First of all, I would like to apologize to Warner Brothers. What I did by posting key plot points of their property, Inception, was stupid at best and financially crippling at worst. I apologize to Christopher Nolan, as well as Kevin J. Anderson, who is the owner of the unpublished source material. I promise, from now on, to be more careful and aware when reviewing material that is still in unfinished form. To anyone who was hurt by this act of selfishness, I apologize profusely.

For those requesting a copy of the material, I am no longer in possession of one. Thank you.

Genre: Sci-fi
Synopsis: A man finds a way into the inner-workings of the universe using his mind.
About: This is the hottest, most top-secret, most desired script in town. Christopher Nolan’s next film.
Writer: Christopher Nolan

You know when you go fishing and you’re hoping to catch something, anything, so that you don’t go home empty-handed? You start off looking for bass, without getting so much as a nibble. Then it gets a little later in the day and you downgrade to salmon. Then, as you see the sun setting on the horizon, you’re just hoping for something with gills on it. And just as you’re packing up and cursing the world, you feel a tug, and then another tug, and then you realize this is not just any fish. You just caught a goddamn whale. That’s how I feel today.

One of the great things about this website is meeting more and more people who are higher and higher up on the Hollywood food chain. The things I’ve been sent – some only hours after they hit the street – I’ve been astounded by. And I want you to know that I don’t take any of it for granted. I thank you guys every day! But I was not prepared for the call I received and for the script that I was sent at exactly 2:39pm on Tuesday afternoon. The most top-secret heavily guarded script in town. Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. I know you guys are dying to get to it, so let’s not waste any more time.

When I first heard that Inception was a “sci-fi actioneer set within the confines of the mind” I got real nervous. There are many directions this idea can go and most of them suck. “The Cell” was the last movie to tackle this subject, and while it had some of the coolest looking set designs and costumes I’ve ever seen, it was a really stupid film. Inception, thankfully, is not The Cell. Despite its incredibly ambitious nature, it succeeds on nearly every level.

The movie revolves around a man named JACOB HASTLEY, 34, a scientist and recent paraplegic who’s considering suicide. But when he makes an unexpected breakthrough in his life’s work, he finds a potential connection between the mind and the universe that could change everything we know about ourselves. Upwards of five pages are dedicated to explaining Hastley’s work, but I’ll summarize it as best I can: Since the universe is infinite and the mind’s capacity to think is infinite, there must be a way to move between one and the other.

He continues this research and eventually finds a doorway between them. This doorway allows him to travel anywhere in the universe through a specifically designed thought algorithm. In essence, it’s a way to travel anywhere without actually traveling. These first traveling scenes to other solar systems and galaxies are some of the highlights of the script. Nolan takes us to worlds that defy everything we know about physics, matter, space and time. It’s hard to describe but he writes it as if we are inside of his mind, thinking it, just like he is. It’s a risky choice as a writer and like nothing I’ve ever seen on the page but it totally pays off.

Unfortunately it isn’t all cake and ice cream. Jacob learns quickly that he’s not the first one to have found this doorway, and that other “travelers” have been alerted to his entrance. This sounds a little bit like that awful movie “Jumper”, but these people aren’t Samuel Jackson in a silver wig. They’re people with an intellectual capacity “150 times larger than the average human”. Which is one of the cool things Nolan plays with. You know that old saying that we only use 5% of our brains, or whatever it is? The “inception” teaches us how to use the rest.

What I like about Inception is that there’s no bullshit copout Kubrick nonsense here. This isn’t 2001 where even though the movie makes no fucking sense everybody wants to say that they understand it. Inception has a purpose. Jacob must find the truth behind the origin of the universe (its “inception”) before the other travelers catch up to him.

The real power in Inception lies inside its mysterious and complicated cast of characters though. LISA, a certified genius, is Jacob’s estranged wife who left him after he was paralyzed. She coincidentally shows up the day after his first journey. KANSAS is a dog-whisperer who seems to have an otherworldly connection with the animals she teaches. TARK is only 37 years old yet wiser than any man you’ve ever met. How does he know so much? And then there’s ISABELL, a blind woman who will stop at nothing to see again.

I rarely find anything that lives up to the hype. Michael Jordan and maybe freshman year of college were it for me. But Inception defies everything I ever thought I knew about movies. It is a riveting journey both emotionally and viscerally. It is truly astonishing. I pray Nolan doesn’t deviate one iota from the script. I can’t wait.

script link: Inception (get it while you can cause it probably won’t last)
Edit: Sorry! Forced to take it down.

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

What I learned from Inception: How that in order to come up with true genius, you must sometimes ignore every single rule you know about screenwriting and just go with your heart. At its core, screenwriting is still an art. It is still the sum of your experiences expressed through your interpretation of the world. No equation or rule should impede upon that.

EDIT: Because the comments section was being inundated with requests for the script, I had to turn them off. People, I CANNOT give this script away! I’m sorry!

Genre: Drama
Synopsis: A suburban husband finds his life spiraling out of control due to extramarital temptation, a crazy cat lady, a wannabe mobster, a potential life-changing surgery, and a band of raccoons hellbent on destroying the only thing that matters in his life: the perfect backyard lawn.
About: This one has been making its way around town and wowing just about everyone who reads it. Some are even calling it the next American Beauty.
Writer: Jacob Aaron Estes

The Details is such a fascinating script because it has moments of such inspired genius, you’re kinda baffled to see it occasionally stumble. I was listening recently to an interview Sarah Polley gave about her Alzheimer’s-themed film, “Away From Her”. She said, in interviewing a lot of older couples and asking them how they stayed together for so long, the general response was that relationships are perfect at the beginning, perfect at the end, and everything in between was hell. Besides drawing a chuckle, I realized that, except for a few rare super-couples I’ve met, this statement is generally true.

JEFF and NEALY happen to be smack dab in that middle phase. He’s in love with his wife, but at the same time he’s unable to love her. This distance has weaved its way into every facet of their marriage, in particular Jeff’s new obsession: the perfect goddamn backyard lawn. That’s the *only* thing he wants. But the new sod won’t root because the local raccoon community keeps tearing it up. Not only does this lawn stand as a metaphor for his life, but it’s also proving to be the breaking point for his marriage. As Nealy watches Jeff descend into his obsession, it becomes more and more clear that he has no time for her.

Although The Details takes its suburban cues from American Beauty (considered by many to be the greatest screenplay of the last 20 years), it’s definitely its own film. Next door lives LILA, 40s, a nosy cat lady with nothing to do except observe and passive-aggressively annoy the hell out of the neighborhood, in particular Jeff. There’s LINCOLN, an ex-college basketball player with a past shrouded in mystery. There’s REBECCA, an old flame of Jeff’s who’s now an unhappily married psychiatrist. And her husband, PETE, a Sopranos-obsessed wannabe gangster.

What The Details does right is it builds. It’s about building character, building conflict, building tension, building a story. Every 10 pages our main character is worse off than he was the previous 10. Besides the raccoons, Jeff also wants to build an addition to his house. It’s unlikely the housing committee will approve it so of course Jeff decides to do it on the sly. The dust from the construction then ends up in Lila’s air vents, blanketing her house with dust, and if Jeff wants to keep the construction on the down low, he will now have to please Lila in every way she wants to be pleased. And Lila wants to be pleased in many ways. Much of them, “down low”. Jeff also finds himself lusting after ex-flame Psychiatrist Rebecca, and the two end up consummating the relationship. The only problem is her husband finds out, and the next thing Jeff knows, he’s being extorted for 200 grand. 200 grand that he doesn’t have.

What I liked about The Details is that it puts its main character into situations where there’s no clearly defined “correct” way out. And it’s seeing what the character chooses to do in these situations that really elevates The Details above the rest of the pack. For instance, Jeff tries to kill the raccoons by lacing his lawn with poison. The raccoons evade the trap, but Lila’s cat doesn’t. When Lila informs Jeff that she knows he’s the killer, and hints that something like that could land him in jail, Jeff is forced to either do what Lila says (and cheat on his wife) or face the consequences. I love when scripts force their characters to make interesting choices. And The Details thrives in that department.

The problems of the script pop up not unlike the very raccoons Jeff is trying to kill. Estes tends to dwell on things for too long at times. Lila’s actions are not always believable. But the biggest problem is the character of Lincoln. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like he’s part of another story. It wins awards for being original, but originality only works if it fits within the universe you’ve created. And Lincoln seemed, most of the time, like an alien from another film. His character is dying of kidney disease and Jeff happens to be the perfect donor. So Jeff ends up donating his kidney to save Lincoln’s life. All of this is treated with a melodramatic touch that rivals your favorite soap. And even though I understand why Estes was doing it – to set up a key moment later in the film – it simply never felt organic to the story.

But like I said, the writing is so masterful at times, it doesn’t matter. The Details was a joy to read. It’ll be fun to follow this into casting, production, theaters, and finally, maybe, award season. I think with a quick rewrite, it could easily get there. I liked this one a lot. And am placing it at number 24 on my list.

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

What i learned from The Details: The Details is a good reminder about writing characters that actors would want to play. In Lila, the lonely overmedicated strange cat lady, you have a weird and morally twisted character that any actress would jump on. Once you get a respected actress in that roll, it gives your entire film a label of respectability, and draws interest from other big time acotrs and directors. It basically puts you on the map.

Genre: Sorta Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: A loveless man who believes he’s dying meets a woman that turns his life upside-down.
About: Huge spec sale back in the early 90s. 1 million dollars. Yet the movie still hasn’t been made.
Writer: Kathy McWorter

Some people would tell you that the day The Cheese Stands Alone sold is the day the spec sale died. Why would anyone pay a million dollars, the rationale went, for a script with the word “cheese” in it? I can buy cheese at the store for $2.79. It was the height of the spec sale boom, and the suits were like, we’re now shelling out a million bucks for regular old movies with people talking? There’s no real hook in The Cheese Stands Alone. And in a heartbeat, the rats in Hollywood were second-guessing themselves. Get it? Rat? Cheese?

Do you blame The Cheese Stands Alone? Or was this actually a solid script that deserved the attention it received? If so, why has it never been made into a movie? Or an even better question: Why did that dreadful Jeff Garlin movie “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With”, which was worth about $19.99, get made before this million dollar beheamoth? The answers are in the review…

I felt it was appropriate to put myself in the right state-of-mind, so I went out and bought several types of cheese. American Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Velvetta cheese. I wanted to become one with the cheese. In all honesty, I was preparing myself for a complete disaster. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that a script with the word “cheese” in the title was any good. Brie cheese.

Never-been-in-love Vinnie (think a young mopey John Travolta) thinks he’s going to die because an x-ray taken on a routine doctor’s visit shows a large black splotch where his heart is supposed to be. He’s convinced it’s “a saw” and that he has weeks to live. The doctors try to convince him it’s a smudge, but he retorts with, “Doctors are paid to make you think everything’s fine.” So now Vinnie thinks he’s dying. He heads home where his rather eccentric New York family, mom, grandma, grandma’s boyfriend, and a 15 year old kid who’s had sex with every woman in New York, become convinced that Vinnie’s old fiance, Delia, has put a death curse on him for breaking off their engagement 3 years ago. Munster Cheese.

But their ruminations are quickly interrupted by his grandma’s surprise blind date she’s set him up with. The buxom, gorgeous, mysterious Naomi enters, and quickly grabs Vinnie for a night out. Vinnie, thinking he’s dying, spends every second of the date whining about his imminent death. Noami seems to be the complete opposite, throwing caution to the wind and living every second to its fullest. It makes for an awkward yet hilarious night out. Cheese whiz.

In the meantime, the mother storms over to the local grocery store, where Delia (the ex-fiance) works. Delia is even hotter than Naomi, and she knows it. She’s still bitter about 3 years ago so when Vinnie’s mom comes in demanding she release the curse on her son, Delia gives her a mouthful. Now even though Delia hates Vinnie’s guts, she also can’t stand the thought that he doesn’t like her. Which means she’d do anything to have him back. So she goes along with the “curse” accusation, and claims that she will not release it unless Vinnie marries her. Cheddar cheese.

That’s the basic set-up for the film. And you know what? It’s fucking hilarious. This is the perfect example of a script I was supposed to hate but couldn’t. A perfect example that if you craft a good story, it doesn’t matter what genre it’s in, it’s going to entertain. The Cheese Stands Alone stands alone because it’s about the characters. And McWorter is so good at creating intriguing memorable characters with wonderful dialogue, that it’s one of those rare occasions where you never have to go back and double-check who someone is. As soon as they speak you immediately know them.

If there’s one movie I couldn’t stand, it was My Big Fat Greek Wedding – for numerous reasons that I don’t feel like getting into. But if you were going to compare “Cheese” to any film, that would probably be the one. Yet this movie succeeds in every area that that movie failed. Every page is bursting with charm. It’s got more heart than all the films of 2008 put together. It’s completely authentic. Which leaves me scratching my head as to why it hasn’t been made. You could make this thing for 30 million bucks and it would gross 100 mil without breaking a sweat. If I became a studio head tomorrow, this is the first movie I’d add to my slate. I’m not kidding!

sorta related article of the day: The Golden Years.

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

What I learned: A good mystery can take a very simple story and completely transfix the audience. In the story, after Vinnie leaves with Naomi (the girl Vinnie’s grandma set him up with through a friend of a friend of a friend), the grandma makes a call only to find out that the real date was sick and couldn’t make it. Which begs the question: Who the hell is Naomi? This is a choice the writer makes. She didn’t have to do this. The movie still would’ve been interesting if Naomi *had* been the girl the grandma set him up with. But since she isn’t, in addition to wondering how the date will go, we are now ravenously wondering who the hell Naomi is. And how the hell did she know to show up in place of this other girl? Sure, this isn’t a thriller. It isn’t a conspiracy film. It’s a film about a man who hasn’t found love. Yet adding this distinct and interesting mystery adds a whole new layer. Simple but extremely effective.

This week expect a spec sale classic to make its way onto Scriptshadow. Also, another script creeps into my top 25. This one has been blowing people away around town in addition to being compared to a certain Oscar Winner (which will remain nameless). It’s tightly guarded enough that I may not even be able to a post a script link. :( Then we have a mega-budgeted science-fiction flick that’s one of the worst action scripts I’ve ever read. No surprise then that it’s being made into a film. Also, since it’s the end of March, I’ll be posting my “Script of The Month”. If you’ve been following along, you probably already know what it is. Other than that, we’ll see what pops up. Once again, if you have any requests, leave them in the comments section or e-mail me. Enjoy your weekend!