Well karma comes back to bite you in the ass, huh? The State of Play script review I posted today was taken down by Blogger because of a Universal legal threat. It’s not clear to me if it’s because I posted the review, used a picture of the poster, or posted the script. What pisses me off is that they erased the review not only from the blog, but from my personal blogger database, which means it doesn’t exist anymore. Not too happy about that. For those who are screaming, “why didn’t you back it up?”, my answer will ring true to anyone who’s tried to copy and paste a Word document into Blogger (my old method). The html goes nuts and requires 18,000 adjustments before you post. Therefore I just kept everything online.

So all you angry readers pissed off about my Inception review, you got your revenge! lol

Genre: Rom-Com (but not the gay kind where Hugh Grant is involved – wait a minute, I like Hugh Grant. Good lord, what’s wrong with me?)
Synopsis: Best friends since grade school Max and Sophie move in together….and start cuddling!
About: This one generated a lot of heat when it first went out but ultimately failed to sell. Why? Let’s find out.
Writer: Kathryn McNulty

(photo by Gopher Topher)

When I first saw the title “Cuddle Bitches”, it reminded me of how important a good title is. Particularly for a comedy. If you see a comedy title and don’t at least smile, there’s something wrong with it. Good titles get scripts read. They inch them up the all important reading pile. My reading pile is now 30 scripts deep. Seriously. Although I try to keep them in order, every once in awhile I’ll just go searching for a good title. Let’s face it. When you have a choice between “Cuddle Bitches” and “The Fields Of Nebraska”, which one are you gonna choose?

Speaking of the title, Cuddle Bitches instantly reminded me of the controversial but popular 2008 Black List script “Fuckbuddies” (which you can find here). That script seemed to inspire either Nazi-like hatred or Oprah-like love. It’s written in such a distinct voice with such specific humor, I can see why some people kinda wanted to bash their face in after reading it. But I thought it was funny. It’s sorta one-note, but it’s like 95% dialogue, so it flies by.

What about this Cuddle Bitches script though? Did I spoon it? Did I whisper sweet nothings into its ear? Or did I wake up with it after a night of drinking and realize it was 50 pounds heavier than I remembered? This may come as a surprise to some but I liked Cuddle Bitches. Mainly because it follows the very simple Carson rule to writing a successful romantic comedy. Yes, I’m a broken record, but let’s say it out loud together: “Make sure we like the girl. Make sure we like the guy. And make sure we desperately want to see them get together.” Cuddle Bitches succeeds on all three fronts.

Max and Sophie have been best friends since grade school. Max is an architect (I know I know. Another rom-com, another architect male lead. That equals 643,402 and counting) who’s a bit of a playa. Not into the whole commitment thing. And Sophie’s the all around cool chick who also happens to be super duper hot. But of course Max doesn’t see her that way. And Sophie doesn’t see Max “that” way.

When Sophie’s boyfriend breaks up with her, Max offers to let her stay at his place. On the very first night she’s lonely, so she crawls into Max’s bed and spoons him. And so the beginning of the cuddle relationship begins.

During this relationship, Max begins to experience the dreaded four-eyed monster: “feelings”. Unfortunately he’s too afraid to tell her about them. As she’s on the verge of finding a new boyfriend, Max finally blurts out that he’s in love with her. She freaks out because up until this point she kinda only saw him as a brother. Confusion takes over. The inevitable miscommunication that always happens in these situations begins, making everything exponentially worse. And we’re left to wonder (or at least you’re left to wonder – I already know) if the two will end up together.

If I had to guess why Cuddle Bitches didn’t sell, my guess would be the third act. You see, with these low concept ideas, because there’s no story to hang your hat on, you’re forced to come up with a whole bunch of hibbledeegook in the end to make it seem like all this craziness is happening. When in reality, you’re just trying to come up with reasons to keep the two apart before they inevitably get together. (I mean!!! Not that they get together………spoiler alert?)

And that’s truly what it felt like. Up until that point, I was really into Cuddle Bitches. I wanted to find a bitch to cuddle with. I wanted to spoon. But the script does feel like it’s a draft or two away from a god’s honest life-changing cuddle. This was more the kind of cuddle that happens when you’re groggy and don’t really want anyone to touch you. So you pretend to cuddle to make the other person happy, yet secretly you can’t wait to get away from the cuddle. You know what I mean? Come on, you guys know what I’m talking about.

But yeah, the ending prevented me from giving this a strong recommend. Still a solid script though and definitely worth the read.

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

What I learned from Cuddle Bitches: This was actually a bit of a revelation for me. One of the tell-tale signs that you’re reading an amateur script is that it takes too long to get to the plot. Good writers are efficient and get to the point fast. This is important because readers start to get antsy when the opening wanders. They start to lose trust in you, the writer. Yet by page 15, I still didn’t technically know what Cuddle Bitches was about. But I was still into it. Why, I wondered, when I blast so many other scripts for not following this rule, am I letting this one slide by? And I realized it was because the story was in the title. The two are going to turn to each other for physical support (cuddling) because the movie is called “Cuddle Bitches”. That’s what settled me down. The lesson being, use your title as part of the story. Allow it to focus your reader and actually become part of the setup. Definitely not conventional, but an option to keep in mind.

Okay so last week got a little crazy with the Inception April Fool’s Day joke and I apologize to anyone who was offended (not really though). But my little made-up plot was good enough to convince a few people (Hey, it was a pretty fucking cool idea. I’d see that movie). They even had a little blurb about it at /Film. In order to sell the lie on April Fools’ Day I had to resort to some drastic measures, informing good friends that Warner Brothers was close to putting me behind bars. It wasn’t easy. To relive the fun, here’s the pretend review for Inception.

So we’re going to stay with the “bad joke sci-fi” theme and review a little script called “Battle: Los Angeles” – which should’ve been titled “Battle: For My Attention”. It does contain, however, the very first Scriptshadow embedded picture. So it’s a landmark in that sense.

For those of you who sent angry e-mails demanding a link to “The Details” script, I’ve finally posted one. Go back to the original review here: The Details and the link is at the bottom. Also, for all you development pimps, I’m trying to get my hands on a script called “Nonstop” which sold to Dreamworks last month, as well as Zach Braff’s latest script, “Andrew Henry’s Meadow.” I have a couple others I’m looking for in my appropriately named “Scripts I’m Looking For” list (down and to the right). They’re rare enough that if you can get me any of them, I will be your BFF for the remainder of 2009, and most of 2010. And of course if there’s anything hot out there that you want reviewed, send it my way.

This week’s first review is posted BELOW this post. Enjoy.

Genre: Sci-Fi Action
Synopsis: Aliens take over Los Angeles. We try to take it back. I think.
About: This is being made into a movie to star Aaron Eckhart and directed by the guy who directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
Writer: Chris Bertolini

The original Battle of Los Angeles took place in 1945 right here where I live, in Culver City, California (a suburb of Los Angeles). Remember, after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was gripped by the fear that their distance would no longer protect them. It wasn’t unlike 9/11 when we assumed that every plane we went up in was going to be hijacked (or at least I did). So the U.S. set up these gun stations to protect the major cities. Then one night, a strange object appeared in the sky. Huge sky lights pointed up at the air vehicle and the army blasted away at it with every bullet they could find. It was that night that this famous picture was taken.

(note: yes, Scriptshadow just went multimedia)

For those that care, I can see this very spot from my apartment right now!

Anyway, there are UFO pundits who use this picture as solid evidence that UFOs are real. Skeptics, however, point out that all the numerous lights do is distort the image, making it impossible to tell what it is. Although generals on the scene swore it was some sort of hovering craft, later on their statements changed, saying they weren’t sure what it was. Some even theorized that it was a commercial airplane (of which nobody knew where it originated nor where it landed – plus it was somehow able to avoid the collective firepower of the United States army) Some even say it was nerves. Just us being so afraid something was going to happen, that we created the scenario out of fear. I just think it’s cool that it happened a few blocks away from where I live.

The reason I bring this up is because it was this scenario – vaguely – that inspired Battle: Los Angeles, the script I was unfortunate enough to read last night.

Maybe it was because period pieces don’t sell. Maybe it was because the studio was too lazy to do the research. But somewhere along the way they decided to base their film in the present. And this is how we got one of the worst action scripts I have ever read.

So the movie starts off kinda cool. Meteors shoot into the ocean a couple of miles off the coast of Los Angeles. Minutes later, beachgoers witness a strange alien like army oozing out of the water “first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan”-style. These aliens are nasty, they’re fast, and they kill on site. Within seconds they’re shredding the suntanning populace to pieces and moving into the city of Santa Monica.

And then the movie proceeds to turn into total and complete SHIT. Santa Monica evacuates, leaving this army of 50,000 aliens to take over apartments, houses, Pinkberrys, and Jamba Juices (thankfully Tito’s Tacos was spared). As night falls, someone in the army makes the decision to send 5 marines into the city to………I have no fucking idea why. Look around? Check things out? Yes, because it makes total sense to send 5 marines into a city overtaken by 50,000 lightning fast superhuman strength flesh-ripping aliens. Makes total sense to me. Particularly since their mission is so clear. To like….go in….and check things out.

The marines head into the city: At night. I guess cause going in there at night gives them an advantage over the aliens.

After getting into a few battles with the aliens, they find a group of people left behind. Their mission now becomes to get *out* of the very city they were just told to go into (for no reason).

That’s pretty much the movie right there. I’d tell you who the characters were but I forgot. They were so bland, so boring, that I instantly forgot who they were as soon as I finished the script.

I will not fault the writer for this mess. There is no way even the least talented writer in the world could’ve come up with something this bad. He had to be working with notes given to him by some clueless studio executive. This so wreaks of lack of imagination that it’s the only way I can explain it.

This is going to be a real movie. No, I’m serious. Out of words.

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

What i learned from Battle: Los Angeles: Nobody cares about your characters being in peril if we don’t know anything about or like the characters. And that’s this entire movie – is these marines in peril. Who cares? I don’t know a single one of these guys. None of them have any problems. None of them have any goals. None of them have done anything to help me identify with them. Take those extra few pages at the beginning of your action script and introduce us to your main characters. All the better if you do it in an entertaining way. Please see “Aliens” as the best example of this. Terrible.

Genre: Light sci-fi/Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: What if, on the verge of getting married, you learned that your soul mate was someone else?
About: This spec just sold to Dreamworks earlier in the week.
Writer: Chris McCoy

Hot off the presses is the recently sold spec script “Good Looking”. Good Looking is about a dating service in the near future that is able to identify with 100% accuracy your one and only true love. As WILL and EMMA near their wedding, Will begins to wonder if Emma is the right girl for him and tries out the service. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that his true love is not Emma, but some girl named SOPHIE. The script focuses on the crumbling of Will and Emma’s relationship as Will becomes more and more fixated on the fact that he may be with the wrong person.

It’s actually a really good premise with a ton of potential. You’ve been with someone for five years, then along comes this dating service that tells you (with 100% certainty mind you) that that person isn’t your true love. You start to have doubts. You start to wonder. And all of a sudden, you want to meet this other person.

Unfortunately Good Looking is never as good as it is in those first few pages because there’s no real engine behind the story. This script needed some energy, some drive. And, at least for me personally, I didn’t care if the two leads stayed together, which is the essential component to any romantic comedy.

Good Looking takes its time setting things up. I’m no Page Nazi but Will doesn’t have his appointment with the Good Looking service until page 39. Since we know where this movie is going by page 5, that gives us 34 pages of sitting around and doing nothing.

I might have forgiven McCoy if there was some story within the story that we could get excited about. Or if we could learn something new about the characters. But all we find out is that Will is a decent enough guy, if not a little boring. Emma’s a police officer who’s kind of moody. And that’s it. Those 34 pages are dedicated to reinforcing those character traits.

I think what bothered me about Good Looking was that it understands the beats it has to hit, but forgets what to do in between them. For instance, Emma and Will are supposed to get married. Yet it’s freaking 3 months away! There’s no sense of urgency. If a mistake is made, we still have another 2 months and 29 days to fix it. Why not make the wedding in a week? That way every decision and problem is magnified times a thousand.

Now as far as the Rom Com world in general, there are a few key things you have to get right. First we have to like the guy. Second we have to like the girl. And third we have to want them to be together. That way, when the “guy loses girl” scenario happens, all we can think about is him getting her back (or vice versa) But Emma is an aggressive moody cop that likes bad 80s movies and smokes pot. That’s not someone I would want to get back together with, and so I didn’t want Will to get back together with her either.

There’s a so-so third act where Will is trying to court Sophie (the “soul mate”) that feels like it comes on too late. In the end he decides he doesn’t want “perfect love”. He wants love with all its imperfections. Which is a sentence that sounds good in a trailer, but in the context of Good Looking, it doesn’t quite feel honest. I don’t know any guy who likes to get screamed at for 2 hours because he forgot to empty the dishwasher.

There’s a movie here somewhere and I get why it sold. As human beings, we’re obsessed with the color of grass just over the hill. Is it really greener? Or is it just as patchy and inconsistent as the grass in our front lawn? That’s really what this movie is about. It’s not about 100% matches or any of that – it’s about the human condition of never being satisfied with what we have and always feeling like we can do better. I think, in the next draft, if Good Looking focuses more on that theme, it could be that rare Rom Com, the kind that makes you think. As of this moment, it’s too raw for my taste. Hope it gets better in the rewrites.

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

What I learned from Good Looking: Lots of things here. But I’ll focus on the lack of urgency. The wedding should’ve been scheduled for a lot sooner. The choice of making it 3 months down the road almost destroyed the script all by itself. We never ever felt a sense of urgency with the story. People just sat around talking and acting upset. In a story like this you need to feel like time is running out. It really ups the stakes and gives your script momentum.