May 2009 Archives
May 1, 2009
Author: Russell Mulcahey
Writer’s Potential: 7
Logline:A disparate group of people find themselves trapped in a flooded grocery store after a tsunami, and they’re forced to work together to survive against sharks and a deranged killer.
Synopsis:Early one morning, on an idyllic Australian beach, a man is suddenly yanked underwater, replaced by a pool of blood and chunks of flesh, which seagulls dip down to eat. Underwater, a shark net running along the beach is revealed to have a gaping hole in it. Three months later, a high-tech, hole-free shark net is nearing completion. TRACY (30s) stands on the beach, waiting impatiently for her son, JIM (15), to finish having fun on the beach. Tracy’s impatience irritates Jim. JOSH (30s), the lifeguard, flirts with Tracy. Then he notices the screws on the lookout’s stilts are falling out, so he decides to go to a nearby supermarket. Tracy and Jim walk to their car. She tries to connect by pointing out that her husband, Jim’s father, left both of them, and they need to stick together. Jim angrily walks away, toward the grocery store. She notices a sweaty, anxious man, SAM, on the street, but doesn’t have time to pay full attention. As she rushes to pursue Jim, Tracy runs into BOBBY, a wheelchair-bound man, knocking him over. He cheerfully jokes as she apologizes and rights him. Meanwhile, JOHN (40s) brings his teenage daughters SARAH and KATIE to the grocery store. The girls are acting obnoxious, taunting each other as the car enters the underground parking garage, passing a sign marking the store’s grand opening.
The MAYOR proudly tours the store. He’s introduced to SUSAN, the young store manager. NAOMI (25), a deaf-mute, tries to sign a question at Susan. ALEX, a stockboy, signs the answer. Susan thanks him. John’s daughters refuse to enter the store with him. Annoyed, John goes in by himself. Inside the pharmacy, Sam waits for something, shifty-eyed. Tracy bursts into the store and finds Jim hanging around with MARTIN (16), a street thug. Tracy yells at Jim and accuses Martin of shoplifting. Just as she’s about to drag him off, they hear a scream. It’s Susan. Sam’s taken her hostage. Tracy suddenly pulls out a radio and calls in the crime — she’s a cop! Sam threatens the shoppers, but he’s disoriented. Susan uses his confusion to kick him in the groin and run away. Sam shoots her in the back. Josh performs rudimentary first aid on Susan while Tracy calls for an ambulance. But the cops will never get there…
A tsunami pounds the beach, flooding the entire town with water. Ocean water and debris floods the underground parking structure and the supermarket. Sarah and Katie hop into the car as it’s lifted around by the torrent of water. Katie gets a head injury, which knocks her out. Inside the supermarket, the customers and employees are forced to make do sitting on top of the shelves, which have created islands among the water. Tracy and Josh try to tend to Susan. Metal gates rumble down, locking them inside the store. It’s an emergency system. John, realizing his kids are out there, suddenly dives into the water. He just barely gets past the gates and into the parking lot. Tracy tries to keep everyone calm. She tells Josh to find painkillers. Martin recommends hydrocodone. John swims to his car and finds Sarah and Katie. Sarah’s panicking because Katie’s unconscious. John tells her he’s going to swim to the exit to see what’s going on, when suddenly he’s ripped away by a creature and killed in front of Sarah.
Tracy asks Alex if there’s another way out of the store. Alex says there’s a service entrance, but it would have closed, too. He suggests that there’s a trip for the gates in the store room. He goes to swim for it when there’s another scream. Sam stands on a shelf with another hostage. Alex finds the trip, but he needs a crow bar to get at it. Inconveniently, Sam’s on the hardware shelf. Tracy begs for a crow bar. Suddenly a liquor bottle smashes Sam in the head — Jim threw it. Josh gets the crow bar. They leave Sam unconscious on the hardware shelf. Jim swims over to a bus that blocks the supermarket’s entrance. Inside, he finds three dead prisoners chained to a rail. He’s stunned and about to leave when TAYLOR and STEVEN, two prisoners who are cuffed but alive, demand that Jim grab the handcuff keys from the dead guard, then they beat him up. Alex and some others swim to the store room and try to pry open the trip device. It’s pretty stuck, so it’ll take time. Josh shouts for everyone to get out of the water. Tracy wonders why. Josh points out something large, moving through the water quickly. Taylor and Steven tie Jim up. He screams for his mother. She shouts for him to not get into the water when she notices he’s in a prison bus. Alex and his helpers get the trip open, just in time to get attacked by the creature in the water. They’re killed.
Everyone cheers at the opening gates, but the bus is completely blocking the exit and unable to move. It slips underwater, trapping Jim with Steven and Taylor. JEFF reaches into the water to grab some flashlights so they can see into the water. Josh warns Jeff about “sea wasps,” the deadliest jellyfish known to man. Martin, taping the claw hammer he intended to steal to the end of a broomstick, reaches down and grabs flashlights. The complicated packaging keeps them watertight, so they work when the survivors turn them on. In the car, Katie wakes up. Sarah tells her they have to stay put. They see JANE (30s) trapped in a nearby car with son TOMMY (7). Outside the car, Jane watches a man get killed by what is clearly a tiger shark. Swimmers trying to make their way through the garage start yelling. Josh, Tracy, and everyone else in the store hears them screaming about sharks. They think they know what they’re up against, until they aim flashlights into the water — there are tons of sharks, babies, but still big enough to kill them.
Realizing nobody will come for them until the morning, Tracy suggests finding dry blankets and food for people. Jim manages to get a small window opened above the water. They toss some food inside. Steven thanks Jim. He admits that he lost his job and his brother, Taylor, convinced him to sell weed, which is why they’re now both in prison. One of the survivors asks why the sharks won’t eat dead bodies. Josh explains that tiger sharks are smart and nasty — unlike other sharks, they don’t eat dead flesh, and they savor their kills. Nobody wants to hear this. Tied up, Sam awakens, laughing. He says he has an idea. The Mayor wants to hear him out, but Tracy refuses. Josh notices a ventilation shaft that they could use to get out. Unfortunately, it’s positioned right over the water. Tracy and Josh tie two beach chairs together with skipping ropes, creating a bridge under the shaft. They knock the shaft open with a broomstick. Martin volunteers to go out the shaft. Everyone admires his bravery, including Tracy. As he crawls into the shaft, he discovers one end is blocked by debris — and the other by a nest of venomous snakes. Martin suddenly falls, crashing into the water. He leaps up again, hanging onto the shaft door. Josh yells for everyone to splash and make noise in the water to distract the sharks from Martin’s area. It doesn’t work — a massive, clearly adult shark leaps up and pulls Martin down under the water. Disappointed, the group tries to sleep.
At dawn, Naomi opens her eyes and realizes the water has risen quite a bit. In the car park, Katie notices the same thing — it’s high enough that it’s coming through the small crack in the window they’ve left for air. Overhead, everyone hears a chopper. They start cheering and yelling at it in relief, but it flies away. Tracy realizes Sam has disappeared from his spot. A shark attacks the car holding Sarah and Katie, drawn by the blood coming from Katie’s head. Josh notices a burst power cable that’s sparking just over the water. Josh thinks they have less than an hour to figure out how to shut the power off before the water rises up to the cable. Susan, semi-conscious, whispers that there’s a service room, inside of which the power can be shut off. Josh manufactures a rudimentary scuba-diving helmet with a long breathing tube and a rope, then covers himself in wire mesh and canned goods so he doesn’t look like a person. Meanwhile, Sarah realizes she and Katie have no choice: they have to get out of the car. Katie panics, but they have no other options. Sarah drags her out of the car and they barely get to the dry roof before a shark attacks. Sarah realizes the sharks are breaking windows now. Jane and Tommy are in danger. Sarah climbs up to a conduit pipe on the ceiling and shimmies over to the car. Katie tosses Sarah an emergency fire axe, which she uses to rip open the roof of Jane’s car. Jane and Tommy crawl out. She thanks them.
Underwater, sharks ignore Josh. He gets to the service room, but his breathing hose is too short. He breaks free of it, pulls the kill switch, then drops the hose. Struggling to find it, he comes free of the rope. Then the sharks find him. Tracy and the others realizes he’s done for when they pull back a loose rope. The store is pitch-black for a moment, then the emergency lights come on, accompanied by strange opera music. Sam has created a disturbing raft from all the dead bodies floating in the water. He announces that his master plan was to explode a bomb, which he’ll now, finally, do. Tracy tries to stop him, but she can’t get to him. She’s also distracted by Jim, who’s trying to get Steven and Taylor out of the bus before himself, to escape the rising water. As Jim climbs along the rope out of the bus, it snaps. Tracy sees the large shark’s fin. She dives underwater and rescues the terrified Jim. She narrowly avoids the shark as she pulls Jim to safety, then shoots Sam in the head just before he can detonate the bomb. The tiger shark jumps up, and Tracy empties her clip into it. The babies are attracted to the fresh blood from Sam. Their motion and violence causes Sam’s body to detonate the bomb. It explodes, but the water moved the bomb, so nobody’s injured, and the explosion moves the bus to create a bridge leading right out of the store. Tracy emerges and looks at the town, which is an epic disaster area. A tiger shark suddenly bursts out of the water, snatching a gull.
Comments:Bait follows a classic but effective disaster-movie formula, introducing a wide variety of characters, giving them each problems, and using the heightened emotion of the disaster to solve them. It has a few weak spots, but they’re balanced by unending suspense and action. As written, the script merits a recommend.
In addition to setting up all the characters and their interpersonal problems, the first act contains a bravura action sequence with the tsunami. It’s unexpected and well-executed, which will help draw in audiences’ attention. The second act forces the characters to work together, finding common ground in the need to survive, as the writer layers new obstacles and complications constantly. The writer also finds clever uses for common household items. As the second act shifts into the third, the story remains satisfying until the ridiculous, over-the-top return of Sam and his bomb. It’s resolved tidily, but it mars an otherwise well-written, entertaining script.
The writer does a nice job with each character. Although the characters are not the primary focus, each has enough definition to make them empathetic and slightly interesting, even if they’re not particularly complex. The notable exception to this is Sam, who’s a ridiculous distraction even before the tsunami. This script would be near-perfect if Sam didn’t exist at all. He’s a nuisance, but he’s barely in the script, so he doesn’t have the opportunity to completely ruin it.
This script has more than enough action and entertainment value to succeed on its own, but expert direction will help keep the action sequences coherent and the suspense palpable. Convincing special effects will help sell the tsunami and shark attacks. As a minor side-note, Tracy is occasionally referred to in the script as “Todd,” suggesting her gender and name were late changes.
Author: Caprice Crane & Anouska Chydzik-Bryson
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Writer’s Potential: 3
Logline:A newlywed marriage counselor is horrified when she discovers her parents plan on divorcing.
Synopsis:Just before her wedding, AVA (29, confident) takes an emergency call from a client, recommending premarital counseling. Ava’s father, BRADLEY (62), walks her down the aisle. It’s a beautiful outdoor ceremony at the Napa Valley vineyard where Ava’s fiancé, CHARLIE (29), works. In voiceover, Ava explains that she learned everything she knows about making a marriage work from her perfect parents, Bradley and BETTY (58), who have been happily married for nearly 30 years. After the Christian ceremony, Bradley smashes a glass with his foot. Ava’s sister, SHELBY (25, immature), is surprised to learn her father is Jewish. During the reception, Charlie’s best friend, GERBER, drunkenly explains to Ava, in detail, how much he loves them. Six weeks later, Ava and Charlie move into a San Francisco house. At her office, Ava tries to calm down LLOYD and COURTNEY, a couple fighting over Courtney’s obsession with high-end shoes. Leading them out of the office, Ava encourages them both to think back to when they first met and list the qualities that attracted them to each other.
Since Ava’s usual receptionist is going on maternity leave, Ava hires Shelby to temporarily replace her. The only thing that interests Ava are prescription pills, and she’s disappointed to learn that Ava can’t prescribe drugs. Shelby suddenly gets an indecipherable text from Betty. Out in the parking lot, Betty and Bradley argue over whether or not Ava and Shelby know they’re there. They take the argument inside the building, but it becomes a more generalized fight about Bradley’s sudden obsession with his supposed Judaism. Finally, Betty comes out with it: she’s mad because Bradley had an affair. The news stuns Ava and entertains Shelby. Bradley insists it was okay because he and Betty were separated, further stunning Ava. Betty’s also mad because Bradley waited 25 years to tell her about it. She decides to move out.
After work, Ava tells Charlie what happened. Charlie suggests it doesn’t matter because it was so long ago, but Ava says that doesn’t matter — they were married at the time. Charlie tells Ava he invited a drunken Gerber to drop by. Ava is annoyed by this. Just as Gerber arrives, Ava gets an urgent call. Charlie drives Ava and Gerber to the police station. Just as Gerber is talking about how he’s decided Shelby is the one for him, Shelby exits the police station, gets into the car, and gripes about her new boyfriend getting pulled over for driving a stolen car. Gerber attempts to flirt with Shelby, but she will have none of it. Betty has moved into Shelby’s condo. Ava pleads with her not to divorce Bradley, but Betty says the situation is more complicated than a mere affair. Betty wants to enjoy life while she still can. Ava convinces her to go to a marriage counselor with Bradley. Ava meets Charlie at the vineyard. He presents them a special vintage created to celebrate their own marriage. Charlie’s surprised to hear Ava is still planning a 30th anniversary party for Betty and Bradley. Ava meets with a premarital couple, JOHN and AMY. She gives them lengthy questionnaires to fill out to judge weaknesses in their relationship that they can work on before tying the knot. Ava’s concerned because Bradley hasn’t picked up the phone all day. She goes to the house and discovers it’s completely dark. Bradley sits in silence, observing the Sabbath. Ava accuses Bradley of avoiding the fact that Betty left.
When Charlie comes home, Ava kisses him passionately to soften the blow that Bradley is now living with them. Gerber arrives, introducing IRINA, his new wife. She’s Russian and barely speaks a word of English. Gerber met her the previous night at a bar and fell in love. Ava is horrified that Gerber would have such disrespect for marriage, but Charlie’s happy Gerber is settling down. The next morning, Charlie wakes Ava up hoping to have sex. Ava’s uncomfortable with the idea of sex while Bradley’s in the next room, but she gives in — until a loud pounding gets them both out of bed. They find Bradley downstairs, hanging a Mezuzah and pictures Bradley didn’t want hung. Bradley and Betty go to a session with DR. GEORGE, an eccentric therapist who tells them to let out their bad vibes by shaking their limbs and hopping like rabbits. He also suggests the two of them participate in the “Brush with Death,” a revolutionary tactic where they completely separate — no communication between the two of them for six months. Betty’s on board, but Bradley isn’t sure. Ava and Charlie go to a restaurant to meet Gerber. Ava’s annoyed by the amount of time the couple is forced to spend with him, but Charlie says Gerber and Irina need third-party documentation that their marriage is more than a sham, so Irina can get her green card. Gerber gets drunk and spills the beans that Charlie was previously married. Ava’s shocked, but Charlie insists he was drunk and in Las Vegas, so it meant nothing. This doesn’t make Ava feel better. The next morning, Bradley tells Ava about the “Brush with Death.” She’s alarmed, especially since she recommended Dr. George. Ava tells Bradley to apologize to Betty, but he reminds her that they are not allowed to contact one another.
While shopping, Ava and Shelby catch sight of Betty. Not wanting to talk to her, Shelby pulls Ava into a maternity store. Betty sees them and gets excited, until Ava tells her she’s not expecting. Betty tries to explain her side of the story — she thinks it’s time for a break. Ava accuses her of being irresponsible, but Betty says that she’s never had a chance to be on her own, to travel. Ava and Shelby had their chances, but Betty got married young. She’s leaving for Thailand in 10 days — four days before her anniversary. Back at home, Charlie apologizes to Ava and talks about taking steps to make amends. Ava has to break the news to Bradley that Betty has no interest in seeing a new therapist or getting back together. Ava asks Charlie to take Bradley out while she convinces Betty not to leave. Charlie reminds Ava that this is not their responsibility. Ava says he owes her for the lie about his previous marriage. Charlie agrees.
Charlie and Gerber take Bradley first to a bar, then to a strip club. Ava tries to convince Betty to go traveling with Bradley, but Betty insists he’ll never go. He’s stuck in a rut and refuses to change. Bradley comes back to Ava’s, drunk as a skunk. Livid, Betty sees this as yet another reason for divorce. Ava yells at Charlie for thinking it’d be a good idea to take Bradley carousing. Charlie offers that if Ava took a step back and looked at their relationship instead of her parents’, she’d realize their marriage isn’t going much better. Back at the office, Lloyd and Courtney thank Ava for looking back at their reasons for getting together. They both got married for the wrong reasons, so they’ve amicably agreed to divorce. At the condo, Betty practices Thai with a language-lesson CD. Bradley drops by with a peace offering of Thai food and a few phrases he learned from the restaurant manager. He tells Betty he’d change anything about himself and do anything to keep their marriage together. Betty mentions a secret he’s keeping from Ava and Shelby and says telling them the truth is the only way. Bradley can’t.
Charlie comes to Ava’s office. They apologize to each other. Charlie offers to take her to the vineyard’s annual grape crush. Ava agrees. While driving, Shelby calls Ava and asks if she has plans. Ava tells her about the grape crushing. Shelby says she plans to take Betty out to show her what single life is like. Ava’s horrified. While passing a gym with windows looking out on the street, Shelby catches sight of a good-looking man, IAN, working out. She’s surprised when Bradley appears behind Ian with muted words of encouragement. Shelby returns to the office and asks Ava if she knows about Bradley’s gym membership. They’re interrupted by John, who returns to tell Ava things didn’t work out with Amy. He asks out Shelby. Ava goes home and asks Bradley why he had an affair. Bradley says the why doesn’t matter. The important thing is that he did, because he realized as soon as it happened how much he loved Betty, and immediately begged for her to take him back. Ava thinks Bradley’s holding something back, but he won’t admit it. He just says he’s so miserable he can’t sleep. Ava offers him some of Charlie’s sleeping pills.
Ava doesn’t show up to the grape crush. Instead, she flushes the remainder of the sleeping pills, then dials 911. Charlie comes home, angry until he sees the ambulance. Terrified, he asks what happened. Ava announces Bradley took an entire bottle of sleeping pills. They follow the ambulance to the ER, where they meet up with Shelby and Betty. Everyone’s shocked. The doctor arrives to tell them that Bradley will be fine — he only took a few pills, nowhere near a lethal dose. Charlie finds this odd. Ava admits she flushed the rest of the pills in order to bring Bradley and Betty back together. Charlie is livid. She could lose her license and go to jail for a stunt like this. Ava insists she did it for her parents, but Charlie accuses her of only thinking of herself. He storms away. Bradley wakes up to find Betty by her side. They renew their love. Just as Shelby and Ava prepare to leave, Ian storms into the hospital. Shelby flirts, until Ian tells them he’s their half-brother. Bradley explains the situation to all of them. He didn’t know until Ian sought Bradley out, just after Ava’s wedding. The next day, Betty yells at Ava for the stunt she pulled. She tells Ava to apologize to Charlie. Charlie goes to the vineyard and does a poor job of apologizing. She tries to explain her feelings about her parents’ marriage, but Charlie doesn’t think the problem has more to do with Ava than her parents. Ava leaves, sobbing. Ava and Shelby bring Bradley and Betty to the vineyard, where their surprise anniversary party waits. Shelby makes Ava realize that marriage isn’t easy. Charlie shows up and, in lieu of apologizing, comes up with some new vows. She agrees, then they have sex in the bushes.
Comments:Keep It Together tries to put a new spin on old romantic-comedy clichés. Instead, the script embraces the clichés, offering an unsatisfying story populated by stock characters. As written, it merits a pass.
Although the first act sets up some narrative ideas that could pay off pretty well, the second act becomes frenzied and unfocused. Rather than the scenes building an increasing amount of drama as the story unfolds, this script is more like a collection of loosely connected scenes that don’t point toward an overall story. Although everything resolves tidily, the third act continues the feeling of aimlessness, making the entire script seem oddly lifeless. The fact that the script uses dialogue to tell the bulk of its story, and the dialogue is more on-the-noise than witty and engaging, contributes to that lifelessness.
Another troubling aspect is that Ava, the “straight woman” protagonist who is the centerpiece of the story, is not interesting at all until the third act, and when she becomes interesting, she loses her likability. While the writers attempt to explain Ava’s desperate, illegal actions, it rings false, and Ava never regains her empathetic qualities. The other major characters are pretty much stock — the seemingly perfect husband with a dark side, the sarcastic sister, the obnoxious best buddy, the free-wheeling older woman, and the clueless old man who falls victim to the generation gap. The writers don’t do anything to breathe life into these clichés, which might also add to why the story seems so dull.
If the writers can’t breathe life into the characters, maybe skilled actors can. Even if that’s possible, the story needs significant work in order to stand out as a worthy romantic comedy. Acting alone can’t save it.
May 2, 2009
Author: Dan Ewen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Writer’s Potential: 7
Logline:When an uptight career woman swaps bodies with her lazy slob of a fiancé, the couple must cope with each others’ lives in order to keep their relationship from disintegrating.
Synopsis:College freshmen CHARLIE WHITAKER and HOLLY BAXTER are complete opposites: she values good grades and the respect of her sorority sisters; Charlie sings in a horrible cover band and values drinking above all else. Hanging out with friends CHASE (stoner) and HUGHIE (geek) at the local bar, Charlie spots Holly across the bar and is smitten. They flirt, and Charlie drags her up to the stage for karaoke. They spend the rest of their college careers spending time together and falling in love. At graduation, Charlie steals the microphone from the dean and proposes to Holly in front of everyone. She accepts.
Six years later, they’re still engaged. Charlie barely makes money from his job managing the 80 Watt, a once-prestigious nightclub that is now a laughing stock. Holly splits her time between working as an on-camera salesperson for the Shop-at-Home Network and encouraging Charlie to do something more useful with himself. Holly has a bitter rivalry with her on-air partner, ALEXIS. Charlie has a deep connection with club owner NIGEL, a former roadie who worked for all the great bands. Unfortunately, Nigel is bitter and depressed that his club is reduced to a performance from a Whitesnake cover band that draws a crowd of 12 people. During the day, Charlie watches Holly on TV and shouts encouragement at the screen. He hangs out at Arby’s with Chase and Hughie. They play a game in which they try to figure out men they’d have sex with, if they had to. Holly has lunch with Alexis and producer KENNY, who’s brusque and apathetic. Alexis shows off photos of her honeymoon, subtly needling Holly because she’s been engaged for so long. To save their relationship, Holly and Charlie go to counseling with a traditional therapist, a creepy new age therapist, and a sinister yet overbearing German therapist. None of it is effective — in fact, the traditional therapist begs them to break up. Privately, they discuss the idea of breaking up. Both still love each other, but they’re sick of one another.
Charlie asks Nigel for advice. Citing rock star Sting as a success story, Nigel suggests Charlie embrace Tantra. Charlie’s dubious, but Nigel assures him that this will save their relationship. Charlie rents a do-it-yourself Tantra video, Titantric, from the store where Hughie works. Holly is disgusted, but Charlie says it’s an absolute last resort. The relationship is doomed, anyway, so it’s not like this could make things worse. Charlie spends the entire day preparing the apartment as a Tantric love den. When Holly returns from work, they turn on the video. MASTER KEN, a stereotypical Indian guru, guides them through the process. They turn up the heat, get into an uncomfortable position, and breathe slowly. Master Ken tells them to remain in the position until he tells them to stop. Seven hours later, they’ve fallen asleep. The next morning, Holly wakes up, scratches her bag, lumbers across the room to the bathroom, and attempts to pee standing up. She screams at what she sees, waking Charlie. To their mutual shock and horror, they realize their minds have switched bodies. Charlie’s mind now controls Holly, and vice-versa. Holly calls in sick. Together, they consult with a psychiatrist, who forces them to role play; a rabbi, who thinks it’s a practical joke; and a priest, who attempts to exorcise them. Hughie knows Master Ken’s publicist, so they use him to get his contact information. They visit him on a golf course, where he turns out to be a typical American rich snob — no accent, no turban, no mysticism. He tells them he’s heard of their problem but can offer no help. He suggests that the gods made this happen because Holly and Charlie needed it to happen.
Unable to fix the problem with anything but Master Ken’s suggestion to “walk in each other’s shoes,” Charlie gives Holly a photo tour of Holly’s job. The next morning, Charlie has to drag Holly out of bed. Holly is confused by the female morning grooming rituals. Charlie coaches her through it. Holly, who doesn’t exactly have the hang of high heels, wobbles through the TV studio. Everyone realizes she’s acting strangle, but Holly insists she’s just having a “blah” day. They put her on the air, and she’s horrible — poor interaction with callers, constantly reading Alexis’s lines as well as her own, etc. Charlie watches from home, cringing. Chase and Hughie drag Charlie to Arby’s, where they trash talk Holly and mock him for his lunch choice of garden salad. Charlie’s baffled when Chase and Hughie start discussing men they’d like to have sex with. The guys are confused, pointing out Charlie invented the game.
When Holly returns from work, Charlie asks if she got fired. Holly says to give her a day or two. That night, Holly accompanies Charlie to the 80 Watt Club, where she points out all the regulars and employees so Charlie can pretend to fit in. Charlie badgers Nigel about how filthy the bar is. On the way home, Charlie and Holly both apologize for sucking at the other’s job. Charlie reminds Holly that she has a pap smear the following morning. Disgusted, Holly asks if they can reschedule. Charlie takes her health very seriously and will not reschedule. The next morning, Charlie wakes Holly, stunned and baffled because he has an erection. Holly teaches him to pee standing up. Holly goes to the gynecologist’s office. Shocked by how attractive the doctor is, she becomes terribly aroused during the exam. Meanwhile, Charlie turns on Top Gun on TV and begins to masturbate. Holly walks in on him, horrified.
At lunch with her coworkers, Holly is horrified to hear that they’re cutting her show down to one host at the end of the month. Their boss, MR. BRYAN, has decided that whoever closes the month with more sales will get the solo job. So far, Alexis is ahead. Holly goes to the club and breaks the news to Charlie. Charlie, meanwhile, has realized Nigel’s club is lurching toward permanent closure. They’re both screwed. Charlie drags Holly to her parents’ house for her sister’s bridal shower. Holly wants to know why he has to come. Charlie casually observes that Holly is their daughter, no matter whose brain is in her head. After the party breaks up, Charlie and Holly stick around but separate, Holly helping mother MARIANNE with the dishes, Charlie going to the basement to look at GUS’s new trains. Holly learns from Marianne that Holly has been thinking about leaving Charlie. She also learns about Holly’s youthful obsession with comedian Sinbad. Charlie is horrified to discover that he has become, basically, a porn peddler for not just Gus — Marianne, as well. The car ride home is a long argument between Holly and Charlie about the evening’s revelations.
Now desperate to return to their own bodies, Holly and Charlie discuss what Master Ken said. They realize neither has made a particularly strong effort to “walk in each other’s shoes,” so they decide to really commit to it. Charlie comes to the 80 Watt Club with plans to save the club. Holly makes a concerted effort to beat Alexis in sales. Chase and Hughie drag Charlie to a basketball game. He realizes he has no clue how to play the game, but he does impress them at Arby’s with a detailed list of all the men he’d sleep with and why. Holly and Alexis go to a lunchtime exercise “boot camp.” Holly is amazed at all the women changing right in front of them. She offers to apply their sunscreen. On TV, Holly’s brash, witty style convinces a number of shoppers — most of them stoned college students — to buy from her. Charlie learns from Nigel that they have 17 days to raise $20,000, or the club has to close for good. Charlie demands a publicity budget in order to raise the club’s profile. Charlie does all he can to promote the club. Things go awry when Holly suddenly gets her period. She calls Charlie to coach her through it, but she’s horrified by what she has to do to take care of it. Charlie takes Chase and Hughie to a spa for massages, skin care, and waxing. He also starts the three of them on a diet, losing a noticeable amount of weight.
With their improved moods, Holly and Charlie reconnect. Charlie decides she wants to attempt sex. Holly’s uncomfortable with the idea, but they do it anyway. One day, Chase shows up to the apartment when Charlie’s gone but Holly’s home. He starts talking about deep, intimate conversations they’ve had and makes a romantic move. Holly decks him. Later, she gets into a fight with Charlie about their apparent love connection. They break up. Nigel announces that, with two days left, they only got halfway to their goal. Holly moves into a new apartment, but she’s back to doing a horrible job on TV. Finally, Holly decides she wants to beat Alexis, and beat her bad. Meanwhile, Charlie and Nigel pack up the club, and Charlie discovers tons of rare memorabilia Nigel has collected over the years. Charlie frantically attempts to promote an auction. They draw in a reasonable crowd of skeptics, but Nigel quickly convinces them with bizarre anecdotes about raunchy rock-star behavior. By the end of the night, they’re well over the top. The 80 Watt is saved. Charlie complains about Holly to Nigel. Nigel compares them to John Lennon and Yoko Ono — they might have seemed wrong to outsiders, but they made the other better.
On the last day of the month, Holly is stuck trying to sell broaches. She manages to make odd yet compelling arguments why both men and women would want broaches, but as the end of the day comes, she needs to make one more sale to beat Alexis. The sale goes to Charlie, who shows up in the studio and apologizes for trying so hard to change him. Holly apologizes for the same and presents Charlie with a huge folder full of completed wedding plans. They marry at the 80 Watt, officiated by Master Ken. Charlie realizes Holly hasn’t been taking her birth control pills and is pregnant.
Comments:Opposites Attract tries to merge a traditional romantic comedy with a ridiculous “body-swapping” movie. It starts out fantastically well, but its third act loses focus on the plot. As written, it merits a consider.
The first and second acts are loaded with inspired comedy, mining the ridiculousness of the body-swap for all it’s worth. The writer does a good job of creating obstacles from the switch, delivering one hilarious scene after another. In the third act, the story completely runs out of steam. Rather than continuing to ratchet the tension and stakes, paying off what was set up in the first two acts, the story just spins its wheels on pointless gags that stop feeling inspired and stop feeling forced. Then, the resolution to every dangling plot thread is crammed into the last few pages.
Charlie and Holly start out as stereotypes, but the writer does a great job of adding depth and nuance after they switch bodies. Having them discover the pitfalls and secrets of each other’s lives is a great way to get to really dig deep into the characters. Most of the supporting characters are thin but funny enough to get away with it. Only Chase and Hughie are completely extraneous.
This script is hilarious and surprisingly relatable. With improvements to the third act, it’d definitely be worth recommending.
Author: David Guggenheim
Writer’s Potential: 3
Logline:Just released from prison, a professional thief must elude police as he searches New York City for his daughter, who’s being held hostage in a taxi.
Synopsis:A mysterious passenger, soon revealed as EVAN KIEFER, slips into a Manhattan taxi, medallion #5K65. Kiefer makes polite conversation, in Arabic, with the Egyptian driver. The driver explains his family remains in Cairo until he can afford to send for them. The driver stops to drop Evan off on an empty, dark street. Kiefer kills the driver, stuffs it in the trunk, and gets behind the wheel. Meanwhile, WILL MONTGOMERY (40s, worn out) is released from prison after 10 years. He’s picked up by FBI Special Agent HARLAN FOX (55, black, seasoned) and his young partner, JACOBS. Harlan explains to Jacobs that Montgomery was one of the world’s best thieves until someone tipped them off to his last job, a bank heist. Harlan elaborates about the myth that Montgomery actually got $10 million out of the bank and has it stashed somewhere. Montgomery says he’s considering retirement. They drive him to an expensive apartment off of Central Park, where Montgomery greets his 14-year-old daughter, ALISON, who has lived with her aunt and uncle since he went to prison. Alison has little respect for Montgomery and is not excited about the reunion. Montgomery follows her downstairs, watches her awkwardly hail a cab. Montgomery helps her. She gets into a cab — driven by Kiefer.
RILEY SIMMS (30s, attractive) unclogs a toilet at a dive bar when Montgomery comes to see her. She’s thrilled that he got out and is shocked that she’d buy a cop bar. Riley finds it amusing to overcharge cops for watered-down drinks. Montgomery asks if she’s spoken to any of their former partners in crime since the bank job gone bad. She says one of them, Mercer, went MIA years ago. The other, Jonah Cross, disappeared after the bank job. Riley offers to let Montgomery stay with her. Another FBI car — this one driven by PATTERSON and BRODERICK — waits for Montgomery outside the bar. Montgomery greets them sarcastically and asks them to drive him to Riley’s SoHo loft. As soon as he enters the loft, a call comes through on Riley’s answering machine: it’s the voice of JONAH CROSS, looking for Montgomery. Jonah says he wants the $10 million, and when Montgomery denies its existence, Jonah lets Montgomery know that the cab that picked up Alison was arranged by Jonah, and she will die if he doesn’t bring Jonah the money in an hour. Stalling for time, Montgomery says he actually has $20 million, but it’s upstate and will take him six hours to get. Jonah accepts these terms. Outside, Montgomery finds a cell phone in an envelope. It’s been rigged to only accept calls from Jonah. Jonah tells him they’ll use it to arrange a meet in six hours and that it has a GPS to track Montgomery and make sure he doesn’t pull a fast one. Montgomery immediately uses Riley’s phone to call 911 and report a false fire. Patterson and Broderick, parked in front of a hydrant, are forced to abandon their post. Montgomery sneaks away from the apartment.
Montgomery pulls the GPS chip out of the phone, takes it to Grand Central Station, and puts it on a random train. Meanwhile, Alison’s legs are chained in the back of a cab, her mouth and wrists duct taped. She tries to pound the trunk and grunt, but loud heavy metal and traffic block the sound. Patterson and Broderick report to Harlan that Montgomery got away. Harlan is pissed until Montgomery shows up at the field office. He tells Harlan everything, but Harlan thinks he’s crying wolf. Jonah Cross died nine months ago. He has some more agents, WHITAKER and SHAW, escort Montgomery to a meeting with his parole officer. Jacobs asks Harlan if Montgomery might be telling the truth. Harlan thinks he’s plotting something. He calls for a wiretap on Riley Simms’s phone. In the cab, Alison rubs her wrists against a shard of metal until the tape snaps. Then she pulls the tape off her mouth. Alison plays with the wires, illuminating the cab’s “On Duty” sign. A LAWYER gets into the cab. Alison starts screaming, but the lawyer can’t hear her. He’s distracted talking on his phone. She tries to pound the backseat, but he doesn’t feel anything. Eventually, she claws her hand through the seat, but she’s too late — the Lawyer exits the cab just as she wriggles her hand out. Kiefer flips off the “On Duty” sign.
Montgomery has an interview with his parole officer. Montgomery subtly tips over the P.O.’s coffee, spilling it all over his pants. The P.O. excuses himself to get cleaned up. Montgomery sneaks a peek at his computer, looking up Jonah Cross. Nothing. Next: Donald Mercer. It has his mugshot, current address, and a note that he’s an informant. Montgomery runs off, bribing an NYU student for his school jacket so he can elude Whitaker and Shaw. Harlan learns that Montgomery looked up Mercer in the parole database and has cars sent there. Montgomery goes to DONALD MERCER’s apartment. After getting into a fight about Mercer’s reasons for tipping off Montgomery’s bank job, Montgomery admits he just needs to know where Jonah is. Mercer doesn’t have a clue. Eventually, Montgomery realizes Mercer is stalling. He sees the FBI sedans surrounding them. Patterson and Broderick arrest him for violating his parole. They cuff him and ride away with him. The cell phone Jonah gave Montgomery rings. Montgomery dislocates his thumb to wiggle his hands out of the cuffs. He beats on Patterson and Broderick, making them lose control of the car. He flees the scene, taking Patterson’s gun and calling 911 to report their injuries.
Montgomery picks up Jonah’s phone. Jonah reminds him that the clock is ticking. Montgomery notices a cab with the same “Drivers Wanted” sticker on the cab he sent Alison on. He “cabjacks” the driver, taking his cab. He finds the garage the taxi came from and heads there. Meanwhile, Alison finds the wires controlling the brakes. She tries to send a Morse Code message, but the only thing she accomplishes is Kiefer getting pulled over by cops who don’t notice the message. They also don’t notice her screaming or pounding on the trunk, and they let Kiefer off with a warning. Realizing Alison is up to something, Kiefer chloroforms her. Montgomery introduces himself to BRODSKY, saying he’s looking for specific cab from this garage. He asks Brodsky if anything unusual has happened with any cabs. Brodsky says one driver never returned at the end of his shift. He gives Montgomery the cab number and uses a GPS tracker to locate it — it’s parked in Chinatown. The driver Montgomery cabjacked shows up and recognizes him. Montgomery flees in the cab, but Brodsky calls it in. Harlan dispatches agents and air support. A chopper finds the cab, so Montgomery has little choice but to drive like a maniac, back into Manhattan. Both NYPD and Harlan and Jacobs are on Montgomery’s tail. With some innovative driving, Montgomery causes an NYPD cruiser to crash into Harlan and Jacobs. The chopper loses sight of him amid the skyscrapers. Montgomery calls the taxi commission and has them track the cab, which is now moving. He catches up to it — and discovers a teenager driving it. The teen tells Montgomery that a guy paid him to drive it around for the rest of the afternoon.
After being treated for the minor injuries they sustained in the accident, Harlan and Jacobs realizes Montgomery was telling the truth, now that they know he’s been eluding cops and causing trouble just to find one single cab. They go back to the luxury apartment where Alison’s aunt and uncle live. It dawns on Harlan that the $10 million Montgomery stole really doesn’t exist — it’s been spent on, among other things, the apartment, and on Alison’s care. With nowhere to turn, Montgomery calls Riley. Realizing the FBI are listening, they carry on a discussion in French, making plans to meet. Riley drives away, but Whitaker and Shaw can’t pursue — she’s slashed their tires. Montgomery and Riley meet up in Central Park. He tells her to get the crew back together, because they’re going to rob the bank. They have no other choice, and Montgomery is confident his plan would have worked if they could have executed it to completion. Riley says she can’t round anyone up to help, so they decide to go it alone.
Harlan and Jacobs dig into the finances of Alison’s aunt and uncle. It confirms their suspicions about where the $10 million goes, but it obviously follows that Montgomery can’t pay them. They consider what Montgomery could possibly do to pay them off. Posing as members of the FDIC, Montgomery and Riley secretly records the bank manager. They taser him, then use the recording to gain voice-activated access to the vault. They get inside the vault, but Harlan and Jacobs are hot on their trail. Montgomery calls Jonah to tell him he has the money. Jonah asks him to hand the phone to Riley, whom Montgomery realizes is now aiming a gun at him. Jonah tells Riley to kill Montgomery, and he’ll have Kiefer take care of Alison. Montgomery doesn’t have much time to feel betrayed — Harlan discovers the unconscious bank manager and sounds the alarm. The distraction allows Montgomery to get the drop on Riley. They fight for the gun, and it goes off. Riley is the one who is shot and killed. Montgomery leaves without taking a dime. He steals Riley’s SUV and discovers a parking pass for a warehouse on the docks. He calls Harlan and tells him exactly where he’ll be. Kiefer arrives in the warehouse with Alison. Jonah tells him to torch the cab, with Alison in it. Montgomery makes short work of Jonah’s goons. Jonah struggles to strangle Montgomery as he orders Kiefer to set the cab ablaze. An FBI chopper descends, blinding everyone but Montgomery, who expects it. He grabs a gun and shoots blindly as he dives into the cab. He drives it straight out of the warehouse and into the river. Underwater, he struggles to pull Alison from the trunk. The FBI raid the warehouse. Harlan apologizes to Montgomery. Alison asks if she can go home with her father.
Comments:Medallion is fast-paced and contains no shortage of action, but it mines every available cliché in constructing a weak story that offers little satisfaction. As written, it merits a pass.
The first act offers promise that the screenplay never exploits. After going into details on the obscene diffculty of finding a particular New York City, how similar it is to finding a needle in a haystack, Montgomery finds the cab with minimal diffuclty. Instead of taking this grain of uniqueness and building it into a clever action movie, the script provides Montgomery with a series of external obstacles, unrelated to finding the cab. While Montgomery spends most of the first and second acts getting chased as he pursues the taxi, the writer plunders new depths of ridiculousness in the third act. The two-person impromptu bank-heist is too absurd to take seriously, obliterating what little suspense and momentum the story generated. The whole thing descends into an unsatisfying, standard-issue gunfight and rescue.
The plot might seem less uninspired if the writer bothered to engender any interest in his characters. They don’t have a shred of individuality, from each other or from other action-movie characters. Cartoonishly evil villains, overly hostile cops, an antihero who just wants to save his precocious daughter, an old friend who inevitably betrays the hero… All of these archetypes have been done better elsewhere. Here, they don’t feel like living, breathing people. They’re just props the writer guides through a dull plot.
If the stunts and action sequences don’t measure up, this script will offer nothing else to engage the audience.
Author: Will Reiser
Writer’s Potential: 8
Logline:A young radio producer’s life turns upside down when he’s diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Synopsis:ADAM ROSEN (25, cheerful yet cynical) goes to the hospital for a physical, where he’s treated horribly by an apathetic receptionist and forced to be a human guinea pig to an audience of medical students. A nurse forces him to fill an enormous jar with urine; after enduring the time-consuming tedium of an X-ray and an MRI, Adam’s ready to fill that jar. The next morning, Adam’s loud, obnoxious alarm clock awakens him and his girlfriend, RACHAEL. Adam keeps pushing random buttons in an attempt to turn it off, but all it does is change the noises or make it louder. Since both of them are wide awake, Adam asks Rachael if she’ll be staying over again tonight. She says she wants to check out some art gallery oepnings, but maybe. As Adam showers, he discovers his shampoo bottle is empty. He hesitates, then uses some of Rachel’s girly shampoo. Hesitating again, Adam uses her body wash. Adam’s best friend, SETH (25), picks Adam up for work and comments on his feminine smell. Waiting in line at a coffee shop, Adam and Seth discuss Adam’s relationship with Rachael. Seth is alarmed to learn that, although they’ve only been dating for four months, they only have sex once every three weeks. He’s even more alarmed that she stays over almost every night, yet won’t move in and won’t have sex. Adam doesn’t want to take advice from Seth, who’s never had an actual, long-term relationship, but that doesn’t stop Seth from encouraging Adam to dump Rachael and find someone better.
Adam and Seth arrive at National Public Radio, where they both work as segment producers. Their creepy boss, PHIL (60), comments on Adam’s scent and gets a little too intimate in smelling him. Phil asks how their current piece is coming along. Adam goes into a lot of unnecessary details that suggest it’s going badly, until Seth cuts him off by telling Phil they’re pretty much done. Phil’s glad, because they need it to air tonight. Taking the job very seriously, Adam attempts to call someone for an interview. The person on the other end thinks Adam is asking for donations. Meanwhile, Seth laughs and makes obnoxious, vaguely racist jokes to whoever he’s interviewing. After work, Adam goes back to the hospital to hear his results. DR. ROSS ignores Adam as he examines the MRI results, spewing medical jargon into a Dictaphone. Ross asks Adam if he has any questions. Adam asks for clarification on everything Ross says. Ross spells it out in laymen’s terms: Adam has a malignant growth on his spinal column that’s the result of a rare genetic mutation. Ross is glad they caught it before it metastasized and sets Adam up for a four-month chemotherapy regimen. Adam starts to panic, so Ross recommends a social worker to help Adam work through this difficult time. Adam Googles his form of cancer. The survival rate, even with treatment, does not look good. Adam comes home and breaks the news to Rachael by asking if she’s ever seen the movie Beaches. At first, Rachael doesn’t get it, but then she puts it together and is appropriately horrified. Rachael makes Adam’s problem mostly about her — how she’s going to get through this, how it’s bad timing, etc. Adam adds insult to injury when he reminds Rachael that his parents are coming for dinner.
EDITH and ART arrive for dinner. Edith is overbearing; Art, who suffered a stroke, is a bit out of touch with reality. After sitting down to dinner, Adam tries to break the news to Edith and Art by asking if they’ve seen Terms of Endearment. Rachael tells Adam just to come out with it. Adam tells them he has cancer. Art has no reaction, but Edith freaks out and immediately begins brewing green tea, because she heard it reduces the chances of getting cancer. Adam says it’s a little late for that, so Edith opens up her fanny pack and offers Art an array of over-the-counter painkillers and prescription antidepressants. She insists on moving in, and Adam tries to forbid it but fails. Rachael manages to calm Edith down enough to make her realize that Rachael will take care of Adam. Edith tells Adam he doesn’t deserve Rachael.
The next morning, at the coffee shop, Adam is too impatient to tolerate the long line. Seth asks what his problem is, so Adam tells him about the cancer. At first, Seth doesn’t believe him, but after that, he’s surprisingly compassionate. He also adds that now is the time for Adam to live it up. Rachael drives Adam to the hospital, where he meets with KATIE MacRAE (24), the inexperienced psychologist who will act as Adam’s social worker. Adam’s surprised by her youth, and even more surprised when Katie tells him he’s her first patient and that their sessions will comprise most of her doctoral dissertation. Katie urges Adam to stop thinking of the cancer as a burden and start thinking of it as a sign that his body needs physical and emotional adjustment. She tells Adam to close his eyes and find an internal place where he can escape the cancer. Adam comes home to find Rachael has bought him a shih tzu. Adam doesn’t want a dog, but Rachael insists they help the healing process. Adam thinks of a dozen reasons why owning a dog won’t help, but it’s clear that Rachael is the one who wants the dog, so Adam reluctantly agrees to keep it.
Adam and Rachael go to NPR for Adam’s chemotherapy “going-away” party. Everyone there has a different home remedy for cancer. Seth tries to console the attractive women who are upset by Adam’s diagnosis. On the way home, Adam’s grumpy from the brutal experience of the party. Rachael finds his pouting adorable. They go home and start fooling around when the dog starts whimpering. Adam tries to ignore her, but Rachael can’t. She forces Adam to take the dog for a walk. Adam impatiently walks the dog, angry that she won’t stop and do her business. When he gets back, Adam asks Rachael to move in. She agrees, then falls alseep before they can have sex. Adam goes to the synagogue with Edith and Art and is horrified and ashamed that Edith uses Adam’s cancer to get preferencial treatment. After the service, Adam talks to his RABBI about the cancer. The Rabbi knows Adam is a poor Jew, but he offers himself in case Adam has any questions, concerns, or desire to reconnect with the Torah.
Adam goes in for his first chemo treatment. He’s seated in a room with a chemo drip, along with other cancer patients, most of them twice to three times his age. Adam watches a man, out of touch with reality, barking obscenities at the wall. MITCH (80) tells Adam not to worry about the man. He’s always like that. ALAN (84) offers Adam a hit of medical marijuana. Mitch and Alan offer two different perspectives on the cancer: Mitch, despite his advanced age, is eternally optimistic, but Alan is perpetually negative. Adam takes a hit from Alan’s one-hitter and falls asleep. He dreams of going to an amusement park, where carnies refuse to let him on rides, pointing to a sign that says “No Cancer.” Adam denies having cancer, but they point to his t-shirt, which says “I’m with Cancer.” He’s attached by an umbilical cord to a giant bald fat man whose shirt is labeled “Cancer.” The cancer man reaches toward Adam and swallows him whole.
Adam visits Katie. He feels horribly both physically and emotionally. He lashes out at Katie, then apologizes, realizing she just wants to help and he should do what she says in order to feel better. Katie gives him a list of books to buy. Adam goes to the bookstore with Seth to pick them out. Seth doesn’t like the depressing subject matter and pulls out a book on Mardi Gras, suggesting the two of them go while Adam still can. Adam refuses. Seth takes his cancer books and uses them to hit on a good-looking sales clerk. Adam goes with Seth to a creepy, Norman Rockwell painting version of a doctor’s office, where Seth fakes poor vision in order to get a prescription for medical marijuana. Back at Adam’s house, they get high. Rachael has moved in all of her boxes but hasn’t unpacked. She catches Adam and Seth getting high and is angry. She gets angrier when she discovers Adam bought a huge, plasma TV and hung it where Rachael planned to hang one of her paintings. She angrily takes the dog for a walk. Adam downplays her behavior, but Seth calls it like he sees it: she’s being incredibly selfish. He loses credibility by twisting it back into a plea to go to Mardi Gras. Adam tells Katie that, after reading the books she recommended, he has realized he’s emotionally blocked. She sends Adam to “laughter therapy” to help. Seth goes with him, but they both find the experience odd and off-putting.
At one of his chemo sessions, Mitch asks why he’s never seen Adam’s girlfriend. Adam says hospitals freak her out. Mitch encourages Adam to ask her to come with him for moral support. He says his wife, to whom he’s been married for 40 years, is the only reason he wants to stay alive. Alan, on the other hand, thinks women are nothing but trouble — they’re selfish and exist to make men miserable. After his treatment, Adam waits for Rachael to pick him up. When she doesn’t, he calls her cell phone repeatedly, but it’s always VoiceMail. Eventually, Katie passes Adam in her car. She offers him a ride home. She drives a small car that’s loaded with clutter. Halfway home, Adam can’t take it anymore. He forces her to pull over next to a Dumpster so he can clean out the car. Katie finds this amusing and endearing. She asks why Adam doesn’t have a license. He says that during his test, he backed his mom’s car into a wildlife sanctuary. Adam offers Katie the chance to come inside for a drink. Katie’s uneasy, but she goes. They play video games, but they’re too complicated for Adam. Adam pines for the simpler days of playing Duck Hunt with his dad. Adam makes wheatgrass shots, which Katie insists will be healthy and make him feel better. They both down the shots, and Katie spits hers out all over Adam in disgust. As she wipes his face off, Rachael comes home. She’s jealous until Adam explains that Katie dropped him off because Rachael forgot to pick him up. Katie leaves, and Adam and Rachael get into a fight. Rachael tries to make Adam see the difficulty she’s having with all of this, so Adam backs down. They attempt to have sex, but the chemo has affected Adam’s virility.
Adam and Mitch attend Alan’s funeral. Adam has a dream that heaven is a Boca Raton retirement community with a frozen yogurt stand. The next day, he visits his Rabbi to ask about the afterlife. The Rabbi has no helpful answers for him, so Adam goes to Katie with the same questions. Now convinced that he’s going to die, and that there is no afterlife, he wonders what’s the point in carrying on. When Katie tries to analyze him directly out of a textbook, Adam unloads on her, accusing her of incompetence before telling her he can’t do this anymore and leaving. Adam gets annoyed with the amount of hair he’s losing. Rachael is less than sympathetic, concentrating more on whether or not she’s getting fat. Depressed, alone, and unhinged, Adam tries to watch TV. He sees a CNN report on the same story he was working on earlier for NPR and makes the decision to try to go back to work. Gaunt, pale, and bald, he looks horrible. Phil tries to be compassionate, but he refuses to let Adam come back to work, for the sake of employee morale.
Adam waits at home for Rachael to pick him up and take him to his post-chemo exam. She doesn’t show up. He calls, gets VoiceMail. He calls Seth, gets VoiceMail. With no other option, he calls his parents. Edith is obnoxiously overbearing, to the extent that Adam unloads on her. Edith gives as good as she gets, though, and she makes Adam understand that yes, she’s a little overbearing, but it’s only because she doesn’t want to lose Adam the same way she has Art. She tearfully confesses that, though she still loves him, Art is no longer the man she married. Adam is all she has left. Dr. Ross comes in with the results: the cancer did not respond to the chemo, so they must operate. Adam reminds Ross that surgery wasn’t an option. Ross says they’re left with no choice. It’s an incredibly risky procedure with a low success rate, but if he doesn’t have the surgery as soon as possible, the cancer will metastasize and kill him. Ross warns that there’s a chance that, even if the surgery succeeds, he’ll never walk again. Adam looks on the bright side: he’ll be able to get handicap parking.
Seth walks past an art gallery and sees Rachael inside, kissing another man. He snaps a photo with his cell phone. Adam comes home from his appointment to find Rachel in a great mood. She announces she’s having a girls’ night out. She gets a text message, which she insists is from a girlfriend. Adam doesn’t believe her, so when she’s distracted, he checks her phone’s message log and finds all the messages are from a man named James, and they clearly suggest she’s cheating. Despite this, Rachael insists he’s just a fellow artist working on a project with her. Adam yells at her for missing the most important appointment of his life to gallivant around with her “art partner.” Rachael tries to change the subject to his results, but Adam demands to know if she’s cheating. She denies it again, when Seth shows up with his cell phone photo. Adam throws her out, pointing out how convenient it was that Rachael never bothered to unpack.
That night, Adam and Seth go out drinking. On the way home, Adam insists on driving, because Seth is much drunker than Adam is. Seth doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but Adam tells him this might be his last chance. He gets out on the road and starts driving the wrong way on a one-way street, terrifying Seth. Adam suddenly stops the car and throws Seth out. Seth reminds Adam that it’s his car, but Adam locks him out. He calls Katie at home, apologizes, and tells her how terrified she is. Then, he passes out from all the alcohol. Later that night, Adam takes Seth to Seth’s apartment. Adam drops the barely-conscious Seth into bed, then goes into Seth’s disgusting bathroom. He starts cleaning up when he discovers a book called Coping with Your Loved One’s Cancer, dog-eared and loaded with bookmarks. He’s touched.
Adam gets a call from his parents’ estate lawyer, tactfully suggesting that Adam may need to make certain preparations. Adam and Seth go coffin shopping, then pick out a burial plot. Adam goes in for his surgery. He’s accompanied by Edith and Art. Katie shows up and asks Adam how he’s doing. Adam is terrified. The anesthesiologist comes to put Adam under. Adam asks if Katie will be there when he wakes up. She has no plans to leave. While they perform surgery, the doctors discuss who Sir Francis Drake was — a pirate or a buccaneer. After, DR. LAMB, the surgeon explains that the surgery was successful in removing the tumor, but Adam suffered nerve damage and will require physical therapy in order to walk again. Some time later, Mitch’s widow, MARGARET, comes to Adam’s house. Wheelchair-bound Adam has invited her to a dinner party with Katie, Seth, Edith, and Art. Adam smiles for the first time since his diagnosis.
Comments:I’m with Cancer manages the difficult task of making a story about a cancer patient with a poor prognosis hilarious. Although it’s consistently funny and has an engaging (but somewhat meandering) plot, the script is marred by some stereotypical characters. However, it’s well-written enough to merit a consider.
Adam’s character is extremely well-written. His transition from cheery cynic to unbearably depressed is well-paced and effectively underscores the plot as his situation grows increasingly dire. At first, Seth and Edith seem like stock characters (“horny best friend,” “overbearing mother”), but the writer fills them both with unexpected dimension. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the two love interests who drive the script’s romantic subplot. Rachael’s self-absorbed behavior goes so far over the top, it strains believability, and the writer never takes the time to really dig into the character and make audiences understand the root cause of her selfishness. Similarly, Adam’s conversations with Katie reveal a lot about him but almost nothing about her. This makes her a good psychologist, but it doesn’t make her a compelling love interest.
Despite the character problems, the plot is solid. The two major storylines — Adam’s cancer treatment and the collapse of his relationship with Rachael — build palpable tension during the first and second acts, making Adam’s breakdown in the third act dramatic and empathetic. Although the writer is unafraid to explore the drama and potential tragedy of the story, the comedy never lets up. He does a great job of finding the humor in dire situations, which makes the overall story more palatable than a bleak drama.
The script’s funny, well-written storyline might be enough for audiences to forgive the poorly developed love interests. Maybe the actresses playing those roles can bring some subtle depth that isn’t on the page. Still, it would benefit from just one more draft to really make Rachael and Katie solid and believable.
May 1, 2009
Author: Jonathan D. Krane and Trent Cooper
Writer’s Potential: 7
Logline:After being released from prison, a disgraced infomercial entrepreneur tries to rebuild his fortune, redeem himself in the eyes of the public, and reconnect with his daughter.
Synopsis:ROBERT AXLE (50s, resembling a vagrant) is released from prison. A montage transitions between the glamorous life of 1995, when Axle was a wealthy “fabricator” who created items like the “Coffee-Grill” (part coffee pot, part panini press) and the “Mace-Cam” (a mace container with a digital camera to photograph assailants). He starred in infomercials with his daughter, CLAIRE, and lived in a huge mansion that was little more than a shrine to himself. It all went bad when he rushed a “Gripper-Clicker” to market. Designed to allow people to exercise while using their TV remote controls, it had a flaw that eventually resulted in the loss of thumbs and middle fingers. Now, Axle takes the bus to meet his PAROLE OFFICER at a seedy donut shop. The P.O. reviews Axle’s file, marveling at the charge of “Depraved Indifference to Human Life.” He encourages Axle to take a job at FamilyMart, a big-box store whose ex-con rehabilitation program is second to none, and sends Axle off with $120.
Axle visits his wife, LORRAINE, looking for his things. Lorraine tells him that what she didn’t give to charity, she threw in the trash. She introduces Axle to her new husband, JERRY, a forest ranger. Despite Axle’s initial dislike, Jerry’s a nice guy. He drives Axle to a secret storage locker full of his old things. Axle arrives at Claire’s apartment and is mistaken for a hobo by her roommates, PHOEBE (35, angry lesbian) and DONNA (20s, perpetually optimistic). Claire catches sight of him and is disgusted. She goes into the hall to talk to him. Axle asks to move in with her. She refuses. Axle reminds her that he owns the building; Claire reminds him that he lost the building to Lorraine in the divorce. As a consolation prize, she leaves Axle with a pink raincoat to protect him from the elements. Axle goes to a nightclub and tries to turn on the charm with some beautiful women. He strikes out. He recalls a happier moment, back in 1990, when he first got the call that someone wanted to invest in his Coffee-Grill. He shared the excitement with Lorraine and Claire, then 7. In the present, Claire picks up Axle at a homeless shelter and says he can stay with her from one month, at which time he needs to get a real job and move out. She also forbids Axle from interfering in her job, running a Center for Women. Axle agrees.
The next morning, Donna and Phoebe introduce themselves properly. Phoebe instantly dislikes Axle, and Axle instantly dislikes Donna. He tells them about starting at FamilyMart. Phoebe ridicules him, but Axle firmly believes within three years, he’ll be running the company. Donna likes his spirit. At FamilyMart, Axle stares wistfully at his old products, all of which are still sold without the Robert Axle name on them, when his boss TROY COANGELO mocks and berates the former star. Troy informs Axle that ex-cons represent a risk to the company, nothing more, and he’s just waiting for Axle to slip up so he can fire him. While Claire tries to coach a woman through a job interview, Donna Googles Axle and shouts hideous facts about the Gripper-Clicker. She wonders how it managed to chop off two fingers at the same time. That afternoon, Axle tries to impress Claire by hanging a large painting that’s been leaning against the wall. Claire’s infuriated — she didn’t want it hung, but now it has to stay up to block the hole in the wall. Axle realizes Donna is hiding in her room because her father is afraid of her being alone with criminals. Later, Axle tries to repair his painting-hanging mistake, but he ends up falling off the ladder and knocking fish food into Phoebe’s aquarium. In his frantic attempt to scoop the food out, one of the fish ends up on the floor. Phoebe gives him two options: face or nuts. Axle picks “face,” so Phoebe punches him in the groin.
Axle, distracted from his mopping duties, marvels at all the combined products available these days: tongue-dissolving strips, upside-down ketchup bottles. Axle pitches the idea for a novel new cell phone, which a customer informs him is merely a Blackberry. He doesn’t notice a little old lady walking toward the wet floor. Troy, after scolding Axle, tries to run and help the old lady. He ends up slipping, breaking his leg. He first Axle. Depressed, Axle sits in a park, trying to find inspiration. Instead, children ridicule him and a frightened woman attacks him with a Mace-Cam. Axle goes home, takes a long look at himself in the mirror, and decides to cut his hair and shave. Phoebe plays Guitar Hero, taking it very seriously. Axle mocks the fact that it’s just a plastic guitar. Phoebe challenges him — if she wins, she’ll dress him in something fashionable. Axle agrees — if he wins, she and Donna move out for the rest of the month. Meanwhile, Claire takes laundry to Lorraine’s. Discussing Axle, Claire thinks Lorraine is jealous that he chose to stay with Claire. Trying to change the subject, Lorraine offers to write Claire a donation check for her Center. Claire knows Lorraine is broke and won’t accept the money. Lorraine’s so ashamed, she locks herself in a closet. Claire and Jerry are forced to coax her out by holding a charity fundraiser. Back at the apartment, Axle beats Phoebe. She challenges him to two out of three, but he forfeits. The next day, Axle insists on tagging along when Claire rides her bike to get coffee. He follows her on Donna’s childhood bike. He tries to engage her in conversation and learn more about her, but Claire’s aloof. After awhile, Claire softens and reminisces about good times from her childhood.
Phoebe and Axle go to a thrift store. She picks out some new clothes for him, but Axle thinks they make him look like a lesbian. Phoebe prefers “gender neutral,” but that doesn’t make Axle feel better. On their way back to the apartment, a frantic mother holds an empty leash. She tells them she’s lost her son. Axle’s baffled that she’d lead her son on a leash. Phoebe finds the boy around the corner, watching TV on an iPod. Axle is struck with inspiration. He waits for STEVEN LESLIE, his former business partner, to arrive for work, and pitches his idea: a “wireless leash” for parents that’s marketed to kids, by putting a GPS into a super-cool electronic gadget. Kids will drool over it, and parents will shell out the money for security. Leslie thinks it’s a great idea and offers Axle money for it. Axle doesn’t want money; he wants their partnership back. Leslie tells him that’d kill their business. Axle storms out, saying he’ll find investors.
Axle calls up all sorts of investors, but they all turn him down based solely on the name. Eventually, Axle starts using Troy Coangelo’s name. He manages to get a meeting, on the condition that he bring a working prototype. Back at FamilyMart, Troy is high on painkillers when Claire approaches, looking for Axle. She has an invitation to the fundraiser. Troy tells Claire he fired Axle. Claire insults Troy, then leaves. Troy is smitten. Axle goes to a retirement home and meets with SAM (80s), formerly his top engineer, now a little senile. He pitches the idea, and Sam says he can get a working prototype for $5000. Axle pitches the idea again, to shallow loan officer NEIL. Neil thinks it’s a great idea, and $5000 is extremely cheap for a prototype. Although lending money to an ex-con is risky, Neil thinks the reward is worth it. He goes to ask his boss. Axle watches him, notices the boss’s thumb and middle finger are missing. He knows he’s sunk.
Axle goes to a national forest to ask Jerry for the $5000. Jerry reluctantly admits that he and Lorraine are strapped. Axle can’t believe they could spend $362 million in 11 years. Jerry tells Axle he’d be surprised. Jerry says most of it goes to philanthropy, and they have a fundraiser tonight. Axle ridicules the notion of philanthropy but is stricken with guilt when Jerry says it’s for Claire. Axle flashes back to buying Claire a pony for her birthday in 1995. Axle’s so preoccupied with work, he doesn’t even pay attention to the color of the horse. In the present, Claire schmoozes at her black-tie event, held at an aquarium. Axle sneaks into the fundraiser and gives a rousing speech attempting to compare aquatic life to women. The wealthy patrons snicker at him, and Axle leaves in shame. Claire follows him outside, proud of him. Axle refuses to go back inside. The next morning, Axle meets with his P.O. He knows Troy fired Axle from FamilyMart and warns Axle that most criminals who fail to find steady employment end up back in prison. Axle returns to the apartment and discovers Guitar Hero is gone. He alerts Phoebe, who realizes her ex-husband stole most of her electronics. She drags Axle with her to retrieve them. Claire goes to the bank to deposit the fundraiser earnings. It’s a grand total of $37,520 — not much. Adding insult to injury, Lorraine’s $25,000 bounces. Phoebe rolls up on her ex’s house. Three men — one of them the ex-husband — wait inside the house. She tells Axle to go inside while she waits. Axle argues with her. Eventually, they go in together. It goes smoothly until they get outside — her husband and his friends are waiting. Phoebe and Axle fight with them, but they manage to get away with Phoebe’s stuff. The intensity causes Axle and Phoebe to kiss.
Later, Claire comes home to find Axle and Phoebe all smiles. She’s jealous of their sudden closeness. Troy shows up at Claire’s apartment, ostensibly to bring Axle’s meager check but actually to flirt with Claire. Claire asks Troy out, just as Donna leaves to go to Lorraine’s for the evening. Now Claire’s pissed. She insists all of them — including Troy — go with Donna. Donna says her parents are divorcing, which is why Lorraine invited her — alone. Claire is apologetic, but this news makes her more insistent that they all go. At the mansion, Axle slips away while the others play a board game. He calls Sam and asks if the prototype is finished. It is. Axle returns to the game, but he and Claire get into an argument. She unloads her pent-up aggression — about him belittling her, forcing her to become his infomercial sidekick. Axle leaves, enraged. Claire is racked with guilt immediately. As Axle waits for a cab to pick him up, he flashes back to 1990. After a failed pitch meeting, young Claire tries to cheer Axle up by giving him a drawing of a father and daughter holding hands. Axle tells her that he has to get a real job. Claire tells him he has a real job — he’s a fabricator. Axle is inspired by her words. They hug. In the present, Axle rides Donna’s bike to a Mailboxes, Etc., where he picks up a mystery envelope. He goes to the nursing home, and Sam shows him the prototype — he has three different styles, all amazing. The next day, Axle tries to blackmail Troy for firing him without cause. He tells Troy he’ll forget about it if Troy lets him in after-hours so he can use the electronics in the FamilyMart repair center. Troy threatens to call Axle’s P.O.
In the parking lot, Troy has a change of heart. FamilyMart has been screwing him for years, and nobody even cares about his broken leg. Troy agrees to meet Axle at midnight. Axle goes back to the apartment, where Phoebe asks about the kiss, and why Axle felt her up, and more importantly, how her breasts felt. Axle praises Phoebe’s intellect and wit, then adds her breasts felt nice. Axle uses Troy’s tools to perfect Sam’s good-but-untested designs. Axle asks Troy to blow off work tomorrow to pick the idea on Axle’s behalf. Troy says that’s not such a good idea — he gets nervous trying to sell things to people. Axle builds Troy’s confidence until he agrees. Late at night, Axle arrives back at the apartment to find Claire waiting for him. She’s bought a vintage sport coat for him to wear at his pitch. Axle apologizes for bombing at his fundraiser. Claire says they would have never made enough to keep the Center open. They reminisce again. Axle tries to hug Claire, but she’s “not really a hugger.”
The next morning, Axle gives Troy a pep talk but realizes he’s completely out of it. He took a few Xanax on top of his pain pills. Troy tries to pitch to MATT JAMES, head of the venture capital firm, but it’s a disaster. Fortunately, Matt recognizes Axle — and, despite the Gripper-Clicker incident, sort of worships him. Matt confesses that Steven Leslie pitched the exact same idea, but he realizes Leslie stole it from Axle. Axle convinces Matt to take a gamble on the original, that they can bring it to market before Leslie. He comes back to the apartment in the mood to celebrate. He has a six-figure advance and is on top of the world. Phoebe, Donna, and Claire are not: “someone” got a credit card in Donna’s name and ran up $5000. The card was sent to the Mailboxes Etc. around the corner. Pissed, Claire kicks Axle out.
Months later, Axle is staying at a luxury hotel, driving a Mercedes, and supervising the design and test-marketing of the “Watchdawg” as they prepare for launch. Claire works at the neighborhood coffee shop. Lorraine and Jerry have sold their mansion and announce plans to retire to Florida. They sell the apartment building to Claire for $1. They extend an invitation, on Axle’s behalf, to the Watchdawg launch. Claire isn’t interested. Axle asks Phoebe to give a small gift box to Claire. Phoebe refuses. Angry, Axle throws the gift in the trash on his way out. Phoebe has a change of heart, pulling the gift out of the trash. She gives it to Claire, who refuses to open it and chastises Phoebe for the “kissing” incident. Phoebe tells Claire that this isn’t about Phoebe and Axle — it’s about Claire and Axle. Claire recalls the incident in 1990 where she cheered her father up after his failed pitch meeting. Picking up where the first flashback left off, Steven Leslie happens to walk by and catches sight of the prototype Coffee-Grill. He’s impressed. In the present, Claire opens the gift. It’s the drawing she made for him in 1990.
The Watchdawg crew prepares for launch. Axle gives a stirring speech to a packed audience — with a streaming Internet simulcast — about what the Watchdawg is. It’s more than a gadget — it’s a way for parents and kids to connect in a world where the disconnect between children and adults seems to grow every day. Claire wells up in tears. As the speech concludes, Axle steps off the stage and walks victoriously off the aisle. He turns himself in for credit card fraud and identity theft, but his P.O. speaks on his behalf, so the judge sentence Axle to 12 months of house arrest — except he doesn’t have a house. Claire’s seated at Axle’s defense table. She announces he’ll stay with her. On their way to the apartment, Claire says she’s reopening the Center, on a smaller scale, and using the apartment building as headquarters. Also, she received a bunch of phone calls from Matt, who desperately wants to continue working with Axle. At the apartment, Axle apologizes to Donna. Phoebe gives Axle the “face or nuts” option. Axle tries to block both, so Phoebe kisses him. Troy stirs on the couch. Claire has decided she’ll date him if he kicks his pill habit. The whole group plays board games together, having fun.
Comments:At its core, Father of Invention attempts to tell the story of a fractured father-daughter relationship. When it’s telling that story, it succeeds spectacularly well. Unfortunately, the writers get sidetracked with too many extraneous characters, causing it to lose focus on what works in the story. As written, it merits a pass.
Axle and Claire are fantastic characters — fully developed, engaging, and funny. If the script focused on them 100% of the time, it would be great. Every supporting character is weakly defined and distracting. Donna and Phoebe mostly serve as the generic “angel and devil” perched on Claire’s shoulders, Lorraine is a cliché-ridden caricature of a rich divorcée, and Troy serves no purpose after firing Axle from FamilyMart. The writers try hard to make each of these characters essential to the story, but it always feels forced and artificial instead of a natural, interesting progression.
The main storyline is rock-solid. Axle’s fall from grace, release from prison, and attempts to “reform” in the first act are consistently hilarious. The second act moves into weightier territory, as Axle tries to reconnect with Claire semi-successfully. The writers layer enough obstacles and complications to keep the story interesting, and Axle’s redemption in the third act is stirring and heartwarming. However, the writers shoehorn subplots revolving around Donna, Phoebe, Lorraine, and Troy that are not nearly as successful. These ultimately overwhelm the main story, ruining what could have been a great script.
It’s possible that the right actors in each role can make the supporting players feel like more than distractions. Also, with judicious editing, the unnecessary subplots may not overshadow the main story. However, without major work, this script will remain a pass.
May 12, 2009
Author: David Hayter
Writer’s Potential: 6
Logline:A teenager discovers he is a werewolf and becomes a target in a small town filled with vicious werewolves.
Synopsis:CALEB RICHARDS (18, cool yet tortured) has a great life — he’s a star varsity football player, class valedictorian, recipient of numerous awards for arts and sciences, and he has a loving girlfriend, LISA Despite this, Caleb is haunted by nightmares of turning into a vicious animal and attacking his loving parents, JANICE and DEAN. They send him to a psychiatrist, who tells Caleb that his dreams are metaphorical manifestations of his fear of growing up. Caleb is not convinced. At an important football game, Caleb is taunted by an obnoxious, cheating player from the opposing team, BRAD. Eventually, Caleb snaps and gives Brad a vicious beating. School officials are shocked, but Lisa is understanding. On Lover’s Lane, Lisa observes that Caleb is just stressed from the upcoming graduation. In an effort to relieve that stress, Lisa decides it’s time to have sex. As they begin fooling around, Caleb ends up transforming into a strange creature — half-wolf, half-man. Lisa is appropriately terrified and tries to push him away. She runs, receiving a huge scratch from Caleb’s unnatural claws.
The next morning, Caleb wakes in his home with no memory of the previous night. He discovers Janice and Dean dead, clearly eaten by a vicious animal. This is real. Police have surrounded his house after receiving calls from neighbors about the screams. Terrified, Caleb suddenly transforms, this time fully into a wolf, with no humanity left. He bursts out of the house, past the police, and into the woods. News footage shows people like Lisa and Caleb’s psychiatrist describing their initial shock. Caleb’s forced to go into hiding. He spends two years wandering aimlessly, trying to find out as much as he can about werwolves. When he’s forced to transform, Caleb attempts to use his powers for good, helping rape victims at truck stops and stopping bar fights. One night, at a seedy bar, he meets WILD JOE (50s), a man who can smell what Caleb is — because he’s a werwolf, too. Caleb tries to get information out of Wild Joe, who’s surprised Caleb didn’t know he was a werewolf until 18. Caleb tells him of times he suspected he was different, but he never had confirmation. Wild Joe concludes that his parents adopted him, because otherwise, they would have prepared Caleb. Wild Joe suggests Caleb search “back east” for his parents. When Caleb asks him to narrow it down, Wild Joe refuses. Instead, he picks a fight with Caleb before throwing a random dart and disappearing from the bar. Caleb notices the dart was thrown onto a map of the U.S., hitting a town in Massachusetts: Lupine Ridge.
Caleb hops on his Harley and heads for the town. It’s tiny, nestled in some mountains. The town square is prepared for Halloween, but at night, the only place showing any signs of life is a bar called Angel’s Rest. Caleb enters and is immediately flirted with by GAIL (30s, a lush). Everyone else stares at the newcomer, making Caleb uncomfortable. Eventually, he notices bartender ANGELINA (20s, beautiful), sensing something about her that makes him want to stay. A group of men led by DOLPH (40s, huge and frightening) notice this moment, too. They eye Caleb with suspicion. Angelina flirts with Caleb as he orders. A trampy girl named HAYLEY asks Caleb to dance. He turns her down, keeping his attention on Angelina. Hayley’s boyfriend, DEKE, accuses Caleb of grabbing her ass. Caleb denies it, but he can feel he’s on the town’s bad side. Deke tries to pick a fight, and while Caleb tries to avoid it, he finds himself outside, defending Deke’s punches while the patrons gather to watch. As they fight, Deke starts to slip in and out of a werewolf state. Deke slashes Caleb with his claws, causing him to howl. Everyone — including Deke and JOHN TOLLERMAN, a local farmer — hear the sound. Tollerman breaks up the fight and invites Caleb to work at his farm. Introducing himself as Danny, Caleb agrees. Tollerman introduces Caleb to his wife, CLARA, then shows him around the farm.
Tollerman is impressed by Caleb’s strength and agility. Tollerman doesn’t seem to notice that his animals respond to Caleb with fear, sensing a predator. One day, Caleb notices Dolph and his cronies threatening Tollerman. He tells Tollerman he’ll leave if he’s causing trouble. Tollerman says no. One morning, they go out to feed the sheep and discover one has been mangled by wild animals. That night, a news report about Caleb murdering his parents appears on TV. Caleb switches it off before the Tollermans see it, then excuses himself to Angelina’s bar. On his way there, Caleb is shadowed by a man named CARTER WILLS. Caleb notices and asks Carter what his problem is. Carter reluctantly explains that he’s Caleb’s second cousin. He tells Caleb that he was put up for adoption because if he’d stayed in Lupine Ridge, he would have been killed. He starts to warn Caleb about Dolph when they both notice Dolph sitting outside the bar, watching them. Carter warns Caleb to leave.
Inside the bar, Caleb flirts with Angelina, who explains she inherited the bar from her parents, who are both dead. Caleb tells her his parents are both dead, too. They toast orphans. Outside, Dolph offers Caleb a ride home. Caleb tries to turn him down, but Dolph’s already shoved Caleb’s Harley onto the bed of his pickup truck. On the way home, Dolph gives Caleb a little bit of town history, pointing out how old it is and how the families have been around here for centuries. He urges Dolph to stay away from Angelina, because of the danger of “introducing new life into an old system.” As they unload the Harley, Dolph pointedly comments that a bike this nice could get Caleb out of town quickly. At his home, Carter Wills is taunted and killed by a pack of werwolves. Angelina appears in Caleb’s bedroom window, beckoning him outside. She takes him deep into the woods and shows him a pack of werewolves surrounding a bonfire, eating their latest victim, Carter Wills. Caleb is stunned, even moreso when he learns the leader of their pack is Dolph.
Angelina takes Caleb back to the Tollerman’s farm. It turns out, they all know about Caleb’s origins. In fact, they know more than he does. Tollerman shows Caleb a photo of his mother and explains that there are pure lines of werewolves dating back for centuries. Caleb’s mother was Tollerman’s sister, a pure wolf. Dolph fell in love with her, but she rebuffed his advances, so he raped her. She got pregnant with Caleb. However, most of the werewolves left are watered down, “half-breeds” like Angelina. Dolph is one of the few “purebred” wolves left, and he takes this seriously, abandoning society in favor of living in the wild, except when he wants to get drunk. He also bit a number of locals to form his pack. Bit werewolves are not nearly as strong as pure, genetic werewolves, however. Dolph doesn’t know he has a son; if he did, he would kill him. Dolph has a strong desire to be the last of his line.
Outside, they discover Dolph’s pack his killed the rest of Tollerman’s sheep and painted a message in the blood: “Give him up tonight.” Tollerman invites a number of townspeople, including Gail and Angelina, who are all werewolves. They discuss whether or not to give Caleb up or fight. Eventually, Caleb decides he’ll fight them himself and leave them out of it — if it’s him they want, why should he involve the rest of the town? Tollerman and Angelina offer help in the form of fertilizer bombs, which they bury under the barnyard and mark with flags that can act as fuses. Angelina tells Caleb how her parents died: her father was a drunk werewolf, who one night came home and killed her mother. Ashamed, he shot himself a few days later. Caleb explains that this is why he does not want to be a wolf. Angelina tells him it can be good, and to show him, she allows Caleb to chase him through the fields. When Caleb catches up, they both transform into werewolves and have sex.
In wolf form, Caleb goes to Dolph’s den. He lures the pack back to the Tollerman’s farm, where Tollerman and Angelina wait. When Caleb gets to the barnyard, he offers them a choice: they can leave him and the rest of the town alone, or they can suffer the consequences. They choose the latter, so Caleb signals the others. They start shooting at the flags, unleashing the explosives. Many of Dolph’s pack are killed or injured. Dolph continues to pursue Caleb through the explosions. They fight, and Caleb’s passion helps him hold his own against the much larger Dolph. When he has the chance to kill him, Caleb reveals he’s Dolph’s son and tells him he’ll let Dolph, because he refuses to kill in cold blood. Dolph scurries away. Caleb, Tollerman, and Angelina feel victorious.
Later, Angelina calls Caleb and Tollerman into the house. On TV, a news report shows surprising footage of the werewolf attack at the Tollermans. The town is flooded with a reporter. Back at the seedy bar, Wild Joe watches Caleb fight with pride. Meanwhile, Caleb prepares to leave. He feels his work in Lupine Ridge is done and is afraid of being caught on camera, considering he’s a fugitive. Angelina insists that Dolph’s pack won’t stop, and they can’t defeat him without Caleb. Caleb still intends to leave — until Dolph’s pack kidnaps Tollerman and Clara. Caleb wants to track them back to their caves, but Angelina considers the possibility that they’ve gone after the rest of the purebred vampires. Turns out she’s right: they go around town trying to find the others, but they’re all gone, leaving signs of struggle in their wake. Enraged, Caleb goes after Dolph on his own. Angelina secretly goes, too.
Caleb cuts power to the pack’s generator and uses the distraction to get the drop on them. Caleb fights all of them except Dolph, injuring and/or killing them one by one. Meanwhile, Angelina uses the distraction to free the other purebreds from their cage. Tollerman’s immediate decision is for them to hide at his farm. Angelina encourages them to stay and help him fight. Seeing his pack is getting annihilated, Dolph sends them away and goes after Caleb himself. They fight viciously. Caleb overcomes him and is ready to deliver the deathblow when Dolph announces that he deserves to die. He begins weeping. Caleb can’t kill him — but Wild Joe can. He appears out of nowhere, and it turns out Dolph knows him. Wild Joe is enraged about Dolph exiling him from the town years ago. He explains that Carter, Joe’s brother, told him all about Caleb, and since Wild Joe couldn’t defeat Dolph himself, he lured Caleb to Lupine Ridge by killing his parents. Dolph gleefully tells Wild Joe he ate Carter. This sends Joe into a further rage. He kills Dolph viciously, then goes after Caleb, who’s too shocked and confused to make a move. Fortunately, Angelina blows a hole in the back of Wild Joe’s head, but it doesn’t kill him. Caleb chases Joe through the woods. Wild Joe tries to convince Caleb that they’re on the same side, and that wolves are not coldblooded killers. Caleb flicks Wild Joe’s cigarette out of his mouth. It floats through the air, hitting one of the unlit flags from a fertilizer bomb. Wild Joe explodes.
Caleb wakes, injured. He says his goodbyes to Tollerman and Clara. He and Angelina ride off together, on Caleb’s Harley.
Comments:Wolves attempts to turn the classic werewolf archetype into a bombastic, comic-book-style action flick. Although some of the action scenes are well-written and it has an engaging central character, the laughable dialogue and incoherent plot make the screenplay unsatisfying. As written, it merits a pass.
While the first act and the beginning of the second do a nice job of introducing and developing the story’s central characters, the script begins to suffer when the writer starts to explain his version of the werewolf mythology. While the notion of strong, “purebred” werewolves and weaker “half-breed” and “bitten” werewolves is intriguing, the writer fails to explain other non-traditional alterations to the mythology. These werewolves can apparently transform into their wolf state at any time, day or night, full moon or not, but sometimes they can’t, and somehow the full moon makes them stronger. None of this ever makes any sense, making the story unnecessarily confusing.
Despite the nonsensical mythology, the script continues to have interesting twists and plot developments until the disastrous third act. The press learning about the werewolves of Lupine Ridge has no bearing on the story and serves as little more than a bizarre distraction. Wild Joe’s return is a weird, confusing deus ex machina that comes out of nowhere and leads to an incoherent resolution. While his motive for setting Caleb on a course for revenge makes sense, nothing else does. For no apparent reason, he waits two years after killing Caleb’s adoptive parents before telling Caleb to go to Lupine Ridge, and then he only discovers Caleb’s success thanks to a chance news report. The lack of logic contributes to the already-disappointing deus ex machina.
On the other hand, Caleb manages to remain engaging and sympathetic even while making horrible, barely coherent decisions. Caleb is consistently portrayed as a nice guy who’s in over his head and pushed into making bad decisions. Caleb’s desire to rise above his “animal” nature helps sell his foolish, repeated decisions to let Dolph go with stern warnings, even though it’s patently obvious that Dolph won’t stop hurting the people around him. However, like everything else about the ending, Caleb’s moral compromise to kill Wild Joe doesn’t make much sense when he had better reasons to kill Dolph but wouldn’t.
However, the supporting characters don’t have anything close to Caleb’s dimension. They’re all constantly changing to fit with plot twists and new development, making it hard to empathize with them and harder to understand why Caleb would simply decide to live and work in this town without doing much to investigate his past or the odd behavior of the townspeople. Dolph’s sudden 180 in the third act from vicious animal to tortured warrior-poet tries to make him sympathetic but makes about as much sense as Wild Joe showing up to kill him.
Wolves is ineffective as a horror movie, concentrating more on action sequences than suspense or scares. The story makes too little sense to engross audiences, and the characters — Caleb excepted — are a total mess. Even the dialogue is atypically horrible, relying on a hodgepodge of on-the-nose exposition and ridiculous action-movie one-liners. This script will live and die on its action sequences. If they fail to impress, audiences will stay away in droves.
May 11, 2009
Author: Gary McKendry and Matt Sherring
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:A group of mercenaries are forced to avenge the deaths of a wealthy Arab’s sons.
Synopsis:Mirbat, Oman, 1972. After a vicious attack between British and tribal forces that has left most of both sides dead, a British SAS soldier forces SALIM BIN AMR (20) to take an AK-47 into his hands. When Salim does, the SAS officer shoots him dead. SHEIKH AMR (40), Salim’s father, weeps over his son’s body. He complains that this war has caused him to lose three of his sons, leaving him only with little BAKHAIT (11). One of Amr’s compatriots attempts to stab him to death. Amr deflects the attack, killing his assailant. Ten years later, in South Africa, DANNY DE VILLIERS (30), an enigmatic man with a SEAL tattoo, is approached by Anne (30), a cute girl from a neighboring farm who attempts to flirt with Danny relentlessly. She has brought his mail back from town. Danny thanks her but doesn’t quite flirt back. He tears open a package that contains an airline ticket to Dubai, a photo of a beefy man chained to a wall, and something wrapped in tissue. Danny unwraps it to discover a bloody patch of skin bearing the same SEAL tattoo.
In Dubai, Danny meets a man known only as the AGENT. The Agent explains to Danny that HUNTER, the man in the photo, is being held by their prospective client because he turned down a $3 million job. Danny shudders to think of the assignment that would scare off Hunter. The Agent notes that if Danny doesn’t take and complete the job, Hunter will die. At an elaborate desert palace, an older, Oxford-educated Bakhait reluctantly leads Danny and the Agent to Amr, who is now terminally ill. Amr explains that his dying wish is to see revenge exacted upon the men who killed his sons. More than that, he wants videotaped confessions and he wants their deaths to look accidental. Danny wonders why Amr can’t send his own security force. Amr points out that they were killed by SAS, and he wants to fight fire with fire. Danny demands to see Hunter. Hunter lies chained to a wall, bloodied and beaten. Danny savagely beats Hunter’s guard, prompting other guards to attack Danny. The Agent provides Danny with a ticket to Paris. In London, SPIKE and MASON (both 40s) break into a mansion owned by SYMMINS, whom they beat savagely before delivering a message to leave England. Before leaving the mansion, Spike tosses down a business card that’s blank except for an image of a feather.
In Paris, Danny browses the files the Agent gave him on Amr’s sons. The next day, he spars with DAVIES (40, Welsh) at a boxing gym. Watching them is MEIER (35, German, fat). Danny tries to convince them to join him. They think he’s nuts and the plan is impossible, but they’re both in. Because Amr could only identify one of the killers, Danny sends Davies to an SAS-frequented pub to find out information on the other killings. Davies does, but he raises the attention of the bartender, who calls Spike. Spike sends some of his men to follow Davies. They follow him to the Omani Embassy, but they lose him on the way out because Davies abandons his car. Spike reports this to his superiors, a mysterious group of ex-SAS officers. Because Davies went to the Embassy to get a visa, Spike is instructed to send Mason to follow Davies to Oman. Meanwhile, in Oman, Danny and Meier surveil MILLING, the one killer Amr could identify. Milling lives in a fancy villa. While he showers, Milling nearly bashes his head on a dangerous corner of his shower. Danny and Meier decide to use this as their accident. Meier fabricates a mallet with flecks of green porcelain tile in the head. Danny and Meier return to the villa, posing as military historians interested in Milling’s career. When he opens the door, they hold a gun on him and tie him up. Milling thinks it’s a prank. Danny pulls out a video camera and forces Milling to confess, which he sarcastically does. Just as Danny is about to kill him, they hear a knock on the door. Danny and Meier vanish.
Mason spies on Danny, Davies, and Meier. Danny notices it quite quickly, so they follow him to his car and start shooting. Mason runs, and the others chase him until he kicks a hornet’s nest in their way. Later, the trio speculate on who Mason could have been. They assume he’s not police because he’s too good a shot. They decide to go with Plan B on Milling: Meier has sabotaged his military helicopter so it’ll go down over the Indian Ocean but look like a fluke. When Mason learns of the plan, he tries to warn Milling’s commanders, but they think he’s a crackpot. Spike tries to get his bosses to talk to the commanders, but they refuse. Danny returns to Dubai with the evidence of Milling’s confession and death. Amr is shocked by how strangely human Milling seems. Danny demands to see Hunter again, but Amr refuses. Danny goes back to Paris, where he celebrates with Davies and Meier over earning their first million. In London, Spike and Mason discuss why anybody would want to assassinate Milling.
Danny returns to South Africa. Anne flirts with him some more. He opens up to her a little bit, telling her he recently returned from a business trip to Paris, that he was born in England and raised in the U.S., and that he came to South Africa after inheriting his grandfather’s home. Davies returns to the SAS pub to gather more intelligence, and Spike finds out. He warns his bosses that this will lead to another killing. The bosses argue and take a vote, with the majority ruling to find Davies. Unfortunately, they’re too late. Davies spots a realistic mural depicting the Mirbat attack. He seeks out the artist, who says he was there and took photos. Davies says he’s trying to track down an old friend in the SAS. When the artist gets suspicious, Davies kills him, then sorts through his files until he finds the name he wants — Captain Mike KEALY. Back in South Africa, Danny’s relationship with Anne has escalated. He mostly stays at her farm. One day, he receives an urgent telegram from Davies about Kealy. Danny tells Anne he must leave immediately. Spike learns that there are only three Mirbat survivors in England. He seeks out the “star,” Kealy. Danny arrives in London, where Davies fills him in on Kealy. They follow him to a hospital, where he stays with his sick daughter. Meier bugs the room, so they find out Kealy is training for a grueling, 41-mile march through frozen mountains. While surveilling, Danny and Meier discover Spike is also watching Kealy. He confronts Spike, and they get into a vicious fight that results in Danny severely injuring his ribs.
Later, the trio discusses how to penetrate Kealy’s march, which will be swarming with SAS and other Army officials. They decide to slip some insulin in his tea. A high enough dose will kill Kealy. Unfortunately, Kealy only drinks half his tea. They think the dosage is still lethal, but they must track him to make sure. Meier sneaks past the officers to hide in Kealy’s tent. At gunpoint, Meier forces the weakened Kealy to confess murdering Salim. Kealy’s baffled, but he admits it. Meier jams a syringe with more insulin. Kealy won’t go down without a fight. He lunges at Meier, and they roll out of the tent, where Danny and Davies wait. All three must take his punishment to prevent from bruising Kealy. Danny has a nightmare about Anne discovering the horrible things that Danny has done. He awakes suddenly, back in South Africa. Anne complains that he was talking in his sleep. The next day, they take an uneasy car ride. Anne thinks Danny is secretly married. Danny denies it but refuses to open up about why he always has to run off to Europe at a moment’s notice. While they argue, a stamped of wildebeest cross the road. Their car is hit, and Anne is injured severely. Danny is forced to wait for another car to pass. He forces the driver at gunpoint to get them to a doctor as quickly as possible. Barely conscious, Anne witnesses this. The doctor manages to stabilize Anne. Later, after Anne has spent time recuperating, she asks Danny about pulling the gun on the driver. Danny explains he’d never hurt her, but he’s not a good man, and she shouldn’t ask him about his job. He also says once he finishes his last job, he’ll be done forever.
Danny returns to Davies and Meier and asks what they’ve done on the last file. They know somebody’s on to them, so they’ve been laying low. Browsing through the photos, Danny realizes the third killer wasn’t SAS at all — he was a standard soldier, MARMAN. Mason visits Marman at his apartment. Just as he’s about to leave, Danny and Meier show up, posing as plainclothes detectives. They ask Marman a series of questions. Meanwhile, Mason realizes he recognizes Danny from Oman. Spike asks his bosses for extra protection for Marman. They refuses because he’s not SAS. Meier edits the footage of Marman, splicing different questions against Marman’s real answers to manufacture a confession. They decide to use “the Boston Brakes” to dispatch Marman — it’s an elaborate, radio-controlled car rig set up by a nerdy guy named JAKE (19). They use their rig to control a tanker truck, but something goes wrong and the truck goes out of control. Meier, following in his car, pulls over and helps them repair the problem. The tanker comes upon Marman’s car, and Jake uses the tanker to slam into Marman, crushing him. Meanwhile, Spike sends security of his own to intercept them. Jake ends up accidentally killing Meier in his attempt to take out the attacker. They all dig through the man’s car, looking for information or a radio. Danny finds a false wall in the glove box that contains a radio and a pile of “Feathermen” business cards. They’re baffled.
Davies checks into a hotel, where Spike has distributed a card. The porter calls Spike, who sends men to torture Davies for information. Davies refuses to give up anything, so they kill him. The only thing they can find on him is a piece of paper with the Agent’s number, which they give to Spike. Bakhait is angry when he discovers Danny has succeeded. Nonetheless, he releases Hunter. Danny encourages him to quit. Danny returns to South Africa and happily announces to Anne that he’ll no longer have to return to Europe. Anne is back in the hospital due to complications from the crash. Mason traces the phone number and finds Davies’s military record. Spike takes this to his bosses, looking for help. Again, they refuse, saying the Agent isn’t enough of a lead. One day, a farmhand shows Danny that somebody has shot a foal. Danny receives a sudden call from the Agent announcing a problem with the job. Danny refuses, but the Agent suggests Danny check with Anne. Danny goes to the hospital and finds a single bullet, nestled in Anne’s hair. He hides the bullet before she wakes up, then breaks the bad news that he must go to Dubai.
Now bed-ridden, Amr shows Danny the tape of Milling’s sarcastic confession. He points out a recently published book by RANULPH FIENNES details the scenario leading to Amr’s son’s death. Milling didn’t do it, and although Amr will accept Fiennes’s book as a confession, Danny must finish the job. Unable to get in touch with Davies, Danny calls the Agent to find out everything he knows about Fiennes. He goes to London and, pretending to be a bike messenger, receives information from the Agent, in his car. By coincidence, Spike witnesses the exchange and sees Danny taking a Publisher’s Weekly. Spike ransacks a newsstand until he finds one, and he discovers where the next hit will take place — at Fiennes’s reading in London. Spike, his men, and Mason set up to intercept Danny during the reading. Unfortunately, he’s too late — Danny has already killed Fiennes. Spike chases him through the building, up to the roof, where he’s intercepted by Mason. Spike brings Danny back to the body and discovers Fiennes groaning — he’s still alive. Spike tries to sort out who Danny is, who he works for, and what this is all about. Finally, Danny agrees to give Spike what he needs if he releases him. Spike agrees, so Danny spills the entire story. Spike tries to kill him anyway, but Danny fights to get free and escapes.
Spike goes to Dubai with Danny’s camera, filled with photos of Fiennes’s faked death. Bakhait is surprised to see him instead of Danny. Bakhait leads Spike to Amr, who tells Bakhait to distribute the photos so everyone will know what he’s done. Spike tells Amr he has a message. He leans in close, raising a dagger as he whispers that the photos are fakes. Before he can bring the dagger down, Bakhait increases Amr’s morphine drip until he overdoses and dies. Spike announces that Fiennes is still alive, and Bakhait says he doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want to be a prisoner on this patch of desert. Bakhait gives Spike $3 million, which he leaves in its briefcase on the street. Danny tells Anne he has to leave because they’ve found him here. Anne is disappointed that they have to say goodbye, but Danny decides to take her with him.
Comments:The Killer Elite attempts to be a taut cat-and-mouse thriller, but it does not accomplish this by any stretch of the imagination. Although it has some interesting action sequences, the script suffers from unappealing characters and a story that completely unravels in the third act. As written, it merits a pass.
The first and second acts develop a solid yet unremarkable story about paid mercenaries seeking revenge on behalf of a dying billionaire. Danny is given three targets, and he kills all three by the third act. The action sequences are compelling and well-written, but everything surrounding the action falls flat. Danny and his friends find the targets much too easily, and although the writers present Spike and his “Feathermen” organization as a formidable obstacle, that entire aspect of the story simply falls flat.
It’s only in the third act that Spike becomes vital to the story, yet how he becomes vital remains unclear. After killing Meier and Davies, Spike finally closes in on Danny when he’s forced to take care of Fiennes. However, the Fiennes plot development comes out of left field and is handled ineptly, leading to more confusion when Danny decides to tell Spike everything and hand over Fiennes in exchange for his freedom. It’s never made clear why Danny chooses to fake Fiennes’s deaths but not the others, or why Spike goes to Dubai to kill Amr. Perhaps if the writers had done a better job of developing the characters’ motives, these plot developments would not seem to arbitrary and incoherent.
Unfortunately, neither Danny nor Spike have much dimension at all. Danny’s problems start at the very beginning, when he’s forced to kill people in order to free Hunter, whose importance to Danny is never made clear. Danny’s apathy for the situation is palpable, and it doesn’t exactly make him an exciting lead. He has no energy and little interest in what he’s doing, which won’t give the audience much incentive to root for him. The writers saddle Danny with a disappointing romantic subplot that does little to reveal anything about his character, other than his guilty conscience and his country of origin. Spike has even less depth; he spends most of his time whining at his bosses and ordering other people to do things on his behalf.
The supporting characters have a few generic adjectives to distinguish themselves from one another (Meier’s fat! Milling’s a drunk!). Much of their dialogue consists of on-the-nose explanations of the plot.
No matter how good the action sequences are, they will not make audiences forget (or even ignore) the script’s many other problems. It simply needs more substantive characters to drive its plot.
May 9, 2009
Author: Kevin Reynolds
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:When two spies happily stationed in Sicily are reassigned, they decide not to leave, resulting in the government sending an assassin after them.
Synopsis:CARL GOODWATER (late 30s) wakes up in bed with DONATA, his longtime girlfriend. She reminds him to go to the Squid Festival tonight. The two ride matching Vespas to their separate jobs. As they head into the small Sicilian village of Porto Vintino, they see the small blimp known as “Med Zeppelin” floating across the Mediterranean toward Italy. Carl passes several friends along the way to his small shop. One of them, an old mailman named FIGUERO, playfully observes that Carl’s lived in the village for 12 years but has never learned to speak Italian. Carl runs a small, comically unsuccessful satellite TV shop. When he goes inside, it turns out Carl is using the shop as a front for a CIA operation. His handler communicates with him through false classified ads, which Carl plugs into an encrypted TeleType-like device. Carl’s interrupted by AIMO and a couple of mobsters, who announce DON LUPANO wants to see Carl immediately. They take Carl to Lupano’s villa, where he’s having trouble with his satellite dish. Carl notes that Lupano’s in the cable TV business, singlehandedly destroying Carl’s satellite business, so maybe he should switch. Lupano doesn’t want to. When nobody’s paying attention, Carl surreptitiously repairs electronics that indicate Carl uses this satellite to spy on Lupano.
Carl returns to his shop, turns on an LCD monitor that shows Lupano having lunch with various business associates. Carl types messages to his handler, who tells Carl his mission is over and he must return to Washington ASAP. Carl asks where they’re sending him, and the handler writes that it’s a secret, then ends communication. Upset, Carl stares at a framed photo of himself and Donata. That night, he goes to the festival and meets up with his best friend, NERO, and Nero’s girlfriend, LAURA. They lovingly argue with one another. Nero wonders why Carl looks so nervous. Donata arrives, and Carl takes her to talk privately. Donata thinks Carl’s trying to propose, so she’s through for a loop when Carl tells her his “Uncle Sam” has decided to stop giving him money, so Carl must close his shop and return to the U.S. tomorrow. Donata’s so enraged, she leaps into the water and swims to get away from him. Disappointed, Carl returns to his apartment to pack. Nero arrives and asks what he’s doing. Carl lies, but Nero tells him he knows Carl is CIA. Carl’s stunned, moreso when Nero tells him he’s KGB. Carl laughs that the KGB no longer exists. Nero says the FSB is basically the same organization. They exchange actual names, cover names, and code names, and assignments. Carl was assigned to spy on Lupano; Nero was assigned to keep tabs on Carl. In all their time here, nobody got an real dirt on anybody. Nero’s angry because, now that Carl has to leave, so will Nero. Like Carl, Nero has built a life in Sicily that he doesn’t want to abandon. Carl jokes that if the place had WMDs, they’d be able to stay. This gives them an idea…
Carl sends a message to his handler that Al Qaeda has set up a chemical weapons factory outside the village. The handler writes back that they’ll have a satellite over the area in seven hours to confirm. Now Carl and Nero have to fabricate a weapons factory, but neither of them knows what one looks like. After trying to deal with slow dial-up at an Internet café, Carl and Nero give up and go to the Med Zeppelin office, where Donata and Laura work. Carl thinks Donata is coming to apologize and is angry that he just wants to use her computer. She storms away, allowing Carl and Nero to pull up photos of weapons factories. They go to an ancient fortress, a tourist trap, with rudimentary construction equipment to convert it into something that will look like a weapons factory from above. They just barely get it ready in time for the satellite sync-up. After a few moments, Carl is shocked to see missiles heading toward them. He chases all the tourists away, and he and Nero barely escape the explosion. They return to Carl’s shop, where a message waits: “Nice work. Now come home.” Carl and Nero get drunk as they discuss their disappointing fates. It slowly dawns on both of them that if they report to their respective agencies that they’ve exposed on another and are in pursuit, they’ll be allowed to stay in Sicily. They send reports to their respective handlers, but the international intelligence community picks up the messages, so both the CIA and the FSB realize Carl and Nero have filed contradictory reports. To solve the problem, both agencies decide to have Carl and Nero killed. That day, Carl returns to his apartment. It explodes just before he enters the building. Realizing something’s wrong, Carl runs to Nero’s houseboat. Nero uses a telescope to spy on a nude sunbather, but he drops it in the water. Nero dives in after it as his houseboat explodes.
Hiding in the ruins of an old Greek temple, they use the telescope to spy down on the village, where they see nothing but goons in sunglasses. Carl watches Donata weep and grieve for what she assumes is a dead Carl. She’s consoled by her new boyfriend, ROBERTO. Carl leaps out of the temple, chasing her. Nero chases him. They hide in an alley and run into a weeping Laura. She’s thrilled that he’s alive, but the moment Nero sends her away, hitmen are on top of them. Unarmed, Carl and Nero narrowly escape the hitmen by hiding. Aimo and some mobsters arrive. Carl and Nero are thrilled to see them, until they unleash tasers. Carl and Nero are taken to Don Lupano, who’s angry about assassins overrunning the town and blowing everything up. He asks if this has to do with their affiliations with the CIA and FSB. Carl and Nero are stunned that he’s aware, so they come clean about what has happened. Lupano observes that if they leave the village or are killed, he’ll have no one to fix his satellite or catch calamari for him. Nero considers killing the assassins, but Lupano knows they’ll just send more, and Lupano can’t hide them without provoking a Mob war with the intelligence world. Lupano allows them to stay the night so they can relax and come up with a solution. That night, both the CIA and the FSB are disappointed in their assassins’ efforts. They call an Icelandic assassin, IVARSSON, as their last resort.
Unable to think of a solution, Lupano sends Carl and Nero off with 100 euros. In the village, Ivarsson finds and shoots at them almost immediately. They both realize it’s Ivarsson and are terrified that their agencies would go to such lengths to have them killed. It leaves them with no choice: abandon their plans and live Sicily forever. They have no choice but to hide for the rest of their lives. They go to Carl’s shop to retrieve his gun. There, hitmen surround the place, waiting. Carl tries to sneak past but is surprised when all the hitmen are killed, one by one, by a hidden sniper — Ivarsson. Too afraid to go into the shop, he and Nero leave. At the Med Zeppelin blimp, Donata and Laura are surprised by how many foreigners are arriving and leaving, and how many of them are carrying violin cases. The last passenger to arrive is Ivarsson. Laura won’t let him on, so he threatens her with his gun. Donata refuses to let him board. The blimp takes off, heading for Italy. Secretly, Carl and Nero ride on top of the actual blimp itself, clinging to its webbing. When they arrive in Italy, Carl immediately yells at Donata about Roberto. She’s shocked he’s alive but angry that his only interest is in chastising her. She gets angry and board the blimp for its return trip. Watching her go, Carl decides they must go back to the village.
Nero tries to talk Carl out of it, but Carl’s determined. They see Figuero on the docks, loading his mail barge, and accompany him back to Sicily. Carl asks him to drop them at Donata’s villa. They spy it through binoculars and find Ivarsson waiting outside. Instead, Figuero takes them to the village docks. Carl and Nero return to Lupano’s villa. Lupano asks if them if they’ve come up with a plan. Carl tells him they have, but he and Nero need to discuss it. Lupano gives them a moment of privacy, during which time Carl stuffs his pockets with Lupano’s money. When Lupano returns, Carl tells him their only choice is to leave Sicily, and they need Lupano’s help. Knowing about the spy equipment, Carl whispers the plan to Lupano, who thinks it’s good. After Carl and Nero leave, Lupano announces to Aimo that this is their last chance — if this plan fails, Aimo is to kill them. Meanwhile, Ivarsson watches the entire exchange from Carl’s office.
The next morning, Donata goes to work, undisturbed by Ivarsson. The next day, Carl and Nero arrive at the blimp port wearing surprisingly bulky jackets. They wait for Lupano, but Ivarsson arrives first. Left with no choice, Carl and Nero steal the blimp. Nero attempts to fly it using only his boat-piloting knowledge, while Ivarsson starts shooting holes in the blimp. Carl climbs up into the balloon and tries to patch the holes. Despite his efforts, the blimp starts to sink. Carl tells Nero to throw everything overboard, to serve as both a distraction and to lighten the weight. Nero throws everything — including his bulky jacket, which makes Carl panic. Carl starts shooting at the blimp’s gondola, attempting to separate it from the balloon. Carl and Nero climb into the balloon as the gondola collapses. Aimo and the mobsters arrive. Ivarsson starts shooting at the randomly floating balloon. It loses enough helium to collapse. Ivarsson can’t get inside the balloon. Carl and Nero attempt to sneak out. Ivarsson shoots at them, but he used up all his ammo bringing down the blimp. Carl announces he’s glad to see Aimo, just as Aimo and his men fire machine guns, shooting Carl and Nero multiple times. Ivarsson takes a photo with his cell phone and sends it to the CIA and FSB. Donata is horrified, but it turns out to be all part of the plan — Aimo loaded their jackets with squibs to make everyone think they got killed. Carl apologizes to Donata. Some time later, Carl and Donata have a dual wedding with Nero and Laura at the Greek temple ruins.
Comments:Learning Italian attempts to turn a spy thriller into slapstick comedy. Although the script contains a few good jokes, the story suffers as a result of its inconsistenct characters and sloppy plotting. As written, it merits a pass.
The first act does a good enough job establishing Carl’s idyllic life in Porto Vintino, before throwing in the big hitch that he must now leave for reassignment. The twist that Nero is a Russian agent is novel and amusing, but the second act is a complete mess. At first, they’re so bent on staying in Sicily that they fabricate an elaborate weapons factory. However, throughout the second act they keep changing their minds between leaving and staying, with no rhyme or reason. Wanting to hide from an assassin squad is a fine reason to want to leave, but the writer never provides them with compelling or believable reasons to stay. Carl wanting to win back Donata is simply not enough.
The third act manages to wrap up the messy plot as neatly as it can, but the whole thing gets bogged down in an extended blimp shootout that goes on far longer than it needs to. What starts as mildly amusing turns tedious rather quickly, and as a result, most of the story’s resolution is packed into the last couple of pages. In some cases, this is all right — Aimo pretending to kill Carl and Nero is reasonably satisfying — but when it comes to the relationship between Carl and Donata, a brief, bland apology does not seem like enough to sway her, considering she’s spent the bulk of the story enraged at him.
The writer tries to use the relationship between Carl and Donata as the glue that holds the sloppy story together, but it never quite succeeds. The fact that Donata has such wild mood swings is presented as a joke, but after the initial laughs, it will just make audiences wonder why Carl’s fighting so hard to stay with her. Carl and Nero share a loyal friendship that’s entirely devoid of conflict. It seems like a missed opportunity to not give them some animosity after more than a decade of betrayal. Since most of their scenes involve fighting nebulous enemies they never interact with on a personal level, a little bit of clashing between Carl and Nero would give the script some much-needed drama.
The attempts at slapstick humor never makes up for the action sequence’s lack of invention. Although the dialogue is sporadically amusing, it can’t overcome the story and character problems. Maybe a talented cast and crew can pull it off, but the script doesn’t show much potential for success.
May 8, 2009
Author: Jesús Olmo
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:Two men fight strange monsters on an otherwise deserted island in the Atlantic.
Synopsis:1924. A Portuguese ship, illegally smuggling explosives, crashes on a deserted island. The island has a lighthouse, but it’s been modified so it points to the shoreline, rather than out to sea. Some of the crew survive the crash. GRUNER, the German lighthouse keeper, watches apathetically as the surviving sailors are devoured by mysterious, unseen creatures in the water. The next day, he takes their dinghy and pulls it to a hidden cove on the other side of the island. A youngish, intellectual man known only as FRIEND rides on a ship populated by a colorful crew. CAPTAIN AXEL (50s, Danish) brings them to the same creepy island, in daylight. The crew find the place strange, so Axel is forced to go ashore with Friend. Friend is taking over as the new Royal weather official. When they arrive at the weather official’s cabin, they find it empty. Both Axel and Friend are confused. They go to the lighthouse, which they notice has been eerily fortified using basic tools, supply, and timber. Gruner refuses to open the door, so Axel and Friend barge in. Gruner greets them bitterly. He refuses to tell either of them what happened to the previous weather official. Axel urges Friend to abandon the weather post and return with him. Friend insists he will honor his contract. Axel and his boat leave.
That night, after Friend unpacks, he’s attacked by several strange creatures, like the ones who attacked the Portuguese. They’re human in shape, but they look oddly amphibious. They’re referred to as toads because of their amphibious qualities. One of the toads slips a hand through an odd hatch in the door. Friend beats it away but more crawl through the windows. Friend takes a burning log — burning his hands in the process — to beat on the toads. They scurry away. Terrified, he stays up all night, listening as the toads rush around his cabin, wailing like banshees. The next morning, Friend bandages his burnt hands, then goes to the lighthouse. He tries to beg Gruner to let him stay in the fortified lighthouse, but Gruner shoots at him. Friend returns to his cabin, where he spends the day laying traps for the toads. His most useful trap is a pseudo-bomb using a can of gas, a gasoline-soaked rope, and several logs and books. That night, the toads attack. Friend lights the fuse on his bomb as they approach. It takes a few of them out, and the light of the explosion scares some away, but after a few moments, the toads continue to attack. Friend tries to dump boiling water on them, but it doesn’t pain them. He bites one toad, then shoots another — anything to keep them away. Somehow, he manages to survive through the night.
The next morning, Friend takes his rifle into the trees and waits until he gets a good shot at Gruner. When he does, Friend finds that he can’t shoot him. Instead, Friend offers Gruner his huge supply of ammunition in exchange for letting him stay in the lighthouse. Gruner agrees. They spend most of the day carrying ammo from Friend’s cabin to the lighthouse. Friend notices Gruner keeps a female toad, simply called TOAD, as a sort of slave — she loyally catches food for Gruner, allows him to have sex with her, and makes no effort to attack him. That night, Friend and Gruner team up for an onslaught against the toads, who come running up the beach. Toad, for unknown reasons, sits at the bottom of the lighthouse and sings an eerie melody as the attack takes place. This leads to a lengthy montage: during the day, Gruner and Friend set up traps and repair the lighthouse’s defenses; at night, they attack wave after wave of toads. Through it all, their uneasy alliance never builds into anything resembling friendship. Neither talk much, except to bark orders at one another. At one point, Friend considers shooting flares to attrac the attention of passing ships. Gruner observes that there are no shipping lanes within eyesight. The lighthouse stopped having any function years ago, and the Portuguese only crashed because it was traveling under the radar. The only ship that will come will bring Friend’s replacement — in a year.
One night, the toads simply stop attacking. Noticing Toad’s savage intelligence, Friend speculates that maybe the toads are planning something. Gruner refuses to believe they have any intelligence. One morning, Toad’s rustling awakens Friend. He watches her leave the lighthouse, then follows her to the woods, where they have sex. That night, the toads begin attacking again. Friend tells Gruner they can’t keep going on like this — the toads’ numbers are too big. Gruner tells Friend about the dinghy, that he can repair it and leave if he wants to. Friend knows that’s suicide. The next morning, Friend rustles up an old diving suit. He convinces Gruner to help him dive to retrieve the dynamite from the Portuguese ship. They can use it to lay more elaborate traps. Friend goes to the cove to get the dinghy, so they can sail out to the wrecked ship. On his way, he sees Toad. They have sex again. Gruner sees them but says nothing. Afterward, Friend tries to teach Toad the word “friend.” She doesn’t understand at first. When she catches on, she reveals her name: ANERIS. Friend returns to the lighthouse with the dinghy.
As Friend and Gruner row out to the ship, it begins to snow. Friend dives, while Gruner uses a manual air pump to keep Friend’s oxygen supply strong. Friend retrieves several crates of dynamite from the ship and brings it to the dinghy. On his final trip, Gruner stops pumping Friend’s oxygen. He collapses, getting pinned by a box. Gruner prepares to abandon Friend, but at the last minute, he decides to start pumping. Meanwhile, under the water, Friend is rescued by a group of baby toads. When Friend returns to the surface, Gruner attempts to shoot the babies, but Friend refuses to allow it. That doesn’t stop Gruner, but it gives the babies a chance to flee. They return to the lighthouse and plant dynamite all over the place, leading to various detonators at the top of the lighthouse. At night, the toads don’t attack. Friend considers the possibility that they smelled the dynamite, but Gruner insists they’re too stupid. Days pass. The toads will not attack. Friend ask Gruner if he has military experience. Gruner says he used to hunt wild game but was never in a formal war. Gruner asks the same of Friend, who says he fought a “patriotic war” but never enlisted in legitimate military service.
When Gruner gets fed up from the lack of toads, he begins to beat Aneris for information. She can’t talk. Friend tries to calm Gruner down by making a suggestion: that tonight, they leave the lighthouse door open. Gruner fears it’s too dangerous, but Friend thinks they’ve laid enough dynamite to keep the toads at bay. Even if a few get past their defenses, it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. That night, Friend waits inside the lighthouse, while Gruner mans the detonators outside. Friend hears Aneris start to sing and hears strange noises from outside, but Gruner doesn’t detonate a thing. Friend wonders what his problem is. Gruner doesn’t answer. Friend runs outside and finds Gruner paralyzed with fear. He looks over the sandbags they’ve erected for the blast and sees an enormous mob of toads, possibly thousands. Friend detonates the first couple of charges. The power of the dynamite, and the impact on the toads’ forces, begin to excite Gruner. He takes over. Friend quickly realizes they packed too much dynamite, but Gruner’s in an odd state. He continues to detonate until he destroys nearly the entire beach. The toads finally stop coming.
The next day, Friend and Gruner dig a huge mass grave for all the dead toads. Aneris sits in quiet contemplation after watching so many of her species die. At dusk, Friend sees a group of young toads scurry across land. Gruner’s enraged that they aren’t all dead. That night, no other toads come. Gruner knows they aren’t all dead and wonders where the rest of them are. Friend points out Aneris’s rudimentary intelligence and docile demeanor. He believes toads are smarter than Gruner thinks. Gruner responds by attempting to strangle Friend to death. He only stops when Aneris lets out a piercing scream. Gruner has an idea to create a rudimentary cannon that can shoot flares over the water. Friend refuses to help Gruner with it, because he does not want to massacre intelligent creatures. Some time late, Friend returns to the weather official’s cottage for the first time since he arrived. He finds a photograph dated 1900 that shows a much younger Gruner. Just then, Aneris enters with fresh bruises. Friend is enraged by Gruner’s savagery. Suddenly, her ears perk up and she runs away. Friend follows her. He realizes she’s hearing a ship on the horizon. Friend runs up to the lighthouse and tries to convince Gruner to use his flare cannon to call the ship. Gruner insists the ship is too far to see the flare. Friend tries to work the cannon himself but can’t figure it out. This, combined with Gruner’s arguing, allows the ship to drift past the horizon.
At dusk, the small toads come back. Gruner tries to kill them, but they move too quickly. The next night, the small toads return with some adults. They don’t attack; in fact, the adults encourage the small one to go into the lighthouse. Gruner sets up his flare cannon and shoots the child. Friend tries to save the child but cannot. He goes back to the lighthouse and starts a vicious fight with Gruner, taking his weapons. Gruner manages to find an axe as an army of toads appear in retribution for the dead child. Gruner comes after them with an axe but is eventually lost in the huge mass of toads. Friend remains in the lighthouse, alone, looking disturbingly like Gruner as he uses his clothes and sleeps in his bed. Eventually, a ship arrives with an eager, new weather official, who mistakes Friend for Gruner. Friend lets the weather official spend his first night there, and is bitterly amused when the weather official beats down the door of the lighthouse the following morning. Meanwhile, Aneris returns to sea.
Comments:Cold Skin tells an eerie, fantastical story that attempts the same sort of horror-fantasy-allegory as films like Pan’s Labyrinth or The Fall. Despite a promising start, the story gets too repetitive to sustain itself, and its story is simply too weird to appeal to anyone but hardcore fantasy fans. As written, it merits a pass.
The first act does a wonderful job of setting up a terrifying island, full of horror-movie monsters. The Arctic climate, sinister Gruner and his filthy lighthouse, and the total isolation help to build a creepy atmosphere. The first monster attack is incredibly disturbing and well-written.
Things change in the second act, when the writer establishes Friend and Gruner’s uneasy alliance against the monsters and introduces Aneris. The first few scenes of Friend and Gruner setting up for attacks, then spending their nights killing toads, ratchets up the suspense by giving the impression this is all building to something bigger. However, too many of these scenes start to make the script feel redundant. The pacing slows, and it loses the sense of foreboding. Even when Friend and Gruner retrieve dynamite to kill the toads in bulk, the story continues to feel repetitive instead of intriguing.
The third act changes things up by giving Friend a conscience, but it feels more like a plot contrivance than a natural development for the character. It also makes the resolution incredibly unsatisfying — rather than allowing this conscience to power him through the rest of his time on the island, he succumbs to insanity and loneliness. In addition to the bleakness of this ending, it does not seem like a natural development of this character. It’s another gimmick, designed to give the story an unearned ironic ending.
Although each of the three main characters is surprisingly well-defined, the fact that there are only three contributes to the redundancy that plagues the story. It limits the writer’s ability to craft subplots that allow for variety, so it just shifts back and forth from planning attacks, attacking, and random sex acts with Aneris. Despite making the characters initially intriguing, Friend’s drastic, unnatural personality shifts in the third acts have a detrimental effect on his believability. Also, audiences will have a hard time rooting for a character who effectively rapes, repeatedly, a woman Friend and Gruner see as a “pet.”
May 7, 2009
Author: Gail Niederhoffer
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:A group of college roommates reunite for a wedding.
Synopsis:In an old Victorian house, seven roommates sleep. LAURA wakes first and tries to wake her boyfriend, TOM, who refuses to get up. Instead, she turns to her best friend, LILA, who asks what time it is. Laura checks the clock and realizes they’ve all overslept. The group (which also includes females WEESIE and TRIPLER and males JAKE and PETE) shares an easy rapport as they rush to get ready for their college graduation. They arrive at the ceremony and realize they’ve completely missed it. Amused, they all start running away. Lila snaps a photo of it. Ten years later, Lila looks at her old photos, which hang on her walls along with a bulletin board that reveals complex wedding preparations. Tripler and Pete (now married) and Jake and Weesie (engaged) ride together to Lila’s family estate. Laura drives herself, and the separate cars arrive at the same time. As they pull up to the estate, Jake and Pete are stunned. They admire Tom’s good fortune. Lila greets everyone with excitement, and they slip into their old rapport.
Tom plays doubles tennis against Lila’s goony brother, CHIP (25), and father WILLIAM. Tom’s partner is Lila’s teenage sister, MINNOW. Annoyed by their vapid conversation, Tom intentionally loses the game so he can leave. Back at the estate, mother AUGUSTA surveys the arrangements for the elaborate outdoor ceremony. She also compliments each of them on their career paths — Tripler’s an actor, Weesie’s a doctor, Laura was recently published in The New Yorker, Jake’s attempting to write the great American novel, and Pete’s successful in finance. Augusta announces she’s putting them all up at another estate, Getty’s, across the fields from the Hayes family estate. Lila shows them all to their rooms at Getty’s. Alone in her room, Laura attempts to practice a toast for the rehearsal dinner. She can’t quite make it sincere. She complains to the other girls, who immediately start interrogating her about the collapse of her relationship with Tom. Turns out, the last time she saw him was a little more than a year ago, the night before he proposed to Lila.
At the rehearsal dinner, Augusta notices Tom eyeing Laura like a “lovesick sailor.” She points this out to Lila, who tries to ignore it. The friends and family all have a little too much to drink, and they give toasts that range from amusing to obnoxious. Laura gives a heartfelt speech about their college clique, who were nicknamed “The Romantics” because all of them dated each other at one time or another, which makes sense to Laura because they’re best friends, and best friends fall in love. Lila defies tradition by toasting Tom, observing that she gave up photography after college, but she no longer needs it because she has Tom, who is her lens. When the dinner breaks up, Lila reminds Tripler to meet her in her room to “tuck her in” at midnight and tells Tripler to remind the other girls. Lila goes back to the estate and quietly broods. Meanwhile, the others — including Tom and Chip — drunkenly wander down toward the ocean. They climb onto a wooden pier that’s loosely moored to the dock. They all convince Tom to give a speech of his own, and as he does, nobody realizes that they’ve become unmoored. They all dive into the water to swim back ashore. All of them arrive on the beach except Tom, which confuses the others because he was a champion swimmer in college. They all speculate the possibilities — he’s hiding from Lila after the awkwardness of the evening, he beat them all back and passed out on the lawn — before dividing up into search parties. Tripler and Jake partner up, as do Pete and Weesie. This leaves Chip and Laura. They split up, with Tripler reminding them about the “tuck in” at the last second.
Drunk out of his mind, Chip says a variety of obnoxious things about the collapse of Laura’s relationship with Tom. Eventually he tackles her and attempts to force himself on her. She shoves him away and storms off. Tripler and Jake go to the Hayes estate. Instead of looking for Tom, Tripler produces cocaine cut with Welbutrin. They both snort and discuss the strangeness of Tom’s getting together with Lila. Out on the lawn, Tom spots Laura. He’s hidden in the woods. Tom tells her he’s hiding and wonders if she wants to take a few minutes to talk. Weesie and Pete go to the Getty’s estate and discuss married life. Weesie is a little concerned about the impending nuptials. Tom and Laura start civil, but Laura gets caustic about Tom’s sudden, bizarre decision to dump her and ask out Lila, pointing out how coincidental it was that he chose to do this shortly after visiting the luxurious Hayes estate for the first time. She brings up old memories, but Tom cuts her off with a symbol-laden monologue about swimming — how he loves the security of a swimming pool but is terrified by the vastness and uncertainty of the ocean. Laura insists they were meant to be together. Tom isn’t changing his mind, so Laura gets angry and leaves.
Lila opens up to Minnow about her uncertainty about Tom. It turns into a fight, ending with Lila yelling at Minnow to leave. Minnow goes up to the attic and, in defiance of her sister, tries on Lila’s wedding dress. She hears Tripler and Jake stumbling into the attic, trips, and falls, getting dirt on the dress and tearing it. Tripler and Jake hear noises as Minnow hides. They decide the house is haunted. Jake confesses that his writing is going horribly and he should give up. Tripler feels the same way about her acting career. Their connection grows until Tripler kisses him. Minnow watches in awe.
When Laura arrives at the house, Weesie and Pete are singing off-key. Laura doesn’t want to deal with them, sneaks upstairs. Weesie and Pete dark one another to streak across the Getty’s lawns. Lila looks at her clock. It’s more than an hour past midnight. A knock at the door. She thinks it’s the girls, but it’s Tom. Tom asks Lila why she loves him. Lila gives plenty of reasons, then asks why Tom loves her. Tom tells her that’s the problem: he doesn’t know. So Lila provides Tom with the answers. Then she gets angry, because she always has to be the one to keep cool — Tom’s allowed to have his emotional freak-outs, but Lila never can. Tom apologizes, and they part ways for the night. As Tripler and Jake leave the attic, they hear Minnow sneeze. When they go to investigate, they see what looks like a ghost — it’s Minnow, caught in a dress that’s way too big for her. They run, terrified, across the lawns, where they stumble across a nude Pete. Weesie, meanwhile, has already realized it’s well past midnight. Tripler and Weesie go up to Lila’s room to apologize. Lila ask what happened to Laura. They pretend not to know.
Laura meets Tom in the woods. They reconnect with passion, kissing and professing love to one another. It’s implied that they have sex. Back at the Getty’s, Tripler, Weesie, Pete, and Jake compare notes. Nobody has seen Tom. Pete wants to tell Lila he disappeared, but the girls convince him to wait until morning. If Tom is still missing, they’ll tell her. The next morning, Laura wakes in the woods. Tom is gone. As she walks to the house, Laura comes upon Tripler and Weesie. They ask if she’s seen Tom. Laura denies it, so the girls say they’re going to tell Lila. Laura’s forced to admit she saw him. Lila goes up to the attic and finds her disheveled dress. She’s angry at Minnow, but Augusta insists it can be fixed before the wedding. Without Laura, the group tells Lila that Tom’s missing. They explain the whole story, but Lila says it’s absurd — she saw Tom last night, long after he supposedly disappeared. They think he’s MIA again, but Tom approaches, surprising them all. Weesie, Jake, Tripler, and Pete all make a group pact to forget everything they did the previous night. Lila prepares for the ceremony when Laura approaches. She admits she slept with Tom. They get into a big argument over him. Lila feels sorry for Laura, who she feels lives a fantasy of unrequited love to avoid intimacy in the present. Laura insists Tom loves her and accuses Lila of selfishness for marrying a man who clearly doesn’t love her. Lila tells Laura it doesn’t matter anymore. She’s marrying him in 10 minutes.
Panic-stricken, Laura watches the ceremony, waiting and hoping for Tom to stop himself. Instead, they recite sweet vows to one another. Just as they’re about to kiss, it starts to rain. The seven Romantics suddenly start running for cover, laughing. The image freezes, echoing Lila’s photograph from the beginning.
Comments:The Romantics is a wedding-themed drama that attempts to be a probing character study about love. However, its mediocre storyline and unsympathetic characters prevent the script from meeting its ambitions. As written, it merits a pass.
The script suffers from a very basic, uninspired story: in the first act, these old friends gather for Lila and Tom’s wedding, and the triangle between this couple and Laura is introduced. In the second act, everyone gets drunk at the rehearsal dinner, and they lose track of a visibly uncomfortable Tom. Once they form search parties, the story should really start humming along, as these characters get thrown out of their comfort zone and start revealing more about themselves. They never reveal anything unexpected or interesting, however, so it limps toward a third act that spends all its time on resolving the love triangle with an ineffective combination of preachy monologues and melodramatic two-person scenes.
The writer relies heavily on dialogue to tell the story, but the dialogue is one of the script’s weaker aspects. Every character speaks in lengthy, florid monologues, but none of the characters have separate voices. Young or old, male or female, they all sound like the exact same person. In the more dramatic scenes, the dialogue has the tendency to descend into melodramatic histrionics, making the characters seem shrill and irritating instead of sympathetic and interesting.
Laura, Lila, and Tom get a fair amount of development, but it’s hard to take a deep interest in their love triangle. Laura’s portrayed as the story’s protagonist, but ironically, many of the harsh things Lila says about her in the end are true. She’s selfish, whiny, and unable to move past a relationship that ended years ago (despite a few flings in between). These qualities make it very difficult to sympathize with her current plan to passive-aggressively destroy Lila and Tom’s wedding. It’s never clear whether or not she’s doing the right thing, and even if she is, it’s for the wrong reasons.
Conversely, Lila and Tom are not effective as, respectively, the villain or the love interest. Lila’s portrayed as the wrong choice for no other reason than her wealth and her good looks, despite the fact that those things aren’t inherently bad and she has a number of good qualities (intelligence, humor, humility) to balance these “flaws.” On the other hand, Tom’s indecision is manifested solely through staring quietly and not expressing his thoughts. It’s hard to tell whether or not he’s truly undecided, and it’s never clear if he’s marrying Lila for the wrong reasons or if that’s just Laura’s interpretation.
The supporting characters might as well not exist. Weesie, Tripler, Pete, Jake, and the entire Hayes family do nothing but provide filler between the drama of the story’s central love triangle. The writer could have used the three romantic relationships to counterpoint Tom and Lila and/or Tom and Laura; instead, these characters mostly gather together to gossip about Laura, Tom, and Lila. The writer provides very little depth or insight into their relationships. Worse than that, she does little to give dimension to the characters themselves besides assigning them occupations.
Author: Josh Heald & Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel and Steve Pink
Writer’s Potential: 7
Logline:After accidentally traveling through time to 1986, a group of losers must relive a pivotal weekend in their lives.
Synopsis:After terrifying a group of executives into purchasing disaster insurance, ADAM (handsme, pushing 40) receives a phone call from his (now ex-)girlfriend, who’s in the process of moving out and wants to argue about what she gets to take. That night, Adam comes home to find his nephew, JACOB (19), playing a video game. Adam tries to encourage Jacob to get off the couch and either enroll in college or move back in with his mom. Jacob’s more interested in his game, so Adam rants about the value of having a plan. It falls on deaf ears, enraging Adam. Meanwhile, LOU (late 30s) drives home from work when a good song plays on the radio. He parks in the garage but keeps listening to the song as the car fills with smoke. Adam receives a call from his friend, NICK (late 30s, black), about Lou. Adam rushes to meet Nick and his wife, COURTNEY, at the hospital, where Lou’s in the ER. Adam and Nick have an awkward reunion after not seeing each other for a long time. The doctor tells them that Lou denies he was attempting suicide and he’s now stable, so he must be released. Since nobody in Lou’s family likes him, the doctor tells Lou it’s important he be around friends. Nick reminds Adam of their happy teenage trips to Kodiak Valley. Courtney suggests they take him up there for the weekend. Adam reluctantly agrees.
In Lou’s room, Adam and Nick run through the many reasons Lou has to commit suicide, unaware that Lou is slowly waking up. He’s angry until they bring up Kodiak Valley. Over the weekend, Nick picks them all up. Lou’s unhappy to find Jacob is going with them, but he distracts himself with the massive amount of booze he’s brought. He also proudly shows them cans of “Russian Red Bull,” called “Chernobly.” Adam complains about his ex, and lonely Lou joins him in complaining about all women. They’re both excited about chasing women this weekend. They arrive in Kodiak Valley and discover it’s practically a ghost town instead of the hippest place around. Adam’s depressed. He remembers breaking up with JENNY, who stabs him with a fork. They all know her — she’s the one who got away. They arrive at the Silver Peaks ski lodge, and everyone’s disappointed that the place is populated by little kids, creepy moms, and elderly couples. They check in, and the one-armed bellhop, PHIL, lugs their backpacks to their room. The room turns out to be the same one they stayed in years ago, indicated by obscene carvings in the bedside table.
Outside is an old, dilapidated hot tub. A dead raccoon lies at the bottom. Later, strippers arrive to entertain Lou. When one starts crying, all three of the strippers lock themselves in the bathroom. Disappointed, the guys decide to fill the hot tub and relax. They start drinking, and Adam accidentally knocks a can of Chernobly into one of the tub vents. Lightning blasts out of it, and the water’s whirlpool intensifies, creating some kind of force field around them that knocks them all out. The TV flickers from Gossip Girl to ALF. When the guys wake up in the morning, Adam makes his special hangover-cure breakfast. The guys are all surprised by how energetic and youthful they feel. Nick tries his cell phone but can’t find a signal, just as somebody walks by with a huge, outdated portable phone. They notice everyone’s dressed in suspiciously outdated clothes, and many of them are teens. Nobody knows why. They go out to a particularly steep cliff, which Lou wants to ski down. The others aren’t so sure, but Lou forces them. They end up losing control, skiing all over the place. BLAINE and CHAZ, ski patrols, ban the guys from the slopes for the rest of the day. Back at the snack bar, Nick notices people playing Bon Jovi and enjoying it too much, one guy listening to a cassette Walkman, outdated computers, jheri-curled black men, “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirts… Finally, he sees a banner advertising the band Poison at Kodiak Valley’s Winterfest ‘86. The guys start to panic.
A much younger Phil arrives with luggage — and two arms. Lou urinates and discovers his teenage self looking back at him. The other guys discover the same thing, except for Jacob. Comparing the situation to various movies, Nick decides they must have gone back in time to learn a lesson. They all assume the lesson is about Lou, whose life has turned out the worst. A sinister REPAIR MAN, who seems to know more about the hot tub than he lets on, arrives to repair it. Adam and Jacob discuss the problems with the “butterfly effect,” terrifying the others about what could potentially happen in the present if they changed the past. Adam says they all have to remember what they did during Winterfest ‘86 and do the exact same things. Nick, a former musician, played a disappointing gig and slept with a groupie. Lou got beaten up by Blaine, twice. Adam broke up with Jenny. Just then, Jenny shows up at the room, wondering why she didn’t see them on the slopes. She tells Adam to meet her down in her room. The guys all leer at her and wonder why Adam would break up with her. Even Adam wonders. In the lobby, KELLY (20, slutty), Adam’s sister and Jacob’s future mom, drunkenly stumbles over to Jacob and Adam. Lou is mesmerized by her beauty, while Jacob is horrified by her skankiness. Jacob goes with Lou to find Blaine at the Winterfest street fair. He does, and just like in the past, Blaine pummels Lou for the first time and takes his backpack. Annoyed by his memory of what happened next, Lou invites Blaine to a midnight rematch with his friends.
Adam meets Jenny at her room, and they go out to dinner at a pizza place. Adam decides not to break up with her and takes her fork away. Meanwhile, Nick feels guilty about cheating on his wife with a groupie, but he unhappily takes the plunge. Afterward, he weeps as he confesses that he found an e-mail on Courtney’s computer that implied she was cheating, but it doesn’t make it right for Nick to cheat, as well. The groupie wonders what an e-mail is. At the street fair, Jenny ditches Adam for her friends. Adam meets APRIL, an attractive woman who writes for Rolling Stone. They flirt, but April lets her go. He has his heart set on Jenny. ZOE, an attractive nurse, sees the wounded Lou and invites both him and Jacob back to her apartment. After tending to Lou, she invites them for a threesome. She’s interrupted by a phone call from her mother. Jacob panics, so Lou tries to talk him through it. Jacob gets so creeped out, he runs away. Zoe, who was mainly interested in the threesome, throws Lou out. When all the guys are back in the room, Adam explains that he thinks life will be better if he and Jenny stay together. Lou decides that, if Adam’s going to change his future, so will he. Jacob tries to talk them out of it, but nobody listens to him. Instead, Jacob decides to search for the repair man for answers. Adam returns to Jenny, who breaks up with him. Adam’s angry, and while they shout at each other, Jenny accidentally stabs Adam with a plastic olive sword. Lou takes Nick back to Zoe’s apartment, claiming he needs more medical attention. In reality, he wants to manipulate Nick into a threesome. Nick catches on and leaves.
Jacob drags the repair man back to their room, where Adam is depressed and writing poetry about Jenny. The repair man installs a special part to repair the hot tub, but the new part shorted out yet another part. He wants to get it working before dawn, which “is when the party is over.” Adam accuses the repair man of being responsible for this, but the repair man denies everything, gets angry, and leaves. Adam panics and runs back to the street fair, where he tries to tell Jenny about the misery the future holds. She won’t listen. He tries the same with Kelly, who thinks he’s crazy. Lou and Nick play arcade games when Lou comes up with a brainstorm: they can invent future technology before anyone else. Adam goes to church and shouts at God about fate and his inability to change anything. April appears at the church. She’s confused by his crazy babbling but intrigued. She wants to know what he’s babbling about. Blaine and Chaz dig through Lou’s backpack and find an iPhone and Chernobly. Inspired by Red Dawn, Blaine assumes they’re Communist spies, and it’s up to he and Chaz to stop them. Unable to get into any bars, April and Adam break into a house and raid the liquor cabinet. Adam tells April everything. Surprisingly, she doesn’t think he’s crazy. Lou and Nick get into a fight over future technology. Nick doesn’t want to change the future, so he plays his gig, performing “Hey Ya!” by Outkast to an enthusiastic crowd.
Bitter, Lou gets drunk and stumbles back to the hotel. Blaine, Chaz, and his friends beat Lou to a pulp.The repair man tells Jacob they need the Chernobly in order to get back to the present. Meanwhile, Blaine and Chaz look for the rest of the group to take out the “spies.” Adam and Jacob find Lou’s bloody shoe in the hotel lobby. Adam realizes he missed the fight again. Nick arrives, and the three of them start to go after Lou when April arrives. She reminds Adam she’s leaving and gives him the choice to go with. Adam turns her down. They find Lou at the edge of a cliff. He and Adam argue about his selfishness. Jacob reminds them about the Chernobly, so they put aside their problems and go back. As Lou stands, he slips and almost falls off the cliff. Adam grabs him, but he starts to slide down, so Nick grabs him. They go to the ski patrol house. Adam and Jacob find the backpack, while Lou flirts with Kelly and Nick calls a 9-year-old version of Courtney to apologize. Adam, Jacob, and Nick discover Lou having sex with Kelly. Jacob pushes Lou off of her, then disappears out of existence. Lou realizes he’s Jacob’s father and finishes up with Kelly, causing Jacob to reappear. The entire group takes on Blaine and Chaz, using their fear of Chernobly to their advantage. Back at the hotel, Lou decides to stay, so he can raise Jacob properly. Adam decides he’s going to stay, too, finally standing by his friend. Lou’s touched, so much so that he shoves Adam back in the hot tub just as Jacob dumps the Chernobly into the vent, recreating the time warp.
In the present, they discover Lou has become filthy rich inventing a Google-like website called “Lougle.” He and Kelly got married and now live in a huge mansion. Adam acts as their butler. Preparing for this important weekend, Lou invited both Courtney and April to the house. Adam is surprised to see April, although April hints they’ve been involved for some time. Courtney confesses that, ever since she received a strange, passionate phone call from a man, she could never possibly cheat on Nick.
Comments:Hot Tub Time Machine tries to combine a goofy sci-fi premise with a standard gross-out comedy template. It’s at its best and funniest when it plays with the never-quite-clear rules of time travel, but the story gets a little too bogged down by the many romantic subplots. Despite its problems, the script is entertaining enough to merit a consider.
The first act does a great job of establishing the comic tone, the pathetic main characters, and how one long-ago weekend in Kodiak Valley changed their lives forever. It’s in the second act where problems start to appear. In an apparent effort to give each character equal time, the writers rely on redundant scenes instead of making each character valuable to the overall story. While sporadically amusing, subplots like Lou’s efforts to get into a threesome, Jacob’s pursuit of the hot tub repair man, and even much of Blaine and Chaz’s Commie-hunting adventures are spread out over several scenes when containing them each to one or two short scenes would prevent the script from losing momentum on the way to the third act.
The third act itself contains a lot of laughs and heart on its way to the resolution. Despite all the second-act padding, each 1986-era subplot is resolved in entertaining, often unexpected ways. However, arriving in a present where everyone’s rich and happy, while upbeat, is a little too ridiculous even for this screenplay. Considering their rabid attempts to change the past, it might have been more interesting had the characters learned that their lives would be no better off changing the future.
Adam, Nick, and Lou are all great characters, well-defined and made into interesting individuals. All three are fairly misanthropic, but they manage to maintain an air of likability. The emphasis on the profound, long-term effects this weekend had on each of the characters makes them into victims of bad circumstances instead of bad people. However, Jacob is completely expendable. He adds nothing to the story, serving only as a distraction from the more entertaining, older characters, which contributes to the lack of energy in the second act.
With the exception of one-dimensional caricatures like Zoe and Blaine, each supporting character has just enough development to rise above the level of stereotype, but none of them are as interesting as the main characters. Jenny is intentionally portrayed as shallow and ignorant, making Adam’s obsession with her one of the funnier running gags. Kelly doesn’t have much story time, but thanks to her relationship with Adam, she’s elevated to almost a tragic figure, who uses sex as an outlet for a traumatic childhood until her life is ruined by an unplanned pregnancy.
This script can easily go from good to great by removing the redundant scenes in the second act (and possibly removing the character of Jacob altogether). A capable cast of comic actors will further enhance the script.
Author: Brad Mirman
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:When a group of professional thieves are double-crossed during a Budapest casino heist, they must race to get out of the city alive.
Synopsis:A group of thieves gather at a Budapest cemetery to mourn Jozsef, a fallen partner. There’s FRANK (60s, stoic, the group’s leader), DOYLE (30s, confident and charming), WES (30s, tough), MATT (30s, Scottish), VINCENT (40s, French, nerdy), and GRAHAM (40s, English, emotional). Each of them drops an object with either monetary or sentimental value into the grave. Then, they go to a café to get drunk and tell old stories about Jozsef. They all find it ironic that Jozsef, one of the best thieves who ever lived, was killed in a mugging. Graham takes Frank to his apartment in suburban Budapest. His wife, RACHEL, is surprised and disappointed to see Frank. ANNA (6), their daughter, is excited to see both Graham and Frank. Anna introduces Frank to her teddy bear. After an awkward dinner, Frank and Graham drive to an abandoned warehouse, where they meet the other thieves, plus CARL (30s, neurotic) and NICO (40s, Italian, suave). The old crew has a hard time trusting these new guys, despite the fact that Jozsef hand-picked them. Just as a fistfight is about to break out, MADELEINE (late 30s, attractive, wealthy) arrives. She’s the “bank,” and she spent the past year planning a heist with Jozsef. Their target is the Vidago Casino, whose vault is contained in a natural cave under a river. In a week, they’ll be hosting the world’s largest baccarat tournament, meaning their vault will be stocked with 50-60 million euros. They discuss plans on how to drill into the vault and get the money out. Frank tells them they have to drill in and have the money out in six minutes. Nobody’s sure it can be done.
Privately, Frank tells Madeleine he wants an assurance that Jozsef’s family will get his cut. She says once she takes her percentage, the money is Frank’s to divide as he sees fit. Frank asks Madeleine how she knew Jozsef, fishing because he knows nothing about her. Eventually, Madeleine confesses that she picked the target because known mobster Nicolai Sidorov killed her father, and she wants revenge. When Frank reminds her that the money is insured, so he went technically lose anything, Madeleine tells him that to someone like Sidorov, pride is more valuable than money. Frank returns to his hotel, where Wes and Doyle confess their concerns about the scope of this job. They’ve never pulled off a heist of this magnitude and aren’t sure they can do it. Frank doesn’t try to convince them they’ll succeed, which they admire enough to stick with him. The next day, Matt and Vincent dive into the river and go to work on the rocky riverbed. Frank meets with OLIVIER, a Frenchman who agrees to launder their money for 12% of the take.
Doyle goes to a welding supply store to buy an arc torch. SYLVIE (30s, French), a customer at the shop, feels an instant connection with him. Doyle tells her he’s a deep-sea salvager, and Sylvie takes him back to her apartment, where he discovers she’s a metal scupltor. To Sylvie’s surprise, Doyle is very familiar with other such sculptors. While working to place some large air tanks onto the boat, their support rig snaps, pinning Matt underwater, where he drowns. The next morning, Madeleine asks for details and whether or not they properly placed the air tanks. Madeleine reluctantly allows them to take some brief time off to attend a funeral for Matt. Graham goes to a prison and offers MIKHAIL money for a mysterious task. Meanwhile, Rachel seeks out Frank at a café. She tells him that Graham won’t listen to her, so she’s asking Frank to kick him off the job. Frank refuses. At Matt’s funeral, everyone throws a valuable object into the grave except Carl, who thinks it’s a stupid custom. The argument gets so heated that Frank threatens to kill Carl. Taking him seriously, Carl tosses 50 euros into the grave. Doyle meets Sylvie at a bar. When she’s threatened by ANDOR, Doyle beats him up. Sylvie storms out, angry at what she assumes was Doyle’s attempt to impress her. She softens when Doyle explains that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.
Frank goes to the Vidago and quietly studies SIDOROV (50s, sinister) and his main goon, ZITO (30s, tough). That night, the crew pulls the job, carving a hole into the riverbed that leads into the cave vault. They swim into the vault, admire the massive fortune, and then simply leave. The next morning, Madeleine congratulates them on a job well done. Frank is unimpressed — until they actually get the money, he won’t celebrate. Meanwhile, Sidorov discusses what happened with Zito, police, his casino manager, and an insurance investigator, BARNA. Barna explains that, as long as there’s a gaping hole in the cave, they are in violation of their policy. They have no choice but to put all their money into the hands of police until they can repair the vault. Frank and Doyle watch, pleased with this turn of events. He gathers the group at the warehouse and tells them everything’s gone according to plan so far. There’s just one more step, and they’re done. They go through the plan: at the central police station, Graham and Wes will take over the “security room,” while Frank, Carl, and Doyle go to the evidence room to retrieve the money from the police safe. Meanwhile, Vincent will lay traps along their route. Nico will drive a diversion vehicle to lead the police after him while the others make their escape, which he will then blow up to cover his tracks. If police follow the others, Vincent will lead them to the traps.
Rachel drops by Frank’s hotel room to announce that, if Frank doesn’t pull Graham off the job, she’s leaving him. Frank tries to talk her out of it, but when Rachel gets feisty, Frank gets violent. After making love, Sylvie apologizes to Doyle for getting so upset. Doyle apologizes for overreacting, then tells her about his own father, who spent years beating his mother until Doyle stabbed him. After two years in juvenile hall, he was released to find his father had left his mother, and his mother resented and hated Doyle for ruining her life. Then he announces he won’t be able to call her for a few days, because of work. Sylvie pouts, but Doyle tells her he would not have opened up if he didn’t feel something for her. Graham brings Frank to his apartment to yell at him for putting hands on his wife. Graham gets a phone call that forces him to leave. He makes Frank babysit Anna. Frank’s uncomfortable with the little girl, who wants him to read her a bedtime story. He won’t do it, so she asks him to stay with her until she falls asleep. Later, Graham returns to find them both asleep.
Early the next morning, the crew prepares for the police station heist. Meanwhile, Mikhail initiates a massive, violent prison riot. This draws the attention of all the police in the city, leaving a skeleton crew at the central station. The crew moves into the station lot in a police van. According to plan, they flash fake IDs and keep their heads down to avoid being seen by any police or security cameras. In the security room, an officer monitors a bank of monitors showing activity in the station. Graham knocks him out, then returns to the lobby and knocks out the desk officer, taking over for him. Frank, Doyle, and Carl threaten the evidence control officer until he opens the cage. They knock him out, then blow the safe. Cops enter the station with a prisoner. They don’t recognize Graham, who makes up excuses as to why he’s there. Wes goes to a second-floor office, screwing a canvas slide to the wall outside the window and unrolling it so it creates a path to the van, where Nico waits. The cops get suspicious when Graham doesn’t know standard booking protocol. Carl and Wes slide attaché cases filled with cash down to the van, which Nico loads. Just as the cops are about to cuff Graham, the rest of the crew enters the lobby and all hell breaks loose. A shootout ensues, resulting in the deaths of the cops. Carl is shot. Everyone gets in the van, which makes its getaway. Carl tells Frank to give his share to his sister in Chicago. He dies.
The police chase the crew, who lead them through Vincent’s traps. A helicopter has the van in its sights as it drives into an abandoned building — a staging area, where the crew rapidly switches things up. Nico gets into an identical police van, while Wes and Graham load Carl’s body into it. Nico drives out, creating the impression that the same van simply tried to lose the police. The remaining crew works on their police van, revealing that they put an elaborate façade over the body to make it look like a police van, when in reality it’s just an ordinary van. There’s a second van identical to this one. Wes leaves in a small compact car. Graham takes one of the vans, while Frank and Doyle take the other. Meanwhile, the police are on Nico’s tail. He drives into a busy square loaded with tour buses. Making sure the van keeps its distance from the people, Nico hops out of the van and blends in with the crowd. Waiting for the cops to approach the stopped van, Nico hits a remote detonator, blowing up the van and killing the police.
Frank and Doyle are stopped by a delivery truck broken down in the middle of the road. Both are suspicious, and with good reason — a group of men in a Mercedes open fire. Frank recognizes one of them as a Sidorov goon. Taking cover, Frank and Doyle sneak over to the Mercedes as the goons attempt to retrieve the money to the van. Just as they realize the van is completely empty, Frank hits a detonator. The van explodes, killing them all. Frank and Doyle take the Mercedes and drive back to the abandoned warehouse, where the remaining crew waits. Frank tells them they’ve been double-crossed, and the natural assumption is that Madeleine, who hasn’t shown up to the warehouse, is responsible. They also leap to the natural conclusion that Madeleine had Jozsef killed, possibly because he found out her plans. Frank urges everyone to lay low until tomorrow, when he’ll meet with Olivier. Then they can flee to London.
Graham insists that Frank stay with him at his safe house, to help him protect his family. Frank assumes Rachel won’t be happy with that arrangement, but Graham says they don’t have a choice. Meanwhile, Sidorov quivers with rage when he finds out the plan was changed up and they don’t have the money. He tells Zito to send people to find the money, because if police find it before they do, the insurance won’t pay off, and Sidorov is looking to double his money, not break even. Zito sends men all over the city with photos of Frank and his crew. Nobody recognizes anything. Rachel sees a newspaper about the robbery, describing all the grisly details. She demands to know if Graham killed any of these people. Grahm denies it. Doyle visits Sylvie, who gives him a key to her apartment. Doyle asks her to move to London with him. She’s uncertain.
The next morning, Frank meets Olivier. They swap the money for diamonds, and Olivier encourages Frank and his crew to disappear forever. Meanwhile, Wes must retrieve his passport from his hotel, which he assumes is being watched by Sidorov’s men. Gun drawn, Wes enters his room and finds it empty. He goes to his suitcase to get the passport as two men exit the bathroom and knock him out. Later, he’s cuffed to a chair and beaten badly. Zito threatens and tortures him, but Wes refuses to cooperate. Zito kills him with a blowtorch. Frank, Doyle, and Graham bury the suitcase full of diamonds under a compost pile in a shed at the safe house. Graham goes back home while Frank and Doyle go to meet the others. They find Vincent and Nico but no Wes. Nico knows about Wes’s passport, so they go to the hotel and find Wes’s body. Vincent tells them Sidorov has photos and is searching the city for anyone with a connection to them. Doyle suddenly runs out to pursue Sylvie. Meanwhile, Zito shows a photo of Doyle to Andor, who leads Zito right to Sylvie. Doyle barely manages to get to her first. They both escape to Graham’s safe house.
At Graham’s house, Madeleine calls Frank, then turns the phone over to Sidorov, who offers them a percentage to return the money quickly. Frank’s disgusted with the offer and says he’s walking away, with the money. When Sidorov threatens him, Frank threatens back — and Sidorov is a little uneasy. Doyle introduces Sylvie to Rachel and Anna. Once Sylvie understands the full scope of what’s going on, she’s touched that Doyle risked his life for her. Anna tries to cheer up Frank, but it doesn’t work. That night, while everyone’s asleep, Frank cuts opens Anna’s teddy bear, pulls out some stuffing, digs up the diamonds, and places them inside the bear, which he then sews back up. Zito reports news of his failure to Sidorov. Madeleine helpfully suggests going to a café Graham owns and interrogating employees. The employee there knows where the safe house is.
Feeling the extra weight in the teddy bear, Anna believes it’s pregnant and will have a baby. The others ignore her. While Anna goes out in the yard to play, Zito and his men kidnap her. Unsure of what to do, the crew simply waits for Sidorov to call. Graham is willing to do anything to get her back, but Frank tries to talk some sense into him. He knows Sidorov won’t let any of them — including Anna — live, even if they give all the money back. On the other hand, Frank has a plan to get her back. Well armed, the crew goes to the closed-down casino and bust their way in. Frank asks one of the goons where Anna is. When he denies knowledge, Frank shoots him. Another goon immediately provides Frank with the address of the house where Sidorov and Zito are keeping her. A shootout follows as the crew storms the house. Doyle encounters Zito, who shoots him in the shoulder. Frank approaches from behind and shoots Zito in the head. Frank sees Anna’s teddy bear lying in the hall. He grabs it, then heads for the door. He has a momentary change of heart, then searches the house until he finds Sidorov and Madeleine, holding Anna. Frank bursts into the room. Sidorov shoots Frank in the gut, but Frank manages to kill Sidorov. When Madeleine pleads for her life, saying she stopped Sidorov from killing Anna, Frank tells her it doesn’t make up for betraying them. He kills her, then collapses. He tries to tell Anna about the diamonds, but she doesn’t understand.
At Frank’s funeral, everyone tosses a valuable object into the grave. Anna tosses in her teddy bear.
Comments:The Job is an old-fashioned heist thriller, but that’s its biggest problem. It lifts many of its tricks, twists, and surprises from other entries in the genre. It lacks any real ingenuity, which might be okay if the writer populated his heist crew with vivid, engaging characters. Instead, they’re humorless and taciturn, giving the whole script an oddly leaden feel. As written, it merits a pass.
After setting up the characters and the heist scenario in the first act, the writer attempts his first surprise when it’s revealed that the plan was never to steal the money from the underwater vault. This is one of the script’s few moments of genuine cleverness, but it’s handled with such clumsy foreshadowing that it’s annoyingly predictable. The second act concentrates on the police station heist and the Madeleine’s double cross, and this is where it begins wholesale theft of other heist movies: Madeleine’s revenge motive comes straight from Ocean’s Eleven, while her sudden betrayal is lifted from Ronin.
The entire police heist is also cobbled together from other heist movies, yet the plan is startlingly simple. They just walk into the station, blow up the safe, take the money, and drive away. The derivative nature of the plot is underscored by the fact that long scenes explain every single moment of the plan well in advance. Usually, this is done to surprise audiences when the plan starts to go awry, creating suspense as the characters are forced to think on their feet. These characters don’t: their solution is always to open fire.
The third act, which concentrates on the crew’s escape from Budapest, has a similar lack of suspense and ingenuity. Sidorov is out for blood, so the story raises the body count without ever raising the stakes. When people die, the crew are appropriately horrified and disappointed, but it never increases their sense of fear or desire to flee Budapest. They simply wait it out, letting Sidorov come after them like fish in a barrel. The final confrontation at Sidorov’s safe house is still too easy to satisfy audiences. Although Frank dies, it’s more for a cheap, ironic plot twist than any legitimate danger they face from Sidorov.
Without an interesting plot, this script must rely on the strength of its characters. Concentrating on Frank as the main character makes sense, considering he’s the leader of the heist, but he’s singularly uninteresting. His quiet demeanor prevents him from revealing anything about himself. Although some of his actions, such as getting violent with Rachel and going back for Anna instead of leaving with the diamonds, reveal small details about his nature, he lacks a personality. He mostly just broods and plans.
The supporting characters are similarly unengaging. Doyle and Graham come the closest to being interesting, but that’s by virtue of the fact that they’re given romantic subplots. Although the characters range in age and nationality, nobody — including Doyle or Graham — stands out as having any individuality. They don’t even appear to have individual skills to make them assets to the plan.
It’s entirely possible that a capable ensemble will breathe life into these characters, which might make the derivative plot a little easier to digest. However, without that, the script is just mediocre.
May 6, 2009
Author: Stephen Gaghan
Writer’s Potential: 3
Logline:A college student, with an uncanny ability to read facial tics and emotional cues, tries to decide what to do with the rest of his life.
Synopsis:PATRICIA and REDMOND fight viciously in front of their newborn, TEDDY. Twenty-four years later, Teddy is an aimless NYU student. Patricia gives him antique silver for a graduation present, despite the fact that he says he’s not graduating. Teddy receives a note from Redmond, suggesting they go to lunch to celebrate Teddy’s graduation. Patricia sends Teddy to UNCLE STEWIE, an older stockbroker. Stewie takes Teddy around an office, introducing him to various other stockbrokers in the hopes that Teddy will take a job with them. At NYU, Teddy takes a test, intentionally bombing it. Teddy rides his bike to an elementary school, where he volunteers as a “student mentor.” He talks to a nerdy kid named José (8), who, surprisingly, can’t read. Teddy takes a shine to José. Teddy has lunch with Redmond, his new wife SERENA, and his half-brothers GEORGE (27) and DEXTER (5). They all agree that Teddy is insane for wanting to devote the rest of his life to teaching. Redmond is especially harsh, telling Teddy that public education is a failed business model. At dinner with his rich friends, Teddy gripes about his uncertainty about what to do with his life. He would rather be happy than rich, a sentiment his friends do no share.
Teddy goes to a psychology lab for an extra credit test. He’s played a series of videos showing husbands and wives, and he has to choose whether or not they stayed married or divorced. Teddy is so good at this test, he’s able to guess the correct answers before the couples even open their mouths. PROFESSOR KRIZAN is shocked by Teddy’s abilities. His TAs casually point out that Teddy is the son of Redmond, a well-known businessman. Redmond invites Teddy to come along with him to an ancient factory for Allegheny Steel. Redmond and Teddy tour the factory. Redmond thinks it has potential. Back at his office, Redmond discourages Teddy from taking a job in money management. Instead, he offers Teddy a job at his company. Teddy takes José to a museum, where they come upon AMANDINE BRUGES, a gorgeous girl of indeterminate age. Teddy sloppily flirts with her. She asks Teddy for his number. Teddy receives his psych test back. Krizan writes that he wants to meet Teddy personally and leaves an address. The address is for a racetrack. Krizan hands Teddy binoculars and tells him to pick from three horses. Teddy studies them, picks one on instinct, and Krizan immediately places bets for tens of thousands on this horse. The horse narrowly wins. Krizan takes Teddy back to his lab to explain that Teddy has a gift — an instinctive ability to read “micro-expressions” and intuit deep psychological profiles within seconds. At the elementary school, José ignores the class as they read from juvenile literature. Teddy observes that the book they’re reading is horrible. Dining with his friends, Teddy confesses he’s been volunteering and thinks he wants to be a teacher. The others try to talk him out of it, saying Redmond’s handing him a job on a silver platter.
Teddy sees Amandine out of the corner of his eye and leaves, following her. Although he hurries, she disappears into the crowd. Back at NYU, Teddy studies famous archive footage of dishonesty with Krizan. Krizan explains the science of their expressions. Teddy goes to Redmond’s office, explains his gift, and turns on various financial news channels. He makes various suggestions to Redmond based on the demeanor of spokespeople and analysts. Redmond’s shocked and a little confused, but Teddy tells Redmond to trust him. Teddy follows Amandine to dancing lessons. She’s excited because her partner left. Afterward, they walk through Central Park. Teddy tells her about his gift, and she’s suitably impressed. As threy keep walking, Teddy realizes she’s heading to a group of young schoolgirls practicing field hockey. She sheds her coat to reveal a field hockey uniform. Teddy asks how old she is. Amandine tells him she’s 14. Teddy is stunned. Amandine is equally stunned that Teddy is 24, practically an old man.
The next day, as Teddy arrives at the elementary school, he’s intercepted by Redmond, who tells him every call he made was dead on. Redmond drags Teddy to his office to explain everything he knows about Allegheny Steel. Despite its rich heritage, the company is falling apart and the CEO is about to get fired. Redmond explains the complexity of bankruptcy law, and how they need to convince the company to file in a district with the right sort of judge, because the judge can control everything. Redmond sends Teddy to a dinner party to speak with an influential board member, MORAVIAN. It turns out, Amandine is friends with Moravian’s daughter, making things awkward when Teddy arrives and sees her there. Moravian explains that he’s worked with Redmond long enough to trust him, although he thinks Redmond’s “steel strategy” will fail. Everyone sleeps over at Moravian’s. The next morning, Amandine invites Teddy to breakfast. Teddy unloads his emotional baggage on her, regarding what to do after college and the pressure his parents are putting on him. Amandine is sympathetic but clueless. When Teddy returns to the city, Redmond asks Teddy if he can predict how a judge will rule based on limited video samples. Teddy wonders about the legalities, but Redmond convinces him that it’s okay. Teddy tells Patricia that he thinks Redmond has changed. Patricia warns him that Redmond probably just wants something out of him.
Teddy takes José to a bookstore. On the way, he explains that José’s problem is that he’s too smart for the structured environment of school. At the store, he tells José to pick out any book that catches his eye. José opts for Cop to Call Girl, the true story of a cop who became a prostitute. Teddy goes out to a trendy bar with his friends. They all spot Amandine making eyes at Teddy and try to convince him to wow her with karaoke. Teddy announces that she’s 14, shutting his friends up, then goes and talks to her. He suggests that hanging out at clubs like this might be the first in a long series of bad decisions. Teddy takes her out to dinner at a more laid back diner. The next day, Redmond announces to the board that he has narrowed things down to three possible judges, which Teddy will further narrow down using video: the first is a judge in Delaware, the second is a Scranton judge from a wealthy family, and the third is an inexperienced New York judge. Teddy tells them to eliminate the Delaware judge. When the partners wonder why, Teddy points out that he’s had a hard life, which makes him easily exploitable. The next video, of the Scranton judge, METCALFE, is inconclusive. Teddy thinks it will help to talk with him in person.
Redmond sends Teddy to a Scranton golf club, where he pretends to be randomly matched with Metcalfe. Metcalfe knows exactly who Teddy is, however, and warns Teddy that in Pennsylvania, he’d be nuts to make any rulings against labor, which is bad for Redmond. Teddy relays this to Redmond, who decides that maybe they should bring labor and management together to minimize harsh conflicts. Redmond and Teddy go to a union meeting at the factory, and true to ther plans, they unite labor and management — against Redmond’s planned takeover. They cite another company Redmond bought, where he moved all the operations overseas. Since that plan has failed, the only thing left to do is decide on the final judge, DORIS DUNN. Teddy brings Dexter to a park, where Doris plays with her blind daughter, JULIA. Doris studies her but can’t get a firm read. He goes to Krizan for advice. Krizan explains that analysts suggest people like he and Teddy will discover all they need to know about a person in the first 1.7 seconds. Everything after that is either second-guessing or misremembering. He urges Teddy to set up a “first 1.7 seconds”-type scenario so he can reassess Dunn. Teddy bribes José to come to a park with him and pick a fight with Julia. He studies Dunn’s reaction to the fight. To his surprise, she sympathizes with José, not her own daughter.
Realizing this means Dunn will side with the “bully” rather than the “victim,” Teddy recommends her to Redmond. Redmond has Allegheny Steel file for bankruptcy in her jurisdiction. He then sells the company to LAKSHMI MITTAL, an Indian businessman. Teddy’s shocked — he believed everything Redmond said about his desire to turn the company around and improve things. Redmond points out that he has investors to answer to. Teddy tells ERIC, the principal of the elementary school, that he’s taken a job with Redmond and, before too long, he’ll be able to bankroll 20 charter schools. Eric doesn’t quite believe him, pointing out that if he makes that much money, he’ll stop being Teddy. Teddy sells Redmond and his investors on an alternative-energy plan focusing on China, which has the potential to net them billions. Redmond will only invest a partial amount, so Teddy goes and convinces Moravian to invest in the rest.
Teddy notices an expression on Redmond’s face that he doesn’t understand. He asks Krizan, who looks at an old photo of Redmond and Patricia and decides they were both having an affairs. Teddy is confused, because they both look happy. Krizan explains the difference between a genuine “Duchenne smile” and all manner of other forced smiles. Teddy brings José to Dunn’s house and explains everything he and Redmond did. She recuses herself, so the bankruptcy is turned over to Metcalfe. Redmond is livid when he finds out Teddy was responsible for this. Mittal reneges on his offer, forcing Redmond to really make Allegheny Steel succeed. Teddy tells his dad he loves him. Redmond is genuinely touched, flashing a “Duchenne smile.” Then he leaves the company. Teddy writes a letter to Amandine, inviting her to a karaoke bar. He gets up and sings, impressing her. A montage shows Redmond excitedly running the company and Teddy taking a permanent teaching position at José’s school.
Comments:Blink doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be a quirky character study about an aimless student or a tale of corporate espionage. In the end, it fails to be either, combining an incoherent plot with a weak protagonist. As written, it merits a pass.
Easily the script’s biggest problem is its main character. Teddy spends so much time trying to read other people, he remains an enigma. Worse than that, he’s passive, allowing himself to get pushed into situations that move the plot forward without ever giving the impression that Teddy is driving the story. On the rare occasions that Teddy makes decisions for himself, like bursting into Redmond’s office and using his intuition to make all sorts of predictions, his motivations for taking action are never clear.
Each supporting character is either an over-the-top stereotype of wealth and decadence or an exaggerated salt-of-the-earth working stiff. The writer attempts to find a middle ground with Teddy, but these characters fail to underscore Teddy’s internal struggle about whether or not to embrace the easy, rich life or work for little pay. The characters who get the most story time — Teddy, Redmond, and Krizan — exist simply to disseminate information about the plot. They don’t interact on a human level, which will prevent audiences from relating to them, especially Teddy.
To top it off, Teddy’s “relationship” with Amandine is downright creepy, especially in light of his ultimate decision to teach elementary school. It’s all sunshine and roses when Teddy doesn’t know her age, but the fact that he finds out she’s 14, yet continues to pursue her, casts an unfortunate pall on the character. Although there is no inappropriate kissing or touching, the scenes between them wouldn’t feel out of place in a typical romantic subplot. This is not an awkward friendship or a father-daughter bond, and the fact that she’s so young serves no purpose. It’s hard enough for audiences to root for such a bland, passive protagonist, without making him inexplicably sleazy.
The first act does a clear job of setting up Teddy’s main conflict — deciding what he’ll do after college — but it frequently loses sight of this conflict in the second act, when the story gets distracted with revelations about Teddy’s intuition, Redmond’s scheming, and Teddy chasing Amandine. Teddy facing the obstacle of choosing a post-collegiate career should cleverly underscore Teddy’s hidden desires. Teddy’s uncertainty about his future should drive every scene, building to his ultimate decision. Instead, the uncertainty is only mentioned in passing, in random scenes awkwardly shoehorned into the story to remind us of a problem that doesn’t seem to affect Teddy at any point outside those scenes.
The third act is simply baffling, devoting a great deal of time (and reams of dialogue) to Teddy’s Chinese alternative-energy plan without ever making it clear how it’ll actually work, how it’ll make Teddy so much money, where he came up with the idea, and why it suddenly takes all of his focus. Since this brainstorm occupies nearly all of the third act, with no hint of it earlier in the script, it would certainly help to understand Teddy’s sudden, arbitrary obsession. Because the third act devotes so much time and effort to this perplexing development, with almost no payoff, the resolutions to the various subplots are crammed into the last few scenes and go by too quickly for audiences to derive any satisfaction.
This script needs major work. It will simply not succeed without significant rewrites.
Author: A. Thomas
Writer’s Potential: 3
Logline:When a ruthless killer is released from prison with a price on his head, rival assassins race to murder him.
Synopsis:From a sniper perch, JACK CONWAY (35) whistles an operatic tune as he shoots a man walking through a city park. He catches a bus back to his apartment, where he voice-chats through his computer with someone whose avatar is the Tasmanian Devil. Because of some odd DEA investigations in the news, Taz tells Conway that two contracts — Contoursi and Delgado — require top specialists. He asks Conway to do it. Conway agrees. From the roof of a bank, Conway shoots at JOEY CONTOURSI. He misses. Contoursi jumps into his car while his bodyguards rush into the bank. Conway shoots out the car’s front tire, causing it to crash into a building. Conway pretends to be wheelchair-bound, which allows him to escape from the bank. He shoots the lock on Contoursi’s car door, pulls it open, and empties the clip on Contoursi. Conway returns to his apartment to report the good news to Taz. When he asks about Delgado, Conway is surprised to hear that someone else plans to fulfill the contract. Conway asks who. DEREK CHASE drives a beat-up Caddy into a rough neighborhood. He surveils REUBAN DELGADO as he and his bodyguards enter a club. Pretending to be a waiter, Chase gets close to Delgado and slits his throat. Chase flees to a sleazy pawn shop. In the back room, he meets with HODGIE and NALBANDIAN. Nalbadian offers Chase more jobs, but they aren’t as high-profile or lucrative as Chase is used to. Chase turns him down.
In a court, a team of prosecutors, led by JIM DWIGHT, question Mexican drug runner RICARDO ESPINOZA about the drug trade, in which corrupt DEA officials have tight control over trafficking — not to prevent it from happening, but to make money from it. Ricardo explains that if cartels chose not to comply with the DEA, they’d lock people out of the market and possibly send a “beetle,” which he describes as a government-sanctioned assassin. DEA defense lawyer MILT JACOBSON tries to insinuate Ricardo is lying in return for a reduced sentence. Later, Jacobson questions deputy administrator JAMES HERROD about a supposed “secret DEA drug syndicate.” Herrod explains that it’s logistically impossible, since they have 9000 men to police an industry of 10 million people. In the office that night, agents GODFREE and SCHELL join Herrod and Jacobson in discussing the events in court. Turns out, they’re all complicit in this syndicate and want to keep it a secret. Godfree explains that they’ve taken care of all their beetles but one, a man who has gone deep underground. He’s dangerous because he knows everything, and Godfree fears the prosecution know who he is and will use him to destroy the syndicate. Godfree and Herrod see no alternative but to “release Polo.” Schell asks what this means. They explain that Polo Yakur is one of the most ruthless druglords who ever lived. When Schell asks why they’re releasing him, Herrod explains that they have no choice. They have a week to find their witness.
Herrod brings in sexy FELECIA, brooding BLANCHARD, and dorky GAGE to keep track of Polo. He announces they’ll put a large enough bounty on his head to get the attention of worldwide assassins. Nalbandian calls Chase, offering a $10 million bounty. Taz offers Conway the same deal. Both Chase and Conway take the offer. The first thing POLO asks upon release is where his brother is. Felecia says he was arrested last week, because a man named QUINCY testified against him. Polo leads them to Quincy’s home, where he kills the man in front of his girlfriend. Conway asks Taz where Polo was last seen. Taz explains Polo has headed west to pinch his brother, who’s on trial in Seattle. Chase drives into Seattle, where he’s set up in a dingy apartment run by attractive OCTOBER. She tries to talk to him, but Chase ignores her. Polo and the group of agents plot the escape of Polo’s brother. They plan to stop to refuel in a dingy, largely abandoned town. The group sets up at the courthouse, waiting for the bus to leave.
Conway stops by the home of CHARLENE BRIDGES. Pretending to be an electrician, he offers her an estimate on repairs. It’s actually a note asking her to meet at a restaurant. They have an awkward conversation indicating a difficult marriage, and also that she may have once been an assassin herself. Conway tells her Polo is in Seattle. Charlene is taken aback, but she tries to talk Conway out of doing anything. Charlene tells him to let go. Conway leaves. At the gas station, Conway and Chase set up sniper perches. They realize Polo plans to come up from the sewer, underneath the bus, to get his brother. Both Conway and Chase shoot at who they think is Polo, but it’s actually the brother, DANZO. Conway and Chase both realize the other is there. So do guards and DEA agents, who open fire. In the pandemonium, both assassins escape. Godfree is angry that things are going so poorly, but Herrod convinces him that as long as Polo is alive and free, Conway will come after him. He’s the beetle they’re after.
Danzo is not fatally injured, but he can’t be transported. Polo refuses to leave town without him. Polo also assumes they were set up, and he wants to know who is behind that. Chase rescues October from her abusive boyfriend, not so much out of kindness as the fact that the noise is annoying him. Chase gets a call, which means he has to leave. October asks if she can stay the night. Conway has a nightmare about his daughter, JASMINE, dying in his arms. He wakes up, depressed. Conway goes down to the bar to get a drink. He steps out into the dark alley behind his hotel, where Chase is waiting. They fight and threaten each other, then go back in the bar and share a drink. Chase knows Conway’s history — he worked for the DEA for 10 years, until Polo had his daughter killed. Conway says they have a price on Danzo, too, so he offers to split the money with Chase to team up. Chase is reluctant, until Conway brings up Nalbandian. Polo announces that he’s working with a mole. He suspects Gage, who was released from prison one week before Polo. Gage confesses the DEA forced him, then put a price on Polo’s head. Polo kills him, then wonder who’s trying to cash in on this price. He goes to Nalbandian’s pawn shop and demands to know the identities of everyone involved. Godfree and other DEA agents are all there. Godfree explains about Conway, but Polo wants to know about the other man — the one who actually injured Danzo. Back at his apartment, October tells Chase she knows he’s an assassin. She tries to convince him that what he’s doing is wrong, but Chase has justified it. Nalbandian calls, urgently. Chase meets him, and Nalbandian describes the drug Polo had injected into Jasmine. He says that it was not actually Polo who killed her, as the scene flashes back to Conway pulling out his gun and shooting her to stop the pain. Nalbandian says the DEA actually wants Conway, and they’ll offer $20 million as a down payment for his death.
Charlene comes to visit Conway. Having done a lot of thinking about what he did, she decides to forgive him. Charlene has brought Dwight, who offers Conway the opportunity to be a witness against the DEA. Conway shows them he has a bomb strapped to his persona nd will detonate it if they don’t leave him alone. Dwight doesn’t think he’ll do it, but Charlene does. Conway meets privately with Chase, griping that he doesn’t have a clue where polo is. Chase says he can help. Later, Conway and Chase meet in the alley beside the train station. Gun-toting Conway decides to use the upper level to shoot at them, while Chase prefers the up-close contact of knifeplay. Conway is arrested, while Chase disappears. Nalbandian pays Chase his money. Polo calls Chase. He’s kidnapped October and will kill her if Chase doesn’t come to Polo and replace her. Chase tells him no, so Polo kills October. Chase returns to the pawn shop, where he threatens Nalbandian until he gets the locations of Polo and Conway. Nalbandian doesn’t want to help until Chase offers some of his $20 million to him. He sends to a DEA surveillance post, where Schell is interrogating Conway. Conway realizes Schell is Taz. While the agents are distracted with Chase, Schell shoots the guards and frees Conway. Conway shoots Schell, saying they’ll never believe him if Schell is uninjured. Separately, Conway and Chase go to the warehouse where Polo was holing up. It’s empty. They nearly kill each other sneaking through the warehouse. Conway and Chase are about to argue with one another about what’s happened when Polo arrives, announcing there’s a bomb in the warehouse.
DEA agents surround the warehouse. Conway realizes Polo plans to lure them inside and kill everyone. They hear shooting as the agents enter. Conway asks Chase to leave Polo for him. Chase says he’ll give Conway 10 minutes. Conway walks into the warehouse and kills every living person in there, DEA agent or Polo thug. He ends by shooting Danzo right in front of Polo, then killing Polo himself. Chase approaches, asking if Conway feels better. Conway isn’t sure. He tells Chase to keep the $20 million. It was never about money for him. Days later, Conway picks up a newspaper and finds Herrod has been forced to step down. He visits Jasmine’s grave, while Chase goes to a cathedral and prays for October.
Comments:Weapon tries to deliver an epic revenge thriller, but its unfocused narrative and bland characters prevent it from being anything but a generic action flick. As written, it merits a pass.
The first act saunters toward its plot with disjointed scenes showing Conway and Chase at work, then long courtroom scenes, then the DEA’s inexplicable decision to release Polo. The second act starts to clarify things, but the problem is, the first act doesn’t attempt to build any sort of mystery or suspense that pays off with the second act’s revelations. The third act descends into an orgy of violence and limps to the end with a resolution that’s supposed to be thoughtful but is really just uninspired.
Part of the story problems come from the lack of investment in the characters. Although set up to be rivals, Conway and Chase are essentially the same character, so everything they do separately feels redundant. When they finally get together, their relationship has no conflict, even after Chase sets Conway up for the DEA. Conway, at least, is given a little bit of backstory, but it doesn’t enhance is character so much as move the plot forward. It doesn’t help that Polo rarely poses any direct threat. Even in the climactic showdown, Polo stands at a distance and threatens them with a bomb, after which Conway kills him with minimal effort. Half the script is devoted to explaining how vicious and evil Polo is, making this resolution a big disappointment.
Well-constructed action sequences and above-average acting could help Weapon overcome its problems.
May 5, 2009
Author: Max Winkler
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Writer’s Potential: 4
Logline:A young children’s book author tries to stop the woman he’s sleeping with from marrying the man she’s engaged to.
Synopsis:At the public library, SAM (early 20s) reads a children’s book he wrote to a group of confused children and their equally confused parents. MARSHALL (20s) waits impatiently near Sam. A librarian asks Sam what he’s doing. Sam helpfully explains that he’s workshopping his new book. Sam and Marshall flee the library before the librarian calls security. Sam puts a suitcase into Marshall’s station wagon, then marvels at the amount of luggage Marshall brought for a three-day trip. Marshall launches into the variety of possibilities that could come up that he needed to prepare for, but Sam says all he wants to do is relax and catch up with Marshall, whom he hasn’t seen in a year. As they drive out of New York City and into upstate countryside, Marshall rolls past a large house loaded with cars and guests. Marshall thinks this is where they’re staying, but Sam uneasily tells him their hotel is down the road. Further down the road, Sam sees a man stepping out of a blue Fiat and into a general store. He tells Marshall to stop so they can get snacks. Inside, Sam introduces himself to TEDDY, an polite Englishman who invites Sam and Marshall to join them at the mansion up the street over the weekend. Sam and Marshall go a little further up the road, where they check in to a cheap motel with a Native American motif. With Marshall disappointed by what a dump it is, Sam suggests they tak Teddy up on his offer. Down on the beach, Marshall catches the attention of a sad-looking blonde maid, ESME. Sam encourages Marshall to make a love connection, while Sam mingles with the crowd until he finds ZOE (mid-30s). They clearly know each other. Zoe demands to know what Sam is doing here. Sam insists he coincidentally ran into Teddy (Zoe’s brother), who invited him.
Just as Zoe warns Sam to leave, her fiancé, WHIT COUTELL, arrives. Zoe reluctantly introduces Sam and Whit, a brash and condescending documentarian. To the shock of both Sam and Zoe, Whit announces that he’s changed the date of their wedding — to this Sunday. Sam tells Marshall that Whit and Zoe extended an invitation for them to stay at the house, and they’re taking them up on it. Marshall gripes that he likes their hotel. He gripes even more when he discovers the cat defecated in their tub, and there’s no hot water. Sam and Marshall get suited up and go down to a nighttime garden party. Teddy proposes an obscene toast to Whit and Zoe. Whit cuts him off by giving a rehearsed “off-the-cuff” speech about how muche he loves Zoe. Sam takes the opportunity to do the same, but none of the guests have a clue who he is. To avoid embarrassment, Sam wanders off to the woods to vomit in private. Marshall follows him. He points out that the story Sam was reading in the library bears remarkable similarities to the triangle that has formed between Sam, Zoe, and Whit. Sam denies it, saying the characters in his books are amalgams of many, many people. Whit screens his latest documentary for all his friends. Bored, Zoe wanders back into the house. Sam pulls her into a closet and kisses her. Zoe yells at him for being so dramatic, then yells at him for coming after she sent him a postcard and left him a VoiceMail explicitly telling him not to crash this party. She reminds Sam that she was engaged when they met, and nothing’s changed. When Sam won’t give up, Zoe accuses him of acting like a child and leaves the closet.
Teddy gives Sam and Marshall some pills, which cause them each to lose control. Marshall flirts with Esme as Sam stumbles into the arms of MARGARET. Later that night, Sam and Marshall reconvene. Sam brags about sex with Margaret. Marshall believes Esme led him on. Sam immediately turns the conversation back to Zoe. Marshall tells Sam he can see many reasons why Zoe would go for a guy like Whit. Sam doesn’t want to hear it. Zoe, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shows up at Sam’s room. Sam forces Marshall to wait in the bathroom while he invites Zoe in. She starts out apologizing, but it turns into another argument about her marrying Whit. Zoe discovers Sam’s latest book and asks all about it. Sam tells her the story, which is really just a metaphor for Sam, Zoe, and Whit. Zoe, on the other hand, is working on her vows. She can’t think of anything. Sam offers to help her, but she has a hard time thinking of anything she actually likes about Whit. The next morning, Marshall admits he listened to everything Sam and Zoe said. Since Sam has clearly failed, Marshall wants to leave. Sam refuses. He presents Zoe with a clumsily homemade necklace with Zoe’s name on it. When Whit sees it, he ridicules Sam yet again, then asks Sam to take a ride on the beach with him. While riding in his dune buggy, Sam’s surprised when Whit praises his writing. He makes the subtle suggestion that Zoe is over Sam by pointing out that Zoe often takes up hobbies with passion and vigor, only to drop them like a bad habit a few months later. Whit asks Sam if he likes sailing.
Back at the house, Marshall goes through Sam’s things. He finds the postcard from Zoe, along with a fancy engagement ring. Downstairs, Marshall bumps into Zoe. They get to talking, and Marshall asks to hear about how she and Sam met. Zoe explains that they met in New York, on a rainy day. Neither of them had umbrellas, but Sam had a newspaper that he offered to share, for protection. This is eerily reminiscent of another of Sam’s stories, about two caterpillars who share an umbrella. Marshall lets slip about Sam’s ring, enraging Zoe. When Sam approaches, Marshall tells him the car is packed and asks if he’s ready to leave. Sam says he bet Whit $700 that he could beat him in the group’s annual boat race. Marshall’s baffled. Neither he nor Sam know a thing about racing, but Sam figures it’s not that difficult. On the boat, Sam and Marshall get into an argument. Marshall knows that Zoe doesn’t see him as anything serious, but after Sam’s talk with Whit, he’s more convinced than ever that Zoe will leave him. They get into a fistfight, resulting in Marshall getting knocked into the water. Instead of helping him back in the boat, Sam presses on, convinced he’ll win.
After the race, Zoe confronts Sam about lying to him about not getting her postcard. Marshall seeks out Teddy but discovers he’s drowning in the ocean. Marshall rushes in and pulls him out. Zoe calls for a medic. Zoe performs CPR, saving him. Marshall yells at Sam for lying to him about Zoe and ridicules him for his desire to hang around with a bunch of rich, irresponsible babies. He decides to leave, without Sam. When Sam tries to stop him, Marshall decks him. Later, Whit comes upon Sam, bleeding from the nose. He doesn’t offer to help. Sam goes up to his room and practices a speech that he’s sure will convince Zoe to leave Whit. Instead, Zoe walks in on him halfway through the speech. She invites him to go for a walk. Zoe says she admires Sam’s persistence, but he has to give it up. Zoe keeps kissing her, until they finally have sex. Later, Zoe gets up, complaining she’s late for her wedding. Sam’s confused — he thought this changed the game. When Zoe tells him otherwise, Sam says he’ll ruin the wedding by telling Whit about their affair in front of everyone. Zoe says everyone, including Whit, already knows. Sam’s shocked. Zoe tells Sam to grow up, then leaves. Sam doesn’t follow.
A montage follows, intercutting a flashback of Sam and Zoe’s first meeting with present-day Sam leaving the house and hitchhiking back toward the city and Zoe getting ready for her wedding. As he walks down the road, Sam sees Marshall’s car blow past, heading back toward the house. He’s confused but keeps walking. Minutes later, Marshall returns. He stops for Sam. Sam gets in, and Marshall explains he went back to get Esme’s phone number. Sam apologizes for the way he treated Marshall. Marshall accepts the apology and asks how things went with Zoe. Sam smiles and says he ruined her wedding. At the wedding, Zoe prepares to read her vows. Zoe opens her notebook, which is blank. Inside is the postcard Zoe sent Sam, with her message crossed out and “He’s everything I’m not. Start from there” in its place. Sam and Marshall ride on.
Comments:Ceremony is a romantic comedy that lacks any actual romance. Despite some witty dialogue, the plot is too thin to get invested in, and the characters range from childish to irritating. As written, it merits a pass.
The script hardly has a story. In the first act, Sam and Marshall reconnect, then drive upstate and crash a party. In the second act, Sam tries desperately to convince Zoe to leave Whit while trying to one-up him. In the third act, Sam repeatedly humiliates himself and realizes things weren’t meant to be. Long, on-the-nose monologues describe Sam and Zoe’s relationship prior to this party-crashing, all of which sound like they’d form a more interesting and dramatic story, building up to this party-crashing rather than having the party be the whole story. Ceremony’s actual plot feels like the world’s longest third act, suffering from a lack of momentum, suspense, or stakes because it spends so much time backpedaling in order to explain the more compelling circumstances that led to this tedious party.
Sam’s childish behavior makes him an insufferable protagonist. The writer doesn’t reveal enough about who Sam is to make him seem like a flawed but relatable person. He also doesn’t change enough in the third act to make it feel like this story was an important learning experience. Marshall’s character has a little more weight, but his inexplicable devotion to Sam, until his 180 in the third act, is never explained and strains credibility. Zoe and Whit are given only the most superificial traits, preventing them from rising above stereotypes. This is most detrimental with Zoe, since the story would have audiences believe Sam would go to these great, crazy lengths to be with her, yet it’s never made clear why.
Actors could probably make these characters seem more interesting and less irritating, but the story has too many problems for it to coast on the charms of its cast.
Author: Brandon Noonan
Writer’s Potential: 1
Logline:After failing to escort a political family through Mexico, a mercenary must cross the U.S. border to find the family’s daughter, who’s been targeted by a vicious gang.
Synopsis:A group of private security men prepare to lead the Mexican governor from Mexico City to Phoenix, Arizona, for a court appearance regarding gang members. Security’s tight because the gang will attempt to attack them along the way. The group of security men have a tight rapport, with the exception of a white man only known as HOMBRE. He’s new, and he’s a loner. The deeper they move into Mexico City, the harder it is to control the situation around them. The SUV convoy is attacked, and most of the security men are killed, as is the governor and his wife. Daughter LUCY (16) is entrusted to Hombre, who’s been stabbed but is okay. Hombre carjacks a man in a Mercedes, and he and Lucy make their escape. While on the highway, Hombre’s bleeding increases and he loses consciousness. He awakens in a Catholic-run orphanage, being tended to by nuns. When he’s well enough to leave, the monsignor tells Hombre that the gangsters came to the orphanage because they recognized the stolen Mercedes. He managed to get Lucy out and hide Hombre, but they’ll track Lucy and kill her. He tells Hombre he sent Lucy to a cathedral to purchase safe passage to the U.S.
Hombre goes to the cathedral. He bribes CHRISTOPHER to gain passage of his own to the U.S. He’s led, along with 15 or so Mexicans, into a secret compartment in a truck, driven by PILATE. The truck is stopped in the middle of the desert by a group of soldiers. Hombre listens to Pilate talk to the soldiers. A MEXICAN WOMAN sitting next to Hombre has a mystery package that they want. Pilate takes it, then goes with the soldiers, abandoning the truck with the migrants locked in the secret compartment. When the migrants shout for Pilate to come back, one of the soldiers fires a single bullet into the truck. It kills the Mexican Woman and creates chaos. Hombre uses his knife to chop apart the wooden roof of the truck. He leads the migrants out, then climbs back down to tend to the Mexican Woman. Dying, she calls for her son, Alejandro. Hombre pulls her from the truck, then drives it until he catches up with the soldiers. He kills them all, then demands Pilate tell him where the next drop point is. Terrified, Pilate tells him. Hombre stabs Pilate with his knife. Hombre drives to the drop point, where he catches up with the migrants. Hombre takes Pilate’s place as the “coyote,” willing to lead them to the border.
PEDRO INFANTE, a sinister cop with gang ties, investigates the dead soldiers and Pilate. He sees the grave Hombre dug for the Mexican Woman, a little confused. Pilate’s ID leads Infante back to the cathedral, where he asks for Christopher’s help in tracking down the migrants. Meanwhile, Hombre and the migrants are shoved into a fruit truck, driven by white men into the U.S. They’re told to empty their pockets completely, then taken to a “drop house” in Phoenix, where they’re put in a basement. Hombre notices a young boy, ALEX, standing in the yard, waiting. Hombre watches as HECTOR, who runs the drop house, tells Alex something. Alex reacts in disbelief. Hombre looks at the locket he took from the Mexican Woman. Inside is a photo of Alex. Infante finds Hector when he returns to Mexico for the next group of migrants. He demands to know what the new “coyote” looked like. Hombre and the other migrants work as roofers. An older man, ALONZO, is in desperate need of water. Hombre sees Alex staring at them still. He yells for Alex to bring some water. Alex does. At lunchtime, Alex practices tricks on his bike when a group of gang bangers come and threaten him. Hombre steps in, and when they threaten him, Hombre attacks. The gang bangers are both frightened and angry. After beating some of them badly enough to scare the others away, Hombre tells Alex that he’s in Phoenix to find Lucy.
Alex takes Hombre to a youth center run by CEBALLOS, who denies seeing Lucy. Hombre sees through the lies and eventually admits he sent Lucy to a place called “Fashion 41.” An I.C.E. agent meets Infante on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport. Alex tells Homnbre that his dad died a year ago, and his mom’s on her way from Mexico. In the meantime, he’s been crashing at the homes of other kids in the neighborhood. They arrive in Phoenix’s Garment District and look for Fashion 41. Infante meets with gangsters FAUSTO and RONALDO, looking for Lucy and/or Hombre. Fashion 41 is a dull, disgusting factory. Hombre wanders among the workers, presenting a photo of Lucy and asking for help. Everyone ignores him, except the FLOOR MANAGER, whom Hombre beats until an OLD WOMAN explains that Lucy was at Fashion 41 but left days ago. Infante, Fausto, and a large group of gangsters also arrive at Fashion 41. When they see Hombre and Alex, they start shooting. Hombre and Alex make an escape. Infante follows them out. Hombre sends Alex away, then runs to an abandoned building. He runs to the roof while Infante shoots at him from the ground level. Hombre drops the locket on the way up, and Infante takes it. When Infante announces his name, Hombre recognizes it as the name of an old Mexican actor. Infante proudly states that he was more than an actor — for many years, he was Mexico. When Hombre insults the older Pedro Infante, his descendant gets angry and rushes up to the roof, but Hombre’s long gone.
Hombre stays with Alex, who’s living with his friend JAVIER (16). Infante has Fausto send his gangsters around town, looking for Hombre and Alex. They find Javier’s house in the middle of the night. Hombre tries to hide while Javier deals with the situation, but Alex wants to confront them. Realizing Alex is in over his head, Javier sends Alex away and makes up a story about him having mental problems. When the gangsters are gone, Javier complains to Hombre about migrants leaving Mexico to escape these gangsters, and now they’re here, too. The next morning, Hombre and Alex steal Javier’s car. Alex drives so Hombre can lay low. They wait at Ceballos’s youth center until Hombre stops some hired muscle. Alex follows them to a palatial estate, where a party is going on. Alex smoothly convinces the valets that he and Hombre are hired help. Sneaking around, Hombre finds Ronaldo in the study with his daughter. Ron is preoccupied with a leather-bound accounting ledger, which catche’s Hombre’s eye. Ron catches Hombre sneaking around and knows exactly who he is. They threaten one another, but Ron can’t do anything at this party. Hombre leaves, with the accounting ledger. Ron sees him go with it but can’t do anything with so many witnesses. Alex takes Hombre back to Ceballos, who admits he tried to get Lucy “off the radar” by sending her to what they call a hub, a cattle ranch where she can get new papers and disappear.
Hombre drives to the cattle ranch, but Fausto and his men have been tipped off. They fight in the middle of the killing floor, while the migrants flee in terror. All except one — Lucy, whose hair has been cut to make her look like a boy. Hombre kills Fausto, but cops arrive, and he’s forced to flee before getting to Lucy. Javier takes Hombre to VATO’s house for safety. Alex is there, too. He’s made “missing” posters for Lucy. Hombre’s touched by his thoughtfulness. One of Ron’s gangsters monitors security footage from the cattle ranch. He sees Hombre getting into Javier’s car, zooms in on the license plate, cross-references it with the DMV, and gets Javier’s address. Infante is alerted. From the roof, Hombre can see Javier’s place. It’s set on fire. Javier’s horrified and upset by this. Hombre suddenly realizes Alex is missing.
He’s with Infante, who feeds Alex a bunch of documents suggesting that Hombre is responsible for everything that’s happened so far, and he only wants Lucy so he can kill her. Alex doesn’t believe Infante until he produces the locket. Hombre asks Javier and Vato for guns and a ride. They’re angry at Infante and the gangs, so they’re happy to oblige. Hombre goes to a tenement complex where the gangsters are headquartered. He fights, shoots, and stabs his way inside. When he reaches Alex, Alex demands to know the truth from Hombre. Hombre tries to explain, but Alex doesn’t believe him. Hombre tells Alex everything she said before she died, and Alex realizes he could only know this if he was telling the truth. Infante and his gangsters start firing. Trying to keep Alex safe, Hombre retreats. Unable to escape, and unable to fight alone, Hombre gives Alex his knife. They fight together. Hombre returns to Infante, where they fight hand-to-hand. It’s a brutal assault, injuring both of them quite severely. Just before Infante delivers the deathblow, Alex drops the knife to Hombre, who stabs Infante in the neck.
Police arrive, arresting the gangsters who aren’t dead. When news of this breaks, Lucy seeks out Alex at Javier’s place. Alex and Javier visit Hombre at a fleabag motel, where he’s preparing to leave. They have brought Lucy. Hombre takes her to Ceballos, who takes her to a truck that will take her, and other migrants, very far away. Together, Hombre and Alex board a Greyhound bus.
Comments:Protection tries to combine typical action-move plotting with a social conscience about the horrors of illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. Unfortunately, it uses the latter as little more than a stereotypical backdrop for uninspired action sequences. Since it also lacks a coherent plot and well-developed characters, the script simply fails on every level, meriting a pass.
By design, Hombre is such a man of mystery that the audience isn’t even told his real name, but his mystique is as dull and lifeless as the scripts many action scenes. It doesn’t make him intriguing or suspicious; it just makes him uninteresting, and without character development of any kind, it’s hard to care much about anything he does. Similarly, there’s absolutely no emotional connection between Hombre and Lucy. Hombre searches for her out of duty and civic responsibility, which is noble, but it certainly isn’t dramatic. Instead, the writer attempts to build an emotional connection with Alex, but it never quite works. Alex has some dimension, but Hombre’s stoicism makes it seem like Alex is baring his soul to a brick wall.
The script doesn’t have much story, so it’s surprising that it’s as frenzied and sloppy as it is. Characters refer to scenes that haven’t happened yet, some of them make cameo appearances long after Hombre has killed them, and minor details like Lucy’s father switching from a governor to a judge halfway through the script, all contribute to this incoherence. Otherwise, the story follows a rigid formula as Hombre pursues Lucy, battles Infante, and bonds with Alex. The first act sets Hombre on a course for Lucy, and Infante on a course for Hombre. In the second act, Hombre searches various places for Lucy as the body count rises. In the third act, he does away with Infante, and Lucy comes to him. The writer spends too much time trying to develop a bond between Hombre and Alex, who serves little purpose other than to keep the plot moving with his knowledge of Phoenix. The author builds little suspense or jeopardy regarding Lucy’s fate, so it’s hard to care much about about Hombre’s desperate search for her.
If Protection has a great, stylish director who can choreograph its many action sequences into a breathtaking tour de force, there might be some hope for it. However, it has too many story and character problems for it to ever truly succeed.
May 3, 2009
Author: Jacob Aaron Estes
Writer’s Potential: 3
Logline:A husband’s little white lies spiral out of control, resulting in extramarital affairs and murder.
Synopsis:JEFF and NEALY LANG celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. After, Jeff apologizes to Nealy for an unseen fight before the party. He tries to make it up to her sexually, but Nealy puts him off, claiming she had too much to eat. They make plans to have sex on Friday. They go home and discover the new sod that has been rolled in their backyard has been torn apart by some sort of animal. The next morning, Jeff methodically puts the yard back in its right place. On his way to work, he passes two teens practicing archery on their yard, as well as his loner next door neighbor, LILA, who walks her dog and carries a white cat. Jeff and Nealy both arrive at their respective jobs. Jeff is an obstetrician; Nealy works at a candle store. That night, animals tear up the yard again. The next morning, Jeff photographs the paw prints, then uses Google to match them to other photos. He decides raccoons are the culprits.
Jeff plays basketball with LINCOLN, a large black man with a scarred hand and a missing finger, and needs a kidney transplant. Jeff is horrible at the game, but Lincoln has fun. Jeff spreads granulated coyote urine to scare off the raccoons. Nealy reminds him it’s Friday night, but nothing important registers in Jeff’s mind. He’s obsessed. Jeff gets a form to obtain a permit to add a small extension to their house’s front room. He brings home humane traps to try and capture the raccoons. The raccoons don’t fall for it. Nealy asks why they don’t simply repeat what they did in the front yard in the back. Jeff complains that he never had a sprawling, grassy backyard as a child, and he wants their son LUKE (2) to have better. Jeff continues to Google and tries every imaginable remedy for the raccoon problem. They keep coming. Jeff and Nealy get into a fight about it, which escalates until she hits him in the face with a book, giving him a black eye. At her store, a customer greets Nealy. Turns out she’s been having an affair with him. To his surprise, she breaks it off. Meanwhile, Jeff visits REBECCA MAZONNI to gripe about the fight he and Nealy had. They flirt, but it’s clear nothing has happened between them. Later that night, Nealy tells Jeff she plans to start going back to therapy. Although Jeff doesn’t believe in therapy, he supports the decision.
Jeff complains that the judge wouldn’t grant their variance, so their only solution is to go ahead without a permit. In order to do that, they have to butter up Lila, who complained incessantly about their construction projects when they moved in. Jeff and Nealy buy her a small cactus, which Jeff hands to Lila one morning before work. Lila attempts to flirt with him, but Jeff finds her repulsive. Lila tells Jeff any construction they do will be fine with her. JOSé leads his crew on the project the next morning. Jeff plays one-on-one with Lincoln, who tells him about the accident that injured his hand. He almost went pro, but the accident destroyed his career. Jeff relays the depressing story to Nealy, who suggests helping to get him a coaching job at a friend’s wife’s school. Meanwhile, Nealy confesses about the affair to a friend, who suggests they need couples’ therapy. Nealy says that’ll never happen. Jeff seeks out Lincoln at the Home Depot and tells him he set up an interview for him at his friend’s sister’s school. Lincoln is touched.
Lila catches Jeff before work to complain about the dust from the construction. Jeff looks inside her house and sees nothing but normal dust, but he agrees to spring for a cleaning service. When Lila complains about her inability to sleep, he says he’ll bring a sample pack of Ambien. Lila is thrilled and flirty. Jeff asks José for poison to kill the raccoons. At dusk, Jeff finds a bottle of blue fluid and a can of tuna on his front stoop. After getting Nealy’s unenthusiastic approval, Jeff leaves the trap out. He gets on the computer and e-mails a “topless massage” therapist, asking if she’ll meet him at a bar for a drink and give him his “massage” in the bathroom. He gets an emergency call and rushes out, leaving the e-mail on the screen. When he gets home, Nealy confronts Jeff about it. Jeff explains that it’s like interactive porn. He browses for these women, e-mails them, but never follows through. Nealy can’t help laughing at the ridiculous, even though she’s still irritated. When she calms down, Nealy asks if it’d just be easier to divorce. This starts an argument, which leads to sex. The next morning, the tuna can is empty, but the lawn is destroyed and no dead raccoons are in sight. Jeff discovers Lila’s bill for the cleaning service. He goes next door to write Lila a check. Lila asks if he’s seen her cat, which didn’t come home last night. Lincoln calls Jeff, saying he went to the interview and it went well.
Jeff meets Rebecca at a bar for a drink. He discusses his massage therapist fetish and the awkwardness of his “make-up sex” with Nealy. Rebecca brings Jeff back to her place. Jeff asks about Rebecca’s husband, Pete, but she says he works late. They go into the garage, where Rebecca rolls a joint while Jeff admires Pete’s vintage Alfa Romeo. He turns on the car radio and hears a report about kidney donors. His conversation with Rebecca grows more intimate, and they end up having sex. Immediately after, both feel guilty. Rebecca tells Jeff not to tell Nealy — it’ll just make things worse. Jeff agrees. The next morning, Jeff and Luke make breakfast in bed for Nealy. Jeff leaves for the hospital. Lila sees him and follows. Jeff finds PETE waiting for him. He verbally abuses Jeff in front of Jeff’s patients, then storms away. Jeff sees Lila, but she doesn’t say anything and follows Pete out. After work, Jeff stops by Lila’s. She shows him her dead cat, in a box, and blames him. She says she knows he didn’t mean to kill the cat, but it doesn’t change the fact that he did. She tries to seduce Jeff, but when he rebuffs her advances, she starts screaming that she knows all about Rebecca and Pete and will tell Nealy. Lila tells Jeff she dreamed of them having sex in a past life, and she wants to recreate the experience. Jeff reluctantly lets her.
Jeff comes home to find Luke dressed like a fairy princess. Nealy shrugs it off and tells Jeff that Pete called wanting Jeff to meet him tomorrow to discuss a business proposal. Jeff covers by saying Pete wanted him to invest in a new restaurant. Nealy thinks it’s a good idea. Jeff has a nightmare about raccoons getting into the house. Jeff visits Pete, who demands $200,000 in cash for his silence. Jeff wonders why wealthy Pete would need this money. Pete says he doesn’t, but he knows Jeff does. Jeff calls Rebecca, who tells Jeff that Pete is big on Italian loyalty and revenge, despite being Irish. A few days later, Jeff pulls the money out of their house’s equity, but he can only get $75,000. Pete agrees to meet him on a bridge in the center of town. Pete takes the money and dumps it into the river. He tells Pete that he hoped Jeff would be a good guy and simply tell Jeff what’s going on. He tells Jeff he’d be a better person if he made amends for his mistakes.
Jeff gets an idea. After taking Nealy over to Lincoln’s family’s house to introduce her to them, Jeff brings up the idea of donating one of his kidneys to save Lincoln’s life. Nealy’s unsure, but Jeff is convinced it will make him a better person, and her support of him will make her a better person. Nealy agrees. Jeff gets tested, then goes to the school where Lincoln now works to deliver the good news. Lincoln is stunned and thrilled, wondering aloud if Jeff is an angel. Jeff goes in for the surgery, which is a success. Lincoln thanks Jeff from the bottom of his heart. Lila visits Jeff in the hospital and announces she’s pregnant with his child. Jeff tries to talk Lila into an abortion, causing her to scream bloody murder. When Jeff comes home from the hospital, he finds a note from Lila, saying they need to talk. She tells Jeff that she wants no money or commitment from him. She just wants their son growing up knowing his father, which will be easy since he already lives next door. Jeff brings Lila in for an examination. They watch the baby on the monitor.
Jeff tells Lincoln the entire Lila story. Jeff jokes that he wishes his archer neighbors would accidentally shoot her. Lincoln reminds him of the sixth commandment: thou shalt not kill. Nealy tells Jeff she heard Rebecca and Pete filed for divorce. Lincoln thinks wearily. He drives to a sporting goods store across state lines and buys an elaborate crossbow. He sneaks over to Lila’s house at night and prepares to shoot her with the crossbow. When she pleads for her life, he has a change of heart. Then she notices the missing finger and recognizes him. Left with no choice, Lincoln shoots her with an arrow. The archer neighbors find her the next morning. Nealy calls Jeff at work to tell him the bad news, and also to say the police want to interview him. Lincoln calls Jeff. Calmly, Lincoln explains that Jeff bears no responsibility. What Lincoln did, he did alone. He understood Jeff was joking and venting. Lincoln made the choice to act.
Nealy and Jeff go to Lincoln’s church. On the way home, Jeff confesses everything to Nealy — the affairs, the raccoons, the dead cat, the pregnancy, the kidney, Lincoln, the murder. She’s shocked, but she admits to her own affair. Jeff decides they should divorce and he should turn himself in, along with Lincoln. Nealy disagrees. She believes Jeff is a good man who did some bad things, and that Lincoln may be a bad man, but he’s generally harmless and has a family who need him. Similarly, Luke needs Jeff. She thinks they should keep the secret and work through it. Jeff says it’s a nice thought, but he’s concerned Lila might have a journal or something that gives Jeff the motive. He interviews with the police, who don’t know a thing about Lila. She has no friends, barely any family, didn’t keep any journals. He and Lincoln are off the hook. The city catches on to Jeff’s construction and forces him to stop. José tells Jeff they should just do in the backyard what they did in the front. Jeff laughs at how avoidable this catastrophe could have been.
Comments:The Details isn’t sure whether it wants to be a cheery romantic comedy or a dark, Coen Brothers-esque comedy. It combines a hateful protagonist with an incoherent plot, meriting the script a pass.
The primary problem with the story is its structure. What happens in the first act doesn’t seem to have a thing to do with the second act, and the second act has little to do with what happens in the third act. The story introduces and drops characters and narrative threads without ever picking them back up. Bringing it all back to the raccoon-infested yard on the last page doesn’t make it any easier to ignore the fact that raccoons stopped being relevant to the script somewhere in the second act. It’s just a big, sloppy, structurally unsound mess. The jarring tonal shifts cerainly don’t help make the script cohesive. Switching from sunny, goofy comedy to bleak, offbeat comedy every other scene doesn’t seem like an intentional choice, but if it is, it’s unsuccessful.
Jeff epitomizes unlikability. Worse than that, the writer never bothers to give his unpleasantness a believable or empathetic explanation. He’s just not a nice guy, which will make it hard for audiences to root for him. His nastiness isn’t even particularly funny — he’s just blandly self-obsessed. Nealy and Lincoln have some interesting shades but don’t get nearly enough material to blossom and overshadow Jeff. Lila, Rebecca, and Pete have their share of quirks, but they have even less screen time than Nealy and Lincoln. Despite the quirks, they don’t rise above stereotypes.
The Details has so many flaws in its storytelling, it can’t be saved by acting, directing, or editing. It needs more than a polish to make it worthwhile.
May 18, 2009
Author: Nick Vallelonga & Paul Sloan
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:Survivors of an Apocalyptic disaster attempt to police a ruined New York City.
Synopsis:In the not-too-distant future, New York City has become a blighted zone surrounded on all sides by an endless expanse of desert. A voiceover explains that solar flares caused this climatological change, along with shutting down all modern electronics and technology. EGAN, a police detective, is chased by anonymous criminals, who eventually catch up with him and kill him with a small sword. HILLBURN (40s), another detective, smokes opium and hallucinates the image of beautiful MAY KELLY (20s) in a white expanse. When Hillburn approaches and attempts to touch May, she crumbles like a dirt statue. Hillburn is snapped back to reality by the RED QUEEN, a gorgeous woman who makes a variety of lewd advances. She notices long scars running down either side of Hillburn’s back. Uncomfortable, Hillburn leaves the opium den. He meets his partner, CAVE, who explains to Hillburn, who’s new to the NYPD, that tonight’s Halloween celebration is a huge deal. On the way to headquarters, they pass a huge tower standing in the middle of Central Park, now known as “the Water District.” The tower is a water filtration plant. Crowds of people gather outside with buckets, waiting. A sign announces that they have no water and to come back tomorrow. Hillburn and Cave continue on to their precinct house.
Their captain, RAMSEY (60s), browbeats Hillburn for getting high, then takes them to the morgue. Along with the coroner, they examine Egan’s headless corpse. They notice he was killed with a small sword, which suggests a gang led by “Samhain.” Ramsey tells Hillburn and Cave not to pursue Samhain, especially not on Halloween. All hell would break loose. Hillburn notices an amulet among the evidence collected at Egan’s crime scene. He pockets it. Ramsey sends Hillburn and Cave to investigate the murder, urging them to keep a low profile. In their car, Hillburn and Cave get called in to a suicide attempt at an abandoned church. Detective WEST informs them that the man threatening suicide was Egan’s partner, SIMON. Inside the church, Detective TUCCI tries to talk some sense into Simon. Simon rambles incoherently about lies and God. He demands to see Hillburn. Hillburn snatches Simon’s gun away. Cave and Tucci cuff him, and they drag Simon out to the car. Hillburn asks Simon about the significance of the amulet. Simon says Egan was out to find the truth, and it got him killed. He overheard something from one of Samhain’s crew that would “change everything.” Egan’s last words were, “Tell Hillburn to keep digging.” Simon steals Cave’s revolver and shoots himself in the head.
Cave finds out Egan keeps going to a private club called The Havana Lounge. Hillburn is familiar with it. At the club, Hillburn sees May. Hillburn tells May he’s in love with her, but May accuses him of insanity. He changes the subject to Egan, whom May knew. She’s surprised and upset to learn he’s dead. Hillburn asks her about the amulet. May says she gave it to Egan for good luck. May points Hillburn to GAZZI, who most likely ratted out Egan. Hillburn and Cave go to Gazzi, demanding to see Samhain. When Gazzi laughs at them, Hillburn breaks Gazzi’s nose and threatens to kill him. From an upstairs office, MAXIMILLIAN WHITE (50s) watches them. White goes downstairs with his main bodyguard, DOYLE, to break up the fight. He smugly demands Hillburn and Cave leave. When Hillburn refuses to leave without Gazzi, White threatens to kill May. Hillburn relents, leaving Gazzi. Later, Hillburn and Cave are dragged into Ramsey’s office. He’s angry about receiving calls from “the most powerful man in the Water District.” Ramsey reminds them that White controls the water and the city and tells them to stay out of the Water District.
While driving, Hillburn and Cave are forced off the road by BRAZZO (40s) and “LUCKY” DONOVAN (50s), two of White’s goons. Cave introduces Hillburn to Donovan, who used to be a cop before going to work for Samhain. Donovan warns Hillburn to stay out of White’s turf, or else he’ll suffer the same fate as Egan. In White’s apartment in the water filtration tower, White yells at May for continuing to cry about his threatening to kill her. He then announces that she’s only alive because Samhain needs to use her as bait to lure Hillburn down the wrong path. Donovan calls White and asks if he and Brazzo should kill Hillburn. White tells him Samhain has other plans. Hillburn and Cave meet Tucci and West in an all-night diner. Tucci presents Hillburn with a piece of evidence uncovered from Egan’s car, which they swiped before evidence control could check it in. It’s an ancient skeleton key in the shape of a winged sword. None of them know what it opens, but they assume it’s important. The diner is ambushed by three hitmen. A wild gunfight ensues. West is killed. Hillburn chases one of the hitmen and beats him, demanding to know what the key opens. The hitman claims not to know, but Hillburn doesn’t believe him. He demands to know where Samhain is. The hitman commits suicide rather than tell Hillburn. Hillburn returns to the diner, where he and Cave find Egan’s head with his badge stuffed in the mouth. Donovan, Brazzo, and Gazzi meet White at a warehouse. Donovan apologizes for the hitmen failing to kill Hillburn and retrieve the key. White has Gazzi killed, then sends Donovan and Brazzo to get the key from Hillburn.
Tucci takes Hillburn and Cave to a man known as THE SEER, a blind prophet. They’ve brought Egan’s head to the Seer. He presses against it and is able to see Egan’s last few memories. The Seer sees Egan’s death but not who killed him. All he can tell them about the key is that Egan thought it would change things in New York. Cave asks who gave Egan the key. The Seer can’t quite see, but he knows it’s a woman — a “golden angel surrounded by evil.” Hillburn assumes it’s May. Cave thinks May would be conning them, but Hillburn believes she simply goes along with White and his cronies out of fear. Hillburn wants to crash White’s Halloween celebration in order to find Samhain. Hillburn leaves the key with the Seer. Hillburn, Cave, and Tucci drive into the Water District, which is crammed with people. Police stop and tell them they can’t pass through. Tucci threatens them with a shotgun until they’re let past. White forces May to give him a massage, then goes out to his balcony to address the masses. He tells them to give thanks to Lord Samhain, who brought them out of the darkness out of the Apocalypse. Then, he unleashes a torrent of water onto the grateful crowd. Ramsey comes to the Seer after receiving a call from officers about Tucci threatening them. He demands to know what the Seer told Hillburn.
As Doyle leads White and May through the crowd to his car, Hillburn tries to intercept her. He, Cave, and Tucci follow White’s car to Madison Square Garden, where White and May watch a boxing match. They get into a wild gunfight with White’s bodyguards. While Cave and Tucci cover Hillburn, he goes to May and demands to know if she gave Egan the key. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Tucci tries to cuff White. White gets away from Tucci and comes after him with his sword. Laughing hysterically, White whispers something into Tucci’s ear, causing the color to drain from Tucci’s face. Cave sees this and asks Tucci what happened. Tucci says he knows the truth, prompting Cave to shoot him in the head. Cave helps Hillburn and May escape in Cave’s Rolls Royce before Ramsey and other policemen arrive. Brazzo and Donovan follow, shooting at them. A bullet pierces the door and hits May in the side. Ramsey puts Cave in a holding cell. Cave insists that Hillburn is dirty, that they stole valuable evidence from Egan with the intention of ransoming it back to Samhain. Cave begs Ramsey to let him find Hillburn, so he can bring him back. Ramsey reluctantly agrees. Hillburn brings May to the Seer, who removes the bullet and stitches her up. The Seer notes Hillburn’s love for May. Hillburn tries to deny it, then asks the Seer to penetrate unconscious May’s thoughts, so he can see whether or not she gave Egan the key. She didn’t.
Cave and Donovan arrive at the Seer’s garage, along with bodyguards. They want May. Realizing Cave works for Samhain, Hillburn is shocked by the betrayal. Cave tells him it’s the only way to survive, then demands to know where the key is. When Hillburn refuses to say, Donovan begins beating the Seer. Ramsey arrives with some uniforms, who kill Donovan and Cave. Hillburn gives the key to Ramsey. Hillburn notices Cave has scars running along his back, just like his own. The Seer examines Cave’s memories and discovers he killed Egan and Tucci, and that he knows what Samhain is hiding and knows they took May to the filtration tower. Hillburn and the Seer go after her. They’re ready to come in guns blazing, but they’re met in the lobby by a blonde hostess who brings Hillburn directly up to a penthouse to see Samhain. Hillburn realizes the blonde hostess is the same as the Red Queen — and that she is Samhain. Hillburn tries shooting at her, but she can’t be killed. Samhain explains that she gave Egan the key, then seduced Cave into getting the key back. She enjoys watching them turn on each other like animals. She slowly reveals she’s a fallen angel — and so is Hillburn, and Cave, and Egan. They’ve all been banished to live with humanity. Samhain can’t understand why Hillburn would feel compassion for May, a lowly mortal. They fight. Hillburn wrestles Samhain’s sword away from her, then kills her. She is engulfed in flames, then vaporizes. Hillburn suddenly finds himself in a white void with the Seer and May. They’re in limbo, standing before the gates of heaven. Hillburn’s key will unlock it. May is allowed to pass beyond the gates, but Hillburn can’t — as punishment, he must remain on Earth. May leaves, telling Hillburn she loves him. Back on Earth, Hillburn asks the Seer why he was able to defeat Samhain. The Seer explains that Hillburn loved humans as God did. Ramsey is shocked as rain begins to pour down from the sky.
Comments:Tribes of October attempts a Matrix-style hybrid of science fiction, action, and mythology. Despite some interesting visual ideas, the mediocre detective story and laughable third act ruin the script’s chances for success. As written, it merits a pass.
In the first act, the writers introduce the strange, unsettling world of post-Apocalyptic New York City, whose citizens beg for water and only answer to the mysterious, possibly mythical Samhain. All of this is intriguing, so it’s disappointing that they choose to tell a tiresome detective story instead of creating a narrative as unique and compelling as its setting.
The second and third acts simply plod through the investigation into Egan’s death, piling on the film noir clichés as their search moves from Egan to White to Samhain. The story contains nothing that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, multiple times. This includes the action sequences, which contain little excitement and do nothing to raise the stakes. The writers don’t so much build to the ending as they do pad out the running time with predictable plot twists and repetitive gunfights.
The ending itself is absolutely ridiculous. The “fallen angels” reveal is telegraphed well in advance, thanks to elements like Hillburn’s occasional memory flashes (which serve no purposes other than to foreshadow the ending). Ignoring the hamfisted foreshadowing, the twist is still handled clumsily, making the script seem silly when it’s trying to be deadly serious. The writers downplay the desperation for water and the character of May to such a degree that, when they become essential to the story, audiences will have a hard time caring.
The storyline simply isn’t engaging, primarily because none of the characters have a vested interest in the outcome. Hillburn and Cave are simply on the case because Ramsey tells them to, and they approach it with all the energy and enthusiasm of two bored men who hate their job. Hillburn’s hot temper and memory flashes never give the impression that they motivate Hillburn to continue with the investigation. Other than these traits, Hillburn doesn’t have much in the way of characterization.
Cave and the other supporting characters are equally bland, substituting one or two distinguishing traits for real depth. The worst victims of this are May, White, and Samhain. The entire story hinges on Hillburn’s love for May and fear/dislike of White and Samhain. None of these characters get any real attention, which will makesit hard for audiences buy into the love story or the idea of White and Samhain as unstoppable villains.
The dialogue stands out as shockingly atrocious, splitting its time between laughable tough-guy one-liners and melodramatic soliloquies about love and religion. The world’s best actors could not make this material sound convincing. Even with well-choreographed, high-energy action sequences, this script has too many problems to find any success.
May 2, 2009
Here’s the deal: this is the first free time I’ve had since my last post. Now, I had some free time prior to that post, but not much. The combination of work and my own writing led me to abandon you, lovely readers, and then, approximately 30 seconds after I published the last post, a deluge of horrible scripts forced me to work, on average, 850 hours over the past 10 days. I have not had time to do anything that I enjoy. Okay, technically I enjoy scripts, but only when they’re good, and of the 738,243 scripts I’ve read this year, four of them have been good, and one of those was not a script I read for work.
In other words, over the past 10 days I’ve been busy exclusively with work, but over the past few months, I’ve divided my time between an increasingly busy work schedule and writing projects that I hope, someday, will lead to me getting paid. That’s the key part of the story I’m about to tell: I need money, and I’m sick of doing shit for free. You guys are lucky I need to vent, or I would have abandoned this blog two years ago.
May 9, 2009
So there’s this script floating around by John “How the fuck did I get nominated for an Oscar twice?” Logan that adapts Shakespeare’s Coriolanus into modern action-movie context. Except for one little detail… It keeps the language. Here’s what the script reminded me of:
Now, I’m not terribly familiar with Coriolanus, but I think it’s safe to blame the scripts flaws more on the adaptation than the source. Shakespeare scholars can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I have the strong suspicion that Logan cut massive reams of dialogue in favor of long sequences of modern street warfare. If you’ve ever seen Death Wish 3, you’ve seen these action sequences. Except Death Wish 3 has guys getting stabbed in the head with a knife duct-taped to a loose floorboard, which puts it a little ahead of Coriolanus.
Because of the focus on action, and the strong desire to keep the story in a two-hour feature timeframe, dialogue has to get cut. Only problem: all Shakespeare had to work with was dialogue, so in cutting scenes, story and character development fly out the window. The entire second act is a clusterfuck of bizarre, rushed plot twists and double-crosses that, I assume, are properly set up and fairly dramatic in the play.
To me, the problem hinges on the choice to keep Shakespeare’s dialogue. Who do they want to come see this movie? Shakespeare fans, who will hate the poor adaptation even if they dig the action (which they probably won’t)? It honestly seems like they want this movie to be seen by teen boys who like watchin’ shit get blowed up.