Saturday, September 23, 2006

PROGGER by Angela Schultz

Well…it happened. In the two days since my last script review, I’ve now been flooded with over a dozen new submissions. I’m not sure how many hits this page has received, but I’m hoping that this is a sign of things to come.

I should probably point out what kind of stuff I’m looking for in selecting a script to endorse. (As much as I hate using the word endorse, it is an accurate one.) I’ll start off by saying that I’m not necessarily looking for the next “best picture” winner, bajillion-dollar blockbuster, or something that has the makings of some groundbreaking cinematic and cultural event. Reading that caliber of material would be mighty swell, of course, but I don’t expect you to be on par with the likes of William Goldman, Dave Mamet, Charlie Kaufman, etc… etc…

And if you were, you probably wouldn’t need my help in getting your work noticed.

Some movies have the power to change the world. Some change our lives and the way we see things. Such films are few and far between; they come every few years, maybe a handful each decade, and their effects are profound.

But c’mon…let’s get real for a moment. Not every movie has to be The Godfather, Gandhi, Schindler’s List or The Right Stuff. Most of the time we go to the multiplexes for just a smidgeon of entertainment – a good laugh, a smile, a reason to feel an inch happier than the way we were before. It may not be braincandy…it can even be pure fluff…but if we enjoy ourselves, at least enough to not regret investing 2 hours and $10 bucks (or a good $15-$16 if you go to The Grove or The Arclight)…then it’s worth it.

It’s on this note that I’d like to introduce my next selection. It’s lighthearted, good-natured, relatively brain-free material…and it put a smile on my face.

written by Angela Schultz
Contact information:
PO Box 101
Valley Stream, NY 11582
Telephone: (516) 568-9710

PROGGER is a romantic comedy for the Jack Black/Ryan Reynolds generation. It has music, humor, cheesiness, and a lot of cuteness and charm. Though I had some reservations here and here while reading the script, its overall structure and style of writing are pretty good and definitely easy to follow.

Todd “Progger” Fitzgerald is pushing 30. His mother Rhonda – a rich, materialistic, controlling woman, who nevertheless genuinely cares for her son and wants him to be happy – constantly pressures him to renounce his bohemian lifestyle and get married already. Easier said than done, of course; Todd is just a little too set in his ways, and a little too lazy, to want to take his life in another direction.

And what a bohemian lifestyle it is. Todd’s obsessed with rock music -- his very nickname is an abbreviation of progressive rock – and shares his NYC apartment with the three other members of his band, all of questionable talents. He’s also obsessed with an obscure Swedish rock band, and plans to fly to their native country to catch their next big gig, even though the show conflicts with his obligations at work (an accounting office approaching the tax season crunch).

When a chance encounter brings a pretty girl named Alicia into Todd’s life, Rhonda’s expectations for the budding romance soar just a bit too high. Though Alicia’s a nice girl on the surface, she’s cut from a cloth all too similar to Rhonda’s, and, despite her best efforts, she’s nowhere close to understanding Todd’s musical passions, much less his ambitions for a music career.

To overcome his fear of driving, and to prepare for a potential new life with Alicia in the suburbs, Todd takes lessons from Kris, a local driving instructor. She’s down to earth and beautiful in her own right. Naturally, the two develop a friendship that deepens through the course of the story, ultimately evolving into an all-out love triangle between Todd, Kris, and Alicia.

Like virtually all romantic comedies, PROGGER is predictable. But criticizing the script for this isn’t exactly fair. It doesn’t take a sharp mind to guess what happened at the end of Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally, even when you haven’t seen the films. Does that make them unenjoyable or unworthy? I think not.

What makes PROGGER work are the characters. Schultz injects them with such a degree of cuteness, only a real grouch wouldn’t find something to like. Todd is a bit of a slacker, and his actions often the result of a rather slow brain…but he’s so charming and earnest in his love of music, he’s a character we can all identify with.

The script has its problems. It’s made too clear, too early, that Alicia’s a girl so obviously wrong for Todd, one wonders why he bothered being with her in the first place. I would liked to have seen more scenes with Kris, or somehow have her injected into other “side” moments in the story, so there’s a bit more of a give-and-take dichotomy between the two women. Adding a surprise or two -- through either a plot element or an unexpected character quirk -- might also help give the familiar material a little extra oomph.

At 119 pages, the script is on the long side. Its middle section lags and the final epilogue seems a bit too contrived. Yet PROGGER is an all-around likeable, smile-inducing story. It may be lightweight...but it's also lighthearted.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

THE LIST by Dwhte Star

Well, it’s been about three weeks since I started this blog, and already a number of queries have come in...of which only a handful of scripts I accepted for reading. It’s been an interesting experience, and a bit frustrating too. I presumed that most of the stuff I’d get would be complete trash, but each one had at least some positive things about them…some little bit of charm or originality that took me by surprise…but in the end, only one script truly grabbed my attention. And while it has its flaws and is a bit rough around the edges, it was also a genuine page-turner from beginning to end.

written by Dwhyte Star
Telephone: 845-496-5203

This action/thriller rehashes virtually every cliché in the book: The world-weary reluctant hit man who sets out to finish one final job before quitting the business once and for all, only to find that (shock!) it's more than he bargained for.

Sound familiar? Absolutely.

Did I enjoy it? Hell yeah.

THE LIST doesn’t really offer anything new script wise, and, tragically, it feels a bit…well...incomplete. Characters that could have been explored and developed with more detail are left rather sketchily drawn, and there’s little to the plot beyond the familiar vengeance storyline. In style and tone, the script reminded me of the dark, gritty Mel Gibson thriller PAYBACK -- a film which, oddly enough, I genuinely hated.

So why have I chosen THE LIST as my first script endorsement? Because, truth be told, it demonstrates a definite writing talent. Star has three big strengths here, which managed to help me overlook the shortcomings of the plot.

First is the way in which the story unfolds. Rather than an over reliance on expository dialogue (so common to fresh screenwriters), Star tells his story with great efficiency of dialogue and prose, while slowly unraveling his characters’ backstories just a little bit at a time. This latter point, in particular, is quite refreshing. (For example, it’s not until nearly halfway through the script that we learn the main character’s relationship to the “boss” he’s working for – a genuine surprise that I knew I should have seen coming.)

Second strength: the action scenes. THE LIST clocks in at a fairly compact 97 pages, and many, if not most, of them are dedicated to fights, chases, brawls, fights, and more fights. There is one obligatory explosion, but (mercifully) most of what’s here is down-and-dirty, hand-to-hand combat rather than an indulgence in stupid pyrotechnics. I’m not sure how Star would envision the direction of these scenes, but I read them as more akin to those tough, gritty thrillers of the 1970’s, instead of the overblown stuff of the 80’s and 90’s -- and that’s a good thing. (What Peckinpah or Friedkin could have done with this material back then!)

The third -- and greatest – strength is Star’s knack for writing extremely sharp, dry dialogue, which alone made reading the script worthwhile. There are wisecracks and jokes aplenty, but rather than coming off as forced or cheap, they feel natural and very much in the spirit of the characters speaking them.
(In writing this review I was tempted to include some excerpts here, but rather than risk giving too much away, you’ll just have to take my word for it – there are some real gems!)

So there you have it…the first official selection of The Unsung Critic’s blog. With a little bit of work -- and a good rewrite or two -- THE LIST has the potential to be a pretty decent flick…and Dwhyte Star has the makings of a pretty decent screenwriter.