Archives for posts with tag: movies

*So titled to avoid confusion with Maggie the Smith.


The movie Maggie takes us down a new zombie path. Very different from the visceral and brutal fight for survival of The Walking Dead and the stylish science fiction of the Resident Evil franchise, Maggie comes closest to World War Z’s personal journey through a midapocalyptic wasteland. It takes the personal angle, and makes it simply heartbreaking.

Abigail Breslin gives a quietly powerful performance, as the title character. When we join her story, Maggie exists in a place between life and death. That’s not exactly right. Technically, she’s already dead, living on an existential road that inevitably leads to the moment when she’ll turn. There’s no cure, only a cocktail that puts an end to the process. With extreme pain.

Maggie’s father searches for her, finds her, and takes her home to be loved until her final moments. Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing beautifully against type, is Wade. He is a father facing the unfaceable, with compassion, kindness, and the courage to make choices no parent should be asked to make. Schwarzenegger’s weathered features display a maelstrom contained in one man’s experience. When his little children are sent to live with relatives and eventually his wife (a wonderful, understated Joely Richardson) leaves out of fear of the stepdaughter she loves, Wade remains in the heart of tragedy, for the love of Maggie.

For all its quietude and often isolated grace, Maggie is not without moments of violence and blood, gore even. Still it’s a departure from stereotypical zombification adventures. At its painfully beating heart it is a story of family and love and fear and courage. Maggie’s final moments are honorable and beautiful, played out with a context of grief and loss. The way she chooses to spare her father the anguish of living with ending her, carried out on a flutter of memory, is etched on my memory. As I said, not your typical Schwarzenegger. Not your typical zombie movie. Not your typical movie, period. And all the better for it.

Maggie Official Trailer

*Spoilers below *

In the unlikely event no one has seen it yet.

I was disappointed to miss Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theater, and hoping that would be where the disappointment would end. I love the original trilogy. A New Hope was on first viewing a transcendent experience. It marked the beginning of a new era in visual storytelling. From the scrolling words opening to the innovative FX to the characters and their struggles, joys, and triumphs, it was an event as no other movie had been before. Many instant fans didn’t even know it actually had a five word title. It was simply Star Wars, the most exciting movie of its generation, perhaps of all time.

It held up so well that The Force Awakens was able to slide into the mythology, with near perfect segue. The key to this was the inclusion of so many familiar faces, most importantly with their familiar actors, right down to the droids. In particular, the dynamic between Han and Leia made the transition intact. Not many movies can give the veteran viewer a jolt of pure joy, but I felt just that multiple times while watching The Force Awakens. First sight of the Falcon, Han, Chewie, R2-D2 and C3PO…and Leia, then Leia and Han together again at last. Star Wars fans dreamed of that moment, some for decades. It did not disappoint. It thrilled the way movies need to do a lot more often.

The new additions brought their own separate thrills. Tough and remarkable Rey, flawed hero Finn, dashing pilot Poe, and of course adorable droid BB8, all bring out memories of what has come before, even as they blaze new trails that belong to them. Kylo Ren is an admirable foe, bristling with his bitter darkside darkness, yet carrying the vulnerability of a struggling child.

Action is actionier due to 21st century FX, but the core of Star Wars tradition runs through The Force Awakens right down to Han’s shocking apparent death. Apparent? Of course. I have little doubt and lots of hope that the tradition of dead is not as dead as we think will continue throughout the new incarnation of the beloved series.

There’s an unspoken extra bit to the title…Star Wars: The Force Awakens A Newer Hope. This is the kind of storytelling that instantly becomes the stuff of legend, even as it continues the legend at its foundation. It brings a ray of light into the endless parade of franchise reboots and movie remakes. Most importantly of all, it is the Star Wars we love moved into the next millennium. How fitting.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer (Official)

Some visits with my mom in the nursing home are better than others. There are times when she’s a bit snarky, times when she feels bad, and times when she’s sound asleep and I don’t even get to talk to her. Then there are times like tonight.

As I walked in I saw that she was watching The MTV Movie Awards. She was doing well and we chatted about all kinds of things. I noticed that her gaze kept turning to the TV, even as my head swiveled periodically to see who was onscreen. So of course our conversation was interspersed with exclamations about celebrities, hairstyles, and ceremonywear. Even that most dire of antagonists named Alzheimer’s cannot make her forget her love of Hollywood.

She always loved to read about
movie stars. Back in her day the royalty of Old Hollywood reigned on the pages of myriad movie magazines and the ever evolving technology of television. I distinctly remember the moment when I pulled open the doors of a large cabinet under our dining room buffet as a child, and discovered the aging paper of her old magazines that were a record of her love for those old movies. Her sister, my Aunt Pearl from previous posts, had an old photo album with crumbly cutouts cannibalized from her own collection pasted in for posterity. The apparent genetic pull goes even further back and all the way to Hollywood itself. My grandfather’s niece moved “out there” and became an obscure part of Hollywood history as a stand in during Old Hollywood’s hey day. So my childhood was filled with references to movie stars, movies, and even family lore from The Golden Age of Hollywood.

I fell under the spell of Old Hollywood as well, from watching a TV channel that showed the old black and white gems late at night and on weekends. Such classics as It Happened One Night, Arsenic and Old Lace, Mrs. Minever, The Thin Man Series, Being Up Baby,  Manhattan Melodrama…and more than I can record or recall. They all went into the giant mental vat that became the origin of my urge to write screenplays, though it was a long time before I realized it. Little did I know as the kid who loves old movies that one day I’d write screenplays that do well in some cool screenwriting competitions.

I didn’t really put it all together until tonight, as my mom and I found a moment when we could both be together in the same time and place, through that fantasy world called Hollywood. It had never really occurred to me how deeply my life has always been connected to movie magic and people who love it, even lived it. It makes me feel as if every screenplay I write is part of my heritage. A heritage and history I’ve become a real part of, in ways so unexpected that tonight, suddenly, I feel awed by just how deeply my love of Hollywood runs through my veins.

I’ve had a lot going on lately. My mom’s health got so bad that I had to put her in a nursing home, after taking care of her by myself for many years. It’s a unique kind of heartbreak, when you watch someone you love so much become more and more dependent on you and then the realization comes that you can no longer provide the level of care that they need. I’m still adjusting and accepting the new reality we both face, and will probably write more about all that eventually. Right now I want to tell you about the way things that I thought of as separate merged recently. It’s been one of those times when life gets eerie and surreal.

Many years ago I started experimenting with flash fiction. A couple are deep in the archives here. There’s one in particular that I’ve been thinking about. I wrote it after an aunt I loved very much was stricken with Alzheimer’s. I never saw her when she had it, because she lived several states away. I spoke with her on the phone once, just as she was getting it. She was still herself, but very vague and forgetful. I’m glad that conversation became my last memory of her. This story isn’t about her. It was only vaguely inspired by her fate. And of course it’s certainly not about my mother, who was only recently diagnosed. That’s the thing. I had never been in constant contact with anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s, until my mother’s slow undiagnosed journey, then rapid decline. The story was my impression of what it might be like to live with a mother with Alzheimer’s. The eerie thing is that I got it so right. The mother isn’t my own mother and Caroline is not me, but they are too in a way. I think it turns out that they may be anybody’s mother and anybody’s daughter, bound by love and the past and the present. So my own fiction resonates with me, as if someone else wrote it. Perhaps someone else did. The person I was before my life made me more like Caroline than I could have ever imagined. Here’s a link, if you want to read it: To Smell the Roses Again

The movies part of the title of this post comes in after the nursing home became necessary. The need for distraction from stress and an unfamiliar kind of grief finds me watching TV and movies in the middle of the night, even more than usual. I picked a movie one night several days after my mom went to the nursing home. A random choice, I thought. Random choices can be tricky. What I watched was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. What could be more distracting? Science fiction, about sentient apes? Cool! It was cool all right. I had no clue, until I was watching it, that a subplot was that the lead scientist’s father had Alzheimer’s. I almost stopped watching it, when I realized where the plot was going, but stuck with it. By the time it was over I was glad I did. I really enjoyed the movie I’d gone so long without watching, in case it would somehow ruin my love of the original. No fear of that. It was such a drastic reboot that it was practically a whole new movie. And it handled its Alzheimer’s story so beautifully that it managed to be a bittersweet comfort to me that it made me feel better instead of worse over my own situation with my mom. Of course it also made me long for a real life cure. But that’s the stuff of science fiction and fantasy, until hopefully someday it moves into the realm of reality. Soon.

I really don’t understand how my real life experience with my beloved mother got bracketed so by my love of writing and movies. I also don’t understand at all why life has to be so hard sometimes. Or how such a difficult time finds comfort in moments when writing and real life and movies merge.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Official Trailer HD

Here’s the first trailer for Go With Me. It’s an upcoming action thriller starring Anthony Hopkins and Julia Stiles that looks intense and intriguing. Anthony Hopkins is certainly keeping up his incredibly prolific pace. I’ll be looking forward to adding this one to the watched list in my constant quest to see his movies.

What a horrifying, yet perfect day to release the brilliant serial killer thriller, The Silence of the Lambs. That happened 25 years ago. Yes, Doctor Hannibal Lecter was unleashed into movie history on Valentine’s Day. How appropriate… if, like me, you consider the movie a love story of sorts.

I’ve seen it that way from the moment I sat down and braced myself to try to get through something so scary. This was years after the movie had been in theaters and on video. At the time it just wasn’t my kind of thing. Though I’d been devouring movies for most of my life, it took the imaginary accompanying fava beans and chiante enjoyed by Doctor Lecter over a misfortunate census taker to push me over the edge of movie going mediocrity and set off down the road toward film connoisseur.

Simply put, The Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece. As I watched, I was horrified, as expected. I was also intrigued, spellbound, and so impressed by the story and the way it was told on the screen that I had to know the source material. That led me to discovering the work of Thomas Harris, author of the novel The Silence of the Lambs. Since then I’ve read all of his Hannibal Lecter novels, and from the beginning declared him a genius. He paints pictures with words in a rare and beautiful way. In Hannibal, his Florence imagery made me long to go there. For every scene of ugliness and brutality, there are moments of gorgeous phrasing and evocative description. His prose is spare, yet elaborate, and somehow the adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs takes all this on and elaborates on it.

I fell in love with Anthony Hopkins’ work when I saw The Edge, and started watching everything he’s done. I say started because the man is incredibly prolific. I’ve seen scores of his movies, but they never run out! If not for wanting to see all of his movies, I doubt if I would ever have watched The Silence of the Lambs. Now, just because of that one movie, I discovered one of my favorite authors and genres. In fact, I’m working on a serial killer thriller screenplay, and if you’d told me I’d ever do that before I watched The Silence of the Lambs, I would have looked at you in bugeyed horror, like Doctor Chilton when he realized he was being one upped by a female FBI agent in the making. It was simply unthinkable.

So now on the 25th anniversary of the release of a movie that was not only a chilling study in crime and criminal hunters, but also a subtley romantic story of the crush from hell told in nuanced glances, fleeting vocal adoration, and one alarmingly lingering touch, I celebrate a movie that opened my eyes to a new world of possibility and led me to a future that is now my present screenwriting endeavor. If not for that movie, I might never have discovered that labeling something horror did not mean that’s all it was, that it would be exclusively horrifying, that I wouldn’t…couldn’t enjoy it. Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a movie by its genre.

The Silence of the Lambs remains a testament to the talent that went into its existence. It also continues to make me be creeped out by the obvious elements, but also such simple things as sewing patterns, lotion, and moths. It puts the images in its mind….

Entertainment Weekly article about the 25th anniversary of The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs Trailer

I am past weary of endless tamperi–er, tinkering with old movies and TV shows. The ones I never liked to start with, I don’t care about now. At all. Anything I loved, I like to remember as if it’s been caught in amber, not rebooted, remade, or just plain ruined. As someone who loves writing feature length original screenplays, in a reboot everything old world, I mourn the dearth of original anything anymore and get irritated when Twitter blows up with excitement and raving over whatever’s old is new again…again.

So it was when Terminator Genisys reared its probably ugly head. Oh. No. Not. Again.

I actually love the Terminator franchise…s so much that I watch it all. I find something to love about whatever they do to it, but I’m pretty sure by now that I’ll never really get over the death of Linda Hamilton’s iconic, ripped, half (only half?) crazy, one handed shotgun wielding Sarah Connor, when she was a mere memory in Terminator 3. Sure it was fun watching Doctor Silberman jibbering over a Terminator again, but not as much as it would have been if he’d spotted the preapocalyptic warrior woman stalking toward him with the future in her haunted gaze. I tolerated Lena Headey, who actually did bring her own take to Sarah Connor that wasn’t bad at all. She just wasn’t the Sarah Connor I wanted to watch. Terminator Salvation wisely had no Sarah Connor at all, except as a memory briefly, and was better for it. Then Genisys comes roaring in, with a new, new Sarah Connor, who thankfully looks nothing like a certain dragon mother. Too much confusion is a bad thing, you know. Usually.

One thing Genisys accomplished right away was proving what a talented actress Emilia Clarke is. I still didn’t like there being yet another incarnation of Sarah Connor. In fact, I hated the first half hour of Terminator Genisys. It was seeming like a weird rehash mishmash of everything that had come before. I couldn’t understand why they were covering such familiar ground and in such a bizarre way.

Slowly…and I do mean slowly…I started to get it. Ideas and imagery and people started to emerge from the mishmash. Things started to coalesce from a whirlpool of confusion. Hey, this thing is a whole new movie!

And then Pops came on the scene and I started to fall in love with Terminator Genisys. I’ve always loved Schwarzenegger in all his Terminator versions, and Pops was no exception. He revealed himself to be the perfect bookend to his original relentless hunter killer cyborg. Extrapolated from the kinder, gentler, funnier fatherly version who shepherded John Connor through many a crisis, Pops was the grandpa terminator of every little girl’s dreams.

Well, maybe not, but he was a fine protector and family substitute for an orphaned child Sarah. Her fierce devotion to and faith in him was touching, in a sea of deceit and violence and pain.

Having Genisys be an operating system serving as a Trojan Horse for Skynet’s inception of a foothold toward world domination was chilling genius. Our uber connected, on all the time relationship with our beloved technology made it a creepily realistic possibility. Possibly even a probability. I just read a collection of Elon Musk’s concerns about how fast AI can learn and the dangers that may lurk within our thirst for knowledge, invention, and whiz bang coolness. The real life potential of what ifs when it comes to technology makes the premise of Skynet bursting forth from a decision to connect too many things at once downright scary. Something like that turns science fiction onto a science/science fiction/horror hybrid. In some small way it’s a new kind of movie, in keeping with new kinds of thoughts and things we can hardly keep up with.

Something the Terminator movies have always done is pit the minds and hearts and souls of ordinary human beings against the heartless soulless minds of machines that always have the fatal flaw that they are not us. Will they ever be? That’s the question that haunts the thinking person into his dreams and entertainment. Terminator Genisys turned out to be an exciting, terrifying and ultimately satisfying venture into territory both familiar and alien in its own particular brand of what ifs.

I think what ultimately saved Genisys for me was that it reinvented itself so thoroughly that it really was a new movie, but a new movie with an old friend in the form of Pops to tie it into what I wanted to at least be reminded of. Overall it really is a good reminder that a reboot can be a good thing, with the right mix of old and new.

Terminator Genisys Official International Trailer #1