Thursday, April 30, 2009

Remember to read Medieval for tomorrow!

note: Medieval review will not be posted until 9am PT.

Remember everyone: Tomorrow, Scott Myers and I from Go Into The Story are reviewing Medieval which we gave you last Friday. You should have read the script and prepared your comments, which you will post on either mine or Scott's blog tomorrow after our dual-review. So, if you're late to the party, go back and read this post where you can find a download link to the script. And then read it! READ IT I SAY!

Also, don't forget to tune in Saturday for an interview with one of the writers on my TOP 10 list. Very excited about that and it's a great interview. So you better be there.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Couple Of Dicks (now "Cop Out")

Genre: Buddy Cop
Premise: Two veteran LAPD detectives attempt to track down a stolen, mint-condition, 1952 baseball card.
About: Kevin Smith became interested in directing this which makes it - I believe - his first directing gig on a film he didn't write. Once Smith hopped onboard, Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis signed on. Yes, you heard that right. Tracy Morgan.
Writers: Robb and Mark Cullen

where's the booze?

10 years ago they were cloning sheep. Now they're cloning buddy cop movies.

The generic buddy cop movie has a very simple structure. Give two cops something to do for 90 minutes and while they're doing it, have them make fun of each other. Ideally you'd like a story or something new in there but if you don't care about such pithy things, A Couple Of Dicks is for you.

Hey, look. I understand that not every script requires an original idea. But if you're going to use a template that's been used before, you have to fucking nail the execution. You have to hit it out of the park. And I laughed during A Couple of Dicks. I did. I thought the stuff about Paul thinking his wife was cheating on him was funny. But that's not the same as feeling an emotional connection to what you're reading - which should be every writers' goal.

So what is this about, you ask? Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) are partners who get along but not really. They're more interested in bickering than solving most of the crimes they go out on. In order to pay for his daughter's wedding, Jimmy must sell his most prized possession, an extremely rare baseball card. Except while he's selling it, the store is robbed and his card stolen. Him and Paul find the thief, a Mexican Gang Lord, who has lost something of his own, a Mercedes with a very important payload. He'll give Jimmy and Paul their card back as long as they find his car within 24 hours. When they do find the car, they also find an extremely attractive Mexican woman in the trunk. The woman explains to them that the reason she's in the trunk is because she witnessed the murder of a high ranking Mexican official. So there's your story.

But as I already mentioned, you didn't come to A Couple of Dicks for the story. You came for the lol banter between the cops. So let's read some, shall we? Here, in one of the funnier scenes, the two are transporting a robber whose signature move is shitting in people's houses before he robs them. Paul is calling is wife, who he's convinced is cheating on him.


Come on, Paul. You gotta stop thinking like this. It's making you nuts.

I know. I know.

Does she vacuum a lot?


Vacuum. Does she always have the vacuum out.

Paul looks at Jimmy.


Then she's doing something. My buddy used to vacuum his bed all the time to get his bitch's hair off the sheets and stuff before his old lady came home.

Is that what they do?

I don't know. That's what he did.

I'm looking for answers from a guy who shits in people's houses.

It's my calling card!

Shut your mouth...

I'll be quiet.

Silence then...

Hey, maybe your wife suffers from that CCD thing I heard on the news.

What's CCD?

Cock Craving Disorder. It's when they crave the cock, any cock, every cock. She's probably in the middle of a DP right now.

Paul looks to Jimmy not knowing what "DP means.

Double penetration.

Paul spins aorund again to Dave.

I'll...I'll kill you! I will shoot you right fucking now!

OK, OK... I'm sorry. I'm just playing. I'm going to jail for chrissake.

Not another goddamn word.

Dave "locks" his lips and throws away the key. Silence, then...

Knock, knock...

Jimmy can't resist.

Who's there?

Paul shoots Jimmy a "What are you doing?" look.


Orange who?

Orange you pissed your wife is taking it in the ass from some other guy right now?

That's it! Pull the car over!

So yeah, it's not a stretch to figure out why Smith connected to the material. Besides the, um, highbrow humor, if you've ever listened to Smith's interviews, he's one of the most insecure dudes on the planet and openly believes his wife is fucking around on him.

I'm going to reserve judgment on this as a film until I see a trailer because there's always the chance that Morgan and Willis will have unbelievably awesome chemistry together. Sort of similar to what happened on Rush Hour. My fear is that it's become acceptable to treat these buddy cop movies as templates and leave it up to the actors to elevate them. The script has to stand on its own! And for me, the damn thing kept falling over!

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

What I learned: Maybe I made myself out to be the third Dick here, but I want to point out that I don't think the Cullens are bad writers. They didn't win the originality contest this time around, but fundamentally they know what they're doing. One thing I liked about this script is that by page 15, we know both these characters' problems. Paul thinks his wife is cheating on him and Jimmy needs to come up with 28 grand for his daughter’s wedding. This is not to be confused with the overall goal, which is to get the baseball card back But I want to point out that I read a lot of screenplays that don’t give their main characters problems. As a result, the characters just sit there with nothing to do. Do the characters in your current screenplay all have problems? I would make sure they do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memoirs (Remember Me)

note: The interview originally slated for today has been moved to Saturday. Wanna make sure you guys get 5 reviews this week.

Genre: Drama
Premise: Two college students who’ve experienced recent loss fall in love and heal their fractured families.
About: Landing on last year's Black List with 6 votes, this was just recently picked up by Summit. Also Rob Pattinson of Twilight fame is attached (for context's sake, I knew none of this while reading the script)
Writer: Will Fetters

Memoirs is a strange little script that was pushed on me by one of our readers. She kept saying "You gotta read Memoirs. You gotta read Memoirs." I looked at the 50 or so scripts I wanted to read *before* Memoirs and said, "There's no way this is happening." Of course I didn't tell her that.

Well after a long day of reading 4 scripts - yes 4 - I was about to go to sleep when I said, "You know what? I still got something in me. Why not?" (sadly, I really did say this out loud) So I grabbed Memoirs and started reading. After 10 pages, something familiar started creeping over me. I felt like I had read this script before. And it was because I *had* read this script before! I had given it a shot six months ago and absolutely hated it. I never made it past page 20.

It's about a guy Tyler (I envisioned him as a sort of Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting type) who pretty much leads a miserable existence. He's depressed about the world. His father doesn't have time for him. He's got a step-father he doesn't get along with. He's got an 11 year old sister with no friends. His older brother died at the World Trade Center. About the only thing he's got going for him is his friend AIDAN, who is so over-the-top, you feel he's written that way just to compensate for the fact that everybody else is so damn depressing. He's still pretty funny though. Here's their first scene together, after Tyler wakes up with some random girl...

I sold your girlfriend a toothbrush.

You sold my who? ...What?

That voluptuous, delightfully oblivious little blondie you left in your bed this morning... I sold her a toothbrush. Got three bucks.


Are in order, yes. Because that sale inspired our newest business venture - "The SLUT"

Tyler stares blankly.

The 'Single Lady's Universal Tote'

Tyler stares blankly.

It's the one-night-stand travel pack for women. We throw in some make-up, toiletries, cell phone charger, cab numbers. Retail it at S19.95, maybe do an informercial.

And you think women would buy this? With money?

Hey one-night-stands happen... It's a part of life... like stubbing your toe. Sometimes you misjudge a corner and bend back your pinky toe, other times you wake up in a freshman dorm wearing a field hockey tee shirt wondering why your balls smell like cinnamon...

Tyler gives him a peculiar look.

And that's completely hypothetical.
(quickly moving on)
Don't underestimate the novelty gift market. Think about it...instead of giving that token slutty friend a ten-inch black dildo for her birthday, you hook her up with "The SLUT." Everyone has a laugh and the implication that she'll probably use it someday remains. What do you say? Are you in?

You need help.

Tyler finishes his cigarette.

OK... fine... be cynical... just remember at some point in history two people had a conversation just like this about the light bulb. One of them went on to fame and fortune and the other one probably went to work at Denny's or something.

I'm pretty sure they didn't have Denny's in the 19th century.
A funny scene and yet I had no idea what to think because up until this point, there wasn't a single laugh in the script. Did I miss something? When did this turn into Swingers? Anyway, Tyler and Aidan get into a late night scuffle with some street thugs that results in a police officer pulling a Rodney King and giving Tyler the beat down. Aidan insists he sue but another opportunity presents itself when Aidan finds out that the officer's daughter, ALLY, attends their college. Aidan insists that fucking over the daughter is the perfect way to get back at the officer. Tyler's reluctant at first but eventually makes his move. The two begin a relationship and start to fall for each other - the conflict of course being that sooner or later Tyler will have to meet Ally's father and the truth will come out.

Although the relationship feels manufactured at first, it eventually finds its rhythm, and you have yourself a cute little story about two people falling for each other despite their respective fucked-up-ness. It's not bad but what bothered me is the misstep it made before the relationship even started. One thing I don't like is when an important decision is made by someone other than the main character. In this case, Aidan pushes Tyler to date Ally to fuck over the officer. Tyler reluctantly agrees and, of course, later falls for Ally. When the difficult decision comes on how to tell Ally that he knew her father from before, it doesn't have nearly the punch it would've had had Tyler been 100% responsible for starting their relationship. This way it's wishy-washy. The spot he's in is kinda his fault but kinda not. You never want this. Always have your protagonist driving the story. It makes him stronger and it makes the story stronger.

Now up to this point I was thinking, "Why did she want me to read this script so bad? It's just a basic love story." There was nothing about the script that stood out. And then............the ending came. I am a SUCKER for a good ending. I loved The Sixth Sense. I loved The Others. I love anything that makes me rethink the movie I just saw. For its ending alone, Memoirs gets bumped from a "worth the read" to an "impressive". Even though I'm telling you it's coming, you won't figure it out. Trust me. So don't even try. I'm not even sure it completely fits with the story. But it's so shocking that you can't help but..........well, run out and tell someone about it. Someone told me. Now I'm telling you. Check out Memoirs. It very well may shock you. :)

edit: Lest I mislead you, this script has nothing to do with ghosts.

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

What I learned from Memoirs: I said it right at the end of the review. The ending of this script bumped it up from something I probably never would've mentioned to anybody, to something I'm now reviewing on my site and would encourage you to check out. Twist endings are tricky and they're hard to pull off. But if you have a script idea with a good one, write it, because there's nothing quite like a reader finishing a script and going, "Holy shit." They absolutely have to tell someone. Now! Here's a real-world example for you. The reader who suggested this to me would not leave me alone about it. Talk about the ultimate marketing tool.

note: If you are going to discuss the ending in the comments section, please precede your post with *spoiler*. Thank you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Aaron and Sara (BFF)

Genre: High School Rom-Com
Premise: A nerd and a cheerleader explore four years of high school as best friends.
About: Landed on the 2007 Black List with 7 votes, I believe this sold last year. It will be directed by controversial director and all around nutball David O. Russel (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings).
Writers: Chad Gomez Creasy and Dara Resnik Creasy

I was really looking forward to this script. When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies of all time and easily the best romantic comedy ever. So when I heard someone had written a high school version of it, I began banging my head on the wall and angrily muttering, "Why didn't I think of that??" We've seen a million high school movies before, but none which take us through all four years of the experience.

Then I read the first few lines of Aaron and Sara and got really fucking worried. Aaron's opening scene has him fucking a teddy bear. I thought, "Ohhh noooo. All this hype and another American Pie ripoff?" Fortunately the scene is an anomoly. There isn't a single one like it in the rest of the script. What we get instead is a simple story about a great friendship that may or may not turn into something more.

We meet Aaron, your typical dorky high school Freshman (who wants to get into Yale), and Sara, your typical smokin hot high school Freshman (who wants to bang the soccer team). The two neighbors are forced to drive to school together and it's a disaster from the get-go. Aaron is inquisitive and sweet while Sara is cold and cruel. As far as she's concerned, Aaron is below her. She's only weathering this ride because her mother told her to. As soon as they get to school, Aaron is just another dork in the crowd.

But as time goes by, being locked up in such a small space forces a friendship to blossom, if only to avoid the 20 minutes it takes to get to school. As they move into Sophomore year, the odd couple quickly become best friends, helping each other through the daily drama of the toughest 4 years of your life. Their best friends, BJ and Jayden, fall for each other quickly, leaving Aaron and Sarah as the 3rd and 4th wheel everywhere they go. It's a great way to describe them because they're never apart but they're never together.

Sophomore year turns into Junior year and Junior year turns into Senior year. They get older, mature, chase guys, chase girls, experience the death of a friend, and hang out for endless hours in Aaron's basement playing Grand Theft Auto.

When they do chat, most of their conversations revolve around what every high school conversation revolves around: sex. Aaron is saving himself for that perfect girl while Sara has sex with anything that walks. Although a twinge of jealousy surfaces here and there, for the most part whenever they're involved in a relationship, the other is supportive, with Sarah going so far as to beg Aaron to have sex with his girlfriend. It's kinda nice since in the end, they want what every pair of best friends want, for the other to be happy.

If I had to wage one complaint against Aaron and Sara, it's that the years weren't distinguished enough. Whereas Sophomore year felt different from Freshman year, Sophomore through Senior year pretty much felt the same. Each year of high school is different. Each title has its own distinctive identity. Remember the way the years felt in Mr. Holland's Opus as they jumped from time period to time period? Granted they had more to work with, but I was looking for that same feel here and never quite got it. I couldn't even tell you how to fix this but to hit the movie out of the park, it absolutely needs to be done.

But Aaron and Sara gets the relationship part right. These are two best friends who can't figure out for the life of them that the person they love is right in front of their face.

I don't know about you but I feel like every high school movie for the past 15 years has been exactly the same. Aaron and Sara provides the kind of twist the teen high school genre desperately needs.

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

What I learned from Aaron and Sara: Aaron and Sara has an interesting structure in that it basically has 4 acts (the 4 years of high school - duh). In addition, there's no driving force behind the story. There's nothing that Aaron and Sara are trying to accomplish other than to experience high school. This doesn't exactly propel the story forward, like most agents/managers/producers would like a story to do. So why does it still work? That's a good question and it's something I'm not entirely sure I know the answer to. My guess is that since we know where we're going to end up (the end of high school), it allows us to calm down and enjoy the ride. I think it works.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Genre: Comedy
Premise: When the greatest zookeeper in the world considers quitting because women don't dig his job, the animals of the zoo band together to find him a mate.
About: Yes, here it is folks: The 2 million (against 3 million) dollar script.
Writers: Jay Scherick & David Ronn

Welcome to our final script in our Top 6 Sellers Of 2008 week (and a day). This is the big cheese, the top seller, the raison d'etre. Enjoy.... :)

So Leonardo DiCaprio is playing a part in one of the top selling scripts of 2008. Jim Carrey is playing a part in one of the top selling scripts of 2008. Will Smith is probably playing a part in one of the top selling scripts of 2008. So which star will be playing a part in THE top-selling script of 2008? Did somebody guess...a zebra? Then you'd be right! Because the top-selling script of 2008 stars talking animals!!! Woooo-hooooo!!! I mean come on, who doesn't love talking animals?

I'm not going to lie. I found Zookeeper to be quite enjoyable. Sure it doesn't have spaceships or guns and it's pretty much a carbon copy of Night At The Museum (with a little Toy Story thrown in), but it's still a blast. ANDREW the zookeper can't find any honeys in his line of work. He's a lonely man whose only happiness comes from taking care of his beloved animals. But Andrew doesn't want to be alone forever, and since the job keeps the women away, he decides to make a change in his life. Yes, he decides to quit the job he loves. When the animals hear this (animals which up to this point we thought were normal animals) they wait for everyone to leave the zoo and then someone screams, "Meeeeeting!" Minutes later they're all convening in the courtyard. Yes, the animals can talk. And they need to find a way to keep Andrew here.

Since the beginning of time there's been a code. And that code states that animals can't talk to humans. When the beautiful new panda caretaker, KATE, moves in, the animals see a chance to get the two together and keep Andrew around. The problem is that Andrew has absolutely no game. Actually, he's got negative game. Andrew's not even sure where the game's being played. So the animals have to do the unthinkable. They have to BREAK THE CODE and teach him "the game". What follows is a hilarious scene where Andrew sits in front of every animal in the zoo as they explain to him how to get Kate. The writers do such a good job setting up Andrew and this world, it truly feels like someone who's loved animals his whole life just realized they can talk. It's like...what the fuck is going on right now???

Scherick and Ronn really know how to write a screenplay. Even if you're not a fan of Zookeeper (and essentially what we're talking about here is a family film - so it's understandable if you're not) you gotta give these guys props for how they write. They keep everything simple and to the point. There's a lot of white space. No unnecessary action description or scenes. It's the prototypical spec script.

They're also masters of structure. Keeping all the characters motivated, keeping the storyline fresh, interesting, and moving, introducing twists and turns at just the right spots. And through it all, making it all seem believable - not an easy feat for a movie with talking animals.

This isn't a movie I would rush out to see on opening day but if they nail Andrew's casting, I'd rent it on DVD. Zookeeper is a solid screenplay. And its mix of ingredients will almost surely result in a huge box office meal. For that reason, the large price tag is justified.

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

What I learned from Zookeeper: This may seem obvious because we've all seen it before, but I was surprised by how effective it was in this particular story. The president of the zoo, the handsome but despicable TRENT, is also courting Kate. In a number of situations, Andrew comes to the rescue, saving the day, but because Kate was looking in the other direction or not around, it's assumed that Trent - not Andrew - was the hero. I found myself actually screaming at the screen, "No! It wasn't him, it was Andrew!" What more can you ask for as a writer? Have your villain steal the credit from your hero whenever possible. It's a great way to make us love our hero more and hate our villain more, all at the same time.

Saturday Update

Hello everyone. Lots to talk about for this upcoming week so what I'm going to do is get a little anal and make a list!

1) LOGLINE CONTEST - An idea I wanna throw out there is a monthly (or bi-monthly?) logline contest. Where you guys would send in your loglines and I would pick the top 5 and publish them at the end of the month. I know there are some industry people who read the site so who knows, maybe someone will spot your logline and request a read. I'm looking for ideas to help writers in general so let me know by e-mail or in the comments section if that's something you'd be interested in. If not, give me other ideas!

2) INTERVIEW - This Wednesday will be Scriptshadow's first interview. Not only will it be an interview, but it will be an interview with one of the writers from my Top 10 list. Should be exciting so tune in for that.

2.5) MEDIAFIRE SUCKS - Mediafire seems to be run by the same people who run Norton Utilities because it rarely ever works. I'm going to give them one more week (since all my files are already on there) and then I'll look for another file-linking solution. In the meantime, keep trying. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 attempts to work.

3) I LOVE YOU - You guys have been so generous. In the past couple of weeks you've sent me over 75 scripts, many of them scripts that I asked for. You can probably do the math. Only 5 reviews a week. With those scripts alone it will take me 15 weeks to review them all. So just because I don't review them right away doesn't mean I'm not thankful. I wish I could read them all tomorrow. But these things take time.

4) ODYSSEUS - Don't forget to check out the very first Saturday Scriptshadow review if you missed it. It's from the new spec that sold to WB on Friday called "Odysseus". A nice surprise for you and a nice surprise for me. Scroll down to read it.

5) SCRIPTS I'M LOOKING FOR - As always, keep checking the "Scripts I Need" list over to the right. If you have a script on there, please send it. I have a lot but I want more. MORE I SAY!

6) YOU'VE DEMANDED MORE HORROR - Many people have written in and demanded that I review more horror. Horror isn't really my thing so I've recurited some outsiders to help in that department. These guys know their horror and I'm hoping they'll be able to contribute regularly. Expect their reviews some time within the next week or two.

7) MEDIEVAL - Don't forget to read Medieval and comment on Scott and I's dual review this Friday. Early feedback tells me this is going to get ugly. In fact, not one person has said anything good about it, lol.

8) BLOG TO CHECK OUT - Last but not least, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a blog that I check out regularly. It's called Nick's Pix, and it's just a great blog about movies in general. Tons of great reviews. He always finds cool little things to check out. I highly recommend it so go there now! Nick's blog ------ but then, like, make sure you come back at some point. :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Genre: Historical Action/Adventure
Premise: A forgotten king fights to take back his kingdom.
About: These days it's hard to find bidding wars in Hollywood. Studios are getting cheap. But Friday was an exception as Warner Brothers battled it out with Paramount for the spec script, "Odysseus". I'm not sure how much it sold for but I assume it's a lot. Now an interesting little tidbit. The script is being directed by Joseph Liebesman, who also happens to be directing another script I reviewed on Scriptshadow. A little script called "Battle: L.A." I'm not going to go any further than to say Liebesman might want to get Peacock to rewrite that one.
Writer: Ann Peacock

Sometimes The Scriptshadow must wield his power over The Hollywood. He must show them that his fingers can reach deep into the center of the beast, and rip from its body any organ he so chooses. Today's organ of choice? Odysseus, a script that was sold less than 16 hours ago! Reviewed for you here. On a Saturday. On a fucking Saturday! A day I was supposed to have off!!! Damn you Hollywood! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELLLLLLLLL!!!

I guess this is what happens when you receive a script on a day when you've already read three. So before I fall into a heap of exhausted slumber, let us get in our time machines, and head back to the ancient times. To Greece (or somewhere near there anyway).

Ithica is a beautiful island off in the middle of the sea. Its people have lived without their king, Odysseus, for 20 years, as he never returned from the Trojan War and is assumed dead. But the peaceful Ithicanians (?) are in for a rude surprise, as an army of bloodthirsty warriors, led by the Ancient Greek version of Darth Vadar, ANTONINUS, arrive on the island. The Ant Man is both a mystery and a terror. And his horse will piss on your face (no seriously, he will).

This army of ancient douchebags slaughter the locals like chickens in a chicken pen and overtake Odysseus' castle without so much as raising a finger. There, Antoninus captures Odysseus' wife Penelope, and his son, Telemachus, and begins his rule over the land.

After years go by, a starving weak bearded man washes ashore, a man who it doesn't take long for us to realize is Odysseus. He's finally come back to his kingdom. But what he finds there instead, is an island destroyed and decimated. If Odysseus wants his kingdom and his queen back, he's going to have to fight for it.

The first thing that struck me when I opened this script was the page count. It comes in at a lean 90 pages. Yes! 90 pages! I can't remember the last time I read a 90 page script. It seems like every script these days is 117 pages. But this wasn't done to appease my lack of sleep. It was done to keep the story moving as fast as possible. This is the first script I've read in awhile where there were no unncessary scenes. Every inch of real estate here had a purpose and it's an awesome decision. The script flies like a Greek eagle.

Every character here is compelling. Odysseus' people hate him because he never came back from the war. Why didn't he? Queen Penelope must live with the sadness that her husband never loved her enough to come back. Telemachus, Odysseus' son, must serve Antoninus or his mother will be killed. And there are many great secondary characters sprinkled throughout the script.

I think the moment I really knew I was dealing with a professional was when Odysseus began planning how to take back the kingdom. Soonafter, Antoninus orders a child from every household to be murdered in 24 hours if Odysseus is not captured. This does a couple of things. It turns his own people against him. But more importantly, it forces Odysseus to speed up his plan drastically - in effect, giving him an impossible timeframe to acheive his task. This is what good writing is about. Creating an extreme sense of urgency where the stakes are incredibly high. So few writers do that these days. I was very impressed.

Another nice surprise was Antoninus, who could have easily been a stereotype villain but who we learn actually has a pretty compelling reason to be doing all this to Odyssesus.

I don't know if you're a Braveheart lover like me. But remember the scene where William Wallace comes back to the village after his wife is slaughtered? Well the final 40 pages are like an extended version of that.

As you know, I haven't read anything that's really excited me in awhile. Sloshing through these top-selling scripts of 2008 all week, I was beginning to think that nobody at the studios knew what the hell they were talking about. But Odysseus definitely deserved the bidding war it received. Great script and very impressed.

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

What I learned from Odysseus: This script is the perfect example of no wasted space. Every scene is important to the story. There are no vanity scenes. Every scene has momentum and purpose.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New Monthly Feature On Scriptshadow

note: Scroll down to see Friday's review of "The Long Run"

Scott's going to kill me for posting this so early but I was supposed to post it at 9am my time and I know that there's no way in hell I'm going to be up at 9am. So it's now or never. The Scott in question, Scott Myers over at Go Into The Story, and I are going to do a monthly feature (assuming you guys like it) where we pick out a recently sold spec script, GIVE IT TO YOU GUYS A WEEK AHEAD OF TIME SO YOU CAN READ IT, review it ourselves the following Friday in a dual review of fates, and then have a cross-intergalactic-blog discussion about the script in the comments section.

One of the reasons I started this site was to get people discussing scripts. Unfortunately by the time you download and read them, the original review is buried 4 or 5 posts back. And who has time for history right? That's like so yesterday. This way, you don't have an excuse. We're giving you the script a week ahead of time. Although the focus of the conversation should be on why you believe the script sold, you can discuss any of your intricate thoughts about structure, story, characters, plot. I want people to actually learn something. Yeah, you heard that right: LEARN.

The first script in this feature is titled "Medieval." Said to be a "The Dirty Dozen" in the age of castles, plagues and serfs, the script sold for 800,000 dollars back in February. So this is your first assignment my friends. Your first Scriptshadow homework. Don't let me down.

Script link: Medieval

edit: Mediafire's been acting weird so if you can't download the link you'll have to hang tight while I find an alternative. Which will happen whenever I wake up. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Carson Reeves Interview??

Just a quick update to alert you guys to "Go Into The Story" where I give a brief interview (9am EST). These bits and pieces I share are precious because I rarely reveal anything to the public. So take advantage dammit. Also, Scott Myers and I will start doing something that we think is kinda cool every month. So stay tuned for that announcement on Friday. Pierre Pierre review is below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pierre Pierre

Genre: Le Comedie
Synopsis: Le man est angrie deteste le grand ball nous live on. Salut.
About: Sold for uno million dollars, this Western European jaunt will star Jim Carrey and be directed by Juno's Jason Reitman (no, contrary to popular belief, Diablo Cody did not direct Juno). With Fox Atomic having a nuclear meltdown, I'm not sure where this project currently stands. But I have to say, Jim Carrey, although a little old, is perfect for the part. I'm one of the few souls that liked Yes, Man.
Writers: Edwin Cannistraci & Frederick Seton

note: yes I was considering doing my entire review in faux French. You're welcome for changing my mind.

Let's get something out in the open right now: Cannistraci and Seton, the writers of Pierre Pierre, are two really fucked up individuals. And you know what? I love them for it. Cause their demented minds came up with "Pierre Pierre", a script about an annoying Frenchmen who hates the world so much, he wishes only that he could be dead. Yes, welcome to the 1 million dollar spec script, and 2nd on our list of Top selling 2008 screenplays, "Pierre Pierre!"

Pierre Pierre takes advantage of one of the few countries we can still make fun of without feeling bad about ourselves, France. Pierre is everything we assume the stereotypical Frenchman would be: arrogant, smug, smelly, insensitive, combative, and doesn't really respect women. But see it's okay, because even though the writer is making fun of him, he's making fun of us. And when I say "us", I mean everybody. Because Pierre hates everybody.

We're informed almost immediately just how much of an asshole Pierre is, because instead of calling his girlfriend "Michelle", he calls her "Scumbag." Pierre has all sorts of interesting names for the people in his life. His father is "Idiot Father". His mother is "Whore Mother". A hot girl he meets is "Hot Bitch". His best friend (who also happens to be a rapist and a murderer) he names "Pigeonshit". And of course he calls all these people these names to their faces, which is actually the nicest thing this he says to them, because most of what Pierre has to say revolves around insults and personal attacks. For instance, when his girlfriend brings up that he doesn't work, Pierre retorts, "I work plenty Scumbag. Listening to you prattle on is work. Having the sex with you is work. Breathing the same shit air you breathe is fucking work."

It's actually funny because you imagine Pierre with a thin little mustache, chain smoking, saying all this in the most absurd French accent imaginable. Jim Carrey is going to have a field day with this role but I wouldn't be surprised if they did a rewrite and cleaned him up a lot. This borders on dark comedy here. And we all know what happened the last time Jim Carrey did dark comedy. Errr...The Cable Guy?

So the main storyline is Pierre insulting people. What would be considered the "sub-plot" is when Pierre has to transport the stolen Mona Lisa somewhere in Europe with his stupid girlfriend. Along the way he and Scumbag find a tiny code on the painting and they think, a la the Da Vinci Code, it must lead to something amazing. But as much as Pierre tries to give a shit, he just can't, and would much rather be sitting in an empty room, smoking a cigarette, preparing for death. Watching the Mona Lisa get ripped, kicked, bent, twisted, drawn on, and thrown in the ocean is kinda funny though.

Pierre's shtick gets a little thin in the end, but there are enough LOL moments to justify its large price tag. This script is different from almost every comedy I've ever read. For that alone it gets a thumbs up.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read (narrowly missed impressive)
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Pierre Pierre: This is another case where you have the dreaded screenwriting no-no breathing down your neck: the unlikable hero. You might even call the hero in Pierre Pierre "despicable". Screenplay purists would argue it's impossible to write a film with Pierre as the protagonist because if the protagonist's an asshole, why would we root for him? But there are a few devices you can use to offset an unlikable lead, and the biggest one is humor. It doesn't matter how much of an asshole your hero is, if he's making the audience laugh, they're going to like him. A perfect example is Vince Vaughn in Swingers. On paper the guy is a womanzing asshole. But you can't help but laugh at everything he says. There are other secret ways to offset unlikable heros, but what? Do you think I'm just going to give you everything in one post?? Are you crazy?? Pfft! Stupid Americans. Merde! Je Desteste. Fin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Forget To Validate Your Parking!!!

When I first got to LA, I was warned about the parking police. People told me very specifically, "Don't fuck with parking out here." I laughed at them. "Parking?", I said, "How bad can it be?" I'm from Chicago, where you can actually park on a fire hydrant and they won't ticket you. Even if a nearby building burns down. But I would learn very quickly that things are different out here. My first experience came when I parked in Westwood, threw a few coins in the meter, and ran in to get some Fatburger. I came out 23 minutes and 48 seconds later, exactly 12 seconds before my meter was to expire. A parking cop was waiting by the meter, counting down the seconds. As I went to get in my car, smiling happily, I offered a "Just beat it." The parking cop got down to zero and wrote the ticket right there. I was laughing because I thought it was a joke. It was no joke. I assure you, it was no joke.

A month later I was spending my week's earnings on a lunch in Beverly Hills when I noticed some commotion outside. It was a tow truck loading up a car. MY CAR! I ran outside and asked what the hell they were doing! What could possibly be wrong?? The basic response I got was that my car was too dirty. Beverly Hills does not like dirty cars parked on their streets. Although the actual ticket listed some extremely minor technicality, this was definitely the reason my car was towed.

And the wonderful thing about Los Angeles is they have this system in place by which they multiply your ticket exponentially if you don't pay within a certain time. It starts off as 40 bucks. But by two weeks it's 80. 2 weeks later it's like 300 dollars or something. Yes, I learned very quickly that you DON'T FUCK WITH PARKING IN LA.

So why am I bringing this up? Because there's another type of parking you should be aware of. Mike Le, a tremendous writer and all around entrepenaur, writes a hilarious web-comic strip about his experiences in the business. It's called "Don't Forget To Validate Your Parking" and I don't know anyone who's read it who hasn't loved it. Mike's one of the smartest funniest guys I know and you're going to want to get in on the ground floor here so you can cooly claim you knew him when. Mike is also working on a spec script with one of the best hooks I've heard in a long time and I hope to review it on the site when he's finished. Go check out "Don't Forget To Validate Your Parking" in the meantime and laugh your ass off.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Low Dweller

Genre: Drama
Synopsis: A man with a dark past must exact revenge on his brother's killer.
About: Sold for 650k against 1.1 mil. To star Leonardo DiCaprio. Ridley Scott to direct. The writer sold the script all the way from Pennsylvania. But don't be fooled. Inglelsby spent 2 years at the prestigious American Film Institute (great school btw).
Writer: Brad Ingelsby

I'd still prefer a sequel to Titanic

No. 4 of 5 on our Top-Selling Scripts of 2008 List. Because you stingy script-horders won't send me "The Long Run" (AHEM! AHEM!) it looks like this will be our last drama of the week. Enjoy (aka I hate you).

I was really dreading this one. I already tried to read it once and it didn't go well. By page 13 I was actually considering watching The Bachelor instead. That's never a good sign because I only mildly occasionally watch The Bachelor. It's usually by accident if I'm flipping through the channels and happen to leave it on ABC at 8pm on Mondays. It's always by chance though. Believe me, I could care less about the show. But I will say this: Jason really screwed over Melissa. I'll leave it at that.

And I don't think Molly is emotionally available enough for Jason and I worry how that's going to affect Ty. Okay I'm done. I just wanted to be on the record about that.

The (S)Low Dweller was purchased when none other than Jack Dawson (known by some as the celebrity-eschewing Leonardo DiCaprio) became interested in the material. Scripts that are bought for actors are always interesting because an actor doesn't look at the whole story when he's looking at a script. He tends to look exclusively at the character. This is all fine and dandy but a story has to work as a whole and sometimes these vanity projects stink of Oscar bait. Check out "Seven Pounds" if you don't believe me. But it's a good thing for Inglesby that DiCaprio became interested. Because if he hadn't, I'm almost certain we'd have never heard of The Low Dweller.

I don't know how many of you watch Entourage, but The Low Dweller reminds me of those two hicks that E represents - the ones that ended up selling their script for a million dollars? This is a small town movie about small time people. We meet SLIM somewhere in rural Indiana (is there anywhere in Indiana that's not rural?), his clothes stained with fresh blood, his mind still blank from alcohol. We find out later he's killed a man but we don't know who or why. After four years in jail, he's released back into a world that's forgotten him.

He reconnects with his brother and the rest of the people he left behind - all of whom he seems to have strained relationships with. The Low Dweller is heavy. I'm serious. There isn't a single smile in the script. I'm getting depressed just thinking about it. When his brother is killed for skipping out on a gambling debt, Slim grabs a couple of old buddies and heads out on the road for a little revenge (if only he'd called Dan Minter!). The man he's going after, SAM, is a really bad guy who, for some reason, likes to wear a fedora. During this time Slim tries to mend the relationships he destroyed during his "troubled" past.

The writing here is very good but the film feels like it's lost in cliches. Small town with shady characters. Guy owes a gambling debt. Collectors are tired of waiting to get paid so they kill him. His brother (with a dark past) comes after the killer. I'm not saying you have to have a completely original idea to write a good screenplay. But it helps.

Basically The Low Dweller is a revenge movie and it takes way too long to get to the revenge part. The first 20 pages could've been condensed into 3. If you want to read a great movie about revenge, look no further than my Top 25 List and download The Brigands Of Rattleborge . Now that's a revenge movie. This is Revenge Light, and I fail to see what caught DiCaprio's interest here besides another opportunity to use a southern accent.

The script makes a late comeback (with a revenge for the revenge) but the final shot falls short. This felt like an amalgam of a few films: Fargo, No Country For Old Men, and History Of Violence. I like all of those movies but the problem with The Low Dweller is that it doesn't do anything nearly as well as any of them. This sounds terrible but The Low Dweller is kind of like the ugly non-smiling stepchild here.

But if you liked any of those movies, you might as well check out The Low Dweller. Who knows? Maybe DiCaprio saw something in it that I didn't and it'll turn into a great movie. It definitely has its admirers as I think it was pretty high on The Black List. Just bring something to entertain yourself during the read - like a gameboy - cause it's sloooooooooooo-oooooooooow.

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

What I learned from The Low Dweller: If you're going to write a revenge movie, you have two jobs. Make sure we like the person who gets killed and inspires the revenge and make sure we detest the killer (so that we'll want to see him killed). Fail on either of these fronts and your revenge movie doesn't work. If you have a somewhat mean guy killing an annoying victim, where's our incentive for the hero to get revenge?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dan Minter: Badass For Hire

Genre: Comedy
Synopsis: The most badass dude on the planet must find a kidnapped billionaire before it's too late.
About: Sold for 500k against 1 mil.
Writer: Chad Kultgen (I originally posted the write as "Zane Smith". This was incorrect)

Another well-known badass

Welcome to Huge Spec Sales of 2008 Week. Let's get started with Dan Minter shall we?

Do I even need to review this? The title is "Dan Minter: Badass For Hire". I could probably end this review right now and you'd know exactly what you were getting. And believe me, I'm tempted to. But I'm contracturally obligated (to myself) to keep writing so here we go. The script starts off with Dan Minter (think 'the ultimate badass guy's guy') taking out an entire drug cartel. His weapon of choice? Kicking people in the balls. Dan Minter really likes kicking people in the balls. Dan Minter is the ultimate weapon. He could beat a tag team of James Bond, Neo, Superman, and Andre The Giant in a wrestling match. He eats metal. He never makes love to the same woman twice. He shaves his pubic hair with a machete. Did I mention Dan Minter is a badass? Cause he is. And however many times I'm telling you? It'll still be 1/20 as many times as they tell you in the script.

Dan Minter's job becomes personal when his old Special Forces Commander, WINTHROP, now the president of a multi-billion dollar company, is kidnapped. He partners up with VICTORIA, Winthrop's daughter, and the two blaze a trail trying to find him, constantly bumping heads with the insufferably clueless FBI.

Dan Minter is funny. I mean, there's no denying that. Early on, he's in an elevator with a bunch of uptight corporate business types when all of a sudden someone farts. Instead of allowing it to go unclaimed, Minter stops the elevator and refuses to start it again until the person who did it fesses up. It's equal parts head-shaking and gut-busting.

But you know what? I can't possibly do Mr. Minter justice without giving you some of his idiotic yet genius diaogue. Here's an exchange between Minter and the man who's getting in the way of his investigation, FBI head CARTER NIBBS. DAN MINTNER: Well Carter, before your FBI goons get their hands shoved up their own asses and then shoved in their mouths I want to tell you a little story. It goes like this: There was a kid who wanted a puppy for his birthday. So his parents went to the local shelter and got him a pit bull with a scar over his left eye. They locked the pitbull in the bathroom until morning. They were gonna surprise the kid. Turns out the surprise was all theirs when that pitbull broke through the bathroom door with psychotic rage from being locked up and exacted his revenge on the parents. Mauled ‘em to death right in front of the kid, then winked at him with that scarred eye and ran away into the night. So what was the kid to do? The only thing he could do. He ran out into the night, looking for that dog, waiting for the day he could get his own revenge. After 10 long years on the street that kid never found the dog, but he became the toughest son of a bitch on planet Earth. - CARTER NIBBS: Is this going anywhere? -DAN MINTNER: I was the kid. - CARTER: No shit. So what? - DAN MINTNER: So, when I turned 18 I joined the army. Turns out I was so tough from my years on the streets that I got recruited for special ops training. Also turns out that my commanding officer was like a father to me, more of a father than my real one ever was because he was dead for most of my life. It further turns out that after a few tours in Desert Storm, my CO and I both came back to the states. I found out I could make a living by renting out my services to various clients. And my CO started a little company that turned into a multi-billion
dollar corporation. His name is Charles Winthrop. - CARTER: And? - DAN MINTNER: And I’m gonna find whoever took him and make them pay. - CARTER: Just like you made that pitbull
pay? - DAN MINTNER: I was a kid, asshole. I had no chance of finding that dog. But this time it’s the dog who has no chance.

I mean what more do I need to say? That's pretty much it right there. Sure, once the novelty wears off, Minter's jokes aren't as funny as they were on page 1, but who cares? I know Dan Minter doesn't. I don't anticipate the female demographic flocking to this script any time soon but if you're a man and you really like being a man and you want to celebrate your man-ness, Dan Minter: Badass For Hire might be a good place to start.

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

What I learned from Dan Minter: That sometimes you gotta kick people in the balls. That and you the writer have to have fun when you're writing comedy. It's clear that Smith is having a blast and as a result, we the reader have a blast along with him. I've seen a lot of comedies where the writing is very careful, very calculated, and it never works. Of course you have to have structure to your comedy but if you're not laughing along with it, chances are we aren't either.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Coming Up This Week...

So this week is going to be fun. I'm going to review five of the top selling specs from 2008, starting with the lowest and ending with the highest on Friday. That particular script went for 2 million against 3 million. As I would've said back in third grade: Dayum! (actually I only have to go back to last year for the most recent dayum) Now it just so happens I've already reviewed some big sellers from 2008. Iron Jack sold for 1.25 against 2 million. That review can be found here. A script link can be found here. The Treehouse Gang, which I just reviewed last week, was sold for 750k against 1.5. You can find that review here. And finally Hereafter, which was purchased by Spielberg and Eastwood for low seven figures can be found here. Script review here.

Two new spec scripts I'm looking for that sold this week: "Danny Graves' Man Cave" and "The Highest Bid". And more importantly, "The Long Run" which sold last year. This is one of the 2008 big sellers and I'd like to include it in my week of reviews, if only because it balances out the genres (which right now stand at 4 comedies and 1 drama). If you have'em, please send'em. And if you're new to the site, please check out the "Scripts I'm Looking For" list to the right. Those are toughies, but some of you have come through in a big way, finding me things I never thought I'd get my hands on. I'm more thankful than you know.

Also, in the coming days I'll be extending my Script Analysis Service onto Scriptshadow. Keep an eye out for it because the first five people to sign up will get 50% off. My notes are awesome and my price is extremely competitive, so take advantage! :)

For all you Twitterers, my Scriptshadow Twittering has begun. Jump onboard. Scriptshadow.

And hey, if you have a suggestion for the site or just want to say hi, drop me a line at A lot of you already have and I appreciate the feedback.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Genre: Sci-fi Dark Comedy
Synopsis: A spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant planet has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 90 years before anyone else. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he wakes up a second passenger that he's fallen in love with.
About: Considered one of the best screenplays of 2007, this script was put on the fast track once Keanu Reeves attached himself to star.
Writer: Jon Spaihts

The reason I chose to review this script was twofold. One, Keanu Reeves decided to star in it. And two, of all the specs I discuss with people, this one seems to be the most universally liked.

One of the first things I ask people who read a lot is, "Have you read anything good lately?" The one title that keeps coming back over and over again is "Passengers". And I can see why. It's an entirely unique premise. It's a sci-fi film that's also a comedy. It's dark in ways that movies like this never are. It takes chances. It's interesting. It's different.

So then why didn't I like it?

Upon hearing so many people hype this script up, I actually went back and reread it, figuring I'd missed something. But even that second time around, I couldn't get over one major hole in the story: This would never happen.

A giant ship is flying to another world to colonize it. Makes sense. People are put in sleep chambers for the 100+ year trip. Makes sense. One of those sleep chambers malfunctions. Makes sense. There isn't a system in place in case this happens??? ........ Sorry, doesn't make sense. I don't care how you spin it. It's a huge hole. Because the whole movie hinges on you believing that Keannu Reeve's character, Jim, is in this situation.

What about cycling tech support people in and out of 10 year sleep periods so there were always men maintaining the ship? What about robots with the capability of waking crew up? Why wouldn't a system be put in place?

Okay, enough of Grouch Patrol. When Jim realizes there's no way to go back to sleep, he fears he'll end up living the rest of his life alone in this vast vacant ship. He does make a friend in Arthur The Robotic Bartender. But you can only take conversations with a robot so far - or at least I'm told - and Jim cannot escape his loneliness.

The only thing that keeps him going is the divinely beautiful Aurora, one of the other passengers still in her chamber. Jim begins quite possibly the biggest stalking case in history as he spends every waking hour watching Aurora sleep. This leads to querying the central computer and finding out everything about her. It's a seriously unhealthy relationship. After months and months, Jim gets an idea. A terrible idea. What if he opened Aurora's chamber? Knowing that she'll never be able to go back to sleep. Knowing that she will grow old here with him and die..... It's the ultimate act of selfishness. Does he do it?

Of course he fucking does it. You can only have a single character wandering around in a movie for so long (unless you're Tom Hanks).

So he releases Aurora on false pretenses, telling her her chamber malfunctioned. And because he's spent months and months researching her, he's able to be every thing she wants in a man. Not having any competition helps as well. Eventually though, Aurora finds out the truth, and the only two people left in the world become enemies. Jim is even more alone now than when Aurora was asleep.

The final act deals with a ship malfunction that threatens to kill everyone and Jim and Aurora are forced to work together. It's not a bad ending but like I said, I just wasn't into it.

This is one of the few instances where even though I'm giving Passengers a bad review, I encourage you to check it out yourself. It appears I'm waaaaay in the minority here and there's a good chance you'll like this. Here's the link....

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

What I learned from Passengers: I think it's important that you approach all of your stories with a sense of logic. Ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" "Would this really happen?" A lot of times writers don't challenge their ideas because they fall in love with them. Crossover genres like Passengers are particularly susceptible because there's always one genre the writer cares less about. He/she simply assumes you won't give a shit (and you can argue that he's right - since this script is so universally loved). But I still believe you turn off a portion of your audience by not tending to the details and I think it will cost Passengers a lot of sci-fi fans. Don't ever underestimate your audience.

Hello to the new readers...

Just wanted to say hi to the people coming over from Scott Myers' blog, "Go Into The Story". Scott loves writers who read and you'll find no better blog for script-reading than Scriptshadow. I welcome you guys and hope you stick around. Scott and I plan to do some cool things in the future so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out today's review of Diablo Cody's latest: Jennifer's Body.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Genre: Teen Horror
Synopsis: A high school cheerleader becomes a flesh-eating spawn of the devil.
About: This is the much talked about follow-up to Diablo Cody's Oscar winning screenplay, Juno. Megan Fox to star. Coming out in September of this year.
Writer: Diablo Cody

Diablo's Body

There's a real temptation here to tear this to pieces. There's a temptation to lol at the sound bytes of dialogue that are way too cute to be uttered by any human being, regardless of age. There's a temptation to call Diablo Cody's career a sham, based on her decision to to do what every other wanna-be celebrity does to get famous: take off their clothes. But one thing is very clear: Diablo Cody is making millions of dollars writing screenplays. I am not. Well, not yet anyway. The point is, she's clearly doing something right. For that reason, I'm going to pretend that I never saw the first 30 minutes of Juno, that I never heard the phrases "You're preggo with my eggo" or "Oh my blog", and I'm going to do what nobody in this world has been able to do since Juno was released. I'm going to judge Diablo Cody's screenplay objectively.

See here's something I've got to give Diablo credit for. Cause when I first heard this was going to be her follow-up to Juno I thought, "You're stupid." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how genius it was. Horror gets bad reviews no matter what. Doesn't matter if Sucksy McSuckums writes it or Quentin Tarantino. Critics bash horror. So by writing a horror film, you effectively exonerate yourself from criticism. Cause when the bad reviews come in you can simply throw up your arms and say, "What I am supposed to do?? Critics hate horror." And thus Diablo Cody doesn't have the pressure of following up an Oscar effort. Although I don't particularly like Diablo's writing style, I admit she's one smart chicky.

Enough of this shit. Let's talk about Jennifer's body. Now as some of you may know by now, Jennifer is being played by super-douche Donna's boyfriend from the old 90210's current ex-girlfriend Megan Fox. Jennifer is your typical perfect high school cheerleader princess. She's got the body, she's got the face, and she's got the attitude. So it's a little confusing why her best friend is Needy, the artsy girl who works at the school paper (no not "needy", but her actual name is Needy, for real). A little bit of a stretch there but since it's early on in the script, you go with it.

Jennifer's clearly in control of the relationship. It's Thora Birch - Mena Suarvi Bff-ship in American Beauty territory. So when Jennifer informs a busy Needy that she has to come with her to see this new totally blog-like Emo band, Needy reluctantly agrees. Well not even 2 minutes into their first set, the club catches fire and nearly everybody dies. Except for Needy, Jennifer and the band (clearly inspired by the Great White fire that killed all those people in the Rhode Island club a few years back).

The emo band invites Jennifer along for an after-party to which, despite dozens of people just dying, she accepts. And after that night, Jennifer is never the same. Mainly because she's possessed by the devil and needs to feed on able-bodied male teenagers to get through the day.

This is going to surprise some of you but I didn't think Jennifer's Body was that bad. It was silly but Diablo isn't aiming for greatness here. I would say that there were a few times that the Jennifer character seemed to enjoy the act of dismembering boys a little too much - to the point where I'd be a teensy bit scared to meet Cody in an alley - but it was still funny.

There are Diablo-isms that will definitely test the patience of non-fans. For example, instead of a character saying "You're jealous" they'll say "You're jello." And if you say you're not jello they'll counter with, "Yes you are! You're key lime green jello!" Personally I plan on never using the word jello again because of this and I would recommend to the people at Webster's Dictionary that they remove the word "jello" so that Diablo can never use it again either. But what are you gonna do? It started with a chair.

Another curiosity I found was that whenever Jennifer killed someone, Needy became Obi-Wan Kenobi. She would have to sit down and take a moment to process a "terrible feeling." I mean I know these two are besties but does that mean they also have The Force?

Hey look, I admit it, I thought the first 30 minutes of Juno were shit. But I look forward to Cody's EW column every week. And as many of you have pointed out, exposure for any writer is a good thing. I sorta kinda didn't mind Jennifer's Body. It was somewhat not-unlikeable.

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

What I learned from Jennifer's Body: So towards the end of the movie, the story becomes about Jennifer seducing Needy's boyfriend, Chip, who she obviously wants to kill. Needy starts to sense this, of course, and must delicately persuade Chip to avoid Jennifer, all the while not being able to tell him that she's a flesh eating satan-beast. It works but not nearly as well as it could have. Why? Because Needy didn't love Chip. She *says* she does late in the script. But everything Cody's shown us up to that point suggests that Chip is a big teenage sex-hungry oaf and played him for laughs. But those laughs came at the expense of us really caring about the final outcome. If we knew that Chip and Needy were desperately in love Romeo and Juliet style, do you know how powerful that final act could've been? How terrified we would be of Jennifer stealing away and killing Needy's soul mate? That would've made for great drama. As of now, it still works, but just barely. We don't really care if Chip is killed. Are a few laughs during the screenplay worth that? That's up to you to decide.

Tweet Tweet or Twit Twit?

It happened. I don't know how it happened but it happened. Everybody brace yourselves. There's no easy way to say this.....................

I joined Twitter.

I have been avoiding this for about four years now. I am a techy guy. I love technology. I once took apart my entire laptop and put it back together without instructions. I was one of the first people to say "You gotta check out this new video on Youtube." I joined Myspace, left Myspace, joined Facebook, enjoyed Facebook. But this Twitter thing. I didn't get it. It's like a mini version of Facebook. My friend said it best: "What's next, micro-Twitter? Where they only allow you to use one word?" It's funny but is it really that far away?

Alas, everybody loves Twitter and I'm not going to be left behind. In a week I'll probably love it. I probably won't be able to do anything but tweet. Right now though? All I can think is "Someone's going to buy this program for 500 million dollars" ??? Baffling.

For you Twitterers, you can follow Scriptshadow updates here: @Scriptshadow. I think that's how you say it, right? Somebody help.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tomorrow's Review - Do I hear Diablo?

Tomorrow (Thursday) I'll be reviewing Diablo Cody's second script, Jennifer's Body, so all you Diablo lovers/haters get here early and throw down some comment gauntelets as I expect Fox Atomic to cause a stink and possibly force the review off the internets. I will try and stand strong though because there's nothing I love more than a little Diablo discussion.


Genre: Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: A suburban couple give each other permission to sleep with someone else.
About: Karen McCullah Lutz is the writer of Legally Blonde and Bride Wars. Permission was sold to CBS Films.
Writer: Karen McCullah Lutz

It's an interesting and intriguing idea for a movie. There was the famous (or infamous) Robert Redford/Woody Harrelson film "Indecent Proposal" where Redford pays Harrelson a million dollars to sleep with his wife (a pre-surgery pre-Ashton pre-twittering Demi Moore). There was the Curb Your Enthusiasm season where Cheryl (definition of Milf) Hines agrees to let Larry David sleep with someone before their 20th anniversary. And then there's "the list" that we all make with our girlfriends/boyfriends. You know, the "5 Celebrities That I'll Let You Sleep With" list? By the way, I know someone wrote a script based on this idea. If anyone has it, send it my way.

Anyway, I know those lists are a joke but I always wonder, what if the chance really arose? Would she go through with it? I'd like to think no because...well, you know, I'm ME! But I'm not sure any girl could pass up a night with their dream man. That's what makes a premise like Permission so intriguing. A married couple gives each other permission to sleep with another person. Do they go through with it? Do they do what's right or do they do what's right now?

Unfortunately, the majority of Permission takes the easy way out. The Sandra Bullock "you know everything's going to be okay in the end" route. It actually uses a nearly identical structure to Indecent Proposal in that we see the two agree to the infidelity, struggle going through with it, then battle with the consequences.

The biggest mistake Permission makes is in its lead characters, the happily married Diana and James. They're two very generic people right from the start and by the time we see any depth in them, we're 20 minutes from the end of the movie. See Diane is upset when she finds out that her friends have slept with dozens of men. She, on the other hand, has never had that crazy drunken one-night sexcapade. So she gets this idea that her and her husband should allow each other to sleep with other people (naturally. I mean, it makes sense to me).

At first James is angry. He loves his wife. He doesn't think there's anything wrong with their marriage. And he's not sure how to take it. Luckily biology does the work for him. James gets permission to sleep with someone other than his wife?? Can I hear a hellz yeah?? So they fly off - him to Aspen, her to the Carribean - and engage in many late night escapades trying to bag their respective one-nighters. It's average, predictable, and not very funny storytelling.

UNTIL.... the only surprise in the script. She ends up sleeping with someone. He doesn't. I was positive they were both going to sleep with someone or only he would. So this is the only time the script held any interest for me. When James gets home and realizes what's happened, he flips out, and the final act is about Diane trying to get him back. It's a fresh take in that sense, but in the cozy fields of Romantic Comedy Land, we know everything is going to be okay in the end. And of course it is. See in reality, if you and your wife are giving each other permission to sleep with other people, you got some seriously fucked up shit going on in your marriage. That story would've been interesting to explore.

Permission should've given itself permission to be more edgy. It's a strong concept with tons of potential, but the vanilla choices kept it from being memorable.

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

What I learned from Permission: One thing Permission does well is keep the action lines to a minimum. Lutz knows she's got a talky script on her hands so she doesn't clog it up with needless action description. Too many writers take time describing mundane things that don't matter. All that does is slow down the script. Only describe what absolutely needs to be described. Keep your script lean and mean and the reader will never cheat on you. Unless you give him permission of course. ;)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Broken Amber

Genre: Sci-Fi Thrilla
Synopsis: A sci-fi Bourne Identity, Broken Amber is about a man who realizes that his life isn't what it seems.
About: A spec that I believe came extremely close to being purchased by Warner Bros. Can anyone confirm or deny this?
More: I'm keeping the synopsis vague as it kinda spoiled the script for me. My suggestion would be you read it before you read the review.
Writers: Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwell

Soccer moms are hot. I mean honestly, who wouldn't want to be with a soccer mom? Men, women, boys. We all want to be with a soccer mom in some way. Oh, except for one person. That would be Lucas Hall, who just got murdered by a soccer mom in the first 5 pages of Broken Amber. And if that weren't bad enough, Soccer Mom comes over to Lucas' house and KILLS HIS FAMILY TOO, Stepfather-style (the original John Locke). Bad Soccer Mom! This is not the kind of behavior I expect from a soccer mom. I like my Soccer Moms to be a little less...murdery.

Lucky for me Soccer Mom disappears, at least for the time being, and we meet a new family. Clay, his wife Nancy, and their two children. They're the typical suburban family except for one problem: Clay ain't happy (well, I guess that still makes them the typical suburban family - heh heh). He's unmotivated, confused, moody, watches Dancing With The Stars (yes, I made that last one up). Everything about his life seems to be based in this odd pseudo-reality. Something is wrong but he can never quite figure out what it is.

Answers start to come when Clay goes in for his yearly check-up. Two tweakers have taken the clinic hostage and aren't leaving without a body count. That is until Clay becomes Neo and Bruce Lee all-in-one and takes out the Tweak Twins like they were a couple of developmentally challenged 4 year-olds.

Either Clay's got the Bourne trilogy on repeat or there's something deeper going on here. A hunger is triggered. A hunger to find out who the hell he is. He starts making calls and asking questions which lead him back to his past. Or is it...........his fuuuuuutuuuurrrrrreeee???

Yes. We discover - spoiler alert (isn't my whole site a spoiler alert?) - that Clay's been placed in the past, his mind partially erased and reconfigured so he will forget his previous life. The truth is, Clay is a soldier from the year 2054 and he witnessed something so awful, so terrible, that they had to send him away. And what better place to send him than the past? .............. Right?

....ummm...not so sure about that one but I'll get to that in a second.

Anyway, the rest of the script is basically one giant chase sequence that features Clay running from the future government, who want to kill Clay in order to cover up their secret program, appropriately named... you guessed it: Amber (and, you know, he like, "broke" it).

So here's the problem you run into and it's a problem everybody who writes one of these sci-fi conspiracy movies has to address: Would the government really spend all this time and money (and resources) and endure the incredible risks involved with this kind of program - which probably costs hundreds of millions of dollars - when they could've just used a ten cent bullet to kill this guy and hide the body? I mean, wouldn't that be just a smidgen easier? Problem solved. I just saved the government of 2054 millions of dollars and all I'm asking for in return is to send me back a hot 25 year old brunette who won't call me lazy when I lay on the couch all Sunday.

The one other thing that bothered me about Broken Amber was that it relied too heavily on its twist (which is a good twist). But since it's included in the original logline (which I took out), the movie for me rested on its characters and story. And Clay was never a compelling enough character for me to worry about whether he was caught or not.

Despite these faults Broken Amber has its moments and is worth the read.

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

What I learned from Broken Amber: If you have a big twist in your script, make sure the reader's enjoyment doesn't rest too heavily on that twist. In other words, you still want to make sure the rest of the screenplay is compelling. A big mistake beginning writers make is thinking their twist (or concept) is so awesome that a monkey can write the rest of the script and they'll be fine. WRONG! Challenge yourself and approach each scenario as if you don't have that twist to fall back on. Put the same amount of effort into your characters and story as you would any other script.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Treehouse Gang

Genre: Adventure-Comedy
Synopsis: A Goonies-like gang grows up and decides to go on one last adventure.
About: The Treehouse Gang sold for 750k against 1.5 million.
Writer: Timothy Dowling

Timothy Dowling is a writer/actor who came up with the idea for the then brilliant concept, "George Lucas In Love." He also wrote the recent box office mini-hit "Role Models", which I liked quite a bit. The Treehouse Gang landed him one of the biggest script sales of 2008. But do those dollar signs translate into a well-told engaging story? Let's find out.

The Treehouse Gang's first 10 pages sucked. In fact, they're so bad, I contemplated not reading any more. Now when I say "bad", I don't mean "this person doesn't know how to write" bad. I mean "What the hell were you thinking?" bad. When I hear "The Goonies", I'm expecting something similar in tone to...The Goonies! See while that 80s classic may have been eccentric, it was still based in a realistic world. The Treehouse crew's world is more like some sort of weird fantasy universe that makes up its rules as it goes along.

The "gang" consists of four high school freshman: good looking leader, Billy Hawkins, really good-looking wise-cracker, Trevor, the fat guy, Scottie, and the nerd, Milo. For the most part, I just envisioned the characters from Stand By Me. Anyway, this group goes on a series of adventures in search of real treasure! Like huge golden monkeys that are protected by Indiana Jones like lairs. Each mission is full of killer traps - and not just the kind of killer traps that kids think are "killer". Like, if they screw up, they really die! There are Nazis holding their girlfriends hostage. They get shot at repeatedly. Even stranger, everybody in the area, including the parents and local news stations, know their kids are doing this and do nothing about it! Uhhhhh, what the fuck kind of world do these kids live in??? What parents allow their kids to go off and almost die every day?? If kids are being held hostage with guns, wouldn't the police go out and, oh I don't know, ARREST them? Not in The Treehouse Gang!

So anyway, we cut to 15 years later and Hawkins is working as a Verizon sales clerk. Trevor's fat. Scottie's hot. And Milo is still Milo (funny aside: Dowling suggests they use the same actor for young Milo and old Milo). They head off to their high school reunion where they meet up with the girls they used to date, get drunk, and Hawkins tries to convince them to go on one last adventure to claim the treasure they never found: The Treasure of Shipwreck Island!

The friends say "no thanks" but then Hawkins finds the secret map (the only thing preventing them from finding the island as kids). The Nazi from their youth reappears at that very instant (he must have been waiting in the bushes for a long time), and takes the map for himself! How bout that! The rest of the Treehouse Gang reluctantly signs on (They have to beat the Nazi!) and we move into our movie.

The rest of Treehouse plays out fairly predictably. The girls (now women) tag along. The Treehouse Gang keeps meeting up with Nazi Dude. They almost die. They escape. They get in arguments. Repeat.

The reason I never joined in on this adventure was because I never got over the way the kids were introduced. The Goonies worked because the kids were at that age right before you lose your innocence. When you're a child, everything has the potential to be magical. Your imagination can distort ordinary and extrodinay which makes the eccentricities and the more unbelievable elements of the story believable because you're seeing the world through their eyes. Making the guys high-school age took that opportunity away. In addition, Dowling asks you to believe in a way more ridiculous world than the Goonies ever did. So he loses on both ends. I mean where are there Indiana Jones-like caverns with a million traps and dozens of treasures here in the United States? In The Treehouse Gang there's an abundance of them, all within a 20 mile radius.

I know they've been talking about making a Goonies sequel where the kids go on another adventure and I'd be interested in seeing that. This, not so much. If there's anything positive to say about The Treehouse Gang, it's that it's better than The Adventurer's Handbook. And that they're probably rewriting the hell out of it. My guess is that they bought this one on concept alone.

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

What I learned from The Treehouse Gang: You have to create believable rules for your universe no matter how fantastical that universe might be. If I'm to believe that in your world, parents allow their children to gamble with death every day, then life must not be very valuable in that world. If life isn't valuable, I'm never worried about any of your characters when they're put in danger. If their parents/local authorities don't give a shit, why should I?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Coming Up This Week

I think I'm going to start out this week with one of our reader's suggestions: The Treehouse Gang. This is a script that sold last year for a ton of money described as: What if the Goonies grew up and went on another adventure? Very cool premise. And since the writer wrote one of my favorite movies from last year, the undiscovered gem "Outsourced," I have to say I'm going in with high expectations. Another spec that a lot of people have been talking about is "Broken Amber," about a witness protection program that hides people in the past. Great premise. Would like to know if they executed it. I have a few other ideas but you guys are welcome to send in your suggestions. Also, please continue to check out my "Scripts I'm Looking For" section under my Top 25 List. At the top are "Orbit", about a civilian who gets a chance to go up in the space shuttle only to have all the other astronauts die (Castaway in Space?) and "Aaron and Sara", about a nerd and a popular girl trying to survive 4 years of high school. I know it sounds cliche but I promise you it won't be. David O' Russel (Three Kings, Spanking The Monkey, I Heart Huckabees, the infamous outtake from I Heart Huckabees) is directing. So I know the script will be odd.

And of course if you get your hands on something hot, send it my way. If the buzz is strong, I'll do a FedEx review. That's all for now. See everybody Monday.

EDIT: A couple of corrections. Aaron and Sara is actually the new title of a script from last year called BFF. Also, the writer of The Treehouse Gang did not write the version of Outsourced I was referring to. Regardless, go rent this movie now. I promise you'll laugh. :) Outsourced.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Extract Trailer

For those interested, my favorite script of February, Mike Judge's Extract (review here), just got itself a trailer. Go check it out and let me know what you think. I'm posting this without having even watched it so I have no idea if it's any good. Although with Mike Judge, how can you go wrong, right?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Genre: Comedy
Synopsis: What if the world was a play and all of us were the characters?
About: Demetri Martin, a veteran of the Jon Stewart Show, sold this script to Dreamworks awhile back. It is currently in development.
Writer: Demetri Martin

As I read Will I kept getting this nagging feeling that I should've been enjoying it more than I was. Which was not at all. You know when you're taking breaks every five pages to visit Virgin America's website and touring their super-awesome new interior mood-lighting system (it has eight different lighting schemes that change according to the time of day!) that you're not giving your script any love.

But what started out as a silly comedy quickly became so much more. This was someone trying to say something profound about the world we live in, about the lives we lead. And he had the audacity to do it in a comedy. I perked up. Maybe there was something to this Martin guy.

The basic premise is this: We're all being written by pseudo-angels living above us. In order to maintain stability, they have to keep 99% of us "average and predictable". The more predictable we are, the easier it is to control the "program". Only the best of the best angel writers get to write "major lives", people who actually make a difference in the world. And only a few major lives are allowed to be written. Or else chaos erupts.

Will is an ordinary computer programmer whose girlfriend is more interested in organizing her life via post-it notes than having sex with him. His life is boring. His life is "predictable". Concurrently we also meet Aimsely. This is the writer who invented Will. And in a mad dash to impress his boss so he could write his first "major life", Aimsely kinda forgot to write any pages after Will's 34th birthday. So the day Will turns 34, he wakes up without anything to say. He's a blank slate. Completely in the moment for the first time in his life. And from that moment on, Will starts to think on his own.

It's beautiful and inspiring and clever as all shit. What would happen if you no longer feared anything? Don't we all feel like we're reciting a script anyway? Like we're saying things we're supposed to say instead of things that we want to? I know I feel that way sometimes. And as we watch Will experience this for the first time, it really makes you question your own life. There may not be someone physically writing my lines. But there sure are a lot of things encouraging me to "follow the script". When Will breaks free of this, you ask yourself, why can't I?

Without fear, Will begins to become the coveted "major life". He falls in love. He starts affecting people. Changing them. And these people in turn change others. And it's ruining the carefully calculated "balance" that keeps our world from imploding. The writers try to rewrite Will but he's too strong now. He won't accept rewrites. So they try to rewrite those around him, try to rewrite nature, try to change him externally. This is something that really could've fallen off the rails. But Martin miraculously keeps it together. It's quite impressive.

You've seen this in movies like The Truman Show and Stranger Than Fiction and even in the screenplay I reviewed not long ago, Sequels, Remakes, and Adaptations. But I can say with complete confidence that none of those stories comes close to exploring this idea like Martin does. He's created a mini-masterpiece and I'd rate it higher if I were more into his type of humor and if he had added the same type of depth to his characters that he did his story. But this is a great read and highly recommended for any aspiring screenwriter. Check it out.

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

What I learned from Will: This is going to sound kinda cheesy but the lesson I got out of this came from Will himself. And that's not to hold back. Give in to spontaneity. Give in to creativity and don't judge yourself. Just write. .............. Well, until you get a few drafts in at least. :)