Monday, February 25, 2008

Juno and Vantage Point

Hi guys. My wife informed me this morning that I need to spice up the blog a little to make sure people want to come back. In other words, don't just talk about book stuff all the time. Or writing stuff. (Don't worry, there will still be plenty of that.) I think my wife was actually trying to give me a hint that I'm a very boring person and that she's considering moving on, but maybe that's because I have an overactive imagination.

So I thought I'd review two movies we saw recently.

Juno - Okay, people, there's a reason this was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress, and won Best Original Screenplay. One of my new goals in life is to meet Diablo Cody, the writer. She actually writes once every three weeks in Entertainment Weekly now, and she's got a great sense of humor.

I despise spoilers, so I will give a one sentence synopsis: A 16-year-old girl gets pregnant, and has to deal with the tough job of putting the baby up for adoption.

This movie was awesome. Truly. Brilliant characterization, great unpredictability, tons of humor, and spot on acting. As much as I loved Ellen Page as the title character, I also really enjoyed the job done by her dad and stepmom, her boyfriend, and the adoptive parents. What is it about Jason Bateman? I just love that guy. If you like him, you should see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Not the greatest movie ever, but Bateman really shines in that one. I long for the days of that old sitcom he was in. Valerie I think?

Okay, as you can tell, I'm not very good at doing movie reviews. Somehow we got off topic.

Juno is great. It stayed with me for days and days, and is still there. I love movies that show life as it really is - hard and trying - but also display the sweet tenderness of the human being and love and all that cornball stuff. Without being sappy. Nothing sappy about this movie. In fact, I have to give a warning: it has some very crude language and innuendos. Even a little much for PG-13 maybe. In other words, don't see it with your potential mother-in-law or you'll die of embarrassment.

One final note: The Dashner Dude got a little teary eyed. Yeah, that's right. It has a wonderful, beautiful, sweet, tender (please insert other corny adjectives) ending, and I left feeling very good about life. Bring a tissue if you have a thing for babies.

Okay, on to movie #2:

Vantage Point - Okay, I was totally stoked (yes, I grew up in the 80s) to see this one. I love any political thriller type movie, action movie, blow-em-up movie. And it had two of my favorite actors, Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid (Enemy Mine anyone?).

Synopsis: Tells the same assassination plot story from 8 different perspectives, starting over each time and revealing new things.

First off: Hello annoying guy who sat next to us! I hope you've found your meds. This guy obviously had no idea what to expect, because everytime the story started over, he very vocally complained to the surrounding audience about how stupid that was. He even pointed out to his girlfriend that starting a movie over and over from scratch was very poor filmmaking. Probably wasn't the right movie for ya, big guy.

I admit, I was glad I knew this going in, so I should give him a break.

Anyway, here's my verdict: It was okay. Fun, exciting, pretty clever, great acting. Definitely a nice action flick to watch while your body undergoes the enormous strain of digesting forty pounds of food from Cafe Rio.

But I was VERY disappointed in the ending. And no, I don't give spoilers. But let me tell you this: there was a very valuable lesson for all writers in this movie. Ever heard the phrase Deus Ex Machina? It's a fancy, trendy way to say something is contrived. That coincidence saves the day. This movie has one of the worst Deus Ex Machina endings I've ever witnessed with my eyeballs. But it was still fun.

Well, there you have it. The first ever Dashner Dude Movie Reviews. Since I'm a guy who loves movies more than anything else in the world besides family and writing and football and cheese, expect more in the future.

Please don't forget the 13th Reality Charity Drive. Click HERE for details.

Also, please go and review on Amazon if and when you read my new book, THE 13TH REALITY!

Click HERE if you liked it.

Click HERE if you didn't like it.


Tamra Norton said...

I LOVED Juno--Lovedlovedloved it!

Scoops Mangum said...

Have to disagree about Juno. Cute story, cute script, but too cute. It needed one more rewrite. I am a HUGE believer that less is more, and when Rainn Wilson says "That's not an Etch-a-Sketch" it's good. It's a clever line, it fits and it doesn't bring attention to itself. However, Diablo continues with the now famous "That's one doodle that can't be undid." That's bad, but she's having him refer to the Etch-a-Sketch, so I can cringe, but ok. But then he refers to her as "Home skillet." Unnecessary! If you love that word so much, place it here "That's not an Etch-a-Sketch...Home skillet."

Another example: "I'm talking to you on my HAMBURGER PHONE." We as an audience see her on the phone, we can see it's a hamburger. Why does Juno have to tell her friend that? What did it add, other than to point out how quirky Juno is. We know she's quirky, she had sex with Bleeker. His cross country clothing tells us all we need to know there.

It's moments like these where you are removed from the story. It's heavy handed, it's amateurish and unnecessary. It takes away from SOOO much good in the film. The "I don't know what kind of girl I am", etc.

One more example, and I will get off my soapbox. The conversation Juno has with Mark, and they discuss very obscure horror films. The scene is in the movie because I think Diablo and her friends like those films. They then discuss punk rock music of which Juno is a HUGE fan. I never believed Juno did, but I bet Diablo does. These things didn't fit her character. They never established her as an obscure, horror geek, or an anarchy inspired punk chick. This information just pops out of nowhere and several minutes are spent on it, until Mark's wife comes home. Ok, Diablo wanted to show Juno and Mark connecting and making Vanessa jealous. There are better and more CHARACTER driven ways to get this to happen. It was really quite charming, but not an academy award winning screenplay.

Ellen Page won the award for Diablo Cody. Ellen WAS Juno and you loved her, and rooted for her and cared for her. She was real and interesting and a joy. She made the clunky dialogue go down fairly smooth with a slight bitter after taste, but made wonderful lines "I don't really know what kind of a girl I am" sing.

There's my $0.02

I know it sounds like I hated the film and I didn't. I enjoyed it very much. It got better as it went on, and I am interested to se what Diablo does from here, but Juno wasn't an Oscar Caliber screenplay in my humble opinion. I hate seeing something come so close to greatness and just fall short. One of my many issues, I guess. :)


BTW, really enjoying 13th Reality. Even if I edit your milkshake.

James Dashner said...

Geez, Scoops, do you have an opinion on the matter? :-) In the immortal words of the Anchorman, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. (I should point out here that the Academy agreed with me, not you. Boo yah!)

Nah, Juno actually annoyed me in the very beginning with her hip talk. But then it grew on me. I just really love that movie.

(By the way, Juno told the clinic she was on a hamburger phone because it was breaking up, not her friend. Big difference.)

You make some good points. Very good lessons for writers, actually. So thanks.

Shanna Blythe said...

I didn't think I'd like it, but my husband started watching and I got sucked in--which means that yes, I DID enjoy it!

Macotar said...

James I enjoyed your Reviews, It will not dissuade me from seeing vantage point at a deep discount sometime. As far a Juno goes, I'm sure I'll see it at some point, but I don't believe it benefits from the big screen.

While I enjoy your reviews, I actually am interested in your first big time author experience. I'm not sure I will ever be a published author (but those vanity presses are getting cheaper these days...hmmm...) But I find that seeing the experience through your eyes is very interesting.

Ron Simpson said...

James, I am almost done mapping out my scenes for my book. I have 42 so far and a few more in mind. I have the ending already mapped out. Just a few more days of work and I will sit down and work on chapter one. I am pretty happy with it.

James Dashner said...

Macotar, thank you very much. Glad you're hangin with the Dashner Dude.

Ron, kudos man! That's awesome. Now comes the really fun part - writing it out. Good luck.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

I loved Vantage Point, and didn't feel that the ending was bad at all. As a matter of fact, I knew almost from the beginning exaclty how the ending would all work out. Keep your eyes open for the CLUES, anyone who goes to see it, even after James disses the end. Oh, and, are you sure that wasn't my oldest son sitting next to you? He totally didn't get it, or anything about wjhat the repetition meant.

Luisa Perkins said...

I adored Juno. I thought the first 10 minutes were a bit precious, but then I fell for it all. Brilliant.

And Dude--a bit teary-eyed? I was sobbing from about minute 11. Blame it on the pregnancy hormones, yes I shall.

Can't wait to see Vantage Point, crappy Deus Ex Machina ending or no. (Speaking of which, I just read SK's Cell for the first time last night/this morning. D.E.M. or not, it was still a wild ride.)

James Dashner said...

Luisa, you and I have the exact same tastes. I loved Cell, too. Sometimes DEM is totally forgivable. Especially with SK.

Lu Ann:



An entire huge city, and the van crashes right next to Dennis Quaid? The entire world is saved because a little girl wanders into the street? No heroics whatsoever. The Man was saved because the bad guys crashed their van to avoid a little girl. What could be more DEM than that?



Danyelle Ferguson said...

James - I just had to see where the "Didn't Like It" link went to. Do you have something against Little Women? Hmmm? ;-)

Anonymous said...

i assumed Juno was directed by the same guy that directed Knocked Up, because it's about unexpected pregnancy and Michael Cera stars as Juno's boyfriend (he was in Superbad, a close relative of Knocked Up).