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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekend Box Office #120

Still in the January doldrums --

TAKEN (3183 theaters). This looks like it might be okay, though the commercials I've seen are a little vague about what it's about (other than aggressively comparing it to the Bourne movies). Prediction: $16.2 million for the weekend.

THE UNINVITED (2344 theaters). I like Elizabeth Banks, but as an evil force? No so sure. $13.5 million.

NEW IN TOWN (1941 theaters). The trailer works, but reviews have been pretty dire. Call it $9.4 million.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Movies, Movies

Finally binged on movies over the weekend, convincing the wife to tag along as we saw SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE WRESTLER and FROST/NIXON (which was actually her choice).

All three are solid films, all make my top 10 of the year at this point.

Still, I'm finding that the movie that really sticks with me is THE WRESTLER. There's something just oddly perfect about it, from Mickey Rourke (who is so seamless in this part it hardly feels like acting), to the whole world in creates, to a strong of griity/real scenes that keep it involving throughout.

It's not for everyone. Blood does flow, and there aren't any pat resolutions here.

But it's a grabber. And as a bonus, Marisa Tomei gets nekkid.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekend Box Office #119

Not much opening wide this weekend, though Slumdog Millionaire expands to 1411 screens, and Frost/Nixon and Revolutionary Road expand to over 1000.

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS (2942 theaters). It's a genre sequel, so that it'll help it do some business. $17.1 million.

INKHEART (2655 theaters). A terrible title, underwhelming reviews, and it sort of looks like a more-serious version of BEDTIME STORIES. $9.8 million.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

I'm still woefully behind on seeing 2008 movies, so I'll keep this brief:

-- It's cool that Richard Jenkins got nominated for best actor; "The Visitor" is a personal fave. Though I'm not sure why the screenplay didn't get nominated.

-- It's also nice that the Academy is recognizing a fairly obscure, early-in-the-year indie like "Frozen River" (best actress for Melissa Leo, best screenplay).

-- It's nice to see Marisa Tomei back in the nominations. It would also be nice if she'd make more than one good movie a decade.

-- I'm not sure whether Mickey Rourke's oddball Golden Globes acceptance speech is going to hurt him or get him an Oscar.

-- Heath Ledger is a gimme pick.

-- Four of the five Best Picture Nominees were also nominated for best editing (the other Best Editing Nominee was The Dark Knight, which should have snagged a Best Picture nomination). Maybe it is all about the editing.

-- Milk was nominated for Best Costumes, which seems sort of odd. Basically all you need to do is look at old photos, and go to the right thrift shops.

-- Benjamin Button was nominated for best makeup and for best visual effects. I'm wondering how many people can tell which was which....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekend Box Office #118

Nothing too too exciting opening wide this weekend:

HOTEL FOR DOGS (3271 theaters). I have no idea what Don Cheadle is doing in this. I guess it'll do some family business. $14.5 million.

PAUL BLART: MALL COP (3144 theaters). Is there a huge crying need to see Kevin James on the big screen? I guess we'll find out. Probably not. $7.1 million.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D (2534 theaters). Last time I looked, Valentine's Day isn't for a month. The 3D might help, but otherwise not much draw here. $6.9 million.

NOTORIOUS (1637 theaters). Could do something. Call it $9.2 million.


Last weekend, Gran Torino did a shockingly solid $29.5 million. Bride Wars chipped in $21 million, and The Unborn did a surprising $19.8, though it'll likely drop like a stone this weekend.

Not Easily Broken did an okay $5.3 million.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Art of the Pitch

So I've been busy the past week, trying to be proactive about my screenwriting career, something that I'm just not very good at.

I'm really not the bang-on-doors, get-your-script-to-everyone, look-everywhere-for-writing-jobs kind of aggressive person that you really need to be to give yourself a better shot in this business.

In a perfect world, screenwriting would just be about words on paper. But it's not.

So about a month ago, one of the smaller companies I worked for started sending me writing samples for a project they had bought the rights to. It's an intriguing true story with a lot of possibilities that interested me, while the company was looking to hire someone cheap and good to write it, and searching through the ranks of recent Nicholl finalists and semifinalists and non-WGA writers of that ilk.

So I contacted a writer I knew, and asked her if she was interested in teaming up and trying to get this gig, because I thought that our different strengths would mesh perfectly on a project like this. She was interested, the company read our writing samples and was interested.

And my fellow writer and I then spent much-longer-chunks-of-time-than-we-ever-expected really busting our asses figuring out this story in a beat-by-beat, character arc, fairly complete way.

And then figuring out how to pitch it as a team, whether to take turns telling the story, or to have one person telling the story and the other person coloring it in along the way.

We practiced with friends (while trying to break the story until the night before the pitch) and realized that most of the ways we were trying really, really sucked, particularly since we had yet to have a tight, complete, lean pitchable plot take.

So we figured that out, and concluded that by far the best way to do it was for her to tell the whole story in 10-12 minutes, and for me to just shut the hell up the whole time that was taking place.

So yesterday we had the meeting -- and we rocked it. The pitch was smooth, not a misstep, she told the story, I shut up, though after the story pitch I got a chance to talk about character and a lot of other stuff that shows we've been thinking about the story and we get it and that I was more than just Teller to her Penn.

So there's no telling if it is going to lead anywhere -- there are a zillion ways to take this material, the next step is three or four writers/teams getting a chance to pitch directly to the boss, but a lot is going to depend on whether our take meshes with what he is really looking for (which apparently changes on a fairly regular basis).

But ultimately we got to tell the story we wanted to tell, we told it well, and it's all going to rest on the story, and you can't ask for any more than that.

So fingers crossed.

But at the minimum, I learned I could colloborate with someone else, we both some some good, satisfying real-life pitch experience, and we put ourselves out there.

And sometimes screenwriting is simply about doing more of that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Weekend Box Office #117

Not a whole lot this weekend. Still a zillion movies in theaters from the holidays.

Opening wide:

BRIDE WARS (3226 theaters). The Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway combo and the promise of laughs will help bring in a female audience, though the reviews I have seen haven't been great. $15.2 million.

THE UNBORN (2356 theaters). A spooky commercial is undercut by the fact that this is PG-13, while reviews for this haven't been very excited either. $6.1 million.

NOT EASILY BROKEN (724 theaters). I've seen a lot of commercials for this around Los Angeles, but it's not a very wide release. $2.1 million.

GRAN TORINO goes from 84 theaters to 2808. It should do about $14 million.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Way Too Far Behind, On Everything

So it's a new year, and time for old resolutions. Drop a few pounds, write a lot of scripts.

Things are in play. I have a few scripts floating around out there getting read.

I'm work on an assignment pitch with a writing partner, and also brainstorming a return to my fantasy/comedy, so that with either one I can convince my writing group that I'm not the sick, twisted guy that my recent dark thriller efforts might lead on to believe.

Meanwhile, I'm far, far, far behind on movies. How far?

Entertainment Weekly just came out with it's list of the 25 movies from 2008 to see before the Oscars.

I've seen 3 -- The Visitor, The Dark Knight, and Milk. Maybe I get a half-point because I read the script for Gran Torino.

But there have been years in the past where that number would have been closer to 20.

What haven't I seen from that list?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Revolutionary Road
The Wrestler
Gran Torino
The Reader
Rachel Getting Married
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Tropic Thunder
I Loved You So Long
Frozen River
Nothing But The Truth
Man On Wire
Synecdoche, New York
The Duchess

I know, I suck.

How many have you seen?

And what's the best 2008 movie you've seen?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year...

Nothing new is opening wide this week, so it's just a matter of catching up on everything old in theaters.

Feel free to post opinions of anything you see this week.

Otherwise, onward into the new year :-)