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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Weekend Box Office #86

So I'm not going to be seeing Sex In The City this weekend. Not really because it's a "women's movie", but because the TV show never hooked me; I sampled it a few times in season 1, and I never got into it.

Though of you who do go, let me know what the male-female ratio is, because it may be record-setting. Though for you single guys, it might be a good place to pick up women.

SEX IN THE CITY (3285 theaters). Despite its apparent audience being limited to women over a certain age, I think this will do pretty well, particularly since the reviews I have seen have been generally positive. Call it $30.3 million for the weekend.

THE STRANGERS (2467 theaters). Though they probably should have released the Adam Sandler movie today as pure male counterprogramming, it'll be interesting to see if "The Strangers" can work as a date movie alternative when the guy refuses to go see Sex and the City. The LA Times review is solid, so it should do something. $16.2 million.

Look for Indiana Jones to finish number one again, though it'll likely slip to about $45 million or so for the weekend.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

So Today I'm 45

When I was younger, I thought people in their 40s were old.

Hell, as a kid, most of my friends' parents seemed ancient, and they were probably in their 30s.

But now I'm 45.

I don't feel 45.

Well, in some ways I do. My body has started its inevitable decline; I don't have the energy I used to have.

But mentally, I don't feel 45 at all. Maybe a perpetual 30.

I think that now Julie Franco has retired, I'm officially older than everyone playing major league baseball. If I had kids, some could be the age of a David Wright or a Lebron James.


On the positive side, John F. Kennedy and Bob Hope were also born on May 29. And they did pretty well.

I've always thought that one's birthday was a more-logical time to make resolutions than New Year's. It's already a transitional day, a day in which we are saying that we're a year older, and what's going on in our lives?

So I'm going to make the usual resolutions. Write more often, and with more purpose. Make more time for friends. Try to eat better, exercise more, and drop at least 10 pounds. Talk to my siblings on the phone more often.

And try to do something with my writing career before I hit 46.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Sort of a lazy holiday weekend. I'm about to grab an hour of work on my script, which will make it 9 straight days; it's coming together, though aside from the first third, which is largely written, thanks to my needing to knock out pages for my script group, I'm still largely in the blueprint stage on the bulk of it. Though I know where it's going.

I saw Narnia 2 the other day, and it's generally solid, albeit not really much of a kids' movie -- it's essentially Braveheart with talking animals. A lot of combat, and a lot of death, though in non-gory fashion. But the movie cost a fortune, and it's there on the screen, and it works well enough.

I haven't seen Indy 4 yet, though I have friends who did and absolutely loathed it, and others who sort of liked it. Apparently the dividing line is whether or not simply seeing Indiana Jones in action again outweighs the fact that the plotline just isn't very good. I'll have to catch it sometime in the next week, just so I can have an informed opinion on it.

It made an estimated $151 million for its first 5 days though. So I was close.

The Sex and the City movie is rated R, partly for "graphic nudity", which I guarantee means penis. One more reason for the ladies to go, and for the guys to stay home and pretend they like hockey.

R.I. P. Sydney Pollock. I also lost my college friend Steve to cancer over the weekend, as well as my great-aunt Marge, who was 101.

Memorial Day indeed. Hug your loved ones.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend Box Office #85; Also "Slipstream".

This weekend, the only thing opening in more than a handful of theaters is:

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (4260 theaters). Obviously, this is going to make a fortune; reviews have generally been positive, though not all have been raves. The studio wisely released it yesterday, to help cut down on the weekend rush, while Memorial Day weekend is generally huge movie-wise (there are usually 2 or 3 big new releases fighting it out).

So it'll probably do $150 million for its first five days. At least.


So yesterday I watched "Slipstream" on DVD, as part of my aforementioned decision to review 5-6 movies a month for a website, not only for the free DVDs, but to make me watch movies I otherwise wouldn't seek out.

For those who don't recognize the title, "Slipstream" isn't a big sci fi epic, but a weird little film that Anthony Hopkins wrote, and directed, and stars in. He even did the music.

Basically it's a David Lynch movie, if David Lynch had no idea what he was doing (and for those of you who don't think David Lynch knows what he's doing, watch "Slipstream".)

Basically it's yet another variation of the tale in which really weird things happen to the main character, and it turns out that it's because he's dying, or just died, or something.

Here, it means we get odd scenes with actors like Michael Clarke Duncan, Christian Slater and an overacting John Turturro, all edited by someone who seems like they were being paid if they threw in every editing trick that anyone ever invented.

So we get double exposures, shifting colors, things turning to black-and-white and back again, images suddenly being flipped, images speeding up or slowing down or repeating.

It's all headache-inducing and completely pointless.

In the commentary track, Hopkins happily states that he's not a writer (several times), and that he doesn't care if people liked the movie or not, because he was trying to make an "anti-movie".


He also self-defensively states that he showed the script to Steven Spielberg, who only had nice things to say about it.

Which made me laugh, because come on. You're Steven Spielberg, and Sir Anthony Hopkins sends you a script to read, and it's an incoherent pile of crap. Not even Spielberg is going to tell him that.

I guarantee he simply told Sir Anthony that he liked it, while crossing his fingers and praying that Hopkins wouldn't ask him to produce the damned thing.

Or maybe Hopkins did, and Spielberg said he couldn't, because he had to go make Indy 4. And then he greenlit it, and now here it is.

See? It's all circular.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Choices That We Make As Writers

So on Saturday I went to a barbecue that was largely attended by members of my screenwriting group, people that (other than quick conversations before or after our Monday night meetings) I rarely get to hang out with socially.

So I found myself in a conversation with three other aspiring writers, good writers, who I have a lot in common with: we're all in our late 30s-to-mid-40s, and we're all in a period of our lives where, we'll we are getting better as writers, we're also in periods of our lives where we can't devote the time to pursuing a writing career that we really want to.

Or if we do, it means major changes in our lives.

One woman has been trying to devote herself more to writing, but she had to take a long leave of absence from working to really do so, plus she's got a husband and couple of kids, so even then writing is not something that can consume her days.

Another guy is just completing a pestigious masters program in screenwriting, but he had to go heavily into debt to do it. The last guy is a lawyer, who loves writing, but his job is also sucking up more and more of his time.

Devoting a lot of time to writing is really a young person's thing. It's just so much easier to do when you don't have a wife/kids/career/rent/mortgage pulling you down.

But, ironically (and I know there are exceptions, but still), good screenwriting is something that you get better at when you have these things in your life. When you have a life to draw on, when you've matured and experienced more. The things you have to juggle -- hell, the process of juggling, of dealing with responsibilities, of making choices in your own life -- make you better as a writer.

So it's a Catch-22. An endless juggling act, for people sliding into middle age, who really have to make serious choices about how much time to devote to the pursuit of a writing career, as opposed to really putting the time into the more stable career you are currently involved in, the one that might need to actually support you and young family for the rest of your life, the one that you often just can't afford to give short shrift to.

And the sad thing is that this dooms a lot of people who'd probably turn out to be pretty good writers. Because unless you can find the time to write, really write, it's all going to slip away. Like I see happening to so many people I know.

Like I see happening to me.

I've tried to screenwrite as much as I can, and I had an inadvertent aid during the writer's strike, when business was so slow that I had big blocks of time at my disposal. I didn't have to juggle, I didn't have to worry about the effect of choosing writing over work, because the work wasn't there much.

Financially it wasn't so good, but I wasn't really making a choice. The time was there. I used it. And I got some things done.

But now, I'm back in the grind, where there is always a pile of work to do, and credit card bills calling out for me to do it. And don't get me wrong -- I love reading scripts for a living.

But wow is it hard to find the time -- or the will -- to write when I've plowed through 20-25 scripts by other writers in any given week.

But this is my dilemma, and versions of this is currently being wrestled with by a lot of writers I know. There are X numbers of hours in a week, they need to be parceled out, and often devoting them to writing means being selfish, and taking them away from areas of your life that need time too.

And I respect the hell out of anyone who can make that work.

I even respect anyone who can bite the bullet, and pull the plug, and devote life to family and career and let the writing thing be a mistress that you just visit every once and a while, without much commitment.

But today's the day I start another push. At least one hour a day, every day, devoted entirely to screenwriting. Whether it is brainstorming a script, or outlining a script, or banging out pages. I did it last fall, and it was scary-effective, but then I went off the rails after awhile. 40 days? 60 days? I don't even remember any more.

But it's back on now. Because I'm not getting any younger -- hell, let's be honest, I turn 45 in 10 days. It's time to step up or drop out.

Anyhow, I just wanted to put these thoughts in play. If anyone wants to share their current juggling acts, feel free.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Weekend Box Office #84

So I'm still in my combination of being swamped with work/spring funk.

I did finish a polish of my thriller this week, so there's that. Next week I'm determined to get back to the screenwriting-an-hour-a-day thing. Alogn with everything else I have to do.

Otherwise, if anyone has any topics of conversation for future blog entries, feel free to bring them up.

This weekend there's just one movie opening wide:

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (3929 theaters). It's getting good reviews, and there's not much competition until INDY opens next week. Let's call it a whopping $79 million, but I'm probably low.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Weekend Box Office #83

So I feel badly about ignoring this blog so much, but I'm still getting slammed with work, and I'm struggling with juggling everything.

Unfortunately, what's really suffering is my writing -- where it was once an hour-a-day thing, now I haven't written a word in over three weeks. Ugh. I've got writing stuff that needs to be done, too.

I don't feel like myself these days.

The good news (I guess) is that I'm not going to be tempted to see any of this weekend's releases:

SPEED RACER (3606 theaters). I didn't have high hopes for this, and the LA Times review today put a stake in this movie for me, with their comment "Vast swaths of dialogue take the place of dramatic action in which things happen, once called scenes". In other words, it's just like the last Matrix movie. Feh. This will make some money this weekend, but I don't see it being huge huge. $34.6 million.

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS (3215 theaters). I've seen the commercials, and I feel like I've seen the whole movie, and I want my money back already. $13.7 million.

REDBELT (expanding from 6 to 1301 theaters). There's just not anything here that really grabs me. $4.4 million.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Weekend Box Office #82

So last night I'm reading a mediocre writing sample that was made into a dumb dance movie, and I put it down to take a break and watch the end of Survivor, to see who got stabbed in the back this week.

I turn on the TV, which is on whatever channel why wife had been watching last (Encore?) and what is on? The exact same dumb dance movie, which I'm then able to watch chunks of, and marvel at how much they changed from the script I'm reading for the better and for the worse.

If a coincidence like that happened in a movie, we'd boo at the screen.

IRON MAN (4105 theaters). The game this week is really guess how much money this movie will make this weekend, because there's really not much else out there. I'm going to take a wild stab and say $62.3 million. Closest gets bragging rights; deadline midnight tonight.

MADE OF HONOR (2729 theaters). Basically My Best Friend's Wedding with a sex change, and I feel like I've seen the movie from the commercials. $9.6 million.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The 22 Most Interesting Movies of the Next 4 Months

Not necessarily good, mind you, just interesting. On my radar.

IRON MAN (May 2). They've cast the hell out of it with Oscar nominees, but word is that it's a little uneven. A "maybe".

SON OF RAMBOW (May 2). This is supposed to be funny, and moves that rise out of the festival circuit to get decent releases are usually pretty solid.

SPEED RACER (May 9). On this list because it'll probably be huge, but the commercials make it look like a video game for hyperactive 9-year-olds, so unless it gets great reviews I'm gonna skip it.

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS (May 9). Oh, hell no.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (May 16). I read the books as a kid, and liked the first movie well enough, so I might check this out if the reviews are solid enough.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (May 22). Hell yeah. Though I'm not enough of a geek to actually wait on long opening-weekend lines to see it; I hate lines.

SEX AND THE CITY (May 30). I watched a couple of episodes when it first come on, and then tuned out. Ladies, you're on your own.

THE FOOT FIST WAY (May 30). A weird little low-budget movie, but the buzz is good.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (June 13). They are trying to reboot after messing up the first one, and Ed Norton's presence should be interesting. Another movie that is going to depend on the reviews and word-of-mouth for me, though.

THE HAPPENING (June 13). Hopefully this is the movie in which M. Night reverses his downward trend. It's hard to see how it can be any worse than LADY IN THE WATER.

GET SMART (June 20). I like Steve Carell, so I'll see it, unless word comes that they screwed it up.

WALL-E (June 27). It's Pixar, so I'll see it.

HANCOCK (July 2). The screenplay (originally called "Tonight, He Comes") was supposed to be great, while Will Smith has taken few missteps. One of the more likely films I'll check out.

THE WACKNESS (July 3). Though I've never smoked pot, I can enjoy a good funny pot movie.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3D (July 11). Because it's the next generation of 3D technology. And it'll be the first time that Brendan Fraser was ever three-dimensional in anything.

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (July 11). Interesting because Guillermo Del Toro is directing it.

THE DARK KNIGHT (July 18). It's a shame that Heath Ledger's death is going to cast such a pall over this film, which no one will be able to watch the same way.

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (July 25). Apparently it's a stand-alone movie that isn't going to deal with all of the weird ongoing stuff that the first movie tried to wrestle with. Which is good.

CHOKE (August 1). Sam Rockwell starring in a script based on a Chuck Palahniuk novel.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (August 8). Because it looks funny, and because Seth Rogen hasn't done me wrong yet.

TROPIC THUNDER (August 15). This is supposed to be good dumb fun, and with a cast including Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise in a fat suit, there's certainly potential.

HAMLET 2 (August 22). Another apparently-very-funny movie that has sprung from the festivals.