Premise: A man moves into war-torn Sarajevo hoping to get over his girlfriend’s death. At first just an observer, he gradually becomes an active participant in trying to end the war.
About: Last I heard, Liam Neeson, Orlando Bloom, and Javier Bardem were to star. The script is based on the real-life experiences of Bill Carter living in Sarajevo during the war. It also landed near the middle of the 2007 Black List, which is the same year it sold.
Writer: Bill Carter (revisions by Jordan Roberts)
It’s hard to get excited about these “Untitled” projects. They feel like rejected versions of themselves. Like they weren’t good enough for a title. “It’s untitled,” I think. “How good can it be?” I guess somewhere along the way “Untitled Bill Carter Project” begrudgingly accepted the title “Fools Rush In” to appease people like me. Although accepting a title that sounds like Sandra Bullock’s next romantic comedy doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
You might remember this script from Geoff Latulippe’s interview when he said it was the best script he had ever read while at New Line. After finally conquering my “untitled” fear, I called this sucker up to see if it belonged in the big leagues.
To say the plot of Bill Carter’s memoir is unusual is a bit of an understatement. For the most part, writers writing spec scripts are encouraged to tell a clear story, with character objectives and plot points that are laid out in an easily digestible order. The direction of Untitled Bill Carter is anything but clear and it’s far from digestible. Actually, I would call this the exact opposite of what you’d normally do when writing a spec. And yet somehow, after it’s all over, it works in its own odd charming way.
Bill Carter is a young man in love. He and his girlfriend, Corinna, are hiking through the Redwood Forest when we first meet them. They’re at that perfect stage of the relationship – right after casual and just before serious. Everything is perfect, nothing you ever do is wrong, and the possibilities the future holds seem endless. This opening scene is beautifully written and sets up the emotional undercurrent that drives the rest of the story. We know these two were meant to be together forever.
HARD CUT to SPLIT-CROATIA, two years later. Bill is as unkempt as an Atlantic City street corner (if you haven’t been, trust me, that’s bad). And at the moment, he happens to be fucking an overweight Croatian prostitute (if you haven’t had one, trust me, that’s bad). The jarring transition leads into the revelation that Corrina is dead. And since her death, Bill has been drifting from country to country trying to forget her.
Split (pun intended?) is about as far away from the Redwoods as you can get. And that’s exactly how Bill likes it. He wakes up every day more depressed and more hopeless than the previous. He has no job, nothing to eat. What little money he has comes from selling drugs, something that will get you into deep shit in Split. Yet Bill doesn’t care. It’s almost as if he wants to get caught. His friends plead for him to come back home and it’s only after he’s spent his last dollar that he realizes he has no other choice. Bill will do anything to not go home. Maybe even end his life.
That night though, Bill runs into a crazy drunken orange-haired Englishman named Graeme. The two strike up an odd friendship and Graeme offers Bill a job. “Doing what?” Bill asks. Graeme just smiles. Bill will have to find out for himself. Things only get stranger when Bill is introduced to Graeme’s crew, a multi-cultural band of vagabonds, a motley bunch if there ever was one. All Bill knows is that they call themselves the “Serious Road Trip” and that there’s a picture of the Road Runner on the side of their truck. Not exactly the most accepting bunch, when Bill waffles they unsympathetically tell him he can either get on or get out. Bill gets on. But he has no idea how much his life’s about to change.
Bill’s more than a little concerned when they cross into Bosnia, where – oh yeah – there’s a war going on. Checkpoints with armed soldiers and towns shattered by mortar fire are the norm. Before he can get acclimated, they’re already stopping in their first town. Someone throws Bill a clown nose and green wig and pushes him into a mob of children. “Dance!” they scream. “Do something funny!” What the hell is going on?? The rest of the group have also thrown on their clown-suits and are entertaining the kids. It turns out The Serious Road Trip is a group of clowns that go into war-ravaged towns, offering entertainment and food to people. This is all the more delicious when you take into account that all the members are drug-addicted psychopaths!
They make it to Sarajevo, Bosnia’s largest city, and use it as their main outpost, shipping food to places that everyone else is too afraid to go. While at first overwhelming to Bill – keep in mind that going to the corner store can get you shot – he finds a sort of inner peace in all the chaos. It’s almost as if the constant threat of death is better than even the most fleeting thought of his Corrina.
Bill becomes friends with a lot of the locals, particularly a young Bosnian girl who is impossibly happy and optimistic despite the dire circumstances. When the war continues to get worse, even the die-hards say ‘seeya!’ One by one “The Serious Road Trip” members pack up and go, until there’s only Bill left. This fearlessness and loyalty impresses the locals and they begin to see Bill as something more – someone who has the potential to bring change to their country. Unaccustomed to any kind of leadership role, Bill shies away at first. It’s not until a televised U2 concert that he comes up with a radical idea. In a twist that no reader in reader history will anticipate, Bill decides to go to U2 and ask them for help!
Yes, you actually read that correctly. Bill hunts down U2. Cooking up some cockamamie story about being a reporter, he cons U2’s assistant into meeting Bono before a concert. He makes a case for himself and to his surprise, Bono actually agrees to help. He’ll do a satellite link-up to Sarajevo before all of his concerts, spreading awareness of the war. And if I’m to understand this right, this actually fucking happened!
There are a lot of touching moments in Fools Rush In. From the constant dreams of Corrina, to the friendships in Sarajevo cut short by death, to the camaraderie with the other men in the group. It’s these characters that elevate Fools Rush In from your average spec to something real and alive. It really does seem like we’re Bill, drifting through these crazy experiences that are indescribable out of context.
The script has its share of faults, though most of them are minor. The biggest problem, I believe, is that we spend too much time in Sarajevo, particularly towards the second half of the script. We’ve seen Bill’s despair from page 4, so to push him further and further down the hole becomes almost masochistic. Plus it’s repetitive and somewhat boring. I think that part can be quickened up a bit with a little chop-chop.
This script won’t be for everyone because the subject matter is fairly dark. But if you give it a chance, I think you’ll enjoy it.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] pretty damn good
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Fools Rush In eschews the traditional 3-Act structure, which makes it a bit of an anomaly. So why does it still work? Well, in any spec script, you have to do at least one thing exceptionally, whether that’s structure or dialogue or imagination or, in this case, character. From the first page, Carter creates two characters that you fall in love with and care for. And from that point on, he never stops creating characters that are interesting, eccentric, or unforgettable. What do you do in your script that’s exceptional?
Premise: A plane is abducted by an alien ship.
About: Dreamworks bought this in late March. Len Wiseman (Underworld) will produce and Patrick Tatopoulos will direct. ICM, who represents all parties, packaged the deal.
Writer: Michael Gilvary
First of all, I want to personally thank the person who sent me this. I have a similar idea about a plane that encounters an alien ship, and as all of us writers do when we hear of a similar idea to our own (especially one that’s sold), we want to see how they executed it.
If you’ve read my “Alien arrival” reviews before, you’ll know that I preach about the inherent problem with the genre. The movies are always top heavy because the anticipation of the aliens is always more exciting than the actuality of the aliens (with maybe War of The Worlds being the exception). Part of the problem is that we’ve seen it all. Until someone comes up with a different take, it’s usually a bunch of reptilian or bug-like creatures who want to take over earth. This happens in almost every one of these films. Remember Independence Day before we saw the aliens? It was actually a cool movie. Then the alien pops out, Will Smith yells “Hell naw” and everything goes to shit. “Signs” understood this problem to an extent, which is why it’s one of the better movies in the genre (don’t get me started on that ending though). And “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” is probably the best of the bunch because it knows that once the alien’s out of the bag, there’s no more suspense, which is why it waits til the very last scene to reveal them.
Enter Non-stop, which at the very least attempts to do something different. Instead of aliens falling on our precious planet, they take to the air and hijack one of our planes (actually, they hijack a lot of planes). The script starts off quite good. Matt, a handsome guy, is followed into the airport by his clingy mother, who’s trying to make sure he gets to the plane okay. Matt is 30. Their banter is hilarious. While just about everybody in the airport listens, mom asks Matt if he’s sure he’s going to be okay. It’s a cute little moment which instantly gives us sympathy for our lead.
From there we move quickly into the first class cabin of our doomed flight and meet the other main characters, MILF Marriane and her daughter Laney. Through limited conversation we learn that Matt lost his wife to a carjacking. He had a choice to stay in the car and protect her or get out and save himself. He chose to save himself – setting up the fact that he’s a selfish dickhead.
Liftoff. Ding. You may now roam around the cabin. Except they’re not in the air 10 minutes before BANG, a large JOLT rocks the plane. After more bumps, a lot more confusion, and a freefall of death, the plane suddenly stops – yes stops - and they’re still okay. Have they landed? What happened? What’s going on? Looking outside they realize they’re in some endless cavern. Since there’s nothing else to do, a few of the more brave passengers leave to look around (because yeah, that’s what I would do). It turns out to be a bad idea as within minutes we hear their screams of terror.
Taking a page from Aliens (if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best) curious little Laney, the daughter, sneaks off the plane to go exploring. This forces Marrienne and Matt to go look for her. They make their way through the cavern until they eventually find the other passengers being toyed with in some kind of torture chamber (and not the good kind).
This was the point where I lost interest in Non-stop. To take this neat idea and boil it down to aliens that are torturing/testing humans feels a bit uninspired. The rest of the script basically follows Matt and Marrienne looking for Lacy and a way off the ship. Even though there was no cell service in the ship, I’m not convinced that Matt didn’t find a way to call Peter from Dubai (see this review for reference), because out of nowhere he becomes some sort of superhero, wrestling aliens to decisive victories. Matt designs satellites by the way.
Matt’s old flaw kicks in when he must decide whether to save the few of them (the easy way out) or save the whole plane (a lot tougher). Unfortunately it never quite works because while Matt may have committed a selfish act in the past, he never comes off as selfish here on the ship. He seems like a genuinely good guy. The transformation is lost as a result.
There are some cool parts, including the discovery of thousands of aliens from different planets being held in containment bays that Matt decides to open. A melee of alien madness follows that I can only imagine will be a blast to watch onscreen. But the core story of Matt and Marienne chasing Laney feels really flat. Let’s hope they fix it in the rewrites.
Script link: Nonstop (script taken down at the request of writer)
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Go a step further. Why are 99% of aliens in movies reptilian or bug-like? Because writers are used to it and don’t bother pushing themselves. Come up with something different that no one’s ever seen before. You’ll be rewarded and respected for your originality.
Premise: Two British nerds fresh off a trip to Comic Con head off to Nevada to see the famed Area 51.
About: I believe this is the third collaboration between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Unfortunatley, their longtime director Edgar Wright is busy selling out and making Scott Pilgrim. So Pegg and Frost have decided to equally sell out and hire Greg Motolla, the director of Superbad. Pre-production is almost over and they should start shooting soon.
Writers: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
Since “Help Me Spread Goodness” wasn’t blazin’ up the charts of any “to read” lists, I thought my Tuesday review should be something more mainstream. Everybody and their mother’s mother is piping in about this script so I thought, what the hell, why not review it?
Now I’m about to lose some major geek street cred here but…..Oh man, I can’t believe I’m about to say this………..I didn’t like Shawn Of The Dead. Not only that, but I thought Hot Fuzz was pretty unwatchable. Does that mean I hate Simon Pegg? No, of course not. I thought “How To Lose Friends And Alienate People” was pretty good. And that Star Trek movie will easily be the best of the summer. Although he was kinda upstaged by that mini-Alien friend of his, who, if I may be the first to suggest, deserves his own spinoff movie.
Which is pretty ironic because Simon Pegg opts to share the screen with another little green man in his newest movie “Paul”. Paul happens to be the name of an alien that Pegg’s super-geeky character, Graham, and his even fatter and geekier sidekick, Clive, bump into during their cross country trek across the good ole United States. The desperadoes of dork meet the little green man, “Paul”, outside of Area 51 not-so-desperately searching for someone to save him. It’s not like they have anything better to do so they figure…why not?
And thus begins the first cross-country roadtrip with alien-on-board. Paul himself is a 3 foot tall alien that speaks perfect English and has been advising the American government for the past 60 years after his craft crashed on earth. When Clive realizes he could have *the* Roswell alien right here in his car, he freaks out:
Oh my God! Roswell?! That was you?!
Roswell was a smoke-screen man, designed to distract from the truth.
They invented a fake alien crash to distract from an actual alien crash?
I know, fucking stupid, isn’t it?
What have you been doing here all this time?
Oh you know, kickin’ back, shooting the shit. Advising the government.
(Paul’s already told him the story)
Not just the government.
INT. ROOM – DAY
A room lit by a single bulb, furnished with a table and chair. PAUL sits with his back to us, he is smoking a cigarette, whilst talking on the phone. We hear the voice on the other end of the line. It is strangely familiar.
…I want him to have some kind of special power, you know? Something sort of messianic…
How about molecular revivification.
I don’t know what that is.
Restoration of damaged tissue through telepathic manipulation of cellular intrinsic field memory.
Oh right yeah. Like by touch sort of thing? His little finger could light up at the end and-
You know what? Sometimes, less is more.
The line beeps.
You got another call?
Yeah I gotta take this man. It’s the fucking V guys again.
Paul would still be kicking it with his government peeps if they hadn’t decided to terminate his alien ass. So he gets out of Dodge just in time to find the two biggest sci-fi nerds on the planet. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the government to find out who has their alien.
Our trio meets up with Bible Babe Ruth, whose entire belief system is shattered when she meets Paul. They find the 7 year old girl (now 67) that Paul’s spaceship almost killed 60 years ago, and who’s lived her entire life having the world tell her she’s crazy for believing in aliens (see the script “IGB – Intergalactic Being” for a similar premise). They also make a ton of references to Aliens, Star Wars, and Back To The Future. The majority of it is pretty funny.
However this script can never be as funny as it will be onscreen. You can practically smell the improvisiation potential on the pages. And I think that the duo did play the writing fairly safe. There is a scene late in the script that pits religion against evolution which, at the very least, takes a chance. But that scene is more the exception than the rule.
I’ll leave you with one last scene for the day. This is just after Clive, Graham, and Paul have hit something in the road.
EXT. DESERT ROAD – DAY
The door to the RV swings open, CLIVE and GRAHAM step out. The desert road is silent. We can see for miles. On the road lies a yellow and black bird, it is very dead.
Fuck, that made me jump.
Ah yes, the waspish markings of a Scott’s Oriole. Unmistakable.
What a waste.
Nothing anyone could’ve done.
PAUL looks at them, then scoops the bird up in his hands.
What are you doing?
PAUL closes his eyes. His skin ripples with color as he sways slightly. The bird’s eyes flicker, its head lifts, it opens its beak and tweets. GRAHAM and CLIVE are astounded by what they are seeing.
It’s a miracle!
PAUL stuff the bird in his mouth with a grotesque crunch.
I’ll miss these.
Why would you do that?
I’m not gonna eat a dead bird, am I?
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I’m not sure I learned anything here but I did try an experiment. As I was reading, I was trying to imagine this script as a virgin property, not something Pegg and Frost had written or were attached to. I was trying to see how I felt about the script minus the elements and if I, or anyone else for that matter, would still turn it into a movie. I think I concluded that while the concept is definitely funny, I don’t think the execution is good enough to get a green light. Give it a try yourself. Is this a script that’s only funny because you can see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the roles? Or is it funny period? Please let your thoughts be known in the comments.
Premise: A banker who gets swindled in a Nigerian internet scam travels to Nigeria to get his money back.
About: From Variety – “Ben Stiller will direct/produce with Red Hour partner Stuart Kornfeld and Jeremy Kramer. While the project is meant to be entertaining, it sheds light on current issues in Nigeria and other African countries, fitting the Participant Media mandate to make films that compel social change.” This is way more drama than comedy and quite an interesting choice for Stiller. Then again, his directing tastes tend to be different than his acting tastes (Tropic Thunder excluded). It also received 6 votes on the 2008 Black List (people can dog that list all they want but it seems like everything on it is made into a movie).
Writer: Mark Friedman
The hardest thing to understand about Help Me Spread Goodness is why an intelligent middle-aged middle-class man with a good education and a job in *banking* would be so stupid as to fall for one of the most obvious scams in the history of the internet. Before they even extend one leg of tripod to shoot this picture, they’re going to have to fix that problem.
We’re introduced to PATRICK, the aforementioned banker, who’s itching for a promotion so he can send his son to astronaut camp. When the promotion doesn’t happen, Patrick finds himself confiding in a man who’s sent him one of those infamous “I am dying and need to give you my 130 million dollar estate” Nigerian e-mails. This part of the script is quite funny, as we get cutaways to the Nigerian’s alleged story along with voice over. He’s lying in bed. Dying. Signing his last will and testament. Then we have Patrick casually writing back, “I didn’t get the promotion. Can you believe that??”
But when it becomes clear that Patrick actually believes the story and is going to send money, the script takes a huge step backwards. This scam is an ongoing joke in almost every circle of America. You’re saying Patrick is the one guy who’s never heard of it? Okay, well, whatever. Let’s go with it for now.
Surprise surprise, when Patrick checks his bank account a couple of weeks later, there’s a large sum of money missing and it seems that – gasp – his Nigerian buddies aren’t e-mailing him back. Not only can Patrick not send his son to astronaut camp, but he just lost 25 grand of his college fund. I don’t know if Patrick was more pissed that the Nigerians ripped him off or that he was a complete moron, but he takes it upon himself to right this wrong and travels to Nigeria to get that money back.
So Patrick jets to Lagos, Nigeria, a city with over 8 million people, and starts snooping around as if it’s the Old West and you can pop into the local watering hole and ask, “Hey, you know of any suspicious people in these parts?” Just an observation here, but if you’re a banker and can’t even make sound money decisions, what makes you think you can be a detective in a strange country where you don’t even speak the language?
But here’s the thing. If you can get over all that (and it’s not easy), you just might find yourself enjoying a sweet story about a man who learns a little bit more about the world.
What Patrick begins to see is that the Nigerian men involved in these scams – however wrong they may be – are doing it to survive. This isn’t the First World where as long as you have an education and work hard, you can get a job. There aren’t any jobs there, there’s no education, and scamming whoever you can to make it through the day is better than the alternative: to starve. So when Patrick says “You stole from me,” they basically say, “Yeah, but you were dumb enough to fall for it” (and because Patrick is so stupid, I kinda agree with them).
But getting back to the story, Patrick actually does run into one of the scammers, OTUMBO, who promises to take him to the man who orchestrated the scheme. This leads to a series of mis-adventures that leave Patrick worse off than if he’d never come to Nigeria in the first place. For some reason though, Patrick continues to trust him.
After Patrick is conned for the third time and has finally discovered that small part of his brain that still functions, he calls it quits on Otumbo, telling him to get out of his life. Except that the very next day, when he comes out of his hotel, Otumbo is there, waiting for him on another journey that he promises will lead Patrick to the man who stole his money. But Patrick’s not having it. “Wait here, I’ll be back in a minute,” he tells Otumbo, with no intention of ever returning. So Otumbo sits down and waits.
When Patrick gets back to the hotel, out of eyesight, he sees that Otumbo is *still* there. He sneaks up to his room and comes back down a couple hours later. He’s shocked to see that Otombo is *still* waiting for him. He leaves a third time, comes back hours after that. It’s been seven hours in total. Mark Friedman writes:
Half-eaten room service lunch on the desk. Patrick goes to the window, knowing what he’ll find…
Then he frowns. Otumbo is gone. He’s puzzled– And then he spots him. He’s WALKING IN TRAFFIC in front of the hotel, selling… TOILET PLUNGERS.
He’s selling toilet plungers.
And Patrick stands there, and he watches. Traffic is heavy now but it still speeds up occasionally and is dangerous, Otumbo weaves between cars, face shiny with sweat.
Patrick is transfixed. Something about this moves him. This young guy who found some plungers and is trying to sell them, doing whatever he can… and still taking an occasional glance back at the hotel, waiting for Patrick to emerge.
It’s this kind of heartbreaking moment where you realize that Patrick isn’t just a scam for Otumbo. He’s survival. He’s a way to last a few more days out in the jungle. It was a touching moment that really drove home, I believe, the reason why Friedman wrote this.
So while this script is not without faults, it does have enough high points for me to recommend. Read it yourself and tell me what you think.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I think I’ve said this before but sometimes we’re so blinded by wanting to tell our story, that we forget to ask if our characters are acting rationally. I guarantee you there’s no way this will be filmed before this problem is fixed because nobody will believe that Patrick is that dumb. There’s another script out there called “Big Hole” that’s similar to this except in that script, the protagonist is much older – is not nearly as computer savvy – so the fact that he would get swindled by an internet scam is a lot more believable. Just make sure your characters are making believable choices.
Take a look over to the right there. There’s a whole crop of new specs I’m looking for. I know some of you have’em, so fire up that e-mail and send’em my way.
Some of you have been nice enough to occasionally write me with suggestions. Keep them coming. Even though I can only review one script a day, I try to get to anything that’s highly recommended.
For no good reason, here is the “Downloading Box Office” on my last 10 reviews…
1) Unbound Captives
4) Aaron and Sara
5) You Again
7) A Couple Of Dicks
10) Paper Wings
I’m quite surprised that a period film got the most downloads. I’m curious as to why this script was downloaded more than the others. Was it the 5 million dollar price tag that intrigued you? Or was it the subject matter?