Hey guys, since yesterday’s news, a bunch of you e-mailed me with a ton of scripts which means I’m basically in love with all of you. Obviously, because I can only review a script a day, I want you to know that just because I don’t review your script right away doesn’t mean I’m not grateful. One of the great things about this blog is that the more successful it gets, the more people there are who want to help. If you really really want a review of something, leave your request in the comments section. Or e-mail me. I’ll try to get it up as soon as possible.
Genre: Spy Thriller
Synopsis: A CIA agent discovers there’s a Russian spy deep inside the organization.
About: This is that infamous project that Tom Cruise was attached to but then got booted off of. Since it’s disaster central for any profile-dropping A-Lister to get booted off a project, Tom’s robots did spin control and all of a sudden Tom hadn’t been let go from the project, he had dropped out of the project. To make matters even more bizarre, he was replaced by Angelina Jolie. Yes, cause that makes sense. There’s an old screenplay adage that goes: If you’re all out of ideas, change the gender of your protagonist. A new world of possibilities will open up. Let’s see what opens up when Angelina Jolie becomes Edwin A Salt.
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
I’m going to tell you to do something I’ve never told you to do before on Scriptshadow. Don’t read this review. Instead, scroll to the bottom, download the script, read it, then come back. Because as Randy Jackson would say, this script was off the hook. I don’t want the review to spoil anything for you. So go read it, come back, and we’ll talk.
Did you read it?
Okay good. We’re ready to have a discussion.
Wasn’t that awesome??? I love Salt. Before? I was just a bland tasteless meal. Then Salt came along and gave me flavor. Even though I’m not normally into spies and double crossing and undercover agents, I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in this badass thriller. I’m an 80s child so the second you start saying things like Cold War and Soviet Union, I’m so right there. Cause I lived it man. I LIVED IT. You think it was easy waking up every day knowing you could get bombed at any second by the Ruskies? Yeah well that was my life.
Salt starts out introducing us to CIA officer Edwin A. Salt and his CIA best friend, Winter. Salt is planning a birthday party for his daughter and he wants it to be the best birthday party ever. Unfortunately, the two have to make a quick detour over to headquarters, and that’s when shit starts going bad. Salt’s CIA position isn’t exactly the top of the food chain. He’s been assigned to Russia, and these days the only Cold War going on is in Putin’s pants if you know what I’m talking about (no, I don’t know either). So normally Salt wouldn’t have much to do. However, a strange Russian man approaches the building and insists Salt hear his story. Salt’s pissed because he has his daughter’s birthday party but work is work and he brings the man in.
The Russian tells him of a secret Russian weapon created back during the Cold War. This weapon was a man – the creme de la creme of soviet espionage. Did you ever see Conan The Barbarian? When Conan has to turn that wheel for like 20 years of his life? Well this guy would’ve walked right over him and gone for another 20. They made this man the smartest, toughest, deadliest, coolest, most perfect spy in the world. His name was “Chekov”, and at age 17, they sent him to the United States to infiltrate the U.S. Government. After 20 years, he has embedded himself so deep inside the CIA, that he has access to every single document in the building. But he’s only looking for one. A document called KA-88. KA-88 is a trigger scenario the U.S. developed in anticipation of its enemies that shows the one weakness in our government/economy that would cause our country to crumble within weeks. Doomsday for America. Chekov has finally gotten clearence to obtain that document. Oh, and one more thing, the Russian says. “You are Chekov.”
Holy shit! DO I HAVE YOUR FUCKING ATTENTION?? I sure have my own. Winter is shocked. His best friend is now his worst enemy. Or is he? Salt swears he knows nothing about this. Yet Salt is in the CIA – he’s one of the best trained liars in the world. So is he lying to cover his lies? Or is he telling the truth? Salt realizes that this case isn’t going to trial. It’s likely going to be decided right here and now. And in the best case scenario, he’s going to be dead. So he flees the building. That, of course, is where the brilliance of the script lies. As Salt goes on the run, we not only don’t know if Salt’s lying to Winter. We don’t know if he’s lying to us. Who is Edwin A. Salt?
Every once in awhile a script comes along that reminds you that what you thought was good writing, was actually only mildly acceptable writing. You are immersed in this world from the get-go. You visualize the movie on each page. The only criticisms I have are that they forgo a lot of the mystery in the last 40 pages and go a little heavy on the action. Still, the ending highway plane take-off scene is going to be IN-SAYNE. This script is a badass recipient of Wimmer’s awesomeness. Loved it.
I don’t know what’s happening lately. All these scripts are making my Top 25. Salt slides into lucky number 21!
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned from Salt: The last two scripts, which both made it into my Top 25, had very similar structures. Both had one scene where you met the characters, then the very next scene the movie goes on a torrid pace and never lets up. There’s something to be said for scripts that start up fast and keep you on a quick pace the whole way through. Of course they have to be done well to work, but as a spec, I think they have a better chance of capturing someone’s interest than a script that takes its time.
Hello everyone. I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone for visiting the site. We’re growing bigger and bigger every day (why am I saying “we”? I’m the only one here). Today we/I had a bit of a setback though. A private community of script traders gave me the heave-ho amongst fears that my reviews were drawing attention to them. Although I am upset, there are no hard feelings. I understand they were just covering their asses. This does not change much. I still have sources where I can get new material. But I may need a few people to step up to the plate and help out. I’d like to review at least 2 hot specs a week. So if you’re plugged in and have access to these scripts, send them my way. Your identity will remain anonymous. You have my word! Thanks everyone.
Genre: Violent Drama
Synopsis: Two men relentlessly terrorize a group of partiers.
About: Honestly, I was tired of reading recommended scripts so I opened this one up on a whim. Knew nothing about it. Found out later it was on the 2006 Black List and is being made into a movie that’s coming out this year (edit: The movie was on the Blacklist but not on any production slate)
Writer: Scott Milam
Chalk another one up to the dreadful title but awesome script collection. Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this script. I have never read anything as relentless and crazy and sadistic and exploitative as this screenplay. It’s like Helter Skelter mixed with Funny Games mixed with…….someone who really needs to be placed in a mental institution! Wichita falls somewhere between real life and total absurdity. Despite its relentless and tasteless violence, it succeeds because even though it comes from the imagination of a writer, you know that there are actually people out there like this. As awful as it is, this feels like something that could really happen.
Look, I’m no Indian hater. I grew up in Illinois. We were the birthplace of some 25 different Indian tribes. I’m reasonably sure that I’m at least 13% Ojibiwe. But I have to admit, when a Native American is the first character I meet in a screenplay, I don’t jump up and scream, “This is going to be awesome!” So when DAN, a Navajo Indian, walks into a convenience store on a cold deserted winter night in Wichita and starts chatting up the checker about how much life sucks, let’s just say I was eying my Quantum Of Solace DVD.
But as soon as Dan gets in his car, two men make a surprise attack. They have guns and they want money. Dan explains that his step-father has a lot of money and he’ll take them to his house. A quick check of his wallet and they realize they already know where the house is. Which means Daniel, a man we thought was our hero, is disposable. They take him into the forest and shoot him in cold blood. Welcome to Wichita.
We cut in on what we realize is the house Daniel was heading to. It’s a huge estate out in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of well-off friends are having a Christmas party. Everyone’s waiting for Dan so they can start their gift exchange. With a couple of exceptions, this happy giggly group has been living their lives blissfully unaware of the hardships going on in the rest of the world. They don’t even know what the dark side looks like. That’s about to change.
The bad guys show up and within seconds tell everyone to strip. They want money and they want jewelry. Scared and a bit ignorant, a couple of the guys try to act tough. They learn quickly that these are the wrong people to act tough with. The bad guys grab Brooke (Dan’s girlfriend) and tell her she’s making a choice. One of these people is going to die. And she has to choose which one. She begs and pleads not to make her do it but they explain it’s either one of them or all of them. She chooses the guy who’s the most well off – with his girlfriend sitting right there. The bad guys instantly shoot him in the head. This is on page 20 folks. And it only gets worse from there. Way. Way. Way worse.
How Wichita keeps up this relentless pace for 120 pages is one of the things that makes it such a good script. You’re gripped by how horrible these two men are. There are a few times where their actions venture into absurdity, but for the most part, it feels like two very angry demented men getting their “revenge” on the world. This is not for the weak. And if any sort of violence offends you, I’d probably skip this read and wait until tomorrow’s review. But this was such a page-scroller, it broke my top 25. Everyone say goodbye to Pictures of You. :(
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned from Wichita: The power of a great villain. The thing that kept me invested in this film was how bad the bad guys were. And when the bad guys are this bad, you’re dying to see them go down. I would’ve given my left arm to see the protagonist, Brooke, kill these men in the most horrifying awful fashion possible. This may seem like obvious advice but it really isn’t. There are many genres where you the writer have a choice to add a villain or not (romantic comedies for example). My suggestion is, if it fits, always add one. And make him someone we want to see pay. Audiences love to see the villain go down.
Synopsis: A single father tries to reconnect with his college daughter and teenage son on Spring Break.
About: Comedy spec that sold a couple of weeks ago. From what I heard, it spun around for awhile and nobody bit. Then it got scooped up at the last second.
Writer: Christopher Baldi
The first fifteen pages of the screenplay are always the toughest. Because, as every good screenwriter knows, you’re trying to set up a lot of information in a very short period of time, you’re trying to do it without drawing attention to it, and on top of all that, you’re trying to entertain the audience. That’s why when I started reading Call Me Rusty, I was convinced I was reading some lucky amateur who conned a producer into paying his rent for the next couple of years. Christopher Baldi seemed like he concocted the first 15 minutes of his screenplay on his way to work. Nothing anybody does rings true. The basic set-up of the film is that the boss tells Rusty: “If you want me to give you a promotion, you have to bring me back a picture of you and your family on vacation.” That is the set-up to a script that just sold to mid six-figures.
Needless to say, I didn’t expect much from Call Me Rusty. And for a while, I didn’t get it. RUSTY (who may or may not be Clark Oswald’s son from National Lampoon’s Vacation) is a workaholic who hasn’t paid attention to his family since his wife left them 10 years ago. He’s got a hot 21 year old daughter and a horny teenage son. When he’s denied a promotion for not being enough of a “family man”, he begs his boss to give him a chance to prove that he is. Begrudgingly, his boss says if he spends a vacation with his family and shows him a picture of them together, he’ll think about giving him the promotion.
In the meantime, Rusty’s daughter and her slutty BFF are getting ready for Spring Break. Rusty barrels in and informs them that their party just doubled (the son’s coming along too). Again, wait a minute. Hold up here. Are you asking us to believe that a daughter is going to allow her father to join her on Spring Break? Do you think that in the history of the naughtiest nastiest sickest STD-producing week of the year that any daughter of any father in the world – even Pakistan – is going to say, “Sure dad, come along”? This is the problem with Call Me Rusty. On page 15 your characters are making nowhere near realistic choices. How am I, the reader, supposed to go along with this? This only furthered my suspicion that Baldi had no idea what he was doing.
And then slowly, ever so slowly, after they get to Spring break, I noticed that I was laughing more. Even though the scenes were somewhat episodic, the situations and conversations were making me laugh. To my surprise, Call Me Rusty became one of those rare scripts that got better and better – the savior being Baldi’s dialogue, which was fun, snappy, eccentric, yet never Juno-esque.
The highlight of the script is a silly but lol scene where Kristin is forced to play a game of truth-or-dare with her father. The whole time I’m thinking, “This is so stupid. This is so dumb”, and yet I couldn’t stop laughing. It had the potential to go to some really bad places (the dad and Kristin’s slutty friend hooking up) and even though it would’ve been funny, that’s not what the script is about. It’s about a father trying to reconnect with his family, and Call Me Rusty kind of succeeds. Sure, the script doesn’t break any new ground and it’s hardly one for the ages, but it’s a good solid comedy script and I can see why it got bought.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned from Call Me Rusty: Iron out your set up (first 10-15 pages). It’s the hardest part of the script because you’re setting up so much information in such a short period of time. But if you don’t put the effort in, it’s going to come off feeling forced. Even though Call Me Rusty recovered, with some effort it never would’ve had to recover in the first place. “Bring back a picture of you and your family and you get the promotion.” Are you serious? Had this issue been solved from the get-go, it wouldn’t have taken 2 weeks for this to sell.