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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pirates 2: Dead Man's Chest Review

Some tech problems this morning so I took the post down and am now attempting to repost.

*** VERY Minor spoilers ***

I saw Pirates 2 on Saturday night. I had heard mixed things from people about it. Some said it had a few problems, and others said they absolutely hated it. No one I spoke with before I saw it said they loved it, or that is was amazing.

My feelings? Not nearly as good as the first, but definitely fun and relatively good, just flawed. I enjoyed it overall, and honestly, I'm not really sure where the vitriol of those who truly hated this film came from. Were they just expecting a lot more from it?

These were the main problems, as far as I could tell. Firstly, the main plot throughline is somewhat muddled. Whereas in the first film, it was clear from the outset what the goal was, in this film it kept shifting. While this adds to the mystery, it detracts from the audience's investment. And in a big action film of this sort, we don't want to have to work too hard to figure out what is happening; we want to know what the characters want so that we can focus on the fun.

Second, much too long. I mean this both in terms of the sequences that were included, and in terms of the lengths of individual scenes/sequences. The sequence near the beginning of the film with Jack et al on the cannibal island, while humorous and entertaining, is entirely extraneous. I wouldn't cut it out entirely, but I'd have started much later in the sequence and shortened it. Nearly ever fight sequence was about 1/4-1/3 too long. In particular, I'm thinking of the three-way sword fight. Simply boring, largely due to its extended length. And let's discuss the giant wheel thing during that sequence. Wasn't this a bit too similar to the rolling cage in the cannibal sequence? Do we really need both fo these in the same film? Trim a lot of this stuff and you lose a half hour of the film and gain a much more lean script that moves better.

To my eyes, those were the two biggest weaknesses of the film. If the script were distilled into a shorter version, with less rambling and a more focused throughline, this film becomes much stronger.

I also have to say that taking the Back to the Future 2/Matrix 2 route, and making the second and third films in the trilogy into a single story is a bit annoying and even a little insulting. There was little doubt of the success of this film, and despite the middling reviews, it has still remained #1 for three weeks in a row and brought in massive box office. Did the studio really worry about trying to ensure people return for #3? I say this because unless there is a true trilogy of three connected films, conceived as such (e.g. Lord of the Rings), the only logical reason to make parts two and three as a single continuous story as opposed to simply individual stories (e.g. Godfather or Blade) is a lack of faith in your audience. "If we don't finish the story in the second film they'll want to/have to come back to find out what happens in the end!" Sorry, but that insults me. And I believe it hurts both films!

Despite all that, I did enjoy this film. It was good, clean, entertaining fun. Sure there were other minor problems here and there, but I have no need to dwell on them now. I will say, however, that I impressed myself by recognizing the actor playing Davy Jones under all that bizarre octopus facial prosthetics as none other than my favorite current character actor. I guess I recognized his voice, mannerisms, and even his eyes. Glad to see him progressing in his career!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Better Nate than Lever

That title is actually the punchline to a bad joke my Dad used to tell me. Of course, what I really mean by it is that I'm sorry my posting has been so light of late. I'm still finding my groove at work, etc. But I do have a number of topics I'd like to post on in the near future. So hopefully I'll find that groove and get back into it. In the meantime, I did want to throw out a quick post about what I consider a great idea.

You know I don't watch a lot of TV, and therefore I also don't write about it much. I don't know if I will ever see this show, but I must say I love the premise and think it is really clever. All I've seen is the ads and the trailer online, but the tagline describes it perfectly, which is one of the reasons why I think it is such a great concept. That and the fact that the tagline also made me want to see it.

Of course, I am referring to Psych, on the USA network. (Speaking of which, when did USA move above the level of Silk Stalkings to some quality programming, e.g. Monk and this?) Anyway, for those who haven't seen the ads, the tagline is: "Fake Psychic. Real Detectives." Clean. Clear. Funny!

I don't know about you, but I think there are about 12 too many shows on TV now where a clairvoyant/medium/paranormal investigator/etc. helps solve crimes. Okay, maybe some of them were clever (and I'm not even convinced of that), but it is way played out. So along comes Psych to poke fun at them, while also supplying (at least based on the trailer) an entertaining detective show of its own.

The details of the concept, as far as I can tell from the trailer, is that there is some guy whose dad was a detective and trained the kid to be uber-observant so he'd become a detective as well. For some reason (not clear from the trailer) the kid doesn't. My guess is because he's just a goof-off. But then the cops bring him in for some reason, and he seems to know too much (due to his powers of observation) so they suspect he's involved in the crime. Thus, he convinces them he's innocent the only way he knows how -- he tells them he's a psychic. By telling them a few secret facts about themselves (he's that observant), he makes them believe it is true. They hire him to help solve cases. And to add to the conflict, he brings in his friend, who seems more uptight and serious, to partner in the detective agency (called Psych).

Making it better, it looks like the leads are quality actors as well. And the writing seems like it delivers some good comedic zingers to balance the drama. Anyone seen this show? Is it as good as it seems? How are they doing with maintaining interest from week to week? Is it getting good reviews and/or good ratings?

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

New Article

The new issue of scr(i)pt is out. It features the much anticipated Pirates movie on the cover, with Bill Martell interviewing co-writer Terry Rossio.

On page 24 of the same issue, you'll find my article "Concept and Story: The Two Most Important Elements to any Spec Screenplay." Oddly enough, the article is about the two most important elements to any screenplay you write on spec -- you guessed it, the screenplay's overall concept and its overall story structure. I explore why specifically these two elements are the most important, and also ways to develop those two areas specifically.


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Monday, July 03, 2006


That is what I've had on my extended stay here on the East Coast. Lots of catching up with friends and family, lubricated by a relatively healthy amount of alcoholic libation. On the screenwriting related front, I got to catch up with one of the people I read for, over at New Line's NYC office. Among other things, we discussed Snakes on a Plane, and discussed an idea I have for the script I'd like to write after Hell on Wheels. It was kind of a non-pitch. He agreed that it has some decent commercial potential, and gave me a little feedback on it.

I had hoped to catch up with Joshua, but alas, our schedules didn't click (for the second straight trip) -- Joshua, we'll work it out soon, I promise! My apologies. But I was able to meet up briefly with one of my other readers, which was nice. Hey Ned! Good to meet you.

What else was film related? Well, lots of good little experiences to file away in the "general life" category, but not much more than that!

Writing-wise, however, I did have something else that wrapped up during this trip. For the better part of last month, I was working on a fun (again, that titular word) little freelance writing gig, and I'd love to point you all over to it. Answers.com is an information website that aggregates from a lot of other sites, e.g. wikipedia (and I believe also has original articles). As a promo, they launched an online trivia game, and I was one of the two (I think) content writers. The idea is that there are trivia statements, some of which are true and some of which are false. You need to guess if a statement is true or false. It was fun for me to write, and hopefully will be fun for you to play as well. So check it out: Blufr.

So that's it for now. I fly back to LA tomorrow morning and start the new job on Thursday. Hopefully, posting won't be too light at first, but it might be a bit light as I get into the swing of things over there.

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