A Walk Among The Tombstones (2014) – Review

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No, this is not another Taken film, but it does seem close. This film is darker than that franchise, and is an improvement that shows off its star – Liam Neeson’s – immense talent even more. It is an old-school action film, and Neeson is plain and simply awesome.

A Walk Among the Tombstones: Neeson is Matt Scudder, a former cop turned private eye. After first refusing the job, Scudder finally agrees to help a known drug dealer find the men that not only kidnapped his wife, but killed her after the ransom had been paid. Scudder soon learns that this is not the first time the group have done this, and when they kidnap another girl, he sets out to find them and make them pay.

Any review on this film should begin with: Liam Neeson is awesome. There is no denying it. He has been very kick-ass in his film role choices, and he more than deserves all of the roles he has been getting lately – not to mention all of the attention. He is not just a brilliant action-genre actor, but has shown over the years that he can pretty much play any role they throw at him. With A Walk Among the Tombstones, he is more than capable of turning a generic good-guy-bad-guy action film into something more than just entertaining.

However, the film couldn’t be as good as it is without a good script. The story – based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Block – is full of moments of suspense and plot twists that make the finished product more than just shooting and car chases.

The look and feel of the film is gritty and noir-esque, which makes it more interesting. The director Scott Frank (who also wrote the screenplay for the film) hasn’t done as much directing work as he has done writing work, but with the cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., they have created something striking.

It is not usual for films made from books to be successful, but this one is doing quite well for itself. It has been a long time in the making – since around 2002 – and it was back then said that Harrison Ford was originally going to play the lead. Ford is a great actor too, but the novel’s author had always pictured Neeson among his top choices for the lead character.

Reviews have been adequately positive. There has been much praise for Neeson’s acting, the directing, and the script. The cliche aspects have also been criticised, though its improvements of the story and perfecting of the genre have compensated for this.

Action films have always been popular, and A Walk Among the Tombstones is an action film done right. Parents and guardians might not want to have it on while their kids are in the room – due to the violence, etc. – but it’s nothing overly gory. Enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

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Writing How-To: Format a Script/Screenplay

If you love writing, then write. Things like formatting don’t matter until you’ve put pen to paper.

This post is about the technical formatting of your screenplay/script. I will write another post soon about what to put in your script, and how to use proper terminology.

For those that are ready, here is my step-by-step tutorial Writing How-To: Format a Script/Screenplay. I usually use a program called Movie Magic Screenwriter by Write Brothers, but I will be showing you using Word, because it’s free and still easy. I will be using a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Band Candy script as examples throughout (don’t worry, I won’t put any major spoilers in it).

You can do it in any order, but I will be going from front to back.

Step One

TITLE PAGE

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Title and Names:
Courier New 12pt, centred, two inches (6 ‘enters’ from top margin, title in bold (sometimes underlined), names clear formatting.

Contact Info:
Courier New 12pt, flush right. Name, address, email address (professional), phone number

Step Two

CAST LIST

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Title:
Courier New 12pt, centred, two inches (6 ‘enters’ from top margin, title in bold (sometimes underlined)

Names:
Justified, clear formatting
*Regular cast (for television series) goes first, then guest stars.*

STEP THREE

SET LIST

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Title:
Courier New 12pt, centred, two inches (6 ‘enters’ from top margin, title in bold (sometimes underlined)

Text:
‘Set List’ underlined, centred
‘Interiors’ and ‘Exteriors’ underlined, justified
Rest in justified, clear formatting
*Interiors first, then Exteriors*

STEP FOUR

ACT ONE or TEASER – Page 1

Television shows have a short section at the start to introduce the main story of the episode. Films just begin with Act One.

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Title:
Courier New 12pt, centred, underlined
*Title no longer on screenplay/script pages after this*

Text:
‘Teaser’ centred, capitals
‘Interior’ or ‘Exterior’ capitals, justified
Scene, character, and action description flush left, clear formatting
Character name in capitals in description first time mentioned
Character name (dialogue header) capitals, left indent (6 ‘tab’ from left margin)
Dialogue centred, left indent (3 ‘tab’ from left margin), 10cm long

STEP FIVE

END OF ACT ONE or TEASER

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Text:
‘Fade to Black’ or ‘Black Out’ flush left, capitals
‘End Of…’ centred, capitals


So, there you go. This is how you format a screenplay/script using Word and no template. Templates are easier to use – programs are better, though – so decide wisely.

Independence Day: Resurgence – Trailer Review

Independence Day (1996), Speed (1994), Ransom (1996), these were my top favourite movies during my childhood. Even now I bring them out as often as I can.

So it is with my excitement – and trepidation – that I welcome the trailer for the sequel Independence Day: Resurgence (2016). Check it out below, and then we’ll chat!

Almost all my fears are gone. Not only do the visual effects look amazing, but it looks like it has an actual storyline.

I love that it’s a different Earth – they have learned from the remaining alien technology and employed it for their defence. So what happens when the aliens return and they’ve ramped-up their defences too?

A lot of the original cast are coming back (Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch), and they are mixed with a new breed (Liam Hemsworth, Joey King, and, I don’t know how much he’ll be seen, but Hays Wellford is also listed, who I recently saw in Cop Car and wrote a review here).

Of course one absence is Will Smith. For some reason he has declined to participate and the official Independence Day: Resurgence website WarOf1996.com records that his character died in 2007.

From what I have seen, I think this movie has what it takes to be a successful sequel. Many have tried and failed, so only time will tell if I’m right.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to seeing it on the big screen? Let me know in the comments below.

Lucy (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Scarlett Johansson is no longer an unknown name. She has risen to fame with her most notable role arguably as Black Widow in the Marvel series, and is the lead in the new science-fiction action film Lucy. It is clearly not the most scientifically accurate, but is an excellent choice for a purely entertaining film.

Lucy begins with the title character far short of what the trailer revealed her to be. She is not a genius and she does not have ‘special powers’. Instead, she is partying in a Taiwanese night-club, drinking and dancing with no abandon. Her life suddenly turns upside-down when she is kidnapped by an armed gang, and forced to work as a mule, transporting a package of drugs inside of her body. When the deal goes wrong, an attack causes the package to fracture, and the drugs flow into Lucy’s system. Lucy transforms into a warrior with an expanding mental capability (telekinesis, telepathy, superhuman strength, etc.) that rivals anything seen before.

The film is written and directed by Luc Beeson, who has a grand history with this genre. He is probably best known for his work on The Fifth Element (1997), the Transporter franchise (2002 to 2008), and the Taken series (2008 to 2014). He clearly has a firm grip on the genre, and he manages a tight balance between exposition, dialogue, and action.

There is always the annoying distinction between ‘actors’ and ‘sci-fi actors’. There is clearly nothing different about them, but, for some reason, actors are always lumped into one group or the other. Scarlett Johansson has been in many assorted films since she began in 1994, but it has only been in recent years that her popularity has skyrocketed. This is, in large part, due to her role as Black Widow in the Marvel series. She has proved to be more than a sci-fi actress. Morgan Freeman, too, is always an excellent actor who brings credibility to whatever role he plays, and is a wonderful compliment to Scarlett Johansson.

The fight scenes and car chases were believable, and it is cool to see how the film industry has accepted female leads. The rise of heroines instead of damsels in distress is refreshing, and Scarlett Johansson has been at the forefront of this movement.

The only negative thing about this film, would be the lack of scientific realism. It was in an interview that Luc Beeson described the beginning process of Lucy, and how it took ten years to become a reality once he heard about a scientific theory that humans only use ten percent of their brain. It is true that it is a good premise for a science-fiction film, but this theory has been widely debunked, now openly referred to as a myth.

Reviews from critics and audiences have been mixed, with both sides arguing the same above points.

Overall, this film is not very scientifically accurate (even in theory), but it is an entertaining sci-fi action film.

4 out of 5 stars

Hercules (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has gone from career to career, with his fan-base continuing to grow. He has been a college football player, professional WWE wrestler, and now he is a Greek demigod. This film is the second about Hercules to hit cinemas this year – with Kellan Lutz starring in the title role of The Legend of Hercules. Johnson’s film definitely has its ‘cheesy’ moments (“I am Hercules!”), but excels as pure entertainment.

Hercules begins by showing us the conquering of the legendary twelve labours (the Lion, Hyrda, the Boar, etc.) to get us familiar with the title character. Hercules, son of Zeus, is a heroic warrior mercenary. He is beyond the strength of any mere human, but he is tortured by the loss of his family. With nothing and no one, he does what he does best, and his skills are soon requested by the King of Thrace (Lord Cotys) and his daughter. Threatened by the tyrannical warlord Rheseus, Hercules must transform Cotys’ men into an army that is capable of defeating Rheseus and keeping the innocent safe.

Over the years, there have been many films that focus on Hercules, so it is difficult to make one more influential or entertaining than another. This film simply succeeds in creating an enjoyable experience. The overall pace is good, without being too emotionally heavy or boring. In the first two minutes, we see Hercules in all his glory, completing the twelve labours. Johnson is in perfect physical form for the role, and you can almost believe he is strong enough for these amazing feats.

Despite the obvious lack of real threat – I don’t think anyone in the audience could relate to the majority of the on-screen jeopardy – we believe these characters. We feel for their loss and their worries, and that is something hard to do in a film so detached from reality. Veteran actors Hurt and Fiennes are brilliant as always, though the “gruelling” eight months of training for Johnson might be starting to become too much for him.

The use of CGI was good, and not over-the-top like other fantasy films tend to be. They were used a lot at the beginning of the film, allowing the rest of the film to be more character-driven, with the CGI mostly adding to the feel and setting. The lighting was quite dark, sometimes making it harder to see the effects, but this could also been more of a creative style by the director.

Hercules has received mixed reviews. It might not be the most important movie released this year, but it has been well-received and enjoyed by audiences.

I am not sure whether the release of two Hercules movies this year will affect the success of either. However, this film is a must-see if you are into the thrill of adventure and want to be transported to another world. It does not stick too closely to the mythology, but the essentials are the same.

4 out of 5 stars