Why Wonder Woman Matters

On June 2nd, Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman enters the fray of summer blockbuster season. Featuring an iconic character with 75 years of history, the film is a watershed moment for the superhero genre. But why is Wonder Woman such an anomaly and how did we get here?

Listen to Episode #44 below – iTunes Stitchermp3

The Part of the Story You Forgot

jawsEvery great movie has memorable moments. These are the scenes that end up on the poster and splashed all over the trailers. The ones you talk about for years to come.

Today we are talking about the other half. The parts of the story that don’t get the limelight but actually draw the audience into the characters and their situation. The human elements that actually make movies work and transform them into something larger than the sum of their parts.

Listen to Episode #40 below – iTunesStitcher mp3

Stories Come From People

cars 2Today we are talking about where stories come from, specifically how they emerge out of our personal experiences and unique authorial perspective. We’ll talk about the inspiration behind The Hunger Games, Spielberg’s aliens, and the critically panned Cars 2.

When I say that stories come from people, I mean that stories are also inseparable from their creators. In many ways, they must communicate the specific life experiences of their authors.

Listen to Episode #37 – iTunesStitchermp3


 
 

Sources for this episode:

Suzanne Collin on the Inspiration for the Hunger Games

http://www.slj.com/2008/09/interviews/under-cover/a-killer-story-an-interview-with-suzanne-collins-author-of-the-hunger-games/#_

 

David S Goyer’s Screenwriting Lecture

https://soundcloud.com/bafta/david-s-goyer-screenwriting-lecture

Scott, Linklater, and Russell’s Personal Experiences

http://flavorwire.com/395372/the-true-stories-behind-10-directors-most-personal-films

John Lasseter on Cars 2

NYT John Lasseter of Pixar defends Cars 2

Brother Review

brother.pngOakland-based filmmaker Alrik Bursell just released his new short film Brother at the Oakland International Film Festival. It’s about a lying cheating boyfriend who gets in trouble when his girlfriend’s brother comes to visit.
 
Genre: Horror
Time: 10 minutes
Parental Guide: Rated “R” for language, sexual images, and gore

 

 

Review:

Undoubtedly one of Brother‘s key strengths is its excellent cast. Each of the three lead actors bring a strong sense of character and personality to their role. David O’Donnell’s Australian loser boyfriend carries the right amount of sleaze and smug egotism. Dezi Soley plays a believable and seemingly innocent woman who thinks she’s found true love. And last but not least, Capone Lee is captivating as Lou, the overly protective brother who harbors dark impulses underneath his rapidly shrinking composure.
 
In one scene O’Donnell lounges on the couch playing video games on an impossibly large TV mounted on the wall. The television fills the center of the frame and remains there, glowing in the background even as things, well, escalate. It’s a simple visual reminder that yes, this character is a lazy moron more interested in playing games who doesn’t see how deeply undeserving he is of his woman.
 
Horror is a punitive genre. We know from the outset that the loser boyfriend can be no match for Lou’s intimidating physical presence. The eventual scene of punishment is brutal and surprising, transporting us from the realm of realism straight over the edge into the stuff of nightmares. Oh yeah, and the special effects aren’t half bad either.
 
The opening shot (which appears to be filmed at the always beautiful Lake Merritt) helps establish this as a distinctly Oakland-based story. This is reinforced by the interiors which convey the unique charm of the East Bay’s cosy older buildings. There is something powerful about watching a film shot in your backyard rather than a generic LA stand in. I’m reminded of the show Parenthood, which takes place in Berkeley yet features huge spacious houses and evokes none of the feel of the actual Bay Area. It’s great to see places you know and recognize up on screen.
 
Congratulations to Alrik and his collaborators for creating another spooky little gem. From all appearances, he’s quite ready to make his feature debut with The Alternate. I can’t wait.
 
Check out other links to his work below:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

bvs

It’s finally here. After years of waiting we’re finally getting a team up movie featuring the most iconic superheroes on the planet. So far the reviews have been pretty brutal. Is the movie any good?

Spoiler alert: I love this movie.

0:00 – My thoughts before watching the movie

16:00 – Non-spoiler Review

26:00 – Spoiler-filled Review

Listen to Episode #36 below – iTunesStitchermp3

What Makes A Good Story? – Making Movies Is HARD Podcast

mmih.jpgToday is a special one because I’m the guest on one of my favorite podcasts in the world: Making Movies Is HARD.

I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with indie filmmakers Alrik Bursell and Timothy Plain about what makes a good story. We discussed our favorite storytelling principles, delved into some of the nuts and bolts of how stories function, and examined Andrew Stanton’s excellent TED talk.

The whole reason I started the Story Punch podcast was to try and figure out how to tell compelling stories. It’s incredible to sit down with a couple of filmmakers who really know their stuff and swap ideas with them. I hope you’ll give it a listen and check out their podcast!

Listen here – iTunesStitchermp3

Story Logic

A great story doesn’t just grab your attention. It also makes logical sense.

On today’s episode, we’ll talk about the two different layers in a story: how it makes sense in the moment and how it makes sense in terms of overall plot.

Sometimes an exciting story falls apart as soon as you stop and think about what is happening. Sometimes a thoughtful well planned out story just isn’t interesting. How do you find that balance? How can a story make sense but also keep the audience’s interest?

Listen to Episode 31 – MP3 iTunesStitcher

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

star warsStar Wars: The Force Awakens takes the franchise in a fresh new direction. With a dash of lens flare and more than a hint of genius, J.J. Abrams has managed to create a fascinating blend of new characters, exotic locales, and non-stop nostalgia that delivers a higher concentration of dopamine than scientists ever though possible. It’s enough to make you forget the prequels altogether.

I had high hopes for this film and I’m happy to confess that despite some questionable creative decisions and a few unexpected but really not that unexpected plot twists, Episode VII does not disappoint.

Ok I haven’t actually seen the movie yet, but I just couldn’t wait to review it anyway. Listen to the review below.

Two Short Film Projects You Should Check Out

I’m constantly amazed by the sheer amount of creativity on display here in the Bay Area. Seems like everyone I meet is working on some incredible project or the other. It’s a little intimidating at times!

But today I want to highlight two short films that are absolutely worth your time and your attention.

Over My Dead Body

Just when you thought the zombie genre had been beaten to death, here comes a heartwarming story tinged with horror about two people trying to connect in the aftermath of the apocalypse. And one of them just happens to be a zombie.

I recently watched this film with a live audience and it was so cool to experience their laughter and the feedback afterward. I also got a chance to meet the filmmakers, Timothy Plain and Alrik Bursell, who are both really cool guys. Every Monday they put out a very informative podcast about the daily challenges of making movies.

Take 5 minutes, watch their film, and share it with a friend!

Neighbor

This short film is currently raising funds, but it tells the story of a homeless man who witnesses a kidnapping. Director Tony Gapastione hopes the film will raise awareness about human trafficking and highlight real ways people can make a difference.

Tony is the real deal, a swell guy with a big heart for enabling people and their creative pursuits. Let’s spread the word and help him out!

You can watch the promo for the video below and learn more about how to support the project here.