Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Premise: A ragtag group of rebels attempt to steal the plans to the biggest weapon in the galaxy.
About: Rogue One is the first movie in the “standalone” Star Wars universe. Its production struggles have been well-documented, as over 40% of the film was reshot. Look no further than the first trailer for Rogue One to see how bad it got. Barely anything we see in that first trailer is in the final film. The film was directed by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and comes out… TODAY!
Writers: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (story by John Knoll and Gar Whitta) (based on characters by George Lucas)
Details: 2 hours and 13 minutes

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I’ll get right to it.

I was so disappointed by Rogue One that I considered not writing this review.

I thought this movie would at least be decent. Most of the people I trust online liked it. But everyone seems to be wearing their Star Wars goggles (Star Wars Goggles is a phenomenon by which you love a Star Wars movie right after you see it, then several months later realize you hate it).

I’m struggling, ten hours later, to find anything that I liked.

Everything about this film was either bad or weird. And the only times it felt anything like a Star Wars movie was when it cross-referenced the other films.

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW!!!

For those who don’t know anything about the plot, the infamous Death Star’s killer planet ray was created by a dude who hated what he was doing so much, he built a secret flaw in the system that would allow anyone who knew about it to blow the whole thing up. The Rebel Alliance recruits the man’s daughter, now a criminal, to find her father and retrieve those plans. She, in turn, teams up with a rag-tag group of nasty dudes to go perform the mission.

It’s a pretty good plot, to be honest. So where does it go wrong?

The characters. Oh my God, the characters.

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Jyn Erso – Easily the least charismatic lead character in any Star Wars movie. And that’s hard to pull off when you’re competing against the prequels. Holy shit was this character boring. She just looked angry a lot of the time. We don’t need to look further to know why this movie failed. If your lead character isn’t interesting. If we don’t care whether they succeed or not, the most adept screenwriting plotter in the world can’t save the film. I felt 1000 times more emotional watching William Wallace (an obvious inspiration) lose his father as a kid than I did Jyn Erso cradling her dead father. And I’d known William Wallace’s character for one scene. Boring boring boring boring. People can hate on Rey. But one thing Rey was not was boring.

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Cassian Andor – So we’ve at least gotten the worst character out of the way, right. Nope! There’s a character who’s, somehow, even more boring! Cassian Andor! I think this guy was supposed to be the Han Solo of the group, but here’s the problem. He had no wit and no charm. Like most characters in this movie, he kept his thoughts close to the vest which meant we never got a chance to know or care about him. This is the problem when everyone has a secret motive, is we don’t get to know them as people. And if we don’t know them, we don’t care about them.

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Bodhi Rook – Okay, phew. We’re done with the scathing character assassinations, right? I mean, it can’t get worse than that. Oh no, it can get worse. It can get so very worse. I am officially announcing Bodhi Rook as the second most annoying character in the Star Wars universe behind Jar Jar Binks. WHAT THE FUCK WAS GOING ON WITH THIS CHARACTER? Half the time he was mumbling to himself. The other half he had to be told to do something eight times before he understood it. Riz Ahmed better thank his lucky stars that The Night Of came out this year. Or there’s a good chance this role would’ve ended his career.

So did I like anyone? Yeah, Ben Mendelsohn was solid as Orson Krennic. Donnie Yen was cool as a blind dude with Jedi aspirations. And K-2SO was good with a few funny lines. But it was like using the Chicago Fire to roast marshmallows. Are these performances really that tasty when the rest of the movie is burning down all around you?

And don’t get me started on the special effects. There hasn’t been a moment I’ve felt more uncomfortable during a movie all year than when General Tarkin’s CGI character appeared. He looked and moved so robotically, it was like I was transferred back to 2002 CGI. This is Star Wars. There isn’t a production that has better resources in the special effects department. Hell, Star Wars CREATED the special effects industry. And this is what they give us??? Some video game CGI character that takes us right out of every scene he’s in?

Then there’s Vader.

No.

Just no.

Everything about Vader in this movie sucked. Meeting Vader on his nerdy Lava Hideout (an early iteration of Vader’s home that previous Star Wars teams scrapped because it was so dorky) for a scene that made no sense other than to… well, have a Vader scene. And then, to resort to giving Vader a 1980s Arnold Scwartzennegar zinger???? “Make sure not to choke on your aspirations?” It was cringe-worthy to the millionth degree. I felt like I was watching two 12 year old’s rendition of what a new Darth Vader scene should look like.

And then in the end, we get this Vader song and dance kill a bunch of people in a hallway scene that WAS THE MOST UNNECESSARY SCENE IN THE MOVIE. Not only does it show that the writers don’t understand why Vader is cool (Vader is cool cause he’s stoic), but think about this for a second. If you’re a kid who’s never seen a Star Wars movie, and you’re watching this film, you’d be like, “Why is that guy in the dark suit who was in one pointless scene all of a sudden the star of this ending?”

Then there was the score.

What the hell did this new guy do to the Star Wars score???? He turned it into one of those scores you hear in Star Wars parody videos where it’s clear they didn’t get the rights to the music. So they changed up the second half of the chords to stay out of legal trouble. That’s what Micahel Guggianico’s entire score felt like. You kept waiting for the iconic melody and it never came. It was like bad sex. Never any climax.

And I don’t usually talk about score cause I don’t know shit about it. But there is no franchise more tied to its score than Star Wars. Maybe after a second viewing I could appreciate it more. A lot of good music tends to grow on you. But honestly? I don’t know if I’m going to watch this again. And you’re talking to someone who’s watched every Star Wars movie at least five times (even the prequels!).

Is there anything, ANYTHING, that I liked here? Let’s see. I thought Jedha was a cool idea. That was one of the better sequences. And I thought the tropical island location was a fresh way to explore a Star Wars battle.

But you know what bothered me? This plot was BEGGING our characters to sneak onto the Death Star, yet they never go there! Think about it. The original Star Wars was limited in its ability to explore the Death Star due to budget. This movie could’ve explored the intricacies of the Death Star on a whole new level. The most iconic villain lair of them all. Yet we never go there. It was an odd choice to say the least.

Rogue One helped me better understand why Star Wars worked. Star Wars was a simple story about a boy with big dreams. It’s so relatable. All this shit about “STAR WARS MUST BE DARK” is a big part of why this movie failed. All the characters were rebels and resistors. There was no purity, no one truly good to get behind.

It resulted in a beautiful to look at film with no soul.

[ ] What the hell did I just watch?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: If your main character is boring, you’re fucked. Plain and simple. And let’s go further than that. If the bulk of your main character’s personality is introverted, it’s hard for that character to stand out. You can only have a character stare out forlorn for so long before we get sick of them.

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There’s a famous line in Star Wars that was the general audience’s introduction into the power of backstory. It was uttered by Luke Skywalker. “You fought in the Clone Wars?”

The Clone Wars, all of us Star Wars fans marveled. What the fuck are those and how do I learn more?

You see, backstory is, in many ways, just as important as present story. Not for the audience. But for you, the writer. The more you know about the past, the more it will inform the present. And it lends itself to lines like that, which imply a bigger broader story, one that existed before, and will exist after, the story you’re telling. It’s sort of like a hack that makes movies feel more like real life.

Let me give you another example. Let’s say I’m writing a robbery scene. In the scene, a couple robs a home. Specifically, they’re looking for jewelry. As Kim Kardashian’s Paris heist taught us, jewelry’s got a ton of value yet it’s very portable. I want you to imagine this scene in your head. Go ahead, stop reading the article and play it out. How does it look?

I’m guessing generic. The couple pops into the house, looks for the bedroom where the jewelry is most likely to be, encounters a few obstacles. Maybe the family even comes home during the robbery and the couple has to escape without being noticed.

An okay scene. But now let’s start applying backstory. Let’s figure out what’s going on with this couple. Maybe the woman has been pressing the man to propose for awhile but he won’t do it. It’s a sore spot in the relationship.

Now let’s send them back into the house. This time, however, when the woman is rummaging through the jewelry, she comes across this gorgeous engagement ring. In the previous scene iteration, this ring means nothing. But now, with backstory added, it’s a reminder of what she wants and doesn’t have.

You could take this in a number of directions. It could spark an argument between the couple. It could be the “aha” moment she needs to realize what her life has become – following around a loser, robbing houses, when he won’t even commit to her. Maybe she walks out right then and there. Or it could be like the Clone Wars line – a simple peek into the past. She picks up the ring, stares at it, we see a sadness in her eyes, and that’s it. She throws it in the bag and keeps going.

However you look at it, backstory is now working for you. And again, this is just one tiny example. We didn’t get into the guy’s backstory. Why he’s robbing houses. What he needs the money for. That backstory would inform the scene as well.

And if you’re a real backstory junkie, you could think about who lives at this house and figure out THEIR backstory. That’s right. I’m encouraging you to create backstory for a character we don’t even meet!

What if, for example, they discover that the owner of the house has terabytes of child porn. What began as a routine robbery now becomes something much bigger. What if this man was rich and our couple realized there was a bigger payday at play here? They could use the child porn to blackmail the home owner.

The power of backstory! Just learning a few things about the past has already made this scene much better.

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But let’s get back to our featured player – Rogue One – because it’s one of the more elaborate examples of backstory working for the present story.

The original Star Wars starts with a Rebel ship that has just stolen the plans to a super weapon. Now the amateur screenwriter knows the barest number of details that allow him to get this opening scene up and running. He doesn’t know what this ship was doing five minutes before he cut it on it. And he definitely doesn’t know what the characters were going through an hour ago. He focuses only on the here and now, and, as a result, he writes a scene that’s very static, very predictable. There can’t be any surprises if one doesn’t understand the specific events that got us here.

George Lucas, however, who we know tirelessly slaved over this story – he knows everything that went on before the Empire caught up with the Rebel ship. And it’s what helped inform Star Wars and make it one of the most specific science-fiction stories ever.

Am I saying that George knew every story beat that occurred in Rogue One before he wrote Star Wars. No. Am I saying he knew that Jyn Erso led the charge? No. Obviously, they had to change a lot of details from George’s notes to make Rogue One a standalone movie (and not just backstory). But you can bet a sandtrooper’s bottom that George knew how those plans were stolen and how they got to the point where the Empire was chasing them.

But this brings up a compelling question. When should backstory be relegated to backstory? And when should backstory be part of the present story? When should we see it? The answer to that question comes down to a few factors.

Is the backstory compelling, dramatic, or exciting? If so, it might be worth it to find a way to place it in the current story. In doing the backstory for Hoth (the ice planet in Empire Strikes Back), Lucas may have discovered that it was once heavily populated with Wampas (giant snow monsters). That’s cool! So it would make sense, then, to find a storyline where you could use a Wampa (and they do, as one kidnaps Luke).

Does it screw with the fluidity of the story? If it does, it may not be worth it. Star Wars could’ve technically began with the stealing of the Death Star plans. Would it have worked? Maybe. But it’s a little cleaner to start on the ship that’s just escaped. The Clone Wars, by comparison, are easy to ditch. They would’ve required us to start the movie 20 years prior before making an odd cut to the present. Talk about screwing with fluidity. It should be noted, however, that Rogue One starts 20 years in the past, setting up Jyn Erso’s character as a child. So it’s a judgement call. However, fluidity should always be taken into account.

Does the backstory tell us a lot about your character? This is the hardest call to make in regards to backstory. Character is so important and the more you know about someone, the more you care about them. So it’s in your best interest to tell us as much about a character as possible. The problem is, if we’re watching your character dick around for 30 minutes before the story revs into action, we’re going to get bored. So you have to find a balance. Luke’s introduction in Star Wars is one of the braver segments of the film. We stay with this very quiet sequence of a boy stuck on a farm for a long time. Technically, we could’ve introduced him, have him go pick up a droid, come back to find his aunt and uncle dead, and sent him off to Mos Eisley. All that stuff about Luke wanting to leave and join the Rebellion would’ve become backstory. But by seeing that day-to-day inner conflict with our own eyes, it ensured that we fell in love with Luke. On the flip side of that, one of the complaints about Rey in The Force Awakens is that we didn’t know her well enough. And that may have been because Abrams sped us along through her Jakku segment too quickly. He decided to make other parts of her past backstory (indeed, we hear about other Rey-Jakku segments that were cut from the film). So backstory is always a judgement call with character. Try and find a balance.

The last thing I’ll say about backstory is that you don’t want to become too obsessed with it. If you’re focusing so much on backstory that you’re not writing your screenplay, you probably need to stop. When backstory obsession becomes writer’s block, switch over to writing the script. Because, ironically, one of the best ways to find backstory is to write about the present.

Good luck on your backstory journeys. The rest of the day will be my backstory to seeing Rogue One tonight! Review tomorrow!!!

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic
Premise: A library custodian is doing just fine as the last person on earth, until a young woman shows up and ruins everything.
About: This one just popped up on the 2016 Black List. Mike Makowsky has written and produced a lot of short films. But this is his first big breakthrough. The project is currently in pre-production and has one of the cooler casting pairings I’ve seen in awhile – Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning!
Writer: Mike Makowsky
Details: 91 pages

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I’ll be honest. My head is in another place right now. As in, it’s less than 48 hours until my Rogue One viewing. I’ve been watching all the interviews, priming myself for the big moment. I even bought white fudge covered Oreos to eat at the premiere in honor of the snow-monster alien in Rogue One, Moloff. Yes, I have issues.

But we have a job here to do on Scriptshadow. And that’s review scripts. And we have a good one today. It’s one of my favorite genres – the post-apocalypse! So let’s see what newcomer Mike Mokowsky has to say in this well-traveled space.

We meet our hero, Del, walking into a house – a house that clearly isn’t is – and casually removing batteries from every electronic device he can find. Del isn’t burglarizing the place. There isn’t anybody left to burglarize.

Nope.

It’s the apocalypse. And Del is the last person left. But unlike most people post-apocalypse, Del doesn’t sit at home all day and fart around. He works. In fact, he’s taken it upon himself to clear all the dead bodies out of town, clean all the houses, and make everything as sparkling clean as possible.

Oh, and retrieve everyone’s late library books.

You see, Del was a custodian at the town library. He’s a man who appreciates order. And he’s about 75% of the way through making this town great again.

That is, until Grace shows up. Grace is 19 and wants one thing – to fuck! Surprisingly, Del doesn’t want to fuck Grace. In fact, he doesn’t want Grace at all. He wants everything the way it was. Him and this town. Del likes being the only sheriff in Dodge.

Grace can’t believe this. I mean, what red-blooded heterosexual male doesn’t want to go pornhub on a pretty young girl? But Grace quickly realizes that Del isn’t like other red-blooded heterosexuals. Actually, Del isn’t like anybody. All he cares about is order.

But Grace gradually charms her way into Del’s good graces. And Del reluctantly allows her to help him finish cleaning the town. Of course, just when things seem to be going well, some outside forces swoop in to screw it all up. But when those forces threaten to take Grace, will Del even give a damn? Or will he finally realize the importance of human connection?

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I find that these scripts are very hard to write after the initial setup. I mean, every script is hard to write after the setup. But there’s something about the limited character situation of an “all-alone” post-apocalyptic story that hamstrings it after you’ve roped the reader in with the, “Nobody’s around anymore!” hook.

In many ways, then, these screenplays require the best writers to pull them off. When all you have is two characters, you better know how to write characters and dialogue. And luckily for us, Mike does.

For starters, built-into-the-characters conflict helps. The more different you can make your characters, the better. Because when characters see the world differently, when they have different agendas, they’re naturally going to provide good dialogue. Del likes order. Grace loves chaos. Perfect!

It’s a lot harder if characters like each other and everything is going well. Watch any sitcom to see what I mean. When the characters are at odds (Sam and Diane in Cheers), they’re interesting. The second they get to together, they become boring. It happens EVERY SINGLE TIME.

The other benefit of this is that, even without a plot, you have a built-in story engine. It’s not one of the bigger engines (a goal, a mystery, a chase), but it still works. I’m talking about the desire to see your at-odds characters finally come together. This is what they use in Rom-Coms and it can be used in any love story where the characters are at odds with one another. It requires us to like the characters, of course, but luckily, we love the characters in I Think We’re Alone Now.

And that’s where Makowsky really separated himself. I’m going to beat a dead horse here by mentioning this yet again, but: SPECIFICITY. Specificity in character is one of the ways you can tell a pro from an amateur.

This is why I push you guys to write those character bios, those character backstories. Because the more you know about your character’s past, the mores specific you can make them.

Take Del here. I’m guessing that in earlier iterations of the story, Del’s job was something generic. A desk clerk. A supermarket cashier. The kind of thing every writer thinks of within the first 10 minutes of exploring a character.

But by digging deeper and really trying to figure out what Del’s life was like before the apocalypse, Makowsky came up with this “library custodian” idea. And notice how once you have a job that specific, you can inform the entirety of the character’s motivation, and of the movie itself.

What does a custodian do? He cleans. What does Del do during this story? He cleans up the city. He also collects all un-returned library books from the houses. How brilliant is that? Why is it brilliant? Why does it work? Because it’s SPECIFIC. And it’s specific because the writer did the work.

Another thing I want to bring attention to is the idea that you don’t always have to work in absolutes. We have a tendency, as writers, to write to the extremes. And while sometimes that’s good, you don’t ALWAYS want to do it, or else things feel too dramatic, too over-the-top.

Grace comes from a religious family. Her father was a pastor. She watched everyone in the world die one day. Later in the story, Del asks her, “Do you still believe?”

It’s a somewhat innocuous question. But I’ve read so many scripts where the answer would’ve been something like: “I’ve watched everybody on the planet die. Do I think there’s a God? God is fucking dead.” And then the writer builds Grace’s flaw around that. And in the end of the story, she learns to believe again and blah blah blah.

Instead we get this: “I have no idea. I’m in the market if you’ve got anything good.”

It’s such a kind line and it works because it’s truthful. Sometimes we get so caught up in movie logic and the desire to write that big fat juicy line that we forget what the characters would really say. Oftentimes, the quieter more realistic line would’ve painted a more truthful depiction of the moment. It was stuff like this that made this script stand out.

My only issue with “I Think We’re Alone Now” is the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything so seek the script out if you want to find out what happens. But it felt like it came out of left-field – one of those endings where the writer knew he had to go bigger, and it ended up being too jarring, an unnatural extension of what came before it.

With that said, this is great example of strong character work, of strong dialogue, and a great inspiration piece if you ever want to write your own post-apocalyptic screenplay. Check it out!

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: A general understanding of your character is what leads to a generic character. The more specifically you know them, the more specific their character will be.

Genre: Action (sci-fi?)
Premise: (from Black List) A bank teller stuck in his routine discovers he’s a background character in a realistic, open world action-adventure video game and he is the only one capable of saving the city.
About: Matt Lieberman sold this script just a month ago. That helped it finish number 17 on the just-released 2016 Black List, with 15 votes. Lieberman is starting to make a name for himself, with several high-profile projects in play at the major studios. He is currently writing a feature version of The Jetsons.
Writer: Matt Lieberman
Details: 109 pages

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Thomas Middleditch for Guy?

Usually I’ll review the number 1 Black List script right away. But the number 1 Black List script in 2016 is a biopic about Madonna. And to put it bluntly, I’d rather bake myself inside of a pizza oven than read a script about the origin of pointy bras.

It’s not that Madonna doesn’t deserve a biopic. In fact, I’m guessing the script is damn good. But I’m sad that this is what the Black List has become – a list of people re-telling stories about other people. The Black List used to be populated with all these weird original gems. Now it’s “The true story of this” and “The true story of that.”

And you know who we have to blame for this? Us. As long as we keep buying tickets to movies like Sully – wonderful real life stories that have no reason to become movies – then writers will peddle more real-life stories to the studios, since they know that’s what they want. And the studios want them cause you’re paying for them.

It’s like people who complain about Transformers. If you don’t want shit like Transformers, don’t buy tickets to it. Don’t rent it. I guarantee you they’ll stop making Transformers movies.

Luckily, if you go deeper into the Black List, you start to find some originality, and Free Guy was the first script I hit where I went, “Hmmm, that sounds interesting.” Ironically, it’s a story about going against the grain. Something I hope screenwriters will do more of in 2017.

Guy works as a bank teller and goes through the same routine every day. He gets up, goes to work, survives a bank robbery, plays softball (where his team always loses), gets drinks with the guys afterwards, then goes to bed. Then does the same thing all over again tomorrow.

Then one day Guy stumbles across some glasses that, when he puts them on, show a map of the city he lives in, as well as a meter for his health, and how much money he’s got. And thus begins Guy’s awakening. He realizes that he’s a background character in some sort of giant simulation.

Guy approaches a hot girl he routinely sees around, MolotovGirl, and after some initial resistance, learns that she’s a player in this game – as in there’s a real person in “another dimension” playing her. The game is called, “Free City.”

As if having his reality rocked wasn’t enough, he learns from MolotovGirl that Free City is about to be closed down in a week to make way for Free City 2. Guy and everything he knows is about to be shut down forever… UNLESS he can find a way to keep Free City operational.

So Guy begins a revolution, telling anyone who will listen that they’re all background players in a game and if they don’t rise up and rebel, Free City is toast. When the game’s programmers learn that the game is rebelling against their code, they pull out all the stops to take down Guy… FOR GOOD.

I love premises like Free Guy. You’ve got some Matrix in here, some Truman Show, some They Live, some Groundhog Day, some Ready Player One. You read Free Guy and you say to yourself, “How come someone hasn’t made this movie already?” That’s when you know you’ve got a good idea.

But it isn’t just the concept that works. Free Guy makes you think! Whenever you can zoom in on those universal conflicts, you can elevate a silly movie idea into something special. When Guy’s going through his daily routine and asks, “What if I took a single step out of my comfort zone? What would happen?” but then doesn’t do it, it hits you hard.

Because aren’t we all Guy? We all THINK about doing something different. But we never do it. It’s so much easier to stay in our lane. To the point where it feels like we’re being controlled. I mean when was the last time you truly took a chance in life? That you truly put yourself on the line? I’m guessing not recently.

That’s the great thing about channeling these universal human truths through your hero. Is that the reader is going to sympathize with your hero. And once you have that, you have them for the rest of the story. Cause we’re going to want to see if Guy finds a way out. If he finds a way out, it means maybe one day we’ll find a way out.

Structurally, Free Guy breaks down into four sections, each with a different story-engine. Remember that in screenwriting, as long as some type of engine is driving the current section of your screenplay, you’re good. The second there’s no engine is the second your script is dead.

The first section is driven by mystery. Guy knows something isn’t right about his life, about the way the world operates around him, and he wants to find out what it is. That takes us through the first act.

The second section is about leveling up. Molotov Girl – the one person who can answer Guy’s questions – is level a million and lets Guy know that she does’t talk to newbies. Hit level 50 and they can chat. So the engine for this section is the goal: “Get to level 50.” We watch Guy rob banks and steal cars until he gets to level 50.

The third section is “RUN.” The programmers designate Guy and MolotovGirl as threats to the game and chase them around the city (as cop characters) to try and eliminate them. Having your characters chased is one of the oldest story engines in the book.

The final section is “REVOLUTION.” It’s another goal – to start a revolution in the city so they can rise up to the programmers and keep the city in tact.

And, of course, Lieberman adds another element of dramatic conflict by installing a literal ticking time bomb – the arrival of Free City 2.

It seems straight forward when you break it down, but as is the case with everything, it’s hard as hell to make something look simple. As I read Free Guy, I noticed numerous components that I could tell drove the writer crazy during the writing process.

For example, you have the old zombie question: Are there video games in Guy’s world (do people in zombie movies know what zombies are)? Because if there is, then Guy would understand what was happening immediately.

However, that’s not as dramatically interesting as Guy having to piece together that he’s part of a false reality. So Lieberman had to eliminate complex games from Guy’s world, even though that doesn’t make any sense. How is this world the exact same as the world we live in, yet they don’t have one of the most popular forms of entertainment on the planet?

These are the annoying rules you have to figure out when writing a script (particularly sci-fi) because if you don’t, if you decide “Eh, maybe they have video games, maybe they don’t,” that unsuredness oozes into the read and we feel it. We know you’re either bullshitting us or not doing the hard work and the final product feels foggy instead of clear.

So I give Lieberman props. This script is pure fun for the very reason that he did all the hard work. And more importantly, Lieberman proves that something good can come out of playing video games 8 hours a day.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: You must know the rules of your sci-fi script, even the rules that you don’t have to explain to the reader. The more you know, the more solid the foundation of your screenplay will be. I read so many scripts where the writer doesn’t know the answers to half the questions about his world or rules, and those scripts are always foggy frustrating reads.

La La Land (2016) Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone)

Waaaaaaaay too much going on right now to put up a regular post. As we get closer to X-mas, I expect things to get even more unpredictable, so I’m warning you now.

With that said, let’s start Mish-Mash Monday off with a big round of applause for our four Scriptshadow Tournament Semi-Finalists!!! You guys fought the long hard battle and here you are, in the Final Four. CONGRATS!

SEMIFINALIST #1
Wild-Card
Title: Odysseus and His Boy
Writer: Steffan DelPiano
Genre: Period
Logline: With only one night to act, two rival soldiers must sneak behind enemy lines to complete a last-ditch suicide mission that will finally put an end to a decade-long conflict.

SEMIFINALIST #2
Wild-Card
Title: Cratchit
Writer: Katherine Botts
Genre: Mystery & Suspense/Fantasy/Horror
Logline: “A Christmas Carol” reimagined, told from the point of view of Bob Cratchit as he and Ebenezer Scrooge race to track down Jacob Marley’s killer — the same killer who now targets Scrooge and Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim.

SEMIFINALIST #3
#3 seed
Title: The Bait
Writer: Billie Bates
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Logline: An untrusting woman, employed to seduce men prior to marriage for concerned wives-to-be, has her world turned upside down when she falls for her latest target.

SEMIFINALIST #4
#1 seed
Title: The Savage
Writer: Chris Ryan Yeazel
Genre: Historical Biography
Logline: The incredible true story of Squanto, the Patuxet Indian who was kidnapped from the Americas as a child and who then spent his life fighting impossible odds to return home, setting in motion a series of events that leads to one of the most significant events in American history.

We’re going to wait three weeks to get to the semis with next Friday being Rogue One, the week after being Christmas, and the week after that being New Years. So take advantage, semifinalists, and make any last changes to your script you need to make!

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Next up, I want to talk me some Rogue One. Because Rogue One that’s why!!

Star Wars’s little brother had its premiere on Saturday and will be hitting theaters Thursday night. I will be seeing the film then and reviewing it this Friday. If you go off of tweets like these, you’d think this was the next coming of Empire Strikes Back.

But these post-premiere Tweet Parties always leave me a little suspicious after the infamous Fantastic Four Atlanta premiere. I get the feeling there’s some wink-wink nod-nod disclaimer everyone signs that states, “Unless you absolutely love the film, you’re not allowed to tweet about it.”

How else did not one negative tweet about the film surface? I mean there are reviewers out there who literally hate everything. Where are their Star Wars tweets? And this movie was plagued with a TON of issues. Every single film checkpoint movies are supposed to hit, Rogue One was several months late on. So I’ll continue to wait and try to stay optimistic.

On to something I’m not optimistic about – Sully.

I finally saw this film. As you guys remember, I hated that this movie got made. I said it again and again – THIS IS NOT A FILM. A pilot crash-landing a plane due to a bird strike where everyone lives and is fine IS NOT A FILM. You know what a film is? When you crash land in the Andes, don’t have any food, AND HAVE TO START EATING EACH OTHER. That’s a film.

So lo and behold, after watching the movie, imagine how surprised I was to find out…

IT WASN’T A FILM!

This movie was effing awful. Like HAD NO REASON TO EXIST awful. The whole thing is exactly what I knew it would be. Captain Sully looking overwhelmed or constipated, combined with the crash-landing. I heard they had given us six versions of the crash to maximize the impact of what had happened. That wasn’t true. They gave us six versions of the crash BECAUSE THERE WASN’T ANYTHING ELSE TO SHOW!

The main character was boring as shit. The aftermath of the crash itself was without incident. There was NO DRAMA. None. Don’t get me wrong, they tried to create some with this artificially constructed nonsense of the FAA trying to paint Sully’s choice as a mistake. But WHO THE FRICKIN HELL BELIEVED THAT? How easily manipulated do you have to be to buy into a writer trying to sell you that nonsense? That Sully could end up disgraced as opposed to a hero?

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Sully’s expression the whollllle fucking movie.

The fact that this film received an 85% on RT is a joke. Every reviewer who gave this a positive review needs to revoke their credentials until they read 100 screenplays and understand how this medium works. Not to mention all of Eastwood’s movies feel like they were directed by a 174 year old man.

Oh, and by the way, Sully. You just saved 155 people. Would it be asking too much for you to smile once inside of 2 hours??

Oh my God was this movie bad. [x] What the hell did I just watch.

Finally, I’m getting intrigued by this Oscar race. It’s the first time in a decade where there’s no clear front-runner this late in the year. I mean, let’s be honest. They plan out who wins these things well in advance. And this January, the decision was made that it would be Birth of a Nation. When that film and its messy background imploded, everyone was like, “What do we do now??”

People really want La La Land to take the lead. And it might. I don’t click with Chazelle’s writing but the guy has a nice directing eye for sure. It’ll depend on the songs and if the soundtrack takes off.

Also, because the Oscars wants so badly to right its #Oscarssowhite image from last year, they’re desperately trying to find that Birth of a Nation replacement. Moonlight appears to be the leading candidate. But every time I see promotional material for that film, a man is holding a kid in some water. I can’t think of an image less likely to make me want to see a film.

Lots of people like Hacksaw Ridge. But I don’t think Hollywood will ever truly forgive Mel for what he did. With that said, Gibson tells a funny anecdote about a recent interview with Anderson Cooper he did regarding the film. Cooper cornered Gibson with the question, “You know people are loudly booing when your name comes up in the opening credits. What do you think about that?” “They’re loudly booing when?” Gibson asks, “in the opening credits?” “Yes, people loudly boo when your name comes up in the opening credits.” “Oh, that’s interesting, there aren’t any opening credits in the film.”

Say “ouch” if you’re Anderson Cooper.

Have you guys seen any of these films? What’s your take? I trust you more than these Rotten Tomatoes guys, that’s for sure. And who’s your leading contender for the Oscar?

Oh, and Black List announcements today at 9am! Hope to find some new gems. :)