Genre: Historical Action/Adventure
Premise: A forgotten king fights to take back his kingdom.
About: These days it’s hard to find bidding wars in Hollywood. Studios are getting cheap. But Friday was an exception as Warner Brothers battled it out with Paramount for the spec script, “Odysseus”. I’m not sure how much it sold for but I assume it’s a lot. Now an interesting little tidbit. The script is being directed by Joseph Liebesman, who also happens to be directing another script I reviewed on Scriptshadow. A little script called “Battle: L.A.” I’m not going to go any further than to say Liebesman might want to get Peacock to rewrite that one.
Writer: Ann Peacock

Sometimes The Scriptshadow must wield his power over The Hollywood. He must show them that his fingers can reach deep into the center of the beast, and rip from its body any organ he so chooses. Today’s organ of choice? Odysseus, a script that was sold less than 16 hours ago! Reviewed for you here. On a Saturday. On a fucking Saturday! A day I was supposed to have off!!! Damn you Hollywood! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELLLLLLLLL!!!

I guess this is what happens when you receive a script on a day when you’ve already read three. So before I fall into a heap of exhausted slumber, let us get in our time machines, and head back to the ancient times. To Greece (or somewhere near there anyway).

Ithica is a beautiful island off in the middle of the sea. Its people have lived without their king, Odysseus, for 20 years, as he never returned from the Trojan War and is assumed dead. But the peaceful Ithicanians (?) are in for a rude surprise, as an army of bloodthirsty warriors, led by the Ancient Greek version of Darth Vadar, ANTONINUS, arrive on the island. The Ant Man is both a mystery and a terror. And his horse will piss on your face (no seriously, he will).

This army of ancient douchebags slaughter the locals like chickens in a chicken pen and overtake Odysseus’ castle without so much as raising a finger. There, Antoninus captures Odysseus’ wife Penelope, and his son, Telemachus, and begins his rule over the land.

After years go by, a starving weak bearded man washes ashore, a man who it doesn’t take long for us to realize is Odysseus. He’s finally come back to his kingdom. But what he finds there instead, is an island destroyed and decimated. If Odysseus wants his kingdom and his queen back, he’s going to have to fight for it.

The first thing that struck me when I opened this script was the page count. It comes in at a lean 90 pages. Yes! 90 pages! I can’t remember the last time I read a 90 page script. It seems like every script these days is 117 pages. But this wasn’t done to appease my lack of sleep. It was done to keep the story moving as fast as possible. This is the first script I’ve read in awhile where there were no unncessary scenes. Every inch of real estate here had a purpose and it’s an awesome decision. The script flies like a Greek eagle.

Every character here is compelling. Odysseus’ people hate him because he never came back from the war. Why didn’t he? Queen Penelope must live with the sadness that her husband never loved her enough to come back. Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, must serve Antoninus or his mother will be killed. And there are many great secondary characters sprinkled throughout the script.

I think the moment I really knew I was dealing with a professional was when Odysseus began planning how to take back the kingdom. Soonafter, Antoninus orders a child from every household to be murdered in 24 hours if Odysseus is not captured. This does a couple of things. It turns his own people against him. But more importantly, it forces Odysseus to speed up his plan drastically – in effect, giving him an impossible timeframe to acheive his task. This is what good writing is about. Creating an extreme sense of urgency where the stakes are incredibly high. So few writers do that these days. I was very impressed.

Another nice surprise was Antoninus, who could have easily been a stereotype villain but who we learn actually has a pretty compelling reason to be doing all this to Odyssesus.

I don’t know if you’re a Braveheart lover like me. But remember the scene where William Wallace comes back to the village after his wife is slaughtered? Well the final 40 pages are like an extended version of that.

As you know, I haven’t read anything that’s really excited me in awhile. Sloshing through these top-selling scripts of 2008 all week, I was beginning to think that nobody at the studios knew what the hell they were talking about. But Odysseus definitely deserved the bidding war it received. Great script and very impressed.

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

What I learned from Odysseus: This script is the perfect example of no wasted space. Every scene is important to the story. There are no vanity scenes. Every scene has momentum and purpose.

note: Scroll down to see Friday’s review of “The Long Run”

Scott’s going to kill me for posting this so early but I was supposed to post it at 9am my time and I know that there’s no way in hell I’m going to be up at 9am. So it’s now or never. The Scott in question, Scott Myers over at Go Into The Story, and I are going to do a monthly feature (assuming you guys like it) where we pick out a recently sold spec script, GIVE IT TO YOU GUYS A WEEK AHEAD OF TIME SO YOU CAN READ IT, review it ourselves the following Friday in a dual review of fates, and then have a cross-intergalactic-blog discussion about the script in the comments section.

One of the reasons I started this site was to get people discussing scripts. Unfortunately by the time you download and read them, the original review is buried 4 or 5 posts back. And who has time for history right? That’s like so yesterday. This way, you don’t have an excuse. We’re giving you the script a week ahead of time. Although the focus of the conversation should be on why you believe the script sold, you can discuss any of your intricate thoughts about structure, story, characters, plot. I want people to actually learn something. Yeah, you heard that right: LEARN.

The first script in this feature is titled “Medieval.” Said to be a “The Dirty Dozen” in the age of castles, plagues and serfs, the script sold for 800,000 dollars back in February. So this is your first assignment my friends. Your first Scriptshadow homework. Don’t let me down.

Script link: Medieval

edit: Mediafire’s been acting weird so if you can’t download the link you’ll have to hang tight while I find an alternative. Which will happen whenever I wake up. :)

Genre: Drama
Premise: A journalist helps clear an inmate on death row and the two become friends. But when the inmate runs for office, the journalist begins to suspect he may have been duped.
About: This sold for enough money to buy a decent two-bedroom condo in Brentwood (low seven figures). Will Smith is said to be producing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumped into the lead role. It’s a movie about a politician. And we all know Will Smith wants to be president someday.
Writer: Stephen Belber

Surprise! A change-of-plans occurred when a loyal reader sent me this at the last second. Don’t you guys know how happy it makes me when you send scripts off my “Scripts I Need” List??? (over to the right – ahem!) You instantly get put into a special e-mail folder that I worship on a daily basis. So keep doing it! Now that means my 5 day “Top Selling Scripts From 2008 List” just turned into SIX DAYS! Hooray! Well, sorta hooray. You’ll have to wait til Monday for the review of our 2 million dollar script.

So are you guys getting as impatient as I am? It’s been, what, three weeks since a script entered my Top 25? It’s starting to look like the only way new scripts will make it in is if I take old scripts out. note: Once a movie hits theaters, it is no longer eligible for the Top 25. :( Is that really going to be the only way we learn about the next great script? Or will The Long Run, the high concept drama produced by Will Smith, change all that?

How bout this for a movie idea? A murderer on death row, DARIUS, is saved by a liberal journalist, RICK, when he writes a series of articles putting into question Darius’ involvement in a murder. Once free, Darius takes advantage of his fame by running for office. As his star rises, Rick begins to have doubts about whether Darius is, indeed, innocent.

I don’t know about you but I loved this premise. When I heard it I went on a wild hunt for the script and thanks to the aforementioned reader, was able to find it. But you know what? I’m sorry to say that Belber drops the ball. He fails to focus on the elements (the hook) that made the premise so compelling, and instead gives us something that’s way too familiar.

Although there were a number of things I disliked, I think the thing that most bothered me was that this was so obviously tailored to appeal to an Oscar-seeking A-lister. You have the ex-con wrongfully accused of murder. Works at Oscar time. You have the underdog political rise to fame. Works at Oscar time. I mean all you need is to make him a boxer and half-retarded and the race would be over. Will Smith thanks the academy. Even the ending is a desperate (spoiler) bid for a gold man with the truth of whether Darius is the murderer being whispered off-screen, leaving it *up to us* (sigh) to decide if he did it or not (echoes of the “whisper” from Lost In Translation that almost got Bill Murray an Oscar).

But like I said, it’s that aversion to what makes the script interesting that really bothers me. .There are so many components that could have led to a cool thriller here. Maybe even a cool political thriller. But the only thing Barber does with his hook is throw a worm on it and lure us in so we have to watch this boring underdog politician story that we’ve seen a million times before.

The script has some logic and structural problems as well. Part of Darius getting out of jail is dependent on the completely coincidental confession of his friend who’s in another prison 3000 miles away. Wow, how fortunate that this guy admits to the murder right when Darius needs him to. We’re led to believe that his friend did it out of loyalty. But exactly how loyal is someone who keeps their friend in jail for 15 years before admitting to a murder they committed? If only I had friends that loyal.

In addition, the script moves back and forth between Nick and Darius, and it’s unclear whose story it is. It starts out being Nick’s as he tries to get Darius out of jail. But once Darius gets out, we’re spending more and more time with Darius. I admit this is a pet peeve of mine and some people are fine with switching points-of-view. But there’s a certain pattern you have to establish early on if you’re going to go this route. And that pattern wasn’t established in The Long Run.

There’s also a relationship with Darius and his wife Opal (he married her before he went to prison) that just never works. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for Opal to stay in the relationship (she pretty much hates Darius) and yet she does. Why? Beats me. Their storyline completely mystified me. It was odd and strained and illogical.

There are some good things sprinkled throughout. There’s a great scene early on (which I’ll get to more in my “What I learned” section) between Darius and the father of the boy who was murdered. It’s creepy and intense and exactly the kind of tone I was hoping for when I started the script. Unfortunately after that scene the father isn’t seen again until the end.

I did like how Barber played with the theme of truth though. Darius’ political campaign is predicated on this idea that he’s the only politician that “speaks the truth”. And of course the whole time we’re wondering, is he telling us the truth? Or is he, indeed, the murderer?

So, does The Long Run make it into my Top 25? I’d have to say………… The script is by no means bad. It’s well-written. It’s just that in trying to cater to the actor’s vanity, it focuses on the wrong things. But if you want to see what a 7 figure script reads like, take a look at The Long Run.

script link: The Long Run

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

What I learned from The Long Run: So I’m reading The Long Run and I’m barely able to pay attention. My mind is wandering. I’m inching forward, constantly checking the page number. And then, about 32 pages in I become riveted by a scene. Whenever that happens, particularly in a script I wasn’t enjoying, I go back and figure out what got me. Naturally I want to use the device in my own screenplays. — It’s a simple scene really. Rick and Darius are walking down the street and this strange man approaches them. He asks Miles if he is indeed Miles, and then proceeds to say a series of very strange things. The air is thick with tension. Who is this man? Why is he here? What is he capable of? It’s a very spooky scene. And I realized the reason I liked it so much was because it was *unexpected*. Up until that point in the script, everything had gone exactly according to plan. There wasn’t a single surprise. I make this mistake in my screenplays all the time. Everybody does. You can get so focused on what you’re trying to do with your story that you forget to surprise the audience – you forget to throw a scene in there that the audience doesn’t expect (because *YOU* weren’t expecting it) Those are the things that keep readers on their toes. Unfortunately, The Long Run didn’t capitalize on this scene. You introduce the most interesting character in the movie so far…and then never show him again. Well, until the end anyway. It’s a major missed opportunity. And it’s one of the reasons this script really didn’t work for me.

Just a quick update to alert you guys to “Go Into The Story” where I give a brief interview (9am EST). These bits and pieces I share are precious because I rarely reveal anything to the public. So take advantage dammit. Also, Scott Myers and I will start doing something that we think is kinda cool every month. So stay tuned for that announcement on Friday. Pierre Pierre review is below.

Genre: Le Comedie
Synopsis: Le man est angrie deteste le grand ball nous live on. Salut.
About: Sold for uno million dollars, this Western European jaunt will star Jim Carrey and be directed by Juno’s Jason Reitman (no, contrary to popular belief, Diablo Cody did not direct Juno). With Fox Atomic having a nuclear meltdown, I’m not sure where this project currently stands. But I have to say, Jim Carrey, although a little old, is perfect for the part. I’m one of the few souls that liked Yes, Man.
Writers: Edwin Cannistraci & Frederick Seton

note: yes I was considering doing my entire review in faux French. You’re welcome for changing my mind.

Let’s get something out in the open right now: Cannistraci and Seton, the writers of Pierre Pierre, are two really fucked up individuals. And you know what? I love them for it. Cause their demented minds came up with “Pierre Pierre”, a script about an annoying Frenchmen who hates the world so much, he wishes only that he could be dead. Yes, welcome to the 1 million dollar spec script, and 2nd on our list of Top selling 2008 screenplays, “Pierre Pierre!”

Pierre Pierre takes advantage of one of the few countries we can still make fun of without feeling bad about ourselves, France. Pierre is everything we assume the stereotypical Frenchman would be: arrogant, smug, smelly, insensitive, combative, and doesn’t really respect women. But see it’s okay, because even though the writer is making fun of him, he’s making fun of us. And when I say “us”, I mean everybody. Because Pierre hates everybody.

We’re informed almost immediately just how much of an asshole Pierre is, because instead of calling his girlfriend “Michelle”, he calls her “Scumbag.” Pierre has all sorts of interesting names for the people in his life. His father is “Idiot Father”. His mother is “Whore Mother”. A hot girl he meets is “Hot Bitch”. His best friend (who also happens to be a rapist and a murderer) he names “Pigeonshit”. And of course he calls all these people these names to their faces, which is actually the nicest thing this he says to them, because most of what Pierre has to say revolves around insults and personal attacks. For instance, when his girlfriend brings up that he doesn’t work, Pierre retorts, “I work plenty Scumbag. Listening to you prattle on is work. Having the sex with you is work. Breathing the same shit air you breathe is fucking work.”

It’s actually funny because you imagine Pierre with a thin little mustache, chain smoking, saying all this in the most absurd French accent imaginable. Jim Carrey is going to have a field day with this role but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a rewrite and cleaned him up a lot. This borders on dark comedy here. And we all know what happened the last time Jim Carrey did dark comedy. Errr…The Cable Guy?

So the main storyline is Pierre insulting people. What would be considered the “sub-plot” is when Pierre has to transport the stolen Mona Lisa somewhere in Europe with his stupid girlfriend. Along the way he and Scumbag find a tiny code on the painting and they think, a la the Da Vinci Code, it must lead to something amazing. But as much as Pierre tries to give a shit, he just can’t, and would much rather be sitting in an empty room, smoking a cigarette, preparing for death. Watching the Mona Lisa get ripped, kicked, bent, twisted, drawn on, and thrown in the ocean is kinda funny though.

Pierre’s shtick gets a little thin in the end, but there are enough LOL moments to justify its large price tag. This script is different from almost every comedy I’ve ever read. For that alone it gets a thumbs up.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read (narrowly missed impressive)
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Pierre Pierre: This is another case where you have the dreaded screenwriting no-no breathing down your neck: the unlikable hero. You might even call the hero in Pierre Pierre “despicable”. Screenplay purists would argue it’s impossible to write a film with Pierre as the protagonist because if the protagonist’s an asshole, why would we root for him? But there are a few devices you can use to offset an unlikable lead, and the biggest one is humor. It doesn’t matter how much of an asshole your hero is, if he’s making the audience laugh, they’re going to like him. A perfect example is Vince Vaughn in Swingers. On paper the guy is a womanzing asshole. But you can’t help but laugh at everything he says. There are other secret ways to offset unlikable heros, but what? Do you think I’m just going to give you everything in one post?? Are you crazy?? Pfft! Stupid Americans. Merde! Je Desteste. Fin.