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Posts in Category: Professional Script Coverage

Longball

Author: Matt Vancil

Genre: Sports/Comedy/Drama

Storyline: 7

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Recommend

Logline:

An ex-con father tries to repair his relationship with his son by hatching a scheme to catch Barry Bonds’s record-breaking home run ball.

Synopsis:

WALLY DASSLER gets out of prison through a work-release program, forced to work as a beer vendor for the L.A. Dodgers. Though he hates baseball, Wally decides to use the opportunity to reconnect with his baseball-loving son, 13-year-old RUSS, who lives in San Francisco and is a huge Giants fan. Wally hasn’t seen Russ since he went to prison three years ago, and he fears Russ hates him. It’s a little more complicated than that; fortunately for Wally’s sake, Russ is also eager to reconnect with his father.

One of Wally’s duties is to deliver manila envelopes from his unpleasant boss, BOYER, to a mobster bookie, CAMPESE. Turns out, Wally still owes Campese a great deal of money, and it’s implied (but later revealed) that Wally went to jail as a fall guy for Campese and his goons. Wally also strikes up a friendship with a washed-up Dodgers relief pitcher, ELLORY SYKES.

The plot kicks into gear when Russ shows Wally his easy ability to predict when homeruns can be hit. Unable to deny his gambling past, and still owing Campese plenty of money, Wally tries to figure out if there’s any kind of betting market for predicting homeruns. He makes some small bets so he can slowly pay back Campese, but he learns that the real money would be in baseball artifacts. His interest is especially piqued when he learns that Barry Bonds’s record-breaking single-season homerun ball sold for $450,000. Since Bonds is closing in on the all-time homerun record, this gets Wally’s gambling gears working. He takes Russ to a Giants game in San Francisco, where he notices how often and how easy it is for players to hit homeruns into McCovey Cove.

Wally tells Russ they’re going to catch Bonds’s record-breaking ball, using Russ’s statistics. Russ tells him there are too many probability problems—what if he doesn’t hit in McCovey Cove, what if it’s an away game, what if he hits it when the Giants aren’t playing the Dodgers (Dodgers games are all Wally can afford)? Using the statistics, Wally thinks it’s pretty likely that Bonds can break the record during a Dodgers away series against the Giants near the end of the season. He decides to enlist the aid of Sykes, enticing him by saying everybody will remember the loser as much as the winner—everybody remembers Bill Buckner, everyone will remember Ellory Sykes. He also offers a share of the money for the ball. Sykes agrees that, if all the conditions are met and Bonds is ready to break the record when the Dodgers play the Giants in San Francisco, Sykes will throw the pitch to ensure that Bonds will hit into McCovey Cove.

Things get complicated when Sykes meets Russ. Russ shows him some statistics and gives him some pitching advice, insisting that he could actually have a pretty good game if he stopped telegraphing his pitch when he adjusts for the shoulder injury that classified him as “washed-up” in the first place. To Sykes’s surprise, the kid’s right, and suddenly his pitching game is back. In fact, Sykes pitches so well that he almost singlehandedly leads the Dodgers to be serious playoff contenders. When Bonds suffers a mild injury that throws off his statistical schedule for breaking the record by two homeruns, Wally practically begs a reluctant Sykes to take a dive on two Bonds at-bats. Sykes, worried that his comeback will be short-lived, agrees to give up the homeruns.

After this suspicious return to bad pitching form and a few hostile remarks from Sykes, Russ suspects his father is only spending time to use him for information on getting that ball, and he only wants the ball for the money. He becomes reluctant to help, and Wally insists he’ll spend time with him outside of baseball. He tries to go to watch his “mathletics” competition, but he’s held up by Campese and Boyer. They both suspect Wally of intentionally helping Sykes get his game back to bet Sykes will start winning games. Their threats cause Wally to completely miss Russ’s competition. He arrives just as everyone’s leaving the school.

Wally also managed to steal Boyer’s cell phone. Russ has told him that Bonds has caught up and will break the record in Colorado, ahead of schedule, if something isn’t done. Using Boyer’s phone, Wally calls in a fake bomb threat, pretending to be a terrorist. The game is canceled, to the disappointment of the crowd. There’s an ugly scene in the parking lot where Russ and Wally finally have it out; Wally demands to know why Russ never visited him in prison. Russ tells him he was embarrassed and ashamed. Wally tells Russ why he was in jail in the first place: he developed his gambling problem to help put JUANITA—Wally’s ex-wife and Russ’s mother—through college, and then he went to prison for Campese so they wouldn’t hurt his family. He’s hauled off by a school security officer and spends the night in jail.

The next day, he’s bailed out by Juanita (but is picked up at jail by his mother, ABBEY), who tells him Russ will be at the Giants-Dodgers game. Wally phones in another fake threat: a shark sighting in the water near McCovey Cove. As all the kayakers waiting to catch balls vanish, Wally—and a toy boat with a fake shark fin tied to it—float into the otherwise-empty cove. By this time, Boyer and Campese have figured out Wally’s real plan. Campese, armed with a gun, confronts Wally in the Cove, while Boyer threatens Russ in the stands and steals his laptop, which is loaded with all the statistics and analysis formulae.

Sykes is on the mound, and Bonds is at bat. Instead of taking a dive as he’s already done twice before, Sykes remains true to himself: he strikes out Barry Bonds, to the dismay of the San Francisco crowd. When Campese tries to shoot at Wally, the Cove is surrounded by cops and closed off for real. Wally sneaks away, just in time to find Boyer with Russ’s laptop. Boyer smashes it, Wally is prepared to kick the crap out of him when Boyer calls for the police. Wally slips Boyer’s cell phone back to him, then tells the cops that Boyer—who has been pretending to be a Giants official—broke into the stadium, and he’s the one who called in the fake bomb threat in Colorado and the fake shark sighting earlier. The cops check the number, it matches what they have, so they haul him away.

Wally gives Russ a mitt, with a loving inscription burned into it. He realizes his scheme to catch the ball is over, but he no longer cares. He’s just happy to spend time watching the game with Russ. On the mound, Sykes is getting tired. After getting nailed in the elbow by a ball, he’s relieved. Unwilling to give up even though his father has, Russ thinks the pitcher relieving Sykes will pitch Bonds a homerun, and that homerun will go right into the Dodgers’ bullpen. Wally sneaks into the bullpen, where he meets up with Sykes. They make amends for Wally’s unethical behavior. Bonds hits a homerun in the opposite direction of the bullpen; Wally isn’t concerned. However, it hits the foul pole and bounces—right into the bullpen, where Wally catches it with the mitt he got for Russ.

Wally tries to get back to Russ through a sea of reporters. He barely manages to slip the ball to Russ before being hauled off by police. He’s sent to a minimum-security prison. Russ visits him at the first opportunity and reluctantly explains that he sold the ball for millions. Of course, it wasn’t the real homerun ball—it was a ball he had signed earlier by Barry Bonds. Russ still has the actual ball.

Comments:

There are a lot of really nice moments here, and quite a few twists and turns in the story that transcend the average sports movie, even while it fits very comfortably in the genre. There’s nothing here that could be called bad, but there are a few things that could be better. While well-written overall, there are a few moments where the dialogue relies a little too heavy on clichés, and other moments where it’s pretty on-the-nose. This speaks to one of the few major problems here: the characters, while interesting in the broad strokes they’re given, are never really dug into deeply. They’re all interesting enough that I wanted to know more, but we never really get it.

Wally’s an interesting case. He has a pleasant, attentive, caring mother. He has an ex-wife who, one assumes, is both intelligent and driven, and their son seems to follow in her footsteps. So where did Wally go wrong, in being a screw-up? Did he really just get in over his head in an effort to make a quick buck? There’s a hint at something deeper in his not finishing college, and his belief in a general sense that he’s a fuck-up (rather than believing just the gambling and dealings with Campese the landed him in jail was his only real misstep). Is he following in the footsteps of his unseen father, or is it something else? He seems intently focused on get-rich-quick schemes. In the script right now, his primary motivation for getting rich quick is to pay back Campese and quit his Dodger job.

What if it were more complicated than that? What if there was no Campese, no mob threat, no money owed? That subplot is really the only weak thing in the script, because it relies so heavily on clichés. It’s tied up pretty nicely, but pretend for a second that the subplots not even there. If Wally is just one of those guys who gets fixated on wealth, but putting more emphasis on another of Wally’s goals—mending his family. He landed in jail because (among other things) he couldn’t support his family, and he discovers something that will supply them with so much wealth that none of them will have to work a day in their lives. Getting that ball becomes symbolic of his quest to get everything back to what he sees as “normal,” before he screwed everything up. This would strengthen his realization that it was never the money—it’s the time spent together, bonding.

What’s Russ’s story? He’s a mathlete, obviously gifted, but he also understands the practicalities, knowing exactly how Sykes needs to adjust his throw, but—even more impressively—knowing exactly where Sykes was going throw and being able to connect with the pitch and knock it out. Even if you know what you’re looking for, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, which leads to the impression Russ is at least a halfway decent athlete, in addition to being a math whiz. This is a dichotomy that could be really interesting. What’s his life like at school? Is he popular among nerds or jocks, or both? Or everyone? Or nobody, because he’s not really a math nerd or an athlete—he just loves baseball to a degree that alienates fellow students. Beyond this, when he has conflicts with Wally, Russ still plans to help him. Why? If he really thinks Wally is only interested in the monetary value of the ball, why continue to help him? A little more depth into the character might explain this.

Sykes is a pretty interesting character, too. It’d be interesting to see him with the team. His interactions with the wise catcher, Hiruma, are really nice, but it seems like with Sykes being a fairly bad pitcher at the start, then getting his groove back, it’d be nice to see a change in attitude from his teammates. It’s easy to imagine they don’t like him at first, because he does nothing but give up runs. Do they like him more once he starts winning games from him, or do they like him less because they’re jealous of the attention he’s getting or the younger players don’t like an “old-timer” stealing their glory? A lot of interesting conflict could come from his interactions with the team, which could then motivate or complicate some of the decisions Sykes makes through the script.

A minor story issue: I admit being fairly ignorant of how parole and work-release programs work, but I can’t figure out why Wally is hauled back to jail at the end. Is it because he’s fired from his job? Although I recommend getting rid of the Campese/Boyer subplot, if the author keeps it, wouldn’t he be exonerated by Campese and Boyer being arrested, which would hopefully bust their gambling scheme wide open? This isn’t to say I think it’s a bad choice to send him back to prison at the end—I liked that. I just don’t understand why, so the reasons should be clearer.

And as a practical issue, though the use of real teams and players add to the authenticity of the script, it might be a tough sell convincing Major League Baseball and the Dodgers to license the franchise when the script portrays team employees as corrupt (i.e., running gambling rackets, fixing pitches). Same with Barry Bonds, who is notorious for not allowing his likeness or name to be licensed without a dump-truck full of money. Perhaps going with fictionalized teams and players—but clearly patterning him after Bonds—would make this an easier sell, if less authentic.

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Sentinels

Author: Todd Ludy

Genre: Science-Fiction/Fantasy

Storyline: 8

Dialogue: 9

Characterization: 9

Writer’s Potential: 9

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Recommend

Logline:

A group of teenagers discover huge, ancient robots underground and are forced to use them to stop an impending alien invasion.

Synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old PERRY RYAN has just ruined his chances to go to Space Camp by failing a class. Instead, his mother BETH forces him to work at a ranch owned by the father of the school bully, BUTCH GILLESPIE. That night, Perry hears and sees strange things coming from nearby Sacred Mountain. Perry and his best friend, CHARLIE, go to explore Sacred Mountain. Butch chases them. They find strange, futuristic chambers and a huge command center that leads them to—three huge, humanoid robots that can be controlled by one person.

They keep this a secret, learning the controls and having fun with the robots in the empty desert basin behind the mountain range. Perry blows the secret by telling his wheelchair-bound brother, RAY, all about the robots and the command center. Soon enough, their secret is completely blown by obnoxious Butch, who takes his robot out for a ride and is spotted by plenty of people. He even harasses twin F-15s escorting a stealth bomber. With Ray guiding them from the underground command center, Perry and Charlie come to the rescue of the stealth bomber, which is damaged and falls out of the sky. Just as they’ve rescued the bomber, the robots are attacked by other, similar robots—from outer space. These robots are armed with powerful weapons. They manage to take down Perry’s robot, but in the process one of them steps on the stealth bomber, which explodes and takes a few of them down.

In the command center, Ray learns from the computer—and tells Perry, Charlie, and Butch—that around 12,000 years ago, a group of aliens known only as “the Scourge” began invading other planets. The sentinel robots they’ve discovered were designed as a defense; reactivating the robots is what has caused them to return, and they intend to destroy anything—and anyone—that has helped to bring them back to life. This leads to a wild battle against the “Scourgebots.” Charlie and Butch are worried they can’t take out the Scourgebots with Perry’s robot down. Ray encourages them to try; in the meantime, they manage to fix Perry’s robot, which shows up at the eleventh hour. Unfortunately, it’s still not functioning that well. Perry is almost killed in an attack against one of the Scourgebots—when a swarm of battle-scarred Sentinels descends from space to provide aid. The lead robot tells Perry at the tide of the war against the Scourge is turning, and his skill in destroying the Scourgebots would make him a valuable asset on the frontlines. Perry agrees to go with and help fight.

Comments:

This screenplay really works well because, rather than being fully plot-oriented, the author gives each of the characters goals and struggles and finds a way to make those robots help them overcome their problems. Perry going off into space to fight is somewhat bittersweet, but it works because that’s been his goal since the beginning of the story. The only real suggestion for improvement is to tighten up the pacing. It’s a 120-page screenplay on the dot, and yet not a whole lot seems to happen. It’s a nice, well-constructed story, but it could be trimmed to make it all move a little faster, without damaging the integrity of the structure. The dialogue and characters are great, though.

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Tripwire

Author: Craig A. Schwartz & Jacinthe Dessureault

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Storyline: 7

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 5

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A divorced mother takes her daughter on a vacation to an isolated lake cabin, where they are kidnapped by a seemingly friendly couple.

Synopsis:

Forty-year-old JEAN MILLER is a psychologist trying to analyze a recurring dream in which she’s attacked by a bear. She talks about it with her friend, PAUL BISHOP, and they both toss out ideas about what the bear could symbolize. Neither makes a firm conclusion. Paul compares bears to his theory on the “tripwire effect,” about how environmental stimulus will cause a person to snap, and he thinks perhaps Jean’s dream is her subconscious way of saying she’s afraid she’ll snap. Jean isn’t so sure.

She’s planned a trip with her daughter, AMY (15), to a cabin retreat. Amy is pretty angry about Jean’s recent divorce, and Jean thinks the trip will help them. Amy’s less than cooperative. On their way down to the lake, they stop at a truck stop store. They meet an overly friendly couple, RYAN and SHELLY. When Ryan startles Jean and causes her to accidentally break a ceramic bear figurine, he insists on paying for a new one and buying Jean and Amy lunch. Turns out, Ryan and Shelly live in a motorhome and just travel around. Shelly is well-off, so they can afford to not work. After the lunch, the group separates. Both Jean and Amy are a little uncomfortable after the lunch. They continue on their way into the mountains and reach the lake. Turns out, Jean’s husband—who made the reservation at the cabin—canceled the reservation. Jean is offered another cabin, more isolated, that had been reserved but the renters hadn’t shown up in over a week. Amy wants to get a hotel in town, but Jean would prefer to stay in a cabin, isolated or not.

Shortly after they arrive at the cabin, Ryan and Shelly show up. They claim they were the ones who reserved the cabin, and when Jean refuses to leave, Ryan explodes with rage. The group can’t even settle things because the cabin caretaker, after renting to Jean, has conveniently left for the week. Jean runs away and goes to the sheriff, but by the time she gets there (apparently) Ryan and Shelly have left. Because they left, the sheriff thinks Jean has nothing to worry about. She still feels unsafe, but there isn’t much the sheriff can (or will) do. For some reason, despite feeling isolated and unsafe after the encounter, Jean refuses to go to a hotel in town. They go back to the cabin. Ryan and Shelly are there. Ryan starts out with an apology, which turns into insulting Jean and Amy, which turns into more threats and rage. Finally, they slam their motorhome into the back of Jean’s SUV and speed away.

When Jean contacts the sheriff, he calls the police in Redding and learns Ryan and Shelly turned themselves in, swearing it was an accident and offering to pay for all the damages and Jean’s entire stay in the cabin. Jean refuses, but the sheriff recommends her taking their offer. He insists they won’t come back and recommends they relax and enjoy the vacation. They try, going out to the lake. Amy meets a guy her age, SCOTT. They make a date for that night. Jean thinks she may have seen the motorhome in the distance, back at the cabin. She calls the sheriff to make sure they’ve left town; he’s insistent. Jean and Amy return to the cabin, where Ryan and Shelly are waiting. They drug Jean and Amy into unconsciousness.

When they awaken, they’re treated to a bizarrely polite kidnapping. Ryan and Shelly act like it’s harmless, even while beating them into submission. They cook for Jean and Amy. There’s a knock at the door—Scott. Reluctantly, they allow Amy to go on the date, just to keep up appearances, but they threaten to kill Jean if she says anything to anyone or isn’t back at a certain time. Amy and Scott have a strange date at his family’s barbecue. He’s a bit morbid. Later, back at the house, Ryan and Shelly go through Jean’s things. They find her mother lives nearby. Amy barely shows up on time, and Ryan pulls a gun.

The next morning, the sheriff shows up at the cabin. Ryan forces Jean to go out and convince the sheriff everything’s fine and they’re having a great time. The sheriff seems mildly suspicious that Jean has gone from paranoia and fear to fast friends with Ryan and Shelly, but he accepts her word and leaves. When she goes back inside, Amy pleads for Jean to use her skills as a “shrink” to outsmart them. Ryan overhears this and isn’t pleased. They decide to divide and conquer. Ryan forces Shelly and Jean to go off shopping and to pick up Jean’s car (undergoing repairs in nearby Redding). While they’re out, Jean calls her mother at a phone booth. She tries to use her cell phone to dial 911, but it dies. She hears sirens in the distance, but it turns out they’re on the way to a drowning victim in the lake. Jean overhears this on the radio and assumes Ryan has killed Amy. They rush back to the cabin, where it turns out Ryan merely locked Amy in a closet; the drowning victim is unrelated.

Later, Jean awakens from a nap to discover that Ryan’s left. She tries needling Shelly with the idea that she’s subservient. When it’s not entirely successful, she tries a different tactic—fooling perfectionist Shelly into believing something’s floating in her hot coffee. When Shelly bends to look, Jean throws the coffee in her face, kicks her, and knocks her out. Jean and Amy run. They run to the caretaker’s empty cabin and call the police. Ryan has returned to the cabin, finds Shelly, and goes out to search for Jean and Amy. Ryan smashes the phone box outside, cutting short their call to the police. Jean discovers that Ryan and Shelly had never reserved the cabin to begin with. She doesn’t have time to be properly baffled by that because Ryan jumps through the window and grabs Amy. Jean throws the phone at his head, knocking him off balance. Amy gets away, and she and Jean run until they finally reach a dock with a boat. Just as they do, Amy is shot in the leg by Ryan. Jean finally snaps, turning back to Ryan as he continues shooting. He hits her in the arm, but she keeps coming. Jean leaps at Ryan, who drops the gun. After some struggling, Jean gets the gun. She’s about to shoot him when Amy brings her back to her senses; instead, Amy kicks a coil of rope under Ryan’s feet, knocking him into the water. Once he’s gone, Jean and Amy realize they’ve been shot with paintballs—not bullets.

When the sheriff comes to investigate, the boat at the dock where Ryan was pushed in is gone, Shelly is gone, and the motorhome is gone. A month later, Jean and Amy have moved to San Francisco, and Jean vows that Ryan won’t come back, because she’s a different person now, and he won’t be able to hurt her anymore.

Comments:

Biggest question, hands-down, is one Jean herself asks but never answers: why did any of this happen? Most of the story works pretty well, but without giving us anything resembling a motive, it’s really hard to accept their actions. Even if it’s a game to Ryan and Shelly—which is the only thing that even marginally hints at an explanation for their behavior—why do they play this game? What makes them so utterly sociopathic? Without even a hint of their motives, they’re cartoon characters, very difficult to believe. The explanation can be just as creepy and off-kilter as their behavior, but there needs to be some kind of method to their madness, and we have to know that in order to take them seriously as characters. Beyond this, the script works pretty well as-is.

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Time Well Wasted

Author: Unknown

Genre: Drama

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 7

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A teen desperately wants to use a baseball scholarship to escape his small Texas town, but his slowly eroding life may make leaving impossible.

Synopsis:

None

Comments:

The writer does a good job of evoking the setting through the choice of locations, actions, and showing us the characters’ everyday lives. Many interesting films have this slice-of-life feel, but Time Well Wasted misses opportunities. A story with a barebones plot like this needs to rely more on the strength of its characters to reenforce its theme(s). The characters here don’t have much depth, and the bizarre third act muddles the theme.

Letting us know early on how much Gill wants the baseball scholarship (symbolizing his desire to get out of Alba) will help us understand the impact when he risks giving it up for the impregnated Bailey. It’s never made clear what Bailey’s doing in Alba in the first place, which makes it confusing when Gill’s only choices are to stay in Alba with Bailey or ditch her to go to UCLA. We’re told she’s from LA, and there’s a too-subtle implication of a funeral that I guess was supposed to be for Bailey’s parent or parents? This needs to be made much clearer, so we can understand why it’s impossible for Bailey to go with Gill—no family, no friends she can stay with, etc. She’s stuck in Alba.

Many scenes consist of people just hanging around, talking, yet by the end we know very little about these characters. I give the writer credit for not writing on-the-nose dialogue (though it does veer into melodrama in the third act), but there’s not much subtext, either. It’s just people talking, offering a minimum of character depth without providing a window into the true nature of the characters, especially Gill. The negative portrayal of Outcast fans came closest to providing subtext, but it doesn’t tell us much about them other than implying they’re less intelligent or unique than Gill and Bailey.

Until the out-of-nowhere death of Bailey, I was operating under the assumption that the theme here was the inability to escape fate. The pregnancy jeopardizes Gill’s opportunity to flee a small town where he’d rot, setting him on the exact same path as his father, but his problem is solved almost instantly by Bailey’s death. He has a tough to choice to make, but then it’s made for him. What is the writer trying to say with this? Is this still a comment on fate? Maybe if the pregnancy was made a more important part of the story earlier, her death would have more impact and we’d have a clearer idea of why her dying is necessary for the story.

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Adrenaline

Author: Justin Ware

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 7

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

An unlucky-in-love geek joins a group devoted to the artificial creation of one-night stands—by forcing women into adrenaline-pumping situations.

Synopsis:

None

Comments:

To start, Adrenaline has a great premise with huge comic possibilities. The dialogue is consistently witty, and the slapstick set-pieces work well conceptually, although some (like the skydiving bit) go on long enough to feel laborious. Fitten and Courtney get just enough development to avoid being clichés. However, it would be nice to see them taken a little further—maybe Courtney isn’t as perfect as she seems or Fitten has more specific sexual frustrations. More importantly, the gang of adrenalists don’t have much depth (including Chip, despite his significance in the story).

What I kept waiting for, from the introduction of the adrenalists on, was an explanation for why all these people have banded together…to get Chip laid. There’s not much indication that the others do more than assist in his conquests. In fact, in the third act it’s revealed that one of them is married and one is divorced. Why did these guys join up? What do they stand to gain? I thought it would head in a direction where Fitten makes the others realize they’re being used, generating conflict and comedy as the teamwork dissolves and each of them tries to manipulate the plays to get the girl for themselves, for their own specific goals (e.g., making an uninterested wife jealous). It would offer more variety than the gags that exist to humiliate Fitten.

A development like that would also solve the problematic third act. In its current state, the surprise reveal forces Courtney to radically shift her personality. It’s impossible to believe someone initially portrayed as intelligent and articulate (and discriminating when it comes to men) would do a 180 into Stupidville, which makes the third act frustrating despite the twist and happy ending. If the conflict, and Chip’s decision to “woo” Courtney, came more from a desire to get rid of Fitten (who has destroyed his team), it could provide a similar surprise ending—in which Fitten fights for Courtney, which makes her soften and fall for him, only to learn this was Chip’s plan all along. This one relies more on the characters we know and care about, and less on believing first that Courtney has turned into an idiot, then that she’d have set up her own elaborate plan to humiliate Chip, which strains credibility.

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Fame

Author: Allison Burnett

Genre: Drama

Storyline: 5

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 7

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A disparate group of students spend four years at a prestigious high school for artists in New York.

Synopsis:

Young Artists study their craft while teachers (in voiceover) describe the struggles on the road ahead. A pseudo-montage follows as each character is introduced amid the cacophony of American Idol-esque bad auditions. JENNY LANG, petite and blonde, performs a monologue she’s written herself. DENISE DUPREE, the sheltered daughter of a minister, gives a nervous piano audition. MARCO BRUNELLO, a working-class Italian-American Brooklyn boy, sings a heartfelt love song. MALIK WASHBURN, a stylish African-American, recites a poem. ALICE BARTON, a down-to-earth girl raised in a ritzy household, impresses with her dance skills. KEVIN BAILEY, a sweet-faced Midwestern dancer, performs an expert tap number. NEIL FLEISCHER, a nebbishy butcher’s son with filmmaking ambitions, auditions for the acting program. JOY MOY, a tiny Chinese-American girl, acts the hell out of Juliet. VICTOR TAVERAS, Dominican and cute, skinny and cocky, is a songwriter and multitalented musician. ROSIE MARTINEZ, a voluptuous Dominican girl, impresses with her fierce attitude and aggressive dance skills. These are the lucky freshmen who have been accepted, all of them 14 and eager.

Freshman year starts with each student getting ready and making the commute to school. Immediately, their teachers warn them of the difficulties they’ll have, try to prepare them for the next four years. At lunch, the cafeteria is jammed with artists creating. After and impromptu musical number, Denise and Marco leave the chaos and share a nice, quiet moment. She offers him half a sandwich, and they each empathize with the other’s feeling of being an outsider in this new world. Looking for Rosie, Victor encounters Alice. She’s coarse and unpleasant; he’s cocky and obnoxious. They don’t get along.

By winter, Malik and Jenny are rehearsing scenes together. Malik finds the concept uncomfortable, fearing nobody will believe him playing someone so thoroughly outside of his skin. Jenny’s about to give him some words of encouragement when she runs into ANDY MATTHEWS, an upperclassmen, whom she immediately drools over. Malik teases her about him.

DOWD, the acting teacher, tells his students to start a journal chronicling the world they inhabit and question it. Alice has an awkward dinner with her parents; they’re gleeful about a former peer of Alice’s getting into Yale. Despite Alice’s disinterest in Yale, her parents hold out hope that the friend’s surprise success story could also happen to Alice. Meanwhile, REVEREND DUPREE, Denise’s father, is unhappy hearing his daughter will have to be out so late to perform with the school orchestra.

Joy Moy, Kevin, Neil, and Marco wander around Times Square and Broadway, discussing their dreams and aspirations. Later, all the students discuss their varied summer plans. Marco asks Jenny to dance, and she gets angry and storms away. He’s shocked.

Sophomore year. Neil obnoxiously videotapes Jenny and her friends, and they insult him. Joy Moy, Kevin, and Rosie discuss Rosie’s curves and her laziness. Although Rosie protests the laziness remark, dance teacher MISS KRAFT seems to agree with Joy Moy and Kevin. Later, Dowd adjusts the acting assignment: the students are to take the information accumulated in their journals, create a character based on someone they know and have studied, and find a way to correspond these characters with a character from a famous play. Marco sings a passionate love song for his class but makes it clear he’s singing to Jenny. Victor is accosted by CRANSTON, the music teacher, for playing with his own style instead of obeying traditional music rules. Victor argues that Bach is only famous today for breaking traditional molds 300 years ago.

Marco tries to apologize for embarrassing Jenny; Jenny doesn’t accept. Marco notices Jenny’s attraction to Andy Matthews. Denise, accompanying a singer on piano, gives the upperclassman some tips on singing. Victor finds out Denise’s “secret”—that she’s an excellent singer herself—and teases her about it. He asks her to sing on some demo recordings he’ll be making, and she reluctantly agrees. Jenny complains to her friends that Andy Matthews doesn’t notice her. Neil performs a character based on his father, who reminds the class of Willy Loman. When Andy Matthews says something offensive to Joy Moy, Kevin mocks him. Andy and his friends surround Kevin, acting menacing, but Marco steps in to rescue him.

At a Halloween dance, Victor slips Malik (the DJ) a CD of Denise singing “Fame,” and everyone dances. Joy Moy gets drunk and performs a monologue (videotaped by Neil) inspired by Jenny. When they play it for the class, Jenny’s humiliated. She asks to “borrow” Neil’s DVD, then hands it to a geeky kid to upload it to YouTube. Her sister discovers it quickly and says she’ll be in deep trouble.

Marco convinces Denise to go to a poetry slam, where she’s surprised by Malik’s engaging reading. After complaining that she has no friends, Alice’s father convinces her to sign up for a nonprofit activity, which will look good on her Yale application. At the poetry slam, Marco hooks Malik and Denise up. As they walk home together, Denise argues with Malik about his anger toward everything. She doesn’t see a reason for it.

Alice volunteers at a soup kitchen in a slum with Victor. After Miss Kraft harasses Rosie again and threatens to throw her out of the school, Rosie picks a passionate fight; Miss Kraft recommends her for the acting program. At the end of the year, Joy Moy rushes in and says her YouTube video got her an agent.

Junior year. Joy Moy auditions for Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls. The director suggests that Denise, who’s accompanying, should audition. Denise is reluctant; she sings an original gospel ballad that blows everyone away.

Neil engineers a meeting with Martin Scorsese by waiting around his dentist’s office. Scorsese is polite and encouraging; he agrees to look at Neil’s short script. Malik performs a monologue about his sister dying; it’s passionate, but Dowd knocks him down by telling Malik he covered everything except how the incident made him feel. Malik becomes abrasive and stomps out of class. Jenny and her friends sneak into a Columbia frat party and run into Andy Matthews, who has now graduated.

Joy Moy excitedly lets Denise know that she, a lowly junior, got the role of Sarah Brown. After a night at the soup kitchen, Victor asks Alice out. Kevin invites Joy Moy to her apartment; they rehearse a scene together, and she gets so in the moment that she kisses him, even though she’s supposed to be playing his mother. At a seedy warehouse, Victor and Alice go to see some performance art. At first, it freaks Alice out, but she gets into it. Joy Moy confesses her love for Kevin, in spite of his homosexuality. He lets her down gently. Alice apologizes for her hostility toward Victor.

Denise explains the role of Sarah Brown to Reverend Dupree, who already knows and disapproves. Neil gets a call from Scorsese, who has read his script and thinks it has a lot of potential. Neil asks him for money to finance it. At a karaoke club, the students perform a raucous country number. MISS ROWAN, the teacher chaperoning this event, tells a disappointing story about having so much potential but turning out to be a tiny fish in a vast ocean of superior talent, which is what led to her teaching at P.A.

Malik’s mother arrives at school, and everyone is shocked to discover she’s white. Denise quits Guys and Dolls. Alice lets Victor know she’s been accepted in the Joffrey Ballet and is leaving P.A.

Senior year. Dowd gives Malik a pep-talk about being half-white. Neil asks Jenny to star in his film, but she refuses; Rosie happily agrees to star in it. Later, Jenny is date-raped by Andy Matthews. Neil finishes up his script. MISS SIMMS convinces Denise to sign up for a college arts program. Alice’s leaving inspires Victor’s music. Neil’s film premiere and is loved by the students. Jenny apologizes for treating him badly. Neil cheers her up by naming now-famous actors who turned down famous roles.

Malik and Denise come to an understanding—both realize they need to stop doing what’s expected of them and do what they want to do. Denise decides to go to her college program, while Malik reunites with his family. Meanwhile, Jenny learns Marco has pounded the daylights out of Andy and is grateful. The class graduates, set to a musical number.

Comments:

The story has its moments—some of the relationships and parental conflicts are sweet—and the writer does a great job with writing dialogue for such a diverse group of characters. Although many characters (especially the teachers) do little more than spout clichés, each character has a distinctive voice that feels authentic.

However, there are simply too many characters to make every single character and subplot satisfying. In trying so hard to hit as many ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds possible, the writer doesn’t have any room to breathe. I give him credit for trying to give each character his or her due, and he does a better-than-expected job of keeping all these characters straight, but it’s just too much. Taking two of these romantic couples and really fleshing them out will help streamline things a bit, rather than giving us a total of ten characters (not counting the teachers, parents, and supporting players populating the script) and trying to balance each of their stories.

Another significant problem is the lack of a clear antagonist, or any real jeopardy. Each character has a moment or two of conflict—sometimes significant conflict, as in the case of Jenny’s rape—but the lack of clear goals and antagonists makes the story murky. The writer never shows what these kids really want out of this school, other than the obvious: fame. Why are they so desperate for fame? I never felt close enough to any of the characters to know. The script introduces vague adversaries and obstacles, but for a story that spends about 15 of its first 30 pages telling us, in blunt terms, how difficult this journey will be—none of the students have a difficult time. The few obstacles hurled in their way resolve themselves within a few pages. Clearer goals and a true antagonist would give this story a much tighter focus and help it earn the happy ending.

With the enormous success of the High School Musical movies and American Idol, a story like this would definitely appeal to the teenage and young-adult demographics. It also has nostalgia value for an older audience familiar with the original film and TV series—the kind of movie parents would happily take their teenage daughters to see. The fact that it’s a musical but doesn’t overwhelm with musical numbers—there aren’t many and they are naturally integrated into the storyline—might also appeal to non-musical fans.

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Harry Brown

Author: Gary Young

Genre: Drama/Action

Storyline: 5

Dialogue: 8

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 8

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Recommend

Logline:

An elderly ex-marine takes matters into his own hands when a gang of crack-smoking thugs murder his best friend.

Synopsis:

Grainy, blurry camera-phone footage shows a youth gang, led by NOEL, smoking crack and acting foolish. Noel encourages two of his minions to kill somebody, for fun and to “earn their stripes.” The two thugs take off on a minibike and, in their successful attempt to shoot a young mother in cold blood, end up in a bike accident that results in the death of one and the hospitalization of the other.

At the murder site the following morning, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR FRAMPTON (attractive, female, mid-40s) is briefed on the scene by SERGEANT HICKOCK (cocky, male, mid-30s). His callous description of the crime and the injured minibike passenger in custody offends Frampton, but she keeps it to herself for the moment.

HARRY BROWN, an elderly retiree, awakens to a lonely routine, making breakfast for one, obsessively cleaning, puttering around the house before getting dressed up and leaving. As he walks through his neighborhood, the same crime-ridden cesspool where the opening murder took place, Harry makes no sign of fear until he reaches a fork in the road. He has two options: head into the drugged-out gigglefest emanating from a darkened subway tunnel, or keep walking along the less direct overland route. Harry chooses the safer road.

At the hospital, Harry visits her cancer-stricken wife. He has an obvious love for her, but she’s not lucid. At the rundown Drift Pub, Harry has a drink with his best friend, LEONARD, another elderly retiree. They start to play a game of chess and, after witnessing a public drug-dealing inside the pub, Harry and Leonard discuss the declining state of the neighborhood. Leonard mentions that the dealer, a tattooed thug called KENNY, is known for selling drugs, guns, and underage prostitutes. He also suggests that SID, the Drift’s owner, lets Kenny slide within the pub because Sid, too, is a criminal.

Harry visits his local convenience store and discovers, to his surprise, a towering man guarding the door. The shopkeeper, MRS. SINGH, explains that she had to hire her brother-in-law to keep out undesirables. Harry goes home with a pint of scotch and falls asleep, drinking and watching television. He’s awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call—his wife has passed away.

A month later, Leonard accompanies Harry on a visit to his wife’s headstone. It turns out he also once had a daughter—she died 25 years ago, at age 13, and her headstone sits next to his wife’s. Harry places a fresh bouquet and quietly grieves. To ligthen the mood, Leonard offers another drink. Harry agrees.

At the pub, Harry describes the first time he met his wife, back when he was in the Marines. Leonard indelicately tries to coax some information about Harry’s experience in the Marines. Harry won’t say any more than that he spent 15 years in the service and he left when he met his wife. In the privacy of the restroom, Leonard shows Harry an ancient, huge bayonet for protection. He’s tired of living in fear of these youth gangs, who have recently shoved dog feces through his mail slot. Harry suggests that he go to the police. Leonard says he already has.

That night, the punks shove burning trash through Leonard’s mail slot. Once they’re gone, Leonard takes his bayonet and seeks them out in the subway tunnel.

The next morning, Harry is awakened by Frampton and Hickock. They’ve found Leonard’s body and are there to ask routine questions about what may have happened. Afterward, Hickock brushes off the experience with cynicism. Frampton finally lashes out at him. The two seek out Noel, their prime suspect in Leonard’s murder, and arrest him.

In his sadness, Harry gets plowed at the Drift Pub. In his state, he ends up flashing more cash than he should, considering the neighborhood. Sid warns him, but Harry doesn’t seem concerned. Outside, he’s assaulted. Instinctively, Harry breaks the man’s wrist and, when he won’t give up the attempted mugging, Harry kills him with his bare hands. Frightened, Harry rushes home, disposes of his bloody clothes, cleans up, and goes to sleep.

The next morning, Harry examines his old Marine memorabilia when Frampton shows up unannounced. They have a flirtatious discussion about chess before Frampton gets down to business: she wants to know about the bayonet. Harry reluctantly admits he knew about it, but that Leonard only used it for protection. They get into an argument about the effectiveness of the police over vigilante justice. Later, Harry goes to the Drift and bribes Sid for information on where to find Kenny.

Harry seeks out Kenny and asks to buy a gun. Reluctantly, Kenny and his friend STRETCH lead him through their hovel, which contains an indoor marijuana farm, high-grade electronics, and a drugged-out, barely conscious girl. Aghast at their treatment of the girl, Harry ends up killing both Kenny and Stretch, stealing their guns and ammo, burning their marijuana, and stealing their car and the girl. In the car, he finds ¬£10,000. He leaves 1000 for her and keeps the rest. Harry drives her to a hospital but ditches the car before he’s seen.

As a result of the gun violence, Frampton’s superintendant, CHILDS, pulls her and Hickock off the investigation into Leonard’s murder in favor of a new violence-removing task force.

At the convenience store, the brother-in-law bodyguard has disappeared into the bathroom. Harry happens to show up, inconveniently, just before a robber descends on the shop. Harry stabs his Achilles tendon, which stops his robbery in short order. The bodyguard returns and pummels the robber into unconsciousness. At the graves of his wife and daughter, Harry asks forgiveness for what he has done. Within the church, he asks forgiveness for what he’s going to do.

Harry sets up recon on Noel, observing his entire operation and assessing the best time, place, and way to strike. He follows a drug trafficker (TROY) and one of Noel’s pals (MARKY) to a vacant lot, shoots Troy in the head, and interrogates Marky about Leonard. After trying to stall him, Marky finally admits that they recorded the whole thing on his cell phone. He plays the video for Harry. Harry kidnaps Marky to use as bait. They return to the subway. Noel and another thug, CARL, corner him, so Harry unleashes a homemade explosive. He manages to kill both Marky and Carl, but Noel gets away. Harry tries to chase him, but a breathing problem that has plagued him since the beginning catches up with him. He throws his gun into the river before collapsing. A police officer takes him to the hospital.

Frampton suspectw Harry as their vigilante and drags a reluctant Hickock to investigate the bridge where he collapsed. Finding nothing, they go to a briefing about the new violence task force. Afterward, Frampton mentions to Childs her suspicion and asks to drag the river. He refuses and transfers her. Frampton won’t give up—she drags Hickock out to find Noel. Meanwhile, Harry forces himself to leave the hospital.

The task force springs into action, only they get a bit more than they bargain for—the violence that has been percolating suddenly boils over, causing riots and mayhem the cops can’t handle. As Frampton and Hickock try to get to Noel—whom they believe is staying with his uncle—thugs storm their car, forcing Hickock to lose control. Stopped, they’re pelted with stones and bricks. Then Harry appears. He pulls both of their semi-conscious bodies from the cars and drags them to the Drift Pub.

Inconveniently, it turns out that Sid is Noel’s uncle. As chaos reigns outside, Sid beats Harry into submission, then both Sid and Noel go to town on Hickock and Frampton. Sid suffocates the nearly incapacitated Hickock, but Frampton takes much more effort from Frampton. Just when he’s finally in a position to shoot her, Harry regains his senses and takes him out first. When Sid’s gun turns back on Harry, he no longer cares about living or dying, but it’s a moot point as an armed team bursts into the Drift and takes out Sid.

Several days later, Childs holds a press conference in honor of Hickock. Intercut with that is Harry, again going through his routine, but this time, he’s unafraid to go through the subway passage.

Comments:

Harry Brown is a derivative revenge thriller in the vein of the Death Wish movies. Aside from its occasionally murky storyline, predictable third act and weak antagonist, the screenplay manages an effective balance of gruesome violence and grieving-widow drama.

As in the Death Wish movies, anybody under the age of 40 is portrayed with cartoonish hostility. They all smoke crack and commit wanton acts of violence and lust for pure amusement. While this builds a world where Harry Brown needs to take action, it does no favors to distinguishing one villain from another. Because it falls primarily in the action genre, where interchangeable villains are a dime a dozen, this wouldn’t be a significant problem if Harry had a clear-cut, well-developed antagonist. The man pulling the strings, it seems, is Noel, but he’s as over-the-top and under-developed as any of the others. What pushed Noel into this life? What defines him as a leader? Questions like these don’t get answered.

Similarly, the attempt to establish DI Frampton as Harry’s foil comes about quickly and unnaturally and doesn’t add much to the drama. It happens too late in the story for there to be any of the cat-and-mouse antics alluded to in their chess-metaphor scene, and the police subplot on the whole doesn’t exist for much more than explaining the missing pieces of the plot to the audience. Strengthening her as an antagonist, along with Noel, would give Harry pressure from both sides of the law. There are hints of this in the climactic showdown at the pub, but again, it happens so late in the game that any difficult choices Harry has to make end up being made for him.

Despite these weaknesses, the script has many strong moments as it follows Harry. The writer finds nice, visual ways to reveal Harry’s loneliness and establishes enough about his character to make a believable transition from brooding elder to sneering vigilante. This continues even after the action shifts into high gear. Harry’s requests for forgiveness from his deceased family and from God is a very effective moment that keeps him sympathetic in the face of gut-wrenching violence.

Harry Brown bears enough similarities to Death Wish that, one assumes, it will follow that film’s model of success (which spawned four sequels and an entire genre of ultraviolent revenge movies). It distinguishes itself from other revenge thrillers mainly through its British setting, which will appeal to the same audiences that make British crime thrillers (e.g., Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) popular both in the U.S. and abroad. It also has the ability to draw on both younger audiences, who may find the relentless violence appealing, and older audiences, who may enjoy the idea of an older man seeking revenge on today’s twisted youth. Attaching Michael Caine as Harry Brown (as the script notes suggest) also ensures a credibility to the performance that will further enhance its appeal among older audiences in general and, in particular, viewers who might ordinarily avoid an action movie.

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Hyperreal

Author: Skip Woods

Genre: Action/Sci-Fi

Storyline: 4

Dialogue: 3

Characterization: 4

Writer’s Potential: 3

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

A retired criminal, forced into pulling off a diamond heist, uses a mind-switching technology to find a kidnapped girl, get revenge, and unravel a corporate conspiracy.

Synopsis:

At a grungy, urban diner, CRAY sits across from EVIL DUDE. Under the table, each holds a gun on the other. They have a discussion about belief in God. In voiceover, Cray contemplates how he got here.

At the lobby bar of the Daku Hotel, Cray gets a drink and pretends to flirt with HOTTIE. A man named DUTCH hovers near an elevator. When middle-aged Japanese businessman TANAKA—who has a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist—emerges from the elevator, Cray calls on his cell phone to activate a bomb in Tanaka’s SUV. As everyone in Cray’s crew places “demon Oni masks” over their faces and preps for the explosion, six-year-old LILY, Tanaka’s granddaughter, steps out of the elevator. Cray tries to abort, but before anybody can react, the SUV explodes.

Back in the diner, Evil Dude tells Cray about a Japanese fable. As he rambles about it, the fable is visualized using a combination of modern and ancient images. A dragon is pretending to be a little girl’s grandfather, but she realizes this because of a keen intellect provided by following the seven laws of Bushido. Evil Dude asks if Cray is familiar with the seven laws. With a white flash, an animated sequence displays the first law: LOYALTY.

At a suburban house, Cray mows his lawn. He is promptly beaten up by TIX, a “big, ripped black dude wearing a sundress,” and Dutch, a gargantuan pedophile recently released from prison. They say he owes money to someone called “The Wizard,” and as they beat him down, a mysterious Prius containing two hidden occupants sits beside the street. As Cray lay, bloody and beaten, a pink-haired Japanese woman (SOFI) appears in front of him.

At a nightclub he owns, Cray talks on the phone to “The Wizard.” He proposes a solution to the financial problem. Cray goes to meet Tix and Hottie at a different nightclub, where they take him back to an atrium where “The Wizard” stands on a scissor-lift, feeding giraffes. They explain pleasantries, and THE WIZARD descends, revealing himself to be a dwarf. In the Wizard’s office, with Dutch and a photo-snapping SKATER PUNK in attendance, Cray describes his plan. Tanaka, it seems, has created a process that will manufacture fake diamonds indistinguishable from the real thing. He’ll be in the U.S. for one night only, with the diamonds in tow, and Cray and this group will hit him and his men at the Daku Hotel.

Cray meets Sofi at a bar, where it’s revealed that she is a heroin addict going through withdrawals.

At the Daku Hotel heist, after the SUV explosion, Dutch goes crazy and starts shooting at everyone and everything, turning the place into a war zone. While everyone’s engaged in gunplay, Dutch cuts off Tanaka’s hand to get the briefcase handcuffed to it. Just before he can kill Lily, Cray scoops her up and shoots Dutch, casuing him to drop the briefcase of diamonds. Lily stabs Cray with a plastic bracelet and gets away from him. As the cops approach, Cray has to get out of there. He meets up with Sofi at a motel and gives her the bad news: they have Lily. She cleans up her cuts and they take a shower together.

Cray confronts The Wizard and his crew at an upscale French restaurant. The Wizard is angry about the lack of diamonds. Cray is angry about Lily. HOTTIE #2, a plastic-surgeried clone of Hottie, introduces herself and plays a DVD on which Cray’s face is superimposed over Dutch’s during the Daku Hotel massacre. The Wizard says he’ll release it to the police if he doesn’t get the diamonds. Evil Dude joins the party, bring The Wizard a cell phone on which Tanaka threatens The Wizard, giving him 24 hours to return his “property” and the little girl.

Cray, Tix, and Dutch go to the motel where Sofi’s staying. Cray ambushes them, shoots Tix dead, wounds Dutch. Fade to another animated Bushido title: HONOR.

Sofi, we discover, was recently a Nobel-worthy scientist lecturing at the University of Tokyo. She meets with a hired mercenary called USAGI, who agrees to take on an unknown assignment. After her lecture, she dyes her hair pink and gets packed for an unknown trip. Usagi goes to speak with Lily, who turns out to be Sofi’s daughter. He tells her they’re going to America, but before they have a chance to really bond, Tanaka, Evil Dude, and some thugs burst into Sofi’s apartment. Usagi tries to fight, but he ends up getting mortally shot as Tanaka and Evil Dude grab Lily and disappear.

Sitting in the Prius, Sofi watches Cray get beat up on the lawn of his suburban house. After they leave, she helps Cray and takes him back to her motel room. She offers him $1 million, presumably to do the heist at the Daku Hotel and get Lily back.

Post-motel-ambush, Cray joins Sofi with Dutch’s wounded body. She explains that she has been working on a new technology for her father—a kind of mind-swapping technology that she can use to implant Cray’s mind into Dutch and vice-versa. With Cray’s mind now in Dutch’s body, he infiltrates The Wizard’s operation. He tries to encourage The Wizard to do an exchange with “Cray”: the diamonds for the girl. The Wizard admits he doesn’t have the girl and tells Cray to go see BINGUM and JONESY, two crooked cops, and show him their doctored video to get a favor.

Bingum and Jonesy have an operation to lace heroin in Blow-Pops to ensure children will be addicted by the time they reach high school. This offends Dutch so much, he ends up killing them both. Forced to alter their plan because of Evil Dude’s time limit, Dutch and Hottie go to see Evil Dude. Dutch asks for an extension, and Evil Dude agrees and gives them a mysterious package to deliver to The Wizard. On their way back to The Wizard, Dutch asks Hottie to stop so he can use the restroom. He takes a very long time, so Hottie goes after him. He ambushes her, they fight, and Dutch takes her back to Sofi to use the mind-swapping technology on Hottie, because she has mortally wounded Dutch’s body.

Now in the body of Hottie, Cray takes the package to The Wizard. It’s a laptop that, when turned on, displays an exact duplicate of The Wizard’s office, including The Wizard. When the real Wizard talks to it, the laptop version talks back. According to the second Wizard, The Wizard does have Lily, and Tanaka wants her back. Just then, Hottie #2 calls to inform The Wizard that Carl, the Skater Punk seen earlier, has Lily. He demands payment for her, so The Wizard says to kill him. Hottie disappears to find Hottie #2. When he does, they have a lesbian tryst, then Hottie #2 pulls a gun on him because Hottie “eats pussy like a dude.” Hottie kills her, then invites Sofi over to see Lily.

Sofi goes to a large corporation and demands that a receptionist send a company-wide e-mail. On the roof, a mysterious corporate MAN meets Hottie. Hottie proposes a trade—$20 million in exchange for all of Tanaka’s corporate secrets. The Man is aloof, but he agrees. Meanwhile, “Cray” shows up to offer another deal to The Wizard.

When Hottie and Sofi meet back at the motel, she’s surprised to find that Cray’s body, the research, and everything else in her possession is gone. Hottie tells Sofi to go back to the loft to be with Lily. Hottie spies on The Wizard and sees “Cray” dealing with The Wizard. She sneaks into The Wizard’s office and steals “Cray”‘s keys. They match a Ferrari, inside of which Hottie finds the body of Evil Dude—he’s the one who’s now in Cray.

Hottie meets up with Sofi again and discovers Tanaka’s mind is in Lily’s body. Another title: COURAGE. Cray’s brain is now in Evil Dude’s body. He tells Sofi to get out of there because Cray knows where they are. Evil Dude calls up Cray, who is dismayed to find Cray now occupies his body. But he’s okay with it because he has Sofi, and if Evil Dude wants to see Sofi alive again, he’ll switch bodies back. Evil Dude wants to meet up, he says, or else he’ll kill Tanaka-in-Lily. Cray doesn’t believe he’d do that, but to prove he’s serious about Sofi, Cray rapes her, shoots her in the head, and sends Evil Dude the photos. Enraged and horrified, Evil Dude tells Cray he just lost his only bargaining chip.

Evil Dude discovers Lily’s mind in the body of a random henchman, but he traps Tanaka’s mind inside the computer. In the time this has taken, Cray has shown up at Evil Dude’s penthouse and opens fire on them. Evil Dude runs away. Later on, he calls up Cray and proposes yet another trade. With no leverage other than their respective lack of bodies, he merely wants to trade back. A final title: JUSTICE.

Fully brought up to speed, we’re back at the diner, with Evil Dude and Cray holding the guns on each other, at a stalemate. A MAN shows up, and Evil Dude hands over the computer containing the mind-swap technology and Tanaka’s mind. As the Man returns to his limo, Evil Dude explains to Cray that the woman he raped and killed wasn’t Sofi—her mind had been transferred to Hottie, who waits in the limo for the Man. Evil Dude also points out, in voiceover as flashbacks reveal the truth of his statement, that Cray—is not his body. He has been Usagi all along, so he does not mind blowing Cray’s body away. The real Cray was actually swapped with a Japanese minion and has retired on a beach.

After this, The Wizard gives Evil Dude $1 million for killing Cray. He goes back to Sofi, and they can happily retire with the money.

Comments:

I’d give this one a pass. The opening sequence creates the illusion that this will be some sort of mix of Fight Club, The Matrix, and any given Yakuza action movie. Although it retains its early veneer of pseudo-philosophical voiceovers and fetishizing Japanese culture, Hyperreal settles into a formulaic shoot-’em-up before turning into an incoherent disaster. It distinguishes itself only through the mind-switching device, but even this lets the writer down.

Trying so hard to keep the secrets of whose mind occupies whose body forces nearly every character to assume a generic role. This doesn’t matter so much with The Wizard’s bland henchmen, but Cray and Sofi have the same problem. He reveals certain facets of these characters, but what do they amount to? Cray’s master-criminal past is much more significant to the story at hand than the fact that he appeared on a reality show and owns a failing nightclub, yet we learn more about these two details than we ever do about Cray’s criminal background. Similarly, Sofi has a heroin addiction that has no bearing on her character or the plot and is all but forgotten by the third act. Providing additional character details like these is fine, but not when he skimps on details that are necessary to make us understand the characters’ actions in the story.

This is not aided by the fact that many of the actions are contradictory, and not solely because sometimes these characters aren’t who they say they are. In retrospect, the whole point of Usagi/Cray hitting Tanaka at the hotel is to get back Lily—yet he acts surprised when she shows up and it seems to wreck his entire plan. If this was supposed to be a “steal the diamonds to use as leverage to get Lily back” plan, that’s never made clear. Late in the script, we’re led to believe it was always about grabbing Lily, so why the surprise? As the story folds in on itself, inconsistencies and contradictions like this appear in abundance, and very few of them are addressed before the story ends.

The mind-switching muddles the overall story much more than it needs to, up to the point of the big Shyamalan-style “It was Usagi all along” twist—somehow he manages the feat of both telegraphing it and masking it so much that some things, like Cray’s pretentious voiceovers in the diner, make no sense. (If it was Usagi all along, shouldn’t Usagi deliver the voiceovers? It would blow the surprise, but it doesn’t make sense any other way.) The writer doesn’t establish a firm set of “rules” for this technology (for instance, the eleventh-hour “trap Tanaka in a computer” decision comes out of nowhere) and relies far too often on red-herring characters for the mind-switching (e.g., Lily’s mind is coincidentally in the body of a henchman we’ve never seen before). Similarly, the nonlinear structure really hurts the story, rather than enhancing it. Each flashback feels like a “gotcha!” cheat instead of startling revelation, and it—combined with the lack of logic with the mind-switching—turns the convoluted gangster story into an incoherent mess.

The writer tries very, very hard to focus the appeal of the screenplay on Westerners obsessed with mindless action and/or Japanese culture. It may appeal to them, but he panders so hard that it might end up alienating them instead. Even if he does, it seems like a relatively niche market, and it doesn’t seem like the type of action movie that would appeal to a broader base.

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The Cross

Author: Andrew Niccol

Genre: Sci-Fi/Drama

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 8

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Weak Consider

Logline:

In the future, citizens of an oppressed country struggle to cross a dangerous border into a land of freedom and opportunity.

Synopsis:

A tiny, hole-in-the-wall border town, at night. YAEGER, the middle-aged head of a group called the Travel Bureau, meets with his organization on a levee at the edge of a wide river. While feigning disinterest, they monitor the progress of a chunk of floating tree trunk bobbing in the water. They aren’t the only ones—AUGUST GIDEON, commander of the border guards, also monitors this tree trunk. Noting it with suspicion, he fires on it, ripping it to shreds. Human blood, from the crosser hiding in the trunk, stains the river.

Dawn. An old bus carrying laborers passes through town. Two of them—MYLAR KLINE and his younger brother, Castro—seek shelter in a boarding house run by VERA, one of the few attractive people in this blighted area. Her eight-year-old son, HECTOR, takes an immediate shine to Mylar—and, once Mylar discovers Hector’s obsession with crossing the border, Mylar returns the affection. Vera explains to Mylar and Castro that they’ve arrived to replace workers killed by a virus. Neither seem pleased by this.

While getting water, Mylar runs into Yaeger, who introduces himself and gives Mylar a sales pitch on his river-crossing services. At the boarding house, Castro hypes up the land across the border with the help of an old photograph of a beautiful woman, supposedly from the opposing country. Mylar shrugs off his brother’s unbridled optimism. The next day, at the factory, Mylar spots Yaeger. Castro puts him off, saying they don’t need any help if they go quickly. Mylar warns him against rushing, but Castro doesn’t want the virus to take him before he has the chance to flee the country.

A guard named FRANCO drops by Vera’s boarding house with a box of fresh strawberries—a rare delicacy in this world—sent from August Gideon. Vera feels uncomfortable taking such an extravagant gift, but Franco fears returning to Gideon, so she gives them away to children of the village.

Later that night, Castro awakens Mylar and insists that they must go now. Outside, Castro shows Mylar a thick fog that masks the river. He’s stolen a polysterene pad from the factory that he intends to use as a raft. Mylar doesn’t believe it’s a good idea, but Castro goes ahead with it. Just before Mylar changes his mind, he spots something in the distance—border guards on boats, using fire to cut apart the fog. Mylar warns Castro, who doesn’t see the boats and refuses to turn around. Mylar goes after him, grabs him, punches him to keep him from continuing to cross. Meanwhile, Gideon and his guards open fire on dozens of other crossers.

As a result of his misguided attempt, Castro has contracted the lethal virus. The infirmary has no serum, but it’s a lost cause, anyway—Castro is gone. Meanwhile, Yaeger and several townspeople and Travel Bureau members gather to watch a fuzzy satellite feed of television from across the border.

Mylar has gotten Castro cremated. Ignoring his own personal safety, Mylar begins climbing the border fence, so he can scatter Castro’s ashes in the direction of the border, hoping that maybe some bits will make it across. He’s grabbed by guards and taken to Gideon. Gideon tortures him by feeding him vile, tainted soil. Townspeople gather to help pump his stomach and clean him up as soon as Gideon lets him free.

Yaeger decides to try to school Mylar in his own border-crossing philosophy, which Mylar shrugs off for two reasons: (1) Yaeger’s still on the wrong side of the border, and (2) “God doesn’t put borders” on his land. At the boarding house, Mylar opens up to Vera a little bit, saying even this crummy border town is where he came from—“earthquake country.” Vera suggests Mylar should take the Travel Bureau a bit more seriously, as they know many, many ways not to cross the border.

At the Travel Board meeting, Yaegar explains the pros and cons of the four known ways to cross the river. Because of the tainted soil, tunneling gives all manner of trouble—worst of all, the fact that it can only bring you to the river, not across it. Flying over it won’t work because nobody has aviation skills and/or the tools and supplies necessary in this backward town. Circumventing the river means going past four other guard outposts and almost certain death. This only leaves going straight across the river, which is as difficult as anything else. It’s the only option that isn’t completely impossible.

Armed with that information, Mylar makes his first legitimate attempt to cross. Exploiting the fact that he’s double-jointed, Mylar crams himself into the casing of a 27″ computer monitor, which is to be shipped across the border. Gideon senses this ruse, however, and catches him in the act. As a result, this time Mylar is forced to eat two buckets of dirt. He takes the opportunity to mention that he has not killed Mylar and will not kill him, because all of his border-crossing antics just strengthen the guards’ ability to anticipate future crossing attempts.

Later, Yaeger complains that Mylar needs to keep the Travel Bureau in the loop so they can help, but Mylar insists that he intends to work alone. Yaeger also confesses Vera’s deep-seated hatred of border-crossing and border guards: her husband, ANGELO, was one of the first to ever try to cross the border by tunneling. He actually made it past the border but was killed shorly thereafter. Reluctantly, Mylar reveals his latest, greatest plan: he’ll swim across the river, under the water so as not to be seen. There’s a slight hitch with his plan, however—the river dries up every year, leaving little more than a bed of sludge from sewage systems on the other side. The river only swells during flash floods in the spring.

One night, the power goes out—a recurring problem in the village that never seems to affect the border station. Enraged, a resident called LEON—who was using a phonograph to help put his baby to sleep—stirs up trouble. Just as the guards intend to react, Mylar approaches and saves Leon’s life by calming him down and asking him to listen to reason. From his tower, Gideon watches, impressed.

Vera’s son, Hector, goes to gather some cans of paint for Mylar, but he collapses—he’s been stricken with the virus. Unable to find any serum, Vera grants Hector’s dying wish. She delivers the paint to Mylar. Mylar uses it to paint the fence. The guards have been confused into thinking Gideon, who is away at another guard station, hired this painter, to the point where they’re actually helping Mylar get across the electrified portions by turning off the juice. Once he’s lulled them into total disinterest, Mylar springs his plan into action. Slowly but surely, he crawls underneath the sewage and sludge, using a breathing tube and nothing else. Just as he’s about to reach one of the waste pipes that will ensure his security, Gideon returns and realizes what has happened. He’s still too late—he can fire off only one round, which may or may not have hit Mylar as he leaps into the pipe.

Terrified for Hector, Vera begs Gideon for help. Unfortunately, he’s as useless as anyone else—he has no serum, either.

Amazingly, Mylar comes back. He bears a secret vial of serum, which he hands off to Vera before the expected torture. Afterward, despondent, Mylar demands to be let alone. He gradually reveals that the new country isn’t any better than the old one if you don’t have papers, if you aren’t a citizen. They caught him, he stole the serum from a soldier, and then they forced him back across the border.

To Mylar’s surprise, Gideon enlists his aid in repairing the River Road. He was an engineer, and since Mylar is so defeated by his border-crossing attempt, he agrees. This pleases none of the townspeople, but Mylar no longer seems to care. While in Gideon’s office, Mylar steals a book titled International Law. Distraught by his apathy, Vera agrees to a dinner date with Gideon. During this date, Mylar reads from the book and discovers something. He subtly passes by the windows of Gideon’s home, catching Vera’s attention but not the commander’s. She cuts the date short.

Mylar explains, first to Vera, then to everyone else, what he’s discovered: the border has always followed the river. If the route of the river changed, so would the border. So if he used the materials to repair the River Road in order to reroute the river onto the path of the road, all of them would be citizens of their neighboring country. Everyone thinks he’s a lunatic, but because of his enthusiasm, they all agree to help.

Gideon is suspicious of their seeming enjoyment of the hard-labor repairing the road. None of the guards understand how they can perform the repairs by digging, instead of using TNT. Mylar claims the explanation is over their head, but really, he’s hoarding the TNT for his plans. When the flash-floods come, he intends to blow the mouth of the river, permanently flooding the road.

Mylar enlists Yaeger’s aid in this mission, and as they prepare the explosives, Yaeger tells Mylar of his heroic attempts to cross the river—but what we see is Yaeger receiving a perfect opportunity to cross but freezing up, becoming too pretrified, until it’s too late. They split up, and Mylar reminds Yaeger of a flashlight signal that they use so Yaeger knows when to blow his half of the TNT.

There’s another hitch in their plans, though—suspicious, Gideon uncovers Yaeger’s stash of dynamite and has one of his lieutenants arrest him. Gideon then seeks out Mylar to prevent him from blowing the stash. The rains come, and a freak bolt of lightning ignites Yaeger’s half of the TNT. This strengthens Mylar’s resolve to blow his own, despite Gideon’s protests that he’s too close, he’ll blow himself up. Mylar’s willing to make the sacrifice—he lights the fuse.

It works like a charm. The road is flooded, and the following morning, soldiers from the other country cross their own fences to secure the new chunk of land. Humiliated, Gideon shoots himself. Meanwhile, both Yaeger and Mylar survived, and Mylar now carries Angelo’s birth certificate as proof that he was born on the right side of the new border.

Comments:

This is a weak consider, at best. It has some noble ambitions and some intriguing ideas about a futuristic dystopia, but The Cross ends up sinking itself (excuse the horrible pun) with its unsubtle attempt to tackle a contemporary hot-button issue through the prism of sci-fi.

The storyline, such as it is, builds some interesting scenarios for the impossible-to-cross river, giving Mylar quite a huge hurdle to overcome. The “let’s blow the river and change the border!” third act twist feels more like a deus ex machina and a waste of potential than anything else. It lacks the invention that this type of script requires—the implausible idea of sticking a double-jointed guy inside a large computer monitor had more cleverness to it, so one would think the final “gotcha!” ending would have more oomph than a river-rerouting. Up until that point, I was willing to overlook the other flaws because this world and some of its characters had intrigued me.

August Gideon’s character is a big problem because, other than his attraction to Vera—which comes across more as a plot device than a character trait—he has very little depth. He’s supposed to be the big villain, the personification of the impossible-to-cross bridge, but there’s no sense of quaking-in-our-boots terror. There’s also no sense of empathy for the idea that maybe he’s just a bureaucrat stuck in a miserable outpost in a country that’s falling apart. We just don’t get enough information about him to care one way or the other—we don’t know him well enough to love him, hate him, or love to hate him. He just exists, and his suicide was a major cop-out that the character, thin as he was, didn’t deserve.

As for the hot-button issue from which the script draws much of its story: I’m all for using the genre of science-fiction to create arm’s-length metaphors for contemporary problems, but this screenplay lacks the subtlety or grace required for a story like this. It’s too clearly drawn from the current strife at the U.S.-Mexico border and what some fear (or hope, depending on their perspective) the border will become, to the point where it should go one of two ways: either make it subtler (like, for instance, giving us a border that isn’t a giant, Rio Grande-esque river) or abandon it altogether and make this about a U.S.-Mexico conflict 50 years in the future. Embrace the potential political controversy, or negate it.

This script will only preach to the choir, which automatically limits the audience. The fact that it’s not an action-oriented science-fiction film will also reduce the potential audience—sci-fi is a great genre for audiences to avoid their personal woes for a couple of hours, but this is not escapist fare. This is a bleak reflection on current affairs that, even if they agree with the politics it preaches, audiences will likely avoid in droves—especially when it doesn’t provide a fair or viable solution to the current problem.

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About the Author

Author: Sebastian Gutierrez

Genre: Comedy

Storyline: 5

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 8

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Weak Consider

Logline:

A promiscuous writer reflects on his life choices when he learns a one-night-stand attempted suicide after he criticized her writing.

Synopsis:

In a dream sequence, we learn that GUSTAVO SERRANO is a world-famous, Nobel Prize-winning author. Gustavo, a 40-year-old Don Juan type, sits on a bed while a half-cat, half-woman does a striptease for him.

Snapping into the waking life, Gustavo is thrust on stage to do a Q&A at a college. It is clear, based on the questions he’s asked and his answers to them, that he is intelligent and articulate in both English and Spanish, although his English is poor enough that he requires the assistance of a translator, SYLVIA, mid-30s and attractive. It also becomes clear, in his responses to certain attractive college girls, that he utilizes his charm and their fascination for his own gain. This becomes clearer when he involves himself in a drug-fueled orgy with three girls from the audience.

Afterward, he has another dream, this one of writer’s block: as he sits down at a typewriter to write, his teeth begin to fall out, one after the other. He is visited by a MASKED WOMAN who interrogates him about his writer’s block and implies that he needs something more fulfilling in his life to allow him to write again. Gustavo wakes up before he can deny it. He sneaks out of the dorm room, where he runs into JUSTINE—another girl from the Q&A, but not a part of the orgy—who sneaks him into her room to keep him from getting caught on the all-girls’ campus. She is not successful, as he’s tossed out by campus security and the Q&A moderator/professor.

That evening, New York Times literary critic EMILY COOPER arrives at Gustavo’s hotel for an interview, but when they ring his room, there is no response. When she goes to the bathroom to freshen up, a faulty faucet sprays water all over her blouse. Shortly thereafter, a waitress spills wine all over it. She finally goes to a gift shop, but all she can find is a cheesy t-shirt. As a last-ditch effort, Emily calls Sylvia, who insists Gustavo should be in his hotel room, but he may have passed out, so she should knock hard.

When Emily arrives at his suite, Gustavo pretends to be the perfect gentleman and perfect host. They begin the interview, and he is pithy and insightful…until Justine walks out of his room and starts blasting MTV and acting, generally, like a brat. To combat the humiliation, when Justine reads the end of a story she had begun reading him earlier, he crushes her with a devastating critique. This causes Emily, angered, to leave.

The next day, Gustavo goes for a photo session with noted photographer GRETA, but they end up sleeping together and getting drunk, leaving Sylvia to pick up the pieces. Although Sylvia has been so frustrated by his behavior she quit the job, she returns later to get Gustavo because Justine swallowed 45 sleeping pills after writing a suicide note that is all about him.

At the hospital, Gustavo and Sylvia learn Justine is comatose and the doctors don’t know whether or not she’ll pull through. When Gustavo catches sight of Justine’s family, he panics and runs away.

In the middle of the night, Gustavo shows up at the home of JULIO LOZANO, a big Latin-American actor starring in a movie based on one of Gustavo’s books. Disconcerted but polite, Julio invites him inside. They discuss Julio’s ability to play the character, and Gustavo is very dismissive, in general, of the idea of making a movie from his books. Julio’s American wife, actress BRIDGET GIBSON, offers Gustavo their guest room. He obliges, and when she politely makes the bed, Gustavo makes several lewd comments about a sleazy movie she did, then starts grabbing her ass. Enraged, she drops him with an elbow to the face, then they call the police and have him dragged away.

Without anyone to turn to, Gustavo calls Emily Cooper—he happens to have her business card. She bails him out, and they go to a trashy motel. Gustavo has another dream, this time of trying to write under the stern discipline of a NUN. He pleads that he doesn’t have to write for her—he’s already an adult who has proven his writing ability. Emily’s in the classroom, too, and they help each other cheat on the writing exam, but the Nun catches them and sends them to MOTHER SUPERIOR (who is played by the same actress as Emily). She offers a magical pen that will allow him to write whatever he wants, as much as he wants, but as soon as he sets the pen down, he’ll never write again.

Gustavo awakens to the sound of gunshots. He gets up to find a bikini-clad Emily behind the motel, shooting a gun for fun. Emily tells Gustavo that Sylvia called her to let them know that Justine’s condition is unchanged. Gustavo admits he feels guilty, but there’s little he can do to change what happened now. He said he considered talking to the parents but opted against it because it would make him feel better, not the parents. Emily disagrees, and she drives Gustavo to Emily’s parents’ house and forces him to try to explain the situation. Justine’s MOTHER will have none of it, and her FATHER threatens him, ends up punching him square in the nose.

Back at the motel, Emily stitches up Gustavo’s nose because he refused to go to an emergency room. Things get a little intense, and he kisses her. At first she resists, but then she kisses back. Soon enough, they make love. Immediately afterward, Gustavo is shocked and horrified because he knows he’s made love to her before—he remembers everyone he’s “been inside of.”

Emily explains that 10 years ago, she and her then-boyfriend went on a vacation where they spent much of their time arguing. By coincidence, Gustavo passes her on the beach because she’s reading his book. His English was much worse back then, so she doesn’t understand him when he says he wrote the book. She tells him her name is Iris, but soon enough she catches sight of the About the Author photo of Gustavo, makes the connection, and decides to spend the night with him. Much of that night is spent talking, getting to know each other, and he’s willing to just leave her at the hotel…but she leaves the door unlocked, so when he comes back (he’s forgotten something), she’s there, waiting for him, and they make love.

Bigger confession: Emily got pregnant that night. She ended up marrying the boyfriend, but both he and the son were killed in a car accident. Later, Gustavo featured “Iris” as a minor character in one of his books, and his insight into her after only one night only continued Emily’s obsession with his work. She wanted to meet Gustavo and interview him to tell him this.

In a tricky dream sequence, it first appears that Gustavo has decided to go to Justine’s room to apologize and make amends with the coma patient, but his mother, AURORA, appears in the room. She complains about death and describes the afterlife as a somewhat boring place. They’re interrupted by two female guards, one of whom pulls out a pistol and shoots at Gustavo. He awakens with a start and discovers the “real” source of the banging—the motel room’s screen door flapping in the wind. Emily is gone, the regular door hangs wide open. He gets up and finds Emily out in the desert, sleepwalking. He brings her back to the room, tucks her in, and makes sure she doesn’t get up again. As she sleeps, he explains that he believes it is special that he’s slept with so many woman but, as far as he knows, she’s the only one he has impregnated.

The next morning, Emily awakens and finds he’s gone. It saddens her. Gustavo has gone to Sylvia’s apartment and is scrubbing her floors and cleaning up to atone. Emily goes to check out, and JEROME, the motel manager, says he’s surprised, that her “boyfriend” paid up already but said she might stay and to keep an eye on her because she sleepwalks. Emily is touched. She goes to her car and finds a note from Gustavo, saying there are things he needs to clean up and fix before he can be with her, but that he’d like to finish their interview, and to find him when she’s ready. At the edge of a beachside cliff, Emily tosses the gun over the edge, then scatters the ashes of her husband and son. Gustavo goes to Julio and Bridget to repair a fence he destroyed during his tussle with the cops.

Gustavo goes to visit Justine, for real this time. He makes his amends, then starts writing, page after page after page, until a NURSE enters and is surprised. She tries to get him to leave, but he needs his pages. Justine’s mother shows up and calls for guards or police. Gustavo slams the door and locks it to keep anyone from getting his pages. Fearing he’s backed himself into a corner, he’s pleased when Justine wakes up, although a bit terrified that it might be another dream. It isn’t, though. Her mother and the police burst in, but Justine won’t let them do anything. Gustavo calls Emily one last time before returning to his native country; he leaves a VoiceMail message.

Two years later, Gustavo is promoting his latest novel, Iris, The Sleepwalker, when Emily shows up to a book signing. She has a new baby—his baby, again. Gustavo is finally ready to own up to this.

Comments:

This is a possible consider, flawed in many ways but interesting. The writer presents some vivid, mostly well-rounded characters. The dialogue is fairly witty despite feeling redundant in many places (especially earlier on). Its biggest flaw is a weak storyline that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, but then when it gets moving it has to kick into overdrive because so much time has been wasted.

Essentially, the first 45 pages could be condensed to about 10-15 without losing much. All the writer does here is establish and reestablish (1) Gustavo is intelligent, articulate, and witty, (2) he uses these strengths almost solely to sleep with young women, (3) he’s suffering from writer’s block, and (4) Sylvia is frustrated with his antics. We know all of these things by page 10, but it just keeps going, with more sex and drugs, more of Gustavo’s witty banter, more of Sylvia being annoyed. The real story doesn’t even start until the one-two punch of meeting Emily and Justine swallowing the pills. Introduce that earlier, condense everything else, and the story of Gustavo and Emily will have more room to breathe and feel a bit more organic and less rushed in its quest for the finish line.

But wait—what finish line? Nothing really drives Gustavo. He has those intermittent dreams implying, subconsciously, that he’s ready for a change, but he doesn’t do anything about this until the third act. There’s nothing really driving this narrative, even after the pill-swallowing that starts Gustavo on this sad journey. He doesn’t have any clear goals, doesn’t seem to care about angering or offending anyone. What happens to Justine makes him pause for reflection, but even then he doesn’t say or do much about it until Emily takes control of the situation. Once again, condensing and eliminating will help—the best material in this script is the relationship between Gustavo and Emily, so giving us more of that sooner will give this story more direction.

It’s a take on romantic comedies that we don’t see much lately—bleak introspection. Maybe it’s enough to reinvigorate the genre, but Gustavo’s rampant sexism might be a tough-sell for women, while the very idea of a romantic comedy might put off men who might relate to the character. Since Emily’s the one who really takes charge of the story, it might be best to tell this story from her point of view—after all, it’s as much her story as his—so that it doesn’t alienate the female audience

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