The Outsider is here. A mysterious script reader who’s harder to find than the island on Lost. People believe I’m tough on scripts. Well, they’ve never met The Outsider. This is how he/she describes him/herself: THE OUTSIDER devours scripts like a newborn sucks on a tit, which is to say, virtually non-stop. She/he/it is a screenwriter’s worst nightmare, because he/it/she has no axe to grind and nobody to impress. If you don’t like the opinions expressed by The Outsider, well, it really doesn’t give a shit. There’s something to be said for honesty, so don’t kill the messenger, kill the script!

The good news is, if you can impress The Outsider, you can pretty much guarantee your script is awesome. Without further ado, let’s get to his/her take on Odysseus, the script I reviewed on Saturday and liked quite a bit…

Oh Odysseus, Wherefore Art Thou?

Ah, there’s nothing like an epic that gets my blood boiling. Big battles on land and sea. Big stories. Big CGI effects. Big love story.

Big. Big. Big.

The only b you’ll find in this screenplay is BAD. Carson, what the fuck is wrong with you? This script is a poor man’s pastiche of Braveheart, Gladiator and The Patriot. No wonder Homer came back from the dead and demanded to have his name deleted from this pile of camel dung.

Okay, it’s not that bad. It’s putrid. It’s 300 Lite and at 89 pages, it’s a “contained epic” which can be shot on the cheap.

The main problem is that the story begins in the wrong place. We don’t get to Odysseus/Ulysses until page 13, and even then the “epic” action one expects doesn’t get going until well past page 40. Did I tell you it’s 89 pages?

The main plot is that Odysseus returns to his island and his kingdom after 20 years and is about as welcome as a case of the clap. His Queen is in chains, his son is under the thumb of the evil Antoninus (think Commodus from Gladiator except with charred face), and his people live in misery. Everyone blames Odysseus for going on this stupid journey, but when he was on the throne, everyone was happy. Instead of rebelling against Antoninus, the good folk of Ithaca would rather just stand around and bitch and moan about their crummy King.

There is nothing epic about this epic. Battles are described in shorthand: it was a “terrific” fight. Odysseus is a one man killing machine and is always bathed in blood, his enemies hacked to “pieces” like he’s a butcher down at Winn-Dixie. Even one of the most pivotal event in the script, the “massacre of the innocents”, is quickly dispatched. And I don’t know which version you read, Carson, but in the one I read, Odysseus doesn’t do a damn thing to stop the slaughter. In fact, when his townspeople beg for his help, he runs away.

The dialog is like a bag of Cheese Doodles. When Odysseus (I say Russell Crowe) stares at Telemachus and proudly says “what a son” I almost lost my Chicken Stir Fry. And how the hell could anyone know about Russell milking the dragon with Calypso if his fate was unknown?

Yeah, it’s a great Hollywood read. It hits all the plot points and beats, but it’s devoid of any soul. It’s Homer’s Iliad for Dummies.

There is an epic story to be told. Sea monsters. Sirens. Mortals at the whimsy of the mercurial Gods. True love. Huge battles. I mean, HUGE BATTLES.

Carson, when you get that script, ship it over.

Hello everyone. Lots to talk about for this upcoming week so what I’m going to do is get a little anal and make a list!

1) LOGLINE CONTEST – An idea I wanna throw out there is a monthly (or bi-monthly?) logline contest. Where you guys would send in your loglines and I would pick the top 5 and publish them at the end of the month. I know there are some industry people who read the site so who knows, maybe someone will spot your logline and request a read. I’m looking for ideas to help writers in general so let me know by e-mail or in the comments section if that’s something you’d be interested in. If not, give me other ideas!

2) INTERVIEW – This Wednesday will be Scriptshadow’s first interview. Not only will it be an interview, but it will be an interview with one of the writers from my Top 10 list. Should be exciting so tune in for that.

2.5) MEDIAFIRE SUCKS – Mediafire seems to be run by the same people who run Norton Utilities because it rarely ever works. I’m going to give them one more week (since all my files are already on there) and then I’ll look for another file-linking solution. In the meantime, keep trying. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 attempts to work.

3) I LOVE YOU – You guys have been so generous. In the past couple of weeks you’ve sent me over 75 scripts, many of them scripts that I asked for. You can probably do the math. Only 5 reviews a week. With those scripts alone it will take me 15 weeks to review them all. So just because I don’t review them right away doesn’t mean I’m not thankful. I wish I could read them all tomorrow. But these things take time.

4) ODYSSEUS – Don’t forget to check out the very first Saturday Scriptshadow review if you missed it. It’s from the new spec that sold to WB on Friday called “Odysseus”. A nice surprise for you and a nice surprise for me. Scroll down to read it.

5) SCRIPTS I’M LOOKING FOR – As always, keep checking the “Scripts I Need” list over to the right. If you have a script on there, please send it. I have a lot but I want more. MORE I SAY!

6) YOU’VE DEMANDED MORE HORROR – Many people have written in and demanded that I review more horror. Horror isn’t really my thing so I’ve recurited some outsiders to help in that department. These guys know their horror and I’m hoping they’ll be able to contribute regularly. Expect their reviews some time within the next week or two.

7) MEDIEVAL – Don’t forget to read Medieval and comment on Scott and I’s dual review this Friday. Early feedback tells me this is going to get ugly. In fact, not one person has said anything good about it, lol.

8) BLOG TO CHECK OUT – Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a blog that I check out regularly. It’s called Nick’s Pix, and it’s just a great blog about movies in general. Tons of great reviews. He always finds cool little things to check out. I highly recommend it so go there now! Nick’s blog —— but then, like, make sure you come back at some point. :)

Genre: Historical Action/Adventure
Premise: A forgotten king fights to take back his kingdom.
About: These days it’s hard to find bidding wars in Hollywood. Studios are getting cheap. But Friday was an exception as Warner Brothers battled it out with Paramount for the spec script, “Odysseus”. I’m not sure how much it sold for but I assume it’s a lot. Now an interesting little tidbit. The script is being directed by Joseph Liebesman, who also happens to be directing another script I reviewed on Scriptshadow. A little script called “Battle: L.A.” I’m not going to go any further than to say Liebesman might want to get Peacock to rewrite that one.
Writer: Ann Peacock

Sometimes The Scriptshadow must wield his power over The Hollywood. He must show them that his fingers can reach deep into the center of the beast, and rip from its body any organ he so chooses. Today’s organ of choice? Odysseus, a script that was sold less than 16 hours ago! Reviewed for you here. On a Saturday. On a fucking Saturday! A day I was supposed to have off!!! Damn you Hollywood! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELLLLLLLLL!!!

I guess this is what happens when you receive a script on a day when you’ve already read three. So before I fall into a heap of exhausted slumber, let us get in our time machines, and head back to the ancient times. To Greece (or somewhere near there anyway).

Ithica is a beautiful island off in the middle of the sea. Its people have lived without their king, Odysseus, for 20 years, as he never returned from the Trojan War and is assumed dead. But the peaceful Ithicanians (?) are in for a rude surprise, as an army of bloodthirsty warriors, led by the Ancient Greek version of Darth Vadar, ANTONINUS, arrive on the island. The Ant Man is both a mystery and a terror. And his horse will piss on your face (no seriously, he will).

This army of ancient douchebags slaughter the locals like chickens in a chicken pen and overtake Odysseus’ castle without so much as raising a finger. There, Antoninus captures Odysseus’ wife Penelope, and his son, Telemachus, and begins his rule over the land.

After years go by, a starving weak bearded man washes ashore, a man who it doesn’t take long for us to realize is Odysseus. He’s finally come back to his kingdom. But what he finds there instead, is an island destroyed and decimated. If Odysseus wants his kingdom and his queen back, he’s going to have to fight for it.

The first thing that struck me when I opened this script was the page count. It comes in at a lean 90 pages. Yes! 90 pages! I can’t remember the last time I read a 90 page script. It seems like every script these days is 117 pages. But this wasn’t done to appease my lack of sleep. It was done to keep the story moving as fast as possible. This is the first script I’ve read in awhile where there were no unncessary scenes. Every inch of real estate here had a purpose and it’s an awesome decision. The script flies like a Greek eagle.

Every character here is compelling. Odysseus’ people hate him because he never came back from the war. Why didn’t he? Queen Penelope must live with the sadness that her husband never loved her enough to come back. Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, must serve Antoninus or his mother will be killed. And there are many great secondary characters sprinkled throughout the script.

I think the moment I really knew I was dealing with a professional was when Odysseus began planning how to take back the kingdom. Soonafter, Antoninus orders a child from every household to be murdered in 24 hours if Odysseus is not captured. This does a couple of things. It turns his own people against him. But more importantly, it forces Odysseus to speed up his plan drastically – in effect, giving him an impossible timeframe to acheive his task. This is what good writing is about. Creating an extreme sense of urgency where the stakes are incredibly high. So few writers do that these days. I was very impressed.

Another nice surprise was Antoninus, who could have easily been a stereotype villain but who we learn actually has a pretty compelling reason to be doing all this to Odyssesus.

I don’t know if you’re a Braveheart lover like me. But remember the scene where William Wallace comes back to the village after his wife is slaughtered? Well the final 40 pages are like an extended version of that.

As you know, I haven’t read anything that’s really excited me in awhile. Sloshing through these top-selling scripts of 2008 all week, I was beginning to think that nobody at the studios knew what the hell they were talking about. But Odysseus definitely deserved the bidding war it received. Great script and very impressed.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Odysseus: This script is the perfect example of no wasted space. Every scene is important to the story. There are no vanity scenes. Every scene has momentum and purpose.

note: Scroll down to see Friday’s review of “The Long Run”

Scott’s going to kill me for posting this so early but I was supposed to post it at 9am my time and I know that there’s no way in hell I’m going to be up at 9am. So it’s now or never. The Scott in question, Scott Myers over at Go Into The Story, and I are going to do a monthly feature (assuming you guys like it) where we pick out a recently sold spec script, GIVE IT TO YOU GUYS A WEEK AHEAD OF TIME SO YOU CAN READ IT, review it ourselves the following Friday in a dual review of fates, and then have a cross-intergalactic-blog discussion about the script in the comments section.

One of the reasons I started this site was to get people discussing scripts. Unfortunately by the time you download and read them, the original review is buried 4 or 5 posts back. And who has time for history right? That’s like so yesterday. This way, you don’t have an excuse. We’re giving you the script a week ahead of time. Although the focus of the conversation should be on why you believe the script sold, you can discuss any of your intricate thoughts about structure, story, characters, plot. I want people to actually learn something. Yeah, you heard that right: LEARN.

The first script in this feature is titled “Medieval.” Said to be a “The Dirty Dozen” in the age of castles, plagues and serfs, the script sold for 800,000 dollars back in February. So this is your first assignment my friends. Your first Scriptshadow homework. Don’t let me down.

Script link: Medieval

edit: Mediafire’s been acting weird so if you can’t download the link you’ll have to hang tight while I find an alternative. Which will happen whenever I wake up. :)

Genre: Drama
Premise: A journalist helps clear an inmate on death row and the two become friends. But when the inmate runs for office, the journalist begins to suspect he may have been duped.
About: This sold for enough money to buy a decent two-bedroom condo in Brentwood (low seven figures). Will Smith is said to be producing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumped into the lead role. It’s a movie about a politician. And we all know Will Smith wants to be president someday.
Writer: Stephen Belber

Surprise! A change-of-plans occurred when a loyal reader sent me this at the last second. Don’t you guys know how happy it makes me when you send scripts off my “Scripts I Need” List??? (over to the right – ahem!) You instantly get put into a special e-mail folder that I worship on a daily basis. So keep doing it! Now that means my 5 day “Top Selling Scripts From 2008 List” just turned into SIX DAYS! Hooray! Well, sorta hooray. You’ll have to wait til Monday for the review of our 2 million dollar script.

So are you guys getting as impatient as I am? It’s been, what, three weeks since a script entered my Top 25? It’s starting to look like the only way new scripts will make it in is if I take old scripts out. note: Once a movie hits theaters, it is no longer eligible for the Top 25. :( Is that really going to be the only way we learn about the next great script? Or will The Long Run, the high concept drama produced by Will Smith, change all that?

How bout this for a movie idea? A murderer on death row, DARIUS, is saved by a liberal journalist, RICK, when he writes a series of articles putting into question Darius’ involvement in a murder. Once free, Darius takes advantage of his fame by running for office. As his star rises, Rick begins to have doubts about whether Darius is, indeed, innocent.

I don’t know about you but I loved this premise. When I heard it I went on a wild hunt for the script and thanks to the aforementioned reader, was able to find it. But you know what? I’m sorry to say that Belber drops the ball. He fails to focus on the elements (the hook) that made the premise so compelling, and instead gives us something that’s way too familiar.

Although there were a number of things I disliked, I think the thing that most bothered me was that this was so obviously tailored to appeal to an Oscar-seeking A-lister. You have the ex-con wrongfully accused of murder. Works at Oscar time. You have the underdog political rise to fame. Works at Oscar time. I mean all you need is to make him a boxer and half-retarded and the race would be over. Will Smith thanks the academy. Even the ending is a desperate (spoiler) bid for a gold man with the truth of whether Darius is the murderer being whispered off-screen, leaving it *up to us* (sigh) to decide if he did it or not (echoes of the “whisper” from Lost In Translation that almost got Bill Murray an Oscar).

But like I said, it’s that aversion to what makes the script interesting that really bothers me. .There are so many components that could have led to a cool thriller here. Maybe even a cool political thriller. But the only thing Barber does with his hook is throw a worm on it and lure us in so we have to watch this boring underdog politician story that we’ve seen a million times before.

The script has some logic and structural problems as well. Part of Darius getting out of jail is dependent on the completely coincidental confession of his friend who’s in another prison 3000 miles away. Wow, how fortunate that this guy admits to the murder right when Darius needs him to. We’re led to believe that his friend did it out of loyalty. But exactly how loyal is someone who keeps their friend in jail for 15 years before admitting to a murder they committed? If only I had friends that loyal.

In addition, the script moves back and forth between Nick and Darius, and it’s unclear whose story it is. It starts out being Nick’s as he tries to get Darius out of jail. But once Darius gets out, we’re spending more and more time with Darius. I admit this is a pet peeve of mine and some people are fine with switching points-of-view. But there’s a certain pattern you have to establish early on if you’re going to go this route. And that pattern wasn’t established in The Long Run.

There’s also a relationship with Darius and his wife Opal (he married her before he went to prison) that just never works. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for Opal to stay in the relationship (she pretty much hates Darius) and yet she does. Why? Beats me. Their storyline completely mystified me. It was odd and strained and illogical.

There are some good things sprinkled throughout. There’s a great scene early on (which I’ll get to more in my “What I learned” section) between Darius and the father of the boy who was murdered. It’s creepy and intense and exactly the kind of tone I was hoping for when I started the script. Unfortunately after that scene the father isn’t seen again until the end.

I did like how Barber played with the theme of truth though. Darius’ political campaign is predicated on this idea that he’s the only politician that “speaks the truth”. And of course the whole time we’re wondering, is he telling us the truth? Or is he, indeed, the murderer?

So, does The Long Run make it into my Top 25? I’d have to say………… The script is by no means bad. It’s well-written. It’s just that in trying to cater to the actor’s vanity, it focuses on the wrong things. But if you want to see what a 7 figure script reads like, take a look at The Long Run.

script link: The Long Run

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from The Long Run: So I’m reading The Long Run and I’m barely able to pay attention. My mind is wandering. I’m inching forward, constantly checking the page number. And then, about 32 pages in I become riveted by a scene. Whenever that happens, particularly in a script I wasn’t enjoying, I go back and figure out what got me. Naturally I want to use the device in my own screenplays. — It’s a simple scene really. Rick and Darius are walking down the street and this strange man approaches them. He asks Miles if he is indeed Miles, and then proceeds to say a series of very strange things. The air is thick with tension. Who is this man? Why is he here? What is he capable of? It’s a very spooky scene. And I realized the reason I liked it so much was because it was *unexpected*. Up until that point in the script, everything had gone exactly according to plan. There wasn’t a single surprise. I make this mistake in my screenplays all the time. Everybody does. You can get so focused on what you’re trying to do with your story that you forget to surprise the audience – you forget to throw a scene in there that the audience doesn’t expect (because *YOU* weren’t expecting it) Those are the things that keep readers on their toes. Unfortunately, The Long Run didn’t capitalize on this scene. You introduce the most interesting character in the movie so far…and then never show him again. Well, until the end anyway. It’s a major missed opportunity. And it’s one of the reasons this script really didn’t work for me.