UPDATED! New Movie: Guarding Puss

NOTE: (If you have previously downloaded this script, here is the new abridged version.)

I’ve just completed the SECOND draft of my new screenplay, an action-comedy called GUARDING PUSS.

A tough-as-nails FBI agent must guard the cure for cancer by protecting its only known carrier- a prissy white house cat.

If you’d like to read it, the script is available for download here.

Feel free to shoot me an e-mail (shorester@gmail.com) or leave a comment below with feedback or questions.

Movie Review: Jackass 3D

The problem with the Jackass movies is not their inherent stupidity or tendency toward self-destruction, that refrain from parents that the films are destroying the fabric of humanity by their mere existence, wreaking havoc on the minds of young impressionable children. It’s the fact that the movies themselves are a mixed bag. Given the cheapness of the concept, the ever-increasing budgets (and profits) of the films, and the amount of footage the ‘filmmakers’ shoot, you’d think it would be a little easier to populate a 90-minute picture with non-stop laughs. Sure, humor is subjective (in most cases) and the movies all have their fair share of major guffaws, but the dead-spots in a picture like Jackass 3D are enough to call into question the worthiness of the ticket price, especially when you take into consideration that the movie will be released on DVD with hours of ‘bonus’ footage. Maybe the cast and crew can’t help but part with specific stunts that the audience would rank lower on the hilarity meter, because their personal involvement and shameless self-sacrifice disables them from being an impartial narrator during the editing process. Maybe they think the dumb stuff is as funny as the ridiculous stuff and we just have different tastes. In any case, Jackass 3D is a short movie but feels adequate length for a feature with a few dead spots.

Its use and exploitation of the added third dimension is the best excuse for donning the dweeby plastic glasses since Piranha 3D. What is it about low-brow cinema that understands 3D better than high-brow cinema? When you’re dealt a dirty hand, you play dirty. If 3D is a cheap, pandering means to fill the seats at an added ticket price, then I understand its inception (lack of pun intentional). I don’t mind watching films that exploit the third dimension, so long as they’re honest about it. Movies like Clash of the Titans exploit the third dimension as the way to- pardon the phrase- polish a turd. They already know their movie is a steaming pile of garbage, so why not gussy it up in some three-dimensional make-up and trot it around town. I like nothing less so much than being lied to, and this sort of attitude- yeah, it’s shit, but 3D shit!- just feels like the kind of slight of hand salesmanship that manages to pull the wool over the American public’s eyes time and again. I see no fundamental difference between it and the “Saddam might have WMDs, so protect our freedom” logic that got us into our current military quagmire. Come to think of it, it’s also the cause of the housing crisis. “Don’t worry, America. You can trust our nice big banks to support your greedy little loans.” It’s bad salesmanship. It’s a purposeful mistruth. It’s a McDonald’s cheeseburger wrapped around your mouth in a smile.

So maybe Jackass 3D isn’t all bad. At least it knows what it is: 90+minutes of three-dimensional dick jokes and pratfalls. If you can’t get on board with that premise, then I’m sorry, you’re what’s wrong with America. You can claim to be some higher-educated man-ape, but we all know the truth. If you’re intelligent in the slightest then you think man evolved from monkeys. And monkeys masturbate, throw banana peels, and fall from trees to the comic delight of other monkeys. They hump and hoot and holler. And this is high art to monkeys. Now this argument naturally excludes the increasingly reasonable invention of a talking monkey, a literal man-ape, science permitting. Would a talking monkey find Jackass 3D hilarious? No, but only because it would be too busy screaming about how much it was masturbating and throwing poop around the movie theater- “THIS IS AMAZING. HAVE YOU TRIED THIS?”

My point is this, America is what’s wrong with America. Humanity is what’s wrong with humanity. We evolved from beings that we call lower, that eat and fart and put bugs in their noses. How is this any different from what we do every day? We drink and fart and fuck. We live and laugh and love. Jackass 3D seems to be the only one willing to admit the fact that the differences between those two stacks of actions aren’t that noticeable. For all our technology, for all our science and reason, we still contrive our resources to create new means of conveying fart jokes across the universe. And there’s something reasonable about that, something not so embarrassing.

We as a culture demand to make each other laugh. We want to be funny, well-liked and reasonable human beings. But there are base and primal urges within us that contradict what we consider to be our deeper nature: Our desire for knowledge of art, culture, and philosophy- some sense of permanent reason throughout all the madness. There isn’t any- and perhaps our greatest failure as thinking apes is our demand that there must be, and that we are somehow at the center. Whether this planet is wiped out in an instant or a lifetime, life will go on with or without us. It always has, and it always will be. We’re not the cause or the end-all-be-all. Stop worrying about the planet. It has a reset button. We don’t.

So is it good or bad to laugh at Jackass as a human? More concretely, is it good that Jackass is capable of making humans laugh? If a man like Spike Jonze, a touted filmmaker, thoughtful and capable of great artistic leaps, can produce a movie where a ping-pong ball is hurled in slow-motion at a man’s penis and whacked like a baseball at a home run derby courtesy of Chris Pontius, a rich beyond measure Jackass star, then I think we need to take a second look at what we find funny as a people. I think there’s something funny about Jackass, something noble about the pursuit of these idiot men trying to injure themselves in increasingly creative ways. The fact that the movie made so much money is evidence itself that there’s something compelling about the premise, or alternately something wrong with the very core of our being. Whichever it is, the movie works on a fundamental level, and its only flaws are when the injuries come in less creative doses or seem like too much of the same thing. Is there a perfect Jackass movie to be made in three-dimensions? Probably, but it would have have to be a mixtape of the finest moments in Jackass history, because some of the classic clips, in a Ali G Show kind of way, capture the humor of an era as it was evolving. Maybe Jackass 3D is the Toy Story ending of a trilogy. Is there a secret edit of an ultimate movie hidden somewhere between the three, or are we going to have to buy the Jackass 4-EVER blu-ray combo pack for $79.99?!

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a visual masterpiece, Edgar Wright’s finest cinematic showing in terms of special effects mastery, the integration of stylized comic-book tropes and the amazing impossibility of wrangling a monstrously talented cast that performs above and beyond the call of duty. Michael Cera’s Scott Pilgrim is a throwback to Arrested Development‘s George Michael, and while many would claim that he’s been rehashing that same generic melancholy youth for years now, Scott Pilgrim would change that impression, albeit subtly. There is a beautiful and charming way in which Cera commands the comedic punchline-heavy comic strip dialog in this picture, and his youthful innocence shines through in a way that it never could have in say, Nick & Nora’s Infamous Shamefest.  The rest of the cast is charismatic and crush-worthy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza providing enough alternating attractiveness and affability to let the film’s weaker punchlines slide. Even supporting cast members like Scott’s band-mates find moments to stand out and make themselves memorable amidst all the comic book chaos, creating a universe that fans and newcomers alike can easily see themselves revisiting.

Knives Chau, played by Ellen Wong, has a lot of funny and cute moments, but they’re mostly relegated to the second half of the movie after Scott’s relationship with Ramona fires up and her seven evil exes come into play. The fights are energetic and enjoyable, mixing motifs from Street Fighter, Dance Dance Revolution and graphic novels to visually underscore the sheer awesomeness abounding in every frame.  Lovable is the key word I would use to describe this picture, and as someone who had never read a single Scott Pilgrim comic I was immediately won over to the characters, the brilliant interplay of dialog and the fun of watching absolutely ridiculous things appear on screen.  It’s a rare occurrence, and in the same way that the Wachowski Bros. packed Speed Racer with mind-bending visual concepts that were ahead of their time, Edgar Wright does them one better by packing his film with a story as interesting as the acid-trip cinematic effects that Wright packs into every sequence.

There’s so much humor here delivered at such a pace that there is little time for true romance, a slight downside.  I would have liked more moments where the jokes parted waves to allow for real romance. I understand Wright’s hesitance to slow down his comic book picture with schmaltz, but I believe he underestimates his own ability to capture the audience’s heart for a moment. Even a few brief non-quippy moments could have served the film well, possibly pushing it beyond “great movie” into “masterpiece” on the story level, as well as the visual one.  I don’t want to spoil too much by explaining how the romance plays out but everything structurally functions perfectly, aside from a few moments that run long.  (The cut of Scott Pilgrim I saw was like a delicious Dagwood sandwich with just a few too many pieces of pastrami.) Believe me, true believers, there’s plenty of ridiculous, explosive combat to be found here.  The only thing that’s missing is a little more authentic sweetness.

The one thing you cannot claim about Scott Pilgrim is that it is boring. There is almost too much happening, but in the exact opposite way of Revenge of the Fallen where all of it was bad. Because of the nature of tackling seven villains in a single movie, some of them fall by the wayside. The movie should have taken more liberties with the number of exes and cut them down to the few that matter, because I feel like some of the characters seemed a little corny and one-note. Again, this movie is unstoppably funny, but I’m nitpicking at details that really could have been tweaked to make it applicable for all ages. The visual style of Scott Pilgrim is easily a cutting-edge integration of story and effects that should be considered for practical application at the advent of new three-dimension home video technology, but it, like Speed Racer before it, is a little too frenetic to capture the minds and hearts of audiences beyond a certain age group. There is a generation gap between those who understand the Legend of Zelda sound effects in the background and those who just hear bleeps and bloops. The charm of Scott Pilgrim relies on your preconceived knowledge of geek and pop culture, and if you’re out of the loop, it makes few concessions to slow down or censor itself.

For all these reasons, I love Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and think it is Edgar Wright’s finest film amongst many fine ones. It is the next step in the evolution of a multi-talented director and the multi-teared layered casting of the modern comedy. Rather than powerhouse leads dominating every scene, a variety of actors are given the opportunities to showcase their finest skills at the benefit of everyone. I cannot wait to see this movie for the second time.