Friday, November 28, 2014

CHASTAIN: Like Carmella Soprano... only with a gun.
by Janet J. Lawler
Updated: Dec. 11, 2014
New York

Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
The Golden Globe Awards were announced today.  Jessica Chastain is nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for A Most Violent Year. 

Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac and director J.C. Chandlor
I attended a screening sponsored by the Producer's Guild at the DGA Theater on W. 57th St. for this new film A Most Violent Year.  The movie comes out Dec. 31st.  If you love crime dramas in the vein of The French Connection, The Sopranos, Serpico or even, yes, The Godfather -- this movie is for you.

It's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I plan to see it again when it comes out in theaters.

A Most Violent Year stars outstanding actors  Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY).  Isaac portrays an immigrant who is trying to make his mark in the oil-and-heating industry in NYC in 1981 (one of the most violent years in NY history).  He's a moral, family man with quiet manner.  He takes pride in his business, his family and his word.  Soon, he finds himself the target of unprovoked attacks against his business from competitors who beat up his truck drivers and steal his oil.  Should be arm his drivers with pistols?  Fight back with the same dirty, corrupt tactics he's confronting?  

It's a moral dilemma that keeps the audience engaged and rooting for Isaac as he takes one hit after another.   
Chastain plays his tough Staten Island wife (with a helluva Armani wardrobe!).  She's the daughter of an ex-mobster, who knows her way around guns and political and industry tricks.  Imagine Carmella Soprano with a gun.  You don't want to mess with her or her family.

Chastain's character adds a nice balance to her hard-working, big-hearted, but sometimes naive, husband.  Chastain brings weight to any role she plays and has several key scenes that had the audience stunned by her actions.

J.C. Chandlor (ALL IS LOST) is the producer, director and writer of A Most Violent Year.  Chandlor keeps the story moving at a steady clip -- making us root for the businessman with the style and manner of Michael Corleone (slow, soft spoken and immigrant proud).  Except Chandlor's character is a moral man who plans to fight back in his own way without losing his soul.

Being a native New Yorker,  I know firsthand the time period (1981) this movie portrays with its spray-painted subway cars, crime on the streets and city corruption.  It was a bleak time for New York City. This movie captures that sense of fear, paranoia and desperation.

It reminds me of the iconic movies I grew up on and loved by acclaimed NY director Sidney Lumet (DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, SERPICO, PRINCE OF THE CITY).

If you too miss those grimy, suspenseful crime-drama movies set in New York from a time gone by, don't miss seeing A MOST VIOLENT YEAR.

Watch the movie trailer here:  http://amostviolentyear.com/

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.  http://www.amazon.com/From-Ground-Up-Janet-Lawler-ebook/dp/B00F3CYSU8   








Monday, August 11, 2014

A MILLION STUFFED IN A MATTRESS IN IRELAND
by Janet J. Lawler
New York


New film released by Magnolia Picture
I'm interested in watching all things from Ireland since we just booked a flight there for next New Year's Eve.  It's a new film by Lance Daly.  Life's a Breeze gave us a fun taste of the land of saints and scholars.

It's a enjoyable tale about a family facing hard times in Ireland.  When the matriarch of the family seems stuck in a rut in her cluttered home, her family decide to surprise her by cleaning out her house top to bottom and renovating it (adding handles in the tub and shower, new toaster in the kitchen, throwing out old magazines and newspapers under the bed).

They decide to buy their mom a new mattress from Ikea and toss out her old lumpy one.  It comes as more of a surprise to her adult kids that the mattress contained her entire life's savings.  She tells them the mattress was stuffed "with close to a million euros".  The kids ask why not put the money in the bank and she replies "Have you been watching the news lately?" 

The family go on the hunt to get the mattress back which leads to several amusing scenes and exchanges between a solid cast of actors including: Kelly Thornton, Fionnula Flannagan, Pat Shortt, and Eva Birthistle.  The entire town and country try to find the mattress in hopes of getting rich.

The film gently shines a light on the stereotypes we heap on the elderly and how their voices are often drowned out by their well-meaning, but intrusive adult children.  

Will the family find the lost fortune?  And if so, will it bring them closer together in love and be the answer to their troubles, or does money only bring out the worst in people?

Life's a Breeze opens September 19th on VOD and in limited release in New York at The Quad Cinema, and Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall.  This is a Magnolia Pictures release.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.  http://www.amazon.com/From-Ground-Up-Janet-Lawler-ebook/dp/B00F3CYSU8   Or visit the author's website at www.janetjlawler.com






Thursday, July 10, 2014

THE 2014 PRIMETIME EMMYS ANNOUNCED...
by Janet J. Lawler
New York
July 10, 2014

And the Emmy goes to...

So many wonderful picks this year.  I'm finding The Emmys as exciting, if not more, than The Oscars.  That says a lot about television these days.  Who can stop watching all these incredible series and performances?

The HBO movie The Normal Heart received major nominations for best supporting actress Julia Roberts, best actor Mark Ruffalo, Outstanding TV Movie and many supporting nominations for that powerful film about the AIDS crisis in America during the 1980s.
Julia Roberts gets an Emmy nomination for The Normal Heart
 The Best Actor nominations for Drama are amazing.  Check it out.

Best Actor - Drama
Bryan Cranston - "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels - "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm - "Mad Men"
Woody Harrelson - "True Detective"
Matthew McConaughey - "True Detective"
Kevin Spacey - "House of Cards"

Every actor named above is deserving of an Emmy.  That's a hard pick.  I love Kevin Spacey on House of Cards... but then Matthew McConaughey's haunting performance in True Detective is hard to ignore. 
True Detective
Best Actress for Drama is just as mindblowing when it comes to talent and terrific performances.

Best Actress - Drama
Lizzy Caplan - "Masters of Sex"
Claire Danes - "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery - "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Marguilles - "The Good Wife"
Kerry Washington - "Scandal"
Robin Wright - "House of Cards"

I'll go with either Robin Wright or Julianna Marguilles.
Robin Wright in House of Cards
Orange is the New Black got a nom for Best Comedy.  This may be their year to bring home the Emmy. Taylor Schilling is nominated as Piper. I'm rooting for her, but she's got stiff competition. See below.

Best Actress - Comedy
Lena Dunham - "Girls"
Edie Falco - "Nurse Jackie"
Julie Louis-Dreyfus - "Veep"
Melissa McCarthy - "Mike and Molly"
Amy Poehler - "Parks and Recreation"
Taylor Schilling - "Orange is the New Black"
Don't mess with Red (Kate Mullgrew)
Piper's prison cellmate Red (the fab Kate Mullgrew) also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress Comedy.

Best Supporting Actress - Comedy
Mayim Bialik - "The Big Bang Theory"
Julie Bowen - "Modern Family"
Allison Janney - "Mom"
Kate Mulgrew - "Orange is the New Black"
Kate McKinnon - "Saturday Night Live"
Anna Chlumsky - "Veep"

And if trying to pick a winner out of all these tremendous performances, we also have to look at the shows themselves.  Take a glance at the Outstanding Drama Series.

Outstanding Drama Series
"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
"Game of Thrones"
"House of Cards"
"Mad Men"
"True Detective"

Is it any wonder people are calling the last few years of TV the NEW Golden Age for Television?
Move over, Oscar.  TV actors and actresses deserve to shine this year.

Tune in for the Primetime Emmys on August 25th on NBC.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.  http://www.amazon.com/From-Ground-Up-Janet-Lawler-ebook/dp/B00F3CYSU8   Or visit www.janetjlawler.com




Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ORANGE IS THE NEW SMASH HIT 
by Janet J. Lawler
New York
June 24, 2014


Cast of Orange is the New Black
 I just finished binging on Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.  All I can say is, Wow!

It's like doing time in the best sense of the word. 

Who new going to prison could be this much fun? What can I say, except the characters on Orange is the New Black are some of the most riveting, deranged, hilarious people you'll ever see on TV/online.

Who can beat Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) at her calm, shrewd demeanor? Her nickname may be Dandelion, but she's no blushing flower. 
Chapman/Schilling
What about Crazy Eyes' antics and threats?

Red's Russian revenge?

Vee's vindictiveness?

Pennsatucky's  raunchy putdowns and preachy rants?  

How about Nicky's sexcapades and constant craving for heroin? 

Who can forget Morello's stalker tendencies and tender heart?  The scene when her stalkee comes to the prison to confront her is one of the best scenes I've seen on TV -- when her delusional love fantasy is shattered, not only for herself, but in front of her prison mate/friend Nicky (Natasha Lyonne).

And the actors who play the correction officers?  Pornstache?  Caputo? Healy and his support group? Each so convincing, scary and compassionate on some level.  Each trying to find a place to belong, even if it's inside a drab prison.

The writing is sharp, clever and witty.  Some lines make you wince and stick with you long after the episode dissolves to orange.  This isn't your mother's prison movie.  It ain't Charlie's Angels going to jail for one episode.  This show is as down and dirty as it can be... with lots of nudity and sex... and in your face reality...  it both repulses and captivates us to keep watching. 

What caused these women to be locked up?  Season 2 gives us snippets of their back stories and what landed them behind bars.  We disover Morello (Yael Stone) isn't engaged to "Christifer"... but that she tormented the poor guy after only one date and got locked up for it. We find out that Vee (Lorraine Touissaint) had one of her own "kids" shot down for double crossing her on drug runs.  We learn that Red (Kate Mulgrew) will do anything to protect her family, inside the prison and out. She can run a kitchen and a greenhouse like no other mother.

There are too many wonderful characters to all mention here. 
Alex Returns
If you haven't watched the show on NetFlix, get busy and start watching.  Season 1 lays the groundwork for a kick-ass Season 2.  NetFlix pulls out all the stops recruiting top acting, writing and directing.  You'll notice a few famous names behind the scenes  (Jodie Foster directs).

Season 3 can't come fast enough for me.  What will happen when Alex (Laura Prepon) returns to prison and is reunited with ex-love Piper?  Will Red learn her lesson from her beat-down and hospital stay? Will Daya have her baby? Will her C.O. boyfriend pay a price for being the baby daddy? What happens now that Caputo is the new assistant warden?

Season 3 will let us know.

Until then, we're all on furlough.  Enjoy your time away from Litchfield.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.  http://www.amazon.com/From-Ground-Up-Janet-Lawler-ebook/dp/B00F3CYSU8   Or visit www.janetjlawler.com






Sunday, May 18, 2014

"YOU WRITIN' FOR ME?"  
By Janet J. Lawler
May 18, 2014
New York City

New screenplay, hot off the hard drive
The TenantMy new screenplay. Urban tale.  Suspense drama. Two male leads.

The idea came to me about a year ago.  I've lived in New York half of my life.  I grew up in The Bronx, until I was 13.  Then we moved up "to the country" which was about two hours north, but it had grass and cows, so it was called the country.  In my late 30s, I returned to live in New York City (to Manhattan and then to Queens) to be closer for work.  My day job is in TV News.  I've lived the apartment life for a long time... and I know about being a tenant and about living with other tenants (good and bad).  Tenants are like roommates -- you're grateful for the good ones and have nightmares about the bad ones.

My screenplay is about a tenant you will not soon forget, nor his circumstances.  It's an urban tale in the flavor of say, A Bronx Tale, with humor (hey, it's New York) and suspense and paranoia ( I just said...it's New York!). 
De Niro and Scorsese
Casting?  Robert De Niro as The Tenant. I wrote it with him in mind.  Robert is from New York City.  My story takes place in Astoria, Queens.  His good friend Martin Scorsese could direct it.  Ya never know, right?  Marty's originally from Queens. Marty and Bobby are due to work together again on a movie.  They haven't collaborated in years. They've made 9 movies together.  Let's make it 10. 

Scorsese can shoot The Tenant at Silver Cups Studios,  right down the block from me in Astoria (we have great Greek food here, not to mention endless bakeries).  My movie (a budget of about $20 million) is ideal. 

I've written three drafts of The Tenant on spec.  I gave it to five trusted readers.  So far the feedback is solid, but I'm not done.  There's more work to come. 
My writing space in NYC
So back to the laptop I go.  Draft four coming up.  Just take it scene by scene, page by page, act by act.  Don't give up the dream.

Bobby and Marty are counting on me.
Until next time.
Janet

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.  http://www.amazon.com/From-Ground-Up-Janet-Lawler-ebook/dp/B00F3CYSU8   Or visit www.janetjlawler.com






Sunday, May 11, 2014

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

It's Mother's Day.  A bittersweet day for me.

I lost my mother fourteen years ago ( a day doesn't go by that I don't think of her).  I wish I could say it gets easier -- time does heal -- but the world is a very different place when you mother has left it. 

My mother taught me about humor and often kept me breathless with laughter.  My Mom was smart, insightful and open-minded.  She was curious about everything.  She loved movies (she gave me that gift), books (she enjoyed reading for hours every day), faith (she showed me how to love, forgive and to be kind to others).  She taught me to pray.  We used to enjoy going to an empty church together and being still.  She taught me to keep my faith and to never lose hope, no matter what.

I miss my mother, Catherine, in my life. She lives on in my heart.  She told me once that because I was born in the month of May that I was God's gift to her for Mother's Day.  I actually received the gift. There is nothing like a mother's unconditional love to lift you up.

I love you, Mom.  

To all the wonderful mothers out there, THANK YOU, for all you give and sacrifice for your children.  They will remember and cherish the memories you create together now.  So take time to make memories.

Until next time,
Janet




Saturday, March 29, 2014


MOVIE THEATERS TO SLASH PRICES TO GET YOU BACK...
by Janet J. Lawler
New York

Did you hear the great news?  Movie theaters want you back.  You're staying home way too much.  Or playing on your tablets.  Put down that phone.  Is that really the problem?

Are we just distracted?  Too hooked into our tablets to go see a movie this weekend?

If the theaters cut the price for one day a week, as they're proposing, will that make me go to the movies more often?

Hmm... probably not.  I'll tell you why.

It's not the price of a good movie that keeps me away -- it's that there are fewer good movies.

I'm a movie junkie.  I fell in love with the movies as a kid.  My mother took me often.  My father took us on summer nights to the Drive In.  Going to the movies was an experience.

I still get excited on Fridays... because that's when all the new movies come into theaters.

But guess what?  I'm not so thrilled these days by new releases.  As a colleague of mine always asks, "Is it WORTH seeing in the theater?  Or should I wait for NetFlix?"  The only movie I told him that was worth going to see last year on the big screen was GRAVITY.  I'm sure there were others worth seeing like ALL IS LOST... CAPTAIN PHILLIPS... THE HUNGER GAME movies, etc.  But now we can see those on our big home entertainment centers.

At my house, we splurged for one of those Smart TVs last year and now we hardly go out to the movies, unless invited to a free "screener".  I work in media, so sometimes that's a perk.  Sign me up!  But I wouldn't have seen half the movies I saw last year if I had to open my wallet.

Hey, Hollywood executives and movie theater owners -- HEAR THIS -- it's not the price of a movie ticket these days that bothers us (although they are high) but its the content.  Why are movies getting longer rather than shorter?  3 hour movies?  Is that necessary?  When half of the movie is repetitive... like THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Also, staying home in my pjs is a lot more appealing than being in a theater with someone texting next to me, or kicking my seat, or munching popcorn in my ear.  I have to say that most New Yorkers are well-behaved movie-goers... you'll get shushed in a NY minute if you're not... but every once in awhile... I get that one person who grates on my nerves. 

I remember seeing a movie with my mother years ago.  The theater was half-empty.  This tall guy sat in front of us... he LEANED WAY back in his seat... his head practically in her lap.  She looked over at me as only my mom could and said, "I could wash his hair." Oh, I loved going to the movies with my mother.  Never a dull moment.

Speaking about movie seats, my friends rave about the "recliner" seats in theaters.  I have to check those out.  Some theaters even let you order an entree and someone brings it to your seat.  Wow.
"Yes, I'll have the Sea Bass, please.  Wine?  Sure, I prefer red.  Australian grape perhaps, a Shiraz.  Thank you."

How about you, fellow Movie Lover?  What will you have?

Does this new movie theater experience beat staying parked at home on your sofa with someone you love (maybe just your dog or cat), snuggled, watching a movie you can't wait to see? There is a new release on Amazon Prime or NetFlix.

Oh yeah.

I love the communal experience of seeing a movie with an audience.  The first movie I saw with a packed audience was JAWS.  It was like taking a ride at a theme park.  The audience kept SCREAMING.  Our hearts thumping along with the theme music.

Or ROCKY when Balboa floored Apollo Creed early in the match.

Or seeing SILENCE OF THE LAMBS on a dreary, rainy matinee day with a bunch of seniors citizens and housewives... we were all TERRIFIED in the dark theater.... JUMPING and shouting for Clarice to "get out of that house!  The girl is down a well in the basement!"

I will NEVER stop going to the movies. Want to charge me $50 dollars someday for a ticket and make me take a small loan for popcorn and a soda combo?  Fine.  I don't need all the gimmicks.  I don't need to lie down and get a mini massage to enjoy the movie...

All I need, Movie Owner, is one thing only.

A good movie.

And then, you'll see me every Friday night.

                                                                          **

Don't forget to Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler recently published her debut novel FROM THE GROUND UP available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  http://www.amazon.com/From-Ground-Up-Janet-Lawler-ebook/dp/B00F3CYSU8   Or visit www.janetjlawler.com