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March 2010 Archives

March 29, 2010

Age of Heroes

Author: Adrian Vitoria and Ed Scates Genre: War/Action/Historical Storyline: 3 Dialogue: 5 Characterization: 4 Writer’s Potential: 4 Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments] Recommendation?Pass Logline:During World War II, a unit of British commandos raid a communications outpost in German-occupied Norway. Synopsis:World War…

Posted by D. B. Bates at 12:51 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Professional Script Coverage

March 3, 2010

Script Review (Odds ‘n’ Ends Edition): The Spy Next Door by Joe Ballarini

[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.]

Has it been almost a month? Jeez, my combo of laziness and apathy sure make the time fly. Here’s the problem with February: with the exception of Dread and most of Frozen, I didn’t get paid to read any of those scripts. Not a single one. And honestly, I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to read the copies of The Wolfman, Shutter Island, and A Couple of Dicks (a.k.a. Cop Out) that I’ve had sitting on my hard drive for months, specifically for last month. I just said, “Fuck it.” When I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to want to see these movies, imagine how hard it is to get me the scripts when you aren’t waving a check in my face. And even that bites me in the ass. (Yeah, I just finished doing my taxes — I always forget what a shit-ton I end up having to pay because I’m technically “self-employed” and, therefore, my pay isn’t taxed until I get my 1099-MISC, fill out all those stupid forms, and shout obscenities when I see the amount I owe.)

I’ll be honest: March probably won’t fare much better. The majority of scripts I planned to review got delayed. Hot Tub Time Machine is the lone exception, so those of you who are into these reviews can look forward to that in a few weeks. I also read a script that’s a lot like Brooklyn’s Finest, but it’s not Brooklyn’s Finest, so maybe I’ll toss that up for shits and giggles. Otherwise, I’ll either be dusting off odds ‘n’ ends like I am today, or I’ll actually produce real content. By that, I mean I’ll do my Andy Rooney schtick about current Hollywood conventions that I don’t like. I’ll probably also talk a little more about masturbation and/or why my friends are all idiots.

Anyway, enough of my bullshit… Let’s enjoy a review of a script you’ll probably never read, which in no way resembles the film it turned into!

Remember the basic setup to Action? (Hint: not to alienate you, gentle reader, more than usual, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and you’re interested in screenwriting, something in your life has gone awry.) Dorky nobody writer suddenly finds himself approaching the A list simply because one of the biggest producers in Hollywood confuses him for an established writer? I had a similar situation crop up about a year ago, when I received the screenplay for Joe Ballarini’s The Spy Next Door. I thought little of receiving it, because I’d been deluged with not just spy scripts but wacky, In-Laws-esque spy comedies. But something weird happened. As I often do, I Googled information about the movie shortly after finishing the coverage and disocvered, to my surprise, that Jackie Chan had signed on to star.

“Huh,” I thought. “He doesn’t seem like a very good fit for either of the main characters.” I prepared to dismiss it, assuming they’d done some rewrites to adjust the role to Chan (after all, the draft I read was dated 2002 — a lot of development may have happened since then), when I noticed something even odder: the plot described Chan as a spy who agrees to babysit his next-door neighbor’s kids.

“The fuck?” I thought. This description had virtually nothing to do with the script I’d read, other than the title. More than that, the IMDb didn’t credit Ballarini at all (nor, would I eventually learn, did the film itself) — in fact, the only reference I could find was a USC alumni magazine interview with Ballarini in which he briefly mentions selling the script. I don’t have a clue if this script went through such a long, arduous development process that it bears no resemblance to its source, or if two completely different scripts just happened to have the same title. It made me wonder if my bosses had simply requested the wrong script from the wrong people — and that’s still a possibility. I don’t know all the details, and I don’t have much interest in researching it.

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Posted by D. B. Bates at 9:04 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (1) | Script Reviews, Reviews

March 24, 2010

Script Review: Hot Tub Time Machine by Josh Heald and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel & Steve Pink

[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.]

Is funny enough?

I’m not trying to blow your mind. I just think that’s Hot Tub Time Machine’s unintended central dramatic question. Because, honestly, it is funny…but it’s not much more. It’s filled to the brim with what I call “empty laughs.” I frequently use the pilot of How I Met Your Mother as an example. I sat there and laughed my ass off for 22 minutes, and when it ended, I shrugged and said, “That wasn’t very good.” The characters ranged from bland (Ted) to irritatingly over-the-top (Barney), the episodic story wasn’t terribly compelling, the premise seemed extremely limited (I’m amazed they’ve sustained it this long), and the “surprise ending” (Aunt Robin!) blew ass. Although it consistently made me laugh, it didn’t really make me do much else (and not for a lack of trying). Frankly, I want more than that, even in a crappy CBS sitcom. I know I’m a creepy alien in the current culture, but I like entertainment that makes me think and feel — not a string of cheap laughs predicated on ironic detachment and obvious pop-culture references. I don’t even mind cheap laughs like that as long as they’re entrenched in something with a bit of depth. Maybe I’m missing something special in How I Met Your Mother, but based on the fact that promos show they still use “suit up” (a gag that came close to getting stale before the pilot episode ended), holy shit am I glad I didn’t stick with it.

Hot Tub Time Machine is a lot like that. It’s one of the rare comedy scripts that’s actually funny on the page, but to get back to the opening question, is that enough? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Read "Script Review: Hot Tub Time Machine by Josh Heald and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel & Steve Pink" »

Posted by D. B. Bates at 1:09 PM | Print-Friendly | Comments (0) | Script Reviews, Reviews