Premise: Semi-autobiographical look at a man who finds out he has cancer. Coping with his mortality, he decides to use humor in his struggle to cure cancer and keep his sanity intact.
About: Just last week, Seth Rogen announced this will be his next project. Mandate pictures and Seth himself will be producing (along with Evan Goldberg). James McAvoy is attached to play the lead. What might explain Rogen jumping from the cancer-themed “Funny People” to another movie that centers around the disease, is that Seth is friends with Will Reiser, the writer, and was there with him while he dealt with the disease (it may also explain why the friend’s character name is “Seth”). “I’m With Cancer” also finished 9th in voting on last year’s Black List with 24 votes.
Writer: Will Reiser
Today is sort of a monumental day at Scriptshadow because it’s the first review from someone completely outside the industry. This person has no aspirations whatsoever of being a part of the movie business.The extent of their involvement is going to see movies and that’s it. So what are they doing reviewing a script on Scriptshadow? Let me try and explain. My really good friend who I’ve known for fifteen years now, Carmen Rossi, has breast cancer. So when I decided to review “I’m With Cancer”, I thought it would be an interesting idea to get her perspective on it. I was a little reluctant about approaching her at first but as soon as I mentioned it, she was immediately game. I remember the day she told me the news and how sick and scared I felt. I told her she could write whatever she wanted. No restrictions. Just tell us what she thought . So, this is Carmen Rossi’s review of “I’m With Cancer.”
I have cancer.
I found out one week after my birthday. To say I went into shock upon hearing the news would be the understatement of the century. I’m not old. Cancer doesn’t run in my family. I’m a good person. When I took my life insurance health exam two years ago I was rated “Preferred Plus No Nicotine” which is, like, the healthiest you can be—essentially I was as healthy as a marathon runner. So yes, I totally went into shock when I heard the news. But once it finally sunk in, I realized that I could cry about it or I could laugh about it. I chose to laugh about it and continue to do so.
When I heard about “I’m With Cancer” I wanted to read it out of personal curiosity. I wanted to read what a comedy about cancer was all about. That, and I wanted to try out my new Kindle (which I love, btw).
Adam Schwartz is a normal, ordinary guy. He enjoys his job, loves his girlfriend and complains too much. Out of the blue, at age 25, Adam’s diagnosed with cancer. There’s nothing too distinctive about Adam. He could be anyone. Which is the whole point. What happens to Adam could truly happen to anyone. “I’m With Cancer” is semi-autobiographical, and Reiser draws upon his experience with a cancer diagnosis at a young age, and the battle he went through, to present the story. Following the rule of “write what you know,” Reiser perfectly captures the emotional aspects of the story—from the apprehension of telling people about the cancer, to the varied reactions the news elicits and how these affect the character.
“I’m With Cancer” takes us along on Adam’s physical and emotional journey to happiness and acceptance. We’re with Adam in the stark hospital room when he receives his diagnosis, we’re with him as he shares the news with family and friends. We’re with him through chemotherapy, relaxation therapy and laughter therapy. We’re with him as the drugs designed to kill the cancer cells also kill the healthy cells and his physical appearance deteriorates. We’re there as he receives more and more bad news, and plans his own funeral arrangements. And then we’re with him when he has an emotional catharysis and complete transformation.
Being diagnosed with cancer, particularly unexpectedly and at a young age, is the most traumatic event you can experience. As someone who’s experienced a fair number of traumatic events in her life, take my word on this. But one thing you learn is that while the cancer may reside only in *your* body, it affects everyone around you. A positive attitude and a good support system can get you through it. I have an amazing support system of family and friends. Adam has…well, Adam has a smothering mother, a stroke victim father, Seth, his pothead jokester of a best friend (who uses Adam’s condition to score chicks), and Rachel, Adam’s girlfriend of four months. While they all care about Adam, none of them are really able to handle all that comes along with a cancer diagnosis, and Adam forms new relationships with those that understand his situation more—specifically, his fellow chemo patients and his psychologist.
While the principal story is that of Adam’s transformation, we also see a transformation in Seth—in between his wisecracks, he’s a concerned friend terrified of what may happen—and in Rachel, who simply cannot handle Adam’s condition or his needs, and lets him down time and time again. While not a traditional laugh out loud comedy, “I’m With Cancer” approaches a serious disease with humor and light-heartedness. But to those who know people who have died from cancer, I fear the tone of the story may be off-putting and come across as flippant and disrespectful. It’s not, but cancer evokes a lot of emotion in people and personal experiences will most definitely play into one’s interpretation of this story.
Once Adam decides to go through chemotherapy to fight the cancer, he quits his job at the museum, and his co-workers throw a going-away party for him. Without question, the main and only topic of discussion among all the party attendees is Adam’s cancer. Through short snippets of conversation, we see the co-workers react to Adam’s health—from the guy who asks if he’s wearing a wig, to the woman who advocates natural healing and a diet of only green foods , to the woman crying in hysterics—each are portrayed in an honest and sincere way. (Responses to me ran this gambit and beyond, and just this morning I received an email from a friend praising asparagus is a miracle food to defeat cancer cells.)
It’s a funny scene. But it’s also a perfect example of what concerns me about this script. I find it hilarious because I’m a young person with cancer. Will someone who doesn’t have cancer find it funny? Will they feel uncomfortable laughing at it? What about someone whose mom died of cancer? Is cancer something that’s so sacred we can’t laugh about it? My grandparents would never say the word aloud, and if it was uttered, it was whispered as if saying it would bring it upon them. But that was then. Now, we have high-profile athletes and celebrities who fight their cancer battles in public. We have cancer walks and fundraisers in which survivors proudly stand tall and tell their stories.
But is it something people are comfortable seeing on the screen? There is humor in this movie. The character of Seth (to be played by Seth Rogen. It was hard to read the part and NOT imagine Seth Rogen playing the Seth character, in part because it reads like every role Seth Rogen has played) provides comic relief, as does Adam’s stereotypical Jewish mother. But is it enough to balance the scenes where Adam’s in the Chemotherapy room? Where you visibly see his health deteriorate until he’s a shadow of his former self? When he starts making his funeral preparations?
To help cope with the emotional aspects of his disease, Adam sees a psychologist. During their first meeting, the psychologist says: “The first thing I want you to do is to stop looking at cancer as a burden. Cancer has come into your life to show you that your emotional and physical bodies are out of balance. This is your chance to correct that.” Adam completely dismisses her advice. But as his ordeal continues, these words shape his life, and in the end, he ends up both emotionally and physically content, and in balance.
Reiser does a great job of telling Adam’s story in a realistic and accurate voice. The story progresses at a great pace, and I feel there is a good balance between the humorous scenes and the more tragic scenes. Reiser nails the details, like the doctor who speaks as though everyone has a medical degree and understands what a schwannoma neurofibrosarcomas is. He illustrates the paralyzing fear Adam has about Rachel with eerie accuracy—the cancer diagnosis is too much for Rachel to handle and they drift apart. Though it’s obvious she doesn’t love him and the relationship is over, Adams’s fear of being alone and the disbelief that he can ever find anyone to love him while he has cancer, keeps them together. And breaks my heart.
But Adam’s story ends as I know mine will—with the cancer gone and a life full of love, happiness and the things that really matter.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
Premise: A man wakes up from a four day coma to realize his wife no longer knows who he is and his identity may have been erased.
About: Based on the 2003 novel “Out Of My Head” by French author Didier Van Cauwelaert, this Dark Castle Thriller went from the treadmill to the production mill when Liam Neeson signed on to play the lead. Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) is directing. Joel Silver and Leonard Goldberg are producing.
Writers: Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell (revisions by Karl Gadjusek)
Details: 116 pages (dated 2.10.09)
When I saw Liam Neeson sign on to Unknown White Male, I thought, “yes.” Taken may not have been the deepest pool, but it sure was fun to swim in. And Neeson fit into that role like a well-worn pair of speedos. What did I want to see after Taken? I wanted to see more Neeson kicking ass! I wanted to hear more Neeson talking into phones and telling people that if it’s money they wanted, he didn’t have any. But that he had developed a particular set of skills over the years, skills that have enabled him to find and kill bad men like them. I wanted him to give these men an opportunity to leave his daughter be. But if they didn’t, I wanted him to tell them that he would find them…and he would kill them. On title alone, “Unknown White Male” sounded like the kicking-ass cousin of Taken. Neeson wakes up from a coma and starts beating the shit out people! Right? Right?? At least, that’s how it played out in my head. Is that how it played out in reality?
Well, not exactly. Unknown White Male is more of a mystery than an action flick. Neeson certainly does a lot of running around. But not so much beating up people. Part of the problem is that his phone is broken. Obviously that means he can’t call people and tell them that he will find them and he will kill them. If he had that phone, I’m sure this would be a completely different movie.
Dr. Martin Harris and his wife, Liz, have just arrived in Germany for a bio-tech conference. We learn very little about the two other than that they’re tired and want to check into their hotel. For reasons unexplained, Martin hops into a cab to head back to the airport. In a case of wrong place, wrong time, the young driver, Gina, swerves to avoid an accident and ends up sending them into the river. Gina saves Martin, but runs away before the police arrive.
Four days later Martin wakes up from a coma in the hospital. He’s confused, disoriented, and he’s got a slight case of amnesia. All he cares about is finding his wife though. Against doctor’s orders, Martin hops out of bed and goes back to the hotel. But when he asks hotel security about his wife, about his room, he finds out that “Martin” has already been checked in. He’s supposedly already here. When Martin insists that’s impossible because *he* is Martin, he realizes that he has no way to actually prove it. His wallet was lost in the accident.
Lucky for Martin, a party happens to be going on in the hotel and wouldn’t you know it, there’s his wife! All dressed up right in the middle of it all. Smiling. Laughing.
Wait a minute. What the hell is his wife doing smiling at a party when he’s been missing for four days?? Martin charges into the party and grabs her. He’s here, he tells her. He was in an accident and got sent to the hospital but now he’s okay. Yet his wife just stares back at him, confused. She’s doesn’t seem to know Martin. And if that isn’t bad enough, a man steps up and takes Liz’s arm. The man’s name is…Martin (referred to in the script as Martin B) and he claims that Liz is *his* wife. What the fuck is going on here?? With a combination of anger, confusion, and hurt Martin insists, as the entire party watches, that he is indeed the real Martin and that this woman is his wife. Problem is when a bandaged unkempt man with no identification barges into a party and claims a woman who says she doesn’t even know him is his wife, it usually doesn’t go over well. That’s how security sees it anyway and sends Martin out on his ass.
Martin, alone and, more importantly, without a phone, attempts to go back to that night and figure out what happened. Part of the problem is that his amnesia is fragmenting his memories. He only remembers bits and pieces of the evening. After doing some research, he remembers he had a meeting set up with Nobel Prize winner and head speaker of the biotech conference, Professor Bressler. If he can get to that meeting and convince Professor Bressler he is who he says he is, maybe he can regain his identity and figure out what the hell is going on.
But like a lot of things in Unknown White Male (and like a lot of things should be in a good thriller/drama/mystery) shit don’t go according to plan. When Martin shows up, he finds that Martin B. is already there ahead of him. Martin approaches the problem a little differently this time around, realizing he can bring up e-mails and phone calls that only he and Bressler would know about – once and for all proving that he is the “real” Martin. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as he speaks, Martin B is already a step ahead of him, feeding the professor Martin’s lines before they’re out of his mouth. Now Martin’s mind goes from “What the hell is happening here?” to “Am I going crazy?” I mean, how could this possibly be happening?
If that weren’t bad enough, a healthy dose of paranoia sets in when Martin starts noticing the same people over and over wherever he goes. Is he being followed? Are these men trying to dispose of him? With nowhere to go and his life in danger, Martin must find the driver that saved his life, Gina, and beg her to help him. As an illegal immigrant, she’s limited in what she can do, but she knows what it feels like to be alone, and offers Martin a helping hand.
But since this is a mystery, there’s really only one thing that matters, right? Is the reveal any good? Is all this craziness explained in a satisfying way? I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the reveal. I did not see it coming. In fact, Unknown White Male is one of the few mysteries where I eventually just gave up trying to figure out the mystery. I honestly had no idea what the ending was going to be. So when the reveal turned out to not only be plausible, but sensible, I was quite impressed.
Unknown White Male is one of those screenplays that’s hard to critique. Because you’re so excited to get to the ending, you’re not as aware of the characters and the story. Looking back, there are definitely some questionable areas in the plot. For instance, if I were accused of not being me, I’d call every single person I’ve ever met in my life to vouch for me. It’s really hard to imagine that in this day and age, with all the technology and instantaneous communication methods we have, that you couldn’t prove you were you in a first world nation. Gadjusek makes a bit of a stab at this problem (The incident is taking place on Thanksgiving Day weekend, therefore nobody is answering their phone. – Yeah…right) but it’s not very convincing. Luckily, as I mentioned, once the story gets going and the pace picks up, you’re not thinking about plot holes.
I’m sure my knowledge of Neeson in the lead colored my opinion of Unknown White Male (if I haven’t made it clear, I love Liam Neeson) but this was a solid script regardless. Definitely worth the read.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: When you’re trying to pull off a high-concept mystery like this one, its’ important to ask what YOU would do in that situation. Don’t use movie logic to guide your character. Ask yourself: “I’m in Germany. My wife doesn’t recognize me. Nobody believes I’m me. What would I do?” Martin calls a couple numbers for the police and when he gets answering machines, he gives up on trying to make any connection back home. That seems a bit unrealistic. So always make sure to approach your character’s decisions with real world logic by putting yourself in their position. Not only will your movie feel more logical, but you’re bound to get some interesting ideas from the practice.
I thought I’d never live to see the day. Mark the date my friends. Monday, August 24th. Roger B. gives a negative review. It’s too bad the script wasn’t any good. I have to admit, however, Roger’s pretty entertaining when he’s negative.
Genre: Prophetic horror, Action
Premise: After a terrifying Biblical apocalypse descends upon the world, a group of strangers stranded in a remote truck-stop diner in the Southwest become humanity’s last line of defense when they discover the diner’s young waitress is pregnant with the messiah.
About: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, and Tyrese will star. Scott Stewart, the director, learned effects from the master himself, George Lucas, up at ILM. He later founded his own acclaimed effects company The Orphanage. This will be his directorial debut.
Writers: Peter Schink, Scott Stewart
Now here’s a screenplay I decided to read after I saw the Red Band Comic-Con trailer. I’m a freak for trailers. It’s an art form unto itself, and I’ll watch the more sublime previews obsessively. I disappear into the loop like a borderline autistic child. I had actually opened up the screenplay a few weeks beforehand, and skimmed through the first few pages. It looked pretty good, but I decided to save the read for later. Then that trailer hit MySpace and I was glued to the monitor. In between twitterin’, txtin’, and facebookin’ how much I loved the trailer to friends, I gave the script a read.
I was crestfallen.
I closed the script and half-heartedly clicked on the trailer like a child who just realized that the scuffed action-figure he got so much joy out of is, in reality, just a piece of plastic. A broken, lifeless, limp toy.
I was duped.
I was into the 1st Act. It’s a pretty good-setup. Then somewhere around page 35, or maybe page 40, I dunno…I started to sense that something was rotten in Denmark. Actually, something was rotten in Paradise Falls Gas’N’Grub. Then around page 60, I’m calling bullshit on the writers. My roommate wakes up and tells me to shut-the-fuck-up and who am I talking to?
Then bullshit turns to disbelief, disgust, and ultimately boredom. But what the hell, I’m around page 90, might as well see how it ends.
Yes, I had to force myself to finish. Not because I was tired, not because I needed to take a break, but because I had completely lost interest.
I was bored.
What’s the story?
There is no story. But I’ll tell you about the plot.
The Archangel Michael, the “One who is like God”, the field commander of the Army of God, that guy in the Bible who fought some demon called the Prince of Persia, falls to earth.
He lands in a rain-soaked alleyway, like he’s the fucking Terminator or something. Except you know, he’s not naked. Nope, he’s in full Kyle Reese-regalia. You know, like right after Reese raided that sporting goods store?
Except in this movie, Reese, I mean Michael, is already fully dressed. Presumably, a pair of combat boots and a trench-coat is the traditional attire of the Angelic Host.
Anyways, with the acumen of a Chinese contortionist, Michael cuts his wings off. With a knife.
Let me repeat that.
Michael, an angel, falls to earth, seemingly pissed. He’s angry about something. Emotional. Maybe not the best time to make life-changing decisions. I mean, in that state, even an angel might do something rash. An angel might even act like a hormonal, rebellious teenager who is having a hissy with their parents and starts making unwise decisions. You know, stuff that might have a negative effect down the road. Like say…CUTTING YOUR FUCKING WINGS OFF.
It seems like something an angel would need a teammate for, a spotter, but this guy is determined. And flexible. He cuts off his wings and flees into a sporting goods store. There he finds a first-aid kit, and somehow stitches these wounds closed. It’s impressive. On the LOST pilot, Jack, who is a surgeon, couldn’t even do this. He had to request the help of Kate, a civilian, to help stitch those hard-to-reach places. But whatever, Michael isn’t a Doctor. He’s an angel. And angels know all sorts of fancy stuff. Hell, if you put stock in the Book of Enoch, angels taught us humans all our knowledge and medical-know-how.
But apparently angels don’t need wings. They need guns. A whole shit-ton of them.
So Michael starts filling rifle bag after rifle bag with FEROCIOUS firepower. Whatever he’s preparing for is going to require lots of explosions and kill-shots. But shit, this store is locked. How is he gonna get out? Not quietly, that’s for damn sure…
BOOOOM! That’s how! The explosion cuts a cross-shaped exit out of the sporting goods store. Oh shit! This catches the attention of two on-duty black-and-whites. In fact, the fiery debris of Michael’s ostentatious exit rains down on their hood. But Michael doesn’t give a shit! Why? Because he moves so fast it’s like a blur, that’s why!
He quickly grabs a cop and tries to talk sense to them. It’s an urgent bit of business. Michael has a child to save! Which gives him the searing authority to be as capriciously brazen as he needs to be. But oh shit, son, that cop with the gun aimed at Michael starts to vibrate like a human dildo. Sodium lights start to hum and flicker. Something supernatural is happening!
Bones crack, and a hideous smile forms on the copper’s face. And then he says something that makes me think of Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys: “What are you doing Michael? These weren’t your orders.” Except it’s not Kiefer. It’s never explained, but I’m pretty sure it’s The Big Guy Upstairs.
So how does Michael respond to this? He pretty much tells The Almighty to fuck off. “I’m following my own orders now.” God doesn’t seem very concerned. God informs Michael that then, he too shall die, along with the Christ child.
Yeah, dudes. Christ, the son of God, is returning back to His Creation again. In the form of a baby. He’s gonna be human again. And God the Father wants his Son dead. What is that? Filicide? But aren’t they one and the same as well? That’s also suicide, isn’t it?
But enough semantics. You don’t need to think about the concept of the Holy Trinity to understand this movie. In fact, it’s best not to ask these type of theological questions at all if you want to enjoy this prophetic horror narrative!
God isn’t really concerned with Michael’s rebellion. Why be concerned when you have an entire heavenly army at your disposal? If that’s not enough, God can just demonically possess humans with his angels and turn them into fast-motion zombies. He can use hordes of these things to dispose of Michael. Because when you’re God, even angels can be like demons! Even angels can drop F-bombs like I, the foul-mouthed Roger Balfour!
What’s the rest of the plot?
While the rest of the world is being terminated by God’s Own Army, we get to meet the important players. Our ensemble cast, if you will. We get to meet Charlie, our twenty-something Mother Mary of the Paradise Falls Gas’N’Grub congregation. A colony of ancient silver Airstream trailers in the middle of the desert. Humanity’s Alamo is the truck-stop diner that serves as the Paradise Falls nexus. I like the name of our setting. It’s so Miltonian. I’m into that kinda shit. Puns…
Ahem, so. Jeep is our hero. I don’t mean the vehicle. There’s a guy named Jeep in this thing. He rises up to be our hero. I like him. He’s the son of the owner of the gas-station and diner, Bob. Bob has a cook named Percy. Percy is a war veteran who has a metal hook for a hand. I like that detail. I like slasher movies, and I like pirates, and what do these things both have in common? Hooks. So that’s pretty cool.
Percy is going to try and lay some wisdom down on Kyle Williams, our black Escalade-driving cool-as-ice gangbanger. He’s handsome as hell, thug-style, bwoi! Kyle’s just driving through, but when the apocalypse rides in on angel’s wings, he’s here to stay. Kyle’s gonna try to put those sweet baby-face moves on Audrey, the provocative teenage daughter of Sandra and Howard, our requisite salt-of-the earth suburbanites.
So them’s our players.
They only exist to have horrible, horrible deaths. One dude even gets nailed upside down to a cross, like St. Peter. But unlike St. Peter, he also has explosive, acidic boils all over him. It’s a nasty biological bomb. That happens sometime after the first wave of attacks.
So yeah…Michael shows up, arms everyone with guns. Makes them defend the truck-stop diner while wave-upon-wave of angelically possessed fast-motion zombies, referred to as The Possessed, attack the diner. They have to hold them off so Charlie can push her baby out, who presumptively is going to grow up to become Neo from the Matrix movies. A lot of these details are referred to vaguely, or completely left to the imagination. Kind of like a Mad Libs tablet…or not. I think the idea is that Jesus Christ, angel-slayer, will reach adulthood and war against the Divine Army, showing God, his Father, that humanity and its institutions are in fact, pretty fucking groovy.
In a weird way, it’s a lot like “Dawn of the Dead”, which is a much better movie. Both versions. It’s about survival! But with “Legion”, it’s survival and ‘splosions before everything else. Even story, sadly.
And it’s also like “The Terminator”.
It’s really like “The Terminator” when Michael says, “If you want to live, you’ll do exactly as I say.”
I typed the phrase, “if you want to live” into the search bar on this pdf script. It came up twice. Both times uttered by Michael. It’s very Terminator.
In the third act, even the T-1000 shows up in the form of Gabriel. He’s Michael’s Lieutenant. Except he obeys God. Even when it comes to exterminating mankind. And Michael is in his fucking way.
Things don’t go very well for Michael. There are a few things working against him. 1.) Gabriel has a pretty bad-ass mace. 2.) Gabriel has wings. 3.) Michael cut his wings off when he got to earth.
But it doesn’t matter. Michael is covered in tattoos. The tattoos are actually Instructions on raising the Christ-child. Training him. Preparing him to be John Con…a leader. When Michael is killed, the tattoos will disappear from his divine dermis and supernaturally appear on the flesh of Jeep.
Which makes me think why he didn’t just off himself when he got to earth. But there I go again with those questions.
Jeep is the father-figure. I mean, he’s not the actual father of the Christ-child. That’s some random dude who only exists in Charlie’s Mary Magdalene-past. Regardless, Jeep loves Charlie. He wants to be her husband. He wants them to be a family.
He gets his wish when Gabriel kills Michael and when he and Charlie kill Gabriel. With a grenade.
Grenades kill angels. Pretty cool, huh?
So our tale ends with Jeep and Charlie riding off into the post-apocalyptic sunset with their new baby.
Instant family. Just add Jeep! And he’s got those Instructions tattooed onto his flesh. It’s gonna be A-OK…or is it?
In your Hollywood screenplay, injecting room for those nawty sequelz.
Wow. Anything else you care to say, Roger?
In terms of suspension of disbelief, horror is a genre that certainly gives you some leeway. You have some slack to play around and be crazy. Get some blood and gore on those hands. But it doesn’t mean you have a free pass to throw character, logic, and story out the window.
You have to find that balance. This script attempts to establish a story between Jeep and Charlie, and it’s promising when we first meet them, but their story, and all concrete sense of character, are pushed to the background as soon as the repetitive and numerous action sequences arrive. I literally felt my eyes glaze over as soon as gunplay, explosions, and gore rammed its way into the foreground.
And it’s not anything new. All the money shots are in the trailer.
Little details are planted to suggest that some of these characters have interesting back-stories, but it’s all too little too late. These characters are one-dimensional in a flat world.
There’s even a moment where the emotions and sentiments feel flat-out wrong. When Gabriel points out that Michael no longer has wings, Michael replies, “To no longer feel their burden…is a dream.”
I’m sorry, what?
I just don’t buy that. It feels forced. Flight is both an archetypal dream and a fear…and there’s no explanation to why God is doing what He is doing and why Michael hates his angelic status so much.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I’d also like to point out, that when you’re playing with mythology, theology, and lore to create a world, to fucking do your research. Check out some library books. Do a little reading. Hell, check out Wikipedia at the very least. I know novelists who cut-and-paste their baddies from the monster compendiums on Wikipedia for fuck’s sake. It’s lazy, yes, but it’s at least something. The writers of “Legion” should be damned to a Southern Baptist-fried Vacation Bible School to at least glean a basic knowledge of theology.
When I saw the trailer, I thought it was interesting that someone tipped the demonic convention of prophetic horror on its head by having angels be the baddies. It could have worked, but in this story it just came off as ignorant.
You want to see and read some good, post-apocalyptic, prophetic horror narratives that manage to create interesting worlds and have great characters? Check out Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” and Garth Ennis’ “Preacher” (someone with true anger and knowledge who is criticizing the Church and questioning theology). Want to see angels as baddies done intriguingly? Check out the CW’s “Supernatural” and Caitlin R. Kiernan’s short story cycle, “Alabaster”.
The blog End Of Show is reporting that The Social Experiment, written by Aaron Sorkin, is officially a Go picture. You may remember from my review of the script how much I liked it (it now stands as #10 on my Top 25). Because, up until that point, the idea of a Facebook movie was getting a lot of negative buzz, the review alleviated a lot of fears. Less than a week later, Sorkin signed on to rewrite Sony’s “Moneyball” (script review here), and most of that negative buzz went the way of the dodo bird.
But don’t be fooled. This is still a big gamble. I can’t remember the last time somebody made a serious pop-culture movie so soon after real life events. Usually these stories go straight to basic cable or network TV. This has gotta be nerve-wracking for Sony as we all watched the “cool factor” of Myspace go from 60 to 0 in about 8 days. They should probably simultaneously shoot a movie about Twitter to cover their asses. Or should Twitter be the sequel? Regardless, it is a great script. I was riveted for 160 pages. It’s hard to rivet me for 10 pages. I’m not easy to rivet. The only issue I see with the film is that it’s not very cinematic. I guess that’s why they brought in Fincher. Man, I really hope this movie does well. Cause if it doesn’t, I’m sure some people are going to point the finger at me. “You’re the one who thought it was good!” Hmm, I wonder if I can be fired at Sony if I don’t work there. :)
Genre: Drama (Independent)
Premise: A high school teacher deals with the death of his daughter in his own unique way.
About: This received one teensy tiny vote on the 2005 Black List, the first year the list was released. On that year Juno was the number two script on the list and Lars And The Real Girl was number three. Both went on to garner Oscar nominations and Juno won. So the list has some pedigree. Makowka is also the first director to take advantage of Michigan’s new 40% film production tax incentive, shooting his new film, “Tug,” completely in Holland, Michigan. As a note to how quickly a working writer must think on his feet, “Tug” was initially set in Los Angeles, but when it was realized how much money they could save in Michigan, Makowka rewrote the entire story to take place in Holland (despite never having been to Michigan!)
Writer: Abram Makowka
I’m not quite sure how to follow up a review where two of the most beautiful actresses in the world partake in an aggressive lesbian love scene. I suppose I’d have to be the one to leak an Angelina Jolie sex tape. Or maybe be the blogger that found Bin Laden. So, instead of trying, I’m going to go all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum and review a quiet little script that received a single solitary vote on the 2005 Black List called “Anatomy Of A Stick Figure.” Why? Because when I started Scriptshadow, I imagined reviewing a lot more of these scripts and now I feel guilty. That’s why.
Hale, 40s, is a high school history teacher with a genuine love for teaching – the kind of guy who could stand toe-to-toe with Mr. Holland and come away unscathed. Hale spends the majority of his time putting together 16mm films that distort history in a way that forces his students to question everything that they know about the past. Hale is also a little distant. No, let me take that back. He’s a lot distant. When he’s not up in front of 25 sets of intensely focused eyeballs, he becomes so disconnected with the world, he might as well not even exist. This is problematic in that he has a wife, Aris, whom he despises, and a 16 year old daughter, Sal, who despises him. Despite Hale using everything in his limited arsenal to make a connection with his daughter, it always ends up in her hating him more.
Sal looks for comfort in her rebel almost-boyfriend, Lewis, who’s too busy incurring the wrath of his abusive deadbeat father, Pete (known as Popsicle Pete because he drives an ice cream truck) to give Sal his full attention. But as the story progresses and the two grow closer, Sal sneaks out one night to meet with Lewis. Instead she gets stuck in his house with Popsicle Pete, who gets her drunk and tops it off with a little bit of crack – White Trash, USA-style. The next morning Hale and Aris wake up to find their daughter in her bed, dead.
One of the cool things about Anatomy is that it’s never too up and it’s never too down. People are sad about Sal’s death, but the focus shifts more towards Hale’s inability to deal with his emotions, as he hasn’t had to use them in sixteen years. He finds himself pulled into an unexpected friendship with Lewis, and for the first time in a long time, Hale is actually able to open up to someone.
In the meantime, Pete has been lucky that no one’s traced Sal’s death back to him, but as Lewis begins to spend more time with Sal’s father, Pete becomes paranoid that critical information will be exchanged and his secret will be outed. As a result, Lewis and Pete’s relationship becomes intensely violent. It’s pretty clear that at some point, it’s going to be one or the other.
Anatomy is a script that never quite finds its rhythm, but in a strange way I think it works. Sal actually begins the screenplay dead. Then we jump back in time and get to know her. Then she dies somewhere around the middle. At which point we have no idea where the story’s going to go. And then this weird but interesting friendship evolves between Lewis and Hale, and Hale tries to find some peace, some connection to his daughter in death, that he never had when she was alive. As most of you know, I like it when a script keeps me guessing, so Anatomy won points for that.
If there’s a problem with the script, it’s that Makowka makes his characters really hard to like. Take Sal for instance. While she may be a confused teenager desperately searching for someone to love her, she also comes off as a whiny bitch who finds fault in everything. I’m not wishing death on this girl. But to mourn someone I never liked in the first place is a lot to ask. While Sal’s the strongest example, the truth is, it’s hard to like any of these characters. The wife is selfish and condescending. Pete is an abusive alcoholic. And Hale is so distant, we have just as much trouble connecting with him as he does with others.
Luckily Anatomy had a surprising ending that explains exactly why Hale is the way he is – and by association, why the dynamic of the family is so fucked up. It’s a nice unexpected surprise that forces you to look back on everything you read and reevaluate it. If you liked Rachel Getting Married or The Squid And The Whale, this script may just be the weekend read you’re looking for.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Try to keep your tone consistent throughout your script. One of the most common mistakes I see is tone that floats all over the place. Although I enjoyed Anatomy Of A Stick Figure, there was one aspect that took me out of the story: Popsicle Pete. I don’t know if you remember reading my review for Fiasco Heights, but there’s a character in that script who also drives an ice cream truck named something like “Blowpop Billy”. Now see because the tone of that film is all video game, the name and character made sense. Here, it comes off as cartoonish and doesn’t work. Know what your tonal boundaries are and stay within them. Keep that tone consistent!