21 December, 2006

Word of Mouth

Deja Vu

Because most directors claim the 'a film by' credit even when they didn't write it, I've tended to go the other way and credit the writer with everything, good or bad, but it’s increasingly obvious that just because a writer is on the credits, it doesn’t mean they were the only writer or that they weren’t re-written to make it better or re-written to make it worse. This film is a case in point.

Deju Vu has an interesting concept in that an ATF agent realises that a woman's murder is linked to a bigger scale disaster and realises that if he can save the woman he can prevent the disaster which means going back in time.

However this high-concept thriller with lots of money behind it proves, ultimately, to be a damp squib. Normally I would blame the screenwriters but co-writer Terry Rossio says "we had a director who couldn't understand the movie, and so rewrote it into incoherence."

'Incoherence' sums it up nicely. There was a genre shift from action thriller to Open University lecture as they tried to explain how the time travel works. I don't bloody care how the time travel works, it's not as if I'm going to be trying it myself in my lab at home afterwards in between splitting atoms and finding the cure for cancer.

Establish just enough to be plausible then move the frack on with the story. If I wanted a science lesson I would have bothered to go to the ones at school.

A rookie mistake by the screenwriters you would think but Rossio says that he and co-writer Bill Marsilli argued against the explanation but were over-ruled by Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer - who you would think would know better. A big gang of young people walked out during my screening when they're the demo most likely to buy another ticket if they enjoyed it. Will Tony and Jerry now realise explosions and car chases aren't everything and even kids want a good story? Will they frack.

Bill Marsilli's Wordplay post about trying not to be disappointed

Terry Rossio's Wordplay reply

Box Office #5



I've been a bit wary of fantasy films since Lord of the Rings and so couldn't believe the running time of this was only 100 minutes. It's fantasy and based on a book so therefore should be hours long, surely. So while that encouraged me to see it, they've obviously cut way too much. I haven't read the book but I very much doubt the story and plotting here alone would have enabled it to become such a beloved best-seller.

It's obviously missing depth as they concentrated on selective action beats. But that just meant a lurch from one to another a bit implausibly. How does the evil one manage to find out the top secret location where the goodies are based? By following them there. If only he had thought of that deviously complex scheme years ago.

That said, it's not terrible just a bit dull without the emotional beats that deeper characterisation brings. So while it's a bit bleh for adults, undemanding teens may like it.

Box Office #4


Black Christmas

Everybody sing:
"Black Christmas, I plucked out your eye,
and the very same day, I left you to die"
(with apologies to George Michael)

I'm really glad I saw Black Christmas - it's really crap but rather than have a little nap or walk out, I worked out why it was crap and got an idea for my own slasher project.

Technically, by my own severe rules, I should have walked out in the beginning at the mental health hospital scene when the security guard falls for the oldest trick in the book. It's possible this security guard really was stupendously stupid, fair enough, but he would also have needed to have never seen several hundred films and TV shows where this trick has been played out.

The dialogue is good, as you would expect from Glen Morgan but we don't really get to know the characters properly before they are bumped off. It hits the ground running and, in crisis, enough characterisation can come out but it didn't really happen here.

It wasn't just the security guard though, all the characters live in the real world but have no common-sense and have never seen a movie. If you know the baddie, who has killed several people, is in a certain place then normal human reaction is not to go there.

Of course, what makes a hero a hero is going to where the bad guy is and confronting him but it has to be for a reason other than to be bumped off. It's hard to identify with and care about someone so stupid and that's our job - to get the audience to identify with the characters and care. It's much scarier having someone frantically trying to escape and doing their best to get away and then they get offed.

It could be argued that someone walking off to certain death for no reason is in the tradition of slasher movies, but I would argue that that is only a tradition in bad slasher movies. I don't think lame story-telling can be excused by calling it “tongue-in-cheek”.

Morgan introduces the back-story of the baddie to this re-make and while a bit of a flashback would have done, this goes on for ages. It's under 90 minutes as it is and he obviously felt he needed it for time reasons but it wasn't needed for story reasons and that's the main thing. I would have preferred if he had cut down that back-story and added more depth to the characters to make us care about them being killed.

There are, I assume, slasher fans who don't care about logic and good characterisation but who just want to see 'good deaths'. In my opinion there is only one 'good death' here but I think the ultimate goal is to make every death matter and how explicit and original they are should be a bonus.

Box Office #8

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