LB: Screener Report – 1

THIS IS 40 makes everything boring – even girls squeezing other girls breasts

Every year in December the major studios send out DVDs of the films they’re pushing for Oscars, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild of America awards. So far this year I’ve received somewhere between 15 and 20 of them. Why haven’t I counted before writing this? That would take more effort than I can expend right now. Mainly because I’m already exhausted from the task of turning on my DVD player, inserting the disks, and getting them to play properly.

Last night, for example, it took me an hour and a half to just get my 2 year old Magnavox DVD player to power up. That’s 5 minutes of sitting on the living room couch and pointing the remote at it and swearing when nothing happened, 10 minutes of standing at the machine and pushing the standby/on switch and swearing nothing happened, another 5 minutes of unplugging and replugging and jiggling and knocking (pronounced “Ka-nocking” the way my father used to say it), 69 minutes of scouring the interwebs looking for the right user manual and other online advice, and 1 last glorious minute of “rebooting” (yes, I too thought that was only a computer thing) the %&#@ player by unplugging it, pressing the standby/on switch and holding it in as I plugged again.

Sorry, but that effort and its result do not qualify for any reaction resembling “Voila!”

As my wife, Gwen the Beautiful pointed out – continually – through the ordeal, I could have just put last night’s screener, THIS IS 40, into the DVD player of the computer we keep hooked up to our glorious, giant-screen plasma Samsung TV (a brand, FWIW, that I recommend highly), but there was a principle at stake.

VCRs were much, much easier to use. Much less rebellious, you know?

Anyway, once the %&#@ Magnavox was working again, on went THIS IS 40–

And, approximately 3 minutes later, off it went, added to the pile of screeners to be burned. (Because that’s what you do with screeners when you’re finished with them. You’re not allowed to share them with anyone, or throw them away where some DVD-starved, film-loving vagrant might grab ’em. But that’s another story.)

Bottom line: Gwen and I have watched – well, tried to watch – 5 of the screeners in the past week. So it’s mini-review time:

  • THIS IS 40
    As I’ve said, we didn’t make it past the first 3 minutes because by that time we already knew that this, indeed, wasn’t 40. As in the vile, vituperative relationship we were seeing bore no resemblance to any marriage either one of us has ever been in…and we’ve had some seriously bad marriages. Sorry, Judd Apatow. No, I take that back. You should be apologizing to me.
    The best thing Gwen could say about ARBITRAGE is that it wasn’t THIS IS 40. Think Donald Trump as the asshole character Richard Gere played in INTERNAL AFFAIRS. Except that since he’s also Donald Trump he’s even more despicable. We lasted 22 minutes with this one. Only God knows why.
    A lot like THIS IS 40, only, to me, even worse. Every married-with-kids cliche known to man, with an ending we see coming by the end of the first too-cute scene. Somehow we made it to minute 18 of this one. I think I was hypnotized. Repetition (in this case, of predictable old dialog) does that to me.
    Smart people who behave like dumbasses, with characters Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, and, yes, Kevin Spacey played better. Only the names and specifics have been changed. It played all the way through, though, because Gwen and I got on the phone with one of our kids and forgot to turn it off.
    This one struck both of us as the most overrated film of the year. A story that made no sense. A villain whose dialog neither one of us could understand. A Batman who was more than dark, he was %&#@ invisible. I’m a huge superhero fan and have even written a few of them, as most TVWriter™ visitors know, but the best thing I can say about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is that it wasn’t THIS IS 40. Gwen left the room to make latkes after Bane’s first mumbled dialog. I made it to the 41 minute point, however, because I was waiting for something – anything – I could like. (And no, I never found it.)

Ah well, tonight we’ll be watching THE HOBBIT. With pizza and friends. Fingers crossed.

Stay tuned for more from your ever-hopeful LB.


The Writer


Epic epicness

Warning: Parts of this review are spoilerific, so if you haven’t seen the movie and you read this review and I spoil it for you…well, sorry about that.

Okay, fess up time: I saw this movie over a month ago and am just getting a chance to write the review. So I had to reach way back into the crevices of my brain to remember what this movie was about. Certain parts stuck with me–Bane’s awesome headgear, the uselessness of Catwoman, the fact that Batman always sounds like a ten-pack-a-day-smoker ready to choke on his own phlegm at any moment. My overall recollection of the film is that it was good. More than good. I’d say a very good film that I would easily rent on DVD.

Rent, not own.

Because I had some serious problems with this film. As stated before, the character of Catwoman was useless. There were times during the movie I actually forgot about the character, not just because she was forgettable, but because she was gone. Poof like magic pixie dust, only to come back at a deux a machina moment and completely steal the satisfactory disposal of the main villain. Whywhywhy? What was the point of killing Bane (I guess he’s dead, I mean is anyone really dead in a super-hero movie?) if freaking Batman doesn’t do it?

I also had problems with dear Alfred and the way he was shoved out of 3/4 of the movie. It’s nonsensical and I won’t get into it here; you can go see the movie and find out for yourself why its bad writing because this is a blog post and not a treatise on how proper motivation is necessary for conflict to be believable, and in this case, acceptable. It just made Alfred’s tear-jerking near the end of the film seem manipulative.

Other than those problems, I enjoyed the emotional depth the writing and the actors brought to the movie. I like a good superhero/villain beat-down as much as anyone, but coupled with an emotional arc that makes both Batman and Bane sympathetic and irrational at certain points definitely made for a richer viewing experience. I have high hopes for the continuation of the franchise, which seems to be headed in Robin’s direction. Joseph Gordon Levitt, I will be watching you.

Why All Writers Should Know the Classics

…And, now that we bring it up, readers too:

Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight Rises’ Literary Inspiration
by Silas Lesnick

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

With what is arguably the most famous opening line in all of literature, Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” paints a portrait of the class struggle taking place in Europe in the late 18th century. In less than two weeks, it’s a theme that Christopher Nolan is employing to bring about the conclusion of his Batman trilogy with the release of The Dark Knight Rises.

Speaking at this morning’s press conference for the film, Nolan and his brother and screenwriting partner, Jonathan, answered’s question about the film’s direct and indirect allusions to Dickens’ masterpiece.

“When Jonah showed me his first draft of his screenplay, it was 400 pages long or something,” says the director. “It had all this crazy stuff in it. As part of a primer when he handed it to me, he said, ‘You’ve got to think of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ which, of course, you’ve read.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I read the script and was a little baffled by a few things and realized that I’d never read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. It was just one of those things that I thought I had done. Then I got it, read it and absolutely loved it and got completely what he was talking about… When I did my draft on the script, it was all about ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.”

Read it all

Can’t wait to hear what this Dickens guy thinks.