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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Weekend Box Office #99

Jeez, I disappear for a week and the comments turn into the Bickersons.

Obviously I need to post a lot more.

Anyhow, if you thought last weekend was bad, these are the choices for this weekend. The first three didn't even screen for critics, which is always a really bad sign.

BABYLON A.D. (3390 theaters). I'm seen ads for this movie, and all I get from it is that it stars Vin Diesel, it looks like it's set in the future, and stuff blows up. Which is probably enough for his audience. Prediction: $12.1 million for the weekend.

DISASTER MOVIE (2642 theaters). Remember when satirical movies were actually satirical, and not just trotting in characters from movies released in the past year? And how is Juno a disaster movie? $13.2 million.

COLLEGE (2123 theaters). At least it's rated R, though it's hard to believe many people will care. $5.7 million.

TRAITOR (2054 theaters). I love Don Cheadle, but this just feels like a movie a lot of people will wait for the DVD on. $8.9 million.

HAMLET 2 (1597 theaters, up from 103). It's trying hard to position itself as the hip movie to see, but it hasn't quite found its way there yet. Though apparently it's funny as hell. $7.1 million.


Yeah, last weekend THE HOUSE BUNNY made over 14 million to finish in second. I'm baffled, because the premise is so dumb. Are there that many Anna Faris fans out there?

DEATH RACE underperformed hugely, while THE ROCKER was a huge bomb, making about $2.6 million despite being in more theaters than House Bunny.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekend Box Office #98

Ah, the dog days of August. The big blockbusters are starting to fade away, and the other movies are coming out.

THE ROCKER (2784 theaters). Apparently this is a bit too reminiscent of "School of Rock", while I'm not sure enough people out there want two hours of Rainn Wilson, who seems like he is best in small doses. Prediction: $8.2 million.

THE HOUSE BUNNY (2714 theaters). Though this got a decent review in the LA Times, I'm not sure who the audience is; it looks too tame for guys, while it doesn't seem to have enough of a hook for girls. $7.7 million.

DEATH RACE (2531 theaters). Meanwhile, this is where all the guys will be. $21.8 million.

THE LONGSHOTS (2089 theaters). This has a weird pedigree -- it stars Ice Cube, it is directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, it was written by a writer from the Sopranos, and it's a family comedy about a girl playing football? $5.6 million.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scratching My Itch

So I've been so busy with work over the past few months that I hadn't written a word of my own stuff.

Which is always worrisome. There's always the niggling fear that if not-writing goes on too long, it'll turn into never-writing-again. Which I didn't want.

But I just didn't have the time... or when I did, I was just too brain-drained from other people's scripts to focus on my own.

Still, I had an idea in my head for a script, that I'd been thinking about for months.

Unlike most of the things I write, it didn't have a supernatural element. It was just a thriller. A nasty, violent, high-concept thriller.

I pitched it to my wife on the drive down to the shore 3 weeks ago, and not only did she like it, she brainstormed it in darker directions.

That's my girl.

Still, other than jotting down a few handfuls of notes (and pretty much figuring out the whole structure of the script in my head). I hadn't written word one.

I was ripe to bursting with words. I had blue balls of the brain. But the time wasn't there.

Last Thursday, the woman who ran my writing group called with word that a slot for Monday (last night) had opened up, and did I want it. I said no... and then I said yes. Because I wanted to push myself, to write at least 10 pages over the weekend.

I wrote 19.

They are rough, the characters need development, and when I brought it in last night I wasn't sure what the writers/actors would make of it. They're a tough crowd.

But they loved it. I've got something by the tail, and now I just have to write it.

Time will be made. The brain balls will not get blue again.


Tropic Thunder beat out Dark Knight over the weekend, making a very solid $25.8 million. Though this seems to be one of those odd comedies that seems to be scoring a little better with critics than audiences.

Star Wars did $14.6, so I was really close on one guess. Mirrors did $11.1; I'm not sure where the horror/thriller audience has gone.

Vicly Christina Barcelona did $3.7 million. Fly Me To The Moon only did $1.9. Henry Poole did only $805,000, which for 527 theaters is pretty bad.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Weekend Box Office #97

We're back to the time of year where more than two movies come out a week in wide and fairly-wide release.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (3452 theaters). I'm burned out on the Star Wars series; I never even saw the third one. And the animation here looks really cheesy. So this is hard to predict, though I don't think a lot of people are going to be that excited about it. Prediction: $14.8 million for the weekend.

TROPIC THUNDER (3319 theaters). This is getting some good reviews, and a lot of protests against its offensiveness; it opened on Wednesday to okay numbers. I don't think it'll be huge this weekend, though it might have legs. $18.1 million.

MIRRORS (2664 theaters). As horror-thrillers go, this looks trippy and high-concept enough to contend for the number one slot. $16.9 million.

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (692 theaters). On the plus side, it's getting good reviews. On the downside, a lot of people don't want to see a Woody Allen movie until word of mouth really kicks in. $5.2 million.

HENRY POOLE IS HERE (527 theaters). I've seen commercials for this, and I have no idea what it's about. Which is never good. $1.6 million.

FLY ME TO THE MOON (3D) (452 theaters). I'm not sure why this is getting such a limited release. $2.9 million.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Dark Knight/Pineapple Express

So I took a half-day off on Sunday, and went out with the wife to catch these two movies.

Nothing like taking a break from plot, plot, plot, to experience more plot.

But both movies are happily extremely satisfying, and I'm not going to go into a long explanation of why here; I have work to do.

But I'd like to focus in on one aspect that works well, and that's fleshing out the villains.

It's always a dilemma for writers about how to handle the villain's backstory. Sometimes no explanation can leave a bad guy feeling too cryptic, while too much explanation can feel like it is erasing too many of the shadows that should be there.

So I had mixed feelings when the Joker tells his story about the smile being carved into his face, because it seemed like it was a too-easy way to set up why he went bad.

But then, he tells the story to a different character -- and it's a completely different story.

Brilliant. Because it hammers home the sense that something messed-up caused him to be that way, but now we're not sure what it was -- Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3, which we can only imagine.

It's acknowledging that there is a dark backstory, but not revealing it. Perfect.

In Pineapple Express, they take a different route, humanizing the villains, by giving them quirks that help flesh them out and make them human and almost likable. One guy just wants to get home to have dinner with his wife.

Then, when the script actually goes in the direction of killing some of these characters off -- while keeping the overall tone funny -- it's an interesting, fresh effect.

Don't stint on the villains.


My last weekend numbers were way off, likely because I was over-impressed by the opening Wednesday numbers, and because the Olympic coverage gave the box office a big hit.

(Go Michael Phelps go).

Pineapple Express did a solid $23.2, though, and the Traveling Pants girls did an okay $10.7 million.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

$60 Notes is Now $80 Notes

I know. I feel bad.

But it's time.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Trying To Get My Guano Together/Weekend Box Office #96

I'm in a rut.

I'm deluged with work, which on one sense I'm thankful for -- the economy isn't great, I'm in a weird uncertain business, and we're in debt so we can always use the money.

But I literally have piles of work lying around my office, that fall into four categories:

1) PRODCO WORK. This is the quick turnaround stuff, the companies I work for who send me something and need it back in a day or two. Usually the best-quality stuff, though not always. But it immediately goes to the top of the pile.

2) THE CABLE NETWORK I READ FOR. This is stuff that's not do for a week, or two, so there's no rush -- until it has been sitting there for a week or two. Then it has to get done.

3) THE TINY COMPANY MY FRIEND WORKS FOR. Half-price scripts with very little coverage required, so I can bang them out in an hour or so, and there's no deadline... again, until they have been lying around for a while, and need to get done.

4) MY $60 NOTES. This is the pile that is starting to take a toll. When I started this, it was as a lark; I wanted to develop this side of my brain, I wanted to be able to read a script and give constructive notes on how to fix it (which my regular coverage generally doesn't require in any extensive fashion), I thought I could help people, I was appalled by what other people online were charging.

I figured 2 or 3 a week would be easy to juggle in.

It's more than that now, and the problem is that they are more time-intensive than I wanted. Because I don't half-ass it; I curl up with the scripts, and take a lot of notes, and even jot down typos and format stuff, and then I type it all up. And suddenly a big chunk of my day is gone, and I have to do one the next day, and the next.

I like what I do, and I'm actually not getting burned out from the work. It's just so time-intensive, that at the end of the day I just want to curl up in the living room with the wife, and watch a little TV, and play some Scrabble, and go to bed.

But I haven't done any screenwriting in weeks.

So as much as I hate to do it, I'm going to have to do something with the $60 notes. Either shut it down (which I don't want to do) or raise the price (which I don't want to do) or maybe both.

Word to come. Because something has to give.


Of course, whenever I get down, something comes along to remind me that my life isn't so bad.

Pop over to my friend Deb's website, and if you are inspired to buy something from her, please do. It's for a good cause, and she's good people.


This weekend in theaters:

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (3072 theaters). This opened on Wednesday, and it's doing pretty well. Look for it to do about $38 million over the weekend, though it would do better if not for the Olympics.

THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS 2 (2707 theaters). The girls in the cast are suddenly biggish names, and this also opened half-decently on Wednesday. $18.6 million for the weekend.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Weekend Box Office #95

I'm swamped with work; it's wall-to-wall at this point. I'm not complaining, but I've put the writing on hold until at least next week.


It's just as well that there's nothing new that is tempting at the theaters this weekend (though I still need to see Dark Knight...)

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR (3759 theaters). Word is that there's lots of special effects, but that it isn't as fun as the first two. They've been advertising the hell out of it, but I feel like I've seen the whole movie, and it's hard to get really excited about it. Still, it'll make some money, probably about $43.2 million this weekend.

SWING VOTE (2213 theaters). This will be a test of Kevin Costner's drawing power, because there's just not much real hook here (while any Presidential election that pits Kelsey Grammer against Dennis Hopper is just rather scary). I think it'll tank. $8.8 million for the weekend.

The buzz is good (okay, that was unintentional, but heh) on PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, which opens on Wednesday.