Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The New Alien Movie Revealed!

From FIVE Years Ago!

Thursday March 25th, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood is showing a double bill of Dan O'Bannon, the writer who created ALIEN... (John Carpenter's first directing gig DARK STAR which is lots of fun and kind of the charcoal sketch for ALIEN, and THE RESSURECTED). So this seems like the perfect time to announce...

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN THE ALIEN SAGA

Once you click to the cover art, keep clicking away for the new film's source material! This is a major scoop!

Looks like Fridays With Hitchcock returns on Friday. Miss any entries? Here they are:
Fridays With Hitchcock

Hey, did you miss the Brad Pitt Guy story?
The Brad Pitt Guy

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: LOOSENING UP DIALOGUE - Realistic.. but better than real.
Dinner: Togos Ham Sandwich.
Bicycle: Short ride - post office.
Pages: Frustrating day - not much writing. Did a quick revision on the treatment for the new assignment, but that was nothing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lancelot Link Monday: And The Winners Are... THE SAME!!!!

Lancelot Link Monday! So I've been complaining for years that the Oscars are just a rerun of the Independent Spirit Awards, the way NBC cashed in on the SNL 40 show by rerunning it Friday. Hey, if we've seen the Spirit Awards, no reason at all to watch the Oscars. And finally, someone else noticed this and wrote a danged article about it (included in the links). We need some Oscar Reform on the double! Why can't we go back to the rules at the first Academy Awards and have one Best Picture for big glossy mainstream movies and one Best Picture for arty movies? That's they way they did it at the first Academy Awards! Let's do that again! While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...




Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Only Shades Of Grey............. $23,246,000
2 Kingsmen Trio................... $17,525,000
3 Spongebob 2..................... $15,500,000
4 McFarland (not Spanky)............ $11,315,000
5 The DUFF (not Howard)............ $11,025,000
6 American Sniper (not Graffiti).......$9,650,000
7 Hot Tub Time Machine 2........... $5,800,000
8 Jupiter Descending................ $3,660,000
9 Imitation.......................... $2,565,000
10 Paddington....................... $2,289,000


FIFTY SHADES fell 73 percent in it's seconds weekend, target audience having seen the movie rolled over and went to sleep... though it still did good business in 2nd place. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE without Cusack? Flopped. Folks, it's all about John Cusack!

2) Oscar Winners!

3) Independent Spirits Winners (how many are the same?)

4) Hey, Someone Else Asks If The Spirits And Oscars Are The Same Thing, So Why Watch The Oscars?

5) Round Up & Analysis Of 2014 Spec Sales.

6) Oscar Nominated Screenplays.

7) Michael Cimino on the Oscars and his career.

8) Awesome Grab Bag Of Film Stuff, from Wes Anderson's framing to Saul Bass titles to DON'T LOOK NOW's editing.
9) E.L. James wants to put the handcuffs and blindfold on Universal.

10) International Trailer for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

11) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 5 is shooting again...

12) Will Spielberg Direct New Indiana Jones Movie? Will he add a Nuke The Fridge scene?

And the Car Chase Of The Week:





Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: -
Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I Do My Own Stunts

Rerun...

Actors on talk shows always say that they do their own stunts... which makes me wonder why there aren't more unemployed stunt men in Hollywood. But there are some actors who really do their own stunts - watch any Hong Kong Jackie Chan film - that guy does *crazy* things on camera! And I think the thrill of watching a Jackie Chan film is that it really is him risking his life doing amazing stunts without CGI and without a net and usually without safety wires. He's just amazing!

I was cruising around YouTube, looking for some clips from a French film called THE BURGLARS made in 1971, based on a novel by David Goodis (DARK PASSAGE with Bogart, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER directed by Truffaut, lots of other noir stuff) and starring Jean Paul Belmondo... who did his own stunts, like Jackie Chan. And this film is filled with amazing stunts. Saw it decades ago at some Berkeley art house. Own the Ennio Morricone sountrack on vinyl... and on CD... it's on my iPod and I probably hear it three times a week. Danged if I didn't find both a car chase from the film and this amazing chase - 9 minutes - starts a little slow but then gets crazy! Stick around for the end - and *insane* stunt that Belmondo does.



And, as with all action scenes - somebody wrote that.

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Ten Things You Need To Know About Writing A Screenplay That YOU Will Film - DIY.
Dinner: Terrible Burger King sourdough burger - bread was mushy, fries were not good... I was feeling not great and thought food that is bad for me would make me feel better... nope.
Bicycle: Medium ride.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lancelot Link: FIFTY SHADES OF CHIMP

Lancelot Link Tuesday! I was disappointed that SHADES OF GREY didn't use that song from The Monkees! That would have been good for another $10 million at the box office. Also, if they had used The Kingsmen's LOUIE, LOUIE in THE KINGSKMEN that might have been good for a few million more. Right? While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...




Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Fifty Shades.................... $85,043,000
2 Kingsmen........................ $36,225,000
3 SpongeBob....................... $31,680,000
4 American Sniper Gigolo.......... $16,530,000
5 Jupiter Descending............... $9,240,000
6 7th Son Of Flubber............... $4,139,000
7 Paddington....................... $4,033,000
8 Immitation....................... $3,484,000
9 Ringer........................... $3,200,000
10 Alamanac (poor Richard's)........ $2,763,000


Should also be noted that FIFTY SHADES made an amazing $158 overseas over the weekend, which is also a record breaker. In the USA it broke all February records, soundly beating the previous record holder PASSION OF THE CHRIST. After PASSION broke previous records, 20th Fox started a Christian Films Division... so I'm wondering of they will now start a Sex Films For Women Division? I hope so...

2) Bond Behind The Scenes: SPECTRE.

3) A look at my favorite Bond film...

4) Richard LaGravenese Interview On THE LAST FIVE YEARS.

5) Billy Wilder Chats.

6) Everyone Wanted To Make Robert Jordan's Fantasy Series Into Movies...

7) Nick Hornby (HIGH FIDELITY) Lands UK TV Gig.

8) Three Hour Documentary On Kubrick.

9) Orson Welles On Merv.

10) Cinematography Award Winners.

11) WHIPLASH writer director and six years of NO!

12) Final Draft Big Break Contest Award Winners!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Women in the driver's seat!

Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: After FIFTY SHADES, Should I Worry About Ratings? -
Dinner: Bad Fast Food I Don't Want To Talk ABout.
Pages: Trying to make up for lost time...
Bicycle: Short.

Movie: Saw WHIPLASH finally, and it's like WALL STREET with drums instead of the stock market...

Monday, February 09, 2015

Lancelot Link: More Damned Awards!

Lancelot Link Monday! When will the awards stop? Over the weekend we had the Director's Guild Awards *and* the BAFTAs (British Film Awards). Oh, and the Grammys, and probably some other awards I don't know about. Some day we will all get an award, probably for watching awards shows. While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...




Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Sponge Bob 2.................... $56,000,000
2 Am Sniper....................... $24,165,000
3 Jupiter Ass..................... $19,000,000
4 Seventh Son...................... $7,101,000
5 Paddington....................... $5,365,000
6 Almanac (Project not Farmers).... $5,330,000
7 Imitation........................ $4,881,000
8 Ringer........................... $4,800,000
9 Black Or White................... $4,520,000
10 Boy Next Door.................... $4,101,000


Box office is up 10.8% over last year.

2) BAFTA Winners!

e 3) DGA Awards!

4) The Best Edited Movies Of All Time (according to editors).

5) The Best Shot Films Of All Time (according to cinematographers).

6) Those Technical Achievement Oscars!

7) PIRATES Five News: FAST & FURIOUS Crossover Planned?

8) James Cameron Did Not Make These Movies...

9) SPACEBALLS 2: THE SEARCH FOR MORE MONEY.

10) Exclusive Behind The Scenes On The Sony Hacking.

11) BOY NEXT DOOR screenwriter and that first edition of THE ILLIAD.

12) J.J. on STAR WARS & STAR TREK... crossover in the works?

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



Rainbow connection...

Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: That's !Episodic - From the Story Blue Book.
Dinner: Hasn't happened yet as I write this.
Pages: No sleep, no pages.
Bicycle: Short trip.

Movie: Was going to see TOP FIVE, but postponed to Tuesday.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

THRILLER Thursday: The Ordeal Of Dr. Cordell

The Ordeal Of Doctor Cordell

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 1, Episode: 24.
Airdate: March 7, 1961


Director: Lazlo Benedek
Writer: Donald S. Sanford
Cast: Robert Vaughn, Kathleen Crowley, Robert Ellenstein, Marlo Thomas.
Music: Morton Stevens
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline
Producer: Maxwell Shane




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Such are the hazards of scientific research. As strange as it may seem, this is not the end but only the beginning of “The Ordeal Of Dr. Cordell”. Are leading players are, Mr. Robert Vaughn, Miss Kathleen Crowley, Mr. Robert Ellenstein, and Mr. Russ Conway. Speaking if chemistry this Thriller is a mixture of one part scientific possibility, one part imaginative melodrama, and two parts pure terror.” (Poof! Karloff disappears from the lab) “Oh dear! Well these are the hazards of science!”

Synopsis: Like a script for THE OUTER LIMITS rejected because it had no monster...

On a college campus research facility...



Scientist Dr. Frank Cordell (Robert Vaughn) is working with chemicals in a safety lab with an airlock, with fellow scientist Dr. Lois Walker (Kathleen Crowley) supervising at the control panels on the other side of the glass. There’s an explosion and fire, and gas fills the safety lab! Dr. Walker wants to vent the lab, but Dr. Cordell says the oxygen will just feed the fire... he needs to get the fire out first. But as he uses the fire extinguisher to spray the flames, the gas seems through his gas mask and... he passes out just as he gets the fire out. Dr. Brauner (Robert Ellenstein) rushes in after hearing the alarm, and they vent the gas... but have to wait until has all been sucked out of the room before they can open the airlock and pull out Dr. Cordell. By that time, he’s dead.

Dr. Brauner does a Pulp Fiction and stabs him in the heart with adrenaline, gives him oxygen, and brings him back from the dead.



Dr. Cordell comes to, says he’s fine, and wants to go back to work. But he’s worried: They’ve spent 2 years trying to find an antidote to the enemy’s latest nerve gas... and by mistake he has just discovered something much worse... something that a gas mask doesn’t provide protection from. Dr. Brauner (the boss) orders Cordell to go home and get some rest. Walker offers to drive him home, and walks him to the door, where they kiss. They aren’t just coworkers, they are lovers. There’s a birdcage on the front porch of Cordell’s house, and the little bird begins ringing it’s little toy bell...

But to Cordell, the sound is magnified and is driving him crazy. Giving him the ultimate migraine headache. He reaches into the cage and grabs the bell, stopping the bird from pecking at it. Though he *was* going to invite Walker in, she thinks it may be better for him to get some sleep. He *was* dead only a couple of hours ago.

After she leaves, the bird starts pecking at the bell again, driving Cordell crazy...

Dr. Cordell wakes up the next morning when his maid Mrs. Heath (Helen Brown) tells him he has a phone call from Dr. Walker. He rubs sleep from his eyes and picks up the phone, and she wants to know if he wants to go to lunch. Lunch? Yes, it’s almost noon. That’s when Mrs. Heath screams from the porch.

Someone has crushed the bird to death. It’s mangled body on the floor of the cage. Mrs. Heath thinks it might be some neighbor kids.

Later, Dr. Cordell and Dr. Walker return from lunch, and when Cordell reaches in his pocket he pulls out... the bird’s little bell. He quickly hides it before Walker can see it.

Cordell becomes focused on recreating that gas again. When Dr. Brauner comes in to see how he’s doing, and Walker mutes the intercom, Cordell becomes paranoid and enraged. Why are they talking behind his back? Walker says Brauner just wanted him to stop in for a physical check up. Cordell sends her home and sticks around the lab...



When a pretty CoEd (yes, that’s Marlo Thomas) looking for the library. Cordell goes ballistic, asking how she got past the security door. Seems that the security door doesn’t close properly and needs to be fixed. Cordell calms down, steps outside to point out the Library Building on campus, and when the CoEd walks away, her bell ear rings ring, driving Cordell crazy. He races after the CoEd and...

Wakes up at home the next morning when the alarm goes off at 8am.
What happened last night?
There’s a single bell ear ring on his night stand, covered in blood.

There’s a police car parked outside the research building. A Detective Boutaric (Russ Conway) questioning Walker and Brauner. A CoEd was *brutally* murdered last night just across from the research building, did Cordell see her? Cordell says no one can get into the lab area due to the security door. So he didn’t see her. Cordell overhears Dr. Brauner unleash a big pile of exposition on Dt. Boutaric about how chemical imbalances in the brain may cause homicidal urges which can not be controlled. Oh, so that’s what’s up with Cordell! When the Detective leaves, Cordell asks Brauner if homicidal urges are caused by chemical unbalance, could they be cured with chemicals? Yes, that’s possible...

Cordell becomes even more obsessed with his lab work, discovering exactly what combination of chemicals caused his current (psycho killer) condition. When Dr. Walker brings Chinese take out to the lab and asks him to break for dinner, Cordell goes ballistic and screams at her. “Science and ego make lousy chemistry!” She breaks up with him and storms out... passing Detective Boutaric, who has just discovered that Maintenance *repaired* the security door because it wasn’t closing properly this morning, because Cordell asked them. So the CoEd *could* have entered the lab. Cordell insists she still did not come into the lab, but the detective is suspicious.

Dr. Brauner tells Cordell he is overworking and gives him a choice: Take a vacation or resign. He suggests that maybe Cordell and Walker might take that a vacation together as a honeymoon... but Cordell doesn’t tell him they’ve broken up. Cordell opts for the vacation.

When he leaves the research building that night and crosses the college campus to his car, he passes a big football game rally... including another CoEd ringing a cowbell. The sound drives him crazy... He follows the CoEd as she leaves and before you can say "Less cowbell!"...



He wakes up in a crappy downtown hotel... the bell the CoEd was ringing on the floor. The news reports another CoEd has been brutally murdered, crushed by someone’s monster’s hands. He calls the front desk: it’s *Wednesday*, how long was he sleeping? Cordell writes a suicide note and prepares to kill himself... then calls Walker at the lab and warns her *not* to continue the experiments. She asks why. “I have to talk to you somewhere alone.” She agrees to meet him at the campus chapel at midnight and leaves.

Meanwhile, Detective Boutaric has found the bloody ear ring in Cordell’s house and knows he’s the killer.

Cordell goes to the deserted chapel at the strike of midnight... which means the bell begins ringing, which drives him crazy! He climbs the stairs to the bell tower. At the top of the tower, he tries to stop the bell, but it’s huge. Walker enters the chapel and hears Cordell screaming and climbs the stairs. When she gets to the top of the stairs, Cordell sees her and attacks! She fights him off, pushing him away... and the bell knocks him out of the bell tower and he SPLATS! On the ground below.



Review: If the bells had turned Cordell into a *physical* monster, this could have been an OUTER LIMITS episode. The story has elements of Jekyll And Hyde and maybe Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and even though this was 3 years before THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn was probably a “get”. He had a bunch of TV roles in his past by this time. But I kind of think he’s slightly wrong for the role: part of Dr. Jekyll is that he’s more contemplative, and that’s the trait this role needs. An actor who really feels terrible that he’s been killing cute CoEds. Vaughn is such a charismatic guy that it covers the emotional side of this character. He does a great job, and is probably more subdued than usual... but he’s still Robert Vaughn. But what the heck, it’s a fun episode.

In addition to Marlo Thomas’ 4th role on film, you may recognize Robert Ellenstein who plays the supervising scientist as the assassin from NORTH BY NORTHWEST who says: “Yes, a joke. We will laugh in the car” when they grab Cary Grant out of that bar at gunpoint a couple of minutes into that film. He was one of those actors who did everything, and you may recognize him from the great original 3:10 TO YUMA or his recurring villain on THE WILD WILD WEST or STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME where he played the Federation Council President.



The production design and sets are great, all of the lab equipment looks real. There’s also some great stock footage of the pre game bonfire party from USC or UCLA that helps sell the big pre game rally scene.

The director, Lazlo Benedict, directed Brando’s THE WILD ONE before becoming a prolific TV director... but I’m not sure he had the visual skillset to handle suspense. The scene where Walker climbs the stairs to her possible death is kind of bland. By this time PSYCHO had played in cinemas with a great primer on how to make climbing stairs filled with tension and suspense. Some of these episodes are really well directed and others are kind of TV bland: with a director coming in and getting the shots on film (this becomes more apparent after next week’s episode which has one amazing shot that would be just as amazing if it had been in a big budget movie). But Lazlo does one amazing thing here: Cordell’s “crazy vision” is a nice twisted image effect done with a lens (there was no digital back then, so everything was practical to some extent). It’s a great way for the audience to experience his insanity... and it always ends in a blackout that is held just long enough to make us wonder what the heck happened during it when Cordell wakes up.



They also do a great job making us imagine the brutality of these murders while showing us nothing. I’m going to give the credit for this to writer Donald Sanford who wrote some of the other creepy episodes and seemed to know how to get maximum impact on a TV budget. The story has some great reveals, like when Dr. Cordell reaches into his pocket for a match to light Dr. Walker's cigarette and comes out with the bird's bell... then has to quickly hide it from her and grab his matches pretending that he didn't just learn who smashes his bird to death.

Hey, was that the bell or belltower set from VERTIGO?

A really good entry in the series, but with just a little more could have been one of the great ones... But that’s okay, because we’re about to get a grouping of great episodes!

Bill



Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Devils 8 At The New Beverly

From around this time in 2010...

On the same double bill as THE WIND AND THE LION exactly a week ago was THE DEVILS 8, a screenplay co-written by John Milius and one of the folks who wrote HOWARD THE DUCK... hmm. I had never done the bicycle/subway to the New Beverly Cinema before, always driven. But my thing now is to try to ride the bike everywhere possible - because that car habit is an easy one to get into. When I was at Monsterpalooza, a bunch of people who basically only see me twice a year - at Fango and Monster - mentioned that I looked like I’d lost a bunch of weight, and I probably have... but never weigh myself, and if I accidentally see myself in the mirror I look pretty much like I did the day before. So the bike thing is a good thing, and I don’t want to blow it and go back to driving a block to my corner Starbucks.




I always bike/subway to Hollywood - which is just over the hill (actually, 2.5 miles as the mole burrows through the mountain - the joys of research!) - but riding through the Cahuenga Pass is akin to Polish Roulette (which is Russian Roulette with 5 bullets and one empty chamber) - the road is ultra narrow and the cars do 40mph on hairpin corners. I have actually done that ride a couple of times and was so happy to be alive afterwards that I figured a $1.25 subway ride was probably much safer. I’d be going to the same station - Hollywood/Highland - then zip over to La Brea, and zoom down to the Fairfax District. That always seems like a long way, because usually it is bumper to bumper traffic. I had no idea how long it would take me, but I’ve done some epic bike rides lately and I’m in okay shape. I might end up tired by the time I got home, but you want to be tired before going to bed, right?

Well, my first problem was at the Universal subway station - it was a complete mess because the North Hollywood station had some power problem or something, and *everyone* had to get on and off at Universal. Add to that, it was around rush hour. After fighting that crowd, and a bunch of confusion, we zipped through the mountain those 2.5 miles to Hollywood... and I was running a little behind schedule. I still needed to eat dinner before the movies or I’d be eating a New Beverly hot dog with popcorn as my veggie.

But the Fairfax District really isn’t that far - I zoomed past traffic and got there in no time. I grabbed some BBQ pork fried rice at the strip-mall Chinese place across the street from the cinema and watched the people line up for the movie. All 8 of them. Hmm, 8 for THE DEVILS 8? Nine after I 8. A few more people joined the others milling around in front of the cinema, including Clu Gulager - who is a regular at the cinema. I know Clu from the Thursday Night Drinking Group (which I have not attended for *months*!) and had just seen him a couple of days earlier on the RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD panel at Monsterpalooza, and a couple of days before that at Duane’s double feature. I am kind of starstruck by Clu, because he was one of the stars of THE VIRGINIAN when I was a kid. Whenever I see him, the VIRGINIAN theme starts playing in my head. Here’s the opening titles from the show.

WIND AND THE LION & DEVILS 8

Though I own WIND AND THE LION on DVD, it’s one of my favorite films so I want to see it on the big screen again. The problem with DVD is that you just can’t see old movies on the big screen anymore. THE DEVILS 8 is *not* on DVD at all, so the only way to see that film is to head over to the New Beverly Cinema or head over to Spudic’s Video Emporium in Van Nuys and buy a copy on VHS - Spudics is one of the only stores specializing in VHS movies. If you ever want to see one of the hundreds of movies that have yet to make it to DVD (think about it - AFRICAN QUEEN, one of the most popular films of all time, *just* got a DVD release!) head on over to Spudics and see if he has it on VHS.

Well, more people filter in, and the cinema has a respectable audience. The row behind me is 100% WIND AND THE LION virgins - none have ever seen the movie. It’s a *whole row* of people who know each other, and just before the movie starts a guy around my age and his wife (or girlfriend, or nurse, or whatever) takes the last two empty seats in the row - they are the reason why all of these other people are there. The guy played the boy in the movie!

The print of WIND AND THE LION was pretty good considering it was one of the original prints from the 1970s... for all I know, the exact same print I watched when I saw the film on opening day way back then. The film still holds up, and is still exciting and beautiful and romantic and made me want to sword fight during intermission.

All of the trailers between the films were from other movies John Milius wrote - and that’s the great thing about the New Beverly - this is a cinema run by movie lovers who actually know that somebody wrote that. We got to see the trailers for every single film Milius wrote, plus some other trailers for movies similar to WIND AND THE LION, including LION OF THE DESERT which was produced by the guy who produced all of the HALLOWEEN movies.

DEVILS 8

Then they started DEVILS 8... great opening scene, very much like the opening of 48 HOURS, chain gang somewhere in the South with prisoners doing backbreaking work (though, none of it made much sense - one guys was breaking rocks and another guy was throwing them in a lake! One guy was just sawing boards. But its was all hard work stuff) - then a fight breaks out between prisoners: one of them is our star Christopher George from RAT PATROL. Just like in 48 HOURS, the fight is a way for the prisoners to overpower the guards and escape. George grabs a bunch of prisoners - 8 of them - and says he has an escape route. They run through the woods, coming out at a clearing... where a huge helicopter lands! There are *military guys* with guns in the helicopter! George tells the guys not to worry - this is part of the plan. What plan?

Cool flashback to George and some hottie making out in a car when his carphone rings (when this film was made, that was sci-fi or James Bond) and it’s a mission. George has to stop making out and go to do some spy work. In this case - it’s breaking up a huge moonshine operation run by this GODFATHER-like guy named Burl, played by some fat old guy. Seems that Burl’s organization has Senators and Congressmen and Police and maybe even FBI guys on his payroll. He’s a big fish, and George is supposed to find some way to take him down.

We get out of the flashback in another cool screen-bending dissolve...

STRUCTURE FAILURE

And here’s where we begin to run into trouble. Because DEVILS 8 has some serious structure problems. Because it’s kind of a knock off of THE DIRTY DOZEN, it kind of steals the way that film worked - where about half of the film is training a bunch of anti-authority criminals to become good enough soldiers to complete the mission... and all of the conflicts involved in having a dozen guys with bad attitudes who hate each other living under the same roof. Then, the last half is the mission against the Nazis - and how it goes wrong but they still manage to blow the hell out of the place. Okay, that works for DIRTY DOZEN because the mission is complicated and the guys are a major challenge to train. But in DEVILS, even though the guys are escaped prisoners and have all kinds of conflict with each other - including racial: Henry (Robert DoQui) is pretty much hated by everyone because he’s black - there isn’t a single psycho like Telly Savalas or a real hardcase like John Cassavetes. These 8 convicts may all be lifers, but they are reasonable guys. So the conflict between them is not as intense as it is in DOZEN. Plus, the training is, well, mostly lame. They wrestle. All at once. No one is trained in karate or something, they just all wrestle. They learn to shoot guns, but it’s kind of boring target practice without any tension. They learn to drive crappy cars through a slalom course of cones - wow! Though there are some car wrecks here that really help this section of the film - there aren’t enough crashes and they aren’t very cool and they aren’t *story related*. Just a car crashing in the middle of nowhere.

This half of the movie ends with some crazy stuff - throwing grenades out of cars for no apparent reason. Well, actually, by the end of the film they will have to do this, but in the training camp it makes no sense. And there isn’t any clear set up in this that pays off in that later scene - it’s just a scene where they get to blow up garbage cans with grenades - kind of false action.

After their training is over, they go out to somewhere in the South where Burl’s moonshine gang rules the roads.

ROSS HAGEN - THIEF

And here’s the crazy part about this film - the star is Christopher George from RAT PATROL, but the great role in the film - the “lead” in a way - is Ross Hagen playing Frank Davis, ex-moonshine runner and ex-member of Burl’s Gang. Part of this may be Ross acting the hell out of his role, and part of it is that this is the most interesting character in the film once we get to moonshine country. Though Frank was an important character in the training scenes, when we get the ex-gang member back into gang country he becomes the center of the conflict. Ross has been in a couple of films I’ve written, and is one of those actors that can turn the line “How are you?” into two dozen different things - he comes to the show with interesting line readings you’d never considered or ever knew existed. He’s a great actor for low budget movies because you just hire him and he gives a good performance. He’s got a bunch of low budget films and a whole bunch of TV guest star stuff on his resume...

But in DEVILS 8 he steals the film from Christopher George.

Steals it from the star.

In order to get him to work against his old gang, George tells him that it wasn’t cops who killed his brother, it was Burl. Now, we don’t know if that’s true or not at that point, and that’s a good technique to use in a script because it turns one moment into several moments. He tells Frank (Ross) that Burl killed his brother, and Frank has to deal with being betrayed by his own gang. Then Frank wonders if George lied to him in order to get him to work against his own gang - and there are some mistrust moments. Once they get to town, Frank discovers that Burl *did* kill his brother, and this confirmation takes us back to Frank feeling betrayed... and then angry... and then grabbing a weapon and going after Burl! Which will blow the whole operation!

George’s plan to take down Burl doesn’t make any sense, but here it is: The 8 are going to hijack whisky shipments until Burl comes to them and makes a deal that they should work together, and show them where the stills are, and tell them who all of the crooked cops and politicians are. Wouldn’t it be easier for Burl to just kill them all? Oddly enough, the plan works...

Frank hooks up with his old flame Cissy (Leslie Parrish - super hot - Laurence Harvey's love interest in MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) and they have that tender passionate sex that people in movies who are in love have... completely under the sheets... and then we get waist up backal nudity of Cissy as she gets out of bed and looks out the door at the beautiful view of some Southern mountain area that was really Big Bear - just a few miles from Los Angeles. A couple of scenes later, Frank and George show up at Burl’s place... and guess who the gang boss is sleeping with? Cissy! And Frank has to just take it and not do anything when the man who killed his brother is also sleeping with the woman he loves! That *situation* makes Frank the most important character in the film. On a message board someone asked why we need a character arc, and I said my usual: that I like to think of it as the “emotional conflict” rather than the character arc because it covers more ground. This is a great example of an “emotional conflict” - Frank’s character doesn’t really have much of an arc. Sure, he goes from being a convict to a guy working with the feds, and he becomes more cooperative with George, but his plan is pretty much to kill the guy who killed his brother, and that plan doesn’t change. He wants revenge, he will get revenge. No real arc, there. But he goes through all kinds of emotional hell in this film. He goes back to his home town and is ostracized and has to watch Burl put his fat hands all over the woman he loves and wants to kill the sucker but can’t because it will blow the mission. Compare Ross Hagen’s role of Frank with Christopher George’s cool spy guy who has no emotional conflicts at all, and you wonder why Chris George didn’t demand to play Frank.

Oh, somewhere along here I recognized the far actor who played Burl... as 1950s pretty boy actor Ralph Meeker (who played Mike Hammer in KISS ME DEADLY) - man, he got fat!

THE OTHER 7

While Ross Hagen is stealing the film from the star, the other guys on the team kill time until the big ending by skinny dipping with hot girls from town and getting into bar room brawls. This stuff all seems like padding - and the big structure problems is that it *is* padding - the film has prison break in scene one and a big action scene at the end and the rest is mostly filler material. Some of it is entertaining filler material, but it kind of slows down the pacing because nothing *important* is happening.

One thing I should mention are the characters of the other guys, because they are much better than most low budget exploitation flicks. Singer Fabian is one of the guys, I think the mechanic, and Ron Rifkin is one of the guys - but I have no idea which one because I did not recognize him. Rifkin is on BROTHERS & SISTERS (I have never watched that show) and was the even Sloane on ALIAS (Okay, I have watched that one) and I know him as a middle aged man... and this film was made in 1969 - it was his very first film! I have no idea which one of those young guys was Rifkin. But he may or may not have been the drunk one. One of the guys has been on the chain gang for a while and the first thing he thinks of when they escape is finding himself a drink. When they hijack Burl’s runners, he swipes some bottles for himself and gets really drunk... and becomes a problem because he’s an alcoholic working undercover as a rumrunner - and keeps getting drunk and screwing up. Except - while searching for something to drink, he spots a truck full of booze and climbs in... and the truck goes to the secret stills compound. Now he is not only so drunk he can’t stand, he has the information the team needs for that big action ending.

And we get a big action ending where that throwing hand grenades from a moving car training comes in handy, and most of the 8 die glorious deaths. But the big end action scene is much simpler than the end scene in DIRTY DOZEN and shorter, too. So where DIRTY DOZEN has that big killer action end that is at least a full third of the film, DEVILS 8 has a good action ending but not good enough to make up for the padding that has come before it. Still, they blow up 3 or 4 big stills in towers and wreck any car they have not yet wrecked.

I should mention the music - there’s a theme song that’s okay, but the score was just awful. Mike Curb was to blame. It’s kind of SMOKEY & THE BANDIT funny good old boy music, when this film is not a comedy at all. There are scenes where characters are getting *hurt* and this goofy music is playing in the background. It did not work. The theme was fine - one of those ballad things.

BIKE HOME

So, now that the film was over I had to ride my bike back - but not to the subway, which closes at midnight - I had to ride to the homeless bus stop just north of Hollywood Blvd. In Los Angeles, public transportation shuts off early. If you stagger out of a bar at 10pm, there’s a good chance there is no bus to take you home so you will have to drive. Most of the busses shut down around 10pm, others shut down at midnight... leaving a handful of buses running after midnight in a danged huge city. I’ve done the bike/bus ride to the NuArt on the Westside - and when the film lets out I’ve had to haul ass to ride back to Westwood to grab the 1am bus that parallels the 405 through Sepulveda Pass and dumps you on Ventura Blvd - where there is a bus that runs every hour (I think) all night long. If you miss that 1am bus in Westwood, it will take you all night to get back to Studio City on the couple of buses that run once every hour all night long.

But what happens on these handful of buses that run all night long - they fill up with homeless people and their belongings. The buses are warm, and they sleep on them. I hate the homeless bus. Imagine a bus filled with really stinky people and their really stinky stuff. They often take up 4 seats - 3 seats for their junk, one seat they are sleeping on. I have to pop my bike on the front of the bus and then find someplace to sit (or just stand) and try to only breath through my mouth. But I kind of worry about germs. At least I’m not on the bus very long - just over the hill.

So, I am waiting on the homeless bus to take me over the hill.
Outside The Powerhouse Bar just north of Hollywood Blvd.
The place stinks.
People come out of the bar and piss behind bus shelter.
Men and women.

When I was here after Duane’s films a really hot woman in tiny blue dress staggers out of the bar and tries to flag down a cab.
Falls off her heels...
and I catch her...
I try not to touch any good parts.
I’m a gentleman.
My elbow is pressed against her breast.
My elbow has no feeling... too bad.

She gets her footing and thanks me...
Then falls into the gutter.
I help her up even though she smells like pee...
Sit her down on bus bench.
That’s when bar doorman comes over and says he will take of it from here. I have no idea what that means, but I’m a little worried. Then the bus comes, and whatever happens to the hot woman so drunk she can not stand up is in the rearview mirror.

I throw my bike on front of homeless bus and try to hold my breath as we go over hill.
The bus is full of sleeping Homeless people with all of their belongings. They have not bathed recently and some smell as bad as that bus stop. Can I hold my breath the whole way over the hill? I feel sorry for bus driver. When we get to my corner, I pull the bike off the front of the bus and pedal home. I can breath again...

FRIDAY’S WITH HITCHCOCK is already up and triggered to run on Friday!

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The Flow - one scene should flow into the next scene.
Dinner: Salad.
Bicycle: Short ride Monday so that I could take a longer ride Tuesday - except it rained and I did not ride.
Movies: Friday night I saw a Noir double bill at the Egyptian, was supposed to see one on Saturday night, too - but ended up seeing KICK ASS instead due to peer pressure. Damned those over 40 guys I hang out with!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Lancelot Link: Deflated Balls Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! The Super Bowl. There is no actual bowling, and no one has super powers. So what's up? Is this false advertising? Plus, the stigma of underinflated balls. They never had to deal with that in either BLACK SUNDAY or TWO MINUTE WARNING (both about the Superbowl, one based on a book by the guy who wrote SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). The cool thing is that they have the trailers to all of the cool new summer films. None of them feature Hannibal Lecter and deflated balls.... While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...




Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Sniper.......................... $31,850,000
2 Paddington....................... $8,505,000
3 Project (farmers) Almanac........ $8,500,000
4 Black Or White................... $6,456,000
5 Boy Next Door.................... $6,093,000
6 Wedding Ringer................... $5,700,000
7 Imitation........................ $5,173,0008
8 Taken 3, Aud 0................... $3,650,000
9 Strange Magic.................... $3,441,000
10 The Loft......................... $2,879,000


AMERICAN SNIPER breaks Superbowl Weekend records... Now just shy of $250m domestic.

2) All Of The Super Bowl Movie Spots.

3) Another damned comic book movie!

4) Rose Byrne news (this may only appeal to me).

5) And the Winners at Sundance Film Festival are...

6) And the ANNIE Aweard for Best Animated Film goes to...

7) And the USC Scripter Award goes to...

8) All of Mick Garris' Interviews With Horror Folks From The Z Channel!

9) What does writing do to the human brain?

10) Is Hollywood Broken?

11) Title Sequences From Hitchcock & Fincher.

12) Los Angeles Bars & Restaurants On Screen! I'll bet money if I walked into the Blue Room (from MEMENTO) right now the bartender would have my drink ready by the time I reached the bar! I was a regular there for a while when I was working on a script and the Starbucks across the street closed.

And the Car Chase, er, movie clip Of The Week:





Bill





IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP:Social Issues On Film - DISTRICT 9 to CHAPPIE.
Dinner: Pork Chops, yams, italian squash.
Pages: A couple.
Bicycle: Longish bike ride on Saturday, shortish one on Sunday.

Movie: Been watching DVDs and Blurays.

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