films

My Favorite Movies of 2017

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By Sean Tuohy

2017 was a year based on a horror flick...where the orange villain wins.

As always, going to the movies is a great way to escape, and this year was filled with some fantastic films.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section or by tweeting us @WritersBone.


“It”

This Stephen King adaption has been in the works for years. The made-for-television movie is still loved by many, but this version was absolutely terrifying. “It” makes you fall in love with a group of outcast school children living in Maine during the early 1980s. Which is why when “The Losers Club” is put in harm’s way—something that happens a lot—you feel true fear for them. Also, there is a really creepy clown in this movie. Like, poop your pants scary.


“Wonder Woman”

This classic D.C. comic book heroine arrived on the big screen with a bang. “Wonder Woman is filled with an amazing cast, a solid plot, and a lead actress who played the Amazon warrior with the right mix of heart and toughness.


“Logan”

The final film to star Hugh Jackman as the claw-stabbing Wolverine, this film went for the R rating in a bad way. “Logan” (written by our literary friend Scott Frank) starts off with a bloody and corpse-coated opening scene, immediately alerting viewers that this is a dark and moody superhero movie. Pulling from classic westerns, “Logan” follows a dying and forgotten hero in search of some type of redemption. I won’t spoiler it here, but the film has one of the darkest and most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen in a super hero movie…and I loved it.


“The Big Sick"

This modern romantic tale was inspired by a true story. Told with a big heart and heaps of truth, “The Big Sick” will make you cry and smile at the same time.


“Baby Driver”

Part musical, part crime story, this genre-bending film from “Hot Fuzz” director Edgar Wright is a must watch.


“Dunkirk”

Christopher Nolan returned to the big screen with this sweeping World War II epic. Nolan toyed with the typical war story (in classic Nolan fashion), which focused on the British defeat and desperate retreat at Dunkirk. The aerial footage in this film is breathtaking.


“Wind River”

The screenwriter of “Hell Or High Water” made his first outing as a director with this gritty crime drama and did an amazing job. Honest and brutal, “Wind River” follows a hunter who helps a young FBI agent investigate the murder of a young woman in Wyoming. This film will shake viewers to their core.


“The Florida Project”

Heartbreaking, but wildly fun at the same time. Director Sean Baker perfectly captures the world of a trouble-prone six-year-old girl living in a motel with her deadbeat mother.


“Jim & Andy”

This in depth look at the making “Man On The Moon” shows the viewers the commitment of actor Jim Carrey as he tried to bring his hero, Andy Kaufman, back to life.


“John Wick 2”

Stop rolling your eyes. When the trailer first came out for this film I shook my head in disbelief. But after watching this edge-of-your-seat action film I see why it gets so much love. “John Wick 2” takes a simple concept and builds a murky world filled with thieves, killers, and a code of ethics.


“Get Me Roger Stone”

It is hard to say Roger Stone’s name without vomiting or screaming in anger. This fantastic documentary examines the outspoken Trump supporter with in-depth interviews. A must watch if you want to understand the rise of Trump.


“Bushwick”

This gem flew under the radar. “Bushwick” is original, wild, and filled with some great steady cam work. A young woman trying to get home to Bushwick, N.Y. finds herself in the in middle of the next civil war. 


“Wheelman”

This crime drama from Netflix is an edge-of-your-seat thriller. It features smart nods to classic noir and bone-crushing car chase scenes.

Expression and Understanding Are At the Heart of 'The Journey'

By Danny DeGennaro

For as long as people have existed, differences have inspired violence. The semantics of warfare and how it straddles the lines between terrorism and necessary revolution are gently probed in “The Journey.”

Set in 2006, “The Journey” chronicles the penultimate attempt to reconcile the cavernous rift The Troubles created in Northern Ireland. Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) agree to meet in an attempt to end the bloodshed permanently. Paisley and McGuinness are sworn mortal enemies: Paisley is the founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, and McGuinness the former leader of the IRA. As the film puts it, the two “were forced by fate or circumstance to make an historic journey together.” Thus, the two set off on a drive to the Edinburgh airport.

Expression and understanding, or lack of understanding, are at the heart of the film. The lush, rolling backdrop underpins the tension between the two men and their attempts to come to grips with one another and themselves. McGuinness is initially the primary instigator and is most interested in striking up a deal that’ll manifest a peace between the two factions. Paisley is more unyielding, and steadfastly refuses any olive branches. Eventually, they begin to mine common ground. A chance encounter with a wounded deer introduces a newfound sense of humanity that neither man had considered about the other. They both riff on the way people from Northern Ireland add affirmatives to the end of sentences (“so they do”).

Spall and Meaney both turn in stunning performances that would become vaudevillian in the hands of lesser actors.

The film is resolutely neutral in its views of The Troubles—if all art is propaganda, then the primary agenda “The Journey” pushes is that of understanding. The film announces during the opening credits that the conversation “is imagined,” and it’s this precise poetic license within historical fact that allows the movie to venture into empathetic, surprising places. Spall and Meaney both turn in stunning performances that would become vaudevillian in the hands of lesser actors.

What the film is most interested in isn’t cause or justification, but reconciliation. Civil discourse has never been more vital to our collective well being as we enter into a post-Brexit world, where isolation and fear mongering are touted as patriotism and self regard. It’s an energizing and affirmative thing “The Journey” seeks to demonstrate. Change is inevitable. Progress is difficult. Our natural similarities far outstrip our constructed differences. Nothing can distill the awful machinations that make violence necessary, but “The Journey” can help us make sense of it.

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Remembering Director Jonathan Demme: 3 Forgotten Films We Love

Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme

By Sean Tuohy

Hollywood has suffered a major loss with the passing of legendary director Jonathan Demme. Known for smart films that changed the cinematic landscape—“Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia”—Demme was a filmmaker who pushed his craft to its outermost limits.

His films feature extreme close-ups, pop music scores, and expert Steadicam shots. He directed some truly memorable films during his 30-year career, including these three that may have been (wrongly) forgotten or dismissed by the public.

“The Truth About Charlie”

This charming and funny remake of the 1960s film “Charade” was Demme’s love letter to French New Wave films. “The Truth About Charlie” makes Paris a lively character in this strange spy story. It captures Demme’s ability to balance humor with heart-pounding thrills, as well as his talent for crafting artsy mainstream films.

“Married To The Mob”

In this film, Michelle Pfeiffer plays a widowed Mafia wife who is trying to restart her life after her husband is murdered. However, a lonely FBI agent and a Mafia kingpin fall in love with her and fight for her affection. Demme injected the right amount of heart and romance into this whacky comedy.

“The Manchurian Candidate”

This remake is one of the most overlooked and underrated thrillers of the past 20 years. It made great efforts to declare itself as a different film while paying respect to the original. Capturing the feverish anxiety of the post-9/11 world, “The Manchurian Candidate” keeps viewers on the edge of their seats while also creating a relatable world filled with conflicted, damaged characters. 

10 Movies That Should Be On Your Radar: March 2017

Much like our book series, "Movies That Should Be On Your Radar" aims to share indie darlings, worthy blockbusters, long forgotten gems, and rewatchable classics with aspiring screenwriters and authors alike. Feel free to share your own favorite flicks in the comments section, on our Facebook page, or by tweeting us @WritersBone.

“Kong: Skull Island”

Sean Tuohy: My father bought me the 1933 version of “King Kong” and it terrified me. The giant, landmark-climbing ape has a special place in my heart. "Kong: Skull Island" did it right. It was fun and exciting; it knew what it was and what it needed to be. The filmmakers added enough backstory for us to care about the characters, got into the action quickly, and kept it up. The biggest surprise was John C. Reilly as a World War II pilot stranded on the island. He was played up for laughs in the trailer, but he becomes the heart of the movie. The character has depth, and, besides a couple of expected jokes, he is a very heartfelt and wonderful character.

“Get Out”

Mike Nelson: “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

You should be picturing Drew Barrymore innocently throwing a Jiffy Pop on the stove right now. Her off-white sweater hanging loosely over the counter, a cordless landline phone pressed against her ear. That phone soon to be a symbol of terror, that well-done Jiffy Pop soon to be taken off the stove a moment too late by her childless parents, that sweater soon to be the only buffer between her flesh and a slashing blade.

The answer to that question, for me, was “Scream” from the moment I heard that line. I had heard “Get Out” would make me question that answer, so I bought into the hype and bought into the 7:30 p.m. showing on a Monday night that may or may not have begun at TGI Fridays. After abusing my senses with Oscar nominees for the previous month, I was excited to enter the theater with no hopes but to be entertained.

“Get Out” delivers. It delivers as a scary movie, it delivers as a comedy, it delivers as a social commentary. Would you believe me if I said I enjoyed it more than 75% of the “Best Picture” nominees from this past Oscars? Well, you don’t have a choice (I did). Forget all you think you know about scary movies. Forget all you think you know about comedies. Just know that for many people in the theatre, the answer to “What’s your favorite scary movie?” is being answered on the screen.

“Moonlight”

Daniel Ford: I watched “Moonlight” just before a couple of old people at the Oscars botched the film’s coronation.

Mike Nelson—who drunkenly (I’m assuming) sent me a slew of potential “Moonlight”-related tweets too provocative to ever be published—said on Oscars night that the first third of the movie might be the best movie of the year. I can’t deny that, especially considering Mahershala Ali’s breathtaking performance, but the third, and final, act in the film hit me just as hard. The grown up Chiron visits his childhood friend/crush Kevin at the diner where the latter is working in obscurity. Their troubled bond and unrequited love leads to a tense and tender finale, one that was filmed with a hint of potential violence and heartache.

There was plenty of great storytelling on display at this year’s Academy Awards (again, despite the bloated, inert telecast), but “Moonlight” glows far above the rest.

“Beauty and the Beast”

Stephanie Schaefer: I rounded up my #girlsquad and purchased my $19.25 ticket to see “Beauty and the Beast” in 3D well over a month in advance. Some would call that a steep price to pay, but can you really put a cost on the magic of kicking up your feet (reclining seats for the win) and feeling like a kid again? No, you can’t.

Disney’s latest live-action thriller was highly-publicized to the point where I started to wonder if it would live up to its hype (and this is coming from a former Disney publicity intern). Let’s just say I didn't regret dropping a cool $20 on the rebooted fairytale, or the $13 “glass” of movie theater wine for that matter.

The film was filled with everything I’d hoped for: catchy Disney tunes (that I can’t stop humming), standout costumes, modern special effects, and, most importantly, 2-plus hours of nostalgia. Plus, I appreciated the small updates that made this “tale as old as time” a bit more feminist and open-minded. 

“Logan”

Mike: When I left the theater after “Logan” there was something inside me saying I should feel sadder.

The thing about sadness is it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. The other day I was walking through the mall next to my office—on my way back from a standard-issue middle class 2 p.m. Starbucks run—and I saw a woman shoveling mall Chinese food into her face on a bench in the middle of the hallway (you probably envisioned this woman as overweight because I said “shoveling,” but she was not). To me, that would be a sad moment. For her, it may have been the highlight of the week. A forbidden treat in the midst of a “me” day at the mall, perhaps. Interpreting emotions isn’t an easy game to play. Trying to figure out how you “should” feel is even harder.

But interpreting greatness is a lot simpler. And knowing when you should think something is great is just about as easy as it gets. You don’t even need to justify it, you just need to think it and assert it. Proof:

Me or my friend Brendan and basically no one else: The McChicken is the greatest.

Some jerk loser: What, why?

MoMFBaBNOE: Because it is.

SJL: Oh.

That’s pretty much it. You just have to feel it and communicate it and then it becomes law.

“Logan” is a great movie. I know that. It takes the Wolverine character and spins him under a jeweler’s loupe while some guy calculates the worth of a diamond. The audience peers through and judges. The supporting characters peer through and judge. Logan peers through and judges. Time peers through and judges. What good is this man? What purpose does this man have? Did he do good things in his life? Might we have been better off without him? These questions aren’t just held up against Logan himself but against a handful of characters who have past actions to answer for.

Someday we’ll all have to answer for our actions or inactions, for better or for worse. Have to own up for who we are, who we were, and the future we may have put into motion by existing. You can scale that to something as grand as the world as a whole or to a small, close group of people in your life. The ability of “Logan” to not only show you that contradiction, but also make you think about it, is exactly what makes it one of the most brilliant “superhero” movies ever created.

Listen to Sean Tuohy's recent podcast with "Logan" screenwriter Scott Frank:

“This Is Spinal Tap”

Caitlin Malcuit: If you're scrolling through Netflix one evening and should happen upon “This Is Spinal Tap,” your initial reaction should be, "Oh my god, 'Spinal Tap' is on Netflix!" followed by watching “This Is Spinal Tap.”

For the uninitiated, "This Is Spinal Tap" is a rockumenatry mockumentary. It follows the titular heavy metal band along an anemic U.S. tour, churning out a million quotable jokes—and dead drummers—as everything falls to pieces. One doesn't have to be a metalhead to appreciate “This Is Spinal Tap” and its acerbic look at the music business and the pretentious, washed up players.

Technically written by stars Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and director Rob Reiner, the beauty in the movie's humor is that most, if not all, of the lines are ad-libbed and delivered with deadpan cluelessness by the Spinal Tap crüe (“They said the album cover is a bit sexist.” “Well, so what? What's wrong with being sexy?”). This is the style that set the precedent for Guest's future features, including “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “For Your Consideration.”

A lot is crammed into a humble 85-minute runtime, so it's worth keeping “This Is Spinal Tap” in the queue to catch what you probably missed the first go around. It'll grow on you faster than the cold sore on David St. Hubbins' mouth. 

“Everybody Wants Some”

Sean: This (soul) sister movie to “Dazed and Confused” and “Boyhood” will put a smile on your face and wistful memories in your mind. Following the first three days of a college freshman baseball player, the movie is filled with characters that you met in college. Filmmaker Richard Linklater is able to remind us of college: free-spirited days filled with no responsibility and with nothing but bright futures ahead.

“Shakespeare in Love”

Daniel: I held a long grudge against “Shakespeare in Love” because it won an Oscar over “Saving Private Ryan.” It turns out I’m stupid.

Pithy, rapid-fire dialogue, #writerproblems, and a sassy, curmudgeonly Queen Elizabeth makes this film a literary feast for the eyes and ears. While a pre-Goop, pre-conscious coupling Gwyneth Paltrow won an Oscar for her once-in-a-lifetime performance, Joseph Fiennes’ twitchy and tortured portrayal of the Bard of Avon is tops for me.

My favorite scene is when Shakespeare is directing on stage, and “the money” walks in and inquires of Philip Henslowe, The Rose’s manager,  “”Who is that?” Henslowe dryly replies: “Nobody. The author.”

We’ve all been there, amirite?

“13th”

Daniel: Ava DuVernay’s documentary will haunt you. And it should. It is the definition of a necessary film.   

An engaging, informed, angry, intelligent, and moderately sleazy (in the case of Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist) group of academics, activists, and politicians discuss the sordid (and racist) history of mass incarceration in the United States. You’ll see the Civil Rights movement and Black Lives Matter in a whole new light. The documentary will force you to ask, “How far have we really come?” and “Where are we going?”

“Clue”

Adam Vitcavage: Recently, a subreddit I prowl asked redditors for their top five favorite films. Luckily, the hashtag #7favfilms was popular a few months back and I kept the note in my phone so I can share my list on a moment's notice. Of all of the films on that list—“Before Sunrise,” “Chasing Amy,” “Clue,” “Dark Knight,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Royal Tenenbaums,” and “School of Rock”—most people wanted to discuss “Clue.” It turns out not everyone on this planet has seen or even heard of the film. I was flabbergasted.

The 1985 cult classic comedy based on the board game came out at a time before Hollywood was out of ideas and making films based on board games (see Rihanna’s “Battleship”). This was a bold move that paid off. “Clue” has a stellar cast of comedic geniuses. Eileen Brennan plays a pretentious Mrs. Peacock while Michael McKean plays the neurotically hilarious Mr. Green. Everyone in between is equally top notch. There are so many one-liners that fill this movie—the best being the flames on the side of Madeline Kahn’s Mrs. White’s face—that I quote constantly.

Only a film based on a board game has the balls to produce three endings that were shown randomly in theaters. Filmgoers had no clue if they were seeing Ending A, B, or C when they walked into it. How outrageous is that? Luckily the DVD has all three that you can either play randomly or—and most recommended—watch all three unfold at the end of the film.

The murder plot of the film is just a red herring. You need to see this film to understand comedy at its most basic form. All you need is a group of genius comedians in a room, then watch magic happen.

Wait…it’s awful that I only mentioned three members of the cast. I’m giving a standing ovation to the rest now. Thank you Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren for this extremely rewatchable film that taught me how many bullets were in a revolver.

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Paychecks: Famous Screenwriters Working On Lesser Pictures

By Sean Tuohy

All writers want to be artists. They want to be respected. They want to be loved by the public. That’s all great, but nothing beats paying the bills. Sometimes even the best artists have to work for a paycheck.

Screenwriters are well known for this. A screenwriter can win an Oscar on Sunday, and by Tuesday is working on “Failure To Launch 2: Lifting Off Harder.”

Sometimes you need to pay the rent by writing an awful movie!

Kenneth Lonergan

Oscar-nominated writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has an impressive resume of films under his belt. “You Can Count On Me,” “Gangs of New York,” and, 2016’s critical darling, “Manchester by The Sea.” He is one of the most beloved screenwriters because of his in-depth character studies.

Paycheck Script: “Fool’s Gold”

Remember when Matthew McConaughey was the “alight, alright, alright” guy and not “Oscar-winning actor” guy (okay, maybe they are the same person)? Back in those days, McConaughey paid the bills by showing up in every rom-com he could he find. The gold star—this will be funny in a second—being “Fool’s Gold.” A married couple gets a divorce but then finds gold. That’s the plot line. And, yes, Lonegan did an uncredited rewrite on the movie that features Kevin Hart saying “fakade” instead of “façade.”

Joss Whedon

Simply say Joss Whedon’s name and somewhere within a 26-mile radius a nerd gets a boner. The man is a storytelling treasure on both the big and small screens. He has written some of the greatest episodes of television (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly”), and he assembled “The Avengers.”

The guy knows how to write.

Paycheck Script: “Waterworld”

Back in 1996, Kevin Costner was what we like to call a “bankable star.” During this time, he decided to make a film that took everything we love about “Road Warrior” and put it on water. Despite all the snickering, “Waterworld” was not a giant bomb. It actually made a profit, but it was panned by critics and, behind the scenes, it was considered a “hellish set.” Between actors almost drowning, a director abandoning the film, and the movie going over budget, it must have felt more like “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Whedon was called in at the last minute to work on rewrites. He famously called this time period “seven weeks of hell.”

John Patrick Shanley

John Patrick Shanley—“JPS” as the cool kids call him—is considered one of the greatest American playwrights. His plays have won respect and awards. In Hollywood, his’ scripts have been called “fantastic,” and his 2006 film “Doubt” won every award under the sun.

Paycheck Script: "Congo"

A talking gorilla.

“Congo” features a talking gorilla. I know that isn’t the whole plot, but for the life of me I don’t remember the actual plot. I know the film was based off of a Michael Crichton novel, and I know that Tim Curry is awesome in it (when is he not awesome?). Otherwise, this a movie filled with awful stereotypes and a talking gorilla with lackluster special effects (even for 1995). There’s also this exchange:

*Shit hitting the fan*
Ernie Hudson’s character: “What about them?
Laura Linney’s character: “Put them on the endangered species list.”

Oof.

Somehow listed among the credits, after gorilla handler but before craft services, is John Patrick Shanley as the screenwriter.

There is one upside to this train wreck of a film. The great Ernie Hudson has stated that his character is his personal favorite from his career.

Full Movies Archive

8 Movies That Should Be On Your Radar: February 2017

Much like our book series, "Movies That Should Be On Your Radar" aims to share indie darlings, worthy blockbusters, long forgotten gems, and rewatchable classics with aspiring screenwriters and authors alike. Feel free to share your own favorite flicks in the comments section, on our Facebook page, or by tweeting us @WritersBone.

“Dope”

Sean Tuohy: I finally got to see this movie and it was worth the wait. I’ve got a soft spot for coming-of-age stories, and “Dope” was one of the better ones I’ve seen recently. The film is charming, funny, and original in its storytelling and images. It follows a high school geek who worships 1990s hip-hop, plays in a punk band, and is trying to get into Harvard while also growing up in gang-riddled Los Angeles. Everything changes when he gets mixed up in a drug deal gone bad. The last 10 minutes had more heart sewn into it than most films I’ve seen during the past two years. Also, the soundtrack is awesome.

“The Monster”

Sean: I recently stumbled on to his horror film helmed by ‘The Strangers” director Bryan Bertino. This film has two parallel themes: part horror/part survival story and part character study. The horror storyline is basic: mother and daughter are trapped in a car while a monster stalks them. Nothing special. But the underlying narrative features an alcoholic and abusive mother dealing with her guilt. Zoe Kazan (daughter of former guest Nick Kazan) gives a heartbreaking performance as a woman struggling with her own demons while trying to raise her daughter. The horror storyline is interesting but it is the character study that really keeps you on the edge of your seat.

“Deep Web”

Sean: Directed by Alex Winters (of “Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure” fame) this sleek documentary follows the FBI investigation and downfall of the online black market website "Silk Road." Narrated by Keanu Reeves, (more “Bill and Ted” glory), the film moves at a breakneck speed without losing anything. Winters does a thoughtful job of quickly creating the world of the “deep web” and provides all the needed information the viewer needs while never hitting the breaks.

“20th Century Women”

Emili Vesilind: People are focusing on Annette Bening's incredible performance in this movie—and for sure it's amazing (her angry-uncomfortable face, among others, is heartbreaking!) But for me, the movie felt like a nuanced study and celebration of weird, fragile, everyday people. The characters and a relationships are fleshed out using every means possible—dialogue, music, set decoration, costuming. So you really feel like you stepped into a "scene" of sorts. The film also reminded me of "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" in that it explores how rock bands/clubs, music scenes and friends we sit around and do nothing with as teenagers can play a major role in who we become—and what we like—as adults. It definitely has its sad moments, so you don't leave feeling exactly buoyant, but it sticks like glue to your brain! Loved it.

“Under the Shadow”

Alexander Brown: A festival darling that never got a wide release, “Under the Shadow” was internationally co-produced between Qatar, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, and directed by an Iranian by the name of Babak Anvari. Set in 1980s Tehran, during one of many Iran/Iraq conflicts, it somehow seamlessly tells a ghost story that also focuses on the horrors of war, depression, and gender politics—all without being heavy-handed or taking away from the scares. I have no idea how they pulled it off. Also the lead actress liked my tweet review, so we're pretty much pals now.

“Kubo and the Two Strings”

Mike Nelson: It’s Oscar season, so I’m ripping through every nominee I can get to over the next few weeks. I see any spare time as potential to check something off the list, which is a totally fun, unnecessary emergency situation I’ve created for myself to continually deflect the opportunity to separate happiness from achievements.

Now that I got you all riled up with that intro (“Man, would love to hang out with this guy!”), let’s talk movies. Let’s talk animated movies. Let’s talk Kubo. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is not my pick for “Best Animated Feature” (that goes to “Moana”...handily), but it would be my pick for “Most Entrancing Animated Feature.” The story is pretty unique in itself, taking some unexpected turns and (no spoilers here) incorporating magic to create visual opportunities you just don’t typically get. Plus, you get tons of action and A-list actors…ummm...speaking. So that’s pretty sick.

If you want something a little different from the cookie-cutter animated film, and you’re looking for whatever the animation equivalent of “food porn” is (I can’t call it “animation porn,” and I can’t call it “eye porn,” so if you have a better way of saying this, please, god, help me…“feast for the eyes,” got it, my bad here), this is a great way to spend 102 minutes.

“Hell or High Water”

Daniel Ford: I made the mistake of watching "Hell or High Water" right before I went to bed one night. My heart rate quickened almost instantly, and it kept pumping long after the shotguns and rifles cooled. The premise of this film is Elmore Leonard-level simple. Two brothers systematically rob a West Texas bank chain to...pay back the same bank chain to keep their family's land. Jeff Bridges plays the crusty lawman hot on their trail.

If that's all the movie had been, I probably would have loved it just the same. However, to the filmmaker's credit, "High or High Water" features subtle and biting commentary about those struggling to make ends meet in today's economy, gun control laws, crime, punishment, family, and our current political climate. Bridges and Ben Foster play their roles beautifully, but Chris Pine is the real standout here. He can be typecast in "standard Hollywood white guy" roles, but he absolutely shines as a conflicted and desperate family man. It's no surprise that this film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. One of the best movies I saw in 2016. 

Manchester by the Sea

Adam Vitcavage: The logline for “Manchester by the Sea” sounds like the type of film a film student who takes himself or herself too seriously would want to make. “A mopey man battles his inner demons while juggling family obligations and a haunting past.” Okay, that’s not really the logline, but it's close enough. It would have been easy to take the idea of this film and make something that falls shorts. However, this film transcends a simple idea and produces one of the best films of not only this year, but of this millennium.

Kenneth Lonergan’s film is a nuanced look into heart wrenching moments of actions and reactions that unfold slowly over the course of the film. It would have been easy for the writer/director to fill the drama with a melodramatic score underlying long, drawn out artsy shots. The film could have easily been a realistic mumblecore affair for the millennial generation. But that isn’t what this filmmaker does. He provides a keen eye for beautiful shots that don’t stand out. It isn’t the type of film that has one breathtaking shot that will be memorable because it seemed different than the rest of the film; instead, Lonergan chose to subtly film the beauty of his subjects.

Everything hinges on the performance from star Casey Affleck. Lonergan creates a subtle, slow-paced study into Affleck’s Lee Chandler. What happened to him prior to the film and what happens during it is heart wrenching. There’s no other way to put it. [I’m going to leave the plot as much as a mystery, because that’s how I went into the film, and feel that it allows for the punches to hit harder that way.] Everything that Lee does is on the fringe of reasonable, but there is that slimmer of understanding that Affleck performs with that allows viewers to step into this character’s mind. He is a wreck, and by the end of the two hours watching him, you will be, too.

It would be a mistake to overlook the other performances in this film. Luckily, no one has made that mistake. Both Michelle Williams and slight newcomer Lucas Hedges round out a terrific core to bring Lonergan’s film to life. Because of the nature of the film, they will obviously take a back seat to many of the accolades being thrown at Affleck, but the film may not have worked without them.

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5 Movies I Loved in 2016

Sean Tuohy shares his five favorite movies from the past year. Send us your favorites by dropping us a line in the comments section, on our Facebook page, or by tweeting us @WritersBone.

By Sean Tuohy

“The Nice Guys”

This should be no surprise: I love this movie. I’ve been in love with it since I read Shane Black’s 2006 script for this dark comedy. The film, which ended up being directed by Black, is the movie that moviegoers were crying out for but didn’t know it. Smart, funny, and filled with enough gunplay and one-liners to bring out the movie hard on.

Read Sean Tuohy's  interview with Charles Ardai , author of "The Nice Guys" novelization. 

Read Sean Tuohy's interview with Charles Ardai, author of "The Nice Guys" novelization. 

“The Arrival”

This sci-fi thriller penned by Writer’s Bone podcast guest Eric Heisserer was a stand out this year. If “Independence Day” is on the lowbrow end of the scale for “aliens invade Earth” movies, then “Arrival” is very much on the high end. Paced just right and filled with wonderful images, this film captured the spirit of modern sci-fi storytelling. The best part in this film was that the major action scene never happens. You never see a gun being fired, but you hear it. The film wisely doesn’t rely on action, but focuses all its attention on the characters.

Listen to Sean Tuohy's interview with "Arrival" screenwriter Eric Heisserer.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

I left the theater smiling with joy after watching this film. Harry Potter was in my life, but I was not a mega fan like some (cough, Daniel Ford, cough). This movie captured the wounded and joy of the original Potter books. I definitely had a tear in my eye during one of the saddest moments at the end of the film.

“Midnight Special”

“Midnight Special” was the perfect mix of science fiction and noir. Shot in muted tones, grounded in the real world with characters that peel off the screen, “Midnight Special” was overlooked by filmgoers. The heart of the story—a father protecting his son—is heartwarming, but the action in the story is believable.

“Triple 9”

Crime legends Ross Macdonald and James Ellroy would be proud to see that their tradition of dark storytelling, featuring criminals and violence, continue on in this thrilling heist film. A group of bank robbers indebted to the mob must kill a cop—a triple 9 call—to pull off their next heist. Character-driven, dark, moody, this movie was sadly overlooked.

Why Shane Black’s Upcoming Neo-Noir ‘The Nice Guys’ Will Be A Masterpiece

By Sean Tuohy

Wild West gunplay, witty dialogue, a hard-boiled mystery good enough to make Raymond Chandler scratch his head, and Russell Crowe in bell-bottoms! These are just some of the things we have to look forward to look in script king Shane Black’s new film “The Nice Guys.” 

Set in 1970s Los Angeles, a down and out P.I. (Ryan Gosling) and an enforcer (Crowe) team up to find a missing woman who caught in the middle of a conspiracy. The Red Band trailer showcases Black’s poppy banter, cynic tough guys, and heart-pounding action. Penned back in 2003, “The Nice Guys” is a well-known script among script hounds and the project has gone through several changes (at one point it was planned to be filmed as a television show instead of a feature). However, we finally get to see the film on the big screen!

After watching the trailer 19 times in less than an hour and rereading the script at an equally feverish speed, it’s easy to see that “The Nice Guys” is going to become a masterpiece.

The Dialogue

Shane Black writes some of the best back and forth banter between characters. It’s lightning fast, but easy to keep up with (unlike Aaron Sorkin’s solid dialogue, Black’s never goes over the audience's head). The dialogue in a Black film, and this movie in particular it seems, is tough and spoken with a rough edge.

The Characters

The characters in “The Nice Guys” are broke, cynic, burnt out, and about ready to give up on life completely. However, they appear to have one good fight left in them.

Black’s characters are human; they are filled with fear and self-doubt but they are always able to pull off superhuman feats. Gosling’s P.I. is a troubled man who is awful at his job and has a daughter who doesn’t like him. Despite everything stacked against him, we want to root for him. Black tends to creates characters you should dislike but fall in love with in the end.

The Humor

Throughout the trailer viewers are treated to gruesome violent images, but we can’t help but laugh the whole time. Black performs an incredible balancing act between violence and humor that never feels forced or unnecessary.

The movie comes out May 20, 2016. 

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The Top 5 Films of 2015

By Sean Tuohy

Editor’s note: Sean’s 2014 list was an eclectic mix of Oscar winners and pleasure rides, and this year is no different. The man knows movies better than anyone and picked some great ones from 2015. I’m just thankful “Terminator Genisys” didn’t make the list. It was a close call everyone, but we dodged it!—Daniel Ford

“Top Five”

Chris Rock wrote, produced, and directed this perfectly well balanced comedy that fell under radar. The stand-up comic vet blended together humor, heart, and well-rounded characters. The film follows a flawed comedian during one day as a reporter questions him about his craft (as well as his love life). Brutally honest, but charming and loving, Rock’s “Top Five” offers a candid look into the mind of a comedian and what it means to be funny.

“Ex Machina”

Alex Garland, the writer of “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” took his first shot at directing and created one of the most original and creepy sci-fi films in the last 20 years. A young computer programmer wins the chance to work with one of the wealthiest and smartest computer designers but discovers that he’s been pulled into an unnatural experiment with A.I. The imagery alone is jaw dropping, borrowing from Kubrick’s “The Shining” and "2001: A Space Odyssey." With one foot resting in reality and the other stepping into the realm of possibility, this film will keep you awake long after you finish watching.

“Spotlight”

Based on the true story of The Boston Globe’s investigation team’s uncovering of the Catholic Church’s sex scandal, “Spotlight” offers a look into the not-too-distant past. With Michael Keaton delivering a strong lead performance and a stellar Mark Ruffalo backing him, it is nearly impossible to pull your eyes away from the screen.

“The Martian”

Author Andy Weir’s surprise hit novel about a witty astronaut left behind on Mars had readers falling in love across the globe, but when directing god Ridley Scott brought it to the bring screen this year the whole world jumped on board. Even President Obama said it was one of the best films of the year! With Matt Damon playing the cheerful and resourceful Mark Watney, the film showcased the best of Hollywood filmmaking: remarkable sets, strong performances, and a well-written story. You could not ask for anything more.

“Mad Max: Fury Road”

Nearly 30 years after bringing us to the wastelands to fight for gasoline, Aussie filmmaker George Miller brought us back and holy mother god were we thrilled to return. Simple, gritty, and turbo-charged, the fourth “Mad Max” film was a crowd-pleasing monster. This is not a film you’ll spend a lot of time talking about because you’ll be busy re-watching…re-watching…and re-watching it.

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My 5 Favorite Films From 2014

By Sean Tuohy

Sadly, I missed a lot of movies this year. There were so many great films that I wanted to see and so many truly awful movies I wish I hadn't seen.

Despite all that, here are my top five films of 2014:

“Birdman”

I left the theater smiling ear to ear. This film was truly amazing and did not miss a beat. The juggernaut performances were moving, the writing was crisp, and it felt like the film was shot in long take. It’s easily one of the best written films of the year. It deserves all the praise it has received, plus much more.

“Guardians of the Galaxy”

I am not a huge fan of comic movies because I was a movie fan long before I was a comic fan. I love watching movies, but lately the theaters bombard moviegoers with nearly identical films featuring men and women in tights. Expect for “Guardians of the Galaxy.” This flick brought fun back to the movie world. It was funny, action-packed, had a good storyline, and produced a wonderful world to visit. It felt more like a true action/sci-fi movie than a comic book movie. James Gunn (“Slither” and “Dawn of the Dead”) crushed it.

“The Imitation Game”

A British movie about World War II? Boring. Oh wait, you have a fantastic performer in a bittersweet? I’m back in! Benedict Cumberbatch hits a homerun in this true-life movie about Britain breaking the Nazi’s Enigma code. The film follows genius Alan Turing (who designed one of the first computers and was punished later in life for being gay) and his code breaking team. It’s a truly well-made movie audiences should love.

“Chef”

This was the small movie with a big punch. Funny, charming, sweet, and heartfelt, this film follows an artist/chef embarking on a new path in life.

“Tusk”

Wow, this movie is…well…it’s dark, but wildly original. Only Kevin Smith (badass writer, host of “Smodcast,” director of “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” and “Chasing Amy”) could bring you a tale as twisted and funny as this. “Tusk” follows a young man held by a madmen who slowly transforms him into a walrus. You’ve never seen a scene like the last 10 minutes of this movie, and you never will again. 

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12 Movies About Writers We Love

By Daniel Ford

Sure, you could spend this rainy day in the Northeast brooding about how your short story is going nowhere (it’s not just me, right?) or you could enjoy one of these movies featuring writers struggling with their craft.

You’re right, that’s a grim choice. But these films are still great. Feel free to share your favorite movies about writers in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Misery

Admit it, part of you wishes you had a fan this dedicated to your work.

Midnight in Paris

“Hemingway?!”

Wonder Boys

Save multiple copies of your work...

Before Sunset

Every entry in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series is beautifully written and acted, but the second installment features the star-crossed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy at their best. They run into each other in Paris, long after Delpy character doesn’t show up to meet Hawke at the train station following their chance meeting on a European trip. Hawke's character becomes a writer, of course, and is promoting his novel based on their experience. The pair had chemistry in the first movie, but with the addition of their character’s disappointment and what-if angst, they burn the screen down in this one.

I really hope this guy didn’t write this story within a pop song idea. It sounds terrible.

One Fine Day

It’s because of this movie that I wanted my face on a city bus. Young Daniel had a lot to learn about the newspaper business.

Also, this flick features great New York City porn.

Almost Famous

“Be honest and unmerciful.”

Finding Neverland

Failure does wonders for boosting creativity.

Capote

Truman Capote would have broken social media.

Sideways

He doesn’t like talking about his novel or drinking Merlot. Noted.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I reference this movie at least once a day. Usually it’s because I’ve been talking to myself.

The Shining

This is the way Stephanie Schaefer reacts to my work.

Adaptation

If this doesn’t happen to you every morning, you aren’t doing it right.

Ace in the Hole

$250 a week! Sold!

“If there’s no news, I’ll go out and bite a dog.” Genius.

The Top 4 Reasons Why Narc Is A True American Classic

By Sean Tuohy

This week, "Gone Girl" will be hitting theaters across the country. The film, based off the best-selling novel written by Gillian Flynn, is being set up as the next American classic. Great cast, great source material, and a great director behind the camera all should add up to a great flick.

"Narc" is another classic that was sadly over looked. Filmed on a shoestring budget by a director that had only one other film under his belt (a self-financed action thriller that never saw the light of day), "Narc" hit the American landscape in 2002 and was praised for its gritty style and teeth-shattering truth. The film follows two Detroit detectives, both with shady pasts, as they try to solve the murder of an undercover cop. Since then, Joe Carnahan has gone on to become one of Hollywood's most sought after directors. The fact that "Narc" is an afterthought is awful because the movie is incredible. From the opening scene, it hits every beat just right and keeps you pulled in. The writing is strong, the characters are layered, and the scenes well shot.

With that in mind, here are the four best scenes that showcase why "Narc" is a true American classic.

1. Opening Scene

Holy. Mother. Of. God. That opening scene grabs you like a coked out Brazilian boxer and pulls you in for a ride. A tweaked out undercover cop chases a junkie through the city and into the park. The junkie is stabbing people. The cop is out of breath and barely able to keep up. There's no underlying soundtrack either. Just the sound of cop's heavy panting. Then the scene sends with a dead junkie, a bleeding mother, and a cop crying.

Jeez!

2. Ray Liotta

We love Ray from "Goodfellas," where he was the loveable gangster with some awful friends. He was far from loveable as Detective Oaks in this movie. Liotta took the inner city cop with a short temper to a another level. For one thing, he is massive (he ate Chinese food before takes to look more puffy) and scary. One stare from this guy makes you find another pair of underwear. You are never sure what is going to make him snap. The scene below showcases his talent. The fact that Liotta didn't get an Oscar for this one scene is awful.

3. The Ruiz Scene

This scene had to been taken from a lost episode of "Cops" because it bleeds crazy reality. While searching for leads the two cops stumble open a crackhead who has recently set his girlfriend's head on fire because she has given an STD. Standing in a room without pants dealing with withdrawals, the crackhead promises to give the cops info as long as he can get high one last time.

What the hell?! You never scene like that in a movie. Ever!

John Ortiz gives a stellar cameo as the crackhead Ruiz. It was so good that until I saw Miami Vice several years later I thought he was a real crackhead.

4. The Bathroom Scene

Jason Patric's character, Nick Tellis, does not have an easy journey in this film. A cop with a former drug problem who wants to be a good family man and work at a desk gets dragged back into the streets and finds his addiction for police work puts his family life at risk. As Tellis falls deeper into the hole that is police work, his wife, who painfully watched him go through rehab, pulls away.

It reaches a boiling after Tellis is shot and refuses to give up on his case. His wife, child in hand, pleads for his husband to his job to be with her. He says no. His wife leaves.

Holy crap is this heart breaking. Try not to cry as you watch his woman plead with her husband.

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