Genre: Dark thriller/drama
Premise: Microscopic proteins/aliens ride human beings as passengers for their own personal enjoyment.
About: Based off a 1969 Robert Silverberg short story that won a Nebula Award, this project was being circled pretty heavily by Fincher around the turn of the century. Since then, it’s been pretty much forgotten. I believe it’s currently being developed by Focus Features.
Writer: G.J. Pruss
This is not going to be a traditional review because this was not a traditional script. In fact, I’d probably call this the most original script I’ve ever read. Some of you may have heard of it before. It’s based on a short story and made some headlines when Fincher was attached back in 2000. But when you’re David Fincher and have the pick of the litter of every weird odd dark script on the market, you toy with a lot of projects. And it looks like this one got toyed with. Then thrown out. Well I’m here to throw it back in.
The first thing you notice about Passengers is that it’s written in the first person. Yes, the script is written in the first person. “I walk over to the store.” “I have sex with the beautiful woman.” It’s so weird and jarring at first that you can’t help but be pulled in. You feel like you’re right there with this guy – Charles – and all of a sudden you’re wondering why every movie isn’t written this way. It seems so real. So immediate. How the hell they plan to transfer this onto the screen I have no idea. I thought maybe they tell it from a first-person perspective, like a video game, but that would be too bizarre and too hard to pull off. Then again, why not? It would create the same jarring shock I had when I picked this up.
So Charles spends most of his life in a blur. He’s an alcoholic. Blacks out all the time. Finds himself in his bed, not remembering anything about the previous night’s events. He stumbles into his high-paying job. His bosses are concerned. They know he’s an alcoholic. They know it’s starting to affect his work. He promises them it isn’t. — I’m thinking “Okay, a guy with a really bad alcohol problem. We haven’t had a good one of those in years.”
But that isn’t Passengers. No, this movie is way more fucked than that. Charles goes home, finds an old strawberry rotting on the floor, covered by ants. Picks it up. About to throw it away….then realizes. It’s not a strawberry. It’s a woman’s finger. He freaks out. What’s going on? Figures it was something that happened in one of his drunken nights but for the life of him can’t figure out what or why. He puts it on ice and throws it in the freezer.
He heads to the doctor. Doesn’t like doctors. Asks him what’s wrong with him. The doctor acts strange. Starts asking him weird questions. Has this been going on a long time? How long does he black out for? What does he remember? This appears to be much worse than an alcohol problem. Something else is causing the blackouts.
Charles must go to the underground for answers. People don’t sell medicine for this kind of thing on the streets yet because that would imply there was a problem. Whatever’s happening, it’s being covered up. What is happening? The unthinkable. People are being “ridden” – their bodies used as amusement park rides by…who? Aliens? Ghosts? Collective bacteria so small we can’t yet recognize it? Whatever it is, it’s intelligent, and it takes control of us. We don’t remember anything when it happens. Sometimes we end up in strange people’s houses with no memory of how we got here. Other times it kills us. To the rest of the world it’s passed off as disease or being drunk or being high or depression. But really it’s this entity, taking over our bodies for its own pleasure.
I don’t think there’s any question that the “Passengers” are meant to be our own individual demons. Whether they be alcohol or drugs or anything that gets you high. The passengers tend to take you over at night, when you’re most susceptible, the rides last 1-3 days (suspiciously the same amount of time as your average alcohol/drug binge). A lot of the people being “ridden” have bloody noses (cocaine). But even if you want to ignore that and take Passengers literally, it still works because trying to figure out who or what the passengers are is fun.
There’s so much to enjoy here. And no, the script isn’t perfect. The end drags on a little too long but it’s such a trippy “ride” you don’t care. This is a great fucking script. It had me racing through every page to the point where I felt ridden. I don’t know who the hell is waiting to make this, but they need to make it now. It breaks into my Top 25 at #14.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: Pruss took a big chance by writing this in the first person. But it wasn’t just to be different and hip. He had a purpose. We felt like we were Charles, which made all of our experiences more personal. It completely worked. My point being, if you’re going to break rules, especially big ones, make sure there’s a valid purpose behind it.
Man, I read something really amazing today. It’s an older script and if you’re new to the game – say the past 5 years or so, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s dark. A thriller of sorts. With maybe just a touch of sci-fi. If it were up to me, I’d make the damn thing tomorrow. It’s just really different and unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. Hopefully some Scriptshadow love will push it through the pipeline. Tune in Monday!
edit: You guys are going to kill me. I realized that I already posted my Friday script review with You Again. Which means – gasp – you’ll have to wait until Monday for this! Oh man, I better prepare for some hate mail.
Premise: A girl finds out that her brother is marrying the bee-atch who made her life a living hell in high school.
About: “You Again” sold to Disney last month, will star Kristin Bell and be directed by Andy Fickman (Race To Witch Mountain).
Writers: Moe Jelline, revisions by Dave Johnson, further revisions by Moe Jelline
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a script that started off so promising then fell apart so quickly. This could’ve been a younger hipper version of Meet The Parents, but instead becomes a formless farce of prat falls and spit takes.
Marni is a former high school dweeb who spent her entire teenage existence getting tortured by super-popular Nazi-bitch-from-hell, JJ. But once she enters the real world, Marni’s determination helps her land a public relations job at one of the top PR firms in New York, and after eight years, high school is nothing but a memory. So when Marni goes home for her brother’s unexpected wedding, imagine her surprise when she finds out he’s marrying super-popular Nazi-Bitch-From-Hell JJ (now Joanna). Marni, who’s not only terrified of being pushed back into the “nerd” role, must also decide whether to tell her brother the truth about who Joanna was (and probably still is).
I enjoyed this early scene, where Marni and Joanna meet for the first time since high school.
INT. KITCHEN – DAY
Gail stands at the kitchen island watching JOANNA GOLDMAN (25), aka JJ Freeman, dicing a tomato with the knife.
She’s a vision of perfection. A refined woman oozing with self confidence.
Then you simply finish it like this.
She’s carved the tomato into a DECORATIVE FLOWER DESIGN.
How beautiful, Joanna.
It’s nothing compared to this beautiful spread. I can’t believe you made all this food. You’re amazing.
REVEAL ten impressive platters of food on the counter.
Well, I didn’t know what kind of food your aunt liked, so I just made a little of everything. It was nothing.
Just then, Wade enters with Marni in tow…
Look who I found…
Joanna and Marni make eye contact. After a long beat…
Marni. Marni. Marni.
Are those tears in Joanna’s eyes?
Oh, Marni. I’ve waited so long for this moment and finally it’s here.
You waited so long?
There’s just so much to say.
I know. Believe me, I know.
But first, let me say…
Could this be it? The big apology?
Wait for it… Wait for it…
…nice it is to finally meet you.
Marni’s JAW DROPS. Say what?
Wade’s told me so much about you, but now here you are. In the flesh.
I can’t wait to spend the next four days learning all about my new sister.
Joanna EMBRACES Marni, who is too stunned to hug back.
Not a bad little twist if I do say so myself. Instead of the fireworks happening right away, we get a little mystery. Does Joanna really not remember Marni? Or is she lying to protect her wedding? Of course we think she’s lying. Of course Marni thinks she’s lying. But there’s just enough doubt to keep us wondering, and the mystery inspires a bunch of wonderful subtext-heavy scenes between the two . Up til this point in the script, I was prepared to declare this the de facto standard for how to execute a high concept idea.
And then You Again goes off and becomes The Three Stooges. I honestly can’t remember a script changing on a dime this fast. We go from an intriguing thoughtful comedy to an 8 minute slapstick dance scene that has nothing to do with the story and everything to do with someone who’s watched too many episodes of Dancing With The Stars. We then move to Marni getting drenched in a sprinkler scene as she halfway tries to protect Joanna’s dress, to Marni’s mom accidentally dropping Joanna’s Aunt’s expensive ring down the sink. Yes, we actually get a ring down the kitchen sink scene. It’s a radical change in tone that pretty much lasts the rest of the script.
But the biggest mistake You Again makes is creating an entire sub-plot that involves Marni’s mom dueling with Joanna’s aunt (the two also went to high school together) that’s not nearly as funny or interesting as the main plot, and can be argued takes up just as much screen time. Marni and JJ are the draw here. Every second we’re away from them feels like stalling.
If you’re interested in this premise, you should check out Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again in my Top 25 list. It’s about a former high-school nerd turned company star who finds out that the most popular guy from high school has just been hired into the company. I don’t think I’ve ever read a script that delivers more on the promise of the premise than that one. It’s a great read.
To sum up, I feel like two voices are fighting for direction of the script here and as a result, it feels off. You gotta go all one way or all the other. I’d go with the thoughtful comedy. Leave the wacky hijinx for Scary Movie 8.
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I think we as writers get a little too wrapped up in what we think the studios want us to do. In a light-hearted movie like this, we assume that the story *has* to end with a wedding. And we write everything around that. But in doing so, we restrict ourselves from exploring much more interesting choices. In You Again, there was never any doubt that Wade and Joanna would end up together. For that reason, they always had to write Joanna really safe because if she was *too much of a bitch* we wouldn’t buy Marni sticking up for in the end. But had you opened yourself up to an ending where Wade and Joanna didn’t end up together, you could’ve made Joanna the secret bitch from hell, playing the devil to Marni and the angel to Wade. I think that direction held a lot more comedic potential. Whether you agree with me or not, it’s always good to leave yourself open to every story idea, even if it goes against the ending or character or scene or line that you originally conceived. Never set anything in stone. It could open up a whole new avenue of ideas for you.
Just a heads up to say I received the script to Unbound Captives and will be reviewing it tomorrow. This script made quite a splash today because of the mind-blowing story behind it. Check out the Variety article here. Here’s an excerpt:
Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Robert Pattinson will star in the period drama “Unbound Captives,” with Madeleine Stowe making her directorial debut from a script she wrote.Gil Netter and Grant Hill will produce with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment. They are eyeing a year-end production start.
Though Stowe’s a newcomer behind the camera, getting the job and landing that cast is a payoff for her risky decision to turn down millions of dollars for the script in 1993. Under pseudonym O.C. Humphrey, Stowe teamed with her husband, actor Brian Benben, to write “Unbound Captives” as a star vehicle for herself.
She would have played a woman (now to be played by Weisz) whose husband is killed and her two children kidnapped by a Comanche war party in 1859. She is rescued by a frontiersman, to be played by Jackman. Pattinson will play the son.
Fox offered Stowe $3 million, and later $5 million, for her script, with Ridley Scott poised to direct and Russell Crowe to star. She turned down what was among the highest sums offered a first-time scribe because there was no promise she would be anything more than screenwriter.
Stowe, who has never publicly spoken about her decision, said she can still remember the surreal moment of turning down all that money over the phone while staring in disbelief at her husband.
“There was never a moment’s hesitation on my part, but it felt unreal, and I can remember my husband putting a finger across his neck to signal not to take the offer,” Stowe said. “There are moments in life where you need to follow your heart. The script remained my singular focus, but directing it myself wasn’t something I ever dreamed of.”
Genre: Action -Thriller
Premise: An American economist residing in Dubai gets caught up in a highly coordinated attack on the economies of several nations.
About: Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing through his Paramount-based shingle, and Eric Bana is executive producing as a potential starring vehicle. Dubai eventually got Cozad signed with Jeff Gorin and Aaron Hart at William Morris Agency. They gave the script to Eric Bana, another William Morris client, who signed on as executive producer before they started shopping it around. Paramount eventually bought it. Dubai also finished high on the 2007 Black List with 16 votes. Interestingly enough, Cozad’s never been to Dubai.
Writer: Adam Cozad
“Dubai” paints the picture of one of the most fascinating and fastest growing cities in the world. As Cozad writes, “Imagine Las Vegas on a supertanker’s worth of steroids and you’re only halfway there.” In fact, I want you to go plug “Dubai” into google images, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the entertainment. They’re building the tallest skyscraper in the world. They’re building artificial islands in the shape of palm trees. Over 60% of the world’s building cranes are there. They don’t have taxes. Construction workers live like doctors. Did I mention they have an indoor ski slope? Yes, it’s all about the money in Dubai. And if you’re like me, you never even heard of Dubai up until a couple of years ago. It’s like the place sprung out of thin air.
So somebody writing a script about Dubai feels like a no-brainer.
But is this a travelogue or is this a story?
Dubai is a cross between The Firm and Syriana. The script starts off great. We’re out in the Middle East with Special Forces operative PHELPS, who’s trying to get permission from the CIA to take out “the next Osama Bin Laden.” The red tape shaves precious seconds off what could be the single most important military operation of the decade. Phelps finally gets his go ahead and he and his team storm the building. But it’s too late. They not only find the room Osama 2 was staying in, but a group of dead doctors to boot. Looks like Osama The Sequel had himself some plastic surgery.
We fade to four years later where we meet out hero, PETER HODGES, playing tennis with his wife, RACHEL. But they’re not just playing tennis anywhere. They’re playing tennis on a helicopter pad in Dubai on one of the tallest buildings in the world. It sets up immediately the decadence and extravagance of this universe.Peter ‘s come to Dubai as an economist/financial trader of sorts, to help a large company that makes a lot of money, make a lot more of it.
The people that he deals with at his business are, for the most part, a group that doesn’t fuck around. In Dubai it’s all about the cash – turning money into more money. If you can’t do that, go back to wherever you came from. This place makes Beverly Hills look thrifty.
Because Peter’s fairly new on the job, his decisions are often challenged by his boss, ALI, andAli’s sketchy high-profile associates. But Peter is the Michael Jordan of the stock market. And in an early scene we see him expertly avoid losing millions of dollars, deftly turning it into a large gain.
Then, late one night, Peter has a fight with his wife and comes to work…only to find a group of soldier-assassins infiltrating his office. He’s able to hide and watches as a billion dollars is transferred out of the company account. When the police finally show up, it’s Peter who looks like the criminal. With only a small jump drive to prove his innocence, Peter makes a run for it. The rest of the script is one long chase scene as the police, Phelps (from the opening), and Peter’s employers follow him through the city of Dubai, all while he pieces together the beginning of a much larger plot to collapse the world economy and make, I believe, Dubai the richest country in the world.
That’s the best I can do to explain the plot and it might still be a little off. The problem with “Dubai” is that its economic component is really fucking confusing. Hotels in other countries are being blown up, all with the daughters and sons of famous finance ministers around the world. Future bombings are set to take place. The billion dollars that was stolen is siphoned into six different accounts that are somehow connected with the three past, and three future bombings. Dubai gets zero points for its clarity. I never got a full grasp on how this plan worked.
Lucky for Dubai, it’s also a chase movie. And we get to run around in this delirious yet decadent metropolis, experiencing the sites and sounds of one hell of a city. We swing on massive cranes. We barrel through downtown on a mega-truck. We race through hotels and ski slopes. When you check coherence at the door, Dubai is actually quite fun.
But Dubai is going to need a lot of work before it becomes the city it wants to be. Besides the economic degree you’re going to need to figure out the plot, there’s a hotel clerk he befriends who’s obviously just there so Peter can talk out plot points and motivations. Also, Peter, presented as a financial geek, inexplicably becomes Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando whenever it’s convenient, and by the end of the movie, is this brooding demanding action star. We’re told it’s because he draws the line at his wife (who’s been taken by Ali). Yet he spends the majority of the first act hardly paying attention to her.
I don’t think Dubai is a bad script. I’m just surprised it was purchased in such a raw state. It feels a good 6 or 7 drafts from reaching clarity. Luckily, it’s got energy and drive. And the lure of filming in this relatively unknown city must have seemed irresistible to Hollywood. You know someone’s going to do it. You might as well be first.
Tarson really liked this script and obviously others did as well. Will be interesting to see the finished screenplay. Take a look at the draft that got the sale yourself…
script link: Dubai
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Research your setting. Know everything that exists in the universe you’ve created – then use everything at your disposal. It’s clear Cozad did a lot of research here. He knew that Dubai is the most construction-intensive city in the world. Which led him to find these super-huge construction trucks. Which led to one of the funnier, more creative chase scenes I’ve seen in awhile – with Peter barreling through downtown Dubai in a super dump trunk going all of 35 miles per hour.