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Posts in Category: Script Reviews

Script Review: Jennifer’s Body by Diablo Cody

It might surprise you to learn I didn’t hate Jennifer’s Body. I didn’t like it much, either, but it manages to eschew most of Juno‘s more egregious problems with its legitimate fantastical setting (as opposed to Juno‘s “people are accusing us of offering an irresponsible message, so we’re calling it a fantasy” fantastical setting). It also, despite its problems, doesn’t try to forget or ignore where the story should naturally head in favor of a sloppy, forced happy ending. It’s sloppy and forced in other areas, to be sure, and its ending is unremarkable, but Jennifer’s Body knows its role and, for the most part, lives up to it.

Here’s a brief outline of the story: plain-jane Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (I am not making up that name) is 17 and institutionalized. In voiceover, she suggests that we ought to know how she ended up in the nuthouse, which flashes back to her killing her best friend, the once-beautiful Jennifer Check who has now become some sort of unknown monster. Jennifer’s mother catches Needy in the act; she’s arrested and, eventually, hauled into the nuthouse. Of note is a song—a “soaring rock anthem”—which places twice during this opening sequence—once when Needy is dragged into solitary confinement, and again during the flashback where she’s arrested.

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Black List 2008

Say, these aren’t the best scripts. They’re just the “most liked.” Because why would anyone like the best scripts the most? That’s crazy talk!

I’ve made the bold decision to cover the top ten on this blog over the course of the next two weeks—one a day, starting with The Beaver, ending with Our Brand Is Crisis. This schedule assumes, of course, that these scripts don’t disillusion or enrage me to such a degree that I give up on life altogether.

THE BLACK LIST was compiled from the suggestions of over 250 film executives, each of whom contributed the names of up to ten of their favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2008 and will not be released in theaters during this calendar year.

This year, scripts had to receive at least four mentions to be included on THE BLACK LIST. All reasonable effort has been made to confirm the information contained herein. THE BLACK LIST apologizes for all misspellings, misattributions, incorrect representation identification, and questionable “2008” affiliations.

It has been said many times, but it’s worth repeating:

THE BLACK LIST is not a “best of” list. It is, at best, a “most liked” list.

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Black List Script #1 – The Beaver by Kyle Killen

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A depressed man finds hope in a beaver puppet that he wears on his hand.”

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THE BEAVER, in voiceover, introduces us to WALTER BLACK, mid-40s, a depressed man at the end of his rope. Appointed to CEO of a toy company—a position well beyond his abilities—he’s led the company to the verge of bankruptcy, his youngest son (HENRY, 8) is depressed and withdrawn himself, his oldest son (PORTER, 18, “emo kid”) wishes his parents would divorce, and his wife (MEREDITH, late 30s) spends much of her time weeping openly. Now, The Beaver continues to explain, Meredith is at the end of her rope and has finally taken it upon herself to throw Walter out.

At school, jock JARED tries to convince Porter to write papers for him. Porter explains that it’s a gradual process of building the grade up over a series of weeks, so he’ll only help Jared if he commits for the long haul. Jared reluctantly agrees and pays him. NORAH, a good-looking cheerleader, approaches Porter for roughly the same reason. Porter’s surprised because, academically, she’s smarter than he is. Norah says she needs help writing her valedictory speech.

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Black List Script #2 – The Oranges by Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A man has a romantic relationship with the daughter of a family friend, which turns their lives upside down.”

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[Removed by request.]

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Black List Script #3 – Butter by Jason Micallef

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A small town becomes a center for controversy and jealousy as its annual butter carving contest begins.”

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Dueling voiceovers introduce us to the two main characters, LAURA PICKLER (40s, shrill, trophy wife) and DESTINY (12, black, orphaned). Laura narrates the story of her husband’s success. For the past 15 years, BOB PICKLER has won the blue ribbon in the butter-carving competition at the Iowa State Fair. His most recent sculpture was a life-size take on Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Destiny narrates the story of her struggles in the foster-care system, which has led her to a number of bad parents. After visiting the butter-carving display, Destiny goes to a nearby 7-Eleven to buy a stick of butter. She takes it back to the Last Supper display and carves a perfect replica of Jesus’ chalice. Bob notices this and is genuinely impressed by her talent.

Destiny is introduced to a new set of foster parents, yuppies ETHAN and JILL. They awkwardly introduce Destiny to her new home. At the State Fair butter gala, committee judge ORVAL ANDERSON makes a jokey speech, then plays a video tribute to Bob Pickler. He congratulates Bob on 15 years of wonderful service to this art form. After bedtime, Destiny sneaks to the beautiful, modern kitchen and searches the refrigerator for butter. All she finds is soy spread. After the speechmaking section of the gala, Orval approaches Bob and Laura. He gracelessly suggests that Bob should step down and let someone else have a chance to win. Bob’s fine with it, but Laura is not, so Orval has to put his foot down and ban Bob from competing.

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Black List Script #4 – Big Hole by Michael Gilio

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “An old cowboy goes on a mission to recover his money after a million dollar sweepstakes scam cleans out his entire bank account.”

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FRANCIS LEE, SR. (78), is a curmudgeonly old Montana ranch owner with a simple ritual: on the first of each month, MAYA (30s, Blackfoot Indian) comes to clean his house and take him into town. In Glass Valley, Lee gets a trim at Dutch’s Barbershop, picks up his prescriptions and buys his groceries from the Cole Mercantile, does his banking at Wachovia, and has lunch at a restaurant called the Steak Knife. His lunch has a ritual of its own: the waitress brings him a thick, juicy steak and a plate of French fries. He cuts up the steak, savors the juices, and spits out each piece, then sucks the salt off the French fries.

In September, the routine goes off without a hitch, despite the minor irritation of DEAN (Dutch’s technophile son) acting like an idiot, young bank teller LORETTA ignoring him as he philosophizes, elderly checkout clerk ALMA griping that the Cole Mercantile is struggling against a competing warehouse store, and seeing HECK—a mysterious man who once knew Lee very well—at the Steak Knife. Also, Maya gets stuck behind a long freight train and is late picking Lee up. Irritated, Lee threatens to fire her. Maya acts like this is a normal thing and pays it no mind.

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Black List Script #5 – The Low Dweller by Brad Ingelsby

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A man trying to assimilate into society after being released from jail discovers that someone from his past is out to settle a score.”

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CHARLIE “SLIM” HENDRICK (late 20s), identified in the script as the low dweller of the title, wakes up disheveled, under a tree on a summer night. Sheriff’s deputies, led by MULBY NOLAN (late 20s), tries to get the disoriented Slim to talk. When he doesn’t, Nolan cuffs Slim.

FOUR YEARS LATER. 1986. LOWLANDS. SOUTHERN INDIANA.

Slim is released from prison. He walks to a roadside diner, where the owner automatically knows the story—anyone passing through this town on foot could only come from one place. The owner invites a fat trucker to give Slim a ride into nearby Easton. Slim refuses it. He makes the 23-mile walk into Easton and arrives at his brother’s home. CORMAC, Slim’s younger brother, lies in bed next to an obese girl when Slim shows up. Cormac welcomes his brother home by yelling for him to shut the bedroom door.

A month later, Slim is working a farm. He asks the owner for more hours. He goes home to Cormac’s, offers to go out with him for a burger. Cormac tells him he already ate, so Slim goes alone. He eats in silence at a tavern frequented by local day-laborers. Days later, Slim goes to a restaurant, Jilly’s, run by JOHN O’RILEY (60s, also the local bookie), and asks where Cormac is and “who did it.” Cormac got his ass kicked over a woman, and he lies in a bloodied heap out back. After taking a look at him, John warns Slim that Cormac changed when Slim “left,” and also that he’s into John for a lot of money. Slim offers to pay half in a few days, which John grudgingly accepts.

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Black List Script #6 – Fuckbuddies (a.k.a., No Strings Attached) by Liz Meriwether

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A guy and a girl struggle to have an exclusively sexual relationship as they both come to realize they want much more.”

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EMMA FRANKLIN and ADAM KURTZMAN lie in bed together, discussing the word “fuckbuddies” and trying to find an alternative to it.

In 1994, a group of 13-year-olds at summer camp sneak to watch the girls dance—specifically, the one girl in the group whose recently developed breasts bounce with each movement. Adam is among them, but he’s not looking at this girl—he’s looking at Emma, tall and scrawny. He asks her if she wants to “freak.” Moments later, they’re freaking to TLC’s “No Scrubs.” Emma doesn’t understand the song lyrics, so Adam attempts to explain in a faux-black patois. Annoyed by the noise from other campers, Emma invites Adam to “the Dumpster.” Adam’s surprised. We discover this is a mysterious make-out spot because of the moderate privacy it affords. Adam and Emma talk about themselves—Emma’s “life is pretty fucked up,” Adam’s parents are getting divorced, Emma believes marriage is bad and that people aren’t meant to be together forever. A couple of other campers ask for their spot since they aren’t even making out. Instead of leaving, they make out, which causes Adam to cry. Emma’s not very sensitive to the situation.

In 2001, Adam is at a University of Michigan frat party with his friends SCOTTIE (athletic) and ELI (unknown). Adam makes out with his girlfriend, VANESSA. When she goes to get a beer, Eli gripes that Adam’s never going to have sex with Vanessa. Adam doesn’t mind. Eli observes that Scottie, who’s dancing shirtless, has a gay nipple. This prompts Eli to mention that he was raised by two gay dads and he’s proud of them. Adam catches sight of a girl walking into the party—it’s Emma. He hasn’t seen her since camp. Adam approaches her, and she knows exactly who she is and where they met, immediately. Surprised to see her, Adam asks if she goes to the school. Emma says she goes to MIT but grew up in nearby Ypsilanti.

Adam and Emma flirt with each other until Emma asks if he has a girlfriend. Adam points out Vanessa, whom Emma describes as “fat” and having a “McDonald’s face.” She asks why Vanessa won’t sleep with him; Adam is surprised she guessed that but denies it. Adam’s baffled, but Emma explains she’s pre-med and is, therefore, comfortable talking about the human body. Also, she’s kind of a slut, so she knows a lot about the genitalia in particular. Adam reluctantly confides that he and Vanessa are waiting until they’re ready. Emma doesn’t understand this logic. They go out to her car and have sex. In the midst of it, Adam feels a little uncomfortable about cheating on his girlfriend. He starts to ramble, so she gives him his pants back.

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Black List Script #7 – Winter’s Discontent by Paul Fruchbom

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “When Herb Winter’s wife of fifty years dies, the faithful but sexually frustrated widower moves into a retirement community to start living the swinging single life.”

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On HERB WINTER’s 75th birthday, he attends his wife’s funeral. In voiceover, he gripes that, while he maybe didn’t want her to die, he hasn’t had sex in decades. He’s been faithful, but now it’s time to get some. At the wake, Herb talks to mourners and his best friend JULES ROSENBAUM, described as “a Jewish Mister Rogers.” Throughout his conversation, voiceover continues, providing ironic commentary to the relatively innocuous things Herb says. (This device continues intermittently throughout the script.) Herb bugs Jules for details on Spruce Gardens, a retirement community with a 4:1 woman:man ratio. Jules sarcastically plays it off and grumbles about Herb’s lack of compassion for his own wife. CHERYL (40s), Herb’s good-looking real estate agent, approaches, and Herb thinks lewd things while discussing the sale of his home.

When Herb arrives at Spruce Gardens, KATE BENTLEY (late 50s) gives him a grand tour. She shows Herb the music room and asks if he plays an instrument. Herb tells her piano, years ago. She shows him the gym and asks if he works out; Herb says he hasn’t since he served in Korea. Kate says her dad was in Korea, which stings Herb. WANDA NEWTON (70s) walks by, “eye-fucking” Herb as she passes. Kate asks what Herb used to do for a living; Herb sold typewriters, and not very well. Kate suggests it was a good fit—piano and typing.

Later, in the cafeteria, Herb tries to discuss all the feminine potential at Spruce Gardens, but Jules has no interest. Instead, Herb finds like minds in ELMER WILLIAMS and CHARLIE HASSELBACK, longtime residents who have a good thing going with the women at Spruce Gardens. They immediately welcome Herb to the fold, as they discuss fond wartime memories of women. Elmer and Charlie give Herb the lay of the land, describing each woman and her foibles. Herb’s really interested in Kate, but the others believe she’s too young—there’s no way she’ll give him the time of day. Herb asks who he should approach instead. They ask how long it’s been since he’s had sex. Herb can’t even remember. Elmer and Charlie suggest Wanda Newton.

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Black List Script #8 – Broken City by Brian Tucker

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A New York private investigator gets sucked into a shady mayoral election.”

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At the Bolton Village housing project, Detective BILLY TAGGART (mid-30s) stands over the dead body of a 16-year-old kid, MIKEY TAVAREZ, who has been shot in the head. Sirens approach. Some time later, Taggart’s murder trial has become a zoo, the courthouse steps flooded with protesters and media. Mayor NICHOLAS HOSTETLER, 50s, discusses the possible outcome with police chief COLIN FAIRBANKS. Fairbanks tells Hostetler a witness came forward with a videotape of the shooting. Hostetler wants a copy, which Fairbanks says will arrive later; meanwhile, the original is being “misplaced” in evidence control. Billy’s verdict comes back innocent, and as he descends the courtroom steps, Billy hands his badge to Mikey Tavarez’s father.

Eight years later, Billy is bathing with his attractive, long-time girlfriend, NATALIE BARROW. She’s an actress and is flirting with the idea of moving to L.A. to pursue more lucrative work. Billy’s willing to go with her, but he’s concerned about how quickly these changes are coming. He offers to fool around; Natalie tells him no. The next morning, the media is buzzing with news that the city has sold the Bolton Village project to “Solstein Donagan” for $6 billion. HENRY LUDLOW, a convicted stalker, rejoices at an early release. Others involved in the parole hearing console Billy, who testified to keep Henry in prison.

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