Bryn Pryor

Welcome to my blog.

I’m Bryn Pryor, aka porn director Eli Cross

So, continuing (sorta) my return-to-blogging warmup from the other day, I wanna talk about a series most of you have probably never watched: Casual.

I’m a huge fan of Jason Reitman. I would fuck Up in the Air if I could, and I’m in the narrow minority who loved both Young Adult and Men, Women and Children. I respect him to the point that I don’t even care that he hated our script for Diminuendo.

(Full non-disclosure; he is, to date, the only person I’m aware of to have this reaction. In fact, everyone else has been ridiculously positive. Also, no, I won’t tell you what he said or how we got it to him).

I love his fucked up situational awareness and train-wreck characters. So, I thought Casual, being his series, might be worth a look. And it was. Until it wasn’t.

Look, I knew we were in for a show filled with awful people doing awful things they don’t know are awful. I expected that, and wasn’t disappointed for the most part. Until the end of season one. Earlier in the season, Alex, the lead trainwreck, adopts a chocolate lab puppy. In that arc, he wisely realizes he can’t even care for himself, much less a dog, and returns the puppy to the store.

The writers, apparently out of ideas for what else to do to end the season, brought that dog back into the story at the end of the season for no reason except to kill him offscreen. So they can make a joke about it. And it’s really, really not fucking okay. It is literally a pointless, unmotivated moment of ugliness that the character can simply never recover from. In the context of the real world, it doesn’t even make sense. A whole lot of things that would never happen have to happen for this puppy to be dead.

People who know me understand my love for animals. If you’re gonna kill an animal in a story, it needs to be motivated. Important. And I will still never forget. Game of Thrones, for example, will never make me care what happens to Sansa, no matter what abuse she suffers, simply because she was responsible for Lady being killed. To paraphrase Don Corleone, “This, I do not forgive.”

So, yeah, Jason? You can do better. And Casual, as an entity, can blow me. I can only hope that Hulu cancels it after season two since we are apparently the only people watching it anyway.

I’ve spent more words blogging about why I didn’t/haven’t/don’t blog than I have writing blogs. The excuses can all be found in previous blogs, and still work.

However, we’re in the final weeks of prep before we begin shooting Diminuendo, and I’ve been asked by the producers to begin blogging again so there’s something to hang early PR on.

“Diminuendo,” you say. “What’s that?” It’s a feature film I’m directing which I co-wrote with Sarah Goldberger. It’s stars Richard Hatch, Chloe Dykstra, Leah Cairns, James Deen, Gigi Edgley, Dia Frampton and Walter Koenig. It’s a science-fiction romance that starts shooting on August 14 and it’s gonna be awesome.

It’s also the only thing I’ll be able to talk about soon, so I’m going to leave it for another day. It’s the middle of Comic-Con, so let’s talk pop culture. Here’s a very brief update since my last blog…

  • Zero Theorem. Was super-excited for this, but missed it. Still haven’t watched the disc.
  • Men, Women & Children. Fantastic, which bears some relevance later.
  • Gone Girl. Fine. Not Fincher’s best.
  • Whiplash. Script-by-rote with one standout performance.
  • Fury. So very ALMOST a good and interesting film, but… not.
  • Birdman. Fucking AMAZING, and, yes, if you missed it, he’s dead.
  • Nightcrawler. Interesting take on the creep-as-photographer.
  • Horns. Stop. Don’t. You’ll regret it.
  • Interstellar. I really should have done a full review on this guy, but overall, I loved it.
  • Big Hero 6. Some Disney tropes I didn’t care for, but overall, a blast.
  • Theory of Everything. Difficult and wonderful.
  • Rosewater. Meh.
  • The Imitation Game. An even more impressive and heartbreaking Breaking the Code.
  • Exodus. The final plague was this film.
  • Inherent Vice. Wait. Maybe the final plague was THIS film. Ugh.
  • American Sniper. Absented from its various propaganda, this is a mostly entertaining film about a basket case with good aim.
  • Blackhat. I’m one of the ten people who saw it, and I still don’t care.
  • Jupiter Ascending. WTF did I just watch? Is this movie a joke? Makes Fifth Element seems gritty and real.
  • SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water. Don’t ask why, just know that seeing this movie while not on drugs is apparently a mistake.
  • Kingsman. Hated it. Thought the action sequences were over-the-top and silly. Cared about no one.
  • Chappie. Neil Blomkamp is now 1 for 3.
  • Ex Machina. The Unicorn & I seem to be the only people on Earth who thought this film was obvious and dull.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron. Liked it better than the first Avengers, but needed to be half an hour longer.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road. The. Best. Movie. Of. The. Year.
  • Tomorrowland. Not the worst, but close. Damn, Brad Bird, really?
  • Inside Out. Stunning. The first Pixar movie in years that feels like Pixar.
  • The Overnight. This was way better when it was Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.
  • Tangerine. I hate this movie so goddamned much. If I could drag this into an alley and kick it until it died from internal bleeding, I would do it.
  • Ant-Man. Thank Bob not every Marvel movie has to be about saving the world. Friggin’ awesome, and also, Giant Thomas!!!
  • Mr. Holmes. A little too saccharine around the edges, but still a fine performance.
  • The Fantastic Four. Every bit as bad as you heard. Every. Bit.
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl. This movie is fantastic. Tiny and warm-hearted and real.
  • The Man From UNCLE. The Kingsman in the 60s. All style, ZERO substance.
  • A Walk in the Woods. I love this book so much I almost made myself like the film. Almost.
  • Black Mass. Between Johnny Depp’s hairpiece and his teeth, I forgot to watch the movie. Totally underwhelmed.
  • Sicario. Well, it’s gorgeous to look at.
  • The Martian. Loved it. This generation’s Apollo 13. Best Ridley Scott film in decades.
  • Steve Jobs. Seriously, was there a story here and I missed it? I know nothing about Jobs at the end I didn’t know going in. He starts and ends as an aesthetics-obsessed difficult dick. That’s not a movie.
  • Bridge of Spies. Feels like one of Frank Capra’s lesser efforts. This movie needed to be made in the 60s.
  • Rock the Kasbah. God, I wanted to like this… but, alas.
  • Brooklyn. Beatiful, simple, and delicate.
  • Spectre. This movie proves that even people you respect can make a monumental, expensive turd when they just don’t care.
  • The Big Short. Good overall, but feels a bit gimmicky.
  • Where to Invade Next. It’s a shame this got such lousy distribution because I think a lot of the Michael Moore-averse would have liked it. Really more about solutions to problems than pointing out the massive bullshit we put up with in this country.
  • The Revenant. Fucking gorgeous, but utterly without story. Two-plus hours of lovingly-photographed torture porn and a stunning achievement, but not a movie.
  • The Hateful Eight. Saw the roadshow engagement and loved it. Classic Tarantino. Not sure what the hate was about.
  • Hail, Caesar! The Coens doing golden age Hollywood and it was magical.
  • Deadpool. Dumb as a box of rocks, but what a blast. Should put the nail in the coffin of all other superhero movies at Fox, since they seem clueless.
  • Batman v Superman. Calling this giant disaster out as the pile of shit it is kind of feels like gut-punching a toddler with progeria at this point, but holy fuck is this a bad film.
  • Captain America: Civil War. Epic. Amazing. The best superhero film ever made. More than a great Marvel universe installment, this is just a great film.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse. Mentioning this because normally I would have been there opening night. Instead, I just couldn’t muster the interest to go. Still haven’t seen it, and have heard nothing compelling to make me want to fix that.
  • Finding Dory. Yeah, it’s pretty goddamned great.

There. We’re all caught up. Let me wrap up by listing the big summer blockbusters I have skipped or plan to skip. Once upon a time, I would have been at every one of these. Now…? Movies have become such a shitshow I just don’t have the patience. Not seeing: The Nice Guys, WarCraft, Independence Day Resurgence, Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters or Star Trek Beyond.

Must be getting old.

I’m going to try to blog four times a week, even if it’s a short blast. For next time, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Jason Reitman. I love his films, and think he’s a gifted director, so I want to talk about his Hulu series Casual, and how it made me want to put my fist through the screen.

In a bad way.

There’s been a lot of criticism of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, and deservedly so. To my eye, this is Nolan’s most deeply flawed film since his unfortunate remake of the brilliant Swedish film, Insomnia.

I’ll admit that I was more stung by my own disappointment, than I was by any actual problems with the film. My expectations for Nolan are always unrealistically high. The problem is, often he meets, or even exceeds them.  So even though it was utterly unfair of me to go in expecting the mind-altering originality of Inception, I did… and the experience was hollow.

That being said, I actually don’t think it’s possible to create something truly original anymore. Maybe I’ve become a post-modernist, but I usually see a film through the prism of all the other films it’s owes its pedigree too. Usually, I don’t much hold it against them; there are only so many plot structures available to writers (between 7 and 36, depending on how detailed you want to get), so duplication is inevitable.

But Interstellar has its roots sunk so deep in the soil of so many other movies, it’s really tough to ignore. Yes, there are the obvious comparisons to 2001, and I feel like the filmmakers acknowledge this by keying off each act with the chord from Also Sprach Zarathustra. But let’s also acknowledge the debts owed to 2010, ContactSolarisSunshineAI, and even Idiocracy.

You read that right. Think about the world Cooper’s rock-stupid farmer son grew up to be Casey Affleck in; a world with very few people of education beyond crop rotation and pulling corn out of the ground, and then imagine a non-comedy version of Mike Judge’s terrifyingly-apt future vision. Then again, given the recent mid-term elections, how could anyone not assume the morons were running America?

A lot of criticism has been leveled at the plot, which I actually didn’t have a problem with. The science is speculative, and stretches what we know (or think we know) about relativity, quantum physics, and string theory, but it actually makes perfect sense within its own framework. That’s not saying it isn’t clunky and ham-fisted; it is. But it does  follow its own logic. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Matthew McConaughey did.

I suppose I can forgive a Brit for thinking every American pilot is a good-old-boy like Sam Shepard in The Right Stuff, but I think someone might have told Nolan it was a bad idea to cast a guy far more suited to farming than spaceflight as a would-be space jockey who hated farming. Once MM got off-world, he became the least-believable special effect in the film.

Lastly, I want to take a few lashes at something everyone else has praised, which is that the film is “gorgeous” and “technically brilliant.” Yes, the FX are absolutely flawless, but regarding the photography, I have to say I miss Wally Pfister. Hoyte Van Hoytema has shot some great-looking films, including Let the Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but replacing the inimitable Wally Pfister as Nolan’s DP, one can’t help but think he was too busy audition for his next job, shooting Bond 24, because Interstellar looks like the work of someone who’s trying too hard.

I became aware of the photography, the chosen “look” for each segment of the film, too many times. Photography, like editing, should be seamless. It should enhance, without being self-aware. Pfister’s work is unambiguous, and yet subtle. Van Hoytema is anything but, and Interstellar needed all the subtlety it could get.

 

More than a few people have pointed out that a status report is long overdue, so I’m posting this EVERYWHERE. The status of Cowboys & Engines is it’s freakin’ AWESOME! I know it isn’t fair to gloat when I’ve seen the film and you haven’t, but I’m excited!

Before a film goes off for its final sound design, scoring and audio mix, it’s necessary to “Lock the picture.” As a director, this means stepping back and committing to no more tweaking of the cut, no more editorial changes. From the standpoint of flow and shot-by-shot juxtaposition, the movie is done.

I spent the last few days making little tucks and adjustments, and putting in temporary versions of some of our big establishing shots for timing purposes. So, even though I’ve seen the film (500 times? More?), I got to spend a lot of time seeing it as a whole, rather than focusing on its individual parts. And I’m so incredibly proud of what we accomplished, I want to shout. The impulse to share C&E, even though it isn’t done, is SO STRONG, that I feel more certain than ever that we have a winner.

You have to recognize that every director has largely gone cold on a film by the time you see it. It’s new for you, but for the creator, you’re sick to the teeth of it by the time you release it into the wild. You know every crease, line, wrinkle & wart on the old girl. The most you can reasonably hope for is comfortable affection.

But… once in a great while, you get a film so special that you rediscover it again on the other side. The blemishes fade, and what’s left is a magical piece of art that gives you chills and you think, “I helped create this.” This weekend, I learned that Cowboys & Engines is one of those projects.

So, there will be no apologies that we’re so late in delivering, or that we’ve taken so long to finish. The decision not to rush was the right one. What we’ve made has simply taken time. Because it’s special.

Enough ephemera. I know you’re hoping for some nuts and bolts information. On our current schedule, the film should be completed around the first week in October. Once it’s completely done, we’ll release a new trailer online, and schedule the premiere screening (which some of you may well be attending).

Post-premiere, password-protected download links will be emailed out to everyone. That will, hopefully, keep ya’all sated while we prep the physical packages. Discs have to be authored, artwork printed, t-shirts made, there’s the matter of a small book I have to write… etc.

Realistically, expect all the physical goodies to go out very early in the new year. I’d promise sooner, but, y’know, I’d be lying.

Yeah, this has all taken a lot longer than any of us imagined. And you know, I’m so very glad that it has.

I swear to Bob, the powers that be at Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment will just never fucking get it. After years of utterly clueless adaptations (the Fantastic Four films, DaredevilGhost Rider, et. al.,) it seemed as if we were finally seeing the beginnings of an era when the big studios would do comic book properties that appealed to the core audience as well as the “flyover states.”

With its slate of films, Marvel has done something that was previously seen only with Star Trek: create one huge, planned, inter-connected universe for all its characters to play in. From Iron Man to Agents of SHIELD to the four upcoming Netflix series that will culminate in a Defenders line-up, everything Marvel has done since they had the power to do it is all the same mythology. There are even rumblings of letting Pixar do an animated Marvel film that would be canon… Hell, even the miserable Incredible Hulk, the first film to be a part of this universe, gets a, Easter egg in Ant Man to remind us that, “yes, it’s a terrible film, but it’s still ours, and we love it anyway.”

And it’s working. It’s working really, really well.

Naturally, the studios that (sadly, oh so sadly) own several of Marvel’s tentpole properties are trying to build their own interconnected worlds; Sony is giving Venom his own films to lead into Sinister Six. Shame it’s all based on those shitty Marc Webb movies.

Fox, capable of turning any windfall into an embarrassment, is blowing the X-Men universe completely out of proportion, and possibly adding Josh Trank’s DOOMED Fantastic Four reboot into the same continuity.

And then there’s Warner Bros., owners of DC Entertainment. Holy fuck, do these people NOT know what to do with comic book properties. They say those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, so let’s take a quick jaunt down memory lane…

  • Superman: The Movie thru Superman IV
    • One great movie, a mediocre sequel (made watchable in the Director’s Cut), an embarrassment and one of the worst films ever made.
  • Supergirl
    • Nominally, part of the same universe, though it isn’t sure itself. Hey! That’s five movies in the same mythology!
  • Wonder Woman
    • First, two TV movies with Cathy Lee Crosby… then, a TV series with Lynda Carter that has NOTHING to do with either them or the DC universe in general.
  • Batman thru Batman and Robin
    • Again, a solid first entry (though I’m not a fan at all), a silly, camp sequel (more suited to the Batman ’66 series than the big screen), and two execrable follow-ups. A new world for Bruce Wayne, devoid of any other super-heroes to play with.
  • Swamp Thing
    • Let’s make a crappy movie! And a crappy sequel! Then, let’s follow them with a crappy TV series! Let’s set them each in their own unique worlds!
  • Superboy
    • It’s Superman as teen, because teenaged girls love teenage Superman! But not when he’s part of a bigger universe, apparently.
  • The Flash
    • It’s cheese! And even though it’s on at the same time as Superboy, let’s keep them separated, for their own good.
  • Lois & Clark
    • Superman reimagined as a shitty, half-assed, badly acted romance! Yes! And another Superman universe! Score!
  • Steel
    • Shaq, as a character from Superman, only… without… Superman…
  • Smallville
    • It’s Dawson’s Creek, but with super-heroes! No! It’s Superman without Superman! And badly written and acted! And… not… connected to …anything…
  • Birds of Prey
    • It’s a bunch of Batman characters we’ve really never seen before, but in New Gotham, and, uh… Batman has retired…
  • Catwoman
    • Well, we’ve learned our lesson! If we’re going to make a terrible spin-off with a different actress, let’s set it in a different universe with no Batman at all!
  • Superman Returns
    • It’s a reboot! It’s a sequel! It’s… a mess, really. It references the Donner films, but is set in modern day, and everyone is suddenly twelve years old… who knows what universe this is part of?

Which more or less brings us to the modern era. That was just the way studios treated comic book properties then, so where do we stand now?

Well, let’s begin with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, which stands alone as it’s own work. We have Green Lantern, which lives in its own retarded bubble. We have Man of Steel, which isn’t part of Nolan’s world, (despite being produced by him) because his was “too real, and too dark.” I guess a patricidal, sociopathic, mass-murdeing Superman just isn’t dark enough for The Dark Knight, so… another new continuity.

Of course, the courtroom drama sequel, Batman v. Superman takes place in the same universe, with a different Batman, and if they ever get that far, the Justice League film will be part of this continuity after a Green Lantern  reboot, and a few other solo films. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it.

On TV, you’ve got Arrow and The Flash, both connected. However, they won’t be part of the Justice League film continuity because, well, frankly, neither of those bozos can carry a lead on the big screen, especially child-bride, West Hollywood heartthrob Grant Gustin (seriously, is Barry Allen in fucking high school?) Also on the small screen, you’ve goth Gotham, the Batman version of Smallville, i.e., Batman with no Batman! So, er, just a crime drama, I guess? Stupid, AND NOT CONNECTED TO ANYTHING ELSE!

Let’s not forget the Constantine  film, and the new Constantine series, which are related neither to each other, nor the rest of any ongoing DC continuity.

Coming up, we’ll be getting Guillermo del Toro’s Justice League Dark, which features a team of DC’s magic heroes, (including another John Constantine with no ties to either existing one), and which will also NOT be set in the Justice League universe. I mean, WTF?!? Why are they even called the Justice League then?!?

A few days ago, DC Entertainment announced that Shazam (you guessed it), will not be connected to any of the other DC films. Even though they had just figured out how to make him fit into the comics (Shazam, for those in the know, is really the only guy who can routinely kick the crap out of Superman, so he’s a little bit of a problem.)

Lastly, and this was really the cherry on the sundae, a new Supergirl series was just announced, and odds are really high that, since it isn’t on the CW, and since there’s no Superman (that we know of) in the world of Arrow and The Flash, that it, too, will exist in it’s own little bubble. It’s fucking maddening.

Someone needs to stage an intervention. This is just absurd. I’ve never been a huge DC fan; I’m a Marvel guy to the core. But, seriously, don’t Batman, Superman and the rest deserve better treatment than this?

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