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September 7, 2009

Script Review: Sorority Row by Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger

[In lieu of actual content, for the next several weeks I will present, at least, one review of an upcoming film each week. These are scripts that I’ve been paid money to read, and many of them contain watermarking, identification numbers, password-protection, and other ways of tracking what company it was sent to; because of this and my desire to keep my job, I will not offer downloads for ANY of the scripts I review here. Don’t bother asking.]

First, a mini-rant about remakes:

Remakes have been around forever, and plenty of classics (The Maltese Falcon, Ben-Hur, His Girl Friday) were actually vastly improved remakes of films forgotten even in their own time. I never object to remakes if they improve on the original. The problem I have with the recent glut of remakes is that, instead of striving to best their source material, it usually turns out significantly worse (Alfie, The Amityville Horror, Assault on Precinct 13 — and that’s just the A’s!). It’s not that the movies can’t be improved on; it’s that the filmmakers seem content with the notion that, hey, the original made money, and so will this one. They don’t have to make it good as long as they slap a familiar title on it.

More studios should embrace the idea of taking a mediocre (or outright bad) movie that didn’t make a huge amount of money. Many movies have a few great ideas buried in a mountain of trash; I’d need at least three hands to count the number of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies where I’ve said, “Man, with a budget and a better script, this could be a great movie.” I know I should be ashamed of this, but I’ve always felt like I could make Soultaker into the great movie it should have been. Of course, certain examples suggest that throwing more money at a decent idea won’t make it better (1998’s Godzilla, 1976’s King Kong, 2005’s The Island), but in the hands of competent filmmakers, it couldn’t hurt (see also: 2005’s King Kong). At any rate, Ocean’s Eleven took a bland, poorly received Rat Pack vehicle and turned it into one of the better remakes — and better heist movies — of the past decade. Compare that to The Italian Job remake: the original is actually pretty great, and while the remake isn’t offensively bad, it doesn’t do much to better its source. So why bother? Oh right, there’s profit to be had.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 11:02 AM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews

September 14, 2009

Script Review: Fame by Allison Burnett

[In lieu of actual content, for the next several weeks I will present, at least, one review of an upcoming film each week. These are scripts that I’ve been paid money to read, and many of them contain watermarking, identification numbers, password-protection, and other ways of tracking what company it was sent to; because of this and my desire to keep my job, I will not offer downloads for ANY of the scripts I review here. Don’t bother asking.]

Before I begin, don’t forget: Jennifer’s Body, “from the mind of” Juno scribe Diablo Cody. Check out the review I wrote back in March of 2008.

Ten main characters. Nine hundred and fifty thousand secondary and tertiary characters. One hundred and four pages. Approximately 175 scenes. Four years. Does anything look a little fishy about these numbers?

Yes, the central problem with the amiable yet massively flawed Fame screenplay is that it’s more overstuffed than a morbidly obese man on a La-Z-Boy, napping after a six-hour “Neverending Pasta Bowl” adventure at the Olive Garden. It tries to take on so much that it gets spread too thin, turning its central characters into one-dimensional stereotypes as it plots a course through four years (about three more than it should have covered) at New York’s performing arts high school.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 3:17 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews

September 28, 2009

Script Review: Zombieland by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

[In lieu of actual content, for the next several weeks I will present, at least, one review of an upcoming film each week. These are scripts that I’ve been paid money to read, and many of them contain watermarking, identification numbers, password-protection, and other ways of tracking what company it was sent to; because of this and my desire to keep my job, I will not offer downloads for ANY of the scripts I review here. Don’t bother asking.]

Jeez, I know I’m going to start sounding like a broken old record playing a crazy old coot’s minor hits, but Zombieland pretty much exemplifies everything that just kinda bugs me about contemporary comedies. I’ll find it hard to write this review without comparing it to Shaun of the Dead, because Zombieland feels like a vastly inferior version of that film (and one could speculate this movie would have never been made if not for Shaun…), but I’ll try to refrain from turning this into a “Zombieland sux cuz its not liek this other movie!!!”-type rant.

However, you should know that Zombieland has one big, distracting similarity: it merges the zombie horror subgenre with the 20-something slacker comedy subgenre. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, instead of using familiar horror tropes to tell a solid, somewhat unique story about a 20-something slacker getting his shit together in order to embrace adulthood (not to mention using the “zombie” motif to great satirical effect), Zombieland…just kinda rests on the not-so-novel conceit of having semi-nerdy 20-something slackers wandering through a world filled with zombies. I’m not saying that in a post-Whedon world, every horror-comedy has to have some sort of satirical edge and metaphoric purpose, but a Kevin Smith “hang out and shoot the geeky shit”-type comedy occasionally interrupted by zombie shootouts doesn’t quite have the same effect as Shaun of the Dead’s “thrust a reluctant slacker into a leadership role, forcing him to realize there are more important things in life than getting pissed and playing Playstation” story. Zombieland shambles aimlessly toward some loose goals, but while it flashes back to the characters’ pre-zombie lives, it never quite accomplishes the job of showing how these experiences are changing them or making them grow.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 2:11 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews

September 21, 2009

Script Review: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max & Nils Parker

[In lieu of actual content, for the next several weeks I will present, at least, one review of an upcoming film each week. These are scripts that I’ve been paid money to read, and many of them contain watermarking, identification numbers, password-protection, and other ways of tracking what company it was sent to; because of this and my desire to keep my job, I will not offer downloads for ANY of the scripts I review here. Don’t bother asking.]

Where do I even begin?

I’ve never liked Tucker Max. I’m not calling him a pale, friendless virgin, and I’m sure his fans (who might be pale, friendless virgins) will dogpile on me for even suggesting this, but his stories always struck me as bullshit. I didn’t think this at first, mostly because I didn’t care, but I have a friend who liked Tucker Max’s material more than any sane person should, so I checked out a couple of his stories. I recall reading his “Absinthe Donuts” story shortly after its debut. My immediate thought: “This sounds like the kind of bullshit a guy would make up to impress much stupider friends.” My second thought: “Let me use my knowledge of the Chicago news media to debunk this story.” Because, you know, when somebody crashes a stolen car into a donut shop and flees the scene, it’ll make the news. It might be on page 17 of Section E, or even worse, a tiny blurb in the police blotter, but it’ll be there, and since allegedly the story had taken place “a few weeks ago” and had just been posted to his site, it’s not like it’d be impossible to find any information about it.

Except it was. Because it didn’t happen. So there’s that. When you go to a site where a guy emphasizes repeatedly, almost to the point of suspicion, how true his stories are, yet you find one that both rings cartoonishly false and isn’t corroborated by, um, reality, and you don’t even find it funny? Why waste your time with that shit? The only thing that makes Tucker Max’s bullshit stories even remotely funny is the slim possibility there’s some truth to them. But when the “outrageous” things Max says and does strain credulity, and they’re barely funny even when they seem true, well… Let’s just say I read the stories, got annoyed enough to Google him in an attempt to find out what the fuss was all about, and then forgot about him again…

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 10:53 AM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews