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October 2009 Archives

October 22, 2009

Arabian Nights

Author: Chuck Russell & Barry P. Ambrose Genre: Fantasy/Action/Adventure Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 5 Characterization: 4 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:When a ruthless general stages a bloody coup on the ancient kingdom of Sumer, a kind-hearted soldier…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 11:49 AM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

Black Swan

Author: Mark Heyman and John McLaughlin and Andres Heinz Genre: Drama/Thriller Storyline: 4 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 6 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:An insecure dancer struggles with the duality of her new role as the central character…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 4:40 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

Cover Girl

Author: Gren Wells Genre: Romantic Comedy Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 7 Writer’s Potential: 6 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Reluctant pass Logline:A struggling business school student makes ends meet by working as a professional “beard” for in-the-closet gay men. Synopsis:Iowa…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 9:03 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 24, 2009

Faces in the Crowd

Author: Julien Magnat Genre: Thriller Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 2 Characterization: 3 Writer’s Potential: 4 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:After a woman narrowly escapes a serial killer, she’s afflicted with a brain disorder that prevents her from seeing faces. Synopsis:ANNA…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 10:42 AM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 23, 2009

Effie

Author: Emma Thompson Genre: Drama/Romance Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 5 Writer’s Potential: 6 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:In Victorian England, a woman struggles to endure a loveless marriage. Synopsis:In 1840, JOHN RUSKIN (early 30s) asks 11-year-old EFFIE GRAY…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 7:51 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 25, 2009

Burning Man

Author: Jonathan Teplitzky Genre: Drama Storyline: 3 Dialogue: 5 Characterization: 4 Writer’s Potential: 4 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:After his wife dies of cancer, an Australian chef struggles to grieve and take care of his son. Synopsis:One hand wrapped…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 12:24 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 24, 2009

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Author: Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgenson Genre: Comedy/Horror Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 6 Writer’s Potential: 6 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:After a convoluted misunderstanding, a pair of hillbillies believe a group of college students want them dead, and…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 3:03 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 25, 2009

A Single Shot

Author: Matthew F. Jones Genre: Thriller/Drama/Crime Storyline: 7 Dialogue: 9 Characterization: 9 Writer’s Potential: 9 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Strong consider Logline:When a poacher accidentally kills a teenage girl, he’s inadvertently drawn into the lives of bloodthirsty criminals. Synopsis:JOHN MOON…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 11:30 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

Red Dog

Author: Daniel Taplitz Genre: Comedy/Drama Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 6 Characterization: 5 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:In the 1970s, an independent dog touches the lives of a disparate group of Australian miners. Synopsis:In late 1980, THOMAS rolls…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 4:50 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 26, 2009

Super

Author: James Gunn Genre: Dark Comedy/Action Storyline: 8 Dialogue: 10 Characterization: 9 Writer’s Potential: 9 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Recommend Logline:When his wife leaves him for a drug dealer, a mildly psychotic loser decides to become a costumed vigilante. Synopsis:FRANK…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 9:39 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 27, 2009

Untitled Lucas & Moore Comedy (a.k.a., Flypaper)

Author: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore Genre: Thriller/Comedy Storyline: 7 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 6 Writer’s Potential: 7 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:While two rival teams of bank robbers pull simultaneous heists on a Manhattan bank, the hostages try to…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 1:39 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 26, 2009

Son of No One

Author: Dito Montiel Genre: Thriller/Crime/Drama Storyline: 3 Dialogue: 4 Characterization: 5 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:A New York City cop is forced to confront his past when an anonymous letter writer threatens to expose the murders…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 3:04 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 28, 2009

Liberace: Behind the Candelabra

Author: Richard LaGravenese Genre: Biography/Drama Storyline: 7 Dialogue: 6 Characterization: 7 Writer’s Potential: 6 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Consider Logline:In the later years of his life, Liberace enters into a tumultuous long-term affair with a younger man. Synopsis:In February 1987,…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 4:27 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 31, 2009

Jianyu Jianghu (A World of Swishing Swords)

Author: Damu Genre: Action/Romance/Fantasy Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 5 Characterization: 6 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:After giving up her life as an assassin, a woman falls in love with a man and tries hard to keep him…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 4:27 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 24, 2009

The Big Bang

Author: Erik Jendresen Genre: Thriller/Crime/Neo-Noir Storyline: 8 Dialogue: 9 Characterization: 9 Writer’s Potential: 9 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Recommend Logline:A private investigator’s search for a missing stripper leads him on a strange quest to locate missing diamonds and a billionaire’s…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 10:07 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 30, 2009

Nicholas North

Author: Matthew Wilder, Antti J., Eric Rochford Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Holiday Storyline: 6 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 7 Writer’s Potential: 7 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Consider Logline:Teen thief Nicholas North, the future Santa Claus, travels to strange lands to save a village from…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 4:52 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 29, 2009

Vacation

Author: Richard Stanley Genre: Thriller/Drama/Action Storyline: 3 Dialogue: 3 Characterization: 4 Writer’s Potential: 3 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:On an island off the coast of North Africa, two Americans struggle to survive in the wake of what might be…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 5:55 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 30, 2009

The Cold

Author: Russell Friedenberg Genre: Thriller/Horror Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 5 Characterization: 4 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:A veteran returns from Afghanistan and finds that he and his friends are hunted by the same supernatural creature he faced…

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

Waco

Author: James Hibberd and Rupert Wainwright Genre: Docudrama Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 6 Characterization: 4 Writer’s Potential: 5 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:During the infamous 51-day standoff at David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound, an FBI negotiator attempts to reason with…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 1:32 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 29, 2009

The Fallout (a.k.a., The Divide)

Author: Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean Genre: Thriller Storyline: 5 Dialogue: 5 Characterization: 3 Writer’s Potential: 3 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:After a nuclear attack, a disparate group fights for survival in a fallout shelter. Synopsis:In the New York…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 12:29 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

The Round Up

Author: Roselyne Bosch Genre: Drama/Historical Storyline: 7 Dialogue: 7 Characterization: 8 Writer’s Potential: 8 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Consider Logline:In Nazi-occupied France, a 10-year-old Jewish boy struggles to survive with his family and friends as they’re interred in concentration camps….

Posted by D. B. Bates at 10:11 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

October 26, 2009

Script Review: Gentlemen Broncos by Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess

[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.]

I guess Jared and Jerusha Hess don’t really need to learn anything. After all, their modestly budgeted debut, Napoleon Dynamite, made assloads of money and developed a small army of devoted, quote-happy friends. Their formula (combine hateful characters with zero empathy and self-consciously arty, Wes Anderson-lite mise-en-scène) obviously succeeded, so why deviate from it? Here’s why: it sucks. Compare Napoleon Dynamite to Rushmore, the film it so desperately wishes it could be. Rushmore’s Max Fischer has a very well-defined arc, starting as a self-absorbed prick with little regard for friends and family. By the end of the film, he’s realized the importance of others and has become relatively selfless. Even though he’s not entirely likable, Anderson gives us more than enough information about Max for us to understand why he’s so awful. On the other hand, Napoleon Dynamite starts the movie a self-absorbed prick, things happen to him, then the movie ends with him still self-absorbed and still a prick. He doesn’t do anything, and he doesn’t change. Totally inert. But, hey, who cares? It’s funny, right? …right.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 11:09 AM | Print-Friendly | Comments (1) | Script Reviews, Reviews

October 5, 2009

Surprise Script Review: I Know Who Killed Me by Jeff Hammond

[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.]

It might confuse and irritate some of you to know that I don’t revel in my disdain for things. I have a lot of negativity in my heart, but it always comes from a place of steadfast disappointment. I don’t want movies/books/TV shows/music/people to suck; when they do, my reaction ranges from feeling mild sadness that it couldn’t be better to unrepentant rage (usually that’s reserved for cases where a flaming turd of entertainment is inexplicably beloved by many).

I’m not going to merely like something because I want to like it, nor am I going to water down my opinion out of respect for prior work of the people involved. At least, I won’t water it down on this blog, where I remain semi-anonymous. In real life, other than a 90-minute argument with my sister on my fucking birthday about Juno, I usually don’t waste my breath. I either feign ignorance or pretend I like it, depending on the circumstances. There’s nothing worse than saying, “No, I haven’t [seen Juno/heard The Decemberists/read Motherless Brooklyn],” and having whoever you’re talking to immediately spring into action, thrusting it down your throat. Actually, there is: the upset/baffled expression on the face of someone who has exposed you to something “new” when your stony face and lack of enthusiasm betrays your dislike. It depends on the person, but around 60% of the time it’s easier just to say, “Yeah, man, I love it,” and the conversation can usually move on. Once in awhile, you run into an obsessive fan who wants to discuss the minutiae of something pop-culture-related. (I’ll never forget the time a girl asked me Xander Harris’s middle name; I’m a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and after this incident the name (Lavelle) has been seared into my brain, but I think you can enjoy something without memorizing all the tedious details. Maybe I’m just an inferior fan.) Most of the time, however, you just agree and move on. The end.*

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 1:18 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews

October 12, 2009

Script Review: Law-Abiding Citizen by Frank Darabont and Kurt Wimmer

[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.]

When I first started Law-Abiding Citizen, I quickly concluded the writers had decided to make a Death Wish for the new millennium. When I finished it, I decided I’d much rather have a shitty Death Wish knockoff than Law-Abiding Citizen. The screenplay suffers from a common problem with many of the scripts hitting the market over the past year or so: genre confusion. It thinks it’s a talky psychological thriller; in reality, it’s a schlocky action movie. Had the writers embraced the proper genre, maybe some good could have come from Law-Abiding Citizen. Instead, they tried to get a little haughty and pretentious, with half-assed chess metaphors and quarter-assed stabs at ethical complexities occasionally interrupted by explosions.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the writers paint themselves into a corner by page four, shackling the story with Nick Price, a protagonist whose opening moment involves explaining that he intends to grant one murderer immunity in exchange for ratting out another. His palpable apathy toward Benson Clyde, the grieving husband and father, is honestly a little unsettling, and the writers work overtime in the first act to undo that douchebag opening gambit. They work even harder to paint eventual antagonist Clyde — the aforementioned grieving husband and father — as so cartoonishly evil, he lacks only a mustache to twirl.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 5:09 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews

October 19, 2009

Script Review: Cirque du Freak by Brian Helgeland

[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.]

Awhile back, The Manager presented me with a treatment he had co-written with a writer I once ranted far too long and hard about. Somehow, he had gotten the ear of Warner Bros. president Alan Horn, and he used the opportunity to pitch one of the worst ideas in recent memory: a live-action trilogy based on a mid-’80s Saturday-morning cartoon. Actually, in this era of remakes and comic-book franchises, trying to revive this series isn’t a horrible idea commercially. It just doesn’t quite lend itself to live action. I don’t really want to give away the name of the property, but it’s the sort of thing that would just look silly if presented in a non-animated form, like Fat Albert or Vincent Gallo’s upcoming Fritz the Cat*.

At any rate, The Manager sent me the treatment for part one of a proposed trilogy, looking for feedback. I had could distinctly recall two things about the original cartoon: the name of the main character, and the name of the planet on which the action took place. Reading the treatment, the lack of these names took me aback. I wondered if I had misremembered the show, until I got to the last page of the treatment. At the end of the story, the main character is born, and refugees flee to the planet I remembered. He had sent me a treatment for a movie that was 100% backstory.

Adding insult to injury, the story concentrates on political machinations that have no bearing on anything except why the refugees left their home planet (something that plays a small, inessential role in what happens in the cartoon — certainly nothing worth devoting an entire feature film to explaining). It also has a Romeo & Juliet-esque subplot focusing on two characters who will die at the very beginning of the second film. When I sent him the feedback, I compared this to the first 20 minutes of Superman, except for the part where they clear up Superman’s backstory in 20 minutes, then get on to two hours of throwing buses into buildings and shit. Could you imagine having a comic-book movie where the entire thing isn’t even the origin story of the hero — it’s the story of the parents? I argued that audiences will have zero interest in a movie portraying the origin of two characters they won’t remember from the cartoon and feel betrayed by an ending where the hero they do remember is merely born. I also argued that one of the (many) flaws of the Star Wars prequels was Lucas’s insistence on concentrating on the made-up political minutiae that led to the rise of the Empire and the formation of the Rebel Alliance — without actually showing any of that cool shit. You have endless Galactic Senate meetings instead of spending two hours in the fray of an orgy of destruction called the Clone Wars. Audiences were unhappy but put up with it, because it’s Star Wars, a franchise ever-so-slightly different than a long-forgotten cartoon.

The Manager sent me a curt reply telling me all the things that stuck in my craw “could not be addressed.” I didn’t ask why, because I didn’t really care. But I held on to my belief that, while a franchise starter that contains little more than backstory can succeed financially, it’ll never succeed creatively. Why do you think so many franchise sequels surpass their originals these days? They skimp on the story and characters in favor of reams of tedious exposition introducing things that will only pay off in future films. To me, that’s a rip-off.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 6:34 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews

October 1, 2009

Script Review: Whip It! by Shauna Cross

[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.]

I’ll bet you’re wondering why I veered off the beaten path of reviewing a script on Monday for a movie that’ll be released later in the week. When compiling notes on which movies are released when, I somehow got the impression that Whip It! doesn’t hit theatres until October 9th. Turns out it comes out tomorrow, and since this is a rare positive review, I figured I should get it out sooner rather than later. I apologize for not realizing this until the day before the movie comes out.

The alternate downside: I don’t have any reviews prepared for next week. So I guess I’ll toss out a surprise script review I’ve kept in my back pocket for awhile. By which I mean a review for a movie that already came out (and flopped) that I started reviewing, then got distracted and never finished. Now, on to the review…

This script surprised the shit out of me. I have to admit, I prejudged it based on the fact that I am a misogynist bastard trying my damndest to keep women down by spraying them with a heady coat of sticky testosterone-like fluid, preventing them from making it in a man’s world. But, seriously, folks, here’s how it went down: a few years ago, IFC produced a fantastic series called The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, starring Laura Kightlinger (who created the show and wrote many of the episodes) and Nicholle Tom as bottom-feeding wannabe screenwriters trying to make it in Hollywood. One running gag was Jackie’s pet project, a story about a Depression-era roller derby queen (modeled after her aunt) that Jackie frequently hyped but never actually wrote. (It reached a point where the idea was actually stolen because of this combination of hype and laziness.) IFC unceremoniously canceled the show during the writers’ strike, when they opted instead to produce improv-heavy shows that didn’t have WGA affiliation. Fucking dicks.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 10:17 AM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews