Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Genre: Sci-fi
Synopsis: A man finds a way into the inner-workings of the universe using his mind.
About: This is the hottest, most top-secret, most desired script in town. Christopher Nolan's next film.
Writer: Christopher Nolan

You know when you go fishing and you're hoping to catch something, anything, so that you don't go home empty-handed? You start off looking for bass, without getting so much as a nibble. Then it gets a little later in the day and you downgrade to salmon. Then, as you see the sun setting on the horizon, you're just hoping for something with gills on it. And just as you're packing up and cursing the world, you feel a tug, and then another tug, and then you realize this is not just any fish. You just caught a goddamn whale. That's how I feel today.

One of the great things about this website is meeting more and more people who are higher and higher up on the Hollywood food chain. The things I've been sent - some only hours after they hit the street - I've been astounded by. And I want you to know that I don't take any of it for granted. I thank you guys every day! But I was not prepared for the call I received and for the script that I was sent at exactly 2:39pm on Tuesday afternoon. The most top-secret heavily guarded script in town. Christopher Nolan's "Inception". I know you guys are dying to get to it, so let's not waste any more time.

When I first heard that Inception was a "sci-fi actioneer set within the confines of the mind" I got real nervous. There are many directions this idea can go and most of them suck. "The Cell" was the last movie to tackle this subject, and while it had some of the coolest looking set designs and costumes I've ever seen, it was a really stupid film. Inception, thankfully, is not The Cell. Despite its incredibly ambitious nature, it succeeds on nearly every level.

The movie revolves around a man named JACOB HASTLEY, 34, a scientist and recent paraplegic who's considering suicide. But when he makes an unexpected breakthrough in his life's work, he finds a potential connection between the mind and the universe that could change everything we know about ourselves. Upwards of five pages are dedicated to explaining Hastley's work, but I'll summarize it as best I can: Since the universe is infinite and the mind's capacity to think is infinite, there must be a way to move between one and the other.

He continues this research and eventually finds a doorway between them. This doorway allows him to travel anywhere in the universe through a specifically designed thought algorithm. In essence, it's a way to travel anywhere without actually traveling. These first traveling scenes to other solar systems and galaxies are some of the highlights of the script. Nolan takes us to worlds that defy everything we know about physics, matter, space and time. It's hard to describe but he writes it as if we are inside of his mind, thinking it, just like he is. It's a risky choice as a writer and like nothing I've ever seen on the page but it totally pays off.

Unfortunately it isn't all cake and ice cream. Jacob learns quickly that he's not the first one to have found this doorway, and that other "travelers" have been alerted to his entrance. This sounds a little bit like that awful movie "Jumper", but these people aren't Samuel Jackson in a silver wig. They're people with an intellectual capacity "150 times larger than the average human". Which is one of the cool things Nolan plays with. You know that old saying that we only use 5% of our brains, or whatever it is? The "inception" teaches us how to use the rest.

What I like about Inception is that there's no bullshit copout Kubrick nonsense here. This isn't 2001 where even though the movie makes no fucking sense everybody wants to say that they understand it. Inception has a purpose. Jacob must find the truth behind the origin of the universe (its "inception") before the other travelers catch up to him.

The real power in Inception lies inside its mysterious and complicated cast of characters though. LISA, a certified genius, is Jacob's estranged wife who left him after he was paralyzed. She coincidentally shows up the day after his first journey. KANSAS is a dog-whisperer who seems to have an otherworldly connection with the animals she teaches. TARK is only 37 years old yet wiser than any man you've ever met. How does he know so much? And then there's ISABELL, a blind woman who will stop at nothing to see again.

I rarely find anything that lives up to the hype. Michael Jordan and maybe freshman year of college were it for me. But Inception defies everything I ever thought I knew about movies. It is a riveting journey both emotionally and viscerally. It is truly astonishing. I pray Nolan doesn't deviate one iota from the script. I can't wait.

script link: Inception (get it while you can cause it probably won't last)
Edit: Sorry! Forced to take it down.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[x] genius

What I learned from Inception: How that in order to come up with true genius, you must sometimes ignore every single rule you know about screenwriting and just go with your heart. At its core, screenwriting is still an art. It is still the sum of your experiences expressed through your interpretation of the world. No equation or rule should impede upon that.

EDIT: Because the comments section was being inundated with requests for the script, I had to turn them off. People, I CANNOT give this script away! I'm sorry!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Details

Genre: Drama
Synopsis: A suburban husband finds his life spiraling out of control due to extramarital temptation, a crazy cat lady, a wannabe mobster, a potential life-changing surgery, and a band of raccoons hellbent on destroying the only thing that matters in his life: the perfect backyard lawn.
About: This one has been making its way around town and wowing just about everyone who reads it. Some are even calling it the next American Beauty.
Writer: Jacob Aaron Estes

The Details is such a fascinating script because it has moments of such inspired genius, you're kinda baffled to see it occasionally stumble. I was listening recently to an interview Sarah Polley gave about her Alzheimer's-themed film, "Away From Her". She said, in interviewing a lot of older couples and asking them how they stayed together for so long, the general response was that relationships are perfect at the beginning, perfect at the end, and everything in between was hell. Besides drawing a chuckle, I realized that, except for a few rare super-couples I've met, this statement is generally true.

JEFF and NEALY happen to be smack dab in that middle phase. He's in love with his wife, but at the same time he's unable to love her. This distance has weaved its way into every facet of their marriage, in particular Jeff's new obsession: the perfect goddamn backyard lawn. That's the *only* thing he wants. But the new sod won't root because the local raccoon community keeps tearing it up. Not only does this lawn stand as a metaphor for his life, but it's also proving to be the breaking point for his marriage. As Nealy watches Jeff descend into his obsession, it becomes more and more clear that he has no time for her.

Although The Details takes its suburban cues from American Beauty (considered by many to be the greatest screenplay of the last 20 years), it's definitely its own film. Next door lives LILA, 40s, a nosy cat lady with nothing to do except observe and passive-aggressively annoy the hell out of the neighborhood, in particular Jeff. There's LINCOLN, an ex-college basketball player with a past shrouded in mystery. There's REBECCA, an old flame of Jeff's who's now an unhappily married psychiatrist. And her husband, PETE, a Sopranos-obsessed wannabe gangster.

What The Details does right is it builds. It's about building character, building conflict, building tension, building a story. Every 10 pages our main character is worse off than he was the previous 10. Besides the raccoons, Jeff also wants to build an addition to his house. It's unlikely the housing committee will approve it so of course Jeff decides to do it on the sly. The dust from the construction then ends up in Lila's air vents, blanketing her house with dust, and if Jeff wants to keep the construction on the down low, he will now have to please Lila in every way she wants to be pleased. And Lila wants to be pleased in many ways. Much of them, "down low". Jeff also finds himself lusting after ex-flame Psychiatrist Rebecca, and the two end up consummating the relationship. The only problem is her husband finds out, and the next thing Jeff knows, he's being extorted for 200 grand. 200 grand that he doesn't have.

What I liked about The Details is that it puts its main character into situations where there's no clearly defined "correct" way out. And it's seeing what the character chooses to do in these situations that really elevates The Details above the rest of the pack. For instance, Jeff tries to kill the raccoons by lacing his lawn with poison. The raccoons evade the trap, but Lila's cat doesn't. When Lila informs Jeff that she knows he's the killer, and hints that something like that could land him in jail, Jeff is forced to either do what Lila says (and cheat on his wife) or face the consequences. I love when scripts force their characters to make interesting choices. And The Details thrives in that department.

The problems of the script pop up not unlike the very raccoons Jeff is trying to kill. Estes tends to dwell on things for too long at times. Lila's actions are not always believable. But the biggest problem is the character of Lincoln. I'm not sure what it is, but it feels like he's part of another story. It wins awards for being original, but originality only works if it fits within the universe you've created. And Lincoln seemed, most of the time, like an alien from another film. His character is dying of kidney disease and Jeff happens to be the perfect donor. So Jeff ends up donating his kidney to save Lincoln's life. All of this is treated with a melodramatic touch that rivals your favorite soap. And even though I understand why Estes was doing it - to set up a key moment later in the film - it simply never felt organic to the story.

But like I said, the writing is so masterful at times, it doesn't matter. The Details was a joy to read. It'll be fun to follow this into casting, production, theaters, and finally, maybe, award season. I think with a quick rewrite, it could easily get there. I liked this one a lot. And am placing it at number 24 on my list.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What i learned from The Details: The Details is a good reminder about writing characters that actors would want to play. In Lila, the lonely overmedicated strange cat lady, you have a weird and morally twisted character that any actress would jump on. Once you get a respected actress in that roll, it gives your entire film a label of respectability, and draws interest from other big time acotrs and directors. It basically puts you on the map.

The Cheese Stands Alone

Genre: Sorta Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: A loveless man who believes he's dying meets a woman that turns his life upside-down.
About: Huge spec sale back in the early 90s. 1 million dollars. Yet the movie still hasn't been made.
Writer: Kathy McWorter

Some people would tell you that the day The Cheese Stands Alone sold is the day the spec sale died. Why would anyone pay a million dollars, the rationale went, for a script with the word "cheese" in it? I can buy cheese at the store for $2.79. It was the height of the spec sale boom, and the suits were like, we're now shelling out a million bucks for regular old movies with people talking? There's no real hook in The Cheese Stands Alone. And in a heartbeat, the rats in Hollywood were second-guessing themselves. Get it? Rat? Cheese?

Do you blame The Cheese Stands Alone? Or was this actually a solid script that deserved the attention it received? If so, why has it never been made into a movie? Or an even better question: Why did that dreadful Jeff Garlin movie "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With", which was worth about $19.99, get made before this million dollar beheamoth? The answers are in the review...

I felt it was appropriate to put myself in the right state-of-mind, so I went out and bought several types of cheese. American Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Velvetta cheese. I wanted to become one with the cheese. In all honesty, I was preparing myself for a complete disaster. I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea that a script with the word "cheese" in the title was any good. Brie cheese.

Never-been-in-love Vinnie (think a young mopey John Travolta) thinks he's going to die because an x-ray taken on a routine doctor's visit shows a large black splotch where his heart is supposed to be. He's convinced it's "a saw" and that he has weeks to live. The doctors try to convince him it's a smudge, but he retorts with, "Doctors are paid to make you think everything's fine." So now Vinnie thinks he's dying. He heads home where his rather eccentric New York family, mom, grandma, grandma's boyfriend, and a 15 year old kid who's had sex with every woman in New York, become convinced that Vinnie's old fiance, Delia, has put a death curse on him for breaking off their engagement 3 years ago. Munster Cheese.

But their ruminations are quickly interrupted by his grandma's surprise blind date she's set him up with. The buxom, gorgeous, mysterious Naomi enters, and quickly grabs Vinnie for a night out. Vinnie, thinking he's dying, spends every second of the date whining about his imminent death. Noami seems to be the complete opposite, throwing caution to the wind and living every second to its fullest. It makes for an awkward yet hilarious night out. Cheese whiz.

In the meantime, the mother storms over to the local grocery store, where Delia (the ex-fiance) works. Delia is even hotter than Naomi, and she knows it. She's still bitter about 3 years ago so when Vinnie's mom comes in demanding she release the curse on her son, Delia gives her a mouthful. Now even though Delia hates Vinnie's guts, she also can't stand the thought that he doesn't like her. Which means she'd do anything to have him back. So she goes along with the "curse" accusation, and claims that she will not release it unless Vinnie marries her. Cheddar cheese.

That's the basic set-up for the film. And you know what? It's fucking hilarious. This is the perfect example of a script I was supposed to hate but couldn't. A perfect example that if you craft a good story, it doesn't matter what genre it's in, it's going to entertain. The Cheese Stands Alone stands alone because it's about the characters. And McWorter is so good at creating intriguing memorable characters with wonderful dialogue, that it's one of those rare occasions where you never have to go back and double-check who someone is. As soon as they speak you immediately know them.

If there's one movie I couldn't stand, it was My Big Fat Greek Wedding - for numerous reasons that I don't feel like getting into. But if you were going to compare "Cheese" to any film, that would probably be the one. Yet this movie succeeds in every area that that movie failed. Every page is bursting with charm. It's got more heart than all the films of 2008 put together. It's completely authentic. Which leaves me scratching my head as to why it hasn't been made. You could make this thing for 30 million bucks and it would gross 100 mil without breaking a sweat. If I became a studio head tomorrow, this is the first movie I'd add to my slate. I'm not kidding!

sorta related article of the day: The Golden Years.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: A good mystery can take a very simple story and completely transfix the audience. In the story, after Vinnie leaves with Naomi (the girl Vinnie's grandma set him up with through a friend of a friend of a friend), the grandma makes a call only to find out that the real date was sick and couldn't make it. Which begs the question: Who the hell is Naomi? This is a choice the writer makes. She didn't have to do this. The movie still would've been interesting if Naomi *had* been the girl the grandma set him up with. But since she isn't, in addition to wondering how the date will go, we are now ravenously wondering who the hell Naomi is. And how the hell did she know to show up in place of this other girl? Sure, this isn't a thriller. It isn't a conspiracy film. It's a film about a man who hasn't found love. Yet adding this distinct and interesting mystery adds a whole new layer. Simple but extremely effective.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

This Week!

This week expect a spec sale classic to make its way onto Scriptshadow. Also, another script creeps into my top 25. This one has been blowing people away around town in addition to being compared to a certain Oscar Winner (which will remain nameless). It's tightly guarded enough that I may not even be able to a post a script link. :( Then we have a mega-budgeted science-fiction flick that's one of the worst action scripts I've ever read. No surprise then that it's being made into a film. Also, since it's the end of March, I'll be posting my "Script of The Month". If you've been following along, you probably already know what it is. Other than that, we'll see what pops up. Once again, if you have any requests, leave them in the comments section or e-mail me. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gideon's Law

Genre: Police Drama/Thriller
Synopsis: (from the trades) When a disgraced young cop is assigned a routine civilian ride along, he quickly learns that his passenger is not what he seems and that he has just entered into a brutal battle with a killer who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
About: This script is developing a lot of heat and is out to buyers. David Greathouse Productions (David Greathouse & Geoff Alexander) attached to produce.
Writer: Chris Billet

Training Day was one of those movies that just came out of nowhere and knocked you in the face. Right from the get-go it established a tone and an atmosphere that was unlike any cop movie I had ever seen. I think what resonated with me the most was Denzel's character. He reminded me of one of those guys we all cross paths with at some point in our lives. The ones that'll smile at you one second and punch you in the face the next. That's what makes the character so terrifying. Is you don't know when they're going to stop laughing and start punching.

So Gideon's Law had a tall order. Cause any time you base your movie around two people in a cop car, I'm going to compare you to Training Day. That said, Gideon's Law is structurally quite different from that film. Where as that movie didn't reveal its cards until late in the second act, Gideon lets you know 30 minutes in who your bad guy is.

The script is about a young cop named Shane Gideon who's forced to do a "ride-along" with a local author, RICHARD, who's doing research for his next book. But when Richard deftly saves Gideon's life, we begin to suspect there's something more going on with him. As it turns out, there is. Richard is actually holding Gideon's girlfriend hostage at another location. He doesn't get her back until he's helped him retrieve a piece of evidence that could possibly incriminate him. What follows for the next 90 minutes is the ride-along from hell.

The script is frantic and a bit out of control at times, but fun. Unfortunately it violates a key Scriptshadow Law that I've pointed out before. If the point of your movie is to have your main character try and rescue someone, make sure we the audience know and love the person they're trying to rescue. Cause if we don't know or care about that person, then we have no interest in the outcome of the story. But Gideon's Law is no Rockaway. Billet is a good writer and at least makes the choice for a reason. Instead of introducing us to Gideon's wife in the beginning, he uses her identity as a twist later on when we realize that a random female character who was kidnapped was actually Gideon's wife. I understand that choice but would have rather known her better.

My other problem with the script is that it needed more twists in Richard's storyline. This script was prime real estate for twist fever yet Richard's whole story and motivation were pretty straight forward. In future drafts, I would like to see that change.

I think Gideon's Law is a concept with a lot of potential and if it addresses these issues it could be great. It's not quite ready for primetime though. But you know who is ready for primetime? Our first ever Guest mini-reviewer! Biohazard's taken a bite out of Gideon and he's here to spit it out...

I enjoyed it. It's not a perfect script by any means, but it's quick, reads well, and most importantly, has a pretty good hook. It's Collateral, but with a police ride-along instead of a taxi. Yeah, it has its faults. Some minor (I wanted to get to know the girl a bit so I'd have a reason to fear for her safety), others major (the third act is a mess). The important thing to realize is that all these problems can be fixed since there is a good concept at it's core that bears the possibility of a strong, cinematic story. It'll take some rewriting, but I can see this flawed script becoming a good film.

So Bio and I agree I think. With a little more creativity behind Richard's storyline, the messy third act can be solved. I wish these guys the best. They have a great concept here.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Really simple. Don't forget to add enough twists to your story. But not only that. Make sure they're original. If they feel like something you've seen in other movies before, think deeper.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quick Update

Hey guys, since yesterday's news, a bunch of you e-mailed me with a ton of scripts which means I'm basically in love with all of you. Obviously, because I can only review a script a day, I want you to know that just because I don't review your script right away doesn't mean I'm not grateful. One of the great things about this blog is that the more successful it gets, the more people there are who want to help. If you really really want a review of something, leave your request in the comments section. Or e-mail me. I'll try to get it up as soon as possible.

Salt ("Edwin A. Salt")

Genre: Spy Thriller
Synopsis: A CIA agent discovers there's a Russian spy deep inside the organization.
About: This is that infamous project that Tom Cruise was attached to but then got booted off of. Since it's disaster central for any profile-dropping A-Lister to get booted off a project, Tom's robots did spin control and all of a sudden Tom hadn't been let go from the project, he had dropped out of the project. To make matters even more bizarre, he was replaced by Angelina Jolie. Yes, cause that makes sense. There's an old screenplay adage that goes: If you're all out of ideas, change the gender of your protagonist. A new world of possibilities will open up. Let's see what opens up when Angelina Jolie becomes Edwin A Salt.
Writer: Kurt Wimmer

I'm going to tell you to do something I've never told you to do before on Scriptshadow. Don't read this review. Instead, scroll to the bottom, download the script, read it, then come back. Because as Randy Jackson would say, this script was off the hook. I don't want the review to spoil anything for you. So go read it, come back, and we'll talk.



Did you read it?

Okay good. We're ready to have a discussion.

Wasn't that awesome??? I love Salt. Before? I was just a bland tasteless meal. Then Salt came along and gave me flavor. Even though I'm not normally into spies and double crossing and undercover agents, I couldn't help but get wrapped up in this badass thriller. I'm an 80s child so the second you start saying things like Cold War and Soviet Union, I'm so right there. Cause I lived it man. I LIVED IT. You think it was easy waking up every day knowing you could get bombed at any second by the Ruskies? Yeah well that was my life.

Salt starts out introducing us to CIA officer Edwin A. Salt and his CIA best friend, Winter. Salt is planning a birthday party for his daughter and he wants it to be the best birthday party ever. Unfortunately, the two have to make a quick detour over to headquarters, and that's when shit starts going bad. Salt's CIA position isn't exactly the top of the food chain. He's been assigned to Russia, and these days the only Cold War going on is in Putin's pants if you know what I'm talking about (no, I don't know either). So normally Salt wouldn't have much to do. However, a strange Russian man approaches the building and insists Salt hear his story. Salt's pissed because he has his daughter's birthday party but work is work and he brings the man in.

The Russian tells him of a secret Russian weapon created back during the Cold War. This weapon was a man - the creme de la creme of soviet espionage. Did you ever see Conan The Barbarian? When Conan has to turn that wheel for like 20 years of his life? Well this guy would've walked right over him and gone for another 20. They made this man the smartest, toughest, deadliest, coolest, most perfect spy in the world. His name was "Chekov", and at age 17, they sent him to the United States to infiltrate the U.S. Government. After 20 years, he has embedded himself so deep inside the CIA, that he has access to every single document in the building. But he's only looking for one. A document called KA-88. KA-88 is a trigger scenario the U.S. developed in anticipation of its enemies that shows the one weakness in our government/economy that would cause our country to crumble within weeks. Doomsday for America. Chekov has finally gotten clearence to obtain that document. Oh, and one more thing, the Russian says. "You are Chekov."

Holy shit! DO I HAVE YOUR FUCKING ATTENTION?? I sure have my own. Winter is shocked. His best friend is now his worst enemy. Or is he? Salt swears he knows nothing about this. Yet Salt is in the CIA - he's one of the best trained liars in the world. So is he lying to cover his lies? Or is he telling the truth? Salt realizes that this case isn't going to trial. It's likely going to be decided right here and now. And in the best case scenario, he's going to be dead. So he flees the building. That, of course, is where the brilliance of the script lies. As Salt goes on the run, we not only don't know if Salt's lying to Winter. We don't know if he's lying to us. Who is Edwin A. Salt?

Every once in awhile a script comes along that reminds you that what you thought was good writing, was actually only mildly acceptable writing. You are immersed in this world from the get-go. You visualize the movie on each page. The only criticisms I have are that they forgo a lot of the mystery in the last 40 pages and go a little heavy on the action. Still, the ending highway plane take-off scene is going to be IN-SAYNE. This script is a badass recipient of Wimmer's awesomeness. Loved it.

I don't know what's happening lately. All these scripts are making my Top 25. Salt slides into lucky number 21!

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Salt: The last two scripts, which both made it into my Top 25, had very similar structures. Both had one scene where you met the characters, then the very next scene the movie goes on a torrid pace and never lets up. There's something to be said for scripts that start up fast and keep you on a quick pace the whole way through. Of course they have to be done well to work, but as a spec, I think they have a better chance of capturing someone's interest than a script that takes its time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Hello everyone. I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone for visiting the site. We're growing bigger and bigger every day (why am I saying "we"? I'm the only one here). Today we/I had a bit of a setback though. A private community of script traders gave me the heave-ho amongst fears that my reviews were drawing attention to them. Although I am upset, there are no hard feelings. I understand they were just covering their asses. This does not change much. I still have sources where I can get new material. But I may need a few people to step up to the plate and help out. I'd like to review at least 2 hot specs a week. So if you're plugged in and have access to these scripts, send them my way. Your identity will remain anonymous. You have my word! Thanks everyone.


Genre: Violent Drama
Synopsis: Two men relentlessly terrorize a group of partiers.
About: Honestly, I was tired of reading recommended scripts so I opened this one up on a whim. Knew nothing about it. Found out later it was on the 2006 Black List and is being made into a movie that's coming out this year (edit: The movie was on the Blacklist but not on any production slate)
Writer: Scott Milam

Chalk another one up to the dreadful title but awesome script collection. Wow, I don't even know where to start with this script. I have never read anything as relentless and crazy and sadistic and exploitative as this screenplay. It's like Helter Skelter mixed with Funny Games mixed with.......someone who really needs to be placed in a mental institution! Wichita falls somewhere between real life and total absurdity. Despite its relentless and tasteless violence, it succeeds because even though it comes from the imagination of a writer, you know that there are actually people out there like this. As awful as it is, this feels like something that could really happen.

Look, I'm no Indian hater. I grew up in Illinois. We were the birthplace of some 25 different Indian tribes. I'm reasonably sure that I'm at least 13% Ojibiwe. But I have to admit, when a Native American is the first character I meet in a screenplay, I don't jump up and scream, "This is going to be awesome!" So when DAN, a Navajo Indian, walks into a convenience store on a cold deserted winter night in Wichita and starts chatting up the checker about how much life sucks, let's just say I was eying my Quantum Of Solace DVD.

But as soon as Dan gets in his car, two men make a surprise attack. They have guns and they want money. Dan explains that his step-father has a lot of money and he'll take them to his house. A quick check of his wallet and they realize they already know where the house is. Which means Daniel, a man we thought was our hero, is disposable. They take him into the forest and shoot him in cold blood. Welcome to Wichita.

We cut in on what we realize is the house Daniel was heading to. It's a huge estate out in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of well-off friends are having a Christmas party. Everyone's waiting for Dan so they can start their gift exchange. With a couple of exceptions, this happy giggly group has been living their lives blissfully unaware of the hardships going on in the rest of the world. They don't even know what the dark side looks like. That's about to change.

The bad guys show up and within seconds tell everyone to strip. They want money and they want jewelry. Scared and a bit ignorant, a couple of the guys try to act tough. They learn quickly that these are the wrong people to act tough with. The bad guys grab Brooke (Dan's girlfriend) and tell her she's making a choice. One of these people is going to die. And she has to choose which one. She begs and pleads not to make her do it but they explain it's either one of them or all of them. She chooses the guy who's the most well off - with his girlfriend sitting right there. The bad guys instantly shoot him in the head. This is on page 20 folks. And it only gets worse from there. Way. Way. Way worse.

How Wichita keeps up this relentless pace for 120 pages is one of the things that makes it such a good script. You're gripped by how horrible these two men are. There are a few times where their actions venture into absurdity, but for the most part, it feels like two very angry demented men getting their "revenge" on the world. This is not for the weak. And if any sort of violence offends you, I'd probably skip this read and wait until tomorrow's review. But this was such a page-scroller, it broke my top 25. Everyone say goodbye to Pictures of You. :(

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Wichita: The power of a great villain. The thing that kept me invested in this film was how bad the bad guys were. And when the bad guys are this bad, you're dying to see them go down. I would've given my left arm to see the protagonist, Brooke, kill these men in the most horrifying awful fashion possible. This may seem like obvious advice but it really isn't. There are many genres where you the writer have a choice to add a villain or not (romantic comedies for example). My suggestion is, if it fits, always add one. And make him someone we want to see pay. Audiences love to see the villain go down.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Call Me Rusty

Genre: Comedy
Synopsis: A single father tries to reconnect with his college daughter and teenage son on Spring Break.
About: Comedy spec that sold a couple of weeks ago. From what I heard, it spun around for awhile and nobody bit. Then it got scooped up at the last second.
Writer: Christopher Baldi

The first fifteen pages of the screenplay are always the toughest. Because, as every good screenwriter knows, you're trying to set up a lot of information in a very short period of time, you're trying to do it without drawing attention to it, and on top of all that, you're trying to entertain the audience. That's why when I started reading Call Me Rusty, I was convinced I was reading some lucky amateur who conned a producer into paying his rent for the next couple of years. Christopher Baldi seemed like he concocted the first 15 minutes of his screenplay on his way to work. Nothing anybody does rings true. The basic set-up of the film is that the boss tells Rusty: "If you want me to give you a promotion, you have to bring me back a picture of you and your family on vacation." That is the set-up to a script that just sold to mid six-figures.

Needless to say, I didn't expect much from Call Me Rusty. And for a while, I didn't get it. RUSTY (who may or may not be Clark Oswald's son from National Lampoon's Vacation) is a workaholic who hasn't paid attention to his family since his wife left them 10 years ago. He's got a hot 21 year old daughter and a horny teenage son. When he's denied a promotion for not being enough of a "family man", he begs his boss to give him a chance to prove that he is. Begrudgingly, his boss says if he spends a vacation with his family and shows him a picture of them together, he'll think about giving him the promotion.

In the meantime, Rusty's daughter and her slutty BFF are getting ready for Spring Break. Rusty barrels in and informs them that their party just doubled (the son's coming along too). Again, wait a minute. Hold up here. Are you asking us to believe that a daughter is going to allow her father to join her on Spring Break? Do you think that in the history of the naughtiest nastiest sickest STD-producing week of the year that any daughter of any father in the world - even Pakistan - is going to say, "Sure dad, come along"? This is the problem with Call Me Rusty. On page 15 your characters are making nowhere near realistic choices. How am I, the reader, supposed to go along with this? This only furthered my suspicion that Baldi had no idea what he was doing.

And then slowly, ever so slowly, after they get to Spring break, I noticed that I was laughing more. Even though the scenes were somewhat episodic, the situations and conversations were making me laugh. To my surprise, Call Me Rusty became one of those rare scripts that got better and better - the savior being Baldi's dialogue, which was fun, snappy, eccentric, yet never Juno-esque.

The highlight of the script is a silly but lol scene where Kristin is forced to play a game of truth-or-dare with her father. The whole time I'm thinking, "This is so stupid. This is so dumb", and yet I couldn't stop laughing. It had the potential to go to some really bad places (the dad and Kristin's slutty friend hooking up) and even though it would've been funny, that's not what the script is about. It's about a father trying to reconnect with his family, and Call Me Rusty kind of succeeds. Sure, the script doesn't break any new ground and it's hardly one for the ages, but it's a good solid comedy script and I can see why it got bought.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Call Me Rusty: Iron out your set up (first 10-15 pages). It's the hardest part of the script because you're setting up so much information in such a short period of time. But if you don't put the effort in, it's going to come off feeling forced. Even though Call Me Rusty recovered, with some effort it never would've had to recover in the first place. "Bring back a picture of you and your family and you get the promotion." Are you serious? Had this issue been solved from the get-go, it wouldn't have taken 2 weeks for this to sell.

This Week

Well, I totally went off-book last week. But you know, the great ones always do. This week, I promise to get to that recently sold comedy spec that surprised me annnnnnnd a new script breaks my top 25. Maybe even TWO scripts. I don't know if I want to post both in the same week though because that would mean that Pictures of You and Prisoners would have to say goodbye. And since I don't want to upset Mark Wahlberg's people I simply can't do that. Be prepared for me to totally disregard this outline as well. I'm so unpredictable. Have a great week!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Non-Reviewed Top 25 Scripts Part 2

Okay folks, just like before, here are the script summaries for the latter half of my top 25 scripts (except for the ones already reviewed on the site). Almost every single one is available to download. Just click on the link in the top 25 list. There's some great stuff here. Hope to help you find a good read.

The Oranges
Genre: Dark Comedy
This was numero 2 on the 2008 Black List behind that silly Badger Puppet script, and in my opinion, a much better read! Taking place in suburbia, a man falls in love with his neighbor's (and best friend's) college daughter. But instead of trying to hide it, they come clean to their respective families. Usually, these movies are about sneaking around. So the twist of it being out in the open allows them to explore a whole new area of comedy.

Strange Skies
Genre: Very Dark Comedy
I've actually had some arguments with people about this one. It's about a married man whose wife is pushing him to start a family. He doesn't want to so he...pretends to have cancer. Yes, you heard that right. Watching this character delve deeper and deeper into his lie makes this read both horrifying and fascinating. You simply cannot look away. I loved this script but understand why it might turn others off

37th Dimension
Genre: Wild Fucked-up Action/Gangster
I read this going on the title alone and was not disappointed. This script is what would happen if Guy Ritchie had sex with Quentin Tarantino and their baby grew up on a steady diet of heroin and acid. One of the most original scripts I've ever read. There is a turtle-man. Yes, a half-man, half-turtle. Nuff said!

Untitled Vanessa Taylor Project
Genre: Drama
Talk about going from one extreme to the other. This is about as anti-37th Dimension as you can get. Despite the single most boring title in the history of script reading, there's a lot to like here. It's about a couple in their 40s on the brink of divorce who attempt to save their marriage. It is very slow. It is mostly depressing. But if you're like me and are interested in relationships and how people who start out loving each other can grow so far apart, then this is a great script. Black List 08.

I Want To F___ Your Sister
Genre: Comedy
Moving from the single worst title in the world to the single best title, is there anything that really needs to be said about I Want to F__ Your Sister? Other than that we're all kicking ourselves for not thinking of the title first? I mean, if a script was ever going to sell on its title alone, this would be the one. A guy's hot sister starts working with him at the stock exchange. He must fend off the 11,000 crazed horny co-workers who want to fuck her.

Genre: Action
This is the script you want to study if you're trying to come up with a strong smart concept. From IMDB: "A guard for an armored truck company is coerced by his veteran coworkers to steal a truck containing $10 million." But that's just the beginning. It's best to go into this one knowing little. Contact me if you're interested.

Genre: Comedy/Action
Another great concept. Four modern-day knights (and by "modern day" we mean knights who have been knighted for things like acting and bacterial analysis) find themselves called upon to save the planet from an ancient evil force. It needs a rewrite but this *is* the modern day Ghostbusters. The wax museum scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Pictures Of You
Genre: Comedy
A high school kid finds a camera on the beach that belongs to the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. He decides to find her and profess his love. This one lacks some focus (it takes the entire movie for him to go after the girl), but I'm such a fan of the "found camera" premise and there are some hilarious scenes (accidentally getting stuck in his twin sister's closet when she's changing for example). The writer assured me he's addressing these problems in the rewrite.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Breaking Irish

Genre: Drama
Synopsis: Goodfellas meets 21.
About: Don't know much about this one other than it's damn good writing.
Writer: Steven Feder

Behold......the passive hero. In screenwriting, to even mention the words "passive" and "hero" in the same sentence can get you blacklisted (and not in the good way). Development execs have been known to kill screenwriters who turn in screenplays with passive heroes. And yet here we are with Charlie, the hero of Breaking Irish, who's about as passive as they come. Somehow, it all works. What??? Blasphemy you say!!! That's impossible. All scripts with passive heroes suck. Yes. Usually that's true. But not here.

First of all, I should probably explain what a passive hero is. No, actually, let me explain what an active hero is. A well-known screenwriter once said, "a great hero is one where when he turns left, the movie turns left." In other words, he's driving the action. He's determining the outcome of the film. How is this achieved? It can be boiled down rather simply: Give your main character a clear goal and have him try to achieve it. By that very definition he has to be active (since he's *trying* to achieve it).

A passive or "reactive" hero reacts to everything around him. You usually find these in big conspiracy movies. Like Eagle Eye for instance, where someone's chasing our hero. Obviously, since he's being chased, he has to "react". How did I "react" when I saw that movie? I reacted by throwing my drink at the screen. See? That makes me a "reactive" hero.

How does this all relate to Breaking Irish? Well Charlie's grown up with a gift, a gift to "see" the odds. He's a number-cruncher with a photographic memory who can always find that one stat to sway the odds in his favor. Charlie wins at poker, he wins at horse races, he wins at blackjack, he wins on basketball games. 70% of any bet Charlie enters into, he wins. But Charlie is reluctant to use his talent for anything other than making it through the day. He's not interested in the cars and the bling. He just wants to get by, marry his sweetheart (AVERY) and have a normal life. Ahh, but if he had a normal life, we wouldn't have a movie now would we? Soooo... JACKIE, the local Italian mobster, discovers Charlie's talent, and ropes him into predicting games for him. Charlie decides to take the job to pay his and Avery's way through college. But when the money is no longer needed, getting out isn't as easy as Charlie thought it would be (is it ever?). Jackie has the Super Bowl of meal tickets and an endless appetite. He's not letting Charlie go anywhere.

As a result, Charlie's only "active"goal is giving the bets to Jackie and staying out of trouble. He's as passive as can be. Yet we still like him. Why? There are people out there who will tell you that your hero can be passive AS LONG AS at some point he becomes active. Even if it's within the last 20 minutes of the film (and Charlie does eventually become active). But I don't buy into this theory for this reason: You're saying that for 90 minutes (3/4 of the movie) we can hate our lazy ass hero, then the second he comes up with a plan, we forgive him and think he's the coolest cat on the block? Surely, if we're still invested in the screenplay at the 90 minute mark, we had to have already liked our main character, right? My opinion is that nobody knows why passive characters work (Forrest Gump being the most famous of them all) and so they try to justify them by throwing a bunch of screenwriting mumbo-jumbo at you. I personally believe that if a character is interesting, people will want to watch him no matter what. And Charli is interesting. Breaking Irish is a very well-constructed screenplay, and a great addition to your digital library, if only to study how to create a successful passive hero.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Breaking Irish: The passive hero *can* work, but it's still very hard to pull off. I would recommend staying away from them if you can. But if you must, offer us someone that we like. An easy way to make people like your character is to have him be great at something. People like people who are good at things. I don't know why. They just do. It's probably for the same reasosn that we don't like people who aren't good at anything. Charlie is so awesome at betting, we can't help but root for him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It Came From The Drive-In

Genre: Family/Scary
Synopsis: Set in the 50s, a little boy and a mad scientist must battle the monsters that escape from a haunted drive-in movie theatre.
About: Making the rounds in H-wood (that's "Hollywood" for those not hip to the lingo). Will it be bought? Will it be forgotten? Your comments could be the deciding factor. Who knows what suits are out there reading this blog, trying to decide if they should pull the trigger. Give'em your opinion folks.
Writer: Nick Creature

I'll be honest. I don't really know what to do with It Came From The Drive In. The script is a sort of wacky combination of a 1980s Saturday Morning Cartoon and a 50s B-movie. I say that having seen 2 50s B-movies in my life, both of which occurred during episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Which is why I definitely don't see myself as the person to tell you whether It Came From the Drive In is any good or not.

Here's a way more interesting question. What the hell ever happened to Drive-Ins? What a cool fucking concept. You grab a girl, drive to a theater that's OUTSIDE, and then get it on for 2 hours in your car. I mean seriously. People were really looking out for sex-starved teenagers back then. I had to drive to the top level of a deserted parking lot to get my action back in high school. And listen to B96 belt out some corny R&B jam. What the hell's up with that?

Anyway, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, this wild and weird script. Hmmm, okay. I'll sum it up for you. A 10 year old kid with an over-active imagination is obsessed with monsters and vampires and werewolves (heavily influenced by Whedon I suppose: please see Cabin In the Woods review). Soon after a new drive-in multiplex is constructed outside his hometown, strange creatures start appearing in dark places. But are they really creatures? Or are they just Opie's (yes, his name is Opie) imagination. Opie teams up with the town scientist/outcast to find out what's causing these monsters to appear, and form a plan to kick some monster ass and save the town.

Look, the script was energetic. It was well-written. But it's hard to imagine anyone over the age of 10 demanding to see this movie. In fact, I kept asking myself, "Is this live-action or animated?" I still don't know.

I fully admit this is one of those things that I probably don't "get". I mean, if the script to Harry Potter landed on my doorstep before anyone had heard of Harry Potter, I probably would've told you it was the biggest piece of garbled nonsense ever committed to paper. Since that franchise has made a couple billion dollars, I think it's safe to say monsters and witches and werewolves and gobbledygook isn't within my realm of understanding. You know what is within my realm though? Smurfs. I really like smurfs. Why haven't they made a smurf movie yet? They've paid Hasbro 50 million dollars for the rights to Monopoly but no one cares when Gargamel is getting his close-up. I mean seriously. Where the fuck is Gargamel?

[ ] trash
[x] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from It Came From The Drive-In: I don't usually do this but I'm going to talk about formatting for a second. Creature decided to bold his sluglines. It seems like a harmless choice but I'm telling you right now, it slowed me down. Not considerably. But readers don't like to be slowed down even a little bit. It was just enough to stunt my natural reading rhythm. Wouldn't recommend it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tomorrow: Get Him To The Greek

I've decided to change things up because I got a hold of "Get Him To The Greek", the Jonah Hill, Russel Brand script that everyone's been raving about. It's got the Apatow connection (don't all the comedies these days?) so I'm excited to read it (especially after today's abysmal experience). A link will be provided so at this time tomorrow, you could be reading it too! :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Non-Reviewed Top 25 Scripts Part 1

Since I haven't reviewed all my top 25 scripts and a bunch of you have e-mailed me asking what they're about, I decided to give a quick blurb about each one. I'll divide this into two parts. Oh, and because I'm lazy, I'm not including links. You'll have to reach over to the top 25 list and get the scripts from there (I know - I'm a horrible person).

Genre: Indie Drama
A guy loses his job and his wife. She's changed the locks to the house and left all of his furniture outside. Instead of shipping it off, he sets everything out in the front yard and starts living there. The reason I love this script so much is because the main character does exactly what I would do in this situation. You want me to leave? I'll do the opposite. I'll stay. It's a bit of a strange plot and weird enough so that a good portion of you won't like it, but it's my favorite script of 2008.

Genre: Comedy
A very simple premise. Guy meets girl, girl has boyfriend. Guy and girl become best friends. Guy and girl try desperately not to hook up. No huge surprises or twists here. Just an amazingly executed script. Very funny.

Genre: Indie Comedy
In an attempt to get his estranged pilot father to come back into his life, a high school kid decides to build his own airport. If you're a Wes Anderson fan, you have to read this script. Quirky, weird, hilarious. The writing is so simple as to make it look amateur but once you get going, you can't stop. This one's out there, but if you buy into a few early absurdities (borrowing 500k like it's as easy as buying ice cream for example) it's a great read. (note: no link for this. if you want it, contact me directly)

Genre: Comedy
A hilarious script about a former high school nerd finally making his way in the world, only to find out that his company is hiring the most popular kid from his old school. Before he knows it, the company turns into its own high school, and once again, he's the nerd.

Genre: Western
I hate Westerns. But something about this one got me. What's interesting is that this script breaks about every screenwriting rule there is. And it ended up being the top rated script on the 2007 Blacklist.

Genre: Comedy
A simple comedy about the trials and tribulations of long distance relationships. Geoff, the writer, is a master of comedy dialogue. Anyone who's been in a long distance relationship can relate to this one.

Genre: Comedy
One of the most unexpected reads of the year. A bunch of old dudes looking for nookie in a nursing home. American Pie for the Viagra generation. Hilarious.

Genre: Indie Dramedy
Charlie Kaufman-inspired, the story of a man who finds out there's a museum dedicated to his life. Very weird but very cool. One of the more imaginative scripts I've read. Was on the 2007(?) Blacklist. These are the same guys who brought you The Adventurer's Handbook.

Genre: Drama
This one's already been shot with Keira Knightly and Eva Mendes. A woman (Knightly) starts to suspect her husband of infidelity with an extremely attractive coworker (Mendes). Things get complicated when he goes on his next business trip.

Genre: Comedy
Much funnier than the trailer showed. But it's a great little premise. Four guys have to piece together their drunken night to find a missing groom (who's getting married THAT day). This is one of those scripts you read and immediately say, "I could see that as a movie." Funny funny funny.

I'll post the second half later in the week folks. Til then...

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Starting tomorrow I'm reviewing a comedy that sold a couple of weeks ago. I have a futuristic crime drama. I have one of the worst scripts I have ever read (that got made into a movie no less!). I have a script that surprised me in the same vein as Goodfellas. And I have Part 1 of my Top 25 synopsis rundown. A bunch of you have e-mailed me asking why there are no reviews for those scripts, so I thought I'd give you a quick blurb on each. That way you'll know if you want to read them. Should be fun...

Friday, March 13, 2009


Genre: Thriller
Synopsis: Two women are held hostage in a prison-like farmhouse.
About: On the 2008 Black List with 14 votes
Writer: Misha Green

This will be less a review and more a stamp of approval since I actually read Sunflower a long time ago. I don't know why it slipped my mind when I was making my top 10, but when I expanded to 25, I spotted it and was like, "Why the hell didn't I include Sunflower?" It's probably for the same reason that's in the back of your minds right now: The title fucking sucks! When I was reading all the 2008 Black List scripts, I kept burying Sunflower every time I'd come to it because seriously, who the hell wants to read a script called "Sunflower?" Finally, when it was down to that and some script about a midget trying to come to terms with his South African descent, I threw up my hands and screamed, "Fine! I'll read Sunflower!" Thank the Gods of screenwriting that I did.

This is from memory so I apologize if I get the details wrong. Basically, Sunflower is about a guy keeping a girl hostage in a farm house out in the middle of nowhere. He's rigged the place with Level 16 super high tech security so that when he leaves for work (he's a professor) there's no way for her to escape. What sets Sunflower apart from other films like it is that the professor then kidnaps a second girl who he imprisons along with the first. He makes it quite obvious that only one of these girls is staying for the longhaul. Then, instead of it being about a girl trying to escape her captor, it becomes about two girls fighting each other for their lives. Green milks this conflict for everything it's got and the result is so relentless you keep saying to yourself, "There's no way she can keep this up. There's no way she can keep this up." But the story never slows down. It's awesome.

If there's a knock against the script, it's the controversial "twist" ending that had many crying foul. And I admit it doesn't entirely work. But to me the script is so technically sound, not going with the twist and playing it safe would still result in a great film. Or you can pull a Hollywood and just shoot four different endings and see which one tests best. The ending didn't bother me but I can understand how it would others. Decide for yourself...

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Sunflower: Sunflower is the perfect example of why it's so important to throw a new twist into a tired genre. When I started reading the script, I thought I knew exactly where it was going. Guy holds girl hostage, girl plans to escape, guy catches her mid-plan, guy makes it more difficult for girl to escape, girl comes up with second plan...etc., etc. We've seen it a thousand times before. But the second he brought in the second girl, I realized I had no idea where the script was going. And I was so...excited. Because a reader reads so much derivative material, it's rare that he come across something that actually surprises him. Find an inventive twist on a tried-and-true genre to give Hollywood (and the audience) something they've never seen before.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Genre: Dramedy
Synopsis: A professor at a small liberal arts college is up for tenure.
About: Tenure was on the 2005 Black List and will be hitting theaters this year.
Writer: Mike Million

What is the single most important tool you can use to connect with the reader? What is the one thing above all others that gives you the best chance of creating something they'll be interested in? I'll give you a moment. Give up? Okay, I'll tell you. It's subject matter. If you give the reader a subject matter they like, they'll immediately be interested in your story. And there's the catch. Different people like different things. So you can't possibly find something to satisfy them all. Sure, you can pick some overarching widely known piece of pop culture (I'm sure the studios can give you a list). But no subject can satisfy everyone. Inevitably SOMEONE won't like the story you're telling because they just don't care about the subject matter you've presented them with.

This is why when I read the first few pages of "Tenure", I was instantly onboard. Likewise, I knew there were going to be a hell of a lot of people who would rather skin themselves alive than watch this movie. See Tenure is about a small liberal arts college. I attended a small liberal arts college. Believe it or not, our college is kind of famous. Sure, you've probably never heard of "Ripon College", a small liberal arts school in the middle of the second fattest state in America (Wisconsin). But I bet you've heard of Harrison Ford. Yes, Harrison Ford went to Ripon College. And when I went, some of the older professors, who had just begun teaching back when Harrison started, loved to tell stories about him. Apparently, Ford was the laziest motherfucker on the face of the planet. He never went to class. Never participated in any social functions. He never did much of anything . The fact that he even made it to his senior year was a bit of a miracle. But I bet you didn't know, Harrison finished one credit shy of graduating, and therefore never earned his degree. After his movies made billions at the box office, Ripon aggressively offered to forego that notorious missed credit and give Ford his degree. Harrison (or "Harry" as they called him) basically told them to fuck off. He never gave a single cent to Ripon. I hear the college is slightly more lenient nowadays when it comes to the whole "required credits" issue. It seems apt, really, that in a screenplay about college, I give you a history lesson. I hope you enjoyed it.

Tenure is awesome. I wish I could tell you all the ways in which it was awesome but that's the problem with liking something. You don't have time to pay attention to *why* you're liking it. I'll do my best though. I think the first thing Tenure does right that a lot of other "artsy" screenplays do wrong is it gives the main character a clearly defined goal. He wants - no he needs - to make tenure. If he doesn't, he's screwed. See a lesser writer who wanted to write a movie about a college professor might take us through his daily life, show us all his wild and wacky situations, but not give us any direction, any end goal. Million reminds us every step of the way how important it is that our protagonist makes tenure. This allows him to have fun with the story, but still keep us interested and focused. I wish I had learned this lesson a long time ago.

CHARLIE THURBER, an English professor, has an amazing connection with his students. Having been a teacher myself, I know how essential finding a connection with the people you teach is. The problem with Charlie though, is that he's not very good at what he teaches. He can't get published for shit. And since Gray College puts such a high premium on being published, Charlie's dream, to get tenure, is in doubt.

Things only get worse when ELAINE, an attractive graduate of Princeton University of all places, joins the English Department, threatening to steal tenure away from Charlie. This prompts Charlie's slacker best friend and fellow professor, STANLEY (whose life goal is to find Big Foot - I kid you not) to lead a sabotage effort to destroy Elaine so Charlie can land tenure. Stanley deserves his own movie. He's fucking hilarious.

There are some sub-plots that all work well - like Charlie's father's stay in a local Assisted Living Home (he desperately wants out), the trials and tribulations of a few of Charlie's students, and of course the sexual tension between Charlie and the very woman who might steal his tenure, Elaine.

All-in-all, Tenure is a master class in character development. Every character in this script is instantly memorable and all of their stories are compelling, like we could jump into their lives and be transported into their script without missing a beat. I don't even know how he did it to be honest. How we jump from the very serious problems of Charlie, to Stanley's ridiculous pursuit of Big Foot, never upsetting the tone of the movie, is something I'll be studying for a long time . Contrary to popular belief, I don't know everything. :)

Again, if you've never been to a small college, some of the details here might be lost on you. But I'd recommend Tenure for character study alone. Pay attention to how he introduces his characters, how he paints them, and how he resolves their conflicts. It's really great stuff.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive (very close to genius though)
[ ] genius

What I learned from Tenure: I could point to 20 lessons in this script, but I'll go with the age old adage. Any time you can raise the stakes, you're improving your script. Near the midway point, Charlie's sister informs him that she's paying 3 grand a month to keep their father in a home. She needs help. "You can spare $1000 dollars a month." "I make 36,000 a year." "You get a raise when you reach tenure right?" The way I present it here is a little clunky and simplistic. In the script it's given more weight. The point is, it's just one more reason in the back of our minds we know Charlie has to achieve tenure.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comments Now Activated!

Commenters unite! Because I'm not completely blogified (and partially retarded), the commenting feature was turned off for anonymous users. What the hell was up with that???! There were likely thousands upon thousands of potential comments that never saw the light of day. Or the...dark, of the blogosphere. That has all changed. Comment my friends. COMMMMMEEEEENNNNTTTT!

Wednesday and Thursday will be exciting!!!

The next couple of days are going to be very exciting as I review the single hottest script in town, as well as a mystery script that...gasp...BREAKS INTO MY TOP TEN. That hasn't happened since I started this thing. How far up the ladder will it climb? Tune in to find out!

World War X

Genre: Sci-fi
Synopsis: In a post World War 2 New York City, a troubled reporter learns he is meant for a higher purpose.
About: Not much is known about this one. I know Trevorrow has had four movies produced so he's got a track record.
Writer: Colin Trevorrow

Colin Trevorrow is a good writer. But I think this story is bigger than him. In fact, I think it's bigger than 99% of the writers out there. It's Matrix meets Wanted meets Alice In Wonderland. It almost comes together. But World War X suffers from Feature Length-itus -- a disease that gives your movie only 2 hours to live. And there simply isn't enough time to deliver the depth that a premise like this promises.

Tom, a foster child, has spent his entire life feeling a rage inside him. Where it comes from, he doesn't know. After this troubled childhood and a stint in the war, Tom finds himself barely clinging to a reporter job at the local newspaper. While inspecting a series of strange murders, he encounters a man who seems to have superhuman abilities. Leaping and jumping 10-20 feet in the air. Tom follows him the best he can, surprising himself with his aiblity to keep up. But in the end, the mystery man is too fast, and gets away.

Later he's approached by a group of men who let him in on a secret. Tom is actually superhuman. A combination of both Wanted and Matrix, he posesses a hidden strength and speed that if he can learn to tap into, he'd be unstoppable. He joins this group, which calls itself "The Brotherhood". Their first mission involves stopping a bank robbery. Curiously, The Brotherhood seems to know exactly when this robbery is going to happen. They succeed, but instead of returning the money, The Brotherhood keeps it for themselves.

Tom is then approached by ANOTHER group who claims that the group he's been associating himself with is actually...now hang with me here...a group of "time terrorists". Even worse, their leader - a guy who obviously dug his name out of the sci-fi handbook - "Zael", has actually gone back thousands of years in time to impregnate his seed into hundreds of women - creating multiple generations of his bloodline. Tom is one of these children. He is one of "The Brotherhood."

This new team is an anti-time terrorist organization, sent back in time specifically to try and stop Zael and his "brothers". Or "sons" or whatever the hell they are. Tom then fnds himself stuck in the middle. Who does he believe? The Brotherhood? Or the TT Organization? Despite stumbling my way through that, Trevorrow actually sets all this up fairly well. We buy into the whole premise, even if it does border on the extreme.

I think Colin may have watched Star Wars a bit too many times though. There are so many echoes of it here it borders on plagirism. Tom and Zael have a sword fight at the end while a larger war rages on outside, all the while spouting out heated one-liners which mainly revolve around "evil" and "doing the right thing." I kept waiting for Zael to finally scream "I am your fatherrrrrr." But then I realized that would be redundant. He is his father. We already know that.

It's only because of this action-suffocated derivitave ending that I can't whole-heartedly recommend World War X. It has its moments, especially early on. But the last thing every audience member leaves a movie with is its ending, and World War X's simply isn't memorable enough.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[World War x] worth the read (barely)
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from World War X: Within 10 pages, I know some distinct things about our main character. He's extremely violent and has a bad heart. Already, he's separated from most of the main characters I read. Even though neither of these things is wholly original, together, they paint a picture of a man that's distinct and that I feel like I know. Make sure your main character stands out.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Genre: Thriller
Synopsis: Two college acquaintances have a layover in a small city. When one is kidnapped, the other must find her.
About: A spec that sold a couple weeks back I think.
Writer: Jeremy Soule

After seeing a superior kidnapping film like Taken, I cannot recommend this script. If this really did sell...well, all I can say is it shouldn't have. Our hero, the 21 year old ZANE, has found himself on a layover with WILLOW, the girl of his dreams. The airline gives them vouchers to some scumbag hotel, and Zane sees this as his one and only shot to make a move. He heads down to her room, knocks on the door, and some crazy tattooed guy answers claiming to be her boyfriend. Disappointed, Zane heads back upstairs but something doesn't sit right about the guy. He jogs back only to find out that Willow's gone.

He asks the hotel manager to call the police but the manager says that nobody named Willow ever checked in. He gets back to the room, finds a few clues, and starts his own investigation. Hellz yeah! During the course of Young Columbo's quest, he discovers that the people who kidnapped Willow are part of a larger gang/organization, and that when the airport opens tomorrow, they're shipping that bitch out to who knows where (my guess is that it has something to do with female slavery!) He's got til morning to find her! Oh no!

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd that's where the story falls apart. Willow is NOT Zane's girlfriend. In fact, before today, he's never even talked to Willow. He's never even touched her! So the idea that this random college student is going to run around in an unfamiliar city dodging bullets and certain death to save this girl is...well it's ridiculous.

Anyway, Zane eventually meets Lia, a hooker/dancer/prostitute who got her own problems n shit but she knows where Willow is. She leads him to the head honcho, Oswald, -- struggle ensues. Blah blah blah. Left for dead. Oswald gets Willow to the airport. Once inside, as Oswald pulls Willow through security (she's drugged so she can't scream for help - Uhhh, wouldn't you be just a littlebit curious as a TSA screener if a guy was lugging a half conscious college girl around? lol), Zane shows up just in time to stop him. This is when it gets really ridiculous. If you're in a public airport and someone is trying to kidnap your girlfriend, all you have to do is yell "He's kidnapping her!" and the chaos involved - particularly in this post 9/11 world - will at the very least temporarily hold everything up until the matter's been investigated. I mean give me a break here. Even if he gets on the plane, you just warn the airport the plane's flying to that a kidnapper will be landing there momentarily. Please apprehend him when he arrives.

Layover is riddled with problematic details like this that make it impossible to suspend your disbelief. I'm sorry but this script isn't very good. That's all there is to it.

[ ] trash
[x] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Layover: Guys, your main character has to act like a rational human being. No 21 year old is going to take on an entire gang of killers. Give me a break.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sequels, Remakes, and Adaptations

Genre: Indy Dramedy
Synopsis: A lovestruck nerd learns you have 500,000 chances to live a fulfilled life or you go to hell. He's only got 2 chances left.
About: Blacklist 08.
Writer: Sam Esmail

"Sequels" wants you to know that it's different. No, I mean it really wants you to know that it's different. The writer/main character (as it's implied they're one and the same) tells you right off the bat that he plans to be different. He is about to write something the likes of which you have never experienced before. And I think he succeeds. But Sequels is not as daring and different as it tries to be. As it happens, it's just different enough.

I have a certain admiration for Sam Esmail. He starts off with these huge chunks of narration and while I've seen that before, Esmail never lets up. He just keeps on going. And going and going. The writer of Amelie is disgusted by how much voice over is in this script. In fact, I'd venture that over 65% of his script is narration. As most people pursuing screenwriting know, voice over is considered the butchered technique of a hack and is to be avoided at all costs. For Esmail to so blantlantly use the technique is a big fuck you to the industry, and a big fuck you to writing itself. Anybody writing an anti-love letter to the industry is fine by my standards. I couldn't help but be immediately intrigued.

The script starts off showing us what a miserable life JR has. He's desperately in love with Robyn, a girl who will never love him back. She entertains his company more out of pity than interest, gets high with him, and somehow the effects of the weed never die off on JR. He is high for the rest of his life (weird, I know. And no, he doesn't play this up for cheap pot humor either. In fact, it has little to no effect on the rest of the story) So after 30 years of a miserable life (and always being high), he steps in front of a truck and kills himself. He is then transported to heaven - or at least what he thinks is heaven. It's actually just a holding point. The 13th president of the United States (now an angel/agent) informs him that you have 500,000 chances to live a complete and fulfilled life (known as "vim") and that JR has killed himself 499,998 times. He's got two chances left to achieve vim. Therefore (in his mind), if he doesn't find a way to get Robyn, he'll never be happy, kill himself 2 more times, and be sent to hell. (as a side note, I would highly suggest Mr. Esmail watch the Albert Brooks film "Defending Your Life" as this whole portion of the story is an almost beat for beat remake of that film.)

The script doesn't cop out. It doesn't spin around and give you a big happy smiley ending. He does get Robyn and they do get married. But just like JR will always be JR, Robyn will always be Robyn. She doesn't love him. And when she starts banging every cable guy, pool cleaner, tennis pro in sight, JR realizes he's more miserable now than when he never got Robyn at all. Man, I'm getting depressed just typing this stuff.

What I couldn't get over is that Sequels doesn't just wear its desire to be different on its sleeve. It wears it on its whole damn wardrobe. It wants so bad to be unique, defy convention, poke fun at itself, create something that's never been seen before, that you're focusing more on these attempts than the actual story itself. Esmail seems to want to create a modern day Citizen Kane here (a film that also notoriously defied convention). But let's be honest. This ain't no Citizen Kane.

I give credit to Sequels for trying though. It stands out in a sea of scripts that don't have an inkling of originality to them and that was enough to put it ahead of the pack (and on the 2008 Black List). I think Sam Esmail is an interesting writer and could potentially create something great. But for that, we may have to wait for the sequel. :)

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Sequels, Remakes and Adaptations: This one reminds me of 500 Days Of Summer. Be original. Find a new way to tell the same story. Sequels is essentially a tragic love story. But Esmail approaches it from a completely different angle.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Superconducting Supercollider of Sparkle Creek, Wisconsin

Genre: Sci-fi Dramedy
Synopsis: A secret supercollider underneath Sparkle Creek, Wisconsin starts wreaking havoc on the town.
About: This sold back in 2001. Koepp alone made $2.5 million dollars off the deal that also included future script commitments. He was supposed to direct it as well, but it never (or has not yet) came to be.
Writers: David Koepp and John Kamps

As you know, when I see a title like Supercollider, I have to read it. "Sparkle Creek" is an older script, written back in 2001, before 9/11, before the ultra information boom, before anyone cared about the Large Hadron Collider potentially stirring up mini-black holes that could swallow up our entire planet. I'd imagine reading this script back then would've been quite a trip. Now, I feel like I know this world a little too well, therefore a lot of the wonder was lost on me.

Still, it's a cool ride. The script starts out with our hero, Karen, a Sparkle Creek cop who's about to marry the same man for the third time, experiencing a moment of deja vu so intense, she has an emotional breakdown. There are little Matrix-like blips on the screen to clue us in that something is not quite right. Karen meets Howard, a scientist who works up at the mysterious Cyntek offices at the edge of town. Nobody knows what happens up there - and up to this point, nobody has had any reason to care.

But then, in a sacred 3 hour Sunday block known in Wisconsin as a Packers game (if you've never been to Wisconsin, when the Packers play, the entire state shuts down for 3 hours - I am NOT exaggerating this) a strange glitch occurs in the air, and Karen and her family watch incredulously as horses run straight through their home! Everyone freaks out, running outside, trying to figure out what's going on. Everywhere they look are strange waves floating through the air. Images that look like television shows and commercials - but they're right there in front of you!

Luckily the madness ends and everybody, true to their roots, hurries back inside to catch the end of the Packers game. Karen, though, isn't satisfied and decides to investigate. She finds a mysterious group of men that she follows up to the Cytek offices and then demands to be let in. She's given permission to meet the head scientist who turns out to be...Howard (the geeky guy she met earlier).

Howard informs her that beneath Sparkle Creek, Wisconsin is a 28 mile long Supercollider (a large atom-smasher) that is conducting experiments for "the good of mankind." Supercolliders have a sort of mythical status because they perform experiments that have never been performed before. Like trying to recreate the Big Bang. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly what will happen if these experiments go wrong. That is until now.

Harold attempts to show Karen how this bad boy works and in doing so, accidentally creates a 3 second instantaenous time loop! Oh my God! What the hell is that??? Well, whatever it is, it inadvertantly rewrites the laws of physics. Up above them the town loses gravity, loses time, loses people (who vanish into thin air), and lose a dimension (momentarily existing in a 2-D world). Before you know it, Sparkle Creek is in some deep shit. The government is brought in and an order is given to immediately destroy the Collider. Howard has hours to re-rig the Collider to go back in time and save the people that were lost. Will he do so before the government shuts him down? That's the story of "Superconducting Supercollider of Sparkle Creek, Wisconsin."

Although we do find out what happens to the poor people of Sparkle Creek, Koepp decides to shift gears in the finale and focus on Karen and Howard's relationship. Sort of a "love conquers all" thing. Was this a good idea? Well, to use a Packers analogy, in the end of movies (4th quarter) you can go with your main story (your quarterback) or your love story (your running back). "Sparkle Creek" decides to go with its running back and unfortunately, the running back isn't very good. I'm sorry but I just didn't care enough about Karen and Howard getting together. And sadly, I can't pinpoint why. They both seem like nice people. And maybe that's it. Maybe that's all they are is nice. And I never really saw anything in the characters beyond that.

I would say I enjoyed "Sparkle Creek", but not as much as I wanted to. I'm always looking for things that bend my brain, that make me see the world in a different light. "Sparkle Creek" merely switched out a 60 watt bulb and replaced it with a 100.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learnd from Sparkle Creek: The screenwriting books drill into our heads how important it is to make our characters "likable" or "relatable." We can get so caught up in this, that having them then save a cat, or help a woman across the street feels adequate enough. You still have to let us into their minds, show us their complexities, their faults, their struggles. You have to give us real people so that when you rest the entire story on them in your film's finale, the audience actually cares. Sparkle Creek didn't acheive this, and I think this has something to do with the project languishing in development hell.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Hot Tub Time Machine

Genre: Comedy...sort of
Synopsis: A bachelor party goes awry when a hot tub transfers its occupants back to 1987.
About: I guess this is a project that's been lingering in Hollywood for awhile. John Cusack's recent involvement has apparently turned it into a Go picture.
Writer: Josh Heald

This one's been getting a lot of airplay since John Cusack announced his attachment to the project and AintitCool ran an article about it. I have to say, from the title alone I was very excited. It sounded like an updated version of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. But unfortunately, it doesn't take full advantage of its time traveling premise, and focuses more on the goof-off antics of its four main characters. I smiled the whole way through "Hot Tub" but I never laughed (actually that's not true - I laughed at the very last line). For that reason, I can't whole-heartedly endorse the script.

Hot Tub follows Adam, our "soon to be married" bachelor, as he journeys up to a ski resort with four friends for his bachelor party. With him are his best friend Nick, his newly homeless friend Lou, and his estranged younger brother Jacob. The four find themselves drinking and partying in a hot tub, when they are inexplicably transported back to the year 1987. See this is where I had a bit of an issue with Hot Tub. The script stays in 1987 for the duration of the story. When I saw the title, "The Hot Tub Time Machine", I assumed we'd be traveling all over the place. The fact that we'd be staying exclusively in 1987 was a little disappointing.

Anyway, the characters kind of stumble around for 60 pages, getting into trouble, meeting new people, and getting used to the year. Some enjoy being in the year 1987 (Lou), some don't (Adam). There's no real story to speak of - except for Adam's vague desire to get back to his fiance. Which leaves the script completely dependent on its comedic situations. It then becomes a taste thing (do you think it's funny or not), and if you don't, well then there's no real reason to keep reading. Had the story and Adam's determination to return been stronger, the reader would've easily stayed along for the ride, laughs or not.

What I really liked about the script, however, had everything to do with Cusack's involvement. If you don't know, Better Off Dead is one of my favorite movies ever and holds a very strong place in my teenage heart. In that movie Cusack famously squares off against the ski team's captain who stole his girlfriend. In Hot Tub, Cusack's character encounters none other than an asshole ski instructor who happens to be dating his childhood crush. If I were in charge of this movie, I would be all over this. Echoing as many scenes from Better Off Dead as possible. These moments were when I was the most into Hot Tub Time Machine (I have a feeling it's why Cusack got involved in the first place). Is Ricky still acting?

I think the script is good. No better, no worse. Just an enjoyable read. If this indeed goes into production, there are some opportunities to make it great. But the first thing I would do is improve Adam's connection with his fiance early on and make his desire to get back to her more obvious. If we don't feel their incomparable love, then Hot Tub Time Machine doesn't work.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Hot Tub Time Machine: I'm telling you. Don't underestimate the need to sell your main character's motivation in a comedy. In order for comedy to work, there must be truth in your characters' desire. Taking an extra scene or two early on to solidify that dramatic element, makes every bit of comedy that follows that much funnier.

note: If you want to read a much better script about bachelor parties, read "The Hangover," which is coming out this summer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Script Of The Month - February

I will be awarding a script of the month every month. I know you guys don't have nearly as much time as I do. So I'll single out my favorite script of the previous 30 days and give it my stamp of approval. Because 500 Days of Summer and Source Code don't count (I originally reviewed those on another site) this month I'm giving the award to "Extract," Mike Judge's severed balls comedy. It narrowly beats out Bumped, She's Out Of My League, and The Sitter. Whereas all three of those scripts ended stronger, the first half of Judge's story is so funny, it ultimately steals the prize. For anyone trying to create better comedic characters, use Mike Judge's scripts as your bible. Nobody creates more vivid more hilarious people than this master of comedy.

Sadly, nobody was good enough to break into the Top 10. Maybe in March. :)