Film Review: PAVAROTTI (USA 2019) ***1/2

Pavarotti Poster
Trailer

A look at the life and work of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti.

Director:

Ron Howard

Writers:

Cassidy Hartmann (consulting writer), Mark Monroe

PAVAROTTI is one famous opera tenor that everyone has heard of – even though he has passed away in 2007 from pancreatic cancer.  PAVAROTTI is arguably one of the most famous tenors ever lived.  PAVAROTTI is director Ron Howard’s doc and from the tone of the film, his tribute to the great singer.

Ron Howard’s PAVAROTTI is a riveting documentary that lifts the curtain on Luciano Pavarotti, the icon who brought opera to the people.  At the film’s start, the audience sees the man travelling to the Amazon in South America to bring opera to an obscure part of he world.  Pavarotti is credited with introducing an “elite art form to the masses.”  (The film is from the same team behind the acclaimed The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.)

  Documentaries about famous celebrities follow the same outline.  There is a story of the celebrity’s background, where he came from, his influences how he became famous and the good he or she has done for mankind.  As with every person in life, there would be a downfall, usually the larger the celebrity, the larger the downward spiral.  Then there is the redemption or climb back to normalcy.  Howard’s PAVAROTTI follows the same pattern.

Director Howard question at the film’s start Pavarotti’s gift.  Is it a purpose or a burden?  The film sets out to reveal the answer.

The film thus traces Pavarotti’s earliest beginnings to the very last days of his life,
the film following the renowned tenor over the course of his prolific career.  It features history-making performances, intimate interviews, never-before seen footage and previously
unknown details about one of the beloved entertainers of all time.

The film’s highlight are, expectedly Pavarotti’s performances especially the concerts.  He organized the 3 tenors (himself together with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras)..  The concerts with the three opera singers singing their best make the film’s best segment.  Other highlights include the concert in the rain in the United Kingdom attended by the then still living Princess Diana.  The weather did not cooperate with the concert organizers.  So it was announced during the open air performance for the audience to close their umbrellas despite the rain so that the view of the stage will not be blocked.  Everyone ended up having a great time despite getting wet.  The shot of Pavarotti together with Princess Diana is unforgettable.

Pavarotti’s rendering of Puccini’s famous song in “La Turandot’ marks the best of all the singer’s performances.  Watch the film  in proper theatrical sound as in cutting-edge Dolby Atmos sound (that was used in the press screening attended).

As for the celebrity’s downfall, director Howard  concentrates on the man’s weakness for women.  While being married, he flirted around, finally finding his true love with Nicoletta Mantovani and having a daughter before being diagnosed with cancer.  Howard concentrates more on the singer’s good deeds, like helping the poor especially the children, particularly organizing benefit concerts with other famous people, including rock starts to help the poor and unfortunate.

PAVAROTTI ends up superlative entertainment even for non-opera fans.  It ends up too study of a man with talent and how this man or for that matter, any person with a gift can and should use it to help mankind.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnPPrjwyLW8

Advertisements

Film Review: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (USA 2018) ***1/2

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

Solo: A Star Wars Story Poster
During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.

Director:

Ron Howard

 

(The review contains a few plot points. that should not spoil ones enjoyment of the film) 

Han Solo, is the space outlaw made famous by Harrison Ford ever since the first blockbuster STAR WARS wowed the world is.  It would be a treat for Star Wars fans if Ford made an appearance in this movie.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is the second of the Star Wars anthology films following ROGUE ONE in 2016.  The film is a stand-alone instalment set prior to the events of A NEW HOPE.  As the title implies, the film follows the adventures of the beginnings of Solo (played this time around by a younger Alden Ehrenreich) before he joins forces with Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.  The film is written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan and directed by Ron Howard taking over the direction after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were let go owing what the studio cited as ‘artistic differences’.  Lord and Miller are still credited as executive producers.

A good exercise watching the film would be to guess which section was directed by Lord and Miller and which were taken over by Howard.  The former made the crazy LEGO MOVIE, which might have been too much for the Star Wars franchise.

The film opens with young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) fighting for survival on a desolate planet while having the dream of becoming a pilot to fly his ship among the stars.  But first he has to get out of the hell hole.  He and his love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) attempt to but she is captured at the last minute, Solo escaping promising to return to the planet to save her.  This opening escape sequence (with the introduction of great sets, odd creatures and stunning alien landscape) is done really well and sets up the stage for an exciting film, which fortunately director Howard delivers.  The story goes on to Solo meeting with a master criminal, Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who becomes Solo’s mentor.  They eventually embark on a task to aid Master Criminal Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) steal prized fuel from a distant planet.  Along the way, other new characters are introduced including Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Solo’s Wookiee sidekick and best friend.  

The film introduces new terms like gravity well, hyper fuel, Crimson Dawn just to list a few.  The film reveals (good for Star Wars paraphernalia) how Han Solo got his name, how he and Chewbacca originally met and how he got his first starship to fly.

Alden Ehrenreich, a star in the making, creates an excellent Han Solo,  the new super young action hero, the space outlaw who will gradually grow into Harrison Ford in the later films.  The other new actors like Clarke and Donald Golver as Lando Calrissian also prove their worth standing besides veterans like Harrelson and Bettany.

The film contains all the elements of a good action movie – betrayal, love, sacrifice and exciting action set-pieces.  There is the classic climatic fight between hero (Solo) and villain, Dryden.  The ending includes both a plot twist and a western-like showdown.

SOLO: A STAR WARS film turns out to be another solid action space western in the Star Wars franchise, another winner for director Ron Howard, translating to lots of money for Disney studios.

Trailer: https://www.google.ca/search?q=solo+trailer&oq=solo+trailer&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.2271j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

1977 Movie Review: GRAND THEFT AUTO, 1977


GRANT THEFT AUTO, 1977
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan, Elizabeth Rogers, Marion Ross, Clint Howard
Review by James Aston

Teenage lovers Sam Freeman (Ron Howard) and Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) want to get married in Las Vegas. When Paula introduces Sam to her wealthy parents they take a disliking to him, believing that Sam wants to marry Paula for money. Paula’s parents think their daughter would be better suited to local rich kid and busybody Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke). They throw Sam out of their house and send Paula to her room but Paula escapes and steals her parents priceless Rolls Royce before picking up Sam and hitting the road. Paula’s father, Bigby (Barry Cahill), deploys his helicopter to chase the couple as they race towards Vegas, Collins Hedgeworth joins the chase shortly after, stealing a car as he goes. Collins calls a local radio station and offers listeners a reward of $25,000 for anyone that can stop the fleeing couple. What ensues is an ever-growing chase full of crashes and explosions as everyone tries to claim the reward. As media coverage of the chase escalates Bigby makes a plea to his daughter over the telephone, but she refuses to listen. Sam wonders whether Paula’s motivation is love for him or a desire to spite her father, but Paula persuades Sam that she loves him. An epic pile-up occurs and the priceless Rolls Royce is destroyed. Sam and Paula manage to escape, eventually getting married in Las Vegas. 

REVIEW:

They say the simplest stories are told the best, and Grand Theft Auto succeeds where many exploitation movies failed. Few exploitation flicks made for particularly challenging viewing, but often the plot was so badly paced or paper-thin that it was in no way compelling or believable. Frequently the story was only a background device on which the supposed shocks, thrills and spills were hung. Considering the fact that exploitation movies were made in a matter of weeks to save money there was little time for writers to work on a script anyway. Not that the script mattered to the studios. Their motive was to attract an audience by making big promises about ‘dangerous’ subject matter in order to exploit the curiosity of the paying public. Quite often it turned out that the studio was over-hyping or downright lying about the content of those movies. Yet Grand Theft Auto manages to adhere to its promotional promise of seeing “the greatest cars in the world DESTROYED!” while telling a simple but well paced story that grows from a private affair between a teenage couple and the girls family into an all-out battle that involves the entire town. This is a breathless little comedy chase movie, although in 2009 you’ll probably laughing at delivery of the comedy rather than the jokes themselves. Grand Theft Auto delivers entertainment between the crashes and explosions thanks to a well paced story that is simple and nicely paced. However Grand Theft Auto is not a great movie by any means.

It might come as a surprise that Grand Theft Auto was directed by Academy Award-winner Ron Howard. Anyone that has seen Howard’s newly-released abomination Angels and Demons (2009) will tell you that the film is ridiculously convoluted and makes no sense whatsoever, and yet it is very well directed. Young Ron was never going to win an Academy Award for his direction on Grand Theft Auto, it’s clear that he was just finding his feet here. Admittedly Howard’s direction is on par with most other B-Movie directors of the time, excluding the occasionally brilliant Roger Corman, in that their mantra seemed to be “point, shoot and never retake a scene.” That’s understandable really considering the studios demanded a quick production. The fast turnaround of these movies meant that directors had no choice but to work quickly if they wanted to get paid, so it’s not entirely Howard’s fault that he doesn’t excel as director here. Perhaps it was also the added pressure of taking a starring role in the movie that stunted Howard’s work in both areas because Nancy Morgan shines the brightest out of the two leads. As those well versed in this genre might expect the dialogue is frequently corny and the acting is only a notch above diabolical across the board, but it really doesn’t matter. Every character is played for laughs apart from the lead characters, which makes Howard and Morgan stand out as ‘wooden’. Howard and Morgan are good choices as leads though with his youthful good looks, and while the chemistry between Sam and Paula doesn’t exactly crackle, they are well matched in terms of looks which is what is most important in a movie like this.

Teenagers in the late 1950’s were not visiting movie theaters because there absolutely nothing being produced by the main studios that appealed to them. Small exploitation studios such as New World Pictures made movies cheaply, quickly and frequently with the sole intention of getting those teenagers to spend their disposable income at the theater or drive-in every week, and in doing so made huge profits for decades until the major studios caught up. With Grand Theft Auto New World Pictures skilfully did everything they could to achieve that goal. The fact that this love story is based around a cars is a stroke of genius because of the huge audience that would go with their lover to the drive-in every Saturday. The teenage audience loved the extremely rebellious storyline because their own parents would disapprove, and they loved the promise of illegal activity from the title alone. They were thrilled by the coarse language and the destruction. NWP pitched the movie perfectly for their audience and it shows. NWP spent $602,000 making Grand Theft Auto and grossed a spectacular $15 million. They did have twenty years of refining the formula though, take a look at Teenage Caveman (1958) for a laughably bad early attempt at attracting this audience.

The acting is bad. The direction is sub-par. This could be repeated for many of the mass produced exploitation films that were released during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Grand Theft Auto is by no means a five star movie but when viewed alongside its peers it stands out. Other movies from this genre often gave a whole lot of sizzle without any smoke. They didn’t deliver the incredible, shocking or lurid content that they promised in their trailers and on their posters and those were the things the audience came to see. In fact they were utterly shameless when it came to exploiting their audience, and to add pain to injury these movies didn’t even provide much entertainment as part of the deal, because nobody took the time to pace the story correctly. Grand Theft Auto scores against its rivals by not insulting its audience. Watch this movie for what it is: a 1970’s exploitation movie that for once actually tries hard to deliver what it promises.

 

GRAND THEFT AUTO

Movie Review: GUNG HO, 1986

SCREENPLAY CONTESTSUBMIT your SCRIPTS
Voted #1 screenplay contest in the world!

GUNG HO MOVIE POSTER
GUNG HO, 1986
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Michael Keaton, Mimi Rogers, Gedde Watanabe, George Wendt, John Turturro, Sô Yamamura
Review by Brent Randall

SYNOPSIS:

Gung Ho explores the similarities and differences between the American and Japanese cultures when a Japanese car manufacturer comes to America to revive a car plant in Pennsylvania.

CLICK HERE and watch 2009 MOVIES FOR FREE!

REVIEW:

Starring Michael Keaton as Hunt Stevenson, the movie opens with showing the doldrums of the town of Hadleyville, Pennsylvania. Hunt is the former foreman of the currently closed Hassan Motor’s plant that was the economic hub of Hadleyville. Hunt’s girlfriend, Audrey (Mimi Rogers) is picking him up to drive him to the airport, where he is on his way to Japan. Hunt’s mission is to persuade the Japanese executives at Hassan Motors to come to Hadleyville and reopen the Hassan plant there. His nervousness is quickly seen when Hunt puts his suitcases in Audrey’s trunk, and then proceeds to put his garbage too. This kind of humor, which Keaton pulls off so well, is seen throughout this movie (and many other Michael Keaton films as well), and it is this kind of humor that gives the viewer a much needed break from the difficulties facing Hadleyville. As the car progresses towards the airport, we quickly see through the various closed businesses that Hadleyville is struggling, and we see how important the Hassan Motors plant is to the success of other surrounding businesses. Hunt is fully aware of the importance of his mission, and knows that without the plant reopening, the town is likely to evaporate.

Hunt arrives in Japan and his struggles are illustrated through a variety of hilarious scenes showing Hunt trying to get acclimated with the Japanese culture. He finally arrives at Hassan motors and enters the executive board room. Upon giving his presentation to these executives, the owner and other members of the board seem completely uninterested in the jokes and humor Hunt uses to lighten the mood of the room. They also seem completely anything but impressed with Hadleyville, Hunt, or the prospect of coming to America to open the plant. After what seems like an unsuccessful attempt to woo the Hassan executives, Hunt returns to America. Audrey picks him up from the airport and asks him how the meeting went. Hunt reminds Audrey of the time when he first met her father, and how her father came after him with a power sander. Audrey says she remembers, and Hunt tells her that the meeting did not go quite that well. Once again, the quick witted humor Keaton employs helps illustrate beautifully the details of the meeting with the Japanese.

Hunt assumes the meeting was a failure and begins searching for other jobs all across the country. However, much to his surprise, he is informed from a friend that the Japanese will be coming to reopen the plant. Hunt and his fellow employees are estatic about the opportunity. The Japanese executives arrive in Hadleyville, and Hunt meets with them at the Hassan Motors plant. From this initial meeting, Hunt is given the job of leading the American workers and a raise in pay. Hunt is excited about the opportunity, but we also can already that the Japanese view of how the plant should run is quite different than that of Hunt’s view. For example, Hunt assumes the plant will actually open once all the structures are back in place, but the Japanese remain skeptical. We know by this pivotal meeting, the differences in work ethic, culture, and general ideas regarding business will play heavily in the success or failure of the plant.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, the plant does open, and the American workers are able to go back to work. It seems as if Hadleyville has been saved, but these successes may be short lived. From day one, the Japanese and American workers begin butting heads. In a pivotal scene, we as viewers see how their differences are vast by their approach to work. The Japanese workers believe in starting each day with morning exercises and taking a team approach to running the company, regardless of individual gains, and the Americans are much more individualistic, and are reluctant to even perform the exercises, much less take a team approach. As the days and weeks progress, these difference begin causing significant friction between the two cultures and threatens the future of the plant, and the way these two groups of people work through these differences will determine whether or not this plant, and more importantly, this town, will survive.

Gung Ho does a wonderful job illustrating the differences between cultures and how one must embrace differences and use these differences in order to achieve success. When I taught school, I used this movie to illustrate the differences of collectivism (a teamwork approach) to individualism (individualistic approach) in the workplace, and how these varying viewpoints can truly alter the way one views a working enviroment. These two schools of theory constantly show up in various aspects of this film and drive the way the Japanese and Americans think. This point is seen best when the Americans play the Japanese in a softball game. The Japanese show up in uniforms, warm up as a team, and play team ball by bunting and moving runners over, etc. The Americans, on the other hand, all are wearing different uniforms and trying to hit the ball as far as they possibly can. Niether way is right or wrong, it simply is a different philosophy, and it will take both sides working towards a common goal as opposed to working against each other to achieve success. Yes, Gung Ho is a hilarious movie if you like quick wit humor, and yes, Michael Keaton is fabulous, but it also dives deeper into how cultural differences can truly cause rifts between people. These differences, if we allow them to, can create gaps so large, that even the Grand Canyon would fail in comparison. We learn that different is not either right or wrong, it is simply different. Learning to embrace these differences can be difficult, but it can be accomplished. By embracing differences instead of critiquing them, great success can be achieved. Gung Ho shows us how we can do just that, and by doing so, how much more successful we can be when we choose to accept different viewpoints as opposed to simply rejecting them without just cause.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
FILM CONTESTSUBMIT your SHORT Film
Get it showcased at the FEEDBACK Festival
writing CONTEST1st CHAPTER or FULL NOVEL CONTEST
Get full feedback! Winners get their novel made into a video!
SCREENPLAY CONTESTSUBMIT your FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed

Movie Review: NIGHT SHIFT, 1982

NIGHT SHIFT MOVIE POSTER
NIGHT SHIFT, 1982
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Henry Winkler, Shelley Long, Michael Keaton
Review by Drew Greco

SYNOPSIS:

A nebbish of a morgue attendant gets shunted back to the night shift where he is shackled with an obnoxious neophyte partner who dreams of the “one great idea” for success. His life takes a bizarre turn when a prostitute neighbour complains about the loss of her pimp. His partner, upon hearing the situation, suggests that they fill that opening themselves using the morgue at night as their brothel. Against his better judgement, he gets talked into the idea, only to find that it’s more than his boss that has objections to this bit of entrepreneurship.

REVIEW:

When most people think of Ron Howard as a director, they think of such dramas as The Da Vinci Code, Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind. When I think of Ron Howard, however, my first thoughts are of pimps and prostitutes. Allow me to explain.

Before Howard struck gold with the literal fish out of water comedy, Splash, he directed Night Shift, an overlooked and underrated classic about two aimless men running a prostitution ring out of the city morgue. While this might not sound like the basis for a comedy, Night Shift manages to make light of the illicit subject matter by focusing less on the bedroom and more on the unlikely friendships that develop between the three main characters.

Henry Winkler plays Chuck Lumley, recently demoted city morgue employee. You might think that having the coolest guy on television playing a pimp is a stroke of genius. And it is. But Winkler’s Chuck Lumley is the polar opposite of his Arthur Fonzarelli. Chuck is the type of guy who is content to watch life pass by as long as he doesn’t have to get involved. All he wants is to be left alone.

Enter Bill Blazejowski, a.k.a. Billy Blaze (Michael Keaton in a star-making performance). Chuck’s new partner can’t keep his mouth shut for more than a few seconds. He even carries a tape recorder with him at all times to catch such innovative ideas as edible paper and feeding mayonnaise to live tuna fish. It’s hard to believe that this is Keaton’s first feature film. His manic “idea man” walks away with every one of his scenes.

Shelly Long is Belinda Keaton, the hooker with the heart of gold. Her life is in disarray because her pimp has just been murdered and now there is no one to protect her and her friends. She has also recently moved next door to Chuck, who finds her slumped in the elevator after being attacked by a customer.

Feeling guilty about telling Bill to shut up and leave him alone, Chuck decides to open up and share some details about his life. He makes the mistake of telling Bill about Belinda’s plight. The idea man immediately jumps on the opportunity. He reminds Chuck how they have no supervision on the night shift, and utters two words that change their lives forever: Love Brokers.

Normally, Chuck would just ignore Bill’s latest scheme. But Bill has a new mission in life, to make Chuck a man. And Chuck is finally ready to stop being afraid of joining the rest of the human race. He also can’t stop thinking about his alluring next door neighbor.

Chuck and Bill become agents to Belinda and her friends. The ladies appreciate their new professional organization, which includes health, dental, and part ownership in a fast food restaurant. Business is booming until the men who murdered Belinda’s pimp go looking for the new guys who took over the business.

No, Night Shift is not the typical romantic comedy, and that’s exactly what makes it work. Most of us would never decide to get in over our heads and become pimps. But somehow, it seems like a good idea for our two morgue attendant heroes. As Billy Blaze puts it, “Well, we couldn’t be doctors.” It’s hard to argue with logic like that.

 

SUBMIT your TV PILOT or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
FILM CONTESTSUBMIT your SHORT Film
Get it showcased at the FEEDBACK Festival
writing CONTEST1st CHAPTER or FULL NOVEL CONTEST
Get full feedback! Winners get their novel made into a video!
SCREENPLAY CONTESTSUBMIT your FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed

Movie Review: GRAND THEFT AUTO, 1977

 

SUBMIT your SCRIPTS
Voted #1 screenplay contest in the world!

GRAND THEFT AUTO MOVIE POSTER
GRAND THEFT AUTO, 1977
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan, Elizabeth Rogers, Marion Ross, Clint Howard
Review by James Aston


Teenage lovers Sam Freeman (Ron Howard) and Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) want to get married in Las Vegas. When Paula introduces Sam to her wealthy parents they take a disliking to him, believing that Sam wants to marry Paula for money. Paula’s parents think their daughter would be better suited to local rich kid and busybody Collins Hedgeworth (Paul Linke). They throw Sam out of their house and send Paula to her room but Paula escapes and steals her parents priceless Rolls Royce before picking up Sam and hitting the road. Paula’s father, Bigby (Barry Cahill), deploys his helicopter to chase the couple as they race towards Vegas, Collins Hedgeworth joins the chase shortly after, stealing a car as he goes. Collins calls a local radio station and offers listeners a reward of $25,000 for anyone that can stop the fleeing couple. What ensues is an ever-growing chase full of crashes and explosions as everyone tries to claim the reward. As media coverage of the chase escalates Bigby makes a plea to his daughter over the telephone, but she refuses to listen. Sam wonders whether Paula’s motivation is love for him or a desire to spite her father, but Paula persuades Sam that she loves him. An epic pile-up occurs and the priceless Rolls Royce is destroyed. Sam and Paula manage to escape, eventually getting married in Las Vegas.

REVIEW:

They say the simplest stories are told the best, and Grand Theft Auto succeeds where many exploitation movies failed. Few exploitation flicks made for particularly challenging viewing, but often the plot was so badly paced or paper-thin that it was in no way compelling or believable. Frequently the story was only a background device on which the supposed shocks, thrills and spills were hung. Considering the fact that exploitation movies were made in a matter of weeks to save money there was little time for writers to work on a script anyway. Not that the script mattered to the studios. Their motive was to attract an audience by making big promises about ‘dangerous’ subject matter in order to exploit the curiosity of the paying public. Quite often it turned out that the studio was over-hyping or downright lying about the content of those movies. Yet Grand Theft Auto manages to adhere to its promotional promise of seeing “the greatest cars in the world DESTROYED!” while telling a simple but well paced story that grows from a private affair between a teenage couple and the girls family into an all-out battle that involves the entire town. This is a breathless little comedy chase movie, although in 2009 you’ll probably laughing at delivery of the comedy rather than the jokes themselves. Grand Theft Auto delivers entertainment between the crashes and explosions thanks to a well paced story that is simple and nicely paced. However Grand Theft Auto is not a great movie by any means.

It might come as a surprise that Grand Theft Auto was directed by Academy Award-winner Ron Howard. Anyone that has seen Howard’s newly-released abomination Angels and Demons (2009) will tell you that the film is ridiculously convoluted and makes no sense whatsoever, and yet it is very well directed. Young Ron was never going to win an Academy Award for his direction on Grand Theft Auto, it’s clear that he was just finding his feet here. Admittedly Howard’s direction is on par with most other B-Movie directors of the time, excluding the occasionally brilliant Roger Corman, in that their mantra seemed to be “point, shoot and never retake a scene.” That’s understandable really considering the studios demanded a quick production. The fast turnaround of these movies meant that directors had no choice but to work quickly if they wanted to get paid, so it’s not entirely Howard’s fault that he doesn’t excel as director here. Perhaps it was also the added pressure of taking a starring role in the movie that stunted Howard’s work in both areas because Nancy Morgan shines the brightest out of the two leads. As those well versed in this genre might expect the dialogue is frequently corny and the acting is only a notch above diabolical across the board, but it really doesn’t matter. Every character is played for laughs apart from the lead characters, which makes Howard and Morgan stand out as ‘wooden’. Howard and Morgan are good choices as leads though with his youthful good looks, and while the chemistry between Sam and Paula doesn’t exactly crackle, they are well matched in terms of looks which is what is most important in a movie like this.

Teenagers in the late 1950’s were not visiting movie theaters because there absolutely nothing being produced by the main studios that appealed to them. Small exploitation studios such as New World Pictures made movies cheaply, quickly and frequently with the sole intention of getting those teenagers to spend their disposable income at the theater or drive-in every week, and in doing so made huge profits for decades until the major studios caught up. With Grand Theft Auto New World Pictures skilfully did everything they could to achieve that goal. The fact that this love story is based around a cars is a stroke of genius because of the huge audience that would go with their lover to the drive-in every Saturday. The teenage audience loved the extremely rebellious storyline because their own parents would disapprove, and they loved the promise of illegal activity from the title alone. They were thrilled by the coarse language and the destruction. NWP pitched the movie perfectly for their audience and it shows. NWP spent $602,000 making Grand Theft Auto and grossed a spectacular $15 million. They did have twenty years of refining the formula though, take a look at Teenage Caveman (1958) for a laughably bad early attempt at attracting this audience.

The acting is bad. The direction is sub-par. This could be repeated for many of the mass produced exploitation films that were released during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Grand Theft Auto is by no means a five star movie but when viewed alongside its peers it stands out. Other movies from this genre often gave a whole lot of sizzle without any smoke. They didn’t deliver the incredible, shocking or lurid content that they promised in their trailers and on their posters and those were the things the audience came to see. In fact they were utterly shameless when it came to exploiting their audience, and to add pain to injury these movies didn’t even provide much entertainment as part of the deal, because nobody took the time to pace the story correctly. Grand Theft Auto scores against its rivals by not insulting its audience. Watch this movie for what it is: a 1970’s exploitation movie that for once actually tries hard to deliver what it promises.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
FILM CONTESTSUBMIT your SHORT Film
Get it showcased at the FEEDBACK Festival
writing CONTEST1st CHAPTER or FULL NOVEL CONTEST
Get full feedback! Winners get their novel made into a video!
SCREENPLAY CONTESTSUBMIT your FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed

Movie Review: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015)

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (USA/Spain 2015) **
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland

Review by Gilbert Seah

Ron Howard, the Hollywood director best known for playing Richie Cunningham in HAPPY DAYS is also known for his blockbuster films like SPLASH, PARENTHOOD, APOLLO 13 and A BEAUTIFUL MIND. The films share one common characteristic. Box-office successes though they may be, they are all very forgettable films. After a year of viewing any of his films, there is not much one can remember from any of the films’ scenes.

Based on the 2000 non-fiction book In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick and adapted by Charles Leavitt to the script, this is supposed to be the story that inspired Herman Melville to write the classic tale Moby Dick. In 1820, the whaling ship Essex is crewed by the Captain George Pollard, Jr., (Benjamin Walker) first officer Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), second officer Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy) who has nothing much to do but sit around and grow a beard, and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson (Tom Holland). During their voyage, the ship is sunk when it is rammed and split in half by a very large and enraged bull sperm whale, ultimately leaving its crew shipwrecked at sea for 90 days and more than a thousand miles from land. After the attack, the crew sails for South America and is forced to resort to cannibalism. The tale is told by a very reluctant older Matthew Joy (Brendan Gleeson) to budding author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) pressured by his good wife (Michelle Fairley) in order to exorcise his demons. Apparently it is the cannibalism that is the problem but the wife seems to accept it after overhearing the story, thus undermining its importance in the story. The audience is neither shocked at her acceptance. The events of the Essex crew are intercut with Matthew telling the story to Herman in his house.

This intercutting is annoying and serves to interrupt whatever suspense or action the film has built up. Director Howard keeps nagging the audience to remind them fact that Herman really does not want to tell the story, as every time the film cuts back to the two men, Herman complains or changes his mind. Yes, the audience has got the point.

The special effects and CGI are lacklustre. The 3D looks like back projection and one can see the various layers and shadows in the scenes. And with CGI use these days on all the Hollywood films, one can hardly get excited when a CGI action scene appears on the big screen.

The film also contains some of the worst acting in a film on this side of the Atlantic, where the whales are. Chris Hemsworth and relative newcomer Benjamin Walker look totally uninterested in the material. They are supposed to portray two shipmates ready to kill each other. The usually excellent Brendan Gleeson is largely wasted in a role in which he just mopes, drinking and complaining.

For an action film, Howard’s film can hardly be called exciting. The whale attack scenes with the monster splashing around the Essex creates less tension than a goldfish in my bath tub.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA might turn out the most memorable of the Ron Howard films. But for all the wrong reasons.