Premise: In the vein of “The Breakfast Club,” A group of strangers wait all night in zero degree weather for concert tickets.
About: Written all the way back in 1996, this is one of the John Hughes’ projects that never got made. The movie was said to be close to production, then delayed because a movie with a similar premise, “Detroit Rock City,” went into production ahead of them. And we all know how good that movie turned out. :(
Writer: John Hughes
Let me just get something out of the way right quick. I think John Hughes is a genius. No one else in history has understood the world of teenagers and the outrageous planet they live on known as “High School” better than this man. When someone e-mailed me “Tickets” and recommended I review it in honor of Hughes, I thought it was a great idea. I’ve wanted to read Tickets for a long time. But just like all the scripts I want to read for fun, I threw it it on the “read for fun” pile and never saw it again. See that’s the trick, you have to disguise the fun as work to get to the fun. That and I realized that if someone had to die and I still wouldn’t read their script, what kind of person had I become?
Tickets starts out on a very chilly Chicago evening. For all of you spoiled sunburned desert crawlers who grew up in places like Las Vegas and San Diego, let me explain how cold it gets in Chicago. Because I was always a bit lazy, I’d wake up no earlier than 20 minutes before school, take a lightning-quick shower, burrow myself inside a couple of sweaters and a coat, then walk to school. But because my hair was still wet, I’d make it 2 blocks before every hair on my head was frozen solid. Like harder than steel solid. TWO BLOCKS! Yes, it’s that kind of cold in Chicago.
So when our six strangers decide to wait outside all night for tickets to their favorite band in the middle of winter, it’s more of a mission than a friendly gathering. First we have Tom, a 30 year-old who just wants to get through the night without being bothered. Then we have Leslie, who wears so many layers of clothing she could be mistaken for a sumo wrestler (she’s the “Ally Sheedy” character – if Ally Sheedy got into Barry Bonds’ medicine cabinet). Then there’s Asa and Omar, two 17 year old suburbanites who snuck downtown hoping to find some females. Of course no night would be complete without “Man in Refrigerator Box” who is a man…. in a refrigerator box. Trolling around the sidewalk, wreaking havoc wherever he could find it is Mr. 66, a homeless Vietnam vet who would grow a second mouth if you sewed his first one shut. Finally you have Max, the rich real estate developer who has recently bought up the very building they’re all waiting out in front of, with plans to gut it and convert it into a sleek new London-themed club.
The story is kinda hard to explain because…because there is no story. Leslie is a walking reality show before there were reality shows. Although we’re not sure if she’s homeless or not, one thing is clear: she had one hell of a fucked up upbringing. Asa and Omar thought the city would be teeming with girls but instead find themselves at the center of Mr. 66’s odd and increasingly cruel attacks. Tom desperately wants everyone to shut up so he can get some sleep, yet consistently finds himself as the only one capable of settling the numerous disputes that arise. When Asa and Omar decide to grill up some hot dogs, asshole developer Max sweeps in and insists that a city ordinance prohibits them from cooking on the street. The group momentarily bonds in order to battle the only person they can universally agree is more annoying than any of them.
Eventually, as the night gets colder and the characters more testy, smaller conflicts arise, pulling away and breaking up our group, leaving us wondering if anybody’s actually going to make it to the morning.
Tickets is a not-so-subtle commentary on class war. The dirt-poor Leslie beats the surbabanites up over their privileged little lives. Tom represents the 80s youth turned 90s apathetic adult, who makes just enough money to survive and not a penny more. And Max, of course, represents a sector of wealth so extreme, that nobody else in that line will ever achieve it, and uses this fact to belittle our characters whenever he gets a chance.
If there was ever a script more focused on the journey than the destination, it’s Tickets. Because the band and its significance to our characters seems to be of so little importance to Hughes, we often forget what they’re doing there in the first place. Hughes is such a master of dialogue that he can usually carry us through these seemingly directionless passages without us realizing that the story is nonexistent. But taking this route is kind’ve like riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Even if you’re Jesse James, there’s always a chance you’re going to fall down and hit your head. And unfortunately this is exactly what happens in Tickets, again and again. The dialogue simply isn’t as good as his previous films, leading us to focus on things we’ve never had to focus on before when watching a Hughes movie. This is the same reason why Tarantino can seem so great one second and so terrible the next.
Where does this leave us? Well, when people look back at The Breakfast Club, I don’t think they remember how dark it was. It was a dark movie with a lot of dark moments. Which is one of the reasons it was so successful. It’s as if someone finally gave teenagers a voice, something to point to to say, “That’s how it really is.” Tickets is even darker than The Breakfast Club. There are funny moments, for sure, but as the script goes on, they start losing altitude, sucked into the thick cumulus clouds below, leaving us with this stark cold distant look at our world.
In the end, it’s the characters who doom Tickets. They’re quirky and memorable for sure. But every single one of them is written to alienate us. Some are too elite. Some are too snobby. Some don’t care. Some are too cruel. Not only don’t they let each other into their lives. They don’t let us in either. And as we all know, if you take great characters out of a John Hughes movie, what do you have left?
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Always look for memorable names. Writers don’t care enough about names but they’re a big deal, both to help identify the character and to make things easier on the reader. A good distinctive name will prevent a busy reader from having to go back and check, “Who was that again?” (note to writers: Readers *hate* this). So get it right the first time. Hughes names his homeless character Mr. 66. instead of, say, “Darrel Johnson.” That’s a “never have to go back and check” name if there ever was one.
I know that since I switched over to this new commenting service (Intense Debate), a lot of you aren’t even able to see a commenting box. The issue appears to be Internet Explorer. So if you’re using that browser, that’s probably why it doesn’t work for you. Safari, Firefox, and Google Chrome all seem to work. Now why Intense Debate would not work on the most popular browser in the world is another question altogether. But I have the question out to their tech team and until they give me an answer, if you desperately want to comment, using one of those other browsers is your best option (Personally, I think they’re all better browsers anyway). I’m often troubleshooting and coming up with solutions to problems on the Scriptshadow Facebook Fan Page. It’s a great place where all you awesome readers can interact.
Premise: A young financial whiz tries to take down one of the world’s biggest hedge funds from the inside.
About: This is of course the follow-up to the 1987 Oliver Stone film, “Wall Street.” Michael Douglas will reprise his role as Gordon Gekko. Shia LaBamBam will continue his streak of starring in every hot movie that’s being made. Vietnam vet Oliver Stone is back at the reigns, helming his most noteworthy picture since the invention of the personal computer.
Writer: Allan Loeb
This script has been burning a hole in my hard drive for months and to be honest, I was never going to review it. I was never a fan of the first film. It always felt to me like a movie that wanted to be better than it actually was. Of course, I was pretty young when I saw it. All I knew about the stock market was people yelling and throwing pieces of paper at each other. But I figured with the way the economy is wreaking havoc on our lives, Wall Street 2 might have something timely to say.
So I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that Oliver Stone is directing the film. I have nothing against Mr. Stone. When he re-edited Alexander 18 times, I said ‘the more the merrier.’ Is Jared Leto gay? Is he not gay? There’s an app for that in the Alexander films. It’s just that the man hasn’t inspired confidence in awhile. The *good* news is that Alan Loeb is the writer. You may remember Alan from my review of The Only Living Boy In New York, a “Graduate”-like tale of a confused 20-something desperately trying to keep his life in order. I liked that script quite a bit, so I was intrigued to see what he would do with the Wall Street franchise (is it really a franchise now?)
Jacob Moore is pissed. Why is he pissed? Because someone just killed his boss. Well, that’s not entirely true. Someone started a rumor about his boss’ investment firm that eventually sank the company’s stock price, which led to the company going under, which led to the boss playing chicken with a subway train…and losing. Luckily, Jacob was given a 1.5 million dollar bonus just days earlier, enough to secure the most extravagant engagement ring money can buy for the woman he plans to spend the rest of his life with. “Take me to the Fuck You room,” he tells the jeweler.
You see Jacob’s stuck on the bubble. His boss was a bit of a father figure and after a few days away from Wall Street he’s beginning to think maybe it isn’t worth it. Why not dance off to a quaint little town in the middle of Americana and build a family? We’ll never know how close Jacob came to making that choice because Jacob’s fiance just happens to be the daughter of Gordon Gekko – yes, Michael Douglas’s character from the first film. Gekko got out of jail a few years back and spends his days broadcasting economic doom-and-gloom to anyone who will listen. He’s even got a new book explaining how the American economy is a time bomb waiting to explode. A little side note is that Gekko can ony talk about the economy. He can’t trade in it anymore. The SEC won’t let him within a hunred miles of a broker.
So when a still sore Jacob comes to Gekko for his blessing, Gekko calls him out. You don’t want my blessing, he tells Shia. You want advice on how to take down the man that “killed” your boss. Gekko makes a serious if contrived deal that only happens in Screenplay Land: He’ll help him take down the bad guys if Jacob helps him reestablish a relationship with his daughter. Jacob realizes this is a chance to learn from the best, get some revenge, and lose the audience.
The man who destroyed his boss’ fund is an eccentric billionaire hedge fund manager named Bretton Woods (gotta give it to Loeb – cool name). He’s the kind of guy that flies in the world’s biggest piano prodigy for some afternoon entertainment. He lives by the mantra: “The only thing worse than death is becoming irrelevant.” Gekko’s plan is for Jacob to get a job with Bretton, gain his trust, then make a whole bunch of bad trades that bankrupt his ass (my words, not his). Gekko will be advising him from the sidelines, telling him when and what to move.
Unfortunately this all plays out about as well as it sounds. The more contrived your story, the harder it is for the audience to buy into. Money Never Sleeps plays out like a dramatized version of today’s news headlines, giving us no new or behind-the-scenes information, and does so with a story that doesn’t have any bite. The face of the franchise, Michael Douglas, plays a neutered down role for 90% of the story, feeling more like an assistant coach than the power hungry face of the team.
It wasn’t lost on me that a movie all about money feels like a desperate attempt to make money. Just because you don’t have ninjas with a kung-fu grip on your poster doesn’t mean you’re cinematizing a story for a noble cause. I pose this question to you: Is this story worth telling? I don’t think I need to answer that question to answer it. Stone and Douglas clearly see this as a way to get back in the game. And that’s fine. Vin just did it with The Fast And The Furious franchise. But we all know what kind of movie results from a project without any passion behind it.
Luckily “Money Never Sleeps” has a saving grace. And that saving grace is its ending. Without giving too much away, a role that looked pretty thankless for Douglas comes roaring back up the charts like a hot stock. Loeb’s previous 105 pages were all a carefully constructed set-up to give us a shocker of a finale. And I have to admit, it worked. But the end result feels like a government bailout. Sure we feel okay now. But does it solve the underlying structural issues in the system? I’m afraid not. The best final 30 pages in history couldn’t have saved this sequel.
[ ] Bear Sterns
[ ] Hold
[ ] Buy
[ ] Gold
What I learned: You have to make the connections in your story as direct and personal as possible. Jacob’s doomed boss is not his *actual* father. He’s merely a father *figure*. Bretton didn’t kill Jacob’s boss. He started a rumor that led to the downfall of J’s boss’ company which led to his boss’ choice to commit suicide. The connections here are too loose. Imagine if the boss*was* Jacob’s father and that Bretton *actually* murdered him, but Jacob couldn’t prove it in court. So the only way to take him down was to work for Bretton and destroy him from the inside. Sure you’d have to figure out a reason why Bretton would hire him under those conditions, but it’s still doable. And because things were direct (murder) and personal (his father), we’d be so much more in to the Jacob revenge storyline.
I’ve been meaning to put a review of this up forever. Luckily, Roger has rescued me with this in-depth look at “Killing On Carnival Row.” As you can see, he absolutely loves the script. And I know another long-time reader who thinks it’s a masterpiece as well. I haven’t read it. But if you’re into this kind of world, chances are you’ll react the same way these guys did.
Genre: Dark, urban fantasy. Murder Mystery. Horror. Science Fiction. Crime noir. Adventure.
Premise: In the city of The Burgue, a police inspector pursues a serial killer who is targeting fairies.
About: Sold to New Line Cinema in late 2005. Immediately attracted the attention of Guillermo Del Toro and Hugh Jackman. Del Toro dropped out of the project and Neil Jordan is currently attached to direct. This is Beacham’s first spec script. Written in his early 20’s. Beacham was hired to write “The Clash of the Titans” remake and is also writing “The Tanglewood” for Arnold and Anne Kopelson.
Writer: Travis Beacham.
We’ve got Argyle Heights, otherwise known as the Academic District. There’s the Docklands, center of industrialization and shipping. Thirdly, Finistere Crossing. The human zone.
Then there’s Carnival Row.
The Fairie Quarter.
Home to the sordid fairie brothels.
Someone’s murdering fairies and leaving their broken and exsanguinated bodies on display, clipped of their wings. No. Scratch that. Their moth-like wings have been sawed from their torsos, leaving torn alabaster skin and the rawness underneath in their absence. And of course, there’s the twin tell-tale puncture wounds in their necks.
City of soot and sorcery. Humans and monsters. Fairie whores and drug peddlin’ dwarves.
An urban fantasist’s wet dream, told in Art Noveau-scope.
Guys, this script is amazing. It’s a mordant phantasmagoria. A Victorian penny dreadful, its hard-bond pulp pages soaked in absinthe and hallucinogenic fey blood and set ablaze with the fire from an exploding gas-lamp. It’s Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” theurgically amalgated (or twined) to Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye”.
It’s Marlowe trying to solve a murder mystery in Bas-Lag. (And if you get this reference dear, astute readers, I tip my hat to you.)
And guess what?
It fucking works.
So who’s our Philip Marlowe, Rog?
Inspector Rycroft Philostrate, of The Burgue Metropolitan Constabulary. Fairie sympathizer.
Yep. With a city census that reads like an AD&D Monster’s Compendium, the writer capitalizes on his setting and its inhabitants and deftly weaves in social criticism as part of his theme. With the focus on racism and sexism.
Magnify the thematic lens and you’ll find a character struggling with the difficulties that revolve around a compelling interracial romance in an unforgiving city such as The Burgue.
It’s like Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever” had inter-species babies with characters out of a China Mieville novel. The anti-human propaganda pamphlet, The Screaming Banshee, details the crimes and wrong-doings of the human government in Oberon Square against the fey race.
Most humans look down on the fairies. Completely happy to make sure they’re confined to their little Tirnanog ghetto. But to Mayor Montague Boniface III’s wife, Dame Whitley Boniface, the fair, winged race deserve equal rights. After all, the fey are painters, poets and musicians. They are a cultural treasure. The Dame is what you might call a fairie activist.
But in the mayor’s mind, their art is not so much the skilled performance artistry of the courtesan, but the wet and sloppy fellatio one can procure for five guilder from the down-on-her-luck pix street-walker inside of a black, horse-drawn carriage.
The tension in The Burgue is as palpable as the Gothic fog that covers its streets.
And our guy, Philo, is not only a detective for a homicide department that is mostly staffed with pix-hatin’ sergeants, but a human who is in lust and love with Tourmaline La Roux, a fairie courtesan employed at Le Chambre De Madame Mab.
He’s torn between rescuing her from her life as a fairie escort and the risk that comes with it: Being ridiculed and slandered by his mates and fellow inspectors and constables if he were to be seen hand-in-hand with a pixie. It could mar his reputation, his career.
But when Tourmaline is de-winged and turned into a husk by Unseelie Jack, the case becomes a quest for salvation. Philo charges recklessly into The Burgue’s underworld, consumed with vengeance and guilt, obsessed with finding his lover’s killer.
A ticking clock hovers over Philo as he becomes a suspect, and he not only must exonerate himself as the suspected killer, but he must do something he was never able to do while Tourmaline was alive…
Stand up in courage for her. Show the world that he loves her by finding her killer…whatever hesheit is…and bringing hesheit to justice.
What’s so great about this script?
The invention. The imagination. The elegant world-building. The social commentary. The murder mystery and how it plays out. The characters. The dialogue. The action. The monsters. The magic. The gore. The humor. The emotion.
All rendered through the pen of a screenwriter who has uncanny control of his craft. This is a seamless screenplay. And it’s that much more impressive when you think of the sheer spectacle of all the ingredients bubbling in this witch’s pot.
It requires a delicate balance on precarious scales to tell a tale that is such an ambitious confluence of genres.
Especially when Fantasy is one of these genres.
If one setting on your control panel is slightly off, you can lose all sense of verisimilitude. You have to know your conventions in-and-out, and above all, you have to write your characters like they are real people.
This is exciting. Not only has someone turned to the genre of what China Mieville has dubbed Weird Fiction, the mash-up of science fiction, urban fantasy, sword-and sorcery, horror, gothic romance, et al., but they did so with such effective execution.
In screenplay format.
Screenplays are a whole other ball-game. These are the type of stories normally told in prose fiction, in sprawling novels and the odd collection of short stories put out by the independent press. In some YA fiction.
What Peter Straub calls The New Fabulists.
Go into the bookstore and look for authors like Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jim Butcher, Alan Campbell, Charlie Huston, Richard K. Morgan, Kelly Link, Gene Wolfe and look at the stories. It’s smart genre fare that can’t always be easily shoved into categories because it attacks all genres from all sides.
“Killing on Carnival Row” is Dark Fantasy done well. Something we don’t see a lot of, but something we’re bound to see more of.
Tell us about some of the novelties, the flights of imagination you like.
1.) The Special Loupgarou Unit. In our world, the police have K-9 Units. Well, in The Burgue, the constables have young men manacled to control leashes. Syringes are inserted into IV tubes in their wrists, and suddenly eyes turn yellow and teeth sharpen as an induced metamorphosis transforms men into wolves. A Werewolf Unit. What’s not to love?
2.) The Drakes. In our world, the police have birds, or helicopters. In Philo’s world, the constabulary has Drakes. Giant mechanical dragonflies operated by a human pilot. On the back, a gunner mans a Gatling gun should they need firepower. Gatling guns and steampunk insects are always okay in my book.
3.) The Haruspex. A Macbethean soothsayer employed by The Burgue Metropolitan Constabulary. She can read minds. She sees the last memories of corpses. Her visions are just as valuable as an eye-witness testimony, and just as admissable.
4.) Mabsynthe. Iridescent green syrup distilled from the blood of fairies. Mabsynthe junkies are kinda like opium junkies. You pour the green treacle into a glass bottle affixed with a hose and pipe. A hookah. Then you light up and inhale the smoke through a pipe. Hallucinogenic. Most dealers combine the blood of several fairies to jumble up the visions. If you’re taking a hit from Mabsynthe that’s just from one fairie, you enter the present mind of the fairie. See what she sees. Feel what she feels. A really inventive plot device that comes into play later in the story.
5.) Twining. Theurgic Amalgamology. The manipulation of biology through advanced technology and ancient magics. One of the tools of twining is a magical black glove. Fueled by magic and science. The wearer wields it to manipulate biology. There’s some bodily havoc in the 3rd act when Philo’s side-kick, Vignette, dons the glove and proceeds to kick some villainous ass. With her fist. Fucking fantastic.
6.) Unseelie Jack. Okay, I’m not gonna spoil this. But I read this script before I went to bed. Mistake. I had nightmares about hesheit. Nightmares. The only thing I will say, this is a great creature feature villain. Like Maryann Forrester in True Blood, hesheit is something truly unique and new and cool. But it’s simple and old at the same time. And it’s a detail that probably helped the writer get a job on the “Clash of the Titans” remake.
Wow. This sounds insane. This insanity doesn’t drown out the story or characters?
Not at all. For the most part, when these novelties and oddities aren’t used as plot devices or as characters, this stuff is presented in snippets of detail to help create the atmosphere. It’s exquisite and balanced world building.
Philo and his journey is always in the foreground, always the center of the plot in this baroque world. And it’s a great journey. In Shane Black-fashion, Philo picks up a buddy at the beginning of the 2nd Act, and she’s a great character.
Vignette is a faerie Philo saves from Unseelie Jack. He finds her after her wings have been sawed off and right before she’s about to be drained. He nurses her back to health, and she helps him hide from the dragnet enforced by his former employers, The Metropolitan Constabulary.
After all, who knows the nooks and crannies, the secret places of this cobble-stone and gaslight city better than a fairie?
She’s also the anonymous star writer for The Screaming Banshee, and she uses the headquarters for its secret printing press, located in a mini-necropolis underneath The Old Fairie Cemetery, to hide Philo.
Together, their budding relationship is best described as a Murtagh-Riggs and Han-Leia amalgam. You’ve got the witty banter and the developing romance.
And it’s sexy as hell.
The character highlight for me was a surprising, revelatory character moment where Philostrate reveals the story of his past. What makes him who he is today. The stuff that’s forged his character. He’s a human refugee from Hy-Brasil, the city of flowers. His parents were officers in The Burguish Imperial Navy stationed in Tirnanog. They were part of the Human Concession in this foreign land. They perished in the Scourge that drove the fey from their lands, and Philo was saved by an old fairie opera singer.
It’s good stuff. It bonds to you.
What else was impressive?
Reading this script is like feasting on language. But it doesn’t feel over-written. There’s an economy to the lush prose, a restraint. I suppose what impressed me the most was what some of these passages evoked.
There were moments where I felt like I was reading something by Bradbury, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Byron and Mary Shelley. And I can’t think of any higher compliment than that.
Here’s a glimpse:
It climbs up onto a rock in the distance. Stretching, contorting, opening its mouth impossibly wide.
This bit still gives me the creeps.
A human face pushes through the open mouth. A whole head emerges. Curly red hair. A hand. An arm. A shoulder.
The girl underneath pulls off the dark sealskin as if she’s sliding out of a tight leather skirt.
MOIRA stands on the rock in her “human” form, completely nude. Slim fair-skinned body flecked in a blizzard of light pink freckles. Her ears pointed like a faerie’s.
Philostrate politely turns away. Bottom stares slack-jawed with a mix of morbid fascination and disgust.
EXT. BOULDER ON THE BEACH — MOMENTS LATER
Moira dresses herself from a heap of clothes strewn on the rock. Philostrate and Bottom approach.
Good morning Miss Moira. I’m Inspector Philostrate.
She meets him with sharp eyes, bright as emeralds. Inhuman.
You found the body, did you?
Moira nods. She picks up the shed sealskin, singing softly as she pets it. The soft pelt purrs back. Bottom grimaces.
A separate creature, is it?
Another curt, silent nod.
Let’s not waste the lady’s time.
You can feel free to talk. I’m not fluent in selkie-speak, but I can muddle through.
Finally, she speaks. Her language, a song, a dozen voices in one, flowing eerie harmonies.
Corpse caught in backwards currents/moth caught in the cobweb of creation/clipped wings plucked from silken firmaments/ sticky strands clinging/sinister spider spinning/ poor poor singless wingless pixie
You want me to write this bilge down?
The 3rd act is intense. Satisfying. A gory, noir-infused Hammer Horror extravaganza.
And most of all…our hero not only gets what he wants at the end of his journey, the writer gives him what he needs. Redemption.
Script link: No link
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
What I learned: Um, what a unique and brilliant spec script looks like? Seriously, this script should be required reading for anyone who is interested in writing smart genre fare. The attention to detail, the focus on character, the rising action, the tight scenes and transitions, the seamlessly woven plot and sub-plot and how they orbit around each other like twin satellites, broadcasting the overarching story. Read this script. Get a feel for the foundation, the architecture. You’ll get suspense, horror, action, melodrama, dread, love, passion, guilt, and salvation. How to balance spectacle with quiet character moments. But most of all, enjoy its many wonders.
Wow! Genius. I actually wrote Roger back and told him, “You understand that I haven’t given a single ‘genius’ review on the site yet, right?” I explained that I’ll probably only give 1 or 2 geniuses a year. Was he positive he wanted to go with a perfect rating? He reaffirmed his stance. So there you have it. The first official genius rating on Scriptshadow. (although I haven’t reviewed them, the top 3 in my Top 25 all carry ‘genius’ ratings). Enjoy the script!
Testing out a new comments section. Let’s see if it works.