Way back a few months ago, the spec script “Prisoners” by first-timer Aaron Guzikowski, made the Hollywood rounds and impressed a bunch of people. Wahlberg attached himself. Not long after that, Christian Bale came on as well. But before putting the script on the market, in order to sell it for the most amount of moola, they wanted to complete the trifecta and attach a director. Although they finally got Bryan Singer interested, for whatever reason, not everyone could agree on the direction of the project. So Bale and Whalberg deattached themselves and Prisoners went on the market sans any talent attached. It’s still unclear to me if Singer stayed attached or not. But anyway, the script finally sold to Alcon Thursday for an undisclosed amount of money that is thought to be north of a million dollars. Take a trip down Scriptshadow memory lane when the script first hit the street.
I think it’s time. I think we all agree it’s time. Inception needs to be reviewed on Scriptshadow. I know this script is out there because they’ve already started shooting it (under a different name). My April Fools Day joke was convincing enough that I’ve literally received a thousand requests for the script. Some liked my made-up version so much they’ve even encouraged me to write it (I did think it was pretty cool if I do say so myself). With the most highly anticipated movie debuting its footage today at ComicCon, it seems only natural we get a review of the most coveted script in town.
Now here’s my promise to you. You, person out there, who has the script. I will not post it. I promise you that. All I want to do is read and review it. So you can send it through your e-mail or an anonymous e-mail or whatever means necessary, if your’e scared. But just know that I’m not going to spread this out there. My inbox awaits you. Do the right thing. :)
Premise: We follow the lives of a handful of Brooklyn cops.
About: Michael Martin has a great story. The 28 year old Brooklyn native and former subway worker sold Brooklyn’s Finest for 200k. Here’s what Richard Gere had to say about the script: “I’ve been dealing with making movies for 30 years — more than 30 years, almost 35 years — and I’ve worked with a lot of writers who would try to come up with something like this and would fail. It’s got such a wonderful structure to it, besides the innate rhythm and nature of it. The structure was a really terrific movie structure. It’s basically three short stories, very tangentially connected, unexpectedly, contrapuntally working together.” John Langley, a producer on the movie said it was “the most realistic cop script that I’ve ever read.” Stars Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, and Vincent D’onofrio. Hell, even Wesley Snipes makes his way back into respectable cinema here. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Writer: Michael C. Martin
People have asked how Brooklyn’s Finest secured such a great cast. Was it that good? Well, I mean, we all know how the system works. A big name commits to a film, be it an actor or a director, and everybody else comes swarming in screaming, “Me too! Me too!” as if they knew the script was great all along. But the reality is that most actors won’t put their ass on the line until someone else does first.
Why else would you sign up for a tough-to-sell indie film? Well obviously it helps that Antoine Fuqua’s last cop drama was the acclaimed “Training Day” (one of my favorite cop films) and landed Denzel with an Oscar. So once he gave the script his seal of approval, everybody else just thought, “Well then it must be great.” But who was that initial person who signed onto “Brooklyn’s Finest?” Who thought the script was good enough to be made into a film? Because here’s the thing. Brooklyn’s Finest has all sorts of problems.
“Finest” starts out with a big bang. Two friends are talking and a second later, one pulls a gun and shoots the other in the face. But much like the universe, a hell of a lot of time goes by before anything happens again. Sal is a Brooklyn cop with 9 kids and 2 more on the way. Every day is a struggle and he’s looking for a promotion so he can secure a deposit on a much needed larger house for his family. Tango is an undercover cop trying to bring down the Brooklyn drug trade, specifically the area known as the “Pink Houses,” a nasty group of housing projects in the heart of Brooklyn. Eddie Dugan is a 40-something Irish cop on the brink of retirement. He lives with a wife he doesn’t talk to and wakes up every morning planning to blow his brains out. For some reason, he can’t do it.
Suicide Eddie, who drinks like a fish and whose signature move is punching the clock at the end of the day, is pissed off that he has a new rookie partner. But Eddie’s kind of a joke around the precinct and if something shitty has to be put on someone, Eddie’s usually your guy. When a routine day with his new partner turns into some “save the world” shit as the rookie tries to arrest everyone in sight, Eddie storms back to his boss and demands someone else. So Eddie is given Hickey, a rook who’s a lot more like him. If they happen upon a rape outside their jurisdiction? Fuck it. It’s not their problem.
In the meantime Sal, the fucking Octomon disciple, becomes more and more tempted by the dark and easy path. Anything to get that deposit down on his new house. This becomes particularly important when he finds out that of his soon-to-be-born twins, they won’t have enough room to support both. For that reason he’ll have to make a “Sophie’s Choice” and send one of them to stay with his sister.
Gangsters Caz and Red have been running with Tango for four years now – Caz back in jail and Red out on the streets. These are the men he uses to get a beat on what’s going down in the drug world. Despite his allegiances, Tango can’t help but have developed friendships with the two, especially Caz, probably the most interesting character in the screenplay (played by Snipes). Caz just got out after an 8 year sentence in the slim-slam. He’s in that age-old predicament where he can’t make money legitimately because no one will hire him, so the only way to survive is going back to crime. Because of the three-strikes rule though, Caz could be a lifer just for sneezing in the wrong place. He’s torn about what to do. He wants to go legit but it’s so hard. In the meantime Tango’s handlers tell him they want to set Caz up because his release from jail is an embarrassment to the system. So Tango’s gotta make a decision between following orders or helping his friend. When he tells the bosses he won’t help them, they inform him they know he’s been stashing money from drug busts for the last four years. If Caz doesn’t go down, then Tango will.
My basic issue with Brooklyn’s Finest is that very little ever actually happens. After the exciting first scene, the next 30 pages are all character set-up. There’s no story weaved into it at all. It’s just scene after scene of the characters’ backstories or problems. And man, this script is abundant with one of the most basic screenwriting no-nos out there. Everybody sits around talking. We go from two people sitting around talking to another two people sitting around talking to three people sitting around talking. It’s like one giant poker game. Everyone just sits around and talks.
Eddie’s character is so damn depressing, he makes Mickey Rourke seem like Ryan Seacrest. And don’t get me started on Sal. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for this guy’s situation. But all I kept thinking was, “Dude, if you can barely support 2 kids, why the hell did you have 11??” I mean I can understand if you had 4. Maybe even 5. But 7?? 9??? You’d think at some point you’d be smart enough to say, “Hmm, maybe I can’t afford to have another kid.” So instead of sympathizing with him, I just thought he was an idiot.
Were there good things about Brooklyn’s Finest? Sure. Martin gets into the nitty gritty of police politics and brings to light a lot of the realities of being a cop in a system that doesn’t care about you (Even though a county cop’s job is a tenth as dangerous, their salary and benefits are twice as high as city cops). I also particularly liked the predicament Tango was in when he had to choose between his job and his friend. But these moments are a very small percentage of the total screenplay and for that reason, I was a very high percentage of bored.
Michael C. Martin is a great story and from that first picture, he looks like a really nice guy. But I couldn’t get into Brooklyn’s Finest.
Link: No link.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: “People sitting down and talking scenes” are the worst. Avoid them at all costs. No matter how good the dialogue is, it brings your story to a standstill. Try to have the conversations you need to have within the flow of the story. Be creative and stay kinetic. Keep your characters moving.
Early Edition – still editing.
Premise: When Stan is given a one night “pass” from his fiance to have as much sex as he wants, all hell breaks loose.
About: Spec script that just sold Friday. Lionsgate picked it up. Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg (writers of Harold and Kumar 1, directors of Harold and Kumar 2) attached to direct.
Writer: Joshua Friedlander (draft dated July 6, 2009 – 115 pages)
What some of you might not know is that the spec market is disastrous right now. Absolutely nothing is selling. I think a month went by without a single spec sale. The studio coffers were closed. Laptops were shut down. Writers refused to subject their material to the harsh market. But then a script came along. A script by one Joshua Friedlander that gave writers across the globe hope again. And what was it that changed Hollywood’s mind? Why a script about a one-night stand of course. Makes sense when you think about it. The people in this town aren’t exactly relationship friendly. But was One Night Stan that good? Or did Hollywood just get bored and feel like they had to pull the trigger on something? There are only so many comic books you know. At some point you gotta buy original material.
Stan is a nice caring 20-something who’s lived a life full of long relationships. Yeah, he’s the friend in your group you call “Relationship Guy.” Stan loves being the relationship guy. The crazy confusing disease-ridden rock’em sock’em singles scene just doesn’t suit him. Stan is most happy when he’s sharing his life with a woman. And he’s about to marry the woman of his dreams, Julie. Julie is seemingly just like Stan – a responsible committed sweet person. They’re best friends with Russel and Marie, a former couple who still live together and Neal and Karin, a slightly older couple who own the video game company Stan works at. During a night of slightly excessive drinking, the dreaded “number” comes up. As in “the number of people you’ve slept with.” One by one people start revealing their numbers and when they get to Julie, we find out that she’s slept with over 30 guys. This is all sorts of news to Stan, who, no matter how hard he tries, can’t seem to get the number out of his head. Later on he presses her for details, and it only gets worse (or better – depending on your perspective).
INT. STAN’S BMW – LATER
Before I answer, can we clear something up? I just wanna make sure that your number includes all your partners. That’s every guy. There’s not like an addendum to that list, of guys you just blew?
No. Except with my first boyfriend, I’ve never been one to just fool around. I always go all the way. So that number is all the guys I’ve had intercourse with.
That number doesn’t include girls.
Stan looks like he might faint.
Here we go.
Don’t freak out. I’ve only had one same sex experience.
You slept with one girl?
It was one experience, but there were actually five of us that participated.
Five at once?!
Five?! I’ve only been with four women! You’ve had sex with more women than I have!
No. I’m included in the five. There were four others.
Oh, so you’ve had sex with as many women as I have! That makes me feel much better.
It was all one night. A sorority thing. We were drunk, there were five of us that got together on a lark.
You had a lesbian orgy on a lark?
I don’t know why, but “girlfriends who just may be super-sluts” humor always makes me laugh. So I was onboard from the get-go. But “One Night Stan” still had to maneuver through some tricky waters as we have to buy into some iffy motivational logic. As Stan becomes increasingly self-conscious about his lack of sexual partners, Julie gets it in her head that he should sow his wild oats. So she offers him one night to go out and have as much sex as he can. Which technically wouldn’t be a “one night” stand. Because there are potentially multiple people involved in the night. That’s like a fraction-night stand isn’t it? Actually, that’s a good question. If you have sex with multiple people in one night, what “stand” is that? I’m confused. Anyway, Julie tells him to sleep with as many girls as he wants as long as it’s before sunrise tomorrow morning. Of course, as we men know, just because you’ve been given permission to have sex, doesn’t mean you’ll actually get any sex. Believe me, I wish I could use that line. “Hey, I’ve been given a free pass tonight. Will you have sex with me?” Please allow there to be a world where that works. Anyway, it’s in Stan’s desperate attempts to lay some pipe that the script takes off.
At first reluctant, his buddies convince him that this is the best thing that could ever happen to a man and if he doesn’t take advanage of it they’ll kill him. His very first opportunity is with a MILFish client of his video game company. Stan makes a tentative move on Milfy only to find out that this isn’t a MILF at all. It’s a TILF. As in “A transfender I’d like to fuck”. I don’t know how many of you have ever been out with a TILF before but it can be a bit of a shock to the system. Which Stan finds out firsthand as the TILF puts his hand on her penis. Ultimately Stan decides not to have sex with the Tilf. He then rushes back home to target the apartment complex slut. She agrees to have sex with him, but only if it can be a three-way…with another guy. Stan figures sex is sex and agrees, but when a third sword swashbuckles onto the ship, Stan figures enough is enough. Next is a trip to the local club with his buddies where they find the trashiest girl on the dance floor (a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac). She needs to have sex *all the time* so they go back to her trailer. Just as they’re about to have sex, Stan notices her two children staring up at them. He figures children watching mommy have sex isn’t cool and leaves. Next up is my favorite sequence of the script, “Book Club Girl”. His friends convince him that there are tons of sluts at the bookstore so he goes there only to stumble into a weird book club. He immediately begins chatting up a really cute girl. But the girl is acting strange and keeps asking him what his favorite book is. When she’s 100% clear that his favorite book is also her favorite book, she takes him home. It is there that Stan learns that the book was actually code for a particularly…specific sex act. If stuff like this really happens, you won’t catch me at Barnes and Noble anytime soon. When all hope is lost, what’s left to do? Hire a hooker of course. Needless to say, that doesn’t go according to plan either.
In the meantime, Julie starts having doubts about whether she did the right thing. This leads to a total meltdown where she questions whether she’s really over her one true love. So while Stan’s out there desperately trying to get laid, Julie pays a visit to her old boyfriend to get closure. As sunrise nears, both are in danger of cheating on the person they love, and this seemingly smart decision by Julie very well might end their relationship forever (she should’ve consulted me. Letting your boyfriend bang other women tends to have negative effects on a relationship).
Here’s my problem with One Night Stan. It’s really hard to buy into the premise. I talk about this in a review I did for another script called “Permission.” I simply don’t know anybody in my life who would allow someone they loved to have a one night stand with someone else. Do you? I understand this is a movie but there has to be some level of reality here, right? But what compounds the problem is that Stan doesn’t really want to cheat on Julie. So now you have a situation that’s hard to buy with a character that doesn’t want to do it. The motivation for him to cheat is…what? So I had a hard time getting over that setup.
But once you do get past it, One Night Stan is hilarious. Friedlander’s got the funny going on all cylinders here. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed. The whole Book Club sequence has “classic scene” written all over it. And the cool thing about “Stan” is that we haven’t seen any of these situations before. So many writers take a concept like this and basically recreate their favorite movie from top to bottom. All of the humor here felt fresh and original, which is I’m sure why “Stan” stood out from all the other contenders that crashed and burned in their attempts to land a sale this month.
Anyway, if they can somehow fix those two structural problems, I heartily endorse this jumping onto the big screen.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Break rules. Even the ones I tell you not to! You may have noticed that this script was 116 pages. That goes against a rule I just touted only days ago. That comedy specs should be under 110 pages. Just goes to show that I’m not always right (it’s rare – but it happens) and that every rule can be broken. I actually encourage breaking a couple of rules in each screenplay. Just don’t go breaking all of them. Pick and choose – and make sure there’s a reason behind your disobedient ways. Rule breaking tends to work a lot better when the writer knows why they’re breaking the rules.
Genre: Indie Drama
Premise: This coming-of-age tale follows six lives in modern day New York, highlighted by a 20-something aspiring novelist who accidentally adopts a 6 year old African American child.
About: Made the 2007 Black List with 3 votes, though I suspect it would’ve been much higher had more people read it. Radnor plays Ted Mosby on the sometimes hilarious sometimes average “How I Met Your Mother.” With a cast of highly talented multi-taskers (Neil Patrick Harris is hosting the Emmys. Jason Seagal wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Radnor obviously had to do something big to stand out. Writing, directing and starring in his own movie was the only way he could trump his castmates. Malin Ackerman and Kate Mara will co-star.
Writer: Josh Radnor
Wow. I cannot stress how shocked I was when I finished this script, dug around, and found out that Ted Mosby wrote it. I was so convinced that there were two Josh Radnor’s, a writer and an actor, that I kept surfing the internet for half an hour convinced that there had to be a mix-up or some bad information. I’m still not entirely sure, as IMDB doesn’t even list the movie. It’s not that I don’t think someone from a sitcom can be that talented in another trade but…Actually, yes, that is what I think. Writing takes time. Getting good enough to compete with the awesome pool of talent at this level takes dedication. To write one of the top 15 scripts of the year, out of a sea of 50,000…you have to be dedicated to your craft. That Radnor belted this out in between spit takes with the flute girl from American Pie has my head spinning.
Obviously there’s some untapped pool of talent in goofy affable sitcom leads. Following the Zach Braff model, Radnor wrote his script and got a hot female star attached (Ackerman). Then he got funding with him attached as both actor and star. The big difference between Braff and Radnor though – who could easily pass as brothers – is that Radnor can really write. While Braff did a great job on the acting and directing front in Garden State, the script itself wandered too much. I am so convinced of Radnor’s talents after reading this that I’m willing to bet he was a writer long before he was an actor. There’s too much confidence in his unique snapshot of New York City. From the characters to the stories to the dialogue (which came off just as electric as it did realistic) , we’ve been introduced to a story not quite like any other in a city that’s been around for 300 years.
In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that I’m a sucker for coming-of-age films. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. But I’m also the first to admit that there’s nothing worse than a coming-of-age film gone bad. Characters are complaining about their troubled suburban childhoods. Mommy and Daddy don’t love me. What do I do with my life? When the amount of whine starts competing with Napa Valley, these screenplays can be like a bad night out at the Roxy. But while Radnor laments, he never dwells. His story moves at a brisk pace for a character piece. He knows when to chug along, when to slow down, and when to check in on the other characters.
Sam is in his late 20s, living in New York, rolling through girls like Big Macs, trying to become a novelist but not really caring if he succeeds or not. Although Sam won’t admit it to himself, he’s lonely. And his inability to come to terms with that is what drives his actions. Sam’s best friend is the beautiful Annie. Annie has a condition called Alopecia Universales, which doesn’t allow her to grow hair on her body. I know, I know. This has cringe-inducing written all over it but I’m telling you, Radnor knows what he’s doing. There are a few times when Annie breaks down about her condition, but the condition is more symbolic if anything. Annie feels just like a lot of people – inadequate, not good enough. But she maintains a positive spirit through it all, and is one of the most *real* characters I’ve read in a long time.
Rounding out the group of friends are the fiery Mary-Catherine and Charlie, two New Yorkers who fight just as much as they get along. Charlie has been offered the job of a lifetime in LA but Mary-Catherine would rather cook her face in a microwave than move to that soulless concrete wasteland. Even though the two are probably the most “normal” characters in the bunch, the exploration of their problems is so universal that their story is just as compelling as the others.
So on his way to his first book deal, Sam observes a small black child amongst his mother, brothers and sisters on the subway. When the family leaves though, the boy, Rasheen, deliberately stays behind. Sam, feeling like he should do something, tries to take the kid to the police but Rasheen refuses to go (later we find out he’s been in a number of foster homes and has been repeatedly abused). So Sam (naturally) takes Rasheen to his book deal meeting, and (naturally) the publishing people are a little confused as to why their new author is escorting around a small black child. Each time Sam tries to get rid of Rasheen, something comes up that prevents him from doing so, and before he knows it, he really starts to like the kid. So hours turn into more hours. More hours turn into days. Without even realizing it, Sam has unofficially adopted Rasheen. Which is just crazy. But I’m telling you. Radnor makes it believable.
Complicating matters is that Sam also meets the stunningly beautiful Mississippi, an aspiring singer who’s trying to pick up the pieces of her life. When she won’t buy into Sam’s one-night stand proposal, in order to get her to have sex with him, he proposes a “three-night stand.” The keys to his apartment, come in and out at any time, and they’ll be a couple for three days. The idea is so absurd and Sam is so charming, she goes along with it. Of course after the alcohol’s worn off the next morning, Sam can’t believe what he’s done. And when Mississippi finds out that Rasheen is living with him, all hell breaks loose. When she hears of the abuse though, she softens a little. And all of a sudden Sam has gone from single man on the street, to having his own quasi-family.
Although there are a lot of great things about “Happy Thank You More Please,” the thing that gives it an edge over a lot of similar films is how Rasheen fits into the story. What Sam is essentially doing is kidnapping a child. And the longer he waits around doing nothing, the more trouble he’s going to be in when the authorities find out. So with each passing day, we become more and more anxious as we’re fearing for Sam. Yet at the same time, we don’t want Rasheen to go back to that horrible life he was a part of. Basically we’re freaking out inside going, “What the hell is he going to do??” It makes us forget that there really isn’t an overarching plot driving the story (though it was clever of Radnor to use the “3 Day Stand” device, as it gives the story an unofficial time frame).
“More please” perfectly captures the feeling of people living cramped together in this absurd but wonderful city, bumping into and bouncing off of each other – affecting each other’s lives in ways they don’t even know. The theme of “growing up” is present on every page and it’s something I, and I imagine a lot of you, identify with. As artists, we grow up with the rest of the world looking down on us and thinking we’re crazy for not, in their minds, “growing up.” And I think Radnor paints a fair balanced assessment of this phenomenon.
The only question mark with the film is, should Josh Radnor play the lead? His default happy-go-lucky smirk doesn’t exactly lend itself to Sam’s harsh and sometimes abrasive behavior. Sam’s got weight. You need an actor who can express that. Of course, none of us have seen Radnor’s acting outside of yukking it up with Robin Chibotski, so who knows? He could very well be the next Dustin Hoffman. But in a project that’s so strong on so many levels, Mr. Mosby better know what he’s doing, because if done right, this has the potential to be today’s Graduate. “Happy Thank You More Please” breaks into my Top 25.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: Parentheticals. The literary world has become more forgiving of parantehticals. Some people hate them but I love them. When you have a guy saying to a girl, “You look hot tonight,” having the girl’s response be “Thanks, I guess,” changes quite a bit when you add the parenthetical “(not uncharmed)” right before it. With sarcasm and irony and people constantly saying one thing but meaning another, the parenthetical can ease a lot of the confusion.