Info: Every once in awhile I like to close my eyes, reach into my pile of scripts, and pull something out. I don’t look at the title. I don’t look at the writer. I want to go in completely ignorant and judge the writing for the writing. Sometimes you get lucky. Other times, you get Black Box.
Writer: Brad Holloway
I don’t like trashing scripts. I really don’t. I know how long it takes to write something. And I know how much heart and soul goes into it. But one of my biggest pet peeves is lack of effort. If your script doesn’t give me a single thing that I’ve never seen before, then why the fuck did you write the thing in the first place? If you were just going to cobble together scenes and lines and characters from all the other scripts and movies and TV shows that you’ve seen, then don’t be a writer. And on top of that, if your story is going to go nowhere for 119 pages just so you can have your big “twist” at the end, you better make sure that twist is the mother of all fucking twists. Not something that’s on every third episode of 24.
A better title for this script might have been “Nothing Happens.” Black Box is about the “investigation” of a crashed plane. The main character is some guy named Stu who apparently is addicted to pain killers. This is the extent of depth given to all the characters btw. One guy is having family problems. Another guy’s a drunk. It’s all so surface level and indicative of the level of thought put into this script.
Stu is convinced that the government is covering up the plane crash. As a cop (or an ex-cop – I’m still not sure) he jumps in and takes it upon himself to find the truth. His main adversary is Fairchild, a Homeland Security official, whose big thing is that he’s really pissed off all the time. I suppose that’s his character “flaw.” Stu’s all over Fairchild’s ass to let him hear the contents of the downed plane’s black box. Fairchild – being pissed off – says no. Uh oh, whatever will Stu do?
In the meantime, there’s a secondary story going on in Pakistan with random characters who we’re given no information on as far as how they’re connected to the story. We take part in their obviously shady dealings but we don’t care because we don’t know who the fuck they are or why we’re watching them.
In order to understand how bad this script is, you have to know that 67 pages into the story I still didn’t know any more than I did at the beginning of the story. A plane had crashed. There’s something fishy about it. The government is probably covering it up. I mean…what the fuck is the point of all this if we’re not going to get any new information? Or if we’re not going to get any new information, why aren’t we at least learning something about the characters? Tack onto that that we DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PLANE CRASH – the main thing that’s driving the film – because we don’t know who the fuck was on the plane, where they were coming from, or where they were going. We don’t know ANYTHING about them or any of the people who lost them. So why do we care if this mystery is figured out or not???
I just can’t tell you how boring this all was. I’d rather watch Joaquin Phoenix’s next rap set than read another page of “Nothing Happens.” (disclaimer: I actually thought his first song was pretty good) So Stu goes around conducting his own investigation with a bunch of scenes that basically amounted to, “Do you know anything about this crash?” “Yes, I heard two explosions.” “Two explosions?? Not one?” “No. Two.” – Goes to next location. Has extremely similar conversation with next guy – What we eventually learn is that the terrorists tricked the U.S. into blowing up their own plane! Which is why they needed to cover it up! Ooh. Wow. What a clever ending. 119 pages of dicking around for a 4th rate twist. Awesome.
I think what frustrates me the most about this script is that the idea of a black box is just so ripe for mystery. There are so many places you can go with it. And here we’re given one of the least interesting ways. This was a big waste of time. I have nothing else to say.
What I learned from Black Box: A simple rule is, if a major catastrophe is the centerpiece of your film, make sure that at least one of the characters has a personal connection to the catastrophe. For instance, make Stu or Fairchild have known someone on the plane that crashed. The entire movie instantly gains a level of depth with that very simple addition.
Okay, all I know is that Bale was in the middle of a shot, and supposedly the D.P. – who was not in the shot – started fiddling with one of the lights behind him. Bale then unleashes a verbal tirade. And of course now it’s heard all over the internet. Who’s wrong in this situation? I’m sorry, but the D.P. is wrong.
Why would you be fiddling or even looking at lights DURING A SHOT unless you were going for some sort of effect (which apparently wasn’t the case)?? People are calling Bale a diva but do you know how difficult it is to get into character for an intense scene after you’ve been waiting around for 2 hours for them to set everything up? It’s really fucking hard. The idea is you create an environment that gives your actors the best opportunity to give a great performance. A.D.D. perfectionist D.P.s roaming around the back of a shot while film is rolling is a fucking amateur thing to do. The D.P. is retarded if he doesn’t know this. And to be honest, he does sound a little autistic.
I’m not saying Bale doesn’t have anger issues. But anyone who’s been on a film set knows they’re pressure cookers. You’re always racing against the clock. Thousands of dollars are being spent for every minute that goes by. Half the time you’re doing something that nobody’s ever done before and that nobody knows how to do. It’s intense. And I can see someone cracking when Jeff the Retard D.P. just has to check his scrim to make sure it’s fastened correctly.
This does not hurt Terminator at all though. Terminator is a badass franchise. So if one of the actors in the film does something badass, well then good. It’s a fucking Terminator film. That’s how it should be.
As a side note, this totally changes the game. Between this and the infamous David O. Russel breakdown, true divas are going to be a lot more careful with how they treat people on set. And ultimately that will be a good thing.
Info: 20,000 Leagues hit the spotlight when it was revealed that the man who made the worst movie of last summer – Da Fresh Prince – was interested. While I’m one of the first people to defend Smith as a movie star (how can you not like the guy?), Hancock fucking sucked. Stupid-ass mid-movie “twist”. Arrgh, I’ll never forget how quickly I went from loving to hating that flick.
Writer: Craig Titley
Draft: July 2007
Anyway, first things first. I don’t know jack shit about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Apparently it was some big Harry Potter like book back in the what? 17th Century? The title completely underwhelmed me. The first thing I thought of when I heard it was…old. Dated. Not relevant. Like something that people 50 years ago might’ve been interested in. That and one of the worst movies to ever grace the screen was set on water – the hurts-my-brain-to-even-think-about-it-still “The Perfect Storm”. Well, now that you mention it, pretty much anything Marky Mark is in sucks. But back to the script. What else was I gonna say about it? I hate the sea. I think it’s stupid. Blah blah blah. But you know what? Even though I was fully prepared to hate this script, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was pretty damn awesome.
20,000 starts off – I believe, at the turn of the 20th century – with the mystery of an underwater “beast” that has been stalking boats, taking bites out of them, and leaving them to sink to the bottom of the sea. But only in spots where it’s 20,000 leagues. Otherwise it leaves them alone. NED, we’ll just call him Jack Sparrow 2.0, is reluctantly recruited by an old army buddy to hunt the beast. He’s joined by Aronnax, a scientist and Julie, a hot girl. She has some other ties to the story but let’s call a spade a spade shall we? She’s a hot girl.
They go out looking for this beast (how you go looking for a beast in 1,000,000 square feet of water I’m still not entirely clear on) and eventually find it. But the beast is not a beast at all! It’s an underwater ship! Essentially a super tricked out mega submarine called “The Nautilus.” Back before submarines were even built yo! The ship is being captained by Nemo. Which means that this entire time they were actually trying to….Find Nemo. There, I said it.
They are then taken captive, because apparently Nemo’s got all sorts of fucked up shit in his past and he ain’t happy. People be killin his wife and kid n shit! And so Jack Sparrow 2.0, Hot Girl, and Scientology Dude, all try to figure out what the hell it is they’re inside. Eventually they’re brought back to a secret Volcano City (think Zion) and told that Nemo here is searching for a secret lost city (a city even more secret, apparently, than a Volcano City!). This then becomes the main thrust of the film, and the three core players (Finding Nemo, Jack Sparrow 2.0, and Hot Girl) find themselves bickering and backering, none of them sure whether to kiss or kill each other.
And it’s all pretty damn entertaining to be honest. Jack Sparrow 2.0 is funny as hell. He spits out one-liners that are actually funny instead of being retreads of old lines we’ve heard a thousand times before. Finding Nemo has a dark and brooding quality that keeps him mysterious. And even though I can’t see Hot Girl, I know she’s hot. So whenever she gets all saucy and bothered with one of the men, it’s extremely sexy. I totally wanted to bang her. Wait a minute…what am I talking about again?
Ah yes, the script makes great use of well-researched history, co-signing lore and myth into an entertaining backstory. If anyone’s researched the Sumerians, they are one of the earliest cultures to display knowledge of mathematics and…other smart people stuff. And 20,000 Leagues makes the assertion that the Sumerians knew these things because they were taught them by an even more ancient civilization which was…wait for it…swallowed up by the ocean. I’ve heard some theories about how there was a civilization right here on earth tens of thousands of years ago that was actually more civilized than our own. And even though it’s pretty far-fetched, who’s to say it didn’t happen?
Okay, now that you think I’m batshit crazy, let me finish up by saying this would make an awesome movie! The Nautilus is cool as hell. The characters are all entertaining. The set-pieces are original and action-packed. And most important of all, it’s a good story. Sure the ending had some confusing action. But that’s literally the only problem I had with the script. And I usually can’t even get past page 5 of a big-budget script. So stop dragging your…err, gills New Line. Or whoever’s got this property – and go ahead and make this movie. It’s going to make, like, a bagagillion dollars!
Info: I must admit I know very little about “Men” other than with that title it could be about anything.
Writer: Allan Loeb
TOBY is an attractive 40 year old ad exec who has the perfect life: the sexy Manhattan condo, one of the rarest cars in the world, a job to dream for, and of course, Amy, his beautiful wife. One night during a business dinner Amy informs him that she’s been sleeping with another man. The two separate and Toby proceeds to find out where the the man lives, befriends him, and yes, actually moves in with him. (Is it just me or would “Moving In” be a more appropriate title for this premise?)
Men was a hard one to get a handle on because the first 15 pages were so steely, so devoid of any humor, that you’re left scratching your head when 30 pages later the script turns into a Jack Black movie. I think the writer might disagree with me here but any script that contains your main character throwing on a Gorilla mask to prevent his wife from recognizing him – even playing off her questions with a series of grunts and nods, is pretty darn broad.
But once you figure out what kind of story you’re being told, it’s not half-bad. Toby moves into “the other man’s” place (Ryan – an artsy surfer bohemian type) which provides some pretty funny moments. Toby listens in on phone conversations with Ryan and his wife. He dolls out bad advice to Ryan. He must listen to Ryan describe having sex with his wife. You know sooner or later he’s going to get caught, and it’s fun watching him squirm his way out of situations before the gig is up.
One of the problems here is buying into the idea that someone would actually do this. Move into someone else’s apartment and pretend you’re another person to get your wife back? Even if you get past this, are you really going to believe that Toby would hire Ryan in an attempt to give him less time with his wife, and inform everybody at the office to go along with it?? That’s risking like 700 lawsuits when Ryan finds out. I maybe could have made this leap if the script had introduced a broader tone. But like I said, it starts out very serious. Once you establish your universe, you can’t just change the rules when you feel like it.
My biggest problem with Men though is that I never really knew any of the characters. Toby was the most developed. But even with him I didn’t know his hopes, his dreams, what it is that made him the man he was. And Ryan, the lover, was basically a cardboard cutout of every bohemian surfer-type you’ve seen at the beach. There was nothing unique or interesting about him. It left me wondering why Toby’s wife liked this guy at all. And because the script ultimately becomes about the friendship of these two “Men”, knowing who they were was pretty important, wouldn’t you think?
Having said that, Men was a breezy read. I wasn’t disappointed in the experience. Just a little confused at times. I hope in the rewrites they fix the tonal problems and beef up the characters . But even if they do, I still have a hard time seeing this get to your local cineplex.
Info: “Steinbeck’s Point-of-View” is one of the biggest spec sales ever. Back in 1999, this spec sold for 4 million dollars (2 mil plus some blind script commitments). Some people believe it’s one of the worst scripts ever sold. Yikes! Luckily there’s only one opinion that matters – mine.
Writers: Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson
I am going to explain in detail the scene that, I believe, led to the purchase of this script. Because outside of a satisfying ending, I felt the script had some major faults. The man in question and our hero, TOM, finds out that this plane has crashed on the old vineyard where he grew up. He goes there and meets one of the mourners – a single man sitting alone, wearing a Kansas City Royals cap. The two of them have a quiet conversation. The man informs Tom that he was going to ask the girl to marry him. He even shows him the engagement ring. But the crash destroyed all of that. Now he’s lost the love of his life. Uncomfortable with exchanging emotion, Tom excuses himself and leaves. A few days later he spots a newspaper that’s printed pictures of all the passengers on the plane. Tom grabs the newspaper, looks closer…can’t believe it. Right there on the cover…is the picture of the man in the Kansas City Royals cap.
Bam! (as John Madden would say). You’ve got yourself a movie. He wasn’t talking to the boyfriend of the victim. He was talking to the victim. I would go so far as to venture that when this script went out, the executives who were reading the script, stopped right here and started bidding. Because the hook is so strong. Unfortunately, until we reach the somewhat satisfying ending, it doesn’t seem like the writers really know what to do after that hook. It’s like, “Okay, we got a hook. We got a finale…now all we have to do is come up with 90 pages of filler.” But as any good writer knows, those 90 minutes are the movie. And in that sense, I think Steinbeck fails. In all fairness, the draft I was reading was the spec draft, and the script has had numerous rewrites since then. Still, if someone paid 4 million dollars for this, I’m assuming they were pretty okay with what was already on the page.
So now that Tom knows he can see dead people, his purpose becomes, a la The Sixth Sense, to help them somehow. He meets up with the woman who was going to marry the Kansas City guy (beginning a romantic storyline that never quite works – this guy is the essential component to your 4 million dollar hook – now we’re supposed to believe it’s okay for Tom to move in and start a little nookie-nookie??) and the two set off to help the family members of the crash victims.
The movie picks up when Tom starts regrowing the vineyard – a vast dusty field that hasn’t been fertile in ages. Yet something about the crash brings the field to life, not unlike it did the victims of the crash. Through all this, Tom’s cancer is getting worse, and he realizes he has to help these people before he himself dies. It’s almost impossible not to compare the film to Field of Dreams – and when you’re banking your story on mysticism, you walk a very fine line. 99% of the time, you get it wrong. Field of Dreams is one of like 3 films that got it right. So you’re already treading in some very stormy waters. Yet somehow the script comes together in the end. It makes sense, in a weird wild sort of way, and it made up for some of the disappointments experienced earlier in the screenplay.
I’ve read some people attacking the “new agey-ness” of the story but I liked it. I think it’s a preference thing based on your beleifs. I like to believe there are things out there that we don’t understand. And even if this is the movies, it’s fun to keep your mind open to new ideas.
Rumor is this will come out in 2011. Yet I have a funny feeling it’s “supposed” to have been coming out in 2010, 2009, 2008, etc., etc. I’m curious to see what they’ve changed since the sale draft. I think if they can somehow make that romantic subplot more plausible and authentic, it’s a whole different ballgame. Cause then you actually have a middle of the movie :) Either way, I’m intrigued to see how this one ends up.
Reporting from the shadows…