary forces George to leave her alone. Doris takes the kids back to Cleveland.

At Christmas, Doris spoils her kids. Babe spoils her by buying a beautiful diamond necklace. He mentions Myra is getting sicker and that they’re going to Switzerland to see a specialist. He invites her along, but Doris says she and Babe can go by themselves, some other time.

Easter. Doris steals from a jewelry store, but Aubrey Livingston happens to be there. He watches her make “the move,” dropping the valuable diamonds in her purse while replacing them with others. At the FBI office, Aubrey explains to coworker CHUCK RIDDICK that he won’t pick up Doris just yet because a thief like her deserves panache in her arrest. Babe is angry at Doris for being late, saying this violates their set rules. He’s also angry because Myra’s illness is costing him more than they’re earning stealing diamonds. His club is going under, as well. Doris and Myra come to an understanding—she knows Babe is sleeping with her, and she doesn’t mind as long as Doris doesn’t get any crazy ideas about “freeing” Babe from Myra. She has a seizure and collapses.

Doris steals from a Philadelphia jewelry store, but the cops make her. She steals anyway, but Babe isn’t where he’s supposed to be with the getaway car. As a result, Aubrey and Chuck tail them, pull them over, and arrest them. Doris hides the stolen diamonds under the car’s carpeting. Babe gets his own lawyer, infuriating Doris. She tries to tell her kids it’s a case of mistaken identity, but they don’t believe her. With her own lawyer and the lack of evidence, Doris gets a suspended sentence. Aubrey warns Doris that a day will come that she makes a major slip-up.

1970. A drunken Babe follows Doris, who’s startled. She makes him go away. She wakes up that night because Babe is throwing bricks, rocks, bottles, etc., at her house. He steals her car, so Doris goes down to the club. They have an argument. An angry African-American throws a molotov cocktail through the club’s front window, burning it to the ground.

1973. Babe gets Doris forged passports. Babe wants to know why she’s escalating her thievery when her kids are taken care of, and Doris says it’s because she’s good at it—it’s her gift. She goes to the U.N. in New York “to prepare” for the role as a sophisticated American divorcee traveling abroad.

Doris finds no challenge in stealing from London jewelers. She moves on to Paris, where she meets JEAN MARC LUCIEN. They flirt, but it turns out Jean Marc is also a thief—and he leaves her holding the bag. Doris narrowly escapes to Zurich. She steals some diamonds from Zurich, then goes to hide in a club, except her manic dancing antics are being broadcast on live TV. The police arrest and interrogate her. She speaks a made-up nonsense language, which confuses them into sending her to a psychiatric hospital. Jean Marc pretends to be a police officer taking her back to France.

Instead, he takes her to Monte Carlo, where she even catches the eye of PRINCE RAINIER. Doris steals a diamond worth a half a million Swiss francs, freaks out, gets in a taxi to the Nice airport. Airport officials recognize her, so she demands to speak with the American consulate. They’re ready to extradite her back to the U.S. when a NUN appears and urges Doris to go to the bathroom. She begs Doris for the stolen ring, and Doris obliges. The Nun then helps her sneak out of the French jail.

Doris continues to steal diamonds all over the world. In Tokyo, she gets a telegram saying her mother has cancer. When she returns to the U.S., the FBI is waiting. Aubrey takes Doris to see Clementine, then takes her to see Babe and Myra. Myra has gotten better, but Babe is sick. In voiceover, Doris says Babe died of a pulmonary embolism at age 56.

1990. Doris, nearing 60, is in a Cleveland prison. She looks at pictures of her children and her friends. A montage takes us through various other prisons she does time at. At one point, she has a near-death experience and sees Clementine and Louise smiling at her.

2005. Doris gets out of a Denver prison and makes her home there. She meets with Aubrey, tells him she intends to write a controversial memoir like James Frey. After writing it, she hits the talk show and lecture circuit. Doris takes a trip to France to see the Nun on her deathbed. She returns the diamond to Doris. As Doris leaves, Aubrey is there. He read her memoir and investigated the mystery diamond. She finally made her big slip-up. Doris smiles as Aubrey takes her hand.


Comments:

The overall story of this real-life jewel thief has many remarkable elements, but it has been distilled into one unremarkable screenplay. So overstuffed with anecdotal moments, it has very little narrative focus and almost tells three separate, complete stories—but because the writer has to rush everything to cover 75 years, these separate stories are not satisfactory. If the writer focused on one of these stories and really fleshed out a 10- or 15-year period in Doris Payne’s life, it could make for one hell of a script.

The rushed nature also impacts the dialogue significantly; because every other scene has skipped ahead a few years, every other line of dialogue is bland, on-the-nose exposition. As a result, we never get a chance to really know any of the characters, other than Doris and Babe. This problem becomes significant when the writer attempts to portray Doris as a desperate woman driven to extremes to earn enough money to reclaim her children; a few very brief scenes show Doris as a mother, but these scenes don’t portray her as particularly doting or caring. Using the kids as her primary motive for stealing comes across as a cheap way to make Doris more empathetic. It falls apart completely when Doris continues to escalate her stealing after she’s reclaimed the kids and keeps them living in relative comfort (while also ignoring the fact that she often neglects the children in order to focus on her blossoming criminal career). Because the writer manipulates Doris’s true motives to such a degree, it’s much more difficult to get a sense of what really drives her. Some insight into the forces that compelled Doris to start stealing and continue long after she had to—and escalate, at that—would have helped. Plenty of movies have been made about empathetic criminals, so why stick Doris with a false, family-friendly explanation for her crimes?

The third act, covering Doris’s life as an international jewel thief (getting caught, doing her time, then getting caught again) is important in presenting this woman as a lifelong criminal, but everything about the “international” portion feels tacked on. The dramatic story essentially ends when Doris and Babe split, without a satisfying resolution, and then a new story begins with her and Jean Marc. The story becomes more frenetic than usual to cover 30 years in less than 30 pages and starts to feel like it’s ladling barely-relevant details. The real meat of the story occurs before Doris goes international, so shoehorning all of that information into this script continues to hurt it.

With big enough stars in the lead roles, this could do well. Although it’s an unmemorable biopic and an unmemorable crime thriller, the truth of the source material and high-caliber actors will draw in audiences. The international flavor might also intrigue European audiences.

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Heroes & Villains

Bones (Fox)—This week, the writers redeemed last week’s lackluster effort—just in time to go off the air for a month!

This week, Bones tries to tackle religion and faith through the prism of its characters. They’ve done shows like this before, but the attempts to tackle issues miss more often than they hit. (The show’s worst episode remains one in which they find the burnt corpse of a soldier and each character unconvincingly meditates on the Iraq War.) This episode was a solid base hit, offering a complex—but not ridiculous—mystery with an untidy but satisfying solution. More than that, it allowed us to gain a deeper insight into both Brennan and Booth, and it gave Brennan an understanding of what drives the human desire to believe in otherworldly control.

The only downside? This intern-of-the-week gimmick was funny at first, but the joke’s worn thin. Maybe they need to give the interns more interesting quirks, or maybe they just need to hire Carla Gallo or Michael Badalucco (the only interns who made an impression) and get it over with.

Everybody Hates Chris (The CW)—This episode had a couple of excellent twists reminiscent of the late, lamented Freaks & Geeks. In the first, Chris is conflicted about befriending “androgynous” peer Angel, but when he decides to put his fear aside and hang with him in public, Angel is the one who’s humiliated and begs Chris to leave him alone. In the second, Greg becomes the king bad-ass of the Bronx Academy and walks around with a whole new (hilarious) attitude. The writers have, so far, done a better job of mining the trials and tribulations of high school than they did with junior high, so I hope they keep this up.

In some discouraging news, Tisha Campbell (Martin, School Daze) had what one can only hope was a one-off guest spot as Tasha’s mother. She’s as shrill and talentless as I remembered, so I sincerely hope they bring back Whoopi Goldberg as Tasha’s angst-ridden grandmother and send Ms. Campbell-Martin back to prison. This subplot only had two bright spots: the brief, hilarious return of Malvo, and Tichina Arnold’s incredible facial reactions to the insanity surrounding her. She is consistently the funniest part of this show, so it disappoints me to see her mired in such an annoying subplot.

Oh, I should also mention that Tanya’s Danny Glover crush, while a little more absurd than her Billy Ocean crush, is very funny. I can’t wait to see how she reacts when Lethal Weapon comes out.

Heroes (NBC)—I’m sick of spewing vitriol in the direction of this show, so instead I offer a series of questions this week’s episode raised that need to be answered within the next two weeks, or I walk:

  • How will Sylar’s power help Peter figure out how to fight the future? On paper, the move seems incredibly stupid, but I guess it’s no stupider than anything else Peter has done. What knowledge or insight will he gain from this?
  • Related to the above: since we now know two of Angela Petrelli’s secrets (she has the “power” to see into the future and give birth to Sylar), we have to ignore plenty of the retroactive continuity errors that have cropped up as a result. Putting them aside, let’s concentrate on the fresh continuity errors. To wit: she knows and has interacted with “Future Peter,” who we discover by the end of the episode “went bad” as a result of absorbing Sylar’s power, which gives him “the hunger” she is—in the present day—trying to eliminate in her li’l black sheep. She understands what this will do to the current Peter, how this change will affect the future, how it will destroy her son and… She doesn’t care? She’d rather try to “cure” Sylar than prevent Peter from suffering the same fate? From the more pragmatic stance that she wants to “cure” Sylar to remove his threat level, and she knows Peter will end up an equal threat—what the hell? Why did she do nothing to stop Future Peter when she had the chance? Instead, she just sniped at him for messing things up and told him to get Peter back, theoretically knowing that this meeting of minds will destroy her son’s life. So, again, why doesn’t she care?
  • Much as I want to respect the writers for attempting to present a future of moral gray areas (and cinematographic gray tones), I don’t follow the delineation of “heroes” versus “villains.” So Claire and the others are fighting fire with fire because Peter is so evil, nobody can reason with him? Future Peter acted as dumb as usual, but he had a bit of reason left; he realized he’d already changed enough to render killing Nathan futile. He knew where he had to send the present-day incarnation to get What He Needs. Sylar had the ability to feign relative normalcy (taking his “creepy” factor down to “meter-reader” levels, instead of the usual “raging sociopath”), but I got no sense that Peter was faking. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that these former heroes have gone rogue… To what end? Because they’re bitter more people have powers? Maybe if they had shown examples of these people using their powers to inflict harm on one another, I could have accepted this fringe group of folks who only wanted to use them for good. Instead, they showed us the “fringe” group committing wanton acts of violence, while the rest of the future people just wanted to fly around so they didn’t have to cab it. Eeeevil!
  • Speaking of those people, the writers made very little effort in establishing a coherent “ability-having” infrastructure for the future. In the present, it’s been implied that powers crop up at random and are, in their way, as unique as a fingerprint (although some people do have the same abilities). In other words, you can’t inject someone with “the formula” and give them the convenient ability to fly. They may end up with Maya’s annoying black-mascara massacre power. In this episode, the writers made it seem like the future population had a big interest in beneficial powers—like flying—but zero interest in malicious powers, then immediately doubled back to say abilities were now the “weapon of choice.” So which is it, how does it work, and why do so many people have the ability to fly? I’m not saying the writers have to take us step by step through the future ability-getting market, but they should at least map it out for themselves so they can present it to us in a consistent way. I like it when a show makes my head spin for non-stupid reasons. Heroes used to do that. Sort of.
  • Why did Parkman have to see all of this, or any of this? I don’t want to sound all anti-Parkman, because he’s one of the few characters I can still tolerate, but why did he need to go on a vision quest to tell him the future ain’t pretty? It gave him some specific details but is he really going to remember them four years down the road?
  • Will any of it matter? Showing us the future has turned into a part of this show’s formula, but it does very little except say, “If you don’t do X, the future will turn out like Y.” Duh? I know Peter and Mohinder aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, but the rest of these guys ought to have a handle on it. Sylar’s a bad guy; Adam Monroe’s a bad guy. They do things that would make anyone with common sense think, with enough power, they’d kill a lot of people—for the fun! We have new villains, but we don’t need to see the tricky gray areas of their lives in the future; why not show us more of who they are in the present?

    If I can nerd out a little bit, it all reminds me of a movie called Soultaker, featured in the 10th and final season of the classic, Peabody Award-winning show Mystery Science Theater 3000. The “timeline” that provides “suspense” in Soultaker revolves around the female lead’s parents’ decision whether or not to pull the plug on her comatose daughter at midnight. Her “soul”—thrown clear of the body in a car accident—must return to the unconscious body and “wake up,” or else she’ll die. Meanwhile, the blue-collar father of her across-the-tracks boyfriend, faced with the same decision about his de-souled son, convinces the star’s crusty parents not to pull the plug. Although the two out-of-body leads don’t know this, the midnight deadline no longer has relevance—yet the director chooses to keep showing close-ups of the clock as if it matters. In Heroes, the glimpses of the future have become clock close-ups: effective at first but more nonsensical each time we see them.

    If that metaphor is too convoluted, here’s the short version: future stuff = stupid.

I want to go back to loving this show. Remember how Lost had a bit of a quality/focus problem in the second half of its second season and beginning of its third, then they pulled their heads out of their asses and made it nonstop awesome again? Why can’t Heroes‘ writers do that? I’m afraid I won’t stick around long enough to find out.

King of the Hill (Fox)—This week, the writers did a terrific job of tying all three stories together. They’ve always done this consistent effortlessness, allowing even weaker subplots (like Dale’s carbon-offset business) to rest on the backs of better material, thereby elevating the whole thing. I also love when an episode revolves around Hank’s misguided respect for Mr. Strickland, who had the amazing task of undermining everything about the “go green” initiative at Strickland Propane—even though he single-handedly made such an initiative necessary. Still, probably my favorite part of the episode was Peggy’s efforts to get Bobby to eat a healthier, more natural diet. Maybe the ending doesn’t reflect kid reality, but it showed a surprising outcome that I hope they do something more with in the future.

Mad Men (AMC)—I risk outing myself as an ignorant rube with the following confession: I don’t have any idea what happened at the end. I understood and enjoyed the dense layering of family issues—Betty and her diminishing father and her sibling/stepmother issues, Harry’s bundle of joy, Pete’s lack thereof and pressure from his wife to adopt (and pressure from his family not to), Don’s hilariously bland interaction with Betty’s family and, most especially, Glen Bishop’s running away. So much went on in this episode, it kind of made my head spin, but that ending—did it signify Don’s intention to abandon Betty and his children, to reinvent himself yet again? Does this tie into Betty’s father’s paranoid distrust of Don’s lack of “people”? Is he untrustworthy because he shed his family the way a snake sheds it skin? Or is he untrustworthy because of, you know… All the lying and cheating and stuff?

Maybe the show wants us to believe he’s better than the rest of them. All around, we see portraits of kids trying to imitate their parents—either because they were bred to (Pete) or because they’re eager to please (Betty)—and then there’s Don, who was more eager to get out while he could and remake himself in the image he wanted. So at the end of it all, he decides to do what he’s going to do, heading off to Pasadena in place of Paul (who, ironically, gets stuck doing something he doesn’t want to do) to prove to himself—and anyone paying attention—that he’s his own man. Gotta love a show that portrays selfishness as a virtue!

The Office (NBC)—I get what I want, and I’m still not happy. They’ve finally stepped back from the excessive couplings and love triangles I’ve complained so much about, instead concentrating on legitimate office struggles, and… I don’t know what to say. For pure laughs, it’s easily in the top five. At its best, though, The Office delivers more than laughs. The writers find the pathos in these absurd characters. This week lacked the usual insight and depth, aside from a cringe-worthy scene in which Amy Ryan’s HR rep gets chewed out by corporate. I have faith it’ll bounce back next week.

Pushing Daisies (ABC)—I have no problem ridiculing this show when it does things I dislike, but I want everyone to know it comes from a place of love. When the show debuted last fall, it was pretty great—lots to love about it, and an endless mine of potential. But it began to falter after a few episodes, starting an outright decline that lasted all the way to last week’s premiere. Seeing that initial promise fizzle as the writers settled into an apparent complacency disappointed me big-time. I get angrier with shows that waste potential than I do with shows that are flat-out bad…

But I’m pleased to report that this week’s episode marked a surprising, glorious return to form. Even the circus stuff, which veered on the edge of the “quirky for quirky’s sake” territory in which the writers have fully mired previous mysteries, worked for me. They wrote a compelling, complex mystery and did a terrific job of relating it to Emerson’s continued struggles with his estranged daughter. As I remarked last week, this struggle has become the best part of the show for me, so I’m glad to see them finally do it justice.

Speaking of justice, I also love the writers for stranding Kristin Chenoweth in subplots separate from the main stuff. It’s much easier to fast-forward through her stuff! Okay, I don’t actually do that—because then I’d miss great stuff from Swoosie Kurtz and Diana Scarwid, in addition to further shirking my critical obligations—but I feel more comfortable knowing that I can. “Emmy nomination, schmemmy nomination,” I would say to myself, then hit fast-forward while cackling maniacally. Good times…

I’ll admit some minor disappointment in the Ned-Chuck material. After glossing over the fallout over Ned’s refusal to bring Chuck’s dad back to life, they’ve shifted the conflict to Ned’s separation anxiety, a much more generic conflict. They wrote it well enough in this episode, but I think giving Lee Pace and Anna Friel meatier material would benefit the show a great deal.

Nonetheless, I still thought they did a great job this week and hope this marks an uptick in quality so I can start to be outraged by its declining ratings.

Raising the Bar (TNT)—This week’s contender for “best and worst” episode did so many things right—nicely tying Bobbi’s domestic-abuse case with her marital problems, constructing yet another solid edition of Moral Gray-Area Theatre with McGrath “deciding” the couple wasn’t fit to live together—that I almost want to forgive them for the ridiculous subplot wherein Bobbi’s husband shows himself as a giant drug addict, does a variety of crazy things, then immediately acknowledges the problem and checks into rehab. Also, this subplot allows Bobbi to leave and, one assumes, find herself in the consoling arms of one Jerry Kellerman. I don’t mind much about any of this conceptually; it was just the rapid character assassination and redemption of Bobbi’s husband, within the same hour. I know they want this show to work as a “standalone,” but some of its continuing stories should take time to germinate—this addiction storyline is one of them.

Nonetheless, there was a lot to love here. Jerry’s story included a wonderful guest turn from Page Kennedy (Weeds, Desperate Housewives) as a man repeatedly getting jerked around by the system while awaiting his trial. We also got a little glimpse of Richard as protector, deftly trying to keep Bobbi and Gavin separated during his unannounced, coked-up visit. I’m sure, in time, this show will get the balance right and become appointment television.

Sons of Anarchy (FX)—In one of my life’s many mysteries, the episode that does the best job of probing the complex psyches of its characters also introduces one of the silliest, least convincing characters in recent memory, played by Ally Walker (Profiler), whose scenery-chewing didn’t blend terribly well with the moody, subdued performances from the rest of the cast. Of course, the writing didn’t help her much. I admit, with some reluctance, that I missed her name and, shirking my critical responsibilities, didn’t feel much like rewinding until I found it out. Instead, I attempted to look it up online and found her credited in a variety of places as “ATF Chick.” This doesn’t surprise me too much, because while Gemma especially deepened in this episode, “ATF Chick” burst on the scene spewing artificial “tough-broad”/”runnin’-with-the-big-boys” clichés that, I assume, were written by a man whose closest contact with a woman involves a pair of binoculars and a crusty tube-sock.

The rest of the episode fared much better. When one factors the irritating and unconvincing “ATF Chick” into that equation and the episode still holds the “best episode so far” title, it just shows the leap ahead. I spent a few days wondering what made this episode different—why did it suddenly leap from an inconsistent heap of intriguing ideas and sloppy writing to a rock-solid character study? The obvious answer: they shoved the AK-47 plot into the backseat and took time to dig deep into these characters and their relationships—and the writing soared, proving the writers really understand these people. Their strengths clearly lie in writing this type of material, because the show mainly stumbles when they overstuff it with plot. This time, they balanced a variety of stories—but all of them except the AKs had to do with the way these characters relate to one another. The AK-47 issues got the ball rolling on some of these stories, but the actual core of that remained in the background, essentially acting as a bookend for the episode. It worked. I hope the writers learn a thing or two from this episode.

Supernatural (The CW)—As a pseudo-continuation of last week’s mythology-fest, it surprised me at how much of the “old” Supernatural permeated this week’s episode. Aside from keeping the conflict between Sam and Dean alive, it followed the “freak of the week” formula that they’ve gotten away from over time, and it brought back the old “shades of gray” dilemmas that drove season two but was largely absent from season three.

Also, just like last week’s amazing turn from Mitch Pileggi, Canadian actor Dameon Clarke gave a tour de force as a man trying not to succumb to his secret demon nature. Clarke brought a wonderful gravitas to this struggle, making it more than just an apt metaphor for Sam’s own plight. See, as we found out last week, the yellow-eyed demon made a deal with the Winchesters’ mother to imbue Sam with his demon blood (and, therefore, demon powers). Sam wants to use this power against the demon forces, but Castiel warned against that, which drives this week’s brother-against-brother conflict.

Although I believe this show continues to improve with each passing week, I complained a fair amount last season about driving Sam and Dean apart. Last season, much of the “apart” was literal, physical distance. Since the chemistry between Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki drives the show, I felt like this was a mistake. Now, they’re together and sniping at each other—and maybe it’s another mistake. I want these brothers to go back to trusting each other. They have fundamental differences, but at the end of the day, Sam has Dean’s back and vice-versa. I hope the flame-throwing awesomeness of this week’s resolution will restore a bit of that trust, because I’d rather have them apart from each other than together in a nonstop whinefest.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox)—I sure hope I’m not the only one who wanted a glistening, enormous Dodge Ram after watching this episode? The combination of “limited” commercial interruptions—all of them promoting the Dodge Ram via hilariously over-the-top “reality show”-style shorts—and featuring the truck prominently within the show itself almost makes me forget that it’d probably cost $60 a day to drive that thing. But hey, if ridiculous product placements will keep this show on the air, I’ll put up with it.

For the first time in the show’s history, the Ellison subplot did not qualify as a weak link. I hate bashing the Ellison stuff, because Richard T. Jones is a fine actor and, at times, they do a decent job with him. Mostly, though, the character is adrift in a sea of backstory and exposition. They keep him separated from the main action, other than looking on from a slight distance, but now… Shirley Manson has sent him hot on the trail of the Connors. He investigates the nuclear plant from a few weeks ago, which confirms Manson’s indications that machines exist. He also gets confirmation that Sarah is alive. To thank him for helping Ellison, the dude who runs the nuclear power plant gets iced in one of the most disturbing possible ways: a hot chick starts making out with him, then her tongue morphs into a giant knife, then into Shirley Manson. Shudder. This unholy alliance is starting to pay dividends, so I hope they keep it up.

Is it just me, or did Marty seem like an awfully agreeable for a kidnapping victim? Granted, we know the terrible truth behind his kidnapping, and we know Sarah and Cameron are good people who have his best interests at heart… But Marty just kinda rolled with the whole thing. “Oh, an unkillable machine is after me, my parents might be in danger, and you guys are holding me for an undetermined period of time until you can destroy it? Wanna help me with my book report?” I kept waiting for him to try to escape, and it seemed a little odd that he didn’t. Maybe having a gun-toting cyborg after you forces rapid Stockholm syndrome.

On the plus side, this gave us a glimpse into Sarah that we haven’t seen before—the nurturing, compassionate mother. We have a sense of her caring deeply about John, but even in the movies, you’re left wondering if she cares about him as a child or a human being—or merely as the messianic figure he will become. The pseudo-philosophical, T2-esque voiceovers always have to do with her gloom-and-doom perspective on the future, so we almost never get any kind of insight into her perspective on child-rearing. We also never see her as a mother to a young child—The Terminator ends with her pregnancy, and T2 picks up with John Connor as an 11-year-old punk in the foster-care system. The only hints we get about her maternal instinct involve her taking John to Mexico for weapons training. I liked the opportunity to see Sarah trying to act as a mother to this kid.

But on to the main plot… One of the reasons I love this show is its odd ’70s-throwback vibe. You don’t have too many shows that play it straight with the idea of going undercover in various forms. Almost every episode of this show has seen the characters seeking out targets that require them to befriend specific kids at school, date computer genius cell phone salesmen, take temp jobs at a nuclear plant, etc. It’s spy games as performed by people with little to no competence as spies, so although they play it straight, their ineptitude makes the whole concept a little less cliché-ridden. This week, they made it a little more interesting by sending John and Derek “undercover” into an area of expertise—a military reform school, to protect the “Martin Bedell” this machine is really after.

The method for killing the T-888 might have struck some—including me—as obvious, but hey? They can’t always stick it in a bathtub and pour acid over its remains. Some nice, movie-style melting in flames works wonders once in awhile, even if it’s telegraphed. Plus, they tossed in Cameron skulking in the woods, another of many “Is she evil or not?” moments the show likes to play with. If she’s evil, I have to wonder why this particular situation matters to her. Is she programmed to feel pain at her fallen brethren? Did she not think they’d kill the guy? Or was she really there to protect them “just in case”? Time will tell, but Sarah Connor Chronicles may not have much time left, so let’s hope they get to it…

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Sexist Straw Man

Remember how I hated Juno? Turns out, this makes me some sort of sexist and/or misogynist asshole**. See, because I’m a male, and I found fault with a screenplay written by a woman—and a feminist woman, author kvoynar is quick to point out in the comments!—this means that my problems with the movie have no merit. It’s really just a “thin guise” covering the quiver-inducing rage I feel whenever I think about or discuss anything having to do with women. Many of the comments I received came from women in total agreement, and although I’m sure I haven’t joined the ranks of “male-dominated film blog[s kvoynar] read[s] regularly” (possibly because this is not really a “film blog”), this did not stop me from leveling some criticism at Reitman—but put that aside for a moment. I have a confession to make about how much I hate women.

Would it also make me a woman-hating thug to find fault with kvoynar‘s blog post about how much I hate women because I did not fall in love with Diablo Cody’s screenplay and do not know her personally? I only add that last part because, apparently, if I took the time to get into one of those deeeep late-night dorm-room conversations with Ms. Cody, she would charm me to such a degree that I would forgive the many flaws in her Juno screenplay and say, “Yup, she deserved that Oscar on account of being so darned nice.”

In particular, I take issue with the baffling argument that I’m a sexist asshole because I didn’t hate the scripts for current movies like Burn After Reading or Tropic Thunder, because clearly they’re worse movies because they have slightly lower ratings on the Tomato Meter. Wouldn’t a more apt comparison be the variety of other Oscar-winning screenplays? Because nobody took issue with Crash or Little Miss Sunshine or The Pianist or A Beautiful Mind, right? These were movies not just universally beloved—but beloved because of their flawless screenplays written by members of the clearly superior male gender. Let me turn off the sarcasm for a second and ask: are you high? For Christ’s sake, as recently as five months ago, I took another look at American Beauty and retroactively trashed its screenplay with as much—if not more—vitriol as I did with Juno. Some of them (Crash) instantly reveal themselves as about a thousand times worse than Juno*. And even if the idea of sampling summer popcorn fare instead of making it go toe to toe with fellow Oscar winners, you only have to go back in time as recently as one month for “current releases” to fare better on Rotten Tomatoes—WALL·E, The Dark Knight, Iron Man. Doesn’t this make the “legitimate” critical establishment sexist, as well? They gave more positive reviews to movies about rich white dudes who fight crime! O, the injustice! Even the female critics are merely unempowered husks trying to make it in a man’s world by kowtowing to their desires… Right?

So I guess I ought to just take Ms. Cody’s “defense” lying down. I made no valid points, had no real reasons to dislike her objectively great movie, I am both a sexist and a misogynist, and I should apologize right now. And I should not, at any time, point out that I only stumbled across kvoynar‘s post because Ms. Cody links to it on her blog, which suggests she fully buys into the notion that her flawless screenplay is under attack by the evil cabal of misogynist male bloggers and that, if we really got to know her, we’d take back all the nasty things we’ve said about her. That doesn’t, in any way, weaken her position as a feminist! In fact, with an attitude like hers, she’d make one hell of a vice-presidential candidate!

(And for those who notice the dates on all these blogs and believe I’ve spent the past few months stewing in my own juices—think again! Despite my usual obsessive tendencies, my caring about Juno and the misguided people who love it ebbed by, let’s say, May. Now, a few people did send me links to Ms. Cody’s initial “outburst,” but at that time I just chuckled at the stupidity and moved on. Today, that popped in my head, I decided to check out the blog for any potential blowback-related hilarity. Instead, I found an obnoxious defense of her own defense, plus the link to the other blog, and it got my rage boiling.)

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