Search Results for: mena

amateur-offerings-weekend

TITLE: Watching Over Remie
GENRE: Psychological thriller
LOGLINE: A seemingly contented housewife slowly becomes obsessed with the idea of protecting her five-year-old daughter from possible harm, eventually turning to violent and psychotic measures to keep her safe.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: What do you get when you combine the best of French thrillers with a Hollywood bend? Had numerous offers to develop so far in both Europe and US. But the real reason to read is there are a few scenes that will disturb the crap out of you. Happy sleeping!

TITLE: The Boogeykids
GENRE: Horror
LOGLINE: Hell’s minions disguised as Girl Scouts ruin the trip of some weekend warriors.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I enjoyed your article about rewrites and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also consider the film perfect so it’s hard to believe any version of the script was passed on. Anyway, I myself have been reworking a screenplay I never submitted to you. Most of the rewriting has been to develop my protagonist around the persona of Shia LaBeouf, who I like as an actor. The title, genre, and logline follow.

TITLE: Treasures of Fate
GENRE: Action
LOGLINE: Two grave-robbing brothers race a brilliant military bureaucrat to find ancient prophecies of immense value and power. But as secrets and betrayals continue to mount, their biggest obstacle may be each other.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: We think action films should be fun without being stupid. So this isn’t a script about invincible emotionless assassins, or time-travelling robots fighting vampire-Nazis. It’s an adventure centred around the relationship between two brothers, with big, twisty set pieces to keep pulses high. It’s like throwing Murtaugh and Riggs into an Indiana Jones film.

TITLE: #trending
GENRE: Satirical Dark Comedy
LOGLINE: When his girlfriend becomes an overnight movie star, a lady shoes salesman must now become famous or he risks turning into the next Kevin Federline.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: Everyone nowadays dreams of becoming famous. You hit upload, wait around like a child on Christmas Eve, only for someone to eventually gift you a “like” on social media. Our melting pot is currently overflowing with fame whores who move to Hollywood, begging her to make their dreams come true.

As a fame whore myself, let me tell you… life is tough, life in Hollywood is impossible.

Imagine being one of the few in Hollywood who’s not a fame whore. You finally meet the only “great girl” in town, and then somehow you get her to fall for you. Sounds like a perfect Hollywood ending, right? But the only things in Hollywood that have Hollywood endings are Hollywood movies.

Your “great girl” lands the lead in the biggest movie in the world, becoming the next Jennifer Lawrence overnight. You sell ladies shoes. The “great girl” thinks that’s fine, and loves you for you… but the world thinks that makes you a loser, the next Kevin Federline.

Your name is Ernest Pope, and #TRENDING is your story. It’s a satirical dark R-rated comedy.

TITLE: The Anunnakis
GENRE: Sci-fi comedy based on ancient astronaut theory, UFO phenomena, and conspiracy schemes.
LOGLINE: When an advanced race of reptilians, descendants of the dinosaurs, threatens to wipe out humanity through spontaneous combustion, three misfits from Planet X put the fire out–even as a government shadow agency tries to stop them.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I am a legal alien living in Paris. I’ve written several plays, novels and screenplays. Produced in New York, Los Angeles, and Paris; published in France. Never quit my day job. The Anunnakis is my fourth attempt for a close encounter with Hollywood. Months ago an English theatre group in Paris did a public reading of it. The riotous laughter of my fellow expats took me entirely by surprise, making me regret not getting it on tape. However, I feel that my extraterrestrial comedy may crash unless I get some airworthy comments from the Scriptshadow fans, who, except Grendl, adore Carson as much as I do. So here I come in peace. My main concern is whether the story is easy to follow. I like simplicity, but I detest simplistic stories. My approach to comedies is slightly different than action movies. If an action movie is a steep climb, a comedy is a winding staircase. If it’s funny, it flies; if it’s not, it dies. This being said, you can fire back at me anything that doesn’t fly with you. You will be kindly rewarded with a sightseeing trip to the rings of Saturn. And if you happen to be an abductee or a cattle rancher, you’ll be handsomely reimbursed for your missing time or your missing cows :)

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You went searching for it, didn’t you? You went on a trek down the internet yellow brick road, through all its dark corridors and unsavory crevices, in search of the return of Mish-Mash Monday. You’d enjoyed it so much the first time, you just had to have more. It was like a moist Betty Crocker yellow cake with that chocolate frosting that’s light enough to float. I’d promised it would be back. So then why? Why did it disappear?

Well I have wonderful news for you, folks. Mish-Mash Monday is back! The special “Huge Screenwriting Advice” Edition. I’ll get more into that later, but first, I wanted to discuss one movie I didn’t see, and one movie I didn’t want to see, all in hopes of understanding this craft a little bit better.

It all starts with Spider-Man 2, a film I’d planned to see this weekend but couldn’t muster up enough enthusiasm to do so. I don’t know what it is about these Spider-Man movies, but if they were Christmas trees, they’d be that strand of lights right around the middle that’s always going dark. And no matter what you do, you can’t fix them.

I don’t know if it’s Andrew Garfield, who looks too tall and goofy to play the part of the web-slinger. I don’t know if the domination of the Marvel super-hero universe has made Spider-Man less relevant? I don’t know if the coolest aspect of Spider-Man (those fun POVs of him flying through New York) has run its course, not unlike Matrix bullet-time? But something’s definitely missing.

One thing that drives me bananas about these films is all the villains. Populating your superhero film with lots of villains so you can sell a bunch more toys is not a new idea. But Spider-Man always seems to go overboard with it. They almost look desperate, like they’re calculating, right there on the screen, that if they don’t have that third or fourth villain, they’re making 15 million less on toy sales and there’s no way they’re okay with that. I remember Sam Raimi complaining about this very problem in his last Spider-Man directing effort.

What the suits don’t realize is that this DOES affect the film. The justification for why a character is in a story is embedded into the very fabric of storytelling. The second a character feels wedged in for reasons other than the story itself, something starts to smell fishy to the audience. As writers, our job is to hypnotize. It’s to make the audience believe in what we’re telling them. And if you start planting things in that don’t make sense, the hypnosis starts to crumble, and before long, they’re no longer under your spell.

I watch these Spider-Man 2 trailers and you have Green Goblin, Rhino, Electro. It feels unfocused, like they’re unsure what the movie is actually about. That’s not to say other famous super-hero movies haven’t done the same. The gold standard for superhero franchises, Batman, had Two-Face and The Joker. But, for the most part, Nolan gave us one villain per Batman film, and he made that villain the star villain.

That’s the other thing. When you focus on one villain, you can actually give them depth. You can make him a worthy adversary to your hero. When there are two or three other guys, we’re only getting the bullet points of each villain. You don’t have enough time to delve into them, and the films feel more surface level as a result. So I’m not surprised to hear that’s a criticism these last three Spider-Man films have faced.

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On the flip side of that world is a small movie I saw last week. You know a movie’s good when it doesn’t need pyro-technics or VFX wizards or a half-dozen car chases to keep you entertained. All it needs is people and words. Which is why, so far, Philomena is my favorite film of the year.

For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about a journalist, Martin, who’s recently lost his job. He somehow gets sucked into a human interest piece about a former nun, Philomena, who was forced to give her baby up for adoption 50 years ago by the nuns at her convent. Philomena wants to find her son and meet him for the first time.

The first thing I loved about this movie was the RESISTANCE they built into the main character pairing. Any time you team up two people to find something (in this case, the woman’s son), you want to create resistance between them (from one, the other, or both), as it adds conflict. It’s not overdone here. This isn’t Ride Along. But Martin isn’t happy that his career has devolved into escorting a rambling senior citizen around the country. It adds such a charming sense of humor to the relationship, that even if there were no story at all, you’d still enjoy watching these two, something every “two-hander” should strive for.

But it was the MYSTERY that got me. I thought this was going to be one of those non-dramatic self-important indie films where two mismatched people drive cross-country and learn something about each other. But it was much more than that. I’ll tell you why.

It coincides with the exact moment I got hooked, which was when Philomena and Martin go back to the convent to ask for the records on her son. The Head Nun is very skittish and borderline rude, almost to the point that she seems like she’s hiding something. Hiding something is ALWAYS good for screenplays. Secrets are what make drama go round.

The nun tells Philomena that all those old documents were destroyed in a fire. There’s nothing they can do. She does, however, locate something Philomena signed a long time ago, where she promised never to go looking for her child. While they’re able to convince an old woman easily, Martin’s not so sure. Curious, he points out, that this ‘great fire’ destroyed every single piece of information that would help Philomena find her child, yet has preserved the one piece of paper that would prevent her from doing so.

I don’t know what it is about this simple set-up: bad people trying to screw over good people, but if you do it right, it’s so damn effective. However, Philomena finds a way to add a turbo boost to that tried-and-true setup, one you, as a screenwriter, should always keep in your bag of tricks as well: IRONY.

If these were, say, big corporate assholes preventing Philomena from finding her son, we’d be upset, but we wouldn’t be surprised. Men like that are expected to act that way. It’s that this a group of NUNS who are doing this that gets us. The people who are supposed to be the most trustworthy are screwing our main character over. That’s what draws us in, that terrible people masked as righteous people are screwing a poor helpless old woman over. That’s why we want to stick around. Irony. Never forget how powerful it can be!

Ahh, but that isn’t the only lesson you’ll learn today. I have one more mish-mash story I’d like to add to today’s post.

Awhile back, I was chatting with a writer whose script I’d read. The script was pretty good, but it had a big problem: It wasn’t marketable. Based on how these movies had done in the past, I didn’t think anybody would go and see it. When I tried to explain this to the writer, he vehemently disagreed. He insisted lots of people would show up. I made my arguments. He made his. Then at some point, we realized that neither of us were going to change each others’ minds, and we moved on.

Many months later, a movie came out that was very similar to this writer’s script. It wasn’t the same idea, but it was the same genre, same tone, same dark main character, same TYPE of story across the board. The movie did poorly at the box office, but I was long past proving my point. It was just something I passively noted.

Not long after, I ran into the writer again. After catching up, I remembered the film and I was curious about what he thought of it. I didn’t bring up any of our previous conversation. I just asked, like you would any movie, “What did you think?”

To my surprise, he replied, “I don’t know, I didn’t see it.” “Didn’t see it?” I thought. What did he mean he didn’t see it? This was the exact kind of script he was trying to sell.

And then it hit me. He didn’t go see it because he wasn’t interested in it. He wasn’t interested IN THE VERY TYPE OF FILM he was writing. I pointed this out to him and at first he was dismissive. He made some comments about how the two plots were different.

But as the night went on, I could see his mind working. Finally, it dawned on him. That movie WAS very similar to his, and he’d never even considered checking it out. If HE, the very writer WRITING these kinds of movies, wasn’t interested in seeing this film, why the hell would he expect the general audience to do so?

It was a valuable lesson to both him and myself: Don’t write a movie that you wouldn’t go see yourself. It seems like the most obvious advice in the world, yet I’m constantly reminded how many writers ignore it. I remember this guy who used to write all these goofy comedies that never quite got the tone right.  It occurred to me after awhile that I never saw him actually go to any of these movies. So I asked him one day, “When was the last goofy comedy you actually paid for?” He thought about it for a moment, then conceded he couldn’t remember.  Of course you’re not going to get the tone right if you’re not even interested in watching those kinds of films.

Guys, you have to be realistic. If you’re not paying your hard-earned money to see the very types of movies you’re writing, then why would you expect anyone else to? It’s hard to put butts in seats. Hollywood spends billions of dollars to figure out how to do it. But the cheapest research is also the most telling. If your movie can’t even get you to show up, you shouldn’t be writing that movie.

Mish-Mash Monday out!

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So the Oscars are over and, as expected, it was nobody’s night. Awards were distributed evenly, which confuses news organizations and reporters because they love to splash across their headlines “IT WAS MOVIE X’S NIGHT!” Gravity won some. 12 Years won some. But nobody dominated. Were there surprises? You bet. American Hustle didn’t win a single award! And Barbrie Fontuno lost for Best Documentary Animated Short for the third year in a row. When is that guy going to finally get his statue!?

Which reminds me… Poor Leo continues to sit in the loser’s chair, despite playing more Oscar-friendly roles than any other actor in town and working with the best directors in the business. I don’t know what it is about Leo. He’s a good actor, but I don’t know if he’s a great one. He commands the screen. But there’s something in the back of his delivery that makes you aware that he’s acting. If he can figure out how to overcome that, the little golden statue may yet be his one day.

I was shocked that after Cate Blanchett won for Best Actress (which I think she deserved) she thanked every single person on the planet EXCEPT for Woody Allen. I don’t know if that’s because she doesn’t like Woody Allen or she’s afraid to give credit to a media-appointed child molester and deal with the backlash. But by omitting his name from the acceptance speech, she’s probably going to draw more attention about the director than had she just said his name.

In the director category, there is really no question that Alfonso Cuaron deserved to win. I’ve loved his stuff ever since that Ethan Hawke one-take running shot in Great Expectations, and then those amazing super-takes he did in Children of Men. But with Gravity, he topped them all. I mean, if you’re freaking inventing shit to make your movie, you get the Oscar. This guy invented the technology to make this film. That’s pretty awesome.

Matthew McConaughey for the Best Actor win. This was one of the only shoe-ins of the night. If there’s one thing that’s clear about this win, it’s that if you’re a good looking actor who loses 50+ pounds to look really skinny in your role, you increase your Oscar chances by 80%. This is a KNOWN FACT, and seemed to work for co-star Jared Leto as well. I think Matt had one of the funnier speeches of the night. With his confidence and that southern drawl, you’re captivated and believe everything the guy’s saying. But if you really listened to Matt, you may have noticed he was just babbling a bunch of nonsense. Somebody you look forward to? Somebody to be on top of? Somebody to call your hero? What??? I think at the end, Matt told the world that his hero was himself. Which is pretty much Hollywood acting in a nutshell.

So what do I think of 12 Years A Slave winning best picture? Well first of all, I haven’t seen the film. Let’s start there. Why haven’t I seen it? Two reasons. First, I think Steve McQueen is a self-indulgent filmmaker who doesn’t care about story. He just wants to get in there, shoot, and play around with the actors. “Shame” is one of the most unneeded stories ever to be written. It was a complete waste of everybody’s time except maybe Michael Fassbender. After that debacle, I decided I was never again going to watch a Steve McQueen movie.

Second, from everything I’ve been told about the film, it’s as if it was created specifically so that I would hate it. It’s over the top. It’s depressing. It’s more history lesson than film. I don’t have anything bad to say about the people who like it. But I go to the movies to be entertained, at least on some level. And this film has no interest in entertaining. Yeah, I get it. Sometimes movies are meant to challenge you. But it seems like the message of this film is one I already know. Slavery was really really really bad. I mean, if you guys can convince me that there’s another reason to see this that I’m not considering, let me know. But I just don’t see myself excitedly sitting down to watch 12 Years A Slave with a bucket of popcorn any time soon.

Which brings us to the only thing that matters about the Oscars – the screenwriting categories! Now in my newsletter, despite not feeling like there were any true contenders, screenplays that we would look back at in 10 years and go, “Oh yeah, that was an amazing screenplay,” I thought I could pick the winners. In the Adaptation side, we had…

Before Midnight
12 Years A Slave
Captain Phillips
Wolf of Wall Street
Philomena

I knew Captain Phillips had no shot. It’s basically a bunch of shaky cam with a Somali pirate occasionally saying, “Look at me! I’m the Cap-tun now.” Wolf of Wall Street was a copy and paste job from the book. And Philomena was way too small of an idea. That left 12 Years A Slave and Before Midnight. Since I had not seen 12 Years A Slave, I was making an educated guess. But from what I’ve been told, 12 Years A Slave was all about the acting and the directing. Of those three elements, the screenwriting was supposedly the least impressive of the group. On the flip side, Richard Linklater is known for being a kick-ass screenwriter, with the industry adoring the fact that Julie Delpy pitches in and helps write these “Before” movies. So I thought the Oscar would go to Before Midnight. But alas, 12 Years a Slave won.

But! The story is not over. For those of you conspiracy theorists, you may have heard a few days ago that Julie Delpy RAILED on the Academy, calling them a bunch of old white men who hadn’t done anything in forever, and who therefore needed money. So to win an Academy award, all you had to do was slip them some “presents” and you had their vote. She then went on to say that she could give two shits about Hollywood and the Academy and that she thinks almost everything that Hollywood makes sucks.

Wowzers! This is why I’ve always kept Mrs. Delpy an arm’s length away. You can see that, sort of, contained rage behind her eyes. You get the feeling that she just hates everyone and doesn’t appreciate what she has or the chances she’s been given. I think that’s why she was never really accepted into the Hollywood community. But either way, even though that only happened a few days ago, after the voting was in, I would not put it beyond the Academy to change some votes around to avoid this vitriolic woman coming up on stage and calling all of its members elitist criminals. So she may have done herself in and prevented herself from the opportunity to make a few more personal indie movies.

That leaves us with the Original Screenplay Nominees…

American Hustle
Her
Blue Jasmine
Nebraska
Dallas Buyers Club

I thought this race was between American Hustle and Blue Jasmine, both of which, I believe, were better screenplays than Her. American Hustle had a weird story and took chances, mixing humor with drama in a way that was unpredictable and entertaining. It was not only different (which is easy to do), but it executed its “different” approach almost flawlessly (which isn’t easy to do). Blue Jasmine was masterful in its character creation (this woman who was going nuts), in its situational setups (the repeatedly tough moments it placed its hero in), and then in its dialogue, which, with Woody Allen, is never stilted, always feels natural, and has that heightened lyrical quality to it, almost like you’re listening to two characters take part in an aural dance.

But upon reflection, I understand why Her won. It took the biggest chance of all. It created a romantic comedy without one of the key components of the genre – the girl! I mean, sure, there’s a girl, but we only hear her voice. To pull that off for an entire movie and keep us interested is a magic act. I just didn’t think Spike NAILED it, which is why I didn’t think it would win. But in a year of weak contenders, I guess a lot of people thought it was unique, and that was enough to elevate it against some flat competition.

Oh, and finally, I thought Ellen was great. She’s an awesome host. I want to eat pizza with Ellen and take selfies with her. How bout you?  How was your Oscar evening? Did your picks pan out?

amateur offerings weekend

This is your chance to discuss the week’s amateur scripts, offered originally in the Scriptshadow newsletter. The primary goal for this discussion is to find out which script(s) is the best candidate for a future Amateur Friday review. The secondary goal is to keep things positive in the comments with constructive criticism.

Below are the scripts up for review, along with the download links. Want to receive the scripts early? Head over to the Contact page, e-mail us, and “Opt In” to the newsletter.

Happy reading!

TITLE: GRIPPER
GENRE: Horror
LOGLINE: When a young geneticist attempts to save the world’s forests from a rabid insect infestation she unwittingly unleashes a plague of apocalyptic proportions.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: A new, original monster for the horror/nature gone wild sub-genre based on real science and current environmental concerns – and its a pretty swift read at 103 pgs. Plus, the first and last lines of dialogue are ‘fuck’ and ‘beautiful’ ;)

TITLE: Gone
GENRE: Supernatural Drama
LOGLINE: A woman’s past affair with a married writer haunts her in unusual ways.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: I’m a huge fan of the 1986 French film “Betty Blue”. Even though it’s really quite terrible. I remember reading about some arthouse theater in Houston doing a retrospective screening back in the mid-90’s. Perhaps it was being a teen with hormones running amock, along with a burgeoning interest in all things cinema — especially movies I could never see growing up in Crockett, Texas — but those notorious opening 5 minutes of “Betty” had me intrigued. So, while not a great piece of work by any means (it’s a rambling mess, especially the longer three-hour version, with a goofball denouement and incredibly stilted dialogue throughout)… still holds a special place with me.

I think I like the idea of the thing more than the thing. Thus, wanted to pull central story elements and play around with them. Pay homage.

Also, I wasn’t aiming for a surprise at the end, but I’m kinda tickled it’s there.

TITLE: The Cloud Factory
GENRE: WW2 romantic drama
LOGLINE: Torn between family and college or the love of an aristocratic lesbian doctor, a badly-injured American pilot grapples with her burgeoning sexuality and WW2 Britain’s rigid social order.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: ‘The Cloud Factory’, is based on the true story of the women’s section of Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary, with fictional protagonists. Now, I get that Hollywood seems to think period romances and period dramas are so boorrring. Let’s take ‘Philomena’ (part period drama, and part contemporary). Probably made for less than $10 million; its global box office gross to the end of January was $68 million. Making money’s so boorrring. ‘Atonement’ – made for some $30m with global box office of $120m+. Boring! ‘The English Patient’ – production budget in the high $20m region; global gross of around a quarter of a billion dollars. Really boring! They all had strong female leads involved in a romantic relationship that didn’t end well, in common. Women over 30 especially turn out in droves for relationship dramas with strong female leads because we get to see so darned few good ones. See Lindsay Doran’s TED talk on relationships in movies – women get it! It’s not rocket science. So that is what I’ve written. I’ve just given the period romantic drama a little twist to keep things interesting. And I could be wrong, but as far as I can see, the last time a period drama seems to have gotten a run on Amateur Offerings Week was ‘Templar’ back in August, 2013. Long overdue, surely.

TITLE: The Triennial
GENRE: Action/Thriller
LOGLINE: An elite Israeli secret agent is on loan to the US teams with an unlikely civilian in a race to infiltrate and eliminate a terrorist cell in Chicago.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: During the last couple years, I’ve had three comedy scripts show up nicely in the contest circuit, yet none gained any traction with agents, managers, or producers. Apparently, I crack myself up. So I changed lanes and wrote this action/thriller feature, because… it’s a business, right? Bottom line – I had a blast writing this one, so I’m really glad I left my comfort zone and tried a new genre. Only question – will anyone else be glad? Would love some scared straight feedback.

TITLE: Fantasy Man
GENRE: Comedy
LOGLINE: A fantasy footballer must convince a sports star to play, or else a mob boss will have him killed.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ: The story. Period. Even if you’re not into fantasy football, there’s a heartfelt story here about friendship, love and going after your dreams. And it’s also pretty fucking funny. Happy reading and we appreciate everyone’s comments in advance. Thank you.

2013 has been an okay year for movies.  Not great.  Not terrible.  But decent.  For me, the year was marked with high expectations on a few choice picks that crashed upon viewage (which, funny enough, rhymes with “sewage”).  I was preparing for movies like Elysium and Pacific Rim to be great.  When they were only okay, I sat in the theater stunned, dogged by memories of The Phantom Menace premiere, when I learned that fateful lesson that movies can crush your dreams if you expect too much from them.  Oh well, we can’t win them all, right?

I’m sure my picks today will, in some cases, stun you.  That’s because I don’t conform to the reviewing consensus.  I never look at Rotten Tomatoes before I see a movie.  I want to form my own opinion, something fewer and fewer people seem to be doing these days.  Just because something was made by an acclaimed filmmaker doesn’t mean that filmmaker will succeed.   And just because an Oscar marketing campaign says a movie is great, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong when you think it isn’t.  Like what you like, hate what you hate, and don’t be apologetic about it.

I should note that there are a few movies I haven’t seen this year yet. Those include Her (can’t wait to see), Walter Mitty (very excited to see), 12 Years A Slave (do not like this director so probably won’t see), Dallas Buyers Club (maybe DVD), American Hustle (will probably see), so factor that into these choices.  Can’t wait to hear your reactions as well as what you guys liked.  Oh, and some of these movies may have come out in late 2012.  Hope you have your “Carson, you’re insane!” comments prepped and ready to go.  Let’s begin!

 

THE 10 WORST MOVIES I SAW THIS YEAR

10) Drinking Buddies – No script?  No problem!  Who needs a script when you can have four actors mumble endlessly about really boring shit?  Oh, don’t forget to record the audio with bad microphones so the ambient noise drowns out 20% of the dialogue.  Speaking of dialogue, this movie was a freaking advertisement for why we need writers.  Without them, dialogue is general, cliche, rambling, and dull.  I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that a movie without a script made a screenwriting site’s “10 Worst” list, but come on, I mean this is basic knowledge.  A movie needs a screenplay.

9) All is Bright – Wanna watch a holiday movie this Christmas?  Don’t rent this one!  I’m not lying when I say at one point, I thought the writer was purposefully trying to make the most boring choices possible for some sort of social experiment or performance art.  There wasn’t a single interesting moment in this script.  Not one!  The two main characters were beyond dull.  The dialogue was on-the-nose and boring.  The story was way too basic.  And everything was laced with this over-the-top depression that sucked any and all energy these two great actors could’ve provided to save some percentage of this film.

8) The Hangover 3 – I thought that the prerequisite for doing comedy these days was that you had to be funny.  Who wrote this again?  I wish people would’ve seen this poster before they walked into the theater, read that tagline at the top, assumed it literally, then left.  That’s the only thing that would’ve saved this film – people not seeing it and imagining funnier versions of the scenes that actually happened.  I mean, I’ve seen cash grabs before, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen one this blatant.  Nobody working on this film seemed to care AT ALL.

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7) The Counselor – Rule number 1 when writing a movie: Make sure it makes sense!  Rule number 36: Don’t write 10 page scenes that don’t have a point.  Rule number 95: A movie should build in momentum until it reaches its climax, not slow down until nothing’s happening.  The Counselor could’ve been a cool movie if it had a professional screenwriter come in and rewrite this vague treatment of an idea Cormac McCarthy came up with.  This was never a script to begin with, so it serves everyone right for not dealing with that problem ahead of time.

6) Iron Man 3 – I don’t know what to say about these superhero sequels anymore.  It’s not like they didn’t know they were making Iron Man 3 as they were making Iron Man 2.  So wouldn’t you take advantage of all that time, get a writer to start writing the third film, and that way have a decent script by the time production started?  Iron Man 3 was so damn MESSY and so tonally off, I could never get into it.  This movie, with its juvenile humor, was so obviously made for ten year olds, they might as well have had everyone get slimed by Kenan Thompson at the end.  And hey, I have no problem with films made for 10 year olds.  Just don’t sell it as a film for adults, conning us out of our money.

5) Man of Steel – Okay, so maybe Superman doesn’t deserve to be so high on this list.  In a vacuum, it’s probably mediocre (as opposed to “terrible”).  But I had such high hopes for this one, I was devastated by what unraveled.  The number one problem with this film?  Melodrama.  Scenes (Clark hiding in closet, Clark’s dad getting swept up in a tornado) were taken so over the top, milked so far beyond their saturation point, that you threw up a little each time they happened.  It was also too long and too messy (why spend so much time on a planet that isn’t a part of the main storyline?).  I wanted this to be so awesome, and it so wasn’t.  I’m devastated.

4) Escape from Tomorrow – The only escape you’re going to find in this movie is the exit door you’re looking for ten minutes into it.  Such an amazing idea flattened by the thinnest script this side of Michael Cera’s biceps.  Literally, the plot was: follow the teenage girls.  That was the plot!  Two young girls in a park and a guy follows them for 90 minutes.  Random things happen for no reason.  Writer wraps it up ambiguously, even though it’s clear he did so because he had no idea how to wrap it up because, OH YEAH, there was NO PLOT!

3)Movie 43 – I really only need to say one thing here.  Hugh Jackman has giant testicles hanging from his neck in this movie.  Whoever wrote this needs to be shipped to a far away island with no return ferry.

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2)Upstream Color – Aha!  You guys thought this was going to be my number 1 most hated movie of the year!  You were wrong!  Yes, yes, I didn’t think it was possible I’d find something worse than Upstream Color either.  But lucky for Shane Carruth, a woman named Stephanie Meyer exists.  Here’s my issue with Upstream Color. If there was a poster boy for pretension, Shane Carruth is on that poster (Wait a minute, Shane Carruth IS on that poster!) This work wants to be taken so seriously and exudes such a false claim of depth and complexity, that it’s impossible to take it as anything but a joke.  I would love to see the version of this movie where Shane simply tells a story as opposed to trying to impress the uber-snobby independent film scene.  I’m guessing it wouldn’t be half-bad.

1) The Host – Okay, I’m actually laughing as I write this because this movie was sooooooooooooo bad.  I mean it is so bad.  And I don’t know what the heck happened to Andrew Niccol, who I’m pretty sure penned Gattaca before he had a cinematic lobotomy, but how could he not see that there was no way this movie would work?  We have a girl running around having valley-girl like arguments with an alien, who’s fluent in English mind you, stuck inside of her.  A girl is having arguments WITH HERSELF the whole movie!  And it’s not a comedy!  And it’s an alien!  And we’re supposed to take it seriously!  And someone thought this was going to work!  It’s just so bad, you have to see it to believe it.  Grab a case of beer beforehand.  Trust me, you’ll need it.

 

THE 10 BEST MOVIES I SAW THIS YEAR

 

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10) You’re Next/The Call/Admission – Expectations work both ways!  There are some movies you’re sure will be terrible, yet end up being way better than logic dictates.   You’re Next is the best B-horror film you’ll see all year.  The Call was the tightest written thriller of 2013 (it’s “Taken” for the world of 9-1-1 operators) and Admission has some really great character development wrapped in an unexpectedly fun story.

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9) Oz The Great and Powerful – Expectations definitely played a part in this one as well.  I thought this was going to be horrrrrr-ible.  But James Franco found a role that fit him perfectly and ran with it (or floated on a balloon with it).   I just remember sitting there at the end of this film and feeling happy.  No, there wasn’t as much imagination as its sequel, which premiered 74 years earlier, but there was enough to feel like your money was well spent.

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8) We’re The Millers – We’re The Millers surprised the comedy space this year by beating out its much more heavily-hyped counterparts like Hangover 3 and The Heat (as the best comedy – I don’t know if it beat them at the box office).  Every once in awhile, the actors understand the material so well and have such amazing chemistry together that if you do your job as a writer and guide them with a great story, they’re going to deliver for you.  That’s what happened here.  Especially with Will Poulter.  I mean this guy tore it up.  Can’t wait to see what he does next.

7) The Great Gatsby – Dream scenario for a producer: Get some great source material and a director with vision who wants to take that material to a new place, and you got a shot at making something special.  See this is the problem with this book.  It’s too old fashioned.  It doesn’t translate well to modern audiences.  But Baz Luhrmann seemed to know all the little nooks and cracks the film could’ve fallen into and went about filling them with his genius caulk beforehand.  He focused on the glitz, the glamour, the drama, the betrayal, the scandal, the anger – the things that get people’s blood flowing no matter what decade they’re in.  A nice early-year treat!

7) The Spectacular Now – I’m not sure this movie is as great as everyone wants it to be, but it’s good.  And I think what makes it good is the honesty of the performances.  This is the funny thing.  This script and Drinking Buddies essentially tried the same approach, to “let its actors go” and create these “honest performances.”  The big difference is that THE SPECTACULAR NOW ACTUALLY HAD A SCRIPT.  It had lines for its leads to speak, which they could then improvise off of, instead of having to make up everything on their own.  The difference was quite spectacular.

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5) Don Jon – Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smile kinda creeps me out sometimes.  But it didn’t bother me here.  With so much on his soldiers, he knew this was going to be a pivotal role in his career, and he nailed it.  This is a great film for writers to study when it comes to character transformation.  We see Don’s character arc, but not in that obvious in-your-face amateur screenwriter way.  It feels natural and real.  Add a story that never quite goes where you think it will, and that’s why this film cracked my top 5.

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4) Mama – Mama!  I don’t know what it was about this movie that got me but something about it was just… different from other horror films I’d seen.  Not only did we get a creepy ass ghost in this Mama character, but we saw a superb character piece about the intense bond between a mother and her daughters.  Note to horror writers – focus more on your characters than your scares!  Oh, and freaking Jessica Chastain tore up this role as a reluctant girlfriend who gets stuck with two girls she doesn’t want after her boyfriend goes into a coma.

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3) World War Z – World War Z and Lindelof haters — LOOK AWAY NOW!  This is two Lindelof scripts in my last two Yearly Top 10s.  From everything that I’ve heard, this man SAVED this movie from being a total disaster.  Ironic since it was a disaster movie!  Not only did I love this film, I loved how the producers got it right.  I read the early draft WITHOUT the urgency (everything was being investigated AFTER the zombie infestation was over) and it was so not going to work.  They brought another writer on, added that immediacy, and we got the best blockbuster of the year.  Thank you, Brad Pitt, for saving me and the rest of the world.

2) Gravity – Could they have made Sandra Bullock’s character more interesting?  Sure.  Were there some aspects of this script that were repetitive?  Sure.  But once you put on your 3-D glasses and sit down to watch Gravity, none of that really mattered.  This is pure GSU.  It’s ticking time bombs on top of ticking time bombs.  If you want to write a great screenplay, start by putting your character in a situation that’s IMPOSSIBLE to get out of, then keep throwing things at them to make it impossibler.  That’s what they did here and dammit if they didn’t execute it flawlessly.

1) Searching For Sugar Man – Okay, if you don’t know anything about this movie, I’m begging you, DON’T READ ANYTHING ABOUT IT (including the rest of this mini-review) and go see it.  I know some of you are like, “Artsy documentaries.  No thank you, Carson.”  You guys know me.  I hate artsy for artsy’s sake.  I hate pretension.  The reason why this is different is because it isn’t so much a documentary as it is a STORY.  It evolves.  It grows.  It surprises.  It’s both tragic and uplifting.  If it doesn’t make you cry, you are not a real person.  Not only is this film number 1 on the year for me.  It’s NUMBER 1 by 50,000 miles!  Sandra Bullock and Imaginary George Clooney weren’t even close to it.  Come on, jump in my Scriptshadow Van and go search for Sugar Man with me!  I promise to give you lots of Scriptshadow candy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!