Friday, July 31, 2015

Purple Violets - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

A question often raised when it comes to writers is "What makes a successful writer?" Is it how well your books sell, how well those books are written or that you write at all? People have chosen one or more of these as the answer, but most of us, knowing that commercial success is not given to all, would say that, if you write, then you are a writer. And, perhaps, I am reading too much into this, but I think that these questions are a major theme in the film Purple Violets.

Purple Violets is a 2007 "relationship comedy" as Wikipedia describes it, and they're never wrong, that was directed, produced and written by Edward Burns. He also acts in it. And this is why he gets the really good stuff at the craft service table. In all seriousness, I've come to really enjoy Edward Burns over the past few years, as well as admiring him as a writer. This just cemented that.

Anyway, the movie is about a few people, but mostly, Brian and Patty. Brian Callahan, played by Patrick Wilson, is a very successful writer by way of a series of books about a cop named Frank Knight. And yes, all the books have titles that play on that name, like Last Knight, Tonight's the Knightt and, I don't know, The Knight the Lights Went Out in Georgia. Okay, I might have made up that last one, but it would not be implausible. Anyway, Brian, though commercially successful, longs to be taken seriously as a writer through his new book, The Good Doctor. It's not working out to well for him, since the hardcore fans refuse to accept his as anything other than the writer of the Frank Knight series. Almost to a disturbing degree. No lie, I'm surprised they didn't get Kathy Bates to pop in with a cameo to say that she's his "Number One Fan". Anyway, Brian is not exactly in the best place, personally. Perhaps, seeing an ex-girlfriend will help.

Enter Patty Petalson, played by Selma Blair. Patty is also a writer, but when we meet her, she is working as a real estate agent. Not just as a day job to support her writing, but as a day job to, I think, distract her from her writing, as she hasn't done much of it lately, though she was greatly praised in the past. Soon, after reuniting with Brian, she becomes inspired and begins to write again. She also starts to rethink her life and some of the decisions she has made, setting her on a new path to the future, which only seemed to be reached by glancing back at the past. It happens. Trust me, I know.

Meanwhile, we have a subplot pertaining to the best friends of our two main characters, Kate Scott, played by Debra Messing, and Michael "Murph" Murphy, played by the aforementioned Edward Burns. These two also used to date at one time, but Kate hasn't been able to forgive Murph for betraying her pretty badly. According to her. According to him, nothing happened and he cannot figure out why she's so upset. And, may I say, this aspect of the film shows how good of a writer Burns is by making this the subplot rather than the main plot. Not that it isn't good; it's just better suited to something other than the main focus.

So, besides all of those actors and characters, we have a few more to fill out the film and keep things even more interesting. First, we have the late, great Dennis Farina as Glen Gilmore, Patty's overbearing employer. As usual, he does not disappoint. Then, we have Elizabeth Reaser, playing Bernadette, Brian's girlfriend-ish. I say "ish" because she's one of those people who seems to think that six months in a relationship is the equivalent of six years. It's usually not, by the way. She's kind of annoying, but I think that's the point, so good job, Elizabeth! And, finally, we have Donal Logue, playing Chazz, Patty's husband. Though it's kind of "husband" in name only, since these two aren't the most loving or compatible of couples. Oh, and I love Donal Logue. Have I mentioned that? Actually, there's something interesting about his character - he has an accent. Why? I seriously have no idea why. I think that one day he just went up to Edward Burns and said, "Hey, can my character have an accent?" And Edward said, "Sure, why not?" Unless I missed something in the narrative, this is exactly how I imagine it happened.

Anyway, I like this movie. I think, mostly, it's very character oriented. We get to know them, how they feel and how they're trying to work out where their lives are going. And if where their lives are going is where they want to go. Yeah, that totally made sense. So, I'm going to recommend Purple Violets, but I will especially recommend it if you like the people in it. They are a huge part of why it works so well. Also, it has good writing. And it's about writing. Enough said.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Dark Half - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

I've talked about this before, but I feel it needs to be brought up again today. I'm amazed that Stephen King actually wrote a book called On Writing which gives people lots of good advice on how to become a writer, even encouraging and inspiring them. Why am I amazed by this? Because so many of his fiction books would make one think that being a writer is the worst choice they can make. They're always either going crazy or getting abducted or both or worse. And sometimes they have an evil twin that they didn't even know about until it's too late. Such is the case with the movie I'll be reviewing today, The Dark Half.

The Dark Half is a 1993 film based on the Stephen King book of the same name. And no, I have not read it yet, but it is on my bookshelf waiting. Anyway, it stars one of my favorite actors, Timothy Hutton, as our protagonist, Thad Beaumont. And may I be shallow for a moment and say that he is super hot in this movie. Well, half the time. Anyway, Thad is a writer, who began as a child, despite having some unusual health problems. Health problems that, by the way, give us a fantastic scene that I cannot decide whether it is terrifying or hilarious. I guess it depends on the person. So, Thad becomes a successful writer as an adult and as himself, mostly critically speaking, but only by using a nom de plume, George Stark, does he achieve his most commercial success. This other persona has given him the freedom to write about things that he otherwise would not have.

After a con man, played by Robert Joy, threatens to tell the world who he is, Thad and his wife, Liz, played by Amy Madigan, decide to beat him to the punch by telling the world themselves. Not only telling the world, but acting as though George Stark is dead, as Thad won't be writing as him anymore. And they go all out with this, doing an interview about it and literally burying George Stark in a plot. Morbid much. But, hey, that's what sells, at least in the world of this story. And that world is Maine, of course. Where else? Anyway, this is where things gets interesting.

Somehow, I think through the help of...evil birds(?), the imaginary George Stark comes to life. And in real life is exactly where he wants to stay. Now I should say that, in case you haven't guessed, Timothy Hutton also plays Stark. It really shows how amazing he is as an actor, as these two characters are pretty much polar opposites, and he plays them both very convincingly. So, as George Stark goes on a crazed rampage, Thad ends up being the number one suspect in all of the crimes. As expected. He is forced to try and convince his accusers of this insane idea, while also trying to find a way to defeat his evil alter ego and protect those he loves, most of all his wife and two babies. Two babies who give some of the best reaction shots I've ever seen in film.

Now I know I've mentioned a few of the actors already, but this film really has even more of a stellar cast. We get Michael Rooker, Rutanya Alda, Tom Mardirosian, Beth Grant and the late, great Julie Harris, who I'm pretty sure knows a thing or two about being in a scary movie. Again, I apologize, dearest Julie, for that remake of The Haunting. Anyway, everyone in this movie, from big parts to small, are kind of perfect.

So, I suppose I will recommend this, but only if you can deal with the creepy stuff. I know it's Mr. King's lot in life to give people nightmares, however, it is not mine. I'm not even normally into scary movies. I'm more of a psychological thriller kind of girl. But something like The Dark Half, which does have some gore but is also smartly written, I can handle. And I'll watch anything with Timothy Hutton in it.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Magic of Belle Isle - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

If there's one thing that I think many young and aspiring writers are in want of, it is a mentor. But, unfortunately, a lot of writers, especially ones that have been doing it for quite a while, tend to lean towards being loners. So, what is a youngster to do? Beats me. All of my mentors have been people I don't know or who are dead. Or both. But some people are blessed enough to meet an inspiring person. Ladies and gentlemen, the story of The Magic of Belle Isle.

The Magic of Belle Isle is a 2012 film that I actually never heard of until recently when it popped up on my OnDemand. But every time I tried to watch it, it kept not working, then it went away, then I found it on Netflix. So, yay. It tells the story of an aging writer named Monte Wildhorn played by the always great Morgan Freeman. Yes, this film gets points just for having him in it. Well, some actors are the equivalent of writing your name correctly on the SAT's. 200 POINTS IMMEDIATELY!! Anyway, he is spending the summer house sitting and dog sitting at the recommendation of his nephew named Henry, played by Kenan Thompson. I know what you're thinking, but relax. This is much better than Good Burger. Monte is not in the best place of his life at the moment, being confined to a wheelchair and not doing any writing. He is pretty much the ornery old man that these kind of movies tend to have.

But, as luck would have it, the aforementioned house he is staying in lies right next to the house of a woman named Charlotte O'Neill, played by one of my favorite actresses, the lovely Virginia Madsen, and her three daughters, Willow, Finn and Flora. Okay, someone knows how to name their children. The kids are played, respectively, by Madeline Carroll, who I gave much praise to for her role in Machine Gun Preacher, Emma Fuhrmann and Nicolette Pierini. Now, as you guys know, I am not exactly a kid person, but I like the kids in this movie. They've got some serious potential in the acting department.

Anyway, it is the middle daughter, Finn, who becomes closest with Monte, as she comes to him asking for lessons on how to be a writer, even agreeing to pay him for help. His lessons come by way of almost a Karate Kid style, where he is teaching, but the student is not always aware when they are being taught. And whilst Finn is figuring out her writing, she also has a summer goal of building a boat so she can reach a small island where she believes the "magic" is.

As time goes on, Monte begins to let himself get closer to some of the residents, like another neighbor named Al, played by Fred Willard, a sweet, young man named Carl, played by Ash Christian and his mother, Karen, played by Jessica Hecht, and of course, Charlotte, as well as her other daughters. You start to sense the idea of all these people being family in a way. Everyone is trying to understand one another, get to know one another, and support each other as best they can, whether a person realizes they want that support or not. I know that some of that might sound cliche, and some aspects of this film might be considered predictable, but the way it's executed, leaving a few things ambiguous yet hopeful, makes it work very well. Plus, you can really feel that the people behind this movie truly wanted to make a wonderful family film, and they did. Those people, by the way, include Rob Reiner, who directed, wrote and produced. Sir, we may not see eye to eye on everything, but I think you can pretty good with this movie stuff.

Honestly, there is no better word for this film than heartwarming. You'll laugh, you'll cry and that is what I think makes a good movie that you can enjoy with the whole family. You know, nothing too heavy for the kids, but nothing too childish for the grown-ups. And I happen to think that we don't get enough of those these days. The Magic of Belle Isle really does have some magic to it, and I highly recommend it.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Infamous - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

So, I like this movie better than Capote. I know Capote was the one that got more acclaim and whatnot, but sorry. Whilst I think it's good, I just don't think it's better than Infamous. But that's beside the point. I just thought since I'm doing this week all about writer movies and it coincides with the recent release of Harper Lee's new...old book, why not? More on her and what she has to with Truman Capote later, if you don't already know. Anyway, let's get started.

Infamous is a 2006 film starring the incredibly underrated Toby Jones as Truman Capote, and it chronicles his time in Kansas as he does research for the book that would become In Cold Blood. He is accompanied by his best friend at the time, the aforementioned Harper Lee, played by Sandra Bullock. I have to say, I love the chemistry between these two actors. Thanks to them, I can totally picture what it must have been like to see those two together back in the day. But Harper wasn't Truman's only friend, of course. So who else have we got?

One interesting thing about this film, which could have gone either way, is how they do these confessional type interviews interspersed with the narrative of the story. It's where all of Truman's friends, who consist of artists, writers, socialites, fashion icons, and on and on, talk more in depth about him. And this cast they got is amazing. We get Sigourney Weaver as Babe Paley, Juliet Stevenson as Diane Vreeland, Isabella Rossellini as Marella Agnelli and one of my celeb BFF's Hope Davis as Slim Keith. There was even a cameo of sorts by Gwyneth Paltrow playing Kitty Dean, who I think was supposed to be Peggy Lee, but then wasn't...because who knows? And that's another thing that makes this film superior. It's the way that we get to see Truman more as this 'life of the party' person that he always was, rather than just someone determined to get that book done, although it does transition into that.

For the characters that are less famous and more personal, we, again, get some fantastic actors. John Benjamin Hickey, another underrated character actor who I love, plays Jack Dunphy, who was Truman's...well, back then, they would have called him a "companion", possibly even a "roommate". But, of course, we know that they were in a relationship. And, according to what Truman's famous friends said, Jack did not approve of them. It made for some interesting conversations. Once Truman gets to Kansas to research the murder of the Clutter family for his book, he befriends a detective who is working on the case, Alvin Dewey, played by Jeff Daniels. Okay, if I'm going to call anything a tie between this and Capote, it is the casting of Alvin Dewey. Jeff Daniels here, Chris Cooper there. I cannot declare a winner.

But the relationship that develops for Truman most within the confines of this film, believe it or not, is the one with Perry White, one of the killers. Although, I'm not sure if everyone would call it a relationship or a friendship. It was just something really hard to define. As many people know, Truman went to the prison to interview the killers, and I don't know how common that was at the time. I assumed not very. He speaks to both of them, but they have different effects on him. Richard Hickock, played by Lee Pace, tells him a lot, but it is Perry White, played by Daniel Craig, who really opens up to Truman. He actually ends up trusting him, which was not easy for him to do. Their interactions are a roller coaster. Heartbreaking sometimes, other times violent. It's truly the most compelling part of the movie, especially when Truman realizes what will have to happen for his book to be finished. And it takes quite a toll on him. That, in turn, has a great effect on the audience.

So, in conclusion, I found Infamous to be quite personal and more emotionally gripping than the other movie. Many people disagree with me, I know, but I can't help how I feel. I sensed more of a connection to Truman Capote's connections to others. If that makes any sense. And I found this to be more of a movie for writers. And since that's what I like to write about, it wins.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Rewrite - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

There aren't a ton of people who I let get away with doing pretty much the same kind of movie over and over again. Hugh Grant is someone to whom I give permission. I can't help it. More often than not, I have been getting charmed by this man for about twenty years now. And he still succeeds to do so. For better or worse, where the actual movies are concerned. So, when I heard about this film, I knew I would have to check it out. Let's talk about The Rewrite.

The Rewrite stars Mr. Grant as Keith Michaels, a once successful screenwriter who has fallen into a dry period in his career, not to mention a divorce and losing most of his money. So, when the opportunity arises for him to become an artist-in-residence, teaching a screenwriting class at a college in Upstate New York, he reluctantly accepts.

Immediately, Keith makes impressions in very different ways on several people. First, he"acquainted" with one of the students from the school named Karen, played by Bella Heathcote. Relax, she's of age, so it's not illegal. Creepy and gross, maybe, if it wasn't Hugh Grant. But isn't that's how it's always been with him? Moving on. He also befriends a fellow teacher, Jim, played by always a pleasure Chris Elliot, as well as Department Chairman, Dr. Harold Lerner, played by the great and powerful J.K. Simmons. He has a wife and four daughters. He has no opinions. Direct quote of his from the film that is. Hilarious and most likely true. And let's just get this over with. He is the best thing in the film. But when is he not? Of course, not everyone is so fond of Keith. He is far from having a fan in the resident Jane Austen expert, Mary Weldon, played by Alison Janney, who is just fantastic in this. Yeah, more of her, please.

And then, we have Keith's students, who are an interesting bunch. We already know about Karen, of course. Add to that Sara, something of a pretentious film snob, Andrea, lover of Dirty Dancing and anything like it, Billy, who pretty much wants to rewrite Star Wars, and we all know how well that tends to work out, and Clem, who turns out to be a bit of a diamond in the rough, just to name a few. But the one that ends up being the most prominent is Holly Carpenter, played by Marisa Tomei. Yeah, that's right. This movie has TWO Oscar winners in it. Make of that what you will. Anyway, Holly is a middle-aged single mom who has returned to college and, when she needs a Lit requirement, she decides to try for a spot in Keith's screenwriting class. She's kind of feisty and doesn't let him get away with much, but she also gets him to open up a lot about things that he prefers not to do so. I wonder what's gonna happen between these two. Hmmm...

Okay, fine. There's nothing particularly unprecedented about this plot, but that's okay, I think. A film like this doesn't have to do that, necessarily. It can just be, for lack of a word I haven't overused already, charming, and The Rewrite certainly fits that description. It's a feel good story, it's nice and easy and sometimes that's all we want out of a film. Also, there's something I like about a coming-of-age story centered around people who aren't so young anymore. I like the idea of telling stories about second chances and new beginnings for people who think the only place they're heading is to the end of their life. Stories like that, I think, can give a lot of hope to those who are running out of it.

So, if you like a pretty good rom-com that has a lot of heart to it, or if you like Hugh Grant-y type films, I say check it out. I think it will definitely put a smile on your face, and, holy smokes, do we need more movies to do that these days. Just good, standalone, non-franchise movies that make us happy. Thank you.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cinematic Writers Week 2 .0

Greetings Pups,

And so I have returned from what ended up being my month-long sabbatical. Good to be back. I wondered what I should do upon my return, and it was not that hard to decide. Since I spent my time away doing a lot of other writing, I thought it would be perfect to do yet another week long tribute to movies all about writers. I enjoyed it the first time, so why not do it again? And so begins the second installment of my legendary(?) Cinematic Writers Week! (Crowd cheering noises, crowd cheering noises!)

There are plenty of movies about writers, some good, some not so good, but I picked some that I have really enjoyed over the years and some that I have only recently discovered that I was also entertained and even inspired by. That's always been the reason I love them. And I'll try to cover as many bases as I can with my reviews. I'll do ones that are funny, dramatic, heartwarming, even scary. Oh, yeah, I said scary. Because I like to be eclectic.

So, if you're interested, stay tuned this week, and hopefully, you'll discover some great movies for yourself that might get your pen moving. You know, if you're a writer...with writer's block. Hey, I've been there. We try anything!

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer