Genre: Comedy…sort of
Synopsis: A bachelor party goes awry when a hot tub transfers its occupants back to 1987.
About: I guess this is a project that’s been lingering in Hollywood for awhile. John Cusack’s recent involvement has apparently turned it into a Go picture.
Writer: Josh Heald

This one’s been getting a lot of airplay since John Cusack announced his attachment to the project and AintitCool ran an article about it. I have to say, from the title alone I was very excited. It sounded like an updated version of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. But unfortunately, it doesn’t take full advantage of its time traveling premise, and focuses more on the goof-off antics of its four main characters. I smiled the whole way through “Hot Tub” but I never laughed (actually that’s not true – I laughed at the very last line). For that reason, I can’t whole-heartedly endorse the script.

Hot Tub follows Adam, our “soon to be married” bachelor, as he journeys up to a ski resort with four friends for his bachelor party. With him are his best friend Nick, his newly homeless friend Lou, and his estranged younger brother Jacob. The four find themselves drinking and partying in a hot tub, when they are inexplicably transported back to the year 1987. See this is where I had a bit of an issue with Hot Tub. The script stays in 1987 for the duration of the story. When I saw the title, “The Hot Tub Time Machine”, I assumed we’d be traveling all over the place. The fact that we’d be staying exclusively in 1987 was a little disappointing.

Anyway, the characters kind of stumble around for 60 pages, getting into trouble, meeting new people, and getting used to the year. Some enjoy being in the year 1987 (Lou), some don’t (Adam). There’s no real story to speak of – except for Adam’s vague desire to get back to his fiance. Which leaves the script completely dependent on its comedic situations. It then becomes a taste thing (do you think it’s funny or not), and if you don’t, well then there’s no real reason to keep reading. Had the story and Adam’s determination to return been stronger, the reader would’ve easily stayed along for the ride, laughs or not.

What I really liked about the script, however, had everything to do with Cusack’s involvement. If you don’t know, Better Off Dead is one of my favorite movies ever and holds a very strong place in my teenage heart. In that movie Cusack famously squares off against the ski team’s captain who stole his girlfriend. In Hot Tub, Cusack’s character encounters none other than an asshole ski instructor who happens to be dating his childhood crush. If I were in charge of this movie, I would be all over this. Echoing as many scenes from Better Off Dead as possible. These moments were when I was the most into Hot Tub Time Machine (I have a feeling it’s why Cusack got involved in the first place). Is Ricky still acting?

I think the script is good. No better, no worse. Just an enjoyable read. If this indeed goes into production, there are some opportunities to make it great. But the first thing I would do is improve Adam’s connection with his fiance early on and make his desire to get back to her more obvious. If we don’t feel their incomparable love, then Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t work.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Hot Tub Time Machine: I’m telling you. Don’t underestimate the need to sell your main character’s motivation in a comedy. In order for comedy to work, there must be truth in your characters’ desire. Taking an extra scene or two early on to solidify that dramatic element, makes every bit of comedy that follows that much funnier.

note: If you want to read a much better script about bachelor parties, read “The Hangover,” which is coming out this summer.

Genre: Slasher-Scary movie
Synopsis: 5 friends head to a cabin in the woods. A group of zombies starts stalking them. That turns out to be the least of their worries.
About: This is one of those “top secret” projects Hollywood’s trying to keep under wraps. Because the story is apparently “that good” that it needs to be kept secret.
Writers: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

(note: “Layover” is being pushed back to tomorrow)

You have to give me a fucking break. Did I actually just read what I think I just read? If so, there’s a very simple reason why this project is “top secret.” It’s because if anyone laid their eyes on this piece of crap, they’d throw it into the fires of Hell before allowing it to get made. Let me give you a sneak peek, a glimpse, of what you’re in for. In this script there are monsters, zombies, robots, vampires, aliens, and giant Gods. All in one story! For your reading pleasure! Yes, someone thought this was a good idea.

The only reason I kept reading was because of this script’s “top secret” status. I kept waiting for some super-cool thing to happen that I’ve never seen before. Well I got that. And man do I wish I could trade it back for the time I lost waiting for it.

Okay look, this is a slasher/monster flick. Carson usually no like these flicks. So I freely admit I have no idea how this will play to the crowd that does. They very well may love it. But I’m betting a lot of people are going to be stumbling out of the theaters after seeing this going, “….what the HELL???”

For me? I like a good scary film. And I like films that take chances: The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Orphanage. Scary movies that make you think a little bit. Cabin In The Woods would like to *think* that it’s making you think, but all they’re doing is trying to create the next Scream. A movie that makes fun of the genre, albeit updated to satisfy the information-overloaded text/IM/Facebook generation that’s sprung up heavily since the death of that franchise. It thinks it’s being clever. But it bites off way more than it can chew.

So I guess at this point you’re wondering what this script is about. Well, it’s about 5 college friends who go to a cabin in the woods. All the cliches are played up – on purpose mind you – (right down to the redneck gas station attendant who warns them not to keep going). But something happens as they cross through the mountain tunnel into the old abandoned field. We watch a bird flying carelessly in that direction, only to BAM! Hit an invisible forcefield and die. If this is the kind of thing that gets you excited, I have no problems with that. For me, it raised a big red flag. The “uh oh, this has the potential to be really stupid” flag. And that flag did not let me down.

The five start hanging out, drinking, playing truth or dare. They find the entrance to the basement. Go down, start looking around. A lot of old cluttery junk. The lead girl finds a diary written at the turn of the century. She starts reading it out loud, and accidentally summons a family of ZOMBIES.

We then cut to a CONTROL ROOM (which we’ve actually seen before this) where a bunch of men in lab coats exchange money. See, they’ve been betting on which group of “monsters” the 5 kids would summon. This clues us in, of course, that we’re in some sort of controlled environment. That this place was built. And that secret cameras are recording all of this as some sort of “reality show” for a mysterious audience.

We cut back and forth between the killing and the control room until it’s finally down to just the girl and “the funny guy.” The control room people are concerned because apparently their secret audience will be very angry if the guy is killed before the girl. Lead Girl and Funny Guy find their way down into the secret underground storage area where all these monsters and aliens and robots are kept. They get to the control room, where a final standoff occurs. The control room guys beg the guy to kill himself because…and this is where I honestly said “fuck you” to my computer…the secret audience is a group of gods that have lived here on earth billions of years ago and who are now living underneath it. We have to make sacrifices to them in order to keep them from coming back and destroying our planet. Because these Gods get bored, we have to come up with new unique ways to sacrifice people (give me a fucking break), which is why they’ve created this whole ritual.

They have 8 minutes (before the sun rises) to sacrifice themselves or else the Gods will come back and take over – I am not making this up – the planet. This is actually IN the script – Girl and Funny guy tell them to fuck off. 8 minutes later, the ground rumbles, tears, and we pull back out of this field to see a hand bigger than the house rise out of the ground. The End.

About the only good thing I can come up with for Cabin is the dialogue, which is particularly funny and surprisingly realistic. “Funny Guy” especially has some laugh out loud moments. Alas…it is lost in this disaster of a screenplay. Oh well.

[x] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Cabin In The Woods: I’m honestly 50% sure this script is a joke.

I will be awarding a script of the month every month. I know you guys don’t have nearly as much time as I do. So I’ll single out my favorite script of the previous 30 days and give it my stamp of approval. Because 500 Days of Summer and Source Code don’t count (I originally reviewed those on another site) this month I’m giving the award to “Extract,” Mike Judge’s severed balls comedy. It narrowly beats out Bumped, She’s Out Of My League, and The Sitter. Whereas all three of those scripts ended stronger, the first half of Judge’s story is so funny, it ultimately steals the prize. For anyone trying to create better comedic characters, use Mike Judge’s scripts as your bible. Nobody creates more vivid more hilarious people than this master of comedy.

Sadly, nobody was good enough to break into the Top 10. Maybe in March. :)

Genre: Thriller
Synopsis: A man’s fiance is kidnapped into the depths of New York’s subway tunnels.
About: Recently sold spec
Writer: Jeremy W. Soule

It’s time for a weekend kidnapping sandwich! Today I’ll be reviewing the recently sold “Gone” (at least I think it sold), and then Monday the recently sold “Layover.” And no, “Layover” is not a sequel to “Bumped.” And Gone is not prequel to “Taken.” Although in the strange world of Hollywood, I’m sure they’re all related.

Oh boy…where do I start with this one?

Gone is not as bad as it tries to be. In a script with mole people, deaf-mutes, underground cities, and fabled 1900’s abandoned tunnels, there was potential for this to be really shitty. But Gone redeems itself with a couple of late second-act twists and a reasonably satisfying ending. But boy, did it look like it was going to stumble before it got there.

A big deal is made of Andrew, 20s, being claustrophobic early in the film, and yet this has little to no effect on the storyline. That sums up “Gone.” Lots of declarations. Not a lot of following through. Andrew is engaged to the beautiful Becky, whose father just happens to be the president of American Motors (aka loaded).

Andrew and Becky hop on the subway when, a few minutes into the ride, the train makes a sudden unorthodox stop. Everyone’s told to evacuate. They walk down the tunnel to the next exit and as they’re almost evacuated to safety, Andrew turns around only to find that Becky is GONE (I’m thinking this is the inspiration for the title).

Andrew frantically searches for her. Nobody seems keen on helping him. This is one of the underlying themes I really liked about Gone. This idea that we live in a world where nobody cares about anybody anymore. I thought that was really well done, and it’s something I believe is a growing problem in the world. When I hear someone scream at 11pm at night, I don’t bat an eye. I’m just so used to crazy background city noise. Soule captures that here. Anyway, a cop reluctantly decides to help him, and their search takes them down into the depths of the subway system, until they’re in an underground world all its own. They run into crackheads, deaf-mute graffiti artists, even mayors of underground communities.

Gone’s problem is that, at its core, it’s just silly. It’s a silly idea. A silly concept. A silly execution. This guy goes down into a subway underworld to find his fiance, and starts meeting all these goofy characters. There’s no genuine fear. There’s an underground world that compares itself to Oz for God’s sakes. It’s all so strange that the immediacy of finding and rescuing his fiance feels secondary. That’s not to say the characters weren’t interesting. They were. I would even say they deserve to be in a movie – just not this one.

Gone also falls headfirst into some of the traps of the genre. Like when the killer/kidnapper is revealed (spoiler ——–it’s the cop) and gives the order to kill Andrew, you immediately wonder why he didn’t kill Andrew one of the 1800 other chances he had to kill him- specifically when they were alone in a tunnel that nobody’s been in for 90 years (and probably won’t be for another 90 – don’t know about you but if I were going to kill someone, I’d think that would be a pretty safe place to do it). The writer tries to talk his way out of it (at least he addresses it) by hiring M. Night’s character from The Village to play the part of Edgar The Explainer, but it’s kind of like the liar getting caught, then trying to explain why he’s not lying. It only makes it worse. This is sloppy stuff and shouldn’t be allowed in a screenplay that’s selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But like I said, there were a few twists that I didn’t see coming and everything wrapped up a little nicer than I expected. I can see why a lot of people are hating this script. It needs work. But I can also see why it sold. The unique universe of the abandoned New York subway tunnels has been a ripe environment for a film for a long time. I’ve always wondered why studios hadn’t made a film about it . Maybe we’ll finally see one with “Gone.”

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Gone: The value of a good twist is incredibly important in movies like these. You have to jolt your audience, let them know that they may *think* they know where the movie’s going, but they don’t have a clue. Stay on a predictable track for too long, and the reader/audience is going to lose interest.

Genre: Drama
Synopsis: A group of individuals battle with what happens in the afterlife.
About: This is the Clint Eastwood/Steven Spielberg project.
Writer: Peter Morgan

Hmm, what do you say about Hereafter? I heard there was a “supernatural” element to the script, and that’s what intrigued me, but the truth is the supernatural plays a very tiny role in this story about death.

Hereafter starts off with a splash. Literally. Marie, 30s, a news personality, is in Thailand with her producer boyfriend. She goes down to the market because the boyfriend is too lazy to get birthday presents for his kids. While she’s looking at some jewelry, the infamous 2004 Tsunami hits. She drowns, and is technically dead for a few minutes, but is resuscitated by a group of rescuers. During death she saw something. A beautiful vibrant garden. A place that was undeniably special. The experience changes the way she sees everything.

We also meet George, an ex-psychic who’s trying to leave that life behind (he considers his “gift” a “curse”). And Marcus, a 12 year old boy who loses his twin brother in a violent car accident. George is sick of communicating with the dead because it prevents him from having a normal life. And Marcus, who never got to say goodbye to his brother, wants some sort of closure in the matter.

These three souls are very lost, each looking for a way to explain their experiences yet having no one that understands what they’re going through. They all feel very alone in the world.

I would say I enjoyed Hereafter…with reservations. The script has some major issues going on. First and foremost, it’s 60 pages of screenplay stretched out to 110. The story moves very very slowly. While the characters are compelling enough to warrant this glacier-esque momentum, it certainly doesn’t do the script any favors. The story sets up like it’s going to tackle the issue of the afterlife, but never does. I’m sure they could argue that it’s trying to mirror life (that there are no easy answers), but give me a break. This is a fucking movie. Give us some answers or give us a story. You can’t skirt around the issue for 110 pages without making the audience feel cheated.

In the end, the three main characters converge rather clumsily, and George reluctantly gives Marcus the closure he’s been looking for. But what about my closure? What about the feeling that I got something out of this? Apparently, this was ignored.

What bothered me was that this story really has the potential to be something. Psychics and near-death experiences and twins losing their brothers. There’s an awesome movie in there somewhere. I’m thinking Spielberg and Eastwood will tackle some of these issues in the rewrites. But if you ask me, I say cram everything into 60 pages, and write a whole new second half. No dilly-dallying. You tell us aspiring writers to do it. Shouldn’t be any different when you assign someone to write your idea.

[ ] trash
[x] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Hereafter: Speed your damn story up. You don’t need nearly as much time to say something as you think you do.