Category Archives: Best Adapted Screenplay

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

You lay life on a table and cut out all the tumors of injustice. Marvelous.

— Zhivago

The winner of five Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay, Doctor Zhivago is another movie that I have never seen before. Besides, the lead male character in Must Love Dogs watched this movie every time that he is depressed. I wanted to see what the fuss with about. Let me tell you, it’s not that good.

Based on the book by Boris Pasternak, the setting is the Bolshevik Revolution when a poet Yuri (Omar Sharif) is studying to be a doctor practicing general medicine. There is a young idealistic man, Pascha (Tom Courtenay) is handing out leaflets about the upcoming revelation when he is almost arrested, but his 17-year-old fiancé, Lara (Julie Christie) intervenes. She wants to stop with his radical ways before they get married. There is a complication with the relationship. Lara has an affair with the manipulative Komarovsky (Rod Steiger).

One night, a peaceful demonstration erupts into a massacre outside of high society party that Lara and Yuri attends.Yuri watches from the balcony. He quickly rushes to the injured people to aid them, but he is urged to stay out of the conflict. Pascha is injured in the fight and has to leave the city to survive. He wants to take a job teaching.

When Lara’s mother takes ill, Lara and Yuri finally meet, but Yuri’s learns of Lara’s relationship with Komarovsky. After Victor Komarovsky wrongs Lara, she seeks revenge on him. World War I separate all the characters until Yuri and Lara meet up when he is doctor on the front line and her a volunteer nurse. They have a bond with each other even thought they are both married Lara to Pascha and Yuri to Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin).

From the first frame of this movie, I knew that I was going to hate this movie. These characters are awful. Why should I feel sympathy for any of them? Then, I was confused by Russians speaking with British accents sometimes speaking in French. What? The characters keep referring to each other by at least three different names. Besides, the movie is over three hours long. Mind you, there are three hour movies that I loved like Seven Samurai or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but come on. It was like torture watching. I hated this movie with a passion. I didn’t care about what happened to them whether they died or lived. Who cares?

Judgment: It was complete waste of time. Drivel.

Rating: 1.5/10

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The Philadelphia Story (1940)

You’re too good for me, George. You’re a hundred times too good. And I’d make you most unhappy, most. That is, I’d do my best to.

— Tracy Lord

It’s a known fact that Katharine Hepburn was considered box office poison during the early part of her career. It wasn’t until she went to Broadway with the #244 Film of All-Time on IMDB, The Philadelphia Story that her career got back on track. It was a smash hit and ran for year until MGM purchased the rights to the play by Philip Barry and created the motion picture. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Oscars for Best Actor Jimmy Stewart and Best Adapted Screenplay. The farcical nature of the film seemed unnerving to me.

A Philadelphian socialite named Tracy Elizabeth Lord (Hepburn) is getting married to her nouveau riche fiancé, George Kittridge (John Howard) at her parents’ house. The whole action of the movies takes place in the span of three days. Tracy is prepping for her wedding with her mother, Margret (Mary Nash) and her younger sister, Dinah (Virginia Weidler). Their no-good father, Seth (John Halliday) is not invited to the wedding.

A tabloid magazine, Spy headed by Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) wants to infiltrate the wedding to get the scoop on the nuptials when Tracy refuses access to the event. He wants to have his reporter, Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and his photographer girlfriend, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to be a part of the wedding party. How would they do it, you may ask? They enlist the help of former Spy employee and Tracy’s ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to pretend that they are friends of Tracy’s younger brother, Julius.

The trio have their plan of action. Macaulay and Liz are looking around the rooms to find any dirt as Dexter schmoozes with his former in-laws. When Tracy sees Dexter, the tension between them is palpable. She wants him out of her house and out of the wedding. She knows that the people pretending to be friends of her brother are working for Dexter. The family pretends to be an eccentric family when the real scoop of the story unfolds with Tracy, George, Macaulay and Dexter.

The movie is a pleasant romp. A comedy of errors, but there were very few genuine laughs in the movie for me. The acting was a little hammy for me.

There were some moments of heart between Stewart and Hepburn. I’m gonna go on a feminist rant here, but I hate it when a strong woman that doesn’t want to get married would settle with an asshole that treated them like shit. their only motivation is not to end up alone. This was the same problem that I had with His Girl Friday, also starring Cary Grant– I will get to him in a moment. A guy could be a complete bastard to the get the girl and she falls for it. It pisses me off. I know that these movies were before the sexual revelation, but come on. It makes me question the intelligence of these women in the end.

I have a major issue with Cary Grant. I have seen couple of his movies that I have notice that he shows no range. He is delivering lines that would cut through Hepburn’s character, but feels like he is saying the lines. He reminds me of Bill Paxton in his delivery. He has this stoic look on his face. It bothers the hell out of me.

Judgment: A nice fluffy movie with not that much substance.

Rating: 6.5/10

The Social Network (2010)

If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg

Two forces of nature, director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have come together to make the adaptation of the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich come to life on the big screen as The Social Network. I knew the back story of the origins of the Facebook that it was strictly for college students. I didn’t want to be a part of that community, because it wasn’t me. I jumped on the bandwagon last year and haven’t looked back since. However, after watching this movie, I almost contemplated deleting my account… almost.

The movie dramatically recreates the genesis of the latest social network phenomena. It mainly focuses on one of the creators of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) who may or may mot suffer from a case of Aspberger’s Syndrome. Zuckerberg’s “ah-ha” moment stemmed from the breakup of his fellow Harvard girlfriend, Erica ( Rooney Mara) in 2003. He gets drunk, blog bashes Erica and creates his first site, FaceSmash, which measured the hotness of two random Harvard girls.

Mark gets into serious trouble with school officials over violating privacy laws, breaching online security, etc. Zuckerberg was nonchalant about the hoopla surrounding him. Acting smug to get some attention, but the wrong attention as he is listed as public enemy number one on campus. His antics attract the attention of a pair of affluent twin from the school’s rowing team, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (dually played by Armie Hammer) and Divya Navendra (Max Minghella). They want to hire Mark to work on their idea of an exclusive dating site called “The Harvard Connection.”

Mark shuts himself in his dorm room and furiously types out of the codes to create a site, but not the dating site he promised. He enlists the help of his only friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to get the algorithm and some startup money to fund his little side venture. Mark wanted to build on the idea of making a social network of his very own that would be better than MySpace, Friendster and The Harvard Connection combined.

The popularity of the site exploded almost overnight. Hearing the whispers of Mark’s brainchild throughout the campus catches the attentions of the Winklevosses and Divya who filed an injunction on “The Facebook” as it was called then. The rapid success of the site drives a wedge between Mark and Eduardo when Napster founder, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) comes into the picture to shake things up.

I felt the same way with this movie like I did with Juno. If you could get past the rapid fire Aaron Sorkin verbal volley match, then you would enjoy this movie. The movie in my opinion became better as it moved along. The beginning was a little rocky that goes to an Earth-shattering finish. Eisenberg is not trying to be a poor man’s Michael Cera. He was not doing his schtick. He did not imitate Zuckerberg, but gave a subtle performance. Hammer as the Winklevoss twins was very effective with the cadence in his voice. Very commanding. I believe the standout performance of this movie was Andrew Garfield. His character went through a whole range of emotions that had me rooting for him in one moment and hating him the next.

Justin Timberlake is generating some Oscar buzz for his performance as Sean Parker, but I don’t see it. He played Sean like a fey swindler. I kept getting distracted by his mannerisms.

Judgment: Overall this movie is good entertainment that took dramatic licences.

Rating: ****1/2

L.A. Confidential (1997)

I see Bud because I want to. I see Bud because he can’t hide the good inside of him. I see Bud because he treats me like Lynn Bracken and not some Veronica Lake look-alike who fucks for money.

— Lynn Bracken

It has been years since I have seen Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. Too long, I should say. This is currently #61 on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb. It deserves to be there. I thought it was overshadowed by a certain movie about a doomed boat that dominated the 1997 Oscars. It managed to win Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay for Hanson and fellow screenwriter Brian Helgeland and Best Supporting Actress honors for Kim Basinger. This movie is a masterpiece. There I said it.

Based on the first book from author James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet trilogy, it starts with the murder of known drug dealer, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle). This triggers a systematic takedown of his men. Three 1950s LA cops have to deal with the case from different angles. Officer Bud White, played by at the time unknown to American audiences Russell Crowe. White was the brute of the force that has a short fuse. Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) that thinks that he is the star of the precinct because he is the technical advisor on the hit TV cop show, “Badge of Honor.” He is in cahoots with sleazy gossip columnist, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) trading criminals and drugs for money and headlines in Hush-Hush magazine. Sgt. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the straight-laced officer that wants to a detective, but doesn’t have the stomach for the job.

Exley witnesses the extent of the corruption in the station when a group of Mexicans are beaten by most of the officers, because they were suspects of beating up a couple of cops. The fallout of this incident trickled down when White is suspended for not testifying against his boozy partner, Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel). Exley is the complete opposite; he would be labeled ‘the snitch’ to get a new promotion, a deputy lieutenant. Vincennes is reassigned from narcotics to vice. Fellow officers would backstab each other to save their own asses. White would be the muscle working under Capt. Dudley (James Cromwell).

At one of the drug-related murder scenes, Vincennes finds a card for “Fleur-de-lis” that could be connected to a murder at the Nite Owl Café where Stensland gets killed. The station thinks that a trio of Negro shooters was responsible for it. They hunt them down. Meanwhile, White recognizes of one of the victims as a girl he has seen in the back of Pierce Patchett’s (David Strathairn) car with Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) in tow. White learns that Patchett is running a prostitution ring to make the call girl look like Hollywood movie stars.

As the investigation intensifies, loyalties are tested, friendships are broken, and people show their true colors.

I may not have written how brilliant this movie is. All I say is that Curtis Hanson has a created a movie that had fantastic, crisp dialogue delivered perfectly from the main stars to the supporting players. The tension was there. I was on the edge of my seat. I know what was coming, but I still felt something about the characters. What is going to happen to them? The costumes, the art direction, it felt like I was in the 1950s. It didn’t feel like a fake movie set. It was organic. It had a life of its own. I appreciate that. Brava, Mr. Hanson.

Judgment: A fantastic film noir that makes you could to revisit more of them after watching this.

Rating: *****

Precious (2009)

precious

My name is Clareece Precious Jones. I want to be on the cover of a magazine. I wish a had a light-skinned boyfriend with good hair. But first I want to be in one of those BET videos.

— Clareece “Precious” Jones

When I saw the trailer Precious for on Oprah, I teared up. That’s rare for me to cry looking at a trailer. The story of Clareece “Precious” Jones struck as a cord with me so deep that I had to catch the movie opening weekend. My expectations were high for the movie. It’s a good movie, but it’s not perfect.

Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, the movie centers around in Harlem 1987. An obese 16-year-old Clareece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe) is pulled into Principal Lichtenstein’s (Nealla Gordon) office. She is concerned about the lack of education that Precious has received. She is still in junior high school that is virtually illiterate, pregnant with her second child by her mother, Mary’s (Mo’Nique) boyfriend who happens to be her father.

Whenever something terrible happens to Precious, she retreats into her daydreams where she wants to be famous and have a light-skinned boyfriend (Barret Helms). Mrs. Lichtenstein wants help Precious to have a proper education. The situation at home are awful. She is treated like a slave by her mother that orders Precious to cook her food. If Mary doesn’t get her way, she throws anything at Precious. Mary wants Precious to quit and get on welfare like herself.

The principal enrolls Precious into “Each One, Teach One”, an alternative school for people who seek to get their GED. She is lead to the ABC class by Cornrows (Sherri Shepard). Precious is introduced to the other students of the class; Rita, Rhonda, Jermaine, Joann and Consuelo (Stephanie Andujar, Chyna Layne, Amina Robinson, Xosha Roquemore, Angelic Zambrana). The ABC teacher, Ms. Blu Rain (Paula Patton) pushes Precious to learn how to read at a high school grade level.

Precious goes to the welfare office where a no-nonsense social worker, Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey) wants Precious to open up with her life story. When she does, Precious’ life spirals out of control.

The last thirty minutes of the movie is heartbreaking, devastating, shocking, and poignant. Everybody knows a Precious in their lives. In varying degrees, I knew a “Precious” in my life. This movie could be tough to watch, but it’s not brutal for the sake of it. This is another facet of life that is rarely discussed because it’s swept under the rug. Don’t talk about that. It’s too taboo. It need to be said. I’m glad that Lee Daniels is not afraid to have this material out to the masses.

Judgment: This move will make you laugh, cry, but most of all it will touch your heart.

Rating: ****1/2

The Exorcist (1973)

exorcist

Your mother’s in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it.

— Demon

I owned a VHS copy of The Exorcist for a time, but I have not seen the Director’s Cut of the movie until now. Seeing that this is the end of my “Creep-A-Thon”, I wanted to end on a high with this ten-time Academy award nominated movie and the #208 movie of All Time on IMDb by William Freidkin. It won for Best Adapted Screenplay for William Peter Blatty for adapting his own book. This movie still creeps me out.

It has been a long time since I have seen the movie that I don’t want was or wasn’t in the theatrical cut. In this version, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is on an archeological dig in Northern Iraq where he uncovers an ancient artifact that is reminiscent of the devil.

Cut to Georgetown where an actress, Chris McNeill (Ellen Busrtyn) in the middle of filming a movie for Burke Jennings (Jack MacGowran). She rents out a house with her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair). Everything seems to fine, except Mrs. MacNeil hears noises from the attic. She thinks that there are rats. When she investigates, nothing is there.

After Regan’s twelfth birthday, she starts acting weird with spacing out, the inappropriate outbursts and swearing. Chris and Regan don’t know what is going on. Chris contacts Dr. Klein (Barton Heyman) to perform a battery of tests on Regan. He concludes that she has a lesion in her temporal lobe that causes the change in behavior.

In consulting with Dr. Taney (Robert Symonds) with x-rays, they cannot find on her brain. The doctors are stumped. They have exhausts of their options medically. It could be mental. A therapist (Arthur Storch) is called to put Regan under hypnosis. During the session, a spirit that inhabits her body is brought out.

There last resort is an exorcism to drive the spirit out of her body. Father Karras (Jason Miller) wants the task to perform the exorcism, but his superiors want to have a person that had actually performed. The church enlists Father Merrin to lead the exorcism.

I can’t believe that I was bored at some parts with this movie. During the movie, I was dozing. I don’t remember the movie having these B, C and D subplots with Karras’ mother, the mystery of the death of the director, the noises in the attic, etc.

The movie is still good. This movie is so creepy that it might happen to you. Being possessed by the devil. It’s more real than a vampire, a werewolf or a zombie coming after you.

Judgment: After all this time, the movie is very effective by freaking you out.

Rating: ****

FB Recommendation: “Sense And Sensibility” (1995)

sense_and_sensibility

Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?

— Marianne

This was one of my favorite movies from 1995, Sense and Sensibility. Flipping through the channels, this movies popped up on the screen. Had to watch it.

Being transported back to 19th century England where the Dashwood family is dealing with the death of their patriarch, John (Tom Wilkinson). They are left destitute after the first Mrs. Dashwood acquires all of his assets.

Trying to find their way in society, they try to marry distinguished men to help their family survive. The mother (Gemma Jones) wants the best for her family. There is the older sister, Elinor (Emma Thompson) that is in love with Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), but he is already engaged.

Marianne (Kate Winslet) falls for a handsome gentleman, John Willoughby (Greg Wise) who does not reciprocate her feelings.

There are mix of love, heartbreak, duty and romance in this Ang Lee directed film.

Judgment: I love this costume English dramas. Go watch this film.

Rating: ****1/2

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

midnight_cowboy_ver2

Frankly, you’re beginning to smell and for a stud in New York, that’s a handicap.

— Ratso Rizzo

Returning back to the running theme of this month, Midnight Cowboy was nominated for seven Oscars. It won for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie was good, but seemed hallow.

Joe Buck, an amateur hustler from Texas travels to New York City with his trusty radio in his hand. He struggles to find any means of income in the city.

He meets a handicapped con man, Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) who dupes him out of the last remaining Joe has.

When Joe is locked out of his apartment, he has nowhere to go, but he reluctantly befriends Ratso.

The movie was enjoyable, but some things didn’t gel. What was up with the flashbacks to Joe’s life in Texas? Ratso’s dream sequence? Was it necessary?

Judgment: An enjoyable movie that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Rating: ****

Casablanca (1942)

casablanca

Here’s looking at you, kid.

— Rick

Coming in at #11 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB. Nominated for seven Oscars, winning three; including Best Picture, Best Director for Michael Curtiz and Best Screenplay.

Casablanca is considered one of the greatest cinematic romances of all time. Highly doubt that. Not to say that it was a terrible movie. Far from that, but it wasn’t perfect.

Set in the middle of WWII in unoccupied Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is an former freedom fighter who has a famous club where all the refugees come to get away from the Nazis. His trusty pianist pal, Sam (Dooley Wilson) entertains the crowd with his songs.

One night, he receives two transit papers that were stolen from an SS officer from Ugarte (Peter Lorre). He hides them as SS officer, Major Strausser (Conrad Veidt) arrives in town to investigate where the papers are with the help of morally ambiguous Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

That very night, Rick’s former love, Isla (Ingrid Bergman) is with her companion, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid). Both are active freedom fighters that are looking for a way to get out of Casablanca to escape to America.

Problems with the movie. The “romance” between Rick and Isla was not fully explored. There was no connection between them. It felt forced. Two beautiful people got together. No explanation. This movie should have been longer. Allowing the relationship to develop between the lovers.

Negatives aside, Ingrid was lit beautifully. Loved it. Interesting angles with the camera. Light and shadow worked perfectly.

Judgment: Gorgeous visuals, but the story could leave you high and dry.

Rating: ***1/2

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

slumdog_millionaire
Everybody has been salivating over Slumdog Millionaire, which was based on Vikas Swarup’s novel, “Q & A.” This is the latest film from Danny Boyle along with his co-director Loveleen Tandan. This movie has 86 on the Metatcritic and it has been nominated for 4 Golden Globes awards. People are saying that this is the best film of the year. I would strongly disagree with that.

I want to list the good things about this film. The direction of this movie was great. The visuals of the slums in India, the jailhouse and the studio were awesome. To me, I think that the flashback of younger Jamal, Latika and Salim were great. The Hindi parts were genius. I was fine with the subtitles. It was very effective to the narrative. The way that the Muslim people were treated in the slums was heartbreaking. There were some cringe-worthy moments in this film, but not tough to watch.

I loved Anil Kapoor as the game show host, Prem Kumar.

However, I need to say that I have problems with the film. There are an abundant amount of Dutch angles in this film. Is that necessary? The reason why Jamal goes on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is so stupid. Just so he wants to know that Latika is watching. Are you kidding me?

When Jamal is suspected of cheating every question he knows the answer to, even the ones that he has no idea, he gets right. For example, he was asked how does he know who is on the $100 bill and he flashes back to his blind friend telling him the answer was Benjamin Franklin. Yet, he doesn’t know who is on the currency of the $1000 rupee bill. I call bullshit.

Some of the dialogue was hard to understand with the police officers (Irrfan Khan and Saruabh Shukla). There was one part in the film when a couple of officers pass by the camera. One of them says, “Stop filming. Stop filming.” Shouldn’t the editor, Chris Dickins or Danny Boyle catch that? Lastly, when older Jamal (Dev Patel) confronts his estranged brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal) and punches him, when he yells you can hear Dev’s British accent come out in full force. That took me out of the film.

Some people compare this film to City of God. Personally, they are not in the same league. Yes, they have to deal with kids that have to live through insurmountable odds, and have to turn to violence in order to survive, but that’s where the similarities end.

I think that this movie’s biggest disservice is that it was based on a book. If you based a “romance” from a book, then the romance would feel forced and disingenuous.

It was a good movie. Absolutely, but I’m not going to shower total praise on this film.

My rating: *** stars.

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