HOW THE FLORIDA FILM INDUSTRY GOT SLIMED: THE RISE AND FALL OF NICKELODEON

It’s no secret that Florida was once rich in television and film production. In fact, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM) and Universal Studios Florida were both built as counterparts to their main locations in southern California. But why did it all but disappear?

In short: government and unions.

When it comes to the rise and fall of the film industry in Florida, we can look at Universal Studios Florida and Nickelodeon Studios as microcosms of the larger intersection of cinema and politics in the Sunshine State…Head over to INFLUENCE magazine to read the full article flapol.com/3UAFIxq

INFLUENCE magazine is part of the Florida Politics family of publications.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

DON’T WORRY DARLING film review

Don’t worry about seeing this. Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling works best when viewed as an exercise in the boundaries of the filmmaking apparatus; unfortunately it shows little concern for the art of plotting, and is overstuffed with metaphors and analogies that ultimately struggle to tell a compelling story. Clearly it’s striving to be a Stepford Wives, but lacks the nuance of what makes the original (and the remake to an extent) excellent films with a degree of horror-adjacency. Don’t Worry Darling is certainly unsettling and delivers an overwhelming sense of dread despite the idyllic atmosphere, but the writing is not up to the degree of excellency as are the visual elements of the film. Wilde certainly has a keen eye for shot composition and knows the capabilities of editing; but for all its trappings, the film will leave audiences wondering what they watched and why should they care.

Don’t Worry Darling is a 2022 American psychological thriller film directed by Olivia Wilde from a screenplay by Katie Silberman, based on a story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Silberman. The film stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, and Chris Pine.

From a design perspective, the film is stunning! I absolutely loved everything about the romanticized 1960s aesthetic from the women’s fashion to the colors to the music, houses, and cars. Unfortunately, the brilliantly crafted set and production design are not enough to makeup for the lethargic pacing and poor plotting. It takes more than an hour before anything of measurable consequence significantly affects the story. Although the pacing quickens in the latter part of the second act and through the third, the showdown is riddled with convenient–nearly deus ex machina, plot devices–and simply unbelievable character actions that aren’t properly setup.

The performative element of the mise-en-scene is demonstrably lackluster as well. While Florence Pugh delivers a solid, believable performance, Harry Styles is acting to the back of the room and Chris Pine is clearly phoning-in his performance. With his background as a music entertainer, perhaps Styles is better suited for the Broadway stage than he is the silver screen. The film contains some interesting montage, but many of the stylistic editing choices do not pay off dramatically and I’m left to interpret them as an exercise in film assembly. But, the scenes right out of Footlight Parade were a nice touch.

Don’t Worry Darling is another example of a film wherein a writer-director may have benefitted from taking their idea and giving it to a different screenwriter in order to develop into a motion picture that not only has an outstanding look, but thoughtful storytelling as well. Wilde certainly has a message that she is communicating to audiences, but it’s more of a message better suited for the era depicted in the film than in the era in which we live. Often times, what audiences desire is a good story with a great outside-action plot. And if a writer and/or director can add depth of theme through subplots and subtext, then that’s how you create something more thoughtful–not making the message the A-story.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

BARBARIAN horror film review

Outstanding! Each and every layer of this masterful horror film is crafted with care and precision. Barbarian strikes an uncanny balance of unsettling terror juxtaposed against clever irony and humor. Writer-director Zach Cregger delivers the best horror film so far this year, and among the strongest in recent years. Not only does the film boast exceptional shot composition, the screenplay is sleek and no scene goes wasted. The fine-tuned plot mapping and story structure provide a solid foundation upon which the thoughtful story is told. I heard some in the audience make statements related to the observation that this film is largely flying under the radar, but I posit that is a good thing. While I had only seen the trailer for this film in passing, I’m glad that I didn’t know more about the premise (aside from the AirBnb setup) because it may have detracted from the visceral experience of a film that has the soul of an arthouse motion picture but the high concept of a more commercial feature. If you see it before your friends, DO NOT spoil any of the twists or turns as this film should be appreciated for the emotional and physiological roller coaster that it is. My advice is go in as blind as possible. Oh, if modern horror films had already promoted you to question ever visiting Detroit, this film will convince you to avoid the motor city.

A young woman (Tess) discovers the rental home she booked is already occupied by a stranger (Keith). Against her better judgment, she decides to spend the night but soon discovers there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.

Simple plot, complex characters. The recipe for a great film! But don’t let the high concept outside-action story lull you into a state of projecting predictability upon the story. Just when you feel that you may have it figured out, Cregger throws you for a loop–a loop that was setup earlier in the film unbeknownst to you. Zach Cregger has demonstrably studied masters of suspense and horror such as Hitchcock, Argento, and Craven because he took the best parts of Psycho, Suspiria, and The Hills Have Eyes to create his original expression of tried and true tentpoles of horror. In an age wherein most features are remakes of previous motion pictures, this film serves as a reminder that there are fresh ideas out there to be expressed on the silver screen. And not just original ideas, but well-written stories with solid plotting that don’t leave you wondering what you just watched. Accessibility should never be thought of as lacking meaningful substance for those that want to read the film more closely.

Whereas I won’t venture too far into the story progression, I do want to comment on the opening scene(s) because it reminded me of Suspiria. What’s funny, is that I was wearing my Suspiria t-shirt last night to the screening. I liken the opening of Barbarian to Suspiria because of the central character driving in the rain to a house whereat there is no room for her accompanied by an ominous score. Even though the score isn’t as iconic as Goblin’s score in the Argento masterpiece, the score was an extension of the increasing tension at the opening of the film. And who should finally answer the door to this rather quaint, Instagram-worthy house in the middle of a neighborhood long-condemned, but a Norman Bates-like character. The opening and entire first act setup everything that is to follow.

Georgina Campbell, who plays our central character of Tess, and Bill Skarsgard, who plays Keith, demonstrate excellent on-screen chemistry. Later on in the film when we meet actor AJ Gilbride, played by Justin Long, he complements the fantastic character dynamics and mix. Speaking of Long, there is a clever nod to Jeepers Creepers that you’ll just have to watch the film to find out. Often times, it’s horror films with small casts and intimate settings that deliver the best thrills. Because a writer can spend time on developing central and supporting characters and making sure that every scene has a beginning, middle, and end, and that every scene sets up the scene to follow. Even in a film with figurative and literal layers to the story, each scene should teach us more about the individual characters and further develop plot beats in a manner that does not make the story more convoluted, but slowly reveal the end, one layer at a time.

While I find this film to be overwhelmingly smartly executed, there are a couple of ideas that I find to be problematic, and furthering stigma and misrepresentation instead of using the opportunity to provide a more constructive depiction or argument. Of the two observations I made, I can really only touch on one of them without getting into character or plot spoilers.

When Tess discovers that there is something seriously wrong in the idyllic suburban cottage, she eventually receives a response by the police, after waiting some time. On one hand, I appreciate the setup to and this scene itself because it shows how dangerous is it for cities to reduce the public safety workforce (call it what you will), but where I find the scene problematic is that both police officers dismiss Tess’ concerns even though she is demonstrably in distress. In an era wherein a large number of media portray law enforcement in an unfair, misrepresentative light, this could have been an opportunity to show that the police could very well have been skeptical, but chose to act upon Tess’ claims. This would’ve made for a more constructive, accurate scene versus what we got. This doesn’t mean the police should have found concrete evidence or were instrumental in saving the day, but it would have helped to combat the dangerous ideology that law enforcement is irresponsible.

Deserving of a rewatch, this film is one you don’t want to miss seeing on the big screen! Not only does this film standout compared to the horror films we’ve had this year, but it is one of the best-written films of the year, period. I hope that Cregger’s next feature is as thoughtfully written and directed as this one.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter. If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING mini review

More like an hour and forty-five minutes of boredom. In a gorgeous-looking film all about the very concept of storytelling, ironically, this film struggles to tell a good story. With so much promise, and a fresh expression of the legendary tales of djinn (genies), this movie should have been able to deliver a fantastical story. Unfortunately, it suffers from poorly organized and structured plotting. A story is there, but there is lacking a map to navigate from beginning to end. Swinton and Elba demonstrate excellent on-screen chemistry; I’d really like to see them star in a future film together. Three Thousand Years of Longing starts with an intriguing first act, but the second and third acts are sloppily executed. The inverse approach to the Tales of Arabian Nights is not enough to generate substantive interest in the fates of the characters. Again, the setup is interesting. Ostensibly, Elba’s djinn takes on the role of Scheherazade, and regales Swinton’s narratology (the study of story) professor of his 3000 years as a djinn, and the trauma therein. There simply isn’t enough character development for the film to serve as a character study nor is there enough plot to serve as a commentary on the mountains and valleys of love. That’s not to say there isn’t any magic in the film; the cinematography, editing, and visual effects are incredibly impressive!

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

BEAST movie review

A roaring good time–the one time you’ll watch it. BEAST is a fantastically fun popcorn movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat, even though it’s moderately predictable. The script is lean and mean, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. At an hour and a half, Beast delivers what it promises: Idris Elba facing off against a man-eating monstrous lion! Where the movie underperforms is in the one-dimensional dialogue, leaving little to no room for subtext. But, the way I see it, we don’t enjoy these glorified B-movies for razor sharp dialogue, but rather for the engaging escapism they provide.

Recently widowed Dr. Nate Daniels and his two teenage daughters travel to a South African game reserve managed by Martin Battles, an old family friend and wildlife biologist. However, what begins as a journey of healing soon turns into a fearsome fight for survival when a lion, a survivor of bloodthirsty poachers, begins stalking them.

Underscoring the main action plot of survival against the t-rex-like lion, is a heartwarming story of the father’s (Elba) redemption with his estranged daughters in the wake of his ex-wife’s death. It’s incredibly refreshing to watch a movie in which the men are not stupid (in fact, no one is stupid in this movie) and the father is responsible and loving. Perhaps Universal should have used this movie as its Father’s Day weekend release instead of Black Phone.

On an almost meta level, this movie shares some elements with Jurassic Park, which is expressed through one of the daughters wearing a Jurassic Park tank-top. Some might find this lazy, but I feel it works well because it does foreshadow the thrilling and terrifying adventure that will soon befall our small central cast. It’s also fun to think of one of the greatest movies of all time in the real world of the movie, which helps to prime the audience that what you’re about to watch could happen in the real world. Yes, the lions are CG; but I gotta say, they looked pretty good. Certainly better than the CG animals in The Lion King. In no small part is the suspension of disbelief possible with the CG in this movie due to the fact that most of the screentime features our human characters. There is an attempt at a conservation message, but it ultimately falls flat; however, there is a theme of supporting and appreciating that which deviates from your plans or passions, and it is tied up nicely with a bow in the end.

The responses of the audience at the screening were mixed. Some thought it was a lot of fun, while others were rooting for the lion. Perhaps my experience is characterized by knowing when a popcorn movie is to simply be appreciated for its ability to keep us entertained for the duration of the picture. Interestingly, the movie Crawl was released in August of 2019, and it was received far more favorably. Which is puzzling, because I would say that both of these movies have a lot in common.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1