a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Friday, April 25, 2008

Notes From The Swamp, and Weekend Box Office #81

This is the longest I've ever gone without posting. I've just been beyond-swamped with work this week, and certain areas suffer because of that.

Not that I'm complaining, because I need the money.

Still, hopefully in the next few days I'll put up a nice big post about the summer movies coming out.

Until then, new releases:

BABY MAMA (2543 theaters). Early reviews for this have been good, while they've done a smart thing by having a bunch of different trailers with a bunch of different jokes, leaving the impression that there's a big well of funniness to draw from. Will lose a lot of young males to HAROLD AND KUMAR, but should do a solid $14.6 million.

HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUATANAMO BAY (2510 theaters). I think the plot was a major misstep here; I think any other storyline would have drawn a bigger audience than tossing them into Guatanamo Bay, which isn't inherently funny. At all. Still, it'll do okay. $12.7 million.

DECEPTION (2001 theaters). Generic title, no real story hook, and a cast (Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams) that doesn't have much drawing power isn't going to add up to much of an audience. $3.9 million.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Weekend Box Office #80

Another weekend, another bunch of stuff that'll be on DVD in a few months anyway.

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (3151 theaters). I guess this is a serious film, though every time I see the commercial, for some reason it seems like it is about to spin into a comedy but doesn't. Jackie Chan and Jet Li both have a lot of fans, so maybe this will make a little something. $11.7 million.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2798 theaters). The reviews I've seen have all been pretty good, so this might click. $15.2 million.

88 MINUTES (2168 theaters). The hook is interesting, but this has been on the shelf for a while, and apparently has already been released on DVD overseas for almost a year. And word is that it isn't good Pacino. It'll be interesting to see if Pacino's name is enough to bring people in; he's made a lot of crap over the last 5 years, though the upcoming thing with DeNiro looks interesting. $7.7 million.

EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED (1052 theaters). This is a Ben Stein documentary about how intelligent design theories are being crushed by those nasty science people. It's not supposed to be vary good, though it may play well in the middle of the country. $2.8 million.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Blog Post Is Rated R For Graphic Nudity

So I watched WALK HARD the other night, which was funny in spots, but should've been a lot funnier. What really intrigued me going in, though, was the fact that it was partly rated R for its "graphic nudity".

Even as a married man, the promise of "graphic nudity" in a Hollywood film just sounds fun.

Unfortunately, what should have occurred to me is that actual female nudity is no longer considered "graphic", unless they are doing something that they never do in Hollywood movies.

No, in today's world, beware (or be intrigued, depending on your predilictions), "graphic nudity" pretty much just means one thing:


Not even strong, erect penis. Just penis.

I was amused the next day (yesterday) to find an article in the LA Times, about Judd Apatow and his determination to make penis mainstream.

Apparently there's a long, long scene in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL in which lead actor Jason Segel has his junk hanging out throughout.

You might not want to bring the kids.


Last week's blog post soliciting scripts for my friend got me almost 50 responses asking for his e-mail address. Plus he posted other places on the Internet as well.

So he's deluged. If you sent him something, be patient. I'm helping him out with some reads, but I'm getting swamped too.


I brought the first 25 pages of my new comedy into group this past Monday, and people were laughing throughout, telling me that it's the best thing I ever brought in.

So there's that. Though then I learn there's a movie currently filming with a similar premise. Hopefully different enough so that it won't be a problem, but still, hell.


At the box office last weekend, PROM NIGHT made a solid $20.8 million. STREET KINGS made a semi-surprising $12.4 million. SMART PEOPLE eked out $4.1 million.

STOP-LOSS has only made $10 million in its first 17 days, despite a lot of good reviews. So put your Iraq War drama back in the drawer; doesn't look like they'll be making many more, at least until it's over and we get some distance.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekend Box Office #79

I realized I've only seen two 2008 movies in theaters so far. One was 27 DRESSES (because my sister and her husband were extras, though it wasn't THAT bad), the other was THE BANK JOB (which was good). Everything else was catching up on 2007 releases.

I'd like to get out to the movies this weekend -- I have literally seen nothing that is playing in the 16-screen theater that is the closest -- but at the same time I just can't get wildly excited about anything out there.

PROM NIGHT (2700 theaters). I feel like I've already seen it from watching the commercials, and it wasn't that good. Plus movies like this shouldn't be PG-13. Still, $15.7 million.

STREET KINGS (2467 theaters). I feel amazing apathy toward this movie, which got a bad review today in the LA Times as well. I think it could easily tank, though it'll probably scrape out about $8.2 million.

SMART PEOPLE (1106 theaters). Interesting cast, and I'll see Ellen Page in anything, though the posters make it look like it is about Scrabble competitors (it isn't). But the screen count is low, and there's no real hook. $3.9 million.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Friend of Mine Is Looking For Scripts

Actually, he's working for a guy who is looking to finance movies in the $2-$6 million range (though probably on the lower end of that to start). And they are actively looking for scripts, WGA or non-WGA.

This is the criteria they want, aside from the low-budget thing:

-- Age 17-24 demographic.

-- Commercial genres and high concept hooks, but executed with an art-house sensibility. The sort of thing a studio would be afraid to make, but will be fast to copy when it becomes successful.

-- They ARE interested in smart thrillers, R-rated comedies, or coming of age stories (with some sort of commercial hook).

-- They are NOT interested in biopics, period pieces, or non-human characters (monsters, ghosts, aliens, etc). They are also not interested in torture porn, slasher films, or scripts that rely on cats jumping out of closets because they don't have any legitimate scares.

-- It would be helpful if the script breaks typical cinematic conventions in some way, for example non-linear storytelling (like PULP FICTION, MEMENTO or GO), unreliable narrators (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX, FIGHT CLUB, THE USUAL SUSPECTS) or general cinematic weirdness (though more along the lines of Charlie Kaufman than David Lynch or David Cronenberg).

-- Attachments are okay, but they aren't interested in just being financiers; they want a say in the creative end of things.

If you have a good script that fits the bill, e-mail me (my e-mail addy is in my profile) and I'll give you the contact info for them.

They seem very legit, and it could be a solid opportunity for the right writer/script.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It's All About the Story

So I haven't been doing any real writing the last couple of weeks, because I've been so swamped with reading.

That's not such a bad thing -- I need the money, and it's nice to get away from my writing for a while, so that when I get back to it, it's fresher.

At least I keep telling myself that.

Meanwhile, I've been giving a ton of notes to people, inside my screenwriting group and out, and what has become even my clear to me is this:

It's all about the story.

It's really basic stuff, but too many writers don't take it to heart enough. It's amazing how many scripts I read that are polished, which have well-written scenes that are funny or dramatic, but which just don't work as a whole because the story doesn't hang together well.

And then the only way to fix them is to tear them apart, polished scenes rendered into flailing verbs and lost adjectives, as the structure gets the major overhaul that it should have had from the start.

I used to be the kind of guy who would come up with a loose idea and just start pounding out scenes, and I'm not the kind of guy who believes you should overthink the story at the beginning; I find that I come up with things that surprise me when I'm writing a scene I haven't over-pondered, and I think the best blend is to give yourself this freedom.

But the basics still need to be there. A main character, a solid dramatic need, a real conflict, and a plot that moves forward with every scene/sequence, and doesn't dawdle around. A sense of where the story needs to be at various points in the actual screenplay, so you know, when you are writing a scene, what the scene needs to accomplish to best serve the overall tale.

If you don't have that, stop polishing. If you start with 100 pages of scenes and later try to tease a solid plot out of them, it's a lot harder than simply starting with a solid plot and then coming up with scenes for it. Then it's easy to sharpen and polish those scenes until they shine.


I have to bring in 25 pages to my script group on Monday, and I'm wrestling with what to do.

I did a rewrite of my low budget thriller that still needs some real polishing, and I don't have a chunk of that I really want to bring in.

I could bring in pages 26-50 of the romantic comedy/fantasy thing I've been working on, but I haven't touched it in a couple of months, and it's still not really working.

Because I never got the story to work before I wrote the damn thing. Bad on me.

I have this other idea, that I loosely plotted last year, including writing the first 13 pages before setting it aside. It's a high-concept comedy, the kind of thing that is good to bring into group because you can get some real feedback on whether the humor is working.

I made a lot of notes on that in the last few days, and I've gotten it to the point where the overall story is coming into shape, and it's clear exactly what needs to happen in the first act, so maybe I'll polish what I have and bang out the first 25.


Last weekend, NIM'S ISLAND did a pretty solid $13.2 million. LEATHERHEADS did an okay $12.7 million. THE RUINS wandered in with only $8.0 million.

21 led the way with $15.3 in its second week. Not bad, since gambling movies have a history of not doing all that well.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Weekend Box Office #78

April has arrived, which means the quality of movies are nominally getting a little better, though it's still the pre-summer doldrums.

NIM'S ISLAND (3513 theaters). This is a lot of theaters, but this really feels like a little girls' movie, and those have a history of really underperforming. $12.3 million.

THE RUINS (2812 theaters). The novel this is based on was a bestseller and it's supposed to be pretty good, but the problem is that the commercials for this make it look pretty generic, while also giving away a lot of the story. And what's Jena Malone doing in a movie like this? $9.2 million.

LEATHERHEADS (2777 theaters). This looks like fun, and I think people are looking for fun. I think it'll be number one for the weekend. $17.2 million.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Swamped, And It Feels So Good

So the new gig I got is slamming me with reading work, which is great, because no one else is.

It's odd out here in Hollywood right now. I read for a couple of fairly major prodiction companies, who used to give me 5-6 scripts a week to read, and now it's 1, or 2, or none. The big rush after the strike was over? Never really came.

Maybe it's the recession, or maybe those striking writers really were working on their novels. Maybe everyone is worried about what could be a big actor's strike this summer. Or maybe it's because I read for all these second-tier places, that don't get submitted to until all the big boys have passed, and the trickle down hasn't started yet.

But now I'm working for one of the bigger boys, and the work is coming in. Yay. Because it was a rough couple of months.

The wife is finally going back to work today. So that's nice too.


It's also baseball season. As I've mentioned in the past, I've been a diehard Mets fan for way too long. When I was 10, I was at the playoff game in which Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose got into the fight, something that is largely-forgotten now. But the ticket is framed on my wall.

Looks like the Mets should be pretty good this year, if all those old guys can stay healthy, though it's daunting to realize that all those old guys are younger than me (except maybe for pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who for all anyone knows could be 50).

And shut up Pat, the Phillies aren't all that.


Last weekend, 21 made an impressive $24.1 million. I saw most of a documentary about the real story on the History Channel this past weekend -- some interesting stuff there.

SUPERHERO MOVIE only made $9.5 million, something of a disappointment. It probably suffered from the fact that all of its satirical predecessors were pretty lame, while people spent thir goofy-movie money on gas instead.

STOP-LOSS only made $4.5 million. It's supposed to be a good movie, but a lot of people don't want to deal with the subject matter now. Out of sight, out of mind.

RUN FAT BOY RUN only made $2.3 million, while neither FLAWLESS nor PRICELESS (one stars Audrey Tautou and the other Michael Caine, though I have no idea which) did all that well in limited release. Though the Tautou one (okay, I just checked, it's PRICELESS) is supposed to be good.